Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [3rd March] to Question—
That, Parliament having constituted a Special Commission to inquire into the charges and allegations made against certain Members of Parliament and other persons, and the Report of the Commissioners having been presented to Parliament, this House adopts the Report, and thanks the Commissioners for their just and impartial conduct in the matters referred to them; and orders that the said Report be entered on the Journals of this House."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
And which Amendment was,
To leave out from the first word "House," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "deems it to be a duty to record its reprobation of the false charges of the gravest and most odious description, based on calumny and on forgery, which have been brought against Members of this House, and particularly against Mr. Parnell; and, while declaring its satisfaction at the exposure of these calumnies, this House expresses its regret for the wrong inflicted and the suffering and loss endured, through a protracted period, by reason of these acts of flagrant iniquity,"— (Mr. W. E. Gladstone,)—
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question"
§ Debate resumed.4
(1.10.) MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
When the Government have seized upon a private Members' day the responsibility rests with the Government to make a quorum. It would be much more convenient if this Debate were carried on upon ordinary Government days, and we were allowed to proceed with the important business set down in the Order Book for to-day. I must say, having regard to the character of this Motion, it would have been well for the Government if they had prevented this hour's delay that has occurred. Last night, when by effluxion of time the Debate was adjourned, I was observing that Mr. Soames, having ransacked one hemisphere for all the miserable perjured ruffians he could obtain to support his case went to another hemisphere, and the telegrams read by my hon. Friend (Mr. Harrington), in reference to Mr. Soames' dealings with traitors and dynamitards in America, throw an important light and have an important bearing upon the proceedings before the Commission. The Attorney General seemed to be quite unaware that these telegrams had been sent and received, and apparently understood nothing about them. Who, then, was the counsel so frequently mentioned in those telegrams? Had Mr. Soames such power over the Attorney General that he could use his name in any way he thought proper? The one counsel who was alone responsible was the leader of the English Bar, who pledged his professional and political reputation to establish his case. I wish to emphasise what I said last night on the spur of the moment, and I will mention it again and again in every place I speak. I put it in the form of a question, and. I ask is this account we have had given for the first time the explanation of Lord Salisbury's refusal to accept as an actual fact the forgery, the falsity, the fictitious character of the letters attributed to my hon. Friend the Member for Cork? Was it because there was a hope that by means of these American negotiations, this raking up and buying of evidence, something' might be forthcoming to galvanise into life again the charges in the Pigott letters after Pigott had committed suicide? Lord Salisbury, I take it, was waiting for some evidence by which the 5 letters might practically be substantiated by which to slur over the Pigott affair, and then Lord Salisbury would be received as the prescient statesman whose knowledge rightly gauged the height, and depth, and breadth of the iniquity of Irish Members. That was the meaning of the non-acceptance of the disclaimer of the hon. Member for Cork. It was this statement of Lord Salisbury that led to the celebrated scene in the House, when my hon. Friend the Member for Cork challenged anyone by word, by look, or gesture, to insinuate that he was the author of those letters. I will ask the Attorney General, when he comes to make his reply, when did he know of the Soames' cablegrams to Sheridan and Kirby in America? When did he permit his name, as responsible counsel, to be mixed up with these attempts to buy dynamitards and informers in America? Was it the knowledge or inkling of this American correspondence that caused him on the floor of this House to acknowledge he drew up the so called apology for the Times when, during the early days of the proceedings before the Commission, Pigott's villanies came out? Was it with the hope that Pigott's letters might be galvanised into life again that he and others tried to make political capital out of the degradation and moral death of colleagues in this House? Lord Salisbury, I submit, must have had knowledge of this business with Sheridan and Kirby. Is it a fair supposition that every step in the proceedings by the Times was known to the Cabinet? I assert it is, and for this reason: If the Attorney General, a lawyer of great experience, felt it necessary to consult the Lord Chancellor and also Lord Salisbury in reference to a foul and abominable criminal case, surely he would consult the same functionaries in reference to a case likewise of a criminal character, involving the moral life or death of 64 of his colleagues in this House? Surely Lord Arthur Somerset's character is not more precious to him than the character of 61 Members of Parliament. The hon. and learned Gentleman consulted Lord Salisbury on a matter of much less importance. In a criminal case I should have thought he would have consulted the Solicitor General and his own legal colleagues, but instead of that he consulted the Lord Chancellor; 6 and my belief is that the Attorney General must be in the habit of consulting Lord Salisbury and the Lord Chancellor in reference to the administration of justice as regards Irish Members. I put to him a distinct question. Did he take the same precautions in reference to the Irish Members as he took to protect Lord Arthur Somerset's character? If so, that throws a light on the proceedings, for every one of them must have been conned over as a Cabinet matter. It is a connecting link between Printing House Square and Downing Street, and associates them so that there is no distinguishing the one from the other. If the hon. and learned Gentleman did not do so, then he considers our character and reputation of less importance than the character and reputation of Lord Arthur Somerset. Or perhaps the distinction is that he consults the Lord Chancellor when it is a question of securing an acquittal, while he acts upon his own responsibility when his efforts are directed to securing a conviction. Sometimes counsel who are defending a criminal start different theories in the absence of each other, and Members of the Government in their defence have started different theories. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has called the work of the Commission "An important judicial proceeding." The Home Secretary, who I might almost say has a faculty for blurting out unfortunate expressions, calls it a "State inquiry." Is it comparable to a trial as between man and man, or is it a proceeding carried out by a great political Party in the State, through the form and machinery of justice, to crush and destroy political opponents? Tin; right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary drew a very entertaining comparison between our actions and the conduct of the editor of the Times, between the latter and United Ireland. It was certainly u strange comparison, but we do not forget that the right hon. Gentleman himself was introduced to public life by the editor of the Times as a cross between a Tory and a Fenian. The right hon. Gentleman invites us to consider the origin of the inquiry and traces it to the time when the First Lord first offered a Special Commission. I will go a little further back, and take the origin of the inquiry from the 18th of April. 1887. 7 That was when the forged letter appeared, and I very well recollect it, for it was on that very evening that a Division was taken on the Second Reading of the Coercion Bill. It was openly stated by Mr. Mac Donald on oath that the letter was inserted at that time in order to influence that Division. The rule which now closes debate at midnight was not then in force, and what occurred was this. My hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast got up pretty early in the evening and denounced the letter as a manifest and clumsy forgery. My hon. Friend the Member for Cork rose close upon the approach of midnight. The Chief Secretary for Ireland wished to give the Times a helping hand, for I say the Cabinet and the Times were hand in hand, and he rose at the same time as my hon. Friend, and, though there were loud calls for my hon. Friend, the right hon. Gentleman availed himself of the position of a Cabinet Minister and refused to give way. He made an unusually long speech, extending far over midnight. I do not analyse his motives, but the effect was that the repudiation of the letter by my hon. Friend in all its scope and fulness could not get into the next morning's papers. So we see the Times and the Treasury Bench acting perhaps in unconscious harmony, but at the same time working together. Then came the celebrated meeting on the eve of the Special Commission between the First Lord of the Treasury and Mr. Walter, as old friends, with a young associate, Mr. Buckle, editor of the Times, and immediately after this meeting, the incidents of which were elicited from the right hon. Gentleman after a most tremendous cross-examination across the floor of this House, then came the Special Commission. Now, I am speaking within the hearing of many who have had considerable Parliamentary experience, and I am stating a fact when I say that in the appointment of Commissions for the elucidation of truth in regard to any matter it is the invariable practice for the leaders on the Front Opposition Bench to meet Cabinet Ministers from the Treasury Bench in order to come to an agreement in a friendly way as to the names of the Commissioners. So much has this been the rule that I remember a case—I do not care to mention the names, that of a most upright and honourable gentleman, against whom not 8 the slightest imputation of unfairness or want of good faith has ever been made, but I am willing to put the name on paper—I remember a case in which a Commission being appointed it was intended by the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian to include a certain Irish Judge. But the Government were given to understand that the Tory minority would vote against his nomination, and sooner than have an angry conflict, in which the character of a Judge would be concerned and the composition of a judicial Commission brought into question, this name was eliminated and a name satisfactory to both parties substituted. But how did this present Government act in regard to this Special Commission? They gave us the names of throe Commissioners with the choice to take them or leave them. In vain were various suggestions and tentative proposals made for an amicable agreement in reference to the Judges. No; the Judges were selected by the Government with, probably, the advice and concurrence of the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney General, or two of the prosecuting counsel. I recollect nothing like this in all English history. We arc familiar with jury packing in Ireland, and we know it is a custom to pack public meetings in England. In our meetings in Ireland we address audiences anywhere in the highways and byeways, in hall and market, but I know a ticket precaution is considered necessary here. Perhaps it is an easy transition from jury packing and packed meetings to the packing of a Special Commission. Now, I do not feel unkindly towards the Commissioners, I do not say one word with the view of impugning the high character and honour of the three Judges selected, but having the whole Judicial Bench of England as a jury panel, you selected, three who, from their antecedents, would have a bias against Irish Members, and you gave us no choice. First, the President, a very high-minded Judge, Sir James Hannen, earlier in his career— it was his misfortune more than his fault—was prosecuting counsel in a celebrated trial known as the Manchester Martyrs' case. It was during the Fenian Times of 1867. An attack was made upon a police van at Manchester, and murder followed. The lock of the van 9 was forced by a shot, and the policeman inside, Serjeant Brett, was killed. Undoubtedly, though the assailants did not intend to take life, they were legally guilty of murder. Four of them were found guilty, and three were hanged. Against the fourth man there was not a shadow or tittle of evidence to justify his sentence, and he was saved by a strong petition to the Crown from the reporters who followed the case in Court, and showed there was really no evidence against him. Out of this case arose great popular commotion and excitement. This was Sir James Hannen's first connection with Irish troubles. As regards Mr. Justice Smith, I will only say he is an Irish landlord who happens to have had his rents reduced by the judicial action of the Land Commission. He was selected as Judge in reference to a question in which the action of Irish Members in relation to landlordism and the English garrison in Ireland, came up for consideration. Mr. Justice Day was selected because he had been on the Commission of Inquiry into the Belfast riots, a question on which fierce Party feelings were aroused, and he would have been something more or less than human if he had not a strong inclination and bias one way or the other—as you supposed, in favour of landlordism. In this Commission Report you see, although the Commissioners have done their best to be fair between man and man, you see distinctly the inclination of these Judges. First, let us look at what they say in reference to the destruction of documents. The wholesale, wilful, and premeditated destruction of documents by Mr. Houston is not commented upon, but there is another case of loss of documents in which the Land League was concerned. These documents were scattered when the League was suppressed, were searched for and not found, and the Commisssoners are extremely angry at their non-existence. But they let off Mr. Houston of the Times, though he absolutely stated that he destroyed documents, when a subpœna was served upon him to produce documents that were ear-marked at the time. Observe, also, the manner in which the Report deals with similar matters as they affect the Irish Members, and as they affect the Time. The Commissioners expend the violence of their wrath on certain articles pat Wished in United Ireland and the Irishman, 10 but when the pith of this foul conspiracy against us is touched upon, the Commissioners give a bare recital of the letters with the opinion that they are forgeries as if they were merely drawing up a dry legal document. Now, I object very strongly to the Resolution the First Lord has submitted because, I think, it casts a slur upon the English Bench. It is, I think, a wrong thing to congratulate English Judges on their fairness and impartiality. It is assumed Judges are fair and impartial, or they would not occupy their position. It is simply little less than an insult to compliment them for impartiality. The parties have changed places, for we are the prosecutors now. But how are we to judge when we have not had the evidence placed before us? You say, adopt the Report. I wonder who in the Cabinet started that word. I am perfectly certain there was an amusing conversation over the word "adopt." One would say "Why not accept it. If we accept we shall have to act upon it, but adopt binds us to nothing." To adopt the Report means not to act upon it. Serious charges are levelled at the Irish Members, charges of intimidation and boycotting, why don't you act? Why don't you expel us, and retire from Parliament yourselves, and contest some of the Irish constituencies with men you have expelled? Why meet us on a social equality if you believe we are criminals? No: this is only done for the elections, and it has not succeeded very well up to this. The Solicitor General is not, unfortunately, present. He is a person playing for his own hand all through these proceedings. He refused to hold a brief for the Times, but at Doncaster he said—The Tories would take care that the results and the decisions of the Commission were accepted in their fulness.It was not "adopted," but "accepted in their fulness." The people of the country are convinced—if they are not, it will only require a few more letters of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, and a few more speeches from the hon. Member for South Tyrone, to convince them—that this Commission has been, from first to last, a mere attempt to galvanise personal hostility against a political Party. You speak of the indemnity clause—you can't prosecute us because of the indemnity clause. But the indem- 11 nity clause was forced in the House by the Government, and violently, indignantly, and strenuously resisted by the Irish Members, who said they would not take any advantage of it. The clause was forced in the House by the Government in the interest of the Times and Mr. Soames. But it is evident that no indemnity clause can affect this House dealing with its own Members, for if we were indemnified ton Times over you could expel us, and say we are unworthy of seats in Parliament. The Homo Secretary and the First Lord of the Treasury have said they are rejoiced at our acquittal from all personal charges. Is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham rejoiced, for he has said the Times showed public spirit in bringing these charges? Is the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale rejoiced, for he has said the weight of the evidence lay with the Times as against us? Whether our opponents rejoice at our acquittal or not, they utilised the military and police forces of the Queen, both in this country and Ireland, to bring about our conviction. Pigott, as long' as he was useful to the Government, was guarded and kept out of harm's way. He was kept in the custody of two sergeants of the Royal Irish Constabulary until it was thought his escape would be useful to the Government. Under whose command were the two Irish policemen protecting Pigott? Under the command of Shannon, of the Times. Shannon of the Times was a solicitor's clerk, who was given the run of the English prisons by the Home Secretary, and of the Irish prisons by the Chief Secretary. He was brother of the man in charge of Pigott, and was Colonel Turner's private secretary, and was for months employed in Dublin Castle tabulating evidence to show Irish Members' complicity with crime. Why was Pigott allowed to escape? Why was Lord Arthur Somerset allowed to escape? Because their escapes were useful for political purposes. Now, the prisons of England were open to the Times' agents. We find you were willing to release two of the wretched and debased Invincibles if they would only throw degradation and dishonour on the Irish Members. We find that witnesses swore that they were coached in their evidence by members of the Constabulary. Indeed, I take the liberty to say that in this Commission 12 Irish methods have been introduced into English administration to a measure unknown in this century. I find that two Irish Resident Magistrates—Mr. Plunket and Mr. Stack—who were not examined, were close upon three months in London. Why were they here? Simply to instruct the Attorney General and the Cabinet. We find Mr. Soames applying to the Government officials for information, as if the Attorney General was not every day of his life in constant league and association with these Government officials. In order that everything should appear straightforward, formal application was made for information. The Chief Secretary is seldom at a loss for an answer, but he has no reply to the question how it came to pass that an Irish constable was authorised to visit, on behalf of the Times, prisoners in English gaols. The Home Secretary caused some merriment by saying that the constable wont as the representative of Mr. Soames. How could an Irish constable become the representative of Mr. Soames? Could he have done so in any ordinary civil transaction between man and man? Of course not. It was because the Government were the prosecutors and we the respondents that all the forces of the Crown were used against us. Upon one day there was no one ready to give evidence before the Commissioners. But I find that on that day there were in England no fewer than eight members of the Royal Irish Constabulary in uniform, 10 in plain clothes, besides five district inspectors, and four members of the Dublin police. At this time three district inspectors, including Shannon, were in Dublin Castle tabulating statistics of crime. What was done when we endeavoured to tabulate statistics of crime? Five or six young men in Kerry went about from house to house endeavouring to show from the evidence of the people that the Irish Members had nothing to do with the outrages in Kerry. They were hunted by the police, their documents were taken from them, and they only got their papers back after six. weeks' fighting in this House. Now, what was the course adopted by Irish Members? The Commission was granted to enable Members to clear their characters; but what happened in the case of two Members? Mr. Edward Harrington, one of the Members for Kerry, knew that there were emissaries 13 of the Times in Kerry, and he warned the people through his paper, the Kerry Sentinel, not to receive those emissaries, or give them any countenance. For 16 months there had not been a Press prosecution in Ireland, but no sooner did these paragraphs appear than the hon. Member was charged with reporting meetings of suppressed branches of the League, and sentenced by Mr. Cecil Roche to six months' imprisonment with hard labour. Mr. W. O'Brien, in his paper, United Ireland, said something disparaging of the Attorney General. That, no doubt, was contempt of Court; but the Judges, having regard to all the circumstances, did not inflict any punishment. That occurred about the early part of November, but the Government felt they must show Mr. O'Brien he must not speak disrespectfully of the Attorney General. Accordingly, for a speech he made in the previous September they sentenced the hon. Member to three months' imprisonment with hard labour. Now, I desire to be told how it came to pass that the Times' agents were able to enter English prisons and visit prisoners without the prisoners' own request, and, what is more remarkable, without the presence of a warder? Malley and Mullet, two Invincibles, are prepared to swear that these infamous agents offered them freedom if they would only testify against the Irish Members. Could anything be more reprehensible than that a man should enter a prison cell and offer the prisoner his liberty if only he would bear false witness against his neighbour? The great Pigott was allowed to see Daly, the dynamitard, in prison. He got permission on the 20th. of November, but early in October the Attorney General knew what Pigott's character was. Why was Pigott allowed to see Daly? Was it to concoct a perjured tale against the Irish Members? Shannon, the miscreant of the Times, was allowed to see Delaney, another Invincible, in the Maryborough Prison. Shannon represented himself as a Crown official, and administered to Delaney an illegal oath. I have here a letter written by Delaney, on the 5th of November, 1889, to a Crown official whose name we have not given yet. In that letter Delaney asks for the fulfilment of the promises as to his release, showing that he had been got at by others besides Shannon. The Commission having commenced its sittings on 14 October 22nd, and it being necessary to economise as far as possible, and drag on the evidence in order to keep Pigott away, the circular dated November, 1888, which was read in the House on the 12th April, 1889, was issued by the Irish Government, asking the police to collect evidence to be used in the Times case. Well, this circumstance, together with the other facts I have narrated, shows clearly that between the Government and the Times there was a close and intimate connection, and that, as the Government would be prepared to take advantage of the Commission if it succeeded, we Irish Members are only acting fairly by ourselves, and by the Government, in seeking to drive home the advantage we have gained by the failure of what we regard as one of the grossest conspiracies ever entered into for the purpose of driving men from public life and discrediting' the cause of a people. One of the miserable charges hurled against us was that seven of oar Party, in the year 1879, were determined if they could to bring about a separation between England and Ireland; and another wretched charge was that we had been guilty of intimidation. Well, Times have greatly changed since 1879; but I suppose none of the seven Gentlemen who have been found guilty of the first of these charges will do anything but glory in it. Under the circumstances of that day, they were justified in seeking separation, but I would remind the House that the Irishmen who were the most ardent enemies of England at that time have become her warmest friends, thanks to the conciliatory policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. They delight in England and in English audiences. These quondam traitors going' amongst the English people are received with an enthusiasm which would not be exhibited towards right hon. Gentlemen opposite; and even amongst the classes there is a reaction setting in against the bitter persecution to which Ireland and its representatives have been, and still are, subjected by the Government and the Times. They are fair-minded people. They do not like to see men hunted down, and, above all, they do not like to see men hunted down by a mean, mercenary, metallic tyranny. They cannot shut their eyes to the fact that the persecution to which the Irish Members have 15 been subjected has been a source of profit not only to hirelings, but to Members of the Government themselves— even to the First Lord of the Treasury. W. H. Smith & Son must have made thousands and thousands of pounds by the sale of the terrible libels published against ns by the Times. Will the First Lord of the Treasury make restitution for all the libels which have been circulated by his firm? As to the statement made by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Lees) yesterday in the course of his recantation, namely, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had said that the Act of Union was the chief cause of all the desire for the separation of England and Ireland, whether or not that was a correct representation of the views of the right hon. Gentleman, there was not the slightest historic doubt that there was no desire for separation in Ireland until 1795 when the Union policy was initiated and Wolff Tone, who was in America and had always wished for separation, delighted at the policy of England, came over to Ireland saying that in the Act of Union he had received his credentials for action. I remember, from my reading of history, that on one occasion no fewer than 16 gentlemen spoke in a debate all against the Union, on the ground that it would have the effect of promoting separation between the two countries. The Member for Mid Lothian, on Monday, pointed out that the Union had been brought about by massacre, force, fraud, and treachery, and the right hon. Gentleman never said a truer thing than when he declared that Mr. Pitt had brought about the rebellion in 1798. The Government of the day instigated and promoted the rebellion in order to carry the Union. No fewer than three leading military commanders resigned their post because they were honourable soldiers and would not be parties to goading the people into rebellion. Lord Clonmell refused to attend the Irish Privy Council any longer for the same reason. Of the 42 Chief Secretaries we have had in Ireland, Lord Castlereagh was the first—and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. A J. Balfour) is the last of that order—and what did he do? Why through an informer he, for 18 months, knew every step taken by the people, every method adopted, every word spoken, but he allowed the rebellion to 16 grow until such time as he could steep the country in bloodshed, and a Unionist historian, has told us that his policy cost 70,000 lives. So much for the massacre. Now as to bribery. I do not think the success of the present Irish landlords— one of whom has obtained a quarter of a million from the public purse under Lord Ashbourne's Act—can be contrasted with that of the gentlemen who were bribed in the Irish Parliament. Three millions were spent in bribing 164 of the 300 Members of the Irish Parliament, exclusive of the £1,260,000 paid for the purchase of nomination boroughs. A perfect cloud of peerages was created both for Ireland and the United Kingdom. So grave in fact was this scandal that Mr. Lecky has declared that the Irish Peerage is a record of acts not of honour but of shame. The Act of Union was supported by 164 Irish representatives and opposed by 120, and of the 164 there were only three who went away without a gross metallic bribe in their pockets. Moreover, in the Irish Parliament, out of 300 Members there were 116 place-men, whilst out of the 558 Members in England there were only 52 place-men. Am I wrong, therefore, in saying that the Act of Union was obtained by bribery, coarse, vile, metallic? Should we, I ask, be men making a right use of the hearts and brains God has given us if, remembering these things, we did not endeavour to bring about a reaction? Then, as to force, the men of 10 Militia regiments who were Protestants, and who had helped to put down the rebellion, received bounties of from £6 to £8, to go to England and abroad, and they had no sooner gone than their places were filled by Englishmen. The Government would not trust to Irish Orangemen to destroy the legislative independence of their own country. Then, it is needless to point out how fraud was practised in procuring the Act of Union. Many Irish Members were induced to accept the office corresponding to the Chiltern Hundreds in this House, and their places were filled by nominees of the Government—officers of the army and navy, and others, some of whom were never in the country at all. And a fraud was perpetrated upon us, when we were promised equal rights with England. Have we had equal rights? You have given us 88 Coercion Acts, and your oppression has culminated in the terrible charges inquired 17 into by the Special Commission, the object being to destroy our reputation, and, if possible, sacrifice our lives. We are charged with having been guilty of intimidation. Well, I have no doubt that intimidation was practised, and would to God it had been practised in the 40's, particularly in 1846. The late Mr. Forster, when a young man, saw some of the scenes of misery which took place in Ireland at that time. It is related of him that on one occasion he went into a cottage, having first been obliged to burst open the door, and found a starving peasant lying on the floor, his father leaning over him and chafing his hands. Mr. Forster went to the fire, made the kettle boil and prepared a cup of tea for the starving creature, who, on opening his eyes, said "I thought, Sir, you were the Angel Gabriel come down to assist me." Such scenes as that, Sir, would have been general all over Ireland of recent years if we had not resisted the injustice and tyranny to which our countrymen have been subjected by intimidation. In 1848 a million of our people died from starvation, although the country contained food enough to feed three Times the population of the country; but that would not have been the case had Ave known the value of intimidation. We know it now, and since 1879, by its means, have saved hundreds of thousands of our people from starvation, and have brought comfort to the comfortless. For this we are called criminals. We glory in being so considered and in being accused of making attacks on the so-called English garrison. As to your Report, take it. We care nothing for it; the certificate we want, and the certificate we are receiving, comes from the English people outside this House, whom yon no longer represent. The positions are now reversed. It is you who are now the accused and we who are the accusers. The hon. Member who made his recantation speech yesterday showed us what is the feeling' of the English public, when he said, "If I were only to go into the Lobby with you I should be considered a great hero." So ho would—in the best sense of the term, for he would have been, a hero in his own heart and conscience. He said he did not know how he would be considered now, but if I had to draw his political character I should liken him to the young man referred to by Dante who 18 made the great refusal. There are many Conservatives who will go into the Lobby in support of the Motion of the leader of the House, knowing full well that they are inflicting a wound on their fellow Members, and that it would be more honourable to sacrifice Party than to vote with it. They will carry their Motion by their mechanical majority, but we tell them that their decision will be reversed, and that very soon. Motions carried in this House have been reversed centuries afterwards, but we are not going to remain centuries under this stigma. It will be reversed even before Home Rule is carried. (2.20.)
§ *(2.40.) Mr. A W. JARVIS (Lynn Regis)
I think the House will admit that the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian must sorely have taxed the ingenuity of himself and his Colleagues who were responsible for drafting its terms. I sympathise with the hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House for the dilemma in which they were placed by the Report of the Commission, but I cannot congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues upon the result of their deliberations, which, we are led to believe, were not only numerous, but protracted. The Amendment, to my mind, begs the whole question of the Report. The Resolution of the First Lord of the Treasury asks? he House to adopt the Report and to thank the Judges for their just and impartial conduct. The Amendment virtually refuses to adopt the Report and ignores the greater part of it. We are led to believe, therefore, that although the right hon. Gentleman, in the able and eloquent speech which he delivered at the commencement of this debate, said he was bound to admit the impartiality of the Report, there is some doubt in his mind as to the justness of the decision arrived at by the Commissioners, and, although he would ask the House to consider it a matter open to some doubt, whether the verdict is just or not, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would lead the country to believe that the verdict was a triumphant acquittal of Gentlemen below the Gangway. I consider that proposition an absurd one and I believe no one recognises the absurdity of the suggestion in his heart of hearts more than, the Member for Mid Lothian himself. We 19 are told from the platforms on which hon. Gentlemen speak, and in the Press, that Members below the Gangway have been triumphantly acquitted of every charge brought against them by the Times newspaper, and yet the Member for Mid Lothian throughout the whole course of his speech described the Resolution of the First Lord of the Treasury as a Vote of Censure upon Members below the Gangway. One would have thought that if the real opinion of the right hon. Gentleman and his followers is that this Report of the Commission is a triumphant acquittal, they would have been only too glad to have seen such a verdict entered upon the Journals of the House. Possibly, on second thoughts, Gentlemen opposite are gradually and unwillingly realising that the acquittal is not quite so triumphant as they would in the first instance have led the country to believe, or why should they ignore the judgment of a fair and impartial tribunal upon points equally if not more important than those upon which the right hon. Gentleman expresses his approval? And why should the hon. Member for North-East Cork publish statements in the paper for which he is responsible— United Ireland—which only deals with those findings of the Commissioners which either have not been established or which may not have been proved? A very different thing to being disproved. Is it because they are unable to trust the people of this country to form a fair and impartial judgment upon their own consideration of the ease, or is it that they would impugn the justice and impartiality of the English Bench and cast a slur upon the three Judges who have conducted this inquiry, and who on the first appearance of their Report the journal which represents the opinions of hon. Gentlemen opposite, described as high-minded, independent Judges sitting' in the enjoyment of universal esteem? I am inclined to think that it is for the first reason. They are aware that unless a different complexion is put upon the case than that laid down in the terms of the Report, their cause will be shattered in the country when the real means by which it is fostered and promoted are shown to the people of the United Kingdom. But, whatever may be the reason for this course, the right 20 hon. Member for Mid Lothian cannot select points from the Report of the Commission to suit his own fancy and for his own political purposes, and ignore other points which show that some of his former opponents and present allies below the Gangway have been members of either treasonable or criminal conspiracies. The Member for Mid Lothian, in the course of his speech, admitted that there were a certain number of hon. Members who sat below the Gangway, who, on former occasions, had expressed ideas favourable to the separation of Ireland from England, but he said that that idea among hon. Gentlemen from Ireland is now dead. I observed that when the right hon. Gentleman made that statement it was not greeted with the cheers below the Gangway which he might naturally have expected. What were the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman in moving his Amendment? They were chiefly two. He said that these charges were matters of ancient history, and that what happened at all to support them, happened in the years 1880, 1881, and 1882, in Times of great distress in Ireland. And ho went on to argue that the agitation in 1879, 1880, and 1881 had been productive of great good, because it had induced him to bring to the consideration of Parliament the Land Act of 1881. With all due deference to the right hon. Gentleman, I consider that that is a very dangerous doctrine for a statesman to teach. If we may continue the argument, it follows that it may be considered by hon. Gentlemen legal for agitators to stir up sedition and to incite to intimidation which may produce crime, with full knowledge of the effect which that intimidation produces, in order to force their views upon the consideration of Parliament. In 1880 the right hon. Gentleman told us that the Clerkenwell outrage and the murder of Sergeant; Brett, for which Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien were condemned to death and executed, brought the Irish Question within the range of practical politics, and caused him to introduce the Land Act of 1870. In 1890 he tells us that the Land League agitation, and the crime which naturally followed from that agitation induced him to bring forward the Act of 1881, and possibly in 1896 he will tell us that it was the 21 policy of fear and the dynamite outrages which took place in this city which brought about his sudden conversion to Home Rule. He quoted a speech from Lord Beaconsfield, delivered in this House in 1844, in which be said it was the duty of Parliament to correct evil features without revolution, but the doctrine of the Member for Mid Lothian seems to me to be that it may be lawful, under certain conditions, to stir up revolution, in order to induce Parliament to consider claims which any party may wish to bring forward. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton yesterday preached the same sort of doctrine. He told us that it was to a great extent the effect of Bristol being in flames, and of the outrages in Birmingham in 1832 which carried the Reform Act of that year. All I can say is that I consider that a very dangerous doctrine for statesmen of the position of the Members for Mid Lothian and Wolverhampton to preach. Nor do I consider that the historical parallel of the Member for Mid Lothian was a very happy one. He described two classes of Roman Catholics in the reign of Queen Elizabeth—one a large and loyal class, and the other a smaller class, chiefly influenced by ecclesiastical emissaries from abroad, who were constantly plotting against the Queen's life; and he said it was not the duty of the large and loyal class to interfere with what was being done by the smaller and disloyal class. I presume he intended to compare the National League with the larger and loyal class, and the Clan-na-Gael with the smaller and disloyal class. But he did not tell us whether his historical researches had led him to discover if any member of the larger and loyal class had ever taken a treasonable oath against Queen Elizabeth, such as many members of the class to which he compared it took when they joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood. In a debate of this sort it is necessary to examine the whole Report, and not to deal with isolated passages from it. It is absurd to emphasise a small part of the Report to suit the political exigencies of one political Party or the other. But I am confident that everyone on this side of the House, as well as on the other, possesses a feeling of satisfaction that some of the charges most severe and damaging in 22 their character have not been established against hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. Nine charges were brought against them, and every Member who has spoken in the debate seems to have his own version of what was charged, and also of the Report of the Commissioners. But there is no getting away from the text of the Report, and I maintain that it is absolutely proved against seven Members of this House that they, with Mr. Davitt, established and founded the Land League with one object, and one object alone, and that was to promote the absolute independence of Ireland, to make her a separate nation, free from the control of this country. And although the hon. Member for Cork is not included in that list of seven persons, I myself consider that he sailed very near the wind when he talked at Cincinnati, in February, 1880, of it being their object to continue the agitation, whether in America or in. Ireland, until the last link was destroyed which kept Ireland bound to England. We have heard in recent years a great deal about the golden link of the Crown, but I am quite certain that the impression left by that speech upon those who listened to the hon. Member for Cork, and I happened to be in Cincinnati myself that night, was this, that having put his hand to the plough he would not look back till even that golden link had been severed. In another speech, delivered by the hon. Member in the City of Cork in January 1885, he said:—We cannot under the British Constitution ask for more than the restitution of Gtrattan's Parliament, but no man has the right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation. [Great cheers.] No man has a right to say to his country, 'thus far shalt thou go, and no further,' and we have never attempted to fix ne plus ultra to the progress of Ireland's Nationhood, and we never shall!That speech could have left but one impression upon those who listened to it, and that was that if the National League and those associated with it desired that their policy should be the absolute separation of Ireland from England, he for one was not going to refuse to lead the van. I consider it also proved up to the hilt by this Report that 42 Members of this House, including the Member for Cork, have been members of a criminal conspiracy, and carrying out their objects 23 by a system of cruel coercion and intimidation. We have heard a great deal in recent years about coercion in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down described the Government of Ireland as at present administered by the Chief Secretary in Ireland as a "mean, mercenary, metallic," tyranny, and Gentlemen be low the Gangway are continually talking of the Government of Ireland as a system of tyrannical coercion. We arc used to that. But very often we find those hon. Gentlemen saying in the next breath that coercion in Ireland is futile and useless. I have often wondered when I have heard the Member for North-East Cork describe the system as futile and useless, and of no moment to him and his Colleagues, why they make such a fuss about it, and why they go whining about the country complaining of the restrictions put upon them under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman? We have often maintained on this side of the House that the present system is one that will prevent coercion, and I think the finding of the Commissioners on this point proves us to be absolutely in the right. There are two coercions in Ireland—one that of the Chief Secretary, which is a coercion to protect the loyal, and to enforce the law, and the other the coercion of the National League, the object of which is to bring about disobedience to the law, and to create a reign of terror in the country, such as we have never experienced, hon. Gentlemen may take exception to that statement, but I would ask whether it is or is not a reign of terror when people are prevented from carrying out those contracts which they have voluntarily entered into, when in consequence of the system of coercion carried on by the National League, people are not allowed to buy from or to sell to whom they please, when businesses are destroyed and men are prevented from carrying on their lawful occupations in life; and also when they may even have to answer for their loyalty with their lives. Well, Sir, hon. Gentlemen have been acquitted of the charge which the Times newspaper made, that when they denounced crime they were not sincere in their denunciation. I am very glad that they are acquitted from such a terrible charge. We upon this side of the 24 House never made any such charge against them; we have only said that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway did not denounce intimidation, although they did not actually incite to crime in so many words, and it has been proved that they incited to intimidation which intimidation produced crime, and that they persisted in the system with a full knowledge of its effects. It conies to this, that although they are not actually engaged in pulling the chestnuts out of the fire they were adopting the more cowardly practice of inciting and abetting those who were thus occupied. It has been proved that hon. Members of this House defended persons who were charged with crime. It has been proved that they compensated persons who were injured in the commission of crime, and that they supported the families of those who were convicted or injured, but it has not been proved that they subscribed to testimonials or assisted by money incriminated persons to escape justice. I do not mean when I say that it has not been proved that it has been disproved; that is a very different thing. All we can say is that the Commissioners were not very clear on that subject, because the books of the National League had been withheld. Now, why were those books withheld if it was possible for them to disprove those charges? If it had been in the power of hon. Gentlemen opposite to disprove those charges, why did they not produce those accounts, and if they failed to do so, surely the country will draw the natural inference that their production would scarcely be favourable to the cause of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. It has also been proved that hon. Members opposite abstained from condemning the action of the physical force party in America in order to obtain the assistance of that party. Crime and outrage we all know to be the very life-blood of the Clan-na-Gael conspiracy, and if the National League accepted the assistance of that conspiracy without condemning the means by which that murderous association was maintained, they must have been accessory to the crimes committed by members of the Clan-na-Gael. You may just as well argue that if a man is supported by funds which he knows have been obtained by burglary, although he himself has not actually committed the offence, he is 25 not equally guilty of theft. But it has been proved that the hon. Member for Cork did not know, or rather it is not proved that the hon. Member for Cork did know, the manner in which the Clan-na-Gael was collecting the funds which were sent over for the support of the National League. I have always regarded the hon. Member for Cork as a very shrewd and astute individual, and I should have supposed that ignorance of the means by which his Party was supported, and of the way in which that Association was maintained, would have been the last thing I should have attributed to the hon. Gentleman. I have always considered the hon. Member to be more moderate in his views than many of those who sit around him, but, like many others who have set a stone rolling downhill, he has found himself absolutely unable to control either its direction or its velocity. We have not forgotten the Chicago Convention of 1886. We must not forget that the hon. Member for the City of Cork and the National League were represented at that Convention by the Members for North-East Cork, North Wexford, and West Mayo. If we look at the company kept by those Gentlemen on that occasion, I think we must imbibe a very shrewd notion that they must have known or must have understood the manner in which the Clan-na-Gael Association collected their funds. We are told that the "night before the Convention there was a meeting between Messrs. Davitt, O'Brien, Redmond, Egan, Sullivan, and Lord." Well, I say that if those gentlemen represented the hon. Member for the City of Cork, and he and the National League kept such company, they must have had a shrewd notion of where the funds to carry on that organisation were obtained. If it were not so, why were they afraid to produce the books; and if the hon. Member for Cork was a party to the non-production of those books he cannot be surprised if an impression is left in the minds of the people of this country which is hardly favourable to him. We have been told by hon. Members opposite that the Irish Members have been guilty of political crimes, but not of actual crime. Well, Sir, I consider that that is a great admission on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that, morally speaking, it denotes a distinction without very much difference. It means 26 that the dupes of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have committed crimes; whereas the hon. Gentlemen themselves, who have preached intimidation with a full knowledge of the effect which that intimidation would produce, may take shelter behind the actual commission of the offence. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and other Gentlemen opposite, have contended that all this is ancient history, and that the Nationalist Members from Ireland have! now turned over a now leaf and become reformed characters. But is it such very ancient history? I have already explained, and hon. Members know perfectly well, what took place at the Chicago Convention in 1886; and if you refer to the evidence of the hon. Member for Cork as taken before the Commission you will find that although hon. Members below the Gangway have tried to explain that what was done was produced by the action of secret societies, the hon. Member for Cork said distinctly that secret societies had ceased to exist in 1881. Therefore, I maintain that if the hon. Member for Cork was correct in that assertion the secret societies which have produced the offences of which we have heard must have been formed since the year 1881. Now, with regard to this evidence, the hon. Member for Cork was certainly placed in a very awkward predicament. The hon. Member for Cork comes to this House in January, 1881, and asserts that secret societies did not exist in Ireland at that time; but he afterwards gives evidence before the Commission, and says that the statement he then made in this House was made with the distinct intention of misleading the House of Commons, and that, in point of fact, it was absolutely false. The Commissioners, after duly considering the evidence for and against, say distinctly they are inclined to believe that the hon. Member for Cork was perfectly correct in January, 1881, when ho said that secret societies did not then exist in Ireland; and the House will see the natural conclusion which we draw from the finding of the Commissioners, namely, that they are not able to believe the word of the hon. Member for Cork when he swore he had come down to the House with the intention stated. Never did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian make a truer statement than when he said in this House that crime 27 dogged the steps of the Land League; and never did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) make a truer statement than when he said that the National League was the direct successor of the Land League. And never did the latter right hon. Gentleman better echo the opinion which I hold on this subject than when lie said in this House, on the 3rd March, 1881—To-morrow every subject of the Queen will know that the doctrine of the Land League is the doctrine of treason and assassination.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby continued—Sir, I think it is my duty to tell them what I know—that the Land League is an organisation which depends on the support of the Fenian conspiracy.Well, Sir, the Commissioners endorsed the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman. They found, on p. 97 of their Report, that—The National League, like the Ladies Land League, was substantially the old Land League under another name.That is to say, pursuing the same tactics, governed by the same methods, and following the same chiefs. Well, then, I say that if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, with all the weight of his great authority as head at the time being of one of the chief Departments of the State, and also as a Member of the Cabinet, could come here and state as his deli iterate opinion that the Land League was supported by a Fenian conspiracy, how in this year, 1890, when the right hon. Gentleman is in a position of greater freedom and less responsibility, can he reconcile it with his conscience to countenance and support that organisation which he has previously declared as being upheld, by the Fenian conspiracy? The right hon. Gentleman is never weary of telling us that he obeys the same chief and wears the same uniform as that which he put on when he first enlisted. I will admit, for the sake of argument, that the right hon. Gentleman does follow the same chief; but we who live in the eastern counties have a lively recollection of the right hon. Gentleman describing upon a certain occasion a concoction in which he supposed hon. Members on this side of the House were either stewing or about to stew. I do not know whether, after what happened on Tuesday night, the right hon. Gentleman is content to accept the denial of his 28 Friend the hon. Member for Cork, or whether he is not; but if he does wear the same uniform, all I can say is that, in my opinion, it is so very much stained by the concoction he so graphically described to us in the eastern counties as to be absolutely unrecognisable by the most careful observer. This, Sir, is not a Party question. It is a National question. And it is one which most, vitally affects the interests of this country. I believe there are many hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House who are not so blinded by prejudice as to shut their eyes to many facts which are proved in this Report after the most searching scrutiny and based on the most careful evidence. I believe there are many who have conscientiously believed that the hon. Gentlemen, the so-called leaders of National feeling and aspiration in Ireland, have hitherto conducted their agitation upon Constitutional lines. To any such I say that the verdict of the Commissioners must be a1 rude awakening, And believing, as I do, that the vast majority of the people are loyal to the Queen and faithful to the Constitution, I would appeal to hon. Gentlemen who represent the views of the people in this House to hesitate before they virtually give their support and countenance to an Organisation which has been found to be a criminal conspiracy, and before they throw in their lot with a Party, some of whom have been shown to be false to those traditions which have always guided those whose duty and whose inestimable privilege it has been to control the destinies of this country.
(3.17.) THE EARL OF CAVAN (Somerset, S.)
Mr. Speaker, I fully endorse what has fallen from the hon. Gentleman opposite, that this is not a Party question. But I leave it to the House to determine whether, in the speech he has delivered, he has altogether succeeded in separating himself from the Party to which he belongs. I, Sir, occupy in this House a somewhat intermediate position. It has been my fortune to write letters to the newspapers, and to speak in distinct condemnation of language which has been used by my hon. Friends below the Gangway, and that, Sir, at a time when we were united, in 1886. Occupying what I call this intermediate position, I hope the House will pardon me if I am unable to follow on the lines of the hon. 29 Gentlemen opposite, and if I state that no Party politics should be introduced. After all, are there not many points on which both, sides of the House are agreed? Whatever may be said of the appointment of the Judges, I doubt not the argument of my hon. Friend will be very ably answered by the Attorney General in a short time, showing absolute impartiality of the tribunal. I will not go into that question. For myself, I am content to think that they did their duty to the best of their ability: that they were earnest in their endeavours to find out the truth; and that they were zealous and painstaking. Of course, being mortals, and having been brought up in their youth to certain political opinions, it is unreasonable to suppose that they could absolutely divest themselves of the whole of their early education. Nevertheless, taking into consideration the fact that they were mortals like ourselves, I do venture to think that, in their judgment, they have endeavoured to be as just and as impartial as it was possible for any men to be under the circumstances. There may have been some inconvenience in reference to the appointment of the Judges; there was, undoubtedly, inconvenience in the length of their sittings; and I appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite whether there was not inconvenience in the appointment of the Attorney General? I congratulate hon. Gentlemen opposite that in their Attorney General they had a man of extraordinary powers; a man who was not only able to fill most ably his position as advocate for the Times, but who was able to fulfil very largely the duties of Attorney General. But was there not, after all, some inconvenience in the fact of even so powerful a man as the Attorney General having to bestow so much time on a matter which was purely one-sided? Was there not inconvenience in his being necessarily absent from his post? That is a question which I will leave to hon. Gentlemen opposite. But I will not labour this point. The Commission was constituted to inquire into certain allegations, but they were not to take into account philanthropic or political considerations, which might have led to many of those actions which, in the main, have been condemned by that Commission. At any rate, whether or not that course was inconvenient, we have the 30 Report before us, and something must be done. The hon. Gentleman opposite seems to think that when charges against the hon. Member for Cork have been disproved sufficient reparation has been made to him by the apology, or what I prefer to call the explanation, of the Attorney General in Court and the speech of the Leader of the House. We on this side of the House think something further is due to the hon. Member; and if there is any difference between us, it is simply that we should err on the side of generosity in regard to the allegations that were made. I hope that is not an unworthy principle to follow. There are false charges and there are true charges. In regard to the false charges, we are coming tolerably close to each other when we say that some reparation ought to be made. Hon. Gentlemen opposite think sufficient reparation has been made; we take a more generous view. As to the true charges, I ask if there are not certain precedents which we might look to with advantage? Are these Gentlemen the only persons in the House of Commons who have used treasonable language? Are they the only persons who on occasions have been guilty of close alliance with conspirators and treasonable persons? I think a right hon. Colleague of mine was once charged with having been in somewhat close alliance with, a treasonable person and conspirator—I allude to Mazzini. Well, if three Judges had to decide upon his guilt with reference to that alliance, and were to be told that they must ignore all political considerations which surrounded that Gentleman and the conspirator, we should have had very much the same finding as we have now with regard to hon. Members of this House. Then take Garibaldi. Great numbers of us were closely allied with that treasonable person and conspirator. If three Judges had been asked, apart from political and Party considerations, to state their opinions of that close alliance, there would have been a verdict not at all unlike that given in the present case. The Special Commission were unable to look into the political or philanthropic considerations which surrounded the action of hon. Members, and, therefore, it would not do to condemn hon. Members wholesale, as apparently some persons 31 But it may be observed that the instances I have cited are not on all fours with the Irish case. I admit it. The Italian peasantry were much better off than the Irish peasantry; they were better clothed; they were more contented. But let us go to Ireland: is treasonable language not known on that side of the House? What of the words used by the noble Lord, who was leader of this House not so long ago? He said,—Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right,and added—Ware, Ulster, all thy banners wave,And charge with all thy chivalry.Is that language, used by the noble Lord opposite, treasonable or not? Ulster is to charge with all its chivalry against the Queen's troops. That seems to me a treasonable sentiment. Then, again, the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh used a tolerably strong sentence in this House, and I venture to think his language was as treasonable as any which has been used on this side of the House. I quite admit that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury rebuked the noble Lord in no measured language for the indiscretion he had perpetrated. I regret to state that the sermonetto was entirely lost on the sinner to whom it was addressed, and he seemed to be more irate than before. What did the House generally do? The House recognised the political situation. It recognised that the noble Lord was unaccustomed to an Irish audience, which is naturally more enthusiastic than an English audience, audit refused to take any particular notice of this warm language. In the same way the charges made against hon. Members opposite for the violence of their language need not, I think, be taken too seriously when their political surroundings are considered, and I hold that if we make the generous reparation provided for in the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, we shall have done all that is necessary. References have been made to the position now taken by the Liberal Party in connection with hon. Members below the Gangway, as compared with that of a few years ago. But the fact is that not only in the years 1881–5, but also when they were the allies of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, the strong language used by those hon. Members 32 was denounced by the leaders of the Liberal Party. Strong letters were written condemning the language of my hon. Friend the Member for West Mayo. A letter of this kind appeared in the Daily News, and it was followed by one from the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. It is, therefore, unjust to the Liberal Party to say that they have been in any way party to intemperate speech, which was no doubt uttered under great provocation. I do not think I have made a strong Party speech. I will conclude by asking hon. Members opposite what they would do if a case of this kind arose in a club of which they were members? Suppose accusations had been made against a member of a club and a Committee had been appointed to consider them. If it were found that of these charges the more criminal or serious had been disproved, while some of the minor offences had been brought homo, would the question of fairness only be taken into account? Would it not be felt by all the members of the club that even generous treatment should be accorded to such a member? Suppose, further, that some of the offences charged could be attributed to over-zeal for some philanthropic or social purpose, would not this feeling-be accentuated? Should we not, as members of the club, willingly have moved in a direction such as that which is indicated in the Amendment of my right hon. Friend? Should we not have erred, if we had erred at all, on the side of generosity? The House of Commons is greater than any club, and in this case the accused Members have atoned for any excesses of which they may have been guilty by long years of suffering. I would, therefore, appeal to hon. Members opposite to show something of the generous spirit to which I have referred, and to deal with the question before them in no Party spirit, but in a spirit of calm and equitable consideration.
§ *(3.36.) SIR CHARLES LEWIS (Antrim, N.)
I desire to congratulate the hon. and noble Lord on the tone of his speech, which was widely different from those which we are accustomed to hear from that Bench, which is usually the seat of the scorner, whether he be the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, or any other of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. We are accustomed from that quarter to 33 hear abuse all round, and we have recently found that for those right hon. Gentlemen abuse is all very well when they were to be the only persons to dispense it. The other night we had a little scene, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, who is accustomed to direct his artillery upon his adversaries, receiving in return only a few blows for every dozen or twenty he distributes, showed how unwilling he is, unlike most men, to receive as well as give, as soon as he was sat upon by one of the quietest and mildest of Cabinet Ministers who ever lived. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman in a passion threw up his cards, if I may so describe the action, and turned round to the Speaker or the other side of the House and said that he was determined not to sit and hear himself abused any longer. For such a man who holds himself out to be the prospective leader of the Liberal Party such a petty and miserable display of temper could not have been by any possibility expected.
§ * SIR C. LEWIS
If that is so, then I will say it was such a display of temper as the House has a right to regret. I was surprised at the tenderness of the right hon. Gentleman's moral feeling. We on this side are accustomed to be clothed with all the bad names which by any possibility can lie uttered by a facile tongue; but I consider that on that occasion we had evidence of that dominating spirit in the language of debate which is not fair or critical or in accordance with the rules and customs of the House. I have desired to interpose in this debate because I have taken an attitude on the question which is not common on this side of the House. In May, 1887, I thought it my duty to endeavour to put a spur into Members below the Gangway opposite, who complained so much of the charges having been made against them, and to induce them to take some notice of what had been going on for about three weeks. During the whole of that time it was in their power to take proceedings of one kind or another in the Courts of Justice. But they did not move an inch. I thought this was a grave scandal; but I failed to stir them to any sense of self-respect. I am perfectly aware that the 34 course I then took was not popular on this side of the House. It was my own independent action, and was taken without any particular inquiry as to how such a Motion would be received by the Front Bench. But I believe it has been productive of great good to the country. It has been said that the Commission has proved nothing that was not known before. That may be true; but it hi s demonstrated what has been disputed before. Every fact stated in this House in condemnation of the system of boycotting used in those days to be contradicted. Thus a great public service has been done, and a vast number of charges have been either disproved or proved. To hear the speeches of hon. Members opposite one would have thought that they had never disputed any of those horrible charges of boycotting leading to crime which have now been proved before the Commission. We know very well that the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin used to be continually stating that the Land League had condemned the action of branches in promoting boycotting; indeed, the hon. Member was ready generally to contradict everything; but we can now see what has been proved as to actual and criminal breaches of the law. I have spent a good deal of time in considering the genesis of this Amendment. We know from the serious conclaves which were held on the Front Bench opposite before it was actually framed that it's genesis was by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian out of or alongside of the hon. Members for Cork and North-East Cork. The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hand is the hand of Esau. Is not the red blood ink of a certain section of this House clearly manifest in those heavy anathemas we find on the face of the Amendment? Can anyone believe that such an Amendment would have been produced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in the calmness of his private study, when he bore in mind all his responsibilities as a statesman of great experience. There has, undoubtedly, been great manipulation of it in certain quarters. I will read the Amendment, leaving out only two words, and then I will ask the House some questions on it. Omitting these two words it runs—To leave out all the words after 'House,' in line 5, in order to add the words, 'deem it 35 to be a duty to record its reprobation of the false charges of the gravest and most odious description, based on calumny, which have been brought against Members of this House, and particularly against Mr. Parnell; and, while declaring its satisfaction at the exposure of these calumnies, this House expresses its regret for the wrong inflicted and the suffering and loss endured, through a protracted period, by reason of these acts of flagrant iniquity.Now that these two words "on forgery" are omitted I venture to say that every part of the Amendment has been over and over again alleged and spoken by the Irish Members against the right hon. Gentleman himself. Did they not endure months of suffering by being- shut up in Kilmainham? Did they not endure foul charges made against them when they heard the right hon. Member for Derby say in that House in 1883—"We know that that Party preaches the doctrine of murder and assassination?" Did they not allege that it was a foul and odious charge when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian said that "crime dogged the steps of the Land League?" Was not that an infamous accusation? Were not these grave charges based on calumny? Have they been atoned for, or withdrawn, or apologised for? No, unless it has been done in any of those quiet conclaves which have led up to the alliance of the Liberals with the Irish Party. A peculiar fact in this matter which this House and the country will not fail to notice is the altogether different manner in which the Report of the Commissioners is now regarded from that in which it was first received. At first the placards of the Nationalist newspapers flared with announcements in large letters of the entire exculpation of the respondents, and the Irish Members were exultant because they had been absolutely acquitted of two of the nine charges brought against them. But they were misled by their eager anticipation of the advantages that the Piggot incident would bring to them, as if the whole of the case rested on that. At first the Judges were all that was good—patient, able, and impartial; they were "noble grave and reverend seigniors." But what are they now? Why, all that is bad, and, figuratively speaking, they have bean spat upon by every Nationalist Member. And this arises from the very exigencies of the case. At the first blush certain parts of the case looked 36 favourable and encouraging for hon. Members opposite; but when they looked at the Report as a whole and went through it, especially that part having reference to the charge of encouraging intimidation which led to crime, and persisting in it with knowledge of its effects, their jubilation disappeared, they displayed a very serious air, and a very hang-dog look appeared on their faces, showing that they felt the pinch of the case, and that the result, on the whole, was a very strong and grave judgment against them. I wish now to refer to two or three statements made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. One of the leading statements, which he seemed to repeat over and over again, was that there would have been no Land Act for Ireland if there had been no agitation. But what docs the right hon. Gentleman mean by agitation, because the whole point is in that? Does he mean by agitation bringing children out of their houses in the middle of the night and cowardly shooting them in the presence of their parents? To us on this side of the House this convenient, compendious word agitation, as illustrated by the history of the last five or six years in Ireland, consists of acts which led up to assassination, murder, withholding the necessities of life to even poor women in the hour of nature's greatest trial, by refusing wood for a coffin in which to bury a murdered person, and mutilating cattle. That is the state of things the right hon. Gentleman euphoniously calls agitation. Last night, too, we had an illustration of the very tender way in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton went over the same ground when he tried to lead the House to believe that all the Judges meant by intimidation which led to crime was the ordinary system of boycotting; whereas he knew at the same time that the most disgraceful transactions, the most cruel, horrible, and wicked acts had been proved before the Commission. What is the difference, I will ask, between murder committed with a knife on the spur of the moment and murder committed through months of wickedness and persecution, and by withholding the necessaries of life? We have heard it said ad nauseam by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian that there is no 37 criminal offence in boycotting. No criminal offence in boycotting as it bad been carried oat for years in Ireland and as set forth in the Report of the Judges! I do not hesitate to say that men have been sentenced to long periods of transportation for offences not more heinous, morally or legally, than those proved against some of the persons charged in the Judges' Report. As to the statement that then would have been no Land Act in 1881 if there had been no agitation, I should like to ask whether the murder of Lord Mountmorres in 1880 was part of that agitation? We have been distinctly told in other places that that murder was one of the causes of the introduction of that Land Act. although the right hon. Gentleman opposite is too clever a debater himself to make that statement here. I was greatly astonished to hear the attempt made by the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Mid Lothian and Wolverhampton to compare the agitation in Ireland with the agitation about the Reform Bill in 1831. Is there a man in this House who thinks the wretched midnight harassing of poor people, the midnight murders with gun and dagger, the shooting of children in the face of their parents, the cruel and cowardly ill-usage and persecution of defenceless women, and the brutal maiming of cattle that have been perpetrated in Ireland, can be reasonably compared for a moment with the agitation in England at the time of the Reform Bill? It is an insult to hon. Members to suggest it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian could hardly have consulted some of his legal friends when, referring to the charge against the respondents of paying money for the assistance of undoubted criminals, he said that £12 only would cover the iniquity of such acts as that described in Timothy Horan's letter. Only £12! May not those betaken as samples merely? Where were all the books in which the money expended was entered? Four small books only, as the Commissioners have reported, were all that could be found of the numerous books of the Land League. Egan, who took them to Paris, might have been called and examined, but he carefully kept out of the box. Considering the difficulties of the case, considering the difficulties the prosecutors and the Court have to contend with, I 38 wonder that so much was done and proved as was accomplished, especially in the absence of so many books and papers necessary to the investigation. In this Horan's case it is reported by the Commissioners that this letter was found on a, chest of drawers or something in the house of one of the clerks of the League; it was not intended to be found or to be submitted to inspection, but was found accidentally when the house was being swept out. Two letters are all that have been seen out of the sackfuls of paper described as being removed directly the Land League was suppressed. The extent of their correspondence has been proved by the hon. Member for Queen's County, who was temporarily put in charge of that wonderful nest of villany the office of the League in Sackville Street, and who had found it impossible to put things in order because of the enormous amount of correspondence and the carelessness with which it had been treated. It is said that Horan's case was a casual one. But does not any man of business see, from its style and mode of being treated, that it must have been a telling incident of a system, and that it is not a stray document relating to one particular case? I have met John Ferguson, whose initials are endorsed on the letter, during the time I was Member for Deny; I know his great ability and the trust reposed in him by his Party on account of his position, and great intelligence and power as a man of business. John Ferguson has said that it was not a solitary letter, but one of several which he himself had manipulated, and it is certainly illustrated by the other facts that this was not a solitary instance, but part of a system of giving comfort and pay for crime, which in itself shows that there was every reason why evidence of this great offence should be destroyed. If this letter had not been accidentally preserved all this would have passed into that oblivion of which hon. Members opposite are so fond when they take refuge under their non mi ricordo. The Commissioners report in words which form the basis of my charge that there has been wilful, determined, and successful suppression of evidence from first to last, in order to prevent the truth from being known. It has failed to a great extent, I am happy to know, though it has succeeded in some cases. Then in regard to this deliberate charge of keep 39 ing back witnesses, what is the first fact I refer to? Who went away to Australia before he could be called as a witness? Why, the second principal defendant, the hon. Member for East Mayo. Why did that hon. Member find it convenient or necessary for his health to go away at that particular moment, when he could have been called at any time? [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh, but what would a Judge think if a witness under no pressure of law took himself off to the uttermost parts of the world?
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
When the hon. Member makes this reference to my hon. Friend, I may be allowed to say that my hon. Friend before his departure submitted himself to the decision of the Court, and the Court made no objection to his leaving. [Cries of "withdraw."]
§ * SIR C. LEWIS
It is not worth while, for the simple reason that there is a complete answer to that; the hon. Member for East Mayo went to the Court and asked whether they wished to ask him any questions before the Court had got in to the evidence, and before it was the duty of the prosecuting counsel so called to ask any questions. How could any questions be asked before the case was developed? This is one of the subterfuges to which Ave are accustomed upon this subject. Who was the next person? This is more peculiar still, because I have always connected the hon. Member for East Mayo with the idea of a fair, bold, outspoken opponent, from whom we have heard words that excited seething indignation in the mind even of the right hon. Member for Derby. I can recollect the latter stood up in this House and made use use of remarks I dare not repeat, as the Member for Mayo is not here, they are so odious, so unfortunate. I always looked upon him as an honourable, a bold, straightforward man, even if he felt he was committing a crime. But I come to another man, the hon. Member for Fermanagh, who for a long time was the secretary of the hon. Member for Cork, haunted the Court from day to day; his name was mentioned over and over again, and I think I am not stating what is untrue when I say that the hon. and learned Member for South Hackney undertook to call the hon. Member.
§ MR. ASQUITH (Fife, East)
As the hon. and learned Member for South 40 Hackney is not here, may I be allowed to say that that is not the case.
§ * SIR C. LEWIS
I should put it, perhaps, in another form. I believe the hon. and learned Member for South Hackney undertook to call all the respondents, and perhaps the hon. and learned Member will correct me if I say giving such an undertaking included the hon. Member for Fermanagh. [Mr. ASQUITH: No.] Not contradicted with any great vigour. At all events, there was an impression that this was the intention. But the hon. and learned Gentleman, fresh in the recollection of his brief, will not deny this, that it was sworn in the evidence before the Commission that the hon. Member for Fermanagh was a party to the removal of the books from Sackville-street when the Land League was suppressed. Was it not in the highest degree material when, at every turn, the necessity for the evidence contained in the books arose?
* MR, H. CAMPBELL (Fermanagh, S.)
As the hon. Member has referred to my name in connection with a statement which is not borne out by the evidence, I think it is only right to myself that I should instantly rise and inform the House that not only is there no evidence given that I removed the books or had anything to do with them, but that no statement at all was put before the Court of such an occurrence. Sir, I never had the books under my control at any period of my life; I did not remove them from Dublin, nor did I have them in my hands at any time, and no evidence of the kind that I had the books under my control was given before the Court. Further, the League clerk Farragher, who appeared before the Court to give evidence, was asked directly by the counsel for the Times whether it was true that I was present at the removal of the books, and his answer was that not only did I not remove the books, but that I was not present in Dublin on the occasion when they wore removed. So much, therefore, for the statement of the hon. Baronet, which is similar to that made by the hon. Member for North - West Ham the other night.
§ * SIR C. LEWIS
Perhaps one of my hon. Friends will find me the reference in the Report—about half-way through —and I trust the note in my hand will not be contradicted by the original docu- 41 ment. I will read the words to the House—The Land League was suppressed on October 18, 1881, and thereupon most of the books were removed to London by Messrs. Campbell, M.C., and P. J. Sheridan.
* MR. H. CAMPBELL
I can only appeal to the House to accept my word of honour for what I have stated. There was no evidence given by any person summoned before the Commissioners that I removed those books. A letter was found in the batch of letters given up by Phillips from Dr. Kenny to me, written a day or two after the suppression of the League in 1881.
§ * SIR C. LEWIS
I rise to order, Sir. Am I to be interrupted for five minutes with what is entirely new matter?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I understood that a statement having been made with regard to evidence concerning the hon. Member for Fermanagh, the hon. Member states that no such evidence was given. I think that the House will feel that the hon. Member has a right to make an explanation on a personal matter. He will not exceed an explanation of this particular matter.
* MR. H. CAMPBELL
I will be as brief as I can, Sir, and I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I am not responsible. A letter was written to me by Dr. Kenny a day or two after the suppression of the Land League. I was then at Holyhead with the hon. Member for Donegal. In that letter Dr. Kenny informed me that the books of the League had been sent over to Liverpool, and that as we—that is, Mr. Biggar, Mr. O'Connor, and myself—were expected to go to London and endeavour to direct the Land League Organisation from there, I should go to Liverpool and bring the books with me from there. In reply to that letter I wrote that I would go with the others on to London, call at Liverpool, and bring the books with me. I went to Liverpool and endeavoured to get the books, but the clerk sent from Dublin refused positively to let me have anything to do with them, and I was so disgusted and annoyed that I took no further steps in the matter. I never saw the books then, and I have 42 never seen them since, nor had anything to do with them. To further clear up this matter I may add these very books which were taken to Liverpool were afterwards produced in Court before the Commissioners. They are the books which have been before the Commissioners.
§ * SIR C. LEWIS
I have no objection, but it is necessary to go over the case again. I am not going to be put off by this explanation, for the simple reason that it has never been given before. During the sittings of the Commission the hon. Member was frequently in Court. He was the right-hand man of the hon. Member for Cork City, had his confidence, and consorted with him in open Court, and yet up to the present moment this explanation, so vital in the interests of those who from the first have been charged with spiriting away the books, up to the present moment this vital explanation has never been given. Now it is given for the purpose of interrupting an opponent find making him stray from his line of argument. I maintain that if the books had been forthcoming every one of the charges which have failed would in all probability have been proved. I will read some of the findings of the Judges, and show how material to the subjects investigated was the appearance of these books. The Judges say—We find that the respondents did enter into a conspiracy by a system of coercion and intimidation to promote an agrarian agitation against the payment of agricultural rents, for the purpose of impoverishing and expelling from the country the Irish landlords, who were styled the 'English garrison.'This is the general charge, and how would the lilies have been filled up? I think it is plain that many persons employed in this system of coercion and intimidation would, in the natural course of events, have many charges to make against the Laud League, and the books would have shown how they were met. The fourth finding is—That the repondents did disseminate the Irish World and other newspapers tending to incite to sedition and the commission of other crime.The fact of the circulation of the Irish World is proved beyond dispute, but, mark you, would it not have been matter of grave importance to have proved before the Commission that some thousands of pounds wore spent in this 43 particular form of attack against the institutions of the country and the lives and liberties of individuals. But that is not proved, because, owing to the peculiar "hunt the slipper" kind of operation the hon. Member had described, the books have disappeared from view, and are not available for reference. In the fifth finding the Judges say—We find that it has not been proved that the respondents made payments for the purpose of inciting persons to commit crime.What a flood of light might have been thrown upon this point by the books! But no; the books, with the exception of four worthless small ones, have disappeared into thin air, unless they are still in Paris in charge of Mr. Egan. [An hon. MEMBER: He is in Chili.] I know all about it. The production of the books was also a matter of great consequence in respect of the points in the seventh finding—We find that the respondents did defend persons charged with agrarian crime, and supported their families, but that it has not been proved that they subscribed to testimonials for, or were intimately associated with, notorious criminals, or that they made payments to procure the escape of criminals from justice.The books, however, were not produced; every door through which information might come was closed by the League; every hand was shut, every mouth was dumb. What wonder, then, that some of the charges broke down, that some of the bolts aimed at the League missed their mark? The real wonder is that it has been found possible to prove so much. It says much for the intelligence, power, and legal acuteness that wormed so much out of unwilling witnesses. I pass on to the eighth finding—We find, as to the allegation that the respondents made payments to compensate persons who had been injured in the commission of crime, that they did make such payments."Oh!" said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, "there is very little evidence in support of this, only a small matter of £12." The right hon. Member's view seems to be De non apparentibus et non existentibus eadem est ratio. Because further proof of such payments cannot be found in the National League documents the hon. Gentleman alleges that none were made. But how could such proof be procured 44 when the National League books were sent away?
§ * MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
May I be allowed to say that when the hon. Member says the National League books were sent out of the way ho is making a statement not justified by the Report. Every document of the League extending over a period of eight years was presented to the Committee, examined, and nothing found missing.
§ * SIR C. LEWIS
Taking advantage of a slip of the tongue, the hon. Member endeavours to lead off on a false scent. National League was a verbal slip; I should have said Land League.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Baronet, I think, will see that it is not right to say of a Member who makes an explanation that he is endeavouring to lead the House off on a false scent.
§ * SIR C. LEWIS
I do not claim immunity from sin, and if I passed the threshold of perfect propriety, I am happy to be set right by you, Sir. I pass to the ninth finding, as to the receipt of memorandums by respondents from persons in America, known advocates of crime. There again the Commissioners would have had assistance from the books. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been contributed chiefly from America Where did it come from? Had the books been produced incriminating matter of the utmost importance in connection with this ninth finding might have been disclosed. Unfortunately, the case does not end here. The accounts were traced to Messrs. Monro, Parisian bankers, whose clientèele, by the way, consists mainly of American visitors. They were asked by the Commissioners' representative to produce the accounts for his inspection. It was a reasonable request. The greatest care was taken throughout that no private matters should be disclosed; the secretary was always put forward to see fair-play. It was a reasonable request, but Messrs. Monro refused to accede to it, and they were perfectly within their right in so doing. Had they consented, I suppose the results would have been somewhat scarifying. The Commissioners then asked Mr. Parnell to authorise Messrs. Monro to produce the accounts. What, in the circumstances, would any honourable man unjustly charged with crime have done? Above all, what might be expected from 45 a man on whom sitting here rests the responsibility of assisting in making laws for the government of his countrymen? Would he not have said, "Yes, by all means. Here is the authority"? What was the answer of the Member for Cork? "I refuse to give it." A kind of game of hunt the slipper or thimblerigging was being played by the clerks in the office with the books, and the man who had the key coolly refused to hand it over to square off the accounts.
§ MR. SEXTON
As my hon. Friend the Member for Cork is absent, and the Report does not state the reason, I will explain in one sentence why my hon. Friend refused. He declined to place a statement of the financial resources of his Party at the disposal of his political opponents.
§ * SIR C. LEWIS
If the hon. Member thinks that my poor voice will not be able to stand up against these interruptions he is mistaken. I shall proceed till I have concluded. To prove what I have said I will quote from the Report, page 97—We, therefore, requested Mr. Parnell to give authority to Messrs. Monro to produce the accounts relating to the Land League. This he refused to do.This is a point blank refusal by the Member for Cork to an application than which nothing could be more proper in a Court of Justice. The Commissioners concluded—On this subject we may say generally that we have not received from Mr. Parnell and the officers of the Land League the assistance we were entitled to expect in the investigation of the Land League accounts, in order that it might be seen how its funds were expended.When we find an institution like the Land League, which professes to be the Government of Ireland, which has enormous funds provided by persons in America who are not distinguished by their loyalty, so anxious to prevent disclosure and punishment when it is due, I think we may draw our own inferences. There is, however, a still more painful part of the subject. There is one hon. Member who has always stood high in the ranks of the Home Rule Party, and high in the estimation of his opponents, the hon. Member who is my successor in the representation of Derry (Mr. Justin McCarthy). [Home Rule cheers and laughter.] Oh, there is no sting left in my mind. I had not to wait long before I 46 found another constituency, and I have no doubt I should be well received in Derry if I went back there now. The part of the case with which I wish to deal will be fully appreciated by lawyers. The Commissioners, in analogy to the practice of Courts of Justice, made an order on the hon. Member for Derry to make an affidavit of documents and books which he had in his possession. The hon. Member for Derry made an affidavit, and will it be believed that this affidavit was to the effect that the hon. Member had in his possession the books, especially the books of account, for the years 1881–2, and, I think, 1883? [Mr. SEXTON: He did not swear that, Sir. C. Lewis.] Then the able gentleman who acted as solicitor for the defendants got up and said that there had been some mistake. After an affidavit of this character by a Member of the Legislature, it was said in Court that there had been some mistake. These books have been run after by the hon. Member for Fermanagh (Mr. H. Campbell), but have never been found since they were in the hands or power of the hon. Member for Derry. Yet these books were the very books which would have elucidated the truth and shown the expenditure of the Land League in 1881–2, and whether those who conducted that organisation were honest men or villains. This, of course, was looked upon most gravely by the Judges. They had been used all their lives to Courts of Justice, and, knowing the importance of an affidavit of documents and their production, they of course expected that some decent excuse would have been tendered before them to explain this mysterious disappearance of the books. Every day some explaination was expected, but no explanation came. In the face of the country this surely is one of the charges which have to be answered. Instead of our being taken back two centuries or to the Reform Bill, let us have some answer as to the present, and some elucidation of this wonderful spiriting away of the evidence.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member for Derry will have an opportunity hereafter of speaking.
§ * SIR C. LEWIS
When the hon. Member obtains the opportunity of moving 47 his Amendment he will be able to offer an explanation. Well, this was the last scene in this "strange eventful history." Several people were engaged in this little faux pas. There was Mr. Alexander Phillips, who was so useful in connection with the two sums of £6. Then there were Mr. Mahony and Miss Stritch, who played important parts in the wonderful drama The Judges took a great deal of trouble in the matter, but at last got tired of the long series of explanations interjected like the interruptions to which I have been subjected to-day. It was stated that the list of books came from Mr. Brady. Where was Mr. Brady? He was frequently in Court, and might have afforded information. But they never put Mr. Brady into the box. Any jury would, under such circumstances, have come to the conclusion that they had the books and wilfully refused to produce them. Now, Sir, I have taken a course in regard to these matters which has exposed me to some criticism. I hope my right hon. Friends below me will forgive me after such a long time. I appeal especially to the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr.Goschen), and remind him that I have belonged to the Conservative Party for very many years, and have made great sacrifices on its behalf. In regard to this matter, I have scarcely received justice at the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman, himself a neophyte of the Conservative Party, did not think it wrong to go to his constituents and give vent to gibes against me for the course I took in moving the Privilege Motion which led to the suggestion made opposite for a Committee to inquire into these charges against the hon. Member for Cork and his friends. The right hon. Gentleman might have been more cautious. He might have left unsaid what he then said, for it is now rising up in pleasant judgment against him. When I made my Motion in May, 1887, I stood almost alone, and had not the support of half a dozen Members on this side of the House; but that Motion has been justified by events. Before that hon. Gentlemen opposite had remained perfectly silent under the charges made against them; but the Motion applied the necessary motive force, and directly led to the appointment of this Commission. From the inquiry carried out by the Commissioners 48 both the country and the Government and even hon. Members opposite have derived great benefit. No doubt hon. Members have been able to clear themselves of some charges brought against them; but the Commission has been the means of unmasking a gross conspiracy, and of showing how Ireland has been the victim of gross intrigues hatched in some cases across the Atlantic. The Commission has set forth plainly that there has been for a long time, in existence a conspiracy against the State, carried out by all sorts of contrivances, offences, and intimidation. If the country gets released from this conspiracy by the unparalleled administration of the Chief Secretary, it will be because he had had the courage to repel with scorn the attacks made upon him by hon. Members opposite. We are fighting in a great and a holy cause. [Home Rule, laughter.] Yes, a holy cause, for it is one which has for its object to throw the ægis of the State over every private individual, and to bring criminals to justice, not only at the criminal bar, but at the bar of public opinion; and if we fail in any of these endeavours, it will not be because we have been untrue to the cause and to the duty which we owe to the citizens of the country, but because the commission of crime has been followed by something far more cute and clever, namely, by a gross and deliberate withholding of evidence that ought to have been willingly produced instead of carefully concealed and even destroyed.
§ *(4.50.) MR.BRYCE (Aberdeen,S.)
The hon. Member has spoken of a holy cause; but seldom has a holy cause been supported in a less scrupulous manner, and with such a total want of taste and good feeling as that shown by him. The hon. Member complained of interruptions; but he drew every one of these upon himself by his misstatements—innocent misstatements possibly, but misstatements which care would have prevented. He quoted passages of the Report without their context, and in a manner to put a false and improper sense upon what the Commissioners really said; and I thought that if the Commissioners had been present, they would have risen repeatedly to correct his perversions of their findings. But, turning away from the bitter and painful spirit which the hon. Mem- 49 ber has introduced into the debate, let me remind the House of the main issue before it. There is a Motion and an Amendment. The Motion asks the House to adopt the Report. The Amendment asks the House to express its opinion with regard to certain portions of the Report. What is the meaning of adopting the Report? It means that the House approves the Report in all its fulness, and considers that it deals adequately and satisfactorily with the matters referred to the Commission. Is the House in that sense prepared to adopt the Report? It must be borne in mind, as the First Lord of the Treasury pointed out, that this Commission is quite unique and without precedent. Its appointment was, in fact, an abdication by the House of one of its own duties, that of guarding the character of its own Members. But, irrespective of this, there is an omission in the Report of the Commissioners which makes it an unsatisfactory document. The Commissioners themselves state that they had not deemed it their duty to inquire whether the conduct of which hon. Members were accused could be palliated or condoned by the circumstances of the time. They put aside a vast mass of matter as being tit for the consideration of historians and politicians, but not for their own. This, as I shall attempt to show, prevents their Report from being a complete or adequate deliverance, such as this House can adopt. I do not desire to repeat the distinction that has been drawn between the personal and the political charges. But it must be admitted that the questions referred to the Commissioners were partly questions of bare fact and partly questions in which the circumstances surrounding the bare facts formed the main element of inquiry, and without investigating which the examination of bare facts was of little value. What were the questions of bare fact to be investigated? Did the hon. Member for Cork write certain letters? Did he and his friends incite to the commission of crime? Were the respondents privy to the commission of crime, and did they aid criminals to escape? These were questions which were, no doubt, proper for the Commissioners to decide. It was, indeed, for these questions that the Commission was appointed. It was on account of these charges that the hon. Member was challenged to bring an action, and 50 these were indeed the only charges about which, there was any substantial doubt. The other matters of fact, such as the existence of boycotting and the speeches in which it had been advocated or defended, were matters about which there was, practically, no controversy. The Commissioners have made a deliverance to the effect that the Member for Cork did not write the letters; that the respondents did not incite to crime; that they were not privy to murders; that they did not aid criminals to escape; that the Land League did make some payments to persons accused of crime, and did compensate those injured, though they have given these two last deliverances on very scanty evidence and stretched very widely in giving them the dangerous doctrine of constructive liability. I am not now arguing whether these findings are right or not. I am putting it to the House that as respects these matters we have a Report that is satisfactory, because plain and clear, and addressed to questions of bare and simple fact. Were we only to adopt the findings of the Commission simply dealing with facts like these, I should support the Motion; but looking at the other side of the question, can we give a similar answer? The other questions are questions that involve not merely points of bare fact, but conduct extending over a series of years and intricate matters of policy. "Did the respondents combine against the payment of rent?" "Did they abuse the power which they wielded over Irish public opinion?" because that is what is meant by the charge of boycotting. "Did they cooperate with the American Party of violence, or did they profit by the help of the American Party of violence?" and "Did they aim at the independence of Ireland?" These are in a certain sense questions of fact; but the bare fact goes but a little way in the determination of the character of the conduct which the respondents arc found to have pursued. The question of fact does not imply moral or even legal judgment, because I appeal to lawyers whether these are not questions upon which it would be in the power of a jury, if certain facts were proved, nevertheless to return a verdict of not guilty, seeing that the issue of guilty or not guilty leaves it to the jury to take into view all the surrounding circumstances, and 51 pronounce whether, under these circumstances, there is guilt or not. A combination may be justifiable or not according to circumstances; some circumstances would make it a criminal conspiracy, and others would make it lawful combination; and to call a combination a conspiracy does not make it a guilty combination unless the verdict of the jury declares it to be so. It is the same as regards boycotting and intimidation. They are what may be called a misuse of public opinion. The power of public opinion is one to which we are all amenable, and without which, acting over and above the law, and often in cases which law cannot reach, society could not get on for a day. The charge made here is really that these respondents tried before the Commission have carried that power of public opinion too far; that instead of allowing people their legitimate and natural freedom they have directed popular feeling so as to deprive certain persons of the exercise of that freedom. But that is a question of degree. Boycotting is not like burglary, which is wrong per se; the culpability of it depends upon the extent to which it is carried, the object it is designed to effect, and the attendant circumstances. I do not deny that boycotting and intimidation were in Ireland pushed beyond what could be justified; but I say it is absurd to examine into the question of boycotting and intimidation unless you look at motives and aims. At the time when Austria held part of Italy, Austrian officials and officers were boycotted in Italy, and all free countries sympathised with the Italians. The boycotting was necessary, because the Italians were under the law of force, which was opposed to the national good, and no weapons, except those of extra legal action, remained to the people. I do not say the case is exactly parallel with that of Ireland; but, still, it is an instance in which boycotting was justifiable, and which shows that you cannot determine without examination whether it is or not. I will even go so far as to say that in like manner the conduct of the Times in this particular matter—grossly culpable as it was—ought to be judged by the consideration of all the circumstances in which it took the action it did. If the Times had been endeavouring to do the hon. Member for Cork a private wrong from purely private motives, if it 52 had published the letters out of sheer personal private malice, with the object of taking away his personal and private character, we should have been disposed to deal with it even more severely than we now are. I knew the late Mr. Mac Donald, and I believe that Mr. Mac Donald and those others who acted with him—I do not include Houston among them, for a deeper and darker stain rests upon him—would have been incapable of acting as they did in the publication of the forgeries if they had been animated by a desire born of private malice or selfish private interest. They acted as they did because they were the victims of an invincible political prejudice against the Irish cause and its leaders; and therefore they were predisposed to believe everything that was bad of them, and to assume in every case of doubt that it must be decided against the Irish Members. I do not put that conduct, bad as it was, upon quite the same level as conduct prompted by private malice. In condemning severely the conduct of the Times, we must judge it exactly as we judge the extreme things done and said by some of the respondents; that is to say, we must remember that in the prosecution of a political contest many unjustifiable things are done in heat, which cannot be considered apart from the circumstances under which they were done. I will not pursue the other points on which it may be shown that the findings of the Commissioners on those questions which were not of bare fact, but involved the circumstances of the time, are deprived of the value which might have attached to them. I will, in passing, only give one single instance. The Commissioners find that the action of the Land League had been particularly energetic in the Counties of Galway, Mayo, and Sligo, where also there were large numbers of outrages, and they attribute the outrages to the action of the Land League; but they do not advert to the fact that evictions had been numerous in those counties and distress had been great owing' to bad harvests, although this was obviously the ultimate cause both of evictions and of outrages. Such omissions reduce the value of the conclusions of the Commissioners, and, sometimes wholly destroy them, and therefore the House cannot accept their findings as an adequate treatment of the case. Now I come to the 53 Amendment. It is the object of the Amendment to make the Report intelligible and fairly and justly complete by adding' something to it to qualify it. If we do not adopt the Report what course can we adopt? The natural course is to express the feeling which the perusal of it forces upon our minds. Some eminent man once said that when one is in doubt in a moment of delicacy as to what course to take the right course to adopt was to do the natural thing, to say or do what the spontaneous impulse of the moment suggested. What is it onr honour and conscience suggests to us with regard to this Report? It is a pity there is not prefixed to the Report of the Commissioners the form in which the charges preferred against the Irish Members were made, for without a careful perusal of those abominable and dreadful charges it is impossible to adequately to feel the contrast between them and the findings on the charges formulated in the Report of the Commissioners. It is most interesting to compare these terrible charges with the form which the charges took when they had passed through the refrigerating medium of lawyers' minds and came to be stated in the beginning of this Report. But anyone making that comparison, and then looking to the findings in the Report, can only feel one impulse with regard to the course which should now be taken, and that is to express intense regret that such charges were ever made against Members of the House of Commons, and satisfaction that they have been completely disproved. If so, why should we shrink from putting our feelings of satisfaction on record? We are told that the acquittals do not stand alone, and that there are serious condemnations on other counts in the indictment brought against the Members from Ireland. I will therefore ask the House to examine the other findings and see whether they contain anything to prevent us expressing satisfaction with the acquittal on the gravest charges. One of the findings is that hon. Members tolerated the language of the party of violence in America, and profited by subscriptions from that party. In connection with that, I would like to ask hon. Members whether one of the most 54 difficult positions which we have to decide is not how far we can co-operate with those with whom we agree in part and disagreed in part. Let us take the ease of the National movement in Italy. The leaders of that movement were obliged to carry on a struggle against Austrian and domestic oppressors for many years. They had to carry on that struggle by means of conspiracy, and had frequently to plan insurrection. There were also in Italy secret conspiracies of violent, but patriotic, men, who went by the name of Carbonari, whose practice it was to act occasionally by assassination; and it was frequently necessary for men so great and good as Mazzini to know what was being done by, and thus to incur the reproach of being more or less connected with, the Carbonari. It will not, I think, be said that Mazzini and his associates are less entitled to the grateful remembrance of their country because they were sometimes obliged to know, and were not always able to prevent, the regrettable acts of these violent and dangerous members of the National Party. I really think this question of co-operation with persons whom they do not quite agree with must have frequently been in the minds of leaders of Parties in this House. Gentlemen opposite must often, have had to consider, during 1884 and 1885, how far they could co-operate with the Irish Members. When the Liberals sat on the Ministerial side they were in the habit of seeing Members of the Opposition and of the Fourth Party frequently holding sweet converse with the Irish Members, and hatching little plots with them, whose meaning was revealed in a surprise Division on the following day, like the Division on the expedition to Tokar. There must often have been grave questions of conscience presented to the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but they solved those questions in 1885 by entering into an alliance with the Irish Party. In the conversation across the Table which took place the other night, the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks Beach) did not venture to deny that the Conservative Government of 1885 had determined, before they came into office, not to renew the Coercion Bill, nor did he deny that that decision had been com- 55 municated to the Irish Members. If that was not to be called a bargain, it had all the substantial effect of a bargain, and it carried to the Tory Party the benefits of a bargain. I do not suppose that the hon. Member for Cork and the other leaders of the Irish Party had any more difficult question before them during the years from 1880 to L886, than the question of how they were to deal with the Fenian Party. Are hon. Members opposite aware that the Irish Republican Brotherhood expelled Mr. Davitt because he founded the Land League? Are they aware of that remarkable Resolution of the Brotherhood, in which they not obscurely threatened the leaders of the Irish Constitutional Party with a speedy close to their career if they persisted in their course of a peaceful Parliamentary agitation? These are facts of the utmost importance, and facts of which the Commissioners have not a single word to say. Surely, to Members of the House of Commons, not tied by legal rules, it is a most material fact, in enabling us to judge the conduct of the respondents, that the Constitutional leaders were continually embarrassed by the action of the extreme party. I believe the hon. Member for Cork did all he possibly could to keep back the extreme party, and that, if he had separated himself entirely from it, the results would probably have been far worse. But be that as it may, I entreat the House to have some charity for the conduct of the Irish leaders in such a difficult position. We are told that this is a criminal conspiracy. Hon. Membersseem to think that any man guilty of such a conspiracy ought to have hard labour. [Mr. MACLURE: Hear, hear!] I will endeavour to show the hon. Member who says "hear, hear" that he may have himself been guilty of such a conspiracy. Suppose that any two barristers, thinking that a colleague was not acting up to the strictest standard of professional good taste—that, for intance, he was touting for briefs—were to tell an attorney that he ought not to employ him, that would be a criminal conspiracy. Or suppose any two Primrose Dames, in the innocence of their hearts, said to one another they did not think that any good Churchwoman ought to give her custom to a dissenting grocer, and that they would promise one another to do so no longer, 56 they would be guilty of a criminal conspiracy. [Mr. MACLURE: Hear, hear! and laughter.] I am glad I carry the opinion- of the hon. Member with me. I put these extreme cases, in which really no jury would dream of bringing in a, verdict of guilty, to show there is nothing so terrible in the expression "criminal conspiracy." It merely means a conspiracy for which a man may be indicted, but as we are told that every moment in our lives we are imbibing microbes, so I suppose that there are few hon. Members who at some moment of their lives have not been guilty of a criminal conspiracy. The moral guilt which is involved in a so-called criminal conspiracy depends entirely upon the circumstances of the case. In this case, it seems to me that the criminal conspiracy for which the respondents were condemned was one into which two-thirds of the people of Ireland entered. Hon. Members will remember the famous phrase of Mr. Burke that he could not draw an indictment against a nation, but the Commissioners have found a nation guilty of a criminal conspiracy. They have found it guilty by omitting to notice or realise the fact that it was a whole nation that had conspired. Then I come to the charge against the respondents that they have endeavoured to obtain the independence of Ireland. To endeavour to obtain the independence of Ireland would not be an offence unless violent means were contemplated. Canada is just as much a part of Her Majesty's dominions as Ireland, and there exist in Canada societies whose aim it is to obtain the independence of Canada, or even to obtain the union of Canada with the United States, but no one thinks of prosecuting the members of those societies. If they proposed to attain their object in a perfectly legal way no one would think of endeavouring to prevent them. Looking at the matter even from a purely legal point of view, it is not necessarily a culpable act to endeavour to obtain the independence of Ireland.
§ It being half an hour after five of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow.