Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [27th February], "That the Question then proposed,
'That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the state of Westmeath and certain parts adjoining, of Meath and King's County, the nature, extent, and effect of a certain unlawful combination and confederacy existing therein, and the best means of suppressing the same,'—(The Marquess of Hartington,)
—be now put."
§ Previous Question again proposed, "That that Question be now put."—(Mr. Serjeant Sherlock.)
§ Debate resumed.
§ COLONEL WILSON-PATTEN
Sir—Up to the moment at which I rise to address you, I have entertained a hope—not to say an expectation—that in the interval which has elapsed since I moved the adjournment of the debate on the subject now under consideration, Her Majesty's Government might have been induced to re-consider their course with regard to the Motion of the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and to withdraw it. I am quite sure that I speak the sentiments of many hon. Members of this House, by no means confined to party, when I say that if Her Majesty's Government had found it within the sphere of their duty to take the course which I have in- 1171 dicated, their decision would have met with the approbation of a very large body of hon. Members in this House, and with that of a still larger body of persons outside its walls. I think, further, that the Government would have been able to do this with a strict regard to their own dignity, and to the interests of the nation. But the House not having received any such intimation, I shall proceed very briefly to state the views which I entertain not only with regard to the Motion itself, but with regard to the circumstances on which it is founded. I must first express the very deep regret—the disappointment, the surprise—with which I heard the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland give Notice of the Motion now before the House. That feeling of surprise was by no means confined to myself; I have a confident belief that there are very few Members, except those enjoying the strictest confidence of Her Majesty's Government, who were not taken equally by surprise with myself. The circumstances under which the Motion has been brought before us are very peculiar. It was made within 10 days of the time when Her Majesty's Government — in possession of all the facts and all the details connected with the atrocious outrages which have been committed in Westmeath, and knowing the difficulty, and their means of grappling with it—had advised Her Majesty in her gracious Speech from the Throne to use expressions with regard to Ireland calculated, to say the very least, to dispel from the minds of everyone the notion that within 10 days this House would be called upon to suspend the laws of the country in order to deal with a state of things only incidentally alluded to in the Speech. It may be that I entertain strong views; but my opinion is, that it was the duty of the Government, if they intended to enact very stringent laws with regard to Ireland—and especially if it was their intention to suspend the Constitution—it was their duty to inform the country in the usual manner by means of the Queen's Speech. I will not impute any improper motives to Her Majesty's Government; indeed, as my wish is to induce them to withdraw their Motion, I shall endeavour to avoid saying anything likely to place an additional obstacle in the way of their doing so; but I repeat it was the duty of the Government to follow 1172 the usual forms and precedents, and to notice so serious an infringement of the law and Constitution in the Speech from the Throne. So far from imputing improper motives, I think I see a not altogether unnatural reason why the Government, which has, during the last two years, been prophesying that the remedial measures they had themselves propounded would bring about a speedy amendment in the condition of Ireland, should have felt some hesitation in stating, through the medium of the very first subsequent Queen's Speech, that their anticipations had not been realized. But, Sir, let me say, in passing, that having listened to the speeches of the noble Lord the present Chief Secretary for Ireland and of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chichester Fortescue), I am not quite sure what the exact present state of Ireland really is. They are the only two Members of the Government who have addressed the House on the subject, and they are by no means agreed in the views they take of the condition of the sister country. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade having taken an active, intelligent, and able part in the discussions on the remedial measures which have been brought forward in the last two Sessions, entertains, perhaps, an exaggerated opinion of the benefits likely to accrue to Ireland from those measures; and I think, therefore, that a little exaggeration may be pardoned. What does he say? He used these words—"It is perfectly well known in Ireland that we have succeeded beyond expectation" — and some interruption having occurred, he added—I know what I am speaking of. At no time within memory has Ireland been so prosperous, so calm, so confident of the future, so contented, so loyal as she is at the present moment.And this he attributes to the remedial measures brought in and passed by the present Government. I am not going to dispute that point, and I only hope it may be so, notwithstanding the rather discourteous remarks with which the right hon. Gentleman accompanied the statement, and to which I shall hereafter more particularly refer; but I may be allowed to doubt the accuracy of the statement, and whether any prosperity that may exist in Ireland is yet to be attributed to those measures. I am fortified in this opinion by the speech of 1173 the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland. With the candour which, from long and intimate acquaintance with him, I know to distinguish my noble Friend in private life, he is unwilling to attribute any improvement in the state of Ireland to causes which he does not really believe to be the real ones. The noble Lord said—I do not wish the House for one moment to believe that I attribute this great improvement—for a great improvement it is—to that course of remedial legislation which it has been the pride of this side of the House to initiate during the two last Sessions of Parliament. I am aware that we have had in operation during the present winter the Peace Preservation Act, which conferred on the Government powers considerably exceeding those ordinarily in the hands of the Government; but I claim for the Government the credit of having used both the ordinary and the extraordinary powers which have been placed in their hands with vigour, firmness, and decision. … We have in every disaffected part of the country prosecuted the most vigorous searches for firearms, which have resulted in a large number of them having been taken from the hands of the disloyal and criminal classes. The constabulary force has been augmented in every disturbed district; experienced detectives have been employed;. … constant patrols have been established wherever, in the opinion of the constabulary, they could be of advantage, and the Attorney General and the Crown Solicitor have been instructed personally to undertake every case. … At no time within the recollection of any Member of this House have the powers of the law been more vigorously, and at he same time more impartially, executed.And then the noble Lord, fearing that his observations should be considered to apply to Westmeath alone, added these words, "and all these measures have been still more strictly carried out in the county of Westmeath." After hearing these two opinions as to the causes of the altered state of things in Ireland, I think I am justified in entertaining some doubts as to what that state is, and to what it is to be attributed. But, be that as it may, there can be no doubt that amid all this tranquillity, whether brought about by the remedial measures alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, or by the measures of repression enumerated by the noble Lord the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, there exists a state of things which the noble Lord himself avows to be perfectly intolerable. There is in Ireland a small tract of country—I may almost term it a fortress of Ribandism, which sets the Government at defiance, and its garrison carries murder and rapine uncontrolled through a whole district. This 1174 fortress is more successful than those of Metz, Strasburg, or Belfort. In them the French were able to resist the Prussian arms for a few months; but this garrison has set the whole power of the Government at defiance, and that not for a few months, but for a whole year; and I believe that, at the moment at which I am addressing you, this garrison is in triumphant possession of their fortress, and is still setting at defiance the whole force of the Empire. Under these circumstances the Government come to Parliament—as I think they are perfectly justified in doing—for additional assistance. My right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire who sits beside me, and I believe every Member of the House, is ready to give to Her Majesty's Government every increased power which they could ask. But, on the other hand, so far as we are concerned, we are determined to oblige the Government if we can to adopt such energetic measures to repress these crimes as the gravity of the case requires. We do not differ from Her Majesty's Government as to the necessity of their having the power of repressing these crimes; but we differ from them with regard to the mode in which they have determined to proceed. It seems to us that the method they have adopted is the wrong one. It may have been my particular bad fortune, but I can say, with the greatest possible truth, that from the moment my noble Friend introduced this Resolution to the House, I have not met a single individual, either in the House or out of it, who does not look upon the course of Her Majesty's Government with regret—I had almost said, with reprobation. I am not sure that I quite understood my noble Friend with regard to the alterations he proposes to make in the Resolution before the House. But, first of all, let me say that I believe there is no necessity whatever for a preliminary inquiry by a Committee of this House. As to precedents, the Government have a precedent of their own in what occurred last year. Last year, without any preliminary inquiry, they proposed to this House the enactment of the Peace Preservation Act, and it was agreed to by the House without their insisting on a previous investigation. That was a measure which in England would be looked upon as unconstitutional, and they proposed it for all Ireland, and not merely for 1175 one district. I know it may be said that that Act was a mitigation of a former Act which had been formerly passed by this House. But surely, in point of principle, it is the same. Before the House proceeded to continue, even in a mitigated form, an Act which was about to expire, surely it was of as much consequence that the House should have some information, as it was that it should have information before the Constitution was originally suspended. I do not think that my noble Friend succeeded in convincing the House—at any rate he did not succeed in convincing me — that this Committee was rendered necessary by any one of the reasons which he adduced in support of his Motion. My noble Friend said the Government wanted information. Now, what information could the Government want? I speak from a very small official experience of the Government of Ireland. I was there for a very short time; but that short experience enables me to say that the Government are always in possession of information which it is not in the power of any Committee of this House to obtain. They have means at their disposal which insure to them perfect and accurate knowledge of everything that occurs in every part of Ireland. How is it possible for any Committee of this House to obtain information which the Government cannot obtain? My noble Friend said that he thought some magistrates of Ireland would, if a Committee were appointed, come forward to give information. Why, does my noble Friend mean to state to the House that the magistrates of Ireland are not doing their duty? If they are not doing their duty take them off the Bench at once, to whatever party they belong. I will not stand up for any magistrate, though he belongs to my own political party, who, in such circumstances as these, refuses to assist the Government by all the information in his power. Does the noble Lord require information as to the nature of the transactions with which we have to deal? That can hardly be. The whole organization of Ribandism is perfectly known to the Government; at any rate, it is the fault of the Government if they do not know it. More than that — it is known to others out of the Government. I very much doubt whether any of the Members of this House, who have read the publications of the day, can be ignorant of the terror which that conspiracy 1176 inspires, or of the atrocities of which it is guilty. In my opinion, all of us have sufficient information to grapple with the difficulty. But, more than that—I say it with some little confidence—I cannot say it for a certainty—but my belief is, that the Government know even the individuals of whom the organization is composed. I believe that all that the Government requires is additional power to grapple with those individuals, and to crush out crime. I say that it was the duty of my noble Friend, or of the head of Her Majesty's Government, to ask for powers to deal with those individuals—to take those powers and to execute them. I do not mean to argue that, under certain circumstances, there would be anything singular, unusual, or unconstitutional in a Government applying to the House for a Committee of Inquiry, as a preliminary to legislation; but, I can see no possible excuse for such a proposal on the present occasion, when it can result in nothing more than delay in obtaining an increase of those special executive powers, which the House granted last year in no stinted measure, when it consented to the Peace Preservation Act. In regard to the Resolution, I have said that I do not quite understand the manner in which my noble Friend proposes to deal with this Resolution. There are words in it which imply that Her Majesty's Government intend to make use of this Committee to relieve themselves of the responsibility which naturally attaches to them. The noble Lord disclaims such intention. I will accept any disclaimer on this, or on any other subject, that the noble Lord may make—I am acquainted with him well enough to know that he would not willingly deceive the House on this or on any other subject; but he must excuse me when I say that the country generally—naturally and justifiably—will attribute to these words the meaning they carry on their surface, and will regard this Resolution as an attempt on the part of Her Majesty's Government to shirk the responsibility which attaches to them. This Resolution justifies all the imputations which we have heard made—that one of the objects of the Government, in moving for this Committee, was to get rid of the responsibility that attached to them — a responsibility which may possibly be painful to them because, in the discharge of their duties, they would have to contradict and falsify 1177 a number of prophecies which they have made with regard to the future condition of Ireland. I think my noble Friend said that he was prepared to modify that part of the Resolution to which I refer. If I stood alone in my opposition, I would say "No!" to the Resolution as long as the words I have referred to are contained in it. Those words justify every imputation that has been brought against the Government. There is nothing too strong to say with regard to those words. I say they are wrong in principle, and more than that, if they are allowed to remain they will form a precedent for any other Government which wishes to shuffle off its responsibility, and throw that responsibility upon the House of Commons, instead of fulfilling its duty. I do not pretend to know what course the House of Commons will take, but, at any rate, those words ought to be struck out of the Resolution. I wish to impress this on the Government: I cannot disguise from myself that the Government are placed in a very difficult position. They have taken a step which I think they must regret. I cannot help believing that they regret it. Everybody else does. Their best friends do, and my object is still to entreat them to re-consider the step which they have taken; there is yet time to withdraw this Resolution. I wish to impress upon my right hon. Friends opposite what importance is to be attached to the course which they are about to take. I wish to ask them whether the adoption of this Resolution would not place the House in a rather humiliating position? Is it not, to begin with, humiliating to see the Government applying for exceptional powers for a small district of country, which, at the most, can only be said to be one county among the 32 counties, I think, in Ireland? But if it is humiliating to ask for extraordinary powers to deal with one county, is it not an additional humiliation to put into the Speaker's hand a Resolution in which the Government not only ask for additional powers, but admit that they do not know how to deal with the case, and call upon Parliament to advise them how to act? This Resolution, which is so humiliating, will be read, not only by the people of this country, but by the world at large. What must be the opinion of foreign nations at such a transaction? I have been careful to say nothing to add to the difficulties of their 1178 position. I would implore them to reconsider the course they have taken. I am quite positive that a reconsideration of this subject would afford gratification to a much larger party than the Government think. The withdrawal of the Resolution would enable us to appear before the world, and especially before Ireland, with a united front determined to put down crime. It would prevent any misunderstanding which, I think, it is quite possible there may be, if unfortunately we shall be driven into two different Lobbies on the Resolution before the House. That is a consideration which I press strongly upon the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. If we present a united front we shall be able to put down crime much more efficaciously than if we have party divisions, and I implore my right hon. Friend not to undertake the responsibility of causing party divisions on a matter of such great importance. Before I sit down I may be allowed to make a reference, as I said I would in the early part of my observations, to the speech of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman, in expressing his opinions, which he did in a very fair manner and which he was perfectly justified in doing, seeing the active part he has taken in the legislation with respect to Ireland, accompanied his remarks with a most uncourteous and improper accusation against hon. Gentlemen on this side, when he attributed to us that we took pleasure in the failure of the Irish policy of the Government. No doubt, we carry on our party conflicts in this House always with a good deal of excitement, sometimes with more acrimony than on calm consideration we might think justified. But it is the positive duty of Members sitting on this side to criticize the acts of the Government, and it often happens that we are obliged to express ourselves in language which might not be considered over courteous. In the case now before the House we may be allowed to entertain a doubt whether the legislation with respect to Ireland has been so successful as my right hon. Friend declares it to have been. Assuredly we may be allowed, in a mode usual to the Members of this House, to give utterance to this conviction in monosyllabic expressions without being taunted by my right hon. Friend with a feeling of positive plea- 1179 sure at the failure of the measures of Her Majesty's Government. We have no such feeling. I can only say for myself — I have said it before, and I repeat it now—that the pacification and tranquillization of Ireland must be to me, as I believe it to be to every Member of this House, of the greatest possible importance. We may differ about the way in which it should be done, we may think that certain measures have not been quite successful; but this I will say, that whatever Government is in power, whether that of my right hon. Friend who sits opposite, or that of my right hon. Friend who sits beside me, or that of a Minister more lucky than either, whoever shall succeed in bringing tranquillity to Ireland, the result will be hailed in no party spirit, but with an united expression of pleasure and delight from Members on both sides of the House. I should feel that a debt of gratitude was owing to that Minister, a debt not exceeded by that due to any person that ever held the reins of government in this country. I thank the House for the kindness with which it has heard me, and I again entreat my right hon. Friend to withdraw from the position which he has so unfortunately taken up.
Sir, it is undoubtedly refreshing in a debate of this kind, so warmly coloured in certain cases by the infusion of the language of party, to listen to my right hon. Friend (Colonel Wilson-Patten) who, in the speech that he has made, has exhibited that temperance of tone, and that uprightness of intention, from which we all know he would be the last man to depart. Therefore any recommendation coming from him is entitled to the most respectful and candid consideration. The recommendation, however, which he has now made to us is one which unhappily is too much at variance with our sense of public duty, and with what we consider to be our knowledge of facts, for us to adopt. But, following my right hon. Friend immediately, I will endeavour to lay clearly before the House the reasons upon which that decision is founded. I have said that in previous portions of this debate, its language has been highly coloured by the imputations and feelings of party. With respect to the speech of the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. G. Hardy) where he described murder as "stalking abroad," 1180 and Government as "becoming contemptible," to him it may appear that forcible language means forcible ideas, but to me it appears that language so heated, and so little in proportion to the nature of the case as that which he employed, cannot possibly raise in those who are the objects of it, anger and excitement, but rather creates a sentiment of regret when they find a Gentleman who has been, and may again be, responsible for the home police and government of this country, given to allow his feelings to attain such a sway over his judgment in dealing with a case in which the strict maintenance of a calm temper is so desirable. When I come to the speech which followed that of my noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington), the speech of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), I must employ different language of description. The right hon. Gentleman delivered—and it was very natural that he should—a speech, of which the obvious intention was partly to dispose of the question at issue, and partly to turn it to account in illustration of the errors of our Irish policy and of the wisdom of his own. I do not complain of the right hon. Gentleman. I think it was almost a necessity for the right hon. Gentleman to do so. The right hon. Gentleman says, and says truly, that we stand at issue upon the most vital questions—that he, and those who act with him, and we, and those who have honoured us with their confidence, stand at issue upon the most vital questions as to Ireland before the country and before the world. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman on that point. Nay, I am going to compliment the right hon. Gentleman in certain respects upon the moderation of his language, for he has toned it down immensely since 1868. He told us, indeed, that our Act had "legalized confiscation, and consecrated sacrilege." Well, Sir, but these are very moderate expressions from a right hon. Gentleman who, when he had originally to describe, as a responsible Minister, the measure which we proposed with regard to the Church of Ireland, was not satisfied with "confiscation" and with "sacrilege," but could find the true exposition of his ideas in nothing but "foreign conquest," and told us deliberately from his place that the consequences of that measure would be more formidable and destructive than those of 1181 foreign conquest. Therefore, I am very glad that we have got down to expressions so moderate and judicial as that we have "legalized confiscation, and consecrated sacrilege." Well, Sir, we are not ashamed of the measure the right hon. Gentleman has thus described; we abide by it as a politic and wise measure, as a just and therefore a Christian measure. Then the right hon. Gentleman told us in his speech—"You have condoned high treason." Neither are we ashamed of the steps we have taken in that respect. What we have done is this—we have acted upon the principle which we have invariably recommended to every other country in Europe—we have acted upon the principle which every truly civilized country in the 19th century has never hesitated to act upon—and that is, that a political crime, when it has ceased to be dangerous, and when suffering has been undergone, should be treated with the utmost leniency. Well, the right hon. Gentleman went on to offer remarks which I will presently notice; but let me now refer to the basis upon which my noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington) placed this measure, and in which I desire to identify myself with him. My noble Friend stated that the condition of things which prevailed in the county of Westmeath ought not to be, and in the view of the Government could not be, endured; that we must apply some remedy to that state of things; that we intended to lay the facts of the case before a Committee, and to invite its assistance in the full establishment and elucidation of those facts; and that then we should, on our own responsibility, propose what we thought the best and most suitable remedy, even if that remedy should require us to proceed further than we proceeded last year in the restraint and limitation of personal liberty, and of the ordinary rights of the Constitution. These were the plain statements of my noble Friend in the early part of his speech, and which formed the basis of the rest. Then it is supposed that my noble Friend went on to announce fundamental alterations in the nature of his proposal, and that these alterations were two. In the first place, that as his Motion had been framed, he asked the House, through its Committee, to take upon itself the responsibility of advising Her Majesty's Government with regard to this state of 1182 things. I would point out that the speech of my noble Friend at any rate contained an antidote to that misapprehension; because he did state at the very outset that the Government desired to take—as it is their absolute duty to take—the whole responsibility of proposing the necessary remedies. With regard to that point of the case I believe we are at the present moment involved in a technical and formal difficulty. The hon. and learned Member for the King's County (Mr. Serjeant Sherlock) has proposed what is called "the Previous Question." The effect of that Motion would be, at all events, to prevent my noble Friend from removing from his Motion those words which he has declared were intended exclusively for the purpose of giving scope and breadth to the examination of witnesses; because we think that the witnesses ought not to content themselves with merely describing the existing evils, but that they should also be encouraged to express their opinions upon the whole state of the case, upon the sufficiency of the present remedies, and upon the nature of any others that might be substituted for them. Those opinions of witnesses, in our view, are parts of the facts of the case. But my noble Friend, understanding that there will be no difference of opinion upon that subject, is perfectly ready to remove words which, in his view, will then be mere surplusage, and therefore I trust that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the King's County will withdraw his Amendment—at all events for the time—in order that, consistently with the rules of the House, the Motion of my noble Friend may be amended in that respect. As respects, therefore, one of these leading propositions, the change which has been made by my noble Friend is willingly and freely made to meet the desire which has been expressed; but so far as the intentions of the Government are concerned it implies no alteration whatsoever. The other change made by my noble Friend is that which has reference to the secresy of the proceedings of the proposed Committee. On that point I will enter into the question of precedents by-and-by; but I wish now simply to define that which he has declared on the part of the Government. The intention of the Government is to bring, as far as lies in their power, the whole 1183 of the facts of the case under the view of the Committee; and, so far as their own officers are concerned, there can be no difficulty whatever in taking them before an open Committee—that is to say, a Committee open to the whole world, and whose proceedings are conducted with the intention of publishing the evidence which may be obtained. But the Government anticipate if not as an absolute certainty, yet as highly probable, that the Committee may reach a point where valuable evidence might be got from persons who are accurately informed with respect to the subject of the inquiry, but who still would not venture to give evidence unless they were protected against its publication. That is the nature of the dilemma which appears to me to have been overlooked by many hon. Gentlemen who have spoken on the other side of the House; and what I wish to be understood is that, while we are willing to give up the proposal that the Committee should should sit with doors closed, the key of our proceedings should be found in this—that if we find we cannot obtain the evidence which is necessary to the full elucidation and establishment of the facts of the case without the protection of secresy, we shall have no hesitation in making it an Instruction to move the Committee to send its Chairman to the House to ask for powers by which that secresy may be secured. [A. laugh.] I am sorry if there be any hon. Gentleman who thinks that a full investigation of the case ought to be surrendered for fear of any supposed odium that may attach to evidence given in secret to Members of this House sitting in Secret Committee; but there can be no mistake about this—that, if we should find it necessary for the full elucidation of the facts to restrain the publication of certain evidence, or even entirely to exclude other Members of the House from the committee-room, we shall deem it our duty to ask for the powers which may be required to attain that object. So much for the nature of our proposal; and let us now look for a moment at the state of the case. My right hon. Friend who has just spoken (Colonel Wilson-Patten) seems to have great difficulty in understanding what is the condition of Ireland according to the view of the Government. He said—"I am not quite satisfied as to what state that country is in." 1184 Perhaps I am stating the case rather too favourably, for I think he said—"I think I am justified in entertaining some doubts as to what that state is, and to what it is to be attributed." But to me it appears that the two statements made on the part of the Government to which he has referred are perfectly consistent one with another. My noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland described the vast improvement which had been effected in the state of the country. "But," he said, "I am not going to claim exclusively for our legislation of a remedial and beneficial character," to which he afterwards referred, "the merit of having effected the great improvements in the social condition of Ireland," of which he was speaking. "I admit that the stringent powers which have been placed in the hands of the Government under the Peace Preservation Act are of the utmost value, and thus it is that two processes have been in operation together to produce the same result." The fact is—that the Peace Preservation Act has enabled the Government to repress the outward signs of discontent, while the beneficial legislation of Parliament has gone to the hearts of the people with its healing and soothing influence, and is performing for the distant, as well as the immediate future, that permanent work which it was its main object to accomplish. ["Oh!"] That statement is met with jeers by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and it is no wonder that when such a statement of opinion is so met my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade should have been led the other night to comment on the apparent unwillingness which exists on the other side of the House to admit that the measures of the last two Sessions should prove to be beneficial in their operation on the condition of Ireland. I do not claim their approval of those measures; but I do claim, on my own part, and on the part of the Government, as well as of the vast majority of the Members of this House, whose character is completely locked up in the legislation of last year and the year before, the right of holding and expressing the view of its action to which I have just given utterance. The main point, I may add, on which my right hon. Friend who has just spoken (Colonel Wilson-Patten) appears to join issue with us is this. He assumes, in the first place, that we have 1185 it in our minds to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland, and he asks us, therefore, not to go through the intermediate process of a Committee, saying that he is perfectly ready to support us in proposing the suspension of that Act. Now, with all respect to my right hon. Friend, who tells us he knows all about the state of things in Westmeath himself, the willingness to support us in such a policy, which he announces not only for himself, but for those who sit near him, cannot free the Government from their own conviction of that which duty demands. And let me, before I go further, say a word with respect to this question of the state of Westmeath—because we have heard much in the course of this discussion about the failure of our policy in Ireland. Now, my right hon. Friend who has just sat down, at all events, does not seem to share in that view, for he tells us that, with respect to 31 counties, there was no such allegation to make; while, as to the consequences of our policy, we never expected that they would be fully developed in the short period of two years. We are, however, perfectly satisfied with the state of those 31 counties as an answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, when he endeavours to set up against the measures which we have passed that policy which he has recommended—a policy of feeble tampering with landlords, and of all sorts of endowments for all sorts of religions. "But then," says the right hon. Gentleman, "how ridiculous, how humiliating it is that you should come to this House to find the means of governing a county." I do not at all see that the course which we ask the House to adopt is open to that charge. It appears to me that if in a particular locality any evils present themselves in the condition of its society, so deep and inveterate in their character, that the existing powers, in the opinion of the Government, are inadequate for the suppression of them, the natural and legitimate course to pursue is to come to Parliament. We have found it necessary to come to Parliament for the purpose of dealing with particular individuals, but we did not ask for a Committee in that case because the facts were patent, while in the present instance they are not; and that being so, we do not think it exactly in conformity with the true action of a 1186 Constitutional Government to ask the House to grant, without inquiry, fresh powers further infringing on the liberty of the subject. ["Oh!"] I hope I may be allowed to comment on the tone which has pervaded the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite on this subject, and I own I am astonished at the manner—I will not say the levity, though that word has been used in this debate—in which they seem to contemplate the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in reference to the suppression of ordinary crime. ["Oh!"] I mean by ordinary crime, crime as against individuals as distinguished from offences against the State—a distinction which is perfectly well understood; and I contend it is the duty of the Government not to arrive at such, a conclusion, as the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in the case of ordinary crime, until it has investigated and probed to the very bottom the whole of the facts, and, moreover, until it has placed Parliament in possession of all those facts in a manner far more effective than such information can possibly be conveyed in any speech. My right hon. Friend who spoke last has, I may observe, fallen into one of the most extraordinary errors of statement that have ever saluted my ears. He says—"The powers which you are going to ask for are the same as those which we have heretofore granted." Now, in the first place, my right hon. Friend does not know what powers we are going to ask for. We have not said that in our opinion the Habeas Corpus Act ought to be suspended. If no other effective remedy can be found we must not stop short of that; but we will not even trust ourselves to come to the conclusion that a step so serious as the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act is necessary, until the evidence before us is far more effectually sifted. But, beyond that, my right hon. Friend is entirely in error. Powers to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland have never been given in reference to ordinary crime. The case is entirely new. It is a case, I grant, far more grave than in former instances in one respect, because we are dealing with a chronic evil; and because it is an innovation to ask for the suspension of the liberty of the subject with a view to the suppression of ordinary crime. I am afraid this 19th century, for whatever else it may be distinguished, is not re- 1187 markable for that firm intellectual grasp of the first principles of political liberty which was so great a characteristic of our forefathers. Am I to be told by my right hon. Friend, one of the fairest and most moderate men in the House, that a Bill such as he invites us to introduce—
At all events my right hon. Friend stated that he was perfectly willing to vote for it.
My right hon. Friend used the words—"powers which the House granted last year in no stinted measure." What does he mean by that expression? Does he mean the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act? It is because we do think the liberty of the subject something more than the shadow of a name, and it is because we do attach some sanctity to personal and private rights, that we are not willing to put before the House of Commons any request which might ultimately involve an invasion of those rights, until we have also put the grounds of that request under the scrutiny and review of the House of Commons itself. The case is totally different from other cases of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, even if we had made up our minds, and we have not, that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was justified by the facts before us. It is easy, comparatively, to do what we did in 1866. In that year numbers of foreigners came into the country; large seizures of arms were made; multitudes of facts of a positive character that could be stated, in a clear and distinct form, were at our command; they were stated; and the House of Commons acted upon them. But that is not the character of the present situation. "Murder stalking abroad!" It is all very well to use this exaggerated language in the heat of debate; but what said my noble Friend? He stated that there had been four murders, and four attempts at murder, in Westmeath and its immediate neighbourhood. Is that a reason, taken by itself, against the proposal of the Government? I put this question to the House with the utmost seriousness and earnestness — because the right hon. Gentleman, with a lofty estimate of 1188 human nature, did not hesitate to say that the self-love of the First Minister was the basis of the present proposal. Sir, the self-love of the First Minister wants no consolation. The First Minister is perfectly satisfied with the results of recent legislation in Ireland. But I want to point out the state of this case with reference to the character of the proposal that we now make. What we have now got to exhibit is not a set of positive facts shown in statistics that would warrant any proposal for another and further invasion of personal liberty. The four murders, and four attempts at murder, which are the statistical facts of the case, combined especially with the great decrease of other agrarian outrages, do not justify any such proposals as have received the sanction of the opposite Bench. ["Oh!"] I mean, of course, in the judgment of the Government. I am not endeavouring to cheat hon. Gentlemen opposite out of their liberty of judgment, but I am saying that, in our view, these figures of murder, and attempts at murder, do not justify a general invasion of the private and personal liberties of the inhabitants of this portion of Ireland. Then, what is the nature of the case that we want to produce? We want to show not the acts which are done, but the acts which are not done. We want to show the invasion of private liberty in detail. We want to show the form which the transactions of private life take as between man and man. Hon. Gentlemen opposite think it is easy to come to this House and report these things as we have received them from the officers of constabulary, and then ask the House of Commons to interfere with the Constitution. In our opinion it is not so easy: it is a case which must be established precept upon precept, line upon line; and the House of Commons, in our judgment, would forfeit its duty, would betray its character as a truly popular representative Assembly, if, upon the mere statement of a Minister, with regard, not to statistical facts on which he might, perhaps, fairly claim their confidence, but to allegations necessarily general, they were willing to accept his statement in a manner so implicit as to place the liberty of every inhabitant in an Irish county at the disposal of the Lord Lieutenant. My right hon. Friend (Colonel Wilson-Patten) says that our 1189 means of obtaining information are much larger than those of a Committee. I entirely differ from my right hon. Friend. We have means of obtaining information which a Committee has not. But all that information will pass from us to the Committee. On the other hand, a Committee has means of obtaining information which we have not, and that in two senses. We cannot, by any authority of our own, summon before us the inhabitants of Westmeath, receive their testimony, and cross-examine them upon the subject marked for inquiry. It is in the power of a Committee to do so. It is in the power of a Government to do it through the medium of a Committee. My right hon. Friend says we have the information which magistrates can give. I ask him, does he think the information of a magistrate, conveyed in secret to the constabulary, and by the constabulary to the Lord Lieutenant, and by the Lord Lieutenant to the Cabinet, is entitled to the same weight with this House, in considering the necessity for new legislation, as it would have if that magistrate had appeared before a Committee of this House, impartially constituted, and consisting of the ablest and most judicious of our Members, bringing to bear upon the question all the lights that their minds can supply, with the representatives of Ireland, and of popular principles in Ireland, sitting near to cross-examine him? We contend that the information, even if we could get the same information as to the range of facts, would be of totally different weight and authority, if it were thus gathered by the Government in their secret chambers, from that which it would possess where it had passed under the review and scrutiny of a Committee of this House. And now with regard to precedents. Here, again, my right hon. Friend is under an entire misapprehension. He thinks we have twitted hon. Gentlemen opposite. We have done nothing of the kind, unless by "twitting" my right hon. Friend means a reference to precedents. We merely referred to authority. I think it is a principle which Conservatives will not wholly condemn, and which Liberals will be well satisfied to pursue—I mean that of inquiry on the lines traced out by former usage, instead of putting so extravagant a confidence in their own judgment as to throw overboard every- 1190 thing done by their predecessors. Now, the precedents in this case are important. I will mention that of 1852. And here I cannot help "twitting" not my right hon. Friend, but the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) for his condemnation of his own conduct, and, above all, for the grounds on which he bases that condemnation. The case was this—In 1852 some portions of Louth, Armagh, and Monaghan were in a dreadful condition. Life and property were insecure. The right hon. Gentleman, then a Minister of the Crown, says he did not adopt what would have been the proper course, because his Government was weak in this House. Sir, a more astounding confession never was made by a Minister of this country. What! If there is a riot in Palace Yard or Trafalgar Square, is a Minister, weak in this House, to vary one hair's breadth from the course that is necessary for the security of life and property because of the unsatisfactory state of his majority? If the defences of the country are weak, and the number of troops insufficient, is a Government to make it an apology for departing from the first principles of duty that they sit upon this Bench, that they want to sit upon this Bench, and therefore cannot propose measures which, in their opinion, principle justifies, and the safety of the country demands? That, and nothing else than that, is the declaration in which the right hon. Gentleman has handed down to posterity his opinion of his own conduct in 1852. Sir, I do not take so severe a view of the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not understand that on that occasion he made no recommendation to the Committee; but I am willing to assume that there was good cause for it. It seems to me that there was nothing improper in the course then taken—that of inviting the assistance of the House by means of a Committee moved for by an important Member of the Government. The presumption was that that Member of the Government would conduct the proceedings before the Committee, as I have no doubt he did with much ability, and the proposal was, as I contend, a perfectly normal one. It was not the proceeding of a minority. There was a majority in this House as well as a minority, and the majority declared their assent and approval to the appointment of the Committee. I do not know, 1191 therefore, why it should be supposed that nothing but a depraved and fastidious self-love has set the present Government upon taking this method of proceeding. I am not afraid of going even further back. Now, with regard to secresy. There are many modes in which Parliament effects this object. Parliament sometimes requires absolute secresy, sometimes it imposes partial secresy. I am not entitled to speak on this subject with authority; but I believe, in the first place, the distinction between a Secret and a non-Secret Committee consists absolutely and solely in this—Members of Parliament are entitled to enter the committee-room if it is not a Secret Committee; they are not entitled to enter if it is a Secret Committee, But I also presume that a Member of Parliament entering a Committee-room, where the investigation was of a nature involving risk to the lives of witnesses if their evidence were divulged, would go beyond his rights, and incur a very heavy responsibility, were he to take upon himself without authority to publish the nature of that evidence. Another course is occasionally taken by this House, and that is, by withholding or suppressing the evidence it has taken, reserving it for the use of the Committee alone, or not publishing it at all. There is another course we have sometimes taken—that of suppressing evidence after it was taken. In 1837–8 I was a member of a Secret Committee upon West India apprenticeship, and, unless my memory greatly deceives me, portions of the evidence, with names, places, and dates in blank, were printed for the use of the Committee; but this evidence was never printed for the use of the House at all. All that, when the matter ceases to be a party question, is settled by the practical common sense of the members of the Committee. Now, do not let hon. Gentlemen be astonished if I go back to the precedents of what are called "bad times." I shall boldly appeal to the precedents of 1812 and 1817, and I ask the House, if those times were bad, not to make these times worse. It may be said these were bad times, and therefore we will take no notice of what was then done. That would be to me the most left-handed method of reasoning it is possible to adopt. If the years I have named were bad times, why were they bad times? It was because the House 1192 of Commons was too subservient, and the Ministers were not sufficiently confiding; because there did not exist that freedom of communication, and that union of action in matters affecting popular liberty, which there ought to have been between the Ministers and this House. Yet in those times, when the Government of Lord Liverpool had strong proposals to make, involving the invasion of personal liberty, they would not do so without laying the evidence on which they relied before a Committee of the House. If, then, the Members of the present House of Commons distinguish themselves from the Members of the House in those days, it ought to be by showing themselves to be not less, but more ready to take on themselves the responsibility of forming a practical judgment in a case of this kind, and, if necessary, of checking, as representatives of the people, the statements and allegations which the Government may think it their duty to bring forward. The precedents I have referred to not only warrant the proposition of a Committee, but à fortiori require that such a course should be taken by the Government, and that they should ask the countenance and approval of the House. Some people will, perhaps, say it is a deplorable fact that after your remedial policy you now ask for stronger powers than you possessed before, or, at least, confess that the weaker powers have failed. I, for one, am not prepared to allow, and my Colleagues have at no time asserted, that the state of Westmeath at this moment, taken all in all, is worse than it has been in many former years. We do not found ourselves on that allegation. I will not even for myself presume to say that it is worse than it was 12 months ago. But we do say that the state of Ireland, and of the Government of Ireland, is, and has been—I am speaking of the Executive Government necessarily — in many respects defective, and even deplorable. The Government have been obliged to wink at a state of crime or intimidation which, in well-governed countries, is intolerable. What we think is this—in proposing remedial legislation we conceive that we come under new obligations as guardians of public order, and owe a more strict and solemn duty to public order than when there were great causes of grievance on the 1193 statute book. It is not so much because we assert that the state of Westmeath is now worse than in former times that we propose a Committee of Inquiry; but it is because we think that the state of Westmeath is a disgrace to a civilized country, that we are of opinion its condition demands the attention of Parliament. We have received by telegram a statement from the foreman of the grand jury assembled at Mullingar. I do not know whether the words are his, or those of the grand jury; but it appears that they support the allegation in the Motion with respect to the existence of an unlawful combination and confederacy—they do so from their own experience, and from the evidence coming before them in cases now brought forward at the assizes. Our duty will be to lay before the Committee all the evidence we can obtain bearing on the case. I have received from a Member of this House a letter written to him by a large landed proprietor in Westmeath, referring to a conversation he had with another landed proprietor, in the course of which they both, expressed opinions as to the evils existing, and of the remedy that might be adopted for their prevention; but to the question whether the statement could with safety be made public, the answer was that in the opinion of the writer it could not. Therefore, evidence of that kind might be had if the tendering of it did not entail personal danger. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has asked—What is the Committee to do? If the words in which we have framed our Motion are justly open to censure or criticism, I admit that we might have indicated more clearly and distinctly the purposes to which the attention of the Committee would be directed. As to the question—What is the Committee to do? I will answer that question in two words—because I want to draw a broad distinction between the collection and elucidation of facts, and the responsible duty of making recommendations founded on those facts. In the collection and elucidation of facts we have exhausted the means properly in our hands as an Executive Government; and we believe we might obtain valuable aid from the House of Commons; and we think that the House of Commons, through the Irish representatives, will prove a salutary check on our proceedings. We think that the powers which this House possesses can be exercised in a perfectly 1194 salutary way as a check on our proceedings, by testing and scrutinizing our facts, and it is for this reason that we ask for the assistance of a Committee. But let us consider what these facts are. There can be no difficulty in perceiving what kind of facts it will be our duty to bring before the consideration of the Committee. First of all, there will be all that class of negative evidence which will go to establish what we believe to exist—namely, an extensive system of terrorism, supported, in case of need, by personal violence. But, independently of that, there is another matter which we should wish to examine by aid of the Committee, and that is, how have the Government used the powers given them under the Peace Preservation Act? Seeing that Parliament last year intrusted us with large stringent powers, and seeing that we declare that still more stringent powers are required in reference to the state of Westmeath, is it not right that the House of Commons should inquire whether or not we have neglected properly to use the powers given us? My hon. Friend the Member for Cork County (Mr. Downing), in the most frank manner, raised an issue, which I admit to be the true issue on this occasion—for I think that on the other side the House an entirely false issue has been raised. My hon. Friend asked whether the Government have fully used the powers given by the Peace Preservation Act? How is it possible for us not to listen to the appeal involved in the question of my hon. Friend? Are you to take for granted that we have done all that we ought to have done? Is our conduct such as to induce an implicit belief that we have put in force the powers of the Peace Preservation Act of last year? I must say that there is another question which it is important for us to examine, and which it is very difficult for the Executive to examine adequately. It is the helplessness and inaction of society in Westmeath. Now, why is government easy in this country? Not, God knows, from want of criminal elements amongst the population, but from the vigorous and healthy tone of social life, which makes men of whatever class an ally of the law. Unfortunately, that is not the case in Ireland; nor do I venture to blame those to whom that observation would apply. But, supposing we do arrive at the conclusion that powers beyond the ordinary limits of 1195 the Constitution are required by the condition of Westmeath, there is another most important question lying in perspective which no party imputations, and no party cheering, can in the slightest degree help to solve. When you say you are ready to vote for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, does that mean that you are ready to vote for it until Ribandism has ceased to mark the county of Westmeath? Are we to enter into a race of obstinacy and perseverance with these criminals? Is it to be renewed from time to time? Are we to continue, from time to time, to teach all other members of society to rely entirely upon our innovations upon the Constitution—never to look to themselves—never to assist the law? Sir, I must say a graver subject than this cannot possibly be opened. It is one of those subjects not only as respects the proposal now to be made, but as respects what is to follow that proposal, with reference to which duty not only permits, but requires us, to exchange counsels and advise with the freely-elected representatives of England. There is no want of employment for the Committee, even if it were merely to consider the evidence supplied by the constabulary; a scrutiny by Members of Parliament into the mere question of the efficiency of the constabulary as agents of the Administration would be a most efficient aid and check to the operations of the Government on this point. I admit that if my hon. Friend (Mr. M'Carthy Downing) were the only man in this House who challenged us to show that we have used the powers conferred by the Peace Preservation Act, I would say—as it is impossible to give him within the compass of a speech such an answer as would convince him that we have—that we wish to begin our proceedings with the fullest exposition of the facts we possess, and to add to them by inviting all who can assist us to give us all the information in their power. And we would do this in order to get his vote, because we know him to be a man who can withstand popular disapprobation, and overcome popular misapprehension, as he showed last year in connection with the Land Bill, and in order to obtain that union of sentiment to which my hon. Friend adverted. For that very purpose it is that we want to begin our proceedings by a full exhibition of the facts of which 1196 we are in possession, by subjecting them to scrutiny, and inviting other information. That being the case, we lay our proposal, as a deliberate proposal adopted by us under circumstances of great gravity, before this House. We are convinced that it is impossible for the House to refuse us the assistance we ask. We have acted on the best investigation of the case we can make; we have acted in conformity with the precedents which former times afford us, modifying our strict adherence to precedent only so as to adapt our procedure to a more largely extended state of popular representation. Acting, as we do in this case, upon the immediate elementary obligations of a Government, at all hazards to secure personal peace and freedom in the transactions of life, we submit our proposal to the House, and we are confident it will receive the approval of its reflective and deliberate judgment.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he could not refrain from addressing the House, for the explanations afforded by Her Majesty's Government with regard to the necessity for a Committee were eminently unsatisfactory. Unfortunately, he did not hear the first part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown; but, judging from what he did hear, and from the speeches of the late and present Secretary for Ireland, he was totally unable to perceive what purpose was to be effected, or what evidence was to be derived from the appointment of a Committee which the Government were not able to obtain for themselves without such appointment. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, it was true, had suggested the possibility that if the Committee was a secret one a certain amount of valuable evidence might be obtained from persons who might otherwise withhold it. If that were so, and the Government could demonstrate that by means of a Secret Committee, and by that means alone, evidence could be obtained, and power could be placed in their hands sufficient to enable them to cope with the evils which unquestionably existed, he had no hesitation in saying that they would receive the support of every hon. Gentleman on that (the Opposition) side of the House. But the Government had made out no such case. On the contrary, so little importance did the Government attach to this evidence that the noble Marquess the Chief Se- 1197 cretary expressed his opinion that it mattered little whether the Committee was secret or not. He maintained that, so far as they had heard, there was nothing to justify the House in believing that the appointment of such a Committee was necessary for the suppression of the evils which now existed; and he was confirmed in that view by the fact that the Government themselves must already be in possession of evidence of the strongest possible character. It had been said that it would be no part of the duty of the Committee to suggest a remedy. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) had studiously avoided telling the House whether the Government were prepared with a remedy or not. What he wanted to know was whether the Government were prepared with a remedy, or were they not so prepared? If they were, why not tell it to the House at once, and proceed to the application of remedial measures? If not, the Government had clearly abrogated the functions and duty of a Government in a manner which deserved the condemnation of the House and of the country. The Government had declared to that House that in one portion of Ireland the state of the country was such as to be absolutely intolerable; they had given harrowing descriptions of outrages which were stated be of daily occurrence; they had stated that a reign of terror existed universally in that part of the country; and yet, one hon. Member (Mr. W. H. Gregory), a warm and consistent supporter of the Government, had told the House that the police at this moment could lay their hands upon some of the authors of the murders which horrified the country, if they had but authority to do so. In spite of assertions like this Her Majesty's Government had no other remedy to propose than simply a recommendation for a long and protracted, and, to the people chiefly concerned, probably, a most perilous delay. When he listened to the statement made by the Chief Secretary the other night, and when he read accounts of the murders and outrages which had been perpetrated within, the last few days, he was tempted to ask—"Whence come all this miserable vacillation, and by whom are these hesitating, faltering councils directed?" The Chief Secretary, in proposing the Motion, performed his task in a manner 1198 most unlike him; his manner evidently showed that the task he had undertaken was most uncongenial to him. To shirk responsibility was foreign to the character of his noble Friend. Why did not the Government come forward like men and frankly avow that, in spite of all their remedial measures, they were still unable to cope with the difficulties of Ireland, and upon this head demand the assistance that would be so readily given by the House? It was true that by that course they might have laid themselves open to taunts on both sides of the House, but that should have been no bar to taking a straightforward course. He certainly should vote against the proposition of the Government—he should do so in the hope of compelling them to revise their policy. If they would do that he could promise them that, instead of exposing themselves to that ridicule and contempt which their present proposal had universally met with, they would receive the cordial support of every man of honour and intelligence throughout the country.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
Sir, I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government has risen thus early and definitely explained the views of the Ministry upon this important subject; because, whatever doubts hon. Gentlemen who sit near me may have had as to the course which we ought to pursue with regard to the policy indicated by my noble Friend the Chief Secretary, we can have no doubt now. I think the House will agree with me that almost everyone who has spoken on this question—even including my noble Friend the Chief Secretary and my hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. W. H. Gregory)—admits that this Motion is a great mistake. I am bound to say that, having listened to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, it is impossible not to give way to a feeling of sympathy for the Government on being obliged to come forward to make a Motion of this kind. I can understand a weak Government shrinking from responsibility in the midst of such a dilemma as that in which the Government finds itself, and concealing itself under such a Motion as this; but this is a Government which, above all others, has placarded its efficiency, particularly as regards Ireland; and I cannot help thinking it must be in a fair way to understand that it has 1199 signally failed to bring about that which, by the most extravagant legislation, it too fondly hoped to accomplish. I am bound to say, with my hon. Friend opposite, that I listened to the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland with a great deal of pleasure, for it was the speech of an honest man—it was the speech of a man who was saying that which he did not quite feel to be right. So honest was it that he convinced me that he did not approve the policy he was recommended to advocate. I understand that the Government intend to insist on this secret investigation; but I would say let them withdraw it. This is not the first time, even within the past week, that they have had to withdraw from a position they had taken up. A week ago there was a strong position taken up by the Government in favour of a Joint Committee upon Indian affairs; but so strong was the opposition of the House to such a defective scheme that they were practically beaten, and they had to withdraw from it. A few days ago they recommended this Secret Committee for Ireland, and I had since understood that the proposal was to be withdrawn; but now I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that it is not withdrawn. I would ask—I would implore somebody on the Treasury Bench to get up and say, in a plain, unmistakeable manner—not with a cloud of words, which it is really entertaining to listen to, but which fail to convey to the House what the Government mean to do—I would ask someone on the Treasury Bench to get up and state what the Government mean to do in this matter. I can well understand how my noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland should have made use of these words—that he spoke with "feelings of dismal dismay." [An hon. MEMBER: Painful dismay.] I accept the correction; but it might have been "dismal dismay," seeing that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire told him to pluck up his courage and not be downhearted. But, after my noble Friend sat down, I was surprised to hear what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary. He directly, in words, contradicted the statement made by my noble Friend. Actually, after the speech of "painful dismay," and "the most difficult position" and "the intolerable state of things" in which my noble Friend 1200 found himself, up got the late Chief Secretary, and speaking in a whirlwind of official passion, which carried away nobody but himself—what did he say? The late Chief Secretary for Ireland said—At no time within memory has Ireland been so prosperous, so calm, so confident of the future, so contented, so loyal as she is at the present moment.Well, now, if that is a true picture of the state of Ireland, in God's name why come down here and insult our patience by asking for such an inquiry as this? Why do you placard Ireland at the bar of public opinion, and hold her up to the scorn of Europe as rife with assassination and murder? What did my noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland say was the object of this inquiry? His language was very different from that of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister founded himself entirely upon precedents. He said—"We are disposed to take our stand on the precedents of 1812, 1817, and 1818." He said—"We want the House of Commons to act as a check upon us." [An hon. MEMBER: The Irish Members.] Yes, we want Irish Members to exercise a salutary check upon us. Why, everybody in the country is trying to goad on the Government to show some spirit in its procedings. But why did my noble Friend ask for this inquiry? He said—"We don't want to evade responsibility; we do not even ask the Committee for a remedy; we merely ask the Committee to inquire into the best means of suppressing this state of things." Now, really, I pity the position in which my noble Friend the Chief Secretary finds himself when he has to make statements of this kind. He says he does not seek to evade responsibility, but merely that the Committee should consider the best means of suppressing this state of things in Westmeath. I think those words are now proposed by the Prime Minister to be omitted; but I do not think that at all alters the position of the case. Sir, I am one of those who think that the Motion is altogether a mistake—it is a bad Motion and ought to be resisted, particularly by Irish Members. I can hardly conceive that one hon. Member from Ireland would dare to go into the same Lobby with the Prime Minister. My noble Friend the Chief Secretary says, "We want to check Ri- 1201 bandism in Westmeath, Meath, and in parts of the King's County; but we do not want to fetter our action by any rigid line." Now, no doubt, he is perfectly right there, because anyone who has had any connection with Ireland knows that Ribandism is not confined exclusively to Meath, Westmeath, or the King's County. It has ramifications, as I know of my own knowledge, through various parts of Ireland—in fact, when I was in Ireland almost the only Province of Ireland comparatively free of Ribandism was Connaught. In Sligo there was the slightest taint of disaffection; but with that exception the Province of Connaught was almost entirely free from Ribandism. My noble Friend truly described the origin and organization of this most terrible society. Anyone who takes the trouble to read the Report of the Committee of 1832 will obtain a complete account of Ribandism, and Whiteboyism—another class of illegal societies. They are fully described there. But what surprised me in the statement of my noble Friend the Chief Secretary was when he alluded to the return of crimes committed in Ireland to justify this Motion. He says the number of agrarian crimes in January, 1870, amounted to 321; and the number of agrarian crimes in January, 1871, amounted only to 35. But surely that would hardly justify the Government in coming down and asking a Committee of this nature. What was the state of Ireland in 1837, at the time of Lord Melbourne's Government? Will the House believe it—such was the state of Ireland that, in the year 1837, the number of murders committed were 722 — an average of nearly two a-day. In the county of Tipperary alone there were 124. Could the state of affairs be more formidable? What did the Government then do? They did not come down and ask for a Committee of Inquiry: but they proceeded to act—as I think they were justified in doing. I will take the county of Westmeath, the centre and hotbed of Ribandism. It contains a purely agricultural population. It is 30 miles long, and 40 wide. The population is of a very limited character. In that county there are 128 local magistrates. Do not tell me that if they were disposed to do their duty we should not need this inquiry. I do not blame them, because I know the terrorism that is exercised 1202 over them. But with a constabulary in Ireland amounting to nearly 13,000, costing this country nearly £1,000,000, including the expense of the stipendiary magistrates, it does appear extraordinary that the Government cannot blot out this taint from the county of Westmeath. I cannot help thinking there must be some under-current—some division in the Government in regard to this Motion. I am quite satisfied my noble Friend did not, of his own mind and determination, bring it forward. It certainly comes from some other source. I do not know how far the Vice Lieutenant of the county of Westmeath—a very great Radical by-the-by, and recently made a Peer, as a sop, I suppose, to the Liberal party—gave advice to the Government on the subject; but there must be some under-current or division in the Government in relation to it which has not yet been explained to the House. Now I want to point out to the House the position we are in, because the policy of the Government not only on this question, but on a great many others that come before us, exhibits a series of contradictions, of compromises, Commissions, and Committees that really are most perplexing. I have been in this House for now a quarter of a century, but never recollect a Government conducted on such principles before. Last year, as everybody admitted, was a Session of compromises; this year we have nothing but Commissions and Committees to inquire into different matters. Look at the contradiction in which the Government have exposed themselves in regard to the Church government of Ireland. Last year the Prime Minister, upon the plea of complete religious equality, and for the full development of civil and religious liberty, came down to the House and disestablished the Protestant Church of Ireland. This year that same Minister, under Royal authority, supports the spirituality of the Pope, who condemned as heresy these same principles of civil and religious liberty which the Minister takes as his guiding star in the conduct of affairs with regard to the Protestant Church of Ireland. I can recommend that point with confidence to the digestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird). But mind—I do not ask him to write me a letter. Well, now I will take the other point. Take the Irish Land Bill. Just 1203 consider the position of Ireland with regard to the Land Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth (Mr. C. Fortescue), on his re-election the other day, told his constituents that he hoped the landlords of Ireland were beginning to understand the effect of the measure; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell), in a speech to his constituents, said it was merely a compromise, to be followed by other enactments. God help the Irish landlords say I; and if you want to know what the effect of the Irish Land Bill is, you can read in a few lines the opinion of one of the staunchest supporters of Her Majesty's Government. I hold in my hand the opinion recently given by the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray), whom I know of old when I was in Ireland as a must energetic and vigorous agitator. The other day he went to his constituents to speak to them about this very Bill, and what did he say? He said—That the day the Queen's sign-manual was attached to the Bill converting its provisions into absolute law, property to the amount of over £70,000,000 sterling passed by that stroke of the pen from one side of the ledger to the other. The property which, the day before the Bill was signed by the Queen, was the property of the landlords of Ireland, became the day following—nay, the very instant the Bill was signed—the property of the tenantry of Ireland.Is that a just act of legislation? Will that bring peace to Ireland? And now this year we have a Governmental policy of Committees and Commissions. We may, and I think we shall, have a very stormy Session—indeed, I think, the Government are preparing for it by shunting as much as possible of Public Business into Commissions and Committees. But of all the Commissions I ever heard of that which they proposed the other day was the most extraordinary. A first-class man-of-war with 500 souls on board foundered at sea. ["Question!"] It is the Question, as I shall show my hon. Friend below me. I am showing how the policy of the Government is a policy of Commissions and Committees. Last year their policy was one of contradictions and compromises, and we are asked this year to take everything into consideration through the agency of Commissions and Committees. A first-class man-of-war, with 500 souls on board, founders at sea. The Government shelters itself behind the re- 1204 sponsibility of subordinates, and it appoints a Commission for the purpose—of what?—for the purpose of doing that which is the necessary effect of a Commission — namely, of "smothering the truth and of obstructing investigation and true inquiry." Those are not my words—they are the words of a man who has stood high in the estimation of this House. They are the words of Sir George Cornewall Lewis. However, I am not going to pursue this further. I merely refer to it to show that we are drifting into that policy of Commissions and Committees which I believe to be very objectionable, and to which I am sure the good sense of the House must be opposed. But, having said that, I want to say a word or two about Ireland—with which I had the honour of being connected officially as Chief Secretary longer than any man in this House, and, I believe, with one exception, than any man in this country. I want to ask the House and the country why is it that Ireland still presents such an anomaly to the world as it does? Ireland, blessed with a fertile soil, with very great advantages, capable of vast industrial development—why is it that she should present such an anomaly to the world? Why is it that she should be discontented and be rent by factions and disturbances as she is? For 70 years Parliaments and Governments have been endeavouring to deal with that country by all the contrivances they could propose, but they have never been able to eradicate the evils that exist. We had hoped when the present Government came into power two years ago that they would propose measures for the good of Ireland. They did propose two; but the one, in my opinion, rendered half of Ireland disaffected, while the other dissatisfied the whole of the population. The Land Bill unquestionably had that effect; and when it is calmly and fairly considered now, it cannot be said to be a measure beneficial to Ireland. But I would now refer to the expression which fell from the late Chief Secretary for Ireland. In alluding to what I have already quoted, he said that Ireland was confident in the future, that she was loyal, and that she was contented. I am bound to say I cannot think that Ireland is contented. I cannot think she is satisfied. I do not think your policy—the policy of this country for 70 years—has been what it should 1205 be for Ireland; and I would recommend a plan which might, perhaps, be preferable. I want to make a suggestion to the House and to the country. Why should not the House of Commons give an estate in Ireland to the Prince of Wales? Why should not the heir to the Crown go to Ireland occasionally? The Irish people know nothing whatever of Royalty—nothing whatever of the influence of the Crown; and, I am bound to say, I think it would produce a most beneficial result if steps were taken for giving effect to a proposal of that kind. Now, Sir, I will not detain the House any more. I am obliged to hon. Members for having listened so patiently to what I have said, and I will merely refer once more to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. Fortescue)—a statement which I heard with pain. He said there were some Members within these walls who hope to see the failure of the measures which the Government propose. Now, I am not one of those. I do not wish to see the measures proposed by the Government, and passed, fail. I hope to see the anticipations and apprehensions which I might have formed dispelled; but I do not want to see those measures fail in carrying out beneficial results for the welfare of Ireland. In common with every man who considers the state of Ireland, I do want to see Ireland contented; I do want to see her satisfied—and I feel convinced that you must adopt another policy from that which the Government have been pursuing for the last two years to attain such a result; and I do think—I do in my conscience believe — that if some such suggestion as I have thrown out as regards inviting a member of the Royal Family from time to time to visit Ireland were carried into execution—I do think it would recommend itself to the favourable judgment of this country, and I do believe that, more than anything else, more than all your Commissions, and your Secret Committees, and your crude acts of legislation, it would have the effect of enlisting in favour of Imperial interests the kindly sympathies and the generous hearts of the Irish people.
§ MR. O'REILLY
said, that it was with very great regret that he found himself constrained to oppose the proposal of the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland for the appointment of this Com- 1206 mittee, as useless and as creating an evil precedent. He regarded it as useless, because he believed that it would not obtain any valuable evidence or any evidence that would bear weight. Those who had evidence of importance to give would give it without going before a Committee, and the only further evidence that would be obtained by hearing the witnesses in private would be stories of individual intimidation which must be worthless unless they were sifted. The justices of the peace and grand jurors of Westmeath would no more shrink from giving their evidence in public than they had shrunk from making in public the statements they had already made. Evidence, moreover, which was intended to lead to legislation which would command the confidence of the country and of right-thinking men in Ireland should be evidence which Parliament could weigh, and to which they could point as a justification for any cause which might subsequently be taken. In the case of political crimes, apprehended invasion, or open insurrection, the Government might be in possession of information which it was not desirable to disclose, because this would be giving information to the common enemy. But when, the inquiry had direct reference to legislation which might affect the liberty of the subject, similar reasons could not be advanced for giving the evidence in private; for it was not merely the House of Commons, but the community which would be affected by the legislation, that it was necessary to convince. He had not shrunk from supporting measures of exceptional severity towards Ireland when these were proposed upon the responsibility of the Government, but he should shrink from supporting any measures resting upon evidence which could not be publicly adduced. According to the forms of the House, moreover, this evidence, though given in secret, would be without the sanction of an oath. As to the Riband organization in Westmeath, he had known that county for 25 years, and he had never known it free from the curse of Ribandism; and he admitted that when so much had been done to remove every cause of complaint in Ireland that strong measures of repression were justifiable in the case of exceptional crimes. But it was too much to expect that recent legislation would all at once eradi- 1207 cate an evil of ancient growth. For the county in which he himself resided, and for other counties with which he was connected, he could say that the legislation of the last two Sessions, and especially the Land Bill, had done much to promote and spread a feeling of trust in the justice of Parliament, and also a feeling of mutual confidence and content, which had already produced much good, and would produce more, in the repression of crime.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he would not attempt to follow the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) in his endeavours to suggest means for conciliating the sister island; but he fully concurred with him, and with the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon), in deprecating some expressions which, unfortunately, though, doubtless, unintentionally, fell from the President of the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman said that there were many Members of the House who desired the failure of the measures proposed by Government with reference to Ireland. He believed that for those words there existed no justification whatever. For his own part, strongly as he had been opposed to the "remedial measures" of the last two Sessions, the moment they became law he wished as heartily as any Member of the Government could do that those effects which the Government anticipated might follow from them; and that sentiment, he believed, was shared by every Member upon that side of the House. He confessed that the course taken by the Government upon this question had much astonished him. He came down expecting that the noble Lord the Chief Secretary, in moving for this Committee, would have taken credit for the general success of their remedial measures, and would have told them that the greater part of Ireland was free from crime, and enjoying progressive prosperity; but that they desired to have their hands strengthened for dealing with one exceptional plague spot. Instead of this, the Government proposed to divest themselves of all responsibility, and to cast this on the shoulders of a Committee of the House. He had no wish to speak disrespectfully of Committees up-stairs; but they all knew what was meant by the action of a Select Committee. The inquiry, it was now understood, 1208 was not to be a secret inquiry. How could such an inquiry be expected in any way to strengthen the hands of the Government, when it was apparent that the evidence given by persons before the Committee, exposing the real state of things, might reach their own neighbourhood, in which their lives afterwards would not be worth an hour's purchase? He objected to a Committee, because he believed its action would be productive of delay. If the case was urgent—and the contents of the newspapers for the last two days were not re-assuring on that point—then action ought to be immediate, and the delay of weeks which must attend the action of a Committee was not a way in which the Government ought to meet the emergency. In giving a vote upon this question, he felt that he could not support the hon. Member who had moved the Previous Question, because by doing so he should be voting against all action in this matter. But when they came to the Motion itself, he thought the more dignified course for Members upon his side of the House would be to abstain from any action whatever in the matter, but to throw the responsibility entirely upon the Government. He believed the course the Government proposed to take was a wrong one; but, until those who sat on his side of the House could show a better plan, and undertake to carry it into execution—which was not likely in the present state of parties—they would best consult their own interests by not taking part in the vote on the question before the House.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, it was with unfeigned reluctance that so soon after his entrance into the House he was compelled to request the indulgence of hon. Members while explaining the reasons for the vote which, in justice to his constituents, he was about to give. The part of the country from which he came (Galway) had been truly described by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) as having never been tainted with Ribandism, or even with agrarian crime. Nevertheless, the people of that province took a deep interest in all that concerned other parts of the country. He thought it right, then, to state that Ribandism was not a crime of universal application in Ireland; it was a special and local blot very similar to the crimes which formerly occurred in Sheffield, and were 1209 known as Trades Union outrages. Many years ago Ribandism was regarded as a mode of revenging agrarian injuries; but recent legislation had worked a change in the light in which it was regarded by the people. No one who knew anything of the subject could doubt that the whole mind of Ireland had been changed by the legislation of the last two years. There was not a barrister practising at the criminal bar who was unaware of the fact that the heads of the Riband conspiracy were persons who were perfectly well known, and who had been conspirators all their lives. He believed that political conspiracy resembled dram drinking, and that those who had once indulged in it never ceased to require the excitement as long as they lived. The Riband conspiracy could not be put down until death put an end to those who were at the head of it. The information which he felt assured was in the possession of the Government must show that the authors and abettors of the conspiracy in Westmeath were as well known as the Members of the House of Commons, and he feared the Committee would find that persons of high station in that county went in such dread of their lives that they were in the habit of paying black mail in order to be free from the operations of the Riband conspiracy. Surely, if this were the case, the best way to attain the object in view would be for the Government to ask for power to at once seize those persons who were conspirators by nature and habit, and who would never cease to be so as long as they were at large. The Riband Society was a secret society; and if this Committee were appointed, he was certain it would supply a taunt against the Government which, would be used in the future—its conclusions would not be acquiesced in, and its authority would be questioned. The Ribandmen would say—"Ours is a Secret Society, and the Government meets us by a Secret Committee." If the words about secresy had not been virtually withdrawn, he could not have voted for the Government; but if the Government were of opinion that the facts of the case were not sufficiently elucidated, and if the proceedings of the Committee were, save under some very extraordinary circumstances, to be open to all Members of the House, and subsequently to the 1210 whole of the United Kingdom, he was prepared to give his support to the Government. It would, he believed, be found that this conspiracy was the work of a very few individuals. The society had ceased to be agrarian and had become perfectly intolerable, for it interfered with every relation of life. No man could discharge a servant in the county of Westmeath without feeling he was liable to be tried for his life by that horrible tribunal. Even the servants of the railway companies in minor situations could no longer discharge with impunity their duties to their employers. If it were necessary to show that Ireland was at heart sound and content with the legislation of the last two years, he would give his vote in favour of the appointment of the Committee. The inquiry would, he felt convinced, show that the Irish people in general were grateful for what had been done for them; and that if a foul blot still existed in one portion of the country, it arose from causes with regard to which the Legislature could not provide an immediate remedy. In consequence of a remark which fell from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, who dared any Irish Member to support the Motion for this Committee, he felt that if he did so silently his conduct might be misunderstood not only in the House, but also in the county he had the honour of representing. It was with pain that he addressed himself to a subject so disagreeable; but he trusted that on a future day his lot might be more happy, and that he might be able to convey to this country the grateful thanks of a people who had become united in the desire to promote peace, prosperity, and tranquillity in their island in union with this kingdom.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON
said, he rose to refer to an expression used on Tuesday evening by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who said—Probably, most hon. Members know as well as I do what is the nature and object of a Riband Society. Originally it had something of a religious and political character about it. I believe it began as a Roman Catholic organization for the protection of its adherents against the Orange Society.As a member of the Orange Society he could not sit still and listen to the no doubt unintentional misrepresentation by the noble Lord of the principles and character of that Society. A work pub- 1211 lished by the late Sir George Cornewall Lewis in 1836 showed that the Riband Society dated as far back as 1784, though it did not assume its present name until 1798; whereas the Orange Society was not founded till 1795—so that the noble Lord's statement was manifestly incorrect. The great objects of the Orange Society were very different from those of the Riband Society, and as the former might be unknown to many hon. Members he would read the following extract from the authorized rules and regulations of the Orange Institution:—The Institution is composed of Protestants, united, and resolved to the utmost of their power, to support and defend the rightful Sovereign, the Protestant religion, the laws of the realm, the legislative Union, and the Succession to the Throne in the House of Brunswick, being Protestant; and united, further, for the defence of their own persons and properties, and the maintenance of the public peace. It is exclusively an association of those who are attached to the religion of the Reformation, and will not admit into its brotherhood persons whom an intolerant spirit leads to persecute, injure, or upbraid any man on account of his religious opinions.So far, therefore, from the Riband Society being founded for self protection against the Orange Society, the latter was established for the protection of life, liberty, and religion long after the former existed. The Orange Society was still a bond of union between Great Britain and Ireland, its members being anxious to uphold the authority of the Crown and the maintenance of law and order. On the present occasion he should not venture to criticize the general policy of the Government. With much of that policy he concurred; with much of it he was totally at variance. He objected to the proposal for a Select Committee, and to the addition of the words indicating that it was to be a Secret Committee. He would put to the Government the question asked the other evening by the President of the Poor Law Board when speaking on the subject of local taxation—"Are we to go on inquiring, or shall the Government produce a Bill?" He admitted he had some doubt as to the course he should take in reference to the present proposal until he heard the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government; but the speech of the Prime Minister had convinced him that he was bound to give it his most uncompromising opposition. If a Secret Committee were appointed, the witnesses examined before it would be 1212 shot on their return to Ireland. The absence of certain persons would be marked—it would be well-known what they were absent for—and they would return doomed men. It had been asserted that a magistrate of Westmeath had paid black mail in order to avoid being shot, and that certain magistrates had declined an invitation to dine with the Lord Lieutenant, because they thought they could not safely leave their own residences. He did not give the latter statement on his own authority, but it was stated two days ago in The Dublin Evening Mail. If there were a necessity for doing anything, Her Majesty's Government, he hoped, would not hesitate to take immediate action, instead of shirking responsibility and throwing the odium of a coercive measure on the House of Commons.
§ SIR DOMINIC CORRIGAN
said, he regretted that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) had left the House, for he had used language offensive to Irish Members by saying that not one of them would dare to go into the Lobby with the Government on this occasion. One Irish Member had already answered the challenge, and he (Sir Dominic Corrigan) would make a second; although he should have opposed the Motion had it been persevered in in its original form. The impression that this was to be a Secret Committee, such as had not sat for half a century, had gone abroad, and had been used as a means of exciting hostility against the Government. That misapprehension had now been removed. The words, also, that the Committee was to devise means for the suppression of the disturbances were to be omitted. Therefore, it would remain a mere Motion for a Committee to ascertain the truth. Could anybody object to such a Committee as that? His reasons for supporting the Motion were these—It was due to Ireland herself. There could be no question that murder stalked abroad, and God would not bless the country from which the cry of murder arose to heaven. It was due to the Government to grant the Committee, because they were really upon their trial in reference to their Irish policy, and it should be ascertained how far that policy had promoted the welfare of the country. He should vote for inquiry in defence of his countrymen, because he believed that 1213 the murders were the work of only a very few bad men among a population far less than that of Sheffield, scattered over a whole county. The county of Westmeath was the smallest in Ireland, and it was very thinly populated. Eloquent as the speech of the right hon. Member for Bucks was, it convinced him that he ought to vote for this Motion in its present form. The right hon. Gentleman had called the Land Bill "legalized confiscation;" but if that Bill had not been passed the dark pall of midnight murder would have covered the whole country; nights would have been spent in murdering landlords, and days in executing tenants. There would, indeed, have been a war of extermination between landlords and tenants. The right hon. Gentleman also called the Church Disestablishment Bill the "consecration of sacrilege;" but if that Bill had not been passed, there would have arisen a combination of 5,000,000 of Catholics and Nonconformists—intellect would have been combined with right, and such a combination must have ultimately prevailed. It had also been said that the Ministry had "condoned high treason;" but his only charge against them was that they had not let the prisoners out soon enough, for the agitation caused here and in America by their long detention had done far more harm than their earlier release would have done.
§ VISCOUNT ROYSTON
said, he did not at all doubt that the Irish Members would be actuated by what they deemed best for their country; but he did not at all admit that the question was one which might be well discussed by other than Irish Members; he maintained that if other Members entertained opinions upon the subject, it was perfectly fair and just that they should express those opinions. The matter was one which did not affect Ireland alone. He quite concurred with his right hon. Friend the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Wilson-Patten) that the feelings of the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in bringing forward this Motion, were such as to command the respect of the House; but, without disregarding those feelings, they might still be allowed to dispute the policy of the Government as indicated by the Resolution. The noble Lord said that, in the opinion of the Govern- 1214 ment, a conspiracy existed, that it was an intolerable state of things, and that they were determined to apply a remedy. On his side the House there was the most perfect accord with the Government that they should apply a remedy for this deplorable state of things; but the noble Lord himself said the Government did not require the Committee to discover the remedy—that it was the duty of the Government to do this, and that they asked for the Committee to assist the Government by examining into the facts. Why, then, were they asked for a Committee at all? He quite agreed with the noble Lord that the evils now to be dealt with could not be best met by legislating in haste or in panic; but, at the same time, such a Committee as was now proposed could hardly finish its labours before the end of the Session, and, before the Committee reported, the Government would be unable to apply the remedy. The stern exigencies of the case described to them so forcibly by the Government would scarcely admit of such protracted delay. The noble Lord had told them they had had enough of hasty legislation. Was the noble Lord then referring to the Irish Church and the Irish Land Bill? ["No!"] Then, to what hasty legislation did he refer? [The Marquess of HARTINGTON: To the Coercion Bill, passed almost in a single day.] The Coercion Bill of last year certainly was not one for which his side of the House was responsible. The present proposition was that they should enter upon a prolonged discussion in Secret Committee before they could legislate for the benefit of Ireland; and he did not think that sufficient ground had been laid for granting the Committee, and they must themselve see that their present proposition was repugnant to the general feeling of the House. Hardly anybody but the hon. Member who had just sat down had said a word in its favour. The taunt of the President of the Board of Trade levelled against his side of the House, that they took pleasure in the failure of the legislation of the last two years, was unfounded and unjust. There was every disposition on that side to support the Government in upholding the authority of the law in Ireland; but the question was, was it necessary or right that a Committee of that House should investigate matters on which the noble Lord 1215 and the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government admitted that they were perfectly well informed? [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] That was the impression conveyed by the remarks of the noble Lord; and, certainly, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland in the county of Meath—which was not free from the vices that contaminated Westmeath—had, within the last 48 hours, declared that a terrible state of things existed—that the persons threatened with assassination might be few in number; but that men were lying in wait, watching, tiger-like, for their victims, and that no law could bring prosperity to a community so situated; and that though the persons threatened might be but few in number, no one could tell but what he was one. Such an opinion from such a quarter was pretty strong evidence that the Government were perfectly aware of the state of things that existed in those counties that were under the ban of Ribandism. The noble Lord the Chief Secretary had urged the appointment of the Committee for the sake of the Government themselves, for the sake of the House, and also in justice to the people of Ireland. Why should a Government so strong in Parliamentary support and administrative ability ask for such a Committee for its own sake? Then, as to appointing it for the sake of the House, the opinion of the House was manifestly against granting the Committee. Nor did he think it would be for the welfare of the people of Ireland to grant it. His belief was that the Committee so far from being for the welfare of Ireland, would cause great dissatisfaction there. It would be a dangerous thing to transport to this country to give evidence persons whose opinions would be pretty well known, and the people of Ireland ought not to be exposed to this risk. The Prime Minister assumed that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Wilson-Patten) had demanded the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. As far as his memory served him, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman made no mention of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, although he would not say that might not have been his meaning; but there had not been a general indication of opinion on his side that such a measure was necessary or even right. Other remedies might be used; and, certainly, 1216 the Government had great powers under the Act of last year. He wished that they would carry out fully those powers. He did not think that the precedents which had been quoted would justify the appointment of this Committee. The Committees in 1817 and 1818, for instance, were to investigate matters in reference to riots in England; and the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended not on account of treasonable acts of crime, as the right hon. Gentleman wished the House to believe, but in consequence of actions directed against the safety of private property and private life. Treasonable conspiracies, which attack property and life, demanded the strongest legislation the House could give; and if the state of Ireland was so frightful that the noble Lord, with feelings of painful dismay, asked for legislation with a view to secure the safety of its property and its people, then the Government would be justified in using whatever power they possessed to rescue that country from misery and despair, and it might depend upon support from the great body of hon. Gentlemen who sat on that side of the House. They did not wish to place the Government in a position of difficulty, for they were animated by one feeling of anxious and painful solicitude that the Government should be assisted in their present circumstances of difficulty.
§ MR. SYNAN
said, that the argument of the Opposition appeared to be founded on the assumption that the Motion now before the House was an admission that the policy of the Government, in regard to their remedial measures for Ireland, had been a failure. He (Mr. Synan) emphatically denied that their policy had been a failure. He contended that if the measures of last Session had not been passed, the Prime Minister might now be asking the House to adopt those larger measures which the Opposition taunted the right hon. Gentleman for not adopting; and, instead of dealing with Meath and King's County, the House would have been urged to apply the proposed remedy to the whole population of Ireland. The policy of the Government had been a success. Instead of having, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) said, "legalized confiscation," the remedial measures of the Government had checked confiscation. They had also liberated conscience, 1217 and instead of "condoning treason" they had arrested treason. With regard to the Motion itself, he was uncertain in what form it was intended to be finally left to the House, but he would assume that the word "Secret" would be eliminated from it, and that the Committee would not be empowered to recommend any particular measures to be carried into effect. But in that case it would be a Motion for a mere open Committee of that House to inquire into the state of things in Westmeath; and it might well be asked, cui bono? What evidence did the Government think they were likely to be able to lay before an open Committee? Did they expect that the magistrates of Westmeath would care that any evidence they could give on the subject should be published to the world? If the two magistrates from whom the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) had received letters were afraid to disclose their names, did they think it likely that they would be ready to give their evidence before an open Committee? Depend upon it that, if the Motion were agreed to, the Committee must either be a Secret Committee, or else its proceedings would be a mere sham. With regard to precedents, the Liberal party opposed the proposal made in 1818, on the ground that it was an unconstitutional attempt by the Government to transfer their responsibility to the House of Commons, but the Tories, having a majority, carried their point. It was curious to find the Liberal party in the present day copying the precedent set by their political opponents more than half a century ago. The facts stated by the noble Lord who moved for the appointment of this Committee, so far from justifying the Motion would afford the strongest grounds on which to base a proposal to repeal the Peace Preservation Act of last Session; for he said that, with the sole exception of Westmeath and the King's County, the people of Ireland were peaceful, prosperous, and progressing. And what did the exception amount to? To this simply—that, among a population of 120,000 persons, there had been four murders, and four attempts at murder, in the course of 14 months. Surely that was not sufficient to justify the House in granting a Committee of Inquiry. The Peace Preservation Act was a very stringent law; but the Peace Preservation Act, not being 1218 sufficiently powerful to put an end to agrarian crime in Westmeath, it now seemed that the Constitution must be suspended in order to effect a change for the better. If this was done, it would be the first occasion on which, so extreme a course had been resorted to for the repression of that particular class of crime. He heartily denounced Ribandism, but he considered Orangeism as bad; but to suspend the liberties of the people because of the influence of those societies would only exasperate all classes in Ireland. He could not support either of the courses that had been proposed—the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act or the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry; for the opinion of every right-minded man in Ireland was opposed to the recent proceedings in Westmeath, and the strength of public opinion, backing up the powers conferred by the existing law, would prove sufficient. The noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon) in the course of the debate had complained that Government was intruding Irish subjects upon the gravest hours of the Session. This was just the view taken by the Home Government Association in Ireland, and he should like to know if the noble Lord approved generally of the policy avowed by that body. He (Mr. Synan) said that, at any rate, the Motion now before the House referred to a subject that ought not to be discussed there at all. On the whole, he hoped that Her Majesty's Government would either withdraw their Motion, or pass it in such terms that it would not be an insult to the Irish people, by threatening them with a suspension of the Constitution under which they lived.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, he thought that upon a crisis of this importance no man ought to vote against Her Majesty's Government unless he had good grounds for such a vote. On the main point, the granting of this Committee, he should feel bound to vote against, and should therefore vote also against the Motion for the Previous Question. On Thursday the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland gave Notice of his intention to ask for an appointment of a Committee, which, he said, was to be a secret one. It was only about 48 hours before he came down to the House again and said that the Committee was not to be secret. 1219 He (Sir George Jenkinson) should like to know what good reasons Her Majesty's Government could adduce for so great a change in so short a time. He thought that such vacillation on the part of the Government was indecent. At the very moment that the late Chief Secretary for Ireland was congratulating the House on the absence of crime in Ireland, and on the contentment and loyalty in Ireland, a fresh murder was committed; not, indeed, in the county of Westmeath, but in the county of Limerick—a person was shot dead in his house within 30 yards of a police station; and on the next morning there was an announcement of another agrarian outrage in the county of Clare, on the estate of Lord Leconfield. This showed, he thought, that Ireland was not as contented and prosperous as was represented. His reasons for voting against the Motion were these — if the Committee were to be secret, it would very much prejudice the Government; and if it were not to be secret, he did not think they would get the evidence they professed to be desirous to have. As to the alternative which the Prime Minister put before the House that night, that secresy was to be occasional—that the Committee could come before the House to make it secret whenever it chose for the purpose of getting the evidence of any particular witness—the effect of that would be that the witness who gave evidence in secret would be doomed to destruction on his return to Ireland. Such a provision as that would be less efficacious than making the Committee absolutely secret, or not secret at all. The objection he had to a Committee was that it involved delay, and that during the delay there would be more loss of life. In his opinion, immediate action was required; and if the Government would propose, on their own responsibility, such measures as would effectually put down those agrarian outrages, they would meet with support from hon. Gentlemen on the Conservative side of the House. He denied that this question had been treated in a party sense. He believed the wish of hon. Members was bonâ fide to assist Her Majesty's Government in a way consistent with the rules of the House and conducive to the interests of the country. One hon. Member on the Conservative side had declared that he would not vote on this question; but he 1220 (Sir George Jenkinson) held that it would not be conformable to the dignity of a large party like the Conservative party to walk out of the House, and shirk voting on an important question like that before the House. Allusion had been made to the Administration of Lord Liverpool, and contrasting in a disadvantageous manner the epoch of 1818 with the present time. Considering his connection with Lord Liverpool, he might be permitted to say that Lord Liverpool's Administration contrasted favourably in some points with the Administration of the present day. The position which England held abroad during the Administration of Lord Liverpool contrasted favourably with the position which, he regretted to say, we now held in our relations with foreign countries. Again, although Lord Liverpool might have applied to Parliament for a Secret Committee to repress certain outrages in this country, he never attempted to do so after having released scores of treasonable rebels, and thereby causing the evil requiring to be remedied. He (Sir George Jenkinson) believed that the releasing of treasonable rebels on Her Majesty's Government taking office had lately had a great deal to do with the disturbed state of Ireland at the present time. The release of those criminals, he believed, had greatly encouraged other criminals. He believed that the Committee could do nothing for the Government that the Government could not do without it, and he should, therefore, vote against the Resolution.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, as representing a portion of a county affected by the Motion of the noble Lord, he would wish to say why he could not support the Motion. From many of the speeches which he had heard during the debate he gathered that many hon. Members seemed to think that the effect of legislation should be something magical, and that measures introduced and passed to remedy the oppression of centuries should, as if by enchantment, immediately produce peace and social order in Ireland. For his part, he viewed confidence, and especially political confidence, as a plant of slow growth; but he did feel that, in the measures of the past two years, would be found the germs of concord and amity in his country. The strength of the Riband conspiracy had ever been found 1221 to exist in the amount of sympathy or indifference with which it was regarded in any district, and there had not time elapsed for the masses to fully appreciate the effect of the recent measures. When they found that other modes of redress were afforded by law, and that its action should be no longer in the direction of redressing real or imaginary wrongs, but, as was stated by the hon. Member for Galway, to interfere with their own individual liberty, the people themselves, without any interference, would become their own defenders, and such action, as regarded Ribandism, would prove of more avail than 20 Coercion Bills. Last year, on the occasion of the introduction of the Peace Preservation Act by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. C. Fortescue), he opposed that Bill. Amongst other reasons for taking that course, he conceived that the measure, so well styled by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) as a measure of "agricultural equity," should have preceded any measure of coercion; but, whatever opinion might prevail as to the expediency of passing that Act, of one thing he (Sir Patrick O'Brien) was assured, that it was a measure of unprecedented stringency, and he felt certain that if its provisions were carried out no Committee, such as the Motion demanded, could be considered necessary. By the confession of the Government it had failed but in one county in Ireland. Last year the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. Fortescue) mentioned that in the whole of Ireland at the time, there were but three counties which enjoyed a bad preeminence in crime—Meath, Westmeath, and Mayo—and that of these the county Mayo was by far the worst. How was the matter then? Mayo had become perfectly tranquil; and, whether hon. Members chose to attribute that fact to recent legislation, or to the Peace Preservation Act, one thing was certain, except in Westmeath tranquillity reigned in Ireland. When the Government took the unusual course of coming to that House for a Committee, in order that through its intervention other coercive measures might be originated, that House had a right to ask, and he, as an independent Member, had a right to inquire, had the Government exhausted the powers which they plainly possessed under the Act of last 1222 Session? He had read that Act, and he found one section in it which, if it had been put in operation, would have afforded all the information which could be possibly furnished by the projected Committee; and, what was more important, would afford it under the sanction of an oath, which a Committee of that House had no power to administer. He would, with the permission of the House, read the 13th section, or a summary of it, and ask the learned Solicitor General for Ireland's attention to its provisions—Where in any proclaimed district it shall appear that any felony or misdemeanour was committed, any justice of the peace in such district, although no person may be charged before him with the commission of such offence, shall have full power and authority to summon to the police office, or to the place where the petty sessions for the district in which said felony or misdemeanour has been committed are usually held, any person within his jurisdiction who, he shall have reason to believe, is capable of giving material evidence concerning any such felony or misdemeanour, and to examine on oath such person, &c.It then proceeds, in case of refusal, to impose penalties; thus plainly removing from the witness the imputation of being a voluntary witness, or, what is termed in Ireland, an informer. Would the hon. and learned Solicitor General say that this section had been acted on in Westmeath, if not by the local magistrates, by the resident magistrates, who were paid by the State, and were responsible to the Government? He thought an answer to this question should be given; and that the House should know, before they were required to grant new powers and to suspend the law, had the Law Officers of the Crown, who had in their hands the criminal administration of the country, seen that the magistrates had failed to obtain the information now sought to be obtained by this Committee? When the old Act had failed it would be time to come to the House for renewed powers; in his (Sir Patrick O'Brien's) opinion, not before. The hon. Baronet (Sir George Jenkinson), who had preceded him in that debate, had alluded to the release of the Fenian prisoners, and had complained that such release had led to the existing state of Westmeath. In his opinion, nothing could be more incorrect. Observations of that character were made in consequence of the ignorance which so generally prevailed regarding the Fenian and Riband or- 1223 ganizations. They rarely, if ever, coexisted in a county. Where Ribandism prevailed there was no Fenianism, and vice versâ. In the King's County there was neither society. There was one thing that could not be imputed to Fenianism, and that was a connection with assassination. [Mr. G. HARDY: Oh! oh!] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University did not permit him to finish his sentence. He meant assassination, affecting others; not members of the body, for breaking the oath of the confederacy. For his part, he thanked the Government for, even at a late period, releasing the political prisoners in deference to the strong feeling prevailing in Ireland on the subject. The noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon), who always addressed that House with ability, he regretted to hear complaining of the political prisoners being allowed to go to America; but the noble Lord, perhaps, had never heard a French definition of expatriation—Cette autre mort qu'on appelle l'exil. It was, indeed, a punishment to those men to leave wife and child and all they held dear in their own country. He felt regret in being obliged, as a matter of duty, to vote that night against the Government; and that regret was increased by the fact that the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland had charge of the Motion, and that it was the first Motion which, in his new official capacity, he had occasion to present to the House. He believed that the noble Lord was placed in that position by an unlucky accident, and that the policy which prompted the framing of that Motion was due to others, and not to the noble Lord. He (Sir Patrick O'Brien) had not forgotten the services to religious freedom in Ireland rendered by the family of Cavendish in past years, at a time when the profession of such opinions was neither fashionable nor profitable. In that House he had remarked the noble Lord, on almost every occasion, adopting and acting upon the traditions of his family, and he therefore regretted being obliged to vote against him upon that occasion.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, that the Prime Minister had begun his speech by observing that he was not ashamed of any of the Irish measures of the Government—a declaration which seemed to him to be rather a strange one from the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman. But 1224 he heard the statement without surprise, because any man who could propose such measures was never likely to come to the frame of mind in which he would be ashamed of them. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that those measures were wise, just, and Christian; but, without discussing that point further, he could only say—"Heaven defend us from the wisdom, the justice, and the Christianity of the right hon. Gentleman." After appealing to the Goddess of Liberty—he (Mr. Bentinck) quite expected to hear him proceed to appeal to the Goddess of Reason—the right hon. Gentleman concluded that part of his speech by informing them that he attached the highest importance to the maintenance of private and personal rights—a truly wonderful confession from the lips of the Minister who had proposed the Irish Church Bill and the Irish Land Bill. His objections to the present Resolution were two. The object of it was to enable the Government to abdicate its functions. Now, he could conceive no greater misfortune that could befal the institutions of the country than that a Government should abnegate its duties. The other objection was that a Committee could furnish no information which the Executive was not already in a position to obtain. So that the sole end of its appointment would be to absolve the Ministry of all responsibility of action. Moreover, it sought to devolve that responsibility upon a Committee of that House, which, was, and by its constitution must be, powerless to act in the matter. All their Committees almost invariably ended in nothing, and the one now proposed must—if it were possible—terminate still more futilely. It was called an exceptional Committee; whereas the state of things to be inquired into was, unfortunately, normal, rather than exceptional in Ireland. Now, a rough, but generally pretty accurate estimate of what was done or proposed in that House might be gathered from the view taken of it in the Lobbies, and in the present instance the opinion in that quarter was that the Government had proposed a Committee because, though they might have secured the assent of the House to a strong and direct act of repression, the result would have been to drive the Irish Liberal Members into a coalition with the Opposition on the first occasion that promised for the overthrow of the Administration. 1225 The Government were anxious to relieve themselves from the responsibility which properly belonged to them, by casting it upon the shoulders of others. If they could only find a Government with a straightforward policy, he believed that they would secure the favour of both sides of the House. It appeared to him that the proposal of the Government would have a most ruinous effect upon Ireland. He had seen a great deal of that country lately, and during his whole career in that House he had heard a great deal about Irish grievances. It was his opinion that Ireland had been more ill-used than any other country in Europe. She had certainly one grievance, though but one only, and if they could remedy that they would remove all existing difficulties in regard to Ireland. The real grievance of Ireland was that she had never been governed at all. Instead of that, she had been made the battle-ground of party politics in this country. And it had always been the question with the occupants of the front Benches—"What are we to do about the Irish vote?" And the view taken by the so-called great leaders on both sides was that no Government dare grapple with the condition of Ireland. The Irish were a generous but an excitable people; and what was to be expected from a nation that had been misgoverned for so many years? They had been made the dupes of agitators—men who had practised agitation for political or party purposes; and no man had more superinduced that agitation, or had done so for more mischievous purposes, than the right hon. Gentleman himself, the First Minister of the Crown. ["Oh, oh!"] He did not mean to say that those who had preceded him in office had not dealt with Ireland in a similar manner; but the last measures of the right hon. Gentleman had exceeded, on the score of agitation, anything he had ever seen or heard of. Did he not tell the Irish people, some years ago, that Ireland was to be governed by Irish ideas? Now, what was the meaning of governing Ireland by Irish ideas? What did those words naturally convey to the minds of the Irish people themselves? They simply meant the appropriation of the whole land and the Church property of Ireland. What did the right hon. Gentleman do by way of pacifying Ireland? He took a portion of the property of the Irish Church, and confiscated a 1226 portion of the property of the Irish landlords. But the Irish, people claimed the whole, and not a portion of this property. The course taken by the right hon. Gentleman could only lead to increase the discontented and disturbed condition of Ireland. The fact was, that for years past they had no Executive Government at all. When it was a question of dealing with the Ribandmen of Westmeath or with a Hyde Park mob there was the same want of energy—the same want of decision — and of power to govern which had been always evinced. We had now come to that state of things when the Government had not the courage to govern, and the Opposition had not the courage to oppose. The maintenance of the laws, under such circumstances, was impossible, and the violation of order was inevitable.
§ MR. OSBORNE
Sir, I must confess that when my hon. Friend, whom I am so happy to see among us again, rose to discuss this question, I did not expect he would throw any material light upon it. We all know he is one of those downright Englishmen whom it is very difficult for anybody to please, and that when he has poured the vials of his wrath on the leaders of both political parties, and has told us that Ireland is without any Government whatever, that is all the information we are likely to obtain from the county of Norfolk. I am more than disappointed at the course of this debate. When the First Minister of the Crown rose in his place early in the evening, I did expect we should have been put in possession of the precise nature of the question before us, and the object of calling upon the House to appoint a Select Committee. But, after listening attentively to that early speech, I must say I have been left in greater doubt than before. It appears to me that since the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to elucidate this point to the House, not only a moral but a material fog has settled down upon us. I defy anybody to tell me what is the precise question we are at present discussing. Whether is this a Secret Committee, a Select Committee, or what? As it appears to me, this Committee is not to be secret; it is not to be suggestive; and, as far as I can see, there is a great chance of its not being select. I carefully Listened to every word that fell from the right hon. Gentleman. Rising 1227 as he did so early in the evening, there must be a difference of opinion in the Cabinet on this question. Well, the right hon. Gentleman informed us, as far as I could understand, that the main object of the Committee is to grant an Act of Indemnity to Ministers for the way they have employed the Peace Preservation Act. We have heard no other object assigned, and I regret that the First Minister, though he may have been confiding, was not more clear in his explanation. If it were wise in the right hon. Gentleman to alter the terms of the Motion for that Committee, and drop the secresy portion of it—provided it is dropped, because it appears to me to have been revived again to-night—how much wiser would it have been to drop the Motion altogether! He must see by the tone of what I call his rabid supporters, that they are not well pleased with this move, and that what is apparently a whim of the First Minister alone, is not likely to land him in a conspicuous place in the favour of the Irish Members or of the Irish people. If the right hon. Gentleman intended to bring forward this Motion, I want to know why he put this passage into what is called the "most gracious Speech from the Throne," though, as everybody knows, it is nothing but the speech of the First Minister—The condition of Ireland with reference to agrarian crime has, in general, afforded a gratifying contrast with the state of that island in the preceding winter; but there have been painful though very partial exceptions. To secure the best results for the great measures of the two last Sessions which have so recently passed into operation, and which involve such direct and pressing claims upon the attention of all classes of the community, a period of calm is to be desired; and I have thought it wise to refrain from suggesting to you at the present juncture the discussion of any political question likely to become the subject of new and serious controversy in that country.That was the Speech delivered from the Throne at the beginning of the Session, not so very long ago. What does the right hon. Gentleman do? He gets a new recruit, and a most able-bodied and able-minded recruit in the place of the Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant, and forces that noble Lord to come down here, and "with painful dismay," introduce a measure likely to lead to the most serious controversy in the country which he says requires so much calm. I must say that the dismay is not peculiar to him, but is shared by a great many 1228 supporters of Her Majesty's Government, who have the good of Ireland at heart, and who are adverse to dragging the question of the Westmeath Ribandmen before the House, and plunging us into a debate where all the worst elements of party conflict are about to be developed. I protest against a proposal which revives such a conflict on such a question. I heard the two great measures of the two last Sessions, to which the majority of this House and of the country assented, stigmatized as measures of sacrilege and of confiscation. I cannot share that view. I rather name them as measures of justice and conciliation, too long deferred; and he must not only be a politician of sanguine heart, but of a softer head than usual, who expects that any measures whatever will lead to immediate results. If, however, we can even lay one stone in our life-time towards such a desirable consummation, we shall not have laboured in vain. I can sympathize with no observations which proceed from the standpoint of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. But it is because I was a supporter of the past that I am an opponent of the present policy of the Government. What is the situation? We have a strong Government, with a set of ardent supporters who were ready to vote anything the right hon. Gentleman proposed. His name was almost the only hustings cry they would condescend to use; and to be Gladstonian was to be successful. We now find this strong Government very much in the position of a weak woman, who, when she hesitates, is lost. This strong Government, crammed with information as to the state of things in Westmeath, with evidence ready, and not only evidence, but measures—remedies which they do not seek at your hands, and which they are ready to pass—ask you, nevertheless, for a Secret and Select Committee. The right hon. Gentleman the First Minister endeavours to apologize for the times of 1812 and 1818, when Lord Castlereagh, pursuing a bolder course than that of the right hon. Gentleman, though probably not so confiding, came down with his green bag to the House of Commons and produced his evidence at the Table. Instead of this the right hon. Gentleman calls for a Committee. And what is the Committee to do? It is to act very much the part of a Silent Friend. It 1229 is to produce a remedy. The truth must be spoken. This Committee is nothing more than a screen for Ministerial debility and executive incapacity. The First Minister is always very great upon the abstract question, and asked what are the elementary obligations of a Government—though he did not answer the question. Now, what are the elementary obligations of a Government? First of all, what is the use of a Cabinet at all? Why is it selected if, at the first critical moment, it runs under the ægis of a Select Committee of the House of Commons? This Cabinet has lately been whitewashed, it has been re-constructed, the cards have been re-shuffled, and the Cabinet comes back to the old military position of "as you were." Let us look at the principle of selection exercised in the choice of this Cabinet—a principle which it is proposed to extend to the military commands. How successful it has been in this instance! We all know the right hon. Gentleman is rather exclusive in his Cabinet society. If he has a preference, what he does like best, I believe, is the selection chiefly of Whig marionettes of the most approved pattern—gentlemen who will recognize and reverence the official wires. How far does this Cabinet represent the opinions of the great Liberal majority in this House? How far does it represent or reconcile the feelings of the people of Ireland? Just look down the list. Here are 15 Gentlemen. There have been several turns of this political kaleidoscope, but somehow I have remarked that at every change you get back the old Whig combination. The fact is the Whigs are never happy unless they are in office. It is the old story — Naturam expellas furcâ, tamen usque recurret. And the consequence is that we have all the old family party back again, and, true to Whig antecedents, not satisfied with knocking their heads against walls in the ordinary course of nature, they must propose a special wall, in the shape of a Select Committee, in order to run their heads against that. I attribute the whole of this blunder to the constitution of the Cabinet. There are in it 14 or 15 respectable Gentlemen, more or less gifted; but what connection have they with, or what special knowledge have they of, what is called the sister kingdom? I have not a word to say against the noble Lord the Chief 1230 Secretary for Ireland, except that he has stumbled, as I believe, at the threshold of his new office. I am glad to see a man of his great rank and ability devoting himself to the service of the country, and accepting the thankless office of Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. But when I look through the long and dreary list of the Cabinet—of those Gentlemen who bow to the presiding genius, I cannot help thinking that it must be written in large letters over the doors of the Cabinet — "No Irish need apply." There is but one man in the Cabinet who has any special knowledge of, or acquaintance with, Ireland—a man being Lord Lieutenant of Ireland gives him no special knowledge of Ireland, because he lives in the Castle of Dublin, and is a martyr to the reports of people who never stir out of it — there is but one man who has any special knowledge of Ireland, and that man is the right hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Chichester Fortescue). And what has the Prime Minister done with him? Directly the right hon. Member for Louth had any success in legislating for Ireland he was put on the treadmill of the Board of Trade; and so anxious is the Prime Minister to keep any Irishman from entering into the "Secret and Select Committee" of the Cabinet that a right hon. Gentleman who for years has possessed the confidence and gained the hearts of the Irish people, and who has been waiting in the ante-chambers of the Cabinet, is not admitted into it, but is relegated to the "Dead Letter Office." This, Sir, is the sort of treatment that the Irish receive at the hands of the present popular and powerful Government, and yet you are surprised if these 14 Englishmen, sitting in Downing Street, desire to shift responsibility from their own shoulders and endeavour to lay it on a "Select and Secret Committee" up stairs. It is my good fortune to represent an Irish constituency—I consider it a special good fortune to do so — but I am not about to give my vote simply as an Irish Member. I give my vote as an individual Member of the House of Commons, who feels strongly that the course taken by the head of the Government is not only dangerous to the Ministry, but will also be attended with most evil consequences to this House, and to the country, if we get into the habit, whenever a Government is in danger, of listening to 1231 a "confiding" Minister, and of allowing an Administration to shuffle off responsibility on to a Select Committee. The only man that can upset the Government is he who formed it, and I can tell him that stronger Ministers than himself have been "run off the rails" by proceedings very like the one now in question. He may have many admirers and devoted followers in this House, but if he continues to press this vote on Parliament I feel satisfied that his popularity and power will come to a speedy termination.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
Sir, I am unwilling to interpose between, the House and the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire, who had risen at the same time); but, inasmuch as no Member has for some time addressed the House from the Treasury Bench, it appears to me not inopportune that a Member of the Government, intimately acquainted with the administration of the law in Ireland should now say a few words in reference to the Motion before the House. This, and not any desire to prevent the speech of the hon. Member for Cork, is my reason for rising at present. The House, I am sure, does not wish or expect that I should follow the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Osborne) through his amusing speech—delivered at the proper time, when the House was full, and in a fit state to enjoy with zest the pleasure which the hon. Member knows so well how to afford. It occurred to me in hearing that speech that the hon. Member is more conversant with Cabinet making than with Secret Committees; but that is not my forte; and I shall not follow him further than to say that I think he was very inconsistent in first twitting the hon. Member for West Norfolk with knowing very little about the matter, and then showing that he himself knew less. Nevertheless, the hon. Member made a very amusing speech. He displayed a happy facility in furbishing up such old phrases as "Whig marionettes," and "No Irish need apply." By the way, it would be impossible by his speech, if one did not see where he sat, to distinguish the hon. Gentleman from a Tory marionette, for I apprehend there are marionettes on both sides of the House. But the hon. Member said there was no Irishman in the Cabinet, and that assertion was 1232 made immediately after paying a tribute to the Government for passing two of the greatest measures in reference to Ireland that have been introduced during the last 200 years. ["Oh!"] The hon. Gentleman told the House that the Irish Church Bill and the Irish Land Bill were great successes. [Mr. OSBORNE: No!] Well, the hon. Member did not deny that they will be so when in course of time their beneficial effects shall be felt. Now, I ask, who passed those measures? I do not expect the hon. Member to answer me; my question is one of those rhetorical artifices not uncommon in this House. I say, the Cabinet, over the doors of which were inscribed, according to the hon. Gentleman—"No Irish need apply." He wants to persuade the House that the ex-Secretary for Ireland has ceased to be an Irishman because he has become President of the Board of Trade. So long as that right hon. Gentleman was Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant he was an Irishman, and then "No Irish need apply" could not be written over the Cabinet; but he ceased to be an Irishman directly he was transferred to "the treadmill of the Board of Trade"—a treadmill on which, by the way, the hon. Member for Waterford would be very glad to walk himself. I shall take the liberty of telling the hon. Member for Waterford that if the "confiding" Minister would sentence him for 18 months to that treadmill, he would be, if not a grateful, at all events a silent Member. I should like to know what right he had to say that this Motion is the whim of the Prime Minister alone? What right has he to assert that the First Lord of the Treasury forces the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland to bring forward this Motion; and, if I may repeat the definition of an honest man given by the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), speak what he does not think? And then the hon. Member for Waterford passes compliments on the noble Lord, after having made him one of "the Whig marionettes," worked by wires in the hands of the Prime Minister! The hon. Member for Waterford said it was his good fortune to have an Irish seat, and it certainly is a good thing that there should be occasionally a refuge for the destitute. The hon. Member has gone round the political compass. Having gone to Dover, and 1233 found no rest for the sole of his foot, he took flight across the water, and like the dove, though in no other respect very dove-like, he at length found a resting-place in Waterford. The hon. Member is an Irishman pro re nata; he is an Irishman for the present, and will continue one—until the next General Election. Having said so much for the hon. Member, I promise him, if he gives me another opportunity, to be more liberal in my acknowledgments of his efforts for throwing light on the subject under debate. And now I come to the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), who remarked upon the "extraordinary measures" promoted by the Government for the pacification of Ireland. Did the right hon. Baronet use the word "extraordinary" by way of praise or blame? [Sir ROBERT PEEL: Blame.] Blame! I have heard few things to exceed that. Did my eyes deceive me when, sitting on the back Benches as an outsider, I thought I recognized the stalwart form of the right hon. Baronet sitting behind the Government and voting for those "extraordinary measures" during the last two Sessions?
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
Never! I never voted for them. I never once gave a vote in favour of either of those two measures.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
Then, if the right hon. Baronet never once gave a vote in favour of the measures, why did not he record a vote against them? Why had he not the courage of his convictions? I hope the right hon. Baronet will hold in his hand the taper of remorse. [Sir ROBERT PEEL: Never!] The right hon. Baronet having sat behind the Treasury Benches as a supporter of the Ministry, and failed to make a single protest against the Bills he now designates as "extraordinary," it is rather too much for him to come forward now, and, in the plenitude of his wondrous kindness to the Ministry — engendered probably by a fellow-feeling with his neighbour (Mr. Osborne) — constitute himself an impartial critic upon the home and foreign policy of the First Lord of the Treasury. I shall now pass by this pair of patriotic brethren and proceed to discuss the matter in hand. I shall assume it is admitted, on the basis of the statistics brought forward 1234 by the Chief Secretary, that exceptional crime has been committed, and is to be apprehended, in Westmeath, and the parts of Meath and the King's County contiguous thereto. In this state of facts, the Government had to consider what measures should be taken for the repression of crime and for the public safety; and they concluded that with a view of dealing with this exceptional crime the proper course was to put the Motion on the Paper which we are now discussing. Various objections, however, have been raised to the appointment of the Committee asked for by the Chief Secretary. The hon. Gentlemen opposite object to it on the ground that it does not go far enough. ["No, no!"] If hon. Gentlemen opposite will wait, they will see I do not misconstrue their objections. They object that the Motion does not go far enough, because it should not have stopped with a proposal for a Committee, but should have proceeded to state remedial measures at once. Some of my hon. Friends below the Gangway on this side of the House, on the other hand, object to the Committee on the ground that it goes too far—because, they say, it is not required, and that there is no necessity for either legislation or inquiry. And the remarkable thing is that these hon. Gentlemen will be found in the same Lobby with the hon. Gentlemen opposite; so that if it is not misery in this instance which makes people acquainted with strange bedfellows something else equally potential does. It is right that this should be perfectly well understood. The Committee the Government think proper to ask the House to appoint is designed to inquire into the state of Westmeath—to inquire as to the nature of the combination and confederacies believed to exist there, the objects sought by them, the people engaged in them, whether terrorism exists to the extent alleged, what is the nature of the organization with which we have to cope, and as to how it may be guarded against for the future. The object in view in putting the last part of the Motion on the Paper—that is, as to "the best means of suppressing" the unlawful combinations complained of — was simply to enable the Committee to take evidence on that subject if it were offered them, and to receive suggestions from competent wit- 1235 nesses. Now, is there a precedent for the appointment of this Committee? The House of Commons goes according to precedent in all its deliberations, and in my judgment it is right in doing so. Precedent is the life of English law—English freedom is based upon precedent—Freedom slowly broadening downFrom precedent to precedent.It is from precedents established by the wisdom of our ancestors that we are governed in our ordinary affairs every day. I hope it is our ambition, and I trust it ever will be our ambition, in legislation, not to depart from the method bequeathed to us by the wisdom of our ancestors. ["Hear!"] I can see nothing inconsistent with my avowed opinions in the observation I have made; it is an observation which everyone who thoroughly understands what Liberalism is, and who does not desire to sacrifice liberty to licence, might well endorse. I have before me the record of a Motion made in 1852 by the then Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Napier) for a Committee. My right hon. and learned Friend—and I am proud to be able to claim him as a friend, was not one to undertake resolutions lightly, nor would he lightly press them to their conclusions. Now, what course did he pursue? In Her Majesty's gracious Speech in 1852 reference is made to the state of Ireland in these terms—While I have observed with sincere satisfaction the tranquillity which has prevailed throughout the greater portion of Ireland, it is with much regret that I have to inform you that certain parts of the counties of Armagh, Monaghan, and Louth have been marked by the commission of outrages of the most serious description. The powers of the existing law have been promptly exerted for the detection of the offenders, and for the repression of a system of crime and violence fatal to the best interests of the country. My attention will continue to be directed to this important object.A change of Government occurred between this Speech from the Throne, and the moving for a Committee. Lord Russell went out of power on the Militia Bill, and Mr. Napier, as Attorney General for Ireland, supported by his predecessor in office, moved for a Committee of Inquiry into the state of those parts of the counties of Armagh, Monaghan, and Louth referred to in the Queen's Speech. The words of the reference are to inquire— 1236Into the immediate cause of crime and outrage in those districts, and into the efficiency of the laws and of their administration for the suppression of such crime and outrage.That is a Committee substantially the same as the one we ask for. I have the report of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman before me in which he moved for that Committee, and he said, alluding to the crimes originating in the Riband system—They were the acts of a great confederation, which, if not put down by the law, would put the law down, and therefore this was a conflict with an organized conspiracy against life and property of the most startling description. The Return for the county of Louth embraced from the 20th of April, 1849, to the 29th of December, 1851, and contained 23 cases—they were all separate crimes of Riband conspiracy, and included murder, shooting with intent to murder, waylaying, threatening notices, acting as members of the Riband system, administering unlawful oaths, arson, and the prevention of prosecutions for crime. Of these 23 cases, there had only been in five instances convictions, and in all the others the law as yet had not been able to overtake the criminals."—[3 Hansard, cxix. 1173.]Mr. Napier expressed his opinion that it was no question of party, and I hope I may say the same on the present occasion. I believe there is an earnest desire on both sides of the House to repress crime and outrage wherever it exists, and I believe the Conservative Benches are as anxious as the Liberal Benches to grant full power to the Government for the repression of crime. In saying this, I merely give expression as an honest man to what I do think. My right hon. Friend Mr. Napier, in a speech extending over 16 pages of Hansard, gives details more terrible than any we have given with reference to the state of Westmeath. And yet did anyone say—"You have abundant evidence; why do not you come forward at once and legislate, without asking for the appointment of a Committee?" No. The late Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Hatchell), who spoke on that occasion, said that, far from rising with the intention of opposing the Motion, he was extremely desirous that it should be carried. Sir, it is idle for me to go through the form which nearly every hon. Gentleman thinks necessary before alluding to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli)—to make two or three "kotows" to his genius, and four or five to his literary celebrity. I am a 1237 sincere admirer of the right hon. Gentleman, and therefore I will perform one kotow at all events. This I must say, however, I certainly thought it strange that the right hon. Gentleman, with all his literary powers, having not only the whole range of English literature and Oriental literature to fall back upon—but Continental literature as well—knowing, as he does, the greatest celebrities in literary and political history, I did think it strange that he could find no one to compare himself with but the lean apothecary in Romeo and Juliet, and, like him, urge the plea—"My poverty and not my will consents." For that was the only answer he gave, by anticipation, to my precedent, when he stated he would have acted differently if he had had a majority of 100 at his back. I, however, take the liberty of saying that that is no answer; and I challenge my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball), who will probably speak in the course of this debate, to give a better answer than that to this precedent, and not to give it the go-by by speaking, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire has done, of the Government of 1852 as if it were a rickety baby and he were its wet nurse. That Committee sat, and on the list of its members were included the names of Sir James Graham, Sir John Young, Sir William Somerville, Sir Emerson Tennant, the present President of the Board of Trade, and other eminent men on both sides of the House—as I hope will be the case with this Committee. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire will aid the cause of justice to Ireland by casting some of his paternal glances over the deliberations of the Committee, and by listening, patient and Sphinx-like, to the evidence which may be adduced. Now, that Committee sat for a considerable number of days, and when it made its Report that Report consisted of nothing but suggestions. The first, and the only one which the right hon. Gentleman opposite, with all the efforts of his ingenuity, was capable of dealing with was the continuation of the Crime and Outrage Act for another year. The last recommendation was that such a measure should be framed as would deal with the laws relating to landlords and tenants in 1238 Ireland, and afford adequate security to Irish tenants; and this recommendation was carried into effect last year, when what the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire calls "legalized confiscation" became the law of the land. In other words the Committee appointed under the auspices of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and presided over by the Irish Attorney General, recommended that this House should do what has been done by a Cabinet over the doors of which is written, according to my hon. Friend the Member for Waterford—"No Irish need apply." The Report of that Committee consisted of six paragraphs, each suggesting a change in the law, and yet only one was dealt with by the Government who proposed the appointment of that Committee. Was all this a shirking of responsibility? And, if so, why should that be flat blasphemy with us which with the right hon. Gentleman opposite was but a choleric word? I shall say no more upon the question of principle in this matter, but shall consider what this Committee will really have to do when it is appointed. I heard to-night some startling facts. I was informed by one hon. Member that in the county of Westmeath black mail is levied by these Riband societies. Although I have some idea of the way in which the law is carried out in Ireland, I never heard that alleged fact before. That fact—and I do not deny that it is a fact when it is uttered by so respectable an authority—is a fit subject for the inquiry of the Committee. If it be a fact, it will be for the Committee to inquire who levy this black mail, and who pay it; whether it be paid by men of position or influence, or whether it be merely the timorous act of a country gentleman, not believing in his power to defend himself without having recourse to these illegitimate expedients. I have been told by the hon. Member for Dublin (Sir Dominic Corrigan) that these acts are the acts of but a very few bad men. I hope that is so; but, at any rate, it is a fit subject for inquiry. The facts elicited by the Committee will be brought before the House and the Government, and the Government will never shrink from the responsibility of such legislation as in its conscience it deems right. We are also told by an hon. Member that a Westmeath gentleman could not go to the Lord Lieutenant's 1239 dinner, inasmuch as he was afraid of being shot. That gives, if it be true, a very sad picture of Irish society. I never heard it before. No intimation, I can safely say, has reached the authorities at Dublin of that circumstance; but it is only more matter for the Committee to inquire into. ["Oh!"] Perhaps hon. Members opposite think that not even the threat of being shot would prevent them from going to a Lord Lieutenant's dinner. Some people if they cannot bask in the sunshine of Royalty will endeavour to seek compensation in the moonshine of Viceregal Royalty. The officers of the Government will lay their evidence before the Committee, and every hon. Member who sits below the Gangway, in what is called the independent part of this House—and I occasionally see some Members alternating, going backwards and forwards as if they were not quite content with their position—will be able to form his own conclusions on the subject. ["Oh!"] If any hon. Gentleman feels himself aggrieved by that observation, I withdraw it. I am told that the witnesses will not give their statements upon oath; but I know very little of the powers of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who will probably be on the Committee if they do not, without such a power, extract from any witness who may come before them such evidence as he is able to give. The hon. Baronet the Member for the King's County (Sir Patrick O'Brien) asks why the 13th section of the Peace Preservation Act has not been put in force — the section conferring powers of examination on any magistrate who has reasonable ground for believing that a particular person can give material evidence? My hon. Friend should recollect that the magistrate must have reasonable ground for believing that material evidence will be forthcoming. And the difficulty is to find reasonable grounds for believing that material evidence can be given, and if reasonable grounds do exist for so believing, another difficulty is to induce the witness to give evidence at all. I am informed that among the magistrates of Westmeath this difficulty has been felt and expressed very strongly. The Committee might, I think, very fairly examine into the application and working of this and other sections of the Act. They might also examine some official 1240 persons who have expressed opinions as to the grounds of those opinions; and, above all, they might examine non-official persons, country gentlemen, and others who will not give their opinions in Dublin Castle, but who might be willing to do so before a Select Committee. Having disposed of the introductory portion of my remarks—["Oh!"]—hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite should, at all events, extend to me the same fair play which they would claim for themselves. I see some hon. Members sitting on the front Bench opposite who have crotchets of their own on various points; yet, if you were to talk to them for weeks, the same amiable smile of incredulity would still play upon their countenances. I have done what appears to me sufficient to convince them, and it is their own fault if they are not convinced. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, and my right hon. Friend, if he will allow me to call him so, the Member for North Lancashire, have told us there is no necessity for this inquiry, because they are ready to afford us every assistance to carry an effective measure. But what do they suggest? The only remedy I have ever heard from that quarter is the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. Now, this suspension is an extreme measure in the case even of political exigency or treasonable conspiracy. But within the memory of living man it has never been applied to crimes not in the nature of crimes against the State. Besides, the suspension must be only temporary. You may take up half-a-dozen men in Westmeath, send them to Mountjoy Prison and keep them there for eight or nine months, and for that time the country will perhaps be quiet; but, at the end of that time, and just because the country is quiet, public opinion will become clamorous for the removal of restraints upon its liberties; and as soon as the Suspension Act expires these men go back to their own districts heroes—if not martyrs — and the same crimes are repeated and intensified. Therefore, if you tell me that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act is a complete panacea for crimes of this kind, that is a doctrine which I cannot subscribe to. There are hon. Members below the Gangway — some of them Irish Members, and some of them claiming to be more Irish than 1241 the Irish themselves, on account of the number of Irish men and women included among their constituents—who object to the proposals of the Government. I ask these hon. Gentlemen, first, do they deny the facts? Secondly, if they believe that exceptional legislation is not needed, let them help us to probe this matter before the Select Committee: no one will be more delighted than I shall be to adopt, if I am justified in doing so, the conclusion at which they seem to have arrived. As an Irishman, and as an Irish Member representing an Irish constituency, and not the less so that I now sit on the Treasury Bench—for my constituents have elected me again since I accepted office—representing, I repeat, a constituency containing all the elements of Irish life, Orange and Green, Catholic and Protestant, to the fullest extent — I do say that it would afford to me, and that it would afford to Her Majesty's Government, the greatest satisfaction if, as the result of the labours of the Committee, it should clearly appear that Westmeath may be safely left to the operation of the law as now existing. My hon. Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. Osborne) said that this is to be a Secret Committee — that the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland asserted this, and that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government repeated it. Nothing of the kind—there is no question of a Secret or non-Secret Committee before the House at all. Let the House be well convinced of that. Such a proposal was never contained in the Resolution at all. My noble Friend undoubtedly said, in giving Notice of the Motion, that when the Committee was appointed he should move that it be a Secret Committee. ["Oh, oh!"] Why should hon. Gentlemen interrupt? I am only stating facts, and whether they make for me or against me, at first sight in the long run, I believe, facts never do any harm. I am not one of those advocates who wish to hold back facts, and, ostrich-like, to keep their heads in the sand. The question stands in this way. If the House vote for this Committee, it will sit as soon as its Members are appointed. It will hold its meetings in the usual manner, and I trust there will be no necessity for secresy whatever. But what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister says is this—though he is not asking the House to 1242 give any vote upon it now — that if, in the course of taking evidence, it occurs to the Committee that it would be a wise and judicious thing that some one portion of the evidence should not be printed, and that at a particular time the doors of the room should not be opened even to the Members of this House, that then the Chairman may come to this House and ask on behalf of the Committee for leave to sit with closed doors. This House may refuse the request. I apprehend that very much will depend upon whether the Chairman is a Member possessing the confidence of this House; but, in any event, no one will be bound to vote in favour of secresy or against it—it will be a new and fresh question. At any rate, the House will be master of the question. I must now say one word on the origin of the debate—the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. As I have said, I do not yield to any Gentleman who sits on the other side in admiration for the right hon. Gentleman, but I believe he was in no degree justified in passing the criticisms he did upon the measures of the Government in connection with the Motion for this Committee. What are the facts? On the 28th of July, 1869, the Irish Church Bill received the Royal Assent. On the 1st of August, 1870, the Land Bill received the Royal Assent. This last is not yet nine months in operation, and are you to expect it to operate like a charm? Can you expect the full result of these remedial measures to show themselves before the measures themselves have been two years in existence? Any Gentleman who knows anything about law, or the condition of the country, knows that there has not yet been time for these measures to be thoroughly known by the country; and I firmly believe that when they are known and appreciated in Ireland the results will be very different from what they are at the present time. I concur in the statement of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, that, with the exception of Westmeath, that country is at present enjoying an unwonted degree of prosperity. We speak in the Motion of other counties besides Westmeath; but they are portions of territory which extend geographically into and around Westmeath, though they do not form part of it politically, or for municipal purposes; and our object is that 1243 if a crime is shown to have occurred on one side of the border or the other we shall not on that account be precluded from going into the subject. But, substantially, the inquiry will be limited to Westmeath. When the facts are reported to the House, and the House and the Government have seen and considered them, whatever the Committee may then recommend—even if it should be legislation of the most penal character, or no legislation at all—the Government will bring an unbiassed judgment to bear upon the question, and will deal with it as they have dealt with all measures relating to Ireland—from a broad and statesmanlike point of view. And if it should be shown that no necessity for exceptional legislation exists, no one will be more gratified than the Members of Her Majesty's Government; they will rejoice if Westmeath can be safely left to yield to the same healing influences that have made themselves felt in all other parts of Ireland.
§ DR. BALL
Sir, two different matters have been introduced into this discussion from which, although by no means unconnected, yet, unless they are kept distinct when under our consideration, an inevitable confusion of ideas must arise. One subject in debate has been the social condition of Ireland as regards crime; and another has been the political position of that country, the claims and rights of its inhabitants, and their relation to the British Government. No doubt there is in Ireland, as I have admitted, a certain relation between these subjects; but it is also true that in order to have a clear perception of the social condition of the country, you must examine them separately. It is with the former of these subjects—the degree in which agrarian crime prevails, the extent of the organization which produces and effects it—that the Motion of the Chief Secretary for Ireland is immediately concerned. It would, in my judgment, have been better that in debating the propriety of the Motion, no topics of a political nature had been introduced; but as they have, they cannot now be evaded. Sir, when I first read this Notice of Motion I own it did occur to me that the Government were about to adopt a decisive line of action, and that they, possessing important secret information, were about to afford that information to the House, with a view to 1244 induce its acceptance of vigorous measures; but since I came into the House, and heard the explanations which have been given, I discovered the real intention—or, rather, the new intention—of the Ministry. I have a suspicion that the Motion came from some man not biassed by technicalities or delicate sensitiveness, and that the object was to wring from witnesses the real state of the case, and to obtain by secresy—for by secresy only it could be obtained—the inside and the heart of this mystery. But what do I now find? I find that the Motion dwindles to a mere inquiry—a Committee is to be appointed—for what?—to record outrages and to tabulate offences. Yes, the whole result to follow from the intellectual power to be collected in this Committee is the acquisition and digest of statistical information. There is not an official in any public department who could not, from existing materials, accomplish this fact as effectually. Do I err in my view of the original intention? Look at the terms of the Motion—"That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the state of Westmeath and certain parts adjoining, of Meath and King's County"—not crime, mark—not outrage, not offences, not the external indications or public manifestations of evil designs—but "the nature, extent, and effect of a certain unlawful combination and confederacy existing therein"—that is, it was the internal machinery, not external acts, was to be investigated. This "unlawful combination and confederacy" was expressly stated by the noble Lord to be the Riband Society. The Riband Society has existed for a lengthened period, extended itself over a wide range of country, supported and maintained its organization with consummate success. How are you about to deal with it? You are about to have a public Committee—without the Government avowing that they have a particle of information in respect to the conspiracy itself—to investigate the crimes it has perpetrated. I would refer to Chief Justice Whiteside's Charge, published in the journals of to-day, and remark that the Riband conspiracy is not a mere conspiracy for the perpetration of agrarian crime—it is an organized confederacy for controlling and governing the country according to the rules and laws of that organization. It is not peculiar 1245 to Westmeath. No one knows Westmeath better than I do, for I was appointed Crown Prosecutor of that county in 1852, and retained the office for many years. There is no new information, therefore, to be brought to me about it, as I know perfectly well what exists there. Is the confederacy confined to Westmeath, Meath, and the King's County? No. During a large part of the period when I held the office of Crown Prosecutor I was informed that the heads of the conspiracy were in Manchester. How futile, then, an inquiry confined to three counties! The amount of outrage is no test of the power of this confederacy. On the contrary, the amount of outrage often shows only the amount of resistance to the decrees of the secret tribunal—the fact of no outrages occurring shows that those decrees have been implicitly obeyed. Since this inquiry was announced, and since you have limited the scope of the inquiry to three counties, two outrages have been perpetrated elsewhere, equal in atrocity to any which have occurred in Westmeath. On the very night when the late Chief Secretary for Ireland was occupied in declaring to this House the peace, the tranquillity, the harmony, and the absence of crime in every county in Ireland except these three, a party of armed men fired shots into a dwelling house on the property of Lord Leconfield, in Clare—far from Westmeath—and assailed with violence its inhabitants. On the same night in Limerick, another county distant from the sphere of your proposed inquiry, an armed party proceeded to the house of the steward of Mr. Conyers, of Castle Conyers, at 7 o'clock in the evening, and shot him dead. The truth is, that the organization extends over a number of counties; it is not always necessary for it to develope itself in action; but when it is, in accordance with the system adopted by the confederacy, men are brought from a distance to execute the sentences which have been pronounced by some secret tribunal. The outrages to which I have just referred are as decisive a proof of the existence of the Riband conspiracy in Clare and Limerick as any that can be brought before the Committee from Westmeath. I have referred to the Charge of Chief Justice Whiteside in Meath. It gives a complete picture of the state of that county. I anticipate that this day Chief 1246 Justice Monaghan has, in a Charge to the Westmeath Grand Jury, supplied similar information as to that county. What can your Committee add? Some facts in the former Charge demand your attention. One of the worst outrages in the county of Meath was perpetrated because a farmer used a scythe instead of a sickle. Another was committed because a man had discharged a servant. A third was the case of a farmer whose crops were burnt not because he had committed any offence, but because he was personally unpopular. As long as I remember—as long as any barrister in Ireland connected with the administration of the criminal law can remember—outrages of this character have been committed. The organization has, indeed, changed its head-quarters; but it has always had money at its command and men of ability, somewhere or other, directing its movements. The Government have from time to time received secret information about it, and, consequently, to those who have been engaged in the administration of the criminal law in Ireland, much more respecting its proceedings has been known than it was expedient to reveal to the public. Knowing this, and assuming the Government had some valuable information not as to offences, but as to the conspiracy itself, and this not from official persons, but from members of the confederacy, when I first read this Notice my expectation was that the Government were about to proceed, though with the additional element of secresy, as they did in the case of Sheffield, where a conspiracy was rife, limited in area, but analogous to this in its interference with social relations. In that case a Royal Commission was sent, with power to pardon and deal with the persons engaged in the organization, so as to reach not merely external acts and manifestations, but the combination itself. I confess I should have preferred a Royal Commission to a Select Committee of this House. I have a suspicion that the Government originally intended something of that kind. I am not prepared for miserable, petty, occasional expedients to meet an organization which has lasted beyond the memory of any living lawyer. I am opposed to temporary shifts and expedients being resorted to by a Government which commands a large majority. I say, it is time that some action should be taken, and 1247 action wholly different from that indicated by the speech of the Solicitor General, which amounts to whispering with bated breath—"Good sirs, see all we have done for you, be kind enough to abstain from crime." Why, the men who are engaged in these transactions, whom I have prosecuted, and seen in the dock, are not taken from the rank of society and the class in life which would be either affected or influenced by the measures which you are pleased to term remedial. I do not say that there may not be difficulties in the way of a Royal Commission and of secresy; but what have you got now? You are told by the Government it is to be what of all Committees is the least efficacious for protection—avowedly open, but secret on occasions and for particular individuals. The object of secresy is the protection of the individual—to obtain information from the very heart of this organization—to crush it out upon the evidence of informers, of men who are intimately acquainted with it. Universal secresy might attain this; occasional, never. Will it not be known who has been examined in secret, and if it is, what doubt can there be who it is that has told the tale and betrayed his accomplices. What you imagined whispered in the cellars will be proclaimed on the housetops? Instead of being a statesmanlike attempt to grapple with a great evil, founded on adequate information, this Motion has dwindled down, I regret to say it, to a mere political move. There has been an extraordinary pressure put upon the Government. The magistrates of Westmeath remonstrated, and the Lord Lieutenant made use of expressions from which the Government cannot now escape. He announced, as became his honourable and upright character, his desire to maintain the law, and his knowledge of the extent to which it was systematically violated—he told the magistrates of Westmeath he would protect them if he had the power, and that he would seek the power. The Lord Lieutenant has given this pledge on undoubted information; but the Government have a number of supporters below the Gangway who oppose the granting of this power. Is this proposal of a Committee a device to escape from the pledge? It is not becoming in the Government to give a positive and express promise through the mouth of 1248 their chief representative; and then to put up the Solicitor General for Ireland to say we are not going to give the Lord Lieutenant this power now—possibly we may never give it to him—but we shall have an inquiry where the magistrates and police, and possibly the offenders themselves, shall be subject to a skilful cross-examination. Information is to be obtained not from magistrates and grand jurors, but from the farmers who suffer from this tyranny, and many of whose sons are involved in it, from the small traders in whose shops the plots are planned and matured, and from the Roman Catholic clergymen who sprung from the people—know everything of the people. But do you imagine any of these will give evidence before a Committee which offers no protection. The Committee will be an absolute abortion both in its inquiry and in its results. But I see other difficulties in the way of this Committee. What are the advantages stated by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary to be anticipated from its appointment? He said that inquiry would be just to the Government, just to the people of Ireland, and just to the magistracy. That opens a wide field. There are three separate heads — the relation of the Government itself—mark, the relation of Government—to the present social condition of Ireland; the relation of the people of Ireland—mark, of the people of Ireland, not merely Westmeath, whose innocence, said the noble Lord, ought to be established; the relation of the people of Ireland and their crime relative to the crime that now exists in Westmeath; and mark also—"just to the magistracy." These are three subjects of inquiry, independently of the Riband organization and of the means to be devised for suppressing it. How is this Committee to be formed if these are to be the subjects of its inquiry? Are the Government to nominate a Committee who are to adjudicate upon their own merits? Is the Committee to be selected from the Ministerial Bench and from the front Opposition Bench; or is it to include those who represent the feelings of Nationalists and semi-Nationalists? Is it to do justice to the people of Ireland without consulting those who assume to represent them? The Solicitor General says the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) will be able to cross-examine the wit- 1249 nesses. The Solicitor General is himself an admirable hand at that operation, and, if the Committee is to comprise both these Gentlemen, I would rather be a listener than a witness. If the Committee is to be a Committee of this kind, it should be separated from the leaders and organizers of political parties. But I have grave doubts as to the propriety of such an inquiry; I have doubts as to what will be its scope and range; and I have doubts of the possibility of forming this Committee, with such extended objects, so as to give satisfaction to those whose proceedings are to be investigated. Let us look to the Committee of Mr. Napier. Nothing has more determined me to oppose this Committee than the proceedings of Mr. Napier's Committee. That Committee was appointed on the 10th of March, and reported in June, 1852. Now, is it proposed to this House that the Committee now moved for is to sit from the month of March to the month of June, engaged in these investigations, while Ireland is to remain in the state which is described by the Secretary for Ireland as intolerable? But not only do I think it likely that the Committee will proceed into the subjects indicated by the noble Lord, but I see a considerable number of others which may branch out from these. Thus, I think it not unlikely, as there has been a great deal said about the police force not being adapted for the detection of crime, that the Committee will enter into that subject; then I remember the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman) last year asking whether religious teaching had been applied to induce a horror of these conspiracies in those engaged in them. Have there been proper remedies applied by education, in the bringing-up of these people, and how far is their violence the consequence of their want of it? If you go into causes and remedies, where may not the Committee wander? What limit is there to their investigations? The Solicitor General has read the names of Sir Joseph Napier's Committee; great names, undoubtedly! But what did that Committee wander into—even into suggesting a Land Bill. The last recommendation of the Committee was that a Land Bill should be introduced to revise the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland. What new remedy—what new manner 1250 of procedure — may not be introduced into the Committee now asked for? These things struck me as subjects that might grow out of this Committee, and they add to my objections to it. I ask, are you prepared now to delay useful legislation, which would meet this evil at once and protect those who are now suffering from this positive tyranny, until such a Committee shall have reported? That is the real question—for there is no doubt we are agreed as to the necessity of something being done. Is there a single Member of this House who is not anxious to terminate and crush this intolerable tyranny? If no one will advocate its continuance for a single hour, or for a single moment, then I ask what is the meaning of entering into this long, this elaborate, this possibly abortive inquiry, to terminate probably some time next year? And for what result? Short as has been the time during which I have sat in this House, I have learned very little good arises from a Blue Book. I will test it by this—is there anyone in this House who has read the Report and evidence of Sir Joseph Napier's Committee? I predict exactly the same fate for the evidence taken before this Committee, and its whole proceedings; no matter how able the Committee or sagacious their questions, they will simply pass away into a Blue Book. These Committees are meant for delay, they only produce delay, and no result but delay ever comes from them. If the Government are in earnest—if they really want an inquiry—why should they not accompany their proposal for a Committee with some immediate measure to be brought into operation in the meantime? What is to prevent them now from bringing in an Act—temporary if they choose—to enable them to seize the persons whom they say they can place their hands upon, and who are known to be the main authors of the various outrages which have taken place? What is to prevent that, I ask? It is perfectly idle to talk of the necessity of proof. There is one fact stated by Chief Justice Whiteside in his Charge which is to my mind decisive of the whole question—there are gentlemen in Meath who only leave their houses when accompanied by an armed escort, and who, without that armed escort, dare not attend the assizes as jurors. Can intimidation 1251 go further? Those who are not convinced by that fact, and by the statement in this House of the noble Lord the Chief Secretary, would not be convinced although Blue Book after Blue Book and tabulated Return after Return were laid on the Table. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. W. H. Gregory), seeing the Government rather in a difficulty in this matter, came forward in a very marked manner at an early period of this discussion to throw his protection over them, and explain the reason why, instead of action, we had investigation. I was a good deal struck by the excuse he gave for the Committee. If there was not a Committee, he said, it was not impossible that the Leader of the Opposition might coalesce with Gentlemen on the Liberal side below the Gangway, and place the Government in a minority. This is certainly a most candid confession. What! This Committee, heralded with so much pomp, and announced with so much striking effect by the noble Lord, we are now informed, on the authority of a supporter of the Government, put forward at an early period to defend their policy, is by no means aimed at the discovery and extinction of the Riband confederacy, but simply a measure to prevent the Ministry from being beaten by their own friends, and driven out of office. What a glimpse this gives of the administrative firmness and capacity to deal with crime of the Government! When the Peace Preservation Bill of last year was before the House it was opposed; there was a Division on it; the exact number who divided against it were, I think, 15; but even these 15—this band of brothers—were the terror of the Government Bench, under fear of which their best enterprizesTurn awry, and lose the name of action.The defence of the hon. Member for Galway comes to this—that the apprehension of the junction of these 15 men with the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire necessitated the Government to take this course. The fact I do not presume to controvert. Indeed, I have before this myself observed that the Ministerial Bench lives in continual terror of some move in that quarter. Another instance of unfounded timidity! Never were followers more easily managed, in spite of all their angry protests duly transmitted to the Irish papers— 1252Hi motus animorum et hæc certamina tantaPulveris exigui jactu compressa quiescent.And, to follow the classical allusion, the "dust" is not very expensive—a letter to the Member for Meath, expressing sympathy with the Pope—a Postmaster General—tears in his eyes, distraction in his visage, lamenting over the downfall of the temporal power of the Pope—these suffice. It is impossible gravely to treat such an excuse as this, and what other has been offered? Sir, this proposal for a Committee prevents and supersedes action which is indispensably necessary. Does the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, who calmly admits that they have in the background a remedy some time to be applied, never realize to himself how many lives may fall a sacrifice to this cruel system of intimidation by the delay of his measures?—what right have you to enter into a secret discussion of the merits of the case when men are being slain before your face? The Government admits the facts—not one person on the Treasury Bench has ventured to deny their existence. The Government have plainly told the House that they reserve the remedy. I do believe they have determined on the remedy; and, that being the case, they calmly gaze on the daily succession of outrage, the perpetual violation of the law, and the audacity which affronts the majesty of England with its crimes. Sir, I advocate immediate action. I am not averse to a thorough searching investigation, provided it does not interrupt your action. I am not averse to give the Government the most stringent powers they can ask, in order to obtain information, and not only to stop these outrages for the present—to stand between the assassin and his victim—but to root out the seeds of this grievous pestilence from my unfortunate country. If you will only act, and act at once, to extirpate these evils, I will not withhold from you any power. Place your country above your party; stand in the attitude in which your predecessors—Earl Grey, Earl Russell, Sir Robert Peel—stood, and I will not oppose the most rigid and determined policy. But I demand immediate protection for those who are endangered; I demand that you shall not palter with crime and confound the moral relations in men's minds by suggestions that the presence or the 1253 absence of legislative measures can alter the quality of actions such as these. Sir, if nothing had been introduced into the debate beyond the consideration of the original Motion I should not have proceeded further. The view I have presented is short and simple, with nothing of party views or party ideas; not produced to embarrass, but offered to assist action, and awaken to a sense of the tremendous responsibility of further procrastination. But topics referred to by the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, and which, as at the commencement of my observations I have said should have been kept distinct from questions relating to agrarian crime, also demand attention. Excluding the consideration of crime and outrage in the three counties named in the Motion now before us, my right hon. Friend (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) has expressed the highest gratification, at the state of Ireland; and the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government has been pleased to say that his self-love is perfectly satisfied with its present condition. Sir, I shall candidly state what I think of the success of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. But before I do so, I crave permission to abate somewhat from the weight of my right hon. Friend's (Mr. Chichester Fortescue's) authority in this matter by asking why, if Ireland be as he has described, has he ceased to be officially connected with the country? I do not deny the charms of the Board of Trade, or doubt that his accomplished and refined mind is engaged with rapture on the occupations of that Office; or that at no period of his life did he ever feel that he was more congenially engaged than in the accumulation of figures and the multiplicity of calculations which now employ him. But notwithstanding all the attractions of the Board of Trade, it does strike me that if Ireland were now what he would have us think it is, he would have remained at his old post to watch the nascent prosperity of the country for which he had done so much, and to receive the electric shock of a nation's gratitude. Suggesting, therefore, this reason for caution before yielding to the authority of my right hon. Friend, I proceed to examine whether his flattering picture of the state of Ireland—crime now altogether apart—is justified by the facts, and whether the Government have good 1254 reason for their satisfaction. To determine this, we must first decide some questions and principles, respecting which there has never been unanimity among political thinkers. When a nation of inferior power and strength is united to one of infinitely greater power, there are two theories entertained as to the advantage arising from that relation. The one theory holds that the lesser and inferior country gains—that the fact of being incorporated into and made a part of the glory, prosperity, and power of a far greater State is in itself an ample equivalent for the loss of independence. The other theory—and it has lately come into great prominence—is that in the intellectual rivalry of separate and independent small nations, in their own autonomy and self-government, lies the true secret of human advancement and prosperity. The advocates of the first theory point to Rome, those of the second to Greece, in support of their opinions. Now, when I am asked whether the policy of Her Majesty's Government has operated beneficially in Ireland, I am obliged, before I answer you, to ascertain your view of these two theories. If you incline to the first theory, the policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to Ireland can scarcely be considered beneficial, for it is a policy to encourage separate nationality—and in its immediate practical effect has revived and resuscitated the spirit of separate nationality in Ireland. If you hold the second theory, then I say their policy is successful — thoroughly successful. Does the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government know about the late elections that have occurred in Ireland, or about the societies that have been formed in that country? I have a strong impression that, amid the abstruse speculations and the great affairs which engross his attention, he has not had an opportunity of directing his mind to these matters; and I doubt, if he had, that he would have stated his self-love was satisfied with the result of his measures, and needed no solace. Consider the Meath election! Meath is the premier county of Ireland, close to the metropolis, and inhabited largely by Roman Catholic noblemen and gentry, Roman Catholic farmers, and a Roman Catholic middle-class of wealth and independence. A vacancy in its representation occurs — Mr. George Plunket, 1255 brother of the Earl of Fingall—and what, in Ireland, is not less important, brother also of a distinguished member of one of the monastic orders—a man whose character and attainments would render him an honour to this House if returned to it, comes forward to contest the county. The whole force and power of the Government are arrayed on his side; the entire strength and influence of the Roman Catholic clergy are brought to bear on his behalf; he has rank, station, money, and abilities to aid them. On the Sunday night before the nomination, a northern Presbyterian, who had never entered the county before—a man whose only merit was, as he himself stated, that his life had been devoted to undying enmity to British connection—is returned, without expending a single shilling, at the head of the poll by a majority of 900. I repeat my doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman knew of the circumstances of that election when he proclaimed that the condition of Ireland is eminently satisfactory. It is not satisfactory to me—neither does that election satisfy me. Whatever may be faults of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government looked at from an Imperial point of view, whatever may be my own opinion of his policy, I say that he might fairly expect to return such a candidate as Mr. Plunket for the Roman Catholic county of Meath. I further say that to find his defeat accomplished by an advocate of Repeal, is a subject of grave alarm. Sir, in the year 1832, and some years afterwards, Mr. O'Connell raised throughout Ireland an agitation for a separation from England. The hearts of the young were stirred:—I well recollect, in my own collegiate career, how that doctrine of separation, and the question of the advantages of self-government and autonomy were keenly discussed. What have we now?—all this repeated—and even an organized association existing in the City of Dublin, which, under the miserable veil of "home government," aims at an independent Parliament, and its inevitable consequence—separation in counsel and in opinion from England. I say this, too, is a subject of alarm; for an association of this kind, met by no adequate opposition from those in authority, gains adherents. Sir, when Mr. O'Connell's agitation came to a head it was met by the statesman- 1256 like attitude of Sir Robert Peel and Lord Russell. They did not fan the flame by declamation about old wrongs or grievances of sensibility which must be redressed, or by declaring that great questions must be looked at from an Irish and not from an Imperial point of view, and dealt with according to Irish sentiment. "Repeal the Union!" said Sir Robert Peel, "as soon re-enact the Heptarchy." Is that the line taken by the present Government? That dangerous movement was crushed by the firmness of Sir Robert Peel and Lord Russell; and never revived until the right hon. Gentleman went through Lancashire enunciating a policy of nationality for Ireland, and the gratification of all the fantastic ideas that have germinated in the minds of the old native race of Ireland. The agitation for a separate nationality was extinguished until the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman kindled it afresh and fanned it; and now I warn him, and I warn the House of its spread. Ideas relegated for for years to the dreams of visionary enthusiasm, are again re-produced and embodied in action. What was the case at the last election held in Ireland—namely, at Galway? The candidate had to insert in his address a declaration of his adhesion to this principle of "home government." Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared, as the Prime Minister of England, to tell the House that Repeal of the Union is an open question—that he views it with satisfaction—that it is to be discussed, and perhaps sent to a Secret Committee for consideration. I say that at no period has the question assumed the gravity, the importance, and the danger it presents at this moment. This is the immediate effect of basing your policy, not upon Imperial, but upon Celtic ideas; of flattering and fostering those Celtic ideas, and giving to them the sanction of intellectual authority and official power—it is the consequence of doing this in the case of a people who are incapable of discriminating; a people with whom words are things and promises are realities. Sir, I have trespassed on the attention of the House longer than I intended; but, in justice to the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), whose government of Ireland has been the subject of comment, I will say that if the present Government leaves the affairs of Ireland in 1257 the same condition in which Lord Palmerston left them at his death and in which the right hon. Baronet, on his retirement soon after, left them, they may well be proud. Was there then any agrarian crime; was there then any agitation for the repeal of the Union, or was there a single whisper of discontent? No. And when the distinguished historian of Lord Palmerston's life comes to record this portion of his history, he will be able to present a picture of the highest financial and administrative success in Ireland; and he will have to record that the measures and the speeches by which that success was attained are in direct antagonism with the measures and speeches of the present Prime Minister. Then was pursued towards Ireland a wise, a generous, and a philanthropic policy, and the history of that time furnishes a complete condemnation of the policy of the present Government.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Maguire.)
I cannot, on the part of the Government, accede to that Motion. If we are to adjourn the debate upon a question of this nature at 12 o'clock on the second night of its discussion, it is idle to suppose that the Government will be able to get on with their measures.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 178; Noes 297: Majority 119.
§ Previous Question again proposed.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
said, as many independent Members desired to address the House on the subject, he would move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Matthews.)
The hon. Gentleman seems to think that because he and other hon. Members wish to address the House it is therefore impossible to proceed beyond 12 o'clock. ["Hear!"] If that is the view of the House I will not press my own view. This House has much to do—perhaps it never had more in the way of practical work awaiting its notice; and if this practice of moving the adjournment of debates at a quarter to 12 is to be resorted to immediately 1258 after the sense of the House has been declared by a very large majority, it is a method of obstructing Public Business against which I shall certainly record my protest by taking another Division if necessary.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I am quite prepared to support Her Majesty's Government in going on with the debate, and I should not in any way approve the present Motion if I had not evidence in my possession of the fact that several Members who are entitled to attention on both sides of the House wish to address it on this, which is certainly a very important question. It appears to me, having some experience in conducting the debates in this House, that it would not be possible to conclude the present debate in less than three or four hours. Therefore, I think it would be better, on the whole, to agree to the proposal which has been made; but, at the same time, if Her Majesty's Government wish to go on with the discussion, I shall not support or sanction any Motion for its adjournment.
§ MR. HORSMAN
In the last Division I voted with the minority, as a protest against the system recently introduced, and practised by the present Government, of taking up an undue share of every evening by speeches from the Treasury Benches. To my own knowledge the system was never carried on to such extent before as now, when on each evening we have two long speeches from the Treasury Bench, and other two from the front Bench on the Opposition side of the House. In fact, the great debates in this House are now becoming duels between the two front Benches; and for this reason, I, as I have stated, voted in the minority in the last Division.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
As an independent Member of this House, I for one, do not contemplate any prospective legislation in this House with very great satisfaction; and therefore if my hon. Friend perseveres in his Motion I shall be most happy to support it by my vote.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
After what has fallen from the right hon. Gentlemen on the two front Benches, I beg to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. SPEAKER
thereupon called upon Mr. Maguire. That hon. Gentleman, however, indicating that he did not propose to address the House—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Dungarvan having, by leave of the House, withdrawn his Motion for the adjournment of the House, the Question stands that the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland having moved a Resolution for the appointment of a Committee, the hon. and learned Member for the King's County (Mr. Serjeant Sherlock) has moved the Previous Question; and the Question proposed is, "That that Question be now put."
§ MR. DELAHUNTY
said, the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball) having thought proper to bring before the House the question of Irish politics in reference to the "Home Government" movement, he (Mr. Delahunty) thought it right, on the part of some Irish Members of the House, to state why it was that such a feeling prevailed in Ireland, and how it would be easy to eradicate it for the purpose of securing the cordial co-operation of Ireland in support of Imperial legislation. As a supporter of the policy of the late Mr. O'Connell, who never did anything but what he conceived to be for the benefit of Ireland, he had a right to repudiate the sentiments put forward by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and to say that he (Mr. Delahunty) thought at the time that Mr. O'Connell agitated the question of the repeal of the Union that he was right in so doing, and he thought so now. Mr. O'Connell agitated for a repeal of the Union by a separate Parliament in 1841; and he did so because he found by experience there was no getting the Imperial Parliament to grant equal laws for Ireland with England. He (Mr. Delahunty) would not have come into the House, except for the purpose of trying to get Members to turn aside from the path which they had hitherto followed, and to try to make equal laws for Ireland. Why had Ireland suffered? Why had the population of Ireland diminished? Emphatically, he thought it was because Ireland had different laws from the laws of England. He thought Her Majesty's Government deserved great credit for the attempt they had made to ameliorate the condition of Ireland. The people of Ireland thought that the ques- 1260 tion of religious liberty should be set at rest; they also thought that fair play between landlord and tenant should be secured, and the Prime Minister of England had done his best to meet the wishes of the people on these two subjects. All that the people of Ireland wanted was employment, through the revival of manufactures, having which they would pull with England against any attempt at foreign aggression. He should, however, vote against the Motion, because he considered the Committee totally unnecessary. Let the Government follow up the measures which they had inaugurated by other measures of an equally beneficial character to those of the last two Sessions, and they would have Ireland attached to them and to the country with a determination to do or die.
§ MR. DISRAELI
If we go to a Division on the Question that has been put from the Chair, it will not be in the power of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to effect those changes in the Motion of the noble Lord the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant which were agreed to by the right hon. Gentleman and also by the noble Lord, and in that case if we vote for the Motion of the noble Lord we shall, in fact, come to a vote which transfers the duties of the Executive to the House of Commons. Therefore, I must say I cannot support the Motion.
§ Previous Question put, "That that Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 398; Noes 26: Majority 372.
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 256; Noes 175: Majority 81.
§ Select Committee appointed, "to inquire into the state of Westmeath and certain parts adjoining, of Meath and King's County, the nature, extent, and effect of a certain unlawful combination and confederacy existing therein, and the best means of suppressing the same." — (Mr. Gladstone.)1263
|Acland, T. D.||Anstruther, Sir R.|
|Agar-Ellis, hon. L. G. F.||Armitstead, G.|
|Akroyd, E.||Ayrton, rt. hon. A. S.|
|Amcotts, Col. W. C.||Backhouse, E.|
|Amory, J. H.||Baines, E.|
|Anderson, G.||Baker, R. B. W.|
|Anson, hon. A. H. A.||Barclay, A. C.|
|Barry, A. H. S.||Erskine, Admiral J. E.|
|Bass, A.||Ewing, H. E. C.|
|Bass, M. T.||Eykyn, R.|
|Baxter, W. E.||Finnie, W.|
|Bazley, Sir T.||FitzGerald, right hon. Lord O. A.|
|Beaumont, Captain F.|
|Bentall, E. H.||Fitzmaurice, Lord E.|
|Biddulph, M.||Fletcher, I.|
|Bolckow, H. W. F.||Forster, C.|
|Bonham-Carter, J.||Forster, rt. hon. W. E.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Fortescue, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Bowmont, Marquess of||Fortescue, hon. D. F.|
|Bowring, E. A.||Gilpin, C.|
|Brand, rt. hon. H.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Brand, H. R.||Gladstone, W. H.|
|Brassey, H. A.||Goldsmid, Sir F.|
|Brassey, T.||Goldsmid, J.|
|Brewer, Dr.||Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.|
|Bright, J. (Manchester)||Gourley, E. T.|
|Brinckman, Captain||Gower, hon. E. F. L.|
|Bristowe, S. B.||Graham, W.|
|Brogden, A.||Grant, Colonel hon. J.|
|Bruce, Lord C.||Gregory, W. H.|
|Bruce, rt. hon. H. A.||Greville, hon. Captain|
|Buckley, N.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Buller, Sir E. M.||Grieve, J. J.|
|Bulwer, rt. hn. Sir H. L.||Grosvenor, hon. N.|
|Bury, Viscount||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Buxton, C.||Gurney, rt. hon. R.|
|Cadogan, hon. F. W.||Hamilton, J. G. C.|
|Campbell, H.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Candlish, J.||Hardcastle, J. A.|
|Cardwell, rt. hon. E.||Harris, J. D.|
|Carington, hn. Capt. W.||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Carnegie, hon. C.||Henley, Lord|
|Carter, Mr. Alderman||Henry, M.|
|Cartwright, W. C.||Herbert, H. A.|
|Castlerosse, Viscount||Hibbert, J. T.|
|Cave, T.||Hodgkinson, G.|
|Cavendish, Lord F. C.||Hodgson, K. D.|
|Cavendish, Lord G.||Holland, S.|
|Chadwick, D.||Holms, J.|
|Chambers, M.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Chambers, T.||Hughes, T.|
|Cholmeley, Captain||Hughes, W. B.|
|Cholmeley, Sir M.||Hurst, R. H.|
|Clay, J.||James, H.|
|Clifford, C. C.||Jardine, R.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Jessel, G.|
|Coleridge, Sir J. D.||Johnston, A.|
|Collier, Sir R. P.||Johnstone, Sir H.|
|Colman, J. J.||Kay-Shuttleworth, U. J.|
|Corrigan, Sir D.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Cowper, hon. H. F.||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|Cowper-Temple, right hon. W.||Knatchbull-Hugessen, E. H.|
|Crawford, R. W.||Lambert, N. G.|
|Dalrymple, D.||Lancaster, J.|
|Davies, R.||Lawrence, Sir J. C.|
|Davison, J. R.||Lawrence, W.|
|Dent, J. D.||Lawson, Sir W.|
|Dickinson, S. S.||Lea, T.|
|Dodson, J. G.||Leatham, E. A.|
|Dowse, R.||Leeman, G.|
|Duff, M. E. G.||Lefevre, G. J. S.|
|Dundas, F.||Lewis, J. D.|
|Edwardes, hon. Col. W.||Lewis, J. H.|
|Edwards, H.||Lloyd, Sir T. D.|
|Egerton, Capt. hon. F.||Loch, G.|
|Ellice, E.||Locke, J.|
|Enfield, Viscount||Lorne, Marquess of|
|Ennis, J. J.||Lowe, rt. hon. R.|
|Lubbock, Sir J.||Rothschild, Brn. L. N. de|
|Lush, Dr.||Rothschild, N. M. de|
|Lusk, A.||Russell, A.|
|Lyttelton, hon. C. G.||Russell, H.|
|M'Arthur, W.||Russell, Sir W.|
|M'Clure, T.||Rylands, P.|
|M'Combie, W.||St. Aubyn, J.|
|Macfie, R. A.||Salomons, Sir D.|
|M'Lagan, P.||Samuda, J. D'A.|
|M'Laren, D.||Samuelson, B.|
|Magniac, C.||Samuelson, H. B.|
|Marling, S. S.||Sartoris, E. J.|
|Martin, P. W.||Seely, C. (Lincoln)|
|Matheson, A.||Seely, C. (Nottingham)|
|Melly, G.||Shaw, R.|
|Merry, J.||Sheridan, H. B.|
|Miall, E.||Simon, Mr. Serjeant|
|Milbank, F. A.||Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.|
|Miller, J.||Smith, E.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Smith, J. B.|
|Monk, C. J.||Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.|
|Monsell, rt. hon. W.||Stapleton, J.|
|Morgan, G. O.||Stepney, Colonel|
|Morley, S.||Stevenson, J. C.|
|Morrison, W.||Stone, W. H.|
|Mundella, A. J.||Storks, Sir H. K.|
|Muntz, P. H.||Strutt, hon. H.|
|Nicholson, W.||Stuart, Colonel|
|Nicol, J. D.||Sturt, Lt.-Colonel N.|
|Ogilvy, Sir J.||Sykes, Colonel W. H.|
|Onslow, G.||Tollemache, J.|
|O'Reilly-Dease, M.||Tracy, hon. C. R. D. Hanbury-|
|Palmer, J. H.|
|Palmer, Sir R.||Trevelyan, G. O.|
|Parker, C. S.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Parry, L. Jones-||Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Peel, A. W.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Pelham, Lord||Vivian, Capt. hn. J. C. W.|
|Philips, R. N.||Wedderburn, Sir D.|
|Pim, J.||Whitbread, S.|
|Playfair, L.||Whitwell, J.|
|Plimsoll, S.||Williams, W.|
|Potter, E.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Potter, T. B.||Willyams, E. W. B.|
|Price, W. E.||Wingfield, Sir C.|
|Price, W. P.||Winterbotham, H. S. P.|
|Ramsden, Sir J. W.||Woods, H.|
|Rathbone, W.||Young, A. W.|
|Read, C. S.||Young, G.|
|Richards, E. M.||Adam, W. P.|
|Roden, W. S.||Glyn, hon. G. G.|
|Adderley, rt. hon. Sir C.||Bingham, Lord|
|Allen, Major||Birley, H.|
|Amphlett, R. P.||Bourke, hon. R.|
|Arbuthnot, Major G.||Bourne, Colonel|
|Arkwright, R.||Brise, Colonel R.|
|Assheton, R.||Broadley, W. H. H.|
|Baggallay, Sir R.||Browne, G. E.|
|Bagwell, J.||Bruce, Sir H. H.|
|Barrington, Viscount||Bruen, H.|
|Barttelot, Colonel||Cameron, D.|
|Bathurst, A. A.||Cartwright, F.|
|Beach, Sir M. H.||Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.|
|Beaumont, S. A.||Chaplin, H.|
|Bentinck, G. C.||Charley, W. T.|
|Bentinck, G. W. P.||Cochrane, A. D. W. R. B.|
|Benyon, R.||Cole, Col. hon. H. A.|
|Beresford, Lt.-Col. M.||Collins, T.|
|Corrance, F. S.||Lindsay, hon. Col. C.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Lopes, H. C.|
|Croft, Sir H. G. D.||Lopes, Sir M.|
|Cross, R. A.||Lowther, J.|
|Cubitt, G.||Lowther, W.|
|Dalrymple, C.||M'Mahon, P.|
|Damer, Capt. Dawson-||Maguire, J. F.|
|D'Arcy, M. P.||Mahon, Viscount|
|Davenport, W. B.||Manners, Lord G. J.|
|Dease, E.||Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.|
|Delahunty, J.||Matthews, H.|
|Dickson, Major A. G.||Mellor, T. W.|
|Digby, K. T.||Meyrick, T.|
|Dilke, Sir C. W.||Milles, hon. G. W.|
|Dimsdale, R.||Mills, C. H.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Mitford, W. T.|
|Dyke, W. H.||Montagu, rt. hon. Lord R.|
|Dyott, Colonel R.||Montgomery, Sir G. G.|
|Eaton, H. W.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Egerton, hon. W.||Newport, Viscount|
|Elliot, G.||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Elphinstone, Sir J. D. H.||O'Brien, Sir P.|
|Ewing, A. O.||O'Reilly, M. W.|
|Fagan, Captain||Osborne, R.|
|Fawcett, H.||Paget, R. H.|
|Feilden, H. M.||Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Fielden, J.||Parker, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Figgins, J.||Patten, rt. hon. Col. W.|
|Finch, G. H.||Peek, H. W.|
|Fowler, R. N.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Garlies, Lord||Pell, A.|
|Gavin, Major||Pemberton, E. L.|
|Gilpin, Colonel||Phipps, C. P.|
|Gooch, Sir D.||Plunket, hon. D. R.|
|Gore, J. R. O.||Power, J. T.|
|Graves, S. R.||Raikes, H. C.|
|Greene, E.||Round, J.|
|Gregory, G. B.||Sackville, S. G. S.|
|Hamilton, I. T.||Salt, T.|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J.||Sandon, Viscount|
|Hamilton, Lord G.||Sclater-Booth, G.|
|Hamilton, Marquess of||Simonds, W. B.|
|Hay, Sir J. C. D.||Smith, F. C.|
|Hermon, E.||Smith, R.|
|Hervey, Lord A. H. C.||Smith, S. G.|
|Hesketh, Sir T. G.||Smith, W. H.|
|Heygate, Sir F. W.||Starkie, J. P. C.|
|Heygate, W. U.||Steere, L.|
|Hick, J.||Sykes, C.|
|Hildyard, T. B. T.||Synan, E. J.|
|Hill, A. S.||Talbot, hon. Captain|
|Hodgson, W. N.||Talbot, J. G.|
|Holford, J. P. G.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Holt, J. M.||Tomline, G.|
|Hood, Cap. hn. A. W. A. N.||Torrens, W. T. M'C.|
|Hope, A. J. B. B.||Turner, C.|
|Hornby, E. K.||Vance, J.|
|Hutton, J.||Walker, Major G. G.|
|Jackson, R. W.||Walpole, hon. F.|
|Jenkinson, Sir G. S.||Walsh, hon. A.|
|Jervis, Colonel||Waterhouse, S.|
|Johnston, W.||Wheelhouse, W. S. J.|
|Jones, J.||White, hon. Colonel C.|
|Kavanagh, A. MacM.||Whitworth, T.|
|Kekewich, S. T.||Williams, Sir F. M.|
|Kennaway, J. H.||Winn, R.|
|Keown, W.||Wise, H. C.|
|Knox, hon. Colonel S.||Wynn, C. W. W.|
|Lacon, Sir E. H. K.||Yarmouth, Earl of|
|Learmonth, A.||Downing, M'C.|
|Lennox, Lord G. G.||Sherlock, Mr. Serjeant|