§ ADJOURNED DEBATE. [SECOND NIGHT.]
Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [28th March],
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make better provision for the prevention and punishment of Crime in Ireland; and for other purposes relating thereto."—(Mr. Arthur Balfour.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
said: Mr. Speaker, I listened with great pleasure to the very able statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) last night, and the observations I made were, in the first place, that the issues were so extremely grave as to make it desirable, so far as I was myself concerned, to take a few hours for reflection before attempting to offer any suggestion or opinion to the House; and, secondly, that the House itself, whether from the gravity of those issues, or from being startled by the nature of the propositions which the right hon. Gentleman himself described as extreme propositions, was—particularly on the other side—under the influence of some degree of surprise, perhaps—it might seem hardly courteous to say bewilderment—but was in a state, at least, of momentary uncertainty, when the right hon. Gentleman, notwithstanding the ability of his speech, sat down amid the silence of his Friends. I have already stated my opinion of the character of 1791 his speech, and my opinion, if I am right in the observation I made—as to which I have not the smallest doubt, so far as matter of fact is concerned.—and I hope I have not put it so as to convey the slightest shade of disparagement of the ability of the right hon. Gentleman. There can be no doubt that last night was an historical night in the proceedings of the House of Commons. It was, in some senses, a complement to an important night of the first Session of 1886, when I myself had the arduous duty of proposing to Parliament what was known as the Irish Government Bill. I then ventured to state that, in the judgment of the Cabinet which at the time existed, we had arrived at the point where two roads met, or, rather, where two roads parted—one of them the road which marked the endeavour to govern Ireland according to its well-understood Constitutionally - expressed wishes, within the limits of safety to the Constitution; the other the road which had been principally marked by extra-Constitutional—some would say un-Constitutional—measures, repressing the liberties of the people, and which, if it were pursued at all, it then appeared to us might threaten to grow more and more marked and pronounced in their character. At the same time, there was some dissent from that opinion, and a considerable number of Gentlemen—with whom we had been in close political alliance down to that date—considered that there was a third course open to them, a course of Liberal concessions to Ireland, stopping short of what we had proposed—namely, the creation of a legislative body with a responsible executive, and based upon the principle of concession, on the one side, which they deemed liberal and yet safe; but upon careful avoidance of coercion on the other side, which, therefore, they declined to admit was the alternative for a plan such as we proposed. Later on, I will refer again for a moment to the opinion which has now been brought to the test. But I will only now de-scribe the views with which I have looked upon the state and prospects of Parties in the interval which has elapsed since the Election, so far as Ireland is concerned. I know, Sir, that at the Election, in the midst of the crushing defeat which the late Government sustained, their Friends were aware that 1792 in the midst of that crushing defeat, both Liberals dissenting from the course they pursued and large numbers of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House expressed an anxious desire to make large concessions to Ireland in respect of the management of her own affairs. I did hope that we might have before us a course not so happy as that which I should have anticipated from a full and definite measure; but, at any rate, a course in which we should be engaged simply in discussing what opponents, if we were obliged to differ from them on the question whether the measures proposed by them, and admitted to be beneficial in themselves, were or were not sufficient. In such discussions I am certain that there would have been many of us who would have had every disposition to meet the Party now in power without compromise of our own opinions. Yet, to accept readily and thankfully measures which were good in themselves, and which might also be good as tending to exhibit some degree of increased confidence on the part of the Conservative Party, and those linked with them in the conduct and dispositions of the people of Ireland. We were desirous that no time should be lost by the Party opposite in the preparation of such measures; and we ox-pressed the desire, but the expression was treated as a kind of treason against the existing Government, and we were at once rather peremptorily told that no attempt should be made to hurry the Government in its pace. We were disappointed in respect to Ireland by such a warning, but unwilling to raise controversy on the subject. And we did not utter a word of complaint. Eight months had now elapsed since the accession of the present Government to Office. Where is that fair vision of promises, falling short of our extravagant designs, but at the same time kindly beneficial, in a liberal and conciliatory direction? They have all vanished into the thin air—with the exception, of course, of the vision of the future Land Bill, of which the main thing we know is that it is admitted that it has omitted and excluded the chief recommendation of the Royal Commission of Earl Cowper appointed by the Government. With that exception, there stands before us nothing but 1793 the figure of coercion—bare, gaunt, and bald, but, alas! too familiar to all our recollections. Sir, I intend to oppose the Motion for the introduction of this Bill. No Amendment has vet been moved, but I see that there stands in the name of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) an Amendment—"That the House do resolve into a Committee on the state of Ireland." I certainly should support that Amendment as being, I believe, the Parliamentary form. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Well. Sir, I hope I have said nothing offensive. I will not knowingly say it. It is impossible to speak upon a subject of this kind in weak and emasculated language; but gravity and calmness are important, and to be valued on such matters just in the same proportion as they are difficult to maintain. I will, however, honestly, and to the best of my ability, endeavour to maintain them, and I certainly do not depart from them in re-stating what just now fell from me—namely, that when objection is taken upon the very broadest grounds to the policy of an important and extra-Constitutional measure proposed by the Government, there can be no more regular and no more convenient method of opening the question than by moving for a Committee of the Whole House on the state of Ireland, which, according to well known and familiar Parliamentary precedents, opens the whole subject of Irish policy, and enables hon. Members to bring into contrast with the course proposed the various, and, possibly, very numerous grounds upon which they think another course should have been preferred. I shall oppose the Motion, and I shall support the Amendment—if it be moved—upon grounds which I will shortly state—namely, that the allegations upon which this proposal is founded are absolutely insufficient and unsatisfactory—that they do not cover the grounds upon which alone, on all former occasions within my recollection, Parliament has been asked to pass measures in abridgment of public liberty; that the Bill, which has been described as extreme, seems to have been raised in its stringency in proportion to the thinness and the poverty of the statements which were alleged; and that, so far as I am able to form a judgment, in which I cannot expect and do not ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to 1794 concur, the measure, instead of being; a cure, instead of being a palliative, will do nothing, can do nothing, but aggravate in their deepest seat and foundation the worst disorders of Ireland. This is no dilatory plea. I do not deny that the ease of Ireland is a grave case—God forbid! We never should have put aside all the course of Liberal policy last year, and subjected ourselves to, temporarily, almost destruction as a Party, which we knew was our possible fate, if we did not believe it to be a grave and extreme case. But this we knew or thought. We know that Ireland must be compared with herself. The right hon. Gentleman has returned to a subject from which he will get no profit whatever—namely, an observation of mine—a common-place observation and a truism—that, in considering crime in Ireland, you must not look solely at its amount, but you must look at its character, its area, its roots, and consequences. If there be one common-place more familiar than another in discussions upon Irish social disorder, it is the observation that in Ireland certain classes of crime are symptomatic, and must not be considered simply with regard to the person guilty and the person injured, but with regard to the feeling they manifest, and the sympathies or antipathies they draw forth. But that handy common-place observation has no effect whatever in supporting and strengthening the present case, because that comparison of crime, in the case of Ireland, in reference to character, and not as to quality, with crimes in other countries, has no force at all. Where a Government is proposing to introduce a coercive measure for Ireland, it is bound to show the existence of some strange and exceptional state of affairs, that exceptional character being measured not by the reference of Ireland to other more happily conditioned countries, but by comparison between Ireland as it is at one time and Ireland as it is at another. One word more upon the position of the House in reference to this matter. I am extremely sorry to find that the sharpness of the issue which the Government has found it necessary to raise may, and it is likely even to be, aggravated rather than allayed by the methods of proceeding adopted. In the first place, there has been withheld from us all the information—official infor- 1795 mation—which, in a mailer of this kind, is habitually placed before us. In the second place, we have been required to submit to an absolute suspension of our free initiative on every subject, and a majority of more than 80 Members has sustained the Government in exacting a new and indefinite suspension of that initiative; and now the Leader of the House acquaints us that, in consequence of the fact that the Government has a certain power, which power all former Governments, on every occasion, have subordinated to the Rules and usages of Parliament, and in some degree to those alleviations of public toil which nature demands and custom has established—that those are all to be set aside, and we are told that no Recess or adjournment of the House will be allowed until the Bill has been read a second time. Do not let the right hon. Gentleman think that he entirely removes the think from an announcement of that kind by stating that he does not use it as a threat. If I am walking in Parliament Street, and am met by a man who says, "If you walk another yard I will knock you down, but I do not mean it as a threat"—in such a declaration I do not think there is much comfort. But there would be more consistency in such a declaration, or more comfort in the alleviating addition made to it than by informing us—as the right hon. Gentleman does—that while he means to ride over us, as he has hitherto done in respect of information, and by the entire absorption of the time of the House for months now rapidly multiplying, he expects us also to do what I have just indicated. I will not dwell upon that point, and should not have referred to it save that I had always observed that it was possible for the Government, by much consideration for the usages of the House, and even some for their opponents, to avoid sharpening, and to procure mitigation, of the bitterness of political strife. Now, Sir, what is the case made by the right hon. Gentleman? I affirm that he has not even attempted to make good the allegations which it has been the fixed custom of Parliament—and of Parliaments less reformed than this, and less based on the broad foundation of popular suffrage—uniformly to exact. He has withheld from us all figures, except a very few extracted across the 1796 Table last night. He said something of the enlargement of crime in Ireland in the last three years; but he did not refer to Parliamentary figures. He gave us no means of testing his allegations. If, nevertheless, by the kindness of a friend I have obtained what is sufficient, I undertake to show the House the nature of the ground over which he takes the Government, and on which the Government rests in proposing what they feel compelled to call an extreme measure in restraint of national liberties. He said that for three years there had been an increase of crime in Ireland. Sir, I shall decline to examine the increase of crime in Ireland between 1884 and 1885, because, such as it was, it occurred before the present Government were in Office at the close of 1885—an increase which they did not deem at that time, nor did they deem it during the months of the autumn when the Elections were approaching, nor at the close of the year when the Elections had taken place—they did not doom that the increase justified the proposal of a repressive Bill, and they mot Parliament reserving that question for future consideration. But I have got—and I take—the figures for 1885 and 1886. Do not let the House think there was much change, but there had been a change undoubtedly between 1884 and 1885. There had been an increase in the number of threatening letters, from 422 to 512. That increase the Government of that day—identical, except as to one ox-two individuals, with the present Government—did not deem a sufficient ground to justify them in asking Parliament for an increase of the stringency of the law. I have got the figures for 1885 and 1886; and I have got the crime Returns by the Constabulary divided into "threatening letters" on one side, and "cases other than threatening letters" on the other. Now, Sir, with respect to threatening letters, they are a social inconvenience—a social mischief; but it would be ridiculous to speak of them in connection with such a question as the legislative restraint of the liberties of the people. Otherwise, we have to grant that, whereas in 1885 there were in Ireland 432 threatening letters, in 1886 there were 507 threatening letters. That difference in the increase of 75 letters, I presume, will not be alleged by Her Majesty's Government as the broad 1797 ground on which they ask Parliament to give its sanction to an extreme mea-sure of repression. How does the case stand with reference to cases other than threatening letters—because that is the first count in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman? He kept back the figures, but I have got them. He prudently had no desire—
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
They are all before the House.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Before the House! Before the compilers of public papers—before those who can go and bury themselves in the papers of successive years, and in the Library, and add up the figures, and do the work which ought to be done in Public Offices for them, and which, on every occasion that I have known, has been done.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
the right hon. Gentleman asked me for a Return of the figures a few days ago. I put it in the hands of those whose business it is to prepare such Returns—and the Return is now on the Table of the House—at the first opportunity.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
In supplement to that, I may say I return my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for the mercy he has shown me. I am not finding fault with the right hon. Gentleman or the Government for want of courtesy, I am speaking of their total failure to discharge a public duty, such as is, by usage and precedent, bound to be performed by the Government asking Parliament for extreme powers of this kind. I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he has ever read of the way in which Lord Althorp introduced the Coercion Bill of 1833—the great precursor of an important series of measures? He will find that Lord Althorp did as Mr. Forster did in 1881. He at once put before the House the necessary information. I will not go further in this matter. I will at once put the House in possession of the whole breadth and substance of the Government's case. The right hon. Gentleman went so far towards enlightening us when he came to the point of his speech last night as to say that there had been an increase for the years 1885 and 1886, which I am going to test. The cases reported in 1885, other than threatening letters, were 512. The cases reported in 1886—which the right hon. Gentle- man describes as exhibiting an increase 1798 of crime that has had to do with and apparently forms the main part of the foundation for the demand for what he calls an extreme measure—had risen—how much does the House think—from 512 to 518. [Laughter from the Home Rulers and cheers.] I shall make good my point—my first assertion—of the total insufficiency of the allegations of the right hon. Gentleman in support of his demand of such a grave and extreme nature.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
If the right hon. Gentleman did not rely upon them, why did he use them? That does not in the least mend his case, because our contention is—and it is proved by Parliamentary history—that the right hon. Gentleman, as the practice of Parliament invariably has been, has failed to produce and make good these allegations of an exceptional extension of the prevalence of crime, as the necessary ground for an application for increased stringency of the law. I ask the Government to meet that allegation, and overthrow it if they can. Then the right hon. Gentleman does not rely upon an exceptional state of crime in order to justify the case for coercion. he does not rely upon that which all Governments and all Parliaments have been accustomed to give as an essential condition. Well, Sir, was his account of the charges of the Judges complete? I get no answer.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman asks for an answer. I think my account of the Judges' charges was complete—for the counties I mentioned.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
What does the right. Gentleman say in regard to the County of Tipperary? Did not he quote anecdotes of outrages there? I believe he did in the County of Tipperary. The County of Tipperary, then, was within his view. Why did not he give the Judge's charges there? I have the honour of knowing that Judge, because he was Solicitor and Attorney General in a Government with which I had the honour to be associated; and he is a man whose abilities are well 1799 known to many hon. Members of this House. But the charge of that Judge was totally contrary in its effect to the apparent bearings of the charges quoted by the right hon. Gentleman; and I again ask, why have we not an impartial and complete representation—if it was to be made at all—of the charges of the Judges? And, Sir, what were the charges quoted by the right hon. Gentleman, as far as the extracts are made to enable us to judge? The rest of the charges I have not had an opportunity of reading. They were totally different, I will only say, from the charges which I have commonly heard quoted to influence debate, as having been delivered by Judges; because the charges upon which I have known reliance to be made have been charges in which the Judge was dealing with judicial facts, and gave his opinion upon those judicial facts, and, consequently, could have his opinion tested by men of ordinary reason and information. But these charges were passages detached altogether from the consideration of judicial facts. They were passages searing into the region of speculation-In more cases than one the only judicial fact noticed by the Judge was the smallness and the fewness of the offences; and then the Judge indulged in reasonings in order to prove that with this absence of extensive crime there was a most formidable state of things, in which the Judge may be right or wrong, but in respect of which he carried no judicial authority whatever. He is entirely exempted himself from those tests to which, in his ordinary duty, he is subject when he is dealing with judicial facts in a judicial manner. Then, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman goes on from the charges of the Judges to the anonymous evidence. I am far from saying such information must necessarily be unreliable; but the right hon. Gentleman appeared to be under the impression that when a Minister or a Government has had certain information, and has satisfied himself upon it, he has nothing to do but to come down to this House and state that he has satisfied himself upon it, and thereupon obtain increased stringency of the law. Again, it appears to me that the right hon. Gentleman's Government have emancipated themselves from all regard for Parliamentary precedent and usage. 1800 There is an alternative. When they have got a very grave state of facts, either in Ireland or in a Colony, or in any portion of the country, it sometimes happened that it would be too great a responsibility for the Government to take upon itself the production of the names of all the persons who have been instrumental in establishing that state of facts. That I admit; but the course that is repeatedly taken, and which was taken by the Government, is to go to a Committee of this House, to lay before that Committee the facts and the names, and it is in the discretion of that Committee to call for further proceedings, and then for the Government to come to this House fortified with the judgment of that Committee formed from all quarters of the House. Why has that not been done? I decline to accept unanimous assurances that the right hon. Gentleman seems to think, for the first time, so far as I know, that this duty ought to be imposed upon Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned one pointed case of outrage, where the name was withheld. He mentioned one horrible case of an outrage—I am not sure whether the name was Hogan—an outrage upon a girl, where her hair was removed and pitch poured upon her head. It was a very bad and abominable outrage indeed. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking with perfect simplicity, appeared to think that removing of the hair and pouring pitch upon the head was a Nationalist invention. If he turns to his Irish history, he will find it was an invention of the Governors of Ireland. It was the practice of the soldiery and the yeomanry, in whoso traditions some hon. Members of this House have declared their glory, in the unhappy and disgraceful period preceding the unhappy incorporating Union. The right hon. Gentleman quoted another case in which I do not know why the name was withheld—a case in which a tradesman had apologized to the National League for having unwarily dealt with some persons that he ought not to have dealt with. Why should the gentleman's name be withheld? He had made good, apparently, his footing with the National League. He had what is called eaten humble pie. He had nothing to fear. If the gentleman's name was withheld, it was withheld for fear he should be Boycotted from very 1801 different quarters, and I must presume that there were possibly very good reasons for withholding the name. Then the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to the point that referred to Boycotting. Some hon. Gentlemen, under an irregular impulse, which it is always best to endeavour to suppress, cried out—"How many of those Boycotted were Protestant Home Rulers?" The right hon. Gentleman sneeringly said—"Is there such a thing as a Protestant Home Ruler outside of this House?" Yes, Sir; there are Protestant Home Rulers, and there are Protestant Home Rullers who have come under the lash, not for their Protestantism, but for their Home Rule, notwithstanding their Protestantism. The cases are very rare in which Boy-cutting docs anything worse—and God knows that is bad enough—than to deprive people of the sole and honourable means of subsistence—some persons on account simply of disapproval of their political opinions. Well, Sir, I had a case made known to me a few weeks ago, when I was called upon to subscribe for the support of a Protestant clergyman who was turned out of his curacy in the Disestablished Church for this reason—and no other reason was even alleged—that he was a Protestant Home Ruler. The right hon. Gentleman, if he will examine a little, will find that there are not only Protestant Home Rulers, of whom he may hear in the course of time, but likewise that there are Protestant Home Rulers who have suffered for their opinion. Well, Sir, I come to the subject of Boycotting. That really, I think—as far as I can pretend to give an opinion—is pretty well the foundation of the case of the right hon. Gentleman, because the rest—and particularly this part of it—is either of a very insufficient character, or is so shrouded by the anonymous, that it is hardly fit that ordinary Members of Parliament should intrude into all that mystery and reserve. But the Boycotting can be dealt with, and the figures which the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to give us across the Table at our request showed that there was a total of 836 persons in Ireland either partially or totally Boycotted. Now, that, I am not wrong in saying, appears to be a principal part—aye, the principal part—of the foundation for this extreme demand which is made on the House. Well, Sir, has 1802 that ever happened before? What happened in October, 1885? In October, 1885, there were partially Boycotted 714, totally Boycotted 165—total, 879. The Government have 835 cases, and they form a conclusive ground for changing the law in respect of liberty. But in 1885 there were 879 such cases, and they formed no such ground at that date, which was a month before the General Election. And not only so, but Lord Salisbury grappled with the fact that there existed this large number of Boycotted cases, and he boldly contended that they formed no ground for legislation, and it could not be dealt with by legislation. I ask any Member of the Government who may next enter into this debate to show us the difference between the Boycotting which prevailed in 1885, and which was inaccessible to legislation, and the Boycotting of 1887, which not only is to be accessible to legislation, but which is to form a main—the main—ground of the demand of the Government for it. Beyond this, what have we from the right hon. Gentleman except generalities? Intimidation! "Intimidation," says a Member of the Government, in citing from a high authority—namely, Sir Redvers Buller—" Intimidation is rampant." Yes, Sir; but there is a point of the utmost importance to be observed in order to form a sound and thorough comprehension of what is meant by intimidation. Exclusive dealing, which in the general sense of Boycotting—at any rate, of Boycotting until it assumes an extravagant form—is divided by a thin and fine line from intimidation. Intimidation is a word which requires much sifting and scratiny before you can judge what value attaches to it as the demand for extra-Constitutional legislation. Now, Sir, there is one mark which attaches to intimidation in its grosser forms which is infallible, and it is this—that intimidation, wherever it is real and prompted by an illegal spirit, breaks out into crime. In 1881, when we had to propose a great measure of coercion with respect to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) says—and, I believe, rightly—that it was an ill-chosen measure, our proposition was this—that as to the agitation which was then carried on—whether we were right or wrong is not now the question—the question is what 1803 allegation we made and what allegation was generally accepted by the House and felt to be generally necessary for our case—the allegation we made was that "wherever agitation went crime dogged its footsteps," and through the country crime increased, and not only intimidation, but intimidation with crime and outrage, were becoming rife through the land in proportion as the movement then going on, being generally against the payment of rent, gained head. But now the admission has been generally made by men giving a cordial and almost a delighted support to Her Majesty's Government, though some of them sit on this side of the House—the admission has been made that the intimidation which now prevails in Ireland is generally detached from crime and outrage. Do not lot them suppose that I am endeavouring to entrap them in quoting that admission or assertion of theirs. Nothing of the kind. It is no dangerous admission or assertion made by them. It lies upon the face of the facts, because, whereas the essential condition of any legitimate or tolerable application for increased stringency of the Criminal Law is that you should prove the exceptional predominance and prevalence of outrage, it is admitted and undeniable that at this moment there is no such exceptional prevalence and predominance of outrage. Therefore, Sir, this intimidation, which is said to be rampant, and which I have no doubt in certain parts of the country' is rampant—and it is a very painful circumstance that it should be rampant against any individuals in the exercise of their legal rights—this intimidation seems to be generally separated from outrage. That is the last ground upon which the Government appears to place this extraordinary demand for what they describe as an extreme measure. We have, therefore, this extraordinary state of things—that the demand is now made upon the reformed House of Commons to do what, in my opinion, would be one of the most formidable breaches of trust that any popular Assembly possibly could perpetrate. [Laughter.] I wish I could qualify these words. I do not dispute the taste of hon. Gentlemen. On the contrary, I assure them that if I use a word beyond the necessities of the case, as I measure it, I would gladly soften it. In my opinion, it would be 1804 one of the very gravest and grossest breaches of trust which a Representative Assembly could commit to relax the conditions upon which alone it has been its rule to give a sanction to changes in the Criminal Law for the purpose of giving it increased stringency against a particular portion of Her Majesty's subjects. No case, Sir, in my judgment, has been made for such a demand; there has not even been, I might almost say, the shadow of a case presented to satisfy the ordinary conditions; while on the other side there has been a candid confession of the absence of evidence. The right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to give us a sketch of the provisions of the Bill. It was no fault of his if a person like myself, or many other persons, felt it impossible to form any accurate estimate of the exact value and extent of each provision as he delivered it. We shall certainly ask for full opportunity to examine its provisions when they come before us in proper shape. We shall ask and press reasonable requests to the effect that, in the first place, every Representative of an Irish constituency, and, in the second place, that every Representative of a constituency on this side of the water who values liberty himself, or who knows that it is valued by those who sent him here, shall have full and ample opportunity to sift and scrutinize and weigh the extreme proposals which the Government have felt it their duty to place now before us. I shall not, therefore, go into particulars now; but I shall mention only two points. The first is, that Irish trials in the cases defined by the right hon. Gentleman are to be held in London before English juries. There have been some sinister predictions in the newspapers of a proposal of this kind. I thought it my duty to the Government not to believe them. I did not believe that I should live to see the day when a proposal so wounding, so insulting, so exasperating, so utterly in contrast with the whole of the lessons that Irish history teaches, would have been submitted to a British House of Commons. We shall have an opportunity of saying more upon this when we have the exact definition before us. But this I know—that as trial by jury means trial by our Peers—trial by those who are as nearly as possible in the same circumstances—according to the favourite 1805 language of modern science, in the same environment—with ourselves, that this is the exact reversal of that fundamental principle that, whenever we do interfere with trial by jury, it is above all things to be desired that you should avoid the capital and fatal error of sacrificing the substance while you keep the form; and that nothing can be worse than to give to the Irishman the cruel and the grievous wound that such a proposal as this would inflict. I never saw such a blow struck at the national feeling of Ireland. I may be quite wrong—I have no authority on the subject—but the impression I derive from anything I know about the history of Ireland is that an Irishman feels and suffers more profoundly in his nationality than in any other thing whatever. I might, perhaps, quote a famous sentiment of Mr. O'Connell to illustrate in some degree my meaning. Mr. O'Connell, as a very young man of perhaps 25, took an active part and gained his first distinction as an opponent, together with the bulk of the Irish Bar—much to their honour—of the measures of the British Government and a portion of the ascendancy party in enforcing the Legislative Union of Ireland against the will of the nation. Mr. O'Connell, as a lawyer, defended his social position, but he solemnly and publicly declared that whatever his own individual position might be, he would far rather see the whole of the Penal Laws restored by an Irish Parliament and an Irish authority, and continue to subsist in Ireland under Irish authority, than be would see a law pass for the purpose of giving away the national existence of Ireland by the extinction of her Parliament exercising that authority. I think if hon. Gentlemen opposite would construe that declaration in the spirit in which it was uttered, they would feel that there was a great deal of nobleness in that declaration, and that the country where it was uttered was a country where national feeling was, above all things, within the limits of safety and prudence, to be considered. Well, Sir, before people condemn that excess of national feeling, if it be an excess, they should recollect how the whole history of Ireland has gone to intensify that feeling, and to make it the governor and the regulator of every other feeling that the people possessed. If that be so, I must own I do not 1806 believe—I make no complaint, imputation, or insinuation against the honest intention with which this provision has been devised—but I claim my right to form an impartial estimate of it. I do not believe the wit of man could possibly have devised a scheme more likely to aggravate every mischief that exists in Ireland, and to stimulate rather than allay the anti-national feeling of hatred and enmity. I would say one word with reference to the provision, or rather absence of provision, as to duration. The right hon. Gentleman humorously said that the absence of limitation of time compensated for the presence of the limitation of space—a limit, however, apparently entirely dependent on the will of the right hon. Gentleman and the Lord Lieutenant.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Well, Sir, that I must say makes one's blood run cold. It is, indeed, a very sad state of things that, after 87 years of the working of the Legislative Union—which was, 110 doubt, intended by many even of those who used such incredibly guilty means to effect it, to be the harbinger and certain seal of peace and goodwill between the two countries—after three generations of men have gone on cobbling at the business of coercion, struggling as we could—with good intentions, no doubt, and here and there with intervals when the sun of liberty might rise unclouded upon Ireland—at least for a time—that now, what we proposed as a temporary remedy is to become a rule for the subsistence of the Irish people. The brand of inferiority is to be placed on them for ever, and they, in the full enjoyment of a representative system, are expected to acquiesce in, to welcome, and to embrace and hug the law which salutes them with such favours. In fact, Sir, this is the first attempt, as far as I know, to work into an affirmative proposition the contrary to that which has often been delivered in this House as a negative proposition. I believe it was the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) who first declared that "force is no remedy," and that expression has in our hearts and sentiments obtained an almost universal acceptance. We are now called upon to entirely reverse the order of our 1807 thoughts and proceedings on this point, and to support a Bill which embodies the affirmation of the principle that force is a remedy. This Bill, it will not be denied, is a complex one when considered as a Bill to amend the Criminal Law. All I hoard of it last night—although I must not presume to speak as a lawyer—shows that it is a complex measure, and I need not apologize to the House for not endeavouring to enter further into its provisions, such as in their general character they have been described by the Government. Now, by whom are these provisions to be carried into law? We have been challenged by the Government to give our support to the Advisers of the Crown, and it becomes necessary to examine the question not only of what is the action, but who are to be the agents. Of course, the principal agents must be that Party which constitutes the largest—by much the largest—of the four minorities into which this House is divided. They will supply numerically the strength of the Divisions by which the matter will be decided. What is their responsibility? In my opinion, a very great responsibility, and yet, at the same time, as far as I can judge, it is far from being the greatest. If this Bill is to be carried, I cannot despair that some of these Gentlemen—I cannot but cherish the hope that if they think the case produced by the Government requires coercive provisions, would yet sin-ink from some portions at least of this Bill, especially from such unheard-of portions as those to which I have lately referred. I cherish that hope, and will not abandon it, because I have seen this—that Gentlemen of Conservative opinions go to Ireland with upright English minds, and warm English hearts, though perhaps with a bias against Ireland, to a certain extent, but with no hopeless obstinate, incurable determination or hatred against her, who after a little time have come to change their views as to Ireland. I see that Lord Carnarvon goes to Ireland and adopts opinions to an extent not precisely defined in favour of Irish national aspirations. Sir Robert Hamilton went to Ireland, and for all I know he may have been, as good a Tory when he went there as any [Cries of "No, no!"] Does any Gentleman happen to know the contrary? This I can say—because I had a baud in sending him there—that he was 1808 not sent there as a Liberal, and I never heard in my life that he was a Liberal. He certainly had not the smallest element of a Home Ruler in him; but he appeared to me a fair average of the best men in the British Civil Service, with, probably, no strong political opinions. Undoubtedly, all his prepossessions were adverse to Home Rule, but his mind and his heart were open, and I should like to know what hon. Gentlemen think were his sentiments when he left? Well. Sir, I will not speak of other distinguished gentlemen; but I know there are other distinguished gentlemen in the Irish Civil Service at this moment who have gone to Ireland and undertaken practical work in connection with the Land Act, and who have, in consequence, become profoundly convinced that it is for the interest of us all to grant Ireland self-government in her local affairs. I therefore do not despair of hon. Gentlemen opposite, nor will I presume to censure too severely the course taken by any hon. Gentleman; but they must not censure me unless they can reply to me, because I am unable to give the vote which is going to be given or has been given by the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Birmingham, by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Harrington), by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), and by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James). Can I be wrong—can I deserve censure—when these great and tried friends of liberty give such votes? I am not now saying whether the vote is right or wrong. I am not censuring them—I am asking where the responsibility lies? Numerically, it so happens that although the highly distinguished section of Liberal politicians to whom I refer is the smallest of the four minorities in this House, although the Party opposite is far more numerous, yet, numerically, the cast is in their hands, but I do not look so much to the numerical as at the moral responsibility. The moral responsibility, in my opinion, covers and shields the action of hon. Gentlemen opposite in a manner such as their best hopes could scarcely have conceived. It cannot be supposed that I am questioning the responsibility of others, or that I am questioning the title and the duty of my noble Friend and my right hon. Friends and others to 1809 whom I have referred, to act according to their own consciences in this matter. They have done that. They have a perfect right to do it. We all have a right to give application to our principles, to speak for ourselves, to determine for ourselves, and act for ourselves in this most solemn matter; and to make it a matter of personal complaint and petty bickerings is, in my opinion, morally wrong and intellectually futile, childish, and contemptible. Each Gentleman retains his right of full, free agency as much at least as we do, though he could hardly do more, and his whole duty is to act according as his judgment and conscience dictates. Still, they cannot conceal from themselves that the question is whether they, and none but they, shall lay upon Ireland the yoke that is now proposed to lay upon her—without production of any of the proofs which it has been the uniform practice of Parliament to require of the Government to supply—to lay upon Ireland the yoke which would, certainly, be questioned. If I speak thus freely of others, I do not flinch from admitting the responsibility that rests upon those who sit in this portion of the House, and who form the great bulk of the Liberal Party, even in the House, and still more in the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has made an appeal to us. He said—I have said this was the first time that a Coercion Bill had ever been proposed without the assent of the two great Parties in this House.The citation of the right hon. Gentleman was quite inaccurate, and the correction that I hastily supplied—though I think it was a great improvement on the citation—was not as accurate as it might have been. I have the power of reference. I never said, as far as I know, anything about the case of all Coercion Bills in that respect. What I think I said was, that I spoke of the case of the Bill of 1881; and I said my experience was, and my language was at the time, that we never could have carried that Bill except by the general concurrence, amounting nearly to unanimity, of the whole of the Members for Great Britain. The right hon. Gentleman, standing upon that ground, says that it has been the uniform practice of the Opposition of the day to support the proposals of the Ministry of the day in the main and in 1810 the bulk. I suppose he meant, and without reference to details, for increasing the stringency of the Criminal Law. The right hon. Gentleman is quite inaccurate, and has not borne in mind the Bill of 1846, on which not only did the bulk of the regular Opposition refuse to support the Ministry of the day, but they actually threw out the Ministry of the day upon it. But the question is, whether we are, in consequence of the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman, to abandon the attitude which we have taken up? Now, Sir, in my opinion, we cannot abandon it, and we cannot abandon it for the sake of the Government, as well as for our own sakes. A great change has been brought about in Ireland; and I believe it is quite true that, though grave social evils may remain in the country, and must remain until serious legislative changes take place and have had time to work, yet the position assumed by the bulk of the Liberal Party in this country has had the effect of applying a singular and a most valuable mitigation of what might have been a most intolerable evil. You must recollect what is involved in these two propositions, both of which seem to be undisputed—one, that in other times intimidation, exclusive dealing, and strong public feeling against the administrators and the administration of the law habitually broke out into extensive outrage, telling its own tale in the statistics of the country; but now this had ceased, and although there is a stronger feeling than there ever was, and a more national feeling than there ever was, with which the Government feel themselves in conflict, yet it is admitted, although that national feeling is charged as the author of combination and intimidation, that, as a rule, this combination and intimidation, whether mischievous or otherwise—that I am not going to discuss—has not broken out into outrage. Have hon. Gentlemen opposite—have the present Government—considered the enormous change that has been brought about in Ireland as regards legality and as regards abstinence from violence and crime? If not, let them listen to the case which I will give them in less than a minute as it stood in 1832, and why I quoted it in a speech last year on the 8th April. In 1832 the homicides in Ireland were 248; in 1885 they were 65. 1811 The cases of attempts to kill, happily unfulfilled, in 1832 were 209: in 1885 they were 37. Serious offences of all other kinds in 1832 were 6,014; in 1885 they were 1,057. The total number of the whole criminal offences in Ireland in 1832 were 14,000; in 1885 they wore 2,682. It, is right to bear in mind that there has been a large diminution of population since 1832. On account of that diminution, reduce the offences in 1832 to bring about a corresponding reduction from 14,000 odd to 10,000; and the case stands thus—that the whole criminal offences in Ireland upon the same population in the course of these 53 years had diminished to one fourth of what these were. It is under these circumstances when you find your difficulty in your way—and I do not for a moment diminish or extenuate the difficulty—that an extreme measure in restraint of liberty, and in augmentation of the stringency of the Criminal Law, first offers itself to your judgment and to your hands. "Why is it that this has been the case? It has been because, in a certain sense—I am sorry to say a very qualified and partial sense, in a very chequered sense—the process of relief has been sadly intermittent. This period since 1832 has been the first period that any, even of the most sanguine and the mildest Judges of Ireland, have been accustomed to recognize as the period of reparation or improvement in British legislation. I heard an hon. Gentleman the other day, in an animated speech, say—"Surely we have a long period of atonement and reconciliation." That was a speech made from that side of the House—"atonement and reconciliation"—and the language from that side of the House. What have been the "atonement and reconciliation?" Measures which your conscience has always compelled you to denounce. Such has been the general effect even during the whole of that long period of very partial measures of benevolence, very partial forms of amended procedure, on the part of the Imperial Parliament. Now, since the General Election of 1885, since the deliberate Constitutional declaration of the voice of Ireland, since the judgment of the bulk of the Liberal Party was passed upon that application, to the effect that it was safe and just and ought to be complied with, the attitude of the people of Ireland has been re- 1812 moved from crime and outrage in a degree never before known. Why has there been this severance between intimidation and the natural consequences of intimidation? "Why have you totally failed to make good the proof which, in all other applications for coercive legislation, has been made in abundance before the House? Because the Irish people know that they had here a large, if an insufficiently large, body of men who had deliberately adopted their interests as the interests of the Nation and the Empire, and were ready to abide by thorn to the last. Consequently, Sir, in my view, if we were to accede to the appeals made by the Members of the Government and to adopt their language, we should do them no good; we should not only do ourselves, but them also, an infinity of harm; and I believe their first effect would be and must be a retrogression of the Irish people in the great social progress that they have, happily, made, an increase of the space they have yet to traverse before they arrive at a thoroughly satisfactory conclusion and a decided return towards a condition of things which, I rejoice to say, through well-meant, even if partial efforts, has in great part passed away. We have upon us, in my opinion, a very great responsibility, because although we are-a minority—and it is not the minority, but the majority which prevails—undoubtedly, I grant that the numerical strength which we give to the opposition to this Bill renders it a more formidable opposition, and I will not affect the humility of denying. I believe it will carry very considerable—possibly more than very considerable—weight with largo portions of the people of this country. I have a duty as well as owning responsibility for others. I do exactly the same for myself and for all those who may be at all disposed to claim partnership with me or to give me the slightest portion of their confidence, and I say for myself and for any of them who allow me to ask for them we have a power—greater or smaller—but a real power to assist the Irish people and to commend their case to the people of this country; but it is a power which depends upon their moderation and their legality. So long as we continuo to find that the action we pursue has had the effect of depriving the Government of those materials of criminal statistics 1813 which in all other eases the Government have produced in order to obtain more stringent legislation; so long as we find that our course powerfully tends to produce this restraint of crime, so long, undoubtedly, we shall be bound and shall rejoice to see others persevering in it; and I trust that—be we few or many—and I believe we are many and we shall be more—[cheers]—and I believe that that belief of mine is shared by many men—not by all men—shared by many men who do not concur in our opinions. With that belief we certainly, as I hope, shall resist this deplorable proposal, and shall still remain convinced that in resisting it, and in serving the cause of Ireland, we are still more essentially and effectually serving the cause of Britain and its world-wide Empire.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
Sir, the Government are not unaware of the immense responsibility which is placed upon them by the Bill they are now introducing; nor are they unaware of the degree to which their difficulties will be increased by the fact that the regular Opposition will do their utmost to defeat it. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in his eloquent peroration, spoke of the assistance which was rendered to the Executive Government, by the fact that a large portion of the Liberal Party are now united to the National League, and of the restraints which are in consequence imposed.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I did not say that. I think, Sir, it was a slip of the tongue on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. I said nothing of a union between the Liberal Party and the National League.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I then understand that there is no ''union" now between the Liberal Party and the National League; but I listened, I cannot say with what anxiety, to hear from the ex-Prime Minister some words condemning the action of the National League, which has substituted its own authority for the authority of the Queen throughout Ireland. I listened, however, in vain. I did not hear a single expression fall from his lips which would seem to condemn any of the processes of the National League. The right hon. Gen- 1814 tleman does not object to that statement; but, having regard to what has fallen from hon. Members opposite, who either belong to the National League, or support it, I think we are entitled to know on what ground the right hon. Gentleman can say that there is no union between the Liberal Party and the National League. Or is his contradiction confined to this—that he did not say in so many words that there is such union? In some significant words which fell from him in his last sentences the right hon. Gentleman spoke of legality and moderation in connection with the present attitude of Irish Nationalists. "Legality and moderation" were his words, and I rejoice that there is so much of these qualities now displayed in the cause of the National League—whatever that cause may be—and that the League is not stained with outrage at the present time to the same extent as, even to judge from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, it has been stained in the past. But does not the right hon. Gentleman think that if there has been a cessation of outrages it has been in deference to the union which the Nationalists have established with the bulk of the Liberal Party? Sir, we rejoice in the fact; but I ask hon. Members on both sides of the House to consider the danger which is involved in the admission made by the right hon. Gentleman. Supposing that the union between the Liberal Party and the Members of the Irish Nationalist Party should not continue so cordial as at present, and supposing the present Government to be expelled from power, and the Liberal Party to return to power, and supposing that they could not meet the views of the Nationalist Party from Ireland, where, then, would be these influences of moderation and legality? The right hon. Gentleman and his Party would then be at the mercy of the National League. [Cheers and ironical laughter from the Home Rule Members.] I am deducing this from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. It is a most dangerous argument to insist on—that the absence of outrage in Ireland is simply due to a temporary alliance of Parties. I do not wish to say this by way of offence, but as a warning of danger. In the opening of the speech of the right hon. Member for Mid 1815 Lothian he found fault with the Government because we had urged this matter on. He again alluded to the reproach he brought against us a few days ago—that we were suppressing individual initiative. I admit the argument of the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly conclusive, if, as he seems to consider, the present state of Ireland is not so dangerous to every interest, both of Ireland and of Great Britain, as it appears to Her Majesty's Government. Her Majesty's Government, and the great majority of the people of Great Britain believe, to use a strong but not at all an exaggerated expression, that the state of Ireland is intolerable, and that, not with standing the statistics to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, the Government would he disgraced which allowed with equanimity such a state of things to continue. We do not desire to leave Ireland in its present condition; we desire to amend the law for the punishment of criminals, and then to proceed with our other Irish legislation. Several times the right hon. Gentleman spoke of this Bill as our remedy. We have stated over and over again that this Bill is not our remedy, and that we look to land legislation to be the true remedy for Ireland. We wish to pass this Bill, in order to frustrate designs which would render nugatory our measures of land legislation. The right hon. Gentleman said this Bill stood gaunt and bare. But that is not so. This measure is only part of a much larger programme, and its first object is to secure that liberty to all classes of the people without which all remedial measures would be futile. [Ironical cheers and laughter from the Home Rule Benches.] Hon. Members below the Gangway were extremely sensitive to the slightest interruption of the right hon. Gentleman. I admit that, after his 50 years' experience and service, he is entitled to special consideration; but at the same time hon. Gentlemen will, I hope, recognize that others are also en-titled to a patient hearing. I was stating that our intentions are misrepresented, for this measure is intended to restore to Ireland that liberty which is necessary to the success of any reforms whatever. Let the now allude to a point on which the Chief Secretary had much to say, but which was scarcely referred to by the right hon. Gentleman—namely, to the 1816 amount of intimidation. The right hon. Gentleman laid great stress on statistics, and seemed to argue that, unless it could be shown by statistics, that outrages had largely increased, there was no ground for interference. The contention of the Government is of a different character. We say that the very triumph of lawlessness explains the fact that outrages are not so numerous as they have sometimes been. The National League has established its supremacy in almost every corner of Ireland, and hence the absence of those crimes which before were committed for the purpose of attaining this end. Does it strike hon. Gentlemen opposite, as a great advance in civilization, that the National League is at present supreme in the greater part of the country? The right hon. Gentleman has made no allusion to the tyranny of the League. He spoke of the moderation and legality of the League.
§ MR. W. E GLADSTONE
I said nothing of the kind. I said nothing of the moderation and legality of the League.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I said that our power to assist the Irish people depended on their moderation and legality.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
If the right hon. Gentleman is relying upon the moderation of the Leaders of the Irish people, does he rely upon moderation such as we heard in the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon)? Before I deal with the particular point urged by the right hon. Gentleman, let me say a word upon the manner in which reforms are frustrated at present by the National League. I wish to establish this point, because it disposes of the assertion that we say that force is the only remedy. What we say is that it is necessary in order that reforms may have free play that the administration of justice should once more be made effectual. But I have to answer the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman and the inquiries which he has made. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman 1817 was as conspicuous for what was not in it as for that which it contained. I did not hear one word from the right hon. Gentleman in condemnation of the violent language with which the Judges of the Irish Bench were yesterday assailed—Judges most of whom had been appointed by the right hon. Gentleman himself. They were appointed Ly the rig-lit hon. Gentleman, and never in this House has anyone listened to a more violent attack on those Judges than we heard from one who is now engaged in the same campaign as the right hon. Gentleman, and whose speech was enthusiastically cheered by the right hon. Gentleman. Have we come to this—that the Judicial Bench in Ireland is not to be supported, or that attacks on its occupants may be passed over in silence by ex-Prime Ministers and ex-Ministers? I hope that before this debate closes we may have some expression of regret which may show the people of Ireland that however anxious hon. Members opposite are to redress their grievances they do not share in that view of the Irish Bench which is proclaimed aloud by their allies—I fear in such a manner as greatly to increase the difficulties with which that Bench has to deal. I was about to speak of free sale and the manner in which it is frustrated by the League. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that because free sale illustrates the value of the tenancy at the existing rent, therefore that been, which was given to the Irish tenants by Parliament, is at the present time being withheld by the action of the League, lest it should be seen that there are men willing to take tenancies at existing rents? Are hon. Members not aware of this? Let me tell them of an instance. There were two tenants who were hopelessly insolvent, who owed rents for three or four years. [Interruption.] [Mr. T. M. HEALY: Quote the case.] I am speaking of what I know. I know this from the landlord to whom it happened. [Ironical Home Hide laughter.] Then do hon. Members not believe the landlord? [An hon. MEMBER: Very often not.] I am sorry once more to have to turn away from my point; but this is so suggestive that I would put it to the House and to the general public. No evidence seems to be accepted by hon. Members below the Gangway unless it comes from their own friends. They do not accept the 1818 evidence of landlords; I do not think they accept the evidence of agents; they do not accept the evidence of the police, of Government officials, of Judges, of anybody connected with the Executive Government, or of gentlemen who write to Members of this House. I should like to know whose evidence they do believe? [Laughter and interruption.] hon. Members below the Gangway will remember that we are not speaking exclusively to convince them—indeed, it would be a hopeless task—but to put our case before the British public; and the British public will know, and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench will know, whether it is right to disregard the evidence of magistrates, of police inspectors, of landlords, and of agents, and only to accept the evidence of those who are connected with the National League. That is the essence of the demand that is made. If any speaker says that he has heard anything from policemen or magistrates, or anybody not connected with the League, there is a loud peal of laughter from hon. Members opposite. We may understand what it means in this House; but it is not so easily understood outside the House. At all events, let us establish this point in this most important debate—that there are truthful men in Ireland even outside the circles of the National League. I must ask the House to excuse me this long, but I think not entirely unnecessary, digression. I was about to relate the case of two tenants who were three or four years in arrear, and were hopelessly insolvent. the landlord offered one "of them £100, and the other £80, for the goodwill of the laud, and to excuse the whole of the arrears, if they would leave their farms. No; they would not do so. The parish priest was communicated with, and he made this remark to the landlord—"If you were to offer £1,000 they would not dare to accept your offer. The League forbids it." Is not that coercion? What would be the good of our introducing a measure to assist the tenants if the National League interfered to frustrate it in the manner in which they are now frustrating free sale? Under the tyranny to which they are at present subjected the tenants can on no conditions accept the terms offered to them either by the landlords or by the Government, in any form that is 1819 repugnant to the demands of the National League. I have spoken of the way in which attempts are made to coerce the tenants. I will now pass to the point on which my right hon. Friend dwelt so much—namely, the statistics of crime; and I will again repeat what I said the other day with respect to the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley). They simply look at those crimes which can he put into statistics; and, if I understand aright the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, then, in his opinion, Ireland may to-day be in as disturbed a state as possible, the whole law may be set aside, the National League reign supreme and interfere with every department of civil life, may be the absolute ruler of the land, and may ruin the prosperity of the country, and cause farms to lie waste; but if there is no rising barometer of crime, then the Government is to stand helplessly by, the administration of justice is not to be carried out, and we are to do nothing. That has not always been the view of the right hon. Gentleman himself. What did the right hon. Gentleman say with regard to this? He used those words—What we have founded ourselves upon has been, above all things, the failure of the administration of justice. It is the administration of justice which constitutes the safety of the private individual, and which is the true guarantee both of rights and liberties.Well, is the administration of justice satisfactory at the present moment? That is a point which the country will understand, and it is one which was not dealt with by one sentence of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman cannot say that justice is administered and criminals are punished, but only that there are not sufficient statistics to enable him to judge of the present condition of Ireland. The House will remember the quotations read to it by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland as to the charges of the Judges in Ireland. They were alluded to in his speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and he spoke as if the Judges had gone out of their way in describing this state of things.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I know nothing but the quotations. the quotations were given as proofs of a case, and I dealt with them as such.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
As the quotations stood does the right hon. Gentleman think that the Judges had gone beyond their province, and that what they say ought not to be considered because they were not dealing with any specific crimes which had been committed? I do not think I am misrepresenting the right hon. Gentleman; but it strikes me, though I may very possibly be wrong, that the people of England will not think that these quotations from the charges of the Irish Judges can be set aside on the technical ground that they were not at the time passing judicial sentences on and particular crime. I wish to call attention to this once move; I admit that it is part of our case. My right hon. Friend says we have made out no case. I think we have made out this case, that the administration of justice is breaking down in many parts of Ireland, and is breaking down by the confession of almost every party in Ireland. Hon. Members below the Gangway are not satisfied with the administration of justice, and certainly those who are concerned in the detection and prevention of crime are not satisfied. Here is what Mr. Justice O'Brien says, and the ex-Prime Minister will not repudiate his great authority—No person can say that this country is not worse off in every respect than it was five years ago—worse off in obedience to the law "—so says the Judge; but, as it was not put in tabular form, it is of no account, and we have got no Parliamentary case—worse off in the peace and security of life and property.Did I hear an hon. Member say this was monstrous? Is it monstrous of a Judge to have said it, or is it monstrous on my part to produce it, or is it not monstrous to disregard it? Hero is what Judge Lawson says—The country is in a state of great disorganization. The present state of things approaches as near to a revolt and a rebellion against authority as anything short of civil war could be.1821 Are we to disregard those charges of the Irish Judges? Are we to put them aside as evidence which is not worthy of the consideration of the House? Is it not notorious that for mouths and months past the administration of justice in Ireland has been attended with such difficulties that criminals have escaped, and that at three Assizes—I call the attention of the House particularly to this point—the prosecution in many serious cases has had to be abandoned because it was the opinion both of the Judge and the prosecuting counsel that with the existing panel of jurors no verdicts could possibly be obtained? I am, I trust, fulfilling that part of the duty which is imposed upon the Government by my right hon. Friend; I am endeavouring to establish whether or not there is a case for a Bill of this kind. But more than that, when the attempt is made to bring prisoners to justice, is it not a fact that jurors are in fear of their lives? And on this point let me deal with one of the weightiest parts of the indictment of my right hon. Friend. He spoke of that very strong clause in our Bill which changes the venue from Ireland and enables prisoners to be brought from Ireland to England. I admit the gravity of the change. I admit the gravity of any situation in which you have to interfere with that which has been the glory and the privilege of Great Britain and Ireland—namely, the jury system; but I ask in justice that it should be considered at the present moment not only what is the position of the jury system in Ireland and what is the position of the jurors. The secrecy of the ballot-box has been invaded. The names of the jurors who are in favour of a particular verdict are published. Is not that a violation of Constitutional practice? My right hon. Friend said, and said justly, that this was a great change which we were introducing; but is it not a great change that individual jurors should be held up to the odium of their fellow-countrymen for having done what their oaths demanded? We are deeply convinced that it is our bounden duty to do two things—to endeavour to bring criminals to justice, and at the same time not to impose a duty almost too heavy to bear upon the loyal and the law-abiding portion of Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland. Men say—"Why 1822 not continue to try by jury in Ireland?" But do they think of the perils to which the jurors in Ireland are exposed, having to choose very often between the safety of their persons and obedience to their oaths? I say it is our duty to endeavour to recognize this state of things, and if we can to remedy it. We have no business, because we may have some objections on Constitutional grounds, to neglect the consideration of the safety of jurors in Ireland. I invite a reply to that point. It is one which has been passed entirely by in the debate. What other securities can be found than those which are placed in the Bill? There was a provision in the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) for a Special Commission; but the Irish Judges were said to have objected to it. I think that jurors in Ireland, if consulted, would also object to the terrible duty which they have to perform; but they are not asked! They have to be summoned and put in the jury-box, and it is with a view to their security as much as anything else that we feel it our duty to propose a clause like this. But I should also allude to the challenge made by my right hon. Friend with regard to the administration of justice in Ireland. Let me say this—that in the year 1886, out of l,056 cases of agrarian offences, there were only 61 convictions; out of six cases of murder there was only one conviction; out of 10 cases of firing at the person there was only one conviction.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
All these matters can be exposed in the debate. Hero are some statistics which I commend to the representatives of the unofficial tribunals in Ireland, where conviction and punishment follow very swiftly upon the commission of any offence—Out of 21 burglaries there were only four convictions; out of 43 cases of firing into 8dwellings there were no convictions; 1823 and out of 73 cases of maiming cattle there were no convictions.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I doubt whether that inquiry is relevant. And yet right hon. Gentlemen say there is no case for strengthening the Criminal Law. Is that a state of things which can continue, or which it is right should be continued? Well, then, the right hon. Gentleman dealt with Boycotting and intimidation, and I really must complain respectfully of one method of my right hon. Friend. I do not think that during the whole course of his eloquent speech he devoted two sentences to denouncing any of those evils which at present are rampant in Ireland. His method was this—the old, and what I thought almost exploded, method of showing that other persons behave as badly.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The enthusiastic supporter of my right hon. Friend keeps up a running commentary on my speech as I proceed; but perhaps he will remember the case of the girls who had pitch poured upon their heads.
§ DR. TANNER
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman—[Cries of "Order!"] I rise to a point of Order. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman, as the Member for the constituency in which the outrage is alleged to have been committed, what is his authority for the statement which I have had repudiated? I was told——
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The hon. Gentleman has not listened to what I was saying. I was not charging this against the National League, or against the constituency which the hon. Gentleman represents, but it was spoken of by the ex-Prime Minister. I do not know whether he called it an outrage or not: but when the right hon. Gentleman finds a case like that, instead of simply condemning it, he quotes some parallel case. I am sorry I have caused this interruption, but I wanted to call attention to the method of the right hon. Gentleman. Not only did he employ it in this parti- 1824 cular case, but in another which I will presently mention. While speaking of this case the right hon. Gentleman could not resist putting forward, as if by way of palliation, some similar outrage committed even as much as 100 years ago. Now, what can be the effect—I do not want to say what is the intention—of that process of reasoning? It seems intended to supply an argument to ignorant people in Ireland and to enable them to say—"Oh! the same thing was done before by the Saxon." It was the same when the right hon. Gentleman came to Boycotting. When he came to Boycotting he said that, he too, could tell of cases of Boycotting. Does that make the matter better?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I was answering simply the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and I made the cases a present to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The right hon. Gentleman was answering the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who complained of Boycotting, by citing cases where there had been Boycotting on the other side. That is precisely the method of which, with all due respect, I complain. [An hon. MEMBER: Can it be denied?] I do not know whether it can. It is possibly true; but the effect which is produced upon ignorant people by that process of reasoning is that Boycotting is a kind of legitimate weapon. I should have liked to have heard a full repudiation by my right hon. Friend of the practice of Boycotting, which no one could express in more eloquent words than he could have done.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Well, if the right hon. Gentleman says he did condemn the practice, I can only say that he did so with something less than his usual eloquence.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I am glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman has strongly condemned it; and I only wish that he could have condemned it without reference to the tu quoque argument. I desire, however, to ask a question of the right hon. Gentleman. Is Boycotting a subject with which he would recommend the House of Commons to deal, and, if not, why not? In this connection he 1825 used again the tu quoque argument, quoting from Lord Salisbury a passage to the effect that it was impossible to deal with Boycotting; but I think if I am not much mistaken that the right hon. Gentleman himself had clauses prepared to deal with this practice of Boycotting. I presume they were effective clauses, and possible those clauses have assisted us in constructing this Bill which is to take away their liberties from the people of Ireland. Is the crime of Boycotting one that ought to be dealt with and can it be dealt with by Parliament? Boycotting is a most serious problem, and if it is not solved it will be ruinous to the happiness and prosperity of far more than the 800 or 900 people whose miseries seemed so little to impress the right hon. Gentleman that he was able to speak of them as a small number, and one not justifying the introduction of stringent measures in this Bill. But can Boycotting be dealt with? It is a remarkable fact that the number of cases of Boycotting at the end of the June quarter of 1885 was 300. The Crimes Act lapsed in August. [Ironical Opposition cheers.] Yes; and it appears to me to have been a great mistake. [Ironical laughter and cheers.] I am not thinking of the controversial part of this question. [Laughter and cheers.] I admit that the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly within his right to hurl these taunts at us; but in this crisis of the state of Ireland is it the best way of dealing with this question to hurl recrimination to and fro? Well, there were 300 Boycotting cases at the end of the June quarter. The Crimes Act lapsed in August, and at the end of September the Boycotting cases had reached 850; and, therefore, though the Crimes Act was not primarily aimed at Boycotting, the effect of the removal of the Crimes Act was that Boycotting immediately grow to threefold its previous amount. I leave the House to draw its own conclusion. It seems to me to be possible to deal with Boycotting. But is this system of Boycotting only the comparatively innocent Trade Union system, perhaps of exclusive dealing, or anything of that kind? I know that my right hon. Friend has read the Blue Book which has been presented to us; and when he says there have been no documents presented to Parliament to justify our case, he seems to me to 1826 forget that there is a largo volume of evidence which has been placed in the hands of hon. Members. Well, looking only at the cases in the Blue Book, to what extent has not this system been carried so as to reach the utmost limits of immorality and barbarism? Can hon. Members have read, without emotion and horror, the case recorded where the father of a dying child was not allowed to buy the necessaries for that dying child because he had been Boycotted?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Where is this? [Interruption and cries of "Order! "] MR. GOSCHEN: I will give chapter and verse if you want. The case will be found in the Blue Book, Question No. 24,507, and this is the extract—"Burke's child—
§ MR. GOSCHEN
the hon. and learned Member should not scoff at the idea of this man's dying child. The case occurred in Wexford, not one of the most disturbed districts in Ireland. If the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to refer to it, he will find it at page 24,507 in the Blue Book—''Burke's child became ill of bowel complaint. The coarse yellow meal produced this disease."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Rack-rents; rack-rents! [Home Rule cheers, and Ministerial cries of "Order!" and "Name him!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must ask the hon. and learned Member for North Long-ford not to interrupt so continuously.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Rack-rents! This man had taken a farm which he was anxious to have. It was not rack-rents. He was willing to pay his rent, and he had the means of buying better things for his child; but the edict had gone forth from the National League that he was to be Boycotted, and he could not get the necessaries for his dying child. Talk of rack-rents! There are barbarities inflicted on the people of Ireland by others than the landlords, and evictions, too, are imposed on them by the inexorable decrees of that League to which hon. Members opposite belong. But let me continue the quotation—He went to a neighbouring country shop to get white bread or white flour—I forget which—for his sick child, and he was refused 1827 it. They would not give it to him. That sick child was refused what was necessary for its health on account of Burke's crime of taking an evicted farm.That is in the Blue Book that has been read by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, for he quoted from it, and yet things such as these did not seem to have attracted his attention. Again—Last summer—a younger child still, one lately burn—the local midwife refused to attend the wife in her confinement, and she was delivered by the aid of an old woman, who was the only person to do anything for her. The child that was lately born became ill and died. Not a person came to the wake. He could get no person to dig the grave for him, and he had to dig the grave himself for his own child. That is a thing unheard of in this country. It occurred last summer, and things are going on in the same way exactly.These things do not appear in those tabulated statistics which are to form I part of our case for the Bill. Hundreds of cases of this kind may be produced by all these who have evidence of what is going on in Ireland at this time. It is this class of misery with which you have to deal, and not only shots in the legs or violence to the person. Much of this misery is endured, not by landlords, but by labourers, and by tenant farmers themselves, and it cannot be tabulated by the police; but, at the same time, it is an outrage on the civilization of this country which we ought to attempt to put down. Careful study of the Blue Book will show many cases of the kind I have quoted—how a starving labourer is hired by a man and has to leave at the end of the week because his employer is obnoxious to the League. A system of this kind is destructive to the industry of Ireland, destructive to her agriculture, to her commercial prosperity; it is sapping the foundations of society. It is this state of things with which we have to deal, and with which we intend to deal. It has been our lot to have to propose stringent measures, I admit; but we have to grapple with an organization of which the measures are far more stringent than ours. We have to grapple with a tyranny which is established in every portion of Ireland. The late Prime Minister and his Colleagues do not seem conscious what a degradation it is to the Government of this country—of which they were the ornaments—that it should have to retreat in almost every portion of Ireland before the tribunals of the 1828 hon. Member for Cork. It is a disgrace to this country that it should have to do so. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian 6poke of a breach of trust. He said this House would be committing a breach of trust by passing measures of this kind. We, too, have a trust which has been placed in our hands; we think we have a trust to which it is our bounden duty to be true. A trust has been placed in our hands by the people of the country, and the breach of trust will indeed be great if we cannot restore the authority of the Queen and the law, respect for the Judges, and liberty to all classes of Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland.
§ MR. LAWRENCE GANE (Leeds, S.)
I ask the attention of the House as the Representative of a constituency which contains no inconsiderable number of Irish electors, and a much larger number of English electors who heartily sympathize with their Irish fellow-subjects in their present struggle, and who, through me, will protest with all their power against the proposed measure. I have boon struck in this, and preceding debates, with the marvellous respect of Ministerial speakers for law, and, simply, as law. No man in this House respects law move than I do. As an Englishman, I instinctively respect and obey the law; and as one of Her Majesty's counsel, I shall be the last man to say one word in support of any unjustifiable resistance to the law. It is not, however, sufficient to tell people there is a law which they must obey, unless that law can be shown to be based upon justice. It has been impressed on the House the other evening that law should be enforced everywhere against everyone, irrespective of the justice or injustice of the law. I do not admit that proposition. Even now, there are on the pages of the Statute Book many laws which no sane man would dream of endeavouring to enforce. It would be quite easy, as every lawyer know, to cite such cases by the dozen—laws which, although they have not been repealed in the letter, are nevertheless practically repealed, and which no authority would be idiotic enough to attempt to enforce. During many years our Irish fellow-subjects have hoard enough of laws; and unless laws are recommended to them, because of their inherent justice, the future will record 1829 failures as disastrous and humiliating as the past. Serious as this question is, I cannot forbear reminding the House of a prayer once uttered by one of the greatest preachers of his time, "O Lord," he said, during a great national crisis—O Lord, grant that we may not despise our rulers, and O Lord, grant especially they may not act so that we shall have to.I heartily pray that our Irish fellow-subjects may not despise the law, but I also pray that we in this House may see to it that the law is not such that they cannot help despising it. Bearing in mind that now, for the first time since the Union—for the first time, indeed in English history—the people of England, as distinct from the classes, have the settlement of this question in their own hands; I think it is worth while to ask whether this measure, introduced with such a flourish of trumpets, and for which we are asked to set aside the Business of the nation in its favour, is, in the faintest degree, likely or able to deal effectually with the mischief it is sought by it to cure. To judge by the speeches on the other side, and after hearing the description of its provisions as given by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour), one would have thought that a perfectly God-given measure was about to be introduced. It seemed to mo, in listening to those speeches, that a measure nobler, more statesmanlike, and more practicable than any the House had over seen was about to be introduced. Was ever a great promise followed by such a humiliating failure? It was thought we were to have a great, sovereign, everlasting principle of justice to solve this great problem—that, smaller measures having been tried, at last we were to have a new departure, which while startling us by its novelty, would nevertheless justify the innovation. What have we seen? Simply a Bill containing the old, bad, stale, hackneyed remedies for dealing with this Irish Question. The worst of these remedies have been selected here, and put together to solve this great problem. In Ireland there is, undoubtedly, wide-spread misery and disaffection. I cannot believe that this results from any peculiarity in the Irish character. I believe, as a great statesman has said, whoso voice is not now often heard in this House, that not only is 1830 force no remedy, but that, wherever we find there is this discontent, the cause is generally to be found in misgovernment. It is the Business of the Government and of Parliament to try to discover the true cause of the discontent and the misery of Ireland, and then to bring to bear upon their, remedies which will go to their very root. If the National League has been the means of lessening crime, the proper policy of a wise Government would be, not to stamp out the League, but to ascertain what is the secret of its power to stamp out crime, and to endeavour to copy it, and to use it on behalf of loyalty and good government everywhere. So long as the National League promotes loyalty and order, so long we ought to work with it; so long as the Government produce measures tending to reproduce crime, so long-let them be resisted. I would rather have a National League, though proscribed by the Government, than have a Government vaunting its wisdom and encouraging crime by initiating exasperating measures on every hand. Would not a wiser policy be to ask what is the cause of Irish discontent and misery? and then to bring to bear upon these causes remedies which go to the root of them. When a house is on fire, we may silence the alarm-bell, but that will not put out the fire. Can any sane man suggest that the measure of the Chief Secretary is likely to produce either prosperity, loyalty, or happiness in Ireland? At whatever sacrifice of consistency, would it not have been better for the Government to set themselves to see what is the cause of Irish discontent, and to remove it? Can anyone dream of the measure of the Chief Secretary as a remedial or healing measure? Is there a single clause in it which will tend to make the most earnest Irishman earnest in the desire to see the two countries united in a real bond of union, or which appeals either to his head for his wisdom or to his heart for his generosity? Looking at the Bill, and the flourish of trumpets with which it was introduced, has there ever been more dismal or certain failure suggested than this? Even supposing the Bill does not pass, its very introduction on the part of the Government is enough to raise fierce and angry antagonism on the part of the Irish people. Instead of being remedial in its character, 1831 it is calculated to exasperate the Irish people, and drive, them into acts of recrimination, of Boycotting, and of outrage. The condition of things in Ireland is such that people are perhaps led by very extreme men into unwise action. What does the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer amount to? It shows simply that both Parties, such is the condition of Ireland, are burnt when they come to deal with it. I am the last man to say one word in defence of any outrage, or any breach of the law; but it does not do for those who are guilty of Boycotting in one fashion, to blame harshly those who are guilty of Boycotting in another fashion. What we have to do is not to cast recriminations from side to side; but to ascertain what has led to Boycotting and to outrage, and to remove it. In spite of what may be said about and against some of the verdicts of the juries, no man can look back through the long years during which Englishmen were battling with their opponents for freedom—as our Irish friends are now doing—and not be thankful for trial by jury. In the world's history has there over been a ease in which a nation has so persistently, through long stretches of time, maintained an attitude of intense antagonism to the ruling power; of disloyalty, of discontent, and a condition of misery such as has marked the pathway of Irishmen, generation after generation, without there being a cause for it? It is surely not to the advantage of the Irish people to have their country torn by these dissensions. With an elder sister like England at her side, there may be an Ireland so free and so glorious, and which should stand in the world so strong and so noble, that any Irishman may well be pardoned if, instead of gloating over her distresses, he longed for that more glorious possibility. The other night we were told that those who supported the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Newcastle on-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) were mad. I hope there is not one of us who will not be proud to be considered mad, if the other thing is to be accounted sanity. In the long run the so-called madmen amongst politicians and theologians have not had a had time of it; for madmen and fanatics of yesterday become the heroes of to-day. Surely, the madness 1832 is on the part of those who give Ireland a voice, and now refuse to listen to that voice. In the wisdom of Parliament, Ireland was given an opportunity of expressing her opinion, and now, when she speaks through her 85 Representatives, I do not say the House ought to grant what she demands, but it ought, at all events, to treat her demands with as much respect and dignity as the demands of any section of English Members. I ask those who represent the Liberal Party to resist this measure with all their power. Has there been known in this House, for many years, a measure in such direct and humiliating antagonism to all the glorious traditions which have made the House of Commons famous? The wisdom, the statesmanship, and the patriotism of the Kingdom are supposed to be, in this House, concentrated on this great problem of Irish discontent and Irish misery. At least, those who long for a new departure have a right to say that there is not a single suggestion, not a latent idea, in this Bill which has not been tried again and again, and that in proportion to the extent that it has been tried has been its failure. Law is only deserving of respect when it is based upon justice and tempered with mercy; and the Bill before us will be found lacking in everything which can commend it to a Constitutional Assembly such as this.
§ MR. AUSTIN (York, W. R, Osgoldcross)
I must ask for the indulgence always extended to Members addressing the House for the first time. At this moment the attendance of hon. Members is very thin.
Notice taken, that 10 Members were not present, House counted, and 10 Members being present.
§ MR. AUSTIN,
continuing, my excuse for rising at this hour is that I have the honour of representing an English county constituency that contains many Irish voters, and as I have heard a great deal from right hon. Gentlemen opposite about the necessity for this measure, I have resolved at once to give a firm and unflinching opposition to this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in speaking of this Bill, spoke of it as being in the interests of liberty and freedom in Ireland. When the right hon. Gentleman was speaking I was reminded of 1833 the painful circumstance of the Revolution of 1792, and of the saying of Madame Roland, which I recommend to the right hon. Gentleman, "Oh, liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!" The right hon. Gentleman, in speaking of the state of Ireland, only carried us back for some four or five years. He spoke of the disorder that now reigns in the unfortunate country. But I will carry the right hon. Gentleman back in the history of Ireland to the beginning of this century. I would point out to him that the lawlessness, the crime, and the disorder now in Ireland are as nothing to what they were at that time, and the difficulties of the Government are as nothing to what they then were. Some 44 years ago, a statesman whoso name was illustrious in the House, the late Sir Robert Peel, in assuming the reins of Government, said—"Ireland is a grave and a great difficulty;" and Ireland has continued down to this hour during this long period of time the great difficulty of our statesmen. It has wrecked Ministries; it has broken up Parties. During all those 75 years Ireland has been governed by coercion, and the Government declare that that system must still be pursued. The history of Ireland has not yet been written, and when it is dark will be the chronicle of the wrongs of that unfortunate country. The right hon. Gentleman, in referring to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), made the charge against him that he had made an attack upon Her Majesty's Judges. I fail to see or to recognize in the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman anything in the nature of an attack upon Her Majesty's Judges. What he did say was that they went behind their charges to mattors which were not strictly within their province. I happen to know something of the public administration of justice, and it appears to me that they have gone beyond their province in those charges. It is a remarkable fact that Irishmen were prosperous and successful everywhere but in their own country. A contrast is sometimes drawn between the state of Scotland and that of Ireland, but the two countries have been very differently treated. To Scotland its own laws and its own Church has been continued without change, and Scotland has 1834 practically enjoyed Home Rule, for that which the bulk of the Scotch Members want is always done. The Government has no mandate from the English democracy in favour of this Bill, which puts the Irish people practically outside of the Constitution. If the Bill is carried, they will find themselves in a similar miserable condition of despair at its non-success as their Predecessors. No real remedy for the state of Ireland will be found until the national aspirations of the Irish people are gratified. The present policy of the Government is doomed to failure, for the rights of 5,000,000 of people cannot be permanently trampled under foot. Sooner or later this Parliament will have to legislate in harmony with the wishes of the Irish people, and thus bring about a real union between the two countries. I do not believe that there is any desire on the part of the Leaders or of the people of Ireland for separation. On the contrary, their national aspirations may, by wise statesmanship, be gratified, and at the same time turned to the strengthening of the Constitution of the United Kingdom.
§ SIR THOMAS ESMONDE (Dublin Co., S.)
said, he was glad, as an Irishman, to have an opportunity of expressing his sentiments on what he took to be the most iniquitous and uncalled-for measure ever laid before Parliament. He regretted that he had not the language at his command properly to stigmatize the measure; he could only say that if it were passed and carried into practical effect, his belief in the sense of fair play and justice to which Englishmen laid claim would be very much diminished, if not altogether dissipated. Ho had listened with attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour), and he maintained that as had been well said during the course of the debate, the right hon. Gentleman had made out absolutely no case for the introduction of such a measure. They had been told, before the introduction of the Bill, that the facts he would lay before the House would abundantly justify the measure; but on yesterday evening the right hon. Gentleman had laid absolutely no facts before the House. It was true that the right hon. Gentleman had told them that the statistics of crime showed an increase 1835 since 1880; but he had quoted nothing to support that contention. The Government had been asked to lay on the Table of thy House a Return showing the number of the outrages in 1881, and in the present year; but they had not seen their way to doing so. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted a number of anonymous authorities in support of the position he had taken up—authorities which had been concocted in Dublin Castle—and when asked to give names, he sheltered himself behind the very convenient subterfuge that the persons who gave the information would be likely to suffer at the hands of the National League were their names disclosed; but they had had no verification of the facts quoted. The case made out by the right hon. Gentleman was not such as would warrant Members of that House passing a measure which practically abrogated the liberties of the Irish people. Had Boycotting increased so very much? The evidence of Captain Plunkett before the Cowper Commission proved that Boycotting had been quite as strong in Ireland, and had extended over as wide an area at the time when the Crimes Act was in force as at the present moment. Then the right hon. Gentleman had made a great deal of capital out of the charges of the Judges at the recent Spring Assizes. He quoted portions of certain charges made on one or two occasions; but he very conveniently overlooked the fact that there were many other charges made by Irish Judges at the recent Spring Assizes which showed there was no need for a Coercion Act. At the Limerick Assizes, Mr. Justice O'Brien, in addressing the Grand Jury of the city, had told them that there was substantially no crime with which they had to deal; in Queen's County, Baron Dowse said that the state of the country was much as he had found to be the case in Carlow; and Mr. Justice Andrews had found Kildare on the whole very peaceable; in Roscommon, Mr. Justice Murphy had spoken of the small number of crimes requiring the attention of the Grand Jury; in Fermanagh, Chief Baron Palles had congratulated the Grand Jury on the peace-able condition of the county. In Down, Lord Justice Fitzgibbon, at Dundalk, had spoken of an absolute freedom from crime; and in Sligo, Judge Lawson; 1836 Chief Baron Palles, in Cavan; Baron Dowse, in North Tipperary; Chief Justice Morris, in Tyrone; and Baron Dowse, in Waterford, of which county he (Sir Thomas Esmonde) was High Sheriff, congratulated the Grand Juries on the peaceableness of all these counties. The Chief Secretary made the Charges of the Irish Judges the one fact he advanced in support of his Coercion Act; but he (Sir Thomas Esmonde) would say that, if any weight could possibly attach to the utterances of the Irish Judges, it should be allowed that the condition of Ireland at the present moment was one of the most absolute peaceableness. They were also told that Irish juries would not convict; but, if that were the case, it was not because they had not been well packed, and it was certainly not the fault of Dublin Castle, for, as things went now, the practice of jury-packing had been raised to a fine art. But though the House had been told that Irish Juries would not convict, they were given no proofs that juries were so remiss in the discharge of their duties. To his mind, the only juries who refused to convict, in the face of the clearest evidence, were the Orange juries of the North, and he could point out two cases in which the juries who refused to convict were supporters of the Government. Such was the case in connection with the murderers of the boy Curran, who was chased into the Alexandra Dock, at Belfast, by a mob of Orange rowdies and drowned. The case was tried eventually at Downpatrick, and one of the murderers was sentenced to seven years' penal servitude; while a number of those who were charged with participation in the atrocity were acquitted by a thoroughly loyal jury. Altogether, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and the case he put forward in support of his Bill, was the most extraordinary exposition of a preposterous case ever made in the House; it might be best described, in the right hon. Gentleman's own phrase, as a "filled up vacuum." He (Sir Thomas Esmonde) did not deny that there was crime in Ireland; but it only existed in one or two places, and he would point out that there was more crime in England in one month than in Ireland in 12 months. If a measure of that kind was to be passed for Ireland, a similar measure should be passed for England. The Government, 1837 however, did not ask for such a measure to be passed for England, because they know that the. English constituencies would not tolerate such an outrage on their Constitutional liberty. In Ireland there was a certain amount of crime, and a certain amount of lawlessness; but that lawlessness was, to a great extent, on the side of the Supporters of the Government; and, in any case, the lawlessness in Ireland was directly duo to their action. Shortly after the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) made his speech in that House, in which he threatened the Irish Members with something stronger than batons, the Irish police, stirred, he supposed, by that speech, in one ease certainly distinguished themselves in an extraordinary way. A number of police were engaged near Tralee, watching for Moonlighters. They were in ambush in the house of a farmer named King, and they stated that, during the night, a party of disguised men came for the purpose of Moonlighting. At any rate, the cry of "Moonlighters" was raised. They fired, and shortly afterwards a young man named Lenahan was found dying in the house of his employer. He was perfectly riddled with buckshot. He was a farm servant, in the employ of the farmer in whose house he died; and in his dying deposition he stated that he was standing at the door of the house when he was shot by the police; and yet this was one of those cases which figured in the pamphlets of the Loyal and Patriotic Union as a Moonlighting outrage. Another incident also came under his notice. A short time ago a party of emergency men were engaged in protecting Park House against no-body at all. These men, after drinking in a public-house, came out and fired off their revolvers in the gaiety of their hearts. They reported that they had been attacked; but the police discovered that none of the firearms possessed by the farmers of the district had been recently used; and it subsequently trans-spired that the emergency men had fired off their revolvers in a drunken spree. At a place called Portumna, a policeman named Hayes fired his rifle into the house of a farmer, the inmates of which narrowly escaped; and yet, for this offence, Hayes was only lined the small penalty of 10s. He would like 1838 to ask, if any person suspected of Nationalist principles had fired a shot into a neighbour's house, would he have been allowed to escape on the payment of a fine of 10s.? In another case, the emergency men employed on the Brooke estate in County Wexford, whilst in a state of intoxication, threatened to fire their revolvers at unarmed people, for which offence they were let off on payment of a small fine. Almost all these cases testified to the laxity which prevailed in allowing armed emergency men to go about the country, sometimes in a state of intoxication, to the terror and danger of the people. With regard to the evictions on the Shirley estate, there could be no doubt they were being carried out under circumstances of great brutality. In one case, in which a widow asked to be allowed to remain in the house, because her child was dying, the agent refused to accede to the request, on the ground that he obtained a decree two years ago; but the woman's husband died, and she took advantage of it. That was the way things were done in Ireland; and he would ask fair-minded men if that was not, in a great degree, an excuse for much of the lawlessness which followed evictions in Ireland. During the evictions which were carried out at Cool greany, the police rushed on the people and batoned them indiscriminately, with- out the slightest provocation, seriously injuring many of them. Only for the intervention of the parish priest of the district, no doubt, bloodshed would have ensued. This case, of which so much had been made in debate in the House, and in which the conduct of the people in merely defending themselves against open attack had been paraded before the public as an example of the lawlessness prevailing in the country, owed its serious nature directly and solely to the action of the police, who had attacked the people without the slightest provocation. He could only say that the wonder was that there was not more crime in Ireland, considering the condition of things in that country, and considering the provocation which was offered to the people by the Supporters of Her Majesty's Government. But the fact remained that, except in a few counties, where the misery of the people was greatest, and where the demands of the landlords were most exorbitant, there 1839 was absolutely no crime at all. Moreover, where there was most disorder the people were disorganized and defenceless, and were neither members of the National League, nor had they adopted the Plan of Campaign; and by attacking the National League the Government were going the very best way to work to stimulate set-ret societies. Where the people refused to fulfil their obligations, it was because they were unable to do so, and where they combined in self-defence, it was because there was absolutely no alternative; and he held that where they had done so the landlords were mainly answerable. He would ask the attention of hon. Members to the rental of an estate in County Clare, where evictions were then being carried on.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must call the hon. Baronet's attention to the fact that he is wandering from the Question before the House.
§ SIR THOMAS ESMONDE
said, he would bow to the ruling of the right hon. Gentleman. Ho was absolutely unable to realize how the Government could have the audacity to declare that the state of Ireland was unsatisfactory, considering the depressed condition of the agricultural industry; or that the attitude of the Irish people warranted coercion, considering the gravity of the crisis through which they were passing. The Government, like every other English Government, knew absolutely nothing of the country which they undertook to govern. But this Government had succeeded, better than any previous Government, in making plain the rottenness and viciousness of the system under which they lived in Ireland. He held the Government also greatly to blame for having scoffed at the warnings given them last Session by the Irish Members, who then pointed out the dangerous consequences that would attend the rejection of the Bill brought in by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) to meet the exceptional condition of Ireland in the grave crisis which was upon thorn. He asked, what stronger proof of the incapacity of the Ministry to govern Ireland Constitutionally could be given than the fact that they had thrown the Irish people on their own resources to maintain the peace of the country during the last few months, and forced them to 1840 adopt exceptional expedients to neutralize the endeavours of the Supporters of the Government to disturb public tranquillity. The Government had imprisoned Father Fahy because he declined to admit that he was guilty of an offence which he had never committed; while in Belfast rioters were allowed to go unpunished. The Government, in fact, had shown over and over again that they could not govern Ireland, and, what was more, that they did not know how to govern Ireland. Because the Irish people had refused to take the law from Proclamations, which were not worth the paper they were printed on, their meetings were suppressed, and the people were bludgeoned. Now, all that having failed of its purpose, the Government asked for additional power to carry out their policy of fomenting anarchy. He would very much like to know, did the Government wish to stir up rebellion in Ireland? If they did, they were going the very best way about it. At any rate, the Nationalist Members had done their duty in endeavouring to withstand a measure which they believed would have the most deplorable result; and if this measure was passed and carried into effect, he trusted the British public would lay the blame at the door of those who were responsible for the consequences—the Tory Government. Ho charged the Government with directly inciting the Irish people to break the law. He charged them with endeavouring to stir up bad blood in all parts of Ireland by a Bill which could only make confusion worse confounded. What good did the Government expect from this Bill? What good ever had come from coercion? They had been favoured with it ever since what was called the Legislative Union. What they wanted in Ireland was remedial, not coercive legislation—alleviation, not aggravation. Coercion would not pacify Ireland, or attach the Irish people to the Imperial connection under whatever form it might be employed. Coercion had never succeeded in crushing out the national spirit and aspirations of the Irish people, and never would succeed. They had tried to govern the Irish people for 87 years, but they had never submitted to their government. They could never remove Irish discontent until they had won the affections and fairly consulted the in- 1841 terests of the Irish people; until the claims of the Irish people were conceded—claims which the Irish people intended, one day or other, to enjoy. They declared—and always would declare—that Englishmen had no right, under Heaven, to govern them; and so long as Englishmen persisted in governing them against their will, and so long as they refused them the concession of those rights which they claimed as a nation, so long might Parliament count upon the disaffection and the hatred of a people who wore designed by Providence to be the natural friends of England.
§ COLONEL BRIDGEMAN (Bolton)
Sir, the speakers who have addressed the House from the Opposition side have made no attempt to grapple with the arguments which have been adduced in support of the Bill. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Southern Division of the County of Dublin (Sir Thomas Esmonde), who has just sat down, only attempted, in the early part of his speech, to grapple with the question of the charges delivered by the Judges. He maintained that some of those charges do not show the existence of a largo amount of crime. But the contention of the Government is, that it is only in particular parts of Ireland, and in certain counties, that there is serious disturbance. What answer, then, is it to say that in certain other counties there is less crime and less disturbance? Then, as to remedial measures, they constitute the chief proposals of the Government, as they did those of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone); but the right hon. Gentleman has not to-day helped us by making any suggestion with regard to the present Bill. All the right hon. Gentleman said was that the Government ought to begin with remedial measures, instead of which they are beginning with coercive measures. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman failed to ob-serve the very important announcement made by the Government that remedial measures will, in fact, form the best part of their programme. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated most distinctly that the reason why Her Majesty's Government have commenced with coercive measures is because remedial measures would not be permitted to pass by the Home Rule Members op- 1842 posite. I have only risen, Sir, for one purpose. It has been said that hon. Members on this side of the House have come here as the Representatives of the Irish, landlords. That is not the fact. Anyone who takes the trouble to refer to Dod's Parliamentary Companion will see that the constituencies who have returned the majority of Members on this side of the House include among them all the large cities of the Kingdom—such as Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Hull, Leeds, Bradford, and Nottingham. Surely, it cannot be said that great and important towns like these have returned the Representatives of the Irish landlords. On the contrary, I think the Ministerial Members may claim to represent the Democracy of England with quite as much justice as the Opposition. We are accused of wishing to enforce coercion, in order to obtain the payment of impossible rents. If that were the object of this Bill, I would certainly oppose it as warmly as hon. Members on the other side of the House. What I wish to see is that Moonlighters are coerced, and that freedom is restored to the Irish tenants, labourers, shopkeepers, and jurymen. It is because I believe that the Government have that object in view that I shall support them, and I am satisfied that in doing so I shall have the cordial sanction and approval of my constituents.
§ MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucestershire, Cirencester)
I ask the indulgence of the House for a few moments while I try to explain the position which I, as a Liberal Unionist, take up on this question of coercion. I am opposed to coercion, root and branch; and I intend to oppose the measure of the Government by every Constitutional method which is open to mo. It is very hard to separate myself from those with whom I have been in political alliance, and to lay myself open to the charge which has already been brought against me of being a deserter and a traitor; but feeling, as I do, that the policy of coercion is not merely a tactical blunder, but that it is absolutely contrary to the best interests of the Unionist cause, and fatal to the prospects of Liberal Unionism, I cannot refrain from speaking out and saying that I shall give my vote without the slightest hesitation on every occasion against coercion. I oppose coer- 1843 cion, not because of Election pledges, although that is one reason why I might very well oppose it; but I have always spoken against coercion as an old, a worn out, and a useless remedy, and I oppose it on the ground which I stated just now—because I am a Unionist. I have always held that the very essence and kernel of Unionism is to maintain this Parliament intact in its constitution, unquestioned in its supremacy over the whole Empire, and in no way, Sir, do I believe that we can so much endanger the supremacy of Parliament as by bringing home to the hearts and minds of Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen, that we have no way of meeting the Irish difficulty or of governing Ireland except the old and hateful policy of coercion, which has been tried so often, and never successfully; that we have learned nothing from the study of history; that Unionists have nothing to offer for the solution of this most difficult problem, but that resort to a worn out remedy, and that we can still do nothing but attempt to govern Ireland by methods absolutely contrary to the wishes and desires of the great majority of the Irish people. Sir, I know that no words of mine can influence the action of the Government, and induce them to draw back from the course upon which, no doubt after full deliberation, they have resolved upon entering. I feel still more sadly that no words of mine are likely to influence many of my brother Unionists, and to divert them from a course which is absolutely suicidal from their point of view. I speak with sadness, because I think they are throwing away a grand and glorious opportunity for the Unionist cause. They have got a great Unionist majority in the House, and God knows when we shall ever again have such a chance of settling once for all upon safe lines this Irish problem, which has so long puzzled our ablest statesmen, demoralized our Parliament, and is ever present as a danger to the Empire. It is because I am a Unionist, and feel the responsibility of allowing Unionist opportunities to slip away, that I regret the course which the Government have thought fit to enter upon. We all know what the cause of the disease in Ireland is, and why have we not the courage to aim straight at it? We cannot pretend we do not know what the disease is. We have only to look at the past history of 1844 Ireland to discover what it is. Earl Grey, in 1846, in weighty words, after enumerating the past Coercion Acts, objected to their renewal, and said—Again, in, 1846, we are called upon to renew the same policy. We must look further—we must look to the root of the evil—the state of the land, and the habits of the people in respect to the occupation of the land, are almost at the roots of the disorder.Speaking of the evictions then going on, he denounced them thus—That such things could take place wore a disgrace to any civilized country.Let me read the words of Lord John Russell, in the same year—We have here the best evidence that can he procured "—he might be speaking of such evidence as that contained in the Blue Book of Lord Cowper's Commission—and all toll you that the possession of the land is that which makes the difference between existing and starving amongst the peasantry; and that, therefore, ejections out of their holdings are the cause of the violence and crime in Ireland.I have no wish to weary the House; but there is one more quotation which I must give—a quotation from a speech of the great tribune of the people, the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright)—It is in the eternal decrees of Providence that so long as the population of a country are prevented from the possibility of possessing any portion of their native soil by legal enactments and legal chicanery—then outrages should be committed, were they but as beacons and warnings to call the Legislature to a sense of the duties it owed to the country which it governed.Our own Commission proves it. Anybody who has carefully studied that Blue Book will find quite enough to account for all the disorder and all the outrage we have in Ireland. And yet we do not try to go to the root of the evil, but go back to that old and crooked policy which we have tried so often, and which has always proved a failure. And there is another point which we must not forget. Every Member of this House knows what was said by the late lamented Mr. W. E. Forster—a man of thorough honesty and conviction. He said that these Crimes Acts—this exceptional legislation—was only aimed at "a handful of village ruffians." That idea has been exploded long ago. We all know now that the coercion proposed by 1845 Her Majesty's Government is aimed at an organization which, rightly or wrongly, possesses the confidence of three-fourths of the people of Ireland. By coercion, we are not fighting "village ruffians," but an organization which, in the words of of Sir Redvers Buller, the people look to as their salvation. We ought never to have allowed any organization to stand to the people of Ireland in such a relation as that, and it would not have been so if we had only done our duty. What is going to be the result of this coercion? We can easily imprison 500 or 1,000 people; but how long are we to keep them in prison? And when the imprisoned men come out, will they not come out with ton times more influence than when they went in? Indeed, I do not know that imprisonment under a Crimes Act would not be the hall-mark and stamp of a man as fit to be a future Member of Parliament; and any priest who is sent to prison will come out fit, in the eyes of the Irish people, to be a Bishop. I have, on many a Unionist platform, declared that what has been stated by many of my Liberal Friends, who disagree with me on this subject, is untrue and false—namely, that there is no alternative and no middle course between coercion and Home Rule. We have denounced Home Rule, and we have declared that we would show how mistaken a policy it is, if a Unionist majority was returned to Parliament; that we would show the English people that we are as anxious as possible to give to Irishmen all fair and reasonable powers for governing themselves with regard to their own local affairs. That was our Unionist platform. We denounced coercion again and again. We went in for equal laws and equal liberties, and I, for one, decline to be divorced from the declarations which I made upon many platforms in the course of the Unionist campaign. What we are now asked to do is to make the laws unequal and to abridge the liberties of Irishmen. I maintain that it is a great blunder to suppose that all Irishmen, or that all so-called Nationalist Irishmen, hold extreme views. I know many Irishmen who support Nationalist candidates, and yet are very far from holding extreme Home Rule views. They say—"You have attempted for 87 years to govern Ireland by constant resort to coercive measures, and by exceptional legislation, and you have failed. You 1846 have now come reluctantly to the opinion that there is no way out of the difficulty—that English prejudices and English methods are so deeply-rooted and deeply-seated that there is no way out of the difficulty but Home Rule in some shape or other." These are not men who ought to be driven into extreme opposition. The Government will be wise if they would appeal, while there is yet time, to moderate Irish opinion. I do not mean that coercion, in some circumstances, may not become possible and even right, and I wish to guard myself against saying a word that may be supposed to cast a reflection upon the conscientious and honest views of hon. Gentlemen opposite. No doubt they have come to the conclusion that they are right. I hold that they are wrong, and I, for one, will never consent to try coercion until all other means have failed. There are only two ways of maintaining the Union. The one is by a patient continuance of legislative remedial measures, not forgetting that we have not been free from blame in the past, and that English Members owe a debt to the Irish people. That is one course; the other course is the old course of coercion and brute force, which, in the past, we have been so ready to try, and which has always failed, but which, nevertheless, we are now going to try again in circumstances absolutely unjustifiable. Of these two courses I will never consent to give my voice in favour of coercion until we have tried and exhausted the other expedient which goes to the root of the matter. Put that right which your own Commission has told you is wrong, and then, having done justice to Ireland and established wise and approved laws, you can command the complete adhesion and obedience of Irishmen to those laws. It is from this point of view, retaining my Unionism most thoroughly, that I am willing to grant to Ireland local self-government; but not Parliamentary independence. I am altogether opposed to coercion, and I shall give to the proposition of the Government all the opposition in my power.
§ MR. W. HAYES FISHER (Fulham)
The hon. Member who has just sat down may be justly described as neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red-herring. The hon. Member appears to think that he is invited to vote for what he calls 1847 coercion only. Now, I have studied the Blue Book as well as the hon. Member, and I find that, although remedial measures are prescribed for Ireland, the Blue Book tells me that before remedial measures could take effect it is absolutely necessary that measures for the restoration of law and order should be passed. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Bill of the Government has been introduced to suppress an organization which has won the hearts of the Irish people. Now, the real object of the Bill is to meet the case of the "village ruffians," which were described by the late Mr. W. E. Foster, and the aim of the measure is to meet the dastardly acts which have been committed by those "village ruffians" in Ireland. I should like to know, when Her Majesty's Government propose a Bill of this character, why they are not entitled to expect the support of the hon. Member who has just sat down? He tells us that he is opposed to coercion, root and branch; but, proceeding with his speech, it was not long before he came to the conclusion that he was not opposed to coercion, under every possible circumstance. I should like to put a case to him. Suppose, for instance, that the hon. Member dared to assume that the Plan of Campaign has been organized by men who, acting with the most perfect sincerity and honesty, have taken up the Plan of Campaign, solely for the purpose of forcing rack-renting landlords to give proper reductions to their tenants—suppose the hon. Member takes that view, then I can understand that he might refuse to any Government the power of meeting that Plan of Campaign, and the action of those who are endeavouring to enforce it; but suppose that in the ensuing winter, Her Majesty's Government have to confront this state of things—suppose that hon. Members sitting below the Gangway issue a No-Rent Manifesto or that the Catholic Church in Ireland, headed by Archbishop Croke, embark in an opposition to the payment of all taxes, would the hon. Member refuse to give any power to Her Majesty's Government to enable them to deal with such a state of things? Would the hon. Member be prepared to give perfect immunity to those who advocate either a No-Rent or a No-Tax Campaign throughout Ireland? If he says that he is not willing to give immunity 1848 to those who advocate such a programme, then I ask him if he is willing to grant the Government sufficient power in case such a programme is put forward next winter for dealing with it. I am afraid that I have not been able to discover much argument in the speech of the hon. Member, and if the House will permit me I will leave the remarks of the hon. Member and turn to the case which Her Majesty's Government have put forward in favour of the Bill. We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) that he has founded his case against the Bill, to a great extent, on the fact that the Government have put forward a totally inadequate and inefficient case for coercive measures. In 1881, the right hon. Gentleman stated that he attached very little importance to mere terrorism, but that there was abundant proof of the gravity of the crimes committed. That remark was made in answer to the very charge which he himself has brought against Her Majesty's Government on the present occasion—namely, that the Ministry are relying upon altogether insufficient evidence and inadequate statistics as to the amount of crime and outrage which exists in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman on that occasion told us that it was on such a case that the Government were entitled to demand coercive legislation for Ireland. So far as the Government rely upon the Blue Book, they rest as the right hon. Gentleman said he rested in 1881 "on the graver and not on the more trivial cases. [Ironical cheers from the Home Rule Members.] Yes; we rely, as he then said he relied—upon the aggregate of those cases and the circumstances connected with them, upon the source from which these offences have sprung, upon the combinations by which they are supported; and it is upon the total failures of the administration of justice in the attempts to detect and punish crime, and not upon those selected items and units that we rest our ease.That is exactly our case; but we do not rest upon this case only, but upon the acknowledged existence of Boycotting and intimidation which prevails throughout Ireland. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he was very much surprised that be-cause Her Majesty's Government, when they were in Office at the end of 1885, did not introduce a Coercion 1849 Bill, that they should be prepared to introduce one in 1887. I dare say it may be that Her Majesty's Government are wiser than they were in 1885; but I do not think it lies in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian to upbraid Her Majesty's Government for introducing a Bill providing for change of venue and special juries to meet the difficulties of the present situation, seeing that the right hon. Gentleman in 1885 was anxious to have those powers given to his own Government, as appears from a letter addressed to the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach). Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect what occurred in October, 1885? I have here a copy of the letter which he addressed to my right hon. Friend the late Chief Secretary for Ireland; and he states in that letter—As to the clauses which might be generally termed procedure clauses, and the most important of which related to special juries, change of venue, and Boycotting, our opinion was not that they should be absolutely re-enacted, but that the Viceroy should have power to put them in force together, or separately, as and where he might see cause.Those words were written on the 10th of October, 1885; and I want to know, when the Government of the right hon. Gentleman were prepared to bring forward a measure of that kind, what were the statistics as to crime and outrage at that time in Ireland? I know that whatever is quoted from this side of the House is almost certain to be contradicted on the other; but perhaps I may be allowed to quote a passage from a speech of one of the staunchest allies and supporters of the Government at that time—Lord Spencer. Speaking in another place on January 12th, 1886, Lord Spencer said—In 1881, the number of cases of agrarian crime was 1,439; in 1882 the number was 3,433; while in 1884 the number was only 762; but should there be a fresh outbreak of agrarian crime, I believe we should not be able to depend upon the ordinary law or ordinary juries.Lord Spencer pointed out that crime had been constantly going down; and he goes on to say that—At the time we left Office (i.e., in June, 1885), outrages had fallen to a very low ebb indeed. But the fact remained that it was only recently that those organizations had been broken up, and condign punishment had been meted out to the offenders.1850 We have had the figures in regard to Boycotting given to-night, and they show that at that time—1885—when the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was in power, and wished to renew the special clauses of the Crimes Act relating to the offence of Boycotting, the figures of crime and outrage were very much below what they are at the present moment, and Boycotting was far less extensive. [Cries of"No!" from the Home Rule Members, and "Hear, hear!" from the Ministerial Benches.] Therefore, the proposal of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian to re-enact part of the Crimes Act in 1885 amply justifies the Government in taking the course which they have determined to take now. I admit, however, that I would not support the Government if their case were based solely upon the tabulated agrarian outrages. I support the Ministerial policy, because I know that injured persons in Ireland dare not give evidence against those who have injured them, that jurors dare not convict, and that, if jurors dare to convict, they dare not go about their ordinary business without being attended by as many policemen as used to attend the movements of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian has treated with ridicule the extracts read from the Judges' charges. I think it was hardly decent on the part of the right hon. Member to throw ridicule on the opinions of men whom he had himself raised to the Bench. We have heard what was the opinion of one Judge, who was Attorney General in the right hon. Gentleman's own Government. Why, if the opinions of that Gentleman were to be received as truthful when he was sitting on the Front Ministerial Bench, should he be treated as a liar now that he has been elevated to the Judicial Bench? I could give thousands of instances of the most cruel forms of outrage and intimidation. [Home Ride cries of "Give them!"] I will certainly do so. I have heard it denied, in the course of this debate, that Irishmen are persecuted because they refuse to join the National League. That has been distinctly laid down and reiterated over and over again by hon. Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway on the other side of the House. Now, I have seen myself the following notice, 1851 which, on the 16th of January last, was found posted on the gate of the Roman Catholic Chapel at Achonry, in the County of Sligo:—Notice.Beware of the undermentioned 'Shoncens' who would not become members of the Achonry branch of the National League for the year 1886.
§ MR. W. HAYES FISHER
Achonry. I may have mispronounced it; but that does not alter the fact that the notice was posted as I have described. The notice itself was followed by 60 names; and it can be well understood what would happen to the persons thus specified. What actually did happen I will tell the House. Several of them paid next day, but an apology for their past apathy was demanded. I will give now instances of the treatment of men who have been Boycotted because they had paid their rents. This is a copy of a notice posted all over the district in which Lady Kingston's estates are situated—Boycott! Boycott! Boycott!Fellow-countrymen, be not deceived. Boycotting is not done away with. Strike now or never at everyone who assists Anne Kingston to recover oppressive rents, or who pays them. Boycott that disgrace to her sex, Anne Kingston, the grass widow, the hard-hearted. Boycott and rend the pig-headed representative of the Church Body. Boycott Maria O'Grady; Boycott Benson the insolent whelp. Strike at the outposts of the Castle; you know who they are.Boycott! Boycott! Boycott!Let others, too, take warning and beware of their fate, or their turn will surely come.N.B.—John Coughlan, of Flemingstown, has paid his rent. Boycott him and his short horns and his dairy farms. Dairymen beware!Let me give the House another instance in connection with the Philipstown branch, King's County. It is contained in a cutting from The Midland Tribune (a Nationalist organ) in January last, which says—The usual fortnightly meeting was held on Sunday, the Rev. J. Bergin. P. P., presided. A complaint was made that the farm at Ballyowen, surrendered by Mr. Thomas Smyth, of Kell, on account of it being rack-rented, was lately grabbed by a person named Rylands, from Rahue. It was resolved that the rule of the League relating to land-grabbing be strictly enforced, and that any member of the branch found to be in communication with any of the parties concerned will be expelled.1852 Let me mention the facts of the case. Smyth held a farm under Sir Edward Grogan in King's County. Thinking the rent too high he surrendered the farm to the landlord three years ago, since which date it has been derelict. The other day Rylands took this farm. In consequence of the action of the National League, he thought it best to offer Smyth £20. A meeting of the League was held, and, acting under its shadow, Smyth demanded £140. Threatening notices were posted with the result that Rylands has given up the farm, being afraid to go near the place. [An hon. MEMBER: What was the date?] The 23rd of January, 1887. I will now give the House a still more cruel instance of Boycotting, and it relates to an individual whose name has very frequently been mentioned in this House—Father Fahy.A meeting of the members of the Abbey district of the Woodford branch of the National League was held on the 6th of February, 1887, Father Fahy in the chair. Michael Larkin, secretary, Abbey branch, spoke of the herding of farms in the locality, and asked if those who held the situations would give them up, and said the people knew how to treat these people, if they did not do so, and if there was any herd present for him to come forward and give it up publicly, or if not they would smell hell. Michael Coen's wife came forward, and said they were herding a farm, and she would give it up if they promised her any support. Pat Maddox, herd to Mr. Lewis, said he was willing to give up, but that he had nine children, and if they gave him any support he did not want to work for Lewis. Father Fahy said he would give no guarantee. Martin Egan proposed a vote of thanks to Father Fahy, and in response Father Fahy said he called those herds who did not give up miserable wretches. Maddox then came up, and said he was willing to give up if they gave him out-door relief; but that he could not die by the ditch. Father Fahy said he would wash his hands of the like of him. Maddox was then groaned at. Richard Donahue, herd to Mr. Lewis, gave up to-day for fear, and he has been herding the farm for 35 years; and has no means except the workhouse. This old man, Richard Donahue, came to Mr. Lewis, and told him with tears in his eyes that he would be obliged to give up herding for him, as he considered his life would not be safe if he continued in his employment after Sunday's meeting.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
May I be permitted to ask whether the hon. Gentleman is quoting from a newspaper report of the proceedings, or from a report supplied by a police constable?
§ MR. W. HAYES FISHER
I am quoting a report received from the Royal 1853 Irish Constabulary, supplied, I believe, from short-hand notes of the proceedings. [Cries of "Oh!" and laughter from the Home Rule Members.] Allow me to remind hon. Members below the Gangway opposite what was held by the Government of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian in 1881 as to the accuracy and veracity of the Constabulary Reports. I think they will find that on more than one occasion the right hon. Gentleman defended the accuracy and veracity of those members of the Royal Irish Constabulary who supplied reports of meetings to the Government. I do not propose to weary the House by reading any more instances of Boycotting. I am quite certain of this that those who read the Irish papers, and study what is going on, must be convinced that a system of terrorism and tyranny is prevalent in Ireland, which it is the first duty of Her Majesty's Government to put down by every means in its power. If hon. Members opposite refuse to join in supporting—at all events, the Boycotting clauses of this Bill, and its main provisions—I shall judge only that they feel no sympathy with the Government in the heavy duty they are called upon to perform—that they refuse from purely Party and factious purposes, apart altogether from the question of Home Rule, to give those powers to Her Majesty's Government which are essential for the restoration of law and order, and they refuse to show practical sympathy with those who are suffering in the most cruel way, in Ireland, from tyranny and despotism. Will they shut their eyes and ears to the sights and cries that come from those who are the victims of abominable crimes, outrages, and cruelties in Ireland? I say that it is our bounden duty to endeavour to restore two-thirds of Ireland to the same position of peace and prosperity that now exists in Ulster among the other third of the population. No one can deny that while the greater portion of Ulster is prosperous and happy, and is enjoying the liberties and privileges of free men, the other portion of Ireland is under a cruel despotism, and to a large extent given over to anarchy. Our main end and object is to bring about such a state of things as may enable us to paint the other two-thirds of Ireland in the same colours as we 1854 are now able to paint Ulster, and to bring about a state of things which will secure that deeds which are regarded as heinous crimes in the sight of God and in the sight of Englishmen and Scotchmen shall come also to be regarded as crimes by the main body of the Irish people.
§ MR. NEVILLE (Liverpool, Exchange)
I trust the House will extend to me its indulgence for a short time while I address it upon this question; because I do not think I should be doing my duty to those I represent if I were to give a silent vote upon the occasion of this Motion. Certainly, it is not my intention to trouble the House with more than a few remarks with regard to the present measure; and it seems to me that it will be more consistent with the position which I take up, if I meet the Motion, in the first instance, with a direct denial; because it is not the details of the measure to which I object, but it is the whole principle of coercion. My profound conviction is that this Bill is not the way to meet the evils now existing in Ireland; but the only way in which a cure can be found for them is by generously meeting the legitimate demands of the Irish people for a fair measure of self-government. I am not without a true and deep sympathy with the Irish people in their troubles and in their trials. I can honestly say that. But I have always approached this question more directly from an English point of view. It is not that I fear the worst that can be done by 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 people in Ireland, for I have not so poor an opinion of the strength of the Empire as to believe that any course the Irish people may be driven to take would seriously interfere with the maintenance of the Empire. But, at the same time, I cannot see without regret England, year after year and decade after decade, keeping up a running sore in her side, and with her small military strength, wilfully weakening herself by maintaining a state of things in Ireland which necessitates the keeping up of a considerable military force in that country. Again, I cannot see without serious apprehension thousands and tens of thousands of Irishmen leaving the shores of Ireland year after year, and going to America and to the Colonies, with their hearts filled with the deepest hatred against the 1855 Imperial Government. That is one of the most serious aspects of the case from an Englishman's point of view. As I have already stated, I do not propose to deal with the details of this measure of coercion; but I may congratulate the Government on one of the features of the Bill which, as I understand it, appears to be an ingenious contrivance to enable the Government to maintain the organization of the Orangemen, whilst, at the same time, they are able to put down and crush the organization which is resorted to by the majority of the Irish people. Well, Sir, I do not find any fault with the Government because they propose to make the Bill a permanent measure. On the contrary, I am glad of it. I am glad that the Government, and those who think with them, should throw off the mask, and should no longer pretend that they have any intention of governing Ireland as a free people. But there is one provision which I miss in this proposed measure, and which I miss with considerable regret. It is this; I find in this measure no provision for the disenfranchisement of every Irish constituency, and I say that the omission of such a provision, in such a measure as this, is totally inconsistent with the scope and with the intention of the Bill. To leave to the Irish people nominally a free representation, while permanently depriving them of the rights of a free nation. To my mind, it is a shameless mockery; and to force a measure like this down the throats of the Irish people in opposition to the voices of the Representatives of the vast majority of the country, is, to my mind, the grossest insult any Government could possibly oiler to any nation which had the slightest right or pretence to call itself free. Now, Sir, in the interests of my own country, I ask the Government—inasmuch as they appear to have finally made up their minds that they will govern Ireland utterly without regard to the feelings and wishes of the Irish people—I ask the Government to dismiss hon. Members below the Gangway from their attendance here, which can be of no possible benefit in the future, and which will undoubtedly be accompanied by very considerable inconvenience. The other night we were told from the opposite side of the House that the measure to be introduced was a measure dealing 1856 only with criminals; and, therefore, it was suggested that those who opposed it must be criminals, or connected with the criminal classes. That was a proposition which was very much cheered on the other side of the House; but, surely, it is a curious misapprehension. As far as I understand the law of England, and I take it that the law of Ireland can hardly be different in this respect, you do not try criminals. No man is a criminal in the eye of the law until he has been tried and convicted. You punish criminals; you try men who are accused of crime. It is a matter of the deepest concern to every honest man in the country that trial by jury shall be maintained. It is not a question affecting the criminal class, but a question affecting the freedom of the mass of the people. I have heard that considerable difference of opinion exists as to whether or not the Crimes Act of 1882 proved a success, and we have been told by hon. Members on this side of the House that that all depends on what you suppose it to have been intended for. Having regard to what it was intended for, they say that it did prove an undoubted success. Now, Sir, what did it effect? After it had been in operation for three years, according to Lord Spencer, it left the country in a worse state than that in which it found it? Was it that which the Crimes Act was intended for; because if it is the fact that it left the country in a worse condition than it found it—and, if it carried out the object for which it was intended—it must have been intended to leave Ireland in a worse state than it found it? If the intention of the present Bill is the same, I prophesy, with considerable confidence, that that expectation will be realized, and that, if ever this measure becomes law, it will leave Ireland in a vastly worse state than it finds it. We have been taunted with the fact that an alliance exists between Members of this side of the House and hon. Members below the Gangway. So far as we are all of us pursuing a policy which we believe to be demanded by justice, and to be in the interests of England, as well as in the interests of Ireland, I do not hesitate to say that it is an alliance, and I am not ashamed of it. But, except in that sense, I do not know what right any man in this House has to say that 1857 there is an alliance between the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian and any other Party in this House, except the general Liberal Party. The result of this so-called "alliance" has been shown to be a diminution of crime in Ireland, and we have been seriously warned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it is a very dangerous thing, and that we are incurring a serious responsibility; because there has been a diminution of crime in consequence of our action. I confess that that is an argument which I find very difficult to understand. I want to know in what way are the interests of this country, or in what way are the interests of Ireland, imperilled? The moment the Irish people find that there is some chance of getting justice from the English people, and from the British House of Commons—the immediate effect of that is to diminish crime and to induce them to resort to Constitutional measures for the expression of their desires. If that is the fact, if the removal of despair and the infusion of hope in the breasts of the Irish people is the result of our action, I want to know why hon. Members opposite should be alarmed, and I ask what danger is such a policy to result in? If we have done nothing else we are entitled to take credit for the fact that we hare given hope to the Irish people, and the result of that hope has already been the diminution of crime. It would seem that the Government only care for a diminution of crime when it is brought about by a Coercion Act. From what they tell the House we might gather that a diminution of crime which comes from the spontaneous self-restraint of the Irish people is rather a thing to be blamed than praised. My objection to the proposed measure is this: I care not whether a case for coercion has been made out or not; but I am prepared to say that I will never vote for any measure of coercion until we have given a fair trial to the policy involved in meeting the fair demands of the Irish people. If you do that, if you give them a fair trial, and if you find crime and outrage continued in the country, then all I can say is that I will be ready to vote for any Coercion Act, however stringent—and the more stringent it is the better it will be able to meet the necessities of the case. But I do not intend to take that course until we have tried what self-go- 1858 vernment can do; because I am firmly convinced that that is the only remedy. Lot us for a moment take the case of the Government. Do not they see that the worse they make out the condition of Ireland, the more they damage their own case; because the policy they propose to pursue is the very policy which has brought Ireland to the condition in which she now is? What Ireland is now she has been made by a policy of coercion, and if the only policy of the Government is to continue in the future the mistakes that have been made in the past the worse it is for their own policy, and for the course they now propose to pursue. I thank the House for the indulgence which it has accorded to me on the present occasion, and I will only say, in conclusion, that I, for one, am heartily sick of the policy of approaching the Irish people with a whip in one hand and a lump of sugar in the other. I would ask whether the experience of the last 80 years has not been enough to condemn our system of Government? If the Government are not satisfied with the experience of the past 86 years, let me ask them, as a matter of common sense, what will satisfy them? Must they go on for 1,800 years before they will become satisfied that no good can come from pursuing a policy which has so signally failed in the past? Let hon. Members seriously ask themselves what they can expect from a fresh measure of coercion, when measures of coercion in one form or another have been tried throughout the whole of the century, and have resulted in bringing about the state of things which exists at this moment in Ireland—a state of things which hon. Members on the other side have described as intolerable. Let me ask hon. Members on this side of the House to remember that undoubtedly, in the eyes of the people, when the history of the country comes to be written, it is they, and they alone, who will be held responsible for what has occurred? We have been told that the Unionists bar the way. I entirely agree they bar the way to Liberal progress and reform. They stand forward, no doubt, with honest intentions, as the champions of prejudice, class interests, and religious intolerance, and they bar the way to the reconciliation of the English and the Irish people. They bar the way to a settlement of this Irish Question which 1859 has for so long a time occupied the attention of the House, and been so disastrous in its results to the public interests. I ask hon. Members to consider whether the time has not now arrived for settling the question onto and for all, and whether that settlement can possibly be arrived at by pressing forward such a measure as that which has been submitted to the House by Her Majesty's Government?
§ MR. F. W. MACLEAN (Oxford, Woodstock)
Mr. Speaker, I cannot help thinking that the speech which my hon. Friend the Member for the Cirencester Division of Gloucestershire (Mr. Winterbotham) has addressed to the House this evening betrays a very wobbly frame of mind on the Irish Question. I should like to point out to him, and to the House, that the real question raised by this debate is whether Her Majesty's Government are to have an opportunity of bringing in measures for the maintenance of law and order in Ireland; or whether that maintenance of law and order in Ireland can only be obtained by the measure suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), which embodied the principle of Home Rule. It seems to me that in a very short time my right hon. Friend the Member for the Cirencester Division of Gloucester will find himself between two stools, and I think that a juncture like this is not a time when an opportunity ought to be given, or when there is any opening for what I may call a political wobbler. Well, now, after the clear and specific statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) I think the House will arrive at the conclusion that the time has come when it must definitely make up its mind as to whether or not it will give to Her Majesty's Government power to maintain law and order in Ireland. When we reflect upon what we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman as to the opinion of the Judges in Ireland, as to the difficulty there is in inducing jurors to perform their duty, and to comply with their oaths; when we ponder upon what we have heard as to that social scourge in Ireland, the system of Boycotting—I entertain very little doubt indeed that this House will arrive at the conclusion that the time has come when the law of the Crown must be held 1860 to be paramount, and not subservient to the law of the National League The first objection that is taken to the proposal of the Government is that remedial measures ought to be brought in before coercion. Well, Sir, subject to what I will say in a moment as to the necessity, to my mind, of preserving, in the first place, law and order in Ireland, I certainly do agree to this extent with my hon. Friend the Member for the Cirencester Division of Gloucester, that Her Majesty's Government, considering the large power that they have, considering the support which they have upon the Benches opposite, and the support which they will certainly get from the very serried phalanx of the Liberal Unionists on these Benches, have a great opportunity of passing remedial measures for Ireland; and I tell the Government frankly that, while I intend to support—as I do intend to support—tho Bill that is before the House, I do so in the belief and in the faith that in supporting that measure I am supporting a measure which is only paving the way for the introduction of remedial measures. It is not only in relation to remedial measures in connection with the land, in the direction of giving leaseholders the benefit of the Act of 1881, in doing away with dual ownership, and I hope in giving to local bodies a discretion in relation to evictions. It is not only in that direction that I think remedies are required; but I go still further, and I express the hope that the Government's remedial measures will go so far as to give at least a very wide measure of self-government to Ireland. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), in the brilliant speech which he made to-night, stated that the position on the Irish Question taken up by Liberal Unionists last year was, that there was a middle course between coercion on the one hand, and the scheme of Home Rule on the other. He said the Liberal Unionists are now to be put to the test. The Liberal Unionists have before now been put to the test and I think it will be found that they will come up to the mark. We still say there is a middle course; but, while we adhere to that belief, we are equally and strongly of opinion that it is no use proceeding with remedial measures until we have established something like law and order in Ire- 1861 land. Well. Sir, I heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian to-night that if the Government had, in the first instance, brought in remedial measures for Ireland, those remedial measures would, in all probability, have received the support of himself and of his Friends. Well, Sir, perhaps I am a little doubtful upon that point; but what I venture to impress upon the House is this—what opportunity has the right hon. Gentleman and his allies below the Gangway given the Government of bringing in remedial measures? When we look back to the debates on the Address, to the debates upon the Rules of Procedure and in Committee of Supply, and to the very interesting event of last Monday week—namely, the All-night Sitting, we may fairly ask does that look as if hon. Members are desirous of giving the Government an opportunity of bringing in their remedial measures? But, Sir, supposing the Government had brought in their remedial measures, how would they have been met? They would have been met at once by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian and his friends and supporters with the statement that such remedial measures were quite inadequate, and that there is only one remedial measure for Ireland—namely, the institution in Dublin of a Local Parliament with an Executive responsible to that particular Parliament. I think the country has pronounced upon that question. Now, it has been said by many speakers who have preceded me that no case has been made out for coercion. I listened with attention to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Mr. A. J. Balfour), and, personally, I have arrived at the conclusion that at any rate there is a strong primà facie case, which abundantly justifies the Government in coming to the House and asking for leave to introduce this measure. It seems to me that if hon. Gentlemen would only consult the Report of the Cowper Commission, without paying so much attention to individual points of the evidence, they would find that that Commission reported that there was at least a very strong primâ facie case for the interference of the House in giving increased powers to the Government for the maintenance of law and order in Ireland. In the course of this debate 1862 we have been told that there was, in 1882, a strong case—and a very much stronger case than the present—for the granting of exceptional powers to the Government of Ireland. That statement has been supported, not only by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, but by the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), and by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Reid), the last of whom supported his argument by the reading of various extracts from the evidence given before the Cowper Commission, and especially from the evidence of General Buller. I venture to submit to the House that that is by no means a fair way of testing the question; but that the true way to test the question is to look at the evidence as a whole. Of course, when you have a mass of evidence like this, it is quite possible to pick out fragments of it which support your case, or which go against your case, as it may be. But if any admissions are wanted that the Government are justified in the policy they are pursuing, I would refer to the speech delivered last night by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Haddington (Mr. Haldane). He admitted, in the clearest terms, that, the law of the National League was supreme in Ireland. Do you want any greater admission than that—that the Government are justified in the course they are pursuing? [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh; but the hon. and learned Member for Haddington is a very strong supporter of them and of their policy, and this is what he said—How were the Government going to substitute for the de facto Government of Ireland, which he should like to see, the de jure Government, a Government which should discharge its duties with the good will of the Irish people?If the Government wanted an admission from hon. Members who support the views of hon. Members below the Gangway, in justification of the course they have adopted, they could not obtain a more candid admission than that made by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Haldane). But what is the real issue that is raised by this debate? It is whether the Government are to have an opportunity of bringing in this exceptional legislation for Ireland which they say at the present is the only remedy at 1863 hand; or whether, on the other hand, the view of hon. Members below the Gangway is the sounder view to take of the Irish Question; whether this repressive legislation should be adopted, or whether there should be granted what is generally called Home Rule for Ireland? That, Sir, is the real issue raised upon this occasion. It is impossible, having listened to the speeches of hon. Members, not to have been struck by the recantation of views which has characterized many of them. There was a recantation made by the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries, which was very straightforward and very honourable. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that in 1882 there was a case for coercion, and he voted for it; but he was very sorry he did, and he did so in ignorance. That was a statement which was loudly cheered by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. At any rate, as between the supporters of the Home Rule policy and the Liberal Unionists, there is this, at least, of advantage upon our side—we have nothing to recant; we have not recanted in the past, and we do not intend to recant in the future. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dumfries is not the only Member who has recanted his opinion in relation to Irish policy. There are many hon. Members who sit upon the Front Opposition Bench who very suddenly recanted their opinions last year in relation to Irish policy; they did not call it recantation, they found a softer word, something more soothing to their consciences—they called it the "finding of salvation." "Finding of salvation!" They might just as well talk about the finding of Moses. At any rate, the last Election showed very clearly that the constituencies did not all take the view that these right hon. Gentlemen had found political salvation, but seemed rather to think that they had found something the very reverse of political salvation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian prophesied to-night that the views in favour of Home Rule are growing in the country. [Home Rule cheers.] Hon. Members cheer that prophecy; but I remember very well that in that most brilliant speech which the right hon. Gentleman made just before the Division which was so fatal to his Government, he ventured to prophesy. I remember his words very well, and I remember the 1864 action by which his words were accompanied. Standing by that Table, he pointed to the Opposition, and used this language—"Tho ebbing tide is with you, and the flowing tide is with us." [Home Rules Cheers.] I am glad to find, Mr. Speaker, that those impressive words made as much effect upon hon. Members below the Gangway as they made upon myself; but, Mr. Speaker, I think hon. Members below the Gangway are cheering a little too soon. The last General Election has shown conclusively that the flowing tide has been with us, and that the right hon. Gentleman and his political Friends are being carried far out to sea upon the ebbing tide. But, Mr. Speaker, why do I refer to those recantations of these apparent inconsistencies? I refer to them for the purpose of calling the attention of the House to an observation made by the right hon. Gentleman the other night. The right hon. Gentleman said—if I caught his words accurately—that no Government had ever brought in, or, at any rate, had ever hoped to pass, what is popularly called a Coercion Bill when three-sevenths of the Members of the House of Commons were opposed to that measure. But how is it that three-sevenths of the House of Commons are opposed to this measure? It is by reason of the very sudden alliance which has been formed between the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), and that alliance is entirely attributable to the recantation of view, and the absolute change of Irish policy which was so suddenly adopted by the right hon. Gentleman himself. Well, Sir, the other night my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dumfries made an attack upon the Liberal Unionists. He said the Liberal Unionists are the real fathers of this Bill. I am not in the secrets of the Leaders of the Liberal Unionists; but, so far as I am aware, I do not think there is any justification for that remark. I am, however, not going to shrink from any responsibility, if responsibility there be. If by Coercion Act, hon. Members mean an Act which is only necessary to enable Her Majesty's Government to carry on the government of Ireland, then I am satisfied that there is no Liberal Unionist who will shrink for a moment from the admission that the Liberal Unionists are responsible, and are only too proud to be 1865 responsible, for such a measure. But, Sir, it does not occur to me that the Liberal Unionists require any vindication in this House. The position and the policy of the Liberal Unionists was fully vindicated at the last General Election by the voice of the country. For what are the Government now asking? They are merely asking, as I understand, subject to an observation I will make in a moment as to some details of the measure—they are merely asking for power to maintain law and order in Ireland. What is the present condition of affairs? Can anybody doubt for a moment, after having read the evidence of the Report of the Cowper Commission, that there is not only outrage, but that there is disorder, and, in many districts, an absolute contempt for the law in Ireland? When we regard—as we must regard—the difficulty which is connected with the process of evicting in Ireland, when we think of the system of Boycotting and intimidation of jurymen, when we think of the language in use on platforms in Ireland, and what is much more to the point, when we think of the attitude which is now being assumed by the priesthood of Ireland, it does occur to me that the time has arrived when Her Majesty's Government ought to ask for powers to deal with what they consider a state of social disorder in Ireland. I am not going to trouble the House by reading any portion of the Report of the Cowper Commission. I assume that hon. Members have read that Report; I am quite sure that hon. Members below the Gangway have done so. Assuming that they have read that Report, and the portion of it which deals with the question of Boycotting and the question of combination, I am persuaded that they will have arrived at the conclusion that the Government are amply justified in the course they propose to pursue. Now, when the Government ask for these repressive powers, they are, of course, called Coercionists. An hon. Member, the other night, not only characterized the supporters of this Bill as Coercionists, but as Brummagem Straffords and bogus Castlereaghs. It seems to me that many hon. Members on this side of the House are suffering from Straffords and Castlereaghs on the brain. I am happy to say that the infection has not yet reached the Liberal Unionists, although I am bound 1866 to confess that I think my hon. Friend the Member for the Cirencester Division of Gloucestershire seems to be sickening for the complaint. The term coercion is an absolute misnomer, and I ask the House to consider who are the real coercionists in this matter; to my mind, and, I think, to the mind of anyone reading dispassionately the Report of the Cowper Commission, the real coercionists in this matter are the National League. [Home Rule ironical cheers.] Hon. Members cheer me ironically; but I do not hesitate to say that any combination that will not allow peaceable citizens and law-abiding people to go about their business without interference, is something very much like coercion indeed. What does the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) say? Last night he said that if this Bill be passed the people of Ireland would be slaves under it.
§ MR. DILLON (East Mayo)
I rise to Order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member is putting into my mouth words I never used at all. I said the people of Ireland would be slaves if they submitted to this Bill peaceably.
§ MR. F. W. MACLEAN
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon, if I quoted his words wrongly, I do not, for a moment, wish to misinterpret the language he used; but it does not seem to make any difference in the argument I wish to submit to the House. The hon. Gentleman admits having said that, if the people of Ireland submitted to this Bill peaceably, they would be nothing but slaves. I venture to say that, at the present moment, many of the peasantry and tenantry of Ireland who are under the coercion of the National League are in little better position than that of slaves. The hon. Member for the Cirencester Division of Gloucestershire said—No, that cannot be; for General Buller, in his evidence, said that the National League was the salvation of the people of Ireland.But why? No one has ventured to explain why. The reason why the peasantry and tenantry of Ireland regard the action of the National League as the salvation of Ireland is that prominent Members of the League are always going about the country and instilling into the minds of the peasantry and tenantry that, if they will only support the League, they will get their rents very much reduced, and in a short time get their land for 1867 nothing. [Mr. MAC NEILL Hear, hear!] An hon. Gentleman cries "Hear, hear!" I am very much obliged to him for the concession. That, I think, is not the language that hon. Members below the Gangway use in this House; but the language they use and the policy they propound here is very different to the language which is used by prominent members of the National League in the mountainous districts of Kerry and Clare. The National League has induced the peasantry and the tenantry of Ireland to arrive at the conclusion that the National League is their best friend, by trading upon the worst passions and the most assailable weakness of man—the greed and cupidity of human nature. I repeat that the real struggle upon which the House is entering is, whether the law of the Queen and of the country is to prevail over the unwritten law of the National League? I know I am only making use of a well-worn platitude. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members have not heard it yet; they might, at any rate, be indulgent until they have heard the platitude. I know I only make use of a well-worn platitude when I say that the primary duty of a Government is to govern. If the Government have not the power to govern, I—and I think I speak for many Liberal Unionists—feel that such power ought to be given to them. There is an agitation, something very akin to a revolutionary agitation, going on in a very considerable portion of Ireland. A great deal has been said about the responsibility that will attach to various sections in this House if this measure be passed. I agree that there will be great responsibility upon the Government, upon their supporters, and a greater one, or, at any rate, as great a one, upon that Party in the House which is known as the Liberal Unionist; but I venture to think that a far greater responsibility will rest on the shoulders of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. For the first time during 50 years or more; for the first time during a great—and I admit it most frankly—a most, eventful career—a career during which he has attained, in a great measure, the affection, if not the affection, at any rate the veneration of his countrymen—for the first time the right hon. Gentleman refuses to support Her Majesty's Government when they come to this House and 1868 say we require increased facilities for carrying on the Government of the Queen. Well, Mr. Speaker, why is this? Because he has, according to his views, his own panacea to remedy the ills of Ireland. I know there is no finality in politics; but I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to bear in mind that, for the present, at any rate, the voice of the country as regards this particular remedy for these particular ills has been given against the policy of the right hon. Gentleman. [Cries of "No!"] Well, I am surprised to hear hon. Members cry "No!" How can they explain the position of the right hon. Gentleman on the Bench below me? Now, it does seem to me that the country having rejected the Home Rule policy of the right hon. Gentleman, the least we might have expected from the right hon. Gentleman would have been that he would have supported in the meantime the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Upon the Motion for leave to introduce the Bill, I do not propose to go at any length into the details of the measure; but there is one portion of the Bill to which I desire to call attention, if I may be permitted to do so, and that is that part of the Bill which deals with the change of venue, or the bringing over of prisoners charged with certain specified offences to England for trial. I am bound to say, Mr. Speaker, that it does occur to me that that is a provision of the Bill which will require the greatest and the gravest consideration. If I may respectfully urge upon Her Majesty's Government, I would certainly ask them, between this and the Committee stage of the Bill, to consider very carefully whether that portion of the Bill is to them of its essence and vital to its existence; or whether, possibly, some other scheme may not be contrived which may obviate the necessity for that which to some of us appears to be a rather detrimental part of the Bill. It is, perhaps, impertinent for me to make a suggestion; but, if I may, I would suggest the possibility of adopting the scheme which is in operation in Scotland, and thus get out of the difficulty which may arise in relation to this particular part of the Bill. However, Sir, that is a detail in reference to which I only venture to throw out a hint at the pre-sent moment, in the hope that that part of the Bill may meet with the earnest 1869 consideration of Her Majesty's Government. Well, under the circumstances I have stated, I, for my part, shall have no hesitation whatever in supporting the Government in the Motion that is now before the House. If it be, as I surmise, that the asking for these exceptional powers is only to be regarded as paving the way for those remedial measures which I have suggested—and I understand from the statements of the right hon. Gentleman opposite that it is merely as a paving of the way for remedial measures—then I urge upon the Government, with all respect, to proceed resolutely and firmly with their Bill. I am satisfied that, if they do, that bearing in mind the ulterior remedial measures which they have in view, that not only will they meet with the support of their Supporters who sit opposite, but they will certainly meet with the support of the Liberal Unionists, and that when they have to explain their position to the country, I am satisfied that they will obtain the support of the constituencies and the confidence of the country.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
Mr. Speaker, the course taken by Her Majesty's Government promises for the House of Commons a Session of strife and barrenness. I should like to ask what has happened to entirely change the policy of Her Majesty's Government since the speech made at the close of the last Session of Parliament by the then Leader of the Conservative Party and the Leader of the House. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) gave no indication whatever that the first efforts of the Government, upon the reassembling of Parliament, would be the introduction of a severe measure of coercion. On the other hand, we were assured that it was the intention of the Government to indulge in great deliberation in regard to the provisions which should be introduced into Parliament, and the noble Lord gave every assurance that the result of their deliberations would be that there would be a series of measures with regard to local government submitted to Parliament, and that those measures would treat equally with the four parts of the United Kingdom, that there would be similarity, and, last of all, that there would be simultaneity in regard to the measure of local government. Now, in regard 1870 to this last and long word of the noble Lord, the only simultaneity that I can discover is the circumstance that the noble Lord has just returned to this House at the identical moment that the Government has thrown overboard every pledge it gave at the close of the last Session of Parliament, and has taken up the question of the renewal of coercion towards Ireland. I wish to say in general terms that we have before us a long and severe struggle upon this question. It is no longer a struggle in which the Irish Members, or a majority of the Irish Members of the House, will be opposed to an overwhelming majority drawn from both sides of the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. F. W. Maclean) who last addressed the House asked how it is that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) is no longer prepared to give his adhesion and support to the policy of coercion? My answer is that the right hon. Gentleman is not new to coercion; after an experience of 50 years, it has no charm or fascination for him. There are other Liberal Members of the House of Commons who have been induced at the call of their Leaders to listen to proposals for coercion. I was one of those unfortunate individuals who were cajoled by the statistics given as to the condition of Ireland to listen to proposals for coercion, and I looked with hope to the remedial legislation which was promised should succeed coercion. I do not hesitate to say that all those who have been for any time in this House, and who hope that the condition of Ireland will be improved by remedial legislation, must have abandoned all expectation of any permanent good arising to the country, or of any assistance being given to remedial legislation by this or any other form of coercion which may be submitted. It is very easy for a Government taking up the position the present Government has done to make out a case which shall be satisfactory to those who will only take a very limited view of the condition of society in Ireland. On the other hand, those of us who have turned our backs on coercion, and are resolved we will adhere to the policy of remedial legislation, base our position upon this consideration—that there is a condition of disaffection and discontent in Ireland which 1871 has been going on for generations; that there is in reality a civil war, although it may be altogether bloodless, in that country. A war of classes has been going on from generation to generation, and until we have terminated this struggle it will be impossible that the condition of Ireland can be such as will not afford some pretence for some shortsighted individuals to favour the policy of coercion. Now, the condition in which we find ourselves is very singular. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) is a highly respectable Member and a very able Member of this House; but only a fortnight ago he was Secretary for Scotland. He has been pitchforked into the Irish Office; he knows little or nothing of the condition of the country; he is literally unable to grapple with many of the suggestions which come from this or that side of the House; and yet we have the right hon. Gentleman, thus unarmed, presenting to us the case for coercion for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman very wisely fought shy of the old method of making out a case for coercion for Ireland. In all past cases, facts and figures of such a grave character have been given to the House, and have led many Members to support the Government in passing measures of coercion. The right hon. Gentleman indulged in anecdotes, as he called them. He gave us little information that was based on any official or tangible ground—anything that could really be examined and refuted. On the contrary, he based his case mainly on the fact that there existed in Ireland a widespread system of Boycotting. I do not deny that this very obnoxious system does largely prevail in that country, and that it is one of the few weapons that are left to the discontented Irish people in their struggle with an exacting landlord class. The misfortune of Ireland has been that throughout her history she has been in the hands of the landlord class, and that the whole population has been under the lash of that class. Parliament itself is made up of the landlord class; legislation has always gone on lines that have favoured the landlord class and inflicted perpetual injustice upon the tenant class. At last, by the legislation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, there came some mitigation of 1872 the situation; but owing to the failure of the harvests, and the depression of the prices of agricultural produce, the condition of the Irish tenantry is almost as bad as it was before 1881. Now, I maintain it is impossible to wrest from the hands of the Irish people these weapons of defence, so long as the weapons of offence and tyranny remain in the hands of the landlord class in that country. It is impossible by legislation to reach the root of the system of Boycotting. Besides, Boycotting is not altogether an Irish offence. It may vary in its forms; but it is as common in this country as in Ireland. The President of the great Wesleyan Society—a man who has had much experience of all parts of the country—has said that there does not exist in the thousands of parishes in this country the very elements of religious liberty; that there is a dominant class who interfere with the rights and privileges of those who happen to differ from them. You may go to other circles and find the same spirit, and the same bad habit prevails. What occurs in the appointment of the magistracy in this country? It is notorious that the system of Boycotting prevails in every part of the country. Boycotting is almost universal in the rural districts of England, and the towns are not free from it. I recollect that some time ago the Town Council of Bradford—one division of which town I have the honour to represent—sent up to the Lord Chancellor the names of 13 gentlemen whom they desired to be added to the borough Commission of the Peace. Amongst the 13 gentlemen there happened to be two Liberals. My brother was one of the two, and a highly respectable gentleman in Bradford was the other. The Lord Chancellor sent down the list with the two Liberals excluded—Boycotted. I do not hesitate to say that Boycotting must prevail in Ireland so long as you allow a small but powerful minority to ride roughshod over the rights and over the feelings of the people of that country. Now, Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding the anxiety of the Government to carry this Bill, every Liberal Member is entitled to ask for the greatest deliberation in the consideration of the Bill. If ever there was a measure in regard to which Members were entitled to confer with their constituents, this is one of that character. 1873 A proposal to take away the dearest and most cherished rights of 5,000,000 of Her Majesty's subjects is one in which the great mass of the people of the United Kingdom will take a lively interest, and therefore I appeal to Her Majesty's Government not to expect too rapid progress to be made with this measure. But, Sir, there is another reason why we are entitled to deliberate long and seriously and carefully upon this great question. This question of coercion was not submitted to the constituencies at the last Election. Proposals such as those referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. F. W. Maclean) who spoke last, and by other Unionist Members, wore largely commented upon; but I do not know a constituency in which proposals of coercion were seriously advocated by any candidate, Liberal or Conservative, at the last Election. I am aware that the other day, when hon. Members wore challenged upon the point, the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Eastern Division of Bradford (Mr. H. Byron Read) said he really had won his election by the advocacy of coercion. The hon. Gentleman may have, in some way or other, mentioned coercion, but I am sure it was not a prominent topic in his address, and that it cannot be correctly said his election turned upon the question of coercion. But even if it were true in that solitary instance, it only proves the rule that the constituencies were not consulted at the last Election upon the renewal of a system of coercion towards Ireland. This being so, I think every Liberal Member has laid upon his shoulders the duty of conferring with his constituents with the view of learning what their mind is upon the question of coercion. We are approaching the Easter holidays, which would be a very convenient time for Members to go amongst their constituents and hold. Conference with them, and ascertain what is felt upon this great question. Now, I venture to predict that where the late Government, with its longer official experience, and with the power and the capacity of its Administrators, failed in carrying out coercion, right hon. Gentlemen opposite are sanguine indeed if they expect they will succeed, But we need not confine our examina- 1874 tion to recent eases of coercion. Coercion has uniformly failed in Ireland. The experiment extending over 86 years, the experience of 86 Acts and Amendments of Acts, only shows to us that, assailed on that side, the Irish people are invulnerable. They have courage, they have heroism, they have resources, they have ingenuity; they have baffled every Administration in the past, and they will baffle every Administration in the future. It is easy to charge the Irish people with not being amenable to the ordinary laws of Great Britain. My answer is, and it is the outcome of some historic examination, that what- ever virtues the Irish people have, they are their own, and they may glory in them; and whatever vices they have are of our creation and of our imposition, and we are now bearing the penalty and the cost. I venture to say that a very short time will elapse before the great majority of the people of Great Britain will condemn this proposal of the Government. They will see in it nothing but a barren effort to sustain a system which has been the curse of Ireland ever since the Union, and for centuries before. It is impossible that you can maintain your land system in that country and bring permanent peace to Ireland. But I want to put the case from another point of view. We have been reminded to-night that we have got 86 Members from Ireland sitting on this side of the House, an overwhelming majority of the Irish Members representing an overwhelming majority of the Irish people. I should like to know whether the Boycotting of these 86 Members is contemplated by the Government, as seems to have been suggested by the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope). The right hon. Gentleman, speaking at Spilsby in Lincolnshire, on the 15th of October last—I quote from The Times newspaper—said—He remembered a very distinguished Member of the House of Commons saying that one thing had not been tried, and that was a steady and continuous policy. Year after year a policy that combined fairness with firmness, a policy that took no account of the Irish vote, but one of governing Ireland quite irrespective of what the Irish vote might choose to do. That policy they would press forward with vigour.Now, if that really be the determination of Her Majesty's Government, and if 1875 the measures they are about to propose to Parliament are dictated by such a spirit as that, I do not hesitate to say that the Irish Members will be justified in proceeding to any lengths in baffling such a policy; because they are denied their Constitutional rights. What is the use of Ireland selecting her Representatives, and sending them to the House of Commons, if they are to be told by a Minister of the Crown that whatever they say or do will not be regarded when questions of Irish policy are to be submitted to Parliament? If that is the deliberate intention of the Government, all I can say is that the Irish Members will be justified in offering opposition to the very last point to this proposal for the coercion of their country. Not only so, Mr. Speaker; but I believe that the British constituencies will—when they come to understand the policy of Her Majesty's Government, when they come to understand the shilly-shallying which is going on with regard to measures of reform, and the hot haste with which measures of coercion are being pressed through this House—begin to see that Her Majesty's present Advisers are not about to produce results in Ireland which will be of any permanent benefit to the country; but that, on the other hand, they have really entered upon a policy which will delay all progressive legislation with regard to Great Britain, and will only tend to increase the alienation between the two nations. I only wish to say, in conclusion, that we are only upon a very early stage of this measure. The Bill has not yet been placed in our hands; but we know enough now of the spirit in which it has been presented, and of the hopes and fears which have compelled Her Majesty's Government to enter upon this reactionary line. I, for one, am prepared from my place in Parliament to do everything that lies in my power to delay and baffle legislation of this kind.
MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. Mac Neill.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Tomorrow.