§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to the proposed Amendment to the Question [5th May],
And which Amendment was,
After the first word "That" in the Main Question, to add the words "this House declines to treat the publication of the article headed 'Parnellism and Crime' in The Times of the 2nd of May as a Breach of the Privileges of this House."—(Mr. Solicitor General.)
Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment—
To leave out all the words after the word "House," in order to add the words "is of opinion that an inquiry should be made, by a
Select Committee, into the charge of wilfu, falsehood, in a speech delivered in this Housel brought in an article published in The Times newspaper, of the 2nd May, against John Dillon, esquire, Member for East Mayo,"—(Mr. Gladstone,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the said proposed Amendment."
§ Debate resumed.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE (Devonport)
, said, if the House would kindly indulge him a few minutes, he would venture not to traverse old ground, but to make a suggestion which had not yet been made in the course of that debate. Before doing that he should like to make two observations upon something which fell from the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries (Mr. R. T. Reid.) That hon. and learned Gentleman made a great point about the delay which probably would occur if the hon. Gentlemen opposite—the Nationalists—accepted trial by Jury, and he understood the hon. and learned Member to say that the reason why there would be delay was because it would be necessary to bring persons from distant parts to give evidence in support of or against the charges that were made. But if they had an inquiry of any kind, or an inquiry by a Committee of the House, were there to be no witnesses? If there were to be no witnesses brought from any part of the world to give evidence, what was the good of having an inquiry at all? He thought the argument entirely broke down. Then there was another point to which the hon. and learned Gentleman alluded. He spoke a good deal upon the question as to whether there was likely to be any prejudice on the part of Members composing the Select Committee. He did not know of any precedent brought forward which really bore upon the case. One case was brought to their notice by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, the case of Mr. Henry Lopes, who, they were told, had brought a charge against a section of the Members of that House. He called them a band of disreputable Members, or something of the kind. The right hon. Gentleman argued that the Members of the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the case would be in no way prejudiced. But if Mr. Henry Lopes had brought specified charges against a Party of hon. Members in that House, and a Select Com- 1135 mittee was appointed, that would have been a very different matter, and he (Captain Price) challenged anybody to say there would not have been considerable risk of Party prejudices influencing the Committee appointed to inquire into those charges. He wished now to make a suggestion which he thought would be acceptable to all parties. The House and the country were demanding that there should be an inquiry into the matter, and he thought the House and the country would not be satisfied until there was a full and impartial investigation. Two proposals had been made—one, that the hon. Members who were affected by it should take the case into the Law Courts, and there try it, but that proposal was practically dead—because the hon. Members opposite would not have it. They utterly repudiated it, and distinctly said they would not have anything to do with the proposal, and it was beyond the power of the House to force them to it. Then there was another proposal. It was that the question should be relegated to a Select Committee of the House. He said for all practical purposes that was dead also. [Cries of "No!"] An hon. Gentleman said "No;" but the Division on the question was about to take place, and did hon. Members opposite think that the House was going to agree to the proposal of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian? [Cries of "No!"] Then he said for all practical purposes it was dead. If he might use a common phrase, all was over but the shouting, and the shouting was to take place by-and-bye in the Division Lobby. With respect to the first proposal, he did not moan to say that the effects of that proposal were dead. The very fair offers that bad been made to the hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the way in which they had rejected those offers, were not forgotten by the country, and would not be forgotten by the country; but he said that the two proposals which had been before the country so long were practically dead and buried. Would the country look with satisfaction upon that state of things? He ventured to say it would not. He (Captain Price) was anxious, as other Members of the House were, that an inquiry should take place, and he would venture to suggest that a Royal Commission should be appointed to go thoroughly into the case. [Laughter from the Irish Benches.] Hon. Gentlemen 1136 opposite scouted the idea of a Royal Commission. [Cries of "No! "] He was sorry for it.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE
said, it appeared to him that when he made the suggestion it was scouted by the hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ CAPTAIN PRICE
said, he had no authority to make the offer; but he merely suggested it is an independent Member. He thought hon. Members appeared to scout it. He regretted that upon that day, of all others, when the mind of every Member of that House must be carried back to the dreadful event which cast a stain upon the fair fame of Ireland, that hon. Gentlemen should throw any obstacle in the way of a free, a fair, and impartial inquiry into that matter. He thought it would be advisable, and relieve them of all their difficulties, if a Royal Commission were appointed to go into the subject. He did not know whether there were any precedents for that proposal; but he ventured to say that not one single precedent had been quoted which had gone on all fours with the case before the House. That was the very nature of Parliamentary precedent. What they had to look to in precedents were not details, but whether the general principle involved was in any way analogous to the question they were considering. What was the principle of the question under discussion now? The principle appeared to him to be this—it was necessary that a strict, complete, and impartial inquiry should be made into the gross and scandalous charges brought against a body of public men. He thought he could give the House a case in which a Royal Commission was appointed by Parliament on a Motion that it was necessary that a strict, complete, and impartial inquiry should be made into the gross, and it might be scandalous, charges brought against a body of public men in Jamaica about 20 years ago. Great excitement existed in this country. It was understood by people that the coloured inhabitants of Jamaica had risen in rebellion against the authority of the Queen. There was a small and noisy Party in the House—though he 1137 thought results justified their noise—who demanded that an inquiry should be made into certain charges brought against the Representative of the Queen and certain military officers in the Colony. The charges were that they had used great severity and cruelty in suppressing the disturbance. A Royal Commission was appointed, and he was not altogether wrong in saying (hat when the Commission sailed from these shores there were very few people who did not anticipate a termination in favour of the Governor and officers employed in Jamaica. What happened? The Royal Commission did its duty as honest Englishmen, and sent in a Report which censured the men whose conduct they had been sent out to inquire into. Was there no analogy between that case and the present? If, under such circumstances as those he had mentioned, a Royal Commission could be appointed free from prejudice in such exciting times as those, was it not possible for a Royal Commission of English gentlemen now to deal fairly and honestly with a question like that which now oppressed them? It might be said that if a Royal Commission might be expected to act without prejudice, why not a Select Committee? He submitted that the cases were entirely different. A Select Committee would be composed of Members of the House, while a Royal Commission would consist of gentlemen selected from outside those walls. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Buxton) said the other day that the country could count brains as well as noses. He supposed the hon. Member meant that all the Liberals would be "brains," and all the Conservatives "noses." He should like, also, to refer to one other case—he referred to the Sheffield Commission. In that case the members of the Commission felt that they were not competent to cross-examine witnesses so well as members of the Legal Profession, and permission was accorded them by Parliament to appoint three barristers of over 10 years' standing to cross-examine witnesses, and upon the evidence thus elicited the Commission reported. Why should not that course be followed now? It was necessary that a full and complete inquiry should be made into the matters now under the consideration of the House, and he ventured to put forward the suggestion he 1138 had made. He was one of those who, whatever he might think as to the probabilities of the case, felt it was incumbent upon him to treat these charges as not yet proven, and to regard hon. Gentlemen opposite as innocent men in every respect. He did not say that the result of such an inquiry as he proposed would be to exonerate the hon. Members concerned; but, at all events, if the result of an inquiry should be to show that those charges were well founded, then he thought the country would know how to estimate the agitation now going on in Ireland and England, and what to think of the men with whom the Member for Mid Lothian and his Colleagues proposed to entrust the destinies and liberties of the Irish people.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
Sir, if I followed my inclination, I should leave to others more competent than I the task of offering guidance to the House upon this matter. I must confess that I thought this Motion in its inception was not such as ought to be received with favour by this House. It is a back-handed Motion. I do not conceive for a moment that this Motion—pretended to be brought forward in the interests of the Members of this House whose conduct is most in question, but really meant to attack those hon. Members—is calculated to enhance the character or honour of this House. If this precedent is followed, the time of this House may be occupied by Motions the object and intention of which will be to attack and not to defend hon. Members. But, Sir, this proposition has now been changed in its aspect. The Motion has been made, and the House has disagreed with it. It is no longer a question between the hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim Sir Charles Lewis) and the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon); it is not even a question now between the hon. Member for East Mayo and The Times newspaper; the question with which this House has to deal is one in which this House, and every individual Member of this House, must bear the responsibility. This Motion has been discussed, and not unnaturally discussed, in a Party spirit, and Party views have been presented from both sides of this House. If that were the only result of this debate my inclination would have been to take no part in it; but subjects have been referred to and statements 1139 have been made which I think ought not to be passed by in silence, and against some of those assertions and some of those views I hope I shall be allowed to make a most respectful protest. There are some of the institutions of this country which might well have been spared even in the extraordinary heat of Party conflict, and it is with sincere regret that many Members of this House have heard the assertions which have been made upon high authority—upon the highest authority—in relation to the administration of justice in this country. Those statements were not intended for this House alone, nor only for this country, but for countries outside; and strangers and foreigners will be told that that institution to which we have often pointed with so much pride, the security of justice in trial by jury, has fallen so low that in the highest quality that jurymen ought to possess—impartiality—owing to circumstances of political excitement they will be deficient, and that jurors will be governed by prejudice and political views. I seek to make practical denial that this is the case in this country. Sir, it would be satisfactory, when such suggestions are made, that even one single instance should be given in proof of the assertion that is so presented to the House. I would ask my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney (Sir Charles Russell) if he can state any instance in which a trial was prejudiced by political feeling entering the jury-box and preventing a fair trial? I would ask him whether he knows of any case where a jury have ever gone wrong in this country because of political influence? [Ironical Home Rule cheers.] I hear some hon. Members express dissent. This debate is not yet over, and I challenge any hon. Member who may reply to me to point to a single case where there has been a false verdict given owing to political feeling. [Mr. T.C. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour): What about the Manchester trials?] What are the instances on the other side? My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney, when he as Law Officer represented the Government, had to prosecute the Socialists in this Metropolis when they were charged with causing riots which resulted in the breaking of shop windows and the stealing and destroying of the property of London 1140 tradesmen. Those men were tried by a jury of London tradesmen, who could have no sympathy with any of them. My hon. and learned Friend brought all his groat powers of advocacy to bear in endeavouring to obtain a conviction against those men, and yet every one of them was acquitted. Let me take one more instance. It was my duty to prosecute two electioneering agents for corrupt practices. They were placed on their trial, and a jury was empannelled who were the personal and political friends of both those men. Sir, as far as I recollect, no juror was challenged, and that jury convicted those two agents politically acting with them and their personal friends. It was only necessary to remind that jury of their oath and the honour of their oath and they did not hesitate. I can produce instance after instance of this kind; but I look in vain in my own practical experience for any instance to the contrary; and I ask my hon. Friends upon what ground this charge is made of partiality in our juries? Now, I have said that this charge was made on the highest authority. It was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), who reminded the House of an incident in his political life. A charge of treason was preferred against him in his capacity as High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, and the right hon. Gentleman said that he was advised by the late Mr. James Freshfield and Mr. James Stuart-Wortley that if he instituted a prosecution an impartial verdict could not be obtained from a jury. But there might be other reasons why that advice was given, and I hope I have the sanction of my right hon. Friend to call attention to what the words were. I believe the facts of the case were as follows:—On January 27, 1859, in the Ionian National Assembly, a Member named Danderlo said—I propose the union of the Seven Islands with Greece, and that a Memorial he presented by the Assembly to the Queen, and that through Her Majesty the other Powers he also called upon to accept our proposal.On this it was resolved—That the Assembly of the Seven Islands proclaim that the sole and unanimous will of the Ionian people has been and is the union of all the Seven Islands with the Kingdom of Greece.The right hon. Gentleman had just assumed authority as the Lord High Commissioner, and upon this Resolution being 1141 communicated to him he sent back an answer pointing out that the form of proceeding was irregular, and containing the phrase "the Assembly has, through inadvertence, deviated from the Constitution," and he suggested the regular mode of expressing the desire of the Assembly. Upon this The Times wrote an article which contained these words, the only passage in which, I believe, the word "treason" is in any way vised—Lord Clyde did not tender his assistance to put into the most plausible shape the Manifesto of the Queen of Oude, nor did the English Commanders in North America offer their assistance to Congress in framing their Declaration of Independence. But Mr. Gladstone's is a mind that delights in balancing between alternatives, and rather than a treasonable resolution should not be made in a workmanlike manner he is willing to lend a hand to it himself.I am bound to say on those facts that anyone who was competent to advise the right hon. Gentleman would have given him the advice he actually received, utterly irrespective of the question whether a jury would convict or not. It would be absurd to say that article could be twisted into an accusation that the right hon. Gentleman had been guilty of levying war against the Queen. I know that the right hon. Gentleman made a full declaration that in his own mind he believed that every English Judge would be perfectly impartial; but he referred to the conduct of Lord Ellen-borough in Lord Dundonald's case in 1814, and stated that he was severely censured by Lord Campbell. I will pass the question whether Lord Campbell was always an impartial biographer, especially when his contemporaries were the subject of his labours; but even Lord Campbell said in relation to that case that Lord Ellenborough, in the whole of the proceedings connected with the trial, was undoubtedly actuated by an earnest desire to do what was right. If this is the only record that can be brought against the impartiality of our Judicial Bench—if this is all that can be said against the administration of the law, difficult and onerous as it is, I must confess that our Bench need not be very much ashamed. Juries and Judges have been criticized, and, speaking of counsel at the Bar, my right hon. Friend said that they would exercise their power for 1142 introducing invidious and irrelevant matter. Now, Sir, I was sorry to hear that statement.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
Will you allow me to speak, Sir. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has conveyed an idea of my intention, which was also conveyed by the Attorney General last night, totally contrary to what I meant. I had in my mind certainly the most splendid piece of forensic eloquence, perhaps of all eloquence, known to the history of the century—a wonderful and well-known passage of Lord Brougham's, wherein he described the duty of counsel engaged in defending his client in a criminal prosecution, and said—He has no right to look to the right or to the left or to any consequence or any consideration except the defence of his client.Now, Sir, it was in regard to the defence of his client and not to the general disposition of counsel to introduce invidious and irrelevant matter that I spoke. Such a charge, in my opinion, would be the most absurd that could be conceived.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
I can assure my right hon. Friend that I am most anxious not to misrepresent him, and I am sure he has only truly explained what was in his thoughts, though he made no reference to Lord Brougham in his speech. Yes; I recollect those words of Lord Brougham. My right hon. Friend heard them; I heard them too. Such words were uttered—perhaps repeated—on an occasion almost worthy of historic record. My right hon. Friend will recall the scene, when the orators of two generations sat side by side in the old Hall of the Middle Temple, when Berryer, as the guest of the Bar of England, sat by the side of Lord Brougham. Surely, too, my right hon. Friend must recall how, when Lord Brougham used those words, he who was the most entitled to speak on behalf of the Bar of England sprang to his feet and protested against that saying, declaring that that was not the duty of counsel, but that it was their duty to fight with the weapons of a warrior and not with the dagger of an assassin. I am certain my right hon. Friend will recollect, even after this interval of 20 years, how that protest was accepted, and how the cheers from the assembled members of the Bar rang 1143 out in that old Hall of the Middle Temple. And I declare from my conscience that I believe these words of Sir Alexander Cockburn have been, and are now, the guiding words of every member of the Bar. Now, Sir, I would ask to be allowed to touch on one or two other subjects. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. R. T. Reid) yesterday spoke of the impossibility of obtaining redress by legal proceedings on account of the delay of the law, and he said that it would take at least 18 months or two years before the trial could take place, I entirely dissent from that statement. If a prosecution is undertaken by the Attorney General it has, on the claim of the Attorney General, precedence of other causes, and I will undertake to say that the case could be tried within six weeks from the day it is instituted. It has also been said that no trial can fairly take place before a jury, because it would be pointed out to the jury that by a Resolution of this House the House had refused to treat this libellous matter as a Breach of Privilege, and the hon. Member for Northampton pressed this point upon the House. It is, no doubt, perfectly true that Resolutions of this House are admissible in evidence. When the hon. Member for Northampton brought an action against the Serjeant-at-Arms for having imprisoned him, the Serjeant-at-Arms pleaded that he had done so by the order of a Resolution of the House. Therefore, of course, that Resolution was admissible in evidence, to justify the acts of the Serjeant-at-Arms, and was produced. Resolutions of the House were also produced and put in evidence, when the proceedings were instituted against the hon. Member for sitting and voting without having taken the oath, against him. But, Sir, there is this necessity before a Resolution of the House can become admissible in evidence—it must be relevant to the issue to be tried; and I say that if this prosecution for libel were instituted there would be no power to introduce the Resolution of the House, because it would not be relevant to any issue. I hope with regard to the points of justice, impartiality, fairness, delay, and the Resolutions of this House, I have now cleared the way. I next come to the question of whether a Committee of this House is a better tribunal for trying the issue before us than a jury. It 1144 has been said that a jury is an unfitting tribunal, because the individual and personal responsibilities of each juror are not known, and because the jurymen themselves are not known. I do not agree to that. I am not sure that in important trials the names of every juryman are not published in the newspapers, and very often the particular way in which they gave their opinion in their private chamber while consulting as to the verdict they should give appears in the newspapers, and is thus put before the public. Every individual juryman takes an oath to perform his duty according to his conscience, and I believe they will perform that duty. Now what is to be said as to the alternative offered by the Government? My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney spoke a few evenings ago, and said—"When we become Members of a Committee we discard all Party prejudices and forget our political views." It must not be forgotten, however, we have not only to judge ourselves, but other people have to judge us; and I must say, after some years' experience in the House, having associated with a great many Members of the House, and having applied some self-examination, I do not think that we are better than other people. Why, if we are always just in a Committee Room, is it to be said that in a jury-box jurymen are not just? If my right hon. Friend's Amendment were carried, and there is a Committee to try this question, your conduct and words will be—as my right hon. Friend has said—subject to review and censure. That is a prospect which is rather appalling; and I do not know who will be the Member of this House who will wish to serve on that Committee. Do his duty as he will, there will always be two sides taken with regard to the question; and if, as is said, this is a Party question, you will have two different platforms, and who will escape that review and censure? It has lately been said on this side of the House that political capital has been made by the whole of the Party opposite out of these charges. You are willing to make these men your judges; what will be said of their impartiality if judgment goes against you? Again, have not Members on this side said that these charges were vile calumnies? On Wednesday last we heard a powerful voice—so powerful that its echoes must 1145 have been heard in the neighbourhood of the New Forest, and belonging to one who for many reasons, should sit as a Member of such a Committee; and he, before he has heard a single word of the evidence, declares these charges to amount to a foul and malicious calumny. We cannot put ourselves on such a high pedestal of justice and impartiality. I am very unwilling to quote precedents, and there is only one set of precedents which I will touch upon. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian referred to them, and asked a question with respect to them from the Law Officers of the Crown. Out of that set of 10 precedents, which appear in the Appendix to Hatsell, in only two was there a previous declaration that the offence was a Breach of Privilege, and in the other eight a Resolution was moved that a libel had been written. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: False and scandalous libel.] I understand that the offer of the Government was that a Resolution should be moved that the charges in question constituted a libel. ["No, no!"] I say that that was the offer made by the Attorney General. My right hon. Friend says that the Resolution in previous cases was that the charge was a "false and scandalous libel." But you are asking for a fair trial, and if the House is asked to vote this a false and scandalous libel, that is hardly the course a fair trial should take. I will refer to one other precedent—namely, the case of Mr. Whittle Harvey. The question of Privilege there arose in the form of a Motion to inquire into the manner in which certain voluntary bodies, the Inns of Court, conducted their proceedings. Objection having been taken to the form of the Motion, it was altered into a Motion to inquire into the conduct of Mr. Whittle Harvey. That gentleman said that he had been refused admission by one of the Inns of Court on the ground of a verdict in a trial 10 years before, and he asked that a Committee should decide whether that verdict was a right one or not. If this is to be put before us as a valuable precedent, I can only say that the rusty sword of Privilege is becoming a bent and broken weapon. Nothing should make this House into a Court of Inquiry into private and professional life. Now, what is the case before us? It is, I think, a case outside all precedents. It is a case of first impression. The 1146 Times newspaper made a statement in an original article, in the first instance, in relation to the communications that passed between certain Members of this House and some objectionable persons. In the course of debate reference was made to that article by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), and on April 21 and 22 the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) dealt with that article. But the article had not, I believe, referred to him by name or otherwise in relation to anything that had occurred in this House. The hon. Member asserted, in language intended to be emphatic, that the charges contained in the article were wicked and cowardly lies, and The Times then said the hon. Member had stated what was grossly untrue; and on this statement of facts we are now asked to supersede the ordinary tribunals of the country and deal with it ourselves as a Breach of Privilege. And so, if a Member chooses to come to this House and say that a charge against him is false, the result is to be that the newspaper must either submit by its silence to the charge of having said what was false, or if it has the courage to say "we repeat our statement," it then commits an offence against this House, and has the opportunity taken away from it of appearing and vindicating itself before a Court of Justice. Now, I have to call the attention of the House to what really is the question before it. A charge is made; and those against whom it is made deny it, and say—" If you venture to contradict us we shelter ourselves within the Privilege of this House."
§ MR. DILLON
I listened patiently to the right hon. and learned Gentleman before interrupting him; but he has not treated me fairly in his statement. He accuses me of appealing to this House against a newspaper for simply saying that it was right and I was wrong. I never did anything of the sort. I never appealed to the House until the statements in the newspaper were made use of by the noble Marquess and by another Member in order to assail me in this House. I have said over and over again that I never did and never would appeal to this House to protect myself against any newspaper.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
I do not think I have stated anything contrary to what the hon. Member has just said. I never 1147 stated that he had appealed to this House, and I did state that the noble Marquess had called attention to the charges in The Times article. I quite admit that the hon. Member himself has not asked for this Committee, and I cannot see where I have committed any error of fact. If the hon. Member follows me closely, I think he will see that I am perfectly accurate. In a question such as this, where a point of Privilege is raised, we ought to be very careful as to what we do; and we must be quite certain that we are right before we take a step which involves that someone shall be summoned before us as if he had committed a wrong. This question of Privilege is like the entrance to a quarrel, and ought to be most carefully considered before it is entered upon. I trust it is with something like impartial judgment that I have come to this conclusion. [Parnellite laughter, and cries of "Oh, oh!" and loud Ministerial cheers.] Yes, perhaps you may be right. Your dissent rebukes me. You mean that in such matters I cannot be impartial. Perhaps not. Then how can I act as an impartial judge in a Committee Room? Hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House will not believe in the possibility of any one of us being impartial, and yet they believe in our fitness to sit upon a Committee whose first quality should be perfect impartiality. I do believe that if we were now to travel out of the ordinary course, and interfere with 'the course that can be taken by every person aggrieved by libel, and endeavour to erect a tribunal from within our own ranks to try this issue between subject and subject, we should be entering upon a career and setting a precedent which would produce most evil consequences.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
Sir, we now know for the first time what foreigners and others must think of the House of Commons. Every possible subject under the sun may be the object of an Inquiry by a Select Committee; but when 86 of your Members are charged with complicity in assassination, in dynamite plots, and treasons against the Queen, and in every form of political, and moral, and human villany, then, Sir, there is no question whatever to be referred to a Select Committee of this House. I must say, Mr. Speaker, that I was highly edified by the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman 1148 who has just sat down (Sir Henry James). I understand there is a form of prayer in the Church of England—I do not profess to speak accurately of its rites—that at a certain period of the service the congregation get up, and, beating their breasts, say—"Oh, I am a very great sinner!" I may be entirely in error; but it does not affect my argument, because, Sir, we now understand the Uriah Heep attitude of the right hon. and learned Gentleman when he says that the Members of this great Assembly, who have been selected with the greatest care by 30,000,000 of your population for their fitness to discharge the functions of statesmen, to sift all the niceties of questions of diplomacy and to touch upon all great questions of legislation, have professed themselves by a majority of votes to be unfit and incapable of inquiring into the career and conduct of 86 of their own Members. This proposition is so amusing that while the right hon. and learned Gentleman was speaking I sent for a list of the subjects considered by the Select Committees of this House. I find, Sir, that in the present Session amongst subjects you thought worthy of inquiry are town holdings, butter substitutes, railway and canal Bills, police pensions, police and sanitary regulations, the rating of machinery, War Office sites, and the Bishopric of Truro. Therefore every possible question under the sun is worthy of inquiry by your Members except the character of one-eighth of the entire body of this House. Now, let me say plainly at the outset that, so far as we are concerned as Irishmen, we do not care one brsss farthing, or a pinch of snuff, whether you give us this Inquiry or not. We have not asked for the Inquiry originally, but charges having been made we say not only do we not shrink from the Inquiry, we court the Inquiry; and if we are asked why do we get up now to demand this Inquiry—why did not we demand it when the charges first appeared in the newspapers? Our answer is plain. If we got up too early it would be denounced as obstruction, it would be said that we were availing of these charges, that we were raising a question of Privilege with the object of preventing the progress of the Business of the House, and that we had no real desire for the Inquiry. But when an hon. Member not of our Party thinks it worth his while to move in this matter, we say we em- 1149 brace the opportunity afforded us; and I must say, Mr. Speaker, that I have been greatly surprised at the way in which this House has treated this question. Either you believe these charges or you do not; either you believe you can prove them or you do not; either you believe The Times can prove them or you do not; and surely if you can prove them you would be delighted to ruin us. If you believe they would be proved, how unworthy you must be for the position you occupy. If you believe there is no solid ground for these charges, how mean and contemptible must be your characters. How wretched and loathsome must be the political character of Gentlemen who go from Primrose Lodge to Primrose Habitation catching votes by poisoning the public mind against the Representatives of those whom you are pledged to call your fellow-subjects, stirring up strife and hatred and enmity, and some of you making profit out of it too. But when we seize you by the throat and say—"Now, Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co., you have your opportunity, now you can ruin for all time, or practically for our lifetime at least, this Irish movement, this Home Rule Question, and ruin with it the Liberal allies who are, thank God, coming to our assistance. "Now that they are afforded that opportunity, Messrs. W. H. Smith and Co. slink into their holes. Now that you are challenged to use the machinery which this House gives us to put to the test those foul and atrocious calumnies levelled against us, you shrink from doing it. But you do offer us a tribunal. The right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) began his speech with a challenge—he challenged the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hackney (Sir Charles Russell) to give one single instance of any political trial in which a British jury failed to do its duty. Now, Sir, it is not for me to attack British juries. We have in this Bill before the House a proposal to change the venue of Irish trials to England, and we have protested against any Irishman being put upon his trial before a British jury; and let me tell the right hon. and learned Member for Bury this—when he asks for a single instance where political prejudices were concerned, where a British jury failed to do its duty. I will give him the most notorious instance of all, which no Englishman can dare to forget, even 1150 though you are often graciously pleased to forgive yourselves. I refer to the matter known in Ireland as the Manchester martyrdom. [Ironical laughter.] The Irish Secretary laughs—ho will not laugh before I am done—the right hon. Gentleman does not seem to be acquainted with Irish matters, and much less with political questions which have arisen in England. "What happened at that Manchester trial? Five men were put on trial on a charge of wilful murder, and five men were instantly convicted. No sooner was the verdict found than the 40 reporters who were engaged at the trial signed a Memorial to the Home Secretary, declaring that the man M'Guire was undoubtedly innocent. M'Guire was proved to have served on board a British warship somewhere in the British Channel on the day the prison van was attacked at Manchester, and M'Guire was released after being sentenced to death on the verdict of a British jury. Why does not the Irish Secretary sneer now? Sir, the right hon. and learned Member for Bury invites us to take our case before a London jury. Are we likely to do that in the present state of political feeling? Why, Sir, you can hardly go into a railway carriage that you do not see gentlemen reading their Globe, or their St. James's Gazette, or Times, and wishing that the rope were round our necks, and saying this, too, though knowing some of us. Why, Sir, I over heard not long ago a Member of this House, on the platform of Westminster Bridge Station saying—"I wish we had them like rats in a pit, with a terrier at their throats. [Cries of ''Name, name!"] I do not know the names of all the Members of this House. I do not know the names of more than 100 Members, and I do not want to know more. But the parties I refer to were three Members of this House who left the House before me, and were waiting for the last train at Westminster Bridge, and I heard them with my own ears. I do not blame these Gentlemen at all—it is natural when they are fed on this stuff that they should feel so. I do not make a complaint of these men or say they were right or wrong; but I point to it as showing the state of feeling amongst Parties in this country. This matter does not affect us all—it affects you—it affects this House. Gross charges of murder, and assassination, and trea- 1151 son, and every form of political and social villainy have been made against 86 Members of this House, and the inquiry, the right hon. and learned Member for Bury suggests, is an inquiry before a British jury. The right hon. and learned Member for Bury in his speech said one very remarkable thing—he said he would not prejudice a trial of this question by the House declaring in advance that it was a libel.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
I object to the House declaring in advance that it is a false, scandalous, and malicious libel.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. and learned Gentleman refuses to declare in advance this to be a false, scandalous, and malicious libel. He refuses, he says, on the ground that it would prejudice the jury; but in every instance where a prosecution of this kind has been ordered by this House the declaration has always been made in advance, and the right hon. and learned Member for Bury, out of the fund of his learning and his great authority, reserves himself when the Irish character is at stake—and when Irishmen are on their trial—he refuses to do for Irishmen that which, in every other instance, this House has always done for even its humblest British Member. We can now, Sir, accurately gauge and estimate the nature of the Liberal Unionist Party. We have heard of the saying—so far as the English in Ireland were concerned—that they were more Irish than the Irish themselves. I would say of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury and the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) beside him that they are more Tory than the Tories themselves, because the Tory party only went the length of saying that they would not declare this a Breach of Privilege because they had some technical reason for not doing so; but though no Member of the Party would accept the offer to prosecute the editor of the paper, the right hon. and learned Member for Bury wants the House to guard itself against this—not to prejudice a British jury; and he wants it not to do what every House of Commons would have done, and that is to declare in advance of sending it to a jury that it was a scandalous, a false, and a malicious libel. In every case this House has been like a grand jury who passes a Bill of indictment, and passes it down to a petty 1152 jury to examine it in its details, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury—the future Lord Chancellor of England—wants the procedure in this matter to be departed from in the case of the 86 Irish Members whose characters are at stake. We thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but we are told to go before a British jury. There are Members of the House willing so to humilate themselves in the face of their constituencies as to profess that they are more incompetent and more incapable of finding out the truth or the falsehood of this political matter than 12 shopkeepers of the City of London. Really, from the way in which the right hon. and learned Member for Bury talked about 12 shopkeepers you would think they were angels without wings. You would think that the wind of politics had never ruffled their souls—that they are absolutely pure and free from all political taint; that at Temple Bar, once you pass the Dragon or Griffin, I forget which, you are in some empyrean where human frailty suddenly disappears. But I take a different view. I say that the 12 commonest Members of this House—I will even say the 12 Orange Members of this House, with the pious Catholic Member for Loughborough Division (Mr. De Lisle) as foreman of the panel—would be more competent to deal with this matter than any jury outside these walls. It is said that the House does not possess sufficient powers. The Attorney General for England stated in his most interesting and able speech—but completely illusory as I think—that former charges were made against some Irish Members, and the matter ended unsatisfactorily, because the Committee declared they had no power to summon witnesses and examine them upon oath. But a measure has been passed for the purpose of giving the Committee that power, and not only can the Committee summon witnesses, but they can ask them leading questions; they can be cross-examined up and down and made to produce documents and dates, and the Committee could introduce matters which would not be permitted as relevant by any Judge before a jury; and yet, with all these opportunities for a full investigation, the House is asked to decline, and say, "Oh, we are unworthy." I must say that this opinion of unworthiness comes very well from Gentlemen 1153 who, while they say they are unworthy to investigate this matter, think themselves worthy to decide the Irish international question, to vote upon it, and speak upon it, and upon Imperial and Colonial questions, who think them selves capable of doing anything, except what any petty jury of London could do. I should just like to say that though the charges in The Times refer to a period five years ago, they were never brought forward by the Liberal Party, or by Lord Spencer, whom we attacked daily at the time. I have nothing to confess in reference to those attacks; so far as my part in them is concerned I am not ashamed of them, for they were conscientious on my part; but I have this to say—that I regret we did not in those days recognize that Lord Spencer was acting conscientiously also. Very well; but Lord Spencer was hunting down criminals in Ireland with complete success. We were here in this House attacking his Party, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, quite as fiercely, but, I think, a little less fiercely, than we are attacking the Party opposite. If there was any body of men who had the power as well as the interest to crush the Party with which I am associated, it was Lord Spencer and his Colleagues, if they could have proved us to have had any connection with crime. Furthermore, they had a power which you say is an invaluable power, and which you, through getting the House of Commons to pass the closure against us, have been trying to acquire for yourselves—they had the power of secret inquiry. Although investigations had been carried on for days and weeks and months by the most secret inquiries into all these matters which are now agitating the English mind—that was five years ago—was any Irish Member summoned before the secret inquiry? The records are still in existence under the thumb, I presume, of the Irish Secretary. He has only to go to Dublin Castle and turn up the shorthand notes of everything in connection with it—the murders and every other form of outrage which was committed with regard to which secret inquiries had been held. If the Irish Secretary turns up these secret inquiries and examines into all that the witnesses swore—and God knows you can get plenty of informers at any time, for a 1154 small trifle, just as The Times can purchase forged letters for a small trifle. Let him publish the result of his secret inquiries—give them to The Times. Let them have every word that had been given in evidence, publish them from first to last, and we will give you our answer. Why do not you do that? That, at any rate, you can do, as your English gentlemen think themselves obliged in honour and honesty to make the speeches they do. Sir, if this House by a majority refuses us the inquiry we demand, I say this—that the honour of the British gentleman will be placed on a level with that of an Indian Thug, and, for my part, I would rather be an Indian Thug, meeting my victims in the open, than a British gentleman, who, when these charges have been denied, and when you are afforded the fullest opportunity of investigating them, declines the investigation, but repeats the charges. But, Sir, we are told that this is a narrow issue, and this is a mere technical question, whether a man has been called a liar or not. Is there a man who uses these arguments and does not know how worthless they are? Will they deceive the public outside? Naturally the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian has dealt with the matters which grew out of the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim; but what is it, I ask, that gives actuality and life to this debate? Is it the question of whether my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo has been called a liar by The Times? You know very well that it is not. You know very well that is the merest Nisi Prius special pleading. You know that it is the Irish representation which is on its trial; and the Irish representation challenges you to the combat; and they tell you that they stand on no technical reference, such as is made naturally and necessarily by this Motion, but that if you have any specific charges against any man on these Irish Benches, bring them forward and we shall meet them; and after that you can go and snivel at your Primrose gatherings. You tell us that we are standing on technicalities. It is you who are standing on technicalities; and what is more, you know it. Oh! but as to this British jury, I would remind the House what took place on a recent trial before a London jury. A creature who, from our point of view, is a contemptible per- 1155 son—Mr. Brenon—a man who had all the qualifications that commend themselves to the Tory Party, who was expelled from the Land League for having made infamous charges of immorality against the doctors of Merrion Square, in Dublin, which, as the noble Lord opposite will recognize, is the leading square inhabited by medical men—the most gross charges of immorality—in one of your congenial English society papers—Mayfair—I believe it is since dead. It was too gross even for the Tory Party. This gentleman had, in addition to that, issued an address as a Conservative candidate for Gloucester. He had written to The Times, in which he assailed my hon. Friend the Member for Cork and every man of his Party in the most infamous and scurrilous terms. Some persons wrote a pamphlet—I have not read the pamphlet—in which this person was described as a dynamiter and assassin and everything of the kind, and I am told that this was the part congenially relied upon by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson). Very well. He went before a British jury, and no sooner was the jury empannelled than it was common gossip in this House that there were seven Tories on the jury. That was instantly known about three hours after the jury was empannelled. What did they do with that man? They gave him £ 500, the other side—the defendant's—refusing to enter into one tittle of evidence to show that this unfortunate creature was really guilty, or that there was any foundation whatsoever for the loathsome libels made upon him. If £500 damages was considered sufficient atonement and satisfaction by a British jury for a Conservative anti-Land League assailant of ours, what chance would we have? It appears to me that anything more infamous than the treatment of Brenon by the defendant Ridgway, who published the lampoon, has never been heard of. He libelled and lampooned him in the most infamous and scandalous manner, and he did not bring forward one shred or tittle of evidence. I think of all the modern scandals in modern London trials the shamefully inadequate verdict towards this man was one of the worst. As far as I am concerned, I do not intend to trouble the House at any greater length beyond saying this—that The Times news- 1156 paper, which has printed these libels, is a newspaper about which we were assailed for not bringing an action. It is only when in the House that I see The Times. Only three times in my life have I bought a copy of the paper. The paper which the most of us read every morning is The Standard. I speak for myself. I always find it a frank and honest opponent, and I much prefer it to the lukewarm Liberalism of the other newspaper—The Daily News. The Times, as a newspaper power, we look upon with contempt. The circulation, I understand, had fallen to about 20,000 when these libels came on. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Nearer 90,000.] There was a meeting, as I understand, of the proprietors to see if they could not give it a fillip, and by means of this forgery they raised it up to 50,000. Its advertising circulation has fallen off; and, so far as Ireland is concerned, with the exception of two or three landlords, I do not suppose a dozen copies of the newspaper are sold. So far, therefore, as its attacks upon us are concerned, we do not care one pinch of snuff; but if they are worthy of being inquired into, why do you not inquire into them? You sell them, and it is a very remarkable fact—I do not state it as a fact within my own knowledge, but it has been stated in an English newspaper—that on the day they published this "Parnell letter," by some mysterious means a double or treble supply had been ordered in advance over all the bookstalls of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. There was a special placard at all his bookstalls. A further instance of the decadence of The Times is that it has lately to adopt the method of all the other morning papers, and take to placards. As I have said, this is a matter that concerns you. The Times' infamies do not touch us. The Times has recently taken to misreporting our speeches; and if you will read the work done by the gentlemen in the Gallery who represent it at the present moment, you will find the most ingenious misrepresentations of what we say in this House transferred into the columns of The Times newspaper. Its Irish reputation has been blasted by the confessions of the Irish Secretary. I am referring especially to the Millstreet outrages. It has upon its staff as chief writer an Irish Orangeman named Wilson, and this Mr. Wilson recently obtained the dismissal of 1157 the Cork reporter, who had supplied the news to The Times for over 20 years, simply because of his account of the Glenbeigh outrages. This Cork reporter was likewise the local correspondent of The Dublin Daily Express, on which he had served also for 20 years; and this Mr. Wilson, who got this man dismissed for his account of the Glenbeigh outrages, got him at the same time dismissed from The Dublin Daily Express, on which the Dublin correspondent of The Times works, and instead of this gentleman was appointed a brother-in-law of Mr. Wilson's on The Cork Constitution, a paper run, as anybody who will take up the list of its shareholders will see, almost entirely by land agents and landowners. And it is this man from Cork who is pumping in the sewage into The Times. So far as his accounts of bogus outrages from Munster go also, they are contradicted in this House and proved to be lies by the confessions of the Irish Secretary. The Times still prints them, after contradiction, in its weekly edition, and they are still circulated as Gospel truth by the pamphleteers of the I. L. P. U., and by Mr. Bellow, the pamphleteer of Gloucester. Now, Englishmen, if they like, can conduct this campaign against Ireland by means of falsehood. So far as Irishmen are concerned, as I have said, the matter touches us not; but it touches the Liberals; it touches them, because if this campaign is to be conducted by calumny, and allowed to go on uncontradicted, the Liberal Party will be charged with sympathy and complicity with outrages. It is on that ground we support the demand that has been made for an inquiry into these matters. It is not that our virtue or our character is affected. If all England—aye, and if all the Colonies to boot—wrote us down as knaves and scoundrels, so far as I am concerned, thanks be to God, it would not affect me one hair's breadth, and no more would it affect the faithful people who stand behind us. We have fought their cause; we have fought their battle; we have fought it in season and out of season, caring not what you think about us; caring not what happened to us; caring not what may be the censure of all your authority. We look to them, and your opinion we disregard as the idle winds. Our characters are known in Ireland—known too, 1158 I may say, to the priests and bishops of the country, who, I venture to say, would not allow their Church to be stained with an alliance with criminals or murderers. We appeal from beyond this House to the people outside—we appeal to the English people outside, who are not entirely tarred with prejudice or with hate. We believe that at their hands our motives will receive proper recognition. We appeal, above all, to other nations that love liberty, and leaving you and your leading newspaper, which did not hesitate to succour and support the Stepniaks, the Gallengas, and the Mazzinis—we ask other nations outside to look upon our characters, to look upon our career, and say whether they can see in them justly judged anything half or one tithe as bad—if anything were bad—as was done in the struggle for freedom of Poland, of Austria, and of Greece or Italy? Our people in Ireland have sent us here not to curry favour with anybody. We have never—even our worst enemies will not say it of us—we have never fawned upon you; we have never sought for the favour of your great men. Some of your great men, thank God, have by reason of their greatness given us their sympathy. We won that sympathy by argument, by fair fight, by logic, and by reason—we won it, so far as we have won any course or way into the hearts and consciences of fair-thinking men, we have won it simply on the ground of reason and of justice. We, the Irish Party of this time, will not last for ever—the Irish cause will remain—and if you succeeded, as you will not succeed, in taunting us with sympathy or complicity with dynamiters or assassins—if you succeeded in damaging our Party, aye, in chaining our bodies, or destroying it—you would still have the Irish nation in Ireland and beyond the seas to reckon with. We are ephemeral, our cause endures—it will endure—and you, as your fathers before who have sought to prejudice us by a cloud of infamy and misrepresentation, you have been baulked and been defeated, and the Irish nation, by bound after bound, leaps this very moment into the full noontide light of freedom and of prosperity.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said, the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) had announced that he would not de- 1159 liver a speech of an impassioned character, and immediately proceeded to say that he had got his opponents by the throat. If the speech were not impassioned, he should be sorry to be in the neighbourhood of the hon. and learned Member when he was really in an impassioned mood. The hon. and learned Member had appealed to the English people; but, as far as he (Colonel Saunderson) could make out, the appeal was to all Englishmen who did not happen to be upon a jury panel. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman said that if his body or the bodies of his friends were made away with, they had across the Atlantic those to whom he would appeal, and that sentiment was applauded by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. "Destroy us; we have still got Patrick Ford." He (Colonel Saunderson) did not wish, on that occasion, to make an impassioned speech. He did not wish to arouse any angry feeling; but he desired to say a few words in explanation of the vote which he intended to give against the appointment of a Committee. He intended to oppose it on two grounds—first, because he did not think a Committee was necessary; and, secondly, because he thought that if a Committee were appointed, it would not have the effect which the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) desired. The right hon. Gentleman, in introducing his Amendment, brought forward several instances with which he did not intend to deal. But he thought that the instances adduced were not applicable to the present case. In the instances mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the characters of hon. Members of that House were assailed, but the Party passions of the House of Commons were not inflamed. In the present case the character of an hon. Member was assailed; but, as the right hon. Gentleman truly observed, some-thing more was at stake than the character of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). He could quite understand why the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian wished, as far as he could, to white wish that portion of his followers who had supplied him with a policy. They were the backbone of his Party; but he wanted to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that if he carried his Amendment, he would succeed in white- 1160 washing, not the whole backbone, but only one of the vertebras. The Motion of the right hon. Gentleman strictly limited the action of the proposed Committee. The scope of the Committee was entirely bounded by the terms of the Amendment, and the right hon. Gentleman had confined it absolutely to the allegation made in only one of the articles which appeared in The Times—the article which had directly accused the hon. Member for East Mayo of telling a falsehood in the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of that article as being a very terrible one, as undoubtedly it was. He said that it was unparalleled, and the gravest and blackest charge that could be brought against a Member of Parliament; but surely the right hon. Gentleman must be aware that blacker and graver charges than that had been brought against hon. Members. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman ever read The Times—probably he did not; but the right hon. Gentleman could not get over the fact that his noble Friend the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), in the House of Commons, quoted a series of articles which made definite charges against certain Members of the Party led by the right hon. Gentleman; that those charges were publicly stated here in the House of Commons, and that they were of a far graver character than simply accusing the hon. Member for East Mayo of telling a falsehood. Hon. Members were stated to be in direct trade and traffic with murderers and dynamitards and assassins. He considered that to be a far graver charge than charging a man with uttering a falsehood in the House of Commons. As to whether these statements were true or not, he did not express an opinion.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, he would toll them in a moment. What they said was this—that against a certain body of Members in that House allegations of the gravest character, involving their character as Members of the House of Commons, had been brought, and that they remained practically unchallenged. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was suddenly awakened to the necessity of taking action in that matter. These grave and 1161 terrible charges could not be brought against a Member of this House, the right hon. Gentleman at length thought, without action being taken in the shape of the appointment of a Committee. But in former times the right hon. Gentleman was asleep. He had himself ventured to point out in that House long ago—[An hon. MEMBER: Ridgway's pamphlet.] The hon. Gentleman was quite mistaken. He had himself quoted from a speech of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), in which the hon. Member for Cork accused Members of the late Government of having, by suborning witnesses, procured the condemnation of men whom they knew in their hearts to be innocent. That was a worse accusation than any that had been made against hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite. He could not well conceive a graver charge to be made against Members of the Government than that of employing men to suborn witnesses in order to procure the condemnation of men whom they knew to be innocent. Yet those were the accusations that were levelled against Lord Spencer and Sir George Trevelyan; but the right hon. Gentleman opposite, as far as he was aware, never got up in the House as Prime Minister and proposed that a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into those most cruel charges that were levelled against friends of his own. But the right hon. Gentleman had now thoroughly awakened, and he proposed that a Committee should be appointed to examine into certain charges that had been made against a Member of his Party. Great difficulty would attend the composition of such a Committee. He believed it was usual, although not necessary, for the Mover of the Committee to have a place on it himself. Would the right hon. Gentleman decline to serve on that Committee? The right hon. Gentleman made no sign.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
Would the right hon. Member for Derby consent to serve on the Committee? Would he consider it? [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT assented.] For himself (Colonel Saunderson), if he happened to be summoned on a jury to try a man for a capital offence, and if he were publicly to state before he was summoned on the panel that he 1162 believed the accused person to be guilty, he should be ordered by the counsel for the prisoner to stand by. Well, that was just the case of both of those right hon. Gentlemen. The allegations made in The Times on which the right hon. Gentleman rose to take action occurred in the year 1881. In the year 1881 the right hon. Gentleman was Prime Minister, and in that year he put the hon. Member for East Mayo in gaol; in that year he went to various parts of the country, and in eloquent terms he proclaimed the Party which he now led to be a Party that were marching through rapine to the disintegration of the Empire; he described them as leaders of an organization whose steps were tracked by blood, murder, outrage, and crime; and he said they were engaged in a pilgrimage of spoliation and plunder. If hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite succeeded in getting that Committee, they must order both of those right hon. Gentlemen to stand by. But how would the Committee be composed? Some hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway had said they would consent to its being exclusively composed of Members of the Conservative Party, but they were not all agreed upon that point. The hon. Member for East Mayo said he would be satisfied with that arrangement; but the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool would not be satisfied.
§ MR. T, P. O'CONNOR
I never expressed an opinion on the point. I would ask whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman is entitled to attribute to me an opinion which I never expressed?
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, that if the hon. Member would only be patient he would read from his speech. He knew too well the kind of battle he had to fight to indulge in random assertion. If the Committee was to be exclusively composed of Members chosen from the Conservative side, he presumed the Loader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) would have something to say to its formation; and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool, two days ago, speaking of his right hon. Friend who would have to choose the Committee, said—I had no great expectation of the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman would fulfil his duties of Leadership, but I am more than surprised at the degradation to which he has already brought this House.1163 In the eyes of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool, his right hon. Friend the Loader of the House had degraded the House; and yet would the hon. Member be willing to allow a packed Committee, chosen by a degraded person, to try his case? It was not very hard to understand why hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway were so anxious—or, at any rate, said they were anxious—to get a Committee. He could perceive from their speeches that they would go all over the country, and say that they came forward in the House of Commons and demanded the appointment of a Committee, and it was refused. He did not know whether the hon. Member for East Mayo was now in the House; but he was about to broach subjects that intimately related to the hon. Member. Why should there be a necessity for a Committee to examine the allegations that had been made by The Times when The Times gave them the proofs on which those allegations were made? [Cries of "Oh!" and cheers.] He would not say they were good proofs, nor would he express an opinion; but no one could deny that they had, in the paper furnished to each hon. Member, the whole case set forth. They had the statements there made by The Times, which gave the authority on which it made the allegation that the hon. Member for East Mayo had told a falsehood in that House. Let the hon. Member for East Mayo get up in the House, go through these statements seriatim, and deny their truth. There was no one in the House who would not accept his denial. They did not want a Committee for the hon. Member to give the lie to those statements. The noble Lord the Member for Rossendale made some statements in the House some time ago on an article from The Times; and the hon. Member for East Mayo got up and said very emphatically that they were slanderous lies. But The Times then went on to show that it had grounds for the assertions that it had made; and he would point out how the case was put by that paper, which was placed in the hands of hon. Members after all to be made use of, although as yet but little use had really been made of it. The hon. Member for East Mayo first denied that P. J. Sheridan had any connection with murderous crimes when he was under the hon. Member's authority. 1164 The Times showed that Mr. Sheridan was engaged absolutely in organizing murders when he was under the authority of the hon. Member. Then the hon. Member for East Mayo went on and denied that Sheridan had ever had any connection with the Land League organization since the 1st of April, 1881. That was a distinct statement. Then The Times went on to cite The Freeman's Journal. He did not know whether the proprietor of The Freeman's Journal, the hon. Member for St. Stephen's Green Division of Dublin (Mr. Dwyer Gray), was now in his place; but he wanted to know, if that was not true, why the hon. Gentleman allowed that untruth to appear in his paper? If the hon. Member for East Mayo would get up and distinctly state that those facts which were put in that paper were untrue, he, for one, would never say a word more about it. Though the hon. Gentleman might think him a very unfair man, he would never quote a statement which the hon. Member for East Mayo said distinctly was untrue. He was quite ready to admit, though he differed so much from the hon. Member, that he had no right whatever to reject his distinct statement as to a matter of fact of that kind. He would just read what was set forth in the paper which was before the House. The hon. Member for East Mayo, in contradicting the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), stated that Mr. Sheridan never had any connection with the Land League after the 1st of April, 1881. Now, in The Freeman's Journal of October 13, 1881, there was announced a citizens' meeting to be held at the offices of the Central League. The meeting was duly held. The chair was taken by Mr. Charles Dawson, M. P., Lord Mayor - Elect. Among those present, said The Freeman's Journal next day, were Messrs. J. Dillon, M.P., J. G. Biggar, M. P., J. O'Kelly, M. P., G. M. Byrne, M. P., H. J. Gill, M. P., T. D. Sullivan, M. P., R. H. Metge, M. P., E. D. Gray, M. P., and P. J. Sheridan, of Tubbercurry (ex-suspect). Would the hon. Member for East Mayo get up in the House and, without the trouble of appointing a Committee, simply tell them that The Freeman's Journal had no right and no grounds to make that assertion? If he did, he, for one, certainly would never quote that as a fact. But the 1165 hon. Member had never stated in the House that The Freeman's Journal, when it made that statement, uttered a falsehood. Then, further on, The Times said that The Freeman's Journal described the events of "the memorable afternoon of Saturday," when a meeting of the Executive of the League was held in the Imperial Hotel, Sackville Street, and was attended by Mr. T. D. Sullivan, Mr. Biggar, Dr. Kenny, and Mr. Sheridan, of Tubbercurry. [At this point Mr. DILLON, who had hitherto been absent, entered the House.] He was glad the hon. Member for East Mayo was in his place. He asked him not to wait for any Committee, but to get up there and then and deny these allegations in The Times. The hon. Member had stated that he had ceased to associate with Sheridan in April, 1881; but The Times showed, from Irish papers, that he met Sheridan at a meeting of the Central League long after. That appeared in The Freeman's Journal. Now, he wanted the hon. Member to stand up and say whether that was true or not.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said, he thought the time was come when the House should get away from these personal discussions. He, for one, should be no party to them any longer. He had offered to enter into these charges fully before a Committee of that House, and he was ready to do so. But if they were asked to go on exchanging the lie with hon. Members of that House or with newspapers outside, he, for one, should not do so any longer.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, he had no wish to exchange the lie, and he should not wish to insult the hon. Member. But he said that this was a fact which must be taken notice of by that House. In the hands of every hon. Member was a copy of the allegation, and the dignity of a Member, and the dignity of the House, required the hon. Member to meet on the floor of the House this accusation against his fair fame and honour as a Member should—
§ MR. DILLON
said, he must appeal to the Speaker whether, with these repeated challenges across the floor of the House, the debate could be expected to be conducted in an orderly fashion? He had already denied it altogether.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I think there is much force, in the point of view of Order, in what has fallen from the hon. Mem- 1166 ber for East Mayo. The Question before the House is a comparatively narrow one. It is, first, whether there is a Breach of Privilege; and, secondly, whether a Committee should be appointed to inquire into certain allegations in the newspaper. I do not think this is the time in this House to try that case, or to make charges on one side or to answer them on the other. It might lead to disorder, and I may point out that if the House thinks fit to appoint the Committee, then would be the time for the inquiry, and then would come the time for charges to be made and met.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had insinuated that Judges were not to be trusted, and Home Rule Members did not believe in jurors. Then there was the alternative remaining of a Committee, and the Committee would deal with the one allegation only. Its decision would be worthless, and hon. Members would not scruple to say the Committee was prejudiced. Lastly, there was the course indicated by the Government, of which he could not say he altogether approved. The reputations of hon. Gentlemen were of infinite value to themselves, but he doubted if the British public wished to pay some thousands to sustain that reputation. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. R. T. Reid) had accused him of having from time to time hinted accusations against his fellow-countrymen. Personally, he had not a particle of animosity against any Member of the Nationalist Party—[Mr. T. M. HEALY: Nor have we for you.]—were it not for the fact that it was proposed to hand over the destinies of his country and the framing of her laws to hon. Gentlemen opposite. He did not wish to rake up memories they all wished buried in oblivion; but so long as it was proposed to hand over their destinies to the keeping of hon. Gentlemen opposite it was a duty he owed to the people he represented, who trusted him as others trusted hon. Members opposite, to point to the records of their past, showing that they gave no hope of a successful and prosperous future for Ireland.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said, the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) seemed to have the most unlimited faith in English Judges, English juries, and in the Bar. Well, 1167 he agreed with him about the Bench of the day and about the Bar, but he declined altogether to believe in the infallibility of English juries, and that was one if not the main issue they had to try. He asked the right hon. and learned Member for Bury if he had forgotten the case of Lord Cochrane, the verdict in whose case, after the greatest injustice and indignity had been inflicted, was reversed by public opinion. If he wanted an illustration of the fallibility of English juries it was not necessary to go so far back. Two or three years ago there was a 45 days' trial. The jury found a verdict which the Judge sympathized with, and which "society" concurred in; but the man on whose evidence it was obtained was now suffering imprisonment as a convict on the ground that he was a fraudulent impostor. How many hundred times had the Attorney General and the Solicitor General applied to the Court above to set aside verdicts on the ground that they were contrary to the evidence? And yet they were asked to lay down absolutely that a special jury of London or Middlesex was less likely to err than a Committee chosen from Members of the House. It was not necessary to contend that juries would act corruptly or unfairly, although the probabilities were that a jury would not be so fair as a Committee of this House. As to Members of a Committee being necessarily chosen from the sections of the House, and therefore politically interested in the decision of the Committee, where would jurymen be found who would not be identified with the same sections? In this respect hon. Members of the House were just as likely to be fair and impartial as jurors were. The right hon. and learned Member for Bury had carefully guarded himself against saying that there had not been a Breach of Privilege. The hon. and learned Solicitor General, in looking up precedents as far as time allowed, had worked remarkably well; but he had strangely omitted the last precedent and the last occasion that the question of Privilege was formally brought before the House. It was raised by the Leader of the Conservative Party—Sir Stafford Northcote—who asked the House to say by its vote that the senior right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) had committed a Breach of Privilege in making a charge against 1168 the Conservative Party. History repeated itself, for it was a similar charge to that now made. The charge then was that the Conservative Party were—Found in alliance with the Irish rebel Party, the main portion of whose funds for the purposes of agitation came directly from the avowed enemies of England and whose oath of allegiance was broken by general consent.Sir Stafford Northcote said—The right hon. Gentleman has charged the Conservative Party, in language which is very clear, with being in alliance with a rebel Party. This is language to which it is utterly impossible that hon. Members of this House can, on whatever side they sit, listen without demanding some explanation and some satisfaction for such extraordinary observations."—(3 Hansard,  803.)Sir Stafford Northcote moved that they should be regarded as a Breach of the Privileges of this House, and a Division was taken. There was not a man now in the Government and then in the House who did not vote that it was a Breach of Privilege. The Division List contained the names of the First Lord and both the Secretaries to the Treasury, the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), and the Civil Lord to the Admiralty (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett), the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Sir Henry Holland) and even that of the hon. and learned Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke). That Division meant that it was a Breach of the Privileges of the House to say that the Conservative Party were in alliance with Irish rebels. But now it was affirmed that it was not a Breach of Privilege to say that the Irish Party were in alliance with murderers and assassins. Whatever the first was, it was a political offence and this was a moral offence; that was an indiscretion and this was a crime. The same men who formerly said it was a Breach of Privilege to make such a charge, not by name against anyone, but against a Party as a whole, now said it was not in accordance with precedent to treat as a Breach of Privilege the charge that a Member had told a lie to the House in his capacity of a Member of the House, and that his Colleagues sat by and were accomplices with him in the fabrication, and that all were in league and associated with some of the vilest criminals of the United States. 1169 In asking the House to decline to treat this as a Breach of Privilege, the hon. and learned Solicitor General must take one of three grounds. He must either say that, although technically it was, substantially it was not, a Breach of Privilege; or, secondly, although technically and substantially it might be a Breach of Privilege, it was too trivial to be taken notice of; or, thirdly, that it was justifiable on the ground of its truth. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) read the part of the article which served his purpose; but he did not read that which constituted the gravamen of the charge. The right hon. and learned Member for Bury treated the matter as if it was a simple conflict of testimony, one man saying, "You are a liar," and the accused retorting, "You are another," and the House of Commons being asked to decide who spoke the truth. But that was not so. It was a serious matter, affecting not only the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and the position of the Irish Members, but also the character of the House itself. The first article said—Sheridan's direct complicity in this particular conspiracy, to murder at a time when he was Mr. Dillon's acknowledged agent, acting upon Mr. Dillon's instructions, was established beyond all controversy in the course of these same trials.There was a distinct charge that the hon. Member for East Mayo's instructions wore being given at the time when Sheridan was engaged in a particular conspiracy to murder. Then there was the statement which had been repeatedly read to the House that the hon. Member for East Mayo, in his place in the House, had uttered a tissue of gross and palpable falsehoods. But the last sentence of the article had not been read to the House. It was this—In either case—whether he recklessly palmed off on the House as ascertained facts within his personal knowledge a mass of confused, inaccurate, and unexamined memories, or he deliberately told the House a detailed story, which he knew to be untrue—several of his Colleagues must have known that his statements were unfounded. The Party sat exulting by, and endorsed the fabrication.What was the comment? It was this—The letter has now come to be regarded, as we always intended it should be, as a part of a long series of statements founded upon unquestionable evidence, and indisputably connecting 1170 Mr. Parnell and the rest of the 'Constitutional agitators' with associations for the perpetration of outrages and murder.It was added that the first article—Demonstrates what is the main point in connection with the general question that the most solemn, passionate, and detailed denials by Members of the Parnellite Party can be, and are, offered to the House of Commons and the country when there is not a scrap of fact to support them.And the article wound up with this—The Parnellite Party are proved to be the close associates of murderers, and are also shown to be conspicuously destitute of that quality which Englishmen rightly prize above all others as the indispensable foundation of character.That was one of the gravest charges ever brought against any Member of that House. The rule which his right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) wisely laid down in 1880 was that that House was not to take notice of questions of criticism—that criticism was not a Broach of Privilege. But this was not a charge of criticism; it was a charge which affected the character of 86 Members of the House; it affected the character of the Liberal Party. He was glad the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer [Mr. Goschen) took that down. He (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) repeated it. The Liberal Party had been hold up to scorn as the associates of men who did not scruple to commit the vilest of crimes. The Liberal Party had a character at stake. He went further and said the House of Commons had a character at stake. If these men were guilty of what The Times charged them with they ought to be expelled from the House. And how could the Liberal Party vindicate themselves except by the Constitutional precedents and practice of the House, by inquiry within the House into charges of misconduct by Gentlemen within the House? The Times had singled him out as one of the associates of those criminals. If he knowingly associated himself with men guilty of those crimes he deserved to be expelled. The hon. Member for North Armagh was pleased to designate this as a narrow and contracted issue, saying that all that could be inquired into was simply the truth or falsehood of the statements of the hon. Member for East Mayo. Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman be surprised to hear that 1171 there was a disposition on the part of hon. Members below the Gangway that the inquiry should hare a much wider range? Since he had begun speaking one of the Irish Party had sent him a telegram received from the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) stating that he was quite willing the inquiry should extend to the forged letter. That was a challenge which the Government were bound to meet. What was the objection to granting the Committee? He had shown that the House itself was the only complete judge of its own character, and it had invariably exercised disciplinary jurisdiction over the conduct of its own Members. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) urged two objections, one to the composition of the Committee, and the other to its powers. Now, he (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) had himself some experience of Courts of Law, and some experience of Committees of that House; he had been before them; he had sat on them; and he would repeat that a Select Committee of the House of Commons was the fairest tribunal which could possibly be had. There were men sitting there who could name at once Members who were known to be utterly incapable of discharging improperly any judicial functions, men whose lives had been spent in that House, whose characters were part of its character, who had raised the reputation of the House, and were they to be supposed incapable of trying whether a letter was a forged letter or not? The noble Lord's second objection was that the Committee would not have power to make the investigation properly. But there was no power which Courts of Law possessed which the House of Commons did not possess. It could examine on oath; it could send for persons and papers; it could enforce attendance, and go over the whole range of inquiry far better than a Court of Law. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General had talked of the promptitude with which a Court of Law could deal with the matter. We had had recently many instances of the length of time which Courts of Law had taken in trying the cases which came before them. There was no higher authority in that House on a question of law than the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries (Mr. R. T. Reid), and he had stated distinctly that in criminal proceedings in 1172 a Court of Law it would be impossible to cross-examine the printer, publisher, or editor of The Times, and without such cross-examination it would be absolutely impossible properly to investigate this case. The hon. and learned Solicitor General had said that there was no precedent for the case. He agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman that there was no precedent. There never had been during the 600 or 700 years of the history of this Parliament such grave charges brought against Members of Parliament. The persons who brought the charges said they were prepared to substantiate them, but the course proposed by the Government was without precedent. They refused to declare that a Breach of Privilege had been committed, and they refused a Committee of Inquiry into such grave charges brought against hon. Members for their conduct in the House. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington had said that there was something higher than Parliament, higher than Courts of Law. There was something higher than both; there was a Court which could be appealed to from a decision of Parliament or of a Court of Law, and that higher tribunal was the constituencies of the country. He knew how the House would decide to-night. One of the Members of the triumvirate who held the destinies of the House indicated which way the House would go. But there would be an appeal, and the hearing of that appeal had already commenced. The Conservative Press, the Unionist Press had discerned that the instinct of fair play which was one of the dominant factors in the formation of English public opinion—was already resenting, and would hereafter resent in louder tones, the refusal of a Parliamentary inquiry into the most serious charges affecting the character, the morality, and the political life of the Leaders any section of that House. He ventured to say in no spirit of defiant boast, but from profound conviction, that the majority of that night would hereafter deeply regret not on Party, but on higher, grounds that they declined to take the most obvious, the most Constitutional, and the most expeditious mode of defending Parliament against one of the gravest assaults which had ever been made upon the honour and the dignity of the House of Commons.
§ MR. MACINNES (Northumberland, Hexham)
said, the real question before the House was, did they or did they not desire that an inquiry should be held into the truth or falsehood of this inquiry? They had all listened with great interest to many able and eloquent speeches from lawyers on both sides of the House upon the question of precedent and Privilege, but possibly an ordinary layman might be excused if he came to the conclusion that on matters of precedent and Privilege there was a great deal to be said on both sides; and though it might appear unseemly for any Member sitting in the House to speak lightly of precedent and Privilege, yet he would venture to say that many hon, Members in the House, and certainly a very large number of the public outside the House, were not nearly so much interested in ingenious disquisitions on precedent and Privilege as they were in the main question—was there or was there not to be an inquiry into the truth or falsehood of these accusations? It was said that we were all agreed that there should be an inquiry, and that the only question about which there was any difference of opinion was whether the inquiry should be made in the Courts of Law or before a Committee of that House; but with all due respect, he ventured to say that that was not the case—that at least was not the question upon which the House had to decide, because the question as to the settlement of the matter in the Courts of Law had already been decided. To bring about an inquiry in the Courts of Law the initiative must be taken by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), and that hon. Member had told the House fairly, frankly, and most distinctly what his course would be—and had given very clearly his reasons—and whether they might or might not agree with the hon. Member for East Mayo that was not the question before the House. He must say that he (Mr. MacInnes) thought the Member had undue apprehensions with regard to the matter, but though he did not share the hon. Member's feelings he could understand and respect them. The hon. Member had told the House plainly that he would not take any action in the Courts of Law, but he had offered with equal frankness to submit his case to a 1174 Special Committee of the House of Commons. A great many allusions had been made to the fact that Irish Members had been somewhat slow in bringing these serious accusations which had been made against them before the House of Commons, and he admitted that it was a matter of deep regret that they did not sooner take action in the matter; but it was not for him to inquire into the motives which actuated hon. Members in the course which they thought it wise and prudent to pursue in a matter which so deeply affected themselves. It was sufficient for him to know that the Irish Members now courted the fullest inquiry; and every fair-minded man must have rejoiced to see as the debate had proceeded how the scope of the inquiry had been widened and extended. That night it had been still further expanded by the speech of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), who stated that not only were the Party willing that the conduct of the hon. Member for East Mayo should be considered by a Committee of the House, but the whole conduct of the Party which had been impugned—and he thought the country would hear with great satisfaction of the telegram from the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), unreservedly putting his case before a Special Committee of the House, if only the House would appoint such a Committee. A great deal had been said about the proceedings before a Committee, and it was abundantly clear if there was an inquiry, whatever the tribunal before which it took place, there would be a great deal of criticism of the proceedings before the tribunal, and of its decision, whatever it might be; but he asked if that were any reason for stifling inquiry? because at this moment they had only one avenue of inquiry open to them, and if they refused to grant a Committee they would in effect stifle inquiry, whatever they might say to the contrary. The question, therefore, for the decision of the House was—Did they want an inquiry or did they not? It had been said that the Government had done all that was needful, and that it rested with the hon. Member for East Mayo to take advantage of the proceedings they offered to initiate. But, as the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) eloquently expressed 1175 it, they were all interested in this matter, and he was astonished to hear hon. Members opposite declare that it was a matter which only affected the character of the hon. Member for East Mayo. Hon. Members opposite, when they voted, as he feared they would vote, in large numbers against this Amendment, were really voting on a foregone conclusion that there should be no inquiry, Hon. Members on his side of the House, on the other hand, who were going to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), had, at all events, the comfort and consolation of knowing that if a Select Committee could be granted an inquiry would immediately follow, and they ventured to think that a time would come when some hon. Members opposite would regret that they had taken the course that night which would end in there being no inquiry into these shameful charges.
§ SIR ROBERT FOWLER (London)
said, that the proposition of hon. Gentlemen opposite was that they should leave the decision of this question to a Committee of the House. But he believed it had been said by some hon. Gentlemen opposite that hon. Members on his side of the House had already made up their minds on the question. That might be so; and he did not think he would be very far wrong if he said that a great many hon. Gentlemen opposite had also already made up their minds. He would ask how it was possible that any Committee could arrive at a conclusion which would give satisfaction to the House; for everyone must feel certain that the result of an inquiry by Committee would be a majority and a minority Report. For his own part, he might say that he would certainly be unfit to serve on any such Committee, and if he were nominated for it, the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) would be perfectly justified in challenging his nomination. It was said by hon. Gentlemen opposite that a Committee of the House would be a more impartial tribunal than a Middlesex jury. As representing a Metropolitan constituency, he thought he was only doing justice to his constituents when he said that it would be easier to find 12 impartial jurymen than it would be to find 16 impartial men in that 1176 House. It was also said that juries in London and Middlesex were prejudiced by what they read in the Press. He would remind hon. Members, however, that the Press advocated two sides of this question. There was an able portion of the Press which strongly supported the views entertained by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). On the other hand, there was, doubtless, a large number of powerful newspapers which advocated the views held by Conservative Members. The men who would sit on a jury would be comparatively impartial for this reason—that they only knew the hon. Member for Cork and the hon. Member for East Mayo, and other Members of the Irish Party, as public men. They had read their speeches in the Press, but they had no personal acquaintance with those hon. Gentlemen. He maintained that such a tribunal would be more prepared to give an impartial consideration to this question than hon. Members of the House, who, night after night, had been brought into hostile conflict with hon. Gentlemen opposite. He did not wish to say anything uncourteous, but there could be no doubt that hon. Members, on his own side of the House especially, were brought night after night into personal hostility with hon. Members from Ireland; and, that being the case, he did not think that hon. Members who differed from the hon. Member for Cork and his followers—and who were subject to interruptions in debate and exclamations which were not altogether pleasant to hear—were likely to give such an impartial verdict as 12 jurors who had no personal knowledge of these hon. Gentlemen, and who could come to the consideration of the matter with fresh minds. To appoint a Committee meant that the hon. Member for East Mayo was to be the absolute judge of the tribunal by whom he was to be tried. That was a concession which the House could not grant to anyone. They must all form their opinions as to which tribunal would be the most impartial to try a question of this kind. As he unhesitatingly believed that the matter would be more likely to be fairly, justly, and truly tried by a jury than it could be by those whose minds were prejudiced by the stormy conflicts in the 1177 House, he should vote for the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, there was nothing so beautiful as modesty. He could assure the hon. Baronet that they had a far better opinion of him on that side of the House than he had of himself. They had also a better opinion of hon. Gentlemen who sat on the Ministerial side of the House than the hon. Baronet appeared to have, and they did not consider that it was impossible to find 10 men who could give a fair verdict upon this question. He could assure the hon. Baronet that if he were put upon the Committee the Irish Members would willingly accept him. The hon. Baronet told the House that he would not be a fair man to appoint on the Committee because he would be prejudiced by the fact that occasionally hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House interrupted him. He was sure the hon. Baronet had exaggerated when he said that. The hon. Baronet then said that the Committee would take a considerable time to investigate these charges. He thought it possible that the Committee would take some time; but when the hon. Baronet said that it must take a considerable time because the Committee would not sit de die in diem, the Committee appointed to inquire into the corrupt practices of the City of London not having sat from day to day, he would point out, in reply, that there was an arrangement for the general convenience that that Committee should not sit from day to day. In this particular case, however, everyone would be so anxious to have the matter settled that the Committee would sit probably from day to day. He was not surprised that the hon. Baronet had so high an opinion of Middlesex juries, He pointed out that the Sheriffs of Middlesex were Sheriffs of the City of London, and there was not the slightest doubt that the next most virtuous man in the whole world to a juryman in the City of London was a juryman of Middlesex. When the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) began his speech he was under the impression that the hon. and gallant Member was going to vote in favour of a Committee being appointed, because he said the charges of The Times must be taken 1178 notice of by the House of Commons. But how did he propose to do this? By bandying accusations backwards and forwards from one side of the House to the other? The hon. and gallant Member was so Irish that he wished to convert the House into an Irish faction fight. The hon. and gallant Member said that his main objection to a Committee was that its scope would be too narrow; but since the hon. and gallant Member had spoken a telegram had been received from the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), in which he stated that he was perfectly ready to enlarge the scope of the inquiry and, if it was desired, that the forged letter should be submitted to the Committee in the same way as the article complained of. In these circumstances, he thought they had a right to claim the vote of the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh. He was an honourable man, and he had no doubt that he would recognize their claim and vote with the Opposition on this matter, especially since the receipt of this telegram. It was remarkable that no one on the Treasury Bench had addressed the House except the legal Members of the Government. When a private individual got into a great mess and did not know how to get out of it he consulted his lawyers. However reasonable this might be on the part of a private individual, it was hardly fitting conduct on the part of a Government in a great Parliamentary and national question like this, in which the honour of a Member of the House and the honour of the House of Commons itself was involved. Not only did the Government consult their lawyers, but up to the present time their lawyers only had spoken for them. This had been carried so far that the Liberal Unionist supporters of the Government on his own side of the House put forward an ex-Attorney General. What had been the result of this consultation of the lawyers and the speeches they had made? It was that the House affirmed the previous night that the charge of falsehood against an hon. Member was not a Breach of the Privileges of the House. It was afterwards urged that, while it was admitted that this was not a Breach of Privilege, the House should prosecute The Times for having committed what was not a Breach of Privilege. On what possible grounds except 1179 that it was a Breach of Privilege should hon. Gentlemen say that the public Exchequer ought to be called upon to pay for one side of this prosecution, and that The Times—he was no friend of The Times—should be called upon to incur this vast expense for doing what the great majority of hon. Members on the opposite side of the House said it did most properly and righteously. The Attorney General said that it was monstrous to say that this prosecution would be a bogus one. He quite agreed with him; he did not believe it would be a bogus prosecution. He would toll the hon. and learned Gentleman what was bogus however. The bogus proposed was that there should be a prosecution at all. Before that proposal was made, it was perfectly well known to hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Irish Members and the hon. Member for East Mayo would have refused it. Those charges had been made again and again, and it was not likely that hon. Members from Ireland would be forced into a prosecution now simply because the Government offered to pay the expense, as if the honour of Irish Members was a question of pounds, shillings, and pence. He considered the Irish Members were perfectly right in declining the proposal, and they had been perfectly right not to begin a prosecution against The Times. His reason for saying so was that, notwithstanding what had fallen from the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir Robert Fowler), they would have no sort of chance of a fair trial before a Middlesex jury. They had heard a great deal of clap-trap about trial by jury in the course of that debate. The Gentleman who indulged most in it was the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James). The right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of trial by jury in terms which must have almost made Lord Erskine turn in his grave. He spoke of it in terms which he had no doubt many and many a time addressed to that noble institution. But hon. Members were called upon to believe that it was perfectly monstrous on the part of the Irish Members to doubt and hesitate whether they would obtain justice from a Middlesex jury. He need not point out to Gentlemen who were lawyers that there was nothing more common in this country 1180 than for an individual who wanted to bring an action or defend an action to be told that he would not get justice from the jury. Had they never heard of a change of venue on the ground of a prejudice existing on the one side or the other? Had they not heard of the difference between an ordinary and a special jury? Why did persons ask for a special jury? He had done it himself, and had had to pay £12 12s., because he believed he should be more likely to get justice from a special jury than an ordinary jury. It might be said that was a reflection on the character of a jury. Certainly it was. No one would deny that there was on the part of a great number of persons in Middlesex a very strong prejudice against the Irish. It was proved at the last Election. He was in a suburban train the other day, and happening to be in a first-class carriage—perhaps he should have heard better sentiments if he had been in a third-class one—he found four or five gentlemen discussing the Irish Question. They all seemed to disagree, but upon one thing they entirely agreed—namely, that it would do good to the country if the hon. Member for Cork were incontinently hanged. This jury would have to decide whether The Times was criminal or not. If it was, then, by the law, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House was equally criminal. The man who sold the newspaper was equally liable for its contents with the man who printed it. The law was an absurd one, but so it was. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, the head of the Conservatives, was deservedly popular. Would not the jury hesitate—particularly if they were taken from the Strand Division—to bring in a verdict against The Times, when its effect might be to put the man whom they deservedly respected in the dock on the same charge? He did not say that Middlesex juries were packed, but he maintained they could be packed. How was a Middlesex jury chosen? The Sheriffs of London were elected by the Corporation of London.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he believed the Livery were a shade worse. By the fact of their being Sheriffs of London they were Sheriffs of Middlesex. They appointed Under Sheriffs; these in turn had their subordinates, who went to some particular district and always took the jury from one particular district. The selection of the panel was absolutely and entirely in their hands, and they might act fairly or they might act unfairly. They knew the Livery of London was Conservative, and they knew that, as a general rule, it was well to stand well with their employers. With these facts before them, the Irish Members would be foolish, indeed, to submit their case to a Middlesex jury. It was not only the jury who would be prejudiced. A considerable number of the Judges were prejudiced. Mr. Justice Stephen undoubtedly would do justice; but he had a bias in his mind, and had written letters to The Times very much in the strain of those which were the subject of discussion. He asked any reasonable men whether, if a jury were taken from the Strand Division, and if Mr. Justice Stephen were to be the Judge on the case, the Court would command entire confidence? A jury of that House would be selected by the Committee of Selection, honourable and experienced men whom no one suspected would not be able to act honestly and justly. Hon. Gentlemen opposite believed themselves so entirely prejudiced that they could not express an unbiased opinion on the case; but he had a better opinion of them than they had of themselves. He was not a Conservative, and he did not agree with them; but he did not believe they were such a Sodom that one could not find half-a-dozen honest men among them. Now, when it was urged that in a political issue Members of the House of Commons were never impartial, he might almost call Mr. Speaker as his witness. Some 20 years ago he was returned as Member for Windsor. Someone brought a Petition against him. One of his agents had infringed the law in some little trifling matter; he did not remember what it was. The Committee appointed was a Liberal Committee, the present Speaker being one of the Liberals upon it, and they voided the Election. [Laughter.] He could assure those hon. Gentlemen who laughed that all the Members who served on that 1182 Committee were not such prejudiced scoundrels as they seemed to imagine. Once or twice occasionally there was a certain bias, but in the main the decisions were perfectly fair—as fair as he had not the slightest doubt the decision was in his own case. He wanted to know how possibly it could be asserted that a jury of Middlesex would not be prejudiced, and yet that Members of this House would be prejudiced? There was a very good and sound reason why everybody should prefer a Committee of the House to any jury. It was because in a matter of libel it was always an advantage to the defendant and a disadvantage to the bringer of the action, and for this reason, that the man who brought the action had to bet 12 to 1 on himself. He had had actions brought against him in which the plaintiffs had had to bet 12 to 1; but they had lost their actions. He had been libelled more than once, but he had never been such a fool as to bring an action. In the case of a Committee, however, the betting would be even, the decision being by a majority, and that was an important feature in this matter. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had come to the conclusion that in Ireland Irishmen ought not to be tried by juries, because juries would be unfair, but that they should be tried by these half-pay captains who were appointed Resident Magistrates. Irishmen said—"We object to be tried by English juries;" and he thought that the two tribunals would be equal in fairness. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) had said that the Irish Members would not accept the finding of a Committee of the House of Commons. But if they would not accept the finding of a Committee, would they accept the finding of a jury? They distinctly said they objected to a London jury, but not to a Committee of the House of Commons. Obviously they would place themselves in a most contemptible position if, after electing to have their case examined by a Committee, they refused to accept the verdict. They would honestly accept the finding of the Committee. What was the reason the Government were pursuing this foolish and suicidal course? He knew that they would do it. He had been asked in the Lobby why he knew it, and he replied that he knew it because he had 1183 read an article in The Times that morning, saying—"We do not think that the House will be well advised in dealing with the question as one of Privilege." He knew that the Government had received their orders. He know that their orders were in substance—"On every occasion, at any cost, at any risk, at any sacrifice, even of honour, evade, for Heaven's sake, this inquiry." No wonder that the Government should obey The Times; The Times was their trusted ally, and the Conservatives had adopted its views. What would be said of Conservative and Unionist Gentlemen who had scattered these charges broadcast if no proof were adduced of these charges? They would be regarded as persons even meaner than The Times, because the person who hired a bravo was even moaner than the bravo himself. There was a saying—"Set a thief to catch a thief;" but he had never heard of a receiver of stolen goods being anxious that there should be a fair investigation into the theft. He considered that the Irish Members had been perfectly right in treating with contempt the accusations levelled against them by The Times. What did The Times say? It said that it would simply have to place Mr. Dillon's denial side by side with extracts from The Irish World, The Freeman's Journal, and United Ireland. That was to say that The Times, when confronted, did not pretend that it had any fresh evidence. All these articles which it bad been swaggering and boasting about were merely a re-hash of accusations made again and again, and despised and refuted again and again by the Irish Members. The Irish Members had not brought this matter before the House—it had been brought forward by a Conservative—but they had said that they were ready to accept any investigation by a Committee into their conduct. After that he thought they ought to treat with redoubled contempt any further lies, false letters, and accusations on the part of The Times, however much it might choose to misrepresent them. What was The Times that any suck accusations should be treated as of importance? The Times was no Divine oracle sent down from Heaven; The Times was merely Mr. Walter. He had sat in that House with Mr. Walter, who was a quiet, decent, respectable man, no doubt; but he had never heard 1184 of anybody who had paid the slightest attention to any single word that Mr. Walter had said in that House. [Laughter, and Ministerial cries of "No!"] No? Well, he congratulated Mr. Walter on the fact that there were three Gentlemen who had paid attention to his words; his followers were small in number, though, no doubt, important. The Irish Members had good authority and good precedent for treating with contempt everything that fell from The Times. The Times had attacked Mr. Cobden and the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) in a series of the most atrocious articles, and Mr. Cobden had written to the editor of The Times asking—Is it seriously contended that as often as you choose to pervert the sense of our speeches, and to charge us with a scheme of public robbery, the onus lies with us to disprove the imputation, and that we have no right to complain if we do not do so that we are henceforth to be treated as robbers?The Times had progressed since then; it now called people the associates of assassins; but the system was the same and ought to be treated in the same way, and he trusted that hon. Members below the Gangway would act as the right hon. Member for Birmingham and Mr. Cobden had acted. The fact was that the Tory Party were thoroughly in a bog. They might be dragged out of it by the brute force of their majority; but they would come out of it discredited and bespattered. This debate had been most useful to those sitting on the Opposition side of the House. It had clearly shown what was the meaning of all the vapourings about a desire for investigation, and it now appeared that neither The Times nor the Government dared to face an investigation. ["Oh, oh!" and cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite laughed. Did they dare to face the investigation? Would they change their minds now at the eleventh hour, and allow the investigation to take place? This debate might also teach hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite a useful lesson—namely, never to pay in advance for political services. If they were wise they would learn experience by what had occurred. In future they would probably never make their Baronets at the commencement of a Parliament. They would wait till the end. They might rest assured that the recipient 1185 of promotion so prematurely conferred would be extremely anxious to make it believed that he was made a Baronet on his own merits. He would be sure to take an opportunity of acting against his own Party in order to show what an independent man he was. While he condoled with hon. Members opposite for the Baronet they had made, and for the cruel return they had received, they on the Opposition side of the House were sincerely and truly thankful to the hon. Baronet for having done them an inestimable service by enabling them to repel these charges which had been brought against their Friends in Ireland, and by showing that when they were perfectly ready to face an investigation, hon. Members opposite ran away.
§ MR. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
said the hon. baronet the Member for North Antrim had certainly managed to bring about a debate which had been most damaging to the Government, and this was the opinion of their own journal, The Standard. There were two points that distinguished this case from that of any precedent that had been quoted. The charges complained of did not appear in an isolated article. There had been a series of articles blackening and maligning the character of five-sixths of the Irish Representatives, and those articles were written not merely for the purpose of influencing public opinion, but for the deliberate purpose of influencing the votes of certain Members upon a certain measure before the House. They were intended, as had been well said, to make the weak-kneed Liberal Unionists stick to their guns and to bind them closer to the Ministerial chariot. The House had already declared that these charges did not constitute a Breach of Privilege, but if they did not, what in Heaven's name did? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury had said that Privilege was a rusty sword If that Resolution was to hold good, it was, it would seem, something even worse—it was a Government cutlass. It seemed now that the whole idea of Breach of Privilege, which had lasted these hundreds of years, was at the bidding of a Conservative Government, to vanish like a dream. The Ministerial decision was enough to make some of the Speaker's Predecessors turn in their graves. It amounted to this—that the 1186 foulest and blackest and most unfounded charges might be brought, not only against one Member but against some 80 or 90 Members, and that when those charges were solemnly denied in this House, that denial was made an occasion for restating the charges, and the hon. Members who denied them were branded as liars, and yet that was not a matter of Privilege. An hon. Member had said that the House was the guardian of its own honour. All he could say was the present views held by the majority of the House on the question of Privilege that guardianship would be the merest sinecure ever imposed on a great assembly. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill') had urged that the Members attacked should bring, what he once called, "a more or less collusive action in a Court of Law. In the meantime, however, they were to be assumed to be guilty. This was a strange perversion of the old English maxim, that a man was to be presumed to be innocent until he was proved to be guilty—a privilege which we conceded to the meanest criminal at the bar, but which we denied to the chosen representatives of the Irish nation. But since the House had decided that this was not a Breach of Privilege, what right had the Government to spend public money in prosecuting a newspaper.which had not committed a Breach of Privilege? The hon. Member for East Mayo refused, and quite rightly, to enter any such prosecution. He would go into Court with all the prejudices against him due to the fact that this House had refused him the protection which the House usually afforded to its Members. The right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) said that fact would not be before the jury. But of course it would be in the minds of the jury. The right hon. and learned Gentleman also denied that there would be any delay, and he said the whole matter could he decided in six weeks. Would he contend that it was possible to instruct counsel and get the witnesses from America in six weeks? Reference had also been made to the Judges. He would not say a word in disparagement of the present members of the Judicial Bench; but judges were men, and it was well known that one of them at 1187 least had spoken on this Irish Question in terms of extreme bitterness and acrimony. He did not for a moment suggest that there would not be a fair trial before Mr. Justice Stephen; but a Judge, like Cæsar's wife, ought to be above suspicion; and what would those who throughout the country sympathized with the hon. Member for East Mayo think of a trial before that learned Judge? As to the jury, that was an unknown quantity. For his own part he very much doubted whether any Irish Home Ruler would get a fair trial before a Special Jury of London stockbrokers. And there was this essential difference between a jury and a Committee of this House—that one juror could render the trial abortive. It was said that Party feeling was so strong that it would not be possible to get an impartial Committee; but he considered it a gross reflection on the character of the House to say that out of its 670 Members it would not be possible to select 15 or 16 English and Scotch Gentlemen who would do their duty. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington said that the House of Commons was powerless against the Press, that all the House could do was to grovel before this many-headed and many-tongued monster. That was the most humiliating position to take up. Would the noble Lord have taken that view if the character of 86 Conservative Members had been at stake? The result of the action of the Government would be that the opinion would grow up in the country, and it would be very difficult to disprove it, that the application of the law of Privilege depended, like so many other questions, upon considerations of nationality and race. The country would get the idea that as the Government were determined to establish two standards of crime, one for Englishmen and another for Irishmen, so they were determined to establish two standards of Privilege, one for English Members and another for Irish Members. He appealed to the Liberal Unionists, who were so anxious to have one and the same law for England and Ireland, and who, he supposed, managed to reconcile that wish with their votes in support of coercion—he appealed to them to support the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian in the approaching Division, Of this he was sure, that nothing could do 1188 more to widen the breach between the two nations, which, Heaven knew, was wide enough already, and to precipitate the crisis which they were anxious to avert, than the course which the Government, with the aid of their mechanical majority, were pursuing.
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)
said, he would warn the House to be careful before they rushed to admiration of British juries in a political case. He would take up the challenge of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury to produce a case which showed that they could not be trusted in times of political excitement. In 1881 six persons were charged with bribery committed at the recent Boston election. The cases were tried before Mr. Justice Stephen at the Lincoln Assizes, and the defendants were all acquitted. Describing the result of one of the Boston cases, The Times, which was so much in favour with the Party opposite, said that after a long deliberation the jury returned a verdict of "Not Guilty." After the verdict there was a loud outburst of applause, especially on the two front benches, which were reserved for the jurymen in waiting. That was a specimen of the independence of juries on political matters. The Judge then ordered "the man with the red face," as The Times described one of these expectant jurymen, to be brought forward, and he turned out to be a farmer of 200 or 300 acres, and fined him £5. The Judge was then informed that the delinquent was one of the jurors in the next case. The Judge then expressed his opinion that the public should be informed of this state of things, and ordered that that particular juror should not be called upon. This was the sort of jury to which the Irish Members were told to go. He hoped he had mot the challenge of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The Times commented in the most caustic terms on the sympathy of Lincolnshire jurymen with bribers, and said that grave dissatisfaction would be generally felt at the existence of such a state of things. The Times further said that the person charged with perjury and acquitted was charged practically on his own confession, and that in refusing to convict the Lincolnshire jury had, perhaps, only done what other juries had done all over the country in political cases, that the juryman who was fined £5 was probably 1189 neither better nor worse than his fellows, and that they only shared in the common local feeling. What had been the course of the Government in this matter? The hon. Baronet brought forward his Motion. A conference then took place between the Leaders of the Government and the Law Officers, and the decision was arrived at not to accept the hon. Baronet's Motion. The offer of the Government was that the case should be tried before a jury by means of a criminal information. Did the Government, in making that offer, honestly believe that it would be accepted? They knew perfectly well, for they had heard it over and over again, that the Irish Members would decline to go before a jury. The Solicitor General knew it, the Attorney General knew it, and every Member of the Government knew it. The Government had found themselves in a corner. They found that the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Lewis) had played a card honestly as far as he was concerned, but a very false one so far as the Government were concerned, and they wanted to get out of the difficulty, so they resorted to another card trick. [Cries of "Oh, oh!" from the Ministerial Benches.] He called it the card trick—[Cries of "Oh, oh!"]—not in any offensive sense. [Renewed cries of "Oh, oh!" and a Voice, "Certainly not."] There were so many games of cards, and he was referring to innocent games, playful games. [Cries of "Withdraw!" from the Ministerial Benches, and "No, no!" from the Opposition.]
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir EDWARD CLARKE) (Plymouth)
I rise to Order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to ask whether the hon. Member is within the bounds of courtesy and Order in saying that the Attorney General and the Solicitor General had resorted to another card trick?
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is not a Parliamentary expression, and I hope the hon. and learned Member will withdraw it.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he willingly withdrew the expression, but he thought he had conveyed to the House that he did not use it in any offensive sense, but only in the way it was used every day. What he wished to convey to the House was that the Government in proposing that there should be a criminal prosecution must have known that their pro- 1190 posal would not be accepted, as the Irish Members had already refused to take such a course. This was not playing the game fairly. The Government had been most unfair; they knew that a prosecution could not be confined to the Dillon article of the 2nd of May, but must extend to a far larger field. Their proposal, however, simply included the Dillon article, and had no reference to the alleged forged letter. Perhaps the Government had found that the latter could not be substantiated. They knew that if they went before a jury that letter would be excluded; but if a Committee were granted it might inquire into the alleged forged letter and all the charges which had been brought against hon. Members below the Gangway. [Sir EDWARD CLARKE: Bead the Amendment.] Perhaps that was another technical objection. He supposed that it was possible to amend the Amendment so as to include any charge which had ever been made against hon. Members below the Gangway. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would get up and say that he would accept a general inquiry, because he felt certain that nothing less than such an inquiry would be satisfactory to the country.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
Mr. Speaker, the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down (Mr. Anderson) has indirectly criticized the Amendment which is submitted to us by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). He has asked the Government why they cannot extend this matter to a general inquiry into all the charges which have been made against hon. Members who represent the Nationalist Party in Ireland? Why has he not addressed that question to his own Leader? I suppose it is because, as yet, his own Leader has not re-appeared in the House, and is not at present sitting on the Bench opposite. [Cries of "Oh!" from the Irish Members.] Yes; it is an absence which I regret. I am aware that right hon. Gentlemen opposite have expected a Member of Her Majesty's Cabinet to intervene at this moment in the debate; and, if so, I think that we might also fairly claim—[Cries of "Oh!'']—I think that we might fairly claim the presence of my right hon. 1191 Friend; and I will say why, and will leave hon. Members themselves to determine whether they think it is best that the right hon. Gentleman should be criticized in his absence or in his presence. It will be my duty to comment upon some of the statements of my right hon. Friend; and, at all events, it will not be my fault, if I do not see him before me in this House and able to accept or to contradict the construction which I shall put on certain of the expressions which he has addressed to us. But the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down taunts the Government with attempting to limit this inquiry. Do I interpret him rightly? Why, he has also vanished from the House; and I am, therefore, unable to elicit a reply from him. [Cries of "Oh!" from the Irish Members.] I do not understand the remonstrance which comes from hon. Members below the Gangway opposite. Do they not think that I am entitled to ask what was the effect of the speech of the hon. and learned Member? What was the effect of that speech? I say that, as regards the Amendment which is now before the House, the Government have absolutely no responsibility whatever. I admit the objection which my right hon. Friend has made to the proposition I am laying down. The hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis) submitted a limited Motion to this House. The hon. and learned Solicitor General has moved that this case is not a Breach of Privilege. On that, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian confines his Amendment to this one particular point of the alleged falsehood charged against the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). If the issue is limited, it is not the fault of the Government, and I feel sure that right hon. Gentlemen opposite are perfectly aware that I am stating the case correctly and fully. Whether the Amendment is to be extended or not does not rest with Her Majesty's Government. It rests with those who have chosen to submit this Amendment now before the House, for the appointment of a Select Committee. It rests with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian to determine what scope he will give to his own Motion, and it is rather hard upon the Government, on the fourth night of this 1192 debate, to have it thrown in their teeth that they do not know what the scope of that Motion is, and that we are attempting to limit it. Do the Opposition stand by the Motion which they have made, or do they wish to change it on the fourth night of this debate? Do they wish to change the issue after they have been fighting upon this particular issue for the last three nights? They are silent upon that point; but, perhaps, at a later hour of the evening, we may hear what course they intend to pursue, though I think it will be rather late for them to make a change of front. Now, Mr. Speaker, I would wish to make a remark which I should have preferred to make in the presence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian. I wish he were present in his capacity of Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition and of the united Party who sit above the Gangway and below the Gangway. Let me recall the attention of the House to a painful incident, if I may call it so. Let mo recall to the notice of the House the observations which fell from the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) with regard to the Leader of this House—to the personalities which the hon. and learned Member chose to pour out with regard to the Leader of this House and the Leader of the Conservative Party. Well, Sir, I think my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) can well afford to pass by the observations which were made by the hon. and learned Member, and the House, though it felt it was a painful thing to listen to that flood of personalities, will also pass them by; but I should have liked to know what was the feeling of the Leader of the Opposition when he heard that new style from his allies below the Gangway. [An hon. MEMBER: He was not here.] [An hon. MEMBER on the Ministerial side: He cheered them.] My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) was not present, and I can tell him that the Leader of the Opposition was present, and I felt for my right hon. Friend. [Cries of "Oh!" from the Irish Members.) Yes; I am not surprised at the scoffs from hon. Members below the Gangway, for they do not know how my right hon. Friend has been the guardian of the best traditions of this House, and with what pain expressions and personalities 1193 such as proceeded from the hon. and learned Member for North Longford must have fallen on the ears of a man who has been the associate of a Palmerston, of a Russell, and of all the great statesmen of his time. Mr. Speaker, the Law Officers of the Crown have placed before this House, and with conspicuous ability, the case of the precedents which govern this matter, and they have not been overthrown by hon. Gentlemen opposite. [Cries of "Oh!" from the Irish Members.] I do not know whether all the Members of this House were present when the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) admitted that there was no precedent analogous to the present situation. But leaving the more legal and technical part of the case to the Law Officers of the Grown, I am anxious to establish, and I believe I can undertake to establish, that this case is totally different from any other of the alleged precedents where there have been Committees of Inquiry or Votes of this House in regard to Breach of Privilege. I can undertake to show that there are considerations in this matter that are totally different, and which remove this case entirely from the region of precedent, even if it were possible to establish formal precedents in this instance. One word I may perhaps be allowed to say in regard to the precedents that have been alleged. It has been shown by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), that in almost every instance the precedents which have been quoted, and alleged to govern this case, have been cases in which the conduct of a Member has been impugned in his capacity of acting in the particular service of the House. To-night a new precedent has been quoted—but a precedent not with regard to the proposal of an inquiry, but on the point of Breach of Privilege; and I ask the House to draw a distinction between the case of an examination by a Committee and a Vote of the House as regards Privilege. A new case has been cited with regard to my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), where the House took action, and where there was a Vote of the House in reference to words spoken by my right hon. Friend. Does the right hon. Member for East Wol- 1194 verhampton say that that bears on the present case? He is silent.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
It certainly bears upon the present case. I simply said that it went to show that Members of the present Administration are inconsistent in saying that a charge against Members of this House of being in alliance with murderers and assassins is not a Breach of Privilege. In the case of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, they voted that being in alliance with the Irish Rebels was a Broach of Privilege.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Have we asserted that a Breach of Privilege has not been committed? Has that been the object of hon. Members on this side of the House? [Ironical cheers from the Irish Members, and interruption.] My right hon. Friend opposite, who objects to so great an extent to interruptions from this side—and I believe my hon. Friends on this side of the House are probably still smarting from the castigation which he has administered to them sometimes for their interruption—will now be able to judge, from the conduct of his allies below the Gangway, to what extent example may be infectious. I am not quite so sensitive as some right hon. Gentlemen to interruptions. They seem to me to be often a tonic and a stimulus to a speaker. At the same time, I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite—as followers of my right hon. Friend who objects to continuous interruption—to give me a fair, if not a very patient, hearing during the observations which I feel it my duty to address to the House. Sir, I was speaking of the precedent of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, and the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton says that it is an analogous case to this.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Then I think that the right hon. Gentleman has wasted his time. But if his observations should have any effect on any Members in this House, or on the public outside, let me, in a sentence, point out the great difference between the two cases. In the case of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, it was a Member 1195 of this House who uttered the alleged libel, and he was amenable to the jurisdiction of this House; and, in the next place, that libel, if it was a libel, was not uttered against any particular person who might have brought an action in a Court of Law, but uttered against a body of men, in which case no action would lie. And that is the great distinction in all these cases. These precedents and these cases, where there has been no other Court open than a Court of Inquiry by this House, are not analogous to this case, and cannot guide us on this occasion. Our position in this case is this—and it governs the whole situation and the whole issue—namely, that there are tribunals open to those who have a complaint to make—the tribunals of the land, and that in most of the cases where an alleged analogy is sought to be found, there was no such appeal to any other tribunal. I will not labour this question of precedents, because I am prepared to contend, that whatever precedents may be quoted, there are none really similar to the present situation, and that we must be guided, apart from precedents, by higher considerations in this matter. In some of the cases that have been cited, the libellers, the defendants, have been summoned to the Bar of the House, and, refusing to apologize, have been committed to prison. And I remember a most eloquent passage in a speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), in which he said he should like to see his antagonist—that foul liar, he called him—standing at the Bar of the House, face to face with him. But what object would the hon. Member have achieved if the object of his denunciation, his opponent, had been standing at the Bar of the House? No inquiry would have been possible; and the result, judging by most of the precedents that have been quoted, would simply have been that, without any inquiry, the defendant at the Bar would have been committed to prison. Is not that the teaching of the precedents which have been quoted? Then what is the good of heroics, and saying that you will meet your accuser at the Bar of the House, if the encounter that would take place must be entirely barren of any result whatever? I have said that I would not dwell upon precedents. We have to deal with this mat- 1196 ter, as is now acknowledged on both sides of the House, apart from precedents; but before I pass on to make good the contention I seek to establish, that this is a case perfectly different from any other that has ever arisen, I wish to ask the House whether, notwithstanding the gravity of the charges which are at issue—and the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian was in error if he thought we do not admit the gravity of them—I wish to ask whether these charges, however grave they may be, ought to be tried, as suggested, as a matter of Privilege? It is scarcely necessary for me to insist on a point that was so eloquently treated by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury earlier in the evening, as to the danger and inexpediency of extending the doctrine of Privilege and the practice of inquiry on important public matters of general interest by what I may call the domestic tribunal of this House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian charged the Leader of the House with being indifferent to the honour of its Members. It is a charge that is most undeserved, and a charge which will be repudiated, not only by Members sitting on this side of the House, but, I am convinced, by a large proportion of hon. Members sitting on that (the Opposition) side of the House also. But the Leader of the House has other functions, besides that of looking to the honour of individual Members of the House. He has to see that we do not, by claiming too much Privilege, imperil the authority of the House of Commons on questions which are at issue between this House and others who are outside its walls. I am surprised to see that the Leaders and the chief bulwarks of the Liberal Party are prepared to vote in a direction which will curtail freedom of speech on the part of the Press. That has not been the line which they have taken in those past cases which have been quoted; and when the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton charges Members sitting on this side of the House with inconsistency, he, at the same time, refers to cases where his hon. Friends voted against the extension of Privilege, and on the very ground that we ought not by any hasty action to restrain the greatest freedom on the part of the Press. We heard from the hon. and 1197 learned Member for Dumfries (Mr. E. T. Reid), the other night, that the Liberal Party expected a political advantage from the refusal by this House of the Committee which is asked for. [" Hear, hear!" from the Irish Members.'] Is it for the sake of that political advantage that they are acting? [Cries of "No!"] Let hon. Members below the Gangway reconcile their cheers with those of hon. Members above the Gangway. Will they take up a totally different position from that which they took up on almost every other occasion in recent years when the question of Privilege has been discussed? It is for hon. Members who are better conversant with the precedents and the legal aspect of the question than I am to argue the case; but I would ask, is it wise in these days to take up the position we are now asked to take up in all cases where Members of this House are libelled by the Press, or by anyone outside it? I think if we were to take up that position, we might as well establish at once a permanent Committee for the examination of libels. Why, look at the Irish Press. If we were to take up the position, that when the characters of Members are attacked, they are to be taken charge of by this House, it would be necessary for us to have the editor of United Ireland in permanent attendance at the Bar of this House. And, indeed, Sir, it is a very interesting sight to see the owners of and the writers in the Irish Press indignantly fulminating against the wicked slanders of The Times. What time would be occupied by this House if we were to undertake this new duty which my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian thinks ought to be discharged by the Leader of the House. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: I did not say anything of the kind.] What! Did not my right hon. Friend complain of the Leader of the House for not being more sensitive with regard to the honour of its Members? Well, but there are other hon. Members whose honour is attacked in the Irish Press. ["Name, name!"] "Name?" yes, you shall have names. Did my right hon. Friend treat as matters of Privilege the articles in which Lord Spencer and Sir George Trevelyan were assailed by the Irish Press? I only wish the cartoons in United Ireland could be circulated to every Member of this 1198 House and sown broadcast through this country, and then we should know what slanders and libels are. And it is in these conditions, and with this license of the Press constantly going on, and habitually tolerated, that we are asked to interfere upon this particular occasion. See what the demand is that is made on us. It was well put by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury; but I will put it again, because we have had a most interesting illustration of this very practice to-night. My right hon. and learned Friend has pointed out that certain things are said in this House—certain charges are made against Members, not as Members of this House. These charges are denied in this House. The persons who are responsible for the original assertions say that the denial is false, and then their conduct is to be inquired into by a Committee of this House. That is the claim which is made by hon. Members opposite. Now, what I want to know is this. Do we claim as our Privilege this, that we may denounce persons outside this House, and that if they deny the assertions made by us, they are to be brought up before a Committee of this House? The hon. and learned Member for North Lang-ford uttered serious allegations against The Times, which I can perfectly conceive The Times might consider to be extremely slanderous. I do not use the word myself; but I think The Times might consider them to be slanderous, and to-morrow morning, under this new doctrine of Privilege, or under the exercise of the Privilege now claimed by the Liberal Party, I presume The Times might have a blank column side by side with the hon. Member's speech, and might say—"We cannot declare that the hon. Member has uttered slanders against us; because, if we did so, we might bring ourselves within the doctrine of Privilege, the printer might be summoned to the Bar, and a Committee of Inquiry might be appointed—a domestic tribunal of Members of the House of Commons—to investigate whether we were justified in denying what we consider to be slanders upon ourselves." Slanders may be uttered by Members of this House, as well as against Members, and the best tribunal to decide what is or is not slander is a Court of Law. Now, I will 1199 undertake to endeavour to show to the House that the present case differs from, all other cases which have come before the House, and which are alleged to be precedents in a certain sense. What is the present case? It is a charge brought against a particular Member; but in this case the Members of the Irish Party associate themselves with that hon. Member, and the hon. and learned Member for North Longford has stated, boldly and bravely, and I think another hon. Member has made the same assertion, that they associate themselves entirely with the hon. Member for East Mayo. ["Hear, hear!" from the Irish Members.] Thus we are to try, not this particular charge, but the character of 86 Members of this House. [Cries of "If you like!"] If we like. I wish to know whether, in some of the speeches which have been made, the association has not been absolute. Hon. Members have asserted that what we should be really trying by a Committee would be the character of the Irish National Party, and the hon. Member went further than that, and he said that the character of the Liberal Party would also be at stake. I do not deny it, nor, in frankness be it conceded, was it repudiated by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton. He said—" Our character is at stake," and he immediately proceeded to ask that the Members whose character is impugned should be made the judges in their own cause. After having established that the character of the Liberal Party was deeply involved, and that this trial which is to take place of the 86 Members for Ireland, would involve also the trial of the whole of their allies, he said—" We are the best tribunal, I assure you, in the world to try this case." I can quite understand the view of my right hon. Friend.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
A few spasmodic cheers approve of the statement of my right hon. Friend, that he did not say so. I think he will admit that at least he implied so, when he made that eloquent and impassioned appeal to which I listened, but to which a great many of those who cheered him did not listen, that the best tribunal in the world for 1200 trying the character of the Irish Party and their allies was a tribunal of which, of necessity, a large number of right hon. and hon. Members opposite would be a constituent part. Does he deny it?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Then, what did my right hon. Friend say? He will not deny that he said the tribunal was an excellent one.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
I said that a Select Committee of this House was an excellent one, and the best tribunal.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Why, I am speaking of a Select Committee of this House. Although we have had generous offers from hon. Members below the Gangway, that for this occasion, and this occasion only, they would have confidence in Members on this side; yet they have taken good care, in asking for a Committee, to denounce the character of some of those who might sit upon it. I presume that the whole of the Committee would not be composed of hon. Members on this side of the House, but that a large number—as is the usual way, would be taken from that Party which my right hon. Friend adores. Well, I stand by my proposition, that, after having stated that the character of his Friends was involved, he said the character of the Liberal Party was at stake. [ Cries of "No, no!"] Will my right hon. Friend do mo the favour to contradict the statement of his hon. Friends behind him? Did he not say that the character of the Liberal Party was at stake? My right hon. Friend admits that it was so.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Well, my right hon. Friend knows the point that was made by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford; it was a good point, and I entirely agree with it. I thought it was an admirable point. He said—We do not care about our characters being cleared; there is a much more important question; our characters are such that we do not care what becomes of them.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
Our character is as good as yours, and much higher in the estima 1201 tion of the Irish people. He said that it was yours that required to be cleared.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Cannot hon. Members below the Gangway endure for a moment any kind of attack upon themselves, when their attacks upon us are so fierce? I trust they will endeavour to exercise the self-control which, although sometimes, I must confess, under great provocation, we have endeavoured to use. And this reminds me of another point to which I desire to call attention before I forget it. The hon. Member alluded to the constituencies of Great Britain; he said he would appeal from this House to the constituencies. It was to the constituencies and not to a jury his eloquent appeals were to be made—to the country and not to twelve men selected to sit in a jury-box, and sworn on their oath to give a true deliverance according to the evidence. I was led aside by the doubt thrown upon my statement, that it was alleged, truly or untruly, that the character of the Liberal Party was at stake. Now, let me ask the House seriously to consider among all the declarations which have been made, what is the issue to be tried before a Committee, and who are to be the judges to try it? I said that this did not resemble any of the other cases that had been brought before us. And why? It is not a case of investigating a particular offence. It is not as the hon. Member for North Longford said, a question of investigating the conduct of a particular man; but a Party, he says, is to be tried; 86 Members of this House are to be tried. [An hon. MEMBER: Nonsense!] That was the statement made by the hon. Member for North Longford. I wish to know where we are. [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] Yes, you cheer that statement; but is it so or not? I wish to know where we are. Am I right in saying that the hon. Member for North Longford stated that it was the character of the 86 Members from Ireland?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N)
If the right hon. Gentleman wants to know, I meant to convey that we did not take our stand on any narrow technicality in reference to the charge made against the hon. Member for East Mayo. I added that we repudiated the idea of taking our stand upon any technicality, and I said that if there was any specific 1202 charge against any one of us, or against 50 Members of the Party, we were quite willing that any specific allegation against us, as well as the specific allegation against the hon. Member for East Mayo, should be fully gone into by a Committee of this House.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Yes, but my memory is absolutely certain that these very words were used. I will not be certain they were used by the hon. Member for North Longford—"We associate ourselves (the whole Party) with the case of the hon. Member for East Mayo." And the whole was based on the assumption that it was not a simple issue or a small fact that was in dispute; but that it was the character of a Party. Well, such a matter has never in the history of this country been submitted to a Select Committee of this House. We are to try a Party. On such a Committee by whom is that Party to be tried? By the Representatives of two other Parties in this House, of which one has, on its own admission, its own character at stake, and the other has been denounced beforehand as incapable of giving an impartial judgment. I do not know whether hon. Members will remember the words of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). What did he say of the Judges whom he invited to try the case? What did he say of hon. Members on this side of the House? The hon. Member said—I say that there is scarcely a Gentleman on those Benches who has not made himself a partner of and a fellow conspirator with the libellers against whom we protest.[Cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite, below the Gangway generally cheer a sentiment of this kind; but they did not cheer it when I read it out, because they see how fatal it is to their case. Well, if this trial is to take place who are to be the judges? "Fellow conspirators of the libellers against whom we now protest"—that is to be one side of the tribunal and the other is to be the Representatives of the Party whose character is as much impugned as that of the hon. Member for East Mayo. A pretty tribunal to try the case, men denounced in advance as partizans, and men whose own character is said to be at stake. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool, speaking of a right hon. Member on 1203 this side of the House, said that lie ought to be in the dock with the editor of The Times, and then we are to take people who ought to be in the dock and put them on the Select Committee. But, Mr. Speaker, I would call the serious attention of the House. [An ironical cry of" Hear, hear!"] I am glad to get that cheer from my right hon. Friend. Does not my right hon. Friend think that the argument I put forward deserves serious consideration? Does he think that the verdict of a Select Committee composed, as it must be composed under the circumstances of men denounced in advance by his Friends below the Gangway. [Cries of "No, no!"] Well, if hon. Gentlemen do not call such words as "fellow conspirators" a denunciation I do not know what a denunciation is. My right hon. Friend must see the serious importance of a case of this kind. Who can tell what the verdict of such a tribunal would be? I assume that we do not know—that hon. Members on that side of the House and hon. Members on this side of the House do not at the present moment know, and have not formed, a definite opinion as to the guilt or innocence of either Party concerned. But looking to the fact that while hon. Members say they will trust a Committee of this kind, other hon. Members of their Party have denounced hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, and called them "follow conspirators," what effect—and I ask my right hon. Friend's attention to this point—what effect is the verdict of the Committee likely to have? If the verdict should be a verdict of acquittal of the hon. Member for East Mayo and his Friends, then I admit they will be satisfied; but if the verdict should be a verdict of guilty, then they will fall back on the condemnation which has already been pronounced in advance on the Benches which are to supply the Judges. This is a most serious point to contemplate, and does not deserve any sneers from my right hon. Friend. And, again, what would be the position of hon. Members on this side who might be appointed to serve on that Committee? I ask hon. Members opposite—in fairness to consider the point I am going to put before them. I assume and the House must assume, that the guilt or innocence of either Party is still in dispute, and it is possible 1204 that either The Times or the hon. Member for East Mayo may be guilty. Then hon. Members on this side of the House who have been in violent opposition to the hon. Member for East Mayo and the whole Party of Irish Members, are to select men from themselves who are to go upstairs and sit in a Committee room. They are expected to shed all their political passions, and when they arrive in the Committee room they are to find themselves in an impartial atmosphere. Well, looking at the judicial inquiries which have been made by the House in the past, I am sorry to think that in many judicial cases the votes have been given according to Party interests. I believe that hon. Members would do their utmost to give an impartial verdict, and I believe this, too—that there would be an internal struggle in the breasts of hon. Members upstairs between their feelings as generous and honourable opponents, and their sense of the duty of a stern and impartial Judge. I fear they would be in the greatest possible difficulties. [Cries of "No, no!"] I hear a murmur of dissent. What, cannot hon. Members realize the position of a man who has been vilified and stung to the last degree by such words as sometimes fall from the hon. Member for North Longford and others, if, sitting on the Committee, he were to see such an opponent on his trial before him, who seemed to him on the brink of a precipice, and whom by two or three more searching questions he might push over the brink? I say that an hon. opponent might feel himself in the greatest embarrassment—might shrink from that final course of cross-examination. Can you not see—can you not appreciate when you yourselves say you will trust the honour of English gentlemen—the intolerable difficulty in which he might be placed? Are hon. Members to undertake the tremendous duty of cross-examination on a question of life or death to other hon. Members when they consider that they must meet afterwards in this House under the ordinary amenities of debate? Are you going to put this tremendous responsibility upon any hon. Member who might be selected to serve on such a Committee. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have been extremely chary in explaining themodus operandi of a Committee of this kind. 1205 Who is to conduct the cross-examination? Is it to be counsel? I think I heard words fall from the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian that Members of this House who were to be advocates from either side. Are hon. Members to undertake that tremendous duty, and are the incriminated parties to have no other counsel? [Interruption.] Are not the parties to this great issue, whose whole character and vital interests are at stake, to be at liberty to choose their own counsel who are to cross-examine the witnesses, and to guide them in their conduct of the case? I cannot believe for a moment that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will contend that they should not be allowed to have counsel, and if they are to be allowed to have counsel, then all that irrelevancy to which right hon. Gentlemen opposite object so much in a Court of Law will occur in the Committee as it occurs in a Court of Law. The Report of the Committee in Mr. Butt's case shows that it is as difficult for the Chairman of a Committee to check all irrelevancy and idle gossip as it is for a Judge of the land. Nay, it will be all the more difficult to check that irrelevancy, from the inexperience of Members of the Committee, in the conduct of trials of this nature. And this is the tribunal to which hon. and right hon. Members opposite wish to relegate a case of this enormous importance. And how do they arrive at the conclusion that they ought to select a Committee of that kind? They arrive at it by denouncing the tribunals of the land. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite have spent a great portion of their time in this debate in showing that juries cannot be trusted, and that Judges may possibly not be impartial. That is the dilemma into which they are driven in this case, and I am not sure whether this line of argument was not inaugurated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian. In the right hon. Gentleman's advocacy of the case of Home Rule it has become his duty, or what he considers to be his duty, to fall foul of many of the institutions of the land. Do right hon. Gentlemen opposite remember the attacks of the right hon. Gentleman upon the Irish Judges? Do they remember the attack upon the Irish Bench and upon the dicta of the Irish Bench? 1206 And now it has fallen to the right hon. Gentleman to impugn the character of British juries and of British Judges. [Cries of No, no!"] Yes; I say most distinctly that he has done that, and he has been followed in that course by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler), and by the hon. and learned Member for Elgin and Nairn, who preceded me in this debate (Mr. Anderson). They have thought it necessary to impugn the character of the Courts of Law, in order to attempt to drive this case before a less competent tribunal—namely, a Committee of this House. [Cries of "No!"]
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I rise to Order. I never impugned the character of the Courts of Law. I distinctly declared the contrary. The right hon. Gentleman is not justified in his position. His statements are absolutely unfounded, [Cries of Withdraw!"]
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I am not thinking of withdrawing. What was the object of the right hon. Gentleman in referring to the case of Lord Ellenborough? I think that there were other cases to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded to show the fallibility of juries.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I say that he was impugning the Courts of Law, because, certainly, juries form a part of the Courts of Law.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I am not surprised at the warmth of the right hon. Gentleman, because it is a very serious thing to be taxed with impugning British justice as it is administered in our Courts of law. But that is their argument. [Cries of "No!"]. The Irish Party have been invited not to go into our Courts of Law, because they were less likely to find adequate justice there than in a Committee of this House. Can that be denied? Is not the argument of hon. and right hon. Members opposite that hon. Members are less likely to find justice in a British Court of Law than before a Committee of this House? You will mark the silence of hon. Members opposite. We have had fair notice that we are to be accused before the country of shrinking from an inquiry. We are 1207 to be charged with refusing an inquiry before a Committee of the House of Commons. I give fair notice to hon. and right hon. Members opposite that the country will be informed that they have thrown discredit upon British justice, and that they have done so in order to bring this case before a less competent tribunal, less well equipped with the necessary machinery for dealing with such a question, and having a less trained president. They have thrown, I say again, discredit upon the tribunals of the country. It is a court of honour which hon. Members below the Gangway are now anxious to avail themselves of—a court of honour, not a Court of Law—and the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian is prepared on this occasion only to have confidence in the intelligence of English gentlemen, and to appeal from the masses to the classes. No jury for us, taken from the ordinary masses of the population, but a domestic tribunal composed of the classes in the House. So that I think we can well afford to meet our opponents upon that ground. We are still prepared to say that we have confidence in the tribunals of the land. Exception has been taken to the course which we have proposed to take for giving facilities and providing for a trial in the Courts of Law; and do hon. Members scoff at the Courts of Law? [Ironical Irish cheers.] Every cheer which they utter clinches my argument.
§ MR. E. HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
We are not afraid of your Courts of Law if you bring any charge against us before them.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I am extremely grateful for the patience hon. Members below the Gangway opposite have shown me, although it has been my duty to speak somewhat strongly.
§ An IRISH MEMBER: Do not mention it.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I say that every cheer—yes, and every sneer—which is directed against the proposal Her Majesty's Government have made, strengthens the case I am anxious to put forward—that we are ready for inquiry and anxious to facilitate any inquiry which we can feel sure will be properly conducted. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian said that ours was an unexampled offer. Yes; I admit that 1208 we have gone out of our way to make it. I admit that we have gone out of our way, but we have done so because we realize too full the gravity of the crisis. My right hon. Friend spoke in solemn words towards the end of his eloquent speech of the gravity of the question; and what did he call it? He called it an "International Question." My right hon. Friend is already borrowing largely from the vocabulary of the Nationalist Party, and is representing a difficulty and a difference between two portions of Her Majesty's subjects as an "International" Question—an adjective which hitherto, and I think my right hon. Friend's experience will confirm me, has been applied only to differences between foreigners and ourselves. The adjective struck strangely, I must admit, on my ear, falling from the lips of my right hon. Friend. But I admit the gravity of the charges which have been made, and it is because we are sensible of the gravity of those charges that we, as I say, have gone out of our way to offer to create a precedent, if you like to call it so—I say we have gone out of our way to create a precedent, because we consider it to be of Imperial importance that this matter should be cleared up. The difference between us is not as to whether there should be an inquiry or there should not We have for a long time felt that there should be an inquiry; but we think if there is to be one, it is the duty of this House to look to it that the inquiry should be of the most authoritative and searching character, such as would be conducted by those tribunals to which all classes of Her Majesty's subjects have been accustomed to look up, and that truth and justice will best be attained by having recourse to the Courts of Law of the Queen.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I do not propose to occupy the time of the House for more than a few moments. I have risen to take part in this debate simply because I thought it would not be convenient that this House should go to a Division without a few words from, and on behalf of, those hon. Members who sit by me on these Benches. We have all listened with attention—at least I know I have—to the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and I dare say 1209 that many of us have admired the force and brilliancy of his speech; but, although brilliant and forcible, it seems to me it was throughout an attempt to conceal from this House the real issues which are before it, and it was all the more objectionable on account of the extraordinary debating power and brilliancy the right hon. Gentleman has at his command. In the very few words I ask permission of the House to address to it, I shall confine myself strictly to endeavouring to lay before the House what the position in which we stand is. What is the real position in which we stand? The right hon. Gentleman, in one of the loftiest flights and most brilliant passages of that eloquent speech, asked—"Is this the first time that hon. Members of this House have been libelled by the Press?" and he recalled to the recollection of hon. Members the days when United Ireland used to assail in a manner which I fully admit was exceedingly violent the Gentlemen who were responsible for the Government of Ireland. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to pretend that there is any parallel between the assaults of United Ireland and the assaults committed upon us. One would suppose, to listen to the right hon. Gentleman, that he had forgotten what he was in the habit of doing—what the Chair would not allow us to do—of reading out in this House the assaults made in the columns of United Ireland on the character of hon. Members, and I doubt very much whether they were anything like as grievous as the assaults made in The Times upon us. We are not in the habit of reading out those assaults in this House, and this is a matter which is complained of in this instance. Let me for a moment, in reply to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), recall to the memory of the House exactly what has occurred, and answer the question which was asked by the right hon. Gentleman when he said—"I wish to know where we stand?" Some right hon. Gentlemen compared us to women who, having scratched out the eyes of our adversaries, then fly to our friends and ask them for protection. Sir, what has happened in this matter? This Times newspaper has pursued us not 1210 for months, as has been stated, but for years. There is not a charge, as the right hon. Gentleman ought to remember, with the solitary exception of the forged letter—there is not a single charge in "Parnellism and Crime" which has not done duty over and over again. Not one solitary new fact is stated, not one single charge that we have not been accustomed to read ad nauseam in the columns of the newspaper, and did I appeal to this House for protection; did. I invoke the Privilege of this House? No; I said, The Times may go on repeating those charges till the Day of Judgment, and I would not invoke the Privileges of the House. What did I do? When these charges were read in the House, I simply got up in my place and denied them; but I did not ask for Privilege. I denied the charges, trusting that the usual courtesy of the House would be extended even to an Irish Member, and that my denial would be accepted. But that was not all. Two days afterwards appeared in The Times the article which is now the subject of the debate. Did I then appeal to the House and ask for protection against The Times? Nothing of the sort; and if it had been left to my judgment, this House would have been spared the four days which have been spent on this matter. I did not appeal to the House for protection even when they made that assault, though I should have been entitled to do so; but when an hon. Baronet—a Member of this House—came down and used these articles here to charge me with being—to use strong language, though the only language that can adequately describe what was done—to charge me with having in this House deliberately told lies, and I will also say cowardly lies, I did then think that the period had arrived, having regard not to my own character, but to the character of the House, and having regard to the warm and sympathetic friends whom I have found in England, I did think that the time had arrived when I was bound, as a Member of this House—little as I care for the opinion of The Times newspaper—to take some action to put a stop to what had become a growing and persistent scandal—namely, the repetition of these charges within these walls. I say that this controversy had not its origin from these Benches. It was 1211 forced upon us, and I say that if I had not then accepted the challenge, and appealed to this House for protection, I should have been taunted with being a craven and a coward. When it has been said from those Benches that I am afraid to face a Committee of Inquiry, I thought, Sir, that the time had then come when, if necessary, as I had said already, in the interests of the honour of this House, these matters should he investigated—not of my own honour and interests, because, where is it that I care for my reputation? I care for my reputation in a country where The Times newspaper can never assail it. Every Englishman in this House looks at this matter from a different standpoint to myself. In Ireland The Times has no influence, and no matter what The Times says it could have no effect on my reputation. In what I did I considered that I was bound, as a Member of this House, to take that action, in order to protect the House from a repetition of the scenes which have been a disgrace to the Parliament of England during the past month. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes. Who originated those scenes? Is it your code of honour that we are to sit on these Benches, silent and cowering, while you call us liars across the Floor of the House? Sir, I thought the time had arrived when, in the interests of this House, this matter ought to be thoroughly gone into. Looking at it from the standpoint of English Members, if I wanted confirmation of that position, surely the scene which took place to-night, when I had to stand up and appeal, Sir, to your protection against that process which is reducing this House to little better than a bear garden, and when you intervened and expressed your opinion that the time had come when this business ought to end—I say if I wanted confirmation, I think the action of the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) has fully confirmed me. What I want to know, Sir, is this—Where is to be the end of this matter? We are going now to vote on the question whether there shall be an investigation or not, and do not let hon. Gentlemen allow themselves to be deceived by the rhetoric of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The question you have got to decide to-night is—shall there be an 1212 investigation, or shall there not? I do not propose to enter any more into the question of the relative merits of the proposals. That matter has been amply discussed. But supposing, for the sake of argument, I were to admit that; the Courts of Law are competent—which I do not admit, and I have stated it over and over again—to deal with this matter, in the Courts of Law it will not be investigated. The question, therefore, you have got to decide to-night is—shall there be any investigation, or shall there not? Whatever our reasons may be, in the laws of duelling, be they good or be they bad, the old doctrine used to be, that the man who was challenged had the right to the choice of weapons; and let me point out that of all the arguments that were put from that Bench opposite, not one went to show that in this House we should go before a tribunal prejudiced in our favour. We have got two tribunals to select from—the Courts of Law and a Select Committee of this House, and if we say we feel more confidence in the capacity, in the competence, and in the fair play of a Committee of this House, ought not our decision to be final? But whether it ought to be, or ought not to be final, our decision is made, and by your vote to-night you will decide, I suppose, for ever, and I hope for ever—for I trust the House of Commons will not allow itself to be again led by any Tory Baronet into spending four days in discussing the question of Dillon and Sheridan—I trust you will decide for ever; and remember, the question is whether this matter shall be investigated or not. I do trust, I confess, to the honourable feeling of at least the majority of the Party opposite, that after what has occurred during the last four days, they will, out of respect for the House, if not from any respect they bear us, cease, at least within the walls of this House—they can do what they like in the Primrose League—from persisting in and repeating charges which must, if they are repeated here, lead to disorderly and disgraceful scenes in this House. We have offered, and I now repeat that offer for the last time, to consent that the reference to the Committee shall not. be narrowed to the question which is brought before the House by the Amendment. We are willing that the refer- 1213 ence shall be widened so as to include the question of the authenticity of the letter attributed to my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), and widened so as to include every other charge which any Member opposite can select from "Parnellism and Crime." We believe, whether from good reasons or from bad reasons, that a Committee of this House is the most competent machinery by which the whole of the business can be thoroughly investigated, and the whole of the truth made clear; and I now deliberately allege, on behalf of my Colleagues, as well as on my own behalf, that we have now in our hands clues which we have good reason to hope would enable us to trace the forgers of the forged letter, and to expose the entire of this conspiracy in its nakedness to the British public. We appeal to you as honourable men, and as Gentlemen, not to deny us this opportunity. We appeal to you, not for our own sakes, I say once more—because I am willing to defy The Times and all its legion of forgers and of liars—but we appeal to you for your own sakes, for your own reputation as honourable men, as gentlemen and Englishmen with a spirit of fair play—we appeal to you for the sake, if it be dear to you, of the future relations of the people of Ireland and of England, whether they live under a system of Home Rule—[An hon. MEMBER on the Ministerial side: Never.]—or under a Unionist Government—we appeal to you, as you look to a future in which these two peoples shall cease to hate and distrust one another, to take this opportunity—which every man of you has said he was anxious to get—to allow us to clear our characters, not before our own people, but before your people; to take this opportunity of removing what, if it be left, must inevitably prove a festering and poisonous sore. In going into the Lobby to-night remember the question upon which you are voting; and those who vote against this Amendment must remember that they will have resting upon their heads the full responsibility if this whole business be never investigated.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
The Chancellor of the Exchequer asked us where we stood. I think, after the speech and the appeal which has just been made by the hon. Member for East 1214 Mayo, [Ministerial laughter.] I am astonished that any hon. Gentleman should jeer. It shows the sort of spirit that actuates hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House—I should have thought that an appeal of that kind, whether accepted or not, might have been treated with respect. But, at all events, whatever may be the case with Gentlemen who sit on the Benches opposite, of this I am curtain that the people of this country will regard that appeal as a serious one that requires to be seriously considered and dealt with. Let me very briefly—for the hour is late—endeavour to show how it seems to me this question comes before the House. In the first place, this question of The Times newspaper was introduced in the House of Commons by a Member sitting on the opposite side of the House. He claimed that it should be treated as a question of Privilege. The Government having, in the first place, expressed a doubt whether it was a question of Privilege or not, instead of being taken up by the Leader of the House and treated upon his own responsibility—as I have heard questions of Privilege treated before—it was handed over to the Law Officers of the Crown to be treated, not according to the great traditions of Parliament, but by what I can only call most extraordinary special pleading. But, Sir, the remarkable part of it is that after the hon. and learned Solicitor General had argued that this was not a question of Privilege at all, he had not the courage of his own opinions; because, in the Motion he has made, he has not ventured to say that it is not a question of Privilege. He said a very different thing; he said the House should refuse to treat it as a question of Privilege. Why is this? To assert that it is not a question of Privilege is to assert a thing which I venture to say, after this debate, no man can pretend. No such a case or anything like it has ever been brought before the House of Commons which has not been admitted to be a question of Privilege. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), though he calls it a technical matter, admits that it is so. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) has not denied that it is a question of Privilege. But, says the Chancellor of the Exchequer—"How 1215 can you deal with it as a question of Privilege, when it is a question of a whole Party?" Has that never arisen before? Why, Sir, what is the case which was introduced by the hon. and learned Solicitor General I think in this debate? There was the opinion given by Mr. Disraeli when Leader of the House upon a question of Privilege. What was that? It was an attack by an hon. Member upon a whole Party. There was no allegation as to the conduct of any individual with reference to any particular act which came within any of the fanciful and original categories of the hon. and learned Solicitor General. It was a statement that the Liberal Party consorted with a disreputable gang of Irish Members. Is that Privilege, or is it not? Let me read the words of Mr. Disraeli—I am not here to deny that it is a Breach of Privilege to speak of any Members of this House in their capacity as such in terms which simply disgrace, or, as the hon. Gentleman said, ignominy."—(3 Hansard,  330.)I want to know whether you, on that side of the House, accept that definition of Privilege or not? But what is the consequence of that? These are the words of Mr. Disraeli—["Irish Members were entitled to receive satisfaction for such a statement as that, and if no apology was made, they would treat it as a matter of Privilege."] Well, therefore, that disposes of the whole of the categories of the hon. and learned Solicitor General. There is no charge of corruption here; there were none of the qualifications to which he referred; and I will pass from the question of precedents. Then, the Government say, first of all, that is not a question of Privilege at all. That they have been utterly unable to prove, but they decline to deal with it in the form of action against The Times newspaper—such action as is taken in some cases upon matters of Privilege. I will not argue that now. I should hardly be in Order after the Division which has been taken in the House in entering upon it; but they made a proposal for a prosecution by the Attorney General as a substantive Motion. I am sorry I do not see the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General here, because he complained last night of my absence, and invited me to be here to answer for my 1216 words at Southampton. He was very indignant with me for what I said, and exercised a right which belongs to his Office, the right of challenge. He invited me to meet him on the other side of the Solent. I should be very happy to meet the hon. and learned Gentleman anywhere, if he will allow me to make it a friendly meeting. Somewhere about August—at the Cowes meeting—I should be very happy to meet him there. But he objects to the language I used when I referred, in speaking of the Government proposition, to the story of Little Red Riding Hood. I thought that was very appropriate. A prosecution of this kind conducted by the Attorney General was, I pointed out, an absurd and monstrous proposition. How was this thing announced to the House? They are shamed out of it now. When the First Lord of the Treasury announced the course that was to be taken, these were his words—The Attorney General coupled with any Queen's counsel whom they may select, shall he instructed to prosecute The Times newspaper.I do not think this hostile meeting in the Isle of Wight, which the Attorney General proposes to me, is really at all necessary, because we are both agreed. I think it would be most improper, not on account of anything personal to the Attorney General, but on account of his position with reference to the question, that this prosecution should be conducted by him. Well, he thinks so, too. He takes immense credit for saying that he is only to be nominally connected with the affair in which the prosecution is to be in his name, and why? Because he sees impropriety, as everyone must see impropriety, in the position in which the Government have taken up in his having anything really to do with this prosecution at all. And it is quite plain that in the situation in which this matter stands, one would much rather be prosecuted by the Attorney General, looking at his attitude towards the Irish Members, than be defended by him. The Attorney General practically disavows all connection with this prosecution, and then we are told that this prosecution that you offer is founded on the precedents of prosecution for Breach of Privilege, and for attacks on Members 1217 of this House. When has there been such a prosecution in which the Attorney General disavowed his connection with, the case? Why, Sir, every prosecution has been a prosecution by the Government which condemned the action of the person prosecuted, and instituted the prosecution for the purpose of obtaining a conviction. But is that the fact now? Why, they are obliged to disavow their connection. And what is to be the effect upon the tribunals of the country to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer appeals? What is the effect upon a jury when the leading counsel throws up his brief? What is the statement on the part of the Attorney General except this—I am not fit, on account of the attitude of the Government with reference to this prosecution, to take the ordinary part which the Attorney General should take, and always has taken, in every prosecution so instituted by the House of Commons. Why, it is as much as to tell the jury, and it is intended to tell the jury—[loud cheers, which prevented the end of the sentence being heard]—and that is the natural and inevitable result of their severing the Law Officers of the Crown from the conduct of a prosecution which they are entrusted to undertake by the House of Commons. Well, now, Sir, it is a most remarkable circumstance in this case, with reference to this prosecution, that the challenge of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian has never been taken up by anybody on that side of the House. The Attorney General had not a word to say upon it, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not answered it, My right hon. Friend has stated—and stated without contradiction—that there never has been a prosecution ordered by the House of Commons which was not preceded by a declaration that a false and scandalous libel had been uttered against a Member of this House. Then my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) says that you are going to take that course. we have a right to know whether the right hon. and learned Member for Bury is well instructed upon that. Do you say, are you going to vote, that you order a prosecution on the ground of false and scandalous libels having been uttered against a Member of this House? If not, you are flying in the face of every precedent on which 1218 you pretend to rely, because there is no precedent of a prosecution without such a declaration as that; I defy you to produce one. They were all founded on the allegation of a Breach of Privilege. [Sir EDWARD CLARKE: No.] Well, do not be in a hurry—that does not alter the fact. You have, in some cases, allegations of a Breach of Privilege where the House did not intend to take it into its own hands. Where you have a vote of this House that a false and scandalous libel has been uttered, that involves a Breach of Privilege. But why were these prosecutions not undertaken in the old days? Was it because the House thought itself incapable of acting? Not at all. It was because they desired that a heavier punishment should be obtained in a Court of Law than the House could inflict. No doubt, that was the cause; but now let me ask why these proceedings have been discontinued for practically the whole of this century? I will tell the House why, and the reason for it has a close bearing on the question of an appeal to the tribunal of a jury of which we have heard so much from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What would the prosecution be in this case? It would be a criminal prosecution for a political libel. Now, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury has said—" Who will say that any prosecution of this character has failed before a British jury?" I will tell him why, in his recollection, no such prosecution has failed. It is because no such prosecution, in my belief, has been brought within the memory of any living lawyer in this House. Criminal prosecutions for political libels were brought in the earlier part of the century and constantly failed, and they were discontinued from the absolute knowledge that prosecutions for political libels were certain to fail. That is my answer to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When he talks of our attacking and vilifying the tribunals of the country, when he says that we have attacked the juries of this country for not having done justice, I reply that we did nothing of the kind. What we say is that criminal prosecutions for political libel are prosecutions which are not favoured, but which are disliked and almost certain to fail in this country. What is it that you offer? You offer to 1219 Irish Members who have been calumniated a criminal prosecution on a criminal information for a political libel—a thing that no Government would venture upon in its own case, a thing you know perfectly well, by experience of former trials in this country, is almost certain under any circumstances to fail. It is a delusive and an illusory offer, and the Government—and nobody better than the Law Officers of the Crown—knows that a criminal prosecution for political libel is destined from the very nature of the case to fail. That is the whole allegation we make with regard to the trial you offer. Now, Sir, we have demanded that this matter should be investigated by a Committee of the House of Commons. You declare that a Committee of the House of Commons is incapable to inquire into this matter. Have any of your Predecessors in former Parliaments been of that opinion? Where can you give a single example where a Member of this House who conceived his character and his honour to be impeached has asked for a Committee and it has been refused? The House of Commons in which you command a majority is, for the first time, to declare itself incapable of doing that which you say a jury can do. All those fine declamations in favour of juries—from which I do not differ—of their capacity, impartiality, and justice, might equally be addressed to a Committee of this House; and I ask you whether you will deny the capacity, the impartiality, and the justice of the English House of Commons? That is the line you take up. I say that is a line which is not for the honour and dignity of this House. Objections have been taken that the scope of this inquiry is too limited. You say, and you say justly, that it is not a question merely about the article in The Times, but that an inquiry is wanted into the general character and conduct of the Nationalist Party. But how can you inquire into that before a jury? If you go before a jury you must have a specific incident or subject as the matter of inquiry. There is no tribunal such as a Judge and jury which can inquire into the general question. You cannot inquire into the character of a Party. Can you indict a Party before a jury? You know perfectly well that nothing of the kind can be done. A Committee of this House is the tribunal 1220 where the truth and the whole truth upon the whole matter can be gone into, and where none of the technical objections which often prevail in the case of criminal indictments can be raised—where the whole matter can be heard from beginning to end. That is the inquiry which the country wants, and which you can supply and ought to supply; but which you refuse to supply. It has been said that the inquiry suggested in the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian is too limited, and that it will only raise the question between the hon. Member for East Mayo and The Times; but you have heard the distinct offer of the hon. Member for East Mayo. He asks you to inquire not into this matter of the question of his veracity in this House alone, he has offered distinctly that the inquiry shall include not only this, but also the authenticity of the letter alleged to have been written by Mr. Parnell, and the truth of all the charges that have appeared under the heading of "Parnellism and Crime." The responsibility rests upon you of refusing that inquiry before the only tribunal that can fully and completely inquire into these charges. To refute such an inquiry would, I think, be a most unwise and unjust course. We believe that your refusal will be condemned by the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr. Goschen) said that we desired a tribunal of the classes, instead of one of the masses. But we shall appeal from the refusal of the classes in this House to the masses in the country. I wish to say nothing inconsistent with personal respect for the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, and I hope he will consider that I have never spoken of or treated him otherwise than with respect; but I must point out that the position of the Leader of the House is very different from that of the Leader of any Party. My right hon. Friend has said, and said truly, that the Leader of the House is charged not only with the interests of his Party, but that he ought to use his position and power for the protection of every Member of the minority where their character is unduly impugned and attacked. He ought to do that which his Predecessors have never failed to do, and which I have pointed out that Mr. Disraeli did on behalf of some 1221 Irish Members—which I have pointed out that Sir Stafford Northcote claimed, not for an individual, but for the whole of the Conservative Party in minority, when he said they were unjustly assailed. That, I contend, is the duty which the Leader of this House should discharge towards every individual and every Party in this House. It is a duty which no Leader of the House has hitherto declined to perform, whether in maintaining the dignity of this House on the point of Privilege, or in the granting of a Committee. The right hon. Gentleman has no right whatever to employ his majority to vote down the request for a Committee, or to maintain such a refusal as he now makes. That refusal, as I understand, is founded on the alleged inherent incapacity of this House to deal with the question. I think it would be much more accurate to say that it arises out of the profound unwillingness of the Party he leads to have this matter sifted to the bottom; because, otherwise, they would be deprived of the opportunity of insinuating that which they dare not allege. From whatever cause that refusal arises, however, I venture to say that it is one which is inconsistent with the dignity and honour of the House, and entirely incompatible with all the traditions which have hitherto governed the Leaders of this House.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TEEASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
Sir, I will not detain the House for more than two or three minutes; but the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has made an allusion to my duty to which I must refer. It is suggested that in the discharge of my duty J am influenced by a feeling on this side of the House of profound unwillingness to have this question sifted to the bottom. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members below the Gangway opposite cheer. It is, therefore, clearly their view that hon. Members who sit on this side of the House do not want this question to be sifted. Here, then, we have evidence of the complete distrust of the good faith of the tribunal which is invoked to decide this question. The Members of that tribunal are charged beforehand with a profound unwillingness to have this question sifted. This is the temper that 1222 prevails when we are called upon to enter into a deliberate examination of those grave charges. I wish to say to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that we fully recognize the duty which rests upon those who lead the House of Commons to guard the honour and dignity and reputation of every Member in this House, and every Party in this House. But I am asked to be a party to an inquiry which I believe would be illusory, which I believe would bring this House into greater difficulties, and imperil its reputation more, than any which could possibly arise from any mistake which we could make by refusing to commit this grave subject to an inquiry before a Committee. I am bound to do my best to preserve the regularity of the proceedings and the honour of this House. My right hon. Friend sitting on my left has given, I think, conclusive reasons against referring this question to a Committee of the House of Commons, whether it be limited, as proposed by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, or extended, as the hon. Member for East Mayo proposes. [Laughter and cheers.] There is, on our side, the strongest desire that an inquiry, as impartial and as complete as possible, should be undertaken under the authority of Parliament. If the right hon. Gentleman will undertake the responsibility of moving for such an inquiry in a form which would command the confidence of the people of this country, and give assurance to his hon. Friends who sit around him that justice would be done, we should certainly put no difficulties in his way. [Laughter.] Here, again, we have evidence of the complete mistrust which hon. Members opposite have of the good faith of our statements, and consequently of the verdict which we might be called upon to give. Is there any consistency between the remarks and cheers of hon. Members and their declaration that they will trust a Committee consisting of a majority of Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House? ["No!"] Let us meet this question with the gravity which it demands, and endeavour to find a solution which shall be creditable to this House and to the people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; but do not let us be led into the adoption of a proposal 1223 which must be illusory, and must involve this House in questions which cannot fail to excite passion and Party prejudice. [Laughter.] Here, again, I say, is evidence of the incapacity of hon. Members to treat as serious and real any expression of opinion which comes from this side of the House. I earnestly hope that some method will be found by which an inquiry can be conducted. If so, the best assistance of the Government will be given to the hon. Member for East Mayo in his exposition of his view of the questions at issue. No exertions will be spared on our part; but we cannot consent to the reference of the question to a partizan Committee -["Oh!"]-composed of those who have already expressed an opinion on one side or the other, and who, as my right hon. Friend has said, by merely walking up the stairs to the Committee Room, will not be able to divest themselves of the prejudices and opinions which they have expressed inside this House and out of it.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
I do not rise with an intention of prolonging the debate, or keeping the House more than a moment from going to the Division. I rise because my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) is precluded from saying something which is important, and which should be very clearly understood. My hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) expressed his willingness and that of his Friends to extend the Reference mentioned in the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, so as to include not only the charge made against the hon. Member, but also the subject of the letter imputed to the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), and any other specific and definite charges which can be extracted from the articles called "Parnellism and Crime." Now, Sir, I only rise for the purpose of saying, on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian, that he accepts definitely and fully that extension of the terms of his own Amendment. There should, therefore, be no mistake as to the length and breadth of the issue upon which we are now going to vote. What is submitted to the House is a proposal by which the whole body of charges made by The Times newspaper against the Irish Members shall be submitted 1224 to the judgment of a Committee of this House.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided,:—Ayes 317; Noes 233: Majority 84.1228
|Agg-Gardner, J. T.||Campbell, R. F. F.|
|Ainslie, W. G.||Chaplin, right hon. H.|
|Allsopp, hon. G.||Charrington, S.|
|Allsopp, hon. P.||Churchill, rt. hn. Lord R. H. S.|
|Amherst, W. A. T.|
|Anstruther, Colonel R. H. L.||Clarke, Sir E. G.|
|Cochrane-Baillie, hon. C. W. A. N.|
|Anstruther, H. T.|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, E.||Coddington, W.|
|Baden-Powell, G. S.||Coghill, D. H.|
|Baggallay, E.||Colomb, Capt. J. C. R.|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.||Commerell, Adml. Sir J. E.|
|Baird, J. G. A.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. A. J.||Compton, F.|
|Balfour, G. W.||Corbett, A. C.|
|Banes, Major G. E.||Corbett, J.|
|Baring, Viscount||Corry, Sir J. P.|
|Barnes, A.||Cotton, Capt. E. T. D.|
|Barry, A. H. Smith-||Cross, H. S.|
|Bartley, G. C. T.||Crossley, Sir S. B.|
|Barttelot, Sir W. B.||Crossman, Gen. Sir W.|
|Bass, H.||Cubitt, right hon. G.|
|Bates, Sir E.||Currie, Sir D.|
|Baumann, A. A.||Curzon, Viscount|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Curzon, hon. G. N.|
|Beadel, W. J.||Dalrymple, C.|
|Beaumont, H. F.||Davenport, H. T.|
|Beckett, E. W.||Davenport, W. B.|
|Bective, Earl of||Dawnay, Colonel hon. L. P.|
|Bentinck, Lord H. C.|
|Bentinck, rt. hn. G. C.||De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P.|
|Bentinck, W. G. C.|
|Beresford, Lord C. W. de la Poer||De Worms, Baron H.|
|Dickson, Major A. G.|
|Bethell, Commander G. R.||Dimsdale, Baron R.|
|Biddulph, M.||Dixon-Hartland, F. D.|
|Bigwood, J.||Donkin, R. S.|
|Birkbeck, Sir E.||Dorington, Sir J. E.|
|Blundell, Colonel H. B. H.||Dugdale, J. S.|
|Duncan, Colonel F.|
|Bond, G. H.||Duncombe, A.|
|Bonsor, H. C. O.||Eaton, H. W.|
|Boord, T. W.||Edwards-Moss, T. C.|
|Borthwick, Sir A.||Egerton, hon. A. J. F.|
|Bridgeman, Col. hon. F. C.||Elliot, hon. A. R. D.|
|Elliot, Sir G.|
|Bright, right hon. J.||Elliot, G. W.|
|Bristowe, T. L.||Ellis, Sir J. W.|
|Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.||Elton, C. I.|
|Evelyn, W. J.|
|Brookfield, A. M.||Ewart, W.|
|Brooks, Sir W. C.||Ewing, Sir A. O.|
|Brown, A. H.||Farquharson, H. R.|
|Bruce, Lord H.||Feilden, Lt.-Gen. R. J.|
|Burdett-Coutts, W. L. Ash.-B.||Fellowes, W. H.|
|Fergusson, right hon. Sir J.|
|Caine, W. S.||Fielden, T.|
|Caldwell, J.||Finch, G. H.|
|Campbell, Sir A.||Finch-Hatton, hon. M. E. G.|
|Campbell, J. A.|
|Finlay, R. B.||Hulse, E. H.|
|Fisher, W. H.||Hunt, F. S.|
|Fitzgerald, R. U. P.||Hunter, Sir W. G.|
|Fitzwilliam, hon. W. J. W.||Isaacs, L. H.|
|Isaacson, F. W.|
|Fitz-Wygram, Gen. Sir F. W.||Jackson, W. L.|
|James, rt. hon. Sir H.|
|Fletcher, Sir H.||Jarvis, A. W.|
|Forwood, A. B.||Jennings, L. J.|
|Fowler, Sir R. N.||Johnston, W.|
|Fraser, General C. C.||Kelly, J. R.|
|Fry, L.||Kennaway, Sir J. H.|
|Fulton, J. F.||Kenrick, W.|
|Gardner, R. Richardson||Kenyon, hon. G. T.|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W.|
|Gathorne-Hardy, hon. A. E.|
|Ker, R. W. B.|
|Gathorne-Hardy, hon. J. S.||Kimber, H.|
|King, H. S.|
|Gedge, S.||King - Harman, right hon. Colonel E. R.|
|Gibson, J. G.||Knatchbull-Hugessen, H. T.|
|Gilliat, J. S.||Knightley, Sir R.|
|Godson, A. F.||Knowles, L.|
|Goldsmid, Sir J.||Lafone, A.|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.||Lambert, C.|
|Laurie, Colonel R. P.|
|Goschen, rt. hn. G. J.||Lawrance, J. C.|
|Gray, C. W.||Lawrence, Sir J. J. T.|
|Green, Sir E.||Lawrence, W. F.|
|Greenall, Sir G.||Lea, T.|
|Greene, E.||Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.|
|Grimston, Viscount||Legh, T. W.|
|Grotrian, F. B.||Leighton, S.|
|Gunter, Colonel R.||Lethbridge, Sir R.|
|Hall, A. W.||Lewisham, right hon. Viscount|
|Hambro, Col. C. J. T.||Llewellyn, E. H.|
|Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F.||Low, M.|
|Lowther, hon. W.|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J.||Lowther, J. W.|
|Hamilton, Col. C. E.||Lymington, Viscount|
|Hamley, Gen. Sir E. B.||Macartney, W. G. E.|
|Macdonald, right hon. J. H. A.|
|Hanbury, R. W.|
|Hardcastle, E.||Maclean, F. W.|
|Hardcastle, F.||Maclean, J. M.|
|Hartington, Marq. of||Maclure, J. W.|
|Havelock - Allan, Sir H. M.||M'Calmont, Captain J.|
|M'Garel-Hogg, Sir J. M.|
|Heath, A. R.|
|Heathcote, Capt. J. H. Edwards-||Making, Colonel W. T.|
|Malcolm, Col. J. W.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Mallock, R.|
|Hervey, Lord F.||Manners, rt. hon. Lord J. J. R.|
|Hill, right hon. Lord A. W.|
|March, Earl of|
|Hill, Colonel E. S.||Marriott, rt. hn. W. T.|
|Hoare, S.||Maskelyne, M. H. N. Story-|
|Holland, right hon. Sir H. T.||Maxwell, Sir H. E.|
|Mayne, Admiral R. C.|
|Holloway, G.||Mildmay, F. B.|
|Holmes, rt. hon. H.||Mills, hon. C. W.|
|Hornby, W. H.||Milvain, T.|
|Houldsworth, W. H.||More, R. J.|
|Howard, J.||Morgan, hon. F.|
|Hozier, J. H. C.||Morrison, W.|
|Hubbard, E.||Mount, W. G.|
|Hughes, Colonel E.||Mowbray, right hon. Sir J. R.|
|Hughes - Hallett, Col. F. C.|
|Mowbray, R. G. C.|
|Mulholland, H. L.||Smith, right hon. W. H.|
|Muntz, P. A.|
|Murdoch, C. T.||Smith, A.|
|Newark, Viscount||Stanhope, rt. hon. E.|
|Noble, W.||Stanley, E. J.|
|Norris, E. S.||Stewart, M.|
|Northcote, hon. H. S.||Swetenham, E.|
|Norton, R.||Sykes, C.|
|O'Neill, hon. R. T.||Talbot, J. G.|
|Paget, Sir R. H.||Taylor, F.|
|Parker, hon. F.||Temple, Sir R.|
|Pearce, W.||Theobald, J.|
|Pelly, Sir L.||Thorburn, W.|
|Penton, Captain F. T.||Tollemache, H. J.|
|Pitt-Lewis, G.||Tomlinson, W. E. M.|
|Plunket, rt. hn. D. R.||Tottenham, A. L.|
|Plunkett, hon. J. W.||Townsend, F.|
|Pomfret, W. P.||Trotter, H. J.|
|Powell, F. S.||Verdin, R.|
|Price, Captain G. E.||Vernon, hon. G. R.|
|Puleston, J. H.||Walsh, hon. A. H. J.|
|Rankin, J.||Waring, Colonel T.|
|Ridley, Sir M. W.||Watson, J.|
|Ritchie, rt. hn. C. T.||Webster, Sir R. E.|
|Robertson, J. P. B.||Webster, R. G.|
|Robinson, B.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Rollit, Sir A. K.||Wharton, J. L.|
|Ross, A. H.||White, J. B.|
|Rothschild, Baron F. J. de||Whitley, E.|
|Whitmore, C. A.|
|Round, J.||Williams, J. Powell-|
|Russell, Sir G.||Wilson, Sir S.|
|Salt, T.||Winn, hon. R.|
|Sandys, Lt.-Col. T. M.||Wodehouse, E. R.|
|Saundorson, Col. E. J.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Sclater-Booth, rt. hn. G.||Wood, N.|
|Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Sellar, A. C.||Wright, H. S.|
|Selwin-Ibbetson, rt. hon. Sir H. J.||Wroughton, P.|
|Yerburgh, R. A.|
|Selwyn, Captain C. W.||Young, C. E. B.|
|Shaw-Stewart, M. H.||TELLERS.|
|Sidebotham, J. W.||Douglas, A. Akers-|
|Sidebottom, T. H.||Walrond, Col. W. H.|
|Sinclair, W. P.|
|Acland, A. H. D.||Cameron, J. M.|
|Acland, C. T. D.||Campbell, H.|
|Allison, R. A.||Campbell-Bannerman, right hon. H.|
|Anderson, C. H.|
|Asher, A.||Carew, J. L.|
|Asquith, H. H.||Chance, P. A.|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Channing, F. A.|
|Austin, J.||Childers, right hon. H. C. E.|
|Balfour, Sir G.|
|Barbour, W. B.||Clancy, J. J.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Clark, Dr. G. B.|
|Blake, J. A.||Cobb, H. P.|
|Blake, T.||Cohen, A.|
|Blane, A.||Coleridge, hon. B.|
|Bolton, J. C.||Commins, A.|
|Bolton, T. D.||Connolly, L.|
|Bradlaugh, C.||Conway, M.|
|Bright, Jacob||Conybeare, C. A. V.|
|Bright, W. L.||Corbet, W. J.|
|Brown, A. L.||Cossham, H.|
|Bruce, hon. R. P.||Cox, J. R.|
|Bryce, J.||Cozens-Hardy, H. H.|
|Buchanan, T. R.||Craig, J.|
|Buxton, S. C.||Crawford, D.|
|Byrne, G. M.||Crawford, W.|
|Cremer, W. R.||Lewis, T. P.|
|Crossley, E.||Lyell, L.|
|Dillon, J.||Macdonald, W. A.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Mac Innes, M.|
|Dodds, J.||MacNeill, J. G. S.|
|Duff, R. W.||M'Arthur, A.|
|Ellis, J.||M'Cartan, M.|
|Ellis, J. E.||M'Carthy, J.|
|Ellis, T. E.||M'Carthy, J. H.|
|Esmonde, Sir T. H. G.||M'Donald, P.|
|Esslemont, P.||M'Donald, Dr. R.|
|Evershed, S.||M'Ewan, W.|
|Farquharson, Dr. R.||M'Kenna, Sir J. N.|
|Fenwick, C.||M'Lagan, P.|
|Ferguson, R. G. Munro-||Mahony, P.|
|Finucane, J.||Maitland, W. F.|
|Flower, C.||Mappin, Sir F. T.|
|Flynn, J. C.||Marum, E. M.|
|Foley, P. J.||Mason, S.|
|Foljambe, C. G. S.||Mayne, T.|
|Forster, Sir C.||Menzies, R. S.|
|Foster, Sir W. B.||Molloy, B. C.|
|Fowler, rt. hon. H. H.||Montagu, S.|
|Fox, Dr. J. F.||Morgan, rt. hon. G. O.|
|Fry, T.||Morgan, O. V.|
|Fuller, G. P.||Morley, rt. hon. J.|
|Gane, J. L.||Mundella, right hon. A. J.|
|Gaskell, C. G. Milnes-||Murphy, W. M.|
|Gilhooly, J.||Kolan, Colonel J. P.|
|Gill, H. J.||Nolan, J.|
|Gill, T. P.||O'Brien, J. F. X.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||O'Brien, P.|
|Gladstone, H. J.||O'Brien, P. J.|
|Gourley, E. T.||O'Connor, A.|
|Graham, R. C.||O'Connor, J. (Kerry)|
|Gray, E. D.||O'Connor, J. (Tippry.)|
|Grove, Sir T. F.||O'Connor, T. P.|
|Gully, W. C.||O'Doherty, J. E.|
|Haldane, R. B.||O'Hanlon, T.|
|Hanbury-Tracy, hon. F. S. A.||O'Hea, P.|
|Harcourt, rt. hn. Sir W. G. V. V.||Palmer, Sir C. M.|
|Parker, C. S.|
|Harrington, E.||Paulton, J. M.|
|Harrington, T. C.||Peacock, R.|
|Hayden, L. P.||Pease, Sir J. W.|
|Hayne, C. Seale-||Pickersgill, E. H.|
|Healy, M.||Pinkerton, J.|
|Healy, T. M.||Playfair, rt. hon. Sir L.|
|Hooper, J.||Plowden, Sir W. C.|
|Howell, G.||Portman, hon. E. B.|
|Hoyle, I.||Potter, T. B.|
|Hunter, W. A.||Powell, W. R. H.|
|Illingworth, A.||Power, P. J.|
|Jacoby, J. A.||Power, R.|
|James, hon. W. H.||Price, T. P.|
|Joicey, J.||Priestley, B.|
|Jordan, J.||Provand, A. D.|
|Kay-Shuttleworth, rt. hon. Sir U. J.||Pugh, D.|
|Pyne, J. D.|
|Kennedy, E. J.||Quinn, T.|
|Kenny, C. S.||Rathhone, W.|
|Kenny, M. J.||Redmond, W. H. K.|
|Labouchere, H.||Reed, Sir E. J.|
|Lalor, R.||Reid, R. T.|
|Lawson, Sir W.||Rendel, S.|
|Lawson, H. L. W.||Roberts, J.|
|Leahy, J.||Roberts, J. B.|
|Leake, R.||Robertson, E.|
|Lefevre, right hon. G. J. S.||Robinson, T.|
|Roscoe, Sir H. E.||Tanner, C. K.|
|Rowlands, W. B.||Thomas, A.|
|Rowntree, J.||Tuite, J.|
|Russell, Sir C.||Vivian, Sir H. H.|
|Russell, E. R.||Wallace, R.|
|Samuelson, Sir B.||Wardle, H.|
|Schwann, C. E.||Warmington, C. M.|
|Sexton, T.||Watt, H.|
|Shaw, T.||Wayman, T.|
|Sheehan, J. D.||Whitbread, S.|
|Sheehy, D.||Will, J. S.|
|Sheil, E.||Williams, A. J.|
|Shirley, W. S.||Williamson, J.|
|Smith, S.||Williamson, S.|
|Stack, J.||Wilson, C. H.|
|Stanhope, hon. P. J.||Wilson, H. J.|
|Stansfeld, right hon. J.||Wilson, I.|
|Stevenson, F. S.||Woodall, W.|
|Stevenson, J. C.||Woodhead, J.|
|Stuart, J.||Yeo, F. A.|
|Sullivan, T. D.||TELLERS.|
|Summers, W.||Marjoribanks, rt. hon. E.|
|Swinburne, Sir J.|
|Talbot, C. R. M.||Morley, A.|
Bill read a second time, and committed for Tuesday next.
§ Words added.
Main Question, as amended, put.
Resolved, That this House declines to treat the publication of the article headed "Parnellism and Crime" in The Times of the 2nd of May as a Breach of the Privileges of this House.