§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Main Question [29th January], "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ "We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Lehmann.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
in moving the following Amendment: "But humbly express our regret that your Majesty's advisers have failed to refer to the increase of agrarian crime and disorder in Ireland, or to give any assurance as to the adoption of measures for the better protection of the lives and properties of your Majesty's subjects, and for the repression of lawlessness and intimidation in that part of your Majesty's dominions"—said: I do not think anybody will be astonished at the Opposition taking an early opportunity to challenge the policy of His Majesty's Ministers in Ireland. When the present Government acceded to office there were many flourishes of trumpets, and it was said that they knew what they were going to do and what their powers were, and they constantly told the country that they were, not merely the strongest but also the most capable Government of modern times. The supporters of the Government were never tired of telling the country that the position of the present Administration was one of singular 548 strength, because they had a majority which enabled them to defy all combinations of parties in the House of Commons. With what singular advantages did they start upon their career. We were told in regard to Ireland that the policy of the Government was to be very different from that of their predecessors, and it was claimed that they were going to succeed where the Unionist Government had failed. We have now had two years of Liberal Administration, and what has been the result? It is quite true that the results as described by Irish Ministers speaking in London are very different from the results described by Irish Ministers speaking elsewhere. We are now told by the latest exponent of Irish policy that everything is for the best in Ireland, that everything that has been said was exaggerated, and that, the use of the word "anarchy" has been altogether unjustified. It is not an agreeable task for anybody to call the attention of the House of Commons to the difficulties of Ireland, and to its darkest instead of its bright spots. I know it has been stated in this House and outside that the object which the Opposition have in view in taking the course we are taking to-night is to gratify our own desire to call attention to the difficulties of Ireland and to play the Party game in order to secure an advantage for our own Party, and by this means to delay the progress of Home Rule. A more grotesque description it is difficult to conceive, and as one who believes in deeds rather than in words, I would point as proof of the truth of what I am saying that the result of our policy when we were responsible for the government of Ireland was not merely to leave Ireland peaceful and quiet, but to leave her far more prosperous than she has been for a long time. It is sometimes said that we have no authority or right to raise these questions, and that there is no need to do so. I claim that our right is derived from the fact that we represent a minority in Ireland, and it is a minority which has never received, and is not likely to receive, much consideration at the hands of the Minister who is now responsible for Irish administration. His dictum that "minorities must suffer" we have heard before.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
No, sir. But that does not alter the fact that it was offered by the Minister of the day as an excuse and justification for his policy to those who did not share his views. We on this side represent many people, who have appealed to us that their case and their hardships shall be brought to the notice of this House. Nobody can approach a task of this kind with anything but the most profound regret, but to suggest that we do it for the reasons to which I have alluded, and accuse us of being animated solely by a desire to help our Party, is going very much further than is either just or right. When I am told we do it in order to strengthen our case against Home Rule, I rub my eyes with amazement. Our case against Home Rule does not rest on the peaceful condition or the troubled condition of Ireland, nor is it connected with it in the most remote degree That has nothing to do with the argument we offer against Home Rule, and therefore these criticisms upon our actions are altogether unjustifiable. What is the position we have taken up? We have said elsewhere, and we are here to repeat what we have said in the country, that in many parts of Ireland there has been during the last year grave and serious circumstances connected with the lives of the people which not only give rise to profound anxiety, but which we believe are largly due to the policy of His Majesty's Government and might have been averted. To-day some serious questions were put to the Home Secretary to be answered. Not very long after the right hon. Gentleman took office he found it necessary and right to complain very grievously about the action of my hon. friends behind me who come from Ireland. I do not want to revive disagreeable memories. But he used a very hard name, which he applied to my hon. friends; but there is this remarkable fact to be remembered, that hard names after all do not do very much harm. With regard to the questions to which I have alluded, in almost every instance it has been proved that the basis upon which they rested was 550 quite accurate, and in hardly one instance could the right hon. Gentleman contest the statements. In the eight questions asked to day the right hon. Gentleman admitted that the allegations were correct, and he was bound to follow on with the admission that nothing had been done, and so far as he knew nothing could be done. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford the other day alleged that there was a conspiracy against Ireland. How that conspiracy has been formed I do not know, but the hon. and learned Member made it perfectly clear that he did not include in the conspiracy hon. Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House. He said that what he referred to was a conspiracy in the Press which had for its object the taking away of the good name of Ireland. I am not here to defend the Press, but I am bound to say that it would be a most remarkable thing if, after totally different newspapers, quite independent of one another, had sent over different representatives, all of whom arrived at very similar conclusions, all these gentlemen had been sent over as the result of a conspiracy amongst newspapers to blacken the character of the Irish people. Upon what evidence was this so-called conspiracy started? Was it started upon information derived on this side of the Channel? No; it was based upon the charges of Judges to the Grand Jury. We observe to-day that an hon. Gentleman below the gangway had the strongest objection to the practice which the Chief Secretary says is common both to England and Ireland, by which the Judges have access to the reports of police officers. If what has appeared in the Press is a calumny, if all these statements are untrue, and there is no foundation for the attacks that have been made, why should hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway object to the Judges knowing what the police officers have to report as to these matters. Is it suggested that there is a conspiracy between Judges and policemen. [NATIONALIST cheers.] [An IRISH MEMBER: "Quite right."] If so, why was it that an hon. Member this afternoon was so anxious to call attention to the fact that a certain County Court Judge had nothing to do? Why, when a Judge gives a satisfactory account and says his 551 district is peaceful and contented, is he to be regarded as occupying a totally different position from those who make other statements upon evidence derived from the same people? Why should the newspaper men not be able to give a correct account of the condition of the country they are inquiring into? I am familiar of old with the objections of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to the Judges' charges, but surely when we find—as we find in the charges of Mr. Justice Andrews, whose name will be received by all Parties with unquestionable respect—unfavourable comment in his charge at the Winter Assizes upon the condition of Leitrim, Roscommon, Sligo, in the East and West Ridings and East Clare, we can believe him. In his review of the condition of things with regard to King's County, Meath and West Meath, Judge Curran said there were the same unsatisfactory reports expressed in the strongest terms in connection with the offence of cattle-driving then going on and still going on in two of these counties at the present moment. In regard to County Longford the same adverse comments are given by the same Judge, but they are not limited to cattle-driving. Indeed, in regard to the County of Longford, the Judge drew special attention to the existence of boycotting in its most brutal form, and he spoke in the strongest terms of the condition of lawlessness in the counties. It is not only the Judges in their charges who have laid the foundations for this allegation of conspiracy of which the hon. Member for Waterford complained. What was the action of the Chief Secretary himself? During the whole of last session the right hon. Gentleman, aided on more than one occasion by the Prime Minister, did all he could to deny the accuracy of the statements made on this side of the House, and to assure the House that everything was satisfactory. What happened within a week of the rising of Parliament? The Chief Secretary, in order that additional police might be sent to them, found it necessary to proclaim six Irish counties on the ground that they were in a condition of unrest. If that had been done by a Minister belonging to the Unionist Party, how the country would have rung with cries of indignation on the part of hon. Members from Ireland 552 that we should have proclaimed them at all. We should have been bitterly attacked for proclaiming the counties after Parliament had separated, when there was no opportunity for our action to be called in question and no opportunity for us to give in our place a justification of the policy we had adopted. But very different treatment has been meted out to the present Chief Secretary. There is no condemnation of him, or of his action, but there is an appeal to the people of Ireland to give him a chance to govern the country. Upon whose terms? Upon the terms of those who have been trying to make government impossible, and not on the terms of those who have been trying to uphold the law. The Chief Secretary takes credit for what he has done, and he will now meet our charge with the statement that a great part of the trouble in Ireland has been due to cattle-driving, which is no longer in existence. I am not at all sure that the statement that cattle-driving is at an end is accurate. Certain it is that in some parts of Ireland, where its appearance was the more significant and the more serious, it is not exterminated. But if it is checked, it is on the most plain and unmistakable notice from those who have told the right hon. Gentleman that if he will carry out their views and introduce arrangements of which they approve, then this practice may no longer continue. If it be true that it has been checked, it is not as the result of vigorous administration. Is it checked as the result of the enforcement of the law or by any special law such as the Crimes Act? I venture to say that if the cessation in cattle-driving is as real as the present Government would have us believe, it is due not to their enforcement of the law, but to the compromise which they have arrived at. Not only have we the charges of the Judges, and the action the Chief Secretary in proclaiming six counties, but we have the language of the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General for Ireland, who is himself at the head of an Irish Department. When he had a little time to spare from arguing as to the infallibility of the Attorney General and the divine right of kings he went down into the country to conduct a prosecution for the Crown, and he used 553 some very remarkable language. This was a prosecution for conspiracy—for cattle-driving. It was entirely connected with cattle-driving which took place in County Longford. The case was tried at the Leinster assizes at Wicklow. The Attorney-General, who prosecuted, said—Such a ease as this became serious when it 'was part and parcel of a number of similar cases going on throughout the country, which, if allowed to continue, must end, and could only end, in what was called mob law.' It would be an intolerable thing, especially for people living at a distance from large towns, if every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the neighbouring village would be able to dictate what a farmer was to do with his land—whether he was to keep his land or give it up, whether he was to graze or till it, or whether he was to employ labour, or not labour the land at all.After describing the cattle-drive the Attorney-General said—The state of affairs under which such a thing could happen must inevitably produce open anarchy in the country. It was, in fact, a worse condition of things than was to be met with amongst the savages of West Africa—nothing more nor less than mob law. It rested with the jury to decide by their verdict whether they were going to have a continuance and an extension of mob law, and find later on their own county of Wicklow, which had been peaceful up to the present, plunged into a state of turmoil and terror, like some of the counties in the West, or whether that alarming state of affairs was to cease, and no more of those injuries and injustices be inflicted upon individuals throughout the country.
§ THE ATTORNEY - GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. CHERRY,) Liverpool, Exchange
Will the right hon. Gentleman say what he is quoting from?
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I have compared the reports in the Irish Times, the Daily Express, and the Freeman, and the only differences in the reports is that in the Freeman the language to which I attach least importance about savages in West Africa is not included. These words have been frequently quoted but I attach no importance to them, and if the Attorney-General is sensitive about the reference to savages in West Africa I am preferred to leave out that part of the quotations.
§ MR. CHERRY
The statement has been frequently quoted by the right hon. and learned Gentleman who sits near the right hon. Gentleman. It has been quoted as if I said that the existing 554 state of Ireland was worse than what was to be met with among the savages in West Africa. Certainly I never made such a statement. What I said, and I still adhere to it, was that if cattle driving was allowed to continue unchecked it would produce, or might produce, a state of affairs worse than that to be met with in West Africa.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I make no complaint of the interruption, although I respectfully think it was unnecessary, because I think that was the precise effect on the words I quoted. The right hon. Gentleman stated what would happen if that state of things was allowed to go on. That was the language of the Attorney-General, the head of His Majesty's bar in Ireland, not speaking in a moment of heat and excitement upon a public platform, but speaking on one of the most solemn occasions on which the leading law officer of the Crown can be called upon to express his views, namely, when conducting a great constitutional prosecution on behalf of the Crown in the interest of the peace of the country. I do not know that anybody here has used the word "anarchy." I have never described the condition of Ireland as one of anarchy. If that word has been used, it is a little hard that we should be condemned for having used it when you find language such as that which I have read used by the Attorney-General in addressing a jury at Wicklow. I do not intend to say more as to the remark about West Africa, because possibly that is one of the things which he feels, as many of us have felt before, he would rather not have said. With regard to the rest of his address to the jury I think most of us, certainly all law-abiding people, will entirely agree with the case he presented. He meant that the men he was prosecuting were in his judgment, with the full knowledge he possessed, guilty of one of the greatest offences that could be committed. [NATIONALIST laughter.] If it was not one of the greatest, it was in his opinion one which might lead up to anarchy and mob law, and plunge the whole country into turmoil and terror. However, he modified these words, at all events he thought the occasion worthy of one of his best oratorical efforts and his most expressive language. But let me 555 get at what is below the right hon. and learned Gentleman's oratory. It is that this is a great offence, and that the proper and the only way to deal with it is by a verdict of the jury condemning the men.
§ MR. MULDOON (Wicklow, E.)
I wish to ask Mr. Speaker, whether the right hon. Gentleman is in order in quoting from a speech of the Attorney-General, made in the course of a prosecution, in which the jury was discharged, and which might come on for trial again?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I see nothing irregular in the use by the right hon. Gentleman of the words he quoted.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I have not expressed any opinion of my own as to the guilt or innocence of the persons who are under trial, nor have I said anything to prejudice their position. All I have read is the language used, by the Attorney-General, and I have done so in order to show that the statements as to the condition of Ireland are based on the language used, not by those sitting behind me, or by people on this side of the Channel, but by Judges of the High Court in Ireland, by County Court Judges, and by members of the Executive, who by their acts and words had justified everything that had been written or spoken on the condition of Ireland. Let us see how the figures in connection with crime in Ireland bear out the statement of the Minister, who, when speaking in London the other day, said that the offences were of the most trivial character and that the general condition of things in Ireland was, on the whole, satisfactory. What was the condition of Ireland when the late Government left office? Let me remind the House that while we are accused, as we are, of dwelling on the black side of Ireland and talking of her difficulties rather than of her advantages—
§ MR. WALTER LONG
That statement is cheered by the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture in Ireland who I have heard, when he sat on the same side of the House in another Government, use very similar language. When these accusations are made just let us see if they are justified; for you have to judge men by their actions rather than by their words. What was the result when we were in office? It was admitted that there was wide-spread prosperity, and a general improvement in the condition of the country; and, in addition, a peaceful state of affairs which was without parallel. The present Chief Secretary when he took office went so far as to talk about Ireland being more peaceful than it had been for 600 years. Yet between the months of June and August last he was called upon to proclaim six counties! It is often said that one of the greatest of Ireland's troubles is emigration. When we left office in 1905, emigration from Ireland was less than it had ever been, but after two years' of the right hon. Gentleman's rule it is greater than it has been for years. I pass from the Judges and the Attorney-General—although I hope the House will not fail to give the right hon. and learned Gentleman's words the importance they deserve alike for the position he occupies and for the words themselves—and pass to the actual statistics in regard to crime in Ireland. The present Government when they came into office abandoned the practice of making returns to Parliament upon agrarian crime. That had been the practice for a very long time, but in obedience to the wishes of the National Party, who have always objected to it and regarded it as unfair, the Government abandoned it. Therefore, the statistics which are available now are only those obtained in answers to questions. Apart from the answers given to-day, from an answer to a question put by my hon. friend the Member for Mid Armagh on 31st January, in regard to agrarian outrages in which firearms were used, it appears that in the year 1906—the year following that in which the Unionist Government left office—the number was twenty-two. In the first quarter of the next year they were thirteen, in the second quarter twenty-two, and the Chief Secretary told the House the other day that in the last 557 half of the year the number had risen to sixty-three, or ninety-eight for the whole year. These particular offences had increased in that startling and deplorable manner simultaneously with the action of the Government in dropping the Peace Preservation Act. It should be remembered that this kind of offence is the most serious of all in its effect on the general community. It is the means by which men can be terrorised and intimidated. This afternoon, in a most remarkable Answer to a Question put to him, the Chief Secretary told us of a case in which a man's house had been fired into, but it was believed that the object of the man who fired the shot was intimidation, and not injury. Further, the Chief Secretary told us that the Government had no information as to the individual who had committed the offence and that there was no hope of an arrest. It struck me as somewhat odd that he had been able to divine what the man's object was—that it was intimidation and not injury! I am, however, quite content to take the answer as given by the Chief Secretary, because one of the allegations we make is that there has been a very large increase in the offence of intimidation. It is one of the worst and most cruel offences which can be committed against a fellow-citizen to fire into a man's house in order to intimidate him to do what the Attorney-General says he has a perfect right not to do; to tell a man to labour his land and not to graze it, to occupy and use it not according to his own desire, but as directed by the man who fired the shot against him. That is the justification, if there were no other reason, for the action we have taken. It is amazing under these circumstances, and in the face of the figures before us, to find the Irish Executive telling us that the whole of our statements are without foundation.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I cannot give the figures for England, but I have no hesitation in saying that if a comparison were made between the two countries, in regard to the same class of offence it would not be to the advantage of 558 Ireland. If the same class of offence were committed in England in the same proportional number there would be justification for a special Act in England. We should find, however, that of the same kind of offences there were not ninety-eight in England, as in Ireland, nor seventy-two, nor one. Then came the agrarian outrages in Ireland without the use of firearms. In 1906 they numbered 234, including threatening letters, or excluding threatening letters 129; in 1907 the figures had risen to 372, or 190 excluding threatening letters. So far as I have been able to ascertain, since 1892, which was the end of the old bad time which I had hoped had gone for ever, the agrarian offences had never been so high as at the end of the second year of office of the Liberal Administration which was going to do so much for Ireland. The Attorney-General referred to the interference with the liberty of the subject. I think there can be no doubt in any man's mind that if a man is interfered with in his ordinary occupation, whether it be of trade or agriculture, by others of his kind the crime must be considered not by itself alone, such as the mere firing of a gun through the shutter of a house; it must be considered, as Mr. Gladstone said many years ago, more particularly in connection with its origin, its source, and the object which it had in view. Every one of these crimes—such as the use of fire-arms—means an extension of the power to intimidate the people to do what they do not want to do and we hold that that of itself justifies the action we have taken and the language we have used in criticising His Majesty's Executive Government in Ireland. When' the Government knew these facts not merely from general information but from the actual figures they had in their possession, to tell us we were exaggerating and that everything in the country was satisfactory was an astounding position for the Chief Secretary to take up. As regards the people under police protection we have no information, but I am told in many quarters that the numbers has very considerably increased. I do not know whether that is so, but the figures given by the Chief Secretary up to June last showed a small increase 559 of twenty-three or twenty-four, and I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman speaks he will give us the statistics of the people in Ireland under police protection. An hon. Gentleman below that Gangway interrupted me just now, and said, "Give us the figures for England." Just so, let us have the figures for England of those under police protection. What would be said if a learned Judge in England went down to hold an Assize and was told that there were so many men under police protection, unable to leave their houses, their children unable to go to school, or their families to go into their gardens, except under the protection of the police? I venture to say that if that state of things could be found in the case of England, we should not be waiting for proposals to come from the Government, but there would be very soon a demand on the part of the people for the strengthening of the law, so as to make things of that kind impossible. With regard to boycotting, there again we have no information. I have no doubt the Chief Secretary will tell us what the facts are. Boycotting is of course an offence—a crime—and of the gravest kind, and I frankly admit that it has gone on for a very long time, and has defied the efforts of more than one Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking the other night, said that one reason why the Government were not prepared to use the Crimes Act was that they had been united in objecting to it when it was passed into law; but the right hon. Gentleman also said there was another objection at least as good as that, and that was that the Crimes Act could not be used because they could not get evidence. That is contrary to all the experience of the Irish Government. The Crimes Act was passed in 1887, and the learned Attorney-General will not contradict me when I say that from that period up to 1892 there were some 4,000 people boycotted in the country, but under that Act the number was reduced to fifteen. Therefore, in regard to boycotting, the question of evidence does not come in at all, and the Crimes Act is thoroughly effective in putting an end to that kind of crime. I have admitted that these cases have caused, and are causing, the greatest possible difficulty, 560 but I am bound to say that, in some of the cases which have bee" brought to my notice in the last few weeks the details seem to me to be even more cruel and terrible than any of which I have heard before. There is the case of the McCann family—I am not going into details—but anything more terrible I have never come across, and I confess I am amazed that the Government can remain quietly in office with their hands folded when they have powers at their disposal which they could have used if they pleased, and which they know if they use, according to all past experience, would enable them, if not to get rid altogether of this evil, at all events very largely to diminish it. Passing from the statistics in these cases, I come to the last point and the gravest of all, and that is the complete failure of juries in Ireland, during the last year, to convict. That record is an astounding one. At the summer assizes, fifty-seven persons were put on trial before common juries on charges arising out of agrarian crime. The results were: convictions, three; acquittals, thirty-one; and disagreements of juries, twenty-three. At the michaelmas sittings of the Court of King's Bench in Dublin, before common juries, ninety-four persons were put on trial for agrarian crimes committed in the counties of Galway and Roscommon (changes of venue having been obtained at the Attorney-General's request) at various dates between 27th April and 9th June, 1907. The results were: convictions, five; acquittals, two; disagreements of juries, seventy-two; and Crown abandoned proceedings, fifteen. At the winter Assizes held in December, 1907, at Cork, Limerick and Wicklow, before common juries, eighty-six persons were put on trial for agrarian crimes. The results were: convictions, none; acquittals, eleven; acquittals on legal point by Judge's direction, twelve; and disagreements of juries, sixty-three. Therefore, out of 237 people put on their trial for agrarian offences, eight were convicted; forty-four acquitted; twelve were acquitted by Judge's direction; there were 158 disagreements of juries, and the Crown abandoned proceedings in fifteen cases. These are remarkable figures. In the first place, then, you have the action of the Chief Secretary in not 561 proclaiming these counties, then you have the strengthening of the police force all over the country, then you have the refusal of the Government to employ the Crimes Act, and now you have the juries breaking down as certainly in Dublin they have never broken down before. These are lamentable and startling facts connected with the history of the present Administration which justify the Amendment which I am about to move, and the position which the Opposition are taking to-day. No doubt we shall be told again to-night, as we were told before, that all these stories are wrong and that everything is, comparatively speaking, satisfactory. I hope the Chief Secretary's account will be more in accordance with the facts of the case than the Chancellor of the Exchequer's description on the first night of the session appeared to be. To-day the Chief Secretary was obliged to say that he has been compelled in various districts to increase the strength of the police and in two places in a startling manner. Why do the Government require to increase the strength of the police force? When we were in Ireland we were able to reduce the force by some 7,000 members. Why is it necessary, if the country is quiet and the position is satisfactory, to increase the police? Is it not because you have grave difficulties to deal with, and that there has been an increase in agrarian crime of a serious and lamentable kind? These are the allegations which we have made; we regret to have to make them; but they are based upon the information which we have before us—the best information which we can obtain and which has been more than confirmed by the statistics the Government have produced. Then about cattle-driving. We are told that that matter is no longer worthy the attention of Parliament, because it is over. In the first place I doubt whether it is over, ad in the second place it would be impossible for anybody to pass over the cattle-driving incidents of last year without serious condemnation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking the other evening, described it as criminal and stupid. That is his view. I share his view as to its criminality. I should hesitate 562 many times and oft before I ventured to criticise any language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is one of the greatest masters of the English language in the House of Commons or out of it; but I was surprised to hear him refer to an action which was first criminal and then stupid unless he meant that everything which was criminal was stupid. But I am sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not disagree with me here, that there is a difference in the character of his description and that given to cattle-driving by the Leader of the Nationalist Party, who referred to it as an expression of the sufferings of people connected with land. But cattle-driving is now to be made as little of as possible. We are asked to believe that it is over, at all events that it has very largely decreased, and does not need our attention. The Irish Government dealt with cattle-driving in a most remarkable way. I do not know what their views were, because it went on for months—for something like nine months—before the Government thought it necessary to say anything in public on the subject at all. It grew rapidly, spread from one part of the country to the other, until, as the Chief Secretary said, there had been 381 cattle-drives throughout the country, and it had spread into, I believe, sixteen different counties and ridings of counties. It had spread into counties like Meath, where nothing of the kind had ever been known before—counties which were as prosperous and as quiet as any counties in the whole of the United Kingdom, but where, unfortunately, it is still to be found going on even up to the present time. Now, what is the story of the action of the Government? The members of the Nationalist Party, who talk frankly, appear to me courageously to take the view that this was a necessary policy in order to give expression to the people's discontent, and to remove a great difficulty which stood in the way of the people's prosperity. They openly advocated it; they were not in the least ashamed of their words; they neither qualified nor withdrew them, but they repeated them, and many of them advised the people to continue to drive the cattle. What was the advice of the Irish Government? They halted, and at last made up their minds 563 to take their courage in. both hands and prosecute. And whom did they prosecute? They prosecuted with all the pomp and ceremony of a State prosecution, with the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General, and anybody else they felt necessary to effective appearance—they instituted a great State prosecution against four lads and farm labourers who were brought up from the country districts for this purpose. And what resulted? They prosecuted them without any effect whatever; the juries would not convict. I do not wonder that the argument used at these trials in almost every case by counsel appearing in defence of these people was that there was no reality in the prosecutions, and that if the Government meant real business they would prosecute not merely the men who followed, but the men who led. I understand the views of Gentlemen below the Gangway from Ireland; they believe that this is a necessary thing to do. They have the courage of their convictions, but have the Government any courage? If they have not the courage to administer the law, could they not at all events have the courage of their convictions, and if they believe that this is a crime, why do they prosecute the poor labourer and let the Member of Parliament go free? Is it not a new policy for a great Liberal Government to discriminate thus between individuals who are all parties to the same offence, who all ought to have been included in the same indictment? What happened? Not only was there this discrimination and the refusal to accept the declarations of those who were leading these people, but there was this unwillingness to employ the Crimes Act; and therefore, although these offences were committed in March and April, it was not until December that the defendants were brought to trial by the action of the Attorney-General and were tried after a change of venue. I know that Gentlemen opposite have a ready objection to the Crimes Act; they say they must be consistent, and that as they resisted the Act when it was passed they must resist it now. What is the difference in principle in the course adopted by the learned Attorney-General in securing the change of venue by securing it under this elaborate process? If the Government had brought the Crimes Act 564 into operation, the change of venue could have been effected at once without the long delay which prevented justice being done. But this is not all that there is to be said with regard to the want of firm action by the Government. The Government have given us the figures with regard to the cattle-driving prosecutions. We are told that proceedings were taken against 572 persons; that thirty-two were discharged; that with regard to seventy-six information was refused; that of 108 some were convicted and some acquitted; but that 288 were ordered to find bail to keep the peace. This was the result of the Government trial of those accused of cattle-driving. Two hundred and eighty-eight persons were ordered to find bail to keep the peace under a statute of Edward III., which enables a magistrate to deal with such cases. This Act, which has previously been used occasionally to deal with these cases, has been strongly denounced by hon. Gentlemen below the gangway. Now it is to be taken as a credit to the Administration that they refuse to make use of the Crimes Act passed in 1887 on the ground that they voted against it, and make use of this law of Edward III. That is a point of view which we, at all events, cannot approve. I believe, as I have said, that the Crimes Act would enable these prosecutions to be made more successfully; and more than that I believe, without the Crimes Act being brought into operation at all, if the Government had made it perfectly clear from the beginning that they really meant business, and were determined to put these things down and use the whole force of the ordinary law to stop them, and had given orders accordingly, they could have stopped this cattle-driving last year and saved much suffering and expense to individuals, and many thousands of pounds to the Exchequer. We are told, too, that after all nobody was hurt by these cattle-drives, and no harm done to either man or beasts; but I have been informed that several of the police have been rather seriously injured in their effort to stop these drives. I do not know whether that is so or not I shall be glad to hear from the right 565 hon. Gentleman on the point. As to the cattle it is absurd to say that they are not injured by their being driven long distances and dispersed over the country. In proof that they are injured I would point out that in every case which came before the County Court Judges for compensation, considerable amounts have been awarded. Whatever may be the view of Members of this House, that beasts are not injured by these drives is not the view of County Court Judges, and it is certainly not the view of the men in the country. But whether they are injured or not has nothing to do with the point. Are we to be told that because men are not hurt and cattle are not injured, cattle are to be driven by day and by night by crowds of people without penalty? Because if that is to be the I policy of the Government of the day, the new Liberal Government are indeed propounding a policy which will not find favour in this country. Such a thing has never taken place in an English pastoral village, and I do not suppose it ever will, but a crime of that kind if it occurred in England would not be tolerated for a moment. I believe if the Government had acted promptly and vigorously and had made it perfectly clear to the people and the police that they meant to stop these things they could have done so. It is not enough to say that the ordinary law is not sufficient. If it is not, then the Government have a law at their back with which they can deal with these things, and they should have made use of that law rather than have allowed these crimes to continue and the country of Ireland to be turned into a pandemonium. As the Government have thought it right to drop the Peace Preservation Act I most earnestly hope, in the face of the figures and facts I have adduced, in the face of the use of firearms and the steady increase of these crimes by the use of firearms, the Government will undertake to introduce strong measures in order to regulate the sale and ownership of these weapons. It is quite evident from the figures that once the Peace Preservation Act is dropped the possession of arms is largely increased. I am informed now that many shops are open for sale of these weapons, which are freely bought. If 566 that is true and the power to purchase firearms is taken in conjunction with the increase of this crime, then I say it is the duty of the Government to check a practice which is not only injurious to the country, but one which could not be justified by anybody in the interests of the peace of the country. What about the police? Ireland has the finest police force in the world, a force of men who never spare themselves in the execution of their duty. How often have we read in the newspaper accounts—and I have not taken the newspaper accounts without verifying them as far as possible—of some cattle-drive or some other lawless assembly such things as "the police were compelled to retire," "the police helpless," "the police obliged to look on." Are those statements correct? They have been repeatedly made, not on one or two occasions, but many. If they are correct, why is this condition of things allowed to continue? Are the police sent out in sufficient numbers to be able to disperse these assemblies peaceably according to law? I am informed, and again I have endeavoured to verify my information, that in the public duties which they have been called on to perform in some of these riotous assemblies the police have been violently assaulted, and although these assaults have been reported no prosecutions have taken place. I do not know whether it is true or not, but I venture to state that if these reports are correct, the effect on the police and upon the people who look on the police as guardians of the public peace must be disastrous. And what must be the effect in Ireland in the long run? We are told that we bring up these matters because we like to revel in such things, but nobody who cares anything for Ireland can doubt but that the continuance of things like this must be disastrous. What is the answer to all this, apart from the general answer to which I have referred? That it exists only in patches, that it does not exist throughout the country. But is that an answer to the criticism that we have passed on the policy of the Government? Is it an answer to say it is only to be found in patches here and there? Wherever it exists it is a curse to that part of the 567 country, and if it exists in patches it spreads with the utmost rapidity. Then we are told that, notwithstanding what is going on, the country is advancing in prosperity. I rejoice that it should be so. But I ask the House in all earnestness, is it likely that prosperity will continue if this condition of things is allowed to go on? I venture to say in support of the Amendment that whether you go by the opinion of the udges or whether you go by the actions of the Government itself, by the policy of the Government or the criminal statistics, whatever may be the test you take, the views we have expressed are more than justified by the facts and figures. Although I profoundly regret to have to move the Amendment standing in my name, I move it with no desire to injure the future of the farmers in Ireland, but merely in order to induce the Government to appreciate the need of a vigorous policy in the future. I believe in my heart and conscience that vigour on the part of the Government would have saved much of the troubles that have taken place during the last six months, and I fear that if their policy is not more vigorous in the future these evils will spread and grow to enormous proportions. If I regarded this as merely a question between the two political Parties, I would not raise my voice to urge its consideration in this House; but I do not so regard it. I regard it as a great national question, and it is for this reason that I urge it on the attention of the Government. I move I with the greatest earnestness the Amendment which stands in my name, my: only regret being that those in Ireland who believe as I do, that the policy of the present Government has failed lamentably, and will cause much suffering to many people in Ireland, have not found one better able in every way to; voice their grievances, which are exceedingly well founded, and which I earnestly trust, by firmer and more vigorous administration, the Government will do their best to remove.
§ MR LONSDALE (Armagh, Mid.)
said he desired to join with his right hon. friend in his earnes protest against the action of the present Chief Secretary, 568 which, he asserted, was directly responsible for a state of affairs that would disgrace any civilised community. The policy which the right hon. Gentleman had carried out in Ireland might have been endorsed by the whole Cabinet, but that fact did not absolve the Chief Secretary from his special responsibility, both as the principal adviser of the Government in Irish matters, and as the head of the Irish Executive. They were unable to agree that the suspension of cattle-driving had made the protest unnecessary. The organised intimidation of occupiers and owners of grazing land, which the Chief Secretary had allowed to continue for so long, had inflicted serious hardship on a large number of people, and had injuriously affected one of the most important industries of Ireland. But that was not the most serious aspect of the matter. The point on which they desired to fix the attention of the House, and of the public outside the House, was the complete abrogation of the law and the paralysis of the executive Government which had resulted from the policy pursued by the Chief Secretary. How did the right hon. Gentleman explain the apparent discontinuance of the practice of cattle-driving during the past month. Would he assert that it was not owing to the imprisonment of the hon. Member, for North Westmeath, who had achieved notoriety as the leader of this movement. In public the Chief Secretary had treated that hon. Member as a person of no importance. At Belfast, in the autumn, the right hon. Gentleman said his fingers were itching to prosecute the hon. Member, but he was restrained from taking that course by fear of making him a martyr and increasing his influence. The Chief Secretary had no right to allow himself to be swayed by any such considerations. The hon. Member was inciting others to break the law day by day, and it was the clear and manifest duty of the Chief Secretary to bring him before the proper tribunal. The right hon. Gentleman declined to take that course, and therefore he had been guilty of a grave dereliction of duty. What the Chief Secretary failed to do was accomplished by Mr. Justice Ross, and it was a fact of great significance that cattle driving had diminished since the leader of the 569 agitation was placed in confinement. If it was asserted that the imprisonment of the hon. Member for North Westmeath had nothing to do with the damping down of the agitation, then they were entitled to ask what were the influences which had produced this result, and what was the nature of the bargain which the Chief Secretary had made with the leaders of the Nationalist Party. It was certain that the Chief Secretary had not taken any steps to assert this authority or to vindicate the law, and they were driven to the conclusion that he had purchased a precarious peace at the price of the degradation of his office and the surrender of his authority to the United Irish League. When the Unionist Members from Ireland first began to call attention to the acts of intimidation and violence which culminated in the riotous proceedings of the autumn, they were accused of maligning and misrepresenting their fellow countrymen. That charge was utterly without foundation. They simply called attention to facts and incidents which the Chief Secretary was compelled to admit were true; but the attitude which the Chief Secretary had taken up towards this cattle driving agitation, and the words which he and other Members of the Government used in reference to it, undoubtedly created the impression, not only that the Government sympathised with the objects of the agitators, but that they actually approved of the methods adopted to clear cattle off the grazing lands. He did not hesitate to say that the people who were induced by the pressure of the United Irish League to take an active part in this movement were largely deluded into the belief that the Government were on their side. The Chief Secretary took no steps to disabuse the minds of the people of this impression, which had been created by his own word?, and therefore he must be hold accountable for the results. He was aware that within the last few weeks the right hon. Gentleman had offered the inadequate explanation that he was a badgered Minister, speaking under pressure. That was a very poor excuse, and in putting it forward the right hon. Gentleman had simply strengthened the impression that he was quite unsuited to 570 his present office. Surely it was the business of a Minister in the position of the right hon. Gentleman to weigh his words and not allow himself to be badgered into using language which was calculated to encourage lawlessness. The right hon. Gentleman could not be permitted to ride off on this plea. The fact was that his whole conduct as Chief Secretary had been in accord with the spirit of levity which his language so often betrayed. He had had warnings enough, but in his jaunty self-confidence he had despised them all. The Leader of the Nationalist Party after the contemptuous rejection of the Irish Council Bill held out a threat of a strong and virile agitation" in the autumn. Any one who had the least acquaintance with the history of the Nationalist movement understood at once the form which such an agitation would take. He did not say that the hon. and learned Member for Waterford had the cattle crusade in his mind when he gave utterance to that threat. He had no doubt he was thinking of something very different from it. At all events whether the hon. and learned Member agreed with it or not the agitation had all run into this channel. They were driven to the conclusion that the Nationalist idea of a strong and virile agitation was to drive dumb cattle about the country. The movement had introduced them to a new set of heroes—the heroes of the hazel switch. It had also given rise to a new lawgiver—not the Attorney-General—who had taught that covetousness, theft, and perjury were virtues, and that cattle driving was a holy work. Indeed, these, instructors of the Irish peasantry had gone much further, and with daring profanity had added to the Sermon on the Mount the blasphemous beatitude, "Blessed is the cattle driver for he shall possess the land." Was it surprising that an agitation based upon teachings so immoral had lead to the commission of more serious crimes? Ignorant men who were taught that it was holy and heroic to drive cattle from the pastures of the grazier, would not be slow to learn that it was a manly act to crouch behind a hedge and fire upon defenceless men and aged women who were obnoxious to the United Irish League, and that it was equally courageous and humane to 571 stand by and applaud the deed. This distorted view of morality and humanity had produced the most demoralising consequences. When a man wounded by one of these skulking heroes of the hedgerow crawled to a neighbouring house for help, the strong and virile action, according to the Nationalist standards, was to spurn him from the door. Should a compassionate neighbour give the victim any assistance, then these peculiar notions of virility demanded that the Good Samaritan should be boycotted and threatened with death. They were fairly entitled to adopt certain famous words of the Prime Minister to describe such actions as these, and to say that they were "methods of barbarism." In fact the Attorney-General was perfectly justified in saying, as he did at Wicklow Assizes, that it was a worse condition than was to be met with amongst the savages of West Africa. They had been assured by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and also by the representative of the Government in another place, that "apart from cattle-driving there was very little serious crime in Ireland." That statement was completely at variance with the facts. They could only assume that the Government were so imbued with Nationalist ideas that they did not regard boycotting and intimidation as serious crimes, and they looked with absolute indifference at the startling increase in the number of shooting outrages which had taken place during the last twelve months. What were the facts with regard to agrarian outrages generally? The Chief Secretary had informed him in reply to a question that the number of Agrarian outrages reported during 1907 was 372. That figure showed an enormous increase as compared with the years 1903–4. In 1903 there were only 195 agrarian outrages, and in 1904 the number was only 206. He also asked the House to take note of the fact that of the 372 outrages committed last year convictions were obtained in only five cases, though it was true that there were twelve other cases in which proceedings were still pending. That fact illustrated the immunity which was enjoyed under the Present Government by those who organised crime and outrage in Ireland. Hon. Members who supported the Government 572 could have very little idea of the conditions under which men had to live when they had offended against the laws of the United Irish League. Judge Curran had some remarks to make on the subject of boycotting at the Longford Quarter Sessions in January which demanded serious consideration. The learned Judge gave particulars of a number of cases of boycotting that had occurred in that district, and they presented a disgraceful record of organised and illegal tyranny. Judge Curran said—We have the case of the Messrs. M'Cann, who were boycotted because they resisted mob-violence and persecution, and asserted their rights to deal with their property as the law allowed them. They had been subjected to a terrible amount of persecution, so much persecution that they can neither buy nor sell their stock at fairs or markets. They are hooted and booed going to and from their place of worship. The unfortunate woman who was earning some £4 a year for cleaning the church in the town of Newtownforbes, a position which she occupied for twenty years, was denounced by the local branch of the United Irish League. Why was she denounced? Because her husband remained faithful to Mr. M'Cann. There was a resolution passed calling on the parish priest to-dismiss this woman, and she was deprived of her position by the parish priest in this ignominious manner. A man named Adams remained faithful to Mr. Pearse and died while in hi" employment, and his family were refused boards to make a coffin for the body. There was also a Miss Conollon who was employed in the town, and she was hunted out of Longford on a resolution sent forward from Sligo which stated that a friend of hers had offended the League of that county. Mr. Percival is unable to buy in Longford, and anyone selling to him, if a member of the League, is expelled from the branch in default of making a public apology and undertaking not to offend again. If not a member the party dealing with him is boycotted.These cases of boycotting were not confined to Longford. They occurred in other districts, in various parts of Ireland and the Chief Secretary had done nothing to suppress this cruel form of intimidation. Judge Curran, on the occasion to which his right hon. friend had referred had asserted that although, he called attention to the same matter in October last—Not a finger has been raised, not a movement has been made by the authorities for the defence or protection of these unfortunate people, or towards putting an end to this persecution.573 The judge went on to give this significant warning to the authorities. He said—Experience tells me that boycotting long continued and as persistently resisted has invariably led to serious crime and outrage and even murder.Was it too much to demand that the Executive Government should extend to these persecuted people not mercy—they did not ask for mercy—but justice, and the protection to which they were entitled at the hands of the law when their persons and property were attacked. Another very disquieting feature of the situation as it existed in Ireland to-day, was the large increase of outrages with firearms. The Government incurred a very grave responsibility when they permitted the Arms Act to expire in 1906. What were the facts known as to the number of shooting outrages? The Chief Secretary stated in July last, in answer to a question put by himself, that during three months ending June, twenty two shooting outrages were reported to the police. In reply to a Question which he addressed to the right hon. Gentleman a few days ago, he informed him that during six months ending 31st December, the number of outrages was sixty-three. That was to say there had been no fewer than eighty-five of those outrages in nine months. That represented an alarming increase in the number of these cases as compared with recent years, and it pointed to the fact that the facility with which firearms could now be obtained had materially lessened the security of human life in Ireland. It was astounding that the Government should allow these proceedings to continue without making any real attempts to punish those who were guilty. The Chief Secretary watched the growth of this disorderly-and criminal agitation with cynical serenity. He might have crushed it in a fortnight, if he had chosen to make use of the powers which Parliament had placed in the hands of the Irish Executive to enable them to deal with such an emergency. The right hon. Gentleman had deliberately refused to avail himself of any of the provisions of the Crimes Act. He preferred to fumble with ancient Statutes of Edward III., and William IV., rather than adopt a sharp, effective and modern weapon. 574 By this means he was enabled to make a show of doing something to maintain the law with a minimum of inconvenience to those who were engaged in breaking the law. He left the leaders and organisers of this illegal conspiracy free to pursue their nefarious work of spreading the area of the agitation while he prosecuted humble dupes. He brought these men before Nationalist magistrates who were pledged not to convict or before juries who had conspired to defeat the ends of justice. In case after case where the evidence was absolutely clear and the facts undisputed the jury disagreed and the prosecution led to no result. In fact, a situation was reached which exactly corresponded to the position of affairs once described by the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman said—In many parts of Ireland for certain classes of offences, especially for offences of an agrarian character, they could not trust to the ordinary class of jurymen doing their duty. Partly through ignorance, partly from prejudice, mainly owing to the cruel overbearing system of terror under the National League, they could not be sure of the clearest evidence of obtaining a verdict.The right hon. Gentleman had changed his attitude towards Irish questions since he made use of those words, but although he had changed the facts had not altered. The recent assizes had shown that it was still the fact that in agrarian cases the ordinary class of jurymen in the Nationalist parts of Ireland could not be trusted to do their duty. The jury system had once again been deliberately broken down by the secret agency of the powerful organisation, which under the present Government had been allowed to override the law of the land. What was the remedy for this state of affairs? Undoubtedly the remedy was the same as was described by the Prime Minister before the Home Rule heresy had perverted his judgment. It was the paramount duty of the Irish Executive to secure a fair and impartial trial of men who were charged with these offences, and, to quote the Prime Minister again—I mean by a fair trial—trial not only fair to the man charged, but to the victims of the offence, and to the community which is injured by the commission of the offence.The Government had not applied the remedy, and they had therefore been 575 false to their primary duty. They had the means at their command, but they refused to make use of them. The powers which the Crimes Act placed in the hands of the Irish Executive to be used at their discretion could be put into operation without interference with the liberty of any law-abiding person, and they had again and again been proved to be effectual for the purpose of detecting, punishing and suppressing crime. The Chief Secretary refused to make use of these reasonable and lawful provisions which were part of the ordinary law of Scotland, because he and others at sometime or another had labelled them "coercion," and he had, therefore deliberately sacrificed duty to a fantantistic regard for his own political consistency. There had been no more contemptible exhibition of administrative incapacity than had been furnished by the Chief Secretary during the last few months. Confronted by a state of lawlessness which had not only demoralised a large part of the community, but which had done immense injury to one of the most important of Irish industries, the right hon. Gentleman had I failed to take the course which his duty I and the best interests of Ireland alike demanded that he should take. The result of his inaction had been to degrade the administration of justice and to bring the law into contempt. He could not, therefore, escape responsibility for the disorder and crime which had accompanied the progress of the anti-grazing agitation, and both he and the Government which had tampered with lawlessness and condoned outrage had alike merited the strongest public condemnation.
At the end of the Question to add the words 'But humbly express our regret that Your Majesty's advisers have failed to refer to the increase of agrarian crime and disorder in Ireland, or to give any assurance as to the adoption of measures for the better protection of the lives and properties of Your Majesty's subjects, and for the repression of lawlessness and intimidation in that part of Your Majesty's Dominions.'"—(Mr. Long.)
§ MR. BIRRELL
I shall best serve the interests of this debate if I rise at once to give some account of myself. Nothing would give me more satisfaction 576 at this moment if I thought that the House was really going at this early period of the session to set itself to work to devote its best attention to the real condition, the real welfare, and the real prospects of Ireland. If I had my own way, I would, immediately after this debate on the Address ceased, move that this House do forthwith resolve itself into a Committee to consider the affairs of Ireland, more especially in relation to the position of land purchase and land settlement. I resent more than anything the statement made and repeated that I regard Ireland as a joke. A great many funny things happen in Ireland and funny people may come from Ireland, but Ireland herself is no joke, and the statement that I so regard Ireland is calumnious. I am grievously afraid that unless this House makes up its mind very speedily on one or two questions of the utmost importance as regards land purchase and settlement in Ireland, and unless, having made up its mind what is the proper thing to do, it proceeds to do it—I am grievously afraid that before very long those who come after us will regard with ridicule the pretensions of this House to secure the permanent settlement of the land question. The relevance of this to the present question is very close. Everyone agrees that the permanent prosperity and peace of Ireland—not merely for this year or that, but permanently—depends upon the speedy settlement of the land question, and upon the speedy acquisition of untenanted land [cries of "No"] for the purpose of pursuing the policy to which hon. Gentlemen opposite are hopelessly committed—the policy of making holdings economic, and generally of dividing as much of the land of Ireland as possible and in the shortest time among the men who are ready, willing, and able to cultivate it. I desire to avail myself of the opportunity—an opportunity which does not often occur—to tell the House in a very few words exactly how land purchase stands at this moment; what has been done, and what still remains to do. I confine myself to the proceedings under the Act of 1903. Under that Act there are completed transactions—things accomplished, things done. What are they? In round figures, £19,500,000 in golden 577 sovereigns have been paid to the landlords of Ireland for the purchase of the land. That sum includes the sale to 35,000 tenants direct from the landlords themselves of land which has become vested in the tenants under the provisions of the Act, and through the agency of the Estates Commissioners. But we have in addition the fact that up to the 18th of last month the Estates Commissioners have sold and actually vested in the tenants untenanted land to the value of some £825,000, representing some 75,000 acres; while the Congested Districts Board have bought a great deal of land.
§ MR. BIRRELL
The point I am upon is what has actually been done, how many people have secured the benefits of the Act, how many people are in possession of the land, and how many are paying purchasing annuities. But all the Board have actually done under the Act of 1903 in finally disposing of the land they have bought, has been in respect of land to the value of £419,000. That represents the Board's part of the £19,500,000 of golden sovereigns which have been paid to the landlords for this land of which tenants have actually been put in possession as purchasers. There are some £34,500,000 more which are agreed to be paid. Land to that value has been agreed to be dealt with; and the delay that has taken place in completing these transactions is the cause of great, just, and natural dissatisfaction, both to the landlords and to the tenants. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, being a lawyer, knows that Shakespeare was quite right when he included the law's delay among the curses of existence. Negotiations are pending with respect to £4,300,000 worth more of land. Therefore we have completed transactions £19,500,000; we have uncompleted transactions to the tune of £39,000,000; and in all we have up to the present between £58,000,000 and £59,000,000 either actually paid or agreed to be paid, money which, I hope, shortly will be paid. I do not attempt to say what the value of Irish land may be. The whole of it, some time or other, is 578 to come under the provisions of this Act. But it is generally agreed that this £58,500,000 does not represent more than one-third of the value of the total amount of land. Two-thirds, therefore, still remain to be dealt with, and those two-thirds the most difficult, the portion representing the most trouble for us. Even Members who were not in the House in 1903 know the method under the Act of that year. The landlord comes to a bargain with his tenant, and if it is within certain prescribed limits, it is a bargain with the terms of which the State has nothing to do. The landlord is paid in hard cash. The State can only pay cash in two ways—by taxation or by borrowing. In this case the landlord is paid by the money which the investor on the Stock Exchange can be induced to give for Irish Land stock. That stock, an impeccable security, guaranteed by the State, carries interest at the rate of 2¾ per cent. The State having thus obtained the money and incurred obligations, seeks and hopes to recover it—and, no doubt, if all goes well, will recover it—from the purchasers by repayments spread over sixty-eight and a half years, those payments representing, with sinking fund, 3¼ per cent. on the purchase money. During the last few days, I am happy to say, the stock has risen. It was, a short time ago, 81; and it is now at something like 89. But even at that price, for every £100 that the State has to pay to the landlord it has to issue stock in excess to the value of £12 4s. We are dealing here with millions, and the excels stock on a million represents £124,000. The excess stock on 100 millions—looking forward to the time when we deal with the hitherto unsolved problem of Irish land, and we shall have to issue far more than that—but the loss in excess stock on 100 million would be £12,400,000, or an annual charge over a period of sixty-eight years of £403,000. By the Act of Parliament as it at present stands the first thing to meet that charge is the Irish Development Giant. There is only available from that grant an annual sum of £68,000, and consequently, taking the £100,000,000, the charge that will be levied is £335,000, which, under the Act of Parliament, is to be borne by the Irish ratepayer, equal, it has been calculated, 579 to a 5d. rate levied equally over all the rateable value of Ireland. I think the House will agree that that is a perfectly impossible state of affairs. And the situation is made a little grave by the fact that the Irish Development Grant is so small and will very soon be eaten away. The stock may, I trust it may, rise to par. If it does, well, all is well, but whether it will is the point. Some readjustment is essential. You cannot stop land purchase in Ireland. We all agree that the thing is perfectly unthinkable. In four years' time there will be a revision of rents. We must there again hope that there will be no heavy fall in agricultural stock, and that the reduction of rents in that period will be very small. If it is a severe reduction, there are difficulties ahead there. All will agree that at the present moment, and we know the Treasury is considering the question, a readjustment of the terms come to in 1903 is necessary, a reconsideration of the whole position, probably involving an alteration in price. I want, before I conclude this part of the question, to say a word on the relief of congestion, because I do not want hon. Members on either side to ride away and assume either that the problem is being solved or can be put on one side and totally disregarded. At the present rate of progress the Congested Districts Board will take a century and a half to get possession of all the untenanted land in the west to make holdings economic, and, what is more, even if they were to get all the untenanted land to-morrow, which is impossible, and divide it amongst the persons the next day, fitted it for their occupation and use, which, of course, is still more impossible, there is not enough untenanted land in the west to go round and to make the holdings in any sense economic. The difficult, it may be the impossible, policy of migration, is involved in all you have ever said and meant when you made the efforts which you did—the honourably intended, well meant, and courageous efforts—to deal with congestion in the west, if the holdings in that part of the world were to be made economic. Therefore, when the other day Lord Lansdowne spoke of the policy of migration as a crazy policy, I wonder 580 what he meant? It is not our policy It is the policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I know the difficulties of it. You often hear on Irish platforms that God made Irish land for the Irish people. [NATIONALIST cheers.] Yes, but did He make the land of Meath for the men of Mayo, or the land of Roscommon for the men of Galway? I have been supplied with information only to-day which shows me that persons who come from one part of Ireland to another, although they come there as migrants and for the relief of this terrible evil of congestion, meet with a very cold reception indeed [laughter], and are often; subjected, I am sorry to say, to violence. I hope the House will not laugh at the situation. There may be those who say that, on the whole, as there is not enough land to go round, it is far better to pursue the policy which the Estates Commissioners are pursuing of putting on the untenanted land they buy the sturdy sons of farmers, and letting them, as the sons of tenants, have their share of Irish soil, and that, if anybody is got away, it may just as well be the "congest" as the sons of tenants. The difficulties of the situation are before us. The necessity at this time, if the whole of this great scheme is—I will not say to be wrecked, because that is impossible, but if it is not to be endangered, it is of the most vital concern and importance that Ireland and the Irish people should approach this problem seriously, and not in a spirit of anger and rage against the Government of the day or against this House; but that we should—every Party in the House, all Irishmen, all men who love Ireland—see what can be done at a very critical period in this land purchase, after you have spent £19,500,000, and are under obligation to spend £59,000,000 and an almost implied Parliamentary contract, if all goes well, to spend, it may be, £150,000,000 or £160,000,000 or even a larger number of millions. Is that scheme to be wrecked for lack of careful consideration by this House of the present position of it? I hope not. These are the thoughts I own that have been pressing heavily upon my mind all during the recess, and it is this position which I should like the House at the earliest moment to consider. And yet, 581 when we meet to put our heads together to consider the welfare of Ireland, I am met with this Motion. This is the extraordinary Tory contribution to the situation. This is the way to maintain good will and temper all over Ireland to discuss a difficult problem. This is the pressing need of the hour—more coercion. I am free to confess that during all these months I have been exposed to a good deal of personal abuse, and that very hard things have been said against me—far harder than I have ever said against anybody else. I have paid very small concern to them. I have been terrified by more serious considerations than their words. I know that Latin quotations are rather out-of-date in this House; but I am disposed to say, when I have listened to all these speeches and harangues against me about cattle-driving and the like, and when I have compared the gravity of that question, grave though it may be, with the real gravity of the whole question of land purchase and land settlement, I have said—Non me tua fervida terrent Dicta, ferox; Di me terrent, et Jupiter hostis.If you want a translation of those words, I am not afraid of it. I will tell you what it is they really mean. They mean: Cattle-driving does not terrify me. No, nor the wild and extravagant language of political enmity and partisanship. What frightens me are the price of stocks, the series of inclement seasons, the unrealised, aye, and it may possibly be the unrealisable, hopes that the legislation of this House has indelibly planted in the breasts of a land-hungry and impressionable people. What are the facts upon which this fierce declamation is founded, and what is the complaint? The facts are that the state of certain parts of Ireland at the present moment is not so satisfactory as it was this time last year. I admit it to the full. It is not as satisfactory as it was this time last year. The figures show it. Take the boycotting returns. If there is one thing I hate more than another, it is boycotting. [An OPPOSITION MEMBER: "Why do you not stop it?" and a NATIONALIST MEMBER: "Could he stop it?"] Stop it! Read the Newport speech of Lord Salisbury, and you will learn how futile 582 is that observation. You might as well seek by violent measures to put down covetousness. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh."] Yes, or indict a man for not loving his neighbour as himself as to attempt, by your repressive legislation, to prevent boycotting. I say I detest it, I loathe it. It is a negation of Christianity, a repudiation of humanity—as many bad names as you can put upon it. In 1906 there were ten serious cases—and a serious case of boycotting in Ireland is a very serious case—and in this last year there were nine. I do not take any gratification to myself upon the fact of the figure being reduced by one. It is still nine too many. In minor cases there has been an increase from thirty-four in 1906 to 116. But, after all, Ireland must be compared with herself. These figures are no new thing. They have been preserved and kept for many years; and, in 1902, I find there were forty-one serious cases of boycotting, as against nine now, and 148 minor cases, as against 116. It is most interesting to see how these 116 cases are allocated. Thirty-three of them are attributed to disputes about evicted farms; twenty-three have arisen from these grazing land troubles; six are attributed to the unpopularity of a landlord; and twenty to quarrels about land purchase; miscellaneous, private feuds, and other causes, thirty-four. Of persons receiving constant police protection in 1906, there were fifty-five; at the end of 1907 there were fifty-nine—an increase of four; by patrol, at the end of 1906, there were 150; at the end of 1907, 222. In 1899, if I go back, I find seventy-six persons receiving constant police protection, as against fifty-nine to-day; that there were 515 by patrol, as against 222 to-day; and that in 1902 there were sixty-nine receiving constant police protection and 332 by patrol. I now come to the worst phase, the firing into houses. I entirely agree with what fell from the right hon. Gentleman that this is a particularly cruel and violent form of intimidation, but I was rather surprised that he, with his experience, should have expressed astonishment that the police should be able in one particular case to suggest that the motive was probably intimidation and not any desire to do violence to anybody within the house. How, he 583 asks, could they know that? They could know it very easily. It depends on what part of the house is fired at—whether they fire into the residential part, into the living rooms of the house, where people may be supposed to be, or whether they fire at that part of the house that is not occupied. It is only fair, it is only charitable—I will not say Christian in such a connection—to suppose that their object in the latter case was intimidation and not an attempt to murder or do injury to a person. Now in 1906 there were nineteen cases of firing at the person with pellets, a most cruel and abominable offence, and I wonder that it has not often resulted in the death of the persons fired at, which happily has not been the case—nineteen persons were fired at, none killed. In 1907 that nineteen had grown to twenty-six. Firing into houses grew from twenty in 1906 to sixty-six in 1907, while firing outside houses—that is to say, in gardens, in plantations, and so on—which has an intimidatory effect without the injury caused by firing into houses, was the offence in fourteen instances in 1906, and twenty-six in 1907, and as the figures have been given the total of agrarian outrages in 1906, including threatening letters, had grown from 234 in 1906 to 361 in 1907. Now these are the figures apart from cattle-driving, and on these there is no desire to conceal information from the House the number of offences up to 31st December was 381. Very well then, I do not quite understand—there is a little difference in the speeches of mover and seconder of the Amendment on the point—I do not quite understand whether the mover greatly blames the Government for not putting in force some of the provisions of what is commonly called the Crimes Act. The seconder gave rise to no such doubt; he accused the Government of grave dereliction of duty in not putting those provisions into force. [OPPOSITION cries of: "Hear, hear!" And I gather from those cheers that is the general sentiment among the Party opposite. [OPPOSITION cries of: "Hear, hear!"] Well, I only hope that before the division is taken Members who were not in the House in 1887 will refresh their memories of what took place in the notorious debates of that date. They will find the records in 312 and 313 584 of Hansard, third series, and I commend to them to the reading of hon. Members. They are worth reading when read by the light of subsequent events, and it is, I think, only by that light that our debates are ever much worth reading. The leader of the Opposition, whose absence to-night and the cause of it I greatly regret, and personally regret as a deprivation, in 1887 had just entered upon his stormy career as Chief Secretary for Ireland, and one of the duties he had to perform was to introduce the 87th Coercion Act and make it permanent, with a note of originality he still possesses in all things. Speaking on 28th March, 1887, he rested his case, he was careful to say, not on the statistics of agrarian crime, and he was perhaps wise not to rest his case very strongly on the state of agrarian crime, as the statistics were then much, worse than they are now. He rested his case on a quotation from Mr. Gladstone, a quotation which I was surprised to find the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Dublin to-night referring to Mr. Gladstone said—The question was that you must not only consider the amount of crime, but you must take that amount into consideration, and with its source, its character, with what it indicates and what it means.Now, I need scarcely say that I, an humble follower of Mr. Gladstone, accept that tribunal, and submit to the law as there expounded, and upon these words adopted as they are by the right hon. Gentleman I am perfectly prepared to rest my case and to construct my whole defence. What is the source of this increased disturbance? What is its character, what does it mean? Its source is disappointed hope, unrealised expectations. In its character it is an agitation lawless and reprehensible, but still unaccompanied in most instances and cases by anything that can properly be called crime and outrage. [OPPOSITION cries of: "Oh, oh!" and NATIONALIST cries of: "Hear, hear!"] It has for its meaning speedier action in the division of grass lands. I am prepared to maintain, and nobody who reads the debates in the House during the discussion of the Act of 1903 can deny or will wish to deny what is perfectly plain on the face of the whole discussion and in the Act itself, that part of 585 the practical plan was that untenanted land fell within the scope, the purview, the intention of that measure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, in introducing the Bill, in his speech preceding the Second Reading, and in very many observations during the Committee stage made this perfectly plain. I do not want to stop to make too many quotations, but I Will just give his words in introducing the Bill. He said—I come now to the provision dealing with untenanted land. We have first the actual tenant on an existing holding which is sold to him, but some of these holdings ought not to be sold unless they are increased in size; and in the neighbourhood of estates there are congested populations which ought to be dealt with. We therefore say that untenanted land may be added to the holdings which are uneconomic owing to their small size. Such new holdings created from untenanted land may be sold under the Bill to tenants on an estate, the sons of tenants on an estate, tenants in the neighbourhood whose holdings are less than 10 acres and £5 annual value, and to any person who within twenty-five years before the passing of this Act was the tenant of such a holding.Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say—This Bill has created many expectations and among others among persons who own a great deal of untenanted land in the west of Ireland, where; it is most needed if we are to deal with the problems of congestion; and several persons have shown a disposition lately to create holdings on the off-chance that the credit of the Exchequer will be placed at their disposal.He proceeded to show how a check could be put upon those who were creating holdings to be bought up. Other expectations besides those of landlords were created in other minds, and the Estates Commissioners were authorised to purchase untenanted land subject to a provision that the amount should not exceed a certain sum. Then again, immediately before the Division on the Second Reading, the right hon. Gentleman regretted he had not time to express his views completely, but he admitted in the clearest possible form that the purchase of untenanted land was in the Bill. These expressions, used in debate in support of the Bill, and used again by Irish Members, did undoubtedly raise great hopes in the minds of the land-hungry population of Ireland; but five years have gone by, and what has 586 happened? The Estates Commissioners have bought 75,000 acres of untenanted land, upon which they have placeed tenants. What has the Congested Districts Board done? It is calculated that in the scheduled districts there are at least 74,000 holdings of about £5 annual rateable value, and certainly under £10, and in the non-scheduled districts 59,000 similar holdings, making 133,000 in all. Up to date the Congested Districts Board have bought 15,000 holdings of all sizes, and they are careful to tell us, being honourable men, that part of these when resold and distributed will still be uneconomical. Therefore, for the relief of congestion it may be said that only 7,500 holdings have been fully dealt with. How long will it last at this rate? I do not wonder—who can wonder at the impatience of the people? Am I not, following the words of Mr. Gladstone, entitled to ask myself—What is the source of this agitation; what is the origin of it; what is the cure for it? I maintain I am. Nobody who has visited these districts, walking, riding, or motoring through them, can be surprised to learn that the retention in the hands of the landlords of vast areas of untenanted land, amounts to a daily declaration of the futility, the emptiness of their hopes, and excites impatience among the people. Until something is done to cure this, until steps can be taken to divide these lands, though you may have law and order, you will not have peace. You will not have contentment in those parts of Ireland until you admit what the Congested Districts Board has admitted for many years past, until you give compulsory powers to break up these grass farms. You cannot have just as much and just as little of land revolution as you choose. This House at the bidding of the Unionist Party has deliberately chosen a path for the relief of congestion which is known to be a difficult and costly path, and it must be traversed to the end; there is no getting out of it unless you go out of Ireland altogether. What makes all this more curious is that it is only a question of price. The landlords are perfectly willing to sell their lands; they are tumbling over each other in anxiety to sell the land. It is wholly a question of price; we are all agreed that it is to 587 be a fair price, an honest price fixed by a fair tribunal, therefore all this fuss is nothing more than the haggle of the market. We all know the source of these troubles, we know why the people admittedly indisposed to crime, admittedly a people pleasant to get on with, commit these reprehensible and illegal offences of cattle-driving and are led into reckless lawless acts of an intimidatory character causing the greatest anxiety to those who are responsible for the government of Ireland. We see the material before us, and it is downright folly if we do not recognise the course to be taken if we are to seek the permanent welfare of the country. But hon. Gentlemen said, "What about matters in the meantime? Have yon no regard for law and order? Why are not the gaols of Roscommon and Galway crowded with prisoners, sent there by the warrants of two resident magistrates, one of whom shall be certified by the Lord-Lieutenant to have proper qualifications? "Well, I would not say ft word against resident magistrates, men of great ability, great courage and popularity, men who, no doubt, do their duty. I cannot say more for them. I wish they were all immortal. Every time one dies it is an open competition, and we at the Irish Office are inundated with letters from all sorts of persons from all parts of the world, all craving to become resident magistrates in Ireland—young men of good families, middle-aged men with long families, and the worst of the matter is that I defy anybody, I do not care how devoted he may be, in dealing with all these people, belonging to all professions, of all kinds and classes, some of them barristers who have left off practice, some solicitors willing to give up practice, half-pay officers, young captains, military men—[An HON. MEMBER: "Journalists"]. I do not remember any journalist applying. I am speaking now of resident magistrates, and it is really a serious point, because these people are charged with most important duties, and according to you are fitted to be charged with dealing with the whole of the difficult law of conspiracy without the intervention of a jury. I say there is no test by which you can distinguish between ail these applicants who are the best. They all have wonderful testimonials. Different 588 persons have equally good testimonials from the same person. You have to choose out of 500 or 600 applicants who is the best man to be charged with the good name and welfare of Ireland in the district in which he lives. I say no good would have been done at the present moment in the solution of the difficulties which are most pressing now, even if the gaols of Galway and Roscommon were full of prisoners committed on the warrants of these resilient magistrates. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are disturbed because no Members of Parliament are in prison. One hon. Member, the Member for South Longford, has stood his trial.
§ MR. BIRRELL
No; but still we were not frightened by the majesty of his person as a Member of Parliament, and he had to stand his trial like any other person, and a Wicklow jury disagreed as to his guilt. That is, no doubt, the way of hon. Gentlemen opposite. If trouble arises they say: "Suspend the ordinary law." If juries sympathise at all with prisoners, they say: "Get rid of juries at once." That is sometimes your way, though not always, as I shall show. It is never our way to suspend the ordinary law if we believe that disturbances are due to removable causes, and that justice demands that we should proceed to remove them. Until that is done the ordinary law is good enough for us. We have not left the ordinary law alone. We have worked it with the utmost vigour. My right hon. friend the Attorney-General will give the figures on that subject. I stated them myself on Friday. The Attorney and Solicitor-General have been kept hard at work all the autumn in their endeavours to put these cases fairly and properly before juries. It is said that juries have failed. Well, in the first case that came before a Dublin jury there was a conviction. It was no stronger than the other cases, and I believe it is quite possible that, if 589 the learned Judge had thought fit to pass sentence at once, it might very well have been that other convictions would have followed. It is not an unknown thing, even in this immaculate country of England, for juries, when they are in sympathy with a prisoner, to be anxious to know what kind of sentence is to be passed on him before they find him guilty, and sometimes negotiations of a very irregular character have passed before they would find him guilty. However, the learned Judge thought fit, in dealing with this case, in which the traversers had been convicted and found guilty, to direct them to stand aside; and therefore the other jurors had no clue to the kind of sentence he was going to pass, and there were disagreements. I do not deny that in these cases of cattle-driving the juries have shown sympathy with prisoners; but the question I ask myself is this: "Is it to be said that the moment a Government or Executive find that out they are by a stroke of their pen to get rid of juries altogether," and thereby prevent juries doing the only good thing they can do, from giving the only lesson they can teach—I do not suppose that for the discovery of the truth anyone would pin his faith on a jury—that they may prove the means of letting the Executive know what the feelings of the people are. I am bound to confess I am sometimes amazed at the ignorance of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I say you cannot read a single work on trial by jury in which you will not find that point stated with reference to both English and Irish juries. I remember that that is referred to in a remarkable passage often quoted from De Tocqueville, but being written in another language I suppose it is considered of no importance. In that passage it was stated that that was the sole reason why people adhered to trial by jury, because it gives an indication, sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly, of the feeling of the people. A hundred years ago a man shot his fellow in a duel. He was indicted for murder, and towards the and of his charge the Judge would tell the jury that they had no alternative but to return a verdict of "Wilful murder." They did not do it. They felt that the man had no choice but to do 590 what he had done, and that the death was I not to be attributed to him as murder in; the ordinary case. But it was murder and wilful murder, though juries refused; again and again to give verdicts of guilty. I Everyone knows that in England juries have expressed their sympathy most improperly in certain kinds of cases, and therefore if you ask: "Why do you not sweep this system aside?" the answer is because, in criminal cases, it has the advantage that it prevents the Executive from getting completely out of touch with the feeling of the people. If they do not respect the law, all is up with your Crimes Act and all the rest. It may be a painful and a long process, and it may result in a certain amount of injustice, but it is a far more courageous course, at all events, for people charged, as we are, with the interests of Liberalism, to give the best trial always to the recognised institutions of the country before you attempt to set them on one side. I said just now it was not always the policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite to put the Crimes Act in operation. In 1900, I find that a body of great importance, the Irish Unionist Alliance, were greatly disconcerted at the state of Ireland, and particularly at the administration of Ireland by Lord Cadogan and Mr. Gerald Balfour. No use had been made of the Crimes Act, and Mr. Gill had been appointed Secretary of the Board of Agriculture. The Times incited the people of Ireland to assert themselves like men, and particularly to let England know what terrible things were going on unmolested under the rule of a Unionist Government. The Alliance demanded an interview with Lord Cadogan, and he flatly refused them. He was not going to have his administration arraigned even by the Irish landlords. He was a high-spirited Tory nobleman—I, poor worm, in precisely similar circumstances saw them and sat patiently in my stall for an hour and listened to all they had to say. I had this excuse, a feeling of curiosity. I had this advantage over Lord Cadogan—I had not seen them before. Flouted as they were by their own Lord-Lieutenant and Chief Secretary, they were determined that the world should not lose anything of the information they had to impart, and they met somewhere in Grafton 591 Street, Dublin, and signed a document. It was addressed: "To His Excellency the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, Earl Cadogan, K.G." and in it they said—The Executive Committee of the Irish Unionist Alliance representing as they do more fully than any other existing organisation the Unionists of Ireland, have unanimously decided that it is their duty to lay before your Excellency certain facts as to the state of this country, and the present position of Irish Unionists. The Alliance includes among its members, representatives of both sections of the Unionist Party, and not only the leading landholders, but the leading members of the manufacturing and commercial interests. They do not desire that Ireland should be governed in the interests of any class, but they hold that it is the duty of a Government to maintain order, to secure freedom, for every man in all lawful dealings, to check violence and injustice, and to place in positions of trust persons who have given evidence that they respect the laws of the country and have its true interests at heart. They hold that Ireland should not again be allowed to drift into a state of social anarchy and veiled civil war. And having been deprived by the Legislature of much of the power which it is admitted they exercise with integrity and ability, Irish Unionists consider that the Executive is the more urgently-called upon to protect them from wrong.Having thought it their duty to lay their case before his Excellency, they went on to contend that the United Irish League ought to be put down and suppressed. They said—The objects of the League are the expulsion of landlords, reunion of disorganised factions of the so-called Nationalist Party and a new campaign for the destruction of the Legislative Union. It holds out as a bribe to the people the division of large grass farms, the property in many cases of loyalists. The organisers began by calling upon the holders of these large farms to surrender them, irrespective of their wishes or convenience. This proving ineffectual-intimidation was resorted to. They worked by domiciliary visits from agents of the League, and by threatening speeches of the organisers on platforms in the vicinity of such pasture lands. They endeavoured to terrify the occupiers into the abandonment of their lawful rights, and they have succeeded.Dealing with recent crime the Alliance said—The circumstances connected with the crimes which have recently shocked the country are best known to the authorities, but at the same time the Alliance cannot but note the fact that meetings under the auspices of the United Irish League, at which violent speeches were delivered, were held shortly before in the immediate vicinity of the scene of the murders. The recrudescence of boycotting has forcibly arrested the attention of the Alliance. Guided by Nationalist agitators, who are able as they say to keep within the law—in reality to evade 592 it—the lives of many peaceful members of the community are being made unbearable. The methods enforced sooner or later compel the victims to comply with the mandate of their persecutors.That is a state of things corresponding very much to a picture of the existing I state of things. Here are intimidations employed for the purpose of breaking up grazing lands, and dissuading graziers from taking them, intimidatory speeches by prominent members of the League on platforms erected in close vicinity to these grazing lands, and yet to the disgust and horror of the Irish Unionist Association, Lord Cadogan and Mr. Gerald Balfour refused to do anything, and nothing was done, and the Crimes Act was not put into force at all until I think April 1902 when there was a change of régime, and apparently a change of policy. Now the state of things in 1902 was I maintain, worse than the state of things to-day. I have no particular pleasure or gratification in the state of things now. I admit that there is cause for anxiety and alarm. I say we have ascertained the source, and have at all events the example of Lord Cadogan and Mr. Gerald Balfour behind us in disregarding these demands to put in force extraordinary laws. With regard to shooting, I should like to say one word. The worst figures that I have had to call the attention of the House to, were those connected with firing into houses. I have made constant inquiries from the police themselves, and it has been admitted in these debates by several persons who are perhaps better acquainted with Ireland than I am, that this is a particular kind of offence against which evidence is the hardest to procure, and therefore, unless you are going to put in force all the provisions of the Crimes Act which you have very seldom done yourselves, and I have here the full particulars of what you have ever done, you the party of law and order, the authors of the permanent 1887 Coercion. Act—you yourselves very seldom, even in bad times put all its provisions into force, and yet unless that is done the Crimes Act is no use in these firing cases. From beginning to end of all these troubles I have submitted to myself one test, and I believe it to be a true test for me at all events, for a Liberal Minister, a member 593 of a Liberal administration, and it is I this. Could I now on the facts and I figures that I have before me, with the knowledge that I possess of all the trouble and disturbance in certain parts of Ireland, with the knowledge of what their source is and how best they can be cured; could I with that knowledge, and with the facts and figures stand up at this table and ask the House of Commons to vest me with the powers of the Crimes Preservation Act? Could I carry with me this House—I do not want the House necessarily to pass a new Act—could I get the House on these facts and figures to endorse and support me? I could not. If I might indulge in an Irishism, I should vote against myself if I did. I feel that we have the completest possible answer to all that has been urged, but there are one or two points I think I ought to refer to. It has been alleged by the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Amendment that I have entered into a corrupt bargain with the bishops of the Church of Rome to give them good terms. That charge was made—
§ MR. BIRRELL
Very well, then, I will withdraw. I am very glad. I understood the hon. Member to hint at something. I accept his withdrawal. It was made certainly by Lord Londonderry in another place, and it has been frequently made. The fact that such a statement would be an insult to me I pass over, because I am inured to that kind of thing, but it is also an insult to the bishops of the Church of Rome—a gross insult; and as they are not here, and as they do not perhaps know the manners and customs of this House, I feel myself bound on their behalf to protest against any such imputation being made upon them. I went to see Cardinal Logue on the University Question. He is a Prince of the Church, I daresay, but he is also one of the simplest and most devout Christian men I have ever met. He seemed to me to think of nothing else so much as the spiritual interests of his country. I simply told him the lines on which we were proceeding, and suggested that he might hereafter very likely tell me what the thought of them. I made no proposals or suggestions of any kind to him, 594 and the subject of cattle-driving, I need hardly say, was not mentioned. Think what the inuendo is. I go to a prelate and accept his hospitality. I say, "I have come here on business—to use a vulgar expression, let us do a deal together. I shall be in a very hot corner in the House of Commons in January or February next if this wretched cattle-driving is not put down. Your Eminence has great influence and authority over all parts of Ireland. If you will only exercise it on my behalf, if you will only get me out of this hole, I will use all the influence I can with my Nonconformist friends in the House, and either with their consent or behind their backs smuggle through some clause in the University Bill which will make the University a clerically conducted institution." That is the nature of the charge. So far as I am concerned I am indifferent to it, but on behalf of the Bishops I think I am entitled to protest against it. I frequently saw the Archbishop of Canterbury during the discussions on the English Education Bill. I wonder what would have been said if an Irish newspaper had said the Archbishop had entered into some sort of private arrangement with me whereby Catholic interests and the interests of Catholic children were to suffer, and in exchange for that I was to give him good terms for the Church of England. Would that not have been an insult to the Archbishop? Are not the prelates of the prevalent religion in Ireland entitled to as much consideration? I protest as vehemently as I can. The other charge, happily, only concerns myself. It is that because I am a Home Ruler, as I am—I voted for the Second Reading of Mr. Gladstone's Bill, and made the first speech I ever made in the House which has any pretensions—I mean pretensions to length—in support of that measure. It is not likely that, going to Ireland as a Home Ruler, I should be converted whilst there, though some distinguished Members of the Unionist Party have gone to Ireland to govern it as Unionists, and have either become Home Rulers or something like it But because the fact that I am a Home Ruler is undisputed, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen—the Leader of the Opposition at all events hinted at it, that I, in my anxiety to secure Home Rule, deliberately allow crime and outrage to go on unchecked all over Ireland in order 595 that there may be such a condition of anarchy and confusion that the English people will gladly say to Ireland, "Go off for Heaven's sake, take yourself off." What sort of imputation is that to make I If one half of it were true I should be a monster. Anyone who had the misfortune to live in my company during the last four or five months would know perfectly well that every outrage which is reported to me causes me the acutest possible pain. These things stand in my way, and frustrate my dearest hopes. They do the greatest possible injury. There is nothing that I would not do to put them down. "Then," say Gentlemen opposite, "you have your remedy, this marvellous panacea, this Act of Parliament, which will put down boycotting and intimidation, which will prevent people at night time firing into each other's houses. I do not believe it. The experience of history is opposed to it. You have tried these things again and again. You have repeated your experiment again and again, until in '87 you thought fit, having a majority of your own, to make it a permanent addition to the Statute Book, and now you come to me and say, "You are bound to put it in force because it is there." I won't. By devoting some portion of this Session to a grave and careful consideration of the state of things in Ireland—the real state of things without doing injustice to anybody, a great work can be done. It is all very well for noble Lords in another place to use language about revolution—agrarian revolution. "Agrarian," I believe, comes from a Latin word meaning land. If it is a land revolution, what is the price of land in Ireland? It is not one which looks much like revolution. The Irish landlords get better terms for their land than any landlords have ever got. It is rather too much to hear noble Lords representing the landlords of Ireland, who have done so marvellously well under the bargain of 1903, now turn round upon their poorer fellow countrymen, denouncing them and pretending that the only way in which law and order can be maintained is by the suppression of free institutions. It is rather more than I, as Chief Secretary, can understand or put up with. Therefore the case made out against me is not difficult for me to meet, and I believe when the time comes for the House to express their votes to-morrow, they will 596 do so in such a manner as to give us courage to go forward.
§ MR. BUTCHER (Cambridge University)
said the Chief Secretary in the course of his speech had reminded the House of the importance of the question of land settlement, but he ventured to say that the subject, into which the right hon. Gentleman had entered in some detail, was not very relevant to the issue before the House. Relevant, indeed, it was, in one respect only, and that was that the action of the Executive in Ireland had thrown back the question of land settlement beyond anything one would have thought possible. If land settlement was to be carried out with permanent success in Ireland, it must be carried out under the rule of law and not under a reign of terror. When the Chief Secretary went on to quote and interpret a statement of Mr. Gladstone's, it became evident how much he was under the dominion of so-called Irish ideas, which were in truth ideas that every honest and respectable man in Ireland condemned as much as they did in that House. He told them that the source of the increased disturbance was disappointed hope. Its real source was agrarian cupidity, stimulated by the guilty apathy of the Executive. In its character the right hon. Gentleman declared the movement to be a lawless agitation, but unaccompanied in most instances by crime or outrage. On the contrary, not only was the movement reckless and lawless in character, but its distinctive mark was that it attempted by criminal short cuts to gain its ends. And what, the right hon. Gentleman asked, was its meaning? It bad, he replied, for its meaning speedier action in the division of the grazing lands. Yes, speedier action; its true meaning and intention was to forestall the action of that House, and to coerce Parliament into sanctioning the work of crime. Indeed the planner of the cattle drive, the Member for North Westmeath, promised at the outset that there should be "an Act of Parliament confirming their blessed work and making it the law of the land." And no later than the 28th January, the Member for South Meath, in a speech reported in the Roscommon Herald, a journal that no doubt would be recognised as an authentic-source, proclaimed that, "The only way 597 in which legislation can be forced is by cattle-driving." Such was the "speedier action" spoken of by the Chief Secretary. All this, too, at a moment when Parliament was more ready than it had ever been in its history to look at the Irish question with an impartial eye, and to redress all legitimate grievances. He must say, the phrase used by the Chief Secretary—"the condition of Ireland is not so satisfactory as it was," a mild phrase for those who know the real condition of certain parts of this country. Was it not an incredible thing that there should be honest ignorance as regards an island which was only a few hours distant from our shores—in the minds of people who, surely, had had the moans of ascertaining the facts? They heard very conflicting statements. On the one hand, apologists for the Government in the Press and on the platform said that Ireland on the whole was crimeless and peaceful. They admitted that there was some disorder, but it was insignificant in character and amount, and confined to a few restricted areas. One of the official organs of the Government actually asserted that cattle-driving had done no injury to man or beast, and had never been a menace to person or property. On the other hand they had statements from County Court Judges and from Judges of the High Court of a very different kind. A few; days ago Judge Curran, at Trim in County Meath, said, "What I find in King's County I find in County Westmeath, and what I find in County Westmeath I find in Longford, and what I find in Longford I find in County Meath." And what did the Judge find in Longford? His words ten days before at Longford were, "I see I the laws under which we live are flouted and trampled under foot, and mob-law reigns triumphant in a certain portion of the country." In some six or eight counties the language of the Judges was similar. Which statement were they to accept? Which was the more trustworthy authority, the word of the politicians or the charges of the Judges? Anyhow the two statements stood opposed to one another in striking contrast. Lot there be no mistake about it—cattle driving which was sometimes spoken of merely as a reckless pastime, was a crime and part of a criminal scheme. It was an act of mob violence, intended to force a grazier to give up his lawful calling. 598 Nor was there any disguise as to the predatory motive—"Blessed are the cattle-drivers for they shall possess the earth";—that was the text of the new beatitude. The reward hold out was plunder, and the weapon was fear. For, observe, cattle-driving was not an isolated incident, it did not stand alone. The cattle drive was the first of a series of criminal acts—the first link in the chain. What if the grazier were a brave man and refused to give up his land? The whole machinery of terrorism was at once put into motion. A meeting was held of the local branch of the United Irish League, with its mock court and solemn parody of justice. An apology was demanded. The man still held out. His meadows were perhaps "spiked," his hayricks burned and, in many cases, his cattle mutilated. All who worked for him, all who supplied him with the necessaries of life, were warned to desist. Cattle-driving, therefore, was merely the first step in a criminal process. Might they not then fairly complain that in the speeches made recently by members of the Government not a hint was found of the sequel of cattle-driving and of the train of tyranny and disorder it carried with it? One instance might suffice; the Chief Secretary must be well aware of the facts. To-day in the County Langford, a boycott existed, already mentioned by his hon. friend the Member for Mid Armagh, one of a kind which could only be equalled in the annals of the old Land League—he referred to the boycott of the McCann's. He would not go through the whole list of cruelties perpetrated on McCann; he would only mention that within a few days of the declaration of the boycott, McCann found himself not only deserted by most of his labourers, but with his bread supply cut off; he could not get bread either in the village or in the county. He then ordered it from a wholesale bakery in Dublin, and in this way obtained a supply for two months. The boycott became more stringent, the warnings multiplied against all who should have dealings with McCann, till at length he got an intimation from the firm at Dublin that they could no longer supply him. So that at the present moment a man, living seventy miles from Dublin, could not get a loaf of bread nearer than Belfast. He did not know how many Members of that House had ever read 599 the columns of the Longford Leader—a paper owned by an hon. Member. He himself had studied the boycotting records of that paper for some months past. It had become the instrument of as cruel a persecution as he had ever known in all his experience of Ireland. Week after week it published the resolutions of the local branch of the League. In those resolutions not only was the offending grazier denounced, not only those who bought cattle from him or sold him oats, but also the man who met him in the road or at the fair and shook hands with him, the man who drank a glass of porter with him, the man who paid a debt at his house, the doctor who called on him; even girls were condemned in this boycotting record. The House might read in that paper what "crimeless Ireland" meant. The Chief Secretary would there find little material for criminal statistics: the boycotters had made a desolation and called it peace. The Longford Leader in its persecuting columns followed the life of the man whom it wanted to ruin with a cold and scientific cruelty.
Such was the explanation of the apparent peace which prevailed to-day in certain parts of Ireland. Criminal statistics told them nothing, and the question was not how much crime there was, but how much freedom. When comparisons were drawn between crime in England and crime in Ireland, one thing had to be borne in mind. In England crime was the act of individual offenders; in Ireland it was the outcome of a criminal conspiracy. Agrarian crime in Ireland sprang from boycotting and intimidation, and the boycott was organised by a group of men who worked it for political purposes and whose object it was to make penal acts which in themselves were lawful and honourable, and to visit with condign punishment anybody who disobeyed their tyrannous edicts. That was a distinction which made all the difference in the world. If he had to choose between fifty isolated crimes, however bad, by individual criminals and the organised tyranny found in Ireland, he was prepared to say that the fifty crimes would not be so dangerous to the community at large as one quarter of the number done under the inspiration of those who sought to make 600 life impossible for the man who would not conform to their rule. He would be told that he was maligning his countrymen. Why should he love to blacken his countrymen's reputation? The people of Ireland were not criminal nor in sympathy with criminals, but Irishmen had not been able to stand up against criminal advisers. There were groups of local politicians who cowed into subjection public opinion in Ireland. He was convinced that such persons represented no section of the decent law-abiding people of Ireland, whether farmers or labourers; and yet they were able to make it appear as if the silent acquiescence of terror-stricken men meant sympathy with crime. It was not sympathy with crime, it was terror. And the deadly disorder had a further--effect. In agrarian cases there were two tribunals: there was the Court of the League—that Court of criminal equity which never acquitted the innocent man, and there were the Courts of the land, which most rarely condemned the guilty. The Chief Secretary had said that as a Liberal he fell back on the ordinary law and was resolved to work it with vigour. Had he worked it in a manner likely to impress the people of Ireland with the belief that he meant to enforce it? In a speech at Belfast on November 22nd the right hon. Gentleman said the ordinary law of the land was the law which was enforced irrespective of the will of the Executive. It was the law over which he as an executive officer had no control whatever. They found, however, that in his administrative action he had exercised a dispensing power over it in favour of a certain section of law-breakers. The inciters to crime, the ringleaders, he refused to prosecute; and the Attorney-General took his orders from the Chief Secretary, and avowed it when on that occasion he pointed to the right hon. Gentleman and exclaimed—"There is my dictator." He would give one other illustration of the right hon. Gentleman's vigorous working of the ordinary law. Last April in Athenry a gang of midnight intimidators were captured in the act near the house of a grazier. They were brought before the resident magistrate, and sentenced to three month's imprisonment in default of giving bail for good behaviour. That was on the 5th of April. On the 7th the hon. Member for East 601 Mayo went to Galway and made a speech in which he said—Please God, we will soon have them back again … I am confident that when the House of Commons hears from us an account of this transaction, the gates of Galway gaol will soon be thrown open to these young men.The hon. Gentleman was as good as his word. The Chief Secretary remitted the sentence and released the men within fifteen days. Later on the Chief Secretary read a sharp lecture to magistrates on doing their duty; was his own example encouraging? Anyhow, there was no doubt as to the meaning put upon such conduct in Ireland. The act of the Chief Secretary was everywhere interpreted as indicating full and warm sympathy with the movement. "Heart and soul he is with us," said an hon. Member, and the sympathy was not during many months disclaimed by any member of the Government. While these men went on with their criminal action, silence fell on the Executive. The Chief Secretary recently said that in governing Ireland he must govern according to Liberal principles; and, on a previous occasion, that he must govern according to Irish ideas.
§ MR. BUTCHER
said, if the right hon. Gentleman did not say so, it had been said by other members of the Government. Now the Irish ideas in accordance with which the Chief Secretary was governing—if he was governing according to any ideas at all—were not held by any responsible or intelligent men in Ireland. They were ideas which struck at the root of all civilised governments. Were these ideas consonant or not with Liberal principles? That was a very grave question. In other words had the alliance between Liberalism and Nationalism so impaired the principles of Liberalism that the arm of the law was paralysed, and that Liberals when they came into power had to make concessions to law-breakers such as no Government had ever done before. The Chief Secretary lately said that the Opposition cared not what disaster might happen to Ireland from the failure of land purchase "what did it matter to them if only they could throw a little dirt at the Government." 602 On the Opposition Benches there were men who did not care whether a Liberal Government rose or fell, or whether a transient Chief Secretary passed away, but who did care for the permanent welfare of Ireland, and saw in the right hon. Gentleman's administration a deadly blow to Ireland's good. He himself and his friends got many letters from persecuted men in Ireland saying they had appealed to the Irish Executive in vain, and that their last hope lay in an appeal to the House of Commons. There were, he was sure, on the Liberal Benches, many who, if they had the least conception of the tyranny now so widely prevailing, would break away from every Party tie, and go into the Lobby against their own' Government. He did not believe that the sense of freedom and this sense of justice had died out in England, if only the true facts were known. He therefore appealed to the Government to do more than they had yet shown any signs of doing, to restore to the disturbed portions of Ireland the first conditions of Christian and civilised existence.
§ CAPTAIN CRAIG (Down, E.)
said he rose with a full weight of responsibility to address the House upon the grave charges made against the Government, more especially after the charges which had been levelled against the Unionist Party by the Chief Secretary, at whose speech he was very much astonished. He considered that it was a cowardly speech. The Chief Secretary rose to answer the charge of the right hon. Gentleman, the Chairman of the Irish Unionist Party, and in beginning his speech said that certain members of the Unionist Party had, during the recess, made charges which were unfounded and untrue, and which he repudiated in the strongest manner he could. The party to which he belonged consisted of a small minority who represented in that House, not their constituents alone, but also many other men in Ireland who otherwise would be absolutely unrepresented. They had always striven to the best of their ability to sift most cautiously and carefully any statement made to them, although from time to time they had been hauled over the coals by the right hon. Gentleman. He was not at all disturbed by the sneering way in which the Chief Secretary referred to the Ulster Members outside the House, 603 for if they had done nothing else, they had enabled a large number of men, women, and children in different parts of Ireland to have a more peaceful time when the House was sitting. Owing to a grave want of energy on the part of the Irish Executive, there was no regular law and order in Ireland, but when the House of Commons was sitting, by constant questions drawing attention to outrages, the police were stirred, and some sort of order was brought out of chaos. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman if that was not the case?
§ CAPTAIN CRAIG
said that if that was not so, then the House was starting upon a session of grave responsibility, because those who had studied this question since the House rose, felt that, owing to a scheme that had been inaugurated, the Government had, to put it mildly, said to the people of Ireland," Go on with your cattle-driving and crime; do what you think is necessary in order to impress Parliament with the necessity of dividing the grass lands, and the Government will support you." [Cries of "No, no."] Last session Lord Denman speaking on behalf of the Government said that the Government did not consider cattledriving a very serious crime. Another representative of that Government had clenched the matter in Ireland by saying that cattle driving did no harm. There they found two responsible Ministers at least making statements which were not contradicted by the Chief Secretary. The Government were persistently patting on the back all those who indulged in outrage. The hon. Member who was now confined for contempt of Court made a speech in which he said, "Parliament would, as it had often done before, ratify the good work that was being done." The legislation which had been for-shadowed by the Chief Secretary appeared to him to be a fulfilment of the words of the hon. Member It was awful to contemplate that that House was to be intimidated into passing legislation in order to get the right hon. Gentleman out of the difficulty of governing Ireland. They anticipated that something of this sort would occur, and when the House met they looked with anxiety to see the Home Rule members moving an Amendment to the Address. For some reason or other the method of attack had 604 been postponed, and notice had been given by the Leader of the Home Rule party that at an early date he would introduce a Motion which would have practically the same effect. The House had been favoured with sufficient quotations of actual crime as it had occurred during the recess, and he could support those statements by cuttings from Nationalist organs. He had in his hand the details of 185 outrages which had happened since the House rose, and they showed conclusively the class of conspiracy and intimidation which had been going on during the past few months. One quotation would show the length to which the supineness of His Majesty's Executive in Ireland had gone. The hon. Member for South Leitrim attempted to auction some meadow land, and no sootier had the auction been brought forward and held than he was summoned by the United Irish League to one of their meetings to answer for the horrible crime of having auctioned some of this meadow land. The evidence showed that Mr. Smith informed the League that he would be the last man to do anything of the kind if he had been notified, and if he had done anything wrong he had done it in ignorance; he was asked to give the names, but he declined to take the part of common informer. In other words—and this showed the power and extent of the vast organisation which had superseded the law in Ireland—when a Member of this House went across to carry out his ordinary avocations he was as subject to this treatment by the United Irish League as the most humble man living in those parts. He was exceedingly sorry to read in a paper that morning that boycotting had readied an abnormal extent in county Roscommon. In Ross National School, near Boyle, sixty pupils left in a body as a protest against the schoolmaster continuing on the roll and in attendance several small children, sons and daughters of two men living in the district. Cases of that kind had only to be brought to the notice of the House to show that the Government of the country as administered by the right hon. Gentleman opposite was in a deplorable state. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman to-night gave no hope whatever of his taking sterner measures with a view to justice being done, or that the persons and property of the people of Ireland would be made 605 secure. He read another extract from a newspaper, dated 1st October, which stared that a series of outrages on animals had for some time been carried on in the vicinity of Ennis, and that the efforts of the constabulary to discover the perpetrators had been ineffective, the most recent case being the fifth of a similar character. The paragraph described the horrible way in which a calf belonging to Mr. Cunningham had been mutilated. That was only one of many cases which could be quoted, and the Chief Secretary instead of holding out some hope that more strenuous efforts would be made to deal with crime branched off into a long dissertation on the Land Act, and, as it were, smothered the issue which he and his friends wished to bring before the House. He held that no matter how beneficial might be the Bills the right hon. Gentleman intended to introduce this session, no right-minded, man should sanction a single clause until the first elements of justice were brought into force in Ireland. It was not right that the right hon. Gentleman should ask hon. members on the Opposition benches to consider the mighty problem he had to deal with. It was not a matter of maintaining law and order this year or next, but a matter of laying the foundation on which law and order could be maintained in all futurity. The Chief Secretary had used some most extra-ordinary expressions. He had quoted Shakespeare as to the law's delays, but what would Shakespeare have thought of no law at all? The right hon. Gentleman both in the House and outside, was prone to branch into the lighter veinin all these matters. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke in Belfast he treated all these matters in an airy manner as though he were discussing the government of some foreign country or an academic question at college. It was no use to say that they ought to deal with facts. Those who lived in that part of Ireland where law and order was respected by the people had no desire whatever that the other parts should be reduced in any way or that they should suffer anything to which the people of the north were not subjected. He thought, however, that the Chief Secretary, in spite of his oft-repeated statement that minorities must suffer, should pay attention on some occasions to those in the north of Ireland who had built up great 606 industries, made farming pay, and lived in peace, comfort, and quiet.
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present, House counted; and forty Members being found present—
§ CAPTAIN CRAIG
said the Chief Secretary had referred in his speech to the constant anxiety of the Executive to rely on the ordinary law. The plea of himself and his friends was that the law should; be administered in all parts of Ireland with the same security for personal property as in Mid Devon, Hereford and Worcester City. They warned the Chief Secretary that if he did not renew the Peace Preservation Act there would be trouble in Ireland, and they were immediately accused of gross exaggeration. He would ask any thinking man whether the results of dropping that measure had not been far more serious than the so-called exaggerations used from those benches. He feared that more disorder would follow. Was the Chief Secretary going to do any thing? In Belfast, the right hon. Gentleman said he would not prosecute the hon. Member whom Mr. Justice Boss very soon brought to his senses, for fear he might become a national hero. He questioned whether the "national hero" would ever again have the same influence in Ireland. If the Chief Secretary had acted promptly, as Mr. justice Boss did, instead of being cowardly in the matter—
§ MR. BIRRELL
I could not do as Mr. Justice Boss did. I could only have brought him before a jury, which is not quite the same thing.
§ CAPTAIN CRAIG
apologised for saying that the Chief Secretary ought to have done what Mr. Justice Boss did. He regretted the small powers Judge Ross had; he regretted exceedingly the small powers the Chief Secretary had in Ireland, or pretended that he had. If one of the "carrion crows" had been allowed to walk up and down preaching confiscation, he wondered what the right hon. Member would have done.
§ CAPTAIN CRAIG
said it was too late for the Chief Secretary to shelter himself in a manner like that. They knew what could be done by those who had strength of mind and the courage to do it. Irishmen rather admired a strong Administration. It was only by the act of the right hon. Gentleman that that part of the country had been brought into the condition in which it now was.
§ MR. STAVELEY HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)
said that in spite of the speech of the Chief Secretary, particularly that portion of it in which he gave as a reason for not enforcing the law of the country that there was some great panacea which he would bring in at some future time, he would say that in ordinary life when a person was ill and went to a surgeon, he was not put on with the remark that an operation was not necessary now because there was to be a wonderful cure invented before many years were over. They in England as well as in Ireland were concerned as to the present state of the people of Ireland, and the lack of foresight on the part of the Executive of His Majesty's Government in Ireland. Since the Liberal Party came into power, and also when in opposition, they had shown a peculiar friendship for those who did not obey the law. One could go back to the time when they expressed their sympathy with passive resisters, and then with the evicted tenants; and now the Government would not enforce the law in regard to cattle-driving. He would apologise; there was one exception. People might be shot at, cattle might be driven, houses might be fired into in Ireland, but the moment the timid suffragette gave a double ring or a double knock at a Minister's door the whole force of law and order was brought into play. That was the distinction between this and the other side of the Channel. He ventured to say that the Chief Secretary's description of what was going on in Ireland was not accurate. The Crimes Act had not been put in operation, but Ireland was now governed under antiquated statutes raked up from the reign of William IV., empowering the Executive to engage more police in certain districts, or from the reign of Edward III. When 608 the coercion under the Crimes Act, which was successful, was suppressed they had coercion under an Act of Edward III. which was unsuccessful. The coercion of one statute was suited to modern times, the coercion of the other, it having been passed so long ago, was not. The Chief Secretary had emphatically denied the intention of ever bringing the Crimes Act into operation while continuing to apply the old statute which was supposed not to imply coercion, although under it a person might be tried by one Judge, while under the Crimes Act two resident magistrates was necessary. Under the old Act a prisoner could call no witnesses, but the Crimes Act dealt with certain cases which could only be tried in proclaimed districts. And there was one clause in that Act by which such offences as riot and assembly of persons to cause a riot, which were the concomitant of cattle driving, could be tried by the resident magistrates using the ordinary powers they had got if the Chief Secretary chose that it should be so. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford had made a speech which must have caused an enormous amount of surprise to hon. Members who knew the facts. In that speech the hon. and learned Gentleman showed that he did not take the trouble to read the ordinary reports of what was going on in Ireland. He said that not a single beast had been injured, not a single man had been attacked or injured in connection with cattle-driving, and that these demonstrations had gone on without bloodshed of any sort. The hon. and learned Gentleman evidently did not know what had been recently going on in the counties of West Meath, Meath and Galway. A policeman had been knocked down and rolled in the mud, and Sergeant Mann had been severely injured by the violence of the mob during a cattle-drive. Every hon. Member from Ireland would recognise that a policeman was a man. There were numerous' instances of cattle being driven to their injury, and one man had been awarded £2 in court for the loss of a sheep which had had its legs broken. Then the Peace Preservation Act had been dropped for some reason or other best known to the Government, yet the Government had 609 been bound to admit through the mouth of the Chief Secretary that there had been no fewer than 120 shooting outrages last year. There was no harm in the Crimes Act or the Peace Preservation Act being left on the Statute Book if there were no persons to be prosecuted under them. Then they had heard that night of a new principle: that juries had not to decide only whether a man was guilty or not, but whether the juries should be taken as the guides, philosophers, and friends of the Government as to what new legislation was to be passed. That was a new attribute to be given to juries. But the juries had not done their duty as expected. Time after time the Attorney-General for Ireland had said that they would do their duty, but it had been shown beyond all manner of doubt that juries could not be got to convict even when cases were taken to Dublin. In the summer and winter assizes, out of 229 persons tried, eight had been convicted, and the juries had disagreed in 156 cases. He supposed that in these 156 cases the Government had no guide as to what legislation there should be for the benefit of the people of Ireland. No one would deny that when the late Government left office Ireland was in a state of happiness, peace, and prosperity, but the Government had had to alter all that because it was necessary to do something for the those who sat below the gangway.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT (Down, N.)
said the Government, according to the results of recent elections, were rapidly losing their supporters in the country, and from the appearance of that Chamber at that moment, they were rapidly losing their supporters in the House, as there was not one single Member behind them to show their confidence in them in this debate. He supposed Ministerialists felt much more happy in flocking in at the sound of the division bell than in listening to the debates. He did not wonder at it, because he thought that the debate which had taken place that afternoon, had been more damaging to the Government than any other incident which had taken place in the last few weeks. He observed that the hon. Member for 610 South Tyrone, sitting on the Government bench, smiled at that.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT
No, it was not out of order to smile, and it was rather pleasing to see the hon. Member smile sometimes. He could not imagine anyone who could speak in years gone by about this boycotting and crime with more force and fire than the hon. Gentleman before he left the faith which was then in him. He hoped the hon Gentleman would return to the old faith, though they did not particularly want him. The hon. Gentleman had always believed in the cult of the jumping cat, and now he saw what the country felt on the policy of the Government his flexible conscience might once more turn to the Treasury Bench under a new regime where he might have all the advantages he had enjoyed in the years that were passed. It was significant that the Nationalist Members should abstain from taking part in that debate. If they had deliberately done so, those who knew the ways of the House realised that it meant that there had been a deal between them and the Government. It meant that the Government had surrendered on the University question, and in consequence the Nationalist Members meant to abstain from giving them any inconvenience. The Leader of the Nationalist Party had not descended from his olympian heights to take part in the debate, but he spoke the other night and gave them his views on crime in Ireland. The hon. and learned Gentleman had many gifts as a leader and an orator, but he had not until then supposed him capable of a latent gift of humour, which was shown by the fact that he innocently and gravely in the face of innocent Members who did not know the state of Ireland assured them that there was no crime in Ireland. It might be a grim form of humour, but it was a form of humour. There was a time when the Chief Secretary for Ireland also chose to regard those crimes from a humorous point of view. He indulged in a wit which 611 was very pretty in its proper place, but his levity had shocked even one of the Nationalist Members. This particular Member, quoting the Chief Secretary's remark that cattle-driving was a practical joke for young boys, replied that they were now about to show the Chief Secretary that it was not a joke. And they had shown it with a vengeance. The startling fact had come to his knowledge that afternoon that more revolvers had been sold during the last six months in Ireland than during the ten years previous. No doubt the fact would bear fruit, and when it did, it would have a powerful effect on that public opinion to which the Chief Secretary attached so much importance. But the Chief Secretary that afternoon, instead of the light levity with which he used to address them, seemed to him to speak with great bitterness and venom. He imagined that the Chief Secretary now knew his Ireland better than when he went there, and was beginning to realise that he was engaged in a dangerous game, that he was playing with fire, and that crime in Ireland was not a mere phantom conjured up by the Unionist Members, but a real conspiracy of crime engineered by all the worst elements of Irish life. After the answers the right hon. Gentleman had given that afternoon about the enormous increase of crime during his régime, he thought they should hear no more of those gibes and sneers at the Unionist Members who brought the matter to his attention for the first time last session, and warned him. He now realised that the present condition of things about cattle-driving rivalled the old boycotting days which used to be so thrillingly and glowingly described by the hon. Member for South Tyrone. If hon. Members believed that the state of crime was imagination on the part of the Unionist Members, he would refer them to the description of a most daring outrage perpetrated on a Sunday morning, given in a most respectable journal, the Freeman's Journal. He was sure that that fact would convince hon. Members opposite of its genuineness. He alluded to the shooting of Mr. Blake White, who had four shots fired at him while in chapel, where he had gone to Mass, one shot entering his hip and another his head—the latter it was 612 feared would prove fatal, but he was happy to say it had not. The reason of the outrage was that Mr. Blake White refused to give up a grass farm. No arrests were made. The right hon. Gentleman had said that cattle-driving did not terrify him, but that the state of the stocks did. The right hon. Gentleman would be speedily relieved from his terror at the state of the stocks if he would realise that the maintenance of law in a strong and firm way would result in the stocks rising. The present state of the stocks was caused by deliberate mal-administration, by deliberate encouragement of crime, which would be greatly aggravated by the speech delivered that afternoon by the Chief Secretary.
§ MR. FETHERSTONHAUGH (Fermanagh, N.)
said that with that portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary which was addressed to the importance, to Ireland, of the maintenance of peace and the settlement of the land question in Ireland being dependent upon land purchase, he most thoroughly agreed. He had always thought the settlement of the land question was the only possible course to ensure peace and prosperity in Ireland. He had never hesitated to say so. The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, however, seemed to be in too much of a hurry and proceeded in the course of his speech to imply a certain amount of blame to the Unionist Party because the Laud Purchase Act did not get on any faster. The right hon. Gentleman clamoured in one part of his speech for the transference of untenanted land to small occupiers by compulsion, but in another he admitted that it was only a question of price, and that the landowners of the South and West were willing, anxious, and eager to sell. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman had given due consideration to the fact that the landowners of Ireland were agreed that it was only a question of price and that, though they were most willing to sell, the difficulty was not to find an eager vendor or a willing purchaser but to find the money with which to pay. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had told the House that only £19,000,000 of purchase 613 money had been distributed up to the present, but at the same time he admitted that the sales at present pending before the Estates Commissioners amounted to £34,000,000 in addition. It was surely then unjust to blame any person in Ireland for unwillingness to sell, or to suggest that land purchase in Ireland had been in any way retarded or unduly delayed. It was difficult to see how land purchase in any country where the land to be purchased was estimated to cost £150,000,000 could be accomplished in so short a time as five years. The success of the Act had been very great, but it really would be impossible to imagine that the rest of the land question of Ireland could be settled in less than another period of five years, and he regretted to say he believed a much longer period. But why were they to remain in a state of anarchy and disorder during the length of time which was sure to elapse before the land purchase of Ireland could become complete? That there was plenty of untenanted land in Ireland ready for sale everybody knew. The only questions were where was the money with which to buy it and whether the man who sold it would get approximately the same interest for his money as he derived from his land. There never had been any unwillingness to sell tenanted land, and the same remark applied to that. The remarks made by the Chief Secretary were very interesting and he had listened to them with the deepest attention, but the right hon. Gentleman had seemed to speak to the House on a subject which, though they all took a deep interest in it, was not the subject matter of the Amendment. It was only in the latter and lesser portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech that he dealt with the subject matter of the Amendment, which was the maintenance of law and order in Ireland. It was not necessary to discuss the apparent diversity of opinion between the Chief Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, expressed in a recent speech, as to the cause of the difficulty of maintaining law and order in Ireland; because whether it was the difficulty of getting a jury to convict 614 or the difficulty of getting evidence on which to prosecute it came to the same thing—namely, that it arose not fro a sympathy of the jury, or those who might give evidence, towards the offenders, but from the fact that both jurors and witnesses knew that if witnesses gave evidence, and the jury gave a verdict, according to their oath, the consequences to themselves would be very serious. He had had considerable experience with juries in many counties of Ireland, and he knew the way in which they looked at this matter. On the whole, juries in Ireland were perhaps more favourable to prisoners than in England, but at the same time he had seldom seen any reluctance on the part of a jury, where a case was clearly proved, to find a verdict on the evidence. Right down to 1906 he could not recall a case of which he had any personal knowledge in which the jury found a verdict that could be said to be not in accordance with their oath. As late as the year 1905, thirty-seven persons in Galway were convicted at one Assizes of intimidation in respect to grazing farms. That was practically the same offence, and with the same motive as cattle-driving, but carried out in a different form. Large bands of men marched either by day or by night up to the houses of farmers and threatened them and pressed them to give up their farms. A number of those men were tried and convicted by juries, and he believed they would be convicted now if the jurors were sure of the fact that the law would be upheld and that they themselves would not be subjected to outrage in consequence of their verdict. The juries were composed, generally speaking, of law-abiding men who had no sympathy with crime and who only wanted to be allowed to go about their business quietly, and who knew they would not be allowed to do so unless crime and outrage were suppressed. But once intimidation became rampant in the country, once young men of the villages—mostly young men of bad reputation—got on the ramp, and thought they could do what they liked, then farewell to the independence of juries in Ireland. The jurors might be good and decent men 615 and anxious to do their duty, but in many cases which came under his observation they were also thoroughly frightened as well as decent men. He had many times been interested to hear Crown counsel exhorting juries to do their duty and find a verdict according to evidence. But counsel after the case was over went away to his lodgings with a police orderly behind him and left the town next day. The Judge, having sentenced the prisoners, left with an escort of cavalry, and also left the town next day. But where did the jury go? They went back to their shops in the small towns or to, their farms on the lonely hill-side; those houses which they knew would be fired into at night if their verdict displeased the local agitators. They knew that their cattle would be mutilated, their walls broken down, and themselves perhaps assassinated. He was himself a great admirer of trial by jury, which in many cases was infinitely more just than trial by Judge, but there were circumstances under which trial by jury not only became a farce, but a cruel farce; not only cruel to the victims of unpunished crime and outrage, but to the persons put into the jury-box—persons living in the lonely country side and asked at great risk to do their duty, and then not protected for doing it. It was no doubt a great pity, but once a country was allowed to get into such a state as that, where was the sense of asking men to do their duty and find a verdict, especially when it was known that if they did they would be boycotted, or worse? Were these men, very often small tradesmen, going to stand that? Were they going to see themselves ruined and their wives and children sent to the workhouse, the League newspapers publishing their names in the list of the boycotted day by day? Acquittals acted as a danger signal sometimes, when the Executive was going too strongly against the conscience of the people, but that was not the state of things in Ireland to-day. Jurors had no liking for the cattle-driving or outrages. Juries did not find verdicts now, because they were too frightened to find them. If the Executive enabled the jurymen to feel that their lives, their property, and their houses were safe, they would do their duty as ordinary citizens as well as ever 616 they did. The Chief Secretary thought it was a terrible thing to have to enforce the Crimes Act. Though he was a great believer in trial by jury and would like to see it prevail, what did the talk of coercion all come to? It came to this, that there was a general Act which provided for justice being done when trial by jury broke down. What did the police magistrates in London do to-day? Did they not try cases involving imprisonment and long imprisonment without a jury. He read every day of men being sent to gaol for six months and six months on top of that, cumulative sentences, and all this done without a jury, and the conscience of the people was not offended. The Crimes Act of 1887 provided in effect that where in certain cases, only, trial by jury broke down, the resident magistrates might try a man and send him to gaol for six months. If it was not wrong for a Justice of the Peace in England to send a man to gaol for six months without a trial by jury, why should it be wrong for the resident magistrates in Ireland to do so? An ordinary magistrate in England or Ireland could send a man to gaol for six months for a number of offences, and the resident magistrates, it should be remembered, were obtained from an enormous field of selection, which enabled the Chief Secretary to get the very best men in the British Empire if one might judge from his amusing account of the methods of choice, and men far above the ordinary J.P. in legal knowledge. If he could not use the powers he has under the Act of 1887, it was of no use prosecuting men if there was going to be coerced disagreement among the jury, and the existing process was merely effective for getting disagreement at best. It was rather demoralising that jury after jury should be exhorted to do justice in a case, and that a man should be tried perhaps two or three times over with the absolute certainty that the very best result they could get would be disagreement. The Chief Secretary had made a very resolute statement that he would not use the Act of 1887. That rested with the right hon. Gentleman: but he would be glad to hear as regards. 617 the ten years which must elapse before anything like a complete settlement of the land question could be effected, whether the right hon. Gentleman proposed to go on with the present system of trying men before juries who, he knew, dared not convict, where only the boldest dared to hold out and not agree to a verdict of acquittal. Sooner or later some other means would have to be tried, for the longer disorder went on the worse it would be. Personally, he had some experience in districts in which there had been disorder. It always began in a small way. To take one district as an example. First of all, some men were prosecuted for an unlawful assembly, and they were bound over to keep the peace. They would not give security, and were sent to gaol for three months in default of bail under the Act of Edward III. The Chief Secretary let them out in three weeks, or a very short time afterwards. The same men were prosecuted for cattle-driving, and in the evidence given on their abortive trial it was sworn that they shouted: "Come on, boys; we have the Government at our backs; King Edward III. is dead, and three months only means three weeks." With this beginning the whole district was in a most lawless state now. These men were cattle-driving, not because they were farmers who wanted land and thought it an expedient way of getting it. They were not farmers at all; they were the loafers of a country town. Some more effective way of dealing with such men must be found than that of bringing them before a jury who would be carefully intimidated before they got into the jury-box; and, if a more effective way was not found he shuddered at what would be the condition of Ireland during the years which it would take to work out the land question, a settlement of which all in Ireland most anxiously wished to see arrived at as soon as possible.
§ MR. GORDON (Londonderry, S.)
said that Irish Unionist Members came to the House of Commons to put before it what at all events they felt to be a great grievance. It was not very encouraging to find that the Chief Secretary, who showed very little courage when dealing with matters 618 in Ireland, once he got into Parliament could rely not merely on the three big battalions, the Radical, Labour, and Nationalist Parties, but could also rely on their support whether they had heard one word of the discussion or not. He did not think that it spoke very well for the representatives of England and Scotland, or for the Nationalist representatives from Ireland, that they should be content simply to come in to vote and take no intelligent interest in I what was going on, or in hearing what was to be said on the question. It was not a trifling matter. The Unionist representatives had come to that House to ask that Parliament should express its opinion in favour of the observance of law and order in Ireland. It was no light matter that the Chief Secretary, who was the official responsible for the preservation of law and order in that country, should stand up in that House and make such a speech as they had listened to that afternoon—a speech of the most extraordinary character that, he thought, had ever been delivered in that House. What did the right hon. Gentleman do? He began by giving them a long statement about land purchase, and by dragging that topic across the track of the subject which the House was asked to consider. The right hon. Gentleman had argued about a matter which he knew thoroughly well, or ought to know, was not of immediate concern to the subject under debate. The right hon. Gentleman knew, or ought to know, that the Unionist Members from Ireland were just as keenly anxious that this land legislation should be carried out successfully as the right hon. Gentleman or his supporters—in fact rather more so, because those who were in the House in 1903, when the Land Purchase Bill was before them, and who were supporters of the late Government, knew that they were getting very lukewarm support from the Radical Party who then occupied the Opposition Benches. The Radical Members of that time were too much inclined to take the cold economic view of the situation. Now, when it suited the right hon. Gentleman to try to throw dust in the eyes of the Irish people, and of those who had to deal with the question in that House, he began a long tirade about land purchase, 619 as to which they were, as he had said, as keenly interested as the Chief Secretary. They knew the figures just as well as he did. What was the right hon. Gentleman's idea in doing it? His first idea was to blind the Members of the House of Commons to the true question they had to deal with; and his next was to carry out the proposition which he propounded a few weeks ago at Reading, that it was some interference of the Unionists with land purchase that was the cause of the trouble in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman dared not go so far in that House, and his statement had no justification. The right hon. Gentleman had said that that was the great matter before him. He would like to know whether the preservation of the rights of property, and the freedom of action within the law of His Majesty's subjects, were not things far more important than those other matters to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred, however important those matters might be? They were all satisfied of the importance of land purchase, but the first and most important thing they must have in any civilised community was the observance of the law, the preservation of life, and the protection of property. This they demanded from the Government. The right hon. Gentleman's next mode of deal-ling with the matter, after devoting a quarter of an hour to something which had no immediate concern with it, was to offer an excuse for criminal conduct in Ireland. That was the way in which his speech would regarded by the law breakers in Ireland. Let there be no mistake about it. In the opinion of every independent and unprejudiced man that must be the true meaning of what the right hon. Gentleman had said. He went on to explain that they must look at the source, at the meaning, and at the character of the crime, and that if they could provide a remedy they were not to punish the criminal. What was the source? It was disappointed hope. Supposing the Socialist Party in England came to the conclusion that the poor ought to have divided among them the property of the wealthy and well-to-do. That would be the source of their crime if they put their wishes into action by taking the property of their neighbours. The right hon. Gentleman, he supposed, 620 would say they were to take that into account and not punish them because, forsooth, they had disappointed hopes; they had thought the Radical Party would pass a measure equally distributing all the capital in the country. Therefore, the man who broke into his neighbour's house and took his money was not to be punished, because the source of his: crime was to be found in disappointed hopes. Then the character of the crime was to be considered. Did anyone mean to say that individuals who fired into houses in which people lived, at people who were going about their own business, at people who were standing at their own doors—as an unfortunate schoolmaster was a few days ago—at men going to discharge I their duties at public meetings, and at people going home from places of worship, were not to be punished or kept in order because the source of their crime was a greed and hunger for land and a desire to get it at all cost? What about the firing of hayricks and houses and the burning of cattle in their stalls? A grazier down in Meath had 200 tons of hay burnt, a shed destroyed, and thirteen cattle burnt to death in their stalls. Were not these things crimes? With regard to the next class of crime—cattle-driving, he Leader of the Irish Party when he was driven to the wall and had to speak about it in England after some speeches that had been made by the Chief Secretary said—Well, it may be a sort of technical breach, of the law.It was something that nobody was to take any notice of. The members of the Government minimised it and said it was of very small account and hardly crime at all. The other day a County Court Judge had to deal with cattle-driving in West Meath, where the land was fit for nothing else but fattening cattle. Fifty-nine fat cattle had been taken out of their the pens and driven about the country, and County Court Judge had to give a very substantial sum for the damage caused to them. In plenty of places cattle had been driven off and injured and lamed. In one case a foal had its leg' practically I cut off. The tails of cattle had been cut and they had been otherwise mutilated. The authors of these crimes were not to be punished, because they came within the definition of classes of crime that the right 621 hon. Gentleman thought deserved no punishment. It was not pleasant for in Irishman to deal with these matters. They might not see eye to eye with the Nationalists in political matters, but all patties ought if they possibly could to see eye to eye in matters that pertained to the peace, honour and material prosperity of their country. The right hon. Gentleman told them that all this was brought about because the hopes of these people were disappointed, and they had not got hold of the grazing lands. As far back as April last year the right hon. Gentleman's attention was called to these cattle-driving cases, and he was kept continually informed of what was going on, and the way he met those who informed him was merely by flouts and jeers and by heaping opprobrious epithets upon them. He took no notice of the matter and allowed it to go on, and it went on. Then when he was forced to speak about it, he minimised it as much as possible, and, as he said in a speech at Southampton, it was simply that somebody opened a gate and the cattle wandered out on the roads. Was that an accurate way of stating what occurred? The right hon. Gentleman had set his heart on land legislation. He did not think he yet understood Ireland. He was very far from doing so or he would not have taken that course. In a speech on 7th November the right hon. Gentleman said—If only the Irish people will maintain a very strong desire for the land and give every possible encouragement to those who in the Imperial Parliament labour in that direction the problem will be settled.What did that mean? Those who wanted land, if they would only keep it up and give great encouragement, "I will give them what they want." What was the interpretation put upon it by the gentleman whom he allowed to go about the country preaching this doctrine which he himself seemed to have desired should culminate in legislation? The hon. Member for North-West Meath a few weeks afterwards said—Mr. Birrell has lately made a number of very long speeches not all consistent with each other. But in Dublin, addressing an audience mainly Nationalist, he applauded our strong desire for the land, asked us to give him every help and encouragement, and promised that the British people will do what we want if called upon with sufficient courage and energy. When translated into common language that 622 meant 'apply the hazel to the ranche cattle with all your might.' We have travelled far in a few months and have now reached the time when the people living near a ranche are ashamed if they have not yet had their drive. Ashamed they ought to be because their courage is in question, because no ranches will be broken up but those that are stripped and kept stripped, because men who take the risk of scattering cattle must be given the best bits of land.That was not merely the policy which the right hon. Gentleman had been advocating or had been understood to advocate, but it was the policy which he had advocated that night in the House. It was the policy which every line of that speech taught to a quick-witted people. The same gentleman went on—Knowing my advice to be just and necessary, I have openly given it and helped to put it in practice, and will continue to do both. I openly advise the universal and unceasing use of the hazel until the ranches are sold to the Commissioners for distribution, I openly advise you not to allow either bullocks or police to take rheumatism from want of exercise. If any rancher has the impudence to plead that he has agreed to take land for another year the only possible answer to such a deliberate public enemy is to drive his cattle oftener, further, and faster than any other. Follow him to fair and market and make it impossible for him to buy or sell without police assistance.That man was allowed by the right hon. Gentleman to go on in the course which he was pursuing. If he had misinterpreted him, why did not the right hon. Gentleman have him up and proceed against him as he could have done? Why should he wait and attack the poor unfortunate men who followed the advice which they believed to be given them by a Minister through a Member of that House? Why did the right hon. Gentleman wait until these men had committed offences which they were told they ought to commit, and for which they were told the reward would be that they would get the best bits of land? The right hon. Gentleman allowed him to go on, and expected that intelligent juries in any part of Ireland, with the knowledge that the Government was allowing the inciters to go about the country scathless, without any attempt either to stop them or make them amenable to justice, would convict the poor, wretched, ignorant people who acted upon such advice. It was not fair to the juries in Ireland. Was it surprising that under the circumstances 623 they failed to convict these men when the Government and executive authority would not put upon their trial the men who had actually misled them into the belief that they were doing the work of the Government, and who were allowed to go about the country stating that they had certain members of the Ministry at their back in the matter? It was really wonderful to what length Ministers would sometimes go when they found themselves in a difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that in the first case that was tried in Dublin there was a conviction, and that in all the other cases there were either disagreements or acquittals, and the cause to which he assigned this was that the Judge did not sentence the first batch. What was the fact? The Judge did at the end of the trials sentence those who had been convicted to a moderate term of imprisonment and the others were subsequently brought back again to Dublin and tri d, and again the juries either acquitted or disagreed. One would think that they were children or that they had not been living in the country and did not know what was going on. Such an argument as that in support of the idea that juries would convict if they had known the punishment which the Judge would award to those who had been convicted was too childish. This was the way in which matters had been progressing in Ireland. The right bon. Gentleman first took no notice of what was going on. It grew, and then he minimised it. Then he made speeches in which, whatever he intended, his language was capable of a meaning which for a long time he did not open his lips to correct. He had left the same impression by his speech that night. They were entitled to better treatment than that in Ireland. But there were other places in Ireland where there was a public opinion and a certain amount of freedom of action. English and Scottish Members did not know as well as they in Ireland knew the working of the United Irish League. It had its branches all over the country, but in the North there was a vast population who were perfectly law-abiding and orderly, and who would not be terrorised by the League and who therefore afforded protection to the people amongst them 624 who might in other places be under the thumb of the United Irish League. In the South and West it was different, and there the right hon. Gentleman had allowed the law of the land to be supplanted by the law of the United Irish League. He wondered if Members knew the way in which the business of these branches was carried on. They summoned before them some member of the community who had done something that they disapproved of. He was tried and sentenced. The sentence might be that he must apologise, that no person was to work for him, or that no one was to supply him with any articles of food or necessaries of life. Those sentences were carried out, and the people were often driven to give up their property. The people were coerced and forced by the terrorism which existed to obey the dictates of these unlawful tribunals. The newspapers published accounts of the proceedings of these tribunals just as if they took place in a Court of law. What under these circumstances could these poor unfortunate people do? That was the kind of thing which went on in Ireland. Were they to be told that that was a state of things which ought to be allowed to continue? Were they to be told that because these people had been disappointed and had committed crime they should not be punished? What satisfaction was that to the loyal quiet people who had committed no; crimes and who had to suffer through this terrorism? No doubt hon. Members were aware of the case of the unfortunate Brady who had to go twenty miles to get food, and whose family, when returning with food, were set upon by a mob and had the food taken from them. Brady had three farms, and he had been forced to give up two of them by the tyranny of the United Irish League, and it was very doubtful whether he would be able to keep possession of the third farm. It was idle for the right hon. Gentleman to tell them that this was a case of disappointed hopes. He had always understood that the law was made to be obeyed. If the law was bad then it should be reformed, but it should be obeyed first. The right hon. Gentleman told them about the action of juries influencing legislation. They all knew of the large number of 625 non-convictions by juries for stealing goods of small value because of the terrible punishment that would. follow, but when the punishment was changed juries did not refuse to convict of the crime of theft. But, the present argument meant that the British House of Commons was to allow violence and crime to go on unchecked because on the first two or three occasions when the Chief Secretary and the executive officers had endeavoured to have persons convicted the juries had either disagreed or acquitted the prisoners. The right hon. Gentleman was now arrogating to himself the right to put the law in force against one man and not against another just as he pleased. If a man committed a crime it was not for the Chief Secretary or the Public Prosecutor to say: "We will prosecute A but we will not prosecute B, because there is some question of political policy involved. He understood that all men were equal in the eyes of the law, and all law breakers ought to be proceeded against if they disobeyed the law. But what had the Chief Secretary done in the speech he had just made? He had set himself to apologise for crime and to excuse the criminals. They had had in the past bad times in Ireland, and most of them were old enough to remember passing through very critical periods, but they had always found an attempt at any rate on the part of the Irish Government to administer the law and uphold it. It was left for the present Chief Secretary, to have the law of the land degraded and brought into contempt, to allow it to be flouted and despised in every corner of the country where the United Irish League held sway. That was not a state of affairs upon which the right hon. Gentleman could be congratulated. The evil should have been grappled with first, and if changes were found to be necessary then they could have been made in a legitimate manner, but the law ought to be enforced. Surely the Government had no right to disregard the wishes and opinions of those who desired protection for life and property, a desire which had been evinced by a large section of the population in Ireland. The wishes and opinions of the loyal minority had as much claim to consideration as the wishes and opinions 626 of the United Irish League. In coming over to manage the affairs of Ireland the Chief Secretary seemed to, think that the only thing he had to do was to look after one Party and take all his cues from them, utterly disregarding the wishes, opinions, and statements of fact made by the other Party in Ireland. By the adoption of such a policy the right hon. Gentleman had achieved a success which was unique, for he had brought a country which he said himself only a year ago was quieter than it had been for the last 600 years to a worse condition than it had been in for the last twenty-five years. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] At the present moment terrorism existed in Ireland and the Government had allowed the arm of the law to be paralysed. The people had come to see that they could not get the protection of the law and they had to remain silent in the face of the village tyrant and the United Irish League and their oppressors. It was idle to say that even this large increase of crime in any way adequately indicated the real increase in crime and the actual state of terrorism which existed in Ireland. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not act in the way his speech seemed to indicate, and would not leave matters to take their course until he was able to bring forward a new measure to deal with the land question. There was no Member from Ireland who would not help the right hon. Gentleman in anything he could do in the way of providing means to have the Act carried out; but on the other hand to say that more land legislation was required was no excuse for the country being in the state in which it has been daring the past year.
§ MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN (Cork)
My observations to-night are not intended to weigh one way or the other in English party politics, but after listening to the speech of the Chief Secretary to-night, full of high courage and love of freedom, I fancy the most candid Members must have made up their minds that this debate will do more discredit to the Unionist Party than it will either to Ireland or the Chief Secretary. I am afraid it is doing no violent injustice to the organisers of this Amendment if I suspect that they were not so greatly concerned 627 about the distracted state of Ireland as about the distracted state of the Unionist Party, and that in casting about for something with which to reunite the Party they have fixed upon Ireland as the scapegoat of their English politics. I do not accuse the mover of the Amendment, or any other British Member, of any design to do injustice to Ireland. On the contrary, and the pathetic thing is I am sincerely convinced that, according to their lights, they are all friendly to Ireland. But the tragedy of the thing is that so long as Englishmen will persist in governing a country they do not understand, and never will understand, the moment one English Party gets on the right track, it seems to be a sort of patriotic duty of the other Party to obstruct and baffle them even when they are only carrying out their own policy. It is the high crime, apparently, of the Chief Secretary that he has dropped the Coercion Act in the governing of Ireland. But so did the Unionist Government and not merely in 1900 under Mr. Gerald Balfour, but also in 1903 under the right hon. Member for Dover and Lord Dudley. That was the secret of the most successful time the Tory Government ever had in Ireland. The right hon. Member for Dover and Lord Dudley had the courage, and I think it is to their everlasting credit, to cancel every proclamation in Ireland under the Coercion Act. They appointed Sir Antony Macdonnell for the express purpose of doing what the right hon. Gentleman is now charged with doing, namely, governing Ireland without the Coercion Act and without jury packing. Members above the Gangway ought not to forget that it is under the influence of the good feeling that was created in Ireland by the abandonment of coercion at that time that the Unionist Government undertook the revolution, which no doubt might have still great elements of anxiety as to the future, but which I make bold to say, if it is only bravely followed up by the two Parties, will yet be recognised as the greatest and most beneficial work throughout all the centuries since Englishmen undertook the task of looking after Ireland. The Chief Secretary quoted speeches by the right hon. Member for Dover. If those speeches had only been incorporated 628 in the Act of 1903 and worked out in administration, we should never have heard of cattle-driving, and there would not be a voice raised above the gangway for the resuscitation of the Coercion Act. We fought for fair play for the Unionist Chief Secretary then as we are fighting in Ireland now for fair play for the present Secretary for the reason that he is doing precisely the same work of governing Ireland without coercion, and he is striving, as the right hon. Member for Dover did, in the midst of many difficulties, to settle this tremendous problem of congestion in the West of Ireland. The mournful thing is, here is a question which ought to be recognised by Members of both sides as a question which should silence all Party interests, and upon which both Parties ought to be unanimous and magnanimous in dealing with one another and with Ireland. The Member for South Dublin said that the Government started with some tremendous advantages in Ireland and gave some gentle hints of what we pretty often hear, that after the right hon. Member for Dover had dropped coercion he revived it and accomplished some mysterious miracles in Ireland under his iron rule. It was absurd to imagine that the right hon. Gentleman did anything of the kind. What he and his law officers did was to obstruct and to whittle away some of the most useful provisions of the Act of 1903. As a matter of fact, he repressed no disorder in Ireland because there was no disorder worth speaking of, and what he did was to create the maximum of irritation and disappointment as to the working of the Purchase Act, with a minimum of anything like usefulness. The secret of the great trouble we are discussing is that the right hon. Member for South Dublin handed over to his successors a country that was seething with legitimate discontent and disappointment after the total failure of four long years to apply the remedial measures of this Act, to the very portions of the country where there was the sorest need of a large and courageous application of the Act and a prompt amendment of it wherever it was found to have broken down. When the right hon. Gentleman left the country the congested district 629 clauses had been rendered absolutely void, and after he left the country he disposed of his last chance of reliability in advancing Irish affairs. I respectfully submit that it was the Member for South Dublin who failed in Ireland, and I have no hesitation in saying it is the present Chief Secretary who has succeeded so far as it is possible for any Englishman to succeed in that utterly baffling and im-impossible office. We have heard a lot of rubbish about cattle-driving in two or three dozen parishes in the whole of Ireland. I tell you that if the Chief Secretary had followed the methods of Mr. Justice Ross and of the right hon. Member for South Dublin it is not in three or four Irish counties, but in fifteen or twenty Irish counties you would have cattle-driving, and perhaps something a little more serious. Yes, and you would have these gentlemen asking you to undertake another twenty-years of firm and resolute government to put it down, and you would fail as you failed in 1887, because now, as then, you would have every Nationalist representative of Ireland united to a man against you. We have heard an explanation, although it was a very subdued one, of the right hon. Gentleman's success in discouraging cattle-driving in Ireland. I think his speech has disposed of the theory of some mysterious corrupt bargain. I know of no bargain except the right hon. Gentleman's published speeches, manfully stating his political life and his intention of doing his honest best by Ireland. So long as he is true to that pledge, we shall do our honest best to help him. The reason why cattle-driving has so nearly disappeared that we scarcely hear of it, and that every other form of disorder has disappeared in Ireland is, to my mind, due to the fact that the Chief Secretary has, for the first time, manfully and impartially administered the ordinary law and trusted the people of Ireland and their representatives for the enforcement of law and order. There is no use in disguising the fact that in Ireland for a long period the very name of law and order was detested, and justly detested, as an instrument of injustice and wrong. For the first time in the history of the country the present Chief Secretary has taught the Irish people that there may be such a thing as 630 their own law and order which it is their own interest to enforce and obey. I think it can be truly said that he has succeeded in making the Irish people their own peacemakers to an extent which, if the framers of this resolution would only rise above paltry Party interests, would induce them to offer to the right hon. Gentleman a Party vote of thanks instead of a vote of censure. I do not, however, expect that they will. But they will find by-and-bye that they are wrong in this as they have been wrong every time when they put their own wisdom against that of the representatives of Ireland. I will not deny that there have been many instances of abominable crime, but I do say that the Ireland depicted by such rhetoric as that of the hon. Gentleman who has been addressing the House is no more the country we know and live in than one would recognise England if we read in the Press of France or Germany that the wife-beaters and burglars dealt with by the London police force were perfectly fair specimens of the British people. We have never attempted to mislead this House as to the truth with regard to Ireland. We have never pretended that there was peace in Ireland when there was no peace, and there ought to have been no peace. A time there was when it would have been a crime on our part to have cried peace; and every statute passed by this House for twenty-five years has proved that we were right, and that hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway were wrong. We do not deny that there are very serious remnants of the old trouble surviving; but why? Simply because you did not in this House in 1903 make the Land Act what the competent representatives of the landlords and tenants united to ask that it should be made. The congested districts clauses of that Act were amongst the last in a very voluminous Bill, and they were hustled through this House in a single night without adequate discussion or amendment. That was the secret of the whole breakdown. The trouble is still there, but only if the House is wise, if only the people of England are wise, these troubles may be very easily dealt with. But if the storm can be awakened again, and I do not deny that it can—[OPPOSITION cheers]—Yes, but it can never be 631 awakened except by the foolish and short-sighted spirit of Amendments like this. It is foolish and it is wicked to give such pictures nowadays of the country we live in and know as the most peaceful and least criminal on earth. We hear of your generalities, but what is the use of talking about anarchy and bloodshed as if a man's life in Ireland was not worth twenty-four hours' purchase, when, after twelve months of most cruel excitement, you cannot point, fortunately, to one single instance in which human life has been lost? Then, as to property. I have some right to say it, and I am not ashamed to maintain that the propertied class in Ireland have been treated by their fellow countrymen with a generosity which I suspect their English brother landlords must regard with envy. Even the graziers have been so richly compensated that it is very seriously doubted indeed whether they do not regard this agitation as a very mixed blessing. I would impress hon. Members for Britain to remember that this whole trouble is owing to the disappointment of the people of Ireland at the defeat of the purposes of the Act of 1903, to the baulking of the people up to the present time of reforms which both parties in the House recognise to be just and necessary—one of which is a mere question of two or three years' purchase. There is one thing that sometimes makes fee despair, and that is the incredible depths of ignorance in the English mind owing to the deplorable attitude of a certain influential section of the English Press as to the state of Ireland. I am not much of a believer in or an advocate of the policy of the "big stick" in the affairs of any nation, but if there were any real need for coercion as between England and Ireland, I think a beginning might well be made by hanging the writer of the Irish editorials in The Times newspaper, who would deserve such a fate all the more because I understand he is an Irishman, and, therefore, ought to know better. Three-fourths of the grotesque hallucinations as to the present state of Ireland are due to the ignominious fact that certain London journals hard up for copy last winter selected Ireland as a topic for abuse, and as their season able sensation. All the ingenuity which is usually devoted to the elucidation of such 632 questions as "Is marriage a failure?" was this winter turned loose upon unfortunate Ireland. The mare's nest discovered by London editors hard up for copy is the sum and substance of this whole wretched debate which has been only lighted up by one ray of intellectual brightness. Before I sit down, if party feeling is not too angry, and in spite of the party interest of the moment, I would respectfully appeal to the higher and truer spirit of men in both English Parties, who I sincerely believe to be friendly to Ireland. Though it would be quite useless to suggest on this particular occasion that instead of going into opposite lobbies, they should combine to go into one lobby and acknowledge that the Chief Secretary means to do good to Ireland—that is useless—I would ask hon. Members above the gangway, if they must see this Amendment through the division lobbies, not to forget, in view of the great questions raised in the speech of the Chief Secretary, that there are new and hopeful elements in this Irish problem which, if Englishmen on both sides of the House will only rise to the height of dealing with them in a proper spirit, may in our own lifetime yield happier results both for themselves and Ireland than were ever before produced in their dealings with Ireland. The mass of the Irish people, I say it without hesitation, are most heartily desirous for peace with their Unionist fellow countrymen, as well as with the people of England, Scotland, and Wales, with whom they never had any quarrel. They have given remarkable proofs that they mean what they say. I entreat hon. Gentlemen not to let exasperation come out on your side, nor to let this wicked, detestable spirit curse a weaker nation. The only peacemakers will not be the gaolers and the policemen in Ireland, but, in the first place, the Irish people themselves; and in the next place, the determination on the part of the present House of Commons to do justice, promptly and generously, to Ireland. What it has already been recognised ought to be done is to convince our people in Ireland that this Parliament will redeem the debt they contracted to Ireland in 1903, and which you have not redeemed to one-fifth part, and make it clear to those of our countrymen in Ireland who have not yet 633 come to realise all the good disposition there is here to Ireland—to make it clear to them that without cattle-driving or class hatred, this Parliament is prepared to pass fresh legislation promptly to amend the Act of 1903. That will have to be done sooner or later if the land of Ireland is to be turned to the best advantage for the people, whose only desire is to go back to the land and live by it. I wonder whether it ever strikes Englishmen that the head and front, of the offending of the poor people in the West of Ireland is their desire to get back to the land? That is the very virtue you credit the people of England with; you are offering premiums and subsidies in England to encourage that return to the land which in Ireland is to be hounded down as a crime. I do not make any predictions of any approaching millenium in Ireland, but complicated and difficult as the task of the Chief Secretary is, there are elements of promise present in the Irish situation, such as no English Statesman has ever had to deal with. It is because the Chief Secretary has stood to his guns like a man and, while administering the ordinary law impartially, has some confidence in trusting the people and their representatives to be their own peacemakers, that he has to an almost marvellous degree succeeded, and I for one, hold that he is entitled to the thanks and not to the censure of this House. If the present position is taken advantage of, the peace which now exists between the Government and the Irish Party, will prove to be an instrument for passing into law those great measures which every responsible statesman of both Parties must now acknowledge in his secret conscience, to be just, urgent, and inevitable.
§ MR. GUINNESS (Bury St. Edmunds)
in a maiden speech, said that in the course of this debate the House had listened to the most astounding statements as to the present state of law and order in Ireland. The hon. Member for Waterford had said, when speaking on the main question the other day, that compared with periods of political excitement in Ireland in the past, the present state of that country might be said to be absolutely crimeless; While 634 that afternoon the Chief Secretary, had told them that there had been 381 cases of cattle-driving up to the end of last year. He did not think those figures gave them a true idea of the real state of affairs, because in the last few months of the year cattle-driving had been far more rife than it had been in the first period of 1907. Might he remind the House of the figures given by Judge Curran in addressing quarter sessions at Trim only last Friday? He gave the figures of cattle-driving in County Meath alone as ninety-three in the last five months. Now if there were only 381 cases in the course of the whole year for eleven counties, surely that showed that cattle-driving had been very greatly on the increase in the closing period of the last year. He thought the explanation of the favourable comparison which was made between Irish criminal statistics and English criminal statistics by hon. Gentlemen on the Nationalist benches was that they had a very different idea of what constituted crime from English Members. The hon. Member for Waterford, speaking in South Wales a couple of months ago, said that cattle-driving was merely a technical breach of the strict letter of the law, and that no one could call an offence of that description either an outrage or a crime. It was important to remember when they heard these glowing accounts of the law-abiding state of Ireland that hon. Gentlemen on the Irish benches did not look upon cattle-driving as a crime. It was impossible to make any comparison between lawlessness in Ireland and lawlessness in England, because they could not go on the number of convictions. During the recent summer assizes, during the winter assizes in Wicklow, Cork, and Limerick) and during the Michaelmas sittings of the Court of King's Bench, Dublin, the total number of prosecutions for agrarian offences was 237, and out of that number eight convictions only were obtained. He would ask the House to look at the figures of convictions shown in the statistics of British crime. If they took the statistics for 1906, the lost that were available, they would find that of all the criminal offenders committed for trial only 17½ per cent. were acquitted, and yet in Ireland, for 635 these agrarian offences in the period he had just mentioned, no less than 96½ per cent. of prisoners were acquitted. That showed what these Irish juries were worth. They had heard from the Chief Secretary that the chief object of juries was to show what the people of the country were thinking, and he supposed the right hon. Gentleman would have had the satisfaction of learning from those figures what the people of Ireland thought of British law, and that they considered it as a matter to be held up to scorn. How could they in these circumstances compare the figures of crime in Ireland with the figures of crime in England? They all knew that by nature Irishmen were a law-abiding and moral race, and if it were not for the political agitator, there would be far less crime in Ireland than England. [Mr. W. REDMOND: "There would be far less crime but for stout."] The question here was as to agrarian crime, and surely, in judging the effect of crime on public security, they must allow less weight to the petty theft of the pickpocket, who shunned the light of day and the knowledge of the police, than to the organised action of a body of perhaps 2,000 men, who came with menaces in broad daylight, perhaps with three or four brass bands blaring and making a boast of their lawlessness. Nobody could by statistics get an idea of the state of Ireland any more than they could get an idea of the state of an unsettled country like Macedonia, by inquiring as to the number of those who had recourse to the civil tribunals under Turkish law. People did not apply to the Law Courts in Ireland, because they knew they would not get justice. They knew that it was waste of time to appeal to Irish juries, and that if they did so they were only laying themselves open to intimidation and outrage. The Executive had so long allowed breaches of law and order, they had so long permitted British law to be flaunted with impunity, that it was natural that people should no longer rely on it. It was natural, that when every plaintiff knew that far more serious punishment would be meted out to him by a conspiracy of his fellows than a weakly administered British law would visit on men who had wronged him, 636 that he should not have recourse to that law. The criminal statistics failed to show the greatest blot on the administration of justice in Ireland to-day. They did not show how an irresponsible organisation could dispose of the property and liberties of law-abiding citizens. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: "Tell us something about the Crown jewels."] The United Irish League brought illegal pressure to compel men to abstain from doing that which they had a perfect right to do, and the present system of lawlessness had under the present Government so long continued that they could not hope for any improvement, except by extraordinary measures which should absolutely crush this conspiracy of disorder. If only the Government would put into force the Crimes Act, sworn inquiries under Section I would destroy the conspiracy of silence which protected criminals from detection; and Section 2 would make it possible to bring proceedings against those illegal conspiracies which compelled men to give up their legal rights. The Chief Secretary had told them that afternoon that the source of disorder in Ireland was disappointed hopes, and the hon. Member for Water-ford stated during the debate on the Address that cattle-driving was a mere symptom of the evil which lay at the core of the land system in Ireland. Even if they granted that premise, was that any ground for their allowing this symptom to become so aggravated as to threaten the safety of the whole organism? The fact that the Government was going in for a general treatment was no reason why they should not have recourse also to a local treatment. They could only hope for a satisfactory solution by showing a firm intention to check disorder, at the same time trying to remove those causes which perhaps had originally led to its breaking out. But he did not believe that cattle-driving was an unprompted outbreak of disorder resulting from the land system in Ireland. Possibly the Irish Party might think that they could blackmail the present Government. He would not say that there was not a good deal of wisdom in their course of action, because they all knew that those who were conscious 637 of the weakness of their position were very apt to give way to that peculiar form of pressure. He thought it was even more probable that the true reason of this outbreak of lawlessness in Ireland was the desire of the Nationalist Party to crush the spirit of those who were withstanding their persecution. The hon. Member for Cork gave the true indication in the interview he accorded recently to an American journalist. The hon. Member then said that he was afraid there was a section of the Irish Party which believed that continued disorder in Ireland was a necessary lever to obtain Home Rule. The real motive of this organised persecution was to drive from the country those who would fain live under the sanction of British law, or to compel them to make peace with their enemies and enjoy the protection of organised terrorism. So long as the Government allowed this sort of thing to go on, the task of governing Ireland would be made more difficult, because it drove into the arms of that disloyal party, men who for years had stood out against their intimidation; but who eventually found it easier to take sides with the party of disorder. They found that they were losing their business; that they could not carry on their industry; that their neighbours shunned them; that they could get no protection from British law, and they were finally compelled to take sides with those who were the bitterest enemies of this country. Meanwhile, the prosperity of Ireland was suffering.
§ MR. GUINNESS
said that capital was like a sensitive barometer, and shrank as soon as political and economic conditions became threatening; and the progress of Ireland was being delayed, while the agitator was allowed to stir up disorder, which made it impossible for the industries of Ireland to obtain the capital they needed. What conceivable benefit was Ireland going to get by that separation, which was the real object of the cattle-driving campaign. The British investor had seed quite enough of mob law in Ireland under His Majesty's Government to teach him not to 638 invest in Irish undertakings, if the Nationalist Party ever got permanent control of the destinies of that country. This was not a local question only. It was a question which opened up the whole problem as to whether the confederacy of British States should develop within the British Empire or outside. They could not expect the Colonies to stick to England if Great Britain became the vulnerable country she would become if she allowed Ireland to break away, and if she allowed a hostile and angry population to command the lines of communication towards the west. The Irish loyalists believed that the Irish nation could hope for very much more from its British connection than it could if it were to become an independent nation. They believed that far greater prosperity awaited Ireland by her sticking to her British connection than by independence, and they appealed to Great Britain to check, before it was too late, that conspiracy of disorder, the aim of which was to make British rule in Ireland impossible. They realised that the difficulty was the greater owing to the party system of government in force in this country. If the legislative union between Ireland and Great Britain had been established, as was the union between England and Scotland, before the party system of government had become stereotyped, the Irish question would have been dead and buried many years ago. Parliament had made the mistake time and gain of condoning disorder and buying it off in order that it might get a short reprieve from the worries of Irish agitation. Unfortunately the success of these agitations in Ireland had engendered an unhealthy appetite which had grown by the sops upon which it had been fed, and there was a party in Ireland which believed that if it could only make the administration of the law sufficiently difficult and Unpopular, the Liberal Party would be induced to change it. The Irish loyalists appealed to Great Britain before it was too late to put a check upon the lawlessness in Ireland, to vindicate the law and prevent British rule from becoming a by-word for incompetence and weakness.
§ MR. BELLOC (Salford, S.)
said he owed a certain apology to the House for 639 intervening in the debate. He did not represent an Irish constituency, and holding the opinions on the subject which he did, he thought it was absurd for any member representing an English constituency to speak upon the question of Ireland. Those who had spoken on behalf of the very small and at present disunited minority of Ulster stood in another category and had a right to speak. But while he apologised for speaking upon the subject, he considered he had a better right to do so than at least two hon. Members who had intervened. He was bound to confess that if he had not been informed of the fact by his friends he would never have known that the hon. Member who had just sat down was an Irishman. The particular accent with which the hon. Gentleman intoned the English tongue was the very accent which he had himself acquired from long association with the governing classes of this country, but the hon. Member's way of looking at the matter betrayed, not a knowledge of Ireland, but just so much Irish blood as was contained in that small disunited minority. He, however, had this right to speak. He represented an English constituency which like many others, contained a very large Irish population—a far larger Irish population than was contained in the delightful constituency of Bury St. Edmunds. Those who sat as representatives to some extent of the Irish population of the English industrial towns in the North had that right, and only that, for intervening in that debate. Strong as his own feelings were in the matter he would not have spoken at all were it not that a considerable body of Irish opinion had sent him to the House; for it was not, in his view, for an English representative to speak upon the domestic affairs of Ireland at all. If the younger Members of the House below the gangway intervened at all, perhaps the best use they could make of their interference with a body of men so many years older and with so much more experience of affars, would be to say that in their mind the Opposition could not have raised a point more idle, more futile, and more unreal than that which they had raised that evening. When he heard the hon. Member for Cambridge University speak of the land-hunger and the rest of it, he seemed to remember 640 the days of his boyhood, when those questions were the burning ones of the drawing-rooms and he was at school. He assured hon. Members opposite that that sort of thing was as dead as ditch water, and they would never win an election upon it. He did not suppose there were 300 suburban voters of the most suburban constituencies who cared one snap of the fingers whether the Irish people were governed efficiently or not, either by the British Government or by themselves. But when it came to the mass of the English people of the great industrial towns of the North there was not one constituency in fifty in which the vast majority of the electors were not in favour of self-government for Ireland. Until hon. Gentlemen opposite understood that they were not fitted to speak on this question, and when they understood that, they would go in a block for tariff reform. It was curious how much out of touch men could get with great populations. Did hon. Members opposite really seriously think that in Manchester, Leeds, Hudders-field, or Liverpool, or in any of our great industrial towns they would move the working-men, who were thinking now of old-age pensions or whether their food should be dearer or not or whether they were to be given better conditions of employment, by talking of cattle-driving? He was astonished that men who after all attached some importance to the political game should be so much out of touch with the public opinion of the country. The old Unionist game was no longer of any interest to the English, people. They were indifferent to it. When the masses read in their newspapers the course of that debate, though they would read with great interest what was said by Irish Nationalist Members, they would not listen to any of the arguments or read a single speech of the small and disunited, minority of the Irish Unionists. If hon. Members thought otherwise they had one very simple test which they could apply. Let anyone who represented a suburban constituency compare the effect of discussing this question with the real and vital issue of the economies of the future. There was one reason—and the Conservative Party knew it—which had made all the enthusiasm and 641 interest upon their side decay, and it was financial. Until the passing of the Land Act of 1903, imperfect as they made it by bad statesmanship, the great financial interests of England, the cosmopolitan finances of the world, were to some extent connected with the whole question, but at present they were indifferent to it. There was perhaps no wiser thing said in the wise speech of the Chief Secretary which they all applauded and followed with interest, than when he said that one of the functions—he did not know whether he said it was the most important function or no—of a jury was to inform the Executive of popular feeling upon certain matters. This had seemed to certain Members a curious doctrine. He would recall to their minds the trial of Dr. Jameson by jury. If he had not been convicted, would any Government have been strong enough to order a new trial? That was what a jury meant. This pretence of filing to understand was all on a par with their presupposing that either there was no such people as the Irish people, or that if there were it was a very bad thing. Those who listened to the Chief Secretary's speech with emotions that were not those of Party and to whom the question whether this or that would go down with a particular set of voters was indifferent, felt that one note at the end of his speech was very true. It was one of those notes so seldom heard in party politics, and one which when heard had something of the tone of a bell. It was when the right hon. Gentleman said, courageously and well, that he was known to be in favour of the government of Ireland by the Irish people. With that the majority of the House was most certainly in sympathy. It was not the policy of the present Government, but that House, and the English people in a great measure, were in sympathy with it. There was no political point on which they had, if slowly, been more thoroughly converted; and if hon. Gentlemen opposite consulted their constituencies he was perfectly sure the last jaded remnants of the old Unionist cry would die. When they approached their constituents they would do so on the economic question, and on that point they would be defeated.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Surrey, Wimbledon)
The hon. Member who has just sat down has given us many instructions as to the course which it is desirable that we as a Party should pursue on this side of the House. I notice that he at all events believes the great majority of the Party on his side of the House have reverted to their original love for Home Rule. I remember the time after the last general election but one when a vast number of Members on that side of the House, or others who represented them, entirely changed then opinions on that point. Many of them found salvation for the most part by announcing that whatever else happened nothing would induce them to look at, much less consider, Home Rule during the present Parliament. I suppose that in the years that have elapsed since then the hon. Member and his friends have found some encouragement which leads them to a change of opinion. I do not quite know where they find it. The hon. Member says he finds it in the North of England, where, he tells us, there is not a considerable constitueucy which is not heart and soul in favour of Home Rule.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
That is a distinction without, a difference But why does the hon. Member limit his observation to the North of England? He has had ample opportunities, of late, and, unless I am very ill in formed, he will have further opportunities very soon of ascertaining the opinions of voters in, other parts of the Country. I heard. of an election the other day in Mid Devon. That has been followed by another, and the present Member for the Constituency (South Hereford) will, I hope, take his seat in this House very shortly. These elections do not give any encouragement to the belief that the constituencies of this country have come round are converted and are prepared to support, Home Rule. They lead me to believe exactly the opposite, that Home Rule will be found as unpopular as even when you go to the country at the next election whenever you date do so, and I think you will postpone that event as long as 643 you possibly can. It leads me to believe that Home Rule will be as unpopular as tariff reform will be popular—by which I confidently believe as well as hope that the Liberal Party will be swept out of existence at the next election. It appears to me that this debate to-night has been of a rather peculiar character, and I propose, as far as I can legitimately do so, to confine myself strictly to the Amendment. That Amendment condemns the Government for allowing disorder, open, daring defiance of the law practically, from day to day in large districts in Ireland, to continue without any real, determined effort to put a stop to it. When I speak of a real and determined effort to put a stop to it, I mean that the Government cannot be said to have taken that course when they have either neglected or declined to use the means which are ready to their hands and which have been proved over and over again by experience to be the only real and effective means of dealing with lawlessness and disorder in that country. The debate has largely turned on remedial legislation. I shall be glad and ready to have something to say upon that whenever the right and proper time comes. The hon. Member below the Gangway said the real truth of the situation was that my right hon. friend the Member for South Dublin had failed, whereas the present Chief Secretary had admirably succeeded. Now, what is the test of success? What is the test we can apply to the success or failure of these two different Ministers? What was the condition of Ireland when the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary succeeded to his office? He has stated it most emphatically, and I cannot do better than quote to the House his own words. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking at Halifax on 27th April, 1907—I have taken this report from the Freeman's Journal, and therefore it is quite certain to be correct—said this—You take my word for this, that Ireland is at this moment in a more peaceful condition than for the last 600 years.In saying this he pays the highest possible compliment to the success of my right hon. friend who is held by the hon. Member for Cork to have failed where the right hon. Gentleman has 644 succeeded. But he went further. He said—I have not got a predecessor in office living, and there are many of them, I am pleased to say, who would not recognise that my lines so far have fallen in far pleasanter places than theirs.Therefore the fact is that the right hon. Gentleman succeeded to his position in Ireland under more favourable circumstances than any Chief Secretary either I or he or probably any Member of this House can recollect. I am sorry to say anything that may sound disagreeable, but what is the condition of Ireland to-day? I have told the House what the condition was when the right hon. Gentleman succeeded to his present office. I believe he has held it rather less than a year. He has told us this afternoon that there are many causes of disquietude and it is to him a subject of constant, and most grave anxiety. I can well understand it. I have read all the recent reports coming from Ireland day after day and ever since I came into Parliament, which was when Mr. Gladstone was first beginning his great Irish policy. I have watched with care and anxiety everything happening in the country, and I can well understand and I believe it to be perfectly true with not one iota of exaggeration, that since the right hon. Gentleman succeeded to his office, since the adoption of the policy he has pursued in Ireland with regard to the maintenance of law and order, the condition has totally changed, and that even he finds it at the present moment to be a subject to him of the gravest and constant anxiety. And he has evidently found serious difficulties in this condition of affairs for himself. He dealt with the question of congestion in Ireland to-night, which weighs, as he told us, most heavily upon him. I can understand it, and what is more I sympathise with him thoroughly and truly upon this point, because I recognise what everybody who has ever studied the question of Ireland and given thought and attention to it has known for the last forty years and even long before then; that which lies at the real root of all the difficulties in Ireland at the present time and always has done ever since I can remember is the intense land 645 hunger in that country. I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, knowing and feeling this as he does, should take Mr. Gladstone and the great measures which he proposed and carried, and the great policy which he pursued—I am surprised that, knowing what he does of the subject himself, he should take Mr. Gladstone as his example and propose to follow again the same kind of policy that he did, because I remember that from 1870 downwards one after another they have all of them ended in the greatest and perhaps the most ignominious failure, as the results of great legislation, ever propounded by any statesman. [" No."] My hon. friend (Mr. T. W. Russell), who worked with me in perfect accord for many years, says "No." Let me take the Act of 1870 to begin with. Why, I remember that Act's being introduced. I remember as well as if it were yesterday the ringing tones with which that great Minister told the House of Commons that by his great scheme of Land Reform which at that time was entirely new, he desired "to close and seal up for ever if it might be "this great question so vitally affecting the welfare of Ireland. No doubt, when he said it he believed it as truly and conscientiously as I have not a doubt the right hon. Gentleman will believe in the efficacy of the measure he tells us he is going to propose very shortly for the same purpose and probably in the same direction. What happened with regard to the Act of 1870? Within less than twelve years after it had become law that Act was found to be so totally inefficient that Mr. Gladstone himself recommended a Royal Commission to reconsider the whole question of the condition of Ireland and what was its recommendation? That this Act should be ignominiously repealed, and repealed, if I remember right, I think it was; and its place was taken by another Act, the Act of 1881, in which I may observe in passing that the Minister who has been taken as 646 an example embodied all the great principles or the chief of them, and notably above all others the valuation of rents, the Very thing which he had opposed tooth and nail in 1870, and which he had absolutely demolished and destroyed by columns of argument which were unanswered and unanswerable then and have never been answered by anyone, even by himself, from that day to the present time. Then there was something else after that. That Act of course led to the creation of dual ownership, and in that respect it was as great a failure as the Act of 1870, because from that day to the present it has been the object of all parties in this House to get rid of dual ownership created by the great measure of 1881 and by the Land Purchase Bills which have been submitted to Parliament from time to time, and some of which have been carried. But why did all these great measures fail? They failed no doubt partly because of their own demerits, partly no doubt because they were not well adapted to the situation, but above all they failed because one and all of them were neither more nor less than concessions to violence and lawlessness and to disorder in Ireland; and every time a measure was wrung from the Radical Government or Governments of those days by lawlessness and disorder a lesson was taught them that they could always read. And what was that terror? Why, that almost anything they desired they might obtain from the weak Radical Governments, afraid of losing their support, at any time they pleased to be sufficiently disorderly and lawless in Ireland for the accomplishment of their purpose. I am not—I hope I never shall be—forgetful of the conditions of Ireland, the position in which many of the population are placed, and as far as I am concerned I would always be ready and glad and willing most fairly and impartially to consider any proposals that are or can be made for the real amelioration of the conditions 647 of that country that are consistent with justice and with fairness to others. What must always be borne in mind in connection with this question is the root cause of all these troubles. That, as I have already said, is the land hunger of that country. Yes, but what produces that land hunger? One hears this spoken of as if the owners of the land, the landlords of Ireland, were the people who were to blame or who were responsible for this. It is absolutely nothing of the kind. Those who will take the trouble to read the history of Ireland and carefully study all the causes of its present condition must be perfectly well aware that it is owing to totally different causes, and the real truth is that the fact of there being this great land hunger in Ireland arises entirely from the population of that country, perhaps 200 years ago or more, having been driven back entirely to the land for the means of their existence and support because of the bitterly selfish, commercial, criminal policy of England in former days. [An, HON. MEMBER: "Protection."] Yes, protection; but for whom? Protection for the class whom I see so often largely represented on the Benches of that side of the House, namely, the representatives of the great manufacturers of this country. But the Irish landlords had nothing to do with this. They were not to blame. And now how do you propose to make reparation for the evil done in those days? Not at the cost of those who were responsible for it, but of one class and one portion of the community in Ireland and that class alone. That is the position at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman tells us he is going to do nothing whatever unjust to the land lords. He says that after all they are ready and anxious and willing to sell their estates. It is only a matter of price. Yes, but how is the price to be settled? It is not a question of bargain. It is not what they are willing to take, because the one thing you insist upon above all others, so I understand from the legislation that 648 has been. threatened, is compulsion, and. everybody knows that if land is to be taken by compulsion under the provisions usually enacted by Radical Governments with regard to Ireland the landlord will be obliged to take the price he can get, not the price that his land may be worth—the price fixed by valuers all over the country, who would probably lose their employment altogether if the price was not satisfactory to the purchasers. While of course I believe everything that the right hon. Gentleman tells me, I certainly shall have some suspicions on this particular question until I see the provisions of the Bill which he is going to lay before the House. With regard to what I was saying just now about Ireland, it was not always so. In former days, many years ago, unless history is absolutely in the wrong, there was no country more prosperous or more flourishing than Ireland was at that time. I spent at one time of my life, before the commencement of Mr. Gladstone's Irish policy, many months in the country, going to every part of it, and I think I made myself as fairly acquainted as any outsider could expect to be acquainted with the general condition of that country. You could see then, in any number, the ruins of old mills driven by the exceptional water power in Ireland, all destroyed in the most barefaced manner as regards the woollen and other trades, all the trades in fact except the linen trade, and destroyed, as I say, by the selfish commercial policy of this country. Therefore, whatever remedies you may propose for the conditions of Ireland, if you desire to act fairly the burden of these remedies ought not to fall alone on the shoulders of the owners of the land in that country, but on those also who were directly responsible for it.
And, it being Eleven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
Debate to be resumed to-morrow.
§ Adjourned at Eleven o'clock.