HC Deb 14 November 1893 vol 18 cc881-99

, Member for Dept-ford, rose in his place, and asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance—namely, The inexpediency and danger to the public peace of permitting Anarchists and disorderly persons to hold public meetings in Trafalgar Square; but the pleasure of the House not having been signified, Mr. Speaker called on those Members who supported the Motion to rise in their places, and not less than 40 Members having accordingly risen—

MR. DARLING (Deptford)

said that, after the answer given by the Home Secretary, that House and all who lived in Loudon would, having regard to what had lately happened in a not very distant country, be of opinion that some attention should be drawn to the facilities with which persons, obviously belonging to some conspiracy of which they formed the, "Freedom Group," and giving no further designation of what they were nor what their objects were—how it was that such persons should be allowed under the protection of the police, and with the sanction of the Government, to hold public meetings in the heart of the Metropolis, and there to excuse the acts, ask for the pardon, and celebrate the memories of those who had committed deeds which led to great destruction of life and property, and also to public disorder and crime. [Laughter from the Irish Benches.] The obvious hilarity which this subject excited among some persons sitting not far from him, who were well known themselves for the interest they took in the victims of the law of England—the obvious amusement which his remarks excited—only tended to encourage him to think that there was more in this matter, and that it was the result of a wider movement, than at first sight appeared. This might account, perhaps, to some extent for the indulgence which was accorded to those persons by Her Majesty's Government. Before calling attention to the words used at the meetings on Saturday and Sunday last, it was necessary he should briefly recapitulate how the question of holding meetings in Trafalgar Square had been left by the decision given some months ago by the Home Secretary, and what were the Regulations drawn up under his authority by the First Commissioner of Works. The House might remember that this matter was put on its present basis at a meeting at which the Home Secretary received a deputation of the Metropolitan Radical Federation at the Home Office, on the 19th of October, 1892. The deputation claimed the right to meet whenever they chose in Trafalgar Square, and the Home Secretary told them they had no such right: that the holding of meetings in the square was a privilege which had been much abused in the past, and would be withdrawn if it were abused in the future; that he was going, with the First Commissioner of Works, who was present at the meeting, to make arrangements for the holding of meetings in the future, and, provided these Regulations were observed, it might be found possible to continue to the people the privilege then granted to them. The Home Secretary went on to say that, although there was not this right, meetings might be allowed on certain days. But what for? The Home Secretary said— for genuine open-air meetings in London called in good faith by responsible persons for a serious and legitimate purpose. And the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that such meetings might be held on Saturdays and Sundays, because they were not matters of every-day necessity. If genuine meetings called by responsible persons for legitimate purposes were not matters of every-day necessity, certainly meetings which were not held in good faith, meetings which were called by persons who were not responsible and did not appear to be known to the Home Secretary, except by some name which he had even a difficulty in reading—for he did not seem to know whether the name was Weiss or Wych—could not be regarded as coming within the terms laid down by the right hon. Gentleman. Was last Sunday's meeting a meeting called in good faith by responsible persons? The Home Secretary merely ascertained that Mr. Wych or Weiss represented the, "Freedom Group." The, "Freedom Group" of what? Was it a, "Freedom Group" of some Association for the purpose of securing some reform which the people of this country desired? or was it a, "Freedom Group," as had been announced in the newspapers, of the, "Anarchist Communists of London"? Surely, when people used such an ambiguous expression as that they belonged to a, "Freedom Group," it ought to have occurred to the Home Secretary to ask what was the body of which they were only a group, what were the objects of that body, how was it they described themselves by such a name, what it was they wanted, and how they proposed to get it. He should have thought that a much less acute Minister than the Home Secretary would have made some further inquiries as to the body and as to the character of the meeting, and it must astonish the House to hear that the right hon. Gentleman did not even know what the group was. If this Debate had no other useful purpose, it would at least enlighten the Home Secretary on that point. The Home Secretary went on to explain to the deputation that notice of meeting must be given to the Commissioner of Police, and he explained that this notice was required in order that he might make arrangements in the interests both of the public and of those who were about to hold the meeting to provide for its being properly held in an orderly manner. Therefore, the meeting would take place directly under the sanction of the Government and the Commissioner of Police. "Properly held." If a meeting was held for an improper purpose, it certainly could not be said to be properly held in any sense of the word. The Home Secretary had stated what the sort of meetings were to be, and added that it is impossible that this practice of holding-public meetings in the open air in a crowded part of the Metropolis should continue to be enjoyed unless those who are concerned and interested in it are prepared, heartily and loyally, to co-operate with the public authorities in the maintenance of peace and in the prevention of disorder. Therefore, if there was any reason to suppose that this group was part of an Association which had not for its object the maintenance of peace and the prevention of disorder; if it was part of an agitation whose very object was to put an end to peace and promote disorder, he imagined that, according to the terms of the Home Secretary's own statement, leave to hold that meeting should have been refused. It was for this reason, among others, that he thought it was incumbent on the right hon. Gentleman to have satisfied himself as to the body of which the, "Freedom Group" was a portion before he accorded them leave to meet in Trafalgar Square. Next, he wished to call attention to the Regulations issued by the First Commissioner of Works in consequence of the speech of the Home Secretary. Those Regulations were issued on the 31st of October last year, and first of all recited the Act of 1844, and said— It is expedient that public meetings should be permitted to be held in Trafalgar Square, subject to such regulations as may be necessary with a view to the public convenience and safety, and to the observance of order. Then followed certain Rules, the first of which selected Saturdays and Sundays for meetings, and No. 2 said— No public meeting shall be held unless written notice shall have been sent four clear days beforehand by the promoters to the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, specifying the object of the meeting and the day and hour when it is proposed to be held. Why was the object of the meeting to be specified? Obviously it must have been in order that the authorities might judge whether the object of the meeting as specified was a fit and proper one to have the sanction of the Government and the protection of the police, and to entitle those who had that object at heart to call upon the Government to put Trafalgar Square at their disposal in order to discuss what they desired. They had the statement of the Home Secretary that it was persons described as the, "Freedom Group" who asked for permission to hold the meeting. What was the object of the meeting on Sunday last held by the, "Freedom Group"? It was to commemorate the death of what they chose to call the, "Anarchist Martyrs of Chicago." Who were they? They were men of the same class and engaged in the same objects as the men who the other day blew up the audience in the theatre of Barcelona. They were men of the same class, having the same objects, as the men who were convicted at Walsall for taking part in plots to commit dynamite outrages—men who were still in the custody of the law which the Home Secretary administered—as the men for whom the Home Secretary was recently importuned to unlock the prison doors, the dynamiters interested in Irish politics. The Home Secretary now found it consistent to keep these men in prison and, at the same time, to sanction and practically to give his approval to the meeting of Sunday last. Why specify the object? What was that requirement for, unless it was that the right hon. Gentleman should see that the object was a proper one for the meeting to receive his permission? Would meetings be allowed in Trafalgar Square to incite to the murder of any particular person, or to commemorate the death of Lefroy, or Rush, or Manning, or any other murderer nearer our own day? Was this what was called allowing the use of the Square to those who were responsible for the maintenance of order—granting it to people who met to commemorate criminals and others who devoted their lives to disorder? Those men told the Home Secretary, to start with, that they desired to commemorate in Trafalgar Square those who perished by the law in America in consequence of having committed the most dastardly crimes, crimes which no one had denounced more eloquently than the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, than whom no one had done more by legislation to make these criminals amenable to the law. Yet persons were to be allowed to meet in Trafalgar Square to deplore the fate of those who had fallen victims to such legislation. What did these men do and what did they say? On Saturday they held a meeting in Trafalgar Square, and on Sunday another. He did not know whether the object of the Saturday meeting was specified, but they exhibited a gallows and an effigy dangling from it. [A laugh from the CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER.] He did not expect that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have received the statement in that manner. No doubt it was amusing to the right hon. Gentleman that the effigy did not represent him, but that it bore the name of another Minister who was called a murderer. He did not know whether the Home Secretary received notice of the object of the meeting; but if he did, it was of no value if people went to the Square with an ostensible object and there did something else. What was done on Saturday? The people exhibited a gallows on which was an effigy of one of Her Majesty's Ministers, with words stating that he was a murderer, and that that was the way in which he ought to he treated. That was a criminal libel. [Irish laughter.] They knew that a criminal libel was a most amusing incident of Irish politics, but we had not yet come to think that in England. But this was worse than a criminal libel, because it was a libel on a high Officer of State. When Frederick the Great was once libelled he said— The libel is placed too high: let it be placed lower down, so that my subjects may be able to read it. The Home Secretary was hardly yet in a position to follow such an example, the eases were not parallel, but they had a right to expect that no Member of the Government should be held up to reprobation in Trafalgar Square as was the Home Secretary on the previous Saturday. The Government seemed to have been lulled into false confidence, and they therefore granted freedom of meeting to the Freedom Group of an unspecified Society. They took no pains to find out what those people represented, what their views were, how they might conduct themselves, whether there was any danger to the people in the immediate neighbourhood, or to others of Her Majesty's subjects, if they allowed the promoters of the meeting to propagate their views. Well, the meeting took place, and it was clear that the account given in the newspapers of who the holders were was perfectly accurate. It was stated in the papers that the demonstration was convened by the, "Freedom" Anarchist Communist Group to commemorate the deaths of the, "Chicago Anarchist Martyrs," who were convicted of murder by bomb-throwing. The first speaker, Mr. Murdoch, began by saying that the affair at Barcelona was a horrible thing. Of course, a person who made a speech of that kind generally began with the hypothetical pretence of deploring the act he was about to praise. Mr. Murdoch Trent on to say that it was not the act of an Anarchist, but of "men rendered desperate by existing conditions," and added— There will be something of the same kind here before very long, for men will not always be content to die in the gutter. The danger of persons like Mr. Murdoch getting up and saying things of this kind was that they were in a position to fulfil their own prophecies. It was no kind of excuse to say that such statements deceived no one, or to say that the speaker commenced by stating that what happened at Barcelona was horrible. The speaker did not say he was not in favour of what had happened at Barcelona, or that he did not associate himself with outrages of the kind. As to whether the perpetrator of the outrage at Barcelona was an Anarchist others were entitled to have an opinion about that as well as Mr. Murdoch. They know that Pallas and Ravachol were Anarchists, and they knew that since these affairs had happened there had been greater activity on the part of the Paris police, as a result of which Louise Michel had left Paris and come to London, where no doubt she had been received by the Freedom Group. It was useless to contend that this country had no responsibility in these matters. If the Government allowed these men to live in London and go openly to them and obtain permission to meet in Trafalgar Square, and to have everything done to make their meetings comfortable for them, great responsibility was placed upon the Government. The Government were aware of what the Anarchists themselves told them last year. At the trial at Stafford of the persons who were called the Walsall Anarchists, amongst the prisoners was a man named Charles, in whose bag was found a pamphlet which contained an article copied from a Socialist organ and describing how a theatre might he set on fire, and how the people who went to a theatre might have bombs thrown among them. In the same article minute instructions were given as to the employment of very small bombs loaded with chlorate of potash, and so on. And it was shown how these bombs were to be used as they had actually been used at Barcelona. The article went on to say that the people would be burnt, the roof would fall, and the audience would be killed, adding that this would be a pious work. What could these men think when they knew that they had only to give notice that they wanted a meeting, in order to glorify the Chicago Anarchists, and no one would be allowed to interfere with them? He wished to know from the Home Secretary whether, when he granted the use of Trafalgar Square on this occasion, he really contemplated what was the class of meeting for which room was to be provided in the middle of London? and further, whether the Government intended again to permit to he held meetings of the kind which disgraced London on Saturday and Sunday last? If this kind of thing was to go on one would think that the Government were the Freedom Group themselves. This kind of freedom had, however, degenerated into license. With regard to the effigy of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith), which was hanged the other night, he contended that the Home Secretary had no right, holding the position he did, to permit, not himself personally, but a Minister of the Crown, to he held up to the contempt of the people and to be pointed out for vengeance to a dangerous class. He hoped the result of calling attention to these matters would be that these Anarchists would be informed that they were not to be placed on the same level as Englishmen who desired to advocate reforms by means coming within the laws of England.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Darling.)


I find it difficult, Mr. Speaker, to conjecture what useful public object the hon. Gentleman thought he was serving in making the speech to which the House has just listened. He has certainly accomplished one object—whether or not it was in his contemplation I do not pretend to say—and that is the giving of a gratuitous advertisement to a handful of insignificant men who used, no doubt, foolish and violent language on Sunday afternoon in Trafalgar Square, but who, so far as I know from the reports which have reached me, have not committed any offence against the law. The hon. Gentleman has said something in his speech—into which I am not going to follow him—as to the objects with which meetings are held in Trafalgar Square. I entirely decline to exercise any censorship over the objects for which meetings are hold. If they are held for illegal purposes, then they will not be permitted. If in the course of the holding of a meeting illegality of any kind is committed, that illegality will be prosecuted and punished. But, provided persons assemble together peaceably with an object which is not in itself criminal or in violation of the law—I am not going to interfere with them any more in Trafalgar Square than I should if they held their meeting in some hole - and - corner at some other end of London, where I know from reports which reach me far more violent language is used with greater impunity. We have had meetings in Trafalgar Square under the new Regulations of every sort and kind. We had the publicans assembling there to denounce the Local Veto Bill of the Government. I do not know whether we have yet had a meeting in favour of the release of the dynamiters; but if the partisans of amnesty are in favour of such a meeting, I should certainly be the last person to stand in their way. And we had a meeting on Saturday last, when, as the hon. Member has reminded me, I was hung in effigy. The hon. Gentleman is much more sensitive than I am. I confess I think the demonstration on that occasion was a little lacking perhaps in taste, and still more lacking in the sense of humour; but if it pleases people to hang me in effigy in Trafalgar Square and otherwise to conduct their proceedings in a peaceable and orderly manner, I certainly shall interpose no obstacle. I think I might safely leave the matter there. I am certain there is no Member in this House, on whichever side he sits, who doubts that Her Majesty's present Government are as vigilant as any of their predecessors in taking all necessary steps to counteract anarchical and illegal designs. If I thought there was serious danger to the public peace or to the good order either of London or of the Kingdom in such proceedings as those which were held on Sunday I should certainly take steps not to allow them. But I regard these vapourings of very foolish and very ignorant people as having, at any rate, this advantage—that, to use a vulgar expression, they, "let off the steam" and act as a kind of safety-valve to feelings and opinions which are only dangerous so long as they are held in suppression and are not properly looked after; and I cannot conceive that a meeting of tills kind, consisting of a small handful of insignificant people, speaking and acting in the presence of the police, could possibly be attended—and I am certain it has not been attended—with danger to public order. Under those circumstances, I do not propose to take any action in the matter, and the House may rest assured that in the future, as in the past, we shall exorcise all necessary vigilance for the protection of public order and for the maintenance of the law.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)

Mr. Speaker, the light hon. Gentleman who has just sat down seemed to find some difficulty in understanding what possible object of a public character could be served by the action which my hon. Friend has taken on the present occasion. I do not know whether gentlemen behind the Home Secretary agree with him, but I confess that in my experience of Adjournments of this House—now not a very inconsiderable one—I have never heard a speech which appeared to me to more legitimately come within the scope of the Rule which we have deliberately framed for the purpose of permitting us to discuss on the moment incidents of public interest. Now, is this not an incident of public interest? [Cheers, and, "No, no!"] Well, I will come to that directly. The right hon. Gentleman says, and says truly, that it is not a matter of public interest whether he was or was not hung in effigy. I agree with him. The right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, treats such displays with the contempt with which any Minister of the Crown would treat them. He is not likely to be perturbed by such crude or coarse criticism as that. But this is not a question of hanging the Home Secretary in effigy, or of holding the Government up to ridicule, or of attacking the Executive. Those things may be good or bad in their way, but they are not the things which are now in question. What is now in question is this—whether the discretion of the Government was or was not properly employed when they permitted a meeting in Trafalgar Square avowedly called for the purpose of expressing sympathy with a body of men who, not in this country alone, but on the Continent and in America, have publicly declared themselves to be the enemies of all forms of social order, and to have as their final end and aim the absolute destruction, amid violence and bloodshed, of the existing order of society? The right hon. Gentleman says that these men are a very small—I think his phrase was that they were "a handful of insignificant men." If he moans that their numbers were not large; if he means that they were probably contemptible from the point of view of ability and education, we shall all agree with him that they are insignificant. But does the public danger arising from this anarchical movement depend upon the number of persons who support it, upon their education, or upon their social influence? It depends upon nothing of the kind. I believe that in all these horrible disasters in Spain, in France, in America, and in this country, the number of persons concerned, either as principals or as sympathisers, has been, as the right hon. Gentleman described these men, insignificant. But their power for evil does not depend upon their numbers; their power for evil depends, in the first place, upon their own indifference to life, and, secondly, upon the brutal courage which they may be able to display in using the resources of chemical discovery for the most brutal form of destruction of innocent men, women, and children. If—I do not prejudge the question—the meeting in Trafalgar Square had, either directly or indirectly, the slightest tendency to foster the propagation of the opinions of these people—it matters nothing that their numbers were small and that they were insignificant in themselves—the Government must be held to be responsible for not having done their best to prevent the spread of the most accursed propaganda which has ever been attempted in a civilised State. The right hon. Gentleman says that these men assembled for no illegal purpose. I suppose that may be true. The right hon. Gentleman is a master of Criminal Law, and he has, besides, the most competent advisers to enable him to deal with the question; but whether this was or was not technically illegal, I maintain that it was substantially illegal. I maintain that if the account of my hon. and learned Friend be accurate—and its accuracy is not questioned in any particular by the Home Secretary as far as I can discover—these men undoubtedly met together for the purpose of expressing their public sympathy with abominable murderers; and men who meet together publicly to signify their sympathy with murder, whether they be or be not technically breakers of the law, certainly are breaking the law in the spirit. It may be said that if they were not technically breaking the law what right had the Government to interfere, and that meetings of a similar character and with similar objects are held in other places in London and elsewhere over which the Home Secretary has no jurisdiction? I will answer that. When my right hon. Friend (Mr. Matthews) was in Office meetings in Trafalgar Square had reached such dimensions and were so great a nuisance that the Government refused to permit them any longer. The then Opposition committed themselves very strongly against that policy. When the present Government came into power it was necessary for them to do something to redeem their Opposition pledges. What has been the result of their action? The Regulations which they framed with regard to meetings in Trafalgar Square show that they consider they have special responsibility as to that Square, and, whether they like it or do not like it, the fact that special permission has to be asked and has to be granted before a meeting can be held undoubtedly shows that a meeting held in Trafalgar Square is held, in a certain sense, under the patronage of the Government. Now, Sir, if these meetings are held under the patronage, or are thought to be under the patronage, of the Government it throws upon them a great responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman said that meetings of this kind are a means of letting off steam, and a means by which the vapourings of this insignificant sect may find a natural and safe outlet. I think there is some confusion of ideas in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman upon this point. I perfectly agree with him that there are fit and proper subjects of public discussion which, if you refuse all natural outlet of discussion, will probably breed very much worse mischiefs than if you allowed them free outlet. But are anarchical doctrines among these? Is the free discussion of whether you should or should not blow up a theatre with a bomb among subjects which may be properly ventilated in public? Are meetings called to sympathise with perfectly just sentences upon American Anarchists—are meetings to deal with these subjects such meetings as will remove from the body politic the anarchical poison? No, Sir; I cannot agree with the Home Secretary. Where there are subjects of public interest to be dealt with by argument and discussion, then by all means permit the freest argument and discussion, balance the reasons for and against in the open air, in the light of the sun, and let public opinion finally decide in which way the balance of legislation is to be inclined. We are not dealing with problems of that kind. The question of whether bombs or dynamite should be used is not amongst the open questions of civilisation, and to permit the public discussion, under the apparent patronage of the Government, of subjects of this kind is—not intentionally, of course, not as a matter of policy, of course, but as a matter of fact—to encourage the propagation of these opinions, which, be they held by few or many, endanger the very foundations of the social system. I hope I have persuaded the House that the subject brought forward by my hon. and learned Friend is not an insignificant subject. I hope I have convinced the Government that by the course they have taken, by requiring their permission to be asked before a meeting is held, they have taken upon themselves a certain amount of responsibility as to the character of the meeting which is to be held; and that in future it would be desirable for the light hon. Gentleman, or whichever of the Ministers is responsible, to make more careful inquiry than they appear to have done in this case, unless they should be found, however unwillingly, to have helped on a cause which every man in this House, I am well convinced, hates from the bottom of his heart.

MR. BYLES (York, W. R., Shipley)

said, he thought when the Motion was made by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite it was intended as a Motion pour rire. One motive, however, of bringing it forward seemed to have been to prevent any legislation which the House in the limited time at its disposal was attempting to carry. He did not know whether the hon. and learned Gentleman had any other motives. It might be that he desired, in the interests of the obscurantists of his Party, to stop meetings in Trafalgar Square altogether by selecting one on which he thought be could throw the greatest amount of disapproval. Whatever the hon. and learned Gentleman's motive might be, however, he (Mr. Byles) trusted that the country would note that the whole of the occupants of the Tory Benches rise to support the proposal to delay business for an hour or two, and that they, at any rate, could not be called the, "Freedom Group." The Debate had become a little more serious since the interposition of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. A. J. Balfour). The right hon. Gentleman expressed the opinion that such subjects as the making of bombs and the promotion of Anarchist conspiracies could not be properly discussed in Trafalgar Square. He (Mr. Byles) dissented from that opinion. It seemed to him that any dangers that arose from bombs, Anarchist conspiracies, and all the mischiefs which were apprehended by the timid group of gentlemen opposite who were afraid of being blown up, were due not to publicity but to secrecy and concealment, and that the more these subjects were talked about and exposed the less danger was likely to arise. Anarchy could only be rendered harmless by being allowed to speak out publicly and openly in such places as Trafalgar Square. The more they, "let off steam," as the Home Secretary graphically put it, the less danger there would be to right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen who were so afraid for their skins.

MR. J. BURNS (Battersea)

said that, what was unquestionably at the bottom of the Motion for Adjournment was the desire on the part of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had brought it forward to fetter the right of public meeting and freedom of discussion, which apparently had been jeopardised by a few precocious youths and young men, who, under the name of Anarchists, had not behaved as sensibly in Trafalgar Square as the other people had behaved since the right of meeting was extended to that place by the present Government. He (Mr. Burns) wished to traverse one or two of the statements made by the hon. Gentleman, not in defence or justification of anything that was said by speakers in Trafalgar Square, but on behalf of two events which these Anarchists meant to celebrate. In celebrating those two events they were thoroughly within those rights of citizens which even the Leader of the Opposition would be the last gentleman to encroach upon, or in any way endanger. One of the objects of the meeting was to celebrate the anniversary of the death of some Chicago Anarchists. If the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Darling) would take the trouble to read the history of the trial and legal murder of the Chicago Anarchists; if he would take the trouble to peruse the Governor of Chicago's defence for overthrowing the decision of the Court, he would see that the trial took place under circumstances in which not only prejudice and intimidation were brought to hear upon the jury, but corruption was practised with the object of securing convictions. The Governor of Chicago, with the approval of the whole of America, had now released these men in consequence of the peculiar circumstances surrounding their trial. The men who met in Trafalgar Square did so partly to protest against that legal murder which the hon. and learned Gentleman approved. The Chicago Anarchists met at Chicago on February 8, 1886, and held a meeting in favour of a legal eight hours day. The meeting was well organised and well conducted, and it was on the point of peaceful dispersal when the police of Chicago received the order to use their revolvers, and immediately the peaceable citizens were fired upon. The Chicago Anarchists resisted this action of the police, being assisted in so doing by police spies, and there was some doubt whether the police spies did not actually throw the bomb themselves. This was how the Chicago meeting ended in riot and bloodshed. It was to protest against this kind of thing that the men met on Sunday in Trafalgar Square. The other reason why they met was to commemorate, "Bloody Sunday." He (Mr. Burns) happened to figure in that particular event, and he should be unworthy of the name of a man if he did not stand up and say that no one could properly regard, "Blood Sunday," as a day which should not be commemorated in Trafalgar Square by a meeting of London citizens, properly convened and held under thoroughly legal circumstances. It was said that there was rioting on, "Bloody Sunday." The meeting was convened to protest against the imprisonment of one of the Irish Members, and was unjustly and illegally proclaimed. Exorcising what he regarded as his legal rights as a citizen, he (Mr. Burns) went to the Square. What did the "riot" consist of? It consisted of Mr. Cunninghame Graham and himself walking from the corner of the Grand Hotel into Trafalgar Square. They received a hiding for their trouble, and this he did not complain of, because if men opposed the law they must take the consequences, and take them as men. They thought they had a legal right, and they put the legal right to the test. The Court decided against them, and within the four corners of the law the six weeks' imprisonment they got might have been increased to six months if the Judge had been so inclined. If it had been six months he did not know that he should have objected, though from their point of view the object with which they had gone into Trafalgar Square had been a peaceful and legitimate one. They were told by the Law Courts that they had no right to go there, and, therefore, they were punished. The men had met in the Square last Sunday to celebrate a political event. The hon. Member dragged in what was known as the Anarchists' Feast at the opera. By implication he suggested that the fact of the Government allowing the right of meeting in Trafalgar Square made them participators in what was said as to the Barcelona outrage. Every man, whether Anarchist or not, must have viewed the horrible, unnatural, and detestable crime at Barcelona with loathing and disgust. And was it fair, was it right, or was it English to compare the meeting in Trafalgar Square with what took place at Barcelona? The Anarchists themselves said that that act had recoiled more on their movement than it had done good to it. He stood up now condemning as strongly as any man could what took place at Barcelona. He had fought the Anarchists for 10 years on the labour movement in every one of the Socialist movements with which he had been identified. He had the intention of continuing to fight them, because he disagreed with them, and because he believed that their stupid and violent acts would, not temporarily but permanently, do harm to all popular democratic labour movements. But because the Anarchists by their stupid, violent, criminal proceedings jeopardised their own movement and kindred labour movements was no reason why he should not stand up there and say, beware lest in hitting at the Anarchists they planted a blow at freedom of expression and the right of public meeting and at the right of London citizens to meet in Trafalgar Square, even to the point of a foolish object, in order to express their opinions. The Leader of the Opposition had spoken strongly on this subject, yet he and others told the people to rely upon their own unaided individual efforts. The Anarchists, in fact, outside had their political replica in that House, for the Anarchists told their hearers never to go to the House for mitigation of their poverty and social conditions. Socialists told the people that they would not get what they were seeking by means of force or violence or dynamite or Anarchism, but by passing over the threshold of the State and by taking their part in the responsibilities of the State, which, though it might seem fraught with delay, trouble, and expense, would bring success sooner than the stupid tactics devised by foolish people in Trafalgar Square. He and his friends knew as well as the Leader of the Opposition could tell them that democracy without discipline meant dissolution and disintegration. They also knew that government by autocratic methods was worse and wilder anarchy, where the right of free speech was denied to the people. He appealed to the House to pass over the foolish and criminal vapourings of a few men who were driven to utter them by poverty, which was the result of capitalism and commercialism. Hypocritical protests were raised against two or three men being killed by the Nihilists of Russia or the Anarchists of Spain; yet all the while they were themselves pursuing degraded and ignoble ends abroad, in the furtherance of which they allowed two or three thousand savages to be shot down. They shot down savages in Southern and Central Africa with explosive bullets, and used dynamite to blow Cetewayo's and Dinizulu's people out of their retreats in the mountains. And thousands of white men and women in England—in Europe—were being goaded to desperation through causes which the House should remove—evils such as the Bill before the House was intended to remedy, and which it was the object of this silly Motion to frustrate.


I rise to a point of Order. I wish to ask whether it is in order for any hon. Gentleman in the House, especially upon occasions of this sort, to impute motives to another hon. Gentleman. I would ask whether that is not contrary to the terms of Rule 184?


Of course, the observations of the hon. Gentleman were not strictly relevant to the Motion before the House, lint the Rule to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded infers that no hon. Member may impute dishonourable motives to another Member of the House. It is better not to impute motives at all. I did not hear the hon. Member impute dishonourable motives. If the hon. Member had imputed dishonourable motives, I should have at once stopped him; but to say that something was done with the object of frustrating the Bill before the House can hardly be called dishonourable within the meaning of the Rule.


said he had but one more word to say, and that was that he honestly and sincerely believed that the object of the hon. and learned Member was to unnecessarily delay the business they were all anxious to get through. If he had imputed or even implied what he ought not, he left the House to judge. The hon. and learned Member was trying to bring pressure to bear in order to put down, with the police and armed forces of the Crown, a small sect of men who, whatever their real object might be, in the bulk of cases were honest, but misguided. These men were driven to desperation by causes which he believed to be preventable, and if, in defending them, he had said more than he ought, it was because, as a man and a workman, he knew what these poor people suffered. He stood up in behalf of these foolish and even criminal men, knowing that, in their poverty, they were tempted to say that which the law did not allow, and which, if they were better off, nine out of ten of them would not attempt to say.

MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)

said, that the imputation of motives which had been raised by the last two speakers made it necessary to repel that imputation. As one of a small group of Members present in the House last Thursday, when, in their view, the Debate on South Africa was being obstructively prolonged—that being the first night on which it was possible to take the Employers' Liability Rill—he wished to say that the two Members who were interrupted by the Closure moved from the Opposition side of the House were the hon. Member for the Shipley Division and the hon. Member for Battersea.

Question put, and negatived.