§ * SIR G. CHESNEY (Oxford)
said, he was afraid the empty Benches of the House were rather illustrative of the degree of interest that was taken in our fellow-subjects in India; but, at any rate, it illustrated a point he would endeavour to submit to the House. Complaints had been made of various omissions in the Speech from the Throne, and amongst the different subjects which had not been touched on, perhaps it was not remarkable to find England's greatest Dependency. But there might be, and he believed there was, sufficient reason for that significant omission in the fact that at this very time Her Majesty's Government had inflicted—he did not say that they were thoroughly aware of what they were doing—a great wrong and injustice upon the people of India. No doubt the House and the country were familiar with the leading circumstances connected with the present financial condition of India. They were aware that while the Government of India received its revenues in silver, it had very large fixed liabilities for payment in this country in gold, and that, with a constantly accelerated depreciation of silver as compared with gold, the burden of silver payments was constantly increasing. Under these circumstances, which brought about a very remarkable and acute stage of financial difficulty, the Indian Government naturally decoded with alacrity to the in- 209 vitation of the different Governments of Europe and America to combine and agree upon some common scheme of action for restoring silver to a better position with respect to gold. He was not going to inflict on the House an attempt at an essay on bimetallism. He would only observe, or note, a notorious fact that he presumed no one would have; the hardihood to controvert—namely, that, whether or not that International meeting of financiers might or might not have led to some successful measure, at any rate, the Government of this country not only gave no definite assistance to the Government of India, but threw difficulties in its way. It was notorious that the unfructuous result of the Conference was due almost entirely to the hostile attitude assumed towards it by the English Government. On that point he apprehended there was no doubt. The result was, that silver went lower and lower without any remedy being applied, and then the Indian Government, as a last resource, proposed that the Mints should be closed, and that, as a necessary corollary, the Secretary of State, instead of continuing to sell his bills in the open market by auction to the highest bidder, must stop the sale of them—at any rate, that he must put a fixed limit on them below which they would not be offered for sale. It was anticipated that in this way, at any rate, stability would be given to the rupee, and that its further fall would be retarded. That expectation was undoubtedly fulfilled for so long as that policy was pursued. The Mints were still closed; but almost in the middle of the experiment, for some reason or other with which the outdoor public were not acquainted, and which both the outer and the inner public were absolutely unable to understand—it was equally a mystery to the monetary interests in the City—the Secretary of State appeared suddenly to have lost heart, to have given way, and to have begun again to open the auction sale of his bills. The result was a still further alarming fall in the gold price of the rupee, with, of course, the necessary consequence of a very large increase of the silver burden of the Government of India; and as a result of this, for the present financial year, at a time when India was prosperous in itself, after a good harvest, and in a time of general 210 peace—with no special or abnormal expenditure—the Government of India had got to face the beginning of the financial year, with all the unknown liabilities that might come on it—and who could say what they would be?—with a deficit of 3½ crores of rupees, or, in conventional sterling, of £3,500,000. Under these circumstances, the only resource open to the Indian Government was extra taxation in some form or other. To have allowed the deficit to go on with the prospect of a probably recurring deficit next year would have been—to say the least of it—a very disreputable line of action. But when the House came to consider the question of taxation in India, it was confronted with difficulties on every side. The great staple item of taxation was the land, and the laud was settled all over India either in perpetuity or on long leases, so that a sudden increase of revenue by the raising of the Land Tax was impracticable, even if it would not be highly dishonest to increase the charges on one particular class of the people. The Income Tax touched only a very small proportion of the community in India. Any tax to be productive in India must be collected from the great bulk of the people, and the Salt Tax, which fulfilled this condition, was undoubtedly already as high as in fairness it could be carried. No doubt every person connected with the Indian Government desired, above everything, to lower the Salt Duties. Under these circumstances, almost the only course open to the Government was to obtain the necessary revenue for covering the deficit by imposing Import Duties on goods which went into India. It so happened that the very moderate general Import Duty of 0 per cent.—in no sense a Protective Duty—on all Indian imports would realise almost precisely the sum of £3,500,000, which was required to bring about financial equilibrium. Although the Government of India had not distinctly said it was their intention to place a 5 per cent. duty on all classes of commodities, it was an open secret that this was their desire. It was equally an open secret that while they had been allowed to impose a 5 per cent. duty 011 everything else, cotton goods, which formed the largest article of importation, had been ex- 211 cluded from the new duty. Every other description of goods was to be taxed, but cotton goods were to remain untaxed. This action, which of course emanated from the Home Government, had created a very remarkable and extraordinary amount of excitement and indignation in India. he had no recollection during his long connection with India of any circumstance about which all classes, British or native, who were capable of forming a judgment on the matter at all, had been so much united as they had been upon this one. They knew that if any taxation could be said to be acceptable to the people of India, this was a form which would be acceptable. They knew that the 5 per cent. duty had only a very moderate effect upon the price of the article imported, that its incidence would be almost imperceptible, and that unless such an Import Duty were raised there would be a deficit which must sooner or later be covered by some other and more objectionable form of taxation. They knew, moreover, that the attitude of the Indian Government towards India was one which it would not venture to adopt towards the humblest of our colonies. It might be said that India was not in the position of a colony, that it was not a free country, that it had not got Representative Institutions. That was true; but surely it was the more reason why Great Britain should exorcise the greatest forbearance, and even the greatest delicacy, in dealing with additions to Indian taxation. It had often happened, no doubt, that the British Government had interfered with the customs of the people of India, but it had only done so when it had felt that those customs were repugnant to the morality of the Western world, and in response to the appeals of the Government on the spot, and in harmony with the wishes of the more educated and liberal classes in that country. It was obvious and notorious that the action now being taken was taken in opposition to the wishes of the Government of India and to the wishes and feelings of all classes in that country. There was no question now of higher morality; it was simply a question of interfering with the fiscal rights of India in the interest of British manufacturers. There was evidence of this in the report which appeared in the 212 papers of the deputation which waited on the late Secretary of State (the Earl of Kimberley) to protest against the levying of a duty on cotton goods. Anyone who read that report must have sympathised with the Secretary of State, as far as one could sympathise with a man who did a wrong thing, because it was so obvious that he was acting against his own convictions, and because he had not a word of argument or excuse to offer. he (Sir G. Chesney) would appeal to every friend of India in the House to support the Amendment, and so to let the people of India see that they had in the House of Commons those who would sec justice done to them. Everyone was well aware what mischief and injury was done in former years by our high-handed and foolish commercial policy, and how, in order to support what was supposed to be the benefit of British industry, colonies were exploited, and the manufacturing industries of Ireland were allowed to wither up. It would now be said that both sides of the House were actuated by a higher morality. If that were the case, was the present Government going to resort to the old vicious system of commercial oppression over again? Everyone knew that the action now being taken was due to the desire to buy off' the agitation of a certain Party in the House. It was said that if any other course were adopted Manchester would make things too hot for the Government. No one would wish to injure Manchester, which represented Lancashire, one of the largest and most patriotic sections of the country. Whilst he appealed to the higher motives of Lancashire, he felt at the same time that the imposition of this trifling duty would not really appreciably affect Manchester trade. Even if it should do so, it would be far bettor in the long run for Manchester and for England that it should cause some present loss, rather than that a policy should be adopted which would tend permanently to excite a feeling of hostility, and to alienate the sentiments of the people of India from Great Britain. He believed that our political connection with India was of a very fragile character. He did not mean that we could not if we chose hold that country in subjection, but he said that if we were to govern India not by brutal military force, but on the same principles 213 of government as wore applied to ourselves, it would be well not to allow the people of India to feel that we were legislating not in their interests but in our own. There was even now, he thought, a way for the Government out of the false position in which they had placed themselves. If it were thought that the imposition of a duty on cotton goods would give a preferential advantage to Indian-made goods, it was open to the Government to meet the objection by imposing an Excise Duty on Indian manufactures. He did not think it would be a happy or a very creditable thing to do; but, at any rate, it would get over one of the most palpable objections, and enable the Government to escape from their present false position. He begged to move his Amendment.
§ * MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)
said, he would second the Amendment. Though he was deeply interested in the cotton manufacture, and though all his interests were very much opposed to the levying of a duty on cotton in India, he could not help feeling that the financial position of India rendered such a course necessary. He was bound to associate himself with the remarks that had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, as he was quite confident they were exciting in India a strong feeling against the Government here, and, looking at the dreadful condition into which Indian finance had fallen, he thought they were entitled to give a free hand to the Government of India. At the present moment the financial state of India was worse than had been the case for many years, and he did not think the House quite realised what a serious condition of things there was in India,. By artificial means they were able to keep up the value of the rupee at 1s. 2d., but the value of it in bullion was only 10½d and who could have any confidence that they would be able to maintain the exchange in India at that artificial rate for much longer? So far it had simply been kept up by the Indian Government refusing to sell bills, but they would have to sell continuously now in order to preserve the Indian Government from bankruptcy; within the next 12 months they would have to sell an amount equivalent to £19,000,000 sterling. He himself apprehended a very great fall in the rate of exchange in the near future, and should 214 not be surprised if the rupee in India in the next year or two fell to 10d. There was but one logical, real, and substantial remedy for that state of things. The Indian Government had pressed upon the Home Government for very many years—only to be treated with contempt—the necessity of this country joining other nations in Europe and the United States of America in reverting to the old system that gave them a fixed exchange in India for 70 years. Unless that were done, he believed that even the financial genius of his right hon. Friend would not be able to prevent the Indian Government getting into something like bankruptcy. He believed that the proposal now before the House was but a feeble attempt to grapple with the difficulty, but still it was an attempt that should be made. However, he could only give a qualified adhesion to the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman. Considering that Lancashire had scarcely been able to hold its head above water for the last 10 years, and that there had been an almost total absence of profit in carrying on the great cotton trade, it would be out of the question for a Free Trade country like England to impose a duty which would protect Indian cotton goods; therefore he claimed that a corresponding Excise Duty should be put on Indian goods. With this explanation he begged to second the Amendment.
Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words,
And humbly to represent to Your Majesty that this House has learnt with regret the determination of Your Majesty's advisers, contrary to the wishes of the people of India, to restrain the Government of that country from taking the measures proposed by them for meeting the deficit in their revenues; and that, in the opinion of this House, such a disregard of the feelings and interests of the people of India is at variance with the principles which should regulate our conduct towards them."—(Sir G. Chesney.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Mr. H. H. FOWLER,) Wolverhampton, E.
I am rather sorry, Sir, this question has been raised to-night, not merely on personal grounds—though I only took possession of the Office yesterday morning—but rather on the ground of public convenience. The Government, through my right hon. Friend the 215 Chancellor of the Exchequer, have already promised that after Easter they will find a day for the full discussion of Indian finances, and during the small time that has already been consumed this evening the hon. Members who moved and seconded this Amendment have dipped, to some extent, into the currency question, and raised that difficult subject. I think it would have been better if we could have adjourned the whole of this question until the day that is to be devoted to Indian finances had been reached. At all events, it will be my duty, in a very imperfect manner, to meet the case so far as I can this evening. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite has used a rather strong expression; he has described the action of the Government—that is, the Home Government as distinguished from the Government of India—as having done a great wrong and injustice to the people of India, and has also spoken of commercial oppression. That is a very grave charge to bring against the Indian Executive in England, and I must endeavour, for a moment or two, to submit to the House two or three considerations which I will ask hon. Members fairly to regard before they accept a Motion founded on such a theory. If a wrong and injustice in this case have been done to the people of India it must be by inflicting either excessive or unjust taxation. The hon. Gentleman opposite will not quarrel with that interpretation of his position. It would be a wrong and unjust thing to levy unjust taxation, but the point we have to consider is whether the action of the Home Government has been to inflict either the one or the other.
§ * SIR G. CHESNEY
My objection was that the Government here have not allowed the Indian Government to impose taxation according to the wishes of India, and the question of whether the taxation is just or whether there be none was not raised.
§ * MR. H. H. FOWLER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman will admit the Imperial Government is responsible for the taxation of India, and it will be my duty to explain how the matter stands, and to submit that the charge of inflicting a wrong and injustice upon India has not been proved. I must ask the House to recall the fact that this is not a new question; this is an old con- 216 troversy, and has been the result of long and careful consideration both in India and England, and I was sorry to hear the hon and gallant Gentleman say the action of my predecessor was influenced by Party motives, and that the conduct of the Executive here in disallowing that proposed taxation was influenced by Party considerations and the desire to propitiate a certain class of votes in this House. Whether the action has been right or wrong, it has had the judgment of the House of Commons confirmed by Secretaries of State belonging to both political Parties, after a great deal of discussion on the matter. I would like to remind the House that tills important question of cotton goods was discussed by Lord Salisbury in his Despatch of the 10th of July, 1875, and he then drew the attention of the Government of India to the effect of the duty on the coarser class of cotton goods. Later in the same year he returned to the subject; he explained it in an exceedingly able argument, and referred to this Import Duty as preventing the importation of an article of the first necessity, and tending to operate as a Protective Duty in favour of the native manufacturer. Lord Salisbury in 1875 was of opinion it was impracticable to levy a duty on the imports of cotton from Lancashire. Even then, when the production of native cotton was less than it is now, Lord Salisbury spoke of it as a "Protective Duty in favour of a native manufacture," and he went on—It is thus inconsistent with the policy which Parliament, after very mature deliberation, has sanctioned, and which on that account it is not open to Her Majesty's Government to allow to be set aside without special cause in any part of the Empire under their direct control. The speedy removal, "in the opinion of Lord Salisbury," was a matter of serious importance both to Indian and Imperial interests.I am not going to trouble the House with a history of this matter, but a Resolution was passed in 1877 in favour of the abolition of these duties, and the Government of the day, then represented by the noble Lord the late First Lord of the Admiralty, one of the Members for Middlesex (Lord G. Hamilton), added to that Resolution that the duties should be repealedso soon as the financial condition of India will permit.No doubt the question is a fair one to be 217 raised on the financial condition of India. Eventually, in 1879—and I wish to call attention particularly to this point—the House of Commons passed a Resolution—That the Indian Import Duty on cotton goods, being unjust alike to the Indian consumer and the English producer, ought to be abolished, and this House accepts the recent reduction in these duties as a step towards their total abolition, to which Her Majesty's Government are pledged.I would here remark that where Parliament has, after protracted discussion, arrived at a distinct Resolution as to the policy that ought to be pursued in respect of this duty in India, it would not be open to the Executive Government to take a step reversing that decision without the matter being discussed in this House. A few years afterwards Sir Evelyn Raring repealed the whole of the Import Duties on cotton, and I would like to ask the House what has been the effect of that repeal? Has it been an injustice in any way to the people of India; has it interfered with the development of the Indian cotton trade—and I regard this as an essential condition of the prosperity of the people —has it interfered with the native production; has the unrestricted competition of Lancashire produced an injurious effect on Indian trade? I would ask the permission of the House just to give two or three figures. In 1881–2, the year before the duties were repealed, the exports of Indian twist and yarn amounted to the value of 1,369,000 tens of rupees. In 1892–3 the value of the exports was 6,773,000 tens of rupees. That is as to twist and yarn. If we come to piece goods of Indian manufacture, the amount exported from India in 1881–2 was 642,000 tens of rupees; last year it was 1,327,000 tens of rupees. Therefore, so far as that part of the argument is concerned, I think the House will see there has been no injury inflicted on the manufacturers of India by exposing them to unrestricted competition. And I might mention, as further proof of that point, that there were 62 cotton mills in India at that time, and now there are 130; then there were 1,654,000 spindles, now there are 3,378,000; then there were 15,000 looms, now there are 26,000. That is proof that the removal of these duties, putting India on unrestrictive terms so far as competition is concerned with 218 Lancashire, has done India no harm. Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of the deficit being an open secret, but I am under the impression that his figures are like many open secrets—liable to considerable modification. I hope, when the Budget Statement is made, there will not be such a deficit as he appears to anticipate. I admit that the Government has declined to sanction the imposition of Import Duties on cotton goods. The essence of this controversy, I venture to submit to the House, is, are these duties Revenue Duties or are they Protective Duties? The hon. Gentleman behind me who seconded the Amendment gave the point away at once, when he said he would be no party to the imposition of any Protective Duties whatever. I admit there ought to be no discrimination between two classes of goods. A discrimination in favour of goods from any part of Her Majesty's Dominions would be unjust and unfair. But I rather put to the House the real nature of this duty as the main influential reasons guiding the conduct of the Home Executive? I take it to be the distinction between Revenue Duty and Protective Duty, that the former, being raised for the purposes of Revenue, is imposed upon all articles alike, whether they are made at home or whether they are imported from abroad. But if you put a duty simply upon goods imported from abroad, and not the same duty upon goods manufactured at home, that is a Protective Duty. What is the practical effect of that? If the proposals of the Indian Government were carried out, and a duty was levied upon all cotton goods imported from abroad, and no duty put upon the cotton manufactured in India, the full amount of duty would have to be paid by the Indian consumer, because the Indian manufacturer would raise his prices to within an almost inappreciable difference of the amount of duty placed upon foreign goods. He would leave just so small a margin as would secure him the market, and therefore, practically, the consumer would pay the duty on all the goods. The result of that is that, in that case, the duty paid does not go into the Exchequer; it goes into the pocket of the native producer; and what we say is that taxation would be levied upon the consumer, not for the benefit of the Revenue, 219 but for the benefit of a particular class. It therefore must be seen that to charge the Government with acting unjustly to the people of India is not strictly correct. What is the extent of the present Indian manufactures? I have some extraordinary figures that I will give to the House showing the amount of cotton goods made in India and exported from India. I am not dealing for the moment with the home consumption in India, which is a considerable item in addition. Taking the average of the last three years, I find that the exports from the United Kingdom into India of yarn and twist averaged 42,000,000 lbs., whilst the exports from India to other countries amounted to 173,000,000 lbs. Taking the manufacture of piece goods, I find that the exports from the United Kingdom to India for the three years averaged 1,858,000,000 yards, whilst the exports from India averaged 73,000,000 yards. Without going into elaborate calculations, I think I can say that a considerable proportion of the goods consumed in India are manufactured in that country, whilst there is a growing export trade from that country to China and Japan. The suggestion that a countervailing duty could be imposed on cotton goods in India is one that cannot be adopted without consideration. I should like to point out that there is, as it seems to me, one difficulty in the way. It is doubtful whether in the Native States an Excise Duty could be imposed. If, therefore, it was imposed upon manufactures in British territory, we might be giving a Protective Duty to the manufactures in the Native States. That is one of the questions, but there are other matters which will have to be very carefully considered before a decision is arrived at. Under these circumstances, I am not prepared to admit that the Government have acted either unfairly to India, or that they have sacrificed the interests of India to the interests of the British manufacturer. The hon. and gallant Member said we ought to be very forbearing in our dealings with India, and with that remark I cordially concur. The whole matter, however, is one of great difficulty. It is difficult to apply rigidly to a country like India the same financial principles that guide our fiscal arrangements here. I think, however, with regard to India as 220 to any other country, we should adopt the principle of not protecting one class at the expense of the whole community, and that is a principle of sound justice, wise justice, and true economy. The Government in the course they have taken, and of which the hon. and gallant Gentleman complains, have been influenced by that consideration, and by that consideration alone. The latest telegram which was sent to India by my predecessor intimated to the Indian Government that Her Majesty's Government were not prepared to make a final decision, that they regarded the difficulties in this case as great, and that they would be prepared to receive further representations on the subject before coming to such final decision. I think that is a course which the House will see is a wise and a prudent course. Her Majesty's Government are influenced solely by the desire to do justice to the people of India; to protect the consumers in India, which means the general bulk of the population, and not in any way to prejudice or fetter the trade of India; and in so doing we are carrying out the policy which this House so wisely described as in the interests alike of the Indian consumer and the English producer. In these circumstances I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not press his Motion to a Division. He has raised, and raised with very great ability and fairness, a question on which he is a very competent authority. I can assure him that the whole question will receive at the India Office the most careful and anxious consideration, and there is no other desire there than to do justice to the people of India and promote their prosperity—both financial and social.
§ * MR. NAOROJI (Finsbury, Central)
had no intention of taking part in this discussion. He would, however, thank the Proposer and Seconder of the Amendment for taking up this subject and saying what they had said. He did not agree with a large portion of their remarks, but he did not desire at this stage to enter into the discussion for two reasons: first, because the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had promised them a day for the complete discussion of the finances of India; and second, because these partial discussions always led to some un- 221 fortunate misunderstanding and unsatisfactory results.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Main Question, as amended, again proposed.
§ DR. J. KENNY (Dublin, College Green)
, in rising to move the following Amendment:—And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that the time has come when the cases of all prisoners convicted under the Treason Felony Act who are and have been for many years undergoing punishment for offences arising out of insurrectionary movements connected with Ireland, may be advantageously reconsidered,said, he regretted that the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond), in whoso name the Amendment stood, was precluded from moving it, as the hon. Member would have dealt with a matter of so much importance in a far abler manner than he could hope to do. He desired, in the first place, to repudiate in the most emphatic terms any idea that those who took an interest in this question were animated by political motives. He would consider any one man or any party of men who would embark into a question involving so deeply the interests of humanity simoly for political purposes as guilty of a crime, and he desired to repudiate all such suggestions as monstrous and unreal. It was to him a, matter of profound surprise and regret that whilst there existed in this House a party of Members from Ireland, all of them professing a deep interest in this question, with the power to enforce their views if their will was equal to their power, yet, notwithstanding that, it should be necessary for them to bring forward this Motion Session after Session. A year, however, had elapsed since a similar Motion was last brought before the House. Therefore, a year more of punishment had been inflicted on the men in whose interest the Amendment was brought forward, and that in itself added weight to this appeal for clemency. The present Motion was based on the highest prerogative that could be exercised—namely, that of mercy. The first question was, was the definition given in the Amendment fulfilled by the persons in whose interests it was brought forward? That was to say, were they political prisoners? He did not think anyone who had given 222 attention to the subject could for a moment doubt that they were political offenders who were undergoing imprisonment for offences of a political character. He was sorry that the Home Secretary in his speeches in the House and elsewhere had cast doubt on the reality of their position in that respect. If the right hon. Gentleman was of that opinion he could at any rate appeal from him to the Chief Secretary for Ireland to show that in the estimation of the latter right hon. Gentleman these men were political offenders and nothing else. During the time of the General Election the right hon. Member for Newcastle, in reply to a deputation of Irishmen who waited upon him in reference to this question, used those words—We are endeavouring to bring the old system of Irish Government completely to an end. When we have succeeded in these efforts then will be the time to consider whether the British Government would not be well advised as incidental to that momentous settlement of national accounts to show the same spirit of clemency towards these prisoners as was shown, for example, by the Government of the French Republic towards the exiled communists. Such at least is my judgment, and I beg you to convey it to your friends.What meaning could possibly be derived from those words but that the right hon. Gentleman did believe they were political offenders, and that at the moment of closing the blood-stained and tragic accounts between the two nations it would be a proper and right act to amnesty those men? Why, if they were not political offenders, would the settlement of the national accounts involve a general gaol delivery? If anyone ought to be anxious for a settlement of this amnesty question outside the Irish Members it was the Chief Secretary, be-ca use he did raise in the minds of the Irish people by his Leinster Hall speech the definite idea that he regarded these prisoners as political offenders, who should be amnestied. He knew the right hon. Gentleman had repudiated such a meaning being placed on his words, and had said that he meant a general amnesty for old fends; but that was not the impression created on the minds of the Irish people, who took the right hon. Gentleman's language to mean that one of his first acts would be to obtain the release of these persons. The right hon. Gentleman admitted it would be right to amnesty these men on the occasion of 223 closing the accounts. If that be so, was it not within the power of the Government at the present moment to close the national accounts on this subject? What was the use of keeping it open as a sore between the two nations, or between a section even of the Irish Nationalists and the British Government? That seemed to be an illogical position. If it was right that there should be a closing and settlement of the national account, why should they still keep open these items in the account, which would be a source of irritation and do no good to anyone? Supposing certain of these men had escaped to America or France, and that the Government had demanded from the French or American Government their extradition, would that demand have been listened to? No, they would have been told that the offence was a political offence, and did not come within the class of offences for which extradition could be demanded. The men, on whose behalf he was appealing, were tried not for the possession of the dynamite or creating dynamite explosions. And here let him say that he and his friends wished it to be distinctly understood now—as they had often slated before—that with dynamite and its methods they had no sort of sympathy or community whatever, but detested them as much as anyone could, and should continue to teach their fellow-country-men that they were bitterly opposed to such methods. The prisoners in question were tried under the Treason Felony Act of 1848, and got sentences of penal servitude for life, which could not have been imposed had they been tried under the Explosives Act. Let them contrast for a moment what occurred between two sets of prisoners, some of whom were convicted under the Treason Felony Act and others under the Explosives Act. The two sets of prisoners were, by a coincidence, tried by the same Judge. In the case of the Walsall prisoners, who were tried under the Explosives Act, Mr. Justice Hawkins commented on the enormity of the crime of which these men wore guilty— namely, that of a conspiracy to cause explosions of a most atrocious character, and directed against the most innocent of the community, and yet when he came to sentence them he awarded them punishments ranging from 5 to 10 years, 224 the latter being the highest sentence he passed. What would have been the case of the political prisoners who in 1888 were tried by the same Judge under the Treason Felony Act had they got sentences of this character? The majority of them would have been out by this time. If justice was to be respected it should be even-handed. Daly, Egan and the other men were tried and convicted under the Treason Felony Act. They were sentenced in the spirit of viudictiveness, which at that time prevailed in England, and were awarded punishment not for treason-felony, but for the possession of dynamite in some cases, although in one case it was clear there was no such possession. He entreated the Home Secretary not to give a cut-and-dried answer. There must be some reason given for this inequality of sentences; the men who were convicted of the lesser crime being dealt with far more severely than those who were guilty of atrocious offences. As to Daly, though he was known to be an extreme Nationalist, he was a man of high honour, and one who would not stoop to mean actions to carry out the designs he openly avowed. There was no doubt in the mind of any man who had studied Daly's trial and the circumstances connected with it that the Irish police did plant, by means of an agent, the bombs which were found in Daly's possession. If the Home Secretary doubted that, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman what had become of the man who, as they believed, lured Daly from Birmingham to Liverpool, who, after Daly's conviction, had disappeared, and never since been heard of, and who would have no reason on earth to disappear from Liverpool, where he was doing a lucrative business, if he had not been a provoking agent of the Irish police, and acting at their instigation? He was sorry to see the right hon. Gentleman seemed to find this a subject for amusement. There were the statements of Alderman Manton and Inspector Farndale,of Birmingham, on this subject; and although the Home Secretary and his predecessor in Office cast doubts on such statements, neither Mr. Manton nor Mr. Farndale had ever repudiated them. Mr. Farndale ought not to be retained for a moment in his position if the statement he had made was not well-founded, 225 and if he bad not been able to convince the Watch Committee of Birmingham of its truth. That statement was most specific. It was that ho, who was the officer that had Daly under observation since he came to England, knew that the bombs found in his possession when he was arrested had been planted on him by an agent of the Irish police. That agent was the man in Liverpool named O'Neill. It was a very suspicious circumstance that the police officer from Ireland who was able to recognise Daly, and see that his pockets were full of bombs, happened to be at the railway station, where Daly was arrested, though the English Inspector stated at the trial that from the time Daly arrived in Liverpool until he was arrested the English police had lost sight of him and did not know where he was. On all these grounds he renewed his appeal to the Home Secretary to take seriously into consideration whether it was worth while to keep these men in prison, and who it was he would please by doing so. If it were the Opposition the right hon. Gentleman thought to please he could not expect any gratitude from them. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had in contemplation a great scheme for healing the differences between England and Ireland. Let them release those men, and remove thereby one of the grievances which they had power to remove, while it, was not in their power to relieve the greatest grievance. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Amendment.
§ MR. W. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
seconded the Amendment. He did so for two reasons—first, because he was obliged by his constituents to do so; and secondly, because of the hopes that were raised in the minds of the Irish people by certain right hon. Gentlemen, who now sat on the Ministerial Benches, before they came into Office. He disclaimed any sympathy whatever with crime. However, it was useful to remember that at the time these crimes were committed the circumstances of Ireland were entirely different. Liberal Ministers might not desire to have their memories refreshed with regard to those events; but he should point out that even when a Liberal Government was in power public meetings were proclaimed, Associations were suppressed, and 226 coercion was rampant in Ireland. These men were tried in a time of panic, and were convicted on evidence which would not have been satisfactory if they had been charged with other offences. Under the circumstances, the Government first made these men criminals and then punished them for being what the Government had made them. That might seem a strange assertion, but it was true. Crime was the natural outcome of oppression; these men raised their voices against oppression in the only way that was then open to them, and it was the Government which made that state of things possible that should bear the responsibility. He would remind right hon. Gentlemen also that there was no life lost in any of the outrages and very little property was destroyed. Besides, the men were tried under the Treason Felony Act, and were political prisoners pure and simple. Amnesty was recognised by all civilised nations except Russia. And were British Ministers going to adopt the code of acknowledged despotism? The battle-cry at the elections in Ireland had been that the evicted tenants were to be put in and the political prisoners let out. There bad been 18 months' talk, and absolutely no result. In the words of Shakspere, "It was sound and fury, signifying nothing." They were face to face with the fact that the Government had dropped one plank in their political programme and cast another adrift on the waters of the future. But he warned the Government that this subject would not be lost sight of, and if they did not give a more sympathetic consideration in favour of amnesty it would probably tell against I their success at the next General Election. That was a consideration that generally had more weight with right hon. Gentlemen in Office than anything else that could be brought forward.
§ Amendment proposed, at the end of the
Question to add the words—
And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that the time has come when the cases of all prisoners convicted under the Treason Felony Act who are and have been for many years undergoing punishment for offences arising out of insurrectionary movements connected with Ireland, may be advantageously reconsidered."—(Dr. Kenny.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."227
§ MR. J. REDMOND
said, he was anxious to intervene for a few moments in the Debate before the Home Secretary delivered the reply of the Government. He was conscious of the fact that the circumstances of the time constituted a difficulty in the way of the favourable consideration of this question by the House. It was undoubted that the recent outbreak of the forces of anarchy in different countries on the Continent was calculated to close the ears of a great many people against any appeal for mercy on the part of men who were supposed, rightly or wrongly, to have been connected in the past with crimes of this character. He recognised frankly that this feeling was a difficulty in the way of the Amendment, but disputed altogether the justice and the logic of that feeling. If they could make out a fair case for the reconsideration of some of these cases it would be illogical and horribly unjust to refuse redress because other men in other countries had been guilty recently of crimes which' merited and which received the abhorrence of all men. If, therefore, the House found that the case presented was in itself and on its own merits a reasonable one, he appealed to the House to rise superior to any feeling of panic or prejudice, and to do a wise and magnanimous act by releasing these men. On the general question, he desired to say that he put forward this claim for political amnesty on political grounds. He was aware that that was a claim which would not receive much sympathy in various quarters of the House, but it was a claim that they had been making in Ireland—a claim which they had made before in this House, and they felt bound to put it forth again. Apart altogether from the question of political amnesty, there were special circumstances which justified a reconsideration of the sentences in certain cases. When he brought forward Egan's case the late Home Secretary admitted that there was a broad distinction between his case and that of the other prisoners, and a similar admission was made by the present Home Secretary, who after an inquiry, had released Egan. The second case to which he had already drawn particular attention was that of Daly. They founded their claim for the reconsideration of that case upon the fact that the 228 Chief Constable of Birmingham had publicly stated that the explosives found in Daly's possession were purchased and planted upon him by an agent in the pay of the Irish police, and to that statement Mr. Farndale still firmly stood. An investigation was held by the late Home Secretary into the matter, and the right hon. Gentleman satisfied himself that Mr. Farndale was mistaken, but he did not satisfy Mr. Farndale that he was mistaken, and it was nothing short of a public scandal that Daly should be kept in prison when a police officer had solemnly declared that he had been convicted because of an Irish police plot. He now wished to call attention to a perfectly new case—that of a man named Curtin, or Curtin Kent. This man was a labourer and illiterate, and a man who could not by any possibility have been a principal in the dynamite conspiracy. At the worst he could only have been a dupe in the hands of cleverer men. This man was a native of Fermoy, in Cork, and went to America in 1873. He returned to Ireland in 1883 and went to Fermoy, where he remained for some time with his parents. He then went to Glasgow. These matters, he should say, were not disputed, and would be found set forth in the Report of the trial in Vol. 15 of Harding's Criminal Cases. What brought Curtin to Glasgow was this: While in America he had been medically attended by Dr. Gallagher, who had been a doctor in considerable practice in New York. Gallagher gave Curtin a letter to a man named Kilfeather in Glasgow asking him to try to get Curtin some employment in Glasgow, and through this letter Curtin did got work in a shipyard in that city. Curtin remained there for a considerable time; and having heard from Kilfeather that Gallagher was in London, he wrote to him asking him for some money, as he desired to go back to America. Gallagher sent him £5. With that money Curtin came to London. It was proved that the man was actually starving while in London, and he had to pawn a silver watch to buy food. He was arrested along with Gallagher, Whitehead, and Wilson, who were admittedly in the conspiracy, and was placed on trial with them. The charge was a charge of conspiracy, and therefore the evidence against Gallagher and 229 the others was, according to the Law of Conspiracy, evidence against Curtin. There was no other evidence against Curtin than his connection with Gallagher, and the Lord Chief Justice in his Charge to the jury seemed to suggest that there was a feature in Curtin's case which distinguished it from that of Gallagher and the others, who were undoubted dynamiters. The man, however, was convicted and sentenced to penal servitude for life. There was not a tittle of evidence to show that he was in any way connected with the conspiracy. The only evidence against him was evidence of suspicion, based on letters as to the £5 which had passed between him and Gallagher. The men were tried under extraordinary circumstances of panic. He had been told that as the prison van came down to the Old Bailey with those men every window of every house was crowded with people hissing and groaning; the prison van had to be guarded by an armed force, and even the Court was in the possession of armed men. Under those circumstances, it was only human nature to feel that the jury might have been so prejudiced by the panic as to bring in a verdict which under calmer circumstances they would not have brought in. The same verdict of "Guilty" was brought in against this common hod-man who had been starving in London as that returned in the case of the man found with a largo quantity of dynamite, and a large sum of money in his possession. The learned Judge, under these circumstances, and although he had made a declaration as to the difference in Curtin's case, gave the same sentence to Curtin that he gave to the others. This case was a peculiar one. Curtin was a naturalised American subject. The American authorities brought his case under the consideration of the Home Office in 1888, and the result of that apparently was that the English authorities took some steps to investigate the matter. They took the unprecedented course of formulating a number of questions as to Curtin's antecedents, the circumstances of his life, his means of livelihood, his character, and that of his friends and relations in Ireland. They sent these queries round to a number of people in County Cork. To these questions they received replies from a number of persons of all classes 230 of life, Justices of the Peace and clergymen of all denominations, with a great number of names for reference, but they took no further steps. He mentioned those facts to show that the Government were at one time seriously considering the question of the release of this man or a mitigation of his sentence. A change of Government took place shortly afterwards, and he feared in that way the matter was lost sight of, for from that day to this it had never been reconsidered. He would ask the Home Secretary not to give a hasty answer in the ease of Curtin, but at all events to make it his business to investigate it, and to see whether he could Lot find in it as much element of doubt as was to be found in the case of Egan, who was released. He felt that he should only weaken the force of his appeal if he extended it to any greater length. He would conclude by saving that all these men had now been imprisoned from 10 to 11 years, technically one-half of their term, as a sentence of penal servitude for life generally meant about 20 years. In cases quite as bad, and in even worse cases, which had been tried recently, prisoners received sentences of five, seven, or ten years, and if these Irish prisoners had received the maximum sentence given to English prisoners for worse offences they would to-day be at liberty. He would, therefore, appeal to the House of Commons to consider the question whether these men had not been sufficiently punished by the years they had spent in prison. Their continued imprisonment was undoubtedly looked upon by large masses of people in Ireland as unwise and vindictive. Divided as Nationalists in Ireland might be in general politics there was no division amongst them on this subject, and he did not hesitate to say that he was profoundly convinced that the reconsideration of their case would do more to prevent the recurrence of such crimes as those of which these men were convicted than any mistaken policy of vindictiveness. The release of the prisoners would he hailed with joy. It had been said in many quarters that he and his friends urged the case of these men in a spirit of palliation of the offences for which they were sentenced. That was absolutely untrue. For his part, he agreed with the phrase used in Newcastle by the Chief Secretary, when 231 he described these crimes as "the detestable resort of political lunacy."
MR. J. MORLEY
was understood to say that that was a phrase used not by himself, but by one of his correspondents.
§ MR. J. REDMOND
said, that at any rate the phrase was one with which he agreed, but he thought there were many ways in which the Government could prevent the recurrence of these detestable crimes without continuing these punishments in a way which would appear to Irish Nationalists as vindictive. If in this matter the Government could see their way to meet the wishes of the Irish people, they would do far more to create trust and confidence as to the future in Ireland than by anything else they could possibly do. He begged cordially to support the Motion which had been made, and to respectfully urge the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to deal with the matter in a gracious and lenient spirit.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. ASQUITH,) Fife, E.
I trust that the three hon. Gentlemen who have just addressed the House in support of this Motion will not think that I am wanting in courtesy or that I in any way underestimate the gravity of the topic they have brought under our notice if I reply to them in a very few sentences. The truth is, that the whole of the general considerations which affect this question were fully debated in this House only a year ago, and I then expressed at considerable length and in much detail, on my own behalf and on behalf of my colleagues, the views then held by Her Majesty's Ministers. Those views we still entertain, and I think I should be wanting in respect to the House if I were to go over again the ground that was thoroughly traversed on that occasion. What has happened since that Debate and Division to require the House to go back on the judgment which it then pronounced? The hon. and learned Member (Mr. J. Redmond) has certainly re ferred to one undoubtedly new fact, or new series of facts—namely, those deplorable outrages which have taken place in a number of European countries, and which indicate a recrudescence of that very class of crime in the attempted 232 execution of which these men were fortunately detected and brought to justice. I agree that it would be very unfair to prejudice their cases by matters which have subsequently happened, and I can assure the hon. Members who have spoken that recent events have not in the least degree influenced my judgment as to the individual merits of these cases. But I think the outrages in question have brought home—and it is only from that point of view that I refer to them—to the mind not only of this but of all civilised countries the peculiar atrocity and wickedness of a method of warfare, whether you call it social or political warfare, which shows a reckless disregard for the lives and limbs of innocent persons, and whose peculiar characteristic as distinguished, so far as I know, from every other kind of warfare for political purposes recorded in the history of the world is that it is directed not against those who can be fairly held responsible for the sufferings of victims of oppression, but is directed indiscriminately against all classes of society. I do not think that is a consideration which anyone whose invidious and most painful task it is to have to consider the righteousness of sentences like these can possibly leave out of view. Although the Government are asked to recommend to the Queen that the time has come when we should reconsider the cases of all the prisoners, the hon. and learned Gentleman has only referred, even by name, to three, and has only dealt in anything like detail with one. The case of Egan has already been disposed of; that of Daly was exhaustively discussed last year, and I can only repeat, without re-stating the arguments I then advanced, that in my opinion Daly was most properly convicted. He was engaged without a shadow of doubt in the prosecution of a criminal enterprise, and the evidence was amply sufficient to warrant his conviction and sentence. The only remaining case, is that of Curtin. I am at a disadvantage at the moment in dealing with the arguments in that case, since it is some time since I went into the matter myself. The hon. and learned Gentleman has made a very able defence of Curtin, such as I have no doubt was addressed by his counsel to the three Judges and the jury at the Old Bailey 233 I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have myself undertaken a most careful personal investigation of that very ease as of those of all the 14 prisoners now undergoing sentence, and I have come to the conclusion that in no one case should the sentence be remitted. I would point out that this House is not the most satisfactory tribunal in which, 11 years after the trial of the event, the friends of the prisoners should attempt to re-open the merits of a case tried by Judge and jury. It is not suggested that the original evidence was false. The details of evidence were carefully sifted at the time, and I am bound to say that it appeared certain that Curtin was deeply implicated in a conspiracy. Although he did not originate it, and was only a subordinate, he was privy to all its proceedings, and was legitimately convicted. The hon. Member said that the American Government have made representations in favour of this prisoner. That statement is true; but the reason for their so doing was because Curtin was an American citizen. I may point out, moreover, that they have taken the same course in other cases—for example, in the case of Dr. Gallagher.
§ MR. ASQUITH
Not, I think, the earlier representations, though it is true that representations of that character were made afterwards on behalf of Dr. Gallagher and on behalf of other prisoners. I have always said, and I repeat to-day, that if any of these prisoners could be shown to be physically or mentally unfit to undergo their sentences their case would receive the most careful reconsideration. I had Gallagher examined by the doctors of the prison, and they reported that he was perfectly sound in mind. Gentlemen in America were not satisfied with that Report, and suggested that some expert should be called in. That is not the usual practice. Still, in this ease, as that prisoner was an American citizen, I agreed, and the prisoner was examined by one of our most eminent specialists in mental disease. The result is that there is no doubt whatever 234 that the man is perfectly sane. I have, I think, said enough to dispose of this Amendment for the purposes of to-night. It is a very invidious thing to reject an appeal for mercy. It is an unthankful task for any Minister to have to discharge, but I repeat to-night what I said before, because it represents my settled conviction and practice, that, so far as these prisoners are concerned, they have been, and they will be, treated precisely in the same way as other prisoners in Her Majesty's gaols. I do not reckon that there is anything in the nature of their crime, or the circumstances under which they were convicted, which would warrant a departure from the ordinary practice. If they could be shown to have been improperly convicted, in their case, as in that of other prisoners, I should be prepared to give the fullest hearing to their case. If, again, they could be shown to be in peril of life or health, the fullest consideration would be given to their condition. Beyond those lines, and outside those limits, I am not prepared to go, and when this Amendment asks the House to represent to Her Majesty that the eases of these men should be reconsidered with a view to their release, any Minister would be acting with a gross disregard to the responsibility that the law easts upon him in assenting to such a proposition. It is no argument to say that such a course might please some one; and, painful as the duty is, I cannot hold out, any hope that, if the House were to accept the advice of the hon. Gentleman and were to express the opinion that these cases were worthy of special treatment, such a course would receive the support or influence the action of Her Majesty's Government. I trust that the House will rest content with the consideration given to this question to-night and the full discussion it received on a previous occasion.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
said, the House would agree that the manner of the right hon. Gentleman in refusing to consider the ease of these men to-night was different to what it was on the occasion of his first appearance in his present position. But he (Mr. Harrington) regretted to say 235 that, though the manner was more satisfactory, the language of the refusal was equally as emphatic. It was a remarkable thing that the right hon. Gentleman was careful both on the last occasion and to-night to give a complete go-by to the comparison hon. Members had instituted, or rather the contrast they had drawn between the sentences on the Walsall prisoners and that inflicted on the Irish prisoners. If in Ireland there was a burning feeling of indignation at life sentences being inflicted in the case of the Irish prisoners, and five, seven, and ten years' imprisonment in the case of the Walsall prisoners, the Government could not wonder. Under the circumstances, they could not complain if the Irish people were indignant, and if this question was eternally knocking at their door. With regard to these being political prisoners, the Government of the day chose to try the men under the Treason Felony Act; and, if a political complexion was thrown round the whole of their case, the responsibility for that rested, not on Irishmen, but on the Government who put the men on their trial. The Home Secretary asked the Irish Members to bring forward new facts. Surely he was trifling with the intelligence of the House. New facts as to what?—as to trials that took place 11 years ago. Whenever fresh circumstances were brought forward the answer of the right hon. Gentleman was the same stereotyped answer—namely, that all these things were before the Judge and were present to the minds of the jury. The right hon. Gentleman said he had quite satisfied himself that the conviction in Daly's case was just. It had never been contended that Daly had not some knowledge of the nature of the bombs found upon him. The whole case put forward on his behalf was that those things were planted upon him by agents of the Government, and he was sorry to say that the same agents had continued to act under the régime of the right hon. Gentleman who now sits on the Treasury Bench. There was not a shadow of a doubt that dynamite outrages now occurring in Ireland were, more or less, 236 owing to the money expended by the right hon. Gentleman. It was known in Ireland perfectly well that Daly had been led into crime by the American agents of the Home Office, like so many others of his deluded and unfortunate countrymen. The allegation made was that these bombs were planted upon Daly by Government agents, and that the unfortunate man was the victim of a foul conspiracy, and the police had perfect knowledge of the fact. If there was the slightest ground for the allegation the House ought to insist upon the whole matter being thoroughly investigated, in order to ascertain how far the Government officials were guilty; but, as matters now stood, those officials were being rewarded, whilst their victims were undergoing life-long sentences of imprisonment. The right hon. Gentleman had dismissed that evening the question of the imprisonment of these men, who were pining out their lives in penal servitude who, guilty as some of them might have been of some connection with dynamite outrages, would not have been so heavily punished had they not had the misfortune to be Irishmen, but would to-day have undergone their imprisonment, and would have been released. He could only tell the Government that the Irish Representatives were faithful to their people, and that they would, if driven to do so, make it very inconvenient to Her Majesty's present Government, or to any future Government which might exist in this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had been careful to hold out no hope that the cases of these men would be reconsidered, but he was not certain that the non possumus of the right hon. Gentleman would not undergo a great change in the future. There was no sympathy among Irishmen with the kind of crime alleged against these men, but the feeling was that they had received a punishment which they would not have received if they had been of any other nationality than Irish. As long as the right hon. Gentleman refused to consider these cases, that one feeling would induce the Irish people to make the right hon. Gentleman's position as uncomfortable as they could make it. No doubt the threat would be regarded lightly now on 237 the Treasury Bench, but he looked forward to the time when it would be looked upon as more significant. They had seen may changes in recent days, and might therefore hope for the time when appeals for justice on behalf of these men would be received in a more conciliatory spirit.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
said, that last Session when the question was raised he had voted with the Government, because he thought the Home Secretary's case was conclusive against any immediate release of the men whose position had been so ably and so pathetically described by the Irish Members who had spoken. But on the present occasion he felt that under certain circumstances it might be desirable to grant a general amnesty. Now, he had received a letter from one of the most able advocates of the cause of these prisoners, which called his attention to the case of William Clark—a young man who was convicted 11 years ago for connection with a dynamite conspiracy, and now in Portland. Clark was the son of a man who served in the Crimea. He was to have gone into the Army himself, but he was rejected by the doctors on the ground that one of his lungs was affected. He then earned his livelihood as a school teacher at Dungannon until he was thrown out of employment, when he emigrated to America. There he was drawn into the net of the dynamite conspirators, with the result that he was convicted and sentenced. He endorsed all that had been said by Irish Members about agents of the British Government enticing young men into crime. He knew it, had been the case in Ireland, and could well believe it was done in America. It was quite possible, therefore, that this unfortunate young man was the victim of that diabolical conspiracy. But while in other cases serious injuries had been caused by the men concerned, this young man had not even brought about an explosion. He was at, present in ill-health, and it was believed that he was in consumption. Thsee fads constituted a very strong case, and if the right hon, Gentleman found that it came 238 within the limits of the rule he had just laid down he should show the people of the, country that in the administration of his Office he was anxious to do all he could to extend the clemency of the Crown.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
reminded the House that some time ago he called the attention of the Home Secretary to the case of a prisoner named Callaghan, whose health had suffered in prison owing to an accident consequent upon the kind of job-surgery to which people were subjected in gaols. A doctor, in examining the man for some disease of the ear, incautiously using a glass syringe, the instrument broke in the ear, the eventual result being that one of the eyes was sympathetically affected, became diseased, and had to be taken out. This was a very hard case, even admitting that the misfortune had been due to an accident, for imprisonment did not include a sentence of semi-blinding; and he suggested to the Home Secretary whether the facts did not point in the direction of some special mitigation of Callaghan's punishment. Referring next to the policy just declared by the right hon. Gentleman, he acknowledged that the public mind at, the present time was undoubtedly in an acutely sensitive state with reference to anarchist explosions abroad as well as at home. But these dynamiters were convicted in 1883, and the Government, must feel that there was an absolute distinction in principle between the case of these prisoners and the case of the anarchists. The Walsall trial showed that there was no connection with any political conspiracy in Ireland where there was not the slightest anarchical tendency. It would do much to break up and prevent the spreading of conspiracy in Ireland if something were done to show that a broad line of distinction was recognised between the two cases. In the Walsall Anarchist case a remarkable piece of evidence was given: to the effect that one of the prisoners admitted he was making bombs for the purposes of explosion in some opera-house abroad. The sentences passed in 239 that case ranged from 5 to 10 years' penal servitude; but what was (lone in the case of the Irishmen? At that time—it was a remarkable period, immediately after the passing of the Crimes Act, under which a number of innocent men were hanged, as he would never hesitate to declare—men in America, roused by those judicial murders, and believing there was no other way of affecting the mind of the English public, undoubtedly entered upon a rash and criminal course. But to compare their case with that of the French and Spanish Anarchists, whose acts were as meaningless as murderous, was to mistake entirely the nature of the cases. He verily believed those outrages had been committed because of the continued incarceration of these men. His own desire would have been in 1886, when the Home Rule Bill was introduced, that representations should have been made to Her Majesty's Government for the release of all prisoners in gaol. But though nothing was done for several years that did not relieve Her Majesty's Government from the responsibility of acting upon the broad and deep line of demarcation in these cases. These crimes were all of an abominable nature, but when the Anarchist bomb-makers only suffered five and 10 years' imprisonment, those unfortunate Irishmen were not being fairly dealt with in being kept under sentence of penal servitude for life. He maintained that these Irish prisoners had been more than adequately punished. Greatly to his credit the Irish Secretary had shown mercy, and Ireland had become more tranquil on account of it. Terrible murders, it was said, would follow the release of the Donegal prisoners, but had not the very contrary been the case? Did the right hon. Gentleman believe that if these prisoners were released they would have any successors in using dynamite? Was it not clear to his mind that these crimes arose out of the political desperation of the time; and that political desperation having passed away, was it likely that anyone in circumstances different from those which he trusted would never arise again, they would never recur? The right hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, had denounced what he called "the Maamtrasna alliance"—that was his expression. The Tories well knew 240 when they wore in Office, supported by an Irish vote, that the Liberals would make no difficulty whatever about showing clemency. In the last two or three years there had been some unimportant outrages committed in Ireland, and the cause of them, in his opinion, was the continued incarceration of the prisoners whose imprisonment they wore considering. He had already said that these men had been more than adequately punished. The Home Secretary asked what had passed since their case was last brought before the House. he would tell the right hon. Gentleman —12 long months had passed, another year added to the long years which they had already spent in gaol. He would not stand there pleading these men's cases if he believed that in doing so he would be encouraging in the smallest degree these terrible dynamite outrages. He knew the difficulty of the task of the Home Secretary. He knew that, surrounded as he was in London by refugees from various parts of the Continent—men with no political aim—he was very anxious that nothing should be done to encourage the idea amongst those men that tenderness was to be shown in connection with outrage against society. So far as the person who committed the outrage in Paris, or the man who attempted the outrage in Trafalgar Square, was concerned, for his part, he would hang them by the neck. In the case of the Irish business, the outrages were the outcome of a feeling of hopelessness and despair which prevailed at the time amongst millions of Irishmen of getting justice from the millions of Englishmen who had now taken the side of Ireland. He trusted that the Home Secretary would look at this whole matter rather more from the standpoint of humanity than from the point of view of the stern official. The Member for the Harbour Division had said that he would bring forward this Motion again, whether it embarrassed the Government or not. He (Mr. Healy) did not see how it embarrassed the Government. So far as his judgment went, knowing the facts of the year 1883, knowing that these men were the resultant of the desperation of that time, he had only to say that, so far as his voice went, it would be always heard in 241 favour of mercy and clemency for these men.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 96; Noes 286.—(Division List, No. 3.)
§ Main Question, as amended, again proposed.
*MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.) moved—
Humbly to represent to Your Majesty that the administration of the law in Ireland in the course of the last few months, by the encouragement offered to the eviction of tenants, and the destruction and burning of their houses, by the prosecution of Representatives of the people and others, for efforts to secure shelter for the evicted people, by the continuance of the practice of jury-packing, and by the suppression of public meetings, has caused grave disappointment in Ireland, and tends directly to produce that contempt for and hostility to the Law and its administration winch accompanied in so marked a degree the administration of Irish affairs by Your Majesty's late Government.
The hon. Member said, he wished in moving his Amendment to refer, first, to the encouragement offered by the Government in Ireland to the eviction of tenants and the burning of their homes; second, to the recent prosecutions in Roscommon; third, to the practice of jury-packing; and fourth, to the suppression of public meeting. The estate of Lord de Freyne in Roscommon was one, the land of which was of the poorest character. It was a wretched, swampy soil, flooded with water. The holdings were small also, averaging four or five acres, and no more congested district than this could be found in Ireland. The tenants had never been able to earn the rent from the soil. Evictions had not been frequent in recent years because of the Plan of Campaign, but when the combination of the people broke up the evictions were recommenced. These evictions had been of such a character as to constitute a gross provocation to crime, and had been attended by such barbarous and inhuman conduct that he said the Government ought to refuse to aid in carrying them out. The people singled out for eviction were mostly old people who had all their lives been paying excessive rents—not earned
out of soil—but earned in labour in England, and who were now flung out to die because they had broken down and were no longer able to go to England to earn money for Lord De Freyne. In most of these cases the agent was offered one, one and a half, and in some eases two years' rent, and this was refused. Nothing would be accepted save the full pound of flesh. In every instance the eviction was followed by the destruction, the levelling of the houses, and in one case the house was burned by the agent, and a child 14 months old was in it at the time and was almost burned to death. This practice of destroying and burning the houses of the people had at all times been denounced by just and humane men. Even that House in its old unregenerate days, before such a thing as tenant right was recognised or admitted, attempted by legislation to put down the practice. Indeed, it seemed incredible that at this period of the 19th century in a civilised country such a practice should be possible. They all remembered the outcry raised about the burnings at Glenbeigh. England rang with denunciation of them, but not a word was heard on English Liberal platforms of the Do Ereyne evictions. He asserted that the action of the Government was precisely the same in the De Freyne case as under the régime of the hue Chief Secretary His complaint was, that the aid of the police was given at these evictions at all. He admitted the necessity of protecting the Sheriff, but in the cases to which he referred the Sheriff was not present at all; and in any case there was no need of protection. The presence of the police might have been refused at these evictions upon two grounds—in the first instance, because there was no danger to the public peace; and, in the next, because the Government knew that the agent was going to destroy the tenants' houses. If it was said that a trespass had been committed on Lord De Freyne's estate, why was not Lord De Freyue loft to his civil remedy? For the benefit of this house-burner the Executive invoked the Criminal Law, and prosecuted men but for whose alleged crime these wretched people would probably have by this time perished in the ditch sides. Not content with this, the Government had hundreds
of police, horse and foot, rifle and baton-men, day and night, at enormous cost, doing what?—guarding the ruins, lest any man should commit a trespass on Lord Do Freyne. His next charge against the Government was that they had prosecuted men whoso only crime was that they had built houses to shelter the poor, homeless people. He was surprised that the Government, after the repeated declarations made by Liberals and by members of the present Government during the six years of the Unionist régime, should have sanctioned such prosecutions. Members had expected that the right hon. Gentleman would have followed the action of Drummond in 1835, when the aid of the police was refused to the tithe-proctors, and he (Mr. Clancy) deeply regretted that he had not seen his way to do so. He had to complain, in the third place, that the infamous practice of jury-packing had been revived under the auspices of the right hon. Gentleman. Mr. Gladstone, in December, 1890, at Manchester, referred to jury-packing in these terms—
What course was taken in regard to the trials at Maryborough? The Roman Catholic jurors were all, I believe, ordered to standby, and, with the exception of one single Roman Catholic, Protestant jurors were found to try Roman Catholic prisoners.
The Chief Secretary himself, referring at Glasgow in 1890 to the same case of jury-packing, said—
Now, gentlemen, I am not saying a word as to the result of that trial; that is another business; but I say that if yon can find a better name for that transaction than jury-packing, I will consider it, but if you do not find me a better name than that, I do ask you to say here, with full responsibility for every word I say, that the transaction was jury-packing in its most odious and obnoxious form.
Well, what had the right hon. Gentleman himself done at the recent Assizes in Cork? One of the prisoners had had his venue changed by the right hon. Gentleman from Clare to Cork. When the trial came on there were 72 jurors upon the panel, and 41 Catholic jurors were ordered to stand aside. The only difference he (Mr. Clancy) saw between that transaction and the transaction at Maryborough was that, whilst 42 Catholics
were ordered to stand aside at Maryborough, only 41 were ordered to stand aside at Cork. If the right hon. Gentleman could find him a better name for that transaction than jury-packing he would consider it. If the right hon. Gentleman could not find him a better name he would say, as the right hon. Gentleman had said at Glasgow about the Maryborough case, that it was jury-packing in its most odious and obnoxious form. It might be said that all this was necessary. In his (Mr. Clancy's) opinion it was not necessary, and the right hon. Gentleman might safely trust to the jurors of Cork, or of any county in Ireland, the duty of convicting prisoners whose guilt was clearly proved. He went further, and said that even if the right hon. Gentleman were convinced that criminals could not be convicted it would be far better in the interests of peace and order to let criminals escape than to resort, in order to convict them, to practices which directly led people to commit crime in their turn, which produced contempt for the law and hostility to its administrators, and which had notoriously created in Ireland that want of sympathy between the law and those who were subject to it, which was the real cause of the introduction of the Home Rule Bill. By resorting to such a practice as jury-packing, the Chief Secretary was doing the very reverse of that which he sought to do by introducing the Home Rule Bill; he was inspiring the people of Ireland with detestation of the law and distrust of its administrators. He (Mr. Clancy) did not, of course, expect that the Amendment would be carried; but he hoped that its introduction and the discussion upon it would induce the right hon. Gentleman, on any future occasion on which he might be tempted by the evil genius of Dublin Castle to indulge in the practices to which he had alluded, to pause before yielding to the temptation.
Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words—
Humbly to represent to Your Majesty that the administration of the Law in Ireland in the course of the last few months, by the encouragement offered to the eviction of tenants and the
destruction and burning of their houses, by the prosecution of Representatives of the people and others for efforts to secure shelter for the evicted people, by the continuance of the practice of jury-packing, and by the suppression of public meetings, has caused grave disappointment in Ireland and tends directly to produce that contempt for and hostility to the Law and its administration which accompanied in so marked a degree the administration of Irish affairs by Your Majesty's late Government."— (Mr. Clancy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I do not propose to deal with the details which the hon. Gentleman has brought before the House, nor, indeed, with the question at all. His speech strikes familiarly on my ear, long accustomed to similar utterances, and I am glad to think that I can leave the responsibility of replying to it to a gentleman who has, no doubt, often listened with equal satisfaction to similar attacks when he sat on the seat I now occupy. I now watch him struggling in stormy seas which I have often traversed. The right hon. Gentleman has my fullest sympathy, though I do not suppose he will desire my active support. I should not have intervened at all but that I think it would he expedient to know what course the Government mean to pursue with regard to this Address. Those who wore here about 8 o'clock will recollect the incident that occurred. It is the first time, J think, in the memory of most of us that an Amendment to the Address has been carried in the face of a Government which is supposed to have a majority in the House, and I think we ought to have, before the evening closes, and even before the Debate is continued, some declaration from the Government. I do not mean to make any speech on the subject——
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I rise to Order. I wish to know whether it is competent for the right hon. Gentleman, on an Amendment affecting the administration of the law in Ireland, to discuss an Amendment about the House of Lords?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not mean to discuss any question connected with the House of Lords or any other question. I merely wish to put this plain interrogatory to the Government. After what has passed, do they mean to treat the Resolution arrived at by the House of Commons with contempt, to reverse it or to resign? I have given my best reflection to the possible alternatives which are before them, and I can think of no more than these three unless it be to advise Her Majesty to dissolve. These four alternatives appear to exhaust the whole possibilities of the situation. I think it would be convenient for the House and for the conduct of business that we should know which of these four conceivable alternatives they have determined to take.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
The ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman has discovered four alternatives. There is a fifth, which does not seem to have presented itself to his mind, and that is that the Government intend to proceed with the business of the House as it is now before it.
MR. J. MORLEY
The business before the House is an Amendment on the administration of the law in Ireland in respect of which my hon. Friend the Member for Dublin County (Mr. Clancy) has brought an indictment against Her Majesty's Government, and more especially against myself, who am responsible for that administration. He very rightly said in his opening remarks that he was sure I should not feel personally responsible for all the acts of my subordinates. That is perfectly light, but at the same time there is not a single indictment to which he has referred for which I do not desire to undertake some responsibility. I did not personally and individually direct every act, but I did personally direct many of them, and I am personally responsible for them all. My hon. Friend charged me with practising jury-packing at Cork Assizes, in contradiction to well-known 247 declarations of my right; hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and myself in connection with the Maryborough trials. He reminded the House in connection with these trials that we had protested and said that what had taken place deserved the name of jury-packing. He said truly that as a result of 42 jurors being directed to stand by, the prisoners who came from Northern Donegal were in the first case tried by a jury upon which there was not one single Catholic. In the second case there was one Catholic on the jury and the remaining 11 were Protestants. Now is that like what has happened in Cork? Nothing of the kind. It is quite true that in the case of the prisoner from Clare there were 41 Catholics directed by the Crown to stand by whilst 19 Protestants were challenged by the prisoner. But look at the result and compare it with the result in the Maryborough case. In the Cork case, there were on the jury that convicted six Catholics and six Protestants. Surely my hon. Friend will see that the practice adopted was not analogous to that at the Maryborough trials, when the result was that half the jury belonged to the Catholic and half to the Protestant faith. The other case to which my hon. Friend referred was, I think, that of the "Queen against Corrigan and Brennan"—a White boy case. In that case, 27 Catholics were directed to stand by whilst six Protestants were challenged by the prisoner. In the result there you did not have an exclusively Protestant jury, because while there were eight Protestants there wore four Catholics upon it. I say at once that on every jury that was empanelled at the Cork Assizes there were several members of the Roman Catholic faith. When my hon. and learned Friend brings a charge of jury-packing against the Crown officials at Cork, and says the transaction there was as bad as that at Maryborough, I think he does not accurately inform the House of what took place. Then he says we changed the venue. We did not change the venue. The venue was changed because these cases went naturally by the ordinary process, which we had no right to interfere with, for trial at Cork. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Oppo- 248 sition (Mr. A. J. Balfour) called it last night a natural change of venue, and that certainly is not a change of venue which can be made a matter of accusation against us. If it were worth while, I could point out that the organ of the group of gentlemen on the Bench from which my hon. and learned Friend spoke has changed its ground on this subject. It first of all charged the Crown officials with jury-packing on the ground of religious faith, and then on the 21st of December last there was a leader in which it was stated that it was not for their religion but for their politics that the Crown Prosecutor ordered these jurors to stand aside. As a matter of fact, there were on all the juries members of both the great Religious Communions in Ireland and of all three political Parties. My hon. and learned Friend dwelt at a length of which I do not complain on the action of the Executive Government with respect to certain proceedings which were not exactly evictions, but were proceedings of a similar kind to evictions, on the De Freyue estate. He seemed to think that, because I had always said that we ought to endeavour to govern Ireland without exceptional legislation, who undertook to govern Ireland without any law at all. I never took up that position; on the contrary, from the very first I have always said that exactly because we had undertaken—as some thought, too audaciously—to govern Ireland without exceptional criminal laws we must be extremely careful that the ordinary law was faithfully and even rigorously administered. There is no accusation against us on that point. The question is, whether in connection with those De Freyne proceedings the Executive Government have gone one jot or tittle outside the limits to which they were bound to go by law. My hon. Friend forgets that when in the course of my administration I endeavoured to assert what I considered, as I consider still, to be a humane and proper principle—namely, that eviction should not be granted in respect of night seizures, the Court of Queen's Bench made a series of observations which implied that not only the County Inspector, but I myself might have been, and perhaps ought to have been, privily attached. My hon. and learned Friend forgets that I have done 249 my utmost to narrow police action in proceedings of this kind, so as to bring it within limits proscribed by humanity, and by considerations of public policy. He seems also to forget that neither I nor he himself, if he were in my place, could neglect to carry out the decrees of the Courts. He says that they were not decrees of Superior Courts in respect of which who gave police protection, but that they were merely Magistrates' warrants. My hon. and learned Friend has misjudged the nature of the circumstances under which the police are there. He drew a picture of the circumstances on the De Freyne Estate, and the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), in communications to the newspapers at the time, mentioned a number of circumstances largely corroborating my hon. Friend's statements about the position of the tenants. There are circumstances connected with the proceedings against those tenants which everybody, in whatever part of the House he sits, must condemn. I am not here to attack Mr. Blake, but I say there are circumstances connected with those proceedings which I do not think any gentleman opposite would attempt to defend. That, however, was not the question which the Executive Government had to decide. The question was a plain and practical question. Some of the cases referred to were, no doubt, hard cases, and, as far as I know, my hon. Friend was perfectly correct in his statement respecting them. But when he says that the police were present during the demolishing of houses, and during the burning of one of the houses, I have the evidence of the police to set against his authority. Who his authority is I know not; but I his I confidently affirm: that the District Inspector, a gentleman with whom I have had dealings for nearly the whole time of my Irish administration—and in whom I have the greatest confidence as a man of great prudence, great tact, and, I think, entire veracity—assures me that in no case were the police present when the houses were demolished, nor when the agents obtained re-possession of the houses which had been forcibly re-occupied by the tenants. My hon. Friend challenged me to deny his assertion: I do deny it, and I give my authority. He has not given 250 me the authority on which he makes his assertion. Now as to the real justification for police interference in these cases. It is quite true that the orders of the Executive were orders with respect to which I was specially consulted, and the police went to put a Stop to the proceedings. My hon. Friend unintentionally misled the House when he said that the police were here used to vindicate the rights of the landlord, for which he had a civil remedy. That is not the case; those are not the grounds on which the police were ordered to interfere in those proceedings. What were the grounds? You have here a large band of men, acting in pursuance of violent speeches with menaces which had been made the day before, going on to these lauds with a, demonstration or force in numbers large enough to overawe all resistance on the part of the landlord in insisting on his legal rights, and any Executive Government, either in Ireland or anywhere else, are bound to see that the police are sent, in order to preserve the public peace. They have no alternative. I quite agree with my hon. Friend that the action of the agent is by no means free from grave doubt. I believe that both sides of the House would there agree. What did happen was this: Certain of those tenants who had been evicted in February, 1892, remained in unlawful possession, but their possession, although unlawful, was undisturbed: and I quite admit that that gives a colour to the supposition that the landlord or his agent ought to have got some further decree to turn them out upon some fresh proceedings. I think action of the sort was harsh and imprudent, and I should say it approached to the bounds of illegality; but that does not affect the charge brought by the hon. Member— it does not affect the duty of the Executive Government, which is to prevent a breach of the peace. I really do not think that if the hon. Member had reflected he would have felt that there was any real force in the charge brought forward. The Executive Government have in this matter only done what the law compelled them to do. The Leader of the Opposition asked me last night why certain persons, including two Members of Parliament, had not been tried at the Winter Assizes instead of the Spring 251 Assizes. The right hon. Gentleman drew a satirical picture concerning our action; but the truth is, that there was no ground whatever for his satire. The case was this: These men were bail prisoners—they were not custody prisoners, and the Judge who went to try the prisoners at these Assizes had sent word to the agent of the Crown in another county that he did not intend to try hail prisoners, and so load the list, as it was not the intention of the Winter Assizes Act that bail prisoners should be tried at those Assizes. That is the reason why these gentlemen were not put upon their trial during the Winter Assizes. Therefore, there was no attempt on our part to evade their being brought before the best tribunal that the institutions of the country provide"; and if there has been a miscarriage of justice, I do not apprehend that a particular miscarriage affords any justification whatever for charging us with slackness in vindicating the law when we see a deliberate attempt to break it.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
Sir, I intend to move the adjournment of this Debate, and I do so on two grounds: In the first place, we are engaged in what is certainly an important discussion—a very important discussion in regard to the administration of the Irish Government—at a very late hour. I know there are several hon. Members who are fully entitled to speak upon the subject, and I think it would be for their convenience, and for the general convenience of the House, that they should have a better opportunity than can be given them after 1 o'clock in the morning. I would make an appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because I recollect that when he proposed that the Twelve o'Clock Rule should be suspended he said he did so only if the House was so disposed, that we might finish the Address tonight; and although that does not bind the right hon. Gentleman, it does indicate on the part of the Government a desire to consult not merely the wishes of their own Party, but the wishes of the whole House. That, then, is the first 252 reason. The second reason is, perhaps, of still greater importance. We are discussing an Amendment to the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne. It does appear to me that the decision upon that Amendment, and the further discussion upon that Amendment, depends very materially upon what it is intended to do with the Address itself. The Leader of the Opposition has asked for information upon the subject. The Chancellor of the Exchequer postponed his reply, and I certainly do not think it would be fair to ask the Leader of the House to give an absolute answer tonight if the Government have not consulted upon the subject, and are not prepared to do so; but I would point out that it is both inconvenient to the Government and the House that who should be discussing matters in the dark. Is it probable that this Address upon which an Amendment is hung will he proceeded with? To that Address, which in itself is a merely formal document, has been added a most important Amendment, one which has been described by the Leader of the House as an Amendment which calls upon Her Majesty to do what it was not within Her Constitutional powers to do, and an Amendment, therefore, which no true Liberal could support. Without asking the Government to pledge itself, there can be no doubt, I imagine, in the mind of any Member of this House that a Government which has so described the Amendment cannot by any possibility accept it, and be the channel through which this ridiculous Amendment can be submitted to Her Majesty. In these circumstances, it is clear we are wasting the time of the House. We might go on now for hours; we might carry an additional Amendment; but we shall only hang it upon an Address, which is condemned beforehand, an Address which has been amended, and which can only be presented against the will of the Government, who are supposed to represent the majority of the House. It is perfectly clear that some step must be taken—I do not say what— in order to extricate the Government from the position in which they are placed; and I think, therefore, it is in their interests, quite as much as in the interests of the House generally, that I make this Motion.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. J. Chamberlain.)
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman has given two reasons for his Motion. The first, which would have been quite sufficient, had reference to the time at which the discussion is proceeding. The right hon. Gentleman had another excellent reason. He desires to extricate the Government, and, under these circumstances, I shall not, oppose his Motion.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am glad the Government have seen fit to assent to a Motion which, had it been in my power and consistent with the Orders of the House, I should have ventured to move at an earlier period. I do not rise to debate the question, but merely to ask the Government whether they will be in a position to make a statement at 12 o'clock to-morrow, before they resume the discussion? Unless by to-morrow at 12 o'clock the Government have made up their minds what they mean to do, of course it will be necessary for us to ask again by some Motion of Adjournment what course they mean to adopt. I hope they will save us that trouble, and consequent waste of time, by coming down with a policy to the House which will save us, at all events, from any further unnecessary discussion upon an Address which certainly in its present shape it is quite impossible for us finally to send up to Her Majesty. I hope the Government will consider this matter, and I am glad they have assented to the Motion.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, an Amendment of an excellent and valuable character had been adopted by the House, and he merely rose now to express the hope and belief that the House would not allow themselves to be bullied into making any change in what had been voted by the House at the demand of the Leader of the Tory Party and the Leader of the Liberal Unionists.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, he understood the Member for West Birmingham to make his Motion upon the grounds of 254 the lateness of the hour. His request had been acceded to by the Government; but no sooner had he been disappointed in having that Motion accepted, than the Leader of the Opposition got up and asked the Government for further explanations. [Cries of Agreed!"]
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Perhaps it may shorten the discussion and relieve the hon. Gentleman of some anxiety if I inform him that he mistook the purport of my observations. I said I hoped that to-morrow—[Cries of "To-day !"]—the Government would make a statement as to their intentions.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.