§ 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.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. SCHREIBER
said, he was very much afraid that that debate had reached a stage when those who addressed the House would find it easier to say what was true than to say what was new. If so, he hoped they would receive the indulgent consideration of those hon. Members on both sides of the House whose frequent eloquence had caused the strait in which they found themselves. In any case, he could promise the House that he, for one, should not retaliate at any length. Now, Parliament having met on the 6th of January, and that being the 8th of February, if he were asked what he had been doing for the last 33 days, he should say he had a strong impression that he had been listening, with more or less patience—sometimes with more, sometimes, he admitted, with less, but always, he hoped, with patience—to "second reading" speeches on that Bill. But, as there was an end to all things—even, as somebody had said, to Wimpole Street—so he hoped that they were now within "measurable distance" of the end of that debate. And he thought that the House might well be ready for the decision of a vote, because, as it had seemed to him, the strongest arguments in favour of that Bill had been supplied by those who had opposed it most. Surely, no one who did not want that Bill ought to have proclaimed the existence in Ireland of an "unwritten law" in conflict with the law of the land, and resting on a "public opinion" hostile to those who obeyed that law. That was to throw down a challenge which no Government could decline and live. To that challenge the necessary and inevitable answer was that Bill. In like manner, to parade the supremacy of the Land League —what was it but to compel those on that Front Bench, and who had recently taken the "Queen's shilling," to vindicate the Queen's supremacy? Well, then, had hon. Members from Ireland 354 the slightest idea what an impulse in the country had been given to that Bill by the kind of opposition it had met with here? Why, they had simply created one of those occasions, rare enough now-a-days in England, when "none were for a Party, but all were for the State," and when Her Majesty's Ministers having got into a mess—a mess very much of their own making—the country expected of Her Majesty's Opposition that they would do their best to get them out of it. He held that the strongest arguments in favour of the Bill had been supplied by those who had opposed it most, and that the proposal of the Government had received a great impulse from that opposition. Recent events had "educated" the House to understand that a measure of repression could also be a measure of relief, and that there lay a real danger to freedom in the abuse of free institutions. "They gave us the Constitution for their purpose; we will use it for our own," were the memorable words of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), to whom he (Mr. Schreiber) was sorry to be obliged to allude in his absence. Yes; but then the hon. Member must be content to use it "lawfully;" and, as in that House so in Ireland, laws must be made for those who could not be a law unto themselves. Such were the contributions, or some of them, which had been made to the ease of the Government by the opponents of that Bill; and what had they done to weaken it? With regard to the state of Ireland, they had the statements of Her Majesty's Judges that there was a breakdown in the administration of justice, and a failure of trial by jury; but the opponents of the Bill had not shaken that question at all. How did they grapple with the statement in Mr. Justice Fitzgerald's Charge to the Grand Jury at Cork, that "we had to deal with an armed population?" They did not grapple with it at all; but if the same light and airy criticism was to be applied to that statement as was used with the Blue Book upon "outrages," perhaps the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) would tell them that the population of Munster armed themselves for the purpose of shooting blackbirds! Speeches of that character had been made, which had only stopped short—if, indeed, they had stopped short 355 —of trifling with their intelligence. But the House had been told that outrages in Ireland were fast diminishing. If so, it was due to one of two causes. If to the fear of this Bill, what greater encouragement could they have to proceed with it? If to the orders of the Land League, it was still more their duty to persevere; because it had been shown that they had to face a dangerous and subtle organization, which worked by outrage when its object was to intimidate, and by suppressing outrage when its object was to re-assure. Again, the Government was urged to allow remedial measures to accompany, or to precede, their measures of coercion. That suggestion appeared to him to be based on a total misconception of the "real nature of things;" certainly, of the "real nature of Irish things." There was nothing that the Irish people so much despised as weakness in their rulers; and if, before the Queen's authority was restored in Ireland, they were to confiscate the interest of every landlord in the soil, and make a present of it to the Land League, the gift would be received with no feelings of gratitude, but rather of contempt. He might say that the Chief Secretary might be an "angel from heaven;" but if he were not a firm "angel," or if the people of Ireland did not think he was a firm "angel," he would never be able to govern them to his own satisfaction or to theirs. He would ask them by all means to be just towards Ireland, because this country had wronged her in the past; and he would ask them to be generous towards Ireland, as this country was rich and she was poor; but, in mercy to her, let them first be firm. And now he would make an earnest and respectful appeal to Irish Members, for their own sakes, and for the sake of Ireland, not to protract their opposition to that Bill in any manner inconsistent with the best traditions of that House. If they did, they would be guilty of great injustice to themselves; for their great ability, the industry and courage which they undoubtedly possessed, would, in that event, be worse than wasted. If they did, they would be guilty of great injustice to Ireland; for a recent visit to his constituents had taught him that a "policy of exasperation" was the very worst way to obtain for Ireland the patient consideration of her wants. The fact was, that they 356 might lead the English people but they would never drive them; and when they saw Irish Business always before that House, attended by ceaseless discussion "how not to do it," and involving the exclusion of all Scotch and English Business, they were hardly being prepared to give the most favourable reception to an Irish Land Bill. The deep interest which he must over take in Ireland had emboldened him to indicate a danger which he hoped might be avoided. If it was not, then on the hon. Gentlemen who sat below him (the Home Rulers) must rest the responsibility of having thwarted the generous purpose of a Parliament whose goodwill to Ireland knew, he believed, no limits save those which reason and justice must impose. He thanked the House for the patience with which it had heard him. In view of all the grave circumstances in which the country found itself, he should give the Government his humble support, reserving for himself, to a more convenient season, the consideration as to how far they deserved it.
MR. J. COWEN
said, he was painfully conscious that any appeal to the Government to abandon, or even to modify, the harsh and, as he believed, the fatal course of policy they had entered upon, would be unavailing, He felt so keenly, and he differed so widely, on this question from most of the Gentlemen near whom he sat, that he would gladly have been silent. But when a man was placed in a position in which he was compelled to give expression to his opinion, the fact that he was in a helpless, hopeless, and—at this time, as he knew—a despised minority, only rendered the necessity for his speaking the more urgent. It was no pleasure to him to be in constant conflict with political associates. But neither fear of Party "Boycotting," nor despair of success for the cause he pleaded, freed a man from the honest utterance of unpalatable truths. It was a melancholy and mournful reflection that the British Parliament—80 years after the Union which was to bring peace and prosperity to Ireland—should be occupied in formulating a ukase that would place the liberties of the Irish people at the caprice of a prejudiced and perplexed police, a maddened magistracy, and a bewildered Government. For seven sad centuries, English rule in Ireland had 357 been little else than a dreary round of starvation and agitation, conspiracy and insurrection, followed by brutal repressions and reprisals. They might not un-profitably preface the concession of the despotic powers that the Government were demanding of them by inquiring why it was that a people endowed with so many active and splendid faculties, possessed of so many noble arid attachable characteristics, and with whom we had lived in enforced connection so long, should repudiate our rule, rejoice at our disasters, and proclaim their undying conviction that there was no hope of social or political betterance from an English Parliament save through the horrors of an incipient civil war? Why was there this unending enmity, this enduring distrust between the two peoples? There was never a smoke but there was a fire. The fire in Ireland had smouldered for centuries, and every decade it burst into a blaze. No people—not even Irish peasants—would risk their liberties, imperil their lives and their properties, for political changes, if there wore other and easier modes by which reform could be obtained. Less than 150 years ago Scotland was in rebellion for the heir to the House of Stuart. Now she was one of the most loyal, prosperous, and contented portions of the United King dom. Ireland, under the same Sovereign, was distressed, disloyal, disaffected. Why was this? In that "why" lay the kernel of the whole question. The inhabitants of no part of the earth's surface were more supremely wretched than the people in the West and South of Ireland. Destitution was their permanent condition. It was the classic land of misery. "In a climate soft as a mother's smile, on a soil fertile as God's love," the Irish peasant mourned. Thousands—or rather, tens of thousands —of Irishmen had found that material prosperity in other lands which had been denied them in their own. But they carried to their new and happy homes the treasured wrongs of centuries. Neither absence nor distance could soften their hostility to those whom they regarded as their oppressors. Englishmen, he knew, winced when the sepulchres of history were unearthed, and the winding-sheets and skeletons of buried crimes were revealed. There was a great man now lying dead at Chelsea—no man less of a Revolutionist, less even 358 of a Radical, than he was—yet he affirmed, on a memorable occasion, that England was suffering—righteously suffering—for 15 generations of wrongdoing to Ireland. The sins of the fathers had been visited upon the children. There were memories of the past that Irishmen could not permit to sleep. The Government paraded the offences that had recently been committed in that country—paraded them, he often thought, offensively and unnecessarily. But the Chief Secretary ought to lay some of these outrages at the tombs of their Predecessors rather than at the door of the much-derided Land League. We had inherited a legacy of hate, which we and our children would have to discharge. We were not guilty for the past, but we were responsible for it. This consideration ought to modify—and he believed it did modify—the criticisms of some Irishmen on English rule. The Government professed themselves to be anxious to deal generously with Irish grievances. He did not doubt their sincerity. But they went a somewhat strange way about their work. It was not the deed, but the spirit in which it was done; it was not the gift, but the temper in which it was given, that made it acceptable to those who received it. The Government's promise of ameliorative legislation had been prefaced by one of the hardest, harshest, and most hateful Coercion Bills that had ever been submitted to the Legislature. Things, too, had been done and said in the progress of that measure that had grievously embittered the relations between the two peoples. The acrid speeches that had been made, and the atrabilious writings that had been published, would rankle in the minds of Irishmen for years hence. They had acted like the pouring of oil on the blazing brazier. ["Oh, oh!"] Some hon. Gentleman said "Oh, oh!" but he must have a very imperfect knowledge of the history of mankind if he did not know that for one conflict between nations that had arisen over material disputes, five had arisen out of sentiment, or from a sense of offended honour. It was only a few years ago that the Government of this country had to pay—and to pay smartly, too—to a friendly State for the offensive comments made respecting that State when its people were in all the throes of civil war. Some, too, might 359 recollect the experience of the second war between this country and America. An Englishman of distinction visited the United States after that lamentable encounter, and had an interview with one of the loading Republican statesmen. He inquired of him how it happened that America had commenced war with such precipitation. General Gushing assured our countryman that the Americans went to war, not for so many square yards of territory or so many ounces of gold, but to vindicate their national reputation from the sneers of Mr. Canning and his Colleagues in Parliament, and the rancorous comments of the English Press. If the hon. Member behind him still cared to call in question his contention, he (Mr. Cowen) could supply him with other historical illustrations that would uphold the argument he had started—that people were influenced in their love or their dislike of each other by other than material interests. Englishmen either could not, or would not, realize what the Irish people thought and felt. The shout of savage satisfaction that went up from the Ministerial Benches when the Home Secretary, a few nights ago, jauntily announced that he had sent a noble Irishman back to slavery, had sown a crop of ill-will and animosity which the present generation would not see reaped. They might sneer at, they might denounce and deride a dominant nation with impunity; but the same criticism addressed to a sensitive, suffering, and subject race cut them to the quick. Until the English Parliament and the English people realized the force of this, the abyss between the two countries would be broadened rather than contracted. Hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House complained of the severity of the speeches that had been delivered from the Opposition Benches. They ought to recollect the provocation under which the Irish Members spoke. There were those there who had been in English prisons—not one, but several of them. They knew what the tender mercies of British rule were under a Liberal Administration, when exemplified through the provisions of a Coercion Act. The iron had entered into their souls. There were men, too, there, who were the sons or relatives of evicted tenants, who, when children, had seen their families with their humble effects turned 360 on to the bleak hillside—landless, houseless, and homeless, where there was nothing before them but the highway and the workhouse. The smug, self-satisfied, well-to-do, middle - class Englishmen might talk of such events with complacency; they might, with affected moderation, seek to underrate the extent of such suffering; but the men who had passed through it were not capable of referring to these transactions in such dulcet strains. The Chief Secretary said that the Land League wielded an authority greater than he did, although he was clothed with all the panoply of power. Had it never occurred to him to inquire how that authority had been won, and why that influence was wielded? The hon. Gentlemen opposite were most of them young men, without great means, without the influence of social rank, and without material forces. How was it that they were able to compete, and more than compete, with the Castle and all its constables and spies? It was because they personated the antipathies, the aspirations, the sufferings, and the hopes of those whose hearts beat beneath their rags. They could rule the pulse, cheer the sadness, and sweep the strings of the national harp. Until the English Government could equally win the confidence of Irishmen, all their Coercion Bills would be unavailing, and all their persecutions profitless. The Government based their demand for coercion on the number and character of the agrarian outrages that were alleged to have occurred in Ireland within the last 12 months. He would not detain the House by entering into a detailed examination of the voluminous Blue Books that had been published on this subject. They had been riddled through and through by the criticisms of his hon. Friends opposite. He could say this, however—that he had gone over the whole of the statistics of crime with which the Government had supplied them, carefully, impartially, and dispassionately; and he rose from the examination of those figures with a strong and deliberate impression upon his mind that they had been prepared with the view of "getting up" a case. The persons who had collected and tabulated those figures had manifestly done so with the view of pleasing the authorities, who, it was understood, were anxious to have evidence to justify an application for coercion. Some of 361 the cases stated were grossly and outrageously exaggerated. There was the barest shred of fact for them to rest upon. Other cases had been split into three or four different offences, with a view to magnify the total. Some crimes, too, had been incorporated in the Return that had about as much reference to agrarian disputes as the Nihilist movement in Russia had to the United Kingdom Alliance. To use a familiar phrase, the Chief Secretary and his agents and police had "over-egged their pudding." In their anxiety to get data to justify their coercive legislation, they had strained the facts till their figures had become untrustworthy. He was not there to say there had not been offences, and that there had not been outrages. Every candid man must admit that there had been. If the Government had carefully and fairly presented a statement of this evidence, without manifesting—as the Returns before them did manifest —an animus and a foregone conclusion, their position would have been much stronger. If the numbers had been reduced, and their reliability unquestioned, the arguments of the Ministry would have been less disputable. It was right, in considering this class of evidence, to remember the way in which it was collected and its general untrust-worthiness. The present position of affairs in Ireland was not now. It was but a repetition of what had occurred many times within the last couple of centuries. They had there, unfortunately, perpetual agrarian differences and disputes; and every man that had been charged with the administration of Irish affairs knew the character of the class of evidence that was usually sent to the Castle. He could quote testimony on this point from different but equally trustworthy authorities. He could give, if it was required, the opinion of Mr. Drummond, the only English official who ever went to Ireland that won the heart and confidence of the Irish people. But he would not refer to Mr. Drummond; he would not even quote the testimony of Lord Al-thorpe, a warm friend of Ireland, a man who disliked coercion as much as he (Mr. Cowen) did. Nor would he cite Lord Normanby, nor Lord Eglinton, both of whom in their day had shared the opinions he now expressed; but he would give the views of a man who knew Ireland well—no man knew it better—a 362 great Conservative statesman, a great commander, and, better still, agreatman. He would read, for the edification of the Chief Secretary and his Colleagues, the wise and weighty words of the Duke of Wellington, who, in commenting on the unreliability of the evidence that was systematically sent to Dublin Castle for the information of the Government, wrote in his Correspondence as follows:—It frequently happens that disturbances occur only in a very small degree, and probably only partially, and that the civil power is fully adequate to get the better of them. At the same time, the desire to let a building to Government for a barrack—the desire to have troops in the country, either in consequence of the increased consumption of the necessaries of life, or because the increased security which they would give to that particular part of the country would occasion a general rise in rents and in the value of land. Upon these occasions letter after letter is written to the Government; the same fact is repeated through many different channels; and the result of the inquiry is generally that the outrage complained of is by no means of the nature or of the extent which has been stated. The obvious remedy for this evil, and that which is generally resorted to, is to call for information on oath of the transactions complained of. But this remedy is not certain, for it frequently happens that informations on oath are equally false with the original representations.When the Chief Secretary placed such unqualified reliance on the evidence of his agents, spies, and policemen, he might with advantage read further memoranda of the Duke of Wellington on this subject. But the Government had somewhat changed their ground since the Session began. When the House met, their case was built up entirely on these outrages. From what had been said in that House, they felt they could no longer trust their Returns implicitly. They admitted, by their course of procedure, if not by their speeches, that the strength of their figures had been shaken. They could not gainsay the fact that offences had largely decreased during the last month. Members had had supplied to them that morning a Return showing the alleged outrages during the month of January. There were 439 cases on the Paper, 251 of which were threatening letters. Only 1S8 crimes, therefore, had occurred in 30 days. During all that time there had not been a single murder, a single case of manslaughter, one solitary assault, one case of appearing armed, of levying contributions, of cutting and maiming the person. He 363 would undertake to say that there was not an other country of Europe—not even Switzerland, Sweden, or Norway—that could present such a clean bill of health as Ireland presented during that time When they remembered that the population was over 5,000,000, and that all the offences scraped together by the industry of 12,000 police, by more than double that number of soldiers, and by no end of other agents, did not reach '200 oases, exclusive of threatening letters, the position of the Government was absolutely untenable. The right hon. Gentleman said that crime had decreased because the people were frightened of him and his Coercion Bill. That, however, was a matter of opinion. What they had to do with in that House were facts; and the facts showed that there was less crime during last month in Ireland than probably there was during the same period in any other country of like extent and population in Christendom. The opinion of the Chief Secretary was just about the last opinion that he would attach importance to on an Irish subject. It might startle some to make such a statement; but every man familiar with the country would admit its correctness. There were two nations in Ireland, between which a deep and bitter gulf ran. The Chief Secretary knew whatone nation—the smallest—felt and said. He knew the opinions of the Castle officials, of the Constabulary, the detectives, spies, and landlords. No one would question that he had correct information concerning that class of the population. But he did not know—from his very position it was impossible for him to know-the opinion of the people who were outside that select circle. Tin-fact that he was Chief Secretary prevented ordinary people coining in contact with him. If the right hon. Gentleman had still been an independent Member of the House, instead of a Minister, he would really have been in possession of more trustworthy information respecting the opinions of the Irish people at this crisis than he was now. But, dismissing all these qualifying considerations, he tame to the fact that the Government were basing their application for coercion upon certain Returns. Now, even admitting those Returns to be unassailable, his contention was that they did not justify the Legislature in giving the Executive power to suspend the Consti- 364 tution. They were asked by the Bill before the House to vest in the officials of Dublin. Castle uncontrolled and unlimited power over 5,000,000 of people. When the Bill became law the liberty of these people, their personal and political independence, would be at the mercy of any spy or disaffected policeman, of any angry agent or disappointed landlord. They were really establishing a system of letter de cachet, and the evidence upon which they were formulating their demand for this despotic authority did not warrant it. A state of siege in no country of Europe would be asked for on such flimsy evidence. Driven to abandon, or, at least, to partially abandon, their claim for coercion, as based on the list of outrages, they proclaimed that a general state of terror existed in Ireland. This was a very indefinite accusation to make. Fear was a state of mind. It was a subjective condition. A man might be afraid. He did not question that some of the Irish landlords were. But the point for them to consider was whether they were justified in being afraid. People were afraid of many things. Some were afraid of spectres—political and social spectres. Others were afraid of their constituents. He knew men that were afraid of the Ministry, and not a few that were afraid of Mrs. Grundy. All these kinds of fear were explainable, and, under certain circumstances, warranted; but he could not explain, he could not even understand, how anyone could be afraid of threatening letters. And the terror that existed in Ireland had chiefly been generated by those ferocious missives. A threatening letter would break no bones, and it need disturb no man's sleep. Such stupid documents were only circulated by fools, fanatics, and cowards. No brave man would ever for a moment allow his equanimity to be upset by such miserable and contemptible compositions. He would undertake to say that he had received more threatening letters, and more offensive communications of that character during the past three years than any landlord in Ireland. He had deemed it to be his duty to differ from the Leaders of the Liberal Party on great questions of public policy, and a set of silly, weak-minded persons had imagined that they could threaten him, or coerce him, into abandoning his convictions, or changing his course of action. Possibly, by this 365 time they had discovered that that was not practicable. He had received a threatening letter that morning, and had got several during the last few days, for the part he had taken in defending the Irish Members when they had been driven to hay by an exacting and, for a time, enraged majority. The communication he had received told him that his house would be set on fire, some machinery he was possessed of would be broken, and a colliery he was owner of would be damaged. When he received that document he had not gone whining to the police, or to the Home Secretary, bemoaning his lot, or soliciting official protection. But if he had come in contact with any coward likely to perpetrate such an offence, he would have ducked him in the first horse-pond. He did not know whether most to laugh at or to feel astonished at grown men—men charged with the responsibility of government—attaching importance to these communications. The fact that they did so tempted people to write them. It was well-known in Ireland that frightened agents and landlords, when they wanted to have special protection, used to send threatening letters to themselves. If the Government were really anxious to make good their accusation that a system of terror existed, they had better abandon the childish evidence of threatening letters, and base their charges upon stronger grounds. He quite admitted that the plan of "Boycotting" existed, and heregretted it. He was not there to say one word in extenuation or apology for it. Any system of exclusive dealing or of social persecution he had no conceivable sympathy with. It was beyond dispute that it had existed, although it did not exist now to the extent that it did recently. No man had done more to put it down than that man whom the Government had, within the last few days, sent back to slavery. It was a remarkable circumstance that, whenever the people were passing through a condition akin to that in which the Irish people were placed, they always resorted to this process of social ex-communication. History supplied them with innumerable instances where a like practice had been resorted to. In the Peasant War in Germany, when the cultivators of the soil resolved neither to pay tithe, tax, nor rent, they drove a stake before the house 366 of the offending landlord who had refused to comply with their demand, and the house before which this stake stood had to be shunned. At the French Revolution, like practices were followed. When the peasants in the country combined against the landlord, they cut a cross upon the trees, or broke branches in the hedges. This acted as a warning. A man who lived near where such marks had been made was understood to be an enemy to the peasants, and he and his had to be avoided as a leper. In this country, too, when the artizans were engaged in a struggle, either to secure an advance of wages, or to resist a fall, like practices were followed. Everyman acquainted with industrial disputes knew that the most potent agent of trades' combinations was the terror that always attached to black-legging. The system followed in Ireland was only black-legging in another form. He repeated that he was neither extenuating nor justifying the practice, but simply showing that the course the Irish peasantry had pursued was neither new nor novel. Even men in other walks of life were net unaccustomed to ostracize offending colleagues or associates. That House knew something of "Boycotting." He believed there was not a more generous Assembly of Gentleman in the whole world than the British Parliament. It sometimes became exasperated and excited, and in its exasperation it treated opponents hardly; but under normal circumstances the House of Commons was as fair a public body as any they had knowledge of. But even it could send a man to "Coventry," and keep him there. He would cite a case which was well known to Members of the last Parliament. There sat behind theFront Opposition Bench for five years a man of some eminence as a poet, of greater distinction as a scholar, and one who was not without ability as a lawyer. He espoused—unwisely perhaps, certainly unfortunately for himself—a peculiar cause; and in the advocacy of that cause he succeeded in making many enemies and raising much animosity. Although he was in the House he was not of it. His forlorn condition led him (Mr. Cowen) to establish some slight friendly relations with him. He remembered very well an occurrence that took place just before the Dissolution. The Gentleman to whom he referred—Dr. Kenealy—had risen 367 from a bed of sickness to come to the House to move a Resolution that he had given Notice of. Immediately his turn came the House cleared, and he was too weak and discouraged to proceed. He met him going downstairs a beaten, broken, bankrupt man. The Member for Stoke recited to him what had occurred, and as he staggered into a cab he felt that the hand of death was upon him. Dr. Kenealy said he did not think it would be possible that the hostility of the House could produce the effect that it had done upon him. He did not say that the treatment of the House of Commons had hastened Dr. Kenealy's death; but what he did say was, that if an intelligent body like the House of Commons could "Boycott" one of its Members, they ought not to be so hard upon enraged Irish peasants "Boycotting" offending agents and unpopular landlords. The practice, under any circumstance, was unjust, and many times cruel; but when others besides Irish peasants resorted to it, they might show more consideration to men labouring under a sense of injury and exasperation. Depend upon this, the state of mind that led to the existence of "Boycotting" could not be removed by a Coercion Bill. It was impossible for such a measure to exoreise such a spirit from the people. If they had to eradicate "Boycotting" it would be by friendly counsel, by genial demeanor, and by beneficent legislation. Their coercion might confirm the practice; it would certainly not annihilate it. His objection to coercion, however, was the injurious effect it had upon the people amongst whom it was to be in operation. The indirect influence of such a Bill as they were now passing-could not well be estimated. A general charge was made in this House and in this country that the Irish people were lawless. They were accused of having no regard for constituted authority. Perhaps there was some truth in the accusation; but the English Government was largely to blame for it. Law Was sacred in the eyes of an Englishman, because it was systematically and constantly upheld and equitably administered. It was net sacred to Irishmen, because it was constantly broken by the Executive. During the 80 years the Union had existed there had been no less than 49 Coercion Acts—that was, the ordinary law of the land had been sus- 368 pended over a greater or less area nearly 50 times during these years. What was the inevitable consequences of such a course of procedure? It was that the people lost their faith in law and their respect for it, as they knew and saw in their daily life that the Government could break it at their own will and pleasure. Law in England was not based upon the bayonet of the soldier or the baton of the policeman; it was founded upon a sense of confidence and trust in the authorities. Till a like condition of mind could be generated in Ireland, the lawlessness that they lamented would continue. It was because this Coercion Bill would help to perpetuate the present state of feeling that he resisted it. If they had gone on in the ordinary way, acting upon the Common Law, they would by degrees have overcome any illegal course that was being pursued; and the moral effect of such a line of action would have been felt beneficially for years hence. The Government said the measure was urgent, and they asked the House to trust them. This was the common demand of despotic rulers. He would not trust the Government if their Chief was an angel and his Colleagues all saints. He would not trust them for their own sakes, as well as for the sake of Ireland. The bare fact of their possessing this uncontrolled and unlimited authority would tempt them into excesses, and it was desirable for the wisest and best men to have reasonable restraints upon them. But oven if they were disposed to trust them on the ground of their humanity and generosity, their doings within the last few days had rudely shaken popular confidence. Probably the meanest, crudest, and most cowardly thing that had been done by an English Government in modern days had been done by the Government in arresting an honest Irishman, and re-committing him to penal servitude. He did not know of a single instance where a Ministry had used their powers in a harsher and more objectionable way than the Government had done in this case. The Prime Minister had once won deserved renown for the manner in which he had pleaded for the release of Neapolitan prisoners. All the encomiums that had been bestowed upon him for the honourable part he took in that transaction were deserved. But he begged to tell the right 369 hon. Gentleman that he knew some of the prisoners who had been released from Italian dungeons in some measure through his interference. He had listened to the recital of their sufferings from their own lips. He also knew Mr. Davitt, and he was proud to say, in the presence of that House and the country, that he counted it a privilege to be able to call that convict his friend. He had also heard from Mr. Davitt a recital of the sufferings he had undergone in an English convict establishment; and he made bold to say that the treatment that had been meted out to this Irish Fenian was as severe as any that had been meted out to the victims of Neapolitan oppression. The Prime Minister might use his benevolent influence now to release a man whose case was equally deserving of his intercession. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) was very angry with his hon. Friend the Member for Tralee (The O'Donoghue), when he instituted a comparison between the action of the Anti-Corn Law League and the action of the Irish Land League. The right hon. Gentleman repudiated the imputation that the body with which he was in early life so honourably associated had resorted to practices at ail approximating to those that the Land League were accused of. The right hon. Gentleman, however, could not be accepted as an impartial witness. He was a friend of the Anti-Corn Law League and an enemy of the Irish League. He was prejudiced in favour of the one and against the other. If they wished to institute a comparison between the two bodies, they should bring as evidence the opinion of the English landlords and Protectionists—the men who stood towards the Anti-Corn Law League much in the same way as the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends now stood towards the Irish Association. But the case against the English League was not fairly mot. Like all agitating organizations, its members were tempted into excesses, just as members of the Irish Society had been tempted. He would recall to the knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman a circumstance that seemed to have been overlooked. It was a fact that the Anti-Corn Law League bent all its energies to arouse the agricultural labourers against the farmers and landlords. They sent agents into the rural 370 districts, and distributed there no end of Free Trade literature, with a view of raising an agitation in those benighted localities. One of the meetings organized at that time, and for that purpose, was held at a place called Goatacre. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman knew to what he was referring? That meeting was held at midnight, and by torchlight. The men who went to it brandished their torches dangerously near the stacks of the neighbouring farmers and the houses of the neighbouring squires. At the meeting an English labourer made a speech in which he recited the amount of his wages and how he disposed of them. He told his audience how many pence went for bacon, and how many for bread. At the conclusion of his address a man in the crowd cried out—"And where do you got your firing?" The speaker replied—"I steals it, and I care not who knows it." The report of the meeting was circulated by the Anti-Corn Law League, and its proceedings adopted by their body. Now, he begged to state that, whatever the Irish Land League had done, none of its speakers had openly advocated stealing. They had urged the withholding of all rents until they obtained a reduction; but they had never deliberately proclaimed robbery from their platform. The right hon. Gentleman said he had systematically opposed coercion in that House. Some of the Bills that had been introduced he had spoken against, some he had voted against, but none had he supported. He could confound the right hon. Gentleman out of his own mouth. At the time one of the Coercion Bills was passed which he had opposed, there were committed in Ireland in one year 172 murders, in another 137 murders, and in another 176 murders. He opposed coercion when these crimes were committed, and he took credit to himself for having done so. Now, according to the statements of the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member, there were only eight murders in Ireland last year, and yet he supported coercion. One of two things—he was either wrong in opposing coercion when the murders amounted to 176 in a year, or he was wrong in supporting it when they amounted to only eight. He might take which horn of the dilemma he chose; but upon one or other, by his own admission, he must inevitably 371 be impaled. He could well conceive what the right hon. Gentleman would have said if any Tory Government had proposed a Coercion Bill when the total agrarian murders in a year amounted to eight. How he would have lectured hon. Gentlemen opposite. The House knew his style. "You, you hereditary oppressors—grinders of the faces of the poor—with what conscience can you seek for such arbitrary authority in the midst of such suffering?" And then he would have turned to the Irish Members, and preached to them from the familiar and well-worn text—"Codling's your friend, and not Short." Gentlemen behind him who were now going to vote for a Coercion Bill would have cheered to the echo such statements and accusations. Those Gentlemen had no end of sympathy for people abroad. With them distance lent enchantment to the view. Their political telescopes enabled them to detect injustice on the other side of the globe, but prevented them discovering it at their own doors. They had a superabundance of sympathy for Boers, Basutos, and Bulgars; for Montenegrins, Ashantees, and Fijians; but they had very little sympathy, indeed, for the enduring efforts after national life of a people renowned in the archives of history, and whose memorials were traceable into antiquity by their virtue, their valour, and their suffering. The Government were refurbishing, with all the energy they could command, the rusty instruments of political oppression and torture. This hateful apparatus would break in their hands, as it had broken before, and wound them. The Government were too fond of coercion. They were coercing the Turk, coercing the Basuto, and now they wanted to coerce the Irish. They had coerced the constituencies by their caucuses, and coerced Parliament by their cÔture. Ministries in the past had earned for themselves nicknames. There was "a Broad-Bottomed Ministry;" there was "a Ministry of All the Talents;" and, somewhat significantly, there was "a Short-Lived Ministry." The present Government, if they did not alter their course, would be known in history as "the Ministry of Coercion."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that whilst he agreed with much that had been uttered by the hon. Member for Newcastle, there was a good deal in which he could not 372 agree. The hon. Gentleman had pointed to the fact that agrarian crime had diminished; but it did not seem to have occurred to him that Parliament, being called together to consider the state of affairs in Ireland, was the very reason why that agrarian crime had diminished. He had also found fault with the statistics. It was true that these might not be, in many respects, such as they would have desired; but the case for the Bill did not rest entirely upon the statistics, and, indeed, if the compilers had merely wanted to "make out a case," as the hon. Member had suggested, they could easily have achieved that purpose much more effectually. But there had been statements from the Bench, from hon. Gentlemen who had boasted in that House that the Land League was paramount in Ireland, and from Ministers of the Crown; and it was not to be suppased that right hon. Gentlemen did not bitterly regret the occasion which compelled them to frame such a monstrous indictment against their own rule. He himself, as a Member of the Royal Commission on Agriculture, had had an opportunity of making himself acquainted from other sources with the state of things in Ireland. He had no hesitation in saying that the evidence he had heard had convinced him that the state of affairs was as serious as anything that had been reported. Professor Baldwin, who, with Major Robertson, had been appointed Assistant Commissioner to the Agricultural Commissioners, had not disguised the great sympathy he felt with the peasants of Ireland, and his testimony was, therefore, of additional value; but even in July, the first time he went before the Commissioners, he had slated that the condition of affairs in Ireland was hardly paralleled in his experience. In December the aspect of the country had grown to be such that he had said—If you want to prevent a revolution, it is absolutely necessary to legislate on the question;and then—If there is nothing done in the way of legislation in the spring of 1881, the available forces at the disposal of the Queen may not he sufficient to keep the peace;and, finally—Unless something is done, I should not he surprised to see an organized attempt to destroy landlords.373 Professor Baldwin was, at one time, of opinion that any legislation adopted should be of a remedial character; but when he was before the Commission in December, he was strongly of opinion that while he would like to see both remedial legislation and coercive legislation brought in, the coercive could not wait for the remedial measures, though he wished both to be introduced at once; and in this expression of opinion Major Robertson had agreed. He (Mr. Ritchie) was not astonished that so many Members of that House had urged the introduction of remedial before coercive measures. There had been speeches by responsible Ministers of the Crown which very naturally led them to take up that ground; and he himself had read utterances in which it was laid down that the true remedy for this state of affairs was not force, but remedial legislation. But nothing could be more detrimental to law and order than to advocate any such doctrine. When law and order had been restored, he would gladly support the Government in applying any remedy which might be just to the present condition of Ireland; but to say that the restoration of law and order should be contingent on the passage of any legislation whatever, seemed to him to strike at the root of all law and order. He could not admit that the Irish tenant now groaned under an oppressive law. He granted that, in many cases, the law was, perhaps, strained—unnecessarily and greatly strained—and by that much misery was entailed on the peasant occupier. But it was not the fault of the law. When the Land Act of 1870 was before the House, they were told that if that Act passed the tenant would be placed on a footing towards his landlord which was hardly equalled, and not excelled, by that of any tenant-farmer in the world. When the Commission sat in Dublin, the demands of the Land League were comparatively small. They stated that their programme was what was commonly known as the "three F's." But things had advanced very much since then; and the League now demanded that the land should be retained by the tenant-farmers at a rent which should not exceed Griffith's valuation. Now, although the Agricultural Commissioners were divided on some points, they were unanimously of opinion that any legislation based upon Griffith's valuation 374 would simply be the grossest act of robbery over sanctioned in any civilized country. [An hon. MEMBER: It is too much.] Griffith's valuation was founded on the prices of produce at the time it was framed. Those prices were—butter, 7½d. per lb.; beef and mutton, 3½d. per lb.; and pork, 2¾d. per lb., and it was no exaggeration to say that those prices had now more than doubled. He asked the hon. Members below the Gangway this question. Supposing he undertook to lot them the grass lands of Ireland at Griffith's valuation, would they undertake to supply him with the produce of that land at Griffith's prices? They would have nothing to do with the amount he would pay, in the first place, for the land; and as to the increase in the cost of labour, he would have no objection to pay that excess as well. He had put this view of the case before witnesses who had attended the Commission; but, after consideration, they had declined to make any such bargain. Although he was prepared to vote for the Bill, he would do so with considerable reluctance. He did not suppose that a more severe measure had ever been introduced into the House; and he believed that, although not altogether, yet, in the main, it was the fault of the present Government that had rendered it necessary for the House to pass that repressive legislation. If the Government had taken the advice of all those who were competent to advise them when they acceded to Office, and, instead of catering for a little cheap popularity, had asked for the renewal of the simple and inoffensive Peace Preservation Act, he believed they would not now be in the humiliating position of proposing such a stringent Coercion Bill. Moreover, the Government had been, to the last degree, remiss in putting the ordinary law in force. He could understand people coming forward and saying—"Oh! the Government were not a little unwilling to see a little agitation in Ireland in order to make a smooth way for their Laud Bill," although he should be sorry to say he believed that to have been really the case. The Prime Minister had told them that the Land meetings were a great source of agrarian crime, and yet no attempt had been made to prohibit them until agrarian crime had risen to an enormous and alarming extent. There were many ways in which 375 the Government might have shown some vigour and determination, for that was all that the peaceable people in Ireland wanted; but, instead of that, they saw weakness and vacillation on every hand. The peaceable people could do nothing themselves, but were left to throw themselves into the hands of the Land League, whose power had become paramount. He believed that a repressive measure had now become absolutely necessary, although he expressed a hope that, in Committee, the Government might find it right and possible to assent to some modification of the extreme stringency of the provisions of the Bill. He should be disposed to support them as the responsible Ministers of the Crown if they could not see their way to agree to some such modification; but he desired to be distinctly understood as holding them answerable for the present position of Ireland and for the necessity of introducing that measure.
§ MR. T.D. SULLIVAN
said, that he had been an attentive listener during the course of the debate, and he was much struck with the weakness, not to say worthlessness, of many of the arguments adduced in support of the measure. On the previous night an hon. Member had argued that the Bill could have no terrors for honest men; that it would not touch these or innocent men; and that it would affect only the evil-doers and the workers of mischief. He distinctly challenged that opinion; and believed that the Bill had terrors for honest and innocent men, many of whom would suffer under it. But any argument was supposed to be good enough when it was a question of coercing Irishmen. Under a Coercion Bill in England many of the police might arrest habitual criminals; but the people of England would not tolerate that course, because the liberties of the people would be thereby imperilled. More than one hon. Member had said they might trust to the good sense, consideration, and tender mercies of the Chief Secretary for Ireland to see that this Bill was not unfairly applied. Why not apply the same rule to England? But the people of England, if England were subjected to a Coercion Bill, would not trust the enforcement of it to the good sense of the Home Secretary. But an argument that was regarded as good enough to apply to Irishmen and Irish liberties would not be listened to in the case of Englishmen. 376 He was aware that he and those who thought with him were arguing against a foregone conclusion. Hon. Members on his side of the House had over and over again declared with more or less diffidence and misgiving their intention to support the Government; but still it was his duty to contend against what was not only a restrictive, but a tyrannical measure. That duty they were bound to discharge, and they would to the host of their ability. They had to discharge it, too, at some peril; because the Irish Members were somewhat in the position of Irish tenants—they had been evicted, but re admitted as caretakers. Their tenure was gone; they were now tenants-at-will, liable to expulsion at a moment's notice. They could remember this, at all events, that even if that be so hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House need not flatter themselves that they were in any better position. The case of the Government for this Bill had utterly broken down. It had been examined and proved to be a matter of very small account. The Returns, as had been shown over and over again, comprised a majority of threatening letters. Take that, however, out of account, and no doubt some excess remained; but crime in Ireland week by week grew small by degrees. What was the ground on which urgency was claimed for this measure? To his mind the only reason for the pressing forward of this Bill was a fear that if its passing wore delayed there would he no agrarian crime in Ireland on which to support the Bill. Did hon. Members forget that when there were agrarian troubles in England there were agrarian crimes of a most serious character in England, and that the oppressors of that day were not shot, because guns and powder did not then exist, but were shot with bows and arrows or mutilated with knives? Yet, in view of such facts, the Irish people were insulted in that House night after night. The Prime Minister, in a recent speech, argued that these agrarian crimes did not follow eviction, but were the consequences of meetings of the Land League. To ask that House or any other Assembly to believe that was to ask too much. The right hon. Gentleman had compared evictions to sentences of starvation and death. Could anyone believe that the Irish tenant who had been evicted knew nothing about his sufferings until the 377 Land League had held a meeting in his neighbourhood? The Land League meetings had not led to outrages. He had been present at many Land League meetings, and at every one of them he had hoard crime and outrage scouted. There was hardly a meeting held throughout the length and breadth of Ireland during the course of this agitation at which some speaker did not denounce crime and outrage. At several of those meetings clergymen were present; clergymen took the chair, and they almost invariably spoke strongly against the commission of crime and outrage and immorality of every sort, even against little disturbances among the people themselves. They urged that the meetings should disperse peaceably; that the people should not go into the public-house; that they should do nothing which would bring discredit on their cause. He was present at meetings at which clergymen were not present; and on those occasions he himself advised the people in that sense. As to the sequence of outrage upon the meetings of the Land League, he wished to remind hon. Members that the dark designs of vengeance took some little time to mature. It was rarely that the eviction was quickly followed by the shot—months, and in some cases years, elapsed before vengeance reached the oppressor. He, therefore, contended that it was utterly false and misleading to argue because a number of these agrarian outrages came nearer in point of time to the Land League meetings than to the evictions, that, therefore, these outrages were occasioned by the Land League meetings and not by the evictions. The Fenian movement in America was the return blow for evictions which had taken place years, perhaps a generation, be-fore. It was in that way that men born in America endeavoured to wreak their vengeance on those who had oppressed their fathers and mothers in Ireland in bygone years. The Right Rev. Dr. Lynch, the Bishop of Toronto, had published a letter on the Irish question addressed to the people of Canada, and in it he said that the Irish Americans burned to revenge their fathers' wrongs in that way; and stated that it had been said that the Irish people were more or less than human to bear the treatment they had done, and that they deserved all they got if they were slaves 378 enough to bear it. It was said that the Land League had an unwritten law, and these words were expected to create great effect upon the people of England; but what was this unwritten law? Was it anything very terrible or not? The words "unwritten law" ought not to have such an alarming effect in this House or elsewhere. There were unwritten laws in every society, even in the House of Commons, and the British Constitution, of which they hoard so much in Ireland, but of which they saw so little, was in itself an unwritten code. What was this terrible unwritten law of the Land League of which hon. Members had spoken with such dread? It merely went to the extent of saying that no Irish tenant farmer was morally bound to pay to his landlord a rack-rent which left himself and his family in a state of starvation; and that, considering that the great competition for land in Ireland had been the cause of forcing up the rents in Ireland, it was desirable, for the welfare of the country, that farms from which the tenants had been evicted for the non-payment of unjust rents should be left upon the hands of the landlords; and that these rules should be carried into force not by means of private outrage, but by the force of public opinion. These were the unwritten laws of the Land League, and he declared his intention to abide by them hero or elsewhere. But they were to have coercion. If there was any virtue in coercion the Irish people ought to be the most law-abiding people on the face of the earth, for during the last 100 years there had scarcely been a year when there had not been some Coercion Act passed regarding them. In 1802 there was a suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act; in 1806 there was another suspension, which was followed in the years 1823, 1838, 1849, 1856, 1868; and now in 1881 the same thing occurred again. Surely this system of coercion had been tried enough, and these oppressions of the Irish people could not pass lightly over their hearts, even though beneficent and speedy remedial legislation followed.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR,
in opposing the Motion, said, that on a previous occasion he had complained of the statistics of crime, on which the Bill of the Government was based, that they were not compiled on the principle which was 379 followed when Mr. James Lowther occupied the position of Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. Exception was taken at the time to his statement, and he had, therefore, felt it necessary to make more careful inquiry into the facts. The result of his examination had been to confirm him in his view, that while the last Government, which had not agrarianism on the brain, furnished Returns in which the crimes committed were properly classified, the Returns now laid before Parliament attributed almost every crime committed in Ireland to agrarianism; and, furthermore, split up almost every crime into two or more divisions, counting each division as a separate offence. But even admitting, for the purposes of argument, that the statistics of the Government were trustworthy, he denied that they were of a character to justify the present application of the Government. He found that the number of crimes committed in the three countries for a normal year and for an equal population was as follows:—Ireland, 3,842; England, 4,767; and Scotland, 6.487. With all their eagerness, the Government were only able to make up a total of 2,590 agrarian offences all over Ireland in 1880. When it was considered that Ireland was a purely agricultural country, and that nearly all the interests and property in Ireland wore agricultural, it was very natural to conclude that the great majority of offences other than those purely personal would have relation to agricultural interests or property. While crimes of an agrarian character numbered 2,590, crimes of a non-agrarian character numbered 3,084. It was thus evident that there were more crimes of a non-agrarian than of an agrarian character. It was admitted that Ireland contrasted favourably with other countries in respect of normal crime, and, therefore, it might be claimed that the 2,590 agrarian offences were not sufficient to justify the Government in seeking for exceptional powers. The total number of all offences for all Ireland was 5,674; and, for an equal population in an equal period, England produced 4,767 offences of a very serious kind, and Scotland 6,487. If Ireland produced only 5,674, in an exceptionally bad year, why was not special legislation proposed for England and Scotland? The Chief Secretary, finding that he was 380 not sustained on a comparison of statistics, said he would take his stand on another argument, and it was that the cases in Ireland might be shown to be much worse by counting the numbers engaged in them. This test might be accepted if it were to be applied equally on both sides of the water. Let it be applied to the disturbances in Durham and in South Wales, or to the riots in Lancashire, were 20,000 offences were committed in one day, according to this method of calculation. The right hon. Gentleman sought to excite the passions of hon. Members by dwelling on individual cases, in which, undoubtedly, a great deal of barbarity had been displayed; but Ireland need not fear the application of that test, for it would be easy to pick out from the records of English criminality five or six instances of brutality and ferocity for every one committed in Ireland. On Sunday, in the Bayswater Road, he met with a miserable object—a man, whose eyesight had been destroyed by three youths bidding his eyelids open for half-an-hour. When the number and the character of the offences failed to prove his case, the right hon. Gentleman fell back on his second line of defence—the paralysis of law in Ireland. It might be admitted that the law was, to a great extent, paralyzed in Ireland; but it had been frequently paralyzed in England, and that was one of the moans by which our liberties had been established. When death was the punishment for sheep-stealing, the prosecutor would not come forward, witnesses would not give evidence, and juries would not convict. Their consciences revolted from giving effect to the law, and it had to be altered. The brightest pages in the history of England recorded the stand made by English juries in favour of the liberty of the Press. The history of the law of libel was a record of the refusal of juries to find verdicts, because law was on one side and justice on the other. Again, many women who were committed for trial on charges of infanticide were found guilty of concealment of birth. The reluctance of juries and witnesses in Ire-laud was paralleled by instances which were looked back upon with pride in the history of English law; and the present state of things in Ireland was intelligible when thus read in the light of English history. The right hon. Gentleman had ad- 381 vanced another argument; he insinuated that the Government had discovered a rebellious organization or conspiracy, and everything that could be done was done to support that idea. He (Mr. O'Connor) however, did not hesitate to express his opinion that the whole of the present scare had been deliberately concocted with the intention of embittering the minds of the people of England against the Irish people and their Representatives in order to strengthen the hands of the Government in carrying their measure of coercion. The fact that a placard was posted in many places was in itself only an evidence of extensive organization. He did not believe that the Government had the least ground to believe that there was any conspiracy or sedition on foot. Their emissaries had been endeavouring to get possession of the minute-books of the Home Rule Confederation; if there had been anything of a treasonable character in their intentions or movements, he felt confident he should have had some hint of it; but he declared upon the word of an Irish gentleman he did not believe that such an organization, or anything like it, existed. He admitted there was a very considerable and lamentable increase in a certain class of crime in Ireland; but he denied the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the increase was to be attributed to the extension and development of the Land League. There was no direct connection between the Land League and the outrages. At the same time, he believed there was an indirect connection between them, inasmuch as both outrages and meetings were produced by the inhumanity of the landlords. An increase in the number of evictions led to an increase in the outrages, and also to an increase in the meetings of the Land League. The inhumanity of the landlords increased, step by step, with the misery of the people. It was distressing to have to speak on this occasion. A sense of unreality pervaded the House at that moment. One might as well bay the moon as address the House. The Government were not prepared to listen to argument. They were perfectly deaf to every appeal, and so were the majority they commanded. He had no hope of being able to influence the Government. What they had said they would carry out. But although the 382 Irish Members might not be able to avert the outrage about to be put on their country, they would have the satisfaction of feeling that, in circumstances of exceptional difficulty, they did their best according to their belief in defending the sacred cause of the rights and liberties of their country.
said, that they had now reached the stage when it became their duty to consider the principle of the Bill; and it might be stated to be a substitution in Ireland of arbitrary powers for Constitutional freedom, and the removal of all the safeguards of that individual liberty which the wisdom and experience of generations had enabled them to obtain. If this Bill passed, the Lord Lieutenant and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland would have power to lock any man up for the next 18 months. No defence would be permitted, and the public would know nothing about the matter, except what could be gathered from some second-hand statement with which they might be favoured by the Chief Secretary. Persons in the position of the right hon. Gentleman must, to a great extent, be dependent upon the information supplied by others. But the position of the right hon. Gentleman was peculiar. He was a complete stranger to Ireland, a mere novice in Irish politics, and in all matters relating to the land movement he was dependent for information upon sources utterly unreliable and corrupt. In every case he would be advised to arrest, either by magistrates paid or unpaid—and they were all of the same kidney, having, as they thought, a direct interest in the suppression of public meetings and the punishment of agitators—or by the police, who would be set in motion by the magistrates. In the exercise of their most ordinary Constitutional rights, the Irish people would feel that they were not safe, that they exercised them at their peril in attending public meetings, in writing to the Press, in advising with their neighbours as to the course they should take. They would feel that they were watched by officials predisposed to misconstrue their every act and their every word; and that nothing stood between them and imprisonment but the remote chance of the Chief Secretary taking a different view from those who would endeavour to control his judg- 383 ment. Whenever a measure of coercion was introduced, an attempt was made to reconcile them to it by saying that the rights of individuals must be sacrificed to the public good. He admitted that as a general rule; but denied its application to the present condition of Ireland, where the Government were going to sacrifice the inalienable rights of the people to enable landlords to assert prerogatives which had no moral sanction and could only be assorted by a resort to the most intolerable tyranny. The Irish landlords asked for this Bill, and the Irish nation protested against it. The landlords asked for it in order that they might use it for the purpose of extorting rack-rents from the tenants—a process which would fill their pockets and reduce millions to penury and starvation. It might be said that the action of the Government was prompted by the extended organization of the Land League. What was the object of the League? Why, to secure the firm possession by the tenants of their holdings, and to prevent extortion by the landlords. What was the object of this Bill? It was to facilitate the collecting of rents by the landlords, when all Constitutional action on the part of the tenants and their friends would be suspended. It was clear that the Government had been looking back to the precedent sot in 1845 by Sir Robert Peel, whose Coercion Bill was called a Bill for the Protection of Life, while the Bill of the Government was called a Bill for the Protection of Person and Property. But the peculiarity of this Bill was that it would hand over to two officials—the Lord Lieutenant and the right hon. Gentleman—both of whom knew nothing of Ireland, the lives and government of the Irish people. They would be the decrees of the magistrates, who in all matters relating to the land movement were not to be trusted. The magistrates in the district in which he resided were literally furious because they could not now do as they formerly did. The fact was, that in all questions arising out of the land movement the people of Ireland had lost all confidence in the magistrates. The provisions of the Bill would be worked by the police, who would be set in motion by the landlords —that was to say, the magistrates—to whom the Government were going to entrust the liberties of the Irish people, 384 and no land meetings would be allowed on the ground that, if they were, rents would not be paid, and therefore they would interfere with the rights of property. The other night the Prime Minister almost smiled at his simplicity in thinking that Irish Members should get assistance from the Liberal Party in resisting the Bill. The Liberal Party had always calculated on the support of Irish Members in passing any measure for the benefit of England; and, therefore, they ought to carry out their often-repeated promise of establishing equality of rights in every part of the United Kingdom. The House would see how much the Irish magistrates would have to say to the Bill; and, therefore, he would urge upon the House, and especially upon the Liberal Party, to deprive those magistrates of all power to interfere with public meetings which was not allowed to magistrates in England. In Ireland, two or three magistrates might conspire to deprive the people of the right of meeting. In England, when a riot was expected, the magistrates could proclaim the meeting; but if no riot occurred the proclamation became a dead letter, and no action could be taken upon it, because it could not be held that there had been any breach of the law. That was the state of things they wanted to see established in Ireland. He would also refer to the construction placed upon the Bill by the Prime Minister. That construction was, of course, the authoritative one. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the inaccurate conception which, he said, had been formed of the Bill by Gentlemen below the Gangway. They had spoken, he said, as if the Government were legislating to prevent agitation, to prevent the expression of popular discontent, to put a stop to the free discussion of grievances and the criticism of the existing state of things. The Bill, according to the right hon. Gentleman, was not directed against the Land League. The Land League could not be touched unless it was the means of the perpetration of outrages or abetted them. The Bill did not interfere with the liberty, or even with the licence, of discussion. It did not even interfere with the utterance of the most subversive of revolutionary doctrines. It might not only recommend changes in the law, but, within certain limits, positive 385 breaches of contract. It was a liberal state of the law which allowed men to go to such lengths as those. He would ask the House to pay particular attention to that language of the Prime Minister, which meant that the Land League had an undoubted right to advise the Irish tenant not to pay rent if they thought those rents were too high—not to endure rack-rents. But that was just what the Land League had been doing—what the tenant farmers bad been doing. It was what both would continue to do. The Land League never had a doubt that its position was unassailable; but they, nevertheless, rejoiced to be supported by such an authority that their conduct had been within the limits allowed by law. Following the advice given by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), they would continue to bring the passive resistance of a united people to bear upon the crying injustice of which the Irish farmers were the victims. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) had repudiated any parallelism between the Anti-Corn Law League and the Land League. But he contended that there was the greatest similarity between the two. The Anti-Corn Law League was directed against the territorial class on account of the injuries which they inflicted on the farming and labouring classes. So was the Land League. They kept, however, within the law. So did the Land League. If in Ireland there had been exceptional circumstances, they were of English creation, as Parliament had rejected the wishes of the Irish people. The Prime Minister had thought fit to speak of trades' unions as marking an onward step in the love of law and order on the part of the working classes of England. Now, he (The O'Donoghue) might state at once that trades' unions had his entire sympathy. He believed them to be absolutely necessary for the protection of the operative classes, and it was far from his wish to charge them with any illegality. There was, he contended, a complete analogy between the action of trades' unions and that of the Land League, and that analogy consisted in an identity of the objects pursued, which was to provide adequate means of living for their members. Trades' unions gained their object by obtaining higher 386 wages, and the Land League by providing for the tenant a lower and more reasonable rent. Much had been said with regard to the Law of Contract; but how often had trades' unions called upon the operatives when they had engaged to work for a certain rate of wage to leave their employment until their wages had been raised. The Land League, while denying that there was anything that could be called contract in the proper sense of the term, did not hesitate to advise tenants to discontinue paying rents which were too high, and not to give the landlord any rent unless he chose to accept what was fair. It was beyond the ingenuity of the Prime Minister to show that the analogy was not a fair one. The right hon. Gentleman said that trades' unions marked an advance in the history of this country. He must apply the same language to the Land League. He would remind the Government that they had recognized the fact that the tenantry had a property in the soil—that there was a partnership between the landlord and the tenant. The complaint of tenants was that they were not getting their fair share of the profits—that, in fact, they were being robbed—and they called upon those who were responsible for the welfare of Ireland to step in and say that right should be done.
§ MR. LODER
observed, that the speeches that had been delivered since the Motion for the introduction of the Bill before the House showed that there existed a large preponderating opinion in favour of the measure. He protested against the way in which the time of the House had been consumed by hon. Members below the Gangway, who represented about one-eighth of the constituency of Ireland, and the persistent manner in which they tried to prove that this Bill was not necessary. They rested their arguments almost entirely on the Returns in the Blue Book of agrarian outrages, which they said were exaggerated, because they were furnished by the Constabulary, who were as tainted by prejudice as the magistrates. He (Mr. Loder) could not conceive why the magistracy in Ireland or the Constabulary were less reliable than they were in England. Those Returns, hon. Members must remember, were not made up for the occasion; they were Returns annually furnished to the House 387 of Commons. They were not cooked up for the occasion. They were, however, very instructive in one way. They seemed to point at the influence for good or evil which hon. Gentlemen below had with their constituents. In April, 67 outrages were recorded; in December, 866; and in January, 489. He (Mr. Loder) thought he was justified in deducing, from these figures, that the greater the number of meetings the greater were the number of outrages. It was in October, November, and December that the hon. Gentlemen were more frequent in their attendance at Land League meetings, and as they were engaged in that House in January, both meetings and outrages fell off alike in number. There was another reason why the latter had fallen off. It was that Bill, and the fear of its operation—more especially the retrospective part of it. And there was one more reason—it was that there was no temptation or cause to commit outrage. Process-servers had lost their occupation, they dared not serve notices; agents dared not collect rents; tenants who could and would pay, dared not pay. They held their rents unmolested, and the landlords awaited the time when the law which was now dormant might, by this Bill, be active once more to protect their property and the lives of their dependents. The hon. Member for Tralee (The O'Donoghue) had just stated that the Bill was a Bill to collect rack-rents, by which term he (Mr. Loder) supposed the hon. Member meant unfair and oppressive rents. He chose to forget that the Government had promised to bring forward remedial measures dealing with the Land Law in Ireland. If that Bill was worth anything, it must do justice to the tenant as well as the landlord. The hon. Member for New Loss (Mr. Redmond) had also just stated that the Irish were a law-abiding and God-fearing people. He (Mr. Loder) joined issue with him, and wished to protect them, and therefore supported the Bill. They were told that shooting at persons and at houses, houghing and maiming animals, firing homesteads, "Boycotting" and carding, were within the reach of existing laws of the country, and there was no necessity for suspending the Habeas Corpus. But law in Ireland was declared by the Government and the Judges to be impotent. Evidence could 388 not be obtained—juries dare not convict—felons went unpunished. But there was an unwritten law. There was a fear and a terror of the Land League Courts, their edicts and their punishments, sure and severe. It was at this law, these courts, and these edicts that this Bill was aimed, and to which he proposed to give his cordial support, for the better protection of the law-abiding and God-fearing people of Ireland. Was it to be tolerated that the Executive should shrink from the execution of its duty and should abrogate its functions in favour of an irresponsible and self-elected confederacy? The hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) boasted the other night that the Land League, of which he was a member, had knocked the law of the land into a "cocked hat." That was true; but was it to remain true? But what was behind all this? He (Mr. Loder) did not believe that it was the Land Question. The Land Question was the catspaw. Opportunity had been taken of the depression of the times; a bribe of non-payment of rent had been held out, men had been got to unite on this subject; but it was to be used as a lever for something of far greater importance—namely, the disintegration of the Empire, which England could not and would not permit. Ireland required rest and peace; peace and quiet would bring confidence, and confidence capital for improvements. As regarded the retrospective ingredient of the Bill, his view was that treasonable speeches which led to a breach of the law would be difficult to decide by individual cases, but not from concurrent action and from antecedents. A man might make an ill-judged statement once, it might be unpremeditated, or else so considered; but a persistent repetition would made that statement criminal. He wished to see a stop put to that fever of agitation, and that without loss of a single day or hour. Agitators should be made to reflect and look back on their past conduct before they committed themselves again. They must not be allowed to begin their course as with a fresh lease, but be made answerable for their former acts, if they thought fit to repeat them. The object of that Bill was not coercion, but protection; and the sooner the people of Ireland were made to feel that their lives and their property was safe and secure, the better 389 it would be for them and their unhappy country. He should, therefore, vote for the Bill without hesitation.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, that notwithstanding the able speech which had been made in favour of the Bill by the Prime Minister, and notwithstanding the able speech made in introducing the second reading by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, he could not see his way to support so extreme a measure, believing it to be unnecessary. Notwithstanding what had been said by the right hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) yesterday, he regarded the measure as a thoroughly despotic one. It gave the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and the Chief Secretary more absolute powers than the Emperor of Russia had given to the Chief General of the Police in that country to put down the Nihilists, and he had failed to learn that secret societies of the nature which had flourished in Russia existed in Ireland. The Bill sought powers equal to those exercised in days gone by by despotic Monarchs when they crowded their dungeons with innocent victims. It was a strange thing to him that a statesman of the ability and possessed of the high and noble qualities of the Prime Minister, who had at various times lifted up his voice on behalf of the oppressed Nationalities of South-Eastern Europe, should own support so extraordinary a measure to deal, not with foreigners, but with his own fellow-countrymen in the Sister Island. He could not help feeling that the Premier had been driven against his own judgment to support such a measure. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would even now pause in his course, and introduce a remedial measure before proceeding any further with the Bill before the House. The main reason for introducing the Bill appeared to be the existence of agrarian offences which the existing law was alleged to be unable to cope with; and the Premier and the Chief Secretary had both endeavoured to show that the crimes remained unpunished because of the action of the Laud League. But as the number of evictions lessened the crimes decreased, and there was no doubt that the action of the League had decreased the number of evictions. When the Compensation for Disturbance Bill was thrown out by the House of Lords, right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench had predicted that out- 390 rages would follow in all probability. But they did not then charge the Land Reformers with being likely to prevent the perpetrators of outrages being brought to justice; but, on the contrary, charged the responsibility for a possible increase of crime upon the action of the House of Peers. He had been at a loss to understand why Ministers had exercised so much mystery with regard to their Irish Land Reform policy. He felt driven to the conclusion that the Ministers could not have a policy. One of the charges made by the Members of the Government against their Predecessors in Office was that they kept their intentions too much in the dark. It appeared to him that now they were in power the present Ministers adopted the same line in their domestic policy that the late Government did in their foreign policy. They were not acting fairly to the Liberal Party in keeping them so long in the dark as to the nature of the remedial measure they contemplated bringing before the House. They acknowledged the measure to be necessary, but declined to say what kind of one it was to be. He advised Ministers before they went any further to take Parliament into their confidence, and to tell them what they intended doing to put an end to the dissatisfaction and alleged disorder in Ireland, as they admitted that coercion alone was not sufficient. The statistics which had been placed before the House with regard to agrarian and non-agrarian crime did not sufficiently prove to his mind the necessity of passing a Bill to deprive 5,500,000 of their fellow - subjects of their liberties. The liberties of all these people were to be placed in the hands of the miserable 12,000 police who existed in Ireland, and who had hitherto failed in a right and energetic performance of their duties. In his judgment, the liberties of the people of Ireland ought not to be placed in the hands of men of that stamp. On examining the statistics with regard to agrarian crime, he found the Return tediously swollen with threatening letters signed "Rory," evidently intended to hoax. A number of the offences had arisen out of family quarrels which had existed for two or three years, and, in one particular case, for nine years, and these could not be termed agrarian crimes arising out of the Land League teachings. The ordinary law was sufficient to deal 391 with, such cases. The feeling which had prompted the asking for such extraordinary powers appeared to him to be an anxiety to lay hold of the leaders of the Land Reform agitation. If this was not so, he could not see the reason for the retrospective clause. He regretted that he should be obliged to oppose the Government; but he had as yet heard nothing which would induce him to vote for this Bill. If he were to vote for it he should be acting in a manner which he should consider to be hard, arbitrary, and monstrous against those of his fellow-countrymen who had the misfortune to be designated Irishmen.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
would oppose the Bill because it would destroy all liberty in Ireland, inasmuch as the freedom of every man would be at the mercy of the mere suspicion of the vindictiveness of any constable or other informer in the country. As to the state of crime in Ireland, he maintained that the condition of the 5,000,000 of her population as to crime would favourably compare with that of any country in the world. The other day he read in The Standard an account of the crime of one district in one county in England, which showed that in that limited area there were no less than 14 cases of murder in one year, besides other offences; whereas in the whole of Ireland there were only 14 cases of murder. He believed, however, that the repression of crime was not the real object of the measure, but the imprisonment of the leaders of the Land League and the protection of the landlords while extorting rack-rents from their unfortunate tenants. The question of coercion was not one of today or yesterday. The late Lord Stanley, speaking in Ireland in 1844, said that the remedy for distress and discontent was not emigration or coercion, but a system by which a tenant might be able to invest his labour and capital in the land. He (Mr. O'Sullivan) thought that was clearly what was wanted in Ireland, and not a Coercion Bill. The real remedy was a comprehensive and just settlement of the Land Question. Coercion Bills had been tried over and over again, but every time they had proved a complete failure. Corporations, Boards of Guardians, and Town Commissioners had passed resolutions condemning such a measure. As long as Irishmen were treated unjustly they would be discontented.; and, in his 392 opinion, the great difficulty England had in governing Ireland was in not properly appreciating that fact. If they took an ordinary Englishman and beat him unjustly, but showed him clearly that they were able to beat him, he would go away quietly and not resist it in the least. ["Oh, oh!"] It was a well-known fact. If he could not resist effectually he would turn round and beat a weaker brother or his wife. But, on the other hand, if an Irishman were beaten unjustly he would return blow for blow if he could; and if he were unable to do so he would even pull his opponent down under the water, although, at the same time, he might destroy himself. There was no people who loved justice more than the Irish; but when treated unjustly, they resented it in every possible way. The Irish Members believed that this was a wanton and unjust measure, and that it was their duty to take every means in their power to defeat it.
§ MR. MACLIVER
pointed out, in reply to those who said there was no necessity for the Bill, that if there were no offenders there could be no sufferers. He thought that hon. Members from Ireland, when the accuracy of the Police Statistics was contested, could not fairly say, "So much the worse for the facts." Surely they could not deny the facts that had been adduced by the Chief Secretary and the Prime Minister? Hitherto no Irish Member had accounted for the circumstance that the extraordinary increase of agrarian crime had directly corresponded to the growth of the Land League; and it would be well if those who spoke of the wrongs of Ireland addressed themselves to an explanation of this fact. Representing an English constituency, he had as strong a desire to maintain the liberty and freedom of Ireland as any Irish Member; but he felt, in common with the great majority of hon. Members of the House, that the Government were justified in asking for exceptional powers to enable them to suppress crime and protect life and property. At the same time, the Bill would not have received much support from that side of the House but for the conviction that it would be accompanied by a measure of a truly remedial character.
§ MR. DALY
felt that it was his duty to record his protest against the measure under the consideration of the House, and to complain of the uncandid manner in which it had been introduced 393 by the Chief Secretary. Could it he accurately said that its coercive provisions were all contained "in one clause, and that not a long one?" He further protested against that measure because they wore all perfectly aware that in similar circumstances no English Minister, however eminent, would have the temerity to introduce such a Bill for England. He also complained that the introduction of the measure had been accompanied by circumstances tending to create prejudice against the Irish Members, and to deprive them of fair play. Last week there had been an unusual and unnecessary array of police, constables in the Lobby and the other approaches to the House; and he regretted that the Government should have thought fit, in order to influence the public mind, to resort to those theatrical displays of force, as though violence were really apprehended. Such expedients were decidedly unfair, and militated seriously against a calm and dispassionate consideration of the question at issue. Again, the retrospective clause in the Bill would be fatal to the measure if the matter were dealt with impartially. What was to be the limit of time before the passing of the Act within which the alleged offences for which men were to be arrested and imprisoned without trial must have been committed? Was it to be 5, 10, 15, or 20 years? The Chief Secretary for Ireland had declined to give his reasons for asking Parliament for some of the extraordinary powers which he now demanded. Surely in no free country should any Minister be allowed to take away men's liberty without stating the ground on which he sought for such exceptional powers. With regard to the precedent which the Westmeath Act of 1871 was said to furnish for the present Bill, he maintained that the two cases were in no way analogous. In 1870 there were four murders committed in Westmeath, and seven murders attempted, while an organized and powerful Ribbon conspiracy also prevailed in that county. Last year there were seven murders in all Ireland. He had an intimate knowledge of the county of Cork; and he believed that no county of equal population in any part of the United Kingdom could show a smaller amount of crime than it did last month, according to the Returns before the House. His experience as a magistrate con- 394 vinced him that some of the incendiary fires in the neighbourhood of Cork would be detected and punished if the police supervision were really efficient. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, he was sorry to find, had been guilty of great want of candour, owing, apparently, to the exigencies of State-craft and the desire to rush that Bill through the House. The right hon. Gentleman said it might be not an unfair way of reckoning outrages to reckon them, not by the person against whom they were committed, but by the number of those who committed them. He then referred to the outrages committed by parties of 17 and 20 men, and sought to argue that they should be reckoned as 17 and 20 separate outrages. Reference was made to observations of the Rocorder of Galway on the fact that the normal number of processes in his Court—namely, 300—had been reduced to 30, and it was suggested that that reduction was attributable to intimidation. He did not know what occurred in Galway; but he did know what occurred in the Province of Munster. Farmers who had not paid rent to their landlords had discharged their debts to small shopkeepers so far as was in their power, and that would cause a reduction of the number of processes in their district. As a Liberal by conviction and profession, he declared that it was with pain and regret that he witnessed the spectacle of a Conservative—the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill)—having to plead with a Liberal Government to mitigate the terms of the despotic and unconstitutional measure which they proposed to impose on the people of Ireland. If this Bill was to be imposed upon them, it ought to be imposed in a tone of calmness and moderation, and not in anger. He had looked in vain for that to which the Irish Representatives were entitled—namely, some words from the Prime Minister counselling moderation to hon. Members who had displayed impatience on the subject, especially to hon. Members who sat below the Gangway on the Ministerial side of the House; for though the measure of coercion was certain, and would inevitably pass into law, probably before he saw his own city again, what equal certainty was there of a largo and comprehensive measure of remedial legislation being passed? He asked that question because, even if concurrently with the co- 395 ercion measure the outlines of a Land Bill had been submitted, he would, for one, have endeavoured to have swallowed the other; but they had only the promise of a remedial measure; and he need not refer further than in his own experience to the fate which befel the Compensation for Disturbance Bill last Session as to the probability of its being fulfilled. What reasonable supposition was there that the state of things for Ireland should not be that, while they had the Coercion Bill, there would be absent from the people any remedial measures? It might be said—"Think of the character of the men who compose the present Government." But the Government was certainly not immortal; and it might happen that in the struggle of carrying through the Land Bill Her Majesty's present Government might have to go to the country, and, at any rate in Ireland, their position would be very much weakened by their coercion proposals. The displays that were being made in Ireland now were more theatrical than real. The movements of flying columns were not duo to any fear of rebellion, but they were part of the policy of the Government to threaten, subdue, and terrorize. Why was it that calm counsels did not prevail now as they did when the present Secretary of State for India introduced the Reference of the Westmeath Bill to a Select Committee? On that occasion, the noble Marquess used these words—Bad as the case is, it is not one which we think requires legislation in haste or in panic. There has been quite enough of hasty legislation, and we believe that any legislation not based upon a full and complete knowledge of the extent of the evil, and of the nature of the evil, and of the cause or causes of the evil, would fail in its object."—[3 Hansard, cciv. 996.]He added, then, that the ease did not depend upon figures and assertions of the Government; and he warned the House that they would evade their responsibility if they took for granted any statements from a Minister while they had an opportunity of analyzing and examining them. There had been no analysis and examination now; but everything that was deprecated then was being done now. Hon. Members were taking statements without inquiry, and were evading the responsibility of enlightened examination. He claimed to be as great 396 an advocate of law and order as any hon. Member of the House, for in his own case the results of 40 years' industry were inseparably interwoven with the maintenance of law and order. He looked upon the present condition of things as temporary, and trusted that the promised legislation would bring peace and prosperity. The important question was, How was Ireland to be governed in the future? They proposed at the present moment to seize her by the throat, and then to administer some doubtful panacea. He would not refer to the past history of Ireland more than to say it was sufficient commentary upon it that, in the 80 years the countries had been united, the present Bill would be the 59th measure of coercion; and yet they complained of a want of patience on the part of the people of Ireland. It was not natural that a man should have the same regard for order in Ireland as in England under such circumstances. In conclusion, the hon. Member said he should go to Ireland, convinced that in the manner of the conception of the Bill, and in the theatrical effect tried to be produced by the Government in order to have it passed, the Irish people were being badly treated by the British Government.
§ SIR HENRY HOLLAND
said, that he would not have taken part in that debate had it not been that the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) had made, in his eloquent speech, a statement which he (Sir Henry Holland) thought ought not to pass unchallenged; and which he, perhaps, was able better than any other Member in the House to answer. He referred to the description given of the treatment of the convict Davitt in the English prisons. But, before replying to that statement, he desired to express his deep regret that so eloquent and earnest a debater as the hon. Member for Newcastle should have thought it right to put forward such exaggerated and highcoloured arguments—arguments which tended not only to damage the cause which the hon. Member was pleading, but to lessen his own influence in the House and in the country. And, surely, no high-flown eloquence was needed on the present occasion. Was not the gravity, and, he would add, the sadness, of the present position of affairs sufficiently brought home to the minds of all hon. Members present by the simple 397 statement, stripped of all eloquence and burning words, that now, in the latter part of the 19th century, they were compelled, or thought themselves compelled, to continue a system of coercion in Ireland, which had lasted so long, and with so little effect? Was it not grievous that the words uttered so long ago by Spencer were applicable to the present time—namely,That although there have been divers good plots devised, and wise councils east about the reformation of Ireland, it is still its fatal destiny that no purposes whatever which are meant for her good will prosper or take good effect.No doubt, the past legislation for Ireland, which, at some periods, deserved the name of iniquitous, was partly the cause of the existing discontent, as the recollection of it was kept alive in the breasts of the people; but he (Sir Henry Holland) was ready to admit that perhaps a want of sympathy, a want of real understanding of the wishes and feelings of the people, even now interfered with and lessened the benefits of their remedial legislation. But, however that might be, a crisis had now arrived which made it necessary for them to suspend their sympathy until peace and order were restored, and until the power of the law had been again established in that unfortunate country. He (Sir Henry Holland) did not care to discuss the question whether the statistics of agrarian outrages, which had been laid before the House, were or were not strictly accurate. Granting that they were in some cases exaggerated, though he was not at all prepared to make that concession, he, and those on that side of the House who supported the Government, did so, not relying on the statistics, but relying on the solemn statements of the responsible Ministers of the Crown, upon the charges of able and impartial Judges, such as Mr. Justice Fitzgerald and Baron Dowse, and upon the elaborate statement made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Law) in his lengthened opening of the late prosecution in Dublin. It had been urged that agrarian outrages had of late diminished, and he (Sir Henry Holland) was not prepared to dispute that fact. But why had they diminished? Partly, no doubt, because the Land League leaders had of late done all they could to repress such outrages. But the main reason was because law had ceased 398 to be effective. If tenants did not pay their rent and found that they were not thereupon evicted, if persons did not pay their debts and found that process was not served upon them and could not be served upon them, why should they commit outrages—why should they disturb the immunity which they were enjoying'? The Land League had appealed to the most sordid side of human nature, and therein lay their power; the Land League had defeated the law, and secured to their followers an immunity from paying their just debts; then, why should not those followers obey the dictates of the Land League and remain quiet? This, he (Sir Henry Holland) believed to be the real cause of the recent diminution of crime in Ireland. And now he would address himself to the special point to which he had before referred. The hon. Member for Newcastle had, after paying a just tribute to the eloquence and zeal of the Prime Minister on behalf of Poerio and the other Italian prisoners, ventured to state that the treatment of Davitt in the prisons here was as harsh and iniquitous as the treatment of Poerio in the dungeon at Naples. He (Sir Henry Holland) was astonished at the boldness of that statement, and he could give it an unqualified denial. He had seen and conversed with Davitt, when Davitt was in Portsmouth Convict Prison; he had, as one of the Penal Servitude Commissioners, been present when Davitt was examined before the Commission, and he could, therefore, speak confidently as to the treatment which Davitt received in prison, and as to the nature of his complaints. Hon. Members could satisfy themselves upon the point by referring to the evidence; but he would venture to caution them to distinguish carefully between the statements made by Davitt, who gave his evidence very fairly, upon his own knowledge, and those which he made upon the report of other prisoners, and the general belief of other convicts. Davitt, it was true, complained of the size of some of the cells and of the occasional want of warmth or ventilation. But, contrast these complaints with the well-authenticated statement of the horrible den in which Poerio was lodged. Davitt complained that sometimes the potatoes were bad, the soup thin, the meat and bread bad, and not sufficient in quantity. But could any man in his senses venture, even 399 upon the assumption that such complaints were occasionally well-founded, to compare the case with that of Poerio? Let any hon. Member read the accounts of the food furnished to the Neapolitan prisoners, and he would then he in a position to judge of the value to be attached to the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle. He would not now trouble the House with any further proof of the recklessness of that speech; but he had thought it right, as the speech was one of such eloquence, to deny at once its accuracy upon this one essential point, and not to let the statement go forth uncontradicted into the country.
§ MR. A. MOORE
said, he was reluctant to take a part in the debate; but he wished to ask the Government what distinct assurance they could give that, when the Executive was strengthened by the powers with which it would be armed when the Bill passed, the rights of landlords would not be pushed to the uttermost? He did not wish to censure the whole class of landlords; but there were some, unfortunately, who took the very fullest advantage of their legal position. It was ail very well to say that there were agitators among the Members sitting in the House as Representatives of some of the Irish constituencies; but it could not be denied that among the hon, and right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Ministerial Bench were to be found Gentlemen largely responsible for the present state of tilings. It was true that there had been a great deal of disorder; but in the large constituency which he represented unbroken peace had prevailed under the most trying circumstances. He yielded to no one in that House in his desire for law and order; but how could he face his constituents if he had to tell them that he had strengthened the hands of the Government in upholding those who oppressed them? He knew of a land-lord who had never granted a lease for more than one, two, or three years; the renewals, when there was always a rise in the rents, cost the tenants £4; they were not allowed to build, or even make a drain on the land without permission, could not take a stranger in their house for more than two nights, and were actually not allowed to marry outside the tenantry. The present state of things was intolerable; and unless the Government did something practical towards 400 meeting it, he trembled to think of what would take place in Ireland before this legislation was completed. He believed that in many of the poorer districts of Ireland rents would not be paid without bloodshed. He, therefore, hoped some modification of the law would be introduced suspending eviction. Where the land was poorest the rents had been, and were, the highest in proportion to the value of the land. The time had come for action prompt and stern. What the Government might do was this—they might establish a Court for a valuation of rent. A proposal of that kind was supported by the Commission under Lord Bessborough, and why should it not be established forthwith? That would give the tenantry an opportunity of stating their grievances. It was all very well to say they had had a good harvest; but one good harvest would not put the bulk of the people on their legs. At the present moment one in every six of the tenant farmers in Ireland might be said to be bordering on insolvency. The reason why they had joined this agitation was that it was the only means possible, short of bloodshed, by which the attention of that House would be called to the subject. He denied altogether that the opposition to payment of rent was malicious, for the great bulk of the people were honest, and simply asked for a fair solution of the question. Before enforcing on them this Coercion Bill, he hoped the Government would give some clear outline of the remedial measures they intended to propose. On that would depend the happiness and prosperity of all, perhaps the lives of some He looked for a measure comprehensive in its details, decisive in its character, and final as far as human foresight could provide—a measure which would give stability to the social institutions of the country by increasing largely the owners of land, giving to landlords their just rights, and, at the same time, securing to the tenant and to the hardy mountaineer the profits of reclaiming the vast and beautiful wastes of his native land. It was not for that House to turn a deaf ear to any cry of distress, especially as the agitation would sap the very foundations of society, and had already thrown the country back 50 years at least. He condemned much that had been said and done; but the agitation must be met by remedies, 401 not by force. Until he heard some clear, decisive indication of the remedial measures intended to be brought in, he should feel it incumbent on him to oppose the various stages of the Bill now under discussion.
§ MR. LEAMY
denied that Members who supported coercive legislation were acting, as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Tottenham) had said, in accordance with the feelings of the majority of the Irish people. The large number of Petitions presented to Parliament by the most important of the municipal and local bodies of the country against such legislation clearly proved the contrary. He (Mr. Leamyi would oppose this Bill, even if the Government brought in a comprehensive Land Bill, He was afraid the Ministry had a good reason for not giving them the outline of their Land Scheme, because, if they did, they would lose the support of many hon. Gentlemen on their own side of the House in pressing forward the Coercion Bill. The Government expressed their surprise that the Irish Members made such a determined stand against this Bill; but did they think they could pass the most stringent Coercion Bill ever proposed in that House as if it concerned nothing higher than the more privileges of a Vestry? The hon. Members opposite who supported this Bill had declared that they had the most perfect confidence in the way in which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would administer its provisions; but they forgot that during the next two or three months, in which the greater number of the arrests would be made under this measure, the right hon. Gentleman would be too busy in London to be able to inquire into every case; and the result would be that numbers of innocent persons would suffer, because the provisions of the measure would fall to be administered by the local magistracy, who were the landlords, and by the police. It was absolutely certain that so long as suspicion was substituted for proof, that the innocent would suffer; and Mr. Isaac Butt, in 1870, had said that more wrong, more misery, and more suffering were inflicted in Irish prisons during a single year of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act than were inflicted in the Bastille during the 20 years which preceded its demolition. With regard to the so-called agrarian out- 402 rages, it now turned out that the breaking of a pane of glass in a solicitor's window in the town of Roscrea was the work not of a vindictive, evicted tenant, but of a half-lunatic old woman who had never had anything to do with the land. Yet the police, to whom the whole facts were known, had thought fit to include that offence among the agrarian outrages. There had been no slackness on the part of the jurors in the County Waterford to convict when the evidence established the offence. The Chief Secretary had said that it was necessary to pass this Bill for fear the Fenians should attempt to take advantage of the Land League movement for their own purposes; but was not the right hon. Gentleman, by bringing in this Coercion Bill, playing into the hands of the violent party in Ireland? How was it that the British Parliament could never give any measure of Land Re-form to Ireland without first making the Irish people hate it and the Government? It was said that the object of making the Bill retrospective was to enable the Government to strike down the leaders of the Land League; but he warned the Government that for every man that was struck down ten would spring up in his place. How was it that, whereas when Sir George Grey, in 1860, brought in a Bill to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act he proposed that the measure should remain in force for six months only, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary now asked that this Bill should be continued for 18 months? It had remained for the most distinguished Government that had ever sat upon the Government Benches and for the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who had boon received by the people of Ireland as their friend, to bring in the most severe Coercion Bill that had ever been introduced into that House.
§ MR. FINIGAN
observed, that the ready and cordial support which the Government had met with from the Conservatives should have led them to view such assistance with suspicion. He had no confidence in the promise of remedial measures, for as the Trojans of old feared the Greeks, even when offering them gifts, even so he distrusted the Government. With regard to the houghing of cattle, there had been only 16 cases in Ireland in November; 403 whereas in England in the same month 323 outrages had been reported by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. An hon. Gentleman had said he would prefer the liberty of the many to the license of the few. Well, then, if the license of the few was to be stopped, let the House put an end to the evictions which were certain to be resorted to by a handful of bad landlords in Ireland. When this Bill was introduced, the Chief Secretary assumed the responsibility for the statistics furnished by the Irish Constabulary; but when those statistics wore shown not to be trustworthy, and the Returns for November came in, the right hon. Gentleman declined to be responsible for them. Therefore, in the first part of their case for coercion the Government had broken down. But if they examined the statistics for November, the case of the Government would be found to be still further weakened. In November there had been 342 threatening letters and 222 alleged outrages. There were, therefore, fewer outrages than before; and the Government said that was owing to this Bill. But no notice had been given of the Bill in November. In Dublin, Kildare, Louth, Wicklow, and Westmeath there was no crime. In Leitrim there were 24 crimes; but that was owing to the fact that the worst and most rack-renting landlords in Ireland were to be found in that county. The landlords there had endeavoured to evict their unfortunate tenants; the tenants resisted, and that was the cause of the outrages. That was also the case in Kerry and the West Biding of Galway. During the Fenian troubles there was a certain Administration in Ireland which played with treason and revolution; and he was afraid that the Irish Government—he meant the Government represented by Dublin Castle—was now playing with treason and nourishing Fenianism. If any Government lent itself to that policy it inflicted injury on the State, and was unworthy of confidence. But it was not treason the Government wished to deal with. What it wished to do was to satisfy the landlords in Ireland at the expense of the Irish people. What had the Land League done? The landlords had been prevented evicting tenants by the strength of the public opinion which had been raised. Do not let the House deceive 404 itself. It was not by coercion that the laws could be remedied or crime stopped. He condemned emphatically the retrospective character of the Bill. He hoped the proclamation which had been posted throughout Ireland, as in Yorkshire, would not be considered as the work of any but a small handful of persons. He did not believe that any important section of the Irish people had anything to do with it, or that in their innocence they could be guilty of outrages with a view of bringing on remedial legislation. He did not believe in the existence of any widespread Fenian or secret conspiracy either in Ireland or England; and he thought the Government were only playing on their fears in order to warp their judgment. He hoped the Government would seriously consider the desirability of omitting the retrospective clause, because it was opposed to the spirit of justice, and would do more injury to the cause of peace and order than hon. Gentlemen could well believe. He should like to know what protection was to be given to the unfortunate tenants who were unable to pay their rents, and who would run the risk of being evicted while this Coercion Bill was in existence? What pledge would the Government give against the carrying out of an unjust law? In his own county (Clare) there were three landlords who had distinctly said that as soon as the law was passed they would evict their tenants. In 1860, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright), in speaking on the Coercion Bill of that date, had said that the Government might put 500 men into gaol, but that the harvest of insurrection and misery would again be reaped. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to have forgotten, now that he was in Office, the wise words which he had then used. It had been alleged that the system of agitation now being carried on in Ireland was without parallel in the history of England. But what had happened in 1832, when the great Reform Bill had been thrown out in "another place?" Why, the men of Birmingham had threatened to carry rifles on their shoulders to effect their purpose. In Ireland there was no desire to push matters to such an extreme; they simply agitated within what was allowed by the Constitution. Whatever might be 405 the fate of the Bill, the Irish Members would do their utmost to protest against the tyranny of that House, and the tyranny that was proposed to be imposed on their country.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Mr. Speaker; Sir, there were a few words which dropped from the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down which appeared to me to throw considerable light upon our present position. The hon. Gentleman, in repudiating the charge which he said had been unjustly made against many of his countrymen, of an intention to commit outrages and cause alarm in England, used this expression. He said he was convinced that his friends, or rather those of whom he spoke, would not in their innocence be guilty of transactions of that kind for the sake of bringing about remedial legislation. That observation illustrates very much the position in which, I think, we now stand. We have to consider at the present moment not what it may be thought desirable to do in the direction of what is called remedial legislation, but what measures we ought to take to meet the State of things that has been brought about, either in innocence or in wickedness, with the view, real or avowed, of bringing on remedial legislation. At the present moment we have but one question before us. We have to consider the question which has been submitted to us by the Government, and the demand which they now make upon us, that we should confide to them additional and exceptional powers for the purpose of providing for the better maintenance of law and order in Ireland. We have to set aside for the moment—though only for the moment—the question of any other class of legislation which it may be the duty of this House to enter upon at a future time. Now that Her Majesty's Government come forward and ask Parliament for additional and extraordinary powers for the purpose of maintaining law and order, we have to ask ourselves two questions. We have, first of all, to ask ourselves whether a case of real necessity for such powers is made out? And, secondly, whether the Government which asks us to confide such powers to them is one to whom we can entrust the powers which they demand at our hands? With regard to the first of these questions, whether there is a real necessity for exceptional powers, I am bound 406 to say that it seems to me that the case has been completely made out. We have been told that force is no remedy; but force may be, and sometimes must be, the proper remedy for particular evils. No one supposes that all the troubles and difficulties which attend the government of Ireland are to be solved by the application of force. I never heard of anyone who was foolish enough to say that. I do, however, say, in contradiction to what has been said in other quarters, that, as applied to that which is the crying evil of the moment, force, properly applied, is a remedy, and is necessarily the introductory step to all other measures that will have to be undertaken. I shall endeavour in a moment to make good that proposition. But assuming for the time that we have to consider how the agitation ought to be dealt with, we have to ask ourselves whether it is true that there is such a state of things in Ireland as to require special measures. In regard to the case laid before us, I think that it has been made out. I do not refer merely to the Statistics and Returns which have been laid upon the Table. We have these before us, and we have also before us statements that are made by the Government on its own responsibility, and facts which are notorious, and which many of us can confirm in a greater or less degree from our own personal observation, or from information which we have received from reliable sources. We have heard a great many criticisms upon the details of these Statistics, and the observation has also been made that of late, at all events, the number of outrages has diminished and that comparative calm is being restored to Ireland. We have had it impressed upon us, by Gentlemen well qualified to speak upon the point, that to a very great extent that diminution is due to the action of the Land League. I will not go into the question whether other causes have been at work. For my part, I believe that the greater activity of the Government, and the greater determination shown by Parliament, have had their effect, and that the uneasiness, the alarm, and the unwillingness of many persons to subject themselves to severe measures have produced this state of quietude, for which I do not think we owe any thanks to the Land League. But, for the sake of argument, I will accept the view which is put forward by 407 hon. Gentlemen who deem the Land League to be the cause of the diminution in the number of outrages, and who would have us believe that if we would only let matters alone, trusting to the beneficial influences of the League, all would be right. I ask, if this is true, what does it moan? What are we to infer from the fact that the Land League holds in its hands the power of saying, "Now you shall rise; now you shall be quiet; now we will have outrages in order to alarm the people and force the Government to remedy your grievances; now it is not expedient that such outrages should go on. We say we are the people who can rule Ireland?" The argument used by these hon. Gentlemen on the part of the Land League is a suicidal argument. It proves a great deal too much. It reminds me of the old proverb, "He who hides can find." He who has exhorted the people in former times to make their power felt for the purpose of getting a good Land Bill, now comes forward and says that the time has come when it is more expedient to wait and be quiet, and so give colour to the statements of those who plead their cause in Parliament. I think that an association which claims such power is a most dangerous association to deal with, and one that we cannot venture to trifle with. The Government state that they fear treasonable practices and treason-felony. We do not know what the evidence of this is, and it is impossible for the Government on such a point to lay the evidence before us; but I cannot help saying that an association such as this is exactly the sort of association that would be a most dangerous machine for purposes of that character. I say that it is absolutely necessary, in the presence of such a machine as the Land League—owning to and glorying as it does in its ability to deal with the great population of Ireland—that the Government should be armed with the exceptional powers they ask. We are told that we are to look for the pacification of Ireland in remedial measures. "Remedial measures" is a phrase of a very misleading character. We know perfectly well that there are many things in England, Scotland, and Ireland to which it is desirable to apply remedial legislation. No one disputes that in Ireland there may be many questions upon 408 which it may be desirable to legislate. No one denies that the Land Question for instance, may require further consideration and legislation; but if legislation is required it is our duty, and it is the only true policy with regard to such legislation, that it should be undertaken upon its own merits, and not for the purpose of buying off agitation. This agitation deprives us of the proper means and opportunity of discussing remedial measures. It hampers the Government in making their proposals, because they have to look to their primary duty of preserving law and order, and cannot discuss remedial measures while they have those other considerations before them. But it hampers them also in another way; it demoralizes the people of Ireland. I am not afraid at all, as a Member of this Imperial Parliament, and as one who takes an interest in the maintenance of English Sovereignty and English Law, of any of the direct consequences which are likely to result to England from the agitation in Ireland. I do, however, fear very much the effect which may be produced upon the Irish people themselves if these demoralizing proceedings and doctrines are allowed to go on unchecked and unchallenged. What is it that people are now being taught? Recollect that anything which falls from persons in authority or influence, dangerous or objectionable as it may be, when uttered in this House, is tenfold more dangerous when it is addressed to the ignorant, or it may be the innocent, people of the Sister Country. We have had instances of the justice of what I say in some of the speeches which have been made at the Land League meetings. A few hon. Members of this House have allowed themselves to indulge in language which, if taken exactly according to the literal meaning of the words, might fall short of producing the dangerous results to which it pointed. But such language, failing upon the ears of an excitable audience, might lead to the most dangerous consequences, and indeed such, as we have seen, has too often been its effect. The Gentlemen to whom I allude have spoken of the landlords in terms which may fall short of a direct recommendation that violence should be used against them, but which came up to the point of the expression that "if you give a dog a 409 bad name, you at once seal its fate." But there are other cases of a much more dangerous and subtle description to which I desire to point. I refer to the language which has been used in this House and in these debates by a very high authority, from whom I had hoped to have heard better teaching—from an hon. and learned Gentleman who occupies a high position in the legal world, who is the leader of his Circuit and a Queen's Counsel (Mr. Charles Russell). That hon. and learned Gentleman the other day sought to justify the recommendation to the tenants of Ireland to hold the harvest, and he illustrated his argument by saying that he saw nothing morally wrong in a starving man helping himself to a loaf of bread. Now, what is the inference which the people of Ireland are likely to draw from such language? They will not confine themselves to holding the harvest or refusing to pay their rents, they will apply the same doctrine to other matters, and not only will the landlord be defrauded, but it is not improbable that the baker also, and other creditors may suffer. Thus the foundations of morality and of common sense become sapped; while the people, in order to win their cheers, are encouraged to believe in delusive remedies which contain no real cure for the difficulties in which they are placed. I wish to repeat what I have said more than once—that I am most anxious to enter upon this question of remedial legislation which we have been invited to consider. But, if we are to do any good, we must proceed on the grounds of common sense and justice; and unless we put a decided stop to proceedings which violate both we can do no good whatever by remedial legislation. I say, therefore, that I think the Government have made out a case for applying exceptional legislation with a view to the maintenance of order and the putting down of agitation. [An hon. MEMBER: It is not agitation.] I do not quite understand what the hon. Gentleman means who considers himself entitled to speak for the Government. That is the view, at all events, which we take of the question that is presented to us. We believe that we are now asked to entrust Her Majesty's Government with exceptional powers for this particular purpose—the purpose of maintaining law and order, and of putting down 410 anything in the nature of violence and agitation. I have looked at the Bill that is in our hands. It applies to those who are considered by the Lord Lieutenant to be reasonably suspected of being guilty of treason and so forth, or of crimes punishable by law in a prescribed district, being acts of violence. And I say that the Government are perfectly justified in asking for additional powers for putting down the system of violence and intimidation, which, by the very confession of the Land League itself, is now prevailing in Ireland. Well, then, coming to the second question I put, and which was noticed by some of my Friends below the Gangway, and which, I noticed, raised a smile on the other side of the House, I refer to the question—Are we prepared to trust the Government with the powers which they ask us to confer on them? I answer—Yes, we are—sub modo—for we do not believe that the Government will abuse their powers. We are only anxious to know whether they will use them wisely, and we must say that their past conduct does not altogether show that foresight and that steadiness which we had a right to expect. Nevertheless, I am prepared to support them in the demand they make. I am prepared to trust them with the powers they ask us to confer upon them; but I am not able to leave out of sight, though I do not wish to enlarge upon it, the fact that, by their loose talk and wild language while they were in Opposition, to say nothing of what we consider some feebleness in their conduct since they have been in Office, they have conduced to some extent, at all events, to the condition of things which now exists in Ireland; and I say this—I have appealed before to the Gentlemen of the Land League to confirm my former statement, and I think I may almost appeal to them to confirm my second statement—that they have found in the difference of the language used by Gentlemen on that Bench before they were in Office, and in their conduct since they have been in Office, much to give them cause to say—"We have been misled in some of these matters, and even a Tory Government would be better than the present Government." ["Hear, hear."] I accept that cheer. I am not ashamed at all of the position of the Tory Party in its dealings with Ireland. I repudiate alto- 411 gether the suggestion that we have no remedies for Ireland but remedies of force. I deny that we desire, or that we are pleased at all at having to apply, coercion to Ireland. Coercion Bills are not particularly of our introduction. We have had more to do with relaxing Coercion Bills than imposing them. But, Sir, I consider that this is not a moment for Party recrimination; because I think that all Parties in England may fairly say, looking back over a series of years, that there have been many mistakes in the government of Ireland by England in the course of those fifteen generations so eloquently alluded to by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen). But, at the same time, I think we may say, at all events, during the recollection of the present generation and of late generations, that there has been a feeling on the part of all—an earnest desire on the part of all sections and of all Parties in this House and in Parliament and in England—to rectify, to remedy the evils which we see in Ireland; and that we, the Tory Party, claim as much as any other the credit for a desire to do our best to bring about harmony between the two countries, and to take away all cause of offence between them. If we are to bring about that happy state of things, let us, at all events, endeavour to work as far as we can in concert. I was struck by an observation in the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Westmeath in the early part of the evening. The hon. Member imagined a sleepier who had gone to sleep a century ago, and had from time to time awoke to find the House of Commons still at its old work—imposing Coercion Bills on Ireland. Well, Sir, the hon. Member was indulging in a work of fiction, and of course it was entirely in his power as the author of the fiction to make his sleeper awake at such times as were suited to his argument; but I think it would not have been impossible for anyone else to take up the same line and make the sleeper awake at moments when measures of a remedial character were before the House. It would be easy, during the period the hon. Gentleman covers, to speak of a moment when the sleeper on awakening would have found Parliament engaged in doing away with this abuse, or in carrying out that reform, and have been assured on each occasion 412 that it was the very last of the grievances of which Ireland could complain—that if we did but remove this anomaly, or grant that privilege, Ireland would be perfect, and the relations between the two countries would be put on a most harmonious footing. We had the Encumbered Estates Act—I will not go into many other questions of a practical character which I might refer to—we had the Encumbered Estates Act not so many years ago applauded by many hon. Gentlemen who sat on the Benches opposite as the one great remedy that Ireland required, and one which was to bring about a change of landlords, and remedy all the evils Ireland then complained of. That Act was passed in 1847 or 1818, and I am referring more especially to the language used with regard to it by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright). There have been other occasions on which similar language has been used with regard to other measures. If the sleeper happened to awake in the year 1871, and had then gone to sleep again and had awakened once more in 1881, I think he would have rubbed his eyes a little and wondered what had become of the charming prospects which were held out by the Land Settlement of 1870. I cannot think that we do any good by endeavouring to bandy charges from one Party or the other. I speak honestly and feelingly. I have said, and say again, that there is much in the condition of Ireland in regard to which all Parties may well search their hearts, and which may make them say—"Is there not something still due from us to that country?" And I am prepared, if we are now to discuss these questions soberly, honourably, and in a business-like and sensible manner, to go fully into any of them that may be presented to me by the responsible Government. But I say that it is essential, in the first instance, that we should have a state, at least, of quiet, in order that we may discuss these questions. What is it that Ireland requires? She does not require merely that sort of sentimental language or spasmodic appeals to this or the other prejudice, in which we are so apt to indulge for the sake of catching a moment's applause. What she requires is a steady, firm, just, kindly, and reasonable policy. Give her that, and avoid, as far as you can, 413 making Ireland the battle-ground of Parties. You may depend upon it, we have work enough to do, and it is work we may undertake with a good heart and a good conscience. We have heard sometimes of governing Ireland according to Irish ideas. I do not ask you to govern Ireland according to Irish ideas or English ideas; but I ask you, and I ask you in confidence, to undertake to govern Ireland according to the principles of truth and justice, applied with firmness, applied with caution, applied with persistency, and applied with a determination only to seek the good of that country and our common country; and I believe that, under the blessing of God, you will succeed in producing that result which we all so much desire.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, that in following the right hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House, he hoped he might be permitted to say, having regard to the extreme anxiety avowed by the right hon. Gentleman to deal fairly, candidly, and kindly with all Irish questions, and to redress all kinds of Irish grievances, it was a pity that some little attempt was not made by the late Government during the last six years to attain that end. ["Oh!"] As to the question, however, now under immediate consideration, he must say that it appeared to him to be, after all, of somewhat narrower dimensions than might have been supposed from many of the speeches they had heard. It was said that this was a measure to interfere with the liberty of the Irish people. If he thought that it was really such a measure, he would not support it. He believed, however, that it was a measure for protecting the liberty of the Irish people; and for this reason. Under existing circumstances, it was not, he submitted, a simple question of whether we should or should not have any coercion, but rather a question whether we should have the coercion of an unauthorized body, or coercion, if it could be so called, lodged in the hands of the responsible Ministers of the Crown, who would be accountable to Parliament for the exercise of their powers. [Mr. FINIGAN: No; in Dublin Castle.] He (the Attorney General for Ireland) would ask if, at this moment, it could be said that there was true liberty in Ireland? In what did individual liberty consist— 414 for that was the only liberty he cared for? There was no such thing as abstract liberty. Upon what did liberty in England rest? It rested on the law which secured to every man the full right to do as he pleased within legal bounds, so long as he did not interfere with the equal rights of others. [Mr. FINIGAN: Just law.] Upon what did liberty depend in Ireland? Had it the support of the law? No; because at present the law could not be enforced in Ireland, and no man could do as he pleased without the consent of the Land League. Mention had been made in the course of these debates of the statements made by those who were the authors and guardians and administrators of the law in Ireland—he meant Her Majesty's Judges—whose especial duty it was to deal with all cases of infringement of the law that were brought before them. A few nights ago the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) quoted a short passage from a statement made by Mr. Justice Barry. That learned Judge, charging the Grand Jury at Waterford on the 8th of December, said—Making every allowance for exaggeration) still, if one-tenth of what we hear and read is true, no sane man can deny that there exists in many parts of the country a state of things demanding grave and and anxious consideration.Passing on, he would call the attention of the House to the condition of things in the Western Province—Connaught, which consisted of five counties. There was this peculiarity about the Province of Connaught. His right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Mr. W. E. Forster) had quoted to the House a statement from the Charge to the Grand Jury at Galway, in which attention was called to the fact that at the Summer Assizes there had been a great diminution in the number of offences for trial. The number of prisoners was smaller than usual, and the Grand Juries were congratulated upon the fact. But what was the state of things at the Winter Assize. On the 10th of December, Mr. Baron Dowse, charging the Grand Jury at Galway, said that he found in Leitrim, out of 75 serious cases of outrage, only nine were made amenable to the law. Why was this? Because in 61 of these personal outrages the persons assaulted either could not give evidence or would not, because they were 415 prevented by intimidation. Surely, that was a very serious state of things. Hon. Members talked of the ordinary law being sufficient; but if the people would not come forward to give evidence, or juries would not convict, he was afraid that the ordinary law was of very little value. The ordinary law was sufficient, no doubt, in ordinary times; but the times were not ordinary when no juries would convict, when juries could not even be found to try cases, and when neither prosecutors nor witnesses would give evidence, In Sligo, out of 50 cases which occurred in the interval between the Summer and the Winter Assizes, only three could be brought to trial. In Roscommon, out of 46 cases, only three were brought to trial. In the two counties in which the Land League was more thoroughly organized than any others, what were the facts? In Mayo 236 cases of outrage occurred between the Summer Assizes and the month of December, and of those only 12 were made amenable to the law; whilst in 215 the prosecutors or witnesses either refused or could not give information. In the county of Galway there was only one case of outrage in which no evidence could be obtained; but out of 291 only 12 were brought to trial; and in 278 the witnesses refused to give evidence. Mr. Baron Dowse was, therefore, fully justified in saying—If this state of affairs is allowed to continue much longer, immediate danger to Ireland will be the consequence, and ultimate disgrace to the Empire of which she forms a part. No true friend of Ireland; no true lover of liberty, as contradistinguished from licentiousness, can dare to approve of the state of facts I lay before you. I speak not alone in the interest of the victims of this reign of terror—as it is properly called—but also in the interests of the poor people themselves, who are too often made the tools of men more crafty and designing than themselves.The House had already heard the Charge of Mr. Justice Fitzgerald, delivered at Cork on the 7th of December. That learned Judge pointed out the intimidation and terrorism which prevailed, and the manner in which it affected all the relations of life. He showed how the mortgagee taking possession of mortgaged land was driven from it by the Land League; how the hotel-keeper was denied liberty to obey the law, and to receive guests; how the auctioneer who wanted to sell crops was prevented from carrying out the sale; how the employer 416 was made to raise the rate of wages; how even the national schoolmaster, who was not agreeable to the local branch of the Land League, was compelled to resign his position. He (the Attorney General for Ireland) could himself boar witness that in the rescue cases more than half of them were instances in which the rescue was in opposition to the execution of judgments for shop debts. Even in the ease of an ordinary creditor seeking to recover an ordinary debt, the same intimidation and lawlessness was brought to bear. The teaching and organization of the Land League were, in fact, so successful, that a debtor was not only not at liberty to pay his rent, but he was also at liberty not to pay his shop debts, and the result was that, in many parts of the country, it became impossible to obtain the debts due to ordinary shopkeepers and traders. Mr. Justice Fitzgerald said—I do not wish to be guilty of exaggeration, or to create excitement or alarm. I desire now to express myself in the calm and measured language that best becomes one to whom the administration of justice is committed; and I should fall short of my duty if I did not point out to you how, in several districts, embracing a large part of Munster, true liberty has ceased to exist, and intolerable tyranny prevails. Life is not secure; right is disregarded; the powers of the law cannot be enforced, and dishonesty and lawlessness disgrace the land.Again, he says—I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that there have been very considerable failures of justice, and failures of justice that, I do not hesitate to say, have been produced by external influences operating on some of the jurors.A most curious instance of intimidation occurred at Galway after the Assizes. The postmaster died, and Her Majesty's Government appointed a successor. The local branch of the Land League regarded the man appointed as successor with disfavour. A large indignation meeting was forthwith called, and the man appointed by Her Majesty's Government to the office of postmaster was attempted to be driven out of the district. He wanted to know if there was real individual liberty, when things of that kind could take place and there was no law able to punish the perpetrators of them? It was not a question whether they were to have liberty or coercion, but a question whether they were to have liberty protected by the ordinary law of the land, or to have universal 417 licence and an utter disregard of all law. I The behests of the Land League were carried out by intimidation. They began with "Boycotting," and ended ultimately with outrage, and, if necessary, with murder. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) was asked by an hon. Member whether he had ever heard anything so monstrous in the Land League agitation as the advice given at an Anti-Corn Law meeting to steal bread if necessary. The hon. Member added that he had never heard any dishonesty imputed to the Land Leaguers. Now, he (the Attorney General for Ireland) did not wish to enter into any minute inquiry upon the matter; but it would certainly occur to an ordinary mind that a recommendation not to pay a just debt, whether they could or not, at least very nearly amounted to dishonesty. In fact, the actual result was that in many parts of Ireland no debts could be recovered; and the County Courts had literally nothing to do. After all, no eloquence had, as yet, explained away the facts of the case, or shown that the Government had made an exaggerated statement. The hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) had dilated on the wrongs of Michael Davitt, and the cruelties endured by him in prison. He had compared him with Poerio, who was imprisoned in Naples; but it turned out that Davitt's ill-health alone had increased his hardships. The hon. Member for Newcastle then asked whether "Boycotting," which was the terror of three-fourths of Ireland, was not equalled in its severity by the treatment by the late House of Commons of one of its Members (Dr. Kenealy). So much did the hon. Member make of the isolation of the Gentleman he referred to, that he touchingly told the House his (Dr. Kenealy's) death was hastened by the misery of his condition brought about by the cold indifference of the House of Commons. Taking that view of the matter, he (the Attorney General for Ireland) would like to know what was thought of the condition of the "Boycotted" Irish "tenant?" What did the hon. Member think of a man who was actually forbidden by the orders of the local and central Land League to get food; so isolated that everyone passed him by in the street; whose children were forbidden to talk to other 418 children; to whom no man would sell either meat or bread; who was treated as if he were afflicted with a loathsome disease? What was the condition of such a man as that; when the Land League, as they had done in many cases, told the excited people to treat him as a traitor to his country; to let the vengeance of the people fall heavily upon him; and to hoot and hiss him when they met him in fair or market? In such a state of things, did his hon. Friend think it was possible to adopt his prescription, and let things take their course; allowing all the outrages to go on as they were now doing until the remedial measures of Her Majesty's Government were passed? Had the hon. Member no feeling for the unfortunate people who were the victims of this reign of terror? Had the Government no duty towards them? If, as was more than probable, two months or more would pass before a Land Bill could be carried, what was to become of these victims of oppression in the meantime? Were they to continue to be treated in that inhuman way; cut off from all the charities of life; to be "Boycotted" so far as the daily necessaries of life were concerned; and even when they died to be denied Christian burial? The passions of the people had been inflamed by the decrees of the Land League, until their reason had left them. The state of things which existed was one that could no longer be allowed to continue, and all that Her Majesty's Government asked for by the present Bill was the means of putting an effectual stop to them. It was all very well to say that they should rely on the ordinary law; but, unfortunately, the law was inadequate to deal with the emergency. If prosecutors would not come forward, if witnesses would not give evidence, and if juries would not convict, how was the ordinary law to be applied? It should be remembered, too, that the object of the Bill was not to create any now offence, but merely to stop the commission of offences; and, for the object thus in view, the retrospective character of the measure was essential. Already the announcement of the Bill had brought about a diminution in the number of offences. Force, although not itself a remedy, was a necessary condition to applying one. Her Majesty's Government could not allow peaceable and law-abiding people to be 419 intimidated every day, and to live in a state of constant terror as at present. That kind of lawlessness could not be allowed to go on indefinitely without the Government seeking to apply a remedy. It was all very well for the Land League to ask for liberty for themselves; but they must not be monopolists. They could not be allowed, because of their fondness for liberty, to withhold it from everybody else. Now, the principal effect of the present measure would be to stop lawless intimidation, and thereby secure as much individual liberty as might be possible under existing circumstances. He was sorry to find the other day that a prominent Member of the Irish Party opposite (Mr. Dillon) went over to Dublin and thought it necessary to make a speech, in which he described the way in which he said Irishmen were regarded in the North of England. The hon. Member said he had been informed that in Sheffield a member of the Land League, or, indeed, an Irishman, was hardly safe in the streets. That was scarcely the manner in which to promote good feeling between Englishmen and the Irishmen who came over to this country to look for employment. His right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Committee of Council (Mr. Mundella) had placed in his hand a letter from the Chief Constable of Sheffield which gave an emphatic contradiction to the statements of the hon. Member for Tipperary. Mr. Jackson, the Chief Constable, said—I have the honour to acknowledge your letter of the 5th instant, calling my attention to a paragraph in The Standard newspaper, wherein Mr. Dillon is represented to have said at a meeting in Dublin that 'When he was in the North of England he was informed by people in Sheffield and Leeds that an Irishman was hardly safe in the streets of those towns.' I beg to state that if the hon. Gentleman means he was told that an Irishman was hardly safe from the English, or from any other non-Irish portion of the population of those towns, he has been altogether misinformed as regards Sheffield, no attacks having been made upon the Irish, except that, in a few instances, they have quarrelled and fought amongst themselves regarding their connection with secret societies; and that on the 21st December last, Stephen Broderick, the Secretary and Treasurer of the Land League, assaulted and occasioned serious bodily harm to one Garratt Dillon, simply because he refused to contribute to the funds of the League. Broderick was subsequently bailed for trial at the Quarter Sessions, but absconded. The recognizances of his sureties were estreated, and I am informed and believe the money was 420 paid out of the funds he had collected for the Land League.At that hour of the night he would not occupy the time of the House longer. In Ireland now, as he had already said, their choice, unfortunately, was not between liberty and coercion; but only a choice between the universal and lawless coercion of the Land League, and the coercion of a few criminals and disturbers of the peace by the responsible Ministers of the Crown. It was painful for any Government, and especially for the present Government, to ask the House to grant such powers as were now sought; but he ventured to express a hope that when they were granted they would be applied with great caution and with very great discretion. No interference with real liberty, as distinguished from lawless licence, was contemplated by the measure; but it was absolutely necessary to pass a strong measure in order to put a stop to the reign of terror and lawlessness which now prevailed in Ireland.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Justin M'Carthy.)
Her Majesty's Government cannot agree to that proposal. I hardly think it can seriously be held that after the amount of discussion we have already had on this subject it can be necessary for us to adjourn the debate to another day—probably, indeed, for two more days, because to-morrow would be a most inconvenient day for finishing the debate. Now, Sir, I will not dwell on the fact that 16 of the Irish Members who are opposed to the Bill have had an opportunity of expressing their views upon it, because that would be a very small matter if we did not remember the opportunities of which the Irish Members have previously availed themselves. Since the 6th of January we have spent 21 days and about 200 hours in discussing almost entirely this question. It is quite true that most of the discussion took place before the Bill itself was in the hands of the House; but still a very large portion of our time has been devoted to it since the 421 proposal was made by my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster). Really, considering the limit of human existence, and after the time that has already been devoted to the subject, I think it is only fair that I should appeal to the hon. Gentleman to allow the House to come to a decision. The hon. Member will have opportunities hereafter of addressing the House. I will not myself occupy a moment more in endeavouring to induce him not to persist with his Motion; but I think that Her Majesty's Government have a fair right to ask the House to decide the question to-night.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he only rose for the purpose of addressing a very few words to the House. It did appear to him that the House had its credit and its existence as a deliberative Assembly in its own hands. Formerly the two great political Parties in the State were loyal to the House. He was certainly able to speak for the Conservative Party. If there was any suspicion that there was a desire or an intention to degrade the House of Commons, the Conservative Party of former days—and he hoped the same course would be taken by the Conservative Party now—were the first to vindicate the character of the House. A block in Public Business had been occasioned by the prolongation of these debates; and he trusted that the Speaker would not be again forced to exercise the jurisdiction which had been willingly accorded to him as a last resource. He, however, begged the House to remember that having been compelled to intrust the Speaker with the exercise of such powers—honourable as they were—
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must point out to the hon. Member that he is travelling away from the Question before the House, which is the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he was speaking the Question of adjournment, and was following the speech of the Loader of the House, who had represented the inconvenience of adjourning the debate until to-morrow, He (Mr. Newdegate) had simply been anxious to recall the circumstances which enabled the Speaker to exercise the new jurisdiction which had been conferred upon him by the favour of the House. He ventured to express a hope that the House would, on both sides, 422 manifest that power of self-government, without which the House of Commons would inevitably lose caste in the opinion of the people of this country.
would not detain the House for more than a minute; but he thought the debate ought to be adjourned, and he would point out why. It was necessary, he thought, that the Prime Minister should have an opportunity of explaining the speech which he made on the Motion for leave to introduce the Bill. He (the O'Donoghue) had given a quotation from that speech, and the accuracy of the quotation he gave had been called in question. He hoped, therefore, that he would be allowed to read three or four lines from the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The right hon. Gentleman said—We are not attempting to interfere with the licence of discussion; there is no interference intended here with the liberty of proposing the most subversive and revolutionary changes; there is no interference here with the furtherance of those changes provided they are endeavoured to be brought about by peaceful moans, and there is no interference hero with whatever right hon. Members may think they possess to bring about changes in the law, and in certain cases breaches of positive contract.
§ MR. SEXTON
did not think the Motion of the hon. Member for Long ford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) was open to the reflections which had been made upon it by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate). The Motion did not involve, in the slightest degree, any attack on the dignity of the House; but simply raised the question whether the Irish Party had on this stage, which had always been recognized by the tradition and custom of the House as by far the most essential stage of a Bill, had a full and fair opportunity of expressing their opinions. He need only refer to the words of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman said that only 16 Members of the Irish Party, which included three or four times as many, had been able to address the House. He (Mr. Sexton) might mention his own case. Personally, he was extremely anxious to address the House in reply to some of the statements that had been made; and twice in the course of the evening he had endeavoured, without success, to catch the eye of the Speaker. He might add, further, that many of his hon. Friends around him 423 were most desirous of addressing the House upon the subject, and would conceive that they had been debarred the opportunity of discharging their duty unless they were enabled to do so. The previous discussions, although they might have been upon cognate questions, did not present a complete analogy to the present debate. Beth the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had, in recent speeches, brought forward arguments of the utmost importance, which arguments, he believed, had not yet been sufficiently met on the Irish side of the debate. Then, again, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had just made a speech which could only be characterized as one of the most important that had been made in the course of the debate. ["No, no!"] It was certainly of the utmost importance, if only on account of the novelty of the arguments used in it, and the virulence of the feeling and spirit displayed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Although he (Mr. Sexton) had endeavoured to strain his power of hearing, he had not been able to gather completely the thread of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument; and he was sure that the Irish Members around him would not be able to reply to it effectively until they had been able to consult the ordinary channels of information, He did not know whether Her Majesty's Government would attach importance to this statement or not; but he begged to inform them that he was sincere in what he said, and that he was extremely anxious to have an opportunity of ascertaining what it really was that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had said, so that he might be able to give to it the best reply in his power. He might add, further, that the Leader of the Irish Party—an hon. Member of that House with whom he and other Irish Members were in the habit of acting (Mr. Parnell)—had been expected in his place that night, but was kept away by unavoidable circumstances. Under these circumstances, he put it to the Speaker, invested as he was beyond all precedent with the power of controlling and directing the course of the debates, if it would be fair to the Irish Members, and to the people of Ireland, to seek to take an 424 undue advantage of them? If the House would enable them to devote a few hours further to the consideration of the new arguments advanced by the Law Officer of the Crown, there was no intention on the part of the Irish Members to prevent a division being taken at a reasonable hour to-morrow.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he was not aware that there was anything surprising in the fact that, after only three day's discussion on the second reading of this important measure, Irish Members should desire another day. So far as he could judge of the feelings of those hon. Members, he believed that another day would fully satisfy the speakers who had yet to address the House. It was in no way extraordinary that the Irish Members at such a crisis should ask for this slight addition to the scanty opportunities that had been given to them for the discussion of the Bill. He did not agree that the discussion on the Motions for adjournment, which the Irish Members had been forced to move on former occasions, was all they were entitled to. They were entitled to full time on the Main Question, and were driven to Motions for adjournment by Her Majesty's Government. The Government appeared to have adopted during the progress of this Bill—which merely treated of Irish affairs—the curious strategy of springing some now and extraordinary argument just at the close of the discussions. How did they know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who, smarting under his recent defeat in the Dublin Courts, had just been pouring his virulent insinuations upon the Land League, would not consider that he had uttered numerous errorsint he course of his speech, and be as profuse in his apologies as the Chief Secretary had been, if he only got a little time to recollect himself? He did not, however, on this subject, wish to deal in retorts—in retorts in reply to the action and attitude of Members of the Government—but he put it as a most reasonable request, that, at any rate, they should have their appeal for another night granted. If the Irish Members had been too persistent in the matter of asking for an adjournment to another day on previous occasions, he could understand the resolution of the House to oppose them; but he hardly thought the House would take extreme measures tonight. It ought to shrink from that 425 kind of petty victory. It was possible for the Government to put down the present opposition of the Irish Members; but if they wished to obtain any respect for the measure they were pressing on the Irish Representatives they ought, at least, to take out of the mouths of those Gentlemen the plea that they were being unduly pressed and forced, and that the House was being urged to come to an immature and unripe conclusion. In support of his plea, he begged to remind the Ministerial Party that it was only this morning that hon. Members got the last batch of the statistics bearing upon this important question. At no time had they been allowed to see the whole of the Ministerial case at once; and he was sure it would be to the convenience, not only of the Irish Members but of the supporters of the Government and the Conservative Members, if Her Majesty's Ministers would give the House to understand when they would be prepared to make the whole of their case known. Hon. Members had been continually kept banging on the lips of chance, and perhaps the Government would be able to add something to their case if another day were granted. Some of the Leaders of the Irish Party, in whom they had the greatest confidence, and who had especially studied this question, wished to reply in detail to what had come from the Front Ministerial Bench that night. They were prepared to speak at the next Sitting, and to give a conclusive answer to the Government; therefore, in fairness to the Irish Party, and to sustain any reputation that might belong to them, he asked the Government for an adjournment.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
—["Divide!"]—If hon. Gentlemen would hear him he thought they would find that what he was about to say was to the point. Clearly the House was commencing one of those disagreeable contests which might be avoided by a little tact and a little common sense. He would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government to accept the offer to conclude this stage of the debate to-morrow. There was not the least use in going on with division after division on the Question of adjournment as long as they might be permitted to divide. He was quite prepared to take his part in the contest if hon. Gentlemen insisted upon its 426 taking place; but he wished to save the time of the House and the temper of hon. Members. He was sure it would be very much better to accept the offer that had been made to conclude this stage of the debate at 6 o'clock than to go on with a contest of this kind. ["Divide, divide!"] The House appeared to be very impatient; but it must be recollected that the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Law) was certain to provoke a great deal of warm feeling on the part of the Irish Members—feeling which would not be assuaged unless they were allowed an opportunity of replying to the speech. He could not understand what could have induced the right hon. and learned Gentleman to rise in his place, at a moment of comparative calm, and make a speech that renewed all the disagreeable associations of an earlier period—all the disagreeable associations that had almost disappeared in the course of a very quiet evening. On that account alone the Government ought to consider it wise and better for the House itself to allow a reasonable amount of debate to-morrow—from 12 until 6—than to go on with Motions for adjournment of the debate and the House as long as the Speaker would allow them to be moved. It would not look well for the Speaker again to interfere. Let them recollect that, after all, Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom. The House was going to subvert the liberties of 5,000,000 people; and to refuse the Representatives of those people permission to speak on the subject from 12 to 6 on a. Wednesday was a thing the like of which was unheard of in any country which had any sort of regard for justice and right. He made this observation with no intention of provoking the House, but of producing something like a sense of right in the minds of those who thought there was nothing more important than to get through the measure anyhow. He had given, he thought, a good reason, besides the desire everyone had for the decent conduct of their debates, why the debate should be adjourned, on the distinct understanding that it should come to an end to-morrow. It used to be the fashion in the House to have these understandings, and to rigidly adhere to them, and they were found of great advantage. Unfortu- 427 nately, of late, it had come about that understandings of this kind had not been observed as carefully as could have been desired. He saw now an opportunity of restoring a better state of feeling—the opportunity of accepting the proposal that had come from hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were unquestionably more concerned in this question than anyone else. The Government should avail themselves of this opportunity of restoring that honourable feeling amongst all Parties of the House, and again insure that when a request that was reasonable in itself was acceded to, the understanding upon which it was granted should be strictly adhered to. The House would be very lucky if the Prime Minister accepted the Motion of the hon. Member opposite.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 44; Noes 422: Majority 378.—(Div. List, No. 28.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. METGE
said, he did not wish to minimize or underrate the crime that actually existed in Ireland, for he believed that crime existed to a very great and unprecedented extent during the last three months of the last year; but he claimed the right to lay facts before the House which, he believed, would conclusively show that that crime was not of such a character that coercion could be expected to suppress it. The Government had given the Irish Members a surprise by the Blue Book on outrages which they issued a few days ago. He had spent Sunday on going through that document; and he would endeavour to give, in a few minutes, the result of his examination of the figures it contained. He found that in November, which was the mouth upon which the Chief Secretary mainly relied to establish his claim for coercion, there were no less than 561 cases of outrage reported to the police That was bad enough; but when they came to inquire into those cases it was found that 418 of them had been cases of threatening letters. He did not wish for a moment to underrate the effects of threatening letters, for he regarded them as cowardly, and things which ought to be put down. Neither did he think as much of them as did the noble Lord the 428 Member for Woodstock, nor did the people of Ireland think so much of them; but, in any case, the writers of threatening letters could not be suppressed by coercion. If that was so, then they would be justified in eliminating the threatening letters from the statistics altogether. Coming to the 143 cases which were left, he found that of those 7 were split into 14, 6 into 22, 1 into 4, and 1 into 8. That was entirely new ground, and he doubted whether many Members of the House had looked into the Blue Book. Then they found the old ground gone over again, and worked up in the same way by magistrates and police to justify the case for the suspension of the liberties of the Irish people. There were 112 cases of outrage; but 37 of them were trivial in the extreme, such as 12 cases of breaking windows, I of shooting a goose, 2 of unhinging gates, I of breaking a lock, and I of breaking a canoe. That was the average kind of cases upon which the Government were relying for their power to put the people in prison. Of actual cases of outrage there were 75, and those were the cases to which they must limit the Chief Secretary; 75 outrages had been committed in one month over the whole of Ireland, containing 5,250,000 people. Of those 75 cases there was only I of murder, although he admitted that that was a horrible case; there were 3 cases of firing at persons, and 15 of assault, making 18 offences against the person. When they came to consider that that was the month mainly relied on, and that those facts were kept back to the last moment, and when they found that there were only 18 cases of assault against the person in the whole of Ireland, it was simply disgraceful that on such a plea the House should be asked to pass a measure unprecedented in its severity. This was a class of crime which he believed would not be touched by coercion. Crime in Ireland was, for the most part, in the direction of revenge, and revenge, would meet its victim in defiance of all laws. He did not say that in justification of revenge, but as a proof that it must not be met by increasing the severity of existing laws, but by relaxing laws which had been a fruitful source of so much evil. Taking the numbers as he found them, he did not think that even if they were doubled, any Minister could have 429 the assurance to ask the House, on such grounds, to suspend the law of the Constitution in Ireland; and, as long as they were under the pretence of being called a United Kingdom, there should be the same measures of legislation in this country as in Ireland. A few nights ago the plea of treason had been started; but that had been brought on in a different way from the first charge of outrage. The latter was supported in a certain way by facts, the former was supported neither by facts nor figures. An explosion was heard of somewhere in the North of England; another in the South of England; a canister was found with nothing in it, and then it was said—"Oh! it's all those Fenians." That was the new plea upon which the Government sought now to justify the figures, which had failed to prove that outrage of an aggravated character existed in Ireland. He would ask the House to look back for a moment at the people who were to be coerced. Did they remember those people three years ago when they lost over 20,000,000 lbs. of potato crop, which was the chief food and the sole means of existence of a great number of those people? Did they know that agriculture had failed in all its branches, and that nearly 500,000 acres of land had gone from cultivation? Did they know that at the fair at Ballinasloe three-fourths of the cattle had to be driven away from the market unsold, and that that, and similar cases elsewhere, had caused a loss of £15,000,000? Did they know that in every branch of industry there had been the same failure? The same state of things had existed in England; but it had not the same effect, for Englishmen had other sources upon which to depend for existence. But in Ireland the people depended almost entirely upon the land. Because Irish Members had had the hardihood in the House to object to what was proposed, they had been subjected to a violent attack by an hon. Member, who had said that they had incited the people to sedition. He did not care personally what the charge was; he came there to tight the cause of his countrymen. But he would ask the House for a moment how such proposals as those now before them were regarded by Englishmen—by Englishmen who were respected in England, and whom even Irishmen must respect? He might refer 430 to one man whom all men of feeling must honour and revere, and whose great spirit had just passed from among them. Thomas Carlyle, speaking of the Irish people, wrote as follows:—Violent men there have been and merciful; unjust rulers and just, conflicting in a great element of violence these five wild centuries; and the violent have carried it, and we have come to this—England is guilty towards Ireland, and reaps at last, in full measure, the fruit of 15 generations of wrongdoing.These were the words of the late Thomas Carlyle, and they gave a perfectly true representation of the character of English legislation towards Ireland for generation after generation. The House was now asked by Her Majesty's Government not to support any further adjournment of the debate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland appeared before them, and in very violent, if not incoherent language, addressed arguments to the House which had never been adduced before. They had had started upon them a new volume of statistics. That very day a new Return had been presented, and they were asked to work it out at 1 o'clock in the morning. He was entirely opposed to such a course. Already he had spent many hours in that House in supporting fruitless Motions for adjournment; but so long as he had breath, and so long as the Forms of the House enabled him, he would oppose coercion towards Ireland. With that object in view, he begged to move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Metge.)
I am extremely sorry to find that the sense of the House, as manifested in the division which has just taken place, has made so slight an impression on the hon. Gentleman, notwithstanding the fact that, out of every 11 Members present, 10 have expressed a wish that the debate should proceed, and that a division should be taken on the second reading of the Bill to-night. At the same time, as the hon. Gentleman has again hoisted the flag of opposition to the continuation of the debate, and, seeing that an intimation has been made that it will not be prolonged beyond to-morrow, the Government, under the circumstances, will not object to the 431 adjournment of the debate, on the understanding that it will be brought to a close to-morrow.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.