§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
said, he wished to bring before the House a question which affected the Records of the House. The Deputy Speaker had read out a letter apprising the House that one of its Members— 177 the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon)—had been sentenced to imprisonment on the following charge—"For having taken part in the Plan of Campaign." He (Mr. T. M. Healy) wished to ask, whether it were possible in case of inaccuracy, or, as he would charge, a deliberate misstatement, or to the legal effect of the conviction, on the hon. Member for East Mayo, it would be in Order to move a Motion on the subject? The practice was to move that such letter be inserted on the Journals of the House; but he proposed to move that as it contained a falsehood such record should be deferred, and that the Clerk of the House should communicate with the Resident Magistrate, and the exact terms of the sentence on Mr. Dillon be communicated to the House. He referred to the informations on which the hon. Member for East Mayo was charged. He was not charged on any summons, but was arrested on April 18 by a District Inspector, and brought before Mr. Kilkelly, R.M., charged with taking part in an illegal assembly and criminal conspiracy to induce certain persons not to pay their rents, and upon that charge only could he have been convicted. The Magistrate invented a charge, which was not a legal charge, with the deliberate object of prejudicing his hon. Friend, and chiefly, it might be, in regard to a recent Papal document. The statement which this Resident Magistrate wrote was as follows:—
§ "County Louth, Drogheda,
§ "12th May, 1888.
§ "SIR,—I have the honour to report that yesterday, the 11th instant, at Mells, in the county of Louth, before a court of petty sessions, under 'The Criminal Law and Procedure (Ireland) Act, 1887, of which I was chairman, found Mr. John Dillon, M.P., guilty of having, on 8th ult. in this county, taken part in the Plan of Campaign."
Now, there was no such offence known to the law. The law under the Criminal Law and Procedure Act took cognizance of and enabled magistrates to convict the Members of that House and non-Members of taking part in an illegal conspiracy. There was no other offence known to the law, and he therefore submitted that as formerly the practice of the House always was, when these letters were read by the Chairman, for some Member of the Government to move that they be laid on the Table of the House. Where a gross and delibe-
rate misstatement was made by a responsible Executive officer as to the charge upon which an hon. Member was convicted, it ought not to appear that the House gave its sanction to its insertion on the Minutes. He wished to know whether he should be in Order in moving—
That as it was alleged this letter from the Resident Magistrate conveyed a false impression as to the ground on which the hon. Member for East Mayo was convicted, that the Clerk do communicate with the Resident Magistrate as to the exact terms of the conviction, and that in the meantime the letter be not inserted on the Minutes.
If he was in Order, he begged to make that Motion.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said, he wished to call the attention of Mr. Deputy Speaker to the fact that the hon. Member for the Lough-borough Division of Leicestershire (Mr. De Lisle) drew the attention of Mr. Speaker to the fact that the Crimes Act last year was described in a Question to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) as a Coercion Act, and the hon. Gentleman asked the ruling of Mr. Speaker as to whether it was right to apply to the Statute the popular instead of the legal title, and Mr. Speaker ruled that that title was out of Order.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
Order, order! As far as I am aware, it is not the practice to make a Motion to lay such a communication on the Table of the House. Many communications are made to the Speaker, such as, for instance, those of Election Judges. They are read from the Chair as a matter of Order, and inserted as read from the Chair. They can be inserted in no other fashion. If the hon. Member desires to make on a subsequent day any Motion in respect of this, he will be in Order to do so; but having been read in discharge of a Ministerial duty from the Chair they appear on the Journals as a matter of course.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Then I would ask you, Sir, whether in the meantime, a deliberate statement having been made by me as a Member of this House that this letter must be false on the face of it, whether the Clerk will insert it in the Minutes pending the moving of such a Resolution?
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
The letter will appear with the authority of the 179 signature appended to it, with the Votes of the day. I have no doubt the statement of the hon. and learned Member will reach the ears of the public in the usual way.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
Are we to understand, Sir, that when a communication of this kind has been made to the House, and has been read by Mr. Speaker to the House, and the truth of this communication is challenged on the spot by Members having cognizance of the facts connected with the case, that as a necessity this untruthful statement must forthwith be published as if by Order of the House? I do submit that under these circumstances the matter at once becomes a question of Privilege. If the House, through Mr. Speaker, directs the printing of a false document, I submit that the document in question and the fallacy concerned in the document in question at once become a question of Privilege; and I would ask you, Sir, with reference to the opinion you have just expressed, that it will be within the competence of any Member to move a Resolution with reference to such matter, whether the question of Privilege would not be lost sight of in postponing such a Resolution to a subsequent date, and whether it would not be necessary, in order to preserve the character of Privilege, that immediate action should be taken?
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
said, Privilege must undoubtedly be defended by prompt action, but he did not think it need be defended by instantaneous action.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
said, he would put this possible case. Supposing a person reported to Mr. Speaker that a Member of that House had been convicted, and such a Member had never been convicted at all, and it was notorious, and could be proved by persons in the House, that no such conviction had ever take place, would it then be tolerated that under this authority upon the Journals of the House should be entered a statement that a Member of the House had been convicted of felony, whereas he had not been convicted at all? It was impossible to conceive a grosser insult either to the Member or to the House itself. Then there was another case which might be put. Supposing a Member had been convicted of one offence, it might be a 180 minor offence, and a report was made to the House that he had been convicted of a totally different offence of a higher and graver character, was it to be tolerated that upon the Journals of the House there should be entered a false statement, and that the friends of the Member should have no remedy of vindicating his character and position at once and upon the spot; but that the Clerks at the Table should be the instruments of entering on the Journals of the House what, under the hypothesis he had put, might be the grossest libel on a Member?
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
The letter has already been read, and, having been read, it must appear on the Journals of the House. No doubt attention may be called to the matter as a point of Privilege, and a Motion may be made to expunge the record.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Then I will call attention to the matter as a gross Breach of Privilege. Last Session Parliament passed the so-called Criminal Law Procedure Amendment Bill, which gives to certain Resident Magistrates of Ireland power to try summarily persons charged with certain offences. These offences are defined by Statute, and the power of trying prisoners is a statutory power, and every statutory power must be strictly within the limits of statutory authority. No one can step outside those statutory powers for any purpose whatever, and the Resident Magistrates are only empowered to try prisoners for offences committed under this Act. By Sub-section 3A they are empowered to convict any person who has committed any of the offences mentioned in the sub-section anywhere in Ireland, and the offenders may be prosecuted in a Court of Summary Jurisdiction. The 2nd section defines the offences, one of which is taking part in any criminal conspiracy now punishable by law, and the acts which amount to the criminal conspiracy are defined. No Resident Magistrate in Ireland has the power to convict or to deal with any criminal conspiracy except in the direct words of the Statute. Yet exists this fact—a Resident Magistrate "of whose legal knowledge the Lord Lieutenant has satisfied himself"—namely, Mr. Thomas Hamilton—sends to this House a communication which is not only a Breach of Privilege, but a gross libel in every sense of the term, and he sends it away 181 hot-footed the moment the conviction has taken place. I beg, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to call your attention to the letter which you read to the House in your Ministerial capacity. (See page 139). The sentence of the Court was that the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) should be imprisoned for six months without hard labour. Now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I say that that statement in itself is a falsehood. Either the hon. Member for East Mayo was convicted or he was not. If he was convicted, he must have been convicted of an offence within the terms of the section; but this section takes no cognizance of the Plan of Campaign. I myself could not, without having legal evidence before me, and this House could not, determine without legal evidence what the Plan of Campaign is. The Plan of Campaign may be a thing good, bad, or indifferent; but no magistrate is empowered to go outside the Statute. Yet this magistrate, for the purpose of creating a prejudice, debauching public opinion, and misleading this House, has committed a deliberate and wilful falsehood. I submit to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the records of this House ought not to be tainted by having placed upon them a corrupt and wilful falsehood of this kind, although it be invented by a man of whose legal knowledge the Lord Lieutenant is satisfied. I maintain that it was invented for a deliberate purpose, and that the only purpose for which this communication was made was to incite prejudice in this House, and to convey a false impression as to what the hon. Member for East Mayo had been convicted of. This House considers it wise and prudent that it should be made acquainted with any offence of which one of its Members has been convicted, and yet here we have a case in which a solemn judicial sentence has been passed upon a Member of this House of six months' imprisonment with hard labour. [Cries of "No, no!"] Well, six months without hard labour; but the difference is so slight that I do not think my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo will appreciate it. Immediately after the conviction has been made, this magistrate, of whose knowledge of the law the Lord Lieutenant has satisfied himself, sends off a notification to Mr. Speaker that my hon. Friend has been convicted of taking 182 part in the Plan of Campaign. I would ask the House to observe the effect of that statement. If this House had on its records under a process of certiorari a certificate of the conviction of one of its Members, and my hon. Friend, instead of appealing, had applied for a writ of habeas corpus, if the certiorari was found to be bad, there would be no power residing in any of Her Majesty's Courts to detain my hon. Friend; and if it could be shown that my hon. Friend had been convicted by the Resident Magistrate of an offence not sanctioned by the Statute, but an offence which did not exist, and that appeared in the certificate of conviction, my hon. Friend would be entitled to walk out a free man. No magistrate has a right to obtain cognizance on certiorari of a crime that does not exist, and yet the legal knowledge of this Resident Magistrate is such that he has penned a letter which is not only false, but which shows that he does not understand the Statute. I submit that the sending of this document to the House by Mr. Thomas Hamilton is a Breach of Privilege, that we should compel Mr. Hamilton to appear at the Bar and apologize for this libel on a Member of the House, and also for this insult and flagrant deception which he has endeavoured to practice on the House itself. This man has acted deliberately. I do not know whether he penned the letter in conjunction with any of the Law Officers of the Crown, I do not know whether the letter is one which has been drawn up as part of a common form suggested by the Law Officers of the Crown, but, at any rate, I think that the distinct withdrawal of the letter by Mr. Hamilton is absolutely necessary. Further, I am of opinion that the letter should not only be withdrawn, but apologized for, and that the author of time libel should appear at the Bar in person to make such apology. We may gather what the character of the persons is, of whose legal status the Lord Lieutenant is satisfied, when we find one of them writing a document which is not only false in law, but false in fact in every way in which you may view it. What chance would any unfortunate persons have who might be brought before such a Resident Magistrate who has such slight attachment to the forms of law. When, Sir, I heard you read the letter of Mr. Hamilton, I could not help 183 being startled at such a declaration from the hands of a gentleman who has been entrusted with the power of life and death, for a sentence of six months' imprisonment for a man in the position of my hon. Friend the Member for Mayo may very well involve death. As soon as I heard the letter read I proceeded to the Table and obtained a copy of the letter, and I found that it born out, in every respect, the reading of the Chair. That being so, I considered that it was necessary for some hon. Member to take action in the matter in view of requiring in future that the legal form of Procedure under the Crimes Act should be carried out with common decency. I beg to move—That it is a Breach of the Privilege of this House to communicate to Mr. Speaker a letter containing an inaccurate and untruthful statement concerning the arrest and conviction of a Member of this House.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
I must point out to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Longford that the Motion he has submitted is purely an abstract Resolution, and in order to raise the question of a Breach of Privilege, there ought to be attached to the Resolution some reference to a specific Breach of Privilege.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
May I ask if it has not been the practice in most cases of Breach of Privilege to have, in the first case, a general allegation of Breach of Privilege, and then to allow it to be followed up by a specific Motion afterwards.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I will move the Resolution in the following form:—That the letter of Mr. Thomas Hamilton, Resident Magistrate, dated the 12th May, addressed to Mr. Speaker, is a Breach of the Privilege of this House, as containing an untruthful statement in regard to the arrest and conviction of a Member of this House.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the letter of Mr. Thomas Hamilton, Resident Magistrate, dated the 12th May, addressed to Mr. Speaker, is a Breach of the Privilege of this House, as containing an untruthful statement regarding the arrest and conviction of a Member of this House."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if the letter of Mr. Hamilton were read again by the Clerk at the Table, as many hon. Members have not heard it read.
§ Letter again read. (See page 139.)
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN) (Dublin University)
The hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) has taken occasion from the reading of this letter to make accusations against the magistrate who presided at the trial of the case against the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) of the most serious, and, I may say, of the most unfounded character—accusations which ought not to have been made, and insinuations of motives which I submit ought not to be made in this House upon such grounds as the hon. and learned Member has alleged. The hon. and learned Member has complained that the magistrate, to use his own expression, went on "hot foot" from the trial to write this letter. Now, surely it was the bounden duty of the magistrate, when he had convicted, to lose no time in apprising Mr. Speaker of the fact, and if all the grounds which the hon. and learned Member had for the suggestions he has made are as unfounded as that, I submit to the judgment of the House whether they ought to be made against a magistrate who writes a letter in the simple discharge of his duty. Now, Sir, what is the nature and character of a letter of this kind? It is a notification given to Mr. Speaker of a certain alleged state of facts. If it be the case of the hon. and learned Member that in this instance the hon. Member for East Mayo was convicted of what was not an offence, and for which the Court had no power to convict and sentence him, I need hardly say that the legality of the sentence would depend not on the notice given to the House, but on the record and certificate of conviction. If the certificate of conviction is for a something which is not an offence, and if the hon. Member for East Mayo has been convicted for taking part in a criminal conspiracy, that would appear on the certificate of conviction and will speak for itself. If he has not been so convicted, the hon. 185 Member will have the benefit of it in any proceedings which he may institute. It has, however, been suggested, and I earnestly protest against the suggestion, that because it does not appear from the letter that the hon. Member has been convicted of criminal conspiracy, but of taking part in the Plan of Campaign, that, therefore, the writer was influenced by motives of the basest kind. Whether the letter to Mr. Speaker should be expressed with all the accuracy of the certificate of conviction or not, can any human being doubt what was the meaning and purport of the communication? Is it not the fact that the Court took judicial notice that the Plan of Campaign has been pronounced by the Lord Chief Baron in a recent case to be a criminal conspiracy? The Plan of Campaign is perfectly well understood, and every Court must take judicial notice that it has been pronounced a criminal conspiracy. Can anybody say that the Resident Magistrate, in describing the offence as the Plan of Campaign, when he knew that the Judges of the land had pronounced the Plan of Campaign to be a criminal conspiracy, has been guilty of wilful and deliberate falsehood, because he has not followed the exact language of the certificate of conviction? Whether the magistrate ought to have followed the terms of conviction or not, I will leave to be discussed by hon. Members more experienced in the Forms of this House. But if no offence has been committed, no letter to Mr. Speaker from the magistrate convicting can make it so, and the suggestion which has been made by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford is, I think, not one which will commend itself to the judgment of any fair-minded man on either side of the House.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL (Hackney, S.)
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Madden) has not, I think, touched the real point of this matter. As I understand the hon. and learned Member (Mr. T. M. Healy) who brought forward the Motion which the House is now considering, his contention is that by the law of Parliament any magistrate or judicial functionary who proceeds by sentence against any Member of this House is bound by the Rules of Parliament to communicate the cause of his action to the House. I need hardly 186 point out that that can only mean the true cause of the conviction. The hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland tells us that it is a mere matter of extreme technicality to follow the precise words of the Act of Parliament. Now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I humbly submit that it is a great deal more than that. It is perfectly true that certain Judges in Ireland have expressed opinions with reference to what is called the Plan of Campaign. But they have been for a great part obiter dicta, and not decisions of the Judges at all. Does the hon. and learned Member opposite mean to say that the House is to accept these obiter dicta pronounced by certain learned Judges in Ireland as applying beyond the particular case in which they were uttered, or to take anything which any removable magistrate chooses to call the Plan of Campaign as necessarily covering a legal offence? I dispute that altogether, and I must say that hon. Members on the other side of the House must not be surprised if we on this side take every legitimate opportunity which may present itself of bringing before the House and the public the action of these magistrates, and the mode in which the law is being administered. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite well knows that I never concealed my view of this Act—namely, that it is noxious in its inception, and injurious every day in its operation. So far from serving the purpose for which it was stated to have been introduced—namely, the putting down of real crime as we understand it, it is not being so directed. This is our justification for the Motion—namely, that the Act is being insidiously directed against matters with which it was never intended to deal.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Sir JOHN GORST) (Chatham)
said, he was not astonished that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell) should take every possible opportunity of attacking the Act which was passed by Parliament last Session, and the way in which it was being administered by the Irish magistrates. What, however, the House had a right to expect was that the attacks of the hon. and learned Gentleman should be moderately reasonable. The question now before the House was that of a Breach of Privilege; and what was the 187 allegation? It was that one of the magistrates of Ireland, in the fulfilment of his duty, had written to inform the Speaker of that House what he had done, and it was maintained that in doing so he was not to use popular language which would be intelligible to Mr. Speaker, and intelligible to every Member of the House, but that he was to use some technical terms which were to satisfy the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), and, as had been said, to stand the test of a special demurrer. That was the only question the House had to settle. There was no pretence for saying that the certificate of conviction when it came to be examined would not accurately describe the offence.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
The magistrate has written to Mr. Speaker to say that he has convicted the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) under this Act, that he has convicted him for an offence which he describes in popular language as taking part in the Plan of Campaign; and the only question before the House is whether that letter is to be declared by the House to be a Breach of Privilege? Having now said what the real question before the House is, I do not think the matter is further debateable.
§ MR. PARNELL
I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst) if he could inform the House what is the object of communicating this information to the House at all? Does it not indicate that the House desires to know the offence of which the person tried has been convicted, and not some other offence of an imaginary character coined for the political exigencies of the moment, which the magistrate or Judge may assign as having been the offence, but which really has not been the offence at all? Now, Sir, I will assume that the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Madden) has made a mistake in supposing that this is not a communication to the House, but a communication to the Speaker only, for it is a communication to Mr. Speaker as a servant and agent of the House, and is for the information and judgment of the House as the highest Court of the Realm. Undoubtedly the House desires to know, if a Member of the House has 188 been convicted, why he has been convicted; and I submit that a mistake and error of this kind, which would not have been committed by one of the humblest Petty Sessions clerks in Ireland, should not be passed over in silence when committed by a magistrate, who has the responsibility of meting out cumulative sentences of hard labour for political offences. [Cries of "No, no!"] Hon. Members say "No!" I contend that this magistrate has shown his entire ignorance of all law by writing to the House, and informing us that the hon. Member for East Mayo has been convicted for the offence of taking part in the Plan of Campaign. He is a magistrate who is entitled to inflict cumulative sentences of imprisonment with hard labour for any number of years that he may choose to inflict them. His power is an unlimited power, and, as was very fitly stated by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), it is absolutely a power of life and death, because we have it on the authority of one of the Irish Judges that a sentence of two years' imprisonment with hard labour is the severest sentence which can be inflicted by the Criminal Law in Ireland. Now, Sir, here is this Irish Magistrate who has sent to this House an incorrect and inaccurate statement; and who is he? He is a Mr. Hamilton, of whose knowledge of law the Lord Lieutenant—who knows, by the way, a great deal about law—is satisfied, because he has chosen him as one of those magistrates who had a sufficient knowledge of the law to administer the Act. This magistrate is not a barrister; he has never passed a legal examination in his life; and yet in a case of this extreme delicacy, involving the liberty, and perhaps the life, of one of the most important of his political opponents, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant is not ashamed to entrust such issues as this to such a man in order to show his utter flippancy and disregard, not only of the decency of the law in Ireland, but of the lives of his political opponents, by entrusting the consideration and decision of such questions as these to a man who has been obliged to admit that he has had no legal education, and never passed even an examination in law. These are the kind of men whom the Go- 189 vernment put over us in Ireland to carry out the notions of the Front Bench as to the administration of law and justice. How can you expect that the Irish people, even if this House chooses to swallow such a letter as this, written as it is in such colloquial phrases—how can you expect the Irish people, after such evidence as this of the utter incapacity of these persons to fulfil judicial functions, to have any regard for your law or your administration?
§ MR. LOCKWOOD (York)
I should not have joined in this debate had it not been for the way in which the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst) has chosen to deal with the remarks of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell) and the late Attorney General. The hon. Gentleman, whose more recent experience in connection with India may possibly have led him to forget some of the extensive experience he had at the English Bar, addressed this as a matter of no importance. Now, I venture to think that it is a matter of much importance both inside the House and out of it. It is a matter of importance inside of this House that we should see that the Privileges of the House are complied with by those who have duties to discharge, and if it is part of the duty of a judicial officer to return to this House an account of the conviction of a Member of this House, surely it is the duty of the House itself to see that the record of conviction is accurately returned. Now, Sir, on the face of this letter, we know that we have no such accurate record of the conviction of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), because we know perfectly well that it returns a conviction for that which is not known as any offence under our statutory law. Then surely the House is entitled to take notice of the matter, and I think the House would best consult its own dignity by communicating to the person who has made this statement to the House, and requiring him to give accurate information to the House of the conviction which has taken place before him. It is almost too much—although the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) has drawn a picture which made one's mouth water—to expect to see a Resident Magis- 190 trate standing at the Bar undergoing the process of apology. I am afraid that that is too much to look forward to, but I think we are entitled to have from the Resident Magistrate an accurate account of the conviction which has taken place. So much for the view which I think this House is entitled to take, so far as it is itself concerned. But what will be said outside the House when persons read the letter which contains the record of a conviction for an offence which is not an offence at all as known to our statutory law? They will say this—that the Resident Magistrate in writing, aye, with hot foot, such a letter, showed by the terms he used that he had got the Plan of Campaign on his brain. It was the Plan of Campaign he was thinking about, and it is not what I may say of this judicial officer, but it is what people will say outside the House. In order to protect responsible judicial officers from having reflections of a serious character made upon them outside the House, I think this Resident Magistrate should be required to make an accurate return of the conviction which took place before him.
§ MR. DARLING (Deptford)
Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for York (Mr. Lockwood) is concerned to know what will be the opinion of people outside the House with regard to this question. I am quite sure that the first thing they will say will be that those inside the House have their feelings remarkably well under control, and that they have been able to get into a terrible passion about a very little matter. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] I take the interruption of hon. Gentlemen opposite as a distinct compliment. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) has simply described as incorrect and inaccurate a statement which the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) has described as a corrupt and wilful falsehood, intended to convey a false idea. I think that is a tolerably warm description of what the hon. Member for Cork has described as incorrect and inaccurate. But what is there incorrect or inaccurate in the statement of the magistrate I venture to say that to his statement neither the term inaccurate or incorrect is applicable. That an hon. Member of this House has been convicted of taking part 191 in a criminal conspiracy there is no doubt. If any one doubts that statement, he must first of all pretend that he does not know what the Plan of Campaign is. It is not denied that the Plan of Campaign has been pronounced by the highest Courts in Ireland to be a criminal conspiracy. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South. Hackney (Sir Charles Russell) said that that was an obiter dictum. Happily for the right hon. and learned Gentleman, his remarks are obiter dicta, and he has made many remarks on this subject that are of that character. The question in the case which was to be decided was whether the Plan of Campaign was a criminal conspiracy or not, and it was decided that it was so. We must therefore shut our eyes very hard if we pretend not to see that the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) has been convicted of taking part in the Plan of Campaign. We must pretend very much that we do not learn that the hon. Gentleman has been convicted of taking part in a criminal conspiracy from the letter sent by the magistrate to Mr. Speaker. But I do not know that the magistrates are told anywhere to make their reports in the technical language of an indictment. The material part is to know that the hon. Member has been convicted. [Interruption.] If hon. Members have not yet appreciated the point, I will state it again. The material point is to know that the hon. Member for East Mayo has been convicted of an offence against the law, for which he has been sentenced to undergo treatment which will seclude him for a time from this House. No doubt, it is convenient that the House should know whether the offence committed is that of burglary, conspiracy, or larceny, or anything else; but there is no need of such accuracy in the communication of the magistrate to this House, and the hon. and learned Member for North Longford himself well knows that no certiorari lies to this House. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] I am glad that my remark has called forth that manifestation. The material point is that a Member of the House is absent, and how long he is likely to be absent. But so far as the language of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford is concerned—namely, that this is a corrupt and wilful falsehood, I say that oven the language 192 of the hon. Member for Cork, which is by comparison a temperate statement, does not represent the case correctly. We are told that the hon. Member has been found guilty of taking part in the Plan of Campaign, and we all know, and have known before, that the Plan of Campaign was the hon. Member's own invention. Everyone knows the law, or is presumed to know it, and if the hon. Member did not know it he has not done his duty by himself as a subject. We are told that the Plan of Campaign is a criminal conspiracy, that he has taken part in it, and therefore that he has taken part in a criminal conspiracy. But we are told something more—namely, what that criminal conspiracy is, and because the magistrate has told us this, we are asked to bring the magistrate to the Bar of the House to apologize for what has been called a libel on a Member of the House. But does not the House know that the hon. Member for East Mayo started the Plan of Campaign; do we not know that he gloried in devoting himself to taking part in it; and is the House to be told that a magistrate has written a libel upon him when he says that he has done what he has been constantly boasting of doing? That, I say, is asking the House to take up a ridiculous position. It is quite true that the magistrate has not written the letter in the words of a legal indictment; but I submit that he has told the House in decent, becoming, and perfectly comprehensible language all that the House need to know, and it is, therefore, an abuse of language to call the letter a libel, or corrupt, or even inaccurate.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Sir, I thought that the comments which the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst) made upon this letter were the most unfortunate comments that it was possible to make; but when the hon. and learned Member for Deptford (Mr. Darling) got up I found out my mistake. I do not think I ever heard a counsel make a case much worse than the hon. and learned Member has done in the case which he was defending. This matter is a very plain one. When a Member of this House is arrested or convicted, notice has to be given of such arrest or conviction. A Member of this House is not to be kept away from it without the House knowing 193 he cause why he is kept away. For that purpose the cause, and the true cause, must be stated in order that the House may know whether there is any justification of the conduct of the tribunal or authority who detains an hon. Member. This was according to the ancient law of Parliament, and in former days the judgment of a Court for Contempt, by which a Member was imprisoned, was not recognized by the House of Commons as a valid ground for his detention, and it was disputed and resisted. I do not mean to say that this law in recent times has not been altered. I put it forward as an illustration. Supposing that the old law was in operation in these days, when a Member was detained, and it was not stated that it was for Contempt, the House would be ousted of its right to know the cause of the detention of the Member. Therefore, it is necessary that the true cause of detention should be stated in order that the House may judge whether or not it should take cognizance of what has been done; and, therefore, to send to Mr. Speaker a letter which does not state any legal cause or cause known to the law on which the House can proceed is, on the face of it, an insult to the House. It is as much as to say—"I have detained the Member, and I will not give you any legal cause whatever for his detention." The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India says—"Oh, it was done out of consideration for your understanding, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and for fear that if the cause had been stated in the statutory language of the Act of Parliament, you might not have understood it; it was couched in popular language in order to meet the feebleness of your apprehension." This is the only defence we have heard offered by the Government for this act. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India said that the letter should be couched in popular language. I think that advice a little dangerous to those unlearned gentlemen who are called Resident Magistrates; and I feel that a more extraordinary comment on the learning of those gentlemen could not have been given. But I will suggest another form of popular language, which will be perfectly familiar to the House, and perfectly satisfactory, no doubt, to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. 194 J. Balfour). Suppose a Resident Magistrate were to write a letter and say—"Mr. Speaker, I have got hold of a Nationalist Member, and I have sent him to prison." That is a very popular way of expressing exactly what is going on in this case. It would be perfectly intelligible even to your intellect, Mr. Deputy Speaker; you would then know exactly what had happened, and the House and the country would also know; while the Resident Magistrate would be spared the trouble of exhibiting his ignorance of the law. In order to save the trouble of writing such a letter, I suggest that there should be a common form lithographed, and that a parcel containing them should be supplied to Resident Magistrates—a dozen or so might be served out, and they might be in this form:—"We have got hold of a number of Nationalist Members; we do not exactly know what we are to try them for, but we have sent them to prison, and I beg to inform you of the fact." Now, that is exactly what has been done in this case, and that is what the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India calls popular language. Hon. Gentlemen on these Benches raise their protest against, what I will call, the unbecoming levity of the hon. Gentleman in adopting this form of defence of the present transaction, which, however, is the only defence that has been offered. There has not been the smallest attempt to offer any serious explanation to the House. I do not impute anything to the Resident Magistrate, except crass ignorance. The Resident Magistrate did not know what it was that Mr. Dillon was sent to prison for; and, therefore, we cannot impute to him any bad motive—[Cries of "Order!"]. He is described here as Mr. Dillon.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
All I complain of is that the magistrate, in informing the House that he had committed the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) to prison, has not adopted the ordinary form of satisfying the House of Commons that he had sent him to prison for some offence known to the law. It was all very well for the hon. and learned Member for Deptford to say that we knew all about the Plan of Campaign; but it is necessary that the magistrate 195 should state that the hon. Member had committed some offence of a statutory character. But he has not done that, and therefore, not merely with reference to this case alone, but with reference to future cases in which Members of this House may be detained, I think that we ought to take some proceedings to assert that a legal offence should be stated as the cause of imprisonment of a Member of this House.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
said, he was desirous of narrowing the discussion to the only question which ought to be brought to the attention of the House—namely, whether a Breach of Privilege had been committed or not. He did not quite share the views enunciated by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Darling), and he quite agreed with his right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) that if the House had had such a flippant communication as he had sketched, stating that a Member had been caught and sent to prison, the writer of such a communication would deserve the greatest possible censure of the House. He (Sir Henry James) would ask the House to take into consideration what it had before it, not from outside sources, but from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy). The House would agree that if they had had from this Resident Magistrate the most technical statement of the offence that he learnt from the hon. and learned Member for North Longford had been committed, he should have sent to the House a communication that "Mr. Dillon had been convicted of taking part in a certain criminal conspiracy—to wit, the Plan of Campaign."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
No, no! According to the report in The Times, informations were sworn by District Inspector M'Donnell, before Mr. Kilkelly, R.M., charging Mr. Dillon with taking part in an unlawful assembly at Tallyallen—that was afterwards departed from—and in a criminal conspiracy to induce certain tenants to refuse to pay their rents.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
said, they were asked to find that a Breach of Privilege had been committed on the statement of a newspaper that there had been a conviction for a particular offence. If the 196 letter of the magistrate had stated that Mr. Dillon had been convicted of taking part in "a certain criminal conspiracy—to wit, the Plan of Campaign," there would have been no Breach of Privilege. All that the magistrate had done was to omit the words "a certain criminal conspiracy—to wit." No doubt, looked at from the narrow view of a lawyer, the letter was couched in slipshod language; but persons who were not lawyers would simply say that the result had been stated briefly without reciting the legal means by which it had been arrived at. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby did not impute any motive to the magistrate, and only charged him with ignorance; but was an error committed in ignorance to be treated as a Breach of Privilege? He was afraid that he and others had often committed Breaches of Privilege in ignorance. Taking the admission that this gentleman had not intended any insult to the House, and that he had to satisfy the Lord Chancellor of his legal knowledge—[Mr. T. M. HEALY: No; the Lord Lieutenant]—it was scarcely worth the while of the House to consider what penalty should be imposed upon him for a Breach of Privilege committed in ignorance.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) has come to the assistance of the defence of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst) in this matter with his usual gallantry. He has stepped into the breach on behalf of the Government, and endeavoured to induce us to dispose of this matter on the ground that there was no intention or apprehension of giving offence to this House. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend is right in so pronouncing upon this matter; but I believe that I am quite right when I say that in debates on this question, whether it is a Breach of Privilege or not, we have nothing whatever to do with the intention of the person who has committed it. The intention of the person is a matter for after action. The custom of this House is first to decide whether a Breach of Privilege has been committed or not, and subsequently it is the duty of the House to consider whether it has been innocently committed or not—whether it 197 has been an innocent or a guilty Breach of Privilege, and on this head the House takes what course it may in its wisdom deem right. In considering the conduct of Mr. Hamilton, we have to look at the facts by themselves. I do not want to go into the motives that my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) and others think they see in what has taken place. I want to restrain thorn from looking at any motive, or of presumed innocence, there may be associated with the whole matter at this stage. What are the facts with which we have to deal? It appears to be supposed by the hon. and learned Member for Deptford (Mr. Darling) that there is nothing to be done in a case of this kind except to certify a certain fact to the House, that the House is minus one of its own Members, and that when they are put in possession of that information as functi officio in the matter, they had nothing to do but to receive it and to record it, and to have nothing whatever to say upon the proceedings that have taken place. I think, Sir, that this is one of the gravest matters in which we can possibly be engaged. I think I see a smile on the face of some of the right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, but I do not think that I have said anything in my utterance which should have provoked that smile. Sir, there is no question that can come before this House more important than the personal liberty of the Members. If this House is bound to respect the tribunals of this country, then the tribunals of this country are bound to respect this House. When we have had to deal with the Judges of the land in matters of this kind, not one of those Judges failed in the proper discharge of their duty; but we are here dealing with a case where the Judges of a Court have infringed the Privileges of this House, and I want to know, after the smiles I have observed on the Front Government Bench, if the Government does not consider the question raised of the highest Constitutional importance that this House should be made aware of what has happened to one of its Members according to legitimate authority, and whether the powers vested in the magistrates by the law have been properly exercised, and how can the House know that unless the Judge states a legal offence? This, I say, is a matter 198 of the highest Constitutional importance. I do not say that the House ought now to enter into the merits as to whether the magistrates were actuated by right motives or not; but what we have a right to know is, whether the magistrate has acted within the limits of the law. My right hon. and learned Friend (Sir Henry James), with his boundless ingenuity, has, hypothetically, patched up a form of expression which the magistrate might have used, but which, as he says, the magistrate has not used.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
What I said was that the magistrate ought to have used certain words which I stated. What I did say was, that if he had used certain language which I repeated, he would have accurately described what took place before his tribunal.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I confess that when I heard that from my right hon. and learned Friend I did not then estimate the high importance of it; but I think the way in which the magistrate has communicated with this House is one of the most extraordinary, strange, and unnatural that it has ever before experienced. But my right hon. and learned Friend says that the magistrate has omitted only four or five words, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman asks whether we were going to and that there was a Breach of Privilege because of the omission of those words; but it so happens that those are the only words that are in the slightest degree material. It is the duty of the House to know that the magistrate has been acting within the law; but the magistrate left out the words that would afford the information, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman said—"I will supply them." What the House desires to know is why the hon. Member has been prevented from attending in his place in this House. If it is necessary that the intimation should be made to the House, we ought to know that the ground of the conviction is a legal offence; but no statutory knowledge, no judicial knowledge of the legal offence on which the hon. Member for East Mayo has been detained, is conveyed by the magistrate's letter. It is the duty of the House to maintain with strictness the regularity of these proceedings; and unless it does so it will be better that these letters should be discontinued altogether, for they will become a mockery if they are to convey 199 to the House, in what is called popular language, only what the newspapers have already conveyed. We want to be assured of the legality and the regularity of the proceeding. This is the purpose of the letter. If the letter does not convey such an assurance, the writer of the letter, however innocent, seriously failed in his duty to the House, and it is the duty of the House to take note of the Breach of Privilege; and if inquiry into the circumstances justifies the conclusion of innocence, which has been prematurely assumed, the honour of the House will have been vindicated. I so regard it.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
The hon. and learned Member for York (Mr. Lockwood) in his desire to place this question clearly before the House, asked what would be said by those outside the House when they read this debate. I think, Sir, that those outside will say that a great many and very learned and distinguished Gentlemen have been occupied in discussing a very trivial and frivolous question; that the storm which has been raging has been a storm in a tea-cup, and that it is really difficult to believe that the avowed motive of the debate to which we had been listening is the real one. It will also, perhaps, be said that the House by this debate has shown no very great anxiety to approach the Business which appears next on the Paper. They will probably say, when they read the speech of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) and the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), and, of course, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), that the hon. Members opposite could not lose an opportunity—however ill-chosen that opportunity might be—for the purpose of attacking a Resident Magistrate. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford has taken the opportunity which this debate allowed him to use language not only of extreme violence but absolutely and totally without foundation with regard to this magistrate (Mr. Hamilton). He has attacked his morals and attacked his learning. There is not the slightest ground, as far as I know, for believing that this gentleman acted otherwise than in the most perfect good faith. As to his learning 200 and his qualifications, and as to the Lord Lieutenant testifying to them, I do not say much, but what I say will be sufficient—namely, that if any Lord Lieutenant is to be attacked on the question at all, that Lord Lieutenant is Lord Spencer. For not only was the appointment of Mr. Hamilton one of Lord Spencer's appointments, but it was Lord Spencer who declared that he had adequate legal knowledge. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby gave us his view of the object with which these letters are written to the House, They are written to the House in order that the House may become cognizant of the reason why it is deprived of the service of one of its own Members. That is the reason, and I apprehend that every letter couched in respectful language giving the House that knowledge is a proper letter. It may not satisfy the appetite for technicalities which consumes the legal mind, but it may well satisfy the lay mind; and I would ask, have those who have made a most violent attack on the magistrate concerned maintained for a moment that he has misled the House with regard to the detention of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon)? Can anybody, even under the influence of the violent passions which the very name of Resident Magistrate excites in the breasts of hon. Members below the Gangway, maintain for a moment that any deception has been practised on the House of Commons by this gentleman? I humbly admit that I approach this question as a layman, and without that refinement of technicality which the right hon. Gentleman opposite regards as of so much importance. Surely when you say that a man is convicted of taking part in the Plan of Campaign, if it be admitted that the Plan of Campaign is an illegal conspiracy, do you not assert by implication that he has been proved to be guilty of an illegal proceeding? If it be true that the Plan of Campaign is an illegal conspiracy, for the magistrate to state that the hon. Member has been convicted of taking part in the Plan of Campaign is to say that he has convicted him of illegal conspiracy. The Plan of Campaign has been distinctly stated by more than one Judge of the High Court to be illegal without qualification or drawback, and what has been stated by a Judge of the High Court in 201 Ireland may surely be stated by a Resident Magistrate and accepted by this House. This debate is a happy illustration of the kind of language which hon. Gentlemen opposite are prepared to use with the very smallest provocation when they think any political capital can be made out of it. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford thinks he has a good opportunity of attacking a Resident Magistrate and myself because a political opponent has been sentenced to imprisonment. [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] Exactly; in those cheers lies the explanation of the debate. It is not the dignity of this House, it is not the Privilege of this House which hon. Gentlemen have at heart. They are animated, not by love of this House, but by a hatred of the tribunals in Ireland. That is the motive and that is the mainspring of the whole debate; and I think it is really wasting the time of the House to pretend for one instant that any great question involving the dignity or Privilege of this Assembly is concerned in the fact that one Resident Magistrate has, in perfectly clear language, but not in language technical enough to suitlawyers, explained to Mr. Speaker that the hon. Member for East Mayo has been sentenced to imprisonment.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
said, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had, as usual, infused into the debate a spirit of bitterness. [Ministerial cries of "Oh!"] Yes; he had deliberately imputed the lowest motives to his opponents that he could possibly find; he had said that the public would see that hon. Members below the Gangway and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench had been actuated solely by a desire to make a little political capital, and were determined to lose no opportunity of discrediting Resident Magistrates. He (Mr. John Morley) maintained that they ought to lose no opportunity of bringing before the scrutiny of the House every act committed by every Resident Magistrate done in pursuance of the Coercion Act of last year. If he could be amazed at anything after the circumstances of the passing of that Act, he was amazed that hon. Members opposite should think that anything relating to the arrest of a Member of that House could be a light and frivolous matter, and could only be 202 made the subject of debate by hon. Members from frivolous, vexatious, and partizan motives. The right hon. Gentleman had attempted to make the point which he was always attempting to make, in referring them to something that had been done by Lord Spencer. The right hon. Gentleman had said that it was Lord Spencer who appointed Mr. Hamilton. He (Mr. John Morley) was prepared to believe that that was perrectly true; but it was not the point. Lord Spencer might have appointed Mr. Hamilton; but his selection was for duties very different to his present course of action, for his action now was action taken by virtue of what the present Lord Lieutenant had done pursuant to a clause in the Coercion Act of last year. The question was not the original appointment of Mr. Hamilton, but the selection of that gentleman by the Lord Lieutenant as a person of whose legal knowledge and competency to administer the Crimes Act he was satisfied.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, that his point was that Lord Spencer had certified to Mr. Hamilton's legal knowledge.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
said, he must be allowed to question whether Lord Spencer had certified to the legal competency of Mr. Hamilton in respect of a legal subject so delicate and intricate as conspiracy. Conspiracy was not an offence under the Act of 1882, and, therefore, the allusion of the right hon. Gentleman to Lord Spencer had no bearing whatever upon Mr. Hamilton's present position. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Well, the truth was, that the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen behind him, who were so ready to make light of these arrests of Members, were only showing the same arbitrary and reckless disregard of the spirit of legality which they showed at every stage of the discussion of the Act of last year. If the case were that of an English Member the Party opposite would be as earnest as any of those on his (Mr. John Morley's) side of the House in taking care that every formality and technicality was scrupulously followed. But their views regarding hon. Members from Ireland were well known. Anything was good enough for an Irish Member. It was against that view that he and his hon. Friends protested, and they would lose no opportunity, how- 203 ever light and frivolous hon. Members opposite might regard it, of insisting that every formality should be strictly and scrupulously respected. It was clear that in the present instance, the formalities had not been observed. It was not even contended by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) that the magistrate had used the proper language. He had not done what he ought to have done, and had therefore been guilty of a breach of the Privileges of this House. The circumstances were so serious—[Laughter]—the circumstances of the arrest of any of their Colleagues were so serious, that they ought to let no opportunity ever pass without insisting that the letter of the law and the usual practice should be rigidly and strictly observed.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
I desire to make one correction of my statement. I spoke from memory when I said that the legal knowledge of the Resident Magistrate was certified by the Lord Chancellor. I find on reference to the Act, subsequent to that which I referred to, that this rested with the Lord Lieutenant. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford was, therefore, correct in saying that it was not as I stated.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
The slight explanation we have just heard from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) is an instructive commentary on his appearance in this debate. The right hon. Gentleman got up with the air which he always assumes in speaking on affairs of Ireland; he contradicted the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), and his ignorance is exposed. The House, however, will not expect that the exposure of the right hon. Gentleman's ignorance will lead to any diminution of that self-confidence with which he always speaks on Irish affairs. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, if he has not succeeded in getting a portion of that programme carried out—which, in a moment of singular and unexpected frankness, he expressed with regard to Mr. Blunt,—has at least succeeded in getting the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) sent to jail, and, therefore, he has an opportunity in carrying out that Christian, gentle, 204 and courteous policy of torturing, but not killing a Member of the Nationalist Party. On one occasion I endeavoured at Question time to draw the attention of the House to the fact that Mr. Speaker would not allow popular terms to be employed in Questions addressed to Ministers in the House of Commons. A Member on these Benches put a Question on the Paper relating to the Crimes Act which was referred to as the Coercion Act. Attention was called to the fact, and the Speaker ruled that the term "Coercion Act," although popular, was not a term that ought to be used in this House. Why should not we apply the same test to a letter sent to the Speaker by a Resident Magistrate as we apply to a Question addressed to a Minister in the House of Commons? If the Speaker rules it to be necessary not to employ popular language in a Question addressed to Ministers, à fortiori, it is necessary in Reports made by Resident Magistrates to the House with regard to the conviction of Members of Parliament. The hon. and learned Member for Deptford (Mr. Darling) is in the habit of giving the House legal disquisitions. I rejoice at the fact, but the more I hear these disquisitions the more I wonder how the constituency which he represents could have chosen him in preference to Mr. Blunt. The hon. and learned Member for Deptford laid it down that the terms of the report did not matter, and that the only thing that the House wanted to know is that the Member was convicted.
§ MR. DARLING
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. Those are neither my words, nor do they represent the sense of what I said.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I should like to know what was the sense of the hon. and learned Member. But I think it is in the knowledge of the House that I represent the meaning of the hon. and learned Member with sufficient accuracy, when I say that his point was, whether the hon. Member for East Mayo was in prison or not. This admirably sums up the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that the charge is immaterial on which the Resident Magistrate has convicted the hon. Member. The opinion of the magistrate is not the question under discussion. We have first to decide whether or not he has 205 given an accurate representation of the case. If we decide that he has not done this, we can by-and-bye summon him to the House and compel him to make an apology. But I say there is a corrupt intention in sending this letter. Why does he use the term Plan of Campaign? Because he knows that it is a term discredited in this country, and that it has been discredited by the Holy Office, which might, I think, be better employed than in interfering in the political affairs of Ireland, an intervention which will be repulsed by Irish Members with emphasis. We know that the words Plan of Campaign are what Jeremy Bentham would call an odious term. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) said the letter would have been all right if the words "criminal conspiracy" had been put in after the words "Plan of Campaign." Why did the Resident Magistrate not say that the hon. Member for East Mayo was convicted of a criminal conspiracy to induce people in Ireland not to pay rent? It was because if he had used the words "criminal conspiracy to induce people not to fulfil their contracts," he would show that a man can be convicted in Ireland for doing that which a man in England is entitled to do. There is no such thing in England as criminal conspiracy of this kind. I will go further, and say that under the Trades Union Acts an artizan is distinctly entitled to induce others to break their contract; he is safeguarded in doing so, and that is the reason why Mr. Hamilton used the words "Plan of Campaign" instead of the legal term "criminal conspiracy to induce people to break their legal contracts." The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has said that Mr. Hamilton was appointed by Lord Spencer. I am not prepared to say that Lord Spencer did not make many appointments in Ireland that were not very good; but surely it is one thing to appoint a man as Resident Magistrate for a particular kind of work, and another to appoint him for work of an entirely different character. If he appointed a Resident Magistrate to do the humble work of Petty Sessions, is it to be held that he is competent to go into a Court of Equity and decide questions of a very delicate kind? Why did not the right hon. Gentleman inform the House 206 that under the Coercion Act which Lord Spencer administered Mr. Hamilton could not have tried this case? Mr. Hamilton was employed on Coercion work by Lord Spencer, but in the Crimes Act of 1872 there was no conspiracy section. The only section analogous was that which dealt with intimidation, which has nothing to do with conspiracy; and because Mr. Hamilton was employed by Lord Spencer for this comparatively trivial work of trying Coercion offences, we are to be told that he was also employed by Lord Spencer in trying important and delicate questions of criminal conspiracy. This is only another specimen of the way in which these affairs are conducted in Ireland. I find that in the enactment, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury did not take the trouble to peruse, it is provided that some of the Resident Magistrates are to be certified as competent by the Lord Lieutenant and others by the Lord Chancellor. Mr. Hamilton has been certified to be legally competent by the Lord Lieutenant, but not so by the Lord Chancellor. This is a remarkable circumstance, because the Marquess of Londonderry, although probably qualified to give his judgment on a racecourse, is wholly incapable of forming any opinion as to a man's legal knowledge. Then, he asked, why was Mr. Hamilton sent to try this most delicate and most important case; delicate because of the nature of the charge involved, and important because of the person brought before the Court. Why was Mr. Hamilton, who was an uncertificated lawyer, if he might use the phrase, but who, possibly, was a certificated judge of horseflesh—why was this man sent to try the case of the hon. Member for East Mayo? Mr. Harrington, the counsel for the hon. Member for East Mayo, asked in Court which of the Resident Magistrates he was to regard as legally qualified to try the case, and Mr. Hamilton replied that he was to be regarded as legally qualified. What were his qualifications; he was Lieutenant of the Revenue Police, and, secondly, he was a Constabulary Officer, but he certainly never passed a matriculation examination. This was a man legally qualified to try one of the most trusted and important Members of the 207 Irish Party. Why was he sent there at all; not because of his legal knowledge, because he had none; not because of his impartiality, because he had none; but he was sent there by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary because he was thought the best instrument to do the dirty work of the Government.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 189; Noes 250: Majority 61.—(Div. List, No. 106.)