§ ADJOURNED DEBATE. [SECOND NIGHT.]
Order read, for resuming the Adjourned Debate on the Amendment proposed to the Question [22nd March],
That the introduction and several stages of the Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill have precedence of all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion, including the Rules of Procedure, whenever the Bill shall be set down for consideration by the Government as the first business of the day."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
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 declines to set aside the business of the nation in favour of a measure for increasing the stringency of the Criminal Law in Ireland, whilst no effectual security has been taken against the abuse of the Law by the exaction of excessive rents."—(Mr. John Morley.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be loft out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
said, he could claim to be in an impartial position on this question. When the Liberal Government brought forward their first Coercion Bill in 1881 he opposed it, because he thought it a bad Bill. That measure was unfortunate, because it did not attain the objects for which it was intended, and he thanked God he was one of the few Liberals—in fact, perhaps the only Liberal—who consistently, and throughout, opposed that Bill. But when the Liberal Government introduced their second Coercion Bill in 1882 he supported it, because he thought the circumstances of Ireland at that time rendered the Bill necessary, the most serious crimes being then rampant in that country. He thought that Bill in the main a good Bill, and it seemed to him that the result of the wise administration of Lord Spencer under the power of that measure was that serious crimes wore stamped out in Ireland. That Bill was a success. Therefore, while he was thankful that he opposed the first Bill, he was also thankful that he supported the second one. Then came the present Bill; and, taking the impartial view which he was able to take of it, it seemed to him that the circumstances of the country at the present moment were not such as to demand such a Bill. Therefore he could not support it, and he meant to give his determined support to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle. He could conceive that there might be arguments brought forward in favour of subjecting Ireland to a despotic Government; but that course had not been taken by the Government. If they were to have a despotic Government, they ought to make it thoroughly despotic. On the other hand, if they were to have a free Government, they should make it 1225 thoroughly free; and they should not give with the one hand what they took away with the other. It seemed to be admitted that at the present moment there was no serious crime in Ireland, and the country did not suffer under that serious form of crime with which the Liberal Government had to deal in the time of Lord Spencer. The only question with which the present Government proposed to deal in their criminal legislation was the combinations of tenants against the landlords. In his opinion, a combination of tenants against landlords to protect their own rights was justifiable. They had, he said, been compelled to abandon the law against peaceable combinations in this country; and he maintained boldly that the combination in Ireland, known as the Plan of Campaign, was not properly criminal, any more than trade unionism was in this country. What the Government could not enforce against the trade unions of this country ought not to be enforced against the tenants of Ireland. This was not the first experience he had had of a tenants' Land League. Hon. Members from Ireland supposed they were the originators of the system. They were not. It was the ryots of India. When he was in Bengal he had to deal with a Land League, and combinations of tenants against landlords, quite as difficult to grapple with as that which existed in Ireland the ryots of Eastern Bengal rose in combination against the exactions of the zemindars, and, refusing to pay what was asked, resolved that if the zemindars, who were a powerful class, would not accept reasonable offers, they should have no rent at all. But in India the sympathy of the Government was with the ryots, whoso agitation, so long as it did not lead to crime outside the combination, was not discountenanced by the authorities the zemindars of Bengal were powerful, like the Irish landlords; and they used every engine of force and litigation to break down and ruin the ryots, so as to make an example of them. The ryots, accordingly, combined against the landlords, and they said—"Fight one, fight all." The law against combination did not extend to India, and peaceable combination was not an offence then. Why should it be an offence in Ireland, unless, along with the combination, they had violence? A peaceable combination 1226 of poor tenants against powerful landlords ought to be legal. It was an abuse of the law to make it illegal; and he was not inclined to assist the Government to put down combination of that kind. If the Government, by the aid of the Criminal Law, succeeded in putting down fair combinations of poor tenants, oppression would follow, and the tenants would be deprived of the joint property in the land which the law had given them. Then, hero was the question of Boycotting. It was, after all, doubtful whether Boycotting could be considered a criminal offence—that was to say, whether the refusal to deal with a man, or hold so-called intercourse with him, was criminal. Amongst the upper classes of this country there were such combinations against members who had offended against their class; they sent to Coventry those who did not conform to their standard and usages; and he had never heard that spoken of as a criminal offence. If they were to strengthen the Criminal Law at all, it ought not to be by giving summary and severe remedies against combinations of tenants and Boycotting, but against clear breaches of the peace and illegal acts of violence. Before strengthening the law in any respect, he thought it was incumbent upon Parliament to remedy the acknowledged grievances of the Irish people. On that point he was extremely disappointed with the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. It was a now departure—a new and unexpected policy—entirely of the nature of "No surrender." The Chief Secretary rode the high horse of political economy and sanctity of contract. The right hon. Gentleman threw over the Commission appointed by the Government, and argued against their recommendations. So far as he could gather from the speech of the Chief Secretary, the immediate remedy for the grievances of Ireland was to be of a homoeopathic nature—a remedy which the right hon. Gentleman himself seemed to admit would not meet the disease. Up to a certain point he had no fault to find with the Government. He thought they were right in appointing a Commission, and in using moral force to prevent the hard landlords exacting what was looked upon as unjust rent until the Commission had reported. But when he came to the present time, and when they had the 1227 Report of a Commission by no means favourable to the tenants, he said it was madness on the part of the Government to refuse to carry out the recommendations of their own Commission. He admitted that rents judicially fixed ought not to be lightly set aside, provided there were only the ordinary ups and downs of prices to contend with; but here was a case in which there had been an extraordinary fall in regard to prices, and where the tenants were absolutely unable to pay the judicial rents. As the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Richard Temple) know, there had been precisely similar experiences in India, and the Government stepped in and revised the settlements in the case of the ryots. In the same way he thought rents in Ireland ought to be revised, and that it was madness on the part of the Government to refuse to do so. The Government said they had behind their coercion proposals what they believed to be the only radical remedy for the grievances of the Irish tenants—a great purchase scheme. As a matter of economic doctrine, he confessed that he had doubts as to whether an out-and-out purchase scheme, as distinguished from a scheme of fixed rents, would be beneficial to Ireland, and whether they would not, under such a system, possibly constitute a now body of landlords. But of this he was sure—that the Irish tenants did not want an absolute ownership, which should only come into operation some 49 years hence. What the tenants of Ireland wanted was an immediate reduction of their rents. He was opposed to the Purchase Bill of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), because he proposed to use the credit of this country. Recently they had been told that the matter could be so settled as to avoid the loss of 6d to the taxpayer. He should like very much to know how this end could be accomplished. In his judgment, the only way in which immediate relief could be afforded to the Irish tenants under the guise of a scheme of purchase was to pledge British credit, and to lend money at 3 per cent; otherwise they would leave the tenants to pay more than they did now in order to create a sinking fund to make good the loans. If the Government, however, adopted such a scheme, he defied them to bring forward a proposal which would satisfy either the Irish tenants or the landlords. He 1228 wholly disbelieved in the possibility of settling this matter by a mere purchase scheme. If an angel came down from heaven, with £200,000,000 for the purpose of buying out the Irish landlords he would be ready to accept the gift. But when Her Majesty's Government proposed that the British taxpayers should find the £200,000,000, he would oppose it to the very last. They must be told how the British taxpayer was to be freed from liability. He viewed the speech of the Chief Secretary with regret, not only for his own sake, but also for the sake of the Government. He did not think that the late Chief Secretary would have been a party to the ''No surrender" policy on which the Government had embarked. He was sorry to see the right hon. Gentleman the champion of such a scheme. As a Scotchman, they were proud of him. They knew he was a clever man, although sometimes he thought the right hon. Gentleman was wanting in discretion. It seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman was now loading the Government on to the rocks where they would inevitably suffer shipwreck. The right hon. Gentleman had a clear head, and he strongly recommended the Government to send him back to the Currency Commission, where he might do some good, and not to keep him at the Irish Office, where he could only do mischief. The Government were undoubtedly entering on a bad course. He regretted this, because he felt that the Liberals were not sufficiently united to be able to take their places. The House had been favoured the previous evening with an eloquent speech from a Liberal Unionist champion of the Government. But there were Liberal Unionists and Liberal Unionists; and he expressed the earnest hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) would consider his course in this matter. He was one of those who admired the right hon. Gentleman, and hoped to follow him. He wished again to see his great talents and his great power put at the service of the Liberal Party. He was not one of those who would ostracize Liberals because they did not agree with the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian in regard to Home Rule; but he could not, at the same time, refrain from saying that a great Liberal Leader like the right hon. 1229 Member for West Birmingham, who was a thorough Radical, would imperil his position in the Party if he went too far in support of the coercive action of the Conservative Government, who had thrown over the Report of their own Commission, and who took their stand upon contract and political economy.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, that hon. Members found themselves placed in a very unjustifiable position owing to the action of the Government in taking the whole time of private Members for the furtherance of Government Business, The Government had prevented the possibility of any private Member raising a question of grievance, except in some form which was liable to be characterized as disorderly. It had by its action compelled private Members to raise questions in which their constituents were interested on the Estimates or by Motions for Adjournment; otherwise they found themselves gagged by the consumption of the whole time of the House by the Government. If the Government used the time it had taken wisely or providently there would, at least, be some little justification for the course on which they had entered; but he asserted that there had been many days on which the whole time of the House had been wasted because the Government had insisted, according to their lights, upon the adoption of a particular course, this course being subsequently altered in deference to the better counsels of their Friends on the liberal Benches, leading the Government eventually to recall the whole of their previous speeches, and to modify the whole of their previous conduct. The measure for which the Government demanded urgency was intended, as everyone understood, to prevent a certain agitation by tongue and pen from being carried on in Ireland. That measure was not rendered necessary because the Irish people were in arms, or even because there were armed secret organizations which were resisting the authority of the Government. There was no pretext for saying that the Queen's writ would not run in Ireland. On the contrary, the Government told them that so much was the law obeyed that even an order of the Bankruptcy Court issued in Dublin was submitted to voluntarily, and a man who was much esteemed by his Church and 1230 his neighbourhood was taken in procession to gaol, the people offering no resistance whatever. Therefore the Queen's writ did run; but the Government wanted more power to terrify tenants who were miserable) and impoverished, so that they might not resort to what all men had a right to resort to—namely, the highest degree of passive resistance to the wrongful enforcement of a cruel contract. The Chief Secretary for Ireland complained that the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) had alleged that there were difficulties with respect to the payment of rents in Ireland. He did not think that the allegation rested upon the statement of the right hon. Member for Newcastle. It had been proved in evidence before the Commission issued by the Government; and in the famous Dartford speech which had been trumpeted forth on containing the thorough programme of the Party opposite those difficulties were admitted, and it was there stated that they could only be removed by changing dual ownership into single ownership, and that they could never have peace in Ireland until that question was dealt with. Although ample opportunity had been afforded there had been no attempt to introduce remedial measures for the wrongs which the Irish tenants suffered, and now they were threatened before any remedy was applied. Those difficulties had also been sworn to by a high official of the Government, Sir Redvers Buller, who declared that the men of Ireland were not so bad; that their badness came from misery; that they had appealed in vain to the law, and that they had found help only in the National League. The Government had leisure and a huge majority in the other House which would, no doubt, rapidly pass any Land Bill they chose to submit to it. Why, then, had they not before now introduced such a measure to that Assembly? Why must they threaten the people with coercion first? Why make their subsequent remedial legislation unpalatable to them by first giving them sword and fetter. He deeply regretted that the illness of the late Chief Secretary for Ireland had removed from the Cabinet an obstacle to the enforcement of bad laws. The present Chief Secretary had given no reason why the House should take away from 1231 private Members all the time which fairly belonged to them. He could not find a solitary passage in the whole speech bearing on that point. There was nothing to show that the time at the disposal of the Government would not be enough to carry the measure. With the new Closure Rule, if it were worth what the Government thought it was worth—although he had never thought it worth much himself—they had now a moans of pressing this Bill through with the most extreme rapidity on the nights properly belonging to the Government; but he, as an English Member, protested against the indefinite postponement of all important questions affecting the welfare of the working classes of England and Scotland simply because the Government wanted to have a whip and a scorpion with which to lash and sting the unfortunate Irish people. The Government asked for the time of the House, because they believed they were in a position to take it; but they could not take it without the support of the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) and his followers. He would, however, remind those hon. Members on the Liberal side of the House who intended to support the Government in the attempt to close the mouth of every private Member until after Whitsuntide that their constituents would call them to account before re-electing them, if they over re-elected them, for putting it in the power of a Conservative Ministry to retard the consideration of all legislation for ameliorating the condition of the industrial classes. The Chief Secretary for Ireland suggested that the Bill might be found to be limited in its application to only a small area in Ireland. But was that true? And if it was, did the Government intend to set aside the claims of every other part of the United Kingdom because there was a small portion of Ireland in which the law was incompetent? It was said that Irish juries were perverse; but were the Government themselves not acting perversely in their treatment of Ireland? At the present moment the state of that country was more orderly on the whole than it had been for years past. It was true that meetings were held there; but those meetings were not disorderly if the Government did not make them so. 1232 Why should not men agitate within the limits of the law? The Chief Secretary for Ireland said the fact that men paid too high rents was not a reason for a social revolution. It was, however, a reason for social resistance—it was a reason for such an agitation as should raise the feeling of the country to the highest pitch within the limits of the law. He (Mr. Bradlaugh) had taken part in many such agitations in his life—fortunately, not in Ireland. In this country the law was fair and its administrators were just in dealing with any agitator, however unpopular; and if only the same thing held good in regard to the administration of the law in Ireland, they would get rid of much of the present agitation. They could not prevent agitation by putting the gag in the mouths of the agitators and locking up their bodies. Bayonets and fetters, and the suppression of free discussion by tongue or pen, had never answered before, and they would not answer now. Force was the old brute remedy. Had it ever succeeded with Irishmen? There was a change in the fashion of Irish agitation. Was it a change for the worse? Compare the condition of Ireland now, when Irishmen had the right to elect their Representatives freely, with what it was before. They complained of 85 Obstructives. Well, he had experience of a larger body obstructing one Member. They complained of an Irish Member if he blocked their Business; but they thought nothing of blocking an Irish Bill. Bills which would have removed many an Irish grievance had been blocked by Members of that House. It was true the state of Ireland was a state which had often been characterized by events which they must all deplore; but take the state of things now and as they were. Boycotting and agrarian crime were not things of to-day; they had existed for generations. They and their fathers could have cured it if they would. Instead of doing so, they had tried 80 Coercion Acts. [An hon. MEMBER: 86.] Well, he should throw the Tory Government the six; it made little difference. He liked to be under the mark; but they had all failed, and this one would fail too. Well, the Conservative Party might desire to hold Office; but they surely had not fallen so low as to want to hold Office by keeping down an unfortunate people 1233 whose only crime was that they were born on the land on which they exercised no choice of birth, and on which they lived under conditions that rendered it impossible for them to live comfortably in order to maintain a spendthrift tenantry and an oppressive aristocracy. Compulsion in Ireland had always been scaled with blood. They had never legislated for Ireland except in fear. When they had made a gift, which might have been valued, and brought pleasure and sunshine into thousands of homes, it had always been rendered valueless by the rest of their actions. There was no need for the Chief Secretary for Ireland to tell them there were bad landlords in Ireland; their own witnesses told them that; and to carry out the evictions the British taxpayer was sometimes put to an expense 20 times the value of the wretched rent of the landlords. Troops of soldiers, hundreds of constables who were military, with rifles and bayonets, were required to turn the people out on a winter day, and this was to protect "the sanctity of contract." Did they call those men dishonest who came over here to earn their rent—men whose clothing was a bundle of rags? Irishmen always responded with gratitude to justice. The very men whom they sent to prison went out and fought England's battles for her. He thought they were foolish. When they complained of American gold, did they forget that it came from Irishmen? If evidence of the generosity of the Irish people was needed, all they had to do was to turn to the records of the Post Office. Their Irish brethern in Indiana sent home money to pay the rents in Kerry; and the landlords, taking all that came, asked for more, and sometimes seized the opportunity to raise the rent. The Chief Secretary talked about people being fools. Well, they would be fools and idiots if they continued to devote money thus received to such purposes. The Chief Secretary had been rather hasty in prophesying what the conduct of landlords might be by and by. In the past the landlords had exacted rents from the wretched tenants, rents that never belonged to them, and that had never accrued until the tenants reclaimed the land from the bog. The landlords had taken advantage of wretched contracts made with hungry, untrained men, and entered into in de- 1234 spair. What was wanted was to revoke the old legislation made when the landed aristocracy were omnipotent in both Houses of Parliament, and to give life and opportunity of asserting its sanctity. The Government know all about land purchase last year. Why did they not introduce their Bill last Session? The land campaign had not then begun. Did the Government think they would get off without a land scheme, or were they disagreed about it in their own happy Cabinet? It was known that they began to disagree about the month of August, so acutely, indeed, that their own Leader was obliged to say in public that there was not one solitary Member amongst them upon whom he could rely. Happy, well-led Cabinet, who could not govern themselves, while claiming not only to govern the nation, but to take away all the time of the House! The Chief Secretary, after indulging in rhetoric, came to logic, and advanced several important propositions. The right hon. Gentleman said that the prime necessity in every society was that the law should be effective. Yes; that was true, but the primary necessity in every civilized society also was that the law should be just. The law was effective in Russia; it was effective, he believed, in Persia, where an inconvenient opponent might be bowstrung; it used to be effective in Egypt. But in a civilized community law could only be effective with the consent of the governed, and if it appealed to the best natures of the mass of the population. It could not be effective when the great majority of the people believed that it was chiefly directed against them and on behalf of a class who did not live among them, whom they never saw, with whose signatures only they were familiar. He was not making a general attack upon all landlords. There were many landlords who deplored the present state of things; but the class he was referring to were the class who had made all the mischief and whom the Government were now seeking to protect. The Chief Secretary put forward another proposition, that a primary necessity for society was that there should be a stable and acknowledged system of law. He admitted that at once; but he was in some in-certitude as to the meaning of the word "stable." The meaning of the word as used by the Load of the Government was 1235 consistent with a change every 20 minutes. That noble Lord had spoken of a stable and firm Government which was to last for 20 years before any kind of concession was made. But if the noble Lord meant that, what was the meaning of the Land Bill which the Government were about to introduce? But suppose the word "stable" was used in its dictionary sense, and it was admitted that Ireland wanted a "stable and acknowledged" system of law. Acknowledged by whom? Why, by the people who were called upon to obey it. In that sense he accepted the proposition. The Chief Secretary said that law ought to be stable. The Leader of the House said there was a law which was not acknowledged—which wanted amendment—which they were going to amend; but they would enforce this law before amending it. The Chief Secretary asked what chance there was of improving the state of Ireland if they put off this "Criminal Bill?" It was a Criminal Bill, and those who introduced it would hereafter be described in terms which he could not employ consistently with the Rules of Debate which were very properly enforced in the House. The Chief Secretary called his opponents madmen, and then substituted the words "singularly unwise," and then again returned to the word "madmen." The right hon. Gentleman was speaking under a condition of excitement which ill befitted the introducer of a Criminal Bill. He asked what chance there was of putting off this Bill when Ireland was going from bad to worse. But was it so; was Ireland as bad as she used to be? Speeches were made and writings published against the Government in Ireland. So they were in England. Why, then, did the Government not try to get an English jury to convict for such speeches or for such publications? What had been said against the rents now exacted in Ireland which was not fully borne out by the Commission which the Government itself had appointed? Then they were told that the Government wanted this Bill lest Ireland should go from bad to worse. Thus this utterly incapable Ministry, not content to rely on what the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) called its "crutch," wanted also the crutch of coercion. That was really too much. 1236 Then it was urged in justification that one speaker had said that the day would come when rent would be abolished altogether, and that they were working for the holy cause of nationality. Did the Government really mean to ask the House to give up the whole of its time because those speeches, even if they were rash, had been made? A man thought that rents should be abolished altogether. Well, he (Mr. Bradlaugh) would not be surprised if rent were some day abolished, and when political economists preached the doctrine that the holding and cultivation of land should go together, and that the rights of non-cultivating land lords should, with or without compensation, be destroyed by the same High Court of Parliament which had created them. He would not, if he held such opinions, have the smallest hesitation in expressing them in any part of England, Scotland, or Wales. Did they want to prevent the growth of such opinions as that by arresting men before they made their speeches? Then, was it so very wicked to talk about the nationality of Ireland? He was not great on nationalities. Greater follies and crimes had been committed for the cause of what were called nationalities than for any other cause. Foolish men of one nation were matched in ruinous wars against their fellow-workers of other nations. But it did not lie in the mouth of an English Government to denounce the doctrine of nationality after the encouragement which England had given to the nationalities of Poland and Italy, Greece and Bulgaria. We might have nationality without rebellion—without even separation. The Chief Secretary had called madmen those who followed the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. He was willing to support any well-considered scheme of Home Rule proposed by the Member for Mid Lothian. But he was not one of the followers of that right hon. Gentleman. He had preached the doctrine of Homo Rule for 25 years. He preached it in Now York in 1873, when he was attacked by Irishmen in a perfectly friendly spirit because, though he supported Home Rule, he declared that he would resist separation by force, if force were employed to bring it about. He was not defending or trying to prove the correctness of his opinions; he was only trying to show 1237 that he had been consistent. It was complained that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle had spoken of the tenants having acted spontaneously, and it was asserted that the tenants had been driven to combine by a species of terrorism. If hon. Gentlemen opposite would read the history of Ireland for the last 85 years, and particularly the trial of Daniel O'Connell and the other traversers, they would find the refutation of that argument. Men could not be terrified into joining any such movement. If they joined it, it was because they felt the fetter and believed they would thus obtain release. He would tell them how to break up the combination on the part of the tenants—it could be done by giving to Ireland the duty of finding remedies for its own wrongs. It would be no light duty for anyone to undertake, and it was one which he should not like to take up; because with the influence of crimes, which wore the fruit of generation after generation of misgovernment, the probability was that many honest men of their own opinion, who accepted the duty of finding a remedy, would themselves be broken and crushed by the men they had most tried to serve. In conclusion, he contended the Government had made out no case why the House should give up its whole time for the purpose for which it had been asked.
§ COLONEL HUGHES-HALLETT (Rochester)
said, he begged to apologize to the House for not having been in his place to continue the debate. He was under the impression that the Orders of the Day would not be reached before half-past 12 o'clock, at which time he was in the House. After a careful study of this question generally, and of many speeches made upon it both in and outside the House, he found himself unable to recognize any reasonable ground for the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley). He (Colonel Hughes-Hallett) had been under the impression that hon. Members who represented the Irish Party in that House were anxious to see not only a satisfactory but a speedy settlement of that great question; and that they were desirous of seeing all classes in their country, except the landlords, brought into a contented state of 1238 mind. But when Her Majesty's Government offered to bring forward measures relating to Ireland and asked that they should be treated as urgent, hon. Members below the Gangway cheered the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle for bringing forward an Amendment suggesting delay! That Amendment deprecated setting aside the Business of the nation; but surely the first business of the nation was to endeavour to promote peace, security of property, and security of life in Ireland, and, consequent upon those, the contentment and prosperity of the Irish people. One would suppose that those who represented the Irish Party in that House were not anxious to see a speedy settlement of the Land Question and an early arrangement of the difficulties of the Irish people, Was that so, and, if so, why? Was it that they feared that if peace were restored in Ireland, if property and life were made secure, and if law and order were once more supreme in that country and the people contented, their whole occupation would be gone? Did they fear, too, that the contributions from the other side of the Atlantic would cease to flow? As a dispassionate observer that, and no other, was the conclusion he drew. He had failed to gather from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle that he was at all anxious to see a speedy and satisfactory settlement of that great question. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of a reduction of rent; but it was not for a mere reduction of rent that that agitation had been going on in and out of Ireland—that agitation favoured, not low rent but no rent. That was only the penultimate object of the agitation; its ultimate object was the separation of Ireland from this country. [Cries of "No, no!"] It was of no use for hon. Members opposite to deny that, unless they were also prepared to repudiate the speeches delivered by their Leader the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his able lieutenant the hon. and learned Member for Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), not only in England and Ireland, but also in America—at Cincinnati, Chicago, and Castlebar. [An hon. MEMBER: Read them.] They had, unfortunately, heard the speeches read too often. Those speeches made it impossible for the Parnellite Members to conceal what was their real object in Ireland. 1239 With respect to the grievances of Ireland it seemed to him that the only hope of arriving at a satisfactory solution of them was by firmly suppressing, by every legal means in existence or which might come into existence, the power of those combinations, associations, and secret societies, whose object was to set class against class; by a settlement, also, of the questions between landlord and tenant through the intervention of an authority that know how to respect the general principles of justice, and not of an authority self-elected, or elected by Irish farmers or labourers, whose main desire was to wage war against and to dispossess the Irish landlord. A great deal had been said about the fall in the prices of produce being the cause of the agrarian difficulty; but would hon. Members belonging to the Nationalist Party be content if produce went back to the prices of l882? He (Colonel Hughes-Hallett) rather thought that if those prices were restored, if tenants were able to pay their rents and did pay them, and if life and property were made secure, those hon. Members would not be content, for the simple reason that the occupations of a great many political Othellos would be gone. It seemed to him that the root of the whole of the Irish evils lay, not in the fall of prices, but in the chronic poverty of that country. That had not arisen, as the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) seemed to suggest, from Tory misrule, because for the greater part of the last 40 years Ireland had been governed by the Liberal Party. Then it could not be said to be high rents, because rents in Ireland were lower than in France, Belgium, Holland, England, Wales, or Scotland. This was proved by statistics. It was not over-population in Ireland, because while the population in England per square mile was 369, in Ireland it was only 169. They heard a great deal about bad landlords and absentee landlords; but the latter certainly did not occasion the distress in Ireland, because, as a matter of fact, it was the properties of absentee landlords which showed the greatest prosperity. Then they heard a great deal about political coercion and political tyranny; but political liberty in Ireland was the same as it was in England, Scotland, and Wales, and that, therefore, could not be the cause of the present 1240 condition of Ireland. The real responsible cause was the removal of the protective duties on the produce of England and foreign countries. Up to the year 1800 these protective duties obtained; but after the Union they were reduced, and in 1821 they were swept away. The consequence was that in less than 20 years only one-tenth of the former number of men were employed in manufactures in Ireland. In addition to that America had gradually encroached and ruined the agricultural interest in Ireland. It was very well to say that a good political administration was required to establish the status of a nation; but good fiscal administration was necessary for maintaining the prosperity, happiness, and contentment of a country. It was clear, therefore, that it was not an unjust rental which was the cause of Ireland's present distress, but poverty; but, as he had before observed, that poverty arose from the abolition of the protective duties on foreign produce, when——
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. and gallant Member that the question of Protection in Ireland does not seem relevant to the Question before the House.
§ COLONEL HUGHES-HALLETT
said, he had transgressed most unintentionally, and begged to express his regret for having done so. With regard to the measures the Government sought to introduce he hoped—wishing as he did that prosperity and contentment should be restored to Ireland—that there would be some indication of an intention to stimulate Irish industries, by which alone, in his opinion, those happy results would be produced.
§ MR. ROWNTREE (Scarborough)
said, as a new Member he was desirous to protest against this attempt to obtain urgency for a Bill to render the Criminal Law of Ireland more strict. If the terrible poverty of the people of Ireland was the key-note of the situation, surely they wore wrong in putting in the fore-front increased stringency of the Criminal Law rather than remedial measures. This question was a most serious one for the whole Empire. It was impossible for the opinions of Liberal Members to change again—as they had undoubtedly changed in the past—because the English people now know more about Ireland than they had ever done before, The knowledge of the English people 1241 was now so complete that they would never again permit the burning down of the houses of evicted tenants, houses which they had themselves built; and the system of jury-packing, which for many years had been in vogue, was becoming a tiling of the past. The onus of proof of the necessity to introduce such a measure lay upon Her Majesty's Government. It was a singularly unfortunate circumstance that in the Jubilee year of Her Gracious Majesty's Reign the first great measure which they were asked to put on the Statute Book should be one to draw a distinction between Ireland and England, and to inflict a specially stringent and severe Criminal Law upon the poorest parts of the population of these three Kingdoms. In every Colony of this great Empire there would be men who would look with sorrow and grief at the condition of things in this country this year, and who would feel that instead of the people of the Empire being brought nearer together, this measure, if ever it should come to be put on the Statute Book, would be a lasting stain and disgrace to the history of England. It was easy to say that the laws were broken in Ireland, and that juries could not be got to vindicate justice. But the laws were broken in England every day, and they know that many of the greatest and most happy reforms in the English Criminal Law had been brought about by juries refusing to find convictions. It had been said not many weeks ago that the Legislature had built a triple wall of protection around the favoured Irish tenant. But the evidence given before the Commission showed that this triple wall did not extend round more than one-third of the Irish tenants. Farmers in the North of Ireland had passed resolutions declaring that the landlords, by a mischievous combination, were preventing the Land Courts from settling fair rents. It appeared, then, that there was a good deal of combination on both sides. Mr. Cunningham, of Tyrone, stated before the Commission that the reason tenants had not sought the relief of the Land Court was the disadvantages under which they would labour if they did. They would at once lose the right of cutting fuel, and they had always the fear of eviction before them as a reprisal on the part of the landlord. In a miserable cabin which the tenant had built 27 1242 years ago, the wife told him that she and some of her neighbours had brought the clay; that they had cut off 2 feet of the bog; that there was still 6 feet of bog below; that they had been paying at the rate of £ 1 per acre for that bog for which the landlord had never done anything, and they were afraid to go into the Land Court lest they should be evicted. They had since, he was informed, been turned out on the roadside. He wished, when any Liberal Member spoke in support of the proposal of the Government, that he would not say that the Bill which the Government were about to introduce was not a measure of coercion, but was intended to make justice more rapid. That was what tyranny said over and over again in defence of such a policy as that which the Government were pursuing. But it was one of the greatest honours of those who had attempted to uphold Liberal principles that they were not satisfied with the cry of law and order. They said that law was tyranny unless founded on justice, and that order could not be permanent unless it was based upon the free will of the people. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay) had said that the Government measure would be a protection against secret societies. But it would be just as reasonable to call Liberal and Radical Associations secret societies as the National League. Its meetings were open. Anyone might go to them. The Resident Magistrate in the Bantry district said that there was no secrecy, and that everything was above board. Mr. Ponsonby, Resident Magistrate, said that for the last 12 months the Central League had done its best to put a stop to outrages, and General Buller had stated that you never could have peace in Ireland unless you created a central Court or some legal equivalent to arbitrate between landlord and tenant. Hon. Members who thought that secret societies wore the greatest curse to a country were bound to vote for the Amendment. In many parts of Ireland there was a conflict between secret societies and the League. In Kerry there was a difficulty in inducing people to join the League, because they did not consider it powerful enough. They said that one man out on the hills did more good than all your Constitutional agitation. There were many other matters 1243 requiring urgency more than this. The right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) told his constituents at Bristol, when speaking on the Irish Question, that—There was no greater foe to the rights of property than he who attempted harshly to exact its right and failed in its duties.Then, why did not the Government deal with those foes of property before they came down on the poor peasants of Ireland? A more remarkable statement was never made by a Minister responsible for the Government of Ireland than that uttered by the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary when he said that the law was so greatly disobeyed among Irishmen because they had no confidence in the justice of its administration, and the reasons for that want of confidence were now growing stronger day by day. Cases of flagrant injustice wore constantly occurring, and how could they expect the people of Ireland to respect the law when they wore compelled to look upon it as the oppressor of innocence and not as the avenger of wrong? the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Hughes-Hallott) and the hon. Gentleman who spoke before him (Mr. Bradlaugh) had said that the terrible state of poverty in Ireland was the great difficulty. Why, that had been stated again and again, and yet in this Session of the now Parliament they were asked first of all to give urgency for increasing the severity of the Criminal Law in that country so as to make it bear more heavily on those poor people. Turning to the Poor Law statistics of Ireland, he found that they were most appalling. There were 24,000 more people in the workhouses in Ireland last year than there were the year before, and the state of pauperism was worse now than at any time during the last 20 years, with the exception of 1879, 1880, and 1881, when special measures were taken. At the same time there was a vast increase in the number of persons receiving parish relief, and yet in the face of this they were asked, not to provide some relief for the Irish poor, but to increase the severity of the Criminal Law. The hon. and learned Member for Inverness, who spoke from those Benches the previous night, concluded his speech by saying that the people of England and Scotland were a law-abiding people But the hon. 1244 and learned Member need not have drawn the line where he did. The House had heard a great deal about the failings of the Irish people; it was time now that they heard something of their good points, and one of them was that, however poor a cabin home might be, so long as there was a potato or a bit of food in the place they would never allow a member of the family to go the workhouse. The state of things in Ireland was becoming more like a general state of bankruptcy, and yet larceny, crime, and drunkenness did not increase. And the Commissioners appointed by the Government had come back after their full inquiry and reported that the Irish people were naturally honest, hardworking, and deeply attached to their native land. To that every hon. Member would, no doubt, be ready to add that they were as warm-hearted a people as any on the face of the earth. Yet there was this most sad and pitiable fact—that the Irish people had been the most wronged and sinned against of any civilized people in Europe. While, how-over, Members on his side of the House were compelled to be parties to giving up the whole time of the House to the purpose the Government had in view, they could, at any rate, go back to their constituents and say they had done their best against it.
§ MR. MILVAIN (Durham)
said, that most of what they had heard from the other side was of a partizan character. He agreed with the concluding words of the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Rowntree) in his expression of sympathy with the Irish people, and deplored that Ireland and her grievances should continue to be made the sport of Party, and he earnestly wished that means could be found for agreeing upon some policy which would for ever settle the government of that country. In addressing himself to the Motion and the issue before the House he should not enter into the controversy whether rents were too high or too low, or whether the Irish people had a plausible grievance or not. It was his hope that this difficulty regarding Ireland might have been met by the existing law of the Constitution—by the law that was now applicable to conspiracy and to bankruptcy' in Ireland. But recent events had proved that the present law in both respects was unworkable, and 1245 certain Members below the Gangway opposite had rejoiced in the fact that juries could not be got to convict in Ireland, and that witnesses could not be got to give evidence on which convictions ought to take place. It was not necessary for him to go further with regard to the condition of the law and its administration in Ireland than to quote a remark by Baron Dowse at the Kerry Assizes in 1886 when the prisoner asked the Judge for counsel to defend him. Baron Dowse said to the man—and he presumed the learned Judge would repeat it now—" You need have no fear; I know this country well, and the safest place for a man to be is in the criminal dock." In those circumstances he could not help thinking that something was necessary to be done in order to enforce obedience to social law and the laws of the Constitution in Ireland. But if it was now the intention of the Government to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, to apprehend persons upon the mere suspicions of a policeman, to put them in gaol upon no charge and for an indefinite period, he would be one of the first to resist to the utmost of his power any such legislation. He would draw the attention of the Government to what was called "Palmer's Act," which had for its object the protection of the prisoner, and which provided for the removal of the venue from one place to another if the prisoner desired it. That Act had been not only in the interests of a prisoner, but also in the interests of the prosecution. If the measure of the Government were un-Constitutional, if it suspended the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland, he would resist it, unless for stronger cause than at present existed, as long as the Members for Ireland remained Members of the House. The proposition that Ireland was in a state of disorganization could be traversed, because Ireland was in a condition of complete organization in being subject to the authority of the National League, which set at naught law and order, despised Constitutional law, and deprived law-loving and law-abiding subjects of their privileges. In proof of this he might refer to the case of one Conway, who was cited before a Court of the League because he claimed the privilege of cutting peat on a reclaimed bog, and who attended the Court after Mass on 1246 Sunday, asserted his claim, denounced the League, and threw upon the table his ticket of membership.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
said, the National League expressed its condemnation of what was done, and the hon. Member was entirely misinformed as to what occurred.
§ MR. MILVAIN
said, he was glad the hon. and learned Member had supported him to the extent of not denying that the man was, at any rate, cited before the local branch of the League. And what followed? Within 10 days his house was attacked at night, he was pulled out of bed, and a bullet was shot through his leg. Between that occurrence and the following Sunday the outrage was denounced by the National League That, he admitted, was plausible. That Sunday the outrage was denounced at Mass; but after Mass the man appeared before the same Court which had denounced him two Sundays previously, expressed regret for what he had done, declared that he had no intention to disregard the jurisdiction of the Court, and he was then exculpated by the Court. Did hon. Members think for one moment that this country would believe that they who exculpated the victim of that outrage were not parties to it?
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON
rose to Order, and asked whether it was in Order to impute to hon. Members that they were parties to the shooting of a man in Ireland?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member has not imputed outrage to a Member of the House; he was speaking constructively.
§ MR. MILVAIN
said, he was obliged for the ruling. Experience showed that a man who was hard hit invariably made some apology for getting rid of his responsibility. He did not impute that the hon. Member was a party to this outrage; but he did make an imputation constructively. On the face of it, there was a connection between the League which condemned him and the League which afterwards received his submission. [Mr. E. HARRINGTON: THE League did not denounce him.] In that morning's paper there was an account of an outrage upon a man named Macnamara, who was knocked under the table, and whose life was threatened. No matter what the ulterior object might be, this 1247 was a condition of affairs which ought not to be allowed to continue in a civilized community. In answer to the question why Returns were not issued to show how the crimes perpetrated in 1881 compared with those of this year, he would refer to The Irish World, which had said—The old method, which made the name of Tipperary a terror, has given place to the passive resistance that neither law nor authority can grapple with. The new system is a thousand times move effective than the blunderbuss. It has the great advantage of being safe and sinless.This, he presumed, referred to Boycotting; and it showed that Ireland was in the condition of organization which he had described, in which, while outrages were fewer, the law was defied in a manner that was said to be safe and sin-loss. It was said that the object of the proposed Bill was to exact extortionate rents, and this statement was made on the authority of General Buller. Now, this passage occurred in the evidence of General Buller—On the whole, have you found the landlords to be considerate? I think, on the whole, they have been considerate—indeed, I may say that most of them have made great sacrifices."Why did the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) omit to quote this answer when he quoted the statement that "nobody did anything for the people until the League was established?" It must be presumed that the right hon. Gentleman meant that it was the opinion of General Buller that nobody had done anything for the tenants until the League existed. He asked again whether the evidence of General Buller had escaped the right hon. Gentleman's memory? It had been said that General Buller was an important witness upon tills question, and that there was no exceptional legislation required for Ireland to enforce the law. Did General Buller say so? He said—I think the League would, if they could, prevent payment of rents, and are now endeavouring to the utmost to prevent rents being paid; but the improvement in the payment of rents is due to the tenants, who are getting reasonable allowances.And again—I believe that the great majority of those who have not paid are anxious to pay. They are anxious to pay?—Yes, I say they are anxious to pay. There are many who do not require an allowance to pay who would pay if they dared.And he gave reasons why they did not— 1248 that it was partly owing to bad advice and to the teaching of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and others. Upon the evidence of General Buller it must, then, be perfectly apparent that there was a system of terrorism throughout the whole of the Sister Isle which was deeply to be deplored, and which ought, if possible, to be removed. If he might venture to offer the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle a word of advice, he would ask him not to entrust himself too far upon the slippery path upon which he had proceeded. He would tell hon. Members opposite what his own experience had been. There had been, throughout the length and breadth of the land, certain parts of the United Kingdom held up to praise and adoration, such as "poor little Wales" and "dear old Scotland," and last, but not least, there was a portion of the United Kingdom which, for the purpose of the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, was called intelligent and civilized, but which, for the purpose of remedial and exceptional legislation, had been denounced as the most depraved and drunken—he referred to the North of England. He believed it to be intelligent and highly civilized, and it was for that reason he denounced exceptional legislation regarding it; but, at the same time, he would remind hon. Members who were venturing upon the slippery path he had alluded to of the experience of the hon. Member who preceded him in the representation of Durham. Mr. Thompson was a Member who allied himself with those who were then denounced by right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench as rebels and assassins, and that was the reason why he was refused re-election at the polling booths in 1885. He (Mr. Mil-vain) repudiated the name of "coercion" for the Government policy; it was not a policy of coercion. Ireland was at pro-sent suffering from coercion. She was now deprived of her Constitutional privileges by the action of the National League. It was to unfetter them, the loyal, law-abiding subjects of the Queen in Ireland, from the thraldom of the National League that he believed the Government wished to press forward their Bill, and for that reason he would support the Motion placed upon the Paper by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury.
§ MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries, &c.)
said, he desired to state why it was that he would oppose most strongly the Motion for urgency of the right hon. Gentleman. It was not the case that there was any sympathy or any toleration of outrage or violence among Members of the Liberal Party, whether they were the old Members or the newer Members of that Party. He believed it was the desire of the Liberal Party to put an end to outrage, violence, crime, and breaches of the law, where they found them to exist; but what, he should like to know, were the grounds or the facts for claiming priority for a Bill for which there did not appear to be any necessity whatever on the present occasion? He should like to remind the House that the Government had already occupied the whole time of the House so far as the Session had gone. It was, he believed, an absolutely unprecedented thing for a Government, during the first two months of a Session, to occupy the whole time, without allowing private Members any opportunity whatever, either by Motion or Bill, to bring before the House the different questions in which their constituents were interested. He could understand, and he admitted, that there might be circumstances so serious as to justify the Government in asking a still further extension of that indulgence. But before it was done, at least they ought to have some information as to what was the serious condition in Ireland demanding so heavy and so great a sacrifice. What was the cause for coercion? The hon. Gentleman referred to some newspaper paragraph. He should have thought the hon. Gentleman had a pretty good warning as to the value of newspaper statements. The other day there appeared in The Times—a newspaper that they all desired to treat with respect if they could—a statement about an attack upon a man's house in Ireland, with the additional aggravation that a woman had been outraged in the presence of her own father or one of her own family. That statement was actually made the subject of a Question in this House by the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), when it turned out that the thing was an absolute fabrication. Notwithstanding, he believed it was the case that in the weekly issue of that same paper, after 1250 the admission of the Government that it was false from beginning to end, the statement was repeated and reprinted without a word of qualification, still less of apology. It was therefore incumbent upon them to take the statements made by newspapers with the greatest caution. He did not for a moment impute corrupt motives to the newspapers, but a most deliberate bias and prejudice, a determination to see only one side of a case, and a perfect disregard of logic and of the statements of sensible men on the other side. Now, what were the figures with regard to this matter? There never had been since the Act of Union a proposal of the nature of coercion which had not had at least ton times as strong evidence in support of it as the present. He would not refer to the year 1833, when there were something like 170 or 180 murders actually undetected before the Liberal Government of the day moved for the purpose of bringing in a Coercion Bill. Their predecessors in that House wore more jealous of the liberties of the subject than they, in those degenerate times, had become, He would confine himself to the last two occasions when Coercion Bills were brought in. In 1881, the late Mr. Forster brought in a Bill which seemed destined to show how little could be done by coercion for the repression of crime. Mr. Forster then presented a Report of all the outrages in Ireland from 1844 to 1881. Never, since 1845, said Mr. Forster, had there been so many outrages in any year as in 1880. The Report presented by Mr. Forster was, he believed, in many respects erroneous and misleading. During the year 1880, Mr. Forster said, there had been 2,590 outrages, and of those 1,696 had taken place in October, November, and December. More than that, he stated that in the month of December there were more outrages than there were in October and November put together. Thus there was an increased and an increasing amount of crime. Further, it was said that the area of crime was increasing—that crime was spreading to the East of Ireland. That was the case put forward in January, 1881, and it was accompanied by the promise that if the Bill passed no more coercion would be required. The result was that in 1882, when the whole of this country and, he believed, the whole of Ireland was saddened by 1251 the Phœuix Park tragedy, another Coercion Bill was introduced by the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). Subsequently Sir George Trevelyan took office as Chief Secretary and explained the case for the Bill. It was that since 1841, in which period the highest amount of crime was 2,590, it had risen in 1881 to 1,139, or nearly four times as much as in 1814. Sir George Trevelyan went further, and stated that for the first four months of 1882 there were 1,879 instances of crime reported to the police That was the case upon which the Coercion Act of 1882 was based. He was prepared, if necessary for the purpose of maintaining law and order—if there were outrages to any tremendous or alarming extent—to pass the necessary laws for either England, Ireland, or Scotland; but there never yet had been a Ministry who would have dared, on the facts he was now going to refer to as to the existing condition of Ireland, to come forward and ask for such powers for either England or Scotland as were now to be asked in the case of Ireland. What was the case for coercion now? the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Milvain) had told the House of two outrages which, with an excess of zeal, he had endeavoured to associate with hon. Gentlemen opposite him. He believed that he (Mr. R. T. Reid) had often in former times done injustice to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, although he had never said hard things of them either in or out of the House. The case for coercion now was that during the last three months of 1886—the worst months in the year, the winter months—there had been only 94 outrages, and, further, that there were not so many murders nor so much life lost during that time as there were in the Belfast riots. Yet no suggestion was ever made of bringing forward coercion because of the Belfast riots. he did not doubt that the Loader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) must regret having to bring in coercion. He could not help wishing that the right hon. Gentleman, instead of yielding to the clamour, which he believed came more from his (Mr. R. T. Reid's) side of the House than from the Ministerial side, had had the courage to defy the Unionist Party, and to leave them to the fate which would inevitably come upon them, and which must come to men who would 1252 not take the side to which they really belonged, and who would not sit side by side with the men with whom they agreed. What was the condition of Ireland according to the opinion of the resident magistrates? Four Resident Magistrates were called before the Commission. It was impossible to read their evidence without being convinced that they were very strong partisans. Wit-nesses were not tendered to the Commission by the Nationalist Party, and only to a small degree by the tenant-right party. Yet all these four Resident Magistrates gave evidence which was perfectly inconsistent with there being any necessity for a Coercion Bill for Ireland. Mr. E. R. Warburton, Resident Magistrate at Bantry, a port not far removed from a district supposed to be the worst in Ireland, was asked, Question No. 1,088—Have there been many outrages committed in your part of the country on people who have paid their rent?He answered—There is a kind of system of Boycotting kept up; my district has not been very bad; there have not been many evicted in my part of the country.Then he was asked, Question 1,090, "Those who have paid, have they been subject to actual annoyance?" The answer was, "I could not say they have; some few may, but not generally." There was not much encouragement for coercion from that gentleman. Another witness, Mr. A. Newton Brady, employed as Resident Magistrate in Connemara, had the following Question (1,169) put to him:—I gather from the rents being pretty well paid that there is not much combination against their being paid in your district?His answer was—There have been several instances within my experience; there was one recently.And then he went on to refer to an instance where there were joint tenancies; but he gave no evidence to show that there was any such thing as combination; on the contrary, he said the state of his district was very much bettor than it was four years ago. Then Mr. Francis Blackburne Henn, Resident Magistrate at Ballina, County Mayo, being asked if the landlords were getting their rents without reduction, answered— 1253Yes, I think so, fairly well. Question.—That looks as if there was not much combination in the part of the county? Answer.—I consider that no combination exists at present against the payment of rent in the whole of my district.Mr. H. F. Considine, Resident Magistrate at Kerry, on being asked a similar Question, said—I do not know that he (the tenant) is subject to outrage at the present moment, but he is looked upon with disfavour by his fellow tenants—that is, if he pays at a reduction which they consider unfair. Insufficient?—Yes. He is subject to be Boycotted?—I would hardly say Boycotted; he is looked upon with disfavour.Those were the four gentlemen occupying the position of Resident Magistrates, and the only four Resident Magistrates who were called before the Commission. Now, it seemed to be absolutely clear that this Bill was not levelled against outrage at all, because there was no outrage, but against the National League. They were asked, therefore, to sacrifice all the Bills they took an interest in for the purpose of declaring war against organized opinion. It was for the purpose of putting down, if possible, the National League. Now, he did not believe for a moment that it was desirable to put down the National League. If they could put down the National League he would not put it down, because he believed that the National League was the sole power strong enough to stand between the tenants and unjust evictions and unjust rents. At the same time, he would not hesitate to give the Government power to put down lawlessness if anything like general lawlessness prevailed. The Bill brought in by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) last autumn had been a warning to the Government to provide some remedy; for the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) had told them, with characteristic candour, that he and his Friends would stand by their people, so as to prevent tenants being driven from their farms for non-payment of rents which it was impossible for them to pay. He would have thought that the then Leader of the House (Lord Randolph Churchill) would have extended some consideration to the proposals of the hon. Member for Cork; but that noble Lord had been over-ruled, and the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) made a speech in which 1254 he denounced as Socialistic, Communistic, and lawless, the idea that a really fair rent ought to be ascertained and enforced, instead of a rent which, though supposed to be fair when fixed, had turned out not to be so; and the noble Lord asked them to have confidence that the landlords would not rigorously exercise their powers. He wondered whether the noble Lord, when he next spoke on the subject, would say so still. Whatever outrage there had been last winter might, he believed, have been averted if the Government had only seen their way to propose some remedy. He did not over-much blame the Government. They were more in the hands of others than in their own; but the alliance was one that could not last for very long. There were opposing forces in this. They would have, he hoped, the honesty of conduct to fight it out when they got rid of those Gentlemen who were neither on one side of the question nor the other; or when they had, as he hoped they might, succeeded in absorbing them on one side or the other, according to the tendencies of their minds. But he could not help thinking that, if the Government even now would endeavour to dispense—though he was afraid it was hopeless—with coercive laws, and would endeavour to bring in Bills for having a purely fair rent fixed, and for dealing with lease-holders, and if they would show some confidence in the people of Ireland, they would be far more likely to carry their point, and establish law and order, than they would be by any number of coercive Bills, however stringent they might be. He felt humiliated to think that, after 80 years, the country at largo seemed to have shown itself not able to learn wisdom from experience. They had had Coercion Bills before; but, as he had tried to show, in all the instances of these Coercion Bills there had been proof put forward by the Government of strong disorder prevailing over large parts of the country. The Liberals of those days—many of them—resisted coercion; and he was sorry that, in 1881, he voted for it. If he had known then as much as he knew now he would not have done so; but, at all events, at that time there was a pretence of showing that there was necessity for coercion, and it was difficult for young Members like himself to resist, when it was 1255 said that 36 years had elapsed since anything like the crime then existing had been experienced. But it was admitted that Ireland had since been, and was now, comparatively tranquil; and in present circumstances it would be absurd to accuse as sympathizers with outrage those men who declined to place the freedom and Constitutional liberties of Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland in the hands of the Executive. He believed the effect of such a proceeding would be to irritate, exasperate, and drive into a temper of ferocity the people of Ireland. But he did not believe that this would take place, because there were a great many Englishmen and Scotsmen who would stand by the Irish Members; and because there was a large and increasing number of men throughout the country who wore determined to see that the law in Ireland should be really the same as that in England and Scotland. If it were not for that he should be really afraid; but he could not help believing that hon. Gentlemen, looking forward to the early triumph of the opinions they held in common—that triumph as inevitable as it was near—would counsel their countrymen with all the authority they possessed, and would use all that authority to prevail upon their countrymen to maintain order, and to keep peaceful and quiet, in this, one of the most trying, but, he thought, almost the last, struggle they would have.
THIS FINANCIAL SECRETARY, WAR DEPARTMENT (Mr. BROD-RICK), (Surrey, Guildford)
, said, he felt sure no one would complain of the tone of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down. It was not, however, very easy to reconcile the conflicting statements of the hon. and learned Gentleman, who, at one moment, told the House that he was ready to take whatever measures were necessary to maintain the law, and, in the next, regretted his votes in support of the preservation of the law in 1881 and 1882. He (Mr. Brodrick) could not help calling the hon. and learned Gentleman's attention to the fact, that the great number of outrages which occurred in 1881 and 1882 preceded, and did not follow, the measures of coercion, the introduction of which he now deprecated. In 1881 and the beginning of 1882, a variety of crimes and murders 1256 of the very worst description wore committed which remained undetected until the measure of coercion had been brought in, and, in his opinion, would have remained undetected until this date, but for the measure which the right hon. Gentleman opposite carried into law. The hon. and learned Gentleman now told the House he regretted the vote he gave on that occasion—in. other words, he regretted the vote by which the Phœnix Park murderers were convicted; he regretted the vote which restored order to Ireland under Lord Spencer as he was then, not Lord Spencer as he was now—who deprecated any measure which it was proposed now to introduce to restore order and law in Ireland. He (Mr. Brodrick) would call the hon. and learned Gentleman's attention to the fact that some of the quotations he had made as regards intimidation were not entirely borne out by other witnesses. But the case of the Government was not that the number of outrages which had lately taken place was so greatly in excess of those in other years, as alone to justify a measure of an exceptional character; but that there was a gigantic combination, boasted of by its promoters, and acknowledged by its members, which executed its own orders, sentences, and punishments, and which held, in a bond of terrorism, a large number of districts in Ireland. The hon. and learned Member had quoted various passages in order to prove that there was no such combination. The House had heard a great deal about General Buller's evidence before the Cowper Commission in the course of this debate; and the hon. and learned Member seemed to think that he was justified in quoting Sir Redvers Buller's evidence when his authority was found to be on his side, but in abstaining from quoting his remarks when, as Under Secretary, he gave his opinion as to the actual state of order in the country. He ventured to call the hon. and learned Member's attention to a statement in the evidence of Sir Redvers Busier—Q. I understand you to say that there is a complete system of intimidation prevailing in this country?—A. There is.Again, the question was asked by the President of the Commission— 1257They are still in fear of the League?—A. They are coerced, and in fear of the intimidation that is rampant in this country.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, the gallant General spoke of the country generally, and the word used was "country." Now he wished to know, in the face of these facts, whether the observation of the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Rowntree), which was loudly cheered by hon. Members from Ireland and by those hon. Members who sat around him, to the effect that the National League was an organization for which he could find no word of reprobation, and which was every bit as legal and as proper as the organizations of the Liberal and Conservative Parties in this country, was not a comparison which reflected on the intelligence of the House? He asked the House whether they were to accept some portions of the Blue Book, and to ignore all the other portions which bore on the question? Her Majesty's Government had admitted that in the Report of the Commissioners reasons were found for introducing a measure with regard to the land; but, at the same time, he asked whether they were to ignore all those portions of the Commissioners' Report which clearly indicated the lawless state of the country. He called attention to the passage in the Commissioners' Report describing the effects of Boycotting. The Commissioners said—This unwritten law in some districts is supreme. We deem it right to call attention to the terrible ordeal that a Boycotted person has to undergo.The hon. Member for Scarborough said, that he would not support a law which was the oppressor of innocence and not the avenger of crime and wrong. He (Mr. Brodrick) would ask the hon. Member whether, in the case of the Curtin family, the law had been the oppressor of innocence? Why, a more terrible case of oppression of an innocent family never disgraced the annals of the Irish people! Mr. Curtin was not a landlord; he was a member of the Land league. The evidence states—There was no antecedent animosity to him?—None that I am aware of. To what do you attribute the ill-feeling raised against this unfortunate family?—Because, in the first 1258 place, Curtin defended his house and shot this man Sullivan"—[MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.): Who is the witness?]and because his family had the courage to come forward and give evidence against those concerned.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
I rise to Order, Sir. I want to know whether the hon. Member is in Order in reading quotations, and in refusing to give the names?
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, that as hon. Members were anxious to know the name of the witness, he had no objection to mention it to them; it was that of Mr. Heffernan Considine.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, none the less the statement was true, and it was to this effect, that the Curtin family attempted to defend their father when attacked by Moonlighters; they were threatened with violence and treated with disrespect at church on Sundays; the police had to charge the people and disperse thorn when the Curtins attended mass, and they were molested and ill-treated by their neighbours in every possible way. The House would see, and everyone would also see, that the animosity in this particular case had not been directed against a landlord or a Protestant, but was a deliberate persecution of a family who had been deprived of their parent, and who, not even so, could escape the vengeance of the people. It would also see that there was at present no power in the law to protect these people; and, in these circumstances, and in face of such statements, he wished to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. R. T. Reid) whether he could say that there was no combination or terrorism, no difficulty in enforcing the law, and nothing which called for an effort to see that the law was administered as it was in this country? If they were to accept as true that there was no terrorism, because there were no outrages, they would have to ignore the statement made by hon. Members below the Gangway—that they 1259 would find a more formidable weapon than outrage, which it was impossible for the tenants to disobey. The hon. and learned Gentleman had road to the House one question with regard to outrages, leaving out the two preceding questions. He would read those omitted questions to the House. Mr. Warburton was asked—With regard to combination to prevent the payment of rent, if a man does pay his rent, is he subject to annoyance?—Most certainly; I have known tenants' wives come at night to the agents and give money, and they would not oven take a receipt for fear the receipt would be seen with them. What are they actually afraid of—being outraged or Boycotted?—Afraid of the National League hearing it—they think it undesirable.Yet the hon. and learned Gentleman quoted the succeeding questions, in which something was said about Boycotting not being bad in the district, as proof that it was not a question of combination at all.
§ MR. R. T. REID
said, he had never suggested that. He was trying to show that there was no outrage according to the statements of the Resident Magistrates, and the question he quoted dealt with that charge. He had not denied that there was some combination. The National League was a combination, and he had spoken of it.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, the hon. and learned Member had quoted evidence given on the 15th of October to show that there was no combination in the district, and argued from that that there was no combination now. He (Mr. Brodrick) would point out to the hon. and learned Member that the Plan of Campaign was published on the 23rd of October; and General Buller, in his evidence on the 11th of November, distinctly stated that, although there had been no combination in the district, yet, after the visit of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and his Friends, the combination began and terrorism immediately ensued. He presumed that the learned Member would not get up and tell the House that terrorism should be allowed to prevail unchecked, so long as outrages did not mount to the requisite level. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), who moved the Amendment, had assumed that the main difficulty was to be found in the question of rents. Did the right hon. Gentleman attempt to 1260 present to the House any case as to the general harshness of the landlords on which his Amendment appeared to be founded? No; but he had taken a few isolated and individual instances, and his proposition appeared to be, that no matter how bad the seasons, no matter how broken the tenant, or how incapable, or how thriftless, or how un-able he was to do his duty by the soil, or in any future year to pay his rent, supposing that he had not paid it at this moment, the landlord was bound to continue him in his holding. A proposition more disastrous for the interests of the country he (Mr. Brodrick) could not imagine. The House was told that owing to the existence of a species of terrorism the tenants had been prevented from going into the Land Court; but since 1881, 176,000 tenants had gone through the Land Court, and this number was largely in excess of those who might have taken advantage of the Act, but who had not done so. He never believed that the Land Act could possibly succeed in producing general contentment, be-cause it perpetuated a dual ownership which had broken down, and made it worse by setting up the system of tenant-right—set up where it had not existed before. The contention put forward in 1881, by all who had studied the laws of political economy, was that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was putting the landlord in a position which no man on earth ought to be asked to occupy, and that the advantage given to the tenant, though very substantial in the case of the present tenant, would be a heavy burden on the future tenant. The further you got from the Land Act of 1881 the heavier would be that burden as the present tenants died out. He might illustrate his argument by a reference to an estate with which he was intimately acquainted. The rent of the farm was £60, and the Commissioners refused to make a reduction, on the ground that this was a fair rent. At the same time, though the man had not had the holding more than two years, and proved no expenditure of any sort on improvements, the Commissioners gave him £300 for his tenant-right. [An hon. MEMBER: They were bound by law to do so.] the succeeding tenant borrowed, and the interest on the purchase-money, added to the rent, making 1261 his rent £84, instead of £60, drove him to the landlord with a request for a reduction of 10 or 50 per cent in his rent. He (Mr. Brodrick) was not defending landlords who demanded rents which were paid in more prosperous years; but when rents had been fixed by the Courts, and the tenant had chosen to pay a largo sum for nothing but the privilege of paying that fixed rent, then they had no right to make the landlord the only loser. There were good landlords and Lad landlords; but no case whatever had been made out to show the universality of a system of exaction, on which the right hon. Member for Newcastle asked the Government for the time being to interfere with the duo administration of the law; and that debate was not likely to improve the chance of arrangements being come to between landlords and tenants in Ireland. It might be a necessary debate, in order that the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian should establish his case against the landlords. But he would ask the House whether the hon. and learned Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay) did not strike the right chord last night, when he told them that, if the Government had undertaken to deal with the rent question as their first and only measure, they would have been met by the right hon. Gentleman opposite with an Amendment on the question of Home Rule. The Irish landlords were to bear the brunt of the battle, and it was just as well that they should know what they were to suffer. He knew of nothing that had occurred since 1881 which should have changed the opinion then expressed by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, when he said that the Irish landlords had stood their trial, and that, as a rule, they had been acquitted. He repeated that he knew of nothing which had occurred since 1881 to cause a change in the right hon. Gentleman's views. Was there anything in the evidence before the Royal Commission?
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, he must confess that he did not entirely follow the right hon. Gentleman in the distinction he made, because the judicial rents which 1262 were now said to be exacting were infinitely loss, and the reductions voluntarily given by landlords, were infinitely greater than was the case before 1881. They had, however, gone to school again in morality since 1881, and they had got on to a fresh tack, in which they were told that if they only did justice Irishmen would meet them, and always would endeavour to meet them, halfway. Well, he would investigate for a moment the justice of that contention. Parliament, in 1881, made a great attempt to do justice to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman opposite led the way. The Land Act was passed in August, and what was the answer? "Why, in October they were met halfway, for they had a response in the shape of the No Kent Manifesto of the hon. Member for Cork, who immediately commenced marching through rapine to the disintegration of the Empire. In the face of that experience, he (Mr. Brodrick) was curious to learn whether the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian would get up in his place and ask the House to confide in the generous feeling of the Irish people, as a ground for putting off all measures for the maintenance of law and order, and to set themselves vigorously to work again to secure, as in 1881, the settlement of the Land Question, in the hope of a general pacification of Ireland. The question seemed to be whether, not having been able to carry the country with them, right hon. Gentlemen opposite thought they could persuade Parliament to govern Ireland as they wished to govern it, or that they would be allowed to make all government in Ireland impossible until they had attained the end at which they were aiming? They asked the Government not merely to make a compromise with crime, but to subordinate law to the conception of justice which was held by a minority in that House. He hoped that the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt)—to assist whom they had sat up so much at nights when he occupied the Treasury Bench—would explain to them how he was going to reconcile his present attitude with the contention he used to put forward, that remedial measures might follow, but that the law must first be maintained. How was that quandary now to be got rid of? Not that he would himself found any argument on such a moving monument of inconsist- 1263 ency as the right hon. Member for Derby; but that right hon. Member's declarations would remain fixed in the memory of the House, however often his opinions might be changed. And when the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) threatened them with the vengeance of their constituents if they took the course which the Government were determined to pursue, he (Mr. Brodrick) told the hon. Member, that if they neglected the primary duty of enforcing an equal observance of the law in all parts of the United Kingdom, they might then justly fear to face their constituents. The Government had no apology to make for the way in which they had presented that Resolution to the House; but they felt that they should have had to apologize, and would have failed in the performance of their duty, if they had not placed before the House the serious state of Ireland at this moment. He believed the grave facts which his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland would place before the House would be ample justification, to all who took an impartial view of the situation, for the Government asking for the whole time of the House. It was in that conviction that they would submit their proposals to the House, and would expect to earn, as he believed they would deserve, the confidence of the House and the country.
MR. BEYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said, he thought that it would not be right that the whole of the time of the House should be given to the Government, as now demanded, unless they first made out a very strong case of urgency. Such a strong case had not yet been made out, and, therefore, he and his hon. Friends felt bound to resist that demand. The hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Brodrick; had mistaken the contention of the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries (Mr. E. T. Reid). They did not deny that some combination existed in Ireland; they did not maintain that the law was everywhere perfectly enforced, or that the present state of that country was in all respects satisfactory; but they said—and it was proved by evidence in the Cowper Commission Blue Book as well as by facts known to them all from the ordinary public channels—that that state was not an exceptional one, but a state in which the elements of good and the 1264 tendencies to improvement were overcoming the effects of the evils which remained from a former time, and that it was certainly unlike any previous state of Ireland upon which had been grounded the application for a Coercion Bill. His right hon. Friends the Members for Wolverhampton and Newcastle Mr. H. H. Fowler and Mr. John Morley), on the previous night, had shown how exorbitant rents were in Ireland, and how that Bill would not be so much a Bill for the repression of disorder as one for the better recovery of unjust rents. He would leave that part of the case where his right hon. Friends had left it; but he would invite attention to another aspect of the question. They must look at the proposal of the Government that the House should give all its time to a measure of coercion as part of a general scheme. It was part of a scheme, the essence of which was that the House should make its choice—its inevitable choice—between coercion and conciliation in favour of coercion. They stood now, as they had often done before, at the separation of two ways; they had now the choice between governing Ireland with the will of the people with them, and governing Ireland against the will of the people. The Government asked Parliament to choose the course of governing against the people. This was, he supposed, to be taken as the beginning of that 20 years of firm government which Lord Salisbury had announced as his specific for Ireland. he did not desire to indulge in any of the conventional recriminations of the Front Benches. The case was too serious, too melancholy. He would assume that the Government desired to do right, and believed that the course they proposed was the best. He agreed with them in attaching the highest importance to restoring law and order in Ireland. The basis of the proposals of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) last year was the restoration of social order in Ireland, which was one of the greatest needs in Ireland. But the question he desired to put was this—Would the Government policy of coercion restore law and order? Was there any probability of its achieving this or changing the minds of the Irish people? Would it, in the long run, work for peace and union? Let 1265 them answer these questions by the light of experience. Neither the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) nor the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) said one word last night as to any previous Coercion Bills, and an intelligent foreigner listening to them would have have supposed that they were proposing for the first time an exceptional measure of this kind. But since the Union in 1800 there had been 86 Coercion Bills, and this was the 87th which was being introduced in the year 1887. During those 86 years there had not been three consecutive years during which Ireland was free from exceptional repressive legislation. But it was admitted that this legislation had failed—the fact that another of these Bills—an unusually severe one—was being now introduced was proof of this. The condition of Ireland was now described by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in much the same terms as those used by the previous Chief Secretaries who introduced the previous Bills. It was not alleged by him that the Irish people had been rendered any better disposed to law and order now than at any time since the Union, or less averse to combination against the land laws. The case now put forward, was that the tendency to combination was stronger than ever, which was tantamount to saying that the people were more united against the English Government than ever they were before If all these Bills had failed, was there any ground for believing that this Bill would succeed any better than its predecessors? There were, at any rate, three requisites for any measure of this kind. In the first place, it ought to be a permanent and not a limited Bill. Nothing could be more ill-advised than the past system of alternate blows and caresses. he did not know whether it was the intention of the Government to make this Bill permanent or to limit its operations to a certain period, but even if it wore made permanent in form, it could not be maintained permanently. There might be a General Election in a few months—there must be one before very long—and it was perfectly certain that the country would not keep a Conservative Government permanently in power for the purpose of keeping up coercion. The tem- 1266 porary majority of the Government would disappear, and the 86 Home Rule Members for Ireland might again hold the balance between Parties. What would happen in that case? the Conservative Party would act as they acted in June, 1885, when they stated that they had discovered that the time for Coercion Bills had passed, and when Lord Salisbury, in his speech at Newport a little later, pointed out that Coercion Bills were useless against illegal combinations and associations. On the other hand, if the Liberal Party came into power its course would be clear. They condemned this policy of coercion and could never return to it, and they had declared that the only policy in which they saw any hope was a policy of conciliation. They would, therefore, take the first opportunity that fortune and Providence threw into their hands of giving effect to that policy. Even if the English and Scottish people were as anxious to maintain the present form of the Union as the Tory Party believed, they would not give impunity to right hon. Gentlemen opposite for all the other mistakes in their home and foreign policy which they were likely to commit, and which every Government must commit. the day of power of the Conservative Party could not be very long, and when it came to an end so would coercion. It was impossible, therefore, to look forward to a sustained course of repression. It must also be borne in mind that it could not be said that at the present moment public opinion was in favour of coercion. That question was not before the doctors at the last General Election in July last. Indeed, not a few of the Members sitting behind the Government then declared that they were opposed to coercion. Coercion required also to be unshrinkingly administered, and this it was not likely to be so long as it was liable to be impeached by hon. Members for Ireland sitting in that House. If they de-sired to make it thoroughly effective, why did they not propose to suspend Irish representation? It would be easier for them, to work their will in Ireland if they were exposed to no questionings hero. To enable repressive legislation to bring about any permanent improvement in the attitude of the Irish people, large discretionary powers should be given to the Executive Government, which they could use for the 1267 purpose of compelling landlords to act equitably and generally for mitigating the harshness of the law. Coercion such as this Bill proposed was really an exercise of despotic power, wholly inconsistent with the genius of the British Constitution. For its due administration there ought to be large discretionary powers in the hands of the Executive Government. In all despotic Governments the Executive was armed with discretionary powers against the rich as well as against the poor. Every Indian official would tell them that the Indian Government reserved to itself largo discretionary powers in the application of the laws of that country. It did not allow the landlords to exercise with severity their legal powers against their tenants, but restrained them when it saw that the enforcement of the legal right was likely to work a moral wrong. That was essential to the proper action of a despotic Government; and in this case also the Executive must have a discretionary power to mitigate the harshness of the law. The revenues of the Roman Empire were largely derived from the land tax, and the Imperial Government when a bad year came remitted the Land Tax. The gravest charge made against a harsh Emperor was that he neglected to make those remissions. The right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) had tried to put in force a discretionary power, and he hoped the stern logical consistency of his right hon. Friend opposite would not prevent him from following so good an example. It might happen that this Bill would succeed better than previous Coercion Bills if the circumstances under which it was introduced were more favourable to coercive legislation than the circumstances of former times. Let them cast their eyes back to the year 1833, when the first Liberal Government, after a long Tory reign, introduced a Coercion Bill; or let them look at the year 1846, and ask whether the chances for the success of a measure of coercion were greater now than they were then. The circumstances differed in every point for the worse, that is, they were altogether against the prospects of a successful and permanently beneficial coercive measure. In 1833 and 1840 the people of Ireland were feeble and disheartened, whereas now 1268 they were strong and emboldened by the recollection of their resent successes. At the former periods they stood alone in the world; but now they appealed to the Irish people all the world over, and derived a moral as well as a pecuniary support, which was of the utmost importance in reference to this question. In 1833 and 1846 little was known in this country about the way in which the Irish Government was conducted; but now they knew that those about the Castle, and, to a large extent, those who conducted the Irish Government throughout the country, were discredited before England and distrusted by the Irish people. Again, in 1833 and 1816 the Irish Party in that House was small, whereas now it constituted five-sixths of the representation of the country. Then the two great English Parties were practically agreed in supporting coercive legislation; but now one of those Parties had condemned coercion, and chosen a policy of conciliation. He believed there never was a time when a Coercion Bill passed by a purely Party Vote. Again, in 1833 and 1846 the electoral power of this country was in the hands of the upper and middle classes, and the middle classes were accustomed to take their lead from above. Now, however, we lived in a very different time. Our electorate consisted of the great mass of the working people all over the country. It was in their hands that the ultimate power of this country lay, and they knew that those people regarded repressive legislation with the greatest dislike, and disapproved exceptional legislation for one part of the United Kingdom, because they thought the same laws ought to prevail in England, Scotland, and Ireland. In every point, therefore, the prospect of the success of coercion was worse than it was in 1833 and 1846. He might also add the experience of 1881 and 1882; but he would not do so, because that subject had been dealt with by his hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries, He might, however, remind the hon. Member who answered his hon. Friend's speech that the outrages in that year did not diminish under the operation of the Coercion Act. There could not be a man better fitted to work coercion than the late Mr. Forster, and there could not be a Government fitter than the Government of 1881 to see that the powers 1269 given to thorn should not be abused. Well, under Mr. Forster's administration, the number of arrests increased till at last 1,000 persons were imprisoned in Ireland without any trial.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, that he spoke of the Coercion Bill of 1882, which Mr. Forster had not to administer.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, he could tell the hon. Member that, under Mr. Forster's administration of the Coercion Act, while 1,000 persons were imprisoned without trial, the outrages which numbered 200 in February 1881, had risen to 500 a-month in 1882. As to the Crimes Act of 1882, if the present Government thought so well of it, why did they refuse to renew it in 1885; why did they take credit that autumn for not having renewed it? If hon. Gentlemen opposite had so much regard for the Act of 1882 why did not they renew it in 1884? Cromwell succeeded in a resolute policy, but he looked among hon. Members opposite in vain for a Cromwell. Nor, if he turned to the other House, did he find a Cromwell in their fitful and impetuous Prime Minister. The difference between Cromwell and Lord Salisbury was this—Cromwell spoke badly and acted firmly, Lord Salisbury spoke brilliantly and acted weakly. There was none of the spirit of Cromwell in hon. Members opposite, and the loss they attempted to wear the armour of that hero the better for themselves. He thought no case could be pointed out in which a democratic Government had succeeded in coercing into friendship and love another nationality which formed a part of the same democracy. The case of Switzerland and the Sonderbund war of 1846 could not fairly be cited as a case in point. When it ended in the victory of the Protestant Cantons, self-government was restored to the defeated cantons, and they again became responsible for law and order in their own territories. Perhaps the case of the United States would be quoted. But after the North had conquered the Southern States they set up governments of their own in every State. Those governments were supported by large armed forces, and under those governments and under those armed forces there broke out a series of horrible outrages far worse, far more frequent, and far more atrocious in their circumstances than any which had occurred in Ireland. 1270 Hon. Gentlemen would find if they read the American reports of that period that there were Southern States where outrages wore more serious and more numerous than those which any Chief Secretary of Ireland had ever had to deal with. They were continued and carried out by secret associations similar to those which had frequently given trouble in Ireland. In one State—Tennessee—there had been within one period of six months an average of one murder for each day, and many of the other States were not much better. The Reports he had referred to read exactly like the speech of a Chief Secretary asking for a Coercion Bill. The Northern States perceived that secret combinations were more and more supported by the people, that juries would not convict, and, in short, that all the circumstances which characterized Irish disorder existed. They then, with the characteristic practical good sense of the American, at last changed their course, and in 1876 President Hayes withdrew the Northern Armies from the South, genuine self-government was restored, the outrages ceased, and from that time till now the Southern States had been a peaceably-governed country. He challenged hon. Members to look into this case of America, which had been so often quoted, and he believed that the more they looked the more they would find that one Democracy could not govern another except upon the principles of self-government. Never were the teachings of history more plain and simple than in the matter of Irish government, and the most curious point about it was that at all times the wisest men had pointed out the true course. He might give many an instance of the warnings given by those who know Ireland and the wants of Ireland; but he would content himself with two only—Edmund Burke and Lord Wellesley. Burke spoke words as applicable to Ire-land now as then. he said—The people ought to look well about them, and that the physicians ought to take care not to irritate the patient. It was foolish to have the better of a patient in a dispute; the complaint and its cause ought to be removed and wise lenient arts ought to be employed; those lenient arts ought to be the primary object of the Government … Call the process what they pleased it would consist of cavalry, infantry, and artillery and nothing else.The words of Lord Wellesley in 1831 were— 1271The truth is Ireland will never be quieted by these annual expedients of suspending the laws and constitution of the realm. We must endeavour, as soon as possible, to return to the ordinary laws and to be satisfied with a vigorous and pure administration of justice. Until we are fixed on that rock we shall never know genuine peace or security.Those warnings from the men who knew Ireland best had been neglected. They might be renewed now. The Act of the Government would not have the effect of securing social order and a due observance of the law, any more than the Acts of previous Administrations. It would have some effect, no doubt. It would have the result of making things worse. It would drive discontent underground; it would substitute conspiracy for agitation; it would substitute midnight conclaves of desperate men for the free meeting on the open hillside; and it would embitter the feelings of the English and the Irish people against one another. The Government asked the House to look down a long vista, in which could be soon crime, outrage, hatred, revenge, and murder in many an abhorrent form; but there was one thing which could not be seen—no, not even at the end of it—and that was peace or order. If they wanted peace and order, the Government should see that the law—which they themselves confessed was not just—was made just. Let them begin by making it just, and enlist upon their side popular sympathy, confidence, and support—support which would never be given to an unjust law, and without which no law could ever strong.
§ MR. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c.)
said, that if he understood the object of the Government aright it was not so much to increase the stringency of the present Criminal Law as to increase its efficiency. It was the desire of the Government that the Criminal Law as at present existing should be more efficient in its working, so that the conviction of offenders should be obtained. He proposed to follow the Government in this Motion by voting for urgency, not so much on the ground of urgency in connection with the Criminal Law Amendment Bill which was to be introduced, as on the ground that it was the easiest and the simplest way of obtaining access to that remedial legislation without which it was impossible to see Ireland once more in a settled condition. What remedial legislation could be more necessary 1272 than to endeavour to make the law operative in Ireland? At the present moment it was not operative, and if the proposals of the Government tended in the direction of making the law operative, he thought that would be a distinct step towards remedial legislation—to be followed by remedial legislation in the shape of ail improvement in the land laws, which was very much needed. If the proposed Bill of the Government, the details of which were as yet unknown to them, was coercive in the bad sense of the term, it would meet from him determined opposition. [Laughter.] Had hon. Members below the Gangway seen the inside of the Bill? If they had not, then what right had they to laugh? he congratulated the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland on the statement he made to the House last night that he would introduce, either in that House or in the "other place," legislation of a remedial character in connection with the Land Question. He thought a firm administration of the existing and amended law, combined with a judicious removal of all admitted grievances, would be the best way, and the only effective way, of producing peace in that unhappy country. He was glad to find that amongst the grievances it was proposed to remedy was that in connection with the leaseholders, especially in the North of Ireland, to whom most of the happiness and prosperity of the country was owing. He hoped the remedial measures of the Government would include some assistance to those tenants who had purchased their holdings under the Bright clauses of the Land Act, and also to those tenants who had purchased their holdings under the Church Act. These measures were only alleviative, and he believed the real method of settling the Irish Land Question was to be found in the abolition of dual ownership. While, in the present condition of Public Business, it was difficult to introduce and pass a Bill dealing with that subject, he trusted that such a measure would at no distant date be introduced and pushed forward; and that they should see a fair and honest attempt made by the Government to put an end to the dual ownership of land in Ireland. There had been an attempt made by the Conservative Government in this direction by the Land Purchase Act of Lord Ashbourne; and he thought 1273 that was an Act the operation of which would be of advantages to the country in time to come. He said that, notwithstanding that he was opposed to the purchase scheme proposed by the late Prime Minister. One advantage of Lord Ashbourne's scheme was that it was on a small scale, and that purchase would be gradual over the entire country. he believed a larger system of purchase, such as was proposed by the late Prime Minister, was accompanied with difficulty connected with State ownership of land, which would vanish or become extremely small when land purchase was carried into effect by a series of smaller schemes. It was said that no purchase schemes would be carried out until rents wore finally fixed at their proper level; but, where rents were too high, if the number of years' purchase was reduced, a fair price would thereby be obtained. The Party of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) did not appear very anxious to see the Land Question settled; but this was probably due to the fact that they recognized that if the Land Question was settled there would be an end to the agitation in the country. A Bill had been introduced by his hon. Friend one of the Members for Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), and that had mot with but scant courtesy at their hands, though it dealt with the question of leaseholds in a way that would have assisted the House in deciding the question. If they could see the Land Question settled, he believed that the whole of the question of Home Rule would be settled along with it. [A laugh.] That did not seem to meet with the approval of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, but he thought they ought to give the matter a trial. It had frequently been said that the question they had to decide was justice to Ireland, but that was not altogether the case. The question was not alone justice to Ireland. It was almost impossible, from the circumstances of the case, to render justice. the circumstances under which they were surrounded wore those created by past injustice, and when the past in-justice had existed for a certain length of time, that length of time mellowed the injustice No evil could ever be entirely undone If we endeavoured to produce that state of things it would be sure to create a now state of things from which fresh injustice would arise, and 1274 he therefore asked hon. Members when they took up this question to consider it was not only to do justice to Ireland that they wanted, but to see how to do the greatest amount of justice with the least amount of injustice. The question they had before them in solving the Irish problem was how to do that which was best, and at the same time to do as little evil and wrong as they could, He hoped the Motion for urgency would be carried by a large majority, and that they would get a happier subject for discussion, and if that were so, then this Session of Parliament and this Jubilee year of Her Majesty would be signalized by an endeavour to redress some of the evils of the past, and would be a happy omen and augury for the future.
§ MR. LOCKWOOD (York)
said, they had heard a good many reasons for passing a measure of coercion for Ireland; but the hon. Member who had just sat down was entitled to the credit of suggesting an entirely now one—namely, that as this was the Jubilee year, therefore it was a pity there should not be a Coercion Bill.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
said, the ironical expression of the hon. and learned Member for York was not in any sense attributable to himself. He had merely suggested the occasion of the Jubilee year as a reason for passing remedial measures.
§ MR. LOCKWOOD
said, he thought when the hon. Member referred to the Jubilee year, he referred to it in connection with some matter relevant to the subject of debate; but now it appeared that he was referring to it in connection with some matter not relevant to the de-bate, and he appeared to have concealed that fact from the Speaker, or he would have, no doubt, been called to Order. It was, to say the least, an unfortunate expression. The position of the hon. Member, however, was somewhat peculiar. The hon. Member was, as far as he (Mr. Lockwood) could understand, in a somewhat peculiar position. he was, he believed, a Scotch Unionist-Liberal. [An hon. MEMBER: Irish-Scotch.] Well, perhaps he (Mr. Lockwood) had better not inquire too closely what the hon. Member was; but, before leaving the hon. Member, he might say that his hon. Friend seemed not to be quite sure of his position in regard to the Govern- 1275 ment measure, and he (Mr. Lockwood) would advise hon. Gentlemen opposite not just yet to reckon on the hon. Member's support. He appeared to retain an "open mind." He had not seen the Bill; none of them had soon it; and he was not quite sure whether the Government wore going to do an act of justice, or what he called mellowed injustice. His advice to the Government seemed to be—"Try justice; and if that does not do, toy your old mellowed injustice." But with regard to the Bill not yet having been seen, he (Mr. Lockwood) wanted to know whose fault was that? If, when he was moving for urgency, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had laid the Bill upon the Table, hon. Members would have known what it was, and would have been able to make up their minds whether they would support it or not. But he ventured to say that, after all, when the hon. Member (Mr. Sinclair) saw the Bill, he would give his vote against it, and with the Party to which he had once the honour to belong. [Mr. SINCLAIR: And still belong.] The hon. Member made one other observation to which he must allude. He said that to vote for the Motion of urgency would be the easiest and quickest way of getting the Bill before them. But if the Government, and if the Chief Secretary for Ireland knew what the Bill was to be, why, in the name of all that was wonderful, could they not tell the House at once? If they had made up their minds, why could they not say so without any further beating about the bush? The Chief Secretary for Ireland, last night, reproached the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) for having criticized a Bill which he had not seen. Well, of course, he had not seen it, as the Government had not produced it; but he (Mr. Lockwood) ventured to say that the right hon. Gentleman had a much shrewder and more correct idea of what the Coercion Bill would be than the Chief Secretary for Ireland himself had of what was the nature of the remedial measure which the Government promised, and would be forthcoming some day. They had been told that, at the earliest possible moment, information would be placed before the House of the serious condition of Ireland which rendered coercion necessary. Why then, he asked, 1276 did not the Chief Secretary for Ireland last night place before the House the facts, if they were in the possession of the Government, to justify the course which the Government were taking? the Financial Secretary to the War Office sought to justify the course which the Government was taking by calling attention to the Curtin murder; but hon. Members had not yet forgotten the discussion in that House in reference to that unhappy murder, and how it was shown that, though the murder took place before the General Election, not a word was said about it till after the Election was over. If the Curtin murder justified a Coercion Bill, it justified it last November as much as it did now. Reference had also been made to the dispute between Conway and the National League; but he thought it was clear beyond dispute that the local branch of the National League passed a resolution of sympathy and condolence with Conway in respect to the outrage. ["Oh, oh!"] He considered that charges such as had been made against the National League should not be made when the foundation for them was so base as it was in this case. But to return to the question of urgency. He believed that what the Government asked them to do was practically to postpone all legislation in that House, for the purpose of enabling the Government to bring in a measure of coercion against Ireland. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had complained of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, not only for criticizing the unseen Bill, but for not making any suggestions himself for alternative legislation for Ireland. He (Mr. Lockwood) thought that if there was one Member in that House against whom such a charge should not have been made, it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, who was intimately associated with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in the preparation of the Home Rule Bill, which would have given peace and contentment to Ireland by satisfying the national and natural aspirations of the people. There was one other subject to which he (Mr. Lockwood) wished to allude—it was to the speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Inverness Burghs (Mr. Finlay), which was delivered last night. the hon. and 1277 learned Member called the attention of the House to a statement made by Lord Macaulay; and he (Mr. Lockwood) was anxious to see under what circumstances Lord Macaulay had made the statement quoted. He know his hon. and learned Friend sufficiently well to be certain that if he had known the circumstances under which those remarks of Lord Macaulay were made, he would have informed the House of them.
§ It being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood further adjourned till To-morrow.