§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [9th February.]—[See page 64.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
said, that as another of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary's "criminals" he would ask the attention of the House for a few minutes to the manner in which the Coercion Act had been administered in Ireland. That Act had been administered in Ireland with unmitigated ferocity. He had personal knowledge of the way in which it had been administered, and he could say that, instead of its being used for the purpose of putting down and detecting crime, it had been used for an entirely different purpose—namely, for assisting rack-renting landlords in exacting unfair rents and the torture of the political opponents of the Government. He refused to call it a Criminal Law Amendment Act. It was a Coercion Act, and it was intended as such, and as such it was being used at the present moment. The Irish Members had not, however, imagined that the Irish Government would find such pliant and ready tools to their hands as the roving, resident, removable magistrates who had been called on to administer the Act. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Bolfour) took credit to himself for a diminution of crime, and had asserted that such diminution was due to the working of the Act. But that was not the case. The fact was that such diminu- 306 tion in the amount of crime as might be was traceable to the Home Rule Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), which had enabled the priests and leaders of the people to control the less amenable class of the population, and which had infused a better feeling into the hearts of the people. The only parts of the country where crime had increased were just those parts in which the National League had been suppressed, and where it had been prevented by the right hon. Gentleman from exercising its beneficent sway over the people. In the constituency of the county of Cork which he had the honour to represent the right hon. Gentleman was arresting respectable shopkeepers, traders, and farmers, and sending them to gaol as common criminals for what was no crime; and he himself was shortly to go through the farce of a trial for having made a speech to his constituents in which he advised them to enter into legitimate combination for the assertion of their legal rights. Wherever there was strife or conflict between landlord and tenant, owing to the exorbitant demands of the landlord, there was the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary with his Act and his removable magistrates daily at work passing sentences of extraordinary severity on men as honourable as any hon. Member who sat in that House. All the men who had been proceeded against under this Act in his constituency were hard-working, respectable men, of irreproachable character. The right hon. Gentleman was step by step advancing to the inclusion of priests and. Members of that House; but he could tell the right hon. Gentleman that if he was going to tranquillize Ireland with his accursed Coercion Act in that way, he would have to proceed much further and arrest every able-bodied man in the community who happened to be a Nationalist. As an instance of the injustice perpetrated under the Act, he would refer to a case which occurred at Kanturk. Five shopkeepers had been indicted for conspiring to refuse to deal with a certain person. Those men, he pointed out, as had been shown in evidence, had had no communication whatever with one another on the subject, but were convicted notwithstanding by two roving magistrates, and sentenced to two months' imprisonment with hard 307 labour. He contended that exclusive dealing, such, as this, was perfectly-legal, both under the Common Law and under the Coercion Act. There were many similar cases which he could give the House. If his constituents and others were exposed to these terrible risks, whether they could afford it or not, they would be compelled to take costly proceedings in the Court of Queen's Bench or Exchequer, while, in the meantime, gross injustice was being perpetrated. Did the right hon. Gentleman think that the action of the Government was tending to the pacification of Ireland—did ha think he was increasing respect for law and order in Ireland by proceedings of this kind all over the country? He had seen decisions of the Resident Magistrates which shocked all ideas of justice. The very last case charged was that some men wore cards in their hats when going to church on Sunday, and that they were seen going into the priest's house an hour or two after the service. The police were asked, was it not possible that they might be meetings for purposes of the chapel? and the police could not say "no" to that question. There had been a very suspicious connection between a certain speech delivered in Manchester by the right hon. Gentleman and subsequent proceedings in Ireland. Very shortly after that speech it became the rule with the Resident Magistrates to give one month's imprisonment with hard labour, in order to suspend the power of appeal. His hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) was at the present moment suffering two months' imprisonment in Tullamore Gaol under two sentences of one month each. His counsel asked to have a case stated, but this was refused; it was asked that there should be an appeal to the Recorder of Cork, so that the sentence might be increased in order to give the right of appeal. But that was only a few days after the Manchester speech of the right hon. Gentleman—the whip was in the air, and the terriers knew too well to disobey their masters. In another case, which occurred a few days ago, of the printer of a certain Cork newspaper, it was proved at the trial that he had as much control of the matter which went into that newspaper as the printer's devil or the messenger who delivered it to the subscribers; 308 and yet, because that newspaper contained a report of a meeting of a suppressed branch of the League, the printer got two months' imprisonment—one month each on two charges. Again, it was asked that the sentence should be increased; but the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was too recent, the man was denied the right of appeal, and was then undergoing punishment. It was not alone that they had the printer imprisoned for two months—the very boys who sold the paper were pursued by the right hon. Gentleman's constables all over the streets. Then there was the case of a poor woman, who was pursued and threatened for selling The Cork Examiner and Herald. These were specimens of the administration of the Crimes Act, which, they were told, was so carefully-carried out. They had been told that crime had greatly diminished in Ireland, but Irish Members contended that the abatement of crime was due to other circumstances than the Coercion Act. It was somewhat due to legislation; but it was largely the result of the different feeling entertained by the people of Ireland towards the people of this country, which feeling had been greatly improved and strengthened by the visits to Ireland of hon. Members of that House and other gentlemen. There was one thing in connection with this Act and with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which he desired to refer to; and that was that for his part, and so far as the majority of hon. Members on those Benches were concerned, they did not take the figures of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to Boycotting on his own showing. They wanted to know how those figures had been obtained, but they had no facilities whatever for testing the Returns. He refused to accept the figures of the right hon. Gentleman altogether; and, what was more, he told the right hon. Gentleman that if this Act continued in operation much longer, he feared that Boycotting would increase rather than diminish. For his own part, he regretted Boycotting as heartily as any hon. or right hon. Gentleman in the House. But he maintained that it was the lesser of two evils, and it was in many cases, unfortunately, the only protection which a persecuted people had been able to devise; and until some better protection could be afforded, they would adhere to it in spite 309 of the way in which this Act had been administered. He had shown the House and the country the extraordinary and eccentric conduct of many of the Resident Magistrates in Ireland. There were some magistrates who stood out in bold relief from the rest; but he believed Irish Members would be able to show that this Act, instead of being carefully carried into effect for the pacification of Ireland, the restoration of social order, and increasing respect for the law in Ireland, had been carried out for totally different purposes; that it had been carried into effect for the purpose of breaking down the legitimate organization of the people of Ireland, and if not with the intention, at any rate with the result, of goading the people of Ireland to a pitch of exasperation.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S)
said, that according to the statement of his hon. Friend the Member for North Cork (Mr. Flynn) it would appear that there were crimes and conspiracies in Ireland other than these which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) was attempting to put down; it seemed there were conspiracies for the purpose of bringing people under the law who otherwise would not have come within the cognizance of the magistrates who administered the law. But though according to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech one class of crime in Ireland had diminished, another was on the increase. If it were true, as was stated in Her Majesty's Speech, that crime had decreased, it was only what had been contended by Irish Members during the discussions which took place in that House on the Coercion Bill of last year. They had contended that crime had been greatly on the increase in Ireland, and that it only reached a greater extent on the day the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Coercion Bill as compared with what it was when the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) was closeted with Lord Carnarvon on the subject of the wishes of the Irish people. Long before the Bill was introduced the Judges had gone round the country, and they had nothing to do in return for their bloated salaries but to congratulate the country on the diminution of crime, and to give white gloves to the Sheriffs. He had noticed that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief 310 Secretary for Ireland blamed Lord Spencer for the administration of the Coercion Act. Although he (Mr. John O'Connor) had suffered at his hands, he took the earliest opportunity of bearing his testimony to the character of Lord Spencer. That noble Lord said that after looking into the organizations in Ireland he was obliged to confess that there was not one tittle of evidence which connected the Irish Leaders with crime and outrage. But he wished to point out that while Lord Spencer had struck them severely, and had put down crime with a strong hand, he restored those rights which were now being filched from the people of Ireland; he found that the right of combination had been taken away from them and he restored it, while he left the country freer from crime and outrage than it was before. Therefore it was that he would stand up in that House and defend the character of Lord Spencer against the attack made upon him by the right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench. But did not the argument of the right hon. Gentleman tell against the administration of the Coercion Act? A tu quoque was no argument at all; and if those magistrates who the light hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said had been appointed by his Predecessors had administered the Act in a severe manner it was because they were taking their tone from those above them. Irish Members knew well how it was that every man engaged in the execution of the law in Ireland was permeated with the spirit which prevailed in Dublin Castle. Now, although it might be endeavoured to prevent Irish Members examining into the character of those magistrates, they would do so nevertheless. One Resident Magistrate, Mr. Eaton, stated the other day in Court that he did not want any direct evidence to find his prisoners guilty; he had been informed that his victims were seen coming home from Mass with cards of the National League in their hats; their appearance alone was sufficient for him, and he sentenced them to a month's imprisonment with hard labour. Again, with regard to another Resident Magistrate. Upon the day on which Mr. Dillon sentenced Mr. Blunt to prison he himself was adjudicated a bankrupt, and yet the bankrupt magistrate was considered fit to hold Her Majesty's Com- 311 mission and to consign Mr. Blunt to prison for two mouths with hard labour. Then they had before them the character of Mr. Stokes. Mr. Stokes was a man who stood upon no legality whatever; he did not care whether the course he took was legal or illegal so long as he pleased his masters; he was a man who had outraged every form of legality in Ireland, and was the magistrate who had held under arrest the hon. Member for North-East Cork, in whose case the Judge, who sentenced him, said there was no legality for his arrest; and although he trampled on all the forms of the law, yet this man was selected by the Government. Then there was Mr. Curran, whom the Government had appointed to administer this Act; and Mr. Curran was the man who said that Glenbeigh was the happiest and most prosperous part of Ireland. He came now to the character of another gentleman who had played an important part in the South of Ireland—Captain Sea-grave. Captain Seagrave, whom they were in a position to be able to judge out of his own mouth as to his fitness for the post of President Magistrate, was asked the following questions in Court:—How long have you been a Resident Magistrate f—About one year. I think the 15th October last was the exact date of my appointment.Where did you get your legal training for your position of Magistrate?—I had no legal training.Captain, where did you get your military training?—In South Africa.Did you ever get a Commission in the Home Army?—Never.Did you try?—I did.Did you fail?—I did.Did you try once more to get it?—I tried once more for the preliminary, and passed the second preliminary.Did you try again?—I tried a third time and failed—not very ignominiously I must say.At what time was that?—I think about the year 1875.Can you tell us whether these interesting qualifications were mentioned in the application for the Resident Magistracy f—Certainly not.Did Her Majesty's Government take the trouble to inquire before or after that time?—I cannot say.How long after your failure to get into the Army did you leave for the Cape?—Very shortly.Did you pass an examination there for your captaincy?—I passed no examination.Captain Seagrave then went on to say that he was for three years a private at the Cape, and having been asked 312 what Statute the Riot Act was, he replied—I do not know; I will tell you if you allow me to look in my pocket. I do not see why I should be examined about my legal knowledge.Mr. Harrington, continuing the examination, then said—If I were to be prosecuted in the morning you would, perhaps, be one of the magistrates to try me.To which Captain Seagrave replied—I am not a legal Resident Magistrate.Would the House believe that this man, after he failed to pass his examinations for the Army and had served as a private in the Cape Mounted Rifles for several years—after he failed to be promoted to the rank of eergeant—nevertheless had been found worthy by Her Majesty's Government to take the position of President Magistrate, to have the lives of the people in his power, and to have power to order charges of the police? And this was the man who had been appointed to the district where his hon. Friend the Member for East Cork (Mr. Lane) would be tried next week. It was men of this character, of whom he had given instances—and whose number could be multiplied almost at will—that were administering the Coercion Act in Ireland; and these were the men who were really goading the people into insurrection. The passage in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech referring to crime in Ireland was presaged at Manchester by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who said that the National League was "wobbling." But did it look like wobbling when the branches of the League which were suppressed still continued to hold their meetings, or when the applications to that organization had been increased fourfold since the suppression of those branches? There was no evidence of this in the fact that newspapers continued to publish day by day reports of the meetings of those branches. The Government might imprison the members of the branches, but the branches themselves would continue to meet, and the newspapers would continue to report their proceedings; and while those things continued he said that the League did not wobble, and that there was no foundation for the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. 313 The Coercion Act was not passed for the purpose of putting down outrage; but it was enacted for the purpose of putting down the just combination of the Irish people. But the spirit of the people was untamed. Crime and outrage had decreased; and he was glad that it had decreased. Irish Members had done their best all along, without the aid of the Coercion Act, to keep the people within the bounds of law and reason. The only time when crime increased was when Irish Members were in Her Majesty's prisons; but since then they had used their best endeavours to reduce crime and outrage in Ireland, and he denied the right of Her Majesty's Government to claim the credit for what had taken place. He was quite sure that they would receive from posterity and history a favourable judgment. He was also satisfied with this—for while the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland would have to depend for his fame on a weak and washy imitation of the policy once called "thorough," the Irish people would receive credit, because they had maintained under oppression a virtuous perseverance in a cause which would be the delight of generations to come.
§ MR. BLANE (Armagh, S.)
said, that as one of the criminals under the Act passed last year he had been sentenced to four months' imprisonment with hard labour and a proper amount of stone-breaking—
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. BLANE
, continuing, submitted that he had the same Constitutional rights as any Englishman or Scotchman. Representing, as he did, the most populous county in Ulster, he could speak for the Ulster men, because the National Party held the majority of the representation of that Province. The term of imprisonment referred to had been given to him for words which would be altogether innocent if spoken by an Englishman or Scotchman. He had been charged with inciting to the non-payment of rent. He held that he had the right to do that. In this country he could do so, where it was not an indictable offenee; he could tell men in England not to fulfil their contracts and take the consequences, and in doing so 314 he should be committing no crime. No number of wooden-headed barristers in Trinity College could make it criminal in Ireland. He (Mr. Blane) was invited to go to an Ulster county, where the landlord ground the faces of the poor to such an extent that the people had to obtain assistance from the charity of England, Scotland, and America. He found that if the assistance took the form of money, the landlord seized it in payment of his rent; and if it was in the shape of seed, he waited until the crop had ripened and then reaped it. He was actually not ashamed to do this, and to leave the people to starvation. The gentleman who acted in this way was a cousin of the Lord Lieutenant, named Stewart. The tenants used to be served with processes at Lifford, some 50 miles distant, to which place there was no railway, and soon afterwards a man would come down, and without any warrant from the County Court Judge levy blackmail, and carry off the horses and cattle. This man committed a crime under the colour of the law. He (Mr. Blane) went into the district, caused the man to be prosecuted, and for this intervention he got four months' imprisonment with hard labour. He held that that was a grave public scandal. If any hon. Gentleman could show him anything like that in any other country he would throw up the sponge. He was brought before two half-pay troopers, and got four months' imprisonment, because he told the people not to pay the rents as they were not legally due. What was the definition of rent legally due? Rent was not legally due until some Court adjudicated upon it, and issued a decree. He had known landlords issue processes in respect to rents which were not legally due. He had known landlords issue processes when receipts had been given by the agents of the property. He held that the Crimes Act was used for purposes of private vengeance. Nothing could be more clearly demonstrated than that the half-pay troopers who administered this martial law in Ireland had no idea of civil law or civil authority. Anything which they regarded as against discipline they punished with the utmost severity. There were many offences under martial law which would be no offence in the eye of a civil magistrate. The Irish President Magistrates, who were taken 315 from the Army and Navy, were not fit to administer Civil Law. If he were to put the question to them—"How do you know the rent is legally due?" they would not be able to give him an answer. In his case a warrant was issued for his arrest. Under the Act the Resident Magistrates could have proceeded against him by ordinary summons, and if he had refused to appear on the summons they could then have issued a warrant. They chose to issue a warrant at once, and in the morning, long before daylight, his humble dwelling was surrounded by breechloaders and bayonets. He was in bed at the time. He spoke to the officer in charge from his bedroom window. He was scarcely allowed to dress—at least, he was told he must be quick about it or they would force in the door. In short, he was treated as a vagabond. Now, he was the first Commoner in County Armagh, and contended that the authorities had no right to treat him in the way he had described. He did not wish to shirk responsibility for any act of his, and he never would advise a man to do that which he was not quite willing to do himself. He did not mean to apply to the Government to make his term of imprisonment less. Whether his imprisonment extended over four months or 12 months it was all the same to him. He felt called upon to come to the rescue of people he found oppressed. It was the duty of the Representatives of the people to defend their constituents. He and his hon. Friends would go to prison in the cause of the defence of the people. They were holdfasts in their constituencies, and the Government did not dare to contest their seats. They had not ventured to oppose him. Why was that? He had the confidence of the people; but he had not the confidence of the Castle, or of the administrators of this martial law. There was another landlord in the district called Olphert. His son, John Olphert, was the first Gentleman in Waiting at the Castle; he was a Silver Stick, or something of the sort, and walked backwards. This man put on the screw in the Castle, and assisted in getting the warrant issued against him (Mr. Blane). Now, when he was brought to Letterkenny a half-pay trooper committed him to Deny Gaol, and refused bail. Subsequently, 316 the magistrate held him to bail; but so gross was his ignorance of law that he would only hold him to bail in £1,000. Could they point to any such scandal in England? At most, his offence only amounted to a misdemeanour, and yet he was held to bail in—1,000. That was excessive bail. His treatment in that respect, too, was contrary to all ideas of the administration of Civil Law. He was confident the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Madden) would not say that a man should be held to bail in £1,000 for misdemeanour. At the time of his arrest, the parish priest of Gweedore was arrested. The rev. gentleman came down to the funeral of the late Catholic Primate, and he was there and then arrested. He was taken through Belfast and on to Derry, and there lodged in gaol. A second clergyman, the Rev. Daniel Stephens, was also arrested about the same time. Both these clergymen were arrested because they came to the defence of their people against a man who was levying blackmail. Why should not these gentlemen come to the rescue of the people? Manifestly, it was their duty to do so. What was the use of a pastor having a flock unless he defended them? What was the use of a Member of Parliament unless he was prepared to stand up in defence of the liberties of the people? He and the rev. gentleman he had referred to were quite willing to undergo any imprisonment in the cause they had espoused. The men who put them in gaol would not always be sitting comfortably on the Treasury Bench. There would be a wag of the pendulum which would bring them to the Opposition Benches; and except the close Corporation of landlords in Trinity College, which always preserved Trinity College from Land Acts, very few would regret the change. He asserted that unless the people of England realized that it was to their interest to take up the cause of Ireland, they also would soon lose their liberties. The people of Ireland had lost the right of public meeting, and the people of England had lost the same right. The occurrences which caused so much consternation in London not long ago were the result of the performances in Ireland. He was sure it was not necessary for him to prove to the House the necessity of his action in Donegal. The British public knew the 317 facts only too well. They knew that but for the subscriptions of the charitable people in this country, the people of Gweedore and other places would have perished not by hundreds, but by thousands. Much of the money, however, was taken by the landlords and by the bailiff for bogus law costs and blackmail. "When he was arrested he had a guard as large as that which followed the Queen down Piccadilly on the 14th of June. He never had such a following in his life, and he was highly delighted at the honour paid him. But did the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland or anybody else in the House believe that the cost of the troops would be defrayed by the people of Gweedore and the other districts concerned? Certainly, it would not. The people were too poor to keep the troops, who had to make a forced march because there were no means of accommodating them in the district. All the expense incurred would have been avoided if the landlords had come to some sort of terms with their tenants. Griffith's valuation was 1d. per English acre, but in some cases the rents had been forced up to the extent of 500 per cent. This was not in Cork or Kerry, or in any of the Southern Provinces, but in prosperous Ulster. The rent had been forced up from time to time, until at last the poor people could not live at all. It was not only landlords who resorted to exactions, but the agent's officers had been in the habit of sending out different processes, purporting to be decrees, and the poor people had given them 10s. and 15s. to go away. And now the Government talked about law and order. He liked to hear sermons preached from the Table by men who took as their text law and order, when what he had described was done in Ireland under the name of law and order. He contended that what he had denounced in Donegal was a perversion of justice and a grave public scandal. For endeavouring to prevent the oppression of the people he was to undergo imprisonment. The hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland might ask what was the reason, if he did not believe in the justice of Irish Courts, that he had appealed against his sentence. He was 11 days in Londonderry Gaol, and, as a matter of fact, he found his toes very cold. It occurred to him that it would be well for him to 318 appeal, because then he would have to spend April, May, June, and July, four pleasanter mouths, in gaol. He assured them that in Londonderry Gaol a man got very cold. The floors of the cells were not boarded—at least, that of his cell was not. The floor was of flag, and the cell only measured nine feet by six. But, no matter what their privations were to be, they were bound to defend their people, and. they would do so. No such act3 as those of Murphy, and Stewart, of Ards, should go without resistance. However their toes became when in prison, resistance would be offered to the actions of such men. He and his hon. Friends would persevere in the course they had dictated for themselves, as certain as they would be ultimately successful. The Government could not succeed in their opposition, for they had not justice on their side. If four months' imprisonment was a proper punishment to give him because he advised the tenants to resist the unjust demands of the landlords, was four months' incarceration a righteous punishment for the blackmailing and robbery to which the people had been subjected for years? Perhaps the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland would favour the House with his opinion on that point. The hon. and learned Gentleman, he knew, was well acquainted with law; but he came from an institution where there was no equity. He hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman himself was not deficient in equity, and therefore he appealed to him whether the crimes and sentences he had referred to were at all parallel? Furthermore, he wished to point out that he was brought before a Mr. Hamilton, who refused him bail, committing him to Derry Gaol for eight days, and then for three days more. On a previous occasion he had found it his duty, from his place in the House, to attack Mr. Hamilton's salary. For that attack he gave his reasons. But Mr. Hamilton had his revenge. At the inquiry he (Mr. Blane) did not attempt a defence; it was not of the slightest use for him to do so. He was asked if he had anything to say, and he said he had not. Counsel for the Crown then said he was instructed by the Government to press for the utmost severity against Mr. Blane; and therefore he merely said he was sure the magistrate would pay 319 all due respect to the requisition of the Crown. The magistrate did so, and paid him off for his attack in the House of Commons upon his salary. He maintained it was a great public scandal to bring Members of the House before magistrates whose salaries they had attacked in the House. In a certain sense it made magistrates judges in their own cause. He might, it was true, have employed a wooden-headed barrister, for it would not have been difficult to find one, there being 1,300 wooden-headed barristers in Ireland. He was not, however, rich enough to employ one, and therefore he did not do so. He conducted his own case as best he could, and he lost his case. He would not have got one day less imprisonment if he had had the Solicitor General and the whole Bar of Ireland on his side. He regretted he had occupied the time of the House so long, but the matters he had referred to were so important and grave that he could not refrain from directing the attention of the Solicitor General for Ireland to them. There was scarcely a single item in what he had brought before the House which the hon. and learned Gentleman could defend, and as an honourable man he would not try to. If the matters were tabulated and put before the hon. and learned Gentleman, he would condemn them without hesitation. It was, he maintained, a great scandal that Members who had attacked the salaries of magistrates should subsequently be summoned to appear before those very officials. The practice gave magistrates opportunities for punishing their opponents.
§ MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)
said, he should scarcely have obtruded himself on the House in the course of the debate, were it not for some of the very grave matters which had occurred in Ireland during the past three or four months. His hon. Friend who had just sat down (Mr. Blane) had detailed to the House a statement of facts and a condition of things which, although he was a Representative of the people, had brought him into the position he occupied to-night—namely, the position of having a sentence of imprisonment absolutely hanging over his head. Well, he (Mr. O'Hea), occupying the position he did, must make the assertion that instead of his hon. Friend being under 320 a sentence of imprisonment, which inevitably would consign him for four months to a plank bed, he (Mr. O'Hea) himself was the individual to whom that sentence should apply, because all that his hon. Friend had done had been to honourably and manfully go into his constituency when he (Mr. O'Hea) had written to him saying that it would be inconvenient for him to go. His hon. Friend had gone and addressed meetings, and had stood between his (Mr. O'Hea's) constituents and the prosecution that was staring them in the face. He was thankful to his hon. Friend, and must express his thanks to him for having done a great portion of his work when his (Mr. O'Hea's) other work prevented him being on the spot; and in this connection he might refer to the administration of the Crimes Act in that particular constituency. His hon. Friend had referred to Father M'Fadden. Well, that reverend gentleman's name was known wherever the English language was spoken. Father M'Fadden was a pastor who knew what his duty was, who had always done his duty, and who had never shirked it. The feeling with him was that the post of the pastor was in front of the fold when the wolf was at hand, and there was rapine to fear. His position always had been in front of his fold, stemming the torrent of distress, putting his hand in his pocket, and even, so far as his slender resources were concerned, almost pauperizing himself in order to supply bread to the mouths of the famishing poor of his parish. This was rather fulsome praise for one whose good deeds should be recounted not in his lifetime, but after his death. However, the truth was there, and the truth had a right to be told; and he (Mr. O'Hea), as a parishioner of Father M'Fadden, was in a position to make this avowal, so far as the reverend gentleman's supreme nobility of soul was concerned. Well, Father M'Fadden had an estate in his parish, the tenants of which were standing on the very verge of eviction. He came to their rescue. It was his duty to do so. He examined into every single individual case. He had no idea, good, bad, or indifferent, of doing any injustice whatever so far as the landlord was concerned, and all that he wanted to do was to stave off the evil day and prevent such a recurrence of those things which had so often, 321 unhappily, marked the course of eviction, campaigns in Ireland. The blazing brand put to the thatched roof was a horrible thing to his mind. He did not want to see the crowbar put in operation against the mud or half-stone built walls. He did not want to see the people, some of them, perhaps, in a sickly or delicate state, thrown out on the roadside. He knew the circumstances in every individual case, and, knowing those circumstances, he believed it to be his bounden and imperative duty to do the best he could with a due regard to the interest of the landlord on the one hand, and a due regard to the well-being of the tenant on the other. The reverend gentleman impressed on the people in his parish, first and foremost of all, the obligation of being honest, and of paying their debts so far as they were in a position to do so. He impressed on the landlord, on the other side, the fact that in human concerns the maxim and the adoption of the principle of bear and forbear was a thing not altogether to be ignored. And having told the people their duty on the one hand, and having put before the landlord equally what his duty was on the other—because property had its duties as well as its rights—he succeeded in bringing about a settlement, the result of which was that nearly 60 per cent of all the arrears due from the tenants was wiped away, and instead of having all the careering of the crowbar brigade, accompanied with all the paraphernalia of horse dragoons, artillery, and all the rest of it, these people were, happily, in their homes, thanks to the exertions of that good man. Well, Father M'Fadden was asked to attend a meeting in an adjoining parish. He went to that meeting, and at that meeting he related what his experience had been so far as his own parish was concerned. He did no more than tell the people what his own parishioners had achieved—the success they had achieved. He was asked to be a mediator; the landlord was callous and inexorable, wanting his pound of flesh and nothing short of it, and he wrote a letter which would have brought the blush of shame to his cheek had it been possible for him to blush—had he not been a man of such despicable character—but, at any rate, it was a letter which would bring the blush of 322 shame to the cheeks of every single member of his family for generations. What did he say in his letter? Why, after fair terms had been offered, and every opportunity had been given to have a settlement come to and every opportunity had been spurned and virtually rejected, he said—It is useless to deal kindly any longer with these tenants. I may tell you that I would not accept 99 per cent of all rent and coats due to me, as I am going to clear out the town lands, and it is my land that I want now.The district was remote, and poor, no doubt; but the more remote the district, and the more poor and the more homely the lot of the people, really the greater was the amount of pity which should be felt and the greater the amount of commiseration which should be entertained for them. Father M'Fadden knew from his experience what the threats fulminated against these people were. He (Mr. O'Hea) had it, and the information was statistical, that in the 66 cases where ejectment processes had been brought against the tenantry, the entire amount of rent endorsed on those ejectment processes came to £235, and the House would believe him when he said that the costs following these ejectments came to £346. That was a condition of things to which this rev. gentleman was not unfamiliar, and he thought that as he had succeeded so well in making peace in regard to the property at Gweedore, he might act as a mediator in the adjoining parish, where he was asked to go and address a meeting. Well, for so doing, he was brought before a learned luminary, with regard to whose capacity the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour) was so satisfied. The right hon. Gentleman, he might say, regarded every single Resident Magistrate in Ireland as one amply qualified and competent to carry out—he would use no more violent term than the administration of his Coercion Law. Well, Father M'Fadden was under sentence of imprisonment. He was served with a summons. The hon. Gentleman who had just resumed his seat had mentioned the circumstances under which the rev. gentleman was taken into custody. He (Mr. O'Hea) considered it was a downright piece of indecency to have carried out that process in the way in which it was carried 323 out. Father M'Fadden went to attend a requiem mass that was being celebrated for a Prelate, one of whose subjects he had been—a Prelate for whom he entertained a great respect, and a Prelate who was mourned by the entire Irish race. Father M'Fadden had not gone more than perhaps a couple of hundred yards from the church in which the requiem mass was celebrated—a church draped in mourning, by the way—than the hand of a policeman was placed on his shoulder and he was told that he was a prisoner. That, of course, was the law which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary considered perfectly proper so far as its applicability to Ireland was concerned. This rev. gentleman had his obligations to discharge and his duties and functions as a clergyman to attend to. He was arrested on the Friday, and an application was made to have him admitted to bail. One of those who tendered bail to any extent was his own Bishop, others were two magistrates and leading merchants in Armagh. If it had been a matter of—100,000, there would have been bail forthcoming to have had this priest restored to liberty; and, besides that, everyone who knew Father M'Fadden knew that, having entered into his bail-bond, he was absolutely certain, if alive, to appear to take his trial at the tribunal before which he was cited to appear. However, his flock were deprived of the benefit of his ministrations on the Saturday and the Sunday. He was kept in gaol, and the summons or charge was read over to him, and his reply was that the officer who took him into custody in the first instance might just as well have written out at the foot of the document giving him authority to make the arrest the sentence he was to receive. He had been informed, he said, that he was to be prosecuted, and he might as well go round to the gaol door and ask to see his cell, as to ask for the farce and empty form of a trial. Well, to pass from that and to come from Donegal down to the part of the country that he (Mr. O'Hea) knew best, an hon. Friend of his, who was now enjoying the luxury of a plank bed, published a newspaper in the City of Cork—The Cork Daily Herald. He referred to the Member for South-East Cork (Mr. Hooper). His right hon. Friend the Member for the College Green Divi- 324 sion of Dublin (Mr. T. D. Sullivan)—and he believed he was entitled to call him "right hon." in virtue of his position of Lord Mayor of Dublin—had been sent to gaol for an exactly similar offence; so that, so far as the Member for South-East Cork was concerned, there was not so much to be said by way of complaint. Unquestionably the hon. Member was responsible for what appeared in the paper—for the reports published in it, and so on. He was responsible for the publication in it of the proceedings of suppressed branches of the National League. He did not fear to do it. He had expressed his determination to do it, and even since his incarceration had caused it to be done over and over again, notwithstanding that it might be the cause of his being sent for a renewed term to enjoy the luxury of a plank bed. When the case against the hon. Member was brought forward, he (Mr. O'Hea) was struck very particularly by the way the case was presented on the part of the Crown. He (Mr. O'Hea) had heard the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary say, from his place in the House, that there was no new crime created under the Crimes Act, and he had heard the Crown Prosecutor (Mr. Stephen Ronan) inform the magistrate that the publication of these reports of the proceedings of the National League might have been a perfectly harmless thing before the passing of the Crimes Act; but that since the passing of that Act—the Act under which the action was brought—such publication was illegal and punishable by the tribunal before which it was cited. He (Mr. O'Hea) naturally asked himself the question—and many a person in Cork naturally asked himself the question—who was telling the truth? Did the Crown Prosecutor, who asked the Resident Magistrate to commit the hon. Member, or the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, state what was correct? Either one statement must be correct or the other. At any rate, on the strength of making that statement that the hon. Member's action would have been perfectly harmless before the Act of Parliament passed, the Crown Prosecutor asked the magistrate to convict, and the magistrate did convict. The hon. Member had gone to gaol, and had gone to gaol with equanimity. The block bed had no terrors for him, as he knew he was not a wrong-doer. He could 325 lay his hand upon his heart and say that between man and man, and so far as human obligations were concerned, there was not a single act of his life in respect of which he could accuse himself of having done wrong in word or deed to his fellow-man. Well, the whole community in the City of Cork was shocked at this indecency, as it was considered. Another of his (Mr. O'Hea's) hon. Friends—an accomplished and cultured scholar—he referred to his hon. Friend the Member for East Cork (Mr. Lane)—stepped into the gap. He took his pen in his hand and controlled and directed and guided the editorial department of The Cork Daily Herald. He did it with ability, because he was endowed with ability, and was possessed of very rare culture. The constituents of the editor who had been sent to gaol, believing that a gross scandal had been perpetrated, were determined that they would signify in some way their appreciation of him and of his public services. A requisition was drawn up and submitted to the Mayor of Cork, and in obedience to that requisition he convened a meeting of the citizens of Cork. At that meeting a dignitary of the Roman Catholic Church made a statement. It was a bold statement; but he took the full and complete responsibility on himself for having made it. It was that, instead of having detectives watching and dogging the footsteps of Irish Members, they ought rather to have them watching the movements of some Government officials who had been committing a foul crime—that of corrupting young children. He said that while perpetrating this black and foul iniquity, those Government officials were actually screened and sheltered by those who were receiving their instructions straight from the Chief Secretary. The rev. gentleman having made this statement, his hon. Friend (Mr. Lane) who conducted The Cork Daily Herald, having been shocked, as every one else was shocked, by hearing this horrible story, wrote an article, the reading of which was—Who is the Offender? Who is the Government Official? He asked, and there was a line in large print in the Bills, '' Who is the Offender? '' In fact, up to the time of the meeting at Watergrass Bill on the 3rd December, which was addressed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Cork—from the interval during which the prosecu- 326 tion of the editor of The Cork Daily Herald took place, and after which the hon. Member took the management of that paper—that hon. Member constantly wrote article after article and editorial after editorial, asking how it was that when a grave charge was made against a Government official, the Government were supine and inactive. It was only when the hon. Member had pressed them on and shamed them into taking action that they at last did it. But, even then, they only acted in a half-hearted manner. But then, as he said, his hon. Friend addressed a meeting on the 3rd December. The hon. Member was subsequently—more than a month after—without having been served with a summons, arrested. The delay was inexplicable, for it was well-known that the hon. Member had been in the neighbourhood. It was a fact, although it might not be generally known, that an official of the Crown had said to the hon. Member, before his arrest, and alluding to his editorials in regard to the terrible charge brought against another official—"Why on earth don't you drop this thing? Why are you bringing these charges against Captain Plunkett, a Government official? "The hon. Member, however, continued to write, and he asked the authorities, through the medium of the paper, why they did not mind what they were about, and why they did not prosecute those whom he fearlessly designated as "miscreants." Well, the hon. Member was arrested, and it was no doubt owing to the ability that he brought to bear on the case that his sentence was so small. He (Mr. O'Hea) fancied that the Chief Secretary, if he were asked what imprisonment the hon. Member should have got, would answer that it should have been infinitely more than, as a matter of fact, was meted out to him. There could be no doubt that a light sentence was passed upon him in consequence of the ability with which he had conducted his defence. Then there had been other cases. There was the case of the newspaper printer, an humble but respectable man, whose name was sent in as a mere matter of business and of routine from the paper on the staff of which he was employed. This person was nothing more than a foreman tradesman on the establishment, and when there was a 327 prosecution his name was sent forward in order to comply with, some legal requirements. The man was arrested. He was summoned, and kept in custody for a considerable time; and after the authorities had suited their own convenience, and had fixed the time, he was brought before two magistrates. He was defended by a very eminent counsel, and the defence was that the man's position was thoroughly an ornamental one, and that though, no doubt, his name did appear at the foot of the newspaper as issued daily, he, as a matter of fact, was nothing more than an ordinary member of the printing staff. The son of the proprietor of the paper went into Court boldly and generously, and was examined. He said—This man is not in the smallest degree responsible for what has taken place. If any person is to be held to be responsible, I am, and I avow my responsibility.Everybody admired that gentleman—everyone admired his self-sacrificing spirit; but still this poor printer—who, by the way, was in a delicate state of health—on two counts was sentenced in respect of each to one month's imprisonment. The counsel for the defence made a very reasonable request. He (Mr. O'Hea) was in Court at the time, and was able to say that the request preferred was a very reasonable one. It was that the sentence on the first count should be increased to two months, in order that the defendant might have an opportunity of appealing, and in order that a higher Court than that framed according to the ideas of the Chief Secretary should decide as to whether this man, who was only a mere tradesman, should be punished for what appeared in the paper, when the editor came forward and assumed all responsibility as to the article complained of, and said—Let Corcoran be put on one side, and if anyone is to be placed on his trial I am prepared to take all responsibility.The magistrates, however, refused to put the sentence at more than one month to give the man an opportunity of appealing; and he (Mr. O'Hea) certainly said he admired the pluck of the counsel for the defence, and trusted that the independence which he displayed would never depart from the Irish Bar. This gentleman said he had done his best for his client, and the Bench could 328 do what they liked; but he left the Court with the conviction that they had not done complete justice, and that they had placed the defendant in a position which could not be regarded by any right - minded man with satisfaction. He would now refer to the case of his hon. Friend in the county of Clare. It was a fact that his hon. Friend had gone through Ireland from one part to another; he attempted no disguise; and although a warrant was out for his arrest, he never attempted to evade the service of that warrant. He was sentenced to three months' imprisonment for a speech that he made on one occasion; he appealed against the sentence; and immediately after the appeal, as he was leaving the Court, he was placed under arrest on a warrant charging him with having made an equally criminal speech in another part of Ireland. He was taken into custody and brought before another tribunal, and his trial was almost a mockery in connection with these travesties of justice in Ireland; the facts of the case were the same, and the gravity of the offence was not less than in the former case, and he was sentenced to one month's imprisonment. Application was made to have the sentence increased; but, he (Mr. O'Hea) said, by malice aforethought—it could be nothing else—the application was refused. The magistrate said that the sentence of one month was inadequate to the offence of the person charged. Why, then, did they not make the sentence longer, and give his hon. Friend an opportunity of appealing? Because they had got their instructions; and he (Mr. O'Hea) would say, in the presence of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that the magistrates dare not depart from those instructions. If that sentence had been increased, and if his hon. Friend had been allowed to lodge an appeal, his hon. Friend would have been present at that moment in the House of Commons, and be doing his duty to those who returned him to represent them there. The Resident Magistrates had stated that they carried out the law as they found it—as it appeared on the Statute Book, and as they were able to read and interpret it. He would like to know what answer, on behalf of these irremovable gentlemen, could be given by right hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite so far as the guilt or 329 innocence of his hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cork was concerned? His hon. Friend had been sentenced at Mitchelstown by two magistrates—Captain Stokes and Mr. Eaton. Now, Mitchelstown was a very long distance from Middletown. He knew the distance well, and also that Captain Stokes never adjudicated in Middletown in the ordinary course of his duties. The sentence was passed at Mitchelstown, and the appeal was heard at Middletown. He would ask, what business had Captain Stokes or Mr. Eaton in Middle-town on the day of the appeal? Captain Stokes was present, and he went into the magistrates' room and signed one warrant—the man who had originally sentenced his hon. Friend. This showed that the administration of the Act was dictated from Dublin Castle, and that the action of those gentlemen who sat in judgment on accused persons was action of which, if they had only the manliness and honesty to speak out, they would confess they were heartily ashamed.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
said, that the figures adduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) were exceedingly satisfactory as representing the condition of Ireland as to crime; and he (Sir Walter Foster) thought the most important part of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman consisted of the figures by which he compared the agrarian outrages in Ireland during the six months before the passing of the Act, with those which occurred during the succeeding six months. The total result of the comparison was that there was a diminution of 26 per cent for the latter period as compared with the former. It was a scientific rule, in relation to statistics referring to any difficult social problem, to be always careful to exclude any other causes which might be in action. They had been told that there was another cause acting in Ireland—namely, the increased hope which existed in the minds of the Irish people that better administration and more regard for justice in Irish affairs would be granted to the people; and they had this fact, in support of this influence, that during 1886–7, before the passing of the Crimes Act, there was a considerable diminution in agrarian crime. Now, that diminution had been going on ever since the Tory Party in 1885 330 took a new departure with reference to Ireland and determined not to re-enact coercive legislation. The Tory Party having instilled that hope into the breasts of the people of Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had embodied the principles of conciliation in a Bill which, unfortunately, did not receive the assent of this House after the Parliamentary Election of 1885. The hope, however, had continued through succeeding years, and it had influenced the Irish people in such a way as to lead to a progressive diminution of crime. But if the right hon. Gentleman was not content to accept that explanation of his figures, there was another explanation to which he might possibly give assent. If he used those statistics as evidence that, after the passing of the Act of last year, there was a consequent diminution of crime, he (Sir Walter Foster) would tell him that there was another cause at work which came into operation earlier in 1886. Before this cause came into action, in the quarter immediately preceding it, he found that there were 306 cases of agrarian crime; whereas, in the succeeding quarter, they had the remarkable fact that the number of these crimes had fallen from 306 to 166. The cause he alluded to was the Plan of Campaign, and it had been followed by a diminution in crime nearly double in extent of that which the right hon. Gentleman claimed as the result of the passing of the Coercion Act. It was as logical to claim improvement for the one cause as for the other. It was, however, rather the concurrent operation of the two causes which he (Sir Walter Foster) had alluded to that had contributed to the steady improvement in crime of the Irish people, and he referred to these two causes as the probable explanation of the figures which the right hon. Gentleman had brought before the House. They had, at all events, the words of the Leader of the House that at present we had made no great advance in producing obedience to the law, or sympathy with the law, on the part of the Irish people. Surely the way to make the Irish people respect and sympathize with the law was not to carry it out with harshness and cruelty, but to bring its administration more into harmony with justice and the legitimate aspirations of the people. He did not think that any successful 331 attempt had been made to justify the indignities to which prisoners prosecuted under the Crimes Act, whether Members of that House or other persons, had been subjected; and the welcome which had been accorded to the hon. Gentleman the ex-Lord Mayor of Dublin (Mr. T. D. Sullivan), on his arrival in this country after his incarceration, did not, in his (Sir Walter Foster's) opinion, show that Englishmen approved the treatment which the Government had accorded to political prisoners; on the contrary, he thought that a feeling of exasperation and anger at an administration marked with cruelty had been steadily growing in the breasts of the English as well as the Irish people. Again, if this Act had been a great success, its action would have been to enable a greater number of convictions to be obtained by the officials than had been previously obtained. The right hon. Gentleman had said that paralysis of the "Courts of Law" was "the evil he had specially got to meet," and that evidence to convict was not forthcoming. If that evidence was now forthcoming as a result of the Act, they ought to have a larger number of cases brought forward than they had; but, on the contrary, they had a smaller number of offences with which the police had been able to grapple. This suggested that the Act was so far a failure in one of its chief objects. He believed they would obtain the sympathy of the Irish people with the law, not by passing cruel enactments, but by doing something more in harmony with the wishes of the people. The present feeling of antipathy to the law was as rife and vigorous 35 years ago in Ireland as it was to-day; and until law was brought more into harmony with popular sentiment they would not get in Ireland that obedience to the law which existed in this country. They had all been more or less pained that hon. Members of that House, and other persons equally worthy, should have been subjected to indignities under the provisions of the Coercion Act. He did not think that any attempt had been made to justify the manner in which the prisoners had been treated; and many thousands of English people felt that the men who were now suffering under the Coercion Act were men whose motives were almost, if not entirely, political. Their objects had been political in incurring the censure of the law, and their motives 332 were purely political; they had done no moral wrong; they had been endeavouring to carry out their political programme to the best of their ability; and in consequence they came within the category of persons suffering for political offences. Mr. Davenport Hill, who some years ago was Recorder of Birmingham, and an authority on the repression of Crime, said, with regard to political prisoners, and speaking of some men who were imprisoned for taking part in Chartist meetings in Birmingham—I regret that of late years the distinction between political prisoners and ordinary criminals has been well-nigh obliterated. The general instinct of the civilized world in all ages has recognized the difference. Political offenders have been felt to be, if not exactly prisoners of war, yet bearing some resemblance to such captives. To keep their persons in safe custody, or even to take their lives on great occasions, gives no shock to public sentiment; but to subject them to degrading treatment, to crop their hair, clothe them in a prison dress, march them to and fro under the command of a turnkey, prevent them from supplying themselves with books and the comforts which habit has changed into necessaries, and above all, to lay harsh restrictions on the visits of their friends, is so revolting to the most ordinary sympathies, that magistrates and governors of prisons will not subject them to such indignities and hardships unless the Legislature has made their infliction imperative. The political prisoner, when his treatment is left to the ordinary feelings of mankind, is dealt with as a person in misfortune, who must undergo the sufferings attached to his position, but whose feelings are not to be wounded by contumely. I admit it would not be difficult to find instances in every age wherein the principle has been grossly violated, but such violations have been condemned by universal consent, whenever the excited feelings by which they were caused have subsided.He would commend that quotation to the careful consideration of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland; at all events, as a medical man knowing no distinction of persons, and looking upon all from that point of view as equal, he protested against the cruelty which inflicted no less than 22 hours' solitude out of the 24 on any man for offences of this kind. Such a prolonged strain upon a man who had been leading an active life and mixing daily with the crowd of his fellow-men was most likely to have the most mischievous effect upon his nervous system, and he did not envy the feelings of the Minister who inflicted it. They looked back with repugnant feelings on some of the horrors inflicted upon the political prisoners of old days; 333 but, at least, there was then a manly brutality which sent men to the gibbet and the block; whereas we had now a feline malignity and meanness in the methods which were a disgrace to the Ministers who enforced them and a degradation to the nation that allowed them.