HL Deb 12 April 1878 vol 239 cc1195-219

LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE rose to call the attention of the House to the late fearful outrage committed in the county of Donegal, and to the increased and increasing prevalence of undetected and unpunished crime in Ireland; and to move that it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to ask for such measures as may enable them more effectually to suppress outrage and enforce security of life in Ireland. Also to move for Returns showing all crimes against human life, firing into dwelling-houses, administering unlawful oaths, demands for money, threatening letters or other intimidation, incendiary fires, robbery of arms, which have been reported by the Royal Irish Constabulary between the 1st of January, 1875, and 28th of February, 1878, showing whether any person or persons have been prosecuted for such offences, and whether acquitted or found guilty. Their Lordships would remember that he made very nearly the same Motion last year as that which he now brought before the House; and on that occasion he was met with the expression of a hope which he was sorry to say had not been realized—that the laws now in force would be sufficient to repress crime; and the object of his present Motion was to show that instead of that being the case, agrarian crime in Ireland went on increasing. He should not trouble the House by again going into a detail of the cases which he enumerated to the House last Session, though he must refer shortly to those cases. He held that one of the chief causes of the increase of crime in Ireland at the present time was that during the last few years many persons of very indifferent character, men of violent and lawless habits, had returned from America to Ireland; and, in addition to that unfavourable circumstance, there was the fact that there had arisen a unity of action between two great conspiracies in that country—the Fenian and the Ribbon conspiracies. It appeared, from statistics presented to Parliament, that in the year 1876 there had been an increase of 65 cases of agrarian outrage, and in 1877 there was a further increase of 20 cases. Last year he brought under the notice of their Lordships the case of Mr. Bridge, the agent for property in Tipperary, who had been twice fired at in open day and twice wounded. On the second occasion he was accompanied by police, who sat by his side on the car, and several men fired at them from the side of the road. The driver of the car was killed. Strange to say, in that case one of the assailants was brought to justice and executed—the only case of conviction and execution for an agrarian murder that had taken place for many years. Two other men were engaged in the attack; but though it was perfectly well-known who they were, and though it was believed that they were yet in the country, they had never been arrested. He saw by a telegram in The Times, the other day, that Mr. Bridge went into Tipperary surrounded by a large body of police. Two persons who took land on an estate managed by that gentleman were dreadfully beaten in the marketplace of the town of Tipperary, some 60 persons being present when that outrage was committed; but no one had been arrested for it. Not far from his own neighbourhood, at a part of the country where the counties of Mayo, Roscommon, and Galway united, there had been numerous cases within the last 18 months. There was the case of Mr. Nolan, a land agent, who was fired at and badly injured; he identified the man who shot him; the man was tried, but was of course acquitted. A Mr. Barrett was fired at and wounded; though not killed, he was in a very precarious condition, as might be imagined when it was stated that no fewer than 37 pellets were lodged in his body. In that case no person was even arrested. There was the case of a neighbour of his own—a Mr. Rush. His house was fired into at night, and aim was taken at the bed in which his sister was supposed to be; fortunately, she was not there at the time. No one was arrested in that case. In the barony of Costello, armed bands paraded the country at night, administering oaths pledging those who took them that they would not pay rent for turbary. Dr. Handcock, the Government officer who drew up the criminal statistics, kindly suggested that the Land Act should have made the turbary over to the tenants. In all those cases the Government sent down special police; and in one case a policeman, who was exceedingly active in endeavouring to procure evidence against murderers, was fired at and badly wounded in the open day not far from the barracks in the town of Dunmore. In the county of Mayo, a lady, named Knox, having turned away a servant, two days afterwards some persons entered her house and chopped her head dreadfully. A person going to collect rents, in the village of Kelvine, had a shot fired over his head. In Clare Island an agent, though protected by a body of police, was obliged to retire without serving notices with which he had been entrusted. Such was the state of things in that unfortunate country. He now came to that fearful tragedy which, partly because of the high position of the principal victim, and partly on account of the wholesale character of the slaughter, had claimed a more than usual share of public attention. The crime would come more nearly home to their Lordships, because almost all of them were familiar with the appearance of his poor friend, Lord Leitrim, who came forward so manfully, if injudiciously, in the assertion of his rights, or what he supposed to be his rights, in that House and elsewhere—at any rate, in defending those rights, he had been actuated by no mercenary motives, and even his worst maligners, of whom there were many, acknowledged that he was a liberal landlord, letting his land at low rates to those who did not oppose what he held to be his rights. There had appeared a letter in an Irish paper—The Irish Times—which the noble Lord read, which stated that 150 men and a large number of families had been thrown out of employment by the murder of his noble Friend. The letter observed, that whatever political firebrands might say, the tenants on Lord Leitrim's estate were better housed, better clad, and had their lands better laid out than when his Lordship came into possession of the estate. The letter stated— He had many faults, the chief of which was that of ruling his tenantry in the most arbitrary manner. Their Lordships had read of the horrible and shocking scene which was enacted at the funeral of Lord Leitrim. That funeral was in Dublin, which was a long way from the part of the country in which the noble Lord was shot; so that such a scene in Dublin showed how rife throughout Ireland was the feeling of enmity against the class to which Lord Leitrim belonged. That feeling was created and kept alive by the calumnies continually published by a certain class of journals alone—not only against Lord Leitrim, but against every landlord who in a straightforward manner tried to do his duty. A new and shocking feature in the case of the murder of Lord Leitrim and in the attempt to murder Mr. Bridge, and some others, was that, whereas on former occasions, the assassins had only attempted the life of the person who was the object of their enmity, they now indulged in wholesale slaughter regardless of the innocence of the persons whom they killed. This showed a most reckless and bloodthirsty state of feeling. Another bad feature in the state of the country was the manner in which what was known as "The National Press" of Ireland endeavoured to justify or excuse or palliate the assassination of Lord Leitrim, and similar crimes. One Irish journal said— It is vain to denounce agrarian crime until the source of it is dried up. It is in vain to rebuke the murderer while the robbery that tends to it is allowed to go unpunished. We yield to no man in our abhorrence of the foul crime of murder; but, as honest journalists, we feel compelled to give expression to our conviction that until the Legislature affords protection to the tenants, landlords will, from time to time, be consigned to a bloody doom like that which overtook Lord Leitrim. Other journals wrote in the same strain, and, therefore, it was not at all wonderful that the ignorant and excitable peasantry should accept the teaching. It appeared that Lord Leitrim had obtained the decree of a Court of Law ruling that there was no tenant-right on a part of his property, and in all probability the cause of his death was that he wanted to enforce the view upheld by that decree. Fixity of tenure was an idea rooted in the minds of the persons who committed or who sanctioned those outrages. He did not often quote the authority of the late Mr. O'Connell, but that gentleman said that fixity of tenure would only change one landlord for another, and that the one substituted would be one of a worse class. He was often told, when standing up in his place to resist the passing of the Irish Land Act, that it would have the effect of producing order and content among the Irish people. What were the actual facts? It used to be difficult to get 12 men to find a verdict in a case of agrarian outrage; but now, nobody could be got even to give evidence to lay before a jury—such was the terrorism existing in Ireland—and it was stimulated by the knowledge of how much had already been ceded to violence, and the hope that more would be obtained by the same means. In his (Lord Oranmore and Browne's) district, as the law was found to be no protection, everyone went about armed. In a house, not far from the scene of some murders, as the family were sitting down to dinner, information was given them that some men had just been seen looking in at one of the windows. Some of the party went out, and found the marks where a man had been kneeling behind an evergreen, close to which the master of the house was in the habit of walking after dinner. In an opposite direction a man was seen running away. He was challenged, but did not stop, and was fired at; had he been killed, it would have been a bad case for the person who had fired at him; but had the man fired at and killed one of the party belonging to the house, there would not have been the least chance of a conviction. There was a large reward for the discovery of the assassins of Lord Leitrim; but so had there been in the case of Mr. Young, and without any result. The reason was easy to know, for a policeman, two years after giving evidence in the Fenian trials, was shot in the streets of Dublin; a man was arrested on the spot, but though the evidence was quite clear that he fired the shot, he was acquitted. When any of those who were engaged in attempting to upset social order and the existing Government were brought to justice or died, they were treated as martyrs and patriots by those who were connected with the secret societies. Such societies existed not only in Ireland, but all over the Continent, and everywhere it was found that the ordinary course of law was unequal to cope with them. Like cancers in the human body, they could not be cured, but the knife of the operator might stay them. He must say that the law passed by the present Government with the object of suppressing agrarian outrages was much less effective than that which was in force under the late Government. There was not the same power of arrest under the existing law, or of searching for arms; there was no law suppressing the licence of the Press. The two Peace Preservation Acts of the late Government had, no doubt, contributed more or less to repress crime; and he thought Her Majesty's Government could not but regard the state of Ireland as dangerous, unsatisfactory, and most unfortunate; and, if so, they ought to take such powers from Parliament as would enable them to cope with some of the difficulties to which he had adverted. He, therefore, hoped they would not be deterred by opposition in "another place," but would discharge the duty which every Government owed to the subjects of a country in respect of the due protection of life. Moved to resolve, That it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to ask for such measures as may enable them more effectually to suppress outrage and enforce security of life in Ireland.—(The Lord Oranmore and Browne.)


My Lords, I have nothing especial to say about this particular case of what is termed agrarian outrage, to which our attention has been called to-night, except that, as an Irishman, I am filled with a deep sense of shame, that acts so atrocious should be committed in my native country, and that sentiments so horrible should be breathed in that portion of the United Kingdom in which I was born, and of which, if it were not for such acts and sentiments, I should be proud to speak in terms of unqualified praise. Neither shall I attempt to enter into detail as regards the jury system in Ireland, or to discuss whether the qualification is too high or too low. There are many noble Lords more capable of handling that subject than I am, especially a noble Lord upon the front bench, who had much to do with altering the jury system. They can discuss the matter, if they think it advisable to do so; but I will make a few remarks upon the larger and general question why Ireland is, and always has been, more or less dissatisfied and disaffected, and why the Land Question always has been, and still is, a difficulty apparently beyond the power of individuals or of Parliament to deal with. There are so many causes to be considered, that I can merely indicate them and touch upon them very briefly. Some that are considered of vast importance are, in reality, insignificant; while others scarcely recognized have very marked and widespread effects. First of all, there is the question of religion and race, which is thought, but erroneously thought, to be one of great magnitude. In reality, there are no distinct differences of race. The population is composed of the original Celts, Northmen, and Danes to a considerable extent, and of different varieties of Saxons, Jutes, and Angles from England. But these principal races are completely blended and intermingled together. I do not suppose that there exists a single man who could, with truth, say that he was of unmixed Celtic blood. And as regards this question of race, it is worthy of notice that those districts in which Celtic blood is predominant are, and always have been, the quietest, and the people in them are by far the most orderly and best conducted; whereas, in those parts where the English element is more strongly represented—principally among the descendants of men introduced in the Plantation made under Cromwell in the South of Ireland—the population is especially turbulent and unmanageable. The difference of race affords no sufficient cause for any troubles that distract Ireland; neither is religion an important matter. It affords a convenient weapon, and can be made dangerous use of; but that is all. I do not mean to say that great bitterness does not exist between the two great opposing faiths; I am sorry to admit that is undoubtedly the case; but it does not affect the relationship between landlord and tenant. The fact of landlord and tenant being of one religion may, perhaps, create a little more sympathy between them, because they meet upon the common plane of religion when worshipping together; but the occupiers of land in Ireland are far too practical to care what religious opinions a landowner holds provided he treats them fairly and with consideration. The Disestablishment of the Church had no effect whatever in diminishing the evils from which Ireland suffers. I am not going to say anything against it, for on principle I disapprove of the religion of a minority being in a superior position to that of the more numerous part of the population; but it was certain that, while it was distasteful to the Protestants, it was not welcomed in the light of a benefit of any kind to the Roman Catholic population. Then we have the results of long years of past injustice to be dealt with. Ireland was very evilly entreated for many generations; she laboured under frightful religious disabilities, and her trade and manufactures were repressed by protective laws. The government was very badly administered, and the greatest injustice prevailed for many years throughout the land. All these evils have been remedied, and there is no use in complaining or crying out about them. But you cannot expect results to cease immediately the cause is removed. The sick man does not recover directly proper treatment is adopted, and the evil that produced his disease taken away. It is natural that Ireland should still feel the consequences of bygone injuries; but there is nothing to be done to obviate that. All we can do is to have patience, and to look forward with hope to the future; and there is one ground of complaint that I have against my countrymen—that they are so much more inclined to look to the past rather than the present and the future. There must, I think, be a taint of original Toryism in Irishmen; they are so inclined to glance back enviously to the good old days, and to take a dismal view of the future. Then there are several minor, and what may be called emotional, causes which have been from time to time mentioned. For instance, a great authority—no other than the Head of Her Majesty's Government—attributed some of the woes of Ireland to its contiguity to the melancholy ocean. I quite allow the depressing effect of water; but I rather think that to the waters above the firmament which descend upon us in copious and constant streams, rather than to the waters under the firmament which wash our shores, is the melancholy tinge inherent in the Irish character to be traced. I am far from underrating what may be called sensational and emotional causes in their effects upon an emotional people. If Ireland were more accessible, and, consequently, were visited by the crowds that habitually throng to Scotland, she would have greatly benefited. If Ireland had produced an author so talented as that great poet and novelist, Sir Walter Scott, the man who invented modern Scotland, it would have been a good thing for her; for the beauties of her scenery are comparatively unknown. We have had great authors; but no one has succeeded in shedding around our scenery a halo of picturesque romance such as Sir Walter Scott has cast over the Scottish Highlands. But these are matters that cannot be helped, and there is no use in crying about them. We cannot fill up St. George's Channel with groans and lamentations. Then I come to a more important matter—the question of Land Tenure. There is a vague and entirely erroneous idea that the present occupiers are the descendants of past proprietors, and that, according to the ancient Land Laws of Ireland, they ought to have an individual right of proprietorship in the soil. That is not so. In the first place, the population has been so much shifted and changed about, that you would find few instances where a family has occupied a farm more than a few generations; and, moreover, as a matter of fact, under the Native Irish Laws, there was no such thing as fixity of tenure for the individual. Land was held by the tribe in common for all its members. The tribe took what it could get, and kept as much as it could. As a matter of convenience, on the accession of each chief—an event which occurred at short intervals, because those gentlemen always suffered violent deaths in a comparatively short time—the land was divided up among individuals; but their tenure had little fixity about it, and lasted at best but a few years. Out of that primitive tribal tenure grew the system which was recognized by English Law and English Judges as existing in Ire land. The soil was held in tanistry and gavel kind—that is to say, a part of the tribal property was set apart for the use of the chief for his life and for his successors. The remainder was partitioned out among the families composing the sept; but, on the death of an occupier, his holding did not descend to his son or to any of his family; neither could he deal with it in any way; it was thrown into the common lot, and a fresh division took place. But, as you are aware, one of the difficulties of which the Irish landlords have to complain is that the occupiers set great store by some particular piece of ground, to which they think they have some especial right, and cannot be induced sometimes to part with it for more than its value, or to exchange it for a larger or better piece of ground. If the present state of land tenure is altered at all, there is nothing short of transferring the ownership to the occupier that would be considered satisfactory; and, as I shall presently show, such an act would not only be of no advantage to the country, but would infallibly prove its ruin. The real difficulties under which Ireland labours arise from natural, and, I am sorry to say, unalterable, causes. Ireland contains no coal and iron, and, consequently, is debarred from the great advantages that have made the fortune of England. The population will not take kindly to the sea, and the advantages she would otherwise possess, of having a large and deeply-indented sea-board on the west, containing many safe and commodious harbours, is thrown away. Ireland contains a large population, and the supply of land is very limited. There is no outlet for the industry and energy of the people, except in the cultivation of land; and the natural genius of the people does not tend at all in that direction. Consequently, there is an intense and totally unnatural competition for land, and the people are forced into a pursuit which is not congenial to them. We cannot expect to find contentment where a nation is compelled to adopt pursuits unsuited to it; where there is an enormous and unsatisfied demand for a very small supply, which cannot be increased. Moreover, the climate is not suited to agriculture. The country is admirably adapted to grazing and stock-raising; the natural tendency would therefore be in a direction that would necessitate a diminution of population, which must entail a certain degree of misery. I say that the genius of the people does not lie in the direction of agriculture, because I have had many opportunities of studying the development of the Irish character and race in the United States. I have seen the fact proved there. In America, where there is plenty of vent and free outlet for the national character and genius to develop itself in employments and pursuits most congenial to it, the people do not trouble themselves about land. It is true that a great amount of manual labour has been performed in America by Irishmen; but that is because the greater number of emigrants are at first unable to take up any other business. The Irish in America excel as handicraftsmen and salesmen; they go into politics, speculations of all kinds, and mining operations greedily; they make very large fortunes in all parts of the country. Many of the greatest successes, from a pecuniary point of view, have been achieved by Irishmen. They naturally seek for employment that necessitates dexterity of manipulation and fertile and quickly-working brains, and in all such pursuits they excel. The Irish population does not gravitate towards the possession of land, so we have in Ireland a population bent by necessity from adopting pursuits congenial to it, and we have frightful competition for the one commodity the country produces—land. I am sure that I shall be borne out in saying that the competition in Ireland for land is unnatural and excessive. I have known as much as the fee-simple of it was worth given merely to get into possession of a farm held at will. It is an absolute necessity for the people to acquire land somehow or other, at any price, and at all hazards. They will give prices to get into possession of land that render it impossible for them to get a decent livelihood out of it, however frugal they may be; and I wish it to be understood that the reckless, improvident, rollicking Irishman of the stage and of novels has ceased to exist. There are no more frugal, self-sacrificing people in the world than the farmers in Ireland. Owing to this state of things, the rules that generally regulate property are entirely subverted, and the position of the landlord in Ireland is rendered very difficult. He cannot deal with his land like any other property. He cannot judge of its value by what it will let for. He is obliged to act as an arbiter between his tenants and himself, to guard them against the results of their own anxiety to acquire land at any price. People do not look upon the occupation of land from a business point of view, to be held as long as it pays, and abandoned when it ceases to do so; they consider it necessary to hold land at all hazards. The landlord has a very difficult task to perform, and, to use a vulgar expression, he get more kicks than halfpence for payment. We are not now discussing the Land Act; we have not had time to form any judgment about it. I think, on the whole, it works fairly. I know it is in many ways inconvenient; but I am sure that I am not singular in stating that I would put up with any inconvenience for the general public good. I say so selfishly, for I would welcome any Act of Parliament that would lighten the responsibility that weighs upon the shoulders of an Irish landlord. A complete transference of the soil to the present occupiers, setting up peasant proprietorship, would prove no remedy at all. The supply of the only commodity of the country—land—could not be increased. The demand would not be diminished, holdings would be bought up at a ruinous price, the soil would be cropped to death and ill-treated; and the country would be ruined also with it. There would be just the same, or, rather, a larger amount of competition, and no restraint whatever. Legislation may be useful in cases, but it must be delicately handled, for it may do much harm by alienating the affections of the landlords from the people, and by inducing them to stand upon their strict legal rights. If you take away the interest and affection of landlords for their tenants, you take away the only thing which, in my opinion, saves Ireland from a very much worse state of things than that which distresses her now. No laws can remedy this state of things; it can only be rendered endurable by mutual concession on the part of owners and occupiers. I believe that the bulk of Irish landlords are honestly anxious to do the best they can, but they are but mortal men; and I think that they would get along well with the people, and the people with them, if they were let alone. I entertain the greatest respect for those who seek to benefit their country by any legitimate means, however much I may differ from them. Personally, I do not see how a peasant proprietorship, or confiscation, or Home Rule, or foreign rule, or any rule, or no rule at all, is going to remove natural causes, can put coal and ironstone where they do not exist, or give us more land or better land, or can ameliorate our climate, alter the idiosyncrasies of the national character, or bridge the Channel. For all men honestly anxious to improve their country I feel respect; but I have no words at my command to express what I feel towards those professional agitators who, by their speeches or their writings, work upon the susceptibilities of a sensitive, enthusiastic race, who keep up an agitation about land by holding out hopes that can never be fulfilled, who thereby make property insecure, and who, consequently, drive from us English capital, in which lies our only chance of resuscitating industries that have been repressed, and of starting new ones, who trade upon the feelings of the people for their own selfish ends. My Lords, I have to thank you for listening so patiently while I ventilated my theories. I thought it well to take this opportunity to do so, for the opinion of any man is worth something, either in itself if correct, or in its refutation if incorrect. I will conclude, as I commenced, by expressing the sense of humiliation and shame I feel that my country is disgraced by acts and sentiments most discreditable to her, incompatible with civilization, and utterly abhorrent to the better feelings of human nature.


My Lords, the noble Earl who has just sat down did not require to make any apology for the interesting and thoughtful speech to which we have just listened. I rose to say, with regard to the Returns moved for by the noble Lord who introduced the subject (Lord Oranmore and Browne), Her Majesty's Government have no objection to furnish them; there may be some question about the precise wording, but that can be subsequently arranged. The noble Lord has called our attention to what he justly terms the late fearful outrage committed in the county of Donegal. That is a crime of which it is painful to speak—a crime accompanied with every circumstance of reckless and ruthless barbarity—a crime which reflects discredit, I am sorry to say, if not on the whole country, yet certainly on the district in which it was perpetrated. As it is so recent, and will shortly become the subject of judicial investigation, your Lordships will not expect me to do more than state the steps that have been taken by the Government. Your Lordships are aware that rewards have been offered—first, one of £500 for information upon the subject; and since then—I think today—a further reward of £1,000 for informatio which would lead to the arrest of any of the persons who committed the crime. The local police are engaged in the investigation, aided by a superior officer from Dublin; five or six persons are under arrest; and the barony in which the crime was committed has been proclaimed under the Peace Preservation Act as from the 8th of the present month. After that proclamation, no arms can be carried in the district without a licence. The noble Lord also referred to the narrative given in the newspapers of what occurred at the funeral of the noble Earl—of one who was lately a Member of this House. I am glad to be able to shed a ray of light and consolation on that part of the case. I cannot but think that the narrative which appeared in the newspapers has been greatly exaggerated. I hold in my hand a telegram from the Chief Commissioner of Police in Dublin, in which he says— I have read the account of Lord Leitrim's funeral. It is a gross exaggeration. The writer must have drawn largely on his imagination, as hardly one fact, except that there was a crowd, is stated accurately. None of the newspapers describe the affair with even an approach to accuracy. Further details will be sent by post. I hope, therefore, that the report in the English newspapers will turn out to be greatly exaggerated. The noble Lord referred, according to his Notice, also to what he termed "the increased and increasing prevalence of undetected and unpunished crime in Ireland." I should like to say a few words on that subject. If the noble Lord meant by these words that "undetected and unpunished crime" has increased and is increasing throughout the whole of Ireland, I can only say that the Government are not prepared to admit in any way the accuracy of that expression. Speaking of the greater part of Ireland, I am happy to say, there is no foundation for the statement that undetected and unpunished crime has increased or is increasing. But I do not wish to conceal from your Lordships anything which is within the knowledge of Her Majesty's Government. I am afraid that it is the case in one particular district of Ireland to which the noble Lord more immediately referred—the district of part of Galway, Mayo, and Roscommon—where, for the last 12 months, a state of things has prevailed which has, in a very great degree, caused anxiety and pain to the Government. Your Lordships are aware that in the summer of last year there was a very melancholy occurrence in that district—one of the magistrates, Mr. Young, was murdered—and, from the circumstances, a number of persons of the neighbourhood must have known who the murderers were. Not long afterwards, in the same district, the petty sessions clerk was murdered; and, about the same time, a petty constable was fired at and very severely wounded. These occurrences were all very much in the same neighbourhood, and I regret to say that for none of them has any person been brought to justice. I also regret to say, on the part of the Government, that there is much reason to believe that these occurrences in that district are not merely isolated acts, having their origin in purely local circumstances, but that they are more or less connected with a larger organization—an organization, having the double effect of leading to the commission of these crimes and bringing to bear in the district where they are committed a system of terrorism and alarm which prevents any evidence being given against the authors of the crimes. With all the means of information which we possess, while I cannot say that undetected and unpunished crime has increased and is increasing in the greater part of Ireland, I believe that in the particular locality to which reference has been made the state of things is serious, and it certainly is a subject of very great anxiety to the Government. I am prepared to say on the part of the Government that, watching narrowly what is occurring, and deeply convinced that it is their duty to provide for the protection of life when in danger, whenever they are satisfied it is their duty to apply to Parliament for further powers on the subject, they will be prepared to do so.


was understood to say that he was present at the funeral of the late Lord Leitrim, and he was glad to hear the telegram read by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. He hoped the proceedings of a brutal mob would not be considered as reflecting on the character of the Irish people. The district in which he lived was in the same county in which the late Lord Leitrim resided, and his experience was exactly the reverse of that stated by his noble Friend who brought forward this Motion. In his district, some years ago, outrages had occurred connected with Ribbonism; but, on being appealed to, the entire population of two parishes—Protestant and Roman Catholic—came forward in the most noble way, and Ribbonism was put down. He was bound to speak of them with respect for the appreciation of justice they had shown on that occasion—he was not bound to be blind—the Irish people appreciated justice as he believed no other people in the world did. The noble Earl (the Earl of Dunraven), who had made an interesting speech, talked of remedial measures; but had they ever been applied? Nothing but justice would be remedial, coupled with the strict enforcement of the law affecting property. During the last 50 years, for political and party purposes, class had been set against class, and religion against religion. The late Earl of Leitrim was in many respects a most considerate and kind landlord, but nothing would move him from his determination to enforce the law. In his proceedings, he looked only to two objects—so far as he was aware—the first, being the improvement of the condition of his tenantry, and the second, the enforcement of the law respecting property. He was a man of independent spirit, impossible to move from his purpose; but, at the same time, of a just and honourable temperament. He never evicted a tenant without a cause, and to those who were evicted, he gave the fullest compensation. Their Lordships had heard the letter, read by his noble Friend on the cross-bench (Lord Oranmore and Browne), written by a tenant-farmer, and stating what Lord Leitrim had done in the country where his property was situated. He had entirely put down secret societies in the county of Leitrim, and what he had done in that county before the passing of the Land Act, he did in Donegal after the passing of that Act. To a great extent, he sacrificed his property unduly for the benefit of his tenantry. He mentioned various awards granted with costs, equal to half the awards against the late Earl under claims for Ulster tenant-right, the number of years' purchase ranging from 20 and 30 to 53½ and 61 years' purchase. Lord Leitrim had the strongest evidence, short of actual proof, that one of those men who had received 40 years' purchase had laid a plot to murder him. Now, suppose that the Irish people had had a fair appreciation of the rights of property and of life, what sort of education had they received during the last few years under the Land Act? It was an education in illegality and injustice. He believed that if "the Bright clauses" could be carried out, good to a great extent would be the result; but the worst part of the Land Act was that which legalized that vague, undefined, and uncertain thing called Ulster tenant-right. It was so vague and uncertain, that while on some estates it meant five years, on others it meant 25 or even 50 years' purchase. Let not their Lordships suppose that he was opposed to the fair claims of the tenant. Long ago, their Lordships might remember that in Committee in that House he urged in the strongest way that the fullest compensation should be given to the tenant for any outlay which he or his predecessors might have made on the land. But the present Land Act, while it despoiled the landlord, promoted litigation between landlord and tenant. Coming back to the case of Lord Leitrim, even supposing that the guilty parties were brought to trial, it was by no means certain that they would not be acquitted under the present system. Under the old jury system the case was very different. But now, political power had been put into the heads of a class totally unfit to exercise it. He would give two illustrations. A man was put on his trial at the quarter sessions of Thurles for larceny, when the following scene occurred:— A Juror said—I have a doubt it was not the prisoner who took the money. The Chairman: Have you any doubt he was assisting the other man? If you think he was assisting him, I have told you before he is as guilty as if he himself took the money. The jury again conferred together. The Juror: I have a doubt still. The Chairman: Have you any doubt but that the prosecutor was robbed, that the prisoner held him, or that the prisoner and the other man rushed out of the carriage together, and went into another carriage, where they were arrested by the constables, and that the prosecutor's purse was found under the seat where they were sitting? The Juror: But the train was in motion. (Laughter in court.) The Chairman: This cannot go on. Retire to your room. After being locked up for some time, the jury came into court with a verdict of 'Guilty.' The Chairman: That is a very proper verdict. I may now tell you what I could not tell you before—that the other man admitted his guilt before the magistrates, and was sentenced to six months' imprisonment. The Juror: I do not agree to that verdict. I do not think the prisoner is guilty. The Chairman: Give back the issue paper to the jury. They must all agree to the verdict. Return to the jury-room. The jury retired, and were locked up for a considerable time, but eventually had to be discharged without agreeing to a verdict, and the prisoner was directed to be tried at Nenagh next Monday. He would give another illustration— At Ballinakill quarter sessions, Ellen Moore was indicted for having stolen a shawl. Evidence sustaining the charge having been given, his worship charged the jury, who retired. After a considerable lapse of time, one of the jurors came out of the room and was leaving the court. His worship observed the man, and directed the Deputy Clerk of the Peace to ask if he was a juror.—Juror: 'Yes, Sir'—Deputy Clerk of the Peace: 'Where are you going?'—The Juror: 'Ah, begor, I wouldn't stay there; they're all boxin' and fightin' inside.' (Laughter.) The Juror was then ordered back to the room, and a constable placed on the door. The prisoner was found guilty, and on the jury being discharged, one of them was heard to say—'Only I threatened to lick him, he'd never agree.' He hoped his noble Friend who had brought forward this subject would withdraw the first part of his Motion, and be content with obtaining the Returns.


said, he feared that on the subject of the lamentable murder which had disgraced Ireland, there was little useful which could be said. A dreadful deed had been done, but he believed there was still reason to hope that it did not necessarily follow that such atrocities would be repeated in the same part or other parts of Ireland. The attempts which had been made in the course of the discussion to draw conclusions from this isolated crime, with respect to future legislation, did not appear to have recommended themselves to their Lordships. He saw no reason to draw from this crime the conclusion either that it was their duty, under present circumstances, to pass a new Coercion Act for Ireland, or to entertain any question as to a change in the Land Act. After the speech of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, he would have been content to remain absolutely silent, but for a statement of the noble Lord who had just sat down (Viscount Lifford), to the effect that the Land Act, in its operation in Ulster, had been an education in illegality and injustice for the population of that part of the country. That statement he was sorry to hear from his noble Friend, and he hoped it would not be accepted by any of their Lordships. The object of the Land Act was not to provide education for the people of Ulster, but to convert into law that which had been long recognized as a moral obligation on the Ulster landlords, which was recognized as such by the great majority of them, and regarded fairly as such by all Ulster tenants. The obligations of the Ulster tenant-right existed morally on the Ulster estates, and, he presumed, on the estates of the late unfortunate Lord Leitrim, before the Land Act. What the Land Act did was to translate into a legal right that moral obligation. He was not prepared to assert that every decision under the Act in an Irish Court was right; but this he would say—that every care was taken in the framing of the Land Act that every such decision should be just; and, in case of any error in the County Courts, a double appeal was carefully provided. As he said, the Land Act converted into an obligation of the law that which was a moral obligation binding upon landlords. Such being the case, he thought that this lamentable and atrocious crime had been committed— not in consequence of the Land Act—but in spite of it; and that the education which the people of Ulster had received from the Land Act was an education, not of injustice, but of justice and morality.


said, that what they had to inquire into was, what were the causes that promoted these crimes, and what were the means to be taken for their repression? He thought murders, such as those they were now discussing, a dismal and grim answer to the "message of peace" which it was confidently hoped recent legislation had sent over to Ireland. The sacrifices—and they were no small ones—which the landlords of Ireland had been called upon to submit to, appeared to him to have been made in vain, as far as putting an end to agrarian crime was concerned. He might add, that in spite of the repressive laws which had been enacted by Parliament, the edicts of the secret societies were carried into effect with impunity. Under these circumstances, it was only right that their Lordships should calmly consider what motives were working in Ireland, and what were the causes which led to these crimes. It had been remarked, in the course of the present discussion, that it was not easy to say where the causes of these crimes lay. He was unable to concur in this opinion. He attributed the crime which existed in Ireland—first, to the agitation which was kept up on the Land Question both in and out of Parliament; secondly, to the injudicious, intemperate, and uncontrollable language of a certain portion of the Press in Ireland; and, thirdly, he attributed it, in great measure, to the denunciations too frequently heard from the altars of Roman Catholic chapels in Ireland. These constituted, in his opinion, the reasons for the existence of crime in Ireland. It would naturally be asked—"What do you propose to do to remedy this state of things?" With regard to the agitation on the land question, in or out of Parliament, he by no means regretted that grievances should be brought forward; but he thought the landlords of Ireland might fairly call upon this and the other House of Parliament to declare that they would not, under any circumstances, listen to any proposal for the confiscation of the property of one part of the community for the purpose of handing it over to another part of the community. This was a vital point; and if the Leaders in both Houses, and more especially the author of the Land Act, were to declare that in their opinion it would be impossible to transfer property from one class to another, he thought a great deal of the source of agitation would be taken away from those who at the present time were doing all they could to bring about a change which would be most injurious to the country. Even if those Gentlemen should succeed in carrying a measure which would confiscate the property of the present landowners, he did not believe that by doing so they would in any way stop or lessen crime in Ireland. They would merely transfer power to another class, who would probably use it in a very much worse way. As a rule, the landlords of Ireland dealt temperately and moderately with their tenants; and, whatever might be said about the late Lord Leitrim, there was no doubt that he was a kind and considerate landlord in many respects, although peculiar in his views. His Lordship was under the impression that the legalizing of the Ulster custom had done a gross injustice on his property, and he was determined to remedy, as far as the law would allow him to do so, the evil effects of that legislation. For his own part, he (Lord Inchiquin) believed that if the declarations he had suggested were made in Parliament, the agitation in the Press would, to a great extent, cease; but if intemperate language continued to be used, the Government would still have the power of coming to Parliament and re-enacting the clauses of the Peace Preservation Act, with a view to putting a stop to language of that kind. He came to a much more delicate question when he referred to the denunciations in the Roman Catholic chapels in Ireland—he desired to be very careful in speaking on the subject—but these were matters of fact, and there could be no secret whatever about them. It must be in the recollection of their Lordships, that two of the worst crimes which ever disgraced the annals of Ireland were committed in consequence of denunciations uttered, in each case, on the previous Sunday in the Roman Catholic chapels—the victims of the crimes he referred to were denounced in the Roman Catholic chapel, and the crimes were carried out before the next Sunday came round. Those denunciations which had come under his own personal observation had led, not, indeed, to murder, but to threatening letters and annoyances of various kinds. Denunciations made from the altar, without reason or justice, had brought about a spirit of terrorism, which, in spite of what had been said to the contrary, prevailed in many parts of Ireland. Being made without justice or reason, they brought about a spirit of terrorism, which existed in more places than the Government had any idea of; and the reason why the authorities were not made aware of its existence was, that the persons who suffered were unwilling to come forward and complain, because they knew they could obtain no remedy—the Government could do nothing for them. From his place in Parliament he appealed to the Roman Catholic priests to be temperate in their language. They did not know the mischief they did in using the language which they uttered from the altar. If the Roman Catholic Bishops were to speak with a will to their Clergy, saying—"We will not sanction denunciations and intemperate language and accusations uttered from the altar," he believed much would be done towards putting an end to the existence of crime in Ireland. He would only say, in conclusion, that he heard the telegram which had been read by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack with great satisfaction—it gave ground for hope that the account in The Times of the disgraceful behaviour at the late Earl of Leitrim's funeral was greatly exaggerated.


wished to say a word with regard to the Land Act. For his own part, he could not believe that any discontent was caused in Ireland by the Land Act. He thought it a most unjust imputation upon an upright and honourable body of men, the Judges of the County Courts in Ireland, with reference to their decisions under the Act—and he wished further to point out that there existed in Ireland a Supreme Court of Appeal, which was constituted in a most satisfactory way, and which dealt with the Land Question; but only a very small number of appeals had been taken to that Court, and he thought that fact alone would be a sufficient answer to what had been said by some noble Lords on the other side. He did not believe there was any discontentment with the Land Act, and he was quite sure that if any wrong had been done under it the Act would have been altered. He would also allude to the Jury Act. The noble Lord opposite (Viscount Lifford) said that the principle of the selection of juries must be restored in Ireland if juries were to do their duty. Selection of juries had been applied in former times in a way that was very injurious to the administration of justice. As a matter of fact, the Jury Act had accomplished the most beneficial results. After the last agrarian murder in Ireland—the Jerningharn murder—was committed, one of the principals in that murder was captured, and was tried and convicted by an Irish jury. In only two cases—the case of the counties Galway and Mayo—did the Judges now complain of undetected crime. These were on the Connaught circuits; there was no such complaint on the Roscommon, Leitrim, or Sligo circuits; nor was there any complaint of the prevalence of undetected crime on any of the circuits except the two cases he had mentioned. On the contrary, there was almost a universal expression of satisfaction on the part of the Judges. The Constabulary of Ireland were a most efficient body, and it was almost impossible that a crime could be committed without its being detected by them. The whole of Ireland, with the exception of the two counties he had referred to, and of Limerick, which had naturally attracted the attention of the noble Lord (Lord Oranmore and Browne), was in a most satisfactory state of peace and obedience to the law.


said, that since remedial measures were as much under the consideration of the House as measures of coercion, he would venture to make a suggestion to Her Majesty's Ministers, and to ask them, whether the time had not come when they might advise Her Majesty to add to her Guards a regiment of Irish Fusilier Guards? Such a recognition of what the United Kingdom owed to the military prowess of Irishmen would be most gratefully received by them, and would greatly stimulate recruiting in Ireland. Irish soldiers had not only added lustre to the British Arms, when enrolled under British Standards, they had also preserved the credit of the British Army even when they were arrayed against it. For at Fontenoy, the only important action in which the French could claim a victory, the Irish Brigade, by its repulse of our troops, saved them from the mortification of defeat by the French. If an Irish regiment of Guards were to be granted to Ireland, a regiment fully equal in appearance to the three existing regiments could be speedily formed from the ranks of the Irish Constabulary. One might say of that body—altering a little the words of a Wallachian poet—"No one ever saw them without wishing to be their colonel." Some of them might easily be spared from Ireland; for it was rather grating to the feelings of an Englishman to see so many of them in pairs at all the railway stations in Ireland, as it reminded one too much of Austria in the old times of Prince Metternich, or of a French Department when in a state of siege—and the work they had to do, of watching the movements of Fenians or Ribbonmen, would, one would think, be more efficiently performed by police in plain clothes.


said, the noble Lord (Lord Carlingford) spoke of the "solitary" agrarian murder, and said that there was very little undetected crime in Ireland. When he had mentioned 10 cases of murder, or attempted murder, within 18 months, he could not imagine how the noble Lord arrived at the conclusion that the murder of the Earl of Leitrim was an isolated case; nor could he understand how the noble and learned Lord (Lord O'Hagan) referred to the Judges' charges as speaking favourably of the state of the country with so many undetected crimes.


said, he was speaking of Ulster.


said, that, even supposing crime was confined to one district, when it was as extensive as it had been in the three counties near which he lived, he thought that would be quite reason enough to have a law which could be applied to that particular part of Ireland like the Westmeath Act, and which should have no reference to any other part of Ireland. However, the Government had recognized the serious nature of the case, and that the measures which had been already tried by the Government had had no success in suppressing crime. He had to thank the Government, at any rate, for their attention and their promise that if they found the present law still unsuccessful they would pass more stringent measures. He would, therefore, withdraw the first part of his Motion, and move for the Returns only.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

Then, on the Motion of the Lord ORANMORE and BROWNE, Returns showing all crimes against human life, firing into dwelling houses, administering of unlawful oaths, demands for money, threatening letters or other intimidation, incendiary fires, robbery of arms, which have been reported by the Royal Irish Constabulary between 1st January 1875 and 28th February 1878, distinguishing so far as can be done agrarian crimes, and showing whether any person or persons have been prosecuted for such offences, and whether acquitted or found guilty:

Ordered to be laid before the House.