§ 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. W. E. GLADSTONE (Mid Lothian)
My first duty, Sir, is to thank the hon. and learned Member for Longford for his great courtesy in according me an opportunity of addressing the House at this time which I should not otherwise have enjoyed, and now, Sir, I observe, in the first place, there are three main issues raised for discussion by the Amendment which has been moved by my right hon. Friend. The first of them is this—that he called upon us entirely to disclaim, and as strongly as possible, the present system of administration in Ireland. The second is that he asserts this system of admini- 721 stration to be viewed with reprobation and aversion by the people of Great Britain. The third is that we are asked to represent to Her Majesty that measures of conciliation should be adopted, meaning, I believe, measures of conciliation in the administration of the country, but undoubtedly also measures of legislative conciliation. With regard to the measures of legislative conciliation upon which I propose to touch in the first instance, I feel, for my own part, that perhaps we seem to owe some apology to the people of Ireland for having allowed the great questions connected with the domestic government of that country to remain unnoticed, or without, at any rate, any definitive notice in Parliament during the whole of the existence of the present House of Commons. The reasons of this reticence and abstention I take to have been these—in the first place a remarkable self-denial on the part of those who are known as Nationalist Members representing Ireland; and in the second place a very great desire on the part of those who are representatives of the British people to make progress in British legislation; and in the third place I cannot omit to state, as that without which the previous motives might perhaps have been insufficient, that we are tolerably well satisfied with the progress which, without Motions in this House, the question has made in the opinions and favour of the country. But now, Sir, we have been told in a speech of considerable authority that my right hon. Friend has been altogether wrong in assailing the administration of the Government in Ireland, and that our duty was to have propounded the legislative measures which we deem necessary for the welfare of the country, including, of course, in the first place the measure we should desire to see adopted for the purpose of giving to that country control of its own domestic affairs. This is the claim of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham. I shall endeavour to examine the validity and equity of that claim, but I wish to point out that if we had taken that course, undoubtedly the effect must have been to draw attention away from the very facts we wish to bring into prominent notice in connection with the present Government of Ireland; and, likewise, it 722 must have been to afford the broadest grounds for an immediate appeal to the majority, to this effect—"You are simply discussing the question of Home Rule in Ireland, which you were sent to this Parliament to oppose." But, Sir, the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend, in referring to measures of legislation, proceeds upon the basis that measures of legislation were, at the General Election, countenanced and promised, not only by us, but by those who are now the Government, and by those who are now the most effective supporters of the Government. Why have not they brought forward these measures? Our contention was that all those promises which were given would vanish into thin air, and that contention has been miserably fulfilled, in no case more conspicuously than in that of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham. The counter contention which carried the country and incapacitated us from the direction of affairs—the counter contention was that those who opposed the grant of Home Rule as a thing dangerous to the supremacy of the Empire were prepared for the extension of local liberties in Ireland, and for that extension in such terms and to such an extent as did undoubtedly raise very seriously for our consideration whether, when such measures were proposed, though they might fall short of what we believed to be requisite, yet we ought not thankfully to accept them as an instalment, at any rate, of justice, and as fraught with partial advantage to the Irish people. That, Sir, is the object of the Amendment of my right hon. Friend, and that is the question which has been, I will not say evaded—it is not evaded—but treated in a peculiar manner, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham. Now, Sir, what said he upon this subject? Our Amendment is an invitation for the production of those measures which were postponed from 1886 to 1887, which were postponed from 1887 to 1888, which were postponed from 1888 to 1889, and which, according to the Speech from the Throne, are now again postponed from 1889 to 1890. Well, Sir, some of the more courageous among that band to which my right hon. Friend belongs occasionally wind up their courage to so high a point that they say that measures of Local Government 723 and privilege for Ireland ought not to be indefinitely postponed. My hon. Friend the Chairman of Committees the other night, being in a valiant mood, he, too, I think, declared that those measures should not be indefinitely postponed. Let me do justice to the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, who said they ought not to be postponed at all, but that they ought to have accompanied the harsh and severe legislation against Ireland you have introduced. But, passing from that just tribute to the noble Lord, let me ask what is the meaning of "indefinitely postponed"? Evidently it is a phrase of considerable elasticity. It has already done such good service that it has postponed to the year 1890 everything in the nature of privilege to Ireland, everything in the direction of self-government. Well, Sir, it is not for me to interpret that phrase, but I am shrewdly inclined to suspect that the meaning of it is that this Parliament has nothing to do with such measures, but that in a future Parliament possibly those gentlemen who term themselves Liberal Unionists may be inclined seriously to consider them. Well, Sir, the present votes of that portion of the House of Commons are matters of extreme interest and importance. We have looked for them with the utmost anxiety; we admit the vast effect that they have produced; we recognize the fact that they are the true pillars, the only effectual mainstay of the present policy; and, therefore, recognizing their power, we pay them the compliment which is their due. But that is with regard to the importance of the votes that they give and the influence which they exercise in the present Parliament. With regard to their votes in the next Parliament—I do not speak of anyone in particular, and least of all do I speak of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham; but speaking of that body of 70 Gentlemen who now convert the Tory minority into a large majority of the House, and secure the charter of that Government—with respect to that body of Gentlemen, I must own that, whether it be owing to the obtusity of my perceptions or not, I regard the manner in which they will vote in the next Parliament as a question of the smallest possible importance. I come to the argument of my right hon. 724 Friend, who faced this question about the promises of legislation that have been made, and gave the reason which, in his judgment, had set aside the force of those promises, and his reason was this—that the agitation in Ireland had been resolved upon with a view of making the government of Ireland impossible. With regard to making the government of Ireland impossible, we are told that the government of Ireland has been splendidly and remarkably successful, and there appears to the ordinary understanding to be some difficulty in reconciling those contending phrases. The meaning, however, I take to be, when we part from rhetorical phrases, that there was an intention to place difficulties in the way, and to raise excitement in Ireland, which would render the task of governing that country more arduous than it need otherwise have been. Now, what have those difficulties been? I admit that there have been difficulties placed in the way; I do not doubt it for a moment; but what have those difficulties been? Difficulties in connection with the question of Irish land. And who has placed those difficulties in the way? No one more than my right hon. Friend. Let my assertion be tested as I am endeavouring to test his. In 1886 the Parliament met under the auspices of the present Government. The land difficulty in Ireland was then fully before us. A large number of rents were known to be impossible to pay, and in order to meet that difficulty every suggestion was made on this side of the House. The Government were implored by so humble a person as myself to take the very moderate measure—I might say the almost insignificantly small measure—of introducing a Bill to give time for the payment of those rents until the inquiries of the Commission should be concluded. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork went boldly to the front and to the root of the evil, and proposed a Bill for the very purpose of removing this great land difficulty and meeting the case of vast numbers of tenants known and admitted to be unable to pay their actual rents. What was the course taken by the Government? What was the course taken by my noble Friend who has just entered (Lord Hartington), and by my right hon. Friend beside him (Mr. Chamberlain). It was this— 725 to refuse to take any measure whatever, and to oppose and throw out on the second reading the Bill proposed by the hon. Member for Cork. They, therefore, were the creators of the land difficulty, and if the government of Ireland has been rendered impossible, it was by their action that that impossibility was created. So much for the temporary difficulty arising out of the crisis of 1886. But then there was the Land Question. Who is it that has neglected the Land Question? Were impediments placed in the way of the Government in that great undertaking? On the contrary, I am in the recollection of the House when I state my clear remembrance that at the commencement of the Session of 1888 the hon. Member for Cork spoke to this effect—You are in the habit of saying that the Irish Question is the Land Question; that there is no national question of serious moment apart from the Land Question. Then settle the Land Question, and test your own doctrine and your own declarations, and when the Land Question is settled, then the national question will dwindle into insignificance.Every effort was used to induce the Government to settle that question. They made no effort whatever, and it is under those circumstances and when the difficulty of the present distress was met by an actual proposal from the Irish Members and when the whole of this side of the House, the whole at least of the Liberal Members on this side, urged the Government to settle the Land Question, when the Government themselves have done nothing except what is admitted does not settle the Land Question, and when they have taken no measure to effect that settlement, and when they have actually refused to entertain proposals to deal with the distress of 1886, then it is that my right hon. Friend thinks it equitable, rational, and just to charge upon the Irish Members that they, forsooth, have created the difficulty of governing Ireland. No, Sir; it was created by those who, when the facts of the distress of 1886 were patent and clear, obstinately refused to deal with them. Of course that refusal was followed by the Plan of Campaign. Yes, of course; the Plan of Campaign was the direct and necessary offspring. I have never vindicated it, or vindicated breach of the law in any shape or form whatever, but I have said this, and will say it 726 again, that there are many cases in which the law-makers are far more responsible and far more guilty than the law-breakers, and this is one of them. From the evidence I possess, more good than evil, more peace than disturbance, and greatly more, have followed from the Plan of Campaign. But, whether that be correct or not, if the Plan of Campaign has been the unmixed mischief which you describe it to have been, it is the majority of this House, and especially it is those on this side of the House who make up that majority, that are responsible for that Plan, because, when the facts were patent and the proposal was pressed upon them, they obstinately refused either to legislate themselves or to allow others to legislate. And what does my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham do now? He says, in very conciliatory tones, that he is most anxious for the settlement of the Land Question. Well, Sir, when I heard my right hon. Friend say that, I anticipated with the utmost confidence what his next sentence must necessarily be, that it could only be a fervid appeal to Her Majesty's Government—to point out the splendid position in which they stand; to point out that they have a majority in this House which still is a large majority: that they have a minority in the House most anxious to promote the settlement of the Land Question; and therefore I considered that my right hon. Friend must necessarily in his next sentence apply to those who in the first place possess the indispensable condition of official information, and who, in the next place, possess the indescribable pleasure of the confidence of my right hon. Friend. My astonishment rose, I must say, to the very highest point when my right hon. Friend turned pointedly to me, and exhorted me, forsooth! representing what he often calls a discomfited and discredited minority; me, forsooth! divested of all opportunities of information which are absolutely necessary for a settlement of the Land Question; me, forsooth! to make this effort. I began to think—Am I, then, the person who is so happy as to possess the political confidence of my right hon. Friend? I think, Sir, I have shown that the responsibility for the land difficulties in Ireland, and the agitation 727 connected with them, does not lie with the men who made the first, and the most strenuous, and the most eager efforts to dispose of that difficulty in 1886 when it might have been averted; that the responsibility of an unsettled Land Question necessarily lies with the majority of this House, especially in the case where that majority would have had the willing assistance of the minority to attain its object. Well, Sir, but pray recollect that this interposition of the difficulty in Ireland, this making the government of Ireland impossible, is the whole and the sole plea under cover of which my right hon. Friend and those who act with him have retreated from every pledge that they have made. This is their plea, the shallow plea, the paltry plea, the untrue plea, the plea which is the direct reverse of the fact that the difficulties of the Government in Ireland have been created by a majority, and the efforts of the minority to meet the case have been defeated by the majority. These are the circumstances under which all those brilliant and copious promises have been dispersed and dissipated. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Chamberlain), who is himself, I think, the most prolific parent of one scheme after another, has around him the greatest multitude of these shattered and ruined promises, all of which, perhaps, some day he will have picked off from the ground and cast into his waste paper basket. When I think of that case, of the engagements undertaken in regard to Ireland in 1886 in order to get rid of the Home Rule policy and the Home Rule Ministry, and of the manner in which those engagements have been disregarded and trampled wantonly under foot, I recollect that there is a place which is said to be paved with good intentions. It occurs to my mind that if at any time, in repairing the pavement of that place, a deficiency in the supply of these good intentions should be felt, they can fill the place and make up the deficiency with broken Irish promises, of which the supply will be inexhaustible, and of which the material will do just as well. Now, this Amendment is an invitation to the majority of this House to produce their legislation. It is an implied pledge that this legislation if produced, though we may think it insufficient, will have our fair and candid consideration. But 728 it is also an invitation which, if disregarded, will tend still further to expose in the eyes of the country the utter hollowness and the utter shallowness of the pretexts which have been set up, and the real determination of those who constitute the present majority—on whichever side of the House they sit—to do nothing in redemption of the pledges which have been made by the majority, and the pledges which gave to them the control of the destinies of Ireland. Now I must take a brief notice—and it shall only be a brief notice—of the second point raised in the Resolution. That is to say, we assume the responsibility of declaring, and of inviting the House to declare, that this policy which now prevails is viewed with reprobation and aversion by the people of Great Britain. My right hon. Friend contested this proposition, and gave us his own opinion of the views of the people of Great Britain, tested, as he said, by the moderate diminution which has taken place in the numbers of the majority now ruling the House since the General Election. That majority, which stood originally, I believe by confession, at 117, now stands at 93; and my right hon. Friend considers that so satisfactory a state of things that he says he is not aware of any occasion on which a Government—I think he said a Government, but I am not sure whether he did not mean a Government with which he has been connected—has suffered so little in the period—namely, two-and-a-half years. Well, Sir, I differ entirely from my right hon. Friend. I think that that is a serious diminution in the majority. But the importance or the non-importance of that diminution is not tested by the figures themselves. Ninety-three is a very large majority. It may prove to be perfectly adequate to sustain the fortunes of the Government for a considerable time yet to come. But my right hon. Friend says that the by-elections, as they are called, afford no real or substantial key to the opinions of the country. What can these by-elections mean? How far have they gone? This I believe to be entirely indisputable. Since the end of August, 1886, 60 constituencies have pronounced their judgment upon the policy of Her Majesty's Government, either once or more than once. In cases where 729 they have pronounced more than once, such as Burnley, the seat which was won against a Liberal in 1886, was won by a Liberal within the last few days. But I entreat the House to listen to what is a very simple and, I believe, a perfectly clear and undeniable statement. I, in this statement, divide the House entirely as Home Rulers and anti-Home Rulers, as being clearly the most convenient method of distinction. In 1886 these 60 constituencies returned 23 Home Rulers and 37 anti-Home Rulers. These 60 constituencies now return 30 of each. My right hon. Friend says that this is a very insignificant change. The proportion of 37 to 23, according to the arithmetic of my right hon. Friend, differs only immaterially from the proportion of 30 to 30. But the fact which the House ought to observe is this—that the choice of these constituencies depends, in some degree, upon the impartiality of pale death, who knocks with equal foot at the door of the cottage and upon the fortresses of kings; but it depends also, in some degree, upon the choice of Government. This choice has, no doubt, under the direction and advice of the highly esteemed Gentleman who directs that department of the affairs of the Government, been judiciously made; but I want to point out by indisputable facts that these 60 constituencies form a sample of the House of Commons not insufficient in quantity and in quality, most unduly favourable to Her Majesty's Government. They are not insufficient in quantity, because the amount is one-eleventh part of the entire constituencies of the country. But in quality, how stand they? They returned, being an eleventh part of the constituency, in 1886 a majority of 14 for the Government. Had the whole country been of the same complexion it would have returned a majority, on 11 times the number of constituencies, 11 times as large—that is to say, that the majority of 117 would, if these constituencies had been a fair sample of the whole, have been 154. I do not think hon. Gentlemen opposite will pick a hole in that arithmetic; and if they would like one other indication I will give them it. What was the representation of these constituencies in 1885? In those happy days we Liberals were all of one mind; 730 and I am going to put with the Liberals, for the purposes of this computation, the Irish Nationalists of that day, who, unhappily, were not altogether at the moment of the election in the same way as ourselves. They had been offered such inducements, such marks of confidence, from hon. Gentlemen opposite, and especially from their most distinguished Leaders, that they were for a moment seduced by these favours, which are not, I think, very likely to be at present or for a very long time renewed. Well, here is a singular fact, and I speak of these constituencies and of no other. What did these constituencies do in 1885? After the General Election of 1885 there were 250 Tories in the House, and there were 420 Gentlemen who were not Tories; and yet these 60 constituencies returned in 1885 33 Tories, whereas of Liberals, Dissentient Liberals, and Home Rulers they returned only 27. I think I have made good my statement that, if it be true that these by-elections are a very imperfect indication of the sense of the country, the reason of their being imperfect in these 60 constituencies is that they would, if taken alone, have returned a most striking answer, yet not one nearly so striking or nearly so condemnatory of the Irish policy of the present Government, as the whole country would, if it had the opportunity of doing it. Well, now, we are told of a great improvement in Ireland, and we all, in our own way, rejoice in that improvement. I must own myself rather surprised when I find that the increase of agricultural values is coolly set down to the credit of Her Majesty's Government. Undoubtedly in 1886, when there was a tremendous depression of those values, I am not aware that anyone set down the depression to the discredit of the Tory Government. I push lightly aside the preposterous pretensions that are now founded on this increase in agricultural values, including railway traffic, which of course in Ireland depends mainly upon agriculture. Doubtless there is another improvement in Ireland of which we may well congratulate ourselves—an improvement with regard to crime. But as to that crime I shall have presently to draw a distinction. There is unquestionably an improvement, and a great improvement, with regard to the sub- 731 stantial crime, with, regard to the atrocious crime, and with regard to the crime generally menacing to society. You say it is consequence of Coercion. Of that we shall have more to say by and by, but I wish now to express my firm conviction that it is directly the reverse. It is a consequence of the efforts made by those in whom the Irish people have confidence that they have abstained from crime; it is a consequence of the hope and confidence definitely and confidently reposed—perhaps for the first time—in the people of Great Britain. This is a matter which remains for argument, and I shall endeavour by-and-bye to throw further light upon it. In the meantime I want to say that here, as upon all occasions, we suffer, and suffer most seriously, from the apparent reluctance of the Government to supply us, and above all to supply us in time, with information exhibiting the real state of things in Ireland. Crime shows, apparently, a large diminution. I deduct threatening letters, because it is better to do so for the purpose of getting at the heart of the case, and then I find that in 1886 there were 512 reported agrarian crimes in Ireland; in 1887 there were 469; and in 1888 there were 386. Now arises the question what has this so-called Crimes Act, an Act called the Crimes Act because it really had nothing to do with crime—what has the so-called Crimes Act to do with this decrease of crime? Looking over the reports of these agrarian charges, you will find there are 20 columns of reports, and there are but three of these columns that are in the slightest degree within the purview of the so-called Crimes Act. It has nothing to do judicially and legally with crime except in a few particulars. What are those particulars? As far as I can make out, there are only three categories of agrarian crime upon which the Crimes Act can be brought to bear. These are intimidation, riot, and forcible possession. The crimes of these descriptions numbered 122 in 1886 and 69 in 1888. I want to know what has become of all those crimes which have been shifted out of the higher Courts under the machinery of the Crimes Act, and which are now dealt with under that Act as matters of summary jurisdiction? Can the Government give me this assur- 732 ance—that every case of intimidation, every case of riot, and every case of forcible possession which is included in the Returns under the Crimes Act is also included in the Agrarian Returns? If they cannot, it is evident that we are open to this danger—that a multitude of cases which would have appeared, and which ordinarily do appear, in Agrarian Returns, have been removed from our notice, our privity, and our investigation by being disposed of by way of summary jurisdiction before the Resident Magistrates. We heard yesterday from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) that there were in 1888 137 convictions for intimidation, 164 for riot, and 50 for forcible possession, making in all 351. But the whole Return of agrarian offences under these three heads was in 1886 only 122. We are aware that the number of cases reported will probably be smaller than the number of convictions named to us by the right hon. Gentleman, because more than one person may have been engaged in a number of cases, but, primâ facie and until the matter is explained, we have no evidence at all in these Returns of any decrease in crime in regard to crimes with which the Crimes Act deals. The decrease is in crime outside the Crimes Act; and apparently, as far as the evidence goes, in those descriptions which are touched by the Crimes Act—intimidation, riot, and forcible possession—there has not been a decrease, but there has probably been even an increase of crime. Be that as it may, the satisfaction with which we admit a decrease of the more serious crime is an unqualified satisfaction, and we adhere with firmness to our belief as to what is the cause of it. It is said by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) that this aspect of the case is altogether too thin and too small—that the field opened up by the Amendment is too narrow. Is that really the case? What do we challenge? We challenge, on the part of the Government, the total abandonment, and, virtually, the total prohibition of all attempts at measures on behalf of the local liberties of Ireland. We challenge the Coercion Act, as well as the administration of that Act. We challenge it upon the old grounds, confirmed, strengthened, and enlarged 733 by what is daily taking place. We challenge it as condemned by the people; we challenge it as introduced for the first time in defiance of the Irish protest that there was not what may be called a surfeit of agrarian crime. There is no instance on record of the introduction of such a measure in defiance of Irish protest, at any period known to me in our history, without a surfeit of agrarian crime; and small as is my faith, derived from experience, in the coercive system, I recognize the broad and vital distinction which would be established by the presence or absence of such a state of things. And, further, we challenge this Act as being in this respect entirely a new-fangled Act aimed not at crime at all, but aimed at combination—at combination which is the only weapon in the hands of the poor for adjusting their grievances, at combination which is expressly protected and sanctioned by the law of England, Scotland, and Wales. That is a broad challenge. We challenge, perhaps most of all, the doctrine laid down by the Government and frankly avowed by the Irish Secretary, but which is avowed by none of those near me, that Ireland is best governed by Coercion—of course, I do not mean for all time or for all eternity—but that Ireland is best governed by Coercion now. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman himself cherishes a hope that there will be some period between this time and the Day of Judgment when the Coercion Act may be repealed; but for actual Ireland, Ireland as she is, he frankly avows that Coercion is the proper mode of government. And his distinct avowal is not to be cancelled by a shake of the head. He told us that Local Government is an excellent thing when people are prepared for it; and the withholding of Local Government I call Coercion. This I call part of the system of Coercion—not the most direct and vital part, but a serious and important part of it. We are told in the Queen's Speech that coercive measures have improved the condition of Ireland, and therefore Ireland is to be governed by them. These are the propositions which we challenge, and I think they are broad enough, if not for the capacious minds of the Dissentient Liberals, at any rate for the limited faculties of ordinary mortals such as the discomfited and discredited 734 Party who now occupy these benches. We are told in bland and soothing tones that perhaps we have got a case for inquiry. I have here a report of a speech made by my hon. Friend the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Courtney) so long ago as October, 1887. He, as an upright man, was shocked at the facts disclosed about Mitchelstown, but he took no heed of the circumstance that everything that had been done by the authorities at Mitchelstown was defended and glorified in by the Government. He took no heed of that, as he takes no heed now of the language of the Government in regard to all their worst acts which we charged upon the Administration in Ireland. But still he was shocked at the facts, and said there ought to be inquiry. He said—"There must be inquiry, and I may go a little further, and promise you that there shall be inquiry." That was the promise of my hon. Friend; and he is a man of his word; there is no more sincere and upright man; but the most sincere, upright, and courageous man cannot for a moment contend against the limitations and fetters of the position he has chosen for himself. What is the use of saying that there ought to be inquiry, of saying that there must be inquiry, and of saying that there shall be inquiry, when you know that so often as the Tory Government choose to say, "It is a question of our holding office to maintain the Union, or of letting in others to relax the Union," as they call it, there is no choice? I am very glad my hon. Friend shakes his head and so does my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham. But I must ask my hon. Friend the Chairman of Committees, who is so admirably placed, and has such great influence from his character for impartiality, why, having promised his constituents that inquiry there should be, he did not move for such inquiry?
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
I certainly made the declaration quoted by my right hon. Friend, and I made it with the fullest confidence that he would move for such inquiry. It appeared to me at the time and it appears to me still that that would be the logical and Parliamentary consequence of the action he has taken. If he or anyone sitting beside him had made that Motion 735 I should have voted for it; and if any right hon. Gentleman opposite had resisted it by saying it was a question of the Union, I should have laughed in his face.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
My right hon. Friend, it appears, makes a promise on my behalf. He says he made this statement in the belief that I would bring forward such a Motion, and, believing that I would do it, he entered into this promise with his constituents. My right hon. Friend is an able, a prudent, and experienced man, and he had no doubt of our action. But you will observe on this and questions such as these that when a question arises as to which these Gentlemen are deeply committed, some question upon which they have pledged themselves to their constituents in the open face of day—then, when they know that their vote against the Government on that subject will be totally insignificant and be harmless to Her Majesty's Government, they come forward with great independence and record their votes, just as in former days an occasional Tory used to vote for the ballot when he knew there was a preponderating majority against it. This is a very ancient form of Parliamentary strategy which really requires no further consideration. This observation applies to my right hon. Friend on my right hand, and on my left the Member for West Birmingham. The plain meaning of it is this—with all his projects, plans, and schemes—some compute that he has launched some five-and-twenty of them—but in matter of figures I seek to be careful; and, believing there may be some exaggeration, I will not say even if he has turned the score—but whatever the number, it does not signify a rush—1, 2, 3 plan—A, B, C, D, all the alphabet down to Z—down they must all go, the moment Her Majesty's Government gives the order that the Union is endangered. My hon. Friend the Chairman of Committees says that I ought to have moved for this inquiry. Now in these matters I think I am a little more cautious, even a little more Parliamentary, than my hon. Friend supposes. Before I move for a Committee of Inquiry, I want to be assured of my ground for so doing. I am not willing to proceed on newspaper reports alone, and in the Mitchelstown 736 case, and in almost every other case, we have asked, begged, entreated, and besought the Government to give us officially the facts, but without result. [Several hon. MEMBERS: Dopping.] Being unable to get the facts and thus make this preliminary step, no doubt I have abstained from bringing a Motion forward for a Committee of Inquiry. What is such a Motion? My hon. Friend talks as if it were an easy matter. What would have happened? In the first place there was no evening on which such a thing could be done; and secondly, if, as necessary for the purpose, a day were asked for, could I go from Mitchelstown and Killeagh to Kinsella—from one case to another, asking for a Committee for each? What would have been said? It would have been said: Here is patent palpable obstruction. Now, with regard to this point, I desire to make one observation. During the Session of 1888 we rendered to the Government the most important services it was in our power to render in the prosecution of public business, but whenever I read the speeches of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, I found that they were either silent as to the assistance we rendered or actually charged us with obstruction. What would have happened had I brought forward such a Motion as my hon. Friend suggests? There would have been vehement charges against us of obstruction. Nobody but partizans and bigots believe them for a moment; but they confuse the issue, and draw off the mind of the people from the grand question before us—namely, the question of the fortunes and the fate of Ireland. Our object is to have this issue clear, and therefore I will not, unnecessarily, expose myself to such charges. But, Sir, most of these cases have been cases of prison treatment; that has been the great subject—the greatest, I think—of discussion, anxiety, and misgiving in this House. What has happened in respect to prison treatment? When the Coercion Bill was under discussion in Committee, notice was given on this side of the House of a new clause, which would have provided that all persons convicted under the Act should be treated as first-class misdemeanants, and so disposed of this whole matter. What became of that clause? It was closured out. And what has happened 737 since, whenever complaint has been made of the prison treatment of any prisoner? Her Majesty's Government have not only refused inquiry, but have adopted the thing complained of. It is now too late to grant any Parliamentary inquiry. That would have been very well while judgment was not foreclosed. The heaviest matter of accusation has been adopted by Her Majesty's Government as matter of praise and commendation. Yes; the time for inquiry has gone by; the issue is fairly joined, and we ask the verdict of the country upon it. Now, I own I heard with some pain the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham upon prison treatment. He, too, adopted the course not only of minimizing the complaints that have been made, but of indulging in something very near jeering at these cases of prison discipline, matters of cutting hair, refusal to be weighed, and the like. Well, this business of cutting the hair would have been of smaller importance, perhaps, fifty years ago; but if the business of involuntary hair cutting is to be applied impartially in all cases, I do not know what section may escape disagreeable consequences. In my opinion, to enforce compliance in these cases is, in the first place, totally against the spirit of the prison rule. The prison rule recognizes the necessity of cutting the hair for purposes of health and cleanliness. In these cases nobody pretends that the cutting of the hair or the prison dress are necessary in the interest of health and cleanliness; and if the practice is not necessary for such purposes it becomes a personal indignity, and ought not to be inflicted on Members of Parliament or Irish priests, or anybody else, and when it has been inflicted it ought not to be made light of by men in our station. Now, I put these charges together. I am not going to be entangled in arguments as to what are and are not political offences. I know very well you cannot attempt to frame a legislative definition of political offences; but what you can do, and what always has been done, is this—you can say that in certain classes of cases the imprisoned person ought not to be treated as if he had been guilty of base and degrading crime. What does the ordinary sentence of imprisonment import? The deprivation of literature 738 and visitors—well, I am not quite sure whether it is not better to have visitors shut out than to have them sent in at the instance of somebody else for the convenience of somebody in a legal action—the plank bed, the prison dress, the odious, the disgraceful incident of the company of felons; there is the business of cleansing the cell, the clipping of the hair, and there is—and I refer to it as it has happened—the production of a prisoner in prison dress to give evidence in open Court, actually in sight of his constituents; within the precincts where he has obtained the confidence of the people, he is made to appear in a position of degradation. There is no need for any inquiry in cases such as these. They are adopted by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and his Colleagues—and in their view they constitute the true and best permanent method of dealing with Ireland. Eight hon. Gentlemen must know well that changes such as these violently imported into manners, habits, and conditions of life of hon. Members and others, must expose them in many cases; but the off-handed answer is that there is a prison doctor who will look after them. I do not enter into the facts of the statement made by the hon. Member for East Mayo as to the very different treatment in certain cases of prisoners who have been convicted of degrading crime, because the facts are disputed; and, consequently, I shall await elucidation, which, I take it, will be granted. But, Sir, I say that though sensitiveness to indignities of this kind may be a matter on which men will differ according to their temperament and their ideas, yet such sensitiveness is a sensitiveness rather to be encouraged than to be repressed, for it appertains to that lofty sentiment—that spirit which was described by Burke in immortal language when he said, "The spirit which feels a stain like a wound." Now, Sir, what are the merits of this case? Have we before us a Conservative Government or not? I know there is a Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer. We cannot expect from him—he has been reared in such a bad school—much regard for precedent. But I take it for granted that the bulk of the Gentlemen opposite are bound to have regard for precedent. We condemn this prison treatment in the mass, and not because one man was not 739 weighed and one man had his hair cut. We condemn it in the lump and in the gross, and as it is defended, vindicated, and justified, we decline to potter about Parliamentary inquiries, and we want to carry the issue to the country. Now, as for precedents, has there been a feeling on the part of different Governments in good times, aye, even in bad times, that offenders of the class and under the conditions I have described ought to be treated with leniency, consideration, forbearance, and indulgence? Yes, there has. I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to confute it. Let him confute the statement that Liberal and Conservative Governments have, until the present pseudo-Conservative one, endorsed these principles, and apply them first as to a Liberal Government. When the treatment of Mr. Harrington was discovered by Lord Spencer, he at once applied a remedy, although the Chief Secretary for Ireland has never yet had the grace or decency to make Lord Spencer an apology for what he has said upon the subject. He offered something instead of the apology, and said that he did not know and could not know; then, if he did not and could not know, why did he make a positive statement upon the subject? The right hon. Gentleman has no answer to make to that; he does not spring to his feet so lightly as my right hon. Friend near me. "His bosom's lord sits"—generally—"lightly on its throne!"—possibly not on every occasion. We protest against this prison treatment as being condemned by the country, and as being in itself unwise, inhuman, and brutal. I have not sought to multiply epithets of this kind, but I cannot altogether withhold them. Finally, I say, it is entirely contrary to the usage of other Governments. Now, I challenge the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon that question. What has been the usage of other Governments in this important respect? An hon. and learned Friend of mine, who sits behind me, adverted to this subject in a letter to the Times some time ago—a valuable letter—and I gave some attention to it. Take the case of Mr. Cobbett. He was in prison for a very serious offence in a most serious time—namely, in the most agonizing time of a great war. But he was treated with the utmost indulgence in prison, of 740 which I could, if required, give the House some detail. Sir John Hobhouse was sent to prison, and he likewise was treated—both these by Tory Governments—with the utmost indulgence. Mr. Feargus O'Connor was sent to prison, and Lord Normanby, under a Liberal Government, wrote that nothing ought to be done—I forget the words, but this is the substance of them—which was harsh in itself, or which was injurious to his feelings. Mr. Smith O'Brien was imprisoned, and he was treated exactly on the same principle. Mitchel, after his condemnation, upon his voyage across the Atlantic, was treated with the utmost and peculiar leniency. But there was one case above all—a case in which I myself may not have been free from responsibility—but of course of a secondary kind, and that was the case of Mr. O'Connell. You say sometimes that the ringleaders are the men who ought to be severely punished; and you say, "Do not punish severely the unhappy victims whom they delude and mislead." And on that principle you attempt to justify what you are doing in defiance of all usage and precedent. Was O'Connell a ringleader or not? As Saul slew his thousands and David his tens of thousands, if Mr. W. O'Brien has addressed his thousands Mr. O'Connell addressed his hundreds of thousands. Was the offence of Mr. O'Connell in law a serious offence—au offence of the gravest character? He was condemned, I think, to one year's imprisonment or to pay a fine of £2,000. I am not quite sure whether it was the converse of that, but I think I am right, and to very heavy pecuniary recognizances for seven years, the imprisonment to be prolonged until those recognizances, which, I think, were for £10,000, were complied with. What was the condition of O'Connell in prison under those grave circumstances and for this grave offence? I will not read the whole details published by Sir Charles Gavan Duffy; but he says—When O'Connell arrived at Richmond Bridewell, the governor and deputy-governor were authorized to sublet their houses and gardens to the State prisoners. Members of Mr. O'Connell's family and of the families of the other prisoners came to reside with them. They employed their own servants from the first day. Presents of venison, game, fish, fruit, and the like flowed in upon them.There is the statement that these 741 men, under the Tory Goverment of Sir Robert Peel, enjoyed comfort and even luxury, such was the determination of the Tories in those days not to inflict upon them any indignities. Now we have a Government who, reversing all precedent as they despise all propriety, inflict upon these men, for offences which they have themselves created, and which they know are not esteemed to be offences at all by many persons in this House and by millions of people out of this House—they completely reverse and subvert ancient rules of action, and make themselves as responsible for these proceedings as if each one of them had proceeded from their own independent initiative. The Chief Secretary for Ireland has said that he is not responsible for the Prison Department, or that the Prison Department is not in his Department, and therefore that he has but a secondary responsibility for these matters; and the Solicitor General for Ireland, endeavouring with friendly hand to help out his right hon. Friend, said that they might alter the prison rules, but as long as they were rules they must be obeyed. Father Ryan was one of the first of the reverend gentlemen who fell into the clutches of the Government. When Father Ryan was dispensed from putting on prison dress were the prison rules altered? I think I am justified in saying that they were not. So it appears that without any cumbrous process of sub-legislation the Chief Secretary can do what he likes in such a matter. But the Chief Secretary says it is not in his Department. I never heard in my life, which has been a tolerably long one, a more frivolous and more ludicrous excuse. I have had the honour of holding for twelve or thirteen, years the Office of Chancellor of the Exchequer in this country. I do not know how the case is with my right hon. Friend, but I may say that during those twelve or thirteen years, five-sixths of my work—probably nine-tenths—were not in my Department. Does the Chief Secretary think that a Member has no primary responsibility except for the routine work brought before him in the official mill? Why, the most important duties of a Member, especially of a Chancellor of the Exchequer and a Chief Secretary, sometimes lie entirely outside their Departments. 742 The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is sometimes supposed to labour under a surfeit of bravery. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, I think, applied that epithet to him, and it has been reported so often that it must have become adhesive and can be no longer separated from him. Let me recommend him to exercise his bravery and expend part of the superfluity in owning that he is responsible for the prison rules. One other case I ought to have mentioned, the case of Mr. Davitt. He came under the view of my right hon. Friend near me (Sir W. Harcourt) as Home Secretary, and I can bear testimony to the fact that in point of decency and indulgence his treatment was everything that could reasonably be desired. Therefore I decline entirely to go back to the point at which we might very rationally have stood if this had been the first opening of this question, and to ask for a Parliamentary inquiry upon a matter upon which we have already the definite conclusions of the Government that they have adopted everything, even the worst and most disgraceful in these important particulars, in the established rules. The right hon. Gentleman and the Government have come to the conclusion that Ireland is best governed by Coercion. We hold exactly the reverse, and when my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham thinks this anxiety upon the administrative system in Ireland is but a narrow subject, I differ from him entirely. I doubt whether, if they knew Ireland, they would ever give utterance to such sentiments. It is the anti-national spirit lurking in the administrative system that constitutes the greatest immediate and pressing danger. History supplies us with a most interesting exhibition of the truth of the proposition I have stated. It is so interesting, and so important, that, though I will not detain the House by giving all the details, which I have made it my study to collect, yet I will at least give a sample from one period of Irish history in this century, which fairly brought to issue how much could be done even without remedial legislation to mitigate the condition of Ireland, and to attract the confidence of her people by good administration. It was in times much worse than these, in times when Ireland had not been 743 relieved, as, thank God, she has now been relieved, of most of her very worst grievances; it was at a time when the Irish people were in a far greater degree than now, a crime-committing people. It was in the time of that eminent man whose name I am glad to sound through this House to the admiration, the gratitude, and the reverential appreciation of his countrymen, Thomas Drummond. In Dublin Castle from 1835 to 1840, when his life ebbed away, a sacrifice to his labours, to his incessant anxieties, and possibly to the calumnies and persecution to which he was subjected, Thomas Drummond not only sat at Dublin Castle, but for those years he walked Dublin Castle, and Dublin Castle came to be in those years in the mind of the Irish people the very reverse of what it is now. During those years the Melbourne Government was able to do nothing in the way of remedial legislation for Ireland, with the exception of the Poor Law Act, passed in 1838, when the time was nearly over. There was no remedial legislation for Ireland, but there was administration in a soothing, a conciliatory, and a national spirit. Thomas Drummond's system of conciliation in Ireland was defended with great skill and courage in the House of Commons by Lord Morpeth, and Viceroys, when occasionally attending in the House of Lords, used to defend it. It will be best understood when I say it was a system which in the main satisfied the desires and demands of O'Connell. What were the results of that system in Ireland? I want to bring to trial the issue whether Coercion is the proper means of putting down mischief and improving the condition of the country. What was done between 1835 and 1839? The question was the subject of inquiry by a hostile Committee sitting in the House of Lords, and the facts were clearly brought out. They were summed up under these heads—diminution of crime, confidence of the people in the law, aversion to crime, and measures taken to put down crime among the people themselves. In those days Lord Plunket, notwithstanding his great eloquence—I know that, in the opinion of Lord Russell, I should not be exaggerating if I said his unrivalled eloquence—was regarded by O'Connell as almost the plague spot of the Government; they were in 744 sharp opposition; but he said in 1836, "I have never known Ireland in such a state of tranquillity as at this moment." What was the case with regard to crime? I give all the serious categories of crime—and I find that whereas in 1834 these crimes amounted to 4,289, in 1838, without the use of coercive powers, although I believe here were some coercive powers on the Statute Book, which could be used, they were reduced to 2,294. What was the attitude of the people towards the agents of the law? Well, it was this. A case happened in Tipperary—which was the great centre of criminal activity—a case happened where a police pensioner was murdered, and that police pensioner was a Protestant. The murderer fled, the police went after him, they brought him back, and Mr. Drummond bore testimony before the Lords' Committee that when the police brought back the murderer to the scene of the crime the people gathered together and cheered the police. Still more remarkable, in those days, in Tipperary a society was formed among the people for the prevention of crime. A society of whom? A society of peasants in Tipperary between 1834 and 1838. Its members entered into pledges one to another; inter alia, they were to communicate to a magistrate or some member of their own Committee any facts likely to lead to the prevention of outrage. But there was another thing. They were determined to discourage bad characters. But there was another thing they were to do—to refuse to employ such persons. If those who now exercise power exercised it then, those persons who associated together for this laudable purpose might themselves be brought before the removal judges of the right hon. Gentleman and imprisoned for six months with hard labour, on the ground of having entered into an illegal conspiracy of exclusive dealing. Such were the facts in the time of Thomas Drummond. There, as regards confidence, was confidence then in the Stipendiary Magistrates, confidence in the police, aversion to crime, diminution of crime to one-half, an increase, a considerable increase, in the proportion of convictions to committals. Is that the present state of the case? I say again the acts of Her Majesty's Government ought to be 745 tested by their results. In my opinion, the right hon. Gentleman has succeeded in widening if it existed before, the breach between the people and the Constabulary. That such a breach now exists I cannot doubt for a moment. The confidence in the Stipendiary Magistrates which in Drummond's time was almost a vital principle of their life—where is it now? I am far from saying that the bulk of the Stipendiary Magistrates are either incompetent or unfair; but we say that men like Captain Seagrave, Mr. Cecil Roche, Mr. Gardiner, and some more whose names I am not anxious to unfold, are enough to destroy, and do destroy, the national confidence. Though the right hon. Gentleman shook his head when I said I feared there was now a breach between the people and the Constabulary, he does not shake his head when I say that I fear the confidence of the people in the Stipendiary Magistrates is greatly shaken, and in, I think, many cases almost gone. Ireland is governed now, almost for the first time in my experience, in flat contradiction to the opinions of five-sixths of her entire representation, and one-fourth of her entire representation have been within prison doors and sentenced under the Crimes Act. In what respect are such sentences valuable? They are not valuable on account of the pain they inflict; they are valuable on account of the moral effect they produce. You find it necessary to imprison a fourth of the whole Irish representation—I do not know the exact figures, but I believe I am not setting the number too high when I say that a fourth have been sentenced under the Crimes Act. Well, what is the effect of such sentences in a well-constituted country under a sound system of Government? A sentence of imprisonment marks the man upon whom it is passed as a man whom his neighbours ought to view, and generally do view, with misgiving. In Ireland it is distinctly the contrary—it is a title to public confidence. A prison is becoming under the rule of the present Government a temple of honour. We say now, what will not be doubted, if there were another General Election, and if there were presented to many Irish constituencies gentlemen as candidates of whom they know little, except that they had been imprisoned under the Crimes Act, they would be accepted with favour. I 746 do not know whether the House recollect how this subject was handled in sarcastic verse by Lord Byron when Sir John Hobhouse was sent to prison. Lord Byron wrote—Let Parliament send you to Newgate.Newgate will send you to Parliament.That is literally true in relation to Irish feeling at this moment. But it is not Irish feeling only. Would an Irishman, an Irish criminal, be received in England just now with misgiving, or, at the very least, with suspicion and provisional condemnation? If they were men who were only known to have been sentenced by one of these notorious Magistrates under the Crimes Act, there is hardly a town in England or in Scotland where they would not be hailed with acclamation. And that is the state of things which the right hon. Gentleman and the Government have brought about, and upon which they found their title and their demand to the confidence of the House and the confidence of the country. Sir, as far as we are concerned, we shall go forward upon our course, I will not only say with unabated, but with daily-growing, confidence. To us, Sir, it matters not who is to lead. The strength lies not in the leader, but in the cause. Unfold the pages of history and see what, unaided., without support, sympathy, or confidence on this side of the water, Ireland has in other days, and through long generations of men, achieved for herself in shaking off her yoke and gradually establishing her title to honour and freedom. Alone she has done these things; alone she has made this enormous progress, ratified and crowned in 1782; is she likely now, if she did these things with her own right arm, either to recede or to fail of her purpose, when she has acquired the unhesitating support of a body in this country whom my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) has described, and only too modestly described, as possessed of half the voting power of the constituencies? Such is her power, such are her prospects; and is it to be supposed that half of the constituencies of this country really think, as you do not scruple to declare, that the union of the kingdoms ought to be destroyed and the supremacy of Parliament abolished? You know as well as we know that one moiety of all the constituencies firmly believe 747 that in giving local liberty to Ireland they are giving life and permanence to the Union, and seeking to establish between the two countries such a state of things that, when it has once been brought into active existence, those who may have been its opponents will by degrees be ashamed of, and will at last forget, the resistance which they have offered to a most blessed and a most beneficial change. Now, I do not deny your power; you have the power in your hands aided by the Septennial Act—you have, perhaps, the power in your hands which will enable you to postpone the solution of this great controversy for two or three years. You have the power to continue to present lists of more than a thousand persons in prison under your so-called Crimes Act; to continue the state of things in which nearly one-sixth of the representatives in this House—say, one-seventh—are placed under ban and proscription, excluded from the service of the Crown, excluded from all those hopes which any other among us is entitled to entertain. You may deprive of its grace and of its freedom the act which you are asked to do. But avert that act you cannot. To prevent the consummation is utterly beyond your power. It seems to approach at an accelerated rate—come it slower or come it quicker, surely it is coming and will come. And you yourselves, many of you, must in your own breasts be aware that already you see in the handwriting on the wall the signs of coming doom.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
There are some words of the speech just delivered by the right hon. Gentleman in which we shall all cordially agree. The right hon. Gentleman said the Opposition had a cause, and that whoever the Leaders might be that cause would grow. We, too, are in the same position. We, too, have a cause, and, whatever the imperfections of the Leaders may be, we believe in our cause, in the maintenance of the Union with just as strong a belief as that expressed by the right hon. Gentleman in his. The right hon. Gentleman says we all know the act will come. What act? This great consummation! What consummation? The consummation is carefully concealed, 748 not only from us, but from the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman. It is often interesting to watch how, when the right hon. Gentleman uses a phrase to content his supporters above the Gangway, there is immediately a significant abstention from cheering by hon. Members below the Gangway. I trust that the House will permit me, although still under the spell of the right hon. Gentleman, to attempt to follow him through the main portions of his speech. I do not propose to follow him in those extraordinary arithmetical problems with regard to bye-elections which he put before us. Hon. Members opposite will find that these figures will be answered. But I think there are far more important matters to deal with, and I should be sorry to devote to that question the time which was given to it by the right hon. Gentleman. There is one respect in which, if I can do so without offence, I would like to draw a favourable contrast between the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and many of those—almost all of those—which preceded it. The whole of the debate up to this time, so far as it came from that side of the House, has consisted of a long-sustained and venomous attack upon my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman on the other hand properly held, not my right hon. Friend, but the Government as a whole, responsible for what is going on in Ireland. We have never shrunk from that responsibility. We are associated with my right hon. Friend, and if the right hon. Gentleman says that I have used the word "bravery" with regard to my right hon. Friend outside this House, I am prepared to support it here, and I know that it will be endorsed in their hearts by every single Member sitting on the opposite Bench. Those who have been here during the whole of these proceedings will know how bitterly my right hon. Friend has been attacked. It is, of course, the recognized procedure of Members opposite below the Gangway of the Nationalist Party to attempt to worry Chief Secretaries into physical collapse. They have had some successes in the past with Irish Chief Secretaries not all alive now; there are some who have borne in their constitution the permanent results of the calumnies, worries, and attacks to which they 749 were persistently exposed. I think the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir G. Trevelyan) might tell us a somewhat pathetic story of the way in which those whom now he is covering with fulsome oratorical caresses in this House inflicted upon him moral and almost physical torture. But it has been found that my right hon. Friend the present Chief Secretary wears a coat of mail, from which the daggers of calumny glance off. His imperturbable temper has been able to defy all the attacks which have been made upon him. Hence the ever-increasing violence, hence the symptoms which we have seen in this debate of men hitting out wildly, frantically, and at random at my right hon. Friend. But we believe on this side of the House that the great majority of those who sit opposite do not believe for one moment most of the charges brought against my right hon. Friend. No, not even the right hon. Member for Sheffield believes in half of that which is said against my right hon. Friend. I will test this. Do hon. Members opposite below the Gangway, and the majority of those on that bench, believe that the Chief Secretary inflicts indignities on prisoners for the mere pleasure of venting his spite? [Mr. T. M. HEALY: On O'Brien; yes, certainly.] Do they believe it? [Home Rule cries, "They do."] These charges are put forward on public platforms, but they are not really believed in by any responsible man in this House. Let me follow the right hon. Gentleman into the question of the treatment of prisoners. The right hon. Gentleman, with great dialectical acumen, prefaced his introduction of this part of the question by saying that he would not be entangled into any argument with regard to the definition of prisoners. Well, he was extremely wise in avoiding that subject, because all authorities are agreed that political prisoners ought to be treated differently from ordinary prisoners. But the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to quote precedents of men who had committed political offences, and then he applied the precedents to prisoners who are condemned for ordinary offences. The right hon. Gentleman quoted certain cases. In most of those cases the offences were unquestionably political. The case of O'Connell, for instance, was distinctly 750 a political offence; and if these offences were committed now, I apprehend that those who committed them would be treated as political prisoners and as State prisoners, as they have been treated in the past.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am coming to the right hon. Gentleman presently. I do not think the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian was interrupted in the course of his speech.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I shall have something to say to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford presently. I know he has taken a great interest in this question, and therefore I waited to hear what he had to say. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian went back to State prisoners and political prisoners of former times, and I think he dealt with one contemporary case. He spoke of the treatment of Mr. Michael Davitt. Is he aware that Mr. Michael Davitt was treated as a convict in the first instance, and that it was only on his return to prison, after he had had a ticket-of-leave, that the treatment began to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded? I should like to know whether the case of the right hon. Gentleman will break down if Michael Davitt was treated as a convict at any time. The right hon. Gentleman said he would quote precedents. He should not care much for precedents, but he has not taken the pains to examine the case of Mr. Davitt.
* THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EX-CHEQUER
Listen to the Member for Derby. He says it was not a political offence at all the first time. Neither are these political offences which have been committed more recently by Members of this House and others. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian does not care to entangle himself, but the Member for Derby is bolder, and 751 ventures on the definition of political prisoners; but let it be understood, not only in this House, but in the country, if we are charged with having introduced this system, that it is the system which has been applied by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and that it is the accepted criminal administration of the country, and was so during the whole time when the right hon. Gentleman himself was in office. And mark this further point. When did this indignation begin? It began with the case of Mr. William O'Brien. Then it was that the mayors and the representatives of local government in Ireland commenced to display an extraordinary activity in visiting Members of this House who were incarcerated. The mayors were content to allow these alleged indignities to be put upon humbler persons. It was only when the law was applied to Members of Parliament—to the makers of the law who had become breakers of the law—that the sympathy began. It is on their account that this great anxiety is felt and manifested. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland defended himself with regard to the charge brought against him as to his responsibility for the treatment of these prisoners. It appeared to me that the case was perfectly clear. In the ordinary way, the Prisons Board carries out the orders and regulations which are laid down by Parliament, and it is only when an exceptional case is brought by the Prisons Board before the Chief Secretary that he can interfere. He is not the executive officer. The right hon. Gentleman opposite did not pretend that he was the executive officer. But the Government of Ireland have not declined, and do not decline general responsibility for all that is done in Ireland. I should like hon. Members opposite to elect whether they consider that the Chief Secretary administers the law and is to be held to administer the law, or whether he is not. The right hon. Gentleman challenged me upon the case of Mr. Timothy Harrington [An hon. MEMBER: Mr. Edward Harrington.] No; I mean the Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin. I think that the right hon. Gentleman called attention to his case as proof of different action by a previous Administration. The sentence on Mr. Timothy 752 Harrington was confirmed on appeal—and I call attention to the dates—on. February 13, 1883. He was arrested and committed to gaol on the 16th of February. He was then put on a plank bed, and in other respects was "subjected to the prison regulations like every other convict." Was that known to the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir G. Trevelyan) at the time? He was administering the law. Hon. Members opposite consider that the present Chief Secretary administers the law. ("Hear, hear," from the Irish Members.) Well, then, was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton, who enjoys the confidence of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian—was he, or was he not, administering the law? Why this plank bed? Why this indignity put upon a Member of Parliament? "Is it not disgraceful," says the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian? He cannot find in his vocabulary words strong enough to condemn us.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Then I hope the right hon. Gentleman will at once address a lecture to his old colleague, the Member for Bridgeton. I thought, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman might take that line. I was reading an answer given by the Member for Bridgeton in this House. I could not read out the inverted commas, but they were there. The right hon. Gentleman said: "Subject to the prison regulations, like every other convict." That means plank bed, cleaning out the cell, and other indignities, of which a description has been given. Now the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian says he cannot find words strong enough to condemn us for defending that proposition. Then I come to the right hon. Member for Bradford. What has he got to say to his Colleague and Friend the Member for Bridgeton? Action was taken in this matter, but when? It was on the 24th of February. For eight long days Mr. Timothy Harrington was under the prison regulations administered by the right hon. Member for Bridgeton, the Chief Secretary of the day, and he remained subject to those indignities for the infliction of which Her Majesty's present Government are to be held up to the execration of the constituencies. 753 The conscience of the Member for Bridgeton was not pricked until the case of Mr. Harrington was brought to the attention, not of the right hon. Member for Bridgeton, who was held mainly responsible, but of Lord Spencer. How was his attention called to it? By questions asked in this House and by the comments made upon the right hon. Gentleman's replies. Even then the right hon. Gentleman told the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) that he would not admit that the offence was political. When the agitation commenced Mr. Harrington was removed to a more comfortable prison. That was on the 27th of February.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
On the 1st of March, the Member for Bridgeton answered in this House that the Lord Lieutenant had ordered his transfer to another prison.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I should think that that was very likely. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman did make that announcement, but it is highly probable that this was the case. But the point is that the right hon. Gentleman's conscience was not pricked until a political agitation had been raised which he had not the courage to face in this House. The case of Mr. Timothy Harrington has been quoted side by side with that of Mr. Michael Davitt, and these two cases are the precedents to which we are to give our attention. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary has throughout contended that the cases which have been cited against him are not cases of political offences, and he throws back in the teeth of every one who ventures to make it, the assertion that there has not been the slightest deviation in the direction of harshness or indignity in the case of any one of his political opponents. It was an odious charge to make, a charge which never ought to have been made, and one which ought never to have been repeated. I think the Member for Bradford is anxious for a little attention, because with the Member for Bradford the treatment of political prisoners is an 754 old and a pet subject. He took a special interest in it, for he himself thought he might be able to qualify for becoming a Member for an Irish Constituency by being put in gaol as a political prisoner. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking on this subject, quoted to the House the remarks of County Court Judge Mr. O'Connor Morris, before whom the appeal of Mr. P. O'Brien, M.P., was taken, and the right hon. Gentleman thought he had scored a good point. Now there is no better way of scoring a good point than by stopping a quotation at a convenient stage. The right hon. Gentleman quoted the views of Judge O'Connor Morris with regard to the treatment of Mr. Hayden and Mr. P. O'Brien. Judge Morris said that he "did not think he exceeded his powers in exempting those Gentlemen from the harsh treatment of ordinary prisoners. In cases of sedition, the Act provided that the accused should be treated as first-class misdemeanants, and the cases before him approached nearer sedition than anything else." Accordingly the Judge ordered them to be so treated. That was the quotation read by the right hon. Member for Bradford, but he omitted the continuation of Judge Morris's remarks which was in these words: "He was sorry that he could not extend the same mitigation to Mr. Byrne. Danger, death, blood, murder had followed words of this kind," that is of the kind used by Mr. Byrne, and he confirmed the sentence. Mark the words, for I have special reason in calling attention to them: "Danger, death, blood, and murder have followed words of this kind." The Judge, therefore, exposed Mr. Byrne to the degradation of an ordinary criminal. We contend that in many of these cases words are used of the kind which are followed by danger, death, blood, and murder.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
rose amid cries of "Order" and "Chair.": I have a right to make an explanation. The right hon. Gentleman has accused me of not quoting it with regard to the case of Messrs. O'Brien and Hayden, and I went on to say they were charged with language at least as strong, or stronger, than any used by any Member of this House.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that he had another reason for suppressing that interesting part of the quotation. Mr. Byrne, the House will be interested to learn, was the most prominent member of the Reception Committee of the right hon. Gentleman himself.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
Allow me to say I never saw and I never heard of him before in that connection. [Cries of "Oh."] Never.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Well then, Mr. Byrne knows the right hon. Gentleman, and I do not know what view Mr. Byrne will take of the right hon. Gentleman's repudiation. It is not always that Members of this House present the belligerent and bellicose appearance here that they assume when in Ireland as representatives of the British democracy. I think I have dealt sufficiently with these allegations, both as regards precedents and as regards the allegations of cruelty. I have shown that the precedents quoted do not apply, because they are precedents of political prisoners, and, in regard to ordinary offenders, I have shown that they are treated now precisely as they were treated before. They were treated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite precisely as they are treated now. If there is to be a change, I repeat what has been said by my right hon. Friend—it must be a change all round. It must be a change which applies to men of culture condemned for similar offences in this country as well as in Ireland. Our contention is that men who are sentenced for these offences, which are not political, are not entitled to exemption from the prison rules. One word more as to the nature of offences. It is not a political act or offence to refrain from paying a debt. It is another kind of offence altogether—an offence of a very different character; and if so, then language inciting to that offence cannot surely be described as political. 756 There may be a political motive behind. Very probably there is, but the acts themselves are not political. I pass from the treatment of political offenders to the general charge which is brought by the right hon. Gentleman, and by other speakers, against the Irish Constabulary generally, of harshness.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I think the right hon. Gentleman did abstain from attacking the police on the occasion, but he accuses the Administration of harshness; and I presume he endorses part of the accusation brought from the opposite bench against that gallant force. I do not think it can be too often repeated that the Irish Constabulary, under great and constant provocation, have behaved with as much restraint and prudence as any body of police in the world have ever done. I presume the Irish Police cannot be expected, more than any other body of men, to maintain an angelic temper, and, when they are wounded and blinded with stones, to wield the baton with softness and graduated force. To expect that would be going too far. We ought to give these men, who, after all, are Irishmen themselves, credit for having on the whole behaved with admirable self-restraint. ["No, no."] Well, I will put an argument to hon. Members below the Gangway. I will assume that the hon. Members who constitute the Nationalist Party had to be sworn in as special constables and to act under the guidance of the Member for Longford (Mr. T. Healy). Do they pretend that if they had then to deal with a crowd of Orangemen, they would show as much temper and restraint as has been shown by the Irish Constabulary? There is no country in Europe, certainly not in America, where anything like the same moderation would have been observed as has been observed by the police in Ireland. The next charge brought in this long indictment has been against the Resident Magistrates. But it has been shown that appeals against their decisions have been successful in a less proportion of cases than appeals against decisions under the ordinary law. [Mr. T. HEALY: Hear, hear.] I observe that the hon. and learned Member for Longford cheers that. On the other 757 hand, their freedom from vindictiveness has been constantly shown by their not inflicting punishment if the prisoners promised not to offend again. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has said that the Magistrates do not enjoy the confidence of the people as they ought to enjoy it, and that there is a wide gulf between the population and the Resident Magistrates. If that charge is well-founded, at whose door rests the blame? A great part of it must be at the door of the Party opposite, who appointed many of these Magistrates. I am not sure that they have not appointed the majority of them, though they are now forward in all parts of the country in denouncing them. [An hon. MEMBER: Law and order.] Yes, you are anxious to upset law and order in Ireland. We are not surprised, but we are sorry for the treatment which these men are receiving at the hands of those who have been responsible Members of the Crown. I cannot follow the right hon. Gentleman over the whole of what he said in his references to the Coercion Act and the treatment of crime, but I come to a point—and a most important and significant point—in his address. He dealt, not for the first time, but certainly in a novel manner, with the Plan of Campaign. He said it was the direct and necessary result of what had preceded it, and then he said, "I do not vindicate the Plan." Well, I think you cannot vindicate a plan more strongly than by saying it is absolutely necessary. The words, "I do not vindicate the Plan," will, very likely, be forgotten, but the fact that the right hon. Gentleman said the Plan is a direct and necessary consequence of what has preceded it will pass current in Ireland, where that wicked system exists which has laid desolate so great a part of the country—that wicked system under which many thousands of acres of Irish land, to the contentment of hon. Members opposite, continue to lie waste.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Not all let; but more and more let from day to day, and more will be let from day to day, if the hon. Member for East Mayo does not send out his band of warriors to endeavour to check the desire of the Irish people once more to cultivate those farms. The 758 right hon. Gentleman dealt with the Plan of Campaign, and thought it was the direct and necessary result of what had preceded.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Of our conduct—I understand that. The right hon. Gentleman went through several years—1886, 1887, and 1888—and in dealing with 1886, I think the right hon. Gentleman used the words that the misery commenced in 1886.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Yes; and therefore it commenced before. I do not care whether it was commenced or established—at all events it existed before. What I want to point out to the right hon. Gentleman and the country is this, that the misery having commenced before and been established in 1886—I do not want to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman—he proposed at that time an immense system of land purchase founded upon a normal rate of 20 years' purchase on the rents—the unjust judicial rents—those rents the arrears of which are now always, by a stretch of language, and judged by a subsequent standard, denounced as unjust. Those rents were to be stereotyped in the year 1886 by an immense system of purchase which was to cover the whole of Ireland, and under which the credit of this country would have been strained to the uttermost. The Irish tenants would have continued to pay on the basis of those unjust rents which, now that the Conservative Government is in office, are considered to be the ruin of Ireland, and to have led up as a direct and necessary consequence to the Plan of Campaign. Which alternative does the right hon. Gentleman choose—he who is a master of finance, he who has had at heart, as much as any man that ever lived, the credit and resources of the country? If this plan had been adopted would there have been wholesale repudiation, or would the unhappy tenantry of Ireland have continued—under his auspices, and at his initiation, and by his draft on English credit—to pay those rents which are considered now to be unjust rents, and for which the landlords 759 are not only to be denounced, but are to forfeit all their rights as citizens of the country? I want to roll away from us the charge which the right hon. Gentleman brings, that it is we who are responsible for this state of things. What would you have said if your present Leader had fastened these rents upon you? It would have taken a great deal of ingenuity on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite to enable them to regard him as having bestowed a blessing on Ireland; or would they have rewarded his efforts for Home Rule by repudiating the terms he had settled? Well, our attitude towards rents is totally different from that of the right hon. Gentleman, who wanted to stereotype those rents for ever. He charges us with not having dealt with the question of arrears, and says it is that question which has led to the present difficulty, and to the recrudescence of agitation and crime. Well, but there have been other Arrears Acts passed, and I deny the assumption that the passing of an Arrears Act has satisfied, or ever would satisfy, the Irish tenants. It would demoralize them and keep up that attitude of expectation which discourages the payment of rent and the fulfilment of contracts, and teaches those who have paid that they have been foolish in their day. I ask, therefore, is it fair to say that the non-fulfilment of the wishes of hon. Members opposite with regard to the Arrears Act is at the bottom of this difficulty? I have no doubt that on some estates, if you had wiped out all arrears and allowed tenants to pay what they liked, there would have been on those estates less trouble than at present; but how about the neighbouring estates, where the example would have been seen? It must be patent to every mind that the passing of periodical Arrears Bills is no settlement but an opening up of the agrarian question in its worst form. I say again, therefore, we were not only within our right, but it was our duty also, notwithstanding the pressure put upon us, to act as we did. The right hon. Gentleman forgets that he omitted from his catalogue of events the fact that we did in 1887 pass a measure for the relief of the Irish tenants—as liberal a measure as could be passed—a measure which at least he ought not to have omitted from 760 his enumeration of the doings or misdoings of Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman contends—it is an argument which has been used many times during the course of this debate—that though we claim that there is an improvement in Ireland, and an improvement in every direction, nevertheless that improvement is not due in any way to the action of Her Majesty's Government. Some improvement is now admitted by all; in spite of the efforts of hon. Members opposite, rents are beginning to be better paid, the tenants are beginning to be more satisfied, the relations between the constabulary and the population are improving. I wish I had time to cite all the symptoms of returning prosperity to Ireland. They are sneered at by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, who speaks of the efforts of my right hon. Friend for the material development of Ireland with some contempt; but I do not think that is the view of the bulk of the Irish people. When that Front Bench was entirely empty—I do not know whether it was because it was empty—an hon. Member from Ireland complained of the neglect of the material interests of Ireland by various and successive Governments. Well, then there was this marked improvement—an improvement recognized by all; and what happened? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has told you the improvement was going on too fast, and measures had to be taken to prevent its continuance. Hon. Members opposite ask "Why, if there is this improvement which you claim in your Address to the Crown, is there also an increase in the number of prosecutions?" That seems a very logical and natural question to put; but the answer is that the increased number of prosecutions is due to the attempts of those who thought improvement was going on too fast to check that improvement—to make a despairing effort once more to defeat, if they could, the process of contentment which had begun to dawn—a dawn which did not smile upon the political prospects of the Nationalist Party. They know that prosperity is Unionist. Yes, prosperity is Unionist; I do not say 761 prosperous persons, but I say that the prosperity of the country would be one of the greatest destructives of the policy of hon. Members opposite. They love to point to the miseries of the Irish people, and they endeavour to work in that way upon the generous impulses of the constituencies of this country. Therefore, when we were able to go and tell the constituencies that there was progress, that farms were being taken, and that men were again in a position wherein they could follow their own bent and use their own liberty, then this effort had to be made; then came the recrudescence of agitation in Kerry and elsewhere; then came the emissaries of the National League to spread abroad again their baneful influence, with its usual baneful effects, and again there was crime in Ireland. [An hon. MEMBER: Quote.] Do you wish me to quote? Do you want me to harrow the feelings of this House with outrages, which I think even the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian would be willing to treat as crimes? He spoke of the nature of those crimes; did he know that they included the maiming of cattle? Did he know that they included some of the most brutal acts that can disgrace a population? And, if so, why does he cover up these offences or crimes—call them what you will—spreading over them a kind of veil, and speaking of these agrarian crimes as if they were of an ordinary character? Crime re-appeared, and what was the duty of the Chief Secretary? It was to endeavour to lay hold of the men who were once more applying the torch to the combustible material. He imprisoned them, and he was right in imprisoning them; and I do not believe the conscience of the country can revolt against the laying hold of and putting in prison the men who are endeavouring to thwart that very process of conciliation which right hon. Gentlemen opposite declare that they are so anxious to see carried out. The Chief Secretary was aware of this campaign—I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Newcastle approves of it—and counteracted it, and did his best to incarcerate the men who were once more endeavouring to produce agitation in Ireland. It was sought to carry out this campaign on some of the 762 best estates in Ireland, on the estates of men who have granted reductions to a point far below the judicial rents which would have been stereotyped for ever in Ireland by the action of the right hon. Gentleman. It was some of the best landlords in Ireland whose estates were selected for attack, and it was with respect to them that hon. Members endeavoured once more to inflict misery and ruin. Yes; misery and ruin, for which I am afraid even their resources will not be able to compensate their victims, because I must say that I think it is misery and ruin for tenants to live in campaign huts rather than on the comfortable farms from which they have been evicted, and I would like to know the result of a vote by ballot among the evicted tenants, evicted under the orders of the National League—I would like to know the opinion of these men who have been unable to utilize the rise in prices, whose hopes are diminishing day by day, of never being able again to occupy their farms, because their position has been utilized for the political purposes of hon. Members opposite—utilized to bring about Home Rule. They will pay a heavy price for the futile efforts which are being made to bring about a consummation which will never arrive. [Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR: Burnley: Ayr Burghs.] You may have your new Parliament, but your new Parliament will not give the Home Rule you desire. So much with regard to the material prosperity in Ireland. But I do not like to sit down without meeting the challenge of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian on the question of local government in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman responded to the appeal of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. For the first time in this debate the right hon. Gentleman said, "We invite you to the consideration of measures of conciliation and contentment." The invitation came from the right hon. Gentleman on the fifth day of a long debate, but up to this time, and until the right hon. Member for West Birmingham had delivered his speech, we heard little but a tedious repetition of particular instances where it was maintained that the Resident Magistrates might have given wrong decisions, or where the police behaved with some violence. It is only today that the Leader of the Party opposite 763 opens up this idea of conciliation and contentment, and he invites us to express our view on the subject. But I am bound to say that it was extremely little he told us of the measures of conciliation which he himself would be able to propose. He made a long indictment against the Unionist Party, and mainly against the Liberal Unionists, that they had neglected local government in Ireland, and that they had refrained from carrying out the instructions which they had received from their constituents. [Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR: Tour pledges.] I propose in a very few words to deal with that charge. What is the primary mandate which the Conservative and the Liberal Unionist Parties have received? It is the mandate to maintain the Union. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham dealt admirably with this point the previous day. Now, the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian said that he would not accept the explanation that the agitation had had anything to do with the non-fulfilment of what he called our pledges. I would ask hon. Members, if they are reasonable, to say in what year and at what time we ought to have begun dealing with local government in Ireland? I admit the enormous interest of the Irish Question. We have given proof of our interest in it, in and out of this House; but I do venture to put in one single humble word for the other portions of the United Kingdom. We are entitled to consider the order in which we should deal with England, Scotland, and Ireland. We are reproached with not having been able to deal with local government in Ireland; but I want to know when we ought to have given it? In 1886? I should like to know what chance there was of carrying it in that year? In 1887 we had enough work to do with Ireland. We had to deal with the land question, and in 1888 we had to deal with local government in England. I do not think we could possibly have undertaken to deal with local government in Ireland before England. That being the case, we dealt with local government in England at the earliest possible date we could, and I think, on the whole, hon. Members from Ireland will agree that the turn of Scotland comes next. That reminds me of the exclamation of the right hon. Member 764 for Mid Lothian—that the denial of local government to Ireland was equivalent to coercion. I never heard a more extraordinary sentence in my life. We have heard many definitions of coercion; but I am sure that a queerer one than that has never been given. Do they maintain that we are coercing Scotland at this moment because she has not been able to receive local self-government? Now, hon. Members opposite are entitled to ask, "Do you repudiate the pledge, the desire to extend local self-government to Ireland?" I reply, "Certainly not." What right has the right hon. Gentleman to say that it would certainly not be dealt with in the present Parliament? It must depend to a great extent on the right hon. Gentleman himself, and upon hon. Members from Ireland. If I rightly read the attitude of the Nationalist Party, when they prevent Bills from passing which aim at increasing the material prosperity of their country, I doubt very much whether we shall receive much support from them in any measure of local self-government for Ireland, I mean, of course, in the sense in which it is applied in Scotland and in England. Witness the attitude of hon. Members opposite to the extension of Lord Ashbourne's Act. What chance would there have been; what chance would there be this year or next year that any efforts on our part would receive even fair treatment? I have constantly observed that when hon. Members opposite Lave heard allusions to local self-government in Ireland they have abstained from any expression of a desire to see such local self-government established. They may want it after they have got their National Parliament; they do not want it before; and if not before, I should like to know whether there is any chance that an honest effort on the part of the Government would meet with any kind of response from those who guide the counsels of the Front Opposition Bench? My right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin made a proposal for which there is much to be urged. It is that local self-government should be granted to Ireland, but that all local self-government should be suspended in disturbed districts. How would a proposal of this kind be received by the Opposition? It is a proposal which may be good; it is a proposal which I do not at all con- 765 demn;but I think it would require a considerable amount of Parliamentary time in order to carry it into effect. But what are the conditions now for establishing local self-government in Ireland? What do we wish, in establishing it, in all parts of the kingdom? What we wish is that the people in each locality should take an interest in local life, and that they should rise to the performance of municipal duties. But what would happen if you established local self-government in Ireland tomorrow? It would be entirely controlled by a central political clique and worked for political purposes. It would be throttled in its cradle at once by the political turn which would be given to it from its very birth. Have we proofs of that at the present time? [Cries of "No!"] No? Why, you boast of establishing a political citadel in every Municipality in Ireland, in the Boards of Guardians, and the Corporations. There is the Lord Mayor of Dublin himself. Ask him whether the Dublin Municipality is not tinged with a strong political colour? Municipal institutions would not be worked at present for the true development of local self-government in Ireland. They would be worked for the purpose of furthering the political designs which it is our business to oppose. So soon as we can take securities that local self-government shall not be perverted in this way to political and Separatist purposes we shall only be too anxious to give that local self-government to Ireland which we intend and are anxious to extend to all parts of Her Majesty's dominions. But we must bear our general mandate in our minds. In carrying out that great task which has been put into our hands, the task of governing Ireland in face of an opposition such as no Executive Government has ever had to encounter, hon. Members opposite may think that we are discouraged. But we see hope through the clouds. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian turned to history, and spoke of the attitude and difficulties of previous Governments. But I should like him, with all his historical lore, to be able to cite, either from his own experience or from the annals he has read, one case where a Government, struggling for the maintenance of law and order, endeavouring to enforce and maintain the law, has 766 been met in the manner in which we have been met by men who are responsible as much as the Government not only for the happiness of this Kingdom, but also for its traditions and its character. But we have the surest signs that we are making progress. We have the evidence of our opponents themselves, the evidence afforded by the frantic efforts which are made to kindle an agitation into flames again when that agitation has ceased to be spontaneous, and has ceased to be spontaneous because contentment prevails You say "No," but I can quote a witness whom, perhaps, you will not reject. What said the Member for South Tipperary to his friends there? He said—Has it come to this, that Tipperary, the very name of which in the past has made landlordism quake and fear; that Tipperary, whose name has many a time and oft compelled the oppressor to lay down his arms, should he the snug and comfortable home of the emergency man and the land-grabber; has it come to this, that even to Tipperary an emissary must come down and exclaim. Has it come to this!'Yes; it has come to this, that the tenants of Ireland now require to be lashed into agitation, and that is our answer to the indictment which is made against us. It has come to this, that in these signs and symptoms we see grounds for confidence and for hope. Our duty we must firmly persist in; but I maintain that at no time in the history of the present Administration have we had more ground for confidence and hope than exists at this moment.
§ * MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire)
In the very few words to which I have to ask the attention of the House I shall not lay myself open to the censure of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham for neglect of the second part of the Amendment now before the House. It was inevitable and right that the Government and the Leaders of all Parties should be first called to account before this House for all that has been said or done and omitted to be done during the Recess, and this has been done with great ability, thoroughness, and severity. I am sure the House and the country will consider with great interest the significance of the treatment of the right hon. Gentleman of the question of the future, as throwing some gleams of light upon the ideas of his Party and that with which he is allied. His challenge, however, ought surely to have been 767 addressed to his allies, who are charged with the Government of the country, and over whom his Party are in the position to exercise almost despotic influence, for it is with those allies that for the present the power of initiation lies. Necessary as has been the debate on the first part of this Amendment, I am sure patriotic men of both sides will feel that what is most important in this debate is its future effect on the contentment and welfare of Ireland and the real union of the two countries. What I wish to ask the House to consider, and what I can-not help thinking the country is wishing both parties to consider, is whether, after the Government and the Leaders of the Irish people have been called to account in this debate for the past, it is not desirable that there should be an end to this everlasting crimination and recrimination, and whether our statesmen might not agree to proclaim what was called in olden times the truce of God, and try whether they could not find some outcome or settlement of this question, just alike to Ireland, and beneficial to both countries, by the combined wisdom of our statesmen? It might at first seem strange to suggest this at the present moment, but there have been more than once in the last 12 months openings for such a settlement. If the Conservative Government had only taken the advice of their allies as to the arrears question, so that the admittedly excessive rents might not have left excessive arrears to allow Lord Clanricarde, and those who act like him, to undo all the good done by the reasonable settlements by the majority of landlords and tenants of their mutual interests. Again, had Government, as their allies advised, postponed until it was necessary the proclamation of the Land League; or, again, had the Opposition accepted the offer of the Government in July to consent to the prolongation of Lord Ashbourne's Act, to be followed by the production of a comprehensive Bill for the settlement of the land question this Session—in the first case, Ireland would now be as peaceable as Lancashire; and, in the second case, we should have been now discussing the Land Bill in which the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian's help must have been asked and given for the conversion of the greater part of the tenants of Ireland 768 into owners. The forty millions necessary for this would have been readily granted for any measure supported by both political Parties and by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. Then inevitably must have followed the desire for some authorized body in Ireland with whom the necessary bargain could be made; and it would have been found that by adopting precautions from the experience of the Free States of America, this body, constitutionally guarded and conditioned, could have been formed without the risk of ruin to either England or Ireland. This hope may seem visionary, but history often proves the truth of the old proverb that "when the night is darkest the dawn is nighest;" and I cannot help thinking that the weariness of the nation of this mutual abuse and vituperation will force upon both Parties some such settlement as I have foreshadowed. Towards it I think the history of Ireland and the experience of Free States has pointed a way, and to it you will have to come sooner or later, and the sooner our statesmen look at the subject from this point of view the easier will be their task. Surely this is the lesson which the recurrence of such debates and Motions under successive Ministries teaches us; and if the Chief Secretary, and the right hon. Members for Mid-Lothian and for Rossendale, and the hon. Member for Cork, each with their best aide-de-camp, would meet after the bitterness of this debate is over, and, putting aside personal animosities and personal feelings, treat the question of Ireland like statesmen, is it unreasonable or visionary to believe that some satisfactory settlement could be come to? When are the House and the Government likely to have a more favourable time for the settlement than at present, when agriculture is more prosperous in Ireland than for many years, distress and disorder diminished, and its people thereby predisposed to contentment with a reasonable settlement? The speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham will be encouraging to the Liberal Party, in so far that it shows that he, an influential Member of the Unionist Party, feels that the time has come when other than measures of repression are necessary for Ireland. The Unionist Party hold the balance of power in their hands, and with that are 769 under heavy responsibility. They ought to have enforced the wise counsel given by their Leader as to the settlement of the arrears question and the delay in the proclamation of the League. But I am sure the Liberal Party will be inclined to let the dead bury their dead, if they will only now insist on a liberal measure for the settlement of the land question and the extension of self-government to Ireland, the necessity for which the right hon. Member for West Birmingham has admitted in the clearest terms.
§ * MR. HENRY SETON-KARR (St. Helens)
In the speeches which have already been delivered in the course of this debate, I have listened to a good many sentimental platitudes, but I have heard nothing whatever that has in the smallest degree suggested any foundation whatever for the Motion before the House. I listened with very great interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, to the wealth of language with which he poured the viols of his wrath upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and to his eloquent peroration; but during that speech I heard nothing to alter my firm conviction that there is no foundation whatever for the Amendment. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian made an attack upon Her Majesty's Government in regard to the question of local government, but the answer returned to him by the Chancellor of the Exchequer has completely shattered that attack. I suppose that one of the most interesting speeches we have had was that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley). There is, however, one thing which I must say in reference to that speech. My Parliamentary experience has been very short, but one thing which caused me a considerable amount of surprise was that the right hon. Gentleman should have taunted the Government with respect to a matter arising out of the Special Commission, when he knew that on that subject the Government could make no reply. In the concluding sentence of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman said the present Government have been one long fraud upon the constituencies of the country. Let me for a moment examine that matter. I presume that he meant that the action of Her Majesty's Government 770 and the action of the Unionist Party have been at variance with the election cry with which they went to the country in 1886. Now, what was that cry? It was the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, the maintenance of law and order, and no Home Rule for the Irish people in the sense in which it had been proposed in the Bill of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. I submit that in every one of these particulars this Government and the Unionist Party have kept faith with the country, and that they have in every respect followed the main lines of the policy with which they went to the country. The Government began with a Crimes Act, which was necessary in order to maintain law and order, and then they proceeded with a great measure of domestic legislation—the Local Government Bill—which it is proposed to extend to Scotland, and which I hope will soon be extended to Ireland. There has been, therefore, no fraud upon the constituencies, their policy has been entirely in accordance with their pledges to the country in 1886, and the charge is made by those who desire to obtain Home Rule against the verdict of the constituencies. That desire accounts for the persistent opposition with which the measures of the Government have been met. As a proof of this I may mention the fact that last Session some 7,000 speeches were delivered from the Opposition Benches as compared with 4,000 from hon. Members on this side of the House. In addition, the House was kept sitting here until Christmas Eve, all owing to the way in which our time was wasted. Who are the men who bring serious accusations against the Chief Secretary and Her Majesty's Government? They are the men who in 1882 and 1885 endeavoured to govern Ireland with far greater severity and much less consistency than the present Unionist Government is now doing. Therefore I do not think it lies in the mouth of right hon. Gentlemen opposite to accuse the Government of having in any way committed a fraud upon the constituencies. What did the Liberal Government do in 1885? Having appealed to the country to give them a strong Liberal majority, and having, after the Election of 1885, found themselves practically in a minority without the Irish vote, 771 they then proceeded to spring Home Rule upon the country, and to relegate their Radical programme to a distant future. Then, if it lies in the mouth of either Party to accuse the other of fraud on the constituencies, I think we could very well retort upon right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I should like to read a short and interesting document which bears upon this point. It was issued in November, 1885, and is addressed to our "countrymen" by the Leaders of the National Party. It earnestly advises "our countrymen" to vote against the men who were coercing Ireland, that is—right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and it was signed by T. P. O'Connor, J. E. Redmond, J. O'Kelly, J. Biggar, T. M. Healy, and others. Taken in connection with this debate, I think it is an interesting and instructive document, because it illustrates better than anything else the false attitude of right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have moved and support the Amendment to the Address. The conversion to Home Rule of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Cirencester Division of Gloucestershire has been so recent that I see that in the Parliamentary Guide the letter "U" still appears against his name. Last night the hon. Gentleman explained the reasons why he has changed his mind, and endeavoured to account for his chequered political career. I do not think he need have taken so much trouble to explain his inconsistency. He is not the only Member sitting opposite who has changed his mind very recently and very violently on the Irish question. One thing I was rather surprised at, and that was, that the right hon. Gentleman should have spoken so confidently about the mind of the country. Personally, I am rather loth to accept information on the subject filtered through a mind which it has taken so long to make up. I listened with some astonishment to the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton. The hon. Gentleman devoted a considerable portion of the time he occupied to flinging across the floor of the House the extraordinary taunt that the Conservative Party have sought to make much political capital out of certain famous letters which have now been proved to be forgeries. I am most heartily glad that those letters have been proved to be the production of a clumsy forger, but I was 772 surprised that the hon. Member should, without producing the chapter and verse for it, have made the charge I have stated. I repudiate his assertion, and challenge him to prove that any member of the Unionist Party has ever endeavoured to make political capital out of the forged letters. Now, I intend to give a most hearty vote in support of Her Majesty's Government, and I desire to give another reason for doing so. In my opinion the policy of Her Majesty's Government has resulted not only in the maintenance of law and order in the Sister Isle, but has tended very greatly to promote the prosperity of the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) sneered at the thought of the present prosperity of Ireland resulting from the Unionist policy. I do not suppose this policy is responsible for such things as a good harvest or a fine summer; but there are many things on which the policy of the Government always has a direct bearing. The increases, for instance, in the deposits in the Post Office Savings Bank in Ireland and of the Irish exports show that the people of the country are not now so much under the dominion of the Irish National League. The farmers of Ireland are now turning their attention more to their own proper avocations and less to political agitation. That is a result of strong, firm, and just government. There is another fact of still greater importance which I do not recollect having been quoted in the debate. £610,000 has been advanced during the last year out of the Imperial Exchequer in the form of loans to public works in Ireland: in other words, the credit of the British taxpayer has been pledged to the extent of £610,000 for the benefit of the Irish people. How much of that money would have been expended supposing Ireland had got a Home Rule Parliament? Here is a direct and substantial benefit which she derives by her present partnership with the United Kingdom, and which I venture to say beats the record of any other country in the world. The subject of local government in Ireland has been alluded to this evening. I think we shall all accept the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a most complete refutation of the attack made 773 by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian regarding the delay in the extension of local government to Ireland. Personally I shall, whenever the time comes, support an extension to Ireland of the same measure of local government that has been extended to England, and is being extended to Scotland provided only that security is given for the proper protection of the loyal minority in Ulster. Firmly believing that the Unionist Party is as ready to grant a large measure of local government to Ireland as it is to do anything else which can tend to the welfare of the country. I shall to-night gladly support the Government by my vote.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, E.)
, on rising, was interrupted by an hon. Member directing the Speaker's attention to the number of Members present. The House having been counted and 40 Members being present, the hon. Member proceeded: The Amendment which is before us for discussion comes very aptly in the paragraph in the Address we are asked to adopt, thanking Her Majesty for proposed measures for amending the constitution of the various tribunals which have special jurisdiction over real property in Ireland, and for developing the material resources of that country. Her Majesty's Government seem to think that attention to the claims of real property in Ireland, and measures for developing the material resources of the country in aid of real property, comprise the full duty of the Government. To this point the Amendment aptly calls attention, declaring the present system of administration harsh, oppressive, and unjust. This declaration, in my opinion, is applicable to the entire system of administration in Ireland since the Union, and it is treating the Amendment in that sense I propose to say a few words. If we had been from the period of the Union governed by English laws administered in the English fashion, and in that spirit which centuries of freedom have impressed upon the judiciary of this country and upon all the offices of Government, at any rate for the last half-century—if the laws had been applied in this way to Ireland, then I can assure the House the material grounds we have for discontent in Ireland would have been much less, if they existed at all. I do not say that other grounds of 774 discontent and arguments in favour of national aspirations would disappear; but undoubtedly, if English administration, as we know it in this country—if the Judges had administered English laws in Ireland as they are administered in England—we certainly would have had much less reason for discontent in our country. But the law which is administered in Ireland is neither Irish nor English; its administration is worse than Russian. If we had had the opportunity of passing our laws for our country in our own way, without also having the power to administer them, or even without having them administered somewhat in sympathy with our people, I do not believe the grant of legislative power would be of any service to us, or worth any considerable struggle to obtain. It is not the want of legislation, but the want of sympathy in the administration of laws, that we have to complain of in Ireland. I have frequently talked with gentlemen who believe they have the right by birth to govern, and who have a habit of talking of us as "the natives," including the vast majority of the people and the race from which I spring. It is in this spirit of class power, as expressed in that word, the laws are administered, administered as they would be by the dormant faction in a colony in ruling a territory forcibly occupied. We are ruled exactly as those people are ruled whose country is overrun by a Foreign Power. The whole Administration is "run" for them and their families; the whole spirit of the laws is imbued with this prejudice, and they are carried out in deference to the wishes of a class. This I defy anyone acquainted with the administration of the law in Ireland to dispute. We are practically really governed by the agents of the Orange Society. What votes are they that support Her Majesty's Government in Ireland? Where is the Government able to get a single Member returned but in those parts of Ireland where the influence of the Orange Society is paramount? What do we see here? We have two Members professing to be Ulster Liberal Members who owe their return as much to the support of the Orange Society as hon. Members opposite. In all vicissitudes of Government, in every change of Administration, the pervading influence in Dublin Castle is Orangeism, and in that spirit 775 is the administration carried out, be the Government Tory or Liberal. When these specially exceptional Criminal Laws are passed, when special powers are given to the Executive, no wonder that this House rings with the just complaints of how our people suffer; no wonder that debates arise, springing out of ferocious maladministration of the Coercion Act. But this is not the point upon which I desire to trouble the House. I do not think I could possibly point with anything like adequate force to my own experience of the administration of the Act, and I think the House and the country have had sufficient acquaintance with this from the various instances brought forward. So far as the administration of the Crimes Act is concerned I do not propose to touch it, but I do propose to call attention to the administration of ordinary law, the law we lawyers in our innocence take from English text-books as the Common Law of the land. In the administration of this I wish to call attention, as theoretically professing to be the same in either country. I can show some instances that will make Englishmen wonder how any remnant of respect for law and order can remain in Ireland. We have, of course, the Habeas Corpus Act, and we have also the Act this House passed for preventing the execution of processes of law on Sunday. We have also the same Statute with England that protects a minister while going to and coming from Divine Service. All these are the same for each country on the Statute Book, written in the same way, and our justices and our police are pretty well on a parallel with your justices and your police. But how has been the administration in regard to one of the most respected, most deservedly beloved clergymen in Ireland? Going about his daily duties, living in his house, he was liable at any moment to arrest, and the arrest might have been effected with no more annoyance than the opening of a window; for I will not concede that the Coercion Act is a thing to be feared and evaded. Father M'Fadden was summoned to be tried under the Coercion Act; and, thinking as he thought, and as we think, he properly refused to obey the summons, leaving the authorities to enforce his attendance. But he remained in his house or went about his priestly duties, 776 visiting the sick and conducting Divine worship on Sundays. This was the extent to which the Rev. James M'Fadden acted in violation of the law of the land. What are the facts with regard to his arrest? How is it that with the two Statutes I have mentioned—against execution of legal process on Sunday, and for the protection of a clergyman coming from Divine Service—orders were given to arrest this worthy man on that one day of the week, deliberately wiping your feet on the Statute? No doubt, technically, you may say this was not a civil process—it was a warrant to enforce appearance in Court. Well, we all know that practically it is a civil process, because all that is done is to bring a man before the Court; and technically, perhaps, you are right; but how about the spirit in which the Act is administered? How is it that the legislative object shown in the Act of allowing a man to proceed unmolested going or coming from the celebration of Divine Service was disregarded? Then the actual law is that, even on criminal process, it is impossible to arrest except for certain offences mentioned in the Act, and not including the offence of Father M'Fadden. Undoubtedly, when the Acts of Charles II. in England and William III. in Ireland were passed, nobody had in view such a law as the Coercion Act of 1887. This is an example—a perfect example—of the manner in which, in my constant experience, authorities in Ireland trample upon the most sacred principles of the law in our country. What object—what possible good—was there in making the arrest on Sunday? The authorities knew that Father M'Fadden would continue his professional duties, and at any time they might have gone to his house and arrested him without difficulty. No; on the day and at a time when there was especially likely to be a display of affection from his faithful people, he was arrested, and we know and deplore the consequences. In regard to that, occupying the position I do towards the reverend defendant, it would be unbecoming in me to speak here. I only touch on the fact of the arrest as he was coming from service; that the authorities thought fit to execute a process of law on a priest in the middle of his congregation on Sunday. Much more than this arises; more than 777 this will turn up in reference to the harsh method of arrest; but as that, however, is another part of the case to be discussed in relation to the charges hanging over the defendant, I do not propose to touch it. All we know is that the Chief Secretary says there was an error in judgment on the part of the officer in charge of the police. I should say that it was not through any mistake of any officer at all, but through the instructions given to execute the warrant on the Sunday, that an officer of police was killed. It is fortunate that no other deaths occurred. At any rate, the action was taken under circumstances certain to create provocation. It is not an unusual thing in any State or country for a similar thing to occur, but I never heard in all my reading that when in the execution of his duty an officer was unfortunately killed by assault or resistance of combined parties, I never heard of an instance of the Habeas Corpus Act being suspended, and a whole district being occupied by military, every house searched, and 40 or 50 people arrested without warrant, not a single information sworn. This is the administration of law under the present régime. The Amendment declares the administration to be harsh, oppressive, and unjust, and what else can it be said to be? I beg the House to remember that it does not refer to the Coercion Act or any exceptional law, but to the ordinary law of the land. Father M'Fadden, who on that occasion was arrested and brought to gaol to stand his trial for a particular offence, by some ingenuity for which the authorities in Ireland are remarkable, was charged with complicity in a murder—or, as hon. Gentlemen opposite say, with being "morally responsible." Well, what happens then? Father M'Fadden is a clergyman, occupying in the minds of the people of Ireland a great and honourable position, and also standing high in the estimation of a great many people in England. This clergyman, whilst still in custody, without having information laid against him, finds that the original charge is withdrawn, and has handed to him by a constable a notice declaring that he has to appear on a different charge altogether. The Crown say they arrested Father M'Fadden, but certainly no formal arrest took place. This happened 778 a week after the occurrence, and after a coroner's inquest had been held concerning the death of the police inspector, after, I suppose, the name of the rev. gentleman had been mentioned and a verdict had been returned to the effect that the wounds were inflicted upon the man who was murdered by some person or persons unknown. There might at that time have been someone to pledge his oath that he suspected the Rev. James M'Fadden of having had something to do with the death of the inspector. But nothing of the kind happens. Father M'Fadden is brought up in Court, and no one will swear that he suspects him; but, without more ado, two removable justices of the peace remand the rev. gentleman for eight days, a constable stating that he believed that between that day and the day to which the case is remanded he will be able to obtain some evidence. When the remand day comes, however, a police sergeant gives evidence that totally acquits Father M'Fadden, and the constable, who swore on the former occasion that he expected to be able to give evidence, does not come forward. A fortnight passes, further inquiry is made, and there is another remand. Still there is no information laid to the effect that anyone suspects Father M'Fadden. After that, 15 or 20 persons are arrested and are brought before a sergeant of police with whom, unfortunately, Father M'Fadden has had some discussion—for be it known that in Ireland prisoners can be brought before a police sergeant, who, if he thinks they are persons of good character, may dismiss them. In Ireland such is the law that a sergeant of police may exercise the powers of a Justice of the Peace, In the case to which I am referring, the sergeant allowed the men to go free, as if he were a county justice. The whole procedure of justice in Ireland is in a state of confusion, for, besides the powers given to the police, the magistrates not only assume the attitude of prosecuting counsel, but they even aid and make suggestions to counsel for the prosecution. Then there is a great abuse of the power of search. We read in English law books that searches for documents are by some Judges declared to be totally illegal, if carried out at night and in the absence of the accused party, except under the 779 most extraordinary circumstances. Well, what happened in the case of the Rev. James M'Fadden, against whom no one could be found to say, "I suspect him"? A warrant is issued at night and handed out at a time when it is discovered that Father M'Fadden's sister and housekeeper are away at the police barracks, endeavouring to obtain an interview with him. There is no one in the house when the search is made for the rev. gentleman's papers; therefore, all his private documents, it is fair to assume, are ransacked—and it is well known that Father M'Fadden has been in correspondence with the political Party on this side of the House. The search is made at night in total violation of the spirit of the law. In this matter we might, I think, take a lesson from France in administering our English law, for I find that in the action taken by the French Government against the League of Patriots, when the authorities were making their search for documents, they required the Members of the League to be present. In Ireland, however, the thing is done in this way. An official bursts into the presence of his chief with the announcement, "Miss M'Fadden is now with her brother at the barracks." Instantly the word goes forth that a search is to be made, the police take to their cars and rush down to Father M'Fadden's house and ransack his papers, and when Miss M'Fadden returns she meets the police on the threshold who say to her, "Oh, we have just taken one or two letters; good morning." There is little confidence to be reposed in the letters and documents obtained by the Government from their agents in Ireland as evidence against Nationalists. We have seen what a dismal failure the last move of the Government has been in relation to letters and correspondence. But we do not know what use may be made of letters found at Father M'Fadden's house, and here is where the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley) comes in. One of the letters alleged to have been taken was a letter from another priest. That priest has now been arrested under the Coercion Act. The Crown will have to show that the law gives this power of domiciliary visit. But, whether it does or not, who will justify such action? I have been careful to abstain from 780 saying whether, by any legal quibble or in any other way, there is any possibility of bringing home to my friend, Father M'Fadden—for I am proud to proclaim him my friend—any complicity in the murder of the police inspector. On that the rev. gentleman is ready to take his trial. But with regard to the poor people who are being raided and subjected to martial law, and on whom the baton and bayonet are being constantly used, I contend that the state of things is such that some such Amendment as this is absolutely necessary. I declare that the Habeas Corpus Act is distinctly at an end in County Donegal; the public rights are at an end. The county is filled with military from one end to the other. Because the Government have been baulked, and because of the desire of Orangemen to insult the Catholics, everything possible in the way of stretching the law has been practised. These things have burnt themselves into the souls of hundreds of thousands of people in Ulster; they will never forget the action of the Crown in Donegal. What is the object of that action Heave the House to determine. Whether it is for the purpose of dragooning the people, and in that way bringing about what is called "the material prosperity of Ireland"—namely, the payment of rent—I do not know; but I do say it is an instance of the Orange colour and Orange spirit and Orange feeling with which English law has been administered in Ireland—spirit and feeling which have brought all law into contempt.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN (Dublin, College Green)
During the course of this debate much has been said as to the treatment accorded to political prisoners in Ireland. It is very natural that a good deal should be said on the subject, because it is a subject in relation to which the Irish people feel very keenly. Well, Sir, I myself have had the honour to be sent to prison under the provisions of the Crimes Act. I do not, however, whine about my treatment, nor do I want to pose as a political martyr. I was treated as a first-class misdemeanant, but then I was not tried by one of the removable gang of Irish Magistrates, and consequently I was not subjected to the treatment which has been inflicted on some of my friends. I desire, however, to mention a fact which 781 I have never mentioned before. The 18th rule of the Prison Code entitles first-class misdemeanants to carry on their ordinary trade, calling, or avocation, if not inconsistent with prison discipline. Under this rule Mr. E. D. Gray, when confined in Richmond Prison, Dublin, and Mr. Stead and Mr. Yates, when confined in Holloway Prison, London, were enabled, while in prison, to carry on to a certain extent the business of their respective journals. But, by a dirty trick, I was cheated by the Prisons Board and by the Chief Secretary out of the privilege, or rather right, to which I was entitled. After I had been four days in Richmond Prison, I was removed to another prison 60 miles from Dublin, and consequently was unable to assist in carrying on the business of my newspaper. I charge the Chief Secretary and the Prisons Board with having, by a mean and paltry trick, deprived me of a right given to me by the prison rules. The Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) said last night that the question of Ulster is a very serious one and will have to be considered. This is not the only occasion on which the right hon. Gentleman has attempted the task of educating the Tory Party up to his own views and sentiments on this Irish Question, but I think he is dealing with very dull scholars in so attempting. I noticed last night that during the whole of that portion of his speech his observations were received with a funereal silence by Her Majesty's Government. One of the difficulties he alleged to stand in the way of an Irish Legislature was this of Ulster. I deny the right of the right hon. Gentleman to speak of Ulster as he spoke of it yesterday, and I trust this House will understand—I am sure the majority of the Members of this House all understand—how false and how hollow is the pretence that Liberal Unionists or Tory Gentlemen have any substance in their allegations or arguments when they speak of Ulster being opposed to the national claims and national aspirations of the Irish people. They speak Sir, for only a portion of Ulster—for only a corner of Ulster—for only two counties of Ulster, or very little more than that, and I think we should put an end to the sham and fraud of using the name of Ulster against the demand of the Irish people for the 782 restoration of their legislative liberty. Reference has been made to the alarming speech made in the House by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson). It was of course expected that both the House and the country would be alarmed at the terrible picture the hon. and gallant Gentleman brought before them of 50,000 men rising in arms in obedience to his summons, and taking the field forthwith as soon as ever there is a near prospect of the concession of Home Rule to Ireland. Where the hon. and gallant Gentleman gets his 50,000 I do not know, except it be that he makes his calculation on a system that may not be altogether unknown to some hon. Members of this House, inasmuch as many of them, probably, have heard before now of the famous work of a distinguished writer, the title of which is "The Tremendous Adventures of Major Goliath O'Gahagan." O'Gahagan was counting up the forces at his disposal for the defence of a besieged city in India. He counted his garrison in this way:—"Soldiers (infantry and artillery), 40; Chaplains, 2; surgeon, 1; O'Gahagan, 1,000." I think it must be on the same system that the calculation, of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh is based. The hon. and gallant Gentleman counts himself as 49,000, and he leaves the remaining 1,000 to be made up from the Orangemen of Ulster. What does it mean when the hon. and gallant Member talks of bringing 50,000 men into the field against Home Rule? It means bringing them into the field against the troops of the Sovereign of this Realm! But, still, it will be a splendid sight to see the gallant Colonel take the field, and will remind one of the lines descriptive of another great hero—To noble danger he conducts the way,His great example all his troops obey,Before the front the Major sternly rides,With such an air as Mars to battle strides,Propitious heaven must sure a hero save,Like Paris handsome, and like Hector brave.But it is not only in Ireland that the name and appearance of the hon. and gallant Member strikes terror, for I read that at a meeting over which he presided, one of the speakers, the Rev. T. Ellis, Grand Chaplain of the Orange Order, at 783 a demonstration at Armagh on the 12th July, 1886, mentioned "that the blood rushed to Gladstone's forehead whenever Brother Saunderson got up to speak." That was said in the presence of the hon. and gallant Member, who did not deny the soft impeachment. Well, Sir, but while he threatens that he will take the field and head the rebel forces in Ireland under certain conditions—that is if the Act be passed by the Houses of Parliament and assented to by the Sovereign of these Realms—he at another time and in another mood presents a different appearance. In a speech delivered in this House on June 25, 1888, he said he did not understand how people could resist a measure when once it had become law. However much they disliked it, they could only proceed to get it repealed by Constitutional means. In the meantime they were bound to obey it. How can the hon. and gallant Member reconcile these conflicting sentiments? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, in his speech in this House last night, said no Parliament had any right to transfer the allegiance of any portion of Her Majesty's subjects to another Power. But there is in this case no question of transferring allegiance. The allegiance of all Irishmen would rest, after the restoration of an Irish Parliament, just where it rests at present. The allegiance of Irishmen, Englishmen, and Scotchmen [...] due to the Throne, to the Sovereign of these Realms and to the Acts of Parliament which have been passed, and there will be no disturbance of that allegiance under an Irish Legislature. We hear a good deal said about Irishmen born under the rule of the British Parliament, and that no one has a right to transfer his allegiance elsewhere. But what about the Act of Union? The Irishmen of that day were born to the possession of an Irish Parliament, which had existed in that country for hundreds of years. Was their allegiance transferred by the passing of the Act of Union? Did they rise in rebellion and call out 50 or 100,000 men to take the field? Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland allege that under the present system of administration, that country 784 is thriving and prospering, and that happiness, peace, law and order, and loyalty have been restored to the country. I deny each and every one of these statements. I say that the country is not prospering, but that it is declining in every element. I say that the administration of the law and the law itself in that country are not calculated to produce content, or any increase of loyalty and goodwill among the people. I say that whatever improvement there is in Ireland in the way of peace and quiet is due to far different causes than those alleged by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The decline in the material condition of the country cannot be denied. We get figures about the Savings Bank deposits in Ireland. I do not wonder if there is some increase in the amount of deposits, considering the sums of money that the Government and the Times newspaper have been squandering. I have no doubt that some of the Times' money is to be found in the Savings Banks; money which they have paid to emergency men, spies, and informers—the necessary tools of the Government under the present system. But there are more important elements than these to think of when we are considering the question of the condition of the country. I have here a few figures taken from an authentic source—an Irish official directory—the reliability of which will not be questioned by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I find that the population of Ireland between the years 1841 and 1845 declined by 3,274,000; in the years 1885–6, it declined 136,500. and in 1886–7, it declined 59,108, and that process is going on still. Well, but some of the letter writers, private secretaries and other friends of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, have informed us of the glorious fact that, although the population has declined, there is a greater number of cows in the country than there was a few years ago. That is a great element of strength, honour, and prosperity. Cows count for something: they have a certain value; Irishmen and women have none at all, so that if cows increase, no matter how the population decreases, it is a thing to be boasted of. In no other country in the world would any such conclusion be put forward. People fly from the country! Of course they fly with love and affectionate 785 memories in their hearts of the system of law prevailing—a system which would not give them a chance of living, thriving, and prospering in their own land, but which sends them away to the furthermost ends of the earth as hewers of wood and drawers of water. Little wonder then, when they are able to earn some money and to save some, that, to their honour and glory be it told, they send their savings home to the old country—to the Leaders of the Irish people—to help them to carry on a movement in Ireland which is intended to put an end to this disgraceful and miserable condition of things, to end a condition of affairs which banishes the people in thousands, year after year, and makes those who remain at home unhappy and miserable. In every other country of the world I know of—except, perhaps, some of the Turkish Provinces—the people are increasing in numbers, and in wealth and strength. But in Ireland it is thought to be sufficient if the number of cows, horses, and pigs grows; it matters not that the population diminishes. Quoting from the same authority, I find that the number of inhabited houses has declined. Between 1841 and 1861 the diminution was 333,683; between 1861 and 1871 it was 33,776; and between 1871 and 1881 it was 57,272. We are told that many of these were mud cabins, and that they were houses unfit for human habitation. No doubt of it; and if after they were thrown down the people went to live in better houses, there would be cause for satisfaction. But they did not; they had instead to fly the country; and therein lies a good deal of the trouble which has come to both the Irish and the English nations. I find, too, that pauperism has increased in the country. In the year 1885 to 1886 the increase in the number of Irish paupers was 40,422, and in the next year it was 27,103. This is a very sad and serious condition of things. There are now as many police and soldiers in Ireland as when the population was twice what it is at present, and taxation has increased while the population has declined. There are many reasons why the state of Ireland should be more peaceful. The agrarian strain has been decreased, principally by the Plan of Campaign, and many settlements have been brought about by fear 786 of the Plan of Campaign. The number of evicted people in Ireland is, of course, limited. If the people are to be utterly cleared out of the land, there will of course be no evictions and no crime or outrage; and that seems to be the condition of things some of our rulers are seeking to bring about in Ireland. The great cause of the decline of crime, outrage, boycotting, and other such proceedings in Ireland is that the Irish people have learnt that their time of suffering is limited and cannot last long, because the English people in their millions have pledged themselves to stand by them, and will, at the very first opportunity, put an end to the miserable state of things which produces crime and outrage, dissatisfaction and disloyalty, and which produces such creatures as Pigott and the rest of the Times' witnesses. Aye, Sir, this order of things, which produces plots and conspiracies and illegalities and consequent punishment and suffering, we shall see end, and the British people will end it when they get a chance, and when they will be allowed to choose between the alternatives of Lord Salisbury's twenty years of firm and resolute government, and giving the Irish people the means of thriving and prospering in their own land, and becoming loyal members of the British Empire. The life of the policy of Coercion is limited; it cannot now last long. We look to the future with hope and confidence, and it is because these sentiments are in the hearts of the Irish people that peace, good order, and tranquillity now exist. Hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite may sneer at this, but it is in vain. They know as well as I do that the English people are a nobler and braver people than they choose to represent them. The hearts of the masses of the people have been filled with indignation by the conduct of the Government towards the Irish people, by the imprisonment of men for no treasonable or seditious practice, but who are fighting for the high and holy purpose of bettering the fortunes of their own people, without in the slightest degree impairing or injuring any imperial interest.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
I think any comment of mine can only detract from the value of the personal evidence laid before the House by the two hon. Members who have just spoken. I 787 shall therefore proceed to state my views on the question before the House without dealing with those facts which have been advanced by those hon. Members. Before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham interposed in this debate, I had supposed that we were considering the administration of the Coercion Act by Her Majesty's Government. I shall have a word or two to say presently about the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman; but in the meantime I wish to state the views which influence me in supporting the Amendment. To begin with, I have no hesitation in disclaiming many of the opinions and sympathies which have been imputed to us by Gentlemen sitting on the other side of this House. I intend to make no personal attack on the Chief Secretary; I do not think that that is necessary to our case, and I think also that the whole Government and the whole Party, and the voters of this country who have supported the Government, are responsible for this policy, and not merely the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. Neither do I stand here to defend crime, or to defend lawlessness or riot in any shape or form. I am glad to hear it stated by hon. Members below the Gangway who have spoken that they do not claim any special treatment whatever, either for imprisoned Members of Parliament or for priests. I do not say that the offences for which these men have been convicted are political offences. There has been a controversy on that question. I do not think it has come to anything much, but even if they were political offences I do not see that it makes much difference. But my arraignment of the Government and the reasons for which I shall feel compelled to vote for the Amendment are mainly three. I charge the Government, in the first place, with wanton, capricious, and unnecessary enforcement of the Criminal Law. I charge them, in the second place, with enforcing the law by means of, and by the use of, tribunals which are unconstitutional in status and incompetent in fact. And, in the third place, I say that, when they have dragged their prisoners before these tribunals and have convicted them there, they have been guilty of inflicting capricious and brutal forms of punish- 788 ment. Now, as to the charge of unnecessary and wanton enforcement of the Criminal Law. We hear it said repeatedly on the other side of this House that the law must be enforced and obeyed. That is the parrot cry of everyone who defends the policy of the Government. Sir, there is no distinction to be drawn between us in this matter. It is quite true in regard to the Civil Law of the land that where the law has conferred civil rights upon a private citizen, it is the duty of the Executive Government of the day to see that the rights obtained by that citizen from a legal tribunal are enforced. But I deny that this proposition is true of the Criminal Law. In matters of criminal jurisdiction which the Government has initiated, it has, or ought to have, discretion. There are crimes and crimes, and life would be intolerable in this, or in any other country, if all the laws constituting crimes were to be enforced as a matter of course. The very first Private Bill on our list this Session is one brought in by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Brad-laugh), proposing to repeal laws which enforce penalties in regard to matters of religion and conscience—laws such as those against blasphemy and Sunday trading, which you do not attempt to enforce even under the Coercion Act, and the enforcement of which was abandoned a considerable time ago. Let me point out the kind of crimes that come home more directly to hon. Members. I allude to cases constituting a form of libel against the House, over which this House, as a Court, possesses full jurisdiction. During the short time I have been a Member of this House many occasions have arisen when such offences have been committed, and you have declined to enforce the penalty. And in this very question of libel there are lurking crimes which may yet prove dangerous to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and as to which there is a criminal penalty attaching, not only to the utterance of the libel, but to those who, by themselves or their servants, merely sell the libels to the public. Do you propose to enforce the Criminal Law in these respects; and, if not, what is the value of your contention in defence of your Irish policy that the law must be enforced? It is, therefore, mere pedantry to talk of the enforcement of the Criminal 789 Law as a matter of course. There is, I believe at the present moment, on the Statute Book, a law which makes it a crime for any person to deny that the Long Parliament has not yet dissolved. That is a specimen of the extreme position you would have to adopt if you insisted on the enforcement of all kinds of Criminal Laws at all hazards. What I wish to point out is that the laws you do enforce under the Coercion Act belong to the category of unenforceable laws. I was glad to hear from the Solicitor General for Ireland the admission that conspiracy is the typical offence which may be prosecuted under the Coercion Act. We have only to look, as far as the imprisonment of hon. Members of this House is concerned, to the Reports made by the Resident Magistrates, to see that this is true. I have not the Return as to Mr. O'Brien, but I have examined that as to Mr. Carew, and I find that the crime of which he was convicted was that of conspiring with persons unknown to induce other persons unknown not to take farms from which tenants are or may be evicted. The great objection to this kind of conspiracy is that there is no criminality in it except the fact of combination. You have been enforcing the Criminal Law as conspiracy combination, which has for its object no criminal act; at all events, as far as Members of this House are concerned, the aim and object of the convictions has been to render criminal in combination that which would not be criminal in the individual. When the Coercion Act was before the House, the question of criminal conspiracy was certainly discussed, but I incline to think that justice was not done on a very important point. But my learned Friend the Member for Hackney (Sir C. Russell) did put on the Paper an Amendment which raised certain questions, but, somehow, by discussions anticipating them, the full force of our objections to that part of the Bill was dissipated. I do not think the House fully recognizes what is this conspiracy law which sanctions the enforcement of Coercion. The Common Law makes that criminal in two persons which is not criminal in one. A great jurist states that conspiracy was an art invented by lawyer-judges to fasten the colour of guilt upon the innocent; and 790 I say that the Irish Judges have carried this definition to an extreme that would not have been admitted as good law when the Coercion Act was passed. Under this law a landlord may refuse to let a farm to a class of people, but a class may not combine to refuse to accept a farm from the landlord. Lord Salisbury may refuse to grant a site for a place of worship to Dissenters at Hatfield, but if the Dissenters at Hat-held combine to refuse to take a site from Lord Salisbury at Hatfield, they may be guilty of a criminal offence, for which they may be indicted at law. That was the law which was condemned long ago by the Commission which was appointed to draft the Criminal Code for this country. That Commission proposed to abolish conspiracy with certain exceptions. The conspiracies they recommended to be continued on the Statute Book were seditious conspiracies, conspiracies to pervert the course of justice, conspiracies to murder, conspiracies to defraud, conspiracies to prevent by force the collection of rates and taxes—nothing, mark you, about rents—they proposed to abolish all other forms of conspiracy, including the kind of conspiracy you are trying to enforce by your administration of the Coercion Act. Another distinguished jurist, Mr. Justice Stephen, says, referring to a case which came before the Irish Judges—If it be correctly reported, and is good law, it would follow that two brothers having a sister about to contract a marriage, and who agreed to exclude her from their society, would, if by so doing they prevented the marriage, be guilty of an indictable conspiracy.MR. Justice Stephen adds—This seems to me to show that the law is laid down far too hardly on the occasion in question.This was written before the Coercion Act was passed, and, therefore, before conspiracy cases could come under it. I say, then, that in using this law to punish for conspiracy hon. Members who are only guilty by virtue of the common doctrine of conspiracy to which I hare referred, you are taking an improper advantage of English legislation. The Report of the Commission on this subject has practically been accepted by all parties in this country. In attempting to set up again, as a crime, that which is no crime, but which has been 791 condemned by an authoritative Commission, and also by your own predecessors, you stand convicted of endeavouring to use against your own political opponents in Ireland a weapon which is a condemned instrument. My second objection to the course taken by the Government is one which applies to the Coercion Act itself rather than to its administration. I assert that in addition to the great mistake of making Common Law conspiracy a crime, you have resorted to unconstitutional and incompetent tribunals. I will not touch upon the character or antecedents of the Resident Magistrates; but I do wish to enter my protest against a judicial system which is the inversion of the true Constitutional theory. What is the theory of the Constitution on which you ought to rely? Is it that the Executive is the servant of the judiciary, or is the Resident Magistrate, who is the judiciary in Ireland, the servant of the Executive? Lastly, I would join in the protest made against the character of the punishments inflicted under this Act. The penalties imposed have carried with them indignities to which those who suffer the penalties have been improperly subjected. Such penalties could not be enforced for offences under a similar category—at all events, not for long—under European law. Take the Vaccination Act, offences against which would, if commonly proceeded against, as in oases under the Coercion Act, send to prison something like 160 Members of Parliament. Take the Public Worship Regulation Act: that, if administered as you administer the Coercion Act, would relegate to prison a number of Bishops and, possibly, 1,000 clergymen. These illustrations will, I think, convince you of the danger of giving countenance to any such administration of the law as obtains in the case of the Coercion Act. An hon. Member proposes to introduce an Eight Hours Bill; and suppose he invoked the Criminal Law against offences under that measure, should it become law, what would be the result? I do not like to contemplate what it would be; and I say this is the great danger of legislation which is likely to be proposed. I am aware that some Members of the House would enforce their views on matters of this sort at all hazards. I wish to allude to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman 792 (MR. Chamberlain) last night, and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer tonight. I think all of us on this side agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Local Government proposals to which he referred would meet with scant acceptance in this House. He also apparently favoured the scheme fathered by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Courtney); but we are all agreed, I think, that Local Government in districts is not a remedy for Ireland, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer may be sure of a ready response to the criticism of the proposal which he made in the earlier part of the evening. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that local self-government in Ireland would be throttled in its cradle, because a political flavour would be given to it, and because local bodies would be used in furtherance of the very things that the Government are constituted to prevent. The Irish people are not going to give up those designs which he says he is sent here to prevent, and when he says that he will withhold local government until they do give them up, then, in effect, he has abandoned altogether the promises of local government which he and his Party proposed. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chamberlain) endeavoured to draw Home Rule across the scent of the debate. He tried to draw from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) a statement of his plans of Home Rule. I never for one moment supposed that the right hon. Gentleman would be drawn in any such innocent fashion. I never for a moment supposed that he is to develop all his plans now, and that he is to do it at the demand of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who has no right whatever to talk about plans to us. The right hon. Gentleman has done me the distinguished honour of going down to my own constituency in Scotland. He declared there, if not here, in Glasgow, that he was one of the Liberal Leaders. He said, "We who, by your courtesy, are called the Leaders of the Liberal Party." It must have been a courteous assemblage of Liberals to have applied any such designation to the right hon. Gentleman. He said to a crowd of two thousand persons, mostly ladies, who paid for their places, as they would for the view of any other exhibition—[An hon. 793 MEMBER: "Well worth it."] Certainly well worth it—"There are the Radicals of the constituency." Now, the Radicals of the constituency were assembled in considerably larger numbers in close proximity to the place where the right hon. Gentleman was speaking. There were some 30,000 or 40,000 of them, and I have not heard that they applied any such title to the right hon. Gentleman as "Liberal Leader"; nor do I think that if in their hearts they regarded him as a Liberal Leader, they would have ended their meeting in the manner they did. I make these remarks about the right hon. Gentleman simply because there is no man in English politics who so consistently and persistently poses—I pause for another adverb—so unwarrantedly arrogates to himself the privileges of Leadership. The right hon. Gentleman is for ever talking of himself as the Leader. I well remember some years ago that he excused himself from the performance of the most important duties which a Member of this House can discharge—I mean that of attendance in Committee considering the estimates, by saying, "that no first-class Statesman ever condescended to do so." It is not the right hon. Gentleman who is entitled to ask what our plans are. Our Leaders, I have no doubt, will produce their plans under proper conditions and at the proper time, but certainly not at the demand of the right hon. Gentleman. Let me. We hear from the Unionists and from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that their main business is to protect the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. I was glad to hear tonight from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) the adoption of that principle quite as emphatically, and with a good deal more significance, than anything that could come from Liberal Unionists. My cardinal principles for the solution of this question are these—first of all, that we are going to maintain, at all hazards, the real and effective supremacy of this Imperial Parliament. Secondly, and in subordination to that, we are going to give to the people of Ireland a full and just measure of local or national self-government. I do not greatly care, so long as the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament is maintained, how large the measure 794 of self-government may be. I do not know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer means the same thing as I mean; but by the supremacy of Parliament I mean the supremacy of this House over all the principalities and potentates, whether in Ireland or any other part of the Empire—the supremacy of this House over the Clerical Convention that sits under its shadow, over the other House of Parliament, and over the Throne; and, maintaining that supremacy, I think we may safely grant any measure of Home Rule that may be demanded by Representatives in this House. I unhesitatingly vote for the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
§ * MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
Mr. Speaker, if it were possible to look at this question from a purely Party point of view, I confess that I for one should think it a little ungracious on our part to invite the House to pass so severe a censure on the policy of the Chief Secretary. In the great struggle in which we have been engaged during the last three years I regard, and I suppose many on this side of the House regard, the right hon. Gentleman as our best friend and our most valuable ally. Many causes have contributed during that time, by the removal of misunderstandings, by the dispelling of prejudices, to incline the judgment of the people of Great Britain in the direction of Home Rule. But among those causes I am firmly convinced that none has been one-hundredth part so potent and so effective as the administration by the right hon. Gentleman of the exceptional powers which Parliament has placed in his hands. The Chancellor of the Exehequer has told the House—and I agree with him—that the responsibility for what is going on in Ireland does not rest upon the shoulders of the Chief Secretary alone—that it is shared and must be shared by every Member of the Cabinet. I go a great deal further, and I say that it ought to be and must be shared by every Member of the Unionist majority. But, Sir, just as there is a good way of doing good things, so also there is a bad way of doing bad things. There were, as we pointed out at the time, many 795 latent possibilities of evil in the Crimes Act, in the form in which it passed this House, but I for one am quite prepared to admit that if it had been carried out by the same hands and in the same spirit as previous legislation of a similar character, although it could have done very little good, it might surely have been made to do very little mischief. Coercion, Sir, has hitherto been regarded by English statesmen as a disagreeable duty, imposed perhaps by necessity, but to be accepted with reluctance, and exercised with temper, dignity, and tact. The right hon. Gentleman has changed all that. He resented the other night, with much indignation, charges of cynicism and brutality. I am not fond of using abusive epithets; but I think it very possible, indeed I am persuaded, that neither the right hon. Gentleman nor any of his Colleagues even now realize the deep-seated and wide-spread sentiment of repugnance which his methods of administration have inspired. But, Sir, though I am not going into the details of particular cases, I should like the House to bear with me for a few minutes while I sketch, in outline only, the picture of the right hon. Gentleman's administration as it presents itself, I am sure, to three-fourths of his own countrymen in Scotland, and. I believe, to at least one-half, and probably more than one-half of the people of England and Wales. The right hon. Gentleman was entrusted by Parliament with special powers for a special purpose. And what was that purpose? It was to put down crime. How has he used those powers? He has directed the main brunt of his prosecutions, not against moonlighters and outragemongers, but against some of the most blameless and universally respected of his political opponents. He has had them arrested at times and in places which seem to have been deliberately selected for the purpose of inflicting wanton indignity, and, at any rate, of suggesting to the minds of the people of Great Britain that the action of the Executive was dictated by political vindictiveness. He has had them tried on charges in support of which the vague and elastic Law of Conspiracy has been tortured to purposes for which it was never intended, and to which I do not hesitate 796 to say in this country it never has been, and I trust to Heaven it never will be, applied. He has constituted for their trial tribunals of which I say deliberately, speaking with a full sense of responsibility and having carefully watched their proceedings, that in the short space of two years they have brought ridicule and contempt on the name of law in Ireland. And then, Sir, after sentence, when he has got them into prison, he has subjected them—men, by his own admission mistaken and misguided, if you please, but still the victims of a genuine if perverted enthusiasm—to the lot of the very commonest felons, declining to exercise in their favour the power of relaxation expressly given to him by Statute, and which he has himself used in a particular class of cases. While these things have been going on in Ireland, what has the right hon. Gentleman himself been doing? So far as the public are able to know, he has divided his time between making rollicking and roystering speeches, in which he has sharpened a very pretty wit on the alleged absurdities of men who could not reply to him, and writing or dictating letters which I venture to think will serve as models for all time of smart and flippant inaccuracy. Now, Sir, I do not say that this amounts to brutality or springs from cynicism. I am anxious not to say a word which would even seem to reflect on the right hon. Gentleman as a man. I wish to confine my charges entirely to his conduct in an official character. But this I do say, with full emphasis and assured conviction, that there is not a man among us whose heart is set on the attainment of Home Rule for Ireland who ought not to pray devoutly for the prolongation of the right hon. Gentleman's rule. But, notwithstanding the Chief Secretary's unconscious and unpremeditated services to our cause, the right hon. Member for Newcastle is perfectly justified in moving his Amendment, and we are bound to join with him in his protest and remonstrance. I have listened curiously in the course of this Debate to the apologies which have from time to time been offered by the right hon. Gentleman himself and by his colleagues on the Treasury Bench, and I have sought to discover what is the principle which has governed the 797 right hon. Gentleman's conduct. So far as I can make out, the sum and substance of the Chief Secretary's defence amounts to this—that in his judgment those who incite to crime ought to be dealt with as severely, both in the matter of prosecution and the matter of punishment, as those who perpetrate crime. Very good. So say all of us. In our judgment, as in the judgment of the right hon. Gentleman, the man who, whether for a political or any other object, instigates to the commission of crime, and the man who either recklessly or deliberately accepts and profits by and trades on the fruits of crime is every whit as guilty, and often a hundred times more guilty, than his poor, degraded, hunger-driven instruments. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman he will find on this side of the House unanimous and emphatic assent to that doctrine. We accept the right hon. Gentleman's doctrine, but where we differ from him is in its practical application. The Chief Secretary has had under lock and key during the last two years some 25 Members of this House, the great majority of whom have been prosecuted in respect of speeches which they have either made or published. It is quite true that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, who has discovered that there are actually only 111 persons now in prison under the Crimes Act, is astounded, and even apparently a little shocked, at the moderation of the Chief Secretary. But it is sufficient that the offence of 20 out of those 25 Members of Parliament was either speaking or publishing a speech. The right hon. Gentleman told us that those Members of Parliament, by their speeches, have been producing boycotting, and, through boycotting, outrage and even assassination. That is a very serious statement for a Member of the Government to make on his official responsibility. It ought not to be made in this House unless evidence is forthcoming in support of it. And I challenge him or any Member of the Government who may follow in debate to produce in the case of any one of those 25 Members one single instance in which, directly or indirectly, proximately or remotely, but by a traceable and provable causal connection, any speech for which there has been a prosecution has 798 been followed by outrage or assassination. That, Sir, is a fair challenge, and I trust that it will be met in the spirit in which it is made. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that a man who goes into a district where land-grabbing prevails and denounces the land-grabber, and advises the people to abstain from dealing with him, ought to be punished by the law. Under what law? I assert that by the law of England, which is also the law of Ireland, it is not a crime to resolve to abstain from dealing with a particular person and to act on that resolve. I assert further that it is not a crime for men to combine together to abstain from dealing with a particular person; it is not a crime to advise people so to combine. Such advice and such combination only become criminal when they are carried out by illegal means, such as compulsion or coercion, or when it can be shown that the combination does not spring from legitimate self-interest, and that its motive is personal malice, and its controlling object the ruin of the individual. Let hon. Members test the application of these principles in Mr. O'Brien's or 20 similar cases. Let us take Mr. O'Brien's case as a sample. What the Resident Magistrates do is this. It being proved before the magistrates that the defendant has advised combination to boycott, they presume, without a tittle of evidence, that the object of the combination is illegal, and that the means by which it is to be effected are illegal also. It is quite true that making speeches is not equally dangerous in all parts of Ireland. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh has not repudiated that speech of his which has been alluded to several times in this debate. That hon. and gallant Gentleman, speaking in that Alsatia, so far as the Crimes Act is concerned—the province of Ulster—asserted that, in a certain event, he would rise in arms and resist forcibly the decrees of an Irish Parliament. I am not very much alarmed at the picture which he draws of what he and his compatriots are going to do. We know how to appraise at their true value the noisy and vapid heroics of the Orange platform. The hon. Gentleman tells us he and his fellow-countrymen are going to die in the last ditch rather than submit to a Dublin Parliament; but history will record 799 a very different story. It will tell how, not on the tented field, not by fire and sword, but under the gentle compulsion of 17½ years' purchase of the judicial rents, the heroic leaders of this devoted band of patriots stole quietly off from the post of honour and duty, in the direction of the Holyhead boat, their pockets well stuffed with the sovereigns of the British taxpayer. Sir, I only allude to the hon. Gentleman's speech for the purpose of making two observations upon it. In the first place, I was very much struck with the novel Constitutional doctrine which it elicited from the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, who is certainly making rapid strides in political science. He laid it down that it was beyond the moral competence of an Imperial Parliament to create against the will of a small minority, in any part of the Queen's dominions, a subordinate authority with delegated legislative powers. If Parliament does so, that minority has the right hon. Gentleman's sanction for resisting the law. This is the latest version of the gospel of law and order. But, Sir, there is another remark which I wish to make in reference to the hon. and gallant Member's speech. What a striking illustration the making of this speech is of the operation of that even-handed system of equity and justice which excites the enthusiastic admiration of the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees. A Member of this House may not go to Tipperary, which has been peculiarly free of late years from serious crime, and denounce, coupled with every warning against crime and outrage, that great outrage against the best interests of society in Ireland—the offence of land-grabbing—without exposing himself to the risks of prosecution, conviction, and imprisonment; but in Ulster another Member may, with absolute impunity, incite his fellow-countrymen to civil war, and announce and approve of alleged treasonable intentions on the part of men who have taken an oath to serve Her Majesty, and who wear her uniform. The Government say that their policy has been a great practical success—trade is reviving, prices are increasing, and even the seasons seem to have enlisted themselves in the service of the Union. Perhaps never before has 800 there been heard from a Minister such a glowing proclamation of the beatitudes of coercion. I am not now concerned to inquire into the accuracy of these statements, but I cannot but suspect that if instead of immuring himself in Dublin Castle, the Chief Secretary for Ireland would take an excursion to Donegal, Gweedore, Western Galway, or Mayo, he might see sights that would ruffle his complacent optimism. But, accepting for the purpose of argument this rose-coloured view, I ask the right hon. Gentleman why have not the Government the courage to act upon their opinions? It is alleged by the Unionists that Irish discontent and unrest of Ireland, so far as they are real, arise from economical and agrarian causes; and that, so far as they are political, they are artificial, and are kept alive by conspiracy and intimidations. Assume it to be so; why, here is a splendid opportunity for testing the justice of that opinion. On the one hand, material causes of discontent, if not removed, are in abeyance, and the artificial Causes have been put down by resolution administration. In these circumstances, I venture to suggest to the hon. and gallant Member for Armagh, that instead of expressing his readiness to die in the last ditch, he should render his cause a more practial service. Let him accept the Chiltern Hundreds and go to Galway, Kerry, or Clare, which we are told have been, by the beneficent operation of the right hon. Gentleman's policy, freed from distress, and delivered from the domination of the National League. No doubt some Nationalist Member will resign his seat to enable him to try the experiment, and he might thus have the distinction of becoming the first exponent in the House of the genuine opinion of the emancipated Irish democracy. I do not think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will jump at that offer; and why not? Because he knows, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary knows, that though the Government may have succeeded by brute force, by straining the law, and by the employment of methods and agents which are dishonouring to the best traditions of English statemanship in putting down the organization of the people, yet they have not advanced one inch on the road of conciliating them and 801 winning their affections. That in our judgment is the goal, and the only goal, of a sound and a far-sighted statesmanship. It is because we believe that every step taken by the right hon. Gentleman only widens the gulf between the two countries that, in the interests of Union, no less than in the interests of liberty, we shall oppose his policy to the end.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
Mr. Speaker, I desire to support in a very words the Amendment on which we are shortly to divide. I agree with the Amendment that the system of government pursued in Ireland by the right hon. Gentleman and his instruments is unjust and oppressive to the Irish people; and I pray, with the concluding portion of the Amendment, that this system may give place to measures of conciliation which may truly cement the union between the two countries. I desire also, Sir, to express some words of sympathy for my Colleagues who have suffered, and are suffering, in Ireland by the unscrupulous means adopted by the right hon. Gentleman. I sympathize with my friends who have bravely counterworked the present Government in Ireland, and I believe that they will be richly rewarded in the near future by the victory which patient suffering always in the end wins over tyranny. The right hon. Gentleman sought to intimidate by the infliction of prison pains and penalties. He failed in that. His victims were not intimidated by suffering. He now seeks to degrade them. The association with ordinary criminals and all the other unnecessary incidents connected with the system of prison discipline in Ireland is an attempt to degrade them. My hon. friends have not been degraded either in their own opinion, in the opinion of their countrymen, or in the opinion of the people of England. It is the old story. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) has run through the 802 different grades. "Oh! give me power to imprison any man I please," said the late Mr. Forster, "and I am assured by those who know Ireland well that this movement will crumble away before me." Mr. Forster failed. The right hon. Gentleman thought that by adding to power of imprisonment at will the power also of inflicting these hardships and these degradations he could conquer the resistance of Ireland, but he also is finding out his mistake. He has been exceptionally fortunate. Ever since he came into Office the prices of produce have been steadily rising. If it had not been for the means he has used, I believe he would now see a fairly tranquil Ireland instead of a discontented one from the centre to the sea. Among the other successes of the right hon. Gentleman's Government, I suppose he will also claim, as sworn in the Commission Court the other day, the doubling in numbers during the period of his administration of the revolutionary society called the Clan-na-Gael. Well, Sir, it is useless for the Government to plead, as they have pleaded, that they have to administer the law and that the law does not permit them to alter the system of prison discipline. The law is as they make it. They refused us the right to suggest alterations in the law. They forced upon Parliament the rule of urgency under which we were prohibited from moving a clause directed to the very question of prison discipline. It is they and their majority who are responsible for this law, and they must stand or fall by the results of its working. I shall not stop now to remind the House of one of the means by which they obtained this urgency, of the conspiracy which assisted them on the very night of the Second Reading to steal away the liberties of Ireland. They will have, then, to stand or fall by this law as it stands. It is useless for them now to whine, as some of them are 803 doing, and to say that indeed they would like to see some distinction made between the treatment of political prisoners and others. But it is owing to them and to their action that this distinction was not made two years ago. We are entitled, and the country is entitled, to hold them responsible for the results—results which compel a man like Mr. William O'Brien, and like Mr. Carew, and like my friend Mr. William Redmond, to lie on the plank bed, and to associate with common and vile criminals for political offences committed in Ireland. You wish now, you say, to alter the law and to secure this difference of treatment, and I suppose you claim credit because you have placed Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Carew in hospital, and given them back their clothes. But we do not claim this treatment as exceptional to these gentlemen. On the contrary, we think less of them and of their sufferings than we do of those of the humblest men in our ranks. And why? Because those humbler men have not the same chances in their fight against your system. You cannot kill Mr. O'Brien; you dare not kill him. You cannot torture Mr. Carew to death; you dare not do so. How about the others? How about the obscurer men, men who are not Members of Parliament, men like John Mandeville, who were done to death in carrying out this system, and necessarily done to death if you must carry out the system? How about Larkin, a young man convicted of a political offence, just as much a political offence as the offences committed by Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Carew? It is for these men that we have the most sympathy, because the fight for them is not an even, not an equal one. It is in the interests of these men—everyday men—that we claim an alteration of the law, and an alteration of the prison treatment. I do not know whether the 804 right hon. Gentleman intends to alter the law; but he has placed himself in the position which he occupies tonight. He has said that there shall be no distinction between the treatment of political prisoners and persons convicted of any other offence in Ireland. Therefore he is obliged to carry out this law to its bitter end. But it is not consistent to give Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Carew this exceptional treatment if he does not extend the same treatment to the others. Let me say a word to the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson), who has treated us to some of his fire-eating qualities with which we are so familiar. He has told us of the 50,000 armed men he is going to put into the field. I venture to think that if he ever succeeds in putting them into the field they will not remain very long there, and I will tell him why. There is no example in history of a determined rebellion by a people or by a large section of a people unless they were spurred on to it—incited to it—by great oppression, suffering, and injustice. The hon. and gallant Gentleman thinks that he will be able to incite the Orangemen of the North of Ireland into a determined and stubborn resistance not against the rest of Ireland merely, but against the Parliament and against England and Scotland, when no oppression has been inflicted upon them, when they will have no grievances to complain of, when they will not have been touched or injured in any respect. I say of the hon. and gallant Gentleman that he is simply led away by his own enthusiasm, and that he will find it is impossible to create such a movement out of such unpromising material. I say of the hon. and gallant Gentleman that if he is able to persuade this House to remove the grievances of Ireland, and to continue to meet the wants and requirements 805 of the Irish people; and if, after a long series of years, he is able to prove to the people of Ireland that this House is really willing and able to meet the necessities of that country, then I believe that he would banish discontent in Ireland. Now, which does the hon. and gallant Gentleman supposed to be the greater—the capacity and the will for rebellion of the Orangemen of the North, or of the Fenian of the South, the East, and the West of Ireland? Surely his own friends must be the most loyal or the least disloyal; surely he would claim that for them. And does he not see the hopelessness of the task which he puts before himself when he vouches for the coming disloyalty of the Orangemen of Ulster, untouched as they would be by any oppression, and without any of those inducements to rebellion and revolt which must always exist under the conditions I have referred to. Before I sit down I wish to say that we have every confidence that in the near future the people of this country will see that our cause is a just one; and that it is possible to arrange such a system as will permit Ireland to have the power of dealing with all those matters which concern herself, and herself alone, without the slightest shadow of danger or risk to the interests of the Empire and of this country. All I ask is, that you, on your side, should be willing to consider and deal with this question as if it were an open question; that you should consider how far you can give to Ireland the right to legislate for herself with safety to your own greater, and undoubtedly more overpowering, influence. It is legitimate and right that we, being the smaller country, should endeavour to conciliate you in every possible manner, and yield to you, and agree to such safeguards as you may think necessary or 806 desirable for the security of your own interests. We have always been anxious and willing to do so, and we are willing to do so still. I am convinced that our people, knowing that England and Scotland and Wales have for the first time turned the ear of reason to the solution of this question, will steadily resist every incitement to disorder, to turbulence, and to crime; and that they will hold fast in the true way pointed out to them by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in 1885, until he gets that chance, which we hope and believe will be a near one, both for the sake of Ireland and for the sake of England, of again touching the great heart of his countrymen.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS,) Birmingham
I am sure we all must earnestly hope that the advice which the hon. Member (Mr. Parnell) has just given will be followed. If it had been given and followed in the past, we should not now be engaged in the present discussion of alleged cases of hardship under the Crimes Act. Unfortunately there has too often in the past appeared a close connection—I will not say a criminal connection—between the action of political agitators in Ireland and the subsequent outrages which have unfortunately taken place. The hon. Gentleman has complained of the Act which is now being administered having been unduly hurried through the House. Such a complaint comes strangely from the hon. Gentleman, who certainly did very little to control the action of his followers during the 20 days that were devoted to the Committee stage of the Bill, and whose conduct led to such a waste of time as to necessitate the course that was at last taken to terminate their proceedings. The chief grievance, however, that has been 807 brought forward in this debate—time I does not allow me to go into the minor charges—is the alleged improper and cruel treatment of prisoners convicted under the Crimes Act. The point has apparently been abandoned that they are political prisoners. The righ hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) said he would not attempt to give a definition of a political offender, and the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) have both said, "We claim no special privileges for Members of Parliament; we claim no privilege for the political opponent; we claim that all men convicted under the Crimes Act should have exceptional treatment." And we have in the course of the debate—
§ MR. PARNELL
I said that anyone convicted of a political offence should be treated as a political prisoner.
§ * MR. MATTHEWS
But the hon. Member did not define a political offence, and what I assert is that none of the offences of which the Gentlemen in question have been convicted can properly be described as political offences At this time of night (11.25) I am not going into a long disquisition as to political offences, but I think I am right in saying that offences which are not against the Government, but rather against individuals and private property, cannot be regarded as political offences, and that, as has been admitted by the hon. Member for Fife (Mr. Asquith), those who incite to the commission of offences are as guilty as those who commit them. It is said that there is degradation in the ordinary prison treatment, but where are you to draw the line? Is it not much the same degradation to be in the custody of gaolers at all, or is the line only crossed when it comes to the question of clothes? Such distinctions cannot be maintained. If the law is broken in obedience to a higher moral or Divine law, there can he no degradation at all in the punis- 808 hment that follows upon conviction. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) has referred to the cases of Cobbett, Hobhouse' and O'Connell, in which in years past exceptional treatment was extended. But he cannot have forgotten that it was precisely on account of these cases, and the possibility of providing different treatment in each case, that the law was altered to its present form. The whole tendency of modern legislation has been to substitute a rigid and uniform system of prison treatment for the latitude that previously existed. I can state to the House with great confidence that in England I have absolutely no power of dispensation. The right hon. Gentleman must know perfectly well that since the Act of 1865 I have no power, nor have the Prison Board any power, to dispense with any of the incidents of prison life, whether they be harsh or degrading or not. I do not know whether in Irish prisons there is more latitude or not—I dare say there is not—but be it observed that the reason for imposing the present conditions is a most sound and excellent one. The theory of punishment in our modern legislation is that it ought to be well-defined; that all its incidents ought to be defined by law; and that the sentence of the Judge should carry certain and definite consequences. Nothing could be more fatal than to leave to the Executive Government or with the Chief Secretary for Ireland a discretion either to relax punishment or to make it more, severe. In the discharge of my own duty I have often come across cases in which it is most painful to inflict the punishment prescribed. Take the case, for instance, of the anti-vaccinators, those who, foolishly mistaken as I believe them to be, set themselves in opposition to the Vaccination Law—conscientious men perhaps, but breakers of the law; or take the members of the Salvation 809 Army, who, in the discharge of what they consider their duty, obstruct the highway and create a disturbance in a quiet country town. The Court sentences these offenders, and the ordinary prison treatment accompanies the sentence. Can it be maintained that the Executive should depart from the ordinary rules of discipline and allow relaxation in individual and particular cases for which Parliament has declared the proper prison discipline, because, forsooth! you sympathize with this and that offender, and because you think they were influenced by motives not wholly bad, base, or degrading? Such is not the policy of Parliament pursued since 1865 in England; on the contrary, the Legislature has condemned such exceptions. When unmeasured attacks are made upon the Chief Secretary in this respect he is only doing what in England I am bound to do—giving effect to the sentence in all particulars the law requires without interference in favour of any man, sympathize though I may with the offender undergoing punishment. All those who desire that penal legislation should be certain, uniform, withdrawn from the caprice or control of the Executive officer, and committed to a judicial minister of the law, must approve the system. I should like now to take up the challenge of the hon. Member for Fife and the hon. Member for Cork, and prove that the men of culture who have been sentenced did not deserve any special treatment. Let me take the case of Mr. E. Harrington, and when I speak of him I do not imply anything except what appears on the record. I invite the attention of the hon. and learned Member for Fife to this, inasmuch as he has called for evidence of cause and effect as between the speech and the outrages in the county. Let the hon. Gentleman remember what the condition of things in Kerry was. You had an active local branch of the National League denouncing persons by name, among whom were two men named Foran and Fitzmaurice. Foran was murdered in January, 1888, and Fitzmaurice in July, 1888. You had consequent upon these crimes a rigorous enforcement of the Crimes Act in Kerry. The local branch of the 810 National League was—I will not say entirely suppressed, but certainly weakened—the publication of its proceedings at meetings in the newspapers was suspended for a time, and the country quieted down. But all of a sudden, in the course of last autumn, in consequence, I believe, of an order grounded upon Mr. O'Brien's opinion that "it was necessary to show Balfour that his troubles in Ireland were only beginning," the county again became disturbed. I should like to know what this phrase implied? Are "Balfour's troubles in Ireland" created by prosperity, good conduct, peace, order, the regular payment of rents, or the discharge of social obligations? It became most important, in view of Mr. O'Brien, that Balfour should be shown that his troubles were only beginning, and, in pursuance of that advice, you had the proceedings of the local branch of the National League published in Kerry, in the place where the blood of Foran and Fitzmaurice was scarcely dry, and upon the estate of Lord Kenmare it was sought to establish the Plan of Campaign. This is what was published—Despite the Coercion Act, and after the Coercion Act expires, for ever and ever after, until the Irish Question is settled, land-grabbing shall not show its head in Kerry, or in any part of Ireland,Then the speaker, by way of advice to the branch, says—If an obnoxious man, time after time, comes into conflict with you, you should go for him, and see whether he or you is to be victorious.Do not let me be misunderstood. I will not assert—I am not entitled to assert—that the intention of the speaker was to lead to the events that followed. I will not insinuate what I am not prepared to say outright, but I do say that these words were published in a place which was like a gunpowder magazine, in a place where experience had shown the effect of such denunciation as was employed. What were the consequences? Outrages had well-nigh ceased. The hon. Member for South Tyrone has mentioned the declining figures, but in this place outrages occurred in October, November, and December, some 12 or 13 in number. I will give a sample of 811 one, of moonlighting on January 1st of this year. Moonlighters entered nine town-lands in the district. In one case the inhabitant of the house ran out by the back door with whatever money he had; the door was forced in, and the children were told to warn their father to join the Plan of Campaign and clear away his cattle from certain lands. A dog lying on the floor was shot, two panes of glass and the pottery on the table were broken, and the moonlighters went off and repeated the scene at other houses in the district. The hon. and learned Member for Fife is exacting in his ideas of proof, and I do not say that it will come up to his exalted view of cause and effect as showing connection between the speech and crime. I do not know that I can satisfy him; but, to ordinary minds of less refined subtlety than that of the hon. and learned Member, it seems a curious thing that the denunciations of 1888 should have been followed by a couple of murders, and that the denunciations at the end of the year should be succeeded by an immediate outbreak of outrages in the district where they had declined. I do not envy the courage of the man who published the account of the proceedings of the branch of the League. Knowing what had been the history of the district, I say that any tribunal, any Judge who did trace a connection between the published proceedings of the Land League and the crimes which followed—a connection which the hon. Member for Fife is too subtle to see—can hardly be said to have drawn a very rash conclusion. But these are not isolated cases. It is not in one part only of Ireland that these things have happened, but in several. I could show that in county after county, in consequence of this appeal, this summons to arms—if I may call it so—of Mr. O'Brien, speaker after speaker made speeches, not against the Government, not against their administration of the law, not recommending exclusive dealing, not of this legitimate character—if I may use the word—but speeches of the character I have just referred to; speeches in which outrages were hinted 812 at if not advised, and the use of violent means plainly indicated or suggested as the best to be employed. Can any reasonable man say, judging by the nature of such speeches in the circumstances under which they were delivered, that if they were not calculated to produce outrages, they were likely to result in what was almost advised in set terms. We have been told by more than one speaker that we have brought the law into contempt, and that forsooth by our conduct and action this hatred of law has arisen in Ireland. I do not know who is most responsible for that contempt of law, but the Opposition and its Leaders seem to me to have lent powerful aid in that direction. I heard with astonishment I could hardly conceal this evening the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian attack Resident Magistrates, not merely as a class, but by name without proof—
§ * THE HOME SECRETARY
The right hon. Gentleman, from his place here and from the height of his great position, attacked by name three judicial officers, one of whom was appointed by himself, and who was certified by his own Lord Lieutenant to have competent legal knowledge to administer the Act of 1882. The right hon. Gentleman is quite aware of the fact. I am not informing him for the first time. I have not heard in the course of debate any allegation made against Mr. Gardiner—one of the three gentlemen mentioned—["Killeagh."] I have heard no allegation made against him in the House; but the right hon. Gentleman has not thought it unworthy of his great position to name this gentleman as one of those who conspire—I suppose with Her Majesty's Government—to bring law into contempt in Ireland; and he 813 refers to the feelings of the English people—as he says—as well as the Irish people, becoming somewhat less warm and earnest on the side of law and order than they used to be. Why, if the example set by the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues were generally followed, all government in the country would rapidly become impossible. It would be a matter deeply to be regretted if the great Liberal Party should by speeches and demeanour in this House bring things to such a pass that Liberalism should become almost synonymous with law-breaking. The right hon. Gentleman and his followers are constantly suggesting to us that we should not carry into operation the Act of 1887, and the right hon. Member for Newcastle taunted the Conservative Party with fraud on the constituencies. But we are in touch with our constituencies, and are not afraid of their verdict. We believe that they appreciate the reasons that made it necessary to bring in a Coercion Act which they and we deplore, and hoped to avoid. We believe they are conscious of the extent of the failure of the machinery of justice in Ireland, how juries were intimidated and the law of the land subordinated to the law of the League. We believe our constituents perfectly appreciate that we were more than justified in proposing the Crimes Act. After the fullest and most abundant discussion in the face of the country, Parliament passed the Act by overwhelming majorities, and we shall not be discouraged from loyally carrying its provisions into execution, so long as it stands on the Statute Book, and we believe it necessary for the purposes for which it was passed. Sir, we have been abundantly convinced that the result has justified that Act. The hon. Member for East Mayo said that it was the soothing speeches of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian and the operation of the Plan of Campaign 814 which have led to the diminution of crime. Why, the Plan of Campaign is in itself one of the greatest and most mischievous of the crimes that are committed in Ireland, and as for the soothing effect of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian's sympathies, those sympathies began in 1886. [Cries of dissent.] I thought that the first manifestation of that sympathy was the promulgation of the Home Rule scheme of 1886. But it seems that was not so; it seems there must have been some other message that has not reached our ears, that has had a soothing, calming effect in Ireland, but certainly the public message we all know of was that of 1886. But in the course of 1886 crime sprang up and increased, and it was not till the Crimes Act had come into operation that a diminution in outrages began. The firm administration of the law has always been successful in Ireland. I do not see that it has ever failed. In 1870 the perpetration of 1,329 outrages led to the passing of the "Protection of Person and Property Act," as I think it was called, in 1871. Under that Act the number of outrages fell to 373. In 1882, when the right hon. Gentleman had not yet demonstrated his soothing sympathies, under a repressive Act, outrages in like manner fell from 4,439 to 870, and in 1888 they had fallen to 650 from 1,056 in 1886. Therefore, you have the firm administration of the Criminal Law entirely justifying the assertion made more than once that it has been the cause of diminution of crime. When the hon. and learned Member for Fife tells us that we are regarded with execration by the Irish people, and the hon. Member for East Mayo declares that sentiment is universal, I do not believe it. I never shall believe that the 5000 people relieved from boycotting detest us for our firm administration of the Criminal Law. I do not believe that 815 the wretched peasants on the hill sides, who were subjected to nightly visitors who placed them in terror of their lives, detest us or our administration of the law. I do not believe that Norah Fitzmaurice hates us. I do not believe that any man who wishes to live honestly, who believes that social order is the corner stone of national prosperity, hates us. The Irish people have sense enough to see that we are not actuated by the vile and odious motives hon. Members are fond of imputing to the Government, and will speedily realize that our only object is by firmness and determination to be strictly just and restore the country to happiness and prosperity.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech twitted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian with first indicating his Irish sympathies by the Home Rule Bill of 1886. This came with a very bad grace from the Home Secretary, who, as we all know, supported Home Rule when he was returned as Member for Dungarvan. He stood as the Fenian candidate for that borough in 1868.
§ * THE HOME SECRETARY
That is not a fact; the statement is absolutely incorrect. I was not a Fenian candidate in 1868, and never did anything of the kind.
MR. W. REDMOMD
I withdraw the statement that the right hon. Gentleman was a Fenian candidate. I believe he was not actually a Fenian, but certainly he received the support of the Fenian Party and the support of the newspapers then owned by Mr. Richard Pigott. At any rate it is perfectly competent for Members of the House who feel sufficient interest in the subject to look up the files 816 of newspapers for that period, to find the declarations of the right hon. Gentleman in reference to the Dungarvan Election, which were thoroughly satisfactory to the Home Rule Party, and led that Party to give him warm support, because those declarations showed distinctly he was in favour of self-government for Ireland. Now that the sometime Home Rule Member has become an English Tory Minister and has cut his connection with Ireland, we and the Irish people pay very little attention to what he says on the subject.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 339; Noes 260: Majority 79—(Division List, No. 1.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Debate arising.
§ Debate adjourned till Monday next.