§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central),
in rising to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice, said: My excuse for intervening is that what I am about to say will raise many questions which are not included in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). Before dealing with these special matters, I shall ask the permission of the House to say a few words on the statistics of prosecutions and convictions under the Coercion Act, and their special bearing upon the questions of evictions and arrears of rent. I have in my hand a Return prepared in Ireland, giving details of the various convictions under the Coercion Act. The Return is prepared in the form asked for the other night and 1255 refused by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour). It gives all the details of the convictions, and also the names of the Resident Magistrates who tried the cases. The Return is not altogether complete, because it is framed on the accounts given in the newspapers of these convictions, and it does not contain a good many cases which were not reported. But, such as it is, it is very interesting, and worthy of the attention of the House. The Return shows, first, what a very rapid progress there has been in the number of prosecutions and convictions under the Act. The Act has been in force about five months. I find that during the first three months the number of prosecutions amounted to 33; during the third and fourth month they were 90 each month; in the fifth month they were 190; and if the prosecutions continue at the same rate during the rest of the present month as during the portion of it that is passed—three weeks—they will have reached the number of 270 for the month, showing, as I have said, the very rapid and progressive increase in the number of prosecutions and convictions, and showing, too, that the Act has not exercised any deterrent effect, but rather the very opposite. On looking at the class of cases, I find one-third could not be considered crimes—that is to say, they would not be considered crimes in any other part of the Kingdom except under the Coercion Act. One-third of the cases also arose out of resistance to bailiffs. Although these would be crimes under the ordinary law, the Coercion Act has withdrawn them from trial by jury and submitted them to the jurisdiction of Resident Magistrates, and I venture to think that if they had been left to juries in a great number of cases no jury in the Kingdom would have, convicted. Many women and children have been convicted under the Act in respect of resistance to bailiffs. I have examined most of the cases of resistance to bailiffs, and I find, almost without exception, that they have arisen out of eviction for arrears of rents which had been presumably unjust and excessive, and I do not hesitate to say that if the Land Act, passed by this House last year, had dealt with the arrears question in a just and generous way, not one of these cases of resistance to bailiffs would have occurred. I will 1256 go further, and say that if the Act had dealt properly and sufficiently with the arrears question; if it had dealt with the arrears question in the way recommended by the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) in his speech at Cheltenham; and if Irish Members were left to manage Irish business in the same way in which Scotch Members managed Scotch affairs, nine out of every 10 of those cases of evictions would not have occurred. If the House examines these cases of resistance to bailiffs, it will find that almost every one of them has a connection directly or indirectly with evictions for rents which the agricultural depression of the last few years has rendered excessive. There seems to be a curious sequence in all these cases. They begin with threatened evictions in some districts, then one of the popular leaders goes down and makes a speech, advising to resist eviction, and he is prosecuted for it. Then, again, a batch of people present at the meeting are prosecuted and sent to prison. When the popular leader is sent to prison, the police are gathered from every part to escort him to prison, demonstrations take place on the way, and further batches of people are sent to prison for these demonstrations. Then the police are Boycotted—that is to say, they are not supplied with liquor by the publicans or with turf by the peasants. Then a further batch of people are sent to prison. Then the evictions take place, and a further batch of prisoners is the result. The popular leader or some other of the prisoners come out of prison and there are demonstrations, and a further batch of people are sent to prison for lighting bonfires or for carrying tar barrels. Thus we see that nearly all the cases under the Act have directly or indirectly a connection with evictions. I am sorry to say that we have not yet got near the end of this question of evictions. All the evictions which have taken place during the last five months have been in respect of ejectment decrees obtained before the passing of the Land Act of last year, or in respect of holdings the tenants' interest in which had been sold before the passing of that Act. The effect of the Act has been to delay evictions, and not to put a stop to them. I find from a Return laid 1257 before the House of Commons that there were no fewer than 3,325 notices under the Act of last year served on tenants against whom ejectments have been obtained under that Act, and these tenants are, therefore, merely caretakers, for their interest in their holdings has been destroyed by these notices being served on them. They are subject to a right of redemption for a certain period on payment of the full rent and costs, and if they are not able to pay in a very short time the landlord will be able to evict them with the greatest possible case. How many cases there have been where ejectment decrees have been obtained, but where notices have not yet been served under the Act of last year, and which are ripening into evictions I do not know, but I believe there are hundreds and thousands of them, and taking the two classes of cases together, there must be an enormous number ripening into evictions in a very short time which will give the right hon. Gentleman, I fear, a great deal of trouble and result in other prosecutions and convictions. The provision of the Act of last year, which was intended to give some relief by spreading the payment of arrears over a term, has been completely nugatory and useless. Indeed, it has been so proclaimed by many of the County Court Judges themselves. The great bulk of the County Court Judges have spread the arrears only over one year. That is practically an entirely useless and nugatory proceeding, so far as the tenant is concerned. I will mention one case as an illustration of this. There was a poor widow woman in Mayo whose rent was £40 a-year. She owed arrears of two and a-half years' rent, or £100. She went into the Land Court and got her rent reduced to £25. The landlord took proceedings against her for the nonpayment of £100 arrears. The Judge said that this was decidedly a case in which the claim should be reduced. The counsel for the landlord said he had no power to give an abatement, and the Judge then said he could not give an abatement himself, but he made an order spreading the payment of the arrears over 14 months. What relief, I ask, was that for the poor widow? I find that, generally speaking, the tenants have been reluctant to apply to the, Court to have their arrears spread over 1258 a term, as they think it is quite useless. I think I can best illustrate the effect of the Act of last year in respect of arrears by dealing with the case of the Clanricarde property. The Clanricarde case is of great importance, not only on account of the enormous area of the property and its large number of tenants—about 1,900—but because it is practically a typical case of a certain class of landlords. It is one which will decide the case of the action of the landlords in a great many cases, and if Lord Clanricarde succeeds in the policy he has now at heart, and is enabled to evict his tenants with the aid of the forces of the Crown, I venture to think it will be an evil day for many thousands of tenants, and will be followed by evictions in other parts of Ireland. The case is also an ideal one—I mean ideal in the worst sense of the term, and not in its best—of an absentee landlord. Lord Clanricarde I dare say may be an exceedingly amiable man in private life and in society in London, but the great mistake he makes is in endeavouring to manage his property in every detail from London without knowing anything whatever of the condition of the people, and without ever visiting the property; for I believe he has not been seen there since he came into possession 14 years ago. He undertakes to manage his property from London in every detail, and allows no discretion to the agent, careless of the danger that gentleman incurs. His Lordship was even unable to understand the legal effect of the offer he made to his tenants, or the legal position of his tenants. For my part my connection with the district does not date from the past few months. I visited it in 1882 at the suggestion of the late Mr. Forster, when it was the most disturbed district in Ireland. A great many most terrible agrarian crimes had been committed in the districts of Woodford and Loughrea. There was almost war between the landlords and tenants. Many of the principal tenants and citizens of Loughrea and Woodford were imprisoned as suspects under the Coercion Act, which was then in force, without, I have reason to believe, a tittle of evidence against them, but because in the opinion of some landlord in the district it was desirable that they should be put out of the way. I myself 1259 made a careful inquiry in the district, and I came to the conclusion that, terrible as were the crimes committed on the one hand, there were also great crimes committed on the other; that a great many of the landlords were pressing their tenants most harshly and cruelly in respect of arrears of rent that had accumulated in the bad years of 1879 and 1880; that the Coercion Act was aggravating the position between landlords and tenants and doing more harm than good; that the true way of dealing with the difficulty was to pass an Arrears Act, and so I advised the late Chief Secretary, Mr. Forster, when I returned to this country. Very shortly after I left the district another terrible crime took place. Lord Clanricarde had declined to make an abatement of rent to any of his tenants during the period of agricultural depression. He had stated publicly that he would not press his tenants for their full rents, but that he would take what they could pay and would allow the remainder to go to arrears according to the vicious practice of that estate. In spite of this, I am sorry to say that the agent pressed the tenants severely and cruelly, and the result was that some miserable man took a terrible revenge, and the agent was murdered. the widow of the agent, wishing to vindicate the reputation of her husband, desired lo publish his letters for the purpose of showing that he acted entirely on the instructions of the landlord and against his own judgment. Lord Clanricarde obtained an injunction in the Courts of Law to restrain her from publishing these documents. Very shortly after the Arrears Act was passed, and that relieved the district of a great many of its agricultural difficulties. In the years 1883 and 1884 as much as £47,000 was paid by the tenants to Lord Clanricarde, which, I believe, was an amount far larger, in proportion to the rental, than was obtained by any other landlord in Ireland or England during the same years. I must take this opportunity of saying that, from information I have been able to gather, the tenants of this property have had a reputation for honesty and for a willingness to pay their just debts so long as they have been able to do so. In 1886 there arose another serious agricultural depression, and most of the landlords of the better 1260 class gave abatements amounting to 25 and 30 per cent. Lord Clanricarde, notwithstanding the recommendation of his agent, Mr. Joyce, declined to give any reduction, and reprimanded his agent for forwarding to him a petition from the tenants. [The right hon. Gentleman then related the proceedings that led up to the resignation of Mr. Joyce and the libel action which followed, and then continued.] Before the resignation of Mr. Joyce, the agent, evictions against the tenants commenced, and the tenants combined for the purpose of resisting the proceedings. I think it is of importance for the House to recollect that this was the first case of combination of tenants in Ireland. It was a purely spontaneous one. I believe I am right in saying the National League had nothing to do with it, and for my part I must repeat here what I said a few days ago at Loughrea in presence of the Government reporter—with a full sense of the responsibility—that I was unable to see how, except by combination, a body of tenants of the class and character of the Clanricarde tenants could possibly protect themselves from a landlord like Lord Clanricarde—a man who was invisible and unapproachable, and who never even answered their petitions asking for an abatement in combination. From that moment the combination began. It is also worthy of notice that since the commencement of this combination the district has been perfectly free from crime and outrage of any kind. I need not tell the House all the story of the evictions which followed, how the houses were barricaded and resistance was offered, how a vast body of police was gathered together at great cost to the State, and how the large number of 75 young men, of blameless character, were sent to prison on the charge of resisting the evictions, and remained there four months before trial; how they were convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment varying from 12 to 18 months with hard labour, some of them losing their health in prison through overcrowding, and one of them dying there, owing, as the Coroner's inquest found, to the neglect and cruelty of the prison authorities. It is necessary to know these things in order to understand the feeling of the people in Ireland. But the resistance to those 1261 evictions had its effect, because it roused public opinion and showed the true character of the proceedings of Lord Clanricarde. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol, late Chief Secretary for Ireland—now President of the Board of Trade—Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, when he heard the details of these evictions, found that he could not any longer use the forces of the Crown to support them; and he wrote a letter to Lord Clanricarde such as no Minister in this country ever addressed to a private landlord before, complaining of his conduct and intimating to him that, unless he was prepared to make abatements similar to those made by other Irish landlords, the forces of the Crown could not be lent to enforce evictions on his property. That letter did honour to the right hon. Gentleman's heart, though at some expense to his candour towards the House, because I understand the right hon. Gentleman to have denied in the House that he had ever exercised any pressure on the landlords in that direction.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
I beg to state—as the right hon. Gentleman puts it to me—that I remember that he made a similar statement in a letter to the public Press, but he did not quote the words I used in this House. I deny that I have ever denied anything I have said or done in this House.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I concur in the main with the right hon. Gentleman's conduct. But certainly the impression on my mind is that the right hon. Gentleman disclaimed in this House having exercised any very strong pressure on the landlords or refused to put the forces of the Crown in motion to support evictions. But, however that might be, the House had not been fully informed of the action of the right hon. Gentleman. In consequence of the letter written to Lord Clanricarde by the right hon. Gentleman, Lord Clanricarde did make some offers of abatement. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman was not satisfied with that offer, because he declined to express any opinion, whether it was sufficient, and for many months no further action was taken by the Government in support of Lord Clanricarde, or in lending the 1262 aid of the forces of the Crown to enforce evictions on his property. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman did not then remain much longer in Office; and, after a time, a considerable change of policy took place. I charge against the present right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that he has completely altered the policy of his Predecessor, who declined to lend the forces of the Crown, or at least said that they would not be lent, to enforce those evictions as long as there remained any other business for them.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman in alluding to me to be good enough to quote the language used by me in my letter to Lord Clanricarde or in this House. I abide by everything I have said or written.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I have not got the letter by me; but my strong impression is that if the right hon. Gentleman did not actually decline to lend the forces of the Crown, he intimated that there would be such delay in doing so that it practically amounted to much the same thing. Certainly, that was the effect of the letter on my own mind, and it was also its effect on the Chief Baron Palles, who was the Judge in the recent libel case brought by Mr. Joyce, land agent, against his former employer, Lord Clanricarde. The former policy was changed by the right hon. Gentleman the present Chief Secretary. After the passing of the Coercion Act, Lord Clanricarde supplied himself with a new agent, and not only did the right hon. Gentleman the present Chief Secretary lend the forces of the Crown in support of Lord Clanricarde in further evictions, but also allowed the Coercion Act to be used in all its force and power in supporting Lord Clanricarde against his tenants. In October last further proceedings were taken against the tenants after an interval of nearly 12 months. The new agent, Mr. Tener, commenced proceedings, and had the houses of the evicted tenants razed to the ground, showing thereby the inexorable determination of the landlord not to give way on that point. He also informed the tenants that it was the intention of Lord Clanricarde to spend any amount of money for the purpose of carrying out all the ejectment decrees, and that he would raze to the ground the houses 1263 of any tenants who resisted. Stock was seized here and there for rent, and these matters created alarm in the district. A meeting was announced for the 16th of October to protest against the action of Lord Clanricarde. The Government refused to permit any public meeting to be held. Why, I ask, should there have been a prohibition of any public meeting at that time any more than in the present month? The condition of things in this district in February of this year was even more critical than in October; because in February the campaign of evictions was commenced on a far larger scale than in October. In spite of the Proclamation, a meeting was held at midnight. I do not defend all that took place there. Much, no doubt, was said and done which had better been left unsaid and undone; but when the legitimate expression of public opinion was prevented, it was not to be wondered at if the language used was somewhat strong. It had been stated that the burning of the Proclamation was an act of insurrection. That was a ridiculous exaggeration. I call it a mere assertion of the right to hold a meeting, and a simple determination to hold a meeting, notwithstanding the Proclamation. Mr. Blunt was present, and made a very moderate speech; and it was stated by the Judge who tried the recent case at Dublin that Mr. Blunt was not even aware of the burning of the Proclamation, because he was so placed in the house, from the windows of which he made his speech, at the back of the meeting, that he could not see what was done or hear the speeches. Therefore, he was free from all responsibility. That meeting was immediately followed by fresh evictions, than which there could have been nothing more incredibly moan. About 150 policemen stole down the Shannon in boats during the night and landed on its banks just before daybreak, and pounced upon three or four houses and evicted their tenants. One family, consisting of a husband and wife and nine small children, were, without a moment's notice, and without any warning, evicted and cast out upon the road, That man's family had been on the estate 200 years, and yet, in consequence of their inability to pay and the unwillingness of Lord Clanricarde to make an abatement of 25 per cent, they 1264 were evicted. Mr. Blunt had gone back to Dublin after the midnight meeting; but when he heard of those evictions he returned to the district, made inquiries into the circumstances, came to the conclusion which everybody else would have come to, that the evictions were unjust and cruel, and desired to hold a meeting to elicit sympathy with the suffering tenants, to express indignation with the action of Lord Clanricarde, and to bid the people be patient and not to commit crime until the attention of Parliament could be called to their case. For my part, I can conceive no more legitimate subject for a public meeting. I said in Dublin, and I now say with full knowledge of the circumstances which occurred, that if I had been there I would myself have held a meeting for the purpose of expressing indignation, and I should not have felt otherwise than proud at being by the side of Mr. Blunt in the dock on a charge for holding such a meeting. This meeting was to be everything which the previous midnight meeting was not; there was no similarity or connection between the two meetings whatever. It was to be held in the daytime and not at midnight; it was to be addressed by Englishmen only, and Mr. Blunt went further in his assurances, and gave his personal assurances to the magistrates that the language which would be used at the meeting would be moderate. I do not see, therefore, why Mr. Blunt should have been prosecuted and convicted, nor why he should be treated now as a malefactor while I myself, after holdings precisely similar meeting, should be at large. I think it is evident from the judgment of Chief Baron Palles that, whatever the learned Judge may have thought about the legality or otherwise of the meeting, he was of opinion that Mr. Blunt had merely committed a technical offence, and that he evidently regretted that such a severe sentence should have been passed. My contention always has been that no jury in the United Kingdom would have convicted Mr. Blunt. Mr. Blunt was convicted only in consequence of the Coercion Act, which enabled such a case to be tried by two Resident Magistrates. After the recent civil action in Dublin it is absolutely certain that even a Special Jury in Dublin would not have convicted Mr. Blunt. The jury in the civil action dis- 1265 agreed, and were unable to find a verdict for the Crown. I have this very day received a letter from Mr. Walker, Q.C., assuring me that it is notorious, and that the jurors were divided in the proportion of 11 in favour of Mr. Blunt and one in favour of the Crown. Having regard to these facts, I must express my surprise that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has continued to keep Mr. Blunt in prison and treat him as a malefactor. Taking the case at its worst, Mr. Blunt only endeavoured to assert his right to hold a public meeting in perfect good faith; and there was no country in the world except Ireland where he would be treated as a common malefactor. He has been deprived of the means of occupying his mind, and his treatment has been as harsh and as cruel as ever disgraced any civilized Government. I went over to the Woodford district to hear Mr. Blunt's appeal, and I found matters even there much worse than I expected. I found that the offer of abatement which had been mentioned by Lord Clanricarde to the President of the Board of Trade had, in fact, never been made to the tenants at all, but that a very much inferior offer was made to them, which it was quite impossible for them to accept. I also found that the Coercion Act was being used by the Local Magistrates in a manner the most arbitrary and the most unjust, and apparently with the sole object of assisting the landlord against the tenants. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will give an explanation of the facts which I shall now bring before the House. For nearly eight weeks after the midnight meeting no notice whatever was taken of it by the authorities; but all at once orders appeared to have been sent down from Dublin to prosecute a dozen men for attending it. They did not prosecute any of the principal speakers at it, nor any of the representatives of English Radical Associations who were there; but 12 men of Woodford, who were merely spectators and listeners, were prosecuted. All the people of Woodford were present at that midnight meeting, and were known to the police, and I will ask upon what principle were these 12 men selected? I have not been able to find out, but the universal opinion of the district is that the selection was made in the interest 1266 of the local landlords, and with the view of putting in prison people who had made themselves disagreeable to their interest. One man who was prosecuted and convicted was Mr. Roche, a miller at Woodford. The only part he had taken in the meeting was to move Father Coen to the chair, without saying another word, and then occupied himself in protecting a few police who were there from the chance of violence, an act for which he was publicly thanked on the following day by the Chief Inspector of the police in the district. Yet this very man was, eight weeks later, on the evidence of this very Inspector, convicted of being present at this meeting, and was sentenced to one month's imprisonment. The others were mere spectators, and had taken no active part in the meeting. When the first batch of eight men were tried, the prisoners were suddenly deprived of their counsel by the arrest of the hon. and learned Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin (Mr. T. C. Harrington) on a bogus charge; the accused asked for an adjournment of their case for a week to enable them to get another counsel; but the magistrates refused to adjourn the case, and sent the eight men to prison for one month. Another man who protected the police was sent to prison, and when he was liberated he was received with a popular demonstration, and 11 persons were sent to prison for various terms of from one to three months for taking part in it. A house three hundred yards away was illuminated. The police entered the house, extinguished the illuminations, and prosecuted the 11 men for intimidating the owner of the house. They were sentenced to terms of imprisonment varying from one month to three months, and I am told that the owner of the house in question is coming up to say that he was not intimidated at all. But I would like to direct special attention to the case of Mr. Roche, as showing the tyranny which is carried on in this part of the country. Mr. Roche was first sentenced to three weeks' imprisonment for the technical offence of protecting his brother-in-law from an assault by the police. He was next sent to prison for one month for being present at the midnight meeting. Then he was charged with trespass, because he showed Mr. Blunt and Lady Anne Blunt over an 1267 evicted farm, and fined with costs; and, fourthly, he was charged with being present at the meeting held to celebrate the return of another person, and sentenced to three months' imprisonment. It appears to me that this person, Mr. Roche, is being pursued with gross tyranny simply because he is the secretary of the Tenants' Defence Association, and one of those men whom it is the interest of the landlords to prosecute, put in prison, and punish. An attempt is being made to ruin the man. I would like to mention one more case. The son of a widow named Coen, who was evicted, advised his mother to ask the bailiffs to show their warrant, and on their failing to produce it advised her to remain in her house. He was sent to prison for one month on the charge of inciting his mother to resist eviction. It is really difficult to believe that these things actually take place. The effect which these cases have had upon my mind is to make me believe that many persons are being subjected to the grossest injustice. There is no doubt that some of these persons have made themselves disagreeable to the landlords. From information that has reached me, I have ascertained that, notwithstanding all these cases of hardship and oppression, the tenants of Lord Clanricarde are perfectly willing to come to terms with their landlord. When I first visited the district I made it a special condition that the tenants should accept any reasonable offer that might be made them to settle the difficulty. During the short time that elapsed between my first and second visits, Lord Clanricarde commenced a new ejectment campaign, and issued, I believe, no fewer than 300 processes against his tenants. It was under those circumstances that I had been called upon by the noble Lord's tenants to fulfil my promise to attend the meeting in question. In the address which the tenants had issued they expressed themselves as being ready and willing to assent to any reasonable settlement which might be suggested on the part of the landlord, and based on the principle of a reduction of rent equivalent to that allowed by Irish landlords generally. That offer on the part of the tenants has been steadily refused by the landlord. In answer to that appeal, I went over to Ireland and attended the 1268 meeting which has been referred to. It was not for me to defend the action of the Government in permitting that meeting to be held; but had they proclaimed it, I should have been prepared to have held it notwithstanding. I only received the announcement from the police that the meeting would not be interfered with on the morning of the meeting, and the Inspector then asked my advice as to what course the police should adopt. My advice was that the police should be withdrawn altogether, and should be confined to their barracks while the meeting was being held. That advice was literally followed, with the result that no police were present, and the meeting passed off in a most orderly manner. But the most satisfactory result of the announcement of the intention to hold the meeting was that two hours before it was appointed to be held, Lord Clanricarde's agent issued a notice making very great advances upon his previous offers. The offer was made so late that I was unable to take the opinion of the tenants with regard to it before the meeting was held; but in speaking at the meeting, I expressed a hope that the tenants would meet the offer in a conciliatory spirit. The fact that the offer had been made induced me to moderate considerably the language which I should otherwise have used. Since then I have been able to consider the proposal carefully with legal assistance. I consulted on this point one of the ablest men at the Irish Bar—The MacDermot—who is also a considerable landowner in Sligo, and that learned gentleman told me that, in his opinion, the new offer thus made was a nugatory and a mere "lawyer's offer," made rather for show, and not one which the tenants could be expected to accept. No doubt, on the face of it, it was a considerable advance in the shape of abatement, but it was contingent on the tenants paying the whole of the arrears. Not one out of 50 tenants could do that. It was also to apply only to tenancies under £50 a-year other than judicial rents, and nothing was said on the important subject of the re-instatement of evicted tenants. In these circumstances, therefore, I am not at all surprised that, eventually, the tenants have rejected the offer. What I want now to do is to ask the Government what they propose to do? We have to face a very serious conflict in 1269 this part of the country. On the one hand we have this wealthy Peer, not dependent on his Irish property, but with vast means elsewhere. On the other hand we have this vast body of tenantry, willing and anxious to come to a just settlement, who are unable to come to terms with their landlord. I venture to hope that this question may still be dealt with by legislation in this House. My belief is that it is impossible to expect an agreement between the landlord and the tenantry of this district, and it is only to legislation that we can look for the purpose of averting a difficulty of a most serious character. I should like to point out to the House a precedent for dealing with this case. An adjoining property to Lord Clanricarde's has recently come under the Landed Estates Courts in Ireland—not the Land Commission—on the petition of the creditors of the owner for sale. On the estate coming under the jurisdiction of the Court it has power to deal with the question of rent and of arrears. The tenants were three years in arrears with their rents, very much as Lord Clanricarde's tenants are, and they applied in a body to the Court for an abatement of those arrears. The Judge of that Court having jurisdiction in the case, after hearing the landlord and his creditors, has given an abatement amounting to 33 per cent of the arrears due, with time for payment. We have here a judicial system of settling the affairs of a property adjoining Lord Clanricarde's, and my confident belief is that a similar settlement imposed by judicial authority would settle this conflict. I would venture again to allude to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. I would venture to suggest to the Government that they should take him into their counsel and should deal with this case on the principle which he had laid down—that they should deal with it in accordance with the wishes of the great majority of the Irish people, just as, when they dealt with the Crofters' Question, they dealt with it in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the Scotch Members. In the crofters' case the Commission had jurisdiction in the case of arrears, and they have swept away 52 per cent of the arrears. My belief is that that is the true way of dealing with this case. If the Govern- 1270 ment would act as I suggest, under the Coercion Act the Resident Magistrates would have no more to do, and the Act would become a dead letter. I have only, therefore, to conclude by expressing my hope that the Government will meet my Motion by some announcement of their intention to deal with the question by legislation. If they will do so I shall most gladly withdraw my Motion. If not I shall feel it my duty to press it, and shall leave to the Government the responsibility for the further troubles which I fear may occur in Ireland when the evictions now threatened take place. In any case it is my confident belief that when the people of this country thoroughly understand the case, they will not permit the forces of the Crown, or the taxes of the nation, to be used for the purpose of enabling Lord Clanricarde to carry out such wholesale evictions and disturb the whole district.
§ Amendment proposed,
§ After paragraph 11, to insert the words,—"That this House humbly expresses to Her Majesty its regret that no reference is made in Your Majesty's Most Gracious Speech to any measure for Ireland which shall deal with the arrears of excessive and unjust rents which have accumulated in many cases during the last two years of agricultural depression from the inability of tenants to pay them, and which shall prevent the wholesale eviction of tenants which is threatened in the district of Loughrea and Woodford."—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
Before I come to the autobiographical part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, he will, perhaps, allow me to deal with one or two subjects in his address which appear to me, I must confess, to have very small relation either to the Amendment or to the main body of his remarks. He gave us a short analysis of a Return which, I think, he told us he had privately prepared, or privately printed, with regard to the working of the Crimes Act. From this Return the right hon. Gentleman deduced the conclusion that one-third, at least, of the crime the Government had been punishing in Ireland would, if I understood him rightly, not be crime under any other law than the Act passed last year. If the right hon. Gentleman did me the honour to listen to the speech I delivered last Friday night, he would 1271 have found that not one-third but one-half of the prosecutions initiated by Lord Spencer were in respect of offences under the Coercion Act. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman's allegations were true with regard to us, the comparison was a favourable one, and need not weigh heavily upon the conscience of the Government. As a matter of fact, I entirely dispute the accuracy of the right hon. Gentleman's figures, and I entirely deny, even if sections 6 and 7 of the Act passed last year created fresh offences—which I do not admit—that one-third of the prosecutions under the Act were directly or indirectly under those sections. On some future occasion I shall challenge the right hon. Gentleman to substantiate his allegation in more detail. [Mr. SHAW LEFEVRE: Give us a Return.] I have given a Return showing what prosecutions arose directly or indirectly under Sections 6 and 7. It is, however, impossible to distinguish offences which arose under Sections 6 and 7 from those which come under other parts of the Act. The right hon. Gentleman referred to Boycotting the police, which, he said, consisted in refusing to supply them with turf. Has the right hon. Gentleman read the evidence which was given in the Blunt trial? Has he read the evidence of the police inspector showing that he was refused bread for his sick child? If he has not read the evidence in the Blunt trial, considering that has been the main substance of his indictment against the Government, what are we to think of the pains with which he has prepared the case he has put before the House? If on the other hand he has read that evidence, what are we to think of his candour when he tells us that Boycotting the police only consisted in refusing them turf? The right hon. Gentleman went on to refer to the sentences of the Lord Chief Baron after convictions in 1886. I was amazed to hear the right hon. Gentleman speak of the case in the way he did, as the gentleman who tried the case is one of the most distinguished Judges on the Irish Bench. He was fully cognizant of the state of the district, and distinctly referred to it in his recent charge. Moreover, the sentences were passed after trials held with a jury under the ordinary law. I thought we were always being attacked because we had a Coercion 1272 Act under which these things were not brought before a Judge and jury, but before Resident Magistrates; yet the right hon. Gentleman gives as the worst instance he can find the sentences passed by the Lord Chief Baron with the assistance of a jury. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman ought to hail our Coercion Act as a remedial measure. As regards arrears, the right hon. Gentleman has given us his method of dealing with them. He has alluded to the Crofters' Act passed two years ago, and seems to think that that furnishes an analogy for some proceeding he desires to be taken now. I may remind him that the Crofters' Act really furnishes no analogy with regard to the legislation he wishes to see adopted. Rightly or wrongly, the Crofters' Act provided that when a crofter applied for a revision of his rent, but only then, he could have his arrears dealt with. Like the Arrears Act of 1882, its object was to start the new Land Bill fairly, and to enable the tenants to come into Court without arrears; but not even in the Act of 1882 nor in the Crofters' Act is there any provision under which a crofter should at any subsequent time be relieved of his arrears by the Court. The dealing with arrears is a preliminary process, and the true analogy to what was done by the Crofters' Act is not any new Act which would be passed now, but what was done by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W.E. Gladstone)under the Arrears Act of 1882. That Act gave the tenant a new start before having his rent fixed. The right hon. Gentleman did not contemplate in the Act of 1882 any machinery by which arrears might from time to time be wiped out, nor was any similar machinery contemplated in the Crofters' Act. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman, seven years after tenants have been given the right to apply to Court for fair rents to be fixed, asks for machinery to be created to deal with the arrears which have accumulated under the fair rents so fixed, he entirely departs from the analogy he himself sets up with regard to the Crofters' Act of 1886. The right hon. Gentleman talks as if all arrears which have occurred in consequence of the bad times of 1885–86 were what he is pleased to term them, unjust arrears. He has used that expression over and over again. 1273 His statement is that though fair rents were fixed in 1882 or in 1883, if two or three years after they were fixed an alteration in prices occurred so that for two years farming became unprofitable under those rents, the arrears so accumulated were unjust. ["Hear, hear !" and Home Rule cheers.] That statement is accepted by Gentlemen below the Gangway. Is it accepted by Gentlemen above the Gangway? [Cheers.] If it is, I ask them under what pretence they ever asked the House of Commons to pass the Land Act of 1881. In that Act they fixed the contract between landlord and tenant, which was described by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian as the fairest possible contract, and contracts under that Act were to last, under legislative sanction, for 15 years. Now, when the right hon. Gentleman recommended that measure to the House, did it never enter into his contemplation, did he never conceive it possible, that there might be bad times lasting for two years?
§ R. A. J. BALFOUR
I am perfectly aware of that. Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman that when you are dealing with judicial tenants the arrears accumulating in 1885–86 are not unjust arrears? Is that the right hon. Gentleman's contention? [No reply.] The right hon. Gentleman remains silent. Then I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman thought it worth while to interrupt me. I ask hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway, did they really and truly, when they passed the Act of 1881, never contemplate as within the bounds of possibility that bad seasons or a fall in prices might occur, which for two years in succession would make farming unprofitable under rents which were "the fairest possible," and fixed for 15 years by the Act of 1881? If they did not contemplate that possibility, what do they mean by saying that arrears accumulating in 1885–6 under judicial rents are unjust arrears? If they did contemplate it, how dared they compel landlord and tenant to contract for fifteen years? The right hon. Gentleman has interpolated an observation that 90 per cent of Lord Clanricarde's 1274 tenants have never gone into the Court; and that brings me to Lord Clanricarde. I am perfectly ready to accept Lord Clanricarde as the extreme type of the bad Irish landlord. At all events, for the sake of argument, I am quite ready to base my observations on the theory that no worse landlord exists in Ireland than Lord Clanricarde—to assume that he is as hard and as selfish a man as he is represented as being. Let us assume that all the invective directed against him is deserved, and then let us really see whether it be true that all the disorder in. Loughrea is due to him, and that, by parity of reasoning, all the disorder in Ireland is due to the other bad landlords. the observation of the right hon. Gentleman that 90 per cent of Lord Clanricarde's tenants do not hold under judicial rents is very relevant; because why do they not so hold? The right hon. Gentleman the other day, in a letter to The Times, answered the question when he said that Lord Clanricarde's rents were so little above what the Land Commissioners were fixing that it was not worth the while of his tenants going into Court.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am quite willing to admit that the right hon. Gentleman added other things; but the only admission I want at this moment is that Lord Clanricarde's rents were not materially above the fair rents—the fairest of all contracts—fixed under the Land Act of 1881. That is the material point. Then I understand that most of Lord Clanricarde's tenants went through the years 1882, 1883, and 1884 upon rents which, upon that hypothesis, were fair rents. Then came the bad years of 1885–86; and the right hon. Gentleman has justified all the acts of Lord Clanricarde's tenants on the ground of hard times. If that had been so, I should have thought that the agitation would have been after both these bad years occurred. But the disorders began before that; and I think the House should really have some account of what has happened at Loughrea, in order that hon. Members may fully appreciate how much is due to the landlords and how much is due 1275 to other causes. I have not a word to say for Lord Clanricarde. I am not going to utter a single word in his defence; but I think an impartial study of the facts connected with the Loughrea district will show that in that estimable body of men who have conspired together to make that district a hell upon earth and a disgrace to civilization, Lord Clanricarde is not the worst or nearly the worst. If the disorders were due to high rents on Lord Clanricarde's part, I presume the disorders would not have arisen until after the bad times of 1885–86, when it was difficult for the tenants to pay. But when did the disorders begin? As a matter of fact they began in 1881, and they began, not at the instance of persons who wanted rational abatements of rents in these hard times, but they began as a regular agitation against landlordism in the abstract. On the 6th of January, 1880, the hon. Member for East Galway (Mr. Harris) used these words:—"The landlord system is a most unjust one, and anyone paying rent will be a supporter of injustice. It should be put down, even with loss of life." The hon. Member for East Galway was one of the most active members first of the Land League and then of the National League.
§ MR. HARRIS (Galway, E.)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what foundation he has for that statement?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Which—the quotation, or the statement that he is a member of the National League?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
On the 24th of March, 1881, the same hon. Gentleman who has just indignantly denied one report of his speech, in another speech said —Before I conclude I would like to remind you to beware of the land-grabber. I am told there is one named Kennedy.… Keep away from him, for his very breath is contaminated. He is a disgrace not only to the locality, but to all Ireland.On the 15th of November, 1885—that is to say before the two years of bad times—the same hon. Gentleman at a meeting at Portumna advised the tenants to demand a reduction of 50 per 1276 cent, and if they did not get it to stick to their money.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
What are the offences which occurred in this district corresponding with the time of the delivery of the speeches to which I have referred?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I rise to Order, Sir. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I think what he is doing is a distinct breach of the Rules of this House. The right hon. Gentleman is about to found certain arguments on statements which he attributes to an hon. Member of this House. Two at least out of the three statements he has read have been denied as correct by the hon. Member in your presence and before the House. I wish to ask, Sir, as a point of Order, whether the right hon. Gentleman is justified in founding arguments on the accuracy of statements indignantly denied.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
In 13 months, from May, 1881, to June, 1882, there were no less than six murders in this district
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The first speech was delivered on the 6th of January, 1880, and the second speech on the 24th of March, 1881, and the first murder was committed on the 12th of May, 1881. Now, I want to point out to the House that these barbarous and horrible murders occurred in the district which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford has taken under his especial protection, before Lord Clanricarde can be accused of levying unjust rents, and that only two of them were connected with Lord Clanricarde's property. On the 3rd March, 1886, another horrible murder occurred—that of a man named Finlay, a process-server, who was not in Lord Clanricarde's service at all. I think that when we are de- 1277 bating how far everything that has happened at Woodford is to be attributed to Lord Clanricarde, these facts ought to be borne in mind. The right hon. Gentleman's speech, as I understood it, was a defence of his recent performance in Galway, seasoned with complaints that he was not treated like Mr. Blunt. He seemed to be under the impression that the Government were afraid to deal with so formidable a statesman as himself. He became quite irritable when he contended that if Mr. Blunt deserved arrest, he should have been arrested too, and he tells us that if he had been in Ireland at the same time as Mr. Blunt he would have done everything that Mr. Blunt did, and would now be sharing with Mr. Blunt in the sweets of martyrdom. But there was a good deal of difference between the right hon. Gentleman's proceedings and those of Mr. Blunt. In the first place, he took every precaution beforehand to explain to the Government and the world at large that his mission was not a mission of indignation, but a mission intended to induce the tenants to come to an arrangement with their landlord. A gentleman who took a prominent part in that meeting indeed took the trouble of going to that centre of corruption, Dublin Castle, to explain to the bloated officials there that the great object of the meeting was to promote a settlement—that if the meeting was held a settlement would be probably arrived at, but that if it was not held there would be no settlement. Now, I am free to confess that no stronger bribe could be offered to me or any one holding my position than the prospect of a settlement on this or any other estate. There is nothing that we more desire, and if the right hon. Gentleman takes the trouble of proclaiming his loyal and peaceable intentions, he need not be disappointed if we take him at his word.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
Mr. Dick-son had no authority whatever from me to make any communication to the Castle.
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR
I never said he had. But Mr. Dickson was one of the principal persons who took part in the meeting, and he did go to the Castle to make the explanation to which I have referred. But, apart from this, were the circumstances at- 1278 tending the right hon. Gentleman's meeting at all analogous to those of Mr. Blunt? Did the right hon. Gentleman attend a midnight meeting in defiance of a proclamation, in the course of which the telegraph wires were cut and the proclamation issued in the Queen's name burnt and held up to ridicule—a meeting held to celebrate the anniversary of the Plan of Campaign, which has been pronounced by Chief Baron Palles as so illegal in itself that the fact that a meeting is held to promote it renders such meeting ipso facto illegal? The right hon. Gentleman attended no such meeting. Would he have taken part in any such meeting? He expresses himself an admirer of Mr. Blunt's proceedings. Would he have imitated Mr. Blunt in that respect? But not only was Mr. Blunt's meeting preceded by an illegal midnight meeting, but there were evictions actually going on at the time at which violent resistance was being offered to the bailiffs. That circumstance constitutes a distinct and vital difference between Mr. Blunt's meeting and the meeting of the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps he shares Mr. Blunt's views, who, when on cross-examination he was asked whether he felt any indignation at the assaults on the police, and at the throwing of burning turf at them, said that he could not say he did. Gentlemen holding these views may, where resistance to the police is proceeding, be very formidable. Does the right hon. Gentleman hold these views? I notice that, whereas the right hon. Gentleman is ready enough to rise up and make irrelevant interruptions, yet when I ask him for an answer to a plain question he remains silent. The right hon. Gentleman has referred a great deal to his experience and knowledge of this district, and I notice that the right hon. Gentleman appeals to the experience of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Rowlands) who, with Mr. Blunt, proceeded to Ireland to investigate the merits of the dispute between Lord Clanricarde and his tenants, and whom he described in a letter to The Times as "high-minded Englishmen." I have no power of measuring the elevation of their minds, but but I have the means of measuring the depth of their ignorance. It comes out in every word of their cross-examination. They did not know what went on at the 1279 meeting at which they were themselves present. They did not know about the proclamation being burnt, and they did not know the meaning of their own speeches. Mr. Blunt was ignorant of what the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) said, and he did not know the meaning of what he said himself, for when Mr. Blunt was asked what he meant by congratulating the people on "their great victory" he said upon oath he did not know. Nor did Mr. Blunt appear to know the character of those with whom he associated the right hon. Gentleman has told the House a great deal about a person named John Roche, whom he represented as a person who had been, persecuted by a brutal Coercion Government. This man, referring to a person who was to be Boycotted, said—"You have a tyrant to crush to-day. Throttle him, and do not let him go until you knock the glass eyes out of his head "—referring to the fact that the man was blind of one eye. He also made a speech directed against the man Finlay, who was murdered soon afterwards—a speech which I can only interpret as a practical incitement to the murder of that man. That is one of the men whom the right hon. Gentleman takes under his protection and with whom Mr. Blunt associated.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
asked the right hon. Gentleman to quote the speech which he said was an incitement to assassination.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will quote from the Charge of the Chief Baron. He said—John Roche, who was one of the leading spirits in Woodford on the 23rd of October, 1887, said they had their Balaclava (a nickname for Finlay) that day, but the people would have their Fontenoy another day.I must explain that the battle of Fontenoy is regarded as a victory won by Irishmen over Englishmen, and it is therefore always hailed with satisfaction at Nationalist meetings. The Chief Baron went on—I do not know whether they consider it was their Fontenoy, but within a period of two short months that unfortunate man was with out a moment's notice sent before his Creator, and within half-an-hour after his dead body had been riddled with shots, his widow was publicly groaned and hooted through the streets of Woodford. Oh, what a lesson for moderation of language!That was what he relied on as showing 1280 the nature of Roche's speech. I have quoted the opinion of the Chief Baron, and I say that speech was followed by the assassination of the man to whom it referred, which fully justifies me in saying what I have said. Besides Mr. John Roche there was upon the platform with Mr. Blunt Mr. Francis Tully, who appears to have been the host, the fidus Achates, the guide, philosopher, and friend of the hon. Member for Finsbury. Mr. Francis Tully in one speech said—
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I rise to Order, Sir. I ask you what connection there is between a speech of Mr. Tully and the Amendment before the House?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
On the point of Order I may say, Mr. Speaker, that I am only following in the footsteps of the right hon. Gentleman, and trying to investigate the circumstances of the district. Tully is a man who recommended "leaden pills" for obnoxious landlords, and on account of that recommendation he has been nicknamed "the Doctor," and is known universally by that name. Of this man, who was the associate of these Englishmen in Ireland, the Chief Baron had said that if there was an indictment against him for incitement to assassination on account of such words, there was not a Judge in the land who would withhold it from the jury. Tully, like Roche, took a leading part in Boycotting Mr. Lewis. The Chief Baron also said with regard to Tully that if Mr. Blunt had been furnished with a report of his speeches, he would sooner cut off his right hand than sit down to table with him or have any thing to do with him. These are the men, even more than the Clanricardes, who have made the Loughrea district a by-word, and which, if he knew of them, would, I think, appal even Mr. Blunt. I believe that a complete cure for such things would not be found in any legislation suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech of an hour and three quarters—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It seemed to me longer. The right hon. Gentleman spoke for an hour and a quarter, and yet he made no allusion whatever to the Plan of Campaign, though Wood- 1281 ford is in the district where the Plan of Campaign was first started. Not one word indicating condemnation of the Plan of Campaign dropped from the right hon. Gentleman, not one word indicating condemnation of violence towards the police, so I must conclude that he agrees with Mr. Blunt in thinking that violence to the police ought not to excite his righteous indignation. We had a great deal of the speech of the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) the other day devoted to the Plan of Campaign; but after all the discussion on the subject the House is but imperfectly acquainted with what it is. Of its illegality we have now ample judicial testimony. Two Judges of the High Court have expressed the opinion not only that it is technically illegal, but that it is a gross violation of personal liberty. The hon. Member for North-East Cork did, indeed, allude, in language not too strong, to the heavy penalties which the defeated had to pay. For the Plan of Campaign, like war, is only less disastrous to those who are victorious than to those who are defeated. The hon. Member for North-East Cork said that when the Plan was successful a vast benefit was done to the tenantry. I absolutely demur to the truth of that proposition. Nothing can be further from the truth. The Plan of Campaign carries in its train a desolation and ruin hard to describe and impossible to exaggerate. A Nationalist newspaper, The Wexford People, has described the results of the Plan of Campaign. It said that—Changes many and serious had taken place since the war chest was locked at Coolgreany; the land had become a dreary waste and was fast falling into a wilderness; the bleating of sheep, the lowing of cattle, were no longer heard; no fire burned on the hearth, nor beam of light escaped from the casement.What had happened on the Coolgreany estate had necessarily come to pass on every other estate in the like circumstances. You compel the landlord to evict; you compel him to drive out the ringleaders of the tenants. Even if they ultimately win, and the landlord gives their terms, these men are kept out of their holdings one, two, or three years. Nature resumes her sway over the fields formerly cultivated; possibly, in some cases, their homes are pulled down, and if one of 1282 them comes back he finds his holding so deteriorated in quality that it is impossible to restore it to its ancient condition for years to come. Compare this actual working of the Plan of Campaign with the roseate description of it given by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). That hon. Gentleman said—Would they not be better of with their 30s. or £2 a week, with their hands in their pockets, amusing themselves, instead of living in miserable cabins for the benefit of the landlords?I believe the vision or bribe thus held up to them has turned out like the money in The Arabian Nights, which, when put in the drawer turned into paper. These men, instead of living with their hands in their pockets, amusing themselves, are now living miserable exiles in hovels on some neighbour's lands; having seen their own holdings gone into a state of nature and their ancient homes fallen into ruins before their eyes. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is a very conspicuous example of one of the most fallacious methods of reasoning which can be adopted in politics. He has chosen a single instance, and deduced from it a general conclusion. Even upon that instance of the right hon. Gentleman it would be folly to base the conclusion that Irish disorder is the result of Irish landlordism. This House has never boon in the past, and I think never in the future will be, so foolish as to base on a single instance great projects of legislative change. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Act of last year gave but very little relief in the matter of arrears. I do not think that the House realizes the whole of the relief given to the Irish tenant. The Irish tenant has gone into the Land Court or he has not. If he has gone in, he has had a fair rent fixed, and even that is diminished if originally fixed before 1885. On the other hand, if he has not gone in, it is in his power to go in at any moment and have a fair rent fixed. But this is not all. The right hon. Gentleman speaks as if all these evils had come upon Ireland because we did not take the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). But the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork dealt only with arrears of judicial rents, and, therefore, 90 per cent of the 1283 Clanricarde rents would not be touched. When the right hon. Gentleman points to the notices of eviction now served upon the Clanricarde and other estates, does he forget that the Government introduced a clause last year by which a stay would be put to all these notices if the tenant could not actually pay, except it was through his own fault? Notices of eviction in Ireland now are, therefore, not the result of hardness on the part of the landlord, but are the consequence and the measure of combinations on the part of the tenants not to meet their just obligations. Any man who thinks that the problem we have to deal with in Ireland is one of Home Rule, or a simple question of putting down disorder, is utterly mistaken in his diagnosis of the disease. What we have to deal with is a social revolution under the mask of political agitation. Socialistic objects are being striven for by political methods. I am perfectly aware that hon. Members opposite shut their eyes to this fact; but if they will only examine the speeches of Michael Davitt and his followers, some of whom are far more dangerous than himself, they must see that, under the specious pretence of a political agitation in support of that unstable compromise known as the Home Rule plan of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, Socialistic doctrines are being spread in every direction. The real forces at work are partly the hereditary hatred of England, partly the desire of the tenants for other people's property. I, who believe that the laws of property were not invented for the benefit of the rich, but for the benefit of the poor, who believe what hon. Gentlemen below the Opposition Gangway do not, that a regard for property is the very foundation of all enterprize and all success, I am firmly convinced that unless some steps are taken, and successfully taken, for stopping the canker which is eating into the very heart of Ireland at this moment, it will matter little what Bills you may pass either for Home Rule or Separation, for enterprize and confidence will be extinguished in Ireland, and the people who will suffer most of all are your unhappy dupes—the tenantry and labourers of Ireland.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
said, he must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) on having 1284 accomplished an un heard of feat—the feat of having spoken over an hour upon an Amendment, and never having said anything about it. He (Mr. Healy) thought it was high time to recall the House to what was the subject before it, which he took to be the arrears of rent in Ireland; and the right hon. Gentleman, when asked to deal with the question of the arrears of rent, went into certain speeches delivered in 1880, and made a general tirade on the question of Home Rule and Socialism, but never once touched the question before the House. It was established, then, on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that Lord Clanricarde was a man for whom even the Irish Chief Secretary could not say a word.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR,
in explanation, said, he had expressed his readiness, for the sake of argument only, to assume that Lord Clanricarde was the very worst of landlords.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
If anything could be said for Lord Clanricarde, why did the right hon. Gentleman not say something for him? They had it established, as a matter of fact, that here was a landlord proceeding against a tenant in such a way that he (Mr. T. M. Healy) must repeat that the Irish Chief Secretary, with his inordinate respect for the rights of property, and his declarations on the subject, could not say one word for Lord Clanricarde. It would have been more relevant and germane to the question that they should have heard more about Lord Clanricarde, and less about Francis Tully and 1881. The right hon. Gentleman told them the present agitation in Gal way was not the result of the present action of Lord Clanricarde, but was due to an incendiary speech delivered so far back as 1880. Certainly he (My. Healy) was surprised the right hon. Gentleman did not go back a little further—back to 1872—when Lord Clanricarde declared he could put his white horse in for Galway, and not being able to put in his white horse, he raised the rent of every man on his estate who had the courage to support the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Nolan), who was returned as a Home Ruler. His fellow-landlord, Sir Henry Burke, did the very same thing, and from the date of the Galway Election of 1872, when scores of tenants were evicted, and scores had their rents raised, 1285 from that day the trouble in Galway commenced. The right hon. Gentleman did not understand the causes of the disorder, for he stated that the present state of things was not due to landlordism. What, then, did it spring from? From, he (Mr. Healy) supposed, the double dose of original sin of which they had heard. Had the right hon. Gentleman no other hypothesis on which to work? Surely, if he saw crime, and misery, and disorder in the country, it was only reasonable to attribute that in some degree to the forces working there. Let them assume that every word the right hon. Gentleman had uttered about the speeches he had referred to was true, and that they were incitements to assassination. Did he mean to convey that men would commit assassination for the mere wantonness and fun of the thing? Let them take that most brutal murder of Finlay. Did he believe the people who committed that assassination did it for the mere love of blood-spilling? And then the right hon. Gentleman went on as if there was something inherent in the nature of the people of the County Galway to account for this state of things other than the results of landlordism. The Chief Secretary had stated a number of facts which, in his (Mr. T. M. Healy's) opinion, entirely disposed of any idea that the right non. Gentleman understood the question about which he attacked other people for their ignorance; and he would say to him if, when he went to Ireland, instead of going to lunch with the Judges in that country, he had sat in their Courts, he would have learned more than he did over the walnuts and the wine in the Judge's chamber. With regard to the case of Lord Clanricarde, to whom the right hon. Gentleman's Predecessor (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) would not give the assistance of soldiers to carry out evictions, it was now admitted that he was a man for whom the right hon. Gentleman could not say one word; and the problem he would ask the House to consider was this—Was it a reasonable thing, when a man from his chambers in the Albany could desolate an entire district, that that state of things should be allowed to continue? The right hon. Gentleman was very eloquent on the desolation wrought by the Plan of Campaign, and he waxed pathetic over the misery and distress 1286 he alleged it caused. He had read them an extract from The Wexford People showing how the Coolgreany estate looked after the Plan of Campaign; but the wonder was that his eyes were not turned to the Clanricarde estate after the evictions, when the agent i razed the houses to the ground; or to Glenbeigh, after the agent had applied the petroleum can to the roofs, and where evictions were again proceeding yesterday; and he would ask, was the alleged desolation wrought by the Plan of Campaign to be compared to the desolation and slaughter worked by Lord Clanricarde and men like the landlord of Glenbeigh? What was the alternative to the Plan of Campaign? Eviction pure and simple. They had either to be evicted with it, or without it; and for his part, if he was an Irish tenant threatened with eviction, he would rather be evicted under the Plan of Campaign, with his money in his pocket, than see the house razed by the agent, because the landlord would not accept the portion of the rent he could pay, and which he was willing to offer under the Plan. The utmost that had been claimed under the Plan was 30 per cent; in most cases, he thought, 20, which he believed was asked on the Kingston estate. Was he to be told it was a better thing for the Irish tenants to offer the landlords what they could and be evicted after wards, or not to be evicted at all, or, if evicted, retain in their pockets such portion as they had offered of the rent which they could still afford to pay? The Plan of Campaign had not been adopted out of lightness of heart. The tenants had not a light heart when eviction threatened, and the gentlemen who were concerned in propagating the Plan of Campaign had not propagated it with a light heart. The hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) and the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) recognized the difficulties of the Plan of Campaign, and every speech of theirs told the tenants they were going into a desperate fight; but they asked what was the alternative. And surely, when they had a landlord like Lord Clanricarde, who rejected such a petition for an abatement in time of distress as would be signed by leading men like Dr. Healy, the Unionist Bishop, and the rector, with scorn, he would like to ask what those tenants were to do? What alternative was then open to them? What 1287 course was open to the tenants of a harsh and exacting landlord determined to have all the law gave him but to be evicted or to adopt the Plan of Campaign? The right hon. Gentleman said the Courts were open to them. How were they open? He must say, in his opinion, a more worthless Bill than the right hon. Gentleman's Bill of last year to effect the purposes which he proclaimed it would effect in dealing with arrears and evictions, and a more ill-drafted measure, could not have been devised. The right hon. Gentleman said the landlord applied to the Court to serve a notice of eviction, and the tenant might then be heard against the landlord's application. The right hon. Gentleman was in error, for there was nothing at all of the kind; and surely the right hon. Gentleman, with regard to a Bill he himself brought forward, ought to have some elementary acquaintance with what was being done under it. There was no such thing as an application by the landlord to serve his eviction notices. There was no such thing provided for as an application by the tenant to resist an eviction notice. Nothing of the kind could arise under the Act. What happened was simply this. The landlord served a writ on the tenant, claiming possession of the land, and if the tenant could not pay he would have to march. Then the landlord served an eviction notice, and the tenant could not be heard in the least degree. This notice was not issued in the open Court, and personal service was not even required, but it was served by letter. It was not even necessary to apply to the Court for the eviction notice. The landlord, on getting judgment, issued the notice himself. He could go to the stationer's shop and buy a gross of them. They might be ordered at Smith's bookstalls, and filled in ad lib. The Chief Secretary had vast legal assistance in Ireland, and he had by his side the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Mr. Madden), whose ability was appreciated in Ireland, and why, then, could be not make himself acquainted with the elementary facts of the case? Again, if the landlord proceeded by way of an action for rent, there was no possibility of having the arrears made payable by instalments. He challenged the Government to deny that. If a tenant owed 1288 him rent, and he brought an action for the rent, there was no means of putting a stay upon it in the sense of having the arrears made payable by instalments. That was only possible in actions for possession. It was quite true that in the case of an action for rent they could have a stay put upon the sale of the tenant's interest; but what did that amount to? Although they could put a stay upon the sale of the tenant's interest in an action for rent there was nothing to prevent the seizure of his stock under a judgment, or, without going to the Court at all, they could distrain for every cent that the man possessed; so that the landlords of Ireland at the present moment, the instant rent was due, could seize every cow a tenant had, and the Government lent them their police to aid and assist in the work. He wondered the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to the case of Mrs. Curtin, about whose unhappy bereavement tears almost of blood had been shed on the Treasury Bench. The right hon. Gentleman did not tell them that Lord Kenmare and Lady Kenmare got up a fund for Mrs. Curtin, and, having got up the fund, the noble Lord went with his bailiffs and police, and seized her cows for rent. The Government lent Lord Kenmare their police to conduct the seizure of her cattle, and District Inspector Crane hinted at withdrawing police protection from her and her family, telling her that she did not want it, now that Lord Kenmare had seized her cattle for rent. That was what happened in the case of Mrs. Curtin, a case with regard to which the Government had, through the medium of the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union, made such capital at every election. Every landlord in Ireland could execute similar distraints, and there was no law to hinder them. He asked, then, where were the supposed remedies under this Act of 1887? In the first instance, it only applied to the tenants of £50 valuation and under, and the right hon. Gentleman said that included the mass of the Irish tenants. If the right hon. Gentleman took the trouble to read the cases before the Court he would find out his mistake. He would give an illustration afforded by the case of the Earl of Desart v. Elizabeth Townsend, a widow. That was 1289 the case of a leaseholder above £50 of rent to whom the Act of last year did not apply. The Court of Queen's Bench, in its humanity, owing to the piteous affidavit of this widow lady, and the oppression she proved the Earl of Desart had perpetrated upon her, came to her relief. She being a leaseholder, entitled last September to go into Court and servo an originating notice, ventured to serve that to get a fair rent fixed. The landlord had sent a bailiff down to tell her she need not pay the rent until after the Kilkenny fair in October. She owed two years of rack-rent, and, despite the bailiff's message, long before the date was fixed she got a writ for the rent on venturing to go into the Land Court under last year's Act to get a fair rent fixed as a leaseholder. The Court of Queen's Bench, out of which the writ issued, said they would take advantage of a rule in the Judicature Act, and would postpone for a few months the payment of her arrears. The landlord took his case to the Court of Appeal, and there it was solemnly decided by the highest Court in the land that in cases like hers, arising out of want of funds on the part of the tenant, and against whom there was no allegation on the part of the landlord that they could pay, that no power resided in the Courts to give the slighest relief. That being so, with what countenance could the right hon. Gentleman tell the House that all the grievances arising in Ireland were those of cases under £50 valuation? They could never hear of cases of over £50 now in the Courts, because the Courts had judicially decided they had no power to give relief. What was the tenant to do? To grin and bear it and be evicted, or else join the Plan of Campaign. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) stated that the arrears' provision, such as that in the Arrears' Act of 1882, or the Crofters' Act of 1886, was inapplicable to the present state of things, because in 1882 the Arrears' Act was a reasonable thing, as then, for the first time, the tenants got permission to go into Court. If it was a proper thing to give the Act of 1881 a fair start, what was the case of the leaseholders who were admitted in 1887? If there were 200,000 tenants under the first Act, the right hon. Gentleman himself and the First Lord (Mr. W. H. Smith) 1290 have boasted that 113,000 tenants could come in for the first time under the Act of 1887. If it was reasonable to give an Arrears' Act for 200,000, it was surely right to give it for 113,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary went on the basis that because it was right to give the Act of 1881 a fair start, because it promulgated a fair rent system, why, then, did he not think it equitable to give the Act of 1887 a fair start as regards the leaseholders who got then for the first time the right to go into Court? Yet the right hon. Gentleman passed the Act of last year, admitting that the rents fixed under the Act of 1881 were not fair rents. He passed an Act to enable the Land Commission to reduce for three years rents which were paid under the Act of 1881, and yet he said that these rents could only be reduced from May or March last, and that he would let the arrears antecedent to that time hang like a millstone around the necks of these unfortunate people. While admitting, therefore, that the present rents were unfair, the right hon. Gentleman said that they would insist upon the arrears of those same rents being enforced, because all previous rents were fair. He (Mr. Healy) had often brought that question to the notice of the House. For his own part, he had never let a year pass, or a debate on the Land Act Estimates pass, without protesting against the character of the men who had been appointed Sub-Commissioners, and the exorbitant rents fixed, and the best proof of the unfairness of the rents and the inequality of their decisions was the passing of the measure of last year; and the best proof that he was right in denouncing the Commissioners was the fact that the Government had been obliged to take action in 1887 to lower the rents fixed up to 1886. The Chief Secretary talked of the Crofters' Act, which had been in operation only a few months, yet the Crofters' Act enabled tenants to wipe out arrears previous to the passing of the Act. Did the right hon. Gentleman conceive it to be a fair thing that at the present moment in Ireland, where rents were being fixed by the Land Commission, that that fair rent should not date back to the antecedent arrears? He (Mr. Healy) claimed for the Irish leaseholders that their revised rents should date back upon every penny of 1291 arrears. That was a reasonable and a logical claim. It could be founded on legislative enactments, and it could not be put down to the demands of agitators. Was it not an appalling thing for Irish Members to have the consciousness that they were dealing in that House with Englishmen so ignorant of the laws they were passing, that they were unable to recognize the force and effect of those laws? The House passed a measure for leaseholders giving them the right to have fair rents fixed, but the landlord took advantage of pre-existing arrears, and then by Section 7 deprived them of all benefits of the Land Acts by service of a notice transforming the tenant into a caretaker. To tell a leaseholder that he could go into Court, leaving his arrears untouched and undealt with, and then to destroy his tenancy by one of those miserable notices, was a farce and a fraud which involved the man in law costs without yielding him any benefit whatever. A most interesting document had been issued to Members of Parliament that morning, a Report of the Crofter Commission. There was going on in the North of Scotland exactly the same controversy which had arisen in Ireland. On page 98 was given a Return of the number of tenants dealt with, the present rent, the past rent, the amount of arrears, and how they were disposed of. It appeared the number of holdings dealt with in five counties—Sutherlandshire, Ross, Inverness, Argyllshire, and Caithness—was 1,767. In Sutherland the reduction was 23½ per cent; in Ross, 26; in Inverness, 28¼ per cent; in Argyllshire, 26⅓ and in Caithness it was very nearly 41 per cent. Would the House believe that on these 1,767 Scotch holdings no less a sum was wiped off by the Commission than £14,418? If that was the case with arrears on 1,700 holdings in Scotland, what would it be in Ireland with 113,000? Why should not they be similarly relieved? He would remind the House of the great reductions made in Ireland. In some of the cases already heard rents of £18 had been reduced to £5, of £60 to £40, of £100 to £40. They had these reductions of rent made by the Commissioners appointed by the Tory Government under the jealous eye of the right lion, and gallant Gentleman the Member for Isle of Thanet Division of Kent (Colonel King-Harman) and Mr. 1292 Wrench. Colonel Davies, himself one of the Government's own Sub-Commissioners, had had his rents reduced by 40 per cent, and many other Sub-Commissioners were also convicted rack-renters. Yet they felt constrained to make enormous reductions. But the arrears of the old impossible rents which they cut down remained undealt with. He (Mr. Healy) contended that the case of the men who got the right to go into Court last year was exactly on all-fours with those under the Act of 1881, who got an Arrears' Act in 1882. The Chief Secretary thought the Act of 1881 a needless one. Did he think the Arrears' Act of 1882 a needless one? His argument seemed to assume that both Acts were needless. Was that his opinion?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, that being so, he could only wish the leaseholders much comfort from the Government of the right hon. Gentleman. The question put to him was whether he regarded them as having been unnecessary? In Scotland, where there were no murders, and agitators, and outrages, and dreadful people as there were in Ireland, the crofters had obtained a considerable reduction of their rents; and their arrears had been reduced 60 per cent. He would be content with men of the calibre of the Scotch Commissioners to decide whether it was desirable that arrears of rent in Ireland should be wiped out. It followed that either the Crofters' Commission was acting wrongly and dishonestly, or else that the Chief Secretary was ill-advised or misinformed. It had not been claimed that there should be a general wiping out of arrears; there had been nothing of the kind in Scotland; but there had been judicial findings that the tenants were unable to pay. The wiping out under the Act of 1882 was a judicial wiping out. Surely it was not unreasonable to ask that there should be a Court appointed to decide whether the arrears were such as the tenant was able or willing to pay, and they pressed the matter no further than to ask that it should be referred to one of the Government's own Courts appointed under their own Administration. Would anyone believe that Mr. Justice Gibson 1293 would be likely to loan to the tenant's side rather than to the landlord's, or that Mr. Justice Holmes would not hold the balance evenly, or, if anything, not leaning to the tenant's side? Was it not a reasonable thing that they should require from the Government a Bill enabling the Irish Judges to deal with the terrible question of arrears? Did the House prefer that the tenants of Lord Clanricarde should be evicted, and the county of Galway rendered desolate? It was of no use appealing to the Chief Secretary, who had what was known as a syslême, but he appealed to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to know whether his demand was not a fair one? The speech of the Chief Secretary seemed directed to the Deptford Election rather than the question directly at issue. He (Mr. Healy) thought it would have been better for him to have addressed himself to the question, rather than to the speeches of Mr. Francis Tully or what was said by Matt Harris in 1880. That would have been bettor than a miserable réchauffé of bitter strife in years gone by, with which the House was quite familiar, because the speeches cited on the Blunt trial had all appeared in the Dublin correspondence of The Times. He supposed that even English Members read the Dublin correspondence of that journal. [Sir ROBERT FOWLER (London): I do not.] He was glad to have that admission from the hon. Baronet, because in that case his knowledge would not be the less, nor his bitterness the greater. He assumed, however, that the general body of English Members read the Dublin correspondence of The Times, and so they would have seen before the quotations which the Chief Secretary hurled at the House, in the course of debate. What did they come to? Suppose he or any other Irishman made a foolish speech eight years ago that was no reason why Elizabeth Townsend should continue to be rack-rented and deprived of the benefit of legislation passed expressly to meet such cases as hers. What had that Government to do with the matter? Let them assume that every word that the right hon. Gentleman spoke about Galway was correct. But Galway was only one of the 32 counties in Ireland. They wanted the question of arrears settled in a reasonable spirit. They wanted to 1294 see the grievances of the tenants understood on the Treasury Bench, and the reply the Chief Secretary gave to their request was to read long extracts from the brief of Mr. Peter O'Brien, the Irish Attorney General in the Blunt trial. It was amazing that the Chief Secretary should have assumed such a position, and have used such bitterness of language, which was not alone unworthy of himself, but unworthy of any phase of Irish Administration, because it gave the "go by" to the greatest of all grievances that were now sorely pressing the Irish people. The right hon. Gentleman should have treated the subject in a spirit to give the Irish people some hope that the Government did really appreciate the gravity of this position. He asked the right hon. Gentleman solemnly, what contribution had he made towards the settlement of the question? Lord Clanricarde and his like would be free to operate in Galway to-morrow with their evictions, and if they resolved to do so, the right hon. Gentleman would be bound to aid them in the work with soldiers and police. That was a situation which was not to be met by vitriolic quotations from speeches made years ago. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the desolation caused by the Plan of Campaign, and had drawn a terrible picture; but what was the Government Plan of Campaign? The Government Plan of Campaign to-morrow would be to give that monster, who lurked somewhere in the Albany like a tiger in his lair, the aid of 60,000 soldiers, if he needed it, to destroy the homes of his tenants. That was the right hon. Gentleman's Plan of Campaign; but the reasonable suggestion of the Irish Representatives was to get rid of all Plans of Campaign, to submit the question at issue between tenants and their landlords to the arbitration of the Government's own Judges—men like even Judges Gibson and Holmes. That was his (Mr. Healy's) Plan of Campaign; he went upon the principle that if there was a grievance between Lord Clanricarde and his tenants, the question ought to admit of some legislative settlement, and should not be left to generate into crime and outrage. The arrears represented no solid cash for the landlord. They were irrecoverable; if wiped, out, the pockets of the landlords 1295 would not lose 1966s. They were useful for one purpose only, and that was to assist the landlord in driving the tenants from the land; and it was because that was so that the Chief Secretary refused to deal with the arrears. Lord Salisbury had admitted that he was forced to pass the Land Act of last year, because he was on a fatal toboggan slide, and in order to give the landlords an opportunity of rendering the Act nugatory the arrears were allowed to hang over the tenants. The Chief Secretary had asked the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) for a categorical answer as to whether he approved of the Plan of Campaign. Questions could not always be answered by a Yes or a No; and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford approved of the Plan sub modo. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford had received to-night a telegram which showed how the Plan of Campaign worked. It referred to the property of Sir Henry Burke, near that of Lord Clanricarde; the landlord had refused abatement, and the tenants adopted the Plan of Campaign. The telegram was—It is true Burke has given 25 per cent; reinstates tenants; compensates them for crops; pays legal costs, together with £160 for the maintenance of evicted tenants. Your intervention has had its effect.The fact was, and he (Mr. Healy) was sorry to declare, that it was only by extra legal means that any concession had ever been, or was likely to be, wrung from the Irish Government. The Chief Secretary had fatally misconceived the Irish situation, or, if he had not misconceived it, had acted in a fatal manner so far as the peace and quietude of that country was concerned. No comfort would be brought to the minds of the suffering Irish tenants by the speech of the Chief Secretary. It would have been, he (Mr. Healy) would not say a generous, but a prudent thing if the right hon. Gentleman had given them some crumb of comfort. From the beginning to the end, however, the Chief Secretary's speech had been directed to exasperate still more the people of Ireland, smarting, as they were, under the Coercion Act. He hoped that some responsible Minister of the Crown, like the right hon. Gentleman the new President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), whose letter to 1296 Lord Clanricarde did him honour, would endeavour to impress upon the Cabinet that Ireland needed something else than the continual application of the cat-o'-nine-tails. After all, a Government had another duty incumbent upon them besides the enforcement of penal statutes. Even Robespierre told the French Convention when every scaffold in France dripped with blood—"It is not with the Criminal Code in hand you will regenerate your country." It was not "with the Criminal Code in hand" that they would regenerate Ireland, and it was not by such speeches as those delivered by the Chief Secretary that peace would be established in that country. He marvelled much that the Tory Party, the "Party of Order," should have entrusted the right hon. Gentleman unchecked with the destinies of 5,000,000 British subjects. Disorder might exist in Ireland, but admittedly distress existed there, and the Chief Secretary had displayed the most extraordinary ignorance of the very A B C of the Irish Question. If anything was calculated to drive the people in Wood-ford and Loughrea into still more resolute action it was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. The Irish Members were compelled to come to the House of Commons, and when they put the case of their suffering people as well as they could before the Government, they were met with gibes and flouts and sneers. He (Mr. Healy) took England to witness that if the Irish people, under the lash of addresses such as had been delivered by the Chief Secretary, remained peaceful and calm, it was not because they had not many sore troubles and grievances to endure, but because they had a belief and a hope in their present alliance with the Liberal Party. He had himself, in former times, doubted, because of the advantage the landlords took of their efforts, whether the Irish Party should at all times preach calmness, and he was sorry to have to say that even now the fact that men like Lord Clanricarde knew that every nerve was being strained by the Irish Party in the direction of peace, and that anything like outrage and crime was deprecated, and every effort used to repress disorder, was a strong encouragement to creatures of his type. He, therefore, trusted 1297 that the English people would not mistake their position. He said to the people that if Lord Clanricarde evicted, and they had no hope from English administration as expressed in the mouth of the Irish Chief Secretary, their hope did not lie in submitting like slaves to the lash of Lord Clanricarde. Their hope lay rather in combination. Aye, and if necessary he would say it, in honest resistance, because he believed that the resistance of the Clanricarde tenants at Loughrea and Woodford to eviction would meet not with the condemnation, but with the sympathy and encouragement of the English people. The Government had abstained from bringing to the consideration of this question one statesmanlike idea. The case of the Chief Secretary was simply a repetition of that Nisi Prius fustian delivered on behalf of the Government in Mr. Blunt's trial last week. That was the only argument offered by the right hon. Gentleman. He appealed to speeches of seven or eight years ago. Those speeches might have been foolish or wise, but they had had other effects than that of leading to outrage. It was the speeches of agitators—of whom, he was proud to say, he was one—which led to the passing of the Land and Arrears Acts, which, to a certain extent, constituted the charter of the Irish tenant. Their demands had formerly also been refused time after time, with speeches as defiant as the speech of the Chief Secretary, and yet at last they had to be conceded. He believed, too, that in spite of the Government's refusal to-night to deal with this Arrears' Question there would arise a spirit in Ireland which would sweep from his place the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and that, just as when last year the Government first declared it to be outrageous to interfere with the judicial rents and then passed an Act to reduce them, something like reason would yet be brought to Her Majesty's Government on the Arrears' Question also. But if they refused to deal with it till after crime and outrage and bloodshed had occurred, should they be surprised if the Irish people were to attribute the benefit they at length received to nothing else than outrage and crime? As things went on in Ireland from bad to worse the Government would deeply regret the delivery of speeches 1298 like that of the Chief Secretary, a speech as vain in dealing with the question as it was foolish in an administrative point of view, and in the end the very words of the Irish Secretary would be swallowed by him in exactly the same way as Lord Salisbury and his own Colleagues had swallowed theirs with regard to the judicial rents. This was an unfortunate position—that no amount of argument seemed to affect the question; and he (Mr. Healy) called upon the tenants of Lord Clanricarde and the people of Ireland in the meantime to continue the steadfast action which had won for them everything that had been won in the past; and if they persevered in that action they were not only certain of moral victories in Ireland, but certain also to see in that House their demands approved of, sanctified, and solemnized by the very enactments that the Government would yet be obliged to place on the Conservative Statute Book.
§ MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
thought that all those who had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland must have been filled with surprise and also with regret, and he had no doubt that the feelings of regret preponderated over those of surprise. It was felt, after the clear and lucid ex-position by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) of the facts connected with the Woodford agitation, and connected also with that broader agitation of which the Woodford agitation was a type, that something more was required in reply from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary than sneers and a reproduction of speeches seven or eight years old, having absolutely nothing whatever to do with the present circumstances. The Chief Secretary for Ireland referred to certain speeches that were delivered seven or eight years ago by Mr. John Roche and Mr. Francis Tully. He (Mr. Stevenson) asked the House to consider whether, if the words which the right hon. Gentleman ascribed to Mr. Francis Tully and Mr. John Roche had actually been uttered, they would have any bearing whatever on the charge which, was made against the present action of the Government in supporting the action of Lord Clanricarde at Woodford; and whether they were not speeches that ought not to have 1299 been relegated to the limbo of those past utterances which ought to be amply forgotten now that a new era had dawned upon Ireland? But there was this to be said further—that they had no guarantee that those speeches were accurately reported. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary referred to a speech which had been ascribed to the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Galway (Mr. Harris); but that hon. Gentleman had indignantly denied that he had ever uttered the speech in question. It was very likely that had Mr. John Roche or Mr. Francis Tully been in the House they would have got up and indignantly denied the utterances placed in their mouth by the right hon. Gentleman. But they could not draw any conclusion from speeches delivered in 1881 or 1882, and, what was more, if they were expected to draw any conclusion from those speeches, they must first be certain that the speeches were accurately reported. There was not the slightest guarantee that the shorthand reports placed before the House were at all in accordance with the facts. Hon. Members were also filled with surprise that after the demands for remedial legislation which were put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), the Chief Secretary made no proposal which would in any way meet the necessities of the case. The events of the last few weeks and months exhibited in the clearest manner the necessity of an amendment of the Land Act of last Session, and showed that the modus operandi of the Act had not been of a nature to fulfil the expectations of hon. Gentlemen who supported that Act, and had not been of a nature to fulfil the expectation that it would confer great benefits on the tenants of Ireland. The events of the last few months had exhibited that the Land Act of last Session, like many other pieces of Tory legislation, was a measure which merely took away with one hand what it gave with the other. That Act professed to be an Act to stop, or, at all events, to stop within certain limits, evictions. As a matter of fact, it had done nothing of the kind. There was a temporary full in the carrying out of evictions; but, from a Return which was placed in the hands of hon. Members that morning, he (Mr. Stevenson) 1300 noticed that 3,352 notices of evictions had been filed during the four months ending December 31, 1887. No doubt, there had been many more notices filed since the end of December. Let the Government consider what would be the result when the time for redemption had expired, and what would be the result when another wave of eviction swept over Ireland, reproducing all the horrible scenes of Glenbeigh and Bodyke. Unless the Government were prepared with some legislation to step in between the living and the dead, as it were, the responsibility would lie upon their shoulders of having passed an Act last Session under the pretence and on the ground that it was likely to confer certain boons on the tenants of Ireland—namely, the staying of evictions—while events showed that it had merely postponed the evil day, and not only that, but made the process of eviction easier than before. For the two clear and well-defined processes which formerly existed had been substituted two others. The first process was to send a notice of eviction by registered letter transforming the tenant into a caretaker; and the second process was that, after the period of redemption had elapsed, the tenant ceased even to be a caretaker, and was evicted. Those persons who quoted the English system and found in it any analogy to the land tenure of Ireland left out altogether in the calculation the question of dual ownership, which made all the difference in the world between the two systems, One hon. and learned Gentleman on the other side of the House, and one, he was sorry to say, even on the Opposition side of the House, spoke of the act of eviction as if it were simply the taking back by the landlord of what was his own. But it was the taking of more than his own—it was the taking back that tenant right which the law said was the property of the tenant. They were told by Lord Salisbury, and by the Chief Secretary and others, that although a landlord took back by the process of eviction something in addition to that which was actually his own, yet the tenant was entitled to receive compensation for the improvements he had himself effected, which property constituted his tenant right. But those gentlemen who made that assertion were not able to prove in any largo number of instances, in five out of 100 1301 cases, that the tenants had ever received compensation. The reason why a tenant had not received that compensation was that what compensation he would have been entitled to was swallowed up by the arrears of rent, which oven the Tory Land Commission had declared to be an impossible rent. Surely there was cause, not only for inquiry in the matter, but also cause for active interference. The Chief (Secretary for Ireland approached the question, to a certain extent, with a mind already made up. He approached the question having, as he told the House to-night, on two previous occasions opposed an Arrears Bill. That was not a favourable frame of mind in which to approach a question of this kind at a time when arrears were swallowing up the compensation the tenants were entitled to, and were making the working of the Land Commission ineffectual. At such a time as this it ought to be the work of statesmen to devise legislative remedies, and not merely to trust to negative criticism, to sneers, and to vain and idle reproduction of speeches uttered seven and eight years ago. Now that brought him to the second question; there were the two questions, the question of evictions and the question of arrears. The question of arrears was at the present time, perhaps, the most prominent question before the House and the country. It had been made prominent, perhaps, by what had taken place on Lord Clanricarde's estate. He ventured to say, from what he saw recently on Lord Clanricarde's estate, that great as was the misery on that estate, due to the action of the landlord, for whom even the Chief Secretary could find no word of excuse—great as was the misery on that estate, it was no greater than the misery to be found on other estates. The tenants on that estate, when they were fighting the battle against Lord Clanricarde, were also fighting the battle for other tenants in similar circumstances in other parts of the country. It was, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford had stated, that in the case of Lord Clanricarde they had exceptional circumstances, because he derived a considerable income from other sources unconnected with the land, and in that way he was able to bring more pressure to bear in fighting the battle out with 1302 his tenants than other landlords were able to do. Lord Clanricarde's case was not, in his (Mr. Stevenson's) opinion, of so exceptional a nature, but it was typical of many estates in other parts of Ireland; and therefore what happened on Lord Clanricarde's estate would, to a great extent, have a direct bearing on the result obtained in other parts of Ireland. It was only to-day that a telegram had been sent—part of which had been read by the lion, and learned Gentleman the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy)—stating that Sir Henry Burke had given in to the demands of the tenants. In the part of the telegram which the hon. and learned Gentleman did not quote, it was stated that every landlord in that part of the country, with the exception of Lord Clanricarde and one other landlord, had now given in to the tenants. When they found instances of that kind, when they saw the straits to which tenants had been reduced, then they realized the fact that it was only the stern necessity of self-preservation that had induced the tenants to have recourse to methods which in the abstract it would be impossible to approve, but which in the concrete was the only remedy the tenants had in the absence of remedial legislation. When they came across instances of the success of the Plan of Campaign, he (Mr. Stevenson) asked was it statesmanlike on the part of Ministers to ignore the wants and wishes of the tenantry and of their Representatives altogether, and instead of giving them anything in the shape of legislative amendments and proposals, to take refuge in mere criticism, which the Chief Secretary had indulged in to-night? He had one consolation in the matter, and it was the recollection of the scene which occurred in the House of Commons not so very long ago—the scene at the commencement of 1886. The Members of the Ministry were at that time sitting in the places they occupied now, and the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) brought forward an Amendment respecting the Allotment Question in England. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) rose in his place on the Government Bench and gave a most emphatic negative answer to the demand put forward 1303 by the Hon. Member. Before the debate came to an end, however, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who was then connected, with the Local Government Board, threw over altogether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division, and said the Government were prepared, under certain conditions, and with certain qualifications, to bring in a measure dealing in a modified degree with the question. [Cries of "Question !"] He (Mr. Stevenson) earnestly trusted something of the same kind might occur again. He trusted that just as on that occasion, when the debate was being brought to a close, the right hon. Gentleman now the Chief Secretary for Ireland threw over altogether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division, so, on this occasion, they might have, before the close of the debate, an hon. Gentleman rising from the Treasury Bench and throwing overboard the Chief Secretary, saying that although the Chief Secretary had given an emphatic answer to the demands put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford, the Government had in the meantime adopted somewhat different views, and modified, to a certain extent, the opinions that were expressed by the Chief Secretary, and that it was their intention during the course of the present Session—perhaps under cover of those somewhat ambiguous words which occurred in the Queen's Speech in reference to the introduction of measures relating to peasant proprietary—to deal with the question of arrears. They might avail themselves, if they chose, of the words in the Speech to which he had alluded. They might, before the close of the debate, see the uselessness of pure negation, and they might get up and say they had a remedy of some sort or other for the evils which the tenantry on Lord Clanricarde's estate, and on other estates similarly circumstanced, were at the present time suffering. It was clearly shown by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford, with special reference to Mr. John Roche, that a system of petty tyranny and persecution had been going on. That tyranny and persecution might, of course, from one point of view, be connected with the administration of the Crimes Act rather than with the ad- 1304 ministration of the Land Act; but still what had been going on during the last few months at Woodford had been so intimately connected with the suppression of combination and with the suppression of free speech, that the instances given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford were of the greatest possible value. In the case of Mr. John Roche there were no fewer than four arrests following on each other. He (Mr. Stevenson) happened to be at Woodford on the very day Mr. John Roche was arrested the second time. Mr. Roche was just returning from Galway Gaol, where he had spent three weeks, and on his arrival at Woodford he was re-arrested for having taken part in the midnight meeting which took place at Woodford some days before Mr. Wilfrid Blunt's meeting. He (Mr. Stevenson) thought that when one looked at such facts one could not help coming to the conclusion that the officers of the Constabulary were most indignant that they had been baffled in regard to the midnight meeting, and that the re-arrest of Mr. John Roche was due, not so much to a desire to maintain law and order, as to a desire on the part of the authorities to avenge themselves for the way in which they had been baffled. The agitation upon the estate of Lord Clanricarde was an agitation which could not possibly be put an end to by the mere administration of the Crimes Act. The present state of things was such as to call for urgent remedy, and for stringent legislation, and not for mere negative and barren criticism. He earnestly trusted that before the close of the debate some Member of the Government, say, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), whose re-entry into the Cabinet they all rejoiced at, because, judging from his recent utterances, they expected to see a new departure in the direction of more humane legislation respecting Ireland—he earnestly hoped that from some Member of the Government they might hear some word of hope that might lead them to believe that the policy of exasperation and provocation which was now being carried out in Ireland would come to a speedy termination.
§ MR. T. P. GILL (Louth, S.)
said, he thought the House ought to be thankful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member 1305 for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) for having put the situation so clearly before them. There was one fact, however, to which he did not think sufficient importance had been attached. It was the fact that in the Return which had been presented this week, there appeared a figure which was little short of appalling—that was the figure of 3,352 notices of eviction which had been filed during the four months ending December 31 last. Now that figure represented 3,300 heads of families, tenants in Ireland, who had been evicted in the sight of the law at a moment's notice, and whose property in the land which had been confirmed to them under the Land Act of 1881 was destroyed, by the very fact of an eviction notice having been served upon them. The Land Act of 1881 created the Irish tenant part proprietor in the soil with the landlord, and that property of the tenants had been confiscated by one stroke of the pen in 3,352 cases by the eviction notices which the land legislation of the present Government had established as one of the processes of the law in Ireland. This was the beginning of a very serious agrarian crisis in Ireland, which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland would have to face, and face immediately. The right hon. Gentleman would have to decide what he was going to do in the 3,300 cases, and in other cases which, no doubt, had occurred since December. He would have to decide whether he was giong, as he appeared to be going in the case of Lord Clanricarde, to lend the landlords the aid of the forces of the Crown to carry on a war of wholesale extermination in Ireland, or he would have to decide whether he was going to stay that calamity by legislation in that House. If he did not introduce legislation, was he going to champion the Plan of Campaign, for that was the only remedy which the people would have in the present state of affairs? In these cases eviction was rendered a very simple process, and a very cheap process, for the landlord. The landlord had no longer to wait until the Sheriff was ready to attend him, nor was he to pay the fees of the Sheriff, nor to undertake any of that great expenditure which, under the old system, attended the process of eviction. When he had served his notice on the tenants, all he had to 1306 do was to apply six weeks afterwards to the Petty Sessions for an ordinary summons for trespass, and he could at any moment subsequently have the people cleared off the land as trespassers. This was the great question of the immediate future which the Government would have to make up their minds about one way or the other in the course of the present Session. He was very glad that in his somewhat rancorous speech the Chief Secretary for Ireland had dwelt upon the condition of affairs upon the Wood-ford property, and had referred to the midnight meeting on the 16th of October. He (Mr. Gill) was one of those who was present at that midnight meeting, and he desired to say a few words with the view of helping the House to arrive at the truth respecting that meeting. Now, the midnight meeting was held for the distinct and express purpose of allaying the terrible feeling of irritation which was being worked up in the district by Lord Clanricarde and his agent, and his Emergency men, and the police whom the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland seemed to have lent to his Lordship, as if they were his servants. The case of Mr. Joyce, the previous agent of Lord Clanricarde, was a notorious one, the particulars of which had been faithfully detailed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre). But the public seemed, as yet, to have but little information as to the manner in which Mr. Joyce's successor had fulfilled his duties upon the Woodford estate. Mr. Joyce's successor was Mr. Tener, and he entered upon his post for the purpose of doing, and was employed for the purpose of doing, the work for Lord Clanricarde which Mr. Joyce refused to do, and which had been described by Lord Clanricarde's own counsel in the Court in Dublin as "this Devil's work." Such was the phrase used by Mr. Atkinson, the counsel who defended Lord Clanricarde in the libel action which his Lordship lost. Mr. Tener was now, and had been previous to the midnight meeting, actively engaged in doing "this Devil's work," and a portion of "this Devil's work" had been sketched to the House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre). In several hundred cases ejectment processes and eviction notices had been served upon 1307 the tenants. The whole estate now remained in a condition awaiting eviction—probably awaiting the decision of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland as to whether he would lend the forces of the Crown to Lord Clanricarde for purposes for which they were refused by the right hon. Gentleman his Predecessor in Office (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach). Lord Clanricarde's tenants had been put under notices of eviction. In addition to that they were being harassed by the Coercion Act, which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland appeared to have lent to or to have made a present of to Lord Clanricarde as an appanage to his machinery in his campaign against the tenants. The case of Mr. Roche had been alluded to this evening as a sample of the manner in which the tenants of Lord Clanricarde were being harassed. But the right hon. Gentleman, for the purpose of showing that Mr. Roche was a very bad character, quoted a speech Mr. Roche was alleged to have made. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Eye Division of Suffolk (Mr. F. S. Stevenson) had just said that if Mr. Roche were in the House he would very likely have indignantly denied the words attributed to him. He (Mr. Gill) noticed that when that was said the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) cried "Hear, hear !" he perfectly understood the meaning of that "Hear, hear !" It meant that in the hon. Gentleman's opinion every Member of Parliament on the Irish Benches and every Nationalist advocate was quite ready to deny an inconvenient speech whenever it was attributed to him. That was what the hon. Gentleman's cry amounted to. But he asserted that if the prosecutions against Members of the House and against public speakers in Ireland during the last few months were gone into it would be found that the notes taken of their speeches by common policemen and held to be sufficient evidence for their conviction were of the most grotesque character. It was from such notes that the quotation made by the right hon. Gentleman as to what was said by the tenants on the Clanricarde estate was taken; for it was not asserted that any regular stenographer was present at the meetings. It was upon such notes that hon. Members of 1308 the House of Commons were convicted. Mr. Roche, so far from being the desperate character he had been pictured, was one of the most respectable men in the whole of the county of Galway. He (Mr. Gill) was happy to have his acquaintance, and knew him to be the kind of man he had described. He certainly was one of the leading spirits among the tenantry on the Woodford estate. He (Mr. Gill) would probably be told by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, or by somebody else on behalf of the Government, that Mr. Roche was not a tenant of Lord Clanricarde. No; he was not, but he was a tenant of the landlord whose surrender to the Plan of Campaign was reported to the House to-night. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford very properly said that Lord Clanricarde was not the only landlord in that locality who was, as he expressed it, in a conspiracy to disturb this part of the country. There were others there who were in a league—so much worse, unfortunately, for the tenants—because those men, neighbours of Lord Clanricarde, sheltered themselves under Lord Clanricarde's powerful shield, and were encouraged to make war upon the tenants by reason of his co-operation and his great wealth. The case of Mr. Roche had been described. It had been shown how he had been positively persecuted by prosecution after prosecution, how he was summoned for trespass when he dared to show English visitors over evicted farms, and how, finally, he was prosecuted for taking part in a meeting to welcome home from gaol one of the tenants on the estate who had been sent to prison under the Coercion Act. For the latter offence he was now undergoing the terrible sentence of three months' imprisonment. But Mr. Roche's case was only one of the cases on this estate in which the Coercion Act had been used for the purposes of harassing and persecuting the active spirits among the tenants, to whose public spirit and courage and ability the tenants owed their sole protection against this powerful landlord. Mr. Boland, another respectable man in the district, a Poor Law Guardian, had been sentenced to a similar term of imprisonment as Mr. Roche, and had also served other terms of imprisonment for similar kinds of offences, and so had 1309 numerous other tenants on the estate. But the prosecution of these men under the Coercion Act was not the only moans of exciting the district and of inflicting punishment and oppression upon the tenantry. Mr. Tener, the new agent of Lord Clanricarde, had established himself in Portumna Castle like some baron of the middle ages. He had surrounded himself with police and Emergency men, and he constantly sallied forth at midnight with a band of these Emergency men and an escort of the right hon. Gentleman's police to make raids on the cattle of the tenants. His doings reminded one of mediæval barbarism. Mr. Toner sallied forth when the people were asleep and swept the cattle into Lord Clanricarde's domain instead of into the public pound. Once they got into the domain the owners were not permitted to view them; they were not permitted to see whether they were properly cared for, or whether any loss might have been incurred through neglect or through any other cause whatever. He (Mr. Gill) was in Portumna one morning after one of these raids had been made, and he saw a number of the tenants outside the gates of Portumna Castle begging to be admitted. A policeman was there acting as porter at the gate, opening and shutting the gate, letting in and out the Emergency men, and allowing no one else to cross the threshold; a splendid occupation for the police and the guardians of law and order. In the town of Loughrea the traders had had for a long time to carry on their business with their shops shut in order to escape the seizures that were being made by Emergency men and police, who were in the habit of rushing into shops and making whatever seizures they could. Now, such a state of things ought to be enough to drive the most peaceable district in the world into turmoil. Mr. Tener rode about the country on a high tax cart, and announced publicly that he had in the bank £20,000 as a sort of war fund to enable him to carry on the campaign against the tenantry. Mr. Tener began his career as agent to Lord Clanricarde by levelling some of the evicted houses to the ground, and he had said that it was his intention to level every house of every tenant who was evicted. Such were the scenes that were enacted previous to the midnight meeting. These 1310 midnight sallies; these attacks on the traders in Loughrea and Portumna; these announcements of Mr. Tener, were being made, and the patience of the people was becoming strained to a most painful and dangerous state of tension, and in such a state of things it was resolved to hold a mooting. It was announced to hold a meeting in Wood-ford, the real object of which was to allay this rising feeling of impatience on the part of the people, and to encourage them to have hope in the attitude of peacefulness which they had been able to maintain up to then. The right hon. Gentleman had drawn a very horrible picture of the state of this estate some years ago. He had cited the murders that were committed, the outrages that were committed, the murder of the agent, the predecessor of Mr. Joyce; he had cited the murder of Finlay, the bailiff. If he were to set out to justify and to preach the success and beneficence of the Plan of Campaign in this district, he could not begin with a better homily than that the right hon. Gentleman had given. That certainly was the state of the district until the Plan of Campaign was inaugurated there; until the people saw some real method by which they would be enabled to stand out against the exactions of the landlords, and to protect themselves against them, other than those wild and violent and criminal methods that they had in their distraction been in the habit of resorting to previously. From the date of the inauguration of the Plan of Campaign up to this hour he defied hon. Gentlemen to name a crime that had been committed in the district of Woodford in connection with the Clanricarde estate. That was the challenge he threw down, and he hoped the Government would make some attempt to answer it. There had been no crime and no outrage in all this blood-stained district, as it was before this Plan of Campaign was inaugurated,—there had been no crime or outrage since the Plan of Campaign was adopted. Now, that blessed peace which the Plan of Campaign had inaugurated in the midst of this disturbed district and which had proceeded to October last was beginning to be threatened by reason of the conduct of Lord Clanricarde and his Emergency men, who went swaggering about in the most insolent man- 1311 ner after the verdict at Coolgreaney, when it was established beyond doubt that an Emergency man in Ireland was perfectly free to murder a tenant if he pleased, and that the Government had not only the power but the will to save him from justice. These Emergency men went prowling around exhibiting the coolest impudence with impunity begotten of the fact of that verdict. This blessed peace was threatened, and in order to maintain it and avert the danger that seemed gathering this meeting of Sunday, 16th October, was announced to be held. Originally it was announced that it would take place in the day-time—in the ordinary time that public meetings were held in Ireland. Why, then, was it held at midnight? Because those who were promoting it felt pretty certain that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would proclaim it. The right hon. Gentleman did proclaim it, but its organizers had taken the precaution to hold it at midnight to prevent the bloodshed which seemed to him (Mr. Gill) and to everybody who knew the facts of the case to have been planned for that day. They had had the Mitchelstown affair only a few weeks previous, and Woodford was to have been another Mitchelstown. The proclamation of the meeting was not issued until the very day before—until the advertisement and placards announcing the gathering had been published a week or more. The people dwelt on a vastly scattered estate throughout which it took some days to spread news properly; they had been called together for the Sunday, and only on the Saturday morning or the day previous was the proclamation posted up in Woodford. Why, he (Mr. Gill) and his friends, who were going down to the meeting did not know that it was proclaimed, and began, to think that after all it would not be proclaimed, until they saw the proclamation, not in the Nationalist papers of that day, but in The Dublin Daily Express. Guessing that such a proclamation would be issued, however, the promoters of the meeting had taken precautions accordingly, and had resolved to hold it at midnight. The Government had then massed at Portumna and Loughrea and had set in motion from Galway an immense number of police, who, if they had 1312 arrived and found the meeting going on, certainly would have done as they did at Mitchelstown, and there would have been another bloody day to record to the credit of the Government. But as the meeting was held in the absence of the police—or in the presence of only half-a-dozen—it was perfectly peaceful and orderly, though it was held at the unearthly hour of midnight. Not a hair of the heads of the half-dozen police was hurt, although these men were practically at the mercy of the meeting. That was a true story of the midnight meeting. Well, that meeting was used by the Government to discredit the meeting that Mr. Blunt held on the following Sunday. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had stated to-night that one of the circumstances that rendered Mr. Blunt's meeting a different thing to that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford was the fact that evictions were going on at the time. But when were the evictions commenced? Immediately after the midnight meeting, and as Lord Clanricarde's reply to that midnight meeting. They were commenced after the meeting had taken place and after Mr. Blunt had gone back to Dublin. It was because the evictions were commenced and because he saw, as everyone saw, the vindictive character of the evictions that Mr. Blunt resolved to go back and hold his meeting on the Sunday. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had prosecuted for that meeting a number of the tenants of Lord Olanricarde—prosecuted them for merely standing in the crowd at the meeting. He (Mr. Gill) wanted to know why it was that the right hon. Gentleman had left the speakers at that meeting alone? He (Mr. Gill) was one of them, but he had not been prosecuted, and yet the poor tenants, whose only fault was struggling to defend themselves against a powerful landlord, had been prosecuted and punished over and over again. He could imagine one reason why he had not been prosecuted and why others of the speakers at the meeting had not been prosecuted, and that was because amongst the speakers was the hon. Member for East Finsbury (Mr. J. Rowlands) whom it also would have been necessary to prosecute, and whom it would have been necessary to arrest here in London amongst his own 1313 constituents, which would not have been a very pleasant undertaking for the Government. There were also other English Radicals at the meeting who delivered speeches and would have been equally liable to prosecution if any one had been prosecuted. It was a most unfair and unjust and rather miserable proceeding to attack the people who stood in the body of the meeting' and to prosecute them while the speakers were allowed to go scot-free. He denied entirely and indignantly that there was any criminality in the matter or any purpose save to encourage the tenants to keep the peace, but if there was anything irregular those who spoke at the meeting certainly were guilty in a far greater degree than the men who merely stood in the crowd. That was all he had to say about the midnight meeting. He had mentioned that the real crux of this crisis would have to be faced when these 3,300 eviction notices came to be carried into effect—when the landlords came to get these 3,300 tenants which they had transformed into trespassers thrust off their estates. The magnitude of the figure he mentioned should be understood by the House. The average total of evictions for three months in Ireland had been 1,000, but in three months under the existing Act 3,000 eviction notices had been served. Over 3,000 men had been deprived of their tenant right, and over 3,000 caretakers were all at the mercy of the landlords to be put out whenever the landlords chose. On Lord Clanricarde's estate a most singular thing was to be witnessed, and that was these bundles of eviction notices which were nailed up at every police barrack, and which were to be seen as one passed through the district—bundles of death warrants dangling in the winter air. They had heard of oppression in Bulgaria by Turkish Pashas, but for his part he did not think any country could present a worse picture of miserable oppression and of a hopeless sense of ruin and devastation than that presented in the district of Loughrea at the present time. Whether or not the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was going to help Lord Clanricarde to carry out the ruin he had threatened, was a question he hoped the Government would give a frank answer to to-night. He hoped the right hon. Baronet the new President 1314 of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) would say something in this debate, and would give them some answer on behalf of the Government as to the prospects of the Clanricarde estate. The right hon. Gentleman, when he had to deal with Lord Clanricarde, certainly did his very best to prevent him evicting his tenants, and he certainly exhibited the strongest reluctance—to put it in no more forcible language—to lending the forces of the Crown in support of this nobleman. Would the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary do likewise? The right hon. Gentleman had not had a word to say in defence of Lord Clanricarde to-night. The right hon. Gentleman might say "Well, I said nothing against him." But he would challenge the right hon. Gentleman to get up and defend the noble Lord's action. The Lord Chief Baron of the Court of Exchequer in Ireland had condemned Lord Clauricarde's action in his Court during the hearing of the libel action, in language quite as strong, if not stronger, than that used by any of the Nationalist Members. Not even The Times had a word to say for Lord Clanricarde, whose conduct they described as incredibly base. Would the right hon. Gentleman lend the forces of the Crown to Lord Clanricarde to enable him to carry out what his own counsel had described as his "devil's work?" Would the right hon. Gentleman lend the forces of the Crown to precipitate conduct which The Times had characterized by so strong a phrase—would the right hon. Gentleman do that in face of the great crisis that was impending when these 3,000 and more eviction notices came to fruition; or would he—recognizing the crisis—give some guarrantee or hold out some hope that the Government would meet this difficulty both of arrears and of eviction by legislation.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN) (Dublin University)
The hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), at the commencement of his address to the House, complained that the debate had somewhat drifted away from the question of arrears and the propriety of dealing with it by further legislation; but I presume that his complaint was rather directed against the right hon. Gentleman the Member for 1315 Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) than it was directed against us. Because, although the right hon. Gentleman had most carefully narrowed his Amendment so as to deal with the question of arrears only, yet almost the entirety of his speech was occupied with quite another topic. I will not follow his example in that respect, but I will invite the attention of the House to this question of arrears, and I will do so very briefly. We have been asked by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford what is the alternative to the Plan of Campaign. That is a perfectly fair question to put, and it is a question that demands a plain answer. The alternative to the Plan of Campaign, in my humble judgment, is this—the enactment by the Legislature of fair, just, and equal laws, as it has done; and a fair and temperate enforcement of those laws. What, Sir, lot me remind the House, is the position of the Irish tenantry at this moment? The hon. and learned Member for North Longford has asked whether such a state of things as that which now exists should be allowed, when one man can desolate a country. How can one man desolate a country? By the 20th section of the Act of last year any tenant against whom there is a process of eviction for nonpayment of arrears of rent can prevent the country being desolated so far as he is concerned. The tenant has the opportunity of going into Court, and if he can satisfy the Court that the non-payment is outside his own fault, he can obtain stay of process, and yet, in the face of that, we are told that it lies in the power of one man to desolate a country. The Legislature has taken very good care already that no such power shall be in the hands of any one man. This question of arrears has been during this debate mixed up with the question of the management of one single estate. Lord Clanricarde has been hold up by the hon. and learned Member as a typical landlord, and Lord Clanricarde's estate as a typical estate; but I do not think that any fair-minded Member of the House, no one who has followed events, or who 13 acquainted with recent affairs, will be disposed to acquiesce in the statement that Lord Clanricarde is a typical Irish landlord. Any man who is acquainted with recent trials will most assuredly not accept 1316 the statement that Lord Clanricarde is a typical Irish landlord. In proof of this, I need not go beyond the fact stated to the House that his able counsel, in the action for libel brought against him by his former agent, used in reference to his own client the exceptional language which has been referred to. I would desire to point out what has already been done by the Legislature with regard to leaseholders and arrears. The hon. and learned Member for Longford has advised the Irish tenantry to look for their protection, not to the law, but to a policy of resistance, which he describes as their only hope. I cannot hope that my words will reach the ears of my fellow countrymen, as the words of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford will; if I could I would implore them to avoid those evil and perilous courses that have desolated so many Irish homes, and delivered so many of my fellow couutrymen to a punishment which is none the less lamentable because it is just and inevitable. With reference to the present position of Irish tenants, the Act of last year placed the Irish leaseholders almost on an equality with those tenants who held under the fair rent provisions of the Act of 1881. As to the tenants who have kept wholly outside the Court which is established for the fixing of fair rents, they have done so because their rents are about the average of the rents that are being fixed by the tribunal on adjoining estates. When it is said that the Government refuse to legislate on the question of arrears, I ask—has the history of last year been forgotten? It is forgotten that the Government Bill in its original form contained a proposal for relieving the heavily-weighted tenants of Ireland, not only from arrears of rent, but from their debts generally. Is it forgotten that the Chief Secretary said that the Government had no particular affection for the term bankruptcy, or for the particular clauses embodied in the Bill, and that they were ready to accept more simple machinery and more direct procedure? The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), however, as the Chief Secretary said, put his foot down and insisted that relief should be given only in respect of one form of indebtedness. The Government last Session invited any hon. Member who was anxious to bring forward 1317 any proposal with regard to arrears generally to do so, and promised to give any such Amendment favourable consideration. But it was pressed by hon. Members opposite, and pressed most strongly, that relief should be given against one particular form of indebtedness, and one particular form of indebtedness only, and that was against arrears of rent. That is a principle that is rather novel in the application of the law, and the more so as lawyers had been rather accustomed to the exceptional position of landlords in regard to the recovery of rent. It is naturally asked why that particular form of indebtedness should be treated exceptionally. The arrears that are to be dealt with in the case of judicial tenants embrace arrears which have been declared by proper tribunals to be fair rents; and how can it be contended that debts so incurred should be treated as less obligatory than other debts incurred under contracts with tradesmen and money lenders? If there is no provision under the Act of 1887 for the relief of the tenant from his indebtedness, including these arrears of rent, the fault rests with those who deliberately resisted the suggestion of the Chief Secretary. The Government threw out the most clear suggestion that they were willing to give the most favourable consideration to any general scheme of relief to the Irish tenant from his load of indebtedness. Although the Act of last year did not allow any abatement to be made on arrears, yet it contained provisions the substance of which were that, when under notice of ejectment proceedings were pending which would result in eviction or in the sale of the holding under a writ of fi. fa., a tenant might apply to the Court, and, if he could satisfy the Court that he was unable to pay, he might obtain not only a stay of proceedings, but, in respect of arrears of rent, relief by spreading their payment by instalment over any number of years. It is said that protection is not given against seizures of stock under a writ of fi. fa. But the object of the Act is to protect the tenant in his holding. By the process referred to any of the other creditors besides the landlord can take his stock and implements. The object is to give him reasonable protection in his holding where he can show that his non-payment of rent is duo to no fault of his own; and the most substantial 1318 protection, is afforded him. If few applications have been made for protection, does not that show that tenants are deterred from going to the Court by the belief that they cannot satisfy the Court that non-payment is not due to their own fault? It is said that the rights of tenants are destroyed by the eviction notice, under Section 7. But a period of six weeks is given to the tenant, in addition to the six months for redemption, and that is a clear gain to the tenant. I again repudiate the suggestion that the landlord of the estate that has been so often referred to is a typical Irish landlord; but I contend that even on that estate the protection given by legislation, and especially by the Act of last year, has been most substantial and most beneficial to the tenants.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling, &c.)
the House and the Government find themselves to-night face to face with two distinct groups of facts. The first relate to the condition of Ireland as it has been exposed to them by the right hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre). The second, brought before them by the Amendment, show that the great question of arrears was practically untouched by the legislation of last year, and that arrears still remain a heavy burden upon. The tenants of Ireland, and a source of constant mischief and disturbance. I am not going to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) or my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Bradford into the whole history of the Clanricarde estate. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was a brilliant and eloquent speech; but it seemed to me to be marred by something that was in it and by the absence of something that was not in it. There was the inevitable reference to Lord Spencer; there were the invariable tu quoques and long quotations of violent things said by Nationalists in Ireland. But I would really appeal to the Government whether they expect by personal recriminations and quotations from stale speeches to advance then policy or to commend it to the judgment of the House? But the House must have noticed two remarkable omissions in the speech. The right hon. Gentleman did not attempt to explain any part of the conduct 1319 of the Executive Government in Ireland in the administration of the law, though the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford mentioned case after case in which explanation is obviously required. I think it is a very unfortunate thing that there should be a suspicion of anything unfair and underhand in the dealings of the Government. Granting everything the right hon. Gentleman said as to the cause of the mischief in Ireland, we are obliged to inquire into the particulars of the methods in which he deals with that mischief. No doubt the Government can produce some technical plea and defence for the steps they have taken. They are surrounded by ingenious lawyers. The Irish Government is, in my opinion, too much in the hands of lawyers; and these ingenious lawyers will be able to furnish, in their triumphant way, some excuse for everything they have done. But I tell the Government that no technical plea will satisfy the opinion of this country or even of this House; and I doubt whether it will satisfy the conscience of the Government themselves. What is the business the Government are about? They are endeavouring to oppose to the best of their power those who seek to alter the system of government in Ireland. They wish to commend the present system of government in Ireland. They wish to reconcile the Irish people to the law; and, therefore, the first thing they ought to do in their administration of justice is to avoid anything like the appearance of partiality or strategy. They should be transparently impartial. They should try to disabuse the public mind in Ireland of the idea, which now possesses it, that the law and the whole administration of justice are worked as a political engine, at the bidding and for the purposes of the Executive. It is their business not only to do right, but to seem to do right. It is thus peculiarly necessary that such cases as have been mentioned to-night should be explained. My right hon. Friend the Member for Central Bradford has quoted several transactions in regard to these Woodford and Loughrea occurrences, and he asked for explanations; but the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland did not think it worth while to give any explanation. I should have thought that these were matters worthy of the 1320 attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. The second omission in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was very remarkable. We do not want to know the past history of that estate nearly so much as what the Government are going to do in regard to it. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary went back into its past history. He quoted old speeches, and he denounced old crimes. We are all as ready as he is to denounce crime; but let me point out that though those crimes took place before the recent depression in agriculture, they did not take place before the causes of which we complain existed. There was then, as there is now, an absentee landlord conducting his property for selfish purposes. And what is the difference now? There are no such crimes now in the Loughrea district. Instead of those crimes we have open combination, which you may call illegal if you like, but which has the great advantage of being open. We were all amazed to hear the hon. and learned Attorney General for England (Sir Richard Webster) claiming for the Government as one of the merits of their policy that they would drive the conspiracy underground. Are the Government going to join in the new Campaign of evictions? Are they going to steel their hearts against the grievances of the tenants and use the forces of the Crown for the purpose, not of exterminating—I will not say that—but reducing largely the number of the peasantry in that district, reducing to ruin the country side, and that on the estate of a man for whom the Government have not a word to say? But now as to the second group of facts to which I have referred. The Amendment directs the attention of Parliament to the question of arrears. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said little or nothing as to that, and his silence means, I presume, that he is content to leave the question as it was left by the legislation of last year. Therefore it becomes necessary to inquire how it was left by the legislation of last year. Now, I cannot deny that on this side of the House we have a strong motive for raising that question. We can recall with perfect complacency all the criticisms and predictions in which we indulged last Session on the Bill then before the 1321 House. There is hardly one of them that has not been amply justified by events. I do not believe that the most confident and most ardent admirer of Her Majesty's Government can look back with pride and satisfaction on that measure. We all remember its fantastic course; during which provisions were introduced at one stage only to be dropped at another, and then inserted again. Then lofty doctrines were pompously proclaimed, only to be summarily abandoned, and the Bill was cut about and altered with no pretence of altered convictions on the part of its authors, but merely in obedience to the temporary political necessities of their situation. I was amazed at the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General quoting as something to be proud of the Bankruptcy Clauses of the Bill. Why, they were abandoned amid almost universal ridicule. Then the Government was forced, not by their own conviction of what was right, still less by the arguments of Irish Members, but by the pressure of the Party in the House to which they owe their existence, to concede the revision of judicial rents; but they succeeded in mutilating that concession by two qualifications. In the first place, they prescribed that the alteration of rent should be exactly governed by the difference in prices in recent years; and, in the second place, they withheld from the Land Commissioners and the Courts of Law any power to modify the amount due as arrears of rent. These were both of them serious, and even fatal, blemishes in the scheme, if it was intended to be a satisfactory settlement; but it is with the second only that we are now dealing. The House will recollect that, in what were called the equitable provisions of the Act, the Government themselves practically admitted the necessity of affording some relief with regard to arrears; but they confined this relief to affording in some cases longer time for payment. No power was given to the Land Commission to touch them, but, in the case of the smaller class of tenants, the Court before which proceedings for eviction may be pending, received power to stay execution and order the arrears and costs to be paid by instalments. But no discretion was given as to the whole amount. The Government proceeded on the extraordinary idea—I would even say the 1322 grotesque idea—that while the annual rent might be exorbitant, and might therefore demand modification, yet if two or three years' rent were due, and thus became, as it were, consolidated into a sum of arrears, the sum thereby lost its exorbitant quality, it ceased in fact to be rent, and became a mere ordinary debt, of exactly the same nature as a debt due to a tradesman or shopkeeper. Our contention on the other hand is that rent is rent, whether it be due for one year or for half a dozen; and that if the yearly rent is excessive, the multiple of it which we call arrears, and the fraction of it which we call an instalment, are equally, in their proper proportion, excessive. As a matter of fact, the advantage to the tenant from the provision in the Act of last year with regard to arrears has proved utterly and entirely useless. As the House will observe, the tenant must be insolvent before the Court can deal with him at all. This insolvent tenant is expected to pay his rent and at the same time to pay in punctual instalments the accumulations of the very same rent which has caused him to be insolvent; and if at any time he fails in the punctual payment of those instalments he is at once ousted from his tenancy. It so happens that we are not left to conjecture with regard to the working of this provision, because I find that the Judges themselves have informed us of their opinions. The County Court Judge for County Carlow, on the 10th of January, stated that the County Court Judges had been considering this question, and had come to the conclusion that if a man was in a hopeless state of insolvency it was useless to give him time. But it was for these very insolvent tenants that the provision was passed. Another Judge, the County Court Judge for County Waterford, went at considerable length into the case of one claimant. He said—I would be doing the man no service whatever by making an order that the arrears should be spread over the half yearly payments. His rent is too much already; he is not able to pay it, and if I put an instalment of £4 on it in addition, will that help him? Of course it won't, and the moment he fails to pay any instalment he ceases to be a tenant. It is the next best thing to getting rid of tenants that could possibly be conceived. It is like putting a stone round a man's neck in order to make him more buoyant. If he fails to comply with the order of the Court the stay upon the 1323 execution of the ejectment will be removed, and although he may have paid nine instalments, if he fails to meet the tenth he ceases to be a tenant, and may be put out of possession, and in six months his right of redemption will be exhausted.I think, therefore, the House will conclude that an arrangement of that sort is not worth much. It is impossible to see with what consistency or logical force the Government can maintain a condition of things such as now exists, while at the same time they have themselves admitted that the judicial rents ought to be revised. Now, I have said that if rents fall into arrears, the arrears may naturally be presumed to be excessive in the same degree as the proportion of the rent. But the case is even stronger, because I am not sure by any means that the precise proportion in which rents are excessive forms an accurate standard by which to gauge the injustice of arrears. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary put aside the case of Scotland and the Crofters' Commission; but though there is some force in what he said, that the dealing with arrears was, so to speak, the first clearing of the ground preliminary to the fixing of new rents, yet the facts which have been disclosed by the Crofters' Commission are very difficult facts indeed to get over. The general result of the Crofters' Commission down to the end of last year is that, while they have reduced rents by nearly 31 per cent, they have cancelled arrears to the extent of 61 per cent. And since the Report which was issued to-day was drawn up—that is to say, since the beginning of this year—the Commission have completed the settlement of a particular estate in Caithness, the estate of Clyth, the figures of which are so remarkable that I will quote them to the House. The rents were reduced by 50 percent, while the arrears were reduced by no less than 79 per cent; that is to say, the arrears were £1,891, of which £1,495 were wiped out altogether. I do not say that the case is exactly on all-fours with the situation in Ireland, but it intensifies the argument in favour of treating arrears and rents with some similarity of method. Now, the facts with regard to arrears in Ireland to which the Government have persistently shut their eyes during last year have been brought before us in a forcible way to-night. It seems to me to be 1324 abundantly clear to anyone who looks with any care into the matter that these arrears really lie at the root, if not of all certainly of a large part, of the agrarian disturbance now existing in Ireland. Arrears he at the root of the Plan of Campaign, for the frustration of which the Government have invoked, and to a large extent in vain, all the powers of their Coercion Act. Arrears are the cause of that shower of notices, 3,352 in number, by which many a tenant has found himself silently and unwittingly transformed into a caretaker, and deprived of his status and rights. And if arrears form the larger part of the dispute as to agrarian affairs in Ireland, I would put it to the Government whether they would not think it better even at this late hour to acknowledge the necessity of applying some legislative mitigation to the cause of all this mischief? The Government have consented to revise the rents of which the arrears are composed. The Land Commissioners have revised and greatly reduced rents, and yet the Government regard those rents as sacred and inviolable the moment they are crystallized into the form of arrears. Let the House consider what the result of a large and generous dealing with arrears would be. The Government have been engaged for some months in proceedings for which they may think they can produce some justification, but which we condemn as cruel and tyrannical. The circumstances which, in the estimation of the right hon. Gentleman, have called for these proceedings would not exist if this question of arrears was dealt with. Unquestionably there would have been no Mitchelstown, no Woodford, no meetings out of which disorder could be manufactured, and few, if any, cases of the arrest or imprisonment of hon. Members of this House. There certainly would have been no case of Mr. Blunt. Having made the great concession of last year, will not the Government, for the sake of peace and order and the pacification of Ireland, extend that concession to the rents due for past years in addition to the rents already dealt with? Right hon. Gentlemen will say that they are engaged in vindicating the authority of the law. On a broad view of the case, I allege that what they have been doing has tended to discredit the law and seriously to injure its authority. But 1325 if they mean that in a technical sense it is their duty to furnish protection to the officers engaged in carrying out evictions, then they are themselves directly responsible for the scenes of disorder which ensue, because though they themselves recognized in the Statute of last year that the rents which compose those arrears were unfair, yet they are content to use the power of the Executive for the purpose of enforcing them. Therefore it is that in the name familiar to hon. Gentlemen opposite—in the name of law and order, as well as on the ground of reason and justice, that I would urge the Government to deal immediately and generously with the question of arrears, and it is on that account that I give my cordial support to the Amendment.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) (Middlesex, Baling)
Before I answer certain observations of the right hon. Gentleman, I should like to place, as clearly as I can, in two or three sentences what is the legislative position which the House occupies towards Ireland in respect to the Land Question. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side have said that the one thing which is required to restore peace and order is some settlement of the question of arrears. Now, for the last seven years the time of this House has been continually occupied by the Irish Land Question; and what has been done during that time? I ask the question because no Member on the opposite side has taken full cognizance of the various Acts which have been passed. In 1881 we passed an Act which, according to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), was to be a final Act, in which the power was taken from landlords of regulating their own rents. Within a year of that Act, a further Act was passed which dealt with all questions of arrears in all tenancies in Ireland under £30. And we had a further Act which dealt with the case of tenants whose rents had been fixed, but who, in consequence of the fall in prices, might find a difficulty in paying those rents; and we associated with that Act certain powers which gave the County Courts authority to deal with and spread over a number of years the arrears of tenants who might be unable to pay. Such being the 1326 position which the tenant occupies in Ireland—a position immeasurably superior to that of the occupier of land in any other country—why should we be asked to postpone useful legislation for Great Britain in order to pass fresh land laws for the benefit of Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman asked why the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) should indulge in personal recrimination. But what did the right hon. Gentleman term personal recrimination? He described by those words simple quotations from the speeches delivered by right hon. Gentlemen opposite when in Office. I know that right hon. Gentlemen admit that nothing which they have said in the past is worthy of credence, and that they do not hold themselves responsible for anything which they may have said or done in former years. But that is a dangerous argument to use, because if right hon. Gentlemen think so badly of their past words and actions, should we be wrong in thinking equally badly of their present utterances and deeds? The right hon. Gentleman found fault with the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for not noticing a number of specific cases of alleged harsh treatment under the Crimes Act which were brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre). I listened with great pleasure to the speech of the right hon. Member, and I will now tell him something which he does not seem to have borne in mind. England, in past times, conquered Ireland, and, to put the matter coarsely, now holds Ireland in subjection by physical force. Now, Ireland being unable to take a complete revenge, individual Irishmen take their revenge in a very wicked way upon individual Englishmen. The natives of Ireland enjoy nothing so much as befooling a gullible Saxon. With intuitive perception the peasants, especially in the South, find out what it is that an Englishman wishes them to say and what he wishes them to leave unsaid, and they take their cue accordingly. I think that the right hon. Gentleman has been thoroughly gulled, In the past, this plan of individual revenge by Irishmen did little harm; but now it is otherwise, for it seems to be necessary that every Member of the Radical Party 1327 who wishes to qualify for Office should mate a tour in Ireland, and publish to the world the extent to which he has been misled. When I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford recount the story of the man who was sentenced to a month's imprisonment with hard labour for intimidating his mother into resisting the law—
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
For inciting his mother to resist the law. I maintain that the case is a true one.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
Of course, the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the case is a true one, or he would not have put it before the House.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
I have no personal knowledge of the matter. I will answer the question by saying that I believe the statement to be every bit as true as the statement made the other night by the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), who described how there had been an elaborate system of voting in a certain suppressed branch of the National League, and how the votes were far too evenly divided for Irishmen ever to have taken part in such proceedings. It appears to me that whenever a right hon. Gentleman goes away for the purpose of collecting materials for a case against his opponents he lends a too willing ear to any nonsense that is told him. But to leave the right hon. Gentleman and to come to the question which is under discussion. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in his speech made perfectly clear what is the nature of the conflict between Lord Clanricarde and his tenants. My right hon. Friend made it evident that, however much we may deplore the differences between Lord Clanricarde and his tenantry, Lord Clanricarde is not the main sinner. A series of gross and barbarous atrocities were committed in the neighbourhood of Woodford and Loughrea. They were committed before agricultural prices began to fall, and they were directed against what is known as the landed interest, and those who thus provoked the conflict are to a large extent responsible for the consequences which we now have to face. If Lord Clanricarde has retaliated, I think it may be 1328 fairly said that the Plan of Campaign, which has been denounced by Judges of the highest authority in Ireland as illegal, has found in him a very tough customer when fighting with legal weapons, and we are not disposed to do anything which will interfere with the operation of the law. When we are asked to deal, as we have been by hon. Gentlemen opposite, with this question of arrears, I am bound to say that there is upon the Irish Land Question a difference which has grown and developed itself during the past two years between the two Front Benches in this House. Only last week we listened to an eloquent speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, in which, while alluding to the Plan of Campaign, he said nothing whatever in condemnation of it, and in reviewing the proceedings of the National League he likewise uttered no condemnation of their past action. Now, Sir, what is the real difficulty in dealing with this question of arrears in Ireland? What has been the object of the National League ever since it has been in existence? Its object has been to depreciate the value of land in Ireland, because they believe that by ruining the landlords they can get rid of those whom they call the British garrison in Ireland and carry out the chief political objects which they have in view. Every move, every speech, no matter whether made by a high official or by one of the humbler members of the League, has been directed to that end and to that end alone. We have heard a good deal about the Plan of Campaign. Now what is the Plan of Campaign? It is a movement by which persons who can afford to pay their rents are forced to combine with those who cannot pay their rents, the whole object of the movement being to compel the well-to-do tenants who are able to pay to combine with those who are not, and the object, of course, is to put undue and improper pressure on the landlords. There has been a great deal of denunciation of land-grabbers. Now what is the main object of what is called land-grabbing? There are two classes of land-grabbers, the landlord and the tenant. I put aside the first class, and I take the class of the tenant land-grabber. A tenant land-grabber is a man possessed of industry, thrift, and energy, 1329 and who in consequence of these qualities is willing to take up land and to pay rent for it, which the persons who previously held it were unable to do. The whole object of denouncing land-grabbers and holding them up to public hatred is to take away from men those qualities of industry and thrift, because the landlords are thus put in a worse position than before. These are the two main instruments by which the National League was worked in Ireland. Can any one doubt that among the causes of the large arrears which exist in Ireland are the Plan of Campaign and the denunciation of land-grabbers? If that is so, we can understand why pressure is brought to bear by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway in order to get a settlement of the Land Question. Last year, when the Land Bill was before this House, a general objection was expressed to the bankruptcy clauses, and in consequence the Government withdrew them. The Government then made not only a fair but a most generous proposal to the House, and especially to hon. Members below the Gangway. They stated their willingness to deal with this question of arrears, and to put such clauses in that Bill as might wipe off the indebtedness of the tenant, provided that all other creditors were treated in a similar manner, and my right hon. Friend took a public opportunity of announcing that he was ready to bring in clauses to that effect if hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway would accede to them. But there was no sign or indication of such being the case. Why? Because the doctrine of the National League, from one end of Ireland to the other, has been that the last person whom the tenant is called upon to pay is the landlord; that the tenants have duties towards themselves and towards the shopkeeper, but that it is better to go about with their hands in their pockets than to do anything towards paying the landlord. That doctrine has prevailed through Ireland, and the Government declined before, and they decline now, to assent to any proposal which places the landlord in a worse position than other creditors. The right hon. Gentleman opposite denounced our action of last year, but ignored the proposal which we made and the manner in which that proposal was dealt with. Now, there is one question which ought 1330 never to be absent from the mind of this House, and especially of those who sit on this side of it. If you deal hastily and precipitately with the question of arrears, with a view of assisting those who have not paid their rents, what are you going to do with those who have paid their rents? I had a conversation lately with an Irish tenant, a man who had been in arrear, and he said to me, "What will the Government do for me and the likes of me, who pay our rent, if it ever takes up this question?" When this House has placed the Irish tenant in a position so superior to that of an occupier in any other part of the world, it is not too much for us to expect him to respond by making a real bonâ fide effort to comply with his legal obligations. The right hon. Gentleman who proposed this Amendment (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) does not pretend that he can distinguish between those who are able and those who are unable to pay their arrears of rent. The result of the teachings and doctrines of the National League is that it is almost impossible in any part of Ireland to distinguish between those who are able and those who are unable to pay. I say that so long as those doctrines are preached, so long as it is impossible to distinguish between those who can and those who cannot fulfil their legal obligations, so long is there a permanent obstacle to the settlement of this question. We were asked to-night to facilitate legislation, to bring in a Bill, because there has been a landlord in Galway, who has made strong, and possibly extreme, exercise of his rights. There are no men who suffer more than Her Majesty's Ministers do from the acts of those who make an extreme use of their rights as landlords in Ireland, and if I am ever asked by an Irish landlord how can he help the Government in the great task they have before them of strengthening the existing union between England and Ireland, I always reply, "By treating as liberally and as generously with your tenants as circumstances will permit, and not only so, but by preaching the same to others." We are asked to generalize hastily from one particular case, and from that to pass a general law. After the Address is voted, Her Majesty's Government will ask the House to consider the Rules for the system of Procedure in this House. 1331 There is one, and probably more than one, hon. Member of the House who may make use of the Forms of the House to obstruct the General Business of the House, but that is no reason why the House should infer that every man who makes use of the Forms of the House is abusing them. Last year Her Majesty's Government said that they were determined—so far as they were concerned—that Ireland should not "block the way" for legislation for the rest of the Kingdom in 1888. That statement we keep to in the main. We offered last year generous terms for dealing with the arrears of rent; they were not accepted, and we now decline for the present—[Cheers]—hon. Gentlemen who cheer should wait till I have got a little further—we decline in any way to touch the Irish Land Question—either as regards arrears or purchase—until we have made good our promise to deal first with the legislative wants of Great Britain. That is the undertaking we gave last year; that is the work into which we embarked last year, and to that undertaking we intend to adhere.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said, the speech just delivered by the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) was conceived in a spirit which he believed a great majority of that House would consider to be utterly unsuitable to the subject; but, whatever the House might say, he know perfectly well what the majority of the country would say with regard to the speech when they read it. Because at the opening of his speech, the noble Lord had indulged in what he (Mr. Dillon) must characterize as most undeserved sneers in approaching a subject of the utmost gravity. The noble Lord also declared on the part of the Government that they would stand side by side with Lord Clanricarde in Ireland, and that they would do nothing and say nothing to embarrass him in carrying out the law on his estates in that country. He thanked the noble Lord for that declaration, because he believed that nothing could be said in that House more likely to damage the reputation of the Government. He would make the noble Lord a present of Lord Clanricarde and of law and order. Being as he was an old-standing and determined enemy of maladministration, he would wish his enemies in Dublin Castle a no 1332 more unhappy fate than that of carrying on war against the National League in Ireland during the next year. The noble Lord had tried to minimise the specific cases which had been brought forward, but had utterly failed; and he had been asked what the Government proposed to do in this case, and the only answer given was that they were determined to see the law carried out. He himself had been accused of encouraging lawlessness in Ireland. It was possible that he might on some occasions have done what the Judges of the High Court had characterized as encouraging illegal associations; but it was a very doubtful question whether that was unlawful, and he must remind hon. Gentlemen that the juries in Ireland had not agreed with that description. He had been arraigned and stood his trial before a packed jury in Dublin with a most unfavourable panel, and had not been found guilty. But his utmost efforts to encourage lawlessness in Ireland would fade into utter insignificance compared with those of the Government in undertaking to enforce evictions on the Clanricarde estate. There was on the Clanricarde estate, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had admirably explained to the House, an absolute deadlock, and unless that House interfered with legislation, or unless the Executive interfered in a way different from that in which the Chief Secretary for Ireland was now interfering, he saw no way out of the struggle, and nothing except the continuance of this agrarian war in South East Galway on a scale which he could tell the right hon. Gentleman would attract the attention of the civilized world. Did the Government imagine that the people of England or the civilized world would look on quietly and patiently while an Army corps was engaged in clearing a district 21 miles long and 23 miles broad, with a population of 2,000? It seemed to him that the Chief Secretary approached this subject in a spirit as unbecoming as that of the noble Lord, and he deeply regretted that he had gone out of his way at the beginning of the speech to make a bitter and personal attack upon a man who was now a prisoner in Galway Gaol. It had been suggested to the Chief Secretary for Ireland that it would be an 1333 ungenerous thing not to exercise the power in his hands to liberate his political opponent, in order that he might take part in the election at Deptford. The right hon. Gentleman could not deny that it was in his power to release Mr. Blunt, in order that he might fight his battle in that House, and it seemed to him extremely unwise and ungenerous that he should have refused to exercise his discretion in this matter.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I made no attack on Mr. Blunt, except to accuse him of extreme ignorance of the country in which he was.
§ MR. DILLON
said, the right hon. Gentleman had accused Mr. Blunt of associating with men in the county of Galway whom he proceeded to accuse on grossly insufficient evidence of having committed the crime of inciting to assassination. That was a very serious charge to make, and he (Mr. Dillon) repeated that, in his opinion, an attack had been made on the character of Mr. Blunt. That was the charge brought against Mr. Roche, but for which the Chief Secretary gave no adequate foundation. He knew Mr. Roche as a man of irreproachable character, but he was nevertheless accused of inciting to assassination. The words of Mr. Roche, on which the right hon. Gentleman relied to support the accusation, were—"We have had our Balaclava, and we shall have our Fontenoy." Those words, whatever they meant, and it was not clear what they did mean, were spoken two months before the murder of Finlay, yet such was the impartial spirit of hon. Gentlemen opposite that they accepted these words as amounting to incitement to assassination. Would the right hon. Gentleman stand up and read the Charge of Chief Justice Palles? That Judge did not make any charge against Mr. Roche; he said that the deplorable calamity that followed his speech ought to be a warning to all men against using exciting language in a disturbed district. But it was a very different thing to say that a man had used exciting language, and to say that he had incited to murder and assassination. Probably there was no Member of the House that had not at one time or another used exciting language, and therefore he said that the charge of the right hon. Gentleman was one of the most cowardly things that any man 1334 could possibly do. He must say that the sneers levelled by the Chief Secretary in his best style at the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford were, to his mind, peculiarly out of place. He appeared to insinuate that the mission of the right hon. Gentleman was extremely ridiculous. The Chief Secretary for Ireland would pardon him (Mr. Dillon) if he and others who lived in the disturbed district which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) visited took precisely the reverse view of the matter. Whatever might be the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary who now governed Ireland, hon. Members on those Benches believed that the mission of the right hon. Gentleman to Loughrea would entitle him to the gratitude of the people of the district. It was well known that he went with a two-fold purpose, and, despite the sneers of the Chief Secretary, he went at the risk of his position in England. He went there at no physical risk, but there were other reasons which many men did not like to face. He went to Loughrea to bring about a settlement in the district on account of which, had he succeeded, the Government ought to have been his most grateful debtors. One result of the mission had been that on the Burke estate, in connection with which the murdered man Finlay was employed, the right hon. Gentleman had been enabled to effect a settlement at the request of the landlord himself, and the dispute on that estate had been brought to a termination, all the evicted tenants had been restored, and an agreement had been arrived at which would probably not be disturbed. If the right hon. Gentleman had failed on the Clanricarde estate—and he had failed—it was because Lord Clanricarde was a man deaf to the voice of reason. There was nothing that could be considered ridiculous in the mission of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford; and if his feelings had suffered at all, which he (Mr. Dillon) doubted very much, in consequence of the sneers of the noble Lord and hon. Gentlemen opposite, he would find ample compensation in the affectionate remembrances which would remain among the people of South Galway. It seemed to him that the right hon. Member for Bradford had made a speech couched in 1335 an extremely temperate tone, considering the subject with which he had to deal. The subject was one on which English gentlemen found it difficult to speak at all in temperate language when they had mastered the history of the business. He had known many Englishmen who, having mastered the circumstances on the estate, had spoken in stronger language even than he had used, and that was giving a large margin. The right hon. Gentleman had made certain specific charges against the Administration in Ireland, to not one of which had a reply been given by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He said it was still possible for landlords in Ireland to commit injustice with regard to their tenants; that, taking the case of the Clanricarde estate as an example of the general state of things, a most monstrous and wholesale perpetration of injustice was about to take place. To the first of these charges the Chief Secretary made no reply, and to the second he gave an answer which was utterly lame and impotent, inasmuch as he made no attempt to touch the point. The third charge was that the Government had used the Coercion Act more actively to support Lord Clanricarde than in any other way, and to that no Member of the Government had attempted to reply. They had listened over and over again to the statement of the Irish Secretary that the law must be enforced. But had the right hon. Gentleman forgotten that the other day at Bodyke 35 families, acting under his advice, broke the law, and took forcible possession of the houses from which they had been evicted? Why did not the Government enforce the law in that case? The fact was that they were afraid to do so, because the Home Rule Party had won three elections in England in consequence of the sufferings of the Bodyke tenantry. The name of Bodyke was a terror to the Government. Would the Chief Secretary stand up and say it was not true that 35 tenants did not hold possession of their houses?
§ MR. DILLON
said, the right hon. Gentleman had now delivered himself into the hands of the Philistines. It did not rest with the landlords. These people broke the law of the land; they 1336 held their houses in forcible possession for six months; and it was the duty of the right hon. Gentleman, according to his version of the law of the land, to have punished them for doing so. There was no doubt that the landlord appealed over and over again to Dublin Castle. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR dissented.] The Irish Members protested against the insertion in the Bill of the provision relating to the taking of forcible possession; but no notice had been taken of their protests, and now that these families had taken forcible possession of their houses, the right hon. Gentleman did not punish them. What was it that stood between the Government and the enforcement of the law? It was the Election at Spalding, and the Northwich Election, which was, in fact, won partly by the sufferings of the tenantry of Bodyke. The name of Bodyke stank in the nostrils of the Government, and they were determined not to raise the question again; while Colonel O'Callaghan, who was going to resist the Plan of Campaign for 20 years, had fallen back on it and accepted £1,000. In Woodford the Coercion Act had been turned into an engine of the most fearful persecution, and all for the benefit of Lord Clanricarde. He asked the House to consider the excuses put forward by the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman went back when charged with straining the law in the Woodford district, and recalled to the recollection of the House what was the condition of the district two or three years ago; but it was noticed that his catalogue of outrages stopped in March, 1886. No doubt the district was in a very bad condition when the Executive Government had control of it; but as soon as the Plan of Campaign had the control of it, crime and outrage ceased. The Chief Secretary wanted it to be believed that Irish Members were responsible for all the outrages and crimes which occurred. In 1880 he (Mr. Dillon) had gone down to the Woodford district and got up a combination among the tenants; that combination lasted for two or three weeks, during which there were no murders or crime. By the action of the agent of Lord Clanricarde that combination was broken up, and when he was at Portumna the tenants informed him that it was broken up, and in October they came and told 1337 him they had paid their rents. Upon that, he told them that he cast them off, and that he left the tenants and the Government to settle the question between them. What was the result? They had evidence that between 1880 and the date of the unhappy murder of Finlay, nine men were murdered in the district, not one of whose murderers did the Executive Government bring to justice. The duty of civilized government was two-fold—first, to protect the property of people, poor as well as rich; and, secondly, to protect the lives and liberties of the people. The Government had had the Woodford district under their charge for five years without interference from Irish Members, and they had done neither the one nor the other. They allowed the tenants to be robbed by the landlords, and they allowed the landlords' agents to be murdered. That was the condition of Woodford in March, 1886; and in the autumn of that year some of the most respectable inhabitants came to him (Mr. Dillon) and asked him to go down to the district and interfere, and he did so. He went down on the 14th of October, 1886, on which day they held a meeting in the town of Woodford. Why could not the right hon. Gentleman produce any crimes after the 14th of October, 1886? His catalogue, as he (Mr. Dillon) had shown, stopped in March, and he was utterly unable to show that the adoption of the Plan of Campaign had brought crime into the district, or to disprove that its adoption had brought peace to the neighbourhood by affording to the people some other means of protection than that of secret societies, to which the hon. and learned Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) wished to drive them. To his mind, the idea of the Attorney General and the Government appeared to be to bring back Ireland to the condition in former times of struggles and disturbance in which the country was placed before the formation of the National League and Plan of Campaign. To listen to hon. Gentlemen opposite one would suppose that the Irish Members were a set of foreign mercenaries, who had put an end to prosperity and stirred up dissension in the country. It was amusing—although sometimes exasperating—to receive long lectures from the present 1338 Chief Secretary and his Predecessor in Office, for whom he (Mr. Dillon) entertained very different feelings, on the subject of his duty to the Irish people, and based upon his want of knowledge of the people amongst whom he was born and lived. What was the condition of Ireland in times of former agricultural distress? He would use no words of his own to describe it; but, in justifying their present policy, which had been so desperately and, he might say, so ferociously attacked, he would refer to the description given by a traveller in Ireland in 1849, who, after reflecting upon the terrible outrages which were from time to time committed, came to the conclusion that the cause lay in the refusal of the law to do its duty, to the denial of their rights to the people, and to the fierce competition for land. These people, the writer observed, were driven to the laws of Nature, and they believed it was only by those acts of vengeance that they could hold in suspense the hands of the landlord and the agent, and that a fierce and relentless war was being waged between landlord and tenant in Ireland. Those were the words of John Bright, the senior Member for Birmingham. The condition of things which he described in 1849 went on still, and, instead of being mitigated, had grown worse. The crime of Irish Members was that, paralyzed and pained by this condition of things, they had endeavoured to discover some method by which they could bring peace to the people, and carry on this war against injustice without recourse to outrage. He contended that they had discovered such a method, which, whether it was legal or not, had served their purpose, and would continue to serve their purpose. It had served their purpose in several ways. It had withdrawn the peasantry of Ireland from recourse to crime, and afforded protection without those acts of vengeance which Mr. Bright had said were formerly necessary to stay the hands of the evicting landlords, and had opened out a path which the people would be able to follow. With respect to the Clare estate, the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Madden) and the Chief Secretary exhibited the most extraordinary ignorance. They both urged that the tenants could have gone into the 1339 Land Court, and that the fact of their not doing so was proof positive that their rents were reasonable.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, it had been stated by a right hon. Gentleman that one of the reasons the tenants did not go into the Land Court was because their rents were very nearly on a level with those the Commissioners were fixing.
§ MR. DILLON
said, he would give the House his experience of the rents. As soon as the Land Act was passed, and the combination he endeavoured to get up in 1880 broke down, the tenants did try to go to the Land Court. Bat no one who had not laboured in East Galway could form any conception of what the influence of Lord Clanricarde with the tenantry was before that influence was broken down by the Plan of Campaign. The tenants found to their dismay that the Sub-Commissioner and their own solicitor were lunching every day at the Castle with the agent of the landlord. The unfortunate tenants withdrew their cases and went home, because they lost all faith in the justice of the Commissioners and in the solicitor they had employed. Every engine of oppression in the hands of the landlords was used to punish those who came into the Land Court. They were served with ejectment notices for the payment of arrears. Every decision was appealed against, and the tenants were brought up to Dublin and put to great expense. He admitted that on that occasion the reductions granted by the Land Court were not very great; but he would draw attention to what happened when a combination arose on the Clanricarde estate. The first combination to demand reductions, after the one in 1880, was formed at Woodford in 1885, and the tenants asked for a reduction of 25 per cent on the rents of Lord Clanricarde. At the same time 50 or 60 tenants plucked up courage and went into the Land Court at Portumna. What was the result? The Chief Secretary said the reductions left the rents very much as they were before. He might have accepted the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre); but, if he did, it only proved that the right hon. Gentleman had understated the case of the Clanricarde tenants. When 1340 the cases came up at Portumna the first rent was reduced from £30 to £15; and others from £10 to £7; £18 to £11; £30 to £14 5s.; £6 10s. to £3 15s; and £15 to £9 10s. The average reductions all round were 35 per cent, whereas the tenants had combined to ask a reduction of 25 per cent. In dealing with this matter, perhaps it would be as well to request the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to get some of the clerks in the Irish Office to make marginal notes in the Blue Books, and give him the facts instead of taking them from anyone.
§ MR. DILLON
No; for he was not paid £4,000 a-year to govern Ireland. Coming to another part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, he had made a sweeping attack on the Plan of Campaign. He (Mr. Dillon) was not anxious to boast about the Plan, although it had served its purpose very well, and had acquired the confidence of the people of Ireland. Not all the power of the Administration could destroy that Plan of Campaign. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, with his usual omniscience, gave for the benefit of the House an awful picture of the distress caused to all the tenants who had adopted the Plan of Campaign. Well he (Mr. Dillon) would give the right hon. Gentleman some information on this subject, as it was some time since he had had an opportunity of hearing what had occurred in regard to the Plan of Campaign. In all, the tenants on about 95 estates adopted this method of obtaining justice. He had procured a settlement with regard to 42 of those estates, and he found that there had been only two evictions, that no kind of suffering had been inflicted on the tenants, and that they had got what they had originally demanded and had been refused. Thus it appeared that the dreadful picture drawn by the right hon. Gentleman of the sufferings of all who trusted to his (Mr. Dillon's) advice was rather highly coloured. He did not know what kind of authority was to be accepted in that House as to the sufferings of the tenants. The right hon. Gentleman said that the greatest misery prevailed among the Brooke tenants. The Brooke estate was one on which no settlement had been 1341 arrived at yet; and the right hon. Gentleman had assured the House that misery and despair were prevailing there. Now, it happened that he received yesterday a letter from the parish priest couched in the following terms:—I see in The Freeman, Balfour states, that the people here are in a bad way. This, like many other of his statements, is absolutely false. I met most of the tenants to-day and yesterday, and I am able to say they were never in better spirits than at the present moment, and many of their neighbours envy their good fortune in being under the Plan of Campaign. As a matter of fact, the tenants on a neighbouring estate, numbering 30, waited on me to-day, and on three other different occasions, asking me to take their money under the Plan of Campaign, and I refused to do so, because I consider the landlord a fairly good man, and they can get terms from him without having recourse to this policy.Under these circumstances, he (Mr. Dillon) advised Father O'Neill not to take the money, as he had done in every case where the landlord was a good man. He had received another letter from a priest in the County Clare, who said—I am glad to be able to inform you the tenants on the Burton estate have got all they asked for—namely, 7s. reduction on judicial, and 10s. reduction on non-judicial, rents, the landlord agreeing to pay all costs and to withdraw all legal proceedings. The tenants on the Vandeleur estate are in excellent spirits, and have not the slightest intention of abating their demands.''The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary might say that he knew the condition of the tenants better than the priest of the parish in which they resided. Of course, when they met with a conflict of testimony like that, they would leave the landlord and Father O'Neill to settle it. He (Mr. Dillon) had just received news from the Bodyke tenantry, whom he met two years ago in a state of absolute despair, whose condition was os desperate that it excited the compassion of an English gentleman (who was not a sympathizer of theirs) so deeply that he put his hand in his pocket and offered £300toappease Colonel O'Callaghan, but Colonel O'Callaghan was fool enough to refuse that £300, and they sent it back to Mr. Tuke, and the landlord never saw it again. They had settled that estate without taking Mr. Tuke's £300. Although they were told that the Irish tenants were beggars and dishonest, they had settled it without that £300, and he had a letter from Father Murphy, who had received high encomiums from 1342 Colonel Turner, Mr. Tuke, and many other gentlemen who did not sympathize with their movements, as a high-minded and honourable gentleman. In that letter Father Murphy stated—I have met the tenants to-day, and I have been commissioned to thank you on their behalf; but I cannot find words to convey to you what they would wish to say for all you have done for them. I have distributed the money amongst them in order that they may be able to settle down more comfortably and happily than they otherwise would do, and they are well satisfied with their position.That was his experience of the Plan of Campaign, and he had found as a rule, that time generally justified their statements. It did not justify the statements of the Chief Secretary. That was the condition of things on the estates where there had been a struggle. On the 40 estates where he had effected a settlement he had secured the demands of the tenants without any struggle at all. The right hon. Gentleman selected an extremely bad instance when he sneered at him, because in the town, of Bally-haunis, in his own constituency, he (Mr. Dillon) told the people that if they adopted the Plan of Campaign they would be better off. Let the right hon. Gentleman go down and ask Lord Dillon and Lord De Freyne, and the 10 or 11 neighbouring landlords, covering a district extending over 30 square miles—every single man of whom had yielded to the Plan, and who had dismissed their agents if they were unpopular at his (Mr. Dillon's) request, and who had accepted rents according to the settlement of the Plan. Let him ask thorn whether the Plan of Campaign had inflicted sufferings on the tenants, as the right hon. Gentleman had alleged. What had been effected in the town of Ballyhaunis and its neighbourhood? He (Mr. Dillon) could take the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary 30 miles around the neighbourhood, in Mayo and Roscommon, over estates where the Plan of Campaign had been successful without a blow being struck. He should think that at the very lowest estimate there were 12,000 families in his own constituency and the neighbouring parts of Roscommon, where the Plan of Campaign had been adopted without the loss of half-a-crown over the whole transaction. By the exertions of his agents in the district and the administration of the Plan they had reduced the 1343 rents by many thousands of pounds. And as to crime, how many crimes had been committed in East Mayo? Would the right hon. Gentleman turn to his record of crime and see how East Mayo came out on the list? He ventured to say that even in Ulster they would not find better accounts of the peacefulness of the district than the reports from their Resident Magistrates in regard to East Mayo. They had given the right hon. Gentleman a challenge the other day which he had passed over in silence. They had put it to him to mention a single case of crime arising through the operation of the Plan of Campaign. And what was the answer they received? The hon. and learned Attorney General for England (Sir Richard Webster) produced, out of the whole length and breadth of Ireland, one solitary case of crime, which, he said, was presumed by the police to have arisen out of the Plan of Campaign, and it was an attack on a tenant of Mr. Worthington, in the neighbourhood of Castlerea in Roscommon. There was not a tittle of evidence to prove that, except that the estate of Mr. Worthington was under the Plan of Campaign. The case had not been in Court, and there was no evidence to show that the man had been attacked for anything he had done in regard to the Plan of Campaign. He (Mr. Dillon), when he had heard of the case, had telegraphed over to his agent to make inquiries, and from the answer he had received it seemed that the man was attacked while on his way to market to sell some pigs, in order to get the money to complete his contribution to the organization; so that, if they looked at the probabilities of the case, the injuries were more likely to have been inflicted on the man by the landlord's bailiffs. There had been some insinuations as to where the money taken under the Plan had gone. Let them ask the landlords who had settled under the Plan whether they had lost a single half-crown? Over £10,000 had been paid to the landlords under the Plan of Campaign, and he asked the Chief Secretary to produce the testimony of a single landlord to show that under any settlement made with him under that organization the terms had not been honourably carried out to the last farthing. So much for the Plan of Campaign. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary seemed 1344 to gloat over the condition of the estates on which the great struggle was proceeding. He said that war could hardly bring more have and desolation on the country than they were bringing by the Plan on these unhappy people. Now, he (Mr. Dillon) had gone into the movement with a full sense of responsibility; but they had learnt by bitter experience in Ireland that they got nothing without fighting hard for it. Indeed, he was free to admit that there were very few things in this world which were worth having to be got without stern and stiff fighting. He knew it was the policy of certain Members from the North of Ireland to avail themselves of every benefit the Nationalist Members won for the tenantry of Ireland, and then boast that they had done nothing to obtain those benefits. They were the law-abiding citizens of Ireland, who generally rushed into the Land Court, and availed themselves of the Arrears Bill which the Nationalists had fought for and won at the risk of imprisonment—yea, at the risk of their lives. This he would say, that it was true that this struggle had on certain estates like those of Clanricarde, Massereene, Brooke, Ponsonby, and Standish, inflicted considerable suffering on the people. To those, however, who, like the Irish Members, knew the true condition of the Irish peasantry, the sufferings of the tenantry, mitigated as they were by the fact that they had at their back a mighty organization which had secured for them the shelter of a roof and a comfortable meal on their table, were but as a drop in the ocean compared to the sufferings and misery of generations of Irish tenants who, for the want of such an organization as now existed, had been driven out of their homes. Hon. Gentlemen sneered at £1 a-week, but many people would have been unable to keep a roof over their heads but for such grants. Great as the sufferings of the people were, they were but as a drop in the ocean to the sufferings of generations of other people. Were the Irish to be alone amongst all the nations of the world when they saw a great object before them—the emancipation of the country—who were to submit to the slavery and degradation to which they had been condemned? Were they to slink back and be terrified by some little suffering which stood in the way 1345 while other nations were willing to spill their blood and see their children lay on battle fields in mangled heaps in the struggle for emancipation—were they to hang back because men at such places as Bodyke had been driven from their homes? He told the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that the people of Ireland—and he spoke the sentiments of the Irish peasantry when he said this—the people of Ireland counted these sufferings as a light thing in the great struggle they were carrying on, and that if the right hon. Gentleman imagined he was going to make a successful appeal for the confidence of the people of Ireland against the Nationalist Members by exaggerating the sufferings of these tenants he would find himself sadly and painfully mistaken. For his part, if he found that the people of Ireland were frightened or turned back from this struggle by the knowledge of the few evictions which had taken place under the Plan of Campaign he would utterly scorn them. He should say the Government had done right to deny the Irish people liberty, because they were unworthy of liberty. He assured the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that unless he could devise a much stronger Coercion Act than he carried through the House last Session he would find the Plan of Campaign was a great deal too strong for him. Let them consider for a moment what was the condition of affairs in Ireland. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) stated just now that the House of Commons had for seven years been passing legislation in regard to land in Ireland. That was perfectly true, and why so? Because the Government would not take the advice of Irish Members seven years ago, and would persist in doing the business piecemeal, inch by inch, as the Irish Representatives dragged it from them by fierce agitation. If the Government had taken the Irish Members' advice in 1881 they might have earned the gratitude in some measure of the Irish people. That they had ignored that advice was the secret of their failure. They had passed four Land Bills, and in every single instance the Irish Members said that the Bill would not cover the whole of the ground, and in no single instance did the Bill cover the whole of the ground. He detected in the speech 1346 of the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) a partial admission that they were right, for the noble Lord said the Government declined at present to deal with this question. Would the noble Lord kindly inform them how high they must make the pot in Ireland boil before the Government would listen to them? If he would, he would save a great deal of time and trouble and anxiety to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, for believe him it would come up to the required boiling point yet. The people of Ireland had learned the lesson well, and they knew what refusals of Ministries like this were worth. About 30,000 or 40,000 families in Ireland could not obtain the benefits of the land legislation, and it was idle and absurd and a mockery of statesmanship to be quibbling and casting tu quoques across the Table when the fate of 30,000 or 40,000 families was involved. That was a serious factor in the case, and no amount of rhetoric or quibbling argumentation would change the case. These thousands of families had learnt the secret of agitation, and would continue to agitate until they got the protection which had been afforded their more fortunate neighbours. So long as the Government kept these men out of the benefits of the land legislation they would have disturbance and disorder in Ireland. The Government had got two roads open to them. He admitted frankly and openly that he could point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary—if he were taken into the right hon. Gentleman's confidence, though he did not mean to give him any instruction—he could point out to the right hon. Gentleman a Coercion Bill by which he could put down the Plan of Campaign. But what would be the result? The old system of murdering landlords and agents would be resorted to by desperate people in Ireland, and they would be just exactly where they were 15 years ago and would have gained nothing. The Government had before them the choice of dealing either with an open organization which would do everything in the light of day and which would act with care, because its leading men would have to account for their acts, or, on the other hand, they could adopt the policy suggested to the House by the hon. and learned Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) of com- 1347 pelling the branches of the National League to meet in holes and corners. If they adopted the latter policy he did not know but that after great industry and after some time they might succeed in turning some of the branches into Ribbon Lodges. If they wanted to try that policy let them try it. If they did, he could tell the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that the present Coercion Act would not suit his purpose: he must have something a great deal more stringent. In conclusion, let him say he earnestly hoped the Government would apply their minds in a more serious and different mood to the case of the Clanricarde estate than they had up to the present. They had on that estate an epitome of the situation in Ireland. It was false to the agrarian situation to say that Lord Clanricarde was an exception to the rule of Irish landlords. He was a bad specimen, but he (Mr. Dillon) knew worse. He said, without hesitation, that Colonel O'Callaghan of Bodyke was worse in the respect that his rents were more exorbitant. Lord Clanricarde was a specimen of the Irish landlords, and it was only because his private character was so unpleasant that he was looked on as worse even than others of his class. What made his case so important was that it affected nearly half the county—it affected 1,500 families. Lord Clanricarde was a man of large means, a man of desperate resolution, a man who had announced the deliberate intention of turning Eastern Galway into a desert unless the tenants paid their rents to the last farthing. The tenants would not pay unless they got fair terms. That was the task the Government had got before them in Ireland, and they ought to realize it as it was? If they made up their minds to stand by Lord Clanricarde, they would have to march an Army Corps into Eastern Galway, desolate the country, and exterminate the inhabitants. The Nationalists had great resources; and if the Government carried out a policy of that kind, their resources would be quadrupled and quintupled. The National Party would appeal on behalf of the Clanricarde tenantry to the millions of the Irish race all over the world; and allow him to tell the Government—great and mighty as it was—that they were prepared to carry on this war for two, three, four years, and even longer. 1348 They would support these people, and they would see how long the public of England would stand patiently by while English soldiers and the Executive in Ireland were engaged in this glorious war.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 186; Noes 261: Majority 75.—(Div. List, No. 11.)
§ Address agreed to:—To be presented by Privy Councillors.