HC Deb 02 March 1903 vol 118 cc1121-48

I rise to move the Motion that stands in my name, "That Mr. Speaker do issue his warrant to the Clerk of the Crown in Ireland to make out a new writ for the election of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the city of Galway, in the room of Arthur Alfred Lynch, adjudged guilty of high treason." The effect of the judgment in this case is a matter of notoriety, and the House has now before it the record of the proceedings stating what was the form of the indictment, what was the judgment of the Court, and what has been done with regard to the commutation of the sentence There is no doubt whatever that this judgment operates to disqualify the person in question from sitting in this House. In past days there has sometimes been a debate on that subject, but all doubt is removed by the terms of the Forfeiture Act passed in 1870, which provides expressly that such a judgment shall operate as a disqualification from sitting in this House. In a matter of so much importance hon. Members will perhaps desire that I should read the words of the Act. The section runs— If any person is convicted of treason or felony for which he is sentenced to death or penal servitude, or any term of imprisonment with hard labour exceeding twelve months, he becomes, and until he has suffered the punishment to which he is sentenced or such other punishment as he may be subjected to by the competent authorities, or receives a tree pardon from the Crown, be continues, incapable of being elected to, or silting, or voting, in either House of Parliament. That express enactment renders it quite unnecessary for the House to pass any resolution stating that that is the effect of the judgment. Before that Act the practice had been established of having a resolution declaring that the judgment had the effect of disqualifying the person in question, and that practice survived in several cases after the statute of 1870: but I think the House will agree with me that in face of this express enactment it is absolutely unnecessary to pass any resolution. That is a matter of clear law and the only question that remains is, what shall be done with reference to the vacancy in Galway, which has been so created? Notice of opposition to this Motion has been given by the hon. Member for North Islington. I am not surprised that there should be in some parts of the House a feeling such as finds expression in the Amendment. There is naturally a very strong feeling of resentment at what occurred in connection with this return to serve in the House, for at the time when Arthur Alfred Lynch was elected to serve in Parliament, it was notorious that he was in arms against the Crown. And that being so, I do not think anyone can be surprised at there being a strong desire to inflict some penalty on the constituency that chose to return such a Member of Parliament. I quite appreciate the reasons which have led the hon. Member to give his notice, but I hope that in this matter the House will be guided by precedent and principle. It might be a very dangerous thing indeed if a precedent were set of disfranchising a constituency because it returned to the House of Commons a person whose views or whose conduct were obnoxious—and most justly obnoxious—to the views of the majority of the House. Such a principle, if once introduced, might lead to very startling applications.

The present case, no doubt, is a very extreme one. It has been said that hard cases make bad laws. However that may be, extreme cases may very easily lead to the establishment of very dangerous principles, which in their application in other cases may be very much to be regretted. There is a certain class of cases in which the House has been in the habit of suspending the issue of a writ. It will be found on examination that these are cases in which there has been in the constituency very general bribery and corruption, where inquiry was desirable and was about to be instituted, and where it was very probable that matters might end in the total disfranchisement of the constituency as a punishment for the practices which had been very generally prevalent there. There is the well-known case of the Mayo election, where intimidation had very largely existed, and in that case the House directed the prosecution of several persons and sus- pended the issue of the writ during the then present session. That was a very natural course to take, and it was a course which might have the effect of enabling the constituency to recover from those influences which, according to the result of the inquiry, appeared so extensively to have been brought to bear upon it. The present, however, is a very different case from those in which the writs have been suspended. There are precedents with regard to it, and the chain of precedents is unbroken in showing that in such circumstances as the present the issue of a writ ought not to be suspended by way of a punishment to the constituency. There have been five cases, beginning with the year 1849, and coming down to the year 1805, in which this question has arisen, under circumstances similar to the present. There was in 1849 the case of Mr. Smith O'Brien, who was Member for Limerick; in 1870 the case of O'Donovan Rossa, who was Member for Tipperary; in 1875 the case of Mr. John Mitchell, who was also Member for Tipperary; in 1882 the case of Mr. Davitt, Member for Meath; and in 1895 the case of Mr. Daly, Member for Limerick. In not one of those cases was the issue of the writ suspended in terms similar to those of the Motion of which my hon. friend has given notice, and it will be found on examination that in almost all the cases the proceedings necessary to fill up the vacancy were taken by the Government of the day.


Not in the last case.


I said "in almost all the cases." In 1849 there occurred the case of Mr. Smith O'Brien, which in some respects is most nearly analogous to the present case, because he was a Member of the House before the conviction for high treason took place. His punishment was commuted to transportation, and under these circumstances the Leader of the House, Lord John Russell, moved a Resolution that he was disqualified, and moved the issue of the writ to fill up the vacancy. It may be said by my hon. friend that in that case there is nothing to show how far the constituency were in sym- pathy with the views of Mr. Smith O'Brien when they returned him to Parliament. I do not know how that stands, and, at this distance of time, I dare say it would not be quite easy to ascertain.

My hon. friend may say that that is not a sufficient reason for proceeding as Lord John Russell did. There are four other cases which really present stronger grounds for suspending the issue of a writ than the case of Galway now befor.; the House, because in every one of these cases the Member was returned to Parliament when he was actually a convict; and yet not in one of these cases was the issue of the writ suspended, and in most of them the necessary proceedings were taken by the Government for filling up the places. In 1870 O'Donovan Rossa was returned to the House. The Motion that he was disqualified for sitting in the House, and the Motion that a new writ do issue, was made by the Leader of the House, Mr. Gladstone. In 1875, Mr. John Mitchell, being then a convict, was returned to the House by Tipperary. He had been convicted of treason felony in 1848, but had escaped before his sentence had expired, and in 1875 he was returned to Parliament. Mr. Disraeli, who was then Leader of the House, moved the Resolution, and it would appear, though I do not think it is expressly stated, that Mr. Disraeli also moved the issue of the writ. In 1882 Mr. Davitt was returned for Meath. He had been convicted of treason felony in 1870, and was under a sentence of penal servitude for fifteen years. When he was returned in 1882, being then a convict whose sentence had not expired, the Attorney General of the day, now Lord James of Hereford, put down upon the Paper of the House two Resolutions. The first Resolution was that Mr. Davitt was disqualified for sitting in the House and that was carried on a division upon the Motion of the Attorney General. The other Resolution which the Attorney General put down was that a writ should issue to fill the vacancy. He did not move it for the reason that a claim was made for the seat, and it was not desirable that anything should be done until that matter had been disposed of. That took place in February, and the writ was not moved then for the reason I have stated. It appears to have been moved in the Parliament following, and I am told that it was moved by a Member of the Irish Party, but it does not appear to have met with any opposition, and was issued.

The last case is that which occurred in 1895, when Mr. Daly was returned for Limerick. He had been convicted of treason felony in 1881, and his sentence being unexpired, he was returned to Parliament in 1895. The Attorney General, now the Lord Chief Justice, moved the Resolution declaring that he was disqualified from sitting in the House. That is the Resolution which I now ask the House to dispense with as being unnecessary. When the Resolution had been carried, the First Lord was asked whether he proposed to move the writ, and replied "Not to-day." The matter stood over, and the Motion was afterwards made by an hon. Member for an Irish constituency, and appears to have passed unopposed, and the writ was issued in the ordinary course. Now, Sir, I submit to the House that the precedents are really unanimous for the writ going in such cases, and that these precedents are based upon sound principles. The precedents also show that the practice has been for the Government to move in this matter, and I. apprehend for this reason the members of the Government may be regarded as being charged in some degree with the care of any matter of privilege which may arise. Under these circumstances, I beg to move. Sir, that you, Mr. Speaker, do issue your warrant for the purposes of this writ, and I would ask the House, in deciding upon the matter, not to allow themselves to be carried away by any feeling of resentment, however natural, and I may even say proper, but to be guided in a matter which is of so much importance by precedent and by reason.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown in Ireland to make out a New Writ for the election of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the City of Galway, in the room of Arthur Alfred Lynch, adjudged guilty of high treason."—(The Attorney General.)


I am sorry to have to move an Amendment to this Motion, and my Amendment will run in these words: Leave out all the words after "that," and insert "the writ for the City of Galway do not issue during the present session." I think that is a very moderate and mild conclusion, and I hope that what I shall have the honour of saying will convince many hon. Members that this is a reasonable step to take. I do not quite understand why the Government should act as they have done in pressing this matter forward. Although I am not a great believer in precedents, and do not think they should always be followed, it is clear from the precedents in this matter that it has not been the universal practice for the Government to move the writ. Under present circumstances, if it had been left to the Whips of the Irish Party, it would not have been a matter for the Government, and hon. Members on this side would have voted without the tie of Party allegiance, and without following the Party Whip. I regret that this course has been taken, because the reason is obvious, but nevertheless I think it my duty to bring the matter forward, and challenge a division upon the subject. I shall endeavour to show that this is an altogether unprecedented case, that we have never had a similar one, and the reasons I shall give ought to be reasons for suspending the writ.

There have been many occasions on which a writ has been delayed in issuing, for as recently as 1901 an hon. Member moved that a writ should be withheld in the case of Maidstone. The reason for this was that it was considered that the borough was corrupt, twenty-five persons having been proved guilty of corruption, and eleven having been bribed. I spoke on that occasion and voted for the Resolution for delaying the writ, because I thought it should be delayed. I only refer to this question to show that it has been the practice in many other cases, and I also bring it forward to show the reason why the writ was there suspended. It was suspended because twenty or forty persons had been proved to be corrupt in that district, and although that was a proper case, I shall show that the offence was a compara- tively small one compared with the offence in Galway. The same thing happened in Nottingham and Norwich in 1848, when the writ for a similar offence—corruption—was suspended for five years; and therefore it is quite clear from the precedents that this House has the power, and has exercised it, of suspending a writ when it thinks proper, and suspending a writ even for a period of five years.

It is clear from the Attorney General's speech that it is not unprecedented for hon. Members of this House to be guilty of treason. There have been several cases, and we are all very sorry for it. The last ease was Daly's, which the Attorney General has referred to, and in that case the Government did not take any action, but left it to the ordinary channels for the moving of the writ; but the case which is most in common is that of 1849, when William Smith O'Brien was expelled the House; and before that there was another case in 1715, when a Mr. Foster was expelled as a traitor. In both these cases, it is true—and certainly in Mr. Smith O Brien's case—the Leader of the House did move the writ, but the case I shall try and make out is that this instance of Galway differs, because the constituency knew the facts before the hon. Member was elected. In all these former cases this was not so. The Smith O'Brien case rests most on all fours, but he became a traitor after he had been elected.

In Galway the so-called "Colonel" Lynch was elected by a constituency because they knew he was a traitor, and they voted for him because he was a traitor. This was advertised and known, as I shall show by quotations. It was known at the time that he was fighting against the King's soldiers, and it was for that reason that he was elected. I have shown, and I think it is obvious, that we have the right to suspend the writ; and I say distinctly that if we have the right to suspend it because a few persons in a district are guilty of bribery and corruption, most emphatically it is our duty to do so in a district and borough where there has been wholesale treason in returning a Member. Now, Sir, what are the facts? They are these: Arthur Lynch was returned for Galway; he was tried and found guilty of high treason for fighting for the enemies of this country, firing at, and doing all he could to kill our own soldiers our sons and brothers, he was condemned to death, but the Royal clemency has been given to him, and the sentence of death has been reduced to penal servitude for life. It may be that the constituency were unaware of these facts It may be that he might have become a traitor afterwards, but I shall read from quotations to show that this was not the case in Galway. As a matter of fact, a great number of the electors there knew what Colonel Lynch was doing, and they not only knew this but gloried in it, and made boast of it, and a constituency that does this certainly should be treated as severely as constituencies were treated where there was a certain amount of corruption and bribery.

Now, the way to prove that will be to read extracts from the local newspapers and from the speeches delivered at the time. I do not wish to delay the House long, but I must just read a few of these quotations. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford, for instance, telegraphed that he hoped the electors of Gal way would haul down the bloodstained banner of England, and hoist that of a free nationality.

MR. JOHN EEDMOND (Waterford)

I was in America at the time.


It is all very well to laugh at these things, and it is ail very well for the hon. Member for Waterford to say he was in America—we have heard these things before.


The hon. Gentleman misunderstands me. I said I was in America, and I took no part in the election. I indeed sent a telegram from America, but it was in no "such words as those.


I will read the words. The hon. Gentleman will not dispute that he telegraphed the words which were published—that he wished Colonel Lynch (the soldier of freedom) might be elected


No; I never telegraphed such words.


Where did you get them?


I have often noticed this course taken when these things are brought up. I will read the extracts from the Irish papers, and perhaps what they contain will conclusively show that my statement is correct.


Really, Mr. Speaker, I must intervene, I think, on the issue that has been raised. What I said is of very little importance; but as I have contradicted the statement, and as the hon. Gentleman has not accepted my contradiction, I ask you, Sir, as a matter of order, if the hon. Gentleman is not bound to accept my disclaimer of those words.


The hon. Member for North Islington was going beyond the Rules of Order in saying after the contradiction of the hon. Member, that such statements were often made. The hon. Member should withdraw that remark.


I do not wish to say anything that is not courteous or respectful to the hon. Member, but I will read various quotations which I have, and, if the hon. Member disputes them, of course I will withdraw.


Does the hon. Member withdraw the statement which seemed to imply that the hon. Member for Waterford had wilfully denied the use of words which he actually did use?


I beg pardon. I did not mean my words to have any such application.

*MR. SPEAKER said if the hon. Member said he did not mean his words to have any such application, that was quite enough.


It is of no consequence. Go on.


I shall give the various quotations as I have them hero. The Galway Observer; in an article on 26th October, said— Colonel Arthur Lynch … acted as war correspondent for Le Journal in the Transvaal, He abandoned the pen for the sword, and raised and commanded the so-called Second Irish Brigade on the Boer side. That was the reason why the paper strongly urged the electors to support him. I say that is conclusive evidence that the electors knew what they were doing. The Irish Daily Independent and Nation, on 13th November, said— Colonel Lynch it will be remembered fought with the Boers in the South African War, and it is believed that if he landed in Ireland there is a probability of his being at once placed under arrest for high treason. That is a clear indication that that newspaper knew that he was an offender, and I say emphatically that it was known in the district that he was acting in that way. The Galway Observer, on 26th October, said in reference to Colonel Lynch— He is quite eligible for a seat in Parliament, notwithstanding his being in arms against the forces of the King in South Africa. That shows again it was common knowledge in the district where the election was going on. The Freeman's Journal on 18th November published a telegram sent to the hon. Member for East Mayo by the hon. Member for Waterford and others. It contained these words— We call upon the people of Galway to strike a blow for Irish freedom by electing triumphantly the Nationalist candidate, the soldier of freedom, Colonel Arthur Lynch. These are the words on which I based the statement I made just now.


The words I objected to were some reference to a blood-stained flag.


I, of course, do not want to repeat that. [An IRISH MEMBER: "Because you can't."] The hon. Member for East Clare, speaking at a meeting at Galway on 18th November, is reported in the Freeman's Journal to have said that— Colonel Lynch could not come to Galway because there was a price upon his head, but if he was made M. P. for Galway the British Government would not dare to lay hands on him." That shows that the action of Colonel Lynch was known distinctly and emphatically to the electorate. The Freeman's Journal reported a meeting addressed by Mr. Davitt on the previous day at the Court Theatre, Galway. Mr. Davitt said—? What was the case of Colonel Lynch? They knew that he fought as gallantly and loyally for the Boers as Major MacBride. A convention was called in Galway and Colonel Lynch's name, with his consent, was placed before it and he was unanimously adopted as the Nationalist candidate. There were two men, Major MacBride and Colonel Lynch, and there appeared to be a competition as to who had been most active on behalf of the enemies of this country. There was a competition as to which had been the greatest traitor. I say that is conclusive proof that the electorate of Galway knew emphatically what was going on. The Freeman's Journal, in a leading article on November 22nd said— Colonel Lynch, the soldier of Boer liberty, has been returned…. Those who have never heard of Mr. Plunkett will hear that Galway, an Irish constituency, has elected to the British House of Commons a Member whose chief claim upon it is that he defended Boer independence against unscrupulous British aggression. I have an extract from the Galway Express, which I believe is a Unionist paper. In an article on November 30th it said— Mr. Lynch … cannot under existing conditions sit. He is, by the account of his own supporters, a rebel who joined himself unto the Boers, and bore arms against the British empire and its Sovereign. The Freeman's Journal of November 26th contained a telegram reporting a meeting held at Chicago at which the hon. Member for Waterford said— When the Irish wanted to send a Member to represent them in Parliament they picked out a Colonel who had fought for the Boers. That shows conclusively that they did know it, and acted accordingly. After the election, the Galway Observer states— A meeting of the Letter frack Branch of the United Irish League was held on 24th November, at which Mr. Valleby proposed the following resolution: 'That we, members of the Letter frack Branch of the United Irish League, hail with delight the result of the Galway election, and the return of Colonel Arthur Lynch, who fought against British tyranny and for the freedom of the South African Republics.' That resolution was passed unanimously by the meeting. It seems to me an extraordinary thing that a writ should be issued for the return of another Member by this constituency which voted for a man because he was a traitor and fighting against the King's troops. Hon. Members opposite, I think, will not dispute the statement that he was elected because he was fighting against the King's troops. I do not think that there is any indication that they regret it. I do not think anyone will get up and say that it is a fact that they do regret it. Mr. Lynch was returned by a large majority, and therefore I appeal to the House—I appeal to those who objected to the war, for the origin of war has nothing to do with it—to disfranchise the constituency. If we disfranchise a constituency for five years because they are corrupt, surely it stands to reason that we should disfranchise a constituency when we find that they are steeped in treason, when we know that they are glorying in their treason, and when we know perfectly well that at the present moment they do not regret or repent what they did. I do feel, even if the precedents are against us, even if the precedents show that the Government should move, that this is an exceptional case, because the same circumstances never occurred before. I protest against the Government having taken the initiative in this case, and beg to move the omission of all the words after "That," in order to insert "the writ for the city of Galway be not issued during the present Session."

*MR. MALCOLM (Suffolk, Stowmarket)

In rising to second the Amendment I act with a full sense of responsibility, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite in general, and Irish Members in particular, will believe me when I say that under similar circumstances I should be prepared, nay, I should have felt it my duty, in similar circumstances to take a similar course in resisting the issue of a writ to any constituency in the United Kingdom. Until the other day we had all been under the impression that the ordinary course of procedure would have been followed and that the Irish Parliamentary Whips would have moved for this writ, but since then the excavation of some Parliamentary precedent has apparently entailed on the Government the necessity of bringing this Motion forward in the House. I think from the Attorney General's speech that it is his duty rather than his desire to move this writ, and that he is impelled thereto by tradition only. I hope that the Attorney General, having done so, the House of Commons will be permitted, without the assistance of the crack of the Party Whip, to take its own line in this matter. I confess that this new procedure has rather astonished me, for I never should have thought that those who in 1901 at Blenheim Palace delivered speeches which, if they meant anything, fore shadowed an early curtailment of Irish representation on account of the hostile attitude of Irish Members during the war, would have brought forward such a Motion. The phrase "toy shop treason" is present to the minds of us all; yet the colleague of the right hon. Gentleman who used this phrase is the first to ask the House to enable Galway to repeat its deliberate choice in lieu of a man whose treason at any rate was not "toy shop," and, with the same degree of sincerity with which the Irish leaders—or, perhaps, I should now say leader-writers—recommended Mr. Lynch to the electors of Galway on account of his hostile attitude toward this Empire.

I beg the House of Commons to deny to a constituency amenable to such influences the exercise of the highest privilege of citizenship. This is the first notice which the House of Commons has taken of this act of treason. Indeed we make more fuss about a breach of our ordinary Standing Orders than we have made of this man's treason. Mr. Lynch, since 1900, has never passed the portals of this House as Member for Galway. He has never taken the oath of allegiance at that box; since he came to these shores he has been treated as an ordinary citizen of the country, charged with a high misdeemeanour. There has been no Motion for his expulsion. The House of Commons has done nothing but register the condemnation passed on Mr. Lynch by a Court of Justice, and has had no opportunity until this moment of giving its opinion of Mr. Lynch or of the constituency which elected him. It might be at some future date, in some dark day in our country's history, that not one man, but several men, might be returned by disloyal constituencies, and the House of Commons would be defenceless then, if the present procedure were followed, from doing anything but register the decree of the Court and then proceed to the risk of taking to its own bosom other men who are guilty of an equally bald but perhaps less brave form of treason. It is unnecessary to inform the House that we harbour no vindictiveness against Mr. Lynch. We believe, indeed, that he is a good deal braver man than many of those who share his opinions. We are jealous of the dignity and the honour of the House of Commons: and we are jealous lest, by allowing this writ to go without protest, we should prove ourselves guilty, in the words of the Lord Chief Justice, of the crime of "belittling treason." For ages past it has been our proud boast that England is the freest of countries in the whole world; but even we have never laid it down as a sound constitutional maxim that we should allow people to do what they choose until we find out what they choose to do; and if, in the exercise of their duty, the people of Galway, or any other constituency, choose to elect men like Mr. Lynch, then I say, for the sake of the dignity of the House, and also for the security of the loyalists throughout this country and the Empire, that the Government ought to waive this antiquated tradition which they have recalled into existence, and to alter, if necessary, the existing law of the country. They ought to offer difficulties and not facilities in the way of issuing this writ for Galway, and in this way, and this way only, which the words of the Colonial Secretary will prove to be just and true, "that the nation is taking note of these proceedings and expects that the Mother of Parliaments will know how to defend herself."

Amendment proposed, "To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, and add the words 'no Writ for the City of Galway be issued in this present Session.' "—(Sir George Bartley.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


The House has listened, not only with great-attention but with interest to the wise words of the representative of His Majesty's Government in moving the Resolution on the Paper. Mr. Gladstone expressed similar opinions in this House some years ago. There might be some truth in what had been said by the mover and seconder of the Amendment, but I rather prefer the views and to follow the lead of the Attorney General. Of course we know what is at the bottom of this Amendment; but it is only two or three nights ago that all those things were being said about the Secretary of State for War which are now being said of the constituency of Galway. Well, the right hon. Gentleman was not exactly accused of treason, but of wasting His Majesty's money, and I do not know which is worse. I would point out to the aspiring gentlemen who sit below the gangway that it is the opinion of the Attorney General that all sorts of constituencies should be represented in this House. The mover of the Amendment is a very good party man; and we all congratulate the hon. Member for Islington North on his late accession to dignity. We all welcome his promotion, but I would suggest that the hon. Gentleman is going a little too far in moving to disfranchise the constituency of Gal way, which, after all, may be Conservative. The hon. Gentleman is not following the rules of the game by attacking the referee who has given a decision against him. I happened to be in Galway during the election, not taking part in it, but because I was obliged to be in the town for a meeting of the County Council, and am therefore better informed on the facts than the hon. Gentleman whose quotations were misleading. We all know that the hon. Gentleman does not always get good information, but then we are all liable to make mistakes. I was surprised at some of the omissions made both by the mover and seconder of the Amendment. They talked as if Mr. Lynch was a man absolutely unknown to the burgh of Galway.




At any rate they did by omission, if not by commission, That is fact number one. Another is that the family of Lynch has been very well known in Galway for many generations. They are one of the tribes of Galway, though not of the true Irish tribes; they are Normans. During the election the burgh of Galway was particularly quiet. Taking my information exclusively from Conservative sources, I found that there were from eighty to a hundred Conservative electors—most of them Unionist—yet Lord Killanin polled at the previous election 850 votes, though perhaps he owed a good deal to his name. Now at the last election one of the best known men in Ireland came forward as a Conservative candidate; some said that it was the Conservative Whips who insisted upon it. At any rate, Mr. Horace Plunkett was very well known as having taken the greatest interest in the agriculture of Ireland, and as a man of the highest probity and fairness. On the other hand, Mr. Lynch, whose family was connected with Galway, came forward, everybody on both sides knew, rather as a Home Ruler than as a supporter of the strong principles quoted by the hon. Member for North Islington. But a very curious thing happened. It is believed, I will not say it is a fact, because we cannot see into the ballot-box, but somehow an idea leaked out, that less than sixty Conservatives voted for Mr. Plunkett out of 407 who supported him, so that the Conservatives are just as responsible for the election of Mr. Lynch as the others who voted for him. Mr. Plunkett had been guilty of the iniquity of appointing a Catholic to the Agricultural Department. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Well, that is an iniquity in the view of the Conservatives of Ireland. They did not like him. What was the unfortunate elector in Galway to do? Here was a gentleman who was said to have fought against his country; the elector did not know whether he was boasting, or whether he was only a newspaper correspondent. No one was at all certain on the subject.

Again, a great many people did not know whether he had not the right to change his allegiance. Up to about 1854 or 1855, no man could change his allegi- ance; but since that date it has been encted that a man can change his allegiance. However, the Lord Chief Justice laid it down, I have no doubt quite properly, that a man cannot change his allegiance during a time of war. But that was absolutely unknown at the time of the Galway election. I can quite understand a Home Rule elector saying, "Hero is a doubtful case; yet this candidate is a Home Ruler, and I must vote for him." If the House of Commons disfranchises this constituency it will be departing from the precedents which have been established. The Attorney General pointed out the great danger of such a proceeding; and the simplest thing to do is to accept the guidance which has been given by the Attorney General. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite have done quite enough to advertise themselves. Owing to anti-Irish feeling in the constituencies they will get a great deal of credit and kudos. The mover of the Amendment said that it was not a Party question; but I am too old a Parliamentary bird to be caught in that trap. Of course, it is a Party question. Another point is that there are too few borough Members in Ireland. It is acknowledged on all sides that there ought to be a balance in the representation of borough and rural constituencies; yet it was now proposed to reduce the borough constituencies in Ireland by one. Further, the Conservatives may win the seat, and, on principles of fairness, and in order to allow the constitution of the country to proceed in its usual form, I hope the House of Commons will accept the dictum of the Attorney General, and allow the writ to be issued.

MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

It appears to me that no reason has been shown why we should depart from the well established practice of issuing a writ in cases of this kind. That practice has been absolutely clear, and was admitted by the hon. Member who seconded the Motion; and the House of Commons would be setting a very dangerous precedent if they were to leave a constituency unrepresented on account of the conduct of its Member, and not because of anything connected with the conduct of the constituency itself.

It is clear to me that in this case the Attorney General is right in moving that the writ be issued, and I will, therefore, support the Motion.


There appears to be two questions raised by the speeches of my hon. friends who have moved and seconded the Amendment. One is a question of procedure, and the other is a question of merit. My hon. friends have asked, with feelings of virtuous indignation, why the writ has been moved from this Bench. That is a question of form, but not an unimportant question of form. I desire to state why I believe that this was the only course open to us. As my hon. friend who moved the Amendment pointed out in an interruption during the speech of the Attorney General, the writ was not moved from this Bench in the case which occurred in 1895. I was at that time First Lord of the Treasury, and my hon. friend appears to think that I then set a new precedent which I ought, in this case, to follow. Let me remind him of the circumstances of 1895. We met to wind up the necessary business of the session, immediately after a stormy General Election. The question was raised on, I think, the very first day of the meeting of the new Parliament; and, so far as I was concerned, I had not then made myself acquainted with the rather elaborate series of precedent to which attention has been called by the Attorney General; and I have no doubt, although my recollection is a little shadowy, that that was the reason why a course was not then taken in accordance with the precedent. The matter was put off for a fortnight, and the writ was then moved without any observation or any opposition. If the matter were to be passed sub silentio on this occasion, it appears to me it would be a small matter as to who moved the writ or not; but if the issue of the writ were to be contested, it appeared to us, after a most careful examination of the precedents, that we, as guardians of the Constitution, were bound to take a leading part in the debate, and that the most honest course for us was to move the writ our- selves, and do what our predecessors have so often done from this bench.

So much for the question of form, which is relatively unimportant. What we have to ask ourselves to-day is what course we. should pursue, if we wish to preserve inviolate the ancient liberties and traditions of this House, and of the constituencies which this House represents. My hon. friend, in the course of his eloquent peroration, talked about excavating musty precedents, and he appeared to think that he was speaking as the defender of British liberties, and of the ancient forms and practices of this House. As a matter of fact, my hon. friend is a heretic on this occasion, and the heresy of my hon. friend is directed, not against musty precedents, but against precedents many of which have occurred within the memory of hon. Members now listening to me, and only one of which could have occurred before the first birthday of my hon. friend. What are the principles that underlie the action we are taking? First, let me say a word from the historical point of view. I have said that the precedents alluded to by my hon. and learned friend are of recent date. That is true, but the practice of the House is old. Going back to the precedent in which everyone now thinks that the House of Commons of that day took a very high-handed course indeed—I refer to the case of Mr. Wilkes—no one now defends what the House of Commons did in that case. But although the House of Commons declared Mr. Wilkes to be an outlaw and expelled him again and again from this House, and declared him to be incapable of sitting in this House, yet the electors of Middlesex went on electing him to the House of Commons; and, in spite of that, the House of Commons never went the length of endeavouring to disfranchise that constituency. The House of Commons of that day did many things, but even it shrank from disfranchising a constituency on the ground of the character of the man it returned.

I admit, however, that it is on more recent precedents we have to rely; and the most recent precedent afforded a very much stronger case for disfranchisement than the case now before us. I will not go into the case of Smith O'Brien. I agree with the observation of my hon. friend who moved the Amendment that we have no evidence before us to show that the constituency when it elected Smith O'Brien either desired him to be guilty of treason, or anticipated that he would be guilty of treason. I think, therefore, we may put that case aside, so far as the argument which I am now making is concerned. Let the House consider the case of Mr. Mitchell. He was elected twice and was expelled once; and would, of course, have been expelled again had his election been regarded as valid. On both occasions on which he was elected, the constituency electing him knew that he was suffering imprisonment for treason felony. How can we compare a case like this with the case of Mr. Mitchell? His case was incomparably stronger on two grounds; first, because when he was elected he was actually suffering imprisonment; and secondly, because he was elected by the same constituency twice. That precedent occurred when Mr. Disraeli had just been returned to this House at the head of a very strong Conservative majority; and I cannot imagine a precedent which ought to have greater weight with my hon. friends than that. There is another case, in some respects as strong as the case of Mr. Mitchell, but which seems to me in many respects to be stronger. It is the case of Daly, who was a dynamitard. I do not know what scale of guilt my hon. friends observe in this case, but, shocking as is overt treason and crim-such as occurred in 1818, it is incomparably less atrocious and less shocking to all civilised and moral feelings than the crime of a dynamitard. Daly was imprisoned for dynamite, and, being elected for a constituency in 1895, it seems to me that the House has a perfectly clear precedent so far as modern cases are concerned, and I do not know what answer can be made to that argument.

In considering the present case, if hon. Gentlemen ask me whether I think that the suspicion that Mr. Lynch had fought against us in South Africa helped or hindered his election in Galway, I have no hesitation in expressing my own personal belief that it assisted Lynch's election, but is it safe for the House to proceed on that kind of interpretation of the facts? My hon. friend has quoted, not Mr. Lynch's address, which, according to my hon. friend, was innocuous and even tedious, but articles from the Freeman's Journal and other newspapers, and two speeches delivered in Galway itself. I hope that I shall not be judged by the leading articles which are written about me; and the experience of my hon. friend and other hon. Members must be happier than mine if they wish to be judged by the speeches made on their own platform in their favour. I think it is dangerous ground, and never has that opinion been borne in upon me more strongly than when I heard a phrase from my hon. friend the seconder of the Amendment My hon. friend expressed a high and generous sentiment. He said that he had no personal feeling against Mr. Lynch, but that there were many others like him. My hon. friend did not say where exactly they were to be found, but he formed his own opinion on the point. My hon. friend said that these men were not only as guilty as Mr. Lynch in the national aspect of his crime, but in their moral turpitude in concealing and doing in a covert manner that which Mr. Lynch had the courage to do openly.


I wish I could have used the expressions which my right hon. friend has just put into my mouth. All I said was that Mr. Lynch was a braver man than many who shared his opinions. There was no question of moral turpitude or anything else.


I do not think do my hon. friend any injustice in putting the matter as I did when he discusses the question of the bravery of Mr. Lynch's acts. My hon. friend says there were twenty other persons like Mr. Lynch, who only differed from him by being not only traitors, but cowards as well; that if any such had been, or are likely to he, elected by any Irish constituencies, it is manifest that they commit a greater crime than the constituency which elected Mr. Lynch, because they elect traitors, who are, in addition, cowards. But are we to exercise our personal judgment, to study leading articles and speeches made on their behalf; are we to form our judgment, not by the action of the court of law, not on the report of two judges, not even on the investigations of a Committee of the House, but on the estimate of the general moral sources of opinion open to us, and then to say that this or that constituency has elected a person most unworthy to sit in the House, and that it should be disfranchised for six months? No, Sir; I say we should remember that we ought not to proceed against a constituency except on well-established facts and upon clear principles. If a man has committed treason, or treason felony, and is suffering for it, there we have a well-established fact—a court of law has decided it—and there can be no doubt, as far as human machinery can arrive at the truth, that the man was guilty. By all means let us say that no such person should be elected; but if we choose to lay down the principle that a constituency which elected such a man is unworthy to be represented, let the House do this elaborately, and in obedience to some principle carefully laid down and accepted by the House. But my hon. friend proposes to go much further. He asks the House to embark on a course in which their deviations from the path of justice are not based on clear principles. When the point is not quite clear, is my hon. friend going to ask the House to discuss leading articles and speeches without any full inquiry of any kind, and then proceed to expel the Member and disfranchise the constituency? I think it would he a risky transaction, and I recommend the House to accept the motion of the Attorney General.


This debate has originated in a question of great Constitutional importance, and although in all its parts it has not been a very great debate, although my right hon. friend has made an exceptionally ingenious case for the course the Government are taking, he has not, experienced dialectician as he is, been able to do more than obscure the true issue which lies before the House. I quite agree it may be said that precedent points to the House taking a rather more indulgent course than has been suggested by my hon. friend. But no precedent exactly deals with a case like that of Galway. Never before has the insult offered to the House been of such a scale and of so notorious and flagrant a character; never before has it been made so much an occasion of boasting and approval by those who applauded, if they did not imitate, the conduct of Mr. Lynch. This fact differentiates it from all precedent. But supposing the case was on all fours with precedent, what is the true argument to be drawn from precedent? It is that the indulgence of the House in the past has been abused. The House has allowed most improper Members to be returned without expressing displeasure, and instead of it passing over as a transient phase it has become the habitual practice, and has increased with passing years. The argument of precedent really tells the other way. It is time to draw the line and to set our faces against criminals or traitors or any person of that class who is notoriously unfit for Membership of the House. I quite agree that the return of the dynamitard is scarcely less insulting; but supposing the House had taken the course recommended in 1895, supposing we had withheld the writ altogether for the rest of the Parliament, would it not have been much better? Would the House not have been spared the election for Galway of which it complains? Should we not have convinced the constituencies who made an improper choice, of the impropriety of returning such representatives, making them suffer for the wrong they tried to do to Parliament? Mr. Lynch might have come to the Table last session, and, according to Mr. Speaker Peel, it would have been impossible to prevent him from taking the oath of allegiance.

Is it to be said that a constituency is competent to send up a rebel—because he is a rebel, in order to outrage the House by taking the oath of allegiance to the Sovereign against whom he has been in revolt? The principle that there is no wrong without a remedy expresses a great truth. There must be a remedy against an outrage so flagrant to the Sovereign of this realm and the dignity of Parliament. This constituency committed a wrong which nearly resulted in a great insult to Parliament, and one which we could not have prevented, and I say that we ought to punish the constituency in order to prevent the danger of a recurrence of such an outrage. What is really at the root of all this is the fact that for too long we have regarded treason as a matter for joke or contempt, and not for serious notice. What was it that induced the Government to press the prosecution against Mr. Lynch? It was not any vindictive feeling against that individual. No doubt much might be said in extenuation of his particular offence; but it was in order to emphasise the gravity of the crime of treason as such, to show that treason must no longer be regarded as a trivial matter which the Government of this country and this House could afford to treat with contempt and pass over. That has been the attitude in the past, but it ought not to be the attitude in the future. The South African War brought home the lesson, amongst others, that treason is a matter of national gravity, and ought to be so treated. What we ask the House of Commons to do to-day is to express in a formal manner its disapproval of the action of a constituency which, beyond a doubt, was an accomplice in an act constituting an approval of treason, and to set up on high the standard of public duty, to be maintained before all the world, that treason is a great national offence. It is not intended to enter into a contest with the constituency. No one proposes that Galway should be disfranchised for ever and ever. All that is proposed is that we should impose on Galway a mark of our disapproval of its action in the matter, and then, as in every other offence, when the punishment has been inflicted and suffered, the offence will have been purged. In defence of a principle in the maintenance of which we believe, we should not hesitate to take the sense of the House.


What the House is asked to do is not to disfranchise the constituency for ever, but to mark its sense of the breach of trust which has been committed. It is not a punishment, but a mark of disapproval. The right hon. Gentleman says he is the guardian of the Constitution. Yes, but it must not be forgotten that the Government are, in some respects, under a suspicion in this case. The other day, when there was a possibility of the regular forces of the Army on this side proving insufficient, the reserve forces on the Irish Benches or what I may call the Irish Landwehr were brought up to save the Government either from disaster or from a moral defeat. What I rose to suggest was simply that on this occasion the Government influence should be withdrawn, and the Government Whips not used, and that the House should thus be allowed to express its unbiassed opinion.

COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)

Personally, I am quite Unable to give a vote in support of the attitude of the Government on this occasion. The Member for Galway spoke of playing by the rules of the game. It is by the rules of the game I propose to vote to-day. As I under-

Abraham, W. (Cork, N. E.) Crean, Eugene Greville, Hon. Ronald
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Cripps, Charles Alfred Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Crombie, John William Hain. Edward
Aird, Sir John Cross, H. Shepherd (Bolton) Hamilton, Rt Hn Ld. G. (Midx)
Allsopp, Hon. George Crossley, Sir Savile Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robt. Wm.
Anson, Sir William Reynell Cubitt, Hon. Henry Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tyd)
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Cullinan, J. Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashfd)
Atherley-Jones, L. Dalrymple, Sir Charles Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale
Atkinson, Right Hon. John Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen) Heaton, John Henniker
Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardign) Helder, Augustus
Bain, Colonel James Robert Delany, William Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H.
Balcarres, Lord Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.) Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristl, E.)
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Man'r) Dickson-Povnder, Sir John P. Hogg. Lindsay
Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds) Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Hope, J. F. (Sheff., B'tside)
Barry, E. (Cork, S.) Dixon-Hartland, Sir F. Dixon Horner, Frederick William
Bignold, Arthur Donelan, Captain A. Horniman, Frederick John
Bigwood, James Doogan, P. C. Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry
Blake, Edward Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers Hoult, Joseph
Blundell, Colonel Henry Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark) Howard, J. (Midd., Tott'nam)
Boland, John Duffy, William J. Hudson, George Bickersteth
Bond, Edward Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. Hart Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith Elliot. Hon. A. Ralph Douglas Jameson, Major J. Eustace
Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middx.) Ellis, John Edward Johnstone, Heywood
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Emmott, Alfred Jones, David B. (Swansea)
Brotherton, Edward Allen Esmonde, Sir Thomas Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)
Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson Faber, George Denison (York) Joyce, Michael
Bryce, Right Hon. James Farquharson, Dr. Robert Kearley, Hudson E.
Burke, E. Haviland Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Ed. Lambert, George
Burns, John Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith) Laurie, Lieut.-General
Caldwell, James Fergusson, Rt Hn. Sir J. (Man'r) Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)
Cameron, Robert Ffrench, Peter Law, H. Alex. (Donegal, W.)
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Lawson, John Grant
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Layland-Barratt, Francis
Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton Fisher, William Hayes Lee, A. H. (Hants, Fareham)
Causton, Richard Knight Flannery, Sir Fortescue Leese, Sir Jos. F. (Accrington)
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.) Flavin, Michael Joseph Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J A (Worc) Flower, Ernest Llewellyn, Evan Henry
Channing, Francis Allston Forster, Henry William Lloyd-George, David
Chapman, Edward Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) Lockie, John
Charrington, Spencer Galloway, William Johnson Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.
Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E. Gardner, Ernest Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine
Cohen, Benjamin Louis Garfit, William Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham)
Colston, Chas. Edw H. Athole Gilhooly, James Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S.)
Condon, Thomas Joseph Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert J. Lough, Thomas
Cox, Irwin Edwd. Bainbridge Gordon, Maj Evans- (Tr. Hmlts) Lowther, Rt. Hon. Jas. (Kent)
Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark) Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Eldon Loyd, Archie Kirkman
Cranborne, Viscount Grant, Corrie Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)

stand the game, the duty is placed upon constituencies to return to this House Members who can with loyalty and good faith take the oath which is administered at the table. As I am convinced that in this case the constituency deliberately returned a Member who could not have taken that oath without perjuring himself, I should, without hesitation, vote for the Amendment.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 248; No s, 45. (Division List No. 9.)

Lucas, Reg'ld J. (Portsmouth) Partington, Oswald Spencer, Rt Hn C. R. (Northants
Lundon, W. Paulton, James Mellor Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred Percy, Earl Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.
Macdona, John Cumming Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier
MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A. Power, Patrick Joseph Sullivan, Donal
MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Pretyman, Ernest George Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
MacVeagh, Jeremiah Purvis, Robert Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf d Univ
M'Arthur, William (Cornwall) Pym, C. Guy Tennant, Harold John
M'Govern, T. Randles, John S. Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)
M'Kean, John Rasch, Major Frederic Carne Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr
M'Kenna, Reginald Rattigan, Sir William Henry Thorburn, Sir Walter
Mansfield, Horace Rendall Reddy, M. Thornton, Percy M.
Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M. Redmond, John E. (Waterford Toulmin, George
Mitchell, William Redmond, William (Clare) Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Montagu, G. (Huntingdon) Ridley, S. Forde (Bethnal Green Tritton, Charles Ernest
More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward
Morgan, David J. (Walth'mstow Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.) Valentia, Viscount
Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen Robertson, Edmund (Dundee) Walker, Col. William Hall
Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.
Murnaghan, George Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan
Murthy, John Rose, Charles Day Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney
Murray, Rt Hn A. Graham (Bute Royds, Clement Molyneux Weir, James Galloway
Nannetti, Joseph P. Runciman, Walter Welby, Lt-Col. A. C. E. (Taunton
Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N. Russell, T. W. Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon
Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South) Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse) White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Norton, Capt. Cecil William Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland) Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork) Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
O'Brien. Kendal (Tipperary Mid Schwann, Charles E. Wilson, Fred W. (Norfolk Mid
O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Seely, Maj J. E. B. (Isle of Wight Wilson, John (Falkirk)
O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W. Shackleton, David James Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.
O'Doherty, William Shaw Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew Wodehonse, Rt. Hn E. R. (Bath
O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.) Shipman, Dr. John G. Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
O'Dowd, John Simeon, Sir Barrington Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.
O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.) Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)
O'Kelly, James (Roscommon N. Smith, James Parker (Lanarks) TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir Alexander Acland Hood and Mr. Anstrnther.
O'Shaughnessy, P. J. Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Palmer, Sir Charles M. (Durham Spear, John Ward
Baldwin, Alfred Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton Remnant, James Farquharson
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Halsey, Rt, Hon. Thomas F. Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge
Beckett, Ernest William Hamilton, Marq. of (Londondy Saunderson, Rt. Hn. Col. Edw J.
Boulnois, Edmund Harris, Frederick Leverton Seton-Karr, Sir Henry
Bowles, T. G. (Lynn Regis) Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton Sharpe, William Edw. T.
Brand, Hon. Arthur G. Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop Sloan, Thomas Henry
Brassey, Albert Kimber, Henry Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand
Cayzer, Sir Charles William Knowles, Lees Tollemache, Henry James
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Lambton, Hon. Fredk. Wm. Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Lonsdale, John Brownlee Wilson, John (Glasgow)
Churchill, Winston Spencer M'Calmont, Colonel James Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart
Clive, Captain Percy A. Maple, Sir John Blundell
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Martin, Richard Biddulph
Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim S) Moon, Edward Robert Pacy TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir George Bartley and Mr. Malcolm.
Davenport, William Bromley Morrison, James Archibald
Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nrn Quilter, Sir Cuthbert
Goulding, Edward Alfred Reid, James (Greenock)

Ordered, that Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown in Ireland to make out a New Writ for the election of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the City of Galway, in the room of Arthur Alfred Lynch, adjudged guilty of high treason.

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