§ MOTION FOR LEAVE. FIRST READING.
§ ADJOURNED DEBATE. [FOURTH 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. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, that when the Government brought in a Coercion Bill the onus probandi of showing its necessity obviously rested with those who introduced it, and the Opposition were not bound to find arguments against it. That was all the more necessary on the present occasion, because the presumption was that any Coercion Bill for Ireland would prove a failure. Were it not so they would not 89 now be dealing with the 87th Coercion Bill. The only hon. Member of the House who appeared to be under the impression that Coercion Bills ever proved successful, was the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain). That right hon. Gentleman boasted and gloried the other day over the fact that the Crimes Act of 1882 had proved successful. He had no doubt that the words of the right hon. Gentleman had great weight with the Party opposite; but he did not think they would outweigh those used by the Prime Minister in his speech at Newport, who said it was not true that the Crimes Act of that year did diminish outrages. What was the argument used in support of this Bill? Practically it was a syllogism. They were told that it was the first duty of a Government to maintain law and order in Ireland, and that therefore the Government was justified in asking for these exceptional powers. He (Mr. Labouchere) altogether denied the premisses and the conclusion of the syllogism. They had had three speeches from the Front Treasury Bench in favour of the present measure. The speech of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) consisted almost entirely of the old stable hack—an attack on the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). When hon. Gentlemen opposite had nothing to say that was germane to the subject they immediately turned on the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, and tried to prove that he was one of the most dangerous—not to say wicked— Ministers who had ever existed, or who ever would exist. [Cheers.] Precisely, he thought so. When the noble Lord had gone through the usual attack on the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, he proceeded to praise his brother. Fraternal affection was all very well, but there were so many Gentlemen connected with the Peerage on the Treasury Bench that their debates would never come to an end if those Gentlemen were each to get up and for an hour defend their own relatives. The noble Lord said his brother's tenants loved their landlord because they had voted against the Home Rule candidate. How did he know how they had voted? Those unfortunate people were so intimidated by their landlord that they could not call their souls or their votes their own; and they had 90 to prove and to show that they had voted in favour of their landlord in order that his brother might come down to that House and give it as evidence that they loved him. Well, a very short time ago the leaseholders on the Duke of Abercorn's estate held a meeting and denounced the treatment they received. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) had also attacked the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, and his speech, though much lauded in the newspapers, was merely an amplification of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ire-land (Mr. John Morley). The late Chief Secretary laid it down that the first duty of the Government was to maintain law and order. Now, he (Mr. Labouchere) entirely denied that proposition. Law and order should not be bracketed together, because the worst disorders that ever occurred in the world were due to laws—to unjust laws. Just laws were all very well, but unjust laws promoted disorder. It was the common parrot cry of despots that it was necessary to strengthen the law to maintain law and order. The Emperor of Russia had transported half the people of Poland on the plea of maintaining law and order there. The Emperor Napoleon was never tired of saying that he wished to maintain law and order whenever he wanted to transport French people to Cayenne. Charles I. wanted to maintain law and order, and the people, most properly, cut his head off. James II. wanted to maintain law and order, and he was turned out of the country. Why was there disorder now in Ireland? Because they were always maintaining execrable laws there in defiance of the will of the Irish people. What Gentlemen on the Government side of the House did not seem to understand was that they were not dealing with individuals, but with a nation. It was the first right of a nation not only to make their laws, but to be the judge of their laws. Let them allow Ireland to make its own laws, and they would have no reason to complain. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary told them that Bill was perfectly legitimate, because the Liberals had also proposed Coercion Bills. His withers were unwrung because he had voted against previous Coercion Bills; but it did not necessarily follow because the Liberal Party were in favour of Coer- 91 cion Bills five years ago that they should be in favour of thorn now. On the contrary, they had tried thorn and found them to fail, and they were determined to have nothing to do with them in future. When a doctor had tried a particular remedy on 100 patients, and they had all died, ought he to go on applying it to 100 more patients? The remedy of the Liberal Party was Home Rule, and if that were adopted coercion would not be necessary. The Gentlemen who called themselves Unionists seemed determined to act like George III., and to persist in their errors until they should be compelled to abandon them by some calamity analogous to the American War of Independence. In the Southern States of America, during the time of Mr. Andrew Johnson and his successors, intimidation and outrage flourished. In 1878, when Homo Rule was granted to those States, all the terrorism and outrage ceased, and the Union of the American States was built upon recognized Homo Rule. The Liberal Party had a remedy, and they knew perfectly well that if that remedy were adopted coercion would become unnecessary. The right hon. Gentleman's speech in introducing the matter was not distinguished by his usual clearness. It was vague, incoherent, and contradictory. He must say—speaking artistically—that he was exceedingly disappointed with it. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to know nothing about Ireland; but that was not his fault, as he was a Scotchman who had no connection with Ireland. He did think, however, that the right hon. Gentleman might have got up his case a little better. He seemed to be under the impression that a Coercion Bill ought to be passed for Ireland. He did not know particularly why, and he did not particularly care. Some sort of reasons ought, he supposed, to be given for it, and so he gave them; but, after stating his reasons, he added—" On these I do not rely." His whole speech was that of one who was content to base his action on the principle," Sic volo, sic jubeo." The right hon. Gentleman drew a terrible picture of Ireland and the anarchy which prevailed in the greater part of the country. He said if a man remained in his house during the night the odds were that he would be shot; if he went out the odds were that on his return he would find that his wife and 92 daughters would be ravished. Hon. Members from Ireland must judge whether that was a fair and legitimate picture; but then, the right hon. Gentleman thought he must give some statistics. He seemed to have a kind of contempt for statistics—the same contempt as Mr. Mantalini had for halfpence. But the right hon. Gentleman did quote some statistics, and stated that since last July 755 crimes, not political or agrarian crimes, had come before the Courts, and that 531 crimes of which no clue had been found had been committed. These figures, however, only showed that three crimes were committed per diem; while in London, in nearly every Police Court, three men were committed, for trial every day. The right hon. Gentleman said that juries would not convict. He should like to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the following evidence of the Crown Solicitor for Tipperary, Mr. G. Bolton, given before the Select Committee on Irish Jury Laws in 1881:—There is no difficulty whatever in getting convictions for robberies or larcenies, because in Tipperary these offences have always been regarded as disgraceful. If you ask a prisoner whether he has been convicted, he will reply, 'Yes; but, thank God, it was for nothing disgraceful.'The right hon. Gentleman had not been quite fair in his selection of passages from Judges' charges, for he picked and chose them to suit his case. Everybody knew that an Irish Judge was made a Judge because he was a partizan. There was not a single Judge on the Bench who had not spoken in opposition to the National League. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: Yes, Baron Dowse.] Well, there was one, but one swallow could not make a summer. About the judicial harangues referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, there was this peculiarity that they were all made at a time when there happened to be a vacancy in the Court of Common Pleas. Surely, that was an odd coincidence? The right hon. Gentleman had supplemented his case by a series of anecdotes. There was nothing more objectionable than for a Minister of the Crown to ask the House to pass a Bill the necessity for which was supported by anonymous anecdotes. But if the right hon. Gentleman could not give some authority for his stories, he ought not to have quoted them. He told one story of somebody who went to the 93 Usher of the Court to ask him some question about serving on a jury. Now, that story must have been told by the Usher to somebody else, who told it to somebody else, and so it at last got to the ears of somebody in Dublin Castle, who passed it on to the right hon. Gentleman. Now, really that kind of tiling was too bad. Then the right hon. Gentleman actually accused the National League of putting down crime; he said the actual number of crimes had decreased through the intimidation of the League. The right hon. Gentleman had very few figures to give them. He did not base his Bill on figures. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, said that this would not do, remembering that when the late Mr. Forster wanted to bring in a Coercion Bill he produced a large Blue Book full of cases of crime, most of which, however, were afterwards exploded in the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer produced some figures. He spoke of a number of 1,566 offences in Ireland; but he told the House nothing about them, and the House wanted to know—they wanted to know how many of those offences were mere threatening letters, how many were tried, and how many were made amenable to the law. The right hon. Gentleman need not shrug his shoulders? They claimed it as a right that before any Coercion Bill was passed in the House based upon the number of crimes committed in Ireland, that they should be clearly set down in a Blue Book, so that hon. Members might know all about them. The right hon. Gentleman said that juries would not convict. Very likely they would not for political offences. The peculiarity of juries in that respect was not confined to Ireland; the liberties of England were due to the determination of English juries not to convict in political cases. Did the right hon. Gentleman remember the trial of Queen Caroline? On that famous occasion all the Liberals voted on one side and all the Tories on the other, and they all declared that they voted according to their honour and conscience, yet nobody proposed on that occasion to abolish the House of Lords. He wished they had. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had declared that the reason for bringing prisoners from Ireland to this country was that 94 the safety of the jurors might not be jeopardized. In Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman said—"The names of jurors are made public, and that is un-Constitutional." The right hon. Gentleman apparently had forgotten that the names of jurors were made public in this country also. They were called from the panel, and anybody in Court at the time could take a note of them. He thought it was not so surprising that juries should be bad in Ireland, as that any juries should be good, considering the way in which not only this Government but others as well had tried to get convictions by packing juries—thus demoralizing and discrediting the jury system. He thought, then, that they might take it that there was no exceptional crime in Ireland. With regard to what had been said as to agrarian crime, that was a mere pre-text. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had attacked the National League, and had complained that it had been the head of the Plan of Campaign. As a matter of fact, the National League had nothing to do with the Plan of Campaign, and had kept out of it. For his own part, he believed that the Plan of Campaign was perfectly legitimate. It had not been quite technically legal, perhaps, in some points, but it had retained the spirit of the law at the expense, perhaps, of the letter; it had been simply a plan to enable those persons who lived on estates which were admitted even by the Government to be rack-rented, to carry out the principles of the Land Act of 1881. Those principles were that the first charge on the land was the right of the occupier to live and thrive, and that rent was but the second charge, the margin which existed after the first charge had been fully met. In the cases dealt with by the Plan of Campaign this had not been the case; the tenants could not live and thrive. Some of them, perhaps, could; but they had been quite right to stick together, rich and poor. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been indignant at the Plan of Campaign being compared to a trade union; but Sir George Cornewall Lewis had described Whiteboy associations as trade unions for the protection of the peasantry, and the plan was an adaptation, mutatis mutandis, of the principles of a trade union. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed 95 to consider property an absolute fetish. For his own part, he had never known anyone who was such an abject worshipper of the golden calf as the right hon. Gentleman. Let it be a rack-renting Irish landlord or a usurious Egyptian bondholder, the right hon. Gentleman's cry, like Shylock's, was always for "the bond, the bond," on the ground that "contracts must be maintained." But he (Mr. Labouchere) would inform him that there was no contract where there was either force or fraud, and the Irish peasants had been forced into their bargains by being told that it was necessary in order to get the benefits of the Act. They had heard a good deal about robbery, but he thought the robbers were the landlords and not the tenants. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had made the remarkable discovery that the National League was a political institution, and had told them with horror depicted in his face of a speech of the hon. Member for North Fermanagh (Mr. W. H. Redmond) about striking a blow for the Irish nation and the green flag. But that was precisely what everybody know the Irish people were doing. Then the right hon. Gentleman had fallen back on Boycotting and intimidation, and had given some general evidence to show what that intimidation was—among that evidence being the case of the midwife who had not been allowed to attend on the wife of a Boycotted man, But The St. James's Gazette boasted that that was their story. Where did the right hon. Gentleman get it from? From The St. James's Gazette? [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: No.] At all events, The St. James's Gazette claimed the story as its exclusive property. He confessed for his part that he would not believe one single story on the evidence of The St. James's Gazette. Why, the right hon. Gentleman would next quote The Times! They had had a horrible story in The Times the other day, which had since been contradicted, or the right hon. Gentleman would no doubt have cited it, as to some people having been ravished. The story had been denied in that House, but he would point out that The Times had never denied the story. He cited this to show of how little value these cock-and-bull stories were with regard to Ireland. Then they had heard the story from the right hon. Gen- 96 tleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the child which had been refused food and had died. But it had turned one that that had happened as long ago as 1883, and also, as far as the evidence went from which the right hon. Gentleman had quoted, there was nothing to show that the child was not still living. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had accused the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian of attempting to palliate outrages, but the right hon. Gentleman had done nothing of the kind. He had had a perfect right to say that they ought not on account of one single case to crush out the liberties of a people, and he had had a perfect right to point out that that particular form of barbarity had been introduced by ourselves while engaged in such an attempt. There was very gross exaggeration with regard to these stories from Ireland. Emergency men and the men who took farms from which others had been evicted were the most disreputable class in Ireland, and wished to curry favour with those who employed them. Among the tenants they were ever hearing of some wonderful Nicodemus who sneaked to the landlord in the middle of the night and told him he was in despair and hoped he would take the rent, but at the same time issue a writ against him in case he should be intimidated. Why, there were sneaks everywhere, and these were simply specimens of the men who run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. He was exceedingly surprised at the right hon. Gentleman making any point of the 836 persons who were alleged to have been intimidated, because his argument was that the entire Irish nation was intimidated by the National League, and not 836 persons merely. A distinction had been drawn in those cases between partially and wholly Boycotted cases. What was the difference? Did the latter mean exclusive dealing, and the former that if a man went into a shop and asked for six eggs he was only given three? He fully admitted that Boycotting would be wrong in a country such as England, where the laws had the sanction of the people; but in a country like Ireland, where alien law existed, he was not sure that he would consider it wrong on the part of Irishmen to refuse to deal with a man who was to all intents and purposes the enemy of his 97 country. He happened to be in the North of Italy when the Austrians were there, and habitual Boycotting went on in Milan and Venice, and elsewhere. The Austrian officers would go to one café and the Italians to another; and if an Austrian officer went into a café which was frequented by the Italians, the latter would rise en masse and go out. This, however, was simply accepted by the Austrians as the natural consequence of a foreign domination. But to look nearer home, what was the Primrose League but a gigantic religious, political, and social Boycotting association? If he were to cite cases of Boycotting by the Primrose League, he should have to go on till 12 o'clock at night. Again, were not Dissenters habitually Boycotted in this country? [Cries of "No!"] Would the hon. Gentleman who cried "No" assert that there was no landlord of the Established Church who did not refuse to let his farm to a man simply because he was a Wesleyan? "What did the Prime Minister himself do? He refused to give a decent, respectable site for a Nonconformist place of worship in Hot-field. Boycotting, moreover, was a very ancient institution. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had not that veneration for the ancient Hebrew race that he himself had. But he would point out to those who did respect that race that they were the first Boycotters on record. He would call their attention to the text, "For the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans." But was it not a little ridiculous of a Cabinet, with Lord Salisbury at its head, to ask the House to pass a Bill in order to put down Boycotting in Ireland, when the noble Lord himself went out of his way at Newport to explain that no Boycotting or intimidation could be put down by any possible Bill? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had said that the National League was a secret association which dealt with dagger and dynamite; and, according to the right hon. Gentleman, people were forced to join it by fear, and there was at the head of it a set of desperate men who desired separation. One would suppose that the Government regarded the National League as a species of Vehmgericht, dreaded and hated by everybody in Ireland. What was the National League? Why, it was the entire Irish 98 nation; it was the unauthorized Parliament of Ireland—it was not a secret society, and its objects were to protect tenants from the extortion of rack-rents, and to obtain the Home Rule which hon. Gentlemen opposite were so fond of denouncing. Sir Redvers Buller himself had stated that the people looked up to the League, because it alone protected them. If they did away with the National League, secret societies would undoubtedly spring up and take its place; and, regret it as they might, there was no question that there would be outrages. His authority for that statement was the right hon. Member for—. No; his authority was a Gentleman of the name of John Bright. He was not alluding to the right hon. Gentleman, for he was afraid the old John Bright had entirely disappeared. This was what John Bright had said—The first thing that ever called my attention to the state of Ireland was reading an account of one of these outrages. I thought of it for a moment, but the truth struck me at once, and all I have ever seen since confirms it. When law refuses its duty, when Government denies the right of the people, when competition is so tierce for the little land that the monopolists grant to cultivators in Ireland, when, in fact, millions are struggling for the potato—then people are driven back from law and from the usages of civilization to that which is termed the law of nature, and, if not of the strongest, of the law of the vindictive; and in this case the people of Ireland believe, to my certain knowledge, that it is only by these acts of vengeance, periodically committed, that they can hold in suspense the arm of the proprietor, of the landlord, and of the agent, who, in many cases, would, if he dared, exterminate them.The case for coercion had entirely failed. Eight hon. Gentlemen opposite had a sense that they were somewhat feeble men, and they wanted to posture as firm men. It was essentially a Party move. The Government would coerce those who opposed them in England if they dared. Turning to the provisions of this iniquitous Bill, and particularly to the clause changing the venue to England in certain cases, did the Government really suppose that if they picked up some miserable Irishman, and brought him over to London to be tried, they would thereby increase the love and affection of Ireland towards England? If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would take the trouble to refer to their history, they would find that Lord North, at the time of 99 the American Rebellion, proposed that Americans should be brought over to England and tried by jury, a proposal which was denounced by Burke as one of the most monstrous that the mind of man could conceive. It was difficult to say whether the clause referred to was more atrocious or absurd. It was an outrage on trial by jury; it would be infinitely better to do away with trial by jury. Why were they going to bring over the witnesses and the whole Irish Bar to England? Why do the Government not send the jury over to Ireland? The Bill also provides that the minor offences, of which his hon. Friends from Ireland wore habitually guilty, were to be tried by two Resident Magistrates, the punishment accorded being six months' hard labour. What were those minor offences? They were specified in the Whiteboy Acts, and included among them assemblies carrying unusual badges. [An hon. MEMBER: The Primrose League.] He did not know whether there were branches of the Primrose League in Ireland; but there were certainly Orange Lodges, which had badges; and it was possible that they too would suffer. The Acts also dealt with such an offence as persons by drums and music promoting an unlawful meeting; but hero was the most remarkable provision— "requiring by any written or printed document to do or not to do" —what?— "any act." That was a net which nothing could escape. Now, who were the gentlemen who wore to try persons guilty of those minor offences? They knew what the unpaid magistracy was in this country. They knew perfectly well that the unpaid magistrates in England were "saints in heaven" compared with the magistracy in Ireland. These gentlemen were not lawyers; they had received no legal education of any kind. They were, in some cases, the "ne'er-do-wells" of their family, and half-pay officers, whom it was thought ought to be provided for; cousins of noble Lords, and landlords sent over to Ireland to be provided for. He asked the House to observe on what conditions they held their office, for certainly never were independent men in such a subservient position to a Government before, and never were men called upon to exercise those functions from which partisanship and political feeling ought to be eliminated placed in 100 such a position. There were Acts passed in this reign which provided that the Lord Lieutenant might appoint Stipendiary Magistrates at pleasure, to be dismissed or removed at pleasure. "Their pension is to depend on the Chief Secretary's certificate of diligent and faithful service." The Lord Lieutenant might raise their classification and salary, and grant them special sums for allowances. They would, therefore, have these worthy gentlemen competing for those allowances and for those pensions, and the plea would be—-"I have sent to prison more decent men than any of my Resident Magistrate friends." He (Mr. Labouchere) really believed that an Irish Nationalist would have as little chance before two Resident Magistrates in Ireland as a Christian in the earliest ages of Christianity had before the two magistrates of Judcea, Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas. The Chief Secretary made a species of boast that his Bill would not affect the Press. But he contended that if the Bill were passed the Press would be at the mercy of the Government, and the Press of Ireland would be subject to such an Act as had never yet been passed in the most despotic Government in the world. Even in Russia a newspaper had three warnings before it was suppressed. In France, under Napoleon, a newspaper had also three warnings; but there was no provision contained in the codes of these Governments comparable with the likelihood of a newspaper being proceeded against under this Bill on the ground that it had published a report of a meeting or a resolution passed at a meeting. But he should like to know how the Government were going to distinguish between English and Irish newspapers? How were they going to deal with an incitement to Boycott published in an English newspaper circulated in Ireland? The speeches of hon. Members from Ireland delivered in the House would be published in the papers, and was the House to understand that the Press would be prosecuted for publishing those speeches? Were the speeches to be reported in the English. Press and not in the Irish Press? They were told that this Bill was to last for ever. Juries were to be suppressed, the Press was to be gagged, the liberties of men were to be subject to the will of two wretched Resident Magistrates, and all 101 this for ever. The Government would probably say that the Bill might be abrogated. But supposing the country, as he had no doubt it would, were to return a majority at the next Election in favour of the Liberal Party. In order to put an and to the Bill, it must be remembered that the repealing measure has not only to pass the House of Commons, but the House of Lords as well. Who were the Members of that House? They were the subservient political slaves of the Prime Minister. [Cries of "Oh, oh!" and "Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is not treating the other branch of the Legislature with proper courtesy, a courtesy always due from one House to the other. [Cries of "Withdraw!"]
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he had not the slightest intention of withdrawing. [Renewed cries of "Withdraw!" The majority of the Upper House, of whom he spoke with the greatest respect, was entirely in the hands of Lord Salisbury. He did not suppose that any hon. Gentleman opposite would deny that. On the contrary, they were glad it was the case. Lord Salisbury had stated that there ought to be a firm Government—that was to say, a Coercion Government—for 20 years in Ireland. The noble Lord was the master in the other House, and if this Bill were passed it could only be abrogated by the consent of the Upper House; and if Lord Salisbury acted on his views they would have this Bill for 20 years at least. The Government were also going to take powers to suppress any association in Ireland that might promote or encourage interference with the administration of the law. Of course, this provision was aimed at the National League He wanted to know who was to be the Judge, and who was going to suppress it'? Why, Lord Londonderry. It was simply scandalous to say that any association which, in the opinion of Lord Londonderry, promoted or encouraged interference with the administration of the law—that was to say, his administration —was to be suppressed by his fiat. The House was told that there was a conspiracy in Ireland. Why, the conspiracy was here, and the conspirators were here. The conspirators were the landlords, the men of class and privilege, who were always the bitter and per- 102 sistent enemies of the people. These Irish conspirators, as they were called, were defending the rights of their country, defending the poor man against the rich man in Ireland. They were doing their best to get fair rents; they were doing their best not to separate from this country, but to obtain those rights in regard to self-government which the Leaders of the Liberal Party have asserted in this country with the full assent of the Liberal Party. It was strange that there should be men who called themselves Liberals who absolutely went with the Tories in regard to this Bill. The noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) had not yet spoken in this debate; but he would probably condemn in silence that to which he gave the support of his vote. In a speech delivered outside the House, however, the noble Marquess had laid down what he thought was a fair proposition, that those who declined the proposals of the late Government with regard to Ireland were bound to find some mode by which Ireland would really be governed by the British Government. The noble Marquess was surprised "at any attempt being made to throw on the Unionists the responsibility for coercion." the attempt was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. The noble Marquess denied the responsibility, and, having done so, he went on to ask what would be their responsibility if the Bill were rejected. Consequently, if the Bill were passed by his vote, there was no responsibility; but if the Bill were thrown out by the noble Marquess, then there would be responsibility. Surely this was a distinction without a difference. He looked back a little in the speech to see what was the meaning of it and he found it. The noble Marquess said— "We hold the balance of power in the House of Commons;" and then his argument came to this—that as Mr. Parnell's Amendment was a vote of Want of Confidence in the Government they were forced to vote against it. If they voted for coercion they were not responsible; but they were responsible because they made them vote for coercion because they voted for Home Rule. They had the effrontery to vote in favour of want of confidence. The noble Marquess seemed to think this a sort of crime. Well, they did not 103 recognize that the Conservatives should be in Office, and the noble Marquess could not shake off any responsibility for his vote. If the noble Marquess voted for coercion he must take the responsibility for it. He turned next to the right lion. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain), and what was his argument? That right hon. Gentleman adopted another line of argument. He seemed to think that if they had coercion they must have remedial measures, and if they had remedial measures they must have coercion. The radical Party did not accept that. They held that if the remedial measures were sound coercion would be unnecessary. It appeared from the organs in the Press of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, that he gave a reluctant consent to the Coercion Acts when he was a Member of the Gladstone Government. Quite the reverse. He told them the other night that he voted for two Coercion Bills, and that he was perfectly ready to have voted for a third. Finding that he could not sell his goods to the Liberals, he went over to the Tories, and bargained with them to support coercion if they would take up with his remedial ideas. What the right hon. Member for "West Birmingham wanted was to be legislator for Ireland. He did not care about coercion one way or the other so that his miserable vanity was satisfied. He would be content if he could only say that he had had a finger in the Tory pie. As to the Whigs, he need not say much about them. But let any Radical distinctly understand that if he did vote in favour of this Bill the Radicals would never forgive him. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would, of course, receive such a Radical with open arms. But he would be a Radical no longer. The door of repentance had been open long enough. It was time that it should be understood that it was closed in the face of every Radical who on this occasion voted with a Conservative Government. He had not the slightest doubt that this Bill would pass; but by what sort of a majority? It would not pass by the votes of hon. Gentlemen opposite. What did Sir Robert Pool say about this sort of majority? He said, speaking on the first reading of the Coercion Bill in 1846— 104A Government ought to have a natural support. A Conservative Government should be supported by Conservative votes, Support from the compassion of its enemies, or even from the personal friendly feelings of those who ought on public principles to oppose a Government, is a hollow and not a creditable support.That was the kind of support on which hon. Gentlemen opposite relied for carrying this Bill. Relying on this support, they were confident of carrying it. The Liberal Party would resist this Bill to the last. His opinion was that coercion ought to be carried by coercion. It was the duty of Liberals at every stage of this Bill to contest its provisions. He knew perfectly well that the people were with them. The reaction had already commenced. He believed this was the very last effort of class against class. It was a struggle of the poor against the rich. It was a struggle between plutocrats and landlord Party on the one 3ide, and the men who occupied the land, and who asked for a fair share of the fruits of the soil, on the other. It was a struggle between the system of government for the people, and by the people, and the system of government based upon the coercion of the people. The English democrats would stand by the democrats of Ireland, and would fight shoulder to shoulder with them, for they know that if this Bill were allowed full scope it would be their turn next. They knew, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had said, that the ebbing tide is with you, and the flowing tide is with us." For his part, though he regretted and deplored this Bill, he had, at least, this consolation— that if it were passed and administered in Ireland, it would advanced to see than anything in recent year [...] cause of Home Rule.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR (Leeds, Central)
said, the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) began his speech by saying the onus probandi in support of a Coercion Bill lay with the Government, and that that was all the more the case because the presumption was against the success of any Coercion Bill. He (Mr. G. W. Balfour) ventured to dispute that proposition. He thought, on the contrary, the many Coercion Bills passed during the present century, and also before the present century, had succeeded 105 in their object. They had enabled the Government, at the time, to preserve law and order which did not exist when those Bills were passed. They wore necessary, and they did their work, and no Coercion Bill more than Lord Spencer's Act. He would admit, however, that that Act had one great fault which the present Bill had not. The Act of 1882 was limited in time, whereas the pro-visions of the present Bill, if passed, would remain in force until repealed. The hon. Member for Northampton went on to use the argument which they had heard most frequently from Benches opposite—that there was no Parliamentary case to be drawn from statistics in favour of the Bill. That argument had been used often in the House, and was certain to be used again and again in the country; and he (Mr. G. W. Balfour) thought it was necessary that they should insist on the answer to it, with as much persistence as hon. Gentlemen opposite showed in putting it forward. The Conservatives held there was a complete answer to that argument. The crime with which the Government had a difficulty in dealing was principally agrarian; and it was agrarian crime that formed the sanction of the unwritten law of the National League. Boycotting and outrages were the punishments of the National League—the means by which that League enforced its decrees. When punishment was rare, it might be because the law was supreme, or because the law was powerless; and if agrarian crime was comparatively rare in Ireland now, it only proved that the law of the National League was supreme, while at the same time the impunity of crime in Ireland proved that the Government were powerless. They must not only look at rarity of crime, but also at the impunity of crime; and if they took those two things together, he believed the Government had an amply sufficient case for introducing the Bill, and the House and the country for supporting it. He did not deny, in a certain sense, that, as the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Labouchere) had said, the National League had been endeavouring to suppress crime; for he believed that it had been making efforts to suppress the grosser kinds of crime. But why was that? He presumed that not even the National League desired to see crime in Ireland for the sake of crime. The 106 grosser kinds of crime were now useless and, indeed, prejudicial to them, and that was the reason why those crimes were comparatively few in number. The action of the League in this matter had received the approval of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, who acknowledged that it was owing to the alliance between the League and the Liberal Party that crimes were not more numerous. He (Mr. G. W. Balfour) would not deny the truth of that statement; but he confessed that it did not give him any satisfaction. It reminded him too much of that ill-omened transaction which went by the name of "the Kilmainham Treaty," and of the promise of Captain O'Shea to the late Mr. Forster, that the conspiracy which had been used to get up crime and outrages would be used to put them down. It would be a different matter if this alliance was likely to lead to any change in the character of the Nationalist Party, but he saw no such prospect. The National League, as the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) had said, still held the throttle valves of crime, and the moment it became once more expedient to use crime, he (Mr. G. W. Balfour) was persuaded that the League would not hold its hand. This alliance could only, then, result in the further demoralization of the country, and increase the difficulties of governing it. The National League had a difficult part to play; but it had played it skilfully and well. On the one hand, it was necessary that they should not strain their relations too far with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian; and it was requisite, therefore, that the methods which formed the sanction of their unwritten law should not be too open and pronounced. On the other hand, there was also the object to be accomplished of making the government of Ireland impossible. He was bound to admit that in the pursuit of this double purpose they had exhibited considerable skill. The extract read by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) from a speech of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. J. E. Redmond) was so suggestive that he would make no apology for using it again. That hon. Member, speaking on December 11th, said—Home Rule was defeated at the last Election in Great Britain, and I say advisedly that if in 107 the face of that defeat the Tories had been able to rule Ireland with the ordinary law, the result would have been in England and Scotland to throw back our cause perhaps for a generation, and to give the lie direct to the prophecy of Mr. Gladstone. We have achieved a victory without breaking any law or committing any single outrage. Now at a time when outrages are fewer in Ireland than during the last live years, according to the admission of the Government itself, we have been able to force the Government to give up the ordinary law and to have recourse again to coercion.That extract was full of significance. It revealed the whole secret of the policy of the National League. In his (Mr. G. W. Balfour's) opinion, the remark that the League had—Achieved a victory without breaking any law, or committing any single outrage,did not reduce the significance of the extract. No doubt the hon. Gentleman's view of the crime might differ from his, and the hon. Gentleman might consider the Plan of Campaign legal and Boycotting no crime. What he wished to point out was that the comparative absence of crime, so far as it could be ascribed to the National League, was not the result of a recognition by its members that crime was an unjustifiable way of obtaining their political ends, but simply, and solely, because they had thought it necessary to suppress outrages for the moment in order to maintain the alliance with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian and his Party. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman, in lending himself to this policy, had given the Government cause of complaint. The right hon. Gentleman was perfectly within his rights in opposing the Bill, but not in obstructing it by all means in his power. The right hon. Gentleman, at the last Election, said the issue was between coercion and Home Rule. The Conservatives did not accept that as a true statement of the alternative; because they did not think that coercion, pure and simple, at all represented their policy. But having himself stated that coercion was the only alternative to his policy, the right hon. Gentleman had no right to introduce every obstacle, and in to use every means— even the most questionable—to prevent the Government carrying out that policy. Four days were spent last week in what was practically a preliminary first reading debate, and now four days more had been spent on the first reading. Last week the discussion turned principally on 108 the question of rents. Now it had taken a wider range; but, in every case, the conclusion which Members of the Opposition came to was, that coercion was not the right remedy for Ireland at all, and that they ought to try remedial measures. Had remedial measures which had been passed during the last seven years been so successful that they could depend absolutely and exclusively upon them now? They must acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman's remedial measures had not produced the results expected of them. The Act of 1881 like that of 1870 was heralded with the promise of a Millennium to follow. The Millennium had never followed, and why? The right hon. Gentleman had told them that they were attacking the symptoms and not the causes of Irish discontent. If that had been said about the Coercion Acts passed before 1870, he (Mr. G. W. Balfour) thought there would have been a great deal of truth in it. Those Acts succeeded as far as they went; but they certainly did not go in the way to the root of the evil. But, within the last 10 years a very great change had come over the whole Irish Question, and he did not think that it could be said of the Act of 1882, or of the present Crimes Bill, that they were not directed against causes as well as against symptoms. The change in the Irish Question was this—that, for the first time in the history of the Home Rule agitation—for the first time since the Union—the Nationalist Party had linked itself with the claims of the peasantry. Those claims, up to a certain point, were just; but it was not merely the just claims which the National League depended upon to obtain their political ends. They appealed to the unjust greed and cupidity of the peasantry. Very well. How did the right hon. Gentleman opposite propose, in 1882, to deal with that state of things? The right hon. Gentleman dealt with that not merely by remedial measures, but also by a measure of coercion, which sought to destroy the organization which was making satisfactory working of the remedial measures impossible. Unfortunately, two great mistakes were committed. In the first place, the solution of the Land Question proposed and carried out in 1881 had not been a satisfactory one, or one which could be a final settlement of the question. Consequently that 109 measure must now be supplemented by another dealing more radically and more satisfactorily with the Land Question. The second mistake was one which he would allow was committed by the Conservative Government, in ever allowing the Grimes Act to lapse. If that Act could have been maintained they would not now have been in their present difficulties, or have had to come to Parliament to ask for further powers. The duty of the Government was to adopt the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in 1882—namely, to accompany remedial measures with a measure for the restoration of law and order. The National League intended to make government in Ireland impossible, if it could; it was, therefore, really a duel to the death between law on the one hand, and the National League on the other. Everything was hazarded upon that throw. He believed that in the struggle upon which they were now entering, law would be victorious; and that nothing would be left to the official Opposition, except the shame of having allowed themselves to be the accomplices in the attempt of the National League to secure Home Rule at the price of the demoralization of the whole Irish people. What was called the wild justice of revenge was bad enough. But what happened when it ceased to be wild? When it was put under the management of a political association, it became an organized and systematic tyranny. It was impossible to confine a movement of this kind to the relations between landlord and tenant, or between tenant and tenant. It would spread to every relation of life. The present movement was already doing so. It was interfering, not merely between landlord and tenant, but between creditor and debtor, to the repudiation of all debts; and it had been pressed into the service of envy, malice, and all the basest passions of mankind. It was easy enough to call up the spirit of disorder; but it was not so easy to allay it, and we should not be able to check the growth of the spirit, except by some measure such as that which the Government were seeking to introduce. Unless there was some external pressure of the kind, the movement would spread until it loosened all the ties which hind society together which go to make up what is called civilization. He sincerely trusted 110 that, notwithstanding all the obstacles and difficulties which were threatened to be interposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, the Government would persevere with the Bill. The state of Ireland demanded that they should persevere, and public opinion demanded it also, and he trusted they would press forward their measure with all the expedition the Forms of the House enabled them to command.
§ MR. WAYMAN (York, W.K., Elland)
said, he should not be satisfied to give a silent vote in opposition to this Bill, and he knew that the electors of the Elland Division of Yorkshire, who had sent him there, would desire that he should state to the House how hateful a thing this measure was in their eyes. He had listened, with very great attention, to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) on Monday night, and he must say that he was greatly surprised at the feebleness and flimsiness of the reasons which the right hon. Gentleman urged far applying a code of such tremendous severity to the people of Ireland. He regarded the Bill as a measure which, if passed, would be an outrage on Ireland, and an insult to the people of England. It might, perhaps, have the effect of driving into holes and corners certain agitators who had made themselves inconveniently troublesome to the authorities; but it would not prevent them making secret channels of their own, through which they might exercise their influence, which would probably be ton times more dangerous to society and law and order than it was now. He did not assert that the situation in Ireland was as satisfactory as they would like it to be; but they had seen a far worse state of things there than now existed, and his own impression was that it would have been a very great deal better to-day than it was, but for the un wisdom of the Government last autumn in refusing to have anything whatever to do with the Tenants' Relief Bill of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). That hon. Gentleman, evidently having an accurate knowledge of the facts with regard to Ireland, came to the House with a correct description of the situation in that country, and proposed a remedy for the condition of things then prevailing which, if it had 111 been applied, would have prevented the necessity for any application at that moment for such a measure as was before the House. It seemed that an opinion had prevailed in the House that Ireland should not be ruled according to her own ideas, but must be governed according to English ideas; and, therefore, when the hon. Member for Cork submitted his Bill, they said—"We will have nothing whatever to do with it. We do not believe in your description of the state of the country, and we do not believe in your remedy." Indeed, the Government and their supporters said, that so far from the description being correct, there was a great deal more money being spent in whisky and more money in the Savings Banks than there had been before. They therefore concluded that Ireland was in a tolerably good condition; and he heard some hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side talk as if a new era had dawned upon Ireland, and that it was entering upon a career of agricultural prosperity which would put everything right in a short time. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson) stated, among other things, that the recent prices of wool had risen 60 per cent. He (Mr. Wayman) had himself been engaged in the wool trade all his life, and he ought to know something about it, and he was very much surprised at the statement, which would not have been made by the hon. and learned Gentleman if he had known anything of what he was talking about. The fact was that English and Irish wool had not risen more than 20 per cent, and to the knowledge of the trade, that increase had no element of permanence in it, as it resulted rather from speculation than from any increased demand. The price had since gone back, and was not now more than 10 per cent in addition to the lowest ruling price during the worst period of depression through which we had recently passed. That showed what erroneous opinions prevailed in regard to Ireland; and he was convinced that it would have been infinitely better if the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork had been acted upon. If it had been adopted, there would have been no need for the "Plan of Campaign." He believed that the Bill was directed more against the Plan of Campaign than anything else, and he agreed with the hon. Member for North- 112 ampton (Mr. Labouchere) in thinking that, so far from deserving all the reprobation which bad been poured upon it, that Plan had done a very great deal of good in Ireland. He did not say it was legal and ought to be defended; but it had been absolutely necessary, and, but for it, there would have been worse difficulties in Ireland than at present existed. If the Bill passed, he thought that it would not be very long before the Government now in power found out the great mistake it had made. He could only say that he hoped that it would be opposed at every step of its progress, and in every way that the Forms of the House would permit.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
said, he felt it was highly necessary, on behalf of the constituency which he represented, which was one of those Northern constituencies said to be loyal to Castle rule, to express the absolute repugnance with which the people of the North of Ireland regard the Coercion Bill of the Government. It appeared to him that the principal thing the Bill, if passed, would do in Ireland, was to revive the old and hateful contests and struggles between Protestants and Catholics in the North. In the constituency he represented there were 86 magistrates; and of these, 82 were Protestant gentlemen, representing, to a great extent, the Orange Institution, and carrying out, whenever they had the opportunity, the behests and wishes of the Institution. Yet it was proposed by this Bill to place in the hands of Resident Magistrates in the North of Ireland the power of sending a man to prison for six months. But it was well known that, with a few exceptions, Resident Magistrates in the North of Ireland made use of their authority in a very unfair manner towards the Catholics. It was almost a humiliation for an Irish Member to come there, and have to stand up in defence of the liberties of his country. ["Oh, oh!"] He did not wish to say anything offensive of hon. Members of the House. He did not wish to deny the right of hon. Members opposite to act on their convictions; but what was maddening to an Irish Member was to have to listen, day after day, to the gross ignorance of the affairs of Ireland shown by Gentlemen who had the power of legislating for Ireland. Gentlemen derived their knowledge of 113 the country from the columns of The Times, The Observer, or some Tory paper which was engaged in raking up every petty outrage which occurred throughout the country as evidence of the necessity for repressive measures, and which had been proved, over and over again, to have lied, while they ignored the information given by the 85 Members from Ireland, What did the Chief Secretary for Ireland know about Ireland? He went to Ireland absolutely without any knowledge of the country, and he spoke of Ireland now absolutely without information. What would Englishmen say if the case were reversed, and Irishmen, without any knowledge of England, came to govern this country? It appeared that we were to have remedial legislation after the Coercion Bill was passed. In 1881, the Liberal Government entered upon a course which proved disastrous, and the present Government were entering upon the same course. In 1881, Mr. Forster made a Coercion Act precede the Land Act. He threw priests and 1,000 of the leaders of the people into gaol, and drove the people themselves to the verge of madness, and almost into a state of rebellion. Could they be surprised, therefore, that the Irish people did not receive the Land Act of 1881 in a cheerful and grateful spirit? In the same way, the land proposals which had that evening been introduced into the House of Lords would also fail. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had been unable to make out a case for coercion by statistics of crime, simply because there had been no year since the Union in which crime had been less in amount and less serious in character in Ireland than in the past year. It had been said, however, that that hateful measure had been introduced to put down Boycotting in Ireland, and not because of the extent of crime. His (Mr. Redmond's) reply to that was, that that or any other Government would find it impossible to put down Boycotting by Act of Parliament, so long as the landlords were permitted to worry and fleece the people as they were now doing. The people of Ireland had learnt the system of Boycotting so thoroughly that it was unnecessary to incite them to it, and the only way of putting it down was to remove the cause by taking from the landlords the power they now had of evicting people for the non-payment of rents, 114 which even the evidence given before the Cowper Commission proved to be unjust and unfair. They had been told that the people of Ireland were terrorized into joining the National League. He never heard such a silly statement. The law of the League was the law of the land only and entirely because it was freely and voluntarily supported by every section and class of the people throughout the country. The Government well knew that the people of all classes and all conditions and all religions in Ireland had united in joining the National League. It was, therefore, a very poor assertion for the Government to make without proof, and it would be a long time before the Government could make good that assertion by proof. In the whole of Ireland there could not be found half-a-dozen men outside the landlord classes, who always hungered for their rants, who would stand up and attempt to expose what they (the Government) called the terror of the National League in Ireland. There was only one terror to the people of Ireland, and that was the British Government; and the terror which the National League was said to hold over the people would continue in Ireland as long as that House and the Government of that House attempted to rule the Irish people contrary to their wishes and opinions. Sir Redvers Buller had destroyed the assertion of the Government by declaring that the Land League had been the salvation of the people. The terrorism which existed in Ireland was that exercised by the landlords, who had the power to evict and grind the people down. There was no terrorism, except that exercised in those parts of Ireland where the authorities of Castle rule might with impunity trample on the people as they did before the National League came to save the South and West. This Coercion Bill was not directed against crime—there was no crime in Ireland—but it was directed against a political Party whose demand for Home Rule was too strong to be resisted by Constitutional means. As to the allegation that the jury system had broken down in Ireland, he (Mr. Redmond) emphatically denied that juries had failed to convict in cases of ordinary crime; and, on this ground also, the Chief Secretary for Ireland had failed to make out a case for the Bill. He chal- 115 lenged the right hon. Gentleman to lay on the Table of the House four cases where juries in Ireland had refused to convict in ordinary cases where the evidence was clear. There was not a place in the world where the murderer, the thief, or the common malefactor would be more speedily brought to justice than in Ireland. In those cases where no conviction had been obtained, there had been something between the landlord and the tenant to show to the minds of those peasant jurymen that they were not trying a man who was sinning alone for the sake of sin, but they were trying a man who, rightly or wrongly, had been endeavouring to stand by the people against the harsh exactions of the evictor and exterminator in Ireland. If the Government put an end to that state of things by bringing in a comprehensive measure that would recognize the rights of the tenants in the soil, give them fair justice, and offer them land at a fair price, it would, he believed, be found that Boycotting and the failure of the jury system would come to an end; but if, instead of getting a measure of that kind, the Government persisted in passing the Bill before the House, he believed, though he did not wish to see it, that crime would occur in Ireland, that outrage would redouble there. The Irish Members had been accused of being outrage mongers; but he would only repeat what he had so often stated before, that they deplored crime and outrage. But still more than crime and outrage did they deplore and condemn the cause of crime and outrage; and he believed, in his heart, if the Coercion Bill was passed, if trial by jury was abolished in Ireland, and men dragged to trial before Englishmen who knew nothing of the circumstances of the case, but would take the word of the base informer—if they did that he believed, as he had said, that crime would occur in Ireland, outrages would double in Ireland, and, moreover, he believed that when crimes did occur and when outrages redoubled, the Government would be satisfied, for he considered that that was what they wanted the Irish people to do. There was not the slightest justification for the measure. He believed it was intended to goad the people on to crime and outrage in Ireland, so that the Tory Party, who saw the cause of Home 116 Rule was advancing in rapid strides, might retain their positions and salaries. The Government saw that the English people were sympathetic with the Irish people, and they were endeavouring to rouse the prejudices of the former nation, so that the immaculate Members of the Ministry might continue to act on the Front Bench. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), when he became Leader of the agitation for Home Rule, found the people despairing of obtaining anything for Ireland in that House; but he weaned them from other methods which he knew would not be successful —he taught them once more to look to Parliament for the restitution of Ireland's rights, and the whole crop which the hon. Member for Cork had sown in Ireland of peace, of goodwill, of calmness, and patience, had borne fruit in the existence of the Party of which he (Mr. Redmond) was a Member, composed of Constitutionally-elected Representatives of the Irish people. If the Bill was passed and was followed by bloodshed in Ireland, history would record that the guilt and shame lay, not on the brows of the Representatives of the people, who resisted it, but on the brows of the present rulers of Ireland —rulers of two or three weeks, who had just come from Universities, and thought they could rule Ireland, of which they knew nothing whatever— those Gentlemen who carried a Bill the only effect of which could be to keep open the old sores between England and Ireland. Coercion Bills had invariably caused crime, as had been strikingly shown at the time of the imprisonment of the hon. Member for Cork. But, in fact, there was little crime in Ireland at the present time, and it was pretended that this Bill was justified on the ground that it would prevent crime. But, as Lord Macaulay had said, to punish a man because you inferred from the nature of some of his doctrines, or the conduct of his associates, that he was going to commit some offence was persecution, and in every case wicked and foolish. The Government might for a time succeed in stifling the voice of the Irish people—they might succeed in driving discontent under the surface; but they would find the Irish people in the future, as they had found them in the past, firm and determined in their desire never to relinquish their National 117 birthright, undaunted by the struggles and exertions they had passed through, and determined to carry on the war, as their fathers had carried it on before them, until it was out of the power of any English fop in the guise of a British Minister to trample on the rights of their country.
§ MR. KING (Hull, Central)
I do not intend, Sir, to take up the time of the House with a speech; but it is necessary that I should ask the indulgence of hon. Members while I explain the vote I am about to give. I, Sir, was one of those, like the Liberal Unionists to whom the noble Lord the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire referred in his speech of Wednesday, who had hoped and believed, too sanguinely it seems, that the era of Coercion Bills for Ireland had passed. In 1885 things had assumed a rosy hue. The ghastly pallor of the Gladstone-Spencer régime had given way to the blushing sentiment of a Carnarvon wooing, smiled on by the hon. Member for Cork and the Archbishop of Ireland. At that time we were encouraged by our Leaders to believe that a new era had dawned; that there was to be conciliation on one side and abstention from crime and disorder on the other. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington described the situation on the 20th November, 1885, in. these words—We undertook to govern Ireland without those abridgements of the liberty which Mr. Gladstone had found necessary. Up to the present time the experiment has been found strikingly successful.Well, Sir, in common I believe with many hon. Members who sit on this side, I not only felt a natural repugnance to what is commonly called coercion, but I hoped that the call for any exceptional legislation had passed; and I formed a firm resolution that I could not, and would not, be a party to the revival of those terribly energetic measures which Lord Spencer was sent over to Ireland by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone)—the present distinguished Leader of the Home Rule Party—to carry out. Those measures might indeed be called "coercion." They were, Sir, described by the hon. Member for Cork in these terms—Under this system juries were packed with a shamelessness unprecedented even in Liberal Administrations. Twelve hundred men were 118 imprisoned without trial. Ladies were convicted under an obsolete Act; and, for a period, every utterance of the popular Press and of the popular meeting was as completely suppressed as it Ireland were Poland.Well, Sir, that is a description by an expert of Liberal coercion; and, believing as we did, that those severe measures, to which the present proposals are milk and water, ought not to be applied to a country which, it was admitted and is admitted on this side by Lord Salisbury himself, is suffering from grievances which he says demand large and far-reaching remedies; believing that we made declarations for our decided repugnance to legislation of that extreme character. At the same time, Sir, I, for one, and I believe others, who that way warned the Irish people that they ought, in continuing to agitate for a redress of grievances, to keep strictly within the bounds of legality—I say, Sir, it was not to be supposed for a moment that by such declarations as he made we ever intended to give a free hand, or pledge ourselves to grant unlimited scope to crime, to disorder, to defiance of the law, and to conspiracy against the Constitutional unity of these Realms. If there were pledges, it could not be supposed that they wore all on one side. To have said that if crime and disloyalty broke out in Ireland they were not to be put down by all the resources of civilization would have been so absurd that any man who committed himself to such a proposition would have been rejected by the common sense of any community. Therefore, Sir, in view of the very grave circumstances which have arisen since those declarations were made, I confess I do not see the aptness of the vindictive, the viperish remark which fell from the right hon. Member for Newcastle in his veiled speech last night. Referring to some Conservative Members, the right hon. Gentleman said—Some of their own Party, even in this Parliament—and I am going to remind them of this when the time comes—have said that there ought to he no increased stringency of criminal procedure in Ireland, unless it is also extended to England.It is absolutely out of the question; and therefore, of those Gentlemen who won their election in London and elsewhere on the ground that they wore going to deal with Ireland exactly as they would deal with England, their constituents will have a right—and a right I think 119 they will exercise—to call upon them when the time come to give an account of their want of fidelity to the pledges that won them the elections. I will not, Sir, make any reflection on the exquisite absurdity of the charges of inconsistency or tergiversation addressed to this side of the House from the Front Opposition Bench; but I will simply recall those new facts which have happened since such declarations were made by hon. Members which put a wholly different complexion on the situation, and which, Sir, I venture here to say, boldly, amply, and completely justify the hon. Member in re-considering his position at the present time. Well, Sir, at the time those declarations were made what was the situation? The agitation for Home Rule had not assumed any serious or dangerous aspect. No responsible statesman in this country committed himself openly to a Separatist policy, though it now appears that it had been germinating in the brain of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian for many years. Yes, sir, it was locked up in that brain by his own confession whilst he was applying those very measures described by the hon. Member for Cork in such indignant terms. But, now, Sir, it is all altered. Those Benches opposite are filled, as they ought to be, with Members of the Separatist Party led by English Leaders, and the country has been roused up to defend the unity of the Three Kingdoms. The agitation in Ireland has ceased to be an agitation for the mere redress of grievances— grievances which I admit ought to be remedied, and must be remedied, as Lord Salisbury has said, by '' far-reaching" and by generous legislation. I can only say if they are not—if a prompt and generous attempt is not made to redress those grievances, the Government may expect that a number of hon. Members on this side will refuse to support them. Well, Sir, I say the agitation has ceased to be a mere agitation for the redress of grievances, and has become a movement which gravely imperils the authority of the Government and the stability of the Realm. And not only that, Sir, but doctrines have been preached from the Front Opposition Bench which strike at the fundamental principles of social and political order. The right hon. Gentlemen have justified resistance to and defiance of laws 120 passed by the House, a free Representative Assembly, on the ground that the laws are unjust. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, said—If it be a law which is just, it is the duty of civilized society to enforce that law; but if it be a law which works injustice,—and by the way, Sir, the income tax works injustice every day—it is not the first duty of civilized society to enforce that law.Well, Sir, who is to decide whether the laws are just or unjust, the people who make the law or the people who break the law? I remember the right hon. Gentleman said that it was the duty of civilized society to alter all that. I entirely concur that it is the duty of civilized society to alter it; but as I said, who is to decide what law is just and what law is unjust? Is it the men who make the laws or the men who break them? It is the utterance of such subversive doctrines as that from the Leaders of a powerful Party and their support of a Separatist policy constitute a situation of such gravity that hon. Members on this side have no alternative but to rally to the support of the Government which is engaged in maintaining the law, the Constitution, and the "Union. Those are the reasons, Sir, by which I, for one, find myself driven with a reluctance—I might say a repugnance which words cannot qualify—to vote for the first reading of this Bill. But, Sir, I must add that I await with some anxiety the Bill itself. I voted for "Urgency" because the Government demanded it, on its responsibility. I shall vote for the first reading of the Bill; but I reserve to myself absolute freedom of action in regard to its details, and especially with regard to that provision which has been sketched out for bringing Irish prisoners over to England for trial at the Old Bailey. Let me add one word more. There can be no doubt that it is with a sickening of heart that many hon. Members will yield to the absolute necessity of vindicating the outraged law and defending a menaced Union; but I say this much, that the power we are about to commit to the hands of the Government we trust them to see is not abused for the purpose of promoting the interests of a class or a religion in Ireland. It is our duty, in granting these powers to the 121 Government, to warn them of the responsibility they incur in asking for them and assuming them. That duty is to bring forward those large and far-reaching measures to which Lord Salisbury referred. I feel convinced, Sir, that the majority of the people of this country will not consent that the extraordinary powers conferred by this Bill should be employed to enforce cruel or inequitable provisions of the law on behalf of landlords. I felt, Sir, that I could not vote for this Bill without offering an explanation, and I thank the House for its kindness in permitting me to make it.
§ MR. BOWEN ROWLANDS (Cardiganshire)
I desire to do more than give a silent vote upon this the first reading of what I venture to hope is the last Bill of the kind which will ever be introduced by a responsible Government into the House of Commons. In my opinion, there is no necessity for the measure. I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) in introducing the Bill, and I found that for the most part it is clothed in the cast-off garments of its defunct predecessors, with only here and there the sewing on of a few shreds and patches which can be called new. One of these is the provision that it shall be permanent, A good deal may unquestionably be said as to that. But there seems to be a considerable deference of opinion in regard to the value of that provision amongst hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in favour of the measure. Some attribute the failure of the Act of 1881 to the fact that it was only a temporary Act, while others have said that it was a success, and that it was so because it was only a temporary measure directed to the removal of evils which were in themselves temporary. I am not desirous of saying which is the better argument of the two, and I leave hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to settle their differences among themselves. I protest against the Bill as being unjustifiable in itself and likely to embitter still further relations which are unhappily bitter enough already between the people of Ireland and of this country. There is another of the provisions of the Bill which, but for its sadness, would be almost ludicrous. That is the change of 122 venue to England. If this is frequently resorted to I suppose we shall find that nearly every steamer that sails from Kingstown to Holyhead is to carry a cargo of Irish prisoners, lawyers, and witnesses, to try their fortune at the Old Bailey. That is the most novel method of establishing a complete union between two parts of the United Kingdom that could possibly be conceived. I wonder whether if English juries were to act as they did in 1794, it will be proposed to send English prisoners to Ireland for trial. There is a complete novelty in this provision of the Bill. It must have struck everyone that there has been a lordly contempt for and disregard of all statistics on the part of the Government. They have expressly disclaimed any intention of relying on that part of the case. An excellent authority, no less than the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), has told us that there is nothing more deceiving than figures, and therefore the Government propose to leave them out of their calculation. But when it suited their purpose they wore prepared to give statistics in aid of the Bill they desire to introduce. Not only do they disregard statistics, but they disregard the Reports of the Royal Commissions also. Although gentlemen were sent over to Ireland under their own auspices to inquire into and report upon the condition of Ireland, the Report presented to them by those gentlemen has been altogether passed by. The Bill, in fact, is based upon the sic volo, sic jubeo of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who make up or support the Government. Not only are statistics and the Reports of Commissions left out in the cold, but entire districts in Ireland are left out also. If there is one district in which more than another the law has been set at defiance it is Belfast, but Her Majesty's Ministers appear to look upon that city as the most peaceful district in Ireland, and allow the Orangemen to continue to "rule the roast." The material upon which the Government base their Bill is the charges of the Irish Judges. As a member of the same profession I have no desire to treat those learned Judges with the slightest disrespect, but I pay the utmost deference to them when they speak within the limits of their own legitimate authority. But as has been 123 stated forcibly in the speech of an hon. Member on this side of the House, the learned Judges derive no authority from their offices outside the scope of the subjects they have to deal with officially. I confess, therefore, that I am myself unable to attach any particular importance to words which may fall from learned Judges when they are acting upon what I consider prejudiced information, and reasoning from data which hon. Members have not before them, and upon which they are therefore unable to pronounce a judgment for themselves. And what do these Judges say? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary read to us extracts from the charges delivered by several of them. But Mr. Justice Murphy stated that in his district the number of cases was very small. Is that one of the districts in which the statistics of crime have no weight with hon. Gentlemen opposite? At Limerick Mr. Justice Johnson said that crime has increased, and it will be found that in that case the increase of crime was taken and insisted upon, if not directly, at any rate indirectly, as a justification for the introduction of this measure. Mr. Justice O'Brien says that crime is frequent in the County of Kerry. Accordingly, the charge of that learned Judge is insisted upon as an argument in favour of the Bill, and the Government say—"Look at this bloodstained district. Surely repressive legislation is necessary here." Where there is an absence of crime, they disregard statistics altogether; and attribute such absence to some mysterious evil influence of the National League; they speak of the terror which that action produces upon the minds of the people, and say that it induces them to adopt some subtle modes of thought which this Bill, in some inexplicable manner, is intended to counteract. The learned Judge who charged the Grand Jury at Cork said that the cases of crime were few and comparatively unimportant. Tipperary where the charge was favourable has never even been mentioned. Therefore, as far as the quantity of crime is concerned, the testimony of the Judges as a whole appears to me to be a powerful argument against the introduction of the Bill. Then we are told that the influence of the National League induces men to do things which some people describe as immoral; surely, that is altogether an 124 insufficient reason for increasing the stringency of the Criminal Law in Ireland, for I am afraid there are many immoral acts committed in other parts of Her Majesty's Dominions. But it is said that the juries will not convict on the clearest evidence, and that it is very difficult to get witnesses to come forward. There seems to be some confusion here, because no explanation has been offered as to whence that clear evidence of the existence of crime spoken of by the Judges has been obtained if witnesses are so intimidated as to be afraid to give evidence. It is also said that juries are prejudiced. Juries have been prejudiced before, and in cases of political trials apart altogether from crime, the prejudices of juries have been testified to by writers on Constitutional Law as having been of the greatest possible use in procuring an alteration of the law. I am speaking of political offences and not of crime; and a great writer upon the study of history—Mr. Buckle—tells us that for several years in the later part of the 18th century there was imminent danger to the Constitution from the attacks which were made upon it, which danger was only averted by the "bold spirit with which our English juries by their hostile verdicts resisted the proceedings of Government and refused to sanction laws which the Crown had proposed, and to which a timid and servile legislature had willingly consented." Of course the statement of Mr. Buckle refers only to political trials for offences such as conspiracy and political libels, and not to what are generally understood as crimes, from which it has been said that Ireland, as a nation, is singularly free. If, therefore, juries have been unwilling on testimony which was forthcoming to return verdicts which they ought to have returned, I ask whether this is not, in itself, a significant symptom that something is wrong in the law of which the jury system is a part, and which is to be taken in conjunction with the nature of the crime and the general political condition of the country. Then we are told that the Bill deals solely with criminals, and that good, excellent, and righteous people have nothing to fear from it. On that point, let me remind the House, however, that a portion of the criminality affected by the Bill is the law of conspiracy, and the law of 125 conspiracy is a peculiarly dangerous part of the law to give any extension to, or to entrust to any but the highest and most responsible tribunals; because it often happens that the overt act relied upon is of an equivocal character—one which, in certain circumstances, would be innocent, while in others it would be guilty. It is to be determined by the intent of the doer, and very often the intent of the doer is proved by the overt act itself. Consequently, as the law of conspiracy is likely to be fraught with danger to the citizens of a free country, it becomes necessary to guard it with great jealousy, and no extension of it should be allowed to take place without every precaution against injustice being taken. When the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was making his speech the other evening, I ventured to interpose with a question as to whether any provision was to he introduced into the Bill to guard against the idea which seemed to have gained ground—rightly or wrongly— that in the constitution of juries on the part of the authorities there is some want of uniformity; and whether the jury panel would be struck in such a way as to prevent what is called jury-packing; such, for instance, as the nomination of a uniform number of jurymen on each panel; I do not know whether such a provision is to be introduced or not, but if the object of the Government is to create in the Irish people a spirit of confidence in the English Government, and in the administration and execution of the law, it would be well to take such ample precautions as would remove the possibility of any reasonable suspicion from the minds of the people affected by this legislation. The master of the situation, it is said, is the National League, which the House is told is associated with secret societies. Not a tittle of evidence has been given to bear out this assertion. The National League is an external association. It has its subscriptions, and is as open to the cognizance of hon. Gentlemen opposite as the Primrose League. I do not know whether it affects badges of innocence like the Primrose League. There certainly is not a tittle of evidence to show that it is a secret society. If, however, any measure is calculated to manufacture, and to bring the National League into connection with, secret societies, the present 126 Bill of the Government is exactly the kind of legislation which is likely to produce results so unhappy and disastrous in their consequences. The National League has certainly not been described in the most flattering terms. Its action is said to be innocent here but guilty there, which would seem to he inconsistent with the necessarily corrupt nature which has been attributed to it. The question I would like to ask is, how has the National League obtained its power? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said the League is the handiwork of hon. Members from Ireland. Certainly they know—if any men can know—the condition of Ireland. But who gave hon. Members their power? We have hoard a great deal about the mandate which the Conservative Members say they have received from the country. Have not hon. Members from Ireland got a mandate too? Have they manufactured both the constituencies and the mandate —otherwise whence comes their power? For aught I know, they rely upon no adventitious aid to place it in their power to coerce their fellow men. They are not possessed of titles, nor do I think they are much connected with Members in "another place." I do not know what their private resources may be; but I presume it is not because they are millionaires that they have been entrusted with this mandate. They have not the exclusive command of the Irish Constabulary, nor are they able to call into requisition the troops of Her Majesty to compel subjection to their will. Then, whence do they gain their power, except from the most legitimate source from which any Member of Parliament or any League can get its power—namely, the will of the people who believe they represent their sentiments, and are doing their best to redress their grievances. We have heard a great deal about the agitation which is going on in Ireland. I can understand men, for the sake of private ends, being able to go through a county, and for a while, by dwelling on unreal and fancied wrongs, to stir up angry passions, and to sow discord between man and his fellowman; but I challenge hon. Members opposite—many of whom are well versed in historical matters—to produce any historical parallel of a successful agitation which has gone on 127 for generation after generation, if it has not been based upon some real and solid grievances. But here is an agitation which has lived beyond a generation. Hon. Members from Ireland are the heirs and successors of men whose voices have been raised for generations in appeals to British Governments to govern their country in unison with their feelings, and in accordance with what they believe to be right. These men have gained strength as they have gone on, and they have done so because their appeals have been based to an unexampled extent on real grievances. Sometimes, under a particular leader, factitious agitators have, for a season, gained great power; but the flame thus lit has died out with the life of the man who fanned it into light; but here there has been a continual hereditary succession of complaints from the Representatives of the Irish nation. It is idle, therefore, to turn round and try to minimize these complaints by saying that the men who make them are agitators, and that their complaints are to be disregarded entirely on that account. I deprecate illegitimate agitation; but legitimate agitation is praise worthy. We have arrived at our present condition of freedom in this country by the agitation of our grievances and the demand for their removal. That being so, I rejoice that this dispute is approaching a conclusion, because I think the hour is rapidly approaching, and I believe hon. Members share in this feeling themselves, when the destinies of this country and of Ireland will not be entirely at the mercy of a Government who—however excellent they may be as individuals—are unable collectively to see any cure for the wounds of Ireland except by riveting anew the fetters which have proved so useless in the past; and are unwilling or unable to promote that less palpable but more real union between different portions of the same country, which is begotten of mutual confidence and goodwill.
§ MR. LAWSON (St. Pancras, W.)
said, he wished to explain to the House why he, in common with everyone who consistently represented Liberal opinion in the Metropolis, conceived to be his duty to oppose this Bill step by step and stage by stage. The hon. Member for Central Hull (Mr. King) had made a long and heart-rending apology for his vote, which he felt was being 128 made not to the House but to the hon. Member's constituents. Looking at the Conservative and the Liberal Unionists, he did not quite know what kind of hybrid the hon. Member was, but he prophesied that the hon. Member would be equally satisfied with the Bill introduced by the Government and the method of its execution. Most of the speeches delivered had consisted of choice quotations from other speeches, delivered under different circumstances and with different objects; but he hardly fancied that, if the charge of inconsistency which had been made were proved to demonstration, it would make much odds to the Liberal Members returned in 1885 who had been pledged to the hilt against coercion for Ireland. Whatever the policy of the Government in Ireland might be they had shown their hand very plainly in that House. In that House, at all events, the Bill was to be carried by the higher tactics of exasperation. The Leader of the House, who had a reputation for a sort of sublime common sense, had threatened Members of the House, like a pack of schoolboys, that unless they passed this Bill they would be deprived of their Easter holidays. For his part, he condemned that policy of exasperation, together with that threat, and thought the Government would be very lucky if they reached the later stages of the Bill some time before Whitsuntide. The Government wanted to draw a red herring across the scent of coercion which smelt slightly in the nostrils of the people. They wanted the people to believe that the Irish Members were obstructing. The greatest part of the time in that debate, however, had been taken up by Liberal Unionists in apologizing to their constituents, and explaining the extraordinary course of action they had thought fit to pursue. The hon. Member for Cork was about to move an Amendment to the Question before the House, and there were rumours about the application of the closure; but he would remind the House that when Lord John Russell moved this same Amendment in the form of a substantive Motion in 1844, the debate lasted nine nights. He thought the Irish Members would be very considerate if they occupied only a week in discussing a Motion of such importance as this. Further, he reminded the House that not 129 only the orthodox Liberals, but many of those who opposed the Home Rule proposals of the late Government, had strongly pronounced against a policy of coercion, and no Liberal Unionist made coercion a plank in his platform at the last Election. What became now of all their talk about equal justice to Ireland and similar laws—all the cant of Unionism, of which they heard so much, and of which a good deal was heard even at the time of the Union? He condemned the character of the present proposal, which differed from that of every former occasion, inasmuch as this poorest of makeshifts was now to have no fixed limit of time. Sir Robert Peel in 1846 described a like measure as a temporary precaution until certain remedial measures were passed; but now Parliament was asked to give to the Lord Lieutenant for all time the power of suspending the ordinary law of the land. He supposed this measure would soon be numbered with the fundamental laws of the Constitution, and he suggested that the phraseology of the 5th Article of the Act of Union should be adopted declaring that the Act should "remain in full force for ever." Professor Dicey, in his analysis of the Constitution, pointed out that the whole of our political fabric was built up on the basis of the ordinary law of the land; but now the Government proposed to make Ireland the one exception among all the Constitutionally-governed Provinces of the Empire. The permanency of the measure made it more menacing to the civil rights of the people of Ireland than any that had gone before, and those who represented that people would be guilty of a gross breach of duty if they did not oppose it to the utmost of their ability. Some Liberal Unionist Members appeared to be fascinated with the idea of its permanence, and made it a great charge against coercion in the past that it had only been a temporary remedy for a permanent disorder. Where a policy was likely to prove a true remedy it might be right to make it permanent; but, looking at the history of former measures of that kind, he must be a very bold and sanguine man who expected such coercive legislation to be anything but a disastrous failure in the future, or who said it had resulted in any other effect in the past. The hon. Member for 130 Mid Oxford shire the other night (old the House that he only supported that Bill in order to facilitate remedial legislation; but, he would ask, did the Peace Preservation Act make smooth the working of the Land Act of 1881? The hon. Member for Cirencester had spoken of the Union of England and Ireland being based on equal liberties and laws; but if a measure of that character were applied to England and Scotland, Liberal Members for rural constituencies—and particularly the Representatives of what was called the Crofter Party in that House—would run great risk of being sent to gaol for six months' hard labour. The Unionist Liberals had been complimented oil being the staff of the Party opposite. Truly this was a case of "Thy rod and thy staff comfort me," despite the fact that that rod had been turned into a very merciless rod for the backs of the Irish people. The provision under which accused persons in Ireland might be brought over to London for trial seemed to him to be a sort of ballast clause which was not seriously drafted, which the Chief Secretary for Ireland would be ready to throw overboard when he received orders to do so from the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale. Yet, after all, those who read the Report of the Commission on the Belfast riots might be inclined to think that a Mayo Catholic peasant would be better and more fairly treated by a jury of Metropolitan shopkeepers than by a jury picked, as Irish juries are picked, from the Protestant community of Belfast. Again, any man who read with an open mind the Blue Book produced by the Royal Commission, presided over by Lord Cowper, would admit that nearly every witness who was examined in order that he might say the worst of the National League found very little that was bad to say of it. One Resident Magistrate, Mr. Considine, said that the League decidedly set its face against outrage. Another said there was a great improvement in the district with which he had to deal. Mr. Uniacke Townsend, a large land agent, also stated that outrage had given way to quieter methods, and that there was far less intimidation than formerly; and one witness after another said that crime was decreasing in extent and intensity. What, then, was the justification for 131 that drastic Bill? The Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the Irish Land Question, and to investigate to the full the bearings of crime and outrage, resolutely abstained from recommending any special or repressive legislation. The case of the Government for coercion was made up of Judges' charges and anonymous anecdotes. The Judges' charges which the Chief Secretary had read to the House had all the same ring about them, and a resemblance to each other, and it appeared as though they had a common inspiration. It was a terrible thing that in Ireland every part of the civil and social administration was tainted with a political and party spirit; and certainly some of those judicial charges read by the Chief Secretary the other day were extraordinarily like the speeches of Parliamentary candidates delivered from the platforms of the Loyal and Patriotic Union. The Government could hardly be content to rest their whole case on a series of judicial perorations, or upon anonymous stories which could not possibly be verified. No lawyer would say that those vague and nameless stories would be accepted as evidence in any Court of Law; and it should be recollected that the House was not now dealing with the life or liberty of an individual, but with a proposal to abrogate, for time and eternity, the civil rights of a whole people. He wondered how long it would take the present Government to learn that nations were not ruled primarily by law unless that law had received its seal of validity in the consent and approval of the majority of the people who had to obey it. Under the new régime the offences which Lord Salisbury believed it was impossible to deal with by Act of Parliament were to be extinguished, and the seeds of coercion were to ripen very rapidly into a golden harvest of social order. It would be a strange negation of the teaching of history if that seed did not spring up in the shape of armed and masked men, the agents of secret societies, which the National League had superseded, but into whose hands they would again drive the impoverished Irish peasantry. Hon. Members knew that an emasculated Land Bill was to be sent down from "another place;" but the Irish people had not much reason to look to 132 "another place" for conspicuous benefits. The House of Lords had been a perfect cemetery of Irish remedial legislation, and its annals were marked throughout by the tombstones of defeated measures brought forward in the interests of the Irish tenantry. In this measure they had got back to the time-honoured Unionist policy of coercion. He was not so sanguine as to hope that this Bill would not get through that House; but there could be no greater proof of the impotency and futility of the Government policy than its introduction.; and as the Government, drawing its strength from many quarters, possessed all the weakness of an unnatural alliance, it would not be surprising if they became a Government of collapse before the final stage of their Coercion Bill was reached. Unless a strong protest were made from the Benches on which he sat, and from outside that House, against coercion, it would go forth to the world that the democracy of this country did not expect— did not even wish—that a healthier relationship should spring from the existing conditions and the admitted urgencies of the time in Ireland.
MR. CAMPBELL-BANNEEMAN (Stirling, &c.)
Sir, I confess candidly to the House that, although I am strongly opposed to any legislative measure of the character now proposed, yet, in one sense, the introduction of this proposal of Her Majesty's Government is a source of sincere satisfaction to me. Now, at last, we have exposed to us the alternative to the plan of the late Government for dealing with the affairs of Ireland. We have waited long. Last summer a majority of the electors of England—out numbering opposing majorities in the other parts of the United Kingdom—agreed to set aside for the time the policy of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), and to instal in Office those who opposed it. I observe that right hon. Gentlemen opposite appear to find much comfort in the fact that they have received a mandate from the country, and to think that this invests the Government and its allies with a peculiar degree of sanctity and authority. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), when he spoke last week, was eloquent, and, as usual, vehement upon the subject of the mandate, and the First Lord 133 of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), speaking yesterday, based the claim and the reason for the introduction of this measure on this same mandate He said—"We ask for these powers because we believe that we received a mandate at the last Election." But we all know that to say that you have received a mandate, is only a pretentious way of stating the fact that you have somehow secured a majority at a General Election; and I do not recollect that when circumstances have given a majority in favour of the Liberal Party, hon. Members opposite were in any degree overawed or put to silence. I am not going to raise any contention as to the mandate, by attempting to give it a positive definition; but I would say of it negatively that it meant that the Successors of the late Government were to deal with the Irish difficulty in some way different from ours. "We have, therefore, been curious and anxious ever since to know what the course of the Government would be; but I can call to mind no occasion except one, until last week, on which any definite disclosure of the alternative proposal of Her Majesty's Government was made. That one exception was in September last. In September last the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), not addressing some meeting in the country, at which he might be held to commit no one but himself, but speaking at this Table as the authoritative mouthpiece of the Government, used these words—It is the firm and decided intention of Her Majesty's Government to make a proposal to Parliament as early as possible, with a view to placing all these questions of local government and public works more in the hands of the Irish people than they have been.This promise, so satisfactory to us, because we know that the more closely the condition of Irish affairs is examined, the more is our case strengthened, has been allowed to lapse into oblivion without even a pretence of fulfilment; and we have, during the winter, been supplied with many bravo words and sounding phrases, but no indication of a definite policy. Many meetings have been held and many speeches have been made in different parts of the country, and everywhere the roofs rung to loud declarations in favour of law and order. This is a collocation of words with which we are now very familiar; but I hope, 134 before I sit down, to state my opinion as to the mutual relations of law and order in Ireland. The words of the Prime Minister and his Colleagues in favour of the firm and unflinching administration of the law have been such as must have satisfied the stoutest assertor of landlords rights and the most coercion-loving newspaper editor in England; but the puzzling thing has been that the action of the Government in Ireland by no means corresponded with their language in England. The steps of the Irish Executive have been hesitating, confused, and faltering. They appeared to stumble from blunder into blunder. Even their exhibitions of energy gave the impression of half-heartedness; and when occasionally they were goaded into strenuous action, their courage seemed to resemble that of some shy and bashful man in society whom we often see driven, in his nervous desperation, into the commission of acts from which a bolder man would shrink. The truth is, that it is easy, at Willis's Rooms and in Lombard Street, to speak bravely of the sanctity of contract and the rights of property; to denounce as swindlers those who have taught the Irish tenants to turn their weakness into strength by uniting; to compare them to sturdy beggars, or to garotters. But, while it is easy to do this at a safe distance, it is not so easy for the Members of the Irish Executive, who are on the spot, who have a direct responsibility, who have eyes to see and a heart to feel, and a conscience to which to account, to translate this lofty doctrine into practice. It was, therefore, not astonishing to find that the right hon. Baronet the Member for West Bristol (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), Sir Redvers Buller, and those who were associated with them, exerted themselves with much zeal, and an irregularity of conduct to which they are now not unnaturally reluctant to confess, to stave off, or modify, those extremities which the rigorous application of their Colleagues' teaching would have obliged them to enforce. And now what is the cure for this ambiguity in the conduct of the Government? The powers of the law had been found by those who had to administer it so severe that they had not the heart to apply it in its full intensity; and, yet, what is it that we are now asked to do? We are asked to increase its intensity. 135 The case of the Irish tenant is so pitiable that the Members of Her Majesty's Government in Ireland did all they could to alleviate it, and now we are not only by a side wind, but, with a clear purpose and intention, to strike down the great defence of the Irish tenant and leave him at the mercy of the Irish landlord. I am sorry to say from what has occurred in this House we are not quite unprepared for this change in the temper of the Government. We have had some occurrences in this House, to which I think it right to refer briefly. I refer first to the unfortunate words used by the late Chief Secretary, when he spoke of using something stronger than blows from batons. Now, there is not a man in the House who is not prepared to make the fullest allowance for the right hon. Gentleman, who was evidently suffering from physical pain and irritation; but in respect of his words not one of his Colleagues has ever uttered a syllable by way of qualification or modification. Then I come to the occasion when the present Chief Secretary, in jaunty, if not triumphant, tones, expressed his high approval of the brutal words in which the orders to the police at Youghal were couched. And, lastly, I speak of the fact that when the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) called the attention of the House to the proceedings at Youghal which resulted in the death of a poor man, there came from that Bench not one word of sympathy or regret—although surely, whether the occurrence was justifiable or not, it was, at least, deeply to be deplored; not one word t indicate a sense of the gravity of the occurrence, only indignation, forsooth, against the Member for East Mayo, and the usual cold declaration as to the necessity for upholding the law. Every one of us here will agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he asserts, and even emphasizes, the necessity of supporting the civil power and carrying out the orders of the Courts; but the Government are responsible for the tone in which they deal with these matters in this House. In my opinion, you can inflict greater insult by a word or gesture, than by a blow, and, whatever we may think, I greatly fear that the quick-witted, intelligent, and sensitive Irish people, who watch very keenly what goes on in this House, will take these incidents, trivial as they may ap- 136 pear, as an indication of the tone and temper in which the provisions of this Bill will be framed, and carried, and worked. I venture to say further that, by incidents such as these, an amount of harm is done in the hearts of men in Ireland to your cherished cause of order which all the clauses of this Bill, even if it has all the effect you anticipate, will not suffice to counteract. What is the object of your Bill? The real object is asserted to be to put down intimidation, and when you speak of intimidation you mean, of course—for it is best to speak frankly—the action of the National League. The first observation then which must occur to every one is that, even if we judge by the conduct of the Government themselves, the case for dealing with the National League is not so strong as it was 14 months ago. What was the announcement made on the 26th of January, 1886, by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach)? He gave Notice that on the following Thursday the Chief Secretary for Ireland would move for leave to bring in a Bill for the purpose of suppressing the National League and other dangerous associations, for the prevention of intimidation, and the protection of life and order in Ireland. Well, that was not mincing the matter. They took the bull by the horns. They declared war against the National League and all its works. Judging from the speeches to which we have listened from Members of the Government, they appear to think that the evils of which they complain are more intense, as they are certainly more inveterate, than they were last year; and yet, this year the Government do not confront their task in the same direct, bold, and open way, but they approach it delicately and tenderly and with a considerable attempt at disguise. In Her Majesty's Speech we were told that what was intended was to effect some alterations in legal procedure. The ingenuous and unsuspicious mind would scarcely detect under that modest phrase a new Coercion Bill? It now appears that this legislation is intended to put down the National League, to suppress illegal conspiracies, to put an end to combination, to make intimidation impossible, to secure to all quiet citizens the full enjoyment of their liberties, and to establish the law of the land in place of the un- 137 written law of the National League. But that is a good deal of business to be achieved by "the reform of legal procedure." The use of a soothing and attractive title is not a new device. I remember the well-known lines—The merchant, to secure his treasure,Conveys it in a borrowed name;Euphelia serves to grace my measure,But Chloe is my real flame.Who would have thought that behind the Euphelia of legal procedure there lurked the Chloe of coercion? These facts, as it appears to me, are evidences of what is practically a matter of notoriety. The Government have been hesitating and reluctant for some weeks, if not for months, about bringing in this Bill, and it is only brought in now as a consequence of the pertinacious instigation of some of the more noisy and less discreet among their own Followers, and of some hon. Gentlemen behind me, whose thirst for vigorous government in Ireland varies in exactly inverse ratio to their responsibility in applying it, and of the dictatorial Mentors of the Government in the London Press, No one can venture to say that a case has been made out for this Bill on the ground of open crime and outrage. The poverty of the case in this respect is evident to everyone, and it has been proved by the reluctance of the Chief Secretary to produce the Returns which have always hitherto been given. [Cries of "No!"] Hitherto, we have had these Returns, but now they are withheld. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: No, no!] Well, then, let us have them. We want the ordinary Returns of grave crime and outrage which support the demand for this extraordinary legislation, and which have always hitherto been given. The Chief Secretary based his case on different grounds altogether. He relied on the Judges' Reports, and quoted them at great length. What must have occurred to most English and Scotch Members when they heard these Reports read, is that such Reports are not usually made either in England or in Scotland. English Judges confine themselves in their charges to the Calendars before them, and if they observe that one crime is increasing and another diminishing, they may comment upon the fact; but they never think of launching into a diatribe upon the general state of the country and society. But the truth is 138 that the custom in Ireland is different. The Irish Judge receives reports from the police officials of the country and others—and let me point out to the House that the Chief Secretary in coming forward to ask for new powers, quotes these same officials, and them quotes the Judges in corroboration—the Judges who have received their information from the very same source. A Judge has no special information or idea of his own as to the state of society. When he arrives at the Assize town certain reports are handed to him. He gets the information, and on that builds his comments, and it is the same information on which the Chief Secretary bases his remarks. This part of the proceedings of the Judges gives an effective illustration which I shall venture to make use of when I come to deal with the question of law and order in Ireland. There are, of course, exceptions to the condition of things I have described, even in the Judges' charges. The Chief Secretary expressed some surprise that my right hon. Friend (Mr. John Morley) should have dwelt upon the instance of Tipperary. But the fact was that Baron Dowse, in his charge to the Grand Jury at Nenagh, in the County Tipperary, wound up by saying—"So far as I know you have every reason to be satisfied with the state of the county." Could there be stronger approval of the condition of a county? And yet it was from this very county that the Chief Secretary took one or two of the examples of crime to which he referred. The right hon. Gentleman also quoted several passages from articles in Untied Ireland, and from speeches made by Members of this House and Leaders of the National League; I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has largely read the columns of United Ireland; but if he had read as much of it as I have, he would know that it is the custom of that journal to use forcible language, and hon. Members have also developed the same habit to a considerable extent. In fact, it is notorious that in a great political movement such as this, forcible language is used which would not be employed in ordinary circumstances and in cooler moments. Among the many excellent qualities which the Chief Secretary possesses, perhaps he will allow me to say that the most conspicuous is his ex- 139 ceeding ingenuousness of nature, and he consequently appears to take what is told him an pied de la leltré. Nothing could be more unfortunate in Ireland, above all places. I remember that when I first went over to Dublin as Chief Secretary, a sagacious friend of mine in that city gave me this advice— "Always remember that whatever you hear in this country on either side of any question, is intended to be taken subject to a discount of 50 per cent." I have since acted on the advice of my friend, greatly to my comfort and advantage, and now I am very glad to communicate it to the Chief Secretary, and hope he will apply it. The broad objection we have to this legislation which you propose—as we should to any legislation for a similar purpose— is, that it is not the way to deal with the evils which exist in Ireland. I do not deny the existence of those evils for a moment. I do not dispute that in many particulars the Criminal Law might be amended with advantage. I will go further, and say I think it might be amended with advantage in the direction of making it easier and more certain to secure verdicts; and the way in which I should be disposed to effect that object, although I am not a lawyer, is by extending to Ireland, and, for that matter, to England as well, the practice with which we are so familiar in Scotland, of allowing juries to return verdicts by a majority. It is at least my opinion that this would be an advantageous change; and there are other particulars in which I would gladly see the Criminal Law and its procedure strengthened and improved. But it is necessary, not only that a change in the law should be sound, wise, and equitable, but above all things that it should be opportune, and it is this which I deny to your legislation in the present state of Ireland. I shall endeavour to give some reasons for this opinion before I sit down. Again, I do not, for one moment, dispute the existence in Ireland of a wide-spread system of intimidation, founded upon and worked by a combination of persons throughout the country. Some time ago it prevailed to a very great extent, and was attended in many cases with much hardship and even cruelty. Some cases have been quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and by the Chief Secretary. I agreed 140 in the observation of the hon. Member for East Mayo when he spoke of the small number of cases which had been brought forward by the Chief Secretary. Some of them were somewhat trivial; there wore one or two which were exceedingly strong. But with regard to the poor woman who was refused assistance in childbirth, and the child who was allowed to die without aid, these were, no doubt, serious cases; but are they a fair sample of the 836 cases of Boycotting referred to? It is ridiculous to suppose that we are to adopt this extreme legislation because there have been one or two bad cases, unless those cases fairly indicate the nature of the operation generally. Such cases, however, form but a small proportion of the entire number. I am, indeed, inclined to doubt whether the practice has not declined in vigour and intensity, and we have express evidence to that effect in the Blue Book of the Cowper Commission, which is not the quarter, certainly, in which we should expect to find it; but I raise no contention on this point. I fully admit the existence of the system, and I only join issue with the Government when we come to the further question, how it is to be met and coped with. First of all, it is well to settle in our minds what are the origin and character of this system of intimidation'. The Chief Secretary denied that it was so exclusively agrarian as we assert. He found fault with the right hon. Gentleman near me (Mr. John Morley) for taking it for granted that it was an agrarian system of combination, and the way in which he combatted the assertion was rather singular. He said—If you desire to know how far these eases go beyond mere agrarian objects you cannot do better than look down this column with regard to evicted farms.And then the right hon. Gentleman quoted, with a triumphant air, in proof of his contention, "caretaking" and "herding." But what are caretaking and herding but agrarian cases? Then the right hon. Gentleman quoted such heads as these—Being unpopular as a landlord; acting as an agent; associating with Boycotted persons; supplying the police when on unpopular duty; accommodating obnoxious persons.But everyone of these things has its root in the agrarian question. The origin of the system of Boycotting—to 141 put it shortly—was this. Tenants in Ireland—and these not only the smaller and more impoverished among them, but the larger tenants also in a country where the competition for land is so keen—have bean for generations practically at the mercy of their landlords, as long as the landlords could deal with each man singly. Then it was that combination came in, which acted like the cord around the bundle of sticks in the fable, giving strength to units individually weak. But it is quite obvious that loyalty between the tenants, among themselves, is absolutely essential in order that combination should be successful; and it is to prevent and punish what is regarded as treason to the common cause that Boycotting and other forms of interference with personal liberty have been employed. That is the genesis of the system. I yield to no one in my disapproval and condemnation of its methods; but, at the same time, I am bound to say that, in common fairness, we must not forget that they were adopted in self-defence against terrors and hardships, inflicted on the tenant class, which probably involved even greater cruelty. I will give one quotation on this point from the evidence before the Laud Commission. It is the evidence of Mr. F. O'Sullivan, who said—The Land Purchase Act will work mischievously if the question is left open between landlord and tenant." Being asked why, he answered—"I know cases of tenants who are in such dread by writs, and by being actually evicted, that they accepted conditions of purchase which, on their own admission, they believed they were unable to comply with.Let me say in passing that we are told we are going to have a scheme of purchase. It is a wonderful scheme, from all we hear of it—more likely to have been framed in a conjuror's saloon in Piccadilly than in the Cabinet of a Minister; because the tenant is to have his farm, and the landlord is to have his money down, and yet nobody's credit is to be involved. At any rate, you are going to establish a system of purchase which involves a bargain between landlord and tenant; and you now propose, previous to doing so, to deprive the tenant of the only organization which can put him on a proper footing for dealing with his landlord. The First Lord of the Admiralty said yesterday— 142All that the Government contend for is that the conditions which surround the contract between landlord and tenant shall be even.That is what we all want. But when you strike down the power of combination you destroy the only means which enable the tenants to cope with the landlords' legal powers which have borne very hardly upon them. However, Sir, I have quoted these words merely to show that if the tenants have combined they have done so to deliver themselves from what, perhaps, has been, and is, a greater tyranny than any other ever imposed by them. And I would venture further to surmise that if, in any part of the country, landlords formed a combination for the protection of their common interests, and if any one of these landlords violated the conditions of that association, he would be visited with a degree of social disfavour quite as intolerable, though perhaps not so rough and ready, as the treatment an offending tenant under the League would meet with. It may be asked what has been the effect of the combination among the Irish tenants? Has it been effective for its purposes? On this point I should like to make one more quotation. Sir Redvers Buller said—Nobody did anything for the tenants until the League was established, and when the landlords could not let their farms they were forced to consider the question of rent.Why could they not let their farms? It was because every person who took one would be Boycotted. Now, I have not a word to say in favour of the method; but I say that the effect of it has been to put the tenants in a better position than they were before. We may push the inquiry still further, and ask—Are the objects which the tenants have in view, and which they have thus in great degree secured, legitimate and honest objects? On this point I should like to quote very briefly from a paper which has not so far, I believe, been introduced into this debate. It is a paper which, I think, well deserves the attention of the House, and might well be perused by every Member of it. It was sent to Lord Cowper by the Bishop of Elphin, and it was acquiesced in by three of his colleagues in the Irish hierarchy—than whom men more able, respected, and moderate do not exist in Ireland. They are not in any way men of extreme sympathies with hon. Members below the 143 Gangway. I should like to read the whole paper, but I will make only one or two short extracts from it; and let the House remember that no persons can speak on this matter with greater authority than these prelates, for they know thoroughly well the circumstances and feeling of their flocks. What does Dr. Gilhooly say? He says—There is no combination, public or private, that I know of against the payment of equitable rents; nor is there, except perhaps in a law isolated cases, any disposition on the part of individual tenants to disavow what are in their class considered their just obligations to their landlords. The present public combined action of tenants has no other object but the obtaining of equitable reductions of rent.That is dated December, 1886. Then the Bishop goes on to describe how certain rents had always been excessive. He says—The old rents were, as a rule, fixed, not by the produce or productive qualities of the land, but first, by the necessities of the tenants; secondly, by their competition for even small scraps of the worst land; and, thirdly, by their earnings in England, and even by the remittances of their children from America.That, Sir, is how the excessive rents began. How did they go on? The Bishop of Elphin says—The old excessive rents were again and again raised, according as the tenants were reclaiming or improving their holdings by their own hard, unaided labour, or when there was a rise in market prices; and frequently, when arrears of rent had accumulated in years of blight and famine, a new increase of rent was arbitrarily and permanently imposed on the miserable tenant as an equivalent for those arrears.The Bishop then says—Very many of our petty tenants still want the bare necessities of life, and it is only by hard, incessant toil, and by depriving their families of these necessaries, that they contrived in past years to pay the old rents. Who will venture to assert that they are still bound to pay them by still subjecting themselves and their children to such grievous privations? In their minds, at least, the exaction of such rents is a violation of God's law, which a just Government should condemn and prevent; and the English law that enforces it is, in their eyes, utterly unjust and to be submitted to only from sheer necessity. Therefore, were they even able to pay these excessive rents, which they are not, they will not pay them. The baton, even the bayonet, has but little terror for creatures so familiarized with sickness and death.I will quote only one more sentence. The Bishop states—From the above considerations, I have come to the conclusion that in all rents deductions have become necessary, and that in looking for 144 them the tenants do not mean to act, and are not acting, dishonestly."As I before said, I strongly commend this paper to the perusal of hon. Members, Now, Sir, the point at issue between us and the Government is this—Is the organization of which I have been speaking the natural fruit of social and political conditions, or is it the factitious creation of certain agitators? The latter seems to be the view taken by the Government and Gentlemen opposite. Break up the machinery, lay by the heels in prison those who work it, and then— such appears to be their theory—Ireland will be contented and happy. I will not occupy the time of the House in argument against this long-exposed fallacy. [A laugh.] Let the hon. Member who laughs point to one occasion in history when agitators have been able, without material, or with scanty material, to create a great National movement such as this. And let the House remember that this movement is not confined to the districts in which intimidation is alleged to exist; it attracts quite as much support and sympathy among the bulk of the people in the larger towns, and in parts of the country where Boycotting is unknown. We need not, indeed, look further back than a very few years. What was the groundwork and excuse of the Coercion Act of 1881? The late Mr. Forster was led to believe that, at that time also, there were a few evilly-disposed persons who were really the authors of the whole disturbance of society in Ireland. He called them mauvais sujets; they were the village idlers, and the village ruffians, and it was his belief that if he was only entrusted with power to put them in prison, the whole disorder would collapse. I remember that at that time there were one or two Members from Ireland who busied themselves in going about the Lobbies of the House advising the Government, and telling everyone that they could themselves name the half-dozen men in their own districts whose temporary removal from active life would ensure immediate quiet. What happened? Mr. Forster began imprisoning people, and the more his net brought to shore the wider he had to cast it, until the whole of the gaols in Ireland were full of untried and practically unaccused men, the number 145 reaching something like 900 or 1,000. And the worst of it was that the state of Ireland was not one whit improved thereby. Nay, it was much worse, and that for two reasons—First, because, while no doubt, some of these men had been connected with the outrages of which complaint was made, a large number of them, although they may have had Nationalist sympathies, were quiet and inoffensive citizens; but when they issued from prison they came out determined enemies to British rule, and active advocates of National self-government. I speak of facts known to everyone acquainted with the circumstances of the Government of Ireland. Then, in the second place, if there was any effect upon disorder, it was to drive it under the surface, there to fester and ferment, and produce a crop of secret and criminal societies; and it was with those societies that the Crimes Act of 1882 was mainly designed to deal, and with them it dealt with a great measure of success. Reference has been made to the Crimes Act of 1882 as a justification for this Bill; and its provisions have been repeatedly adduced as furnishing a triumphant vindication of everything contained in the Bill; but hon. Members opposite cannot allege that the same state of society exists now as then. Where are the secret societies now that justified the Crimes Act of 1882? We have not heard a word about them; there is no proof that they exist now as they did when the Act of 1882 was passed. If it is not so, let us hear about them. The Chief Secretary said nothing about it; but it would appear that certain hon. Members behind me are better informed than the right hon. Gentleman. I speak of Mr. Forster with the highest respect for his character and sagacity; but it is precisely because it was so sagacious a man who was completely misled that we should read the lesson. Most of us on this side of the House, at least, have learned a lesson from this recent failure; the lesson—namely, that it is useless—that is worse than useless, it is mischievous, to attempt to deal with the instrument and the effect, and not with the cause. This is why we repudiate the Bill which it is proposed now to introduce. Surely the course which the most ordinary prudence would dictate ought to be followed—namely, to attack the cause, and not 146 the consequence. The Government have brought in a land measure in "another place," of which this House has, as yet, no knowledge. I do not know whether it will come up oven to the standard of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, which Royal Commission itself was not of a very satisfactory constitution. Whatever that Bill may be, I would venture to present to the Government a dilemma, and they are welcome to adopt either branch of it. They are going to deal with the Land Question. Their legislation will either, on the one hand, be a successful, final, and satisfactory solution of this great difficulty, in which case the occupation of this great combination will be gone, intimidation for agrarian purposes will cease, and all the turmoil and effort and irritation caused by this Coercion Act will have been absolutely superfluous; or, on the other hand, their land measure, contrary to their desires and intentions, will not be completely effectual, in which case surely they must know that some root, of bitterness will be left behind, and that similar methods to those adopted in the past will be put into operation, and will be continued with equal disturbance of order until the grievances complained of are removed. Therefore, in either event, this Bill stands condemned. If the Land Bill is successful, then this Coercion Bill is superfluous; and if it is not successful, then the Coercion Bill will be inadequate. But, although it may be inadequate for good, it will be painfully adequate for evil, because it will do much to prevent the settlement of the Land Question in a reasonable and Constitutional fashion by further embittering the relations between governors and governed in Ireland. Sir, I said some time ago that I should have some remarks to make on the relation between law and order in Ireland. With regard to law and order, are they as nearly and necessarily associated in Ireland as we are accustomed to find them in other countries? As a general proposition it is true, no doubt, that the establishment and maintenance of order depends and follows upon the observance of the law. But, before order can be expected necessarily to follow upon law, there are two conditions to be observed. In the first place, the law must be equitable, and it must be recog- 147 nized as equitable by the general sense of the community to which it is applied. This is, in fact, a generally accepted commonplace upon which it is unnecessary to dwell. But no one, in face of what we have seen, and of the disclosures of the recent Commission, can pretend that the Land Laws of Ireland, greatly improved as they have been lately by Parliament, mainly under the guidance of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone)— no one can say that they even now satisfy this first condition. But I pass on to the second condition, which is one not so often brought before us. I assert that it is necessary not only that the law shall be just, but that the people who live under it shall have confidence that it is fairly and impartially administered. Now, there exists in Ireland—let me be quite exact, for I do not wish to exaggerate—there exists in large sections of the community, a profound, deep-set, and hereditary distrust of the administration of the law. They and their fathers have seen the law applied in strange ways and to strange purposes. There is no such feeling, that I am aware of, in England or Scotland; where, whatever a man may think of any particular provision of the law, there is a general knowledge that it is fairly and indifferently administered. Let hon. Members of this House, who are not acquainted with the circumstances, bear in mind that that cannot be said of Ireland. I submit that this fact lies at the bottom of a great deal of the evil which we see existing in that country. The idea seems to possess, to a great extent, the minds of the Irish people that the administration of the law furnishes, as it were, a field for a sort of serious gain, in which one side endeavours at all hazards, by hook or by crook, to obtain convictions—manipulating juries, changing venue, getting up evidence, and so forth—while the other side try by every means in their power to defeat them, frustrating or refusing evidence, threatening or punishing witnesses, forcing juries to disagree. I do not state these things as facts; but I am speaking of matters quite as important as if they were facts—namely, the general sentiment and belief of the people. Each side thus tries to outwit and entrap, or to frustrate and defeat its opponent. Everything is 148 fair in love and war, and so I presume everything is fair in this case. I am not stating my own opinion, but the deep-seated sentiments and feelings of the Irish people. Above all, I am speaking of the system only, and not of individuals. I have no word except of respect for the Irish judiciary, which numbers in its ranks some of the most eminent and distinguished of judges, and no one imagines that they would be party to anything unjust or unfair. But this is the feeling, and our system gives countenance to it, and lends itself to its growth. Even the Judges' charges, which have been quoted to-night, disclose the fact that they and all public servants in the ranks of the administration of the law are regarded as executive as well as judicial officers. When we come further down, what do we find? Take the case of the Resident Magistrates. They are not only Stipendiary Judges, but are in charge of order in the districts in which they live. They have many functions, for which they have to receive direct instructions from Dublin Castle. Few of them have had judicial or legal training, and they hold their offices at the pleasure of the Crown. Yet it is to those men that the power of of trying men without a jury for the most delicate offences is by this Bill to be entrusted. Certain powers were given to Resident Magistrates under the Crimes Act, and definite crimes were specified in the Act in connection with which these powers were to be exercised. But what do the Government now delegate to them? The Government give the Resident Magistrates powers to—Try without a jury cases of criminal conspiracy, Boycotting, rioting, offences under the Whiteboy Acts, assaulting officers of the law, taking unlawful and forcible possession, and inciting to the above offences.With the exception of rioting and assaulting officers of the law in the discharge of their duty, there is not one of these offences which will not bear a political colour. Offences against the White boy Acts are of a very vague character—they are expressed in a miscellaneous body of Acts, which are to be administered by the Resident Magistrates, who are not only magistrates, but officers of the Executive Government, holding their office at the pleasure of the Executive Authority. The last head named is "inciting to the above of- 149 fences;" and then the Chief Secretary, in what he would himself call calm irony, says—"We do not propose to interfere with the freedom of the Press." If the freedom of the Press is to be interfered with, let it be done directly; and I venture to say that no one would ever think of giving jurisdiction over Press offences to the Resident Magistrates. It seems to me idle to think that the Government are going to put down the Press by such provisions as these. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) pointed out that English papers using the same language as we find in the Irish papers might be taken over to Ireland in cartloads and not be touched by the law. But I would further point out that United Ireland may be published in Liverpool and circulated in Ireland without being interfered with. It is surely a most dangerous thing in these days to give to Resident Magistrates such powers as these. What was the recommendation of the Royal Commission upon the riots at Belfast? One of the first and strongest of their recommendations was this—and, let me say, there were two excellent Resident Magistrates in Belfast, Colonel Forbes and Mr. McCarthy—
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
The Government have since removed them.
MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Whatever may have been the cause of their removal, the Royal Commission especially recommended that, in future, Resident Magistrates should be confined to their duties, and that their duties should be strictly judicial. If I were to say what I consider the greatest individual fault in the whole system of government of Ireland, I should state it thus—that the administration and machinery of the law either is or has the appearance of being tainted with partizan or political feeling; and, on the other hand, just as the administration of the law is too political, the civil and political Executive is too legal in its character. I presume hon. Members sitting opposite, and some Members sitting sporadically behind me, 150 cherish the hope that they will be able to stem the rising tide of feeling in favour of National self-government in Ireland, of which the Lord. Mayor of Dublin (Mr. T. D. Sullivan) spoke so eloquently the other night. If they entertain this belief, I am not going to say a word to disturb their simple faith and quiet views; but I would venture to offer them a word of advice in the interest of the hope thus entertained by them. If they wish to secure their object of reconciling the body of the Irish people to the British Government, the very first thing they ought to do is to set to work to disentangle the web in which, in the administration of Irish affairs, legal functions and political functions are so inextricably intermixed. Hon. Members below the Gangway would probably make the complaint that, in their view, there is too much political colour about the administration of the law generally in Ireland. I looking, perhaps, at the other side of the same shield, make a different complaint— namely, that the action of the Executive Government is too much guided and controlled by the opinions of the legal advisers; and I venture to say that this evil was never so flagrant as at this moment. I have thus explained the reason why I said that, in my opinion, it would be most inopportune, at the present moment, to make any change in the criminal procedure in Ireland. The idea of the Government seems to be that the best way to restore order and to secure sympathy with, and ready obedience to, the law, is not to make a strenuous attempt to purge the public mind of its distrust in the administration of the law; but, on the contrary, to add to the causes of that distrust by importing fresh manipulations of procedure, fresh departures from the ordinary Constitutional methods, and fresh devices for in getting round, in some artificial way, the difficulty of obtaining verdicts from juries. As I have mentioned the difficulty of getting verdicts, and the difficulty of bringing people to justice, let me mention a fact which I forgot to mention before in my argument. We are told—and statistics have been quoted to prove it—that a. great number of crimes are committed, and that few people are brought to justice. Well, I have been looking at the statistics for England and 151 Wales for the year 1885, and I find that in those countries, where it is not pretended that juries do not do their duty, or that it is difficult to obtain evidence, the crimes committed in 1885 numbered 43,962, but that only 12,541 persons were committed for trial, or one in three and a-half. The figures with regard to Ireland may possibly be still less satisfactory; but, at any rate, these statistics show that there is a close analogy between the state of things in that country and the state of things in England and Wales. The Government seem to think that they will further the cause of order by importing all these fresh artificial changes into the established law. I think, on the contrary, that by the course they are taking they will merely furnish more food upon which the dislike and suspicion of your law will thrive, and that they will increase rather than remove the genuine causes of disorder. I have spoken too long, and I thank the House for listening to me. I have little more to say. My Colleagues on this Bench and myself object to this legislation as belonging to a wrong and discredited method of dealing with Ireland, and we have not failed in our duty of pointing to a better method. The fundamental vice which has caused the British Government to fail in Ireland has been that the Government has not been in touch and in sympathy with the people it professed to govern. I believe at this moment Ireland is more out of hand than it has ever been in any previous period in this century—by which I do not mean to say for a moment that there is more disorder or open resistance— [Laughter from the Ministerial Benches]— no; I am the best judge of what I mean to say. What I mean is, on the other hand, that the feeling of the people is stronger against us. It is more organized, it is more widely developed, it is more unanimous, it is more confident. The gulf between governors and governed is wide and deep. Surely it is not by cunning legal devices, it is not by the application of force, it is not by a curtailment or suspension of Constitutional liberty, it is not by placing, or rather by leaving, the whole tenant class practically at the mercy of the landlords—surely it is not by these means that that gulf can be bridged 152 over. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, on Friday night, that the Government asked for these powers in the defence of Union and in the defence of order. It is in the name of real Union and in the interests of true order that we refuse them.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
The House will, at any rate, recognize that I am not one of those who think that lawyers ought to speak often in this House. In my opinion, lawyers, and Law Officers also, can do more useful work in watching the laws on the Statute Book, and in assisting the House in the passage of those Bills which are intended directly to alter the existing law. But in this particular case I hope the House will feel that I am justified in making some comments upon, and to the best of my ability some reply to, the criticisms which have been addressed by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to the proposals of Her Majesty's Government; and I am sure the House will give me its indulgence if I am obliged, to a certain extent, to enter into detail, and if I attempt to make good what has been said on this side of the House more than once—namely, that Her Majesty's Government conceive that having regard to statistics, and having regard to bonâ fide information which they have searched and examined to the best of their ability, the evidence in support of the necessity of this measure is overwhelming. I may, of course, form a wrong judgment upon the materials. At any rate, I will submit my reasons to the House, and I will only ask the House to examine these reasons as I state them, and not to imagine that I am desirous of overstating the case, or of stating it in any other way than as the result of a careful examination of the materials that have been placed before Her Majesty's Government. Sir, in the course of what I may have to say it will be part of my duty to criticize some arguments which have been addressed to us by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman). I trust I shall be able to do so with the same courtesy which he would extend to me if he were criticizing my arguments, and, at any rate, to use as moderate language as he himself used. On the other hand, I cannot help feeling that, coming from one who has filled 153 the Office that he has, with the experience which he must have had of what Ireland was at the time that he governed it, some principles which he has laid down, and some practices which he has recognized and has praised with faint condemnation—to say the least and perhaps more; the observations in which he has laid down these principles and dealt with these practices, are likely to work great harm, and to have a bad influence on the relations existing between the two countries. Sir, when I deal with that part of the case which the right hon. Gentleman referred to in his observations in regard to law and order, I shall, at any rate, indicate to him what I mean by what I have said; and I trust I shall be able to remove the impression that he has either produced or attempted to produce, that there is ground for attacking the administration of justice in Ireland. Sir, I also feel that, in my observations, it will be my duty humbly and respectfully to criticize some statements and arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. I could not expect him to be here to hear me; but I do regret that he is not present for the purpose of hearing the criticisms of this side of the House on his speech. It is always difficult to criticize the speeches of men in their absence; but I will take care that I will be more guarded in my observations in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman, so that he may be less likely to think that I have taken advantage of his absence. Now, Her Majesty's Government base their cause upon the state of Ireland at the present time; and I am not afraid to compare the state of Ireland at the present moment with the statistics of the past. I am prepared—and before I sit down I will make good my statement, at any rate, from my point of view—to make good my case that, having the statistics which have been laid on the Table of the House, and comparing them with those of previous years, they show, not only ample grounds for the interference of Her Majesty's Government in the way they have proposed to interfere, but an imperative demand for such interference, I am not afraid, however many challenges may have come from hon. Gentlemen opposite us and in other parts of the House, to deal with this question of statistics; I and before I sit down I will do so. 154 There are, however, three other points on which I wish to make some observations to the House, in addition to those brought forward by the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Chancellor of the Exchequer—three points upon which I think our case may be rested, and I do not know that they are to any degree less important than the case which is based on the statistics themselves. These points affect the cases of Boycotting, the failure of justice, and of crime. I am not dealing with it now only as an accumulative case—I will attempt to put it together as an accumulative case afterwards—but I am submitting to the House that although whether any one of these three points, or the circumstances connected with them, would have justified the whole provisions of this proposal may be a question, yet either of these three matters is now in such a condition as to call for immediate action on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and all three combined most undoubtedly do amply warrant the proposals which Her Majesty's Government have put forward. I will take these cases, not exactly in the order in which I have mentioned them, but I will take them in the order in which they have already been taken by one speaker, and which will not be inconvenient to the House. I will first take the case of Boycotting; nest, that of the failure of justice; and, lastly, I will take the case of crime. I take crime last, not because I consider it least, but because I want to put it in as strong a position as I can; and I will ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Newcastle-upon - Tyne (Mr. John Morley), who challenged us on this point, to observe what I have to say on the question of crime when I come to the third part of my case. Do hon. Members in this House mean to deny that Boycotting exists now, and exists to an extent which can only be described as an intolerable reign of terror and intimidation spread over the greater part of Ireland? [Laughter from the Home Rule Members.] Hon. Members below the Gangway opposite may feel that an argument of this kind may be displaced by laughter. They are perfectly at liberty to laugh at it; but I would ask hon. Members to listen to me, and to judge whether, from my point of view, I make good my case. If they, with their greater knowledge, 155 think that my case is so slight that they can laugh at it, then I trust that they will bring forward some arguments that may induce Her Majesty's Government to take a less grave view of the matter, for we have been twitted as having in the autumn of last year appointed a Royal Commission. It is rather a strange thing that that Commission now affords to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway some most important arguments in support of the measure they suggest for the reform of the Land Laws in Ireland; but has it ever occurred to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to examine the evidence of that Commission, and to inquire into the findings of that Commission with regard to the point I am now pressing upon the House? On the question of Boycotting, I would say this—the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) the other night, speaking with that energy which characterizes everything he says, moved us by the language he employed in describing the sufferings of the tenants at the hands of the landlords during last winter, or during certain other periods of time; but has he no heart for those who have been suffering through Boycotting and from the action of the National League, which has countenanced Boycotting to a large extent throughout the length and breadth of Ireland? I, of course, say at once that I have no personal knowlege of those cases; but I have, at any rate, some experience in dealing with evidence, and I have not contented myself with simply taking this Report without seeing whether or not it was supported by the evidence. References are given, and I have examined every case, and I hope hon. Members will examine them for themselves, and see whether the findings of the Commission are not warranted by the facts. I will only read that part of the Report which has not been referred to, and I venture to think that what I shall read will make good the allegations we have put before the House as to the seriousness of the case. Dealing with that part of the case which rests on Boycotting, I will quote paragraph 3 of the Royal Commission. It says—In the other Provinces"—that is to say, besides Ulster —" combinations made themselves felt before the passing of the Land Act, 1881, and have in various forms continued to 156 the present time. Outrage was at first made use of to intimidate parties who were willing; to pay rents; but, latterly, the methods of passing resolutions at National League meetings, causing their proceedings to be reported in local newspapers, naming obnoxious men, and then Boycotting those named, have been adopted. Tenants who have paid even the judicial rents have been summoned to appear before self-constituted tribunals, and if they failed to do so, or, appearing, failed to satisfy those tribunals, have been fined or Boycotted. The people are more afraid of Boycotting"—this was read by the noble Lord yesterday—which depends for its success on the probability of outrage, than they are of the judgments of the Courts of Justice. This unwritten law in some districts is supreme. We deem it right to call attention to the terrible ordeal that a Boycotted person has to undergo, which was by several witnesses graphically described during the progress of our inquiry. The existence of a Boycotted person becomes a burden to him, as none in town or village are allowed, under a similar penalty to themselves, to supply him or his family with the necessaries of life. He is not allowed to dispose of the produce of his farm. Instances have been brought before us in which his attendance at divine service was prohibited; in which his cattle have been, some killed, some barbarously mutilated; in which all his servants and labourers were ordered and obliged to leave him; in which the most ordinary necessaries of life, and even medical comforts, had to be procured from long distances; in which no one would attend the funeral of, or dig a grave for, a member of a Boycotted person's family; and in which his children have been forced to discontinue attendance at the national school of the district. Had we thought it necessary for the purpose of our inquiry, we could have taken a much larger amount of evidence to prove the existence of severe Boycotting in very many districts. We did not, however, think it necessary to examine more than a sufficient number of witnesses to inform ourselves, and to illustrate the cruel severity with which the decrees of local self-constituted tribunals are capable of being, and are actually, enforced. A document entitled 'The Plan of Campaign,' which sets forth an elaborate system for resisting the enforcement of legal obligations, is being extensively circulated amongst the tenantry, and has been acted on. It will be found in the Appendix.Sir, I do not think there could be any more forcible argument than the simple reading of that finding of the Commission to the House. If that language is not too strong, our case as to Boycotting is absolutely made out; and I trust the hon. Members who may think the language too strong in its terms, will have the fairness and honesty to examine the cases mentioned in that Report, and then they will see for themselves whether the slightest colour has been added to 157 the description of the cruelty and tyranny which forms the basis of it. I object very much to merely reading extracts, and though there are other parts of the Report bearing upon this matter, I will not read them. I have read enough to show that Her Majesty's Government did not rest their case upon hearsay evidence when they came to their conclusion as to the dreadful nature of the existing Boycott tyranny. As to the number of Boycotted persons, it was given in February as 836 families.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
No. If you will examine the Returns, you will find that these figures do not mean members of families, but persons representing families.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON
I am sorry to have to interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but I would point out to him that in most of the cases these persons were caretakers —single individuals, as we may say.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
I am strictly correct in what I have stated— namely, that this number, 836, is not limited to single individuals. Though, of course, in some cases, single individuals may have been referred to; in other cases they are families—heads of families. Nobody who has gone into these figures will be convinced that this 836 was the limit of the number affected by Boycotting. Probably, if you multiply that figure by 2 or 3 or 4 there would be no exaggeration as to the number Boycotted. But do hon. Gentlemen suppose that the number actually known to be Boycotted represents the extent of the tyranny or inconvenience that it puts upon those who are subjected to it? Everyone who has pluck or courage enough, or is rich enough, it may be, is able to stand Boycotting; but how many are there who cannot or dare not resist it? It was very well put that you might as well measure the prevalence of disease by the particular number of people who have died from it; or, you might as well say that any particular standard of evil that exists is to be traced simply and solely to a number of instances of persons who may come under a particular class of observation. If this number of persons that I have read to the House is known, it would be no exaggeration to say that 158 three or four times that number suffer from similar tyranny. It will be no exaggeration to say that these 836 are only the visible instances. I was, I confess, pained and surprised that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) should have spoken of Boycotting in the language he did. He professed in one or two sentences to express a condemnation which I am sure he feels. I do not, for a moment, suggest that he does not personally feel it, but what did he do? He went on to justify, to a certain extent, this combination, and to indicate that there were reasons which would make acts of Boycotting lawful acts. The right hon. Gentleman went so far as to say that it was the punishment of those who had been guilty of unfaithfulness to their common cause. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that his words and his influence are not confined within the walls of this House. Do you suppose that the right hon. Gentleman's speech and quotations from it will not be used by those who desire to extenuate and find some palliation for Boycotting in the future. I do suggest to this House that if that kind of language is to be used, it is an encouragement to persons to say that if people, in the exorcise of their rights, do not choose to form part of a combination which they believe to be illegal, they are to be judged guilty of what the right hon. Gentleman calls treason to the common cause, and are to be punished by this kind of self-made law, and by the judgment of these self-constituted tribunals. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman spoke also very slightingly of the Boycotting of caretakers. He spoke of these people as if they were interfering with an agrarian arrangement.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
No; I only took the word "caretaker" from the list of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary—the list of persons who were Boycotted. The right hon. Gentleman argued that the list he gave showed that the offence was not confined to agrarian questions; but a caretaker has nothing but agrarian duties that I know of.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
I care not where the name cam from; but I want to know whether it is the slightest justification for Boycotting and ill-treating a man who is earning a few shillings, to say that he is connected 159 with an agrarian question—that he is interfering with an agrarian arrangement.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
The right hon. Gentleman knows that I would not misrepresent him. His words were that the caretaker was connected with an agrarian matter, because he was interfering with an agrarian arrangement. The House, I think understood the right hon. Gentleman in that sense.
§ MR. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN
I did not intend to use any expression in the least degree derogatory of the caretakers. I was replying to an argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who was trying to make the House think that this Boycotting and intimidation had not its origin in, and was not really connected as strictly as we thought, with agrarian questions; and I was pointing out that in the list which he himself gave were cases which had an agrarian character.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
The point is this. The caretaker is supposed to be a person who has interfered with an agrarian arrangement, and interfering with an agrarian arrangement is supposed to be some sort of justification for Boycotting.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
When I listened to the right hon. Gentleman I thought I fully understood what he said; but if he disclaims that which I believed to be his meaning, I am glad of it. It will remove, at any rate, one part of his speech which it appeared to me might be fraught with dangerous consequences. With reference to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, I must say that I do not think he has appreciated the real force of this case so far as Boycotting is concerned. What did he do? He read almost entirely from the evidence of Sir Redvers Buller, and he said there was no real agitation against rents, because of the answer Sir Redvers Buller had given to question 16,456. The question was— 160Therefore, in spite of the opposition of the League, they are willing to pay? I believe that the great majority of the tenants through those counties, that is the majority of those who have not paid, are anxious to pay.But there was a question immediately before that which the right hon. Gentleman did not read to the House. Question and answer 16,455 were—Do you think that the improved state of the country as far as the payment of rent is concerned comes from the fact that the power of the League is decreasing, or is it because the League have given orders that rents are to be paid, if reductions are offered? No, I do not think so, I think the League would, if they could, prevent the payment of rents, and are now endeavouring to their utmost to prevent rents being paid; but the improvement in the payment of rent is because the tenants are getting reasonable allowances.Did it occur to the right hon. Gentleman when he read the answer to which I have referred—namely, that the great majority of tenants who had not paid were anxious to pay, to give the reason why they did not pay? What is the reason? Why, because—The League would, if they could, prevent the payment of rents, and are now endeavouring to their utmost to prevent rents being paid.But that is not all—one other answer was read by the right hon. Gentleman upon this question. He read this—the House I think will remember it—You have got a very ignorant poor people, and the law should look after them, instead of which it has only looked after the rich." ["Hear, hear."] "That at least appears to me to be the case.I am glad the right hon. Gentleman opposite thinks that that is a correct view of the position. To a certain extent, he has had a good deal to do with the past. I find here, after the answer the right hon. Gentleman quoted, the following questions and answers—16,477. And your experience of the district is really that the people, if left to themselves, are very well intentioned?—The majority of them are. 16,478. And that they are prevented from paying their rents partly by terrorism, and partly by real inability and poverty?—Yes; and partly by bad advice; this 'United Ireland' scheme, and that sort of thing. The three worst districts which I have got—that which I really-thought were settling down—Mr. Dillon and other M. P.'s have just been preaching in, and the excitement they have created, will, I fear, again disturb them.Sir, it is our duty to study this Blue Book. It is our duty to present whatever view we take of the case; but it is scarcely the right thing to pick out one 161 answer, and to present that to the House as the effect of a man's evidence, when the two next answers show that the witness's evidence practically had a contrary effect. I pass now from that matter to the Boycotting. I am sure the House will understand that I have no wish, at the present time, to go into details; but there is sufficient information before us to make good our case; and I will now say a word or two upon the second point—namely, the failure of justice. Attacks have been made upon the Judges—most unfair attacks; it has been said that the Judges passed beyond their province, and they made certain charges—and certain extracts have been read in support of the allegation—which they need not have made. May I remind the House, as I pass, of who these Judges were, and of the circumstances under which these charges were delivered? I am not going to give more than five or six out of 20 or 30 instances that could be given from the last Assizes; but I do say that it will be to the advantage of the House that I should put before that the circumstances of the Assizes at which these charges were delivered, and I will submit that it proves to the House a failure of justice, and an inability in the clearest cases to obtain convictions, which calls at once for some prompt interference on the part of Her Majesty's Government. At the Clare Assizes, before Mr. Justice O'Brien, in the case of a man named James Kelly, who was tried for assault on the 4th November, 1886, Mr. Justice O'Brien—a Judge appointed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian himself, said "he was satisfied that there had been a failure of justice," and he adjourned the trial to the next Assizes. At the same Assizes, in the case of a prisoner indicted for firing a loaded revolver at a constable on the 30th February, Mr. Justice O'Brien said that—Having regard to the verdicts in two cases yesterday, my fixed opinion is that if I do not adjourn the trial an entire and complete failure of justice will take place.Mr. Justice O'Brien said this in the course of his judicial duty. It is nothing that he had not a right to say, and it was his bounden duty to give his reasons for postponing the trials. Let me call attention to the case of Roscommon, where a prisoner was indicted 162 for assaulting and wounding, having smashed the eyeball of his victim, and permanently destroyed his eyesight. Mr. Justice Murphy, again, I believe, a Judge appointed by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, and presumably, therefore, a Judge with no political bias, said—The evidence is all one way, but if the jury choose to disregard their oaths, and are of opinion that one man in this county can knock out the eyeball of another with impunity, they can say 'Not Guilty,'and the man was acquitted. At the County Kerry Assizes, on March 11, 1887, as reported in a paper to which I think hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite can take no exception— namely, The Freeman's Journal, Patrick Hickey was indicted for a moonlight offence at the House of Mr. Casey, a farmer. During the mêlée the disguise of one of the attacking party fell off, and Casey recognized Hickey, his own cousin. No evidence was called for the defence, and a verdict was given "Not Guilty."
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
I rise to Order. Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to interrupt him for a moment. I defended that prisoner, and I pledge my word to this House I am willing to abide by the decision of Mr. Justice O'Brien if he did not directly charge for an acquittal of the prisoner on the ground that the charge was a fabrication, and if it was not at the Judge's instance that I declined to examine any witnesses for the defence. I ask the Judge's opinion upon that.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
If the hon. and learned Member defended the prisoner, I do not wonder in the least that he was acquitted. All I can say is this—that I cannot recognize —and I am obliged to say so—the facts as stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman, because the report in The Freeman's Journal, from which I am quoting, has not been in any way contradicted, or said to be erroneous.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby thinks fit to say that I am most 163 unfair. I have simply read to the House a verbatim report from The Freeman's Journal, and I will undertake to lay before any hon. Member who desires to see them the materials I have at my disposal. I have said that it is impossible for me to come to the same conclusion as the hon. Member opposite from this report in The Freeman's Journal, and I think I have sufficiently justified what I have said in regard to the matter. But that is by no means the only ease. At the same Assizes Mr. Justice O'Brien said that, with the exception of a few trivial cases, the juries had acquitted in every case that came before them. At the Limerick Assizes, Mr. Justice Johnson adjourned several cases to the next Assizes. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not know whether hon. Members opposite would consider it a creditable thing that cases should be adjourned at the Assizes. The outcome of the matter was this—that at the County Clare Assizes there were four cases adjourned, at the Kerry Assizes four cases, at the Limerick Assizes one case, and at the Galway Assizes two cases. All these cases were adjourned on the statement of the Judges that the trials, and the results of the trials, would not be satisfactory. It may be that hon. Members below the Gangway opposite are satisfied with these results; but I ask the House and the nation not to be satisfied with them. I fall back willingly on the question of crime, and I am going to make good my assertion that the figures relating to crime do not bear the construction which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian put upon them, and I hope that, in this matter, hon. and right hon. Members will do me the fairness to listen to me, and not do me the injustice of suggesting that I am guilty of unfair actions. I ask for a few moments the attention of the House for what I have to put before them from the Parliamentary Papers on this question of the statistics of crime. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian thought fit to compare the statistics of 1832 with the statistics of 1885. Did he think that there was more than one —perhaps the most junior Member of the House—who could be taken in by such a comparison? I assert—and I will make good my assertion—that it has been recognized over and over again 164 by Members of Governments under the Leadership of the right hon. Gentleman that such a comparison of statistics is wholly fallacious, and has nothing to do with the case. If he wanted to make comparisons, why did he not take the figures for 1847 and compare these with the figures for 1885 or 1886? Those of 1847 are a great deal better than those of 1832, but a great deal worse than those of 1885. Has Ireland not improved at all? Are we to take nothing for all the attempts which have been made by the right hon. Gentleman himself to improve the condition of Ireland? The population of Ireland, as hon. Members are aware, has decreased; but has there been no improvement at all in education, or in any one of those qualities of the people which would induce them to be less guilty of such conduct? Sir, perhaps some right hon. Gentleman who follows me in this debate will deal with these figures, even if they are not brought to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. I will take a case exactly in point. In the year 1870, on March the 17th, Mr. Chichester Fortescue introduced the Peace Preservation Bill of that year. He stated to the House the statistics with regard to the condition of Ireland in the year 1869. He stated to the House that 1869 was a great deal better than 1847. I can give the figures if the House wishes. He said that in 1847 there were 16 homicides, as against 8 in 1869, and 16 cases of firing at the person in 1847, as against 16 in 1869. Then he paused, and asked why, under those circumstances, the Government thought they ought to introduce a Bill to prevent crimes? He then put forward the state of intimidation in Ireland in 1869, and, in language which I will in a moment crave leave to read to the House and to adopt, he pointed out what duty it cast upon the Government of the day. Sir, do right hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite to me know that the state of Ireland in 1886 was, as far as these very crimes were concerned, considerably worse than in 1869? I want to show you how extraordinary it is that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian should have thought fit to try to displace the primâ facie case made by Her Majesty's Government by a reference to 1832. What has 1832 to do with it? 165 This is not a question of a comparison between 1832 and 1887, or between 1847 and 1887, but a question as to what is the condition of Ireland during more recent times. Sir, I want the House to permit me to read a very brief extract from the speech of Mr. Chichester Fortescue. He said—I may be asked why, under these circumstances, the Government think it their duty to propose special legislation for the repression of agrarian crimes in Ireland beyond what was proposed in 1847, and that is a question which I desire to answer. I have no doubt that those who live in the disturbed districts of Ireland, and suffer from this state of things, would answer it in a very summary manner, for they call upon the Government to put an end to the intolerable system of intimidation which exists in those districts. But, speaking for ourselves, the case stands thus—in the first place, in respect to agrarian crimes, the comparison is not favourable to the year 1869. Again, it is very evident that our standard has risen since 1847, and that we are not prepared to endure or submit to a state of crime in 1870 which was considered inevitable in 1847."— (3 Hansard,  86.)So I say, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government to-day, we are not prepared to submit to a state of crime in 1886 which is worse than the state of crime which existed in 1869–17 years ago—as compared with the right hon. Gentleman's statistics of 54 years ago. But let me read on—There is also this important circumstance to be considered—that in the disturbed districts of Ireland at the present time intimidation and terrorism—though not accompanied by acts of violence and atrocity so great and so numerous as in former years—are as general and deep-seated and as effectual as ever. The Government feel that, under these circumstances—putting aside all question of comparison, and taking the actual amount of crime prevailing in Ireland—it is their imperative duty, after having done all that a Government could do, with the means at their command, to check and repress these crimes, not, I am bound to say, without a certain amount of success, but not with any satisfactory result—they feel it to be their duty, under these circumstances, to ask Parliament for further powers. The main characteristic of the disturbed districts of Ireland at the present time is the existence of a dangerous and formidable system of intimidation and terrorism—and that is a point to which the provisions of this Bill are chiefly directed; because that state of intimidation operates so as to make it almost impossible to obtain evidence for the conviction of any criminal, and tends to the spread of crime of every kind, not only in the disturbed districts themselves, but in other districts."—(Ibid. 87.)That description of Ireland in 1869, which was put forward as a justifica- 166 tion for the Bill by Mr. Chichester Fortescue, represents to the letter the condition of Ireland at the present time. The following figures are taken from the Parliamentary Returns in every case:— In 1869 the number of cases of murder and manslaughter were 10; in 1886 they were 10; cases of firing at the person in 1869 were 16; in 1886, 16; other offences against the person in 1869 were 26; in 1886, 48; total offences against the person in 1869, 52; in 1886, 74. Threatening letters in 1869 were 397; in 1886, 424. All other agrarian offences in 1869, 318; in 1886, 558; total agrarian outrages in 1869, 767; in 1886, 1,056. All offences, including agrarian, in 1869 numbered 3,153; in 1886, 3,251. The right hon. Gentleman will find that the effect of the Act of 1870 was to diminish the amount of crime immediately after its passing. The four months before its passing were as bad, or worse, than the first four months of 1869 had been; but immediately after the passing of the Act crime diminished and matters improved. I do not know whether hon. Members accept my view; but if Her Majesty's Government honestly entertain the view I have attempted to put forward—that Boycotting exists to the extent which the Royal Commission recognizes, that failure of justice exists to the extent which the Judges recognize, and that crime exists to the extent which these statistics show—how is it possible for them to accept the view that the condition of Ireland is such that it does not call for that which Mr. Chichester Fortescue asked in 1870 "for the Government to put an end to the intolerable system of intimidation which exists in those districts?" I do not deny that any Government which proposes to amend the law takes upon itself the burden of proving its case. It was suggested, somewhat unfairly, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had not made out a sufficiently strong case. At any rate, the case has not been weakened by further examination. At any rate, those who have had the opportunity of putting together and working out the case on the lines laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary find that in no respect has he overstated his case. [Laughter.] I trust hon. Members who are prepared to laugh at these things, and to treat them as matters of no serious account, will be prepared 167 to deal with them by argument showing that the facts are not well-founded, because laughing is not an argument. I hope at some time, in the course of the debate, we shall have the privilege of hearing the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne (Mr. John Morley). He made a somewhat extraordinary Motion in regard to these proposals of the Government, and in the course of his speech the right hon. Gentleman stated that this was a Bill to enable landlords to exact exorbitant rents. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) cheers the quotation of that opinion. He is a lawyer, a skilled and trained lawyer. He has filled the honoured Office of Solicitor General; but we must not discredit the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne by calling him a lawyer, because he belongs to a higher and nobler profession. Possibly, however, the opinion of lawyers may be entitled to some consideration in this matter. At any rate, I value the opinion of this House even on matters of law, and I believe that the House will acquit me of wishing at any time to put before it a view of the law which is incorrect. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne said that this Bill has been proposed for the purpose of putting pressure on tenants to pay exorbitant rents. He said that it would strike down the defence of the Irish tenants, and leave them helpless. The right hon. Gentleman heard what is the scope of the Bill of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and must have understood its provisions. His statement was perfectly clear, and speakers who followed him have shown that they appreciated it. Will some laywer, or some person skilled in law, kindly tell me which of the provisions of this Bill are for the purpose of enabling landlords to exact exorbitant rents? Sir, I care not for my position, except that I am proud of it; but I would be no party to this Bill if I thought that I was framing a scheme to enable landlords to exact exorbitant rents. This scheme is for the purpose of putting down crime only; it is for the purpose of stopping those who are guilty of criminal practices; it is for the purpose of relieving poor persons from the tyranny which now grinds them down to the lowest ebb. There is not one single line of the Bill which is 168 intended to be aimed at trade unionism or honest agitation. [Opposition laughter.] The right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) is perfectly at liberty to laugh; but can he read a clause into the Bill by laughing? He is a skilled lawyer I know; but will he now—or, much better, on the second reading of this Bill—point to any clause and say that that is a clause under which a landlord is enabled to exact an exorbitant rent? If he will point to any such clause, or the right hon. Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne will endeavour to make good his statement, I will endeavour to answer them, not by laughter, but by endeavouring to show by argument in this House which of us is right. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian has told us that this Bill fixed a brand of inferiority on the Irish race. Was there ever a greater slander uttered against the Irish people than that suggestion? It is not the Irish people who commit these crimes; it is not the Irish people who desire that these crimes should be committed. It is a few—a certain number of them—who have, to a great extent, been led and induced to commit these crimes by influences that come from a very far distant quarter. We are told also by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian that this legislation is directed against those societies which have their strength in the necessities of the Irish tenants. How can it be to the interest of the Irish tenants that the societies should exist against which this Bill is directed? How can it be for the interest of the Irish tenants that societies should exist for the commission of crime, for carrying on operations by the commission of crime, for encouraging different persons to commit crimes, for promoting intimidation and violence, and for interfering with the administration of the law? How it can be for the interest of the Irish tenants that societies should exist for these purposes I cannot conceive. I know not why a Bill, which on the face of it and by all its provisions is directed solely to prevent the commission of crime, is to be distorted, for the purpose of political argument, into a Bill solely promoted for the purpose of enabling landlords to exact exorbitant rents. We heard from the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian another statement. I admit, perhaps, it may be because I am a young man 169 that I am always enthralled by the language of the right hon. Gentleman when he is speaking, and I always think it prudent to take his speech and read it through afterwards, in order to see if there is quite so much argument in it as at first appeared. There were two arguments in his speech which I wish to couple together. Three times in the course of his speech he made use of the word "extreme." [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: It is your own word.] I am perfectly aware of it; but if the right hon. Gentleman will be patient with me, and allow me to complete my argument, he will see why I am referring to it. I have never suggested that it was not our own word, and I have alluded to it, not for the purpose of explaining the word, but for the purpose of showing that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian used it in a sense in which it never ought to have been used. "We do regard these measures as extreme, as measures only to be enforced when the necessities of the case demand it. But to say that they are extreme measures of coercion, in the sense of meaning the most extreme measures that can be proposed, is simply to shut one's eyes to all the Coercion Bills that have been passed during the last 20 or 30 years. I do not think that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland ever said that they were "extreme"—he certainly never said they were extreme in the sense in which the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian used the words three times; and I notice how anxious the right hon. Gentleman was to put that word upon us in that sense; but we agree that a measure of this character ought not to be undertaken, except in circumstances of necessity which justify it. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not believe he should have lived to see the day when a proposal so insulting, so exasperating, so utterly in contrast with the lesson which the whole history of Ireland teaches us, would be submitted to the British House of Commons. Sir, was the right hon. Gentleman alive and a Member of this House in the year 1882? Was he a Member of the Government in 1870, and was he a party to the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in 1881? I admit that the provisions now proposed, be they extreme or not, should only be put forward when you have a 170 case which requires their being put forward; but I say that, for the purpose of using inflated and exaggerated language to assert that they are extreme measures in the sense of being the worst form of what is called coercion ever introduced, is, I submit, to shut one's eyes to history. [A laugh.] Has the hon. Member who laughs ever heard of the clauses which prohibited meetings being held at all—of the clauses which gave a power to arrest persons who were out at night—which allowed newspapers to be seized wholesale—which enabled search to be without a warrant in houses, in order to find out whether there were threatening letters—and which suspended the Habeas Corpus Act as well? Has he ever heard of those provisions? And, on the other hand, is it fair argument to suggest, in the face of such provisions as have been enacted by this House during the last 10 or 15 years, that our measure is extreme in the sense of being the most extreme coercion that could be brought forward? I wait to hear what the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian is going to suggest as so extraordinary that he thought he should never live to see it proposed to this House. I suppose it is the clause referring to the possibility, under certain circumstances, of changing the venue to England. Whatever may be the view taken about that clause, of course it requires to be most carefully considered. Will the House allow me to put before them what I believe to be the real case on which such a clause should be founded; and if it is not made out, I admit that the House ought to hesitate before it accepts any such proposal. We have heard great phrases about Magna Charta, the Bill of Eights, trial by jury, and by one's peers, palladium of justice, and so forth. Well, in 1882, the right hon. Gentleman proposed a scheme of trial, and of trial for life, which dispensed with trial by jury altogether. I admit that as long as you can get with safety fair jurors trial by jury is the proper course to follow in Ireland as in this country. But I am by no means sure that we, who have the responsibility of dealing with this question, would not hesitate long before we brought forward a scheme whereby you would establish a special Commission for the purpose of trying men for their lives. The Government take the view 171 that it is by no means clear that we are not entering on a period which, in some respects, is unlike anything that has gone before. I care not whether the Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway, and who now hear me, were parties to the acts or not to which I am about to refer; but I say that those Gentlemen who thought fit to make such speeches as they did at Sligo, before the trial that was to take place there, committed an act of the greatest illegality. [An hon. MEMBER: The panel.] It is no question of the panel, or jury-packing; but a question of endeavouring to intimidate jurors who were about to be called upon to do their duty. I say that those men, whoever they were, connected with United Ireland who within five days after the trial of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) published the names of the six jurors who were in favour of an acquittal, and thereby enabled the names of the other six jurors who were in favour of a conviction to be known, were guilty of an act of the highest illegality, and one reprehensible in the greatest degree. Over and over again it has been recognized by the Courts of this country—and I should think it is the same in Ireland—that the jury-box is sacred; and jurymen have been told that they do wrong if they disclose what has passed between one juryman and another. I say that there are cases where jurors have suffered partly by acts of violence against themselves, and partly by Boycotting, in consequence of the part they have taken in connection with trials. Sir, if there is reason to believe that, failing our measure, the next step will be one to intimidate jurors, I ask whether the Government will not be doing their duty when they do everything they can to protect jurors by providing expedients by means of which there can be a fair trial without danger to jurors? Do not suppose that we lawyers at all shut our eyes to the difficulties that confront us in that course; but they have been considered, and the question we have to look at is this—Are the Government right in taking that view in connection with this removal? If the case for the removal be not made out—that is to say, if, in the judgment of the Government, in respect of the probable risks and dangers, it is not well founded—they would be the first to say there is not the slightest object for having 172 the clause for removal in the Bill. It is for the protection of the juries that it is submitted. But it is, after all, only an incident in this Bill—an incident which only comes into operation under certain safeguards. It has no direct connection with the remedial measures of the Bill— that is to say, with the provisions for summary jurisdiction and change of venue in Ireland, and the suppression of associations which are acting in the ways that have been described. I feel that I have detained the House almost too long; but, at the same time, I wish to give my assurance to the House that this is a Bill which deals with crime. My words are in the possession of the House, and any hon. Member is perfectly at liberty to bring them up against me at any future stage. I ask hon. Members when they have seen this Bill in print and considered it, and when they discuss it, to point out to us those provisions of it which can, by any process of reasoning, be shown to have any other intention than that of putting an end to crime. It would be wrong, on my part, to discuss the details of the Bill now; but, as I have already said, its leading point is the punishment of crimes which at the present time are going unpunished; its object is to obtain fair trials where, as at the present time, they might otherwise be improperly conducted, and failure of justice take place, and to obtain power to put a stop to dangerous associations —that is to say, associations of the character to which I have referred. A great deal has been said during the past few days as to the position of Her Majesty's Government in this matter, and it has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman to-night that the Government have brought in this scheme as their alternative to the plan of Home Rule. Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that that is quite a fair way of dealing with Her Majesty's Government? Does he think it quite fair to ignore altogether the Bill which he knows was introduced to-night for the purpose of dealing with the Land Question? Is it, or is it not, true that this Land Question is supposed to be at the bottom of what you are pleased to call the agrarian difficulty? Local Government may be, to a certain extent, mixed up with it; but does anyone deny that the Land Question is one of the most important considerations connected with 173 the difficulty? And yet, for the purpose of an argument which will no doubt be used, and was intended to be used, elsewhere than in this House, it is said that Her Majesty's Government have put forward this scheme as their sole alternative for the remedial measures of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] Well, the right hon. Gentleman opposite shakes his head. All I can say is that, when he spoke about "the mask being stripped off," and when he said—"At last we know what is the alternative plan to Home Rule," his meaning was that this measure:—which is a measure dealing with crime—is brought forward as an alternative to Home Rule, which we understand was proposed by the Party opposite as one of the remedial measures for Ireland. But, as a matter of fact, the measures which ought to be described as the Government alternative for Home Rule are those measures dealing with Irish land, one of which was introduced into the House of Lords to-night, and the other of which—the larger scheme —is to be introduced as soon as it is possible to do so. Enough, then, have I said with reference to this being the beginning and end of the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to Ireland. It is nothing of the kind. It is a step for a particular purpose. [Ironical cheers.] Probably the hon. Member for Northampton, who started that ironical cheer, does not take the same view of that particular purpose that we do. The purpose that we mean is that crime shall not be allowed to go unpunished. We mean that trials where they do take place shall be fair trials, and that Boycotting shall be put an end to. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian made a very thinly-veiled suggestion. Turning round to the place usually occupied by the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), and then turning round to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain)—to the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), and to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James)—he told them that theirs was the responsibility for this Bill—that on their shoulders would rest 174 that responsibility; and an hon. Gentleman who is not now in his place—the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst), I think—with what I would venture to call an unworthy sneer—said yesterday that we were only waiting one orders from the meeting of Liberal Unionists to be held to-day. Sir, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government I repudiate that situation. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, and they are at perfect liberty to do so; but I would point out to them that that is not exactly the way in which this question of responsibility ought to be dealt with. Her Majesty's Government accept the full responsibility for the measure they propose, and do not allow it to be shifted to other shoulders. [Interruption.]I do not care to notice the interruption; but I must say I am not in the habit of making audible remarks across the Table when others are speaking. I shall endeavour to observe the courtesies of debate. As I have said, the responsibility is ours. We have framed the measure; and, of course, it is idle to suggest that the responsibility is to be shifted to other shoulders. We have proposed this measure in the interests of true liberty. [Cheers.] Do the hon. Member for Cork and those very courteous followers who sit around him— [Mr. T. M. HEALY: Just as courteous as the Tories.]—imagine that I did not suppose they would cheer that sentiment? I was perfectly prepared for them to do so. I wished them to cheer. They do not take the same view of liberty that we do. We are not able to speak in this House as though we were the exponents of true Constitutional principles, and then go and make speeches outside which could scarcely be delivered within these walls. I am not here for the purpose of quoting against hon. Members extracts from their speeches, and founding charges upon those speeches; but when it is suggested that we are only to regard hon. Members below the Gangway opposite in their capacity as Representatives from Ireland, we are entitled, at any rate, to observe the character of the speeches they have made when not fettered by the responsibility of speaking in this House. That being so, I say their views of true liberty are not likely to be the same as ours. By true liberty we mean freedom of action under the 175 Constitutional Government of the Queen and the Government of the United Kingdom. We do not mean that English rule should be swept out of Ireland, and that the Queen's writ should no longer run in that country. That is the reason why we do not agree "with Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite. By true liberty we mean that gross wrongs shall not go unpunished; that grinding tyranny shall not oppress the honest, simply because the yare weak; and that law-abiding and peaceable tenants and tradesmen shall be allowed to go about the country without let or hindrance from persons who have only their own interests to serve. We consider it to be our duty to attain these ends, or to attempt to attain these ends; and whether we hold the position we now have the honour to fill, or whether we sit on the opposite side, our determination is to do our duty to the best of our power, and from that determination no taunts, no sneers, no prophecies of defeat, shall turn us aside for a single instant.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." —(Mr. Parnell.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
Of course, I shall not object to the adjournment of the debate; but I must observe that the hon. Member for Cork has an Amendment on the Paper which, I think, appeared first on Saturday morning, and I am, I think, not going beyond the fact when I say that it is the custom of Parliament, when such an Amendment appears on the Paper, that it should be moved at a somewhat earlier date than that which the hon. Member has chosen. I am now under the necessity of saying that I shall invite the House to-morrow to come to a decision on the Main Question before it. It is now the eighth day of the debate, on what is practically the Question before the House. Four days were occupied in asking the time of the House, and four days have been occupied in asking leave to introduce the Bill. Tomorrow will be the fifth day, making altogether nine days that will have been devoted practically to this one subject. I am sure the House will, therefore, 176 think that the time has come when a decision should be taken.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
When, in the year 1846—[Laughter.] Do Gentlemen imagine that a precedent of the year 1846 is out of date? In the year 1846 the Government of Sir Robert Peel introduced a Coercion Bill, and upon the first reading of that Bill there was a debate of seven nights. Now, the closure is to be applied in this case after four nights' debate. [Cries of "Nine!"] I say most distinctly that there has been only four nights' debate on the first reading of this Bill, and that is the moderation which is to be employed on this occasion. That is to say, that the Parliamentary precedents of the past are to be disregarded. I observe, Sir, that the pretence that the opinion entertained by you was in every way to protect the minority in this House has been set aside. The Leader of the House has announced that he is going to close the debate to-morrow night.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I do not wish to interfere with the right hon. Gentleman if he desires to make an explanation—whether he wishes to do so now or later on.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I only wish to correct a mistake into which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman has not intentionally fallen in attributing to me a power which I do not possess. I simply said that I should invite the House to come to a decision, and I do not think that that amounts to an expression of an intention on my part to close the debate.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Then I am very glad if I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman. He does not mean to apply the closure to - morrow night, because he cannot apply the closure without the leave of the Speaker, though he has announced to-night that he is going to invite the House to come to a decision. Therefore, he has taken for granted the consent of the Speaker. [Cries of "Oh!"] How has he ascertained the consent of the Speaker is going to be given? Because, on the first application of this Rule, here we have the Leader of the House coming down on the fourth night of the debate and stating that he is going to do an act which without the consent of the Speaker he 177 cannot do. [An hon MEMBER: He can propose it if he likes.] I repeat that he cannot propose the closure without the leave of the Speaker, and if he is going to propose the clôture of the debate tomorrow night, he has openly assumed that he has got that leave. Now, we see what has become of the great Conservative safeguards to the introduction of the closure? All I can say is, that if the hon. Member for Cork chooses to demand the attention of the House to the condition of Ireland; if he chooses to ask that before this debate is closed, and before this Coercion Bill is passed, the House shall inquire into the state of Ireland, and the majority, by closing the debate, refuse that inquiry, then we shall see what has become of your Parliamentary system by which, under the Union, you manage the affairs of Ireland. After the description that has been given by right hon. Gentlemen opposite of the grave condition of Ireland, if the Government should say—"We have got a majority "—no; they have not got a majority, they borrow one—"and we will use that majority to refuse an inquiry into the general state of Ireland, as a condition precedent to passing a Coercion Bill," what a farce the government of Ireland is!What a farce the Union is!Perhaps the word "farce" is hardly sufficient—what a travesty your Union is!That would be a more appropriate phrase. There is another inquiry I should like to make. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has assumed the consent of the Speaker to the closure—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order!I must point out that the Motion now before the House is one for the adjournment of the debate; and, further than that, I regard these constant references as to whether my assent has been obtained or not as utterly and entirely irregular. I think it fair to myself and just to the House to say that if any insinuation of that sort is made it is unworthy and it is untrue. No assent of mine has been asked or withheld. It rests entirely with the Speaker to-morrow night, if the Motion is made, either to give or withhold that assent.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Sir, I entirely assumed that that was so, and it is because I assumed that that was so that I condemned the language of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the 178 House (Mr. W. H. Smith). I hope it was not so intended, but it certainly was—
§ MR. R. G. C. MOWBRAY (Lancashire, Prestwich)
Sir, I beg to ask you, whether, after the ruling you have given— and given in the most decided way—any further allusion to this matter is irrelevant to the issue before the House?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I entertained the hope that the discussion on this point would cease. I entirely acquit the right hon. Gentleman (Sir William Harcourt) of making any unfair allusion; but the words of the right hon. Gentleman were open to the inference drawn from them, and I thought it right to repudiate it.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Sir, I have no intention to pursue this matter any further, except to point out that you, Sir, have very kindly indicated that in your opinion I had not made any imputation or insinuation. I had criticized the language of the Leader of the House, which I think I had a right to do. Now, Sir, there is another point upon which I think we ought to have some explanation; and that is, when the House does come to a decision on the first reading of the Bill, what interval the Government propose should take place between the first and second readings? When I was responsible for introducing a Coercion Bill in 1882, it was immediately after the murders in the Phoenix Park. The matter was extremely urgent; and, naturally, the Government of the day made the demand at the earliest moment that they thought was possible or proper under the circumstances. The interval which I proposed should elapse between the granting of leave to introduce the Bill and the second reading was a week. I asked leave to introduce the Bill on a Thursday, and leave was given—[An hon. MEMBER: Immediately.] Yes; I hope hon. Gentlemen will not invite me to go into a comparison between the circumstances of that time and the present, because it would not be regular on this Motion. I am justified in saying that the circumstances at that time were extremely urgent. The House was extremely unanimous, and the dissent was very small in numbers; but the Government did not think it justifiable to ask for a second reading at a less interval than that of a week. I want to know, under these circumstances, what is the proposal the Government mean to make; 179 what time they mean to give to the House and to the country, before proposing the second reading of the Bill, to consider the clauses of the Bill in print? The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) has challenged us to-night to examine the clauses, and it is quite plain that such an interval should be allowed between the first and second readings as will admit of a proper examination of the clauses being made.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
A request has been made to me, which I think it right to answer. I do not wish to refer to any of the questions in dispute between the right hon. Gentleman (Sir William Harcourt) and myself, but simply to say that, as regards the second reading of the Bill, we propose to follow the precedent that was set by the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in 1881. If the Bill is read a first time to-morrow night we shall put it down for a second reading on Monday.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
Well, Mr. Speaker, I think we can have no hesitation in saying that we shall oppose that proposal with all the legitimate means at our command. The Bill to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) refers was in effect, a Bill of a single clause. This Bill is a Bill abounding, as every Member of the House admits, in difficult, intricate, and technical matters. I will mention another point which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will at once recognize the force of. As soon as the Bill is printed it must be sent to the country most immediately concerned. Are we going to be asked to read the Bill a second time before we have had an opportunity of consulting our legal friends and others in Ireland in respect to the Bill? [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh at the idea of a Bill of this kind being submitted to the examination of legal authorities on the spot. I submit that a more unjustifiable proposition than that the right hon. Gentleman has just made was never made in this House. Here is a Bill practically suspending trial by jury, one of the most important branches of ordinary civil life—[An hon. MEMBER: Forever.]—yes; for ever. We are to receive it from the printers, if they are tolerably expeditious, on Saturday morning, and we are to read it a second time 180 on Monday afternoon. Sir, we shall resist that proposal.
§ MR. PARNELL
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith), while assenting to the Motion for the adjournment of the debate—
§ MR. PARNELL
I submit to you, Sir, that I spoke upon the Main Question before the House. It is well known that a Member who moves the adjournment of the debate is speaking technically on the Main Question until his Motion has been put from the Chair.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member cannot, in the circumstances, speak twice; but if the House likes to grant its indulgence to him, he may, no doubt, address it again.
§ MR. PARNELL
I think the House might very reasonably grant me its indulgence, looking at the position the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) has placed me in consequence of the announcement he has just made. If I understand him aright, he intends to ask the House to apply the closure upon the debate on my Amendment tomorrow evening. That is what I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say, and that belief is confirmed by the report of some proceedings which took place at a meeting of the Party of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. According to a report—apparently an authorized report—which has been supplied to the newspapers by the two Press Associations the right hon. Gentleman announced to his Party—That the decision must be taken tomorrow even if the closure was to be put in force, both on Mr. Parnell's Amendment and the first reading, and he, therefore, trusted the supporters of the Government would be in their places.Now, I think the House is entitled at the earliest opportunity to receive as much information as the right hon. Gentleman gave to the meeting of his supporters this afternoon. In view of the Amendment of which I have given Notice and of the debate which may take place upon it, the House is entitled to know whether the statements made in the evening newspapers with regard to the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman are correct or not. We ought to 181 know upon what conditions we are to go into this debate to-morrow night. If it be true that the right hon. Gentleman has made up his mind to apply for the closure to-morrow night, I myself should have very carefully to consider in the interval between now and the next Sitting of the House whether I should move my Amendment and go into the debate with the rope of closure round my neck. The right hon. Gentleman has relied upon precedent. He has said that, according to precedent, my Amendment should have been moved at an earlier date. That is undoubtedly so, but I will also say, Mr. Speaker, that, according to the precedent of the House, the information which the Government have only just vouchsafed in another place to-night should have been given at an earlier date. It was impossible for me to ask the House to go into a debate upon the state of Ireland without having the full programme of Her Majesty's Government with regard to that country in my possession. The late Mr. Maguire, who moved the Motion of which I have also given Notice, did not move that Motion until Her Majesty's Government of that day had announced their full intentions, and until he had all the facts in his possession which it was necessary for him to have, and which it was necessary for the House to have before it came to a decision. It would have been utterly impossible for me to have moved this Amendment at an earlier date—it was impossible for me to move my Amendment until we received the information which has been given to-night in another place. That is my answer to the right hon. Gentleman. If there has been delay in the moving of this Amendment the fault rests on his shoulders and not on mine, because he has disregarded the precedents set by other Governments in important matters of this kind. Now, I must press for a plain answer to a plain question. As the right hon. Gentleman has alluded to the subject of closure, we are entitled to know whether the report of his speech to his followers is a correct one. I submit that, as the proposed Mover of an Amendment for which there is high Parliamentary precedent and sanction, I should be placed in the same position of advantage that the right hon. Gentleman placed his own followers at an earlier period of the day. 182 I beg to remind the right hon. Gentleman that on a former occasion when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian called together a meeting of his followers and announced to them an important decision in regard to the Home Rule Bill which was then under discussion, and when he was challenged the very same evening in the House of Commons to state what had taken place at the meeting, he felt compelled to make an explicit declaration.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I can only answer the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Parnell) by the indulgence of the House. Assuming that is extended to me, I may state most distinctly, in the presence of many hon. Gentlemen who were present at the meeting to-day, that I made no reference whatever to the closure. I expressed the hope that the Division would be taken to-morrow night; but I made no reference whatever to closure.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.