§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Main Question [31st January], "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:—916
§ Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, tile 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.
§ *MR. J. E. REDMOND (Waterford)
Sir, I rise for the purpose of moving the Amendment standing in my name on the Paper. Before I explain to the House the object, of my Amendment and the reasons why I think it ought to be generally acceptable to hon. Members, there are one or two preliminary matters to which I feel bound to draw attention. In the first place, I desire at once to express my keen sense of regret at the statements that have proceeded from the. Government—from the Prime Minister, from the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and from the Home Secretary—within the last few days on the subject of the Amendment I am bringing before the House. I read these statements as proposing an absolute non possumus to the claim I am putting forward. Now, I hope this Debate, which need not be of a very prolonged character, will not close without receiving from Her Majesty's Government some assurance that they will go some way, at any rate, to remove the impression created by t he statements to which I refer. If I am right in my impression that these statement s a mount to an absolute non possumus on this question, then I am forced to say that it is most unfortunate that the first declaration we should have should come from those right hon. Gentlemen now, and should not have come from them while in Opposition or in connection with the Vote of Want of Confidence in the late Government, in August last. Last August this question was raised in the most pointed way possible by the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. McCarthy), who put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister on the matter. What he said was this—I want to be well assured—and I hope before long I shall be assured—as to what is to be done with regard to those questions by the Party which is now destined to succeed you in Office.917 And again—There are some men still confined in prison of whom I should like to say a few words. One of these men, those who understood his case, believe to have been most unjustly convicted.And again—And, then. as regards the other men imprisoned, I think we might fairly say that although some of the crimes they committed were entirely abominable beyond the palliation of any rational or Christian man, yet many were committed under coalitions of fearful excitement and despair, and in some cases it is believed that police temptation led to crime. At all events, it is thought that as so long a time has passed, anti as a better state of things has come about, the opinion has arisen that the time has come when there might be something of kindly effort to shorten the punishment or to mitigate its pain. These are questions regarding which I shall be glad to have satisfactory answers from Liberal statesmen and the Liberal Party.The Prime Minister, replying to this, said—I am sure my hon. Friend will agree with me when I say that it is impossible for those who are not responsible Ministers to give any pledge or understanding to deal with criminal cases either in respect of the revision of sentences or the exercise of the prerogative of mercy, because that duty can only be properly performed by those who have full knowledge of the facts and possess full responsibility. At the same time, I have no difficulty in remitting my hon. Friend that in every case of criminal conviction it is the duty of the Secretary of State, at any time when cause may appear, to examine allegations of miscarriage of justice, and not only allegations of miscarriage of justice, but to consider all circumstances which may point either to the mitigation or the remission of any sentences that may have been imposed.I myself, addressing the House in that Debate, said that we would press upon them (the Government)That, apart altogether from the irregularity of the convictions. and the unsoundness of the nature of the evidence on which they are convicted, we strongly hold the opinion that they who are pledged to the great policy of reconciliation in Ireland, who are pledged to the policy that is to heal old sores and bury many fathoms deep bitter memories of strife between the two countries, that they aught to accompany any measure to carry out that policy With a measure of forgiveness to those men who, however much they may have erred, were animated by a patriotic desire to serve their country.That answer of the right hon. Gentleman might have been capable of more than one interpretation. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford might believe that, if the right hon. Gentleman 918 was not ready to recommend a wholesale policy of amnesty, he might at least look with hope to him in the future. That was the impression created not only by the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, but also by the speeches of hon. Gentlemen sitting in this part of the House. The hon. Member for East Mayo addressed the people in Ireland, and he said that he and his friends had been taken into the confidence of Ministers, and that they Were aware they would satisfy the demands of Irish opinion. He said they had taken means to thoroughly inform Mr. Gladstone and his Ministers as to what were the demands that would satisfy Irish national opinion. They did not do so publicly, but they did it privately, and Mr. Gladstone was thoroughly well informed as to what would satisfy that opinion.We have been attacked because we did not demand public assurances as to the Home Rule Bill and the immediate release of the political prisoners and the reinstatement of the evicted tenants. We have not voted blindfold for the Liberal Party," said the Member for East Mayo; "we are in possession of understandings and agreements which in our judgment, if carried out—and We believe they will be honestly carried out—will satisfy the people of this country. We have had consultations and undertakings which will fully satisfy the people of this country.I quote these passages to justify me in my statement that the declarations from the Treasury Bench during the last few days have been received not only with regret and dissatisfaction, but with the keenest possible sense of disappointment by the people of Ireland, for I think the Member for North Longford will admit that the word of promise was held to the ear of the Irish people in this matter. I sincerely trust this Debate will not close without the impression made for the declarations of Ministers being modified by whatever right hon. Gentleman thinks it his duty to speak in this Debate on behalf of the Government. I recognise that the declarations of the Government already made increase seriously the difficulties that lie in my way in dealing with the question in this House. I know the question is surrounded by a cloud of prejudice, but I claim and I hope I may have for it a fair and impartial hearing of my case. There are two other matters I desire to dual with by way of preface. I desire to say that the action of Irish Nationalists on this question has not 919 been taken by way of sympathy with, or to condone, the use of dynamite. There is but one feeling in this matter throughout the length and breadth of Ireland—and that is, that the use or dynamite is not only unjustifiable, bat an absolutely insane proceeding. Not only that, but everyone recognises that when England was assailed in that way she was bound to crush out the conspiracy, and there was a general feeling of satisfaction that she did succeed in putting an end to this conspiracy. The feeling in Ireland is that this dynamite conspiracy grew out of the system of misgovernment; and now that them is a blessed prospect of reconciliation, it would be a wise and a humane thing for England to throw open the prison doors. I cannot speak, and I do not pretend to speak, on behalf of all the Nationalist Representatives of Ireland in this matter but I may be permitted to say that the substance of the demand I make is one that there is perfect unanimity upon in Ireland. Among the many causes for division in that country, this one subject stands out-as a subject upon which there is no division of opinion whatever. At the last General Election this subject was dismissed on every lusting in Ireland. In the last Parliament the two sections of Nationalists voted for the principle of amnesty, and at every meeting or convention or gathering held by either section there has been a resolution passed in favour of amnesty for the political prisoners. I may be permitted to quote from a letter written by one of the leading Members of the section of Irish Nationalists acting with the Member for Longford. The Member for Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) wrote to a meeting in favour of amnesty, regretting that he could not attend, and he went on to say—The fate of the unfortunate Irishmen who are sentenced to life-long. I 'rats for their devotion to Ireland is a subject upon which every Irish Nationalist united, and which, I am glad to know, your Association is determined to keep beyond the reach of Party warfare. I have always held that no terms of peace between the two countries can be complete without a generous act of amnesty as to all the offences springing out of the old unhappy relations between the Irish people and their rulers. Most sensible Englishmen can, I think, be brought to see that forgiveness ought not to be denied even to those who resorted to criminal and inhuman means through a misguided belief that they were serving the cause of Ireland. Many years of terrific suffering have already 920 amply expiated their offences. How much more urgent, then, is the case for reviewing the sentences of John Daly, whom there is the greatest reason to believe to be the victim of a plot hatched by police spies, and of Unfortunate Egan, who is absolutely and demonstrably innocent.And he added—If I should be free to attend Parliament next Session, no effort will be spared on my part, in conjunction with my colleagues, to subject Daly's and Egan's ease in particular to constant and rigid discussion, and to co-operate in every way with your Association in restoring the light of liberty to every man whose love of Ireland, no matter how misguided, was the prime cause of his present, sufferings.I select that letter because it helps to point more forcibly to the case which I have to place before the House. That was in August, 1891; and from that day to this, down to this very moment, the stone demand has been made by resolution and speech on every Nationalist platform throughout the length and breadth of Ireland, so that as to the substance of the claim which I make on the Government there is no difference of opinion among the Nationalist Parties. But it is said that this Motion is an unwise proceeding. I am told it is unwise, because it may have the effect of embarrassing the Government. I do not take that view. I have not heard that view expressed by the Government themselves. As there were once those who Were more Royalist than the Royalists, so it would seem that some gentlemen are more tender of the interests of the Government than they are themselves. What I have to say is this: That if dealing with this question were an embarrassment, the Members of the Government would have spoken and acted differently when the question arose than they have done within the last few days, because, instead of shirking discussion, they eagerly pressed the principle of dealing with the question, and if not bitterly, firmly regarding the claim which we put forward. Outside that it is said that the recent explosion in Dublin is a reason why I should not bring this question forward now. I cannot conceive any reasonable man taking that view. If it was wise and just to amnesty political prisoners before that explosion, it is a wise and just policy now; and in this connection I can point to the courageous action of the home Secretary in restoring to liberty a man whom he thought had 921 been unjustly convicted. Having made up his mind he released him at once. On the question of Egan's release, I can only say it must have been made on the ground that his conviction was regarded as suspicious, and that the probabilities were that he was innocent, because the Government have disclaimed the policy of amnesty, and the sentence had not yet run out by the operations of time reaching the period when, by a merciful law, sentences are re-considered. Therefore, he must have been released, because the Home Office came to the view that we have always pressed on them—that Egan was an innocent man. We complain, if that was the ground on which he was released, that he should have been released on a ticket of-leave instead of being restored to liberty under the same conditions as the Gweedore prisoners. As to the explosion in Dublin, that horrible occurrence is shrouded in mystery, but there is one thing clear. The head of the Detective Department in Dublin, who is well-known to many Members of this House is a cautious and most capable man, has declared publicly that in the view of the police this outrage had no political significance whatever; and would it not be a monstrous thing it hon. Members came to the view that it was wise to amnesty certain political prisoners that they should he driven from that policy because a certain occurrence took place in Dublin which their own chief declares has no political significance whatever? In the opinion of the police, that occurrence in Dublin does not indicate any revival of the dynamite conspiracy. That dynamite conspiracy I assert to-day, as I asserted last year in this House, is as dead as Julius Cæsar. What this explosion did show was, by the expressions of abhorrence which it elicited from Nationalists in every part of Ireland, in what utter detestation crimes of this kind tie held by the Nationalists of Ireland. Now, I desire briefly to explain the demand which I put before the House. What does it amount to? I ask for the release of 14 men who are at present in prison in this country suffering under sentences for treason-felony, and I ask for their release on three distinct grounds—and I have so worded my Amendment that three distinct classes of Members can consistently vote for it. First, I ask 922 for the release of these men on the ground that they were political offenders, and that it would be a wise policy for this House at this time to extend a political amnesty to them. Secondly, I ask for a re-consideration of the circumstances attending the conviction of many of these then men—circtinistances which I shall show the House make many of the convictions most dubious in their character; and, thirdly, I ask for the release of these men on this ground that, even if an amnesty is not approved even if you wsll not quarrel with the convictions, that still these men have already been punished sufficiently for their crime. Let me deal shortly with each of these grounds separately, which will be the most convenient method for me to adopt. We ask for a political amnesty which pre-supposes, of coarse, that these men were political prisoners; and if I fail to convince the House of Commons that these men are political prisoners as distinguished front ordinary criminals, then I admit my claim for a general amnesty will not be sustained. Now, are these political prisoners? Can any man have any doubt in his mind upon that point? What is a political prisoner? I know very well that England in her dealings with Ireland has always been loth to admit that any man who raises his hand against her rule is a political prisoner. The Treason Felony Act of 1848 was passed in order to degrade John Mitchell mid his comrades down to the level of ordinary criminals. The Fenian prisoners were treated for many long years as ordinary criminals in your gaols, and I well remember, when I was a lad and when my father was a Member of this House, sitting in that gallery and listening to a Debate on the question of amnesty for the Fenian prisoners. How were the demands for these Fenian prisoners met? They were always met by a strenuous denial on the part of English Members and Ministers of the patent and admitted fact that these men were political offenders as distinguished front ordinary criminals. There are a class of English Members who deny that there is, or ever can be, such a thing as a political prisoner in connection with the relations between England and Ireland, and I remember well when the present Leader of the Opposition was ruling, Ireland, and 923 when he and the hon. and learned Gentleman who sits on his right were successfully sending hon. Members of this House to prison for political speeches which were distasteful to Her Majesty's Government, that his plea in this House always was that they were ordinary criminals—that they were not political offenders, and that they ought to be treated as ordinary criminals, and put on plank beds and put to break stones in the prison yard. What I desire to point out, however, is this: that while that has been the traditional policy of England in her dealings with Ireland, it has only been in her dealings with Ireland that that policy has been maintained. Why, it is the boast of this country that it is the great sanctuary of the world. Ordinary criminals from Germany, Russia, France, find no foothold on British soil; hut the political offender—and you do not distinguish very nicely, you do not inquire very closely into the exact offences which they have committed—political offenders from Russia, Germany, France, and all the world the moment they come to this country find freedom under the shelter of the British flag. Even in the case of Orsini—of which I am reminded—Orsini who was guilty of an offence which certainly was of as diabolic a character as any offence which is charged, rightly or wrongly, against any of these prisoners for whom I am pleading—even in his case you did not distinguish very nicely, and your leading journal, the London Times, saw only in him—A conspirator against a despotic ruler, who lead himself seized a Throne by craft and violence, anti against whom craft and violence, if not justifiable, were at least not to be classed with the guilt of the common murderer.I attach importance to this, because if I show these men to be political offenders, it is impossible for the Government to resist amnesty. In a recent case the Court of Queen's Bench in England discussed the meaning of the phrase "political prisoner," and the result is most valuable and interesting. The case in question is ex parte Castioni, reported in The Times Law Reports for 1890, Vol. 7. The prisoner Castioni was guilty of shooting State Councillor Rossi in Tocino, in Switzerland. According to the evidence, CastioniTook deliberate aim, pointed his pistol at Rossi, and shot hint, and, seeing him fall, said with satisfaction He's down.'924 Here was a case of deliberate murder; yet, because it arose out of a revolt against the Government, the Court of Queen's Bench in England held it was a "political offence," and refused to allow Castioni to be extradited. The Attorney General argued the case for the prisoner, and relied upon the definitions of "political offences" laid down by John Stuart Mill and Sir James FitzJames Stephen. The former said political offences should be defined asAny offence committed in the course of or in furtherance of civil war, insurrection, or political commotion.Sir James Stephen's definition, which was specifically upheld by the Court, was—Any expenses incidental to and forming part of political disturbances.Now, what were the offences of which these 14 men for whom I plead were convicted? There is widespread misapprehension in this House and in the country on this matter. These men have been dabbed as dynamitards. Yes, before they were tried, when Daly and Egan were on their trial in the Court House at Warwick, the counsel for the defence had to stand up and to appeal to the Judge to prevent the Press from calling these men, every day while they were on their trial, "Irish dynamitards." These men have been called "the Irish dynamitards" to this day, and yet, will the House believe, not one of these 14 men was convicted of any offence except the offence of treason-felony? Now, in the year 1883, an Act was passed which the present Chancellor of the Exchequer will remember, he passed into law. His sanguine anticipations of its usefulness must he somewhat dim now. He passed a Bill into law called The Explosive Substances Act specially to deal with cases of dynamite offence. Under one section of that Act a man could get 14 years, and under another section he could get 20 years' penal servitude. In the case of these prisoners not a single one of the 14 men for whom I am speaking was tried under that Act. And, so far as I know, the only offence of this character that has been tried under this Act was the offence committed in Walsall, with which I will deal in a moment. Why were these men tried under the Treason Felony Act, and 925 not under the Dynamite Act? I submit they were tried under that Act because the evidence its to dynamite standing by itself was weak, and it would have been difficult to obtain convictions. They were all tried under the Treason Felony Act, and Sir James FitzJames Stephen, in his History of the Criminal Low, Vol. 2, page 70, deals fully with the matter a political offences. He divides "offences of a political character" into three classes. He says—The first and most obvious is an offence consisting in an attack upon the political order of things established in the country where it is committed. High treason, riots for political purposes, crimes like the offences defined by the Treason Felony Act of l848, seditious, libels. and conspiracies, are offences of this class.In View of these decisions and opinions it is nothing short of absurd to pretend that the offences of which Daly, Egan, and the others were convicted were not political ones. The trials—and I have read as Many of them as I could get—of these 14 prisoners remind one forcibly of the old State trials in the time of the Fenians a quarter of a century ago. In each of these cases there was an accusation of treason. In each of these cases there was the old-fashioned informer coming from obscurity on to the witness-table, and swearing that 20 years before the prisoner had been a Fenian, and had been guilty of swearing-in non in the Fenian Organisation. In every particular these trial are precisely the same in all their main features as the trials of the Features a quarter of a century ago. I do not desire to labour this matter, because I am painfully conscious of the fact that on two previous occasions it was my duty to lay these facts before the House of Commons. I would not repeat them now at all were it not that this is a new House and that this is a new Government, and I feel hound to go into them again. I will do so shortly. I take this case as an example. In the case of the trial a Daly, the Judge, in charging the Grand Jury, defined the character of the offence for which the man was being tried. He said
They did feloniously compass, invent, devise, and intend to deprive and depose the Queen from the style, honour, and Royal name of the Imperial Crown of the United Kingdom, in order by force and constraint to compel Her to change Her measures in Council, and in Order to intimidate and overawe both Henries of Par- 926 liament, and such compassing, machinations, inventions. Devices, and intentions did express with and declare by divers overt acts contrary tot he Statutes. That was a vet y gave offence, which MIS popularly known as treason-felony. Treason-felony was created by ail Act passed in the year 1848. The third section of that Act provided that any person within the United Kingdom who should seek to deprive the Queen or Her successors to the Imperial Crown, or levy war against Her heirs or successors in any part of the United Kingdom, in order, by restraint, to compel Her or them to change their measures in Council, or to put in force any restraint upon or intimidate the Houses of Parliament, or stir any foreigner in the United Kingdom. or any part of Her Majesty's dominions, or should commit any overt deed, every such person should be guilty of felony, and, being convicted, should be liable to punishment prescribed by the Act. Under that Act the three persons Moose names he had mentioned would be charged before the jury on the Bill t hat would be presented to them.The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), in stating the case for the prosecution, said—The prisoners were charged with the crime of treason. He would state to them the evidence that would be given in support of the charge. The prisoners were indicted under the Statute passed in 1848, and the charge was known in legal language as that of treason-felony. It differed in some respects slightly from a charge of high treason, and the prisoners substantially were charged that they conspired together to levy war, and to raise an insurrection and rebellion against the Queen as Sovereign of this realm. That being the nature of the case, he would briefly place before them the facts that would be given in support of the charge. They had to go back as far as August, 1868, and certainly at that time—he did not know whet her it existed earlier—an Association had been formed called the Irish Republican Brotherhood. As far as they mold gather front the documents which would be putt in evidence, the object of that Republic was that it should be established with the specific purpose of levying war, and when that war had been successful a Republic should be established that should be of a permanent character. They were not left in doubt as to the matter, because, found concealed in the garden of the house of the prisoner Egan, at which the prisoner Daly load been residing for some time, was a copy of the Constitution of the Irish Republic, and that would be admissible in evidence. This showed that the Government of the Irish Republic should be composed of 11 members, to be designated the Supreme Commit of the Irish Republic. The objects were that the enactments should be the laws of the Irish Republic until the territory thereof—that, he presumed, was Ireland—should have been recovered from the English enemy, and a permanent Government established.Under these circumstances, I cannot conceive how any man can reasonably deny 927 the claim which I set up on behalf of these men, that they were tried for a political offence, and that they tire at this moment suffering for a political offence. I do not desire at all to shirk the fact that in the indictment there was generally one count charging them with intending to forward that treasonable conspiracy by the use of dynamite. In Daly's case there was such a count; but I say that if that had been omitted, the case against him would have been complete against him; and, taking his case as a whole, in substance he was tried for having been a Fenian 20 years not and not as a dynamite offender. If these men are political offenders, I want to know what justification the present Government can have for refusing a political amnesty when the whole foundation of the policy of the present Government is that there should he that "blessed oblivion" of the past of which the Prime Minister spoke, and in while he rightly said England has as great an interest as Ireland? I ask any Member on the Front Bench opposite—I ask the Chief Secretary—how can that blessed oblivion of the past ever be achieved so long as there remain in English gaols Irish political prisoners whose offences grow directly out of the old cursed system of misgovernment in that country? The noble and wise words of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, which were spoken in Dublin in 1888, were quoted the other night in this House. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will quote them again—I want to ask a question. The French amnestied the Communists, who were guilty of mist atrocious crimes against their country. The Americans amnestied Secessionist rebels who were guilty of an atrocious crime against he Government. Are the only people in the world for whom there is to be no amnesty, no act of oblivion, to be Irishmen, whose only fault has been that they have used their talents for the benefit of their countrymen, and done the best they could to raise up the miserable and oppressed and downtrodden people of this country? Gentlemen, it is not so; that is no longer—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 yon that at least one great Party is anxious for an amnesty, for an act of oblivion on your side and ours both.The right hon. Gentleman the ocher night protested that that reference had no relation whatever to this particular 928 class of prisoner. I never said it had. I quoted these words of the right hon. Gentleman in Ireland. I never said that they had reference to any particular class of prisoner. What I did say was this: that they contained the announcement of a great policy of amnesty to which he pledged the faith of his Party. When that policy is to be consummated, by what stages it is to be consummated, he did not say; but to maintain that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the policy of oblivion of the past, and of amnesty such as that of which he spoke, could possibly he complete whilst Irish political prisoners were suffering as victims or the old system of misgovernment in English gaols, would be to set the right hon. Gentleman down as a Member ignorant not only of the Irish character, hut, I would say, ignorant of human nature itself. The right hon. Gentleman alluded the other night to his letter to the Newcastle electors last July, and the reason that. I allude to this letter now is this—the emphatic protest of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that the speech in the Leinster Hall did not, and could hot, apply to these political prisoners, left me under the imputation before the House of Commons of having in Ireland misrepresented the purport and meaning of that speech. The right hon. Gentleman refers to his letter to the Newcastle electors. I have read that letter again, and I have read it with the greatest possible pleasure, because I see in it a declaration from hits that while on this question he is dubious, that while on this question—if I may use the word without offence—he is timid, that still on the principle of the claim for which I. am contending, he does not enter any emphatic protest or any protest at all. What he said was this:—You ask me whether I will aid the movement for the release of the men now undergoing penal servitude for the dynamite conspiracy some 10 years ago. I recognise the temperate spirit in which you argue the case, and I note your straightforward declaration that you and your friends have no palliation for dynamite, and that you regard it as the detestable resort of political lunacy. I regret I cannot agree with you in thinking it of vital importance that the question should be raised now. The detestable resort of political lunacy, as you truly call it, is a mode of 'warfare not only barbarous in itself and deserving of stern punishment, but is also most inimical to the strenuous efforts that we are at the moment making to bring the old 929 system of Irish Government completely to an end. When we have succeeded in these efforts then will be the time to consider whether the British Government would not be well advised, as incidental to that momentous settlement of international accounts, to show the same spirit of clemency towards these prisoners as was shown, for example, by the Government of the French Republic towards the exiled Communists. such. at least, is my judgment, and I beg you to convey it to your friends.These words I make no complaint of whatever. I say it is true that the Irish people are looking to the present Government for a great settlement of international accounts, and I say in his words that an incident, and a necessary incident, of the Government settlement of international accounts must be an amnesty for political prisoners. I believe, therefore, that these men are political prisoners, and I think I have said something to show the House that we have reason for that belief; and believing they are political prisoners, we claim from the Government their release as an incident of the great settlement that is about, I hope, to be consummated between the two nations. But I do not rest my demand for the release of these men solely, as I said at the commencement, upon this question of political amnesty. I say that even if hon. Members do not take the view that it is wise to carry out a policy of general amnesty, still they are bound to vote in favour of my Motion if I can show, as I think I can, that there are circumstances of doubt and suspicion surrounding many of these convictions. First of all, these men were all tried in what, without exaggeration, I may call a state of mad panic in this country. There had been a series of explosions happily unattended by loss of human life, as far as I know. There had been a series of explosions in the public streets of the City, and day by day the public journals were teeming with the most sensational rumours of plots, conspiracies, and disasters to come. As I mentioned just now, even at the trial at Warwick, the counsel for Egan had to protest in public Court against the newspapers every morning during the trial referring to the case under the sensational heading of "Irish Dynamitards." The Court House of Warwick, we read in the reports, was crammed with policemen armed with revolvers. Barricades were erected outside in the streets; the soldiers were confined to barracks under arms. Under these circumstances, Daly and 930 many of the other men were tried without being defended, without having the advantage of legal counsel to defend them. I say that these circumstances alone ought to make the Douse of Commons scan Very closely the whole circumstances of these trials. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said, with reference to the Gweedore trials the other night, that sometimes when the country was convulsed sentences of an excessive character, or sentences that came to be regarded. as excessive in their character, were inflicted. The fact that these trials took place in a state of public panic such us I have indicated ought to induce the Government and the House of Commons to scan very closely every accusation we charge against the method and means by which these convictions were obtained. In the ease of Daly, there were circumstances of a peculiar character. Circumstances hive come to Relit since the trial which, I think even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury would say, had they been known at the trial would have rendered it impossible to expect a conviction. These facts, Mr. Speaker, I feel bound to represent to the House of Commons. Daly was a man well-known to English Governments in Ireland. He was well-known in the public life of Ireland as an extreme politician, but he was a man who had never been openly attacked in this way before. On the 11th of October, 1883, Daly went to the City of Birmingham to take up his residence under an assumed name in the house of his old friend James, Egan, who lots lately been released from gaol. From that time forward he was under police supervision. From the moment he went to Birmingham the police were on his track, and Inspector Stroud at the trial swore that from the 11th of October, 1883, till the 91h of April, 1884—two days before his arrest—the police were never off his track for an hour, and during all that time they—'Never saw him do anything calculated to arouse suspicion.' 'They had,' he said, followed Daly about seven months and never saw him do anything suspicious.'Inspector Black, in his evidence, gave practically the same account. "We never lost sight of him," he said, and he stated that he also had never seen him do anything suspicious. We now come to the 931 first really significant thing in Daly's case. On the 9th April he received a telegram from an old comrade of his in the Fenian days, asking hint to go to Liverpool to meet him. The Government were watching Daly, and must, therefore, have had information of that telegram, and known its contents. He went to Liverpool in answer to that telegram, and Inspector Black says he was followed in the usual way by detectives, but by some strange chance, for the first time for seven months, the detectives lost sight of him in Liverpool and did not see him for two days. During these two days Daly was in the house of the man who had sent the telegram, and, therefore, the police must have been in a position to lay their hands on him it they chose. At 8 o'clock. on the morning of the 11th April Daly turned up, unexpectedly one would think, at Birkenhead Railway Station and proceeded to the ticket office to take a ticket. The moment he got there he found a posse of about a score of plain clothes detectives ready to arrest him. One of the men had a little black bag with him. Daly was at once searched, and a parcel was taken from him and carefully put into the little bag, which manifestly had been taken there with that object. At the trial, Daly asked a number of questions on these matters. He sought to find out, the source of information of the police, but he was promptly stopped when he attempted to question them. He was allowed to ask one of the police officers, Head Constable Humphreys of the Royal Irish Constabulary, who, by chance, also happened to be at the station at 8 o'clock that morning, why he had been arrested at that particular time, and the answer given was that Daly's pocket was observed to be bulky. Now, the extraordinary fact is, that the parcel so found on Daly and taken away was found, on examination, to contain certain appliances which were believed to form part of explosive machinery. That parcel was given to Daly by the man who had telegraphed from Liverpool to Birmingham, and that man from the moment of Daly's arrest disappeared. From that day to this he has never been seen or heard of. The whole story was practically untested at the trial. Daly was undefended, and the questions he tried to put to test the 932 statements of the witnesses were not allowed. He never denied for a moment that he had been a Fenian, and, so far as his sentence was a sentence for Fenianism, he makes—and I make—no complaint. If the I louse of Commons at this time of day—in the year 1893—thinks it a wise and just policy to keep men in penal servitude because they had been Fenians 25 years ago, I have, of course, no grounds for my Amendment. With reference, however, to the dynamite parcel, I make a claim here on Daly's behalf that it was given to him by this man within a few moments of the time it was taken from him; that he did not know what was in the parcel; that this man was an old confidential comrade of his, for whom he would he willing, perhaps, to run some risk, and that this man was in the pay of the Irish police. These explosives were purchased with money supplied by the Irish police. The police knew he was going to Liverpool and knew of the telegram. When he was said to be lost for two days he was nothing of the kind, but was known to be in the house of this man. The police knew the hour at which, and the station from which, he would seek to leave Liverpool, and went to the station with the object of arresting him. There are circumstances in the main facts as I have related them which will, I think, induce hon. Members to say, at any rate, that there ought to be some inquiry. But I beg the House's most solemn attention to the matter I am about to refer to, for the matter does not rest there. It rested there for a couple of years, but at the expiration of that period a most extraordinary and sensational revelation was made by a high English official. The Watch Committee of the Birmingham Corporation had, and, I believe, have still, as their chief police officer, a distinguished official named Farndale. Some inquiry was instituted by the Watch Committee into the whole of this alleged dynamite plot. They got some intimation of the way in which Daly had obtained possession of the parcel. They sent for Mr. Palmdale, and complained that he had not arrested the man who had given the parcel to Daly. And what the extraordinary and sensational answer given? Mr. Farndale justified himself by saying, "I could not arrest him; he was an agent in the pay of the Irish 933 police." I have Alderman Manton's statement—[a laugh]—and I notice that a right hon. Gentleman opposite laughs at that name. I know nothing of Alderman Manton, and I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but he is certainly an agent in a responsible position. He wrote to the late Home Secretary as follows:—Sir, I will take the liberty of stating some of the circumstances connected with the arrest, as they were stated to me 12 months since. Without any preliminary remark Mr. Farndale spoke as follows: 'Mr. Alderman Manton, you will be surprised when I tell you that the explosives found on Daly were "planted" on him by the police.' I said, 'Can it be possible?' Mr. Farndale replied. 'It is really so!' I said, Are you absolutely certain Mr. F. said. 'I am,' adding, 'and I promise you that will never engage in another such business as long as I live.' I felt appalled by the revelation, and after a few days' calm reflection, in the presence of a gentleman, Mr. F. engaged to visit the Home Secretary, but thought it best to go alone. Mr. F. said it was not exactly the police who 'planted' the explosives on Daly, but a companion and confederate of Daly, who was in the employment of the Irish Police. Mr. F. added that the explosives were procured in America, and delivered to the confederate of Daly; also that the Irish Police Authorities not only supplied cash for the purchase of the explosives, but contributed to the support of the confederate, and through him to the support of Daly for a considerable time. In fact, it was a Government manufactured case got up by the Irish Police. Mr. F. has stated it as his opinion that Daly hail never been associated with dynamitards, and that he would have thrown the explosives out of the railway carriage on the first opportunity. Nor was Mr. F. alone in Ids opinion. Another police officer of high rank said he believed Daly would have thrown the explosives out of the window in the first tunnel he came to.Now, this Mr. Farndale, as I have said, was the Chief of the Police who were watching Daly from day to day in Birmingham. At the trial of the case Daly asked more than once, "Is Mr. Farndale going to give evidence?" Mr. Farndale was not produced by the Crown. I ask any man who knows anything of the administration of criminal justice whether, if he had been produced and had repeated the statement he solemnly made in the declaration I have just read, it would not have been an absolute impossibility to obtain a conviction, at least on the dynamite count? I made an appeal more than once in the last Parliament for an independent investigation of this terrible accusation. I can imagine no more awful accusation being made 934 against anyone. The late Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews) told me he had called Mr. Fallible to London, and had had a talk with hint, awl that Mr. Fallible had not succeeded in Convincing him that his statement was correct. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman said he was convinced that Mr. Farndale was wrong. I asked a further question, namely, Was Mr. Farndale convinced that he was wrong?
§ MR. J. E. REDMOND
I am not prepared to take a statement of that kind from the hon. Gentleman. I asked the question of the late Home Secretary, mid the answer he gave me was to the effect that Mr. Farndale was still of the same opinion. If that be so, Here is a monstrous state of things which the House of Commons ought to inquire into. Here you have a terrible accusation made against the police by one of the highest officials you have—the head of your police in the great City of Birmingham. If that be a false accusation, Mr. Farndale is unworthy of his high position, and ought to be severely condemned and punished. If, on the contrary, his statement be true, is it not a cruel thing for the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith) to get up in his place, as he did the other night, and talk in his callous way about re-considering the case in 20 years? This man will not live 20 years. I have been with him, and have seen hint wasting away. I am convinced that not in 20 years, but in a very short time indeed, John Daly's sufferings will be ended, if not by the clemency of the Crowe, by the clemency of a Higher Power. I have gone into the facts of this case because I thought I was justified in asking the House to take it as an example. I cannot go into all the cases, and I hope the Home Secretary will not be guilty of the stale device of saying that I have only spoken of one case. If I went into all the cases it would necessitate such a claim on the indulgence of the House as I could not with any propriety put forward. I ask whether Daly's is not a proper case for an example, and I say to those hon. Members who may not be in favour of an amnesty at this moment but who may be of opinion that it is wise to consider every case in which suspicious circumstances exists, 935 that they are bound to vote in favour of my Amendment. There remains only one other ground, and I will state it very shortly. It is that, even if you are of opinion that these convictions are beyond suspicion, you ought to come to the conclusion that these men have been punished long enough. Every one of them was sentenced to penal servitude for life. Under the Dynamite Act not one of them could have been sentenced for life. They have now been in prison for a number of years. If they had been sentenced to 10 years' penal servitude they would be now just about receiving the restoration of their liberty. I wish to call the attention of the Home Secretary to the Walsall case. Just about this time last year a number of Anarchists, as they were called, were arrested and tried under the Act of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir William Harcourt) for being found in possession of explosives. The trial took place at a time when it may be said that all Europe was wringing with dynamite offences in France and elsewhere throughout the world. Some of the prisoners were Englishmen, others were foreigners. They had been found in possession of explosives, just as Daly had been but in their case other things had been found which had not been found in Daly's case. For example, there were a number of documents, one of them explaining how "executions," as they were called, were carried out, another dealing with explosives as the method of carrying out "executions." They were by a strange chance tried by the same Judge as had tried John Daly—Mr. Justice Hawkins. [An hon. MEMBER: No.] Well, I yesterday referred to The Times reports, in which it was stated that they were tried by Mr. Justice Hawkins. I do not think I am wrong on the point; but even if I am, it does not materially affect my contention. According to The Times report, Mr. Justice Hawkins, in sentencing these men, spoke of the enormity of their crime and of the necessity of making an example of them for the safety of the community. He said—The crime he had to punish was the crime of being in possession of bombs to be used for the destruction of human life and property. The cruelty, the diabolical brutality, of the purpose to which they were to be put needed exemplary punishment. He regretted he had 936 to pass a sentence which would cause pain to the relatives of the prisoners. He could pass no less a sentence than that of 10 years' penal servitude on Charles Battold and Cailes and five years upon Deakin.I recall the words used by the Chief Secretary the other night. When the country is convulsed sentences which when the country is quiet may come to be regarded as excessive are often passed. In the Walsall ease the prisoners were Englishmen and foreigners. Surely this ought to make no difference in their sentences. Ten years was considered enough by the learned Judge to protect the community and to make an example of the perpetrators of those horrible offences. And yet if Daly and the others against whom the evidence was not nearly as strong had been sentenced to five years' imprisonment, they would have been out long ago; whilst if they had been sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment—the maximum inflicted in the Walsall case—they would have been just about recovering their liberty. I have said that I appeal to three classes of hon. Members, and I hope I shall get some assistance in the Division Lobby from them all. I will not further detain the House. All I will say, in conclusion, is that one of the greatest Irishmen that ever lived, Edmund Burke, once said—Nobody shall persuade me that when a whole people's feelings are concerned acts of leniency are not means of conciliation.The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, in referring to that statement of Edmund Burke in one of his admirable essays, describes it as "a sure key to wise politics." The other night the right hon. Gentleman said something of his own quite as wise and as noble, I think, as the utterance of Edmund Burke. He said, "The wise and just exercise of clemency is one of the arts of government." I appeal to him in the spirit of those words. I invite him to send tonight a message of conciliation and hope to the Irish people. I ask him to abandon that cast-iron attitude, that seems to have been adopted for the first time by himself and his colleagues on this question. I invite him to send to, the Irish people a message of conciliation and hope in view of the incontrovertible, fact that no settlement of international accounts can be complete between England and Ireland; that no policy of 937 oblivion of the past can be effective which does not restore to liberty every Irishman who is suffering for a political offence as the victim of the old and thrice accursed system of government which we all hope, is now tottering to its doom.
§ *MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
said that, in rising to second the Amendment, he felt very conscious, indeed, of the prejudice which surrounded the question, and which unfortunately led some Englishmen to accuse Irish Members of sympathy with dynamite. He felt bound to face that prejudice. He was, however, aware that prejudice in English minds in regard to Irish Members was not an unusual thing. A few years ago even the question of Home Rule excited in the minds of many Englishmen almost as great a prejudice as was excited by the present Amendment, and those who advocated Home Rule were called traitors and rebels. The fact that a Home Rule Bill was about to be introduced by the Government of the day showed that they had scotched, if they had not entirely killed, that prejudice. They had determined to face the prejudice which surrounded the present question also, and they had no intention of being terrified by the charge of sympathy with dynamite outrages. He did not feel in the least called upon to offer any disclaimer whatever of the sympathy or approval with which they were tints charged. To those who knew him—and many Englishmen had known him for the past six or seven years—he need not do so, but in any case he should dispute the right of those who made the accusation against them to do so. Who were they who made these accusations against the Irish Members in connection with this Motion As far as he could see, they were the Party represented by The Times newspaper in this county, he could not, for his part, conceive a greater piece of impudence than for The Times to indulge in accusations of this character against any body of politicians in this country. He believed he was right in stating that The Times had been for the last, century the apologist and defender of every political assassin on the Continent of Europe. Mr. Michael Davitt, the other day, reminded them of one instance in which it championed a political assassin. He referred to the 938 case of the man Simon Bernard, who was tried in this country in connection with the Orsini conspiracy, and who was acquitted in the City of London. The Times audaciously replied by printing in entirety the article it published on the case, and that article was one long statement of the case for the accused, without a suggestion or innuendo that The Times disapproved of time case made by the accused, whilst many phrases suggested an entire sympathy with, and approval of, the verdict of the jury. He recollected very well one sentence from an article published by The Times at the time of the Italian Revolution, which excited a considerable deal of comment throughout England, and he thought the journal which published it, had no right in the present day to accuse anybody of sympathy with crime. The Times said—Liberty is a serious game, to be fought out with knives and hatchets, not with drawled epigrams and sort petitions.If t his sentence had been published by an Irish journalist, say, before the Phoenix Park murders, it would have appeared to the House as nit incitement to, and a glorification of, political assassination; and he said, therefore, of this journal that its political morality was purely geographical, and that it varied or changed according to the position of the country which was concerned. The criticisms of such a journal troubled him not one bit. The first ground upon which they asked for a re-consideration of these cases was because grave doubts existed as to the guilt or innocence of these men, or at all events of one of them, who had been referred to particularly in that Debate. He was not going to go into the case of John Daly all over again, but he wished to say that he hoped the statement which had been made by the Member for Waterford would receive the careful attention of the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman, in reply to that statement, ought not to give them the stereotyped reply that Daly was duly tried and convicted. He would remind the Home Secretary that there had been in recent years grave miscarriages of justice in which the confession had been made by Ministers of the Crown that mistakes were made by the juries that convicted the men. Instead of referring to Daly's 939 case, he would ask the attention of the Home Secretary to one or two other cases to which he would allude. In 1867 five men were tried in Manchester for a murder in that city. They were all at once convicted of murder and sentenced to death, and yet no sooner had that sentence been pronounced than the reporters, who had been engaged in Court, signed a document expressing their decided opinion and conviction that one of these then was absolutely innocent of the charge against him. What was the result? The result was that that man, Maguire, was absolutely released, without any conditions whatever, almost as soon as he had been sentenced. That was not the only ease. In 1885, when Lord Carnarvon was sent to Ireland in the capacity of Lord Lieutenant, one of his first acts was to appoint a distinguished member of the Irish Bar to inquire into the case of a man named Kilmartin. This man had been duly tried and convicted of a charge of attempted murder. He had been sentenced to penal servitude for life, yet, as the result of the investigation into the ease of Bryan Kilmartin, he was absolutely released without any conditions whatever; and when Lord Carnarvon afterwards went to where Kilmartin lived, Kilmartin was the very man he chose to drive him about the island. Then there was the case of Habron, where a man was tried under the ordinary conditions of life in England without passion or any aggravating circumstances which tended to disturb the minds of jurymen and Judges and blind the eyes of justice. Yet Habron had had to be released, and he believed compensation was given him by the late Government because of the unmerited sufferings which he had undergone. Lastly, there was the case of Egan. He asserted positively that Egan had been released because the late and the present Home Secretary believed him to be innocent. In face of cases like these the Home Secretary and no Minister of justice ought to set up the plea that had been so often heard in that House, namely, that a case was not to be reconsidered because the man convicted had been duly tried and convicted. There were many cases in recent years in which a gross miscarriage of justice had taken place. He declared that these cases 940 constituted an à priori argument in favour of men like Daly, and the other circumstances which the Member for Waterford had brought forward should induce the right hon. Gentleman to re-consider the case. Was it reasonable that are-consideration of Daly's ease should be refused while at the very same time the Minister responsible for keeping him in prison, refused, as the late Home Secretary did, to dissipate the grounds upon which, Daly's release was demanded? There were circumstances stated in the speech of the Member for Waterford which the late Home Secretary had not disposed of and which the present Home Secretary ought to dispose of before he made a non possumus reply. Why were not the whole facts relating to Daly's case laid before Parliament? Supposing Mr. Farndale had been examined at the trial in Warwick, did the Home Secretary imagine for one moment that Daly would have been convicted? It was impossible to imagine that if Mr. Farndale had given the same evidence at Warwick he had given since, that Daly would have been convicted of the charge for which he now lay in prison, therefore, on that ground alone he claimed that there ought to be a re-consideration of Daly's case before a non possumus reply was given. They asked for a general amnesty as a matter of policy. He knew that thin was regarded in a great portion of the House, and probably in a greater portion of the country, as an extreme demand, but he sincerely hoped that hon. Gentlemen would allow themselves to consider the matter with calm and impartial minds; and if they did that, they would not consider the demand now made au unreasonable one. They asked for a. general amnesty, first on the grounds that these prisoners had already been amply punished. What was the object of punishment? The Lord Chancellor of England the other night in the House of Lords said the object of inflicting punishment was not to wreak the vengeance of society, but to deter the offender from repeating his offence amyl others from imitating. He (Mr. Redmond) asked were not nine or 10 years of penal servitude enough to deter any man committing the offence for which Daly was imprisoned? Was not such a sentence as that passed on Daly in excess of that period of nine or 10 years really a wreaking of the 941 vengeance of society in a most callous manner? Some of the Walsall prisoners boasted of the crime they had committed; their guilt was even greater than that of Daly and others—for in Daly's case there was considerable doubt whether he, was guilty—and yet they had received a much lighter sentence than the Irish prisoners. The Member for West Birmingham had stated that if these men had been in France or America they would have been shot. He was not sure that it would not have been more merciful to shoot some of these men or have left less rancouring memories behind them than to keep them in prison, its the Home Secretary the other night seemed calmly to contemplate, for 20 years. In support of the plea that ample punishment had been inflicted upon Daly and the others, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that no lives were lost in the case of any of these explosions, some of which were perpetrated at times and under circumstances which precluded the idea that those engaged in them contemplated taking life. The second ground upon which they asked for a mitigation or remission of the punishment had been explained at length by the Member for Waterford. They contended that these men were political prisoners. He had never it his life sought to excuse or palliate outrages of any kind, but it was absurd to shot one's eyes to the fact that the whole civilised world recognized difference, between crimes committed front political motives and other crimes. What they asked to-night was that the rule of the civilised world in regard to these matters should he acted upon and applied in the case of these prisoners. He knew this demand would probably be rejected by a considerable majority, but they were not terrified by a fact of that kind. The Fenian prisoners were now universally regarded as political offenders, but he recollected to have heard them described in that House as offenders of a common type, and deserving to be punished as common criminals. He did not know that there was inflicted upon the prisoners of King Bomba of Naples—whose treatment excited the indignation of the Member for Midlothian—any more degrading punishment or severer tortures than were inflicted upon the Fenian prisoners in English prisons. If Members had any doubt about this let them 942 read the Report of the Commission that considered this subject. If they read the evidence of Mr. Michael Davitt, now a Member of that House, they would see that he was condemned to degrading tortures and punishment, to which the prisoners of King Bomba were never subjected. He had only one other consideration to urge. If these men had committed the crimes for which they haul rightly or wrongly been convicted in a country like England, which was governed by the consent of the people, the ease would be different. But the crimes for which they had been convicted arose out of a state of misgovernment which one great Party in the State had at last agreed to put an end to, and that fact must weigh upon the conscience and mind of every Liberal Member who voted upon the question. The fact that on Monday night a Home Rule Bill was to be introduced to put an end to the misgovernment upon which these crimes had sprung ought, at any rate, to make every Liberal Member weigh well and dispassionately the claim made on behalf of these men. Demands like the one they now made had, he knew, been again and again rejected; but he also knew the demands which were rejected one year were granted many years after, and as to the ultimate fate of this Motion, he felt no doubt whatever. It would be rejected that night, but the time would come when jester counsels would prevail, and when some Home Secretary, perhaps a Tory, or it might be a Liberal, Home Secretary, would get up and say that the time had come when these prisoners ought to be set at liberty as part of the great policy of conciliation. What he would urge upon the Government and the Liberal Party was that they ought 110t to deprive this concession to Irish national feeling of all its grace by delaying too long to make it.
At the end of the Question, to add the words, "And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that the time has come when the cases of all prisoners convicted under the Treason Felony Act' who are and have been for many years undergoing punishment for offences arising out of insurrectionary movements connected with Ireland may be advantageously reconsidered."—(Mr. John Redmond.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."943
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. ASQUITH,) Fife, E.
The hon. and learned Gentleman who moved this Amendment said it had been complained by way of reproach against him that it might embarrass Her Majesty's Government. I can assure him that he may relieve his mind of all apprehensions on that subject.
§ MR. ASQUITH
By whomsover entertained, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that they are entirely unfounded. There is no doubt that the subject the hon. Gentleman has brought before the House is one of great gravity, and no one can dispute Ids title, if he, in the exercise of his discretion, thinks fit to assert it, to require Iron Her Majesty's Government an express and an unambiguous statement of their intentions in relation to this matter. Such a statement I am prepared to furnish; but before I advert to the topics upon which the hon. Gentleman has dwelt in his speech, I should like to make one preliminary observation. We were led to believe, before the opening of the Session, that in relation to this question of amnesty we were to be exposed to a double attack. On one side the hon. and leaned Gentleman, who sticks to his had announced in the clearest possible terms that he meant to demand the release not of one or two, but of all the, prisoners in English prisons under treason-felony convictions. On the other side we were informed, with more than equal vehemence of tone, that we were to be brought to book because we had let out as many as two prisoners. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, whom I am sorry not to see in his place, a week before the commencement of the Session, speaking at a meeting in Worcestershire, used these words, to which I do not think it inappropriate to refer—There is also a question of releasing the dynamiters and those Irish criminals concerned in the murder of a policeman in Ireland. To my mind, these releases were neither more nor less than a scandalous abuse, for political purposes, of the clemency of the Crown; they are the blackmail which the Government is paying for sedition and outrage.Yes, Sir, the matter did not rest there, because upon the first night of the Session the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir 944 Frederick Milner), who hail not taken the precaution of making his inquiries in the proper quarter, put all Amendment upon the Paper which would have directly challenged the conduct of the Government, and of myself in particular, in assenting to the release of these two men. What has become of that Amendment? It has mysteriously disappeared from the Order Book. The allegation was that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary and I were engaged in a conspiracy with both sections of the Irish Party—a conspiracy in which we were to purchase the votes, and, if possible, to secure the wavering allegiance of the doubtful, by means of a flagitious exercise of the clemency of the Crown. My right hon. Friend was supposed to have fulfilled his part of the compact in releasing the Gweedore prisoners, and my part was to be fulfilled by the release of the two men recently imprisoned at Portland. I want Jo know why that charge is not made on the floor of this House? Are these things, which are good enough for an after-dinner harangue at some bouquet in Worcestershire, not good enough to be stated in the House, where, as the right hon. Member for West Birmingham said, they could be carefully sifted and examined? The truth is, my right hon. Friend has frankly admitted that he has withdrawn the charge. The Leader of the Opposition—of whose conduct I am not complaining. in the least—fairly stated the other night that, so far as the administration of the Home Office is concerned in this matter, he is perfectly satisfied; and the only ground the right hon. Member for West Birmingham can give for having made the allegation, which he now finds himself not in a position to sustain, is that he could not help but suspect it was part of a general policy of amnesty which he gratuitously imputed to Her Majesty's Government. My right hon. Friend went back to a speech which the Chief Secretary made in Dublin five years ago—a speech which was also referred to by the hon. Member for Waterford this evening. It is perfectly obvious to anyone who takes the trouble to read the context of the sentences which have been quoted that my right hon. Friend was referring not to the release of prisoners, but he was referring, as his mention of the conduct of the American Government after the War of 945 Secession is sufficient to show, to one of in those general acts of oblivion of political differences and offences which may very well accompany or follow a great act of national reconciliation. But why need the right hon. Member for West Birmingham have gone back five years in order to ascertain what was the policy of Her Majesty's Government in relation to this matter? I ask hon. Gentleman opposite who moved this Amendment to-night with such ability and in such a weighty and temperate manner—I ask him to go to the declarations of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury six months ago. This question was raised in the Debate upon the Address, upon the Amendment moved by me, before the late Government had the left Office, when their fate was still hanging in the balance, when it was open to every Member of the House to vote according to his conscience. My right hon. Friend the present First Lord of the Treasury, in carefully-chosen language, announced what would be the policy in relation to this matter of any Administration he might be called upon to form. What did my right hon. Friend say? We need not go five years back when in August, 1892, we have the express and authoritative declaration of the present Prime Minister. It has been read by the hon. Gentleman opposite to-night. It is a declaration which in substance amounts to this: that there will be no distinction whatsoever made between the treatment of these cases and that of ordinary cases which fall within the jurisdiction of the Home Office; but if particular circumstances can be alleged tending to throw doubt upon the justice of the conviction, or tending to suggest mitigation of punishment in any specific instance, these circumstances, if brought to the attention of the Home Secretary, will be duly considered and weighed by him. My right hon. Friend pointedly refused to consider these cases as an exception to the general rule; and every one who listened to his declaration in the Debate and who took part in the subsequent Division must have been aware that the ordinary Rules of the Home Office, and no other Rules, would be applied to their subsequent consideration. The hon. Member has quoted some words from a speech made in Ireland by the hon. Member for Mayo 946 in which I caught something about understandings and arrangements.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I have to say, in the most express and emphatic terms, that so far as this question of the amnesty of prisoners is concerned, there is no understanding, there is no undertaking, there is no agreements. The only declaration that has been made by any responsible Member of the Government on the subject is the declaration to be found in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, which has been already read to the House to-night. When I was called upon to discharge the duties of the office I have the honour of holding, I felt that it was my duty to carry out in the letter and in the spirit this authoritative declaration of policy. The hon. And learned Gentleman asks the House to declare that the cases of a member of persons many be "advantageously re-considered." There is not one of these case which, since I have been at the Home Office, I have not most carefully considered. There is not a fact which the hon. Member has brought before the House to-night, there is not an allegation of fact —which is a very different thing—there is not even a ground for a suspicion which he has alleged, that has not been carefully weighed and sifted by me. I applied to these cases—and I think the House will believe my statement when I make it—exactly the same consideration, neither more nor less, that I am in the habit of applying, and that my predecessors in Office for many years past have applied, to every criminal case which has been submitted to them for examination and review; and if I entertained a particle of doubt in my own mind as to the justice of conviction in any one of these cases, if I could honestly bring myself to the opinion that any one now left in prison is being punished too severely for the offence, I should have thought the hon. Gentleman opposite might have given me credit for sufficient impartiality of judgment—I will not say for sufficient humanity of feeling—to apply in such case exactly the same measure of justice as I am in the habit of applying in the ordinary administration of the Criminal Law. Now, what are the grounds upon which the hon. Gentleman says we should 947 grant an amnesty? It is suggested that because these people are political offenders they ought to be treated on a footing different from that of other offenders. I will, however, deal first of all with the suggestion that there have been circumstances of doubt and suspicion attending their conviction, or, in other words, that the guilt of the persons referred to in this Amendment has not been satisfactorily proved. [Mr. J. E. REDMOND dissented.] The hon. Member shakes his head; but what is the meaning of all the laboured argument to throw doubt on the case of Daly if it was not to suggest not only that Daly's guilt is not proved, but that he is in all probability an innocent man? ["Hear, hear!"] Yes; the hon. Member assents. The Amendment covers by its language all the prisoners convicted under the Treason Felony Act 110W in prison; and how many are there? Fourteen. But the House has not heard the name of any one except that of Daly. I suppose we have heard all the arguments that can be urged; and yet we are asked to upset the decisions of the Courts of Law and of successive Secretaries of State in 13 cases without so much as knowing the names of the prisoners-whose guilt or innocence is in question. Using the word in a logical sense, a more preposterous demand was never made upon the House of Commons.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The House would not have grudged the hon. Member the time if he could have shown that in these cases there was reasonable ground for suggesting the injustice of the convictions. He knows the House of Commons too well to suppose they would not have shown him every consideration. I have nothing to deal with so far as these cases are concerned, and I dispose of them at once by simply reminding the House who are the persons concerned. They may be divided into four groups. The first group consists of Gallagher, Whitehead, and two of their subordinate associates. Whitehead was the man who for months carried on a factory of nitro-glycerine in Birmingham; Gallagher, in London, was his paymaster. Gallagher passed backwards and forwards between Birmingham and London, and 948 through the agency of Wilson and some other men was instrumental in having a large quantity of nitro-glycerine conveyed in trunks from Birmingham to London. Gallagher himself stowed away some of the stuff in fishing stockings, which were discovered at the lodgings, of one or more of the prisoners when arrested. On this man was found when arrested something like £1,000, and, which is a fact not unworthy of notice, an order for admission to this House in his pocket. There is not, and never has been, a shadow of a doubt that these men were engaged in a conspiracy to promote and procure explosions in London, and I am not surprised at the discretion which the hon. Member showed in passing over their cases in absolute silence. The next two groups consist of the men called Featherstone Dalton and their associates. They were convicted of treason-felony. The evidence against them showed that they had set up, partly in Glasgow and partly in Cork, machinery for the manufacture of explosives, and a not inconsiderable number of them were arrested with explosives and infernal machines on their persons. These are the men who, without a shadow of a doubt, caused the three explosions in Glasgow in January, 1883. Finally, there is the case of Burton and Cunningham. Burton and Cunningham were shown in the early mouths of 1884 to have deposited bags containing infernal machines in the cloak-rooms of different. London railway stations. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment, seemed to think that we ought to be very much obliged to these men because they had so arranged their infernal machines that they would explode in the might-time. I do not know whether their ingenuity was directed to that object or not; but however that may be, there is not a shadow of doubt that they were actively concerned in the explosions on the Underground Railway, at Westminster Hall, and at the Tower of London. I have a right to ask hon. Gentlemen who are to follow me in this Debate, Do von or do you not question the justice of those convictions? Were these 111011 innocent or were they guilty? Can they suggest any ground of fact whatever to throw the smallest doubt on the justice of the verdict Which 949 was given against them? That is a challenge which I throw down to hon. Gentlemen who shall succeed me; we shall see whether it will be taken up. Now I come to that which is, after all, the only case which has been seriously dealt with, and I think very probably the only one the hon. Member has seriously in view—I mean the case of Daly. I approached the case of Daly with a perfectly open mind. I have never been concerned either directly or indirectly in any of the proceedings against him, and I have not even taken part in the Debate or Division in this House when the subject came up for consideration a few years ago. What are the facts with reference to Daly? I will state them in two or three sentences in the baldest and most naked way. Daly came Over from America to Birmingham in October, 8813. He went to lodge with Egan, of whom I shall have to say a word or two by-and-bye. He lodged there under an assumed name. He lodged there under an assumed name He had no occupation of any sort or kind, so far as the police could make out, and he was closely watched. He spent his lime doing nothing. He was apparently not ill-provided with cash, and from time to time made journeys between Birmingham and Liverpool. Upon a certain day in April, 1884, he managed to elude the vigilance of the Birmingham police. He walked on foot from Birmingham to Wolverhampton and took the train thence to Liverpool.
§ MR. ASQUITH
Whether that is so or not is wholly immaterial to the question, which is whether Daly's conduct was that of an innocent man. He left the train and walked alone the street, looking behind him to see if he was being followed; he succeeded in evading the policemen who were following him, and was lost sight of for a couple of days. When Daly was next seen two days afterwards on the Birkenhead Railway Station, what had he with him? He had three infernal machines and a large quantity of detonators and explosive materials—I will not say secreted about his person, for his pockets were positively bulging out with them in every direction. From that day to this Daly has never given any account whom he got those 950 parcels from. If the story the hon. Gentleman tells the House, not for the first time, and which he no doubt believes—
§ MR. ASQUITH
If the story that these things were planted on an innocent man by some agent of the police were true, it is a most extraordinary fact that Daly should never for a moment have suggested that it was so.
§ MR. J. E. REDMOND
The right hon. Gentleman is aware that Daly directed a number of questions to that point, and that they were disallowed by the Judge.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I am aware of nothing of the kind. The questions put by Daly, and which I think were most properly disallowed by the Judge, were directed with the object of finding out the name of the person who gave information to the police, which Daly, no doubt, was very anxious to discover and have published to the world. Here, then, is a man discovered ill the possession of those infernal machines and explosives and incapable or unwilling to give any account of where he got them from. But the matter does not rest there. The police, after his arrest, go to his house at Birmingham, search his rooms, and there they find a number of what are called treasonable documents showing, what has never been disputed, that undoubtedly Daly was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and had taken an active part in its proceedings in this country. Then the police examined the garden, and there they found a the canister containing similar documents and nine ball cartridges, and it bottle of nitroglycerine. How did those things come there? Daly has told us at the trial. He volunteered to tell the Court at the trial—for I will do him the justice to say that he was, I will not say chivalrous enough, but fair enough not to wish Egan to be implicated in more than he need be—he volunteered the statement that that canister and bottle of nitro-glycerine had been deposited in the garden by himself without the knowledge or connivance of Egan. I want to know what explanation hon. Gentlemen give of that fact. Where did Daly get the nitro-glycerine from? Why did he deposit it in the gorden—he, the same man who was found in possession Of these infernal machines 951 and explosives? The suggestion that these parcels were planted upon Daly by the police, that Daly had no guilty knowledge of the contents of the parcels, or of the purposes to which they were to be applied, is one of the idlest and most improbable suggestions that has ever been made.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I am obliged to the hon. Member for reminding me of that subject. I will deal in a sentence or two with Mr. Farndale. In the first place, I have no jurisdiction over Mr. Farndale. He is the servant of the Birmingham Corporation. The hon. Gentleman has read to us not a declaration by Mr. Farndale, but a public document or letter from Alderman Manton, of Birmingham, who professed to tell a correspondent what Mr. Ferndale had told him; but Mr. Farndale has stated that Alderman Manton's account of the statements alleged to have been made by hint was, to a large extent, imaginary. The late Home Secretary informed the House more than a year ago that Mr. Ferndale stated this to him. Then what becomes of this supposed testimony of Mr. Farndale that Daly has been the victim of the police? Mr. Ferndale has said, and he adheres to it, that in Ids opinion the bombs had been planted on Daly, but he is not able to produce a tittle of evidence in support of it. The probability is t hat Mr. Ferndale, as the head of the Birmingham Police, was considerably annoyed that the arrest of Daly was effected by the Irish and not by the Birmingham Police, and he may have been disposed for that reason to attach credence to the stories that may have been told to him, for he does not profess to know anything of the transaction of his own personal knowledge. The information at my disposal convinces me that Daly was supported during the whole of his residence in this country by funds sent to him from America, that the bombs in his possession came from. America, that the nitro-glycerine deposited in Egan's garden came from America, and that more than six mouths before he was arrested he was in communication with friends in America as to bombs to be sent to him, and was informed that they had been sent.
§ MR. ASQUITH
It is not for me to say why it did not come out at the trial. I have had nothing to do with it. But I will state to the House, on my authority and on my responsibility as a, Minister of the Crown, having had cast upon me the most painful and responsible duty of reviewing these sentences, that I have satisfied myself, from information at my disposal, which I shall not impart or communicate to other people, that what I have just stated is absolutely the fact. Well, Sir, I say, even apart from that, even upon the simple facts which came out at the trial, and which I have detailed to the House, there is abundant evidence—overwhelming evidence—to justify the finding of the jury, that this man was engaged, in the language of our law, "in levying War upon the Queen," and in levying war upon Her by means of these infernal explosive devices. Before I pass from that, I must say cue word upon the case of Egan. It has been said that I ought not to have decided, as I have decided, to release Egan Euless I was also prepared to release Daly. I do, not think the hon. Gentleman will say that, but I observe that is a criticism made in some quarters. I can tell the House frankly, and in a sentence, why I released Egan. He was released because, in my opinion, he had been sufficiently punished—having suffered eight and a half years' penal servitude—for everthing proved against him. I read the evidence, as other people have, most carefully; there is, in my judgment, nothing in that evidence to connect Egan with any knowledge of or intention to take part in a conspiracy criminally to use dynamite. I think the evidence, so far as it is addressed to the case of Egan, was, to put it at the highest, upon this point equally consistent with his, innocence and with his guilt. Beyond the fact that he was intimate with Daly, and that on one occasion he was overheard by a policeman to make use of a very ambiguous expression at some public-house, and the fact of the bombs and nitro-glycerine which Daly admits he put in the garden, there is nothing, in my judgment, clearly to connect Egan 953 with any participation, or any intention to participate, in the use of dynamite.
§ MR. ASQUITH
It has been said, then von must come to the conclusion that Egan was innocent of the crime of which he was convicted. That does not at all follow, and that is not the conclusion at which I arrived. Egan was accused and was convicted of treason-felony, and that he was guilty of treason. That he was an active member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood there cannot be a shadow of doubt in the mind of anybody who reads the evidence. As to whether Egan was guilty of treason there can be no doubt whatever; the sole question, to my mind, was not whether Egan wits guilty of treason, hot whether he was so clearly shown to have been a party to this dynamite conspiracy as to warrant his continued imprisonment beyond the eight told a half years which he had already suffered. I came to the conclusion, upon the evidence, that he had been sufficiently punished, mid it is upon that ground, and that ground alone, that Egan has been let out. Now I will deal in a sentence or two with the next point of the hon. Gentleman. He says that these men, even if they were guilty, have been punished long enough. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion said that, at any rate, no lives hail been lost in consequence of their acts. Sir, if lives had been lost in consequence of their acts, these men would have been indicted, not for treason, but for murder, told they would have suffered—and in my opinion most justly suffered—the extreme penalty of the law. I will deal in a moment, before I sit dawn, with the question whether these are, in the strict sense of the word, political offences. But leaving that out of view for the moment, and assuming for a moment the guilt of the prisoners, I say that I cannot conceive any more hellions offence than that of which all these men were convicted, short of actual murder itself, short of the actual taking a way of human life; men who for months occupied them self in devising machines by means of which property should be destroyed, and life would in all probability have been taken, without any regard whatever to the innocence or guilt, the responsibility, or the absence of response- 954 bility, of those who would be the victims of their proceedings; I say these men, in my opinion, are guilty of one of the worst and most criminal offences against Society itself. In my mind, there can be no doubt or ambiguity about this matter. So long as I hold the position I do, so long as I am responsible for the exercise of the prerogative of mercy, there is not one of them who shall receive any different treatment, or whose sentence shall he any sooner interfered with, than that of any other criminal now lying in Her Majesty's gaols. I will not detain the House more than a moment; but I most, before I sit down, deal with the allegation that because these are political prisoners, convicted of political offences, a different measure of justice Or of consideration ought to he meted out than to ordinary criminals. Sir, I confess I should have been glad if the hon. Gentleman had supplied us with a definition of a political offence. The question I would ask hint is this: Is everyone to be regarded as a political prisoner who commits a crime from a political motive?
§ *MR. ASQUITH
A definition, which, with all respect, did not help us in the very least in the case with which we are dealing. Let me give hint a crucial case; take the case of the Phœnix Park murderers. If ever there was a crime committed from a political motive in the history of this country it was that crime. Are the Phœnix Park murderers to be regarded as political prisoners; is their crime to be treated as a political offence? Are they, in the judgment of the hon. Gentleman—those of them whose lives have been spared—to be dealt with on any different footing to, or to be treated with more indulgence than, an ordinary murderer who finds himself in the same position to-day? That is a question which I trust we shall have answered in the course of the Debate. In my judgment, the matter is a very simple one. You have to look in these cases not to the motive merely, lint to t he method by which the crime is carried out. When persons, instead of doing as political offenders in the strict sense of the word have been in the habit of doing, as the men of 1848 and 1867 did—instead of 955 going out into the open field and meeting by force of arms the men to whom they were politically opposed—whets they resort to assassination and to dynamite, I say they are putting themselves as much outside the pale of political offenders as the man who in time of war goes and poisons the stream disentitles himself to be treated as a prisoner of war. The hon. Gentleman has told us that England has always been the asylum for the refugees of foreign countries. Yes, Sir; hut England has never been the asylum, and, I trust, never will be the asylum, for men who are taking part, and and an active part, in warfare against Society. [An Irish MEMBER: Orsini.] Orsini! He was never in England at all, so far as I know; but I will edge the hon. Member a case with which I dealt not more than three weeks ago—the case of the Anarchist Francois, who came over front Paris, and who was implicated with one Ravachol in outrages of a precisely similar kind. That man, Mr. Speaker, came here a refugee front France. I need not say that the English Government and the English Courts had hot a moment's hesitation in handing him over to the French authorities to be dealt with for the political crime he had committed. We mete out to Irishmen no different treatment from that which we mete out to subjects of friendly States and our own citizens. I ask hon. Gentlemen to believe that to me it is an exceedingly painful and repugnant duty to have to make the speech I have made here to-night. It is a far easier thing to be what is called clement, to take a lenient and humane view of offences, and to let people out of gaol. But, Sir, we have a duty to discharge, which we are determined to discharge at whatever cost. For my part, and this is the last word I will say to the House on the subject, I say it both with reference to the past and, if need be, with reference to the future—persons who resort to this mole of warfare against Society, who use terror as their instrument, who proceed in their methods with reckless disregard of the life and the safety of the weak, the innocent, and the helpless, are persons who deserve, and will receive, no consideration or indulgence from any British Government.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
The speech which the House has just listened to from the right hon. 956 Gentleman the Home Secretary is a speech which I take leave to say will create many difficulties in the future, not alone for the right hon. Gentleman, but for the Government with which he is associated. That speech so opposed in tone to all we have heard from the Liberal Party for the last half-dozen years, so characteristic of the Party that we have been struggling against during, all that period, is a speech which, to my mind, and the mind of the people of Ireland, might have been Letter delivered front the Bench before the change of Government and before the advent of that Party whose proclaimed policy is conciliation towards Ireland. All I can say is, that when the time conies to give expression to those noble sentiments of peace and reconciliation embodied in the extract quoted from the Irish Chief Secretary's speech amid embodied also in the frequent declarations of the Prime Minister in this House, that the position of the Prime Minister's Government and of the Home Secretary's colleagues Will be rendered immensely difficult by the speech he has just delivered upon this question. But we are not discouraged. Language of the kind with which he concluded his speech is language which the Irish Nationalist Members have been accustomed to from time to time in this House; and though we thought, With the advent of the Liberal Party to power, the time had passed away when language of that kind would have been extended to us from the Treasury Bench, we are not discouraged, because we have heard that language so often before, and we have seen that the Government who used that language and the officers of the Crown who repeated it, have had to recede from their position and abandon the declarations that have been made. If it were the policy of the Government to conciliate Irish feeling, and to endeavour to study this question its it is viewed by the Irish people, I maintain that the Home Secretary would never have attempted to make the speech which he has made; and I defy all the efforts of the Government, to introduce what measures they may, to bring content and peace to Ireland and a happy solution of the differences between the two countries so long as the attitude which, the right hon. Gentleman has adopted to-day is maintained. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman is not in his 957 place to hear what I am about to state. It is a singular fact that in his zeal to make out his case he actually misquoted and misapplied the speech of the late Home Secretary delivered in a Debate on this subject. Having informed the House that he had a complete knowledge of the case, he stated that when the subject was under discussion last year the then Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews), referring to a letter of Alderman Manton, of Birmingham, said that that letter was a misrepresentation of t he statement of Mr. Farndale. I was surprised at such an assertion. I went back to the Library to refresh my memory of the speech or the late Home Secretary, and there is not a word or a suggestion in that speech which would justify tile right hon. Gentleman in the extraordinary statement which he made. From first to last the late Home Secretary did nothing whatsoever in the Debate to cast the slightest imputation upon the manner in which Alderman Manton has stated his interview with Mr. Farndale and Mr. Ferndale's opinion. It is true he referred to Mr. Farndale as having been mistaken. I am not going to say one word in palliation of the crime that is charged against the great body of these men. I condemn it quite as strongly as does the right hon. Gentleman, and it is not because there is the slightest sympathy in Ireland with the offences charged against them or the slightest sympathy with the use of dynamite for any purposes of the kind that we are here to make an appeal for these men. On the contrary; it is hard to conceive how any man can be led astray to such an extent as to believe that he Call by means of infernal weapons of this kind hope in the remotest degree to advance the interests of his country or to associate any feeling of patriotism with those who resort to such desperate means. The point which the Member for Waterford made in t he course of this Debate, till which the Home Secretary very astutely and cleverly endeavoured not to notice is this: That while you have had cases in this country of men found in possession or explosives and dynamite bombs, and with documents in their possession showing they intended to use these bombs to the destruction or life and property, you extended to these men one sort of treatment, you extended to the men whose acts you connected 958 with an Irish political movement a different sort of treatment. The Home Secretary endeavoured to avoid that part of the argument; but no matter how you may disguise the fact or keep your mind from considering it, it is a fact that will enter deep into the minds of the Irish people that, because one set of criminal had been connected with a political movement in Ireland, you have for them one class of punishment most drastic and severe, whilst for another class of men guilty of the same offences you have much lighter sentences. Take the case of the Walsall prisoners. They had been found in possession of these infernal machines in the same way as the Irishmen, and there was evidence that they meant to use them not for the destruction of property, but for taking life; and what we contend is, that the Irish people will see an inequality in the manner in which these two classes of criminals have been dealt with. It is not the way when there is a political complexion over the cases of these men. When Daly, Featherstone, Dalton, and the other men were on trial in this country there was then an extraordinary Act for the punishment of men who were found with explosives of this kind in their possession. I remember very well the introduction of that Bill in the House of Commons by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I remember very Well the extraordinary panic in the country at the time as was instanced by the fact. I believe, unexampled in this House, that the Bill passed the three readings on the very night of its introduction. Then, again, that Bill was passed expressly for the purpose of dealing with these explosions that were taking place in the country and for dealing with the criminals having recourse to these desperate means. That Bill held forth two different and two distinct terms of punishment—one a maximum term of 20 years for men found to have used these dynamite bombs or infernal machines, and the other a term of 14 years for those with such explosives in their possession. That was an Act passed specially for dealing with eases of that kind; yet because the men for whom we speak had been connected With an Irish political movement, because 10 or 20 years before their trial took place they had been connected with a revolutionary 959 movement in Ireland, you discarded this Act, you indicted them for treason-felony, and to meet the case evidence of complicity in a former political movement was produced against them, and the most extreme penalty the law could devise was given them. If these men had been tried, as they ought to have been under the Explosives Act, which was specially passed to meet cases of that kind, we should not be here now, with regard to the case of some of them, reviewing their sentences, because, having been found with explosives of this kind in their possession, the longest period of punishment which they could get under that Act was 14 years' penal servitude; and as we know that by the custom of the Home Office sentences come up for revision at stated periods, the sentences on these men would have come up for revision long ago. Another fact to which I would draw the attention of the House is the extraordinary, state of commotion which existed in this country when these cases were tried. I am not attempting to condemn that state of commotion. I think there was just reason why the country should have been disturbed at the time, and there was good reason why, in dealing out punishment to these men, exemplary sentences should have been imposed. But what we complain of is, that while under the Act specially passed to meet offences of this kind the Government of the day got all that they desired in the way of maximum punishment, they should in trying these cases depart from the machinery so devised by themselves, because the prisoners were Irishmen who had been connected with revolutionary movements of other days, and so have got imposed On them greater punishment than had been intended for persons guilty of these offences. The eases of Featherstone and Dalton were mentioned by the Home Secretary. What is the allegation of the Government of the day in regard to these two men? Precisely the same as that which was made by Mr. Farndale in the case of Daly. There is evidence unquestionable—it has been produced often in this House; I do not know whether we trill hear it repeated to-night—by hon. Gentlemen from Ireland, who are loyal supporters of the Government, and who I hope will not shrink from expressing the same opinions here to-night—that the explosives found in the possession of Featherstone and Dalton 960 had been given to them by a man who, was for years in the employment of the Government. The whole country has heard of "Red Jim McDermott," as he, is called. It is an allegation that has, never been officially denied—an allegation which has, indeed, been proved up to the hilt—that McDermott, who had brought these men into the conspiracy, and had given them the dynamite bombs, was in the pay of the Government. That accusation against the Government does not come from us. It comes from the staunch supporters of the Government—hon. Gentlemen front Ireland—who sit on these Benches. Now let me refer to the case of Daly. The Home Secretary has expressed doubts as to the justice of the finding of the jury in Egan's case, so far as any connection of Egan with the dynamite conspiracy is concerned; but the right hon. Gentleman forgets that it was precisely the same evidence, the same jury, and the same Judge that convicted Daly. I cannot claim to have known Daly personally. He took a very active and very public part in Ireland for a time; and so far as I can gather, that active and public part was directed against the section of his fellow-countrymen who came to this House and who sought redress for Irish grievances by constitutional means. I cannot help thinking, after hearing the speech of the Chief Secretary, how much there was in the tone of that speech and the manner in which it was delivered to encourage and sow deeper in the minds of men like Daly feelings of hostility against England. There was not a conciliatory word in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman; and it seemed to me that though he spoke from the Treasury Bench, he held his brief from the Tory Party. It is a very remarkable fact in regard to Daly that when these allegations were made against him at his trial, the public Press of Ireland, and all who were acquainted with him in Ireland, and even those who had met him as an opponent in political warfare, were shocked, mid were unable to believe that he could have had any connection whatever with dynamite outrages. Is it not a strange fact that years after the conviction of Daly the feeling in the public mind of Ireland regarding him should have been confirmed 961 by the statement of the Chief Constable of Birmingham that Daly was an innocent man?
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON:
I hope the hon. Gentleman will contribute something more intelligible than a cry of "No, no" to this Debate. It was admitted by the Home Secretary to-night that Mr. Farndale did say that Daly was an innocent man. The Home Secretary of the late Government has also said that, Mr. Farndale believed Daly to be innocent of any complicity in the dynamite explosions, and, furthermore, that he believed that the bombs found on Daly had been planted on him by an agent of the Irish police, and that he would have got rid of them had he got the opportunity of doing so.
§ MR. POWELL WILLIAMS
I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I desire to say that the Chief Constable of Birmingham never made a statement of that kind. What took place was this—
§ DR. J. KENNY (Dublin, College Green)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is it competent for one hon. Member to rise when another hon. Member is speaking, and give his version of the matter in an argumentative manner? Should he not wait until the hon. Member on his feet had finished?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member was about to give his opinion as the hon. Member for Birmingham, and the hon. Member in possession gave way to him.
§ MR. POWELL WILLIAMS
I wish to say, Sir, that the statement attributed to the Chief Constable of Birmingham by Mr. Alderman Manton has been denied by the Chief Constable.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
The Home Secretary has stated the Chief 'Constable made this statement.
§ MR. POWELL WILLIAMS
Mr. Farndale has stated that he does not accept as authentic the published statement of the conversation between him and Mr. Alderman Manton.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON
I will show the House that Mr. Farndale has not in the least degree the remarkable and essential point of his belief in Daly's innocence, and the remarkable and essential point of his belief that the bombs were planted on Daly by an agent of the 962 Irish police. Here is Alderman Manton's account of the conversation: —"Mr. Farndale said to me, 'You will he surprised when I tell you that the explosives found on Daly were planted on him by the police.' I said, 'Can it be possible?' Mr. Farndale replied, 'It is really so.' I said, 'Are you absolutely certain?' and Mr. Farndale said, 'I am,' adding, 'I promise you I never will engage in another such business as long as I live.'" Twelve months afterwards, when the attention of the House was directed to the matter, here is the manner in which the then Home Secretary referred to it: "I do not refer to Mr. Farndale's opinion. I am not Mr. Farndale's superior. I have no right to call hint to account, and I desire to say nothing of him that is not respectful; but after making careful inquiry, I am convinced that Mr. Farndale, remembering what little In, knew of the police capture, was entirely mistaken." There is nothing in that to show that Mr. Farndale repudiated the statement. When the late Home Secretary was questioned in the House on this matter, he stated he had had an interview with Mr. Farndale, and that he could not make up his mind that Mr. Farndale was right. But he was asked the pointed question, "Is Mr. Farndale still of the same opinion?" and the right hon. Gentleman, said he was. We have had, practically, the same declaration tonight from the present Home Secretary: and in face of these facts, I say it is idle for the hon. Member for Birmingham to state that there has been a qualification of the repudiation of that statement. Remember that Mr. Farndale, who has made this remarkable statement, was the head of the police who were watching Daly for the seven months he was in Birmingham, and who never lost sight of him during that period. I think it is, at all events, conclusive that the police got no evidence during these seven months that Daly was carrying on any dangerous dealings with explosives. Daly was in Birmingham from October 11th to April 9th. On April 9th he got a telegram from Liverpool, the sender of which most have been known to the police, because it is evident that concurrently with the sending of this telegram the police had evidence which induced them to follow Daly to Wolverhampton, and to have the police of Liverpool ready to 963 watch him on his arrival in that city. It is a remarkable fact that Daly, who was undefended by counsel and conducted his own case, seemed to be endeavouring throughout the case to get at the fact who gave the police the information which enabled them to be at the railway station awaiting his arrival with a bag to receive the explosives. This imputation that the police were concerned in the plot has sunk deep into the minds of the Irish people, and will cause them to knock again and again at the door of the Chief Secretary till this mystery is solved, or this question is laid to rest. We have, I think, reason also to complain of the Home Secretary that, though in the opening of his speech he said he had exhaustively inquired into the case of Daly, he admitted, before he concluded, that he had not had one word with Mr. Farndale, the only man who can solve this mystery. I regret extremely, for the sake of the relations that ought to subsist between England and Ireland—I regret, for the sake of the Government themselves, the extraordinary attitude which the Home Secretary has adopted in this Debate. All I can say is, that if the time comes to this Government for extending to Ireland the hand of fellowship which has been so long promised, the Government will take care that the duty is entrusted to a Minister who will not adopt the manner and the tone which the Home Secretary adopted to-night. The right hon. Gentleman may think that his decision on the subject is final. Our experience is, that your declarations on Ireland and Irish affairs are never final. Declarations have conic from Governments more powerful than this, and from politicians of greater eminence than the Home Secretary, which have been subsequently ignored and I tell the right lion. Gentleman this: that I have never known a Government that when hard-pressed has not gone back of such declarations or that at such a time has not looked without affection on the colleague who made them.
§ MR. POWELL WILLIAMS
said, that having interposed in the Debate in the way of an interruption to the hon. Member (Mr. T. Harrington) who had just sat down, perhaps it was due to the House and to himself that he should make a few observations. He thought that, in dealing with a matter of this 964 kind, men's words should be reluctant and few. He should be sorry to say a single word designedly with a view of closing the prison doors on any man for whom those doors ought to be open. But it was impossible for him, knowing what he did about the circumstances attending this case, to allow the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin to make without contradiction a statement in relation to the Chief Constable of Birmingham which he (Mr. Powell Williams) knew to be inaccurate. The hon. Member took for granted and as gospel all that he found in the statement of Mr. Alderman Manton. No one gave much attention to Mr. Alderman Manton in Birmingham; and it ought to be borne in mind, in the interest of fair play and justice, that the Chief Constable had directly repudiated a considerable number of the statements in this matter which Alderman Manton had put into his mind.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON
Will the hon. Gentleman give us some public declaration to refer to? We have never seen the contradiction.
§ MR. POWELL WILLIAMS
The contradiction was made to the Watch Committee, of which Mr. Farndale is the servant, and was reported in the Birmingham papers. The hon. Member has said that the Chief Constable of Birmingham has admitted that, first of all, that these bombs were placed by Daly by an agent provocateur, and that, secondly, that he knew Daly to be an innocent man. To both of these statements I can give a very complete and effective contradiction.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON
Do I understand the hon. Member to pledge himself that he is authorised by Mr. Farndale to say that he did not make the statement that these bombs were planted on Daly by an agent of the Irish police?
§ MR. POWELL WILLIAMS
How could I be authorised? I will tell the hon. Member and the House what Mr. Farndale said to me. He said that the bombs were not, in Ids opinion, placed upon Daly by an agent provocateur of the police. I do not know the English equivalent for the French phrase. If the hon. Member can give it me, I shall be glad to adopt it.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON
I should like to draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the original allegation made in 965 reference to Mr. Farndale. We say that his statement was that the bombs were planted upon Daly by a colleague of his who was in the pay of the Irish police.
§ MR. POWELL WILLIAMS
said, he had looked upon these two terms as convertible, and that did not appear to be the case. The hon. Member had said that the bombs had been placed upon Daly by agent of the police. All he (Mr. Williams) could say was that Mr. Farndale had personally contradicted that statement as to the bombs. He could say, further, that when he asked Mr. Farndale a little time ago whether he considered Daly to be an innocent or guilty person, Mr. Farndale unhesitatingly answered that he had no more doubt of Daly's guilt than he had of his own existence.
§ MR. POWELL WILLIAMS
said, Daly was not accused of Fenianism. He was accused specifically of certain crimes in a long indictment; and when Mr. Farndale said he had no doubt of Daly's guilt, he meant he had no doubt of his guilt upon that indictment. He had thought himself hound to say this much, having ventured to challenge the statement the hen. Member had made. He should be very sorry, however, if what he said should have the effect of closing the door upon a person who otherwise might escape. There was no doubt whatever, after the eloquent statement of the Home Secretary—a statement which he thought would carry he winded England's public judgment with it, and for which the right hon. Gentleman was greatly to be commended—all hope of lessening Daly's punishment was entirely taken away. As he had ventured to interpose in this Debate, might he be allowed to say for his own part he took exception to the phrases "political prisoners" and "political crimes"? The use of such phrases left out of account the injured party. When an Irish girl some years ago saw upon the roadside the dead body of her father riddled with shot, would it 966 have been any answer to her to say, "You must not take heed of these things; they are only political crimes." They had to look at the nature of the offence; and if it were a cruel and heinous offence, they must put out of account altogether the motive, whatever it might be, which actuated it, and inflict on the perpetrator the judgment and condemnation he deserved.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, it was somewhat interesting to note that the lion. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Powell Williams) went further even than the Home Secretary, if possible for he relied upon private conversation. Private conversation often formed the basis of discussion in that House, and a remarkable fact was that it was usually totally wrong. As a matter of fact, not the slightest reliance could be placed on reports of private conversation. In one point the hon. Member differed from the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary told them that he thought Mr. Farndale was carried away by jealousy—that he was jealous because the Birmingham Police had not arrested Daly instead of the Liverpool Police. The hon. Member differed in that altogether from the Home Secretary, for he denied that Mr. Farndale ever Made the statements attributed to hint. In that case this question arose: if Mr. Farndale had never made these statements at all, why did the right hon. Gentleman have to tell the story a jealousy between two different Police Forces in order to account for them? The Home Secretary certainly declared that it was mere jealousy, accounted for by the fact that the Irish Police had arrested Daly in Liverpool and not the Birmingham Police, as Mr. Farndale wished. But although the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken was no doubt an important Member of this House, and, of course, important also in Birmingham, he must upon that particular question excuse hint (Colonel Nolan) if he said that he did not think his ideas were very clear, or that his speech was to be compared in importance with that of the Horne Secretary. He had had to wrap up his ideas on the subject in French terms for which he told the House there was no English equivalent, but they were speaking in England of English people and of English crime, and why should they bring in a French term which was only applicable 967 in France? The chief characteristic of the speech of the Home Secretary was that he went out of his way to be uncompromising — most uncompromising, absolutely uncompromising. He had told them that as long as he was Home Secretary there was not the slightest possibility of one of those gentlemen—one of those prisoners—being released. Let them hope that in a short time the right hon. Gentleman might be made a Judge or Lord Chancellor—that was all the ill he (Colonel Nolan) wished him! But he did not think the Irish people were going to be discouraged—they had bad previous experience of those things. He remembered 21 years ago moving at a certain meeting a resolution in favour of amnesty, and for the next two or three months he was the wickedest man in Ireland, if not in the United Kingdom; but within a year the Government opened the doors and let the men out. The Home Secretary's speech he really attributed to a political motive. Those whom the hon. Member for Northampton was fond of calling the Gladstonian Members were afraid of losing some votes in English boroughs because they had let out Egan; and the Home Secretary, who was a clever lawyer but a somewhat inexperienced politician, had thought he would secure as many votes as possible by making his uncompromising speech. Well, his own advice to the Irish people, not using the word in a narrow sense, but speaking of the Irish people throughout the world, was to take a leaf out of the Home Secretary's book and to organise on the question, not merely in Ireland, but wherever there was an Irish voter in England, and not merely in the United kingdom, but in Canada and the United States—of course, he meant in a constitutional fashion. If they only did that, they would very soon see the Home Secretary a Judge or a Lord Chancellor—the latter for preference, for he was afraid that if he became a Judge, he might be a hanging Judge; whereas, as Lord Chancellor, he could not do any harm, and his excellent legal qualities could be brought into play. What, he asked, was the meaning of the word "amnesty"? He could not get a French translation from the hon. Member for Birmingham, but it meant "a forgetting." What was the crime of which the men for 968 whom the appeal was being made were accused? It was that of destroying a certain number of public buildings. Some of them were, no doubt, really engaged on such projects, which were criminal and very wrong. But let hon. Members consider other eases of the same nature. Did we not ask the United States to forget what we did many years ago in the same direction, but on a larger scale? Did they remember that, in 1814, the British forces took Washington and burned it, with the Capitol and the other public buildings? We were within our strict rights; but, still, it was a disgraceful act; and did we want the Americans to remember it? No; we wanted an amnesty for it. He thought we might with advantage take a leaf out of the younger nation's books. Let them remember what the Americans did in their great Civil War. They did not, after that war, punish one single man as a rebel, and they were proud of their conduct. The House was told that the offences for which the sentences under consideration were imposed were not political offences, but on that point he did not think the Home Secretary—who, he regretted, was absent front his place—was honest. The right hon. Gentleman was usually ready to answer interruptions, but twice he (Colonel Nolan) had tried to bring him to one point which he would not answer he had asked why the prisoners were tried for treason if their offences were not political. Would any one person in that House attempt to say that treason was not a political offence? If the crimes of which the men were guilty were simply crimes against humanity, they should have been tried for these crimes; but the Government rather chose to indict them for treason, and, by doing so, declared practically that the offences were political. If any foreign Government asked this country to give up a man for treason, would he be surrendered? The idea would not be entertained for a moment; and if the English Government did not wish the offences of the men now in question to be regarded as political, they should not have tried the prisoners for treason. An effort might be made to draw a distinction between treason and treason-felony, but he knew of no essential difference between them. All such offences came formerly under the law of treason, and the Act was only 969 changed 40 years ago, for two reasons: in the first place, to simplify proceedings; and, in the second, to degrade what might be called Irish political crime. The change had had a terribly had effect in Ireland, for it had tended to cause ordinary crime to be looked on as something political in character. Common sense declared that any one tried for treason-felony was, to all intents and purposes, tried for treason. Whatever was the character originally of the offences under the consideration of the House they had been converted by the trial into political offences, and the men who committed them had in consequence a very large number of sympathisers throughout the English-speaking world. Even the very men who mint detested the crimes which some of those offenders had committed now considered that, after a certain period of time had expired, those crimes ought to be forgotten, and the prison doors ought to be opened. The hon. Member for Birmingham had made at sort of apology for closing the prison doors, and the fact would not he forgotten by the large Irish population throughout the world. The object of the Government in converting the crimes into political ones was not hard to find out. If the men had been tried for felony, they would only have been liable to 10 years' imprisonment tried for a political offence they were liable to imprisonment for 20 years, or for life. But the Government, having got the advantage of the longer term, ought not now to say that the offences were not political. One thing had shocked him very much in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. He scented to think that men were worthy of 20 years' imprisonment for having in times gone by been associated with the Fenian movement. This was certainly keeping up old scores a long time, and it must not be forgotten that Fenianism—to which the right hon. Gentleman gave the full title of Irish Republican Brotherhood, notwithstanding that the thing had been dead 20 or 25 years—had been purely a political offence. He hoped the Irish people all over the world would take note of this fact. The Irish people abhorred everything connected with dynamite, but Fenianism they looked upon in quite a different light. They 970 viewed it as an armed insurrection, not as a very reasonable movement in itself, but certainly as a political offence on a par with the rising of the North against the Confederate States in America. Though he did not put the question to the Home Secretary—for the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have run away whilst his speech was being answered—he would put it to the English people and the Irish people. Were these prisoners to be kept in gaol for ever or for the next 12 years? The hon. Member for Waterford said that Daly would probably die in prison if his confinement was continued much longer—and as the hon. Member had said it it was extremely likely to be trite. It would not, perhaps, be a very unfortunate circumstance for Daly, but that it was likely to happen was believed in some quarters in Ireland, the opinion being entertained that the prison authorities were doing their best 10 facilitate the arrival of that happy time. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, there were reports to that effect throughout a large part of Ireland. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary ought to be treasured up in every place in which Irishmen congregated. He had given them two alternatives: either the prisoners were to stay in gaol or the Home Secretary must leave his official position. He (Colonel Nolan) sincerely trusted that the right hon. Gentleman might, without much delay, have to leave dial position. Mr. Ferndale, whose statement it would seem, some attempt had been made to water down, still was of Opinion that the bombs had been planted on Daly, and yet successive Home Secretaries had refused even to investigate the facts. He (Colonel Nolan) knew the reason of that. They feared the frightful scandal for the police. He (Colonel Nolan) had in the past been accustomed to speeches of a very different nature from Home Secretaries. They usually expressed some little regret. Even the late Home Secretary did so, and promised to look into the matter somewhat further, but the right hon. Gentleman had done nothing of the kind. For his own part, he looked on the speech as an electioneering one to get English votes; and if the right hon. Gentleman was bidding for English votes, it was to be hoped that Irish votes would also be taken into consideration.
§ MR. BERNARD COLERIDGE (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
said, he had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and he confessed that while he agreed with his conclusions he could not altogether agree with the tone of his speech. He could not help thinking there must be many Members on the Ministerial side of the House who drew the very gravest distinction between crime which had a political object and crime which had a personal object. A man might commit an act which was wrong, which was criminal, and if he committed it for a selfish, personal object he was one type of man, but if he committed that act for an object of which they might disapprove, but which was not personal to himself, but for the sake of a cause which he believed in, then he was a different type of man. So far as he was able to judge, the prisoners on whose behalf the House was asked to intervene by voting this Amendment were prisoners who, however criminal they might be—and he did not stand there to defend crime—had this to distinguish them from ordinary criminals, that their acts had been those of misguided patriots. ["Oh, oh!"] He did not wish in any way to withdraw what he had said, but he believed he should have the agreement of every Member of the House when he said that no one could more absolutely disapprove of and deprecate anything like a resort to violence than he did. The House was asked to intervene in this matter, and it seemed to him it would be a very grave evil if it should be thought I hat pressure—political pressure—could be brought to bear even for the release of political prisoners, and he, for one, could not help thinking that those who raised this question in this Debate were not the truest friends of the prisoners, on whose behalf they pleaded. His position was simply this: from what fell from the Home Secretary it seemed to him there was no ground at present for intervention for the release of any of these prisoners, and still less, to Ids mind, would it be prudent or statesmanlike to intervene by reason of political pressure. Therefore, while he intended to give his vote in support of the Home Secretary, he did so not 972 adopting entirely or at all the tone of his right hon. Friend's remarks, but believing, as he did, the right hon. Gentleman's conclusions were sound, yet hoping, nevertheless, that whatever vote they might give to-night, they had not finally closed the door on these prisoners.
§ SIR F. MILNER (Nottingham, Bassetlaw)
said, he desired to make a personal explanation. As the Home Secretary had made some allusion to what he called the mysterious way in which the Amendment of which he (Sir F. Milner) had given notice had been withdrawn he wished to explain the reasons which had actuated him. He had, in conversation with the Home Secretary a few days ago, told the right hon. Gentleman of his intention to withdraw the Amendment, and had said that he should take an opportunity to explain why he did so. It was, therefore, altogether unnecessary for the Home Secretary to look for any mysterious cause. It had been alleged in sonic newspapers that he (Sir F. Milner) had yielded to pressure, either from the Leader of the Opposition or from some one on the Front Opposition. Bench, and thus had withdrawn his Amendment. This was not so, for on the contrary he had every reason to expect support from that quarter. His reasons for the course he had taken were very simple. In the first place, he had been very much impressed with the Prime Minister's statement that the release of the dynamite prisoners was in no sense part of a policy of amnesty, but that they had been released solely upon the responsibility of the Home Secretary, and in accordance with Home Office precedent. The right hon. Gentleman further gave a solemn assurance that the Government would be true to the pledge they had made, that on no consideration would they attempt to make Party capital out of the release of political prisoners. Widely as he differed from the right hon. Gentleman, and disastrous as he conceived the right hon. Gentleman's policy to be to the best interests of the country, as a man he held hint in the highest honour mud respect, and he would no more dream of doubting the right hon. Gentleman's solemn assertion then he would think of flying. That was an ample reason for 973 the withdrawal of his Amendment. Another reason why he had withdrawn his Amendment was because he wished to give the hon. Member for Londonderry an opportunity of bringing forward his Amendment with regard to the release of the prisoners at Gweedore. He would, however, say to the Home Secretary that it would be better in future, when noted criminals were released, that the reasons should be given at the time. The release of the prisoners without any explanation—prisoners convicted of serious crimes—had undoubtedly had a disquieting effect on the public mind. The Home Secretary had said he was convinced that Egan was not mixed up with the dynamite conspiracy, but they had heard from the late Home Secretary, on the 9th of August, that he had carefully inquired into the case and saw no reason for releasing the man. The next thing they heard was that Egan had been set at liberty without any reason being given. He (Sir F. Milner) testified to the fact that public confidence had been rudely shaken from the immense number of letters he had received from all parts of the United Kingdom urging him to press his Amendment. Dynamite offences were of a nature so atrocious, so cowardly, and so utterly inhuman, that it seemed impossible that any clemency should be shown to men duly convicted of them. Fiends such as these deserved the greatest penalty that could be given under the law of England, and it would he well that it should be known that when life sentences were given, those sentences were to be carried out to the hitter end. The mere fact of the gravity of the crimes of which these men had been convicted made it essential in Ids opinion, for the sake of public confidence, that some reason should be given for the release. Statements had been made in the Press reflecting on the honour of the Home Secretary, and the name of another gentleman had been dragged in. All these things were disquieting, and he certainly thought that some method ought to be adopted by which, when men convicted of serious crime were released before the expiration of their sentences, the reason for such release could be made known. In conclusion, he begged to say that after listening to the Home Secretary's manly and straight 974 forward speech, he was thoroughly satisfied, and he was quite certain that that speech would re-assure not only the House but the whole country.
§ *MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY (Longford, N.)
I listened with great pleasure to the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, and can cordially endorse every word he said in the course of his short and effective speech. I agree with him that there was something to regret, not so much in the substance as in the tone of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I must say that there was something hi the tone of that speech which suggested the closing of the gates of mercy with a positive clang. I should like to have heard from the right hon. Gentleman in the course of his argument some allusion to the case of the men tried at Walsall. I should like to have heard from him some explanation of why, when these terrible crimes are committed by foreigners or Englishmen, a Judge not known for any feebleness of purpose or leniency of sentence should declare that he will inflict upon, them terrible punishment, and gives them 10 years' penal servitude—I should like to know, under these circumstances, why 20 years or penal servitude for life should be the natural and inevitable sentence on an Irish offender when guilty of a similar offence. I should like some explanation from the Home Secretary satisfying us and Ireland as to that remarkable and, I must say, extraordinary distinction. I also thought that the right lion. Gentleman was fighting against the whole natural law of history and of life when he refused to make any distinction whatever between political and what I may call personal crime. I quite submit that the crimes of which some of these men were guilty deserve exemplary punishment, but I do think that the Home Secretary failed to show why all the crimes should he hashed up together, and all subjected to one common and one merciless doom. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman's own statement, strong and effective and damaging as it was, did show a certain difference and did suggest certain elements of doubt Of course he told us he had gone into 975 the whole question, and acted on his own knowledge and information, and was certain that the case of these prisoners was hopeless. Of course we have to accept his assurance. But is it not, after all, unsatisfactory that the statement of a Minister that he is satisfied with the private information supplied to him, is held to be a sufficient answer to published evidence which shows there is a certain difference between the case of Daly, for example, and some others? I rather expected to bear the right hon. Gentleman's assurance that the time had not come for extending mercy to all or any of these men; but I think he Went a little too far in declaring that they would have to suffer to the end of their sentences, and that there would he no difference made between these men and any other criminals. Even while making these criticisms of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I must say I cannot think the present time is a most opportune or favourable time for bringing forward a Motion of this kind. I have not, of course, a right, as I have not the smallest inclination, to otter counsel to the hon. Member for Waterford; but if I had been in the least degree entitled to do so, I should certainly not have recommended him to bring, forward this Amendment just at this time. I could have given him many reasons for saying the moment was not opportune. It is, of course, logically no reason against liberating a man that other offences of the same kind as his have more recently been committed. But when you appear to the House of Commons, or any Assembly Of this kind composed of men of the world, and ask for mercy for a prisoner, you do so with more force if you can show that the offence of Which he was convicted has died out of the world, and is almost forgotten. But we cannot conceal from ourselves that a certain wave of dynamite crime has lately passed over a great many countries of Europe, and there is a possibility that some of its symptoms were lately apparent in Ireland. I know that we are not entitled to infer for a moment that the recent dynamite explosion in Dublin was the effect of political conspiracy or crone. We know nothing about it. As yet the investigation is not concluded. When it is concluded the 976 crime maybe shown to have been the work of private malice or revenge. If this Motion had been delayed until after the investigation had been concluded, and it had been shown that the crime was not political, but was an act of private vengeance, the case for this Motion would have been not so much logically as practically and substantially strengthened. Therefore, if I had been in a position to advise the hon. Member who brought forward this Motion I should have said that the time was not opportune. The hon. Member who brought forward this Motion said he was sine he spoke the mind of the vast majority of the National feeling in Ireland. If we, who represent the majority of the people of Ireland, had thought this moment was opportune we should never have left to any other Members of the House whatever—Irish or English—the right or the chance of bringing forward this Motion. But it is one thing to criticise the Motion as inopportune, and quite another thing to go against it, or even to refuse to support it. Vie cannot refuse to support it. We have supported similar measures again and again in this House. We, the Nationalist Party, were the first to bring forward this whole Amnesty Question in this House. It was the hon. Member for North Kerry (Mr. Sexton) who first raised the question of it (wiring into the eases of these imprisoned men. What we said then we say now. We utterly condemn crimes of violence, and especially the kind of crimes of which many of these men have been found guilty, but we do say there must be a distinction drawn, as the hon. Member for Sheffield has drawn it, between personal and political offences, and we do say the time has nearly arrived when we should try once again the policy of clemency. I remember very well as a young man in one of the Galleries of this House listening to Lord John Russell On the question of what should be done with such conspirators as Orsini and Bernard. Lord John Russell said, referring to the bombs of Orsini, that there was a certain class of fanatics who at the time of every revolution would spring up and would not be deterred by the dread of any severity from going their own wild and criminal way. W 977 say that the Government, by their severity, will not secure themselves against the perils presented by different times, and I would say you had better try clemency. There is a great measure for the first time for Ireland now tope introduced into Parliament, and for the first time an attempt is being made to bring about a true union between Great Britain and Ireland; and when you have done that, and I hope you will accomplish it, I shall be glad if you can add an act of grace to it, so that for ever we may get rill of the bad feeling between the two peoples.
§ MR. GANE (Leeds, E.)
wished very briefly to state the reasons which compelled him to oppose the Motion. In his constituency there were many Irishmen. He knew them well, and was aide to say that no more kindly,or generous or loyal section could be found in any constituency, and to-night in voting against the Amendment he did so with a very keen and painful sense of the attitude which the Irish themselves took on this question. He could not shut his eyes to the fact that whilst with crimes such as had been discussed to-night murder, for instance—no man, whatever his political convictions, could sympathise, still, they must have regard to those people who were connected indirectly with the men who committed the crimes. Those people looked at the offences through an atmosphere which presented them in a different light to that in which they were regarded by Englishmen. Bearing in mind the history of the two countries, and the measure of British rule in Ireland in days gone by, it was easy to realise how inoffensive men could look upon these criminals as saviours of their country. Having regard, then, to this section of Irishmen who were law-abiding, they might look at this matter in a somewhat kinder way than at first sight they might be disposed to yard it. It was not his duty to attempt to justify everything the Home Secretary had said, the right hon. Gentleman being quite capable of taking care of himself. The right hon. Gentleman was compelled by his official position, to look at the question ill a colder, drier light than perchance any other Member 978 of the Government; and remembering that the right hon. Gentleman had carefully considered the facts of each case, and remembering the time at which the Motion was brought forward, it was easy to understand that the right hon. Gentleman had taken up his present attitude as a matter of duty. The hon. Member for Sheffield had said that if the Government were to yield on this matter it might be supposed that they yielded to political pressure. It they yielded they would be wholly wrong. If for fear of having abuse and bad motives imputed to them they were to hesitate to do what was right it would be mean and base. It was quite possible that a stern and strong attitude might be taken by the Government to-night without "closing the doors with a clang," as the hon. Member for North Longford in his thoughtful speech said. They had to deal in these matters not simply with doing a certain thing, but with doing it at the proper time. Although a certain action might he right in itself it might be wrong it done at an inopportune time. What they should do was to act in the present, leaving the future when it became the present to take care of itself. In the future something might occur to give ground for hope in respect to these prisoners; hut, for the present, he, occupying an independent position, said and believed that the action suggested by the Amendment would be harmful and would be wrong. These crimes were shadows cast by ignorance and misery and in a spirit of revenge; but he looked forward to it day when the shadows which were so dark and so black would be dissipated ill the light of it, better day.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
Sir, I regret that I have had some difficulty in following the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down. As far as I understand him, he looks forward to a time, and not a remote time, when these prisoners shall be released. At the same moment he tells us that the crimes which they perpetrated strike at the very root of civilised society. Am I wrong in supposing, therefore, that he anticipates that these persons will be released from the punishment due to their offences when the Home Rule Bill becomes operative, and 979 at the very moment, therefore, when a new society is called into being, with regard to whose foundation he appears to entertain very small solicitude indeed?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will not endeavour to dive more deeply into the innermost mental condition of the hon. and learned Gentleman. I did not rise, however, to criticise either the hon. Gentleman, or, indeed, any speaker who has taken part in the Debate. I rose for the purpose of expressing my hearty concurrence with the speech delivered on behalf of the Government to-night by the Home Secretary—my hearty concurrence in the substance of that speech, and my great admiration for the manner of the speech. I am sure that it has seldom fallen to the lot of any Minister of the Crown to make his first effort in this House under circumstances more difficult, and to conic out of those circumstances with greater honour. The right hon. Gentleman has shown himself a master of clear statement, a master of eloquence, and he has shown himself capable of conducting the business of his Office in a courageous spirit, and of explaining to this House, without circumlocution and without ambiguity, the principles on which he has acted. I make little complaint of the right hon. Gentleman for having, in his aide and eloquent speech, introduced a certain amount of attack upon the principles of the Unionist Party for the criticisms which they passed upon his action in the country before the House met. It was natural that the right hon. Gentleman, feeling that he was carrying out a difficult and, perhaps, an invidious duty with conscientious courage, should be sensitive about attacks which he knew, and which we now know, to be ill-founded. But I think the right hon. Gentleman should make some allowance for the circumstances in which we were placed. What were those circumstances? We had fresh in our own recollection the attitude taken up by the Home Rule Party in the last six years in the matter of crime in Ireland. We had, in the second 980 place, fresh in our mind the recollection of that most curious episode in the Debate which took place in August last, when the right lion. Gentleman himself, then an independent Member of Parliament, moved an Amendment to the Address which had as its result the transfer of gentlemen who sit on that side to this side of the House, and of gentlemen who sit here to that side having that episode fresh in our mind, could we not hut entertain some suspicion that—I will not say a compact—but that an arrangement had been made between the gentlemen then desirous of obtaining Office and who have now succeeded in obtaining Office and hon. Members on whose votes that continuance in Office from day to day, from hour to hour and from moment to moment depends? I entirely agree that the quotation made by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary from the speech of the present Prime Minister is entirely consistent, and points, when strictly interpreted, to die course of policy which the Government have most rightly determined to pursue. Will it be denied on die Ministerial Bench that this was the subject of anxious negotiation, understanding, and agreement between them on the one side?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am going to quote them. It was a matter of understanding between the present Government and gentlemen below the Gangway on this side, and the Prime Minister was very rightly determined not to commit his future Home Secretary to any course which, after examination, might appear to be illegitimate and impossible, but, nevertheless, was most anxious to make it possible at all events for the gentlemen below the Gangway to say in Ireland that the Government they were supporting was a Government not hostile to the policy of amnesty. Then the critics of the Home Secretary not only had these circumstances to keep in view, but they had the action of the Chief Secretary in Ireland, who released, not on ticket-of-leave, a man put in prison for a horrible murder. I have no doubt that to-night or to-morrow the Chief Secretary will do 981 what he has not yet found an opportunity to do in the course of the present Debate—that is, that he will give us a full and complete defence of his action in that matter. He will have his chance, and I hope he will avail himself of it. Up to this moment we have not heard his defence on that subject. Not having heard anything deserving to be described as a defence of his action, could we do otherwise than look with some suspicion upon the action of the Home Secretary in letting out two persons who had beet convicted of participation in dynamite outrages? Then, in addition to these circumstances, we had the speech width has been already quoted with regard to the action of the Chief Secretary and the letter of the right hon. Gentleman to his constituency. For my part, I am ready to accept the explanation given by the Home Secretary. I am ready to accept his statement that the Chief Secretary, when he used the word "amnesty," was not thinking of dynamitards or of persons convicted of crimes of that sort. But it does not come from the explanation given what the Chief Secretary had in view, what he was thinking of, when he quoted the treating of the Communards as suggesting the policy he desired to see carried out in these cases. I admit that when we make platform speeches we ought not to be too closely questioned as to what we mean. If we are able clearly to say what we do not mean, that is, perhaps, enough. As, however, the right hon. Gentleman makes it quite clear, as I think he has already done, that whatever he did mean he did not mean dynamitards, I do not wish to press that point any more upon him. I should like also an explanation of a letter which I have not clearly in my mind now, but an extract from which was read by the hon. Member for Waterford, who opened this Debate. If I understood that extract the Chief Secretary appeared to think that the release of these so-called political prisoners might he an incident in the settlement of the international account which his Government, it is understood, purposed to make. If they had the phrase used by the right hon. Gentleman, if the meaning of that phrase be its apparent meaning, if the hon. Member for Waterford has not misinterpreted what the right hon. Gentleman said, it 982 would seem that one of the questions accompanying the Home Rule agitation is the release of the 14 prisoners. But, whether I am in error or not, I wish to point out that those who criticised his action really had behind them a great mass of circumstantial evidence. They could not foresee the very decided and statesmanlike tone he would take on this matter; and I am sure everybody who has criticised him will he delighted, for in his speech to-night he has confessed publicly and in the face of day that they misinterpreted his action and did injustice to his motives. On the first night of the Session I read a quotation from a speech by the hon. Member for Cork City.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN (Cork City)
Perhaps I may be permitted to say that the quotation made by the right hon. Gentleman was incomplete, misleading, and altogether unfair.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is quite possible, but I did my best. I got it from The Freeman's Journal. But as the hon. Gentleman has challenged me I will re-read the quotation, and at a later period he will be able to supplement it, and tell us in what particular it was misleading and in what incorrect. He is reported to have said—I myself was engaged"—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have not got the preceding sentence. I am looking to the hon. Gentleman's speech to supply it; but I shall be surprised if the preceding sentence materially qualifies what follows. It is—I myself was engaged in very urgent correspondence with the Home Secretary as to the cases of John Daly and James Egan, as to whom I have a very strong feeling, and I entertained a very strong hope of a satisfactory conclusion at the very moment at which a diabolical explosion came to darken those unfortunate men's chance of liberty.The inference I drew from that statement was that there had been a correspondence between the hon. Member and the Home Secretary, and I also inferred that, rightly or wrongly, the lion. Gentleman drew from the letters of the Home Secretary something in the nature of a hope that those men would be 983 released, and I inferred, in the third place, that the correspondence was of such a character that the hon. Gentleman was led to believe that the Home Secretary's refusal to release those men was due not to the merits of their cases, but to the fact that a dynamite explosion had just taken place at Dublin Castle.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am quoting the hon. Member, and not anybody else. We now learn from the Home Secretary that nothing passed between him and any of the Irish Members which could, in the Home Secretary's opinion, lead to any inference of that kind. I cannot believe, after the speech we have heard to-night, that the cause of that mistake was the ambiguity of the tone of the Home Secretary's letters—unless he writes very much worse than he speaks there could be no possible mistake as to his meaning. I am, therefore, driven to the conclusion either that the hon. Member for Cork City is incapable of interpreting a plain letter in its plain sense, or else that it is so important to him to make the Irish people believe that he has the Home Secretary in his pocket, and that he is carrying on some kind of successful negotiation with the Home Secretary for die release of these men, that his natural lucidity of mind is overclouded, and he cannot even interpret the incisive style of the right hon. Gentleman with whom he is corresponding. So much for the hon. Member for Cork. I hope he will give us the rest of his speech which qualifies the portion which I have quoted. I now come to the hon. Member for East Mayo, who, I understand, from the interruption he has just made, desires to offer an explanation to the House. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford to-night stated that he had read in some report, which I have not myself seen, a speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo, in which that hon. Gentleman referred to understandings and agreements between himself and his Party, on the one hand, and the Government on the other, which would lead to the release of these 14 dynamitards.
§ *MR. DILLON
There is not the slightest foundation for that statement, nor did the hon. Member for Waterford say anything of the kind.
§ MR. J. REDMOND
Perhaps I should explain. The quotation I made was from a report in The Freeman's Journal, from which it appeared that the hon. Member for East Mayo said he had upon every possible opportunity publicly demanded assurances from the Government upon the questions of the details of the Rome Rule Bill, the release of the prisoners, and the reinstatement of the evicted tenants, and that he had had agreements, understandings, and undertakings from the Government.
§ *MR. DILLON
With reference to that quotation, the whole context of my speech clearly indicated that the "agreements, understandings, and undertakings" had reference to the evicted tenants and certain points in the Home Rule Bill. I desire to add that neither I, nor, so far as I know, any Member of my Party, had any understanding with the Home Secretary as to the release of those prisoners, beyond the public statement made in this House by the Prime Minister, after hearing which the Party with whom I act and the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and his friends voted for the Ministry now in power.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not want to criticise the explanation of the hon. Member, and I have no doubt the understandings, agreements, and undertakings he spoke of were in reference to the evicted tenants and the Home Rule Bill, and that, so far as the present Government are concerned, no expectation or hope was held out to him with regard to the dynamitards. I am glad to hear that statement made clearly in this House, because certainly I have interpreted the whole tenour of the public speeches made in Ireland on this subject in a very different sense, and I believe the hon. Gentleman did intend the Irish people to suppose that in supporting this Government they were supporting what was declared to be one of the most cardinal elements of their Programme. I now understand that is not 985 the case, and I entirely and fully accept the disclaimer of the hon. Gentleman. I pass from that subject to the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield, who, if I understood him rightly, agreed with the substance but disagreed with the tone, not the manner—no one could disagree with the manner. He liked the substance, but he objected to the tone of the Home Secretary's speech. I find it utterly impossible to picture to myself the frame of mind of the hon. Member unless he belongs to that curious class of politicians who are perfectly ready to do and express anything so long as what they do is expressed in an amount of sentimental verbiage which always makes it impossible to say what really is the intention of the speaker. That is a school of oratory for which I have no admiration. It is not the school of oratory to which the Home Secretary belongs, and I think the House should be grateful to him for the fact that he did not leave a single loophole by which what, he expressed could he misinterpreted or misunderstood. The Home Secretary, in language of admirable force and lucidity, exposed the hollowness of the pretence by which a distinction is drawn between political and non-political crime. He showed us—personally, I may say, I did not require any convincing—that whatever the motive of these men might be, to describe their offence as political in the sense of affording any mitigation of their acts was a hollow pretence. But that view did not meet with the approval of the hon. Member for Sheffield. The hon. Member is of opinion that the dynamitards were misguided patriots, and as such deserved some special treatment at the hands of those responsible for advising the Crown in the exercise of the prerogative of mercy. I am glad that the Home Secretary has not given in to any absurd theories of that kind. He stated that he would never, as far as he was concerned, extend the prerogative of mercy to persons who desire to carry out political objects by intimidation. I could not help, when he used that phrase, casting my mind back—
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY,) Newcastle-upon-Tyne
It was not "intimidation!" but "terrorism."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will take it as "terrorism." I could not help casting my mind back to the Debates we had on Irish crime during the past five or six years, and I could not help wishing that the right hon. Gentleman had given his services to the cause with which he evidently in his heart sympathised, the cause of law and order in Ireland. If he could have spoken in the Debates on the Crimes Act and on the administration of Ireland as he spoke to-night, if he could have exposed with the same scathing eloquence, the futility of those arguments by which an endeavour was made to excuse persons in Ireland guilty of terrorism on the ground that they were politicians aiming at a political object we should have had an any whose value could not he over-stated. I confess I am glad that die right hon. Gentleman has even at this late hour delivered himself of such bold and clear utterances upon this question, and I congratulate his Party and the country upon having the services of a politician who knows his own mind, at all events, upon the questions with which as Home Secretary he has to deal.
§ *MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has passed an extraordinary eulogium generally on himself and on his Party for the firmness of their conduct and their determination.
§ *MR. T. M. HEALY
By inference, at all events, the right hon. Gentleman said that nothing would deter the under any circumstances, from insisting upon a thorough indication of the law. But, Sir, as I listened my mind went back to about seven years ago, to the occasion of the famous Maamtrasna Debate, when I was supporting a Government, as I am supporting a Government now, hut it was a Tory Government then. And why were we supporting the Tory Government then? The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has no doubt with some cleverness done the present Home Secretary die disservice of complimenting him. 987 But then, as now, the case of Ireland and Irish criminals was under discussion. A Government had been ejected from Office, and ejected from Office by the Irish votes. Alt, those Irish votes; they are appalling until you come to require them, and the Party in possession of them is always denounced with that kind of attack you deliver on criminals who are in the possession of your booty. What was the case in relation to these Maamtrasna murders? The Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin (Mr. T. Harrington) had gone down to the district where the murders occurred—the most terrible crimes ever committed in Ireland—where a whole family of six or eight human beings were "in one red burial blest." The Member for the Harbour Division, with great skill and acumen, laid his band on a most terrible blot in connection with the conviction of the prisoners. He brought the matter forward, and he was supported by the late Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke), by the then right hon. Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst), and by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). Well, the Tory Government came into Office, and on a certain Friday night—I well remember it—down came the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord who is now the Duke of Devonshire to make a thrilling attack upon the Government of the day, the Leader of which was the present right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol (Sir M. Hicks Beach), for their action in regard to the Irish criminals. And what was the tone of defence adopted by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, who was then Secretary for India? Was it the tone which we have just now heard from the Leader of the Opposition? Where was the nobility of Tory principle then? Why, Sir, if we had succeeded at that General Election in giving the Government a majority of one, every one of those alleged murderers, whose hands it was said reeked with the blood of human beings, would he walking free to-day through Connaught. I do not say for a moment that the Members of the Government came to a wrong conclusion when they say they are determined to keep the prisoners in gaol. But when I hear the 988 declaration of the Home Secretary, that prisoners are to be kept in gaol for ever, I remember that the "for ever" of a Ministry is never long. I heard Mr. Cross, and Mr. Bruce before him, refusing to release the Fenian prisoners, but as time wore away the memory of their crimes, most of these prisoners, as Mr. Parnell boasted, were released by the Tory Party. What did the noble Lord the Member for Paddington on the occasion the attack was made on the Tory Party for their action in relation to the Maamtrasna prisoners. He said—We will be foredoomed to failure if we go out of our way unnecessarily to assume one jot or title of responsibility for the acts of the late Administration. It is only by divesting ourselves of all responsibility for the action of the late Government, and by taking the free responsibility of our own action, that we can Dope to arrive at a successful issue in the task before us.What is the moral to be drawn from that? It is this? Do not let the Liberal. Party be fooled by the praises of the Leader of the Tory Party. I venture to say that if we could transfer to the Leader of the Opposition our 70 votes in the morning, and put him into Office again, John Daly would he liberated the day after to-morrow. But the right hon. Gentleman may say we did not release the Maamtrasna prisoners. No, Sir, because we were not able to deliver the goods. We east our votes at the General Election for the Tory Party, but it so happened in the chance of the day that the Tory Party with our votes, and the Liberal Party without them, were exactly level, so the Tory Party having failed on the sweet string of clemency to Ireland tried the harsher basso or coercion. When I hear these well-worn appeals to the cause of justice and law and order, and to all those flatulent considerations which we are tired of hearing in this House, knowing the Tory Party only too well, I say again, that if in the morning we could have any transaction with them, their considerations for law and order would not stop for five minutes their releasing John Daly. But, Sir, I have simply risen for the purpose of saying that I hope the Liberal Party will take a common-sense view of this matter. Praises front a Tory ex-Minister ought 989 to sound very strangely in the ear of a Minister of the Liberal Party. I would endeavour to deserve their hatred and dislike, and that ought to be the true view of the Liberal Party to take on this mid every other issue. I hope the Government, as a whole, will take to heart the view of the matter presented by my hon. Friend the Member for North Longford (Mr. Justin McCarthy) as to the distinction to be drawn hi this case between the sentences in the case of the Walsall prisoners and the sentences in the ease of the Irish prisoners. I think that is all important point, and that it should be pressed home again and again. Let me say, too, that I feel sure that Magistrates and Judges would be more merciful in regard to long sentences if they had any idea of the punishment involved. I do not believe that the Leader of the Opposition himself would in his heart be entirely unsympathetic if he really had any knowledge of what he had, through his Removables, condemned the Irish Members to—if he had any knowledge of what was implied by being locked within prison walls and subjected to the discipline of the ordinary convict prison. These persons were convicted at a moment of panic, at a time the Dynamite Act had been passed, and when some terrible explosions had occurred. But would anyone say that a man like John Daly, a man of passionate feelings, if guilty of the acts of which he was convicted, was more to be condemned than, say, the Prime Minister, who endeavoured to inflame large sections of this country into civil war; would any one say that a man in a hopeless and desperate frame of mind trying to redress the wrongs of his country, is as bad, from any point of view, as a man who, to serve political ends, had said that in the case of Parliament passing a particular measure, "Ulster would fight and Ulster would be right?" For my part, I think the action of Lord Salisbury on the W hole was, from a moral point of view, as essential as that of the man who laid the dynamite fuses winch led to those explosions. Daly, at any rate, was an unselfish enthusiast; he had not £5,000 a year to gain by change of Government. Hon. Gentlemen who make these tirades of law and order had all something to gain. Daly had nothing 990 to gain; and if he did what he was charged with, and if the other prisoners did what they were charged with, I say their motives were exactly the same motives which you have applauded in Frenchmen, in Germans, and in Italians. I think that a favourable moment has not been selected for bringing forward this Motion; but whether that be so or not, so far as our opinion goes, we think that the time has arrived when a merciful consideration should be given to the case of those men, and whether a Liberal Home Secretary or a Tory Home Secretary is in Office, it is absurd to tell us in this enlightened period of the 19th century that these men are to be kept in prison for the term of their natural lives.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON
I wish, Sir, to make an explanation. The hon. and learned Member who has just spoken has used some expressions, I think through an inadvertence, which I wish to set right. He spoke of the Maamtrasna prisoners as men whose hands were reeking with the blood of their victims. I am sure he used that expression through inadvertence. The strength of the case of the Maamtrasna prisoners was that there had been a failure of justice and that innocent men had been convicted. I would, therefore, be sorry that any remarks of the hon. and learned Member—made, I ant sure, inadvertently—should have the effect of prejudicing the future consideration of their case.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
said, he could not allow the Division to be taken without expressing his opinion of the action of the Government. He wished, first, to say that he did not wonder at the action the Government had taken. In fact, he would have been surprised had the Home Secretary delivered a different speech from the one he had delivered, considering that the right hon. Gentleman was backed up and supported by the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin McCarthy) and the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy), who had nothing but words of condemnation for the bringing forward of this Amendment. He did not deny that these hon. Members were within their right in criticising the action of other Nationalist Members from 991 Ireland in initiating this Debate, but he did deny that those hon. Members were entitled to encourage the Government to treat the Amendment as it had been treated, by declaring in the House, on behalf of the people they represented in Ireland, that this was not the time for a discussion on the question or amnesty. The blame would not be put on the shoulders of the Home Secretary; but when the friends of John Daly and the other imprisoned men in Ireland read the Debate, they would put the blame on the shoulders of those Irish Representatives who had encouraged the Government to treat the question of amnesty lightly it treating it lightly themselves, not only in Ireland, but in the House of Commons. He thought, while listening to the speech of the Home Secretary, that he was suffering from an optical delusion; that the Home Secretary he saw and heard was not a Liberal Home Secretary, but a Tory Home Secretary. He declared that the speech of the Home Secretary, both in tone and substance, reminded bier forcibly of the speech delivered by the Home Secretary of the late Government with this difference: that undoubtedly the late Home Secretary spoke with some feeling and sympathy; that he treated their demands with sonic degree of fairness and good nature, whereas from the Liberal Home Secretary they had received very scant courtesy indeed. The hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. J. McCarthy) had said he did not find fault with the substance of the Home Secretary's speech so much as with its tone. He was an humble Member of the House, and he belonged to a Party which was in it small minority in the House; but, unlike the Member for North Longford, he took the greatest possible exception not only to the tone, but to the substance of the speech of the, Home Secretary. What was the substance of that speech? It was that, under no circumstances whatever that could be conceived, or that could arise, would the right hon. Gentleman open the doors of the prisons to these men, and that they were to be treated harsher than even the commonest criminals were treated. The hon. Member for North Longford also complained that the time was not opportune for the discussion. He hail been a Member of the House for 992 10 years, and his experience was that if Irish Members had taken the advice so frequently tendered them about the inopportuneness of the time for introducing Irish questions to the notice of the House, Irish affairs would have been seldom under discussion, and Ireland would have got very little satisfaction. He had no doubt, that, Mr. Parnell, when he supported the amnesty movement of 20 years ago, was often told that he was inopportune, and that he should wait, for a more favourable time. But Mr. Parnell did not take that advice, and the result, was that an hon. Member who would take the Oath for one of the divisions of Cork on the following day was released from prison. As long as he (Mr. W. Redmond) was in the House he Would consider as an opportune time for the consideration of Irish grievances the first time and every time. It was indisputable that the overwhelming; mass of the Irish people regarded these men as political prisoners. They had been told by the hon. Member for North Longford that his Party had spoken on behalf of Ireland. No doubt they spoke on behalf of the great majority of the constituencies, hut he would invite any Member who thought that this amnesty question was not near the heart of the Irish people to visit any great centre in Ireland—Dublin, Limerick, or any other great centre—and he would be able to judge for himself. It could not be denied that in this matter the followers of Mr. Parnell spoke the true views of the Irish Nationalists. He said here, and he had said it before thousands of people in Ireland, that he had the greatest admiration for the motives which induced the action of John Daly and his fellow-prisoners. ["Hear, hear!"] He might be told that they committed the most, horrible crime; but crime begot crime, and he said that these men, horrible as their methods of action might lie, were the outcome of the system of government in Ireland. The whole meaning of the Home Rule movement was that the past government of Ireland Lind been based upon injustice and upon despotism, which they were going to remove. He maintained that, in considering the case of these men, they were bound to consider the circumstances of the country and the 993 nature of the Government under which they lived. He could not for the life of him understand the attitude of any Member of the House who was a believer in Home Rule in refusing to recognise that these men were the direct outcome or the evil system of Government which, by Home Rule, they were going to sweep away. He would like to call attention to the very serious state of affairs which would occur in Ireland if one of these men were to die in prison, which would be understood When they recollected the case of poor P. W. Nally, who died in prison within a very short time of the period for his release. The Irish people were shocked and filled with indignation when they heard the fate of that young man, and he asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland to get up and say what he thought would he his task of governing Ireland if to-morrow morning he had to return to Dublin with the news in the papers that John Daly was dead. He could not see what on earth they had to gain by continuing to punish those men. Surely the power, honour, and glory of England would not be enhanced by this policy of vindictive revenge, for it was nothing else. He believed the Irish people would not be satisfied with any settlement, the price of which was that these men were to wear out their lives for 20 years more in penal servitude. The word "amnesty" had never been used in Ireland except in immediate connection with the release of political prisoners. People came to the conclusion, when the Chief Secretary came into power, that he would release these prisoners, and there would undoubtedly he a feeling of dissatisfaction and disappointment at the decision in Ireland. Until the last moment he had hoped there might have been some basis of understanding on this matter between hon. Gentlemen opposite and themselves, and that the men might be released at some time, Init to-night even that hope had been destroyed. The best proof of the tone of the Home Secretary's speech was to be found in the fact that while two Liberal Members behind him got up to condemn the tone of the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Conservative Party opposite had nothing but smiles and praises for him. That was a tad sign, and he, for one, would rather 994 see the Liberal Home Secretary cheered by Liberal Members than rely for such encouragement as he had received from the late Chief Secretary for Ireland. He supported amnesty for two reasons: in the first place, he said that these prisoners ought to be released because they had suffered enough; and, in the next place, he said that whatever these men did the English drove them to it. It was shirking the question to admit Ireland had been badly governed, and at the same time to refuse to show any clemency or mercy to the men who had been driven into those deeds by the Government which they admitted to be bad. He wanted to know of the Home Secretary how it was that the Walsall dynamiters only received 10 years as the maximum punishment, when these men received penal servitude for life? He also Wanted to know from the Home Secretary whether it was not a fact that John Daly had been twice brought to the point of death by having been given poison for medicine in prison, and whether he ought not, therefore, to have Ids sentence cut short? Certainly sonic mitigation of punishment ought to he made to make up to Daly for the suffering which was imposed upon him by the carelessness of a prison official. So long as he Was in this House he would do all in his power to keep the eases of these men well before the Government; and if he could not get the Government to release them, it certainly would not be for want of energy on his part. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary might take it front him—and he hail always tried to do the right hon. Gentleman justice—that deep down in the hearts of the Irish people was the conviction that no settlement between Ireland and England could be, or ought to be, satisfactory or final to either country unless these men were released.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
said, the hon. Member who hail just sat down had remarked that he and the Irish people could not regard the gift of Home, Rule to Ireland as a completion of the, obligations of this country to Ireland unless at the same time these men were released. With that remark he was disposal to agree. The Irish Members, of 995 course, having sympathy with men in prison whom they regarded as political prisoners, were obliged to champion their acts in this House; but the present Government and the Liberal Party had an additional, and even a more serious duty before them, and they would be obliged to regard the struggle for Home Bide as the main question now. He agreed with the Member for North Longford that this was really an inopportune time for bringing this question before the House, and he wished to vindicate, if necessary, not only the substance of what the Home Secretary had said, but also his tone. As he understood it, the Home Secretary's duty was a judicial one, to inquire into the possible innocence or guilt of the prisoners. His right hon. Friend held one of the most important offices of the State, and he had assured then that he had given the closest personal attention to every individual case, and he had conic to the conclusion that there was no case in which there could be any doubt as to the criminality of these men from the judicial standpoint. As he understood it, the duty of the I Ionic Secretary ended there. The hon. and gallant Member for Galway had reminded them of what was done in America by the Northern States, when the amnesty was given for the crimes of the South. But that was done in a certain order. The supremacy of the American Federal Government had been re-established; and after that had been done then came, with propriety, the amnesty to Which the right hon. Member had referred. He believed this House, with the consent of the whole of the English, Scotch, and Welsh people, would in due time—and, he hoped, at no distant, time—be able to settle this question without inquiry into the criminality of these men, and as a question of amnesty purely. They would then be able to see an entire settlement, and the re-establishment of happy relations between Great Britain and Ireland. He Legged to assure every Irish Member in that House that he was longing for the time when, with the concurrence of the English people, as well as the Irish people, clemency could be shown; but at the present time there was imposed upon them a political necessity to proceed with the work before them.
MR. PHILIPPS (Lanark, Mid)
said, he did not want to give a vote that night without stating shortly his reasons for doing so. He, for one, was very sorry to hear the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and he thought ninny Members on his side of the House were sorry to hear it. The speech of the Home Secretary was applauded by hon. Members opposite, and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, because the right hon. Gentleman remembered the somewhat sympathetic speech which was made by the late Home Secretary, and which left it open to the Conservative Party to give an amnesty on a future occasion—possibly in one or two years hence. The right hon. Gentleman applauded the Home Secretary because the Home Secretary said he would never exercise his power of mercy for these offences. With regard to the means whereby the convictions were obtained, it certainly seemed to him that that was not an immaterial matter. It had been said that in every case the men were tainted with the crime of dynamite. He agreed that cruel crimes like these ought to be treated with the utmost severity, and the public should be protected not only against such outrages, but also against the terror which they caused. But these offences, terrible and cruel as they were, were none the less political offences, and he thought it was, to say the least of it, a mistake on the part of the Home Secretary to press the cases against these men as he had done. After all, punishment ought only to be preventive and not vindictive, and there had never been a single case, so far as he knew, in any country where any dynamite prisoner who had been let loose, had ever returned to the particular crime for which he had been sent to prison, and if these men should he amnestied they would he all known to the police and it would be almost impossible for them ever to offend again in a similar way. If the Government would only put this matter on the ground of mercy, and of mercy alone, he would admit that the men were guilty, and say that ten years penal servitude was quite enough punishment, and would order their release, 997 he thought their action would be universally approved.
§ DR. J. E. KENNY (Dublin, College Green)
said, so far as he was in a position to speak for his fellow-countrymen, and he certainly was in a position to speak for the citizens of Dublin, he thanked the hon. Member who had last sat down as well as the hon. Member for Leeds, for the sympathetic speeches they had made, and which went some distance, at all events, to neutralise the supercilious and callous address with which the Home Secretary had replied to the Member for Waterford. No one who had listened to that speech, and had followed the subsequent Debate, especially when he had heard the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, could have any doubt whatever where the Home Secretary found his inspiration. His speech was redolent with rancour towards those for whom he professed a skin-deep affection—namely, the Irish people, and he tendered all his sympathy to the Gentlemen who sat beneath him there for that speech, and he asked them to return to their constituents in Ireland with the answer they had received in that House. The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth), taking his key-note from the Member for North Longford (Mr. McCarthy), hitch referred to the inopportuneness of the time for raising this question. But there never was al tine when questions relating to Ireland were brought forward, no matter how burning or pressing they might be—that they were not met with the same cry. Let him say that he protested against the name "dynamitard" being attached to these prisoners. They were not dynamiters, nor were they tried as such. They were tried as Irish Nationalists fighting their country's cause, and no matter how fanatical, criminal or mistaken their course, the crime for which they were convicted was a political crime. None of these political offenders had died in prison, but that was no thanks to any section on either side of the House who had ever represented Her Majesty's Government. However, two of these men had died imme- 998 diately after their liberation, and it was clear that their death was the result of the treatment to which they had been subjected in prison. He (Dr. Kenny) had to inquire into the death of J. W. Nally, and although in the later years of his imprisonment there was no exception to be taken to Nally's treatment, he would say that had Nally been liberated, as he might have been, he would have been alive to-day. He was bound to say that whatever might have been wanting in the speech of the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. McCarthy) to give comfort to the Home Secretary must have been supplied by the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. He begged to tell the Member for Longford that a speech pleading the inopportuneness of the demand now made was not the tone or the method which characterised the man in whose place the hon. Member claimed to stand. It was not by listening to the cry of inopportuneness or methods of that kind that the late Mr. Parnell had brought the Irish Question so near its fulfilment. The Member for Longford delivered his speech with whispering humbleness, and he had told them that he found no fault with the tone or the substance of the Home Secretary's reply to the demand male on behalf of these prisoners. What was die substance of the reply? That, until 20 years had passed, no consideration would he given to the cases of those who had already spent nearly 10 years of their life in prison. Was that what the Member for Longford was satisfied with? He asked the hon. Member to return to North Longford and tell his constituents that this Was the substance of the reply with which he had expressed himself so satisfied the right hon. Member for West Birmingham early in the evening had spoken as if he had a brief for Mr. Farndale, and had made a, statement which was entirely misleading. The right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to discredit the case made for Daly, but his contribution to the Debate hail, in reality, gone to give greater probability to that case. They had got from the Home Secretary a non possumus as to the mitigation of the sentences or treatment of these unfortunate men. Now, no one who had read the Report of the Royal Commission, which sat to consider this 999 question of prison treatment, and especially Daly's statement, could help coming to a conclusion that a system of petty persecution, unworthy of any nation, had been carried on towards these men. Would the Home Secretary say that that system of mean and petty persecution which had led to the breakdown of Daly, nail must ultimately lead to his death, would be put an end to? As to the question of the non possumus of any Government, the Irish people had heard that over and over again, and Ministers far stronger than the Home Secretary, had had to withdraw from the non possumus. The tenure of the Treasury Bench was not permanent, and the time would come when the note of the right hon. Gentleman would change, and they should hear no more of the non possumus. It might be that that Debate would not result in the immediate release of these unhappy men, but he hoped, at any rate, that it would eventuate in something like humane treatment being extended to them. He appealed to the home Secretary to say that the mean and petty persecution he had referred to should no longer continue, but that immediate action should at once he taken to secure the better treatment of these political offenders.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
I have no intention of making a speech to the House. I simply wish to state how the Party to which I belong intend to vote. We intend to support Her Majesty's Government, and with regard to the speech of the Home Secretary, I think it has conclusively proved this: that he does not yet understand the Irish Question. In his estimation these dynamitards are not incarcerated as political offenders. Hon. Members from Ireland say they are political offenders. I entirely agree with them. Dynamite has always been part of the Nationalist policy, and, Sir, it is because the Nationalist policy and the dynamite policy absolutely coincide that the House will easily understand some of the objections; at any rate, that we have to Home Rule. We have learned to-night that When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian introduces his Home Rule Bill, he cannot, at any rate, say that that 1000 Home Rule Bill will have the effect of conciliating the Irish people. Home Rule plus dynamite would conciliate the Irish people; Home Rule with dynamitards left languishing in English gaols will not conciliate the Irish people, therefore the House will understand that we, at any rate, have hail some justification in opposing a policy which will place these dynamitards, if they were let loose from English prisons, probably in a very distinguished position in the first Home Rule Parliament.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 81; Noes 397.—(Division List, No. 5.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."— (Mr. O'Neill.)
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. V. HARCOURT, Derby):
I hope the hon. Gentleman will allow the Debate to be continued, so that we may, if possible, conclude the Address this week.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman who is at present leading the House appears to forget the ordinary reasons why the House suspends the Twelve o'Clock Rule. It has always been extremely inconvenient that an important Debate should be thrown over to another day when it is nearing conclusion, and when it is possible to obtain a Division, and in such circumstances in order that a Division might be obtained, it has been customary to suspend the Twelve o'Clock Rule. But I now gather front the right hon. Gentleman that he actually proposes at twenty minutes to 1 o'clock in the morning to continue this Debate. [Cries of "Walsall!" "Coercion!" "and"It's our turn now!"] Hon. Members below the Gangway seem to be influenced by so many conflicting reminiscences that it is difficult for me to pursue my argument; but I wish to say this: the right hon. Gentleman desires us to initiate a new Debate at twenty minutes to 1 o'clock. Is the Debate an unimportant one? I venture to say it is a most important 1001 one, as it involves the credit, the administrative credit, of one of the most important Members of the Government, and on which that right hon. Gentleman will be called upon to defend himself front attacks that have been made upon him. The hon. Member who has the next Amendment on the Paper is asked to begin his speech at a quarter to 1 o'clock, or, when it can only be imperfectly considered by the House, and when it cannot be adequately reported. Do the right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Benches not want it reported? We might conjecture that they consider it their duty to burke Debate, but I doubt whether the course they are pursuing will neither conduce to the rapid despatch of business in this House, or to the credit and honour of the Irish Administration. The Government do not appear to remember the course of the Debate. The Debate on the Address did not commence on the first day of the meeting of Parliament until after dinner, and there was accordingly only a short half-night Debate. On the day following, Wednesday, there was a half-day's Debate, the House adjourning the Debate at 3 o'clock to proceed with other business. On Thursday the Debate was pretty long. On Friday, a good portion of the evening was occupied with the discussion on Writs, and then an Amendment was moved by an hon. Member who is an ardent supporter of the Government. The discussion on that occupied the remainder of the sitting and also the first part of the Monday sitting. The rest of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were occupied by three Amendments, two of which were moved by Unionist Members, and one by a Labour Member, who is attached, I believe, to neither party. This evening has been devoted to an Amendment moved by the Member for Waterford, a supporter of the Government. In fact, the Opposition has had far less time than usual in which to discuss matters in which they are interested, and they have made, having all regard to their numbers, a smaller number of speeches that I ever recollect being made by an Opposition at the beginning of a Session of such critical importance. If the number of minutes occupied by Members on this side of the House were added together the total 1002 would be found to be very insignificant. The Irish Members have taken up all the time—the Irish Members who were supporters of the Government and wished to keep them in office. Beyond a short speech from myself, and short statements from two other Members, I do not believe that any other Unionist Members have taken part to-night. Yet we were actually told at question time by the Prime Minister—and I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman is not present to deal with this matter himself—we were told that we were to squeeze into one more normal Sitting, and one more abnormal Sitting, questions of the greatest magnitude and interest. In the first place, Sir, there is the question of the Gweedore prisoners, upon which more has yet to be said by Gentlemen opposite. Then there is the Debate on the Meath election, which it will be admitted excites the deepest interest in the House and in the country. In the third place—besides many minor questions to which I make no reference—there is the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet, which was put on the Paper very early in our proceedings, and which, I presume, the Government would propose to take up about half-past 8 on Saturday evening. Now I wish to say that this kind of treatment is nothing short of tyrannical. In 1886 the Debate on the Address was debated for 12 nights, in 1887 for seven nights, in 1888 for 11, in 1889 for 10, in 1890 for seven, and in 1891, owing to the division in the Irish Party, only one night was occupied, and that had been something in the nature of a rule since then. But I am not suggesting we should spend so much time as in former years. I agree with the Prime Minister that interminable debates on unimportant questions ought not to be allowed to oppose the progress of useful legislation or the regular business of the Session; but it cannot be said there has been undue delay up to the present time. None of the discussion has been continued at undue length, and those who are opposed to the Government have certainly done nothing to prevent the progress of work. It cannot be said that the questions discussed have been unimportant or that the opponents of the Government discussed them at any length which might show 1003 they were inclined to postpone public business. I venture now to press upon the Government—upon the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible for the business of the House—the extreme inexpediency of commencing the Session by compelling the Opposition to feel that they are being tyrannically used by the majority in the House, and that by those who have the control and guidance of Parliamentary business the most moderate amount of discussion on important questions is going to be refused.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
, sincerely hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be firm in his attitude on this question of adjournment. He (Mr. O'Connor) never remembered an Opposition carrying on obstruction—his knowledge of the art was not so complete as that of the Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) who was formerly the Leader of the Fourth Party—so persistently and unskilfully as during the last fortnight. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division proposed a Motion complaining of the postponement of it measure which he at the same time was doing his best to still further postpone, and now they were to have the question raised of the Gweedore prisoners. Gentlemen actually got up amid complained of measures which were dealt with in the Queen's Speech, and they were to have this discussion on the Gweedore cases! Why, they had heard of scarcely anything else but these prisoners. They had formed the staple of speech after speech of Opposition Members, and it was now seriously suggested to them that they should discuss the whole question over again for the benefit of the Chief Secretary for Ireland and for the benefit of the country! The Chief Secretary was scarcely troubled on that score, and as for the country, well the question had been discussed there. The Member for West Birmingham was in the country the other day and so was he (Mr. O'Connor). He hoped the right hon. Gentleman was as well satisfied with the result of his visit to Walsall as he (Mr. O'Connor) was with his.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
apologised if he had violated order, but he wished to say that the speeches at the Walsall election, decided that day by a Liberal victory, were mainly devoted to the Gweedore prisoners. What the Government had to deal with was a determined and publicly avowed determination to tight, not by fair argument, but by unscrupulous obstruction, the proposals which the Government had been elected to give effect to. The country would be in a position to judge of the sincerity of the complaint that the Home Rule Bill was not placed before the House when it was seen that every means were adopted to postpone the moment when the Government could place its details before them.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL [Cries of "Divide!" and prolonged interruption]
said, that to any one who had sat in the last Parliament things must appear rather topsy-turvy. Here they had hon. Members who were stout opponents of legislation after 12 o'clock at night absolutely at 1 o'clock in the morning panting to go on with business. He just wished to say this—the Amendment which came next dealt with the liberation of four men by the Chief Secretary—[Cries of "Order!"] He wits not going to dismiss the Amendment, and he would beg new Members to have a little patience. It was absurd to propose to go on with an Amendment which proposed to arraign the conduct of the Chief Secretary for letting loose four men implicated in the murder of Inspector Martin. [Cries of "Divide!" and interruption.] The Government either wanted this question fairly discussed, or they wanted to burke it. If they wanted it fairly discussed— [Interruption, and cries of "Go on with it."] All the Irish Members did not sit on the other side of the House. He and his friends bad a right to challenge the action of the Chief Secretary, and they had a right to do so at a time when a full discussion could take place, and when the country could know what was being done in the House. It would be an unprecedented thing to enter upon a Motion arraigning one of the principal Ministers of the Crown at 1 o'clock in the 1005 morning, and he had been long enough in the House to know that a struggle commencing at such an hour could only have one result. [Cries of "Divide!"] For his own part, he should resist going on with the Amendment.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
would point out that the hon. Member for Mid Antrim was not bound to bring forward this arraignment. That hon. Member never opened Ids mouth in the House. Was it from this hon. Member that this terrible arraignment was to proceed, on what was another of that list of bonnets of whom they had heard? There ought to be some end to this millinery department. As he understood it, the hon. Member for North Tyrone said the House Was reluctant to hear an arraignment of the Chief Secretary. Nothing of the kind; but surely the House did not want to hear an arraignment made by one of the prosecuting counsel in the Gweedore case. They would be quite willing to hear any independent Member arraign the Chief Secretary. At any rate, if the hon. and learned Member wished to rise, this was an excellent hour for him to make the speech for which he had accepted his retainer from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. The sooner they got rid of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Londonderry the better, therefore he should oppose the Motion for Adjournment.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
He was sorry that the Government had not seen fit to make a more favourable response to the Motion. They ought to recognise that the Irish Members who were strongly opposed to the policy of the Government had a right to make this demand. They ought to recollect that it was not being made at a period when there had been a prolonged Debate. No one could say that the Debate on the Address had this year been prolonged to an undue extent, or that it was in any way of the nature of obstruction. The Debate decidedly had not been added to by any Member of the Party in Ireland to whom the hon. Member for Londonderry belonged. To-night they had had a Debate on a subject of the greatest possible interest to Ireland, and not a 1006 single Unionist Member for Ireland had taken part in it. He was bound to say be thought it would be an act of great discourtesy on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the House, and of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, if they did not give those who were deeply interested in the question of the Executive Government in Ireland an opportunity for discussing it. It was not until after there had been a full Debate on Amendments brought forward by hon. Members supporting the Government that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had said that it was necessary to shorten the Debates upon the Address. The right hon. Gentleman could force hon. Members to continue the Debate, but if he did so he would be violating all the traditions of the House. Neither the right hon. Gentleman nor anyone of his colleagues would be able to cite a single precedent for the course they were taking. He defied them to produce a precedent during the lost Parliament or the Parliament preceding it. They could not argue that this was a proper hour to commence an important Debate, and he would only soy this—that they were not taking a judicious step by rejecting the Motion for Adjournment. They would be much more likely to facilitate the course of business during the rest of the Session by making a reasonable concession. There was no desire to delay the discussion on the Bill dealing with the Government of Ireland. He hoped the Government would reconsider their decision.
Mr. T. D. BOLTON (Derbyshire, Mid)
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question he now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, as it appeared that the House was prepared to come to a decision on the Question.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 183; Noes 263.—(Division List, No. 6).
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ MR. DARLING (Deptford)
moved that the House do now adjourn. He said he was moved, to some extent, to make this proposal out of respect and solicitude for the Prime Minister himself. He felt certain that when tile right hon. 1007 Gentleman moved the suspension of the Twelve o'Clock Rule that he could have had no kind of idea that the discussion with which the Sitting was begun would have continued after 12 o'clock. He could not for a moment have thought it possible that a Debate on so important a question as the release of the Gweedore prisoners would be left entirely to his colleagues unassisted by the right lion. Gentleman himself. The difficulties in which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had landed the House resulted from the unfortunate arrangement now prevailing in the Government by which it was ordained that a greater light should rule the day, and a lesser light should rule the night—or attempt to rule the night—for, indeed, of his ruling, the House had yet had very little experience. The present discussion would never have occurred if the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had been in his place. That right hon. Gentleman would have seen at once the advisability of not exposing his Government to the suspicion which must naturally attach to the commencement of a Debate on so important a question, at such an hour that it was morally certain that a great part of the discussion would never reach those for whose benefit it was chiefly intended. The lion. Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) said, the Debate must go on in the middle of the night, because it did not matter when a speech is delivered by an hon. and learned Member (Mr. Ross), who was formerly paid by the present Opposition to make that speech. Might he suggest that the House could quite as well bear not to hear the speech which the hon. and learned Member for North Louth, who was paid for the defence in the same case, would probably deliver as it could bear not to hear the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross)?
§ DR. MACGREGOR (Inverness-shire)
I rise to order, Sir. I wish to enter a respectful, but a firm protest. I consider this a waste of public time. I, like many other Members, have been sent here to do honest work, and I find that the public time is being literally wasted.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I must point out to the hon. Gentleman, who I think is a new Member, that that is not a point of Order. I think, however, the point he 1008 has raised is one which will commend itself to the sense of the House. I hope the House will not keep up au unseemly dispute.
§ MR. DARLING
said that before resuming the discussion he hoped he might be allowed to congratulate the hon. Member who had just interrupted him upon his maiden speech.
§ MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, I beg respectfully to ask you whether the hon. and learned Member, having moved the adjournment of the Main Question a few nights ago, is not now disqualified for taking part in the discussion?
§ MR. DARLING
It becomes very difficult to continue one's arguments the midst of such curious points of Order.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member having, I find, moved the adjournment the other night, is disqualified from again doing it.
§ MR. W. AMBROSE (Middlesex, Harrow)
protested against the further continuance of the discussion, but said that in order that he might not be charged with obstruction he would resume his seat without making any extended remarks. He begged to move "That the. House do now adjourn."
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the House do now adjourn."— "(Mr. W Ambrose.)
§ *SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
said, he did not agree with the hon. Member for Antrim (Mr. Macartney), that if the Government chose to continue the Debate they could carry their point. On the contrary, when there was so large a minority in favour of adjournment it would be perfectly impossible at that hour of the morning to compel the Unionists to prolong the Debate. Under these circumstances, he appealed to the Government to bring the proceedings to a close. He was not at all surprised that they were anxious to continue the Debate, or that they haul insisted on going to a Division, but he asked whether it was not really impossible to press the point further? He hoped the House would take the hint which Mr. Speaker had just now thrown out, as he was sure it would conduce to 1009 the dignity of the House, and to the speedy discharge of Business if they did so.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
I can assure my right hon. Friend who has just sat down that I think there is no man in this House whose advice commands more weight thou his. I wish the House to understand, however, exactly the motives and reasons which have induced the Government to follow the course they have pursued. Both the majority of this House and the majority of this country wish to have before them on Monday next the Home Rule Bill. I believe there is almost a universal feeling on the subject. We do not desire to act in any tyrannical way, but we think it our duty to employ all the resources at our disposal to prevent gentlemen whose object is clearly to prevent the introduction of that Bill, front succeeding in their endeavours. Now, what is the reason alleged? It is that there is a desire to discuss the question of the Gweedore prisoners. But that matter has been discussed over and over again; my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant has made all the defence which he thinks it necessary to make; we are satisfied with that defence. The late Attorney General for Ireland—
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I beg the hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon. The late Solicitor General for Ireland, in a speech of recognised ability, stated the case for the Opposition, and the Leader of the Opposition declared that the speech was conclusive. But if it was conclusive, what more do they want? Why should the prosecuting counsel come down here and use his information for political purposes? We have said all we think it necessary to say, and we assert that there is no pretext Whatever for the Motion for Adjournment; we think that the lion. Members from Ulster simply want it in order to stave off the introduction of the Home little Bill. It is quite trite, as my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London said, that a considerable minority may defeat the Business of the House. They have done so before in my recollection.
§ SIR J. LUBBOCK
I did not say that, Mr. Speaker. I said that at this 1010 late hour of the night it was impossible to proceed with the Business.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I understand my right hon. Friend to mean that a determined majority at this time of the evening—[Cries of "Morning.!"]—may defeat the Business of the House. Of course it is morning, because when we passed the Resolution suspending the Twelve o'Clock Rule we intended to sit into the morning. It is quite trite a considerable minority may prevent us getting on with business, but what we have to do is to place before the country the conduct of that minority, and to show what its objects are. I think we must try a little longer.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I did not intend again to intervene in this Debate, but really the right hon. Gentleman opposite who, in his Lest opposition form, had attempted to calm the excited feelings of the House, has endeavoured to create Party capital out of a very small amount of substance. Observe that he does not controvert any one of my statements; he does not deny that the Debate has not been a long one he does not deny that die greater number of speeches have been made by Members of the Government; he does not deny that very important Amendments remain to be discussed. His solitary argument is that for sonic unknown reason the minority in this House desire to prevent the introduction of the Home Rule Bill. If I said we desired nothing more than that the Home Rule Bill should be produced, I suppose the assertion would be met with incredulity. What is die difference between us? It is the difference between the 13th and the 16th of this month; that is all, and I do think it would have been well for t he Government to accept the proposal that the Debate should go on till Monday night, on the understanding that every Amendment should be disposed of by midnight. I think that then the dignity of out Business would have been secured. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will see that be has done enough to embitter Party feeling, especially as I gather from his words that after another Division or two he will he prepared to give way.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
The Chancellor of the Exchequer directed his eyes especially towards these Benches when he accused the Opposition of a desire to prevent or delay the introduction of the Home Rule Bill. But let me remind him that we desire on this occasion to bring great Constitutional questions before the House, and I hope he will see the uselessness of our walking through the Lobbies for an hour or two. His own experience in olden times must have shown hint that it always terminates in the Government giving way.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:— Ayes 175; Noes 256.—(Division List, No. 7.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, hon. Members who, like himself, had sat for many years in the House, would agree that no effective Debate could be conducted at such a late hour of the night. On the other hand, the Debate would not occupy a very long period tomorrow, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that the Government Lad said all that they had got to say on the subject. For those reasons he begged to move the adjournment of the Debate.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Tomlinson.)
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
I do not think it is any use in trying to get on with Business. Our object in resisiting these Motions for Adjournment is to push the business of the House and country forward. The Prime Minister has expressed his wish that he should have the opportunity—and I hope he will still have the opportunity—of introducing the Home Rule Bill on Monday. The Leader of the Opposition said that he was ready to postpone the Home Rule Bill till Thursday. I think that is a most unjustifiable statement.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That is not what I said. I said we might very reasonably have Monday to discuss the Address, though the effect of that might be to postpone the Home Rule Bill till Thursday.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
All I can say is that we cannot countenance any attempt to postpone for another week the 1012 introduction of the Home Rule Bill. I have never used the phrase before; but if any attempt is made by the right hon. Gentleman or his supporters to obstruct the Business of the House by postponing the Home Rule Bill till the Thursday or next week, that, in my opinion, is a course we ought to take every possible means at the disposal of the House to resist. The two hours which gentlemen opposite have consumed in fighting this question of Adjournment might have been, and ought to have been, devoted to the commencement at least of the Debate on the Gweedore prisoners. But the time has been wasted, and that is exactly what was intended. When we asked for the suspension of the Twelve o'Clock Rule, our intention was that the Debate should be adjourned about 2 o'clock. If that had been done great advantages would have resulted. The right hon. Gentleman has said that in late years never has so short a time been given to the Debate on the Address. I am informed by one who has looked into the matter that since the year 1890, when the short form of Address in reply to the Throne was adopted, so many days have not been occupied as have been occupied on the present occasion. I have made these observations to show the reason why I have resisted the Motions for Adjournment; they were only resisted by us in accordance with the previous history and practice of this House. For my putt, I shall not be disposed to continue that contest, for it is quite plain we may go on dividing all night. [Cries of "Go on!"] I quite understand the spirit which animates gentlemen in their desire to go on, but we must have some regard to what would be the ultimate result. As my right hon. Friend has said, we have done enough to assert the view we entertain, and enough to place the question properly before the country.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.