§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [4th February],"That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ And which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now" and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Bradlaugh.)270
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
SIR ROWLAND BLENNERHASSETT
said, he thought no Government would have made up its mind to come down to the House of Commons with a coercive proposal of this character without feelings of humiliation; because it was a practical confession that during the last 80 years very little progress had been made towards the pacification of Ireland. It was, he thought, a large demand upon their credulity to believe that the Prime Minister had allowed himself to be deluded, after his long experience, by the representations of officious policemen and other Government officials. To an ordinary mind therefore, the mere fact of the Government introducing a measure of this kind would be a considerable argument in its favour. Still, the measure was in itself of so extraordinary a character that it could only be justified upon the plea that there was an organization in Ireland which had supplanted the ordinary law. Now, was that so? It had been asserted and admitted that in various parts of the country the law of the Land League reigned supreme. That meant that in certain parts of the country the ordinary law was inoperative. They knew very well that they could not have two contradictory systems of law; and it seemed to him to follow that in those parts anyone who regulated his conduct by the ordinary law of the land was liable to punishment by the advocates of the other system. It had been admitted, even by hon. Members who oppose this Bill, that the Queen's writ did not run in certain parts of the country, and that substantially corroborated the statement of Judge Fitzgerald. At the same time, it was idle to suppose that it was the action of the Laud League which had brought the country into its present condition. To say that would be to confound cause with effect. He would grant, for the sake of argument, anything that the greatest enemy of the Land League could say against it; but the question would always remain how it came that the Laud League had the power which it possesses? He thought it could not be denied that the reason why the Laud League wielded so much power was because a large portion of the population 271 sympathized with it. The fact that a large portion of the population sympathized with the League was a proof that the national economy of Ireland rested on an unsound basis. Looking at the main features of the social system in Ireland they saw that the bulk of the population was dependent for its living on the cultivation of the soil. From this cause alone originated those periodical disturbances which successive Governments had to deal with. He contended, however, that the law which regulated the relations between the Irish landlord and tenant was, in many respects, more favourable than in other countries. Compensation for improvements was unknown elsewhere. He was far from denying that the position of the Irish tenant should not be still further improved; but he was convinced that any remedial measure which was not based on the condition of attaching the occupier to the soil would never remove the present evils. Ireland, too, was essentially a bureaucratic country, for the Irish gentry had lost almost all the political power which they formerly possessed, that power having now passed into the hands of the officials of the Government; and if they were ever to have Conservative force derived from the influence of property in Ireland, it must be by the establishment of a peasant proprietary. It had been said that the aim of the Land League would bring this about. In so far as that was the aim of the League and the end toward which it was working, he cordially sympathized with it: but he did not think it right to attain the end by the means adopted. He knew that as he did not intend to vote with the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) his conduct would be open to misconstruction; but his vote would, he believed, be given in the best interests of the country. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would remember that a similar course had been taken by many men who had done good service to Ireland. Mr. Grattan, for instance, had chosen to support a Coercion Bill at a time when he had every excuse for increasing his popularity at the expense of his convictions of duty; and he (Sir Rowland Blennerhassett) could only repeat the words of that great statesman, and express a hope that by supporting the Government he should not lose the respect of his countrymen.
§ MR. SYNAN
fully understood the purity of the motives that led his hon. Friend (Sir Rowland Blennerhassett) to support the Bill; but he believed, at the same time, that he had misapprehended the case of the Government. It was possible the people of Ireland and his constituents might forgive him on account of his misapprehension. He was not surprised, after what had passed in the House, that hon. Members should show signs of exhaustion, and show that they did not feel any interest in the question before them, as the conclusion to be arrived at was already foregone. The opponents of the Bill were clearly fighting against superior force in contending with the whole strength of the Government; and yet the measure had not been adequately introduced, was not supported by argument, and was not based on any overwhelming mass of evidence. In the case of the two other Coercion Bills that he recollected, arguments had been used in their favour, and facts had been adduced; but, on the present occasion, the Government had not been able to produce any strong evidence, but had rested their case merely on a confused Police Return of agrarian outrages. A fortnight ago he challenged the Chief Secretary and the Solicitor General for Ireland to produce any authority or precedent for a Bill of this kind. They had declined the challenge; and, seeing the Attorney General for Ireland in his place, he repeated the question to him with the gravest doubt as to whether he should receive an answer. Allusion had been made in the course of the debate to the Westmeath Act of 1871; but that formed no precedent for the present proceeding, and upon every Constitutional ground they were bound to resist the passage of the Bill. The Westmeath Act was, after an inquiry before a Select Committee, confined to Ribbon-men and Fenians, some of whom came from England and abroad. The outrages did not proceed from any land grievance; and the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington)"admitted that the Act was new and unconstitutional," and that "it was a dangerous power in the hands of a Government whether democratic or despotic." The truth was that the Chief Secretary's case was so weak that in moving the second read- 273 ing he had found it necessary to parade before the House a treasonable proclamation that had no necessary or known connection with Ireland, and the source of which was as yet undiscovered. Then they also had before them the Police Returns for several months. It was unfortunate that it was impossible, without a laborious analysis to classify those Returns, to separate the serious from the trivial cases, or to detect the instances of the duplicate entry of the same outrage. The Returns, he understood, were such as were always periodically presented by the Constabulary; but that was no reason why they should not be classified, nor should the Prime Minister have set off against the duplicate entries the cases in which one outrage might more properly have been recorded as several. The other day 20,000 miners in Lancashire were concerned in disturbances, and were, according to the theory adopted with regard to Ireland, guilty of 20,000 offences, so that the outrages in Lancashire must exceed those in Ireland. As a matter of fact, this system of dealing with the Returns was an absurdity. The number of crimes mentioned in the Returns was 2,590; but after deducting threatening letters, trivial cases, and duplicate Returns, he found that only 723 outrages of any-thing like a mischievous kind had been committed. He admitted that cases of forcible admission into agricultural holdings had multiplied; but that was a necessary consequence of the land agitation. In 1845 there were 18 homicides in Ireland, last year there were only 8. As to incendiary fires and malicious injuries, he stated that, as a Grand Juror, he had tried more crime of that sort in his own county in an ordinary year than these Returns showed. The remedy for the existing condition of things was to be found, not in a suspension of the Constitution, but in remedial measures. He had the authority of the noble Marquess the present Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington) for that statement. The noble Marquess said, in 1871—"The only sure way to prevent agrarian outrages was to remove the causes." The Prime Minister had flung the Returns to the winds, and based his case on the fact that no evidence could be discovered against offenders, and that no verdicts could be obtained from juries. The obvious reason why 274 evidence could not be brought forward was that the agrarian crimes were, as a rule, committed secretly and by night. Was it intended that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus should be substituted for trial by jury? If so, they would have gone a step towards Revolution, and their position would be far worse six months hence than it was at present. For that reason he, for one, could not support the second reading of the Bill. He complained that the Irish Members had asked for inquiry into the agrarian crimes; but the Government had simply thrust the Returns of these crimes down their throats. Was it fair to throw these Returns into the hands of English and Scotch Members, and to get their votes upon the second reading of this Bill by the multiplication of crimes which were no crimes at all? [An hon. MEMBER: No, no!] Yes; no crimes at all. Surely the hon. Member did not mean to say threatening letters were crimes to justify the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. He did not agree with the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Bright) that there was no analogy between the Corn Law League and the Land League, and that it was the action of the Corn Law League which led to the abolition of the Corn Laws. In his (Mr. Synan's) opinion, it was nothing of the kind. On the contrary, the Corn Laws were abolished, not by the action of the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues in that agitation, but owing to the visitation of the Irish Famine in 1846. The leaders of the present agitation had been accused of having preached doctrines of a seditious character. In support of that charge the Prime Minister had cited two speeches of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell); but it was now admitted that the hon. Member had not delivered one of the speeches referred to, and the Chief Secretary had apologized for having mentioned it. He (Mr. Synan) asked whether it was likely that 100,000 people would be preaching treasonable or criminal doctrines without the Government being able to bring evidence against them? It reminded him of Fox's answer, in 1795, to the persons who charged the Reform Clubs of that peroid with treason. "Have you found," asked Fox, "anything of the kind in their proceedings?" "No," replied the accusers, "they are too cunning 275 for that." "What," replied he, "were the 30,000 So cunning?" So, he asked, were the 100,000 Land Leaguers so cunning? It appeared that crime had fallen off in January by one-half, and that fact had been adduced as a reason against the second reading of this Bill. The Chief Secretary for Ireland attributed that decrease of crime to two causes —the terror produced by this measure, and the cunning shown by the Land League in telling its followers to stop their criminal acts. Both of those causes might have had an influence; but was not that some argument against the second reading of the Bill? In July, 1846, Sir Robert Pool's Government, which had brought in an Arms Bill, was turned out of Office; and when the Liberals came into power they re-introduced, on the 5th of August, the Arms Bill which they had rejected. Mr. Hume and others opposed that Bill on the ground that crime had diminished; and on the) 7th of August Lord John Russell withdrew the Bill because crime had diminished, and took credit to the Government for its diminution. That was a precedent more pertinent to the present discussion than the Westmeath Act which had been quoted. Why was a Liberal Government now giving the precedence to coercion over remedial legislation? They bad heard the reason why from right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench, who said—"Make no terms with crime and intimidation; do not purchase the passing of this Bill by consenting to remedial measures in any way, because law and order must be first restored in Ireland." He maintained that law and order would be more speedily restored by a remedial measure than by this Bill. Had the Tories, who talked of never yielding to threats, forgotten their own history? Had not Catholic Emancipation been granted through fear of a civil war? Was not the Reform Bill of 1832 carried through the fear of an outbreak of violence? Again, was not the Reform Bill of 1867] preceded by the Hyde Park riots? And did not the Conservative Government of that day make its famous "leap in the dark" from the fear of a revolutionary movement in England? Concessions were made to popular agitation in England; and why was coercion to be applied only to Irish popular agi- 276 tation? He freely admitted that where treason, or treasonable conspiracy, or treason-felony existed, those who were responsible for the Government had a right to defend the Constitution of the country, if necessary, by force. But, in the present case, not a particle of proof of any such danger had been produced to the House. No Constitutional Government ever yet applied such a Coercion Act to agrarian crimes. He founded himself upon the authority of Burke as to the distinction between discontent and crimes springing from abuses and treason—I am, "said Burke," for separating not the north from the south—not the east from the west; hut I am for separating the discontented on account of abuses from those who had a hatred of the Constitution and wished its total destruction.They had been asked to trust the Government; but surely the liberties and oven the lives of the people of Ireland wore not to be put into the hands of any Government until evidence was given of the absolute necessity for doing so. As to the precedent of the Westmeath Act, he had already shown that it was no precedent. He had himself voted against the second reading of the Westmeath Act, because agrarian crime only was in question, but no treason. He supposed that Burke was a Constitutional authority. Burke said that the only ground on which the Constitution could be suspended even for a time was a movement of a treasonable character. This Bill provided that any person might be arrested who was suspected to be guilty as principal or accessory of high treason, treason-felony, or treasonable practices. If the Government had stopped there, and had produced evidence of these crimes, he would not be there to oppose them; but these words followed:—Or of any crime punishable by law committed in a prescribed district, being an act of violence or intimidation, or the inciting to an act of violence or intimidation, and tending to interfere with or disturb the maintenance of law and order.Every riot and act of a violent character committed in Ireland, whether before or after the passing of this Bill, would come within that provision. The Lord Lieutenant had, for such offences, the same power as existed in France before the Revolution of issuing lettres da cachet. 277What," said Fox, "has produced revolutions in other countries? Arbitrary power lodges in Ministers, and the oppressive privilege of using lettres de cachet."No such measure would be proposed with reference to any other part of the Empire. This arbitrary and despotic Bill was an insult to Ireland; and it was the duty of the Representatives of that country to resist it to the utmost which the Forms of the House would now permit. The Government and Members of the House assumed great responsibility in passing this Bill. If such a Bill were proposed for any village in England it would provoke the opposition of every man on the Liberal Benches; and, if carried into law, it would be the deathblow of the Government responsible for the measure. He would, in conclusion, appeal to the House in the words of Fox—If this Bill should pass into law, contrary to the sense and opinion of the great majority of the Irish nation, and if, after it was passed, it should he executed with rigour, then, in that case, resistance would be a question not of duty but of prudence.
§ MR. REDMOND
said, he felt keenly that he laboured under a heavy and peculiar disadvantage, from the fact that it was his strange fortune, on the first occasion of taking his seat, to find himself placed in a position of direct antagonism to the feeling and authority of the House. Such a position was painful, and would have been altogether intolerable, had he not been convinced that he was only fulfilling his duty to his constituents and his country, and that it must, sooner or later, inevitably be the fate of every Irishman who entered Parliament to represent the national aspirations of his countrymen, to be placed in direct antagonism to English politicians, whether Liberal or Conservative. It was vain for him to hope that any words of his could induce the Government to withdraw this Bill. But he desired to enter an earnest protest against it. He had been sent to that House to protest against the calumnies which had been hurled against Ireland from the Ministerial Bench. Did Her Majesty's Government imagine for one moment that by coercion and terrorism they would be able to crush an agitation which had given new hope to the hearts of millions of Irishmen? If Ministers thought so, they would find their expectations destined to failure. The 278 whole case of the Government in favour of coercion was before the House, and what did it amount to? The only evidence the Government had brought forward consisted of Returns of agrarian outrages, which the Chief Secretary for Ireland had laid on the Table. He (Mr. Redmond) stigmatized those Returns as misleading and dishonest. Let him take the case of the county with which he was best acquainted—his own county of Wexford. It was stated in those Returns that, during the year 1880, there were no less than 56 agrarian outrages in that county. If that statement was true, he was prepared to admit that it would disclose a serious state of affairs; but he would deny that it was any reason or justification for this Bill. Before he had an opportunity of examining these Returns he knew of his own personal knowledge that that statement was, if not false, at any rate dishonest. Upon examination of these Returns, he found that the 56 agrarian outrages consisted almost entirely of threatening letters. It might be said that there were serious outrages in his county. On that point all he could say was that there were not three serious outrages in that county during the year. Yet these lying statements had been sent forth to the world, blackening the character of a people whom he knew to be the most law-abiding and God-fearing in the United Kingdom. The whole story of these outrages would, in fact, be ludicrous, were it not that it was leading to the deprivation of the liberties of the Irish people. In one case of alleged outrage it was discovered that the criminal was a donkey who got himself shot by the gallant defender of his house for his presumptuous attempt to break into a pantry. The Government disclaimed having been at all influenced by newspaper reports. The Chief Secretary had stated they were not even guided solely by those Returns. Their case, then, must rest upon secret information, which could only have been obtained from two sources, both tainted. The first source was the magistracy, who represented one class merely, and that the most interested in crushing the land movement and trampling upon the liberties and lives of the Irish people. The other source was the Constabulary, and he asserted deliberately that their evidence was absolutely unreliable without corroboration. There 279 seemed to be some fatality about every effort on the part of that House to legislate for and govern Ireland. The land agitation had been impeached, and the unwritten law of the League denounced. The agitation, however, had prevented thousands of those evictions which the Government had acknowledged to be inhuman and unjust, but which they had failed to arrest; and he thanked God that there was an unwritten law in Ireland, strong enough to cancel the "sentences of death" which Irish landlords had levelled against their tenants. In spite of this Bill the unwritten law would continue to exist; and until the grievance had been removed it would command the support, the sympathy, and the approval of every patriotic man in the land. It was asserted that the measure of Land Reform would be a wise and generous one, and, if so, he should be delighted with it; but why, then, did the Government postpone its introduction until this miserable measure had been passed into law, and the passions of the Irish people had been aroused? Quem Deus vuit perdere prius dementat. The blind infatuation of the present Administration was the sure forerunner of its downfall. He denied the right of the English Parliament to govern Ireland. They had never yet been able to govern it except by brute force, and by the suspension of the liberties of her people. The only way in which Ireland could hope to see peace and prosperity was by having an Assembly of her own once again — a native Parliament, hallowed by the glories of the past; and when that day arrived there would be no talk of coercion or outrage, for liberty and peace would hand in hand watch over the destinies of a regenerated Ireland.
§ MR. STANSFELD,
after congratulating the last speaker upon his first Parliamentary effort, expressed his intention to support the second reading of the Bill, though he should do so with an amount of reluctance which it would be almost impossible for him adequately to convey. While saying that, however, and while experiencing that reluctance, he should, nevertheless, vote for the Bill without any portion or tittle of that "distrust" as to the way in which the law would be administered, which was expressed the other evening by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill). 280 He believed that the reluctance of which he had spoken was shared, more or less, by both sides of the House. He did not believe there were any who felt it more strongly—he was almost tempted to say so strongly—as the occupants of the Treasury Bench; because it was upon them, and more especially upon the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that the tremendous responsibility of administering an arbitrary power would fall. It had been said in the course of the debate that the extraordinary powers about to be conferred by this Bill would, practically, come to be exercised by a local magistrate or officer of the police; but his conviction was that his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary would not place such an interpretation upon the grave responsibility that he was about to incur under this measure. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: Hear, hear!] He found it impossible to conceive that any man in the position of his right hon. Friend, and least of all his right hon. Friend himself, would consent to be invested with an arbitrary power, from which there would be no practical appeal, to consign any man to imprisonment and detention for 18 months without a close, personal, and anxious investigation into every case. The hon. Member for Limerick County (Mr. Synan) had commenced his criticism of the Bill by referring to the 1st clause, which gave the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland power to arrest by warrant. As far as he was able to follow the reasoning of the hon. Member for Limerick, he understood that Gentleman to interpret the enacting clauses of the Bill as having been framed as if for the purpose of giving power to the Lord Lieutenant to arrest and detain in prison for 18 months any man who might reasonably be suspected of an inciting to commit a common assault. He could not think that the hon. Member had it in his mind to suppose that any Government would propose to take, or dare to exercise if given, so enormous a power. As he read the section in the Bill— though, perhaps, it was not expressed with sufficient clearness—it was meant, among other things, for the purpose of enabling the Lord Lieutenant to deal with persons who might be reasonably suspected of any crime punishable by law committed in a prescribed district, being an act of violence or intimidation, or the inciting to an act of violence or 281 intimidation, and tending to disturb the maintenance of law and order; and it could not. therefore, refer to common assaults, but to offences likely in a wider sense to interfere with the maintenance of law and order. It should also be borne in mind that the law of conspiracy, so far as this Bill was concerned, entirely vanished. The Bill was concerned only with individual acts and individual men, and that was a matter of satisfaction to his mind. The 3rd sub-section of the 1st clause provided that a list of all persons for the time being detained in prison under the Act, with a statement opposite each person's name, of the prison in which he was detained, and of the ground stated for his arrest in the warrant under which he was detained, should be laid before each House of Parliament within the first seven days of every month during which Parliament was sitting. He knew it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to invite the sanction of Parliament to such imprisonments or detentions; but the sub section to which he had referred would confer upon all Members of the House the right, and upon many of them the duty, of carefully watching the lists, and of raising questions in Parliament, if need he, upon the facts stated in the warrants of arrest. He should support the Motion for the second reading of the Bill, but should also support some of the Amendments of which Notice had been given, when the measure reached the Committee stage. In the first place, he should support the Amendment proposing to limit the past time during which a crime might have been committed which would justify arrest under the Act. He should not, at the present stage, say more on this point than that he entreated his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary not to persist in asking the House to so widely extend the serious responsibility which the Bill would impose upon him. He should also support the proposal that the list of persons detained in prison under the provisions of the Act should also contain statements as to the specific acts of which those persons were accused, instead of setting forth broadly the grounds stated for their arrest. He was also disposed to support the Amendment of which Notice had been given by the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton), the object of which was to give the tenants some protection, pending 282 the passing of the Land Act, from eviction for non-payment of excessive rent. He had urged and counselled the Government to place on the Table of the House a large, generous, and just measure of Land Reform before the second reading of the Coercion Bill; but as that had not been done they could not help themselves. That had not been done, perhaps owing to difficulties in the way of the Government, which he did not sufficiently appreciate at present. But though the Bill was not before the House he had no distrust as to what its character would be. He had confidence in the remarks of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in the promises of the Prime Minister, and in the necessity of the times. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Biadlaugh) had stated that he would have more confidence in the proposed remedial measures, and less objection to the Coercion Bill, if the Government distinctly announced that they staked their existence on the passing of their Land Bill. But the existence of the Government was, of course, staked on the Bill. While he regretted that the terms of the Land Bill were not in the knowledge of the House, he could not suppose for a moment that after what Her Majesty's Government had said in reference to the probable nature of their remedial measures, they would so far depart from their tacit undertaking—having first obtained sanction to the coercive measures—as to retain Office and quietly accept defeat. That he regarded as an impossible and inconceivable issue. Apart from the expressed intentions of the Government and the goodwill of the Liberal Party, Parliament had to, and he hoped would, consider the attitude of the Conservative Party, whose Members had stated their desire and intention to give a most fair and candid attention to the Government proposals. Candid friends were not always the most agreeable, and candid criticisms were not always very palatable; but what more could be promised? There were yet other grounds for hoping for a successful issue out of the present state of things. One was the advanced views entertained on the Land Question by Ulster landlords and Conservatives; the other was the majority Report of the Agricultural Commissioners. He had himself signed the minority Report; but if it were 283 not impertinent on his part, he should not like that opportunity to pass away without hearing his testimony to the fair spirit which presided over the whole of that inquiry, and especially to the patience and judicial impartiality of the noble President of the Commission (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) in the reception of Irish evidence. It would not, however, be suitable that he should discuss the question of that Report now he might refer hon. Members to it, and go so far, without impropriety, as to say that it was a preliminary inquiry, and, therefore, not an exhaustive Report; hut that so vast had been the progress in English public opinion, founded on a larger knowledge of Irish necessities, since last year, that in that majority Report the principle of some arbitration or judicial decision as to a fair rent was conceded. With regard to the proposal of fixity of tenure and free sale the majority of the Commissioners did not commit themselves; but they did not exclude themselves from pronouncing some future favourable judgment. They confined themselves to saying, what they could all in one sense say, that the so-called "three F' s" in their integrity had not, in their opinion, been proved to be consistent with justice to the landlords. But "in their integrity" was a phrase which they could discuss when the time came. He could not regard the future action of the Conservative Party, of which the Duke of Richmond and Gordon was so prominent and distinguished and influential a Member, as hopeless with regard to the great question of Irish Land Reform, which he believed to be, and which he believed they knew to be, not merely an economic question, but a political and social question of the greatest gravity and urgency. He had one more hope, with the expression of which he would conclude. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph. Churchill) closed his speech the other night by the utterance of a fervent prayer, which did him every credit, that that might be the last Coercion hill he might over be called upon to support. Prophecies were dangerous things, and especially in the case of Ireland, for they had all, Irishmen as well as Englishmen, been slow ever to learn the needs of Ireland, and 284 had not always understood them —perhaps did not understand them then. He did not say that a Land Bill, however generous, however good, was a panacea for the ills of Ireland or the sole remedial legislation she required; but he had for some months given, he might say, the whole of his time and the whole of his heart and mind to this question, in which he took the deepest interest, and he was bound to express the hopefulness he felt with regard to the future of Ireland after the passing of a great, a generous, and a just measure of Land Reform; and he believed, looking back into the past, that there never was yet a time—not the time of Catholic Emancipation, not the time of Church Disestablishment, not the time of the Land Act of 1870 —when as Englishmen and Irishmen they were so near, if they could but see it, to a true, a real, a hopeful solution of this great Irish trouble as when they should have passed, as he trusted they might yet pass, a measure of Land Law Reform which would give security and a sense of security to the Irish tenant, which would multiply the proprietors of the soil of their country, thus giving a fair and, he believed, not a deceptive or delusive promise of a future for Ireland of peace and progress, with order undisturbed, beneath the safeguard of the ordinary and Constitutional laws of this United Kingdom.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
would not have risen to address the House but for the fact that hon. Members below the Gangway had held themselves out as the Representatives of the great majority of the Irish nation, instead of describing themselves as that minority of Irish Members who wished it to be supposed they represented all the intelligence of Ireland. It had been recently shown by the Prime Minister that by no possibility could that section of the Irish Members be taken as more than 46 out of 10 5, or 45 per cent of the whole. He believed that that was a liberal estimate; but he would accept it for the sake of being for once in the same boat with the right hon. Gentleman. It had been the burden of the song repeated ad nauseam by hon. Members below the Gangway that the general opinion of the Irish people was against this measure of coercion, as they were pleased to call it. He could not pretend to speak the opinion, as he knew nothing about the opinion, of the 285 rebellious and disorderly, with whom a I certain number of the Irish Members had recently been in the closest and most intimate relations.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
I rise to Order. Is the hon. Member in Order in stating of many hon. Members of this House that they have been recently in close and intimate relations with the rebellious and disorderly?
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member charged hon. Members of this House with rebellion no doubt it would be out of Order; but I did not understand him in that sense.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
said, he claimed to be one of those who represented the opinion of the majority of the Irish people on this question—the intelligent. the honest, the law-abiding, the lovers of order in Ireland, those who had some stake in the country, whether they were farmers, or traders, or merchants, or professional men. Of these the vast majority were in favour of any measure by which the present discieditable state of things in Ireland could be brought to an end. Those classes were not afraid of the operation of the Act. Why should they be? No orderly or law-abiding citizen need be. The clients of hon. Members below the Gangway, the assassin, the incendiary, the inciter to sedition, the writers of infamous letters, the miscreants who, with the courage of numbers, and under the cover of darkness, perpetrated those offences against the laws of God and man, of which the House had heard too much of late, were the men who were afraid of the operation of the Act. Honest men did not fear it. On the contrary, they wished for the day to come when the Bill would become law, for they knew that with that day would come a collapse of the ruffianism which had too long pervaded the country. He believed that if the great majority of those who were under the influence of the Land League could safely speak their minds, they would unhesitatingly denounce the doctrines preached by that League; but they were prevented expressing their real opinions and independent convictions because they knew what the consequences to themselves would be, and the evils to which they would be exposed at the hands of the agents of the Land League. The senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), speaking in 286 reference to the Bill the other evening, said that he had heard Irish landlords state they would use the Coercion Bill to enable them to clear their estates of their tenants before the Land Bill became law. The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) forestalled him in challenging the hon. Member to mention the names of those to whom he referred. The hon. Member declined to do so publicly; but promised to let the noble Lord have the names in private. Well, his noble Friend had shown him the names given to him by the hon. Member; and he held in his hand letters from each of the two noblemen named, and a more emphatic denial could not be penned than that which they gave to the statements of the hon. Member. He would not mention the names publicly as they had not been so mentioned already; but one said—He had distinctly to state that he had no communication with Mr. Labouchere of any sort or kind on any subject since about June, 1880; and, consequently, it was absolutely untrue that he could have stated to Mr. Labouchere that he intended to use the Coercion Bill as a means to clear his estate before the Land Bill became law.The second contradiction was in somewhat similar terms. The writer said—Mr. Labouchere has entirely misunderstood and misconstrued any remarks that may have fallen from me in his hearing, for I deny in toto ever having made any such statement.He thought those letters would show that a gross calumny was never sought to be supported by a more unfounded statement emanating from a perverted imagination. With reference to the case of Lord Dun-ally, if the hon. Member for Northampton had taken the trouble to inquire, he would have found that the facts did not justify the construction he put upon them. There was no ground for the statement that it was the practice of the noble Lord to fine every young woman about to marry one half her fortune; but, it was the practice on the estate to fine the tenants for the renewal of leases. The statements in the noble Lord's letter had reference to that practice, and none whatever to the social arrangements of the families. The hon. Member for Northampton, and also many other Members, had endeavoured to show that there was no connection between outrages and threatening letters; but he should be able to show, from the Return itself, the utter fallacy of such an argument. The first case he 287 would take was on page 53 of the Return that extended from February to October. On the 18th of September, Lawrence Griffin, who was caretaker over a farm from which the tenant had been evicted, received a threatening notice; and in the month of December an armed party visited the house and cut off Griffin's ear. Lord Mountmorres received a threatening letter in February, and in September he was murdered. Case No. 137, on page 122, was that of Dr. E. Gibbings and Mr. R. V. Stoney; a notice threatened the life of any person taking a farm just surrendered to them; and case No. 144, on the next page, was the burning down of the dwelling house on the farm on the 19th of October. Before the date of the Returns in the King's County, a man who had taken some land from which a tenant had been evicted received notice that if the hay upon it was drawn he would be shot; and he was shot, in broad daylight, as he was drawing the hay. On page 7 was recorded the murder of Mr. Charles Boyd, on the 8th of August; and from page 24 it appeared that on the 24th of September the father, Mr. J. Boyd, Mr. J. T. E. Boyd, and Mr. F. A.' Leigh, were threatened by a notice posted on a gate. It spoke of "Death to the Boyds and all land robbers," and stated that the writer was watching Messrs. Boyd and Mr. Leigh, and that their day of doom was near. On the 6th of October Mr. T. Boyd received a letter threatening that he would be done away with like his son. On page 119 there were; the details of the murder of David Feerick, in the county of Mayo. He died on the 14th of August of wounds received on the 29th of June. Before his death, his medical attendant, Dr. Kelly, received a letter threatening that he would be treated like Mr. Feerick, should he recover. Could any hon. Member affect to believe there was no connection between crimes and threatening letters? He should insult the intelligence of the House by attempting to demonstrate the connection. It was amply shown by the instances he had given, and they could be multiplied indefinitely, had he had time to analyze the Return thoroughly. It was incontestable that there was a distinct connection between threatening letters and outrages.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
continued, that it was necessary that the majority of Irish Members, as well from the West as from the North and the South, should be heard; and he felt it important that the statements of the hon. Member for Northampton and other Members about threatening letters should not go uncontradicted. In supporting a Bill which he felt to be necessary for the protection of all honest men in Ireland, of all classes and grades, as well as for the suppression of criminal practices, he did so under a deep sense that had the proper steps been taken to check the growth of this evil in its earlier stages, the responsibility which now lay upon the shoulders of Her Majesty's Ministers would not, as it now did, come between them and their rest.
§ MR. WILLS
said, that, as an English Member, he had no personal connection with Ireland; but he did not on that account feel the loss interest in that country and its people. He believed that English Members were actuated by the same desire to act justly and generously to Ireland as they were towards Scotland. It was, however, with a feeling of disappointment and pain that he realized the fact that they had not succeeded in securing the confidence or concurrence of the Irish people in much of the legislation they adopted towards them. He was afraid that the spirit in which they had of late years approached Irish legislation had not been that best calculated to win the sympathy of the Irish people. That would be found to be the case if they looked back for a century and a-half; but he now believed that there were brighter days in store for that country. Having much faith in the intentions and goodwill of the Government, he trusted that the promised Land Bill would do much to re-unite the two countries, and to remove grounds of discontent in Ireland. He should have been glad if the Government had seen fit to bring in the Coercion Bill and the Land Bill concurrently, or, at least, had seen its way to place in the hands of hon. Members the draft of the proposed Land Bill. He had a strong conviction that coercive measures were not remedial measures; and if the Bill before the House stood alone he should hesitate in 289 the course which he was about to take. He only regarded the Bill which was now under consideration as a portion of the Land Bill which was to be brought forward; and, in adopting the Coercion Bill, he believed that the House would be preparing the way for that legislation on which they had placed so much reliance as likely to satisfy the Irish people. He had listened to speeches on both sides of the House in reference to the list of outrages placed before them; and while he admitted that they were not all agrarian, he was not prepared to say that they were, as an hon. Member had said, "deceptive or dishonest." He believed that the Chief Secretary had made out a case in which he had shown that the law was paralyzed, and the functions of social life were seriously interfered with, and that life and property required protection. The powers asked in the Bill by the Government wore of a large, wide, and comprehensive character. Members on both sides of the House had, over and over again, stated that the extraordinary powers ought to have been applied for before this, and others had thought they ought never to have been applied for; but he thought the truth lay between the two extremes, and the Chief Secretary had been guilty of no undue haste in the matter, and had not asked for strong powers until he found that they were absolutely necessary. When the powers were conferred upon the Government he hoped that they would have such an effect that it would not be necessary to exercise them; but, in all circumstances, he believed that the measures would be enforced fairly and humanely. He hoped that before the measures expired the Chief Secretary would have the satisfaction of being able to announce that he could do without exercising them. He regarded the measure as a temporary one, and he hoped that the Administration might see its way to excluding its retrospective action. But he had confidence in the Government that they would not abuse their powers, and that they would bring in a measure which would be of great benefit to Ireland. He believed that it preceded a measure that would bring friendship between England and Ireland, and, at the same time, give protection to life and property in the latter country. Therefore, in what he believed to be the real 290 interest of the two countries, he said he should support the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. BELLINGHAM
said, he could not help thinking that coercion for Ireland was altogether a mistake. He admitted that much that was objectionable had taken place; but the ordinary law was quite sufficient to cope with it. What he particularly objected to in the Bill was the retrospective clause. This was ex post facto legislation, which was always bad, and out of harmony with the traditions of the House of Commons. Even The Irish Times, which was not in favour of the Land League agitation, had described the Blue Book outrages as "trumpery trivialities," re-duplicating the offences, and altogether disapproved a Bill founded on such evidence. He was not surprised at a Coercion Bill being brought forward by a Liberal Government. There had been 48 Coercion Bills since 1830, and of these 33 had been brought in by Liberal Governments; 15 only had been introduced by Conservative Governments, and out of those 15, seven were the work of a Coalition Government, called by Mr. Disraeli a "Government of organized hypocrisy." With regard to the present Coercion Bill, why it was so particularly obnoxious, coming from the present Government, arose from the fact that both before the Dissolution and during the General Election the Prime Minister and his Colleagues did nothing but go about appealing to the passions of the people They raised hopes among the Irish people which could hardly be realized. Having come into power with a sweeping Radical majority, during their first Session they did nothing for Ireland except to bring in the Compensation for Disturbance Bill; but the less said about that unhappy measure the better. After that they adopted the "shillyshally" policy. They called Parliament together a month earlier than usual, and brought forward one of the strongest Coercion Bills that had ever been introduced, and they had since employed themselves in seeking for precedents to coerce the Irish Members of that House. Certainly, if the Tories scourged the Irish with whips, the Whigs were scourging them with scorpions. The Government had well repaid their dupes who spoke so highly of them when they came into Office, and would 291 be remembered in future as the Government of recklessness, rant, and rust. The Irish people were quite as loyal, and, indeed, more loyal than the English; but they had never had fair play. No doubt there was a majority against them; but it was a majority of English and Scotch Members. The majority of the Irish people were totally against coercion, and looked for remedial measures. The present movement was wholly unlike that in 1848. There were no secret societies now. The present movement was neither Radical nor revolutionary. Of course, all outrage and crime was wrong; but there was nothing illegal in agitation. If the gentry bad acted fairly and justly to the people, adopting the national sentiment and acting in accordance with the national tone, and bad come forward in 1873 to lead the people in the Home Rule movement, the present agitation would not have developed in the way it had done. Some 30 years ago the then Mr. Disraeli said he thought the only way to govern Ireland was to get rid of the English institutions which had been imposed on the country, and to re-construct the social system on a plan the reverse of that existing in England. At present it was neither one thing nor the other; it was not English, it was not Irish; and while, on the one band, they were denied equality, on the other they were not allowed to govern themselves according to their own ideas. He protested against this Bill, and be hoped for the sake of his constituents and himself, and of all those who were fond of their country, that after that odious and immoral measure of coercion they might have at last the benefit of remedial measures for Ireland.
§ MR. RODWELL
said, that the hon. Member for the County of Limerick (Mr. Synan) asked upon what possible evidence Scotch and English Members could be asked to pass this Coercion Bill? He (Mr. Rodwell) could not understand why the question was asked in the presence of such evidence as was now before the House as to the disordered state of Ireland. The evidence in support of the Bill was not only abundant, but more than abundant. Even without those statistics, the accuracy of which might in some instances be called in question, be believed the people of this country would be convinced that a Bill like 292 that was necessary for the better government of Ireland. Any Gentleman who had any connection with Ireland, as he had, must for the last six months have been receiving letters which showed that there was something wrong in that country, and that greater security for person and property was absolutely required. He would lay aside the Charges from Judges and the Reports of the Constabulary, and still there was ample evidence to show it. It would be as idle to deny that they had bad Arctic weather of late because there might have been some variations in the bulb of the thermometer. Was it a fact that in Ireland the law was not obeyed? As a proof of that it would be sufficient to quote the not very choice, but expressive language of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy), a few nights ago, when be said that the law of the Land League had knocked the ordinary law of the land "into a cocked hat." That was an admission of the fact that the law of the Land League, which was no law at all, had superseded the ordinary law; and this fact showed, if anything could, the necessity of exceptional legislation for Ireland. The right hon. (Gentleman (Mr. Stansfeld) had referred to the Duke of Richmond and Gordon's Commission on Agriculture. He would not go into that matter further than to say that he had lately had an opportunity of seeing a great deal of Irish affairs; and he would make the frank admission that much of the prejudice which he entertained before had been removed by the evidence put before him. Facts were brought to his knowledge which satisfied him that in addition to the acts of violence and outrages commented on by his hon. Friend the Member for Leitrim (Mr. Tottenham), there prevailed in Ireland a system perhaps still more odious—the interference with individuals, and the compulsion put upon them, against their consciences and their wishes, to obey the orders of the Land League. He knew an honest, peaceable, inoffensive, and respectable man, occupying a large farm which had been held by his family for upwards of 100 years, and it came out that he was a member of the Land League. When asked was it true, he said, with a blush upon his face, that it was. When further asked why he had joined the League, he answered— 293The laws of my country could not protect me, the Government could not protect me, and I was obliged to join the Land League to obtain protection for my family and myself.
§ MR. RODWELL
said, that when that Bill was passed he would give the name. That fact spoke volumes; but did anyone suppose this was a solitary instance? He believed there were thousands, and tens of thousands, enrolled under the banners of the Land League who had been brought into it by an odious and unrelenting form of conscription, and on the passing of that Bill the ranks of the League would be found to be very much thinner when its muster roll was called. When this man whom he had mentioned had been relieved, and knew that the law of the land would protect him, he would immediately withdraw from an organization of which he had never approved. It had been asked why the law was not put in force; and the hon. Member who spoke last seemed to intimate that the ordinary law was enough if put into operation. Other Members had also repeated that expression; but he (Mr. Rodwell) had considerable experience of the administration of the Criminal Law; and he would ask, what was the use of blaming the magistrates, the Judges, and the police, when the prosecutors themselves prevaricated, witnesses stood dumb, and juries dare not convict in consequence of the power of those very men who were guilty of illegal practices? He felt quite sure the Members of the Government would be the very last men to bring in this Bill if they were not satisfied there was occasion for it. He could well understand that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright), and the whole of the Cabinet, felt annoyed by the ingratitude which the Irish people had shown them; but the Chief Secretary was only doing his duty to the public, and to the majority of the Irish people. The hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. O'Kelly) made a statement the other night which struck him (Mr. Rodwell) very much at the time; and, in order to test the accuracy of that statement, he had made an analysis of certain Returns which would satisfy everyone that the statement in question was inaccurate, which was to the effect that the Coercion Bills had not been effective, and had failed in every instance in which they had been 294 introduced. That hon. Member also laid much stress on the assertion of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster— namely, that force was no remedy, and that outrages had gone on in spite of coercion. If coercion had not been a specific, he (Mr. Rodwell) could show, both by positive and negative evidence, that it had the effect of reducing outrages in a marked and particular way, and he could also prove that in the absence of coercion crime had increased. From 1835 to 1840—he would not give the intermediate figures—the number of outrages in the first year was 10,350, and they gradually diminished until 1840, when they got down to what was a large number in one sense, but a small number in another, the number being 4,069. That was less than one-half. In 1840 the Coercion Act expired, and from 1840 to 1845 there was no Coercion Bill. Now, in 1841, the year the Coercion Bill was withdrawn, the number of outrages was 5,370; and he found they gradually increased year by year, until, in 1845, they came up to 8,095. These figures, therefore, disposed of the observation that Coercion Bills had no effect in preserving the peace. He (Mr. Rodwell) had shown, both from positive and negative evidence that such was not the case. What took place in 1846 and in 1847 they had better throw a veil over, for the sake of the public men engaged in the proceedings of those two years. The language which the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Bellingham) had quoted as coming from Mr. Disraeli showed that coercion was necessary for Ireland. It meant that they must have a strong Executive for Ireland, for Mr. Disraeli said that the laws and administration applicable to England were not applicable to Ireland. Mr. Disraeli must have intended to convey that the condition of England and Scotland, or the temper and disposition and habits of the people of those countries were such that they required the least amount of government consistent with order, and with regard to Ireland the habits and disposition of the people were so peculiar that they required the greatest amount of government consistent with freedom. The House had heard much of Constitutional freedom; but the question was, whether this Bill really interfered with freedom at all? What had the peaceable and loyal subject to 295 fear from exceptional legislation? This law, like all other laws, was only a terror to evil-doers. He (Mr. Rodwell) had been at a loss to conceive why so much stress had been laid on this. If he was to be told that those outrages, which included threatening letters, the mutilation of cattle, and murders, were not crimes, he, of course, had nothing more to say. But if it was admitted that these were crimes, and that the law was unable to meet them, then every one of those Members who opposed the Bill ought to vote in favour of it. He (Mr. Rodwell) had never given a vote in favour of any Bill with less reluctance than this. He could not say, however, that it gave him any satisfaction or pleasure to do so, because he regretted that the necessity for it had arisen. He had some sympathy with those who were misled by demagogues and conspirators; and he trusted the law would extend as much to the agitators as to the perpetrators of the outrages which had brought Ireland into her present miserable condition.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, he thought they should not only look at the number of outrages in Ireland, but also at their character. In the county he represented —Carlow—which had a population of 50,000, he saw that in November the returned agrarian outrages amounted to nine only, and that eight of those consisted of threatening letters and notices. He detested as much as anyone the practice of sending threatening letters, deeming it to be mean and despicable; but, at the same time, he thought it extraordinary that they should be gravely set down in official documents as agrarian outrages. He should be glad to know, if this Bill passed, whether those who wrote threatening letters would be any more accessible to the officers of the law than they were now. But, after all, the writing of a threatening letter was not an outrage which required coercive measures to suppress. It appeared to him inconsistent on the part of the Government to declare through some of its most eminent Members "that force is no remedy," and shortly afterwards to come to the House and ask for force as the only remedy. He regretted deeply that the Government had brought forward a Bill of such extraordinary severity, and he protested against the measure, believing that no ease had been 296 made out for coercion. He feared, however, there was sufficient strength behind the Government to enable them to carry measures which, however acceptable they might be in "another place," the great body of the House of Commons must lament. He understood that the Bill was aimed at a body called the Land League. He was not a member of that body; but he knew many respectable people, who would not think of joining any Communistic or revolutionary association, did belong to the League. He believed that the League was not responsible for the crimes with which it was charged. Two generations had passed since the Devon Commission reported in favour of all that was now asked by the Irish people; and it was sad to think that no single act of justice or reparation should have been done in their case, except because of some rebellion or disturbance. The result was that while there was no country in which individual Englishmen were treated with greater hospitality, the English Government was hated as no Government could he believed, be hated, unless it was, in a great measure, its own fault. There were at the present moment, he might add, 500,000 tenants in Ireland who were dependent on the will or humour or digestion of the landlords for their existence; and it was, he contended, in the interest of the two countries that that state of things should be put an end to, and that concord should be established between them by a policy of justice and conciliation, and not by a policy of exasperation, which would only serve to widen the breach which already existed. He was quite confident, however, that no Land Bill which they might introduce, no matter how good it might be, would be as acceptable as it would have been had it preceded a measure of coercion.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
said, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leitrim (Mr. Tottenham) was entirely mistaken in supposing that the opposition to the Bill was confined to those who sympathized with crime and disorder in Ireland, or who were supporters of the Land League. There were, he could assure him, thousands, who had had nothing to do with the agitation which had been set on foot by the League, who were entirely opposed to coercion, because they regarded it as a return to the bad policy of the past. For his own part, although 297 he had felt it to be his duty to separate himself from those Irish Member's who sat below the Gangway on the other side, some weeks ago, and should have done so in any case, on account of the tactics to which they had thought fit to have recourse within the last few days, he objected as much as they did to coercive legislation, and he should vote against the second reading of the Bill. He would, however, be no party to a policy of Obstruction and delays, be-cause, knowing the sentiments of the Irish tenant farmers, he was satisfied that they were anxious that a Land Bill should be introduced and passed into law as soon as possible based on the principles of fixity of tenure, fair rents, and free sale. He thought there could not be a more mischievous delusion than that the agitation, reprehensible in many ways as it had been, was entirely confined to the criminal classes, or was maintained by terror alone. If it had been maintained by terror alone it never would have attained the power it had. It appealed to the deep-seated feelings of the people of Ireland in other ways. There might be—there had been—terror; but that terror would not be effective without sympathy. They must go to the root of the matter; they must not be content with removing terror; but they must endeavour to dry up and cut away the sources of the sympathy.
§ MR. INDERWICK
said, it was not until he had an opportunity of seeing the Bill and its provisions that he satisfied himself, should it pass through the House, it would not create a bad precedent for future times of disorder, or in times of peace be used by great majorities in any adverse way to Her Majesty's subjects. Macaulay had laid it down that legislation of a retrospective character was wrong in principle if it brought within its operation that which was not an offence before it passed; but that it might be retrospective in character without danger if it only dealt with procedure. That was the case with the present Bill. It created no new crimes, no new offences. It did not give, whoever might be the authority, whether the Lord Lieutenant or Chief Secretary, power to deal with any person who had not presumably been guilty of some offence known to the present law. The effect of passing the Bill into law would be no alteration of the law as was sup- 298 posed; but it would be an alteration of the procedure under which the law was administered. It put, for a time, into the hands of the Executive a new form of procedure applicable to the state of things now existing in Ireland, and enabling the law to be administered. He had felt great difficulty, in the first instance, in supporting coercion at all. It was a measure necessarily of a character offensive to those professing Liberal principles. When, however, hon. Gentlemen quoted the number of outrages that had taken place in Ireland as not justifying the Bill which the Government had introduced, they were mistaken in the principle which they applied in dealing with the question. It was not a question of how many outrages or what class of outrage had taken place; but rather how many cases had the law failed to deal with. In some instances, in November, only 3 per cent of the crimes committed were followed by convictions; and any person acquainted with the administration of the law would at once see clearly what was the state of things then existing. The Bill differed very considerably from the Acts of 1848 and 1866, but the difference was in favour of the liberty of the subject in Ireland; and although the Westmeath Act of 1871 did not exactly form a precedent for it, yet the measure was a very careful model of that Act. The Government now had to deal with a similar state of things to that which existed in 1871; and under this Bill no person arrested could be kept in prison for more than one month without Papers being laid before Parliament showing the circumstances of the arrest, which circumstances might be challenged by any hon. Member. Such a provision was not to be found in previous Coercion Acts; and as far, therefore, as that clause was concerned, the Bill was framed in favour of any person who might be charged under it with any outrage or offence.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he did not propose to trouble the House with a second speech on the subject; but the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leitrim (Mr. Tottenham) had, in his absence, impugned some statements which he had made. It would be remembered that he had in his speech divided the landlords of Ireland into two classes— those who had purchased under the Encumbered Estates Act, and those who 299 were benevolent persons and had lived in Ireland for a long time. With respect to the latter, he said that, although benevolent, they were angered at their tenants not paying them their rents, and it was very probable that as soon as the pressure of the Land League was taken off they would insist on the rents being paid. The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) had asked him to name any gentleman who had said so, and he (Mr. Labouchero) naturally replied that he could not give names in public with respect to what was said in private; but he afterwards privately gave the noble Lord two names. The hon. Member for Leitrim now said that either he or the noble Lord who represented Middlesex had written to these two gentlemen, and one had stated that he (Mr. Labouchere bad misapprehended him, and the other that he had not seen him for a year. With regard to the first gentleman, if he had misunderstood him, of course he had nothing more to say; but he certainly did understand him to state that as soon as the Bill was passed he would institute proceedings in bankruptcy against those tenants who had not paid their rents. But with reference to the other gentleman, he had told the noble Lord that that person had said to him a year ago that he would not lower his rent, and that in the event of the tenants not paying he would evict them as soon as he could. His (Mr. Labouchere's) former statement was, therefore, perfectly correct. But the question did not depend upon what this or that gentleman said or did. It was self-evident that the intention of the Bill was to enable the ordinary law to be enforced in Ireland. The intention was that if a tenant owed rent and would not pay the law should stop in and make him pay. If this were not the intention, and if the landlords did not intend to act on this intention, why had the Bill been brought in? If the hon. Member for Leitrim really spoke for the landlords of Ireland, and really told them that after the pressure of the Land League was taken off the landlords would in no case evict tenants, this seemed to him to be the most powerful argument possible against the Bill, and he would suggest to Ministers that they should withdraw it, because they were—he would not say casting pearls be- 300 fore swine, for he would not call the Bill a pearl nor the landlords swine—but they were wasting the valuable time of the House, as it appeared the landlords neither required nor wanted the Bill.
said, this was no light or trivial matter. Disguise it as they might, call it a measure of protection, or of safety, or by any other name they pleased, the extraordinary gravity of the fact could not be disguised that they wore asked to consent to a measure, the effect of which would be to suspend, for a considerable period of time, the main guarantee of personal liberty in Ireland. He did not understand the feelings of any Irishman, whatever his political opinions might be, who could regard such a proposal without the utmost jealousy and dislike. They might have confidence in the impartiality of the Executive, and full belief in the desire of those to whom those powers were to be intrusted to use them with justice and even with generosity; but no Executive, however admirable, and no Administration, however just, could save them from the deplorable consequences which must flow from these proposals. What they ought to wish for Ireland was, that she should be governed, as this country was governed, by the respect which her people had for the law and the Constitution under which they lived. When they set aside that law and suspended that Constitution, they widened the breach which separated them from this state of things. The circumstances under which these proposals were brought forward were unfortunate in the last degree. These proposals were a source of apprehension and irritation at a time when the interests of Ireland required that a spirit of moderation and of justice should facilitate the settlement of a great social difficulty, and when it was most important that all sections of her people should loyally co-operate in the removal of grievances which were now generally admitted to exist. The sufferings of the Irish peasantry during the recent years of bad harvests and agricultural depression had attracted public attention to a condition of things which was a disgrace to humanity; and public opinion bad resolved that, so far as wise and just and careful legislation could remove this scandal and disgrace, no sacrifice of the time and labour of Parliament should be 301 spared to make that legislation effectual. What, then, could be more unfortunate than that the precious hours of this Parliament, hours destined and devoted to the sacred work of making good laws for Ireland, should be diverted from it to the humiliating task of restricting the liberties of the Irish people. Every hour taken for the purpose of this restrictive legislation was abstracted from the time which would be available for the consideration of those remedial measures—too long delayed—to which the whole population of Ireland was looking forward with anxiety and with hope. Every hour consumed in this ungrateful task prolonged the agony of hope deferred in many a cottage home, and kept every portion of the community in a state of most painful suspense and agitation. He had one object—and one object alone —in the part which he desired to take in these transactions; and that was to bring about, with the least possible delay, the adoption of those healing and remedial measures which would alone restore tranquillity and confidence in his country. He could not be blind to the fact that the golden opportunity which they now possessed might be as brief as it was rare, and that, whatever might be the strength and the direction of political forces in the future, now was their time and their opportunity. He should not consume the time of the House in the discussion of abstract principles; those vague and general propositions led to very little, unless there was a plain and earnest desire to apply them to existing difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman brought this measure before them on the only plea which could possibly justify it, the plea of absolute and extreme necessity. He assured us that without these exceptional powers the Executive could not be responsible for the maintenance of social order and the preservation of the public peace. The right hon. Gentleman had at his disposal sources of information which no private Member could possess; and on the strength of that information, and on the evidence he had laid before the House, he told them that he could not answer for the safety and security of the country if those powers were withhold. No one who had actual knowledge of Ireland, or any perception of the value of evidence, could doubt that a considerable portion of the country was in a highly excited and serious state. No 302 one could venture to deny that, among a people honourably conspicuous for their freedom from ordinary crime, acts which everyone must deplore had recently been committed. Everyone must acknowledge that the movement for agrarian reform—a movement arising out of the sense of agrarian wrong— had, like almost every movement of the kind in the history of the world, led to excesses and to violence, and to a confusion of personal rights which caused much suffering and alarm. Looking back upon the history of the Land Laws of Ireland, the injustice and the hardship which they permitted to exist; the rankling sense of wrong and injury which they fostered; the blank despair which they engendered in many a peasant's heart; and the utter failure of protracted efforts to obtain adequate redress, he thought no impartial historian in future years would wonder at, or even greatly blame, the passion and excitement of the present time. It had been said with truth by a great authority that in the country of all Europe where the system of land tenure was most important, that system was the worst. They heard a great deal of the Land League and the despotism it exercised. He should not be suspected of seeking the favour of the Laud League; but he desired to speak of it with justice. When the Land League was first formed no one watched its progress with greater interest and anxiety than he did. He watched its proceedings with attention, and not without sympathy, and he earnestly wished that he could see his way clear to join it. It seemed to him eminently desirable that a body should be formed which would combine the forces of the occupiers of land in Ireland in a great and determined effort to put an end for over to the scandal and the misery of the land system. Well, he was not able to join the Land League, because it soon put forward a statement of its views as to the settlement of the Land Question which seemed to him neither wise, nor just, nor reasonable, and it adopted methods of enforcing those views of which he could not approve. He did not join the Land League, because it was impossible for him to do so without acting in direct contradiction to the opinions he had always expressed on the Land Question; and, as it seemed to him, without 303 doing violence to those principles of justice and of order which were the foundation of society. Though he could not join the League, he felt bitterly his exclusion from the privilege of working heartily in a combined effort with the mass of his countrymen in the great cause of Land Reform; and if he had any pleasure, or hope, or satisfaction in remaining in Parliament, it was that, in the only way open to him, he might still take a part in that great and necessary work. The scruples which kept him away did not deter—who could expect that they would deter—the poor and suffering peasantry from joining the only organized movement which promised them relief. The result was the great agrarian agitation with which they were face to face to-day. He was not going to make any attack upon the Land League. He recognized and admired the remarkable ability with which it had been conducted. He believed there were to be found in its ranks men who were animated by a sincere love of their country, and a passionate indignation at her wrongs. He believed there were men in it also who deplored any acts of violence or outrage that took place, and would prevent them if they could. But could any man in his senses deny that acts of violence and outrage did take place, and that the ordinary law was powerless to prevent them? He was struck with what his hon. Friend the Member for Longford said, that those outrages were the work of the scum and residuum that belonged to every movement, who sought to avenge their private wrongs under the guise of belonging to the Land League. That might be so; but the fact remained that the offences did take place, and whether they wore the result of the violence and excitement which so often followed in the wake of a great political agitation, or whether they were the acts of persons who used that excitement as a cloak for the gratification of private malice, the condition of public feeling and the state of the country were such that the law was impotent, and these offences went, for the most part, undetected and unpunished. These were the circumstances under which they were asked to grant the Executive special powers. Those who were responsible for the peace of the country declared that the ordinary powers of the law had been tried and 304 were not sufficient. They assured us that the exceptional powers they asked for would be effectual, and they based their appeal on the strong ground that the first duty of Government was to meet the necessities of public order, and to guard alike the rich man's mansion and the poor man's cottage from outrage and attack. The principle of coercion was odious to him; he hated it and he shrunk from it; but he could not find it in his conscience to incur the tremendous responsibility of refusing powers which those who were best informed considered necessary, and which he himself believed to be necessary for the protection of the lives and liberties of the people. He could not do his feelings the violence of going into the Lobby in favour of this Bill—that was a humiliation and a sorrow which he felt he might spare himself; but he should not offer it any opposition. When violence and outrage proceeded from injustice and a sense of wrong, the wrong and the injustice should be redressed; but crimes, from whatever cause they might proceed, must not be permitted to go unpunished. He could not consent to the sacrifice of privileges so precious and invaluable did he not feel convinced that without this temporary sacrifice it would be impossible to restore to Ireland the public peace and social order, which were the foundation of all freedom. If anything could diminish the pain which he felt, it was his confidence that these powers would be intrusted to a Government, the composition of which was a guarantee against the apprehension of abused authority. He must confess, however, that great as was his hatred of anarchy, he had so profound and deep a sense of the magnitude of the evils arising out of the present state of the Land Law in Ireland, that he could support no Government which he did not think was prepared to give his country not only peace, but justice. He did believe that the present Government were resolved to accompany the exercise of these powers with full measures of concession and conciliation; and he thought they must feel that the very circumstance of their having to come to Parliament with this painful request laid upon them an additional obligation, and enhanced, to the very utmost, the responsibility they had undertaken of submitting to Parliament, at the very 305 earliest opportunity, full measures of redress and of justice. He regretted that Her Majesty's Ministers had not seen their way to give more ample information as to the character of their remedial measures. He felt sure that if they did so the effect would he to mitigate, to a remarkable extent, the apprehension and anger which their restrictive measures would undoubtedly arouse. It would be a great gain to have set the minds and hopes of the people at rest by a full statement of the intentions of the Government before this strain was laid upon them. He should venture to express a hope that, at the very earliest opportunity, this information might be afforded. They knew, however, that the introduction of remedial measures depended upon the state of Public Business; and, therefore, it seemed to him to follow, as a matter of necessity, that, subject to the due and proper discussion which, he fully admitted, the gravity of this occasion demanded, those who were in earnest in desiring to see remedial measures introduced and carried into law should deprecate and deplore the undue prolongation of intervening debates. There were two ways of obstructing a measure, and there might be two classes of Obstructives. They could delay the passing of a measure by discussing at inordinate length the measure itself; they could delay it just as effectually by impeding the progress of any measure which preceded it. Hon. Members opposite from Ireland were very anxious to delay the progress of this measure. Let them take care that they were not pulling the chestnuts out of the fire for the natural and traditional Obstructives with whom they had elected to sit. It might be that he did hon. Members opposite of the Tory Party injustice when he said that they might probably be not unwilling to impede and to delay the remedial legislation of the Government; but to secure consideration and delay was said to be their special function in the political system. Of this he felt assured, that if they sought seriously to hinder the application of remedial measures to Ireland, they did not understand Ireland, they did not understand their own interests, and they did not understand the interests of those whom they thought they were serving. Every day, and every hour, that these remedial measures were deferred was a misfor- 306 tune to Ireland, and to every class and section of her people. When Charles I. asked Selden what was the best way to put down a rebellion, Selden answered, "Remove the cause." He (Mr. Blen-nerhassett) hoped there would be no rebellion in Ireland; but he was sure that if anything would do so, Tory policy would make one. There was, however, a social disturbance and upheaval of the most serious character, and a condition of things now existing in that country which could not be met by the old and bad remedy of mere force. They talked of the excesses of the peasantry and the violence of the Land League They had brought about those excesses, and ex-cited that violence, and made the Land League possible by their long and obstinate and unwise resistance to reasonable and just demands. He saw danger to the landlords and the propertied classes of Ireland; but it was danger which arose not from the proposal of wild and impracticable schemes, but from their own folly and blindness. Mr. Macaulay, speaking from this place, once described the fall and the exile of the French noblesse and the ruin of their abandoned homes. And, he asked, why were these haughty nobles destroyed with that utter destruction? why wore they scattered over the face of the earth?—their titles abolished, their escutcheons defaced, their parks wasted, their palaces dismantled, their heritage given to strangers? Because they had no sympathy with the people, no discernment of the signs of their time. Because, in the pride and narrowness of their hearts, they called those whose warnings might have saved them theorists and speculators; because they refused all concession till the time had arrived when no concession would avail. It would not do to shout for coercion, and to denounce the leaders of agrarian agitation, and to talk of force, and fraud, and folly, if they had no suggestion to offer for the settlement of a great and pressing difficulty, if they did not seriously desire and determine to put an end to a state of things which, if it were not firmly and wisely dealt with before it was too late, would assuredly produce results which all hon. Members would bitterly and in vain deplore. Let him remind hon. Members of what a great man had said, in words as wise as they were eloquent— 307The true secret of the power of agitators lies in the indolence or faithlessness of those who ought to take the lead in the redress of public grievances. The whole history of low traders in sedition is contained in that fine old Hebrew fable which we have all read in the Book of Judges. The trees meet to choose a king. The Vine, and the Figtree, and the Olive decline the office. Then it is that the sovereignty of the forest devolves upon the bramble; then it is that from a base and noxious shrub goes forth the fire which devours the cedars of Lebanon.He should despair of the future of Ireland if he saw no prospect before her but coercion and restraint. He did not despair, he was full of hope; because he saw close at hand a remedy, not for the external symptoms merely, but for the deeply-rooted source of her disease. He remembered once being told by a great statesman, who had a long and varied experience of public life, and had himself filled the great Office of First Minister of the Crown, that in every Administration of which he had any knowledge—and he believed it to be true of all Administrations—the guiding and controlling force was practically wielded by not more than two or three Members of the Cabinet. Well, looking at the strong men in the present Cabinet, and they could all form their ideas as to who those strong men were—looking at their past record and their achievements, could any reasonable man imagine that those men would be guilty of the weakness and folly—he had almost said, the madness and wickedness—in this grave and supreme crisis, of introducing a measure dealing with the Land Laws of Ireland, which was not a great and a comprehensive measure, and which did not possess, so far as any political arrangement could possess, the elements of permanence? He could not believe it. He was obliged, by his common sense, to accept with confidence the assurance of the Chief Secretary for Ireland that it was the intention of the Government to introduce a measure this Session which would thoroughly reform the Land Laws of Ireland. What was his (Mr. Blennerhassett's) plain duty as a Land Reformer under these circumstances? It was to interpose no unnecessary obstacle between the Government and the fulfilment of their pledge. Obstacles might be interposed which would render impossible the passing of any Land Bill that Session. If that were done, then he said deliberately that 308 those who interposed such obstacles would be directly responsible for the ruin and the loss of the best chance of justice that Ireland had had within the lifetime of any man of this generation. He knew there were hon. Members who thought that this question of coercion was a supreme question, and who felt bound on principle to oppose it under any circumstances and at any sacrifice. He fully admitted that their course in so doing might be patriotic and conscientious; he hoped it would be also wise and prudent. Let hon. Members look at these practical affairs as practical men, and with a view, not merely to the passions of the passing hour, but to the long future which lay before the people of Ireland. Hon. Members might hinder the Land Bill; they could not hinder the Coercion Bill. The general feeling of Parliament and of the country undoubtedly was that there did exist in Ireland a dislocation of society— a paralysis of law, which fully justified the Government in demanding these exceptional powers. It had been abundantly proved that the great majority of this House was determined that these powers should be granted; and it was only a question of a few days, or a few weeks, when this should be done. Those days or weeks could not affect the principle of coercion. The loss of them might destroy—the impatience and resentment aroused by the waste of them might indefinitely postpone—those measures, the result of which he hoped and believed would be, for the future, to entirely remove the necessity for coercive legislation. Let hon. Members vote against this Bill; lot them place on record their rooted aversion to its principle; lot them exercise the function to which the action of the minority in every deliberative Assembly in the world was confined—the function of protest and of objection; but let them not filch from the Irish people— from the 500,000 tenant farmers of Ireland who were waiting in anxiety and in pain for the assurance of security in their homes—the precious hours which were pledged to their service. For his own part, he could not offer this measure any opposition. He was anxious to see the excitement and alarm which undoubtedly existed in Ireland put an end to, and the guarantees of public safety and order made secure. Poverty and destitution prevailed through the length and breadth 309 of the land, because industry and enter-prize were paralyzed by terror and anarchy. He regretted the privations of landowners and the anxieties of farmers; but he felt still more deeply for the misery and suffering of the thousands of unemployed and famishing labourers.—"I wish men to be free,As much from mobs as kings—from you as me.He did not believe that the dignity of any nation could be impaired by taking necessary measures to repress and to terminate those distempers of society, which, though they might arise from injustice and a sense of wrong, were in themselves the gravest injustice and the most cruel wrong.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, that though he might admire the sentimentality of the hon. Member who had just sat down he could not concede that he was logical. The hon. Member had informed them that he was of opinion that nothing but remedial measures would bring back peace to Ireland; and yet, when no remedial measure was before the House, the hon. Gentleman was willing to allow coercion. He had cut out from two leading organs of public opinion connected with the Ministry passages referring to the probability of remedial measures being carried this Session. One of these organs was The Daily News, the legitimate supporter of Her Majesty's Government, and that journal said—If this Coercion Bill of the Government is sure to pass it is by no means so certain that a satisfactory Land Bill will receive the assent of the House of Lords.The other authority from which he desired to quote was The Standard, which, though not on terms of legitimate connection with the Government, notoriously basked in the sweet dalliance of Ministerial endearments. The Standard said—It is perfectly certain that any Bill which may contain any absolute proposal for fixity of tenure will not have the slightest chance of becoming law this Session.These organs of public opinion were not so hopeful as the hon. Member who had just spoken. A measure of coercion for Ireland, a measure to compel the people to respect the ordinary law, or, in other words, to allow evicting landlords to carry out evictions unchecked, was, therefore, extremely dangerous, in view 310 of the probability that no adequate Land Reform would be permitted to pass this Session. Her Majesty's Ministers placed the necessity for coercion on the ground that outrages in Ireland were not the necessary consequences of terrible wrongs operating over a wide area and a large population, but were due to artificial and fictitious causes, such as the Land League agitation; but he denied that there was any foundation for such an argument. It had been said that the Land League meetings were the cause of agrarian crime in Ireland; but it did not by any means follow that the antecedent of a thing was the cause of that thing. He found from the He-turns that an increase of the Land League meetings was by no means followed by an increase of agrarian crime. On the contrary, in several counties agrarian crime diminished as the number of Land League meetings increased. He would confine himself to the cases of two Irish counties. In the county of Westmeath, in 1879, only one Land League meeting was held, and the number of agrarian crimes that year was 36; in 1880 the number of Land League meetings rose to 16; but, instead of there being a great increase of agrarian crimes, the number of them was one less than in the year 1879. In county Down 23 Land League meetings were held in 1879, and there were only 10 agrarian crimes; in 1880 the number of Land League meetings fell from 23 to 6, but the number of agrarian crimes rose from 10 to 20. It might please the Government to contend that the holding of Land League meetings was the cause of agrarian crime; but would it not be as just to contend that agrarian crimes were the cause of holding Land League meetings—that in counties where agrarian outrages were being committed Land League meetings were held for the purpose of turning the minds of the people from outrage to Constitutional agitation as the proper mode of remedying their grievances? If a Conservative Government had brought in a Coercion Bill, and had sought to justify that Bill by Returns of this kind, and if a Member of the Conservative Government had risen to say it was clearly proved that Land League meetings had caused agrarian crimes from month to month and from year to year, no less a distinguished orator than the right hon. 311 Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) would have risen, and, with all that power and eloquence which belonged to him, would have reminded the Government that the Returns they had laid before the House proved, at least, as clearly that the leaders of the people set up a system of public demonstrations for the purpose of diverting the minds of the people from agrarian crime, and of directing them to the sure path of Constitutional agitation. If the Irish people had cast away all faith in English Liberalism, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government could well answer the question, Who had given them bitter cause for losing that faith? If it were admitted by the Liberal Party that the agitation in Ireland was caused by crying wrongs and by intolerable grievances, the proper remedy for that agitation would be, not coercion, but remedial measures. Did the Returns prove that the agrarian crimes in Ireland were due to the factious organization of the Land League, or to a desire on the part of individuals to redress their personal wrongs? He contended that the latter was the fact, and could cite a number of cases from the Returns in support of his view of the matter, which was that agrarian crime in Ireland had followed agrarian wrong. The cause of the illegal conduct of certain Irish tenants was to be found in the deliberate neglect of Her Majesty's Government to give to them the protection they had a legitimate right to claim. The Land League had diminished the number of outrages; and as long as its members continued in their present course, whether openly pursued or in the occult manner into which the Government seemed determined to drive them, they would be able to defy any coercive measures which the Government might see fit to direct against them. The wonder was that the outrages had been so few. With the same grievances in England or any other country in Europe there would have been a wholesale Jacquerie. He denied that trades unionism, which was among the recognized forces in England, had done anything for the protection of the workmen beyond what was proposed to be done by the Land League for the protection of Irish tenants. He further denied the assertion, so freely made in the face of the facts, that trades unionists 312 had not resorted to the commission of outrage for the purpose of securing the objects for which their Associations had been established. Then, with regard to the Corn Law League, notwithstanding the statements that had been made on the subject from the Treasury Bench, he challenged denial of the fact that the leaders of that League had been accused of inciting to crime in their day, just as leaders of the Land League had been accused of inciting to crime in the present day. The Land League had been discredited by the acts of unworthy members, just as had the trades unions and the Corn Law League in times gone by. He trusted that no efforts would be made to injure the cause of Land Reform in Ireland by laying to the charge of the Irish Members ulterior motives in what they had done. The Irish Members might or might not consider that forced and reluctant extortion of Land Law Reform would be a powerful argument against the continued rule of Imperialism in Ireland; but if Her Majesty's Ministers wished to weaken that argument in the mouth of the hon. Member for Cork, or any of his Colleagues, the only way it could be done was to show that Reform was not extorted from Parliament, but granted. The Government were assisting the cause of the Irish Separatists when they insisted upon framing coercive measures when remedial measures were required. As matters now stood, the Government could not be honest in their demand for the submission to ordinary law in Ireland. They did not, he believed, wish the Irish tenantry to submit to that law. They even trusted that the landlords would not attempt to carry out that law; and if the landlords made use of their brief term of grace to do so, he was convinced that the sympathies of nine-tenths of the Liberal Party would be with the rebel tenant who resisted, at any cost, every attempt to level his roof over his head, and to steal his property out of his pocket during the supremacy of the ordinary law. The Government proposed that this Bill should extend over 1882. Was the Government aware of what centenary 1882 was? It would be the centenary of the Revolution which emancipated Ireland 100 years ago from the yoke of British rule. It would remind the Irish people of the days of the Volunteers, and drive deeper into every 313 Irish heart the conviction that never again would Ireland be free and happy until she had reversed the work of 100 years ago.
§ MR. BUTT
wished that the hon. Member who had just sat down had given them a little more of the reality and a little less of the jargon of logic. It was hard to see the logical connection between the hon. Member's argument as to the Land Bill and the measure immediately before the House. The case of the Government in support of their Bill was that in Ireland the law of the land was powerless, and that another law was set up in its stead— namely, the law of the Land League. If that were not so, there was no ground for the Bill; if it were so, then it was idle to speak of the effect of bringing in a Land Bill. The first duty of the Government was, in that case, to restore and assert the supremacy of the law. He thought many hon. Members would agree with him in protesting against the notion that speeches delivered in the earlier part of the debate by Members below the Gangway on the Liberal side, and which contained little or nothing but condemnation of the Government, and little but approval of the Land League and its leaders, were approved by a large section of the Liberal Party. The question they had to decide was mainly one of evidence. Was there evidence that a state of things existed which called for some measure of repression? It was in itself a considerable fact that the Ministers of the Crown assured Parliament that it was so. That was met by Irish Members asking them to believe that the two Ministers mainly responsible—the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary for Ireland—were turning traitors to all the traditions of their past career, and for the mere love of coercion, despotism, and tyranny were proposing a measure of coercion which was wholly unnecessary. That was a strong proposition, considering what were the antecedents of those Ministers. They were the two Ministers who must have been most disinclined to propose coercion if they could avoid it, seeing that they were mainly responsible for the non-renewal of the Peace Preservation Act last Session, which the Leader of the Opposition warned them was a serious mistake. Their mortification in having now to ask for measures of coer- 314 cion should entitle their statements to the greatest weight. With regard to agrarian outrages, they had been excused on various grounds; and the hon-and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell) seemed to think that there were numerous village Hampdens in Ireland. But the village Hampden, as he was known in England, could not be recognized in the gentleman who stood behind a hedge and took a pot shot at his landlord and then ran away. How were some of the outrages on cattle met by hon. Members? It was suggested, forsooth ! that sheep had fallen over cliffs and had deliberately gone into drains to commit suicide. He recollected a case of sheep-stealing, where it was said the sheep had had its throat cut, and the counsel for the defence was arguing that, as there was a five-barred gate in the field and the iron hinge was broken, it was quite possible the sheep might have cut its own throat against the broken hinge; but the Judge interrupted him, and said—I can understand the possibility of the sheep cutting its throat on the iron hinge, I can oven understand how the sheep might commit suicide; but I cannot understand how he came to skin himself and hang himself up in the prisoner's back yard.He commended that story to the attention of the hon. Member for Northampton and the hon. Member for Wick-low. A sort of excuse had been put forward for the houghing of cattle. It was said that it was a traditional crime, a custom of the country in Ireland, and that it originated in this way. Some of the better lands adapted for grazing were cleared of their tenants, and sheep and cattle replaced them; and it was asked—Was it not natural that the peasantry should look on sheep and cattle as their enemies? He had heard no such cruel insinuation against the Irish peasantry as this suggestion, which came from Irish Members, and which would place them so low in the scale of rational beings as to be incapable of distinguishing between those who placed the cattle there and the wretched creatures they were accustomed to maim and to kill. He should vote for the second reading of this Bill, because he believed they were in presence of a crisis which demanded the support of every loyal subject of the Queen of such measures as Government deemed necessary for 315 the maintenance of peace and the restoration of law and order in Ireland. While voting for the Bill lie entertained a fervent hope and firm belief that a large remedial measure would follow quickly on the footsteps of coercion. He believed there wore wrongs under which the people of Ireland suffered. He sympathized with the people; but not with the men by whom they were betrayed into acts of outrage and crime. As for the Land League, he could conceive no better object of attack by such a measure as that proposed. There was little difference between the advice of its leaders to pay no rent or to pay no unjust rent. If the tenant was to be himself the judge, the people might as well have been told at once to pay no rent at all. The leaders of the Land League advised the people not only to pay no rent, but to persuade their neighbours to pay none, and even to coerce and threaten them. That, as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said, was a sad way to commence reforming the Irish peasantry, teaching them to behave dishonestly and in breach of good faith. The Land League had had a certain measure of success in its operations, and it never could have had that measure of success if there had not been deep down in the heart of the people a sense of injustice. It was upon a basis of that kind that the Land League had been raised; but it was from the reign of terror which had been created that its power was really derived. The threatening letter, the midnight visit, the incendiary fire, if need be murder, these wore its ministers; it was on these mainly, if not on these alone, that it relied. If he understood hon. Members aright, they rather gloried in the fact that the Land League had superseded the law of the land. He did not understand them to deny that under its auspices Courts had assembled aping the authority of the Queen's Courts, and had visited with punishment those who were honest enough to pay their rents. Hundreds and thousands of tenant farmers were willing to pay if the dark shadow of that organization had not been thrown across their path, and a voice they could only disobey at the peril of outrage to themselves, their families, and their property had not dared them to be honest. He would be told that the leaders of the Land League had not counselled, but 316 had reprobated these things. He would like to know when that reprobation began and what was its nature. When in the course of the agitation had there been an honest, manly, indignant denunciation on the part of the Land League of the crimes committed in its name? Day by day in the early months of the autumn he had road in the public papers outspoken incitements to murder and outrage uttered at Land League meetings in the presence of leaders of the League, and he looked to see if there was any manly horror expressed at these outrages; but he looked in vain. The hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell) made a speech at Ennis, in which he said, as reported in The Times—Now, what are you to do to a tenant who takes a farm from which another tenant has been evicted?It was said that the word "unjustly" should have been inserted before "evicted;" but the Prime Minister had dealt with that. For his purpose it was immaterial. In answer to the hon. Member's question several voices cried out, "Shoot him." What was the reprobation of the hon. Member for Cork City? Did he turn on the cowardly ruffians and express his horror and detestation and loathing at such a mode of redressing a political or social grievance? Not at all. The anger and indignation of the hon. Member was reserved for the contemplated victims of murder and outrage, and he had not a word of reproof for the wretches who suggested it. The hon. and learned Gentleman then quoted the well-known passage in which the hon. Member for Cork City said he would point out to them a much bettor and more Christian way—namely, to shun him on the roadside, in the shop, on the fair green, in the market place, and even in the place of worship. The Chief Secretary had justly said of that plan that, short of murder, it was the most cruel that man could conceive. [A laugh.] Hon. Members might laugh; but their notions of what was Christian and his were not the same. In another speech at Cork on the 3rd of October the hon. Gentleman said that when people uttered such weak and puling sentimentality about the suffering inflicted upon the lower animals, and when so much was hoard of an occasional resort to the wild justice of revenge, he was entitled to point out that for the lives of one or two landlords that had been 317 taken the lives of 25,000 people had been extinguished. ["Hear, hear !"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheered that statement; but he ventured to say that, considering the excited state of Ireland at the time those words were used, it sounded painfully like a suggestion that murder was justified by the sufferings which the people had gone through. He did not believe that the hon. Member for Cork City meant to suggest violence. He did not believe the hon. Member imagined his words would have a fatal effect; but when they wore told that the Land League leaders reprobated crime, he thought it could not be conceded that they ought to get credit for anything of the kind. On the 11th of October, in The Times, there was a speech delivered by the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) at a Land League meeting on the previous day. "Suppose," said the Member for Cavan, "a tenant is evicted, you must take means to have him put in possession again." Then the hon. Member for Cavan pointed out what would happen to the man who took the farm from which a tenant was evicted. They need not injure the man or his cattle; but "they could take care that his cattle would stray out of the land. His fences would fall down, you know." Was that reprobation of outrage and crime? He would not say that in his view it was an encouragement to crime; but he would say it was a pity that hon. Members opposite had not used in Ireland some of the vigorous language they reserved for that House. It was said that there was a conspiracy on the part of the English Press and the English people to traduce and libel the people of Ireland. Nothing could be more untrue. He listened with impatience to these complaints of Irish Members.Quis tulerit Gracchos de seditione querentes.There never was a time when the people of England were so anxious to apply remedial measures to the ills of Ireland; and the reason the House was not now engaged in considering measures of that nature was because the so-called friends of Ireland had come down and carried opposition to this Bill to the verge of decency and propriety, thereby preventing the Government from introducing the Bill relating to the Land Question which they had pledged themselves to bring forward.
§ MR. MACNAGHTEN
said, it was his misfortune that he made his first appearance in that House on behalf of a measure which, whatever its proper description or primary object, coercion or protection, was a disgrace and a reproach to Ireland and to England. He should have preferred giving a silent vote; but it was because he was an Irishman and an Irish Member, representing a constituency second to none in Ulster in wealth and intelligence, and to none in the United Kingdom in love of order and respect for the law, that he felt bound to place his views before the House. He believed it was the general wish in Ulster—he knew it was the universal wish of the people of Antrim—whether Liberals or Conservatives, landlords, or tenant farmers, or men employed in business, that this Bill should pass, and pass without delay. It was not that the Ulster people liked coercion—they disliked nothing more. It was not that they disregarded the Constitutional rights of the Irish people; but they were a hard-headed, practical set of men, of whom he was proud to be one, and they took a common-sense view of this matter. They wanted liberty, not as a theme for eloquent declamation over the wrongs of their country, most of them dead and buried these 50 years, but for ordinary, everyday use in the daily business and intercourse of life. They thought it better that the Constitutional rights of a portion of the Irish people should be suspended for a while, that honest men might go about their business, free to contract obligations, and free to discharge those they had contracted, than that men should live under a reign of terror, which made itself felt among all classes of people by clay and by night. These were the views of his constituents, no inconsiderable portion of the Irish people, let him tell those hon. Members who were always assuming to speak on behalf and in the name of the Irish people, who thought they should be heard for their much speaking — and whom hon. Members opposite accepted as the delegates and plenipotentiaries of the people of Ireland, though they had never yet persuaded half of the Irish Members to follow them into the Lobby. He should give an unflinching support to Her Majesty's Ministers; he would not, therefore, trouble the House with many more 319 words, as the subject had been so fully dealt with already. It was no time for argument. The Queen's Judges in Ireland had told them that the ordinary law was powerless, and they knew that that was true. Returns had been laid upon the Table to show the exceptional state of the country; and all that could be done on the other side was to enter into minute criticisms on the way in which those Returns had been calculated, and into particular cases. The Chief Secretary, he regretted to say, had condescended to follow that method of dealing with the question, and had shown that whichever way the Returns were calculated they came to the same thing. It was hardly worth while to do so. The hon. and learned Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan), who closed the debate on Friday night, and who was always listened to with respect, did not trouble himself with such petty details. He discussed the Star Chamber and other matters of historic interest. He said that the Chief Secretary was a good and well-meaning man as long as he stayed in England; but that when he went over to Ireland he fell into the toils of the Castle officials and came back an altered person, and converted his Colleagues. And the hon. and learned Member asserted that the Ministers were deluded by fabricated outrages. How could they deal with an assertion like that? They could only smile, for no one seriously believed it. [Cries of "Oh, yes!"] No one could believe it except those who believed that the person who was the other day re-committed to prison, and, as he thought, very properly, was, in the words of the Manifesto which they had all read, a counsellor of tolerance, restraint, and prudence. They had all read his inflammatory harangues, and yet he was hold up as a counsellor of tolerance and restraint. If any proof were wanted that the Government was pursuing the right course in bringing forward this measure, it would be found in the singular lull and absence of outrage since Parliament had met. That lull could not be due to the departure of the leaders of the Land League from Ireland, for they declared that they had persistently set their faces against outrages, and had endeavoured to prevent them. It was duo to the determined attitude of the Government — to the shadow of coming legislation. He had 320 lately been reading the Charge of Mr. Justice Lawson, who was formerly a highly-respected Member of that House, and Attorney General for Ireland. In his Charge to the Grand Jury of Antrim at the late Winter Assizes Mr. Justice Lawson described the state of things which was spreading from other parts of Ireland into Ulster, and under which even the Judges and officers of the law were sought to be intimidated, and a new law set up, to the exclusion of that of the Queen. The people of England, he said, were slow to move. They thought so in Ulster during the long months when Parliament was not sitting, and when this agitation was slowly creeping up to their doors, and the Intelligence Department of the Land League—with wonderful sagacity and unerring instinct —was marking out the places in Ulster most suitable for attack—places where discontent and disaffection might be found—that there they might establish their branches, and sow the seed of disorder, class-hatred, disloyalty, and dishonesty. During those months of inactivity many hard thoughts of England and of the Government prevailed in Ulster. They thought that when the law was notoriously helpless it was hardly necessary to make it supremely ridiculous by a State prosecution, with a foregone and foreknown conclusion. They thought that the demoralization even of one Province in Ireland was a high price to pay for the temporary cohesion of the Liberal Party; but, as Mr. Justice Law-son added—There slumbered in the arm of England a giant's strength, which could, in a short time, put an end to the proceedings of that disgraceful conspiracy against law and order in Ireland.That time had now come; and the people of England, and with them all those in Ireland who loved law and order, demanded the passing of this measure. When this Bill was passed, law and order, he believed, would speedily be restored. He did not think there would be many arrests. There would be a flutter and an exodus and an emigration. Some citizens of a Transatlantic Republic would revisit the land of their adoption. Some of our own people, whose presence could well be dispensed with, would leave our shores; but there would be few arrests. Should it be otherwise, lie, for one, preferred the liberty of the many to the licence of the 321 few. He would rather see 50 or 100 rogues closed up within stone walls, than that 153 honest men who had committed no wrong, who had done nothing to disentitle them to the protection of the law, should walk about in a living prison, guarded and walled in by police-con-stables, in order to save their lives and persons from outrage and violence, and that in a country which called itself civilized.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Sir George Campbell.)
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
expressed a hope that the Motion would not be pressed at that early hour (12 o'clock).
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
May I be allowed to speak upon the question of adjournment? ["No!"] Then I will withdraw the Motion?
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
remarked that during the various discussions which had taken place upon the question before the House up to the present time, he had thought that, in the public interests, the best contribution he could make to the debate was silence. But now that the question had come to be debated upon the second reading, he felt unable either to vote or to abstain from voting without giving some explanation of the course which he intended to take. His whole position was a very peculiar one—as peculiar as that which was occupied by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). The Royal Speech from the Throne declared that it was necessary to intrust greater powers to Her Majesty's Government, and to reform the laws regarding the land of Ireland. In the debate which followed upon the Address in Answer to that Speech he had cordially and heartily supported Her Majesty's Government, because he was decidedly of opinion that additional powers were required; but when it came to a question whether a Coercion Bill should altogether 322 precede the Land Bill he confessed that he had considerable doubts on the subject. Personally, he should have preferred that measures for the repression of crime and remedial measures in regard to the tenure of land should go hand in hand together. As regarded the particular Bill now before the House, and looking to the peculiarity of its character, he confessed that he entertained considerable doubts about it. But, in present circumstances, he might have been prepared to accept almost any measure from Her Majesty's Government which they deemed necessary for the maintenance of law and order, if he had also an assurance that a Land Bill would immediately be passed. He had no doubt that it was the intention of the Government to introduce a Land Bill. What he did doubt was whether it would be in the power of the Government to pass a Bill in the way they expected; and for this reason—If the Land Bill of the Government was a weak Bill it certainly would not satisfy the people of Ireland; and the situation, instead of being improved, would be rendered still worse. On the other hand, if the Government brought in a strong Bill, then he thought the great Conservative Party, notwithstanding the aid they were giving to Her Majesty's Government in passing a strong measure of coercion, and the suspiciously zealous support they were now giving to the present Bill, would probably turn round and not hesitate to have recourse to the obstruction which they had lately so energetically denounced. Nor was it improbable, when the Land Bill came on for discussion, that it might arouse the opposition of that powerful Whig element of which so much was heard last year when the Bill regarding Compensation for Disturbance was before the House last Session. In considering the question he could not but call to mind the fate of that Disturbance Bill. He remembered that it was strongly opposed in the House of Commons by the Conservative Party and by the Whig element. It was carried nevertheless; but what was its fate when it went up to "another place?" He could not help fearing that the Bill for remedial measures, which was to follow upon the measure for coercion, might not improbably share the same fate. It must not be forgotten that the Conservative Party were under the guidance of a great tactician, and it was not impossible that 323 the tactics of that great political general might be these—He knew that a strong opposition might be maintained against the Government Land Bill; that if the Bill passed in the House of Commons it might be thrown out in the House of Lords, and that then a Dissolution of Parliament might be forced on the Government, because it would not be possible to abolish the House of Lords without, in the first instance, appealing to the country. If a Dissolution were brought about the people of England would, he hoped, be set up against the people of Ireland, and there would necessarily be much heat and excitement in consequence of which the Conservatives might in this view possibly obtain a new lease of power; and, in that event, it was possible that no Land Bill would pass after all. These were some of the reasons why he felt inclined to doubt the expediency of bringing in a Coercion Bill so completely ahead and so much apart from a Land Bill. He was anxious next to say a word as to the character of the measure which Her Majesty's Government had submitted to the House and the country. He had examined that Bill very carefully; he had compared it with the Coercion Bills which had preceded it; and he was bound to say that it seemed to him to be a stronger, wider, and a more coercive measure than almost any Bill that had hitherto been submitted to Parliament. Hardly any other Bill introduced in recent years would bear any comparison with it. It was infinitely wider and more stringent in its provision. There was one measure which, in some respects, was parallel with it—namely, the Westmeath Bill. But the Westmeath Bill was confined to a comparatively small area; and, even in that small area, its provisions affected a limited number of persons—namely, the Ribbonmen. It was by no means so wide as the present measure, the provisions of which were to be applied, not only to all persons actually committing crimes, but to any person who was suspected of inciting to a breach of law and order. It was a tremendously wide and stringent Bill. The nearest approach to it was the Coercion Bill passed in the year 1833 by the Government of Lord Grey. It was, he thought, much to be regretted that, whenever a Liberal Government came into power with large Liberal majori- 324 ties, that it made its first mark by introducing a very strong Bill for the coercion of the Irish people. He had lately been reading the life of a distinguished relative of his own—the late Lord Campbell—and he found that the first duty he had to discharge, when he was Attorney General and Chief Law Officer of the Crown, was to assist in preparing and conducting the Irish Coercion Bill of Lord Grey's Government. Lord Campbell described how he undertook the task with extreme dislike and even loathing. Nevertheless, on comparing the Bill of 1833 with the one now proposed by Her Majesty's Government, it would be found that there were some respects in which the former was a less coercive measure than the present one. Dublin was exempted from the operations of Lord Grey's Bill. One very important fact was that the Bill of 1833 was not retrospective. It was brought in to put a stop to infinitely larger and greater disorder than now existed, and to infinitely greater crimes; but it was accompanied by an announcement of remedial measures. Instead of being brought in without a proposal for remedying the existing grievances, there was a distinct announcement of the measure which the Government intended to introduce for the abolition of the obnoxious tithe system, which, at that time, was the cause of much of the disturbance and discontent. And not only was the Bill of 1833 not retrospective, but it was provided that no man could be kept in prison for more than three months without being brought to trial. No doubt, there was in that Bill a provision of a very startling nature, because it provided that any man who was brought to trial within the three months might be tried by court martial. No man had a greater horror than he had of trial of civilians by court martial. But he felt bound to say that there was one thing worse than trial by court martial, and that no trial at all. Under the Bill of 1833, it was necessary, after a man had been tried by court martial and convicted, that the sentence should be confirmed by the Lord Lieutenant. By the present Bill, the arrested person was not to be tried at all, but simply to be confined in prison by the order of the Lord Lieutenant. Then, again, there was one part of the present Bill, which had been put in by way of safe- 325 guard, with regard to which he entertained very considerable doubt. It was provided that a list of all persons in custody should be laid on the Table at the beginning of every month. With regard to that provision, there was one question he wished to ask. Was that list to be submitted to Parliament, in order that it might be made the subject of discussion and revision by the House of Commons? If it was not to be the subject of discussion by the House, it would be a farce to submit it; if, on the other hand, it was to be subjected to the discussion of the House, and hon. Gentlemen opposite (the Home Rule Members) were to be allowed to discuss every case submitted, he felt bound to say that the remedy would be worse than the disease, for the whole of the legislative work of Parliament would be inevitably stopped and rendered impossible while the discussion of these cases was being carried on. Therefore, he was of opinion that the measure of 1833, stringent as it was, was a measure preferable, on the whole, to the Bill now submitted to the House by Her Majesty's Government. Another great objection which he entertained to the Bill was that it did not provide a permanent settlement of the Irish Question. Look at the history of the last 50 or 80 years of the present century. What did they find? Why, that one-half of the time of Parliament had been taken up in considering and passing successive Bills for the coercion of the Irish people. And they were usually Coercion Bills brought in by Liberal Administrations. He was compelled to say that such a condition of things was not good for Ireland; nor was it good for Great Britain. He confessed that he was one of those who thought that the people of Ireland were not fitted for the same amount of liberty which the people of this country enjoyed. At all events, they were not fit to enjoy the same form of liberty which we possessed. It was unfortunate that there should be any attempt to give excessive freedom to Ireland at one time and too little at another. We were continually taking away its freedom, and there was too much tendency in the policy of England towards Ireland to oscillate between excess of freedom, and an entire absence of freedom, brought about by excessive coercion. The history of the last half 326 century, so far as Ireland was concerned, presented a white ground with continual black patches over it, occasioned by the constant oscillation between extreme freedom and extreme coercion. It was impossible, in his opinion, to establish a worse system for the interests and well-being of a people, than a continual oscillation between excess of liberty and no liberty at all. He would not say that the people of Ireland were unfitted for freedom and liberty; but there were peculiarities connected with them which rendered them only fit for partial liberty and freedom; and it was much to be lamented that, instead of modelling their institutions so as to leave them in the enjoyment of the liberty which was best suited to them, we gave them excessive liberty at one moment, and then found ourselves compelled to introduce a strong Coercion Bill the next. He was not so sanguine as to hope that even if Parliament passed a satisfactory Land Bill they would convert Ireland into a Paradise. Having regard to the experience of the past, he was not so sanguine as to hope that at one blow any remedial measure would make Ireland wholly contented. There would be people who would still be discontented and dissatisfied; and it would be found necessary, he was afraid, to bring in more Coercion Bills. Under present circumstances, his belief was that the matter was not so urgent as had been supposed, and that crime in Ireland was not more prevalent than it had been in other years. For instance, it was by no means so prevalent as it was in 1833, or in 184G, 1847, or 1849. So far as the total number of serious outrages in Ireland were concerned, he found that the state of country in 1833 was 50 times worse than it was now, and not only so, but that there were four times as many outrages committed in 1846; four times as many in 1847; and three times as many in 1849. There existed a far larger amount of disaffection in those years, and there were more murders and crimes of an atrocious character. These wore reasons why, he thought, the House should take a little more time before they proceeded to pass the present Bill; and in that time they might be able to pass a remedial measure of a permanent character, which would do away with all necessity for coercion. They ought to take away some of the excess of freedom which was con- 327 ferred upon Ireland, but which was not good for the country; and then there would be no necessity for introducing Coercion Bills from time to time, which took away freedom altogether. The House had now taken measures which had effectually cut the claws of Obstruction. The Resolution arrived at the other night would make it impossible that anything like unreasonable Obstruction would be attempted in future. He, therefore, thought that it was not only possible, but expedient, to devote a little more time to the careful consideration of this question; and when they had done so they would be able to pass a measure which would not be so extreme in its character, and by no means, if he might so speak of it, as crude as the present Bill. Instead of being merely temporary, the measures they would be able to pass might be made permanent, and could be made to have a more lasting effect in regard to the administration of justice in Ireland. He spoke with some experience when he deprecated the present system of trial by jury in Ireland. He had had wide experience in connection with the administration of justice in a country whore the population were of different races; and that experience convinced him that it was a system totally unfitted for such a country as Ireland; in which there existed differences both in regard to race and in regard to religious and many class hatreds. Trial by jury, as it existed in England, was a very good thing for a homogeneous people; but where there were differences of race and of class, he was of opinion that trial by jury was incompatible with good government, and with the regular administration of justice, especially when it was accompanied by that monstrous superstition which required a jury of twelve men to bring in a unanimous verdict. It was impossible to work such a system with success in such a country as Ireland. He admitted that in England, where the system was indigenous, trial by jury, with a unanimous jury, did work in a sort of a way; but it would be impossible to make such a system work either in Scotland or France, or in almost any other country, and he believed that it was impossible to make it work well in Ireland. His view was, that if they were to retain the jury system, they ought, at all events, to get rid of the 328 unanimity now enforced, and have the verdict of a majority—say of nine to three, or something of that kind.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must call the attention of the hon. Member to the fact that the jury system is not the Question before the House.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
would apologize to the Chair for having transgressed the Rules of Order, and he would not continue in the same line of argument. By way of excuse, he would submit to the Chair that his argument was that a better Bill might be brought in by Her Majesty's Government than the one now under consideration, in which the jury system might be modified. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, in his speech the other night, alluded to the difficulty in obtaining a verdict. His (Sir George Campbell's) view was that, although it might not be possible to deal completely with the Irish jury system at the present moment, it might be possible to introduce a system of summary trial, which would be very much better than the system of no trial at all. He did not suggest a return to summary trials by court martial as in 1833; but summary trials by two or three competent men, neither unpaid magistrates nor captains, but men who might even be sent over from England to assist in conducting the administration of justice. Indeed, he thought they might profitably borrow something from the Scotch system, under which the whole administration of justice was placed in the hands of competent judicial officers, regularly appointed and trained for the duty. Again, he would go a step further, and say that he thought such provisions might be introduced into the Bill that it might be possible to arrest and judicially to detain a man against whom, although suspicion existed, there was not sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction in the ordinary form. He was aware that at times it was extremely difficult to obtain that amount of evidence in Ireland; and in India, under the now code of procedure, prepared by most competent men, when proof amounting to strong suspicion only was forthcoming, it was then competent to a proper tribunal to confine the accused for a certain period, under a judicial decision that strong suspicion existed, the evidence being placed on record. That course he strongly recom- 329 mended to Her Majesty's Government as being, in his opinion, infinitely better than the provision of the Bill before the House. He thought it undesirable that a man should be imprisoned for 18 months without any means of ascertaining that the nature of the evidence or suspicion on which he was confined was well founded or not. Having had constant experience of the working of police and intercourse with police, who found themselves unable to deal with crime, he would say that whatever might be the merits of the Irish police, they were, in his opinion, extremely inefficient in the detection of crime. Policemen so situated were constantly saying that they new the offenders, but that there were difficulties in the way, and they could not get evidence. The proposed system seemed to him vexatious and irritating, and likely to introduce a sense of injustice amongst the people of Ireland. His view was, that in case the Bill, after being read a second time, was referred to a Select Committee, it should be an Instruction to the Committee to limit the term of imprisonment to three months, and make provision for a summary trial. He confessed, with the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord RandolphChurchili) that he should vote for the Bill with considerable distrust; but, on the whole, in view of the large majority which sup-ported it in the previous stage, and the promise of the Prime Minister that the Land Bill would soon be forthcoming, he deemed himself justified in voting for the second reading.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Schreiber.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Tomorrow.
§ House adjourned at half after Twelve o'clock.