§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
, in rising to call attention to the absence of any effectual check upon the continued intimidation of tenant farmers in Ireland, and to ask Her Majesty's Government, Whether they were prepared to take any 377 and what steps for the better protection of peaceably disposed subjects of Her Majesty? said, it was not his intention to invite any premature discussion on a measure which might hereafter be brought up for consideration in their Lordships' House. He would not allude to the unfortunate feeling which had existed for many months past between landlords and tenants in Ireland. That was sufficiently known; but, without mentioning names, he was about to bring under the notice of the House information on the subject of his Question which he had received from different localities in Ireland. Before doing so, he must direct attention to the fact that, for months past, there had grown up in Ireland a system of unwritten law, which was not the law of the land, but the dictates of which were more exactly carried out than were those of anything to be found on the Statute Book, and the agents of which were more vigilant and successful, because more active, than the legally constituted guardians of the public peace. The manner in which that agency was carried on was simple, but it was at the same time effectual. The Central Land League sent down word that in a particular locality a committee was to be formed. That committee was not representative, but was self-elected, and consisted of shopkeepers, a few farmers, a few men of no ostensible occupation, and sometimes one or two ministers of religion. This committee elected a president and promulgated their decrees, about which there was no secret whatever, and affected not only landowners but all classes of society. It was a mistake to suppose the Land Question was the only one with which these tribunals wished to deal. Their operations had a much wiser ramification. No doubt, the primary object of the Land League committees was to prevent the farmers from paying a certain amount of rent, the proportion differing in different localities; and their next object was to prevent farms which became vacant from being taken up by either landlords or tenants for the purpose of cultivation. But they also prohibited the taking of grazing lands near the smaller country towns, and thereby injured the persons who would be occupiers even more than the owners, for the former could not get suitable grazing lands elsewhere. A short time ago an 378 instance came under his observation in which an attempt was made to establish a butter farm, with the view of the production of better butter; but the tenant farmers were prevented from supplying cream to that farm. Then there was the case of a gentleman who commenced to thin his wood in order to sell fuel; but an edict at once went forth that no one should buy it of him, and as a consequence a large number of men who had been employed in cutting the wood were thrown out of employment. A small farmer who had been employed to sell the wood was warned that if he continued to do so his house would be burnt down. He need not say how stewards and bailiffs, as persons called on to protect their masters' property, were made victims to the discharge of their duty. Shopkeepers who ventured to sell goods to persons obnoxious to the committees were also placed under the ban of the organization. Artizans also suffered from it. At a meeting of the trades of Dublin, it was stated that such was the dearth of work last winter that there never had been so many artizans on the relief lists as during that season. To the labourers of Ireland the loss caused by the operations of the Land League might be put down, not at hundreds, but at hundreds of thousands of pounds. Medical practitioners had been threatened; and he heard of a case in which one of them was afraid to attend a patient to whom he had been called. A name had to be invented for one of the penalties imposed by the Land League, and it was now known as "Boycotting," which was sometimes carried to the extent of gross personal outrage. In the papers of that evening there was an account of an outrage in which one man was shot and another had his ears cut off. How were process-servers dealt with? At first, they were paid double fees for not serving the writs, and that was successful for some time; but when the process-servers had to proceed to make service, they were seized and perhaps thrown into a river. If after that they continued obstinate, they were in some instances subject to torture. Solicitors were deprived of their business if they did an act of professional duty of which the agitators did not approve; auctioneers were commanded not to sell; and so the game was carried on, one class of the community being persecuted after another, till no one knew 379 how far he must consider himself denounced and what were the penalties which he might have to suffer. As to the unfortunate military and police called out to what was called protect the peace, they were stoned. Recently, a police barrack, in which some obnoxious person took refuge, was placed in a state of siege, and the siege was not raised until two companies of soldiers arrived at the spot. He had a letter from a competent authority, who said that in his part of the country every tenant farmer was at the mercy of any blackguard who might think fit to attack him. The writer said that civil war would be preferable to the existing state of things. That was strong language, but he believed it to be true. In no civilized country was it possible to find such a state of things, unless there was, as in the case of the Neapolitan Camorra, a secret sympathy between the outlaws and the higher classes of society. If it existed in America it would be put an end to in less than a month by the interposition of a Vigilance Committee; and he believed he was right in saying that some men applied to the Chief Secretary for power to enrol themselves in such a confederacy, but were dismissed with the assurance that such things were not lawful in this country. He wanted, then, to know what was going to be done? There were some things which he hoped would not be said in answer to him that evening. It would be no answer to say that the rejection by that House last Session of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill was the main cause of the existing state of things, because most of the cases to which he had referred occurred in districts which were not scheduled under that Bill. It would be no answer to say that Her Majesty's Government had introduced in "another place" a measure dealing with the land, because that Bill could not become law for two or three months in any case. Then he hoped it would not be said that Her Majesty's Government had done all they could have done for the repression of crime; because, if such a statement were made, he should be obliged to oppose to it a direct negative. He did not impute motives. It had been alleged that Her Majesty's Government had an arrière pensèe which made them desire the agitation of the Land League as a means of advancing their own Bill. He 380 did not believe that allegation; but it had been publicly made, and ought to be publicly denied by Her Majesty's Government. He believed that the errors of the Government were not of intention, but of judgment. When the Bill for the better protection of life and property was first announced there was an improvement, and it seemed as if happier days were about to arrive in Ireland; but the Land League soon noted the manner in which that Bill was put in force when it became law. The Government had, under that Act, been fiddling with the tail instead of striking at the head. The accounts of outrages which appeared in the public prints were no index to the entire number. He did not hesitate to say that three or four times the number of outrages in excess of those which met the public eye were actually committed. It had been stated in the public Press that a clergyman's house had been fired at; but the public had not been informed that on the same night the house of every farmer in the neighbourhood had been visited by men with blackened faces, who gave commands and warned the inmates that they must take the consequences if those injunctions were not obeyed. He had received an account of a man who was found on the ground with five men standing over him, and who was only saved by the interposition of the parish priest. There was an utter absence of power on the part of the constituted authority. To make the law respected the Government must enforce it; but they were not masters of the country. Those who got their behests carried out were the masters, and that was the point to which he wished more particularly to direct their Lordships' attention. It might be said that he ought to offer some suggestions. He would do so. He fully recognized the difficulties of the Government; but he thought that in some cases the police did not back up the magistrates, and in others the magistrates did not back up the police. Now, the stipendiary magistrates did not always reside in their own districts. He would suggest that they should do so, and as near the centres of their districts as possible. He would further suggest that the number of stipendiary magistrates should be increased ad hoc by investing special magistrates with the commission. There 381 were numbers of half-pay officers who would be found ready to accept such temporary appointments. He would suggest that there should be a little more stimulus applied to the police in respect of arresting participators in riots, and a little more encouragement given to them when they made such arrests. He had been informed of an attack on a house next a police barrack made by persons whose faces were well known, and yet no arrest was made for that riot until several weeks after the occurrence. He assured their Lordships that he had not taken selected cases in the instances which he had mentioned to their Lordships; and when he made his appeal he did so to a Cabinet, two of whose Members had filled with credit to themselves and advantage to the country the Office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and three of whose Members had filled the post of Chief Secretary. Those Members of the Cabinet must know the danger of the combustion. He, therefore, appealed to the Government to see the law put in force, which they only could administer effectually, and break down the power of an organization which set at defiance the law, to protect persons from its crushing and grinding tyranny, and to put an end to a state of things which was intolerable, and to which, he feared, posterity would point as the shame and scandal of the age in which they lived.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
wished to know whether the Government would contradict the statement that had been recently made as to a compact or understanding between Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Parnell? It had been believed for some time before that statement was made that such was the case; and the Irish Executive had boasted that for the first time in the State trials the jury had not been packed, but one of the jurors had subscribed £10 to the Parnell Defence Fund, and, though this was known to the Law Officers of the Crown, he was not challenged. He also thought that Mr. John Bright, as a Member of the Government and a Quaker, and therefore specially pledged to secure peace amongst men, was in a large measure responsible for the existing state of affairs in having said and written things—as in his letter to Lord Carnarvon, in which he chuckled at the fact that "many landlords were running 382 for their lives"—which must have had the effect of leading the people of Ireland to suppose that the Government sympathized, not only with agitation, but with outrage? He thought the Government ought to give an explanation of that letter.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
said, he regarded the question before the House as one of deep importance. It was remarkable that on every other occasion when Parliament felt bound to pass an Act for the better protection of life and property in Ireland, that action was followed by a sensible and steady diminution of crime in that country; but the result of the passing of the recent Act of that kind had been exactly the contrary. The Returns presented to Parliament showed that in January last, before the passing of the Coercion Act, the reported number of outrages was 439; in February they had diminished to 170, and in March to 146; but they had risen in April, when the Act was in force, to 295, and there was no apparent diminution in their frequency at the present time. He quite agreed that after the passing of the Protection of Life and Property Bill, such a state of things was very significant and very alarming. It would be remembered that though the Government had announced remedial legislation, they declined to introduce it until the measure for the protection of life and property were disposed of. They did so on the very proper ground that Parliament should not legislate remedially under terrorism. The first effect of the Protection of Life and Property Act, however, as he had shown, vanished in less than three months, and the outrages increased by 100 per cent. Now, that was a fact to which the attention of the Government ought earnestly to be called. No doubt, his noble Friend (Viscount Midleton) had shown the immediate cause of the outrages in Ireland; but he would venture to point out another reason. The public were told by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant that the Act for the Better Protection of Life and Property was one to put down terrorism by terror. The right hon. Gentleman said it would put down by terror the village ruffians. He asked their Lordships whether effect had been given to that statement? He did not impute any unworthy motive to the Government. He 383 thought their fault was an error of judgment—of kindness amounting to weakness. Their system was one of kicks and kisses. The coercion had been of so mild, so velvety a character, that it almost made agitators seek the shelter of prisons in which they were so well provided for. The first Return of arrests under the Act of 1879 was nine; the first under the Act of the present Session was 35; but more persons had been arrested since. Under the mild prison rules and regulations applied to the Land League prisoners, these persons were allowed to enjoy exercise together within the prison walls. Then they had six hours' communication at other times of the day. Looking at the character of those prisoners—and they must be of notorious bad character, or they would not have been arrested—it was a great mistake to put them together in one prison. They had all the comforts of a Fenian Club; and now that they had got their Chief (Mr. John Dillon) with them, it might be expected that they would hatch future conspiracies to the sore detriment and misfortune of the country. He must say that the adoption of such rules, relaxing prison discipline to such an extent as they had, was a great mistake on the part of the Government. The ramifications of this Land League conspiracy were almost universal; and who could doubt that there were out of prison persons just as guilty as those who were already in prison. Since the passing of the Act there had been a number of Land League meetings in various parts of the country. If it were necessary to strike terror into those people, why had not the Government at one stroke swept into prison a large number of the people who acted as organizers at these Land League assemblages as soon as they got the requisite information, which, as the Executive, they ought to have been in possession of? This pointed to an important consideration, with regard to time question of the supply of information—was it adequate, as obtained from the constabulary, and from the resident magistrates, to enable the Government to put the law into force? It had been whispered—he did not know with how much accuracy—that that supply was lamentably deficient, and that the deficiency was causing anxiety and surprise to the authorities in Dublin. During the time 384 he was Viceroy the Land League had not reached the degree of importance to which it had since attained; but he believed the noble Viscount (Viscount Midleton) had, if anything, understated its danger; and he believed that nothing really effectual would have been accomplished till there was an Act passed against the existence of the Land League. He wished to ask, what had the Government done with regard to the Land League? He thought they were bound to give some explanations to their Lordships' House on that subject. It was true that some time ago the Government instituted a prosecution in a manner which was even high-handed. The police entered a room in Limerick, and arrested members of the Land League therein assembled. He believed the same thing was done at Tralee. Well, the men arrested at Limerick were conveyed to gaol, and the magistrates regarded the offence charged against them as so serious that they refused to admit them to bail, and subsequently their friends had to make an application for bail in a Superior Court. What had become of that prosecution? No doubt, such a prosecution must have a salutary effect. The audacity of the people who formed themselves into land tribunals was without bounds; and he knew a case in which men had been summoned to a Land League Court for attending a sale of cattle by auction, and not allowed to go until they had pledged themselves not to attend another under the circumstances. There was another point to which he would direct the attention of the Government. In the Coercion Bill powers were given to the Lord Lieutenant to put a stop to meetings at which inflammatory speeches were made that would necessarily, among a sensitive and excitable people, become incentives to outrage. Power was also given to suppress printed publications of a similar character and tendency. These were most salutary provisions, and he wished to know how they had been exercised? It was not only what was said at meetings, but what was published and circulated by pestilent publications, which influenced and demoralized the minds of the Irish people. One of the most licentious and infamous publications was named The Irish World, which was very largely circulated. It was printed in America, but a letter 385 written in London formed part of its contents. He believed the circulation had enormously increased. It was circulated through the Post Office; and he wished to know whether the Government had taken, or intended to take, any steps, either in the way of applying to Parliament for power or otherwise to stop its circulation? He hoped the Government would not, in their reply, make light of this question. He had no doubt, if those who committed outrage were given to understand that persons who violated the law would have to undergo real punishment, and not spend their time in prison in a pleasant and luxurious manner, as was the case in many instances at present—if the law were administered without undue severity, but with perfect firmness, with a grasp of iron, and not with a glove of velvet, crime would diminish, and the people of Ireland would be contented and peaceful; and if further legislation was necessary, terrorism and violence would not be resorted to.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
said, that the statistics of outrages in Ireland showed that while in March last the number had been only 145, they had increased last month to 295. Crime, in fact, had doubled in one month. That being the case, it evidently became the duty of the Executive to find some means by which crime should be stayed.
§ EARL SPENCER
said, he felt some difficulty in giving a precise answer to the Questions put by the noble Duke and the noble Lord. Those Questions could be answered by those who were directly connected with the administration of Ireland; but he was not directly responsible for the government of Ireland, and was thus in a position of some difficulty in meeting the particular cases to which his attention had been directed. He had no intention, in replying to the Question of the noble Viscount (Viscount Midleton) of alluding, as the noble Viscount seemed to suppose, to the Bill which was rejected by their Lordships last year—he meant the Compensation for Disturbance Bill. Nor would he allude to the effects of a remedial character likely to be produced by the Land Bill. The noble Viscount had advised him to repudiate certain statements which he had said were believed in certain quarters. He had always felt the greatest possible indignation when- 386 ever he had heard from any speaker, or seen stated in the public Press, that there were Members of the Government who wished the agitation in Ireland to continue, in order that they might be able to bring in a strong measure for the reform of the Irish Land Law. He always felt that no one would be worthy to sit in an English Government who could advocate such views, and he was glad that the noble Viscount had said he did not attribute them to Her Majesty's Government. The noble Viscount had referred to the effect of the Land League in Ireland, and he quite agreed that it had exercised the most pernicious and pervading influence in all the relations of life. It had not only affected landlords and tenants, but labourers and persons in every grade and condition of life. No one deplored or denounced more strongly than he did the immoral conduct of many of those who had spoken on behalf of the Land League. With regard to the position of Ireland at the present time, he did not propose to attempt to prove that the condition of that country was satisfactory. He felt that Ireland was in a most unfortunate and unsatisfactory condition; and not only he, but the other Members of the Government, felt very strongly with reference to the relapse of crime into which Ireland had fallen within the last six weeks. The Government thought that the measures which it was their painful duty to pass through Parliament would have been more effectual than they had been in restoring order. The only thing he had to point out as to the application of those measures was that within the last few weeks they had been going through a most trying time with regard to agrarian crime. There had been considerable abstention during the last two months on the part of the landlords from evictions for non-payment of rent; but that abstention having ceased, and a large increase of evictions having taken place, outrages had undoubtedly increased. He was not going to find fault with the conduct of the landlords. He was quite aware that many of them had been most patient and long-suffering with their tenants, and that they only did what they were obliged to do in carrying out these notices. But, at the same time, he felt bound to call attention to the fact, in order to show that at the present moment they were going through 387 a period of greater difficulty than even that of December and January last, and that this might account, to some extent, for the large number of outrages that had latterly taken place. The fact had been referred to that when these measures were first passed there was a large diminution of crime in Ireland; but the fact was that the diminution of crime was apparent the moment the notice was given of the bringing in of those Acts. There was then a lull throughout the country. Unfortunately, however, it should be admitted that there had since been an increase of crime. The noble Viscount referred to what he thought the want of energy of the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary in enforcing the exceptional powers which the law put into their hands. It might appear that under the Protection of Person and Property Act almost anybody could be arrested whom the Lord Lieutenant thought fit to arrest. But that was not the case. The clauses of the Bill laid down very strictly the kind of persons who could be arrested, and those who thought that a great many more persons ought to have been arrested seemed to forget the stringency of the clauses of the Act. It was said that the Irish Government ought to have struck at the leaders of the movement, and not merely their dupes. No doubt, if the loaders could have been brought under the operation of the clauses in question, the Irish Government ought to have put the law in force against them. But the Irish Government had most carefully to consider all the cases brought before them, both of leaders and followers, and to act within the law. Very lately they did put the Act in force by arresting one of the leaders, Mr. Dillon. It was easy to say that more ought to have been arrested; but unless those who said so were in possession of the information belonging to the Executive, it was impossible to know whether the Government were guilty of the laxity of duty laid to their charge. He had to confess that he was disappointed, as was Her Majesty's Government, at the result of the operation of the Act. Lately, the Government had found it necessary to make many more arrests than they did in the first instance, and in the course of a few weeks he trusted they should have better results trom the Act. The noble Duke 388 (the Duke of Marlborough) said that only 35 had been arrested until lately, when there were some more. He had before him the number of those arrests, and it amounted now to 72. The noble Viscount (Viscount Midleton) said that the Viceroy ought to have consulted the lords lieutenant of counties in order to know who should be arrested. Now, from the experience he had in putting into operation the Act of 1871, he could not conceive that the lords lieutenant of counties were the proper persons to consult in such a matter. The Viceroy required very particular knowledge before he could be satisfied that persons came under the Act. He was bound to inquire very minutely into all the facts connected with the case; and surely it was not the lords lieutenant of counties who could give him the necessary information. The Viceroy had to get evidence—not sufficient, indeed, for a Court of Law, but enough to satisfy him that a person was reasonably suspected and could be brought under the operation of the Act. The noble Viscount also stated that more outrages had been committed than were reported by the police. But his own experience was that the police were very vigilant in obtaining evidence of crime. It was not always necessary that the people on whom outrages had been committed should themselves give information; but in almost every case the police obtained information in the districts of the outrages which were committed, and reported them to the Government. Things must have changed very much since he knew Ireland if many of those outrages remained unreported. He was very glad to hear what the noble Viscount said about the merits of the Royal Irish Constabulary, to whom too much praise could not be given for their loyalty and devotion to duty. During the last winter they had a most trying ordeal to go through, and there was no ground whatever for saying that they had neglected their duty, and not given the Government the information which it required. The noble Viscount suggested that, as far as possible, every resident magistrate should reside in some town in the centre of his district. But there was great difficulty in Ireland, as the noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough) would bear him (Earl 389 Spencer) out in saying, in finding proper houses for resident magistrates. The towns in Ireland were often very small, and houses suitable for resident magistrates were not always to be found within several miles of the centre of the district. But it had always been the endeavour of the Government to place the resident magistrate in the centre of his work wherever it was possible to do so. Then the noble Viscount had made a suggestion about sending additional magistrates into districts where outrages were committed. That was a very proper suggestion. In former cases it was usual to send magistrates of known experience and skill to aid those who, in ordinary times, would be quite sufficient for the duties. The noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough) had accused the Government of blowing hot and cold, and dealing alternately in kicks and kisses. But it should be remembered that when men were deprived of their liberty it could not be looked on as a pleasure to them. The noble Duke found fault with the prison rules in the case of those men, and attributed the lapse into crime which had occurred in Ireland partly to the lenient treatment given to the prisoners. He believed he could say that the rules in force with regard to the prisoners now in detention under the Lord Lieutenant's Warrant were the same as those which were in force when he was in Ireland in connection with prisoners in custody under the Act of 1871. He was not aware that any alteration had been made in the rules. At that time they had no reason to believe that the prisoners were treated in a lenient manner, and he was entitled to say that the operation of the Act was successful; nor was any charge made of its being carried out insufficiently. With regard to there being but one prison, he imagined it had been found desirable that Prisoners of that kind should be confined in one prison; and that, he conceived, was the reason why the great body of the prisoners were confined in Dublin. But he believed that at the present moment, both in Galway and Limerick, there were some detained under the Lord Lieutenant's Warrant. He was unable to answer the noble Duke with respect to the prosecutions at Limerick and Tralee, because the noble Duke had given him no Notice of the Question. But he 390 believed the reason why the prosecutions had not been carried to a conclusion was that the officers who conducted them thought that on public grounds the trials should be deferred. He understood the noble Duke to say that the Government had power under the Act to stop meetings at which inflammatory language was expected to be used; but he was not aware of any such exceptional and new power being sought for, and could not recollect any clause in the Bill by which it had been conferred. The meetings in question were always carefully watched by the Government; but when the noble Duke asked what course the Government intended to take with regard to them, and in reference also to the newspapers, he was quite unable to give a reply. If the Government contemplated moving in the matter, their objects would be defeated if they were to announce their intention in Parliament. For the same reason he was unable to answer the last part of the noble Viscount's Question. All he could say was that the Government were determined to do all in their power to enforce the law with energy and vigour, and that nothing would be left undone that might effect that object.
observed, that he did not intend to ask the noble Earl for information as to individual cases of outrage; but no one who read the daily papers could fail to notice the lamentable state into which the country had been allowed to drift. Day after day accounts were published of assaults on process-servers, and of every kind of outrage, nearly all of which crimes were apparently committed with impunity, in defiance of the very large military and police force now in Ireland, and in spite of the recently passed Coercion Bill. For such notorious facts an explanation was due to Parliament, and especially to the loyal residents in Ireland. In his opinion, the present state of that country might briefly be ascribed to the action of the Land League. There would be no peace in Ireland until that organization, or, rather, that illegal conspiracy, was suppressed. But what had been the course of the Government? They had allowed an agitation to continue, the results of which were altogether inconsistent with the institutions of civilized society. For six months the Land League had been permitted to work un- 391 checked; and at last, instead of striking boldly at the ringleaders, the Government had arrested a few insignificant persons. True, Mr. Dillon had now been arrested, but not until he had several times used the strongest language. The so-called remedial legislation in which the Government were now engaged would not bring peace to Ireland. Its completeness was doubted by Irishmen themselves; indeed, Mr. Parnell and his followers cared nothing for it except as a means of further confiscating the property of the landlords. The Government, if they really intended to stop agrarian outrages, ought to ask Parliament for power to deal more effectually with the Land League.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
said, he looked upon the condition of affairs in Ireland as most serious, and could not help thinking that the speech of the noble Earl would cause great disappointment to all Her Majesty's loyal subjects there. The Government had acted with great tardiness in regard to John Dillon; and even yet the Government, judging from the statement they had just heard from the Lord President of the Council, seemed to look upon the condition of affairs in Ireland with a certain complacency. His noble Friend's explanation of the increase of outrages seemed to him by no means the right one. They all remembered the fable. The splash made by the passing of the Protection of Person and Property Act had at first somewhat frightened the Land League; but they soon found that, up to a certain point, they had nothing to fear from the Irish Executive, and were now hopping upon King Log. If further illustration were wanted, the morning papers would supply a fresh instance of the helplessness of the Government in dealing with cases that required prompt and energetic action. It was stated as a piece of news that the Government were now buying horses and cars for the use of the police; but for many months past the police had been denied the use of conveyances, and it seemed extraordinary that the Executive now for the first time recognized that fact, and prepared to take this most obvious step. The difficulty of moving the police from place to place must of necessity tend to discourage the members of the severely tried Constabulary Force, while it correspondingly encouraged the disaffected. He mentioned 392 this one illustration of that general want of firmness, energy, and resource in the Irish Executive which furnished, he believed, the true explanation of the recent increase of crime and outrage in Ireland, notwithstanding the passing of the stringent Act for the protection of life and property.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
said, he had heard with great regret the speech of his noble Friend the Lord President of the Council, because he feared it would carry far and wide the impression that, whatever their intentions might be, Her Majesty's Government were singularly wanting in that energy and earnestness of purpose which could alone successfully meet the present difficulty with Ireland. It was surprising that the strongest and fittest adjective the noble Earl could find to describe the present state of Ireland was "unsatisfactory, disgraceful, perilous, and ruinous;" and he believed this intimation of irresolution and uncertainty of purpose on the part of the Government would only strengthen the present state of things. He had rarely heard in their Lordships' House a more lucid and temperate statement than that in which his noble Friend had brought this question before their Lordships' House; but the noble Earl had not given anything like a reply to the noble Viscount. He was sorry that the noble Earl should have rested part of his case upon the supposed increase of ejectments on the part of the landlords. He (the Earl of Carnarvon) thought that when the history of the present time was fairly reviewed men of all sides would acknowledge that the Irish landlords, as a class, had been singularly patient and forbearing.
§ EARL SPENCER
explained, that he only mentioned that as a fact in the case. He had thrown no blame on the Irish landlords, and he had admitted they had been long-suffering.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
said, if the noble Earl did not impute blame, he had certainly dwelt upon it as a cause of the present state of things; and he thought that expression on his part would carry weight of a very undesirable kind in Ireland. He did not know that in the course of the present century Ireland had ever been in a more miserable state than it was at the present time; for, as was patent, outrages of almost every kind were being committed 393 in every part of the country. It was all very well to say that the tenants had suffered heavily in some instances; but there were cases of quite as great hardship among the landlords, and there were many cases within his own knowledge, where rentals had come down from thousands a-year to a few pounds, and where men who were dependent upon rentals for their subsistence had been reduced to beggary. He must say that he had been astonished at the lenient terms of the Protection of Person and Property Act—a measure which hardly seemed to have been framed in order to strike terror into wrongdoers. Instead of arresting the prime movers in the disturbance, the Executive had confined their arrests mainly to inferior agents, and had put them under restraint in circumstances amounting almost to absolute luxury. But there were two facts daily growing in importance, and threatening to overshadow all other considerations, to which he earnestly prayed the attention of the Government before it was too late. First, there could be no doubt that the most staunch, loyal, and faithful body of men in Ireland were the Royal Irish Constabulary. On them depended whatever of peace and order remained in the country, and whatever of peace and order might be hereafter restored; but the Government was just now exposing that force to a pressure that flesh and blood could scarcely bear. And, secondly, he observed in the papers of that very day the account of an attack on the troops by an Irish mob. No blood had been shed, and the officers had succeeded in preventing any retaliatory act; but this marked a new point of departure. It was impossible that matters should remain here; they must either improve or grow much worse, impunity would beget fresh collisions; and he warned the Government to consider very carefully the course they pursued, for the country was within a measurable distance of trouble and bloodshed far greater than any she had yet passed through.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD
said, that the principal objection made by the noble Earl who had just sat down (the Earl of Carnarvon) to the speech of his (Lord Carlingford's) noble Friend the Lord President was an objection to the use of an adjective in describing the condition of Ireland as "unsatisfactory." The use 394 of that epithet should not be the subject of grave accusation. He would admit, however, that it was not possible to address to the House a satisfactory speech on the condition of Ireland during the period through which the country was now passing; but he hoped that period would be only a limited and temporary one. He had listened to the speeches of noble Lords opposite, but had failed to gather from them any suggestion of a short cut out of the difficult and painful position in which some parts of Ireland were now placed, unless they accepted the ultima ratio of suppressing the Land League by Act of Parliament. He would express no opinion on that subject. But had those noble Lords considered how far the suppression of that body would have the effect desired? Had they considered the possibility that a course of that kind might have the effect of converting the Land League into a secret society corresponding with the Ribbon and other secret societies which were known in Ireland in times past. Had they also considered the time that would be sacrificed in the task of carrying such a Statute through "another place?" Without, in the least, complaining of the manner in which the subject had been introduced to the notice of their Lordships, he, nevertheless, thought that noble Lords opposite had not sufficiently weighed the difficulties which any Government in Ireland would have to encounter in dealing with the present widespread combination against the payment of rent. Those difficulties were, in fact, far greater than any which had arisen under the various other organizations which had from time to time held sway in the country. The more sanguinary and dangerous Ribbon organization was limited in its area and its numbers; and when certain of its leaders were arrested, as under the provisions of the Westmeath Act, its power was broken. The present agitation was more far-reaching in its effects. The "intimidation" of tenant farmers by violent, and sometimes sanguinary, means was not the only thing which had to be considered. He thought the word "demoralization" more applicable than "intimidation" to the present state of Irish tenants, for there was a general feeling among them which facilitated the promulgation of the doctrine—always an easy one to disseminate—that it was 395 advisable and even heroic not to pay rent. It was that demoralization which had made the Land League successful; for it was no more diffficult in Ireland than elsewhere to persuade men not to pay their debts. One great difficulty, which was known to all who were acquainted with the country, was that, from causes lying deep in its history, the peasants and tenants of Ireland were very much in the habit of following each other blindly in any cause, good or bad, which happened to come to the front. The phrase, "We cannot go against the people," was one familiar to everyone acquainted with Ireland; and it was from the sentiment so expressed—the dislike of people to disassociate themselves from their neighbours, and from the opinion of the neighbourhood—that the Land League derived much of its power. A sentiment of that kind could not be overcome by the mere action of the police, or by measures of repression; but he had a strong hope and belief that such sentiments could be dealt with and overcome by wise legislation. It was the opinion of those best acquainted with Ireland that the great body of the tenant farmers were not ready to become revolutionists even on the subject of land; and that they were not prepared to reject any reasonable measure for the improvement of their condition. At the same time, he fully admitted that the hopes entertained of a peaceful solution of the difficulty did not, in the smallest degree, exonerate the Government from the imperative duty of using all the powers, ordinary and extraordinary, now in their hands for the purpose of maintaining peace, of encountering and resisting intimidation, and of supporting all the fair rights of property.
§ THE EARL OF FEVERSHAM
said, the present unsatisfactory state of things in Ireland was attributable, in a great measure, to the apathy and want of energy on the part of the Government in having unjustifiably allowed the Peace Preservation Acts to expire, and to their having failed, when the land agitation had developed itself, immediately to call Parliament together in the autumn, in order to take energetic measures for the vindication of the law. They had endeavoured to reverse the policy of their Predecessors, and had disregarded the warning voice of his late lamented Friend the Earl of Beaconsfield, allow- 396 ing things to drift in Ireland until they got from bad to worse; and at length, when they did pass a Bill for the protection of life and property, the state of Ireland was such that, notwithstanding that remedial measures were introduced, they had been of little or no avail. Unless they acted with greater energy than they had hitherto done in dealing with the matter, it would end in the state of the country becoming worse than ever.