§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
My Lords, it is with feelings of the deepest regret—I may almost say of humiliation—that I rise to ask your Lordships to give a second reading to this Bill. No Member of a Liberal Government—I think I may venture to add no Member of any Government—could recommend such a 789 measure to your Lordships without feelings of repugnance; and anyone connected with Ireland must of course do so with still deeper feelings of mortification and disappointment. Notwithstanding, however, the ungratefulness of the task—notwithstanding how opposed it may be to those principles by which we desire to regulate the administration of affairs in Ireland—it is my duty to tell your Lordships that it is in the firm and unwavering conviction of the necessities of the case that Her Majesty's Government have come to Parliament for the purpose of asking it to grant them those larger powers provided under this Bill, without which they have convinced themselves that without them the Executive in Ireland cannot be expected to remain responsible for the maintenance of peace and order and the preservation of life and property in that country. But however deep may be their own convictions on that point, it would not, I think, be light for me to call on your Lordships to accede to their request unless I were prepared to show, in the clearest and most distinct manner, the exigencies of the situation, and to satisfy your Lordships that nothing short of the powers that are asked for will be sufficient to enable Her Majesty's Government to check that outbreak of crime and outrage that has of late attracted so much attention. It is not my intention, in the discharge of this ungrateful task, to harass the feelings of the House by any minute description of the murders and other agrarian crimes with which the newspapers have for some time past teemed. In the first place, I believe, many of those accounts have been exaggerated; and, in the next, I am certain that any sensational description of such occurrences would not be likely to affect the calm and deliberate opinion of your Lordships. Nor do I propose to enter into any comparison of the present aspect of crime in Ireland with that which it may have presented at former periods in the history of that unhappy country. Such comparisons, as far as they may enable us to detect and remove the causes and conditions which have produced or stimulated these periodical outbursts, should not, indeed, be neglected; but it is scarcely the province of those whose duty it is to repress and check this state of things to occupy the attention of the House with what, after all, must be conjectural and theoretical disquisitions 790 upon that part of the subject. My duty, I apprehend, will be best discharged by simply bringing before your Lordships' notice such facts as will be sufficient to satisfy you that there prevails unhappily in parts of Ireland—to use the calmest and most moderate language—a condition of affairs which no civilized Government could be expected to tolerate—which is quite incompatible with the maintenance of social order—which surrounds with an atmosphere of terror the daily transactions of life—and which, unless soon checked, would eventually tend to demoralize and degrade the moral sense and conscience of the community.
My Lords, the state of things which I have thus imperfectly described seems to be produced by a three-fold agency—in the first place, by what I may call a semi-organized system of assassination; in the next place, by a wide-spread and increasing network of intimidation; and, lastly, by the continual and daily outburst of an anonymous literature, which, by the violence, and I might almost say, the atrocity of its language and its suggestions has identified itself only too unmistakably with the criminal proceedings to which I have referred. Such being the condition of things, in consideration of which Her Majesty's Government have come to Parliament for larger powers, my best course will be to put your Lordships in possession of a complete summary which I have extracted from Returns which have been placed on the Table, emanating from the police of Ireland, as the readiest means of convincing your Lordships of the perfect accuracy of the picture I have presented to you. Your Lordships will find from those Returns that during the course of a single year, irrespective of crimes of other descriptions which may co-exist, there have been 8 cases of agrarian murder, or if we include, which it may be proper to do, in this category the murder of Mr. Anketell, the number would be 9. There have been 16 cases of firing at the person; and, of course, those who thus contemplate the destruction of their fellow-creatures are not less guilty than if they had succeeded in their designs. There have been 6 cases of firing into dwellings, which is also a very grave offence, and on some occasions have been attended by the death of the individual at whom the shot was aimed. There have been 26 cases of aggravated 791 assault, and 171 cases of administering unlawful oaths. These oaths, it should be recollected, are usually administered under penalty of instant death to those who refuse to take them; and your Lordships will well understand that this species of crime is productive of great terror to the inhabitants. There have, in addition, been 480 cases of threatening letters. In the majority of these, it may very well be hoped that the writers have had no immediate intention of putting their threats into execution; but when it is very well known that only too often these threats are extremely practical in their character, and are frequently followed by serious results, the recipients of such communications naturally regard them with alarm. There have been also 6 attacks upon houses. These figures amount to a total of 713 agrarian offences in a single year. But the Government have been furnished with Returns which come down to the end of last month; and to the numbers I have already enumerated, 391 additional offences have to be added for January, and 303 for February, varying in their nature in the same manner as in the preceding period. In these last Returns, there appears a feature to which I think it advisable to direct your Lordships' attention, inasmuch as it implies not only a very disturbed state of the country, but also discloses a new and very dangerous form of intimidation and outrage. In January there were 124 cases of levying contributions—and I presume that these do not partake of the character of highway robbery or ordinary depredations of that nature, but have a special agrarian character. Last month there were 32 cases of that description. If, therefore, we take the short period of 14 months, we find there have been 10 cases of murder, 18 of firing at the person, 16 of firing into dwellings, 34 of aggravated assault, 397 of administering unlawful oaths, 694 of sending threatening letters, 43 of other modes of intimidation, and 157 of levying contributions—making a total of 1,369. Now, though I do not intend to direct your Lordships' attention very specifically to many of these cases, I think it is incumbent upon me, however painful it may be, to call your attention to one or two which illustrate the nature of the crimes that are committed, and the kind 792 of effect which they are likely to have on public opinion, and on the sense of security in the community. Here is a case which will give a fair notion of the terrible burden of intimidation under which some parts of Ireland are labouring—Thomas Reilly, police pensioner and farmer, was returning home on a dray at 9.30 p.m., when two men came from behind a ditch, attacked him as he sat on the dray, and beat him on the head with a bar of iron or some heavy bludgeon; his skull was fractured in two places. Thomas Reilly, the owner of the car, made no attempt to save him, but went to a house, reported the case, and then proceeded to the police barracks, and informed the party there. He and four others were arrested, but discharged, as no evidence could be procured against them, owing to the terrorism, that existed; it was with the greatest difficulty anyone could be induced to give any information whatever upon the matter.Then we have the case of James Hunter, an extensive farmer, who was shot dead a short distance from his house. Nine men were arrested, but discharged for want of evidence. The Return states that the exertions and efforts of the police were counteracted and defeated by the sympathy of the lower orders with the assassin. As I happened shortly afterwards myself to be in the locality, I was, in some degree, enabled to judge of the difficulties with which they had to contend. There is also the case of John Walsh, who was shot when returning from market at Tuam. Three men were with him on the car. Two of them, who were his relatives, got off and walked home—yet no evidence could be obtained. Then, again, on the 20th of October, William O'Brien, farmer and land agent, was murdered when returning home from Mohill, the supposed motive for the crime being that he had been for some time on bad terms with the tenants of his cousin, whose land agent he was, on account of having proceeded against some of them for the non-payment of rent. I should weary your Lordships were I to continue to quote cases of a similar nature; and it is the more unnecessary that I should do so as your Lordships are in possession of these Returns, in which the distinct occasion and circumstances attending each particular crime are given. Although, however, I may pass from the subject of the prevalence of agrarian and homicidal crimes, I think it is necessary that I should offer an illustration of my meaning in saying that a portion of the Press 793 in Ireland unfortunately have from time to time used language which move or less tended to bring about criminal proceedings. Two extracts will, I think, be quite sufficient to illustrate the truth of this part of my statement. In an edition of the paper called The Irishman, of the 19th of June, 1869, the following passage will be found:—We had thought that the execution of ejecting landlords and agents was not only one of the ways, but the only possible way, for staying this intolerable oppression. We had thought—and have long ago written and printed the sentiment—that, as there is no law in Ireland for peasants, but all the laws are against them, they must take the law into their own hands or die; and further, that the people of Tipperary (Dr. Leahy's flock) had not slain half enough of the exterminating landlords and their agents.Now, it is quite true, and of course it is right that I should mention the fact, that this passage was quoted from an American paper; but, has as been very properly laid down by an Irish Judge, it does not matter whether a paragraph is original or is extracted, the effect on the population is the same, and the proprietors and publishers of the paper in which it is found must of course be held responsible for any consequences which may follow. The next extract is one from the same paper, which appeared on the 23rd of October, 1869—ON HANGING BAD LANDLORDS.Some philanthropist has said that the worst use to which you can put a man is to hang him. Suppose we concede the point so far as a 'man' is concerned, would it hold true for a wild beast—even though in human form? Certainly not. The worst thing you can do with him is to let him alone. By letting him alone you make no use of him; by hanging him you at least make some use of him. This is the way to which a Kilkenny 'Voice' would put bad landlords.The article goes on in the same strain; but I have merely referred to it for the purpose of justifying myself in the language I have been forced to use, and I am unwilling to disgust your Lordships by any further quotations from it.
Such is a very brief, but, as I trust it will be deemed, sufficient exposition of the condition of affairs in Ireland with regard to agrarian and other crimes; and the question your Lordships have to ask yourselves is simply this—whether or no you are prepared to allow innocent men and women—for I am sorry to say even women have occasionally been the objects of these outrages—to be destroyed, as is often the case, in open day, sometimes even in the presence of 794 numerous spectators, and occasionally under circumstances of exceptional cruelty? It is quite true that in the discharge of their duty brave men will always be ready to face death; but the fear of assassination shakes the strongest nerves and poisons the peace of the most innocent beings; yet for some time past in Ireland hundreds of men who have never inflicted an injury on any human creature have every morning gone to the daily routine of their duties with the secret consciousness lurking in their minds that perhaps they may never again see wife, or child, or home. Already in eight cases these unhappy presentiments have been only too cruelly realized; and in as many as 16 this was only prevented by the merciful interposition of Providence;—while on the minds of upwards of 600 or 700 persons such forebodings have been impressed with an exceptional intensity by various forms of intimidation to which they have been subjected.
These, my Lords, are the conditions, and this is the nature, of the crimes with which we have to deal, and it is now my duty to describe the mode in which the present Bill attempts to provide for their repression. It will not, I apprehend, be necessary to go into great detail; but your Lordships will think I have sufficiently done my duty if I glance rapidly over its principal provisions. The Bill is divided into three Parts. The first Part is confined to the amendment of the Peace Preservation Act, and deals principally with the subject of arms, and the sale of gunpowder. Persons having game licences must henceforth also obtain licences to carry arms, and a special licence will always be required for revolvers. The punishment for a breach of this part of the Bill, at present confined to one year's imprisonment without hard labour, is now changed to two years, with hard labour. Power is also taken to institute searches at night for arms in the houses of persons suspected of concealing them. The sale of arms and gunpowder is forbidden in proclaimed districts to any but licenced dealers or to persons licenced to have arms, and persons selling gunpowder must also take out a licence, and must furnish the chief police-officer of the district with monthly returns of their stock and sales, and the names of the persons to whom they have sold it. There is likewise an important 795 provision enabling a magistrate, even though no person may be charged before him, to summon witnesses who may be unwilling to appear, and who if they refuse to give evidence will be subject to such a punishment as the interests of justice may require. That is an important provision of the Bill, for your Lord-ships are aware that a great deal of difficulty exists in obtaining evidence, and frequently there have been cases where, to the absolute knowledge of the police, certain persons have been present at an outrage, or have an actual knowledge of the circumstances of an offence, who, nevertheless, when summoned to give evidence, have persistently denied that fact. Another clause provides for the arrest and examination before a justice of the peace of any stranger sojourning or wandering about in a proclaimed district. There is also power of search for threatening letters. The second Part of the Bill relates to Special Proclamations, and is directed against those more lawless proceedings which consist in visiting houses at night for the purpose of carrying away arms by force and marching in military array. It empowers any magistrate, in a district specially proclaimed, to arrest persons out at night under suspicious circumstances. It enables the Lord Lieutenant to order public-houses to be closed at sunset or any subsequent hour. It also gives power to justices at petty sessions, in conjunction with the stipendiary magistrate, to deal summarily with persons charged with drilling, menacing, and any offences known as Whiteboy offences. There is likewise an important provision by which the venue may be changed, by order of the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland, without proof of special circumstances, at the instance of the Attorney General.
The third Part of the Bill is one of considerable importance, and one to which your Lordships will probably be disposed to pay exceptional attention. It is in that part of the measure that the Press is dealt with. The Lord Lieutenant, after due warning, will have power to seize any newspaper, machinery, or plant, or the copies of newspapers published out of Ireland containing seditious or treasonable matters. The warning notice is to be served on the proprietor of the newspaper or his servants, where possible; but where 796 that cannot be effected, then the notice may be posted on a conspicuous part of the premises. Notice in The Dublin Gazette is to be conclusive evidence of the facts and circumstances authorizing the issue of the notice, and of the sufficiency of the service. The Lord Lieutenant will also have power to issue warrants to search for and seize newspapers, printing presses, types, &c. It is, however, to be noted that, in case of the exercise of these powers unjustifiably, the proprietor of the newspaper will have a remedy by instituting proceedings against the Government. Lastly, power is given to the grand jury to award compensation to any person injured, or to the personal representative of any murdered man, whether injured directly or in consequence of appearing as a witness, police-officer, or magistrate. Such compensation is to be levied on the county at large or the barony in which the offence has been committed, at the discretion of the grand jury; and the decision of the Judge of Assize, who may be appealed to from the decision of the grand jury, is to be final. Such is the machinery of the Bill, and such are the means by which Her Majesty's Government hope to be enabled to repress the crimes and outrages which have of late been a scandal to the country; and I think your Lordships will see that, although they are very carefully hedged and guarded, these powers are likely to prove sufficiently ample for the purpose. With respect to those clauses affecting the Press—which your Lordships will scan with great jealousy—I think it will be found that every precaution is taken to preserve the Press from any undue or arbitrary interference on the part of the Government, and that it is only in the event of its abjuring its legitimate functions, and proving false to its honourable mission, that it can come under the provisions of the Bill.
Of course, at this stage it is impossible for me to judge what reception your Lordships may be inclined to give to the Bill; but there is one class of objection to which I wish to put in an anticipative plea—namely, those which noble Lords may be inclined to urge that a measure of this kind ought to have been introduced at an earlier period of the Session. Now, of course, I am quite ready to admit that the exact moment at which such exceptional powers should be re- 797 quired by a constitutional Government is one of the gravest, one of the most important, and one of the most difficult questions which can be submitted to the consideration of statesmen: and I am inclined to think that if the exact date had had to be determined by a ballot of this House, probably every noble Lord would have named a different day as the exact moment at which the critical period had arrived. Whatever difference of opinion, however, there might have been on that point, your Lordships, I think, would all have agreed that such a step should only be taken in the last extremity, after every other expedient had failed, and that there could hardly be a graver blunder than to attempt to introduce such a measure before the conscience and conviction of the nation at large had been satisfied as to its necessity. In conclusion, I would merely add a simple, but earnest, entreaty to those of my fellow-countrymen in Ireland, who are in any way in a condition to exercise influence through the Press, to use their best endeavours to forward the objects of the Bill. It entirely rests with themselves whether or no it shall remain an innocuous form of words on the statute book, or whether it shall be converted into a very effectual and very active instrument of repression. If they will only abstain from exciting an ignorant peasantry to deeds of violence and outrage, they will find themselves removed from the operation of the Bill; and I cannot but think that what has of late been going on around them ought, to convince them of the grave responsibility which rests upon them. For however we may differ as to the cause or nature of discontent in Ireland, one thing is plain—that those who perpetrate crimes and outrages have been in great measure encouraged by the violent, and I fear I must add bloodthirsty, language adopted in the Press, and occasionally by orators, who palliate murder and suggest assassination as a means of redressing grievances of a particular description. And as surely as such a principle is appealed to in respect of one particular description of crime, so surely will it be indiscriminately resorted to on the slightest provocation, and on every occasion when the passions of ignorant men are excited. Murders in Ireland have now ceased to be solely attributable to disputes arising from agrarian misunderstandings or quarrels, and landlords 798 have become a minority of the victims. If ever there was a time when these appeals to violence and physical force were unjustifiable and unnecessary, it is the present. For a year and a-half the attention of the country has been almost entirety occupied with the consideration of the grievances of Ireland. Her electoral system has been re-organized on the widest and most popular basis. Her constituencies have returned to Parliament men of such ability and eloquence as have been able to command, to an exceptional degree, the respectful attention of the House of Commons; and a Liberal Government is in power pledged, by the most repeated and direct assurances, to redress every grievance, and examine every complaint, which the utmost ingenuity can discover. If, therefore, having the most ample constitutional opportunities of advocating their opinions and views, no matter how extravagant they may be, these persons will persist in stimulating an ignorant and susceptible population to outrage and crime, on them, and not on the Government, the responsibility will rest if exceptional legislation, such as is contained in this Bill, is rendered necessary; and I cannot but appeal to the people of Ireland to judge between the Government and these persons in this matter, for I believe that, notwithstanding the discouraging circumstances by which we are surrounded, the heart of the nation, and the great majority of the nation, are still unaffectedly loyal to the cause of law and order.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Dufferin.)
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
My Lords, before I address myself to the details of the measure to which we are asked to assent, I wish to advert briefly to the condition in which Ireland is now placed—partly to corroborate what the noble Lord has stated, and partly because I think he did not go into sufficient detail, and did not make the case so cogent as he might have done: and I think that, when assenting to a measure of so exceptional und stringent a character, it is but right that everything should be stated to justify the course which I hope your Lordships are unanimously about to take. The noble Lord (Lord Dufferin) quoted from Returns which have been placed on the Table, 799 many cases of homicide, murder, and other agrarian crimes, as the justification for the introduction of this Bill:—and I would supplement that by one or two extracts from the Charges given by Judges of Ireland at the late Assizes; for, I think, we shall thus better understand the exact state of the country, than by taking isolated cases one after the other, and by that means illustrating the condition of Ireland. I find that Chief Justice Monahan, in his Charge to the grand jury of Meath, said—He had never delivered a Charge to a grand jury under the influence of greater regret. The number and magnitude of the offences committed since the last Assizes were such as to make one tremble when contemplating the state in which the country must be.Then, again, Mr. Justice George remarked, at Cavan, on the extraordinary disparity between the amount of crime committed and the number of persons brought to justice. Now, this shows the difficulty of bringing persons to trial, and, if tried, of getting verdicts against them. The learned Judge added—He found hardly any relation of life, hardly any interest of society, which was not affected by these threatening notices. They related to persons holding land, and forbade their paying rent. They prohibited, in peremptory terms, the most common usages. They did not stop there; they entered into the most sacred transactions of society, and commanded people to do and to abstain from doing acts which ought to be left to their perfectly free will.It would be easy to multiply these quotations, but I do not wish to weary your Lordships by too many details. One remarkable circumstance connected with this state of affairs is, that these outrages are not confined to any particular class in Ireland. All classes seem to be subjected to the dreadful system of violence and lawlessness which now prevails in the sister country. I find, my Lords, by figures quoted by the Prime Minister in "another place," and taken from the returns of the constabulary, the strongest corroboration of this unfortunate fact—that no class in Ireland is exempt from their effect. I find that the list of the objects of these outrages comprises 3 landed proprietors, 9 stewards, agents, and employers of labour, or 12 persons of the class which may be taken as representing property; but that, among the humbler orders, there are 11 policemen, gamekeepers, and others, 21 farmers, 9 women, and 36 or 37 labourers. It cannot, therefore, be pretended that 800 this is a measure of class legislation, for it is evidently as necessary for the poor tenant as for the rich landlord. This is a feature which should induce us without hesitation to agree to the Bill; for landlords who put in operation their most undoubted privileges, farmers who discharge labourers or take a farm which they are forbidden to take—even the wretch whose conscience or whose fears have made him hesitate to perform the bidding of the secret tribunal to which he has bound himself body and soul—all alike are subject to that inevitable doom which awaits those who incur the condemnation of these secret societies. Another deplorable feature in connection with this subject, is the impunity with which these crimes are committed. They are committed in the face of day—sometimes in the presence of numerous spectators, who, however, either will not or dare not attempt to hand over the criminals to justice. Is it, then, to be wondered at, my Lords, that the persons who perpetrate them become emboldened by impunity, and careless of consequences, and go on from bad to worse, till the condition of the country is such as we are now contemplating. My Lords, I have thought it necessary to go into these details in order to justify myself in supporting a measure which is, no doubt, very stringent; but, as in the human body, when a disease has been allowed to take possession of it, and it has been neglected for any time, so in the body politic, when outrage has been allowed to extend unchecked through a population, strong and exceptional measures are necessary to stop the evil, which otherwise may prove incurable. I will not, my Lords, go into the details of the Bill seriatim; but I desire to say a few words on its more salient points. I will pass over the several clauses which relate to the possession of arms and the sale of gunpowder, because I believe they have formed part of former Acts that have been passed from time to time to meet a somewhat similar exceptional state of things. The first clause to which I will refer, and which is of a most excellent nature, is that which gives power to the justices to issue warrants to search for proof as to threatening letters. I can conceive no state of things so disastrous as this system of sending threatening letters throughout the land; for there 801 must be such distrust and dread in every family in which such letters are received as almost to paralyze the common relations of life in the country. The next clause I will notice refers to the case of persons who shall be out at night in proclaimed districts, under which such persons may be arrested, if out under suspicious circumstances. The noble Lord (Lord Dufferin) stated that no doubt this provision would put a stop to nocturnal drillings and marauding in various parts of the country. That part of the Bill which takes power to arrest strangers, I think, is exceptionally good; for we know that these crimes are frequently committed not by inhabitants of that part of the country, but by strangers who come from distant parts, and who are, therefore, not likely to be recognized. There is another clause which is well worthy of support; that which gives power to magistrates to deal in a summary way with persons charged with certain offences. We all know that the great thing is that there should be a speedy punishment following the commission of offences, and I believe that this Bill gives powers that, if vigorously exercised, may frequently convict persons in a course of crime, and, at all events, by imprisoning them for six months, will give them time to reflect; and will, in any case, rid the country of them for that time. There is another part of the Bill that is very important—that which gives power to arrest absconding witnesses; and I think that it is well worthy the attention of the Government whether some such provision should not be made a permanent one. A wish has been expressed in some quarters that juries should not be required to be unanimous; but I am glad the Government have not introduced such a clause in this Bill, for if such an alteration is right and necessary it should be part of the general law of the land, and should not be introduced to meet a particular occasion. If inserted in a measure of this kind, it would cast a stigma on a great number of juries in Ireland which probably would not be wholly deserved. The clauses relating to the Press seem to me to be the most valuable portion of the Bill. It is said, indeed, by some, that the measure is of a most tyrannical character, and that a Liberal Government are "gagging" the Press; but I see nothing of the kind in the legislation proposed by this Bill. I 802 was much struck a few days ago with an article on the subject in a leading journal—a journal of the most independent character, which, doubtless, had it seen anything likely to be injurious to the Press of this country or to fetter it in those proper functions which it so happily exercises, would have been the first to denounce these clauses. I will read a short extract which puts the position of the seditious Press in Ireland, one of the greatest vehicles of sedition and rebellion, in a very dear light. It says—There is not a single man engaged upon the 'Nationalist' Press who does not know with the most absolute exactness what should be printed and what not. The obligation imposed upon them by the new law will be simple in the extreme. They must cease doing what they now do with a full knowledge that it ought not to be done, but with a knowledge also that it can be done with impunity. We need be at no trouble to tell them what this is. They understand the case perfectly. They can, if they please, leave 'sedition' alone from this time forward, and they require no assurance that if they do but honestly adopt that resolution they have nothing to fear from the Press Clauses of the Peace Preservation Bill.So I say. Stringent as the Bill is, it will not affect the loyal inhabitants of the country, but only those inclined to sedition and rebellion. I will not go at greater length into the provisions of the Bill. These are the reasons which have induced me, and those who do me the honour of acting with me, to give a cordial support to the second reading. I am afraid, however, that having said thus much in favour of the measure and its provisions, I cannot hold the Government altogether free from blame in this matter. I do not for a moment, mean to say that any Member of the Government has intentionally said anything which could aggravate the condition of things in Ireland; but I am no less sure that speeches made by almost every Member of the Government at various times, misconstrued by mischievous agitators, have done incalculable mischief in that country. I wish also to know whether the Government have taken any steps during the time they have been in Office to check—or indeed to take any note of—the seditious speeches which have from time to time been made throughout the length and breadth of the land. I would especially draw their attention to a case which was brought under their notice the first night of the Session—namely, to a meeting at which the Lord Lieu- 803 tenant of Leitrim presided, and was guilty of language, as I think altogether unbecoming his position as Lord Lieutenant, as well as of listening to language which he ought to have promptly rebuked. It may, indeed, be said that the noble Lord (the Earl of Granard) was not present at and presiding over that meeting in his capacity as Lord Lieutenant, since the meeting was in the county of Wexford, and that the noble Earl opposite could not take him to task for it. But although it may be technically true that the noble Lord could not have taken the noble Earl (the Earl of Granard) to task as Lord Lieutenant of the county of Leitrim, yet I think it behoved the noble Earl to be more careful in the language he used. To give a more definite meaning to what I say, I will add that I find that, unless he is incorrectly reported, he quoted a sentence from a speech made by the noble Earl at the head of the Foreign Office. Nobody can believe that the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon) had the smallest intention of giving the meaning which was afterwards put upon it; but he was incautious in his expressions, and the Lord Lieutenant of Leitrim quoted them in his speech on that occasion. I am not satisfied also with the period of the Session at which this measure has been introduced. The noble Lord (Lord Dufferin) says it would have been difficult to fix any time at which such a Bill should have been brought in, and he rather startled me by suggesting that your Lordships should undertake the inquiry by ballot. Now, thank goodness, we have not yet arrived at the ballot. The noble Lord also says it was the duty of statesmen not to bring in such a measure until everything else had failed. Now, I want to know what else has failed? The Government last year brought in a measure for the disestablishment of the Irish Church. If therefore, the noble Lord says the Government had to wait until everything else had failed, my answer is that this Bill being now introduced, the Government admit their Irish Church Act has failed, and has not had that effect of conciliating the people which they expected it to have—and that therefore their only resource is to bring in a measure of coercion of great stringency. Why, however, have they waited till now? Why was it not brought in at 804 the opening of the Session? What has happened between the 8th of February and the day when the Bill was brought into the other House of Parliament, to induce the Government to rouse themselves, and to decide that everything else has failed, that Ireland is in a dangerous condition, and they must try a stringent Coercion Bill? As to the mischievous influence of the seditious Press, one of the passages quoted by the noble Lord appeared last June, and the other last October; yet the Government wait till March before they bring in a measure to repress such publications. I can, however, quite understand the reluctance of noble Lords opposite to bring in such a measure, for it is an admission that the mode in which they have undertaken to govern Ireland is practically a failure. I pitied the noble Lord when he spoke of the humiliation he felt. Humiliation for what? Why, because everything the Government has tried has failed—because their policy of conciliation is not a policy adapted to the state of Ireland—and because they are obliged to fall back on a stringent measure like this. When Parliament met, their first measure was one to deal with the land; but surely they will not say that that subject was more important than this. They surely would not prefer security of tenure to security of life and property. But if the Government did not, why need they have postponed this measure until they had made progress with the Land Bill? I cannot understand the reason why this measure has been so long postponed, and I must say very great responsibility attaches to Her Majesty's Government for the delay. Now, let me point out to you the difference between Ireland governed, as I think, upon sound principles, and the state of Ireland under the administration of the noble Lords opposite; and with this object I will quote two passages—one from a speech delivered by my late lamented friend the Earl of Derby, whose loss we must all deplore most deeply whenever we approach questions of difficulty such as that before us, and the other from the present First Lord of the Treasury. In 1866 Lord Derby said—I believe that a Government in Ireland which shows itself determined to do its duty by all ranks and classes, may hope to receive the support of a large majority of the Irish people, than whom there are no greater lovers of impartial justice. We do not propose in our government of Ireland 805 to act upon any exclusive principle. We desire to obtain the co-operation of all who have at heart the peace and tranquillity of the country, the maintenance of the rights of property, and the putting down of unlawful associations."—[3 Hansard, clxxxiv. 742.]I do not quote this by way of drawing any invidious comparison between the two Governments, though I may have strong opinions upon that point; I merely wish to show the difference between the administration of Ireland by Lord Derby and by the present Government. To show the condition of Ireland under the administration of the late Lord Derby, I cannot do better than quote from a speech by Mr. Gladstone in 1868, on Mr. Maguire's Motion, in which he says—The facility to which the improved sentiment of many classes of the people gives rise in the administration of justice is a circumstance upon which, I think, we cannot too freely indulge our satisfaction."—[3 Hansard, cxc. 1745.]We cannot have a stronger testimony of the wisdom with which Lord Derby governed Ireland than that afforded by these comments of the present Prime Minister. Possibly my noble Friend will say that one of the causes of the success of Lord Derby's Government was the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. The noble Lord assents to that; but surety he does not mean to use that as an argument, because if the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act is a remedy for agrarian outrage, why does not the Government recommend it now? In fact, that is not the proper method of dealing with agrarian outrages, but the Bill which you have introduced is. Would the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act influence the conduct of the Press in any way? I for one cannot accept that as the cause of Ireland's tranquillity under Lord Derby, and trust that when we have passed this Bill, as I believe we shall, the Government will administer its provisions with determination. In this course the Government will be supported by all classes of the community. The whole country is desirous that justice should be done to Ireland; but it is desirous, also—nay, insists—that justice should be done to all classes—to the loyal and unoffending, as well as to the disloyal and rebellious. Above all, what the country is clearly desirous of, and the policy they will support any Government in, is this—that sedition shall be suppressed, and that murder raid outrage shall not go unpunished.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
said, that being an Irish country gentleman, he desired to say a few words to the House; for those who resided in Ireland were those who suffered directly from the crime and outrage that prevailed there. In his own part of the country the best feeling had hitherto existed among all classes. For forty years he had lived among his tenants, a Protestant among Roman Catholics, but had never come into collision with them in any way. He was therefore, to that extent, competent to form an opinion as to the cause of the present state of the country. What that was now they had only to look to the Charge of Mr. Baron Deasy at the last Assizes. The learned Judge described the state of crime in Mayo; and he commenced with referring to two murders, five or six attempts to murder, threatening letters, firing into houses, burning stackyards, patrolling the country every night, and administering unlawful oaths. Further, bonfires had appeared in every village around where the stackyards had been burned, to show the sympathy of the people with this state of disorder. It would be a long story to show how this state of things had been brought about; but he must say that he unhesitatingly attributed it to the policy and the speeches of different Members of the Government. Unfortunately, it was customary in the House of Commons to ignore one great influence at work in Ireland, from fear, perhaps, of its paramount influence with Irish constituencies; he referred to the Roman Catholic Church, which he described as as the first difficulty with which every Government had to deal in the government of Ireland. The first mistake made by the present Government was its attempt to govern Ireland through the medium of the Roman Catholic clergy; and he deduced this from, the appointment of the present Lord Chancellor, a most excellent man, but an extreme Ultramontane, who had been preferred in consequence of his known sympathies with Cardinal Cullen—at least, so it was held by the Roman Catholic clergy. One objection to the principle of governing a country through the priesthood had been found in every Roman Catholic country in Europe; for whore-ever it had been attempted, in the end, they had been compelled to prohibit the interference of the Church in the civil 807 administration, for it was always found that such interference was inconsistent with civil and religious liberty. There were special reasons in Ireland why the Roman Catholic priesthood were unwilling and unable to support the Government. For three hundred years they had been persecuted and ignored; and the consequence was that the antagonism of that clergy to the connection with Great Britain had been so strong, that were they now to recede from that position, the people of Ireland would believe that they were breaking faith with them, and they would lose their influence, their power, and, therefore, their means of support. That the clergy themselves believed that to be the case was apparent from their conduct during the last few years. When Fenianism became dangerous, not only to the Government, but to the Roman Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic clergy lent the Government all the support in their power; but when the danger was past, they began to see that they were imperilling their influence by opposing the nationalism they had previously encouraged; and, turning round suddenly, they ordered masses to be said for the Fenians who were executed at Manchester. What was the position of the Roman Catholic clergy, with regard to the crime and outrage that prevailed in Ireland? Why, although the Prelates of that Church assembled together before they went to Italy to express their opinion, with reference to the education question and the land question; yet, as a Church, they had never ventured to condemn assassination and crime—though he should be very sorry to believe that they would not do so if they durst. These were some of the reasons that led him to believe that the Roman Catholic clergy could never be good and faithful allies to any English Government, even when the latter were endeavouring to carry out the "platform" and the views of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Macaulay, in discussing the platform of that hierarchy in 1688, said—The fixed purpose of the Irish was to break the foreign yoke, to exterminate the Saxon colony, to sweep away the Protestant Church, and restore the soil to its ancient proprietors.Her Majesty's Government had, to a certain extent, carried out those views. They had swept away the Established Church; and, as far as their Lordships 808 would permit them, they were about to restore the land to its ancient proprietors, while they had left the peaceful portion of the population a prey to the lawless and the disaffected. Her Majesty's Government had committed another grievous error in releasing the Fenian prisoners. Those prisoners had only just been convicted, at the peril of the lives of both Judge and jury, and the moment they had been found guilty and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment, they were again let loose upon society, to exercise vengeance upon those who had convicted them. Under these circumstances, juries were naturally afraid to convict, and the result was that the trial of Barrett was, as it had been described, a total failure of justice, while nearly every prisoner had been allowed to escape at the last Assizes for Mayo. The feeling has spread throughout Ireland, and wherever there was concession, it was followed by increased outrage. He believed that the disaffection which existed in Ireland had been generated in a great measure by the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade and the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. No one regretted more than he did the absence of the former from his post at the present time, because he was the only Member of the Government who had proposed an honest and a fair mode of dealing with the land question—namely, that of paying the landlords for what was taken away from them. Furthermore, the right hon. Gentleman was never afraid of taking the responsibility of what he said. Unhappily, every one must recollect the well-known letter, in which the right hon. Gentleman had discussed the probable fate of Irish landlords, were the sister country removed 2,000 miles from our shores. In another speech the right hon. Gentleman almost promised the people of Ireland that the land should be theirs; and in his last great speech at Birmingham, he being then a responsible Minister of the Crown, he had passed over the disastrous condition of Ireland as unworthy of the notice of himself or of that of the British public, and had concluded by talking about free trade and free land. The effect of these speeches in Ireland was to make the people believe that the Government really intended to hand the land over to 809 them; and it had been stated, but he did not know with what truth, that a copy of that speech had been sent to every parish priest, with the view of the Irish people being informed what they had to expect from the Government. He then came to the famous Wigan speech of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. It was an old story, to be sure, but it was worth a great many new ones. In that speech the right hon. Gentleman said—It is clear the Church of Ireland offers to us indeed a great question, but even that question is but one of a group of questions. There is the Church of Ireland, there is the land of Ireland, there is the education of Ireland. …. they are all many branches from one trunk, and that trunk is the tree of what is called Protestant ascendancy. I look to this Protestant people to put down Protestant ascendancy.…. It is upon that system that we are banded together to make war.….. And although we have paid instalments to Ireland, the mass of the people would not be worthy to be free if they were satisfied with instalments, or if they could be contented with any-thing less than justice. We therefore aim at the destruction of that system of ascendancy which, though it has been crippled and curtailed by former measures, yet still must be allowed to exist. It is still there, like a tall tree of noxious growth, lifting its head to heaven and darkening and poisoning the land so far as its shadow can extend, and now at length the day has come when, as we hope, the axe has been laid to the root of that tree, and it nods and quivers from its top to its base.Those words had been thus commented; upon by a leading Liberal journal—Ominous words—ominous because they contain so much indisputable truth; ominous because they have so wide a scope and are capable of such a serious, if not a sinister, interpretation. No words so curiously calculated to warrant the alarm of proprietors and statesmen on the one hand and to rouse or justify the wildest hopes of Irish occupiers on the other could possibly have been uttered. If they were spoken, as we hope and believe, without a full perception of their bearing, they were a grave error on the part of so eminent a statesman. If they deliberately meant all they say and all they involve they are enough to create the gloomiest misgivings.And those gloomy misgivings were but too amply realized in the present deplorable condition of society in Ireland. Their Lordships knew that Mr. O'Connell, with the aid of the Roman Catholic clergy and others, kept the country for; nearly thirty years on the verge of rebellion. A short time ago the Prime Minister went out of his way to create the brother of "the distinguished Liberator," as he used to be called, a baronet. He believed that Sir James O'Connell was an excellent gentleman, and one 810 who had the good sense to keep out of politics; but the only reason for making him a Baronet would seem to have been to show that Mr. Gladstone appreciated and sympathized with the career of Mr. O'Connell. What were the next utterances of the right hon. Gentleman? When introducing the Land Bill he said—And after so long a period of depression and despondency, I cannot, for one moment, be surprised that, in some cases where this hope has been revived it has, in the minds of some, been such as to exhibit elements of a riotous exuberance."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 349.]The whole tenour of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was to the same effect. He further said—Again, taking the history of the more recent times, you will find that those counties where the disturbance of order has been greatest are not those which have a peculiarly Celtic character; every one of these is excluded from the list. The fact is that the infusion of English and of Scottish blood has poured into the elements whereof the Irish character is composed a spirit of pride and of ready self-defence—that, sentiment which has made England and Scotland ever prompt to rise in defence of what the people deliberately believe to be their rights. It is not the then Celtic element in the character of Ireland that has given rise to all he disturbance of recent years, but it is a race even more energetic and massive in character and determined not to be trodden down, which, having nixed with the Celtic race, has been the foremost to manifest its displeasure and resentment whenever it has been made subject to the suffering which is invariably at the root of agrarian crime."[Ibid. 338.]One of the most notable of the popular journals in Ireland had this commentary on the right hon. Gentleman's remarks—When has a handsomer thing been said of Rory of the Hills? We do not know that any of the Irish national journals have over put the case of agrarian disturbances on such high grounds.That showed better than anything he could say how the people of Ireland appreciated the tone and language of the right hon. Gentleman. Mr. Gladstone next came to speak of the landlord class, and he thought their Lordships would observe a slight difference in his sentiments. He observed—I will merely state that some of the most painful, some of the most indefensible, nay, some of the most guilty of evictions have occurred between he two dates to which I have referred. I think that of the crimes we have been so recently lamenting no small portion is to be traced to an interference with the fixed usages of the country, and with what people believed to be their rights," &c.—[Ibid. 341.]In an advertisement relating to the distress at Woolwich, and which was 811 taken from The Times of December 4, there was this statement,—The widows now upon our list exceed 140. Men, women, and children—the old and the young—without daily necessaries for the body, become gradually but surely demoralized.The Government had thought themselves justified in sending those poor people out of their homes at Woolwich; while Mr. Gladstone designated the landlords of Ireland in the language he had read to their Lordships. These violent epithets directed against that class could have had only one effect—that of increasing the evils to meet which public opinion had forced the Government to at length bring forward this Bill. He should make one other quotation from the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. He said—There is, however, another false impression which it is necessary should be dissipated, and that is, that there is some thing extraordinary and strange in the present sensitiveness of Ireland, and in the recent tendency to an increase of agrarian crime."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 340.]He should rather transpose language used by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade when speaking of the Irish Church, and say—"Does not the eloquence of the Premier fan the hot breath of faction, being not so much the light of a wise and good counsellor 'as a scorching fire burning up everything that is good and noble in the country, so that industry, charity, peace, and liberty have perished in its flames?'"
said, he cordially supported the second reading of the Bill, which he believed had become absolutely necessary. He believed, indeed, that for some time past there had been a diminution of religious animosity; and at Armagh, Downpatrick, and Belfast the Judges of Assize had been able to congratulate the grand juries on the state of the counties of which those places were the chief towns. But his sympathies were not confined to Ulster, because he held it to be the duty of all Irishmen to look to the benefit of the whole of Ireland. Indeed, he thought nothing could be more injurious to the general interests of the country than any vaunting of the superiority of the Northern Province over the other Provinces of Ireland. To sink all minor differences ought to be an object with all Irishmen; and they ought also to remember—what he was sorry to think some of his coun- 812 trymen forgot—that they were a portion of the people of the United Kingdom, and were bound to obey its laws. He regretted, however, to be obliged to arrive at the conclusion that this Bill was absolutely necessary; but after the clear statement of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Dufferin), he thought no doubt could exist in the minds of anyone as to that. Then came the question, what had brought about the state of things which made such special legislation necessary? He confessed he could not give that question a very satisfactory answer. Undoubtedly, for many years, a policy had been pursued towards Ireland which was not calculated to win her affections and insure her loyalty; but of late years there had been a manifest determination, on the part of leading statesmen on both sides of the House, to meet the wants of Ireland. He felt surprised that any portion of his countrymen should be so easily led away as to be deceived by persons who incited them to agrarian outrages, and by newspapers whose columns teemed with encouragement to sedition and rebellion. Surely they must have discrimination enough to see that these cruel and cowardly murders, these awful agrarian outrages, could lead but to one end. What were they likely to produce? He feared the tendency was to excite to a repeal of the Union. The strong arm of England would prevent the realization of the hopes of those would-be patriots; but, in the meantime, the acts of those men would affix a stigma and a reproach on the Irish name in the face of the whole world. It was to prevent such a result that he cordially supported the second reading of this Bill. Grave charges had been made by the noble Lord who spoke last (Lord Oranmore), and they had also been made in other places, against noble Lords and right lion. Gentlemen, who were the leading members of the present Administration. He thought those charges had been so fully met and answered that he would not again go into them; but one accusation had been brought against the Chief Secretary for Ireland which, to his mind, was most unfair. A deputation, composed of magistrates and gentlemen from a central county of Ireland, where crime and disorder had unfortunately taken the place of law and order, waited on that right hon. Gentleman to state their grievances; 813 and the right hon. Gentleman, as he always did, listened to them with calmness and consideration; he heard all that they had to say, thought the matter over in all its various phases, and then put the very natural and proper question—"What suggestions can you, the gentlemen of the county, make?" Well, those gentlemen, leading members, he believed, of their county, acting magistrates, thoroughly competent to fulfil their duties, regular attendants at petty sessions and quarter sessions, could make no answer. That, he owned, did not surprise him; for to discover the origin of these Fenian and Ribbon conspiracies was a task, he was sorry to say, that baffled them all. But what certainly did surprise him was, that those gentlemen and others should have rebuked the Chief Secretary for Ireland for putting that very proper and natural question—one which did not by any means imply that the right hon. Gentleman, or the Government he represented, had no policy of their own; but which did imply that the Government were anxious to consult the wishes of Irish country gentlemen—a course of procedure which he thought must commend itself to the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde), who moved for certain Returns relative to Ireland a few nights ago; and also to noble Lords opposite, who would remember that on the formation of the late Government the House was led to understand that the Lord Lieutenant and magistracy of Ireland were to be freely consulted on all matters connected with that country. It had been argued that if the late Government had remained in Office peace and happiness would have reigned in Ireland. No doubt, to a certain extent, peace and happiness did prevail in Ireland under the late Administration. But what was the cause of that? The degree of peace then obtained was owing to the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act—a very proper measure to have in reserve, and to use when necessity required; but, surely, not one to be continually exercised; and he quite concurred with the statement made the other night that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was a proceeding more adapted for the repression of political than to that of agrarian crime. A word as to the happiness of Ireland under the late Government. The gentry of Ireland, as they 814 all knew, were nearly all Conservatives; they had their own view of everything, and were naturally happy. True to the spirit which bound them as one man, and animated by that devotion to their principles, which did them credit, they flocked in numbers to the Castle during the late Administration, knowing the Viceregal Court was presided over by a nobleman who shared their sentiments, and was prepared, when he could do so consistently, to carry them out. He said consistently, because he had not the least wish, for one moment, to blame the noble Duke, then at the head of affairs in Ireland, for the slightest partiality. On the contrary, he believed that, in the administration of Irish affairs, the same spirit actuated him as had always actuated him in the management of his vast estates—namely, a. desire to act with fairness and consideration to all classes and creeds. Under those circumstances, he was not surprised that there should then have been a lull—a temporary calm; but he could not bring himself to imagine that state of things would have been of long duration. Unfortunately, the roots of Irish discontent still lay deep in the country. Some of them were eradicated last Session; more remained to be eradicated this year. No doubt, the Bill now before their Lordships would give the Government large powers; but it must be remembered that extreme cases required extreme remedies; and in these days when everything was so freely criticized and so fully noticed, he did not think there was any chance of these powers being abused. On the contrary, from all he could learn and read, he thought if the Government attempted in any way to strain the law, they would be speedily called to account. He should rejoice if, after the Bill became law, there would be no necessity for the application of this legislation, and that none of his countrymen were found to bring themselves under the operation of its provisions. He was glad to see the Government, which was strong enough to pass great measures of a remedial character for Ireland, also addressing itself to the task of legislating for the protection of life and property and the maintenance of law and order in that country.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, I do not rise for the purpose of prolonging this debate. The state of Ireland, 815 as we know, is critical, and we are all pretty well agreed as to what we are now called upon to do. Under these circumstances, criticisms of a merely retrospective character—criticisms upon the state in which that country unhappily is, and on the causes which have led to that state, however natural, however much they may seem called for by events of the last twelve months, do not appear to me of any great practical value. It is most unfortunate that any measure of this kind should be necessary; but, being necessary, we have our duty to do, and from that duty we cannot shrink. We may think—I do think—that the Government have come rather late to their decision. I have not heard any very clear or cogent arguments to show why a measure, which is indispensable towards the end of March should have been considered wholly unnecessary at the beginning of February. But, for my own part, I have no wish to enter upon retrospective comments of that kind. I am very willing to give noble Lords opposite credit for the decision at which they have arrived, without dwelling upon the fact that they have been a long time in coming to it. There can be no doubt that, in dealing as they propose to do with the freedom of the Press, they are striking at the root of the evil; and, for my own part, I wish to bear my emphatic testimony, whatever it may be worth, that strong as this measure is—and I apprehend it is one almost unprecedented in its stringency—it is not one whit stronger than the occasion requires. These seditious papers are circulated by tens of thousands among the Irish people; those who read them read nothing else; they never hear the other side of the question; the teaching of those journals is believed and is acted upon; and I need hardly say that to an Irish peasant the very notion of these constitutional considerations which would prevent English statesmen, except in times of the utmost emergency, from attempting to interfere with the freedom of the Press is unknown and even inconceivable. The Irish peasant, if he thinks at all as to what motive English statesmen may have for allowing these journals to go on unchecked, thinks it is because they are afraid to put them down. Well, my Lords, I have not a word to say against the principle of this measure. As to its 816 details, they will be more conveniently considered in Committee, into which I suppose we shall go at the earliest possible opportunity. I rose merely to suggest that from these enactments one provision has been omitted which has in it nothing of hardship, nothing of a coercive or unconstitutional character, which is exceedingly simple in its nature, and which, I believe, would have an immense effect in securing convictions in cases where convictions ought to be obtainable, but where, under the present state of the law, they cannot be obtained. What I mean is, that you ought to do away, as regards Ireland, with that rule which requires a jury in criminal cases to be unanimous. Even in this country the wisdom of that requirement is open to some doubt, although I admit it is one in favour of which there is much to be said; but in Ireland, where the sympathy with crime is so strong, and the want of moral courage among the people is so marked, the rule which requires unanimity in a jury is absolutely fatal in many cases to your chance of obtaining a conviction. Every murderer, every person committing an outrage knows that even if he should not be able, through the sympathy of his neighbours, to evade the police, he has still another chance in his favour, because if he has only a single sympathizing friend on the jury that tries him, all will be right. I need not remind those who have studied Irish affairs for the last few months that, on two several occasions, there has been a failure of justice, so marked, that under all the circumstances, and with all the excuses that may be made, I must call it a grievous calamity. Now, in my opinion, a majority of two-thirds would give all reasonable security in any case which admits of fair doubt, and I think that you ought not to ask for more. I do not say that this suggestion which I have thrown out, and which, I think, ought to be adopted as a permanent alteration of the law, should necessarily be included in the present measure; but I think it might, and it is a suggestion which deserves consideration. You are now dealing in a very stringent, I will not say unconstitutional, but in an extra constitutional manner with certain manifestations of treason and sedition, and you cannot afford to throw away a perfectly constitutional and legitimate weapon most useful in 817 those cases of murder and outrage which are so intimately connected in Ireland with treasonable and seditious movements.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have certainly no reason to complain of the manner in which the measure, the second reading of which has been moved by my noble Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has been received by both sides of the House. Nothing could be fairer than the spirit in which the noble Duke and the noble Earl who has just spoken have treated the Bill which we have thought it our duty to lay before Parliament. Painful as that duty must necessarily be to any man charged with the responsibility of governing Ireland at the present time, it must be very satisfactory to know that the measure we propose has mot, both in this and the other House of Parliament, with general support and approval. Such being the case, I am spared the necessity of going into any defence of the various provisions of the measure, which were fully explained by noble Friend (Lord Dufferin), and which, as the noble Earl who has just spoken has said, will be more naturally and properly discussed when the House goes into Committee. But it is only right that I should notice a complaint made by the noble Duke opposite, and which to some extent was supported by the noble Earl, as to the time when Her Majesty's Government introduced this Bill. Now, my Lords, I think the House will admit that there is no duty which it is more specially the province of the responsible Government of the Queen to determine than at what particular period it may be necessary to ask Parliament to pass measures of extraordinary coercion and repression; and I can assure the House that no subject could be matter for more anxious consideration than the question of the time of proposing such a measure has been to the Government ever since the beginning of this year, and even sooner. My Lords, I think that the key to some portion of the complaint that has been made may be found in a sentence which fell from the noble Duke opposite, when he said that some persons have mentioned that, possibly, this measure may have been postponed on account of the Land Bill—a Bill which could not be comparable in importance for a moment 818 with a measure for the preservation of life and the security of property. Now, I think that shows an entire misconception of the state of Ireland, and of the policy which I maintain is necessary to be pursued towards that country. My Lords, as I fully admit, it is the first duty of every Government to provide for the security of life and property; but I do not hesitate to say that the Land Bill is a measure of infinitely greater importance than the one which we are discussing here this evening, not only as regards the effects which may flow from it with respect to the general social condition of Ireland, but as regards its direct bearing on the object of this Bill. The object of the policy which that measure represents is to increase the security of life and property in Ireland; and we seek to increase it, not by measures such as this, which, indispensable as they may be, are temporary in their duration, and can produce no permanent improvement in the condition of the country; but by measures which we hope will lay the foundation of greater confidence between the different classes in Ireland—the want of confidence between whom has produced the state of things which requires this coercive legislation. If, therefore, we rested our defence on the policy of introducing remedial measures first and coercive measures after we should not be wholly without justification. But I do not rest our defence for the postponement of this Bill on these grounds, because, great as the importance of our Land Bill is, yet I admit that measure should be laid aside if you find it necessary to resort to exceptional measures when life is in danger. But we carefully considered from month to month what was the state of the country, and we thought it our duty, as I believe it has been the duty of other Governments before us, to wait until the case was so clear that we might look with confidence to the almost unanimous support of Parliament when we asked for an extraordinary measure such as this. I do not think it necessary to trouble the House with reports of the state of crime in Ireland at former periods. I do not think that from such reports any perfectly accurate conclusions can be drawn. I will only say this—that on former occasions the amount of crime was often greater, and had been so for some time before coercive measures were proposed; 819 and it is well to remind your Lordships, for fear you should be misled, that the state of the country is to be measured not merely by the whole number of offences committed or reported to the police, but by the character and gravity of those offences. And although, unfortunately, crimes have been committed in Ireland during the last few months, of a most horrible and atrocious character, yet when you come to consider the number of graver offences, and deduct those of a less heinous character, the list is not so formidable as your Lordships may have been led to suppose. In the list of offences mentioned in the Report which has been laid upon your Lordships' table, I find that in the month of January—the last which is included in this Report—among the agrarian crimes, which naturally are those we had specially in view, no case of murder or manslaughter was reported to the police; and, although there was so large a number as 391 agrarian outrages reported, 117 of these were either threatening letters or threatening notices. Now, threatening letters and threatening notices are, no doubt, indications of a state of terrorism, which may require the prompt interposition of the Government; but, at the same time, it is obvious that, in considering whether you are to propose measures of this kind, the state of the country as regards the actual commission of offences dangerous to life must be looked to rather than those of a less serious character. It is true that the continuance of these threatening letters and notices, giving, as they do, indication that there is growing up a gradual disorganization of society in particular districts which is sure to lead to graver crimes, is a strong reason for the attention of the Executive; but still the Government may be allowed to have had some reason for pausing before they came to Parliament at the commencement of the Session to ask for a coercive measure such as this. The noble Earl who has just sat down (the Earl of Derby) alluded to a suggestion which has been made, and which I think one of great importance—namely, the proposal to alter the law as regards the unanimity of juries—and he has given his opinion to the House—one which certainly is of great weight—that it would be desirable in Ireland to adopt the plan of the consent of two-thirds. 820 My Lords, I agree on this point with the noble Duke who spoke before the noble Earl, that such a measure as this, which undoubtedly is worthy of consideration, is not one which ought to be introduced in a temporary Bill of this nature. It is obvious that such a measure, if it is to be carried, being one of great importance, as it would fundamentally alter the law of the country, must be of a permanent character; and I think that, sad as the state of Ireland is, the conduct of juries, during the last three or four years, has not been such that you ought—especially at this moment—to introduce a change of that kind in a temporary Bill, founded upon the special circumstances of the time. In addition to this, when you came to propose such a change in the law, you would find it necessary to consider whether such a change must not be made here in this country as well as in Ireland, and be general in its application. I do not know that I need trouble the House with any further remarks; but, having been myself engaged in the arduous task of conducting the Government of Ireland, as Lord Lieutenant, at a time when sedition and treason were especially rife, I must say I welcome with great satisfaction the support which the noble Earl gives to that part of the Bill which is directed against abuses of the Press. My Lords, nothing can be more unsatisfactory to any man accustomed to constitutional freedom in this country, and to the great advantages derived from a free Press, than to be obliged to resort to such exceptional and extremely stringent measures as we do in this Bill. But I agree with the noble Earl opposite that these measures, stringent as they are, are absolutely required by the character of the seditious Press in Ireland. And when I say that, I must also say that there is little change in the tone of that Press. When I was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, I made it my duty, day after day, and week after week, to read the productions of the seditious Press, and from one end to the other there was but one laboured incitement to treason against the Crown, one continued stirring up of discord between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects, and one persistent attempt to poison the public mind and to sow hatred between all classes, than which I cannot conceive anything more mischievous, more odious, and more detestable. 821 Measures of this kind, directed against a Press of that character, can never interfere with free criticism—free as I hope criticism in this country will always be—as regards the measures of the Government and the men who compose it. But when you find direct attempts made to stir up insurrection against the Government, then it is a mere parody upon constitutional freedom to abstain from attempting to suppress them. Let me say one word more. I naturally, as a Member of Her Majesty's Government, think that the remedial policy which we are pursuing towards Ireland is calculated to produce ultimately an improved state of things in Ireland, although, I fully admit, that some time must necessarily elapse before the good effects of that policy can be felt. But, much as I approve that policy, and greatly as I hope to see a better day for that country, not the less do I say, unhesitatingly that I trust the Government to which I belong, and any Government which may hold Office in this country, when those remedial measures have been fairly carried into effect, and when it has once for all been clearly shown that the country is resolved to the utmost of its power to do. justice to all classes in Ireland—I say I hope that any Government under such circumstances, will not shrink from whatever measures may be necessary, even though those measures may be coercive in their character, to preserve order and peace in the country; because however painful it may be to carry those measures into effect, no laws, however beneficial, however calculated to increase the wealth and prosperity of the country, or to promote a better state of feeling between the different classes of society, can ever have any healing effect unless outrages, which disturb the security of life, which render the possession of property insecure, and which paralyze all the efforts made to produce peace and contentment in the country, are repressed by stern and vigorous administration of the law.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
There is one topic, my Lords, which was referred to in the speech of my noble Friend behind me (the Duke of Richmond) upon which I could have wished that the noble Earl who has just sat down had touched more particularly. My noble Friend behind me called attention to the fact that seditious and 822 treasonable language—in reference to which the Bill has such stringent provisions—has most assuredly not been confined to writers for the Press or anonymous authors. On the contrary, he reminded us that no less a person than the Lord Lieutenant of one of the I counties of Ireland had, in terms of very strange and strong admiration, alluded to past insurrections in Ireland, and had praised and encouraged a Roman Catholic priest who, on that occasion, used language that could be no otherwise interpreted than as an incentive to murder and outrage. Now, as Lord Granard is unfortunately not present, I do not wish to raise any discussion on the subject, as it would be obviously inconvenient that it should take place in his absence; but I confess that it does appear to me that it would have been more becoming if the noble Earl had been present to defend the language he used on that occasion, and which has been alluded to at a previous period of the Session; and the presence of the noble Earl would have been especially desirable this evening, when we are about to read the second time a Bill the provisions of which would have this effect—that his speech would have condemned, to confiscation every newspaper that had ventured to report it; and still more certain would have been the liability to seizure of any journal that had printed the speech made by the Roman Catholic priest by whom Lord Granard sat, for the publication of that speech would have been justly condemned as treasonable and seditious language, inciting to the commission of crime. Now, a grave responsibility rests upon every man who addresses—whether in Ireland or elsewhere—so inflammable a population; but, considering how harshly the Government have dealt with Protestants who have expressed their opinions freely, I think they ought to have shown more frankness and boldness in discouraging eulogistic allusions to Vinegar Hill on the part of their own supporters. As to the Bill itself, I have little to add to the chorus of general praise with which it had been received. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) was pleased in his previous speech to use language which gave us little reason to hope that the provisions of the Bill would be so stringent and effective. We are, I confess, favourably disappointed. The only 823 criticism I am disposed to pass on it is to join in the recommendation that has been made by my noble Friend behind me in reference to the real and permanent source of danger to good government that exists in Ireland. It seems to me that in the Bill you are striking at the wrong man. You have two enemies—the Fenian and the Ribbonman; but the Bill is almost entirely against the Fenian. In so selecting your enemy it seems to me that you have misestimated the relative force of the evil influences with which you have to contend. Fenianism is terrible, no doubt, and is very injurious to the peace of Ireland. It is a thing that every loyal subject is bound to resist; but it is not an enemy with whom, when the real struggle comes, you can ever struggle at a disadvantage. You may strike early or you may strike late; if early, it will be more humane; if late, your blow will be more effective; but whether it be early or late, there can be no doubt about the result. The suppression of any effort that Fenianism might make would not only be effected without difficulty, but without leaving a single trace in the military Estimates of the year. The task of putting down Fenianism is absolutely easy. But in Ribbonism you have an enemy of a very different kind. It cannot, indeed, tear Ireland from its allegiance to Her Majesty, but it can bleed Ireland to death; it can drive away all the constituents of her prosperity; it can exile from Ireland everyone who can afford to live out of the country; it can frighten away that capital which is the life-blood of commercial and national prosperity; it can so utterly disorganize society that all the elements of wealth and well-being must disappear. This it does, and can do, almost in security; at all events it will tax to the utmost all the powers of the police that you can bring against it. It seems to me, then, that the Ribbonman, and not the Fenian, is the person at whom you ought to have struck; and for that reason, I earnestly press upon the Government the recommendation made to them to deal with the question of juries. Your only chance of striking at the Ribbonman is by convincing him that he is not sure of being able to offend with impunity. At the present moment he is absolutely secure. I believe that you have not succeeded in convicting any one of the authors of the 824 recent agrarian outrages. Even in those rare cases where you have been able to offer evidence you have failed to convict, because it has been found impossible to induce the one man who has stood out on the jury to give way. It does seem to me an absurd and unreasonable thing that one man should be able in that way to stand in the path of justice. The truth is that our system requiring unanimity in a jury is a system which, venerable as it is, could only be possible among so illogical a nation as we are. Nobody sitting down to construct a constitution for the first time would enact that no crime should be held to have been committed so long as there was one man on a jury whose sympathies are strong enough to induce him to run the risk of losing his dinner for the sake of preventing conviction. Dining, I admit, is a ceremony to which, happily, the English people are deeply attached; and, happily, also, Englishmen are accustomed to give way to the strongly-expressed opinion of the majority; and the result is that a system has worked with us for centuries very easily which, upon theory, could not for a moment be defended. This rule of unanimity is not adopted in Scotland or in France, or in any other country; but we apply it in Ireland, where we have to deal with a population whose passions are so strong that they would risk not only the loss of their dinners, but of many things besides, rather than consent to a verdict which is opposed to their sympathies. I believe that no measure you could devise would be more effectual to strike terror into the secret assassins who are destroying the prosperity of Ireland than one which should take away the necessity of unanimity in juries. If that improvement were adopted in the Bill I think there would be little to be desired. The clauses in reference to the Press seem to me most desirable and admirable; and though they also appear to be aimed rather against Fenianism than Ribbonism, still, such as they are, I am bound to thank the Government for them. I shall hope for another advantage from the Bill, in which, perhaps, noble Lords opposite will not very heartily sympathize. Moralists have held that it is a good thing for a man once in his life to fall into a great crime, because in the future he is no longer able to assume an attitude of spiritual pride 825 towards his neighbours. I do not think this Bill is a great crime, on the contrary, I look upon it as a virtue; but, at all events, it will prevent the English people hereafter from being so severely critical on those of their neighbours who may think it necessary to adopt stringent measures in relation to the Press. That will be an improvement on the part of the English people in the matter of spiritual pride, for which we shall have to thank the Government. My Lords, I confess there is another subject of congratulation—which, however, has been somewhat dissipated by the speech of the noble Earl who has just sat down—in the hope, which we may be allowed to entertain, that some members of the Liberal party were awakening from the dream in which they have been so long indulging. It has been their idea for almost a generation that conciliatory and remedial measures only were necessary to the solution of the Irish problem. I trust that they are awakening from the dream. They now learn that after 100 years of that treatment Ireland is less loyal and less orderly than she was when George III. ascended the throne. The present emergency will compel them to recognize the fact, which lies at the bottom of the Irish difficulty, that in that country you are dealing with a population of a lower civilization in many points than your own, and that you cannot deal with them in the same way as with your own—that the liberty—that representative government—that the almost unbounded licence of speech and action, which is healthy aliment to our own people, is a dangerous stimulant to the social condition of the Irish nation. In this country you are content—you have long been content—only to guide; in Ireland it is essential that you should govern. Until you have learned that—until you have established it deeply in the mind of the Irish people—you will not got them to listen to your views and arguments, nor will you gain the full result of these remedial measures, which, as far as they are just, I heartily approve of. I cannot conclude better than by using the words of one who has passed from us, and who has been touchingly alluded to in the course of this debate. You must, in the words of Lord Stanley, forty years ago, when he was a Member of the House of Commons, and a Member of a Liberal Mi- 826 nistry—you must "teach the Irish people to fear the law before you can induce them to like it." I fear that the Government is doing the opposite thing. I fear that they have been too sanguine in the pursuit of remedial and conciliatory measures, sacrificing principles, loyal friends, and all the conditions of the Constitution in this endeavour to conciliate; and until this moment they have trod with very lagging and hesitating steps in the necessary path of executive vigour. I am bound, however, to acknowledge that this Bill is a great step in advance, and I heartily thank the Government for it.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, I cannot but express my acknowledgments to your Lordships for the tone in which this debate has been conducted, and for the temperate and patriotic—even the mild manner of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), in which the state of Ireland has been discussed tonight. With regard to one point raised by the noble Marquess—namely, in reference to violent speeches made at public meetings, and the distinction made by the Government between its supporters and opponents—I can only say that we have shown the same degree of leniency to Protestants as to Catholics, and to Conservatives as to Liberals. In regard to the next point referred to by the noble Marquess it is unnecessary that I should say anything, because he is really answered in the speech of the noble Duke who spoke second this evening. The noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) said that he approved of the Bill because there were at this moment special evils to be dealt with that required special remedies; and he further said that the late Government had not dealt with them in the way we proposed to do; but had suspended the Habeas Corpus Act for another purpose. The noble Marquess must undoubtedly be opposed to that view of the noble Duke's, because he argued that the Bill would only be useful as a measure against the Fenians, and that it could not do much for the suppression of agrarian outrages. Now, I must say that I am really ignorant of any clause in this Bill which the Government have introduced which will not deal with agrarian outrages as much as with Fenianism, though. I cannot say with what amount of success. All the sum- 827 mary powers in the Bill are directed against agrarian crimes, against the carrying of arms, against being out at night, and against that Press which, though certainly Fenian in its character, has, in the most improper manner, given encouragement to deeds of violence, including agrarian crimes. On the question of the constitution of juries, also, the noble Duke opposite and the noble Marquess entertain different opinions, and it is not for me to decide between them. No doubt there is much to be said on both sides; and I should be very pleased to hear two such able advocates, as the noble Duke and the noble Marquess sitting next to him, argue the matter out between themselves. The noble Marquess has told us that he derives one great satisfaction from the Bill—and it is one peculiarly suitable to this season of Lent—in the belief that our treatment of the Irish Press will teach the English people the sin of spiritual pride, and will induce them not to be too hard upon our neighbours in Europe. Well, I can only say that if our neighbours are always able to show such good grounds for the vigour of their Executive administration as we are able to show in defence of this Bill, it will certainly be highly becoming in us to be more prudent and cautious in our criticisms. There is, however, one matter in which I cannot encourage the noble Marquess—namely, the consolation which he derives from my Colleagues and myself having, as he says, awoke from the dream that remedial measures—or doing that which is just in Ireland—must, in the long run, have a most beneficial effect. I entirely dissent from the opinion of the noble Marquess. If we have been giving remedial measures to Ireland for 100 years, that surely means, if anything at all, that we have not yet given the full extent of such legislation, and therefore I think it necessary to enter my protest against that remark. With that exception, my Lords, I would again express my sincere feeling of gratitude for the tone which has prevailed throughout this discussion. I have only to add that my noble Friend (Lord Dufferin) will to-night give notice for going into Committee on Thursday, which is the earliest possible day; and he will then, with the permission of your Lordships, move the suspension of the Standing Orders, in order that the pass- 828 ing of the Bill may be expedited. There will be some Amendments rendered necessary by the haste with which the Bill was passed through the other House; but they are not likely to create any opposition, and my noble Friend hopes to be able to move the third reading of the Bill on Thursday night.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
said, he would assist the Government to pass the Bill with all possible speed.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next; and Standing Orders Nos. 37. and 38. to be considered in order to their being dispensed with.