§ *(4.40). MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
The Amendment which I desire to move and which stands in my name, has one merit which I think ought to commend it generally to the House. It is clear and precise in its terms, and it raises clear and definite issues for discussion. It condemns the refusal of the Government to deal with the Irish land question by a system of compulsory sale and purchase, and by an extension and reorganisation of the Congested Districts Board; it condemns the revival of coercion, the suppression of free speech, and the imprisonment of Members of this House and others for the assertion of the right of free speech 698 in a country which is absolutely free from anything of the nature of serious crime; and finally it calls on this House to address itself to the problem of endeavouring to bring the Government of Ireland into harmony with the opinions of the governed. These are clear and definite issues and all are agreed that they are issues of enormous and vital importance.
I may say, preliminarily, that there are certain fundamental questions on which we are all, so far as I know, absolutely agreed. First of all the urgent and immediate necessity of further dealing by further legislation with the Irish land question is no longer a matter of controversy. All classes of the people demand it. The Irish landlords protest against the present system; they denounce as iniquitous the system of dual ownership which has already reduced their rental by 42 per cent. The tenants equally oppose the present system and declare that under it their property is being confiscated, and they demand its abolition. And, finally, the Government have declared its condemnation of the existing system, for they had declared themselves in favour of a system of occupying proprietory. The present Chief Secretary has, on more than one occasion, stated in public that the great necessity of the moment in Irish politics is the introduction of further legislation on Irish land. My accusation against the Government is that, while admitting the existence of this grievance, they propose no adequate remedy at all, that they hold out no real hope of redress to the people, but on the other hand they have fallen back in Ireland on the old, old methods of English Government in the past by the use of coercion and exceptional laws, the abolition of trial by jury, the suppression of free speech, and the imprisonment of political opponents by means of tribunals consisting of agents and deputies of the Executive Government. Thus it will be seen that the twentieth century in Ireland is commencing in exactly the same way as commenced the nineteenth century by the refusal to redress admitted grievances, and by the stupid and brutal suppression of the rights and liberties of the Irish people.
699 I do not intend to speak at any length, as I did at this time last year, on the necessity of applying the principle of compulsion to the creation of an occupying proprietory in Ireland, and for this reason: the arguments, the reason, the logic in this matter are entirely on our side. Our case for the compulsory sale and purchase of land in Ireland holds the field. From the time of the debate last year down to this moment there has been no serious attempt made by any responsible politician to overthrow it. That settlement of the Irish land question has many precedents in other lands. It does not necessitate the expenditure of one single shilling of Imperial money; and you have in the working of the existing Land Purchase Laws in Ireland, a most absolute guarantee that there would be no risk in the necessarily temporary use of the Imperial credit for this purpose. The principle of compulsion has been already applied on this question. The right hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh consistently protests against the principle of compulsion being introduced into the Irish land system, but has he not been compelled by Parliament to submit to it? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman's income has been compulsorily settled and regulated by Acts of Parliament.
Finally, this demand is one which proceeds from the whole of Ireland. Memories are very short on these matters, and while I do not intend to make any elaborate argument, as I did last year, on the desirability of applying this principle of compulsion to that settlement of the land system in Ireland, I may be forgiven if I just repeat this portion of my statement last year, viz., that public opinion in Ireland is united in favour of it. All the Nationalist Members in this House are in favour of compulsory sale, although that does not count for much in the settlement of the Irish question by the British Parliament! But in this case Unionist opinion in Ireland is on the same lines. With the exception of the City of Belfast, the City of Derry, the University of Dublin—three constituences, which, though I consider them interested in the settlement of the land question, cannot be regarded as directly interested in purely agricultural matters, and the magnificent 700 exception of the constituency of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh—every Unionist Member sent to this Parliament is pledged to this principle. That is to say, 95 per cent. of the entire representation of Ireland is in favour of compulsory sale and purchase. And if any one is really curious as to the strength and intensity of the Unionist feeling in Ireland, let him observe what is going on the constituency of East Down, which, so far as I know, has always been a Unionist constituency. The Unionist Government of the day has raised the standard of absolute refusal of the demand for compulsory sale and purchase, and what has happened since the vacancy in the representation in East Down occurred? They have been scouring the country to try and find some one foolish enough to carry their standard in the contest for that seat; but I am told that up to the present moment they have not succeeded in getting a candidate. [A voice: "Yes, they will."] I hope they will, and although it is not a safe thing to make political prophecies, I will take the risk of saying, that if they do send down a man of their own to this Unionist constituency to stand against a compulsory purchase candidate, he will be routed hip and thigh by a large majority.
Now let me ask, how is this serious and reasonable demand met in behalf of practically the whole people of Ireland? This demand, which comes from Unionist and Nationalist, from Catholic and Protestant, from Ulster quite as strongly as from Leinster, Munster and Connaught—is it met by either reason, argument, or persuasion? No, nothing of the kind. The right hon. Gentleman who has been sent over by this country to govern Ireland has not condescended to take this question seriously at all, but he thinks that he can dispose of it by shrieking "never" at a little gathering of Orangemen in Belfast. It is a strange thing that practically the first and only serious pronouncement made on Irish soil, on Irish affairs, by the new Governor of Ireland, was at a semi-private gathering of Orangemen, presided over not only by a landlord, Lord Londonderry, but by that landlord who is universally accepted as the representative standard-bearer of the most extreme and reactionary section of 701 Irish landlords. This Governor of Ireland, who goes over to endeavour to govern the country in the interest of the great mass of the people—so little interest has he in obtaining the good-will and sympathy of the overwhelming mass of the people—including all the tenants—farmers, Unionist and Nationalist alike, that he selects for his first pronouncement a gathering of that kind; and he goes out of his way to insult the whole Nationalist body of Ireland by refusing admission to the audience of the representatives of all the Nationalist Press of the country. At that gathering where this great pronouncement was to be made no representative of the Press was allowed to be present except those representing the Irish Times and the Express, Unionist and extreme reactionary landlord newspapers; and the representatives of the Nationalist papers had to obtain reports of the speech by going and asking as a favour a copy from the representatives of the papers which admittedly only express the views of an infinitesimal portion of the population of Ireland. At that gathering the right hon. Gentleman put his policy forth, and it was the shriek of "never." "Never" is a dangerous word for a politician to use; a dangerous word for a Minister—especially an English Minister—to use with reference to Ireland. So far as my experience goes "never" is a word you very rarely find in the mouth of English politicians when speaking of the politics of their own country, except in the green and salad days of their political career; it is a word which springs from the overweening confidence of inexperience. But it is a word we frequently hear in Ireland.
Now, the right hon. Gentleman not only uses the word "never" in respect to his own Government, but he actually spoke of all Governments in the future and all time to come. In his opinion this principle of compulsion would never at any time in the future, by any Government, be applied to the settlement of the land question in Ireland. Well, the right hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to hear that we are not much disturbed by his shriek. I have sat in this house for twenty-one years, and during that time I have heard the word "never" applied 702 to Irish demands by stronger men than the right hon. Gentleman, and by greater and more powerful Governments than the present. I remember the present Prime Minister in 1885 saying that never would local government be granted to Ireland, that local government was worse than automony, and I remember in 1887, two years later, the same noble Lord declaring again that never would he or his Government interfere with the judicial rents. In fact, there is not one single measure of redress of all those which have been passed for Ireland in my recollection in this House which had not met in the first instance this "never" of short sightedness and arrogant self confidence, and I have seen those nevers all melting away like snow before the determination of a united Irish people, and I tell the right hon. Gentleman, with all respect, that the Irish people will teach him to repent his rash declaration and to adopt the policy he now repudiates. The right hon. Gentleman announced the introduction of an Irish Land Bill; the same thing was said last session when I expressed my opinion that there was no intention of carrying it, and my opinion was justified because it never saw the light of day. This year the right hon. Gentleman will probably be forced to introduce one. Last year, when announced, I do not think there was a Bill in existence; this year, I believe there is, and that under the circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman will be compelled to let us see it. But the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that there is no intention and no possibility of passing any serious land legislation during this session. Is it seriously suggested that after you have discussed and painfully succeeded in passing another £200,000 Budget to enable you to still further prolong this disgraceful and disastrous war; after you have spent many, many nights in endeavouring to explain the defeat of your arms, and the slaughter of the innocents in South Africa; after you have wasted weeks and probably months in a vain and foolish attempt, by new rules of proceedure, suppressing free speech, to enable this House to perform the work of half a dozen Legislatures; after you have discussed a contentious Education 703 Bill and after you have settled the great question of London water—is it then suggested that it will be possible for this House to consider, much less pass, any serious legislation affecting the Irish land question? Last year I said the promise in the King's Speech was a distinct sham, this year, I say, the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman that he has a great Land Bill he intends to pass this session is also a sham. I say there is no possibility of anything of the kind occurring, and there is no serious intention of its doing so. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that any voluntary Land Bill he may introduce is merely tinkering with the question, for it will please no one, satisfy no one, and settle nothing. He is not prepared, at the present moment, to introduce a compulsory Bill; popular agitation in Ireland is not yet a sufficiently strong power, or perhaps, I might say, not quite menacing and dangerous enough, and therefore there is this pretext that he will introduce a Land Bill; and we may have half a day wasted in a description of the details, and then we shall hear no more of it, and the right hon. Gentleman will go back to Ireland to get another lesson on the land question, and next year we may get compulsory purchase.
What is the Government doing at present in Ireland? Let me read a portion of the words of the Amendment I am going to move. [The hon. Member here quoted the Amendment]. That is a very serious accusation to bring against the Government but let me see whether I cannot very shortly prove beyond the possibility of doubt the truth of every statement of the accusation. First, is Ireland free from crime? Mr. Speaker, it is difficult on this question to speak with patience in this House. There is not in Europe—in the world—to-day, a country where crime is less than in Ireland. Ireland stands, so far as the United Kingdom is concerned, far above England, Scotland, or Wales in this respect. From the figures taken from the last returns I find that in 1901 there were in Scotland 339 indictable offences per 100,000 of population, in England 239, and in Ireland only 201. It might be of interest here 704 to note the cost of the police per head of the population in Ireland is double that of Great Britain. There are 27 police per 10,000 persons in Ireland, and only seven in Scotland, where, compared with Ireland, crime is rampant. Now let me go to particulars, I have been dealing with countries, let me take areas. There are two counties in Ireland which, above all others, have received particular attention from the right hon. Gentleman, Mayo and Roscommon. These two counties are the theatre at present of most of the coersive energies of the right hon. Gentleman. In Mayo the total number of indictable offences was 123, in Cumberland, with about the same population, they were 283, while in Monmouthshire they were 580. Let me take the country of Roscommon represented by my hon. Friend beside me, who will, I hope, second the Amendment, and who is now under sentence by a Court composed of two men appointed by and removable by his political opponents. The state of Roscommon is so terrifying that the Government after nine years has been to resurrect the Crimes Act. The population of Co. Roscommon is103,000. The total number of indictable offences was 92. In Brighton there were 252 with the same period, in Preston 160, and in Cardiff nearly 500. These statistics prove conclusively that Ireland may boast of being a crimeless country. Hon. Members may say I am dealing only with ordinary and not with so-called agrarian crime. No: all indictable offences are included with the figures I have given. Agrarian crime has practically disappeared in Ireland, in fact, the only matters which to-day are classed as agrarian crime and take place in Ireland are the sending of the threatening letters—offences which in this country are not classified as crimes at all—which in most instances are not offences, and are certainly not unknown here. I can speak feelingly on this subject, for there is not a week passes but I receive, through the medium of the House of Commons Post Office, abusive anonymous letters, threatening me with all sorts of pains and penalties, and constantly with assassination, because of the views I hold. I treat them naturally with the utmost contempt. But in Ireland every malicious anony- 705 mous letter notified to the police is solemnly put down in the statistics as an agrarian outrage.
Now I come to an extraordinary fact. The very absence of crime is held in certain quarters to be a justification of coercion. The Times newspaper, and many of the influential advisers of the right hon. Gentleman, have been for months dinning in the ears of the public that the fact that there is no crime in Ireland is a proof that the national organisation is so strong, and can carry out its will so completely that crime is unnecessary. How are we to please these gentlemen? If there is a state of disturbance in Ireland, public liberty is suspended. If crime disappears we are told it is a proof that under the surface there is this evil influence at work, and public liberty must be suspended. The position in which the Government find themselves in this matter is a ridiculous one. The Coercion Act was originally passed to deal with crime, there is no crime in the country, but they have brought it once more into operation. So far as concerns the statement that the absence of crime is due to the strength of the popular organisation, I admit it; I boast of it, and I welcome it. It is part and parcel of the policy of the national organisation to suppress crime. It has been successful in doing that, and I sincerely hope it will continue to be. If it fails, however, the responsibility will be upon those who are now in a peaceful country introducing provocation by suppressing the rights of individual citizens.
I come now to the question of free speech. Free speech in this peaceful country is suppressed. I might quote many instances, but I will confine myself to one: others, doubtless, will be given in the course of the debate. Let me mention briefly what took place last October in a place called Kilmaine in County Mayo. On the 28th October, a meeting of the electors of South Mayo was held at Kilmaine, to be addressed by their own Member. No suggestion was made that it was to be an unlawful assembly. It has been usual for the Government, when they considered a meeting about to be held was for an illegal object, to proclaim the gathering and prevent its assembling. No pro- 706 clamation was issued in this case, though I do not attach much importance to that, but the people were allowed to assemble. The meeting was permitted to go on for some time, and three or four speeches were made. But, suddenly, in the middle of the meeting, when the Member for the division rose, he was at once told he would not be allowed to open his lips. It is absolutely ridiculous, I do not know on what principle the police proceeded. Possibly the police thought the hon. Member was going to make an indiscreet speech, but the same authorities had already allowed the hon. Member for East Clare to address the meeting, and he, I fancy, was not likely under the circumstances to make a more moderate speech than the Member for the division. But the very moment the hon. Member rose he was told that if he tried to speak the meeting would be dispersed. Of course he persisted, and was promptly seized, dragged off the platform, and through the streets; and the people, who were admittedly attending a lawful meeting, were turned upon by the police, beaten and assaulted with batons, and the meeting was broken up with violence. Is not that a scandal, and would it not have justified any violence to which the people under the circumstances might have been driven? I think I had better fortify myself by reading a portion of a deliberate statement with regard to these proceedings, which was written in cold blood, after the whole affair was over. I ask the House to listen to this because they know the writer (the hon. Member of East Clare) sufficiently well to be sure that, however unpopular his views may be in some parts of the House, he is not the man to make a deliberate statement of this kind, knowing it to be false. Here is the statement—The people were doing absolutely nothing. A few of them may have cheered, but that was all, and yet the police fell upon them, beat them, pursued and batoned them without mercy. Mr. O'Donnell was prevented by force from speaking, and that being so, there was no need to beat the people or to disperse them, and yet they were, without any understandable reason, beaten and kicked by the police. Yes, kicked, I saw it. I am prepared to take my oath of it. I saw one young man run away across a field. I saw four policemen chase him, come up with him, knock him down, beat him, and kick him, while on the ground. I saw it. I shall never forget it; such cold-blooded ruffianism, four men kicking one upon he ground. It made me feel ill. I saw several men wantonly beaten. Mr. Peter Regan by 707 my side was knocked down, kicked, and beaten on the head, and one of his hands broken. By whose authority was this done? By what right? The people had not been forbidden to assemble. The meeting was not proclaimed. I was allowed to speak; Mr. O'Donnell was not. But why were the people who were allowed to listen to me brutally beaten? More outrageous ruffianism I never heard of.I ask the House seriously to consider what is going on in Ireland, when in a crimeless county outrages of this sort are permitted. I say deliberately that if loss of life had followed on the violence, the right hon. Gentleman, the Colonial Secretary, and those who are responsible for the action of the police would have been morally, aye, and legally, guilty of murder.
I further charge the Government with having resurrected this Coercion Act after it had been allowed for nearly ten years to remain a dead letter. The memory of English Members in reference to these affairs is short. They have their own affairs and their own troubles, and they forget the facts about Ireland. Does every Member, for example, know that under this Coercion Act trial by jury is abolished for certain of the most serious and complicated kinds of crime? Do hon. Members know that under its operation Irishmen can be tried by tribunals, consisting of two magistrates chosen by the Government, paid by the Government, and removeable by the Government, while for the very same offences men could not be tried in the free land of England, Scotland, or Wales, except before a jury of their peers? Without any justification whatever the Government have resurrected this Act, and under it have already sent to prison scores of people whose only offence was that the Government thought they had been guilty of taking part in unlawful assemblies. It is not necessary to go through, the provisions of the Coercion Act; that one broad statement is enough. Without any justification in the nature of crime, outrage, or disturbance, you are putting into operation in Ireland a law which is at variance with the fundamental principle of the British constitution, and which robs the people of the great safeguard of the constitution, viz., trial by jury. Some of my colleagues in this House are already in prison, and my hon. friend beside me (the hon. Member for South Roscommon) is under sentence—for what? For making at a peaceful 708 meeting of his own constituents, a speech, every word of which could be justified in this House. The hon. Member was prosecuted on a charge of unlawful assembly. The assembly was not proved to be unlawful by reason of any disturbance or tumult; there was none. Nor was it proved unlawful by reason of anything illegal said by the hon. Member; he said nothing illegal, But evidence was given on various outside matters, and the endeavour was made to show what was the intent of those who called the meeting. Is it tolerable that the liberty of the subjects in matters of this kind should be at the disposal of two paid and removable deputies or agents or servants of the Government. It would not be tolerated in this country for half an hour. It would not be tolerated here even if the country were in a state of disturbance and crime. What, therefore, is to be said of it in Ireland where, as I have shown, the country is peaceful and crimeless?
Some of these proceedings have sprung out of what is known as the De Freyne case in County Roscommon. Let me very briefly deal with that matter. The Congested Districts Board recently purchased in County Roscommon a large estate belonging to Lord Dillon. On the estate were thousands of wretched tenants trying to eke out a living on poor patches of land. The Board are not only selling these holdings to the occupiers, but are also dividing amongst them the large grass lands on the estate, so that in the future the occupiers may have sufficient land to enable them to live. Under that operation these tenants are getting an immediate reduction in their annual payments of about one-third of the rent. That is a most benificent transaction. It is about the best and holiest work upon which man could be engaged in Ireland. Next door to that estate lies the estate of Lord De Freyne—an estate exactly similar in character, with grazing lands and poor wretched occupiers. I have here a letter written in 1893 by the hon. Member for S. Tyrone. Recent declarations of the hon. Member would have no weight at all with hon. Gentlemen opposite, but the letter I am about to quote was written when he was fighting against the tenants, against Home Rule, and, as I believe, against 709 the interests of Ireland. I therefore hope his words will carry weight with the present Government. Here is an extract from a letter by the Member for South Tyrone which appeared in The Times in 1893:I have just returned from the De Freyne Estate, where the Royal Irish Constabulary are doing the work of emergency men, and are protecting the evicted homesteads of Lord De Freyne's tenants lest they should be re-taken by the ex-tenants or their friends. The condition of the De Freyne and similar estates in the West of Ireland is simply appalling. In the first place the estate is part of a huge congested district. It is also the centre of a great migratory labour area. Annually all the population go over to England for the harvest or other labour. Driving on to the property from Castlerea, and as far as the human eye could reach, it seemed one vast swamp of bog. The land is mainly cut-away bog, every acre of it cut and reclaimed by the labour and sweat of the tenants. Even were the land of the best quality and were it held rent free the tenants on the estate could not live. By wages earned abroad is a precarious existence eked out. In a good year, as this undoubtedly has been, rents are fairly well paid; in bad years—and in that western area they are the rule—instalments are only paid. Arrears consequently accumulate, and in due time they become a hopeless mountain of debt. Evictions then take place. Scenes such as these Englishmen now are painfully familiar with inevitably follow. It is a miserable condition of affairs. Will a day ever come that a Government shall be found willing to look stern facts in the face and, instead of passing on, stay and deal with them?This is admittedly a fair and honest description of the condition of affairs on the De Freyne Estate. These wretched tenants on the De Freyne Estate across the ditch, have seen what has happened to the tenants on the Dillon Estate. They have seen these Dillon Estate tenants getting possession of their holding and the grass lands, and having their rents reduced by one-third, besides having £20,000 of arrears wiped out in the transaction. What have the De Freyne Estate tenants done? They went to Lord de Freyne and asked him to sell his estate, and offered to pay him the same terms which Lord Dillon had accepted. But Lord De Freyne refused, and in the state of the law at present the Congested Districts Board have no power to compel him. Will the First Lord of the Treasury note what I am going to say. In the year 1895 the Congested Districts Board unanimously adopted a report asking Parliament to give them these compulsory powers, and 710 that report was signed by the First Lord of the Treasury and his brother, who was then Chief Secretary for Ireland.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
Yes, it was signed by us both, but in neither case did our signatures imply any approval of the report. The report was signed by us, and amongst other things it stated that this resolution had been passed at a meeting of the Congested Districts Board. At that meeting neither of us were present.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that having signed that report, and the First Lord having also signed it, they can now disown responsibility for the report?
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I take it that as the Congested Districts Board had not this power it was asked for with the sanction and with the knowledge and approval of these two right hon. Gentlemen, because they have never repudiated their responsibility.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I am sure the hon. and learned Member will allow me to say that I have repudiated it and protested against it over and over again.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I was not aware of that fact or I would not have stated it, and it is a singular thing that I never noticed any of these loud protestations and repudiations of the right hon. Gentleman in the past. The Congested Districts Board unanimously adopted a resolution in favour of compulsory purchase, and the only man against it is an English official who is sent over there. If the Congested Districts Board to-day had the power which they unanimously claimed in a report, signed at any rate without note or comment by both those right hon. Gentlemen, this trouble on the De Freyne Estate could be settled in 24 hours, because Lord De Freyne could be compelled to deal with his wretched tenants and his wretched serfs in the same way that Lord Dillon has dealt with his 711 tenants. Lord De Freyne has refused, and the whole estate has been thrown into confusion and excitement. The tenants asked, pending a final settlement, whether they would be given in their annual payment a reduction similar to Lord Dillon's tenants, and that also was refused, now the tenants have entered into a combination. What I say is—and I wish that my words could reach every man on that estate—I believe they have right and justice on their side, and I wish them every success. They have gone into this matter on their own initative, and so far as the national organisation in Ireland is concerned we had no hand, act, or part in starting this combination. The people started it themselves, and having started it I wish them every success. I say to them two things about their combination:—Firstly, if they persevere in it some of them will suffer, and they will have to make sacrifices. The second thing I say is that if they persevere they are bound to succeed, and speaking not only for myself, but also in the name of all the Nationalist Members of this House, and in the name of the national organisation in Ireland, I say that so long as these tenants stand by their present combination, and conduct their movement with clean hands, and upon lines of popular public open agitation, and do not stain their hands with crime and outrage, so long will we give them every assistance and every support that is in our power.
Now let me shortly recapitulate my points and finish. I claim to have shown to the House that the Government have refused to remedy an admitted grievance of a vital national character; and that they have declared that they will never sanction compulsory purchase even in connection with the Congested District Board. I claim to have shown that Ireland to-day is, beyond all precedent and all comparison on this side of the Channel, free from crime. I have also shown that after nine years of disuse the Coercion Act has under these circumstances been revived, and lawful meetings have been dispersed by brutal police violence, when Members of this House and other persons, for persisting in their right of free speech, have been imprisoned without trial by jury by 712 tribunals consisting of the paid and removable agents of the Government. These are not matters of opinion; I am only reciting facts, and these facts cannot be disputed, and there is no answer to them.
I would like, in all seriousness and solemnity, to ask the House of Commons what is the moral of all this? Here you are, 100 years after the passing of the Act of Union, and your rule in Ireland still rests upon force. To-day you have behind your Government no moral sanction whatever. I might say what was said by the distinguished historian of the Union, the Member for Trinity College, "The unbribed intellect of Ireland is against your Government." You have not the confidence of any creed, or class, or party. The popularly elected representative public bodies are almost to a man against you, the clergy and the laity are against you, the representatives of the people in this House are against you, and in this land question, 95 per cent. of them are against you, and your rule to-day rests just exactly as it did 100 years ago, upon force and corruption. [Ministerial cries of "No, no."] Yes, Sir, on force and corruption, because there is one class you have at your back, and the only class, and they are that of the place holders and the place seekers. We have heard often in history of what were called benevolent despotisms, but your despotism in Ireland is of the worst and the meanest character, because it is cloaked by the empty forms and the dishonest pretences of constitutional government. So far from being benevolent, your despotism has been malevolent and most deadly in its effect. Let me seriously ask the House of Commons, what moral right has any Government to exist for one hour in any country in the world, which after 100 years is marked, as your Government is to-day, by the disappearance of half the population, by the destruction of native industries, by periodical famines, by the chronic misery of those who remain behind, by the constant suspension of ordinary rights of free citizens, by the suppressinn of free speech, and by the abrogation of trial by jury, and which is confronted at the end of the 100 years as you are confronted to-day in Ire- 713 land, by a discontented, dissatisfied, and disaffected people? I assert that such a Government has no moral right to live for one hour in any part of the world, and I say further that to every such Government resistance is a duty, and even rebellion becomes a question merely of expedience. I was recently in Canada, and there in that great and tree country, I saw all the difficulties and all the problems which have baffled the wisest of your statesmen and the strongest of your governments in Ireland, solved by the simple expedient of trusting the people. In Canada there were differences of race, religion, language and history quite as great and perhaps greater than those which confront you in Ireland. There was disaffection in Canada, so widespread and deep-rooted, that it took the form of open-armed rebellion. Does not every intelligent man who sets his mind to this question know perfectly well that it was the policy of Lord Durham which made the peaceful, contented and prosperous Canada of to-day? and does he not know that it is the denial of it which keeps Ireland the disaffected and rightly disaffected nation she is at this moment? Canadians would not submit for twenty-four hours, ay, for one hour, to be ruled from Westminster. And neither will Ireland, so far as it possible for her, a disarmed people to resist.
I took the liberty to warn the Chief Secretary earlier in my speech against the use of the word "never" in connection with Irish politics, but there is one connection in which he can use it with perfect safety. The whole story of Ireland's connection with this country—the experience of every single day of the century that has passed since the Act of Union—and if we look away from these shores, the whole experience in the history of the world—will justify him in declaring that to rule from this Parliament as at present constituted Ireland will never consent, and that Irishmen never can be either contented, prosperous or well-affected until they are once again masters in their own country. I fear that I have spoken at too great length, and whatever the opinions of Members may be on these matters, they have at 714 any rate shown towards me personally great fairness in listening to perhaps unpopular views at considerable length. I conclude now by simply moving the Amendment that stands in my name. I sincerely trust that we will hear, if not from the Chief Secretary, for I confess I have little hope of that, but at any rate from other leading men in different parts of the House, some expressions which may bring to the people of Ireland some hope in the misery and misfortune under which they labour at this moment.
§ (5.50) MR. HAYDEN (Roscommon, S.)
, in seconding the Amendment, said that the county he represented was situated in the theatre of operations in Ireland at present. It was one of the most crimeless counties even of Ireland. But undoubtedly there did exist in that county a very determined agitation against the present state of things. The people had banded themselves together in an organisation, and they were determined that in the object of that organisation, even though they might have to undergo suffering and trial, they would persevere until they met with success. County Roscommon possessed a very considerable portion of as good rich and fertile land as there was in any part of these three countries. About sixty years ago that land was in the occupation of the people, and over it were scattered many happy homes. Now the people were living in wretchedness and misery in the bogs and on the mountain side, while the rich and fertile land was in the possession of a few people. What applied to the whole of Ireland applied more particularly and strongly to Roscommon. Half the land of Ireland was in the possession of people under £50 valuation. There were 486,000 agricultural holdings in Ireland, and 440,000 of these were people in holdings valued under £50, whilst 40,000 occupied holdings valued at more than £50, and the valuation of these 40,000 exceeded that of the 440,000. In Roscommon that state of things was even worse, and the records showed that British rule during the past 60 years had dimished and almost destroyed the population. In 1841 the County had a population of over 254,000. 715 but the census of last year showed that the population was reduced to 101,000. A hundred and fifty four thousand people had been driven from the county by British misrule. In 1841 there were 44,000 inhabited houses in the county and now there are 21,000.
They were asked why they did not respect British law and institutions. Was there a British Member in this House who would not stand up and advise his people to resist this decay of their population.? The people of that county were determined that they would put an end to state of things, and in the effort to do so they were prepared to face all the consequences of hostile and coercive Government. The struggle on the De Freyne estate arose entirely from the people. It was the result of the dissatisfaction they had felt for many years, and which had been brought to a head when they saw what had been done on the neighbouring Dillon estate. This was not the first struggle on the Dillon and De Freyne estates. In 1893 the people were in revolt, but they were kept from going so far as they had done at present by the hope that Ireland would soon be granted power to deal with its own affairs. To-day they saw no prospect of this power being granted, and they saw that the hands of the Government were tied, both in regard to Ireland and to England by what was being done in South Africa. The Irish Secretary might tell them that the Congested Districts Board would do nothing for them as long as they were given over to agitation. The people, however, were determined to take the matter into their own hands and if they could not get a compulsory land purchase measure from this Parliament, they would put such compulsion on Lord De Freyne and others like him as would enable them to see the reason ableness of the demand put forward.
In County Roscommon there had been gross, violent, and illegal interferencs with the right of free speech. It had not exactly taken the form that had occurred at Kilmaine. What occurred in Roscommon was that admittedly legal meetings were allowed to proceed and admittedly lawful resolutions were passed, but every man who had spoken at these meetings was prosecuted be- 716 cause, perhaps, of an illegal sentence in the speech of one individual. Because, perhaps, of the indiscretion of one individual, every person who had taken part in the meetings was held by the law of the land which they were supposed to respect to have participated in an unlawful assembly, and was sent to prison like an ordinary criminal. They had got fairly accustomed to the method of prohibiting freedom of speech by proclamations and imprisonment, and in this connection if Ireland could have taught the Chief Secretary anything it should have taught him that the Irish people would not withdraw their demand for justice because he selected a few score men to be immersed in prison. The Chief Secretary ought to have known that if there was one thing wanting to make the Nationalist organisation in Ireland more popular and more powerful than ever before, it was the application by him of his coercive enactments. Since he had commenced these prosceutions the organisation had made huge strides, and instead of the forty branches of which the Chief Secretary spoke in a light moment at Exeter there were now close on 2,000 branches scattered throughout the country. They protested in the strongest manner in their power, not only against the manner in which the Chief Secretary had refused to deal with the just and proper demands of the Irish people, but against the cheap and silly sheers employed by him at Exeter and Belfast as to the poverty of the Irish people over whom he was sent to rule. Though he, and his like, sneered at the poverty of the Irish people, they were not ashamed to take from their country several millions of pounds per annum more than they were justly entitled to pay and to overtax those poverty-stricken people. The party which represented the overwhelming mass of the Irish people in this House were not ashamed of the means of coming to this House to expound their grievances and demands. They did not hide from the world the subscriptions which they received. The Chief Secretary could read every week in the Dublin papers the list of subscriptions from all over Ireland. But where was the list of subscriptions to the Tory party organisation? Who had heard of the huge subscription of Hooley in order 717 to buy some honour at the hands of the party in power until it was divulged in the Bankruptcy Court, and who had heard of other huge subscriptions from other Hooleys which had helped the Chief Secretary to his seat on the front Government bench? These cheap and silly sneers came with a bad grace from a man who in his own person received from the public purse for his political services almost as much money as was required to run the whole Irish party. All the difference between them, he supposed, was that the Chief Secretary was a statesman, and that the Irish party were politicians; but he remembered hearing in this House from one of its most eloquent members a definition of a statesman as being a politician with a salary. And then there was the Lord Lieutenant, who received as salary far and away more than the Irish Parliamentary party ever required, and who, for presiding at social functions in party-ridden Ireland, was paid a salary double the amount given to the President of the great United States, He thought that if the Chief Secretary desired to have any success whatever in Ireland he would give up not only his coercion policy which the Irish party defied, but would also have to learn to deal in a gentlemanly and courteous manner with the people who were as quick as any other in the world to estimate between a gentleman and a man who was not a gentleman.
The experience of the people of Ireland during the last few months, and indeed through all their history, had been that if they hoped to obtain any measure of reform it was not to be secured from any sense of justice, or from reason and argument put forward in this House, but because they would bring about m Ireland such a state of things as would make the denial of reform dangerous to the Empire. The lesson was being taken to heart. They told the Chief Secretary that it was not four or five Members that he would have to prosecute and imprison, but practically every man of the party. The Chief Secretary knew perfectly well that they were not ashamed, speaking in the House of Commons, to say that at least thirty members of the party had already gone to prison, and the fact that they had done so, was one of the things of which they were most proud. Of course they might have to withdraw for a time from the arena 718 of politics and pass through the common Police Court; but the common Police Court had become a place not of shame, but a shrine of reverence which represented all the readiness of their people to suffer in the cause of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary ought to know, from his connection with Ireland, that one of the most popular books in that country was known as "Speeches from the Dock." These were speeches delivered by men who had been convicted of political offences, and many of whom had suffered death on the scaffold, which had come to be regarded in Ireland as the scene of martyrdom. The common Police Courts to which the right hon. Gentleman subjected Irish Members were not the common Police Courts with which British Members were acquainted. They were specially set up by an exceptional Act of Parliament, admitted to be a Coercion Act. and presided over, not by the ordinary Magistrates, but by two men specially selected by the Chief Secretary himself, the prosecutor in the case, who were not resident Magistratos, but taken from one part of Ireland to another, men in the true and strict legal sense of the term moveable Magistrates, and who could be dismissed on three months' notice without reason assigned. These men, who were absolutely dependent on the Government for their livelihood, constituted the tribunals before which the elected representatives of the Irish people were sent for trial on a charge of political offences. Now, the Irish members of Parliament did not raise any petty objections to being subjected to prosecution or imprisonment, They did not hold, if they violated the law of the land, that they should receive any privilege because they were Members of this House. They did not object to be treated as any other citizens of the country were treated, but they did maintain that if they were to be subjected to prosecution, trial and imprisonment, the ordinary decencies should be observed, and that they had no right to be sent before a specially selected and dependent tribunal, and that the ordinary law of the land only should be enforced against them. They held that the farce of these Courts should be 719 discontinued, and that when any Chief Secretary objected to an Irish Member of Parliament or, indeed, any Irishman having his liberty, he should have done with this farce, and send a policeman with a warrant, telling him "We want your presence in prison for some time." It would be far more decent, and they would have less right to complain if he did that. It was often wondered in this country why the people of Ireland did not respect the law. It was easy to understand this, because Englishmen had free institutions, and the people here made the laws, which were administered fairly. In Ireland they complained not only that the laws were bad, but also that they were administered in the worst and most partisan spirit. One of the greatest lawyers this country had ever seen, the late Lord Chief Justice, once declared—That the law in Ireland was always regarded, and rightly regarded, by the people as their enemy and oppressor, instead of their friend and protector.These were not the words of an Irish agitator but of a man who was respected by Englishmen all over the country, and who reached the highest position which it was within the power of a member of the proscribed faith to reach. The law was looked upon in Ireland as representing the people who rack-rented and overtaxed them, and they were justified in asking now whether this kind of Government was going to go on for another hundred years. If it did Ireland would continue to be a thorn in their side, the people would remain discontented and would take advantage of every opportunity to wring from this country that which had been denied them so long. The Chief Secretary now said "Never" to the demand of the people, but that demand would be realised when the people made up their minds to have it, and the same Chief Secretary would probably before long standup in this House and introduce the compulsory measure to which he now says "Never." They could not govern Ireland according to British ideas without constantly imprisoning the elected representatives of the people. If the people insisted upon it they would finally obtain the right to rule in their own land. He begged leave to second the Amendment.
Amendment proposed, at end of the Question, to add the words:—
But we humbly represent to Your Majesty, that the refusal of Your Majesty's Government to hold out any hope to the people of Ireland of a settlement of the Irish Land Question by a comprehensive measure of compulsory sale of the landlord's interest to the occupying tenants, and by the re-organisation of the Congested Districts Board with larger resources and with compulsory powers of acquiring land, has given rise to wide-spread discontent and agitation in Ireland: that the Government of Ireland, instead of applying itself to the removal of the grievances under which the people suffer and so abating the causes of reasonable discontent and agitation, have after a period of nine years and at a time when Ireland is absolutely free from agrarian crime, put a criminal statute of an exceptional description once more in operation, suppressed the right of free speech, dispersed legal and peaceable meetings with unprovoked and brutal police violence, and used Courts presided over by magistrates removable at the pleasure of the Executive to send to gaol without a fair trial Members of this House and other citizens of Ireland for no other offence than asserting their right to address their constituents and fellow citizens in public meeting assembled; and finally to represent to Your Majesty that the Government of Ireland is not supported by the opinion of the vast majority of the people of Ireland, and that the condition of that country demands the serious and immediate attention of parliament, with a view to the establishment of harmony between the Government and the great majority of the people."—(Mr. John Redmond.)
§ Question proposed "That those words be there added."
§ (6.20) COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said the hon. Member for Waterford concluded his speech by an apology on its length. Well, he must compliment him on its brevity. If the House considered the Amendment it would see that the whole Irish question was served up in onedish. The Amendment was dividde into five heads, and if these various questions received that amount of eloquent attention they had received in former years, he ventured to say that the Amendment would last three or four months instead of two days. According to the hon. Gentleman the condition, of Ireland was so serious that all the questions dealt with in the Amendment must be taken up by the Government. As far as he was aware the only person in the House sitting above the gangway who was affected by that idea was the Leader 721 of the Opposition, who appeared to sit with his mouth open ready to be fed by anything which hon. Gentlemen below the gangway condescended to give him. And what did he say? He asked hon. Gentlemen to listen to his words:—The state of Ireland appears to be serious in the highest degree. From every point of view it is evident the policy of killing a certain undesirable thing with kindness has not succeeded.He did not wonder that the right hon. Gentleman looked upon this as a most undesirable thing. It had had fatal effects for himself and his party. But after all his experience of this undesirable thing, after his knowledge of the attitude taken by hon. Gentlemen from Ireland, who, under Home Rule, would rule and guide the destinies of that country, with all the knowledge which was patent to everyone, and which hon. Gentlemen never denied, he seized the opportunity of nailing the Home Rule flag to the mast that wobbled over the shaky ship. He wished him joy of the operation.
The House need not alarm itself about the Amendment. There was nothing new in it. It was the old, old story told in the old, old eloquent way. There was the land question, was it possible to conceive Ireland without a land question? He ventured to prophecy that in the days of their children and grandchildren the Irish question would remain. There would be Irishmen who desired to get land they did not possess—hence, there would be the land question. He never knew an Irish Department that some Irishmen did not desire to do away with. It had been pointed out that certain Irish Members were in gaol and that others were going to gaol. There was nothing new in that. The first part of the Amendment dealt with compulsory pur-purchase. During the last Election he spoke on the subject and made an open stand against it and he was returned—he was happy to say by a discriminating constituency—by a very large majority. With regard to compulsory purchase, at the moment he considered the wind was taken out of the sails of hon. Members opposite by the promised Bill of the Government. He could not conceive how it would be possible to arouse in Ireland any great enthusiasm for an 722 imaginary measure which most sane people, at any rate, believed would never be carried by any Government.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
Well, the Member for East Down could not carry the measure. If the man you supprt is returned I hope he will sit on the benches opposite. Continuing, the hon. Member said if the Bill which the Government were bound to bring in and bound to carry was a fair Bill and gave fair play to both sides, it would have his support. He must say that he regretted extremely the absence of the Member for South Tyrone. He regretted his absence because he had taken a leading part in forwarding in the House of Commons and in the country a compulsory measure. He found no fault with the hon. Member for taking up the principle of compulsory purchase; he had as much right to hold that view as he (Colonel Saunderson) to hold the other. But he objected to the way in which the hon. Member had argued—he objected very strongly to the line he had taken. He did not know which hon. Member upon the Irish benches had converted him. Some of them must have got at him, because he had openly stated that he had made the discovery that it was not the hon. Gentlemen opposite all along who were to blame, but the landlords. He (Col. Saunderson) did not like those sudden conversions. In one of his speeches he said if the Government did not bring in a Compulsory Bill, they would make the situation in Ulster impossible. What did that mean? He did not understand how they could make the situation impossible for the Government of the country or any other country without in some way or other coming to loggerheads with the law. Why did hon. Members opposite wish to turn out the landlords? It was not because they were worse landlords than those of other countries. The hon. Members opposite were perfectly above-board. They said all over the country that they looked upon the landlords as the chief prop of British rule, and that if they kicked out the land- 723 lords they would kick out the British. He did not intend to deal with compulsory sale, because he regarded it as outside the horizon of practical politics, He did not believe it would ever come in their time: if it came in their children's time, let them deal with it.
But what was the Government blamed for doing? It was blamed for tackling the United Irish League. The hon. Member for Waterforn declared that Ireland was the most crimeless, the most peaceful country on the face of the earth. If the Government wanted a character for the legislation of past years it could not get a better character than the hon. Member for Waterford had given. The hon. Gentlemen said there was a great deal more crime in England, Scotland, and Wales. Well, he should advise England, Scotland, and Wales to increase the number of police. What was the object of the League? It was nothing new. In a speech in Yorkshire, the hon. Member for Waterford delared that the programme of the Land League of 1879 was the programme of the United League to-day. It was the old Land League over again, and there was no deception about it. He supposed the Government knew as well as he did that this organisation was simply the Land League re-baptized—the same leaders, the same machinery, the same objects, with the same political ends. The hon. Member for Waterford, speaking at Cork—probably after lunch—made it clear that behind the agrarian movement in Ireland was a national movement. Had the United Irish League succeeded? He was happy to say that he believed it had not. Except in certain parts of Connaught it had not gone down.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
Why had it not gone down? He believed that there was a barrier which hon. Gentlemen opposite would find it very hard to remove. That barrier was the advancing prosperity of Ireland. He had anxiously waited to hear the hon. Member say something in his speech about the material condition of Ireland, but hon. Members opposite were always dumb on that subject. Of course the population of Ireland had decreased, but he did not 724 think it would be a richer country if it were a congested district. They were told that the Irish people were hunted out of their country by the iniquitous Government, but in fact Irishmen went out of Ireland because the means of going were cheap and the facilities great. He believed that Irishmen reasoned with the intelligence belonging to the race. They said to themselves that theirs was a poor country, it had no great industries, and there was no outlet for their manhood. They were well treated wherever they went—except in the Transvaal—and so they went to countries where they found scope for their ability and muscle. That was not hunting them out of their own country, but simply giving them facilities of locomotion. Twenty years ago, he found that in the Joint Stock Banks in Ireland—hon. Members derided Joint Stock Banks, but probably they did not bank with them—there was £29,700,000. To-day, after twenty years of misgovernment, tyranny, and unutterable misery, the amount had gone up to £43,280,000. One thing he would say, and that was, upon his honour he did not believe it was the landlords' money which had swollen that total. Then the money in the Savings Banks in Ireland in the 20 years had increased from £3,500,000 to £10,086,000.
The trouble was that the Nationalist cause in Ireland did not thrive in peaceful waters, because it required certain turbidity to enable a Nationalist to do as he liked and to float on froth. Therefore it had been decided to start again the good old plan of campaign. The Member for Waterford, on January 1st, indicated that in a speech, in which he also said that if no Bill were passed during the present session, one would be passed in 1903, and in the meantime they could protect their people—that they were strong enough and rich enough to take care of the people in the meantime. He wondered if the people believed that. They had been told the same thing under the Plan of Campaign, but somehow the money box sprung a leak or something else happened. That had been declared by the father of the Plan of Campaign, or at any rate one of the parents. He noticed that on a recent occasion, the Member for East Mayo had been heckled at one of his meetings in the West of Ireland. He told the tenants to exert themselves. "And so they do," was 725 the reply of a tenant, "and they have found it hard to get a living. They have been sadly betrayed, and sadly disappointed." That was true. Would not the Member for East Mayo hesitate to again advocate the Plan of Campaign? He took the deepest interest in the fate of those Boer families in South Africa who were fed and protected at the expense of the British Crown. But had he no mercy for those men who, at his command, vacated their farms and since then had been starving? Was he going to repeat the Plan of Campaign on the De Freyne Estate? If so, he would find it a lamentable memory for him. This was a movement not to obtain fair play for the tenants, but to turn the British Government out of Ireland. The unhappy tenants under notice to quit now numbered 380, which meant that 2,000 souls were suffering, and there were more to follow. There would be poor people leaving their farms which they would lose for ever, and they would be turned out into the roads to starve like beggars and compelled to live in huts, in order that the hon. Members and his friends might come to the House of Commons to agitate further a cause which was as hopeless as it was absurd.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said that he would refer to the collection. Every branch of the United Irish League had promised to subscribe £1 towards the Plan of Campaign. He could not say whether the money was to go to the agitator or the victim. He had this announcement to make—that Lord De Freyne and other landlords who were to be "campaigned" would not fight alone. Many Irishmen and Englishmen would stand by him in the interest of law and order and of the prosperity of Ireland.
He now came to the question of how this League had been dealt with by the Government. For a long time they did nothing, although it must have been known to them that it had been declared that the agitation was to be the old Land League over again—that was to say, the old Land League minus murder. In the County of Sligo a man named Graham, who had acted on a jury that convicted a person for in- 726 timidation, was boycotted, and he could get no servants to work for him, no shop keeper to supply his wants, no blacksmith to shoe his horses; he found himself "let severely alone." The hon. Member for Waterford had told them that Ireland was without crime; but the country in which subjects of the Crown were so treated was guilty of the greatest crime. The Government had been waiting for such crimes with contemptuous contemplation, but he wondered how the Chief Secretary would feel if he were treated as Mr. Graham had been. He hoped that in the speech he would make that night the right hon. Gentleman would state the reasons why the Government did not take action sooner, and what action they intended to take in the future. Hon. gentlemen from Ireland were in the habit of using threats. He should like to ask the hon. and learned member for Waterford what he meant by saying that he intended to make the situation in Ireland "dangerous." Was it to be dangerous to the tenants who did not pay? Was it to be dangerous to the landlords who refused to cave in? Was it to be dangerous to His Majesty's Government? He could not think for a moment that the hon. and learned gentleman believed that any threat he or any of his friends made would influence that Assembly.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
No, but I know from experience the kind of agitation or movement in Ireland which compels reform.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said that was not an answer to his question. Who was to suffer in this compelling of reform by dangerous agitation? Who was to die, who was to be maimed; what was the meaning of "dangerous"? The hon. and learned gentleman threatened this country with unknown disasters from those millions of Irishmen beyond the seas. He did not fear anything of the kind. But he noticed the other day that the hon. and learned gentleman, at a meeting of the League in Dublin concerned with the funds of the League, spoke of from 15 to 20 millions of Irishmen in America, and of the fact that, while £7,000 had been subscribed in Ireland and £2,000 in England, only £530 had come from the United States and the 727 rest of the world. Taking the hon. and learned member's own figures, and allotting the whole of the £530 to American, he found that it required 350 Irish-American patriots to subscribe one farthing a head. That being so, there was not much danger to be anticipated from the United States. At any rate he thought the House would see that the Government had to deal, and he hoped it would deal firmly, justly, and courageously, with a movement furthered for disloyal objects, and carried on by tyrannical and criminal means. All he could say was that, if they proceeded firmly and justly in administering the law, in two or three years to come the same story might be told by some Nationalist Member in the House—that there was perfect peace in Ireland.
(7.18.) MR. TOMPKINSON (Cheshire, Crewe)
referred to the experience which had been gained by the working of the Land Accounts in Ireland, and to the criticism passed upon the measures by the Conservative party when they were brought forward by the Liberal Government. He remembered well what was said in regard to the call which the land purchase proposal would make on the purse of the English taxpayers. He remembered distinctly how his opponents in the contest which took place in his constituency depicted that £150,000,000, paid by English taxpayers would go into the pockets of the Irish landlords. That proposal and the Home Rule Bill were rejected, and a Conservative Government came into power. What happened? First of all they had a Coercion Act and a Land Purchase Bill was afterwards introduced. In the course of the debates on that Bill his right hon. friend the Member for the Montrose burghs pointed out in prophetic language the position in which they were to-day. The right hon. Gentleman stated that if they gave such favourable terms as would place tenants of rich landlords who availed themselves of the Act in a position in which they would make the annual payment of their existing rents, while at the same time purchasing their farms, and in a certain number of years becoming proprietors, there would be side by side with that class the tenants of poor landlords who could not afford to accept those terms. 728 He further pointed out at the time the Bill was before the House the state of things with which they were confronted that night. The hon. Member confessed that he had the greatest sympathy with the poor landlords. He thought they had been by no means generously treated by their friends of the Conservative side of the House. As the right hon. Member for North Armagh said, they had garrisoned Ireland, and they had over and over again been more or less deserted. Mr. Gladstone proposed to give twenty years purchase of the then judicial rents, and since that time the landlords' friends opposite had twice reduced the rents, and the number of years purchase now quoted was sixteen. Therefore if compulsory land purchase did not come, he would support and urge a generous measure in which the British taxpayer would contribute to the necessities of the poor Irish landlords. The right hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh had spoken of the perpetual land question. Those who had visited Ireland knew what some of the estate were. There were bogs inhabited by hundreds of small tenants on land reclaimed by themselves, and on which the houses had been buIlt by themselves. There was no wonder that under such conditions they were dissatisfied to see the land taken by rich tenants. It was all very well to quote the statistics of savings banks to show the increase of wealth. He hoped there was some increase of wealth, otherwise what would have been the results of the diminished rents? The population of Ireland was formerly 9,000,000, and now it was 4,500,000. He did not care how much the grazing lands had improved. He thought of the men and women. He regretted that the Chief Secretary had plunged again into the dreary round of coercion. It never succeeded. He had no doubt that with his brilliant eloquence the right hon. Gentleman would give the best reasons that could possibly be adduced for it. It was because he believed the land question had now been brought to an impasse in which it must be undertaken, that he sincerely regretted the policy of coercion, and that he would support the Amendment.
§ (7.28.) Mr. WILLIAM MOORE (Antrim, N.)
said there was no more popular cry among the party which the hon. and 729 learned Member for Waterford represented than that of complete irreconcilability with this country. He supposed there was no part of Ireland where that cry was more intensely popular than in Connaught, where this difficulty had arisen. Yet hon. Members from Ireland who supported that cry now asked that the Congested Districts Board should be endowed with more English gold and more powers from this House in order that they might continue their good work. What they complained of in other parts of Ireland was that whether or not it was in consequence of this irreconcilability, the English gold which this House generously placed at the disposal of Ireland was always distributed in the agitated districts. So far as he was concerned he would continue to press that whether the funds came from the Irish Church surplus or not they should be equally distributed Feeling in regard to the Irish land question was running particularly strong in the north of Ireland. Every one on both sides of the House who knew anything about Irish land was agreed that they could only find the solution of the land problem by the abolition of dual ownership, by the process of converting the occupying tenant into the occupying owner, whether by compulsory sale or by other methods. What they wanted in the north of Ireland was universal sale, and compulsory sale seemed to them the only way because up till now the successful operation of the voluntary Acts had been only partial. When they found that everything in regard to this land legislation had been done by piecemeal, that every five years in Ireland they had a new Land Act or a Land Purchase Act which earned them only a little way further, it was no wonder that people got sick of waiting and asked that the quickest and most logical way of solving the problem should be taken. If the position of the Land Courts and the land tenants were compared, it would be seen what he meant. In 1881 the ordinary tenant was admitted to the Land Courts, six years afterwards leaseholders whose term ran to 99 years were taken in, and five years after that ordinary leaseholders were admitted. The same thing was working in regard to land purchase. The Act of 1889 applied to one 730 class to the large estates whose owners ordinarily lived in England. The Act of 1891 only applied to those landlords whose estates were practically bankrupt. The voluntary system was a dead letter as regarded landlords who were not under financial pressure, and it should be the object of this House to get at these people.
In regard to the prophetic "never," he could understand that if a revolutionary proposal were made it would be very easy for a statesman to say "never"; but when they had brought each class in Ireland step by step in the direction of enforced sale, he could not believe in the sincerity of the "never." At the same time if it was to be "never" the success of that "never" would depend upon the Colonial Secretary himself; and if the right hon. Gentleman, as he professed, was able to give them a Bill on voluntary lines which would work the same result, his own "never" would come true for there would be no necessity for compulsory methods, and the country would be equally satisfied. He had done his best to ascertain the feeling of his constituents, and their opinion was that the Bill to be introduced by the Colonial Secretary, though on voluntary lines, might constitute a system to be agreed on by all those who were bona fide interested in the question. But at the same time, the Colonial Secretary would have to remember that if he was to forego the weapon of compulsion he would have to supply its place by strong inducements. It had been said the inducements would be landlord's bribes, but he could not see why the tenants of Ireland should not agree to landlord's bribes so long as they did not come out of their pockets. If this Bill was to come up to the expectation of the Colonial Secretary he thought it would be a most magnificent Bill. Their farmers were feeling the pressure of the times. It was not so much that prices had gone down, because if they had gone down for some things they had gone up for others, but it was due to the increase of farmers' expenses. From 1890 to 1900 a quarter of a million of acres bad gone out of tillage and gone to grass, and the only reason for that was that the labourers' wages had run up and the burden of local rates had increased. [An HON. 731 MEMBER: That is your Local Government Act.] He was not speaking of the rights or the wrongs of the subject, but of the facts. The Irish tenant-owner in Ulster wanted to be able to sell his farm at the best price he could get; but at present he was sorry to say, the right of pre-emption was exercised by landlords in respects of holdings which they did not wish to acquire and work themselves. A landlord had a better right than any outsider to come in when he wanted to farm the land himself, but he did not think that he had any right to use this right of pre-emption and then charge the future tenant a higher rent. If there was to be new legislation, either power should be given to resume the Ulster custom, or some limitation should be placed on the right of pre-emption, he thought that would meet the difficulties of the case, and he saw no reasonable objection to it. For his own part, in conformity with his pledges to his constituents, he would do his best to carry through the proposed measure, and he trusted that hon. Members for other parts of Ireland would see their way to take the same course.
§ *(7.58). MR. O'DOWD (Sligo, S.)
said that the constituency which he had the honour to represent in this House was one of the most coercion-ridden districts in Ireland; and he felt it his duty, in the name of his constituents, to enter his indignant protest against the manner in which these poor people were trodden down by the Dublin Castle authorities. What he complained of most bitterly was the wanton suppression of the rights of free speech and public meeting. He complained and bitterly complained of the quartering of extra police in his constituency, whose chief business was to terrorise the peeple. He also complained bitterly of the erection in a peaceable district of a number of unnecessary police huts, which, indeed, might be designated block-houses. He also complained of the prosecution of hon. Members of this House, and he did so because his constituency had been the theatre of some of the coercion courts by which his hon. friends had been sentenced by removable magistrates.
732 He would like to give a few instances with regard to the suppression of free speech. On the 13th of January, 1901, at Achonry, County Sligo, an admittedly peaceable district, the farmers of the locality in their wisdom thought it prudent to meet together after divine service for the purpose of establishing a branch of their organisation, which in Ireland held the field. He referred to the United Irish League. What was the result? Fifty police were drafted in from outlying districts at great cost to the ratepayers, and the people were hustled about and were threatened with batons and bayonets, although the police knew very well that the object of the meeting was not for purposes of intimidation, but to establish a branch of the United Irish League. But for the good sense of the people themselves on that occasion, who acted on the advice tendered to them by their leaders, a river of blood would have marked the scene of the dispersal of that meeting. He would cite another instance. Ballymote, in the same county, was the most peaceable town in Ireland, and the district surrounding it was not annoyed by any agrarian case whatever. There was no case of land-grabbing in the neighbourhood, and there was nothing to call for the undue interference of the police authorities. On the 17th of June last an athletic meeting was held at Ballymote, which was naturally attended by the people of the district. A band from a neighbouring town came to enliven the proceedings, and as the band was leaving for home the people assembled to give them a send off cheer and one gentleman thanked them for attending. A riot, deliberately created by the police authorities, followed. The policemen went among the crowd, which had not assembled for any political purpose whatever, the people were set upon and hustled about and two respectable young men, who were not connected with any political organisation, were arrested and were brought before Captain Crean, the removable magistrate, at twelve o'clock at night and were sentenced to three months imprisonment in default of giving bail. He gave those few instances to the House in order to show the system of terrorism carried on in the West of Ireland in the name of law 733 and order. During the recess public meetings had been held throughout the West of Ireland for the purpose of furthering the interests of the organisation of the people, which would remain the organisation of the people until landlordism and English misgovernment in Ireland were abolished. One meeting was arranged to be held at Moylough, and was duly announced by placard. On the evening previous to the meeting the police served the promoters with copy of the Castle proclamation proclaiming it. The meeting was held nevertheless and was attended by the local clergy, and though proclaimed was not suppressed. Indeed, instead of one meeting ten meetings were held.
He might remark with reference to these proclaimed meetings that the Chief Secretary was one of the ablest recruiting sergeants of the United Irish League in Ireland, for his action in endeavouring to suppress peaceable meetings had done more to set the heather on fire and to bring recruits to the national organisation than any action that could have been taken by the Irish Party. He could give numberless instances where the right of free speech had been interfered with, but it now seemed that the Chief Secretary, seeing that proclamations were useless and that he was made the laughing-stock of the world, had changed his tactics and had resorted to the methods of the coercion courts. In his constituency, which was perfectly peaceful, seven blockhouses had been erected for the protection of one individual, who had earned for himself the name of the Mad Mullah of South Sligo landlords, a man who cared very little about the Chief Secretary or about the Government, and whose proud boast was that he would seize every ranch he could find in the country. That was the gentleman for whom the Government had erected seven blockhouses and one canteen, which was a fruitful source of immorality and scandal in the locality, and also a smithy. That man was an extensive landlord himself, he had also a large home farm; but not satisfied with that he seized an accommodation grazing farm situated in the centre of a congested district, which had been used for twenty-five years by the tenants 734 surrounding it, whose little patches of land would not enable them to otherwise keep a cow. That man deprived the people of the accommodation farm, and the result was they had to sell their cattle at a ruinous loss. What were his antecedents? Some years ago he established what was known in Ireland as a "Bird's Nest,"a proselytising institution for the purpose of teaching boys and girls a religion which their parents did not intend them to have, and he had been a constant source of annoyance to every Government, Liberal and Tory, for twenty years. He had been boycotted on two occasions previously, and was now having his third term of it. One on occasion he was protected, not only by the police, but also by soldiers, and he then acted as his own jarvey, with the result that he netted a considerable sum of money from the Government. It might be thought that he had some personal animosity against that man, but he had not, and was indeed instrumental in saving the lives of his wife and children at the risk of his own life on a certain occasion when their horse ran away. He maintained it was scandalous to encourage a gentleman of that type by affording him protection which he did not require. The blockhouses which had been erected were all for that man's benefit, but no number of blockhouses would be able to stamp out the spirit of undying Nationality which existed in the breasts of the Irish people. They were no midnight marauders; they were no cattle-houghers. One of the principal planks of their platform was that the man who committed a crime gave strength to the enemy. That was a lesson which had been taken to heart by the organisation, and which would not be forgotten. But it was an absolute waste of public money to erect those blockhouses and the canteen, or perhaps he should call it a she been, for the protection of a gentleman against whom not a man would lift a finger. He himself had seen that gentleman driving five miles away from a police barracks at ten o'clock at night, and no one thought of touching him. But all the blockhouses that could ever be erected by Dublin Castle could not prevent him 735 from being boycotted until he had surrendered the farm he had grabbed.
He wished to refer to the drafting of great bodies of police, at great expense to the ratepayers, from one side of the country to the other, for the purpose of suppressing imaginary meetings. On the occasion of the release from prison of his hon. friend the Member for North Leitrim, fifty police were drafted from Fermanagh into Sligo. There was not a man in Sligo, the Conservatives included, who was not prepared to give his hon. friend a hearty welcome. Why, therefore, should the Government have drafted fifty police into Sligo for the purpose of preserving the peace? Two days afterwards eighty police were brought from East Galway to Rooskey at the cost of £1 per head. But like the King of France, they only marched up the hill and down again, because there was no meeting. Why did the Government draft fifty police from Fermanagh on one day and send them back again, and two days afterwards draft eighty police from Galway. Their only object was to terrorise the people and increase taxation in order that the people might lose faith in the organisation. It was no wonder that dissatisfaction existed on estates in the west of Ireland, because on one estate, with the sanction of the Chief Secretary, the tenants had been converted into peasant proprietors and also had received a reduction of 6s.8d. in the pound, whereas on the adjoining estates the unfortunate tenants remained in the condition of serfs and would remain in that condition until compulsory purchase had been adopted. It was exactly as if a horse were put into a park of clover with other hungry horses outside the fence. Would it not be natural that they should try to break down the fence and have a share of the clover? Why should not the tenants in the outlying estates battle for rights which had been already conceded by the Government? A great pillar of the constitution of Ireland, Judge O'Connor Morris, in opening the Roscommon sessions a few weeks ago, stated that the tenantry on the De Freyne estate had a moral grievance and he seemed to throw the whole blame on the Chief Secretary. In conclusion, he would say that the 736 blockhouse system had failed in Ireland as it had failed in South Africa. It could not damp the spirit of the people, and the cause would go on until it was successful. He had great pleasure in supporting the Amendment. (8.15.)
§ *(8.47.) MR. J. P. FARRELL (Longford, N.)
said the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh, the recognised leader of the landlord party, was singularly ungracious in parts. The zeal to prove the case against the Nationalist Members overleapt itself and it proved simply to the House, and certainly to the satisfaction of the Nationalists, that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was one of the same old Tory gang who had so long monopolised the attention of Parliament, and whose raison ďêtre in this House had been all the time to fight for their own hand. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman made use of a number of extracts to prove how vile this new organisation was. The only fault which the United Irish League possessed was that it was steadily driving the landlord garrison out of Ireland, and it was for that reason it excited the ire of the right hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh. The Amendment before the House might be divided into four parts. The first part of the Amendment dealt with the great question of the compulsory sale of land in Ireland. It could not be anything in the nature of a surprise to the Government that at this period of time the Irish members should make some stand in this House to push forward this question. The action of the Government from time to time in tinkering with the land question by pressing paltry measures for voluntary purchase, and for dealing with the reduction of rents had but whetted the tenants appetites for the concluding struggle. The speech the Chief Secretary delivered in Belfast was about the one thing needed to convince them of the necessity of showing their determination to carry on this struggle until they reached a final conclusion. The right hon. Gentleman said the Government would never under any circumstances consent to deal with an estate on which what he was pleased to call intimidatory practices 737 prevailed. But he evidently forgot that the area which formed the present theatre of conflict embraced the celebrated Dillon estate, on which there had been for many a long day a standing contest between landlord and tenant. It was in consequence of that struggle that the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, as president of the Congested Districts Board, purchased the Dillon Estate, and therefore was the man who was instrumental in setting up the anomalous condition of things in County Roscommon, namely that on one estate where a fight had been made, the tenants were in the enjoyment of their farms at a reduction of 6s. 8d. per £1 while their neighbours were not enjoying similar benefits. He did not wonder that such a state of things had excited the anger of the surrounding tenants.
Apart from the question of agitation and disturbance in particular localities, there was a cogent reason why they should agitate as strongly as they could for the immediate passage of a compulsory Land Purchase Bill, and that was the conduct of the Commission entrusted with the carrying out of the existing Acts. The delays and the manner in which tenants were treated under the present procedure must have convinced those who had given any consideration to the question that the voluntary system was only putting a huge tax in the shape of law costs and prolonged litigation upon the Irish people. Surely the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues ought to see the necessity for dealing on broad and comprehensive lines with this vexed land question. He had an Amendment on the Paper dealing with the conduct of the Land Commission in Longford, but perhaps it would be better to take the present opportunity of calling the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the way in which the business of this big State Department was done.
§ * MR. J. P. FARRELL
hoped that an opportunity would be afforded on another occasion to ventilate the matter more fully. Certainly he trusted that his speaking on the present occasion would not debar him from the opportunity of 738 discussing the Amendment he had placed on the paper. From the manner in which foreign competition was steadily driving down the value of their produce, it was almost impossible for the tenants to pay even the judicial rents. He concurred with the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, that the hopes and expectations of Irish farmers had time and again been dashed to the ground by promises to deal with the question of compulsory land purchase and to give some settlement which would at least be an improvement on the existing state of things. He shared the prognostications of his hon. and learned friend that there was very faint hope of the promise in the King's Speech being fulfilled on the present occasion. The right hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh, whose business it was to buttress up and protect the interests of landlordism, sneered at the efforts of the Irish Members to force this question to the front. For almost 80 years the interests of the tenant farmers were in the hands of landlord representatives in this House, and during that period those interests were entirely neglected. It was not until the people organised for the protection of their own interests that the Imperial Parliament, about whose world-wide doings we heard so much, took the first stepin the settlement of the land question, by passing the Land Act of 1881. The Land Act of 1881 no doubt conferred considerable benefit on the tenant farmers of Ireland; but 20 years had elapsed since then, and it was a well-known fact that the produce of foreign countries competed very much more strongly with Irish produce now than 20 years ago. Therefore rents which were fair in 1881 were excessively unfair now.
Unless they were to assent to the confiscation of the property of those they represented, or to consent to the negative policy of allowing the interests of their constituents to be totally disregarded, there was no other course, in the interests of peace and good order in Ireland, than to press for a settlement of this land question. The usual Coercive measures had now been evoked to oppress them, and the old promises had been revived by the Irish Government that they would give the Irish people such a dose of coercion as would do them all their lives. Lord Salisbury, in a celebrated speech, once talked of 20 years of resolute government, which was to 739 squelch the Irish agitation. He did not know whether the Prime Minister had repeated that speech, but he thought the noble Lord had had the good sense not to do so, because he had found out that the Irish people were not going to be suppressed by that form of government, and that the agitation for a reasonable settlement of this question must and would go on, no matter what steps the Government might take to prevent it. The land question was at the root of all Irish discontent. In England they had no land question, because they were a great manufacturing people, and had enormous sources of employment for the population. It was not so in Ireland. They were an agricultural country, dependent absolutely on the land. The Irish Party held that the men who formed the backbone of the country should be allowed to live and toil under as favourable conditions as could be obtained for them from this Parliament. The new Chief Secretary had resorted to the old weapon of coercion. Personally he was sorry that he had seen fit to do so, but he supposed the right hon. Gentlemen had submitted to the yoke of the permanent officialism of Dublin Castle which was the curse of Ireland, and the curse of Irish Chief Secretaries, He had thrown himself into the hands of these bad advisers, and they advised him to have the peaceable meetings of Irish citizens smashed up and their people assaulted by the police in the vicinity of even their own places of worship. All this was done, forsooth, for the purpose of preserving law and order in Ireland. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would find that these were the worst advisers he had ever had, and that he would iive to regret he had taken the course of stifling public opinion in Ireland. Stronger men than he and of longer experience had tried to do it and failed. The weapon of coercion had broken in their hands, as undoubtedly it would break in the hands of the present occupant of the office of Chief Secretary.
To give the House an idea of the manner in which Castle rule was carried on in Ireland, he would recount what was taking place in County Longford. County Court Judge Curran stated in his court the other day that although in October last he had been unable to congratulate the grand 740 jurors on the state in which he found the county, he, the judge, was now very glad to find that his hopes had not been disappointed, because there were now only three cases for trial as against sixteen in October. Mr. Curran then went on to congratulate the grand jury of Longford on the peaceful state of the county, which was absolutely crimeless. But how were the policemen acting in that same county? He himself during the recess had been attending a number of political meetings in the county, and at every one of these meetings a force of from 30 to 50 policemen was present, some of them aimed with rifles. There was no open or imaginary excuse which he could understand for the presence of these armed police save that they were there to preserve the majesty of the law. He intended to ask for a Return of the expenses of these excursions. If there had been any intention to commit any crime the gentlemen at the Castle would have taken proper steps to have the meeting proclaimed; but in the absence of some such information or proclamation, it was an outrage to send to a peaceful meeting, lawfully convened, a force of from 30 to 50 armed policemen. It was putting a premium on disturbance. Within the last week he had attended a meeting of his constituents in the parish of Edgeworthstown, in which there was a population of 600 families. There was no reference to boycotting at that meeting, and no necessity for it, and there was nothing that he could understand that could lead to the extraordinary display of police activity since. A constituent had asked him to put a question to the House in regard to the extraordinary conduct of the police and the petty annoyances to which the people in his village were being subjected since that meeting. The number of policemen had been increased from seven to eleven, and there were eight patrols each day. The police visited every day the houses of the tenants and asked most impertinent questions. They asked John Brady, of Carn, for the production of his rent receipt. They had no more right to do that then he had to ask the right hon. Gentleman for his hotel bill. Again, two constables went into the house of a respectable farmer named Thomas Cunningham of same place, and remained 741 there upwards of half an hour without any business, to the great inconvenience of that man and his family, The previous Friday two policemen went into the house of Hugh Murray and asked him why he was at a United League Meeting on the previous Sunday. In fact the whole inhabitants of that town land were completely annoyed by these officious gentlemen. He put it to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary whether a police force would dare to go into the house of a constituent of his in Dover and ask him to produce his rent receipt or whether he had been at a lawful public meeting on the previous Sunday. They would find that the right hon. Gentleman would be extremely annoyed and would do his best to see that the police did not get any stripes for efficiency. The policy of coercion was bound to fail. The right hon. Gentleman was only driving into the minds of the people the principle of the National League as an official organisation, and the more he attacked it the more popular and powerful it would become.
With regard to the congested districts he would say that there were many unscheduled districts in Ireland which were not now, but which could be, profitably dealt with by the Congested Districts Board; estates like the great Jessop estate, the tenants of which were evicted years ago, and the descendants of whom were yet living in the vicinity of the farms which had been left derelict for so long. In any Bill which the Government proposed to bring forward nothing would tend to heal sore spots in the social life of Ireland more than to include such estates as the Jessop estate in the County of Longford, in the operation of the Congested Districts Board. But if the right hon. Gentleman proposed in any Bill which he intended to introduce, to put a premium upon the iniquitous "11 months system" which handed over huge tracts of grazing land to the favorites of the landlords, he need not trouble to bring in any such bill, because the representatives of Ireland had received a mandate from their constituents to urge that no settlement of the land question could be satisfactory to the people of Ireland which would perpetuate so infamous a system, and inflict on Ireland greater misery than 742 that which she already suffered. He believed that the Government in the end would yield to the inevitable in the matter of the land question, but they would yield too late to receive the thanks of the Irish people, and whether the right hon. Gentleman introduced a Compulsory Bill or whether he dealt with the Irish land question this session or next, he might be perfectly certain that until the Irish land question was settled satisfactorily to the people there would be no peace or happiness for the people either of Ireland or this country.
§ (9.20.) SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
said he had listened to the hon. and learned Member for Waterford with admiration for the eloquence he had displayed, and the admirable manner with which he had marshalled the arguments in support of his contention, but one thing he greatly missed from all the speeches of the Party opposite. They always seemed more to address their speeches to Ireland than to the House, and seemed to forget that, if they wished to convince the British House of Commons, they must bring arguments to bear which would bring conviction to the minds of hon. Members who represented English constituencies, He failed to find anything in the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford which would convince any hon. Gentleman who had to justify his vote in favour of compulsory land purchase. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said the justification lay in the fact of the punctuality with which the payments were made to those who had already purchased their land. But that was due to the fact that those persons who were practically the owners of their land found they were much better off and paid less than their neighbours who had not purchased their holdings. But supposing compulsory purchase came into force and the whole of Ireland was transferred to the tenants, subject to a rental with one landlord—the British Government—they would arrive at a position in which one tenant could not compare with another, all would be in an equally good position; but in the meantime they would know perfectly well that the British Government could not take in hand the eviction of the whole of 743 Ireland. That was the point, and if the hon. Gentlemen opposite wished to deal with this matter in a practical way they would have to convince the English people that there was no risk in becoming the landlord of Ireland, at the expense of £150,000,000. One of the objects of the hon. Gentlemen opposite was to get rid of landlordism altogether! How could it be done? Why should the English people be asked to pledge their credit to give to a particular class in Ireland benefits which they denied to themselves?
On the general question, he was glad to find the right hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh had not given expression to the complaints which he had noticed with regret had been expressed in some of the journals of the Unionist party in Ireland. He had been very doubtful himself for some time as to whether the Government were sufficiently alert, but he rose principally to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for the action the Government had taken in Ireland. He had heard it stated that no answer had been given to this scheme of compulsory purchase, but the people who made that charge had either not read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman or they had not taken a practical view of the situation. The right hon. Gentleman had explained in the most concise and complete way the reasons for the necessary answer of the Government on the question. But he went further. He spoke also of the effect of the policy of the Government in those districts where disturbances had occurred, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman was pursuing the wisest policy. The one thing the Government had to do was to see that the law was maintained, and that those who broke the law were punished in the ordinary way, and he trusted that the Government would rigidly adhere to that policy. He could never understand why, if such action was pursued as was deliberately pursued by an organisation using the same methods as the Land League, the Government did not put the forces of the law in force, and he trusted there would be no hesitation, in the particular district where such things occurred, in putting the law in motion.
744 The real difficulty in this matter was an economic difficulty, which was not to be met by speeches in the House, but could only be met by plodding work in the attempt to assist the Irish people to help themselves. Everybody who knew the country knew perfectly well that the real difficulty in Ireland was to get at the truth; to get men to act on their own individual convictions and not to follow the crowd. They now heard of a combination of the Nationalist party and those who claimed to represent the tenants of Ireland to force an unwilling landlord to sell his land for no other reason than the fact that the tenants wanted it. Such an organisation was not one to command the support of the House. It was contrary to the principle so dear to the English, Scotch, and Welsh, that there should be free liberty to act according to what one thought best for oneself, within the limits of the law, and such a combination would not commend itself to any reasonable man either in the Colonies or at home. While he quite understood such a combination, it was an attack by one interest against another, and the other interest, if it knew its business, and did what was strictly right to defend itself, would combine against such a combination. He was rejoiced to hear the announcement of his right hon. and gallant friend the Member for North Armagh that it was the determination to combine, within the law, to defend their interests, because the landlords had the remedy in their own hands, and if they combined we should hear less howling in the House for help for men who could help themselves.
§ (9.35.) Mr. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
expressed the opinion that the Amendment now before the House was the most important that had been under discussion up to the present time. Nobody could consider the state of Ireland without feeling that the country was gradually drifting into a more critical condition than it had been in in any previous time of its history. Anybody who had travelled through the country, as he had in the previous recess, could see that there was a state of things arising which could not be allowed to be neglected, and which would tax all the energies of serious 745 statesmen. A great many books had been lately written by men of Unionist convictions upon the Irish land question, all of which showed what discontent there was upon the part of everybody upon this matter. All these books showed that the present system could not be allowed to exist much longer, and the situation appeared to be that while the Government was accustomed to the discontent of the Nationalist party they did not seem to give satisfaction to the Unionists. All Ulster was coming over to the Nationalist side, and it was being realised that the system which the Government desired to pursue was no longer possible. The reason of that conviction, broadly, was that the basis of Government in all its aspects in Ireland would be intolerable to the people. They could not blame them for expressing their discontent in this House, because if it was not expressed here it would find expression in some other way. The foundation of Government in every country in the world was, firstly, taxation, and when the House discussed the system of Irish taxation some years ago no one ventured to suggest that taxation in Ireland ought to be increased. The furthest that the Government went was to recognise that Ireland had to bear a heavy burden, but they had to bear that as part of a great great Empire; but since then 33 per cent. more taxation had been imposed upon Ireland, which had swept away all the benefits which Parliament had conferred upon her. When the Royal Commission reported, the taxation of Ireland was £7,500,000.
§ MR. LOUGH
hoped to say a word upon the question at a future date. The portion of the Amendment to which he desired to address himself was:—That the Government of Ireland is not supported by the opinion of the people of Ireland, and that the condition of the country demands the serious and immediate attention of Parliament with a view to the establishmene of harmony between the Government and tht great majority of the people.If they were to consider the condition of the people, they must at least 746 bear in mind to the burdens they had to bear, he would say no more than this—that that burden had been greatly increased. The second foundation of the principle of Government was that there should be an administration of law of which the people approved, but the majority of the Irish people did not approve of the adminstration forced upon them—hence an organisation now had sprung up which it was no use to try to suppress, for the reason that if it were suppressed in one form it would rise in another. We imposed upon the people an unjust burden of taxation, gave them a system of laws which was intolerable, and finally destroyed the means of existence by refusing to deal with the economic question, to which every speaker had been obliged to refer, viz., the land question. That matter was assuming a gravity which the Government ought to recognise. About 62,000, or 15 or 25 per cent. of the tenants, had bought their farms. The experiment, as far as it had gone, had been absolutely successful; it was the most successful experiment the House had ever made in the government of Ireland. What Irish representatives asked was that this experiment, which had been cautiously applied within a limited area and to a limited extent, should be applied all over the country. It was not as though the experiment had not been made. Forty years ago the principle was carried into effect, under much more difficult circumstances, in Russia, and it had also been tried, he believed, in other countries. There was not the slightest risk to the taxpayers, and why on earth, with the results of what had been done before them, the House could not go on and complete the work, it passed the wit of man to tell. In all the fundamental conditions affecting the life of the people—the burdens they had to bear, the system of Government to which they had to submit, and the way in which the chief economic resource, the land, was treated—there was a state of things created by the House under which the people found it almost impossible to live. Depopulation, to which allusion had been made, was still going on. It was true there was a slight decrease in the emigration figures last year, but such fluctuations were continually 747 taking place, and, considering the diminished population, the statistics with regard to emigration were still of a most alarming character.
Reference had been made to the deposits in savings banks and joint stock banks, but the reason there was more money in the banks now was that 20 years ago banks were comparatively new institutions in Ireland, and the Irish people, being very conservative in these matters, only gradually put their money into them. There was hardly a country in Europe in which the savings per head of the population were so small as in Ireland. Moreover, the growth of savings in banks was not in itself a proof of prosperity. If there was a want of confidence in the country, and the people were afraid to invest their savings in ordinary industrial pursuits, they deposited their money in the banks. Before one could say that the growth of savings indicated increased prosperity, it was necessary to ask whether the system pursued in connection with the main industry of the country was a good one; had the people done all for themselves that capital enabled them to do; had they the best machines and the best drainage on their farms, had everything that science could give been applied to the improvement of their condition. If, after all those questions had been answered in the affirmative, there were still large savings, then those savings might be a proof of progress. But if those conditions did not exist, the fact of there being savings was not an assurance of prosperity, it was rather a warning that something was very wrong in the country. The probable reason of the savings in Ireland was that the people were putting by in order to emigrate, or to make provision for a day of emergency and suffering, which they feared was only too likely to come upon them. Why did not the Government provide statistics which would show the progress or decline of the country—statistics of imports and exports? Such statistics were available in regard to almost every other country in the world, but with regard to Ireland they were missing. Why did they not know how much butter was exported from Ireland last year? The result of the treatment to which Ireland had been subjected was 748 seen in the extraordinary decay exhibited in that country.
Another extraordinary thing was the constitutional aspect of this treatment. Great liberties had been conferred on the people of Ireland. The franchise was the same as in England, and Ireland had an abundant and most able representation in the House of Commons, but not more than her fair share. Not only had Ireland a share in the Imperial Government of the country, but powers of Local Government had been conferred on her. During the last 20 years all these great constitutional liberties had been conferred upon Ireland, but at the same time Parliament had been engaging in a sort of conspiracy to made all these privileges absolutely worthless. How much more powerful were Ireland's representatives in the direction of affecting the government of their country? All the political force of Ireland was not sufficient to move a constable or a school teacher from one village to another. This had not been the perpetual condition of Ireland since the Union. On the contrary, it was something entirely new. Until 20 years ago the Government of Ireland in the House of Commons was at all times supported by a majority of the Irish representatives, but since the rise of Unionism there had been a sort of combination amongst British Members to deprive the Nationalists, who appeared to enjoy the same privileges as other Members, of all power in their own country. That was a most dangerous position for the Government to create, and if this situation was not dealt with, if the Irish representatives who had displayed such ability were not going to be given the same authority as Scotch or London Members of Parliament, then this House ought to quickly do something to legalise its position. Who were the real governors of Ireland? Why, the three right hon. Gentlemen, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, assisted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary to the Treasury. Those gentlemen did everything in Ireland, and the majority of the representatives from Ireland, whom hon. Members opposite contended were too numerous, had no more power than an infant in its cradle. That was a situation of the utmost gravity. The Nation- 749 alists controlled the local government of Ireland, and they were equally strong in the House of Commons, and yet this House refused to give them their legitimate place.
He had heard that measures were to be brought forward to reduce Irish representation, but that was not what good and honest men, if they had them upon the opposite Benches, ought to try and do. [Ministerial cries of "Oh, oh," and "withdraw."] He would withdraw that expression which was not intended in the way it had been taken. That was all he would say about the position of the majority. [An Hon. Member: [Quite enough.] He did not think, at any rate, that he had said too much. The minority in Ireland had been called the English garrison, but how had this House treated them? Their treatment had been just as exceptional as the majority. The Government had given them a bribe of £300,000, and many distinguished persons amongst that minority got great crumbs. He could furnish the House with a list of those who had got this money, and by doing so he would shock the House of Commons. The Member for North Armagh had alluded to the difficulty of collecting funds, but there was not so much difficulty about funds among the minority who had all the great public offices distributed amongst them, and all the emoluments which, in a properly governed country, were distributed amongst the majority. The state of things in America was that the party in the majority got the offices and emoluments, but in Ireland they reversed that state of things. In the sister isle the majority got nothing, and all the honours and emoluments were given to a very small minority, and this House was paying the few supporters of the Government in Ireland very well. Largesse in Ireland was greater than ever, and at the same time that the Government was doing this they were insulting the majority without conciliating the minority who had been made to feel that they had sold their birthright.
This result brought to a climax one of the most serious situations this Parliament had ever had before it. What were the right hon. Gentlemen on the front Ministerial Bench think- 750 ing of? Why, they were thinking of repression and coercion instead of dealing with the broad facts of the case. He would like to put such notions out of their head altogether. Everyone who had listened to the debate that evening, with the exception of the speech delivered by the Member for North Armagh, must have been astonished at the moderation of this debate. The House ought to keep before it the grave aspect of the situation which he had presented, and if in the rough outline which he had indicated those social and political difficulties had arisen, then there was a very grave situation indeed. The party opposite had now a splendid opportunity of dealing with the situation. They asserted that the Opposition were wrong upon this question, but the Opposition were at least consistent, and they had kept to their principles with regard to Ireland if in regard to nothing else. They had not yet pulled down their standard with regard to Ireland. East Down had been referred to, but there was now proceeding an election in England, and the Liberal candidate, Mr. Runciman, was standing on the Home Rule platform. How were the Government going to face these great evils? The party opposite had got a great majority, and he appealed to the Government to consider not with any passion or heat, but in a quiet statesmanlike way, the grave aspects of the situation which he had tried to present to the House, and if they could find a remedy for them and unite Ireland to this country in the solid bonds of amity they would have achieved for themselves a record which would cause them to be remembered for ever.
§ *(10.10.) Mr. HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
said that as an Ulster Member he felt bound to state very briefly to the House the grounds on which he meant to vote for this Amendment. He agreed with the observation made by the Member for Great Yarmouth that their principal duty in this debate was to try and convince those Members of Parliament who represented the other parts of the three kingdoms. It was only by appealing in the House of Commons to justice and fair play that Irishmen had any means or hopes of redressing Irish grievances, because in Ireland there was no means of 751 opening the portals of Dublin Castle in which was centred all the power and authority and patronage exercised in Ireland. It became necessary, therefore, to try and convince the English, Scotch, and Welsh Members of the House of Commons as to the justice of Irish claims. He spoke with some personal experience, for he had known Ireland longer than any Irish Member. He had lived all his life in Ireland, and had had ample opportunities of seeing what was going on in different parts of the country. He was born and reared in the south of Ireland, and he now represented a northern constituency. To him it was a matter of deep regret that at the close of a long career he could conscientiously and faithfully declare that he saw no progress and no improvement in the material condition of the masses of the Irish people. They had to look around to see how this was to be accounted for. Was it sufficient to say that lack of facility for locomotion accounted for the diminution of the population of Ireland from between eight and nine millions in the middle of the last century to less than four millions and a half at the beginning of the twentieth century? The reason for this was that Ireland was governed by an unsympathetic race. A great Irish wit used frequently to say, in accounting for the continuous failure of the English Government in Ireland that it was an instance of a very stupid race trying to govern a very clever race. Henever agreed in that criticism, He appreciated the greatness of the English character and recognised in them the most practical and sensible people in the world. Rather would he say that their failure in Ireland was because an unimaginative and uninformed people were trying to govern a race highly imaginative and only wanting the opportunity to be developed to be capable of improvement in the highest possible degree.
The first question dealt with in the Amendment was the sale of lands now in the occupation of the tenants. Those lands held by landlords either as demesnes or in their own hands were not affected by the question of compulsory purchase. He was very glad indeed to hear the argument of the hon. and learned Member for South Antrim, who pointed 752 out so clearly the advantages and the necessity for compulsory sale that he might have been expected to support the Amendment in the division lobby. He could not understand how on a question so vital to the prosperity of the country, a man, who was convinced that this policy was essential to the redemption of his country, could yet contribute by his vote to the defeat of that policy. He admitted that he could not justly advocate the compulsory purchase of the land in Great Britain. But the conditions are altogether different. The land law in Ireland had arrived at a stage that threatened revolution when that great statesman Gladstone foresaw what was coming and foresaw that he was obliged "to banish to Jupiter and Saturn" the mere laws of dry political economy as applied to Ireland, and to initiate a new code and system altogether. The relation between landlord and tenant at that time was fraught with many years of misgovornment. The land system was built up during the eighteenth century when Ireland was completely unrepresented, he might say, in any Parliament up to 1782. A series of statutes during that period imposed such fetters as required the hand of a powerful statesman like Gladstone to knock them off. In 1870 the first of the fetters was knocked off, and the tenants who were before that at the will of any capricious, extravagant, or penurious landlord ("o si angulus ille"), and might be turned out on the roadside with their families, obtained some amelioration. The first bad cure for the tenants' grievances that he recollected when he was a boy in the county in which he then lived—and no one entertained a greater horror of that cure than he did—was when the tenants themselves unfortunately took the law into their own hands and asserted tenant right by the shooting of landlords and agents. It was to remedy that that Mr. Gladstone and the other great statesmen associated with him initiated a new state of things. The first step in the change in the relations between landlord and tenant was to to give the tenant compensation for disturbance and improvements, but it was found to be wholly inadequate. Then followed the Act of 1881 which fixed in the soil the yearly tenant. That 753 was extended in 1887 by the Conservative Government to leaseholders. Then the system of voluntary purchase was established, and he held that compulsory purchase was the last stage in that process of evolution. No argument or reason could be adduced to resist that necessary evolution, and come it must sooner or later.
Heknew the Irish people as well as any member of his House and he believed if something like this compulsory system was not adopted the time would come when it would be impossible for the landlords to get any rents at all. He warned the landlords of that, because they were now in a position from which they could not retreat. "Vestigia nulla retrorsum." What would be the effect of the promised Voluntary Purchase Bill? Would it not be to multiply the owners in fee, while leaving still a residuum of discontented year to year tenants? Did not the right hon. Gentleman see that every step he took in that direction only clinched the necessity for some such measure as was foreshadowed in the Amendment? It was suggested by one of the speakers opposite that the landlords ought to be looked after. He had great sympathy for the landlords in this sense—in the unfortunate condition of Ireland, until Liberalism illumined the horizon, to a certain extent the landlords were in a false position. They were living beyond their means, and they were ashamed to put their younger sons into any of the professions where a living could be earned. They wanted to put sons in the Army or Navy, or possibly in the law, with the chance of Castle's smiling upon them. Anything beyond that the landlord could not do, and the consequence was that when he wanted to raise the wind he had to put an additional rent on to the tenant. For centuries the unfortunate Irish race had to contend with invaders from this side of the channel, and the native tenants had been willing to offer any rents for their holdings, for was that not. better, they said, than to lie on the roadside. Therefore, they would offer £2 or £2 10s. an acre for land from which they could not scratch a pound's worth of produce. That was the reason why Ireland was so difficult to manage. It was not because of any vice in the Irish, because they were the 754 most easily managed people in the world if only the right way was gone about with them. They were more sensitive to kindness than any people in Europe; they appreciated kindness and sympathy beyond any other race, but they had been hunted and harried for centuries in their struggle to hold their land or see their wives and children perish. These were the reasons that animated Mr. Gladstone and his great colleagues in their land legislation; and he would maintain to the last breath he drew that no man ever did so much to benefit the Irish race as William Ewart Gladstone, whatever difference of opinion might exist now in Ireland as to that statesman. He asked the right hon. Gentleman and the House to drop this Voluntary Purchase Bill, and convert it into a Compulsory Purchase Bill, the price not being fixed by the tenant, as suggested by the hon. Gentleman opposite but a fair value as between purchaser and vendor to be ascertained by a fair tribunal. There would be no difficulty in setting up such a tribunal. Under our railway and dock system they knew that land was taken every day in this great city of London against the will of the proprietor, and the price was ascertained not at the will of either the owner or the purchaser, but by a tribunal.
He regretted extremely that when things were going on serenely in Ireland, when judge after judge in every circuit at the last assizes was congratulating the grand juries throughout the country at the singular absense of crime that prevailed in Ireland, when at the very same assizes in England seven men were condemned to execution—when the Irish judges were saving that they in Ireland were in a state of Utopia, why was it that this terrible Act of 1887 was revived? Was it under the pressure of leading articles in the great Thunderer, was it under the threat of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh and those with whom he acted and co-operated, was it under the influence of the philosophical, historic member for Trinity College, who represented not any of the tenants, but who represented the Irish Church throughout the length and breath of the country, and the graduates and fellows of Trinity College—was it at the instigation of that select but powerful few that the kind-hearted and sympathetic Chief Secretary was induced to re-open 755 this lurid page in the history of Ireland? The judges pronounced over and over again that the United Irish League was not an illegal body. The Government, themselves, were stopped from saying that it was an illegal body, because this Act of Parliament under which this most unconstitutional course had been pursued enabled them to proclaim it and make it illegal, but they had not the courage, not the conscience, to do it. They knew it was not illegal, and could not be illegal, because they had the hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth standing up in his place in this House and announcing that the landlords were going to enter into a corresponding league. What was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander. He had no objection to the landlords entering into a league, provided they kept within the bounds of legality, and he was sure his hon. and gallant friend would not lend himself to anything else. They talked of reducing the representation of Ireland, and he thought the Government wanted to experiment on the matter; they threw out a sort of pilot balloon from Dublin Castle, and said it would be a very good thing to get rid of three or four troublesome Irish members without raising any great constitutional question, and to run them into gaol. That might be their motive; he did not say it was, and he did not want to impute motives. The United Irish League was not illegal, and these Irish members were holding assemblies in favour of compulsory sale. Their speeches he had read; and he maintained that the hon. Member for South Tyrone used language ten times more convincing—he did not say more eloquent, because his hon. friend below the gangway would not be pleased at that—yet the Government did not dare run in the hon. Member for South Tyrone. However, what did they do? There was a section of the Act of Parliament which gave summary jurisdiction, where a county had been proclaimed, to two magistrates called, and properly called, removable magistrates. That was no disparagement to them, because every one knew that under the Act of Parliament the magistrates were dis- 756 missable at a moment's notice at the behest of the Lord Lieutenant.A breath unmakes, as a breath has made.Now, these Members of Parliament who, in addressing their own constituents, had exercised the rights of public meeting and of free speech—rights the determination to assert which had led to revolution in this country, the assertion of which had established our liberties and privileges, and which had changed dynasties—had been subjected to the will and pleasure of these removable magistrates. He was not saying a word against these gentlemen; they endeavoured to discharge their duty as conscientiously as men placed in their position could do. There was one clause in the Act which gave summary jurisdiction in cases of unlawful assembly or riot. Under the common law men charged with unlawful assembly or riot would have been returned to be tried at Quarter Sessions or Assizes. If they had been so returned they would have been tried by jury. There was trial by jury in Ireland—nominally, at all events. By the law of the land Irish law was supposed to be the same as English law. Why did not the Government resort to it, and try these Irish members by juries? They could have packed the juries. Why, then, should the Government have resorted to these Tiberian methods?
§ (10.45.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. WYNDHAM,) Dover
All who have listened to the earlier part of the debate will have been struck by the magnitude of the Amendment and the moderation of the speeches. How, then, can I do justice to the Amendment and also to the speeches, and especially to the speech to which we have just listened from the right hon. and learned Member? As if the field before us was not already sufficiently large, he, with a mellow philosophy which, has, for years, endeared him to this House, has travelled far along a road which he found it rather difficult to follow, although illuminated at every turn by apt quotation from the classics. At one turn we are in the rustic corner where the happy peasant disports himself in the shade, and next, we are invited to go into the lion's den from which no backward steps can be traced. Then I am compared to Androdus, and am asked 757 to draw from the lion the thorn perhaps in the form of freedom of contract which will make that beast completely docile in my hands; and in another moment I find myself invited to play the part of Ajax defying the lightning, or at any rate the thunder, and finally I am adjured not to follow the example of the Emperor Tiberius. Hon. Gentlemen will see that the field opened up by the right hon. and learned Gentleman is one which I could not traverse without leaving out of account other speeches which have been addressed to us. On another occasion, should it arise, I will endeavour to follow him as far as he is willing to lead.
We have heard a great many interesting speeches. One of them, that of the hon. Member for West Islington, was full of points touching on important economic matters which deserve the very closest consideration from me. I cannot now deal fully with it, but I am willing to admit that I agree with one important statement which he made. He declared that the mere amount of money in the banks, and, above all, in the savings banks, was no true index of a healthy economic state. I agree with him absolutely. I consider that the very swollen proportion which these savings have assumed, show that in Ireland there is not a due amount of investment, I daresay we shall differ as to the reason, but it is not a healthy but amorbid sign, to find the savings of the poorer classes locked up, and not devoted to the development of the land, or embarked in industry.
The hon. Member for North Antrim made an interesting speech on the land question. He and I do not see the matter exactly in the same way. But he is in earnest, and I am sure that he will believe that I am in earnest in my desire to spread purchase throughout Ireland. He thinks a scheme of compulsion is feasible, and I do not. We differ as to the road, but we are agreed as to the goal. But I feel that the time at my disposal will all be used, unless I come at once to the Amendment.
The Leader of the Nationalist party said his Amendment was precise. So it is. It struck me as more than precision; it was concision. Here we have succinctly and lucidly stated three questions which would take, which have taken, not one week, or one month, 758 or one session to deal with, but several sessions. What does the Amendment raise? In the first place, it raises the land question in a form which is novel, I think, in an Amendment to the Address. The first plea is that the refusal of the Government to introduce the principle of compulsion into the sale and purchase of land in Ireland, and their refusal to give further compulsory powers to the Congested Districts Board for the acquisition of extra land, is the cause of the present agitation in Ireland. I shall seek to traverse that. The second plea the hon. Member advances is, that the Government, instead of seeking to remove grievances in Ireland—and in that there is a suggestion that, if we had applied ourselves to that task, there would have been no agitation in Ireland—has embarked on the suppression of free speech in Ireland. I shall endeavour to traverse that plea also. But there is a third plea, that the majority of people in Ireland do not support the Government. I shall not dispute that. The hon. Member is on safe, I might almost say, on consecrated ground there; but whenever this plea is raised against one Government or another, whether Tory or Radical, there is added to it the implication that those who take office in this country believe that they, in their day and generation, can settle this Irish question. I do not believe they are so foolish as to entertain any such idea as that. I do not believe that any man, looking at the past history of Ireland, cherishes the hope that he can do more than a very little in his own day. I say you cannot look back on the work which has been done, or attempted to be done, by past Chief Secretaries—the right hon. Gentleman opposite and others—without feeling that humility has been their note and not arrogance, and that they have never assumed to themselves a power other than that exercised by the coral insect in the natural world, that is, to do their own small part hoping that some day the last of their line and genus will perish when the whole work is accomplished.
Now, Sir, I will attempt to deal with these three pleas. Note, that the first plea which deals with the land question does not, as last year, suggest as an Amendment to the Address that the Government ought to bring in a Compulsory Sale of Land 759 Bill. It states that refusal on their part; that remissness on their part, is sufficient to justify or, at any rate, to palliate the agitation which is now going on in certain parts of Ireland. I think that is a novel plea in an Amendment to the Address. The land question has been discussed this evening, and I cannot hope in the time at my disposal, to cover the whole of the discussion. Hon. Members who sit for English constituencies are not so familiar as I could wish them to be with the whole history of Irish land legislation. The House would not listen to me if I attempted to-night to sum it up, but perhaps the House will allow me to state my views. I have never attacked the Act of 1881 out and out, from top to bottom, but I have said again and again that that Act brought many evils in its train. I know that Act has been sometimes regarded as a punitive measure towards Irish landlords, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, has never held that view. I believe he has stated that it would be impossible for Irish landlords to carry out improvements on the lavish scale adopted in this country, and because Irish landlords owing to the physiography of Ireland could not do that, a kind of customary tenure grew up in parts of Ireland, and then in 1881 Parliament made itself accessory after the fact and did it, I think, too sweepingly, too drastically, and with injustice to some, and gave Parliamentary sanction to dual ownership and to all that followed from it. Now, two things have followed. By making it Parliamentary, by making it compulsory, we have unintentionally caused great cost to the State in litigation, and we have unintentionally caused great cost to the parties. I say unintentionally, because the authors of that Act again and again stated their view that there would be only a few test cases, that excessive rents would be cut down, and that all would then travel peacefully onwards without any great injustice, and without any great cost to the State or to the parties. But that has not been the case. The whole of Ireland is engaged in litigation at this moment. The taxpayers are paying £150,000 a year to the officers of the Courts, and the parties are being ruined in carrying 760 on this litigious war. Some hon. Members have said that these things are cumulative. I say that when you have the leaseholders coming in next year, and second period of revision, you will have an accumulation of judicial proceedings in Ireland, for which no parallel can be found in the history of the civilised world. I do not believe I have overstated the case. When things are fixed by the State, when the value one man has to give and another man has to receive is fixed by the State, there is a tremendous temptation to both parties to fight it out in every Court of Law if they think an injustice is being done. The strongest argument I have at my command against introducing compulsion into purchase and sale is that if you introduce it the same inducements, the same provocation will be held out, either to the landlord, who might otherwise sell, or the tenant, who might otherwise buy, to fight out from court to court every plea that can be raised—who made the improvements, what is the value of the inherent capabilities of the soil; and all those old mystical mystifications of metaphysical economics which have been the curse of fair rent will be the curse of land purchase, if once compulsion is introduced.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. Gentleman interrupts me and I am glad he did. He argued to-night very earnestly in favour of the compulsory system. I believe—I am speaking from memory—that shortly before he went to America the hon. Member made a speech in Ireland, I think in West Meath, when a landlord who was about to sell his estate to his tenants took the Chair, and that in that speech he committed himself to the proposition that sale might be effected more easily and in less time without compulsion than with it. (Mr. John Redmond dissented]. My memory may be at fault, 761 but I will look up the reference, and I believe I shall be able to produce it from The Times within 48 hours.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I did not quite follow the right hon. Gentleman. Does he say I stated at a public meeting that a general change of ownership could be carried out more quickly under a voluntary system than under a compulsory one?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
That is certainly the impression I received from passages in the hon. Gentleman's speech, but I cannot carry it further to-night. I certainly derived the impression from that speech that he stated that progress might be made more rapidly without compulsion than with it. Now let me come back to the first plea in the Amendment. Does the refusal of the Government to introduce compulsion justify, not an Amendment to the Address, not a vote of censure on the Government, nor an attempt to put another Administration into power, but does it justify agitation—is it the cause, at any rate, of agitation in Ireland? The Leader of the Nationalist Party in his speech this afternoon, was good enough to say he did not believe I had a Land Bill last year. But I had a Land Bill last year, and I cherished it, though it was never produced. He was also good enough to say that I had no serious intention of passing a Bill this year. Well, I shall do my best, although sometimes we are doomed to disappointment in this House. But, he went on, that in his own opinion, in view of the rules of procedure and the financial work before us, there was no earthly possibility of passing a voluntary Land Bill. Then what becomes of the first plea in his Amendment? If a voluntary Land Bill on large lines will not pass through the House this session, who, that has listened to this debate will believe that a compulsory Bill will pass? If, in his opinion, a voluntary Bill has no earthly chance of passing this session, is the failure of the Government in an earlier session, even more embarrased by other business, and financial obligations, to be a plea, not for a vote of censure, but for sanctioning, for palliating the agitation which has brought so much mischief to the west of Ireland?
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I am reluctant to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but he must know that my position is that it is impossible for this House to legislate properly for Ireland.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Does the hon. Member advance from that position to say that this agitation is properly caused by the failure last year to bring in a Land Bill?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I say that no such plea can be brought forward. Let any one consider what agitation means. I am not going to paint a horrible picture of crime and of danger to life and limb, but consider what it means in restrictions of liberty, and in the engrossing of the whole attention of the community on a fruitless fight when their whole attention ought to be given to industrial progress. Agitation—and I believe the hon. Member knows it as well as I do—is not a thing to be lightly taken up because Parliament fails in one session, or two, to bring in a Bill which one section of the community believes ought to pass. I do not think I need argue the case to-night of purchase on voluntary lines, if on voluntary lines it can be carried on. There is a weighty mass of opinion behind it. I only mention it because I find now that things are a little bit difficult, and that some of our own backers are beginning to say, "Well, after all, does not purchase land you sometimes into awkard situations?" There is no course free from difficulties. The point is, have you got the course which is least likely to lead to greater trouble, and that is most likely to save larger and larger areas of Ireland from some of the curses which have afflicted it? There is a great catena of weighty opinion. There is the weighty opinion of Mr. Bright. There is the Select Committee of this House in 1878, the committee before which Lord Dufferin gave evidence, the speeches made by the Duke of Devonshire when introducing the Bill, and, of course—what is far more weighty than any mere expression of opinion—the experience of 16 years of Unionist Administration. Voluntary purchase holds the field but it is a credit operation. Some hon. Members have said, "Why do not you allow us to 763 manage our own affairs?" How can this matter be managed except upon the credit of the joint common exchequer of the two countries? and if, for the sake of argument, you had Home Rule to-morrow, does any one believe that the financial negotiations to effect Home Rule at all could be carried through easily—how the Government loan which would have to be made should be apportioned and other matters—and does anybody believe that it would be possible to go on with this great experiment at all if once you break up the common exchequer, which is the greatest and most enduring good brought about by the Union? I do not suppose hon. Members will accept my argument, but I say that a great credit operation ought not to be imperilled by agrarian agitation, and I also hold that it ought not to be weighted, as it would be weighted if you make it compulsory, by a load of litigation.
That is only the first point in the Amendment—namely, the general introduction of compulsion into general purchase throughout Ireland. The next point in the Amendment is that the Congested Districts Board should be given compulsory power to acquire land as I understand it in order to execute schemes of migration. Well, that idea is not a new one. It is not a new discovery. Let us do justice to the pioneers—men like Mr. Tuke—who invited attention to the matter before statesmen ever thought of it; and let us also do justice to the present Leader of the House, who put in two or three years'work upon that problem and embodied his conclusions in a Bill. Now the Congested Districts Act of 1891 was one of the very few Bills relating to Ireland which was received with general assent in this House, and that Bill held up certain large objects in very general terms. It directed the Congested Districts Board to buy land in order to migrate occupiers from small, scattered holdings upon which agriculture could not be prosecuted with any hope of success; but it was found that those general powers had to be elaborated, that Act after Act had to be brought in, that we had to be guided by legislative experience, and, what was far more important, by administrative experience. I need only mention such questions as division of turbary, of giving rights of cutting turf to different tenants, 764 and the great difficulties of migrating men from one part of Ireland to another. These difficulties have been slowly conquered. We have ten years experience behind us, and I say with confidence, at no period has that operation been delayed, still less stopped, because we lacked compulsory powers. At this moment, if the Congested Districts Board had compulsory powers it could not increase the pace or the scale of its operations.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Because the work is elaborate and intricate, and because experience was lacking, Contrast the impatience—if I may so put it—exhibited in this Amendment with the patience exhibited by many British Members who are quite as much interested in the somewhat analogous question of the housing of the artisans in our great industrial centres. [Laughter.] Hon. members from Ireland jeer—
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I do not wish to indulge in debate across the floor of the House, but can the hon. Member declare that legislation of that kind has had priority in Britain over Ireland? It is the same idea, that of dealing with the problem of slums, whether it be city slums or agrarian slums. It is a new idea, an idea of the last 20 years, that you should use the money or the credit of the general taxpayer in order to reclaim certain conditions of life, because that is the sole justification either for the housing of the working classes in this country or for the working of tbe Congested Districts Board in Ireland. It is done not because these men have some right of defined justice and better treatment; it is done because it is in the interest of the State, the nation, and the Empire that large populations should be left to live, and above all, to rear children in such circumstances as secure their well being.
It is a new idea. In ancient days we have been accustomed to make any sacrifice to win a war. It seems to be instinctive in the races of Europe to feel that in a war they have to fight in order to save the future. It is a new idea to feel that almost equal sacrifices ought to 765 be made to wage war against pestilence and insanitary conditions, but the instinct of race is again proved, and these things can be easily justified to the most Conservative and the most Tory of those that sit around me. That is why it is a perfectly sound economic proposal which every Tory in this House may and ought to support. That being the justification for such action, may I digress for one moment to touch upon the purchase of the Dillon estate? The Dillon estate was purchased in pursuance of a public object enjoined on a public Department by an Act passed in 1891. The owner of that estate was given the price which he suggested—£290,000. Now I protest against any criticism of that action upon the ground that it may embarrass the position of landlords in the neighbourhood. I am prepared to fight in Ireland for liberty and for property. Believe me, we shall not win that fight by running away. We shall not win it by saying that when an owner is ready to take a price, that because of these suggestions the price is not to be given. We shall not win it by showing abject timidity, or by contending that there are owners who in different circumstances are not prepared to take a similar price. The whole of my contention is that we must protect property and protect liberty, and the bolder we are in our conduct in doing that the more likely we are to win success. The duty of the Irish Government in these matters is simply to maintain the law [An Irish Member.—"And fair rent"]; it is not to control the market.
I would point out that hon. Members must not be led away by some of the discussion which centred round that transaction. It is said that the attempt to create difficulties on the De Freyne estate was occasioned by a reduction in rent offered by the Congested Districts Board on the Dillon property. The circular which offered that reduction of rent was issued on 1st October. The letter of the hon. Member for Cork City, who first suggested this, as I think, indefensible form of agitation, was sent on September 27th. They had nothing to do with each other. But that circular was a better stick with which to beat the dog than the one which, prior to that date, was in the hands of those who in any case had come to the conclusion, as 766 I gather on political grounds, that agitation was again to lift its head in the West of Ireland. That abatement was not offered as an abatement of rent. The property was purchased at seventeen years; a somewhat if not exactly similar reduction would have come automatically, and the Board were advised that, having pledged themselves, they had no other option but to give that reduction. Of course, this is not the occasion for arguing matters, but I may tell hon. Members that no difference can be drawn between the sale of the Dillon estate and any other sale which had taken place over Ireland for a similar number of years purchase. If we withdraw from a policy to which this House and to which the Unionist party has been pledged for many years because we may be alarmed at an agitation—which I do not think is very alarming—we are not shrinking from the policy of the Congested Districts Board, but abandoning the policy of voluntary purchase in Ireland—a policy which means that people shall sell so much of their property as they wish to sell for such a price as they are willing to accept; it means that and nothing more. That policy I uphold, and that policy the Irish Government will always support.
I think I have made out some case for showing that there is no possible relation between any remissness on the part of Parliament and the agitation which has grown up in the West of Ireland. That is not the reason for this agitation. It is very easy to find the true cause of this agitation. I will endeavour to trace the true cause of agitation and the justification for all that the Government has done to enforce the law, and also for all that it has refrained from doing, The present agitation is due not to remissness on our part as a legislative assembly, but to the deliberate, laborious, prolonged, and, upon the whole, unsuccessful efforts on the part of a very few persons. I will try to make good that view which I have advanced before audiences in Ireland and England; and I must discriminate once more between political agitation, which, however mischievous in our view for Ireland—and I think our view is right—ought still, as long as it is political, to be met by political 767 methods, and illegality, which is another matter, and which in Ireland, as in every other country, is not a matter of high politics, but one for the police and the Courts of law.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Well, I think that is usual. I must ask the House to follow the history of the United Irish League. Almost every speaker has referred to it as if it covered every subject of this debate. What is the origin and life history of the United Irish League? In the year 1895 there was no agrarian agitation in Ireland. The hon. Member for Cork City, who is credited with having done more than any one else to originate the seheme, said in 1895:—There is not so much as a mouse stirring on this important land question from one end of the land to the other.In May, 1896, the same hon. Member, still working at this project, said:—You may remember last winter we tried hard to rouse the tenant farmers to the necessity of organization. I am sorry to say that we found it impossible to rouse the farmers of Ireland to the requisite pitch of exertion.Then I pass to the year 1898, and I am taking this year by year, because a charge is made against the Irish Government, and especially against my predecessor, that they took a wholly erroneous view of the beginning of this agitation—that they failed to take the step in time. In 1898 I come to the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, the present leader of the Nationalist Party. He was interviewed by a representative of the Pall Mall Gazette. The interview was republished in the Irish Daily Independent, which then represented the hon. and learned Member's political views. The interview occurred in December, 1898. The interviewer says:—By the way a new land war is spoken of. Will you give me your views on its prospects?The hon. Member replied:—Land war? There will be no land war. No league or organisation could bring it about.The Whip of the Nationalist party, speaking in January, 1899, said:—They heard some people talk about another land war in Ireland. Before he took the responsibility of telling any man to go to war, he would tell him first the consequences of it. The first duty of men, before declaring another war, was to consider the victims of the last 768 war; to take up the poor men who fell in that fight. The first duty of those who were suggesting another land war was to protect those who fell in the fight in which they sacrificed everything.At that time, it is evident, the United Irish League was not the universal, overwhelming agrarian conspiracy which it seemed to some persons in this country; and the hon. Member for East Mayo, speaking shortly afterwards, referred in somewhat pointed phrases to the speeches of his present leader and the party Whip. Going on in this historical retrospect, we find that even as late as in January, 1900, at a meeting of the Connaught Directory, this resolution was passed:—At no meeting summoned or attended by Messrs. Healy and Redmond for the promotion of unity was any reference of any kind made to the work which the United Irish League has successfully carried on in the cause of unity since its inception. The newspapers which speak for the Members for North Louth and Waterford City, respectively, have assailed the League, its work and programme, from the commencement of its labours more persistently and more viciously than any organ speaking in Ireland or England for Dublin Castle and Irish landlordism has has yet done.I have an even more remarkable quotation to make. I come to August, 1900—almost the close of my right hon. friend's career—and just on the eve of my succeeding to his office. Between January and August there had been a change. The present leader of the Irish party had stooped to conquer, and, having abandoned his attitude of hostility to the League, had taken command of it. I do not believe, however, that it was an unconditional surrender. But what happened? This was the comment of the Daily Express:—Mr. Redmond has played into the hands of the United IirshLeague. It is in vain for Mr. Redmond to regret and to seek to reconcile men to a situation which imposes upon his party the yoke of Mr. O'Brien and his bogus branches.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I think not. My point is that even at that time the Daily Express was dilating upon "the bogus branches" of the League, what I believe the hon. Member for Louth called branches without leaves. Well, Sir, it goes on. Last year, I find, the present leader of the Irish party, the hon. Member for Waterford, speaking at Mary borough, said he was astonished at the 769 apathy of the people; they would not join the League, and the hon. Member for East Mayo, speaking at the same time at Tralee, used these words:—The whole question for you to consider is whether you are in earnest or not.I am not much of a racing man, but when I see a jockey flogging I do not believe that he is quite sure he is going to win the race, therefore, I do not take the United Irish League, which is going to sweep the polls in the country, quite as seriously as some of my hon. friends do. I am confirmed in that opinion by the results of the last municipal election. I will not inflict them on the House, but they are interesting and well worth a little serious thought. I hope hon. Members will allow me to speak my mind freely. I do not know whether the League as a whole is responsible for a policy which has certainly been followed in some places—a policy, namely, of declaring that public bodies are to be elected by the League, that only Leaguers are to be elected, and that no persons are to be appointed by those public bodies unless they belong to the League. That has alarmed some people very much. It is not illegal. That is a form of American politics which America has now found it her own interests to abandon. It is a form of politics which carries with it certain financial penalties. If public bodies dismiss their servants without cause they have to pension them, and put in their friends and pay them into the bargain. There is statutory sanction for such errors, as I believe them to be. But no other course arouses so much resentment. If any public party elaborates a great organization, for the benefit, in the main, of one class, or a section of a class in the community, it arouses the resentment of every other class in the community. It is my belief that the United Irish League, if it pursues its present course—and I wish it joy of its course—will arouse against it the labourer, the shopkeeper, the professional man—the men of culture and the men of business—from one end of Ireland to the other. I hope, Sir, I am making my meaning clear so far as politics are concerned. People must follow such political desires at their own risk. To make Ireland a Crown colony is an intelligible policy. It is not an unintelligible policy to give Ireland an extended franchise and local self-government. But if 770 they mismanage their affairs, according to our ideas, and if they pursue a policy which we earnestly believe to be against the best interests of Ireland, as I believe they often do, these are things which, if they are wrong, must bring their own punishment in their train. Illegality is quite another matter.
When I was first associated with the Irish Government, I found the "bogus branches," according to the Daily Express; and I found an agitation against graziers, that is to say farmers who take grass land on an eleven months' tenure in order to keep them outside the Land Act—a perfectly legitimate thing; a course to which the landlords of Ireland have, I may say, almost been driven by the Land Acts on the one hand and agitation upon the other. But that course, I think, cannot be carried on to the extent to which it is carried on with any economy. [Nationalist cheers.] Yes, but some day or other all parties concerned must consider whether they can afford to go on with a war of litigation and a war of agitation, and whether it will not pay them—in view of foreign competition—to come to terms which will exclude fighting as fighting is now being conducted throughout the West of Ireland, and to look at the land question in their own interests. I found a certain amount of agrarian crime, though less than in any previous year. I found a certain amount of agrarian intimidation, but confined to certain districts in Ireland. I will not say more upon the grazing question to-night. I have spoken upon that matter in the country, and no doubt it will come before us again. Any man may criticize any system of land tenure. If he disapproves of it, he may advise people that other systems are better; he may exhort them to follow other systems; he may remonstrate with them for not following them. But he may not seek to frighten. He may not seek to overbear their will. Hon. Members from Ireland say there is no crime. It is a question of terms; they mean overt crime. But I tell the House that there is no shadow of doubt that to seek to frighten a man by any course from doing what he has a right to do is a crime at law; it is a crime in the United Kingdom, and it inflicts grave mischief upon the community.
771 What was the course the Government took? In areas where this crime was being perpetrated—because it is crime—we sent extra police. We charged half their costs upon the community to bring home to them the seriousness of the matter, because they are told that so long as overt acts of outrage are not committed they are not breaking the law. Also, this was done in order to give confidence to those who were oppressed, and to elicit evidence in order that these prosecutions might be instituted. Now, notice the extent of the restriction upon liberty at that time, and also what was the position and extent of the United Irish League. I shall not go into individual cases, but there were a number of persons who were boycotted in Ireland. We have never made light of boycotting in the past, and I promise hon. Members that we shall never make light of it in the future, I shall not go into it now. [An Irish Member: "What about the Primrose League?"] There are at this moment 35 cases of boycotting—but these cases often include a number of individuals—all over Ireland, and there are, all over the country, 211 persons who are boycotted. However, after seeking to arrive at the truth in this matter, I find that, of these 211 persons, only 27 can be attributed to what is called the influence of the United Irish League. The branches of this League are spread over Ireland, and in some parts there is a political organization, and only in parts of the country is the United Irish League engaged in agrarian agitation. Let me give the House another test. If I take 45 months to the 31st of January, 1898, the first dawning of the United Irish League, I find that in those 45 months there were 956 agrarian outrages in Ireland. If I take a similar period of 45 months to the end of October last, I find that there were about 950 agrarian outrages. Of the number of agrarian outrages committed since the League was started I find that only 190 cases can be attributed to the influence of the League, so that the 760 must be attributed to the agrarian discontent which always exists in Ireland, I am sorry to say. [An HON. MEMBER: What are the figures of this year?] I cannot give the figures for this year—I have not gone 772 into that point. I am not making the case suggested; I am making the case that these outrages, such as they are, are not directly attributable throughout the bulk of Ireland to the United Irish League, although undoubtedly they are attributable to the League in parts. [An Irish Member: Will the Chief Secretary give us the names and numbers of the crimes committed by the police, including those of Sheridan?] Let me take up another kind of evidence—the number of evicted farms in Ireland. Since the old Plan of Campaign there have been a number of evicted farms in the country. There are 2,964, that is 13 less than last October and 137 less than on January 1.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Yes. Then take the matter which moves most directly the United Irish League—namely, the grass farms. At this moment there are in Ireland 11,999 acres of grass land unlet owing, according to my belief, to the action of the League. Last year there were 13,370 acres. Even under that head the effect of the League in an economic sense is not increasing, but, on the contrary, is decreasing.
Let me now come to a matter, to a reference which I made in a speech at Exeter, which has caused some confusion—namely, the allusion which I made to the number of the branches of the League. I spoke of them as 40 working branches. I was quoting from an Irish newspaper hostile to the political organisation of the League. It stated that there were 40 branches of the League in working order. I was advised that I was right. I am never ashamed to own up when I am wrong. After I delivered the speech I made a still more careful inquiry, and I found that there are 74 branches.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I would be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would give me an opportunity to prove to him that there are over 1,200 branches by evidence which he cannot dispute.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Everybody knows that there are between 1,100 and 1,200 branches as political organisations, as party machines; but what I have stated and state now is that there are no more 773 than 74 branches which are having a prejudicial effect on the economics of the country.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I will give some of the numbers in detail. There are in Clare seventeen; in Mayo, fifteen; in Galway East Riding, nine; in Sligo, eight; in Leitrim and Limerick, seven each; in Roscommon, four; in Cork East Riding, three—that is, only three having any prejudicial effect on economics; in Tipperary, Waterford, Fermanagh, and Cavan, one each. In view of that state of affairs—and I have done my best to ascertain the truth—it was, in the opinion of the Irish Government, sufficient to add extra police, to tax the neighbourhood, and to interpose and prevent meetings when a meeting was to be held in proximity to a dwelling or other property of a man who had been denounced, and when that meeting was to be addressed by some speaker who on any previous occasion had indulged in the denunciation. That was done throughout the autumn, and for the time being that seemed sufficient. But in September, and still more in October, two features emerged, one not new, but on a larger scale, and that was the organised denunciation of individuals. Do not let hon. Members split hairs over my words. I do not mean that a man must always be named. If two or three men come together to denounce him, and if their language used unerringly points out that man, and thereby curtails his liberty, and leads him a dog's life, they are breaking the law, and that man ought to be protected. For that, and for that only, seventeen have been prosecuted.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I consider it sufficient answer to say that in my opinion and on the best advice I can obtain, it is a breach of the common law of this country for two or three persons to come together to hold up to obloquy, risk, and embarrassment, any 774 member of the community. It would not be allowed in any civilsied country in the world. If the hon. Member challenges me I will take up the challenge, but my hands are tied. Many of these cases are sub judice, but with regard to one—
§ MR. WYNDHAM
There again I find it difficult to proceed as fully as I could, for the hon. Member is in prison, and here I will content myself by simply reading his own account of what took place. This was subsequent to his indictment, He said—They went two miles distant to where the offender lived, and 'held a meeting outside his very door and denounced him to his face and made him shiver.'I will not add another word to that. I will leave that to the House to consider. The second feature which appeared during the autumn was an attempt to revive perhaps the greatest curse Ireland ever suffered under—the Plan of Campaign. When the right. hon Gentleman the Member for Montrose Burghs was in the place I now hold, he found it necessary to prosecute certain persons, including members of this House, because they took part either in exhortation to the tenants not to pay their rent—
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The right hon. gentleman, however, instituted the proceedings. It was his duty to institute those proceedings. He thought there was a fair chance of conviction under the ordinary law, and the jury disagreed. I do not blame the right hon. gentleman at all. Up to a very short time ago I should have advised that course. I may be attacked for saying it, but I should be rather hard of hearing, I should not be trying to catch a man for an isolated word in breach of the law, but, when once action like this ceases to be sporadic and becomes general and you are apprised of the fact that it is restricting liberty and inflicting hardship on your fellow-subjects, any 775 man who is not a cur and a coward would not hesitate to take such steps as he can to put a stop to this wretched form of bullying. On that estate, if the Plan of Campaign is revived, tragedy will occur. It fills one with sorrow to believe that hundreds of poor fellows will be turned out again in an agitation not undertaken on the merits of the agrarian question. The proper course to pursue is to try and prevent a man from remaining a migratory labourer. The Government have not been remiss, they are in earnest, and no thoughtful man would precipitate such a calamity. Assuming that we fail, is a migratory labourer any worse off than others of the class in this country? Are we to be forced by an agitation deliberately undertaken for a political object to pledge the credit of the British tax-payers for an unsound scheme, when everybody knows that the borrowing powers of the Exchequer react on the borrowing powers of every borrower in this country? You cannot launch an ill-considered scheme in Ireland without danger to auywell-considered scheme for the housing of the working-classes in this country.
The hour is late and I must cease. Hon. Members address themselves to this question in a way that will never lead to any success. How can you expect those who represent British constituences to do otherwise than resent this holding of a pistol at the heads of those they represent? They handle this question as they do the question of the war, in such a manner as to harden the hearts of British Members and of British audiences to any proposal the Government may make for the benefit of Ireland. But we shall persevere in making such proposals, though we may be accused of vacillating between coercion and conciliation, and although we may be taunted with seeking to kill Home Rule with kindness, our duty to Ireland is an absolute duty. It is to do our duty under the Act of Union. Expenditure for any object in this country is accompanied by expenditure in due proportion for similar objects in Ireland. Such questions as education and local taxation have never been approached in this country unless accompanied by similar efforts on behalf of Ireland. 776 That is not killing Home Rule with kindness; it is a matter of probity, and we are bound to do it under the Act we revere. As a matter of honour we cannot intercept the due share of a parner. We are an Imperial race, and in our colonies and outside our Empire, as in Egypt, we have gone beyond arithmetical proportion. We have done our best to develop the resources of the Empire; and, whatever the difficulties aroused by agitation, I trust we never shall be false to our Unionist creed Our policy is not that of killing Home Rule with kindness, but that of killing time with common sense. Harmony is not between Ireland and this country, and time must elapse before such harmony can be secured. And meanwhile we apply ourselves to measures for the encouragement of agriculture, industry and education with no ulterior political object but in the honest belief that honest work sincerely done is always worth any man's doing.
§ Debate adjourned till to-morrow.