§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said—My Lords, it is always a very painful task to have to propose severe measures of repression; but it is especially so when, as in the present case, so lately as in the last Session of Parliament, the Government asked for, and Parliament gave, very ample powers 2 directed against crime in Ireland. But there is something yet more painful, and that is the spectacle of crime unpunished, and of a great conspiracy overriding and defying the law: and when it is shown that the remedies which have been already applied are insufficient, Her Majesty's Government do not shrink from asking Parliament to give them still further powers. While I recognize in the fullest manner the responsibility of the Government, I altogether repudiate the doctrine that the panacea for all evils in Ireland is to have recourse to a system of arbitrary arrest, and that, in a country where there is no evil more serious than that of want of confidence in the law, the Government and Parliament should have recourse to a suspension of the law, unless there are the strongest proofs of its necessity, and that it cannot be avoided. Besides these considerations, we have to show that the Peace Preservation Act, passed last year, is not sufficient for the purpose we now have in view. It is, at all events, a great satisfaction to me, on moving the second reading of this Bill, to be 3 able to state that, as regards the greater part of Ireland, that Act has been a complete success. The Returns which have been presented to Parliament show what its effect has been. Taking the Return of agrarian outrages, which is the one kind of crime to which I shall specially refer in urging this matter, I find that, immediately after the Peace Preservation Act, agrarian outrages, which had been 391 in January, 303 in February, 356 in March, and 111 in April, fell to 37 in May, to 21 in June, to 17 in July, to 16 in August, to 16 in September, to 11 in October, to 30 in November, and to 20 in December; while during the present year there were 35 in January, 36 in February, and 48 in March. These figures show that the diminution of these crimes after the passing of the Act was immediate, and that it has continued during the autumn and winter, which are the seasons when these outrages are more usually committed. It is right I should also mention what has been the state of crime in Westmeath. In Westmeath the number of outrages of an agrarian nature in January last were 7, in February 10, in March 9; and in the whole year 1870 the total was 103:—so that in that county these crimes do not appear to have materially diminished or increased since the passing of the Act. Westmeath, unfortunately for reasons which I shall presently state, is an exception to the general success of that measure; and I will at once meet an accusation which has been brought against the Government, and which will, doubtless, be repeated to-night, that, being aware that in Westmeath crime had not been sufficiently cheeked, they did not at once come to Parliament and propose measures for its repression. Now, those who blame the Government for having preferred the course of first laying the facts before Parliament seem to me to show an extreme misconception of the state of the case. Where there is a political conspiracy, like that of the Fenians, and where it is obvious that unless prompt and vigorous measures of repression are adopted, it may break out in open rebellion, there is no course left to the Government but at once to come to Parliament and propose on its own responsibility immediate measures, such as the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act; while, unless Parliament is pre- 4 pared to withdraw altogether its confidence from the Government, it has no alternative but to accept the statement of the Minister, and pass the necessary Act. While, however, admitting the responsibility of the Government in such a case, I contend that Parliament would abdicate its proper functions if, when the necessity was not so great and urgent, and where there is time for inquiry, it should pass measures depriving subjects of the Queen of their liberties, without thoroughly investigating the state of the case, taking merely the ipse dixit of the Minister. The Government preferred, therefore, in this instance, to lay the facts of the case before a Committee of the House of Commons, and I think any of your Lordships who have studied the evidence which has been communicated to this House, will admit that no statement which a Minister could have made could have placed before Parliament in so complete and authoritative a manner, a description of the remarkable state of Westmeath as has been given by the witnesses examined before the Committee. It is a further advantage also, that those witnesses have given evidence before a Committee composed of Members of both sides of the House—so that there has not been a mere ex parte statement on behalf of the Government. The Government, moreover, had precedents for their guide in their course. In 1839, when outrages were very rife in Ireland—far more so than is happily the case at present — a Committee was appointed by this House, which examined witnesses and went very fully into the case. No legislation followed; but it is a remarkable circumstance, that the evidence then given with regard to Westmeath strikingly resembled that which has been given now. I will read one or two extracts from the evidence given before the Committee of 1839. Mr. Seed, then Assistant Crown Solicitor — the same gentleman, I think, who gave evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons a few weeks ago — being asked by the Committee of 1839 whether he was acquainted in the course of business in different counties with the Riband conspiracy, replied in the affirmative; and being further asked to which he thought it applied, he said—"I should say to Meath and Westmeath particularly." Mr. Geale, Crown Solicitor, another witness examined in 1839, was 5 asked whether Ribandism was more common in Westmeath than in any county of his circuit; and he replied—"I have not seen anything of it, because we have no prosecutions for it," and he went on to explain that in consequence of intimidation it was almost impossible to get witnesses. That is precisely the condition of things now. Another gentleman, Mr. Kelly, said—I think there is a regular organized system among them to oppose the law when they think fit—to exercise an entire control over the disposition of property and over the receipt of rents.It is curious that this state of things appears to be in Westmeath, and seems to have continued with very little alteration from that time to the present. That is one of the reasons why it was desirable that an inquiry should be made into the state of the county, and that no sudden measures should be adopted without investigation. There was another inquiry in 1852. The inquiry of 1839 was conducted under the auspices of a Liberal Government; and in 1852 the inquiry was under the auspices of a Conservative Government. To show that the nature of the case was precisely similar in 1852 to what it was in 1839, I will quote a short passage from the speech of the then Attorney General, Mr. Napier, in moving for the Committee. He said—He had got a return of the state of crime in the county of Louth alone during a period of two years, selecting only those cases which were connected with the Riband system. They were the acts of a great confederation, which, if not put down by the law, would put the law down, and therefore this was a conflict with an organized conspiracy against life and property of the most startling description."—[3 Hansard, cxix. 1173.]The Government of that day did not bring in a measure on their own responsibility, but went to a Committee, and subsequently proposed a measure entirely based on its recommendations. I think, therefore, I have shown that the Government have precedent for the course they have taken.
Now, my Lords, let me turn to the evidence recently taken; and I ask your Lordships' indulgence if I quote somewhat largely from it, as it is otherwise impossible to lay the case fully and authentically before the House. In the first place, it seems to have been clearly proved before the Committee that the existence of this conspiracy in Westmeath is of very long standing, and that 6 it is peculiar to that county. Upon that point, I will refer to the evidence of Captain Talbot. He was thus interrogated, and replied—Is it not the fact that Ribandism has existed from generation to generation in the same counties without much change of area?—That is what I have always heard. And that in Westmeath it has been hereditary and traditional for a long time past?—Yes; whenever I have got any information about it from anybody, they always speak of it as being peculiar to Westmeath."—[Q. 714, 715.]Captain Barry gives similar evidence. He says—Ribandism has become a chronic disease, and I think is principally confined to Westmeath."—[Q. 1236.]Evidence to the same effect was given by the head of the Irish Constabulary. It is shown throughout the evidence that Ribandism is now almost confined to Westmeath, for, though outrages of an agrarian character are committed in many other counties, they are not connected with this special conspiracy with which it is the object of the Government now to deal. It is a remarkable fact that, whereas this conspiracy was formerly directed almost entirely to questions arising out of the tenure of land, it has of late years begun to extend itself to all the relations of society, interfering with railways, canals, and almost every transaction between man and man. The evidence of Mr. Cusack, Chairman of the Midland Great Western Railway, which runs through the county, is well worthy of attention on this point, for he gives very singular evidence as to the manner in which the Riband conspiracy interferes with the management of the line. He says—At the 68th mile the inspector was reported unfit for his work, and the place was offered by the engineer to several others; but they were all warned that they should not take it, and we could not get any other to take his place, and this inefficient man is still inspector over that portion of the line."—[Q. 1311.]Further on, referring to Mr. Shaw, stationmaster at Trim, he says—I removed him at once, because the same thing had happened at Mullingar, in the case of Mr. Anketell. I wanted to remove him from the station and he would not leave, and he was shot within a week afterwards.Being asked to what cause he attributed Mr. Anketell's murder, he replied—The station at Mullingar had been very badly managed before he went there; everything had got into loose order, and the porters and the 7 people were allowed to do what they liked. He was picked out as a first-rate stationmaster to go there, and I think he got some of the porters removed, and there was a great feeling raised against him."—[Q. 1374.]Mr. Cusack also gives remarkable evidence with regard to a canal. In the case of the railway company, the directors resisted the conspiracy; but in the case of the canal, the directors entirely yielded to it, and the canal is, in point of fact, in the hands of the conspirators. Mr. Cusack, being asked whether outrages had occurred on the canal with which he was connected, said—No; I think since I have been connected with the line there has been no outrage upon the canal, although it runs parallel to the line. I account for it by their having a secret society among the men, and by their having been allowed for years to have all the appointments to themselves. As soon as a man dies or goes away the company are told whom to put into his place. These people act as a sort of police, and protect the place." — [Q. 1347–8.]The railway company, I must say, deserve considerable credit for the manner in which they have acted; and in a district where there is so much difficulty in obtaining assistance in putting the law in force, it is only right to show what can be done where people are disposed to incur a certain risk, and to come boldly forward to punish outrages. Mr. Cusack is thus examined—Is it your practice to reduce the pay of persons working on the line in the neighbourhood of the place where an outrage has been committed? Yes, it is. I have the notice with me that we issued upon that point; it is signed by myself; the engineer did not like to sign it himself, as he thought it might bring him into trouble. 'That with a view to mark the displeasure of the Board of Directors at the frequent undiscovered outrages that have been committed by the placing of stones and other obstructions on the line, the engineer has received positive orders that the wages of all permanent-way men employed by the company on the length where any such outrage occurs, and on each of the adjoining lengths, shall be reduced from 10s. to 9s. per week for 12 months following the date of the outrage, unless in the meantime such evidence is given as may lead to the discovery of the party or parties who committed the outrage, in which case the ordinary rate of wages, 10s. per week, will be resumed. Gangers' wages will be also reduced 1s. 6d. per week.' That is dated the 6th of August, 1868."—[Q. 1488.]The notice, he added, had had a very good effect. I will trouble your Lordships with one other quotation on that point, from the evidence of Mr. Julian, the Crown Solicitor in Westmeath—and I do not know any passage in the Report where the whole action of the conspiracy 8 is so well summed up. Asked whether the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act would have more than a temporary effect, he says—I think that anything which has the effect of making a lull in crime at the present day would have a highly beneficial effect in the future, because, in fact, there is no ground for the present combinations; they have nothing to complain of. Formerly questions between landlord and tenant gave rise to agrarian outrage, but now, if the Riband combinations waited for cases between landlord and tenant, they might, if I may use the term, give up business, as they are so very few in number. The consequence is that almost all the recent cases can scarcely be called agrarian at all. The Ribandmen prescribe rules for people in reference to what stewards they are to keep and whom they are to part with, and with reference to what acts they are to do in the ordinary discharge of their social duties, and they visit them with punishment unless those acts are in accordance with their ideas."—[Q. 2497.]Now, it is necessary that I should notice an assertion made by a witness of respectable authority—the Roman Catholic Bishop of Meath, Dr. Nulty—who says he does not believe the conspiracy now exists, and does not think the outrages which are committed are due to Ribandism. That assertion of course deserves weight, and I have carefully considered what can be the explanation. The explanation, I think, is very simple, and is quite consistent with the bona fides and intelligence of Dr. Nulty, which I do not in the least question. The fact is, that Roman Catholic priests are no longer so able as formerly to find out what the people are about: and there is a remarkable piece of evidence on this point. Mr. Seed says he was told by a priest, who assisted him in investigating a murder in Meath—I will tell you an extraordinary fact; I would have helped you very much more, but of late years the Roman Catholic clergymen hear nothing of what is going to be done in the country. Formerly they used to be told everything, and I could have told you everything years ago; but, from some reason or other, they withhold every information of everything that is going on in the country from their clergy."—[Q. 2452.]That, I think, sufficiently explains how Dr. Nulty comes to be of opinion that there is no Riband conspiracy. The people have ceased to communicate with the priests on these subjects, and the priests, overrating their influence on the people, have rather too hastily concluded that the conspiracy has ceased to exist. I think, myself, that there cannot be the least doubt that these outrages are connected with Ribandism. The result of 9 this state of things is, that there is the most complete intimidation throughout the county, and the adjoining baronies in Meath and the King's County which are included in this Bill. The fear of all classes is so great, and the terror of Ribandism so complete, that no evidence whatever can be procured on which to convict criminals, and the conspiracy overrides the law. Your Lordships will find some remarkable instances of the result of this. Mr. Morris Reade told the Committee that he knew of three farms which were unlet. In one case, a former tenant had been murdered, and the Ribandmen had given notice that anybody who took the farm would be murdered. In another, the land had been let for merely grazing purposes for many years; and in a third, it not being fit for pasture, it had gone to waste, and was covered with weeds. As to the impossibility of obtaining evidence, Mr. Julian says the difficulty of eliciting the truth in any case relating to Ribandism, is a difficulty amounting, he might almost say, to an impossibility. Another point which comes out in the evidence is this—that the Peace Preservation Act has not been found effective for its purpose in Westmeath. The witnesses by no means deny that it has had some good effect; but they assert that so complete is the organization of the conspiracy, and so complete the power wielded by the conspirators over all classes, that it fails in its effect, and the conspiracy continues to exercise the same baneful influence over the country as before.
Now, my Lords, I wish to say a word on the question how far Ribandism and Fenianism are connected—the more so as a noble Earl (Earl Grey) last night took exception to the course of the Government in releasing certain Fenian prisoners, as inconsistent with its present course in demanding fresh coercive powers. No doubt, it is not very easy to state with perfect confidence whether Fenianism and Ribandism are connected. My belief—which is confirmed by the evidence taken before the Committee—has always been that they are distinct organizations; but that, as might be supposed, there are many Fenians who are Ribandmen, and that Fenianism made use of the Riband conspiracy where it found it existing. To some extent, therefore, the one ran into the other; but the two organizations notwithstand- 10 ing are quite distinct. It is a remarkable fact that as Fenianism died away, so—as I was told would probably be the case—Ribandism lifted up its head again. It may, therefore, be inferred pretty confidently, that they are not identical organizations, or directed precisely to the same objects. Fenianism is a growth of comparatively late years, while Ribandism can be traced back to 1829, and doubtless to a much more remote date. I deny, therefore, that measures directed against the one are necessarily directed against the other; or that, because leniency is shown to conspirators of one class, it is inconsistent to take severe measures against conspirators of another class. Fenianism has latterly, no doubt, shown a very much diminished activity throughout Ireland, while in a particular district Ribandism has become more vigorous; the evidence which has been taken has shown that Westmeath is the peculiar seat of the conspiracy; that the conspiracy affects not merely land, but the general relations of society; that intimidation and fear prevail; and that the Peace Preservation Act, so far as Westmeath is concerned, has failed of its effect.
Under these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government have had to consider what remedy they should propose for such an alarming state of things. It is clear that if you can get no evidence you cannot punish; and if the stringent provisions of the Peace Preservation Act—which fall little short in severity of the most severe statute on record—namely, that passed under the Government of Lord Grey, which established courts-martial—are insufficient, there seems no alternative but to have recourse to the arbitrary arrest of the leaders of the conspiracy, in the hope that when they are put in prison, the confederacy will be broken up, and the feeling of intimidation among the well-disposed, who, we are told, are the majority, so diminished as to induce them to give their assistance in vindicating the law. Her Majesty's Government have, therefore, determined to propose that the Lord Lieutenant shall have power—to use a familiar though not strictly accurate term—to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act in the county of Westmeath, and in certain adjoining districts of the King's County and Meath, and that this power should exist for a period of two years. We have 11 preferred to give the Lord Lieutenant this power, when establishing a law of a local application, because it is possible, and may be hoped, that during that period it may not be necessary to put it in force in any, or, at all events, in some parts of the locality; and also by placing the power in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant, he can exercise it at any time within the two years without having to make application to Parliament. But it is obvious that if we merely gave power to the Lord Lieutenant of arresting persons who might be in Westmeath at the time of the issue of the Proclamation, it might be evaded by persons placing themselves beyond the limits prescribed by the Bill. Power is therefore given to the Lord Lieutenant to arrest any person who may have been in Westmeath at any time since the 1st of January last, and who maybe suspected of Ribandism, or of being principal or accessory in any felony, or principal in any misdemeanour committed in any place within the prescribed district, under the direction and influence of the Riband society. It is necessary to provide for a further case. It is well known that it is the constant practice of these conspirators to seek for persons outside the district in which they live, when they wish to execute their decrees. Persons unknown in the locality in which the crime is to be committed are brought from a distance, whereby the chances of escaping detection are increased. In order to meet that case, the Bill provides that any person who may be suspected of having been in the county, and having there been principal or accessory in a murder, may be arrested in any part of Ireland. Thus, as far as concerns persons who have been in Westmeath since the 1st of January, or who may go there after the passing of the Act for the purpose of committing a crime, the Bill will have effect through the whole of Ireland, though the district to be proclaimed will only be a local one.
This, my Lords, is the measure the Government propose to meet the evils prevailing in the special districts to which it is necessary to apply extraordinary provisions of repression. But, my Lords, I guard myself against being too sanguine as to the effect even of so extraordinary a measure as this. The disease is one of very long standing, and is very difficult to eradicate. The only 12 chance of success is that the well-disposed classes should take courage and assist the Government in enforcing the law, and, if possible, in bringing the conspiracy under control. I am far from saying that the magistrates of Westmeath have not done their duty—I make every allowance for the extreme difficulty of their position; but when we are told in evidence that the larger part of the population of the county is not tainted with Ribandism, we have a right to expect that by passing a measure of this kind, and by removing, as we hope to do, the leaders by whom the people are intimidated, the well-disposed part of the population will be induced to come forward and give the Government that moral support, without which no measure they can devise will produce any permanent effect.
There is another provision of great importance, which does not apply specially to Westmeath. We propose to renew the Peace Preservation Act for two years; and, considering its excellent effect as regards the greater part of the country, I think your Lordships will not refuse to renew it. It is true that Ireland is comparatively peaceable; but, after the experience we have had last year, it would be premature to deprive the Lord Lieutenant of the power of putting that Act in force in certain districts—for agrarian crime often breaks out in an unexpected manner. We propose to renew it without alteration. I am aware that Amendments have been suggested, and I do not deny that it might possibly be improved; but, inasmuch, as it has been found sufficient for its purpose throughout the country, with the exception of Westmeath, it is better to continue it in its present shape, than to attempt Amendments which might excite great difference of opinion, and which might make it difficult to carry the measure through Parliament. One suggestion is, that power should be given to try criminals without juries. Now, that would be a very grave change in the law, and, though it has frequently been suggested, I do not think that at the present moment proof of its necessity could be shown. The great evil in Westmeath is, not that juries do not convict, but that you cannot get evidence to place before them such as would induce a jury to convict; and the Attorney General tells me that in two or three 13 recent cases in which Westmeath juries failed to convict, he is far from satisfied that the evidence was such that they could properly do so. Evidence cannot be produced such as to satisfy the jurors, and it would be premature to make so extensive a change as is involved in superseding trial by jury. Again, as to a minor point. It is stated in the evidence that the power to change the venue might be made more easy. Now, it is possible that greater facilities might be given; but I am assured by the highest legal authorities in Ireland that there is no practical difficulty in changing the venue, as to which a special power was given in the Act of last year. A point of much greater importance is the operation of the system of police fines and compensation for injuries. There is great difference of opinion among the witnesses as to the effect of the present law. Some think that it presses with undue severity on the innocent; but others deem it very desirable that as many classes and persons as possible should be made to feel the effect of the present disgraceful state of things. My own opinion is, that the principle of the law is good, and that it is decidedly advantageous that those who have not the courage to come forward and aid the law should be made to feel that they have incurred a certain amount of degradation, and should suffer, at least in pocket, for the outrages which are committed. I think, therefore, it is undesirable to encumber last year's Act with any Amendments.
Having now, my Lords, noticed all the points raised by the Bill, I should like, before I sit down, to make some general observations on the state of Ireland. Look, it has been said, at the condition in which Ireland finds itself, after the great remedial measures which involved so much sacrifice, and which Parliament passed after so much deliberation. Now, any person who expected the measures of 1869 and 1870 to bear immediate fruit in complete security for life and property must have had an extraordinary notion of public affairs, and of the effect of such general measures on the state of society. All that can reasonably be expected is, what has been shown to exist—namely, signs and symptoms of improvement, and of the commencement of a better state of things. Your Lordships will find abundant evidence of this; and 14 the information which reaches us from every quarter evinces a growing disposition in Ireland to resort to the law for the redress of injuries, rather than to private revenge. Now, the great object of those measures—and especially of the Land Act—was to establish the supremacy of the law, and to make the people feel for the first time that the law was their protector, to which they might appeal for assistance and redress. There is some hope, if not at present a strong one, that they see for the first time that Parliament has provided some remedy for the evils of which they have always complained; and I augur from that that a better era may have commenced. Of this, at all events, I am certain—that no measures whatever will succeed in placing Ireland in the position which, considering its natural resources and the intelligence of its population, it ought to occupy, unless not only by the efforts of Parliament, but by the combination of all classes against such conspirators as those whom it is the object of this Bill to put down, the supremacy of the law is firmly established, and life and property sufficiently secured.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2*."—(The Earl of Kimberley.)
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
I can assure the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) that I do not rise to offer any obstruction to the passage of the Bill: I shall esteem it my duty to afford every possible facility to its speedily becoming law; and had the noble Earl thought it necessary to propose the suspension of the Standing Orders, so grave do I consider the matter with which the Government have undertaken to deal, that I should have been anxious to assist him in expediting the passage of the Bill. I regret that the Bill does not contain even more stringent powers; for, if discretion is to be placed in the Lord Lieutenant, you might well give him a larger discretion than is now proposed; and it is unwise, I think, to confine the operation of the Bill by a "hard and fast" line to a particular district, for in other parts of Ireland are some of the most disturbed districts to which reference was made last year, when your Lordships were asked to pass the Peace Preservation Act. I am afraid that when Westmeath and the adjoining baronies are placed under the strong arm of the law, outrages may recur 15 in other localities, where the same description of secret societies may have been slumbering. It is not my intention, however, to force on the Government more stringent measures than they are willing to ask for. I place on them the entire responsibility of dealing with this matter; for it is their duty, knowing the existence of the evil, to bring forward on their own responsibility, a measure adequate to the exigency of the case. I was certainly somewhat alarmed to hear the noble Earl say that, severe as the measure was, he was far from sanguine that it would have the effect which we must all heartily desire. I wish in discussing this measure strictly to review the conduct of the Ministry in dealing with this question, and more particularly with regard to what has taken place, as to the origin of the present legislation and the mode in which the Government have sought to deal with the subject. In the other House of Parliament, after the Session had somewhat advanced, the Chief Secretary for Ireland gave notice of a Motion for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the state of Westmeath. The Committee was to be a secret one, and, after taking evidence, it was to undertake the function of the Government, and to recommend what measures were necessary. The Government, however, soon changed their minds, and proposed that the Committee should not be secret, and that it should terminate its labours without giving any opinion. Now, I contend that the appointment of the Committee was unnecessary, because the evidence given before it was previously in the possession of the Government. Hence, the only result of the appointment of the Committee was a most disastrous one—namely, the postponement of legislation for three months. Glancing at the evidence, I can corroborate what the noble Earl has stated as to the condition of Ireland, and the conclusion I draw is this—If Ireland is in the condition described by the witnesses, and if the facts were known to the Government, they are liable to the gravest censure for not bringing forward this Bill on the first night of the Session. The Preamble admits that the existing laws have been found insufficient for the protection of life and property in the districts in question, and that I believe to be quite true. The Committee was composed, no doubt, of Gentlemen quite com- 16 petent to deal with the matter; but I deny that the inquiry was necessary. What was the evidence? Of the 14 witnesses examined, 10 were official witnesses—that is, persons in terms of official relationship with the Government. Everything which they knew, and every suggestion which they could offer, were within the knowledge of the Government. Indeed, as I shall prove by the evidence, they had for a considerable time been urging on the Government the necessity of stringent measures. They were resident magistrates, Crown Solicitors, and gentlemen of that class, who were not likely under the solemnity of an oath to give fuller or more truthful information than could have been elicited from them privately. If that be so, there was no necessity for the appointment of the Committee. Of the remaining four, one was the Roman Catholic Bishop, Dr. Nulty, whose evidence, interesting as it was, was hardly of sufficient importance to warrant the appointment of a Committee to examine him. Though he denies the existence of a large Riband society, he admits, I think, that there may be small societies, not so thoroughly organized as at former times. The second witness was the Rev. Mr. Crofton, whose evidence was that he had been shot at without any previous warning. Now, it was scarcely sufficient to warrant the appointment of a Committee to inquire into that fact. The third was Colonel French, the Member for Roscommon, who does not appear to have given very essential evidence; and the fourth was Mr. Boyd, a country gentleman, who had served on the grand jury at the Westmeath Assizes, but whose evidence can hardly be considered indispensable. The point to which I wish to direct the attention of the House is this—If, as I believe, the evidence was already in the hands of the Government, the inquiry was not only needless, but mischievous, inasmuch as it delayed legislation in a matter in which no time ought to have been lost. Captain Talbot is asked—You are aware, of course, that even if they had not been so reported to the Government, these facts would have been known to the public generally, from having appeared in the newspapers?Captain Talbot replied in the affirmative, and added thatThey were all matters of notoriety; the Government received the reports of them through the constabulary, and also through me.17 Captain Talbot was then asked whether, in addition to his written reports, he made frequent oral reports when he was up at the Castle? and he replied, "I made reports to nobody, unless the Lord Lieutenant may have sent for me." The witness went on to say that he did not make any reports by word of mouth, though he doubtless had conversations; that the mode in which he recommended the Habeas Corpus Act to be dealt with was a general suspension, with power to the authorities to apply it locally. Now, that witness has been a resident magistrate for about 18 years, and had served seven years and nine months in Westmeath. He was, therefore, perfectly competent, beyond doubt, to advise the Executive as to the state of things in Westmeath, and his opinion was, that the only way of dealing with it was by the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. Captain Reade, another resident magistrate, gave an account of the interference with agriculture, and stated that farms were thrown out of cultivation in consequence of the intimidation prevailing through the county. That gentleman stated, that, whether or not the intimidators were in a minority, he was quite satisfied that they were the strongest, and by their edicts practically governed the country, and there was no law to cope with them. Another witness states that he made a report to the Government, and that in that report he recommended the adoption of more stringent measures than the Peace Preservation Act provided; and he stated that all freedom of action was at an end in Westmeath. Such being the state of things, I maintain that it was the duty of the Government at once and without delay to apply a remedy. An important witness was Mr. Cusack, the Chairman of the Midland Great Western Railway of Ireland, who gives evidence that intimidation was also practised with regard to the management of railways. It appears that one man, an inspector, I think, of the line, was reported as thoroughly unfit for his duty. In any civilized country the course naturally taken would be to dismiss such a man, and appoint another person able to carry on the work; but Mr. Cusack states that when he sought to know who would take the man's place, he found that no one would take it, and the result was that the railway company were 18 obliged to retain an inefficient servant. Could such a state of things be found to exist anywhere else? In another case an efficient stationmaster was dismissed for his services to the company, at the instigation of one of the Crown prosecutors. As this is a peculiar case, I will read a portion of the evidence of Mr. Cusack relating to it—Have you been in communication with any of the Crown prosecutors?—Yes, I was in communication with Mr. Seed lately upon one of the very cases I mentioned—of Mr. Shaw, the stationmaster at Trim, who was threatened there. Acting upon the suggestion of the police authorities, we made the station ball proof, and he was guarded at the station day and night. We have recently removed him at the suggestion of the Crown solicitor. Was that suggestion given by word of mouth, or in writing?—I received a letter from Mr. Seed. Have you that letter with you?—Yes, I have (producing the same). That case occurred in the county of Meath, not in the county of Westmeath. This is the letter from Mr. Seed, in which he recommends me to take the man away. Will you be kind enough to read that letter?—I will. 'My dear Cusack,—The investigation of the case of a man named William Weldon, charged with stealing coals from the railway station at Trim' (I may tell you that I think the cause of animosity to Mr. Shaw was that he gave information to the police about some man that was found stealing coals off a cart which had left the station; they were in the habit of doing that, I believe), 'renders it imperative on me to recommend to you the removal of Mr. Shaw, the stationmaster, to some other station, as, in my opinion, and in that of the Crown counsel, his personal safety will be greatly endangered should he be allowed to remain at Trim. He has already been served with several threatening letters threatening him with the fate of poor Anketell at Mullingar, who was murdered under precisely similar circumstances as those which now threaten the life of Shaw; he cannot stir out unless accompanied by two police-constables, and the sub-inspector at Trim informed us that his life is in great peril. Having thus relieved myself of all responsibility in making this communication, I must leave the matter with you to deal with it as you may think proper; but I should be wanting in my duty if I were not to report to you the high opinion which we all entertain for Mr. Shaw, whose intelligence, zeal, and high sense of duty in using very exertion in his power to discover the perpetrators of the late robberies from the Trim station are beyond all praise; he must be an invaluable officer to any company. Believe me to be, most truly, S. SEED, Crown Solicitor.' In consequence of that communication did you make any further application to the authorities?—I showed that letter to Mr. Burke, the Under-Secretary, and he advised me to act upon it. We were anxious to have left Mr. Shaw there. He wished to stay himself; and the police authorities thought that he could not possibly be touched, He was very much annoyed at being taken away. He thought that by remaining, the perpetrators and writers of these threatening letters would have been discovered."—[Q. 1367.]19 This evidence reveals a state of things which demanded prompt measures. The highest opinion is entertained of this officer; but the way in which the Government deals with him is to get rid of him. That is the way in which the Government has acted in such cases. In such a state of things, which had been properly described by a Roman Catholic Prelate as a curse and reproach to the country, I want to know, how could the Government reconcile it with their sense of duty to wait three months before applying to Parliament for powers to cope with the evil? Another witness, Mr. Julian, Crown Solicitor, suggests that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act is the only thing that can put a stop to the present dreadful state of society. He also states that he has no doubt that the Government of Ireland is perfectly acquainted with his opinions on this subject.I have no doubt," he says, "that the Government of Ireland have used the greatest efforts which the law, as it stands at present, enables them to use to suppress crime.Then he is asked—"But you have expressed your opinion that most coercive measures are necessary for that purpose?" and his answer is—"Yes; most coercive." "And alone would be sufficient?" To which he replies—"And alone would be sufficient." This state of things is confirmed by other authorities; but, instead of supporting coercive measures, these witnesses recommend that when a gentleman's life is threatened, he should run away, being themselves powerless to do anything in the matter. The Inspector of Constabulary, Sir John Stewart-Wood, who had served in the Army before he became connected with the Irish Constabulary, says he has written strongly upon the subject for the last year-and-a-half, but apparently with very little effect. The noble Earl did not dwell so emphatically as I had anticipated on the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. It is true that it has hitherto been usual to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act for political offences only; but the present condition of Ireland is nearly as disastrous now, as it was when the Act was suspended on former occasions. I will ask your Lordships to listen, while I read what the condition of Ireland was as described by by Sir George Grey when, in 1866, he moved the suspension of the Habeas 20 Corpus Act. First of all, he mentions the disastrous consequences which must follow should the existing state of things remain unchecked. That observation applies equally now. It must, he says, paralyze industry, deter the application of capital in productive labour, and check the development of the resources of Ireland. All this is equally true now. Industry is paralyzed; and I should like to know, whether the evidence of Mr. Cusack, when he says that they were unable to manage the railway as they could desire and ought to manage it, is likely to bring additional capital into the country? "It is most important, therefore, for the interests of the country," said Sir George Grey, "that the conspiracy should be checked." I also say it is most important that this secret society of Ribandmen should be put down. "Is it not notorious and patent," he continued, "that a conspiracy dangerous to the peace and destructive to the interests of Ireland exists in that country?" Yes. And I ask the House to judge for itself, whether from what I have stated a conspiracy dangerous to life and destructive to the interests of Ireland does not exist in the country; and, whether the Government have done all that was in their power to put down such a conspiracy? I think the Peace Preservation Act of last year shows that the Government are disposed to check this conspiracy. Sir George Grey asked for additional powers by which this conspiracy should be put down. I think the Government would be perfectly justified in asking for even stronger powers than they now ask for; and if they agree with Sir George Grey, I am sorry the noble Earl did not come to the conclusion to which Sir George Grey arrived—If the House is satisfied that there is good cause for the proposal I have made, let me add one word more. I trust hon. Members will feel that it is important that the powers asked for should be placed in the hands of the Government with the least possible delay."—[3 Hansard, clxxxi. 680.]I know it is said that an apprehended revolution alone justifies the grant of such powers; but, in the present state of Ireland, the reasoning of Sir George Grey in 1866 applies with equal force. In dealing with such a state of things there should be no delay. My Lords, the noble Earl hinted that it was not to be supposed that the remedial measures 21 passed during the last two Sessions of Parliament should bear fruit immediately, and that the House and the country ought not, therefore, to be surprised at his asking for the further and more coercive powers which are given in this Bill—namely, the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act and the continuance of the Peace Preservation Act—which, I think, the noble Earl will hardly deny was passed as a temporary measure—in the hope that remedial legislation of so satisfactory a character would be passed, that this Act would not long be enforced. I find the Prime Minister, in speaking upon the Peace Preservation Act of last year, distinctly held out that it was to be a measure of a temporary character, and he expressed a hope that the evil might soon pass away, and said he looked to the remedial legislation he proposed as likely to supersede the necessity for coercive measures. The Prime Minister, then, at any rate, looked to these remedial measures bearing fruit, and to the Peace Preservation Act as being of merely a temporary character. I will not go further into the evidence; but after reading it and seeing the course which the Government propose, I am reminded that, upon their assumption of office, there were two points upon which we were told they would be pre-eminently successful. In the comparisons instituted between Her Majesty's present Advisers and their less talented predecessors, if there were two things in which the present Government were supposed to have the confidence of the country, they were the questions of finance and the question of governing Ireland. With the question of finance we have not perhaps so much to do in this House, and certainly on this occasion I am not going into that subject; but I mention it in order to remark, that the opinions which had been formed of the capabilities of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in dealing with that important branch of business, will lead people to pause somewhat before they again make the comparisons which I believe they made upon the accession of the present Government to office. With regard to Ireland, however, there is no sort of doubt: Ireland was to be so governed that all coercion was to be at an end. The Habeas Corpus Suspension Bill, which had been in operation during the period 22 we had the honour of holding office, expired and was not renewed during the present Administration. Ireland was to be governed in a totally different manner from that which it had ever been dealt with before: it was to be governed, in short, according to Irish ideas. It is true that Irish ideas may mean coercion and strong measures; and if so, Ministers have certainly kept up to that view, and are governing Ireland in a manner which must be highly satisfactory to the people. I confess I should have been better pleased if this measure had been of a more stringent character. My Lords, I will not venture to criticize the various points of the Bill, small though they be. The clauses are necessary and sufficient according to the Government; and it would be unwise to force upon the Government further and larger powers of coercion than they seek for, because, of course, the result would be that they would not put these powers into force, and if the Bill were made more stringent the success of it as a measure of coercion might in this manner be taken away. Upon the whole, therefore, it is better to leave the Bill as we find it. I shall leave the matter to the responsibility of the Government. Their measure is not, in my opinion, sufficiently stringent. I trust, however, it may be found so to work as to bring those portions of Ireland to which it relates more into the condition of a civilized country than they certainly are at the present moment. Should that be the result, no one will more rejoice than myself that I have not, at all events, been obstructive in regard to the passing of the Bill.
§ EARL RUSSELL
My Lords, the greater part of the speech of the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) goes to show that there exists an absolute necessity for the passing of some measure for the protection of life in Ireland; and the present Bill has been brought forward specially with that object. Among the charges which the noble Duke has made against the Government is the delay which has occurred in taking this step, which, he contends, they ought to have taken on the first day of the Session, without delaying for the appointment of a Committee. Now, I do not pretend to answer for my noble Friends; but as to the main question the Government were, in my opinion, perfectly right, at all events, in proposing the Committee before which evidence should 23 be given before they introduced their Bill. I think there can be no doubt that in so doing they adopted the proper course. If it had been a Bill making ordinary changes in the law with respect to crime, a Committee might not have been necessary; but, as the result of the deliberations of a Committee must have been foreseen by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland to be likely to be the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act for two years—thus conferring on the Lord Lieutenant the power to imprison persons without trial, a measure containing provisions so grave and so unusual fully justified the Government, in my opinion, in asking for a Committee as a preliminary proceeding, and producing before the Committee the evidence on which they were to justify the course they were about to propose. You must take into consideration the kind of offences which generally have led to the suspension of the Act. I am, I think, justified in saying that the cases in which the Habeas Corpus Act has been suspended hitherto have been cases in which a conspiracy was known to exist in the country of a political character, and in which the Government found themselves unable to obtain the conviction of guilty persons in the ordinary Courts of Law. In almost all these instances, too, the conspiracy was supposed to have relation with some foreign Power, or an expectation of foreign aid was supposed to exist. Now, these are cases entirely different from the present; and it requires a strong conviction in such an instance as this, and demands that the Government should lay strong evidence before Parliament, before the Legislature could be justified in adopting such a course as the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. I repeat, therefore, that the Government were, in my opinion, right, even at the cost of some delay, in asking for a Committee. As to the operation of the Bill, I have some doubt whether it will give the Lord Lieutenant authority—conferring upon him as it does the power of doing that in certain parts of Ireland which is inconsistent with the ordinary freedom and safety to which every subject of the Queen is entitled—to exercise that power in other parts of the country. I entertain this doubt because I see in the Schedule Westmeath and certain parts of Meath named as the places to 24 which the provisions of the Bill are to apply. But if I have any doubt about the measure, it does not relate to the proposal for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in a district where the life of no man is safe, and in which a man pursuing the most innocent occupation is liable to be murdered. It appears to me, I may add, that the present Government has on the one side, a peculiar claim to confidence in respect to Ireland; while on the other hand, a peculiar obligation rests upon them, in dealing with a question of this kind affecting Ireland. Ireland, to use the language of Mr. Grattan, is a country in which the people have been ill-governed and in which the Government has been ill-obeyed: that has been the history of Ireland equally since as before the Union. Of late there had grown up, for the first time on this side of the Channel, a feeling that that country had been injured—that she suffered under great oppression, and a desire grew up that her grievances should be remedied and that oppression removed. The present Government, and especially the present Prime Minister, had great influence in exciting that feeling. The consequence was that he obtained a large majority to join with him in giving it effect, and two considerable measures—affecting the two main grievances—the one relating to the Irish Church, which was not touched by the Catholic Emancipation Act — and the other the land question, which affected the whole of Ireland—were passed into law. In my opinion the Government were so far successful in providing a remedy for grievances of long standing, and they were fortunate enough to do so, I think, in the case of the Land Bill, without, in any great degree, trenching on the rights of property. Having done so much for Ireland it was, however, I must say, a disappointment to me to find that they were compelled to pass last year a Peace Preservation Bill, which, in a great degree—as must, indeed, always be the case with any measure going beyond the ordinary law—trenched on the principles of liberty. They were, it seems to me, bound after passing the measures to which I have just referred to place themselves in a different position with regard to Ireland from former Governments. It had been the policy of all parties and of every successive Government to maintain the law as it existed, 25 and when in connection with tithes or some other question great outrages occurred, to introduce measures of coercion, I, for one, always thought, and I still think, that when measures of such a kind are passed, the general principles of justice and the freedom of the subject ought, as far as possible, to be sacredly observed. The Peace Preservation Act of last year, too, seems to me to have sinned against these principles. There are clauses in that Bill authorizing to arrest and confine any person whom they may happen to find out of their homes at a certain time of night. Now, I confess, these are provisions which appear to me to be contrary to all the principles of the liberty of the subject, for many persons may be out at night in the pursuit of the most lawful occupations—such as a farmer going to visit a neighbour on business, or a young man going to see the girl whom he has engaged to marry. There is another provision with regard to the Press, by which the Lord Lieutenant, upon certain proofs that a newspaper is inciting to treasonable practices, has the power to confiscate the property of the proprietor of that newspaper. I hold that again to be a provision entirely contrary to the general principles of law. There seems to be a notion that when we have once granted to a country that no man should be convicted except upon the verdict of 12 jurymen, and extended to them certain valuable principles of English law, nothing more is required. But when we wished to govern Scotland well we did not impose upon the people of that country the English rules of justice, or the English form of religion, but left them to their own customs, and to that form of religion which they preferred. And so with regard to Ireland, unless we endeavour to reduce our laws to a shape that will be suitable, not to Englishmen, but to Irishmen, we shall not succeed. I believe that the people of this country and the people of Ireland owe great obligations to the Government of the present day for what they have done with regard to the Church and the land; but with regard to the preservation of life and property in Ireland, that is a question as to which Her Majesty's Government should be permitted to say they have had no time to give it attention — they ought to give it their attention every week and 26 every month, with a view, if possible, to bring the country into the same happy state in which Scotland now is. I wish, therefore, they would take into consideration some permanent measures by which the state of Ireland may be made as perfect as that of Scotland.
My Lords, I cannot allow this Bill to pass a second reading without stating that I, for one, cannot give it my approval. I concur with my noble Friend who introduced this Bill, and with the noble Duke behind me (the Duke of Richmond), as to the extreme importance of providing for the security of life and property in Ireland. It is the duty of every Government to give that security to its subjects; but, having listened attentively to the speech of my noble Friend, I cannot come to the conclusion that the Bill before us is calculated to effect the object in view, while it is open to my mind to the most grave objections. We all admit that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act is a most serious evil. To leave the liberty of every man at the mercy of the Executive Government—to give the Government the arbitrary power of imprisoning for offences they are not able to prove, is in itself a very great evil. At the same time, in circumstances of great danger and difficulty, Parliament has had recourse to such a measure; but, my Lords, in general—I believe I might say always—Parliament has only consented to adopt that very strong measure for the purpose of dealing with some plot for the overthrow of the Government, or for exciting armed resistance to its authority. But that is a very different case from the present one, we are dealing now, not with a plot which, if at once put an end to, we may hope for a better state of things, but with a conspiracy which, as my noble Friend seems to say, and as the whole evidence clearly shows, is of very long endurance. A conspiracy prevails in certain parts of Ireland, by means of which intimidation is established, grave offences are committed, and the people in their ordinary occupations are seriously molested. Now, on looking at the evidence, I do not find that even those who recommend a measure like that now before the House are very sanguine as to the effect it will produce. They say, no doubt, that for the moment it will be useful—that as long as the persons against whom it is 27 aimed are shut up they will be unable to do mischief, and that the conspiracy will be crippled; but they all think that you cannot keep these men permanently imprisoned, and that when they are let out they will probably return again to their old practices, with an increased animosity arising from the imprisonment to which they have been subjected. My Lords, with regard to persons engaged in treasonable conspiracy, there is generally a possibility of obtaining, if not legal evidence, at least sufficient moral evidence to guard against the danger of imprisoning innocent men. But in this case it is different. The obscure village leaders of the Riband conspiracy cannot be known to the higher officers of the Government—knowledge of them can only be arrived at through the subordinate officers of the police; and these, again, must act upon denunciations made to them in private by persons who think they know who are engaged in the conspiracy. Now, observe the extreme danger of this. You give this power of imprisonment to the Lord Lieutenant; but, practically, it must be exercised by police inspectors, perhaps by police constables, and it must be put in motion by the secret denunciations of persons living among those who are taken to be Ribandmen. How possible it is that men from animosity, from malice, from various bad motives, may be induced to denounce persons who are not really guilty of crime. It appears, as far as we can judge from the evidence before us, and from a speech used on the opposite Benches, that the names of those informers are to be kept secret—because, otherwise, there is no advantage gained by the Bill. If their evidence is really true, and they are prepared to stand by it, there is no reason why they should not come forward and state what they have to state in a Court of Law; but if they are not prepared to do this, if they are only ready to give secret information to the police, if the knowledge of who they are is to be studiously guarded so that it may not escape them, what security have we that animosity and malice may not largely enter into such denunciations? But that is not all. My noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Kimberley) said—very justly—that the real cause of the disturbed state of this part of Ireland is, that people have not the courage to come forward and act 28 with the spirit which they ought in order to suppress outrages. My noble Friend said that, if those who are really in favour of law and order were manly enough to take a bold line in support of authority, these crimes could not go on for a day. This is perfectly true. But let me ask your Lordships, is it not the direct tendency of this Bill to encourage that very cowardly and unmanly feeling of apprehension of the consequences of doing their duty—in persons of position as well as in the lower ranks of society—which is now the cause of these disorders? Is it not a direct encouragement to those who will not come forward and openly avow what they know, even though at some risk to themselves? My Lords, I am persuaded that the true policy for the Government to pursue, is to trust to a firm and vigorous administration of the law in Ireland, which would encourage the well-disposed to assist them in the maintenance of order. At the same time, I am perfectly willing to grant them any extraordinary powers, which may seem directly calculated to assist them in putting down crimes, and I therefore approved of the Peace Preservation Act of last year, which seems to have proved highly successful in many parts of Ireland. But what I think all-important is, that whatever measures are adopted should tend to stimulate, not to discourage, bold and decided action on the part of the well-disposed. By such action on their part much may be done, and I would call the attention of the House to the very striking evidence on this point which was given by a Gentleman who was examined by the Committee of the House of Commons—I allude to Colonel French. Colonel French stated that some years ago the County of Roscommon was in even a worse state with respect to Ribandism than Westmeath now is; but that the gentry determined vigorously to resist the intimidators. With this view, they availed themselves of the power conferred by an Act of the late King, to swear in special constables, and by arming some of these men, and combining together, so as to have a sufficient force ready to act promptly against the disturbers of the peace whenever they showed themselves, they succeeded in putting down the Riband conspiracy in Roscommon. Now, I think it bad policy to encourage the gentry, and the well-disposed of the lower classes in West- 29 meath, to trust to what the Government may do for them under the provisions of this Bill, and to secret denunciations of those they believe to be Ribandmen, rather than to their own exertions. I wish to see them coming forward, as the people of Roscommon did, and taking openly the measures that are in their power to stop these atrocious outrages. To stimulate them to such exertion it is clear from the evidence laid before us that some Amendments of the Peace Preservation Act are much needed, and I own I was much astonished to hear the reasons given by my noble Friend for not attempting to make the Amendments in that Act which he admitted to be wanted. He said it was better to renew it simply as it stood, because in great part of Ireland it had proved successful, and that there would be much difference of opinion with respect to any Amendments that might be proposed, and much time occupied in discussing them. Surely when the question lay between passing a Bill, so open to objection as that before us, or seeking to strengthen the late Act and render it more effectual, without conferring power liable to abuse on the Executive Government, the probability is, that a little more time might have been taken by amending the late Act, and that Parliament might perhaps be kept sitting a little longer, was not a consideration to which any weight should have been given. My noble Friend remarked that considerable stress had been laid by some of the witnesses before the Committee, on the advantage there would be in amending the provisions of the recent Act with regard to changing the venue in cases where the proper discharge of their duty by a Westmeath jury might be distrusted; but he said that the highest legal authorities were of opinion that the law as it stands does provide for the object in view, though I did not understand him to affirm that this could be done with as much promptitude and facility as would be desirable. I confess that this seems to me an insufficient excuse for not attempting an amendment of the law in this respect. It is of the highest importance that there should be the means of bringing to trial at once, before a tribunal which may be relied upon, persons accused of crimes connected with Ribandism; and when we read in the evidence that the panel of jurymen in Westmeath is such that, by using 30 their privilege of challenge, Riband prisoners in Westmeath can generally so reduce the small panel as to ensure that there shall be one or two sympathizers with them on the jury, it is surely most necessary that the Government should have the power of causing the trial to be held elsewhere, without the delay occasioned by the formalities now required. But my noble Friend also admitted that almost all the witnesses before the Committee considered the Peace Preservation Act to be defective on a much more serious point. I refer to the clauses which provide for levying from the district in which offences have been committed, money for making compensation to the sufferers and their families, and for the payment of the cost of additional police. My noble Friend contended that, notwithstanding the objections made to it by the witnesses, the law upon this point was sound in principle, and I agree with him. I consider the principle of making a district responsible for offences committed in it, and especially for offences which could not be committed with impunity—without, at least, the passive connivance of the population—to be a sound and a wise one; it is the principle of the ancient Saxon legislation, which mainly contributed to put down violence in this country, and gradually to establish in it order and civilization in the place of confusion and barbarism. But though the principle is a wise one, it is clear from the evidence that it is so ill-applied in Ireland, under the law as it stands, that the provisions of the existing Act do rather harm than good. The money levied from an Irish barony, on account of crimes committed in it, is levied by a rate upon property, and therefore falls chiefly upon the sufferers by these outrages; while, if it were levied as was originally proposed by the Government, by a house tax, to which every dwelling, large or small, should be compelled to contribute, the burden would fall on those who have the power, if they would use it, of stopping these crimes, so that every man, high or low, would be made to feel that he had an interest in doing so, and that if he withheld his assistance in maintaining the peace of the district from fear of the consequences of offending the Ribandmen, he must suffer for his cowardice by a heavy pecuniary burden. An amendment of the law in this sense would, I believe, do far more 31 to establish security in Westmeath than the Bill submitted to us. I do not object to that Bill because I feel less strongly than Her Majesty's Government the necessity of providing for the security of life and property in Ireland; but because I do not regard it as a statesmanlike measure, or as being calculated to prove a real remedy for the evil against which it is directed. It is a mere palliative, that will probably leave things worse than it finds them.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I cannot but express my deep regret that the noble Earl who has just sat down (Earl Grey) has given the sanction of his great authority to the idea that evils so serious as those which afflict Ireland can be remedied by the instrumentality of the ordinary law. He seems to imagine that the present state of things should act as a bracing and invigorating process which would produce corresponding courage in the gentlemen exposed to it, and that all you have to do is to rouse them and they will encounter these evils for themselves. My Lords, it is possible that if you gave the gentry of Ireland liberty to deal with these evils they might check them. I have often thought that it might be said that one of the great evils of Ireland is, that there is a criminal law at all. If that law were abolished, or were allowed to sleep, as in America, the same system in regard to the repression of outrage which obtains in America, would be acted upon in Ireland also. It is possible that Vigilance Committees would be appointed by the friends of property and order, and, as in America, a conspiracy on one side would be crushed by a conspiracy on the other. But the hard case of the gentlemen of Ireland is, that while they are obliged to sit and be shot at without the slightest protection from the Executive Government, they are liable to be hanged if they take any retaliatory measures. It seems to me impossible that the chivalrous courage of the gentlemen of Ireland should develop itself under such circumstances as these, and that the stimulating process which the noble Earl recommends to the gentry of Ireland must entirely fail. I am afraid that both the noble Earl (Earl Russell) and the noble Earl who promoted this Bill somewhat exaggerated, even under the most favourable circumstances, the 32 number and power of those who may be expected to take the side of law and order, and to whose courage the noble Earl who introduced the Bill appealed. There is one answer in the evidence to which I should like to call the attention of my noble Friend who has just sat down. It is the answer of Mr. Morris Reade, a resident magistrate. He was asked as to the proportion of those who are friends of the Riband Society and those who are the friends of law and order in Westmeath. Being asked by the Solicitor General for Ireland, whether he thought the people of Westmeath, free from intimidation and uninfluenced from terror, were to act with the Government, they could put down these conspiracies? he answered they could not act freely because intimidation rules the country.But," said the Solicitor General for Ireland, "after all, the intimidators are in the minority." "Be it so," replied Mr. Reade, "but they are the strongest. I could not even say that they are in a large minority. I could not even say if you were to poll Westmeath to-morrow that the Ribandmen would be in the minority; but I am quite satisfied that they are the strongest."—[Q. 1127–8.]That is a most fearful thing to say of a country calling itself civilized. It means that more than half the population of a country which is supposed to be a civilized country are supporters of and sympathizers with assassins. A more terrible state of public morality was never presented to any country to deal with. If I object to this Bill, it is because I fear the mere process of imprisonment will not cure the men or cure the system that the Government has to confront. The real difficulty is this—you have got in this country a system of judicature framed upon the Teutonic stock, and fit for a civilized nation, and you apply it to a Celtic nation, part of which is in the very depths of barbarism. If you had not been forced by an unhappy political accident to include Ireland in your system, you would never have dreamed, if you had conquered it, of applying to it your judicature, which you in vain, by tinkering and patching, try to adapt to their use. The population are unfit for the system that you are trying to thrust upon them. If I had my own way in these districts, I would invest the late noble Viceroy of India opposite with adequate powers to deal with, them in a like manner as he dealt with the 33 population of India. What is wanted in Ireland is a judicial system that is not so much severe as that it will be certain in its operation. You want a system under which the felon and the murderer may not say to himself—"I am certain I shall escape from it, because I can prevent its being brought into operation." My noble Friend who has just addressed your Lordships forgets this lamentable fact—that the paralysis of a judicial system such as ours is owing to the fact that minute and exact evidence is wholly wanting in Ireland. If you mean to administer real and effective justice in that country, you must be content with something less than formal proof—you must be content with a more summary jurisdiction. You need not be one whit more harsh; but you must dispense with that mass of precautions which are provided for our own happier country. I look upon this measure as only a temporary one, for no country can go on suspending its constitution. I am glad to intrust the Government with the power of doing so, if they think it necessary; but I hope they will turn their attention to this question of providing such a judicial machinery as Ireland requires. Trial by jury has been tried and has broken down there, and you must find if there is not something else, and something beyond, either in our own experience in our Colonies or in India, or in that of other nations, some machinery which can cope with this great evil; and you must not fear because you may be reproached as being unconstitutional from applying it to this, which is one of the most terrible and disgraceful evils that have ever fallen on any country.
said, he had felt much confused by the concluding words of the speech of the noble Earl who moved the second reading of this Bill, for he gave the House to understand that some districts might possibly remain free from its operation; whereas the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in moving the appointment of the Committee in the other House, had described the condition of things in the districts affected by this Bill as "intolerable."
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
explained that what he said was that it would be desirable to give to the Lord Lieutenant power to suspend the operation of the Act in any district where at any time 34 during its period it was found not to be required.
said, he was glad of the explanation, which had relieved him from much anxiety. He hoped that the powers in the Bill would be at once put in force, in which case he believed the effect would be much greater than was generally supposed, because the Ribandmen and assassins were, for the most part, well known to the police and to many of the Roman Catholic clergy. He could speak from personal knowledge how much this measure was required, for the quiet neighbourhood in which he resided had been for some time disturbed by four bad characters, who maintained a state of terror; they were well known, although they could not be convicted. By means of this Bill it would be possible to commit to, prison the known leaders of the Riband conspiracy, and there was no reason why that stop should not be taken. One most important result of this Bill would be the practical acknowledgment that our system of judicature, however well fitted for England, was not fitted for Ireland. The fact was, we worshipped the machinery instead of keeping the great object for which the machinery was intended steadily in view. He trusted, therefore, that if the present Government, or any future Government, should come to the conclusion that the present system did not work well in Ireland, they would not hesitate to substitute for it one that would. It would be far better to preserve life and property by introducing a more effective system than to adhere to one which had become a mere matter of obsolete form, and which being utterly inefficient had become contemptible. This Bill had not been produced too soon, and he hoped it would pass without material alteration from those 15 hon. Friends of Mr. Gladstone who called themselves the people of Ireland, for last Session they caused the omission of some of the best parts of the Peace Preservation Bill. He denied that the people of Westmeath were wanting in courage; but hoped they would be more united now that the Government had undertaken to provide for the security of life and property in their country.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, it is quite clear from the course this debate has taken that the task of the Government 35 in reference to this Bill will be easy, and therefore I do not propose to say anything either with regard to the necessity for this measure, which has been generally acknowledged, or in favour of your Lordships' passing it, but shall direct my observations to one or two remarks which have fallen from noble Lords opposite. The only objection raised to the Bill by the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond) was that it was not strong enough. Upon that point I think he was a little inconsistent; because, while he blames the Government for not having acted more speedily, he finds fault with the measure which was founded upon the recommendations contained in the evidence given before the Committee of the other House. The noble Duke further complained of us for not bringing in this Bill earlier, and said that he could not understand why we had referred the matter to a Committee. On this point I must remark that the Earl of Derby's Government not only referred the same subject to a Committee, but asked them to consider what remedy should be applied to the evils that then existed in Ireland, and a measure founded upon their recommendations was passed. The noble Duke also charged the Government with having been guilty of great dereliction of duty in not having brought in this measure on the first day of the Session—quite forgetting that this Bill has not been introduced to meet an extraordinary emergency that has now just arisen for the first time, but to remedy an evil that has been growing up during the last 100 years, and presenting different phases, being more violent at some times than at others. I must remind noble Lords opposite that it is no light undertaking to bring in a Bill for the suspension of some of the constitutional liberties of the subject, and to attempt to pass it into law, when the necessity for such a measure is merely shown by a speech from the Government, supported by certain unpublished evidence. I believe the course which has been taken by the Government in this matter is most wise and most fortunate, and that the effect in Ireland will be all the stronger when it is known that this Bill has been passed, not hastily, but after deliberate discussion by Parliament, under a painful sense of duty, with sorrow and with grief. The noble Marquess opposite (the 36 Marquess of Salisbury) stated his own views with regard to Ireland and the difficulty of governing that country; but he did not tell us how far he was prepared to go in order to vindicate the supremacy of the law there. He did not tell us either whether his system of mild despotism was to extend over the whole of Ireland, or only to that part of it to which this Bill applies. The noble Marquess, moreover, told us that he should like to see trial by jury abolished in that country: but it must be borne in mind that the evidence taken before the Committee shows that Ireland, as a whole, is in a most favourable state. Whether this is owing to the recent remedial measures proposed and passed by Her Majesty's Government, or whether it is owing to the material prosperity of the country, there is no doubt that the general state of Ireland is satisfactory. The difficulty which we have to encounter in the exceptional districts would not be obviated by the remedy proposed by the noble Marquess, inasmuch as it is not that we cannot get juries to convict upon reasonable evidence, but that we cannot get evidence to lay before the juries. The noble Lord who last addressed your Lordships expressed a fear that Her Majesty's Government intended to allow this measure, when passed, to remain a dead-letter; but he may rest assured that the Irish Government will put it into force as often as necessity may require them to do so. It appears to me perfectly consistent with the duties of a Government to combine a policy of conciliation with measures for the preservation of the peace of Ireland, and for defeating the machinations of a small minority in that country.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
said, he must point out to their Lordships that although the noble Earl (Earl Granville) had assured the House that this measure had been brought in to remedy an exceptional state of things that existed in a small portion only of Ireland, many desperate and outrageous murders had been committed in Mayo and in Tipperary in open daylight. The question resolved itself into this—Did we mean to maintain the supremacy of the law in Ireland? Had the recent measures which had been passed by the British Parliament had the effect of increasing the attachment of Ireland to 37 this country? Were there as many men who stood by the Union now as there were a few years ago? That, however, was not the time for discussing the various subjects relating to Ireland, and he would refrain from doing so. He thought that the House had acted very wisely in not offering any opposition to this measure, but had preferred to leave the responsibility involved by it upon the Government.
§ LORD CAIRNS
It is evident from the state of the House that your Lordships are not desirous that this discussion shall be prolonged, and, therefore, I do not propose to offer any remarks upon what has fallen from the noble Lords who have addressed us on the subject. I wish, however, to point out one or two matters in reference to the peculiar form of the Bill. I do not intend to propose any Amendments—on the contrary, I think your Lordships propose to accept the Bill upon the responsibility of the Government, and in its present form to send it down to the other House of Parliament. The noble Earl who last addressed the House on the part of Her Majesty's Government said that it was the intention of the Government to give effect to the suggestions which had been contained in the evidence which was given before the Committee of the other House. But, as far as I understand that evidence, the Bill fails to give effect to those suggestions. Thus, Captain Talbot advised the general suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, with power to the authorities to enforce that suspension locally, on the ground that, if the Habeas Corpus Act were only to be suspended by Act of Parliament in certain named districts, the Riband conspiracy would disappear in those districts only to crop up in other parts of Ireland. Another point to which I wish to refer is that the first part of one of the clauses of the Bill would lead to the belief that the misdemeanour or felony of which the person to be arrested is supposed to have been guilty may be committed anywhere: but when you come to the second part of the clause, the assumption is made that the felony or misdemeanour must have been committed inside of the district. I want the Government to consider whether there is any good reason for that difference between the two parts of the clause. If the largeness which, attaches to the first part is proper, why is it not extended to the 38 second? Again, I wish them to consider the difficulties they will get into by the condition as to residence which they have adopted. According to this condition, it must be predicated that the person you are going to arrest is, or has been since the 1st of January, resident in the district. Why not alter the clause and let the assumption be that the person you are going to arrest has been in the district, and not embarrass yourselves with questions about residence which may go to throw doubt on the validity of your warrant? Another question which I wish to ask the Government is, who is to do all the "suspecting" referred to in the Bill? There is one offence which requires three distinct categories of suspicion to exist in order that you may deal with it. In the first place, you are to suspect that there has been a felony or misdemeanour; in the second place, you are to suspect that the person you are going to arrest has been in the district at the time it was committed; in the third place, you are to suspect that he has been a party to the crime; and you must state all this in your warrant. A similar course was followed in all former cases in my experience in which the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended; but you are now departing from the previous form of proceeding, and are defining what are to be the conditions on which alone you are going to put a man in prison, and your warrant, therefore, must comply with all these complicated conditions and state all about these suspicions. I ask, who is to do all this suspecting? Is it to be the Lord Lieutenant?—It seems rather an ambiguous position in which to place him. If it is to be done by a police constable, then what is the cheek or security in giving these powers to the Lord Lieutenant? I think it would be better not to insert all these categories of suspicion. However, I throw out these points for the consideration of the Government in addition to the other questions that have been raised to-night, and I should be ready, if the Government think it necessary for the protection of the districts now so unhappily situated to ask for those powers, to give them every assistance in my power.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
said, that he intended on going into Committee to ask their Lordships to extend the area to which the Bill should 39 apply; and he thought the circumstances of Ireland, if the Government would consider them, really called on them to take that course. It had been said that the other parts of Ireland were at least comparatively peaceful; but the county of Mayo, in which he resided, which up to within three years ago was one of the most peaceful counties in Ireland, was unfortunately now in a condition which demanded the attention of the Government. According to a Return which had been referred to, agrarian crime had doubled between 1866 and 1868; and it had increased eight-fold between 1868 and 1870 contemporaneously with recent legislation. He found that during the last year there were in Ireland 1,329 agrarian outrages, out of which only 103 were committed in Westmeath, 95 in Meath, 38 in King's County, and he was sorry to say, not fewer than 665 in Mayo. He could not, therefore, see why Mayo was not to be included in the operation of this Bill. Last Session the Peace Preservation Act was passed; and what was the state of agrarian crime during the first few months of the present year? In January there were committed in Ireland 35 agrarian crimes, 9 of which occurred in Westmeath and 9 in Mayo. In February there were 36 agrarian crimes committed in Ireland, 10 of them in Westmeath and he was happy to say none in Mayo; but in March the number committed in Ireland was 36, of which 7 were in Westmeath and 7 in Mayo. The cases for compensation for outrages were equal in Mayo and in Westmeath. He asked how the Government distinguished between one part of Ireland and another under the influence of Ribandism? No evidence could be obtained and nobody could be brought to trial for the worst possible crimes which were raging almost over the whole county of Mayo. He thought it was a most moderate and reasonable suggestion that the Lord Lieutenant should have power to extend that measure to the other disturbed parts of Ireland. The last clause directed that all persons arrested under the Bill were to be treated as untried prisoners. He believed the result of that would be very greatly to extend their facilities of intercourse with their friends outside, and subject them to comparatively lax discipline. In former times the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was no doubt a fearful thing for those persons affected 40 by it, because they were often made away with, and at the best were confined in loathsome prisons; but the case was now very different, and the only penalty inflicted on them was imprisonment under generally pleasant circumstances, for the lower class of Irish, who had lived on potatoes and buttermilk, were, while in prison, pampered and fed on the most luxurious and comparatively epicurean diet. So that by imprisoning a man for a short time and under easy conditions—perhaps a man well known as an accessory to a murder or an actual assassin—could not be considered a great hardship, and was not likely to act as a strong check upon crime.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
said, that this was about the fiftieth time that exceptional legislation had been proposed for Ireland. As far as he could see no fresh light had been thrown on the question through the investigations of the Committee appointed by the other House of Parliament; but it appeared from the evidence of the witnesses that the Government had been for two or three years aware of the circumstances which they now brought forward as a plea for legislation. The truth was that though Parliament had been engaged for the last two years in devising the most heroic "measures of justice," "messages of peace," and "remedial measures," no one witness who had been called before the Committee, however anxious to see the good effect that had followed them, ventured to say that any improvement was as yet apparent. Then, late as it had come, the legislation now proposed by the Government was not sufficient for the end in view. He thought that the area in which the Bill was to come into operation should not be circumscribed so closely, or otherwise the perpetrators of crime in one place might escape by crossing the boundary into another. He also thought that the Government should consider the question of the jury panels, and whether power should not be taken in the present Bill to enable two or three Judges to try cases without the assistance of a jury. A third recommendation which he would submit to the Government was that the Peace Preservation Act should be put in force in all its integrity, and that whenever any fine was inflicted on a locality it should be inflicted at the outset and made sensible 41 down to the very meanest inhabitant. Only in that way could the consequences of crime be brought home to those cabins in which it originated. It was important that these alterations should be made in order to improve the efficiency of the Act and divest it of invidious qualities. In this way they might take some steps to meet a state of things the toleration of which was a scandal to the Government, and with which the Government had as yet been unable or unwilling to grapple.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I feel grateful for the suggestions of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns) and of other noble Lords who have addressed the House, as well as for the friendly spirit they have manifested to contribute as far as possible to the efficiency of the measure under consideration. A noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) has said that the measure is ill-adapted to the exigencies of the case, and that a large portion of Ireland still influenced by a spirit of outrage would be wholly unaffected by the Bill; but the noble Marquess has omitted to observe that by one of the clauses of this Bill the Peace Preservation Act of last year, under which the administration of justice throughout the whole country is made very severe, is to be continued in operation until June, 1873; while the present Bill is calculated to deal with a particular evil long seated in a particular district. The evidence of Mr. Seed, who was Crown Solicitor in Meath and Kildare for 26 years, is very express on this subject. He says, as regards the greater part of Ireland, the effect of the remedial measures adopted by Parliament was such as to convince him that the sympathy formerly existing in respect to agrarian outrage in particular districts did not exist to any great extent, if to any extent at all; but Ribandmen have so long exercised coercion in Ireland that those affected by it cannot be emancipated all at once from the terror they feel. Mr. Seed says that by the protection afforded by such a Bill as is now proposed this terror will be overcome, and the difficulty of getting witnesses will to a great degree cease to exist; and he adds that the fact of giving such powers into the hands of the Lord Lieutenant would probably be sufficient of itself to put an end to the existing state of things, so that it might not 42 be necessary to put these powers into operation at all. Mr. Seed's answer, thus quoted, has caused some alarm lest, after all, the Bill, if passed into law, should not be enforced. I can assure your Lordships that nothing of the kind is contemplated by the Government; but this is what the witness says is possible. We have been recommended in the course of the debate to alter, extend, and vary the powers of the Bill of last Session. Now, I can assure noble Lords that all these points have been fully considered. We are asked, why not have a local trial without the assistance of a jury? Why not obtain easier powers of changing the venue? Why not inflict severe pains and penalties upon the district where these offences are committed? As to the last point, I think there has been no lack of energy, and complaint is made that the fines have already in many cases been too heavy. No greater powers are needed in this respect. Again, the difficulty in procuring convictions is not from any default on the part of juries, but from the want of witnesses; and I need not say that, whatever their private opinions, no jury can venture to convict without evidence. From the information received by the Government, traces of which appear throughout this Report, they were led to the conclusion that the evil really arises from the difficulty of procuring evidence to support a conviction; and with regard to changing the venue, the Law Officers expressed their opinion that this created no special difficulty, and rendered necessary no change in the Bill of last Session. With reference to the course taken in not immediate introducing a Bill, but first entering upon an inquiry, the Government have been completely vindicated by the noble Earl, who, after a long absence from the House, has spoken this evening (Earl Russell). The course adopted by the Government was, indeed, taken mainly upon the grounds he has suggested. It is no light thing to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act; and, whatever may be said of the state of Ireland, it is no light thing for any country under English rule to be able to say—"You have passed laws which, upon mere suspicion of felony, enable the Government to shut up any person obnoxious to them for a period of two years, or during the suspension of the Act." It must be a grave 43 necessity which can justify such a course. Further, I coincide with the observation of the noble Earl (Earl Grey) that it is not merely the injury which may arise from passing a measure of extreme severity, but you thereby teach persons to rely upon coercion Bills instead of their own exertions in putting down crime in Ireland. It is quite true that it is the long existence of the evil which makes the remedy now proposed absolutely necessary. But we propose it as no permanent measure. As long ago as Bishop Berkeley's day the fable of Hercules and the Waggoner was exemplified in Ireland, where people were always calling upon Parliament to do something for them, and never relied upon themselves. No Government should sanction or encourage such a feeling as this. In my opinion, when coercive measures have been applied for a time the evil will cease. This is also Mr. Seed's opinion; and he says your legislation will gradually turn the tide of sympathy away from the offenders into a different direction, though you cannot yet hope to overcome the terror caused by them. It would have ill become any Government to bring in this Bill in hot haste, in order to cure evils which have endured for centuries, without satisfying the mind either of the English or Irish people that such a measure was necessary by giving them full evidence upon the subject, and also satisfying them, by such information as we have furnished, that the remedy proposed was an adequate one. The present Government are favourably situated for bringing in this Bill, because there is no inconsistency in proposing measures to remedy grievances along with other measures for the purpose of preserving order while the country is recovering from the unnatural state into which it has been plunged by a long course of bad legislation. We may fairly say to the people of Ireland—"We do not give the Lord Lieutenant these powers in order to enforce the payment of tithes to a Church to which you do not belong, or to carry into effect such evictions and ejectments as went on in years long past, but in order to enable you to enjoy freedom from terror and intimidation exercised by evil-minded men, to whom order has always been a misery and an industrious life a torment. It is from the influence of such men as these that we wish to relieve you, thereby en- 44 abling you by degrees to range yourselves wholly on the side of the Government, which will endeavour in all respects to protect you in your rights and property. In the course of a few years you will see that you have something worth protecting, and then you will protect yourselves, and will not want the Government to undertake the duty for you."
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.