§ (Mr. W. E. Forster, Mr. Gladstone, Sir William Harcourt.)
§ THIRD READING. [ADJOURNED DEBATE.]
§ [SECOND NIGHT.]
§ 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. Justin M' Carthy.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. MOLLOY
said, he must, in accordance with what he felt to be the bounden duty of every hon. Member representing an Irish constituency, protest to the last, in their name and his own, against the passing of the measure. It seemed to him useless to do more than give expression to that protest in a few words; but he thought it incumbent on him to point out to the House the grounds upon which he opposed it. If he had believed for one moment that the measure was necessary, or that any good could result from it, he should have considered it his duty, not exactly to have supported it, but to have remained silent with regard to it; but, in view of what had taken place in that House, he had come to the conclusion that the whole of the Bill was based upon panic and exaggeration; and that panic seemed to have been begun by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland himself, because, on the 27th December, what was being done in Dublin was according to his orders. He (Mr. Molloy) took a walk from his hotel to the Castle, and he then found the gates closed, and the guards doubled, and to all intents and purposes Dublin was in a state of siege. There were no less than 6,000 troops within the walls, and all the guns were loaded. The Press of England, too, had represented every trivial occurrence as one of alarming character; but if the House knew the sources whence that information came it would be of a different opinion with regard to the state of Ireland. As an instance of the system of exaggeration practised, he would mention that some time since he called to see a friend of his in London (a gallant colonel in the Army), and not finding him at home he left a Maw-threatening note for him, admonishing him not to be out again when he returned. By some means the 1756 note got out of the possession of his friend, and the next he (Mr. Molloy) saw of it was its appearance in the Paris papers. The Figaro of that city actually hold up that as a genuine example of the threatening letters by which landlords were intimidated in Ireland. This incident should convince hon. Members that every threatening letter was not necessarily the forerunner of outrages. Many of these letters, of which so much had been made, had been written in Trinity College, Dublin, by students who wore more prone to joke than to study. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had referred on several occasions to the statements of Judges and Grand Juries in Ireland; but he (Mr. Molloy) never yet heard him repeat that which would have been evidence, not on his side, but against him, therefore he would call attention to the fact that on the 21st January, at Tullamore, the Grand Jury agreed to a resolution calling the attention of Government to the light character of the crimes which were before them, and protested against the baseless imputations which had been made against the Irish people as the ground for suspending their Constitutional liberties. Notwithstanding the fact that there were only two dissentients from that resolution, the County Court Judge declined to allow the resolution to be put, or to allow any publication of the resolution at the end of December, thus burking the expression of a most important opinion. What would be the result of such a panic-stricken policy? It would make people think that things were much worse than they were; and when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Childers) was asked if he had given directions to guard all the armouries against possible attacks, he replied, almost in a whisper, that he had, and then begged the hon. Member who put the Question not to press him further on the point, just as if he was in possession of the most dangerous schemes for the destruction of the British power. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant declared, when introducing the Bill, that he would justify its introduction by the list of the outrages that had been committed, and which he was then in possession of; but, when it came to the point, he had nothing to depend on but his Returns, 1757 which had since been practically demolished, and turned into the most absolute ridicule. As to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright), who would not, in his (Mr. Molloy's) opinion, have spoken at all if he had not been greatly pressed by his Colleagues, it contained one of the most extraordinary theories ever propounded. Putting the outrages entirely aside, the right hon. Gentleman said that he had received letters from Ireland which justified the introduction of coercive measures. It was surprising that the right hon. Gentleman had no stronger ground for advocating the measure than private correspondence. What would have been thought if he (Mr. Molloy) and his Friends had opposed the measure on similar grounds, or if any humble and private Member of Parliament had got up and pleaded in support of his case that he had received a number of private letters, the contents of which and the names of the writers of which he refused to give. Why, he would have been greeted with loud laughter and ridicule. But when a responsible Minister stood up and said the same thing, they must blindly accept it, and follow his lead. It was a fact perfectly well known—it was discussed in the Lobbies and smoke room, and elsewhere—that the Government, by the course which they had adopted, had put the greatest strain upon their Radical supporters which had ever yet been put upon them by asking them to vote for a measure which was contrary to their conscience. It was well that the Government and those outside the House should know that the Radical Members had supported the Government in that measure, not because they believed in its necessity—not because it was a wise act on the part of the Government — but simply because they would not incur the responsibility of defeating them, and because they thought the present Government was the only one likely to consider the claims of Ireland. They argued to themselves whether it would be good to throw out the present Government, when there was no other Government with which they could ally themselves. They therefore supported the Government solely and simply because they wished to keep the Liberal Ministry on the Treasury Benches. That alone was one of the 1758 strongest condemnations of the introduction of this Government Bill, and the very poor case the Government had made. But there was a still stronger circumstance, by which a worse result had been brought about, in the history of the Bill. The Government, in their anxiety to carry this measure, in the panic into which they had seemed to have fallen, were not content until they had succeeded in placing restrictions upon the freedom of debate. The new Rules or arrangements, accordingly, had been introduced. Then followed the curious spectacle, which must have been painful to every Liberal, of the Leader of a Tory Opposition advocating rights which a Liberal Government was seeking to curtail. The Tories were the supporters, as against the Liberals, of liberty of speech and the rights of minorities. But the fact was that the Government had only been induced to bring in the Bill because they were afraid to meet the Opposition without some such measure. At the end of last Session the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in discussing the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, said that if the Government were compelled to introduce a measure of coercion, they would not do so without, at the same time, bringing in a Land Bill. All had hoped that the promise so made would have been carried into effect; but how had the right hon. Gentleman kept his promise? He had laid upon the Table a Coercion Bill, the worst and most stringent ever brought before the House. Where was the Land Bill? Where was the distinct and solemn promise which the right hon. Gentleman made to that House at the end of last Session? All they knew was that the promise had not yet been kept, though every opportunity had been given the right hon. Gentleman. He (Mr. Molloy) would repeat, that the right hon. Gentleman had simply gone headlong into the Coercion Bill, the worst and the hardest ever introduced to that House. It might, however, be said, "What suggestion have you to make?" He could give no better answer than by referring to the words, which had since become famous, of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, uttered during the Recess, that "force is no remedy." He (Mr. Molloy) was in Ireland at the time those memorable words wore uttered, and soon afterwards 1759 he addressed his constituents at a public meeting. He wished the Chief Secretary for Ireland could have been present at that meeting. The effect produced was magical. The people wore full of joy and hope. He felt sure that if the right hon. Gentleman could have realized the feelings of that meeting; if Her Majesty's Government could have been able to see and appreciate fully the magic effect which those words had on the people; if they had seen how much hope and peace it brought them they would not have taken the course they had, but would have commenced the Session with a measure of remedy, and not of coercion. He could not describe the pain which the proceedings of Her Majesty's Ministers had caused himself and others. There was only the painful duty left them to protest against the measure. They must continue that protest, though, from what he saw around him, he felt it had about as much effect on the minds of hon. Gentlemen as though they were speaking to the four brick walls within which he (Mr. Molloy) was then speaking, with not a single person to reply. It would be quite as useful to speak to those walls as to the Government in their panic-stricken frame of mind. He should vote against the third reading.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, he was one of those who had hitherto given silent but consistent support to Her Majesty's Government in all the stages of that Bill; and, indeed, he would not speak that night did he think his doing so would impede its progress. But, as he understood the whole of that evening was to be given up to the final stage of that drastic Bill, perhaps the House would allow him a few minutes of their attention. During the past autumn, with the exception of a very few weeks, he was continually in Ireland —during the whole period between the close of the late Session and the summoning of Parliament in January. He could confirm, so far as his own personal knowledge and correspondence went, that, sad and extraordinary as had been the statements made by Her Majesty's Ministers as to the condition of Ireland, those statements rather underrated, than exaggerated, the position of affairs in certain portions of that island. Now, in reply to the statements of Her Majesty's Ministers, there had been one steady 1760 reiterated charge on the part of the Irish Members, and that had been to the effect that Her Majesty's Ministers had been guilty of gross exaggeration; that the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had been studying melodrama under some tragedian; that the Homo Secretary had made statements in that House for the purpose of terrifying in which he himself did not believe; and that, in fact, the main object of Her Majesty's Government had been to create panic and prejudice against the Irish people, in order to enable them to pass that drastic Coercion Bill. Well, he (Lord George Hamilton) believed that, so far as he was concerned, and so far as concerned most of them on the Conservative side of the House when there was a conflict as regarded matter of fact between a responsible Minister and an irresponsible Member of the House, they were inclined to support the responsible Minister. But, if any one single thing could give colour, form, and consistency to the charges which the Irish Members had made that Her Majesty's Government had been guilty of gross exaggeration—if anything could do that, it would be the abandonment of the Arms Bill. [Laughter.] Right hon. Gentlemen laughed—-perhaps forgetting what they bad been told. The Prime Minister had said that the first conditions of a civilized and Christian country were wanting in Ireland. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had spoken of the village tyrant who domineered in certain parts of Ireland, and whom it was necessary to suppress. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India had used language as strong, saying that miscreants were able to terrorize over their neighbours; and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, on the previous evening, in his impressive oration, had brought home to them the dangerous character of the conspiracy with which he had to deal. The whole point of all these arguments was that a certain portion of the people of Ireland were in possession of arms, and were able to terrorize and domineer over their neighbours. Not only that, but the right hon. Gentleman, in his speech last night, had used this expressive phrase—"You must stamp upon those men, the enemies of society, as you would upon vipers." He (Lord George Hamilton) thought 1761 the right hon. Gentleman had used the word viper for a special reason. The viper was innocuous, if they drew its fangs. It would hurt no one any more than the most harmless snail; and the object of the Arms Bill was to prevent the people from getting—
§ MAJOR NOLAN
rose to Order, and asked Mr. Speaker whether the noble Lord was in Order when he advocated the introduction of an Arms Bill on the Motion for the third reading of the Protection of Person and Property Bill?
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON,
in continuation, said he had not the slightest desire to offend against the Rules of the House by entering into a discussion of the Arms Bill; and he believed he should be able, in the few remarks he had to make, to confine himself to the ordinary Rules of debate. The whole argument of the Government had been that they had met with difficulties caused by the possession of arms enabling these people to commit outrages, which might be removed if they were able to pass an Arms Bill, and if they postponed that measure, he considered they would render themselves open to the charge which had been brought against them by the Irish Members—namely, that they had greatly exaggerated the existing state of affairs for the purpose of influencing the English people against the people of Ireland. He had been much struck by hearing hon. Members opposite rise and declare that they supported this measure of coercion with the utmost pain and reluctance; but, if that fooling was genuine, would they follow him for a short time whilst he showed them how that pain and reluctance could have been spared, and how they could have prevented the necessity of suspending the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland for the next 18 months? They had heard a good many nursery rhymes quoted in the course of the debate; but there was an old saying and a very short one, and which was peculiarly applicable in this case—"A stitch in time saves nine." Could anyone doubt that, if the Government had pursued another course in the present Irish difficulty, the House would not now have been discussing this Bill? The Opposition, in supporting that Bill, was placed in a very diffi- 1762 cult position. The Liberal Party had declared that their opponents were always in favour of coercion—that they were always bringing coercive measures forward, and, to use an expression of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council (Mr. Mundella), they did not care how they got it so long as it was "hot and strong." Well, now the right hon. Gentleman's experience in the House was the same as his (Lord George Hamilton's); they had both been, in Parliament 13 years, and during that time Lord Beaconsfield had been in Office six years and a half, and the present Prime Minister had occupied Office for the same period. The present Prime Minister had had the advantage of periods of extraordinary prosperity, but Lord Beaconsfield had had to lead during periods of extraordinary depression; but let them mark their relative contributions to coercive legislation for Ireland. Including the present Session, five coercive measures had been proposed, of which four emanated from the present Prime Minister and one only from Lord Beaconsfield. But that was not all. Those introduced by the present Prime Minister were enormously vigorous and stringent, and added greatly to the existing law; whereas the Bill of Lord Beaconsfield immensely relaxed the existing law. He wanted to know how hon. Gentlemen opposite who talked of making it "hot and strong" accounted for the important fact that, whenever the two right hon. Gentlemen, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, came into Office, these severe measures immediately became necessary? They were told that what was wanted was remedial legislation. There were no two men who made larger promises in that direction than those right hon. Gentlemen. This is not all; for in one of his speeches on this subject, the Prime Minister pressed home this serious charge on the Land League; he said—"The steps of crime dog the steps of the Land League." The right hon. Gentleman enforced the argument by figures, and he arrived at the conclusion that some restriction was necessary and must be imposed on the Land League. It struck him (Lord George Hamilton) at the time that this was a rather dangerous argument for a Member of the present Government to use; because it was an 1763 argument capable of application to others than Land Leaguers. It was a melancholy, but undeniable fact that the return of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to Office was coincident with the outbreak of agrarian outrage in Ireland. The figures were very remarkable. In 1866 the Conservative Party came into Office. The Habeas Corpus Act was suspended in that year; but it did not refer to agrarian outrages; and therefore the fluctuation of figures in his Return was not affected. In 1866 the agrarian outrages were 87; in 1867 they were 123; in 1858—the Conservatives left Office in December of that year—they wore 160. Then the present Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster came into Office, and the change was marvellous. In 1869 the agrarian outrages were 767; in 1870 they were 1,329; but those figures should not, in any way, convey to the House any idea of what was the condition of the country in 1870. In the first throe months of that year there were upwards of 1,050 outrages; and it was then said, as now, that remedial legislation ought to precede coercion. That, in fact, was in 1870, and what was the result? Why, that the second reading of the Land Bill of that year had to be postponed until a drastic Coercion Bill was pushed through the House. It proved insufficient; and the next year the most stringent Coercion Act ever applied to Ireland—namely, the Westmeath Act, was passed, and the outrages to a certain extent diminished. The Liberal Party left Office in 1874; and the Conservatives came back. The outrages in 1874, under the late Government, were 213; and in 1875, 136. In 1875 the then Conservative Chief Secretary for Ireland, the right hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks Beach), removed the more oppressive portions of the Coercion Act—such as the Press-gagging Clause and the Curfew Clause. In 1876 the outrages were 212; in 1877, 236; in 1878, 301. Then came a very bad year—a year of most extraordinary depression in agriculture and much agitation. The outrages in 1879 were 863. Then came back the present Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the outrages in 1880 were 2,509. How was that to be accounted for? It could not be the result of accident. This phe- 1764 nomena did not occur with ever-recurring regularity by accident. History did not repeat itself like that, and the true reason, not a pleasant one, was this— that when Lord Beaconsfield was in Office his political opponents in Opposition allowed themselves a licence of language and action which was incompatible with the subsequent discharge of their duties as Ministers of the Crown. Twice, in his (Lord George Hamilton's) short experience, had the leading Members of the Liberal Party, with marvellous skill, inflamed every passion and appealed to every prejudice, and by the inflaming of the passions and the arousing of discontent they had been floated back to Office; and then what happened? Twice the same tiling had happened. A few months afterwards a cry came forth from the other side of the Table asking those who had been turned out of Office to aid the Government in coercing those who had put the Government into Office. He had no sympathy whatever with the Land League. He thought it much to be deplored that men of the unquestionable ability and energy of those who formed the Land League should devote themselves to an agitation which had borne disastrous fruits in Ireland; but still the other night he did feel a little sympathy with two hon. Members of that Party. The hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Metge) quoted extracts from the speeches made by the present Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; and he put this question to the Treasury Bench —"Under this Bill any of us is liable to be sent to prison if we incite to a breach of the law. If I adopt language similar to this, should I be sent to prison for 18 months?" There was no answer from the Treasury Bench, for it was not in the power of anyone to deny that language of the nature of that used by those two right hon. Gentlemen was calculated to lead to a breach of the peace. Was it right, then, for right hon. Gentlemen to use language like that, and then, when they got back to Office, propose a Bill to the House to stringently punish those whom they had incited to commit a breach of the peace? He did not wish to dogmatize as to the rules on which Party warfare should be conducted. No once could doubt that there was a bad side to Government by Party; still, hitherto, there was one re- 1765 deeming safeguard, and that was the sense of responsibility with which the Leaders in Opposition were supposed to speak. That responsibility arose from the knowledge that, on the resumption of Office, they might be called upon to test the sincerity of their language in Opposition. If that safeguard were once destroyed; if a man possessed of extraordinary rhetorical power used, in Opposition, polemical language which could not afterwards be defended, then it seemed that the healthy instincts and safeguards of English Party life were swept on one side. The Leaders could say what they liked; and the rank and file, under the influence of the Caucus, could vote as they were told; and then they would have realized —? fully realized — the principles laid down by a distinguished Whig in Opposition— that the main function of the Opposition was to oppose everything, to propose nothing, and to turn out the Government. He might be told that the Tory Party always objected to anything approaching to agitation, but that, without agitation, it would not be possible to achieve in the future reforms similar to those achieved in the past. That might be quite true; but it seemed to him that whoever embarked in agitation, whether to become a Minister of the Crown or simply to obtain popularity, did so at his own peril. Agitation was very much like fire—it was a very good servant, but a very bad master. The Liberal Party, during the last three years, found agitation a very useful drudge. They had taxed its capacity to the utmost; but now that the were in Office they proposed to imprison it. Indeed, when he looked back to the inflammatory speeches delivered by many Members of the Government, he confessed that he did not wonder that they were reluctant to apply to Parliament for coercive legislation. Having been in Ireland during the whole of the autumn, he could truly say that there were certain incautious phrases dropped by Members of the Government, which did almost as much to promote the Land League as the speeches of any members of that organization. The almost universal opinion of the farmers in Ireland was that the Government were conniving at that agitation. The argument they used was, that the Government wanted to pass a strong 1766 Land Bill, and therefore they let the movement gain a certain head in order to frighten the landlords. It was said, over and over again—"If the Government are in earnest, and wish to stop the agitation, and if, in their opinion, it is a conspiracy, then why do they not prohibit the meetings?" He had heard a good many attacks made on the Irish tenants. Those tenants were, last autumn, subject to influences which it would be difficult to describe. As an hon. Friend of his had said, in an eloquent speech at Chesterfield, the two incentives which most animate human action — cupidity and fear — were remorselessly applied to the Irish tenant. And, remembering the inaction of the Government, both by speech and deed, the wonder was, not that so many of the tenants refused to pay rent, but that so many of them did pay rent. Now, what would be the result of that Coercion Bill? Since those discussions began, he was bound to say there had been a very remarkable change in the demeanour and language of the Cabinet, as compared with the speeches they made last year. But what they had a right to complain of was this—if, last year, the Government had shown one-half the energy they now displayed— if they had then spoken in the same voice as they now did, the House certainly would not have been considering this Coercion Bill. He did not know whether the House recollected the solemn words which, on the first occasion that this Parliament met, the Government put into the mouth of the Sovereign. In a paragraph of the Queen's Speech, referring to Ireland, it was said—My desire to avoid the evils of exceptional legislation in abridgment of liberty would not induce me to forego, in any degree, the performance of the first duty of every Government in providing security for life and property;and the speech went on to express a determination "to fulfil this sacred obligation." There was, therefore, a most distinct and solemn pledge given by the Government that nothing would, under any circumstances whatever, induce them to forego the sacred obligation of providing for the security of life and property. Well, during the months of October, November, and December, many requests were made to the Government 1767 from different quarters to summon Parliament in order to strengthen the law and enable it to cope with the dangers which were then daily increasing in Ireland; and one defence, which was repeated in hundreds of newspapers, and on many platforms, by the supporters of the Government, was, that the ordinary law was amply sufficient to deal with those evils. It was further pointed out that the Government had solemnly pledged itself, the moment the ordinary law proved insufficient, to apply to Parliament for additional powers. What had become of the solemn obligation so undertaken last year? By their own admission, by their own action at the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, they had admitted that, for the last three months, law had been broken; because, in reply to a strong request made from below the Gangway, by the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), the Bill had been made retrospective, or retro-active, to the 1st of October last. What did that mean, but that from the 1st of October, in the opinion of the Government, the ordinary law had been insufficient? If the ordinary law had, after that time, been sufficient, the Bill ought not to have been thus made retrospective. If it was insufficient, the Government had broken one of the most solemn pledges ever given to Parliament by a Ministry. He did not blame the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. That right hon. Gentleman had, he believed, been a great deal too much attacked and abused. He believed that, during the past four months, no man had been more anxious to do his duty than the right hon. Gentleman; but they knew there had been obstruction in the Cabinet. And what had been the results of the Government not redeeming the solemn pledge which, last year, they gave to Parliament? What had we gained? What had we lost? Well, the unity of the Liberal Party had been maintained for three months longer, and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, having had time given him for reflection on his celebrated saying that "Force is no remedy," had evidently come to the conclusion that it was unwise, and had made two eloquent speeches in exactly the opposite sense. That was all that had been 1768 gained; but what had they lost? They had allowed a social convulsion to take place in Ireland; they had allowed social ties to be broken, and an amount of mischief to be done, which would not be repaired for many long years to come. They had been compelled, in consequence of the increase of outrages which their inaction permitted, to make appeals to the people of England and Scotland, which had undoubtedly promoted a bad feeling towards Ireland, and the progress of that country had been thrown back for many years. They desired to encourage the flow of capital into Ireland, and to discourage absenteeism; but, by allowing a dangerous agitation to run its course unchecked, they had dealt a fatal blow at the confidence indispensable to the introduction of capital into that country; while, on the other hand, they had enormously encouraged absenteeism. That was not all. The House had been deprived of that freedom of speech which for centuries had been its boast; and, having lost all these, the Government, having failed so long to fulfil their solemn obligation, they had been at last obliged to come down and propose what was almost the most stringent and drastic measure of coercion ever applied to Ireland. What was the cause of that? Why, that a certain number of Members of the Government were so tied hand and foot by the unwise speeches they had made against the late Government that they had not the courage to perform their first duty. He protested against that conduct and that policy. They had gone back 11 years. The House was, in regard to Ireland, exactly in the same position as it was in 1870. The most profuse and reckless promises had then been made by the present Prime Minister. A settlement of the Land Question was to be effected once and for ever. The agitation which they had aroused when in Opposition created such a state of affairs that their Land Bill was succeeded, as it had been preceded, by a drastic Coercion Act. In course of time the Liberal Party went out of Office, and the Conservatives came in. Then exactly the same course of agitation began. They were now to have another Land Bill preceded by a drastic Coercion Bill. The very success of the policy of agitation brought the more speedy retribution. In these de- 1769 bates they had seen a natural exasperation on the part of the Irish Members, whom it was proposed to coerce; and that was not to be wondered at, considering that it was the Irish vote which was, perhaps, almost the most effective agent in bringing the Government into power. ["No, no!"] Why, it was regarded as of so much value to hon. Gentlemen that, in order to obtain it, they had promised to support the appointment of a Committee which they knew would not be granted. They had scenes, in consequence, of the Obstructive practices of certain hon. Gentlemen from Ireland. Now, did anyone in his senses suppose that that Obstruction would have obtained its present dimensions if the talking powers of the Irish Members had not been utilized when the Conservatives were in Office? He asked, were they always to go on in the same weary track? Were they perpetually, whenever the Liberal Party was in Opposition, to have the Irish people so excited by agitation as to render all remedial legislation absolutely useless? If they believed it was by remedial and just legislation alone that Ireland could be quieted, nothing could be more foolish than to excite expectation on the part of those for whom they were about to legislate which they could not satisfy. During the last autumn they had allowed the tenants all over Ireland to believe that a Land Bill would be introduced on their behalf, which would give them, at a very little cost, the land that they now occupied. The more moderate, the more sensible, the more in accordance with sound principles the Land Bill was, the greater would be the revulsion of feeling in Ireland. He did not say that the land system in Ireland was perfect. He durst say that there were bad landlords, just as there were bad persons among other classes. But who wore the bad landlords? They were men who belonged to the same economical school as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The principles which had actuated that distinguished Gentleman with reference to the Irish Land Question had been this—to break up large properties and introduce landlords who would deal on commercial terms with their tenants. Well, they had broken up large properties in the Encumbered Estates Court. They had introduced a considerable 1770 number of landlords to deal on commercial terms with the tenants; and those were the people who had done all the mischief. Having done that, the Government now turned round and attacked the older landlords, who were admitted by the Royal Commission to be generally on good terms with their tenants. He did not wish, in any way, to anticipate the discussion which must, no doubt, take place upon the Irish Land Bill; but, at the same time, he would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, who sat below the Gangway, and whose tendencies were naturally in favour of tenants and against landlords, not to believe all they were told about landlords. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: Hear, hear!] He was reminded by the cheer of the hon. Member for Northampton, who was one of those individuals who believed anything bad about landlords, of a singularly able speech which he made on the second reading. It consisted of contradiction and assertion. The contradiction applied to all the facts laid before the House by the Government; and the assertion to what he (Mr. Labouchere) had been told of the landlords. He referred to conversations which he had with landlords, since proved to be hypothetical, and announced that it was their intention to clear their estates. He (Lord George Hamilton) admitted that it would be inhuman to clear an estate; and he doubted if it was possible at the present time to do so. Most certainly, the man who did so would not find himself pecuniarily benefited by the transaction. He challenged the statement of the hon. Member at the time, and the hon. Member promised to furnish him with names. These he had received; but he would not mention the names; it was sufficient to say that both of them denied having had such a conversation. He had no doubt the hon. Gentleman fully imagined that he was justified in making that statement. He only mentioned it in order to show the extraordinary difference between the manner in which lie dealt with evidence in his favour and evidence which was against him. The hon. Gentleman ought not to entertain the idea that all Irish landlords were bad. During a controversy which took place in Kerry a short time ago, one of the Land League leaders attacked Lord Kenmare, and indulged in some abusive 1771 language concerning his agent, Mr. Hussey. The last-named gentleman wrote to the Land Leaguer, expressing his surprise at this language, and observing that as Lord Kenmare was letting him a farm at £37, which he sub-let at £150, the sum which his Lordship asked for rent was not excessive. The gentleman who had made the attack on Lord Kenmare denied that he received as much as £ 150 for any farm which he had let; but it subsequently transpired that he had been receiving no less than £208, that he had turned out the tenant because he could not pay in full, had refused to give him one farthing of compensation, and had sued his securities for the last shilling. He (Lord George Hamilton) quoted it to show that, although there might be amongst the Land League men anxious to benefit the tenants, there were a good many who, either as middlemen or landlords, with tenants, had been very harsh in their dealings. In conclusion, he would say that he was afraid that by allowing the Land League agitation to run its course unchecked during the past six months, untold mischief had been done. Of course, the Government might, by that measure, restore law and order; but it could not do more. It was frequently said in that House that although the Irish had faults they had many virtues; and he thought he might say of them that there was not a more social people on the face of the earth. There was no country in many parts of which the relations between the different classes of the community were happier. But in many parts of Ireland there had been a complete social rupture. Although this Bill, and possibly the Land Bill which the Government might hereafter introduce, might do something to restore law and order, yet he felt perfectly certain that the ruin of the hopes of the tenants, which by the indiscretion of the Government had been unduly excited, and the recollection of the cruel tyranny which had been exercised by the Land League over all who opposed its sway, would in too many parts of Ireland, and, he feared, for many years to come, prevent that full revival of social concord and mutual trust without which he believed no community could permanently thrive or prosper.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he had listened to the speech of the noble Lord 1772 the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) with great pleasure. He knew nothing in that House so disastrous as any alliance between those two Front Benches, and he was very glad to see signs that the alliance between them had come to an end. Speeches that had been made from the Treasury Bench by right hon. Gentlemen in whom he hoard with horror welcomed with cheers (Mr. Labouchere) had, speaking generally, the greatest confidence, he had by hon. Gentlemen opposite in whom he had no confidence. He had, on the other hand, heard more than once speeches made from the Bench opposite praised on the Treasury Bench. Therefore, it was most refreshing when the noble Lord got up and gave what he called his support to Her Majesty's Ministers; and, he (Mr. Labouchere) hoped Her Majesty's Ministers liked the support they received. The noble Lord stated that Her Majesty's Ministers had been the allies of the Land League, because they did not summon Parliament in October and bring in a Coercion Bill. He (Mr. Labouchere) ventured to differ from Her Majesty's Ministers in their political line of action; but he certainly did not blame them for not meeting in October to bring forward a Coercion measure, neither did he blame them for not immediately pushing forward an Arms' Bill. He would say the landlords in Ireland had been the allies of misgovernment in Ireland. Many of them, being magistrates as well as landlords, were charged with the administration of the law, and they did not put the ordinary law in force, because they hoped to induce the Chief Secretary for Ireland to bring in a Coercion Bill, without which they were never satisfied. The noble Lord said that though outrages increased during the last two years, it was only when the Liberal Ministry came in that they increased enormously. Liberal Members had their theory as to these enormous increases. They believed that these outrages increased last year because hon. Gentlemen opposite, in alliance with a few hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House, gave courage to the Landlord League that existed in "another place" to throw out that excellent Compensation Bill, which the Chief Secretary for Ireland brought in, and which, if it had passed, they be- 1773 lieved would have prevented the introduction of this Coercion Bill. The noble Lord complained that this one Coercion Bill was not to be followed by another. He (Mr. Labouchere) would only say that he hoped that the noble Lord was right in his anticipation that they would not have a Disarmament Bill brought before them at any time; but he, like the noble Lord, was not quite satisfied with Her Majesty's Government. The only difference between himself and the noble Lord was that, whereas the noble Lord objected to there being only one Coercion Bill brought in, he (Mr. Labouchere) objected to any Coercion Bill at all being brought in. Many hon. Members had voted for the second reading of the Bill in doubt and with hesitation, with the hope that it would be altered in Committee, and that its most objectionable features would disappear. It had, however, come out of Committee as it went in—one of the severest Coercion Bills that had ever passed through that House. Not only did it place the liberties of every Irishman at the foot of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and enable him on mere suspicion to put them into prison and to keep them there, without even telling them of what particular crime they were accused; but it had a retrospective effect, although ex post facto legislation had been condemned by every writer on criminal jurisprudence since the legal murder of Strafford. The objectionable character of the Bill was still further heightened by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman was not satisfied with even its extraordinary powers being given him for this Session; but he asked for them for the next Session also. Why had the right hon. Gentleman asked for the power to be continued for so long a time? The right hon. Gentleman had said that probably it might not be necessary to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act for so long a time; but that possibly it might be necessary to do so, and therefore it was as well to give the power to suspend it for the full period at once, in order to save trouble. He (Mr. Labouchere) must confess that he had been surprised to hear such a doctrine as that proceed from the mouth of a Liberal Minister. Another peculiar feature in that Coercion Bill was that, whereas all other Coercion Bills had been directed 1774 against a class, this was directed against the whole people of Ireland, and had been persistently opposed by the majority of the Irish Representatives. The measure was, as it appeared to him, directed not only against the individual Members of the Irish constituencies, but against a considerable number of the Representatives of those constituencies. It was worth while asking how a Bill so bad and so illiberal ever came to be introduced into that House by a Liberal Ministry? The reply was, that the measure was not the Bill of the Liberal Ministry at all, neither was it the Bill of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. It was the Bill of territorialists in Ireland, of the magistrates who formed part of those territorialists, and of the permanent officials in Ireland, such as the Constabulary, who were the subservient tools of those who proudly termed themselves the "English garrison" of Ireland. There had been great congratulation among the Liberals when it first became known that so sound a Liberal as the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had been appointed to that high Office, because it was believed that so sturdy a Liberal would try to govern Ireland upon very different lines from those adopted by former Ministers. They wore not at first disappointed with the right hon. Gentleman. When he went over to Ireland first, he declined to have anything to do with the Peace Preservation Bill which his Predecessor had left him, and which the Conservative Party would have brought in, had they remained in Office. The right hon. Gentleman, in putting the measure aside, had said that he would not commence his career in Ireland by bringing in a Coercion Bill. When the right hon. Gentleman returned to this country, he brought in the Compensation for Disturbance Bill instead, a measure which met with the greatest approval on the Benches near him. That Bill had passed that House; but it was defeated in "another place" by the combined influence of the "Landlord League" of England and Ireland. When that occurred the Land League had to take up the matter. And, in connection with this point, it appeared to him (Mr. Labouchere) that several hon. Members of that House had mixed up two things which were totally distinct and separate —namely, the Land League in Ireland 1775 and Fenianism in America. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whom he was glad to see in his place, was listening to his observations. No doubt, at one time, Fenianism was a powerful organization in Ireland; but this was not at all the case now. No doubt, there were certain views held by what were known as the Fenian head-centres in that country; but, to the mass of the people, the association had represented the only organization which could give any practical effect to their aspirations for Land Reform. There were, therefore, a good number of people who joined the Fenians simply because they were in favour of a reform of the Irish Land Laws, and of such a modified form of Home Rule as was consistent with the unity of the Empire. When the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) went to America, he came into communication with Mr. Devoy, who was undoubtedly a Fenian, and with Mr. Davitt, who was undoubtedly a Land Leaguer, and had entirely given up his connection with the Fenians. Mr. Davitt had protested against outrages, and whenever it was understood that it was possible that something disagreeable might be done to a landlord he had used his influence to prevent it taking place. The House did not know what Fenianism really was at the present moment. The new York Fenianism was really an organization of some 20 persons, who found it an exceedingly good speculation to live upon the Irish waiting-maids and nurserymaids of that city. These men collected subscriptions —they might call it a "Skirmishing Fund," or whatever they liked; but the subscriptions went, in the main, into their own pockets to enable them to live in luxury. Occasionally, of course, in order to keep up the flow of contributions, they found it necessary to do something, and sometimes to even send emissaries to England. He did not, however, believe that those emissaries had committed any crime during the last two years, not because they would not do so, if they believed that they could perpetrate it in safety, but because they liked a whole skin, and had no idea of risking it. Very likely the tin of dynamite that had been discovered in a London square had been placed 1776 there by a Fenian, so that they might say in New York—"See what terrible follows we are, and how narrowly London escaped being blown up." He appealed to hon. Members opposite to say whether the condition of Fenianism in New York was not exactly as he had described it. Mr. ARTHUR, O'CONNOR: We do not know anything about it.] Although quite as innocent of any communication with the Fenians as the hon. Member was, he (Mr. Labouchere) knew a little more about the organization of the association than the hon. Member did; and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department would probably bear out his statement that the move was quite a childish one, and there was no necessity for the country to be so afraid of it, for these people were perfect children—malicious children, no doubt —whom it was perfectly absurd to dignify by calling terrible conspirators. The Irish Land League, however, was a totally different body, who sought to obtain specific legal reforms by passive resistance to the payment of what they considered to be unjust rent. The entire scheme of the Land League was opposed to all outrage, which, its members believed, did their organization positive harm. He believed, with the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that the outrages were committed by the village ruffians. It was probable even that some of the outrages in Ireland might have been perpetrated by Fenian emissaries from New York for the purpose of bringing discredit upon the Land League, of whom they were jealous for taking money of which they got no share. There could be no doubt that outrages occurred; but they were exaggerated, and put down by the landlord class to the Land League, because they hated the League more than they did Fenianism. They knew they had nothing to fear from Fenianism; but that was not the case with the League, which attacked them in that which was their dearest interest—namely, their pockets. The landlords, therefore, urged on the right hon. Gentleman to bring in this Bill, knowing well that he was no longer the sturdy Liberal he had been before going to Ireland. He had been demoralized, and had lost his nerve in the baneful atmosphere of the Castle at Dublin. The right hon. Gentleman came back from Ireland in November last with a 1777 list of outrages which had been furnished to him by the permanent officials at the Castle, and appealed to his Colleagues in the Cabinet to call Parliament together in order that he might bring in a Coercion Bill. That was refused; and the right hon. Gentleman went back to Dublin, whence he returned in December, and again preferred a request to his Colleagues, similar to that which he had previously made, and which had been refused by them. At that juncture the presence in the Cabinet of two right hon. Gentlemen, whom he (Mr. Labouchere) might safely describe as the political patron saints of his calendar, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, led many hon. Members, and the greater majority of Liberals, to believe that a proposal for coercive legislation would be accompanied by remedial measures; for, as was well known, both of those right hon. Gentlemen had on many occasions opposed the enacting of Coercion Acts pure and simple. But they had, on that occasion, to face their right hon. Colleague, who had come back from Ireland as the mouthpiece of the permanent officials and the landlord class in that country. The consequence was that when they were told by the right hon. Gentleman that he was convinced that it was impossible to govern Ireland except by coercion, the two right hon. Gentlemen to whom he (Mr. Labouchere) had referred as his political patron saints instantly succumbed, forgetting that their Colleague himself had become demoralized by the baneful influence of the atmosphere by which he had been surrounded. He (Mr. Labouchere) was very sorry for it, because many hon. Members must have noticed from their subsequent utterances that the hearts of the two right hon. Gentlemen were not in the work to which they had put their hands. Well, the Bill, in the end, was introduced, and in his speech on bringing it in, the right hon. Gentleman said it was based, in the main, on outrages which he stated had come to his knowledge; but it was afterwards admitted that those outrages were manufactured.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
But I remember the right hon. Gentleman, in great 1778 frankness, admitted that he really had not seen them till they appeared on the Return.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I told the House, over and over again, that the information I had obtained was separate from these Returns, and was much fuller. Generally speaking, the Returns furnished to hon. Members were shorter, and, consequently, very much understated the facts.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that it was a pity that, as the right hon. Gentleman rested his case almost entirely on outrages, he should have withheld the fuller details. It was hard on the House, and particularly on him (Mr. Labouchere), because he was so anxious to support the right hon. Gentleman's proposal, instead of being compelled to oppose it on the present occasion. There was one point in reference to this matter of outrages which had not been dealt with by the Government, and it was this:—-Notwithstanding the number of real and vamped-up outrages on which the Bill was based, it was clear, from the statistics, that the number of all crimes against the person or property had been smaller in the last than for many preceding years. After the outrages had been exploded, the right hon. Gentleman fell back on the arguments, some of which were very astounding. For instance, although he admitted that the number of outrages committed in the month of November was not sufficiently large to justify the bringing in of a Coercion Bill, and yet he insisted that although the number had considerably decreased since that time the Bill should still be persisted with. It was said that one reason for bringing in the Bill was the difficulty of obtaining witnesses to prove the offences charged; but it must be well known that while, in many cases, it was not possible to bring forward witnesses to prove the offences charged, there had been no difficulty in getting evidence where it was competent to do so. Taking the case of threatening letters and threats as instances, what could be more difficult, in the one case, to prove authorship, or more easy in the other for a man to get out of paying his rent, by stating, unsupported, that he had been threatened by some persons unknown to him with death in the event of his paying. As far as the difficulty of obtaining evidence was concerned, he 1779 would remind the House that evidence showed the fact that in Ireland the number of convictions obtained for offences against public order was as great in proportion as in many civilized countries, and quite as great as was the case in France. This being so, he had certainly been astounded to hear the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright), that, though, in ordinary circumstances, guarantees for liberty were necessary, there was no necessity for them on the present occasion if hon. Members had confidence in the men now at the helm of affairs. He (Mr. Labouchere) had always imagined that, according to Liberal doctrines, it was necessary that liberty should be guaranteed by law, and that the laws ought not to be modified merely because a particular Government was good and necessary, even although it might be a Liberal Government, and that they might safely be left to carry out the laws at their good pleasure. Carry the right hon. Gentleman's argument to its ultimate consequences, and they might do away with jurors because they had confidence in the Judges. He was not sure that they would not have better laws than they were likely to secure this Session if the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the President of the Board of Trade were to form themselves into a triumvirate in order to legislate for the country; but yet he should consider it a monstrous proposal to say that Parliament was to be dissolved in order that those right hon. Gentlemen might make laws for the people. Again, they were told that they ought to vote for the Coercion Bill because it would be accompanied by a remedial measure. A great many hon. Gentlemen at that side of the House, he believed, laid that flattering unction to their souls, and, on that ground, excused themselves for supporting the Bill before the House. He had no doubt that some hon. Gentlemen opposite would support the Land Bill, if it were a good Bill; and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Sir Stafford Northcote) had stated that he would give the remedial measure his candid consideration. But they could gauge what that meant by a previous explanation, for the right hon. Gentleman made a speech during the 1780 Recess, in which he said that the "three F's" meant fraud, force, and folly. Well, if the Laud Bill of the Government did not contain the "three F's" in some modified form, all he (Mr. Labouchere) could say was that it would not be received with any degree of satisfaction by his hon. Friends about him. If it did, they might reckon on the persistent opposition of the Conservative Party. But they were told that the Liberal Party were in a majority, and that was, no doubt, the fact. But did hon. Members recollect what occurred on the Compensation for Disturbance Bill of last year? If the Irish Members had not voted for that Bill, the Government would have had a majority of 7 votes only. If, then, the Irish Members opposed the forthcoming Land Bill, because it did not go far enough, and if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite opposed the measure because it went too far, it was likely that the Bill would be defeated in that House. But the Bill, even if it passed the House of Commons, would have to go to "another place," where there was a Conservative majority, and where the noble Lord the Leader of that majority was master of the situation. The noble Lord to whom he referred told his followers with respect to the Hares and Rabbits Bill that they ought to allow it to pass, because it was best that they should reserve their strength for great occasions; and he had no doubt that the Land Bill would be considered a great occasion. But he (Mr. Labouchere) might be told that if the Bill was lost in "another place" there would be an appeal to the country. Well, he should be glad if an appeal were made to the country. But such an appeal must take time; and if it were made, a new Land Bill could not, in that case, be submitted to a new Parliament for a considerable time. In this case, would they get remedial measures before next year? Hon. Members who relied on their immediate passage were not only counting their chickens before they were hatched, but they regarded an egg not yet laid as the same thing as a chicken grown up, cooked, and on the table. He had other objections to urge against the Bill. He had given Notice of an Amendment to protect small tenants from eviction; but that Amendment was ruled out of Order. What, then, was the position of these tenants? There were 200,000 tenants in 1781 Ireland with holdings under 10 acres each, and the Bill of last year was intended to prevent the landlords turning them out without compensation. What was the difference in their position now? There had, no doubt, been a good harvest, and many of them might have been enabled in consequence to pay this year's rent. But was it possible, after the hardships and distress they had endured, that they would be able to pay their arrears of rent and their debts to the shopkeepers? The noble Lord who spoke last [Lord George Hamilton) said that the Irish landlords were not better and were not worse than other people in Ireland, and he (Mr. Labouchere) would not say that they were; but the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant stated last year that there were exceptions—that there were landlords who were hard by nature, and landlords who were hard by circumstances; and it was unquestionable that if those landlords were left to themselves, they would avail themselves of the power to be given them by the Bill and evict their tenants. He found, from a Return which was issued yesterday that the number of writs issued by the Sheriff's Court during the Michaelmas quarter was 1,273; but, out of those, in only 198 cases had there been evictions. Thus it would be seen that 1,075 notices had been served and not followed up; but it was probable that those who served them were only waiting until this Bill passed to carry them into effect. The House knew what that meant from the words of the Prime Minister himself delivered last year. He considered it to be a very serious blot on the Bill that it did not contain some clause to protect those unfortunate people from unjust eviction; and it should be remembered that the 1,075 represented at least 5,000 individuals. It was all very well to talk about outrages; but, for his part, he knew of no outrage more scandalous than for a landlord to turn out a poor, miserable man, with his wife and family, to starve on the road side. It had been already stated in the newspapers that Lord Annaly had served notices of ejectment upon his tenants, and that a Mr. Barne had done the same, the occupiers of that gentleman's land being some of the poorest in the whole of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home 1782 Department, in his speech, took a new departure; instead of regretting that Irish Members had been heard so often, he regretted that the hon. Member for the City of Cork had been heard so seldom. Then he abused the opponents against whom he had nothing to say, and he tried to mix up the Fenians with the Land League, because he knew that he would incite a prejudice against the Land League by citing what the Fenians had done in America. The right hon. Gentleman read a speech from a Mr. Devoy, and another, he thought, from a Mr. Redpath. The speech of Mr. Devoy was to the effect that he contemplated blowing up the entire Government of this country, most of the towns in their country, and the capital; "and is this monster," the right hon. Gentleman said, "to be allowed to say these things without protest?" He then pointed out the terrible consequences of this speech; how a certain Patrick Stewart immediately subscribed the sum of one dollar in order that those intentions might be carried out. It seemed to him (Mr. Labouchere) that the only gentlemen who took the slightest notice of these terrible statements were the right hon. Gentleman himself and this Patrick Stewart, in the County Clare, Ireland, who contributed his one dollar. The right hon. Gentleman gave them a new reason for passing this Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. They had had the village ruffian and the difficulty of getting evidence and convictions; but the right hon. Gentleman gave them something fresh. "The men," he told them, "who make these speeches in America, Redpath and Devoy, must come over to Ireland, and the Bill is intended for those gentlemen." Surely the right hon. Gentleman was so eminent an authority on International Law that he must be aware that if these Americans were to come over to Ireland, and if they were to be taken upon mere suspicion and put in prison for 18 months without being told, or without their Minister in England being told, for what they were put in prison, and if they were not tried for 18 months, we should get, and rightly too, into considerable difficulty with the American Government. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: No !] The right hon. Gentleman said "No!" perhaps he meant that he would get us out of the difficulty. But would it not have 1783 been better to have brought in an Alien Bill than to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland? It was a strange thing to suspend the Habeas Corpus in Ireland because an American had made a speech in America. Had it really come to this—that we were to be asked to suspend our greatest guarantees for liberty because an American had made a speech in America? We should remember the fate of Lord Palmorston when he considered it necessary to propose some changes in the law of England because of the wild vapourings of certain journals in France. The House of Commons voted that Lord Palmerston's Government did not enjoy their confidence in making those changes, and if they passed-this Bill because they were irritated by speeches made in America, they must have greatly degenerated. He should bo sorry to see the present Government displaced by their opponents, and in pointing out what occurred in similar circumstances he could only say absit omen. The alleged advantages of the measure were that it would drive a certain number of crazy Fenians out of Ireland, that it would load to the imprisonment of a certain number of village ruffians, who, perhaps, thoroughly deserved to be imprisoned, and that it would enable landlords to collect their rents. Against these advantages were to be set off the disadvantages—that the measure would do away with the useful action of the Land League, and there was a great deal in what it did that was most useful; that it would enable landlords, not only to collect their rents from men who could pay them, but it would enable landlords to evict from their small holdings men who could not pay them—the very thing that the landlords had been prevented from doing by the action of the Land League. It would, moreover, alienate all classes in Ireland from the English connection. It would substitute secret societies for an open society called the Land League. By this Bill Parliament was playing into the hands of the Fenians, who would acquire an influence they did not now possess. Irishmen would say—"The agitation of the Land League has failed; let us go back to Fenianism." The disadvantages, then, of passing the Bill outweighed the advantages enormously. Right hon. Gentlemen might get fruit by cutting down 1784 the tree, but in cutting it down for its fruit they would do far more harm than if they had let the matter alone. The Bill was so unnecessary and unjust that he was convinced it never would have been passed through that House had it not been owing to the prejudice which was excited at the present moment against hon. Members opposite by what was called Obstruction. But Obstruction was no new tiling in the House. They had heard of hon. Gentlemen who had had recourse to it under special circumstances in the case of Private Bills. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) and the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had carried it pretty far. The Opposition last Session persistently obstructed every Bill, be-cause they hoped to prevent the passing of a Bill to deprive them of the exclusive right of shooting rabbits roared upon the crops of their tenants. It was not surprising, therefore, that Irish Members should have obstructed. He (Mr. Labouchere) did not blame them for that; if they had been kept, day after day, last autumn sitting there, owing to the Obstruction to the Hares and Rabbits' Bill, surely it was only reasonable and legitimate that they should be kept weeks discussing the details of a Bill which was to take away the liberties of 5,000,000 of their fellow-countrymen. If he might venture to give hon. Gentlemen opposite a piece of advice, and he meant it in good part, it would be that they should be careful in future to abstain from oven the suspicion of Obstruction. Their cause was a good one. Let that cause be stated fairly and honestly to the English public—let it be allowed to stand on its own merits. He was perfectly convinced that there were many persons in England already very much inclined to take the same views as many Irishmen on Irish matters, and that number would be greatly increased were those matters separated from prejudice which was now created owing to Obstruction. He was not speaking of disintegration. He believed the majority of hon. Gentlemen from Ireland were opposed to disintegration. It should be remembered that in England there was a Land Question, and in the counties there was a demand for Home Rule; and, indeed, 1785 there were many points upon which the Democracy of England and Ireland ought to unite. He therefore hoped that hon. Gentlemen opposite would not be carried away by the irritation of the moment. He hated the Coercion Bill as much as they did; but he could not shut his eyes to the fact that not only in England, but in Ireland, the men that had made the country better than it was were the Liberals and not the Conservatives. The Conservatives might make gentle speeches and use soft words to catch Irish votes; but the attitude of Conservatism towards Ireland was indicated by the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Lowther) in his present candidature, in which he said the atrocities of Montenegro and Greece were exceeded in Mayo and Galway. Irish Members could judge from such speeches what they were likely to get beyond soft words from the Conservatives when acts were wanted to do justice to Ireland. Now, the Liberal record was good. All the reforms which had been introduced in recent years had been proposed by the Liberals and opposed by the Conservatives. [Cries of "No, no!"] In Ireland, the names of the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster were, but a little while ago, household words. Those right hon. Gentlemen were respected and venerated by the Irish people, and Irish Members should not forget the services which those two great statesmen had rendered to their country, nor unite themselves with those who were the persistent and everlasting enemies of popular freedom.
§ MR. R. POWER rose to address the House, when
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ Mr. R. POWER
resumed, by saying that the Irish Members had much cause to be grateful to the hon. Members for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), and Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen), for the noble manner in which they had supported them in resisting that Bill; and he only regretted that there were not more Radicals in the House of so good and sincere a type. The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) had attributed the present condition of 1786 Ireland to the wild and reckless language employed by the Liberal Ministers when in Opposition; but it was a great mistake to attribute to such a cause the great movement in which the Irish people were now engaged. It would be easy to quote remarkable sentences, quite as wild and reckless as those alluded to by the noble Lord, which had been uttered by leading Members of the Conservative Party when out of power. It was the inconsistency of the language used by both Parties when in Office and in Opposition that had driven the Irish people almost to despair of Constitutional action, because they believed that the language used by right hon. Gentlemen on both sides was not really meant to be acted upon for their interests, but was intended for Party and political purposes. The hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood) told them of the great pain which he felt in voting for this Bill; and he (Mr. E. Power) was astonished that hon. Members on the Liberal side should have thought it necessary to say the same thing so often. It put him in mind of a schoolmaster who used to flog him periodically, and who always tried to persuade him that he suffered as much from the punishment himself. All the schoolmaster's eloquence, however, failed to convince him on that point. He objected to the inconsistency of the Liberal Members on the subject. When the Conservatives were in power the hon. and learned Member for Stockport voted on every occasion against the Coercion Bill which they introduced. So did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella). That right hon. Gentleman complained that the Conservative Government met the statements of the Irish Members by a conspiracy of silence; and he described the arrest of persons on suspicion and their confinement without trial as a proceeding which was "a disgrace to civilization and a Constitutional system." But the right hon. Gentleman now supported the very thing which he condemned when in Opposition. The speech of the Secretary of State for the Home Department had been sufficiently dealt with by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere); and therefore he (Mr. E. Power) should only say with reference to it, that the reason he had adduced in support of the Bill was a novel and ex- 1787 traordinary one. The Bill was necessary, he said, because a few wild and irresponsible Yankees talked something about dynamite in America. That was one of the most amusing reasons ever brought before the House of Commons. Surely the right hon. Gentleman must know very well that the Bill could never reach people in America, and that Irishmen had no more sympathy with persons who proposed to commit outrages by means of dynamite than they had at the present moment with Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman had talked, too, about a "headless Party" as describing the condition of the Irish Opposition, forgetting the condition of the Liberals when sitting in Opposition, as to which no one could tell which was the head and which was the tail. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed some apprehension that he and his Colleagues might be blown up. He should be very sorry to see the right hon. Gentleman elevated to "another place" by unfair means, and hoped he would only find his way there in consequence of the Constitutional action of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister stated that the majority of the Irish Members were not opposed to the Bill; but on referring to the Division Lists, it would be found that, whilst 59, 40, and 42 Irish Members had, on various occasions, voted against the measure, the largest number that ever supported it was 17. On the occasion of the second reading 58 Irish Members voted against, and only 13 in favour of the Bill. Was it fair, then, to say that the majority of the Irish Representatives and the majority of the Irish people were not opposed to coercion? There was hardly an Irish Member who had voted for this measure whose conduct had not been denounced in the strongest terms by his constituents. Their constituents had called upon hon. Members who voted for the Bill to resign their seats, and had paid them the compliment of burning them in effigy. In fact, an Irish Member who had voted for coercion had no more chance of being again returned to the House than he himself had of going to the House of Lords. They had now come to the last stage of the Bill, and the Irish Members who opposed it had the satisfaction of knowing that they had discharged a troublesome and painful task; but they could not spare them- 1788 selves, nor could they in any way curtail their liberty of speech, when they found how severe and fatal was the Bill which aimed at the liberties of their countrymen. They had had to fight against right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. Eight hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side had certainly made great sacrifices, for it must have been a sacrifice for them to forget the Mid Lothian speeches of a few months ago, to forgive the Birmingham Caucus, and to shake hands and appear to be on amicable terms with the friends of Russian domination. In these circumstances the Irish Members had endeavoured, to the best of their ability, to discharge the functions of an Opposition. When they saw that the Members of the Conservative Party were prepared to make further sacrifices in order to support the Bill, which, would strangle the liberty of Ireland, the Irish Members felt that they, too, should make sacrifices, and face the prejudices of this country in order to secure, if possible, the liberties of the Irish people. The parties on both sides had united to aim a blow at Parliamentary institutions, and had made laws and regulations which could not, and had not, defeated the Irish Party, but which had lowered their Assembly to the level of the greatest autocratic Assembly in the world. He believed that when the country had had time to think of what it had gained and what it had lost, the English electors would see that they had supplanted Imperialism and established a despotism. He was satisfied that the Irish Members had discharged a difficult, but necessary duty. They had shown the untrustworthy nature of the statistics which had been brought forward as; a justification of this repressive measure, and the Government and the House were now in this position —that they were passing the severest Coercion Bill which had ever stained the Statute Book, for a country in which there was less crime than in any other country in Europe. In conclusion, he could only say he was glad so little bitterness and so little bad feeling had characterized those debates. He hoped that when these discussions wore over, a remedial measure worthy of the name would be presented, and that they would show themselves ready to legislate properly for Ireland by giving to the tenant farmers that fixity of tenure, fair rent, 1789 and free sale, without which that country could neither be satisfied, nor prosperous and happy.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
said, that Parliament had inflicted a great injustice on Ireland by that Bill. Past legislation had wronged her, and persistent refusals of reform on the vital question of the land had driven her to despair. She had been forced into a method which savoured of a revolution, because it set the Civil Law at defiance for the time being. Though the measure was directed against the Land League and its procedure, and not merely against the outrages which had grown upon the Land League, yet a time would come when the operation of that Bill having passed away men would admit that the Land League had saved landlords from secret societies and the tenants from wholesale evictions, and had, moreover, brought the tenants nearer to Land Reform than any previous legislation had done. No doubt the weapon used by the Land League, insistance on abatement of rent, was liable to abuse. He could not deny that it had been preached without much discrimination, and by some—not, however, by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell)—in such a way as to suggest a repudiation of contracts. But before it was used the House was warned that it would be used. He (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) himself had said, in his place in the House last Session, that, as to advising the tenants generally not to pay rent, any such advice deliberately given would be unjust and contrary to good conscience; but that there were cases in which, unless some advice of that kind were given, the landlords could not be brought to reason. Nothing could be more demoralizing than an agitation which might be construed into an advice to men not to meet their lawful obligations; but on those who refused any other remedy for the present state of things the sin must lie. Let those tenants who had been compelled, as many were, by coercion, and not in the fair and open market, to pay rent, offer what according to their conscience was a fair rent, and no more. If there was danger of that advice being abused they could not help it. If there were Roman Catholic clergymen in Ireland who took up that agitation, it would be their duty to tell the tenants not to make an unjust use 1790 of it, but to pay their rents honestly, unless they were excessive. He admitted that the weapon was in its nature revolutionary; but the occasion justified some departure from the Civil Law. The House was now about to hand over the tenantry, with all their imperfections on their heads—that is to say, with the arrears of bad seasons-to the landlords, and he knew well that if any effort was made by strong expressions of the opinions of the populace to dissuade the landlords from insisting on their rights, they would find it very easy to make out that they were intimidated by fear of violence, and thus the tenantry would be brought within the Act. He hoped that some light would be found behind the cloud that now hung over them, and he believed that if a good Land Act were passed, no Minister would ever again be called on to come to the House and propose a Coercion Bill for Ireland. If they developed the means of creating a peasant propriety, if they established such relations between landlord and tenant as would prevent rents from being raised, and if they provided security and freedom of disposal to the occupying tenant, they would remove the only cause which set class against class in Ireland, and made the influence of England hated, and agitation would be no more possible. Other reforms would be necessary; but they would be easily conceded to a contented and united people. He was confident that the people of Ireland would show dignity and wisdom in face of the Coercion Act, and that the only result would be that while the abuse inevitable in agitation would be pruned down, they would maintain a just and Constitutional agitation until the problem was solved. They were never further from despair. They had a just cause; they had the sympathy of the civilized world. They needed not to have recourse to the alliance of men who brought ruin on their own country and dishonour on the best cause. He believed, too, that they had allies, not in the landlords and rich men, but in the millions of Englishmen in the classes which had so few Representatives in that House, but whose few Representatives had stood up manfully for Ireland. They also had the encouragement of the Pontiff who ruled over the Roman Catholic Church, to whose voice the great majority of Irishmen 1791 listened reverentially. With all these advantages, they would be wise and resolute. They would so act as to sot coercion at defiance, and they would at last wring from Parliament a settlement of the Land Question which would make coercion a memory of the past.
§ MR. T. C. THOMPSON
said, it seemed to him a strange thing that they should be discussing a measure to take away the liberties of the people of Ireland. Ever since the observation that we were with in "a measurable distance of civil war" a feeling had been growing up that some strong measure of coercion was necessary. Arguments had been presented for the measure not based upon principles, but upon facts which had been put before the House in a dramatic shape to excite their terror, and to induce them by fear to eon-sent to this measure, which he believed to be unprincipled and unconstitutional. They could remember, at the opening of this long debate, the dramatic manner in which the Returns of agrarian crime were placed before them; and they reached the culminating point on the previous night, when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department put before them a picture which was almost enough to frighten timid people out of their senses. The right hon. Gentleman talked of the wolf-dog of America coming over here to influence their proceedings. Instead of its being the wolf-dog of America that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman he quoted referred to, it was the wolf-dog of Irish vengeance. But those statistics failed to impress anyone who looked nearly into them, and they should discuss this measure as one of principle. The reason why he opposed this measure was simply this—that by all measures of this kind they weakened, enervated, or destroyed the Constitution of the country. Every Coercion Bill brought into a free State was something-undoing the great Constitutional edifice which our ancestors had been building up through past centuries. There might be circumstances under which the Constitution of a free country might be suspended. It might be done if a foreign army was in possession of some of the strongholds of the land. It might be done if a foreign navy was sailing up the Thames. It might be done if intestine commotion was eating into the vitals of the coun- 1792 try, or if it was impossible to collect the Revenues of the Crown. There was no other occasion on which the Constitution of the country should be suspended. But not one of these things was taking place now. We had no foreign fee in the land to contend with, Her Majesty's Revenues were easily collected, and there was no intestine commotion. In Ireland the power of the Crown had full effect. Was it not true that there was an enormous number of evictions at present in Ireland? And how could those evictions be carried out if the Queen's writs were not running? And yet almost the only reason given for the Bill was that the Queen's writs were not running in Ireland. With respect to the crime which was said to be committed in Ireland, they must remember that Ireland was an agricultural country, and they must expect the offences committed in it to be of an agricultural character. Of the outrages, they would see, the greater part were not by the people against the State, but by the people one against the other. There was no country where the people were so fond of possessing the land. In England land was looked upon as an expensive luxury; but in Ireland the happiness of the people seemed to depend upon its possession. Quarrels arose because one member of a family got possession of the land which another thought should be his. A great deal had been said about the maiming of cattle which they were not justified in saying, and which could be easily explained. It was, no doubt, a horrible tiling to cut off the tails of cattle; but he (Mr. Thompson) came from a county in which the people never, by any accident, left the tail of a sheep uncut. The maiming of cattle was done in Ireland, not from wanton cruelty, but from the idea that the landlords, from a feeling of greed, from a desire to get rid of labour, wanted to turn the arable land into pasture, and thus lessen the demand for labour. The cattle were to them the symbol that the laud on which and by which they lived was to be taken from them. Mr. Froude, in his eloquent and magnificent history, showed that in the time of Henry VIII. the landlords of England for a long series of years had been endeavouring, in their own interest, to turn arable land into pasture, and the result was the greatest distress 1793 throughout the country, and the necessary interference of Parliament to defend the poor, of whom he hoped they would always be the guardians. Then the cases of arson had been relied on, and, no doubt, the word "arson" conveyed horrible ideas. It conveyed the idea of a man going into a stackyard and burning down all the stacks—a very horrible offence. But, if they looked through the list of cases, they would find that in Ireland half the cases turned out to be fires in unoccupied houses. Ten thousand persons were turned out by eviction during the most inclement season. Those poor people went into these unoccupied houses and made fires to keep themselves warm. Early in the morning they left, that they might not fall into the hands of the police, and then these officers came in and reported cases of arson. This all showed that Ireland was not in the dreadful condition alleged. Then, as to firing into dwellings, which constituted a large proportion of the offences, that was scarcely ever done except by bands of men, and an active police could easily prevent it. It scarcely ever hap-pended on these occasions that any personal injury was done—no life was taken, and when a case of injury occurred it was by accident. If harm had been meant, surely hundreds of persons must have been killed. The object was not to shoot people, but to terrify— to induce them to join an agrarian league to protect themselves against injustice and wrong. What was the reason that all the poor people were being turned from their homes? It was simply to get rent. What was rent? Rent could be clearly marked out. It was the surplus which remained after the cultivation of the soil and the maintenance of the cultivator and his family had been paid for. Why had not the rent been paid in Ireland? Were the Irish bad payers of rent? Not at all. The reason was simply that the Great God of Heaven had given no opportunity of late to the cultivator to gather the harvest, but had sent His storms and His winds to blight the produce of the fields. The winds and the storms had blighted the crops, and there was no surplus remaining. There was nothing to pay the cultivator of the soil, much less the idle landlord; and yet they were asked to pass that Bill, which would put 1794 the poor people into the hands of the landlords that they might get the miserable rent which the people were unable to pay. It was a cruel thing, and possibly there was growing up a feeling in the country which would make them sorry for what they had done, and, perhaps, under the influence of that sorrow, recall the wrong act which they were perpetrating now. With regard to the provisions of the Bill, the Chief Secretary for Ireland said that the persons arrested would be treated in the same way as unconvicted prisoners. But the Bill did not appear to carry that out, for when they looked carefully into facts, they found that inquiry was to be made every three months by the Irish officials as to the position in which the prisoners stood. But it was obvious that the inquiry would not take place until the end of the three months, so that they might take it for granted that persons would be kept in prison from three months to three months. There was an Assize in Ireland three times a-year, and the average time an unconvicted prisoner spent in gaol was two months; so that, as a fact, the suspected persons would not stand in the same position as unconvicted prisoners. They would be in prison for three months, whilst the unconvicted prisoner remained two months only without trial. Besides that, the unconvicted person had the advantage of his counsel and his trial, while the suspected person had not. Persons would be arrested, no doubt, on the suspicion of very good men; but experience had taught them never to give up their liberties to any one man. It was for the advantage of civilization that they should not sacrifice their great political principles, and therefore he held they must be careful they did not yield up one jot of their liberties; and they should insist that the persons arrested on suspicion should be treated at least as unconvicted prisoners. He contended, also, that they were not dealing fairly with these men, for it was not right to prevent the prisoners speaking to each other. Was not the power of England great enough to prevent them from doing harm within the prison walls without adding to their sufferings that of solitary confinement? They were men against whom no charge was made and no evidence adduced; and were no mistakes likely to be made? Of the 1795 persons committed by magistrates in England one-fourth were acquitted as innocent, while of those committed in Ireland from one-third to one-half were acquitted. But persons committed by magistrates were heard in their defence. They were allowed to call witnesses. Under this Act no defence was permitted, and no witnesses could be called. Therefore, a fortiori, the percentage of innocent persons committed under this Act must be larger than under the ordinary process of the law. Upon that ground, for one, he contended that those persons should have newspapers, society, and everything necessary, remembering that among them might be many persons quite as innocent of the crimes of which they were supposed to be guilty as any Member of that House. He had thought it right to say what he had, because he was acting apart from his Party, almost alone, and on some occasions quite alone. He felt it was a very sad and serious thing to break political ties, because, in doing so, they very often broke tenderer ties; and it was quite possible—though he hoped not—that the action he had, taken on the present occasion would destroy some of those friendships and some of those happinesses in which consisted the great charm of life.
§ MR. LEAMY
wished to thank the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. T. 0. Thompson) for his generous and able speech. The assistance given by the hon. Member and a few others could not easily be forgotten by the people of Ireland. He was glad that the hon. Member had not, as the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Ashton Dilke) said that so many of the Radicals in that House had, put aside principle for Party. Radical Members had abandoned the principles which they used to profess when they sat on the opposite side of the House. They had never been told what the precise object of the Government was in bringing in that Bill, or in which way it was intended to operate. It had been said that they did not wish to put down every kind of public meeting; but they did not specify what kinds of meeting would be suppressed. Doubtless the Government would try to put down the Land League. But what would they gain? Irish Members had had great difficulty in persuading the people that there was any 1796 hope of good from the English Government. What could they say to the people now? The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) had justly said that evening that he was perfectly convinced that the Government had connived at the agitation, for there had been nothing authoritative said against it during the Recess. The Government might succeed in putting down the meetings; but it would not put down the agitation of the Land League. Until lately the supporters of the Land League believed that by the agitation they were strengthening the hands of the Government, enabling them to deal more effectively with the question of Land Reform. After the rejection of the Disturbance Bill, he (Mr. Leamy) had come to the conclusion that there was nothing to be done in this country, and that their only hope was from agitation in Ireland. If it were intended to put down the Land League, why was not an authoritative pronouncement made three months ago? Until a week before the House met, the Land Leaguers were thoroughly convinced that they had in this agitation the sympathy of many Members of the Cabinet. It had been said, how-over, that the men who took part in the agitation did not denounce crimes and outrages as they ought to have done. He had, however, himself attended 13 or 14 public meetings, at many of which clergymen were present, and he never attended one at which outrages were not deprecated and denounced. But the fact was that those denunciations were so much a matter of course that the newspapers took no notice of them. They could not occupy their space time after time with the same matters. There had been in Ireland, and especially among the clergy, great confidence in the Head of the Government, an almost unlimited trust in the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and there was nothing sadder throughout the agitation, and nothing had more discouraged Irish tenants, than to find the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who had stood out against coercion so long, siding with the Chief Secretary for Ireland now. He was very much afraid that the Government had struck a blow at Constitutional agitation in Ireland. He had no fear that the Coercion Act would 1797 strike terror into the people of Ireland. That House was not able to gauge or estimate or analyze the real feelings of people in Ireland. There was a great struggle, no doubt, in England for Land Reform. But in Ireland the land was the sole industry, and it was almost crushed under the present system. It had been said that the Irish Party did not represent Ireland, because they were not connected with the land. But the fact was evidence of their fitness for that purpose. It was because Members had been sent to that House for so many years who were interested in the land, that the Land Question was still unsolved. He had risen for the purpose of entering, on behalf of himself and his brother Irish Members, a last protest against an unjust and tyrannic measure which a Liberal Government, proving false to all their protestations, had introduced with the plain and palpable object of retaining their seats on the Treasury Bench. He would remind the House that a great change within the last 14 or 15 years had come over the people of Ireland. Radical Members generally did not seem to understand the present movement. It was a democratic upheaval of a people long oppressed. On former occasions of coercion, the Irish had been prostrate, crouching, and submissive; but, at last, they had gained their feet, and were becoming conscious of their strength, and no Coercion Acts would ever strike them down again.
§ MR. MACDONALD
rose to say a word or two to express his final protest against the Bill in the strongest manner the Forms of the House would allow. He had been closely studying the history of Ireland, and he had come to the conclusion that no country had ever suffered so much from another as Ireland had suffered from England. Throe times had we attempted to destroy the people altogether and to drive them into the sea. But those who attempted to do so became united in habits and religion with those whom they had essayed to sub-due. Various and singular reasons had been given as an excuse for the introduction of the Bill; but one after another they had been struck down. At last they heard the real reason from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department. It was sprung upon them the previous night. 1798 The Bill was all duo to a man named Devoy, who lived somewhere in America. The words of Mr. Devoy struck terror into the British Lion, and a Liberal Government, with a majority of 100, was so alarmed that it introduced the Bill in order to legislate for Mr. Devoy and a few others in some unknown slum in New York. This was a discreditable confession to make. The Government were about to do another injustice to Ireland; and he could assure them that it was not from Devoy or from O'Donovan Rossa that danger was to be expected. The Irish danger in America lay much deeper. There was a little hitch just now with America, and there was greater reason for fear in the increasing hostility of the Irish nation in America than from the ravings of the fanatic whose speech had been quoted by the Secretary of State. Let them read the Resolutions of earnest sympathy passed within the last few days by the Legislatures of Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, and Ohio, and by great public meetings all over America, and learn whence came the cause for fear. Already in the Congress of the States the Fisheries Question had-been declared urgent, one Member saying he would try to make it a cause of quarrel with England, that the wrongs of Ireland might be redressed. He was afraid from the attitude adopted by many hon. Gentlemen on the Radical Benches that if there was much legislation for Ireland the word "Radical" would become a misnomer. An hon. Member had called his attention recently to the remarkable unanimity which prevailed among the Liberal lawyers with regard to this Bill. They all supported it, and the hon. Member asked him—"Do you know why?" He replied that he did not, and the hon. Member replied—"The reason is there are two Judgeships vacant." That was base and mean; and although not endorsing the suggestion as true, he thought if there were half-a-dozen vacancies on the Judicial Bench the lawyers would never have ceased denouncing the Irish and supporting the Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood) professed his great love for Ireland; but he never lost an opportunity of voting for this Bill. It was as if a man professed great affection for a woman and then kicked her with his boot. Such love was very like unkind or false 1799 love. He (Mr. Macdonald) felt bound to protest against this Bill. He had voted against it because it suppressed the liberties of a whole people on account of the action of a few; because it left the people of Ireland in the hands of the informer, the spy, and the paid partizan; because it left the women and children of Ireland at the mercy of hirelings, who cared nothing for the morality of the people, so long as they promoted their own objects; and because it came from the hands of the so-called Liberal Party, with which he had been associated all his life. In the last Parliament one Member of the present Government cried out from below the Gangway, "India, India, India!" He clung to the cause of India with desperate grasp. Another sitting in the same part of the House in the last Parliament, and now on the Treasury Bench, raised his voice for the Basutos and the Boers, and he obstructed the House again and again on the question of the Transvaal. Another hon. Member, who used to sit on the Benches below the opposite Gangway, had been wont to plead the cause of Greece. It was "Living Greece no more" with that hon. Member now that he was in Office. Greece would be dead and Ireland, too, until those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen returned to the Benches they occupied when in Opposition. They also found a right hon. Gentleman, who had for 40 years stood up for the liberties of the people, and whose eloquent voice had shaken the hearts of the Protectionist landlords of this country, now calling on the House to pass a Bill for trampling on the liberties of Ireland. That night the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant would be in the proud position of being able to say that he had slaughtered Ireland's freedom by that Coercion Bill, and he would be supported by hon. Gentlemen who had been loud in their sympathy for Bulgarians, Zulus, Boers, and suffering humanity in general. Those hon. Gentlemen would pass out into the Division Lobby like mutes to assist at the burial of the liberties of Ireland. He had to say, in conclusion, that he, for one, was heartily ashamed of Liberals and Radicals who could thus consent to join hands with oppression, and who could be found voting with a Government to destroy the liberty of a nation.
§ MR. BIDDELL
said, he desired that Ireland should be treated not merely with justice but with generosity. There could be no doubt that in the past great tyranny and injustice had been inflicted upon Ireland; but that occurred 50 or 100 years ago, and it was now time to forget it. Because their fathers had oaten sour grapes it was not necessary that the children's teeth should be set on edge for ever. He should not have risen in this debate but for the speech of the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. T. C. Thompson). He regretted to hear the hon. Gentleman say that the action of the landlords in turning their lauds into pasture had been dictated by a feeling of spite—
§ MR. T. C. THOMPSON
said, he did not say that the landlords were actuated by spite, but that the tenants thought they were, and that they believed what the landlords were doing was greatly to the injury of their tenants.
§ MR. BIDDELL
was glad to hear the hon. Member's explanation; but he contended that the landlords had acted simply on commercial principles, and that if they had turned their lands into pasture, it was only because they could not make them profitable in any other way. It was a melancholy fact that thousands of acres of arable land in Ireland had been turned into pasturage, causing a diminution of employment; but he was sorry to say that unless the prospects of agriculture greatly improved that operation would not be confined to Ireland, but would extend to England also. They might talk about philanthropy as much as they pleased, especially when it came out of other people's purses; but, after all their preaching, men must revert to commercial principles and use the land in the way which was found the most profitable. The greatest evil Ireland had to contend with was competition. It was a singular thing that, in all this distress, there was scarcely a farm to let in Ireland; while in his own county (Suffolk), there were numerous farms vacant which could not be let at all. With regard to the Bill before the House, he was inclined to support it, both upon its own merits and also from respect to the right hon. Gentleman who had introduced it. The Chief Secretary for Ireland was the best-abused man in England. Nevertheless, there was no 1801 man in the country who, in his opinion, better deserved that they should stand by him than did that right hon. Gentleman. No salary, and hardly any honour, could reward that right hon. Gentleman for the anxiety which he had had in this Irish Business. The best thanks of the nation were due to the right hon. Gentleman for what he had done; and he, as a Member of the House, thanked him for his exertions with regard to this measure. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman was actuated in what he had done by the most humane motives.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he desired to say a few words before this measure finally went to "another place." The people of Ireland had been made victims of this agitation, when, in reality, they had entered on it with the idea that the Government wanted it, in order that they might the more readily push on their schemes of Land Reform. The origin of the agitation which set in last autumn in Ireland was the rejection of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, which, although the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) thought little of it, would have done a great deal of good to the country. It had been brought in with the most benevolent intentions, and he (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) believed the Chief Secretary for Ireland must have regarded its rejection with philanthropic chagrin. The speeches of the Prime Minister, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, after the rejection of that Bill by the House of Lords, had created an impression among the Irish people that they had more Radical friends on the Treasury Bench, as far as the Land Question was concerned, than they had in their own Representatives. Those speeches had produced most exaggerated notions as to the intentions of the Government, and the people believed they were carrying out the wishes of the Government by putting on steam in forwarding the Land agitation. As to this measure, if such were to become the law, as seemed now to be inevitable, he believed that it could not be in better hands than those of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman, he had no doubt, would administer it with humanity; but if he used it at all, he would have to imprison twice as 1802 many innocent as guilty persons. The nature of people in Ireland was to suspect all around them. If they could not discover who had committed a crime, they suspected everyone near them. Having voted against every one of the provisions of the measure at every stage, he must, in order to maintain his consistency, oppose the Motion for its third reading.
MR. J. COWEN
said, it was difficult for anyone to give expression to a new idea, or even to lend emphasis to an old one, on the question before the House. But before the obnoxious measure passed its final stage, he wanted to record once more his protest against it. Its passage into law would mark a painful chapter in the history of that House. They had had during its progress a Parliamentary coup d'état. They had witnessed a curtailment of some, and the suppression of other, liberties that were the cherished heritage of centuries, and they had experienced the establishment of a Dictatorship. The Government— for the purpose of supplying themselves with sufficient reasons for their policy— had had recourse to the practices of Paul Pry and of Fouche. They had opened private letters, and subjected the freely-chosen Representatives of the people to a surveillance that had been unheard of, certainly unpractised, since the days of the Stuarts. In company with a handful of hon. Friends sitting near him, he had persistently, consistently, and uncompromisingly opposed the Bill. They had fought it upon every inch of ground furnished them by the Forms of the House. They had resisted it as a whole, and they had resisted it in detail. In doing that, they had done nothing more than sustain the honoured traditions of English Radicalism. The course that he and his hon. Friends had pursued would have been pursued by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench—and not by six, but more than 60, sitting behind him there—if the position of Parties had been reversed, and a measure of a like character had been proposed. According to the ethics of latter-day Liberalism, coercion, when submitted by Tories, was a hateful and horrible enactment; but when proposed by a Liberal Administration, it was a beneficent provision for the protection of life and property. No doubt, that inconsis- 1803 teney could be reconciled to the crooked morality of partizanship; but he was sufficiently obtuse neither to see its justice nor its wisdom. A proposition was right, or it was wrong, upon its merits; and it was matterless what man proposed it, or what Party acted as its sponsors. The Bill before the House, in his judgment, was bad in principle, cruel in practice, and disastrous in its consequences. The British Parliament, the incorruptible sentinels of the Constitution, had made the liberties of the Irish people dependent upon the whim and temper of a nervous and inexperienced Lord Lieutenant, and a brusque and—so far as the Irish Members were concerned, he feared he must add —a somewhat supercilious Chief Secretary. He made no appeal to the Government, for he knew that either appeal or remonstrance addressed to them from men who, like himself, had so unceasingly resisted their coercion policy, would be unheeded; but he would like to put before the House some reasons why the despotic provisions of this measure should be mildly and mercifully applied—not in the interests of Ireland, not for the convenience or the comfort of the unfortunate men who were to be imprisoned, but for the benefit and the credit of the nation. He differed toto cœlo from the Government as to the necessity for such an Act. Wherever there was political disaffection amongst a people, broadening to the verge of insurrection, the laws under which that people lived, the Government by whom those laws were administered, wore by the very existence of the disaffection tried and condemned. It was a fallacy, a pitiful fallacy, which all history proclaimed, that the unruly passions of a people could be stirred into activity by the impetuosity of agitators, however earnest or however able, if there was not just ground of grievance. Whenever the affairs of a country were honestly administered, and the laws equitably applied, you could not convince the people of such a State that they were tyrannized over, trampled on, or insulted. A prosperous and contented population turned a deaf ear to the syren voice of sedition. You might pipe as lustily as you liked, but they would not dance to revolutionary music. If a man's boot pinched him, he did not punish his foot, but he altered his boot. In like manner, if the laws of a country 1804 pinched a people, and they gave expression to their pain, it was the duty of Rulers to inquire into their suffering and provide a remedy for it. That was not what the Government had done towards Ireland. For the better part of the third of a Session they had strained all their powers to manufacture whips by which to scourge the Irish people. That was not acting, in his opinion, wisely. Their course should have been to amend the laws complained of, and, if that had been done, there could have been no pretext, much less necessity, for the suspension of the Constitution. He had a cardinal difference, therefore, with the Ministry. He denied the necessity for their coercive measures, and he questioned their efficacy. But dismissing that view of the matter for the nonce, let them, for argument's sake, place themselves in the position of the Government. Let them approach the subject from the standpoint of the Ministers, and, having done that, he maintained that the lawlessness they lamented, and the disorder they deplored, might have been lessened, if not entirely avoided, if there had not been administrative vacillation and apathy. If, during last autumn or the commencement of the winter, the Common Law had been put in force firmly but temperately, the agitation would have been shorn of many of its excrescences. No one denied that there had been excesses, and none regretted them more than the Irish Members themselves. If there had been a vigorous application of the ordinary law of the country to these deviations from order, the Land movement would have been kept within legal channels, while its intensity would not have been reduced, or its success impaired. He did not believe it would have been possible for the Government to stay the agitation. That was beyond their power. The wellhead of political and agrarian discord was buried deep in the wrongs of ages, and no Coercion Bill that either this or any other Ministry could introduce could stop its perennial overflow. But the Government really did not wish to allay the agitation. They regarded it, up to a point, with approval; and he did not blame them for it. They conceived that the movement would make to their advantage; and, while they did not absolutely encourage it, they certainly regarded it without disapprobation when 1805 kept within given limits. It had gone beyond those limits, and had become troublesome. That, however, did not get over the fact that the Ministers were at first not unfriendly to a circumscribed agitation. To appreciate the point of that remark, they required to carry their minds back for 18 months or two years. It was necessary for them to recall circumstances that took place in the closing days of the last Parliament. They knew in that House that an alliance, offensive and defensive, was entered into between the English Liberals and the popular Irish Representatives. The belief was that the hereditary Par-tics in this country were nearly balanced, and that, at the General Election, the Irish voters in England and the Representatives of Irish constituencies might be able to cast the scale. It was the interest, then, of the Liberal Party— and he made no complaint of what was done—to open up friendly relations with Irish Members and Irish voters. He knew this treaty was not engrossed on parchment. It was not "sealed, signed, and delivered," like a legal document. Such bargains were never put on paper with such precision. If they were, they might turn out to be troublesome to one or both of the Parties concerned. But that a combination of the character he described did take place was unquestioned and unquestionable. They all remembered how influential Liberals were accustomed to come down to the House, in the last two Sessions of last Parliament, and throw their protecting aegis over the Home Rulers when they were struggling to exact some small concession from the occupants of the Treasury Bench. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department was accustomed to shed the light of his countenance and his counsel upon benighted Irishmen when they were seeking, possibly, for an adjournment or delay. Articles appeared in magazines, under distinguished signatures, contending for the preservation of that most powerful instrument of Parliamentary independence-—Obstruction, especially when wielded by a small Party striving after great principles. Hon. Members on the other side contributed to the compact. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) and others went to Sheffield, to Liverpool, to York, and 1806 urged their countrymen to cast a solid vote for the Liberal Party. They urged it, too, with effect, as in the common cry against the Conservatives at the Election no notes were stronger or steadier than those raised by the Irish electors. The belief at the time was that the mild and comparatively harmless Coercion Bill which expired last year would be renewed. It was feared that the late Government would ask for its re-enactment. The point was pressed with great earnestness upon Liberal candidates whether they would or would not support the re-imposition of the Act of 1875. Not dozens, but scores, of these said candidates pledged themselves, as solemnly as men could pledge themselves, that they would resist any attempt at further coercion for the Irish people. It was declared by many that a repetition of the Coercion Bill for Ireland would not only be unjustifiable, but would be criminal. And yet the men who made these declarations, and upon the strength of them got Irish votes, had been the most resolute supporters of the Bill before the House, although that measure was beyond all doubt the severest Coercion Bill that had ever passed the British Legislature. He left these hon. Gentlemen to justify to their consciences and their constituents these wholesale breaches of their solemnly recorded pledges. In Ireland a like process had gone forward. Not hundreds, but thousands, of honest, law-abiding Irish farmers had joined the Land agitation with the distinct belief that when doing so they were aiding the Government. They entertained the opinion, and they were justified in entertaining it, that the first measure proposed by the Government would be a Land Bill, and they were anxious to raise a wave of popular opinion sufficiently strong to carry the Bill steadily and safely over the Bar of the House of Lords. Under this belief, these men joined the Land League, and went to their meetings. Many hon. Gentlemen in that House could confirm the correctness of this statement. He had been to some of those Land meetings himself, and he could testify to the fact that the names of the Prime Minister and his Colleagues were received with greater favour, and evoked a larger measure of enthusiasm, than the names of his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his associates. The 1807 settled belief of the Irish farmers was that from the Government they were to have immediate and drastic agrarian legislation. But what was the fact? The same men, who had been engaged in this agitation under the belief that they were aiding the Government, wore now being threatened with arrest. Every town and village in the South and West of Ireland was inundated with police agents and informers. The sympathizers and supporters of the Land League wore being closely watched. Everything they said was being chronicled, everything they did was being recorded, and the names of all with whom they came in contact were registered. This information was sent systematically to Dublin Castle; and he was speaking the simple truth—which could be vouched for by many hon. Members present—when he said that the Irish police had already established a reign of terror. These men, for having taken part in what they regarded not only as a legal agitation, but an agitation favourable to the Ministry, were being intimidated, and warned that, on the slightest provocation, they would be thrown into prison—a punishment by which not only their own comfort would be greatly interfered with, but by which their business would be disorganized. The result of this was a complete reversal of feeling. The men he had been describing regarded themselves as having been deceived. They looked upon the Ministry, rightly or wrongly, as having acted towards them treacherously. They had been enticed, as they thought, on to the ice, and left there to slide to destruction. The bitterness of feeling that had thus been engendered was such as he was sure the House did not rightly appreciate. If these men were cast into prison, as they were threatened to be, and if, when in prison, they were treated with the inhumanity, he might almost say brutality, with which the Fenians arrested under the last suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act were treated, there would be an explosion of popular indignation such as the country did not anticipate, and was little prepared to meet. Despair drove men to reprisals. He did not give the slightest countenance to the fear of insurrection that seemed to possess some persons. There was not a remote reason for supposing that any such movement was meditated.
1808 It only existed in the "heat-oppressed brain" of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, or his Colleagues. Even the men who wore in favour of the separation of the two countries, and believed that war for that purpose was not only justifiable but necessary, admitted that, at the present time, such a task would be hopeless. It would only end in needless bloodshed, mischief, and misery. To attempt to wrest Ireland from. England by force would not only be a mad, but a criminal enter-prize. And the Separationists were as satisfied of the correctness of that opinion as anyone in the House. The Government, after opening the letters of some American Irishmen, had built up a terrible bogey, and got frightened at their own creation. But any man who could be so foolish as to suppose that poor old worn-out James Stephens was an agent who could be dangerous to the stability of the Union between the two countries, showed, by merely entertaining such an idea, his imperfect acquaintance with the present drift of Irish and American politics. It was not fear of an insurrection, therefore, that he pointed at. It was something quite as serious—an embittered and almost vindictive feeling between a large section of the Irish people and the English nation. Should that feeling get vent—and there was a fear that it would do so if numbers of Irishmen were arrested on mere suspicion and imprisoned—the consequences to England would be lamentable. The relations between the two countries would be further strained, and that hope of better relationship that they all cherished would be sadly dashed. He urged, then, the desirability—in the interests of the State, apart altogether from Party relations—of using the tyrannical authority that the Irish Executive had now got, mercifully and temperately. They were told to trust the Government, and especially to trust the Chief Secretary for Ireland. That right hon. Gentleman had made that request repeatedly during these discussions. If it was a question of personal confidence, he (Mr. Cowen) would have no hesitation whatever in trusting him—trusting him to any extent. He could say, with all can dour and sincerity, that he had the very highest faith in the right hon. Gentleman's good intentions and kindly disposition. He would not, he believed, needlessly set 1809 his foot upon a worm. But while he had that regard for him as a man, he must say, with equal frankness, that he had not the same confidence in him as a politician. Men did, in their collective capacity as Members of a Ministry or of a company, what they would shrink with horror from doing in their private capacity as simple citizens. They had had abundant evidence of the fact that many most tyrannical Rulers were, as men, not only unobjectionable, but commendable personages. That petty despot, a former King of Naples—whose name had turned up several times during these discussions— while treating with so much cruelty his political prisoners, was, according to Mr. Dale Owen, constantly engaged in interesting discussions as to the truthfulness of spiritualism or the philosophy of a future state. Maximilian Robespierre— who, during the Reign of Terror, was the practical Ruler of France—was not only an incorruptible, but a generous and gentle man. One of the ablest arguments ever penned in favour of the abolition of capital punishment was written by the intrepid Deputy for Arras, yet, during his short tenure of office, hundreds of Frenchmen were sent to the guillotine. Endless examples of the same kind might be adduced to show how men's character in public offices and places of trust often conflicted with their private character. It was a dangerous doctrine to entrust the public welfare to the exceptional virtues of any man. Highly though he esteemed the right hon. Gentleman as a man, he shrank from committing either to him or anyone the vast powers that were given by that Bill. The right hon. Gentleman could only put it in operation through the instrumentality of others, and those others wore police agents and informers. Of all created things, the most loathsome was a political spy. The creatures who could worm themselves into the confidence, could participate in the councils, of generous, ardent, patriotic, but possibly mistaken men, and, when they had got a knowledge of their proceedings, or had tempted them into a course of political guilt, could turn and betray them for the wages of iniquity, were— why there were no words that human language supplied sufficiently strong to anathematize such malefactors. And these were the men whom the right hon. Gen- 1810 tleman must, of necessity, employ and act with. Men like Corydon and. Talbot, the spies upon the Fenians—whose cup of life was drugged with treacheries to the brim—"their country's curse and their children's shame." He had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman was solemnly resolving in his own mind that he would have no contact with such scoundrels. But Lord Mayo and Lord Carlingford, equally generous, equally far-seeing and liberal men, doubtless made like resolves. They were not aware, at the time, that such ruffians as Talbot were being employed; yet, nevertheless, they were employed, and the knowledge of their employment was made apparent afterwards. As it had been before, he feared it would be again. They had to forecast the future-by the past. What had been done was the best index of what would be done. The right hon. Gentleman had been a Minister of the Crown before, and, in that capacity, had undertaken with jaunty confidence the settlement of another difficulty. He told the House, and he told the country, that he would canter over it. Instead of cantering over it, however, he cantered into it. He dragged his Colleagues and his Party after him, and they wandered for six dreary years in the desert of Parliamentary Opposition. He (Mr. Cowen) did not say that a like result would follow from the right hon. Gentleman's treatment of the Irish difficulty. The latter question did not evoke the same feeling in this country that the former did. The mass of the middle-class Liberals, too, in England, had made a fetish of the present Government. They believed they were politically infallible. They accepted anything, or all things, at their hands without question. The nauseous draught that had lately been administered was beings wallowed, with a wry face it was true, but still swallowed without complaint. But the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues might be assured of this—that excess of confidence would be succeeded by excessive distrust; that unmeasured laudations would be followed by unmeasured and, in all probability, undeserved censure. As long as human nature existed as it was at present, such consequences would follow from such causes. Extremes on one side begot extremes on the other. It was not a point that he laid great stress on at that moment; but, nevertheless, he 1811 felt satisfied that the disintegrating process that commenced in the Liberal Party when the right hon. Gentleman attempted to deal with the former difficulty to which he had referred, had again begun. It was impossible for any Ministry persistently to drive either Party in a course of action that was distasteful to them without disaffection, and that disaffection would deepen into disunion. He said this with sincere regret, and all the more strongly because he believed that the result, which many saw was being foreshadowed, might by an opposite policy have been avoided. He knew the course he and his Colleagues had taken towards this Bill had been a source of annoyance to hon. Members who wore sitting behind him. Hateful though the measure was to these hon. Gentlemen, they would have been glad if its objectionable features could have been huddled up and kept from the public view. But he (Mr. Cowen) did not understand his duty as a Representative in that light. With every impulse of his soul he hated the Bill; and now, at the close of the struggle, it was to him a melancholy satisfaction that he had done his best to defeat it, and, when he could not defeat it, to modify its character as well as to lessen its severity. Looking back over the last six weeks, he could only experience a sensation of shame. When they read the comments of foreign critics and the Resolutions passed by foreign Legislatures—such as his hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald; had referred to—he had, as an Englishman, a feeling of humiliaton. The relationship between England and Ireland was not only a discredit, but a disgrace to them. It affected not only their interest and their honour, but their influence and their reputation, amongst the nations of the world. It was impossible for them to expect that their counsel and authority on great International questions could be treated with the deference they deserved, so long as this chronic discontent existed in Ireland. It was a question that ought to be dealt with free from all Party feeling, from all angry passions, or unworthy prejudices. England was the richest nation in the world. Her actual savings amounted to upwards of £240,000,000 sterling. Yet, within a few miles of our own shores, within a few hours' ride of our own 1812 capital—the seat of refinement and of wealth—there wore thousands and tens of thousands of our fellow-subjects living on the verge of starvation, only a few degrees removed from pauperism. Nearly every 10 years they had a famine followed by an incipient insurrection, or an agitation almost equal in intensity to an insurrection. England, too, was the freest country in the world. There was no nation, either in ancient or modern times, who had the same measure of political and personal freedom that we possessed. Englishmen had been the pioneers of industry and social progress. They had set the world a magnificent example of their attachment to freedom when they liberated the slaves at a cost of many millions. They had lifted their countrymen from the position of subjects to the rank of citizens. Their laws were open to all, and were free to all. Yet, in an integral portion of the United Kingdom, they had, during the last 80 years, suspended the first and most precious principles of the Constitution—over a lesser or larger area, for a shorter or a longer time—on nearly 50 occasions. They had made this country a storehouse into which was carried the produce of every clime. They had covered the surface of the globe with Colonies, and constituted those Colonies, in their turn, the seats and centres of a general and ever-widening civilization. Yet they had been unable to attach to them one of the most generous of races, or do more than extract from thorn a sullen acquiescence in their national partnership. They might reason as they liked, they might apologize or extenuate it as they pleased, the simple recital of these facts was the most eloquent condemnation that could be uttered of the government of Ireland by England. "By their fruits ye shall know them." And the fruits of English rule in Ireland heretofore had been like Dead Sea apples —fair without, but full of nauseous bitterness within. He sincerely trusted that this Coercion Bill, with all its hateful provisions and its humiliating accompaniments, would be the last measure of that kind that the British Parliament would ever be called upon to enact. He had said hard things, he knew, of the Bill and of the Party who had submitted it; but now that the discussion was closed, he hoped they would see their way at once to introduce other 1813 measures of a remedial character, and that these would he urged forward with as much determination as they had applied to the Bill now about to pass its final stage. The gathering gloom of the days to come would, he hoped, be relieved by proposals which might do something towards healing the many and angry wounds that the atrabilious discussions of the last six weeks had made amongst their struggling and suffering countrymen on the other side of the Irish Channel.
§ MR. R. B. MARTIN
said, he wished to correct an impression which might have been derived from the speech of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald) — namely, that the American people largely sympathized with the very advanced views of a certain class of the Irish people. Having made a visit to America during the last autumn, he felt he could, from the experience he had gained while there, most emphatically deny that such was the case. He had been careful to make inquiries on this point, and he had been constantly informed that, though in certain quarters such expressions were used by politicians to conciliate the Irish vote, the majority of right-thinking American citizens wore in accord with Her Majesty's Government as to their views of the proper course of legislation to be taken concerning Ireland. After what had been said by several hon. Members as to the attitude of Americans towards England on the matter, he felt bound to give his testimony on the subject. He was reminded by the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) of the gentleman who, a few years ago, disputed that the world was round, and having chosen the best umpire he could find, was very angry when the umpire decided against him. For, with regard to this Bill, the hon. Member for Newcastle was not a little angry to find that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright), who might be taken as a fair and impartial umpire, was clear in regard to its necessity. When responsible Members of Her Majesty's Government decided that some measure of coercion was necessary, it did seem to him strange, and hardly fair or right, that hon. Members who were not behind the scenes and were not able to form a sound judgment, should assume for themselves better 1814 means of forming an opinion than the Members of the Cabinet.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, it seemed that while it was promised by Her Majesty's Government that a further Coercion Bill should follow immediately upon the Bill before the House, a great amount of sympathy with Her Majesty's Government was expressed by the Conservative Party. The moment, however, that the Arms Bill was suspected to be in danger, the unholy alliance between the two Benches was dissolved. A pretty little quarrel now existed between the two sides of the House, and far be it from him to spoil it. They were now debating the Motion for the third reading of the so-called Protection Bill. The measure wore a very different aspect from that which it presented when it was introduced. In fact, it had unfolded itself by degrees as a rose opened itself in the morning. At first it was directed— so they were told—against village ruffians. Now its scope was enlarged so as to take in clergymen, women, and children, and, indeed, everyone who took part in public life in Ireland. The Bill, in truth, was largely aimed at the Land League, which was merely a Land Reform Association. It was perfectly true that at some of its meetings injudicious and indefensible things had been said; but it was to be judged, not by these casual and irresponsible utterances, but by its whole scope and real object. The cry that was now being raised against the Land League was like the cry that was got up against the Catholic Association. Speaking on the point in that House, Mr. Shiel said that the Catholic Association found the means of excitement in the state of society, and that Mr. O'Connell would have been powerless if he had not found an ally in that great conspirator against the public peace, the Law of the land. This was precisely the position occupied by the Land League. Its power rested not upon the agitators, but upon the Land Laws. The Secretary of State for the Home Department had tried to help out his case on the previous evening by referring to what he called the link battalion of the Land League in America. No doubt, that country contained Irishmen of wild and subversive notions; but they were refugees from British rule in Ireland, for the only manufacture that England carried on in Ireland was the 1815 manufacture of insurrectionists and informers. The House had heard a good deal about O'Donovan Rossa, about Michael Davitt, and Mr. Devoy. Did that House appreciate the facts that had made agitators of O'Donovan Rossa and Davitt? Rossa was a relieving officer, who had witnessed the horrors of famine, and had passed the coffinless bodies of the starved victims; while Davitt was the son of an evicted tenant farmer. Such were the men whose conduct was said to be striking terror into the hearts of the landlords, and their ranks would be largely recruited after the passing of the measure before the House. They were told that assassinations were being plotted in America; but it should be remembered that there had been a time when something of the kind went on in London. Were not Orsini bombs at one time manufactured in the Metropolis for purposes of assassination in the French capital, and did it not happen that an English Cabinet Minister was regarded as by no means clear from implication in that very objectionable business? They were told that under the Land League movement lay the National movement. Well, his Colleagues in the representation of Ireland made no secret of the fact that they had not abandoned the Home Rule cause, and they would not abandon it for any Land measure that might be passed by Parliament. In the concession of the national rights of the Irish people would be found the settlement of all the existing troubles and difficulties, including those that had been affecting the House during the last few weeks. New Rules had recently-been framed by the Speaker for facilitating Business; but there was one Rule that would be worth them all—namely, Home Rule for Ireland.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, he rose more for the purpose of trying to recall the Government to one or two pledges which they had made to that House than for the purpose of attacking them, as he had no fear that the uncomplimentary epithets showered on the occupants of the Treasury Bench during the last two nights would cause them to change their good intentions. He wanted, however, to remind them that they had promised, so far as he could understand, to exercise the power which would be conferred upon them by this Bill with no harshness except such as 1816 might be absolutely necessary for the safe custody of the persons arrested; that they had promised to extend the Prison Regulations of 1877, so that the sad results of 15 years ago would not be repeated; that they had promised to re-consider and re-examine each case; and that they had promised to bring forward as rapidly as possible the remedial measures which were urgently needed. He was not sure that his judgment was a right one—[Mr. WARTON: Hear, hear!]—he was quite sure that the judgment of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport was a minus quantity; but he was obliged to protest to the last against the measure, and perhaps was, therefore, hardly entitled to ask the Government to consider what he now submitted. While he voted against the measure as a Radical, he did not do so in any spirit of hostility towards the Government, but because he believed that measures of coercion irritated the evils they were intended to cure, and that the Government had been misled by the panic fear exhibited by hon. Members occupying seats on the Opposition side of the House.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I am glad, before I say the few words which I am delighted to know must be the last words I shall have to speak on this Bill —I am glad, before I say those few words, that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) has made the candid, straightforward, and generous appeal we have just heard from him. He began by saying he hoped that the epithets which have been used towards the Government and myself would not drive us from our good intentions. We should, indeed, be unworthy of the duties which we have to perform if we allowed those epithets, or any of the language which has been used, to have the slightest effect upon us, either with regard to our conduct towards the people of Ireland or in performing our duties in this House. It is quite true, as the hon. Member says, that we have made certain pledges; but they wore not forced from us. We felt that we were quite willing to make them. They were pledges that were in our own minds, and we were glad, in the course of these debates, to state them publicly, both as regards the letter of the Bill and the spirit in which it will be carried out. It is perfectly true that we have stated that we will do our best to prevent any suffering or 1817 hardship to the men whom we may think it desirable to detain that will not be necessary for their safe-keeping. We have stated that we will try to carry out the prison regulations in such a manner as to prevent the recurrence of what happened 13 or 14 years ago, not, I fully believe, through any fault of either of the Governments which had to carry out the Bill, but because there was not so much knowledge about these matters then, and so much care was not taken in regard to the treatment of prisoners generally as there is now. It is said that we should gain experience from what happened then, and also from what happened in 1871. I can only say that in the treatment of these men under this measure we shall remember, and ought to remember, that though, I believe, it is a mistake to suppose that more innocent men will be arrested than guilty, it is still possible that innocent men may be taken up, although we shall do our best to guard against the arrest of innocent men, and to re-consider their case as soon as possible afterwards. We shall remember that fact; and there is another fact that we shall remember also— namely, that although we shall very likely have to arrest men who have committed outrages, we shall not forget how they have been tempted into outrages by those who have been, and may consider themselves, and may be, quite safe. And now, Sir, I must say a word or two with regard to what fell from the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen). The hon. Member referred to a charge which was made early in the Session, but which has not been very much insisted upon in the course of the debate on this Bill. I think the fact that it has been so little mentioned furnishes its own disproof. The charge is, that we might have prevented the necessity of the extraordinary Law we were asking the House to enact by making better use of the ordinary Law—that we might, to use the hon. Member's own words, have shorn the agitation of its excess. All I can say on that matter is this. From the very first day of this Session I have challenged hon. Members to show how we could make the ordinary law meet the evils with which we had to contend, and to show where we fell short in putting the ordinary law in force. As yet I have heard no detailed accusation made against us. Then the 1818 hon. Member for Newcastle is in curious agreement with the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), and fully endorses the remarks of the noble Lord. A few months ago I should have thought that such remarks would have been hardly natural from the hon. Member for Newcastle; but they do not surprise me now. The hon. Member seemed to suppose that we have encouraged the agitation in Ireland for our own purposes. He made an allusion to speeches which have been made, and he made an allusion also to magazine articles. I do not know whether he had in his mind any speech of the humble individual who is at present addressing the House. If he had, all I can say is that I defy him to find any speech made by me, either in this House or out of it, to my constituents, or at any Party or popular meeting, that is in the slightest degree inconsistent with the lines which I have taken up here in regard to this Bill. The hon. Member made a remark about magazine articles and the contributions of Cabinet Ministers. We know very well what he was alluding to. But, if the distinguished man who wrote the article to which the hon. Member refers had been here this evening, and if my right hon. Friend had not already spoken in the debate, that passage would have been left out of the hon. Member's speech. I am not going to reply on behalf of my right hon. Friend; the insinuation which the hon. Member seeks to convey is its own answer. We have been told that there was a distinct alliance between us and hon. Members below the Gangway, before the close of the last Parliament. An alliance for what? [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: To turn out the then Government.] ["Order!"] An alliance for encouraging outrage? An alliance for replacing the law of the land by the unwritten law of the Land League? Does the hon. Member for Newcastle charge us with that? No; if there was an alliance at all, it was an alliance which showed that we were in favour, and that he is in favour, and that we thought at that time hon. Members below the Gangway were in favour, of a searching reform of the Land Laws of Ireland. The hon. Member says that we have sowed the wind and have reaped the whirlwind. That is an expression which was also used by the noble Lord the 1819 Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill); but was there anything that was said by any of the occupants of these Benches, or by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that the hon. Member for Newcastle can really think ought not to have been said with regard to Irish grievances, or the relations of Irish tenants, or, indeed, with respect to any other subject? And why? If the hon. Member does not think we did wrong at that time, why does he taunt us with it now? The hon. Member says—"I do not accuse the Government of having made a mean or a selfish alliance." Now, of all the speakers I have ever listened to in this House, the hon. Member is the most fertile in making insinuations and then appearing to disown them. He says that he does not accuse us of unworthy motives; but he made a speech every word of which, if it meant anything, contained an accusation which, with his knowledge of speech and his knowledge of writing, he must have known would be likely to have force in the country. The hon. Member was complimentary to myself personally, for immediately afterwards came a very pleasant comparison. I have been the subject of so many pleasant comparisons lately, that I am quite content that the hon. Member should make me the object of another. He did not hesitate in so many words to compare me to Maximilian Robespierre; and yet the hon. Member says—"I do not wish to accuse anybody. Oh! dear no." He also seemed to think it worth his while to go back for several years to a different measure and to a different policy altogether. He made an illusion to the old Education Act, and he said, referring to myself—"The right hon. Gentleman led his Party wrong at that time, and he will lead them wrong again." I should not take notice of this accusation if it were not that I desired to make this remark—Docs the hon. Member at this moment really think that I was wrong in that policy? I believe he does not; and I merely mention the matter because, although I find it necessary to make these remarks in reply to the hon. Member's speech, I still entertain the hope that six years hence, if both of us be living at the time, he may find that he has been as much in error in his exaggerations about this Bill, as I believe he now finds he was exaggerat- 1820 ing in his expressions about the Education Act. There are one or two explanations which it is necessary I should make—on this 22ndnight of these long debates—before we come to a division upon this last stage of the Bill. It has been a very wearisome task, and I am sure I am glad that it has come to an end. I believe that hon. Members on both sides of the House who have given the Government such a hearty and earnest support in carrying through this measure— [Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR: Yes, a very hearty support.]—I am glad that the hon. Member approves of that expression. Do the Irish Members believe that the support given to the Government has not been hearty and earnest? They must also have felt that it was a very wearisome business. It has been a wearisome business to all of us. It has taken six weeks of the Session—for really we have been doing nothing else —to discuss what, after all, although a necessary measure, is an administrative measure, and a temporary administrative measure—when we had fondly hoped that, long before now, we might have been engaged on a permanent measure for remedying the great grievances of Ireland in connection with the land system, and grafting upon that system a better condition of things. But, after all, although it has been a wearisome task, it has been a necessary task; for when we talk about grievances, and especially about Irish grievances, what is it that we have been doing? We have been delivering Ireland, or trying our best to deliver Ireland, from a great grievance, and we have been saving her, or believing we are saving her, from a still greater peril. Now, what was the grievance? Let us look back for a moment to what was the condition of things when Parliament was called together. At that time, in a great part of Ireland—and it was increasing every day—as regarded the chief occupation of the inhabitants there was no liberty, and there was no security for either person or property. Men were not free to pay their debts, or to earn their living—["Oh!"from the Home Rule Members.] — and if they strove to be honest and tried to be industrious, there was no security that cither their persons or their property would be safe. Well, there has been no serious and real attempt to disprove 1821 that statement. Fault has been found with one or two Returns, and it has been said that the mode in which they were drawn up savoured somewhat of exaggeration. But when they were drawn up as hon. Members thought they ought to have been drawn up, they showed just about the same number of offences. A complaint has been made—-I think by the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), but certainly by some hon. Members—that I did not look after the Blue Books sufficiently, and see that they were sensational enough. ["Oh!"] I have had that charge made against me; but I say that there has been no real attempt to disprove the fact that the state of things I have described did exist, and that it was getting worse day by day. So much for the actual grievance. What was the peril and the danger? I need not dwell on the increase of outrages during the last three months of the year — from the end of September until the end of December. [Mr. A. M. SULLIVAN: Threatening letters.] ["Order!"] They would have gone on increasing if Parliament had not shown that it would interfere with a firm hand. Since Parliament has been called together those outrages have diminished, and they are diminishing. They are still very great; they are still far beyond the usual number. The month of January was worse than any month since 1841 with the exception of the months of November and December last year. This month, although better, is still bad. And why are things getting better? Because this House has determined to interfere, and has shown that it will make it difficult for these outrages to continue. The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) complained very strongly that the Government had not called Parliament together in September or October, and had not asked it for this Bill then. I do not know whether quite as early as that time, but certainly before the end of the year, it is perfectly true that if I had had the power to have passed such a Bill without consulting Parliament, and could have made it law, I should have done so. I should have done so, because I foresaw that an increase in the number of outrages would occur. But wo must remember that while we live under the conditions of a free country there must be temporary 1822 evils and occasional departures from freedom. I am quite convinced now, whatever I may have felt before, that if wo had called Parliament together in October or November, we should not have got its assent to this Bill. And I cannot say that I feel perfectly sure that we ought to have got it then. My position of responsibility for order in Ireland gave me much knowledge of the state of things in that country. Hon. Members seem to suppose that I got my knowledge of the state of things in Ireland in an extraordinary manner.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I can tell the hon. Member that while I was in Dublin I watched his action in the county of Cork. Does he, or do hon. Members, suppose that I got my information from such of the landlords as might happen to drop in upon me day by day, or might come in in a knot. I may say that at that time I was not a particularly popular individual with the Irish landlords. However, I got a great deal of information that enabled me to see there would be a great increase of crime in November and. December, and that the month of December would be as bad a month as it was. But if I had persuaded my Colleagues to call Parliament together in November, the House would not have taken my forecast for granted. It required an enormous increase in the number of outrages—I regret to say that the increase did occur —to induce Parliament to pass this Bill; and I say, upon general principles, that it is of advantage that the House should be very chary and very jealous in passing such an Act as this. It, therefore, did require very strong facts to be brought forward before it consented to take this course. Well, if we had not done what we have been doing, no doubt, crimes would have gone on increasing, unless, or until, they had served their purpose, until they were no longer necessary, and until the unwritten law had really replaced the law of the land. They would have gone on until irresponsible committees would have usurped the authority of the Judges and the magistracy of the land. That is the peril from which this House, in its long and wearisome work, has saved Ireland. And not from that danger alone. Hon. Members com- 1823 plain that we do not give them exact proofs of what we really fear in regard to treasonable practices. They must know very well that in the nature of things these proofs could not be given. I do not wish to overrate the difficulty and danger. I do not compare it with the danger to the social system; but I repeat what I said at first, at the time when I brought in the Bill, that fact after fact happened which strengthened the conviction I then felt, that there are men taking advantage of this agitation, taking advantage of what appeared to be at the time—and was for a time, but we are stopping it now—the victory of the unwritten law of irresponsible individuals over the written statute law of the country. Taking advantage of that and of the consequent lawlessness and disorganization of society, there wore men of desperate, dark, and atrocious designs, who were inclined to turn matters to their own account. An hon. Member alluded to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. He mentioned two or three names. I will not go over them now, except to say this—I ask the hon. Member who spoke last but one (Mr. T. D. Sullivan), if he is not aware that of the people who have been instrumental in getting these large subscriptions from the United States, which have been the great support and sustenance of the Land League movement, John Devoy was one of the most influential and the most successful? There was another name mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary—that of Redpath, from whose atrocious speech my right hon. Friend quoted. Will the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. T. D. Sullivan) deny that Redpath went from Land League meeting to Land League meeting in Ireland? Thanks to this House, Ireland is being delivered from this peril, and men are beginning to see that they cannot break the law with impunity, and that they cannot defy it without danger. People are beginning to suspect that crime will no longer be successful on account of its intensity, and that they will not save themselves— putting it in practical language, which they will understand—from imprisonment, by successfully threatening witnesses and juries. Well, Sir, there is another source of comfort to the House, and it is that, after the performance of 1824 this wearisome task, the House has done a still more necessary work—it has asserted its own strength, it has proved that it is strong enough to cause the laws which it thinks right to make to be respected. It was quite time that it asserted its strength. Many persons told me, when I said this Protection Bill was a necessity, "You may say so, but you cannot pass it. There are SO or 40 Members who will support the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon), who will make use of all the Rules of the House, and you will not be able to pass that Bill." I make no apology for alluding to the hon. Member for the City of Cork in his absence, because he is generally absent. I am sorry to speak of the hon. Member for Tipperary in his absence, because I know well enough that he would be ready in this House, and out of it, to maintain anything that he has said. I remember, in a speech which the hon. Member made last Session, to which I had occasion to allude, that he encouraged his Irish audience by telling them that no such Bill as this—[Cries of "Question!"and "Order!"]—it is very much to the Question—that no such Bill as this could be passed, because he and his Friends would prevent it. Well, they have tried to prevent it, and they have failed. But the impression that they would succeed was, of all the influences against law and order in Ireland, the strongest. The poor cottier tenants in their misery, and with the bad teaching to which they had been exposed, and by which they had been influenced, willingly believed hon. Members when they said—"We are powerful enough in the House to prevent any fresh law being made. Not only have we the moans of frightening people from disobeying our unwritten law, but we will take care that the laws of the land shall never be reinforced by a law strong enough to put us down." It was time that, for the good order and government of Ireland, such an impression should cease. All that has now come to an end. Not only those who hear those speeches, but hon. Members who make them, know that it has come to an end. The practical effect of the passing of this Bill will be that shrewd, business-like men, such as the farmers of Ireland—for they are shrewd, business-like men—even the 1825 poorest of them will treat such statements and promises as the emptiest of boasts. It was time that the House should show its strength—not only in the interests of good government, but for the position of this Assembly among the nations of the world, and we should have been called to bitter account by our constituencies if we had not done it. The House has now shown its strength. It has shown its strength by using its power to deliver Ireland from this, its greatest grievance, the want of security for liberty, for life, for property, or for industry. It has shown its power to do this; but do not let us forget our strength. Let us remember that we are strong for other purposes; that we are strong to remove all the evils of the land system, which relates more to the life of Ireland than anything else. We are strong enough to remove them, and this is one point on which I agree with the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen). I believe with him that we are strong enough to make it impossible—for it shall be unnecessary, and therefore impossible—to have another Coercion Bill. I believe that this Session, before it ends, will be a Session in which we shall all be glad to have had some part and share, and that we shall really settle this great Irish question, so that Irishmen may have a good hope of being a prosperous and a contented people in future.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary did great injustice to his own talents. He never rose to speak in that House that he did not begin by assuring the House that he was utterly devoid of anything like rhetorical power, and before he sat down he always showed that he was possessed of that highest of rhetorical arts—the art of misrepresentation. The right hon. Gentleman, assuming an air of simplicity and philanthropy—and the simplicity was quite as sincere as the philanthropy—always managed to convey the impression that he was only endeavouring to lay before the House the plainest and the simplest facts. But the right hon. Gentleman had not uttered many sentences before they found him with admirable dexterity, taking hold of some chance expression in the speech of some preceding speaker, and representing it as the real gist of that speaker's argument. For instance, the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen), in illus- 1826 trating the argument that it was unsafe to intrust a people's liberty to a private individual, happened to mention the case of Robespierre, and the right hon. Gentleman, with his sham simplicity— [Cries of "Order!" and "Withdraw!"] —immediately thought it necessary to say that the hon. Member had compared him to the French Dictator. As a matter of fact, the hon. Member for Newcastle was simply using the case of Robespierre as an illustration in support of his argument. What the hon. Member said was this—that it was unsafe to trust the liberties of Ireland, or the liberties of any people, even to the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, however much they might rely upon his individual humanity. Now, he (Mr. O'Connor) was prepared to say in the face of the House that he had no confidence in the right hon. Gentleman, and that he believed this Act would be used and abused exactly as it suited the political purposes of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had freed Ireland from a grievance. What was the grievance he had freed Ireland from? Only recently one magistrate had put 100 Irishmen in gaol for bailable offences without bail. Was that the grievance the right hon. Gentleman had saved Ireland from? Several of the landlords were already using their powers of eviction against their tenants. And why? Because the Irish landlords now thought that the Liberal Party had deprived the tenants of the strong protecting arm of the National Land League. Was that the grievance the right hon. Gentleman had saved Ireland from? How many of the Irish Members thought that the right hon. Gentleman had saved them from a grievance? How many of the Irish Members had supported his coercive policy? Had not this policy of coercion been as strongly denounced by the Irish Liberal Members as by the Home Rule Members? Had it not been denounced by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the County of Cork (Colonel Colthurst), as by his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell)? ["No !"] "No!" The language employed might have been somewhat different; but did anyone in his senses believe that his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the County of Cork was not as strongly opposed to coercion as anyone upon the Home Rule 1827 Benches? Had not coercion been denounced by those Members from Ireland who signified their constant fidelity to the Treasury Bench by always taking their seats behind it? There was not a single section of the Irish Members that had not joined in this denunciation of coercion, except a few Tory Irish Members who represented the landlord class in Ireland. And so, when the right hon. Gentleman came there, and, with his skilful simplicity, spoke of freeing the Irish people from a grievance, did he not know that his thanks from the Irish people were execrations for saving them from it? The grievance he was saving them from was protection from tyranny. Last Session, when the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleague the First Lord of the Treasury, whose absence they all regretted, were thundering against landlord tyranny, and telling the House that as distress increased in Ireland evictions by the Irish landlords also increased; when the Prime Minister was denouncing eviction as equivalent to a sentence of starvation, in the same speech telling the House that 15,000 persons were going to be evicted, and that 15,000 persons were going to be starved—when the right hon. Gentleman was telling them all this, and yet failed to save them from suffering it; when the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman was stopped, and the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues took upon themselves the responsibility of leaving these 15,000 people to starve, the right hon. Gentleman accepted, in all the spirit of Christian humility, this affront from "another place," and left these 15,000 people to starve. And these 15,000 people would have starved, and would have been evicted, if the Irish people had not found a protecting arm in the organization of the Land League. The right hon. Gentleman-said in a tone of triumph — [Cries of "Oh!"]—he (Mr. O'Connor) called upon his hon. Friends on those Benches to mark the spirit of toleration which animated hon. Members on the Liberal Benches, when an Irish Member stood up to say a word on behalf of the liberties of his country. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary spoke in a tone of triumph of having carried this Bill through. He (Mr. O'Connor) and the Irish Members were prouder of their defeat than the right hon. Gentleman had a right to 1828 be of his triumph. At what an expense and at what a cost had the right hon. Gentleman achieved his triumph! If there was one thing more precious than another, it was freedom of speech and liberty of discussion in that free Parliament. Where were freedom of speech and liberty of discussion now, with their gagging clause and the cloture at a certain hour of the evening? The Government had debauched English political opinion. And, with regard to their own position, let any impartial man compare the mind and temper of Parliament that day with its mind and temper eight months ago. Why, this Parliament was decrepit in its youth, and so was the Government. There was not a Minister who did not know that in the last seven weeks they had inflicted an injury on their prestige which they would never be able to remove. Did any of them believe that if there were a General Election to-morrow the Liberal Party would return to power? [Laughter.] He saw the Vice President of the Council indulging in hilarious laughter; but he should have a word to say with regard to him presently.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he preferred the open and honest enmity of the Conservatives to the false and treacherous friendship of the Whigs. It had been remarked by the hon. Member for Newcastle that during the recent Election there had been an alliance between the Irish Home Rulers and the English Liberals. Did the memory of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council carry him back to the scene on a Sheffield platform, when two or three Members of the Irish Party went down, and, in all the ingenuousness of their hopes, invited their poor countrymen to go to the poll and vote for him because his friendship for Ireland was so great? How many hon. Members were there on the opposite Benches who would have been there but for the votes of Irishmen? How many of those now jeering at him whilst speaking under such difficulties would be in their places if it had not been for that fact? And this was the return which the Liberal Party made for Irish sympathy and support! He had been taught the lesson, in the course of these debates, that 1829 the greatest danger to the Irish cause was a Liberal majority so strong that they could afford to be independent. When the Liberal Party were in Opposition, no such friends of Ireland as they, for the Members of the Irish Party were then indulging in Obstruction, and Liberal Members came and privately told them how the game was to be played. Their greatest skill lay in disposing of the good manners of the Irish Members, and their higher prestige as Englishmen in Parliament came to the assistance of the beleagured Irish forces, and accordingly they were open to the guilt of Obstruction, which could be turned to Irish Liberal purposes. Some hon. Gentlemen, who afterwards became Eight Honourables, came in at the tail of the hunt.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, the Chief Secretary for Ireland had spoken at length of the relations between the Liberal Party and the Irish Members, and the same subject had been repeatedly referred to by previous speakers in the course of this debate. He therefore humbly submitted that he was only replying to observations of the right hon. Gentleman and several other Members. He said, if anything had been clearly proved in the course of the debates upon the Coercion Bill, it was that the bitterest enemy to the Irish cause was the Liberal Minister who raised himself to power upon Irish hopes. If there were a treacherous enemy to Ireland in the political world, it was the Radical full of promises and professions of friendship for the Irish people as long as they could keep him in the cold shade of Opposition, and who, the moment he got into Office, was ready to kick aside with contumely the ladder by which he ascended. He thought Irish Members could look back with gratification to the contest in which they had been engaged. They had fought the fight against overwhelming odds; they had compelled the House, in order to defeat them, to abrogate its dearest privilege of freedom of debate, and they had effectually cured the superstition still lingering in Ireland that any hope was to be formed from Liberal pledges or Liberal Ministers of the Crown, who had professed to be champions of the Irish cause during 1830 20 or 30 years of public life, and who had not been ashamed to come down to the House to win Tory cheers by Tory arguments in favour of coercion. But there was one right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench who, if he had not the courage of his convictions, had, at any rate, the silence of his shame, thereby setting a good example to his right hon. Colleague in the representation of Birmingham. That right hon. Gentleman sat on the Treasury Bench, a Member of a Coercion Ministry, with the same air of perennial self-complacency which distinguished him, whether he was pleading for the emancipation or assisting in the coercion of the Irish people. Finally, he had discovered in the course of these debates, to use the words employed by a former Conservative Leader of the House, that "organized hypocrisy" was another name for a Liberal Ministry that dealt with Irish affairs and raised itself to Office by Irish votes.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: —Ayes 321; Noes 51: Majority 270.—(Div. List, No. 94.)
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided: —Ayes 303; Noes 46: Majority 257.—(Div. List, No. 95.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this Bill do pass."
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he was aware that in rising to address the House on this question he was departing from the ordinary course; but the House, he thought, would admit that the occasion was not. an ordinary one. If there were 20 other questions on which he could arrest, if only for a few moments, the passage of the Bill which was to destroy the liberties of his countrymen, he would speak on every one of them. He was bound, as an Irish Member, to do what he could for the liberties of his countrymen in this arena, which was the only one open to him. The right hon. Gentleman had taunted the Irish Members with having opposed this Bill to the last, and that it had been passed in spite of them. The Chief Secretary was right; they had done their best to prevent the Bill from passing, and they only regretted that it was impossible for them to do more. At this last moment 1831 they availed themselves of the opportunity of entering one more protest against a measure which would deprive the people of Ireland of every shred of liberty they possessed. The Bill was called the Protection of Person and Property Bill; but it was nothing of the kind; it was a measure for the suspension of all law, and the substitution for it of the arbitrary will of two men— two men who saw with the eyes and heard with the ears of a class who were, and always had been, hostile to the Irish people. On behalf of the county he represented, he protested against the measure, and was prepared to show that there was no call for it, and that it would unnecessarily increase the power for evil in the hands of the dominant class, which power they had always, to a certain extent, possessed. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that crimes in Ireland called for coercive legislation; but what was the fact? There had been no cases in which protection had been afforded by the constabulary in Queen's County from January 1, 1880, to June 30, 1880, and there had not been one single case of offences against the person. All the offences against property had been three incendiary fires, and one case of injury to animals; and all the other agrarian offences that could be quoted against the county were 13 threatening letters. And what was the character of the magistracy there? There was a great distinction between the magistracy and the people, for, while the latter were Catholic, the late Lieutenant was, and the present Lieutenant also was, a Protestant, the Vice Lieutenant was a Protestant; of the Deputy Lieutenants, 13 in number, every single one was a Protestant; the resident magistrate was a Protestant, and of the other magistrates of this Catholic county, 66 in number, only 6 were Catholics, whilst 60 were Protestants. Moreover, the Crown Prosecutor was a Protestant, resident in Dublin; and of the Petty Sessions clerks, 16 in number, every single one was a Protestant. These were the men in whose hands was to be placed the power—through the Lord Lieutenant—of imprisoning every man they might choose to pretend to suspect. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Bill was directed against dissolute scoundrels and village tyrants; but the effect of it would be 1832 to establish a village tyrant in every district in Queen's County. Every shred of liberty would be taken away from the people. The liberty of the person was gone, for anyone could be taken up on mere suspicion; the liberty of speech was gone, for no person could tell what construction might not be put upon the words he might utter at a meeting; and the liberty of the Press was gone. All this, in the minds of hon. Members, was nothing. Therefore, he availed himself of this last opportunity of offering what opposition he could to the measure, and of recording a final protest against it. He begged to move as an Amendment to the Question Mr. Speaker had put from the Chair—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member has availed himself of his right to speak to the Question before the House, and I understand him now to say that he proposes to move an Amendment. I am bound to tell him that, at this stage of the Bill, it is not open to him to move an Amendment. The Motion is one quite of a formal kind, and he has taken rather an unusual course in speaking to it.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
The unusual character of the course I am about to take I thought justified by the unusual character of the Bill. Before taking this course, you will allow me, Sir, to say that I carefully consulted the Journals of the House, and the Amendment which I have placed in the hands of the Clerk I copied, textually, from those Journals.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The practice the hon. Member has referred to has become obsolete, and I have again to tell him that he is not at liberty to move an Amendment to the Motion.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
Then I will content myself with expressing my determination to oppose the Bill.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It appears to me to be the general sense of the House that this Question should be now put.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Question be now put."—(The Marquess of Hartington.)1833
§ The House divided:—Ayes 282; Noes 32: Majority 250.—(Div. List, No. 96.)
§ Question put, "That this Bill do pass."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 281; Noes 36: Majority 245.—(Div. List, No. 97.)