§ [ADJOURNED DEBATE.]
Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Main Question [3rd March],
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.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Dabate resumed.511
§ * MR. DE LISLE (Leicestershire, Mid)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I want to ask you, Sir, whether, a Division having taken place last night, and my name being first on the Paper, it is not now my privilege to address this House?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman did not move the adjournment of the debate, and I understand the noble Lord wishes to speak on the Main Question.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
I was going to say I was very desirous to make some remarks to the House on the Main Question before it was complicated by the additions, one of which seems to be very wise and another seems to be very much the reverse. The House may not be aware that I have watched these proceedings, which we are now asked to sanction by a final vote to-night, with sorrow and apprehension from their inception in 1888 down to the present day; and, Sir, that sorrow and that apprehension have grown deeper and stronger as the proceedings have been themselves developed. We are asked by the First Lord of the Treasury to give a final sanction to the proceedings which commenced by the passing of the Special Commission Act by adopting the Resolution which the right hon. Gentleman has submitted to the House. But, Sir, before I can give such a sanction, I feel bound to consider, and to ask the House to consider, what was the nature of those proceedings we are called upon to approve. Sir, I find, to begin with, a general assertion, that these proceedings from beginning to end are tainted and vitiated, thoroughly and hopelessly tainted and vitiated, by their utterly unconstitutional character. If that assertion is true—and I trust to adduce certain arguments which I think it will be difficult to reply to—I think it is an assertion which ought to commend itself especially to hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who have arrogated to themselves of recent years, and I am prepared to assert with much justice, the title of the Constitutional Party. May I be allowed to give a brief re-capitulation of the nature of the proceedings we are asked to sanction? 512 In 1888 Her Majesty's Government came to the conclusion, and finally decided, that it was absolutely necessary to ascertain the truth of certain charges and allegations which had been made against certain Members of this House, and for this purpose Her Majesty's Government decided that they would discard and set aside the ordinary tribunals of the land. Her Majesty's Government must have held that in these charges and allegations, and in the manner in which they wore put forward, there was a primâ facie case against the parties incriminated. I lay down the thesis that where a Government holds that there is a primâ facie case against parties incriminated on criminal charges it is the duty of the Executive Government to proceed by a criminal prosecution in the ordinary manner. But if, on the other hand, there was, in the opinion of the Government, a primâ facie case to justify proceedings against the parties, I say à fortiori there must have been a primâ facie case to justify the Government in asking the House to constitute an extraordinary tribunal. If there was no primâ facie case for a prosecution there could not be a primâ facie case to justify Parliament in the creation of an extraordinary tribunal. Therefore, what, does it come to? It comes to this, that the first step of a British Government, a Government proud of being a Constitutional Government, the first step which they take in order to ascertain the truth of criminal charges against individuals, ay, and not only against individuals—and this will be to a great extent the burden of my remarks—but against political opponents, is to discard and set aside the ordinary Law Courts of the land. What was the second step? The second step was that the Government decided to constitute by means of an Act of Parliament a Special Commission, consisting of three Judges of the land, and these Judges were to accumulate the functions of Judge and jury for the purpose of trying individuals on a criminal charge. There, again, what does that mean? It means this—that they decided to place political opponents on their trial on a criminal charge without giving to those political opponents the protection which a jury is supposed to give. I attach enormous, importance, and I cannot help attaching 513 enormous importance, to this matter, that in all these concerns a British Government is dealing with political opponents; because the House will see, both sides must see, that what one Government may lawfully do in dealing with political opponents, another Government may do with equal legality. What was the third step in these proceedings? The third step was, having compelled these individuals, these political opponents, to stand their trial on a criminal charge, the Executive of the day proceeded themselves to nominate the members of that tribunal. Sir, the meanest criminal in the land, when placed upon his trial on a criminal charge, has a voice, and a large voice, in the selection of the jury. He has a considerable right of challenge; but in these proceedings a British Government allowed the individuals placed on their trial, individuals who were political opponents, no voice in the selection of the jury, and no right of challenge. But perhaps it may be urged, I think most futilely urged, that this was not placing individuals on their trial on a criminal charge; suppose you tell me it was in the nature of an arbitration, then I ask, in the whole history of arbitrations did you ever hear of an arbitration where one of the parties had no voice whatever in the selection of the arbitrators? No, Sir; the third step was this—that the Executive Government of the day, by the weight of a Party majority, established on a tribunal to try criminal charges their own nominees. There was a fourth step. It was, indeed, a natural consequence of the three former steps. The Government, by forcing these proceedings through the House, inflicted, in anticipation of the finding, a heavy penalty upon their political opponents in the shape of a heavy pecuniary fine. The House will realise that much injustice, gross injustice, was the consequence of such an Act; because by the offer which the Government had made to the Irish Party in 1887 to institute a criminal prosecution against the newspaper which had made the charges in the name of their own officers and at the public expense—that was a perfectly fair offer, and I greatly regret it was not accepted by the Irish Party—by making that offer the Government indicated clearly that in their view at that time it was not fair or 514 right that in order to ascertain the truth of these matters the Irish Party should be put to considerable and heavy cost; but by the procedure under your Special Commission Act yon have practically levied upon your political opponents a large pecuniary fine, which amounts, I am informed, to something like £40,000. Now, I am arguing this matter on Constitutional grounds alone. Your first step was to discard the tribunals of the land appointed to find out the truth of criminal charges; the second step was to institute a special tribunal, in which you cumulated on three individuals the functions of both Judge and jury; the third step was to allow the persons implicated no voice in the constitution of that tribunal; and the fourth step was to levy upon them a very heavy pecuniary fine. I fearlessly assert, and I defy any lawyer in the House to contradict me, that for not one of those steps can you find any precedent or parallel in English history, or anything even approximating to a precedent. We are therefore asked to give a final sanction to-night, by agreeing to the Motion of the First Lord of the Treasury, to a proceeding unique, unprecedented, and utterly un-Constitutional. But that is not all; I wish it were. I have sketched the nature of the procedure which we are called upon to approve; I must also refer, on the same Constitutional grounds, to the methods, by which this procedure gained the sanction of the Legislature. At first the Government offered the Special Commission as a free gift to their opponents, to be taken or to be rejected according to their will. Now, this did not for at moment destroy the un-Constitutional character of the proceeding; but it undoubtedly imparted a gloss of fairness to an unprecedented proposal. But when those who were behind Her Majesty's Government, when their organs in the Press perceived, or thought that they perceived, that the Irish Party quailed before the investigation which was proposed—and if they had quailed I should not have been surprised, because I declare that in the last century or century and a half no public men have been exposed to such a trial and test as the hon. Member for Cork and his Colleagues have been exposed to—when those behind the Government imagined that; 515 the Irish Party quailed before the proposed proceeding they put such pressure upon the Government that the free gift character of the proposal utterly disappeared, and it then became a measure which was to be forced upon the House of Commons, no matter at what cost. Every single clause in this Bill, except the first, was forced through Committee without discussion by a most ruthless misuse of the Closure—a use of the Closure so ruthless that nothing but the most urgent considerations of public safety could possibly justify it. When I reflect upon that use of the Closure, and recall the opinions held by the Constitutional Party in 1882—when I recall the able, the forcible, the eloquent speeches which were then made by the Members of the Tory Party, by its rank and file, and by its leaders, against the dangers which must inevitably accrue in the direction of Parliamentary tyranny and oppression in consequence of what was then an innovation, I cannot understand that a Party that made those declarations in 1882 should sanction this misuse of the Closure in 1888. Who would have supposed that a short period of seven years would work such a change in the feelings of the Constitutional Party with respect to the Closure. I have often been reproached for inconsistency; but now it is no longer open to any Member of the Front Bench, unless it be to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—[laughter from the Home Rule Members]—I do not make that exception in any jocular way; I except the right hon. Gentleman because he was not a Member of the Tory Party tit the time to which I am referring—it is no longer open to any Member of the Front Bench to reproach me with inconsistency in public matters after the enormous inconsistency of which they have been guilty, in declaring in 1882 that the Closure was the most un-Constitutional and dangerous innovation that could he imagined, and in using in 1888 that most un-Constitutional and dangerous innovation in a most un-Constitutional and dangerous manner. I say that this Closure was used in a unique and extraordinary manner for the purpose of forcing down the throats of the minority, the political opponents of the Government of the day, an unprecedented and unparalleled, and, I think, 516 tremendous instrument of oppression, namely, the procedure which we are called upon to stamp with our approval to-night. It is a procedure such as would undoubtedly have been gladly resorted to by the Tudor s and their Judges. It is, I think, in every sense of the word an Elizabethan procedure. It is procedure of an arbitrary and tyrannical character, used against individuals who are the political opponents of the Government of the day, procedure such as Parliament has for generations and centuries struggled against and resisted, procedure such as we had hoped in these happy days Parliament had triumphantly overcome. It is procedure such as would have startled and alarmed even Lord Eldon; it is procedure such as Lords Lyndhurst and Brougham would have protested against; it is procedure which, if that great lawyer, Earl Cairns, had been alive, the Tory Party would never have carried. But a Nemesis awaits a Government that adopts un-Constitutional methods. What has been the result of this uprootal of Constitutional practices? What has been the one result? Pigott! What has been the result of this mountainous parturition? A thing, a reptile, a monster—Pigott! What, with all your skill, with all your cleverness, has been the result? A ghastly, bloody, rotten foetus—Pigott! Pigott!! Pigott!!! This is your Nemesis, and I hope a similar Nemesis will always inevitably await the British Government when they depart flagrantly from Constitutional courses. To sum up the whole of this matter—Why do I bring these things before the House of Commons? [An hon. MEMBER on the Ministerial Benches laughed derisively.] Yes; I know there are lots of high-minded and generous Members, who not long ago were my friends, who are ready to impute—much more likely to impute than openly to assert—that I am animated by every evil motive. I bring those matters before the House of Commons because I look forward to times and apprehend the times, which I trust may be remote, but which I sometimes fear may be nigh, when the Party which vaunts itself as the Constitutional Party may possibly, by the vicissitudes of fortune, find itself in a position of political inferiority similar to that which it occupied in 1832—I look forward to times when the rights 517 of the minority may be trampled upon and overridden, when the views of the minority may be stifled, when individual political opponents may be proceeded against as you have proceeded against your political opponents. I can conceive of no tyrannical interference with freedom of political speech and freedom of political action; I can imagine no excess of Parliamentary oppression by a majority of a minority, which could not be palliated and covered, ay, and justified, by this precedent which you have yourselves created. I have no doubt many hon. Members on this side of the House are ready to form a most unfavourable opinion of what I am saying. These views of mine have not been formed as a consequence of what has been going on. They were formed the moment this Commission was proposed. And what course did I take? I might have opposed the Government. I believe I ought to have done so. But I knew the storm of calumny and imputation which would break out from gentlemen of passionate and unreflecting minds if I did so. I therefore took a different course, and I embodied these views which I have laid before the House in a written document, which I respectfully submitted to the First Lord of the Treasury to be laid before the Government. Therefore, they are not the views formed according to the way thing's have gone. They are the views which I expressed privately, but as strongly as I could, to the Government when the Bill was in contemplation, and which I feel I must express publicly in the House of Commons before these things are finally sanctioned by Parliament. May I examine the Motion itself also from a Constitutional point of view? I think I have a fatal objection to adduce to the Motion. The Government, in my opinion, strayed most woefully and most direfully from what I will not call the path of the Constitution, but from the broad highroad of the Constitution when they constituted by Act of Parliament the Special Commission. By that Act of Parliament they violated the Constitution; but by this Motion I hold they are violating their own law. The Special Commission Act proceeded on the supposition that Parliament was incompetent to ascertain the truth of these charges. Parliament, by that Act, delegated the duty 518 to a Special Commission of three Judges, whose judgment was to be undoubtedly a final judgment so far as the House of Commons was concerned. Why do I say that? Because if hon. Members will look at the Act they will find that Parliament, acting under the guidance of the Government, deliberately constituted a tribunal for the purpose in view, which was to be, for that purpose, a branch of the Supreme Court of Judicature. They conferred upon that tribunal by their Act of Parliament all the powers, rights, and privileges such as are vested in Her Majesty's High Court of Justice or in any Judge thereof. They had a precedent before them in the constitution of the Commission to inquire into the Sheffield outrages. They set aside that precedent; they deliberately gave to this Court all the privileges and powers of the High Court, such as had never before been conferred upon a Special Commission. What is the privilege of the High Court, without the strict observance of which its life and vigour must fail and perish? I hold that the first and most essential privilege of the High Court of Justice is that its proceedings in the administration of the law shall not be interfered with by Parliament—shall not be brought under review by Parliament, either for the purpose of blame or praise; and that its findings and judgments cannot under any consideration whatever be questioned in Parliament. Parliament can make a law. Parliament can alter a law. But in the administration of the law the High Court of Justice, or any of its branches, is co-equal with Parliament, and in some sense superior. But what does the Government do by this Motion, asking the House to adopt the judgment of a branch of the High Court of Justice? They set up, not Parliament, but a branch of Parliament—the House of Commons—as a Court of review and of appeal from the findings of a tribunal with equal rights and privileges with the other tribunals of the High Court of Justice. Now, who does this; who sets up the House of Commons as a Court of review from the findings of the High Court of Justice? Not a private Member; not an Irish Member. Often have I heard Irish Members attempt to bring under the review of this House the proceedings of the High Court of Justice, but, no matter whether the Government has 519 been Conservative or Liberal, they have been sternly rejected and Parliamentary sanction has been refused. But now we have a British Government inviting the House of Commons to affirm a judgment of the High Court of Justice, and naturally, by that Motion, inviting and challenging their opponents to reject the judgment of the High Court of Justice. After this precedent—and I submit this important point to the Legal Advisers of the Government—I doubt whether it is an exaggeration to state—indeed, I state it on a high legal authority—that there is hardly any judgment or finding of any Judge or jury administering the law under the High Court of Justice which might not be brought under the notice of Parliament, either to be questioned, or adopted, or condemned. What I want to know is this—what is to become of the administration of justice in this country? How are you to look for an independent judiciary if the findings and judgments of Judges, no matter whether they are permanent or temporary and created for a special purpose, are to be subjected to Parliamentary debate, censure, or approval? What is to become of the administration of justice if the judgments of the High Court are to be adopted by a, Party or majority when they happen to be convenient, and to be rejected by a Party or by a majority when they happen to be inconvenient and troublesome? Why is the House of Commons to acquire and possess these special prerogatives which Government by their Motion have given to it? I want to know this. Has the Sovereign adopted the Report? The Sovereign is a branch of Parliament, and a very important branch. Has the House of Lords adopted the Report? The House of Lords, we understand, or some of its leaders, are waiting to see what the House of Commons is going to do. But there are undoubtedly great lawyers still in the House of Lords, and I shall be surprised if some of these great lawyers, and probably nearly all these great lawyers, do not warn their Lordships against embarking on the un-Constitutional course to which this Motion invites us. The Judges under the Special Commission Act were directed to inquire into the truth of certain charges and allegations. The direction 520 was similar to the direction of a jury. They were "well and truly to try and make true deliverance." Has the truth been found or not? If it has been found, what need of this Motion? If it has not been found, where do you find in the Constitution or in your special Act any right to appeal to the House of Commons? The Judges were not directed to make any Report to any person. Such was what I can only call the reckless haste with which this Act was passed into law that, although in one clause the Judges are directed to inquire and report, no person or body is mentioned to whom the Report is to be made. I do not know why the Report has been addressed to the Crown. I find nothing in the Act to justify it. If the Judges had chosen to deliver their judgment in their own Court, and if their judgment had been embodied in a Blue-book as the judgment of the Judges which we have now before us, then I say the utter un-Constitutionality of the Motion would have been apparent to the meanest intelligence. Now, Sir, I respectfully submit that this objection is fatal to the Motion of the First Lord of the Treasury—fatal, that is to say, if Constitutional courses are to be at all adhered to or at all respected. The Government broke the spirit of the Constitution by appointing the Commission. They broke the letter of their own law by submitting this Motion to the House of Commons. As their original Act was without any precedent in English history, so I say deliberately and fearless of contradiction that this Motion is without any precedent in the annals of the House of Commons. And just as the Act creates a precedent of most evil omen to the rights of minorities and the rights of political opponents in the future, so does this Motion create a precedent of evil omen and great danger to the administration of justice in the future. I have tried the original Act by elementary Constitutional Law, and I find it to be wrong, and I defy any one to prove it is right. I have tried the Motion by the original law of the Government, for which they are responsible, and I assert that the Motion is as wrong as the Act itself. The Government by the Act deliberately surrounded their tribunal with all the protection and privileges of the High Court of Justice. By this Motion they are obliged to break 521 down, destroy, and shatter all the protection and privileges which they accorded to that Court. What does the First Lord of the Treasury mean? He assumes, and asks us to support him, to set up the House of Commons as a Court of Appeal and a Court of Review upon a judicial finding, and he asserts that in such a course he is dealing out, to use his own words, absolute justice to all. Now, let me just examine that proposition. He asks the House of Commons to adopt the Report. What do we do if we adopt that Report and make it our own? We condemn certain persons on certain charges, and we acquit certain persons on certain charges. That is what we do by adopting the Report. But do we condemn all the guilty parties concerned in this matter? Do we condemn all the parties who have been found guilty of—to use a very mild expression—misdemeanour? We condemn, it is quite true, the Irish members on certain charges and for certain acts. But do we condemn the Times newspaper? The Times newspaper has been found guilty of an atrocious libel against Members of this House. But there is not a word in the Report or in the Motion now before the House condemning this convicted delinquent, who is certainly in this matter as important as the Irish Members. Can you call that dealing out absolute justice to all? If the Government insist on this Motion, if they compel their majority to assent to it, then I also insist on my right, as a Member of this House, to record my vote in favour of the condemnation, not only of the Irish Party, but of the Times newspaper, found guilty of an atrocious libel on Members of this House—found guilty of a slander unexampled and without foundation. I hope that issue is yet to be discussed; but I cite it as an illustration of the danger when once you interfere with the indifferent and independent administration of justice by the ordinary tribunals of the land. No doubt much of what I am saying, and very likely all, is most displeasing to those who sit around me, and I have no doubt that a plentiful crop of misunderstanding's and imputations will result. But the matter, I felt, was too grave for me to keep silent. The precedent was too serious and too horrible. I do earnestly invite 522 and counsel hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, even at this eleventh hour, to do something towards retracing the steps which have been taken by them along this dangerous road. I invite any one of them who has doubts as to the prudence of the course which is being pursued to press the Government to abandon this Motion. There was a time, not very long ago, when my word had some weight with hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, and in recalling that time I cannot, and will not, refrain from the remark that the prospects of the Party were then brighter by far than they are now. When I had the honour, the memorable honour, of counselling hon. Members on this side of the House, the Unionist majority in this House was over 100. It has now fallen to about 70. It cannot be denied that bye-elections, though dangerous if you gather too much deduction from one or two, cannot be disregarded if you take them as a whole. Bye-elections do show a great shifting of public opinion, which I fear will not be favourable to the prospects of the Unionist Party. At any rate that was not the case when I had the honour of counselling the Party. If there are any lingering memories on these Benches of those days, when I think our fortunes were better, it is by those memories I would appeal to hon. Members on this side of the House to give a fair and impartial and unprejudiced consideration to the counsels which I now lay before them. But if my words are to fall on deaf ears, if the counsels I most honestly submit are to be spurned and scorned, then I declare that I also look forward to the day alluded to by the hon. and learned Member for Fife (Mr. Asquith), in his most brilliant speech, when a future Parliament shall expunge from the Journals of this House the record of this melancholy proceeding, and in taking such action, inspired, I trust, not by Party passion, Party vindictiveness, or Party rancour, but acting on Constitutional grounds, and on those alone, it will administer to its predecessors a deserved and wholesome rebuke for having outraged and violated Constitutional liberty, and will establish and set up a sign-post full of warning, instruction, and guidance to the Parliaments yet unborn.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
Mr. Speaker, the House has just listened to a Constitutional speech on a grave subject, couched in moderate language, and if I am unable to accept all that is in that speech I hope I shall not fail to deal with it in the manner which it deserves. The noble Lord, I think, need not fear from mo or any Member of this House that we shall scorn his advice. We may not all agree with, him, or be able to accept the assumption that underlay the latter part of his speech, that if we accepted his advice we should place the Unionist Party again in a majority of 100 in this House, but we shall not be inclined to treat with disrespect the counsels which he from time to time gives us. The speech which the noble Lord has just made, as he must himself preceive, might have been made with greater propriety on the Second Reading of the Commission Bill. He has told us the reasons which prevented him speaking on that occasion. All I can say is that having spoken now we are under the disadvantage of dealing with circumstances which are two years old, and which are not fresh in the recollections of all. My recollection of these circumstances does not agree with his. He spoke of the charges which had been made against hon. Members, and he said the Government must have come to the conclusion that there were primâ facie grounds for those charges. I do not remember that the Government or any Member of the Government ever said there was a primâ facie case against hon. Members. The noble lord said that if they held that opinion they ought at once to have instituted a criminal prosecution. But if, upon such rumours, which have now turned out to be calumnies, the Government had instituted a prosecution against those who were their political opponents, they would then have been open to all the censure which the noble Lord now throws upon them. As I understand the position, Her Majesty's Government treated these allegations as libels, which might or might not be justified, but as libels against public men, and they desired that these public men should take the usual course for vindicating their character. It was on the invitation and at the request of hon. Members themselves that this matter was made the 524 subject of inquiry. It was not raised by the opponents of hon. Members. It was raised by hon. Members themselves, who claimed a Committee of this House. The question then was not whether there should be an inquiry. I could show that at that time there was not the slightest difference of opinion as to the necessity for inquiry and the character of the inquiry, but only as to the character of the tribunal. I do not think that upon that any great Constitutional question arose. I think it has been said in some of the leading organs of the Home Rule Party that this Special Commission was my pet proposal. When I have given the authority for this statement I need scarcely say that it is entirely untrue. I never hoard of the Commission until it was suggested by the Government. But now that the action of the Government is called in question, I will say that, in my judgment, the circumstances have shown that they were right. Experience and the result of this inquiry have shown that this, tribunal was the best, and, I will say, the only tribunal to conduct the inquiry. I doubt whether upon that point there will be much contention. I am not speaking of the conclusions of the tribunal—I am speaking of the conduct of the inquiry. All the objections made at the time of the appointment of the Commission by hon. Members on this side of the House have been shown to be without foundation. I have taken out from the debate a list of all the objections taken. It was said that the Judges would not be impartial. [Home Rule cheers.] Yes, but it is not said now. [Cries of "Yes, yes" from the Irish Members.] Well, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken have said exactly the reverse. ["No."] I will quote the exact words directly. The next objection was that the charges against the respondents could not be specified. But the first thing that the Judges did was to demand a specification of the charges. It was said that the Times' charges were so vague that the inquiry would last at least 10 years. It was said that all the guarantees and safeguards of accused persons were omitted; that the ordinary judicial procedure would not be insured: and that the Times, if found guilty, would enjoy an absolute immunity from all subsequent proceedings. It was 525 said, for instance, that an action for libel would not be allowed against the Times; that it would be impossible for those injured respondents to have any solace for their injuries. I say every one of those objections has been proved to be without foundation. The inquiry which has taken place has been exhaustive, every charge has been inquired into, every charge been examined upon, has been replied to, and has been cross-examined upon. Now, I ask the House, as sensible men, whether a Parliamentary Committee—which was the alternative—would have done better, or, indeed, would have done as well? Again—I am only speaking of the nature of the inquiry—I have heard it stated in the debate that a Parliamentary Committee would have brought the matter to an earlier conclusion. How could it have done so? A Parliamentary Committee might have examined into the whole of the charges, which was the instruction given to the Judges; but if they had done, is it possible that they could have accomplished this work in anything like the time in which the Commission performed it? Every one knows what the procedure is before a Parliamentary Committee, that it is impossible to adhere to the strict methods which have been found to be the best way of shortening the procedure; every Member of the Committee has the opportunity of examination, and in these circumstances I think it quite possible that if such a Committee had been appointed it would not have completed its work during the present Parliament. Therefore, so far as the inquiry goes, it must be satisfactory to hon. Members below the Gangway. It was as exhaustive as they themselves could have wished it to be, and I do not think that any of their witnesses have been refused a hearing, or that anything which they wished to say has not been brought out. The next point is this—is there any reason in the constitution of the tribunal which should induce the House to receive with suspicion its conclusions? I said just now I would refer to the statements of my right hon. Friends about the Judges. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian admitted their assiduity, their ability, their learning, and their perfect and absolute good faith.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I will come to the qualification of my right hon. Friend also. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) went further; he admitted the absolute impartiality of the Judges. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Hackney (Sir C. Russell) spoke of their decision as "an impartial judgment." Now, it is quite true there were qualifications. My right hon. Friend behind me spoke of "prepossessions"; the hon. and learned Member for South Hackney spoke of "prejudices." My right hon. Friend did not go so far; he said, "I do not say prepossessions, I will call them political sentiments." Very well; granted that the Judges, like every one else, have personal prepossessions and political opinions. Is it contended that that vitiates their judgment and their findings upon matters of fact? Can we not distinguish between what are matters of fact and matters of opinion? I will say, for myself, when the Judges give their opinion for instance as to the exact effect of the rejection of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill by the House of Lords, or as to the exact influence upon the condition of Ireland of the passing of the Land Act, I think these are matters of opinion upon which I am quite willing that the views of others should prevail over those of the Judges. I make that admission. But as regards matters of fact, is there any reason that their prepossessions should vitiate the findings at which the Judges have arrived? My right hon. Friend behind me says that, holding these opinions, he is not going to adopt the Report. Yes, but I maintain that it is straining language to say that if you adopt the Report you are pledged to every word of the Report, to every expression of the Report, to every adjective. No, Sir; I think most of us in the course of our lives have had to adopt Reports by the hundred and thousand. Has it ever been held that in adopting any Report, however long, you are committed to every single expression of it? By adopting a Report you adopt the findings, the general effect; you are not pledged to every word. Suppose, however, that you refuse to adopt it—and, as I am going step by step, I must again remind the House that I am speaking now only as to 527 the conclusions on matters of fact, not of opinion—suppose you refuse to adopt the Report of the Judges, to whom are you going to appeal? And here, to my mind, is a curious inconsistency in the arguments of my right hon. Friends. They say that this House is invited to exercise a judicial function, and yet they appeal from the Judges to the House, in order that we may exercise a judicial function.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
No, the Motion does not. I differ from the noble Lord, and will endeavour to make my meaning clear to him directly. An appeal to the House means this, whether it be to a Committee of the House or to the House as a whole—it means an appeal to them to re-try the facts of a case as to which it has been said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Hackney, that not one-half of the House has read the Report, and not one-tenth has read the evidence. How, then, can you appeal to the House to do justice in a judicial capacity? No, the difference between the proposition of the Government and the propositions moved or to be moved by the proposers of the various Amendments that have been placed upon the Paper, is this—the Government asks the House to discharge a Ministerial function, to adopt the Report, and not to pronounce a judicial opinion. But, by the Amendments, you are asked to take the findings of fact by the Judges, to deal with them, to distinguish between them, and to pronounce your own judgment upon them. It has been said on behalf of the Opposition, that this House is disqualified to perform such a task. This House, it will be admitted, has prepossessions, prejudices, political opinions, and, in consequence, it is contended that we are disqualified to pronounce a judicial opinion. I say we are not asked to pronounce a judicial opinion. I vote for the Resolution of the Government because it does not ask us to pronounce a judicial opinion, but it leaves that to the nation. You have confidence in the nation. You believe that it will do you justice. [Cheers.] Then why do you not leave it in their hands? Now, I must touch upon another statement of the noble Lord, which was, I think, in continuation of a state- 528 ment made by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. It has been said by both that this Report is a Vote of Censure; that by adopting it you are condemning hon. Members, your Colleagues in this House. I deny that altogether. Let us examine it. We have been told by every speaker on this side that this Report is a triumphant acquittal upon every charge which is of the slightest importance. Well, how can a triumphant acquittal be a Vote of Censure? But I go further. As I have said, by adopting the Report we adopt only the findings of fact as they are put before us by the Judges—we adopt them as the nearest approach to truth that we can get in this matter. But I do not find in the Report one single word of condemnation from the Judges; from one end of the Report to the other it is an impartial judicial statement—such things were done, such words were used, such consequences followed; as to whether good or bad, laudable or to be reprobated, the Judges do not say one word. By adopting the Report you do not say one word either. I do not mean that you may not think it to be your duty to say a good deal by way of supplement to this Report. All I point out is what cannot be contradicted as to the position of the question and the issue we are asked to determine. If you stop at what the Government proposes you pronounce neither censure nor praise. In all inquiries of this kind there are necessarily two stages—the first is the finding of the facts, and that is the stage the Judges have brought us to; the second is the appreciation of the findings. That is what you are at liberty to deal with if you like. We have been called on to give an appreciation of the facts by ray right hon. Friends. They say that the Judges were precluded from taking into account political and historical considerations, and that these political and historical considerations are essential before pronouncing finally on the matter, as they may turn things which would otherwise be offences into praiseworthy acts. That I admit. I say it was not for the Judges to do that. If it is your opinion that a judgment should be pronounced on the findings of the Commission, then I say that your judgment upon the whole Report should be a full comment upon the findings, and not upon those particular 529 portions of the Report which seem to suit your present circumstances. What I have said applies to the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. de Lisle) as well as to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings). If I had to choose between any of these Amendments I should say that his is the least objectionable. Undoubtedly the offences of which the respondents have been acquitted are more serious, more infamous, and more damaging charges than the charges which have been proved against them. Therefore, if you are to pick out any part of the Report at all you should pick out that part which contains the most important charges. But why should you pick out one part and not accept the whole? If, as you contend, the whole Report is a verdict of acquittal, and if, after taking into account the pleas of palliation which have been put forward, you can say that the action of the respondents has been, on the whole, laudable, why do you not profess to deal with the Report in that sense? I listened with the greatest admiration to the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Hackney (Sir C. Russell). He is a great forensic advocate, but I do not think that that was the speech of an advocate. It was not a speech made from a brief or from instruction. It was a speech made from his heart and conscience. But my hon. and learned Friend, if he had chosen, might have produced an Amendment in the very words of that speech—an Amendment which I believe would have been practically accepted with unanimity by the House. In the course of that speech my hon. and learned Friend spoke of his loathing for crime and assassination and condemned in the strongest terms intimidation in any shape or form. He deplored the excesses by which a great popular movement had been stained, and regretted that the leaders of that movement had failed in any respect in denouncing intimidation. Well, if he had been willing and had seen his way to draw up an Amendment in which that reference was made to some of the findings of the Report, he might have taken his choice of the other Amendments before the House, which declared the satisfaction of the House at the acquittal of the hon. Members on 530 still graver charges. But we are asked to pick and choose. We are to treat some findings as being of no importance and others as being of supreme importance and requiring particular notice. I am bound, even at the risk of wearying the House, to examine once more the character of those findings which we are asked to ignore. There is no doubt about the findings which acquit the respondents. Every one admits gladly that the respondents have been completely acquitted of personal complicity with crime. But these are not the only charges against them, and they are not the only charges which they themselves demanded should be inquired into. They asked that the charges in Parnellism and Crime, including abstention from condemnation of crime, connivance with crime, and indirect but moral complicity with crime, should be inquired into. Let me examine the findings of the Judges in reference to this matter. The speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) was a sort of apologia pro vitâ suâ, and if it were to be accepted it is not condemnation which is due to hon. Members, but we ought to pass a Resolution declaring that the hon. Member and his Friends have deserved well of their country. The hon. and learned Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) took under his special protection the other day the Clan-na-Gael. The Clan-na-Gael, it appears, is a friendly society. Well, if it is a friendly socieiy, the Land League and the National League must be philanthropic associations for murder and outrage. Well, Sir, that will need a little closer examination. I pass over the findings as to conspiracy and what is called the charge of treason. I admit that I attach no importance to it in the present debate. It is perfectly true that conspiracy of the kind which is proved, conspiracy to obtain independence, is not a crime as we understand it. It is no personal dishonour to a man. In the history of Ireland, aye, and in the history of England, men have been guilty of similar conspiracy to secure independence—conspiracy which can be called treason, but for which they are held in high honour and esteem. The only importance I attach to that finding is a political importance. I do not gather that at the time when this conspiracy was going on—it 531 is contended now that it has been since abandoned—it was announced to the world by the hon. Members engaged in it. It was not their professed object. It was cloaked and concealed by what they called the Constitutional agitation. What guarantee have we that the same thing is not going on now? What proof have we that if Home Rule is granted we shall not find behind it the Fenian Organisation using Home Rule as a first stop to independence? And now I come to what I think is the real issue—the findings numbered 4 and 9 in the Report. What is it that has been contended with reference to these findings? In the first place it is said that they are findings in the nature of matters of opinion and that they can be classified and distinguished in some way from the other evidence by which the respondents have been acquitted of the more serious offences. I say a moment's examination will show that the contention cannot be maintained. I defy anyone to make a distinction in the findings between those which appear at first sight to be hostile and those which appear favourable. There is a finding that—It is not proved that payment was made to Byrne to enable him to escape from justice.Is that a finding of fact or is it not? That must be a finding of fact. What do you say to this?—That payments were made to persons injured in the commission of crime.I am not speaking of their respective gravity; I am only saying, can it be pretended that one opinion is a matter of fact and that the other, as the hon. Member for Fife sneeringly observed, is "An obiter dictum of the Judges"? Then you get the finding that some of the respondents did express bonâ fide disapproval of crime. Is that a question of fact? If that is a question of fact, surely the other finding that the respondents did not denounce intimidation leading to crime, even when they knew of its consequences, is also a matter of fact. You can make a distinction in the gravity of the findings, but you cannot make any distinction in their character. I will take one more. The finding of the Court that acquits Mr. Parnell of all connection with the Invincible conspiracy is a finding of fact. Bat by what process of reasoning can you say that it is legitimate to accept 532 a finding of that kind and reject a finding as to the co-operation and assistance which he has received from the Physical Force Party? They stand on the same footing. They have equal authority and equal weight, and you must either reject all the findings or accept them all. There is a much more serious contention, if true. It is said that these findings related to venial and trivial offences. Let us see what they are. There are three findings which stand together. The finding that the respondents invited and obtained the assistance and co-operation of the Physical Force Party; the finding that there was no denunciation by Mr. Parnell of the action of the Physical Force Party; and lastly, the finding that Mr. Davitt was in close and intimate association with the Party of violence in America. Is that a trivial offence? What was the Physical Force Party? It was a Party whose publicly avowed and professed object was to assassinate public men in this country and to lay our chief cities in ruins. And yet my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton compared these transactions with the history of the agitations which led to the passing of the Reform Act and the repeal of the Corn Laws. I say there is no parallel in these transactions to any popular or patriotic movement in the history of the world. There is no case in which men professing to carry on a Constitutional agitation met their opponents in fair debate, and at the same time were in close and intimate alliance with men who, by their published newspapers, declared that their object was to assassinate those same opponents and cause injury and ruin to the countrymen of those so-called Constitutional leaders. It is said that reparation is due to hon. Gentlemen opposite. Well, Sir, is no reparation due to us who for months and years were followed by police even into our homes, in order to protect us against the agents of the "friendly society" of the hon. Member for East Fife? I say in any case to compare things of this kind with the action of Bright and Cobden is simply an insult to the memory of those great men. And now I come nearer home, to the charges affecting the agitation in Ireland. I take, in the first place, the account of the conversation between the hon. Member for Cork and Mr. Ives, the American 533 reporter. This was before the larger number of these outrages had taken place, and at the time when the Land League, it may be said, was in process of formation, and when, therefore, the principles upon which that Association was to act had to be laid down. The hon. Member for Cork spoke freely to Mr. Ives on the subject, and in consequence of his description Mr. Ives seems to have had his suspicions; he seems to have said to himself, "this will lead to violence." He said to the hon. Member—But do you not believe in the consequences which are visited upon tenants who do pay their rents?The hon. Member replied—Well, it may be accepted as an axiom that you cannot effect a social revolution by dealing with it with kid gloves. Of course, if any farmers have burned the crops of their neighbours, or destroyed their cattle because they have paid their rents, those farmers are not only wrong, but they are fools, for they have to pay the cost. The person who has thus had his crop or stock destroyed is remunerated by the law, and his fellow-tenants have to bear the loss. But a certain amount of pressure from public opinion, which in such cases is apt occasionally to manifest itself in unpleasant ways, must be brought to bear upon those who are weak or cowardly. Look at the strikes in England and America, and the penalties threatened towards traitors to the common cause.Well, I am not going to exaggerate the meaning of these words, but I think the words "unpleasant ways" and the reference to traitors have a disagreeable sound. I quote them in order to show that the hon. Member for Cork was perfectly well aware that the action he was taking, the methods he was devising, were likely to lend to certain persons being treated as "traitors" and in an "unpleasant way." I might give here the words used by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). That hon. Member always speaks with great care in this House, but I note that he rarely goes to Ireland to speak. In America, however, his tongue is a little loosened, for there he spoke of the shooting of land-grabbers as being one of the incidents of the campaign.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Quote by all means.
MR. CHAMBERLAIN had spent some moments unsuccessfully in trying to find the particular passage referred to in the Report, when
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Perhaps I may help the right hon. Gentleman to find the passage he is thinking of, and in quoting which he has misrepresented me. It is at page 106.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I should be very sorry to do the hon. Member any injustice; I certainly quoted from recollection, and, therefore, I should be glad to give the exact words. Now, the words I attributed to the hon. Member were that "the shooting of land-grabbers was one of the incidents of the campaign." The actual words were, "that the shooting of land-grabbers was one of the incidents of the civil war."
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
The right hon. Gentleman has fallen into the same mistake that the learned Judges did. He has put into my mouth language which I did not employ, but which was employed by cross-examining counsel.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I cannot, of course, go behind the Report; but the interruption of the hon. Member compels me to direct the attention of the House to a previous statement made by him, in which he refers to the landlords getting no rent, and to the 10,000 farmers to be evicted, and in which he says—The landlord has not got any rent from the ten thousand who are ejected from the farms, and he is not going to get any rent. What becomes of the ten thousand farmers meantime? We will put the tenants as near these farms as we possibly can. They like to have a glimpse of their old home, and if I was an agent of an Insurance Society I would not like to have my whole organisation and corporation dependent on the ten thousand farmers who will go into the farms that the other ten thousand have been evicted from.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
The right hon. Gentleman has again adopted the unfairness of the Judges towards me. I have already pointed out that the Judges, doubtless quite by accident and unintentionally—if hon. Gentlemen wish to say by design, let them take the responsibility of doing so—I say that the Judges put into my mouth words which were not employed by me but by cross-examining counsel. The Judges have likewise thought it right to quote from 535 me a passage without giving the words which immediately follow. I have sent for the evidence, and I will quote the passage in the course of the evening.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I will leave the hon. Member to vindicate himself from the Judges, and will pronounce no opinion upon that.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
In order that the matter may be perfectly clear, I may repeat that the statement made in the Report is that Mr. T. P. O'Connor admitted that the shooting of land-grabbers was an incident of the civil war, which, of course, may be involved in the admission of an answer to counsel.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
The right hon. Gentleman has repeated the passage which I admit, taken by itself, would involve a very serious charge of reckless language against me; but I contend that before he adopted the language of the Report he ought to have consulted the evidence. I say this, because the charge unchallenged would be a very serious one against me. Before the Judges I was asked a question with regard to this, and my answer will be found on page 38 of Volume IX. I was asked—Did you make that speech?—Yes.Do you wish to give any explanation of it yourself?—The explanation was given at the time the speech was made.What was the explanation?—You have not read the passage, though it immediately follows it.Here is the passage—I do not state this as a matter of boast or a matter of gratification; I state it as the horrible, savage, and uncivilised state of feeling and of things which English mismanagement and English tyranny have brought about.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I stated that I was quoting from the hon. Member in order to show that he was aware of the consequences which would follow such action. The paragraph which he has now read confirms and strengthens my interpretation. He says that he knew that these consequences, these horrible consequences, would follow. They were not to him a matter of boast or satisfaction; yet he was going on with the course of action which he knew would produce these results.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I call upon you as a matter of order, Mr. Speaker, 536 to decide on this point. The right hon. Gentleman states that I knew that certain actions would lead to murder, and that I continued that action with that knowledge. Is the right hon. Gentleman justified in making that charge?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The question is not one of order. It is a matter of inference on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, and the hon. Member can rebut the statement when he has an opportunity of replying.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
In the second place, I say that when the right hon. Gentleman charges me with adopting a course of action that would lead to these lamentable offences. I challenge him to give one instance of such action on my part.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not wish to pursue this controversy further, Mr. Speaker, but it is impossible to overlook the fact that the hon. Member stated in this speech that he would put the evicted tenants as near their farms as he possibly could; that is to say, that he expressed the intention of doing that which he knew must lead to bad consequences. But when the hon. Member says that I accused him of doing things which he knew would lead to murder, I beg to point out to him that what I said will not bear so serious an interpretation as that. But I do say that his language clearly means that illegal practices would follow at some time or other, to the injury of the tenants who took the evicted farms; and I repeat that, after knowing what the results of placing the old tenants as near as possible to the new tenants on those farms would be, he continued to support that course of action. I pass on, and direct the attention of the House to a speech made by the late Mr. Biggar at a banquet given to Mr. Parnell, and in which Mr. Biggar referred to Hartmann, but from which I will not quote unless the House desires me to do so. There is also a speech made by Boyton, to which reference has been made. Boyton told the people that they should shoot the landlords as game, and that if the police came at night, and frightened their wives and daughters, they could blow out their brains if they had an old musket or a pistol. It was said the other day by an hon. Member that it was extremely unfair to the hon. Member for Cork to make him answer- 537 able for the wild language or statements of every person connected with the League or on the outskirts of the movement. Certainly it is. But is it pretended that Boyton was a person of that kind? Boyton was one of the leading organisers of the League. He is thought of sufficient importance to have his speeches reported verbatim; and I ask, is it conceivable that a man like Boyton could make speeches of the sort I have referred to, speeches which were frequently repeated, and that attracted a great deal of attention at the time, without the leaders of the League being aware of the fact? I say it is impossible to conceive that hon. Members and the whole of the executive of the League were ignorant of the character of the speeches being made by Boyton and ethers, and, if they were not ignorant of them, then they are proved to be guilty of connivance with crime. But I go to a much more important speaker, the hon. Member for East Mayo. Now, Mr. Dillon made a speech, not at the time of the outrages, not in 1882, but in 1888, in cold blood, after the Home Rule Bill had been introduced, and after a better feeling—as it is said—had sprung up between the two countries. He says—I have been for nine years now engaged in this struggle, and if any man asks me what was it that won, so far as I could answer without hesitation—it was beeping the farms empty. If the landlords had found it possible, during these nine years, to let every evicted farm, you would never have had the Land Bill at all. Those who wont before us tried good means and they tried bad means, too; and there never was the slightest success until we hit upon the dodge of making it too hot for the man who took his neighbours' land.Now I wish to call attention to that expression. Mr. Dillon said that he "had kit upon the dodge of making it too hot." My right hon. Friends on this side of the House have complained that the charges of which hon. Members opposite were acquitted were infamous and dishonouring charges, which, if proved, would have shown the hon. Member for Cork to be a liar, a coward, a hypocrite, and a murderer. Why, what was the charge against the hon. Member for Cork? What was the worst of the forged letters? It was a letter in which Mr. Parnell was charged with having urged that some one should "make it hot for old Forster." I remember 538 referring to that in the debate on the Second Reading of the Bill, and I said it seemed to me it was capable of bearing a much less serious interpretation than had been put upon it. But if hon. Members thought that the charge was infamous and dishonouring when it was brought against Mr. Parnell, what do they think when it is proved against Mr. Dillon? Now what is the finding of the Judges upon this matter? They say—No proof has been given, and we do not believe, that there was any intention on the part of the respondents or any of them to procure any murder or murder in general to be committed, and further, we believe that even those of them who have used the most dangerous language did not intend to cause the perpetration of murder. But, while we acquit the respondents of having directly or intentionally incited to murder, we find that the speeches made in which land-grabbers and other offenders against the League were denounced as traitors, and as being as bad as informers—the urging young men to procure arms and the dissemination of the newspapers above referred to—had the effect of causing an excitable peasantry to carry out the laws of the Land League, even by assassination.I do not think that that is a judgment which the House will think errs on the side of severity. But it is impossible that you can deal with some of these findings and take no notice of others such as this. It is said that the others are of less importance; there is the dissemination of newspapers, the indiscriminate defence of prisoners, and the payment of persons injured in the commission of outrage. But these amount to condonation and connivance; and I say, therefore, that these serious charges, though less serious than those of which they have been acquitted, which have been proved against hon. Members opposite, cannot be passed over without any notice being taken of them. But then there is another argument. It is said that these offences may be proved, but that there is palliation and extenuation for them. We are told that we ought to take into account the wrongs and misery of Ireland, and the valuable result in the way of legislation obtained by agitation. I am willing to admit the force of these arguments, but they are outside the present question. I say that the wrongs and misery of Ireland might have justified agitation—they did justify agitation—and even might have been an excuse for insur- 539 rection; but they cannot justify outrage, and it is this that makes the distinction between the agitation of hon. Members opposite and those of Bright and Cobden and the reform agitations. In previous years you may have had outbursts of popular violence, but never before did you have an organised system of intimidation leading to crime. I think we are bound to make this protest, and to say that assassination and outrage of the character described are things which even an injured people have no right to employ. Mr. Davitt has pointed out that his hands, at all events, are absolutely clean in this matter, and in his speeches and in his address to the Commissioners he has pointed out that these outrages were not only condemnable and were condemned by him, but that they were positively injurious to the agitation. With regard to the argument that we should take into account the result, I admit that the Land Bill could not have been passed without agitation, but I say that it did not need crime and outrage in order to pass the Land Bill or to back up the agitation. What we complain of is crime and outrage, and not agitation. Then it is said that all these things are ancient history, and do not go beyond the charges which were made by Mr. Forster in this House, or even those made by the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Mid Lothian and the Member for Derby. That is true, perfectly true, and I believe that while every sensational calumny supplemented beyond what my right hon. Friends alleged has failed, their original charges have been sustained. But when we made these charges, and asked the House to pass stringent Coercion Acts on the ground that these charges were true, we did not think they were trivial and enial, and if they were not then, what has occurred since that time to make them so now? We said then that crime and outrage were illegitimate weapons of agitation, and that incitement to intimidation, however innocent in intention, was wrong. Why should we not have the same thing now; and if we are called upon to vote upon these findings, why should we not say so now? There is only this difference between then and now. At that time it might have been said that these grave charges had been put forward by political opponents—certainly by persons of different 540 political convictions. Now they are made on the authority of a judicial tribunal and proved, and I say that it will be a supreme advantage of this Commission that in the future it will be impossible for the leaders of any agitation, situated as hon. Members below the Gangway, to ignore, or to pretend to ignore, the consequences of action and language which have been conclusively proved and recorded against them.
§ (5.43.) MR. WHITBREAD (Bedford)
We who have been accustomed to the right hon. Gentleman's lucid statements and clearly reasoned arguments mast have been struck with the evidence that he laboured somewhat in the task he has; just completed. I should have thought he would have addressed himself, if only for a few minutes, to the speech from the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill), a speech for which I venture to say everyone who values Constitutional rights and public liberty will thank the noble Lord. I wish the noble Lord, instead of contenting himself with a written protest to the leader of the House, had boldly faced obloquy when the Commission Bill was under discussion and had spoken openly in this House. We, who, sitting here day by day, felt that base injustice was being done to Colleagues by that Bill, and were stung into warmth of language, would gladly have availed ourselves of the noble Lord's assistance, and with it we might have been able to have done something to avert what we believe has been a great blot on the history of Parliament. Now, the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken does not seem to be very clear as to what it is the Government are asking us to do. He makes light of the Motion of the leader of the House, and treats the words of it as of no significance whatever. Sir, this is the first time, so far as I know, that the language of a railway shareholders' meeting has been brought into the proceedings of the House of Commons. I do not know what, in Parliamentary phraseology, is the meaning of the words "adopt the Report." I must go into commercial undertakings in relation to which the expression is used to understand its meaning. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he were chairman of a great railway company and moved the adoption of the Report at a meeting, and 541 that motion was accepted unanimously by the shareholders, whether he would not consider himself whitewashed in regard to every proposal in that Report, and whether he would admit the right of any shareholder at a future time to claim that he had not intended to assent to any particular item in the Report? The leader of the House and the Government might have used the old-fashioned language, "That this Report be entered upon the Journals;" but instead of doing this the Government ask the House to commit itself to every word in the Report. In fact, as the noble Lord has said, the Government have embarked on an un-Constitutional course and must go through with it. There has been no Broadhead on those Benches revealed by the Commission, and it is necessary to put a bold face on the matter. We have had trotted out the old complaint that the Members from Ireland did not denounce outrage, and did not assist in the detection of crime. On this side we are not going to shrink from or to shirk any particular in this Report; where we find anything to condemn we will condemn it; where we find anything that should be fairly urged in palliation of some of the offences committed we will urge it. I would ask the House in fairness to look back and see whether we have given the Irish Members much encouragement to condemn crime. Has the Press of England ever found room for hearty condemnation of crime uttered by an Irishman in Ireland? How many men in England have ever heard of that remarkable statement of Mr. Davitt's condemning outrages on cattle? How many men ever heard of it until it was brought out before the Commission? No. Every word uttered in Ireland, Australia, or America, which sounded like encouragement to outrage was reported, but the columns of the Press were closed to anything like condemnation of outrages. No pains were taken to discern any bright ray that might penetrate the dark future of affairs in Ireland. The Press of England was closed to the hearty condemnation by Irishmen of outrage, nor did it cast one bright ray on the dark picture of the conduct of Irish affairs. This was a time when the hand of England was laid heavily on Ireland; when Irish Members 542 were imprisoned in the gaols of their own country, when they were scouted in this House; and when Parliament was engaged in altering its Rules of Procedure, with no other object than that it might get control over them. It was under these circumstances, when the hand of almost every Englishman and every Scotchman was against them, when they had hardly a friend to give them a smile or countenance, except, perhaps, the hon. Gentleman who was formerly Member for Newcastle—it was when they were coming fresh from prison that they were asked to do, what? Why, that which is an unpardonable sin in Ireland—to turn informers for the Government against their own fellow countrymen. It is easy to talk of the detection of crime in England, where a man employed in such work has the whole body of his countrymen at his back. But it is a very different state of things in Ireland—a sad state of things, deeply to be deplored, though it is the natural outcome of 90 years of Union and of coercion. Though we always denied that the Commission could settle anything of a political nature, we were prepared to take the verdict of the Commissioners upon questions which could properly be submitted to them. Among those questions was the question of the letters, and direct charges against hon. Members sitting on this side of the House, that were capable of proof or disproof. The right hon. Gentleman says it was the Irish Members themselves who caused the Commission, but he forgot to add that but for the publication of the letters in the Times, and the conduct of the Government through their Attorney General with regard to those letters, the Irish Members would never have demanded an inquiry. These were the matters which they regarded as of vital importance, and on which we desired that the Irish Members should have an opportunity of clearing their character. These were the matters which were admitted, at that time, to be the principal part of the charge against them. I will quote the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who last addressed us. He told us in so many words that if the letters were successfully proved lobe forgeries, they would not, in his opinion, get the public to attend to the finding of many of the other charges. I remember my right hon. Friend went 543 very much further than that, because he said he did not see why the Government should stickle in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said—I agree with the hon. Member for Oldham that these letters constitute the principal of these charges, and no inquiry would be satisfactory which did not give a principal place in that inquiry to an examination into the authenticity of these letters. If they should be successfully shown to be base forgeries, all the rest of the case would be so prejudiced that I much doubt whether the public will pay much attention to it.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
I am afraid I have not the whole of the speech here, but further on the right hon. Gentleman said—What I mean is this. It may be said on behalf of hon. Members, 'We do not want this inquiry to last for an indefinite time, and therefore we do not want to go into mere offences against property, into boycotting, and matters of that kind. They are illegal, they are crimes in a technical sense, but they are not the sort of crimes into which inquiry is now demanded.' Well, exclude them by all means. I think matters of that sort would be altogether irrelevant to the main object of the inquiry, and I do not see why the inquiry should not be confined to general charges of real importance affecting complicity with crime of hon. Members, and with crime of personal violence and outrage.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Now read the next. My hon. Friend has read the beginning of the sentence which I wished him to refer to, and it ends by saying—If hon. Members below the Gangway say, 'We shall be satisfied if you propose to inquire into the charges of the Times, into our connivance with crime, into our complicity with crime, into our condonation of crime,' it appears to me we ought not to stickle.That is exactly what we have been inquiring into now.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
I was quoting the words of the right hon. Gentleman in order to show that they merely desired inquiry into the question of the authenticity of the letters which had so struck the public mind, not desiring to place the hon. Member for Cork and his friends in the pillory, to go through an exertion which would have taken years of their lives, and to be put not only to enormous cost, but also to the greatest personal inconvenience. But are we to say nothing about the libel? Are we to leave the libel by the Times where the Judges left 544 it? Are we to be content with the language that they used, if I remember rightly, when they were asked by counsel to express some opinion upon the question of the forgery? Are we to be content to say with them that the withdrawal of these letters, and the circumstances under which they were withdrawn, speak for themselves? That is a mild way of putting it. I must say I think when the right hon. Gentleman observes that the language of the Report is equally balanced between the two Parties, that he will not find two men inside or outside this House who will agree with him. The language bears hardly wherever there is condemnation of Irish Members, and it passes light as air over every one of the offences which the Times has committed. I have no doubt that the Judges had good ground for so treating the matter. They treated the charge as against one party only. But the House of Commons has to direct its mind to both sides. And in considering the gravity of the offences which this newspaper has committed, do let me ask the attention of the House to the persistency with which they were perpetrated. Was there ever such persistency in publishing a libel? Were ever such pains taken to disseminate such foul and scandalous charges? From April 19th, 1887, to February 27th, 1889, two days after Richard Pigott disappeared, the Times had in the most prominent position that advertisement with which we are all so familiar— "Parnellism and Crime, with the fac simile of the alleged letter of Mr. Parnell on the Phoenix Park murders." One would have thought that at least when the Commission was appointed, and the matter was sub judice, the Times would have had the good sense and the good taste to cease publishing that paragraph. But not a bit of it. On February 16th, 1889, nine days before the actual disappearance of the forger, the Times specially called the attention of their readers to a large page of fac simile letters. Did the Times and the hon. and learned Gentlemen the Times' counsel not know at that time that these letters were unreliable evidence? Did they not know at that time they could not depend upon them? Had they not heard at that time the solemn assurance of the hon. Member for Cork that the letters were forgeries? Did they not know that their own witness 545 dared not go into the box? Yet to prepare the minds of the public for that expert evidence which was to be put in, the sheet of fac simile letters was published. I think it was malignant that they should have continued at that time what they had been keeping for two years before the public. One good thing has resulted from this deplorable case—the part of the mysterious, well-cloaked, stranger possessed of secret information is pretty well played out for one generation, at least. I am not quite sure whether the offer of the Times is open to anyone in America who will swear against the hon. Member for Cork and his friends. I am not quite sure whether the solicitor for the Times has still the loan of that warders' key which enables him to go into any cell of Dartmoor or Millbank. But this I do know, that if at any future time another set of documents is required to incriminate public men the world will want answers to these questions—"Where did you get them from? How and under what circumstances did yon get them? From whom? When? For how much? With what money? Supplied by whom?" Some of these questions have been answered in the matter of the letters of the Times, but some remain unanswered, and will have to be answered some day. The Government lie under a very serious obligation to the Members for Ireland, for it was the action of the Government that caused the delay before the letters could be proved to be forgeries. It was solely the action of the Government which prevented these forgeries being exploded long before. More than once the Government were asked to grant a Committee of Inquiry, and on each occasion they replied "Go to a Court of Justice." Before this Government had anything to say to it, this House, as we knew it, was a Court of Justice to which the humblest of its Members could appeal. But you have changed all that. You asked the hon. Member for Cork to clear himself in a Court of Justice. There was something plausible in that at the time. Although the refusal of the Government amounted to withholding from the hon. Member for Cork what was his Constitutional right, there was at first some plausibility in the suggestion that he should betake himself to a Court of Law, but after the 546 trial "O'Donnell v. Walter" such a suggestion could no longer be urged innocently. After that trial it became manifest that had the hon. Member gone to a Law Court he would have been in this position. The Attorney General would have opened his whole case as to the letters, but he would have declined to produce Pigott. Who would have produced the letters showing that they came from "the confederate of the man Charles Stewart Par nell?" Where did the hon. and learned Gentleman get that expression from? Houston would have been the available witness—Houston who received thanks for the services he had rendered—and he would have told the tale with his lips, and with not one scrap of paper in his possession to aid him. I ask any lawyer versed in criminal practice how the hon. Member for Cork could have proved the letters to be forgeries when he could not have got at the man from whom they had been procured? There would have been on the one side the hon. Member's unsupported assertion that the letters were forgeries, and on the other the experts' evidence and the corroborative evidence of your Delaney. The suggestion that the hon. Member should have adopted this course is farcical. And after the manner in which the trial of "O'Donnell v. Walter" was conducted, it could not have been put forward honestly as a proper solution of the question. If the mere statement of the hon. Member for Cork that the letters were forgeries was so likely to find acceptance with 12 London jurymen, surely it ought to have found acceptance in this House. Never have I heard a more solemn denial than that given in this House by the hon. Member for Cork. The hon. Member said—I denounce that letter as an absolute forgery. I never wrote it; I never signed it; I never authorised it to be written; I never saw it.Has that bold and direct denial found credence in the House of Commons? It has not been believed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and is it more likely to be believed by a jury whose prejudices can be appealed to? To tell the hon. Member for Cork to go to a Court of Law was a cruel mockery. We heard the right hon. Member for West Birmingham ask what is the difference between a Committee 547 and a Commission. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman in two words—where the Commission left off inquiring, there a Committee would have gone on. I say this, that if you are to inquire up to condemnation point, and there erect a screen beyond which you cannot search, and, in addition, if you are to make the leaders responsible for the action of their most obscure and remotest followers, then I tell the right hon. Gentleman that the leaders in the Reform agitation, the Corn Law agitation, and every other popular movement that has ever taken place would not have escaped censure, and severe censure. Had a Committee been appointed to inquire into the charges made against the hon. Member for Cork and his friends it would have gone into the circumstances of the time and the country, and the whole history of Ireland for the last 20 years. It would have paid due attention to the rejection of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, and would have passed judgment respecting wholesale evictions heartlessly carried out. It would have recognised that in Ireland there always has been a wild feeling of revenge ready to spring into action; and that, at least, the hon. Member for Cork and his friends deserve thanks for having disciplined the rugged peasantry of the South and West. The Times made minute and searching inquiry, but I presume they looked at all those charges through a magnifying glass, until the more heinous they appeared the more the Times were inclined to believe that these letters were just the sort of communication the Member for Cork would have written. Now, let me say a word or two about the action of the Attorney General. I want to know what inquiry he made? Because his action in this had a great deal to do with the appointment of the Commission. It was the confident tone of the hon. and learned Gentlemen, when he said he was prepared to prove the whole case that he had opened, that the evidence was ready when wanted, that made the position of hon. Members on these Benches intolerable. I know that the Attorney General says now that he was speaking, not his own opinion, but from instructions. I deny his right to speak in this House from instructions. The great abilities and character of the hon. And 548 learned Gentleman have placed him in an exalted position, but in this matter he has no more right to shelter himself behind that plea than I have. When we enter these doors we have equal rights. There is no distinction of persons here, and we all speak under the same limitations and with the same responsibilities, and the hon. and learned Gentleman is as much bound as I should be bound, to have solid ground and justification for charges made against his Colleagues. It seems to me that the position of the hon, and learned Gentleman has complicated the issue very much. At one time he is counsel in the case. As such I admit his right to speak from instructions. But then he comes here, and is the Attorney General of the Government; I might say the Attorney General of the House, for he is obliged to receive instructions from the House as well as from the Government. In addition to all this he is a Member of Parliament, but he seems to have for gotten when he made such charges as these against some of his Colleagues that he was bound to satisfy himself that he could prove them. What would be said of me, or of any other Member, if I or he brought a charge of the grossest corruption against the hon. and learned Gentleman, and when brought to book said, "Oh! a very respectable solicitor of my acquaintance told me it was so. He said he got it from a man he met in the street, but did not know anything about him. He told it to me, however, and I just passed it on." Should I escape under such circumstances the just indignation and severe condemnation of the House for adopting such a course of conduct? I venture to assert that the hon. and learned Gentleman has absolutely no other rights than those possessed by all Members of this House. He might have kept silence. I know that he was attacked, and that questions were asked of him, but if he had meant to shelter himself behind the plea of instructions, he should have used that plea in a Court of Justice, and not on the floor of this House. But perhaps the experience we have had in this case will go a long way towards clearing up the difficulty which many of us have long seen surrounding the habit of allowing the Attorney General to take private 549 practice. Now, I should like to ask what is the rule of the Bar about a counsel satisfying himself on matters of such grave importance? Is it true that, in the matter of making such awful charges, and particularly against the colleagues of the counsel who would have to sustain them, it is not the duty of the counsel personally to satisfy himself that the evidence is sufficient to support those charges? I cannot believe it is true that a counsel is bound only to take instructions from a solicitor, and that he is not bound in such a matter to make inquiries for himself of those who are instructing him. If it were true, I fear that many men would hesitate to link themselves with the noble profession; but I am satisfied that it cannot be the case that counsel is absolved from that duty as completely as the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes us to believe that he is in this matter. Now the Government have been closely connected with this Commission. They have done all they could to assist the Times in this inquiry. If they deny that, I would ask them to point to one single step that by any possibility they could have taken to assist the Times which they have not taken, and taken over and over again. No; we had the frank admission last night from the Chief Secretary for Ireland that he had done all in his power to aid the inquiry, and that he would be ashamed of himself if he had not—
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I stated last night, and I say again, that I did everything in my power to aid the inquiry, and that I gave every facility to the Times I legitimately could, and every facility to hon. Members below the Gangway.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
The right hon. Gentleman will, I hope, not think that I am wilfully misquoting him; but the words I hive given I took from the Times this morning, and the right hon. Gentleman added that it was the duty of every citizen to aid to the best of his ability the inquiry before the Commission.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
But what happened before the Commission? There were two parties to the inquiry; which party did they aid, and to whom was the aid given?
§ MR. WHITBREAD
That statement reminds me strongly of the statement of the Times counsel, that he did not make any charges. In whose interests were convicts brought from Ireland to be examined before the Commission? In whose interests were the files of the Home Office ransacked, and the Police Inspectors brought away from their duties in Ireland and crowded about the Courts here? You will have a hard task to persuade the people of this country that all this was done to aid that abstraction called "the Commission," and that the Government have not done all they could in furtherance of the Times case against the Irish Members. The Government have profited by the forged letters and by Parnellism and Crime; and now that the Report has come, and the worst charges have been blown to the winds, Ministers come down and express to the House their immeasurable satisfaction that the hon. Member for Cork has been cleared of the gravest of the accusations brought against him. They say that to the House and in the country, because they dare not use any other language before an audience of their countrymen, whether that audience be Tory or Liberal. Even the Postmaster General has launched out into heated language against the conduct of the Times; and the Leader of the House has said that he cannot find words strong-enough to express his detestation of the manner in which these letters have been published. Again, the Chief Secretary has declared that he is ready to use language as strong as we like in condemnation of the Times. We do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to use any strong language; but we ask you to do the Irishmen the smallest act of even-handed justice. You have refused to put the expression of your satisfaction on paper; all we now ask is that there should be some record of these sentiments placed on the Journals of the House, and that there should be a formal entry on paper of the opinions which have been so repeatedly avowed vivâ voce in the House.
§ * MR. DE LISLE (Leicestershire, Mid)
If the hon. Member is not going to move 551 his Amendment I presume he is in order.
wish to point out that my Amendment precedes his.
§ * MR. JENNINGS
I am not rising to move my Amendment. I propose instead to speak on the Main Question, for unexpected circumstances have arisen which render it desirable I should make my statement at this stage of the debate. I came down to the House in the expectation that my Amendment would shortly have come up for discussion. I must say I was not prepared for the tone and manner of the speech delivered by my noble Friend. The delivery of a speech so hostile to the Government just before I was to explain a difficult proposition to the House has placed me in a position of very great embarrassment. It is often said out of doors that I derive my opinions entirely from the noble Lord. But occasionally, as on the present occasion, I am capable of forming my own judgment. My Amendment is not framed in a spirit of hostility to the Government, whilst it is intended to be perfectly fair to the Party opposite. I believed from the first that the Commission was a mistake, and that the disputants should have been left, as other people are, to settle their own affairs before the ordinary tribunals of the country. But, the Commission having been appointed and having reported, I was firmly convinced that it would have been better to allow matters to remain as they were, and that there was no obligation on this side of the House to take any formal notice of the Report, and still less to make a record in the Journals of the House. Moreover, it has not been the custom in this country to pass a solemn vote of thanks to Judges for the impartial performance of their duty. Hitherto, learned Judges have performed their duties without asking or expecting any such certificate of impartiality; and if this precedent is followed, the time will come when no Judge's history will be complete without a testimonial from a political party, certifying to his impartiality, The Resolution before the House is, after all, only a Party Resolution. This case is very different from others in which Parliament passes a vote of thanks to distinguished persons for eminent services rendered, for in such cases the vote of thanks is the unanimous vote of Parliament; but this vote of thanks 552 will be a mere Party vote, and the Judges will probably receive it with some reluctance. I desire to rise at this time because of the speech of the noble Lord, which has thrown our proceedings into some degree of confusion. The noble Lord has a genius for surprises and sometimes they take the best of his friends unawares. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham raises distinctly the issues which I desire to put before the House. He asks why the House should be asked to express an opinion on certain of the charges and leave the others untouched. There appear to me to be three sound reasons for taking such a course. The charges of murder and complicity in murder stood out from all the others, and must have been intended by those who launched them so to stand out. These charges were intended to impress the popular imagination and to cause a feeling of horror throughout the country. When they were devised it was scarcely conceivable that they were not aimed at the destruction of a Party as well as the ruin of individuals. In the second place, there was a marked difference between these murder charges and the other charges in regard to the penalty incident to them. It must generally be admitted that if the murder charges had been brought home against hon. Gentlemen opposite, this House could not have rested satisfied with merely entering this Report upon the Journals of the House. The House would have been called upon to expel those Members against whom those charges were held proved, and still severer penalties would have awaited them outside. It thus appears clear that if these murder charges had been established, the House would have been called upon to take different action from that now suggested. Why, then, since these graver charges have not been established, should not a special Resolution be adopted with regard to them? In the third place, these charges of complicity in murder were the only charges which the Commissioners investigated on every side. With regard to the other charges, the Commissioners were restrained, as they themselves stated, from inquiring into the circumstances of the time, and how far these circumstances palliated the acts alleged. This was a serious limitation. The state of Ireland, the social condition 553 of the people, the grievances from which they were suffering, the distress due to excessive rents, and the confiscation of their property—all these were circumstances which had to be eliminated from the inquiry into the minor charges. Bat in regard to the murder charges, there wore no restrictions or limitations whatever. And in regard to these murder charges the findings of the Judges are clearer and more emphaticthan on any of the others. Such are some of the essential and most striking points of difference between the charges of boycotting and intimidation and the charge of base, diabolical, and cold-blooded complicity in murder. Therefore, I say with regard to what the Judges call the special charges, there arc special reasons why the House should expressly acknowledge that they have been disproved. Let me further endeavour to prove this by recalling to the mind of the House the origin of the Commission. The Commission was not called into existence because of the charges of boycotting and intimidation. For these offences many of the respondents had already been imprisoned and punished, some of them severely. The hon. Member for Cork was placed on his trial in 1881 on charges directly arising out of cases of boycotting and intimidation, and it was found impossible to secure a conviction against him. No, it was not on account of the boycotting and intimidation that the Special Commission was constituted; it was not appointed to try hon. Members on charges for which most of them had already suffered. It was in consequence of the thrill of horror that passed through the country at the announcement that letters had been discovered involving the hon. Member in charges much more terrible. We must all of us remember the effect of that announcement. People talked of nothing else. A good many said they had always suspected hon. Members of such practices, others expressed a hope that the charges would be disproved, and sometimes, when I listened to this expression of hope, I could not help suspecting that it was only of that chastened description which enables us easily to survive a disappointment. And since these graver charges have been dispelled, I do not find in some quarters any great eagerness to congratulate the hon. Member for Cork on having 554 been thoroughly cleared from them. Indeed, even now there are some persons who suggest that the hon. Member may nevertheless be guilty, though the crime has not been brought home to him. When it is said that there is no distinction between the charge of boycotting' and intimidation and that of complicity in murder, and that I am guilty of a wicked insidious plot against the Government because I seek to draw this distinction, I will ask the House to recall what were the contents of the forged letters and what they purported that the hon. Member for Cork had done. As for myself, I always avowed my disbelief in those letters, and I long ago told my constituents that I believe the leaders of the Party opposite to be as innocent of blood as my own children. The letters made out the hon. Member for Cork to be a cold-blooded instigator of assassination; even Macbeth himself did not carry on such a traffic with cut-throats. One letter makes him write to a group of assassins in an impatient spirit asking why they delayed murder. Why don't you use the knife and use it promptly? In another he is made to say—You undertook to make it hot for Forster and Co. Let us have some evidence of your power to do so.Can anyone suppose that the allegation that such letters were written by a leading public man in this country would fail to produce a terrible feeling against him among the people? Can it be supposed that the publication of the letters was not intended to bring the hon. Member to shame and ruin, and to bring down his Party with him? In another letter to another group of assassins the hon. Member for Cork is made to express his satisfaction that Mr. Burke had got his deserts in the Phœnix Park, and he is made further to suggest that if by any chance he uttered an expression of discontent or regret at the crime it was only in deference to public opinion in England. In another letter he is made to send money for purposes which the previous letters made clear. And these fearful letters were driven home day after day by the paper which published them with all the skill which ingenuity could suggest. You must remember that there was not only the production of a letter, but there was the production of a narrative which made the letter fit into 555 the hon. Member's life. It was said that the hon. Member was released from Kilmainham, that he was met by F. Byrne at the railway station, and that the same evening Lord F. Cavendish and Mr. Burke were stabbed to death in the Phœnix Park. When all these charges were brought against the hon. Member, never was a man placed in greater jeopardy. The story is so constructed that when once the net was thrown over the hon. Member it was almost impossible for him to escape from it, and it is a matter of constant wonder to me that he has been able to escape. Though my hon. Friends on this side of the House oppose the hon. Member's policy and disapprove his methods, still there ought to be some feeling of sympathy for him on account of the diabolical charges of which he has been made the victim, and which he has had to endure so long. In a thousand forms we were told day after day that the hon. Member and his friends were the associates of murderers and assassins, that murderers shared their counsels, and that murderers had gone forth from their offices to do their bloody work. These were the charges which brought the Special Commission into existence. It is not fair to try and smother all of them together under a Blue Book. Boycotting, intimidation, receiving money from America—all these things we knew in 1885, when, as we were reminded last night, some upon these Benches were not above receiving the support of the hon. Member's Party. ["No."] An hon. Friend behind me says "No;" but I know other hon. Gentlemen who have received that support, and I do not mind acknowledging that I received it myself. We did not go about at that time asking for a Special Commission to inquire into the charges. No; we took what hon. Members opposite had to give, and we swore friendship with them. ["No, no."] We had a friendship with them. Our leaders were friendly with them. There was no reason on earth why we should not receive the support of hon. Members at that time. It was a perfectly honourable thing; we had no feud then with the Irish Party. We had avowed before the country that we should endeavour to govern Ireland without coercion. We made an honest attempt to do so, and there was no 556 reason why we should not receive the support of the Irish Party. They gave it not because thay loved us, but because they hated our opponents. But what amazes me more even than the shortness of memory of my hon. Friends is that they are prepared to repudiate the fact that we had friendly relations with hon. Members opposite in 1885. I neither repudiate the fact nor am ashamed of it. Our leaders encouraged us to receive their support, and under the conditions then existing, there was no reason why we should refuse it. I, for one, did sincerely hope that the days of coercion were over. We have lived to see great changes. But it is doubly incumbent on any of us who in 1885 received the support of the Irish Party to protest now against any wrong being done to them. I say that a Resolution, without any qualifying clause relieving those Members finally from the charge of complicity with murder, will do them an injustice. I should, therefore, have been glad if the First Lord of the Treasury could have seen his way to express something of the kind in his Resolution. I think I have shown that the Special Commission would have never existed but for the murder charges. The Commissioners say that as soon as the Phœnix Park murders were discovered, Mr. Parnell, Mr. Dillon, and Mr. Davitt issued a manifesto earnestly denouncing them. They say that the hon. Member for Cork and his friends did not associate with murderers; that there is no foundation for the charge that the hon. Member was intimate with, the leading Invincibles; and they entirely acquit him and the other respondents of insincerity in their denunciation of the Phœnix Park murders. That is an entire acquittal which they may receive with satisfaction. But before they reached that result they had a long and weary road to travel. A charge of murder does not sit lightly upon any man. However callous he may be, he must suffer acutely under such a charge. For months these hon. Members were forced to go among their fellows with this charge hanging over them, and every morning their accusers in the Press branded them as murderers and assassins. When I look back upon these circumstances I cannot but think that these hon. Members are entitled to more satisfaction and redress than they have received. 557 The Resolution is one in which all reference to these murder charges is carefully avoided. I admit that it does not refer to the other charges; but there is a special obligation on this House to refer to the murder charges, because they brought the Special Commission into existence; but for those charges we should never have had a Special Commission. We now place the murder charges exactly on a level with the most trivial accusations—on the same level as the question whether Patrick Ford had sent a cheque for £1,000 to the hon. Member for Cork. The right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) has dealt with, the whole case to-night in the emphatic manner with which he usually settles everything. The right hon. Gentleman reminds me of the description given by a very eminent Member of this House of another Member—he is "a highly superior person." His arguments were so superior that they required particular attention before one could see the point of them. We are told that the murder charges are of no more consequence than the others. The House did not think so when it appointed the Commission, and when some persons expected, and I am afraid, some hoped, that the murder charges would be brought home. It is said that regret has been expressed in the speeches from both sides. It is true that some gentle expressions of that kind have fallen from the lips of some hon. Members; but in the only permanent record which is to remain of this debate, the Resolution to be placed on the Journals of the House, no word of sympathy or regret appears. It is to plead for some such expression being added to the Resolution that my Amendment was placed on the Paper. ["Oh!" from Mr. LABOUCHERE.] I do not know why the hon. Member for Northampton cries "oh." The hon. Member is possessed of so much secret information about everybody that perhaps he can explain the mystery of the speech we have heard to-night. At any rate, he will have an opportunity of stating his views later on. I ask the House once more to consider the fact that the House itself brought the Commission into existence, and that it is its duty now to acknowledge that the main spring of the Commission was broken. 558 That is the view I have taken from the first, and which I should have been glad to have urged at greater length and with much stronger reasons. But I must admit that the course which I had intended to take is rendered impossible by the observations of my noble Friend. I did not put down my Resolution originally in a spirit of any hostility to the Government, but in a spirit of fair-play to hon. Members opposite. The feeling of hostility to the Government has not proceeded from me, and I decline to be identified with the movement made this evening, which is distinctly of a character which I repudiate. Let there be as much criticism of the Government as hon. Members please; I have myself made criticisms on one or two occasions. But I do not approve of seizing such a moment to make a somewhat deadly attack on the Government on account of its policy, with respect to the Commission, from first to last. My disagreement with the Government was on the point of their Resolution, which I believed to be intrinsically unjust as it stood, and which I desired to amend. Had I been permitted to pursue that course, and move my Resolution—[Home, Rule cries of "Move"]—I do not say I should have succeeded, but at least every one would have had an opportunity of expressing their opinion upon it. The hon. Member for the Middleton Division (Mr. Fielden) has expressed incredulity of my repudiation of hostile intentions towards the Government. But the hon. Member was not above asking my aid when he went before his constituents, and he was not above pretending to be very much in favour of the opinions which I advocate when I was addressing his own constituents. There is a considerable Irish element in the hon. Member's constituency, and the hon. Member thought it useful sometimes to have the assistance of one who had never assailed the Irish Members. But now the hon. Member comes down to the House and interrupts me when I am asking for simple justice to them.
§ MR. FIELDEN (Lancashire, Middleton)
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon; I have not interrupted him in any shape or form.
§ * MR. JENNINGS
The cries of "no," at any rate, proceeded from exactly where the hon. Gentleman is sitting, but doubtless they came from an 559 apparition. I was anxious to place upon the Records of the House that acknowledgment which others may deem superfluous, but which I believe to be necessary to complete the Resolution. With this statement of my reasons my interposition in the debate must close. If the evening is to begin with a fierce assault on the Government, and the Amendment is to be represented as having been planned as a deliberate plot against the Government, the Party which I have always served to the best of my ability and power will be injured, and harm will be done. I dissociate myself from all such treacherous attempts to stab the Government in the back. I will fight the Government in the open on points upon which I differ with them, but I will not be led astray by the device which has been attempted this evening to give a totally false and injurious character to this debate. Under these circumstances, I beg to decline to move my Amendment.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
In making the remarks which fell from me to-night at the commencement of the sitting, I did so because I felt that they were remarks entirely pertinent to the main question, and they had nothing whatever to do with any Amendment. I felt it would be a more proper Parliamentary course to make those remarks before any Amendment was moved. That was the only deadly desire I had towards the Government.
§ (7.20.) THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. CHAPLIN,) Lincolnshire, Sleaford
Mr. Speaker, the debate this evening began with a speech from the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill). I must say I thought that the speech of the noble Lord would have been more appropriate on the Second Reading of the Commission Bill than at this stage of affairs. The noble Lord, too, was followed by an hon. Gentleman who is supposed to have more or less political association with him, and who said that he could not approve or support the noble Lord's speech. This debate has been thus landed in considerable confusion; but I hope that it will be possible to continue it with some clear idea of the object which we have in view, as far as the Government is concerned—that is, to place a thoroughly fair and impartial record on the Journals of the 560 House of all the proceedings of the Commission. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) said something of the relations of his Party with the Irish Party. I was a Member of the House at the time to which he refers, and he was not; and I may know as much as he knows of the relations that existed. I say emphatically that any understanding between the two Parties, any arrangement between them, or any close association, did not exist. I positively deny it. Both Parties, it is true, were opposing the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and the policy which he pursued; and, as fighting in the same cause, and in that sense alone, they may have been allies, but in no other sense whatever. I am glad the Amendment has been withdrawn, because it resembles the Amendment of the Member for Mid Lothian in dealing with only one point of this Report. It asks us to censure the Times for charges of direct complicity with murder against hon. Members, which were based on forgery. If that had been the only charge which had been made, there would have been no hesitation in accepting either of the Amendments which have been before the House. But that was not the case. Many other charges were brought forward. Neither the Government nor Parliament had any more to do with any of these charges than hon. Members themselves, although Government and Parliament, and especially the House of Commons, were responsible for this Commission, the findings of which, now that its labours are concluded, we are bound to take into our view and impartially to consider. It is seen that while some charges were neither proved nor disproved, and while some were happily entirely disproved, yet, with respect to others, hon. Members opposite have been pronounced guilty. We have that information officially before us, and it is impossible for the House of Commons either to shirk or to evade the consideration of that fact. We must ask, are the charges proved against hon. Members of a character and gravity to deserve our condemnation, or are they not? If they are, then it is no palliation of them whatever to urge that hon. Members have been acquitted of other offences of which they were falsely accused. For instance, if a man is con- 561 victed of perjury, his position is no whit better because it is proved at the same time that he has been falsely accused of forgery also. That argument applies closely to the case of hon. Gentlemen opposite. If the charges proved are held to be charges deserving serious reprobation, it would be absolutely impossible to accept an Amendment which deals with only one point. The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) said that we had embarked upon an un-Constitutional course, and that we must go through with it to the end. We have every intention of going through with it to the end, but we deny that it is un-Constitutional. If there is an offence of which we are guilty, the hon. Member himself is no less guilty than ourselves; for, sitting as one of the oldest and most respected Members of this House, and as a man of great Parliamentary authority, no one is more to blame than himself for not having voted against the Second Reading of the Bill, if lie regarded its acceptance as an un-Constitutional course. The hon. Member talks of our denunciation of the Irish Party. Does the hon. Member recollect the denunciations which came from his right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt)? Neither the charges of the Times nor anything said on this side of the House can compare in gravity for a single instant with the charges which the Member for Derby made some years ago. They have often been alluded to, and I much regret the right hon. Gentleman is not here just now. He told us the other day that he would not stay here to be abused, but he must not be surprised to hear his language referred to again. The right hon. Member for Derby has not only charged Irish Members with preaching doctrines of treason and assassination, but he said he knew of their doing it as one who was responsible for the peace of the Queen's dominions. A graver or more serious charge was never framed by a responsible Minister of the Crown. How did the right hon. Member know it, and what was his authority? These are things he has been called upon to explain, and has never attempted to explain. Either these charges were true or they were not. At Bath the right hon. Gentleman accused the Times of calumny, falsehood, and lying, because it made 562 charges less grave than these. Was it falsehood, calumny, and lying when the right hon. Gentleman made these charges? If they were not true, I say that expulsion from the House and from the society of gentlemen for ever would not be too severe a penalty for an offence of that kind. If, on the other hand, they are true, what are we to think of his present position in defending the very people whom he had so savagely accused? I hope we shall not hear any more of charges against us on account of our treatment of hon. Members opposite, when it is remembered what was said against them by the right hon. Gentleman with official knowledge and on his responsibility as a Minister of the Crown. The hon. Gentleman opposite said that but for the letters there would have been no Commission. But what is the result of the Commission? It has been that the charges which were not true have been disproved, and the charges which were true have been proved up to the hilt. Is not that a result at which even the hon. Member himself might feel some satisfaction? He asks who has profited by what he calls the assistance of the Government. Why, those who always profit; those who are innocent profit, and those who are guilty suffer. That is the result that might commend itself to any hon. Member. The forged letters, he said, were almost the most important part of the question; but I never thought that they were, never for a moment. I never thought for a moment that they would be proved. The only time I spoke on the question, except a week or two ago at Cambridge, was when the Bill was in Committee; and, speaking below the Gangway as an independent Member, I assumed, as a matter of course, that the hon. Gentleman opposite did not write them; I repeated that on two or three separate occasions, and I have reason to know that I expressed the opinion of several Gentlemen sitting around me. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: No.] What can the hon. Member know of my relations with hon. Members on this side of the House? He cannot know much, and I hope he never will. I do not by any means think time has been wasted by this debate, for by it light has been thrown on many matters of great importance which before it were by no means clear. We have 563 learned, in the first place, the true cause of the great increase of crime in Ireland; in the second place, we have had much light thrown upon the real character of the Irish movement; thirdly, we have learned with some accuracy what are the methods by which that movement has been made thoroughly effective; fourthly, every man in this House will now be able to judge for himself of the danger or the safety of relying upon a change of opinion which we are told has occurred in the minds of the leaders of the Irish Party with regard to what undoubtedly was the ultimate object they had in view. The increase of crime has been traced distinctly to the Land League, and nothing else—not to the causes which have been commonly held up as bringing it about. It has been made clear by the Chief Secretary that evictions were not the cause, and he quoted a passage to that effect from a speech by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. There is remarkable evidence on this point in the Report of the Judges—evidence which places it beyond the region of dispute. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, with something short of the respect for the Judges to be expected from him, said it was the most astounding assertion he ever heard that the rejection of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill by the Lords was not a cause of the increase of crime in Ireland. A very little study of the Report would have shown that the Judges had the very strongest ground for making this assertion. How was the Bill received by the Irish leaders at that time? Speaking with full and complete authority on behalf of the Irish Party, on November 1, 1880, Mr. Biggar used these words—Now, this Compensation for Disturbance Bill was a Bill which I say deliberately it was an outrage to the understanding and intelligence of the Irish Members and of the Irish people to propose a Bill such as was called the Irish Disturbance Bill of last Session.In the face of that opinion, is it possible for the right hon. Gentleman to justify his statement that the Judges are guilty of making an astounding assertion? I am the less surprised at the extreme annoyance displayed by the right hon. Gentleman; because for years it has been the stock argument and favourite excuse of the right hon. Gentleman, so far as I 564 know invented by himself, that the rejection of the Bill was the cause of excesses in Ireland. Their real and true origin is now finally unmasked and disclosed by a process which is distasteful to the right hon. Gentleman and his friends, whose stock argument is shattered and scattered to the winds. The right hon. Gentleman said that one ground for the severest censure of the Times was that it had been careful not to know the truth about the forged letters; and it would be no injustice to retort on him that he is not less guilty in being careful not to know the truth about the cause of the increasing crime in Ireland. As to the character of the Irish movement, I entirely endorse all that fell from the Chief Secretary last night, when he said that one of the charges against seven of the respondents was this—that they joined the Land League with the purpose of bringing about a separation of Ireland from England. I agree with my right hon. Friend that the idea of separation is not dead. Here, again, I must call attention to the complaint that the Judges did not point out the time at which this occurred. At page 15 of the Report it will be found that the Judges say that the Land League was started at a Conference which was held on October 21, 1879, at the Imperial Hotel, Dublin, when Mr. Parnell was elected President, when Mr. Kettle, Mr. Davitt, and Mr. Thomas Brennan were appointed Secretaries. What was the principle upon which that League was organised? It was clearly set forth in a letter which Mr. Davitt wrote to the Secretary of the League in 1880, in which he said—I maintain that it was the complete destruction of Irish landlordism, first as the system which was responsible for the poverty and periodical famines which had decimated Ireland; and, secondly, because landlordism was a British garrison which barred the way to natienal independence."Oh, but," says the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian "all this took place 10 years ago. These are old stories. All that is changed now and the idea of separation is altogether dead." But is it dead? What have the Judges to tell us upon that point, and let us see what Mr. Davitt himself said with regard to it in the witness-box. The Judges say, in page 31 of the Report—The acts and speeches of Mr. Davitt explain and illustrate the position he had adopted. 565 Still a Fenian in sympathy, if not in actual membership, and still actuated by a desire, not only to abolish landlordism, but to bring about a total separation of Ireland from England. … He avowed in the witness-box before us that the principle upon which he had always acted was to make the Land Question a stepping-stone to complete national independence, and he concluded, 'I wish to God I could get it to-morrow.'Does that bear out the right hon. Gentleman's assertion that the idea of separation had died at least 10 years ago? Everyone knows the position that Mr. Davitt occupies in the councils of the Irish Party, and no one can deny the ruling and controlling influence which he exercises over that Party. I confess I never heard a statement made in Parliament by a man in a responsible position which more surprised me than that of the right hon. Gentleman, that the idea of separation is altogether dead. The Judges continued—For this he, in conjunction with others, had created the Land League, and drafted its constitution, started the necessary agitation, and induced Mr. Parnell to adopt ins methods.I want to go a little further, because I want to get at the grounds upon which the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian made that assertion as to the idea of separation being altogether dead. One thing is perfectly certain, namely, that the idea of separation was alive and nourishing not very many years ago. My right hon. Friend pointed last night to a speech delivered by the hon. Member for Cork in 1885 at Castlebar, and I wish to point to a sentence uttered by the hon. Member in the same year at Cork to this effect—No man has the right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation. No man has a light to say to his country 'thus far shalt thou go and no further,' and we have never attempted to fix the ne plus ultra to the progress of Ireland's manhood, and we never shall.Of course, if the hon. Member for Cork had said that the idea of separation was dead he would have pronounced the ne plus ultra, and he would have been doing the very thing that he said he would not do. Does the right hon. Gentleman rely for the accuracy of his assertion upon the statements of the hon. Member for Cork? If that is so, I must ask this question—Is the hon. Member for Cork a witness whose testimony can be relied upon? In that case I am bound to 566 say that, from a very careful study of the Report, it contains nothing that would lead us to take that view. I regret to find that on more than one occasion the Judges entirely disbelieved him on his oath. ["Oh!" from Mr. LABOUCHERE.] I will give the hon. Member the particulars. On one occasion the hon. Member for Cork made a statement on oath directly contradicting a statement ho had made in the House of Commons. These are grave charges, I know, for one hon. Member of this House to make with regard to another hon. Member, and, therefore, it is only due to the hon. Member for Cork that I should give my authority for making them. On page 71 of the Report it will be found that the hon. Member for Cork stated in his evidence that he purchased the Irishman because it was a disreputable paper which he wished to get rid of. The Judges say—The Irishman newspaper had been the organ of the physical force or Fenian Party, and we draw the inference from Mr. Parnell's purchase of that paper, coupled with the manner in which it was conducted until its extinction ill August, 1885, that Mr. Parnell's object was to address his Fenian supporters through that medium.That is to say that the Judges disbelieved the hon. Member's statement upon oath that he bought the paper to get rid of it. I could give more instances of that kind, but I am afraid that I am trespassing too much upon the attention of the House. Everybody remembers the speech made at Cincinnati—the "last link" speech. What do the Judges say? I myself heard the hon. Member for Cork repudiate that speech as a calumny against him. But what do the Judges say?—The evidence leads us to the conclusion that Mr. Parnell did use the words attributed to him, and they certainly are not inconsistent with some of his previous utterances.Again, in the House of Commons on April 28th, 1887, the hon. Member for Cork made a speech, and I beg to call the attention of hon. Members to the statements made by the hon. Member, first in the House of Commons and then in the witness-box, so that they may judge how far they can rely upon his testimony. In his speech he said distinctly that he had never paid Frank 567 Byrne a cheque for £100 except once, many years ago. But in the witness-box he said that just before Frank Byrne left England he did enclose him a cheque for £100 in a letter. Here there are two distinct statements—one made in the House of Commons and one made on oathi—which are absolutely and completely destructive to each other. On another occasion the hon. Member for Cork in the witness-box distinctly swore that he hail made a statement in the House of Commons by which he intended and wished to deliberately deceive the House. There can be no escape, therefore, from the conclusion that if the hon. Member for Cork thinks it necessary, or if it suits his purpose to do so, he will not hesitate to attempt deliberately to deceive the House. The Judges came to the conclusion that the hon. Member did say what was correct in the House, but the inference we are compelled to draw is that they "were also of opinion that what he stated upon oath in the witness-box was not true. I did not desire to enter into this matter, and I should not have done so had it not been for the distinct challenge of the hon. Member opposite. In reference to this point I may say that no man has expressed a stronger opinion in reference to an attempt to deceive the House of Commons than the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, who characterised such an attempt as the blackest and gravest offence of which an hon. Member could be guilty. In these circumstances I should like to ask him whether he still thinks that the assurances of a gentleman with such a record behind him are sufficient to warrant him in placing in his hands the weapon which at any time the hon. Member for Cork may use as the most powerful lever for the purpose of accomplishing his ultimate ends. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham has referred to-night to the statement of Mr. Dillon, that he had at last discovered the dodge for making it too hot for a man to take his neighbour's land. And what was that dodge? I could read case after case, in which the dodge was adopted, that would fill the mind of any honest man with horror. I will give two instances. The case of a man named Cronin, a tenant of Lord Kenmare, who did not even dare to have his rent entered in his pass-book. On the night of September 568 27th, 1881, two men came to his house, put the lamp out, and turned his wife and daughter out of the kitchen. They asked him if he had paid his rent. He said "No," and showed them his passbook. This evidently was not believed by the men. They ordered Cronin to turn his face to the wall, and they shot him in the thigh. This was one of the means by which Mr. Dillon's "dodge" was made effective. There was a case in the year 1884. In September, 1884—and I want to cite this case in particular, because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in his speech said these cases did not belong to a later period than 1881; and this is another and very remarkable instance of the want of attention which the Member for Mid Lothian has given to this Report—in September, 1884, one Houligan had taken a farm from which a shoemaker named Kane had been evicted. At a meeting of the Killoo branch of the League, County Longford, Houligan's conduct was discussed, and John Jago, a member of the League, was appointed with Kane to assault Houligan. They afterwards did so, and Houligan died of a blow which he received. That happened, as I have said, in 1884, or three years after the Member for Mid Lothian said there had ceased to be any connection between this organisation and crime. I will not trouble the House at greater length. I think the bare recital of some of these cases is quite sufficient to convince most people of the necessity there was for a full and complete inquiry into this matter. I recollect the speeches of Mr. Dillon and his friends, and the manner in which they deliberately incited to intimidation, and persisted in that course knowing what it had led to in the past and must lead to in the future. I say deliberately for my part that I am unable to perceive any distinction between the moral guilt of a man who, on the one hand, is guilty of direct complicity in crime, and one who is, on the other hand, in indirect complicity with crime. The difference is of the most narrow and shadowy description. The Member for Derby said the other night we do nothing but repeat these personal charges, all of which are personal insults to the Gentlemen below the Gangway. All that we do is to recite some of the more 569 salient facts stated in the Report of the Commission, and if they involve personal dishonour that is the fault of the Gentlemen below the Gangway. It is their duty and that of their friends to get up and dispute them, but so far not one of them has attempted to do it. I hope I have given some reasons for justifying the course which we ask the House of Commons to take. You may say that we ought to have gone further. That is not my opinion, and I think there is a conclusive reason. In my judgment it would have been opposed to the letter, and certainly directly opposed to the spirit, of the Act which created the Commission. All we desire is that this impartial record shall be placed on the Journals of the House, and, when that is done, I forone shall have no doubt, and I never had a doubt for a single moment, of what the verdict of all honest men will be.
§ (8.30.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I observe that the Minister of Agriculture has contributed a valuable disquisition on the Tory reading of Irish history and of the Commission Report; but his speech can hardly be deemed a valuable contribution to the debate, because the right hon. Gentleman seemed to forget he was addressing the House, and to imagine he was speaking to an audience of his bucolic followers, who were either unable to read or had failed to read the Report of the Commissioners. We have learnt simply nothing from the Minister of Agriculture, and we may, therefore, dismiss his speech as if it had not been made. With respect to the hon. Member for Stockport, I have not yet discovered why the hon. Member did not move his Amendment, or why, because the noble Lord the Member for Paddington protested against the Commission, the hon. Member should think fit not to move an Amendment to prevent the First Lord of the Treasury from ratifying an act which, in the hon. Member's opinion, was intrinsically unjust. But though a Tory has failed us, a Liberal Unionist will take his place. We hope that later in the evening the Amendment will be moved by the prodigal sheep from Barrow, who is probably tired with the husks on which he has been fed. The speech of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington is, in my opinion, an excellent, powerful, and Constitu- 570 tional disquisition; and I expected to hear the right hon. Member for West Birmingham reply to the noble Lord. Not a bit of it. Instead of doing so, the right hon. Gentleman has done nothing but read to the House numerous extracts from speeches formerly made by hon. Members from Ireland. I had hoped that at this time of the day we had got rid of these stale extracts. The gentlemen who uttered them would not now justify every word they said during that period of excitement; but it is unfair, and a course not likely to unite England and Ireland, to be perpetually casting these extracts in their teeth. Having regard to the respective speeches of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham and the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, I think the best thing they could do would be to change sides in the House. If a makeweight were required, we should be perfectly willing to throw in half a dozen Liberal Unionists. I am surprised that the Minister of Agriculture should have passed over the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington without any allusion, without a word. No Member of the Treasury Bench has yet risen to meet his objections to the action of the Government from the inception of the Commission to the present resolution. Considering that the noble Lord was formerly the leader of the House, I do think some Member of the Government should reply to him, unless, indeed, he has sunk so low in their estimation that they do not condescend to take the slightest notice of anything he says. In the view of those on this side of the House the noble Lord has considerably ripened, and I should not be greatly surprised, before many years are over, to find the noble Lord a good, sound Radical, instead of a sham Tory Democrat. The question at present is whether the House is to adopt this Report or not. I hold that the action of the Times in getting up evidence since the Commission sat has been proved to be so utterly scandalous that if the Commission had known it they would not have made the Report we are now considering. I hold that it has been proved that the leaders of the Government and their followers have acted in so extraordinary a way in in the aid they have given to the Times in getting up evidence that no hon. 571 Gentleman opposite can decide on this matter with absolute indifference of judgment. Indeed, it is almost in decent for hon. Members opposite to deem themselves the jury to judge and settle this matter. I will now call the attention of the House to the revelations which were made on Tuesday evening by the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin (Mr. T. Harrington). Certain telegrams were read from Mr. Soames to his agent in America respecting a visit to Sheridan. It mast be remembered that at the time Kirby was sent to Sheridan the Times considered Sheridan to be a murderer—one of the basest and vilest of men. Those telegrams, however, proved that the Times sought, by means of a huge bribe, to induce Sheridan to produce certain documents and to swear to their genuineness. Fortunately, Sheridan was not the sort of man the Times thought him to be. He was a more honest man than had been believed, and Sherid in simply played with the Times, and gave them rope enough to hang themselves with. I can explain to the House what was the connection of the Government with those telegrams. The telegrams showed that in the middle of November, 1888, Kirby was with Sheridan tempting him. Early in December Kirby had left Sheridan and had gone to Colorado. On December 24 Kirby returned to England to discuss matters with Mr. Soames. In the middle of December it happened to come to my knowledge that the Times were endeavouring to get hold of Sheridan. I had a little pardonable curiosity as to what was taking place, and, as I had the advantage of knowing a good many gentlemen in America, I telegraphed to one of them, in order to see whether he would be good enough to observe what was taking place. My friend immediately started for the West, and at Kansas City he came up with two of Pinkerton's men and a man named Jarvis, who was a constable employed by the British Government. Pinkerton's agency is a great agency in America, and the Government employed Pinkerton's men to do some of their work. I gathered that there was an interview at Kansas between Jarvis and Shaw, another British constable who had been sent out to see Jarvis. Afterwards Jarvis went on and his friend 572 followed him, running him down at Delnought, which is within a few miles of Sheridan's ranch. I am prepared to prove by any amount of evidence that Jarvis, who was a British constable, did go to Delnought on the 20th or 25th of December. What does this prove? It proves conclusively that the Government were aiding and abetting in this intrigue to get hold of Sheridan. Kirby had left in November, called home to discuss the matter with Mr. Soames. What do we find? Immediately Kirby left a British constable was sent out, had communication with Sheridan, kept watch and guard over Sheridan, letting the Times know whether Sheridan moved or what he did. He was absolutely in the service of the Times, although he was an official of the English Government. In January Kirby returned to Colorado Springs, and later on Mr. Birch, a solicitor, was sent out to meet him. The negotiations were renewed in November. Those negotiations amounted to this—"Give us documents that may injure the hon. Member for Cork; we do not care where you get them; we want them to be fairly good, something like Pigott's letters. We will pay you an enormous sum for them" (a sum of £25,000 or £50,000.) On June 19 Mr. Soames telegraphed to his agent—Has he satisfied you as to the value of his evidence and existence of confirmatory documents? Reply, and I will then cable definitely. Are you satisfied he is acting straight, and will go on board with you? Cable fully.Then on June 21 a telegram was sent to Mr. Birch, Colorado Springs, which said—If he will show you documents, you all satisfied of their value as evidence, and he wire hand them over when transfer made and money paid, you may dispense with written statement till he is on ship. If he will not agree to this, it means he intends to sell us. Too late to cable money to-day. He gives no reason why he cannot do as asked.What was the answer of the Attorney General to this damning evidence against his late client? First, the Attorney General said—I speak now, not on my own behalf, but on account of Mr. Walter.It is exceedingly difficult to disentangle the dual personality of the Attorney General. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that there was nothing which Mr. Soames or Mr. Walter had done of 573 which they need be ashamed; and he strengthened his opinion by making certain statements which were entirely incorrect. The Attorney General said that Sheridan, having asked £25,000, was willing to come down to £1,000, and that this offer was declined by Mr. Soames. Then another telegram said—Long interview to-day with wife, to-day privately; she gives positive assurance he will go if £1,000 is paid to her at once; thousand to him in gold in steamer leaving port; all the rest as cabled.And the "rest" was that his ranch was to be bought for the enormous sum of £25,000, to be received in England when he had given his evidence. It was scarcely fair of the hon. Gentleman to say that Sheridan came down to £1,000. He should have taken care to see that those for whom he spoke gave some sort of proof that they were speaking correctly before he became their mouthpiece. The Attorney General also said that, Sheridan having asked £25,000, the negotiations were absolutely and unconditionally broken off in January, 1889, and that they were re-opened by a letter of Sheridan's in February. On December 10, Kirby, after stating that he had seen Sheridan and listened to the proposals, telegraphed—Must return on the 12th.Soames replied—Court adjourned for five weeks; come home at once; I must discuss matters personally with you.But no sooner did Kirby disappear than Jarvis turned up to keep guard over Sheridan, and a short time after Jarvis withdrew. Yet the Attorney General said that this amounted in February to an absolute and unconditional breaking off. On the contrary, the negotiations went on as before. Now I come to Mr. Soames himself, and I am sorry to say I shall have to charge that eminent solicitor with something more than inaccuracy. My hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) has spoken of there being some sort of subornation of perjury in this case, but I shall show that there was something very nearly approaching perjury. Even Mr. Soames was ready to perjure himself to meet the exigencies of the case. Mr. Soames had given evidence before the Court in reference to this Kirby and Sheridan incident. On December 14 574 Mr. Soames was cross-examined by Sir Charles Russell, when he denied that Kirby told him he had made an offer of money to Sheridan. But on March 14 Mr. Soames stated, in reply to Mr. Biggar, that Sheridan had asked him for £20,000 to come over, and that he immediately telegraphed to Kirby to come back. Now, by this answer Mr. Soames intended to convey an absolutely false impression to the Judges. He had telegraphed, but after Kirby had said he was coming back. Mr. Soames sent out Kirby to renew the offer and to get what papers he could, and yet on March 14 Mr. Soames made a statement to the effect that all negotiations had been broken off. On April 4 Kirby, his own agent, telegraphed from America that he was "again with Sheridan. Veni, vidi, vici!" I ask any independent Member whether Mr. Soames did not convey a false impression to the minds of the Judges? In the telegrams there is a most important sentence which has not been adverted to in regard to the evidence given before the Commission by Mr. Soames with respect to Sheridan and Kirby. On April 5, 1889, there was a long telegram from Kirby, in the course of which he said—If you want to take him (Sheridan) over you must amend your evidence as to his refusing to accept any sum to go over to make his life sure here."You must amend your evidence." Mr. Soames had sworn one thing to suit the exigencies of the case, but as a condition of bringing Sheridan over he was to swear exactly the reverse. The next telegrams were "Cannot make out part of cable as to terms," and "I am sending to you by Saturday week." What was then sent, however, does not appear. In the telegrams which we have there was not the slightest sign that Mr. Soames, protested against the suggestion of Kirby that he should "amend his evidence," and swear precisely the contrary of what he had previously said. The Attorney General will remember that the Commission decided at its first meeting that a case should be made out by the Times. Apparently the Times had been under the impression that the witnesses would be called by the Commission and examined as witnesses of the Commission. Now, I wish to ask the Attorney General whether it was not the fact that 575 after it came to the knowledge of the Times that they would have to make out their case they made it known to Her Majesty's Government that they would not be able to go on with the case unless the Government gave them aid; and that the Government did thereupon agree to give them aid, or the thing would have broke a down; and that this was the reason why agents were sent to Ireland and detectives employed in America and elsewhere to do the dirty work of the Times.
SIR R. WEBSTER
I will answer the question at once. As far as I know there is not the shadow of a foundation of truth in the statement. I never heard of it before, and if any such communication were made I was not a party to it, nor was I directly or indirectly concerned in it.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
There is much the hon. and learned Gentleman does not seem to have heard of. I have great confidence in the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I have still more confidence in the Member for Bury, and I should like to hear a similar declaration made by that right hon. Gentleman, or by the First Lord of the Treasury or the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I should also like to see a Committee appointed to discover what really did take place, because I suppose it will be admitted that the Times was aided and abetted by the Government in a most scandalous and disgraceful manner. I think the Attorney General has been improperly used in this matter, and put by these men to very base uses. Indeed, I think we ought to append to the Motion of the First Lord of the Treasury some declaration that we protest against our learned Colleague's being treated so scandalously as he has been. For my own part, I consider that this debate has been exceedingly useful. We have had a valuable speech from the late leader of the Tories, and a still more valuable one from the Chief Secretary. Nothing, in my belief, will do us greater good in the country than the latter's speech, for there is an ungenerous tone about it which will be indignantly repudiated by the electors. The right hon. Gentleman went hammer and tongs for the Times, and associated himself with the Times. The Secretary to the Admiralty did the same thing the other day; and I feel sure that in the 576 autumn hon. Gentlemen opposite will again and again tell their constituents that the Times did, on the whole, a most laudable and a most useful work. We do not expect a victory here. Our tribunal is outside, and already there have been indications of what the decision will be. You may vote down the Amendment of the Member for Mid Lothian and carry the Resolution of the First Lord of the Treasury, but you cannot vote down the St. Pancras election, or alter the figures in Lincolnshire. Even the most stolid Tory opposite must say to himself, "I will make hay while the sun shines, and remain here as long as I can, because when there is a General Election the place that knows me now will know me no more."
§ *(9.15.) MR. DE LISLE
With a painful sense of duty to my constituents, to my country, and to Catholic Christendom, I rise to move the Amendment which stands in my name. I do so in response to that solemn appeal addressed to Members on this side of the House about a week ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. He addressed us in authoritative and earnest tones as men, as Englishmen, and as Christians, to vote in this matter as our consciences dictated, and not as Members of a Political Party. With renewed assiduity I, to the best of my ability, studied the Report and the evidence placed before us by the Commission, which I had closely followed during its daily progress, and I came to the conclusion that in response to the appeal made I could not do less, though I might have done more, than move this Resolution. I cordially admit that the Amendment, as proposed by Her Majesty's Government, would, to my mind, be all that could be desired provided that it had been accepted in the spirit in which it was proposed to the House. The Motion which stands in the name of my right hon. Friend is of the nature of an Eirenicon, and expresses the wish that, so far as it is possible, bygones should be bygones, and that this House should look forward to a more peaceful and more generous future. But it has not been accepted in this spirit. A whole week has elapsed in the discussion of this great question, and during that time the utmost endeavours have been made to make Party capital and to 577 give a Party complexion to the vote we shall give to-night. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, no doubt, thought it expedient, as far as they possibly could, to make the Division a Party one, and no doubt they have succeeded. The vote which will be given to-night will not be looked upon as the voice of the House of Commons. No doubt it will be considered in the country to be the expression of the Tory or Unionist majority, and it will not add to the authority which the Report of the Commission possesses of itself. The Resolution which I wish to propose is this:—And this House deems it to be a duty to record its reprobation of the true charges of the gravest description, based on private and public documentary evidence, which have been proved against Members of this House and other persons; and while declaring its satisfaction at the exposure of twin conspiracies, the one treasonable and the other criminal, to which 52 Members of this House have been parties, this House expresses its profound sorrow for the wrong inflicted and the suffering and loss endured by the loyal minority in Ireland through a protracted period by reason of these acts of flagrant iniquity.It may be urged as an objection that my language is too verbose. That is a point I am not concerned to discuss now. It is the language of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian; but the facts, they are the facts proved by the Commission. I will now give my reasons why I entirely agree with the Motion of my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith), as far as it goes, and then, if the House will have patience with me, I will briefly give my reasons why I consider it my duty to add the Amendment which I propose. I think it right that we should thank the Judges for their just and impartial conduct in the discharge of difficult, duties which they were not bound to have accepted, and I have no doubt they accepted them with reluctance. Secondly, I support the original Resolution because it places on record a true and impartial history of the Home Rule movement from the year 1877 to 1885. I daresay there are hon. Gentlemen opposite who think that the history unfolded in these 150 pages is not an impartial history. But I am glad that we have now a document before us of such commanding authority that those of us who desire to say nothing but the truth, we may con- 578 fidently appeal to. It is a history of the agitation, and gives facts which are not controverted; it is a source of knowledge to which we can confidently apply when we desire to put this matter before our constituents. I support the Resolution also because it appears to me a natural complement of the vote I gave when the Special Commission Bill was before the House; I voted then in the hope that the truth would prevail. The speech of the noble Lord (Lord R. Churchill) is one that would have been more applicable to that Second Reading debate, and why it should be made now I do not understand. The work of the Commission has been successful; it unmasks the history of a great wrong, and there are other perhaps political reasons why we should rejoice that the Commission has issued this Report, and why we should have the Report recorded on our Journals. But I will not now refer to these in detail. There is another reason why I shall be glad to have the Report enrolled in the Journals, and it is a reason that hon. Members opposite should sympathise with. The Report has demonstrated the falsehood and injustice of many of the most important charges levelled against hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am very glad, indeed, that the insincerity with which the hon. Member for Cork was charged when he denounced the crime of the Phœnix Park murders, which the fac simile letter attributed to him, has been established to be without foundation, and I am, indeed, glad that the villainy of Pigott has been unmasked. We Conservatives as a body knew nothing whatever of Pigott; his existence even was quite unknown to most of us. Hon. Members must remember that he graduated in the school of Nationalism, and never was in contact with the Conservative Party. We knew nothing of him; I do not think that even the Times knew anything of him until he presented himself with the documents, which, though they turned out to be forgeries, were believed at the time to be true. Yet another reason why I rejoice that this document is to be enrolled on the Journals of the House is that it sets the seal of the British Parliament upon a document which has had a vast influence in favour of law and order in Ireland. It will be remembered that some years ago I, with 579 others, denounced the teaching and the action of some of the Catholic Bishops and clergy in Ireland, and said that that teaching had a direction and tendency not only destructive to the peace of the realm, but that I was convinced that it was destructive of a far higher and more vital interest—the Catholic faith. A Papal Mission was sent to Ireland to examine the morality of proceedings then more or less receiving the sanction of the Catholic clergy in Ireland. That Papal Commission collected evidence, and Monsignor Persico returned with his Report to Rome. That collection of evidence has never been published, but it has resulted in the issue of a document known as the Papal Rescript, and in that Rescript it is distinctly laid down that those who listen to the voice and authority of the Church must regard the Plan of Campaign, and the practice of boycotting, as not only illegal but immoral. I will not proceed further on this matter, but will briefly give the reasons why, agreeing as I do with the original Resolution, I felt it my duty to add the rider of which I have given notice. It will be remembered that two years ago the persistency and courage of the Junior Member for Northampton compelled the House to recognise the right of Atheism to appear here with the sanction of an affirmation instead of the oath. I protested against the innovation. How could I do otherwise as a Tory? But I must admit a Tory is an anachronism in this House, but I make my protest so far as I can again on this occasion. It was urged, why keep up the empty form of an oath when a man says it means nothing, and is not in any way binding upon his conscience. But I urged that to abolish the oath was to divorce religion from morality, to divorce religion from morality was to sap the foundations of society, and to sap the foundations of society was to prepare the downfall of England. And now within three years we have got to this: that hon. Gentlemen opposite who support the Unionist Party are obliged to confess that in this House the crime of treason is a matter of no consequence! Why keep up the form of the promise of allegiance, then, when you allow Gentlemen to come into this House and to make a declaration which, by their actions, you must recognise to be hypocritical? I may 580 be asked why, in framing this Amendment, I was not able to admit words having the same effect as the Amendment of which the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) gave notice. I entirely sympathise with those who would wish to put on record that Members of this House have been grossly maligned; but when I look at the findings of the Commission I cannot see how we can do what is suggested. The main charge made against the Members of the Irish Party was that they had been directly or indirectly concerned with murder. That is true, but the Commissioners do not lay the blame of that charge on the Times newspaper. On the contrary, they throw back the blame upon the heads of hon. Members opposite themselves. The Commissioners declare—We may say at once that the charge that the respondents, by their speeches or otherwise, incited persons to the commission of murder, or that the Land League chiefs based their scheme upon a system of assassination, has not been substantiated. No proof has been given, and we do not believe that there was any intention on the part of the respondents, or any of them, to procure any murder, or murder iii general, to be committed.But what do the Judges go on to say?—But while we acquit the respondents of having directly or indirectly incited to murder, we find that the speeches made, in which land-grabbers and other offenders against the League were denounced as traitors and being as bad as-informers—the urging young men to procure arms, and the dissemination of the newspapers above referred to—had the effect of causing an excitable peasantry to carry out the laws of the Land League even by assassination.That appears to me to be the clearest proof, that, in the opinion of the Commissioners, it is to the seditious speeches that the responsibility for these charges must be thrown. That is the source from which these calumnies sprung. If hon. Gentlemen made these seditious speeches it is upon their own heads that the responsibility must rest. There is not a word here about the forgeries of Pigott having anything whatever to do with the charge of murder levelled against them. On the contrary, there is evidence that these forgeries were merely the foundation for the charges of insincerity brought against the hon. Member for Cork. I may say that I have never circulated the later editions of Parnellism and Crime among my constituents, containing the forged letters. 581 I have only circulated the second edition, and I believe the vast majority of Members of this House have only circulated that edition. And now, Sir, I have moved an Amendment which, I presume, will not receive the support of Her Majesty's Government. I respectfully submit that it is a proposition which might most properly be accepted. The honour of this House is at stake. The greatest offence which has been committed is not an offence against an individual only. It is an offence against this House, committed within the walls of this House, and in the presence of the Speaker. Perjury on the floor of this House—that is the offence committed by eight of these Gentlemen, and that is why I have thought it right to add this censure to the Motion of the leader of the House. There is another point. It has been pointed out that it is a deadly crime to publish a calumny even when those who publish it believe it not to be a calumny. No doubt it is a very serious thing even to calumniate in that way. But what are we to think of years of political action, persisted in with knowledge of its effect, which have brought about the murder of 98 humble citizens of Ireland, and 146 attempts to murder, which the Commissioners say in their Report were brought about by seditious speeches and writings, and by organised intimidation, when those who engaged in this course of action were conscious that it led to these lamentable results? The words I have borrowed from the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) are not too strong to express our condemnation of political action of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) reminds me of another great figure of contemporaneous history whom I happened to have the honour of knowing, and who rose to great eminence as an ecclesiastic in the Catholic Church. Late in life he abandoned his convictions, and so became, in the unchangeable records of that immortal and indefectible institution, a fallen star. I allude to Dr. DÖllinger. Similarly the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition rose to a high place in the service of this country, and became the leading power among English statesmen. In his latter 582 days he also abandoned all the convictions of his early life. He has become a fallen star, but he has succeeded in carrying with him in his fall a very considerable portion of Her Majesty's subjects. To recall a saying of Macaulay's, the right hon. Gentleman possesses a vast command of a mystic kind of language, by which he first deludes himself, and then his hearers! You say that you have the people on your side, and that you will appeal to the people. I say that we will also appeal to the people; and if the people do not give us their support, we will appeal—to paraphrase the words of Luther—à populo male informato, ad populum melius informandum—from the people badly informed, to the people to be better informed—and as an instrument for the better information of the people, as a proof, a historical and political demonstration, of the wisdom of our counsels and the rectitude of our purpose. I know of no document so valid, no authority so powerful, as the findings which are contained in this Report, the substance of which I have condensed in the words of my Amendment.
§ (9.45.) MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
I am rather relieved that the forms of the House have emancipated me from the necessity of answering the extremely formidable array of arguments which have fallen from the hon. Gentleman, and I think the hon. Gentleman will not, therefore, accuse me of any discourtesy if I allow his speech to fall into the limbo of unsupported facts to which his Amendment has been relegated. I will only mention one part of his speech. The hon. Gentleman claimed credit to himself and some Members of his Party for not having circulated the edition of 583 Parnellism and Crime which contained the forged letter. I am perfectly willing to accept the statement of the hon. Gentleman as true as regards himself, but I shall presently have to allude to the circulation of the forged letter by itself by several Members opposite for Party and electioneering purposes. But I do not see any particular merit in what he claims. In the pages of Parnellism and Crime, apart altogether from the forged letter, there are calumnies as foul and as odious as the forged letter. For instance, there is that horrible passage as to murderers sharing the counsel of the Irish Members, going into the rooms occupied by the Irish Members, passing from those rooms to commit murder, and returning to the rooms after murder had been committed. There is also the suggestion that at the interview between Frank Byrne and the leader of the Irish Party and the Member for Long ford, the particulars of the murders that took place on the 6th of May afterwards were arranged. Therefore, I do not see it advances the cause of the hon. Gentleman a bit to say he has not circulated the forged letters, because in Parnellism and Crime, apart from the forged letters, there are calumnies which the Commissioners have properly condemned, and as a propagator of those calumnies, the hon. Gentleman owes an apology to the hon. Gentlemen on this side. Now, I will only allude to a personal matter to which attention was called by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who followed the Commissioners in extracting from a speech of mine in America one passage which totally falsified the meaning of the whole of the speech. I told the truth when I said I had forgotten all about the speech. If I had been told that I had made the observations, I might with perfect truth have denied having made them. They were not made in the midst of an excited population in Ireland, and I justify every word I said. Before the Commission I was asked for an explanation, and I said, "You have not read the passage which immediately 584 follows it, which gives an explanation;" and I pointed out that it was a gross misrepresentation of the passage to say it was either an incitement to the commission of crime, or anything of the kind. I said I believed the statement to be true, that if 10,000 persons were put in the possession of 10,000 farms from which 10,000 farmers had been unjustly evicted, then it would be a source of danger, of crime, and of outrage. What sensible or rational man can doubt that if a large tract of country was cleared of 10,000 people the taking of the evicted farms would subject the country to the danger of crime and disturbance and outrage? Now, one of the charges I shall make, and make good, is that there was an alliance between Members on these Benches and the Tory Party at the time when we were alleged to be committing these crimes, but before I come to my proofs of that I would like to quote one or two passages in support of that contention from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham himself. In the beginning of December, 1883, there was a very remarkable debate in the House of Commons. The debate was initiated by the fact that James Carey had been put into the witness-box in Dublin, and had given information with regard to the Phœnix Park murders. At that time the present Under Secretary for India (Sir J. Gorst) was the legal Member of the Fourth Party, and he proposed an Amendment to the Queen's Speech, denouncing the Government. In the course of his speech the right hon. Gentleman made some allusion to James Carey and the Member for West Birmingham; indeed he accused the Member for West Birmingham of baseness as great as that of James Carey, and the other persons engaged in the Phoenix Park murders. James Carey said there was a "No. 1" in the Invincible conspiracy, and the right hon. Gentleman said—His belief was that there existed at that time a sort of inner circle within the Cabinet very much in the same way as an inner circle of the Invincibles existed in the Land League, and he believed, too, that the inner circle of the Cabinet had also its 'No. 1'And the "No. 1" to whom he alluded was the Member for West Birmingham, 585 whom he thereby compared to the founder and the organiser of the assassination society in Dublin. I will now give you the right hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Chamberlain's) opinion of the Tories. He called attention in a speech at Hackney to a circular just issued by the Conservative Association as to the number of Irish voters in English constituencies, especially with a view to finding out whether there were sufficient Irish voters to turn the scale against the Liberal candidates. He also called attention to the fact that after the Tory Party came into power the very first thing they did was to grant that inquiry into the Maamtrasna executions which had been refused by the Liberal Government. He described the action of the Tory Government as the Maamtrasna alliance. Last night the Chief Secretary was very eloquent upon our attack on Lord Spencer. I am glad to find the Chief Secretary has raised himself to some appreciation of Lord Spencer; it was not always so. Now, in his speech at Hackney the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham made it one of his strongest charges against hon. Gentlemen opposite, that while they supported the policy of Lord Spencer in office, they had no sooner got on the Treasury Bench than they denounced the very man they had been supporting for years—In pursuance of a compact they had made with the Parnellite Party—in pursuance of this bargain, for which they were called upon to pay a price, 'their leaders got up in the House of Commons the other day and separated themselves ostentatiously from Lord Spencer, and any approval of his administration. I say even by this one act the Tories have done more to lessen the authority of the law in Ireland than all the Radicals have said and done during the past five years, we might almost say than all the Nationalist Members ever have said or done, because the effect of the Tory action has been to show that the maintenance of law and order is not a matter of principle, is not a matter of conviction, is not a matter even of State policy, but is a matter of the meanest Party interest and Party consideration.That was the judgment of the Member for West Birmingham on the Tory Party in 1885. But the virtuous Member for West Birmingham also said— 586The consistency of our public life, the honour of political controversy, the patriotism of statesmen which should be set above all Party considerations—these are the things which in the last few weeks have been profaned and trampled in the mire by this crowd of hungry office-seekers who are now doing Radical work in the uniform of Tory Ministers. After a speech of mine the other night a Member of the House of Commons came up and said, 'My dear fellow, pray be careful what you say, for if you were to speak disrespectfully of the Ten Commandments I believe Balfour would bring in a Bill to-morrow to repeal them.That, in 1885, was the right hon. Gentleman's opinion as to the present Chief Secretary for Ireland. I think I have devoted as much attention as is necessary, if not more, to the Member for West Birmingham, whom I will not dignify by calling an extinct volcano, but simply an exploded fusee. Every one will have observed that the tone of this debate has very much changed since the start. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, indeed, made a speech to which no objection could be taken except that of its portentous solemnity. It was moderate and kindly in tone, and was in keeping with the speeches made by the right hon. Gentleman earlier in the Session, in which he freely condemned the action of the Times. But the speeches which followed from the right hon. Gentleman's own side, instead of being an apology for the offences of the Times, have been a repetition, and, in many cases, an aggravation, of those offences. But before I deal with that I want to challenge the Attorney General. My hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast has made charges against him of which he has not given anything like an adequate denial. Now, is it the fact as stilted, not only by my hon. Friend, but by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, that the Government packed the tribunal? [An hon. MEMBER: Certainly not.] The Attorney General has never ventured to deny that the names of the Judges were never given to my hon. and learned Friend the 587 Member for Hackney before they were put in the Bill, although they were promised to him. Was not that packing the jury?
§ * MR. W. H. SMITH
The names of the Judges were furnished by me to the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian before they were put in the Bill.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
The First Lord of the Treasury has made that statement for the first time, long as this controversy has been going on. The Member for Mid Lothian is not present, but a trusted Colleague of the right hon. Gentleman's (Mr. J. Morley) is, and he does not give any sign of assent to the statement. I now ask the First Lord of the Treasury did he give us any opportunity of saying a preliminary word in the matter of the choice of the Judges? Will he deny that when he appointed the Judges he knew that every one of them was a political ally of his own. [Mr. W. H. SMITH shook his head] A shake of the head is no denial. I say it was notorious that each member of the Commission was either a Liberal Unionist or a Tory, and therefore a political ally of the right hon. Gentleman. Again, no answer has been given to the charge of the Member for Belfast that there are drafts in existence of the Commission Bill, with alterations and interlineations in the Attorney General's handwriting. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman deny that?
SIR R. WEBSTER
I denied it on the spot last night. I said that as far as I know there is no such thing in existence, and certainly I have not the slightest recollection of it.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
My hon. Friend did not say these drafts were in existence; probably they have been destroyed. What the Irish Members want to know is, had the hon. and learned Gentleman anything to do with the terms of the Bill which appointed the Commission [Sir R. WEBSTER shook his head], or was he called into the Cabinet? [Sir R. WEBSTER indicated that he was 588 not.] The excuse made for the hon. and learned Gentleman last night was very different from the attitude he himself assumes. The declaration of the Chief Secretary was that if the hon. and learned Gentleman had had anything to do with the Commission Bill he had acted as agent of the Cabinet. So that we have the extraordinary pretence set up that the Attorney General can be at the same time agent of the Cabinet, counsel for the Times, and be concerned in the framing of the Bill for the trial of the case of his clients. I say a more flagrant case of injustice and want of fair play has never before occurred in the most heated and venomous controversy in this House. Of course, as an hon. Friend reminds me, the Attorney General as first Law Officer of the Crown is bound, by his very functions and duties, to give advice on all legal questions to the Cabinet, so that we have this monstrous state of things, that a gentleman having the fee of the Times in his pocket is the adviser of the Government in an "impartial" inquiry, in which the Government stands equal between the Times on the one hand and the Irish Members on the other. I invite answers to these; questions when the time comes for reply to be made. No one attempted to deny the charges when the noble Lord the Member for Paddington made them to-night—no one denied that the Government had appointed a tribunal consisting of their political friends to try their political opponents. The statement has been made that the Tory Party opposite have never attempted to make Party capital out of the forged letters, but the fact is that for two years they have been the leading stock-in-trade of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The Chief Secretary, who seems convinced that he has only to make a mis-statement audaciously and confidently enough to obtain credence amongst a section of Members at least, denied that capital had been made out of the forged letters. Why, we produced in this House a document containing a fac simile of the 589 letters, which document had been distributed at the Taunton Election, and partly helped to secure the return of the Tory candidate; and the Attorney General was confronted by the right hon. Member for Derby with a passage from his own speech on the Second Reading of the Commission Bill, in which he himself brought forward the forged letters as an argument in support of the Second Reading. I do not know whether I am to hold the Government responsible for the utterances of so humble a Member of their Party as the Under Secretary for War, but as we are held accountable for Scrab Nally I suppose we have a right to hold the Government accountable for this official. He declared that the letters were genuine, and he did so for the purpose of making political capital. I say deliberately that for nearly two years the forged letters were the leading stock-in-trade of the Conservative Party. I have said the charges against us have been repeated and have been aggravated. Let me give some proofs of that. The Member for North Antrim (Sir C. K. Lewis) declared that if all the books of the Land League had been in existence every charge which the Commission had declared to be disproved would probably have been substantiated. The Attorney General, again, an artist of high colour, sometimes even aggravated the original charges of the Times. He actually, the other night, referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Cork as having sympathy with dynamite. What is h is proof? I say it is a most scandalous thing that the hon. and learned Gentleman on the morrow of his discomfiture in regard to the Pigott forgeries should have the face to come down here and repeat or invent a new charge against my hon. Friend, which I say is absolutely and completely without foundation. And now I come to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir H. James). He was even worse than the Attorney General, for what did he say? He said that the cash book had been removed from the Land League Offices in Great Britain. Well, I am the President of the National League Organisation in Great Britain, and have been so for many years, and I was officially connected with it under my hon. Friend the Member for Long ford 590 (Mr. J. M'Carthy). This cash book was kept to a certain extent, at least, under the supervision and control of the hon. Member for Long ford and myself, and I suppose the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury means that if this cash book were produced it would show that money had been paid by the English Land League for the Phoenix Park murders, and that my hon. Friend and myself have only been able to clear ourselves of the charge by causing the disappearance of the book. Am I not justified, then, in saying that the speeches which have been made have been a repetition and aggravation of the charges made against us before the Commission? What did the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary do? He insinuated over and over again, last night, that the charge of direct complicity with crime had been made out, and that the Invincible Society was a branch of the Land League, and he did so in the face of the finding of the Judges that there was no connection whatever between the Invincible Society and the League. I am justified, therefore, in claiming that if reparation was due from the Government to us before this debate began, double reparation is due to us now, when the charges have been repeated and aggravated by speakers on the Tory side. The Chief Secretary made the foul insinuation that there was something in the forged letters after all, because the hon. Member for Cork did not claim an apology as well as the £5,000. Now, I ask the House seriously to consider what was the suggestion underlying that statement. Did it not contain the same base insinuation as was contained in a speech of his kinsman—his chief—because, even after Pigott had been exposed, the speech of the Chief Secretary contained two of the most cruel and most odious things said in the course of this controversy. The Chief Secretary further alluded to the former relations of the Tory Party to the Irish Members. I have shown that the existence of a compact was admitted over and over again. But I would like an answer to this question. We have been charged with culpability because we paid no attention to articles in United Ireland, the Irish World, and other papers, and to the speeches of Boyton. There was 591 not a single one of the articles of any importance which was not read in this House in 1881–82. There was not a single one of the speeches which have been referred to which was not read in the House in those years. The articles and speeches were quoted almost every night by the late Mr. Forster in the hearing of the Members of the Fourth Party, including the present Chief Secretary for Ireland. Did those articles and speeches prevent Members of the Tory Party from going into the Lobby with the Irish Party? On June the 8th, 1885, the Liberal Government fell. Does anyone suppose that the Irish Party gave their support to the Tories without a clear understanding that compensation was to be given? The condition on affairs was this. The Redistribution Bill had not received the Royal Assent, and we were afraid that the Tory Party, if they got into power, might reduce the number of Irish seats. Well, Sir, we received sincere assurances that we would be perfectly safe in putting the Tories into power, and that the number of seats would not be reduced. But for those assurances the Tory Party would not have got our vote, and the Liberal Party would have been left in office. We are accused of an alliance with dynamitards, assassins, and murderers. But the Tory Party, who knew all about the articles and speeches referred to, were our allies. Did not the Tory Party know of Patrick Ford during all the years between 1881 and 1885, of the Clan-na-Gael, of the Irish World, of Boyton's speeches, of the articles in United Ireland? Were not all these things thundered across the floor of the House night after night by the late Mr. Forster, and was not the Tory Party accused by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) of seeking for an alliance with the Irish Members for the purpose of embarrassing the government of Ireland? Did the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, at that time made so many charges against the Tory Party, believe them to be true? If so, will the right hon. Gentleman get up and repeat his denunciations of the Tory-Parnellite alliance of 1880–85? What were the facts? I took a prominent part in the Election of 1885 and issued a manifesto, 592 no doubt somewhat loose in style—it was, perhaps, written too much under the influence of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill). Well, we have been charged with being the allies of assassins, but we have certainly never been charged with being fools. I have been in close association with Tory agents and have paid for Tory literature, just as the Carlton Club has paid for Nationalist literature. The money of the Clan-na-Gael has gone to the propagation of Tory ideas. There was, however, one occasion on which the Members on these Benches refused to act with the Tory Party, and that was during the anxiety consequent on the Penjdeh incident, when the fate of two great Empires hung on the words and actions of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone). During that time, whilst the Tory Party harassed the Prime Minister and put him on the rack of perilous interrogatory, the lips of the "Irish traitors" were dumb, and not a word was said to Members of the Government. This was the difference between the Irish Party and those whom the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) described as "hungry office seekers." All we did from 1880 to 1885, all we have done since, and all we shall ever do is inspired by the desire to secure the liberties of our people. All that was done by the Tory Party in the alliance of those years was done for pay and power—for dirty money and dirty power. Did the Tories refuse office, refuse salary, refuse power, because it was the unclean thing—the Irish vote—that gave them those things? No; and the Government will never be able to get over the alliance of 1880–85. The explanation of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, that the alliance was only casual and temporary, will never avail him or his Party. If Gentlemen opposite had been wise they would have accepted some such Amendment as that of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings). They have done my hon. Friend the Member for Cork a great wrong, but in this country an ample and frank apology is held to atone even for a grave wrong. They have refused apology and reparation. I tell them—and the bye-elections confirm my statement—that 593 the country will give us that ample and generous satisfaction which has been denied us by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has followed the example of most of the speakers who have addressed the House in the course of this debate, and has made a principal part of his speech a denunciation of the Attorney General (Sir R. Webster).
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
Well, it was an important part of the hon. Member s speech. I am surprised that the hon. Member, having made the attack, does not frankly confess that he made it. I am here to state that speech after speeeli—from the speech of the five counsel, who have addressed the Honse and who were engaged before the Commission, to the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), who spoke this evening—was full of concentrated virulence against my hon. and learned Friend (Sir R. Webster). [Opposition, cries of "No."] It is useless now to make these murmurs of dissent when you have cheered to the echo every charge that has been made. Whenever a Member was at a loss for cheers, an attack upon my hon. and learned Friend was sure to be enough to insure that applause which he could not obtain in any other way from any other source. My hon. and learned Friend has no doubt had a difficult task. There were five counsel engaged on the other side, and every one of these has been put forward to speak in this debate. Then the hon. Member for Bedford crowns the attack by complaining that my hon. and learned Friend has intervened in this debate in his own defence. It was insinuated that it would have been better for my hon. and learned Friend to be silent, and he was charged with having screened himself behind the cloak of his instructions and with not having 594 in this House divested himself of his position as counsel in the case. Yes, I hear a suppressed cheer, but hon. Members will remember that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian entirely appreciated the position of my hon. and learned Friend, and admitted that in the position in which he was placed there was no other course for hint to pursue than that which he had followed. One of the charges against the hon. and learned Gentleman which was made last night, and which has, I think, been repeated to-night, has been that he was responsible for the draft Commission Bill which was laid on the Table of the House. That is an absolute misstatement. The responsibility for that Bill rests on the Members of the Cabinet, and it is unworthy of Members to concentrate the whole of their attacks on my hon. and learned Friend. We are not prepared to leave that attack unanswered. The responsibility we take upon ourselves, and by that responsibility we are prepared to stand. We have in the course of this debate ranged over a great number of subjects. I wish particularly to be allowed to deal with a question which was raised in the earlier part of the debate. One matter of attack has been the constitution of the Commission. We have been charged by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington with having invented this Commission as a kind of instrument by which to oppress our political opponents. The noble Lord stated that we have set aside the ordinary tribunals in order to constitute this special and un-Constitutional tribunal. I was under the impression that the ordinary tribunals were not at that particular' moment in great favour with hon. Gentlemen opposite. We have been asked why we did not prosecute the hon. Members and bring them before a jury of their countrymen. I should like to know what would have been said of us if we had taken that step? Why, the hon. Member for Cork refused to appeal to the ordinary Courts of Law, because he thought there was danger in a British jury. And now we are taken to task by the noble Lord for not bringing the hon. Member for Cork and his friends before a jury, to which the hon. Member for Cork declared that he would not willingly go. It is said this Commission was an un-Constitu- 595 tional tribunal. But why was it established at all? Because hon. Members below the Gangway thought that, under the circumstances, the ordinary tribunals were not good enough for them. It was at their invitation and under pressure from hon. Gentlemen opposite that this tribunal was granted. I think right hon. Gentlemen, on the Front Opposition Bench will admit that the hon. Member for Cork declared that he would not go before a jury. It was the hon. Member for Cork who asked for a special tribunal; he asked for an exceptional tribunal; he asked for a Committee of this House; and is not that an exceptional tribunal? Yes, a most exceptional tribunal, to investigate libels? I think I am justified in saying that hon. Members were not prepared to take the ordinary course. They asked for exceptional treatment, and we offered them several alternatives. The tribunal they wanted was a Committee of this House. The hon. Member for Bedford suggested that that would have been an excellent manner of dealing with the case; but if such a Committee had found against hon. Members, what weight would they have attached to the findings? They are not content even with the Judges. I hear the ostentatious cheer of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby; but he will admit that even Judges, whom he distrusts—[Sir W.HARCOURT: Hear, hear!]—would be, on the whole, a more impartial tribunal than a Committee of his political opponents. I should like to have heard the spleen did rhetoric of the right hon. Gentleman denouncing the findings of such a Committee. "These are the findings," he would have said, "of a Committee composed of a majority of political opponents of hon. Members from Ireland." It will hardly be denied that whatever charges are now brought against this tribunal of Judges, which was at first said to have delivered a judgment of triumphant acquittal of hon. Gentlemen, would have been brought with greater intensity had the findings been the findings of a Committee of this House. A jury of their countrymen was refused by hon. Gentlemen; a prosecution by the Government before such a jury would have been denounced as an act of tyranny. We offered to prosecute the Times, but that offer was also refused; and so we 596 established a tribunal composed of Judges whom right hon. Gentlemen opposite admit to have been men anxious to be impartial and to do justice between man and man. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington warned us of the precedent we have established, and of the consequence that might flow from it to ourselves in the future. Well, if trying times should arise and we should find ourselves in a minority, I do not know that there is any tribunal to which we should prefer our actions being referred than a tribunal of Judges fenced round by the precautions that were taken on this occasion. Yes, for the organs of hon. Gentlemen opposite at one time bore testimony to the manner in which these Judges performed their duty. I may say, however, that day by day, as the findings of the Judges are more and more examined, so we find hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway less anxious to bear testimony to the impartiality of the Judges. I do not think that it can be shown that there is anything un-Constitutional in the course we have taken. The noble Lord says we ought not to enter the findings of the Judges on the Journals of the House, and he seems to suggest that it would be a kind of offence to the Judges for us to do so. But I may remind the noble Lord that the finding's of Judges who have tried Election Petitions—which is an analogous case—are entered upon the Journals of the House.
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
That is just our point. We do not propose to review the findings of the Judges. We have rejected all proposals to review those findings. We object to the Amendments placed on the Paper from whatsoever quarter they come which propose to review those findings. We are not reviewing the findings; we are merely entering them upon the Journals of the House. I have dealt with the Constitutional part of the question—a very important part—I will now proceed to some of the other allegations made against us. There is one allegation in particular, upon which I must say a word. It is that the Conservatives 597 and Unionists generally adopted these letters when they appeared in the Times. The hon. Member for West Belfast said yesterday they were the credentials of every Conservative, and the hon. Member who spoke just now said they were the stock-in-trade of Conservative candidates. No, that is not so; it is untrue. Here and there you may find an indiscreet utterance. I think you had better look for indiscreet utterances upon your own side, and you will be sorry to be committed to all that is said and written, even by journals owned by the leaders of your Party. No doubt, as was expounded by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary last night, there have been utterances in Irish journals—utterances and articles, which did create an impression broadly that hon. Members could not be relieved so entirely of responsibility for the acts which took place as they now wish. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down dealt with what he conceived to be the misdoings of the Conservative Party. He had an opportunity of answering the speech of the Chief Secretary last night, in which my right hon. Friend called attention to all that happened with regard to that sympathy with murder which had appeared in the Irish papers, and not by one single phrase, not by one single argument, had the hon. Member been able to repel what had been brought against them. It has been said that we have brought these charges against Members from Ireland through political hatred. There has been no political hatred. Is there more political hatred shown on this side of the House than on the other? Have we used stronger language than was used by the present allies of hon. Members below the Gangway? Where did we learn the vocabulary that we use if we have not learned it from hon. Member for Derby? We have been charged in this debate with insulting Irish Members. We have been charged with using language of exasperation. Yes; but language was used of far greater power and far greater exasperation by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite than any we used—language, I presume, dictated not by political hatred, but dictated by their knowledge of the circumstances of the case. The right hon. 598 Member for Derby said some years ago—I remember the attitude and the tone in which he said it:—To-morrow the civilised world will hear the expressions of treason and of sympathy with assassination.Was that the language of political hatred? Not at all. It was the language of a man who had before him the evidence at his hand; it was the language used by the then employer of Major Le Caron. We have heard a great deal about Major Le Caron. Who was his original paymaster? [Home Rule laughter] That laughter comes from the Benches below the Gangway. Well, who was his original paymaster? I think it was the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, who was Secretary to the Treasury when these funds were disbursed to Major Le Caron.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton)
I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what authority he states that the Secretary to the Treasury is aware of any disbursements of the secret service money? It was absolutely impossible for me to be aware of any such disbursements. [Cries of"Answer."]
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
Oh, yes; I am going to answer. Make no mistake about it. I wish hon. Gentlemen opposite would answer me. "Answer" they say now; but when the hon. Member for Belfast was asked last night to answer about the alleged letter from Lord Salisbury he did not answer. No, ho shirked it.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
The right hon. Gentleman has challenged me. I am quite ready to answer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer challenges inc. ["Order!"]
§ * MR. SPEAKER
If the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not give way; he is in possession of the House. [Cries of "Coward!"]
§ * MR. GOSCHEN (who had remained standing during Mr. Sexton's interruption)
There are no cowards here. Level your taunts at those who decline to answer. The right hon. Gentleman the 599 Member for Wolverhampton said that I was perfectly aware that he did not know of the employment of Major Le Caron. I am perfectly prepared to see that he wishes to separate himself in this from the right hon. Member for Derby. But I will not press the case against him. I will only say that he was Secretary to the Treasury at the time when this alleged waste of money took place.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has charged me with knowing of the disbursements to Lo Caron. He has charged me with knowing of the application of the secret service money. No man in this House knows better that the Secretary to the Treasury knows no more of the application of the secret service money than I do of the application of the right hon. Gentleman's private income. [Opposition cries of"Withdraw."]
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
I withdraw with the greatest pleasure what I have not said. I said that he was Secretary to the Treasury at the time. What I mean to say is that it is rather indecent, when Major Le Caron was employed during the term of office of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the Secretary to the Treasury of that time should denounce, without any specific knowledge of the facts, as a liar Major Le Caron, who was employed by the Home Secretary of the day—
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
And paid out of funds which came from the Treasury and which were included in the secret service money. I am sorry to have been longer on this point than I wished; but it is part and parcel of the attitude of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They are now denouncing Major Le Caron, as having been in full possession of the information which they purchased from him. And now to return to my former point. What could be more exasperating to the Irish people than the phrases which issued from the mouths of right hon. Gentlemen? Now they themselves ask us to join in a march "through plunder to 600 disintegration;" and because we resist and say that the plunder of the present day is not unlike the plunder of five years ago, we are denounced as insulting the Irish people. I cannot help saying, though again I am afraid that the phrase will not give pleasure to the Party opposite, that through the whole of this debate there has been a tendency to the palliation of crime. There has also been a minimising of crime. [Opposition cries of"Forgeiy."] Hon. Members must not be carried away with the belief that we have minimised the hateful crime of forgery, or that every speaker on this side has not expressed his heartfelt abhorrence of the means by which these letters were contrived. I will say no more upon that subject, except to express my own abhorrence. Even this very day an hon. Member has remarked that we regretted this crime. You challenge us to express our regret. When we express our heartfelt regret you do not accept our words. If we have had to express our condemnation of that crime which has been committed against hon. Members, and of the culpable carelessness which followed that crime, I should have thought also that from the opposite side of the House, not below but above the Gangway, we should have heard more regrets and less palliation of those other crimes which have been brought home to hon. Members opposite. There has been a constant distinction drawn between the personal crimes and the crimes which are not personal. It is a personal crime, we are told, to have written such a letter as was falsely attributed to the hon. Member for Cork; but it is not a personal crime according to the same authority to engage in treason; it is not a personal crime to disseminate literature which incites to crime; it is not a personal crime to make speeches which are followed by crime, knowing the effect which those speeches are likely to have. I can draw no such distinction. I say that the whole point as regards personal crime is delusive and wrong. But I have said that there has been palliation of crime throughout the whole of this debate, and I am sorry to say that a leading example of this palliation was given by the right hon. Gentleman the 601 leader of the Opposition himself. I must own that there are many passages in this debate which we must all deeply regret. But there is nothing which, for my part, I more deeply regret than the eloquent speech of the right hon. Gentleman, in which he made the humiliating confession that the Act of 1881 was not, as we thought, a great Act of constructive statesmanship, but that it had been wrung from the Prime Minister of England by the agitation and outrages in Ireland.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
What I said was that the Act of 1881, in my belief, would not have been possible without the agitation.
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
If I have, by one hair's-breadth, misrepresented the right hon. Gentleman, I offer him with all sincerity every apology, for no more fearful confession could have been made by a responsible statesman. But as it stands, as now presented to the House by the right hon. Gentleman, how has ho left it? The Act would not have been passed but for agitation and outrages. [Mr. J. MORLEY: That it would not have been possible.] What a lesson to teach the subjects of this great Empire! Does the House remember those passages in the eloquent peroration of the hon. Member for South Hackney (Sir C. Russell), in which he appealed to us as statesmen to accept the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman? And the doctrine presented to us as statesmen is that no great Act of reparation can be passed unless it is preceded by intimidation and outrage. But the worst of it is that the right hon. Gentleman is not incorrect in his statement. ["Hear, hear," from Mr. J. MORLEY.] You rejoice, do you? See what your Party has come to when they rejoice that constructive legislation, salutary legislation, legislation which is to unite the hearts of two peoples, that such legislation must necessarily be preceded by a certain amount of agitation and outrage. What is the view of hon. Members below the Gangway upon this subject? Here is a significant extract from United Ireland. [Home Rule cries of "Oh."] You see they are sick of quotations from United Ireland. They wish that unfortunate 602 journal anywhere else. [An hon. MEMBER: Where do you wish the Times?] Do not compare the Times with United Ireland. Before I sit down you shall have a specimen of the calumnies of United Ireland, and you shall see how they compare in heinousness with the accusations of the Times. Here is a choice extract from your paper—We ask the Government, must the country he thrown into confusion and agitation once more before they will condescend to redeem their pledges?This was written in 1884, and the Government referred to is that of the right hon. Gentleman the. Member for Mid Lothian.If so, would Mr. Gladstone kindly state how many outrages should be committed to open his mind to the urgency of this question? We have Mr. Gladstone's confession that when he entered into office he had no conception of the severity of the crisis through which this country had passed. Outrages alone, it appears, quickened his perception. And if the most enlightened British statesman of the age has to make this confession what shall we say of the rank and file of his followers?The right hon. Gentleman, the first statesman of his age, makes such a confession, that we are told to calculate the number of outrages which are necessary in order to bring home to his mind the necessity for legislation. That is not a pleasant quotation for hon. Members opposite. The next will be more satisfactory to them, because it comes from the lips of the hon. Member for Cork. He said—In order to attain a settlement of any question in Ireland from the Imperial Parliament you have to make it a burning question.They made it a burning question when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby had to surround himself with 16 policemen. He burned, he was in flames, though now all his inflammatory rhetoric is on the other side.Mr. Gladstone himself admitted, when speaking the other day at Mid Lothian, that it was not until a police constable had been shot at Manchester in the discharge of his duty by the Fenians, and the Clerkenwell Prison had been blown up, that the Irish Church Question came within the domain of practical politics. He admitted in that way that you 603 have to direct English public opinion; that you have to act upon it in some extraordinary and unusual way in order to receive any consideration of the Irish Land Question.It is quite true. It is exceedingly humiliating to your great leader. Why have I alluded to this? Because the whole speech of the right hon. Gentleman was directed to the same end. I think, as some hon. Members have remarked, that the time will soon come when a vote of thanks will be passed to hon. Members below the Gangway for having contributed so energetically and so successfully to that great piece of constructive legislation which is the charter of their land policy. I should like to have expanded the subject, remembering it is that as statesmen we are appealed to. The question how far outrage and intimidation should be allowed to play a part in efforts to obtain legislation in the future of this country is one I may commend to the candid consideration of both sides of this House. The right hon. Gentleman has been followed by others who have minimised every act which has been committed. I think it was the hon. Member for Leicester who said the Irish Members had been "wanting in a sense of proportion as between means and the end." I think the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen held similar language. In the same way we have had the connection with the Clan-na-Gael minimised. Many hon. Members have alluded to the new definition of the Clan-na-Gael given by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Fife, the enfant terrible of the other side, in words which will be remembered [laughter]—I hope you like the phrase—that the Clan-na-Gael was a friendly benefit society. I thought he would next call the Invincibles a society of Odd fellows, and the moonlighters a society of Ancient Foresters. I call that minimising in a way which would scarcely recommend itself to the members of the Clan-na-Gael, and certainly not to the hon. Member for Cork, who distinctly represented them as a society of physical force. Such is the position in which we are landed in this debate. That is why we can accept no Amendment, and must confine ourselves to the Resolution. If we were to accept the suggestions which have been offered we 604 should associate ourselves with the specious attempt that is made to undermine the political strength and morality of the country. You talk of calumny; but United Ireland for a series of years has indulged weekly in calumny [Mr. W. REDMOND: Not forgery]; no, not in forgery, but I ask the hon. Member which is worse? Do not speak of Pigott, the editor of the Irishman, which was continued for four or five years under the auspices of the Member for North-East Cork, with the declaration in every paper that it would be conducted with the same mind and with the same spirit as it had been conducted before. The mind was Pigott's and the spirit was Pigott's. [An hon. MEMBER: What about the Times?] The Times was taken in, but you were not taken in. You knew who Pigott was; you allowed yourselves to continue his paper, announcing to the Fenian Organisation that it would be continued with the same mind and spirit as it had been conducted heretofore. A more frank acceptance of the doctrines of Pigott could not be imagined. What is the explanation? That the paper was continued to give employment to a certain Mr. James O'Connor, whom it would have been cheaper to pension than to carry on the paper at a loss. And Mr. James O'Connor, who conducted the Irishman in that manner, is now a sub-editor of United Ireland, so that there is still a survival of the spirit of Pigott. No doubt there was culpable negligence in the acceptance of the forged letters. [An hon. MEMBER: No, no.] Well, ask your own friends. I am sure the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench dare not say, would not wish to say, that the editor of the Times did knowingly accept the forged letters for the purpose of calumny. You speak of calumny and of the suffering which has been inflicted on the hon. Member for Cork. Is there no suffering which has been inflicted by United Ireland on other men? Do you remember the charge against Lord Spencer of burying in the grave the proofs of the innocence of his victims? You charged him with a number of most outrageous crimes; you charged him with shielding black-coated felony; you charged him with crimes beside which the crimes charged against the hon. Member for Cork are almost insig- 605 nificant. I ask any fair-judging candid man, is it not as base a calumny to accuse Lord Spencer of knowingly put ting men to death in order to bury in their graves the proofs of their innocence as to charge the hon. Member for Cork with not repudiating the murder of of Mr. Burke? I say that it is a more hideous one than the other. But the charge has been retracted by the hon. Member for North-East Cork when he came before the Commission. What did he do when he came to give his evidence? At first he said it was not Lord Spencer and the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir G. Trevelyan) whom he had intended to charge personally, but the system. However, that would not do. The hon. Member was cross-examined, and an article was produced of which he admitted the authorship. That article distinctly stated—It will not do to ride off upon the evasion that it was the system and not Earl Spencer that sinned.…. He directed everything.….his was the guiding mind.The hon. Member has since said there is nothing which has caused him greater sorrow than to have charged Lord Spencer and the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but—mark the calumny—in the very sentence in which he relieved Lord Spencer and the right hon. Member in his examination before the Commission, in the very sentence in which he relieved them he placed the responsibility and guilt upon their subordinates. Some day Lord Spencer must tell us whether he accepts that transfer. It is superb magnanimity to forgive your opponents and to forget their insults; but that magnanimity is diminished if all that has been done was merely to transfer all the calumny from the principals to their humbler brothers in arms. I want to know whether the right hon. Gentleman accepts the transfer? Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the passage? [Cries of "Read, read!"] Yes—As to Earl Spencer and Sir G. Trevelyan we were wrong, absolutely wrong. I am sorry that there ever was an imputation of the kind. As to their subordinates, we were absolutely and in every particular right.I must point out to the right hon. Gentleman that this fearful calumny as to men having been hanged when they were 606 known to be innocent is resting upon men who were loyally working with the right hon. Gentleman. Make your reconciliation; embrace each other and stand together on platforms cheek by jowl; but when you do so remember that you are doing so at the expense of the reputation of the men who have loyally served you, and who are as honourable and as virtuous as yourselves. The friends of the Member for Cork ask for our sympathy; but in order to entitle them to that sympathy let them retract the calumnies with which they have blackened the characters of honourable men. We have been denounced as being unfriendly to Ireland. There is no unfriendliness to Ireland in our thinking of the reputation of Irish officials as well as of English statesmen. There is nothing offensive to Ireland in regretting that a confession has been made that no conciliatory legislation can take place unless it has been preceded by outrages. We think that we at least are taking a course which will commend itself to our fellow-countrymen by saying that we will not follow the line indicated to us by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and that we will not admit that it is by a certain calculated number of outrages that redress must be sought for the evils of Ireland.
§ *(11.28.) MR. CAINE (Barrow)
I rise, Sir, for the purpose of moving the following Amendment:—To add at the end of the right hon. Gentleman's Resolution the following words:—And, further, this House deems it to be its duty to record its condemnation of the conduct of those who are responsible for the accusation of complicity in murder brought against Members of this House, discovered to be based mainly on forged letters, and declared by the Special Commission to be disproved.
Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question to add the words—
And, further, this House deems it to be its duty to record its condemnation of the conduct of those who are responsible for the accusation of complicity in murder brought against Members of this House, discovered to be based mainly on forged letters, and declared by the Special Commission to be disproved."—(My. Caine.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ (11.30.) MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I must begin by expressing my great satisfaction that the hon. Member for Barrow has had the courage to take charge of an Amendment which for some inscrutable reason the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) thought fit to drop. The hon. Member for Stockport gave us three good reasons for placing the Amendment which stood in his name upon the Paper; but I would have made him a present of those three reasons if he had given us one good reason for not having moved it. All I can say is that we shall have the utmost pleasure in supporting the Amendment that has just been moved, not because we think that it will much strengthen the Irish cause, but because we believe that it is necessary for the honour and dignity of this House. I shall now pass on to the oration that we have just listened to from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He asks us as to the true charge against the Times. We tell him what the true charge against the Times is—the charge that we mean to affirm by voting for my hon. Friend's Amendment. Our charge against the Times is that they deliberately bought letters to damage political opponents. Our charge is that they made no inquiry, no proper or adequate inquiry, even of the most meagre character, as to the authenticity of those letters. We charge them with, persisting in giving publicity to those letters after they had the best possible reason to suppose that they had got them, from a foul and tainted source. My hon, and gallant Friend the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) said that the moment it was whispered that it was from Pigott the letters had come, he knew it was evidence on which they would not hang a dog. But if my hon. and gallant Friend knew that, the Irish counsel for the Times must have known it. That is our charge against the Times—buying letters to damage political opponents, and deliberately persisting in backing up 608 those letters until at last the truth was extorted from them by circumstances for which we owe them no thanks. The Chancellor of the Exchequer dealt too briefly with the criticisms which have been passed upon the Attorney General for his coming before this House with a mask on—coming before us not as the Attorney General, not as Member for the Isle of Wight, but in some capacity as counsel for the Times, and saying to the House that he could prove certain charges, and sheltering himself now behind the instructions which the Times gave—as the Times shelters itself behind the eminent authority of the Attorney General. The Chancellor of the Exchequer instituted a not very felicitous parallel between the conduct of the Times and the conduct of United Ireland in its attack on Lord Spencer; but was not the line of that attack the line that the Tory Party took in 1885. Was not that the bond of union between the Tory Party and the Gentlemen below the Gangway?
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
In those attacks it was not held for a moment that Lord Spencer had connived at crime. They went in the opposite direction.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I point to the Maamtrasna debate. I have just read it, and I affirm that if that debate meant anything it meant discrediting Lord Spencer in the most serious manner. I say that the discrediting of Lord Spencer was the price of the alliance between Gentlemen opposite and those below the Gangway. ["Oh!"] I hear the Under Secretary for India interrupting me. Why, the Under Secretary for India and the Solicitor General—whom I do not see present—voted for the Motion discrediting Lord Spencer.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Sir J. GORST,) Chatham
I never made any charge against Lord Spencer.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I do not say he made a charge. I say the hon. Member voted for that Motion. No, Sir; I think the least said by hon. Gentlemen opposite about Lord Spencer the soonest mended. What account did the right hon. Gentleman give of this tribunal, which the noble Lord so ably assailed at the commencement of our proceedings this evening? He said it was constituted under 609 pressure from Gentlemen below the Gangway. Was it that pressure that made you insert references to "other persons" besides Members of Parliament—that made you extend the reference from specific and definite charges into a general inquiry into an organisation covering the whole field of crime—that made you closure all their Amendments? The right hon. Gentleman talked about the Motion for adopting this Report being on all fours with the entering of a Report from the Election Judges on the Journals of this House; but he forgets that the Reports of Election Judges are entered by Statute, and that consequences follow from the findings of the Election Judges. But you will take good care that no consequences will follow from the findings of the Commission Judges. The remarks of the right hon. Gentleman as to Le Caron and the secret service money were remarks which should not fall from any Minister—and I recognise no Minister has a greater sense of responsibility than the Chancellor of the Exchequer—who feels a sense of his responsibility. I do not think such remarks should be made across the Table of the House. I do not think it is in the interest of either Party to make such appeals. All we know is this: that information in the possession of the Government was transferred by Mr. Anderson, acting under the authority of a Minister, to one of the parties in this case, and the existence of Le Caron was disclosed by Mr. Anderson to that party. One more point in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech. He rose to immense heights. He said it was a humiliating confession for my right hon. Friend to admit that agitation in Ireland had any connection with the passing of the Land Act. "We thought," said the right hon. Gentleman "That it was a great piece of constructive statesmanship. What a lesson to teach," said the right hon. Gentleman. Why, Mr. Speaker, the Tory Party has never taught Ireland any other lesson. That lesson is the history of your Tory Administration, and I think it is being taught in Ireland at the present moment. I think my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) must have winced under the rhetoric of the Chancellor of 610 the Exchequer; because my right hon. Friend said, and, I think, said most truly, in a speech at Liverpool on October 25, 1881—The original objects of the Land League were legal and even praiseworthy, and to stifle agitation at such a time," that was in 1881, "would have been to prevent reform… If the Land League had been suppressed in 1881 the tenants would have had no organisation to fall back upon.Sir, I have a pretty good recollection of what occurred in 1880 and 1881, and I say that at the very time when my right hon. Friend made these observations we had gone through that bad winter of 1880 which was thought to justify—as I think wrongly—Mr. Forster's Government in bringing in the Coercion Act of 1881. My right hon. friend may say that he was in favour of agitation, but not of crime; but does he think that an agrarian agitation in Ireland can be like an agitation in Birmingham or Newcastle? Everyone who knows the rudiments of the subject of agitation in Ireland knows that there agrarian agitation is absolutely inseparable from the commission of outrage. [Loud Ministerial cheers.] Yes; by your cheering you imply that therefore the agitators themselves are responsible for every outrage that occurs. [Cheers.] Well, you might just as well say that my right hon. Friend himself, when he told the Irish people that agitation was necessary to procure reform—you might just as well say that he incurred the moral reponsibility of whatever crime was afterwards committed. After all, I do not think that the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a remarkably impressive one; because the Government are to place before us a Tithes Bill this Session, and I ask. Can anybody say that that measure would have been brought in if the Welsh farmers had gone on peacefully paying their tithes? [Cries of "Yes."] When the Bill is discussed we shall be interested to hear the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who I think said "yes"—we shall be interested to hear him support that view. A good deal has been said to-night about the price that the Party opposite paid for the Irish vote, and many attempts have been made in this debate to clear the Tory Party of the supposed stigma—which, in 611 my opinion, is no stigma at all—of alliance with the Irish Representatives. But I find that no less a person than the Chief Secretary himself in 1885, when the elections were proceeding, did not think as ill of the Parnellites, as he called them, as he represented in his speech last night. According to his speech last night, and according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's to-night, the stain of personal dishonour, of personal complicity in evil-doing, attaches to Gentlemen below the Gangway. But in 1885 the right hon. Gentleman said—There was not one cardinal principle of Liberal policy which they (the Liberal Party) had in common with the Irish people. That was not the case with the Conservatives. There was one principle which the Conservatives held as earnestly as the Party to which Mr. Parnell belonged, and that was the principle of religious education. Upon that question the Tory Party, the Roman Catholic Party, and the Parnellite Party were absolutely at one, and, united as they were on that subject, they were divided by a wide and impassable gulf from the Radicals.Now the right hon. Gentleman knew at that time all that he knows now. [Cries of "No."] He must have known all that he knows now as to the charges made against the Irish Members of boycotting, intimidation, and complicity with Patrick Ford, receiving money from Patrick Ford; and though boycottors and intimidators, and though they were criminal conspirators and in alliance with murderers and assassins, yet he and the Tory Pary were willing to shake hands with them because they were sound on the principles of religious education.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I did not know nearly as much then as I do now; and if the right hon. Gentleman will look at my election address he will see (if at this distance of time my memory serves me right) that I separated myself in the most absolute manner from every species of Home Rule under whatever name it was called, and I stated that unless crime in Ireland could be repressed by other means, a Coercion Bill would have to be passed.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I do not dispute what the right hon. Gentleman has said; but I do not think that it disposes of my point, which is that he did not think their complicity in criminal conspiracy, their connivance with crime, any reason, considering their admirable views on the 612 religious education question, why he should not pose as a friend of the Irish Party.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I thought it no reason then why Irish electors should not vote for me if they liked, and I think it no reason now.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
If the right hon. Gentleman wants the Irish Party to vote for him I do not think he is taking the right course to obtain their support. Now, I should like to make some remarks on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. My right hon. Friend treated all the findings of the Commission with which he dealt as if they were verdicts of a Court—as if they constituted a regularly established verdict of a Court of Law. Now, when the proposal was before the House of Commons that a Select Committee should be granted to inquire into these charges and allegations, my right hon. Friend made a point by arguing that such a Committee would be open to the great objection of being both Judge and jury. He objected to a Select Committee because it was all jury and no Judge, and yet he takes the findings of the Commission, which are those of Judges and no jury. The right hon. Gentleman adopts as a judicial finding what looks like, but is not really, a conviction, as it is the decision of a tribunal which is not competent, as the right hon. Member for Derby has pointed out, to define even the law. I protest against the vise which is being, and will be, made of the controversial findings of an irregular and exceptional tribunal as if it were the verdict of a regular tribunal of the land. What you do is this. You harry the Irish with exceptional tribunals in their own country, and then you endeavour to hunt them down by exceptional tribunals here. The right hon. Member for Bury, whom I do not see here, and who I rather think is denouncing us somewhere in the North of England, used an image which described fairly enough his want of appreciation of the circumstances with which we have to deal when he compared the Members of the Party below the Gangway to the Directors of a Joint Stock Company. I cannot imagine a figure which betrays more entire mis-appreciation of the conditions with which we have to deal. I do not know how 613 many Gentlemen here went into the Commission Court. You saw there all the panorama of modern Irish life; you had before you the peasants in their frieze coats; you saw prisoners from gaol; you saw the sinister and ill-omened face of the spy; you saw resident magistrates, divisional magistrates, and Irish constables; you listened to the whole story, from the hovels on the west coast of Galway across to the crowded cities of the United States. You had before you the whole tragedy of the Irish race and people, and you saw a scene which I make bold to say the future historian will record as being as memorable as any that have taken place in that ancient Hall through which we pass to enter this House; and yet, in the face of a scene of that sort, hon. and right hon. Members can come forward and speak as if they had been present at the winding up of a Joint Stock Company or the liquidation of a fraudulent bankruptcy. It is that want of appreciation which has landed us in all our troubles with Ireland. I should like to ask the Chief Secretary with his present views, to which lie gave such deplorable utterance last night—I should like to ask him what prospect, what chance, he has to carry his own views and policy out to a good end when he goes out of his way to exasperate and embitter the controversy—when he goes out of his way to make himself the champion of this dirty organ the Times? He is about to give us, if he has his way, 20 years of firm and resolute government. Is the Times for 20 years to be free? Is it to be like London's monument, which, as Pope said, "Like some tall bully lifts its head and lies." Is the Times to lift its head and lie and count on being supported by the Irish Minister? The Chief Secretary is going to bring in a Bill to extend Local Government in Ireland. Who will work Local Government in Ireland? The very men whom last night he taxed with being stamped with personal dishonour. The Chief Secretary distinctly stated that it was not a mere charge of moral complicity, but of personal, direct complicity in dishonourable conduct which was brought against those Members. The right hon. Member for Bury in his eloquent speech before the Commission wound up with a peroration in which he called upon the 614 Irish people to resort to new modes of action and to get true men to guide them. By new modes of action he meant returning to old modes of suffering. What new leaders? The hon. Member for South Hunts (Mr. Smith-Barry) I suppose, whose power of winning popularity the state of Tip-perary now attests. Or are they to be won by the wise and benignant temper of the hon. Member for North Antrim, or by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh? The hon. and gallant Member has often told the House, however, that the laurels he would like to win are not civil ones, but those gained amid the "pomp and circumstance of glorious war." The Irish know their leaders, and are going to adhere to them, and we are going to stick to them. And you may depend upon it that the only chance of winning success, either for Land Purchase or for Local Government, is to have the support and the sympathy and approval of the Gentlemen who represent the sentiments and wishes of the people of Ireland.
§ Sir G. TRVELYANand Mr. Byron Reed (Bradford, East)
rose together, but the Speaker called on Sir George Trevelyan, but he having resumed his seat after saying that he desired to make a personal explanation,
§ MR. BYRON REED (Bradford, East)
, who said: I wish to move the following Amendment as a rider to that of the hon. Member for Barrow:—But that nevertheless this House desires to record its condemnation of those persons who, by the Report of the Special Commission, have been proved to have been engaged in criminal conspiracy, and—It being midnight, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded to interrupt the Business;
Whereupon Mr. WILLIAM HENRY SMITH rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: —Ayes 259; Noes 321.—(Div. List, No. 24.)
Main Question put, and agreed to.
Resolved, "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.