§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
moved the following Amendment:—Humbly to represent to Your Majesty that this House has learnt with great regret that a vast amount of clerical influence was exercised so as to intimidate voters during the late elections, and that in the opinion of this House measures should be taken to prevent any repetition of the exercise of such intimidations.He said the proposal would probably be supported by the opinion of most of the Menders of the House, although he was not so clear that it would carry their votes. That a vast amount of clerical influence was exercised during the late elections in Meath was a matter about which there could be no dispute whatever. Indeed, it was a matter of record, certified by the Reports of the Election Petition Judges. In the case of the South Meath Petition, the Judges said that voters were intimidated, that. Mr. Fullam was guilty, by his agents, of the corrupt practice of undue influence, and that the corrupt practice of undue influence by spiritual intimidation had extensively prevailed at the election. Thus, of the South Meath election, two noteworthy facts were oil record: One was that there was widespread intimidation, and the other that it succeeded in its object of preventing Her Majesty's subjects from carrying out their civil duties. He did not think it was an extravagant thing to ask that Parliament should take reasonable steps by which the recurrence of such intimidation aught be prevented in the future. This was the whole substance and essence of his Amendment, and he should like to see any Member rising in his place and saying that he was prepared to object to any one the propositions it contained. Before he went to the actual matter of the charge he had to submit to the House, he wished to say a word or two by way of preface. It had been said of the Amendments placed on the Paper—six of them having been given notice of by Members of the Government Party, and five by Members of the Opposition—that they were intended merely to postpone an opportunity which everybody desired to secure. His particular Amendment, however, stood on a different footing from the rest, and might be regarded as a plea, in bar of any Motion which might be brought on by the Prime Minister on 1089 Monday. The Home Secretary had said that the verdict of the country had been given, and it was impossible to go behind it. He thought, however, the right hon. Gentleman would admit that there was a case in which one could go beyond the verdict, and that was a case in which it could be proved that the verdict had been obtained by fraud. His contention was that the verdict obtained in a large number of elections had been secured by fraud. He desired to make no attack either upon individuals or, beyond what was actually necessary for the purposes or his case, upon the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. If the language and action of the priests at the Meath election had been marked by decency, good order, and obedience to the law, instead of by the opposite of these things, he should still have been prepared to propound his Amendment. Had the Church which was responsible been any other Church or body, he should still say that any Church which exercised, or attempted to exercise, a right to interfere with the privileges of British subjects ought to receive precisely the same condemnation as he asked the House to mete out to those who had acted in the name of the Roman Catholic Church in Meath. He did not fail to recognise the right of ministers of religion to counsel and advise in all mailers of morals, nor did he suggest that the dominion of politics was onside the sphere in which ministers of religion were entitled to exercise a just and reasonable influence. There had often been cases where the line of division between what was reasonable and right and what was unreasonable and wrong in the conduct of a minister was hard to draw, there was, however, no such difficulty in this case. Here they were dealing with a question of State policy, with a matter which concerned the primary rights of the citizen, with a conspiracy against rights which had been fought for year after year and century after century, and maintained by means of efforts in which that House had taken a very prominent and distinguished part. He could not take the view which had been suggested by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon)—namely, that they were bound to speak with bated breath of any man, whether priest or layman. He had been taught that noblesse oblige might be 1090 held to apply to the priest, and that greater strictness of behaviour might be required of him than of others, but he could not admit that men must refrain from commenting upon the conduct of a person because that person happened to wear a cassock.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said, he was referring to the remarks of the hon. Member when he interrupted the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh.
§ MR. DILLON
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but that interruption was made in the interests of decency, and would have been made whether the epithet was applied to a priest or any other person.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
was only too glad to accept the explanation of the hon. Member, and he trusted if the hon. Member held that view that it would be shared by every hon. Member who acted with him. But he would point out they were dealing in Ireland with realities; and when it was found that the very Judges who tried the Election Petition spoke of the imputation of "almost nameless offences," and the compositors of the Independent were absolutely ashamed to print the language that was uttered—they would understand the kind of language that was used. It was sometimes very difficult to draw the line as to the legitimate exercise of the right of a minister of religion to interfere; but in this case no difficulty arose. Here they were face to face with the fact that a cause was promoted by cruelty, violence, insolence, insults to women, assaults on men, intimidation of witnesses, and threats of spiritual penalties, for exercising legal rights. When that was the ease, he said, they were discharged from these nice inquiries whether the line had been overstepped or not. The action of the clergy in the past had been opposed not only to decency, but to the law of the land. This was a question on which judgment had already been given; the whole history of the country was proof of his assertion. The country had already decided that no sect or creed or 1091 denomination should exercise any right to over-ride the law of the land. He was prepared to believe that hon. Gentlemen were acting conscientiously in many of the things which they said and did, but if so, all he could say was that the action they had thought fit to take was incompatible with the existence of a law-abiding state in the 19th century. He would not weary the House by going too much into detail of this great controversy, though he thought details were of vital importance, and he should do his best to see that every man, woman, aye, and every child who could understand the difference between right and wrong should be masters of the details of this case. But in the present case he wanted to confine himself to specific instances in order to show that he was not overstating the case. The contests at these elections were characterised by a brutality of speech and action that was happily rare even in the South of Ireland. They had been characterised by insults and assaults on men and women; by deliberate interference with the cause of justice; by intimidation of witnesses; by threats or spiritual penalties; and, what was more serious, these things had been undertaken and promoted, not as the action individuals, but as the outcome of a system that had been inaugurated, encouraged, and sanctioned by authority. He could cite many examples, but it was necessary to read as he had the full history of these trials to realise the infamy of the proceedings which marked them and their sickening character. He had spoken of brutality of speech and brutality of action. He found that an old man of 75 was attacked by a priest, called "an old reprobate, an old devil," and then thrown down in the street and injured. A gentleman who had given no provocation, except that of attending a meeting and voting for the man of his choice, was spoken of as "a blackguard," and "a marked man." He knew what it was to be a marked man in Ireland; he had seen many of them; and he trusted they were not far from the time when such a, penalty would cease to be attached to any person in Ireland. He would content himself by summing up these cases in the words of the learned Judge who tried the Petition. The learned Judge said— 1092The evidence disclosed a considerable number of eases in which clergymen allowed loss of temper to betray them into deplorable acts of personal violence, which in some cases were known to have been committed against women.But it would be said that these brutal actions and brutal words might well characterise any election in Ireland where feeling ran high, and he did not wish to overrate their importance. But he now came to a matter or more importance, the deliberate intimidation of witnesses and deliberate interference with the course of justice. This intimidation was put in practice by the Press, the counsel, the priests, and the Bishops. Here was a paragraph which appeared in the West-meath Nationalist or December 15th, between the two Petitions—Mr. Fullam has been unseated, and with costs, and disqualified for sitting for the constituency. It is a cruel, nasty blow. Brit it is not one whose consequences will promote the interest of the priest-hunting factionists. On the contrary, their conduct in this trial has amazed and shocked Catholic Ireland. It has filled the country with horror that such wretches should nestle in her bosom.["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen said "hear, hear!" but the offence committed was voting according to their consciences.It has made it absolutely certain that in no owner of Ireland will a factionist win a seat in Ireland again. The point that should not escape notice is the character of the witnesses who figured against the priests. The testimony was really engineered by a couple of families with their dependents, the Saurins, the loathsome Carews. The Robinsons and the butcher Collins were the moving spirits. Their underlings composed the procession of witnesses, and if men were to be hanged for their faces, a more hang-dog lot never went into Court. The loathsome witness McKenna, and his Parnellite brother, the ragman, came from a stock that could rival King Solomon in his patriarchal habits.That was brought to the notice of the learned Judge, who said—I do not use language disproportionate to the occasion when I say that this language is language of scandalous vituperation. The public action of witnesses was assailed, the sanctuary of private life was invaded, and there was this ignoble reference even to their personal appearance. Is not that calculated, with reference to the Petition which is coming on, to deter witnesses from coming forward"?It was intended to deter witnesses. Witnesses were intimidated by counsel. The senior counsel spoke of witnesses as "reprobates," as "degraded," and he spoke of their "trumped-up stories," and 1093 he said, "I will not call the Bishop to contradict them," and he did not. The impression conveyed was that the witnesses were too reprobate and worthless, and that was why he would not call the Bishop to contradict them; but through his not calling the Bishop the evidence remained unchallenged at the present moment. That there was intimidation by the priests was proved in every page of the report. In regard to the proceedings of the Petition, the Rev. Father Fay, speaking at Coole, said—Parnellite witnesses are imbued with the devil; possessed by the devil of impurity—this is pure Parnellism. Report every word of this accurately in your Independent. Don't leave out a single word, for I'll he there, and I'll prove that every witness that will come up is a black dyed scamp. I never intimidated you. I never said I would kill you or break your neck, or said you would go to hell. You may go there it you like. We will resume this in Trim. The priest is the ambassador of Jesus Christ, and not like other ambassadors—they carried their Lord and Master with them, and when a priest was with the people, the Almighty God was with them.That was gross profanity, and he would not weary the House with any more of it. When he found that a class of Her Majesty's subjects, for no other reason than that they voted according to their consciences, were described, the men as adulterers, and their wives as prostitutes, he thought his case had been made out. But there was also the constant threatening of spiritual penalties, the threat of withholding the Sacrament. The Confessional, or at all events the threshhold of the Confessional, was used, as an attorney's clerk might use the tap-room of a public-house, to get voters to disclose for whom it was their intention to vote. He was not speaking without book in this matter, which was a most serious matter, because he had the statement or the learned Judge, Mr. Justice O'Brien, on this incident, winch was—The statement made was that several clergymen, the names of whom are mentioned, had canvassed voters in the Confessional, and there is no person at all—there is no Catholic—who cannot understand the tremendous importance of evidence of that kind… In all the instances but one, undoubtedly the communication was after the confession was over; but there was one incident—a tremendous and unexampled incident—in which this interference with the franchise—entirely innocent, I believe, and from the purest reasons and motives, according to the 1094 evidence—was allowed to intrude into the mysterious sanctity of the Divine Commission itself, and in which the absolution of the penitent was postponed.Those were not his words, but the words or the learned Judge, when he delivered his Charge. If the priests were active the Bishops were more active still. In a sermon at Bishop Nulty said—Parnellism is nothing better than a heresy. I would approach the deathbed of a drunkard or a profligate with greater confidence as to his salvation than to a Parnellite.That meant that the power of the priest was held in terrorem over the men and women of the country, a thing that was absolutely intolerable. Bishop Nulty also said he would—stand to plead against Parnelites at the bar of eternal justice. The dying Parnellite him-self will hardly dare to face the justice of his Creator till he has been prepared and anointed by us for the last awful struggle, or for the terrible judgment that will immediately follow it.These were not isolated instances, but part of a deliberate system that was being inculcated in Ireland, and which would continue to be inculcated. The Bishops claim that they, much they alone, had the right to decide what were morals, and in pursuance of that claim they found Bishop Nulty saying—I myself, and every Bishop now living, received directly and immediately from our Lord Himself the same commission and the same command, and in the very same words as the Apostles themselves. Invincible ignorance may undoubtedly excuse many of the misguided, but well-intentioned men, who still cling to Parnellism, but no intelligent, or well informed man can continue and remain a Catholic as long as he elects to cling to Parnellism.This was not the opinion only of the priests or Bishops, but the opinion of the learned counsel for the respondent. The hon. and learned Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) said—If within the moral order a church be competent to decide upon Morals it is competent to decide what morals are as far as the individuals owning the Faith are concerned, be it Protestant, Catholic, or Mahomedan—there is no other way or scheme by which either civil or moral law, or any other law, can be followed.He submitted that when the views of the priests came into conflict with the law of the land, as decided by this House and Parliament, there could be no option as to which of the two must give way. The doctrine set forth by the hon. and 1095 learned Member for North Louth was not one that ought to find favour in this House. He agreed with the learned Judge, who said it was a great danger to the State. The learned Judge said—The Church became a vast political agency' a great moral machine moving with resistlesss influence, united action, and a single will. Every priest who was examined was a canvasser; the canvass was everywhere. At the altar, in the vestry, on the roads, in the home, there was no place left for evasion affected ignorance, weakness or treachery.He would ask hon. Members whether they approved of this system, whether they desired that it should continue—whether they claimed the title of Radical or Liberal—were they content the system should continue in a part of the United Kingdom in which he took a deep and a keen interest? He would remind the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. E. Redmond) that this took place in not one constituency alone, but there was not a constituency south of the Boyne in which the election could not have been set aside on the ground of corruption and gross intimidation. He would remind the hon. Gentleman of the correspondence that took place between him and Canon Mahony.
§ MR. J. E. REDMOND (Waterford)
It was not between me and the Canon, but between my brother and the Canon, in whose constituency he was a candidate at the time.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
accepted the correction. But this was the sort opinion given by Canon Mahony in regard to the hon. Member for East Clare (Mr. W. Redmond) at a meeting held in Cork. Canon Mahony said—In the first place, we must hold responsible for this crime the men who signed John Redmond's nomination papers last November; all who canvassed and all who voted. Still greater is the responsibility of men who, with the knowledge of what Parnellism had done, deliberately again resolved that they would publicly affix their names to the nomination papers, canvass for them, and vote.Canon Mahony, on another occasion, at a meeting in Cork, said—I wonder if there is anyone in this City who thinks that it is going too far to say it is a crime, a sin—a mortal sin of the deepest dye—to vote for them, or support them in any way. I am sure if you were to be so misguided as to vote for those, or even to fail in doing your utmost against them, you would look back on your action or omission with sentiments of the deepest remorse hereafter.1096 But he would point out that grave and serious as those statements were in the past, it was the action in the future he feared. Father Fay, who had been punished for utterances of his, upon another occasion said—They were met there that day in the open air. They were not in the dock at Court House in Trim; but he thought that the Judges were on their trial before them.That was the spirit in which the contest was conducted. Here was a statement which he did not know that he might regard as authoritative, but it was made by an organ that represented one section of hon. Members opposite—the Irish Catholic. This organ said—Mr. Justice O'Brien's decision may have been as creditable to thin as a lawyer as it was, in the tone and matter of many of its passages, discreditable to him as a Catholic; but we have no hesitation in saying that if those at whose demand it was pronounced fancy that it will act as any deterrent to Irish priests from discharging their duties as electors and as citizens, as well as the friends and advisers of their people, they forget the courage, the constancy, and the patriotism of the unconquerable and devoted clergy of Ireland.He now came to that part of his Amendment which dealt with the methods that should Readopted in order that these efforts to interfere with the liberty of the subject should be restrained in the future. The House might bet asked to follow the precedent that was laid down in the Mayo Election Petition in 1857. Lord Palmerston assented to a Motion for the prosecution of two priests who had acted during the Mayo election in a similar manner to the priests of Louth, and suspended the issue of the Writ pending the prosecution. As Lord Palmerston said on that occasion, that step was taken with the object of protecting the electors of the constituency from the intimidation they would otherwise suffer. But they did not suggest that that course should be taken in the present case. They did not desire to put into action any law which depended on the initiative of the present Chief Secretary for Ireland. The Home Secretary had said the other day that the Chief Secretary was more trusted by the Irish people than any other man in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman must have meant that the Chief Secretary was trusted by the Separatist Party, and if that were a compliment it was not a very poor one. But if the 1097 Home Secretary meant when he alluded to the Irish people to include the loyalist section he was very much misinformed. The Chief Secretary was trusted by no man or woman amongst the loyalist community in Ireland, from the Giant's Causeway to Cape Clear, and they did not want to put the initiation of any legislation or any Executive act into the hands of the right hon. Gentleman. The loyalists had reasons in plenty why they should be suspicious of the Chief Secretary. The hon. Gentleman had within the past few days exercised a dispensing power in the matter of the execution of the Writs, and had got a rebuff in the Courts of Law such as no Minister of the Crown had ever received before in the memory of the House. The loyalists also noticed that the right hon. Gentleman was engaged in a process, which he must have borrowed from the worst period of the French Revolution, and which the revolutionists would have termed the "Purification" of the Public Offices of Ireland. And why was the right hon. Gentleman doing this? The right hon. Gentleman was not ashamed to declare that he was deliberately excluding from the functions they had performed for years men, not on the ground of incapacity, but because he desired to replace them for men whose creed was not their creed, and whose polities were not their polities.
§ MR. DIAMOND (Monaghan, N.)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Are the hon. Member's remarks relevant to his Amendment?
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said he would bow to the ruling of the Chair. What were the steps that might be taken with advantage in order to prevent the recurrence of the evils of which he complained? If there was one thing which more than another was offensive at the Meath elections it was the presence in the polling booths of the Borneo Catholic priests. He found that in nine stations alone there had been 22 priests acting as personating agents, and he found that of eight counting agents seven were priests. He would say as to the conduct of those priests in the polling booths that "misconduct" only inadequately 1098 described it. He, therefore, suggested that the plethora of priests in the polling stations should he diminished in the future. He also suggested that the enormous privileges allowed by the present Ballot Act to the illiterate voters should be taken away. He found that while, according to the Census Returns, education had largely spread in Ireland, the percentage of illiterate voters in the elections had increased to a great extent. When he stated that one out of every four of the persons who voted for Mr. Davitt and Mr. Fullam was illiterate, the House would see the gravity of the matter. He was quite aware the hon. Member for North East Cork (Mr. Devitt) had stated that the majority of the iliiterates had not voted for him or Ids Party. He did not know where the hon. Member got his information; but he knew that that information did not coincide with the belief of other persons, who were as equally well qualified to form an opinion on the subject as the hon. Member, and he was sure the hon. Member for Waterford would not agree with the hon. Member for North East. Cork as to the distribution of the illiterate votes. But it was notorious that all over Ireland Where those elections had taken place they had these men—in the phrase current in Ireland—"polling publicly" under the orders of the priests, and, in his opinion, it was high time that this practice should be put an end to once and for all. There was another method that might be adopted with advantage. The number of constituencies in Ireland, represented by these clerically returned Members, was largely in excess of their due proportion and ought to be diminished. After the election that took place in Mayo, to which he had referred, it was said that it would have been as reasonable to send the Writ, for the election of a Member, to the Bishop of the Diocese as to the Sheriff of the County. In the case of the Meath elections they had gone much further than that, for the Judge hail laid it down that—The priests were not the agents of the candidates in these elections, but the candidates were the agents of the priests.He therefore declared that the time had come when the over-representation of these clerically-represented constituencies should be diminished. There was one 1099 more important method which the House, without any trouble and to the great advantage of the country, might adopt. That was that they should be spared this ill-omened Bill, known as "The Bill for the Better Government of Ireland." The one thing, and the only thing, that could secure Ireland from the danger of an increase of this clerical domination was that Ireland should be kept with in the great current of thought and opinion of the United Kingdom. It might be said that as the Meath Election Petitions had been successfully promoted, nothing further need be done; that the law had been vindicated; that the hon. Members had been unseated; and that they had, in these matters, the protection of the law. But what would become of that protection if the appointment of the Judges was taken out of the hands in which it now rested? He was not imagining an impossible and hypothetical contingency when he asked what would be the state of affairs in Ireland were the hon. and learned Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) Chief Justice of the Irish Bench. He wished the hon. Member every success in his profession, but he did not wish him that advancement. This danger was a real danger. He would give an illustration from Quebec of what would happen if the country were left absolutely free of all control and under the domination of the priests. The election of Sir Hector Langevin for the county of Charlevoix was, in 1875, contested on the ground of undue influence. M. Pellexier, Langevin's counsel, was desirous of subpœnaing priests, and, having first asked permission of the Archbishop of Quebec, obtained it. The case came on on October, 1876. Rev. P. Cinq-Mars, cure of St. Simeon's, stepped into the witness-box, and delivered himself as follows before taking the oath:—In accordance with the instructions forwarded to all parish priests at the same time as the last pastoral letter of the Bishops of the Province of Quebec, it would be my duty respectfully to deny the competence of this tribunal. Nevertheless, as I am accused by a false witness, named Johnny Desbiens, and that leave lets been granted by my Bishop, the Archbishop a Quebec, to all parish priests of Charlevoix to appear as witnesses in this case, by a letter addressed to the counsel for the defendant and the parish priests of the county, I, of my own free will, come forward to give my evidence, nevertheless recording my protest.'1100 The following passage appeared in the Judgment delivered by Judge Routhier, one of her Majesty's Judges, a Roman Catholic, who presided:—Immunity de persona is the privilege of the competent Court. It is personal, inherent in every ecclesiastical person, and consists in its not being possible that that ecclesiastical person should be accused or cited for trial before any but an Ecclesiastical Court. The personal immunity of the priests extends to all cases, whatever be their nature, save a few rare exceptions, which it would take too long to enumerate. Whether he may have acted as a priest or as a citizen in his public life, or as an individual in his private life, he is always an ecclesiastical person; he enjoys the privilege of a competent Court—that is to say, he can decline the competence of any lay Court. Such is the Catholic doctrine, and I can give its substance in a few words. I am competent in all cases where the question to be decided is one of dogmatic doctrine, of morals or discipline, and also in those cases where the person prosecuted is an ecclesiastic. I am competent to judge the actions of a priest so far as they affect the interest of third parties, provided that the actions are of a temporal description, and that the person of the priest is not involved.That was what would happen if they were to allow the Justiciary in Ireland to be appointed by the priests. The Judges in the Supreme Court of Canada were, like the Judges of this country, partly Protestant and partly Catholic. The case was taken to the Supreme Court, and was promptly upset. Thereupon the Archbishops and Bishops of Quebec published a violent protest against the conduct of the Judges, and the suggestion was made that they should be excommunicated. That was one of the reasons why he submitted Ireland should be kept under the sweet and wholesome influence of the public opinion of the United Kingdom, He should like to ask who in the House was going to oppose his Amendment? Not the Attorney General (Sir Charles Russell), who speaking, it was true, in England, had spoken in condemnation of the conduct of the priests. Not the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), friend of Garibaldi, and therefore in the opinion of the Meath priests no better than a "wild beast." Not the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. H. H. Fowler), a representative of the best and most honourable type of Nonconformist opinion in the country—surely, he would not support men who had expressed the 1101 opinion that a Protestant was "next door to a Pagan?" Not the Prime Minister, the author of The Vatican Decrees, still less the Minister who had in time gone by done as much as any man to inform them of the dangers of this gross spiritual tyranny. Was the Chief Secretary for Ireland going to oppose that Amendment—he who had pointed out the realities of clerical domination, and had animated them in the fight against it. If not these, who then would oppose the Amendment? He (Mr. Arnold-Forster) had been brought up in the principles of the Liberal Party, and he could not believe that that Party would, for any purpose whatsoever, support the action of the priests in Ireland. The Liberal Party had striven for years to make all Parties equal before the law. He asked them now to see that the principles they had so long supported should not be rendered nugatory and absolutely futile in Ireland in the future. But if they were going to deny that the action of the priests in Mayo were not a public danger, then they ought to state the grounds on which they supported that view, and approved that conduct.
§ MR. HORACE PLUNKETT (Dublin Co., S.)
in seconding the amendment, said, the ordeal of addressing the House for the first time was made to him not the less difficult by the choice of a subject upon which every Irishman felt in duty bound to be very careful in his words. He should have preferred to wait until he could have spoken on a simpler issue, were it not that the peculiar circumstances under which he was placed made him feel that it was his duty to give to the House such opinions as he felt were justified muter the experiences he had had in Ireland. He was the only Unionist Member in the three Southern Provinces of Ireland. He had been connected with what he hoped was a useful work to the country for a long time, and much of that work had been done in the poorer parts of the Provinces, where these terrible acts alleged against the priests had their most damaging effect. Besides that, he had lived the greater part of his life in Meath, and was well acquainted with persons of all creeds and classes. He could say, on behalf of the Unionists of Ireland, that they regarded the Meath 1102 elections with unmixed regret and even sorrow. It was true that a Party advantage had been gained through these elections by the Unionists, but they desired the good of Ireland far beyond Party advantage; and, Home Rule or no Home Rule, they believed that peace and prosperity would be secured to the country when every obstacle to religious and political freedom and every incentive to sectarian bitterness had been removed. They acknowledged that Ireland was, and must continue to be, a Roman Catholic country. They were aware that the priesthood of Ireland must continue in the future—as far into it as they could look—to exercise a mighty influence for good or evil; and they held that it was the duty of those who were responsible for the Government of the country to take steps to remove, by limiting the undue exercise of clerical influence, a state of things, which might he allowed in Quebec, but which was opposed to the manly spirit of the British. There was one feature of that clerical intimidation to which he felt particularly bound to refer, and which would carry them from ridicule to contempt, and from contempt to indignation. He meant that astounding—that cruel casuistry, by which the Bishop of Meath laid it down that mere sympathy with a political creed rendered guilty of the most atrocious crimes the women of the county of Meath, of whom he could say, after a life-long experience of them, that they were amongst the purest of the womanhood of the world. He was sure that every honest man who had read the evidence in these Petitions had determined that this accursed thing should be banished from their midst. He must say something about the political aspect. He knew that many hon. Members would say to themselves that these extravagances of the Meath clergy must defeat their own ends; they would say that the world had out-grown such extravagances as these, and that they must very soon come to an end. But, unfortunately, the Catholic Church in Meath had recognised that their spiritual political influence was coming to an end, and now they were constituting themselves into an ordinary political agency. The district of Dunshaughlin, where he lived, was the only place where the clergy did not take an active part, 1103 and where they had hoped and believed, until the contrary was proved, that clerical intimidation would not be exercised at all, but that a free and independent choice by the electors would be secured; but, finding that the local clergy would not, as he supposed the central authority thought, do their duty, the clergy were sent from other districts to conduct a house to house canvass. The district of Dunshaughlin was what was known in American polities as the pivotal district, which meant that if the Dunshaughlin district went anti-Parnellite an anti-Parnellite candidate would be returned, and vice versa. Three weeks before the election he made it his business to inquire as to which way the sympathies of the people were likely to lead them, and he found out that in this polling district they were going to vote for the Parnellite, and consequently that the Parnellite would be returned. Two days after the election he asked some of his informants how it was that they had changed their opinion. He was on the best of terms with people of all classes and creeds in that community, and they told him quite frankly what hail happened. They told him that they had been visited. Of course, he did not inquire from them exactly what influences had been brought to bear upon them; it was unnecessary to inquire, as it was too well-known. In the district in which he lived a young priest came round; he was told he came round on a bicycle—he supposed to give the famous pastoral the force of an encyclical. They knew what was the result. It would be of interest to this House to know how the next election was likely to go. He was not going to prophesy; but he said, with deep regret, that the clergy were again exercising an influence which he feared would prevent a free and independent choice. They were not, however, next time coming into collision with the law, for they were acting, as he had said they had done in this particular district, in the ordinary way of a political organisation. It was evident to the meanest intelligence that although this pastoral had been condemned by one of Her Majesty's Judges, that fact would not in any way lessen its force, and the influence that had been exercised, that abiding influence, might have wrought changes that would surprise them in the coming election. It 1104 was hard to say how many poor, ignorant voters, who bravely voted against the clergy at the last election, might be longing for the opportunity to make their peace with Heaven, and to secure the offices of the clergy in their dying hours by supporting the priests in the coming election. Those who brought this subject before the House were not actuated by political animosity or by religious bigotry; if he did not believe the facts to be true he would not state them as ha had done. Their feeling in the matter was definite and clear. They did not wish to establish—they knew it would be idle if they did wish to attempt to establish—a Protestant ascendancy in Ireland, but they would be very glad to see their Roman Catholic friends reestablish the faith they held upon a firmer basis of higher intelligence, of greater manliness, and of greater independence, and they called upon the Government to support this Amendment. The right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench had before shown that they themselves were amenable to clerical intimidation; and although they might refuse to support the Amendment now, he would not be at all surprised if they were constrained a little later on to act in accordance with its spirit. Perhaps all the Nonconformist pressure might be applied to them again, and they might have to resort to the piteous confession of the Prince of Denmark: "Conscience doth make cowards of us all." Therefore, in asking them to support this Amendment, he warned them that the action of the clergy in Meath had made Home Rule morally impossible; and if they refused to accept that position, or if they refused to do their best to abolish that influence which they said had made Home Rule morally impossible, they would find themselves confronted with a loyal minority, supported by the manhood of England, which was determined to make Home Rule physically impossible.
At the end of the Question, to add the words,—"And humbly to represent to Your Majesty that this House has learnt with great regret that a vast amount of clerical influence was exercised so as to intimidate voters during the late elections, and that in the opinion of this House measures should he taken to prevent any repetition of the exercise of such intimidations."—(Mr. Arnold-Forster.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ *MR. PAUL (Edinburgh, S.)
said, that he and the hon. Member for West Belfast differed, and differed widely, on almost every political question, but he was glad to be the first to congratulate the hon. Member on the brilliant success which he had just achieved. Whatever might be the opinion about the prolongation of the Debate on the Address, he thought it would not be denied that the hon. Member had brought forward a question of great importance and of still greater interest. It was said that the only two things which permanently interested the people of this country were politics religion, and in the Amendment of his hon. Friend they had a substantial combination of the two. His hon. Friend spoke as a Protestant, and he did not think he should be doing him an injustice—and he certainly did not mean to insult him—by saying he spoke as a somewhat aggressive Protestant. In that respect he thought he took a leaf out of the enemy's book. For absolute unswerving conviction in the correctness of his own views, for undeviating belief in the accuracy of his own assertions—a belief which had survived some shocks, and which he had no doubt would survive many more—he would back his hon. Friend to give His Holiness the Pope two stone and a beating. It was, he supposed, in the exercise of that plus quam pontifical faculty that his hon. Friend said that nineteen-twentieths of the Members of that House were about to vote contrary to their own opinions. It might surprise his hon. Friend to learn that he (Mr. Pail) was going to vote in accordance with his opinion; and it might surprise him still more to learn that it was his deliberate opinion, formed solely upon the speech of his hon. Friend himself, that he had not made out his case. During that most eloquent speech he was tempted to ask, had his hon. Friend read his own Amendment? That Amendment asked them to assert that a vast amount of clerical influence was exercised so as to intimidate voters during the late elections. There was in the language of the Amendment no geographical limitation. His hon. Friend asserted that clerical intimidation was general at the late elec- 1106 tions, and how did he support that assertion? By evidence entirely confined to two constituencies in one county of Ireland. He thought if the hon. Member had pursued his researches the result might not have been altogether pleasant to the Party or principles which he represented. It was rather a large conclusion to ask the House to draw—assuming for the sake of argument that the elections in North and South Meath had been determined by the undue influence of the clergy—that the whole of the late elections, which resulted in a Liberal majority being returned to that House, were vitiated by what his hon. Friend called fraud and corruption. If they were to confine their attention to the Northern and Southern Divisions of County Meath, even then he submitted his hon. Friend had not made out his case. He quoted a great deal of strong language, and gave them some reason to believe that a large amount of clerical influence was exercised in these two constituencies. He had listened carefully to the speech of his Friend, in order to ascertain whether he would assert or prove that a single vote was altered by that intimidation, but the hon. Member had not done so. He had been unable to ascertain whether counsel for the petitioner had produced a single witness to show that any voter, owing to priestly intimidation, had given a vote he would not otherwise have given. Some of the witnesses who described the clerical intimidation which had been addressed to them were asked whether they would have voted in the same way without it, and he thought he was right when he said that they declared they would. The hon. Member referred to the necessity of maintaining the law. The law had been maintained by Her Majesty's Judges, and he did not for one moment suggest that they had not interpreted it correctly. The hon. Member said that this was no protection; but the practical remedies which the hon. Member proposed seemed to be somewhat inadequate to the magnitude of the evil which he tried to describe. Those remedies were simply to keep the priests out of the polling-booth and the Home Rule Bill out of the House. Reference to the home little Bill brought some light to Ids mind, and he began to understand why the Amendment had been moved. It was possible that the object 1107 of some of those older Parliamentary hands with whom the hon. Member acted might have been to endeavour to prejudice the mind of the public on the eve of the great constitutional Debates in which the House would shortly be engaged. His hon. Friend was not content in dealing with what occurred before the elections; he went into what occurred after them, even quoting from an article in a Westmeath journal; but whatever else might, be said of these trials, it could not he said that there was not an abundance of witnesses, and if there was one man who was prevented by intimidation from recording his vote, surely he could have been called to say so. The Amendment was not intended as a Vote of Censure on the Government, but if it were carried it might have the effect of leading, to some kind of legislation. They might very reasonably call for some more evidence, and he thought they might have been spared the suggestion that his (the hon. Member's) Colleagues on the Liberal Benches were capable of thinking one way and voting another. What they wanted was a little more of the facts. Now, he had a respect for Universities, and it was through no feeling of disrespect to them that he gave it as his opinion that there was an air of academic unreality about the Debate. They had the circumstances of the Member for North Galway moving the Writ for one of the Divisions of Meath on the first day of the Session—or giving notice of it—and the Member for South Antrim giving notice of an Amendment on the alleged intimidation, and then, when the time came for moving the Amendment, they had its withdrawal. Then later on they had the unopposed issue of the Writs. Ulster would not fight, and he had no doubt Ulster was right. Still, they were engaged in the conflict; but if this action had gone on at the beginning they should have had a real battle, and not a sham engagement. They were not now discussing the Meath elections, for the Writs had passed out of the control of the House, and the Amendment said nothing about Meath, but asked them to declare that intimidation existed throughout the whole Kingdom. He invited the attention of the House to that fact—that there was nothing about local intimidation in the 1108 Amendment, and nothing about Ireland or about Meath in particular. The allegation was, plainly end directly, that the intimidation existed throughout the whole Kingdom; Whereas it appeared that the only place where it could be alleged that this sort of intimidation did exist was in one Irish county. When the Writs were moved the only dispute that took place—if dispute it could be called—it was rather a friendly difference—was between the two sections of the Nationalist Party as to which should have what the hon. and learned Member for North Louth called in legal phraseology the carriage of the Writs. He did not think anything more was wanted to prove the unreality of the Debate than the issuing of the Writs. There was no evidence of intimidation outside these two constituencies. It had been alleged there was intimidation in other constituencies in Ireland. If that was so, how was it they could not get evidence of it? [An hon. MEMBER: No money.] They could not get money! Well, he had heard a great many things charged against the Unionist Party—some of them he believed and some he did not—but he had never heard their worst enemy charge them with poverty. The Member for South Belfast he thought it was who said they had no money; but he was not referring to the constituencies where Irish Nationalists were pitted against Unionists, butt to the constituencies where Nationalists were against each other. In all these constituencies not a single witness could be brought forward to swear that there had been intimidation that would prevent the free exercise of the power of voting. When they talked about want of evidence, it did not require, he imagined, a great many witnesses to show that a certain Roman Catholic Bishop issued a pastoral saying certain things which might cause intimidation. Another point to which attention bad been drawn was as to the way in which these Meath elections were regarded by the parties concerned. The Unionists were not directly concerned, for they had no candidate at the General Election, and they had no candidate now, and it was those against whom this undue spiritual influence was employed at the General Election who were most desirous of having another election. It certainly struck him as singular and significant that that 1109 party were just as anxious for another contest and for all appeal to the common-sense of their countrymen as the other branch of the Irish Nationalist Party. The followers of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and those of the hon. Member for North Longford were both appealing once more to the judgment of their fellow-citizens. His hon. Friend read the utterances of the Bishop of Meath, Dr. Nulty, and several priests who had used strong and coarse language about Parnellism and the Parnellites. He had no sympathy whatever with that language. He could not conceive it to be a crime or a sin to be a Parnellite, and he should never mention the name of Mr. Parnell without adding a tribute of admiration for his political genius and the great services he had rendered to his country; and he repudiated and detested such language as had been used. But when did hon. Members opposite become so sensitive about the association of the Parnellites with crime? He remembered a pamphlet which was circulated broadcast throughout the country, and which was distinguished by the accuracy of its statements, and in it the hon. Member for North Longford was described as having concocted the Phœnix Park murders—at Willesden Junction. He repudiated then the association of Parnellism with crime, and he repudiated it now. One reason why he was a Home Ruler was that, whereas the Irish people perfectly well understood each other and understood the English, the latter did not always entirely understand them. He acknowledged that the Liberal Party was not altogether free to denounce those who associated personal character with political position. He could not forget, when considering the conduct of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, that the Liberal Party did not regard the leadership and the private character of Mr. Parnell as wholly dissociated from political questions. A great deal had been said about the Nonconformist conscience. He demurred to the phrase, because he did not think a man required to be a Nonconformist in order to have a conscience. He did not like to touch upon a subject of so much delicacy, but he thought he might say that it was the feeling of the Liberal Party that it was impossible to act with a man upon whose private character there rested a cloud. 1110 He thought they ought not to draw the inference from the Meath elections that the Irish priests claimed to take part in all ordinary questions of politics. They maintained that this was not an ordinary question of politics at all, but a question of faith and morals. The findings of the Election Judges in Ireland were not like the findings the House had to consider in the Rochester election. He did not believe there were any corrupt practices in any part of Ireland. The Judges hail reported as regarded Rochester that they did not know whether they had or had not reason to believe or disbelieve that corrupt practices did or did not excessively prevail in Rochester. Perhaps the noble Lord who had been returned for that city could throw some further light on the subject.
§ MR. PAUL
Yes; opposition was a very expensive affair in the City of Rochester. The Judges who tried the Meath Petition disagreed as to whether they would report any person to the House as being guilty of the offence of intimidation. He could not set that against the deliberate finding that such intimidation prevailed; but it was a fair subject of comment that if the intimidation had been so general and so gross as the hon. Member for West Belfast invited the House to believe, there must have been some priests or even a Bishop whom the Judges might have agreed to report to the House as guilty of the offence of intimidation. There was no question in the whole range of polities more delicate or more difficult to determine than the borderland which lay between politics and theology. The Roman Catholic Church had always claimed jurisdiction in matters of faith and morals. The Leader of the Opposition was a great philosopher. He should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how it was possible for the Roman Catholic Church to exercise any authority in those matters if it were left to any individual to decide what were the limits of faith and morals? It was not a question which concerned him, or which concerned the great majority of the House. [Laughter.] He referred to the limits, and not the area of faith and morals. He presumed it did concern a very large portion of Her Majesty's subjects, and 1111 in a special sense those who lived in counties such as Meath. It was difficult to deal with this question in a secular Court. If it was open to anyone to say to a priest, or any other authority in the Roman Catholic Church who attempted to intervene on any ecclesiastical question or theological dogma, "Mind your own business; since I last saw you this question has come within the range of practical politics," then what would become of the claim to adjudicate upon theological questions? Why, Heaven and the Vatican only knew. Lord Melbourne once went to church. He heard a sermon dealing not with abstract questions of doctrine, but with the, faults and vices of the society to which Lord Melbourne belonged, and when he came out of the sacred edifice he said—No man has a greater respect for religion or the clergy than I have, but when it comes to invading the domain of private life I think a protest ought to be made.He (Mr. Paul) thought it could not be denied that the Roman Catholic clergy in the County of Meath had invaded the domain of public life, partly in a legitimate way as patriots and citizens, and partly in an illegitimate way as bringing undue spiritual pressure to bear, though no one had suggested there was any proof that that spiritual pressure had any practical effect. In the evidence given on the hearing of the Election Petitions he had found no instance where any witness had said his vote had been changed by spiritual intimidation applied to him; but witness after witness came forward and gave evidence against the priests, showing they were not afraid of them, and these witnesses never said their votes had been affected or altered by that spiritual pressure. The fact was that the objection to spiritual influence in Ireland was not to the character of that influence itself, but to the side on which it was exercised. All parties in Great Britain and all parties in Ireland had been glad enough of the help of the priests whenever they could get it. He did not think they had all forgotten the Papal Rescript or the appeals which were addressed to the Court of Rome to put down the Plan of Campaign. He did not think they had altogether forgotten the mission of the Duke of Norfolk, or the Conservative jubilation with which the issue of the Rescript was re- 1112 ceived, or the attacks that were levelled against the Bishops and priests of the Church of Ireland, because they did not at once meekly accept the doctrines of the Head of their own Church upon a question which the Leader of the Opposition declared the other night was a political question, pure and simple, from beginning to end—namely, the Plan of Campaign. He did not wish to say anything which would in any way tend to embitter Party feeling in Ireland; but when the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan) moved that Writ the other day, he could not help carrying his mind back from the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had been so many years a Member of that House to a famous Judgment delivered in the county which the gallant Gentleman represented, setting aside his election on the ground of spiritual intimidation. He did not know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman was as hostile to sacerdotal influence then as he apparently was now. He hoped before the Debate closed they would hear the eloquent voice of the Member for Bury (Sir H. James.) The right hon. and learned Gentleman had always taken a great interest in this question. He remembered, when a boy, reading and re-reading, and almost learning by heart, as a specimen of Parliamentary eloquence, the great oration in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman defended the Galway Judgment, and defended a notorious personage who stood hi much need of his brilliant advocacy—the late Mr. Justice Keogh. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was a Protestant, as well as a most eminent and distinguished lawyer. He dared say the right hon. Gentleman regarded the provisions of Acts of Parliament, and especially those which he had had a hand in framing, as more sacred than all the doctrines of all the Churches. He remembered very well the eloquent words in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman said they must teach a proud priesthood they owed no allegiance save to the Sovereign, and no obedience except to the law. He (Mr. Paul) should be very glad to teach a proud priesthood any lesson which he thought they would learn, but they did not seem to have benefitted very much by the powerful and 1113 forcible instruction of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman was, he believed, mainly responsible for the Corrupt Practices Act of 1883, and he should like to direct his attention to some very remarkable words in that Act, inserted, of course, many years after the Galway Judgment, but, he could not help thinking, with some reference to the doctrines laid down by Mr. Justice Keogh. Those words were, in the definition of the offence, of undue influence, and of that part of it which was spiritual. They were—To inflict or threaten to inflict… any temporal or spiritual injury, damage, harm, or loss.He could quite understand that if a priest threatened to deprive one of his parishioners of the sacraments of the Church on account of their political opinions those words carried, and were meant to carry, a threat. But if a Bishop or priest in the exercise—and he would call it a lamentable and deplorable exercise—of what he believed to be his religious rights and duties told the people that by voting in a particular way they would imperil their salvation, it seemed to him as a layman that those words must have been devised expressly to exclude such a case, unless it was held by the right hon. Gentleman and by the Judges that a priest had power to send a man to hell. He should like to read one extract from a speech delivered in that great historical Debate on the Judgment of Mr. Justice Keogh. The words were as follows:—When did this clerical action begin? It began in the famous election of Clare. They all, no doubt, recollected the eloquent speech of Sheil, in which he boasted that every altar had been turned into a tribune to return O'Connell at the election for Clare, before emancipation was passed. That was an election which was said to justify the action of the clergy. ['No, no.'] Hon. Members who cried 'no' had never lived under the control of Penal Laws, and did not understand what was the situation of Ireland at that time. It was the great Liberal Party which had deliberately fostered and encouraged that action; and for 40 years had cheerfully availed themselves of the clerical influence in political contests. That, he repeated, was a social misfortune in Ireland; but the landlords must bear their fair share of blame for this result. Why had the Irish landlords generally contrived to run counter to the wishes of the people who had in their clergy their only advisers and leaders?1114 Those were the eloquent words of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Birmingham (Mr. H. Matthews), Home Secretary in the late Conservative Administration, who then represented the borough, and, as some said, the Fenianism of Dungarvan. He did not quote these words for controversial or critical purposes, but because they summed up in better words than he could employ the historical position and the historical strength of the Irish priesthood, When they were told that the Irish people were governed by their priests, they were entitled to draw a distinction which all history suggested between the cases where the priests were on the side of the people, and led them where they wanted to go, and when they endeavoured without success to stem the popular tide. There was the famous instance when the priests set themselves against the Catholic laity at the time when Archbishop Murray was an active any of the Whig Government of Lord Melbourne, when he and the clerical representatives of his Church were ready to accept the veto of the English Government in the appointment of Catholic Bishops, and when the Catholic laity in Ireland rose up and rebelled against the compact. There was a case more recent and familiar in the early days of the Land League, when many priests endeavoured, but without success, to impede the progress of that Organisation. There were forces at work in Ireland with which he did not believe any Party in that House were connected. There were, and had been of late years, Secret Societies, dangerous Organisations against which it might be the duty of the Irish priesthood to use, and even, perhaps, on an emergency, strain, their powers; but he thought it became statesmen when they denounced the influence of the priesthood, and especially when they denounced it in a Protestant country, to consider whether there were not circumstances in which that influence might be useful in maintaining those foundations of society which men of all Parties agreed that by some means or other must be maintained. The priests of Ireland were the friends of the people of Ireland when the world was not their friend, nor the world's law. They were their friends when priests and people alike were harassed 1115 by those odious Penal Laws which for their disgraceful cruelty and their stupid cowardice might challenge comparison in the annals of mankind. When they were asked to condemn this influence, and to provide remedies, they ought to ask themselves as practical men what were the remedies which could be devised, and how they would operate. He did not think he need waste time in proving that coercion was no remedy. It it were, they should not be discussing that subject that night. When he was told of judicial and of purely secular authorities that could interfere with the influence of the priests, he was reminded of the case where some poor wretched man or woman, who had endeavoured by desperate means to escape the miseries of this world, was brought up before a County Bench on a charge of attempting to commit suicide, as if people who were not afraid of death would be afraid of a Chairman of Quarter Sessions! If a priest told his people that their salvation depended upon their votes, and the people believed him, what did they care for Election Judges; or for any human tribunal? There were only two remedies which he had seen proposed for this undue spiritual influence. One of them was practical and rational, and the other was impracticable and absurd. He would begin with the second. It was propounded at a Liberal Unionist meeting, when one of the speakers said that the object of the Government ought to be to convert the people of Ireland to the Protestant religion. He thought Her Majesty's Ministers had reason to congratulate themselves that that was not one of their multifarious functions. The other remedy was to set up an authority which would represent the people of Ireland in their political capacity far better and far more efficiently than any Church could do. That was the remedy which they (the Liberals) proposed; that was the remedy which the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would introduce on Monday. It was all very well to talk about Home Rule being Rome Rule. They had been reminded in that Debate that Rome Rule might exist without Home Rule, and all analogies showed them that with Home Rule, Rome Rule in the sphere of 1116 politics would pass away. The Irish people in the United States of America were very great politicians. They had all heard of the American statesman who said he was going to Ireland because he wanted to see the only country which was not governed by Irishmen. The Irish people in America were not under the control of the priests. The instance of Quebec had been cited by the Member for West Belfast; but the case of Quebec was not the case of a National Parliament and Government, but of a Provincial Legislature on the analogy of those Provincial Councils which were to be applied to Ireland by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. He thanked the House most cordially and sincerely, hon. Gentlemen opposite not less than his hon. Friends and enemies on his own side of the House, for the kindness and courtesy, he was afraid he must add, the patience and forbearance with which they had been good enough to hear him.
§ *MR. BUTCHER (York)
said, that whilst claiming the indulgence of the House, which was usually accorded to a Member who addressed it for the first time, he ought, perhaps, to explain why he had thought fit to intervene in this Debate. In the first place, he was an Irishman; he was proud to be one, and he felt a sincere interest in the people of that country. But, in the second place, he had the honour to represent a great Yorkshire constituency, to whose sturdy sense of manly independence everything that savoured of intimidation or undue influence, whether of a spiritual or temporal character, was repugnant and abhorrent. An eminent statesman, who now occupied a seat on the Treasury Bench, had told them that—In Churches subject to the Pope all that nurtured freedom, and all that guaranteed it have been harassed and denounced, cabined and confined, attenuated and starved.He dissented entirely from that utterance. Another right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench had said—The clergy are essentially lovers of despotism and haters of liberty.He also dissented from that observation. He had not risen in that Debate for the purpose of preferring an indictment against the Catholic Church or Catholic population of Ireland; for he recognised that if they 1117 were to promote the prosperity of Ireland In some permanent manner, they must have Protestants and Catholics loyally co-operating together. Therefore, if he had to make some comments upon the conduct of Catholic Bishops and Catholic clergy, he desired the inference should not be drawn that he preferred any wholesale indictment either against that Church, against that clergy, or against the population of Ireland. But whilst making that disclaimer, he thought that when a state of things existed, such as was proved by the result of a judicial inquiry to have existed in the County of Meath at the last election, the matter was one which required serious consideration. The hon. Member for West Edinburgh got some cheers by saying they on that (the Opposition) side of the House objected to spiritual influence because it was used against them. It was hardly necessary for him to repudiate that assertion. But he asked the hon. Member did he condone that influence because it was directed in favour of the Party with which he himself was associated? He ventured to think some of those who heard the hon. Member's apologies and explanations could not help thinking the condonation given in his speech was not wholly uninfluenced by political motives. The Catholic clergy in the County of Meath were proved to have exercised all the resistless forces of the Catholic Church for the purpose of destroying and annihilating the private right of judgment. They coerced the freedom of the will of the electors by means the most terrible that men could employ, and prevented them from exercising the rights of citizenship. The Pastoral issued by Bishop Nulty shortly before the election was read aloud by direction of the Bishop in every chapel throughout the diocese; it was listened to by the peasants who heard the terrors it held before them. The Bishop in that Pastoral went beyond all fair and legitimate influence which, as a dignitary of the Church, he was entitled to exercise. He came before the peasantry of Meath as the accredited minister of God, as a Bishop and successor of the Apostles, and he claimed the Divine right to instruct the people on this question of Parnellism. He told them that Parnellism—which meant Mr. Dalton, the 1118 Parnellite candidate for Meath, at that moment—was a thing unholy, and that unless they would defy the Church they must vote against Parnellism. There was one passage in the Pastoral which contained a hidden threat of a most terrible character. After pointing out the retribution that would fall upon a Parnellite for exercising his vote according to his conscience, the Pastoral went on to say that a dying Parnellite would hardly dare to face the justice of his Creator till he had been prepared and anointed by the clergy for the last awful struggle, and for the terrible judgment that would immediately follow him. The hon. and learned Member for North Loath (Mr. T. M. Healy) had suggested that those words were not menacing, but affectionate. That was not the inference drawn from them by the priests of Meath who read that Circular in the churches. One priest, in his sermon, told the Parnellites they would be damned, whilst another priest told a man if he voted Parnellite he would refuse him absolution. Another priest told the people that Parnellism was a mortal sin, the meaning of which was, that, if after committing this sin, they died without absolution, they would be eternally ruined beyond all possibility of hope. The hon. Member for Edinburgh told them that threats of this kind addressed to an ignorant—and a religious—peasantry had no practical effect, because witnesses did not come forward to say they had been terrorised.
§ MR. BUTCHER
said, the explanation of the hon. Gentleman scarcely dealt with the question. The point was, did they get the terrorised men to come forward? The men who came forward were the men who had not been terrorised; those who had been terrorised dared not come forward. The hon. Gentleman would not contend that the persons who were influenced by this oppression could be brought forward to give evidence of the tyranny to which they were subjected. The Bishop of 1119 Meath did not confine his attention to issuing this Pastoral, but he also indulged in a sermon; and he was glad the hon. Member who had last spoken had stated that he repudiated and detested such language as was contained in the sermon and Pastoral; and he had no doubt that when the Division came, they would find the hon. Member, in the words of the Amendment, expressing his regret and hope that some measure might be devised to prevent a repetition of the exercise of such intimidation. If the hon. Member did not vote for the Amendment, then he could not think much of his repudiation. There was a passage to which he would refer in the sermon of the Bishop of Meath. He was glad to think, for the credit of the Nationalist Party in Ireland, that, with few exceptions, they had not dragged women into this bitter controversy. But the Bishop of Meath did not so abstain; for after saying that he would approach the deathbed of a profligate and drunkard in greater confidence of salvation than that of a Parnellite, he went on to say that any woman who sympathised with Parnellism was an abandoned woman. He (Mr. Butcher) protested on the part of the female population of Ireland, who were known and honoured for their virtue, against such a suggestion or innuendo come from what quarter it might. He trusted he had said enough to satisfy the House that intimidation of the worst possible character was used at the Meath election. What were the attempted defences? One of the justifications put forward by what he might call the Clerical Party in Ireland was that the question was one of morals, and that upon a question of morals the Roman Catholic Church was entitled to say what were morals and what were politics. Mr. Justice O'Brien, himself a Catholic, in his Judgment on the Election Petition, repudiated the suggestion that the question was one of morals, and in the course of an eloquent passage asked—Was it just to dig up the grave and revive dead and buried shame, to raise the lid of the tomb, and again uncover the poor remains of human frailty in order to array a Political Party in the shroud of departed sin.The hon. and learned Member for North Louth, in his speech before the Judges, had adopted the "moral" plea, and said that morals ought not to he divorced from politics. That, however, was not 1120 the opinion expressed by the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, on the memorable occasion when he attended a meeting in the Leinster Hall after the Divorce Court disclosures, and announced his adhesion to Mr. Parnell. It was sad to think that two such luminaries of the law as the hon. and learned Member for North Louth and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland should take such opposite views on so momentous a question. How long had the Nationalist Members thought fit to pose as rigid custodians of morals? The Leinster Hall meeting was attended by every prominent Member of the present two sections of the Nationalist Party in Ireland, with the exception of the hon. Members for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), who were returning from their somewhat forced trip to America, and who sent a telegram expressing their entire concurrence with the resolutions about to he passed. Those resolutions affirmed in the strongest manner that these were not questions of morals, that morals were divorced from politics, and that Mr. Parnell was to be supported as the leader of the Party. When did Nationalist Members first come to admit the claim of the Roman Catholic Church to say what were morals and what were politics? In 1888 the Bead of the Catholic Church issued his now famous Rescript declaring that boycotting and the Plan of Campaign were questions of morals and condemning them. The Nationalist Members, however, derided the suggestion that the Pope was entitled to draw the distinction between morals and politics, and persisted in the practices which had been pronounced by the Holy See to be contrary to good morals. Another defence had been put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith) in a speech delivered at Liverpool not long ago. The right hon. Gentleman derived some comfort from the fact that he would prefer to go to the poll under the influence of the priests rather than under the influence of drink. He (Mr. Butcher) was interested to hear it; but he claimed for the inhabitants of Ireland, and of the whole of this country, that they should he allowed to go to the poll under the influence neither of drink nor of spiritual dictation. The right hon. Gentleman 1121 went on to combat the suggestion of wide-spread intimidation, and said—Mr. Redmond has said that he could have upset more elections if he had had a little more money. Whatever else the Unionist Party lacks—and it lacks a great deal—it certainly does not lack money. Why in the name of common-sense do not our Unionist friends do what Mr. Redmond has done—present an Election Petition, and have the matter fairly fought out in the Court of Law? Until they do that we shall continue to believe they do not do it because they cannot and because they have got no case.The Home Secretary, with his vast experience, might not unreasonably have come to the conclusion that in order to win an Election Petition evidence was wanted as well as money. When the right hon. Gentleman suggested that it was open to Unionists in Ireland to get Catholic voters to come forward whenever they liked to give evidence against the priesthood, he could only say that the right hon. Gentleman displayed a depth of ignorance of Irish topics which was amazing. His (Mr. Butcher's) wonder was that the peasants of Meath—religious, God-fearing men as they were—were induced, even at the instigation of Catholic Nationalists, to give evidence of the terrorism to which they had been subjected, knowing as they did that they would have to live in the village where the priest against whom they gave evidence resided, that they would have to depend upon him for the spiritual ministrations which they valued above all things, and that they would have to go to him in their dying moments to get that absolution without which they believed their eternal happiness could not be secured. What chance had Unionists of obtaining such evidence? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in a speech at Newcastle, said—All this about priestly intimidation, as far as English politics are concerned, take my word for it, cant.There were Members on the Ministerial Benches who loathed priestly and spiritual intimidation as much as did those who sat on the Opposition side, and he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not characterise their conscientious feelings as cant. There was no doubt that the Prime Minister, with his magnificent love for religious liberty, would not seek to defend religious 1122 intimidation. Surely it was desirable to do something to suppress priestly intimidation, if it were proved to exist. He looked forward to a brighter future for Ireland, but not through the introduction of schemes which would revive the old racial hatred and intensify those religious feuds and animosities which, unfortunately, now divided the various sections of the Irish people. He maintained that by union with England alone, by contact with wider sympathies, larger ideas, and greater independence, could Ireland be redeemed from the curse of spiritual intimidation, and from the grosser forms of temporal terrorism from which she had been free for some time past. He looked forward to the time when, under the broad protection of English liberty—that ægis which had been thrown over all who lived under the sway of the Queen—the Catholics and Protestants of Ireland would be united in everything that tended to the promotion of the happiness of their common country.
§ *MR. SEYMOUR KEAY (Egin and Nairn)
said, the Amendment was not addressed in any special manner to anything connected with the North and South Meath Election Petitions, and he Hurst assume that its Mover had no idea of restricting Debate to the comparatively paltry question or the evidence adduced with regard to those Petitions. The allegations proved in those cases were undue clerical influence, or undue clerical intimidation. The Mover of the Amendment had told them that it practically applied only to those constituencies contested by Parnellite candidates; but he did not say that in the majority of cases in which the Parnellites were defeated the elections were gained by clerical intimidation. But even if that were so it would only mean 21 elections in the whole General Election in Ireland, while he was prepared to show that at the last General Election undue clerical influence prevailed throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, not in the case of 21 seats, as in Ireland, but practically in regard to the 72 seats of Scotland. Similar means to those said to have been used at Meath had been used by the party which had been formed out of the Established Church of Scotland, which called themselves for the last two years the Church Defence 1123 Association. If he were to move the Amendment of which he had given notice, which was to insert in the Amendment the words "particularly in Scotland," he should have the sympathy of many Members sitting near him. But although he refrained from moving that Amendment, he hoped to show that in other places besides North and South Meath an undue use was made of clerical influence. Clerical influence was a thing that had been well defined by the Judges. It had been held over and over again that clerical influence must be exercised in regard to election contests without denunciation, that clerical influence must not appeal to the fears, the terrors, or the superstitions of the electors, and that it must not hold out threats of punishment hereafter. And it should not be said that to vote for any candidate was a sin. He would show that the electors in Scotland had been told that to vote for Disestablishment candidates would mean the destruction of religion in Scotland, and he would show further that it had been repeatedly stated that Disestablishment of the Church in Scotland meant nothing more nor less than a crime committed against Almighty God. In making these charges he would confine himself altogether to evidence drawn from the two comities which he had the honour to represent. The Church Defence Association consisted entirely of some clergymen and adherents of the Church of Scotland. He declined to commit himself to the allegation that a great mass of the adherents in the Church or a majority of the clergy-men in the Church sympathised with the policy he was about to describe to the House, any more than that all the priests in Ireland were implicated in the conduct of the few. He was, however, entitled to show that there had been, broadly speaking, as great and more all-pervading clerical influence of an undue character in Scotland at the last General Election than had been shown to exist with regard to Ireland as a whole. The Church Defence Association was formed about two years ago. It pretended to be nothing more nor less than a political propaganda, and it had been formed for the purpose of preaching and denouncing the terrible crime of voting for the disestablishment candidates. He would quote a few extracts from speeches made at 1124 public meetings before the elections. At a meeting held at Buckie, on the 31st of October, 1890, the chairman, surrounded by Established Church clergymen, said—We must support the establishment of the Church, which is, as we believe, rendering, by its bounden duty, a service to the King of Kings.He wished to point out that in all these speeches there was not a suggestion that this was merely a temporal matter; it was always said that it was a great spiritual matter. At Rothes, on the 17th February, 1891, a speech was delivered by a clergyman whose name he did not wish to mention, as he was a constituent of his. [Cries of "Name, name!"] Well, his name was the Rev. Mr. Bonallo, an Established Church clergyman. He said—Establishment is a scriptural principle. We are told that we cannot appeal to the Bible on behalf of our Church. I do not know what version of the Bible some of these Disestablishers use. I know the version I am in the habit of using says: 'The nation and kingdom that shall not, serve God shall perish.' And the principle put forward in this text runs through my version of the Bible, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation.The House should remember that the large congregation to whom this clergyman ministered took the interpretation of the Scriptures from him; and, he asked, was it not an exercise of undue influence for such a rev. gentleman to say, that Establishment—which the Radicals intended to vote against—was a principle running through the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, and that everyone who voted against it should perish. The rev. gentleman went on to say—The principle of the disestablishers seems to be that a nation is bound to be irreligious awl without God.Was that, he asked, fair comment? No one who knew Scotland could pretend that the disestablishers were godless men. In Scotland they had got. The Free Church, the United Presbyterian, and the Congregationalists—all energetic Religious Bodies of the highest and holiest views, but not supported by the State; and with these bodies in existence, could it be said that if the Church was disestablished Scotland would become irreligious?
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, I wish to ask is the discussion of the question of Disestablishment in Scotland in Order on this Amendment?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I must say that I think the hon. Member's observations are quite foreign to the subject.
§ MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
said, he was only mentioning the position of Scotland in having living vital Religions Bodies not paid by the State, to show that it was unfair and untrue for these rev. gentlemen, possessed of national emoluments, to say that their deprivation of these emoluments would have the effect of overthrowing religion in Scotland. He would now draw attention to an electoral manifesto issued to the electors of Elgin and Nairn, whom he had the honour to represent, by the Church Defence Association, and signed, amongst others, by the Rev. Mr. Bonallo. The Circular was issued five days before the polling day. He would read a few extracts from it to show how all political considerations were sunk, and how Considerations of a purely religious nature were brought to the front—Fellow Electors—In a few days you have to discharge a most solemn task, and the Church Defence Association of Elgin and Nairn ask you to consider how very seriously your vote will affect the religious future of Scotland.The national recognition of religion is the duty of every people, and our Church, which is its symbol, is among our best blessings.Disestablishers have not made known to what purposes they mean to apply Church property, except that they will not permit it to be used in any way for the worship and service of God.Electors who love the Church of their fathers may, without hesitation, leave their political Party upon this occasion.In resisting Disestablishment you will be standing by a cause sacred in itself, and hallowed by the most precious memories of Scottish faith and valour, when our fathers fought and died for Christ's crown and covenant.Fellow Electors—We only venture to address you, because of the grave and sacred interests at stake, and we ask you earnestly to weigh well, as between God and your conscience, the side you are to choose in this momentous conflict.The House would see that there was nothing in this Circular about the allocation of Church monies; there was nothing in it but the allegation that those who supported the Disestablishment of 1126 the Church were opposed to God's word; and was it not, he asked, a misuse of the religious influence which these rev. gentlemen possessed, when it was remembered that the people to whom they appealed listened to their ministers every Sunday, and accepted their interpretations of the Scriptures? At a public meeting at Auldearn, held on the 3rd July, 1892, that was to say, nine days before the polling day, the rev. gentleman said—Mr. Seymour Keay's opinion of religious equality is that the Protestant religion would be put on the same footing as the Mahomedans, and that we dare not teach in God's name in the schools the sacredness of marriage.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether a discussion on the Disestablishment of the Church in Scotland could be raised on this question?
§ MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jesse Collings) has been misled by the Leader of the Opposition regarding the scope of this Amendment. As to the money now used for endowments the rev. gentleman said—There is one thing that we are sure of: it is not to be given for God, and it is certain it is not to be given for religion. I hold it is a scandal and a shame that the Scotch Church should come to this. It is enough to bring, down the judgment of Almighty God upon their heads.[Laughter.] It might be a matter for laughter for hon. Gentlemen of other persuasions, but by the Scotch electors, who were a religious body, it was differently regarded. But worse than that, there were cases in which the most absurd statements were made for the purpose of intimidation. There was one case in which a certain clergyman was not ashamed to go into every farm kitchen and hotly in his district and tell the people that if a Liberal Government came into power, and a Home Rule Bill were passed for Ireland, the first effect would he that the whole of the Roman Catholic priests would be sent over from Ireland to Scotland, and that the Scottish Bibles would be publicly burned in the churchyards. That was not much worse than what took place in London when a clergyman said—it was Sacrament Sunday, and the Sacrament vessels were on the altar—that if Disestablishment was brought 1127 about they would find that those beautiful vessels would find their way as tankards into public-houses. And Mr. Esslemont, lately a Member of the House, stated publicly during the last election that he could name one clergyman at least who had been going about in East Aberdeenshire, warning the electors that sacrilege was to be committed on the buildings of the churches, and saying that to his knowledge it had been arranged that in case of Disestablishment the buildings of the churches would be pulled down, because he had been told by a Liberal farmer that he had got a promise of 12 tons of stone out of the church to build a new barn.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is not speaking to the subject. I call him to Order a second time, and now I warn him.
§ MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
said, that his point was that the question of Disestablishment of the Church was that upon which intimidation was practised in Scotland, just as other religious questions were the cause of intimidation in Ireland. He would conclude by asking the House whether, though the subject which happened to be up in Scotland was different from the subject which was up at the Meath elections, the influence of the Church Defence Association during the recent elections in Scotland was not distinctly unjustifiable?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
called the attention of the House to the conduct of Mr. Seymour Keay, Member for Elgin and Nairn, in persisting in irrelevance, and directed brut to discontinue his speech.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
Mr. Speaker, there is one matter connected with this Debate which I am sure every Member of this House will think worthy of note, and that is that, until the contribution to the discussion by the hon. Member who has just resumed his seat, every Member who took part in the Debate was a newly-elected Member, and spoke for the first time in the House. Those of us who have, perhaps to our regret, sat in the House for a longer period will welcome the assurance gathered from the character of those speeches that this House is not likely to lose its traditional eloquence or to suffer from the manner in which its Debates are likely to be con- 1128 ducted. There are some of us who may even envy those hon. Gentlemen who have to-night taken part in our Debates for the first time. I have been reminded by one of those speakers, who made a most valuable contribution to this Debate—the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Herbert Paul)—that some 20 years ago I was contending from these very Benches for the same cause as I am contending for to-night. I then sat among the Liberal Party as it was then constituted. I was speaking then on behalf of pure and free election, and was urging then on behalf of the peasants of Ireland that their votes should be allowed to be given without intimidation or interference. The Liberal Party sympathised then with these arguments. Some have appealed to-night to the traditions of the Liberal Party. I appeal to more. I appeal to their companionship—companionship in upholding freedom of election—and I am sure that in the vote they will give to-night the principles which then guided them they will endeavour to maintain. I know that those who complain of the action of any Church are likely to be told that they entertain bigoted views, and are endeavouring to raise religious hatred. But I have nothing to say with respect to the Roman Catholic Church as a Church. I believe that what has occurred is contrary to the very fundamental rule of that Church. I believe I am right in describing as the authoritative declaration of the Church of Rome what is contained in these words—Without doubt the Church and the State has each its own domain, and consequently within the limits ordained by the Author of both, neither is subject to the other in the administration of its affairs. To drag the Church into the vortex of Party politics, or to desire her aid in overcoming adversaries, is the act of men who imprudently abuse religion. She sternly refuses, from a sense of right and duty, to take sides with any Party, or to accommodate herself to the conflicting changes of political affairs.I am sure that not even the Nationalist Members can object to that deduction of view. Those are the very words of instruction which the Supreme Pontiff, Leo XIII., the present Pope, wrote to 200,000,000 of Catholics in a Circular Letter. And it is these views, strictly in accordance with the Common Law of the land, that we ask the 1129 House to adopt to-night. I feel that it would be very wrong if isolated cases merely were relied on in connection with this matter. If there have been errors committed in one or two constituencies in breach of the law of this country, whilst we would regret them, we would say that, sad as they are, such errors might occur in every community; and if these cases in Meath stood alone, whilst we might wonder how such things could be, we should not think it necessary to take such evidence of breaches of the law as representing a system that widely prevailed. But we have to deal with a very different state of things. We treat the Meath elections as merely object-lessons of what is occurring, and will occur again, in different parts of the United Kingdom. I do not say this unadvisedly. What has been done in the Meath elections is not only justified, but it is asserted that the faults committed in these elections have been committed by those whose duty it was to commit them, and W h use bounden duty it will be to repeat them. The hon. and learned Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy), in concluding his speech on behalf of one of the sitting Members, for whom he appeared at the trials of the Petitions, fully bore out this statement, and said that, whatever might be the judgment of the Court, it would be the sacred duty of the priests to pursue the same course of action in future elections in obedience to a higher than any political authority. Another evidence of the fact has been furnished by a periodical issued in Dublin, and edited by a Roman Catholic clergyman—The Lyceum.I find in the last number of that Roman Catholic organ these words—We have shown further that the exercise of the franchise in Meath, as elsewhere, may involve grave moral obligations, obligations under sin, even mortal sin; that it may in certain cases be mortally sinful to vote for or against particular. Parliamentary candidates, and that where such a case occurs it may be the duty of a confessor to intimate his obligation to a penitent and deny him Sacramental absolution should he refuse to comply with it.That was the attitude taken up by the priests who interfered in the Meath election. Their conduct has never received condemnation from any authority in their Church, and it has received no blame or censure from any journal representing the views of the bulk of the Nationalist 1130 Members in Ireland. But it has, I regret to say, received apology and excuse. The Chief Secretary, for example, has made a long and detailed apology for it; and surely he is the last man from whom any of us who have read his works would have expected such an apology. I have been a disciple of my right hon. Friend; some of his writings I know almost by heart, and when I read that speech it occurred to me that there must have been some mistake as to his identity. My right hon. Friend said—"Why blame the priests? they have always supported the Nationalist cause." Is it, then, my right hon. Friend's doctrine that when you are fighting for the Nationalist cause you may break the law? I know no more insidious words of treason than words that say that the end justifies a breach of the law. My right hon. Friend said also—I say you cannot show me any Catholic country in Europe where the ecclesiastics have achieved a standing ecclesiastical supremacy—not in France, not in Spain, not in Italy, not in Austria, not in Belgium.What does this mean? Why, that if you do not actually establish sacerdotal supremacy there is no harm in whatever you may do, even if you do it for the very purpose of obtaining such supremacy. So long as the supremacy cannot be termed a standing supremacy my right hon. Friend's apology approves of it. It is the right hon. Gentleman's statement to the elector of Meath that he, who is the real ruler of Ireland, will stand by or defend the priest who intimidates the elector, because in France and Spain and other countries ecclesiastical supremacy has not been maintained.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. JOHN MORLEY,) Newcastle-upon-Tyne
My argument was not at all what my right hon. Friend represents it to have been. My point is this, that you need have no fear of the action of the priests, if one may judge from analogy and precedent in European Catholic countries.
§ SIR H. JAMES
I understand my right hon. Friend. He has no fear, although the law has been broken systematically and the Meath electors have been prevented from voting according to their consciences. We have it from him now that he will stand by and 1131 see the law broken and see the electors in constituencies intimidated. I now implore my right hon. Friend to make his reply to-night. He is the person who has charge of Ireland, and I say that if he values the position which he occupies he must in all propriety take part in this Debate and justify what he has stated to the House to-night. At Newcastle my right hon. Friend said—All this about priestly domination, so far as English parties are concerned, take my word for it, is cant.The right hon. Gentleman, I presume, has read the accounts of the Meath election. Is what Mr. Justice O'Brien said cant? And this comes from the author of the words—"The worst enemy not only of science, but of the best interests of democracy, is c'est le cléricalisme. My right hon. Friend is in strange company to-night. He is the first who has accused us of canting when we ask for free elections. I say he is the person who ought to make his own apology and his own defence. There is one beside him who would tell him, perhaps, that his words about cant were not quite justified. My hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General said this, on July 11th, when speaking at Cambridge—Now, Catholic as I am and Irishman as I am even I am glad of the result of the Election Petitions in Meath. I think that the Bishop and priests have allowed themselves to be carried to a point of excitement in action and in language utterly unjustifiable and reprehensible.Mr. Speaker, will my right hon. Friend stand up now at the Table and tell us, is that cant? Those were words spoken by one of his colleagues, a Roman Catholic, spoken by one to whom, I fear, he is going to delegate his defence to-night. I ask him, is that cant? Is it cant in us to say that the conduct of the Meath priests was unjustifiable and reprehensible when his own Colleague generously says it was so? But he has another colleague, the Home Secretary. Here is what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said at Liverpool—You and I will agree that when the Bishops and clergy, to whatever denomination or Church they belong, act in the manner in which they were proved to have acted in the county of Meath—when they are accepted, or at least not repudiated, as election agents in the counties—the election cannot and ought not to remain good.1132 My right hon. Friend made us proud of his frankness last night. His language will not diminish our appreciation of him; but how strange is the irony when I have to defend him against the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant! Was the Home Secretary canting? I know my right hon. Friend too well to believe that he has ever been given to canting. Still, we have the spectacle of the Chief Secretary, who has been for years the champion of all that is opposed to clerical supremacy, prejudging his own colleagues and sitting between those whom he accuses of canting. It is said that we are narrow-minded and bigoted because we pointed out that free election did not exist. ["Hear, hear!"] Those who say "hear, hear!" must mean that they are asking for protection and immunity for the priest because he was a priest, and that they will allow a priest to do what they will not allow a layman to do. We dissent from that doctrine. But we have been charged with more than being narrow-minded and bigoted. I have been told it was impious to drag a venerable Bishop before the public. I will only say that it is not I who have brought that right reverend Prelate before the public. He brought himself before the public, and if he chooses to enter into political contests he must not object to be treated as other men are. I have been accused of impiety. May I recall my right hon. Friend's attention to the answer once given by a man who, I admit, is not to be treated as an authority in the Church? He says—You call me impious. Of what impiety can you accuse me? The impious are those who unworthily profane the cause of God by making it serve the fashions of men. The impious are those who daring to pose as interpreters of the Divinity and to judge between Him and men exact for themselves the honours that are due to Him alone. The impious are those who have libels read in the churches. Priests of the God of Peace, you shall render an account one day, be very sure of the use to which you have dared to put His home.Whatever may be his thoughts now, the Chief Secretary, writing of this letter, says it is as good in dialectics as it is in moral tone. How comes in the cant?
§ SIR H. JAMES
The right hon. Gentleman was speaking directly of the view of the interference of a French Archbishop in politics. Now, again, we have the right hon. Gentleman explaining his position. This to him is not a matter of principle; it is a matter of expediency. We have it that he, with his great power in Ireland, is going to permit that to be done in Ireland which was wrong in France. It was wrong, as a matter of principle, while he was dealing with a French Archbishop, but not when dealing with Irish politics. If an English Archbishop had done what that Archbishop had done, would not my right hon. Friend's condemnation be as complete of that action as it would be in relation to that which he took in the case of the French Archbishop? I am sorry to have given the right hon. Gentleman so much attention. The subject is a little too broad to deal with, perhaps, to confine one's attention to the right hon. Gentleman. I am not speaking, he knows well, in personal hostility. He must know, when he stands before the English public now, occupying the position he does in the councils of his Sovereign—in the peculiar position of Governor of Ireland, every word he utters upon this subject is full of inducements to others to follow his advice. I hope he will forgive me for saying that these words are destructive of the maintenance of the great principles, which, if unheeded and unnoticed, are likely to bear that bitter fruit which he above all men would desire not to be reaped and not to be plucked by the people. There was a speech made by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, in which he said, in the first place—You have no reason to complain here. You may be assured that if the voters had been intimidated they would have come forward and said they had been intimidated.That certainly was a most remarkable argument to use in this House. If a mall is weak enough to be intimidated, is it likely that he will be strong enough to come forward and say so? It is, indeed, a most remarkable fact in this case that witnesses should come forward and, in the presence of their Bishop and priests, give the evidence they did. It is an advance in the independence of the Irish peasants that they should give evidence 1134 against their priests. Then the hon. Member used an argument which I must confess I thought would shock every Member of the Liberal Party. He said if a priest tells the peasants that their salvation depends upon their votes which they are about to give, and if the peasants believe the priests, what have the judicial tribunals or this House to do with it?
§ SIR H. JAMES
Let it be so, but the hon. Gentleman's argument is a very dangerous one. I think he ought to try to teach them to care. He is telling them by his argument to set the decisions of the tribunals at naught, and he is telling these peasants to be careless of the fact that they are about to be protected by the strong arm of judicial decision. I do hope that there are peasants in Ireland still who, if they were told that this House had followed the example of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, and had said that the words of the Bishop and the priests were most reprehensible and unjustifiable, would believe that they ought to vote accenting to their conscience, and not be guided by the opinion of others, whoever they might be. The hon. Member also pointed out how foolish it was to urge that a judicial and purely secular authority should interfere with the influences of the priests, no matter what those influences were; and he was justifying this—that the secular authority ought never to interfere with the influence of the priest, even as it was exercised at Meath, and that freedom should be given it the priests to use what influence they like. Here, in the House of Commons, when the supporter of the Government, who is selected to make the defence against this Amendment, presents that doctrine, is it not time that protest should be made?
§ MR. PAUL
I did not say that this House, or any other tribunal, ought to interfere. I should be only too glad if any tribunal could interfere with effect. But my argument was that no tribunal 1135 could interfere, because the power exercised by the priests, if the people believe them to exercise it, was above and beyond the power of any tribunal.
§ SIR H. JAMES
The hon. Member says that no tribunal could interfere. So, then, according to this new doctrine, the Petitions in the Meath election were all wrong, and they ought never to have been presented! The sitting Members ought never to have been unseated! But by the interference of a secular tribunal this result has been achieved, and it has been admitted by the Home Secretary and by the Attorney General that justice has been done. After this argument of the hon. Gentleman, even with what he has now said, which makes his position worse, the matter is so grave and serious [cries of "Oh!"] that it cannot be lightly dealt with or met by the ejaculations of hon. Members below the Gangway. I envy not those possessors of a new Liberalism. They are the possessors of a perfectly new Liberalism, which says that this is not a matter of importance, and that it is not within the power of the secular authority to interfere with or check this sad and disgraceful state of things. I ask earnestly the House to consider what is the substance of the matter with which we are dealing? We are dealing with a system that is now claimed to be maintained, and I am appealing to Members to consider what that system, which has been carried into effect, is, and what it leads to. Sir, in the first place, there is a claim, a perfect claim, to a denial of any exercise of individual and private judgment. This is the way in which this claim is put forward. It is put forward by the Rev. Father Buchanan. His words were in relation to an article that had been sent to him when it was contended that a man should vote according to Ids conscience. Father Buchanan said—An audacious and outrageous article had appeared in one of those poisonous newspapers denounced by the Bishop, which had dared to lay down in this year 1892 that a Catholic voter had a perfect right to vote for the man whom he believed to be the most desirable candidate, though the Bishop took a different view. That is pure Protestantism.Father Buchanan said that the passage was Protestant teaching, because it advocated the right of private judgment; because it said that it was no 1136 matter what view the priest and Bishop took if the conscience of the electors taught them contrary. Father Buchanan said that that doctrine had been condemned by the Church. The right hon. Gentleman says it is not of the slightest importance. Does he agree with that? It is a doctrine that has been put forward, not by one priest but by all, that a man has no right to exercise his own judgment, or to be guided by Ids own judgment, as to the way in which he should vote, but must be guided by his Bishop and his priest. The claim put forward by the Bishop of Meath is that the Archbishop and the Bishops of the Church in Ireland—29 in number—have received a divine message authorising them to determine, first, what is a question of faith and morals; secondly, how such question shall be determined; and, thirdly, how their answer shall be applied to a man's vote, and so by virtue of that divine message they claim to determine how an elector shall vote, and also that an elector who votes contrary to the way they tell him commits a mortal sin which puts him outside the pale of the Catholic Church. I say that that is the claim which has been put forward by the Bishop of Meath, and it is asserted that until that claim has been appealed against to the Church at Rome it has as much effect amongst the Irish Roman Catholics as a judgment of a Court of Law would have in this country. The Bishop of Meath claims to have the power to tell every elector in Meath how he is to vote, and that if he does not vote according to that decision, according to the code of faith and morals as drawn up by the Bishop, he commits a mortal sin, and is liable to be deprived of the offices of his Church. We are told from the Liberal Benches that it is of no importance that that doctrine shall be preached, and that we must sit silently by and allow a continuance of that system. The Liberal Party has done much to give liberty to the people of this country, and amongst other gifts it wishes now to give them that of "One Man One Vote." But what do they say to-night? One Bishop 10,000 votes. This, Sir, is a matter of no importance among those who now occupy those (the Government) Benches. Sir, I have mentioned this authoritative letter which was written 1137 on the eve of the Meath elections, on the 29th June. I have now an apology to make to the Home Secretary. I think in a speech he delivered some little time ago he spoke of the evils of raking up the ashes of the sinful dust. I thought at first he was referring to the Unionists, but on a second perusal of the speech I find he was doing nothing of the kind. He was complaining, I presume, of the Bishop of Meath, who, in the Pastoral Letter, was raking up the ashes of the sinful dust, and referring to Mr. Parnell's frailty, making that a reason why the electors of Meath should vote against Mr. Mahony or Mr. Dalton. The Bishop told his priests that they were to rake up Mr. Parnell's errors, and they did it from every altar. They were told in a loud voice at Mass, with their vestments on, to read these denunciations of Mr. Parnell's frailty. In the language of the learned Judge, they were found throughout the country opening the tomb and removing the coffin lid in order to attempt to array a Political Party in the shroud of a dead man's sin. This is what the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary complained of; this is what the learned Judge complained of; and this is what we all, except the Chief Secretary, complain of. As I have said, these orders of the Bishop were faithfully obeyed. Upon Sunday, the 3rd July, from every altar in both Divisions of Meath, this statement of the mortal sin that would be committed by every voter who voted for the Parnellite candidate was read. And what effect would that be likely to have? It was read; and what effect did it have? It was not spoken by one man to another; it was spoken by a priest who has been referred to to-night—Father Fay—The priest is the Ambassador of Jesus Christ, and not like other Ambassadors, the priests carry their Lord and Master with them, and when the priest is wit is the people Almighty God is with them.That is what the Irish priest teaches the Irish peasant. The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. E. J. C. Morton), speaking some nights ago from these Benches, said that, according to Ins observation, the people when they saw a priest coming away from Mass regarded him as one who had God in his hand. It is under these circumstances—not as man to man, but as the Ambassa- 1138 dor here spoken of—that from the altar, speaking with his holy vestments on, that the priests spoke to the people and told them it would be a mortal sin if they did not vote according to the bidding of the Bishop. Then, Sir, what are these peasants to do? Are they to disobey the Bishop, who tells them upon, the authority of the Church, that they must not vote contrary to the way he directs them, or they will commit a mortal sin? Are they to scoff at the authority and teaching of the Church and say this is all wrong, and so disdain the authority which the hon. and learned Member for North Louth said was conclusive until it was over-ruled? Or are they to yield and say this is the true doctrine of the Church? I must obey it, or be outside my Church, and so give up the right of judgment, and hand over my right of voting to another. What effect will this have? I do not know how many illiterate voters voted for one candidate or the other, but one of two things has happened: either the voter was intimidated, and voted according, to the order of the Bishop of Meath, or else resisted the intimidation and voted against him. And then, Sir, if he adopted the latter course the priests, who were personation agents, knew it, and the voter has had to run the risk of hearing the whole of the threats made against him—and which can be read by any person who desires to know the truth of this matter—threats that he shall not be attended in the last hours of his life, threats that he shall be excommunicated, and that the priests shall denounce him because he will not obey them. We are now told that these 1,100 men, these illiterate voters, out of an electorate of 5,000 or 6,000 are to be subjected to the knowledge of the priest who has thus threatened them, and to bear all the evil effects of these threats without any protection from any secular tribunal. If I am asked what effect these speeches had, I, in turn, would ask where is it that the priests exercised the greatest influence? I would presume they would have the greatest influence in the rural constituencies. If they are dealing with an urban constituency they are dealing with men who read the Press, who meet together, and can stand side by side and can resist the dictation of the Bishop or priest. It is not so in rural districts, where every priest knows every one of his 1139 parishioners. There were in Ireland at the recent elections, first, the borough contests. There were 10 borough contests not between Unionist and Nationalist, but between Parnellite and Anti-Parnellite, and in these borough contests 21,160 electors voted for the Parnellite and 15,800 for the Anti-Parnellite, very nearly a proportion of three to two, in favour of the Parnellite candidates. Of course, Dublin mainly contributed to that result, and I suppose Dublin will be regarded as a centre of intelligence in Ireland. There were 13,600 Parnellite votes recorded in Dublin. That is, the result in the boroughs was that the voting was three to two in favour of the Parnellite candidates. Now we come to the country constituencies, and there, in the 31 contests that took place between Parnellites and Anti-Parnellites, 91,000 electors voted for the Anti-Parnellites, and 43,100 voted for the Parnellites, so that in the urban constituencies the Parnellite Party has a majority of three to two voting in favour, and, in the rural constituencies, you have two to one voting against that Party. I shall look for the explanation. I know of no explanation of how it is except that the priest, when he is obeying the orders of his Bishop, is powerful to secure the return of Anti-Parnellites in the rural constituencies, but where he is not powerful is in the urban constituencies. I am aware how full this subject is of matter; I am well aware that the position which the priests have taken up can be demonstrated, but there is not time now for me to say more than I have said. Sir, I welcome, as everyone will, the presence in the House of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister; I wish to bring to his mind all these facts; and I wish he could give some attention to this subject and do something to relieve the constituencies of that country from the shame of this sad influence. It would be the proudest—may I say it—the crowning act of his life, if he could give freedom, as he terms it, to the people of Ireland. What does that represent? Does it not represent the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty? Sir, if these things are allowed to continue; if he allows these doctrines to prevail—["Oh, oh!"]—if he allows these doctrines to prevail, and "the most reprehensible and unjustifiable 1140 conduct," as his own Attorney General tells him, of these priests to continue, disastrous results must follow. I know not whether under the circumstances I may appeal, apart from Party strife, to the old Liberal spirit—[laughter]—and the old Liberal spirit which was once not laughed down—["Oh, oh!"]—and—
§ SIR H. JAMES
I care not for interruption, but I do not think it goes well to laugh and scoff at the men asking for protection. Sir, I know that there are Members of these Benches who represent and entertain the old feelings of Liberalism. I pray them for their own political safety to study these proceedings, to learn more of them, and to know what is really the state of the case. When they meet their constituents we shall not be on their platforms, but there ever will be an accuser by them, and their accuser will be to every one of them his own conscience. I say it, and they know it—["No, no!"] Sir, I say it—their conscience. They say "No," and that is the answer that is given. During the last 20 years it has been my good fortune to be allowed to assist others in doing something to procure free and pure election. The views I have expressed are not born of my Unionism. From the time we commenced the maintenance of the cause of free elections to this day there never have been such sad examples of breach of the law and interference with pure election as has been proved to exist now. I know something of this matter. You cannot tell us, as the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary did, "that he would rather be influenced by a priest than taken into a booth by a publican." That is a speech that is worthy of a partisan on the platform—it is not statesmanship. There can be no set-off in corrupt practices. You do not stop one evil by proving the existence of another; and if you prove any sufficient existence of a corrupt form let us aid you; let us help you to put an end to it. I pray this House, having regard for its honour, by all its traditions, to do something to stay this evil of corruption that disgraces it and the Liberal Party.
§ "THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir CHARLES RUSSELL,) Hackney, S.
The House no doubt naturally expected the 1141 intervention of my right hon. Friend in in this Debate. One of the earliest speeches that helped to make his reputation was delivered on this subject, now a good many years ago, and on this occasion he has, in his recently published pamphlet, supplied mental pabulum to those who desire to speak to the Amendment before the House. I could not avoid the thought, as I listened to the able speech of my right hon. Friend, that many of his sentiments, and certainly the legitimate consequences of many of his propositions, seemed to come back like an echo of speeches made in the days before Catholic emancipation, and had indeed a strong flavour of Lord Eldon about them. ["No!"] Yes, because whilst at the outset my right hon. Friend professed to desire to make no attack upon the clergy, he soon lost sight of his early promise, and attributed to Catholics, upon the supposed authority of their Church, sentiments which, if they be true, opinions which, if generally held, would have justified a great deal of the argument that was advanced in the days before Catholic emancipation. But my right hon. Friend indulged in some sentiments, briefly and eloquently expressed, upon the subject—the important subject of the free exercise of civil rights. My right hon. Friend has referred to the views the Liberal Party in days gone by have taken on this matter. Let me tell him the Liberal Party is not less anxious to-day than it was in the time when he was a member of it to preserve civil and religious liberty. My right hon. Friend began with a statement which led me to hope better things from him. He cited the authoritative statement of the Head of the Catholic Church at this time Leo XIII., as to the true dividing line between the sphere of political and the sphere of spiritual influence, and my right hon. Friend was good enough to give his approval to that decision. But having done that, he proceeds to the circumstances of these elections, and he says—I admit that if it were merely these elections in Meath it would be too small a basis on which to build so great a superstructure as to make a general charge against Catholic priests and Bishops; therefore," says my right hon. Friend, "I have to show that what is done at Meath is approved outside and is adopted all over the country.1142 And what was proved? That the hon. and learned Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy), who was counsel in the Election Petition, differed, if correctly reported, from the theological opinions authoritatively expressed by the Pope! The hon. and learned Member for North Louth has had many compliments paid him, but he never, I think, had a compliment paid him of the same magnitude. And into the scale the hon. and learned Member has thrown a letter of one Father Buchanan and a magazine article.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
I thought it was a letter, but I accept the correction. So we have on the one side the authoritative expression of the true dividing line between spiritual and political questions—the line that my right hon. Friend freely admits is justly drawn, a line that is not inconsistent with principles of civil freedom; and against that we have but the assertion attributed to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Louth in his character of counsel, plus Father Buchanan, plus The Lyceum magazine article. I must confess that until this evening I never saw the magazine, and I ought to apologise for being behind the literature of this question; but my right hon. Friend did not do me the honour, as he might have done, of sending me a copy of the first, or even of the second, edition of his valuable pamphlet, which, I understand, is already printed in its tens of thousands, and at the cheapest price for dissemination throughout the land. My right hon. Friend then proceeded to attack the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. I ask the House was that attack fair or just? I do not attribute intentional unfairness, but I think my right hon. Friend was carried away by the bitterness of Party feeling. Could anything be a more complete—I will not say perversion, but misrepresentation, of the references made by my right hon. Friend to the case of Spain, France, and Belgium? What did my right hon. Friend say about those elections which I (as has been truly stated) publicly denounced as in the highest degree condemnable? The Tory Press was making a great deal of fuss about them. 1143 ["Hear, hear!"] I am not complaining of their doing so; they were turning it to Party account. My right hon. Friend at Newcastle said, "Don't you suppose, because there may have been this or that that is reprehensible in Meath, that that means there is going to be clerical intimidation and supremacy in Ireland"; and he pointed to the Catholic countries, France, Belgium, and Spain in justification of his position. If my right hon. Friend the Member for Bury is anxious to adopt the safest security against the existence of more clerical influence he could find no surer guarantee for freedom in civil matters than to endow the people, as a people, with their own Government, for it is participation in free civil life which is the safest and surest safeguard of civil age and of religions liberty. But, further, my right hon. Friend was, I think, unjust. It is true that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant did use in that connection the word "cant." I do not for a moment say that everyone who has spoken on this question, or has given prominence to it, does so from any motive of cant. I am sure that very many in this House, and very many out of this House, honestly take a sincere interest in this question because of its importance from a public standpoint. But will it be denied that in connection with English Parties there has been a good deal of cant upon this subject; can it be denied that one Party after the other has tried to turn this clerical influence to account in its own political interest from time to time? The House was not so full as it is now when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Paul) was delivering that admirable and remarkable speech. He reminded us quite truly of some passages not of ancient history lint of very modern history as to the dealings with this clerical influence on the part of Political Parties. He referred to the story of the Papal Rescript and the events of that epoch, well characterized by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, when he described the so-called, but, as I conceive, the miscalled Unionist Party, with one hand plucking the sleeve of Monsignor Per- 1144 sico, and with the other beating the Orange drum in Ulster. I would like, if the House will permit me, now to turn to the Amendment, and to one or two topics in connection with it. I think it the more necessary to do so because my right hon. Friend paid to that Amendment but very scant attention. It is a partnership Amendment. I believe it is the product of the joint wisdom of the so-called Liberal Unionist Party. It is an Amendment which applies not to the Meath elections merely, nor to them is it intended to be confined, but it applies to the whole of the elections that have taken place all over the Kingdom; and I believe if it were claimed we might have had some contributions from the experienced English and Scotch Members of something—I will not say in the same degree that took place in Meath, but certainly something of the same character. My hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Arnold-Forster) I have known for a good many years. I listened to his speech with attention, and I do not think he meant to mislead the House in any way; but I know his acquaintance with Ireland was begun at a very sad time, and when very tragic events were occurring there, and a bias seems to have been from that time given to his mind which has imparted to it a tone of exaggeration and prevented him from being able to look at any question in relation to Ireland without distortion. His speech was a demonstration of what I am saying; it was full of exaggeration—the broadest statements based on very slender facts. The first case he cited was that of an old man of 72 said to have been knocked down by a priest. Was not the law open to that man for protection and redress?
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
Yes, against the priest. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham says "not against the priest." Yes, against the priest. Is it only the speeches of the Irish Nationalist Member that the right hon. Gentleman studies. If he extends his vision he will see that priests, like other people, have their failings and their faults, and 1145 they get into Courts of Law, commit libels and assaults, and are made, as they ought to be made, amenable to the law like every other subject. The next point my hon. Friend referred to was a publication in a newspaper which I do not know, but which I think is called The Westmeath Nationalist. What did that reference prove? Just the opposite of what he desired to prove. His whole argument was directed to show that the law was not competent to deal with the evils in question. What was that case? That article was condemned as a contempt of Court, and for commenting upon the pending proceedings the editor was called up and sent to gaol.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
Well, if not sent to gaol, he was fined; it is not material which. ["Oh, oh!] The point is, that he was punished and dealt with by the law as the Judges who administer that law thought right; and whether that person was sent to prison or fined, surely the hon. Member opposite, who interrupts me, must see it makes no difference to the argument. As I understood my hon. Friend, some rev. gentleman (Father Fahy, I think), also made some speech which was supposed to be intimidation of witnesses, and was sent to gaol for that.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
Again the law was vindicated and the offender against it punished. And, finally, we come to the day of the Election Petition itself, and we find that in that county so terrorised over a number of witnesses were found sufficient to satisfy the Judges that there had been widespread undue influence, and that, tribunal, one of its members being himself a Catholic Judge, did vindicate the law by sentence. I really think I am justified in saying—and I do not retract one word of what has fallen from me before—that while there were matters in that election condemnable, greatly to be reprehended, and properly to be put down by the law, yet there was a great deal of exaggeration, a great deal too much im- 1146 portance has been attributed to it, and, as I believe, attributed to it for political purposes. My right hon. Friend has cited one authority as to clerical influence. I will cite another, a pronouncement of the late Lord Fitzgerald while on the Bench, and I commend it to the House, because, while I have expressed my satisfaction at the result of the Meath Petition, I do not by that mean to say that I endorse all that has been said by the learned Judges in that Petition. In my judgment they dwelt upon some matters which I do not think came within the category of undue influence at all. This is what Lord Fitzgerald said—The Catholic priest has, as he ought to have, great influence. His position, his sacred character, his superior education, and the identity of his interests with those a his flock ensure it to him, and that influence receives ten-fold force from the affection of his people, for it is almost always exerted for their welfare.He admits, amongst other things, it is the right and duty of the priests to point out to the elector the true line of moral conduct.
§ COLONEL SANDYS (Lancashire, S.W., Bootle)
May I ask if the Ballot Act had been passed at that time?
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
The Ballot Act was not then existing, but the question is irrelevant. Now, Sir, my right hon. Friend must see that if it is the duty of the priest to point out the true line of moral conduct to the people, it must also be his duty in the last degree to point out where that line is traversed.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
That is a question, with great respect to my right hon. and learned Friend, which is not strictly to the point. But what was this Meath election, after all? Mr. Speaker, it was not a contest which was carried out in any sense between opposing religions. It was au election in which each or the candidates represented the same Political Party and I think the same religious belief, certainly differences of religion in no way entered into the contest. The Bishop and priests took one side in it—whether rightly 1147 or wrongly I do not stop to inquire, because it is not relevant to the argument. They did so for reasons which seemed to them admirable. They are entitled to their opinions. I think they exceeded their proper influence, but they were brought before a tribunal and set right, and the law has been vindicated. The true secret of the influence of the priests in Ireland is this: that up to recent years they were the only class in Ireland who could stand up as independent men and champion popular rights. It is the belief of the people that, though the priests make mistakes as all men do, that, though they may do reprehensible things, as all men do, their efforts are in the main unselfishly directed to the good of the country, as they are bound up with its interests. It has not been adequately recognised in this House that in the old troublous days of Secret Societies they were the power that set itself against them, and everyone who has hail to do with the government of Ireland must acknowledge how persistently they have striven to end that bane of social and political life in that country. If hon. Members understood this question, they would find, as pointed out by the hon. Member for West Belfast, that in Ireland the people have been influenced by the priests in the direction the people themselves wished to go. But when public sympathy has been opposed to the influence of the priests, that influence has not been sufficient to counteract the will of the people. I am not going to say any more about this election. I turn for a moment or two to the second part of the Amendment. Here we get to the real motive of the Amendment. His first object on rising was to discredit the Government of my right hon. Friend in Ireland by making the statement that there was not a loyal subject who had the least respect for him or the least faith in him. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division, and the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who has recently come back from a voyage or discovery, thinks that is right, and they have no respect for my right hon. Friend.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I did not use the words quoted by the right hon. Gentleman. I said "No confidence."
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
No confidence! Very well. No loyal subject can have confidence in my right hon. Friend. If, Mr. Speaker, there is one word more abused than another in Irish matters it is this word "loyal." Hon. Gentlemen should remember that the object of government is to content the body of those who are governed. It is not to buttress up a class; and if the object, of government is to content the body of the people, the Irish people will learn to respect—aye, have learned to respect—the right hon. Gentleman and his government of Ireland. Now, my hon. Friend the Mover of the Amendment suggests certain remedies for what he complains of. What are those remedies? He objects to the Chief Secretary exercising what he has called a dispensing power. He refers to the police. He says that a rebuff has been given to him such as no Minister ever before received. I do not know whether he understands the subject. The Chief Secretary is pursuing practically the same course as was pursued by his predecessors. If rebuff there be, it is a reline equally to a long series of Irish Ministers—going back even to the time or Thomas Drummond—a name still revered in Ireland. So much for that question of the dispensing power. Then my hon. Friend would disfranchise all illiterate voters.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
I do not think you need trouble. My hon. Friend did not say disfranchise, he only meant it. He would deprive the illiterate voter of the means by which they are at present enabled to vote. ["No, no!"] Well, if that was not it, what was it he did say? Am I right? [Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER assented.] Quite so; I am right. If not, the hon. Gentleman would correct me, and then he would reduce the representation of Ireland, south of the Boyne. And as far as I can understand, the hon. Gentleman Would in that reduction have a careful regard for the so-called Parnellite Party. The Nationalist Party, it appears, has a stronger hold on the country—and is more the Party of the country—than it has in the towns, It is stated that, as regards the 1149 bulk of the Nationalist Party, they have the representation of the country, and that they have the representation of Cork, Kilkenny, Limerick, and Galway, the Parnellite Party having Waterford, and Dublin. Now, Mr. Speaker, I will not trouble the House much longer. I will just make one comment on the concluding observations of my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment. He said what was wanted in Ireland—it was actually an anti-Home Rule speech—was a continuation of the Union. He did not use these words; but he told us what was wanted was a continuation of that healthy current of public opinion, blowing from this country, which keeps the air pure in Ireland. That current, Sir, has been blowing for well nigh a hundred years, and yet the atmosphere is anything but satisfactory, according to the views of my hon. Friend. I hate nothing more to say except to return thanks to the House for having heard rite with so much indulgence. I did not come down to this house to-night with the intention of taking part in this Debate. I submit to the judgment of the House that this Amendment is not brought forward for a legitimate purpose, or, that if it is brought forward for a legitimate purpose, it is not in its proper place. Its aim is to discredit beforehand the question of Home Rule, and I subunit, further, that it has been made the means of ventilating gross exaggerations—yes, gross exaggerations—upon the subject of clerical influence in Ireland, and that there is nothing in the circumstances of the Meath elections that has not been adequately dealt with by law, and that an unfounded conclusion will be arrived at by this House if it be induced to think that any exceptional course is demanded or required.
§ *MR. JUSTIN MCCARTHY (Longford, N.)
I can promise the House that I shall not stand long between it and the forthcoming Division. I think it is hardly right this Debate should come to a conclusion without some expression of opinion on behalf of the Party with whom have the honour to act and whom I represent. We have had a very long and a very various kind of Debate. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir H. James) would furnish enough for a whole encyclopædia of literature 1150 and theology; but he said nothing—he did not suggest one single remedy for the class of evil which he deprecated. I heard a suggestion made by an hon. Member below me—that was, that the Catholics of Ireland should cultivate the friendship of the English people, and try to lift their national faith to a higher level. I hope the Irish people will try to oblige the hon. Gentleman, and raise their faith to the dignity of his friendship. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has made a perfect mountain out of these elections. Has not the law done already what the law was intended to do? If there was intimidation has it not been dealt with by law? If there was intimidation so great as was described, why were no persons convicted of it; and if the terror of priestly power was so great in these counties, why is it that the Party who were defeated before are so anxious to rush back—why are they so anxious to go back and fight the same fight in the same way, on the same ground, and on the same issues? There was nothing of the extensive intimidation that has been talked about so freely. When gentlemen opposite or on the Benches above the Gangway on this side speak of intimidation they speak as if there were intimidation all over the country, but they have no evidence in support of that. I want to say just a few words to describe the view which my friends and myself take of these proceedings. We are opposed to any kind or influence, spiritual or otherwise, being brought in the way of intimidation against any voter. We stand up for every man getting the full freedom that the Ballot was intended to give him. We admit that things were written and done and published at these elections to which we could not possibly give our approval, but we have heard here only one side. We have not heard anything of the terrorism exercised on the other side, and exercised in the most practical and substantial form. I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir H. James) would propose getting rid of the influence, of the priest. It could not be done by Act of Parliament. That influence, I would say to tine House, has grown out of your system of government. There was a time when the Irish priest was the only friend the Irish 1151 peasant had to stand between him and class ascendancy. The influence of the priest is surrounded by historic memories, and the great heart of the Irish priesthood is always true and devoted to the Irish people, and, whatever laws may be made, that influence will continue, and its power for good will never diminish. I wish to say, for my own part and on behalf of those acting with me, that we do not approve of any intimidation, spiritual or lay, that could interfere with the power of any man in recording his vote.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
said, he could not allow the Division to be taken without saying one or two words in reference to the position of himself and his Party (the Parnellites) in reference to this Amendment. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury would not be surprised to hear that the Party to which he (Mr. Harrington) belonged viewed with extreme suspicion the interest which he took in this question, and therefore that they, against whom this system of intimidation was directed, and they who had the most reason to complain of the "cant," were not so forgetful of the interests of Ireland as to go into the Division Lobby with the right hon. Gentleman. He wished to point out that in the whole of these contests there was nothing—not one shred of evidence—to show that there was any sectarian feeling. The Attorney General had stated that they were all of the same religion, but he did not state what was a fact—that one of the candidates was a Protestant. They (the Parnellites) did not want to deprive anybody in Ireland of civil rights, much less to interfere with the priests of Ireland. But, so far as the influences applied in Meath were concerned, the remedy was that the Irish Catholics should understand their rights. Notwithstanding all that had been said, and all that had been done, they (the Parnellites) went within 82 of returning one of their men, and within a few hundreds of returning the other. He wished to state before sitting down that his Party would not take part in the Division. He, therefore, would not support the Amendment which had been proposed. Rather than give his vote in contradiction to the statement that clerical influence 1152 did prevail in these elections, he should decline—and he thought those who usually acted with him would also decline—to take part in the Division at
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 205; Noes 248.—(Division List, No. 8.)