THE EARL OF LIMERICK
, in rising to call attention to the unprotected state of the streets on Monday, 8th February, although it was well known that disturbances had been threatened; and to ask what instructions, if any, had been given to the police; and, further, whether any proceedings have been or will be taken against persons who incited to disturbance, and who threaten further and revolutionary disturbances in the future when they are better prepared? said, that the events which disgraced the Metropolis on Monday were so well known that it was not necessary to lay them at any length before their Lordships. It would not be proper for him to go into the incitements to disturbance which were made use of by certain persons, as that matter was now being investigated in a Court of Law. Their Lordships were all aware that a meeting was held in Trafalgar Square on the 8th instant; and in alluding to that meeting he would express an opinion, which was probably shared by their Lordships, that those who convened that meeting, and the great proportion of those who took part in it, were altogether innocent of the offences which were afterwards committed. It was evident, too, from the fact that the subscriptions for the relief of the unemployed still continued to pour in, that the public were able to discriminate be- 556 tween genuine working men and those agitators who, with the assistance of the criminal classes, worked so much mischief in the West End on Monday week. Previous to then, there had been meetings of Social and Democratic Clubs, at which the announcement had been made of the intention of making a demonstration; and he should imagine that those facts must have been known to the police. He was informed on good authority that on the Thursday previous the police were assured that certain persons were getting up a meeting in Trafalgar Square; that they expected to be able to maintain peace at that meeting; but that they anticipated disturbances on the part of certain persons who were going to interrupt it; and that, although they thought there would be peace at the meeting itself, they could not be answerable for disturbances in the streets. The meeting, when it took place, promptly divided itself into two parts, and one of the sections of the crowd was addressed in violent language by several agitators, and was asked to prepare themselves for a crusade against the rich. Excited by this language, they proceeded to parade through the streets. At first, little damage was done; but, gaining courage from impunity, they broke windows, rifled shops, and attacked carriages, not sparing even ladies, and one lady at least, he regretted to hear, was seriously injured. For two hours, apparently, there was no interference on the part of the police, nor any attempt to put this violent conduct down. Now, he put it to their Lordships—and he had an opportunity of seeing the crowd in the early part of its career—whether at the first start from 50 to 100 police might not have prevented any damage whatever? Why, then, when this crowd was seen leaving Trafalgar Square, was it not stopped? Why, during its progress through the streets for two hours, was there nothing done? Surely it did not take all that time for the Metropolitan Police to get together 100 or 200 men. Why, again, was it that the first check given to the mob was in Oxford Street, that check, too, being administered by a few police who were got together on the spot, and who were not collected through any central order from Scotland Yard? After all that had happened one was bound to con- 557 sider the consequences. There was considerable destruction of property; but that was not the worst feature. By far the worst feature was the disturbance of trade and business which occurred, and the belief which the mob might entertain that, having had that impunity, they would have impunity also on future occasions. It remained, to be considered who was to blame. There was no doubt that Parliament looked to the Secretary of State for the Home Department as the man who had the control of the police. It was his duty to see that the police did their duty. They were informed, on good authority, that a Departmental Committee had been formed to inquire into the subject of those riots, and that the head of that Committee was the Home Secretary himself. Well, it could scarcely be supposed that the Committee would inquire into the conduct of the Home Secretary himself; nor was it to be expected that that right hon. Gentleman would convict himself before the Committee over which he was called upon to preside. The Committee would merely come to a decision whether his subordinates had properly discharged their duty. But that was not sufficient, nor could it relieve the Home Office of responsibility for preserving the peace and security of the Metropolis. He trusted they would not be referred to the Report of the Committee as a complete answer, but would be told whether any instructions to the police had emanated from the Home Office; and, if so, what those instructions were?
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
, who had a Notice to the same effect on the Paper, and asking what precautions would be taken in future to prevent the recurrence of similar outrages, said, he wanted to have a clear statement whether any information from the police reached the Home Office as to the probable character and outcome of the demonstration? He ventured to think that no satisfactory answer could be given by any such Committee as had been appointed by the Home Office. What was wanted was an independent inquiry as to how the Home Office acted in the matter. They all knew the peculiar views entertained by the present Home Secretary (Mr. Childers) as to the class of persons to whom the police should be entrusted in the Sister Isle. He believed that had 558 it not been for the lawlessness which prevailed on the other side of St. George's Channel there would have been little disturbance in the Metropolis. He should like to know—and the House had a right to the information—whether the police authorities had brought to the notice of the Home Office what were the dangers and perils of allowing these demonstrations to take place in the middle of so crowded a city as the Metropolis? Sir Richard Mayne, he knew, entertained very strong opinions upon the subject; and he should like to hear whether the Government had arrived at any very distinct conclusion as to permitting them in the future? The fact that it was possible for men to be hustled and robbed, for women to be insulted, little children stoned, and shops sacked within a couple of hours in some of the most crowded and busiest thoroughfares of the greatest city in the world would scarcely be considered satisfactory by reasonable men, or properly accounted for by those responsible for the maintenance of public order. It had been said that such gatherings afforded a safety-valve to the feelings of the people by enabling them to express their opinions freely; but since the Reform Bill, and now that London abounded with large halls, where the utmost freedom of speech could be indulged in, there was really no occasion for out-door demonstrations. The only two purposes which they could possibly serve were intimidation and obstruction. This latter was most undoubted; for hours before and after such demonstrations had taken place the thoroughfares were thronged by an excited and sometimes angry crowd, business was oftentimes suspended, perforce, representing a very serious money loss to many who could ill afford to submit to it, and those persons who were in the habit of using the streets for legitimate purposes were compelled to travel by another route, no entirely agreed that the outrages of Monday week last were not the work of the honest working man, but were perpetrated mainly by the criminal class. He, for one, was not sorry that these things had happened. Sooner or later, he was certain that the weakness of the Home Office on this particular subject would meet with some severe lesson; and his only wonder was that it had not been more severe. He hoped that now 559 the Government would not only be wise, but wise in time, and would give assurances to the House that they considered themselves responsible for the preservation of law and order in the Metropolis, and that they would use such means and measures as would prevent for the future such things as occurred to the disgrace of London last Monday week.
§ LORD DORCHESTER
said, he wished to give to Her Majesty's Government some information which, even if they were in possession of it, they might, perhaps, be reluctant themselves to give to their Lordships. He had that very day seen a letter from the country, dated January 29, in which it was positively stated that riots would occur on February 8, and that the intention of the mob was, in the words of the letter, "to plunder the squares and pull down the Clubs." He thought that that prophecy had been pretty well fulfilled, for a more melancholy spectacle he had never seen in any country than the West End presented last week. He believed he was right in saying that there was a large force of police in a garden not very far from Stafford House, and another body in a courtyard near Arlington Street, though for what special purpose was best known to themselves; and the Inspector in charge of the latter body, when appealed to, simply said "he knew his duty and had received his instructions." What the latter were he did not say; but they certainly appeared not to be to protect the public streets. There was one policeman at Mr. Childers's residence in Piccadilly, and he had no doubt that the other Ministers were equally well guarded—and that that solitary constable was instrumental in preventing a lady being turned out of her brougham by some sharp practitioner. There was hardly a place which afforded such facilities for putting away large bodies of men as did the vicinity of Trafalgar Square; but with the exception of the policeman he had referred to, and two sentries at the War Office, who effectually protected the glass of that establishment, not one single attempt at protection appeared to have been made. The mischief done their Lordships had probably seen; but it was a mere trifle compared to the moral humiliation that came from the fact that such proceedings 560 should be possible in a country like this. The Home Secretary, he thought, could hardly have been less instructed upon the matter than the lady who wrote the letter on the 29th of January. He did not pretend to say on whom should rest the blame for the inaction of the police; but he wished to observe, with reference to the position which the Home Secretary filled in the Court of Inquiry, that that right hon. Gentleman could hardly be expected to censure himself. It was like a court martial, of which the President was trying himself, and might end in the engineer being "hoist with his own petard."
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
observed, that the speech of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Dorchester) raised a question which was very important, and that was the appointment of Mr. Childers himself as Chairman of the Committee of Inquiry into the conduct of the authorities. Against that he must protest as being opposed to precedent and reason and justice. He did not at all impugn Mr. Childers's Committee; but it was obvious that the first question which would be asked of any person coming before the Committee would be whether orders were or were not sent from the Home Office? At any rate, the conduct of the Home Office might immediately come into question. It might be a proper proceeding for the Home Secretary to inquire, as between himself and the police, whether they had fulfilled his orders, and if not why not? That was properly a departmental inquiry; but what the public really wanted to know was, whether it was possible that the streets could again be placed in the hands of a riotous mob as upon that and other occasions? He trusted that the noble Lord who represented the Home Office (Lord Thurlow) would be able to say that there would in this, as in former instances, be an independent Commission appointed to investigate the whole circumstances of the case. An investigation of that kind should be held in the interests of the working classes themselves, in order that they might be cleared of all complicity in the outrages that were committed. He believed most earnestly, from having seen the mob when it began its outrages at the Carlton Club, that it did not represent in any sense the unemployed people 561 of the Metropolis. Its character was quite different, and it was swelled by some of the worst characters in London. In justice to those who had been injured, to the working men who had been misrepresented, and to the public at large, an independent Commission ought undoubtedly to be appointed.
LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
said, he wished to ask if Her Majesty's Government would lay on the Table of the House a copy of the police orders making necessary arrangements with regard to the meeting in Trafalgar Square on Monday the 8th instant; also, if such orders were submitted in the first instance for approval to the Home Secretary, or issued on the sole responsibility of the Chief Commissioner of Police? He believed that much unmerited obloquy had been heaped upon Sir Edmund Henderson, and that Scotland Yard had been made a scapegoat for the Home Office. Although by a Statute of George IV. the Chief Commissioner of Police was under the orders of the Home Office, yet during his long tenure of that Office Sir Richard Mayne had be on virtually independent of the Home Office, and responsible for the tranquillity of the Metropolis; but since his death, and especially since Sir William Harcourt had been Home Secretary, the Home Office had been encroaching continuously upon the province of the chief police authorities, and had instituted a new department in the Home Office for the management of the police. Not very long ago, in Westminster Hall, on the occasion of the presentation of awards to the constables who were injured by the dynamite explosion, Sir William Harcourt publicly declared that the Secretary of State for the Home Department was the head of the police. The Chief Commissioner had thus been taught to expect instructions on all critical occasions from the Home Office, and this paralyzed the action of the Chief Commissioner. Her Majesty's Ministers ought to be made aware that they lay under suspicion of connivance with the riots; one of their Colleagues (Mr. Chamberlain) had used language which was as much an incitement to riot as the language used by the leaders of the mob in Trafalgar Square; an evening newspaper had announced, four days before the event, that an attack would be made on the Clubs; and similar information had been con- 562 veyed through other channels to the Homo Office some hours before the riot. There was another public expectation, which had been disappointed—namely, the resignation of the Home Secretary after the calamities of Monday the8th, and that of some others of the Ministers. Lord Hartington had set a high example, and Sir Henry James had set a still higher one. The next best thing to declining to join an unsound Administration would be to retire from it now that they had seen their Colleagues' words translated into deeds. The conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers was bearing out a saying of Tacitus—"Contemni famam despici virtutes," which meant that if they had so little regard for their reputation as to associate with Mr. Chamberlain, they must be expected to despise the virtues which were the outcome of obedience to the Ten Commandments.
§ LORD FITZGERALD
said, he also wished to ask Her Majesty's Ministers a very practical question—namely, were they prepared to compensate those sufferers whose property had been stolen or injured by the rioters, inasmuch as those losses were the consequence of the default of one or other of the public Departments? A century and a-half ago the Royal Guards successfully quelled the riot in Salisbury Court between the Tories and the Whigs; and their success on that occasion might have induced the authorities to have recourse to their services on the 8th instant. It would be well, if the police did not interfere on such occasions, that there should be some interference by the military authorities. If the people whose property had been damaged were not compensated by the Government they would get no redress at all, for it was a delusion to suppose that legal action would assist them. In the existing condition of the law he was confident that if £1,000 could be recovered from the Hundred it would be done at the cost of £3,000 or £4,000 in law expenses. He believed that, in this case, nine-tenths of the property in question had been stolen; and although the remaining tenth might possibly be recovered, it would only be recovered under circumstances that would make the proceeding insufferably unjust, and at a cost of four times the amount obtained. When the practice of holding the Hundred liable for damage of that 563 kind first originated there was no police, no police tax, no standing Army, and no Home Secretary; and in those days it might have been just to call on the Hundreds to be their own police and to protect themselves. But the circumstances now were wholly changed, and an action against the Hundred in such a case would be as unfruitful and unwise as it would be entirely unjust. The police tax was now represented not by thousands or hundreds of thousands of pounds, but by millions of money; and, he asked, should a law which was made at a time when there were no police, and when the policy of the law was to make the Hundred police itself, be allowed to continue at a period when every householder paid his quota to the great police and military forces kept up for the public protection? If the law was sound, and maintainable on sound principles, he would suggest to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that it ought to be made simpler. But if it was unjust and unsound, and could not be maintained on principle, it should be swept from the Statute Book; and if compensation was given, it ought to be given, not at the expense of the Hundred, but from the public finances.
said, that he would endeavour to place before their Lordships as succinctly and as clearly as he could, on behalf of the Home Office, the statement of facts as they stood within the knowledge of the Home Department. At the outset, he desired to say that he was extremely glad that those Questions had been put by noble Lords that evening. It was difficult, he thought, to imagine any question that could be more worthy of the careful consideration of Parliament than the scenes which occurred in the streets of that Metropolis last Monday week. It was impossible to imagine a subject into which it was more important to have a careful, minute, and searching inquiry, and on which it was more important to re-assure the public mind. That, at any rate, was the view taken by the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the present occasion; and he could assure their Lordships that Mr. Childers had not only courted and challenged, but would insist on the most searching inquiry into all the circumstances which had been referred to, and which had resulted in such grievous loss to innocent and peace- 564 ful citizens. He (Lord Thurlow) did not complain of the terms in which the Questions had been put by noble Lords on both sides of the House. In his humble opinion, if there ever was a subject on which it was fitting to use strong language, and to express just indignation, it was with reference to circumstances such as those that they were now dealing with. Their Lordships were aware that it was not till Saturday, the 6th of February, Mr. Childers received from Her Majesty the Queen at Osborne the Seals of the Home Office. Mr. Childers did not return to London that day until past 7 o'clock, and he did not on that evening visit the Home Office. On Sunday he did not go to the Home Office; it was not customary for the Home Secretary to do so. The permanent officials would not have been there; and the usual practice was followed on that occasion as to forwarding to the Home Secretary's residence the Home Office and other Cabinet boxes containing despatches on matters of urgency. Those boxes were received at the Home Secretary's private residence on Sunday morning, and his right hon. Friend examined their contents. They contained no allusion or reference whatever to the meeting which was anticipated to take place on the following day. On Monday, the day of the riots, Mr. Childers went to the Home Office and got there at 11 o'clock. It was his first appearance at the new Office that had been entrusted to his care; and it was his first duty to make himself personally acquainted, not only with the current business of the Department, but with the various officials representing the heads of that Department. He accordingly conferred with those Gentlemen, and examined into the current business of the Home Office. The Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police (Sir Edmund Henderson) called upon him at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. The first inquiry which Mr. Childers made of Sir Edmund Henderson was whether he had taken ample precautions in reference to the meeting that was then about to take place in Trafalgar Square? That gentleman replied that he had taken ample precautions, and more than he would otherwise have done had it not been that at that moment the Government had changed hands. Mr. Childers further asked Sir Edmund Henderson whether he had taken into 565 consideration the dangerous character of the mob that might be gathered together? The latter replied that the matter had been carefully considered both by Sir R. Assheton Cross, the outgoing Home Secretary, and himself, and that ample provision had been made; that the police on duty had been doubled in the Square itself and in the surrounding streets; and that a body of 560 constables would be held in reserve in Scotland Yard. In addition to that, the Chief Commissioner of Police informed Mr. Childers that the Office of Works had made an examination of the hustings which had been prepared in Trafalgar Square, from which the orators were to address the mob. The erections had been found substantially constructed, and were not likely to prove a source of danger in any way, by removal or otherwise. He therefore ventured to say that it was perfectly clear that at that time—half-past 1 o'clock in the afternoon—Mr. Childers had certainly ample reasons to feel convinced that all proper precautions had been taken. Mr. Childers remained at the Home Office the whole of that day, with the exception of one brief interval of about an hour in the middle of the day. It was not until a quarter before 7 o'clock in the evening that the first official intimation reached the right hon. Gentleman that the riots had taken place. [Laughter.] It was quite true, as had been stated in The Times by a writer signing himself "One who knows," that Mr. Childers did receive a letter about 6 o'clock from a friend, stating that disturbances had taken place. Immediately after receiving that letter, Mr. Childers, of course, communicated with the police in Scotland Yard; but it was not until a quarter to 7 o'clock that special information reached him as to the character of the riots which had occurred. The moment that information was brought to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman he communicated with the War Office, with the Adjutant General of the Army, and instructions were at once given to the various commanders of troops in London in the different barracks to have the men in readiness to turn out. Instructions were also given to provide for the attendance of Justices of the Peace at the barracks, if their services were required. Having taken those precautions, the next matter which called for the attention 566 of the Homo Secretary was the question of taking proceedings against the principal persons who had incited the mob in Trafalgar Square, and who were responsible for the disastrous consequences which followed. Mr. Childers lost no time in consulting the Law Officers of the Crown and other high officials on that point. Their Lordships were aware that this was a question which was by no means so simple or so easy of solution as was generally supposed by the uninitiated. It was a question which required careful weighing and consideration before a Minister could arrive at a knowledge whether the evidence that might be brought forward would be sufficient to secure a conviction. The delay which occurred before the legal steps were taken could not be held to be otherwise than beneficial. The result of the consultation with the Law Officers of the Crown was that summonses were issued for sedition against four of the principal speakers—Hyndman, Burns, Williams, and Champion. The summonses were issued on Saturday night, and made returnable on Wednesday morning. On Wednesday morning those persons submitted to their summonses at Bow Street; and, as their Lordships were aware, the ordinary course of the law was now being proceeded with, and they must leave the matter in the hands of the proper legal authorities. Their Lordships also knew that the Home Secretary immediately afterwards appointed a Committee to examine most carefully into all the circumstances of the case; and in connection with that point he (Lord Thurlow) could not agree with what had been said by the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Cranbrook), that it was an extraordinary proceeding on the part of the Home Secretary to preside over that Committee. Taking into consideration the circumstance that the Government had only then assumed Office, and the assurance of th9 Chief Commissioner of Police that ample precautions had been taken after consultation with the late Home Secretary, he could not see that Mr. Childers was implicated in any way in the matter; and it was only right and proper that he should undertake the arduous duty of presiding over the business of that Committee. He called to his aid four Gentlemen in whom he believed the country would place confidence— 567 Lord Wolseley, Lord Edward Cavendish, Sir Henry Holland, and Mr. Ritchie. These Gentlemen had been attending from three to four hours at the Home Office from day to day ever since. They had taken a great deal of evidence, and had examined a great many witnesses, and had not yet arrived at the close of their examination. It was, however, anticipated that they would arrive at the conclusion of their labours before many days were over. Their Report would contain recommendations which would be those not of the Home Secretary himself, but of a majority of the Committee, the responsibility of acting on the recommendations resting on the shoulders of the Home Secretary. The Committee would report to Parliament in a few days; and he thought their Lordships would agree with him in thinking that, pending the result of the Report, it would be premature to pursue the discussion further. Her Majesty's Government recognized that it was the first and essential duty of a Government to protect life and property, and maintain order in the streets of the Metropolis. Her Majesty's Government had taken ample precautions, in their opinion, to insure the fulfilment of that requirement, and they would not relax their endeavours in that direction. The peace of London was in the hands primarily, no doubt, of the Metropolitan Police, a force which was second to none in the world for efficiency. It was a force which was admirably officered by able and gallant men. It was also sufficiently large in numbers for the performance of any duty it was likely to be called upon to discharge. The Police Force had at its back the armed Forces of the Crown, which could be called out at a moment's notice. The police, moreover—as did not appear to be generally recognized—had perfect independence of action, and could act, and would act if required, with vigour and rapidity, without any previous consultation with the Home Department. It was not necessary for the police to get instructions from the Home Office. The Chief Commissioner of the Police, in cases of urgency, acted on his own authority, and reported afterwards. In conclusion, he (Lord Thurlow) wished to re-assure their Lordships and the country generally that the Government had no anxiety as to the future; but they would 568 not relax their endeavours to prevent any recurrence of those lamentable and lawless events to which the attention of their Lordships had so properly been called.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
said, that the speech they had just listened to was of an unsatisfactory nature. As a former Representative in two Parliaments of one of the largest Metropolitan constituencies, and as a member of the Metropolitan Commission of Sewers, he (Earl Fortescue) had had opportunities of learning from tradesmen of the Metropolis how serious was the loss of custom to many classes of shops even from a temporary interruption of traffic, and still more from any diversion of it by breaking up the surface of the thoroughfare in front of their premises. The plunder and the destruction of glass in shops were by no means the only losses sustained by the shopkeepers on that long line of march through which the mob ranged unchecked. The riots did not affect those thoroughfares alone. Trading throughout the greater part of the Metropolis was checked and impeded by want of confidence and the alarm which was spread abroad. Many shopkeepers would be able to date their day of ruin in these times of depression from the disturbances which had taken place. Besides injury to shopping, there had been a loss of work, an absence of orders, and a reluctance to embark in fresh undertakings, consequent on the removal of capital from this country. Mr. Froude had stated, in his last instructive and interesting book, that the novel legislation of the last few years, and the novel doctrines propounded by Cabinet Ministers, had driven much capital out of England, thus confirming publicly what he (Earl Fortescue) had been told confidentially by several friends they had been doing latterly. The bad example of London had been already more or less followed in other towns. Was it nothing that, in times of great depression, the departure of capital should be thus accelerated and augmented to go elsewhere to give employment to foreign workmen, while thousands of our own workmen required it? He had reason to believe that this was one of the consequences of the events of last week. It appeared that Mr. Childers was well aware that a meeting of this sort was about to be 569 held; but he never took the precaution of insisting that information should be regularly sent to him of the course of proceedings. He sat apart, unmoved and indifferent, like the gods described by Lucretius. Apart from the force of police in King Street and Scotland Yard, the Home Secretary had at the Horse Guards, St. James's Palace, and elsewhere Life Guards and Foot Guards, available at a moment's notice, to check the rioters. The fact that the riot should have been allowed by the authorities to go on for something like two hours in some of the principal West End thoroughfares seemed to imply an amount of apathy and want of capacity on the part of the Home Secretary which was almost incredible. He, at least, whatever others might have been, was in fault; and instead of occupying the Chair on a Committee appointed to examine into the misconduct of others, Mr. Childers ought to have his own helplessness and incapacity inquired into. By law, every Secretary of State was competent to perform the duties of a Secretary of State; and it was strange that no Minister should have realized the situation and taken action, setting aside ceremony as one would do in the case of a fire. It was amazing that no one had the moral courage and the energy to see that the rioting was checked, as it might easily have been, at its commencement.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Earl GRANVILLE)
My Lords, I think that, in the whole course of his speech, the noble Earl has carefully avoided referring to a single word in the statement made by my noble Friend (Lord Thurlow) on behalf of the Government. As to the alarming statement that it has already come to his knowledge that, in the case of a friend of his, capital is leaving this country in consequence of what has occurred, ho did not make that information complete, and inform your Lordships—what it would be exceedingly interesting to know—to what particular country it is that English capital is going in order to be perfectly safe, or even more safe than it is in this country. When the noble Earl talks about the lamentable apathy and the incapacity of Mr. Childers, or what might have been done by him, or by any Secretary of State, I really cannot conceive that any of your Lordships 570 can see what is the drift of the noble Earl. I am really astonished at it after the speech of my noble Friend, and I can only think that the noble Earl has not heard that statement. His contention seems to be that it was apathy for Mr. Childers not to have called upon the 40 Life Guardsmen who were at the Horse Guards, and possibly put himself at their head. Now, I should have thought it would not have been wise in a Minister just come into Office to set aside the police at a time of this sort. The whole thing turns upon this—that it happened without Mr. Childers being aware of it.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
Your Lord ships have heard—and if the noble Earl refers to the statement he will find—that Mr. Childers went to the Home Office for the first time at 11 o'clock in the morning; that a communication had been made by Colonel Henderson to the late Secretary of State, a statesman of experience; and that Colonel Henderson had received orders to take additional measures for the public security; and that he had, therefore, taken precautions which he otherwise would not have taken to prevent the occurrence of disorder. I say it is unfair to make the attack the noble Earl has made. If the police authorities were of opinion that all necessary precautions had been taken, would it not have been, in the highest degree, imprudent in the Home Secretary, quite new to his Office, to interfere with the experienced Commissioner at the head of the police, or to have altered the arrangements? Whether it was desirable that a large body of police should have been required for the protection of the noble Marquess——
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
No; it was not my house they were watching—it was a different house altogether.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
However that may be, everyone is agreed that this was a most lamentable event, and that there were great laches on the part of the police or someone; but every moans have been taken to discover who was responsible, and to take all precautions as will make it perfectly impossible that such a thing can happen again. Notwithstanding the statement which has been made, it seems strange, if he heard 571 it, for the noble Earl to try to bring a personal charge against Mr. Childers, and to fasten on him a charge which appears to me absolutely without foundation.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
I must be allowed to say that, owing to an unfortunate imperfection in my hearing, I did not hear all that the noble Lord (Lord Thurlow) said; but I heard quite enough to justify all that I said. I have shown that, quite apart from the police, the Home Secretary was not by any means helpless if he had taken prompt measures, as he ought.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I regret to say, my Lords, that I am one who was not convinced of the entire innocence of Mr. Childers by the statement made by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Thurlow). Your arrangements for defending the Metropolis and maintaining order have lamentably, disastrously, and contemptibly broken down. It is impossible to use words too strong to express the nature of the breakdown which has taken place. The noble Lord talks of other capitals being insecure. That is very possible; but they are insecure for good reasons, because there is a very dangerous revolt against the Civil powers; and then there is, no doubt, a struggle, and a considerable amount of insecurity may result. But here there is nothing of the kind; there was no real danger whatever; and it is simply because of an absolute breakdown of the machinery for the maintenance of order that all this terrible disorder occurs. What did Mr. Childers do? I see an illustrious Admiral (the Duke of Edinburgh) sitting on the Bench near me. I would submit to him what he would think if a captain wrecked his ship, and came home and said it was a very disgraceful thing; that there had been great laches somewhere; and that he was going to appoint a court martial, on which he would himself sit, to examine into the conduct of the first lieutenant and the crew. What would his opinion have been of such proceedings? The noble Lord seems to nave the idea that the blame may be conveniently distributed among three different persons, with the result of leaving Mr. Childers entirely innocent. The first persons who were to blame were the Home Office officials, who did not convey to Mr. Childers on Sunday 572 information as to the approaching riot. The second person to blame was Sir Edmund Henderson, with whom Mr. Childers had an interview at 1 o'clock on Monday; and the third person was the unfortunate Sir E. Assheton Cross, who had an interview with Sir Edmund Henderson on the Friday before, and who, apparently, was going to set on foot—but did not do so—so perfect a system of precaution that it should go like a clock, which, having been once wound up, should continue to operate without anyone looking at it any more. Mr. Childers seems to have lived in a species of conventional seclusion. He was absolutely ignorant of what everybody else in London knew. Everybody knew that there was going to be an attempt at disturbance.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Well, I have met many people who had told the ladies of their families to keep out of the way, as a riot was apprehended; and it was announced in the newspapers some days before. But not only that; besides living in a state of conventional seclusion, Mr. Childers shows an entire absence of curiosity, and, having heard from Sir Edmund Henderson that the arrangements were satisfactory, he appears to have asked no questions, nor informed himself as to the nature of the arrangements, nor required any report from any officer as to how matters were going on; but to have allowed the thing to go on as if it was one not interesting to the Home Secretary, until he casually heard of it by means of a lady's letter about half-past 5 o'clock. I should have thought, from the mere noise made by these men, that, seeing how near it was, somebody in the Home Office would have found out that everything was not right. I heard with regret that the Government are not going to give an independent Commission. The fact that Mr. Childers has thrown the blame right and left on one and another makes it very important that we should have some inquiry not under the conduct of Mr. Childers himself. The noble Lord has given us a very able account, in which, no doubt, all the circumstances favourable to Mr. Childers have been brought forward with great skill; but it is only one account of the transaction, and has not been subject to cross-examination. All the other defendants' de- 573 fences have been rigidly inquired into, and cross-examined by skilful men. Mr. Childers's defence is simply given by the noble Lord across the Table, and no means have been taken to ascertain how far this freedom from responsibility really extends, and how far it covers the injury that has been done. We must regard the man who was in charge at the time as primarily responsible for the breakdown that took place. There may be circumstances of defence in the case in Mr. Childers's favour; but they are circumstances that ho must plead. He is on his trial. He must show that he was exonerated by the circumstances he pleads, and must show it by producing them before some tribunal more independent than the one of which he himself is the Chairman. It is impossible to overrate the evil which this lamentable occurrence has caused. It is not only that it has injured our reputation, and exposed us to the ridicule and contempt which we deserved; but it has created a great danger in London in the future. It has been the habit—I do not say or think it is a good one—for many years past for various sects of people who have particular causes or opinions to represent to go in procession through the streets; and, confiding in the guardianship of the police, people have always looked upon them as innocent, and they have created no apprehension on the part of the population and no interruption of trade. All that immunity is now at an end. Whenever there is a procession in future there will be a panic among the shopkeepers along the line which it takes, and all the progress of commerce and transactions of business will be put a stop to. I do not think the evil is at all the less for what has taken place since. We have had, unfortunately in one sense, and most fortunately in another, a very large subscription for the unemployed following immediately on this riot. I should be very sorry indeed that the subscriptions for the unemployed should drop off; but it is an unfortunate and unhappy exaggeration of the evil resulting from this unfortunate neglect of the Home Office and the police that people must form the conclusion that it is solely on account of what took place, and to the violent measures that were pursued, that this succour was brought forward by the classes at the West End. These are 574 most lamentable results, and I think the Government have acted most unwisely in attempting to screen the Office which is primarily responsible from full and independent inquiry; and, unless they reverse their decision in that respect, no measures they may hereafter take against the police by way of punishment for what has taken place will receive the sanction and approval of the public or of Parliament.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (The Earl of KIMBERLEY)
said, he quite agreed with the observations of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) as to the ill effects of this unfortunate riot; but he would appeal to the noble Marquess as to whether it was a fair, or even a generous, thing to endeavour to fix the blame upon Mr. Childers? Under ordinary circumstances, the Home Secretary was the responsible person in these matters; but, under the circumstances of the present case, it was absolutely preposterous to bring a charge against the present occupant of that post, Mr. Childers. He (the Earl of Kimberley) had had some experience of the suppression of riots and dealing with large bodies of men in Ireland; and if he had found himself in the position of Mr. Childers, and had been informed that measures had been taken by the Chief Commissioner of Police, which that official considered to be sufficient to cope with a disturbance, he should have considered himself in the last degree imprudent, and wanting in that discretion which ought to belong to a man in his situation, if he interfered with the details of the arrangements, and took upon himself responsibility which he could not under the circumstances discharge. Ho did not believe that the noble Marquess himself, or any man placed in Mr. Childers's position, would have acted so rashly as to interfere with the police in these matters. Had the Home Secretary done so, it would have been likely to have brought about results for which he would have been personally and most gravely responsible. The suggestion that Mr. Childers did his best to shift the responsibility from his own shoulders was not fair, nor was it at all likely to promote harmonious action, or to aid the Government in their determination to restore confidence. To turn the matter into an attack on Mr. Childers would 575 not conduce to any good result. He had I no desire to relieve Mr. Childers through his Colleagues from any part of the responsibility which attached to him; but let them not obscure the matter. He trusted they would not be led away from the true issue by what he would almost say—though he did not wish to offend—appeared to be a desire to make political capital out of the subject. Considering the peculiar circumstances of the case, he thought it was far better, and much more likely to conduce to a thorough investigation and a good result, that Mr. Childers should have put himself at the head of the inquiry which was now taking place into the matter.
asked the Lord Chancellor, whether the inhabitants of the Western portion of the Metropolis, whose property was either destroyed or injured during the riots on Monday, 8th February, had any legal claim to redress and compensation; if so, whether Her Majesty's Government or the Ossulston Hundred in the county of Middlesex was liable to make good such compensation?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord HERSCHELL)
I need hardly say that I should be at all times most anxious to give any assistance in my power to the noble Viscount, and to your Lordships' House; but the Question which the noble Viscount puts to me now is one raising a point which may possibly come before this House for its judicial decision. It is strictly a question of law, pertaining to the construction of one or more Acts of Parliament; and I am quite sure the noble Viscount and your Lordships will feel that, considering the question may come before the House for judicial decision, and that it may be my lot to take part in such judicial decision, it would be improper that I should now express a legal opinion upon it. I feel that it would not only be prejudging a case which I may have to determine after argument, but that I might be giving false confidence to those who might depend upon an opinion given by one in my position, and, under the circumstances, be led, perhaps, to take steps which they might afterwards find they had reason to regret. Therefore, the noble Viscount will feel that it is from no discourtesy to him or to this House if I think it undesirable I should answer a purely legal Question.
THE EARL OF MILLTOWN
said, he wished to ask Her Majesty's Government, whether any measures were taken by the Home Office to restore confidence in the Metropolis on Tuesday the 9th and Wednesday the 10th instant; and, whether the recommendation to the citizens on both sides of the river to close their shops and protect their premises was given by direction of the Home Secretary? A report was circulated on Wednesday that a mob was coming from Deptford, and the shops on the other side of the river were closed, nor did anything appear to have been done to restore confidence. The presence of some military in the streets, or of bodies of police at certain points, would have had that effect; but, so far as the public knew, nothing had been done, except what excited only greater alarm—namely, directions by the police to the shopkeepers to close their shops.
, in reply, said, that the Homo Secretary took what he considered to be ample precautions to insure the safety of the town on Tuesday and Wednesday. He communicated also, as he (Lord Thurlow) had stated, with the Adjutant General of the Army; and the result was that the troops were held in readiness to act at any moment, and magistrates were prepared to assist if required. There was no foundation whatever for the rumour which had got abroad, that the police on the other side of the river warned the people to shut their shops in anticipation of further riots. The Home Secretary requested Sir Edmund Henderson to make inquiry into the point; very careful inquiry had been made of all the police officers who were on duty on Tuesday and Wednesday, and such a warning had not been traced to any of them; none of them admitted having warned any shopkeepers whatever to shut up their shops. Nor was there any truth in the rumour that the police at one time had given instructions to have barricades erected, or prepared, or got ready for erection, at certain strategic points.
THE EARL OF GALLOWAY
said, he could not say personally that shopkeepers were warned by the police; but a certain head of a bank in St. James's Street—at the very moment that he called in there—namely, about 12 o'clock on the day after the riots—in- 577 formed him that he had been so cautioned.
THE EARL OF LIMERICK
said, the order might not have been issued from head-quarters; but there appeared little doubt that it was circulated.
THE EARL OF MILLTOWN
said, that unless the public were informed of the steps taken by the Government, those measures were absolutely useless for the purpose of restoring confidence.
said, that noble Lords would probably not have to wait many days before they would obtain full information upon the points referred to.