§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [5th April], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
And which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, being of opinion that the Bill, if it should become Law, will tend to increase disorder in Ireland, and to endanger the Union between that Country and the other parts of the Empire, declines to proceed further with the said Bill,"—(Sir Bernhard Samuelson,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
said, in balancing the speeches of hon. Members below the Gangway with those from hon. Members above, he found proof of the necessity for the Bill in the fact that, though the one section denied that there was anything in the condition of Ireland requiring this change 625 in the law, other hon. Members admitted the state of things to be extremely bad, though they could not find a remedy in this Bill. No other alternative, however, was presented. Anybody having knowledge of Ireland—outside the National League—must admit that if individual liberty was to be maintained in Ireland some amendment of the law was a necessity. Upon individual liberty we must rely for the creation of a sound public opinion—such a public opinion as in England tends to keep things straight. Too much had there been in Ireland in the past of mere prejudice for or against the landlords. He could not pretend that he had any liking for the Bill, nor did he believe that any hon. Member desired it should pass unless he had a conviction of its absolute necessity. But that was the case with all amendments of the Criminal Law. Just as two years ago there was an amendment of the Criminal Law in England, and the Bill, though disliked extremely, was passed, because the occasion demanded it; so if individual liberty in Ireland was to be maintained, it was virtually necessary to amend the Criminal Law in Ireland at the present time, and this Bill must pass, however distasteful the duty may be. He denied that this Bill would destroy the just liberties of the Irish people. There was crime in Ireland at the present time, and though he did not say it was very great, yet the serious feature was that crime went unpunished, that it was difficult to get witnesses to give evidence, and, even with evidence, juries would not convict. To meet this state of things, and the Boycotting and intimidation that existed, the Bill was framed. He did not believe the Leaders of the National League knew how serious was the amount of Boycotting carried on by branches of the League beyond central control. Those hon. Members wished to stop it; but they could not control all the various organizations of all their branches, and the little petty Boycottings going on throughout Ireland were unknown to them. It was part and parcel of the system that it should be so. A small local committee met, and decided that this or that man in the district should be Boycotted. The person condemned might have warning or not, and often without warning a man was subjected to Boycotting, his trade 626 ruined, and his life made miserable. He did not believe that the League Leaders desired this; but it was so, and many a peasant on the mountainside could not go to bed without the dread of an attack on his dwelling for arms or for punishment. But it was a landlords' Bill, argued some hon. Members. Well, if the persons and property of landlords required protection, why should not the law afford it to that class equally with the tenants or anybody else? It was an unfortunate truth that many landlords in Ireland were reaping the whirlwind, sown in the past by their ancestors, no doubt. The history of the past showed that landlords were often very tyrannical over their tenants. It was perfectly well known that there was a time when a few landlords meeting together would reckon up the votes of their tenants, settle who should represent the constituency, and march their tenants to the poll like sheep to vote for a particular candidate. But the same thing, in a lesser degree perhaps, was done in England, and such days have long gone by, swept away by the Ballot Act, by Land Law reforms, and the growth of freedom of opinion; but why should the tyranny of landlords be replaced by a tyranny of the National League? Why should they not have freedom all round? But with your Bill you contend against a nation, said one hon. Member. The hon. Member for Northampton said the other night that we were contending with an entire nation. That was not a fact. There was no means of knowing how many sympathized with the National League, and how many opposed. Take the Election of 1885 as a test, for then there were more contests—there wore some two-thirds of the Irish people in favour of the National League, and a third in opposition; and he believed the case was very much the same now. The National League had a large number of Representatives; but how did they obtain that position? The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) decided who should sit for a constituency—he might change his nominee if he chose, and had often done so. The change had in one instance been made three times, the people accepting one candidate after another before they were called upon to go through the form of electing him. Mere machines were they, as the hon. Member for West Caven (Mr. Biggar) 627 once said they would be, in the hands of the hon. Member for Cork. Under that system a Member was returned by the votes of a vast mass of ostensibly illiterate electors, numbering in some instances about two-thirds of the entire number of votes recorded for them. [Cries of "No, no!"] It was so in the East Donegal Election for 1885. Would anybody maintain the voters were really illiterate? For a month before the Election they had been told from Sunday to Sunday whom to vote for. No doubt they were confused, because they had been told to vote for three candidates, and they could not be trusted to vote right; therefore, they were ordered to vote illiterate, and an agent of the National League attended the polling station, and openly, before this agent, the voter recorded his vote. If this was the freedom the Leaders of the National League sought to infuse, he believed there was reason to impose restrictions upon such freedom, and for that reason supported the present Bill. There had been Boycotting of individuals everyone admitted; but 800 cases, it was urged, were no great number. But the extent of the system was not fully known, and the number of persons who yielded their independence at once or submitted on fear of being Boycotted, must remain an unknown quantity. The branches of the League were not very particular who they Boycotted. Not long ago he happened to be in the house of a tradesman who was Boycotted at the time. During the famine time that tradesman supplied goods freely on credit, and his books showed debts to the extent of £5,000 or £6,000. Yet because he refused to sustain the action of the National League he was Boycotted. Was that a desirable freedom? Should there be a remedy for such a state of things? Not alone at individuals did this Boycotting strike. The hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) recently put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour), directing attention to the fact that in the village of Tobermore, of 400 inhabitants, there was no policeman, and pointing to the necessity of establishing a police station there. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary answered, as anyone able to obtain information of the place must have answered, that it was 628 an extremely peaceable, orderly village, and did not need a policeman. But the knowledge of the ins-and-outs of the case disclosed here the system of Boycotting. It happened that the inhabitants of Tobermore were Protestants, and gave a solid Unionist vote, and thus the village incurred the odium of the National League. Hence it was that the larger districts behind this little village, and where the sympathizers with the National League were in strong force, Boycotted the little village, and warned cattle dealers and others that if they had any dealings with Tobermore they would not trade with the larger Nationalist district behind. Against Boycotting of this kind was the Bill required. There was a sort of social Boycotting, they were told, existing in England, and Nonconformists who might otherwise be appointed as magistrates were not appointed. Now, Presbyterians in the North of Ireland contended that they were Boycotted by not having their proper share of appointments; but, for all that, they did not throw themselves into the arms of the National League. They knew well that they would live down any petty Boycotting like that, which was as nothing compared with the Boycotting under the National League, which might ruin a man's trade and spoil his home. There was much in one clause of the Bill to excite national prejudice, and naturally there was strong feeling against the change of venue clauses. His own belief was that the object of the change of venue to England was to relieve Dublin jurors from the great strain that had been put upon them. Irish jurors would not bring in the verdicts that wore expected from the evidence, not in ordinary cases; but in eases of an agrarian or political character it was almost impossible to obtain a fair trial. It was unfortunately in the nature of things that if a Nationalist jury would not convict a Nationalist, so an Orange jury would not convict an Orangeman; and to meet this state of things the Government propose a change of venue, and offer a trial in England of the fairness of which there could be no question. In the powers to be conferred on stipendary magistrates, he shared some of the objections urged. He hoped the Government would consider this point, and take care that, not only should the men appointed have some 629 legal knowledge, but that they should have some experience upon which reliance could be placed to obtain public confidence in his administration of justice. Unfortunately there was not that confidence which was to be desired in the appointments by any Irish Government of stipendiary magistrates in a matter of that kind; and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. W. H. Smith) or the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) would take care that not only men with some slight knowledge of law, but barristers of some years' standing, should be appointed to sit on the Bench, so as to secure not only that there should be a fair trial, but that public confidence in the administration of justice should exist. The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) the other night said that that was a Bill to maintain the present land system in Ireland. That the Bill was designed to maintain the present land system he utterly denied. If he (Mr. Lea) thought so himself he would not vote for the Bill. He believed that the present land system demanded immediate reform. Who suffered most by the present disorder, the tenant or the landlord? Under it, the landlord, if he had a margin to live on, could come over to England and reside there; but the small tenant farmer, who was the greatest sufferer, by the very conditions of his existence, must remain in Ireland under the tyranny of the National League; and it was for his protection chiefly that the amendment of the Irish Criminal Law was demanded. The tenants, with protection in their homes and their industry, would find the state of the country improved and themselves better off after the passing of a Bill like the present one than they were before it. The bulk of his supporters were small tenant farmers, and he did not believe one of them would fear the alteration of the Criminal Law in the manner proposed. But the Bill was but one portion of the Government scheme; their were other remedial measures to be passed. He confessed he had not seen the Bill introduced in the House of Lords, but he had heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain), and found in it 630 much that met his own views; but they had pledges from the Government that the Bill introduced in "another place" was only a prelude to the introduction of a larger and greater measure of reform. It was to the abolition of dual ownership of the land that everything pointed and must point; and he trusted that the Government would fulfil their pledges both as regarded the amendment of the Criminal Law and the present land system in Ireland; and with that effected he looked forward to a period of more contentment than Ireland had enjoyed this century. Moreover, if the poverty of the west of Ireland was to be remedied, public works would have to be encouraged and other matters attended to. To the Commission on Public Loans and on Arterial Drainage, and possible legislation on those subjects, he could not do more than allude; but he saw in the Government programme the intention to remove the causes of disturbances and trouble in Ireland, and had hopes of its success. He believed that if the Irish people only in time looked at the programme of the Government—that order must be restored and dual ownership abolished—they would have peace and prosperity in Ireland. With some reluctance he supported the Bill, and he voted for it as part of a great scheme Her Majesty's Government were pledged to press upon Parliament, and he trusted that the future peace and prosperity of Ireland would show the policy of Her Majesty's Government to have been the right and true one.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)
said, he had listened to many extraordinary arguments put forward in the support of the Bill, but of all the extraordinary Liberal Unionist speeches the one they had just heard was the most extraordinary, and none were so wide of the mark as the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Londonderry (Mr. Lea). While the admission that it could not be pretended there was any excess of crime in Ireland was creditable to his candour, it could not be said to afford any justification for the Bill. With the exception of opposition to rent which he (Mr. Handel Cossham) did not regard as a crime but as a virtue, and could prove by quotations from the Commission Report, there was not in Ireland to day so great a proportion of 631 crime to population as there was in any other part of the Kingdom, Then, on what ground were they asked in the latter end of the 19th century to pass a Bill so counter to modern civilization. It was a dangerous sentiment, the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Londonderry expressed, refusing to acknowledge the bulk of the elected Representatives as expressing the opinions of the country. He had his own views as to the means by which Tory Members were returned to Parliament, and thought the electors might have been deceived, but there they were and must be recognized, and even so must the voice of Ireland be acknowledged through her Representatives. The hon. Member laid claim to special knowledge of the extent of Boycotting, and would it not be better, instead of indulging in vague innuendoes, that he placed his information in the hands of the Government, who would be glad to support their case with his evidence?
§ MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
said, he claimed no special knowledge. He said there was a good deal of Boycotting in Ireland not heard of.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM
said, if nobody knew of it then it was not very serious. He throw out the challenge—and let the hon. Member for South Londonderry accept this challenge—and he offered to produce 10 eases of Boycotting in small villages in England for one in Ireland. Why, Nonconformists were systematically Boycotted. When last Session the Liberals declared the choice of government for Ireland lay between the system of the present Government—coercion, and the system of the late Government—conciliation, it was asserted by Unionists that there was a middle course; but where was it? In truth there was no middle course. You must govern by the sword or by the Constitution. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) seemed to think that the world was made for the landlords, and that others who came into it ought to apologize for their existence. He did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman on that point, and he believed that when the people saw how they wore taxed and how their pockets were being picked in order to keep up the landlord class in Ireland, they would make short work of the system, and as sure as the rising of 632 to-morrow's sun the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) would rule the Government of Ireland in the future. They would yet teach the right hon. Gentleman that he was under a delusion. The condition of the Liberal Unionists in the country was pitiable, and he could only compare them to certain creatures mentioned in Holy Writ—he did not wish to particularize further—which ran down into the sea and were destroyed. They reminded him of the sailor's parrot; instead of teaching the Tories to pray they taught them to swear. Since Liberal remedial legislation had been introduced to Ireland crime had fallen 75 per cent. If the Crimea Bill passed, the result would be to increase crime in Ireland, as all such measures had increased crime. The Bill was unjust in its principle; it was a violation of every principle of Christianity and every principle of humanity, and if it became law it would utterly demoralize and debase the public opinion of Ireland. Every time we had relaxed the Criminal Law crime had decreased. In this matter the Tory Party seemed to be like Lot's wife; they were always looking back and getting turned into pillars of salt. He had written in favour of Home Rule 15 years ago; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, having laid it down that we must know what the people of Ireland really wanted, accepted the expression of their views involved in the results of the Election following the last Reform Act. Even Conservative candidates, having the support of the Irish Party, disavowed coercion and hinted at a good slice of Home Rule. Cruel laws made a cruel people, bad laws a bad people, and a Bill like this would make the people as demoralized as the law itself. The pivot of the Bill was the stipendiary magistrates, who were appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, who would make the law, decide what was illegal, and direct his minions to carry out the law which he made. It would be better to give the power to the Chief Secretary, who would be responsible to that House. We had won many of our liberties through good men resisting bad laws and refusing to recognize despotic law and order, and through brow-beaten juries refusing to convict them. The Chief Secretary would have stood by the side of Nebu- 633 chadnezzar when he put the three Nonconformists into the furnace, or by the side of Charles I., who lost his head because he was in favour of what he called law and order. If a law were unjust the man who tried to get it altered was a patriot. The object of the Bill was not to put down crime but it was to stop the expression of political opinion. But you could not do that and continue Constitutional government. No man had said more against force than some of those who were going to support this Bill, to both the principles and the details of which he would offer the most determined, opposition.
§ MR. LEES (Oldham)
said, he did not think that his constituents were so foolish, after having elected him last July, with a distinct statement of his views on this matter, to have changed their minds so completely in so short a space of time. [An hon. MEMBER: Next time.]—possibly they might, but he thought "next time" was in the dim and distant future. In his Election address he said—There was a great deal of nonsense talked about coercion which would hardly go down at Oldham. They should all regret any interference with peaceable, law-abiding Irishmen, but they would all rejoice to see Moonlighters, dynamiters, and assassins suffering the righteous penalty of the law.He was glad to see that that received the assent of all Parties in the House; but they had had the system of Boycotting and intimidation explained by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), and yet the whole force of these lay in the outrage to murder, which was not to be denounced. He considered the present Bill as the best remedial measure the Government could introduce. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hackney [Sir Charles Russell) had asked how could they convict without evidence; but was it a fact that the people of Ireland would not give evidence in support of the law simply because it was an alien law? Surely the relatives and friends of the victims of murder, outrage, and Boycotting must be more than human if they did not wish to take that vengeance which the law offered them upon the authors of their misfortunes. Irish. Members might say that they were too patriotic to take that revenge when the law was 634 alien. The Irish Nationalists, of course, never dreamed of giving evidence under an alien law, or of rising the resources of an alien law against the police at Youghal or the rioters of Belfast. If it was wrong to give evidence, or do anything in. support of an alien law, Irish Member;)—Compound the sins they are inclined to,By damning those they have no mind to.The hon. and learned Member for Hackney also said that the ordinary law had not been sufficiently tried. But he entirely disputed that statement, and contended that the ordinary law had been fully tried in Ireland and had failed. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked what had happened to change the situation since the noble lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) addressed his constituents two months ago. His reply was that much had happened since then. Why, since then the ordinary law had been tried and failed. That had very much changed the situation, and he thought there could be no stronger arguments in favour of the absolute necessity of some measure of this kind than that after Judges declared the Plan of Campaign to be illegal the agitation had been openly carried on, and the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) admitted that he was engaged in it, the jury failed to give a verdict; and therefore the Government were unable to obtain verdicts under the ordinary law. He was inclined to look upon the transference of prisoners from Ireland to England for trial as one of the best provisions in the Bill. It was an outward and visible sign of the union between England and Ireland. [Laughter.] The hon. and learned Member for Hackney could give only two precedents for this stop—namely, the trial of prisoners from America during the American war, and the trial at Carlisle of Scotch prisoners after the 1745 rising. These were very unfortunate instances. In the former American Independence succeeded whereas after the latter Scotland became the most loyal and peaceable part of the United Kingdom. Nationalist Members had laughed when he said that this clause was the sign of the union between the three countries. He had been in favour of similar homogeneous and simultaneous legislation for the three countries, and 635 he regretted that it was not possible to bring in a Bill to apply to all parts of the United Kingdom, the powers of which would be put in force in any part of the country by proclamation as the necessity arose. The Bill had been described as a Coercion Bill for over and ever, but its provisions would only be applied in proclaimed districts. The districts that were not proclaimed would remain in the same state as ever. The hon. Member for East Bristol (Mr. Handel Cossham) had asked how the Liberal Unionists were going to vote for this, and had said that the good Liberal parrot had been taught bad language and to swear, by the naughty Conservative parrot; but the conduct of Irish Members was enough to make a saint, not to say a parrot, swear. It was said that Boycotting and intimidation existed in England. Was there over a greater reductio ad absurdum than that? He would admit for the sake of argument that there might be exclusive dealing, and Boycotting in England by the Tory Press and the Primrose League; but nobody ever heard of the editor of a Tory newspaper or the dame of a Primrose League resorting to outrage to enforce the Boycotting. Did anyone ever hear of the dames of the Primrose League lying in wait behind hedges and ditches, and putting shots into the legs of their opponents. [Laughter.] The laughter with which this remark had been greeted showed the absurdity of the reasoning of hon. Gentlemen opposite, for the state of Ireland was no laughing matter. He hoped that the Government would stand firm in this matter. If they did he believed they would have the support of the country at their back. The Nationalist Party reminded him of the old fable of the Sphynx, a monster which had a most beautiful and fascinating head and bust; but whose trunk and legs and claws were those of a beast of prey. This monster propounded riddles and destroyed those who were unable to answer them. The Nationalist Party now had as its head the noble presence and the mighty name of the statesman who was once the idol of the English people; but its legs and its claws were to be found in the slums and dens of New York and Chicago. The riddle which it propounded was the problem of Irish Government. He hoped that there sat on the Treasury Bench, the (Edipus 636 who would answer it, and he trusted and believed that he would find an answer that would solve the difficulty. If the right hon. Gentleman did so he would soon see, like Edipus of old, the monster dashing headlong to destruction.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
said, that the previous speaker (Mr. Lea) had denied that at the last Election the Tory and Liberal Unionist Members expressed their intention of opposing any policy of coercion. Was it not a matter of public notoriety that one of their strongest arguments, and one of their strongest cards played against the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), was the declaration of their determination to oppose coercion? It was only the other night that the hon. Member for Deptford admitted that the cry of no coercion was one of the strongest points of the Tories at the last Election. He (Mr. Flynn) opposed the Bill of the Government as a wanton and uncalled-for insult to the Irish people; and, instead of being a Bill for the Amendment of the Criminal Law, as described by the Government, it was a Bill to facilitate the collection of unjust rents, for the suppression of Constitutional agitation, and for filching away public rights. The arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, instead of proving that coercion was necessary, had an exactly opposite effect. How could it be maintained, when there had only been six more outrages in 1886 than in 1885, and when the difference in the number of Boycotted persons was so slight—how could it be maintained that there existed sufficient grounds for the introduction of repressive measures? The Chief Secretary had quoted the charges of certain Judges, including that delivered by Mr. Justice O'Brien at the last Cork Assizes. But that charge had been torn to shreds. The language of Judge O'Brien was the language of a political and heated partizan—the language of a renegade Home Ruler. History told them that no men were more bitter against Members and Parties than those who had turned their backs upon them. In that House did not the spectacle of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Colonel King-Harman), and, in Ireland, the spectacle of Judge O'Brien, show that a renegade from 637 principle was the most bitter and persistent opponent?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRE-LAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
I rise to Order, Mr. Deputy Speaker; and I desire to ask you, Sir, whether the hon. Member is in Order in attacking the character of a Judge of the High Court? The hon. Member has accused Judge O'Brien with being a violent political partizan and a renegade from political principles.
§ MR. FLYNN
said, he would withdraw anything that was ruled to be out of Order. He would, therefore, withdraw this expression; but he must say, in doing so, that similar words had been used several times in the course of the debate. He merely wished to show that the learned Judge went beyond the facts that were before him. The people of Cork knew exactly how to appraise the value of that charge. The calendar before the Judge was an extremely light one, and the figures which he paraded were the offspring of his boated imagination. The County of Cork was in a peaceful condition. There was very little ordinary crime, and the agrarian crime was not sufficient to justify the learned Judge's remarks. In the city of Cork, or Dublin, or Waterford, or Limerick, or any other city in Ireland, life and property were more secure at the present moment than in that Metropolis; and in the County of Cork, to which the learned Judge referred, there was as little crime as in Surrey or Middlesex. Only the day before yesterday, the Chairman at Macroom Quarter Sessions was presented with a pair of white gloves; and the foreman of the Grand Jury asked the Chairman to send to the Chief Secretary a resolution which they had passed, asking the Government to exempt that portion of the county from the operation of the Act, and protesting against the measure as unnecessary and uncalled for. There was nothing to justify such unfounded libels on the character of the people as were contained in this charge.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
said, that the hon. Member must not use language of that kind with reference to a Judge.
§ MR. FLYNN,
resuming, argued that the real object of the measure before the 638 House was to suppress the agrarian combination in Ireland against rack-rents. The Government declared that they wished to remove all obstructions in the way of their remedial legislation. What could they mean by that, except that it was their intention to prevent popular criticism of their measures, wherever such criticism should take the form of organized agitation? The Government accused the Party to which he belonged of having thrown difficulties in the way of the application of Lord Ashbourne's Act. If that course had been taken, it was because they wished to frustrate the attempt of the landlords to force the Act upon their tenants. Under the pressure of their arrears due, deliberate attempts were made by landlords and agents to force the tenants to purchase at the landlords' valuation. The National League advised the tenants not to purchase under such conditions. That those attempts were made was clearly proved by the evidence of Mr. J. G. M 'Carthy in the 2,209th and subsequent questions put by the Cowper Commission. When, therefore, the Government spoke of the necessity of putting down the National League, their real aim was to bolster up the landlords' interest—an interest which was falling in consequence of the depreciation in the value of produce. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer contended that the object of the League was to render nugatory the remedial measures of the Government, and that the Government wanted to prepare the ground by this Bill for these measures. Thus the people of Ireland were to be coerced into accepting these remedial measures, whether they liked them or not. As to the Cowper Commission, which had been so much referred to, it ought not to be forgotten that the Commission was appointed by the Government and was a landlords' Commission; and also that the vast body of the evidence was given by landlords and land agents and those Boycotted persons who had every reason to be bitter and hostile to the National Party. With the exception of a few merchants, no Members of the National Party appeared before the Commission. The Commission was marked from beginning to end with the landlords' sign and seal. The only popular Member of the Commission, Mr. Knipe, was selected because he was a 639 Liberal Unionist, and his Report was the only really valuable result of the Commission. But were the Government going to act upon the recommendations of the Report, even excluding Mr. Knipe's suggestions? Were they going to act upon that part of the Report which showed the impossibility of the tenants paying their present rents? Mr. Knipe's Report pointed out that evictions were going on because of rack-rents, not only in the South and West, but also in Ulster itself; and he utterly condemned all proposals for coercion. If the Government had put a stop to unjust evictions, there would have been no more turmoil and no pretext or necessity for a Coercion Act at all. The Plan of Campaign was a combination of tenants, acting within the law, for the purpose of obtaining reduction of excessive rents; and, when the landlord was willing to meet the tenants fairly, no further difficulty was experienced. Boycotting was, at present, a desperate expedient; but, if the Bill passed, it would become a political and patriotic duty in the eyes of the Irish people. A great deal had been said about the tyranny of the National League. The power of the National League sprang from popular support, popular opinion, and popular favour, and it was ludicrous to hear the statement that the people of Ireland only wanted a kind and paternal Government to get them to throw off the tyrannous code of the League. The National League was an open association, all of whose proceedings were public, and exercised a restraining influence upon popular agitation. He belonged himself to the League, the operations of which had been most beneficial to the tenantry. Much had been said on the Benches opposite about the Ten Commandments; but the people of Ireland would take no lessons in morality from them. The law did and could not command the respect of the Irish people, because it was not "broad-based on the people's will." The Leader of the Irish people (Mr. Parnell) had addressed wise words of warning, which he (Mr. Flynn) hoped and believed his countrymen would take to heart. That Bill would only meet with the contempt of the Irish people, who, however, not from respect to the Bill, but in obedience to the voice of their Leader, would exercise self-re- 640 straint. The Government declared that the preservation of law and order was the object of the Bill; but it would have a contrary effect. It would never receive the respect of the people, and they would break it whenever they could do so with safety and impunity. Nevertheless, the people would follow the advice of their Leader, the hon. Member for Cork. They would abstain from crime, and look forward to the near future when the noble programme of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian would be adopted by the country, and when they would be able to bid a long farewell to all these coercive measures, and enter on a career of peace and happiness and prosperity.
§ MR. JARVIS (Lynn Regis)
I desire to solicit the kind indulgence usually accorded to a Member who addresses the House for the first time. The question before us is a very simple one, and one which has been discussed over and over again—namely, whether law and order is to prevail within the Queen's Dominions, and crime and outrage, confusion and anarchy, should be suppressed? I read the other day a speech made by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), delivered in this House on April 9 last year. Speaking of coercion, he said—I think it is necessary that we should clear our ideas a little on this subject of coercion. We have accepted far too readily the term 'coercion,' which has been applied to it by its opponents, and which has been generally interpreted as a sort of synonym for tyranny. What, Sir, is the reason? Why is it that powers in excess of those of the ordinary law have had very generally to be conferred upon the Executive in Ireland? It is because the ordinary law has not received that ready and willing assent from the people of Ireland that it receives in the remaining parts of the Kingdom."—(3 Hansard,  1262.)Why is it that the law does not receive in Ireland that ready and willing assent which it receives in other parts of the Kingdom? On this point I should like to refer hon. Gentlemen opposite to an authority they are very fond of quoting—the evidence of Sir Redvers Buller before the Cowper Commission. Sir Redvers Buller, after saying that intimidation was rampant in Ireland, and that the people of Ireland, if left to themselves, were very well intentioned, was asked whether the people were pre- 641 vented from paying their rents partly by terrorism and partly by real inability and poverty, and the answer was—Yes, and partly by bad advice; this United Ireland scheme, and that sort of thing. The three worst districts that I have got, and which I really thought were settling down, Mr. Dillon and other M. P.'s have just been preaching in, and the excitement they have created will, I fear, again disturb them.That, to my mind, is the cause of the agitation which is a curse to Ireland. To my mind—and I am supported in my belief by the evidence of General Buller—the people of Ireland, if freed from that curse, will be as loyal, faithful, and law-abiding subjects as are to be found in the realm. It is not that the people are unwilling to obey the law, for Sir Redvers said that it was their desire to do so. Then I contend that the strength of the law ought to be felt by those who desire to subvert it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) has told us that—If the law be one that works injustice, it is not the first duty of a civilized society to enforce that law.But who is to be the authority as to the justness of the law? Is it the right hon. Gentleman himself, or are we to consider the general sense of the country? I would ask whether it is to be the law of this country or that of Chicago which is to prevail? Is the Imperial Parliament to rule this United Kingdom, or is it to be governed by the Convention of Chicago which met last August, and which has for its mottoes "Home Rule or else—." "Peaceably if we can, otherwise if we must?" I would ask the right hon. Member for Derby whether he will consider it a just law which hands over the loyal minority in Ireland to men some of whom are bound by an oath to render the government of Ireland by this country an impossibility. Hon. Members opposite tell us that the Plan of Campaign originated with the tenants. But the House knows that it was devised and batched by the accredited agents of the National League at the Chicago Convention. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) said that hon. Members on the Government side of the House are very fond of raking up the stale gossip of the drinking saloons of Chicago and New York. Very likely the principles of the Plan 642 of Campaign originated in such places, but they are no longer stale gossip; they are now accomplished facts. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) said that he was not responsible for the Plan of Campaign; but it is of little use for him to say so when it was prepared by his associates. If he desired to repudiate responsibility for it, why did he not rise in his place and denounce it? We have listened to the hon. Member on many occasions during the pre-sent Session; but he has never given any hint of his intention to repudiate the action of his agents. If he disapproves of it, why does he not exercise some of the influence he possesses over his myrmidons? Is he actuated by the policy of fear, and is he being driven on his downward path at such a rapid rate that, though he would stop if he could, the force is too strong for him? The National League found it expedient to adopt some such measure as the Plan of Campaign, because last autumn there was a sense of growing security among the people of Ireland, in consequence of the accession to power of Lord Salisbury's Government; because they knew that the Conservative Party had promised before the constituencies to maintain law and order in that country. Mr. John Newman, when examined before Lord Cowper's Commission, said that he had got his rents better in 1886 than in the previous year, and he added—I think the reason for this is because the present Government is in power, and the people consider that they would support law and order, and they are, therefore, more inclined to pay.He went on to say that he had given in that year the same abatements of rent as in the previous year; but they paid him more cheerfully in 1886, although that was a worse year than 1885. He said, further, that all those tenants who had not paid were, he thought, still under the influence of the League. If the hon. Member for Cork will not denounce the Plan of Plunder, I will appeal to the new Leaders of the Party—the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt)—to express their opinions upon it. We have waited in vain so far for any such expression of opinion. The right hon. Member for Derby has on one occasion promised that he will give an opinion before he sat down; but, 643 although the House anxiously listened for it, none was forthcoming. All we gathered from that speech was that it is just as legal for the tenants to refuse to fulfil their just contracts as it was for John Hampden, 250 years ago, to refuse the payment of ship money. The right hon. Gentleman must remember that that was because Hampden considered it an infringement of the Petition of Eight, and, therefore, he refused payment on the ground of principle; but will any hon. Gentleman say that when persons have entered into a contract, the whole thing shall be at an end because one of the parties said fulfilment will be a breach of principle? If that plan is not to be denounced by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian and the right hon. Member for Derby, I think it will be only fair to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for New-castle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley), because I find that in answer to a question—when he was Chief Secretary for Ireland—the right hon. Gentleman said that the law of conspiracy was already wide enough to deal with the eases of illegal combination which had been established. The right hon. Gentleman has therefore a desire that illegal combinations shall be dealt with and the law maintained; but surely it is not consistent with that desire that the right hon. Gentleman should deliver speeches which are calculated to excite the people, such as the words he addressed not long ago to the Radical Union. On that occasion he spoke of large crowds assembling to see the prisoners leave Ireland and arrive in England, when brought over for trial under the change of venue clauses in the new Bill. When it is remembered that the prisoners who would be brought to this country would be those only who were accused of the worst classes of crime such as murder, I do not anticipate that the people of England would rush to welcome them. Charges have lately been made against hon. Gentleman opposite who claimed to be the Representatives of the Irish people. There are those who believe—and I number myself among them—that if it were not for the agitation I have referred to some of those hon. Gentleman would not be in the position which they now occupy. If the statements which have been made in this House, and in the public Press, are 644 untrue, I ask hon. Gentleman opposite to rise in their places and deny them. I should like to hear hon. Gentleman opposite repudiate any connection with the practices of murder and assassination in America. We have been led to believe that from that country came the subsidies which enable lion. Members opposite to carry on that accursed war. I would ask, is it to promote such an alliance that right hon. Gentlemen opposite give their support? The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian has acknowledged in the fullest degree the alliance of the Separatist Leaders with the Nationalist Party. Everyone knows that those who pay the piper have the right to call for the tune. We know that the Nationalist Party in Ireland depend for their support upon the Fenian element in America, and we find that the Separatist Party in this House depend for support on the votes of the Nationalist Party. I will not follow the argument any further; the slightest knowledge of the elementary principles of Euclid will, I think, readily supply the a fortiori deduction. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has compared the state of affairs in Parliament to a railway on which a permanent way is blocked. Does the right hon. Gentleman ever consider who was the pointsman in the box who turned the Parliamentary train on the wrong line of metals, and caused the accident he has described? Are we to suppose that the right hon. Gentleman who caused the accident will continue to denounce the action of the Party of which he is now the Leader in preventing the clearance of that obstruction? We, on this side of the House, and many on the other side, are determined to assist the Government by every means in our power to clear away that obstruction. We know it has been laid down by the hon. Member for North Wexford(Mr. J. E. Redmond) that "It will remain for the Irish people to prove that as slaves we can be formidable foes."
§ MR. J. E. REDMOND (Wexford, N.)
I am sure the hon. Member does not mean to misrepresent me; but I object to isolated and disjointed portions of my speech being quoted apart from the context.
§ MR. JARVIS
At any rate, the sentence I was about to quote is not disjointed, and upon that I would found 645 my argument. The hon. Member said that he believed it the duty of himself and his Friends to make the government of Ireland by England impossible I should be pleased if the hon. Member can repudiate that statement.
§ MR. JARVIS
We on this side of the House have been returned by the people of this country to defend the Union, and we are determined to march straight on behind the Government, undeterred by the utterances of the hon. Member for Wexford at the Chicago Convention, and undeterred by the allusions of the hon. Member for Cork to explosions and dynamite. In refusing to believe in the policy of fear, but supporting the Government to the best of our ability, we feel confident that we are only fulfilling the pledges which we have made to our constituencies, and that we shall be supported by the approving voices of our fellow-countrymen.
§ MR. A. H. DYKE ACLAND (York, W. R., Rotherham)
said, he hoped that a Member who had not yet said anything at all in the House on the Irish Question, either this year or last year, might not be considered obstructive in saying a few words at this time on the very grave issues which were now before the country. It appeared to him that there wore two sets of arguments that had been most largely brought forward in support of the Coercion Bill of the Government. The first were those which gave facts, and showed in what a disastrous condition Ireland was at the present time. The second were those which were quoted from the former speeches of Liberal Leaders, and showing that they had changed their policy. With reference to the latter class of arguments, he could only say it seemed to him that they had had almost enough of them, and they were not very pertinent to the issues before the House. There was no doubt whatever that the Liberal Leaders had changed their minds, because they said the old and disastrous policy had, in their opinion, gone on long enough, and it was time that they should have some totally new departure. With reference to the first class of argument, he would say for himself that, even if he admitted all that was said—if he admitted the most disastrous and most melancholy 646 condition of Ireland—it seemed to him that there was something which went even deeper than that. They had to consider whether the Government had the power which they claimed to have of carrying out their proposed policy. The Government were determined, as some of their supporters said, to emancipate the Irish people from the tyranny which now oppressed thorn. Had they the power to carry out that determination? They were determined to restore justice. Could they restore justice in the proper sense of the word? They were determined to carry out the authority of the law. Upon what did the real state of the law depend? He would quote a few words of one who was by far the ablest opponent of Home Rule. Professor Dicey, in his work entitled, England's Case against Home Rule, said some things which he (Mr. A. H. D. Acland) thought some supporters of the Bill now before the House were sometimes forgetful of, or, at any rate they hardly laid enough stress upon them. The writer said—The ultimate strength of the law lies in the sympathy, or at the lowest, in the acquiescence of the mass of the population.Now, if the strength of the law lay in the sympathy and acquiescence of the mass of the people, it was possible that a good many of the contentions of the supporters of this Bill were not really true. He ventured to say that this measure was repugnant to the sense of justice and to the democratic principles of the English people, and that efforts to enforce justice only according to our own ideas, remained, and would remain, hateful to the Irish people. But how much longer was the present state of things to last? It was said by the authors of the present Bill, that until the agitators and demagogues were suppressed, there would be no security for law, order, life, or property. Well, that was exactly what Mr. Stanley said 55 years ago, and so they found in the matter of juries and many other similar questions that they were repeating history, repeating arguments which were half-a-century or more old, and they might fairly ask how long was this to go on? Some Members had spoken of this Bill in its connection with the Jubilee of Her Majesty's Reign. The contrast was a disastrous one. In the year 1837 there was some hope for Ireland. In that year the Lord Lieu- 647 tenant was in a position of friendship with Mr. O'Connell; but many persons had reproved him for his attitude. He went about the land letting prisoners out of gaol. Now, at the end of 50 years, we saw a very different state of things. The demand which was now made was a more reasonable one than that put foward by O'Connell, and was made by a far wider and fuller representation of the Irish people. In the year 1837 Drummond was the Permanent Under Secretary for Ireland. In this year Sir Robert Hamilton, who appeared to be favourable to the case of the Irish people, had been got rid of, and sent elsewhere. Why did the policy in the first year of the Reign of the Queen, which was one of friendship towards the Irish people, and an attempt to try and understand their wishes and needs—why did that fail? Because the English people were then so full of prejudice that they could not understand that a policy of that kind could be wise; and that, more than anything else, broke down Lord Melbourne's Ministry. Now we were in a more hopeful time, and there was less prejudice. There was a better understanding of the feeling of the Irish people than there was then. There was certainly more hope that a policy like that of Drummond's would be carried out now. The argument for the Government Bill was based on what was called the ''theory of agitators." The agitators were the source of all the difficulties, according to the authors of the Bill. He ventured to say they ought to know something more about the Irish people. At the present time there were two theories about the Irish people in turn trotted out by those who supported the Bill. One was that the Irish were an innocent people, who were constantly being led away by the agitators. It was said that if Parliament could only put those 85 agitators and a few of their friends in prison, then the Irish people would be amenable enough to reason and good government, and also to those who understood them better. For his own part, he doubted whether the people of Ireland would take the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) and his Friends as their trusted guides. The other theory concerning the Irish people was a totally different one. It was said they were a dynamite-loving people, that they 648 wanted to go further than their present leaders, that if they got Home Rule they would only put up with their present leaders for a year or two, and then they would demand much more violent persons. They would want, it was said, Mr. Patrick Ford as their Prime Minister, and Mr. Egan as their Chancellor of the Exchequer. Which was the true theory of these two concerning the Irish people? His opinion was that neither was true. The fact was that the Irish were very much like other people, if they were reasonably treated. They had their virtues, and they had their faults. Unfortunately the English, in dealing with the Irish, always thought of their own virtues, and thought but little of the faults which on their side had led to so much of the disastrous history of the Irish people. Our faults had been our aristocratic pride, which made difficulties when we had to deal with other people. We believed that munificence and charity would remedy the various evils which the Irish people complained of. That theory had broken down altogether. When we had had to deal with agitators in England we had tried to understand their position, and had dealt with them reasonably. It was not so very long ago that England was considered to be in a state of almost rebellion, just as we were told that Ireland was in a state of almost rebellion now. In the Queen's Speech, in 1840, there occurred these words—An unfortunate spirit of insubordination prevailed in the country, which had been repressed by the spirit and good conduct of the troops.We should not see such a sentence as that in the Queen's Speech now, even with regard to Ireland; yet it was said of the English people a little more than 40 years ago. Lord Brougham said at the same time the masses of the English people were in all but a rebellion. But in England our reason had conquered our pride, and we had steadily made changes in the direction which the people wanted. He ventured to say that the principle underlying the two cases was the same, although there might be thousands of minor differences. Those who would carry out this policy to its ultimate conclusion ought to be glad that the old Chartists had had their way, and that the democracy had got the franchise in this country. They all knew that the present Prime Minister left the Cabinet 649 rather than assent to the Bill which gave a large portion of the people the vote in 1867. They knew that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have nothing to do with the Bill which gave the vote to the county householders. Well, perhaps, the time would come when, in reference to Ireland, they would feel regret that either of these Reform. Bills had passed, because if any change in the direction which the Liberal Party desired was made in reference to Ireland, it could only be made by the help of those who were enfranchised under the last two Reform Bills. They were told that the Home Rule cry was demoralizing, that it demoralized the House, and that it demoralized Ireland; but he (Mr. A. H. D. Acland) believed that the Government were doing more to demoralize Ireland—and to some extent even England—by their present policy than anything which was being done by the alternative policy. What was going to be done by this Bill was to force together the party of disorder and crime, and the party of Constitutional desires. They were going to try and drive these two parties together once more, when everything had of late been done, and successfully done, to gradually draw them apart, and to encourage the Irish people to look for the solution of their difficulties to Constitutional methods. The theory of putting agitators in prisons as a solution of the difficulty, by thereby giving liberty to the Irish people, was one which would hopelessly break down. If they put men like the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) in prison, there would be many who would be glad to follow him there. There would be men in towns and villages who would be taken to prison as heroes, and others would be desirous of following them; and if that went on steadily, instead of making Estimates for harbours and canals, and so forth, the Government had better make Estimates for larger prisons. Then, in addition to that, they would nave these people who had been put in prison coming to England, where they would be welcomed as heroes. They would be welcomed on English platforms, and that was not altogether a desirable state of things. But it had happened before. There were hundreds of old working men still living in the North of England who had welcomed the Chartists after they came out of 650 prison, because they thought those men were put in prison merely as agitators agitating for a reasonable thing. They would find the English working men taking the same view now with regard to the Irish agitators. They would consider that they were agitating for what was reasonable, that they were, for that reason, put in prison, and, therefore they would be as welcome on the English platforms as the old Chartist agitators were in days gone by. All this was a very undesirable, very disturbing, and very demoralizing state of things. Instead of carrying on this pitiable work of trying to force the people against their will, would it not be better to throw political responsibility on those persons who were now called agitators, and bring them face to face with the difficulties of governing, to make them understand how little, after all, politics could do? The root of the difficulty in the past had been ignorance on the part of the English people, and want of sympathy on their part. There was now less ignorance about the Irish Question every day. There was more sympathy between the English and Irish people growing steadily month by month. Who was that owing to? It was owing to the action which had been taken by the Party which was headed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). Lord Cornwallis said, when he was sent over to Ireland to carry out the Union—"I wish that England could make a union with the Irish nation, instead of with a party in Ireland." That had been the evil of England's policy for all this century. Every Coercion Bill had welded that policy more closely than before, and once more, instead of making union with a nation, they were going to make union with a party, and put the two peoples in a more difficult position than ever. He (Mr. A. H. D. Acland) believed a way was open to better things. As it was, we were beginning to give up talking about the "low Irish" in our large towns. We knew under what circumstances they were brought to our large towns, and what made them the low Irish. We knew it was largely our own fault that they were sent away from their own country, and brought together in our largo towns. We were beginning to feel and see all this, and we were be- 651 ginning to believe that there was a wiser and a stronger policy on a much surer foundation for a democratic Empire than that which was now called a firm and strong policy. The power which the Government were taking into their hands was one which could not succeed, because it exceeded the limits of the power of any Government. Would they succeed where Lord Grey and Mr. Stanley did not succeed? Would they make Ireland peaceful and happy where Lord Spencer and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had entirely failed? He did not believe for a single moment that they would. The Government wanted to restore justice. But they must restore a justice which a reasonable portion of the people—he did not mean the criminals—believed to be real justice. They must bring about law and order, which carried with them the acquiescence of the great mass of the people, or else it would not be an effective law or a successful order. He believed the verdict of history was against the success of a policy like that now before the House, and that, sooner or later, at any rate, within a few years, the verdict of the great mass of the people would be against it too.
§ MR. WHITMORE (Chelsea)
said, he intended to support the second reading of this Bill. He was one of those who had hoped, after the last General Election, that a Government which had received the support of both sides of the House might have been able to maintain law and order in Ireland without any alteration in the existing law. He had hoped, indeed, that the present Session might have been distinguished by some useful English domestic reforms, and therefore he approached the consideration of this Bill with real reluctance, and nothing but an absolute conviction of the necessity for such a measure would have induced him to support it. But while he deplored this necessity he could not for one moment dispute it, and the necessity was certainly not of the Government's manufacture. He would shortly express the reasons that made him think that that necessity had been proved. He thought that the number of persons in Ireland now under police protection, the number of families and individuals now being Boycotted, the proportion which the crime that was ab- 652 solutely undetected bore to the crime that was committed, and the proportion of the criminals who were convicted bore to those who were not convicted, made out an amply sufficient case for increasing the stringency of the Criminal Law in that country. He confessed, however, that he was also impressed by the Report of the Cowper Commission, and likewise by the fact that when, in the summer of 1885, the Government of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) found itself face to face with a slightly diminished amount of crime, as compared with that which now existed in Ireland, the Government proposed to re-enact the provisions of a Crimes Act which were similar to those of the Bill now under discussion. Again, when the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian introduced his Home Rule Bill, he based the revolution he then asked the Liberal Party to make in its past policy on the fact that the state of social order in Ireland not only justified, but necessitated such a radical change. But the state of social order in Ireland had not improved since then. Many hon. Members seemed to think that the Criminal Law in England possessed a more than Persian immutability; but the fact was that whenever any new development of crime occurred in this country the law was speedily amended to punish it. When, for instance, there was an outbreak of "rattening" at Sheffield, and an outbreak of garrotting in London, they were followed by a speedy alteration of the Criminal Law in order adequately to meet them. Again, in 1888, when the country was terrified by the wicked uses to which explosives wore put, a new Explosives Act was passed which fundamentally altered our Criminal Law, by imposing on the prisoner in future the onus of proving that he was innocently in possession of the explosive which was found in his possession. Parliament willingly acquiesced in that change, and no Englishman shouted out that they were being coerced or deprived of their liberties. They knew that the provisions of the Act would only be made applicable to criminals, who alone would suffer under it. He knew that in giving those instances he was comparing small things with great; but the underlying principle was the same in regard to them and to the present Bill. That principle was that in England, where a now offence or a new 653 condition of crime arose which the existing law did not sufficiently meet, they altered the law so as to make adequate and certain the punishment of the perpetrators of those offences. Parliament was now asked only to do the same thing in the case of Ireland. He knew that the Bill would be stringent in its operation on criminals; but that was what they desired, and he could not see that either any innocent person would suffer under it, or that any law-abiding citizen was likely to be interfered with by it in the pursuit of his ordinary avocations. The Bill aimed at three main objects. First, it provided for a preliminary investigation, such as already existed in Scotland, and was proposed for England by the Criminal Code Commission. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) said that provision might work very well in a normal state of society, but it would work badly in an abnormal state of society. That was a strange argument, and if pushed to its logical conclusion, it came to this—that the more lawlessness there was in a community the less stringent the law ought to be. That doctrine would land them in absolute anarchy. The second provision of the Bill was the substitution of another system of trial for trial by jury. No Englishman liked to see trial by jury abolished. It worked well in this country; but after all it was only a means to an end—namely, the attainment of justice; and if trial by jury had broken clown in Ireland—as by the admission of the late Attorney General it had done—they must substitute some other system for it. He had no doubt that the system to be substituted would not press hardly on accused persons. The right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) had appealed to the London Conservative Members and asked what was their opinion of the provision for the removal of trials from Ireland to this country. Well, he (Mr. Whitmore) confessed that he did not like that provision. It appeared to him as fantastic in its novelty as he feared it would prove cumbrous in its working; but, at the same time, when the Executive Government told him that the jury system had absolutely broken down in Ireland, that juries could not be got to do their work, and that the alternative system of a Commission of Judges would not answer, he 654 was content to accept that provision. The third main object of the Bill was the suppression of Associations which promoted crime or existed for illegal objects. The provision that the Lord Lieutenant's suppressing proclamation must receive the assent of Parliament was ample security against any arbitrary abuse of this power by him. It was said that was not a remedial measure. He entirely agreed with the hon. Gentleman the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke) that the antithesis set up between coercion and remedial legislation in that discussion was based on a fallacy. One of the diseases which afflicted Ireland was a state of illegality which found vent in overt crime, and the only appropriate specific for the cure of that disease was the strengthening of the Criminal Law. Therefore, those who supported that Bill were as much the supporters of remedial legislation as they would be when they supported legislation for making the cultivators the actual owners of land in Ireland. The question underlying that controversy was whether Ireland was to be governed in future by an Imperial Parliament or not, or whether that form of government was to be made impossible or not. Although he did not say that the verdict of the country at the last Election was final and irrevocable, he said it was so until another appeal was made to the country. In their recollection no more perfect issue—no issue less embarrassed by other issues—was over put to the country than that which was put to it at the last Election; and those on his side were bound by every motive of electioneering self-interest and by their deep convictions—[laughter]—those hon. Gentlemen who had thrown off their old opinions as they would throw off an old suit of clothes, could hardly appreciate the depth of their opponents' convictions, which had only been heightened and deepened by all that had happened since the last Election. If hon. Gentlemen opposite thought that hon. Gentlemen on his side were going to swerve one inch from their determination or their policy, they were grievously mistaken. They were told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that Home Rule was inevitable. If that was so, hon. Members opposite would reap the poisonous fruits of the evil seed they had sown in a country from which capital shrank, from 655 which the wealthy classes wore flying, among a population debauched by agitation, obeying the law only when it happened to be agreeable, and taught to despise the distinctions between right and wrong in the prosecution of visionary national and agrarian aspirations. Their course was clear and their duty plain; they could have no part or lot with the mischievous teaching and doctrines of hon. Members opposite. They must do their best to restore law and order in Ireland. He saw the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) in his place, and he wished to have a word with him. That hon. Member threatened them with the displeasure of their constituents, but he seemed to forget that the day of small boroughs and of a restricted franchise had passed away, and that they were all Representatives of large and popular constituencies. They know the wishes of their constituents as declared at the Polls.
§ MR. WHITMORE
said, he should be glad if the hon. Member would come with him any night to Chelsea Town Hall. The hon. Member for Northampton lived in a Radical Paradise of the past, and consoled his simple soul by declaring that Conservative Members dared not face their constituents. He (Mr. Whitmore) denied that they were afraid to face the people; they were in touch with them, and, so far as he knew, the feeling of the populace was rather one of impatience that the Government had been so long in introducing this Bill, than of indignation with them for introducing it. He hoped the Government would press on with it. not with undue haste, but with a determination that there should be no undue delay in providing for the punishment of sordid and cruel criminals, and he was convinced that they would be supported by the solid sense of the vast majority of the British people.
§ MR. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)
said, that this Bill was not directed so much against crime as against political agitation. It had been urged on the other side that this Bill was only intended to punish criminals. He believed it was perfectly idle to make that assertion. Hon. Members on the Ministerial side of 656 the House admitted that they did not like the change of venue clauses, and he quite agreed with them. After all, the Resident Magistrates in Ireland were not immaculate, and as soon as that weapon was put in their hands they would not fail to use it on those against whom they were prejudiced. An hon. Member on the other side had said that he voted for this Bill with a sick heart, and no wonder, for now the policy of the Government was stripped of its shoddy clothing of sham remedial legislation. This policy would be hateful if it stood on firm ground, but the Government were building on quicksand. He denied that there was any case whatever made out for the Bill. He remembered, during the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour), that the right hon. Gentleman was challenged to show that anyone was Boycotted for not joining the National League; and that morning, having received a pamphlet from the Loyal and Patriotic League, giving 52 cases of Boycotting, he turned with curiosity to look at this point. He found only one case, and that in Mayo, where this was alleged, and in that case what happened? The central body of the League discountenanced and disapproved any such action. He did not believe that this Bill would succeed. The Government would find that it was not strong enough, and that they would have to ask their Supporters and the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) for powers to enable them to govern Ireland by martial law. He would not refer in detail to the Bill, but would only refer to the provision by which inquiries were to be held by magistrates without any person being charged. If there was difficulty now in obtaining evidence there would be still more when this Bill was carried, for the Irish people would be thrown into such a temper that they would go to gaol, headed by their parish priests, rather than turn informers. Instead of alleviating the disaffection which now prevailed—though, as they believed, only to a limited extent; this Bill would greatly aggravate it. The real violators of law were those who sought to destroy, by permanently suspending the common law on which rested the rights and liberties of the people. The noble Viscount the Mem- 657 ber for North Devon (Viscount Lymington)—one of the principal spokesmen of the Liberal Unionists—had declared boldly that they intended to maintain their independence. But at what cost? At the cost of sacrificing the independence and liberties of a whole people. He would venture to suggest that in future the Liberal Unionists should take for their motto, Fiat lex, ruat justitia. It was frequently urged that the Liberal Party had once supported a policy of coercion. But they now acknowledged the error of their ways, and he did not see why even a politician should not confess that he found himself in the wrong, and state his intention to mend his ways. The Liberal Party, he believed, had learnt a lesson since the Coercion Acts of 1881 and 1882; but the Tory Party had not yet learnt it. The Tory Party learnt slowly, and only followed in the footsteps of the Liberal Party, as they tried to prove that Conservatism was only a safe form of Radicalism; and it appeared to him that there were now very few Conservatives who believed in Conservatism. He doubted whether there was one right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench who believed in it except the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen). He had the greatest possible respect for the right hon. Gentleman, but it usually happened that he was on the unpopular side. As the right hon. Gentleman now supported the Government in this measure, they had good reason to think that the advocates of the Bill were on the unpopular side. He believed that the feeling of the people was strongly against the Bill, as, since 1881 and 1882, there had been a great reaction against a coercion policy. In the North of England he might safely say that the feeling of antagonism to coercion was very strong, and that there would be a feeling of shame if this Bill, in anything like its present form, should ever disgrace the Statute Book. He hoped the discussion of the measure would be conducted without excess of warmth. Dear as Liberal Members held the liberties of the Irish people, they held fully as dear the dignity of the House of Commons, and he trusted that, in the future, their debates and proceedings would not be characterized by any of those ebullitions of Party spirit and temper, which were 658 as painful and obnoxious to the Members of the Opposition as to any other section of the House.
MR. A. R. D. ELLIOTT (Roxburgh)
said, he felt bound to rise as one of the Liberal Unionists who was not ashamed of his Liberal Unionism. The hon. Member for East Bristol (Mr. Handel Cossham) had gone out of his way to reproach the Liberal Unionists for having united themselves with the Tory Party, because the Tory Party, he said, was always wrong and the other Party always right. He had not the honour of the acquaintance of the hon. Member, but since the hon. Member entered the House he prophesied before the last Election that the Unionists would be swept away. The hon. Gentleman assured the House at the time that the flood was rising, and that no Liberal Unionist would make his appearance in Parliament. The Unionists then had a majority of 30; but they came back after the election with more than 100. If another Dissolution came, which he professed to wish for—although they really shook in their shoes at the contemplation of it—the Party of which the hon. Member was a distinguished ornament would come back reduced in numbers to an almost ridiculous extent. He could not help thinking, in listening to the speeches of hon. Members, that their love of liberty had occasionally led them altogether away from the Bill before the House. The hon. Baronet who seconded the Amendment last night (Sir Joseph Pease) characterized it as a "bloody Bill," and the hon. Member who moved the Amendment Sir (Bernhard Samuel-son) spoke as if Dublin would be placed in a similar position to what Warsaw once occupied. The hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Shirley) said the Bill was "infamous and iniquitous." One of the things which roused the indignation and holy horror of the seconder of the Amendment was the clause which provided for the secret examination of witnesses; but if the hon. Member had only read the whole clause, he would have found that the evidence thus obtained could not be used to incriminate the person giving it. The position of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had not been shaken in the least degree as to its necessity. It had been said that the Judges in Ireland whose charges 659 were quoted were Party politicians, and they were made out of men absolutely unfit for the position. Possibly hon. Members below the Gangway believed those statements; but when the House remembered the attacks made upon Lord Spencer and Sir George Trevelyan—men of whom the House knew something—the House might believe that, if they knew the Judges as intimately, they would find the charges equally unfounded. Lord Spencer was accused of hanging innocent men, knowing thorn to be innocent He confessed the objections taken to the quoting of Judges' charges in Ireland as to the lawless state of certain parts of the country, on the ground that those learned gentlemen had gone beyond their province, and that they wore partisans, had, certainly, somewhat astonished him, because exactly the same practice was followed by the Judges both in England and Scotland. Surely, the Judges in Ireland, as in England and Scotland, had a perfect right, when they went on Assize, to address the Grand Juries on the state of crime and disorder in which they found different parts of the country. It was a common practice in England, and the Irish Judges were not in the least exceeding their duty when they followed it. On the contrary, it was a public advantage that they should do so, and due weight and importance should be given to their remarks. He desired to point out, however, that the statements of the Judges adduced by the Chief Secretary had not been contradicted, or shown to be untrue. The only answer attempted to be made to them was, that other Judges had stated that other parts of the country were orderly and peaceful; but that did not in the least detract from the serious character of the statements quoted by the Chief Secretary. But the case of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary did not rest solely on the charges of the Judges. That was a very important part of the case, and one which had been absolutely and entirely uncontradicted. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was right in giving the House samples of the information which had been communicated to him as to the condition of lawlessness in Ireland; and he was equally right in withholding names, dates, and places. But the Chief Secrecretary further relied on the evidence 660 and report of the Cowper Commission; and he had cited instances of Boycotting commands issued by the National League contained in a single number of United Ireland. No Member had impugned this, or declared that that copy was not a fair sample of the newspaper. The case for the Bill rested not so much upon the excess of the criminal statistics as upon what one of the Judges described as a "paralysis of the law." When the citizens of Ireland did not enjoy their ordinary legal rights, it could not be said that was a satisfactory condition of things, or one which could be allowed to go on. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) said there was no particular crime in his constituency, that the Plan of Campaign was thoroughly established, and everything was peaceful; but he maintained that the law ought to be observed in East Mayo as in other places, and it was no answer to say that where Mr. Parnell and his Friends had everything their own way there was no excess of crime. The same sort of argument was put forward by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), who said if the Government wanted to put down crime they must get the Nationalist Party upon their side; but he maintained that the punishment of criminals should not depend upon the will of the leaders of the National Party. The hon. Member for Haddington (Mr. Haldane) put in a more clear form the proposition which the late Attorney General (Sir Charles Russell) stated last night. The right hon. Gentleman was a powerful and skilful advocate, and did not put things in the same crude and almost brutal manner as the Member for Haddington. The hon. Member said that the National League was de facto the Government of Ireland, and that they wanted to make it de jure also. He had never hoard a statement more coolly made than that. His position, and that of the Liberal Unionists, was that the Government throughout the whole of the United Kingdom should be that of the Queen, Lords, and Commons. He had frequently heard it asked, What would the people of England say to such a Bill as this? Well, he (Mr. A. R. D. Elliott) ventured to affirm that if, for instance, in Lancashire a condition of lawlessness prevailed such as existed in Ireland it would not last for two 661 months; and if any of the Lancashire Members should stand in the way of remedying the evil they would be outvoted by 10 to one. The other day they were treated to charges of jury-packing in Ireland, and they had had positive statements by persons in high places, like the Archbishop of Dublin, that juries had been packed. [An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear!] Well they would judge of that, but he remembered that some 10 or 12 years ago, when two English Members of Parliament ventured to suggest that the defendant in the Tichborne trial then pending, would not get a, fair trial in the Queen's Bench on the charge of perjury; although nothing was done in this House about it, the Lord Chief Justice of England at once had those hon. Members brought before him, made them make a most abject apology, and said, that unless they did so they would have to pay £100 and go to prison. That was the way in which such contempt of Court was dealt with in England. If such language had been used in England as had lately been used in Ireland by the Archbishop of Dublin and others, the persons using it would assuredly have been brought before the Law Courts. That was only one instance of the way in which law and regulations were steadily set at naught in Ireland. The claim that now seemed to have been set up was a claim for Irishmen of absolute impunity from law, but that was a claim which no one could admit. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) were again sitting on that—the Front Ministerial—Bench, he would still find that the obligation, however disagreeable, which had weighed upon him in the past to maintain law and order would still weigh upon him, and that he would not be able to retain his place for a day, except on the condition of enabling law and order to prevail in Ireland. He would now return to the Bill itself, and he would say that, in the main, it was a Procedure Bill. He failed to see that it made Irishmen punishable for that for which an Englishman in England, or a Scotsman in Scotland, would not be punished. Hon. Members said they wanted liberty. What was it that this Bill checked them doing which Englishmen and Scotsmen were allowed to do? As a Scotsman and 662 a Scottish Member, he might not perhaps look at these matters in exactly the same way as the Irish Members looked at them; but how could Irish Members look at this Bill as an insult to their nation when a short time ago they welcomed with enthusiasm a Bill which would have deprived them of some of the highest rights of British citizens—which would have prevented them taking any part in the higher interests of the British nation, and which would have severed them from all dealing in the position of the British Empire throughout the world. That Bill was one which, if it had been offered to Scotland, every true Scotsman would have repudiated as a national insult. He did not know that he needed to say that in every respect, and in every detail, the present Bill was an unimproveable measure; but he was dealing with it broadly—with its main objects and provisions. He should think that in Committee the Government would themselves wish that the measure should be fairly considered, to see whether it could not be improved, and whether the same ends could not be achieved by some alterations of detail here and there. As to the duration of the measure, some hard things had been said about that; but he could only say that he hoped the Government would be very firm on that point, and retain that provision, so as to avoid the necessity of subsequently having recourse to exceptional treatment. Then there were the clauses as to summary trial. Now, if any better tribunal than the Resident Magistrates could be suggested, so much the better; but so far as the discussion had gone there had been none better suggested. As to the provision for special juries, that also, in his opinion, was reasonable. In Scotland every criminal jury was partly of special and partly of common jurors. Then there was the provision for examination of witnesses before a person was charged. Now, he would ask hon. Members to consider what that meant? In every Coroner's inquest in England it was the rule that persons wore compelled to give evidence. In Scotland it went further, because the inquiry took place in private, and not merely were witnesses examined, but the person charged was examined before the Sheriff, and the examination was made for the purpose 663 of getting evidence against him for employing his own evidence against him; which last was not to be allowed by this Bill. It was only part of a perfectly reasonable and fair criminal procedure. He did not think any great objection need be taken to the change of venue from one part of Ireland to another. That existed in England, where persons could be tried at the Old Bailey from other districts, and in Scotland, where the venue could be changed at the discretion of the Lord Advocate. Taking these facts into consideration, he thought it high time that hon. Members below the Gangway should cease to compare the introduction of a system of preliminary investigation into crime in Ireland to the establishing of the Spanish Inquisition. Such exaggerated language ought really to be discontinued. But then there came a provision as to which he was inclined to differ from the Government—until, at all events, he heard further their case for it—the provision for changing the venue from Ireland to England.
§ An hon. MEMBER: That is the best part of the Bill.
MR. A. R. D. ELLIOTT
said, that no doubt those who wished to make the Bill a failure, and were only anxious to use it as an instrument for agitation, might wish to keep this provision; but for his part he thought it might be possible to secure the desired result by another method. They might, for instance, adopt the plan contained in the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), of abolishing trial by jury for this class of offences, and substituting trial by a Commission of Judges; or they might follow the practice of the law in Scotland, and enable a bare majority of the jury to give a verdict, He would suggest whether it would not be possible to combine the two systems of trial by Special Commission of Judges, and yet retain the jury system. It might be enacted that where an Irish jury could not agree to a verdict, the trial should then take place before a tribunal of Judges. In that way the right of Irish juries to acquit prisoners would be altogether preserved. He merely threw out this as a suggestion, although these matters would be better dealt with in Committee. There was another point which he would ask the Government to 664 consider, and it was whether, in the matter of the special proclamation, there would be any possibility of getting at the same result in a somewhat more satisfactory form? Would it not be possible to define by Act of Parliament what associations should be illegal and dangerous? The method under this Bill was rather too like the declaration of what was crime by Order in Council than by Act of Parliament. But, after all, the real opposition to the Bill was found in this, that a certain Party in this House wished to show that the Government of Ireland by the Parliament of the United Kingdom was an impossibility. It was said that those who had held offices of authority and had had experience in Ireland had come to the conclusion that the National League must be trusted to govern that country. He was astonished to hear hon. Members say that the experience as Chief Secretaries of his right hon. Friends the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) and the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) had brought them to that conclusion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne did not become a Home Ruler because of his position as Chief Secretary. He had become Chief Secretary because he had been a Home Ruler. It was in consequence of his previous theories on the subject that he was made Chief Secretary, and not in consequence of any practical experience he had had. Now, his right hon. Friend the Member for the Stirling Burghs was not a political theorist; but he had had an Irish experience at an important and critical time—at a time when the country was looking forward to a General Election, with an almost certainty that the hon. Member for Cork would return with a following of 86 Members. His right hon. Friend came to Scotland after he had gained his experience of Ireland, and when he was out of Office, to tell them the result of his practical experience in governing Ireland. He told the people of Scotland, looking especially forward to the state of things that would happen, and to the 86 Parnellite Members, that no Party, Whig or Tory, would ever go in for anything like Parnellite Home Rule, because to do so would be inconsistent with the integrity of the Empire, and inconsistent even with his duty to the Crown. The practical expe- 665 rience, then, of his right hon. Friends had nothing whatever to do with bringing them round to the conclusion they had now reached. [An hon. MEMBER: Lord Spencer.] He (Mr. A. E. D. Elliott) wished Earl Spencer was a Member of that House, because in his speeches elsewhere he could see no justification for the views which his Lordship at present held. He had been much struck with the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) the other night, in which he said, that rather than such a Bill would pass he would, if the Irish people were willing, lead them in battle. He could not understand that language in any other way than this, that if the hon. Member had the power he would rather have civil war than the acceptance of this Bill. The hon. Member simply used violent language, and they might disregard it. But the House should remember that were the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian adopted, the hon. Member might be the head of a powerful Executive, the two nations would be facing each other, and such language would mean civil war. To those who said that Liberal Unionists had a special responsibility in supporting the Government at this time, he would reply that there was not a Liberal Unionist who flinched from that responsibility. Their feeling was that they would not be justified in keeping the present Government in Office for a week if the Government had allowed lawlessness and disorder to go on unchecked in Ireland. Everybody must admit, that while the Government of that country remained with the Government of the United Kingdom, they were bound to take every step they could to secure the observances of law and justice. There seemed to be a feeling growing up in the Liberal Party as to whether or not the majority of the United Kingdom were to rule the United Kingdom. If the majority of the House of Commons were not to rule, who were to rule? While the present Government was kept in Office, the responsibility of ruling must rest with them, and with nobody else, and it was neither right nor just that if they were to be made responsible they should not be entitled to conduct the affairs of the country in the way they thought best. When the Bill was in Committee it 666 would be the duty of all of them to consider as carefully as they could whether, subject to attaining the great object of the Bill, they might not be able to make it more workable and less calculated to irritate the just susceptibilities of the Irish people.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said, he objected to the statement that law and order constituted the supreme need of Ireland, as justice ought to go with law and order. He was, however, as anxious as his hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh (Mr. Elliott) to maintain law and order. He candidly admitted that the present condition of Ireland was most unsatisfactory, that there was disorganization, and urgent need to take into consideration the moans whereby law and order could be re-established in Ireland. But it was not enough to show that the state of Ireland was unsatisfactory to justify this Bill; it must be shown that it was more unsatisfactory than it had been before, and that the amount of crime was such as had been deemed to warrant previous coercive legislation. With regard to the charges of the Judges, they were based partly on the general impressions derived from what Judges, like other people, read in the newspapers, and partly on the reports which Judges received from the Constabulary. If those reports were produced the House would be able to see what the Judges' charges were worth. Unless the right hon. Gentleman gave that fuller information which they had so often demanded, they must continue to consider his case altogether unsubstantial. He agreed with the statement that the majority must govern; but the majority of the people of this country had not sanctioned the policy of coercion upon which the Government were now entering. His hon. Friend said—"Let us take the first step necessary for restoring order." Why, for 86 years Parliament had been endeavouring to do that. They had been practising a kind of goose-step, which had brought them no further onwards. The Government did not appear to see the evils which attached to this exceptional legislation. They regarded it as a confession that instead of a United Kingdom we had two Kingdoms, one of which we were going to treat more harshly and in a totally different fashion from the other. Indeed, hon. Members had practically 667 discussed this question as if Ireland were a foreign country. The centre of the discussion as regarded the condition of Ireland had been the Blue Book. There was no direct or immediate knowledge on which to go; but the ignorance of English and Scotch Members on the subject, instead of making the Government more cautious, appeared to make them more bold. The less they knew about Ireland the more confident they were in proposing such legislation. What was the use of her having Representatives in Parliament if they were to be over-ruled, and their testimony and advice ignored? Hon. Members opposite were governing Ireland as if she were, not an integral and equal part, but a conquered Dependency of the United Kingdom. Perhaps he ought rather to say, a Dependency we were trying to conquer, for in reality we had never conquered Ireland. Giraldus Cambrensis recorded that a prophesy was current prior to the invasion of Henry II. that Ireland would never be conquered until a short time before the Day of Judgment; and down to the present Ireland had never been conquered in the sense of being reduced to a peaceful submission, although the attempt had been made continuously for seven centuries. The question was, would this Bill effect the desired object? Would it bring the people of Ireland into a spirit to receive the remedial measures by which it was proposed to be followed, and would it bring about such a change in the condition of things as would justify a return to the ordinary law? The term "law and order," which had been played with so much by the Government in this debate, reminded him of an anecdote told of one of Louis Napoleon's ministers, who, being engaged in composing a speech, the burden of which was the necessity for maintaining "authority," asked his secretary for a synonym for the word "authority," whose reiteration even he found tiresome. What was meant by "law and order?" It was an abstract expression. What was the concrete reality which corresponded to it? Law and order really meant to the Irish people the persons by whom the law was to be enforced. Who were those persons? First, there was the Chief Secretary, whose time was so completely occupied in dealing with Irish questions in the House of Commons that he had no 668 leisure for anything else even in quiet times. Then there was the Lord Lieutenant, who had the doubtful advantage of being an Irish landlord, and the still more doubtful advantage of being a descendant of the Lord Castlereagh of 1798. Then there was Dublin Castle, and everybody knew what opinion had long been entertained in Ireland, and was now generally entertained in England too, about the officials of the Castle. Next, there were the Resident Magistrates, who were in many cases retired officers of the Army, and relatives, nephews, cousins, sons-in-law, of Irish landlords. Few of them possessed legal knowledge. Many of them, no doubt, were worthy men; but the landlord spirit and the military spirit which they had acquired was the very worst qualification they could possess for the post. He maintained that people of that kind were not to be trusted to exercise the exceptional powers conferred by this Bill. If they wanted to give the Bill a proper chance, they ought to send fair-minded and dispassionate Englishmen as magistrates to Ireland instead of bringing Irish prisoners to this country for trial. In reality the Resident Magistrates were not judicial persons in the English sense of the word, but were members of the Executive Government. The executive officers commanding the police, and charged with the general maintenance of order in the district, would also try the persons accused under the Bill; and thus all the functions of the police and of the magistrates would be exercised under the control of Dublin Castle. That separation of the Executive from the Judiciary, which had so long been deemed in England as essential to free government, did not exist among Irish officials. In England the independence of the judicial authority was one of the corner-stones of our freedom, for which we struggled in the 17th century, and which was secured by the Bill of Eights. This independence was the very thing the Irish Resident Magistrates did not possess. It was true that in England we allowed a certain amount of summary jurisdiction to be exercised by stipendiary magistrates; but questions involving social order, and especially questions involving political issues or raising political passions, seldom or never came before stipendiary magistrates in England, and, therefore, 669 it was possible to allow a certain amount of discretion which it was not possible to allow in Ireland. Under this Bill magistrates in Ireland would have most important functions in political cases; and the very same principle which required that an English Judge should be independent of the Executive ought to suggest a similar independence in Ireland. There were stories current, which he believed to be well-founded, that Irish magistrates had been threatened with dismissal because they did not sufficiently attend to the pleasure of the Castle, and did not act with sufficient vigour in their judicial functions. Was this the class of men to be intrusted with the powers given by this Bill? Jurisdiction in cases of conspiracy and intimidation involved the administration of one of the most difficult and delicate branches of our Criminal Law. On this account Lord Brougham doubted whether the Coercion Bill of 1833 should be extended to such cases. It was hardly possible to imagine wider powers than it was proposed to give to these magistrates. What was called "incitement" might be found in a letter or an article in a newspaper; and almost any remark or argument upon a political question might be construed into "incitement." These offences were governed by a most difficult branch of the law, the interpretation of which required the highest faculties of trained Judges; and yet it was proposed to give these functions to almost untrained military men who were generally distrusted as the friends of the landlords. Not to speak of the enormous number of offences covered by the Whiteboy Acts, the words of the present Bill covered acts precisely similar in their moral character and social consequences to acts that were legal under the Statutes affecting trade unions. Under Section 2, a man might be punished with six months' hard labour for doing in an agricultural dispute exactly what the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act of 1875 declared to be legal in the case of a trade dispute between employers and workmen. The present Bill no doubt proposed to except from its operation those things which wore declared to be legal by the Trade Unions Acts. But why did it not except combinations which were morally undistinguishable from those legalized by the Act of 1875, differing only in that they 670 arose between a landlord and his tenants? He would go into the matter in detail, if necessary, at a later stage; but the fact that the question was raised showed that the Bill involved issues which it would require the largest measure of legal knowledge and skill in a Judge to determine. It was, therefore, a dangerous experiment to intrust the determination of these questions to Resident Magistrates. He hoped that in Committee the Government would assent to considerable modifications of some of the clauses, with a view of removing the danger to which he had adverted. Further, it was a startling proposition that the Lord Lieutenant should have power to declare an association illegal. If it was desired to deal with the National League why not at once pass an Act to declare it illegal? Of course, that would impose upon the Government the obligation of making out a case against it in that House. It was to obviate this necessity that the matter was to be left to the Lord Lieutenant. If associations wore to be declared illegal they ought to begin with the Orange Society, which was more responsible than any other for the past misfortunes of Ireland. They might also be fairly asked to proclaim the Primrose League, which achieved its objects largely by intimidation. [Laughter and cheers.] He could assure them that under the Government Bill it would be just as easy to prove that the Primrose League was a body which existed for the purpose of intimidation, and accomplished its object by these means, as it would be to prove that the National League was an association of the same character. He did not believe that the transfer of cases from Ireland to England was desired to have the effect of obtaining unjust convictions. Indeed, if he were an Irish prisoner, he would rather be tried by a jury in Liverpool or London than by one of the packed juries in Dublin, or by an Orange jury in Belfast. An Irishman brought to England would get a perfectly fair trial. Nevertheless, he thought this proposal of the Bill was one of the most foolish—or to adopt a word used by the Chief Secretary—one of the most "mad" proposals ever made to the House of Commons. Let them consider what the effect of this provision would be. It would attach 671 sympathy to persons accused of serious crimes in Ireland, and would elevate mere ordinary criminals into martyrs. It would destroy all confidence in the justice of a conviction, and make the administration of the law less than ever trusted. No provision in the Bill was likely to work worse than this, and it seemed, indeed, too much even for the Supporters of the Government, such as the hon. Members for Chelsea and Roxburghshire. At the same time, he agreed with hon. Members below the Gangway that in one sense this was the best part of the Bill. It was the best evidence of the way in which the Bill was drawn, and the wisdom and judgment that presided over its inception. A Ministry that could make a proposition like that stood self-condemned before the country. He had been asked whether it was his belief that under the Bill the innocent would suffer, and whether their object was to secure immunity for criminals. His answer was that a Bill of this kind, giving largo indefinite powers to many inexperienced and prejudiced men, would, without their being intentionally unjust or morally conscious of injustice, lead in practice to unfair and mistaken convictions. There would be a great tendency under this Bill for the magistrates, who were men with all the prejudices of their class, to accept insufficient evidence, and that would tell very hardly on persons whom they considered suspected characters. He believed, in point of fact, that under the Bill people would be found guilty of offences which they had not committed. If a prisoner was condemned for an offence he had not committed and the whole countryside knew it, even if he were a man of bad character, all confidence in the administration of justice would be destroyed. They believed that it was the wish of the Government, and even of the magistrates themselves, to convict none but guilty persons; but there was considerable chance that injustice would be done. In his opinion, if there was a good Executive in Ireland, Coercion Bills would be unnecessary; as things were, the Irish Executive could only govern by a state of siege, and had become accustomed to deem the ordinary law insufficient. There was one famous Under-Secretary, Thomas Drummond, who had governed with the ordinary law, refusing to use the powers 672 which a Coercion Act, then in force, put at his disposal. Ireland had never since the Union been so loyal, contented, and peaceful as under his firm but kind hand, and his name was still remembered with affection by the people. He (Mr. Bryce) maintained that half the crimes which, according to the Government, now went unpunished, could be punished by the operation of the ordinary law if properly put in force, and that the other half would not be detected or punished even under this Bill. If there was anything that the experience of the past 86 might have taught, it was that coercion was useless for the effecting of any permanent improvement, and was only the resource of an ignorant majority and an incompetent Executive. With respect to the jury system, it was a significant fact that it had failed in Ireland. It was one of three warnings which the Irish people had given as to the failure of our system of government in their country. The first was that the people resisted the law; the second that jurors would not convict; and the third that the Irish people now returned Representatives five-sixths of whom were opposed to the present system of government. Unless the real causes of the present state of Ireland was recognized, and remedially dealt with, Her Majesty's Government would find themselves fighting against a whole nation. The Roman Catholic Church, which had never before taken part in any struggle in which its own interests were not involved, was now resisting the Government. By the course they were now pursuing, the Government were, however unconscious they might be of the fact, bringing the country nearer to Home Rule. By showing that there was no third course, that there was no alternative between Home Rule and a coercive policy, the Government was doing its best to force on Home Rule. When the country was tired of coercion and tired of the present Government, it would repudiate coercion and would see that there was no course left open but the adoption of Home Rule. The position had become a very grave one. Nothing now stood between the policy of the Government and civil war except the attitude of the Liberal Party. It was the friendly attitude of the Liberal Party and the promise of help and relief 673 which the Liberal Party held out to the Irish people that—in spite of the folly of the Government—had told and would tell upon the minds of the Irish people. They did their best to encourage the Irish people to repress any tendency to outrage, and to wait patiently for the advent of a better day. They would encourage them to disregard the provocation to outrage, which the policy of the Government had given, and they would endeavour to save those in Ireland whom the Party opposite was misguided enough to believe that they were defending from the consequences of this blind and fatal measure.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—[Mr. Holmes,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.