§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
I observe, Sir, in to-day's paper that the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) has given notice of opposition to this Bill. He has done so, I presume, because he considers it inexpedient to legislate for a particular class without taking into account another class of people of a character not usually associated with crime. If the bon. Member will embody that view in a Bill, I promise him all the support in my power, and also the support of hon. Members below the Gangway. But I am entitled, taking all the circumstances into account, to suspect the perfect character of the philanthropy of the hon. Member, especially when I know that lately in Ireland he has passed coldly by the door of the evicted tenant and shed crocodile tears at the woes of the policemen whose barracks have not been whitewashed outside by the Marquess of Clanricarde. My Bill, I admit, is not a very comprehensive one. I do not propose to deal with the general matters the hon. Member refers to, nor to many other matters besides. I do not propose to deal with the very serious crimes of high treason and treason felony. I prefer to leave that subject to abler hands, so that all offences which have the general good of mankind as their motive may be distinguished from other crimes against social order which are at variance with the well-being and established usages of society. My object is simply to effect a change in a law which is now in operation in Ireland, or rather to effect a change in the penal clauses of that measure. It is a law under which no less than 3,000 men and women have suffered up to the present moment. With regard to the number of victims there is a dearth of information at the present moment, because, notwithstanding all the pressure that has been put upon the Chief Secretary, we have failed to elicit any definite information as to the number who have been imprisoned since last Whitsuntide. Under this law the Government hold that 1553 all are equally criminal. That is a proposition which we dispute. Generally speaking, it is an outrage upon common sense to say that in agitations where the passions of men are aroused there are not offences committed, which are of a different character, class, and degree. It is absurd to say that a man who denounces a public evil is equally guilty with a man who commits a crime in order to avenge a private wrong. In the past history of England men have suffered for having taken part in agitations against existing laws—laws which have since been abrogated by other laws which have became the bulwark of the British Constitution. In Ireland there are men who have offended against the Criminal Law and Procedure Act, who are not esteemed to be criminals by the people of the country. Who will say that Father Kennedy is a criminal? Father Kennedy left his prison cell but a few days ago to receive the enthusiastic ovations of his parishioners, and to be presented by the Town Council of Cork with the freedom of the city. Who will say that John Mandeville was a criminal for having delivered a speech in which he denounced the perpetration of crime, and for which he has since been justified by the success of the cause for which he was pleading? Sir, the public conscience revolts against the proposition. The high tide of public opinion is swelling against it. Even the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and of the Conservative Government have declared against the Penal Clauses of this Act. I need only allude to a statement made outside this House by the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), and to the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) in this House a short time ago, to show the view taken of the hardships which many persons are suffering in consequence of the operation of this Act. But it is not only the feelings of the supporters of the Government within this House which are outraged by the operation of the Act. Even the supporters of the Government in Ireland are becoming tired of it and of the manner in which it is administered. Let me for the information of the Chief Secretary quote the opinion of one of his chief supporters 1554 in Ireland. He knows very well that the Irish Times is a newspaper which supports the Government and its policy. The hon. Member for South Tyrone knows that also. Yet what does the proprietor of the newspaper say in a letter to the editor? He says—We all know that a degrading system of punishment may exasperate, but it will never mitigate or alter a man's political conduct. The time has arrived when such prisoners should he treated as first-class misdemeanants.This, Sir, is the opinion of one of the supporters of Her Majesty's Government in Ireland; and I think that the sooner the Government recognize the change of feeling the better for themselves. My contention here to-day is that the penal clauses of the Coercion Act now in operation in Ireland establish a principle which is of a retrograde character. In times past—and the further back I go, the better I am able to prove my contention—prisoners who were indicted for offences that had even the slightest tinge of a political complexion were treated with respect and consideration. If we compare the charges made now against those which were made in times past, the presumption is largely in favour of those who are suffering in Ireland at the present moment. The charges now made are so thin that they have to be couched in the vaguest and most general language—such, for instance, as I have had personal experience of, where men have been charged and condemned because they compelled or induced persons unknown not to take farms unknown, the property of landlords unknown, that might become vacant at some future time—not stated, because unknown. That is one of the favourite charges of the present day, and it is a charge for which I myself received four months' imprisonment. Let me compare that charge with the charges made against Irishmen 40 or 50 years ago, and then compare the treatment of the two classes of prisoners. Take, for instance, the charge against Mr. O'Connell and his associates. They were accused of a foul conspiracy in having seditiously combined to commit offences by violent means, involving, as they did, incitement, intimidation and terror. I am sure the Chief Secretary and the Law Officers of the Crown will agree with me that that was a very heinous offence. It was the charge 1555 made against Mr. O'Connell, and in the eye of the law it was an offence of the blackest and deepest kind. The offenders were convicted and condemned to a term of imprisonment; but how were they treated? The governor of the gaol was ordered to let his house to them so that they should be comfortable; they had their own servants; they saw their families daily; they had horses to ride even in prison; they pursued their ordinary avocations; they held levées of their friends, and the only restriction placed on them was that they were not allowed to receive political deputations. If this was the treatment of prisoners convicted under such a terrible charge, how much more lenient, in justice or fair play, ought to be the treatment meted out to the persons who are now convicted in Ireland of such petty offences as boycotting and the publication of meetings of suppressed branches of the National League? If some unfortunate man is overheard by a policeman in a crowd cheering the mention of the name of a popular patriot, he is a criminal under this Act. Let me put to the House another case—I mean the case against John Mitchel. The charge against him was that—Moved and instigated by the Devil he and his associates conspired to bring about an insurrection against our Sovereign Lady the Queen, and to put her to death.Of that charge John Mitchel was convicted. But when John Mitchel was taken to Spike Island he was allowed to wear his own clothes, and when the governor brought him another suit he was reproved by the Castle, and actually apologized to his prisoner for having asked him to put prison clothes on. And how was John Mitchel treated in Spike Island? He remained in a separate cell and court, had books lent to him by the governor to read; he drew his chair to the door and spent his hours in the sun reading "The Merry Wives of Windsor." On one occasion he relates that Grace, the governor, waited upon him with one of the turnkeys with a suit of brown prison clothes. The governor said he had an unpleasant duty to perform, but Mr. Mitchel must put on the prison suit. The prisoner obeyed; but the blunder was soon rectified by Dublin Castle, and a letter was sent to the governor directing him to treat his prisoner in a different manner 1556 from other convicts, and to allow him to wear his own clothes. Yet this man was convicted of having been instigated by the Devil to take the life of the Queen. Contrast that treatment with that which William O'Brien has received for making a speech in which he asked his hearers to avoid the commission of crime as they would poison. Mr. O'Brien was cast into a prison cell, compelled to herd with the vilest of criminals, told that he must wear the garb of crime and do menial work. Here are two men with motives exactly the same—one of whom is treated as a gentleman, while the other is assaulted, degraded, and subjected to treatment worthy only of the chamber of horrors. I have said that the clauses of the Criminal Law and Procedure Act are a retrograde step. I may be told by the hon. Member for South Tyrone that the Fenian prisoners were treated exactly as other convicts. That is so, but the greater the shame and disgrace to this country. But let me ask, if there were Fenian convicts now, whether they would be treated as they were formerly? The Devon Commission, in 1877, recommended the setting apart from time to time of a detached convict prison for prisoners of this class, and they commended the subject to the consideration of Her Majesty. The Commission which sat in the following year 1878–9 said—Looking at the inconvenience which has arisen in practice from the association of such persons with other convicts, we concur in this recommendation.Will this Government then—even the Government of the present day—dare, after the recommendation of these two Commissions, to treat treason felony convicts in the same manner as the convicts of 1865–7 were treated? I venture to assert that they will not dare to do so. And now let me draw a picture of the different treatment meted to a man who was tried in Ireland in 1865. It was a political charge, and he was sentenced to a life long imprisonment. While in prison he was treated with harshness, cruelty, and barbarity. He was flogged; chained with hands behind his back; compelled to grovel on his stomach and lap up his food like a dog. Where is he to-day? He is in a foreign land, plotting, by means which do not recommend themselves to us, the destruction of the 1557 British Empire. I allude to O'Donovan Rossa. In 1867 there was a man condemned for a political offence to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. His sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life. Where is he to-day? He sits on these benches, loyally aiding and assisting the House of Commons to make better laws for the government of Her Majesty's subjects. Will the Chief Secretary take the lesson to heart and act accordingly? I will endeavour, if I can, to diagnose the position of the Government and the mind of the Chief Secretary. He has before him the two great failures of two Coercion Acts—the failure of Mr. Forster's and his own Coercion Acts. He thinks that Mr. Forster failed because his imprisonment was of a lenient character, and he has come to the conclusion that if the treatment meted out to prisoners in Ireland is of a different character, he will break down the national movement. He thinks the fire has been extinguished, but the smouldering ashes fanned into flame are brighter than before to give light and heat to struggling Ireland. I can quite conceive that the right hon. Gentleman is under the impression that he might conquer, and consequently he decided to apply the old remedy—a remedy which has been tried over and over again, and which has failed as often as it has been tried. The right hon. Gentleman has even confessed it, for in his famous conversation with Mr. Blunt, he said that if he put in prison a Jew weak men like Mr. Dillon and Mr. W. O'Brien the movement would collapse. But he has underrated the people with whom he has to deal. The long bead-roll of Irish martyrs tells the tale. The long bead-roll of persons who have gone to the gallows and the prison cells and convict ships belies the hope. What are the results of the operation of this Act? It has been in operation now for two years, and, as I said before, we have had no information since Whitsuntide of the paper which has been asked for by the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Morley); no paper has been furnished.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
At any rate, we have not got it before us on the present occasion. The last paper, furnished at Whitsuntide, gave 1,558 cases, 14 only of which were reversed on appeal. In 1558 the autumn the Chief Secretary said the gaols were empty. He went to Ireland on Christmas Eve, and what has he been doing since? He has been engaged in Dublin Castle in signing warrants for the arrest of Members of this House and other people throughout the length and breadth of the land.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
Then somebody has signed them for the right hon. Gentleman. My contention is that the only justification for severity is wanting. Like the Governor of Warsaw who said, "order reigns," the right hon. Gentleman says, "peace and order reign." In this case he has altogether failed to inspire terror. There are cases in Ireland where a man has been in prison three or four times in succession. In the district of Kanturk there is scarcely a respectable man who has not been in prison three or four times. And I see that only yesterday a man was waited upon in prison in order to enable a settlement to be made with a landlord in regard to his property. The Woodford men have all been in prison more than once. The right hon. Gentleman has failed to deter the Irish Members from doing their duty to their constituents. Mr. William O'Brien is not bowed down by the weight of his sentence. Mr. Dillon came out of prison an unrepentant sinner. Mr. Sheehy and Mr. Cox have been undeterred by four sentences. I have had three; Mr. Dillon two; Mr. Finucane two. There have been 23 Members altogether, and, when the right hon. Gentleman has done with those 23, he can have 23 more, and he is perfectly welcome to them. Let him go on for 20 years with his resolute government, and as long as he remains at his present post he will have Irishmen to put in prison, be the penalty heavy or light. I do not pretend to give a learned account of the present Bill. It deals with such clauses in the existing Act as relate to the right of public meeting, the suppression of branches of the National League, and the holding of meetings in suppressed districts. Those clauses of the Act were evidently drawn with a determined elasticity. They were drawn by a careful hand, and they have been interpreted 1559 by magistrates, who have been laughed at by the Judges for their ignorance, and whose only qualification for administering the Act is that they will readily obey the orders of Dublin Castle. We want to alter that state of things; and it is for that purpose that I propose my Bill. My contention that it needs alteration is borne out by the Government themselves. They prosecuted the Lord Mayor of Dublin for a publication in his newspaper; they prosecuted Alderman Hooper, until recently a Member of this House, for publishing information in a newspaper. They abandoned those prosecutions. Even the little boys in the street have defeated the Government in this respect. The hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. E. Harrington) has received six months' imprisonment, with hard labour, for the publication of a speech, and his punishment was so little deserved that the magistrates who sentenced him offered to set him free if he would only promise not to offend again. Surely his crime could not have been of a very glaring character. Will any hon. Member say that a man is a criminal because he sold a copy of United Ireland, or that another is a felon because he cried out, "Three cheers for William O'Brien?" Most of the acts which have been called crimes, and which have been punished as crimes, are simply political in their character. I do not ask the House to accept my statement, but I will refer them to a Judgment delivered by County Court Judge Morris in the case of the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. O'Kelly). In the course of a long Judgment, he said that his views had been talked about, but he did not care what was said because when he made up his mind upon a certain course he took it. When he was dealing with an offence which did not involve anything like moral guilt, and there was no gross infraction of the law, he thought the clemency of the law should be extended. When, however, it involved moral turpitude and led to serious consequences it was impossible to extend the mercy of the Court. He said, further, that in the particular case with which he was dealing, he was not doing wrong in straining the quality of mercy. He considered the sentence passed upon Mr. O'Kelly to be altogether too much, and he reduced 1560 the sentence of four months' imprisonment to one of two months as a first-class misdemeanant. In another case a Judge in Dublin refused to endorse a sentence upon the hon. Member for Dublin. The case was carried to a higher tribunal, and, obeying the order of the Superior Court, the Judge gave a reduced sentence, and ordered the hon. Member to be treated as a first-class misdemeanant. Some people attempt to make out that the treatment of a prisoner in the gaols of Ireland is not of a severe character. If that be so, how does it come to pass that men have lost their lives in prison, and that men undergoing periods of imprisonment have been reduced in weight to an alarming extent? Mr. Sweeney, in the course of a three months' imprisonment, lost two stone in weight, and an hon. Friend of mine in 15 days lost 11 lbs. in weight. I am sure that hon. Members will not have forgotten the terrible case of the man Larkin, who died in prison. Take the case of Larkin, who was seized with an illness for which he was treated medically on September 23. At six o'clock on the evening of the 26th he was locked up in his ordinary cell, not in the infirmary, so that not only could the prisoner not get out, but the warders could not get in. A warder saw him at 2 a.m. rinsing his mouth with some water, and told him to go to sleep. At 2.30 he again saw him and he then appeared to be asleep. When the warder next entered the cell he found the prisoner dead, and the governor said he was dead. After the inquest the father and six others who had known the deceased all his life signed a declaration that they could not recognize in the emaciated remains the stalwart youth who yet had not been dead 36 hours. Now attempts have been made to prove that the treatment of prisoners in Ireland is not of a harsh or severe character. I hold that the treatment of prisoners in Ireland is not only degrading, but of a severe physical character, and I ask, why all this cruelty? Can it be because the right hon. Gentleman is of a naturally cruel disposition, or because the Government desire to get back to those refined systems of torture for political opponents which have taken the place of the rack and the thumbscrew? Let it not be supposed for a moment 1561 that we ask for ourselves anything that we are not anxious to secure for the humblest man in Ireland. I appeal to the Government to accept my Bill and abandon the cruel system that is already responsible for the blood of Mandeville and of Larkin, and I ask the House to take my Bill and make of it a golden bridge over which they can retreat from a position of dishonour and disgrace.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
I beg to support the Second Reading of this Bill. I should not have intruded myself at this early moment on the House, except that I am obliged to leave early. I desire to submit some considerations bearing upon this measure. Now, why have we a Bill upon this question at all? I do not think the Government can hide from themselves the fact that there is a strong feeling, not confined at all to Home Rulers, upon the subject of the treatment of this particular class of prisoners. I believe it exists among Members on the other side, and among people who are not strongly actuated by political sentiments. They feel uneasy at seeing men, who in the ordinary vulgar sense they know do not belong to the criminal classes, being treated in the manner which has been described; above all, they feel that these men are being treated in this manner under an exceptional law for doing acts which can be done in England with absolute impunity. The combination of these two things produces, unquestionably, a very uneasy effect upon the public mind. I am fully aware of the extreme difficulty of defining exceptional offences under a Statute. But we ought not to have that difficulty before it. The real truth is that the difficulty ought to have been made impossible by reasonable administration. I wish to refrain from any bitter tone of political recrimination; but there are many things in the criminal law which are dealt with by administration, and not by legislation. Take, for instance, the case of infanticide. It is murder of the worst description, and is punishable by the law of England by death. If one chooses to 1562 chop logic as the Irish Secretary chops logic, it may be said that if the law shows any lenity towards a crime of that description it will encourage the seducer and the mother to commit this foul offence, and that, therefore, the law must be carried out and the mother executed. Yet for the last 30 or 40 years it has become a principle of administration that the capital sentence is not carried out in these cases. Now, here is an instance in which by administration the responsible Minister of the Crown, by a settled system, has altered the punishment in a particular case. In order that we may not be deceived on a question of this kind by the fallacies in the logic of the right hon. Gentleman, hon. Members will mark this—that if it were another woman, and not the mother who murdered the same child, that woman would be executed as a woman was executed a day or two ago. Why do we execute one woman and not execute another? Why, on account of the circumstances and the motives which lead to the act; and, therefore, when we are told that the circumstances and motives cannot be taken into consideration, we are met by the contradiction of the whole system of criminal jurisdiction. I will take another illustration on a lower scale. By the law of England children of tender age are held just as responsible for their actions as adults. I remember the time when our prisons were full of young criminals. That was not altered by legislation. I had carefully to consider the question. It was difficult to define what were the offences for which children should be sent to prison, and at what age they should not be sent to prison, but the whole system was altered by a single act of administration—by discharging those little children from prison in large numbers. There was great objection taken at the time. I was said to be tampering with the law of England, but when the matter came to be considered, the magistrates themselves saw imprisonment was not the best way to deal with offences of that kind, and the whole thing came to an end through the action of the magistrates and through the action of the Administration. Then, again, the House will remember the terrible case where some famished sailors on a wreck killed and ate a boy. Do you mean to 1563 tell me that by the act of the Administration they made no difference in a case of that kind as compared with another murder, owing to the surrounding circumstances and motives which led to the terrible act? I maintain these things have been done, and can be done, by Administration, and the result is that a reasonable Administration should have the will to act in accordance with the sound feelings of the people they represent. The present Administration say "We can do nothing." The Home Secretary says "I have no authority: I do what the medical officers say." There were times when the Secretary of State was the master, and not the servant, of his subordinates. If the right hon. Gentleman will send out a circular, calling attention to the fact that there is such a person as the Secretary of State, there will soon be a very different condition of things. The Irish Secretary says he cannot do anything, that the prisons are not in his Department; and the Home Secretary says the prisons were not in his Department, or, at all events, he is a roi fainéant of that Department. I remember a time when the Secretary of State was in every detail, medical or disciplinary, the prison authority, not nominally, but really responsible, and there was not a week, there was hardly a day, that I did not go—I will not say into details, but into prison administration. But now we are told that the prisons are not in the Department of the Home Secretary. At all events, that right hon. Gentleman sat by the Irish Secretary the other day when he said that the Irish prisons were in the same position as the English prisons. If the Chief Secretary in Ireland and the Home Secretary in England had taken the part which, if they had the will, they have the power to take, this difficulty need never have arisen. Then there is another body by whom these things might have been modified, and that is the Magistracy. In the earliest days of the administration of this Act proceedings were taken against the late Lord Mayor of Dublin (Mr. Sullivan), one of the most respected men in Ireland—a man as much respected as any in this House—for publishing reports of a meeting of a suppressed branch of the National League in his paper. He came not before a Resident Magistrate, but before 1564 Mr. O'Donel, the Stipendiary of Dublin, and that gentleman took a perfectly reasonable view of the subject. He felt that it would be a shock to the common sense of mankind to treat Mr. Sullivan as a common malefactor, and he declined to do so. He used a most sensible argument, that if the offence were sedition the accused would be treated as a first-class misdemeanant, and he said he would deal with the charge as if it were of the same character, and sentence Mr. Sullivan to be treated as a first-class misdemeanant. If that example had been followed we should not have been landed in the present difficulty. The same view was taken by several of the County Court Judges. Then we come to the Resident Magistrates. Why was Mr. Harrington, who was charged with an exactly similar offence, treated in a different manner from Mr. Sullivan? Right hon. Gentlemen talk of the equality of our law. There is no such equality. The administration of the law in respect of these sentences depends on the man before whom the offender is brought. If a man is brought before Mr. O'Donel he is treated in a sensible way; if before Mr. Cecil Roche he is treated very differently. The Chief Secretary tells us he has nothing to do with it; but it was immediately after this moderate sentence passed upon Mr. Sullivan that the Chief Secretary made a series of speeches which were thoroughly understood by his Resident Magistrates. The truth is that the Irish Removable Magistrates are very much like the collie dogs of Scotland; they do not want any particular word said to them; they know the eye of the master; they know very well what particular sheep to bring up. That is the reason why this harsh and brutal treatment, condemned at first by the common sense of the magistracy, was introduced. We can not rely upon the Administration, because they do not apply reasonable principles of justice in consideration of the surrounding circumstances; we cannot rely upon the moderation of the magistracy, because the Chief Secretary has taken very good care of that. Then, can we rely upon the medical officers? Whenever any particular cases of hardship are brought forward, the Chief Secretary says: "The prisoner will get what the medical officer recommends." 1565 If that were merely a shabby pretext of the right hon. Gentleman's for escaping from his own responsibility, so long as it had the desired result, I would be satisfied. The Home Secretary, no doubt unintentionally, entirely misrepresented the facts in the case of Mr. Davitt which I recently brought forward, and said that what was done was done on the representation of the medical officer. That is not the case. There are things which are not within the competency of the medical officer. It is not the medical officer who recommends who is to visit the prisoner, or what books he is to have or not. It was not the medical officer who instructed me, but I who instructed the medical officer. If the Home Secretary and the Chief Secretary for Ireland choose to regard themselves as the subservient instruments of their medical officers, I have no objection. But if the question is whether the medical officers are reliable guides to the Home Secretary and the Secretary for Ireland, that is quite another thing. There is no one who has more respect for the medical profession than I have; no men do more for the poor than medical men; but there is no department which requires more constant supervision than the medical department, especially where the medical officers have private practice. I remember a very painful case in which a prisoner was allowed to die of hunger and cold, and then the principle was laid down as to the removal of a woman from prison before her delivery, and that in cases of incurable diseases persons were not to be allowed to die in prison. The prison is neither an hospital nor a mortuary. The prison administration in Ireland is one in which I have very little confidence. At the time it was proposed by Lord Spencer to remove some prisoners to England, I had to express myself on the nature and quality of the prison treatment in Ireland. It was in such a condition that it was absolutely necessary to appoint a Commission of Inquiry. I do not desire to say anything against, on the contrary, I wish to say a great deal in favour of, the medical officers of prisons in England and in Ireland whom I know. But in all professions there are black sheep, and one may come across such men as Dr. Barr, I asked yesterday a question as to a letter of Dr. Barr's on prison 1566 treatment, and I must say a more disgraceful composition I never read in my life. I cannot conceive how any man in authority can allow such a person to remain for a day in charge of any of Her Majesty's prisons. Dr. Barr's language is not only characterized by most violent and bitter animosity, but it is a bad imitation of the style of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Dr. Barr denounces the Royal Commission which sat on Irish prisons on account of its lenity in recommending milk to Irish prisoners. He says, "The recommendation of the Commission to add to the diet such a highly-refined animal product as milk was not in conformity with the evidence before them, which went to show that quantity rather than quality was best suited for an Irishman's stomach." That is the language of the medical officer sent over by the Home Secretary to aid the Irish Secretary in the case of Mr. Mandeville. It has been said that Dr. Barr forced Dr. Ridley against his will into a severity that was contrary to the sentiment of that gentleman; and, having read Dr. Barr's letter, I feel convinced that it was so; for a letter of greater brutality of sentiment, as well as of violent political prepossession, I have never read. We cannot rely entirely on medical officers to deal with this question, and, therefore, we must appeal to Parliament itself. That is the reason why we must have a Bill. It is said it is difficult to define political offences; but we find no difficulty in defining them in the Prisons Act, which provides that every prisoner convicted of sedition, or of a seditious libel, shall be treated as a first class misdemeanant. Sedition has often led to bloodshed. The argument may be used that the man who incites to crime is worse than the man who commits it. ["Hear, hear!"] Was the hon. Member who cheers a Member of Parliament in 1887? If so, will he say why are persons convicted of seditious libel to be treated as first-class misdemeanants? Do they not incite? A seditious libel is, in itself, an incitement. It may be an incitement to treason, rebellion, or civil war. Therefore, what becomes of the argument that the man who incites must necessarily be treated as an ordinary felon? It has been asked, why should we so punish people who violate the Vaccination Act? I quite agree. It is very wrong that they should 1567 be treated as ordinary criminals, and I am quite willing to deal with their case. But will you tell me that if a doctor writes an article against vaccination, and recommends and incites people not to have their children vaccinated, he ought to go to prison as a common felon? Therefore, the plausible arguments brought forward on the other side as magnificent truisms are in fact only silly and empty fallacies. Everybody recommends things which if a man did he might be punished for, and nobody thinks of punishing those who recommend them as if they were offenders. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) comes forward with an Amendment to defeat the Bill. If there is any severity to be exercised against an Irishman the hon. Member for South Tyrone is always there to advocate it. But if there is proposed any alleviation of the lot of those who are not his countrymen—of those who are, perhaps, not likely to be long his constituents—the hon. Member for South Tyrone comes forward to add fuel to the fire. In point of fact the hon. Member has long been the moral emergency man of evicting Irish landlords, and, therefore, is the person to place an obstacle in the way of such a measure as this. That is natural enough on his part. But the Government have had some awkward and injurious allies lately, and I warn them against the alliance of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who represents in this House the race animosities and the religious hatreds of the Orange minority in Ireland, and who is here to ask the Government to be what I am afraid they are only too willing to be—the instruments of the cruel oppression of the great majority of the Irish people. The principle of the hon. Member for South Tyrone is like that of Prince Bismarck—"Do ut des." The patronage of the hon. Member must be repaid by the Government consenting to become the tools of the Orange faction in carrying out every severity against those who will not agree to their policy. For myself I do not believe that even from the point of view of the Government that is a wise and prudent course. By agreeing to the Second Reading of this Bill the House will declare that the present state of things is not satisfactory, and that a remedy ought to be found for it. 1568 I should have been glad if a remedy had been found in a reasonable and humane administration of the law. If not, there should be such a declaration in this case as we have made in the Prisons' Act on the subject of sedition, so that offences by speaking and writing shall not be treated as overt offences of gross and vulgar crime, but that some modification should be introduced into our system which will remove from the criminal administration of Ireland barbarities which, I am quite certain, are not recommended to the minds of the people of England.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby makes, in my opinion, a very bad penitent. When he appears before us in a white sheet, and with a lighted taper in his hand, he, at all events, might be a little modest, remembering his bad past. That is all I have to say in answer to the right hon. Gentleman's attack upon myself. But, Sir, in moving the Resolution which stands in my name, I desire to say that I have no intention of underrating the importance, and, in view of the public feeling excited out of doors, the gravity of this question. There are many inducements for the Government to accept the Second Reading of this Bill. By accepting it, the Chief Secretary would, remove a great weight of public abuse, if not of public odium, from his own shoulders. At all events we should have no more harrowing scenes of torture in Irish prisons, no more hair-cutting episodes. But if the Bill is a wise one—and of that I am not certain—I am quite sure it does not go far enough. The House ought to look deeper than the mere question of what would be political convenience in this matter. If one feeling is stronger than another in this country, it is the feeling against class legislation. Let hon. Members conceal the fact as they like, this is a measure introduced by certain Members of Parliament, and its object is to secure a more lenient treatment for themselves—[" No, no!"]—and for those who may be associated with them. Let us take the case of the four hon. Members who are either in gaol or under sentence—namely, the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), the hon. Member for 1569 Tipperary (Mr. J. O'Connor), the hon. Member for Mid-Cork (Dr. Tanner) and the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr E. Harrington). All those gentlemen have either been sent to prison or are under sentence because of one special offence—the denunciation of land grabbing and land grabbers. [An hon. Member: We are proud of it.] There is nothing more clear than that the moat lamentable results followed this denunciation, and the murder of Fitzmaurice, the murder of Forhan, the murder of Cornelius Murphy, followed directly upon those incitements.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
May I may be permitted to interrupt, the hon. Gentleman. No murder or other offence followed upon the meeting.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
When murder has not followed, there have been innumerable cases of outrage on man and beast. [Cries of "Name."] I have in my hand a list from the County of Kerry alone, of thirty-eight outrages, four of them being murders, following upon speeches denouncing land grabbing. Where outrage has not occurred, farms have been surrendered, and men, have been intimidated and coerced Now, the Bill proposes that the authors of these incitements shall he treated, if they are convicted, as first class misdemeanants. Let us see how the law will then stand. Take the case of the Salvation Army. There are a great many branches of the Salvation Army in the North of Ireland, and there is one in Dublin. I am not able to concur in all the methods of that body, but looking at the sin and suffering in our midst and looking at the apathy of the great mass of the people regarding it, I am not the man to throw stones at those earnest and devoted men. Now the Salvationist preacher stands at the street corner and is arrested for obstructing the thoroughfare. He is preaching the Gospel as he knows and believes it. With him it is absolutely a matter of conscience, but he is tried and convicted. Is he a criminal in the ordinary sense? He is no more a criminal than John Bunyan was or John Wesley was, but the law sends him to gaol as an ordinary offender. 1570 You dress him in prison clothes and give him prison diet, and what is more to the purpose your Bill does not seek to bring one atom of relief to him. You leave him precisely as you find him. The Salvationist preaches the Gospel of what he considers truth and righteousness, and he is treated as an ordinary criminal, but you, forsooth, who preach the Gospel of derelict farms, are to be treated as first class misdemeanants. I will take another case still more important, that is the case of the man who conscientiously objects to vaccinate his child. This man is actually governed by parental affection and love for his child, and yet you send him to gaol as an ordinary criminal and treat him in the ordinary way. Your Bill does not bring him one atom of relief. I repeat that this is a Bill for yourselves and not for the general public. There are other instances. There is the case of the poor man convicted at Petty Sessions and who is unable to pay the fine. These men are no more criminals than those other men. There are the men who violate the secrecy of the ballot at contested elections; they are treated as ordinary criminals. To pass this Bill would practically mean that the House of Commons makes a law for its own Members, and makes a law with a cynical indifference to the case of other men not one whit less worthy than themselves. Take the case of the Gweedore prisoners—I do not mean the men on trial with Father M'Fadden, but the men tried the other day at Fermanagh. These men under the hon. Member's Bill would be treated as ordinary criminals, because they were guilty of assault, whilst the man who went to Gweedore and originated the whole combination and superintended it would be treated as a first-class misdemeanant. I say that it is not fair, and on that ground alone I object to the Bill. Again, it is conceded that all punishment should act as a deterrent. Mr. Forster put 1,000 men in gaol. Punishment was not his object, simply detention. He turned the gaols into hydropathic establishments for these men, and food, drink, literature—everything was supplied to them. Men absolutely qualified for imprisonment, and complained that they were not imprisoned. As a matter of fact, crime 1571 enormously increased under the Crimes Act of that time. The Act was a lamentable failure, although it was administered with the best intentions by Mr. Forster. But it failed. The present Act, however, has had a deterrent effect. Let men argue as they like, the state of Ireland to-day is vastly improved. You may tell me the improvement is due to what you call the union of hearts, but then I ask you to explain how did a similar improvement come about in Lord Spencer's time, when his Crimes Act produced a very similar result. There was no union of hearts then. I cannot possibly assent to the Second Beading of this Bill. If hon. Gentlemen feel for the Salvationists and others who are no more criminal than they pretended they are themselves, and in my opinion not nearly so much so, how comes it they have left them entirely outside the scope of their Bill? I maintain that to pass a Bill like this is to pass a piece of class legislation that the country will have no difficulty in seeing through. I am far from objecting to a re-classification of prisoners. I think it a deplorable thing that Salvationists and Anti-vaccinators should be committed to gaol and treated as ordinary criminals. To bring in a Bill with the express object of providing for Members of the House of Commons themselves—[Cries of "No!"]—well, it will provide for them at all events, and for the men who carry out their work in Ireland—is not a fair way in which to treat the House of Commons. If you wish to re-classify prisoners I sympathize with you; but so long as you confine your attention to one class, and a class that is producing disturbance, and outrage, and crime in Ireland, I will refuse to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. I beg to move as an Amendment—That in the opinion of this House, it is inexpedient to proceed with the consideration of a measure which proposes to modify the prison treatment of a certain class of prisoners in Ireland, and leaves to the ordinary law other prisoners whose offences are not of a character usually associated with crime.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is inexpedient
to proceed with the consideration of a measure which proposes to modify the prison treatment of a certain class of prisoners in Ireland, and leaves to the ordinary law other prisoners whose offences are not of the character usually associated with crime."—(Mr. T. W. Russell.)
§ SIR WILLIAM T. MARRIOTT (Brighton)
I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) has shown a very wise discretion (or perhaps it is the pressing nature of his engagement this evening) in leaving the House after making his onslaught upon the Chief Secretary, and not waiting for the reply. To the right hon. Gentleman I may pay this compliment, that he is one of those advocates who always spoil even the best of causes by their advocacy. On the present occasion a Bill was introduced by one of the Irish Members raising a question well worthy of the attention of this House; and I am bound to say the speech with which he introduced it was calm, moderate, and worthy of the occasion. But the late Home Secretary casts aside the Bill at once, or simply makes it a peg upon which to hang an attack upon the administration of the Chief Secretary, and makes it an occasion for demonstrating to the House what a good Home Secretary he has been, how much better than the present Home Secretary, how much better he knew his duties, how much more humane and just he had been. Well, I should be very sorry to dispel the hallucinations of the right hon. Gentleman; but, so far as I know, it is not everybody who agrees with him, or appreciates the benefit of the performance of his duties at the Home Office. Even Mr. Davitt, though one of his present allies, does not agree in all he did, and I think that we may leave the Home Secretary and Mr. Davitt to settle the quarrel between them, and that the House will proceed to consider the merits of this Bill. I am sorry myself that Mr. Davitt is not in the House at the present time, so that he might deal with the right hon. Gentleman vivâ voce, as he has been dealing with him by letter in the papers. The right hon. Gentleman is never famous for accuracy in his statements. He is bold, I admit; he is audacious, and makes at times astounding assertions, but accuracy has never been his strong point. When he commenced, not to support the Bill, but to attack for the 1573 hundredth time the administration of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, he began by making a most audacious statement—saying that the acts for which Irish Members and others have been imprisoned are acts which, if they had been committed in England, would have been done with absolute impunity. ["Hear, hear!"] "Hear, hear!" says an honourable Member; but I, as a lawyer, entirely dispute and deny that statement. I say there are none of the acts—or with one exception, perhaps, under the second section of the Crimes Act—that would not be punishable equally in England as they are in Ireland. It might be by a different procedure—it might be by trial before a jury; but for the right hon. Gentleman to make the assertion that punishment was awarded for acts that in England would be committed with impunity is an audacious statement that may perhaps catch the cheers of hon. Members below the Gangway, but is absolutely opposed to facts. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned by way of illustration the crime of infanticide, and implies that in relation to this he was the best Home Secretary that ever held office; but he ought to have known, and if he knows he ought to have informed the House, what is the state of the case in relation to infanticide. It is perfectly true that the wretched mother in such cases is condemned to the extreme penalty of the law, but does not suffer it because the prerogative of the Crown intervenes. The reason for this is known very well. For many years, I will not say how many, perhaps 20 years, a strong opinion has grown and is generally maintained that there is a great distinction between different classes of murder, that it is a crime that ought to be classified, and that there is an enormous distinction between the murder of an infant by its mother under great distress of mind, and murder for gain or to gratify some brutal passion; and in all the Codes introduced into this House, or in the House of Lords, we have tried to classify such cases. It is the universal opinion that infanticide is not a crime that ought to be visited with the death sentence. But as the law stands the Judge is bound on the verdict of the jury to pronounce the capital sentence, though the Crown as a matter of in- 1574 variable practice exercises the prerogative, and the wretched woman only suffers a few months' imprisonment. This is well known, and has come within the experience of every Home Secretary for the last 15 years. I will not go into the charges of harsh and brutal conduct directed against the Chief Secretary. I have not the slightest doubt that when my right hon. Friend speaks he will be able to deal with all these charges as successfully as he has on former occasions, but what I most regret about the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby is the spirit he has endeavoured to infuse into the discussion of a subject that really desires careful and serious attention. It is a question that should be discussed as much as possible free from Party animosity, and from that Party animosity the speech with which the Bill was introduced was comparatively free, but the moment the hon. Member sat down up jumped the right hon. Gentleman and endeavoured to infuse Party rancour into the whole debate. There is one point upon which I think we shall all agree, that Irish Members and others who have suffered imprisonment under the Crimes Act are not in the category of ordinary criminals. The motives of the ordinary criminal are always selfish, and generally sordid, but I do not think that anybody will impute those motives to hon. Members who have been imprisoned. We may disagree with them and think, their actions are a source of danger to the country, but we know they are not actuated by selfish motives; they do these things with the view—misguided, in my opinion—that they are for the benefit of the Party and the country to which they belong. This is very different from the position of the ordinary criminal; and even if we condemn the actions we may, to a certain extent, admire the motives. Whether the Irishmen who have suffered under the Crimes Act are political offenders or not is another matter. It is very hard to define what a political offence is. In many countries political offenders suffer much worse than others sent to gaol for ordinary crimes. In Italy under the Austrian rule, and in Russia now, you will find political offenders treated with greater severity than ordinary offenders as we should call them. It is the nature of the punishment that is complained of as 1575 degrading, though, I think, it is not the punishment but the crime which degrades a man. Speaking for myself, I can say that whatever indignities an Irish Member may have suffered in prison they would not be the cause of my regarding him with less respect; it would be the commission of the offence if anything that would influence me. As I have said, it is difficult to say what constitutes a political offence. Many people consider themselves political offenders who are nothing of the kind. The well-known Herr Most is one of such, he has suffered imprisonment in many countries and has narrated his experiences. This gentleman being in Austria somehow got to loggerheads with the authorities and was put in prison. He disliked that so much that when he was released he left Austria and went to ventilate his views in Germany under the Prussian dynasty. Again he compromised himself with the authorities and found himself inside a prison for what he considered a political offence. He found his treatment in the German prison so rigorous that when the opportunity offered he left Germany and came to enjoy the perfect freedom and liberty of England. Many hon. Members will recollect how Herr Most conducted himself in England. He took advantage of freedom and liberty of speech to such an extent, that he became an inmate of an English prison, as he thought, for a political offence. Then he discovered that prisons in the land of freedom are much worse than they are in either Austria or Germany, and so he resolves to go to democratic America where no Monarch or House of Lords checks perfect freedom. But, even in America he at Chicago got at loggerheads with authority and was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment. At the expiration of that term he declared his opinion that in the Republic of America he found his worst, and most harsh experience of prison life. Throughout all these vicissitudes Herr Most no doubt though himself apolitical prisoner, and certain I should not think of comparing him to at ordinary criminal, though be had a longer experience of prison life than many criminals, and was a much better man than an ordinary criminal in many rejects. But the question is who are we to consider political prisoners? The test 1576 must be, I think, the object they have in view in doing certain acts even when those acts are a breach of the laws in the country in which they live. Now the Bill introduced this afternoon proposes to treat all prisoners under the Crimes Act of 1885, as political prisoners. But observe there is a great distinction between the offences under the second and the seventh sections of that Act. Under the second section it is difficult to say why you should consider any of the offences as of a political character. They are divided under six heads and I will state them shortly:—1st, taking part in any criminal conspiracy now punishable by law; 2nd, wilfully and without legal authority using violence or intimidation; 3rd, taking part in any riot or unlawful assembly; 4th, taking forcible possession of lands, or houses from which anyone has been evicted; 5th, assaulting or obstructing an officer of the law; and 6th, inciting any person to commit any of the above offences. These are the six subsections of section two, and yet the right hon. Gentleman says they are acts a man can commit in England with impunity. Now try any one of these acts in England and see if you will get off with impunity. If the right hon. Gentleman is really sincere, let him put the matter to test, try any one of these acts, and see if he is not quickly lodged in one of Her Majesty's gaols. Every one of these are offences under the law in England. But when we come to section seven the pith of the section is that it deals with unlawful and dangerous associations; but these are not unlawful until they have been so proclaimed by the Lord Lieutenant. Here there is an essential distinction, and in my opinion prisoners under this section should be differently treated. But I will go farther than that, and say everyone under the six subsections may or may not be a political offender, because the crucial question in deciding what is a political offence is the object with which it was committed. I am one of those who do not quite understand the object of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Up to 1885 there was no doubt about it. Their object I find expressed in their own words—to bring about an absolute separation between England and Ireland. ["No, no!"] Yes, the object was to make Ireland a nation. If that was not so what is the meaning of the standing toast at 1577 banquets, "Ireland a nation"? I am astonished that ton. Members should cry "No, no." Is there any meaning to be attached to the words, or to those used by the hon. Member for Cork in 1885? "To break the last link that binds us to Great Britain." Every toast, every act, every speech, and I could quote from a great many of them, indicates that meaning. Now I call that a political object. I can quite understand their wishing for a separate Government as Italy wished to separate from Austria, as Hungary at one time had the same wish, and as Poland wished to separate from Russia. I can understand that; it is a political object—it is a patriotic object—you may be the weaker country, but if you hate the rule of the country and wish to be free, I can understand that. We may not agree with you, we may do our best to prevent it, but certainly it is a political object. But you now say you do not want that; you want a Local Government Bill, a similar change in the Constitution to that we have in England. Why, if you had had even the Local Government Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian proposed, that would not have made you a nation. It would not have made you independent. You ought not to sing "Long live Ireland," or "God save Ireland." I would suggest it should be "God save the Irish Vestry." If you want Local Government, you will get it with certain reservations, and if your efforts are directed to that, then I say these offences are not political, and for this reason: You have the Constitutional means of getting what you are striving for. If you seek Local Self-Government, you have Constitutional means for that, and have no right to resort to crimes and violence. Crimes and offences accompany the fight of the weak with the strong, as in the case of Italy and Austria, and Hungary and Austria; then we must admit that crimes may be more pardonable than when committed by ordinary criminals; they are political offences arising out of the struggle when the weaker has no Constitutional means of enforcing its views on the stronger people, no Constitutional means of making its voice heard. But you have the means of making your voice heard. I do not 1578 object to the music, and you certainly are heard. You have the Constitutional means, and if you resort to unconstitutional means, such as these offences, you say they must be considered political offences. I will take such an instance as is afforded by the action of the hon. Member for Dundee—he is not here now—(Mr. Firth). At one time he was much interested in the Government of London, and fought hard to bring about reform in the Government of London. Suppose he had committed one of these offences, taken part in a riot in Trafalgar Square, used intimidation or offended under any of the six heads of section 2, do you think he would have escaped on the plea that his offence was political, because he committed it with the idea of furthering reform in the Government of London? Certainly not, because he could use the Constitutional means at his disposal. Therefore, I say in no sense of the word can these offences be called political at the present time. If you really want separation, you may call them political, but if you only want the advantages we enjoy in England, then they are not political, and simply render you liable to certain punishments under the criminal law. But I think there is really this distinction; that whether these offences are political or not, they are different to the ordinary offences committed from selfish or sordid motives, and, therefore, I agree with the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment that there ought to be a re-classification of crimes. The most degrading part of the punishment is not the dress, but the association with ordinary criminals, and I say not only with regard to Irish Members and others imprisoned under the Crimes Act, but in reference to members of the Salvation Army, persons who are imprisoned for breach of the Vaccination Laws, and others, there ought to be a distinction drawn between such as these and ordinary vulgar criminals, who commit offences for their own selfish ends. There is no greater danger to the Army than the offence of insubordination, and offenders are rightly subjected to punishment, but I would not class such offenders with criminals convicted of the ordinary crimes of robbery and violence. I would separate such soldiers from ordinary criminals, and, though insubordination is a serious offence and deserves severe punishment, 1579 the taint of crime in the ordinary sense does not attach to it. Certainly I cannot support this Bill, and it would serve the purpose of raising a useful discussion, but for the spirit the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has introduced by his attacks on the present Administration. Leaving aside the question as to whether the right hon. Gentleman was the best Home Secretary that ever existed—an opinion that I suspect is confined to himself—what we want is to debate the subject, and after the conciliatory spirit with which the debate opened and the pertinent remarks with which the Amendment was moved, I look for the result, not in the carrying of the Bill or even the Amendment, but a reconsideration of the whole subject and re-classification of offences.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
It is hard to reconcile the statement of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, that he would vote against this Bill, with the declaration that there are imposed on Irish prisoners certain degrading offices which ought to be abolished. Let me suggest to him that so far as degradation is concerned those who have undergone the experience are most able to discuss the subject. I think none of us can have listened to the speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) without a feeling of very great regret that an hon. Member who claims to be the representative of an Irish constituency should have addressed the House in the terms he has used with reference to the punishment of his fellow-countrymen. But I am perfectly willing to meet him on his own ground. I frankly admit it is in the highest extent desirable that there should be a re-classification of political offences, and Anti-vaccinators and persons who offend against the rules laid down for regulating the traffic in the streets are not treated in the same exceptional manner as that sought by this Bill in relation to political offenders. Why does not the hon. Member for South Tyrone, instead of opposing this Bill, propose an expansion by which that object might be accomplished? Again, let me point out this in regard to Anti-vaccinators and Salvationists, that they are never sent to prison without the alternative of a fine, which they frequently decline to pay, and cones- 1580 quently are sent to prison; so I may say it is at their own option they are sent to prison. But I do not intend to press the question on these narrow grounds. I will direct attention to a different aspect of the question. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, with a candour that does him credit, says he regards those persons as political offenders. [Mr. BALFOUR expressed dissent.] Now the right hon. Gentleman has an unfortunate habit of failing to recollect what he has said on former occasions, but I think the recollection of the House will be with me when I say that he said these might be classed among political offenders.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
As the hon. Gentleman is not willing to accept my contradiction, I will give it in a more formal manner. What I said was that it was very likely these persons had a political object in view, but the crime they committed was not a political one.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES
With great respect I do not follow the logic of the right hon. Gentleman, but I daresay it is my own obtusity. It is perfectly true that many a crime committed for a political object is not a political crime—murder or assassination for instance, but inasmuch as it has a political object the person who commits it is classed among political offenders. [Cries of "No!"] I hear hon. Members say "No," but I can bring what I think is proof conclusive that in this and other countries this has been the universal practice—or very nearly so. I do not think that there is a man in the House beyond the right hon. Gentleman and his more devoted followers who entertains any doubt that these persons are political offenders. But does the right hon. Gentleman, or does he not, admit that he has control over the prisons in Ireland? I apprehend that he has at length conceded that point. If the right hon. Gentleman admits he has control over the prisons in Ireland, and if these men are political prisoners, why has he hastened to make an entirely new departure in the treatment of political offenders? I have been at some trouble to investigate what the practice in other countries is, and have made inquiries through various foreign agencies of an authentic character. In 1581 France and Austria I find that there is a classification under which political prisoners find altogether different treatment; under the system in Belgium there is the same thing; in France a political offender is only subject to detention; and I find the same applies to Germany and to Italy. Even if you travel beyond the confines of Europe you find in Mexico—a country where we do not regard civilization as being so far advanced as in Europe—political prisoners are allowed to wear their own dress, and are kept separate from other prisoners. Last of all other countries I suppose should we look for a model in Russia, but there is a very interesting book published some time ago by Dr. Langdale, in which the author refers to the political prisoners exiled to Siberia. He tells us that—The political prisoner in Siberia, beyond exile and temporary confinement in gaol, is not ill-used; he is not always subjected to the ordinary discipline of the criminal convict, nor obliged to associate with him; and, except in the case of those deprived of all rights, he is permitted to wear his own clothes.I cannot help thinking that is of very strong import in reference to what I contend is the general practice. Now, I refer to a book written by the learned Solicitor General, in which he deals with the subject of extradition, and he uses this passage—If a man were killed in a riot, or in an attempt to excite tumult or popular commotion, that would be a political offence and the offender would not be liable to extradition.And now I pass to what is the treatment of political offenders in this country; and a Return, published in the 38th volume of "Accounts and Reports," and moved for in 1840, shows the way in which political offenders were treated in England before the régime of the right hon. Gentleman. This Return I quote deals with the County of Monmouth, and with persons not in the position of Irish Members, but of far humbler positions in life, men who were farriers, labourers, weavers, and so forth; and among the offences with which they were charged are unlawful assembly, riot, sedition, treason, breaking into houses, violent assault, riotously assembling in arms, stealing a shot-belt and dagger, conspiring to riot, and so forth; and in all these cases the prisoners were, after conviction, allowed the regular 1582 county allowance, as before trial, but were not allowed anything extra except by order of the surgeon; they wore their own clothes, had the gaol bedding, were allowed to write to their friends, and so on, and for part of the time they were supplied with writing materials. They were allowed, be it observed, to wear their own dress. I have quoted the Returns for the county of Monmouth, but you may go through the Returns for other counties and find the same exceptional treatment meted out to men who occupied humble positions in life. Then I may ask the right hon. Gentleman why this difference in treatment of political offenders now to that which obtained in England and to which the humblest offenders were subject in 1840? In 1840 the management of prisons was in the hands of the Visiting Justices, and the Home Office possessed no authority in the matter, but the Marquess of Normanby, who was then Home Secretary, on being communicated with by a Chairman of Quarter Sessions—Sir Eardley Wilmot, I think it was—in regard to the treatment of political offenders, pointed out that he had no authority himself, but he thought it extremely desirable that the magistrates should exercise all the powers available to them for the purpose of mitigating the prison treatment of these prisoners. Now the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who not only has very great powers, but full statutory powers not possessed by the Marquess of Normanby in 1840, has not yet even deigned a reply to the appeals made to him to make any representation to the Prisons Board for the purpose of rendering the treatment of these gentlemen less degrading and odious. I have endeavoured to discuss this matter without Party spirit, and regret that that should be introduced in, a matter of such gravity. I repeat and urge upon the Chief Secretary, does he question my authorities when I say that in every civilized country in Europe, including Russia—I do not know whether I can include Spain—the treatment of political offenders shows a distinct line of demarcation from that of ordinary criminals? I put it in a more concrete form. Does the right hon. Gentleman suppose that Mr. O'Brien, if convicted in France or Germany of such an offence as he committed in this country, would receive the treatment 1583 which, he has received here? I say disdinctly, No; he would simply have been detained in a fortress as a political prisoner. In regard to America, I may point out that there is no general prison supervision, every county has its own prison, and the exact number of prisons is not known; each county exercises its own control, and nowhere is the prison under the superintendence of the State.
§ MR. HOWORTH (Salford, S.)
I should like first to say that in the speech in which this Bill was introduced there was a remarkable tone and temper, which was extremely welcome on these Benches. In the next place, I would remark that there is a very great contrast between the terms of the Bill and the speech with which it was introduced and the arguments used in the House a few days ago, and repeated by the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) a few minutes ago, when he argued that the only way to meet this difficulty is by increasing and enlarging the dispensing power of the Executive. When I saw the Bill on the Paper, I thought that that most dangerous and difficult doctrine had been put aside, at all events, by Irish Members, in favour of a more logical and perfect remedy. If crimes and criminals are to be discriminated, the operation, it seems to me, can only be done either by a specific measure passed by the House which will classify crimes and criminals according to some standard, or—in what I consider the only satisfactory way—by giving an enlarged discretionary power to Judges and others who have to interpret the law to assign definite punishment for definite crimes. If we attempt in this House to discriminate offences on the ground that some are political and some are not, we land ourselves in the enormous difficulty which was specially remarked upon by the right hon. Member for Derby. I should like to take a broader view of this question than has been hitherto taken. We are not now discussing questions of transcendental ethics, for which work we are totally unfitted. We are discussing a question of positive law. Any offence against the law is equally a crime against the State, and stands on the same level; and where there is any discrimination in the methods and severity of punishment, it is not because certain crimes are more heinous to and immoral 1584 in themselves, but because they are more dangerous to the community. The more dangerous to the community the offence the more drastic the punishment. That is the only reason why, when sporadic crimes become prevalent, a new and specially severe punishment is imposed. It is because those crimes become more especially dangerous and epidemic that the punishment is increased, and not because there is anything specially heinous in the crimes themselves. If we measure the rationale of punishment by such a standard, it appears to me impossible to discriminate between crimes which are said to be political and those which are not political. The offence of high treason has always been visited with the highest and greatest punishment, yet if we are to treat it from the point of view of hon. Gentlemen opposite no offence is more clearly political. The hon. Member who has just spoken said that murder committed from a political motive was no murder.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES
I never made any such statement. What I said was that I entirely excluded cases of assassination and murder from the category of political offences so far as the incidence of punishment was concerned.
§ MR. HOWORTH
Of course I accept the hon. Member's statement, but I certainly thought that was the position the hon. Member had taken up. My memory must have misled me, and, apparently, other Members of the House were misled. But the statement of the hon. Member, as we now have it, reduces the argument to an absurdity when it is pressed to the length of saying that the crime of murder is not to be treated as a political offence. Why should the crime for which Orsini died not be so treated when other crimes standing on the same level in the minds of many men are to be treated in that way? The right hon. Member for Derby in 1882, when arguing, in one of the ablest speeches he ever made in this House, that it is impossible to treat treason and treason-felony as different in essence from other crimes, and as merely political offences, said—He could not agree that there was anything exceptional in the character of treason as a crime which deserved exceptional treatment On the contrary, he thought that almost all persons were in favour of its being dealt with in a similar manner to other crimes.1585 I present that as an answer to the arguments used by the right hon. Gentleman a few minutes ago. I have been, and still am, very anxious to meet with some definition by which political offences may be logically separated from ordinary crimes. The right hon. Gentleman ended his speech with an attempt at such a definition. He said, in effect, that offences of speaking or writing ought to be put in one category, and offences of active crime in another category altogether. I ask in all seriousness whether he proposes to treat as less dangerous and less worthy of punishment the man who tells another to commit murder or wound cattle than the man who actually does the act? I would also press upon the House that it is not merely the specific words used that must be looked to, but the meaning which the people who hear them put upon those words. I will not further refer to the former speech of the right hon. Gentleman unless my position is challenged; but it seems to me that in every possible way it destroys the argument now sought to be put forward. It is often said that it is a mistake to punish crimes by punishments which do not satisfy the public conscience of the people among whom the law has to be obeyed; and that it brings discredit upon the administration of the law when punishment is stretched beyond what the public conscience deems necessary. That is partially true. But, on the other hand, all history shows that the public conscience of a community is very often framed and limited by its Legal Code, and that communities become impressed with the gravity of offences against morals because they are on the Statute Book and because punishment for them is enforced. The Irish people, with all their many touching and endearing virtues, have, owing to a very cruel and brutal history, a different moral standard inbred in them from that observed in this country; and if that standard is to be altered, so as to make it more sound, it must be by putting upon the Statute Book enactments which will create there a moral standard more in unison with our own. I do not dispute, however, and am ready to admit, that disobedience to the law is sometimes directly encouraged by making punishment too degrading in certain cases, and, if a remedy is to be had, I 1586 am in favour of it. I think the only remedy whereby the punishment may be equitably adapted to each offence is by giving to the Judges themselves a greater discriminating power in treating prisoners and a wider power with regard to matters which are more of the nature of discipline than of actual penal enactment. In order to do this, I am bound to confess I should like very much to see some scheme for the reconstruction of the Irish judicial authorities introduced; and when a considerable reduction has been effected in the number of Irish Judges of First Instance, I should like to see the money thus saved spent in what I conceive to be a most necessary reform in Ireland—namely, an increase in the pay and an improvement in the status of the district magistrates, and to see also the limitation of the appointment to that class of men who have had some training as lawyers. I admit that it gives me pain to hear personal attacks upon individual Judges made in this House by responsible politicians, for such attacks must have a disintegrating effect upon public opinion and shake the faith of ignorant men in the neutrality of justice. At the same time I do not think that men who in Ireland have been made police magistrates, and who discharge the double function of interpreting the law and also of administering the police, should be paid such inadequate salaries as they receive at the present moment. You cannot with such salaries and with such a status secure the men most fitted for the position. If you would secure a better class of men, with a better training, you must give them an increased salary and a better status. When you have secured such a reform, you can, with every prudence—and in my mind you ought to—extend the discretion of these magistrates in apportioning punishment. That will be a more logical solution of the difficulty than enlarging the dispensing power of the Chief Secretary, or attempting, through a Bill like the present one, to apportion, as between different offences which cannot be discriminated, different forms of punishment.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
The closing passage of the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is a fine example of irrelevance. We are endeavouring to-day to persuade 1587 the House of Commons to protect a certain class of prisoners in Ireland against the stipendiary magistrates, who are the most unscrupulous agents of the Executive Government; and the hon. Member actually thinks it is relevant to that proposal to ask us to increase the salaries of these magistrates. That proposal appeared to be acceptable to the Chief Secretary; but I noticed that it brought a grim smile to the countenance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was, apparently, so much affected by it that he has already left the House. The hon. Gentleman opposite has ingeniously busied himself in fighting an imaginary case. He has enlarged on the difficulty of distinguishing by a definition between political and non-political offences; but we ask the House to make no such definition. We are sensible of the difficulty that exists, and what we ask the House to do is to declare that in the case of a certain specified class of offenders a distinction shall be made in their prison treatment. The last speaker has endeavoured, in a vague way, to establish a connection between political speeches in Ireland and crime; but I challenge the hon. Member to establish such a relation of cause and effect. The hon. Gentleman must be aware that a tribunal armed with special powers has been sitting for months past, and all its labours up to the present moment have absolutely failed to establish such a relation. And now, Sir, I wish to recall to the attention of the House what I feel is rapidly dropping out of view—I mean the Amendment now before us. The Amendment of the hon. Member for South Tyrone is a most curious production. The Prisons Act of 1877 was passed before that hon. Gentleman adorned the House; but that Act practically declares that it is expedient to make special provision for the treatment of prisoners convicted of sedition. The plea of the hon. Member, if accepted, would put an end to all legislation whatever, because it amounts to this—that a Bill for one purpose is to be rejected because it does not contain something else. The Irish Members have enough to do to deal with the case of Ireland. We claim that in regard to an exceptional Act, applied to our own country only, and working by means of exceptional tribunals, there should be an 1588 amendment of the law; and if the hon. Member for Tyrone will introduce a Bill to remove the grievances of anti-vaccinationists and Salvationists, and will not treat his own Bill, as he did another one the other day, as a farce, the Irish Members will give it a much better reception than the evasive and discreditable hostility which has been offered to their Bill to-day. I put to the hon. Member this question: If this Bill of ours be rejected, if it fail to pass, and if we introduce a Bill to deal more generously with the case of prisoners whose offences are not of a character usually associated with crime, will he, and his friends, support that Bill?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, South)
I have no hesitation in saying that I will consider any Bill he introduces on its merits.
§ MR. SEXTON
As the bird fanciers might say, the hon. Member has been struck under the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. There is too much of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in his reply to entitle it to attention. I invite the House to observe a contrast. Here is the hon. Member for South Tyrone—a man who has few admirers anywhere—attempting to perpetuate a system of torture which has been applied ruthlessly and shamefully in the case of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kildare; and here is the hon. Member for Kildare—a man of such gentleness of character and such culture and such high principle that he has many friends on both sides of the House, and few enemies any where outside of it. I have disposed of the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Tyrone. I can only tell him that, in my opinion, it is completely irrelevant to the Bill. I can hardly imagine that any Member of the House, except a Member moved by eternal affection for the Amendment, can bring himself to support it; and if the Government gives it any countenance, lean only conclude that they think any Amendment good enough to defeat an Irish Bill. Now, I come to the Bill itself, and I claim for it that, so far from proposing anything novel, startling, or questionable, it is in accord with the spirit of the law, and of the prison rules as they exist. Our opponents speak as if it were proposed that all 1589 prisoners shall be treated alike. We claim special treatment for one class of prisoners, and I enforce that plea by pointing out to the House that special treatment of classes of prisoners is at present the rule of the prison service. May I first refer to the case of debtors? The non-fulfilment of an order of the Court to pay a debt may involve a grievous wrong, and inflict the worst injury on innocent persons, even to the loss of their means of living; and yet, by a special rule of the Prison Department of Ireland, the debtor is saved from all the indignities inflicted on ordinary criminals. I now pass to the case of the Statute of Edward III. How does it happen that Father Stephens, when imprisoned under that Statute, was not subjected to any prison indignity; while Father Clarke, who was imprisoned under the Statute of Victoria, was treated as a common criminal? I may mention that by the Act of 1877 persons imprisoned for contempt of Court are treated as first-class misdemeanants. Where is the consistency of such a system? Now I come to the strongest case of all—that of seditious libel and sedition. Seditious libel is an offence which, in the eye of any Government, ranks next to treason in gravity. Incitement to sedition is incitement to rebellion and disorder, and sedition may provoke not merely the loss of individual lives, but massacres. It is an offence next to the capital offence, and it may, in certain cases, have consequences as grave, and even more grave, than those following upon treason. Yet under the Prisons Act of 1877, and under the rules framed in furtherance of that Act, prisoners for seditious libel and sedition are treated as first-class misdemeanants, and they are exempted from all those indignities which are inflicted in Ireland upon the men who attend a meeting of a branch of the National League, or who publish a report of the proceedings in a newspaper. I claim that no reason can be shown for inflicting these indignities and hardships upon prisoners under the Crimes Act, when they are not inflicted on prisoners for sedition. Now, Sir, since the passing of the Prisons Act of 1877 a situation totally new has been created in Ireland. I believe, if the Coercion Act had been passed before the Prisons Act, the House would 1590 not have hesitated to include in the Prisons Act such a provision as we ask you to agree to to-day. The Prisons Act contemplated conviction by an independent jury and sentence by an independent Judge; but many prisoners are now convicted by two itinerant Justices, who are paid servants of the Executive, and who can be appointed, promoted, and dismissed at the will of the Chief Secretary. Therefore, I say, a special case exists for the amendment of the Prisons Act, and for altering the prison rules, because the Government, by their coercive legislation, have created in Ireland a new kind of jurisdiction, a new offence, and a class of prisoners which was not in the mind of the Legislature when the Prisons Act was passed. Now, Sir, may I ask the House to consider for a moment the nature of the Coercion Act itself? How was it passed? It was passed through political capital generated by a crime—a crime which had been signally and memorably avenged by the suicide of the criminal. If it had not been for the forged letter, and the public opinion generated by that letter, it would have been impossible for the Government to break down the rights of the House of Commons in passing the Coercion Act, and they could never have prevented us debating the Bill in Committee and on Report, We should then have had an opportunity of debating the clause which enables the Government to treat political prisoners as ordinary criminals, which regulates the mode and extent of the punishment, and which enables the Government to subject political prisoners in Ireland to indignities. The Coercion Bill was passed by this House by an act of criminal fraud, and we are entitled now to ask for atonement. I hope you regret and deplore that fraud. I say our claim on you is exceptional, and we now call upon you, by passing this Bill, to do that which I have no doubt you would have done for us if we had been able to ask it when the Coercion Act was passed. Sir, that Act was a political measure, because it was passed against the will of the representatives of the Irish people; and there never is a case of a penal Act passed for a country against the will of the representatives of the people of that country unless it be a political Act. The Act was also passed against the will of one 1591 of the Imperial Parties in the State, and it is administered by the instruments of one Party, and in the real or fancied interests of that Party, and nothing else. Do Englishmen mean to say that an Act passed in face of the stern and resolute opposition of one of the Imperial Parties in the State is an Act which was passed against non-political crime? These facts are conclusive that the Coercion Act is directed, not against crime as ordinarily understood in any civilized country in the world, but against acts and words of a strictly political character. If the Chief Secretary had used his power, we should not have found it necessary to trouble the House with the present Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby never said a truer thing than when he stated that this question might have been met by administration without legislation. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who is ever ready with his evasive subtleties and superficialities, might to-morrow meet these cases by a set of rules for the instruction of the Visiting Justices; but be has refused to use his power, and tells us to procure an amendment of the law. Now we offer an amendment of the law, and we ask him to affirm that all or some of the prisoners under the Crimes Act are entitled, not to be treated as first-class misdemeanants, but, at any rate, to some special or particular mode of treatment. But what is the treatment we receive at the hands of officials in Ireland? The other day the Corporation of Dublin appointed a deputation of Justices of the Peace to wait on the General Prisons Board. But that Board refused to see the deputation, although it was composed of persons concerned by their office in the administration of the law and the preservation of order. The insolence which characterizes the Chief Secretary, Sir, pervades every part of the administration of my unfortunate country. In England it is easy to get interviews with departmental officials and even with Cabinet Ministers; but the paltriest clerk in Dublin Castle, by virtue of the insolence which is the dominant note of the Government, thinks he may slam the door of his office in your face. I ask the Chief Secretary to consider for a moment whether his supporters and friends are satisfied with his policy in this regard. [A Laugh.] He laughs at 1592 that, but I may remind him of the speech the other day of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, in which that right hon. Gentleman declared that if a Bill of this kind were introduced he would be inclined to support it. At the same time, I do not know whether any speech of the right hon. Gentleman, even in his own judgment, holds good for a fortnight. But if his speeches are of such perishable material, I think his declarations are entitled to some attention from the Minister responsible for the affairs of Ireland. But I would further remind the Chief Secretary that a distinguished Judge, who is a most pronounced Unionist, has attacked his policy, and I would beg the Chief Secretary also to note the change in the tone of some of the Unionist organs, such as the Standard, Telegraph, and Echo, both in London and the Provinces, as proof of the fact that public opinion is growing tired of this policy of torture, and would gladly see an end put to this policy of futile exasperation. Does the Chief Secretary think his policy has succeeded? He speaks of the diminution of serious crimes; but that has nothing to do with the case, because the Coercion Act was not passed against such crimes. Serious crimes, such as were committed the other day in broad daylight in Clare, are committed with impunity just in the very districts where all the resources and all the machinery of the Coercion Act has been diligently applied for a period of nearly two years. We are told that boycotting has diminished, but the figures about boycotting are mere vapour. They rest upon the word of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, or upon information conveyed to him by some anonymous clerk in Dublin Castle, and the right hon. Gentleman has refused to give any evidence about those figures. We have always challenged his figures, and we even say that the Government, from their late associations in Courts and elsewhere, are now in the position of persons whose evidence requires to be corroborated. The figures about boycotting were high two years ago, and why, Sir? Because this fancy barometer runs up and down in Ireland to suit the convenience of the Government. Two years ago the figures were high, 1593 because the Government wanted to pass the Coercion Act; now they are low, because it is the cue of the Government, because they want to say that the Act has availed to effect their object; and, Sir, the figures will be high again next year if you want to pass a fresh Coercion Act or amend the present one, and to back up another Pigott enterprize. I reject the figures on boycotting, as I reject any evidence offered by a Minister who declines to submit tests when challenged. I say, further, that the whole question turns on the number of evicted farms. The Lord Lieutenant spared a few moments from his sports last year to give us some figures on this subject; but those figures were blown to pieces by the hon. Member for Shoreditch, and the Lord Lieutenant has never dared to repeat them. If the prison treatment of the Government in Ireland has failed to permit the leasing of evicted farms, it has availed to do nothing. I am here to say, on the authority of those who know every county in Ireland, that it has failed to effect your object. I challenge you to produce your figures and support them by details, and I have my friends' authority for saying that, although the Government have put agitators, editors, clergymen, and tenants into prison, and compelled them to associate with the basest and most degraded of criminals in the hours of exercise, those agitators and those editors, clergymen, and tenants were more powerful than ever; they have greater political influence, and that has been the effect of your course of persecution and exasperation. The number of evicted farms is greater now than it was when the Coercion Act was passed. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who says that nothing could degrade a man who was conscious of an honourable motive. I do not think your prison treatment can degrade any man, but your intention is to degrade him, and, whatever the effect may be upon his own mind and heart, he has the right to resist your base and personal motive. The Chief Secretary sees that the indignities of his prison treatment have failed to render less keen the opposition of the men he has incarcerated. They have returned to the prison again and again. Have they not pursued the same course after as before imprisonment? 1594 Are they less strong in the eyes of the community? Is their political power diminished? The Chief Secretary must answer every question of this nature in the negative; and these negatives are a better condemnation of his system than any arguments which may be used. What about the men who have not yielded; what about Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Carew? The Chief Secretary, in a mood of after-dinner gaiety, ridiculed the message which I sent him, acting under the spur of an urgent sense of public duty. Hon. Gentlemen may not know the fact that I had become aware from the public prints that my hon. Friend and colleague and countryman, Mr. William O'Brien, had been thrown down by prison warders first upon his face, then upon his back, his arms twisted, and then that he was dragged across the yard, and so treated that he was driven into a state of insensibility. ["Oh!" and laughter.] You laugh. He was brought into such a condition—a gentleman the equal of any of you in character, and the superior of any of you in intellect—that the Visiting Justice who saw him sent for a clergyman, a proceeding which is generally regarded in Ireland as heralding the danger of death. Is it to be said that I, who was responsible for the conduct and peace of the people, was not bound—when I heard that the prison authorities of Clonmel were in communication with the right hon. Gentleman on the subject, and that he might be forming a decision on the subject that very night—to avert the danger of the death of my hon. Friend, and the danger of an insurrection the next day in Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman objects to have a telegram sent him at 11 or 12 o'clock at night; but he does not object to hustle Mr. O'Brien from Clonmel Gaol to Tullamore at 3 o'clock in the morning. At what hour does he make arrests in Ireland? His myrmidons through the country make arrests burglariously, by arresting men and taking them from their beds at night. In the message which I sent him I denounced his conduct with regard to my friend. The right hon. Gentleman took upon himself to ridicule that message before a pack of cowards who thought hey were laughing privately. But the right hon. Gentleman is not a spontaneous humourist. I think that very 1595 often when the jest is on his lips there is graver matter in his heart; because, although it is true he ridiculed the message I sent him, yet, three days later, he yielded the whole question. Mr. O'Brien has not yielded to him. Mr. Carew has not yielded to him. Is it worth his while to stake the cause of the Union upon a conflict of this kind? I told him in my message that his treatment was not only brutal, but illegal. I am of that opinion still. Can the right hon. Gentleman lay his finger upon any rule which entitles the prison authorities to deprive a prisoner of his clothes by the use of physical violence? By the rules of the prison, if a prisoner disobeys in the matter of discipline, the Governor may send him to 24 hours' confinement. There is a rule for repeated disobedience, which provides that the Visiting Committee may send the prisoners to close confinement for a longer period. There is no rule, and there is no suggestion, that a prisoner who refuses to wear the prison clothes should have his clothes taken off by violence. Nay, more; there is another prison rule that no prison officer shall strike a prisoner except in self-defence. Did the right hon. Gentleman violate that rule or did he not, when he authorized his subordinates to seize Mr. O'Brien, to throw him down, and to reduce him to insensibility? Was that or not a violation of the rule which directs prison officers not to use violence to prisoners except in self-defence? I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, if the prisoner refuses to wear the prison clothes, and if you take off his own clothes, whether you are entitled to leave him naked? The rules declare that nothing shall be done to injure the mind or body of any prisoner. Are you entitled to leave a man naked for hours and days together, to the probable danger of his life? I say you are not entitled, and that course is manifestly illegal. The Statute of 1877 declares that no rule shall be passed in contravention of the Act of George IV., which states that every prisoner is entitled, not as a matter of favour or privilege, but as a matter of strict legal right, to two hours' exercise every day in the open air. If you throw a prisoner down and then leave him naked, you deprive him of his right to exercise in the open air, and, in that, I 1596 say you commit a manifest violation of the Statute. But what is the use of talking of illegality? These crimes are committed. The Public Prosecutor in Ireland is the aider and abettor of these crimes. He will not consent to prosecute, or, if he does, he packs a jury for an acquittal. Let me point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there is no indemnity for crime. These acts may not be punished at the present moment; yet Public Prosecutors, like other functionaries, are changed, and it may be that not only the warder, the doctor, or the Prison Commissioner, but possibly the Minister himself, may have to stand his trial for committing and abetting these offences, before a jury which will not be packed for an acquittal. Sir the policy of the right hon. Gentleman may be a policy of exasperation. If that be his policy, he will have to avow it here. If that be his policy it will fail. Because, great as are the forces of exasperation at his command—and great they are by reason of the law, and lamentably great they are by reason of his individual disposition and character—great as those forces are, they yield in potentiality to the forces of patience and hope—forces inspired in the hearts of the Irish people by the policy of that illustrious statesman the Member for Mid Lothian, and by their confidence in the just and generous disposition of the people of this country. I shall not attempt to follow the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir W. T. Marriott), who pretends to say that a movement for an Irish Republic is political, while a movement for Home Rule is criminal. That is the learned Gentleman's contention, and I leave it to the appreciation of the House. I say the just and generous sense of the people of this country will not much longer tolerate a system by which men, for political acts, are seized, stripped, and thrown down in their prisons. They will insist that Irishmen, engaged in a political movement for the emancipation of the tillers of the soil, and the effectuation of the autonomy of their country, shall be treated, even in prison, as honest men, and not as criminals. Sir, if the right hon. Gentleman accepts this Bill, he will act in the spirit, as I have shown, of the existing law, and will show that he has the grace and the statesmanship to retrace a false step, and he will merit the approval that 1597 always attaches to a frank confession of error. But, Sir, if he refuses this Bill, we shall receive his refusal with equanimity. His refusal will not injure the cause which we have at heart, for that cause, thank Heaven! is beyond his power to injure. His refusal will only render more speedy the ruin of his own administration, and still further abridge that fast-narrowing span of time during which any of my countrymen will have to submit to the insolence, the meanness, and the imbecile cruelty of his administration in Ireland.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester)
Sir, with whatever pleasure we may listen to the periods of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, I think many of us feel cause for regret, which I certainly share, that he should have taken the discussion off the lines on which it was running before he got up, and that he should have introduced into a controversy which purely concerns the business of administration so many burning topics that have recently had their place in Irish controversy. Personally, I regret it myself, because I shall be obliged briefly to deal with some of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman in the last part of his speech—points I should gladly have left untouched, because they are not closely relevant to the discussion before the House. The right hon. Gentleman has taken the opportunity of giving a version of an incident which occurred in Ireland a short time ago, and shortly before the Liberal Unionist Banquet in which I took part, and he justified his action in sending these post-prandial telegrams by saying that he was made acquainted through the public Press that Mr. O'Brien had been knocked down, thrown on his face, thrown on his back, and knelt upon; his arms twisted, he himself dragged across the prison yard, and reduced to a state of insensibility, and had caused his friends to fear for his life. I do not think the hon. Gentleman in his speech at all exaggerated the statements in the Freeman's Journal to which he referred. But I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman knew enough of the source from which that information came to entertain a scepticism which might have prevented his sending me a telegram at such a very unseasonable hour, and that he might have waited 1598 until he obtained more authentic information as to the veracity of the account he received. As the right hon. Gentleman has taken this opportunity of repeating these calumnies, I take the opportunity of again giving a most absolute and explicit contradiction to every one of the statements made by him. If any hon. or right hon. Gentleman in the House has any doubt as to the enormous character of the fictions to which the right hon. Gentleman has—no doubt unconscious of their character—given currency on the present occasion, he has only got to read the Report of Dr. O'Farrell. He will then, see how utterly baseless and untrue they are, how cruel to the prison officials concerned, and how unjustifiable it is for newspapers to invent and for hon. Gentlemen to propagate fables of that kind.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Then the Lord Mayor of Dublin proceeded to accuse me of illegal action because the prison officials used physical force to compel obedience to prison regulations. But under the prison rules every prisoner is required to put on prison clothes, and I am advised by those whom I have consulted on the point, and who are fully competent to advise me, that the prison authorities are justified in using such force as may be absolutely necessary in order to carry the prison rules into effect. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would prefer that the prisoner should, in such a case, not be coerced, but punished. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that the preferable course. I can only say that we avoided it because it was the least humane course. I do not deny, if this sort of scene is to be repeated when any gentleman thinks he ought not to put on prison clothes, that it may be more convenient to adopt the mode of treatment suggested by the hon. Gentleman. But I must protest against the assertion that the prison officials left Mr. O'Brien naked. If we are to use the English language at all, let us use it with some accuracy. Can you properly describe a man who is left in a prison cell (recollect heated to a temperature of 60 degrees or 70 degrees), with an excellent suit of 1599 clothes beside him, as being left naked? Our conduct may be good or bad, and I am not going to justify it or the reverse; but I do assert that it cannot properly be described by the phrase leaving the prisoner naked. The right hon. Gentleman has asked me whether I think my policy in Ireland has suceeded. I can give him a very brief and clear answer to that question. I think it has succeeded and is succeeding. I think it has succeeded and is succeeding amid difficulties which have never been placed before any Government previously. It has succeeded and is succeeding in the face of a conspiracy, in which Members both below and above the Gangway appear to be engaged, to make the enforcement of the law impossible. That success is not demonstrated merely by the statistics of agrarian crime, though it is amply demonstrated by them; it is also demonstrated by the statistics of boycotting, upon which the hon. Gentleman has commented. He says these statistics are pure fiction, and he bases that statement on the idea that every official connected with these statistics is untrustworthy. I feel sure that that opinion, though shared by hon. Members below the Gangway, is not shared by right hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite. The statistics of boycotting are as carefully preparad as the statistics of agrarian outrage. I assert boldly that the result of every examination of the facts I have been able to make, checked by independent reports from all sorts and conditions of men, convinces me beyond a doubt that the improvement which has occurred in this Department of Irish administration—the enormous diminution of the vilest form of intimidation which has ever been preached or practised on a large scale—is such that, if no other result had happened from the passing of the Crimes Act 18 months ago, this diminution would have amply justified it. The right hon. Gentleman says, "How about boycotted farms?" The information I have received about boycotted farms confirms the information I have received with regard to other questions raised by the hon. Gentleman. Boycotted farms are being taken more freely.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman opposite, who probably 1600 agrees that to take a boycotted farm is a crime against society—
MR J. ELLIS
The right hon. Gentleman must not put that into my mouth. I asked the right hon. Gentleman for facts and figures with regard to his statement.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I beg to tell the hon. Gentleman that if I were to give the names of those who have taken boycotted farms, and make them public. I should be carrying out the intention which I understand the hon. Gentleman himself to disclaim, but which is not disclaimed by his allies below the Gangway—I should hand over the persons who have exercised that legitimate right to the vengeance of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. I assert that there is no country in the world which would consider these crimes as in any sense political. Point out to me a civilized country which would allow the forms of intimidation preached and practised by Members below the Gangway to pass unpunished or punished lightly, because, forsooth, the persons who had preached and practised them had declared they did so in the interests of the independence of their country. That plea would be swept aside without a moment's consideration; and, though I admit that the English law recognizes no distinction, except in the one case of sedition, between crimes political and crimes non-political, I do not admit that, in this matter, we are behind our neighbour. Some useful hints are supplied by a Commission appointed to deal with the difficult subject of extradition. The Commission reported in 1878. Upon the Commission were the late Sir Alexander Cockburn, Lord Selborne, Baron Blackburn, Mr. Russell Gurney, Sir Richard Baggallay, Sir William Brett, Sir James Stephen, and "our trusty and well-beloved Sir William George Vernon Harcourt, Knight." This Report said, very properly, that purely political offences ought to be excluded from extradition, and it gave some sort of general account of those offences. The Report went on to say—It becomes a very different thing when, in furtherance of some political, or pretended political, purpose, foul crimes are committed.I think that distinction drawn by this Commission is exactly the right one. In 1601 so far as the offence is political, leave it unpunished or treat it differently from other offences as you please; but the offences now under our consideration are not political. They are directed against the individual and not against the State, and it is for that reason that I protest against many of the distinctions which hon. Gentlemen opposite have attempted to draw upon this subject. I leave now with some reluctance the speech of the hon. Gentleman, and go to some of the arguments advanced in the early part of the discussion; and here I am bound to reply to the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. I am sorry he is not here. I am aware—and he told the House—that he had to go away on business; but I confess that, while one of the most agreeable duties I have to perform is that of answering the right hon. Gentleman, the pleasure is greatly diminished when the right hon. Gentleman is not present to hear my reply. The right hon. Gentleman was this afternoon in one of his statesmanlike moods. He only lapsed from that under the temptation of attacking Dr. Barr, and his attack on Dr. Barr was not only violent, and so unjustifiable that I must say I think the manner in which the Member for Derby spoke of Dr. Barr because he wrote a letter, not in connection with his prison duties in England—not having relation to any functions he is now asked to perform in Ireland—but merely having a retrospective reference to duties which he did perform there, and in respect to the performance of which he has been the victim of some of the basest attacks ever made upon a public man—I say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby's attack on Dr. Barr is not only most unjust, but most ungenerous. He has made himself the bravo of Gentlemen below the Gangway. He has attacked a man whom they are always attacking, and has done his best to blast the character and ruin the prospects of one who has always done his duty fearlessly and always performed his public functions most ably and conscientiously. I turn now to the more properly argumentative part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He said that all these difficulties would have been avoided by reasonable administration—in other words, he suggested that the Executive Government 1602 should have interfered with regard to a certain section of Crimes Act prisoners, and if they had done so this difficulty would never have come before us. The right hon. Gentleman's doctrine on this point is not only very bad doctrine, but it is entirely new doctrine. It is a doctrine which was not believed in by himself when he was at the Home Office; it was not believed in by the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division when he was Chief Secretary, but was invented in the happy freedom from responsibility of political opposition. The right hon. Gentleman now says to his political opponents—"You are responsible for the way in which the Act is administered in our prisons." The House will remember the long and eloquent answer given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby to a question not addressed to him on the prison treatment of Mr. Davitt. From that answer, one would have supposed that the right hon. Gentleman, when in office, was in the habit of telling the prison officials what they would have to do, and the medical officers of the prisons what they would have to prescribe. That is the gloss the right hon. Gentleman now puts on the matter, but it was not the version the right hon. Gentleman, as Home Secretary, gave to the House of Commons, when asked in the House how Mr. Davitt was being treated. This is his answer, and it is very important; for it shows the doctrine always held, aud still held by responsible Ministers. He was asked, on the 7th of February, 1881, how Mr. Davitt was being treated, and he answered—When Mr. Davitt was taken into custody, I ordered that a medical report should be made as to the condition of his health, and that report was accordingly made last Friday. The report states that he was suffering from bronchial catarrh, to which, it is said, he has been subject. Thereupon"—that is, in consequence of the medical report—"I issued general instructions to the effect that he should be treated with all possible indulgence, and that the greatest possible attention should be paid to the state of his health.Just so; but my point is that in 1881 he did not take the view which he took today, and that he left it to the prison doctor to say what the treatment of the prisoner was to be. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say—I ha ye also directed that particular attention should be given to his having proper diet, 1603 proper rooms, and proper bedding. He will be kept apart from the other convicts, a matter which is possible by the rules under which persons placed on probation in confinement are treated.Again, you will observe, that, in defending the treatment of Mr. Davitt, it is not to his own dispensing power that the right hon. Gentleman appeals, but to the rules to which every Secretary of State is subject. On a later day, February 11, 1881, in reply to a question, he says—Sir, visits to persons in prisons are made under certain fixed rules, and those rules cannot be safely departed from at the instance of any particular class of persons, whether Members of this House or otherwise.He adds—I wish to add, however, that in consideration of the fact that Davitt was suffering from indisposition at the time of his committal, I have, on the application of a private friend of the prisoner, directed that a special visit from that friend shall be permitted, in order that the friends of Davitt may be satisfied as to the state of his health, and that he is not suffering any physical hardship in consequence of his detention.I want to point out that, whereas the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby and Lord Spencer now say that the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary ought to interfere with the particular punishments meted out to prisoners, in their statements in Parliament they constantly referred to the prison rules; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division, in mentioning the amount of privilege given to Mr. Harrington, when he had been relieved from the disagreeable incidents of prison discipline, never had the courage to announce this doctrine to the House which we now hear of for the first time in all its naked absurdity—that it is the business of the Executive Government to modify, at their own will, the prison discipline in favour of particular prisoners. The right hon. Member for Derby says that Home Secretaries are always modifying prison treatment, and he actually takes as an illustration the case of infanticide. Now, what is the law with regard to infanticide? Under the law as it at present stands, the Judge has no option whatever but to inflict the extreme penalty of death Of course, in these circumstances the absurdity is corrected, not by an admini- 1604 strative act, but by the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, and if the right hon. Member for Derby—that champion of Prerogative—were to say that the case of infanticide is a precedent, that would only show that he does not understand the law under which Crimes Act prisoners are committed. Then, the right hon. Gentleman says that, as we had failed to remedy the difficulty by administrative means, the magistrates ought to have got us out of the difficulty by inflicting different sentences. I would like to point out that, although you may listen by the hour to speeches on the other side of the House with regard to the infliction of sentences by resident magistrates in Ireland, you never hear that there is any such thing at all as an appeal from those sentences. Now, all these cases are cases in which an appeal is possible. It is stated though most untruly, that I gave directions or hints to the Resident Magistrates that they were not to make these men first-class misdemeanants. But I have no power over the County Court Judges. They are as independent of me as they are of you; they are as independent as the superior Judges in Ireland. They did mitigate sentences and make prisoners first class misdemeanants in some cases. Why, then, did not Mr. Harrington appeal if he thought he ought to be made a first-class misdemeanant, seeing that the County Court Judges had shown no reluctance to put men into that class? But Mr. Harrington did not appeal, and that is sufficient to prove that in Mr. Harrington's opinion the sentence would not have been modified by the County Court Judge upon appeal. Now, observe, we pride ourselves on the fact that the progress of democracy means the progress of equal laws. But if you carry out the principles recently developed on that Bench you will have anything but equal laws. I cannot imagine anything more detrimental to the progress of equal laws or to the equality of sentences; I cannot conceive anything against which a man interested in equality should more sternly set his face than the doctrine now enunciated from the front Opposition Bench. I hope the House has followed the controversy closely enough to understand that it is not in the interest of humanity, but of politics, that this agitation has 1605 been in the first instance started. I could admit that the people of this country who have been affected by the agitation are influenced by motives of humanity and of humanity alone. But those who started the agitation, by their own confession, have been moved by political considerations, and political considerations almost entirely. Mr. O'Brien stated, I think in the Pall Mall Gazette, that the primary object of his action with regard to prison treatment was to make the government of Ireland impossible. A similar declaration was made by the hon. Member for East Mayo, confirming the original statement of Mr. O'Brien, and implying that all this agitation about prison clothes, treatment, and diet had been started for a purely political object and in the interests of a purely political Party. Therefore, though that should not modify any conclusion we may come to on the merits of the question, let us understand that it is not humanity but politics that is at the root of the whole matter. Why is it that in this Bill Crimes Act prisoners alone are contemplated? Why, because it is only in relation to Crimes Act prisoners that you can get up political excitement and manufacture political capital. You would never get a "National Protest" in favour of the victims of the Vaccination Acts or the Bribery Acts, or for the purpose of condemning the way in which members of the Salvation Army are treated. They have no political value, and therefore it is that, year after year, you allow their fate to go uncommented upon in this House; and at this moment, when you bring in a Bill which is far more applicable to them than it is to any Gentleman sitting below the Gangway, even within the four corners of that Bill there is no reference, however remote, to the lot of any one of these classes of prisoners. But will this Bill satisfy the Gentlemen themselves who have brought it in? Here I note a curious and interesting contradiction. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, in explaining his views, told us that, roughly speaking, the persons he wanted to relieve were the persons who made speeches and wrote articles. That, however, is not the view of the hon. Member for Cork and his Party sitting below the Gangway, for the hon. Member for Cork, at a dinner at the Eighty Club the other day said that "Larkin was convicted of 1606 a political offence—just as much a political offence as those committed by Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Carew." Now, what was Larkin committed for, and who committed him? Larkin was a man tried before Chief Baron Palles for resisting the process of the law, and Chief Baron Palles sentenced him to 18 months' hard labour, and at the end of that time to find security for his good behaviour, which would, as the learned Judge said, give an opportunity to those who induced Larkin to commit this crime to come forward and find the sureties. Now, the House will observe these two doctrines; the one propounded above the Gangway, that the man who makes a speech or writes an article, and he alone, is a political offender, and should be treated exceptionally; and the far more logical doctrine expounded by the hon. Member for Cork, that the man who violently resists the process of the law—is, not less than the man who incites him to that act, a political prisoner, and is to be treated as a first-class misdemeanant. This Bill will not satisfy either the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby or hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, because it is founded on no principle, will stand no examination, and will not bear a moment's argument. Remember that if you pass this Bill you will make first class misdemeanants of men guilty of boycotting, of riot, of unlawful assembly, of taking forcible possession, and of promoting the objects of illegal associations. Now, are you really prepared, in the face of experience and Irish history, to carry out a policy like that? You had the experience in Mr. Forster's time of making these people first-class misdemeanants, and the result was that it ceased to be a punishment and became almost a luxury to be sent to prison. I, therefore, venture to say that I have shown, in the first place, that administrative interference is not the proper method of dealing with this Question, and not the method that any previous Government has adopted, and not the method that this Government could adopt without grave danger to law in this country and in Ireland. I have also shown, in the second place, that if the Courts of Law have not carried out the intentions which the right hon. Gentleman thinks they ought to have carried out, it is because persons have not appealed to them. In the third place, I 1607 have shown that this Bill, if carried, would satisfy neither the Member for Derby nor the Member for Cork, and I have suggested what I believe to be the case, that if you are really to carry this Bill into effect, and make the grave crimes I have enumerated only punishable by imprisonment as first-class misdemeanants, you would rob punishment of that which alone makes it valuable or justifiable—namely, its deterrent effects. A few words in regard to my own view of this question. I have been told over and over again that there is a great tide of public opinion arising upon this subject. I am not at all prepared to say that the judicious efforts of the gentlemen who get up the "national protest" may not have produced an effect upon the public mind in some parts of the country. I do not doubt it at all, but it is poor statesmanship to make irrational and wholly unjustifiable alterations in the fundamental law and procedure in this country in obedience to any mere passing phase of public opinion. While I say that, I also fully grant that it is equally poor statesmanship not to try and find out what there is defensible, rational, and logical at the bottom of the feeling which at any particular crisis has been excited in the country. I am utterly unable to accept, the particular solution which has been given either by this Bill or in any of the speeches which I have heard from gentlemen who support the Bill. It seems to me irrational, indefensible, and destructive of equality before the law; but I quite admit that there may be, and very likely is, something entirely justifiable in the feeling which has been aroused, and of which the Bill is the illogical and unreasonable expression. With regard to prison rules I do not profess to speak as one who has either time or inclination to study the question, and I also have to recognize that while the tendency of modern legislation has been in the direction indicated in the rules embodied in the English Act of 1865, and the Irish Act of 1877, by which a rigid uniformity of practice has been imposed on every prisoner, be he whom he may, and be he condemned for what offence he may. That is the whole tendency of modern legislation and our prison discipline both in England and Ireland has been subject to so many and such recent re- 1608 vision at the hands of Royal Commissioners that I confess I have the utmost doubt of my own views on the subject, and I should reluctantly venture to differ from any conclusions at which the Royal Commissioners arrived, or which have been embodied in the legislation that has been from time to time passed by Parliament. Yet I confess at the same time that for my own part I never have been able to understand on what principle such things as prison clothes, hair cutting, and matters of that kind have been enforced on every kind of prisoner, wholly irrespective of his condition. They are classed under the prison rules, I believe, as matters appertaining to health; and I apprehend there is no doubt whatever that the origin of all those rules was a sanitary origin. But though they arose simply from considerations of health and cleanliness they have been enforced by a rigid iron rule of uniformity on every prisoner, even although he did not require the application of them either on the ground of health or of cleanliness. Consider a case which I heard of only a few hours ago. I heard of a respectable woman, the wife of an English tradesman, who got into some trouble by refusing to have her child vaccinated. She was brought up before the magistrates, was convicted, and went to prison; she was forcibly stripped and put into the bath; she was in fact treated in precisely the same manner as if she had been the dirtiest of tramps taken up in the streets. ["Shame!"] You may say "Shame," but recollect that these are the rules which the Royal Commissioners have adopted, and which you have sanctioned and acquiesced in for years. It certainly appears to me, in so far as I understand the philosophy of punishment at all, that these kinds of puntshment which do not inflict discomfort, but which are thought by some persons to inflict degradation, need not, and ought not to, form part of the penal system, because the evil of that kind of punishment is this—that the hardened criminal is not punished by it at all. The hardened and habitual criminal suffers no discomfort, no degradation by being compelled to put on the prison clothes and all the rest of it; and to the tramp who has not a good suit of clothes I believe it may often be a positive luxury to get the prison clothes. There are other classes of rules that are 1609 equally absurd. Controversies have been raised about my action in Ireland in regard to priests. Now, the question of the clerical habit of the priest is only one of a series of similar problems which you may have to meet at any moment in your treatment of prisoners in regard to their religion both in England and Ireland. Take, for instance, the case of Jews. If you rigidly enforced your prison rules, the Jew necessarily would suffer in his religious feelings; and the result is—I believe illegally—that some modification has been made in the English prisons in respect to Jews. A corresponding question arises in the case of other religions and nationalities. As I have just stated, these rules as to prison clothes, dietary, and the like, as in those questions of religious feeling, have a cast iron uniformity which recent legislation has imposed that appears to me to be highly absurd. Many suggestions have been made on both sides in favour of classifying prisoners according to their offences. I have myself no objection to that experiment being tried; but I am told by those possessing experience, that it is almost certain to fail; and unless there be very strong authority for doing it I should not embark on such a futile enterprise. But I think it is eminently worthy of consideration by the prison authorities, both in England and Ireland, whether we cannot remove whatever may be repulsive in the administration of the prison rules in England and Ireland. Of course, I need not say to those hon. Gentlemen who have done me the honour of listening to my innumerable speeches in the House on this subject, that I see no distinction that can or ought to be made in favour of prisoners who were committed under a particular Statute passed the year before last. I do not think that they ought to have or deserve to have any special treatment; but they ought to receive, like all other prisoners, the benefit of any modification that may be made in the prison rules of England or of Ireland. But the prison rules are embodied in an Act of Parliament, and they cannot be altered in England without another Act of Parliament. In Ireland, I believe, the case is somewhat different. I believe that the Lord Lieutenant in Council, with the sanction of Parliament, may make such modification to the rules as I have suggested. My present idea of dealing with 1610 this matter—mind I pronounce no final decision—is to ask one or two gentlemen in whose judgment and knowledge of prison rules we have confidence to investigate this Question from the point of view which I have, however imperfectly, attempted to sketch to the House; and possibly by their aid we may be able of remove any shadow or semblance of grievance connected with any class of prison treatment, either in this country or in Ireland. I cannot sit down without expressing in the strongest language my conviction that it is not the Gentleman who have urged boycotting, who have urged resistance to the law, and who have carried on that agitation which, unhappily, has been so persistent in Ireland, who are entitled to special consideration in this matter, but those other persons to whom reference has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone. Those who have been condemned under the Vaccination Act and in connection with the Salvation Army are the class of prisoners who chiefly command our sympathies, and who ought to receive the benefit of any modification which may be made in the law.
MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle)
I think, Sir, after listening to the last quarter of the right hon. Gentleman' speech, we may feel that there is some good in the "National Protest" after all. The right hon. Gentleman said, before the end of the first part of his speech, that the proposal embodied in this Bill were not humanity but politics. Yes, but then afterwards he said he would assent to the principle of that proposal in the interests of humanity.
MR. J. MORLEY
The right hon. Gentleman says "certainly not," but after recapitulating the very ideas and arguments that were used below the Gangway this afternoon, he says with the utmost innocence "That is my view." If that is now his view, has it been his view for the last two years? Why, he now says it is perfectly natural that the wearing of the prison clothes should be objected to! But what did he say only about a week ago? He said that Mr. O'Brien, because he objected to his hair being cut and to wearing the prison clothes, was the victim of monomania. Now he is going to alter the whole system of prison discipline in order to get himself out of a scrape. Some of 1611 his remarks with reference to my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby struck me as hardly worthy of him. He says that my right hon. Friend is playing the part of a bravo for gentlemen below the Gangway. Yes, but are there no bravos for you above the Gangway? Where do you go for your bravos? It is said that there is a conspiracy between us above the Gangway and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. I should have thought that "conspiracy" was a very awkward word just now. The law of conspiracy is a two-edged sword, and who knows but that in the chances and changes of this mortal life we may yet live to see—perhaps before long—the First Lord of the Treasury himself coming down to this House and using the very arguments which we are using this afternoon on behalf of some of his very oldest friends. The Chief Secretary quoted the Report of the Commission of, I think, 1874, and said that those who signed that Commission, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, ought not to make any discrimination in favour of the perpetrators of foul crime. In that we all agree. But in the case of the prisoners at Miltown-Malbay, who were sentenced because they refused to give a glass of drink to policemen who did not want a glass of drink, will the right hon. Gentleman contend that they were guilty of a foul crime? Does he say that Mr. Harrington, who was guilty of nothing more serious than the publication of reports of the meetings of a suppressed branch of the Land League, committed a foul crime? If so, would he have had the alternative of escaping his punishment by engaging not to commit it again? In the matter of Dr. Barr, I am persuaded that my right hon. Friend did not say one word too much. Why, the Home Secretary himself the other day admitted, in answer to a question, that he had rebuked Dr. Barr and requested him not to repeat his offence. The right hon. Gentleman says that this Bill is brought in to make political capital. Now, this Bill I hope, and assume, is going to be supported by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, because he said the other day that he would submit that on the whole question it was a fair subject for discussion, whether the gentlemen, or the majority of those gentlemen, 1612 convicted under the Crimes Act should or should not be treated as first-class misdemeanants, and he added—If a Bill or Resolution were brought before the House dealing with the subject, I confess I should be inclined to support it.Of course, it is not to be supposed that my right hon. Friend made that remark with a view to make political capital. I am perfectly sure that on this side of the House, almost as much as on the opposite side, there is a feeling of repugnance to the policy which the right hon. Gentleman, has been carrying out. [Cries of "No" on the Ministerial side.] Someone says "No" but if there had not been that repugnance we should not have had these philosophic doubts of the right hon. Gentleman. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman opposite does not understand the Bill. I almost think he cannot have read it, because he said, and said truly, it would be absurd to treat the perpetrators of certain violent acts with special favour. But these acts are acts that are dealt with under a provision in the last line of the Bill. The Bill says that this favour is not to be extended, unless it is declared and adjudged that the offender has been guilty of assault, or attempted assault, on the person. And if these words are not enough, what would be easier than to put into the Bill a proviso meeting that case? You have only to except from the Bill the third sub-section of the 2nd section. The right hon. Gentleman referred to another class of cases, but these I would point out were cases tried before a jury; and what we ask is, that as by a special Act we have referred special conduct to a special tribunal, there is a primâ facie case for treating the prisoners convicted under that Act in a special manner. The right hon. Gentleman did not think fit to deal with a single one of the most powerful arguments brought forward by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, who put a case the force of which was irresistible. The right hon. Gentleman did not answer the challenge as to the directness of connection between speeches inciting to crime and the perpetration of murder and outrage. The right hon. Gentleman has gone off too much on the question of the difficulty of defining a political prisoner. No definition is wanted of political prisoners. All that we want is an amendment of the administration of this special and 1613 exceptional Act, so that offenders against its provisions shall not be treated as if they were criminals under the ordinary law. The right hon. Gentleman did not say what course he and his friends are going to take as to the Amendment. It may not be a Parliamentary expression, but I should think that a more dishonest Amendment was never brought before the House. There is no reason, because Salvationists or Vaccinationists deserve exceptional treatment, why we should refuse this afternoon to meet what is an admitted grievance. If you do not approve the Bill, why do you not move a direct negative? The Government will take what course they please. These promises of the right hon. Gentleman are not to me very satisfactory, because I am afraid he will be apt to be content with an authority which will not satisfy the House, and certainly not us who sit on this side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman has refused to bring in a Bill to satisfy hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. I regret that refusal for the sake of the House, and for the sake of Ireland. If you had supported this Bill you would not have satisfied only hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, but you would have also satisfied the conscience and the deeply-stirred feeling of the great bulk of your own countrymen on both sides in politics.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 193; Noes 259: Majority 66.—(Div. List, No. 17.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ It being after half-past Five of the clock, and Objection being taken to Further Proceeding, the Debate stood adjourned.