HL Deb 10 July 1882 vol 271 cc1881-906

(The Lord Privy Seal.)


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it now became his duty to submit to their Lordships, as clearly and as briefly as he could, the provisions of the Bill, which had been so long in making its tedious and stormy course through the other House of Parliament, and which had at last reached their Lordships. The Preamble of the Bill recited that— Whereas by reason of the action of secret societies and combinations for illegal purposes in Ireland the operation of the ordinary law has become insufficient for the repression and prevention of crime; and he thought that, with the assent of the House, he might take that Preamble to be proved. He was sorry to say that the amount of proof had increased materially during the two months since the Bill was first presented to Parliament. There were one or two things constantly said with respect to crime in Ireland, either by way of consoling them under their present situation, or by way of argument against any exceptional measures such as that which was now before their Lordships, to which he should like for a moment to refer. For instance, it was constantly said that a comparison might be drawn between Irish crime of the present day and the crime of times past, which might be more or less favourable to their own time, and which was sometimes used as an argument against exceptional legislation at the present time. It was quite true that, in former years in Ireland, there had been over and over again terrible outbreaks of agrarian and other crime—at onetime, as they knew, directed against the payment of tithes; and much might be said by way of comparison between the amount and atrocity of the crimes of those days and these; but he thought it was enough for their purposes to know, as they did too well, that they were now passing through one of those outbreaks of crime, due mainly to secret societies and combinations, and that they had to deal with that outbreak. He would not say that the present outbreak was worse or more hopeless than any that had preceded it; but it was, in one respect, more formidable, in that while it showed its close relationship with those that had gone before, and that they had not yet got rid of that unhappy past in Ireland, it had formidable features of its own, and more especially its connection with the dangerous aggressive power of certain classes of Irishmen on the other side of the Atlantic. But it was their Lordships' business to deal with this outbreak as it stood; and the present Bill had been framed especially in order to meet the present action of secret societies in Ireland. Then, another comparison had been constantly drawn between crime in Ireland and crime in this and other countries, and favourably drawn as regarded Ireland. All that might be admitted; but the answer was that such a comparison was not to the purpose. In Ireland, as in other countries, ordinary crime was to be dealt with by educational and other means; but the class of crime with which their Lordships had then to deal was no ordinary class of crime; it was crime of a peculiar and special character, and required special means to deal with it. He was one of those who were convinced that, in the long run, the traditional crime of Ireland could only be dealt with—they hoped eradicated—by measures of a different kind from that then before their Lordships; but, however that might be, no remedial legislation could be allowed to stand in the way of the duty now lying before them. No remedial legislation could be carried on—for it could bear no fruit, and at the best its fruit must be slow—under the shadow of those terrible and secret combinations, which were historical and traditional in Ireland, but which gained formidable force by the supplies of men and money from the other side of the Atlantic. It was against such crime that the Bill was directed; and the Bill had been most carefully and laboriously framed to deal with such crime. The provisions of the Bill, which were numerous and various, were, some of them, derived from a former Act—the Peace Preservation Act of 1870—not from the Westmeath Act, with which the Peace Preservation Act had often been confounded. Other provisions were new, and had been specially devised to meet the necessities of the present moment. He was glad to say that some of the most important of those provisions had the support of the Evidence and of the Report of the Committee of their Lordships' House appointed to consider the Irish Jury Laws, and which had been presided over by the noble Marquess who was not at present in the House (the Marquess of Lansdowne). He would now take the different parts of the Bill in their order. The first part consisted of provisions for a Special Commission. This was a remedy entirely new, and intended to deal with the impunity of crime, and that enormous difficulty of obtaining convictions for crime in certain parts of Ireland, even when proved, which he was inclined to think was more formidable than it had been, perhaps, at any former time. The Bill for this purpose dispensed with a jury, and constituted a Court of high authority, consisting of three Judges of the Supreme Court, with the right of appeal to five other Judges of the Supreme Court. This new Court would be called into action at the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant, who, when satisfied that, in the case of any person committed for trial for certain high offences, a just and impartial trial could not be had in the ordinary Courts of Justice, would remit those cases for trial to this tribunal. They all knew that the Judges of Ireland had shown their great unwillingness to accept the duty thus imposed upon them, and he had no doubt they had high motives for it. The reasons they gave were excellent, and would have been very strong indeed, if the necessities of the case were not far stronger; but, as it was, the Government had found themselves, after the most careful examination, compelled to adopt that course. It was needless for him to say that there was no precedent for investing any tribunal in the country with the powers of life and death in the absence of a jury; but that power it was intended to vest in this tribunal, the Government feeling satisfied that nothing less than the highest Court would suffice for the purpose. He would add that, whatever were the opinions of the Judges upon the subject, or whatever their natural disinclination, the Government felt, no doubt, that when called on, under the Bill, they would do their duty to the State and to the country. The next part of the Bill contained alternative provisions to those he had just described. It provided means which the Government hoped would, in many cases, make it unnecessary to call into action the great and exceptional tribunal he had just mentioned. These clauses would enable such a jury to be constituted as they hoped, in most cases at all events, would be sufficient for the purposes of justice. They would constitute a jury of a higher kind than any ordinary jury which could now be found in Ireland for the trial of criminal offences. They would constitute a jury consisting of special jurors; in many cases, of special jurors drawn jointly from the county and from the city, and the Lord Lieutenant had the power to call upon all the special jurors in the county or city to appear. In that way they believed, in some cases, at all events, a jury would be found able and ready to give impartial justice. They also provided for a change of venue on the simple application of the Attorney General. The third part of the Act also provided, for the trial of offences of a minor, but still very serious, kind, tribunals of a different sort to those which now existed. This part of the Bill was very strongly sustained by the important evidence given before the Committee of their Lordships' House, and was nothing more than an extension of the principle of the summary jurisdiction of magistrates to offences named in the Bill. The offences were all already known to the law, or in principle they all were. They consisted of such offences as riots, unlawful assemblies, taking forcible possession of land, aggravated acts of violence, assaults on officers of the law, unlawful meetings which had been prohibited by proclamation by the Lord Lieutenant, and so on. There was one offence included which might be said to be new, and that was that form of intimidation which was known under the name of "Boycotting." That, so far as it was a novel form of intimidation, had required new provisions. The principle of the clauses was that the offences which, as the law now stood, were indictable, and which, if convictions could be obtained from juries, were punishable with extreme severity, would now be dealt with summarily by two magistrates, and would be liable to punishment of a much less severe character. The maximum punishment to be inflicted for these offences would be six months' imprisonment with hard labour, and in some one or two cases less than that. The magistrates who would deal with these offences were not the ordinary unpaid magistrates of the country, but paid stipendiary magistrates, one of whom it was provided should, to the satisfaction of the Lord Lieutenant, be a man of legal knowledge and reputation. The object of that provision would be clear, he thought, without explanation on his part. An appeal was provided from the decision of these magistrates to the Chairman of the County Court at its next sitting. The next part of the Bill consisted of a number of general powers, all of them of considerable importance, and most of them known to the law. Two of them were in a certain sense new. One of them was a re-enactment of the Alien Act, 1848, which had never before been included in a Bill of this kind, but which was rendered specially necessary by the number and activity of those foreign agents from the other side of the Atlantic who they knew were doing so much mischief and exercising so much evil influence in Ireland at that moment. The other novel clause was one directed against newspapers which published incitements to sedition and outrage or intimidation. Such newspapers, wherever they might be found, would be seized under the Lord Lieutenant's order. All the other clauses were, he thought, contained in the Act of 1870, though they had been reconsidered in many respects, and, he was convinced, would prove more carefully guarded than ever against abuse, while losing nothing of their efficiency. They consisted of provisions for the arrest of suspicious strangers, which rested upon much the same footing as the re-enactment of the Alien Act, the power to search for arms or documents in houses, under the Lord Lieutenant's warrant, at any time during the day or night, the power to summon witnesses, even in cases where no one was charged with an offence, and the power to summon absconding witnesses. There was also power for the Lord Lieutenant to appoint additional constabulary in any district, and to charge the cost upon the district. Power was given, moreover, to the Lord Lieutenant to levy compensation in cases of murder and maiming upon the district in which the crime was committed. With respect to the search for arms and documents, as the matter was notorious, he would say that the clause stood now in the Bill as it stood when originally introduced into the House of Commons. The Government were informed by the Lord Lieutenant and the Irish Government when they reported on the Bill, that, in their opinion, the clause in its original form was not essential to the end in view. Acting on that opinion, the Government proposed that the clause should not be struck out of the Bill, but be amended by limiting its operation. That view of the Government was not shared by the other House of Parliament, and, therefore, the clause now stood exactly as it was introduced. He might say one word about the very important provisions as to compensation for personal injuries to be levied on the district, respecting which he thought a wise Amendment had been made on the Act of 1870. Under that Act the compensation, both as to the award and as to the amount of it, subject to appeal to the Judge of Assize, was absolutely left to the Grand Juries of the respective counties. Under the Bill it was thought better to place the power in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant, as it was believed there would be greater confidence in the decision of the Lord Lieutenant on a point of that kind than in the decision of a local body drawn from one class of the population. He thought these were the principal provisions in the Bill, although there were a good many other clauses subsidiary to those he had described. The Bill, as their Lordships would see, even from his explanation of it, was a Bill of a very varied character, which included a large number of provisions, and covered a great deal of ground. Many, including himself, believed it was all the better for that, and that it would be far more likely to attain the end in view. He did not know of any important point in the operations of crime in Ireland which the Bill did not endeavour to meet. Over and over again it had been described as a measure of oppression; but, for his part, he held that such a term could not be applied to it with any justice. In the first place, it would not be applied at all to those parts of Ireland where it was not needed. It had been carefully provided that it should be in the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant to apply the Bill, or almost any part of it, to the different portions of Ireland which might, unhappily, require the use of such powers; but it was his belief that, in many parts of Ireland, its operation, when it became an Act, would be unknown. That was his hope. Where it was applied he believed the peaceful and law-abiding population of the districts would find it, so far as they were concerned, not a measure of coercion, but a measure of protection; and he hoped they would feel—he believed they would feel—that it had been imposed upon them solely for the purpose of protecting loyal, peaceable, and honest men, and that under the imperative dictates of public necessity, which was the only justification—but the ample justification—for such a measure. He thought that from what he had said their Lordships would understand what powers would be conferred upon the Executive Government of Ireland by this very important Bill. They were stringent; they were severe; but they were necessary; and the Bill, in his opinion, was not so much distinguished by its severity and stringency as by its careful adaptation to the circumstances of the case. He was sure that those great powers would be used by his noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and the Irish Government with care and prudence, but, at the same time, firmly and efficiently; and he heartily wished—he was sure that wish was equally felt by their Lordships—that, being so used, they might revive and restore industry, confidence, and peace among the people of Ireland. He would now move the second reading.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Lord Privy Seal.)

The Marquess of SALISBURY and Lord ORANMORE and BROWNE rose together, but the former gave way.


said, that was not the first Coercion Bill on which he had felt it his duty to comment. Bills of the kind were always introduced with many apologies and expressions of reluctance on the part of the Minister proposing them. Regrets that Ireland should be in such a deplorable state as to require these Bills he understood; regrets that the mistaken policy of Government rendered them necessary he equally understood; but he in no wise understood regrets on the part of the Executive that they had to fulfil their duty and enforce the law of the land, for that was the sole purpose for which they existed. He would ask the House shortly to consider whether the Coercion Bill was any hardship. It was not the enactment of a new law. The title should be a Bill, not for "prevention," but for repression of crime. He had a doubt as to whether the Bill had been sent to their Lordships' House in a sufficiently perfect state to enable them to pass it into law within any reasonably short period of time, for it was a long and complicated measure, and deserved at their Lordships' hands the most careful consideration. He did not think it was a measure that should be passed in a hurry. He had carefully gone through it, and had tried to follow the noble Lord (the Lord Privy Seal), with a view of getting at its general efficacy for the purposes for which it was devised; and he must say that, in his view, it contained several provisions which it would be found not very easy to work. For instance, by the 1st clause unanimity was required of the three Judges who would take the place of the jury—that was, as he read the Bill, not only unanimity in regard to a verdict of "guilty," but unanimity of opinion in regard to any point of law that might be raised. If that was the case, he doubted whether a guilty person brought before these Judges would not have a better chance of escaping punishment than before a jury of impartial men. Moreover, if crimes continued as numerous as at present, and persons were brought to trial, would not the large number of Judges required by the Bill for the hearing of an appeal under it cause a deadlock in the ordinary business of the Courts? Would not great delay occur before any sentence could take place? And would not that result in a miscarriage of justice? Clause 4, the clause relating to special jurors, he thought rather harsh, for its effect would be to impose a heavy penalty upon a numerous body in Ireland if they refused to subject themselves to the risk of being shot. In the present state of affairs in Ireland, no one who laid down at night could be sure that he would not be murdered before morning; and therefore it seemed a little unfair and hard upon the special jurors if they imposed upon them a fine of £20, if they did not choose to take upon themselves the additional risk of rendering themselves obnoxious from sitting on special juries. By the 2nd sub-section, 12th clause, it was enacted that any person arrested under the Act must within four days be brought before Justices in Petty Sessions; but that provision could not be carried out, for in many Petty Sessions districts in Ireland the Justices did not sit above once a fortnight, and often less frequently, as they were not held during the sitting of Assize or Quarter Session Courts; and it was, therefore, quite possible that persons arrested could not be brought before them within four days, and in that case were the persons to be liberated? Then the 13th clause, applying to newspapers, he considered the weakest and most paltry. The only power given was to seize a special copy of an offending newspaper, no power being given to seize the plant or prevent publication, or interfere in any way with those engaged in the publication. Thus, no sooner was one edition seized than another could be published and circulated. Under those circumstances, he thought the clause perfectly useless. He thought the 19th, the Compensation Clause, was too weak, and that its administration should be placed in the hands of experienced magistrates, rather than in those of briefless barristers, who would know nothing of the districts. Where would they get a barrister of six years' standing, unless he were a briefless one, outside those employed already? The 27th clause said that trial would take place within two months; but no time was fixed for the appeal to take place. There were some other points to which he objected, but which might be subject to examination in Committee, and no apprehension of passing amended clauses in the House of Commons ought to deter their Lordships from improving the Bill, so far as it was in their power to carry out desirable modifications. They were told by the Government that they must not look at the state of affairs at the present time, but what it would be after the Bill had passed. Well, the remedial measures of the Government had not been very successful hitherto in Ireland; but that, no doubt, was an observation that might have been made use of from the time of the Deluge downwards; but he did not think the country should be kept in its present state merely for the purpose of enabling the Government to make experiments in legislation. Such measures as these were not merely experimental legislation, or a change in the law. They were merely measures for enforcing the existing law, and he held that the Executive existed only for this purpose—to enforce the law for the protection of civilized society. The law was entirely confined to the suppression of crime, and without it society could not exist at all. Then there was a great difficulty in the Bill—a difficulty which was always felt in this country—namely, the evil of suppression of trial by jury. When they considered the whole of this question—the animosity which had existed from national antipathy, from antipathies of race and religion—he did not think that they could wonder that trial by jury did not succeed; but he thought they might wonder how it was possible that society had existed so long when the suppression of crime was carried out through that process. Their Lordships must take also into consideration, when thinking of and endeavouring to account for these animosities, that in the last half-century what was called the liberty, but what he called the license, which had been given to public teachers of all kinds in the language they used, as well as the license of the Press, which was certainly a dangerous experiment among an excitable people like the Irish people, who were naturally excitable and in no way prone to continuous industry. Such a people were easily led to prefer living at their neighbour's expense, or at the expense of the State, to earning the poor subsistence that was the inevitable lot of small farmers. Besides, when they were told by the Prime Minister that force and murder were the means of gaining their political ends, and when he supported that advice by these measures of confiscation which had followed so rapidly one on another, he (Lord Oranmore and Browne) did not think their Lordships could be surprised that juries in Ireland would not convict those persons who were, though by more violent means, carrying out the views which had been encouraged and expressed by so high an authority. Now, coming from him. (Lord Oranmore and Browne), these words would have little weight; but he must refer a little back to the part he had taken for the last 12 years in the House. In 1870, the Prime Minister, in introducing a measure, in the shape of a Land Bill, which transferred, without compensation, a portion of his property from the land- lord to the enant, made a statement in a few words, in order to induce Parliament to sanction the Bill, "that it was a message of peace." But as he (Lord Oranmore and Browne) had predicted, it was "crying peace where there was no peace." Contemporaneously with that measure, the then Government, which was nearly formed in the same way as the present Government, were obliged to bring in a Coercion Act, although there was already one existing at the time. Well, what was the result? Why, that while it continued in force crime diminished. Before its expiration, however, a Conservative Government introduced a similar measure; but, under pressure, they weakly yielded many of its most salutary provisions, and as powers of repression became feebler, crime again gradually increased, and, when coercion ceased altogether, crime had risen to the deplorable state of things which now existed. Their Lordships might take his authority for that. It was recalled to his mind by the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Lord Lieutenant bringing forward statistics that crime had increased or decreased to a more or less serious extent concurrently with coercion, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland advanced the fact as a ground for the necessity under which he asked Parliament to pass the present Bill. He (Lord Oranmore and Browne) was much surprised to read what the Chief Secretary for Ireland stated with regard to the necessity for coercion. He said he was very glad the experiment had been tried, because it convinced the Radicals of England and Scotland that Ireland could not be governed without it. Well, that might be an answer; but the right hon. Gentleman and the English and Scotch Radicals should never forget that that profession and that conviction had been arrived at only by a sad loss of life in Ireland, and by a creation of a state of anarchy that he (Lord Oranmore and Browne) could not hope or hardly believed this Bill would renovate. He felt it his duty to say that much; and all he had further to remark was this—that whether this Bill was successful or not depended entirely how it was put in force. He heard the noble Lord who sat opposite (Lord Carlingford) begin by explaining the Bill away. He said that he hoped, indeed, that it would be little used. Well, he (Lord Oranmore and Browne) wished it to be little used. He perfectly concurred with the noble Lord that far; but the noble Lord afterwards added words which took a different turn, saying he hoped it would be used, firmly administered, and carried out effectually. Of course, what the noble Lord said was of greater importance than what he (Lord Oranmore and Browne) said; but he hardly thought that the acerbity of feeling which existed in Ireland would be removed by what he might term legislative urbanity. The effect of the Bill, as he had said, would depend very much upon how it would be put in force, and he did not like to hear the noble Lord expressing a hope that it would not be felt at all in Ireland.


I said— In parts of Ireland, and, in fact, in many parts of Ireland, it would not be necessary to apply it.


knew what the noble Lord said, and he said more than that


I said what I have stated.


said, the larger the area was in which it was not necessary to apply the Act the more grateful should he be, as well as the noble Lord. But what the noble Lord had said, taken in conjunction with what had been said "elsewhere," justified him in saying that there was no agreement as to whether this measure of repression should be more or less extensively applied. They knew that the last of the three remedial measures—the letting out of the "suspects"—had led to a large and serious state of crime, as well as to the most disastrous prostration and discouragement of the artizan classes in Ireland. Their Lordships could not know in that House, except those who came from the disturbed parts of the country, or who were in constant communication with it, of the wail there was from every good and strong and honest man at the present state of the country, and how hopeless they were even of the effects of the measure proposed. Well, they did know also that a great change had recently taken place in many instances in the conduct of the Government, and he knew of one instance in which a hut had been erected for the wife of a man who was now in prison under suspicion of murder—one of those wicked murders lately committed; and all this was an indication of want of purpose, and of a weakness of policy; and if the Bill was not carried out in a totally different way from which it had been indicated, it would be only an encouragement to crime, instead of tending to its suppression. In many respects the measure was a good one; but if some of the details were improved, the Irish Executive would have infinitely less trouble in repressing crime and in detecting criminals.


said, that he thought the Bill might be regarded as an honest and courageous attempt on the part of the Government to deal with an evil, the serious dimensions of which were becoming every day more apparent. He agreed with a great deal that had fallen from his noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal in his opening speech. He agreed with him, also, in thinking that the strength of the Bill lay very much in the extent of the ground which it covered, and in the manner in which its different clauses were framed to deal with the different phases of Irish crime and disaffection. There was another observation of his noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal in which he also entirely concurred, and that was that the stringency of this Bill would not be very distasteful to the masses of the people of Ireland. Their Lordships would probably never know the exact number or the exact extent of the operations of the miscreants who had lately been disorganizing society in Ireland, and bringing disgrace upon their country; but he thought they might confidently say that their strength lay not so much in their numbers as in the impunity which had attended their operations, and in the inadequacy of the law to deal with them. The great mass of the people of Ireland were not conspirators or assassins, nor were they naturally abettors of conspiracy and assassination. They had, he believed, since the struggle had been proceeding, watched its progress closely, and many of them had not unnaturally wished to range themselves on the stronger side. He believed there were thousands of people in Ireland who, not being, perhaps, guided by any very strong principles in this matter, would be ready to return to their allegiance to the law when they saw that the law was strong enough to pro- tect them. There was another reason which made him think that the Bill would not be very deeply resented by the people of Ireland. It appeared to him that the greatest sufferers under the cruel despotism which had lately prevailed in parts of the country had been the peasants themselves. Their Lordships had been shocked and horrified by the commission of crimes which had struck down persons in high places—magistrates, landlords, and others belonging to that class—but none of those lamentable occurrences were to his mind more shocking than the manner in which the defenceless members of the farming classes had been treated by the persons belonging to that very class themselves. A landlord or magistrate might take precautions; he might desert the country or fortify his place of residence, or he might obtain suitable protection; but these miserable peasants, living in their remote habitations, without any means of protection, spent their days and nights under a load of apprehension and anxiety which must be absolutely crushing. He knew of no picture more shocking than that which their Lordships themselves were able to draw in their imaginations of these miserable people with their cowering wives and families night after night expecting the commission of one of those barbarous outrages which had horrified them so much of late. How many persons thus situated must have become first cowards, then rogues, and at last criminals. With regard to the provisions of the Bill itself, it did not appear to him that there was much necessity for a very minute or searching examination of them. They had been thoroughly and sufficiently discussed already in "another place." He would therefore only make one or two passing remarks with regard to them. In the first place, with regard to the first clauses of the Bill—those which provided the machinery to be substituted for trial by jury—he did not think anyone could have read the evidence which was laid last Session before the Committee of their Lordships' House, and have thus become acquainted with the true facts of the case, without feeling persuaded that the time had come when it was necessary to discover in Ireland some means of trying persons accused of agrarian crime less open to abuse than trial by jury. He was of that opinion when he ventured to bring the subject before them a few months ago, and he did not think that much had happened to change the opinion that he then entertained. He believed the alteration of the law which Her Majesty's Government proposed would have two good results. It would, in the first place, lead to the conviction of the accused persons when evidence in support of the accusation was given against them; and it would, in the second place, lead to evidence being forthcoming to a much greater extent than at present. At present, in many districts of Ireland, a witness appearing in an agrarian case knew perfectly well that he would be punished, and that the accused persons against whom he bore testimony would be triumphantly acquitted. He did not know whether their Lordships had seen a report in the newspapers of a case tried at the Longford Assizes. A man of the name of Lalor happened to overhear a conversation between some persons planning a "Boycotting" conspiracy against someone in the neighbourhood. He informed the police, and a few days afterwards was struck down on the public road; and, as he lay, 12 pistol shots were fired into his body, and 10 wounds inflicted. As he lay writhing in his agony, a neighbour approached, whom he begged for help; but the man passed by without heeding him. He crawled to the nearest house, but the door was shut against him; and not until the police took him to the barracks was any assistance given him. A man named M'Cormack was tried for the offence. Lalor positively identified him as a man whom he had known for eight or nine years. This man, when apprehended, was found covered with bloodstains, some of which he had attempted to wash out. Lord Justice Fitzgibbon, in summing up, commented strongly upon the conclusive nature of the case which had been made out by the prosecution, and upon the positive manner in which the accused had been identified. The defence was an alibi, but his Lordship expressed his belief that the alibi had not by any means been proved conclusively. He said that it was evident that the witnesses had no means whatever of fixing the time accurately, as they had no watches, and he thought the pri- soner would have had ample time to have gone to the scene of the outrage after he had been seen by the various witnesses who had given evidence in support of the alibi; and he concluded by imploring the jury to return a verdict which would show that they were worthy of the trust reposed in them by the law of the country. The jury, after an absence of about 25 minutes, returned into Court with a verdict of "Not Guilty," which was received with applause in Court. The prisoner was discharged, and was then carried through the streets on the shoulders of the crowd, who cheered for the "suspects" and the Land League. Now, he would ask their Lordships, how was it possible, in the disturbed state of public feeling as evinced by the proceedings at that trial, in which the innocence of the prisoner must, at all events, have been open to the gravest doubt, to expect that a jury formed of the agricultural classes was likely to return a verdict in accordance with the evidence? He observed that, since this Bill was first printed, clauses had been inserted to which his noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal had especially referred, providing for an alternative mode of trial by special jury and change of venue. The Committee, to whom he ventured to refer just now, obtained important evidence upon that point, and they recognized, to the fullest extent, the importance of having recourse to an occasional change of venue; and, for his part, he should have been very glad if it had been possible for Her Majesty's Government to content themselves with resorting to this particular modification of the law without going further. It was, however, quite evident, in the present state of Ireland, that to depend upon a change of venue alone would be absolutely impossible, and his only doubt was whether in a Bill of this kind, where simplicity and intelligibility were the great objects, it was wise to provide the means for two alternative methods of trial, which might, perhaps, in the public mind of Ireland, be regarded as providing a loophole through which a guilty man might find a means of escape. Passing from that clause, he would only make one observation with regard to the Press Clauses. They had been very considerably altered during the progress of the Bill through the other House, and he was bound to say that so very little was left in the 13th clause as it now stood, that he questioned very much whether it would not be wiser to expunge the clause altogether from the Bill. Unless he misunderstood the clause, the only power which it gave to the Executive was that of seizing a particular issue of a particular paper, after the issue containing the criminal matters had been put in circulation. To his mind, that was very like locking the door after the horse was stolen. His noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal had very properly, he thought, directed attention to the clause in the Bill under which the Lord Lieutenant was empowered to levy compensation for a certain class of crimes on the district in which those crimes were committed. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) believed that the clause would have a most valuable deterrent effect; but he owned that he should have been glad if they had some little information as to the principles upon which that compensation was to be levied. He had seen it stated that regard was to be had to the ability of a district to pay, and to its moral complicity with the crime, and to other circumstances. There were, however, to his mind only two principles upon which they could proceed in dealing with, the question of compensation. They might treat it as a penal matter, or as a matter of compensation; and he did not think it was quite clear on which of those two principles Her Majesty's Government proposed to proceed. For his own part, he owned that it seemed to him the penal theory was the sounder one; because, if they limited it to a mere question of compensation, it was a little difficult to escape the conclusion that murder and mutilation might be cheap or dear according to the professional or social status of the persons murdered or mutilated. He should be sorry if it were not made clear upon the face of the Bill that the compensation was to be a distinctly penal compensation, and he thought there should be some provision for relieving the district of, perhaps, a part of the levy, if the criminal were given up and the crime detected after the levy had been imposed. He was aware that, owing to circumstances which must be obvious to everyone, it would not be possible for them to make very considerable alterations in the Bill, or, indeed, any alteration at all. He agreed very much with what had been said by the noble Lord at the Table (Lord Oranmore and Browne), that it was most undesirable to consider measures of this importance without reference to their amendment; but when they remembered what the Bill had already undergone in "another place," and, above all, when they remembered that any delay in passing it into law involved most serious consequences to life and property in Ireland, he owned, for his own part, that he was ready to forego any attempt to modify the Bill in its details in their Lordships' House. He joined with his noble Friend who had moved the second reading of the Bill in hoping that the Bill would be successful. They might trust to the high character of the noble Earl who would have to administer it for its impartial administration. He hoped that they might trust him also to administer it with a firm and resolute hand.


pointed out the importance of the Bill containing the germs of future improvement. He was glad to find the doctrine of the collective responsibility of the districts acknowledged; but he must say that, having had large experience in the assessment of compensation for malicious injuries in Ireland under the Grand Jury system, he doubted very much whether a just and reasonable compensation could be properly apportioned off the distressed districts in which crime was committed, for he could not forget that in many places the inhabitants were of the poorest character, and subject, to a great extent, to that coercion of which the noble Marquess who had just sat down (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had drawn so thrilling a picture. It must also be remembered that the districts were very small, and, in addition to that, their railway systems enabled criminals in many cases to elude detection, and get away, leaving the district liable to be assessed for the crime committed. The remedial character of the measure must be always borne in mind, otherwise the great sorrow and suffering of the country, and the sacrifices they had boon making during the last 50 years would be thrown away. Therefore, he thought the Act shonld be supplemented by other means, and he believed it would be perfectly possible to find means to interest the population in the repression and discovery of crime. He would suggest that the police should be relegated to their proper duties and the soldiers used for the purposes of search and other similar duty. This would leave the police free to perform their real and most important task—the detection of crime. While concurring in the view that it was undesirable to delay the Bill by introducing Amendments, the only exception he should take to it was that in the matter of proclamation and police the old system was adhered to which had proved for a long time so ineffectual. He would recommend an Amendment which should provide for the revival of the old practice, prevalent in the time of the Tithe war—that, in districts which were proclaimed, every individual should be required to be known to the magistrates and make his identity clear by producing papers on every occasion when challenged. That would render the presence of criminals in a district more difficult. With regard to their trial, he agreed in thinking it preferable to have one method and not two; but he fully concurred with the Government in deprecating the use of courts martial, and he was glad they had given the local Justices their proper rank and position. In conclusion, he would congratulate the Government on the completeness of the measure; it was, on the whole, moderate in its provisions, far-reaching in its scope, and he believed that in the three years it was to last it would be found, if firmly administered, to have done a great deal of good. He believed the clauses, stringent though they were, were preferable to courts martial, since they provided an elastic and, at the same time, responsible machinery, and he trusted their effect would be to restore peace and tranquillity to the country.


My Lords, I am disposed to agree with the noble Marquess who spoke last but one (the Marquess of Lansdowne) in the opinion that it is desirable for the House to accept this Bill as it is proposed by Her Majesty's Government, and on the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, and not to undertake themselves to add any difficulties to the present Government of Ireland by taking steps which would produce delay in the ultimate passing of the Bill. This Bill, as your Lordships know, has had, in "an- other place," a most tempestuous history—a career more full of incident than it is likely to meet with in this House. It has been distinguished by the most remarkable campaign of Obstruction which our generation has known—a campaign of Obstruction so peculiar that very exceptional remedies were required to repress the evil. It was necessary cot only to suspend the Irishmen who did obstruct, but also those who did not obstruct. The Bill, in fact, was only passed by a whiff of Parliamentary grapeshot; and I have no doubt that, in future times, when the present condition of Ireland has passed away, this will be the leading case for the disposal of difficulties arising out of the conduct of Irish affairs, and that the model of vigour and impartiality that has been set by the Chairman of the House of Commons will guide and illuminate its decisions for many a long day in the future. In this House I see no probabilities of Obstruction such as has been experienced in the other House. Two Irish Peers have addressed the House on the Bill, and they have neither opposed the Bill, nor raised any undue obstacle to its speedy passage; and certainly the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne), who has spoken on the Bill, sees no reason for a discussion of its provisions, and, therefore, I can see no reason on our side for doing so. But, at the same time, I can hardly allow it to pass without recalling to your Lordships' minds that some of the provisions which it contains were already, in some form or other, not new to Parliament; and that when this Parliament began, provisions were in force for the search for arms, and still more important provisions for imposing on districts, where crime had been committed, a species of pecuniary penalty for the complicity which the absence of evidence denoted. These were on the Statute Book, and were deliberately allowed to disappear from the Statute Book by the action of Her Majesty's Government. At the time, that abstinence of Her Majesty's Government was described as unwillingness to interfere with the liberties of Irishmen, and sanguine hopes were expressed that no further measures of restraint, beyond those of the ordinary law, would be required. I only recur to this fact for the purpose of noting how evil in its effects upon the history of Ireland this most ill-timed and inopportune optimism has been. It appears to me that much of the difficulties which successive Governments have met has arisen from the fact that they have never been willing to look at the odious and disagreeable facts sternly in the face, and boldly take measures at once for the worst evils which it was likely would arise in Ireland. The provisions of the Bill, under any circumstances, I should not think it necessary to discuss in detail on the second reading; and as we are most of us agreed that we do not mean to amend the Bill, perhaps it is a superfluous task to point out its defects. The only provision which, I may say at present, causes me concern, and which I accept with great reluctance, is that which makes the Judges the judges of questions of both law and fact where the person on trial is in jeopardy of his life. Such a proposition is absolutely new to our law, and, as such, has been accepted with great and intelligible reluctance by the Judges themselves who have to administer it, and who feel that their power for future usefulness will be compromised by it. They themselves doubt whether they will be the most efficient agents for putting into practice this new law, and they think those duties might better devolve upon other persons. I should have been better pleased if the clause with respect to venue had received a slight extension, and that the Three Kingdoms had been treated as one United Kingdom, so that, if necessary, we might change the venue to England and Scotland in cases where a fair trial could not be expected in Ireland. Such a proposal, of course, would be open to certain objections and difficulties; but it would have also this enormous advantage, that it would make no change in the structure or principle of the ordinary law. Then, as for ages past, there would still be a jury of fellow-countrymen to determine on the facts with respect to which a person had been accused, and the only change there would be would be a change of venue from any part of Ireland to any part of the United Kingdom. I believe such a change would have been open to less objection than the one taken, and would have met all the objects that the Government had in view. While I make this observation, I do not think the probable evils are sufficiently great to justify our delaying the Bill by an at- tempt to change it in this respect. Those who have spoken on the Bill have touched on the necessity of the Bill with great regret; and I am glad to observe that not even the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal has indulged in the over-sanguine language which was indulged in by the Prime Minister in "another place" with respect to the condition of the country for which the Bill is intended. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne), as I understood him, spoke of many of the peasantry of Ireland submitting to the tyranny of the existing organization of crime, and submitting to it unwillingly; and he said he believed their sympathies would be on the side of the assertion of the supremacy of the Government. I must say I thought the anecdotes the noble Marquess went on to tell us, little proved that there was any objection on the part of the peasantry to the organization of crime; but, however that may be, I feel sure that, in this country at least, if any attempt was made by any organization, however unscrupulous, to terrorize the majority of the population, with the help of the Government or without, the organization would fail, for there would be no organization or power devoted to crime which would have the effect of preventing the English people from repressing it themselves; and I can hardly believe that the Irish peasantry are less courageous than the English. The noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal himself acknowledged that the difficulty of obtaining verdicts had arisen to a height for which there was no precedent in the history of Ireland, and which was the real explanation of portions of the Bill; and it is precisely the difficulty of obtaining verdicts from a jury which shows you how far the sympathy with those who in Ireland are accused of crime has penetrated among the masses of the people. My fear is that the case is very much worse than it has ever been before; and the difference between this and former periods in the history of Ireland seems to lie in this distinction—in former times we have had organizations very elaborate and certainly unscrupulous enough, but they were organizations which came into existence in order to relieve people from the pressure of some particular law or institution to which they were averse, and which they believed pressed upon them; but we have never, so far as I know, had until now an organization of assassination, extending itself throughout the country and sparing none, however exalted in their office or their station, of which the object is not the removal of a particular and objectionable law, but the attainment of a great political revolution. My Lords, the use of assassination as an instrument for obtaining independence is new in the history of Ireland. That is the peculiar gravity of the present case; that is why we regret that the Government did not gird themselves at an earlier hour to struggle to the utmost against this evil; and that is why I now entreat them not to allow any incident which has happened "elsewhere" to weaken the zeal and determination with which they will apply the large powers given them under the Bill for the purpose of extirpating the most dangerous evil with which the Sister Country has ever been affected. Whether such a Bill as this will effect its object, unless other and greater changes happen, may well be doubted. I have long believed that the main fault lay, not in Ireland, but in this country; that this country has never grasped the real nature of the problem with which it has to deal, and the real extent of the duty which is imposed upon it in connection with that unhappy people. It has never understood that Ireland, to be governed effectually, must be governed upon principles different from those which have been practised of late by Her Majesty's Government, and which are sufficient for so easily-governed a country as England, and must be governed with a steadiness and stability of purpose and a unity of policy with which in this country we are able to dispense. The noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal spoke of the necessity for remedial measures, and said his faith was pinned upon them—that he looked to them to solve the difficulty by which we are embarrassed. He said that the fruits of remedial legislation must be of slow growth. Well, my Lords, remedial measures, in the language of the present Government, began about 13 years ago. They may say 13 years is not time enough for any remedy to come to its full fruits; but surely, if we are to pursue this figure—this metaphor—I think that even the slowest growing plant might be trusted in such a period, at least to show above ground some signs of growth, to display some little leaf or stalk to indicate that the husbandman's labours have not been entirely in vain. The figure, however, does not enable one to contemplate what the husbandman's feelings would be, if the seed was to act in an opposite direction to that which it was intended to do. We do not understand a seed growing downwards; but, if such a seed existed, it would be the only fit simile for the remedial measures of Her Majesty's Government. The growth with them has been all the wrong way; it has been all downwards, and the condition is worse than ever, worse than it was when the remedial measures began to be applied. There is not only not the faintest symptoms or token to encourage us to believe that they will remedy the evils with which we are struggling, but every indication is in exactly the opposite direction. It must not be thought that plants of this kind, which are necessarily of slow growth in Ireland, are the only ones that are planted. There are other husbandmen at work besides Her Majesty's Government. There are other fruits resulting from their labours, which grow more speedily to maturity; and the Irish criminal class—at all events, that species of Irishman to whom the present disturbances are due—has for a long time been able to witness the results of an agriculture far more successful than that of Her Majesty's Government. Year after year he has steadily in the spring time sown the seed of outrage and assassination, and he has invariably been rewarded by a crop of so-called just and wise measures of concession in the autumn. That is an expectation in which he has never been deceived; and as long as that expectation is not deceived, as long as he can calculate that this seed will produce this crop, that this harvest invariably follows upon this particular mode of culture, so long, I fear, will all measures which you may pass for coercion and for the repression of crime be of no avail. He has gradually unlearned the belief he formerly had in the strength and purpose of the English Government. He has obtained result after result, measure after measure, by the practice of those very crimes against which you put in force what have been futile remedies. He has assassinated, that the Irish Church might be abolished, and the Irish Church was abolished. He has assassinated, that the Irish land system might be revolutionized, and it has been revolutionized. He has assassinated again, that his debts might be paid by the State, and now the Prime Minister is meekly proposing that the State shall pay his debts. I say that so long as these lessons in favour of assassination are taught by the Government that rules in this country, so long will such measures as these—however we may sympathize with the desire that suggests them, and however earnestly we may hope that success may be based upon them—so long will they be an incomplete remedy for the terrible evils with which we have to cope in Ireland.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly.

Then order for considering Standing Order No. XXXV., in order to its being dispensed with, read, and discharged: Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow; and Standing Order No. XXXV. to be considered in order to its being dispensed with.