§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question 21st February].—[See page 41.]
And which Amendment was—
In paragraph 8, line 4, to leave out all the words after the word "Country," to the end of the paragraph, in order to insert the words,—"But we humbly represent to Your Majesty that the present system of administration in Ireland is harsh, oppressive, and unjust, that it violates the rights and alienates the affections of Your Majesty's Irish subjects, and is viewed with reprobation and aversion by the people of Great Britain:
And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that such measures of conciliation should be adopted as may bring about the contentment of the Irish people, and establish a real union between Great Britain and Ireland,"—(Mr. John Morley.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, East)
In venturing to make a few remarks in support of the Amendment, I should like to preface what I intend to say with one or two brief comments on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War. I think that that speech was infelicitous in its choice of language, and that the trap which the right hon. Gentleman prepared for his opponents succeeded in catching his own friends. What are we to say to those who do not scruple without inquiry to accept at the hands 493 of the basest of mankind instruments that are intended to accomplish the destruction of their political opponents? I think the House has never had a fairer example of the effect of looking at the mote in our neighbour's eye, and forgetting the mighty beam in our own, than has been afforded on this occasion. I was astounded to hear the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that because there is some agreement with him on this side of the House there has been some improvement in the condition of Ireland, that, therefore, we ought to agree to the passage in the Address which ascribes the improvement to the salutary effect of the coercive measures of the Government. I cannot help regretting the ungenerous and pointless sneers which the right hon. Gentleman addressed to the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir G. Trevelyan). We have heard a good deal lately of courage and consistency. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) has abandoned the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill), his former partner in the National Party, and has become a servile worshipper of the Chief Secretary. We on this side of the House, and all right-minded and thoughtful men in the country, have regarded the course of the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division with admiration, and his courage and consistency in standing true to his Unionist principles and refusing to be dragged down to the quagmire of coercion, and for declining to tread the slippery path which has led this Government into the morasses of Pigottism and Crime. We heard the speech of the Chief Secretary at the beginning of this debate. I do not know what hon Members on the opposite side of the House think of that speech, but we on this side think that it was a singularly ineffective reply to the splendid and courageous challenge of the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley). Upon two points I was gratified by the speech of the Chief Secretary. He seems to have had a lesson in curbing his tongue, and consequently his speech was free from those errors of taste, those insults and petty sarcasms, which disfigured his previous utterances, and which have tended to alienate Englishmen and 494 Irishmen. It also was a speech that meant no surrender, and implied that they were going to fight out this question to the bitter end. The Opposition look with confidence to the result of the controversy. The administration of the right hon. Gentleman shows his utter incapacity to look things in the face and read the hearts of men. The late Lord Derby, when in this House as Mr. Stanley, was a strong supporter of Coercion in Ireland; but if the right hon. Gentleman will look through all the speeches made by Mr. Stanley, he will not find a single sneer at his political opponents, or upon men in his power who were unable to answer him. I shall not regret to see the right hon. Gentleman retain Office for a little longer, because I know that every day he is in Office adds to the strength of our cause in regard to Ireland. We have heard a great deal about the treatment of political offenders in Ireland. Now, there are certain prison regulations in force which are an admirable result of the best temper of the best period of the Conservative Party, and they represent the spirit, not of the right hon. Gentleman, but of the Tory Party in 1887. The prison rules which were passed then were framed with the object of protecting prisoners from every form of hardship. The 28th of these rules says—A convicted criminal prisoner shall be provided with a complete prison dress, and be required to wear it.There is no word in it about forcing him to wear it. It is simply an order from the Prisons Board saying, "You, Mr. O'Brien, or whoever it may be, are required to wear this dress." Turning to Rule 58, I find there that—The Governor shall have power to hear complaints respecting any of the offences following—that is to say, disobedience of the regulations by any prisoner,and so on. No one pretends that Mr. O'Brien, or any of the prisoners, offered violence to the Governor of the gaol, or any of the officials. They have simply refused to comply with this regulation. I do not dispute that that is an offence under the Prison Regulations, and that it is punishable by close confinement on bread and water; but I wish to know from the Solicitor General for Ireland or the Chief Secretary where he 495 finds authority for using this physical violence? If there is such authority, what is the meaning of the rule and regulation which prescribe a specific punishment for disobedience in regard to a particular rule? There is another point upon which I wish to put a question to the Government. We have been left for a long time in a state of obscurity as to the exact powers of the Chief Secretary over the Prisons Board and Governors of gaols in Ireland. The Chief Secretary, at any rate, had it in his power when he knew that Mr. O'Brien had been arrested at Manchester to send to the authorities at Clonmel Prison copies of the medical reports as to Mr. O'Brien, and particulars of his previous imprisonment. As soon as the imprisonment was announced, Mr. O'Brien had to submit to what the Chief Secretary calls "the ordinary process." The House knows well the right hon. Gentleman could have exempted the Tory Party from whatever consequences may attach to the prestige and popularity which the Home Rule Party may have gained in consequence of the treatment of the hon. Member. In his speech at Manchester, Mr. O'Brien said—I came here in the first place, and principally, because I was anxious, before disappearing, as no doubt I shall do for a considerable time, from the public scene. I was anxious to meet Mr. Balfour's own constituents here in Manchester, to ask them very respectfully, but very solemnly, to-night whether they are proud of his work in Ireland?Again, this hon. Gentleman also said—How do I come here to-night? Why, simply by walking away after giving fair and public warning that I intended to walk away out of a Court House in and around which there were over 200 armed policemen with no other business except to guard me. Probably the stupidity and utter incompetency of Mr. Balfour's agents are quite sufficient to account for it, without imputing to them any treachery to their masters.Well, what was the meaning of that speech of Mr. O'Brien's? It was a mighty appeal to the people of Manchester and Salford to be true to the principles of the past, and to reject the right hon. Gentleman and his policy. That was the sting of Mr. O'Brien's offence, and this was rendered all the worse by the fact that his presence in Manchester at all showed that Coercion was a miserable sham, and that men, said to be conspirators, could walk from 496 one end of Ireland to another, through hundreds of armed men whose duty it was to secure them. Although we were yesterday challenged by the hon. Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) not to say anything about Mr. Mandeville, I will venture to say something about that gentleman. I think it clear that the Chief Secretary and all the powers of the "Castle" might, had they mitigated his treatment at a critical period of his illness, have prevented that wrecking of his constitution which resulted in his death. But they would not do so. The Chief Secretary sent Dr. Barr to get the prison officials up to concert pitch, in order that they might carry out this policy of humiliation, degradation, and physical torment to prisoners. The most offensive and degrading speech I can remember being uttered by a public man in this country was that in which the Chief Secretary referred in mocking tones to Mr. Mandeville after his death, and tried to insinuate that it was due to other than the real causes, casting a slur on Mr. Mandeville's good name which tended to injure it after his death. It is a fortunate thing that such deeds and words do not often characterize English statesmen. In one of the old debates when Daniel O'Connell was speaking of the wrongs of Ireland, and was met by the mocking laughter which is too common among hon. Members opposite below the Gangway, he made this passionate protest:—Yes; though I am a mere Irishman, the iron of despotism has not so entered into my soul that I do not bitterly hate slavery and dearly love liberty;and when they mocked at his words, he said—The mocking laughter of Englishmen is the most powerful argument for Repeal, for it proves a perfect absence of knowledge in respect to Ireland, and a complete incapacity to legislate for that country.The Chief Secretary might have learned something more of Ireland had he gone back to O'Connell, or remembered the saying of Lord Beaconsfield—The blood-and-iron method of governing Ireland would fail. It failed under Cromwell. The Irish are susceptible to kindness, and full of sentiment-inconsiderate of the means necessary to gain the desired ends, but easily governed if dealt with in the right way. That way was by recognizing that imagination 497 played quite as important a part in the government of nations as reason.Let hon. Members on the opposite side look in their Hansards for 1833 and 1836, and read the speeches of Lord Grey and Lord Althorp, followed up by that of O'Connell. Those were the old days when the old savage spirit of Irishmen, struggling against terrible wrong and oppression, expressed itself in a savage way. At that time there were 9,000 crimes, as against 500 when the miserable Coercion Bill was introduced; and now, when we hear of a few slight outrages in Ireland, we know that they are the lingering symptoms of the old disease which is steadily dying out under the influence of the beneficent reforms that have been effected. The Chief Secretary may immure Mr. O'Brien in gaol, but he cannot silence him. Before he was sent to prison the first time, he said, speaking of the Irish Members generally, "We are the storm-bells on a dangerous coast"; and this is the function they have had to perform. They have told us of the evils existing in some of the dark and out of the way corners of Ireland, and of the miserable plots of desperate assassins in America. They have been the warning beacon of what may come to pass if we are not advised in time. And again, this year, when he was sent to prison, Mr. O'Brien left ringing in the ears of Irishmen and Englishmen the words—"We can see our way to keep Ireland crimeless and unconquered." There is a simple test of what the National League is, and of what it has done. I ask hon. Members opposite do they approve of the Land Laws passed for Ireland and of the reductions of rent that have been effected in Ireland? Have these been just or unjust; fair or unfair? Say one thing or the other. Either deny their justice, or acknowledge that they are due to the wisdom, sagacity, and patriotic efforts of our great Leader the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), and also the efforts of the Land League. These great reforms would never have been carried but for the light thrown on the state of Ireland by the efforts of the Land League and National League, while, with regard to the revision of rents under the Act of 1887, that was due solely to the efforts of the Irish Party. I ask the Tory Party whether this saving of rents 498 to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds to the poor Irish tenants is just or unjust? If just, why not give the credit to those who fought for and obtained it? We know what was said by that simple and straightforward soldier who was sent away from Ireland for speaking the truth—Sir Redvers Buller—that when the National League was established, and the people got their land, and took the matter into their own hands, there was no longer one law for the poor and another for the rich. If there be, as we are told, improvement in the condition of the Irish people, is it not fair and honest and reasonable to give the palm to those who have fought the battle for them? We are told that these men are mere conspirators, and have no following; but the Chief Secretary himself, in a lucid interval during his latest speech, recognized the fact that these men had the ear of the majority of the Irish people, and that they had the real power to work a reform in Ireland. He said—What we or any Government could do for Ireland would be but a small part of that which they could succeed in effecting for themselves.The Prime Minister, in another place, said they were confident of the future, because, by their reforms, they were stealing away the hearts of the people from their natural leaders. In conclusion, I would say that if that is the real and sincere, as well as the avowed, view of the Conservative Ministry, and if they are confident their policy will bear inspection in Ireland or in England, then let them face us at the polls by referring this great question of whether they have been false to their pledges and promises made at the last General Election. We, at all events, have no fear of the result. We know well what it will be. We know that you, the Conservative Party, have betrayed your trust, and that the people of England, when you have the courage to challenge them, will record their opinion in favour of the principle embodied by this Amendment.
§ MR. MARK OLDROYD (Dewsbury)
Sir, I claim that indulgent forbearance which it is the time honoured custom of the House to extend to Members who pass through the trying ordeal of rising for the first time to address it. I should not have intervened, but during the debate I have been thoroughly impressed 499 with the fact that the Amendment so accurately expresses my own views on the great question which now divides opinion on the respective sides of this House—views that I have expressed to the constituency which recently sent me here by an overwhelming majority—that I have been constrained not to give a silent vote upon it. Last night the Secretary for War, when challenged on this side of the House as to the accuracy of what he was stating, explained his inaccuracy by saying he could not be expected to know the details as well as hon. Members from Ireland. I have not the experience nor the knowledge of the right hon Gentleman, but am in the position described by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Morley), when he said, in recounting his earlier experiences of the House, he was possessed of that natural simplicity of soul which novices here are supposed to have, and listened to the debates with a view of ascertaining the facts of the case under discussion, so that his mind might be enlightened and his judgment corrected. I shall, in dealing with this subject, confine myself more especially to one point—namely, the alleged cruel and vindictive treatment of political prisoners in Ireland. The public opinion of this country has endorsed by multitudinous resolutions the opinion that the treatment of political prisoners in Ireland is cruel and vindictive. The public opinion of the country is not arrived at, nor is it formed any academical niceties, or by legal subtleties, or by the artifices of captious logic, but rather by hard and obdurate facts. I claim a special experience in connection with this matter, because I have recently come from the influence of those "ignorant assemblages" to which the Secretary of State for War referred last night. I submit that the national sentiment of the country is expressed in the proposition that political prisoners ought not, in fairness and in reason, to be treated as common felons. The age is too far advanced for that; and the introduction of a treatment of that kind would seem to mark a process of retrogression to the days of the Tudors and Stuarts. There is also a general impression throughout the country that the administration of Irish prisons within recent months has been more cruel and more relentless than has been the prac- 500 tice of recent Governments; that this change has been brought about by the extraordinary severity of Resident Magistrates and the Governors of gaols—men who know on which side their bread is buttered, who have taken their cue, if not from the expressed, at all events from the implied, approval of their conduct by the Chief Secretary. Sir, the Chief Secretary for Ireland cannot evade the responsibility which, as Minister of the Crown, he holds towards the House and the country in this matter. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Morley) quoted from the Prisons Act, and the quotation was sufficient to show that not only prisons, but every prisoner, is subject to the regulations of the right hon. Gentleman. Upon casting my eye over the phalanx of notabilities who sit on the opposite benches, I have failed to discover any Minister other than the Chief Secretary who is responsible to this House or to the country for the administration of Irish prisons. The right hon. Gentleman cannot shield himself, as he has attempted to do again and again, behind the Prisons Board. If, as was demonstrated in the course of this debate, the present management of these prisons is more severe than it was formerly, we want to know on what authority the increased severity was first instituted? The right hon. Gentleman has made admissions, and one was with regard to his action as affecting the priests who came within his jurisdiction as criminals. He made the admission that "he almost strained the law" in favour of those gentlemen. I should like an answer to this question—on what principle is the person of a priest to be considered more sacred than the person of an hon. Member of this House? Because a man is a minister of religion is no reason why he should be shown greater gentleness than an hon. Member of this House, who is a representative of the people and a custodian of their liberties. If the right hon. Gentleman will admit the persons of hon. Members are entitled to equal treatment with the persons of priests, I venture to ask why does he accord unequal treatment to hon. Members, by relieving the priests of the indignity of wearing prison garb—an indignity which he inflicts on hon. Members. An hon. Member, on Monday night, observed that Irish Members 501 were loud in the protestations of their desire to serve their country, but that whenever they came into the clutches of the law they began to whine and whimper. But I submit that the Members of this House who are now suffering imprisonment are not protesting against it, but against the indignities to which they have been subjected—the cutting of the hair and moustache, the insistence upon their wearing prison garb, the dragging of hon. Members in prison garb through their constituencies. These are matters inconsistent with propriety and decency and honour. Speaking at a memorable banquet on the 2nd February, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) spoke of Mr. O'Brien's eccentricities, and, on Friday last, he was reported to have referred to these eccentricities as a mania. But these eccentricities and this mania are what the people of this country respect. We are told that the prison discipline in Ireland on the part of the right hon. Gentleman is not vindictive. If the hon. Gentleman is not amenable to that accusation, perhaps he is amenable to another, that of absolute indifference. I should like to know what the treatment of prisoners in Ireland would be if he were to assume the attitude of vindictiveness? I will not attempt to paint the picture. Let us hope that that frame of mind will not seize the right hon. Gentleman; but I fail to see that he could show any greater cruelty than he displays now, unless he introduces a Bill recommending the restoration and rehabilitation of the racks and thumbscrews which adorn the Tower of London. It is an admitted principle that we must judge of a tree by the fruit it bears. What is the effect of this mild administration in Ireland and in this House? I have always regarded the position of a Member of Parliament as an honourable one; but, according to the theory of the right hon. Gentleman, admission to this House involves association with criminals. It is an indignity upon this House that its Members—political prisoners though they be—should be ranked among ordinary felons. The usages of this House are already being moderated to meet the emergency, and instead of referring to imprisoned Members by the constituencies they represent, their own names may be used 502 I was remarkably struck on Friday night by a fact to which I will call your attention. On Friday last there was imposed upon the Speaker the duty of making an announcement that Mr. Carew had been arrested, and within five minutes of that announcement, on the Motion of the Government, Mr. Carew was admitted to a Committee on the Standing Orders of this House. What is the effect of this mild administration upon the prisoners themselves? Does the Government suppose for a moment that these men will be inspired by fear, or that they will be filled with respect for the administration under which they suffer? What will be the effect upon the Irish public? Will it inspire them with respect and obedience to the law which imprisons and degrades with indignities the leaders of their public opinion, men highly respected, if not idolized? This mild administration fulfils the prophecy of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), on the occasion of the third reading of the Crimes Act, when he said that the new coercion would have to be of a more drastic and a more searching character than had ever disgraced the annals of this House. In another place reference has been made to the dramatic skill with which the Nationalist Party represent their sufferings. I do not wish to indulge in a dramatic representation, but I do say that the spontaneity and simultaneity with which public opinion has been expressed in this country within recent weeks on this very question of prison discipline in Ireland amounts to something which must be ominous—tragically ominous—to right hon. Gentlemen who now occupy the Government benches. By common consent it has been declared again and again, at these gatherings of "ignorant persons," that the discipline in Irish prisons is unworthy of civilized government, and the determined call, again and again repeated, that there should be an appeal to the country, is proof of the heartfelt determination of the country to wash its hands of this disgraceful stigma, and remove from itself the indignity of a Government which sullies its fair name. I will not enter now into any discussion of the justice of the sentences which have been recently recorded. I will only say this—that with regard to the sentence upon Mr. Finucane, from 503 the first it has been my conviction that it was an outrage upon common sense. With respect to the sentence upon Mr. Harrington, I regard it as neither less nor more than a caricature of legal proceedings. I regard the sentence upon Mr. O'Brien as one huge political blunder. I am also bound to point out that the course of this debate has not served, in the least, to mitigate the impressions and opinions which I had formed before the debate opened. I wish to call attention to one distinct feature of this debate which has impressed itself upon me. There has been carping criticism about words and details, but a lamentable absence of discussion of the broad principles which are involved in this question. The high-minded and eloquent speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Morley), in proposing his Amendment, was followed by a speech from the Chief Secretary which was merely a reply in detail, and did not touch upon the principles involved. And we were regaled last night with a speech from the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Saunderson)—a speech which has been characterized by an hon. Member on this side of the House as an exhibition of buffoonery and braggadocio. What struck me in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member was the announcement of a change in his strategy. On former occasions he has always said that he and his friends would line the ditches; now there is to be a change in the régime, for his enemies are to occupy the ditches. That rather indicates, happily, that the attitude of the hon. and gallant Member may be changed when the day comes that the Irish people will be accorded those rights which they have so long and so persistently claimed. Sir, I think this bandying of words, these charges and counter-charges, in a debate involving great principles is unbecoming and futile. I beg, Sir, to conclude with an expression of my own private opinion, backed, I believe, by the great majority of the nation, that the statement of the right hon. Gent. (Mr. Gladstone) is perfectly correct, that this question of the government of Ireland will continue to block the way of useful legislation for the whole country until we give practical effect to the principles of popular representation by handing over the Local Government 504 of Ireland to the people of Ireland, with such safeguards for Imperial interests as this House in its wisdom may think necessary.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Hants)
With the permission of the House I venture to congratulate the hon. Member who has just made his maiden speech, and I trust he will allow me, although not of much longer standing as a Member than himself, to give him a hint that the next time he endeavours to impress Her Majesty's Government with the terrors that await them he will not use such long words as "spontaneity" and "simultaneity." I would suggest one word which, although also beginning with "s," is shorter, and would explain the meaning much more clearly—"Schnadhorst." The hon. Member (Mr. Oldroyd) and the hon. Member who commenced the debate to-day have both, in accordance with the word that has gone forth, made their chief point of what is called the treatment of political prisoners. I do not misrepresent them, or the Parties they represent, when I say that the battle now waged all over the country is on that line. We accept the challenge—we are perfectly content to fight them on that ground. We deny the cruelty—we deny the injustice. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Trevelyan), of course unintentionally, misrepresented what the Chief Secretary said, when he said that that Minister placed political prisoners on a level with dynamiters and assassins. All the Chief Secretary argued was, that a political motive was assigned as the reason for differences of treatment, and he asked how they were to make the distinction, and whether a dynamiter did not claim to be prompted by a political motive? That is a totally different thing to putting political prisoners on a level with assassins and dynamiters. Where does the hon. Member who spoke last draw the line? Where does the political prisoner begin and where does he end? Whilst that inquiry remains without an answer, it is obviously begging the question to talk about the cruelty to Members of Parliament who are political prisoners. The hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Saunderson) said that if a Home Rule Parliament were established he intended to break the laws of that Parliament. Sup- 505 pose the hon. and gallant Member did break the laws under such circumstances, and was punished for it, he would entirely forfeit the sympathy of his friends here should he endeavour to gain separate treatment on the ground of being a political prisoner. The hon. Member (Mr. Oldroyd) made a remark with which I entirely agree, that in a multitude of disputes general principles are lost sight of. I could not help remembering as he spoke the words which accidentally dropped from the right hon. Gentleman (Sir W. Harcourt) at the time of the passing of the Crimes Act, two years ago—namely, that every act of the Executive Government would be viewed through a magnifying glass. He did not mean to use those words, because he corrected himself and said he meant microscope, but they exactly represent what has taken place; for the Party led by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) have left aside the great issues, and fastened on a mass of detail which they have magnified. But what is the question? Is Ireland to be governed by Her Majesty's Government or by the National League? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) and his followers have come to the conclusion that it had better be governed by the National League. Are we going to hand over the government of Ireland to the Party represented by the National League? We are not, and that is really the point for which we are fighting. But another point has been touched upon by the terms of the Amendment. It presents for Her Majesty's approval a new policy for Ireland—conciliation, by which, no doubt, is meant the establishment of what is commonly called Home Rule. It must be confessed that the word "conciliation" was very aptly chosen by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Morley). If he had used a more definite term, it might have failed to secure the support of any other of his Party than himself, for it is characteristic of that Party that no two Members of it mean the same thing by Home Rule, and they have no actual scheme of Home Rule ["Oh!"] Hon. Members cry "Oh!" I suppose they have in mind the Bill presented to the House in 1886, but we have been informed a good many times that that Bill has been abandoned, and 506 surely I am guilty of no misrepresentation when I say no scheme has been evolved from the great crowd of ideas which flood the minds of Gentlemen of that Party. If the word "justice "had been chosen, it would have more correctly described the grand yearnings and vain imaginings of the Party of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone). Under that term "justice," almost any scheme of sentiment as distinguished from reason could be embraced. If there is one thing to which that Party is committed, it is the retention of Irish Members in this Parliament; but the right hon. Gentleman has stated, and he has never withdrawn the statement, that it passes the wit of man to devise a scheme—[Mr. WINTERBOTHAM: No.]—the hon. Member will no doubt refer me to the speech where he has withdrawn that statement; but the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) said—"I defy the wit of man to invent a scheme by which Imperial and local affairs can be separated in this Parliament." Has he ever withdrawn that, or pointed out how they can be separated? Surely the hon. Member will not go down to his constituents and suggest that the Irish Members are to manage their own affairs and ours also? If hon. Members from Ireland are to be kept in this Parliament at all, Imperial and local affairs must be separated. It is playing with the common sense of the people of this country to ask them to hand over the Government to a Party which cannot define the remedies which they are to propose. I entirely agree with one sentence which fell from the lips of the hon. Member for East Northampton. The hon. Member said that be and his Friends had nailed their colours to the mast, and would accept no compromise whatever. I remember some foolish persons belonging to my own Party thought that the result of the last General Election had decided the question of Home Rule once and for all, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle said that that was only the beginning of the struggle. So, too, if the day should come—and I do not believe it will—when the supporters of Home Rule have an overwhelming majority, that would be far from the end of the struggle. They have a large Party in the country, and so 507 have the Unionists, and if a measure of Home Rule were brought forward a great deal of criticism would be applied to it. The struggle before us is long; I regret the bitterness caused by it; but if hon. Members think there is any faltering on the part of those with whom I act, or that a chance victory would land them at their goal, they are greatly mistaken. The history of this question shows that if one Party is determined so is the other.
§ SIR JOSEPH W. PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
Everybody will admit that, even in the most favourable circumstances, the Government of Ireland is encompassed with great difficulties. I am told by hon. Friends who sit on the other side of the House that if we who sit on these benches above the Gangway were to take away our adherence from those hon. Members who sit below the Gangway the reign of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland would be a very satisfactory one; that law and order would be restored; and that contentment and happiness would gradually dawn upon Ireland. In my view, such an argument is one which it is impossible to hold, because we may be perfectly certain that discontent and disloyalty would still prevail in Ireland unless the source of that discontent and disloyalty should have been taken away. Whilst I believe that a great deal of discontent in Ireland arises from agrarian sources, there can be no question that what is called the Home Rule movement not only pervades the agricultural but largely also the urban population in Ireland, for you will find it quite as strong in the large towns of Ireland as it is among the rural populations. Sir, it was my duty and my pleasure about two years ago to second a Resolution moved by my hon. Friend the Member for the Banbury Division of Oxfordshire, in which we opposed what is commonly called the Coercion Bill, and in that Resolution we showed that such a Bill would not tend to the pacification of Ireland, or loyalty of Ireland, or good government in Ireland; for loyalty, good government, and pacification could only be brought about by other means. We divided the House upon that question, and I want hon. Gents. opposite to recollect that three-sevenths 508 of the House of Commons voted against the second reading of the Coercion Bill. We were beaten by the large majority which the Government possessed, but still there is the fact that that Bill only became an Act of Parliament by the will of the majority, and by nothing like an unanimous vote, and it stands on the Statute Book to this day with that fact tainting its very birth. The Motion I have the honour to support to day is one which speaks very much in the same language; it condemns the present mode of governing Ireland, and it points to a better way of doing it. My noble Friend, who has just delivered a speech well worthy of his name, says that none of us are agreed upon what Home Rule means. I am not one who altogether approved the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian; I thought it embraced far too much the question of dealing with the land of Ireland in a way which I have always protested against, but with the main principles he laid down I still concur, and I take it that those principles are, that we should give the Irish people the management of their local affairs, that we should not interfere with Imperial integrity, and that in anything that is done as regards Ireland, we must take care to protect the minority, to whichever Party it may belong. These, I understand, are the general principles laid down by my right hon. Friend, and they are the principles to which we still adhere. Now, Sir, every hon. Member in this House will agree that the present position of Ireland in lamentable. Four-fifths of the people are dissatisfied with the manner in which they are ruled; disloyalty abounds, the law-breaker is honoured, the law is administered against the will of the majority, and the majority only submit to the law by force. Now, Sir, I have gone as deeply into this question as any Member can do, and in my travels through Ireland I have everywhere been struck by the general appearance of dilapidation and the universal discontent which prevails. There is no contentment among the tradespeople; there is a general feeling that things are wrong and that some great effort on the part of the lawmakers is needed to make them right. I have looked into the Returns. There is no real value in the statistics of im- 509 provement on which the Chief Secretary has so much relied, which are mainly concerned with the Saving Banks deposits. While pauperism has steadily diminished in England and Scotland, it has enormously increased in Ireland. In 1860 the number of Irish paupers indoors and out was 41,454; in 1878, 85,530; and in 1888, 113,947. The cost in 1860 was £530,000; in 1875, £943,000; and in 1886, £1,087,000. Then, Sir, the population in Ireland has decreased by nearly half a million. In 1878 it was 5,282,246; in 1888 it was 4,790,614. In Scotland, a smaller country, the population has risen from 3,628,268 in 1878 to 4,034,156 in 1888; an increase of 405,888. A great deal has been said about the Savings Banks in Ireland. It is true that the deposits in Government Savings Banks have gone up £92,600 since 1883, while in the Trustee Savings Banks they have diminished £52,000 in the same period. But then, on the other hand, more than a million sterling has gone from the pockets of the landlords into those of the tenants. The investments in Irish Railways have risen from £35,444,000 in 1883 to £36,457,000 in 1887. But the Return laid on the Table by the right hon. Gentleman shows a decrease in cash balances and deposits in Joint Stock Banks in Ireland since June, 1883, of £ 1,415,000. The Government and Indian Stocks held in Ireland in 1871 amounted to £36,927,000; in 1883 to £31,532,000, and in 1888 to £28,856,000, or a decrease of 8,000,000 since 1871, and of over two and a half millions since 1883. To sum it up, we have a decrease since 1883 in cash deposits of £1,400,000, a falling off in Government and Indian Stocks in Ireland of £2,700,000, and in Trustee Savings Banks of £52,000. As against this you have an increase in the Post Office Savings Banks of £926,000, and of investments in railways of £ 1,000,000 sterling. Does that show that your plan of governing has made Ireland thrive? Look at the Income Tax Returns. Between 1883–87 the Returns of Assessments for the United Kingdom had gone up £16,561,904; in Ireland they had gone down £33,685. The country is governed by a large number of police. In 1878 you had 12,000 men; now you have 14,000, although the population has decreased by half a 510 million. The cost of the police has risen from £1,200,000 to £1,600,000. The cost of prisons in Ireland has risen from £40,000 to £134,700, yet people have been running out of the country. In 1878 the emigrants numbered 29,492, last year there were 78,900. Then the evictions and notices of evictions are increasing steadily. In 1886, 3,771 families were evicted; in 1887 the evictions under the old Act and the notices issued under the new affected 6,382 families; in the first three quarters of 1888, 9,035 notices were issued under the new process and 819 under the old Act; these will probably affect 50,000 people. In these sad figures you have the picture of a country steadily getting worse on your hands, unlike England, Scotland, and Wales, and unlike every colony in which you are interested. Well, now, I have asked myself, Is the manner in which you are governing Ireland government by a Constitutional country, or is it government by autocracy? It seems to me to be a Government by autocracy, and in a manner utterly at variance with everything contained in the Bill of Rights and in Magna Charta. We have in Ireland 26,700 soldiers and 14,000 policemen—an armed force of 40,000, simply to govern 4,800,000 people—or one armed man for every 117 of the total population—man, woman, and child. I shall be told that the soldiers must be kept somewhere, and, therefore, it does not much matter. But the test is whether, in case of a great war, these soldiers could safely be removed. Every man knows that they could not, and it is equally evident that the work these men have to do is in the highest degree distasteful to them. Can it be imagined that the Scots Greys, with their magnificent record, and with the name of Waterloo on their colours, found it pleasant work to escort the parish priest to gaol? In the proclaimed districts there is no freedom of public meeting or of the Press. One of the speakers last night used the metaphor of a gaseous mine into which it would be unsafe to take a lighted candle. To that I reply that if the mine were cleared of gas, there would be no danger in lighted candles, and I say it is the policy of the Government which, to continue the metaphor, makes Ireland a gaseous, and therefore dangerous, mine. It is im- 511 possible to call that a Constitutional Government under which one-quarter of the chosen Representatives of the people either are, or have been, in gaol for crimes which would have been no crimes except for an Act of Parliament passed a couple of years ago. The forces arising against the Government are great, and they are so great that they will ultimately prevail. Behind the Government sit many Members who have pledged themselves to vote against coercion, and a system cannot last which is opposed by a powerful minority in the House, and against which more than one-half of the intelligent people of Great Britain have earnestly protested. At Manchester Mr. O'Brien was actually allowed to occupy the bed in which the Heir next but one to the Throne had previously slept at the Town Hall, and the next day the hon. Member was held down in gaol by four warders, the Governor looking on, while his hair was cut off. These things are not, and never can be, consistent with good government. If the laws are to be respected they must be respectable. Our laws are out of harmony with the best feelings of this country; they are no longer respected and obeyed, and the man who breaks them is not looked on as a criminal. You have 85 out of the 103 Members elected by popular constituences in Ireland; even in Ulster the majority of the elected Members is against you, the Boards of Guardians are composed of men opposed to you, nearly every Corporation and Mayor is against you, and, singular to say, the Lord Mayors of London, Dublin, and York, all of them are opposed to your plan. Now, Sir, while I protest against the law, I protest more strongly still against the manner in which it is carried out. It is all very well to raise technical objections as to whether the Chief Secretary has this power or that. If he has not the power to treat these men with decency, he ought to ask the House for that power, and he could get it in 36 hours.
§ SIR J. W. PEASE
Yes I believe he has the power, and indeed it has been proved that he has; but he does not exercise it. Priests are allowed to wear their own dress in gaol, and why not Irish Members of Parliament? 512 There is no prison regulation to compel men to have their hair and their beards cut. These are wanton insults, and they aggravate the state of things in Ireland and the state of public feeling in England. But what is the course of action of the right hon. Gentleman? He defends his policy. He defended it at his Balshazar feast in Dublin. I call it by that name, for if ever the handwriting, "Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting," appeared, it was written on this occasion by an indignant country on the wall of the banquetting-room that night. The right hon. Gentleman was surrounded by friends. I looked through the list the other day and found there were 13 or 14 Crown Prosecutors, five or six Dublin Castle Officials, and 10 or 12 defeated Unionist or Tory Candidates. These were the men who laughed at the sufferings of Mr. William O'Brien. Why did Mr. O'Brien refuse to put on the prison clothes? For the very reason that I would have declined. I should not have felt myself to be a criminal, and we have no right to treat him as a criminal. Having got his political adversaries under his feet, as the right hon. Gentleman has done, it is perfectly clear that those under him have learnt the lesson and taken up his cue as to the manner in which they are to act. The powers possessed by the Chief Secretary seem to have been exercised with irritating recklessness. Two Members of this House have been arrested during elections which they were attending, a third was arrested immediately after a large meeting at Manchester, and two priests have been arrested just as they were leaving Divine Service. The law seems to be constantly begetting fresh breaches of the peace. Let us take the case of Mrs. Moroney at Miltown Malbay, whose tenants have for years been paying £100 a year rent when they ought not, according to the reductions made by the Land Commissioners, to have paid more than £45 a year. This is the way in which crime is got up in Ireland. A landlady exacts £100 for every £45 that she ought to receive; that leads to boycotting; and that in turn to respectable people being sent to gaol with hard labour. In 1887 you proclaimed the National League in Miltown Malbay; it was rife enough then, but after that, 513 every person in the place joined it. Car-owners were next, prosecuted for refusing to drive the police to a place where a proclaimed meeting was to be held; three blacksmiths were prosecuted for refusing to shoe Mrs. Moroney's horses, other people were prosecuted for refusing to supply her with goods, and the publicans who closed their houses on the advice of the parish priest were also prosecuted, and eleven went to gaol. Their only offence was that they refused to supply liquor to the police, who had already a good store of it at their own barracks. That is the way in which crime is got up in Ireland. A landlady exacts £100 when she is only entitled to £45, the tenants object to pay, then comes boycotting, and then prosecutions under the Act. Your object in passing the Crimes Bill was not to suppress ordinary crime, but to suppress crimes made by the Crimes Act—to suppress the League, boycotting, intimidation, and the Plan of Campaign. Have you succeeded at all in putting down the League? Not a bit of it. The League has at this moment 1,800 branches, and of the alleged suppressed branches I see from 30 to 50 reported each week. How have the funds come into the League since you began your persecution? In the first fortnight of February, 1885, its receipts amounted to £242, and these have yearly increased till in the first fortnight of February, 1889, they reached the sum of £676. In to-day's Daily News I see that the last fortnight's contributions, partly from America and partly from the Colonies, amount to £2,553. Now as to intimidation. Very few persons have been able or even inclined to take farms from which tenants have been evicted; and while I do not say a word in favour of the Plan of Campaign, I know that it was one of those things which have been forced on the people of Ireland. There have been under it more than 100 combinations, and of these only four have been in any way interfered with by the action of Dublin Castle. There are still 40 estates under the Plan of Campaign, and in all the rest of the 100 cases terms have been arranged satisfactorily to the landlords and tenants. While there have been cases of injury on some of these estates, as a general rule it can be safely said that there has been 514 hardly any agrarian crime on them. As for law and order, it seems as if they are only to be observed so long as it suits hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) has declared that a Home Rule Parliament will not be obeyed by Ulster. Speaking at Portadown on the 19th inst., the hon. and gallant Gentleman said—As to a Home Rule Parliament, nothing under heaven will make us recognize this Parliament or obey its laws so long as we have right arms to strike with. In a fortnight we could put 50,000 men in the field under arms.If there is a Dublin Parliament it wil be one authorized by the Imperial Parliament, and its laws will take their tone from those of the Imperial Parliament. No one has asked for an Irish Parliament which should not be subservient to the English Parliament. No Parliament can exist in Ireland which is inconsistent with the integrity of the Empire and the proper protection of minorities. And when these pledges have been given by hon. Members on this side of the House it is impossible for the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh to urge that law and order should be observed now, and at the same time declare that they will not be observed under a Dublin Parliament. The fact is that the Government have to deal with a gigantic strike against high rents in Ireland, for reasons which would have justified the strike of any body of English operatives. Rents in Ireland have been high and in many cases oppressive. We have only to look at the Blue Book to see that some rents have been pulled down 60 and 80 per cent. How have you dealt with this state of things? You have dealt with it just as our ancestors tried to deal with the strikes of operatives in England. You have passed repressive laws. Some hon. Members remember how we petitioned in this House for a Royal Commission to be sent to Sheffield to inquire into the things being done there. That Commission reported and the result was the repeal of some of the labour laws and the legalization of trade unions, which has had the effect of bringing all their doings to the surface. Instead of having workmen who were to be distrusted, employers now have workmen with whom they can sympathize and who sympa- 515 thize with them. If the same plan were adopted in Ireland, and if the complaints of the tenants were treated as those of reasoning and thinking men, the same results would occur. There is no general disposition in Ireland to withhold rents justly due. Another difficulty of the Government lies in the fact that there is no general confidence in their mode of conducting business. Four-fifths of the people of Ireland and half the people of England and Scotland honestly believe that the Resident Magistrates are entirely in the hands of the Irish Government; and they also believe with very good reason, that in the gaols special provision is made for the Irish Members of Parliament, the political foes of the Government. This is shown in the way in which right hon. Gentlemen opposite followed up the charges made against Members of the Irish Party. The Irish Members asked to be tried before their Peers; but instead of that three Judges were appointed. I have nothing to say against those Judges as honest and upright men, but it is an unfortunate circumstance that all three should be of the same political creed. Every facility had been offered by Her Majesty's Government to bring home the charges of complicity in horrible crime against the Irish Members. The Resident Magistrates and all the force of the Irish police have been pressed into the service of proving that these men had complicity with crime. You have done almost worse than that. You have even opened the cell doors of every Fenian and dynamitard in prison to get evidence against the Irish Members. These are the sort of things that exasperate public opinion and make the government of Ireland more difficult than it ought to be. There is hardly a peasant in Ireland who believes that he would get justice. There is the case of murder at Kinsale by emergency men who were engaged in an illegal raid on cattle, The accused persons were brought before Lord Courtown, President of the Land Defence Association of Ireland, and nothing was done. Two men were brought before the Grand Jury. Of that jury I am told that 22 out of 23 were landlords or agents. No true bill was found. At the Coroner's inquest five or six witnesses swore that the two men charged 516 had been parties to the murder. It is clear that these men were equally guilty with the men who were hung at Manchester some time ago, because murder was done while they were engaged in an illegal act. This unfortunate position of affairs is owing in a great degree to the Land Question. The Bessborough Commission in 1845 stated that freedom of contract did not exist, and the Land Act of 1881 showed that it did not exist. Mr. Trench, before the Cowper Commission, said that the landlords were not their own masters, that mortgages were held at 4 and 4½ per cent. over half the land in Ireland. Mr. Samuel Murray Hussey said—The way the mortgages are pressing their claims, and the Government their claims with most merciless severity, the landlords will soon be ruined. You have the tenants in distress and arrears, and "half the landlords on the verge of ruin.What are the remedies proposed? The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) brought in a Bill to allow the leaseholders to come into Court. That Bill was rejected, but the Government granted the concession in the following year. You lost a year in dealing with these people. But you have not attempted to repeal that law which I consider one of the greatest hardships of the Irish tenant—the law as laid down in the case of "Adams v. Dunseath." In that case the tenants' own improvements were held, for the purposes of rent, to be practically the landlords' improvements. No attempt has been made to remedy such an utterly immoral and wrong state of things as that. Then the Government had obtained £10,000,000 with which to buy land, but the report as to the hands into which the bulk of that money is going is contrary to the accepted view of the probable recipients when it was granted. But it is said that the Land Court is open. Yes, but the Land Court is not open to the tenant in arrears who may be evicted. The Cowper Commission advised the Government to revise the judicial rents every five years, but they have not acted on that advice. Indeed, from first to last, the Government have opposed that view. In 1886, Lord Salisbury declared: "We do not think it would be honest in the first place, and we think it would be exceedingly inexpedient;" and yet, in the 517 following year, something was done in the direction indicated. Now, so far as I can learn, there has been no general reduction in the statistics of agrarian crime. In the quarter ending December, 1886, there were only 80 cases of agrarian crime, putting aside threatening letters, but in March, June, and September of last year there were 98, 98, and 108 cases, some of them of a graver character than those which occurred in 1886. The condition of the country ought to have been better now, because not only have the Irish people obtained the sympathy of the English and Scottish people, but the times as a whole are better. The truth is that the policy of the Government is at fault. There are only two roads open to the Government. You must either cease to govern Ireland by constitutional means—by turning the Irish Members out of Parliament, and governing the country by the force of the 40,000 armed men at present there—or else you must resort to constitutional methods of government. You must act boldly with regard to legislation in Ireland, with regard to the land, the arrears, and the charges on land. I believe the Government will have to deal with the mortgagees of Ireland, because if the State lays down what rent is to be paid it ought to take upon itself to say what charges the land can bear with that rent upon it. The Irish Representatives must be retained in the Imperial Parliament. In this place you will have in the future to guard all Imperial interests and the integrity of the Empire. In the Imperial Parliament we shall have to do that which has always been the doctrine of those who have advocated Home Rule—to take great care of the minorities of Ireland, whether Protestant or Catholic, landlords or tenants. But the unity of the Empire, which is now greatly in jeopardy, the very safety of the Empire, depends upon bringing about a better state of feeling in Ireland. I believe we shall have to train the Irish people to manage their own affairs, and shall have to place upon their shoulders the responsibility of maintaining law and order, before there will be anything like a state of perfect law and order in Ireland. If the Irish people fail in that task, the English people can be no worse off than they are to-day. On the other hand, if they succeed we shall have solved a great problem; 518 we shall possess that which we have not possessed during the whole of this century—a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (MR. MADDEN,) Dublin University
Mr. Speaker, as I listened to the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Pease), it occurred to me to ask the question whether, judging from the evident sincerity with which he spoke, his speech would not have been delivered in the opposite direction if his information had been correct on the various matters which appeared to influence his judgment. The hon. Member called attention to several points which have been discussed over and over again connected with the unfortunate affair which ended in the death of Kinsella. The hon. Member is under the impresion that the grand jury threw out the Bills. [Sir J. PEASE: I said so.] The grand jury did not do so. Bills were found against several prisoners, which went before a petty jury. The case was afterwards tried before a jury at the Assizes. It is true that the grand jury ignored the Bill against Freeman, but it is also true that the learned Judge stated at the trial that it had been admitted by every one that there was no evidence that he committed the murder.
§ SIR J. PEASE
I would not use Freeman's name, because I would not desire to drag it again before the House. But Freeman was the man against whom the coroner's verdict was brought. The grand jury threw out the bill against Freeman. I alluded to the case in order to show how little confidence the people have in the administration of justice in Ireland.
§ MR. MADDEN
Quite so. One of the reasons why the hon. Gentlemen supports the attack on the administration of the law in Ireland is that the grand jury ignored, and, according to the Judge, properly ignored, the bill against Freeman. But the Crown put the other men on their trial, and they were tried before a jury. A charge of jury-packing has been made, but not a single man called upon that jury was challenged. There was an instruction given which might have resulted in the exclusion of jurors—namely, that no landlord or land agent should be on the jury; but what I understand hon. Members to refer to as jury-packing is a process 519 accomplished by the exclusion of jurors when they come up to be sworn. The accuracy of the hon. Baronet's information may be inferred from his statement that the decision in the case of Adams v. Dunseath has deprived the tenant of property in his improvements. He has further stated that the Land Court is not open to the tenant under arrears. I can inform him that the Court is open to every tenant under arrears to have a fair rent fixed. The hon. Gentleman stated that in the parts of Ireland where the Land League has been proclaimed it is illegal to advise tenants as to the rents they are to pay, and that there is no liberty of speech. If the hon. Member were in the habit of reading the reports of meetings held in those parts of the country, and the newspapers which circulate there, he would see that there exists very considerable liberty, if not licence, both of speech and writing. I think I have some idea as to what the hon. Member had in his mind when he said the advisers of tenants were not at liberty to give advice to tenants who were about to buy their holdings. He must have had in his mind the case which the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir G. Trevelyan) mentioned in a letter—viz., that of the hon. Member for North Monaghan (Mr. P. O'Brien), who, it is alleged, was imprisoned by a Bench of Magistrates because he advised the people not to buy at a certain number of years' purchase. Now, that statement is absolutely and totally incorrect. I have examined the facts of that case. I have in my hand the conviction of the hon. Member for the offence. The hon. Member for North Monaghan was convicted on one charge, and on one only—namely, that of advocating the Plan of Campaign on the estate of Mr. Smithwick. There was not a conviction on the charge of advising the tenants on another estate—that of Lord Monck; that charge was not pressed. The conviction was for advocating the Plan of Campaign, and had nothing to do with the other charge as to advising the tenants on Lord Monck's estate not to purchase.
§ MR. MADDEN
I am instructed that the case was not presented by the Crown 520 and was not entertained by the magistrates, and that there was no conviction on it. It has also been stated that the hon. Member was sentenced to three months' imprisonment with hard labour. The real sentence was three months' imprisonment without hard labour. So much for the accuracy of the facts as present in the mind of the hon. Gentleman who asks the House to adopt the amendment. Now, looking back to the course of this debate, I submit that, although there has been a great deal of detailed criticism, there has really as yet been no attempt to deal with the broad issues raised by the amendment. There has been a great deal of detailed criticism of certain sensational incidents which have occurred, and which, I will add, have been created in the course of prosecutions; but there has been no attempt on the other side to go to the root of the matter, to criticize the circumstances under which the prosecutions were instituted, in order to show that they were unnecessary or harsh under the circumstances, and there has been no attempt to prove that in any particular case was an unrighteous or unjust decision come to. I have always admitted that where the Government have been compelled to ask for additional powers it is the right of the House to require a strict account of how they were used, and that it is the duty of the Government to be prepared to give such an account. A great portion, however, of the speeches which have been delivered from the other side have dealt with a totally different question from that of the administration of the law: they have suggested an alteration and a radical change of the law as regards the treatment of a certain class of prisoners. Now, no such principle has ever been adopted in the English law as that any person, be he a Member of Parliament, a priest, or a peasant, who has been convicted of an ordinary offence, even allowing, for the sake of argument, that the offence was committed for the purpose of producing a political effect, to get an advantage for a political party, or even to benefit some particular class of the community—no such principle has ever been admitted under British law that his status or position should be different from that of the man who committed precisely the same offence under different circumstances and from different motives, 521 What I want the House to notice is that all such discussion as that to which I refer is absolutely irrelevant to a motion which arraigns the present Government for their administration of the existing law. What are the issues raised by the Address and by the Amendment? The paragraph of the Address which it is sought by the Amendment to expunge is that in which we assure Her Majesty that we learn with satisfaction that the Statutes recently passed for the restoration of order and confidence in Ireland have been already attended with salutary results. The House is asked to negative that statement. Has there not been a salutary result effected in the direction of restoring order and confidence in Ireland? ["No."] An hon. Member says that no progress has been made in that direction. The hon. Member who challenges that statement differs from all the other speakers on the opposite side, because they have all admitted the improvement, and the only question is as to the cause to which that improvement is attributable. It is a fact that cannot be denied that agrarian crime in Ireland is now lower than it has been since the present agitation began in 1879. It cannot be denied that since June, 1887, under the working of the Crimes Act agrarian crimes have diminished to an enormous extent. For the quarter ending June 30th, 1887, they were 229, and for the quarter ending December 31st, 1888, the total number was 133. But more remarkable still are the figures connected with boycotting. The total number of persons wholly boycotted has diminished from 866 in 1887 to 56; and the total number partially boycotted has fallen from 4,035 to 656.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Are these the same figures as were given by the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Stanhope) last night?
§ MR. MADDEN
The figures are brought up to the 31st of December, 1888, and are taken from the Official Return. I am not aware what figures the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War quoted.
§ MR. MADDEN
These figures are absolutely correct as regards the period 522 to which they relate. Let the House for a moment realize what that means. If the Government have nothing else to show to the country as the result of their administration of the Act, the removal of human suffering and misery which these figures indicate would, I think, justify this House in passing the Act of 1887, and entitled the Government which administers it to the gratitude of the country. The hon. Member who spoke last has called attention to several figures relating to the state of Ireland, but his comparison was, for the most part, between Ireland as it is now and its condition at a period antecedent to the present agitation, which commenced in 1879. If the state of Ireland now were compared with its condition three or four years ago, the most remarkable results will be found to have been achieved. It is admitted that the country is more prosperous, that the general relations of different classes of society with each other have improved, that legal obligations are met with greater regularity, and that in particular the relations of landlords and tenants are much more friendly than they were before the present administration of the law commenced. Public confidence has been largely restored, and public credit has made a distinct advance. By public credit, I do not mean national credit, but the degree of confidence which leads men to invest their money in great public undertakings. One of the most crucial tests of returning enterprize is afforded by the success of public undertakings which have been started. There have been a number of schemes started under the Tramways Acts. Out of 18 schemes which have been set on foot only three or four in 1885 had attained a certain degree of prosperity. In that respect there has been a most marked change. On one of these railways 5 per cent. debentures are now selling at £13 15s. or a considerable premium. West Clare 4 per cent. debentures were practically unsaleable in 1885. Now they are selling at 95, or only 5 per cent. discount. The Hen Valley Railway in 1885 is not an undertaking under those Acts, but it is similarly circumstanced. It owed a large sum to the Board of Works, and endeavoured in 1885 to raise money to pay it off, but was then unable to issue debenture stock even at 5 per cent. They 523 have now succeeded in bringing out £20,000 at par, bearing only 4 per cent, and have forwarded to the Board of Works a cheque for that amount. These facts will be admitted to be most crucial tests of returning prosperity. Another significant circumstance pointing to a better state of things is afforded by the diminution of prosecutions under the Crimes Act itself. We all look forward to the time when the peculiar forms of crime against which the Crimes Act is directed will have disappeared. At all events, Irishmen on this side of the House hail with satisfaction a decrease in the number of prosecutions under the Crimes Act, which unfortunately we are still obliged to institute. It may be asked what is to be said of the fact that prosecutions have been instituted against several Members of Parliament, and that proceedings have been taken against Roman Catholic priests and others who enjoy an exceptional share of the confidence of a section of the public. I would remind the House that its attention has been unduly drawn to accidental incidents which do not go to the root of the matter, and I would direct its attention to the exact evil with which these prosecutions are grappling. The present Government is engaged in a struggle against an organized system of intimidation. A particular phase of that struggle, which is no new struggle unfortunately, may be traced, I think, to a statement the Lord Lieutenant made in the course of the last autumn. In that statement his Excellency called attention to the number of evicted farms taken by persons in the open market. After that statement the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) boasted that there were 5,000 evicted farms in Ireland. The year had been fairly prosperous, and the Lord Lieutenant's statement was perfectly true. As has been admitted by speaker after speaker, a great engine used by hon. Gentlemen opposite would have been lost if the improved state of things had been allowed to continue. The fairest way of dealing with what ensued is by reading the words of the principal leader of the agitation. A letter written by the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), and dated the 25th of August last year, has been made public. In it the hon. Member said— 524My dear Sheehan,—It will be most necessary to show Balfour that his troubles in Ireland are only beginning. We are organizing a series of great demonstrations through Ireland for the latter end of September and beginning of October. You ought to arrange a series of meetings from parish to parish in your division to address your constituents, announcing them publicly. I will, if possible, attend some one of them myself. Don't mention my name publicly as suggesting the meetings. You cannot announce too many of them, but one will do to begin any Sunday after next.Now, that was in August last. The same Gentleman on another occasion—I am reading from the Freeman's Journal of January 10, 1889—said—A good many people were rather amazed—you in Kildare have the reputation of being rather a fat and sleepy people; but these people forget that.Further on the hon. Gentleman said—The besetting misfortune of Irish history has been that while one district was fighting another was asleep, whereas if the whole 32 counties of Ireland had been got to strike together we would have been spared many a miserable century of bondage and of degradation in Ireland. What is the lesson that has been taught to us by the struggle of the last few years in Ireland? Why, Mr. Balfour has only had a mere handful of men in a few corners of Ireland to deal with, and yet they had been more than a match for all the power of his gaols and of his armies.The series of meetings which followed the letter of August was organized for the purpose of converting the opposition to the law of a handful of men into the opposition of the country generally. I must call the attention of the House to the manner in which that object was attempted to be effected. One of the most typical cases is that of two Catholic priests, Fathers Farrelly and Clarke. In that case a landlord named O'Connor had evicted a tenant. A meeting was called near the evicted farm for the avowed purpose of boycotting O'Connor. It was for speeches delivered at that meeting that these two gentlemen were prosecuted and sentenced to five weeks' imprisonment. A case was stated. It came before the Court of Exchequer in Ireland, and I will proceed to read from the judgment of the Lord Chief Baron, who then characterized the advice given to the people by the priests, and which is in substance identical with that which was given on other occasions with regard to land-grabbers. The Lord Chief Baron clearly laid down the meaning of the Act, and said that it was clear from the speech of 525 the defendant that he used language that came within the definition of the Judge. The defendant told his hearers to make the place unwholesome for land-grabbers, for so long as they remained they would reign and rule over the people. It is idle to argue, as it has been argued, that the words were simply an expression of disapproval of land-grabbing. The words in which the learned Judge referred to the speech indicated the gravity with which he regarded it. The reverend gentleman, he said, told the people to make the place hot for land-grabbers, for so long as they remained they would reign and rule over them; he was a Roman Catholic clergyman addressing the people, not alone in regard to the law of the land but the law of God; he was speaking of moral law, and his words had the more effect inculcating the duty of the people; he told them to boycott O'Connor; to carry out the object of making the place too hot for land-grabbers, and he came to the conclusion that the evidence was overwhelming.
§ MR. MADDEN
There were two charges—conspiracy and inciting to conspiracy. ["Boycotting!"] Hon. Members may or may not be aware that conspiracy to boycott is an indictable offence under the Common Law independently of the Act of 1887, and has been so decided. Incitement to a conspiracy to intimidate is an indictable offence by the law of the land, and in no single one of the prosecutions to which I am directing attention are they other than offences indictable at Common Law. Not one of them can be said to be a new offence created by the Crimes Act.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman read the charge, or kindly say under what term of English law there is such an offence as inciting to conspiracy?
§ MR. MADDEN
The law on the subject is very simple. ["But the charge!"] I have not the charge here; but I have what is more important, the judgment of the Lord Chief Baron, which states the substance of this charge. The law on the subject is very simple, and has been laid down authoritatively; there must be evidence of incitement to enter into 526 a conspiracy; it must be established that the object was to induce persons not to deal with another in the way of trade or business, and by the exercise of influence to affect the freedom and action of the person against whom it is exercised. That is the substance of the charge as stated by the Lord Chief Baron. But the point of my observation is, that this is a typical case. I cannot bring forward every case—time would not permit of it, and there is the further objection that a number of the cases are under appeal, but this case is a typical one of a class in respect to which our action is arraigned—namely, cases in which we find it necessary to proceed against clergymen of the Roman Catholic Church and Members of Parliament for their action in regard to intimidation. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary has alluded to the Kenmare estate and to the outrages that followed the introduction of the Plan of Campaign there. He was asked to describe the nature of the outrages, but he had not the list then before him. I have now the particulars, and I can say that they included a threatening letter, killing and mutilating of cattle, cattle stealing, moonlighting, injury to property, and an incendiary fire. Now, I pass on to the meeting held at Ballyneale. It was held in the neighbourhood of an estate upon which a man named Duggan was boycotted for taking a farm from which another man was evicted. He was boycotted and under police protection when the meeting was held.
§ MR. MADDEN
I state it as a matter of fact. In speeches made on the occasion references were made to this property, and it is important to remember what is likely to be the effect in such a district of exhortations to the people to deal with land-grabbers as they knew how. It is said you may do in England what you may not do in Ireland, and possibly you might hold meetings in Middlesex and Kent, and harmlessly use language that in Ireland would incite to outrage and crime in counties where the Plan of Campaign is in operation, and still more in the neighbourhood of estates where tenants have been evicted, and where the persons who have taken the farms have to be placed under police protection. The same observation applies 527 to the Castle Connell meeting, which was held in the neighbourhood of the evicted farm, which had been taken by a man named Quilty, who was denounced by name at the meeting, and, as a result, Quilty was driven from the farm. I think it is important that the attention of the House should be directed to the more serious prosecution, for if those who are responsible for the administration of the law contented themselves with dealing with the cases mentioned by hon. Members opposite, the important cases would not be mentioned at all. I will now call the attention of the House for a moment to the class of cases that have been adduced on the other side as grounds of the indictment against Her Majesty's Government—small and trivial cases. It is a remarkable fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, who moved the Amendment to the Address, supported his indictment of the conduct of the Government in the administration of the Crimes Act by referring to cases under the ordinary law where persons were bound over to good behaviour. Two young men were charged with obstructing a constable at Ennis. The offence, the right hon. Gentleman said, consisted of laughing at a policeman. This he said the defendants denied, and the magistrate sentenced one to three months' imprisonment in default of bail for good behaviour. In the first place, this was not a prosecution under the Crimes Act at all, but under a Statute that prevails both in England and Ireland. The defendants deliberately insulted the constable, called him "a low scoundrel, the meanest man in Ennis," and said "we will soon kick you out of the town." This is one of the cases made the foundation for a grave indictment of the Government for their administration of the Crimes Act! The proceedings were under the ordinary law, one of the accused gave bail for good behaviour, the other was imprisoned in default of giving bail. Then another case brought forward was one arising out of a charge of riot and unlawful assembly, and two men were found guilty and imprisoned for a month. The offence was one of the incidents of the Plan of Campaign, the accused formed part of a disorderly crowd engaged in hooting the agent of Lord Kenmare. The right hon. Gentleman quoted from a newspaper 528 article, but the newspaper extract from which he read contained only the evidence for the defence. It is upon the prosecution of "corner boys" and roughs such as might be found in any town that the right hon. Gentleman founds his case. These cases have really nothing to do with the charge against the Government, and is it fair or right to bring them forward and found upon them a serious charge against the administration of the law? The hon. and learned Member for Stockton (Sir Horace Davey), of whom I wish to speak with the respect I have for his professional position, commenced his speech by saying, "I am not going to make charges against the Government except upon evidence I have sifted and found satisfactory;" but what did he do? He proceeded to found a charge against the Government upon a newspaper extract, the date of which he was unable to fix, and as to which his notion of the locality was vague. However, I have been able to identify the case. The hon. and learned Member commented severely on the administration of the law, under which, he said, one man was convicted for conspiracy and for unlawful assembly. He argued that one man cannot make a conspiracy, or an unlawful assembly. I do not quarrel with his law. But on examination I find that the man was proceeded against, not for conspiracy or unlawful assembly, but for intimidation. What was done by the representative of the Crown was this, out of a number of cases of intimidation one man was selected as having been guilty of the most intimidatory language, and he only was prosecuted. This was the entire foundation for this charge against the administration of the law, a charge which the hon. and learned Gentleman said he would only bring on sifted and satisfactory evidence.
§ MR. MADDEN
Yes. Fourteen were charged with intimidation, but the prosecutor, on examining the evidence, found that by far the greater part of the intimidation was from one man, and decided to proceed against this one only. This, I think, indicates discretion and forbearance on 529 the part of the prosecution. Instead of proceeding against 13 comparatively innocent men, they proceeded against the one against whom the charges were more grave, and he was convicted. I call attention to this as showing the recklessness of the charges made by hon. and learned Gentlemen whose position should afford some security against such attacks, and who disclaim any intention of making a charge except on clear and satisfactory evidence. Some other matters have been mentioned in debate to which I ought to call attention. I have to mention a matter to which attention was called by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle. He asked, how does it occur that Mr. O'Brien, who delivered a speech on the last day of September was not prosecuted in respect to that speech until the month of January. The answer is this; in November, last year, a pledge was given by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, that no Member should be proceeded against until the expiration of the discussion on the Estimates. Now, it will be within the recollection of hon. Members—the painful recollection, perhaps—that our discussions did not terminate until Christmas Eve, leaving but a short period of time before the re-assembling of Parliament. That leaves a great portion of the time accounted for. Then Christmas intervened, and then a prosecution was instituted in January. So the lapse of time from the giving of the pledge is accounted for. Surely hon. Members would not suggest that the pledge given should have been violated? If it were observed, the prosecution could not have been instituted at an earlier time. Two or three statements were made by the hon. Member for Mayo, in the course of his speech, that ought to be dealt with. The hon. Member read a statement in reference to the treatment of persons imprisoned for complicity in reference to the Belfast insurance frauds. I am in a position to say, on the authority of the Governor of the prison, that the statement is entirely without foundation.
§ MR. MADDEN
This question has nothing to do with the point which I am making. I say the Governor states 530 that the statement made is without foundation in fact. Then the hon. Member referred to the exceptional treatment of another prisoner, a Mr. White, who was described as a magistrate. I have to state that this man never was a magistrate at all. Why was he described as a magistrate? Was it to insinuate that, on account of his position, he was exempted from ordinary prison discipline? This is the gravamen of your charge; but if you want to establish that differences in treatment are made, you must prove it by other instances than this.
§ MR. DILLON
I may be allowed to say in passing that I stated this gentleman was a Magistrate, not laying particular stress upon it, but to indicate his position as one of the landlord class.
§ MR. MADDEN
The hon. Member usually weighs his words. However, now that it appears that the person in question was not a magistrate, the hon. Member attaches no particular importance to the statement. He never was a magistrate, and, further, I may say he was under infirmary treatment suffering from a serious and dangerous disease. Such is the case brought before the House to suggest there has been in certain cases a variation from the ordinary prison discipline. I am not going into all the matters of detail which have been referred to. Time will not allow of it; but before I pass from this subject I would venture to remind the House that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary has always said that he was ready to consider as an important and interesting question what changes, if any, should be made in England and Ireland alike in the treatment of different classes of prisoners, but that meanwhile the existing law must be fairly enforced by the Government. The position of prisoners under the Act of 1877 is regulated by Statute. It is suggested that the Act places a dispensing power in the Lord Lieutenant or the Home Secretary, enabling him to say that this man shall be treated under one set of rules with leniency, while another shall be treated with the utmost vigour of discipline. There is no such position occupied by the Lord Lieutenant or Chief Secretary in Ireland, or the Home Secretary in England. It is easy to contradict, but 531 I challenge support of the contradiction by argument. The Prisons Board can under a section of that Act make rules subject to the sanction of the Lord Lieutenant in Council, and these rules are binding on the Executive, when made with the sanction of the Privy Council, as fully as if they had been contained in the Act of 1877. It is not in the power of the Chief Secretary or the Home Secretary here arbitrarily to depart from the rules so made. The rules may be right or wrong, but until they are altered there is no power to depart from them. Earlier in this discussion attention was called to the force and violence alleged to have been used in enforcing these rules, and it has been said if a prisoner refuses to wear the prison clothes he should be punished according to the rules. Now, there are certain rules that cannot be so enforced. For instance, if a prisoner refuses to enter his cell, is it contended that he shall be deprived of his ordinary allowance of food so long as he refuses? There are certain continuous acts of non-performance against which you cannot enforce the rules by a continuous deprivation of food. If you did you might kill the prisoner in enforcing the rule. It is plain there are some rules compliance with which can only be effectually enforced by some exercise of force. The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman arraigns the administration of the law in Ireland, because he says it deprives Irishmen of their rights. That is a very strong statement, and I presume it belongs to that class of statements as those in which we are told that the Crimes Act created new crimes. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in a letter published on February 20, said the Tories and Dissentient Liberals thought fit, under the pretence of legislating against crime, to pass a law having practically no concern with crime except that it makes Irishmen liable to punishment for acts of exclusive dealing, which same exclusive dealing is practised by Tories in England, so that was a crime in Ireland which was not a crime in England. Further, he said that Mr. O'Brien was prosecuted for threatening to do what Primrose Dames did in England. Now, the statement of the right hon. Gentle- 532 man is that we passed a law making a new crime—making that a crime which is not a crime in England. He applies that statement to the prosecution in question.
§ MR. MADDEN
Does the right hon. Gentleman admit that all these prosecutions for conspiracy are for offences which would be crimes in England? No, he does not admit that; that is the exact point upon which we differ. With one solitary exception, the principal cases under the Crimes Act to which I have referred are prosecutions for conspiracy. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that under the section under which in certain classes of cases jurisdiction is given to Resident Magistrates to deal with cases of conspiracy, the classes of conspiracy are defined as those punishable by ordinary law? Let any hon. Member get up and show that under this section of the Act proceedings can be taken against any persons for a conspiracy that was not indictable by Common Law before the Act was passed. If that is so, what becomes of the suggestion that that which is an offence in Ireland is not an offence in England? If there is any meaning in the language of the letter I have referred to, the right hon. Gentleman states that the kind of "exclusive dealing," as he has called it, practised against what are termed land-grabbers, is of the same kind as the exclusive dealing alleged to be practised by Primrose Dames in England. Well, I should like to understand how the descriptions of boycotting which have been given by right hon. Gentlemen opposite apply to the alleged exclusive dealing of Primrose Dames in England. We have a description of boycotting from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division, which I shall read to the House. In a speech delivered on the 17 Oct., 1885, he said—What is boycotting? Boycotting off all communication and all the advantages of civilization, and all the means of life for the people who have taken farms which the National League did not intend they should take, and from all people who communicate or deal with them, or work for them. These wretched people are called 'land-grabbers,' and they are denounced to the vengeance of the mob in printed notices and in violent speeches. Now, 533 when Lord Spencer was in Ireland to issue these notices and to make these speeches was a punishable offence, and what was more it was an offence which was punished and punished very effectually. But hardly was Lord Spencer out of office, which in his case meant power, for I see no distinction, than a meeting near some evicted farms was held for the purpose of intimidation, a meeting which Lord Spencer had forbidden to be held, was held—It must be satisfactory to the right hon. Gentleman to know that he has now no reason to apprehend the dereliction of duty that he then condemned. I have now to refer to the case of Mr. Harrington. It has been stated that the Court expressed an opinion that Mr. Harrington's speech was of an innocent character. Now, Mr. Harrington was convicted of the offence of publishing that speech as made at a meeting of the National League with the purpose of promoting the objects of that Association. My right hon. Friend has called attention to the circumstances under which the meeting was held, and what I wish to point out is that it is incorrect to say the Court pronounced an opinion directly or indirectly upon the innocent nature of the speech. What they did say was that there was no proof of writing to the Plan of Campaign other than the publication in the newspaper that the meeting was held and the speech made there.
§ MR. MADDEN
There was the evidence of the speech afforded by its having been published in the defendant's newspaper. Mr. Harrington however was not convicted on a charge of delivering the speech. Of course to support such a charge there should have been evidence beyond the publication, but I am meeting the distinct statement that the hon. Member is suffering imprisonment for a speech the Court declared innocent. That is not a fact. The guilt or innocence of the speech was never adjudicated upon. Of course the report of the meeting and the danger of reporting such a proceeding under all the circumstances of the case were before the Magistrate. Then it is said this was a vindictive proceeding on the part of the Magis- 534 trate, and right hon. Gentlemen accept that statement. I would call attention to two circumstances that should be borne in mind. The Magistrates being of opinion that it was a dangerous thing under the circumstances to have these notices of National League meetings published in the paper, offered not to punish if Mr. Harrington would give an undertaking not to repeat the offence. That may have been wise or foolish, but at least it does not indicate the existence of any vindictive feeling. In the next place I want to point out that an appeal could have been taken from the sentence to the County Court Judge, and these County Court Judges are as independent of the Government as any Judge in England. In all my 25 years' experience of and acquaintance with the traditions of the Bar I never heard of a County Court Judge being promoted by the Ministry. [Cries of "O'Hagan."] Lord O'Hagan resigned his chairmanship, entered Parliament, and became a distinguished Member of the Legislature.
§ MR. MADDEN
The hon. and learned Member is misinformed, Mr. John O'Hagan was not a County Court Judge when he was made a Judge of the High Court, he had retired from that position, and was simply a practising Member of the Bar, not only technically and legally, but absolutely as a matter of fact. The County Court Judges are independent of the Government, and there is no ground for suggesting that services were rewarded by the promotion of a County Court Judge to the Bench. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle made a serious charge against a Magistrate for refusing to state a case on a point of law that the Court of Exchequer decided ought to be argued. I only refer to it to show how he is mistaken.
§ MR. MADDEN
The case was not refused, upon the point raised in the Court of Exchequer, but on other grounds.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
On this point I do not hesitate to assert the hon. and learned Gentleman is mistaken.
§ MR. MADDEN
I must remind the hon. and learned Member he will have full opportunity of replying to me. Let him show what was the point upon which the Court of Exchequer required argument. The suggestions of the right hon. Member for Newcastle were directed against the whole administration of the law, and therefore it is I trouble the House with this matter. He attacked the resident magistrates generally and brought forward this instance as an illustration, he said, of their administration. I must say, however, that I think, as compared with what I have observed on former occasions, the attacks on Resident Magistrates are now less violent. I congratulate the House on the fact that the merits of the decisions of Resident Magistrates seem to be recognized even by hon. Members opposite. How can it be otherwise when we see the results of appeals? My right hon. Friend has stated that the percentage of successful appeals from the decisions of Resident Magistrates is only eight. I think that the difference in the results of Crimes Act appeals, as compared with those under the ordinary law, is fully accounted for by one fact—that the Legislature has taken care that in each case one member of the Court shall be a gentleman of whose legal knowledge the Lord Lieutenant is satisfied. This consideration suggests itself to common sense as accounting for the difference in the two classes of Appeals, and the fact that only 8 per cent of the decisions under the Crimes Act 536 have been reversed on appeal. What ground is there for the statement that the administration of the law has deprived people of their rights? What rights have been assailed? Do hon. Members claim the right to carry on their agrarian policy by means of crime—by what in England would be regarded as criminal conspiracy? Does this become a sacred right when done in the interest of the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends? I challenge any lawyer to get up and say that in the case of any prosecution for conspiracy the Act of 1887 has created new crimes, or deprived men of the exercise of what in England is a lawful right. No; the administration of the law has deprived no man of his rights. I go further, and claim for it that it has restored to the humblest man in Ireland what Englishmen regard as the highest right of all—the right of individual liberty, the right of every man to buy from whom he pleases, to sell to whom he pleases, to hire what land he pleases, and pay what rent he pleases. When these rights shall be fully restored to every man, the administration of the law will have accomplished its task. I submit that the House and the country will approve the efforts—the honest and successful efforts—which have been made by the Government towards the attainment of that end, the substitution of the reign of law, with its needful sanctions, for the lawless coercion which has so long destroyed the liberty and paralyzed the energies of Ireland.
§ MR. SHAW-LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I have listened with great care and interest to the speech just delivered, and though I am willing to admit it was characterized with the hon. Gentleman's usual good taste and tone, and which I think favourably distinguishes his speeches from the more aggressive tone of those of the Chief Secretary, yet I venture to think that speech did not carry the case of the Government one step beyond where it was left by the two Members of the Government who preceded him. The hon. and learned Gentleman hag dealt with many matters of detail put 537 before the House by hon. Members on this side, and he has dealt with the question of the treatment of political prisoners to some extent, and upon this subject I will follow him later, but he has not attempted to grapple with the remarkable speech in which my right hon. Friend indicted the Government administration of the Coercion Act. The hon. and learned Gentleman has travelled over much of the ground traversed by the Chief Secretary, and especially in reference to the diminution in the practice of boycotting, justifying that paragraph in the Address to which we take exception, the words referring to the salutary effects of the Coercion Act. If the statistics the hon. and learned Member has quoted as to a diminution in the crime of boycotting are to be relied on—though, for my own part, I feel some hesitation in accepting them implicitly—but assuming they are correct, I can only say that we on this side rejoice at such a diminution. But it must be permitted to us to believe that that is not due mainly or even in part to the Coercion Act, but is due mainly to other circumstances, namely, improvement in agriculture, the great rise in agricultural prices, and other circumstances, among which undoubtedly the passing of the Land Act of 1887 has had a good effect in bringing about the termination of many agrarian disputes. It is partly due also to combinations of tenants having in many instances closed disputes between landlord and tenant, and where this has been the case the districts in which such disputes existed have become quiet and boycotting has come to an end. No doubt also it is partly due, as the hon. Member for Mayo said in his remarkable speech, to the consciousness on the part of the Irish people that a large proportion of the people of England sympathize with them, and are prepared to consider and redress their grievances. To these causes, rather than to the operation of the Coercion Act, we attribute the improvement, and, if time permitted, I could show historically that in no previous instance has a Coer- 538 cion Act reduced crime, but it has rather had a reverse effect. It would be more to the point if the Government could show there has been a reduction in the number of prosecutions under the Act. On that we have no statistics given us, but it is a well-known fact that during the last two months, and since the close of last Session, there have been a greater number of cases under the Act than in any previous period of the same length of time. I need only refer to the number of Members of Parliament sent to prison or convicted and awaiting appeal. Probably the result of the appeals will be that a vast number of convicted men will be sent to prison. Now there are a few cases under that head which I should like to bring to the attention of the House. The hon. and learned Member has alluded among other cases to one at Pilltown, in County Kilkenny; but his account of the facts has been inadequate even to the point of misrepresentation. The truth of the matter is that 14 young men were charged with shouting "grabber" outside the house of a man named Power. Power, for refusing to give evidence against the men, was committed for eight days, and it is no wonder that he said he had suffered more from the police than from the people. The case against the 14 young men was adjourned; but Power still refused to give evidence. For want of evidence 13 of the young men were dismissed; but the fourteenth was called upon to find bail for his good behaviour, and on refusing was sent to prison for six months. It seems to me that this man who was convicted suffered great hardship; but this is only one illustration of the way in which the Coercion Act is administered at the present time in Ireland. Another case occurred on January 29, when seven men at Dundalk were tried for illegal meeting. The evidence consisted in proving them to have shouted in the streets, "We are the men of '98, Young Irelanders." Their own story was that they were singing a well-known song. They were sentenced to three months' imprisonment, which, whether their story was true or not, was a severe punishment, and shows the harsh state of things now existing in Ireland. Again, in the beginning of February, 31 young men in two batches were summoned for 539 illegal meeting at Waterford, the only evidence being that they had groaned at the police. They were called upon to give bail for their good conduct, under a Statute of Edward III., and on refusing were sent to prison for three months. Another case occurred at Waterford a few days later in September, where 13 young men were prosecuted for attending a procession held in honour of the so-called Manchester martyrs. There was a demonstration on their being conducted to gaol, and on February 20, 20 other men were dragged from their beds after midnight and prosecuted next day for taking part in this demonstration. This case is not yet finally settled. Then there is yet another case—that at Kilfinane, Co. Limerick, where Michael Kelly, secretary of the local branch of the National League, was charged with intimidation towards John Kelly, with a view to cause him to do an act which he had a legal right to abstain from doing—namely, attend a meeting of the Glencoe branch of the League. There was a dispute between John Kelly and Mrs. O'Donnell, which had been referred to the Arbitration of the League. The League decided in favour of Mrs. O'Donnell, and John Kelly refused to carry out the arrangement. Then Michael Kelly wrote this letter to John Kelly—I am directed by a Committee of this branch to inform you that a Resolution adopted by them some time ago condemning your action in respect of Mrs. O'Donnell, will be sent to the surrounding branches if you fail to put in an appearance next Sunday at the meeting of the same.For this, the Secretary of the League was convicted and sentenced to two months' imprisonment. These cases fully and completely prove the harshness with which the Coercion Act has been carried out in Ireland. They are cases in which no English jury would ever convict. And the main point of the Coercion Act is the withdrawal of such cases from the juries. The Chief Secretary has asked in what way the liberty of the subject has been violated, and the reply is, that the right of Irishmen to trial by jury has been violated, and is being violated every hour and every day. I have more than once declared that all the prosecutions taking place under the Crimes Act may be traced directly or indirectly 540 to some dispute existing between landlord and tenant. My conviction is that nothing would be easier than for the Government to get rid of all the cases under the Coercion Act and clear away the existing disputes between the landlords and tenants by a slight modification of the Act of 1887. It is surprising to see how many cases arise out of a single dispute. In the case of Lord Clanricarde no fewer than 170 prosecutions have taken place, and 140 persons have been sent to gaol. In the case of Lord Massereene, 54 persons have found their way to gaol; and in the case of Captain Vandeleur, 41 persons have been imprisoned. On the estate where Inspector Martin met his death, 98 convictions occurred. These figures can be connected directly or indirectly with the remaining disputes between landlords and tenants. If the Government would deal with the subject in accordance with the demands of the Irish people as put forward by their Representatives, all these disputes might be cleared away, and all necessity for prosecutions under the Crimes Act be at an end. It appears to be one of the cardinal points of the policy of the present Chief Secretary not to listen to the demands of the Irish Representatives. This is quite conspicuous both in legislation and administration. The right hon. Gentleman has during the past two years never made a concession of importance to Irish opinion. What the Irish Members have demanded he has rejected and refused; and what they most hate he has thrust upon them. Any concessions he has made have been to the Liberal Unionist Members, in order to keep the Government in power, as was avowedly stated by the Prime Minister. It is not only a question of policy but one of demeanour and speech, and the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman in the House of Commons and on the public platform have been uniformly in contempt of Irish opinion and the wishes and views of the Irish Members of this House. I venture, further, to say that from the time of the Union to the present day there has never been a Chief Secretary who has carried this policy and principle to the same extent as the present Chief Secretary. The only Chief Secretary that at all compares with him within 541 that period in the contempt which he exhibits for Irish opinion, and in the manner in which he deals with Irish questions, is Mr. Stanley in 1832; and we all know now that Mr. Stanley brought down the Government of Lord Grey. I have little hesitation in saying that the same result will be the outcome of the attitude and policy of the present Chief Secretary in connection with this Government. The fact is there are only two ways of governing Ireland under the Act of Union consistently with the maintenance of that Act. The first is to govern Ireland as we have governed Scotland—by deferring to the views and the wishes of the Scottish people on matters of legislation purely affecting that country. The other way is to treat Ireland as an integral part of England—as an English county—and to give it equal rights and privileges with the rest of the English people. But the policy of the present Government and of the present Chief Secretary has been to adopt neither of those courses. He has treated Ireland as if it were a Crown Colony, and as if its Representatives were not entitled to be listened to, nor has any deference paid to them; and it seems to me that the logical conclusion of that Policy would be to get rid of the Irish Members from this House altogether, and to treat Ireland precisely as if it were a Crown Colony. I say that that is a policy which cannot be successful, and that as time goes on the Chief Secretary will find it more and more impossible to carry out a policy of that kind. I would illustrate this particular policy by the treatment the right hon. Gentleman has accorded to the Irish Members in respect to prosecutions under the Coercion Act. But if I refer to the treatment of Irish Members it must not be supposed that I confine my observations solely to them. There are many others in Ireland, persons of all stations and degrees—priests, editors, merchants, farmers, and peasants—who have all been treated in the same manner under the Coercion Act. In my opinion, they are all entitled to equal treatment, but we contend that in cases purely political in their character they ought not to be treated as common criminals. No one can doubt that the Irish Members in prison have been 542 actuated by purely political motives. Out of 24 Irish Members who have been prosecuted and convicted under the Coercion Act, only two have escaped being treated as common criminals. In my judgment, they have all been convicted of offences which are not crimes according to the English Law, of offences which a jury in the United Kingdom would not have visited with a conviction. These gentlemen have been convicted of offences committed for political motives alone, and in cases where they have acted for the most part under the firm belief that their position as representatives called upon them to speak and take the course they pursued—that of advocating the cause of the weak against the strong. I venture to say that in no other country in Europe would offenders of this kind be treated as common criminals. These gentlemen have been convicted of offences which should be placed in the category of sedition and seditious libel, and persons convicted of those offences are treated by law as first-class misdemeanants. I am rather inclined to think that if these persons could have been tried at all in England, they could only have been tried for seditious libel. That is, perhaps, a matter of law, but I have consulted an able lawyer on the point, and he has informed me that if Mr. O'Brien could have been tried in England it would only have been for seditious libel. The only parallel case in England to that of Mr. O'Brien was that of Cobbett in 1831, tried by Mr. Justice Denman. Besides, the majority of Irish County Court Judges who have dealt with these cases have directed that the offenders shall be treated as first-class misdemeanants. I may quote in this connection the judgment of Mr. O'Connor Morris—one of the ablest County Court Judges in Ireland—in the case of Mr. Patrick O'Brien. Mr. O'Connor Morris said—I do not think I in any way exceed my powers when I exempt these gentlemen from the harsh degradation of the ordinary prisoner. In cases of sedition the Act prescribes that the accused shall be treated as first-class misdemeanants. The cases before me approach more nearly to sedition than anything else. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that these meetings are incidents of a great secret movement that is taking place in this country, which is very grave and very deeply to be lamented. But the offences of Mr. P. O'Brien and Mr. Hayden 543 are not to be classed as infamous crimes or disgraceful crimes, that carry with them the detestation and abhorrence of mankind.That is the common-sense view of the matter, and ought to commend itself to every other judge who deals with these cases. Why is it that the Resident Magistrates have not followed in every case which has come before them the suggestion of the County Court Judges, but have instead sentenced these offenders to be treated as common criminals? I have no doubt that the cause is the Chief Secretary. I hold the right hon. Gentleman directly responsible for the action of the Resident Magistrates in convicting these men, and in sentencing them as common criminals. I have no doubt that it was the language used by the right hon. Gentleman in and out of the House, and the utterances of his Chief (Lord Salisbury) on the public platform that gave the cue to the Resident Magistrates to impose sentences in this way. The right hon. Gentleman has never risen to speak without justifying the treatment of these hon. Members as common criminals. That has been the uniform practice. He has said two or three times' in this House that nothing would induce him for a moment to consent to those men being treated differently to common criminals under the ordinary law.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
My statement was that I would never consent, on my own authority, to modify a sentence passed on an hon. Member by a competent tribunal
§ MR. SHAW-LEFEVRE
I will undertake to look up cases. Lord Salisbury has also justified the treatment of political prisoners as common criminals, and the noble Lord is answerable, in my opinion, to a large extent for the action of the Resident Magistrates. Lord Salisbury gibed and scoffed at the Irish Members in prison, and declared that he considered their conduct worse than that of criminals who had been sent to prison for thieving and offences of that kind, and the noble Lord also spoke of the effeminate and maudlin doctrine with respect to political prisoners.
544 The right hon. Gentleman was still speaking at 5.30 when, by the rules of the House, the debate stood adjourned.