§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [31st January], "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:—
§ Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the Most. Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Lambert.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
COLONEL SANNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
I am common, I am sure, with the majority of both sides of the House, I listened with pleasure to the speeches of the Mover and the Seconder of the Address. I thought that they were discreet speeches, and that the speakers had discharged their difficult duties in a very able manner. Both hon. Gentlemen had showed their discretion in avoiding any comparison between the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government and that which was followed by the Government that preceded it, and for this reason, that they must have remembered that the attack which terminated the life of the late Government in August last was an attack upon their posts, and not upon their policy. No attempt was made, in the very able speech of the present Home Secretary in the last Session, to show that the policy of the late Government had been wrong; all he did was to point out that the tune had arrived when the Government should disappear and he and his friends should occupy the posts of the Ministers then in power. Since that time six months has elapsed and I am sure that I, in common with the House at large, am satisfied to hear that on the whole the policy of the present Government has been successful both at home and abroad. But I venture to maintain that if that policy has been successful it is only because the present Government has been putting in force 257 the legislation of their predecessors and has been walking in their footsteps, especially as regarded foreign affairs. In order to illustrate this I may cite the case of Egypt. During the last few years the supporters of the present Government constantly denounced the Unionist party for what they were pleased to call their "Jingo" policy, but directly the present Government find themselves in the responsible position of holding office, instead of abandoning Egypt they are absolutely re-inforcing the troops of the Crown in that country, and they had especially announced that no change of policy with regard to that country is contemplated, in that they intend to Follow exactly the policy pursued by their predecessors. As long as Her Majesty's Government pursue a policy which conduces to prosperity and peace, whether in Great Britain or Ireland, they would receive the support of both sides of that House. The only occasion on which, as far as I know, Her Majesty's Government has shown any weakness, or has met with any want of success, has been exactly when they have deviated from the policy of their predecessors. And that has occurred with regard to the country from which I come—a country which has always been peculiar in its power of leading Englishmen and Scotchman astray. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle came over to Ireland as Chief Secretary I can assure him that I looked with great interest for some indication of the course of policy he intended to pursue. I matte every allowance for him, and I believe that every fair-minded man ought to make allowance for the unfortunate position in which he is placed, because I cannot conceive any situation more unpleasant than for a gentleman of the right hon. Gentleman's peculiar cast of mind, who has expressed his opinions so clearly, to find himself placed under the tutelage, the government, and the guidance of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. On the whole the right hon. Gentleman deserves a considerable amount of credit for not doing more harm than he has done. Of course I know, and we all know, in Ireland that my right hon. Friend was bound front his peculiar position to adopt a policy different from that which had obtained under the late Government. He was bound, as far as he could, to do away with the Crimes Act, or with 258 that part of the Crimes Act which was in force when he came into Office, and, so far as I can make out, the only part of the population of Ireland which could have been relieved by doing away with these provisions of the Crimes Act was the criminal population. The change of venue and the power of taking evidence in secret could not hurt any law-abiding man. That was the first indication we got of how the wind was about to blow. The second indication occurred when instructions were issued to the County inspectors giving the conditions under which police protection would be allowed to Sheriffs, and stating that in no case could such protection be granted except during daylight. Well, sir, that letter was addressed to the Sheriff of the Country of Clare, which we describe in Ireland as an extremely lively county. Crime has existed in Clare for, I am sorry to say, a good many years, and since October very serious outrages have been committed there. Therefore, as I pointed out in a letter to the Press at the time, to tell the people of Clare—and particularly that part of the population which looks upon the shooting of a Sheriff as the natural sport of the county—that no protection was to he granted to a Sheriff except during daylight was undoubtedly, to my mind, an encouragement to the evil-dis-posed to resist the law. I entirely acquit my right hon. Friend of any sinister intention. I have not the slightest doubt that the shooting of a Sheriff is just as objectionable to him as it is to me; but what I ask the public to consider is the effect that circular would have upon the evil-disposed people of the county. My right hon. Friend, after he had read my letter and the leading article on the subject in The Times, appeared to be stirred—I will not say to wrath—but certainly to an amount of perturbation of spirit, and he wrote a letter, in which he used the following expressions:—Colonel Saunderson is shocked by the action of the Country Inspector in saying that he would be unable to afford protection except in daylight. If this rule were as wrong and foolish, as it is assuredly right and true, in neither case am I responsible. The regulation as it stands, and as it long stood, on the Code prohibits the constabulary from leaving their quarters to give protection or assistance to civil officers before 6 a.m. In summer or 8 a.m. In winter, or to be present at executions of any 259 writ, decree, or order after sunset in any season of the year.The Chief Secretary then adds—If the rule against such folly did not exist, it would have been my duty to invent it;and he goes on to say—Colonel Saunderson's discovery is a mare's nest.The Radical papers were delighted, and they said my right hon. Friend had flattened me out;intl that The Times might hide its diminished head. Well, I do not accept the view of the law expressed by my right hon. Friend. I am happy to inform my right hon. Friend that the mare's nest in which I have been sitting for these six months is occupied at the present moment by the Judges of the Queen's Bench in Ireland. A most remarkable thing has happened to test the legality of the refusal to afford protection to the Sheriff. The Attorney General for Ireland issued a writ of fieri facias to recover from a man Ice Clare, or in Kerry, I think, a drainage charge. The man refused to pay, as is a habit in that part of the country; and the Sheriff, in order to have some chance of recovering value for the debt, asked for police protection, which was refused; and the Sheriff, to test the legality of the refusal, issued a writ of attachment against the inspector. The case has now been tried by the Court of Queen's Bench in Dublin, and this is the decision which the Court has arrived at—The Queen's Bench gives unanimous judgment in favour of granting attachment against the County Inspector, but under the circumstances directed it not to issue; Inspector to pay Sheriff's costs of application. The Court declared that for the first time in our history has anticipated resistance to the law been offered as a reason for suspension of the law, and that the Court could not permit the Executive to substitute their own will for the law.The curious part of the matter is this: that whereas the writ upon which this action took place was issued by the Attorney General, the Attorney General for Ireland appeared before the Court to oppose the writ of attachment which was asked to be issued against the County inspector. I think, Sir, Ireland is the only country on the face of this earth where such curious circumstances could happen. In the letter I wrote to The Times I warned the right hon. Gentleman of the danger of dealing in a shiny- 260 shally manner with the people of Clare, What is the result? I hold in my hand a report of a meeting summoned by the. Lord Lieutenant of the County of Clare, and attended by the magistrates, the result of which has been furnished to the right hon. Gentleman. The meeting pointed out that in October Michael Hogan's house was fired into, that a short time after the tails of his cattle were cut off, that soon after Mr. Thomas Crowe was fired at and his coachman seriously injured, that then Miss Browne's residence was entered by masked men, who fired shots, causing her great terror; then parties were fired at near Bodyke, and a carter was fired at; and what was the crime he committed? Because he was carrying goods to the police engaged in protection duty. And so a resolution was passed by the meeting appealing to the Government in the following terms:—That we view with regret the recent return of lawlessness which has shown itself during the last few months in this county; that we call on the Government to take such steps as may be needed, either by the revival of the several powers conferred on them by Parliament, or by future legislation if necessary, to put down what is a disgrace to any civilised country.I can only say, in concluding this part of my speech, that I would recommend my right hon. Friend to take care that he is very sure about his law before be permits announcements of this kind to be made again to County inspectors, otherwise he will himself be open to a writ of attachment, and perhaps he may find himself for a time incarcerated in one of those retreats to which his colleague, the Prime Minister, used to put hon. Members from Ireland below the Gangway. I look at these circumstances in Clare as an interesting indication of the general line of policy we may expect in Ireland. The next indication was the Evicted Tenants' Commission, of which I wish to say a word. Now, Sir, I am speaking in the name of the Irish landlords when I say that when we heard that a Commission was issued to examine the whole question of evictions it gave us unbounded satisfaction. It all depended on the character of the Commission, and on the procedure of the Commission. If it was a fairly-constituted Commission, if it consented to take evidence in a fair and straightforward manner, I say it would receive the absolute approval and 261 support of the Irish landlords. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in a speech he made at Newcastle, said that for the hundredth—for the thousandth time—the Irish landlords had allowed themselves to be made a cat's paw of an English Political Party, and had refused a settlement of this question bristling with difficulties. Well, Sir, were the Irish landlords right, or were they wrong, in refusing to lay their case before this Commission? First of all, what is the meaning of the Commission? It was a Commission to investigate the question of the evicted tenants. What is an evicted tenant? That appears to be a childish question. What we mean by an evicted tenant under the ordinary acceptation of the word, is a man turned out of his holding for non-payment of rent, but that definition is one that did not satisfy this Commission. The ordinary tenant in Ireland, who is evicted for nonpayment of rent, is not a man who has much interest to hon. Gentlemen opposite. But the evicted tenants who were to be examined by this Commission were the tenants evicted under the Plan of Campaign, and, therefore, for an evicted tenant to excite the interest of this Commission, he should he able to prove that it was under the authority and at the dictation of the hon. Member for Mayo and the hon. Member for Cork that he found himself evicted on the roadside. The first thing was—who was to be the President of the Commission? I suppose the object was to get a President in thorough harmony with the National League, under whose auspices these evictions took place. Now, Sir, we in Ireland know something about Mr. Justice Mathew. We had nothing to say against Mr. Justice Mathew as an English Judge; I have no doubt that he exercised his functions in this country fairly and honestly. But he is a gentleman with very strong opinions, and if he is not a Land Leaguer himself—at least, I do not know that he is—but I know he is the very next thing to it. Mr. Jastice Mathew was living in Ireland in the year 1887. At this time the Land League was proclaimed, and it was a criminal offence to belong to it. But I find in the Freeman's Journal of August 3 st, 1887—I forget on which side the Freeman was at this time—a report of the proceedings at the usual fortnightly meeting of the 262 National League held in Dublin on the previous day by way of defying the Government. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. William O'Brien) opened his speech by saving that the meeting was held under the ban of the law—a position which the hon. Member for Cork has always been foremost in taking tip, but I suppose it is an honorable. position from his point of view. But the remarkable thing about this meeting is that Mr. Justice Mathew's son, and Mr. Justice Mathew's son's tutor, joined the. Land League. [Cries of "Oh!"] Yes, Sir, it is necessary that this should be mentioned. They left the house of the Judge, who was living at the time in Dublin, and joined the Land League in defiance of the law. Well, that did not exactly predispose us to look at Mr. Justice Mathew as a favourable Judge in a case of fair play with the Irish landlords. However, he was chosen as the. President of the Commission, and we read in the Freeman's Journal from day to day that Mr. Justice Mathew had been over an hour or more in conference with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle. Whether that was a course which was wise policy or not, it is not for me to say; but I conclude that at this conference it was arranged what the procedure should be when the Commission assembled, who were to be examined, and how the examination was to be carried out. The Commission assembled, and I think the House will admit that the course they pursued at its opening was most remarable. I should say it was important for the Commission to make a good start, to. begin well at its initial meeting, in order to give confidence to the public of fair play. Well, we had the Judge's speech; it was a very eloquent and able speech for the President of the Commission—it was the most wonderful and remarkable speech ever delivered. Then the first witness was chosen. By whom was he chosen? I maintain he was chosen by the hon. Member for Mayo or the hon. Member for Cork. The name of this witness—the first witness mind you—was John Roche. Now, John Roche is a man whose public career has been of an interesting and exciting character. The first we know about John Roche was when he appeared before the Special Commission to inquire into the Parnellite 263 movement, and he admitted that he attended meetings at Woodford—the notorious place in Galway where so many murders took place. There was a man there who was nicknamed "Balaclava," for he was one of the soldiers who took part in the charge. He happened to be a bailiff, and he came under the baste of the Land League, and this John Roche made a speech in which "The landlords have their Balaclava, but in a day or two we will have our Fontenoy." A day or two afterwards "Balaclava" was brutally murdered. This was the first start of Roche, as far as I know, of a public character. The next thing we find of this John Roche is that be stole a deer; he was fined and had to pay costs.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
After this John Roche was fined for trespass —I suppose in pursuit of game—for he appears to be a sporting character. Next, after this, he assaulted a policeman, to which he pleaded guilty, and got three weeks' imprisonment. And to show you how unchanged he was as a sporting character, on August 16, 1890, he was fined again for trespass in pursuit of game. Now, if this Commission had been established to inquire into the Game Laws, I should say that this Mr. John Roche might have given very good evidence, but I cannot see how he could have been any use as a witness before a Commission supposed to be established to learn the truth in a great agrarian subject. And this is the Commission which my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle wonders the landlords for Ireland have not consented to accept and abide by its decision. Sir, there was a mistake in the name of the Commission. Instead of being called the "Evicted Tenants Commission," it should have been called "the Members for Mayo and Cork Relief Commission." Why was this Commission appointed? Because these hon. Members had got themselves into a terrible fix, and something had to be done to relieue them, they being the chief supporters of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Midlothian. Talk of evictors! The Irish landlords are called evictors. Will any hon. Gentleman below the Gangway point to an instance in the whole history of Ireland 264 where any landlord has made himself guilty of the thousands of evictions which lie at the doors of the hon. Members for Mayo and the hon. Member for Cork? These tenants had to leave their farms, not because they could not pay the rent, or because they did not want to pay the rent, but because, as the hon. Member for Mayo said in his speech—they were told not to pay the rent. And why were they told not to pay the rent? Because by being evicted, it would make it difficult for the Government to maintain law and order in Ireland. Moreover, they were to act the part of "call ducks" in a pond. Those miserable tenants were turned out of their houses on to the roadside, or placed in miserable huts, in order that their cries of distress might appeal to the Radical Party in England and get votes on that side. But now when the demand made by these tenants for help and food find no echo in the depleted or empty chests of the Plan of Campaign, the Member for Mayo and the Member for Cork find themselves in a very difficult and tight position, and something had to be done, so instead of giving the evicted tenants money they gave them a Commission. The evicted tenants are now told that the men on whose advice they left the homes in which they and their forefathers had lived for years were now doing all they could to reinstate them again, but it is difficult for starving men to live on the Commission. I venture to say that the cousre the Commission pursued amply justified the view we, the Irish landlords, took of it when we refused to have anything more to say to it. The next case in which the policy of the Government varied, and varied most fatally, from the policy of the previous Government gone before was the case of the release of prisoners. I say nothing about the release of dynamiters, because I know nothing of the facts, for I have not read the evidence, and the men may be innocent or they may be guilty; but it is astonishing that, while the dynamiters were allowed to go free on ticket-of-leave, the Gweedore prisoners who pleaded guilty were sent out scot-free without a ticket-of-leave. What right had the Government to turn adrift in Ireland the atrocious ruffians who brutally murdered (and savagely) inspector Martin? No crime struck me with more horror than that murder. This officer 265 was, in the performance of his duty, trying to effect the arrest of a priest, who, after telling his flock that he could not be arrested without bloodshed, led an excited crowd down to his chapel, and then slammed the door in the face of the officer. This ruffian, McFadden—[cries of "Oh!" and "Withdraw!"] I will amend what I said, and say this murderous ruffian, McFadden—[cries of"Oh!" "Order!" and "Withdraw!]
§ MR. DIAMOND (Monaghan, S.)
I say, Sir, the expression of the hon. Gentleman is a ruffianly expression.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman has no right to make that interruption. The hon. Gentleman is out of order in doing so.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman entitled to describe as a murderer a gentleman who has never been convicted or even tried for murder?
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is not a question of Order. The expression is one resting on the responsibility of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and on the question of Order I cannot interfere. [Cries of "Withdraw!"]
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I will not withdraw a single word. [Cries of "Withdraw!" and repeated cries of "Divide!"] I beg to say—["Divide, divide!"]
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I beg to say I did not call him a murderer; I called him a murderous ruffian. I ask, why were those men set at liberty with out a ticket-of-leave? [Loud cries of"Divide!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must ask that the hon. and gallant Member be not interrupted in that way. It is not in my power to interfere with the expressions which have been used by the hon. and gallant Member in regard to a person outside the House; but I will say that those expressions are not, in my opinion, compatible with the orderly discussion of affairs in this House.
§ MR. DILLON
I beg to move that the hon. and gallant Gentleman be no longer heard, and I would call your attention, Sir, to the expression that he used as a correction of his previous expression when he accused a respected priest of our Church of being a murderous ruffian. These are words the hon.
266 Gentleman does not dare to repeat outside this House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I cannot put the Motion; it is not a proper Motion. It is not in my power to put a Motion of that kind. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman should seem to unnecessarily irritate the feelings of any Member of this House; and if he can in any way soften the expression which he used without Impairing his argument or the charge he makes, I have no doubt the hon. and gallant Gentleman will consent to do so. I hope he will now say something of a conciliatory kind which will allay the storm which has arisen.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I have no desire to excite hostility in the hon. Gentleman behind me, but I cannot help taking my own view of circumstances that occurred at that time. I think the House will see, at any rate, one reason why Irish loyalists objects to Home Rule. I beg to move that the Debate be now adjourned.
*THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLABSTUNE,) Edinburgh, Midlothian
I think we must all feel that, in the first place, we are indebted to you for the efforts you have made from the Chair; and, in the second place, that it is highly desirable for the honour of the House of Commons that this scene should as soon as possible change its character. I appeal to those with whom upon Irish matters I usually act to exercise all the patience they can. It is not the first time, probably, that in this House they and others have been called upon to exercise it. But having presumed to say that, I think I cannot but make a most earnest appeal to the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself. Surely I will not say in calmer moments, because that might imply that the hon. and gallant Member is not now calm—but surely, appealing to his judgment, he must fecthat the use of the expression "murderlous ruffian" with regard to a gentleman against whom, in the first place, nothing in the slightest degree of the character imputed has been proved, and with respect to whom it is well-known that he is held in warm and peculiar respect by his own parishioners told by other large bodies of men in Ireland—I think he must feel that the application of such a phrase against a gentleman who is entitled on the claim of previous life and 267 conduct to be treated with respect, is a most extreme use of that liberty which I know belongs to Members of this House, and to which I admit it is Impossible for you from the Chair to affix any absolute limit. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said he had not called him a murderer. What distinction can be drawn between calling Father McFadden a murderer and calling him a murderous ruffian? I have not used a single epithet about the proceeding of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I do not wish to express any opinion upon it, but I do want to make an earliest appeal to him to abate, even if he views it as his legitimate freedom, somewhat of it in the interest of the dignity and honour of the House.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, East)
I think I may join myself with the right hon. Gentleman in making an appeal that this scene should terminate. I shall not follow him in his observations as to the propriety of the particular language used with regard to Father McFadden by my hon. and gallant Friend but when he appeals, and I think be was right to appeal, to the House to use patience in these matters, it is fit that we should recollect that language not less strong, but in my opinion far stronger, has been constantly hurled by gentlemen now making these interruptions against innocent policemen and innocent magistrates, and that it does seem to me that if, as I hope, hon. Gentlemen will couch the arguments they think it necessary to make in language not unduly Irritating to their opponents, it is a rule that should apply to both Parties in the House, and not one Party only.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I am glad, so far as I can, to terminate this unhappy scene, and in compliance with your appeal to me (indicating the First Lord of the Treasury), the force of which I admit, and the appeal you, Sir, have made from the Chair, I am willing to substitute for the words I used the expression "excited politician." Now, Sir, I hope I am entering on less troubled waters. The very able speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Address offered very good examples of the way in which the General Election was fought. Why, Sir, a stranger in the Gallery listening to these speeches would never have imagined for a moment that Home Rule for Ireland was 268 one of the leading questions that is to occupy the attention of the House of Commons. Every other subject was very fully and ably dilated upon, but Home Rule was decidedly put into a back seat. And I do not wonder at that, because if these hon. Gentlemen ventured to describe what they mean by Home Rule—and I imagine every hon. Gentleman of the Radical Party is in the same dilemma—they might find in a few days their views of Home Rule diametrically opposed to the views of the Home Rule Bill to be laid on the Table of the House. The eyes of hon. Members opposite were filled with delight at the prospect spread before them. After seven years of wandering in the desert of Opposition they at length saw the promised land was dotted over with fragments of the Newcastle Programme. But between them and the promised land flows the dark, the deep, the turbulent and muddy stream of Irish affairs, and the hanks of this stream were whitened with the bones of many politicians who had gone before. I need hardly say that it is our object to see that the Gladstouian swimmers do riot reach the other side. I venture to say that our position is a far stronger one logically than it was in 1886. When we informed the country in 1886 that to grant Home Rule to Ireland would be to place the Roman Catholic Church as the supreme authority in that country, we were denounced as Orange and Protestant bigots. What reply can our opponents make now after the Meath Election. We said in 1886 that to grant a Parliament to Ireland, and an Executive Government responsible to that Parliament, would mean the establishment in Ireland of that which up to the present time has been hateful to every Radical—that it would mean the establishment of an ascendency. "Ascendency" is a word which used to be hateful to the Radical Party. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian claims to have destroyed ascendency in Ireland when he cut down that baneful upas tree, under whose shadow progress and happiness and peace could not exist. And now, forsooth, after all the experience of past years he proposes, at the termination of a great career, he proposes to establish in Ireland an ascendency more loathsome and hateful still than anything that had gone before.
269 What we have said all along is the lesson which has been taught the British people by the elections which have taken place in Ireland. If the Roman Catholic priests in Ireland had chosen they could have powerfully added to the argument that ascendency would not take place in Ireland after the granting of Home Rule. Had they abstained at the last elections from interference with the return of Members, then they might have said, "We have proved that we confine our efforts to those spiritual vocations which it is our duty to perform." But, on the contrary, in every election in Ireland, the foremost place was taken by the Roman Catholic priests; and what has been the result? Seventy-one Members of the House had been directly returned by the priests and under their influence. Who could doubt, who knew anything about Ireland, that had the priests abstained from interfering in the elections the party which follows the hon. Member for Waterford would have been at least three dines as strong as it is at present? It might be said that the Roman Catholic priests will take warning by the result of the Meath petition. Nothing of the kind. The Roman Catholic priests have made a grab at power in Ireland which they never intend to relax. When Mr. Parnell fell after the divorce trial the priests in Ireland never raised a voice against hint until the action of the right hon. Member for Midlothian was quickened by the action of the Nonconformists in this country; and the moment the priests saw that Mr. Parnell could no longer remain a great political power they sought to seize the reins which fell from his crime-stained hand. Did they rail against the Immorality of their former Leader? On the contrary, after all that had taken place—after the scandal had been made public—Mr. Parnell was accepted by many of the priests, and he was especially accepted by the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) as his chosen leader and friend, as "the man at the wheel." But it was found by the Irish priests that it was Impossible Mr. Parnell could go on and successfully lead his Party; and so they turned round and opposed him, and have ever since held him up to universal hatred and obloquy. The priests, however, have involuntarily taught a lesson to the House of Commons and to the 270 British people, which all our voices combined could never have taught. The priests have taught conclusively the lesson that they held a grip of the Irish people, and when the Government creates a Parliament and an Executive in Dublin they will create a Parliament and an Executive which will be time slaves of the Roman Catholic priesthood. I will take the hon. Member for Louth as an instance. It might have been thought that the lesson of the Meath Petition would have been that the priests would have thought twice before taking an active share again in political affairs. Not at all. List Sunday the hon. Member for Louth, accompanied by 18 priests, stood on a platform to praise the gentlemen whom he hoped to see returned, and to say very uncivil things about his former friends. I always read with interest the speeches of those gentlemen, because they are those of hon. Members who aspired to conduct the affairs of Ireland. They have known each other for many years, and when they give vent to their views as to their varied qualifications and disqualifications they ought to know something about the matter. The hon. Member for Louth, speaking about a gentleman who, I imagine, aspires to a distinguished position in the Irish House of Commons, said—Jackasses of the Billy Redmond type, who hardly have as much sense as a hen, and who are about as fit to be trusted to argue the great constitutional cause of Ireland as a baby squalling in the arms of its nurse.These are the men who aspire to govern Ireland. These are the men who a few years ago stood side by side in a solid phalanx. Why, then, did the hon. Member for Louth describe his Colleague in those uncomplimentary terms? The hon. Member must have known him all along. Personally, I express no opinion on the subject. I leave the hon. Member for Clare to settle it satisfactorily with the hon. Member for Louth; but those gentlemen pose before the country and the House of Commons as fit men to govern Ireland, and it is Important to hear one of the many leaders of one Party thus describe one of the several leathers of the other Party. What, then, is the Loyalist position at the present moment? I maintain that the position of the Irish Loyalist Party 271 is a very satisfactory one. We are in a minority in the House; there is a majority against us of 39, but, if I may use the expression in a Parliamentary sense, it is a very shady majority. It is a majority composed of atoms which at any moment may be driven apart; it is a majority which, even at a word from the other side of St. George's Channel, may altogether fade away. What is the Loyalist position in front of this majority? We are, according to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, a miserable minority which might be treated with contempt.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
Although the words may not be absolutely correct, they convey the view the right hon. Gentleman meant when he said we could qe treated with indifference. We may be in the eyes of the right hon. Gentleman a miserable minority when we are taken simply as a number of Irishmen standing up for the law and the Crown; but the right hon. Gentleman cannot look upon the Loyalists as a miserable minority when he remembers that on our side stand the majority of the British people. As time goes on, and as the British people realise, as they must, that all the fears the Loyalists have expressed have been amply realised, and the results we prophesied in the past have become facts in the present, they will rally in the vast majority to the Loyalist side. The House has been told that this Home Rule Bill, which is to be placed on the Table, and which, I believe, many hon. Members opposite would like to place under the Table, is to contain a provision which will still keep Irish Members at Westminster. The right hon. Gentleman said that the wit of man could not devise a Bill which would satisfactorily satisfy those conditions. If, however, they are found in the Bill it will lie a proof that wit has vanished, that it has followed political economy to Saturn. But I can not persuade myself of the fact that, viewing the condition of Ireland at the present moment, with all the contending factions who aspire to govern her kept from tearing each other to pieces by the police, it can be a satisfactory solution. Nobody of sane reason could conceive the idea of handing over Ireland to the supreme authority and domination of such 272 factions, for it can lead to nothing but hopeless social confusion and the destruction of my native country.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare East)
said, he had not proposed to go at any length into the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh, but he rose in order to reply specifically to some of the allegations which the hon. and gallant Gentleman to the constituency which he (Mr. Redmond) had the honour to represent. He might first say that the reference of the hon. and gallant Member to a speech of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) was palpably an attempt to create an unpleasant scene amongst Irish Members in the House, and while he (Mr. Redmond) was perfectly prepared to defend himself, either from the hon. Member for Louth, or from anybody else who attacked him, he knew the place in which to defend himself, and so far as he was concerned, he would do everything in his power to induce Irish Members to settle in Ireland any difficulties they may have in Ireland, and not on the floor of the House of Commons. The hon. and gallant Gentleman commenced his attack on the Government by drawing an extremely ghastly picture of the state of Clare. He (Mr. Redmond) thought that the completest proof that could be given of the satisfactory condition of Ireland on the whole at the present time was to be found in the fact that the hon. and gallant Gentleman, with all his desire to build up an accusation of crime in Ireland, and to make out that the country is as black as possible, was that he was only able to refer to the single county of Clare. If the condition of the country had been bad during the past six months, the hon. and gallant Gentleman would have referred to various parts of the country instead of confining himself to Clare, and that fact was the very best proof that could be advanced of the generally satisfactory state of Ireland during the past six months. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had found fault with the County Inspector of Clare in refusing to allow the police forces of the Crown to accompany bailiffs at night to make seizures of tenants' cattle. He would point out what exactly did take place. Some seizure had to be made in Clare for rent due which the people were not able to pay, and instead of going in 273 the light of day and making the seizures, the bailiff preferred to go at the middle of the night, but the police inspector pointed out that a large armed force could not go on an expedition of a strictly warlike character in die middle of the night. He (Mr. Redmond) need not point out that an undertaking of that kind at night was much more dangerous to both parties than if it occurred in the day. As a matter of fact, it would be a dangerous thing to attempt to seize the cattle of these people in the dead of night, and when seizures did take place at nighttime it created a great sensation. He had ventured to point out, upon representations he had received from both parties in Ireland, that if these cattle had to be seized, and the Government were obliged to send out police to seize them, it had better be done in the light of day, and not alarm the people by midnight expeditions. He thought the right hon. Member for Newcastle acted in a way that would commend itself to everyone in that House when he directed that such seizures should take place in the daytime. That was the plain and unvarnished explanation of the action of the Member for Newcastle in regard to the seizures in East Clare; and was it no ta great deal better to have these armed expeditions in daylight instead of in the darkness of the night? The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Sannderson) had referred to certain crimes which had taken place in East Clare, where some shooting cases had occurred. But the hon. and gallant Gentleman should have pointed out that these cases were of a character more or less innocent. When he said that, he meant to convey that nobody was seriously injured, and beyond the report of the firearms nothing really serious took place. If there had been some disturbance of the general peace in County Clare during the last six months there had also been in that county a very serious movement on the part of the landlords. There was a district in Clare called Bodyke where the landlord had suddenly asked the people to pay a rent he had not expected or called upon them to pay for several years gone by. He had hitherto given them a large reduction on their judicial rents, but now the extraordinary demand was made that they should pay their rents in full. The people were not able to pay, their cattle 274 were seized, large forces of police were sent against them, and whilst he did not suppose in that House eviction expeditions would be looked upon as a justification for excitement and violence on the part of the people, still it should be pointed out that if there had been violence on the part of the people there had also. unquestionably been a great deal of provocation given to them by the landlords. None of the cases to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman had referred had resulted in loss of life, whilst he believed they were all directly the result of the landlords proceeding against the people for rents which they could not pay, and he only hoped the Member for Newcastle would see his way in respect of this county to devise some mode of revising the judicial rents. The people would pay what it was possible for them to pay, but they could not pay the full judicial rents, and the Chief Secretary ought to consider whether the Government could not take some steps to revise the judicial rents which were fixed years ago, when the prices were much higher. If there were no such revision, and if the forces of the Crown were given at evictions of people for the non-payment of impossible rents, there would undoubtedly be disturbances, not only in Clare, but in various other parts of Ireland as well. With regard to what the previous speaker had said as to the Government desiring to hand over the people of Ireland from one ascendency to another, he had to say he did not know particularly what the intention of the Government was; but if they intended to hand over the Nationalists of Ireland to the ascendency of the Catholic clergy or any other ascendency, he declared on behalf of his constituency that they would not allow the Government to do it, for they were quite resolved they would not live under the ascendency of any denomination in Ireland. When the hon, and gallant Gentleman spoke of the Members from Ireland being merely the representatives and the nominees of the Catholic hierarchy, he ought to remember that 70,000 votes were cast in Ireland directly against the influence of the Roman Catholic clergy; and although they only returned nine Members to Parliament, and these Members were Catholics, each of the nine Members was returned against the influence of all the bishops and priests in 275 Ireland. How could it, therefore, be said that the Members from Ireland were under the ascendency of the Church, or that in giving self-government to Ireland they were handing over the people to the ascendency of the Church? It was quite absurd for anyone to mention the Meath Petition without drawing the obvious conclusion to be drawn from that Petition, which was that the people when they were interfered with unduly by ecclesiastical influence, resented it, although they were Roman Catholics, and they went into the witness-box one after another to give proof that when they got control over their own affairs they would not stand any undue influence from any ecclesiastic, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic. As far as he was concerned, he did not care bow soon the evidence in the Meath Petition was put upon the Table, because it would show that the Roman Catholics of Ireland were not priest-ridden, but were quite determined there should be religious and civil liberty in Ireland. Had he had notice that an attack was to have been made on his constituency, he could have refuted it in the most distinct manner; but as he had not received notice of it, he must content himself with pointing out that the crimes committed there were not of a serious character, and were the result of very gross provocation put upon the people by the landlords of the county. It was a matter of extreme Importance to the people that some steps should be taken to protect them from the exaction of rents they could not possibly pay; and he urged the Government to respond to the appeal made by all sections of the Nationalist Party in that House, and not to allow the Session to pass by without doing something to revise these judicial rents which it was possible for the people to pay. He recognised as much as anyone the undesirability of violence being committed by the people of Ireland, and he recognised the extreme undesirability of anything of that kind taking place, at the present time more especially; but he said frankly that, as outrage in Ireland always followed in the footsteps of the unjust exactions of the landlords, he, for one, would not be surprised, and would not at any other time attempt to excuse or condemn the people for anything they might do in future if his appeal was not 276 responded to now, because the people in Clare had asked him several times what would be done for them, and he had promised to make this appeal for them in the House. He earnestly hoped something would be done to protect these people from the landlords. They could not pay the judicial rents; and if these rents were not revised in some districts of County Clare, they would have outrage and violence.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
Mr. Speaker, before the Debate on the general question closes, I desire very much to put one or two questions to Her Majesty's Government. I confess I looked forward with considerable interest, and some curiosity, to the opening of the present Session. I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian, with his great unrivalled experience, would agree with me that the situation in which we find ourselves is altogether unprecedented. In August, 1892, a combination of sections put the present Government in Office, but at that time it was notorious that these sections held different opinions upon certain matters of great importance. Well, Sir, we knew then that they were agreed in putting the Government out, but we did not know then whether they were agreed in supporting the Government which was to come in. Parliament was immediately prorogued, and certainly the Government have not shown any excessive anxiety to meet their supporters since, and, as we have had no declaration upon the general policy of the Government from any Member of the Government, and especially no statement upon these points which were especially in question in the different sections, this is the first opportunity upon which we can hope to have the information that we require. Now, Sir, I should be very sorry to have it supposed for a moment that I mean to insinuate that the Ministerial Party is not a united Party. I think we have only to look at the faces of the gentlemen on that Bench to see that they are, indeed, a happy family, and I would add that the way in which the Members of their Party have spread themselves in all quarters of this House is in itself a happy augury for their harmonious cooperation in future. But, Sir, in order that this result may have been brought 277 about it is perfectly evident, from what I have already stated, that there must have been concession on one side or the other, perhaps upon both. We have some right, I think, to ask what arrangements have been made, which Party has conceded, and what they have conceded? We are no longer entitled to take a previous expression of opinion and policy of any section of the supporters of the Government, or even the opinions expressed by leading Members of the Government before the Government was formed, as being at the present time the opinions of the Government as a whole. I imagine that the policy of the Government is something which may be called a resultant of forces; or, perhaps, it would be still more accurate to say, and a better Illustration to use, if I compared it to a composite photograph in Which the faces of Lord Rosebery and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and of the hon. Member for Waterford mid the Chief Secretary for Ireland, were all blended into one harmonious v^ hole. Again, I ask, by what means have these results been secured? Now, just take an illustration: Let ns take, for instance, the question of the policy of the Government with regard to Egypt. When the Government was formed it was perfectly well-known that there was a difference of opinion between gentlemen who now form a part of the Government as to the time at which the evacuation of that country should take place. We want to know how far these differences have been made up. I remember saying, on the occasion of the Debate on the Address, that I hoped Lord Rosebery would be Foreign Secretary, and that if he were not we might wake up one morning to find that Egypt had been evacuated. Fortunately, Lord Rosebery is Foreign Secretary, and we have no fear of any such catastrophe. But, Sir, I say that the explanations given by the Prime Minister on the first day of the Session with regard to this matter still lack something of clearness and perspicuity; and I think that the Government might very well supplement them by a little more information. The right hon. Gentleman expressed himself as quite unable to give any account of the origin of the troubles which have recently arisen in that country, mid he repudiated with considerable warmth the suggestion of the Leader of the 278 Opposition that they might have been due to some indiscreet observations made by himself and the Chief Secretary for Ireland before the present Government was formed. Well, Sir, I must say, for my part, that those observations of the two right hon. Gentlemen and the troubles in Egypt are, in my judgment, cause and effect. The Prime Minister said that a statement of that kind should not be made without detailed reference to the observations themselves. What was it, then, that the Prime Minister, before he was Prime Minister, said upon the subject of Egypt? Speaking in Midlothian, he said—I shall, indeed, rejoice it, before the day conies for the present Administration to give up the ghost, it be possible for Lord Salisbury to make an effort to relieve us from that burdensome and embarrassing occupation of Egypt, which, so long as it lasts, rely upon it, must be a cause of weakness and a source of embarrassment.The language used by the Chief Secretary was similar in character; and I beg the House to bear in mind that, in dealing with language of this kind, spoken at such a time, and by such persons—by men who were even then confidently anticipating the call almost immediately to the counsels of the Queen—you have to look not only to the words, but to the interpretation which may naturally he placed upon them. I should be prepared to admit that the language which I have just quoted is open to several explanations; but what was the explanation put upon it by French statesmen and by the French Press? There was a universal expression of opinion that this indicated the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, and the desire of the right hon. Gentleman, that an immediate, or an early evacuation, should take place. Very well. Now, the right hon. Gentleman explained this statement of his as being an offer of support to Lord Salisbury to carry out the policy of the Wolff Convention. The argument of the Prime Minister was this—In 1887 Lord Salisbury thought it possible that we might be able to evacuate Egypt in 1890, and, therefore, in 1892,"—ignoring altogether everything which has taken place in the interval.—I say that I prefer to lake the original estimate of Lord Salisbury, made five years ago, rather than rely upon my own judgment of the merits of the question at tile present time.279 Well, Sir, that is a great compliment to Lord Salisbury. But I say that from the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, which was in the nature of a tu quoque, the inference that he was only supporting the policy of Lord Salisbury is entirely erroneous. In the first place, my right hon. Friend gave an inadequate account, unless I am much mistaken, of the Wolff Convention. The Wolff Convention was rejected; but why? Because it contained clauses for contingent re-entry, and for the continuation of the occupation under certain circumstances. It is impossible under those circumstances to argue about the Wolff Convention as though it would have necessarily led to evacuation in 1890. But the second answer is this: that since 1889 we have had sufficient experience to convince, I am certain, the majority of men that the estimate which Lord Salisbury made then—like the estimates which have been made by previous Governments; by the Government of which I was a Member and also by a subsequent Government—were altogether too sanguine. But the question is really not what Lord Salisbury intended to do, although I think the tu quoque argument of the right hon. Gentleman was not a very satisfactory one, but the question is, What is the present Government going to do? We want to know whether they still think, as they were supposed to think at the time of the speech to which I have referred, that immediate or even very early evacuation is possible? My right hon. Friend spoke of the friendly overture received from the French Government, and said the French Government had been informed that the Government of this country would treat that overture in a similar spirit. Of course, no complaint whatever can be made of the language used by the Government, and repeated by my right hon. Friend. Of course, that will be taken as an invitation of the French Government to immediately recommence negotiations. What line are the Government going to take in these negotiations, to which, in effect, they invite the French Government? It appears to me that there are two governing considerations which ought to be constantly kept in mind. The first is the repeated declarations of successive Governments that our occupation of Egypt was not permanent.
280 Those repeated declarations are no doubt pledges which cannot be ignored by any Government. The second governing consideration is that we have also said we will not leave Egypt till our work is accomplished; and what I complain of with regard to the statements made by my right hon. Friend on Tuesday night is that while he laid the greatest stress on the first of these considerations he said nothing about the second. The work we have undertaken in Egypt is to make the country secure against foreign invasion and against domestic anarchy and disorder. That work has made great progress, but nobody can say it has been fully accomplished. That work, in my opinion, is one of the most creditable incidents in British history—at all events in recent times. I have seen something of it on the spot, and those who know more about it than I do agree that a mere handful of Englishmen—some four score of English officers and perhaps three score more of English officials—have revolutionised the condition of the country. Under the able guidance of Lord Cromer they have made it secure, so long as they remain there, against any invasion from outside, they have rescued it from the state of ruin into which it was rapidly falling, they have established equal justice throughout the land, they have secured the material prosperity of the country by great public works of irrigation, they have done a great deal for the education of the people, and at the same time they have equalised and lessened the burden of taxation. Well, Sir, we are sometimes inclined to belittle ourselves, but I say that is a record of which any country might be proud. But these results of British occupation have been within the last two mouths seriously threatened. There has been a further attack by the Dervishes, showing that it would not be safe to leave the Egyptians without European supervision and control, and that if we did so they would most certainly be liable to most serious attacks by the Mahdi's party. What I regard as of more importance is that these reforms have been threatened by the recent action of the Khedive. The Khedive is a very young man; he is a vain man and a fanatical man; and he has been acting, as we perfectly well know, under bad advice, tendered from quarters about 281 which we may have some suspicion. What is the object of the Khedive in this matter? It is undoubtedly to reestablish the uncontrolled power of the Turkish Pashas, whose misgovernment brought about Arabi's rebellion. Be sure of this, if we allow the tyranny, the extortion, the corruption, and the injustice which prevailed before the time of Arabi's rebellion once more to displace the reformed administration we have secured there will be once more anarchy and rebellion, and they will be followed once more by foreign intervention, when, perhaps, some other Power will do the work we have neglected. I say, that under these circumstances, it is unwise to raise the hopes either of the Khedive or of the French by expressing opinions in favour of an immediate or a very early evacuation. It appears to me that we should say to them that, however great may have been the reluctance with which, in the first instance, we entered upon this responsibility, we should not, now we have put our hands to the plough, draw back until the reforms we have established are permanently secured. I think my right hon. Friend has entirely misapprehended the question which has been addressed to him with regard to Uganda. We of the Unionist Party are of opinion that we already know enough about the situation and circumstances of the country, and about our obligations to it, to come to an immediate decision. In our opinion the mission of Sir Gerald Portal is unnecessary, and, therefore, inexpedient. At the same time, as the Government hold a different opinion, I do not imagine any serious objection will be taken to the course they have pursued. What is Sir Gerald Portal's mission to effect? Sir Gerald Portal, as everybody who knows him will admit, is an extremely able, courageous, and intelligent man; but there is no doubt that, the task set him to do is an extremely difficult one. In Uganda at the present time there are at least four great parties, namely, the Mahommedan party, the Catholic party, the Protestant party, and the King's party. I suppose it will be Sir Gerald Portal's duty to make himself acquainted with the views and respective importance of these four parties, and to endeavour to find some means of conciliating their different opinions. It will be also neces- 282 sary for him to consider the possibility of an invasion or an attack on the country from outside. Some people have told us this is possible on the part of the Selucci on the one hand, and on the part of the Mahdi on the other. He will have to consider the boundaries of the new kingdom in the event of our retaining possession, for there are countries round it which are within our sphere of influence, and there is also a great country between Uganda and the coast. He will have to consider the financial prospects of the railway, if one should be made, and also under what circumstances administration of the country should be carried out, and at what cost. How long does the Government think he is going to take about all this?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member suggests he will take to the end of the Session. I am afraid the inference from that would be that the Government are not sincere in adopting this mission. However, this is not the inference I wish to draw. But I must point out that Captain Lugard was two years in the country, and that in the course of his residence in it he found cause to change his opinion very seriously. I notice that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) and others delight in quoting a Report intended to be for the private information of the Directors of the East Africa Company [Cries of "Oh!"] It was no doubt intended for their private information, although they handed it to my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) and other Members of the Government and Opposition. It was written by Captain Lugard as a private Memorandum after three weeks' residence in that country. Although the hon. Member for Northampton constantly quotes that Report, he says nothing of the speeches and statements of Captain Lugard as the result of two years' experience. But if it be a fact, as I think it stands to reason it must be, that a very lengthened acquaintance with such a complicated situation as I have described is necessary in order to form a sound and satisfactory judgment, surely the Government will not tell us that they intend Sir Gerald Portal to confirm or upset, Captain Lugard in the course of a week. 283 But even if Sir Gerald Portal were only to stay in Uganda for a fortnight, his Report could not be in the hands of the Government till the month of August. On the 31st of March the evacuation by the Company must take place, unless some change is made by the Government. The question asked of my right hon. Friend was, what is to happen in the interregnum, as I may call it, between the time of the evacuation and the time when a Report will be received and the Government can act upon it? What was the answer of my right hon. Friend? It was again a tu quoque. He said, in effect, "How curious it is that you are so excited about knowing what is going to happen to Uganda during the period of a few months, when you yourselves were going to leave it without protection for five years while you were making the railway." But where on earth does my right hon. Friend get the information that the late Government intended to leave Uganda without protection while they were making a railway? The idea is perfectly preposterous. Lord Salisbury has stated that, it was the intention of the Government to retain Uganda, and ask Parliament to make the railway if the survey showed that there were no insuperable difficulties in the way. Does not my right hon. Friend see that the greater contains the less, and that if that was their intention they would of course preserve the peace during the time they were engaged the work? My right hon. Friend went on to admit himself that the tu quoque argument was a very poor answer. I believe it was entirely through inadvertence, but he forgot to give any other answer. [Laughter.] I am perfectly serious. Although he said he was going to give another answer he did not give it. Now, I will ask that somebody on behalf of the Government should give the answer my right hon. Friend did not give. I am not asking him questions in any unfriendly spirit. [Ministerial laughter.] Well, let us see whether the question I am asking would not be asked by a friend of the Government. There are only two policies in this matter of Uganda. There is the policy indicated by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), that you should absolutely repudiate the creation of any new responsibility in the centre of Africa, and get out of your present re- 284 sponsibilities as quickly as you can. That is a perfectly intelligible policy, and one for which a great deal can lie said. The other policy is that we cannot imperil our position as a great, nation by refusing to face any responsibilities which come to us in our character as a great nation. We say that we have undertaken responsibilities in Uganda, and ought to carry them out. I am sure of this, that none of you agree to the only middle course—I will not call it a policy—which would be to drift, and that is what the Government will be doing if they have not made the provision about which I am asking. Let me put a very probable case. Suppose Sir Gerald. Portal reports in favour of the continuous, occupation of Uganda. Suppose the Government, on the face of his Report, are inclined to retain that occupation, but suppose also, in the meantime, they ha ye allowed Sir Gerald Portal to believe that they have made no provision For the peace of the country, and that in the course of the six or twelve mouths' interval there has been—what all who know the country seriously fear there will be—a massacre of Protestants by Catholics, or Catholics by Protestants, in the first, place, and a massacre of both by the Mohammedan population in the next place. You laughed at me when I said I was putting a friendly question; but what would the position of your Government be if such an event, occurred? Their hands would be forced. We have seen something of that sort before, and I say they would be obliged to send a great expedition at enormous cost to recover the position which they might have kept by a very small expenditure. Therefore, I ask the Government to say whether Sir Gerald Portal is instructed to remain with his force in Uganda until such time as the Government can communicate to their decision. If he is not to remain himself, I ask whether they have instructed him to make the necessary provision after he goes for preserving the peace until the decision of the Government, is known? I hope I have made my question perfectly clear, and I will only add that I should like to know whether it is the intention of the Government to place on the Table the instructions given to Sir Gerald Portal? If they cannot do so, I hope that, at all events, they will let us have that portion 285 of the instructions which concerns the conditions of things to which I have referred. I go on to consider two questions of some domestic interest. In the first place, I desire to refer to two acts of administration—the release of the dynamiters in England and the Gweedore prisoners in Ireland. I say at once that under ordinary circumstances it would never have entered into my head to criticise or question the action of the Executive in the exercise of the prerogative of clemency. I should assume that under ordinary circumstances that prerogative was exercised under the ordinary conditions and precedents, and after an exact and careful examination by the high officials concerned into the special merits of each particular case. Indeed, I should have been perfectly satisfied to rest the matter on the responsibility of the Ministers of the Crown. The only reason for the hard things which I myself have said about the conduct of the Government in respect of this matter is the belief I entertained previously to Tuesday last that these releases were part of a general policy. For that belief the man who is entirely responsible is the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Let me call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to his own language. Speaking on the 2nd of February,1888, in the Leinster Hall—speaking, that is to say, in Ireland, and to Irishmen—the right hon. Gentleman said—I want to ask a question. The French amnestied the Communards, who were guilty of the most atrocious crime against their country; the Americans amnestied the Secessionist rebels, who were guilty of an atrocious crime against their Government. Are the only people in the world for whom there is to be no amnesty to be Irishmen, whose only offence has been that they have used their talents for the benefit of their countrymen, and done their best to raise up the miserable, oppressed, and downtrodden people of this country? Gentlemen, that is not so. In spite of what eminent men may say, that is no longer the mind or intention of the people of Great Britain. We are here to night—Lord Ripon and I are here—to assure you that at least one great Party is anxious for an amnesty, for an act of oblivion on your side and ours both.
MR. J. MORLEY
Mr. Speaker, if the right hon. Gentleman had done me the justice to read the whole of that passage he would have found it had no reference whatever to the dynamiters.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The observation of the right hon. Gentleman has nothing to do with any statement I have hitherto made. I did not say this had anything to do with dynamiters. I will show directly what it has to do with. This was a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman in favour of an amnesty, and undoubtedly there is no reference in it to dynamiters in particular. But let me, in the first place, call attention to the impression those words appear to have created. Here is a speech by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. E. Redmond). He quoted the words I have read, and said—I appeal to Mr. Morley in the spirit of his own words, and I think when he reads those words as spoken by me he will have something like a sense of shame and regret that he has been four months in office in Dublin Castle, and has done nothing—not the smallest act—to carry out the particulars of the pledge which he then gave to the Irish people.The right hon. Gentleman says he did not refer to dynamiters. To whom did he refer? [An hon. MEMBER: The Irish nation.] Do they all want to be amnestied? I must call the attention of the House to the words of this extract. The right hon. Gentleman is pleading for an amnesty, and he quotes precedents for the amnesty he is going to give. What are the precedents? The Communards, who were guilty of the most atrocious crime against their country! Well, Sir, I do not entirely agree with his view of the situation. There were a good number of Communards who were not amnestied, but were shot with their backs to the wall in thousands when the troops entered Paris, and I suppose that those who were subsequently pardoned were not pardoned wholesale, but in consideration of the circumstances of each case. But it is a pardon given for an atrocious crime which the right hon. Gentleman suggests as a precedent for the action of his Government. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman wishes me to quote the extract again in its entirety. The right hon. Gentleman did mention the American Secessionists, and I thought it was in very bad taste to place them in close juxtaposition to the French Communards. The American Secessionists were mistaken men, butt, at any rate, they fought bravely and honourably, and I have never heard that they advocated the assassination of their 287 political opponents. It is true there were some Americans who adopted that doctrine, and who murdered President Lincoln, but there was no amnesty for them. I do not care whether the right hon. Gentleman says he referred or did not refer to dynamiters in that passage. Anybody would suppose he did, because undoubtedly their crimes were not worse than the crimes of many of the French Communards. Perhaps, however, he referred to the Gweedore outrages. All I have quoted the passage for is to show that we had reason to believe when Egan and Callan and the Gweedore prisoners were released that that was the beginning of a general policy which was to amount to a complete and total act of amnesty. I admit that I was entirely satisfied by the declaration made by the Prime Minister on Tuesday. I do not think it was possible to make a declaration more complete and definite on the subject—that is, as far as refers to the action of the Home Office, to which it will be observed the right hon. Gentleman exclusively referred. I am perfectly ready to take it on his assurance that the cases with which the Home Secretary has dealt have been considered on their merits, and not with regard to any general policy of amnesty. The only remark I would make is that both Mr. Egan and Mr. Callan have since their release been going through a course of trinmphant processions. I am not sure whether Mr. Egan was not entertained at the National Liberal Club. But what I want to point out is that both these gentlemen, in the speeches which they have been making in England and in America, have been very careful to disclaim any distinction whatever between their guilt and the guilt of those who are still in prison. Mr. Egan says, "If I am innocent so is Daly," and he and Mr. Callan have openly associated themselves in the fullest sense with the principles and the policy of the proceedings of Daly and Gallagher. Perhaps that shows that these two gentlemen did not deserve the mercy which was extended to them. But the case of the Gweedore prisoners, and of the action of the Irish Office, stands, I think, upon a rather different footing. All I can say is that I await the reply of the Chief Secretary in regard to this.
288 What he has to answer is this. He has to answer the question, first, Why, when the sentences upon these men were discriminated, was not clemency discriminated also? There may be a good reason for it, but it would appear at first sight that, if there was a real difference in the heinousness of these offences, the concession of clemency might itself have been graduated. The second question which I think he should answer is, Why did he ignore the very extraordinary evidence given by the present Attorney General for Ireland, and by the hon. and learned Member for Louth, in the libel trial against the Freeman's Journal? Undoubtedly, both the Attorney General and the hon. and learned Member for Louth did express the opinion that, in securing the sentences ultimately inflicted, they had made an arrangement which was extremely to the advantage of their clients.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. At no time did I make any such statement. I do not wish to interrupt, but this is what occurred. A man with regard to whom we were most anxious, Jack Callagher, got off altogether with the connivance of the Crown.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I had no intention whatever of going into the details of the arrangement between the hon. and learned Gentleman and the Crown, but I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman's memory has failed him a little.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Yes, in regard to the breadth and the extent of the statements which he made upon the libel trial. I certainly find it difficult to interpret his observations as applying only to a single man, because here is what he is reported to have said—When he"—that is, the hon. and learned Gentleman—"was speaking as a witness, as regarded the rest of the prisoners, he told them, they would be getting off fairly well with that offer.Then, he goes on to say—There were one or two men we were very anxious about; a man named Ferry got off against the evidence in the possession of the defence.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I think the hon. and learned Member had better wait. It would appear from that it was in evidence of the defence. He said—There were one or two men, one named Ferry, against whom the evidence was that he had practically danced on Martin's head. If the Crown knew the defence that man would have been hanged.Then the hon. and learned Gentleman said they were also anxious about Jack Gallagher, who was in a very had way from the point of view of the defendants' counsel, awl he further said (and this is broader than what he said just now)—They believed originally that some of these men" (not one man)"would have been hanged, and, to use a popular phrase, they had got off in a coach.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
As far as my recollection goes, Ferris or Ferry got off with six months, imprisonment, and served his time, and that Jack Callagher was turned out of the dock on the spot.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The defendants made an arrangement which, in their opinion, saved the lives of some of them who would have been hanged, including Ferry and Gallagher (who got off altogether), and as regards the others, they thought they had made a very good bargain. I am not quoting this against the hon. and learned Gentleman. I have no doubt he did do the best for his clients, but it is evident from what he said, and from what The Macdermott said, and the counsel acting on behalf of the defendants; generally, that those defendants got off very easily, and that, if the Crown had known all there was to be known, they would not have got off so well. [An hon. MEMBER: "These are not the same men."] It is inconvenient to have these interruptions. I know that Ferry and Gallagher are not the men my right hon. Friend has let off, but Ferry and Gallagher were tried or indicted with the men who have been let off. It is all part of the same case. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes; two or three were indicted for murder, some were convicted of manslaughter, some pleaded guilty, and some got off altogether. Those who pleaded guilty and who were subsequently sentenced have, I believe, all been liberated. I think the Chief Secretary will have to explain how, when he came to consider the opinion of the counsel for the defence that these men got 290 off very lightly, he reconciled it to himself to let them off altogether. The right hon. Gentleman the other day made a statement which, I must say, took me rather by surprise. I think his residence in Ireland must have given him a certain flavour racy of the soil. For what did he say? He said that he had not consulted any of the legal officers of the Irish Government, and he had not, he has told us to-day, consulted the Judge who tried the case because he had made a report about one of the prisoners—Coll, I think—but he had consulted the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. I have often heard a proposal to establish a Criminal Court of Appeal, and if we have Home Rule we shall have to have separate Criminal Courts of Appeal in England, Scotland, and Ireland; but it does appear to me an incongruous suggestion that in the meanwhile the Criminal Court of Appeal in Ireland should be the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. I should like to ask, however, what bearing the statement of the Prime Minister on Tuesday last has upon what I have been willing to assume as the homogeneousness of the Government majority. I would quote the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. He said—It has been charged upon us by some that the release of Egan was part of a policy of release—that is to say, a policy of release other than a policy of release which has been traditional in the Home Office, and which depends upon the careful examination of case by case, and upon the dealing with each case on its real merits.And then he goes on to say that even in August last—I entirely disclaimed any such policy of release, or any such intention to seek for political advantage through this medium, and I pledged those who were then in Opposition under no circumstances to follow a contrary plan to that which has been in operation at the Home Office in respect to the remission or mitigation of sentences on prisoners.That appears to me to be perfectly conclusive; but this I observe, that only a few days ago there was a torchlight procession in Dublin, and a great meeting to welcome the patriot Egan, and at that meeting a resolution was proposed demanding that all the "prisoners of war" who were now, I think the phrase was, "rotting in British dungeons," should be immediately released. Speaking to that resolution the hon. Member for Waterford declared, 291 in the name of the fleeting and of the Irish people, that—there ought not to he, and there should not be, peace, or ease, or comfort for any Government, Liberal or Conservative, in this country so long as there remains a single Irish political prisoner in the hands of England.He said—We know some of them who may have been guilty of some of those charges were entrapped by Government spies and agents, but, above all, we say that, whether innocent or guilty, we demand their release.I do not know whether the other branch of the Nationalist party—the AntiParnellites—will follow in this matter the lead of the hon. Member for Waterford; but, at all events, it does not promise very well, if, as appears likely, there is to be a very serious diminution in the majority of 39, which is already rather precarious. Now I come to the last point with which I am going to trouble the House. I want to ask a question in reference to the general Irish policy of the Government. In the Queen's Speech a Bill is announced to amend the provisions of the Government of Ireland, and up to the present time the secret of the last six years with regard to the provisions of this Bill has been scrupulously kept, so that, with one exception, nobody outside the Government knows anything even of the main provisions of that measure. I say with one exception, because we have learned from the newspapers that the confidence which has been denied the people of this country, which has been denied to friends and foes alike, in England and in Scotland, has been readily tendered to the representatives of one section of the Irish Party, and we learn, what is more extraordinary still, that the Members of that Party, or the Committee who have the consideration of the Bill, or some of the clauses of the Bill, are satisfied with the measure. Now, Sir, I cannot help thinking that even English Home Rulers must regard the satisfaction expressed by those hon. Members as a little ominous. When we were debating the subject in August last, I proved to the House from quotations from the speeches of every one of the leading Members of the present Government, except the Home Secretary, that they were all agreed in demanding and insisting upon the supremacy of the Imperial Par- 292 liament, which should be "complete, continuous, effective over all matters local and imperial." think I ought to complete the quotations. At that time I could not foresee, although I hoped, that my right hon. Friend would be in his present high office, and I think I ought now to complete the quotations by giving one from a speech of my right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, not a speech but a letter he wrote to his constituents. In that letter he said—It is one of the best definitions of the supremacy of Parliament I have ever seen—that what he demanded was a Parliament which should maintain intact and unimpaired the unquestioned and unquestionable supremacy of the Imperial Parliament over all persons and in all matters both local and Imperial.In the same Debate to which I have referred, and in which I made these quotations, the hon. Member for Waterford declared that for his part, and speaking for himself and his friends, they would absolutely refuse to accept any arrangement which did not make the Irish Parliament supreme in regard to matters committed to its charge, and he challenged his colleagues from Ireland—those who belonged to the other section of the Irish Party—to say that they would take one fraction less. If it be necessary—I do not think it can be necessary—to trouble the House with quotations I can show that all the Leaders of that Party have both before and since accepted that as the minimum of their demands. Now, I asked in August, 1892, before the Government was formed, how the gentlemen who were going to form that Government proposed to bridge over this apparently irreconcilable divergency. The Government remained silent and would give no information at all. If the Irish Members are satisfied with the Bill that difficulty must have been bridged over. It must have been bridged over in one way or another. Either the Irish Members must have given up their extreme demands or the Government must have given up the principle which one and all—every Leader on that Bench—has declared to be an essential feature to a Home Rule Bill. Well, I ask whether the Government, even at this stage, will be a little more communicative than they have been hitherto. I know what I shall be told—or, at least, I know 293 what I have been told in advance—that my curiosity is altogether inopportune. I shall be told that I ought to wait and see the Bill. (Cheers.) I thought so. Mr. Speaker, I declare that on this point, at any rate, I am a better Gladstonian than the gentlemen who cheer me. Why, Sir, I am basing myself on the language of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian; I am following his advice—his instructions. In 1882, when the question of Home Rule was before the House of Commons, what did the right hon. Gentleman say? He said—I believe "—this is not a question of the merits of Home Rule, but as to the Parliamentary method of treatment—" I believe that when a demand is made from Ireland for bringing Irish affairs more specially or more largely under Irish control outside the walls of Parliament the best way of meeting that demand in my opinion is this—to require that before any such plan can be dealt with or can be"—this is very strong—" examined with the view of being dealt with on its merits we must ask those who propose it (and this is the question I have invaribly put) what are the provisions which you propose to make for the supremacy of Parliament as the central authority?The question which the Prime Minister invariably puts on such occasions as these—the question which he invites his friends and supporters on similar occasions to put—I put to-night to the Government. I ask them to say—it is a simple thing, and if they liked they could answer the question with a "Yes" or "No"—whether they maintain the view of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament which was set forth in the language which I have quoted from the letter of the Home Secretary. I confess I do not want to anticipate in any way the discussion on the Home Rule Bill. This is a general principle of policy; when the Home Rule Bill is brought before us it will then be our duty to consider how far you have been able to carry out your intentions, but at present we only ask what is your object and intention. I must confess that to my mind the matter is one of such cardinal importance that I had thought of bringing it to the test of proposing an Amendment to the Address. [An hon. MEMBER: "Out of Order."] Such an Amendment would not have been out of order, as an hon. Member says, who does not appear to be acquainted with the procedure of the House; because an Amendment 294 of a similar character which might be assumed to have some connection with a proposal in the Queen's Speech, was moved in 1881 by Mr. Parnell, and another Amendment was moved in the same way by another Irish Member. Therefore, there was a precedent for the course I proposed to take; but you, Sir, were kind enough to give me your opinion that an extension of such a precedent as that would be attended with inconvenience in the future, and, of course, I bow most readily to your opinion. Therefore I do not ask the House to go to a Division. I content myself with putting a simple question. Well, I believe to answer that question would to some extent shorten and simplify the Debate on the Home Rule Bill, and for those who think as the right hon. Gentleman does, that it is a point of crucial and cardinal Importance, I say it is unfair to ask us to discuss it on the Bill when it must of necessity be mixed up with a thousand or more petty details, and when it will be almost impossible to get a decision on the principle. The question which I ask the Government to answer is whether, in the words of the Home Secretary, they are prepared still tomaintain intact and unimpaired the unquestioned and unquestionable supremacy of the Imperial Parliament over all persons and all matters, both local and Imperial,or whether in this matter also they are about to make another surrender to the forces of disloyalty and disorder.
§ MR. E. J. C. MORTON (Devonport)
said, that questions or Foreign and Imperial policy were at the present moment of very little interest to the people of Great Britain and Ireland, and were simply introduced into the Debate to draw attention from those questions upon which the mind of the electorate ought at the present moment to be concentrated. There was only one remark he desired to make with regard to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman—to that portion of the speech which dealt with foreign policy. It was this—from the description which he gave of the personal character of the Khedive, it seemed to him (Mr. Morton) that the Khedive was likely to be chosen, or selected as one of the Liberal Unionist candidates for the city of Birmingham. No one would have suspected front the speech 295 of the right hon. Gentleman that only a few months had elapsed since he declared that Home Rule was as dead as Queen Anne. The vehemence which the right hon. Gentleman put into his speech, awl the assiduity with which he sought to sow tares among the wheat alike proved that the right hon. Gentleman was now convinced that Home Rule would take a deal of killing yet before it was quite as dead as Queen Anne. The tone which the right hon. Gentleman adopted, and which spread itself, as it were, throughout the whole of his speech, and which also was to be noted among the speeches of Members of the Unionist party during the Debate, was that the Government majority was a majority composed of sections. The right hon. Gentleman had used the expression that some particular decision taken by Her Majesty's Government was the resultant of a number of distinct and somewhat opposing forces; and he implied that the Cabinet itself was a Cabinet of sections more or less hostile to one another, and that he adduced as a reason why the Cabinet was not likely to last long. He (Mr. Morton) would ask the right hon. Gentleman had there never been Cabinets in the past which had been composed of sections more or less antagonistic, and yet had managed to last? How about the Cabinet to which the right hon. Gentleman himself belonged? Was that not a Cabinet composed of sections? As he (Mr. Morton) had listened it had occurred to him that that Cabinet was composed of at least five different, and more or less antagonistic, sections. There was, first of all, the section composed of the right hon. Gentlemen and noble Lords, whose main motive in political life semed to be personal devotion to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham did not belong to that section. Then there was the section of the Manchester school, to which he did not belong. Then there was the section of the Rip Van Winkles made up during the lifetime of the Cabinet of which he was a member. He did not belong to that section. And then there was the section composed entirely of the right hon. Gentleman himself. They knew there was a party of the right hon. Gentleman himself, for his action 296 towards the foreign policy of the Cabinet of 1886, after the period of his leaving it, was not endorsed by the Duke of Devonshire or the Duke of Norfolk. The fact that he discussed that policy in that respect—the fact that he had denounced it—showed that he was in a minority of one in that Cabinet. He (the hon. Gentleman) would like to look at some of the arguments that had been adduced in the course of the Debate in regard to the most important question before them—the question of Ireland. He noticed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Manchester, in the course of his speech, referred to the state of quietude that had prevailed in Ireland as a consequence of the policy of coercion which he had pursued for four years. ["No, no!"] Certainly it was said on his behalf that that policy—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I said nothing of the kind, Sir. I was not referring in any way to my administration in Ireland. I was dealing only with the Queen's Speech.
§ MR. E. J. C. MORTON
said perhaps he was under a misapprehension, and, if so, he apologised to the right hon. Gentleman. But if the right hon. Gentleman had not used the argument that had been used before from that side of the House—that the quietude in Ireland, that the improvement in the condition of things in that country was due to the policy pursued during four years by the right hon. Member for East Manchester. If that were so, how, he asked, were they to account for the extraordinary quiet that had prevailed for six years past among the Irish in America? They had not been cowed by the Coercion Act. Yet no party in Ireland or in connection with it had been more quiet, or more remarkable for being quiet, than those in America. The Member for East Manchester and some of his supporters had referred with some degree of censure to the action taken by the priests of Ireland during the recent election, and had pointed to certain facts as proof of the danger which was to be expected under Home Rule. He (the Member for Devonport) claimed that he knew something of the priests of Ireland and their attitude towards their people, and although he had not a drop of Irish blood in his veins, 297 and although he never was, and never intended to become, a Roman Catholic, he would like to say that he had watched the devotion of these men to the poor people entrusted to their charge, that he had seen acts of heroism performed by these men, and that he had watched the genuineness and earnestness of others with which they held their religion; and he would prefer the superstition of the Irish Roman Catholic to the Agnostic orthodoxy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Manchester. Criticism had been passed in the House in relation to the action of the priests, especially in connection with the status and position of the late Mr. Parnell. It seemed to hint that they were bound to consider the conduct of the Coercionist party throughout the country, as the right hon. Gentleman could not be relieved from some responsibility for acts of his followers in the country which had been a source of profit to him which he would not have enjoyed had they abstained from those acts. They had a right to consider these matters in connection with the policy of the other side; and he said that in the history, the political history, of this country, no more disgraceful conduct had been witnessed than that which was meted out to Mr. Parnell by the Coercionist party. While he was a man who was believed to be leading a blameless life, they suborned perjury against him, they purchased forgery against him, and they vilified him in the Press and on the platform. When they discovered he was a man of aristocratic vices they began to beslaver him with their admiration. Now, there had been reference made in the speeches to the amnesty extended by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne to those poor men who were known as the Gweedore prisoners. He desired to say a few words on those speeches and references. In the first place he desired to say, for the information of the right hon. Gentleman, and the hon. Members who had referred to him in this House, that he happened to be personally acquainted with Father McFadden, and he desired to say in reference to certain phrases used about him in that place, that he knew nothing—no words of his, perhaps—could be strong enough to use in censure. Although he was hot an Irish- 298 man, and neither was he a Roman Catholic, he could scarcely name one whose warm personal friendship he was more proud or than Father McFadden's. He felt proud to be aide to say he enjoyed Father McFadden's friendship. Gentlemen on those benches might not know what manner of man Father McFadden was, and what his life's work had been. When he went to Gweedore as a young priest in 1876, he found the people in poverty, under tyranny, and actually degraded. The illicit still—illicit manufacture of spirits—prevailed to a larger extent in that parish than in any other parish in Ireland. Petty litigation, that curse of Ireland, prevailed there to a larger extent, perhaps, than anywhere else in the country. The people were not only in poverty and suffering, they were degraded. Father McFadden came amongst them, and he was their lawyer, he was their doctor, he was their engineer of works, he was their agent to the landlords—he was all this as well as their priest. He found them slaves; he made them men—that was his crime. This was the protector against whom the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Manchester determined to strike. He was arrested for a speech made for the purpose of showing those people the value of combination. He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, and the moment he was released from jail a warrant was issued for his re-arrest. The moment chosen to execute the warrant was at the door of his own church, after he had celebrated Mass, and at a time when he was necessarily surrounded by his congregation. Inspector Martin, about whom he wished to say nothing—because, whatever his misdeeds were he had paid the utmost penalty—he was stationed at the door of the church, waving his sword over his head, and in his attempt to make the arrest he was struck down. After that occurred one of the worst iniquities contained in the annals of English Government. The. district of Gweedore was dragooned. The poor people, many of whom could not speak English, were terrorised, and their houses searched. They had to, secure a special order from the Government to enable them to walk along the Queen's highway. They fled to the caves in the mountains and to the islands.
299 He would quote for them the instance of Charles Diver. This was the kind of thing that took place. Diver was arrested on Innismean Island. A policeman told him to keep down his head, and threatened him to knock him down if he did not. He was handcuffed and marched down to one of the small boats belonging to the gunboats, and the lieutenant in charge protested that it was against the rules to have a prisoner in irons on the boat. The officer did not seem to reply, but directed the policemen in the boat to load their guns, and if any man in the boat attempted to lift his head to blow his brains out. It turned out that the handcuffs were too small and were cutting the man's flesh, and another pair was procured, but they were smaller than the others, and the effect was worse. The men in the boat were tied down like ne7oes. In this condition, Diver and Ids wretched companions were taken to Letterkenny jail, and then taken to Londonderry jail, and in the jail, because he was not quite snug, a warder struck him down with a bunch of keys on the shoulder—as he said himself he thought the blow would have broken his heart. And there he lay until his release just in time to die after ten days illness. When he considered this case the marvel to him was that the Irish people had been so wonderfully quiet as they had been. He had selected this opportunity for the purpose of bringing to the recollection of the House the circumstances prevailing in Ireland at the time these trials took place. The men who were arrested in connection with the death of inspector Martin were brought before a packed jury. He knew that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Manchester alluded to that jury as one "falsely alleged to have been packed." He (Mr. Morton) would briefly state the circumstances. Mary-borough, where the trials took place, was in Queen's County, one of the most Catholic counties in Ireland, and some of these poor Donegal prisoners were brought to Maryborough to be tried there. The jury panel was made up in the usual way. The Crown exercised its right to unlimited challenge, and ordered 42 men to stand aside before getting a jury of 12, and in the end, they got a jury every member of which was a Protestant, and every one of which was opposed to the Nationalist cause. He 300 called that a packed jury, and he said that the whole theory of trial by jury, as laid down anciently, was that a man should be tried by a jury of his peers, upon which theory it was that down to 1870 a foreigner in England was entitled to have six out of twelve—six of his own countrymen, men of his own nationality, on any jury that tried him. What he wished to say in this case was that Father McFadden came out of the chapel—as one person put it; he did not adopt the words, but he used them, "after taking his God in his hands"—at a moment when he was invested by a peculiar sanctity in the eyes of his people. Now, how were 12 Protestants—how was it possible for them to be the peers of these poor people. In going further into the policy disclosed in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman on the other side, it seemed to him that any coercionist entering the battle had little reason to complain, because the right hon. Member for Newcastle had reversed one item of a policy which he was returned to prove to reverse as a whole. One of the observations of the right hon. Member for Birmingham was that the Government majority was not large. The great Lord Palmerston in the last days of his life made a declaration as to how he had governed Ireland for five years with a majority of 15, and he (Mr. Morton) reminded the right hon. Gentleman that the Government majority was large enough and united enough to improve, if not to destroy for ever every bulwark of the Conservative Party—even that which they most refer to in that House under the euphemistic name of "another place," and to secure very full and perfect recognition of the nationhood of the Irish people.
MR. A. S. T. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
said he had to claim the indulgence of the House, being a new Member, whilst he directed attention to the question of the Suspensory Bill in relation to the position of the church in Wales. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian had stated that no resolution was necessary such as was necessary in the case of Ireland. Speaking on the Irish Suspensory Bill in 1868, he said there was no connection between the two. According to Hansard, the words he used on the 7th May in that year were as follows:— 301I do not deny the inconvenience (i.e., the inconvenience of re-opening the whole question), and I say that the rational course for us, having advanced to the point we have now reached, is, as far as we can, to make good and fortify our ground, awl we shall thus be giving practical shape to the design and proceedings on which we have entered.The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, said that there was a distinct connection, and that the object of the Suspensory Bill was to fortify and make good what had been done before. Now he (Mr. Boscawen) submitted that the bringing forward of a Suspensory Bill in connection with the Welsh Church was without precedent, because the reasons which existed for disestablishing and disendowing the Church of Ireland did not exist in the case of the Church in Wales. What were the reasons for disestablishing the Irish Church? The right hon. Gentleman gave three: the first, that the members of the Church did not constitute more than one-ninth of the population; the second, that a sharp antagonism existed between the Church and Roman Catholics; and the third, that the Irish Church was a body separate and distinct from the English Church. Speaking on the proposal of the late Sir Watkin Williams to disestablish the Church in Wales, the right hon. Gentleman in May, 1870, declared that the case of the Welsh Church was certainly quite different from that of the Irish Church. He said that at the lowest computation the number of its members constituted one-fourth of the population of Wales, as against the Irish Church's one-ninth of the Irish population. He pointed out that the sharp antagonism which existed between the Irish Church and Roman Catholics had no parallel in the relations between the Church and Nonconformists in Wales, and finally he asserted that there was really no Church in Wales—the Welsh sees were simply four sees held by the suffragans of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and formed a portion of that province as much as any four English sees. What had occurred since that time to induce the right hon. Gentleman to alter his opinion? If in 1870 the Church of Wales was part of the Church of England, was it not still a portion of that Establishment? He especially appealed to English Churchmen to beware of this Suspensory Bill, and to look upon it as the first step towards the piecemeal 302 disestablishment and disendowment of their own Church. Next, as to the antagonism which had no existence as between Welsh Churchmen and Non-conformists in 1870, did it now prevail any more than before? His answer was in the negative; it had no existence except in those parishes where Party politics had unfortunately been mixed up with religious matters. Mr. Gladstone resisted Sir Watkin Whims' attack on that Church in Wales on the ground that that Church numbered among its members one-fourth of the population of the Principality. How much more ought he now to resist such a proposal, seeing that since then that Church had improved in power and influence? Now it embraced two-fifths of the population, and it was, in fact, the strongest religious body in Wales. They had that remarkable improvement manifested by the Church, borne testimony to by the right hon. Gentleman himself, for he called it a rising Church, a living Church, a growing Church, a Church progressing from elevation to elevation. And while that improvement was going on they had a corresponding decline in the numbers, character, and influence, of the Welsh Nonconformist Bodies. He knew that that was often denied, butt facts proved its accuracy, mid on the 20th October last Mr. J. R. Davies, who took the chair at the annual meeting of the Welsh Nonconformist Union, said—The one great central idea of all sects at the present moment is the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church—a purely political aspiration. It is a low aim for any part of the Church of the living God, and the fact that we are so absorbed in so temporal an object is the explanation of our spiritual poverty.Was this the time, when the Church was growing and Nonconformity vanishing, for the Government to bring forward a Bill which would render the property of the Church insecure and deal a heavy blow at the efficiency of that Church in the future? The right hon. Gentleman said that this Act would quicken the vitality of the Church! He (Mr. Boscawen) failed to see how an Act which made its property insecure and the ultimate aim of which was the disendowment of the Church, which would, in fact, take from it the means of doing good, could possibly quicken its activity. How had that wonderful improvement in the 303 Church of Wales been brought about? To what could the improvement in the character of the clergy of the Welsh Establishment be attributed? It was the result of the fact that Church patronage was no longer used for political purposes as it was 150 years ago. If in a poor country like Wales they rendered the property of the Church insecure, they would prevent the best men from going into the Church, and instead of quickening its activity they would deaden its utility for good work. The ultimate object of this Bill was complete disendowment, which to his mind was nothing less than confiscating the property of the Church of England and Wales. The voluntary system might work very well in some places, but Wales was a very poor country, and if they deprived the Church of its property there it would be impossible to maintain a church at all in a great many parishes; a resident clergyman could not then be maintained, and the work of the Church would be entirely withdrawn from many parishes. It was a fact that out of 280 parishes in the diocese of St. Asaph in no less than 90 there was no resident Nonconformist minister; and if, in consequence of the passing of this Bill, the Church should cease to exist in those parishes and the resident clergyman be withdrawn, they would have driven away the only power for religious good which existed there. The Bill, then, he submitted, was uncalled for, and must do positive harm. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman in this his fourth Administration not to deal a deadly blow at this part of the National Church of which for so many years he was a most distinguished and eloquent champion. Having lived the greater part of his life—and, like the Mover of the Address, he could not speak of a very long life—in Wales, he had dealt with a subject which he was particularly interested in; but before he resumed his seat, he would like to say a word or two on another question dealt with in the Queen's Speech. Sitting for an English constituency and for a division of a county—Kent—which had returned no fewer than 19 Members pledged to support the Union, he wished to draw attention to the fact that the Home Counties, by an almost tumultuous vote, had pronounced against the Home Rule policy 304 of Her Majesty's present advisers. No doubt in most questions it was right the Unionists should not analyse the composition of the majority; but in the matter of Home Rule they were perfectly justified in doing it, because the Union was distinctly in the nature of a Treaty, and until both sides—England and Ireland—had pronounced in favour of the repeal of the Union, this House had no moral right whatever to deal with it. Now, Great Britain had distinctly spoken against the repeal of the Union, both in 1886 and again last year. The right hon. Gentleman told them that the repeal would not mean separation and would not mean the weakening of the Empire, and he instanced the case of Austria as an example of the success of the policy which he was advocating. But there was a day when the right hon. Gentleman was not so enamoured of Austria as he now seemed to be; for in the course of his second Administration, when he had to give a certain explanation to the Emperor of that country, he used language which was not complimentary, for he said that it was impossible to lay one's hand on any place on the map of Europe and say that there Austria had done good. But thanks no doubt to his conversion to Home Rule the true merits of Austria were now apparent, and we were asked to imitate that in the matter of Home Rule. It was a fact that Home Rule had not brought about disastrous circumstances in Austria, but the reason was simple: It was that the enormous power of the Crown held together the various portions of the dual Monarchy. But it Home Rule were granted to Ireland there would be no protection of that sort; there would be nothing but the veto of the Crown, which, as they knew, was only exercised on the advice of Ministers, and which, if the hon. Member for Waterford had his way, would be exercised only on the advice of Irish Ministers. He therefore entered his protest against the Home Rule policy of the Government; he protested against the comparison with Austria, and he suggested that they should look to what had occurred in Italy and in Germany, where the result of repealing Home Rule and carrying through enormous Acts of Union had been the establishment of great independent unified Empires.
§ MR J. A. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
said, he regarded the first paragraph in the Queen's Speech as the most important of all, for it dealt with the agriculture of the country in these words:—I have observed with concern a wide prevalence of agricultural distress in many parts of the country. It is to be hoped that, among the causes of the present depression, some may be temporary in their nature. But I do not doubt that you will take this grave matter into your consideration, and make it a subject of careful inquiry.This was a matter of very grave concern to the whole country, and it affected Ireland to a far greater extent than it did England. English Members well knew what necessity there was to turn their careful attention to agricultural questions; and when one reflected that while in England only from 11 to 14 per cent. of the population was engaged in agricultural pursuits, either as farmers or labourers, 60 per cent. of the Irish population was concerned in the industry, they would realise how vastly important to Members representing Irish agricultural constituencies was this question. They all earnestly echoed the hope that the Government would take this question into careful consideration, and he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Irish Unionist Members, so far from hampering or opposing them in their efforts to grapple with this grave subject, would offer most cordial and hearty co-operation in every feasible proposal. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Address evidently felt that the first paragraph of the Queen's Speech was not definite enough, because he discussed the action which he thought should be taken by the Government, and he indicated, as a Member for an agricultural constituency, that in his opinion the Queen's Speech required supplementing. Hundreds and thousands of farmers in this country had come to utter ruin and destitution. He was acquainted with the case of an Essex farmer who, 11 years ago, held the position of a county gentleman, and kept his own carriage. He depended entirely upon farming, and only three weeks ago was an applicant for an appointment as a tram driver or conductor. The man's case was fully inquired into; his conduct had been excellent; he had been sober and hardworking, yet the low prices obtainable for agricultural produce had led to his 306 complete ruin. If this was so grave a question in England, was it not still more grave in Ireland? The Unionists of Ireland believed that agricultural questions were almost entirely at the root of the discontent in that country. If men were not prosperous they turned a willing ear to all proposals for change on the ground that their condition could not be worse, while it might possibly improve. In his own profession—the Bar—they had a greater number of unemployed than any other profession, and, as in other cases, these unemployed were ready to clutch at any straw. Not so many years ago, they eagerly grasped at a proposal to amalgamate the two branches of the legal profession, simply because they had nothing else to clutch at. If that was the conduct of a body of educated men who had opportunities for forming calm judgments and proper opinions, how much more ready must be the poor farmers of Ireland to fall in with any scheme put before them by other people. Joseph Hume once said that England would be infinitely richer and more prosperous if she did not produce a single blade of grass or a single ear of corn. Of course, he said that from a political economist's point of view. No doubt she would be richer if her population devoted itself entirely to manufactures and commerce. But if agriculture was to be given up, the poor farmer should have some opportunity afforded him of retiring from the business. There were some among them who thought that the giving up of agriculture would be the first great step towards the downfall of England. They were told that the town populations were recruited by the best material from the agricultural districts, and that the sons of farmers succeeded in towns better than the sons of commercial and professional men. No doubt a young man from the country, though he might be rough and less polished, was in no degree inferior in mental powers to the town young man. Therefore, nothing could be of greater importance to the country than that agriculture should be well sustained, and he hailed with the greatest pleasure the promise held forth in the Queen's Speech. He would be extremely delighted if the Government would give that question precedence over all others. But it would be unreasonable and impossible, considering the events of 307 the past few years, to expect them to place Home Rule second; although he did hope that when their strength had been tested on that question, and when possibly it had been shelved, they would give agriculture the preference over all other measures. The next paragraph in the Queen's Speech ran:—The Proclamations recently in force, which placed Ireland under exceptional provisions of law, have been revoked, and I have the satisfaction of informing you that the condition of that country with respect to agrarian crime continues to improve.He wondered if any Member of the Government considered that the state or agrarian crime had continued to improve by reason of the revocation of the proclamations previously in force. Speaking as one who had visited every county in Ireland during the last 12 months, he attributed it to the fact that a large proportion of the people were unable—or said they were unable—to read; and depending as they did for their education on matters governmental upon what they heard on Sunday, it took a considerable time before they became aware of the full extent of their privileges. When the Ballot was adopted, it took a long time to convince them that by it their vote was secret; and in the same way, in regard to the snaking and withdrawing the Proclamations, the people had been very slow in understanding the meaning mid what it was legal for them to do. The Irish people had been kept quite to a considerable extent by the gifts of the Chief Secretary. But the right hon. Gentleman could not continue to keep up the gifts. He could not continue to release prisoners for ever. When the prisoners were all released there would be no snore prisoners to be released, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman would not be able to continue in the future the popular favourite he had been in the few past months. With regard to flue measure of Home Rule, to which the Government owed its existence, they were told in the Gracious Speech from the Throne that that measure would afford contentment to the Irish people, give relief to Parliament, and additional security for the strength and union of the Empire. The measure was in the first place to confer contentment on the Irish people. The Prime Minister knew 308 that there was a large minority in Ireland opposed to Home Rule. He knew that until recently that that minority were the warmest supporters he had in the United Kingdom, for unquestionably the Liberals, and especially the Presbyterians of Ulster, were the most wildly enthusiastic followers of the Prime Minister that existed anywhere. In fact they were nearly giving way to a sort of idolatry in their worship of the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman now knew perfectly well that there were no people in the United Kingdom so desperately strong against Home Rule as the Presbyterian Unionists of Ireland, and that being so, when he spoke of conferring contentment on the Irish people, he must know that he would certainly not confer contentment on the Unionist minority of the Irish people. The Prime Minister might dispute with him as to the number of Unionists in Ireland. He would be inclined to say that the Unionists numbered two millions out of the four- and-a-half millions of the population of Ireland, but if the Prime Minister considered that too large an order, he would be content if the right hon. Gentleman gave him a million Unionists in Ireland on whom Home Rule would confer no satisfaction whatever. A million was one-fourths of the population of Ireland, but for the purposes of his argument he would take the Irish Unionists as numbering a fifth of the population.
§ MR. RENTOUL
said he took the fifth merely for the purposes of his argument. Then the four-fifths of the people of Ireland who wanted Home Rule was only about a tenth of the entire population of the United Kingdom. The whole population of Ireland was only one-eighth of the population of the United Kingdom. Why, then, should this Parliament be broken up in order to confer a benefit on one-eighth of the population; and if no account was to be taken of the one-fifth in Ireland who were desperately opposed to Home Rule, and if one-eighth of the population of the United Kingdom were powerful enough to extract the concession of Home Rule, how could the four-fifths of the population of Ireland rule the fifth in Ireland 309 against their will under Home Rule? That was a difficulty which the Prime Minister should reckon with. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that speaking as an Irishman he was sorry there was any difference of opinion between the representatives of Ireland at all on this great question. He was sorry all Irishmen were not able to see eye to eye in this matter. He was sorry all the Irish representatives did not prefer to he members of this Parliament, runing the greatest Empire under the sun, rather than be members of a bit, vestry board in Dublin. The London Comity Council, of which he had been a member, was infinitely more power full than any statutory Parliament in Ireland could ever be; it governed one or two millions of people more than the population of Ireland, and it dealt with ten times more money than the Irish Parliament would ever have to deal with. But when a man became a member of the London County Council his ambition was not satisfied. He wanted to enter Parliament, and many members of the Council had been successful in that ambition. However, the Nationalists wanted a Parliament in Dublin, and whilst he expressed his sorrow that they should desire such a Parliament, he hoped it would give them unqualified satisfaction when they got it, for he was one of those men who liked to see other people happy though he might feel unhappy himself. The Gracious Speech from the Throne expressed the hope that this measure would grant relief to Parliament. But if the Irish Members were to he retained at Westminster he did not see where the relief would come in. He believed the Irish Members would make fresh demands; would want their statutory powers in Dublin increased with the result that the work of the Imperial Parliament would be immensely increased. What would happen in Dublin he did not know. He had no aspiration to be a member of the Irish Parliament, and he would never be a member of it.
§ MR. RENTOUL
As my hon. Friend says, none of us will be members of it. We will leave the Dublin Parliament to its own happy devices. Before he sat down he would like to say a few words on the Evicted Tenants Commission.
310 Lord Clanricarde was supposed to have acted very badly and very rudely in addressing that Commission in a letter as "The Plan of Campaign Commission." But the Prime Minister speaking last year referred to "The Pigott Commission." Now that Commission has never been called by such a name in any official document, and vet the Prime Minister facetiously referred to it as "The Pigott Commission."
§ MR. RENTOUL
said he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that he did. He did not know whether the words were reported, but he heard him use them over and over again this House. What he wanted to point out, therefore, was that Lord Clanricarde had not committed any great offence in referring to this Commission as "The Plan of Campaign Commission." That Commission, headed by an English Judge, was appointed to elicit the truth with regard to the evicted tenants, and he had hailed it with delight. He was not himself an Irish landlord. He was afraid he was not a popular pet with the Irish landlords. He was afraid that if his seat was in the giving of the Irish landlords he would not hold it for five minutes. Many of the Irish landlords did not care about him, and he returned the feeling with very great interest. That being so he had approached this subject of the evicted tenants with a perfectly free mind. He wanted to see this great difficulty removed and he was therefore very sorry that the Commission had failed. The Commission failed with the opening speech of the President. The morning that speech appeared in the papers he met several leading Gladstonians—three or four of whom were Members of Parliament—and one after another they all expressed their horror at the line the President had taken. One of them said—"It is the best day's work done for your party for a long time," and he replied that he felt that himself; that speaking as a politician he was glad, but that otherwise he was extremely sorry the Commission had failed. The Commission could not have succeeded without cross-examination, because in matters affecting, landlord and tenant in Ireland, it was so difficult to get unprejudiced evidence on one side or the other, that he would lake with a grain of salt the statement of 311 any witness who was not subjected to cross-examination. It had been asked in the House when would the Commission report? He wondered how any man could take any interest in that Report, for surely the Commission had entirely failed to gain the respect or confidence of any fair-minded man. He should also condemn the Chief Secretary for Ireland for the changes he had made in the Lunatic Asylum Boards of Ireland. The governors of a lunatic asylum had to deal with the most afflicted portion of the human race, and it was most lamentable that governors who had been in office for 30 years should have been removed in favour of untried men—some of them of the lowest character—in order to please a political party. It made one almost weep for politics. In the County of Donegal, his native county, which he happened to know well, the Chairman of the Asylum Board, Colonel Montgomery, a man who had attended ten meetings out of fourteen was removed. The Rev. Mr. Wallace, the pastor of the largest Presbyterian congregation in the county, who had been on the Board for years, and who attended eight out of fourteen meetings last year, was also removed and his place filled by an unknown man named Call, while the Rev. James McFadden—not Father McFadden of Gweedore, but Father McFadden of Falcarragh—who did not attend one single meeting of the 14 last year, was allowed to remain on the Board. Was it any wonder that the Unionists were distrustful of what would happen under Home Rule when those things could occur under the Imperial Government. He was sorry he did not see the hon. Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) in his place, for he wished to call the attention of the hon. Gentleman to a statement he made in a recent speech at. Newcastle-on-Tyne. The hon. Gentleman in that speech said, "Coercion was practised in Ulster—not by Roman Catholic priests—not by fiery curates, but by the most staid and starched and prim Presbyterian ministers. Both inside and outside their churches they intimidated the people." He immediately wrote to the hon. Member for Louth and asked him if that statement were true, and for the name of any Presbyterian minister guilty of such conduct, and he would have him brought before his Presbytery. 312 The hon. Member for Louth did not answer the letter, but he (Mr. Rentoul) believed there was no truth in the statement.
§ MR. PINKERTON (Galway Borough)
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but is it not a fact that a Presbyterian minister in South Tyrone called for a show of hands in his church?
§ MR. RENTOUL
said he could not answer his hon. Friend. He was dealing only with the statement made by the hon. Member for North Louth. The hon. Member said "the Presbyterian ministers lad out-distanced by long odds the priests of Meath." If the hon. Member could produce the name of any Presbyterian minister guilty of such conduct he (Mr. Rentoul) would most assuredly have him brought before his Presbytery and placed under discipline. He would, however, give the hon. Member for Louth another chance of accepting or declining the challenge he had thrown down.
§ MR. R. JASPER MORE (Shropshire, Ludlow)
said, that his hon. Friend who spoke last having called attention to the condition of agriculture in Ireland, he thought it might now be opportune for him to make a few remarks on the subject as it affected England. He thought the farmers of England would view the reference to agriculture in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech with what they were pleased to call in the country mixed feelings. They would be glad to see that agriculture occupied so leading a position in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, but he thought they would view with some regret the fact that the Speech asked the House to take the subject into consideration instead of containing any announcement that Her Majesty's Government had taken it into consideration themselves. He had the honour of representing perhaps the largest agricultural area of any constituency. In that there were ten agricultural societies, and as all these societies held meetings, they might be assured that they, and all other county Members similarly situated with himself, had had plenty of opportunity of considering the subject. They had also lately had a meeting at St. James's Hall, called in the first instance by the Lancashire Farmers' Club, whose invitation was responded to by 2,500 delegates from all parts of England as well as Ireland, 313 where the subject was thoroughly discussed and considered, and where certain motions which were brought forward obtained a unanimous assent. He would therefore be glad to hear that his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture, in whom farmers generally had confidence, was prepared to act on some of those representations rather than merely inviting another inquiry. There had been five inquiries on agriculture between the years 1815 and 1845; there had been two celebrated inquiries in the more recent memory of Members of this House; one in the year 1879, at which two members from America were present to make inquiries on the subject, and the other lately, under Lord Iddesleigh. He did not know to what extent Members and those interested in the subject had studied these Reports, but he thought that the House should be looked to to give remedies rather than to dwell unnecessarily on the sufferings of the agricultural world at the present time. On the occasion of Lord Iddesleigh's Commission, Mr. Caird, who was considered the first agricultural authority of the time, said that in his opinion the landowners were losing £20,000,000 yearly, that the farmers were losing about an equal sum, and that the labourers were losing about £1,500,000 a year at this time. These losses have gone on increasing, and little inquiry would be needed to convince the Government how intense was the agricultural depression. The agricultural labourers numbered about 1,500,000. It would be difficult to get an exact return of the tenant farmers and landowners; but he believed, if the families were multiplied by six, they would amount to 16,000,000 of the population, and if, in addition, the inhabitants of the towns dependent on agriculture were added, it would be easy to see that more than half the population of the United Kingdom was interested in agriculture. As one of the outcomes of the Commission to which he had referred, Lord Winchilsea, who had a hereditary interest in the labourers, had tried to promote a combination among all classes interested in agriculture; and if it could be shown, as he hoped it would be, in a year, or probably, in a few months, that half the population was in that combination, he felt they should conic before the House in a much stronger position, and that 314 then the agricultural interests would be attended to. He should like to point out that there was a Board of Agriculture in existence 100 years ago which exercised a far greater influence on agriculture than the present Board. They were deeply grateful for what the present Board had done in staving off contagious diseases. The old Board to which he had referred was a real bonâ fide Board. It consisted of 15 Peers and 15 Members of that House, and occasionally selected as many as 300 agriculturists to discuss agricultural questions with the Board, thereby obviating any necessity for a Committee. It disseminated agricultural information throughout all parts of the United Kingdom and made inquiries, in which respect the President of the present Board might usefully copy its example. It also increased the grant to the Board. That Board was the foundation of the Agricultural Department in the United states, and it was also the precedent for Agricultural Departments in many foreign countries. But in this country the farmers never had the amount of information disseminated among them as they had in America, simply because in the latter country the farmers could control the vote, whilst in this country it was not supposed to be possible for them to do so. One point on which the late Agricultural Conference was most firm was on the question of further relief in local taxation, and he ventured to express the hope that the claims of the agriculturists to a larger grant in the present year would receive favourable consideration. Another point on which stress was laid was the question of marking all foreign meat which came to this country, and which was then sold as English meat. He admitted this might be a difficult question to deal with, but if a Committee were appointed, the subject was one which might very properly be brought under their consideration. Another subject which might also be considered was whether the producer got, a fair share of the profits. The hon. Member who moved the Address raised the old cry against the landords. Of all connected with the soil he believed the landlords were the most suffering. In this connection he should like to read a short extract from an essay which appeared in Royal Agricultural Society's Journal in 1871 315 on the condition of the English agricultural labourer, which was written by Mr. John Dent, M. P. Mr. Dent said—Honour is due, not only to the great territorial magnates of England, who have made their estates rich with comfortable homes and pleasant dwellings for the labourers upon them (and there are many of these whom we might name), but still more to many a landlord of only limited means and interest in ins property, who is manfully striving to do what is right for his people, and sacrificing his own pleasures for what he conceives to be his duly to those who are to some extent dependent upon him.If that statement were true he asked whether it was not possible to make advances to landlords at a lower rate of interest than at present? He wished to add that in 1885 he was returned to support the Member for Midlothian, and he remembered the first item in the Programme for that year was a Registration Bill. About 90 Liberal County Members were returned, and they met to consider what steps they should take so as best to support the Member for Midlothian in carrying out his Programme. They begged of the right hon. Gentleman to introduce a Local Government Bill or a Registration Bill before he introduced a Home Rule Bill. The right hon. Gentleman, however, stated that it was necessary to bring forward the Home Rule Bill before proceeding with any other measure, and he replied in a similar strain to a second Memorial signed by 150 Members; the time of the House being completely wasted by the right hon. Gentleman bringing forward his Home Rule Bill. He was convinced that had the right hon. Gentleman taken the advice which was given to him in that year he would have enjoyed a longer term of power and not been in Opposition for the last six years.
§ MR. JOHN ROCHE (Galway, E.)
said, there was a matter to which he wished to refer. He understood that in his absence the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Sannderson,) without any notice, made an attack upon him, and charged him first with theft and finally with murder. He would ask was it in accordance with the Rules of the House that such charges should be made against any Member, no matter on which side of the House, in his absence and without due notice? He would, therefore, ask permission to reply to 316 these cowardly and unfounded charges that, the Member for North Armagh had thought well to make against him. He understood the Member for North Armagh had said—That down at Woodford, that notorious place where so many murders had taken place, there was a bailiff nicknamed 'Balaclava,' and Mr. Roche had made a speech in which he said that the landlords might have their Balaclava, but the tenants would have their Fontenoy. A few days afterwards the man was murdered.He (Mr. Roche) was born in Woodford; he had resided there up to the present, and within his recollection no murder had ever occurred in the district of Woodford with the exception of the one to which the hon. Gentleman had alluded. No doubt he (Mr. Roche) did make the speech to which reference had been made, but he did not use the language which had been attributed to him. He did say, under strong provocation—the landlords having issued numerous writs of ejectment—that no doubt the landlords might have their Balaclava, but the time would Come when the people would have their Fontenoy. That speech was made in the early part of December, and the bailiff was not shot until the 3rd of March following, but the Member for North Armagh had told the House that the bailiff was shot within two days of the day on which the speech was delivered. If the authorities believed for a moment that he was instrumental hr the slightest degree in getting this man shot, how was it that they summoned him to attend at the inquest which was held on the body? So much for that charge. The next charge was that he (Mr. Roche) stole a deer, and that he pleaded guilty. He never stole a deer; he never pleaded guilty of stealing a deer; and, finally, he was never fined for such a thing; and he charged the Member for North Armagh to search the files or the records of the Court, and produce anything to show that he was ever fined for stealing a deer. Thirdly, the hon. Member said he was tined for trespass. He was fined for trespass, but the Member for North Armagh took very good care not to tell the House the circumstances under which he was fined. He was fined by Lord Clanricarde 12s. 6d. or fourteen days' imprisonment because he showed Lady Ann Blunt and Mr. Wilfrid Blunt 317 over an evicted farm, although against Lady Ann Blunt and Mr. Wilfrid Blunt no action was taken. Then the hon. Member for North Armagh said, "he next assaulted a policeman, to which charge he pleaded guilty and got three weeks' imprisonment." He did assault the policeman, and pleaded guilty to it, and he got three weeks' imprisonment. But under similar circumstances—circumstances which he would relate to the House—he would do the same thing to-morrow. What were the circumstances? A political meeting, at which Mr. Blunt and several other English gentlemen were to deliver addresses, and which was to be confined solely and entirely to speeches by English gentlemen, was proclaimed by the right hon. Gentleman who was then Chief Secretary for Ireland. At that meeting there were hundreds of policemen and soldiers, and these swooped down on the meeting when about the platform and batoned and beat them. Mr. Wilfrid Blunt was arrested, and was brought to the police barracks. He (Mr. Roche) was walking beside Lady Ann Blunt and just at his brother-in-law's door, a man who was then in a delicate state of health and was since dead, his relative was standing. A policeman rushed at him, and struck him with his baton along the back of the head. He (Mr. Roche) had a stick in his hand, and he lifted it and struck the policeman. Instead of considering an act of that sort a degradation he considered it one of the proudest acts of his life. Then the Member for North Armagh finally added, "shortly after wards, on the 16th August, 1890, he was fined £1 for trespass." He was summoned no doubt, and was fined £1 for trespass upon lands that he had permission from the tenants who were paying rent to Lord Clanricarde to walk and shoat upon. But the Member for North Armagh did not tell the House that in the following September his (Mr. Roche's) men caught Clanricarde's bailiffs and his agents shooting upon his bog, accompanied by two of the then Chief Secretary's policemen, who were protecting them. They were caught upon the bog and were summoned. A Removable Magistrate and an evicting landlord were on the Bench; and though he protested against an evicting landlord sitting in judgment upon a case in which he was interested, the landlord insisted upon hearing the case. And what was the result? The 318 only defence that was attempted to be put in was that there were no cartridges in the guns, and the case was dismissed, and although in his case there was not a shadow of evidence against him he was fined £1. That was all he had to say.
§ DR. MACGREGOR (Inverness-shire)
said, he did not intend to detain the House more than a few moments. He rose to express his great regret and disappointment that Her Majesty's Speech contained no reference Whatever to the Highlands of Scotland, considering how the Higland people rallied to the support of the present Government at the last Election, and the confidence they had then reposed in them, he thought they had a right to expect some recognition would he made by the Government of their claims. In consequence of the very bad harvest of last year, the very low prices of stock, and the severe winter in the Highlands, the result was that a very large number of the Highland people were at this moment on the verge of starvation, and it was a great disappointment to them that the Government made no sign of giving any immediate relief. True, a Royal Commission had recently been appointed by the Government to inquire into the land in the Highlands; but at the rate of the present progress made by that Commission, it must lie a long time before a Report was submitted to the House, and a long time must elapse before any practical legislation could be effected in their favour. He had no wish whatever to embarrass the Government. On the contrary: he desired to give them a loyal and faithful support in the critical time before them. At the same time, as a Highland Representative, he could not meekly submit to be entirely overlooked in this matter; and if the Government did not intend to introduce Bills of their own to afford relief to the Highlanders, he could only express the hope that they would not place any difficulties in the way of private Members doing so.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S. E.)
said, he should like, with the permission of the House, to refer to that portion of Her Majesty's Speech in which reference was made to the agricultural industry. He very much regretted that in that Speech they had nothing but platonic sympathy and no practical suggestions with the view to finding a remedy for this depression. He should have thought, that the destitution and want of some- 319 thing like 8,000,000 of English people were as worthy of consideration as One Man One Vote, or tinkering with the registration. He did not want to trouble the House with details of the agricultural ruin which was taking place in the part of the country which he came from. All he could say was this, that in the autumn miles upon miles of land which formerly were in cultivation were now shoulder high in thistles. He knew of a farm of 400 acres in his constituency which was let at is. per acre free. That was, the landlord paid 6s. an acre for the pleasure of having somebody else to cultivate it. As for prices, a farm near him sold for under £3 an acre. Another farm of 800 acres of arable land was sold. The purchaser bought it before he had seen the farm. He paid down the first instalment of the purchase-money, but when he came and saw the farm he immediately went away again and nothing had been heard of him since. Another important point was that wages had gone down very much. They only got about 11s. per week in Essex now. That was worthy of the attention of the Government, for it was held and urged in the country that if the Tory Government could only be got out of power wages would go up to 15s. per week. They did not want Her Majesty's Government to effect everything at once. But they wished to suggest to them what they might do with advantage to the country. There was the question of rates and taxes. He saw no reason why a man with £10,000 a year should pay the same rates and taxes as a man who farmed 200 acres; and he was of opinion that something should he done in the direction of modifying the incidence of taxation. The existing system led to the flocking of large numbers of people into the towns and cities, with a consequent increase in the ranks of the unemployed. He had seen one or two very uncomplimentary letters on this subject—one, he thought, addressed to the Prime Minister by one of those gentlemen, the paid agitators, who were now going about. The condition of things which he had described was marked in regard to the Eastern Counties. On the tithe question he hoped the Government would not tinker any longer, but would advance money at, say, 2½ per cent., that the tithe might be paid off.
§ *MR. R. G. WEBSTER, (St. Pancras, E.)
said, it was not bas intention, in addressing the House on this occasion, to attempt to deal with the nebulous question of Home Rule—a measure which was referred to in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech from the Throne. It was not, therefore, necessary for him at the present moment to consider at what time and under what circumstances the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian proposed to relieve his supporters from the ludicrous position in which they had for so long been placed, of neither being able to explain or defend their policy or intentions in regard to that matter; nor was it for him to occupy the time of the House in speculating how it might be possible for him to give effect to the electoral addresses of those who composed his majority, and set up in Ireland, according to the promises of a large number of his English supporters—A subordinate legislative body with powers of self-government under definite safeguards and restrictions,and the demands from Ireland of—absolute autonomy, and complete independence of all Imperial control,except that of the most shadowy description, namely, a veto of the Throne on the advice of the Irish Ministry. It was not for him either to consider upon what bases of reason or justice it would be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to reconcile the granting to Ireland of that complete and absolute control of her own destinies with the retention by her of her right of interference in matters and things affecting Great Britain. Butt as many opportunities would occur during the present Session of considering the proposals, he would not further refer to them now. But he noticed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian did not propose for the moment to place his important Home Rule proposals more conspicuously before the country than he could possibly help. With that species of legerdemain for which his Parliamentary career was so remarkable, he probably hoped to divert public attention from an effective and complete diagnosis of his Bill by the introduction of other measures tinkering and tampering with their constitutional system. No one could fail to appreciate that whenever a Liberal Government were in power, in- 321 stead of occupying their time in endeavouring to pass measures for the benefit of all classes of the community, they were for ever bringing in so-called, reforms—measures calculated to excite rather than benefit the people, measures calculated to set the masses against the classes, and to raise that spirit of unrest and dissatisfaction amongst the people which was so fatal to real and substantial progress, and measures which, in reality, had for their object the keeping of themselves in place and in power. They were promised Bills upon many subjects, and amongst them was raised the question of One Man One Vote. Now, he was not going for one moment to say that great improvements might not be made both in our electoral system and in the system of registration. It appeared to him that it might be well, even at this early stage of the proceedings of this Session, whilst their minds were free from the heated controversy which no doubt would ensue, carefully to consider what this One Man One Vote proposal meant. He was by no means certain, even if it were carried into law, that it would benefit their political opponents as much as they imagined. Personally, it was competent for him to look at it from a perfectly ex parte point of view, inasmuch as, from careful investigation, he had ascertained that it would not affect in the slightest degree any of the borough seats in North or North-West London. Now, this proposal might have a specious ring about it when addressed to an audience from a platform, but did not so highly recommend itself when carefully examined and considered. What could be more attractive than to propose to give equality of voting power to every man in the United Kingdom? But this proposal would go but a very short way in that direction, if it made any advance at all. It simply fringes the matter, dealing with a point which in reality was not of pressing importance, and leaving absolutely untouched the very much more important question of the inequality of power exercised by the various constituencies and parts of the United Kingdom in comparison to their strength of polling power. This proposal of One Man One Vote was one of those tinkering matters so dear to the Radical mind, especially where they imagined that its adoption would give them some petty Party advantage. They told them, no 322 doubt, their action was non-political. He should like to know, if it was, why they, were so ardent in pressing it forward, for in itself it was not a pressing question, but stood subordinate to many which were occupying public attention. If the House was to be asked to deal with the matter, he would venture to point out that there was the larger measure of the relative strength of constituencies, which must be considered at one and the same time if true equality of electoral power was to be attained. Were the advocates of One Man One Vote content that Ireland should be over-represented to the number of 20 Members, and Wales to the extent of three? But the inequality did not end there. He found that the average of the electorate returning Unionist Members in the last Parliament from Ireland was 9,000, and Separatists only 6,755; whilst, to refer to individual instances, he saw that in Galway 1,655 electors sent one Representative here; in Kilkenny, 1,639 sent one Member; in Newry, 1,875 electors sent one; or, in all, 5,169 electors sending to this House three Members; whilst Wandsworth, a large and populous suburh of London, which in 1892 had 16,283 electors, sent only a single Member to this House. That was the kind of political inequality which called for redress, and which he ventured to assert could not long be permitted to continue. It was ridiculous and absurd to say that by the so-called One Man One Vote they were giving equal electoral power in the face of the example he had quoted, and which was one out of many that might be given. What was the use of giving a man one vote, and one only, and talking about equal electoral power, when one will have a two-thousandth share in returning Members to Parliament, and the other a sixteen thousandth share? Did not Her Majesty's Ministers see that in the former case the voter had eight times the voting power of the voter in the second case? Then he would further ask to whom did they find the greatest power of the single vote belong? Was it with the most intelligent elector, the most hard-working, and, above all, the most independent? Not a bit of it. By the Reform and Redistribution Bill of 1885 the greatest power was not given to that class of voter, but, in many cases in Ireland, to the less intelligent and 323 illiterate. As yet the Returns which were ordered last August of the illiterate voters in the last General Election had not been issued by Her Majesty's Government. He regretted this, because the information they contained would materially assist his argument; but in their absence he was driven to those last available. It would be within the recollection or Members who were in the House last Parliament that he carried a Motion last Session in favour of abolishing the. illiterate vote by a majority of more than two to one. If the Government were really anxious to do something in the way of electoral reform, why did not they give effect to that deliberately expressed opinion of the House of Commons? Not to trouble the House with many figures, he would simply briefly slate that at the Election of 1886 one out of every five electors in Ireland claimed to vote as illiterates, one out of every 64 in England, and one out of every 74 in Scotland. In the County of Donegal, out of 18,000 electors, 7,903 claimed that they were unable to read and write; in Monaghan 3,000 out of 12,000 claimed to vote as illiterates; whilst in Tyrone 9,957 out of a total of 26,787 so claimed to vote. But whilst the statements he then placed before the House were unanswerable, and showed that undue spiritual and other influences were brought to bear at the poll, to which the voters were marched like sheep, and had to vote openly in order to prevent themselves being placed loafer the bane of those whom they considered their spiritual or political supporters. He did not intend to say any more on the matter at present, except to refer to the fact that the decisions of an impartial legal tribunal in Ireland have clearly shown how grave the evil was, and the gross intimidation practised in certain election contests in that county. Having thus briefly referred to the grave anomalies really existing in the present mode of election to this House, he wished as briefly to refer to the Bill which was brought in last Session by the right hon. Gentleman who was now First Commissioner of Works. It was, if he remembered rightly, brought forward for discussion on a Wednesday, and, as showing the interest felt in this so-called burning question by the last Parliament, he believed it was more than an hour before the subject, and the anticipated burning 324 eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman, were able to secure a House. This Bill was said to affect 200,000 persons. It is impossible for him to say what proportion of the 200,000 persons so affected voted either for the Tory Party or the Party opposite. He did not imagine that such a Bill would affect the Electoral Returns of the Conservative Party as largely as its supporters either hoped or expected. But in regard to these 2,000 persons, he took it that they had property in various parts of the country, and that they were men of influence, and they might depend upon it that, however they have previously voted, they would certainly alienate them from their side by taking away front them the right to vote in all places where they have the requisite qualifications. They (the Government Party) would no doubt the same time make them pay rates and taxes—nay, more, they might even make them, as ratepayers, pay their pro ratâ share of the stipends they were proposing to give to Members of Parliament; yet they would debar them from voting for any but one of those Members. They would not, he repeated, gain as much as they thought; but they would, no doubt, succeed in undermining the old principle once dear to the Whigs as well as Tories—namely, that taxation and representation should go together. They would further attack that principle, he supposed, in their Registration Bills, and endeavour to do away With any rating qualification for the register; they would abolish what they describe as the non-residential qualification of the dual voter, and they would establish in lieu of it, by means of Continuous occupation, a principle by which a large number of bogus voters could be forced into any constituency a fortnight before an election. They would further, by shortening the term of qualification and by the Continuous Occupation Clause, render personation difficult, if not impossible, of detection. But whilst they might be able to take away the dual vote, they would not be able to destroy the influence which those who hold them might henceforward use against them. What could their object be in this other than to do what they had always aimed at doing—drive the residential gentry from the country, and destroy any influence they may possess? Their driving the landowners from Ireland had not proved 325 a marked success or benefit to that country; nor did he think it would he so here. They might take away from them the last fragment of interest they might feel in discharging their public ditties, by depriving them of their votes, of their duties as County Magistrates, and by lessening their control and management over their own estates; but of one thing they might be assured, that if they were driven from those pursuits they would have but the more leisure to devote their attention and energies to the political life of the country. Let him take a concrete instance of what they proposed to do. He supposed the case of an owner of land in Herefordshire—a man who farmed a certain amount of land, employed a good deal of labour, paid considerably in rates, and was an active member of the Local Bodies, and endeavoured to interest himself in every local work of a beneficial claracter, and he supposed this man also happened to be a large employer of labour in Birmingham, where he paid largely also to the rates, took an interest in local politics, and where he was obliged to make his home half the year round. Would not that man feel that he was distinctly and unfairly treated, and rightly so, by being deprived of his right of voting, as he now did in both places in which he took so much interest, and to whose expenditure he so largely contributed? As his hon. Friend the Member fin. North Hackney said last Session, they should put their constitutional machine to some practical work instead of stopping from time to time to dangle these little bits of constitutional change before the electors. It was idle to put on the smoothing plane before they had used the jack plane; that was to say, so long as there existed the vast inequality in the value of each vote in the constituencies as at present, it seemed trivial to bring forward a matter of this kind. In his opinion, they ought to deal in electoral reform in the same way as they did in Scotland. Before 1832 there was an abuse of the plural vote in that country, but the reform which put an end to it was not that of abolishing plural voting, but by preventing faggot voting and by increasing the number of voters, so as to make the plural voting comparatively unimportant. In conclusion, he wished to say that, in his opinion, the abolition of the plural vote, the redistribution of seats, the 326 prevention of Illiterate Voting. Clauses, and the efficient amendment of the Registration Laws are all matter which cannot be dealt with in fairness, justice, and equity by anything like piecemeal legislation. If the right hon. Gentleman really wished to secure an equal electoral voice to the whole country, they could only do so, in his opinion, by wide and comprehensive Bills dealing with the whole question in all its aspects. The simple proposal to do away with dual voting would not check gerrymandering; it would rather give a stimulus to it. Let the House suppose that he had a vote for Midlothian and also for St. George's, Hanover Square that he resided a part of the year in each of those constituencies. He supposed that even the most Radical measure would not go so far in the direction of unfairness and injustice as not to leave the elector who paid rates and taxes in two parts of the country the option as to where he exercised the franchise? Both he and all other Conservatives similarly situated would declare their option for Midlothian. The Agents of both Political Parties would take care to pour their voting power into all closely-contested seats. Though, no doubt, the Radical electioneering agents, by importing under the Continuous Occupation Clauses of their Registration Bill large numbers of illiterate voters from Cork and other Irish constituencies just before an election into Midlothian, Glasgow, or Perth, would attempt to return by this monstrous process fictitious Scotch Representatives holding the Gladstonian faith; and he, flat his part, should, therefore, oppose these tinkering reforms as useless and vexatious, and as subversive of the best and truest interests of the people.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. JOHN MORLEY,) Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Mr. Speaker, I followed the hon. Member who has just sat down with all that attention which has been given to other Members of this House, but I hope he will not think that I am lacking in courtesy if I refrain from following him through the somewhat discursive topics over which he ranged in his speech. Much of it was undoubtedly more suited to the Second Reading of the Bill which will be brought in by the Prime Minister, will the other topics were not sufficiently entered upon to deserve 327 more elaborate comment. The discussion to-night opened with the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Armagh (Colonel Saunderson), and he was speedily followed by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain). It is no disparagement to the hon. and gallant Gentleman to say that a speech made by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham is one of as great importance almost as can be delivered in this House. But if the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman is all that he has to say on the opening of so critical a Session as this—if what he said to-night is the last word he has to say on the character of this Session—if the topics he touched upon are not to be touched upon in any different spirit, he will disappoint those who surround him. I think the right hon. Gentleman began by touching on foreign affairs. And how did he show his fitness for guiding the deliberations of this House in foreign affairs? I do not think I have ever heard more mischievous utterances in this House than those which fell from the right hon. Gentleman upon one of the most delicate questions of foreign affairs. He charges the Prime Minister and myself with using language before the election which has led—[Opposition cheers]—I do not suppose Gentlemen who cheer that statement remember a word of it. The right hon. Gentleman taxed us with being the cause of certain embarrassments. [Renewed Opposition cheers.] Yes, but do you reflect now what is likely to be the effect of what he said to-night? Everybody knows that the success which has attended our presence in Egypt during the last few years has been due to what?—to co-operation between the Khedive and the English representative. I wonder whether the English representative will thank the right hon. Gentleman for the language he used to-night about the Khedive. He called him young, winch is not an abusive epithet. He called him vain, which is. He called him fanatical, which shows how little the right hon. Gentleman knows about the subject. It is ludicrous. Bat how is that co-operation to continue upon which the successful course of affairs in Egypt depends if statesmen of the position of the right hon. Gentleman feel themselves at liberty to use language which must have the effect of alienating the Khedive and of provoking and in- 328 citing him to desert that course of cooperation upon which our success depends? The right hon. Gentleman, in that genial solicitude and friendly spirit with which we know he is animated, asked us sundry questions. He asked us questions about Uganda. I would point out to the House that so long as Gentlemen opposite were in office nothing was done and not a word was spoken to show hat they did not contemplate the abandonment of Uganda after the withdrawal of the East Africa Company. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR dissented.] In spite of the dissenting gesture of the Leader of the Opposition, I say that nothing was done or said to show that they did not contemplate the abandonment of Uganda. For example, in Jane of last year my noble Friend, Lord Kimberley, put to the then Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary a question. The Prime Minister had said that a railway would have to be made, but that a pretty considerable interval of time would be occupied in the construction of that railway. Lord Kimberley said—Lord Salisbury will forgive my saying that there will be a very considerable time before this railway is completed, and I would like to know "—the question the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham put to-night—what our relations with the country will be during this long interval.To that most pregnant, pithy, and proper question the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary said not one single word of reply. Uganda bristles with difficult questions, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham perhaps has not considered all these difficult questions. If he had he would not grudge us the time that has been demanded for an inquiry into the real nature of the problem which you are called on to deal with. But, however that may be, a Motion is down on the Paper of the House in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, and when that Motion is made—and whether Papers will be ready by that time I am not sure, but they are in the course of preparation—that will be the time for further consideration of this much more difficult question than the right hon. Gentleman supposes it to be. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman, as the third topic of his speech, enlarged upon the 329 question in which the House undoubtedly and evidently takes great interest—I mean the release of certain prisoners. I am not going to say that the passage Which the right hon. Gentleman quoted from a speech made by me in 1888 in Dublin is anything but a complete misrepresentation of the whole purport of that passage. The amnesty movement for the dynamiters was not then active. I am not sure if it was started. There is no word in that passage or in that speech which can possibly be applied as intended by me to relate to the dynamiters. Whatever I said then, I said not a word on that subject. The right hon. Gentleman forgot that in July last, at the critical moment when Members were brought face to face with their constituents, and I was challenged by a certain section of Irish constituents of mine as to whether I would or would not vote for this release, I told them frankly and fully, in a letter printed in all the newspapers at the moment, that I would not. Therefore, what is the use of going back to old speeches which have no bearing on this topic? I would gladly react that, speech to the House—I have it somewhere—but I ant not fond of the crambe repetita of old speeches. I defy anyone to find a word in that speech which applies to by namite. A curious argument was used by the right. hon. Gentleman with reference to the release of Egan. The right hon. Gentleman said that my right hon. Friend released Egan to please—and as part of a bargain with—gentlemen opposite. And then he quotes a passage from a speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Waterford to show that this will not satisfy them or please them at all, and will not be considered by them as a bargain.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg pardon. Does the right hon. Gentlemat assert that in the speech I have just made I said he had released Egan in order to please hon. Members opposite? I said nothing of the kind.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
May I explain what I did say? I said that under ordinary circumstances I should not criticise these releases, or the exercise of the clemency of the Crown in any case, but, that from the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, I and 330 others had concluded that they were part of a general policy of release; but that, having heard the statement of the Prime Minister on Tuesday last, I accepted it in full, and that so far as the Home Office was concerned I had not a single word of criticism to offer.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Of course, I entirely accept what the right hon. Gentleman says, but I fail to see the point of his argument—and I fail to see the point of his quotation from the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Waterford. However, I do not, wish to labour that point. [Ironical Opposition Laughter.] Well, you may think that we are bad and sinister men if you please, but do not think that we are so foolish as to commit these acts, which you think are bad acts, in order to fulfil a bargain which is not going to be kept by the other side. The right hon. Gentleman wound up with what I think, with all due respect for his great abilities and powers, was about the most puerile question or set of questions ever put in this House. Now, to-day he wants to know what are the provisions of the Bill for the better government of Ireland. If he really wants to know, all that need happen is that this Debate should come to an end, and the Bill will be brought in the next day. I cannot imagine a more lame and impotent conclusion to a speech than a series of questions of that kind within a possible few hours, and within a certain few days, of the production of a Bill in all its details. I will return later on to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman on the release of the Gweedore prisoners. The Debate began with a speech by the leader of the Opposition (Mr. A. J. Balfour). With the temper of that speech I can find, so far as the present Government are concerned, little fault, though I should find much fault with its temper so far as the great question of the relations between England and Ireland is concerned. The right hon. Gentleman opened the debate by charging me with dropping precautions for the detection and punishment of crime in Ireland, which, if I had been alive to my duty as one of those responsible for Government in Ireland, I should not have dropped. Well, after all, the test of a policy lies in broad facts—and what are the broad facts? I will come to particular facts in a moment. Let us first look at the broad facts of the condition 331 of Ireland, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman considers an almost criminal piece of action on our part. Agrarian outrages, which in 1891 were 472, were in 1892 405. For the first six months of 1892, when Gentlemen opposite were in power, they were 231; for the second six months, when that which the right hon. Gentlemen regards as a great instrument of government had dropped from our hands—
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I do not care whether you call it instrument of conviction or of government. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that government consists in conviction. I do not. Well, in 1891 the whole crime, agrarian plus non-agrarian, was 1879; in 1892 it was 1840. The agrarian charges from August 22nd, 1891—I want to take this every way, that the House may see that I am not playing any of those juggling tricks with figures with which—most calumniously—Dublin Castle is sometimes charged—to January 23rd, 1892, were 151; from August 22nd, 1892, to January 23rd, 1893, they were 129. Take other tests. The right hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, see the importance of these tests. Take the rent test, the favourite test of Gentlemen opposite. Rents were never better paid than now, with no Crimes Act in force. More than that, I hear from those who have the best means of knowing, and who, as far as I am aware, have no special bias, that the feeling between the police and the people during the last three or four months has been better than it has ever been since 1879. There are other facts which illustrate the social condition of Ireland. There are the Winter Assizes. Did they bear out the proposition that the revocation of the Proclamation for putting the Crimes Act into operation was a failure and a source of disaster? Take the four Provinces. In Connaught there was a decline both in serious crimes and in minor offences. In Minister there was a decrease of 21 in serious crimes, and there was, I admit, an increase of 165 in minor offences. In Ulster there was an increase, no doubt, of 14 serious crimes in the county represented by my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Saunderson). Of these eight were of a party character arising out of the 332 elections, leaving an increase of six ordinary cases, which I am sure he will admit is of no account in a county of a large and populous character. Lastly, in the Province of Leinster, there was a decrease of 19 in serious and of 165 in minor offences, and save the two counties of Meath and Westmeath, where there was a certain increase, though not a very large one, the Chief Baron said that everything appeared to be as satisfactory, as orderly, and as peaceable as could be expected. Now, I have some more figures, but I think I will spare the House. As to convictions, there is a point attempted to be made upon the Winter Assizes. Under the head of convictions in the Winter Assizes of 1891–92, the convictions were 58. In the Winter Assizes of 1892 the convictions were 60. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition dropped an innuendo—which, I am bound to say, he withdrew when I contradicted him—that I had kept back certain cases from these Winter Assizes in order to improve these figures.
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR
I never suggested that was the motive. I said it was for some motive unknown. I never made the other suggestion.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Yes, I understand that; but as the reason was left unknown, gentlemen on his own side of the House thought that he had found me out in some sinister practice. There was no sinister practice. First of all, I ought to say upon this matter, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, that the Chief Secretary has nothing whatever to do with this part of public administration. I was never consulted directly or indirectly any more than any other Chief Secretary. It was the business entirely of the Attorney General. Secondly, it is untrue to say that bail cases were excluded. There were 216 cases returned at these Winter Assizes, of which 46 were bail cases. Now to measure that 51 cases were the bail cases returned for the Winter Assizes last year, therefore I agree there were 5 fewer cases. I agree further that there was a very large number of bail eases reserved, 129, but of these 81 were cases arising out of election riots, eases which were never meant to be sent at great trouble and expense to Winter Assizes. If I had been disposed to have pursued a Machiavellian policy, it would have been our interest to send as many 333 cases as we could to the Winter Assizes for reasons which the right hon. Gentleman will well understand. I hope that innuendo, as I think it was, has been disposed of. The right hon. Gentleman said the only part of the Crimes Act which he left in force was those clauses and provisions which allowed a change of venue and secret inquiries. I refer to the first Section of the Act. He resented the hint which was charitably insinuated by some gentlemen below the Gang-way that the dropping of the Crimes Act practically, except in those two matters, was in view of the near approach of the General Election. The right hon. Gentleman said, "Oh, no; it was an affair of long standing." Now, if there was one part of Ireland where I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman and his Government would have regarded the Crimes Act as of importance it was the County of Clare. When was the proclamation revoked in the County of Clare? This affair of long standing! It was revoked on the 22nd of July, 1892,
MR,. J. MORLEY
Yes, but if the right hon. Gentleman had such confidence in this instrument of government, this instrument of conviction, how came he to drop it in the County of Clare, where, if anywhere, I should have thought it was most needed? Let ns look at this; for this, after all, is not a small question. It is a general question of what, after all, has been the effect of the operation of that section allowing secret inquiry, which he blames me so much for dropping. The right hon. Gentleman on Tuesday night asked me how many men had been made amenable to the law for offences in Clare and elsewhere during the last few months. I would just like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what his secret inquiry clause did for them. We spent many nights in this House, I well remember, upon that section, and what is the end of it? Thirty-four inquiries were held, thirteen prosecutions followed, and eleven convictions. But in the county of Clare four inquiries only were held, as to which the right hon. Gentleman especially interrogated me—four inquiries were held, there were no prosecutions and no convictions. I do not triumph in that, but I show that in 334 dropping the power of using Section 1 of the Crimes Act, I have only dropped a weapon which was of little use to those who forged it, which was no use in the county where you would suppose it would be most needful, and which would be of no use at this moment. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh said to-night, in a very handsome way, that he was bound to admit that I had done much less mischief than he had apprehended. I was glad to hear that, because there are some hon. Gentlemen sitting near him who have been going about—for example, there was the hon. Member for the St. Stephen's Green Division of Dublin—who said that I. represented the embodied spirit of revolution, and desired to carry out the views of Danton and Robespierre. Sir, he says that I am an apologist of the September massacres. I am no more of an apologist of the September massacre than I am of the gunpowder plot. But in what sense can he say that during the time in which I have been in Ireland there has been anything like revolution? On the contrary, the figures I have quoted show that whatever circumstances have followed the change of Government —I will not be so arrogant as to call it an effect—I will leave it to others to say that—there has been an increase of order. My hon. and gallant Friend referred to the County of Clare, and he referred to a meeting of magistrates which was held there the other day, presided over by the Lord Lieutenant of that county. I have not a word to say against that meeting. I have every respect for the natives of those who got the meeting together, and I do not complain of the spirit in which its proceedings were conducted. But when those proceedings are made a charge against the present Irish Administration, let us look at what those charges were. First, that the military force has been taken from Clare. Yes; but the military force was reduced, not in the year 1892, but in 1890, by time military authorities, with the full concurrence of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. A. J. Balfour). The second complaint was that we did not give the county of Clare its fair share of the free force of constabulary. The hon. Member ought to have known, and the magistrates must have known that we have no power by statute to increase the hue forces until 335 the triennial revision, which takes place in 1894. But, then, you will say, you could increase the extra force. Is it our fault we did not increase the extra force? It can be done, no doubt, if occasion arises. But mark what happened in March last year. The Grand Jury of Clare, composed mainly of those gentlemen who attended this meeting, asked for a reduction, and it was in consequence of their request, I presume, and with the full concurrence of the Government, that 47 men were withdrawn. Then smile figures were produced as to crime in Clare. They were not unfairly used, but more unfortunate figures for the theories of the hon. Gentleman I cannot imagine. In the year 1891 there was more crime in Glare than in 1892, and and there was more crime in the first half of 1892 than in the second half. These are the last figures I have to trouble the House with. Much has been said about Clare here and in other places. But I believe this statement cannot be disputed, that serious crimes in 1892 in Clare have been fewer than in any year since 1886. Take the murders, firing at the person, killing or maiming cattle, and firing into dwellings. The figures are thus: 22 in 1887, 18 in 1888, 27 in 889,24 in 1890, 25 in 1891, and 12 in 1892. Now I hope I shall not be understood for a moment as saying that the state of this county is satisfactory. Few of these who have ever been responsible for the government of Ireland for many years have ever been able to say that. I think even the right hon. Gentleman himself (Mr. A. J. Balfour) will admit that when he believed he had got the firmest hold upon Ireland, he knew that he had scarcely any hold at all upon county Clare. There is no general organization, no systematic conspiracy; but there has been an increase, no doubt, during the last three years of intimidation by local gangs for trivial private reasons. That is a state of demoralization most difficult for any administration to get at. All I can say is, that no measures are being relaxed, the stopping of the Crimes Act has had no effect of a bad kind, and I do not believe that all the powers the Crimes Act could confer would be worth anything in dealing with such a state of society. My hon. Friend the Member for Clare says that there May be further disorder in this county unless there is a 336 revision of rents. I can assure him that the matter is receiving attention, not only in Clare, but all over Ireland, and I can only hope, and indeed feel pretty confident that even if such a measure should not become law the state of Clare will improve. Now, my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Saunderson) produced a very dramatic effect by reading a telegram from the Court of Queen's Bench in Dublin to-night, on the subject of night seizures. I will tell the House quite plainly how that matter stands, just observing, in passing, that that telegram is not the last word, because there ought to be added to it that that decision is appealed against, and will be heard by another Court. [An hon. MEMBER: Since the speech.] The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that the notice of appeal has been given since the speech. [An hon. MEMBER: Whose speech?] Since the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I presume. He is quite misinformed. The Crown Solicitor was instructed to appeal if the judgment went against us. This is an important question. It is not a question to be decided without taking a great deal of trouble to find out how the law stands. I submit to this House that the policy of recent legislation has been to restrict the levying of writs and other legal processes by night. The Irish Government doubt the humanity, the policy, and, in spite of this important judgment, the charity of night serving of writs. The rule which the present Administration has laid down is the rule which carried Ireland through from 1837 to 1860; but there was only one way of testing it. We were told by the Sheriffs and others that to return to the old rule was illegal. There was one way of testing it, and that was by putting the rule into operation, and we then invited the Sheriff of Kerry to test the legality of our action, and it is his case that has been heard to-day. We gave him every opportunity for obtaining a legal decision on the subject. Now, I want to make an observation which will startle right hon. Gentlemen opposite. A Statute was passed in, I think, the 14th and 15th year of the Queen, which made it a misdemeanour punishable by fine and imprisonment to execute process under Civil Bill decrees by night. Civil Bill decrees, I may explain to English Members, correspond very much to County 337 Court Judgments in this country. Will it be believed that under the government of law and order, out of 1,285 cases during the Administration of the right hon. Gentleman and his supporters, in which police protection was afforded by night, 712 were seizures under Civil Bill decrees? That is to say, 712 were stain-table misdemeanours aided and abetted by the police of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ An hon. MEMBER: Pitt them in the dock—they ought to be impeached.
§ Another hon. MEMBER: Try them.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Possibly he may have some answer to make to that remark. If not, I would call the attention of the House to this—that these acts were just as unlawful as cattle maiming or cattle lifting.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
The hunt and learned Member for Mid Armagh charged me with making what he called a clean sweep in the appointment of Governors of County Lunatic. Asylums in Ireland. Hon. Gentlemen in England may think that is a little matter, hut in Ireland they have so little local self-government that small things seem great. The hon. and learned Member said we had inflicted a deliberate slight—wanton affront—upon those whom he called loyalists. I should like to explain this to the House, because it may prevent our being troubled with a great many questions. Parliament votes one moiety of the cost of pauper lunatics, the other half is charged on the county cess, and that, mind you, is paid by the occupiers. The Lord Lieutenant nominates and appoints, in law, all the Governors, but, in practice, half are nominated by the Grand Jury, and the other half by the Lord Lieutenant. In appointing to Boards in 1892 the local contributory bodies confined their choice of representatives in some cases wholly—and in most cases almost wholly—to particular sections and a particular creed of the community. The hon. Gentleman who raised this point says he is most anxious to see Catholics and Nationalists placed on those Boards. He mentioned Armagh. The Roman Catholic population there is 46 per cent. In 1892 the Grand Jury, out of 18 members, nominated nine Protestants and two Catholics, and the Lord Lieutenant appointed seven Protestants 338 and two Catholics. Now, our misdemeanour is that in 1893 we appointed five Roman Catholics and four Protestants, and yet we are charged with ostracism. Take Downpatrick; the Roman Catholic population amounts to 30 per cent. In 1892 the Board consisted of 16 Protestants and two Roman Catholics. In 1893 the Grand Jury nominated nine Protestants and no Catholics, and the Lord Lieutenant appointed three Protestants and six Roman Catholics. I will give the House one more instance: in Letterkenny, County Donegal, the Roman Catholic population is 77 per cent. In 1892, the Board consisting of 17 members, there were 15 Protestants and two Roman Catholics. In 1893, under the system described as one of ostracism, the Grand Jury nominated eight Protestants and one Roman Catholic, but the Lord Lieutenant has appointed two Protestants and seven Ron tan Catholics. I have myself gone through the lists with the utmost care. I quite admit that there may in some cases have been omissions of gentlemen whose names those concerned would be glad to see restored. All I have got to say is, the remedy is not far to seek. If one of the nominees of the Grand,Jury will agree to give way, I will undertake to say his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant will substitute for him the person desired. This ought not to he a matter of Party difference. I am amazed at the violence and warmth of the language used by hon. Gentlemen on this subject. Two or three years ago Lord Zetland, then Viceroy, met Archbishop Logue, who complained that the greater part of his co-religionists had been weeded out of the Letterkenny Board. Lord Zetland promised to consider the claims of his co-religionists. What Lord Zetland promised he would do we have done. Hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot complain because the late Government brought, in a Bill for better local government in Ireland, though we did not hear much of it. If that Bill had heroine law Governors of these asylums would have been appointed by popular elective County Councils. Why, then, do any of you quarrel with us for endeavouring to make some approach to the kind of selection you proposed? I have two other topics to allude to, but they are not unimportant. The first is the Evicted 339 Tenants Commission. In considering the question of appointing this Commission, I did so because I was brought face to face with a problem and a difficulty which will confront any Minister who now becomes responsible for the government of Ireland. It is not only the Nationalists who feel the pressure of this question, and I was very glad to observe the other night that the Leader of the Opposition did not attack or criticise the policy of reinstatement. I presume he was in the same mind as he was on rather a memorable night in June, 1891, when he said, with a vehemence almost amounting to passion, that, if he were an Irish landlord, he would sooner beg his bread than give in to the Plan of Campaign; but I noted farther on what followed. He said on that occasion that when the illegal conspiracy came to an end he would remember that, after all,these men were acted upon by those in whose advice they thought they could trust, and that they were compelled"—I am not responsible for the right hon. Gentleman's history, I am only quoting—by intimidation in many cases to follow courses which they regretted, and for my own part, even if it were not wholly to my own personal and pecuniary interest. I should desire to restore peace to that part of the country in which my property was situated, and to see that on fair, equitable, and even generous terms, the tenants were restored to their ancient homes. Those are the principles on which I should act.Mr. Speaker, the hon. and gallant Gentleman, or some one, has said those are the principles on which I have acted; that the composition of the Commission was unfair on the face of it. [Cheers.] Yes, I agree it was unfair if you wanted to have one more pitched battle between the hon. Member for Cork and the hon. Member for South Hulas. If you wanted to fight over again the battle between the Irish landlords and the Irish tenants, with every circumstance for passion, of provocation, for exasperation, I agree Commission was not fairly appointed. But I cannot conceive anything more mischievous than the appointment of a Commission upon any such principle as that would indicate. The Commission was not wanted to be a Court to try either Irish landlords or the Irish tenants. The hon. Member for Armagh spoke of this being a Commission to try landlords. He said with a real paroxysm of extravagance, it was 340 a scandal to make such a Commission, Judges disposing of property, &c. How can any Commission of inquiry dispose of property? It is quite true that the majority of the Commission were gentlemen of Nationalist sympathies. [Laughter.] Oh! it is a great pity that in all those Commissions, since the Devon Commission downwards, you have kept gentlemen of Nationalist sympathies off. That has been the root of mischief. But though they were of Nationalist sympathies they were not appointed to try a political question. Who were they? They were men thoroughly conversant with the special difficulties of the case. Two of them were officials of the very highest competency, experience, and responsibility in connection with the land question in Ireland. Mr. Redington, a landlord and county gentleman, has held public employment; he has been bred in the atmosphere of officialism, and, I would say, even of landlordism. I will not go more fully into these small points. I want the House to see that this was a sincere attempt to get at the solution of the difficulty. Mr. Redington's speech was misquoted by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the other evening. What did he say? He did not say that landlords were the worst, enemies of that class in the country, but the landlords who supported the policy of Lord Salisbury. Do hon. Gentlemen really believe that the fact of three out of the four Commissioners having Nationalist sympathies impairs their capacity of judging equitably and practically of a practical and existing evil? Then the President. What, better guarantee could I have given to Parliament and the country than my invitation to an English' Judge of great ability, full of those deep traditions of respect for law, for private rights, and for the foundations of property? I will be quite frank with the House of Commons. I knew all along, and I know now, that it will be very difficult—perhaps it will be impossible—to settle this question against violent opposition from the landlords. It was my plain interest to avoid every word and every step that could provoke or irritate the landlords, and that I was not unsuccessful in this was shown by the fact that, in spite of your discontent and suspicion with the com- 341 position of the Commission, the landlords, down to the very hour when its proceedings began, were willing to bring their cases before it. Then you could not have believed it was a packed Commission. For if you believed it was a packed Commission you would have turned your backs upon it. You complain that the Commission was partial. Hon. Members below the Gangway made that complaint. Nothing short of a small Commission of archangels would have satisfied them. Why did the landlords break off? Because the President refused to allow counsel to cross-examine. I was never more amazed in my life than when the Leader of the Opposition took the point that cross-examination should have been allowed because this was a Viceregal Commission. What on earth has that got to do with it? It does not matter whether the Commission sits by the authority of Viceregal or Royal Warrant. The propriety of cross-examination depends upon the nature of the matter under investigation. It was a most irrelevant point.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I laid no stress upon that. I pointed out that, if the right hon. Gentleman relied upon precedent, precedent is against him, but I said I put those matters aside. I distinctly recollect I said that my view was that this Commission could not do anything unless there was in it some machinery to carry out efficient cross-examination, and I endeavoured to show by examples that no such machinery existed.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I will not press that too heavily against the right hon. Gentleman. But what does he mean by saying precedent is against me? Does he mean to say that in Viceregal Commissions cross-examination has been universal? There have been 13 such Commissions in 32 years, and of those Commissions seven allowed cross-examination and six did not. Therefore the precedent, it is true, by a majority of one, is against me.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I cannot say. Reference is made to the language of Mr. Justice Day, and the hon. and learned Member for Armagh, with a recklessness which, if I may so without offence, gives me a very indifferent idea of the accuracy of Conservative Members of the Irish Bar, said Mr. Justice Day had taken this 342 particular point about Viceregal Commissions. I have read the report of what the Judge said at the Belfast Commission, and there is not one word about Viceregal Commissions in it. Mr. Justice Day used in 1886 at Belfast the same language that Mr. Justice Mathew used recently in Dublin. I need hardly say counsel were importuning him to be heard, but Mr. Justice Day, while expressing his pleasure at seeing so numerous a bar ranged before him, and while commenting on the assistance it would be in their power to afford him, said he wished it to be clearly understood he was not sitting there to administer justice between parties, nor to determine any issues whatever, for none were raised before them; they were sitting simply as a Court of inquiry, for the purpose of obtaining information which would enable them to report to the Crown on the matters referred to them. Mr. Justice Day also remarked it was perfectly well known that the Commissioners appointed to inquire into corrupt practices did not have counsel before them. Finally, he said—" I deny the right of counsel to interfere. I will not recognise it in any shape or form."
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON
I suppose the humblest Member of this House may explain himself when he is accused of inaccuracy. I am not certain whether I said that Justice Day used the word Viceregal, but I repeat—and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will deny it—that in the case I mentioned Justice Day stated that he had statutory powers to summon witnesses; that distinguished his case from the others I referred to, and that was the ground on which he based his refusal to allow that examination.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
At any rate, that was the ground on which the landlords based their action. I will not go into the question of the exact degree of amenity of the learned gentlemen who were engaged in the case of the Evicted Tenants Commission; but it is not denied that the proceedings of the Commission were conducted with undisputed impartiality. Gentlemen who break the law from day to day may not think so. We shall in a few days have the Report of the Commission before us, and that will be the time to go fully into the question. I have thought it right to say this much in order to vindicate my 343 own motives and the motives of the Irish Government in appointing the Commission, and I hope to make hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway aware that they have made a great mistake in taking up this attitude against it. I only wish further to express my sense of the great obligation that those who care for a satisfactory solution of this question owe to the learned President, who at great sacrifice to himself undertook what has proved a thankless task—thankless so far as amenity and urbanity were concerned—but not thankless in good fruits, and I am in good hope, not knowing anything, that when the Commissioners report they will provide material for leading ns some further way to the solution of this difficult question. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham laid some stress on the question of the Gweedore prisoners. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition the other night said—and I was rather surprised to hear it—that these men had been let out without my taking any steps either to discover the Judge's opinion or to go into the merits of the case. I venture to think that this was a most extraordinary assumption. Why did the right hon. Gentleman say that I never went into the merits of the case? I read all the depositions, and then, in spite of the mockery of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, I thought there would be no harm in fortifying my lay judgment by obtaining the opinion of the Lord Chancellor, who is, after all, President of the highest Court of Appeal in the country. Now, the first question involved is as to the opinion of the Judge who tried the case. As I said, in answer to a question to-night, we did not apply to Mr. Justice Gibson for a new Report, because in January, 1890, he had written a most careful Report to the Lord Lieutenant upon a memorial of one of the prisoners. Though the memorial concerned only one of the prisoners, nevertheless the learned Judge took the opportunity of surveying the leading features of the ease as a whole. I am not going, to violate usage by quoting words from the Judge's Report, but, as I have been challenged, I hope it is permitted me to say that Mr. Justice Gibson was in 1890 entirely unfavourable to the release. But I have a right to say, under the circumstances, that, 344 though he expressed no dissatisfaction with the verdict, he undoubtedly felt that some other verdict was conceivable. The Lord Chancellor took this point, that the evidence was open to much doubt, and that, even if it were less doubtful, considering the nature of the transaction, three years of penal servitude was really an exemplary sentence. And I would remind the House that of the four men released the other day it was never suggested that one was the actual murderer. There was a law point raised with which I will not trouble the House, but the point was decided by five Judges against four—that is, only by a majority of one—and in that majority was the Judge—I say it without disrespect to him—whose sentence and discharge were concerned. If that Judge had not attended, the man Coll would have been discharged, and there would have been now no question of releasing him. A great point was made by the right hon. Member for Birmingham to-night, and by the Leader of the Opposition the other night, as to the evidence alleged to have been given by the Attorney General for Ireland. Both those right hon. Gentlemen made an absolute mistake as to the point of that evidence. The Leader of the Opposition made one of the most tremendous statements that I can imagine being made in a matter of this kind. He said that there were facts in the brief for the defence which, if known, might have ended in the hanging of these men. But if the right hon. Gentleman had read the evidence with care he would have seen that it would not bear out his statement in one single instance, and the Attorney General for Ireland authorizes me to deny without qualification that the facts stated in their brief touched in any way the point affecting the prisoners who were released. The right hon. Gentleman entirely misconceived the remarks as to these men. They were glad to get out of the clotches of the Crown. They were not the men whom we had released; they were the men who were acquitted and discharged. What was the point of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition the other night, and the strong contention of the right hon. Member for Birmingham to-night? It was that the Attorney General for Ireland and the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Timothy Healy) had in 345 effect stated that there were facts in the briefs which would have condemned these men to be hanged if they had only been known. What are the facts? There were 10 men indicted for murder, 13 for conspiracy—23 in all. Six of those who were indicted for murder, including Gallagher, were discharged; five of those indicted for conspiracy, including Father M'Fadden, were discharged; there were four of the men indicted for murder who received sentences of penal servitude, and eight indicted for conspiracy who received small terms of imprisonment. It is a strange argument that the men whose guilt was doubtful ought to he kept in prison, because the men who, in the opinion of their counsel, might have been proved guilty were let off.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
That was not my argument. I am in the recollection of the House, and I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to prove his assertion it, in the remarks he has made, he intended to refer to me.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
My impression is that I am correct. Of course, if the right hon. Gentleman says that it was not his argument, I will accept his statement.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
If the right hon. Gentleman was so unsuccessful before in making me understand his argument, I do not see the use of his repeating it. What were the grounds of the release? The release of these men depended on the circumstances, the time, and the mode of the whole transaction. The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. E. J. Morton), in one of the most remarkable "first speeches" that has ever been made in this House—and I congratulate him upon it—depicted with much eloquence and power the circumstances of this transaction. Well, what were the circumstances? An attempt was made, under conditions of great excitement among the people, to arrest the parish priest, who was passionately revered and admired by his flock, just after he had performed at the altar rites which the people regarded as of the most sacred character. I do not say for a moment that this diminishes the criminality of the offence. I am never prepared to 346 lighten offences of this kind. Homicide is homicide, and homicide of a police officer in the discharge of his duty is murder. Passion is not, of course, admitted as an excuse for murder; but mark this—of not one of the four men whom we have released is it suggested that he was the actual murderer. I know that technically every one who took part in that fray was guilty of murder. Now the first ground of the release was the circumstances in which the transaction began. The second ground was the extremely difficult character of the evidence as to the identification of the actual participators in the crime, for there were more than a thousand people present in a state of time wildest confusion and excitement, and the whole affair only occupied two minutes; and the third ground was that, having regard to the facts, the degree of punishment already suffered by the men—three years' penal servitude—was amply sufficient to satisfy the ends of justice, whether with regard to Coll or the other three men. I will put an additional ground, as to the value of which lawyers may judge. I can quite imagine that when the country is in a disturbed state a severe sentence might he passed and maintained in order to produce a strong and deterrent effect. But Donegal is now tranquil; indeed, its tranquillity is complete. Not a single case was returned from Donegal to the last Winter Assizes, and therefore, I repeat, that on these grounds—the circumstances of the arrest of Father M'Fadden, the doubts as to the participation of these men in the crime, and the punishment they have already suffered—the men were released. Some question has been raised about these men being released on ticket-of-leave. I have gone into precedents, and I think there must be some difference between Irish and English practice on this point. But it would have been absurd to require from these men, who live in the wild and distant parts of Donegal, whether they were rightly or wrongly released, compliance with all the conditions of tickets-of leave. I will detain the House no longer. I have nothing to add to the grounds of release that I have stated. I beheve that clemency, a wise and just clemency, is one of the arts of government. For my own part, I care not what the decision of even this House might be if a vote was taken upon the matter. I 347 only know that there is no transaction in which I have taken a part since I entered public life in regard to which I shall always look back upon with more complete satisfaction and gratification than the part I have taken in the release of these four men. All I have to say is that, unlike the right hon. Gentleman opposite, I do not profess to have waved any enchanter's magic wand over Ireland. I make no boast and I ask for no praise. It may be that our policy may fail, but I would say to the House what a great man said to it once before, "Do not commit the crime of wishing it to fail."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Charles Darling.)
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
There is half an hour left, and I am sure the House will he glad to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman during that short time.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has occupied the time of the House so long—an hour and a half—that it would scarcely be fair to ask his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Carson)—who in the ordinary course would reply—to continue the Debate. I do not cool plain of the time occupied by the Chief Secretary, because he laid a vast number of details to lay before the House and to range over a vast mass of matter; but it would be impossible for my hon. and learned Friend to reply to that speech in the time left at his disposal. I therefore hope the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Deptford will be adopted.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said he wished to direct the attention of the House to what happened yesterday. The hon. and gallant Member for Down (Colonel Waring) moved the adjournment at 3 o'clock, and, to use an expression of Sir Stafford Northcote, was simply acting as a bonnet for the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh, who to-day continued the debate. That evening the hon. and learned Member for Deptford got up after four or five hours Debate, apparently to go on with the Debate to-morrow, when they all knew the Member for Antrim was to give them a treat on the Meath elections, 348 and to occupy the entire day, whilst next week there were 12 Amendments to the Address to be considered. If they allowed half-a-day to each of these Amendments that would take another fortnight. On the whole he would suggest to Her Majesty's Government that they should show a little of the spirit of the late Government when Irish business was under consideration.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 152; Noes 249.—(Division List, No. 1.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ *MR. EDWARD CARSON (Dublin University)
Mr. Speaker, I must ask the indulgence of the House if I am called upon for the first time to address this House before I have succeeded, at all events to my own satisfaction, in mastering the details of its procedure. However, I think the House will probably admit that after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who is now Chief Secretary for Ireland—who has gone in considerable detail into the legal administration, not only under his own Government, but under the Government of my right hon. Friend—it is only natural that one who has taken some part in the administration of the law in that country during due past few years, should rise to reply to the right hon. Gentleman. I was much interested in listening, to the right hon. Gentleman's explanation of the amnesty speech that had been quoted by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. I had intended myself to ask the right hon. Gentleman some questions with reference to that speech, and I certainly did look with much interest to the explanation he would give to this House of what he meant when he addressed that large audience in Dublin in the terms which have been referred to by the Member for West Birmingham, and I must say having listened to the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman that although he has told us at considerable length what he did not mean by that speech, I have utterly failed to derive any assistance in coming to a conclusion as to what he did mean. He says he dislikes the crambe repetita of old speeches. No doubt he does. He says the speech did not refer to dynamiters. What did the speech refer to? But after all it is not 349 so much a question of what the right hon. Gentleman may conceive his speech to refer to—that may not be a matter which he even now recollects—but so far as Ireland is concerned the Importance of the matter is this: What were the people in Ireland likely to understand from that speech? and I understood that the point made earlier in the evening by the Member for West Birmingham was this—that what the people of Ireland understood was well expressed by the speech of the Member for Waterford which he quoted. And if the right hon. Gentleman desires further to see what is the meaning attached to his words, I would ask him just to take the trouble to read an interesting pamphlet recently published by the Member for Waterford, entitled "The Case for Amnesty," and on the back of which he will find printed in detail the very words which had been quoted by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. I think I know something of Ireland, and I may tell the right hon. Gentleman that there is nothing more dangerous in that country than to be using words which may bear one construction in his mind, but which may bear another construction in the minds of those that listened to him. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to deal with the different matters upon which he has been assailed in his administration, and it was because I thought, having regard to the very able and powerful speech that he had made, that it was necessary to go in considerable detail into these matters that I suggested to my right hon. friend it might be more convenient to adjourn the debate until to-morrow. However, as the House has not acceded to what appeared to me a fair and reasonable proposition, I feel bound to proceed to analyse the administration of the right hon. Gentleman—an administration at which he seems to look with such profound satisfaction at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman commenced by a reference to the provisions of the Crimes Act, which he has repealed and which was the first heroic act of the right hon. Gentleman in Ireland. It was somewhat amusing to see him fall back upon the consideration of his own statistics—statistics got up in Dublin Castle. I should like to know how often has the right hon. Gentleman from this very Bench referred to the statistics of my right hon. Friend in terms 350 of considerable disparagement, and I can only say that before I shall know what was the value to be placed on those statistics I should like to know what is the basis upon which the statistics have been prepared. Of course I admit the right hon. Gentleman's statistics so far as they are statistics, but when he takes credit to himself for a diminution of crime in Ireland during the six months that he has been in office, I would like to remind him that the diminution he has referred to is of such a trifling character that it is almost unnecessary to consider it at all; and I am reminded by my right hon. Friend that the Member for Midlothian has over and over again stated in this House that you cannot attach any particular importance to a slight change in statistics occurring within a few mouths of a change of Government. The right hon. Gentleman says crime has not increased in Ireland, but I should like to ask him how much agrarian crime has he detected since his érgime? should like to ask this further question, How many of these agrarian criminals have been brought to justice? The right hon. Gentleman referred to inquiries held under the first clause of the Crimes Act; that is the clause which he says had not been very successfully used by his predecessor in office. Far and away more important than that provision, are the provisions relating to special juries, and change of venues; and I notice that while the right hon. Gentleman gave us many details as regards the County of Clare, as to the section under which the special inquiries are held, he said not one single word as regards the number of criminals brought to justice by the special jury and change of venue section. And while the right hon. Gentleman went into vast detail as regards statistics of the recent Winter Assizes—about which I shall have something to say before I have done—he never told us what he might have told us, namely, how many of these agrarian criminals, who undoubtedly exist in the County of Clare and elsewhere in Ireland, and who undoubtedly have committed outrages of a terrible character, since the right hon. Gentleman came into power—had been brought forward at the recent Winter Assizes, and how many were convicted. But I can supply the right hon. Gentleman with the deficiency of information, because I am aware of this, and I 351 assert it boldly before the right hon. Gentleman, that in no case of an agrarian nature, that is, agrarian crime proper, which was tried at the recent Winter Assizes, even with the benefit of change of venue, was the right hon. Gentleman successful in getting one single conviction. As further evidence of the great success of his administration, the right hon. Gentleman said rents were better paid now than ever before. Now, I ask hon. Members for agricultural constituencies in England to note that admission, because, if there is one thing more than another I have heard in speeches, outside Irish speeches or questions relating to Ireland, in this Debate, it is the year through which we have just passed was, above all years, one in which there has been a great agricultural depression, and it is certainly a curious co-incidence that in the year in which there is this great agricultural depression we should find the Chief Secretary for Ireland boasting that the rents are particularly well paid in Ireland.
§ It being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow.