§ [FOURTH NIGHT.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 (Appointment and duties of special commissioners).
pointed out that the Amendment in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Robertson) was identical with an Amendment already disposed of in Committee, and was, therefore, out of Order. The first Amendment of the hon. Member for Londonderry City (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) was also out of Order, on the ground that it was beyond the scope of the Bill.
MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY (Londonderry City)
said, he rose to move an Amendment the meaning of which was that the Commission should compel those concerned in this investigation to bring out in every form all the history of the manner in which these charges had been got up. It was not enough that the charges remained to be examined as they now stood by a public tribunal. They could all understand that the editor of The Times was prompted to set out these serious charges and allegations by some person or persons unknown. It was of the utmost importance that the Commission should be put in possession of the way in which the charges were originally got up; it might have been that some disappointed person was at the bottom of the chargee, 1291 or some man had made them for the sake of pay. What they wanted to get at was the story of the inception of the charges; they wanted to know who it was that came to Mr. Buckle and said—"I will betray to you all this matter affecting Members of Parliament;" who was the man who brought the forged letters to Mr. Buckle or Mr. Walter, and under what pretence did he make Mr. Buckle or Mr. Walter believe that they were honestly obtained; what was the original evidence to satisfy Mr. Walter and Mr. Buckle that these letters were genuine documents? He presumed that in a Court of Common Law any person producing such letters could be asked how he knew them to be genuine; and, that being so, he was of opinion that something of the same kind should be the case in the investigation by this Commission. But, although that might be the case with the forged letters, it might not be so with regard to other charges and statements made. They wanted not only to have the charges put on the table before the Commission, but they wanted as a first, or, at all events, as an early step, to get at the secret history of the charges and to discover the man who brought them forward, as well as the primâ facie case given to The Times in virtue of which the articles were published. He was strongly of opinion—it was his conviction—that if they could get that story in the beginning it might save the Judges a great amount of investigation. He believed that it would have the effect of convincing every reasonable man of the absurdity and falsehood of the whole mountain of charges that had been heaped up by The Times day after day. He would only say, further, that if the Committee would accept his Amendment they would save a vast amount of time in the exposure of a hideous conspiracy, and, with regard to the persons implicated, "would put a whip in every honest hand to lash the rascals naked through the world."
In page 1, line 20, at end of the Clause, to add the words "and the circumstances under which the said charges and allegations were originally published and made by the defendants in the said action."—(Mr. Justin M'Carthy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."1292
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS) (Birmingham, E.)
said, that, so far as the charges and allegations were concerned, the object of the hon. Gentleman would be attained without the insertion of the Amendment, because the subject would necessarily be brought under the notice of the Commissioners; all matters would be necessarily inquired into by the Commission so far as they bore on the truth of the charges and allegations, and if the truth were established, the motives with which they were published did not appear to be of much importance.
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)
said, he quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department that what was intended by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Londonderry City (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) would necessarily be brought under the notice of the Commission when they came to consider the subject referred to. But the right hon. Gentleman had referred to the letters, and he said that if the genuineness of the letters were proved, which, of course, would depend upon the handwriting, it would not be necessary for the Judges to go into the question as to how The Times obtained the letters. If the Commissioners did not go into the question as to how the letters were obtained, they would leave out one of the important elements of genuineness. As a general rule, you prove the genuineness of a letter by calling upon experts in handwriting, and that was sufficient; but the right hon. Gentleman was now taking a course which had actually been taken on the trial by the hon. and learned. Attorney General in his position as counsel for The Times, when he said that nothing would make The Times swerve from the course they had originally taken—that was to say, they would not divulge the source from which they obtained the letters. Was that the position taken up by Her Majesty's Government? One of the matters he wished to have distinctly understood by the Committee was, that the counsel for The Times ought not to be permitted to take up that position which the hon. and learned Attorney General had done as counsel for The Times in the case of "O'Donnell v. Walter." He looked upon this particular point as to whence 1293 the letters originated, and whence they were obtained, as the essence of the question. He had been told on authority, which was not altogether bad, that The Times had in its possession several hundred other letters reputed to be written by the hon. Member for Cork; but he would remind hon. Members that in the case of articles of vertu the supply soon became very great, and that there might have been an actual flood of so-called genuine letters of the hon. Member for Cork. He should like to have the question investigated and fully brought out at the inquiry, how many hundreds of forged letters The Times now possessed, because that would be an important matter in considering the genuineness of the letters in question. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he had misunderstood him in saying that the Government disavowed the course taken by the counsel for The Times, and that the Commissioners would not be allowed to take again at the commencement of the inquiry the course of action which had been resorted to by the hon. and learned Attorney General in the case of "O'Donnell v. Walter?" He was in Court when the hon. and learned Attorney General made the statement he had referred to, and he remembered that it created a profound sensation; but to say that the information asked for in the Amendment should not be given would be to shut the door to one of the main pieces of evidence as to genuineness. If he had had any faith in the genuineness of the letters, it was shaken by the refusal of The Times to state the source from which they were derived. He did not believe any journal, which was genuinely anxious to bring before the public any important documents, sincerely believing in their genuineness, would refuse to bring forward one of the first elements of proof of their genuineness. For these reasons he hoped the Government would tell the Committee that the procedure before the Commission was not to be the same as in the case of "O'Donnell v. Walter," and that the source from which the letters had been derived was to be inquired into. But, upon the grounds stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, he thought the Amendment might he almost dispensed with.
§ THE LORD MAYOR OF DUBLIN (Mr SEXTON) (Belfast, W.)
said, he did not think his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Anderson), in speaking of the Amendment being dispensed with, had given any reason why it should not be discussed. The ear of the Government was a somewhat dull ear; but hon. Members would have to make a further appeal to the right hon. Gentleman at the risk of being denounced again to-morrow for blackguardism by Mr. Walter, the big brother of the Government. He must say that, so far as they were concerned, they not only invited the fullest inquiry, but were anxious for it. He had to remind the Committee that the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) had said on Tuesday last in the House that The Times was on its trial in this business as well as the Irish Members. Undoubtedly that was the ease, and it was possible that some of its charges might not be made good. As the Bill stood, it would relieve The Times, if found guilty of publishing forgeries, of all consequences, whether civil or criminal; but when this Commission was over, it would seem that no one attacked by The Times could possibly bring a civil action.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, of course, Mr. Buckle and Mr. Walter would come before the Commission and make what they called a full disclosure, and obtain a certificate which would protect them against civil action commenced by anyone. That being so, it became of great importance that the proceedings before the Commission should be searching and go to the bottom not only of acts, but of motives. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary held that, if the fact of murder was proved, there was no necessity to go into motives. That was an admirable argument from an Old Bailey point of view, because if you wanted to prove a man's guilt you hanged him, and there was an end of the matter; but from the point of view of statesmanship it was not only necessary that the act, but the motives, should be ascertained. He held it to be a matter of great importance to prove not only who committed a crime, but what was the motive for its commission, because then practical statesmanship would 1295 apply itself to the prevention of causes which led to crime. If there were to be an inquiry into the discovery of motive, the Amendment must be accepted. The Commissioners were only required to inquire and report on the truth or falsity of the allegations and charges; but if motive was an essential part of the inquiry, they should not be directed to inquire into the allegations unless they inquired also into the circumstances. It would be a proper matter for inquiry, in case the allegations or charges were proved to be false, under what circumstances The Times made them; it would be necessary to ask who the writer of the articles was—whether he was a person of position or a penny-a-liner? Every point tending to establish or prove the good faith of The Times in publishing the articles would be necessary to the ascertainment of the truth. They had heard that these letters had been offered to another person. He was aware that these very inferior works of art had been hawked about the country by persons for some years. On the meeting of the Commission they would want at once to get Mr. Walter into the chair to know where he got the letters from. The only way to discover the falsehood of the letters would be to proceed back upon the track on which the letters came, and then it would come up whether, having regard to the man's position or financial means, Mr. Walter and another were justified in taking them from him and publishing them. In point of fact, it would be a vital element to consider whether Walter and another, in dealing with these documents, dealt with them in manifest bad faith and malice, or whether they took them in good faith and only used them after due inquiry into their genuineness. If Walter and another, under the Bill as it stood, said they obtained the letters from So-and-so and gave so much money for them, that would be a full disclosure, and they would get their certificate; but he thought Irish Members would have to pursue that matter a little further, and for that reason the Amendment ought to be accepted.
MR. STAVELEY HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)
said, he did not think the hon. and learned Member for North Longford need be very much afraid of the consequences of his Amendment not being adopted. The Judges on the 1296 Commission were men of great practical experience, and one of the first considerations would be whether these letters were genuine or forged. Every question bearing upon them could be put on cross-examination, and would be considered where they came from, who was the person who brought them to The Times; and, in short, The Times proprietors, would not be allowed to ride over the course in the way the hon. Gentleman suggested. Unless The Times could give an account whence these letters came, and could produce the persons from whom they bought or obtained them, and unless those persons could stand cross-examination, the Judges would never have accepted the inquiry. When a proper cross-examination was administered, a clear account would have to be given as to how the letters came into the hands of The Times, by whom they were written, and how they came into the hands of the person to whom it was alleged that the hon. Member for Cork had given them. The whole matter would be gone into, and, unless this was done, the letters would be held to be forged, and the whole idea of their being genuine would be scouted. He was afraid that, as the last clause of the Bill stood, although the Government might not have intended it, if Mr. Walter or anybody else gave an account however damaging to themselves, or however criminating to themselves, if that account were true, they would be entitled to an indemnity which would shield them from liability for their acts. Now that ought not to be so, and for that reason he had asked earlier in the afternoon a question with reference to Amendments to which he hoped a satisfactory answer would be given.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, he would point out to the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Staveley Hill) that he had an Amendment upon the Paper to the last clause, which would have the effect of voiding the injustice which the hon. and learned Member pointed out. He believed that one of the reasons why the Government were so anxious to bring the discussion of the Bill to a close without considering the Amendments was that they were bound to Mr. Walter not to allow any such Amendment to be proposed. That was perfectly monstrous, because it was depriving people of a remedy at law.
said, he must point out to the hon. Member for Northampton that he was not in Order in discussing an Amendment by anticipation.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, it was an extraordinary thing that, whenever any hon. Member on the Opposition side of the House got up and pointed out that it would only be reasonable and fair that the Judges should be obliged to follow some particular course, he was met by the answer of the Government that the Judges were so wise that they would most unquestionably pursue that course. The basis of the Bill was built up on the Government confidence in Mr. Justice Day and others. Now, not having that confidence, he could not understand why the Government did not accept Amendments calling upon the Judges to do precisely what the Government said they would do. He defied The Times, or any Representative of The Times on the Treasury Bench, to deny that last autumn, when Parnellism and Crime had already been published and fallen a little flat, they engaged a detective at a large salary and sent him to the United States under a false name, whose business it was to try and get friends with persons connected with the National Movement out there, and who was given free scope to buy up all documents of a certain kind and send them to The Times. Now, he thought that kind of thing ought to be investigated. It was an encouragement to robbery, and it was an encouragement to theft. He did not see why, if everything relating to his hon. Friends was to be investigated by this tribunal, it should not also investigate the particular sources from which these letters came, and look into the course of action which had been pursued by The Times in their systematic attempt to vilify the Irish Party. The object of the Amendment was to get at the whole truth, and his hon. Friends had only referred to the letters as an illustration of its object. They did not want to go into the motives of Mr. Walter; his object was clear enough; his newspaper was going down in circulation, and he wanted something sensational to bring it up. Those were his motives; perhaps they were good motives, but they were the motives undoubtedly. They wanted to know how all this system had been carried out by The Times, in order that 1298 they might found upon it some check to this system, which he had already said was a practical encouragement to fraud and robbery.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he agreed with the hon. and learned Member for the Kingswinford Division of Staffordshire (Mr. Staveley Hill) that the Judges would inquire into where the particular letters came from. But his point was not only that the Judges should inquire into particular letters, as he agreed it was their duty to do; but he also wanted to know how it was that The Times got those forged documents into their possession, because they had a great number of other documents in their possession which were undoubtedly forgeries? Surely, it was a most important matter to inquire into them also; but under the Bill, as it stood, he believed that the Judges had no such jurisdiction. The terms of the Bill were that they should inquire into the allegations and charges made in the action of "O'Donnell v. The Times" against Members of Parliament and others. Now, there was no charge made in the action of "O'Donnell v. The Times"—nothing of the sort. The Times had out of this mass of forgeries brought forward two or three only. He was sure that was a matter which ought to be the subject of inquiry. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department appreciated that sentiment; but would be get up and say that in the opinion of himself or the Solicitor General the Judges would have power under this Bill to go into the question? If so, he should be perfectly satisfied
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN (Dublin, College Green)
said, he could not understand why the Government should oppose the Amendment; because all through the discussion it had been stated from the Treasury Bench that the great object of the inquiry was to get at the truth, and the whole truth, and objection had been over and over again taken to the inclusion of anything that would limit the scope of the inquiry. The Amendment went to the purpose of getting at a very important part of the whole truth, and he wondered how the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department could get up and oppose it. It was exceedingly important in this inquiry, which was not to be exclusively 1299 directed to the truth or innocence of Members of Parliament, that they should learn how the documents were obtained by The Times; under what circumstances they came into the possession of that journal; what amount of money was given for them, and who were the persons who supplied them. All these things constituted a most important part of the whole truth which the Government had declared themselves to be so anxious to ascertain. A forgery might by skilful people, be very adroitly effected; it was possible to imitate with a wonderful degree of perfection the signature and handwriting of any man. A skilful forger, with care, time, and practice, and original documents before him, could, he maintained, produce an imitation, not only of the signature, but of the handwriting of any man in the House of Commons, or any man in England, with such perfection as might deceive the person whose handwriting was imitated. It would throw a great light on the genuineness or otherwise of these documents, if they were to know early who were the parties who supplied them to The Times. The person who supplied the documents might be a person of bad character. He must be someone who had a bitter animus against the hon. Member for Cork, or other Members of the Irish Party; he might be a man who had been notoriously seeking to blackmail the Members of the Irish Party, or one who had been trying to beg or extort money from them. The personality of the person from whom the letters came would unquestionably throw an important light upon their authenticity. Then why should the Government show so much opposition to the inclusion of these words? He thought there was good reason why the Amendment should be admitted. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had told the Committee that the Judges would be men of experience and men of sense and discretion, and that they would investigate every important point, and rule out every one one that was not important, and that they would not waste time in the consideration of what was irrelevant. He (Mr. T. D. Sullivan) would like to have something more definite to go upon than that, and they preferred that the security should be in the Bill, which would be more reliable than the opinion 1300 of the right hon. Gentleman. It was a matter of notoriety that at the trial of "O'Donnell v. Walter" the counsel for The Times stated in open Court that, whatever might happen in the course of the proceedings, the proprietor of The Times would not reveal the source from which he got the documents. That was a very bold position to take up; men in Ireland were being sent to prison every day for refusing to answer questions put to them in the Star Chamber Court; and Mr. Walter announced openly in Court that he would refuse to produce the person from whom the documents were obtained, or disclose the ways and means by which he obtained them. They thought it was essential that the proprietor of The Times should be compelled to do this. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary did not know that his views as to the course of the inquiry would be shared by the Judges; and, at any rate, the Committee desired that the protection given by the Amendment should be included in the Bill. He thought that the case of the Amendment was a strong one, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give a better reason than he had given for the opposition of the Government to it. He repeated that the right hon. Gentleman had told the Committee that the Judges would do one thing and would not do another; but the Commissioners might not see the matter in exactly the same light as the right hon. Gentleman; and, that being so, Irish Members, as one of the Parties in the case, urged upon the Government the acceptance of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Londonderry. They wanted it inserted in the Bill that The Times should be compelled to inform the Commission of the source from which and the means by which they obtained these documents, giving the names of the persons who supplied them. If the Government would do that, he maintained that it would tend a great deal to satisfy the public. As to having the opinion of experts, that might leave the facts still uncertain, and nothing but the history of the letters could be in any way conclusive. If the person who supplied them were of good report, it would, of course, be an important consideration; if they were persons known to be in bitter animosity to the hon. Member for Cork and his Friends, that 1301 would place them in a different position. For the reasons he had given he strongly urged upon the Committee to insert the Amendment in the Bill.
§ MR. HARRIS (Galway, E.)
said, it would be very unfair if a witness who gave evidence in support of The Times on the inquiry were allowed the privilege of not answering questions put by counsel who appeared on the side of Irish Members. If the relief were allowed to these persons, he should certainly feel himself justified in refusing to answer questions put to him, and he questioned whether any witness would not be justified in doing so under those circumstances. This was a most peculiar imposition, and he regarded it as a very disgraceful thing in a country like this that they should arm a body of Commissioners with power to inquire into every description of intercourse people might have with their fellow-men—such powers to overrule the usages and amenities of society. It was a most disgraceful thing that these powers were to be directed altogether to one side, and that the other side was to escape inquiry. It seemed to him that that would be one of the most unfair modes of treatment that a Party was ever subjected to.
§ DR. KENNY (Cork, S.)
said, he hoped the Government would see their way to accepting the Amendment. He, of course, hoped against hope in asking for any such concession on their part. As a matter of fact, the Government knew that it was they themselves who were on their trial—they and their friend The Times. As a matter of fact, it was the Government who were seeking to avoid inquiry into the circumstances under which those charges had been made. They would not accept any Amendment which would have the effect of restricting, on the one hand, their friend The Times from going into all manner of charges, whether relevant to any specific issue or not, and of equally opposing any Amendment which would give facilities to the Irish Members who were incriminated by The Times, or whom The Times had endeavoured to incriminate—Amendments framed with the object of throwing back upon The Times the charges that really lay at their door. A few nights ago the Government had packed the jury, and ever since then they had been preparing a method by which they might summon evidence to condemn the Irish popular Represen- 1302 tatives in that House, and they had been seeking in the interests ofThe Times to drag in every irrelevant matter which they thought might tend to cast guilt upon those Representatives, and upon the Irish people, and to avoid every fair and square issue that could be proposed. He trusted that the Government would have some little sense of shame after all the action they had taken on this Bill, and that they would give the Irish Members some little concession on the point under discussion. The Government were desirous that the Committee should come to a speedy end of these debates; but it was they themselves who, by refusing all such reasonable Amendments as the one now under discussion, were prolonging the debates uselessly. The Government, he believed, were acting thus in order that, at the end of the discussion, they might be able to shut out Amendments of another class, which hon. Members might desire to move hereafter. He hoped some ray of light and grace would come to them even at that late period. Even at that late period he ventured to hope that, if a scintilla of fair play remained with them, they would accept an Amendment which could not operate injuriously to them or to their client, but which would modify that which was intended to operate injuriously upon the Irish Members.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 128; Noes 162: Majority 34.—(Div. List, No. 258.)
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he desired to move the following Amendment:—In page 1, line 20, after "another," add—Provided that the Commission shall, at the commencement of the inquiry and before entering upon further matters, inquire and report upon the letters read by the counsel of the defendant in the action of 'O'Donnell v. Walter and another,' purporting to be signed 'Charles S. Parnell,' and to have been written and sent by or under the authority of Mr. Charles Stewart Parnell, the signature to which the aforesaid Mr. Charles Stewart Parnell has declared to be a forgery.He was glad to think that the atmosphere was not so electric as it had been during the last day or two, and that they were in such a judicial frame of mind that he felt little doubt that he would be able to prove to the hon. and learned Solicitor General and to the Home Secretary that if they wished it 1303 to be thought in the country that this Bill was a fair and honest Bill, they would do well to accept the Amendment he suggested now—an Amendment which, if they did not accept it, they would, at least, admit was au important one, and one that required some sort of discussion. It would be observed that the idea in the Bill was that the whole issue, so far as Members of the House were concerned, was an issue of "The Times v. Parnell and others;" but he would point out that there was another side of the matter, and that there was also an issue of "Parnell v. The Times." His hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) accused The Times, precisely as The Times accused him. His hon. Friend accused The Times of having, either knowingly or foolishly and negligently, published certain letters which they alleged were written by him, but which were forgeries, and which, if they had been written by him, would very seriously have damaged his character. Now, he (Mr. Labouchere) had read through Parnellism and Crime. He was not like most hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, who took things for granted and voted for their Party without taking the trouble to look into matters. He (Mr. Labouchere) distinctly stated, having read this pamphlet, that absolutely the only real and definite issue of fact in the whole of it was whether the hon. Member for the City of Cork did or did not write these letters. His hon. Friend did not for a moment contest the innuendoes which were contained in what was written in these letters; but he met them with an absolute denial that he had written them. The hon. Member admitted himself that, had he written them, he would have been guilty not only of dishonourable and improper action in so doing, but that he would also be the most outrageous and the most impudent of liars that it would be possible for the human mind to conceive. Now, with regard to his hon. Friend, he had distinctly stated in the House that he did not write those letters; and, so far as he (Mr. Labouchere) gathered from the attitude of hon. Members opposite, they had suspended their judgment. They did not absolutely say that the hon. Member for the City of Cork was guilty of an untruth; but they were not prepared to say that he was not guilty 1304 of an untruth. They, on the Opposition side of the House, had been accused whenever they had taken an opportunity of—say, doubting the memory of hon. Gentlemen opposite—they had been denounced by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others; but when his hon. Friend and his Colleagues—or "the men below the Gangway," as the right hon. Gentleman expressed it—declared certain statements with regard to them were false, it was deemed only reasonable on the other side to say—"Oh! they may be speaking the truth, or they may not; we know nothing about it." His hon. Friend (Mr. Parnell) had been sneered at for not going to law. He had asked for a Select Committee; but the Government had told him he could not have one. They proposed the present Commission, saying that it would be in accord and in agreement with the wishes of his hon. Friend; but hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House absolutely denied that the hon. Member for the City of Cork had ever, in any sort of way, assented to such a Commission as the Government were proposing. But, at any rate, the Bill for the Commission was before the House, and he did think that it was only reasonable on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite, as they were to have the Commission, to see that the charge which unquestionably affected his hon. Friend most should be speedily investigated, and that was the scope of the Amendmemt which he (Mr. Labouchere) had here put down. The Amendment was, first, to instruct the Judges to inquire into the truth or falsity of these signatures, "Charles Stewart Parnell," and afterwards to proceed to other matters—but not until they had inquired into this matter and reported thereon. He did not believe the Home Secretary would refuse the Amendment; and he would say why. He had a better opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite than had many Members upon that—the Opposition—side of the House, and he thought it would be so base and so vile to refuse the Amendment, that until he was informed of the fact by the progress of events he declined to believed that anyone in the House would do such a thing as to refuse it. What interpretation would be put into it? They had had it stated that The Times, 1305 and the hon. and learned Attorney General and the "old friend" of The Times suspended their belief; but the explanation which would be put upon it by impartial and independent persons like himself (Mr. Labouchere) would be that The Times, and both the hon. and learned Attorney General, who represented it, and the First Lord of the Treasury, who was "the old friend" of Mr. Walter, were perfectly convinced by this time that The Times had made a mistake, and they themselves, although they were not certain one way or the other, hesitated to believe that the letters were forgeries. The Committee had had a good many indications of this. They had found those letters gradually disappearing from the forefront and becoming a very secondary matter. Then they had had the fact that the Attorney General, acting for The Times, had stated that under no circumstances would his clients say what the circumstances attending the production of these letters were. [An hon. MEMBER: Why?] Why, what? The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, speaking for The Times, had stated that under no circumstances would The Times acknowledge whence those letters were derived—that they would rather lose their action than state it. Now, that was a very important declaration. He confessed he did not see how The Times proprietor could do otherwise. There was such a thing as journalistic etiquette and journalistic honour. [An hon. MEMBER: Not much.] An hon. Friend had said "not much." Well, perhaps not much, but still a certain amount. This journalistic etiquette covered such an event as a person coming to a newspaper with certain information, on the understanding that if the newspaper used the information, either for its private or other purposes, it should pledge itself not to state where it had obtained the information, but accept the consequences of its publication—that was to say, to go to prison or do anything else that might be necessary, rather than reveal the name of its informant. It was said that The Times would reveal the name of the person or persons who had supplied them with the letters purporting to be written by the hon. Member for the City of Cork; but, unless The Times was preparing to throw away every shred of journalistic 1306 honour, it would not do any such thing. In fact, they had the statement that it would not. Everything tended to prove that the Commission which was now proposed and the mode of procedure contemplated were based upon the idea that those letters were forgeries, and the object was to swamp the real issue as to their genuine character in the midst of mud and garbage picked up here, there, and everywhere. They could never, he maintained, come to the fact whether those letters were written by his hon. Friend or not without the adoption of this or some similar Amendment. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, who was a distinguished lawyer as well as a distinguished statesman, what would occur if they did not lay down that the letters were to be inquired into first and reported upon first? It was probable that the Judges might think it desirable to look into all the allegations against the Land League and everything else before they touched the question of the letters. They should have all these matters looked into, and that was not the main object of the Commission, as stated by the First Lord of the Treasury; but after they had gone into all these matters The Times might say—"We are not going to give the names of the authors of those letters, or the names of the persons from whom we have obtained them." Suppose The Times took that course, and suppose that Mr. Walter, rather than give the names of his informants, elected to go to prison. Personally, he should have no objection to Mr. Walter going to prison; but that would not help the case of his hon. Friend. They would have had an investigation into a mass of matters, and this Commission, the object of which was to look into the letters and report upon them, would, after having looked into a mass of irrelevant matter, not be able to find out the authorship of the forgeries. What was the answer which would be given to him (Mr. Labouchere)? Why, he should be first told that these Judges were good and excellent men, and that everything should be left to them. Well, he admitted the excellence and the purity of the Judges. He would admit that they might be the best and the wisest of men; but it did not necessarily follow that, being the best and wisest of men, they would look into the question of these letters and report 1307 thereon, unless they were instructed by the Committee to do so. Then he should be told that the Irish Members had given a general assent to this Bill on the second reading, and that because they had given that assent, they had no right to propose any change or alteration in it. Well, he should like to know what on earth was the good of a Committee stage, if such a principle as that was to be laid down? He never yet heard of such a principle being laid down or being acted upon. Most assuredly, it was not acted upon by hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in Opposition. Again and again, they accepted the second reading of a Bill, and endeavoured to alter that Bill in Committee. But in this case it had to be remembered that the Irish Members had clearly laid down certain conditions under which they would accept the Bill. The hon. Member for the City of Cork did not give his assent to the Bill as it stood at the second reading. None of them had given their assent to it. What had occurred? Why, he distrusted, and always did distrust, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite. He had put down an Amendment to the effect that the Bill should be read a second time that day six months. A good many Members on the Opposition side were most anxious that he should go to a vote on that Amendment; and who was it that prevented him? Certainly, not hon. Gentlemen opposite; but it was the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork. The line that hon. Member took was this—"I am so very anxious that there should be an investigation into these matters—into these direct charges against me—that I hope you will do nothing to prevent the passing of this Bill." He (Mr. Labouchere) had said upon that—"You do not mean to say you want this Bill?" And the hon. Member replied—"No; but I am certain that after we have discussed the matter in Committee we shall have some fair alteration in the measure." He (Mr. Labouchere) had rejoined—"I do not believe it; if you take my word for it, you will got nothing from the Government." Well, which of them had been proved to he in the right—his hon. Friend or himself? He did not say this to prove his own wisdom or forethought; but when hon. Members opposite boasted 1308 that the second reading had been carried nemine contradicente, he wished to point out that it had been carried nemine contradicente, because his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork believed—though as matters had turned out that belief was seen to have been altogether a delusion—that he would be treated fairly, honestly, and honourably, and that he would get a Commission which would enable him to establish his innocence of charges which affected his reputation and honour. He (Mr. Labouchere) was certain of this, that if hon. Gentlemen did not accept this Amendment—which was really not a question of principle, but a question of detail, although a most important detail in this case—they would stand convicted of having tried, under very false pretences, to induce the House to accept the second reading of a Bill which as it stood was designed, not to discover the guilt or innocence of his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork, but to evade the issue and protect The Times. As he had said, he could not believe that the Government would refuse to accept this Amendment; but still, if he were mistaken, and the Amendment were not accepted, he would again take upon himself to offer advice to the hon. Member for the City of Cork and his Friends; and his advice would be this—the Commission would be constituted under the Bill; but let the hon. Member and his Friends refuse to appear before it—let them absolutely refuse, and wash their hands of the whole matter. If they were summoned as witnesses, then let them attend; but do not let them have counsel, do not let them examine the men who gave evidence against them, and do not let them waste their money day after day, week after week, and month after month on the inquiry. And, at the same time, he would advise his hon. Friend to do this. The country was only anxious upon one point—namely, as to whether or not his hon. Friend wrote the forged letters. Now, he (Mr. Labouchere) confessed that where politics were concerned he should distrust a Middlesex jury, but so would the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary; but if they submitted a simple question of fact to a Middlesex jury as to whether a certain person did or did not write certain letters, his impression was that the jury would not be 1309 biassed by their political feeling, but would give a fair verdict. When, therefore, he said to his hon. Friends that if he were in their position he would wash his hands of the Commission, he said, at the same time, that he would bring an action against The Times with regard to this question of the letters, which was the only important point. His hon. Friend would clear his character, he was sure, by following this course. He (Mr. Labouchere) had not yet discovered very clearly what would happen under the Commission; but he presumed that Mr. Walter would go to prison—and when he mentioned Mr. Walter, he referred to him generally as The Times, either Mr. Walter or The Times would go to prison—for refusing to state whence these letters were procured. But in the event of an action the first step would be to administer interrogatories to The Times, and one of these interrogatories would unquestionably be—"From whom did you obtain these letters?"
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, an hon. Member said they would not be bound to answer; but he thought that they would be bound to answer such an interrogatory. The plea put in by the hon. and learned Attorney General for not stating the names of the persons from whom The Times had obtained the letters was that Mr. Walter or someone imagined that if they did give the names something would happen to those persons who had given them the letters. That was a plea, he imagined, entirely unknown to the law. If men under English law refused to answer interrogatories on such pleas as that, there would be very few interrogatories answered. They could not look into men's minds, and Judges had to act according to the ordinary legal procedure. He thought if hon. Gentlemen would look into the matter, they would find that there were only three reasons for which a person could answer an interrogatory pertinently addressed to him, and amongst those was not to be found the reason that he took it into his head that in this law-abiding country something terrible would happen to the individual from whom he obtained certain information if he disclosed that 1310 individual's name. That was a reason totally unknown to English law. Such was the advice he ventured to give his hon. Friend. He did not know whether the hon. Gentleman would take that advice; but if he were in the hon. Gentleman's position, he certainly should act in that way if this Amendment were not accepted. He begged to move the Amendment standing in his name.
In page 1, line 20, at the end of Clause, to add the words—"Provided, that the Commission shall, at the commencement of the inquiry, and before entering upon further matters, inquire and report upon the letters read by the counsel of the defendant in the action of O'Donnell v. Walter and another,' purporting to be signed 'Charles S. Parnell,' and to have been written and sent by or under the authority of Mr. Charles Stewart Parnell, the signature to which the aforesaid Mr. Charles Stewart Parnell has declared to be a forgery."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir EDWARD CLARKE) (Plymouth)
said, that a very few words would be necessary from him to state the reason why, notwithstanding the threat of the hon. Gentleman as to what he would think of them if they refused the Amendment, the Government would refuse that proposal. He should confine himself strictly to the question before the Committee, and should not follow the hon. Gentleman into the interesting statement he had made as to the advice he proposed to give to the hon. Member for Cork if the Amendment were not accepted. He hoped the hon. Member would give good advice; but whatever the advice might be, the Government would have nothing to do with it. As to the Amendment, it proposed really to invert or alter and dictate the order of the proceedings of the Commission in an entirely unnatural way. It proposed that the Commission should, at the commencement of the inquiry, and before entering into any other matters, inquire into and report upon the letters alleged to have been signed by the hon. Member for Cork. In the course of the speech delivered by the hon. and learned Attorney General in the case of "O'Donnell v. Walter and another," a number of letters were produced. There were, he thought, four letters from 1311 Byrne, four or five said to have been signed by Egan, and six letters signed by the bon. Member for Cork. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: Said to be signed by him.] Yes; purporting to be signed by the hon. Member for Cork—he had not meant to convey by what he had said an expression of opinion as to whether or not the signatures were genuine. These letters did not in themselves constitute charges. If the letters were true, they, no doubt, went far to support some charges made by The Times in Parnellism and Crime, and in the course of its investigation the Commission would undoubtedly have recourse to every means known to experienced Judges and to the powers which this Bill would put into their hands—and they were ample powers—to find out whether these were genuine documents or not. But they could not dissever the evidence in this case from the issues. He quite admitted that the question of the authenticity of the letters was of great importance, and that the country and the House would attach great importance to the question of whether or not it was true that the hon. Member for Cork had signed them. Those who produced the letters could not say—they would not be allowed to say—that the letters were not important, and that would not have to be pronounced upon them. But it must always be remembered that these letters were produced as evidence in support of allegations made in Parnellism and Crime. Hon. Members might be perfectly certain that the Judges would not postpone the investigation of such an important matter as these letters. He did not doubt that the Judges would take such means as they had in their possession of ascertaining whether or not the letters were genuine. But it would be injurious to the proper conduct of the inquiry to direct that the Judges should occupy themselves with those letters separately from the other evidence, and not with the further matters at all. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: No, no!] Yes; that was what it came to. The words of the Amendment were these—The Commission shall, at the commencement of the inquiry and before entering upon further matters, inquire and report upon the letters read by the counsel of the defendant,and so on. He submitted that it would be absurd to put such a limitation and 1312 instruction into the Bill. The Commission would have ample experience to guide them in the discharge of their duty in this case. It would have ample power given by this Bill, and he was quite sure that confidence might be felt in their ability to deal with the important issue they would have before them. But he submitted that it would be to the detriment of the satisfactory character of the inquiry to fetter the Commissioners in this way, and to select certain bits of evidence from the charges, and require them to report upon those bits of evidence apart from the rest of the case.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said, the hon. and learned Solicitor General had set one especially good example at that period in the length of his speech, and he (Sir George Trevelyan) would follow the hon. and learned Gentleman in that example. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to have stated the view of the Government, and to have stated it very fairly, and a tolerably strong case it was; but he should like to ask why it had not been stated long ago on the second reading when Member after Member rose in different parts of the House, and especially on that (the Opposition) side, to support the Government and to say that the whole gist of the inquiry was these letters? The Solicitor General, he thought, forgot that the most important of all these letters was not brought forward in support of a charge. All this immense excitement arose from the publication of a certain letter alleged to be signed by Charles Stewart Parnell in The Times newspaper. Until that letter was published, there was no sensation on this question whatsoever. That letter was not brought forward in support of any charge. It was a charge in itself; and if the Government did not like the word "charge," they were at liberty to take another word from their own Bill and call it an allegation. But charge or allegation, if it had not been for that letter, the hon. Member for Cork might very well have disregarded all other charges and allegations whatsoever. The speech of the Home Secretary yesterday made the speech of the hon. and learned Solicitor Gentleman a very important one. It appeared now that the letters were to be referred to merely 1313 as pieces of evidence or illustration more or less important upon the general question into which this Commission was to inquire. Since yesterday it was laid down by the Government that the Commission was to inquire first into the history of the Land League, and then into the history of the National League, and it might be that it was not until that enormous branch of inquiry had been exhausted—and how long it might take to exhaust it, and at what expense to the Members whose reputation were at stake, it was impossible to say—that they would come to the letters at all. The letters were the marrow of the whole matter; but the speeches of the Government and the votes of their majority had all gone in the direction of giving an immense and wide scope to the Judges as far as the Judges could have any guidance given them by votes and speeches in Parliament. Therefore, he thought it was extremely important that within the four corners of the Bill itself. Parliament should clearly lay down, in justice to the hon. Members whose reputations were at stake, that in the opinion of Parliament, at any rate, the Judges should first approach these letters, and should approach them as a definite and isolated issue.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, that the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke) dropped—he did not know whether by deliberation or in advertence—a curious and, as he thought, a most instructive phrase. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) was endeavouring, by his Amendment, to invert the order of the inquiry. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) asked that the forged letters should be taken first. The hon. and learned Solicitor General said that, if that were agreed to, it would invert the order of the inquiry; therefore, it was evident the Solicitor General was already possessed of information, not possessed by the Committee generally, that the forged letters would be taken last. He watched carefully the speech of the hon. and learned Attorney General in the late trial. Upon the assumption that the Commissioners, unless they were otherwise instructed, would follow the course of the topics dwelt upon by the Attorney General in his speech, the forged letters, upon which the whole country was waiting a decision, would 1314 certainly be taken not first, but last. He saw the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Elliott Lees) in his place, and that he was attending carefully to the observations he (Mr. Sexton) had the honour of making. He did not envy the hon. Gentleman his reflections when he heard the hon. and learned Solicitor General say that the letters would be taken last. That high-minded Conservative said that the letters were the essential matter, and that the country would regard all the rest of the charges as extraneous. Now, the hon. and learned Attorney General, in his speech in the Court, dealt first with the history of the Land League during the two years of its existence; were they to understand that the Commissioners would follow the hon. and learned Gentleman's course of enumeration, and first of all inquire into the proceedings of the Land League? If so, there were thousands of subjects to be dealt with, and there were the utterances of hundreds and thousands of men in Ireland and America and other parts of the world to be dealt with, all of which were comprised in the history of those two years. Were they to understand that the Commissioners would enter upon an inquiry into that vast body of public action, extending over two years, before they approached or touched the question of the letters? The second topic touched on by the hon. and learned Attorney General was the National League, which covered five years—namely, from 1883, and which extended over Ireland, America, Australia, and other places. Would the Commissioners inquire into the history of the National League before they touched the letters? The third topic upon which the hon. and learned Attorney General discoursed was the assumed relations between persons and organizations in Ireland and persons and organizations in America. They extended over many years; in fact, if they included the Clan-na-Gael and the Fenian Brotherhood, they would open up a body of inquiry to which that contained in Gibbon's Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire would be a mere trifle. Now, he challenged contradiction when he said that all the evidence produced by The Times, and all the evidence cited by the hon. and learned Attorney General, in regard to the three topics he had specified, depended to the last atom 1315 upon public records. The Times cited nothing secret. It could cite nothing secret; because the whole matter depended upon articles, speeches, reports, and paragraphs in the Press. Following the order of the topics laid down by the hon. and learned Attorney General, the Commissioners would inquire into three sets of public questions, extending over different countries and many years, and concerning hundreds and thousands of persons; would inquire into questions depending upon public records before they touched that important and urgent question involved in the letters. The Times confessed, on the morning it published the forged letter, that the evidence was what was called published evidence; now, they said, they produced unpublished evidence. On that morning, for the first time, they produced that which could properly form a subject of inquiry. The fac-simile letter was a trump card, and it was played as a trump card by The Times on the morning of the second reading of the Irish Coercion Bill. The dissident Liberals were becoming limp, they needed a tonic, and The Times administered a tonic, enabling them to perform their work in the Division of that evening by producing the forged letter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) was absolutely correct when he said that this letter was the first thing which created any sensation. Out of the publication of the facsimile letter grew the debate last year upon Privilege; out of the publication of that letter grew the letter of Mr. O'Donnell and the subsequent action of Mr. O'Donnell against The Times. He (Mr. Sexton) attended in Court during the trial of the late action, waiting and hoping to be called as a witness, until the hon. and learned Attorney General decided not to allow the calling of any evidence. The hon. and learned Attorney General's speech, which lasted for 10 hours, excited no interest except and only when he came to the forged letter and what he called "the family of letters" belonging to it. That was the only thing which excited any interest in the jury or in anyone else. The Times decided that they would not state the source from which they got the letters. It had suggested that if it did state the source, the person who produced the 1316 letter might be in danger of his life. The hon. and learned Solicitor General was the only Minister who had advanced that theory. He could not imagine that the hon. and learned Gentleman could place any reliance on such an argument. To exhibit the document would tell them nothing about the substance that was not already public by the text; the only danger would be with reference to the handwriting. Could the forgery be so badly done that a glance at the letter would exhibit its authorship? Let him put the matter on the lowest possible ground. Would it not be more convenient to his hon. Friend (Mr. Parnell), or anyone interested in his hon. Friend, that the person who fabricated the document should be brought on the Table and compelled to admit his guilt, than that violence should be offered to him. If the letter were genuine, it could place no one in danger; if it were false, and if the origin of the letter was discovered, it was perfectly evident his hon. Friend would rather bring the forger upon the Table, and get the truth out of him before the Commission than do otherwise. He (Mr. Sexton) maintained that the letters were really the only matter of inquiry, and that every honest man in the country who was not already convinced that the letters were forgeries, and there were many who were so convinced, desired to ascertain from this Commission one thing, and one thing above all others, one thing immeasurably superior to all others, and that was, whether the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) wrote the letters or not. Let them look at the position in which they placed the hon. Member for Cork. They called the House a deliberative Assembly, they claimed to be men of sense and honour, they knew that the hon. Member's honour was at stake, they knew that his position as a political Leader depended upon the genuineness or otherwise of the letters, and what did they say to him? They said "You must go before the Commission; you must attend in Court day by day; you must watch the whole course of this vast inquiry, because at any moment a charge may be launched against you, and you can never afford to be absent. You and your counsel and witnesses must always be arrayed and marshalled before the Commission." How much would be the 1317 daily cost of the attendance of counsel, and of scores and hundreds of witnesses? As a matter of fact, they would have to hire Olympia for this new Irish Exhibition. They actually expected his hon. Friend, a sane man, to go before the Commission, to sit there day after day, to retain and refresh his counsel day after day, to maintain all his witnesses in London for months, perhaps for years, while they were doing what—examining into records of public speeches delivered in 1879, 1880, and 1881, and every year since; into public records as to the relations between politicians in Ireland and politicians in America; watching, no doubt, for what might occur at any moment. This was a denial of justice, it was a farce. In the classical language of Lord Dundreary, this was a mockery, a delusion, and a snare. No one could expect the hon. Member for Cork to sit before the Commission with his counsel and witnesses waiting for the pleasure of the Commission to close a matter of public inquiry extending over years, and to come at their pleasure to the matter in which alone the hon. Member for Cork was concerned. He did not know what action his hon. Friend would take; but he did know what action he himself would take under the circumstances. If this was to be the order of the inquiry, if the letters, as the hon. and learned Solicitor General conveyed, were to be taken last, and public matter first, he asserted every fair-minded man in the country would repel and spurn that condition; a condition which no man of honour would dream of imposing, and which no man of sense would accept.
§ MR. PAULTON (Durham, Bishops Auckland)
said, he had been very loth indeed to disbelieve the good faith of the Government in this matter; but, he admitted, his belief had been very sorely tried during the last few days. The reason why he was anxious to offer a few observations upon this Amendment, was that he did not think there could be a stronger test of the good faith of the Government than their action upon this Amendment. If the Government or the Party opposite believed the letters to be genuine, and unless they were influenced by considerations which might have been adduced by The Times, they could not possibly object to the letters being put in the fore front of the in- 1318 quiry. He appealed to every fair-minded English Gentleman opposite to say candidly whether, supposing the letters to be proved to be forgeries, they would attach any great importance to other matters which might be brought forward? If that was so, what special objection could they have to the letters being made the first subject of consideration by the Commissioners? Many arguments had been advanced upon the opposite Benches in order to prove that the Government was acting in good faith in endeavouring to make these letters a matter of subsidiary importance in the inquiry; but he himself felt strongly that if the Government refused—well, they had already refused the Amendment—but, if hon. Gentlemen opposite supported the Government in rejecting the Amendment, they must be aware that the main charge against Irish Members was not that which they sought to investigate by means of this inquiry.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
said, he thought the position in which hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Tory Benches opposite found themselves at the present moment was one of an exceedingly unpleasant character. He was fairly entitled to say that nearly every hon. Member opposite, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), had made use of these letters throughout the country against the Irish cause. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a speech in the country, alluded to these very letters in the strongest language, while he did not allude in any strong language to the other charges which had been made by The Times. When the fac-simile letter was published, a new edition of the pamphlet Parnellism and Crime was issued, and Tory Members bought it, and subscribed to it, and circulated it throughout the length and breadth of the land. What was the position in which they found themselves that night? They sat there as hon. Gentlemen, and the first thing hon. Gentlemen did was to fight fairly. Were they going to fight fairly—these hon. Gentlemen who had used these letters, and who had spread them broadcast through the land, who had put them forward in their constituencies in order to gain for themselves support? Were they going now, after having used these letters, and 1319 based their case upon these letters, to support the argument of the Solicitor General, and not allow, as the hon. and learned Gentleman called it, the order of the inquiry to be inverted? Were they going to leave the letters, if not absolutely, at any rate possibly, to be the last thing examined into? Hon. Members opposite found themselves in a very difficult position. They were called upon by this Amendment to act as hon. Gentlemen, and he left it to themselves to decide, after examination into their own consciences, whether, having made this charge the main charge against Members of the House, they ought to vote against the present Amendment. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would, he thought, give the best evidence of what their idea of honour was by the manner in which they voted upon this Amendment. He remembered that last year the hon. Member for Derry (Sir Charles Lewis), now the hon. Member for North Antrim, moved for the appointment of a Select Committee to examine into the charges which had been made, the very same charges which were now being dealt with. The Members of the Government, in their speeches, practically admitted they were willing to appoint such a Committee; at first they offered no dissent to the proposition of the hon. Member (Sir Charles Lewis). One Member of the Government rose and asserted that the proposed inquiry would be an examination into a minor point only. For two days and two nights they discussed whether a Committee should be appointed to examine into what was said to be a minor point. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) asked what would be the use of the examination if the letter were not to be inquired into? His hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) was at that time at death's door at his seat in Ireland. Those who knew the circumstances knew that many Members of the House never expected to see the hon. Member return, so dangerous was his illness. He was telegraphed to, and, after the Government had stated that their only objection practically to the appointment of the Committee was that the letter was not to be included in the matters to be referred to the Committee for inquiry, a telegram was placed in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary 1320 for Ireland (Mr. John Morley) from the hon. Member for the City of Cork, in which that hon. Gentleman stated that he was willing and anxious for the letter to be brought before the proposed Committee. The point he (Mr. Molloy) desired to make was that during the whole of that debate, extending over two days and two nights, the objection taken by the Government to the appointment of the Committee was that the real and the essential matter which ought to be inquired into was the authenticity of the letter, the fac-simile of which had appeared in The Times. [Sir EDWARD CLARKE dissented.] The hon. and learned Solicitor General now shook his head, but he (Mr. Molloy) remembered perfectly well what occurred. A most effective and dramatic close of the debate was the production of the telegram from the hon. Member for Cork by the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary assenting to the reference of the letter to the Committee. Everyone who heard the debate would remember the jeers when, all concessions having been made to the Government, they refused the Committee on a totally new ground. It was the honour of hon. Gentlemen opposite that was at stake in this matter. This was a matter in which hon. Members could follow the arguments of no one; every man must judge for himself in a case of the kind, and he and his hon. Friends would closely scrutinize that night the votes of hon. Gentlemen who were always speaking about their desire to do everything which was fair and honourable. They would closely scrutinize the votes in order to see whether those Members who used the letters as the principal charge against the Irish Members were now going to give a vote by which those letters might be relegated to an examination twelve months hence, for no other purpose, as far as he could see, than that a cloud of obscurity might be raised in the way of the real issues of the case. The hon. and learned Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke) had alluded to the inversion of the order of evidence. Now, they had been told over and over again in the debate that the Judges were to decide all these matters; yet it appeared from the observations of the hon. and learned Solicitor General that there was an order fixed in the minds of the Government. [Cries of "No, no!"]. Then, if there 1321 was not, what right had the hon. and learned Solicitor General to talk of inverting the order of evidence?
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
said, he had known his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Molloy) quite long enough to know that he would not intentionally misinterpret what he had said.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
said, he was saying that he had known the hon. and learned Gentleman sufficiently long to know that he would do nothing of the kind. He (Sir Edward Clarke) spoke of these letters as being evidence in support of the charges; he said that they were very important, and that in dealing with the charges the Commissioners would deal with them. He added further, that they would invert the order if they insisted upon the Commissioners dealing with the letters before they addressed themselves to the subject upon which they were entering.
§ MR. MOLLOY
said, that he had known the hon. and learned Gentleman for very many years, and he certainly did not mean to insinuate any charge against him; he was dealing with the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument, and with his argument alone. What he was contending was that in the mind of the Government, as in the mind of the Solicitor General, there must be some kind of order as to the evidence, otherwise they would not talk about inverting the order of evidence. The second expression used by the Solicitor General was the disseverance of evidence. He (Mr. Molloy) found it rather difficult to understand what was the meaning of the phrase "disseverance of evidence." It sounded very similar to the expression so often used by Tory Members, the "disruption of the Empire." What was "disseverance of evidence;" what did it mean? Whatever the hon. and learned Gentleman did mean, he (Mr. Molloy) would make a proposition which would get over any idea of disseverance of evidence. If the letters had reference to anything at all, they had reference to a certain murder or murders, and he admitted at once, and his hon. Friends around him would admit at once, that if they examined into the letters the examination must be thorough and clear and full. But it would be monstrously absurd, it would be childish, to argue that they 1322 should examine into letters without examining into that to which it was alleged the letters referred. Now, would the Government agree to a modification of this Amendment to the effect that the murder or murders to which these letters were supposed to have reference should be the first matter for inquiry? He put it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and asked him for an answer. It was useless to talk about the general character of this examination; the House was merely concerned in the honour of its Members, the rest was a secondary matter with the House. This action was taken with regard to the honour of the Members of the House. When the hon. Member for the City of Cork asked for a Committee, he asked for it on the ground of these letters; he said that the letters were forgeries, and he asked for a Committee to inquire into them. In reply to that the Government had given him this Commission. The only sense in which the case was now altered was that, instead of a Committee of the House, there was to be a Commission of three Judges. He did not like to make accusations, but he was bound to say that it would be very difficult for anyone who had listened to the debate, and had seen what the action of hon. Members had been during the last two years, to believe in the honour and bona fides of the Government if they refused this Amendment with the modification he had suggested.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
It has been stated on both sides of the House to-day that the final judge of what we are doing will be the country, and I venture to say that there is no issue upon which the judgment of the country will be more gladly taken than it will be upon the conduct of the Government in regard to this Amendment. Now, what is the situation in reference to the Irish Members of this House, and what is the situation of the Government? The Irish Members, as they say, have been foully and calumniously assailed by the charges of forged letters in The Times newspaper. They demanded of this House redress by what was considered the ordinary and Constitutional method—namely, by a Committee of this House. That was refused by the Government; but they offered the Irish Members specifically in its place a remedy for the evil and wrong under which they suf- 1323 fered. They offered it to them, in the language of the hon. and learned Solicitor General, as an act of unexampled generosity. We are now able to judge, and the country will be able to judge, of what the Government understand by "unexampled generosity" to their political opponents in respect of charges of the most heinous and the most injurious kind which the Government themselves, aye, and, above all, my noble Friend the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington), have used individually against the Irish Members. My noble Friend, more than anybody else, has vouched for The Times—perhaps vouched is too strong a word to use; but he has said that these were charges which men were bound to meet. Well, here are these men so charged before that Commission which you have created for them, as you say "an act of unexampled generosity;" and what they demand is this—that the first and principal inquiry—I will not say sole inquiry, or even the main inquiry—of this Commission is to look into those letters which would cover them with shame if they were true, and which were infamous if they were false. They ask that that shall be the first inquiry, in order that they may clear their characters as Members of the House of Commons. Do you want them to clear their characters? If you refuse this Amendment, the country will come to the conclusion that the principal object is to blacken their characters, and that what you are trading upon are these calumnies which you have adopted; that what you desire above all things is to postpone the day when these calumnies shall be proved to be false. What is it the hon. and learned Solicitor General says? The Home Secretary said, yesterday, that the conduct of the Irish Members was not the main object of this inquiry, and to-day we have had a speech from the Solicitor General; and, mark you, what the Solicitor General says in this House, the Attorney General is going to say before the Commission. All the arguments which the Solicitor General has used here to postpone the hour at which the Member for Cork and his Friends can come forward and clear their characters will come from the mouth of the Attorney General as 1324 counsel for The Times, backed up by the authority of Her Majesty's Government. I say that if you refuse this Amendment, there is but one conclusion, and one conclusion only, at which the country will arrive, and that is that you desire, as long as you can, to give currency and support to these calumnies. What other object can you have in refusing this Amendment? It has been said that the Amendments proposed have been proposed for the purpose of limiting this inquiry. Yes; of limiting, how? Have they happened to limit it in the sense of the Members escaping from this inquiry? No; they have demanded that this inquiry shall be concentrated and focussed upon themselves. That is the demand they have made. There has been no attempt on their part to say—"Inquire into something else, and do not touch us." On the contrary, they have said—"It is we who stand here as the persons who desire to have an opportunity of clearing our characters of these charges." Aye, and whatever you may say to-night, whatever you may vote to-night, depend upon it that it is the opinion of this country. If you think that the people of this country approve of your endeavour to blacken the characters of your political opponents, you are sadly mistaken. I know, aye, and the people of Ireland will have to know, that the men against whom you encourage calumnies here, are the men who are most welcome to the people of that country. I know that the men that you are endeavouring to destroy by adopting these calumnies of The Times—
§ MR. GOSCHEN
May I ask whether it is in Order for the right hon. Gentleman to say we are adopting the calumnies of The Times?
§ MR. MURDOCH (Reading)
Mr. Chairman, I beg to call your attention to a remark made by the hon. Member for Mayo—namely, "You are afraid to hear the truth!" I should like to know whether such a remark is in Order?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
We are certainly bringing the closure 1325 and the gag to excess. We shall destroy all freedom of debate if we cannot tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he is afraid to hear the truth. If that is so, we may as well give up debate at once. Well, I am extremely glad of the interruption of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am extremely glad that he is sensible of my criticism, that he is ashamed of the calumnies of The Times, and that he considers it a shameful imputation on the Government to say that they have adopted them. I hail that as a proof of repentance on the part of the Government; but I maintain that what will be looked at by the country is this. Do you or do you not intend that the Irish Members shall have an opportunity, aye, and a complete and full opportunity, of meeting these calumnies which have been urged against them? I can understand a man—I will not say the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Government—who believes in his mind, and who knows from the sound advice he has received from men who have every opportunity of examining the case, that these statements are forgeries, I can conceive a man, who had been so informed by persons who had every means of knowing, thinking that the latest moment would be the best on which these forgeries could be inquired into. That I can well understand; but if there be any man with a sense of honour who can understand the feelings of men—I will not say his Colleagues in this House, because I cannot say that I see any disposition on the part of hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite to treat the Irish Members as if they were Colleagues in this House; indeed, the theory of the Union seems to me to be, that the men who have no right to any opinion or any views on any subject, especially upon Irish subjects, are the Irish Representatives. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Well, the principle of the Unionists is that if an Irishman dares to express an opinion upon English subjects, it is obstruction, and that his mouth is to be closed upon Irish subjects. [Cries of "Question!"] You voted the closure earlier in the evening. I do not, therefore, appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite to treat their Colleagues with any generous respect. That, I do not think, can be asked from them; but what we have a right to ask is that they should extend, even to an 1326 Irishman and a Representative of Ireland, that justice which would not be refused to the meanest criminal in this country. [Laughter.] There is a Gentleman opposite who thinks it absurd that an Irishman should get as fair treatment as is extended to the meanest criminal in this country. This manner of treating Irishmen and the Representatives of Ireland is really the secret of the agitation in Ireland towards the Government of England. Do you really believe that if an English Member were charged with a crime for which you say he ought to be expelled from this House, you would seek about and be ingenious in your research to prevent methods by which he might vindicate his character? What is the argument of the hon. and learned Solicitor General. He says that to allow this to be brought forward in the front rank would be to invert the order of procedure. That statement he has repeated twice. That, I say, is a statement upon which the conduct of the Government will be judged by the country. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Elliott Lees) expressed the other night the real opinion of the country. I believe they want to know whether the charge about these letters is true or not. That is the first thing in the mind of the country, that is the last thing in the mind of the Government. The Government want to go into some general dirt throwing which shall affect the issue. Why do they want to do this? Because they have received advice from people who know that this charge cannot be sustained. They know very well that if this charge were refuted all the rest would fall to the ground. That is what the hon. Member for Oldham said the other day, and that is why the Government are so desirous to keep the charge in the background. That is why the words "other persons" were introduced. It was to prevent the investigation of the charges against the Irish Members being the first and the principal charge which should be undertaken; it was to prevent their receiving that justice they were entitled to from this House in the appointment of a Commission, which was said to be an act of unexampled generosity towards them. I protest against such a course as this. The Government might have said—it would have been a plausible argument—"We leave it to the Commissioners to deter- 1327 mine." But they have not said that. The hon. and learned Solicitor General has explained the course which the Commissioners are expected to take. He has told us what is the proper course, and that that is not to take these letters first, but that they are to go into the whole general question. [An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear!] That, I understand, is the view of an hon. Gentleman opposite. This charge against the honour of Irish Members is to be dealt with as a subordinate part of a subordinate question. I venture to say that when the country comes to understand that that is the view taken of this Commission, they will regard it as an act of gross unfairness and of most incredible injustice.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON (Lancashire, Rossendale)
I will give the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) as little assistance as possible in the intention he evidently has to talk out this Amendment.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I rise to Order. I wish, Sir, to call your attention to the Rule under which we are operating, which says that you shall put the Question under discussion when we arrive at the hour of 1, and would ask you whether there is any possibility of talking out this Amendment, and I wish to ask you whether the noble Marquess has not alleged that which is absolutely impossible?
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I am going to give as little assistance as possible to the endeavour to unnecessarily protract the discussion on any particular Amendment, and thus give hon. Members no opportunity of saying to the country, as we have so often been told they are going to say, that we have adopted a course to-night which prevented important Amendments being discussed. Now, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I cannot avoid saying that his observations throw a remarkable and rather instructive light upon the sort of tactics which are being pursued by the Opposition in regard to this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has thought it necessary, in the discussion of an Amendment relating to certain letters which are on this side of the House called forged letters, to drag in my name. He said, in the first place— 1328 although he afterwards rather modified or withdrew the expression—that no man was more responsible than I myself was for having vouched for these charges. He withdrew the word "vouched" and said that no one was more responsible for giving currency and circulation to these charges than myself. Now, so long as I am able to charge my memory, I have never, inside this House or out of it, said one word upon the subject of what is called the "forged letters." I have only, so far as I can recollect, referred on one occasion to the articles published in The Times. I spoke in the debate upon the Crimes Bill more than a year ago, on the very day upon which the so-called "forged letter" appeared in The Times. I referred to some of the charges which were contained in this so-called "forged letter," and charges which, in my opinion, called for an answer from the hon. Gentleman to whom they referred, and I pointed out, I believe, that the hon. Gentleman had, in my judgment, an opportunity of giving them refutation by means of the ordinary Courts of Law. But, in those observations, I never referred for a single moment to the letter which has been referred to, and I have never referred to it since. [Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR: Why!] Why! I do not know that it is necessary on this occasion I should go into my reasons for not referring to it. I want to know for what reason, for what purpose, and with what justification, my right hon. Friend thinks it necessary to drag in my name into this discussion in respect of letters to which I have never in the course of these discussions so far referred? [Mr. T. M. HEALY: You were closeted with Smith.] Having made that statement, which I believe cannot be contradicted, I do not think it is necessary I should detain the House by saying anything on the question of the Amendment; but I may say this—it has never occurred to me that the question of the letters was the main question which has been raised in The Times articles. If I thought it, I should have referred to the letters. On the contrary, I have never done so. I endeavoured on the occasion I refer to, to state what, in my opinion, were the issues raised by these letters. The question of the letters refer to the hon. Member for Cork alone. Many of the charges which are contained in these 1329 letters refer to other hon. Members besides the hon. Member for Cork, and I am certainly unable to see why the beginning of the Commission should be fettered by instructions which would compel them to go into a question which affects only one Member of this House, leaving to future consideration equally important questions in my opinion which affect the honour and character of a great number of others. If the Committee have confidence in the tribunal which is created under this Bill, it appears to me its best course would he to leave the tribunal free to conduct its own proceedings in a manner most competent to it. We know that some hon. Members have not got confidence in the Commission, that they have protested against the appointment of one of its Members; but the great majority of this House have confidence in it, and under what pretext do you expect that we shall, by voting an unnecessary Amendment, place that confidence in the tribunal which we feel the Commission will, I should think, be the best judge of the manner in which its proceedings should be conducted. I do not say the question of the forged letters can very long be kept out of its proceedings; but I do not know for what reason it is necessary that instructions should be given to the Commission which will in any way fetter the course of its proceedings. It is perfectly idle to say that instructions to examine into this or that question are being given by speeches of Members of Parliament. The Commission, if it is worthy to inquire into these questions at all, will act upon its own judgment and upon the instructions which are contained in the Bill, and upon no other instructions. Do hon. Members suppose that men of the judicial eminence of those who have been appointed to conduct this inquiry are going to take their instructions and directions from speeches which are delivered either on the Treasury Bench or from any other Bench? It is perfectly idle to contemplate such a course on their part; and, believing that it would be simply to show distrust in the competence of the tribunal we are creating, I, for one, shall certainly refuse to vote for the Amendment.
MR. ILLING WORTH (Bradford, W.)
said, the noble Lord the Member for 1330 Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) occupied a very peculiar position in that House; they knew that he occupied a predominating position in the policy of the Party opposite. He was surprised at the line the noble Lord had taken in the speech just delivered by him. He remembered the speech to which the noble Lord had just referred, and he recollected well that he did make reference to the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) in that speech, and seemed to think that it was essential that the hon. Member should avail himself of an opportunity of clearing himself from the charges made in The Times newspaper. The hon. Member for Cork and his Colleagues had been seeking for an opportunity of dealing with this charge, and asking that their case might first be dealt with; but the noble Lord treated that part of the question now as a very small matter, and that the letters would more properly be referred to an uncertain future, when, after a number of things which had nothing to do with the charge had been dealt with, the hon. Gentleman and his Friends might then proceed to clear themselves. He could only say that he thought more might have been expected from the noble Lord's position. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: No, no!] He said that in a sense of fairness to the noble Lord, and he confessed that in the speech the noble Lord had just made, which contained his first utterance all through these discussions—[The Marquess of HARTINGTON dissented.] Well, if the noble Lord had taken a general part in the debate, he (Mr. Illingworth) had, unfortunately, been absent. However, the noble Lord had given the Committee so little information with regard to this question, he thought if he had followed the old traditions of the Whigs in that House he would have said something that would have really maintained the old Constitutional system—namely, that when hon. Members were placed under an imputation they should be treated in the old-fashioned way, instead of, as now, being subjected to a revolutionary change such as they were subjected to by the action of the Government. Time would show whether it was to the advantage of the old order of things and the Constitutional Party in that House, and he must say that the noble Lord's speech 1331 that evening had been eminently disappointing, and that the Committee had a right to expect from him some thing of a very different character.
MR. FINLAY&c.) (Inverness,
said, that so far as he understood the argument in favour of the Amendment, it was that the hon. and learned Solicitor General had laid it down in his speech that the letters were to be relegated to a later stage of the inquiry. Now, he had heard his hon. Friend's speech, and he certainly did not understand the hon. and learned Gentleman to say anything of the kind. The hon. and learned Solicitor General stated his view of the letters; but he apprehended that the hon. and learned Gentleman understood too well what the proper functions of the Government were in this matter ever to have dreamed of prescribing to the Commission what the course and order of their proceedings should be. Of course, those proceedings were not in the hands of the Government; they were in the hands of the Judges themselves, and it was for them, and for them alone, to direct in what order the inquiry should take place. Now, he had listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for the Birr Division of King's County (Mr. Molloy). The hon. and learned Gentle man had felt, as every member of the Bar must feel, that this Amendment was perfectly and hopelessly impracticable, because he did feel, and had expressed that feeling in his speech, that some other Amendment was wanting, and that it would be necessary to provide in some way or other that the Commission should be at liberty, before determining on the genuineness of these letters, to take evidence relating to other matters. But the hon. and learned Gentleman did not attempt to put into the form of an Amendment the evidence which it would be necessary that the Judges should take, and he apprehended that the hon. and learned Gentleman in trying to amend the Amendment before the House, which he knew to be hopelessly impracticable in its present form, felt that he had undertaken an absolutely impossible task. He (Mr. Finlay) apprehended that the letters must necessarily occupy an early and prominent place in the inquiry of the three Judges; but he submitted to the judgment of the Com- 1332 mittee that it would be absurd to require the Judges to make an interim Report on the question of those letters—[Cries of "Why?"] For this reason, that they should, in determining the genuineness of the letters, have evidence before them as to the relations between the hon. Gentleman who was said to have written them and the various parties who were said to have received them. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian cheered that statement. Did he desire to put the Judges in the position that one day they should make an interim Report as to the genuineness of the letters, saying that they were not genuine, when the next day they might have evidence before them which totally altered their minds? He declared in all seriousness that a more absurd proposition was never made.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said, he had hesitated a long time before he determined to take any part in the debate, for the reason that he felt that the House might look upon him as a prejudiced person in this matter. He had already stated both in the House and out of it his opinion of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
Whatever crime or misdemeanour hon. Gentlemen might ascribe to him, they could never ascribe to him this, that he had been afraid to say before their faces in the House what he had said outside the House behind their backs. He had determined to say a few words on this question, because it not only affected hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway but also the whole question upon which the prosperity of Ireland and the settlement of the Irish Question depended. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) stated that the Government had adopted the words of the calumnies of The Times. But The Times was not the only calumniator of hon. Gentlemen opposite, for foremost among their calumniators stood the right hon. Gentleman himself—the right hon. Gentleman who had just left the House.
I would ask the hon. and gallant Member to remember the conditions under which we are 1333 acting, and the desirability of addressing himself to the Amendment before the Committee.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, that all the Amendments which had been introduced to the notice of the Committee had a family likeness; all of them had one object, and that was to hinder and hamper the action of the Commission which it was proposed to establish. [Cries of "Order!"] He asked any dispassionate Gentleman in the House whether any Amendment, including that under consideration, had had for its object to assist the Commission in a wide, free and far-reaching inquiry? With regard to the Amendment they were considering, he would say that, important as the hon. Member for Cork might be in the eyes of his Party and of hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, the forged letters, as they were called by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) before he had taken the trouble to find out whether they were forged or not—those letters, which might be forged or not, affected the character of the hon. Member for Cork; but there was something far more important which they affected, and that was the character of the Party to which he belonged, that Party which commenced the policy which had now been adopted by its present Radical allies. He could not conceive anything more unfortunate, if they were to have the Commission, than to hamper and fetter it by stating that the first thing the Commission was to do was to state whether the hon. Member for Cork had signed those letters or whether they were forged. During the course of that discussion hon. Members on the other side of the House had on various Amendments pointed out that the scope of the Commission, if it were to be unfettered, should not only include the action of hon. Members opposite and the truth and falsehood of those letters, but that it should also include the course that had been pursued in Ireland by himself and other Loyalist Leaders in the country. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite might laugh, and though his observations might not be absolutely germane to that Amendment, yet it was just as germane as the accusations that were hurled at him from the other side of the House on other Amendments; and, therefore, he thought it was only 1334 fair play that he should be allowed to answer those accusations. The hon. Member for Cork and his Friends had stated that their one great desire was that there should be a full inquiry as to their guilt or innocence. They said that inquiry should be extended beyond them and include speeches made by himself and the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), which they said had just as much relation to bloodshed and crime in Ireland as any action of theirs.
said, he would again ask the hon. and gallant Member to address himself more closely to the Amendment before the Committee.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
asked whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman was in Order in referring to a speech of his in that debate.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, the country—that country to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) was so fond of appealing—would judge of the character of the Amendment, and whether the object of hon. Gentlemen opposite was really to have a full and unfettered inquiry as to their innocence or guilt. With regard to the letters he could only say that in the course of any speeches he had made—and he was sorry to say he had made a good many—he had never treated those letters as genuine or as false, because he had never seen the evidence that could be produced on the one side or the other; and, although hon. Gentlemen opposite occasionally found fault with him for the accusations he made against them, he had never in that House or elsewhere made accusations without giving a definite reason generally from speeches made or things done by themselves. But the authenticity or unauthenticity of those letters was quite beyond his knowledge. The Times stated that it could prove their authenticity, and the hon. Member for Cork had been unwilling to avail himself of the means to vindicate his character before a Court of Law. Therefore the only reason why, in his own mind, he had thought there might be something real and genuine in those letters was that the hon. Member for Cork, although he declared they were clumsy forgeries and therefore could be easily disproved, had never ventured to test that question before a British jury. 1335 Why should they give such prominence to those letters? Those letters, undoubtedly from the point of view of The Times newspaper, occupied a first place; but he denied absolutely that the letters occupied a first place in the eyes of this country or of Ireland. The question that occupied the first place in the eyes of this country and of Ireland was the character of the men to whom the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian proposed to entrust the destinies of Ireland; and, that being so, why should the House compel the Commission to deal first with what he maintained this country and Ireland, as he knew, looked upon as a very secondary matter? Hon. Gentlemen opposite had shown very clearly what they feared most when the Commission was appointed. It was not the letters, because they knew and everyone knew that it was almost impossible to absolutely prove the authenticity of a letter. [Mr. SEXTON: The murder is out.] He had always looked upon these letters as of secondary importance to those other accusations which the hon. Member for Cork and his Friends had shrunk, and still shrunk, from meeting. Why did they devote so much of their time and attention to debating the question of "other persons?" What logical reason did they give that "other persons" was really the crucial point that would come before the Commission? He denied that these letters had ever been in the eyes of the hon. Member for Cork and his Friends the dangerous cloud which loomed in the distance and which they feared. He did not believe that the Committee would accept the proposal now before it. They were about to establish a Commission to examine into the whole question as to whether hon. Gentlemen had or had not been guilty—it was an inquiry, not simply into the character of one hon. Member, but into the character of a whole Party. That was the view which was taken in Ireland. It was proposed that those men should be their rulers, and their answer was "examine into their characters." The question to their minds was not only whether one Member of that Party had written the letters which were called forgeries, but whether hon. Gentlemen opposite had or had not been in direct trade and communication with criminals and crime. He had used that 1336 argument in that House, and he had used it in the country as the strongest argument against ever trusting the destinies of Ireland to their hands, and he said that if this Commission was to settle that point, they must take the whole question and deal with crime as a whole, and not take up part of the question only as they now proposed. If it were found, as he acknowledged it might be found, by the Commission, that the hon. Member for Cork, in its opinion, had not signed those letters, he readily admitted that he knew nothing of the evidence that The Times might have to prove them; but should the Commission decide that the hon. Member for Cork had not signed the letters it would not alter one iota of the objections they had urged over and over again in the House and in the country to placing Ireland in the hands of those who had shown by their actions in the past what their actions in the future would probably be. He had longed for the day to arrive when these questions should be cleared up once for all, and it should be decided whether the allegations that had been made over and over again in the House and in the country and before the world were founded on fact or whether they were absolute delusions. He looked forward to the time when this question should be set at rest. There was a law which could never be broken or destroyed—it was of eternal application—namely, "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap," and if this Commission, which they were about to appoint, decided that hon. Gentlemen opposite have sown honour and right and truth, they would reap their reward; but if, on the contrary, it decided that they had been connected with crime, they then would reap the condemnation of their fellow-countrymen, and they and their cause and their allies above the Gangway would justly fall in crumbling ruin together.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
said, that the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) as the confederate of the Government and their chief supporter, had accused the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) with great virulence of attempting to talk out the debate, but he observed that the followers of the noble Lord and his confederates across the House were 1337 quite willing that the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) should talk as long as he liked, and not only so, but that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay) should give his views upon every Amendment that was brought before the House. They had very few hours to spare, and he (Mr. T. M. Healy) would therefore beg the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale to ask his followers like the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Saunderson) and the hon. and learned Gentleman behind him (Mr. Finlay) just to leave the Irish Members a little time, and that, at any rate, if charges of obstruction were to be made by Gentlemen in his position, they should be made with some relevancy, and he would add with some decency. It was a great misfortune that the noble Lord and his confederates were actually unable to agree about what this Commission had to report. They saw the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) conferring with the noble Lord, and they had heard the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham opposite (Mr. Elliott Lees). To-night the noble Lord told them that he had never alluded to these forged letters—that he had never thought them of sufficient importance. What the noble Lord was so anxious for was, that these letters with other matters should be inquired into, but he had never lent the weight of his powerful name to the examination of these letters alone. But what said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldham, opposite? Why, they said that if these letters were disproved, the public would think very little of all the rest, and it was upon that basis that the Government carried the second reading of the Bill. It was upon the implied promise of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and upon the direct request of the hon. Member for Oldham, that if these letters got a fair front place, and the Irish Members were able to disprove them, then all the rest would go by the board, that the Irish Members had consented to the second reading. But not only so. The noble Lord said that he was extremely anxious that the worst of these letters should be inquired into, and yet he was one of those persons who were 1338 the parties, he presumed, with Leycester and Walter and The Times and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, to whom they owed the conversion of this scheme to turn the offer of the Government of a Commission to inquire solely into the conduct of Members of Parliament as a scheme which they must either accept or reject with the present Bill. The noble Lord the Member for Rossendale must have agreed to this scheme, because without his consent or knowledge it could not have been conducted. The noble Lord now came forward and said that he did not attempt to put these letters in the forefront of the inquiry—that he had never alluded to them—and he was supported in that by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh; and what was the reason of this? He (Mr. T. M. Healy) had felt for the counsel of The Times when these important declarations were being made—he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman looked very sick. It would appear that the ground was crumbling under the feet of the conspirators, and that, finding that out, they desired to shift their position. It was no longer the letters they relied upon—it was the speech of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) or the hon. Member for Ennis in October, 1880, and it was Boycotting, it was the Chicago Convention, it was anything except the definite matter to which the Irish Members wished to pin their accusers, and that was the course taken by "The first Gentlemen in England"—all hon. Members. Having carried the second reading of their Bill, unanimously as they boasted, by the help of the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham and the hon. Member for Oldham—speeches declaring that if these letters were disproved the public would think nothing of the other charges—they found it desirable to shift their ground and to declare—as the Irish Members always expected they would declare—"Oh, we thought very little of the matter. These are secondary matters, these charges against Members of Parliament themselves, and what we want to get at is what Paddy O'Rafferty did in the county of Kerry or what somebody else did in the county of Donegal. As for these Members of Parliament, they are not half so important as the action of those people 1339 who send them here." Well, he (Mr. T. M. Healy) put it to the Committee as serious men, did they think the country would be fooled by declarations of that kind? No doubt, they thought that the 86 Irish Members sitting on those Benches would escape from the reflections which might be cast upon them by the Commissioners. Did they think that the country would care for what Paddy O'Rafferty did in the county of Kerry in the year 1880? It was only because the Government believed that these letters, which were in the forefront of these proceedings, were false and forged that they were changing their ground. He did not believe that Walter of The Times would be very much obliged to the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh for his declaration to-night. He (Mr. T. M. Healy) was extremely sorry that the Chairman had found it necessary to call that hon. and gallant Gentleman twice to Order in the course of his speech, because the hon. and gallant Gentleman was just about to go into his quotations. He had been just rounding the Cape of Good Hope. The hon. and gallant Gentleman without his quotations was a very dull person indeed. They had heard all the rest of his speech several times before, and therefore he would bespeak at the hands of the Chairman for the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh the utmost consideration, so that the House might be never again deprived of the benefit of his quotations. Now, the Irish Members knew exactly the position in which they found themselves to-day, and when hon. Gentlemen opposite had created—or, rather, he would say set this mountain in labour, he would tell them this—that however much they might think they had the Irish Members trapped, yet the hon. Member for the city of Cork would only have to lift up his little finger and they would not be able to get a man in Ireland nor a single one of the 86 Members of the Irish Parliamentary Party to go before the Commission. True, the Government might put them in gaol, but they had been there before. The cause of the Government would be prettily advanced by such a course as this. The noble Lord the Member for Rossendale had done his best to keep the Irish Members in gaol, and had been a Member of the Cabinet who had sent them 1340 there, and he assumed this passive position with regard to these contemptible letters thinking that he had got them safe. No doubt the Government of right hon. Gentlemen opposite was conducted with geniuses. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury was a genius; all his Colleagues were geniuses, and hon. Gentlemen opposite who were supporting the Government in refusing to put these letters in trim for examination no doubt thought they were doing a very clever thing. They thought they were doing a very clever thing in refusing this Amendment, and in arranging that the Commission should inquire into the charges of murder which they had heard of a thousand times already, and into cases of Boycotting—into cases where a poor woman had been deprived of a midwife, and where, too, according to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a sick child could not get white flour—all these things it would be delightful to have over again; but if they would allow him to say so, he would point out to them that they were playing this game with men who were just as clever as they were themselves, and when the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh said that what they wanted to know was whether these letters were forged or not—whether the hon. Member for Cork and his Friends were assassins or angels, as he was unwilling to trust the liberties of his fellow countrymen to persons of that description——
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, he had never imputed it to the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh—the hon. and gallant Member had not even said that they were fallen angels. When the hon. and gallant Member said that it would not make the least matter to him what was proved against the hon. Member for Cork and his Friends, or what was proved in their favour——
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I never said anything of the kind. I said it would not affect us in the least if the letters were proved to be false or if they were proved to be true.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, that with his feeble intellect he was vainly endeavouring to give expression to that view. According to the hon. and gallant Gen- 1341 tleman, it would not affect him in the least if these letters were forged or were not forged. Very well, but would it or would it not affect Walter and The Times? That was the point. Would it affect the Government or not? Would it affect the hon. and learned Attorney General or not? And did they mean to say that if they believed these letters were not forged that they would not endeavour to thrust them down the throats of the Irish Members on the very day the Commission sat? As a matter of fact, what they wished to do was to hoodwink the public, and what the Irish Members proposed to do was to expose the manœuvres of the Government to the public. He wished to know whether it was intended to keep this Commission running as a kind of counterbalance to the Coercion Act and to divert the public mind from the real point in the hopes perhaps that the question of the forged letters would never crop up again? [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Mid Leicestershire (Mr. De Lisle) was interrupting—it was impossible for that hon. Member to keep order in the House and he ought to have rules for himself. The hon. Member ought to be under rules called, "Rules of the Holy Roman Inquisition." The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh said—and this was the third time he (Mr. T. M. Healy) had endeavoured to get it out owing to the interruptions of hon. Gentlemen opposite—that what he was anxious for was that his countrymen should never be brought under the rule of Gentlemen who were accused of the charges which were made by The Times newspaper. Now, if he (Mr. T. M. Healy) had pointed out once before, he ventured to do so once again, that if that was the hon. and gallant Member's only objection to Home Rule, the remedy was extremely simple—namely, to provide that none of the 86 Irish Nationalist Members should ever sit in an Irish Parliament. And now he passed from that subject, and he would ask the Government what was their position to-night? It was this—that having offered the Irish Members this inquiry with regard to these letters and with regard to these charges against Members of Parliament, because they were described by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham as so great and terrible, when the Irish Members asked 1342 that in mercy to them and to the reputation of their Leader he should be offered an early opportunity of going into these charges, they refused him that opportunity. He (Mr. T. M. Healy) would put this case to the hon. and learned Attorney General. Supposing they believed the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury guilty of a forgery, supposing that they believed that in the course of his public or in the course of his private life he had been guilty of a conspiracy to murder, or, supposing, to take another case, the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale was charged with having written to one of his jockeys to pull a horse—[Cries of "Question!"] An hon. Member cried "question!" but he (Mr. T. M. Healy) thought he was "on the spot." Supposing there were a great many other Gentlemen on the turf who were concerned in these alleged transactions, and the noble Lord got up in this House and said, "I claim, as a British nobleman, that this House shall grant me an inquiry as to whether I wrote to this jockey, or signed this letter telling him to pull this horse;" and supposing the House said, "No; we cannot grant an inquiry into this alleged action of yours, because there are general allegations against the whole betting fraternity which we must go into. It is really a matter of very small importance whether a particular horse of the noble Lord's was pulled or not, or whether or not he wrote to his jockey to tell him to pull it, what we want to get at is the whole system of pulling horses and deluding the whole public. We will institute a general inquiry into this system by which the public are swindled and defrauded." [Interruption.] He would ask the noble Lord how he would like in regard to such a matter—[Interruption]—Seeing that the Irish Members had only until 1 o'clock to discuss this matter, he did think that the Government might induce their supporters to keep quiet, and that they might also keep quiet themselves. He asked how the noble Lord would enjoy having his conduct as one of the first Members of this House, and as one of the first public men in England, held over and put on a shelf, so to speak, until the entire question of rigging the market in the betting ring had been settled and decided? He (Mr. T. M. Healy) observed that the 1343 right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not like these synonyms. He was anxious to jump on his legs to defend the character of his Colleague. The first thing he (Mr. T. M. Healy) ventured to say the right hon. Gentleman would do when he got on his legs was this—he would deliberately say something to provoke an interruption from that (the Opposition) side of the House.
I have ventured to appeal to other hon. Gentlemen to remember the conditions under which we are now acting. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford will do well to do the same.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Very well, then; he would therefore state that with regard to the question which, to the minds of himself and his Friends, was a question of the first magnitude, whether or not it were so to hon. Gentlemen opposite—namely, the question bearing upon their own characters, he and his friends belonged to the vast majority of the Representatives of Ireland, and what they said upon the subject ought to have some weight upon the House. They claimed that when they elected the Leader in whom they placed confidence they were entitled to know whether he had written the letters purporting to be signed by him or not. They claimed that they were entitled to ask whether their nation in Ireland and their people abroad—and there were millions of them—were right in placing this confidence in the hon. Member for Cork. They knew that he had not written these letters. He (Mr. T. M. Healy) thought that no one had a better opportunity of judging upon a matter of this kind than he had had for the past 10 years, and he thought he might fairly say this, and he did so with the utmost deference, that if a seraph instead of John Walter were to make an affidavit as to the genuineness of these letters, knowing something about the Member for Cork, he should require some further confirmation of that affidavit before he credited it. They, therefore, put it to the House as a favour. They who were brought to this House of Commons, compelled to come here, asked to maintain the Union, asked to join in the glories of the Empire—they invited and beseeched the House, in regard to what seemed to them to be a matter of the first importance, to give them the 1344 opportunity which would not be denied to a Member of the House charged with being a black leg of the turf. This House, in spite of the demands of the Irish Members and of their advisers, would proceed to vote down this Amendment; but happily this House was but a creature of the public outside. They appealed from the speeches of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite in Committee to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham and the Member for Oldham on the second reading. They appealed from the speeches to-night to those made 12 months ago in connection with the Privilege Motion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh, and they said that from hour to hour and from day to day the anxiety of hon. Members opposite had not been to enable the Irish Members to clear their characters if they were impeached, but that their anxiety had been for political objects to put them in the wrong in the vain belief that by proving certain things against the present generation of Irish leaders they would settle for all time this Irish Question which had troubled them and their fathers and their grandfathers. He said that if they would only look to the past they would see the futility of these proceedings. He said, that if they would refer to their own declarations made only 12 months ago, and the leading articles in their own newspapers, and to their own speeches to their constituents, they would see that in refusing this demand that these letters should have the foremost place in the inquiry before the Commission, and should not be delayed by matters altogether irrelevant and distinct from them, they were playing a part as wretched and deplorable as was ever played by any conspirators against the good fame of their political opponents.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
When the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) rose, he made a kind of appeal to us that, as the time was short, as much as possible of it should be left at the disposal of himself and his Friends. I think he will admit that we have done our best on this Bench to comply with his request. We have imposed on ourselves considerable self-restraint in the course of this debate. There have been many 1345 insults launched against us, many motives attributed to us which we wish to repudiate in the strongest possible terms. Attacks have been made on our honour, but we felt that the time at the disposal of the hon. Gentleman was short. Hon. Gentlemen opposite asked us for this time, and we feel it necessary to be brief—we have intended to be brief; and I myself do not intend to occupy more than the shortest possible time. I say that if we do not reply at length to the insinuations against us and the attacks made against our honour, it is not because we do not feel confidence in the force of our position, but we leave it to the country to judge between us.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
We leave the country to judge between our position and that of hon. Gentlemen. We give them the full benefit of the further speeches they have made this evening in repetition of the speeches they have made before. We give them the full benefit of all this time to make this attack on us, and we feel perfectly safe that all that hon. Gentlemen opposite have said will make no impression whatever on the country to which they professedly addressed themselves. The hon. and learned Member who spoke last has indulged in a simile, and has supposed that the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale would appeal to this House if some accusation were made against his honour as a sportsman. Every Member of the House knows that the noble Lord, if he were libelled, would go to the tribunals of his country, and would not come, as the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down has done, supplicating us for a particular form of inquiry, after refusing to go to the ordinary Courts open to every citizen.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I thought there was an objection to interruption. If the noble Lord were to come to the House and ask us to form a special tribunal to try his case, then it would certainly be open to the House to say that the inquiry should take a general form. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford now comes forward and speaks of the hurry which he and his Friends are in to have the 1346 question of these letters cleared up, when for more than a year and a quarter they have had ample opportunity of meeting the charges made against them, and have not availed themselves of it. They have come at last to a different tribunal than that of the ordinary Courts; and, surely, under these circumstances, the House has a right to impose its own conditions on that inquiry. It is absolutely false and untrue that the Government wish to put these letters into the background of the inquiry. We could not do it, even if we wished. As the Bill is drawn, it will be perfectly open to the Commissioners on the first day of the inquiry, if they chose, and if it seems to them that it will be the best means of arriving at the truth, to deal with the letters. All that the Government contend is that, important as the question of the letters is, it should be left to the Special Commission that has been chosen to determine what is the best way of arriving at what the public desire to know—namely, what is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was hardly fair in suggesting a comparison in the course which would be taken by the noble Lord and the course which should be taken by his hon. Friend the Member for the city of Cork (Mr. Parnell). The right hon. Gentleman knew as well as he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) did that the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale, if he went before a jury in London, would go before the jury almost entirely in accord with his own political convictions. [Cries of "No, no!"] Certainly most of the men would agree with the noble Lord's own particular convictions, and all of them would be of the same nationality, whereas, if the hon. Member for the City of Cork went before such a jury, he would go before one consisting of men of a different nationality from his own, and almost wholly composed of men of different political views from his own. He was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his Colleagues speaking in such high terms of eulogy of the jury system, considering that they were the very men who had broken down that system in Ireland. What would the 1347 noble Lord the Member for Rossendale say if it was proposed to bring such conduct as that which had been referred to for purposes of illustration before an Irish jury? And yet that would be a fair analogy—much fairer than the one the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had sought to make. The right hon. Gentleman said that the forged letters had been before the country for a year and a-quarter, and yet the Irish Members had never asked for an inquiry into them. Why, within a few days of their publication the Irish Members had asked for an inquiry in this House, and the right hon. Gentleman was guilty of an almost Uriah Heap amount of humility when he said that he and his Colleagues were not the proper persons to try that question. Now, the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) was the best speech in favour of the Amendment which has been delivered in the course of the debate. What did he say? He said the question at issue was the further settlement of the Irish Question. Did that not show the object of the appointment of the Commission? The object of the Commission was not to inquire into the character of Members, but into the proceedings of a political Body. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also spoke of the forged letters. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) desired to call attention to the extraordinary fact that there was not a single Tory or Unionist Member who, in referring to these letters, had not somehow or other slipped in the adjective "forged." The letters were given up by every rational man in the country outside the office of The Times newspaper. An hon. Friend reminded him that the letters were given up by The Times. So they were. From the very first moment that the genuineness of these letters seemed likely to be examined and investigated, The Times had shirked and skulked away from the letters as being only a secondary, accidental, and immaterial part of their case. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh found some fault with the statement that had been made with regard to those letters, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland last night attacked the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian very strongly, because he dared to speak 1348 of the letters as forgeries. The right hon. Gentleman said it was grossly unfair that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian should anticipate the verdict of the Commission in the matter. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary were in his place, he would like to ask him why he had never expressed the opinion with regard to these letters; whether he had always maintained a judicial position in regard to these documents? He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he made a speech at Ipswich last year, in which he said—Every man who wishes to form a conclusive judgment will probably consider, in the first place, the probability of such a letter as that being accurate from what he knows of the Irish history and the antecedents of the Irish Party, and will also take into consideration the kind of status and position of the journal which published the letters.That did not say the letter was genuine or forged. A candid and open statement of his opinions was not much in the line of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, but it was suggested and insinuated in strong language, and in as open language as the right hon. Gentleman could induce himself to employ, that in his opinion the letter was genuine. As a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and all hon. Gentlemen opposite, had gone round the country up to within the last few days declaring their entire faith in the genuineness of the letters, which one and all were now ready to acknowledge were nothing but the vilest forgeries. He was surprised at the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington); but he must say that it was not the only surprising speech the noble Lord had made since he took up the unfortunate position he now occupied. There was a time when the noble Lord was not only remarkable for his high sense of honour, but for fair play and even chivalry towards his political opponents. But there had been a gradual deterioration in the attitude and the words of the noble Lord towards his political opponents since he entered into opposition to the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. He must say that he thought that at one time when the Irish Members—even the Irish Members whom the noble Lord was so bitterly opposed 1349 to—were unjustly and unfairly attacked, the instincts of fair play and honour of the noble Lord which, up to lately, he had always displayed, would have induced him to come to their rescue and see that they got fair play. But on every occasion when their characters had been affected, the noble Lord had allied himself with their assailants. He had ventured to ask the noble Lord in the course of his speech why he did not allude to the letter of The Times? He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) apologized to the noble Lord for having made that interruption, because the noble Lord turned round to him and gave him a reason which he confessed was not present to his mind when he asked the question, and which clearly showed that there were painful and terrible circumstances which fairly entitled the noble Lord to abstain from commenting on that matter. He was sure the noble Lord would believe him when he said he would be the last man to say anything giving pain to him in relation to a matter in which the whole country sympathized with the noble Lord; but though the noble Lord did not refer to the letter, the letter was referred to by all the Gentlemen with whom he usually acted, and he did not think the noble Lord could entirely dissociate himself from the conduct of those Gentlemen. But whether the noble Lord referred to the letter or not, he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) asked if it was not a letter of gravity so great as to require serious and isolated and immediate attention? Let him call the attention of the Committee to what The Times said itself in regard to this letter that it had published—it is a facsimile of a letter from Mr. Parnell, written a week after the Phœnix Park murders, accusing his public condemnation of the crime, and distinctly condoning, if not approving, the murder of Mr. Burke. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) asserted that a letter which could be fairly described as of that character, was a letter so abominable as to call for immediate attention, isolated attention, and prompt attention, and prompt conviction or prompt acquittal. He had hoped the noble Lord, with his characteristic fairness, would help them to get an immediate investigation. Now, he must refer to another Gentleman on the Opposition side of the House who had taken part in the debate. He (Mr. T. 1350 P. O'Connor) understood, although he was not so well acquainted with these matters as the hon. Member for the Lough borough Division of Leicestershire (Mr. De Lisle), that when it was proposed to canonize a holy individual in Rome, there was a worthy Cardinal always employed to urge against canonization all the things which could be urged against the most venerable character and the most saintly life. That advocate had a particular name, and the position of that advocate was exactly the position towards the saint as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay) had towards the Government—he was the "Devil's" Advocate. Whenever the Government were in a difficulty, whenever all the course of reason and argument was going against the Government, up jumped the Devil's Advocate, the hon. and learned Member for Inverness, to come to their assistance, and supply them with such arguments as they were wanting in themselves. He was a little surprised the hon. and learned Gentleman continued to occupy the seat he did as long as he performed this function for the Government. He must express his surprise that for the first time in human history the position of spy in the camp of the enemy had been considered of noble position for the hon. and learned Gentleman to occupy. The hon. and learned Gentleman got up, in his character of Devil's Advocate, and made a defence of the Government by saying that if this Amendment were carried the Commission might one day find out that the verdict of the previous day was an unjust verdict. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) and his hon. Friends had been reproached for want of confidence in the competence of the Commission. What was the confidence in the competence of the Commission of the hon. and learned Gentleman when he regarded them as so incapable of judging evidence that they would be ready to pronounce a verdict on a most important matter, on material or on insignificant evidence, and who regarded their judgment as so weak and fickle that they would be ready to reverse to-morrow a verdict they had given to-day. The Committee had very little time at its disposal, and he did not mean to make any further inroad into it. He thought, considering the importance of the Amend- 1351 ment, the Irish Members could not be accused for having taken an undue share of time when so much time had been occupied by the noble Lord and by the Devil's Advocate upon this Amendment.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 203; Noes 281: Majority 78.—(Div. List, No. 259.)
SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,
said, he had the following Amendment on the Paper:—In page 1, line 20, after "another," add—In case the evidence taken by them shall, in their opinion, suffice to justify the committal of any of the said persons on any charge against which he is not protected by the provisions of this Act, or otherwise, they shall commit him for trial before the Court having jurisdiction to try that charge.After the decision the Committee had just come to on the last Amendment, he felt that no other Amendment whatever had any serious chance of being accepted, and as his proposal was an important one and would involve important considerations which it would take some time to debate, he proposed not to move it, but to leave the little time which remained at the disposal of hon. Members from Ireland.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, he wished to move the following Amendment:—In page 1, line 20, after "another," add—Provided, that the Commissioners shall make a separate report in regard to the charges against each individual Member of Parliament, and refer in such report specifically to the evidence on which their conclusions are founded where such conlusions are adverse to the Member affected.This was on Amendment to which none of the objections taken in any of the speeches of the Members of the Government would apply. His proposition, simply stated, was this—that when this Commission had completed its labours, and when its last witness should have been called, and the counsel for The Times would have made his last speech and received his last refresher—when the Attorney General bowed to the Judge and said that he had nothing more to add—then, when the Commissioners had had all the body of evidence before them, they should, as a portion of their Report, report separately in regard to the charges made against individual Members of Parliament. He 1352 respectfully submitted to the Committee that that was an Amendment which could not be rejected either on the ground of principle, of policy, or of expediency. He respectfully submitted that it could only be objected to by those who endeavoured to father the entire Party with the Act, or because of an individual or of two individuals. If such act or acts could be proved against any one individual, he maintained that the entire Party, at least, were not to be condemned for the act of such individual. If a wild speech had been made in Galway or Donegal by any Member in that locality there was no reason why a man in Cork or Dublin should he held responsible for it. Accordingly, he provided that these three Commissioners, in whom he had no confidence, should be compelled to refer specifically to the evidence upon which their Report was founded. He did not trust Mr. Justice Day, nor Mr. Justice Hannen, nor Mr. Justice Smith. He neither trusted the trinity nor the unity. He would not trust any tribunal—["Hear, hear!" and laughter]—even the intelligence of hon. Gentlemen opposite might be sufficient to enable them to restrain themselves until he had finished his sentence—he would not, he said, trust any tribunal selected by a Tory Lord Chancellor from Tory Judges. Why did not hon. Members opposite cheer that? And, therefore, he provided that this Tory trinity should be compelled, when they were attempting to blacken the character of the Irish Party, to refer to the evidonce upon which the tar brush had been dipped into the tar barrel. That was a gauge of the bona fides of the Government. The Judges, under the Amendment, would have to say that they found against a Member of Parliament on the evidence of so and so, or on question number so and so. Then it would be possible to turn to that evidence and see whether the witness was a convict, or a person accused of crime, or a person with regard to whom the receipt of money could be traced, or whether there was a reasonable suspicion of his being a suborned witness. When he heard any praise of particular individuals, because of the particular functions they fulfilled, he was reminded of the reproach addressed by one of the ancient prophets, that the people having taken a block of wood, fashioned it 1353 with their hands, carved it, and gilded it, lo! it became a god. When Mr. Justice Day or Mr. Justice Hannon was at the Bar he would not have offered up incense to them; even the name of Smith could not provoke any undue respect from him; and, therefore, the fact that these gentlemen had got ermine upon them did not entitle them to any particular respect at his hands. False hair and ermine gave no particular titles to respect. These three gentlemen had been selected by the Tory Lord Chancellor, and so they were told that nothing was to be done to limit their functions. That was very fair for the Party opposite, who had the knave up their sleeve, who had rigged the tribunal and packed the jury and selected the Bench. Even the protest against Mr. Justice Day because of his scandalous conduct on the Belfast Commission—which was objected to by the Tory counsel for Orangemen—Judge Kisbey, who had sent John Dillon to prison for six months, and objected to also by the entire Orange Body—was not attended to by the Ministerial Party, and therefore he insisted on the Amendment. Further, he claimed that when the Judges referred to the Irish Party or to Parnellism and Crime, they should pick out the particular Parnellite and the particular crime. They were now coming to close quarters, and if the Government refused this Amendment, the public vision should be brought to bear on the fact that they had declined to accede to a means by which the Judges would be forced to avoid vague generalities, and by which the genuineness and honesty of their finding could be proved.
At the end of the clause to add the words—"Provided, that the Commissioners shall make a separate report in regard to the charges against each individual Member of Parliament, and refer in such report specifically to the evidence on which their conclusions are founded whore such conclusions are adverse to the Member affected."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS) (Birmingham, E.)
said the hon. and learned Gentleman who had moved the Amendment could scarcely have expected that the arguments by which he had supported it could have met with any other than one response 1354 on the part of the Government. He did not suppose that even the right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite Bench would suggest for a moment that the Government should accept an Amendment which was deliberately based on distrust of the tribunal which it was now proposed to establish. Every hon. Member was told at the outset that the tribunal was to be mainly or wholly composed of Judges, and the hon. and learned Member knew from the beginning that the Chancellor who would select the Judges was a Tory Lord Chancellor.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman be good enough to hear him? The House listened to the taunts and contumely with which the hon. and learned Member favoured them every night. Would they suffer him (Mr. Matthews), without interruption, to make observations which were neither contumelious or taunting. He was about to say that the hon. and learned Gentleman knew from the first what the tribunal was which it was proposed to erect, and he now thought it becoming, or an argument which the Government could accept, to open the door to a future assault on that tribunal, if it should dare to report against him and his Party, by describing them as persons for whom he had no respect. He (Mr. Matthews) never know the hon. and learned Member to express respect for any office, however high, and now he said that in his mind the Judges themselves were not above suspicion. These so-called Tory Judges selected by a Tory Lord Chancellor were the tribunal to which he assented on the second reading.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
Did the hon. and learned, Gentleman seriously propose to the House and the Government an Amendment which was based not only on distrust of those Judges, but on the conviction that they were going to give a dishonest judgment. He appealed to the House to say whether it would be possible for any Government not totally devoid of all self-respect to do other-wise than oppose this Amendment, the whole purpose and object of which, as well as every argument offered in its support, was au outrage on the tribunal which was proposed to be set up.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he should like to refer to that passage of the right hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Matthews')speech, in which the right hon. Gentleman informed the House that the Judges would be chosen exclusively by the Tory Chancellor. That statement was made over and over again with great insistance, with a repetition of assertion which argued a perfect belief in its truth. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to refer them to a passage, a syllable, a hint in any previous speech, that the Judges of whom the Commission was to be exclusively composed were to be selected by the Tory Lord Chancellor?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
The assertion made by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford was that a Tory Lord Chancellor would select them.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, the right hon. Gentleman would not run off on a false scent like that. Undoubtedly his hon. and learned Friend had stated that the Judges were exclusively selected by a Tory Lord Chancellor; but the reply of the right hon. Gentleman was that fair notice was given on the second reading of this Bill that the Judges would be selected by a Tory Lord Chancellor. Did the right hon. Gentleman deny that this was a true and correct representation of what he said?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Then what did the right hon. Gentleman say? It was in the recollection of the House that what the right hon. Gentleman said was, that the House was warned that these Judges would be appointed by a Tory Lord Chancellor. Why, instead of that being the case, it had been made an objection and a reproach from the Front Opposition Bench that the Judges were selected exclusively by the Tory Lord Chancellor, and not in consultation with right hon Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary spoke of the speech of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. T. M. Healy) and the Amendment as throwing suspicion upon the Judges. But the speech was one thing and the Amendment was another, and where did the Amendment throw suspicion upon the judges? What happened in this House when a Select Committee made its Report? If that Report 1356 was properly drawn up, there was not a single distinct recommendation which was not confirmed by a reference to the witness and the number of the questions in the evidence on which the recommendation was founded. Was it too much to ask that a Court consisting of three Judges, or a Court consisting of three Archangels, if they gave a verdict of conviction of serious crimes against a Member of this House, should be compelled to accompany that verdict by a statement of the reasons and the evidence on which that verdict was founded? How could that demand involve disrespect to the three Judges? The right hon. Gentleman said the Amendment bore some resemblance to other Amendments that had been proposed. [Mr. MATTHEWS: No.] Well, he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) thought the right hon. Gentleman did say so, and, at any rate, it was perfectly true that this Amendment did bear a very close resemblance indeed to other Amendments proposed from those Benches—in this respect, that the Irish Members were willing to have their names set forth for inquiry; that they were perfectly prepared to be pilloried in the most public manner as objects of inquiry, provided only that in addition to particulars of their names there should also be particulars as to the charge and evidence that were brought against them. They had not shirked but demanded inquiry into their characters. What was the best proof of that? It was that they had asked over and over again that their names should be set forth in Schedules of the Bill, or by any other form that would segregate them from any other persons. All their proposals on that point had been, however, rejected; and nothing but the historical honour of being out short by the atrocious proposal of the Government would induce him to add one word to this debate.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
Sir, I rise, as we are now coming to the enforced termination of our proceedings upon this Bill, to say a few words as to the course which I should recommend my hon. Friends to adopt with regard to their action upon the Questions which will be put by you, Sir, in accordance with the Resolution of the House after 1 o'clock. It would be affectation for me to deny that I approach the inquiry before this Commission with a rankling 1357 sense of injustice. It would have been easy, I think, for the Government to have avoided such a feeling on my part, to have rendered such a feeling on my part impossible. I think it would have been better if they had endeavoured to be a little straight forward in their conduct in dealing with us. It is true that we are only Irish Members; and the hon. and learned Attorney General, during the course of these debates, pointedly stated that he should decline to notice the accusations and the references of the Irish Members to himself. That is in the recollection of the House.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
If the hon. Gentleman will pardon me, I said nothing of the kind. What I said was, that I should decline to notice again the accusations that had been made against my conduct as counsel for The Times which had been made, not by Irish Members, but by Members sitting opposite.
§ MR. PARNELL
The hon. and learned Gentleman, in the very able and eloquent speech which he delivered on the second reading of the Bill, pointedly referred to the Irish Members below the Gangway as persons beneath his notice. [SIR RICHARD WEBSTER dissented.] And he carried out that argument in practice by refusing—and I thought he might have taken the opportunity of pulling himself right at least in that respect—to answer the charge of want of accuracy which I had made against him in regard to his speech in the case of "O'Donnell v. Walter." They were simple questions of fact which the hon. and learned Gentleman might have referred to in the interval between my speech and his speech, and which, if he had referred to, he would undoubtedly have seen that he had been in error in the statements he had made; and he could have corrected the error in those statements, which he has refrained from doing up to the present moment. Well, Sir, this Bill has arisen out of a request by me to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) that a Select Committee of this House should be appointed to investigate the charge which had been made against me and my Colleague, and the genuineness and authenticity of these letters; and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, in reply to that request, 1358 promised us a Royal Commission to investigate all the charges and allegations which had been made against myself and my Friends and Colleagues. He said, further, that it was for me and my Colleagues in this House to reject the proposal that he made, thus clearly indicating that the proposal was with reference to myself and my Colleagues, and not to any outside persons. Well, Sir, I had no fault to find with that proposal in its inception, though I had fault, and very strong fault, to find with the accompanying statement of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, that it was for me to accept or reject it on the spot, before the Bill was printed, or that otherwise it would not be proceeded with. I thought that was an unfair position to put us in, to have to accept or reject a Bill we had not seen. But I had no fault to find with the proposal itself; nor have I any fault to find in my own mind with the proposal itself, but when the Notice appeared on the Paper a great change had taken place. The Reference, which at first was confined, according to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, to the charges and allegations against me and my hon. Friends, was extended to the charges and allegations against "other persons," and since then, by the speeches from the Treasury Bench, it has been further extended into an inquiry, first of all, against the Land League, and, secondly, against the National League. That, again, I say was an evidence of want of straight forwardness on the part of the Government. If they had desired an inquiry into the Land League and the National League, I should not have stood in their way. I should have said that it was a reasonable request; but I think it is unreasonable, underhand to ask us to consent to an inquiry into our own conduct, and then to enlarge it into an inquiry into the conduct of organizations. Well, Sir, the thing has gone on, and we have had discussions in Committee upon some vital points in reference to this Bill, and I should not have complained, whatever the result might have been of unfairness, if we had been heard. But I think this House has taken a grave responsibility upon itself in denying to us, who are so vitally interested in this question, the opportunity of being fully heard with regard 1359 to the tribunal which is to try us and the organizations with which we are concerned. We stand in this position. We feel we are approaching an inquiry which has been shaped by yourselves and your superior force without your having given us an opportunity of stating our views with that fulness which the gravity of the occasion requires. Some of his hon. Friends had placed Amendments on the Paper with regard to provisions for enforcing the attendance of witnesses before the Commission which are lacking in this Bill. This Amendment by your action to-night will be shut out. We consider, and I consider, that these Amendments are vital for the purpose of proving the forgeries of these letters. We consider that we have information that there are men at present in London whom we can lay our hands upon, if they wait for us to lay our hands upon them after this Bill is passed, who have a knowledge of the forgeries of these letters, and who, if we can put them in the box, we shall force to admit that they are forgeries. We have placed Amendments on the Paper casting provisions which are lacking in this Bill, which will enable us to enforce the attendance of these men; or, failing the possibility of enforcing their attendance, that after the cessation of the proceedings of the Commission these persons shall be punished for absconding from its jurisdiction. Recollect how we stand in regard to the question of the forged letters. The Times has announced that it will refuse to produce evidence as to how it got these letters, that they will refuse to us an opportunity of knowing who our accusers are, and that they will refuse to declare from whom these letters were obtained, or to let us know the circumstances under which they were obtained. It is, therefore, of the greatest and gravest importance to us that we should be able to supply the deficiency in the evidence of The Times. Mr. Walter, the proprietor of The Times, may be sent to prison for refusing to answer. But what does he or anyone else care for remaining in prison during the session of the Commission, when he knows that immediately the Commission has ceased to sit he will be released from prison, and that he may snap his fingers at all the Courts of the country so far as the 1360 Commission is concerned? And what will those criminals care which have evaded, and will be able to evade, our attempts to put them in the box, owing to your action in refusing our Amendments, and owing to your action in not even allowing us to put them before you; what will these criminals, these forgers, care for your action in appointing a Commission of Inquiry, when, simply by stepping across the Channel and staying there during the sitting of the Commission, they can draw an impenetrable veil of secrecy over the origin of those miserable productions? I say that it is not fair play to us; you ought to have heard us. You ought to have given us that hearing which the House of Commons have never before denied to individuals who were charged before it. We consented to this unprecedented and unconstitutional inquiry into our guilt or innocence with regard to these matters, and the least return you could have given us was to have afforded us a full and fair opportunity of laying our views before the Committee. When the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury first spoke of appointing this Commission, I said then, as I say now, that I do not object to entrust my cause to the judgment of any three, four, five, or six able, learned, and honourable men. I believe from that scrutiny we shall come out untarnished and triumphant. But I do say that you, the majority of the House, have tarnished yourselves, have discredited the traditions of this House, by refusing us, who are your equals in this House, who are as honourable as yourselves, the right we have under the Constitution of the House of shaping, or of attempting to influence your judgment in shaping, the most important measure which has ever been devised for the judgment of man, the importance of which with regard to the future situation of political Parties in this country and to the future interests of the Nation which we represent is incalculable.
§ It being One of the clock a.m., the Chairman, in pursuance of the Order of the House, interrupted the Debate, and put the Question forthwith.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 201; Noes 283; Majority 82.—(Div. List, No. 260.)1361
§ Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ Clauses 2 to 7 agreed to.
§ Preamble agreed to.
§ Whereupon the Chairman, in pursuance of the Order of the House, forthwith left the Chair and reported the Bill, with Amendments, to the House.
§ Bill, as amended, to be considered on Monday next.