§ MR. W. O'BRIEN (Cork Co., N.E.)
I have not had the pleasure of listening to this debate; but I have been reading the reports of it attentively in the newspapers, and it seemed to me that, with the honourable exception of the speech of the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Madden), all the speeches of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the speech of their solitary champion on this side of the House, were guided by the key-note struck for them by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary on one of the opening nights of this Session. They all seemed to me to be more or less artfully designed to draw angry retort from these Benches. Unhappily, it is one of our national characteristics that we are a little too quick and hotheaded to resent injustice, and a most generous use you make of your strength to play upon that weakness. The whole policy of the Government in Ireland, and the whole tone and object of their speeches and of their newspapers—and I am sorry to say of those powerful London newspapers that do their work—their 567 whole object seems to be to get at the worst side of the Irish and English character, and to sting and goad us into doing things which would put new life into the national prejudices which are expiring, and expiring in spite of them. Their difficulty is not that the two peoples are disunited; their difficulty and terror is, that they are growing only too united for their purpose. It is a noble ambition; but you failed in Ireland, and you will fail, I promise you, in this House also. There was a time when we came to this House with our hand against every man and every man's hand against us, for we expected no quarter, and to the best of our ability we gave none. There seemed no use or purpose in struggling or reasoning with the tremendous and cruel forces arrayed against us. But that, happily, is now at an end for ever, thanks to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), We come to this House no longer as enemies amongst enemies. We count ourselves no longer Ishmaelites in this House, nor in this land of England either. We come here now amongst allies, who have staked the whole fortunes of their great Party on our cause. We come here amongst friends, too, who have not been afraid or ashamed to stand by our side and by the side of our people in many a bitter hour of trial and calumny last winter. We come here, too, amongst a people whose conscience, as I believe, has been deeply stirred by the sufferings that our unfortunate people have endured and are enduring, and although we are still confronted in this House by a hostile majority, callous to those sufferings, we know that that majority does not represent Scotland nor Wales, and we believe that it does not even represent England. It is a majority that was obtained by foul means and upon representations that have turned out to be utterly false. We know that it is a majority which two years ago were not ashamed to receive their offices at the hands of the very men whom they are now libelling in England and torturing in Ireland. I have no respect for that majority. I doubt whether in their secret hearts any one of themselves has very much respect for them. I know very well they are extremely ill at ease, We believe, as I say, that we are winning, and that the 568 right hon. Gentleman opposite, the (the Chief Secretary, and his Friends have failed in Ireland. He has failed to smash our organization; he has failed to break the spirit of our people; he has failed to defame us—I will not say in the eyes of our own countrymen, for that is absurd, but in the eyes of any honest man in these three Kingdoms; he has failed in every one of the calculations in which he indulged so heartily last autumn when this House trusted him with the tremendous, the terrible powers of this Coercion Act to extirpate and annihilate us. I think I shall prove before I sit down that the doom of failure is written upon every clause and upon every provision of this Act, abject failure and discomfiture and disgrace. I think I shall be able to prove that our people, sorely as they have been tried and sorely as they have been proved and wronged, have managed to survive one of the most horrible Coercion Acts that has ever been directed against human liberty. They have been able to crush and baffle it at every point, and that without one deed that they need look back upon with shame, but with the sheer force of the unconquerable national spirit. Now, Sir, in the first place, I shall try to deal very shortly with my own case, and if I refer to it at all, it is not in order to notice the gross sneers of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell). I do not think it would be, but if it were as Parliamentary as it is true, I would call them malignant sneers. I think it probable that before very long those sneers will be answered in the only way they deserve by the electors of South Tyrone. It is not in order to answer him that I have referred to the question of my own case, but it is because undoubtedly I recognize that I am the very worst "criminal," the very worst Parliamentary ''criminal," who has been convicted under this Act. I am the only one—I believe I can say it—I am the only one of the imprisoned Irish Representatives who could have been proceeded against under the ordinary Common Law with the shadow of a chance of conviction. Every other Colleague of mine who has been convicted has been punished, or is being punished, for new and for statutable offences for which no jury in the world would dream for a moment of criminally imprisoning 569 them under the ordinary law; and the point that I would like to press upon the House is this, that if I can justify my offence in the eyes of every man who thinks more of human nature and human suffering than of Party rights—if I can justify my offence, then I say, a thousand times more forcibly, the conviction of everyone of my Colleagues appears to be an outrage upon justice, and their detention in prison an indelible disgrace to the man who planned to put them there. I find that foul misrepresentation has been resorted to for the purpose of misleading the English public as to the offence for which I was put in prison. Within the last week I have been reading over the papers that were published during my imprisonment, and I was sorry to find that the Head of Her Majesty's Government (the Marquess of Salisbury) was not above stooping to encourage and to lead this attempt most unfairly and untruly to poison the English mind against me. He made a speech at Oxford in which he indulged in a great many flouts and jibes at my own humble expense. Well, I do not complain of that. It is not the first time that he has been accused of indulging in flouts and jibes at the expense of persons with whom he was more intimately allied than he is with me. But here is how this great Nobleman, the Prime Minister of England, describes to an English audience my offence in Ireland. He asks—"What is there in the ease of Mr. O'Brien to excite sympathy, to make him a martyr?" And then he goes on with those very creditable witticisms of his. He says—I do not refer to his small clothes (laughter). Their vicissitudes would furnish a theme for an epic (renewed laughter). I hope an Irish bard will arise worthy of the subject (continued laughter). But taking the man apart from his clothes (roars of laughter)—[Cries of "Oh, oh!" and "Shame I" from Irish and Liberal Benches, and slight tittering from Tories below the Gangway..] I notice now that the laughter does not quite rise into a roar on the opposite side. Of course, as to these remarks, I do not answer them. I only say that, to my mind, they are characterized by more or less good taste; except that the Marquess of Salisbury is such a very great Nobleman, I would be inclined to say with less taste. He then went on to say— 570What is there to excite the sympathy of English Liberals in the cause of Mr. O'Brien, who broke the law, and incited others to break the law? He recommended that men employed by the Crown for the recovery of just debts should be met with violence, and in consequence of that violence some of them have been brought near to death's door. [Cries of "Shame!"] What is there to excite the sympathy of loyal citizens and loyal subjects of England':Now, I shall tell you very briefly the circumstances under which my advice was given to the Mitchelstown tenants, and I shall tell you what are the results of that advice; and I will ask the opinion of any candid man in this House, when he has heard me—I will ask him whether that speech of the Marquess of Salisbury is not calculated to convey to the average Englishman an impression so false, so misleading, that I am afraid I should be obliged to travel beyond the region of Parliamentary epithets to characterize it. On the 2nd of August we had, practically speaking, as far as this House was concerned, passed a Land Act enabling the Mitchelstown tenants—over 1,000 of them who were leaseholders—to have their rents revised in the Land Court. On the 8th of August word reached me that police and soldiers were gathered in Mitchelstown to carry out an eviction campaign, and the effect of that would have been to have prevented and forestalled all the operation of that Land Act on that estate, and, practically speaking, to defeat the intention of Parliament, and to fling those poor people naked upon the world, before the relief which was already actually entering the door could reach them. It was technically legal for the landlord, I admit, for a few days longer. But I hold that if ever there was a crime committed against society, it was the crime that was being attempted, for the day that I went down to Mitchelstown an attempt was already being made to defeat, as I say, the plain and expressed intentions of Parliament, and to plungo this whole community into wretchedness and disorder in order to defeat, by a few days, the operations of a Bill which the landlord well knew would vindicate the position of the tenants, as it has, in fact, since triumphantly done. Well, but what was to be done? If the right hon. Baronet the ex-Member for West Bristol (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) were still the Chief Secretary, at all event?, acting in his early manner, 571 we might still have had some hope that the Queen's troops would not have been the accomplices of an infamy of this sort. The police and Militia were already at their work on the day that I went to Mitchelstown on the appeal of this poor people. I found that evictions had already been actually carried out there on non-residential holdings, and one in the case of a poor widow, where there was no possibility of resistance. Aye, it is the old story in Ireland, they evict without mercy only the weak, who can make no resistance, and they have no scruple about perpetrating wrong when it can be done in the dark. I need not describe the bitter feelings that passed through my mind that day when those poor people—my own constituents—looked to me in the hour of their helplessness and desperation to know what was to be done. They saw the ruin that was coming down upon their homes; there was just one hope, and I defy anybody to point out another. There was just one hope for those poor people in all the world, and it was this. The Northwich Election was pending; it was coming off in a few days, and Irish evictions were an awkward topic for the Tory candidate. The story of Glenbeigh and of Bodyke was beginning to horrify and excite the English mind, and I knew that Tory statesmen would not scruple to lend their troops to perpetrate a wrong if it could be done without commotion; but I knew also, or guessed, at all events, that they would hesitate to do anything that would make them lose the Northwich Election. I had not a moment for consulation with anybody in the world. On my own responsibility, and actually and absolutely on my own responsibility, without consultation with anybody, and on the spur of the moment, there and then, in the open square of Mitchelstown, and in the hearing of a number of policemen, I did tell the people that if, under those special circumstances, those evictions were carried out before the Land Bill, which was just almost law then, should become law, that it would not be a vindication of the law, but it would be an outrageous evasion of the law, and that they would, before all men, be justified in defending their homes by every honest effort in their power. I may have been right, or I may have been wrong; but I have no doubt on the point in my own mind, and I have not 572 been in the least degree inclined to suffer in my conscience in reference to it. I have no doubt that though technically it was illegal for me to save the people, as it would have been legal for the landlord in two days more to ruin them—I dare say, technically speaking, it would be a breach of the law to hold the arm of the executioner, even if you knew and if he knew that a reprieve was actually arriving at the gates. That was precisely the case of these people. A reprieve was coming and the reprieve has come. At all events, whether I was right or wrong in law, the result proved that I did not miscalculate the statesmanship and the morality of the Tory Party. What happened? The moment it became evident that these evictions would not go on without scenes that would ring through England, the eviction campaign was abandoned. The very day that I made that speech at Mitchelstown all was peace for the tenants; not another eviction took place, and Captain Plunkett, who came down to superintend the eviction campaign, remained, I am glad to say, and I am proud to say, remained to turn his energies to getting up a prosecution against me instead. Not a single eviction has taken place from that day to this, not an act of violence was committed. Not a blow was struck, not a hair was injured on the head of a policeman or of a bailiff in consequence of that speech—not one. But it did not end there. And what was the result? That these poor tenants, those thousands of people who but for our action—who but for the action of my friend John Maudeville and myself, would have been beggared and homeless men to-day—those men were enabled to take advantage of the Land Bill such as it was, while we were in prison. A Land Sub-Commission carefully chosen was sent down to the Mitchelstown estate to prophesy against us, and to prove the guilt and the dishonesty of the Plan of Campaign; but for all the gold in the house of Barak they could not do it. These picked Tory officers, two of them convicted rackrenters themselves, were obliged to declare that these poor tenants, who but for us would have been flung mercilessly upon the world by the landlord, were entitled to remain in their homes, and that they are entitled to remain in 573 them at lower terms and at lower rents than had been demanded before. What has happened since? The landlord has actually taken refuge from the judgment of even a Tory Land Commission in the moderation of the Plan of Campaign; and three days ago my hon. Friend and Colleague—and I am proud to call him my hon. Friend and Collegue—the Member for South Tipperary (Mr. John O'Connor) signed, sealed, and delivered a treaty which secured those poor people in their homes as thoroughly as Galteemore is secured in its base. This is the transaction as to which the Marquess of Salisbury is not ashamed to say—He recommended that the men employed by the Crown in the recovery of debt should be met with violence;and in consequence of his recommendation they were met with violence, and scalded, and some of them brought near to death's door. As I have told you, not a single eviction took place after the date of my speech. Not a single act of violence of any kind has taken place in any way upon the estate—not a blow was struck—not the smallest injury was inflicted upon any officer of the law in consequence of that speech; and the most frightful wrong was averted, and those poor people who were being despoiled of everything they had in the world were secured in their houses for evermore. All I can say is that if that transaction, instead of being submitted to a tribunal of Resident Magistrates at Mitcholstown—if that transaction could be submitted to any 12 Englishmen—to any jury of 12 Englishmen from sea to sea—I do not think it is I who would have very much to fear; nor need I have any fears of a guilty conscience in facing those men. I should rather think that if there is anybody to whom the cry of shame applies in the transaction, I should think that if there is anybody who has reason to blush at the name of Mitchelstown, and to remember Mitchelstown, apart altogether from the blood that was shed there, I should think it is not I, but that it is Her Majesty's Government, who had neither the humanity to forbid these evictions nor the courage to persevere in them. They superintended and sanctioned them so long as there was no prospect of resistance; but they abandoned them—they had the 574 cowardice to abandon them—the moment that they threatened to become inconvenient to a Tory candidate; and they had the incredible meanness—the incredible meanness while my hands were bound in prison—to present a story to the English public under a false and untruthful guise in order to reconcile the public to having me treated worse than they would treat any cut-throat for saving my people, for saving my own constituents, from a fate which the law, which the Land Commissioners, and now which everybody on this earth acknowledges would have been most unmerited and a most awful calamity if it had happened. Now, Sir, I will not weary the House, I promise you, by going into all the miserable instances of foul play, the vile acts of indecency that were resorted to against me in the usual way, I might say, for, unfortunately, they are commonplace, every day occurrences in Ireland, under the infamous tribunals that you have set up there, and call them justice. I will not go into that matter; and as to prison treatment, well, I certainly am not going into any recital of the miserable little prison torments and indignities that were employed to give us pain and humiliation, and, what is much more important, to besmirch the character of the Irish Representatives in the eyes of the people of England and elsewhere. I think we can afford to pass these things by. I believe that our opponents are not all so lost to everything that is manly and generous in sentiment as not to feel rather ashamed than very exultant about the right hon. Gentleman's prison exploits. But there is another order of opponents. I am sorry to think that there are men who, while capable of inflicting pain of this description, are capable of deriving a still keener pleasure in seeing that the torments have told and in seeing us smart under their effects. But I shall not gratify them, and I cannot do so, for the simple reason that I do not feel wounded, and I did not feel in the least degraded. I rather suspect that the right hon. Gentleman, under all his jaunty bravery, carries his conscience not quite so easily as appears, or as I do mine. I confess I did feel very keenly when in prison as to a letter which the right hon Gentleman published to a Mr. Armitage, in which, not making any broad and honest charge against me, he conveyed 575 a stealthy and loathsome insinuation, the loathsome insinuation that I sheltered myself under the plea of illness from the enforcement of prison discipline—a statement as to which I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to refer to any one of the three official doctors who examined me, for one tittle, I will not say of foundation, but even of countenance for such an assertion. Here we are now face to face, and I challenge him, in defence of his own character—for it is, after all, his own character that is at stake—I challenge him to appeal to any one of those three officials—one of them the prison doctor, a Protestant gentleman, and the son of a landlord; and the other a member of the Prisons Board; and the third a gentleman whose name even to this hour I do not know—I challenge him to appeal to any single one or to all of these gentlemen, to give the slightest countenance for that infamous imputation. I find I am rather warmer on the subject than I wish to be. I have said that I was angry about that letter while I was in prison; but since I have come out of prison, and have had an opportunity of again reading that letter, I am angry no longer. If I was a much greater man than I am, I confess it would be ample vengeance for me to find that any statesman who had any reputation to lose should have penned such a letter—a letter conveying the most hideous and cowardly imputation upon a man whose mouth was closed; but I must say also that there breathed in every sentence the temper of a beaten and an angry man, and I was going to say of an angry woman, but I do not want to say it, because it would be a gross libel upon that gentle and tender sex to associate it with the production of such a letter as that in such a spirit. I pass that by without further comment. From all I have been able to learn since I left prison, in England I feel that it is no longer necessary for us to defend ourselves in the eyes of the English people, and I believe that there is not a Tory of the fifth or sixth magnitude who really in his heart believes for one instant that we are such poor creatures as to cry out against a mere sentence of imprisonment or its consequences, except those like the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Tyrone, who stated that we attempted to set up a distinction 576 between Members of Parliament and peasants—our comrades, our true patriots, who have been convicted under the Act. Sir, there is not a shadow, not a tittle of foundation for that. We have claimed nothing for ourselves as Members of Parliament that we do not claim equally for every man who is convicted under the Summary Clauses of the Act. If that man is a criminal, there is no reason why he should not be tried before the ordinary tribunals and convicted. No, Sir; we do not ask the poor to make their prison lot harder by making the fight we have had to make in resistance against these prison rules. We made that fight; but if we win, they shall win as well as we. Our position was simply this—and this is the only thing I shall say upon the matter—that you are perfectly welcome to treat us to all the punishments that your Courts of Law judge would have been sufficient for the very vilest crimes in society—the plank bed, bread and water diet, 24 hours of solitary confinement, deprived of books, of writing materials, of visits, and so forth—you are perfectly welcome to heap every material and physical discomfort and privation upon us, if that is your generous and chivalrous treatment of political prisoners. You will never hear a murmur or a word of complaint from our lips if you stick to that; but the moment you go further, and not only treat us as badly as the worst criminals in society—when you go further and try to subject us to moral torture from which criminals are altogether exempt—when you ask us to make open and active and voluntary acknowledgment of our kinship and equality with criminals, then we say, no; we will die first. And you will have to learn the definition between your criminal classes and Irish political prisoners, even if you have to fall back on the Coroner's jury and their verdict to ascertain that distinction. I will say nothing more about it. I will pass on to the results; and I will only say that if anybody has reason to blush for them, I do not think it is we. I hope I am not detaining the House. If I am, the only excuse I can plead is that I do not think I shall have an opportunity very soon of claiming their attention; but I should like to ask before I sit down—where is all this to end? What object is accomplished by 577 it? If this is to go on for ever and for ever, what object can it ever possibly accomplish except misery to a weak people and worry and eternal shame to yourselves? Is the object of the right hon. Gentleman to convert the Irish people, or is it to dragoon them—to dragoon them out of aspirations which are as deeply lodged in the hearts of 1,000,000 men as the blood in their veins? Does the right hon. Gentleman in his wildest hour imagine that he has made one single convert throughout the length and breadth of Ireland by his conduct? I suppose the right hon. Gentleman will reply by-and-bye. Even to take it on the lower and meaner sphere of brute force, I ask him can he name as much as one single village club which he has effectually stamped out? Can he produce one single man from our ranks whom he has really frightened as the result of all the terrific powers which he has been wielding in Ireland during the last six months? I put it to hon. Gentleman opposite to remember with what shouts and what exultation they passed this Crimes Act with which to trample over us. I can remember well the yell of delight with which they hailed the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—I think it was—that this was to be a duel to the death between the National League and the Government, and they accepted the challenge. Well, are you satisfied with the results? I put it to hon. Gentlemen candidly, would they have yelled so loudly last autumn if they could have foreseen that the results of the most stringent Coercion Act, and the most unchecked powers that ever a despot was armed with, would have been so meagre, so ignominious, and so miserable? Did you or did you not expect that it would suppress or crush the National League? Hon. Gentlemen are silent now. I remember well the shout of derision that came from the opposite side of the House when I ventured to intimate a doubt whether the Act—terrific as it looked— would succeed in crushing the Plan of Campaign. Has the Plan of Campaign been crushed, or even crippled? Ask the deputation of Irish landlords who waited on Lord Salisbury the other day with a bagging letter. Ask them how many of them would be willing to try a fall with the Plan of Campaign tomorrow. The fact is the Plau of Cam- 578 paign has never had so uniform and unbroken a course of victories as it has had during the last six months. The greatest number of the important struggles in which we were engaged when this Act was passed have been brought to a victorious conclusion under the very mouths of the right hon. Gentleman's guns. And upon what terms? I could keep you an hour giving instances of the results; but this I say—that the one thing that applies to them all is, that in every single instance at least the original demands of the tenants have been conceded, every evicted tenant has been reinstated, and every shilling of law costs incurred in the struggle has been borne as an indemnity by the landlords. Surely the landlords could have done as well as that, or better, without any Crimes Act at all. I will just give one or two instances of the right hon. Gentleman's administration in Ireland. I will just take the case of Lord De Freyne, in County Roscommon. Just as this Act was passing, Lord De Freyne's agent, Mr. MacDougall, wrote this letter—Spot the men in your district who are able to pay rent and will not. We will see, now that the Coercion Bill has become law, whether we will not make them honest men.It turned out that the dishonest men were Mr. MacDougall and his master. Mr. MacDougall had confidence in the Crimes Bill and in the right hon. Gentleman last autumn. Where is Mr. MacDougall to-day? He is gone—he is dismissed, and everything that the tenants were then demanding has been conceded. It was the very day after I came out of prison that I learnt that the new agent had had an interview with two of the most prominent of the Campaigners on the estate, and that he not only agreed to the tenants' terms, but that he agreed to refund a sum of over £1,700 which Mr. MacDougall had dishonestly extorted from them on a portion of the estate before the Plan of Campaign was started. This money was wrung from the tenants by sheer terrorism, by serving 150 writs of ejectment against the tenants before they had the protection of the Plan of Campaign; and now, such is the force of the Plan, with the Crimes Act in full vigour, that this landlord has not only been obliged to concede the tenants' terms, but he has been obliged to disgorge the money that 579 was unjustly and dishonestly wrung from these poor people while they were defenceless, and he has been obliged to pay every shilling of the costs of 150 ejectments. Now, Sir, that is Lord De Freyne's impartial opinion as to how the cat is jumping as between the Crimes Act and the Plan of Campaign after six months. Now, I will quote another instance, the famous—or rather infamous—estate management of Bodyke, where the proceedings last summer horrified England, and for which Her Majesty's Government provided no remedy whatever. What is the result? Last year Colonel O'Callaghan, one of the most hardened rack-renters—and one of the most desperate fighting men besides in Ireland— refused to accept £970 to cover one and a-half year's rent of 57 tenants. He has now accepted £ 1,000 to wipe off two years rent of 72 tenants, after incurring some £500 in legal expenses. That is to say, after losing all his money, and after costing the British taxpayers over £1,000 for expenses for his evictions, he has now come to the conclusion— and he is one of the most desperate of rack-renters—that the Crimes Act is "no go," and he has struck his flag to the Plan of Campaign upon far worse terms to him than he would have got before the Crimes Act was passed. Only this very day a letter came to my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) from the principal man who stood almost between the living and the dead on that estate—the Rev. Peter Murphy. The Rev. Father says—My dear Mr. Dillon—A thousand thanks for cheque. You have acted nobly by us, and we have every reason to thank and be grateful to you. What pleases me most of all is that our victory over Colonel O'Callaghan is complete, and approved by all who understand the matter fully. He did his utmost to get the tenants to purchase, and he would, I think, sell on any terms rather than yield to the Plan, but we absolutely refused to purchase as long as the rope remained around our necks. We would not entertain the idea of purchase at all until restored to the holdings, and free as the mountain air to meet on equal terms. The next gale is not to be asked until the end of June; reductions conceded to the different degrees of poverty were 15 per cent upwards to 25, 30, and 40. The cost of evictions were £450, and the other costs in legal proceedings were at least £150. He said he should pay the agent £50 out of the £1,000 given him, and that he was paying 5 per cent for moneys borrowed besides. I have received a very great number 580 of letters congratulating us on our success. We have succeeded wonderfully, thank God and all our friends, and you amongst them.This is the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has beaten the power of the Plan of Campaign. These poor tenants have won in spite of him, not merely by adhering to that Plan of Campaign. What other lesson has he taught them? The tenants have won, and every man who was evicted retook possession of his holding in defiance of the Crimes Act, and has held on his holding ever since. The other lesson the right hon. Gentleman—this triumphant Cromwell—has taught them is this—that, thanks to their own pluck, and not to the right hon. Gentleman's mercy, they are more secure in their homes to-day than the right hon. Gentleman is in his tenancy of the Treasury Bench. It is the same way with every estate we have had to deal with. I am at this moment officially aware that on several estates where that struggle is still proceeding the landlords are basing their hopes, and are opening their negotiations, not with the right hon. Gentleman or Dublin Castle, but with the man who sits there—my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo—and with other members of this criminal and illegal conspiracy—a conspiracy on whose dishonesty we have heard so many homilies from right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Why, I sometimes wonder that the homilies they address to us and to our suffering people upon the violation of the Ten Commandments do not blister the lips that utter them. This dishonest conspiracy! No Land Court that has ever revised their demands has been able to pronounce them to be other than most just and moderate. My hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) mentioned the other night that there were only three really great estates in Ireland on which the landlords are offering any resistance. One of them is the Brooke estate, in the County Wexford, where the agent—Captain Hamilton— is an Emergency man by profession. The second is Lord Massereene's property, in the County Louth, where the agents also are Emergency men by profession; and the third is the estate of Lord Clanricarde. It must be a proud thing for Englishmen to know that on the last property the right hon. Gentleman is exercising one of the most abominable systems of petty persecution that 581 ever was practised, in order to strike down the defences of these poor people, to smother their voices, and to tie their hands in their struggle with a man who in the Queen's own Law Courts has been branded as a monster of cruelty and avarice. I will only say that I wish Her Majesty's Government joy of all the credit that they will get out of their holy alliance with Lord Clanricarde; and I wish Lord Clanricarde joy of all the rents he will get out of his tenants. The fact of it is—there is no use in blinking it—that instead of overthrowing the Plan of Campaign, the right hon. Gentleman has only made it more secure and more irresistible by driving us to do our business with less publicity. The machinery of the Plan has now been perfected to such a degree that we find that one single Campaign estate is sufficient to keep the peace of the whole community—aye, and to settle the rents of a whole community more satisfactorily and more honestly than an army of Land Commissioners. We find that that is the consequence, and I will tell you why; it is a very simple reason—because the penalties of such a struggle as theirs are so heavy that they are enough to intimidate any tenantry from putting forward an unjust demand, and they are also sufficiently great to terrify all landlords from refusing a just demand. It may be a rough-and-ready method—and no doubt it is—but it has succeeded. What is the result? In 99 cases out of 100 throughout last winter it succeeded without any struggle at all, and to refute this we challenge those who talk about the immorality and dishonesty, or the criminality, of the Plan of Campaign. We challenge them—and I challenge the right hon. Gentleman— and he will have an opportunity of forcing my words down my throat if I am wrong—to name any single deed of outrage or of crime that is traceable to the Plan of Campaign from end to end of Ireland. I challenge you to name any one case in which the demands we have put forward have been declared by any judicial tribunal or Land Commission in the country to be dishonest, exaggerated, or exorbitant; and I challenge you to adduce to the House any one single case in which the right hon. Gentleman has succeeded—with all his powers and all his terrors—in breaking 582 up a combination once formed on an estate. I think his is not a very victorious record so far as the Plan of Campaign is concerned. Remember always that the Plan of Campaign is the merest segment of the Irish difficulty. It is a mere rough-and-ready way to cure the blunders of your legislation, and to cure your folly in not closing with the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork. My hon. Friend, myself, and others are the mere Uhlans and vedettes to the army of millions of Irishmen who take rank under the standard of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork. Now as to the National League. Let me for a moment examine the statements of the right hon. Gentleman. We heard it stated over and over again in the most portentous accents in this House that the authority of the National League and that of Her Majesty's Government could not co-exist in Ireland—that either one or the other must pack up and go. What has all this tall talk come to? Is the National League gone? Does it show the slightest signs of going? There are 1,800 branches of the National League in Ireland. [Cries of "More !"] There are rather more, because the Government has added more branches by its suppressing action. No more than 230 branches have ever been nominally grappled with. There are 1,500 branches, something like five sixths of the whole organization—on which not a finger has been laid. Why? Is it because the right hon. Gentleman has conceived a certain affection for the National League? Is it because the branches are declining in power, or have altered or abated their principles one jot in terror of this Act of Parliament? No; it is because the Government have made such a disastrous and. grotesque mess in attempting to suppress 200 branches that they dared not face the ridicule—the colossal collapse—that would result from any attempt to grapple with, or crush, the whole of the organization. Everyone who knows the suppressed counties of Kerry, Clare, and my own county, knows that the branches hold their meetings just as usual, under the noses of the police. We know by the figures and the cash that come in that the subscriptions, instead of falling off, have increased. The resolutions of the League are passed in the usual way, and, I can tell you, they are regarded 583 with more sacredness and efficacy than usual by the whole community. I have told you that the branch meetings are being held. I will read an extract from a branch report in United Ireland the week before last—one of these suppressed branches which have, according to the local policeman, disappeared from view. It says—A large representative meeting was held on Monday, Mr. George Pomeroy in the chair.No concealment of names—Balloting for officers and committee took place with the following result, after a most vigorous competition for offices, the only emolument for which will probably be a couple of months in gaol—J. O'Callan, 60 votes; G. Pomeroy, 58; S. O'Keefe, 56; D. Hanlon, 50; O'Leary, 60; Power, 44; FitzPatrick, 47," and so on. "The first five are elected.Mark you, there was a most vigorous competition and close voting for office, the only emolument of which, as the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland knows well enough in his heart, will probably be a couple of months on a plank bed. This is how the majesty of the right hon. Gentleman affects the people of Ireland. There is no disguising the fact that the whole of your suppressive machinery—the whole machinery for effectually suppressing the National League—has become inoperative and has totally broken down, and for a very simple reason—that Act was conceived and drafted upon the theory that you were dealing with a people who were only pining to be delivered from the terror of the National League; whereas you find to your cost that you. are dealing with a people who are the League themselves—who are ready to guard it with their lives, and who will undergo any amount of persecution, torture, or privation, rather than betray or forsake it. The whole of your Act depended upon the 1st clause—the power to elicit secret evidence. That is a very effective piece of machinery. Why do you not put your power of Secret Inquiry Clauses into force for the purpose of suppressing the branches of the National League? Why? Because you know you would have to send thousands of people to gaol who would rather go there than let you wring one tittle of information out of them. Your only other source is informers—and it is our proudest boast that with an organization numbering upwards of 500,000 men up to this time 584 you have not been able to bring a single informer into the market, though no doubt the market price of the article was never higher. I want the right hon. Gentleman to tell us here to-night what he has got by all his wild and vicious lunges against the Irish people. I have no patience with talking of "crime in Ireland" outside Kerry. The Moonlighters and the Government have had Kerry to themselves for the last five or six years. We could only stand by. Between them be it, and let them divide the honours. The right hon. Gentleman tells us, indeed, that the number of persons partially Boycotted has decreased. Well, I do not know what local policeman may be pleased to call "persons partially Boycotted." I am very sure, however, that the list would go up or down according to the requirements of the Government. The real test is this—let the right hon. Gentleman give us a list of the land-grabbers who have taken farms; and let him give us a list—and I only wish he would—of the land-grabbers who, even since this Act has been in force, have dropped their neighbour's goods, like hot potatoes. Boycotting? I say that, so far as unjust or wicked Boycotting is concerned, I claim that more has been done to suppress it and put it down by my hon. Friend the Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin—the Secretary of the National League (Mr. T. C. Harrington)—than the right hon. Gentleman could do in a century. I shall always, as long as I live, hold that there is a perfect right in the community to exercise its legitimate influence on men who, for their own base and greedy purposes, are the pests of society. I admit that there are two classes of victims at the right hon. Gentleman's mercy—public speakers and public newspapers. Public speeches are the merest appendages of our organizations; and why are public speakers at his mercy? Simply and solely because we refuse to be driven away from our free right of public meeting, but choose to assert it, as Mr. Wilfrid Blunt tried to assert it at Loughrea, by the light of day. If we chose to go about and deliver our speeches in private, we should run a coach and four through every provision of this Act with the most absolute impunity. My hon. Friends the Members for East Clare (Mr. Cox) and West 585 Cork (Mr. Gilhooly) were for months and months engaged in the business of the Plan of Campaign, and my hon. Friend the Member for South Galway (Mr. Sheehy). It is not the least secret, for we have no secrets that we are afraid to have known. [An hon. MEMBER: Oh, oh!] I only hope that that hon. Gentleman who said "Oh!"— [An hon. MEMBER: Rochester.]—Certainly. They have actually been for months on the business of the Plan of Campaign, even with warrants over their heads for speeches that they delivered to the people. Again, perhaps, I may be giving the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary a tip, but I do not object to it a bit. Talk of me in connection with Mitchelstown ! My hon. Friend the Member for South Tipperary (Mr. John O'Connor) was a far and away more formidable person than I was in the Plan of Campaign organization on the Mitchelstown estate. But because he happened to be a man of few words, he will be voting with us in the Lobby to-morrow night instead of reposing on a plank bed in Tullamore, as he would if he had spoken out his mind at the market cross. I do not mind telling it—and he will not mind it either, now that his work is done, and done victoriously. Then about the right hon. Gentleman's glorious newspaper war. I will not say a good deal— though I might—about the meanness of this policy of subjecting journalists to a bread and water diet for the simple offence that they recorded the right hon. Gentleman's failure from week to week. That is the sting of their offence—because these meetings are hold—because the meetings are held in spite of him and the Government. He might as well issue a Proclamation suppressing the sun in the heavens, and then go about smashing the faces of the sun-dials for recording the fact that the sun was shining and moving on in its usual way in spite of him. Worse still is this miserable guerilla war on the newsvendors and the bullying and intimidating of their wives and their little children. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary might have remarked that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), who sits next to him, is a person who in former years might so easily have come under that same category. The right 586 hon. Gentleman sold United Ireland in its day. I make no reproach to him, for he was an extremely good customer. If he had not parted with his Irish business as he did in a most timely manner in view of subsequent legislation of this Government, the right hon. Gentleman would be liable, at this moment, to three months on a plank bed, for having for six months sold the paper. I hope that chivalry has not so died out of the human breast as that you will resent for the Leader of the House of Commons what you condone in the case of a miserable shopkeeper of Killarney. But what I want to emphasize is my own knowledge of that policy, and its absolute and downright failure even against even so eminently vulnerable and punishable a sort of property as we know a newspaper is. The right hon. Gentleman has not succeeded in burying one single newspaper report. He has not daunted a single newspaper, and I promise you that he never will even if he proceeds from the editors to the printers, and from the printers to the printers' devils, as he probably will do. There is absolutely only one redeeming feature of the right hon. Gentleman's policy in Ireland, and that is its colossal and monumental failure; and that is the one thing that softens the minds and hearts of the Irish people against the deeds and atrocities he has committed against them. Within the last few weeks—probably in view of the sitting of Parliament—the right hon. Gentleman has made a more prodigious show of energy than ever, striking out right, left, and centre, outraging the feelings of the Irish people, and insulting and maltreating men of honour and courage. Notwithstanding that for the last few weeks he has been more wild and desperate than ever, the feeling against the right hon. Gentleman in Ireland has been steadily settling down from a passionate and almost uncontrollable sense of indignation to a feeling not quite flattering to the right hon. Gentleman's vanity—though perfectly reassuring to his friends who surround him with detectives—a feeling—well, I will not more particularly describe it than say that the hon. Member for Cork very aptly illustrated it the other night by the apologue of the lion and the cat. We feel that we have taken the right hon. Gentleman's measure now in Ireland, and are 587 a match for him. We feel that he has failed, and that with the amount of public spirit—the unparalleled amount of public spirit—and the most wonderful spirit of self-sacrifice that he has raised in Ireland, he will go on failing as long as grass grows and water runs. We believe—and it goes a great way to tranquillize the Irish mind—that he has done much to advance the Irish cause by awakening the consciences of Englishmen, by uniting the two peoples together in common human sympathy, and in common abhorrence of the brutal and cruelsystem of terrorism which, I must do him the justice to say, he is courageously and quite logically, though I do not think very prudently, exhibiting in full working order in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) a short time ago, in a speech at Hastings, claimed that at all events the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had held his own in Ireland. Well, that is rather a meek and unassuming boast, considering the high and swelling boasts we heard from the same lips in the palmy days of last Session. Has the right hon. Gentleman even held his own? I venture to say he has demoralized every department of his own Irish Government and every class of his own officials. There is not an office in Dublin Castle at this moment that is not subjected to as much espionage and as many precautions against betrayal as if it were the Palace of the Czar. The right hon. Gentleman has the distinction of having developed an entirely new department of the Irish difficulty among Her Majesty's soldiers. When my friend Mandeville and myself were hurried away in a special train in the middle of the night to Tullamore I felt it rather keenly; but I was considerably consoled when I learned that the next use the right hon. Gentleman had to make of special trains was to ship Her Majesty's soldiers away from Tullamore for cheering Mandeville and myself. Do not let them ride off upon the statement that these were mere Irish soldiers. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: They were Irish soldiers.] Some of them were so, no doubt; but there was a Scottish regiment there, a regiment of his own countrymen, the Scottish Fusiliers, and by some unhappy accident they also had to be driven away by 588 special train for some awkward manifestations at Mitchelstown. The right hon. Gentleman had to employ police patrols to watch the prison officials. [" Hear, hear ! "] Yes; the police patrol in Tullamore gaol was not between the outer world and me, but between me and the gaol officials, and not only that, but to my own knowledge—the right hon. Gentleman cannot even count on the Royal Irish Constabulary—to my own knowledge he had to employ policemen to watch policemen. That is what the right hon. Gentleman calls "holding his own in Ireland." He has done one thing, and really now I remember it is about the only thing he succeeded in, and he botched that, or nearly succeeded in doing so—kicking about a number of bonfires that were lighted through Ireland on the occasion of our release. He did that in many instances, and had the heads opened of the miscreants who lit bonfires and who cheered for us, and for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. He succeeded in that, and I cannot help thinking that that exploit most aptly sympathizes and sums up his whole successes in Ireland. He has kicked out a few bonfires of Irish Nationality, but the spirit that lighted them is beyond his power. It still lives, and it will still burn when the memory of his unhappy time in Ireland will be a mere speck in the dark clouds of misgovernment that are passing away into a forgotten and forgiven past. Well, but the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends plead for a little more time. His noble Uncle—his noble Relative— says that though it may not be convenient at this moment to submit to the English constituencies the judgment upon his policy in Ireland, that you have only to give him a little more time for the triumph of coercion, and for the annihilation of the power of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). Aye, a little more time. My hon. Friend the other night reminded the House that the right hon. Gentleman was not the first Chief Secretary who signalized himself by experiments at Tullamore. The late Mr. Forster—and I do not recall the circumstances for the purpose of insulting his memory—the late Mr. Forster went down to Tullamore and addressed the people from the hotel windows, under the protection of a regiment of 589 police, and he came back to this House, and there are many men in this House who can still remember the triumphant account he gave of his experiences at Tullamore, and the pathetic, the tragic sincerity with which he assured this House that he was winning, that the people were with him, and that the followers of my hon. Friend were a mere pack of broken men and reckless boys. If they only gave him a little more time, said Mr. Forster, for his policy in Ireland, it would make his triumph clear. That was seven years ago. Does the wildest man in this House imagine that the second experiment at Tullamore is going to be more successful? Do any of the right hon. Gentleman's best friends claim that he is a better man or a braver man than Mr. Forster, or that he is the deeper statesman of the two? No, Sir; the right hon. Gentleman is, no doubt, in a position to inflict misery upon our people—misery and untold suffering. I do not deny it. It is no child's play for us, and I daresay there is no man's health entirely the same after enduring what some of my poor friends are enduring to-night; and we have to face not one spell of imprisonment alone, but imprisonment all the time and all our lives as long as we have the power or strength to fight him, or as long as the right hon. Gentleman has power to kidnap us away from this House and consign us to prison. We do not dispute his power that way. We acknowledge that the more sufferings in prison are only a part, and a very small part, of the frightful sufferings, calamities, and troubles which the right hon. Gentleman is bringing upon many an humble family in Ireland. A brutal persecution is going on at the hands of every village constable—every brutal constable who has a quarrel with the people. There is a state of uncertainty, confusion, injustice, and ruin to the business of the country, and it is a most burning shame that such an ordeal should be inflicted on people whose only crime is that they desire to live in peace, and rule in happiness in their own land. The strain is sometimes almost intolerable; but the Irish people, you may depend upon it, will bear that strain. We have now tested the right hon. Gentleman's strength and our own, and we are not cowed—wo are not disheartened. We are not even 590 embittered. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) has accomplished within two years what 700 years of coercion have not accomplished, and what 700 years more of coercion will leave unaccomplished still. He has knitted the hearts of the two peoples; he has knitted them by a more sacred and enduring bond than a bond of terror and of brute force. He has done that, and our quarrel with England, our bitterness towards England has gone, and it will be your fault, it will be your crime, if it ever returns— a crime for which history will stigmatize you for ever. We, at all events, are not the Disruptionists. It is you who are the Disruptionists, the Exasperationists, and the Separatists. We have never made a disguise of our feelings in this House, and we never will. We do not play the diplomat in the same manner as the Tory Government do out of Office. We say what we mean. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley), and many another good Friend beside him, have been over in Ireland this winter, and they can tell you that whenever the name of England is uttered now in an Irish crowd, it is uttered no longer with hatred. it is uttered with hope—aye, it is uttered with gratitude to those awakening British masses, those honest British toilers who have never authorized this policy of barbaric brutality in Ireland. They never have, and we believe they never will. We believe in them, and we are content to wait. You are the Separatists to-day. We are for peace and for the happiness and for the brotherhood of the two nations. If you are for eternal repression and eternal discord and eternal misery for you as well as for us, we are for appeasing the dark passions of the past. You are for inflaming them, whether for purposes of a political character I do not care to name; but at the best for purposes and in the interest of that wretched clan of landlord Mamelukes whom you support in Ireland, who are neither good Englishman nor good Irishmen, and who have been your evil genius, just as they have been the scourge of our unhappy race. That is the state of things, and in such a cause and with such forces as these I believe the end is not far off, and to the God of justice, of truth, and of mercy we leave the issue. As far as 591 we ourselves are concerned, we shall be amply compensated for what we have suffered or what we may have to suffer yet in our grand old cause. We shall be amply compensated if we should be destined, as I hope, please God, we may, to be the last of the long and mournful list of men who have had to fight and suffer for it, and believe me upon the day of our victory we will grant an easy amnesty to the right lion. Gentleman opposite for our little troubles at Tullamore, and we will bless his policy yet as one of the most powerful, though unconscious, instruments in the delivery of our country.
§ MR. FINLAY (Inverness, &c.)
(who rose amid loud cries of "Balfour," which that right hon. Gentleman declined to notice) said, the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. W. O'Brien") had in his eloquent speech dealt largely with personal matters, and he (Mr. Finlay) thought there were few hon. Members who thought his speech too long; but at the same time he believed it was the general sense of the House and the country that the debate on the Amendment had lasted quite long enough, and that it was time they should as speedily as possible proceed to the Business of the Session. As far as he was concerned, he certainly should be extremely concise in his remarks. The hon. Member (Mr. W. O'Brien), towards the close of his speech, charged the Unionist Party in that House with inflaming the passions and animosities in Ireland that were now in a fair way to die out. He (Mr. Finlay) was not aware of any section of the Unionist Party against which that charge could justly be made. It had ever been the ambition of the Unionist Party to see that equal justice was done throughout Ireland, to appease those animosities which were the relics of past misgovernment and past misfortune, and to heal those wounds which still, it was plain, occasioned so much bitterness. But they believed that in a country so divided as Ireland equal justice might best be had in the Imperial Parliament. Divided as Ireland was, they protested against a proposal to hand over one part of the country to the domination of another. The hon. Member for North-East Cork assured them that all bitterness on the part of his friends towards England was gone, and that the national prejudices which had raged in the past were expiring. He 592 (Mr. Finlay) confessed he thought the House would have listened with more pleasure to that declaration if it had not the opportunity of comparing it with speeches made elsewhere by Members of the Nationalist Party. What he said with regard to hon. Members below the Gangway was that the Party which they so ably represented had three voices. There was one voice that was heard in the House of Commons and on English and Scottish platforms; another, and a somewhat louder voice, was heard in Ireland; but if they wanted to get at the real springs of this movement they must listen to the voice used on the American, platform. The speech of the hon. Gentleman was largely devoted to prove that the Crimes Act of last Session was a failure, and that the policy of the Chief Secretary had collapsed. For that purpose the hon. Gentleman went into a large number of cases, leading up to the conclusion that the Crimes Act was impotent, and that the policy of Coercion, as he called it, had failed, and must fail. He (Mr. Finlay) did not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman into these particular instances, and he thought it would be a waste of the time of the House to do so. But if he wanted any proof of the fact that the Crimes Act had not been a failure, he found it in the intense bitterness with which the hon. Gentleman spoke of it. If the Crimes Act was not at work, and if it was not leading on to the result which was dreaded by hon. Members below the Gangway, why all this animosity when the hon. Gentleman spoke of the Chief Secretary and the legislation he had been carrying out? He (Mr. Finlay) confessed that some remarks made by the hon. Member suggested to his mind the inquiry whether the Irish sense of humour, of which they used to hear so much, was altogether extinct. The hon. Member spoke of the Act of last Session, the provisions of which were tolerably familiar to the House now, as being the most horrible Coercion Act ever enacted against human liberty. He (Mr. Finlay) would appeal to the House whether there was not an extravagance about that declaration which seemed to show that the hon. Gentleman who made it had for a time forgot the humorous aspect that such a statement must assume? The hon. Member was loudly cheered by the right hon. Gentleman 593 the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). He (Mr. Finlay) wondered whether that right hon. Gentleman had entirely forgotten the Act of 1882. Was the present Act a bit more horrible or stern than the Act of 1882, and did either of these Acts deserve, or could they reasonably be stigmatized as the most horrible Act ever enacted against human liberty? He did not consider that it was the function of that House to sit as a Court of Appeal from sentences of Courts of Law. There had been an increasing tendency of late to bring up decisions of the Law Courts for revision here, and he thought those who tried to impose upon the House functions for which it was unsuited, and which it could not properly discharge, were not the true friends of the House, and its legitimate influence in its proper sphere. He did not propose to go into the question of the justice or injustice of the conviction of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. O'Brien), but he would just remind the House that the hon. Gentleman himself avowed in his place in the House that he recommended the tenants on a particular estate to resist by all means—by force, if necessary—the process of the law. He (Mr. Finlay) appealed to the House whether action of that kind could be tolerated in any civilized country? If the law was harsh, amend it; but if any hon. Gentleman was to be allowed to stand up and be cheered by an influential Party in that House when saying that he had advised men to resist the law by force—[Cries of "No, no!"]
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
was understood to contradict the hon. and learned Gentleman, and to say that the hon. Member for North East-Cork had said he advised resistance by all honest means.
§ MR. FINLAY
, proceeding, said, he could not be deaf to the interruption that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. O'Brien) did not say he recommended the tenants to resist the process of the law by force. He was in the recollection of the House, and if the- words of the hon. Member did not convey that idea, he did not know what the English language meant.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
I did not say by force, but I am bound to admit that I did say by every honest means in their power, whatever that would import.
§ MR. F1NLAY
said, he must really have the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian and the hon. Member for North-East Cork to settle their little difference between them.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
As the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to me, and has said that the hon. Member for North-East Cork had recommended resistance by force—
As the hon. and learned Member appeals to me, I must say that when he said the hon. Member for North-East Cork had recommended resistance and that he was cheered by a large Party in this House, I must state that the hon. Member for North-East Cork said in my hearing that he recommended resistance by every honest means. These are precisely the words which the hon. Member for North-East Cork used.
§ MR. FINLAY
Whatever the exact words of the hon. Member might have been, if he (Mr. Finlay) understood him, he had just stated that he recommended resistance by every honest means, and that he meant to include the use of force if necessary. He would now shortly give his reasons for not being able to support the Amendment. The first portion of that Amendment he confessed he had read with some satisfaction, because it referred in flattering terms to the character of the ameliorative legislation with regard to Irish tenants on which the House occupied so large a part of last Session. It was gratifying to know that that legislation had and was having a beneficial tendency. But he could not shut his eyes to the fact that that was introduced merely by way of preface to an attack upon the other part of the legislation of last Session, which was concerned with the repression of crime; and the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) invited the House to come to a Resolution which would express its conviction that the legislation of last Session was a failure. He could not imagine that the hon. Member seriously thought that any considerable section of the House would be guilty of such political ineptitude as to abruptly change the course which upon full reflection they 595 adopted upon Irish matters. The curse of all our dealings with Ireland had been a want of continuity of policy. Ireland had been made the plaything of English Parties. They had dealt with Ireland in too many cases—not for the benefit of the country itself, not for the benefit of the United Kingdom, of which Ireland was a part, and with whose interests its own were inseparably connected, but in the interests, real or supposed, of one of our great political Parties. Those unfortunate tactics reached their climax when the great surrender of 1886 was made. That great surrender had the effect of breaking up the Liberal Party. But he thought it had also this effect—that it had roused the country upon that point, and that the country had been led to come to the determination that Ireland should no longer be used as a piece in the warfare of Parties, but that there should be something like continuity of policy in our dealings with that country, and that our Irish policy should be governed by the necessities of that country and by the necessities of the United Kingdom, and not by the exigencies of Party warfare. The redress of grievances was no doubt a great thing, and the Act of last Session conferred enormous boons upon the Irish tenants; but the maintenance of law and order was just as essential for the prosperity of the country. The House enacted last Session a Crimes Act which was permanent. That was to say, it remained law, and remained in force, until it was repealed like any other Act. To his mind, that appeared to be, and was, one of the best features of the measure. It signally distinguished it from those intermittent attempts at the maintenance of law in Ireland which had hitherto failed—very largely because they were not continuous. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who was now very much engaged upon the arduous task of endeavouring to give effect to that legislation, that he might count upon the loyal support of the Liberal Unionist Party to that end. It was not without consideration that the Liberal Unionists concurred in the legislation of last Session; and that legislation, now standing on the Statute Book, they were resolved should have a full and fair trial. But, to his mind, they were not merely engaged in the maintenance of law and 596 order in the ordinary sense of the word, but they were engaged in a conflict to which they (the Liberal Unionists) were called by every Liberal principle that was worthy of the name. What hon. Members below the Gangway were fighting for, and what so embittered them against the Crimes Act of last Session, was this—they were struggling for liberty to coerce others. He did not at all deny that there was a large element in Ireland that was disaffected at the present time; but there was also a very large portion of the population that was loyalist, and there was a still larger portion ready to be on the winning side— one way or other—which up to that time had been coerced by the National League, but which was ready to declare its sentiments when the pressure under which it had suffered up to this time was removed. They were face to face, not with mere sporadic disorder, but with an organized conspiracy to substitute the law of the League for the law of the land. That was the situation, and that situation must be dealt with. But, surely, if there was one principle of Liberalism clearer than another, it was that there ought to be liberty for every man to form and to express his own opinions, to choose his own associates, to sell his goods to whom he would, and to take on lease, if he liked, any land that was in the market. To all liberty of that sort the National League was the declared and avowed foe, and they were fighting for liberty to coerce their fellow-countrymen in the enjoyment of the freedom which on every principle of Liberalism they ought to enjoy. They had in their hands a tremendous weapon—the weapon of Boycotting. Boycotting was not exclusive dealing. It was nothing like it. The difference was pointed out with overwhelming force only five years ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian himself, and he (Mr. Finlay) apprehended it had not changed its nature since then. He also apprehended that, if there was any change, it must be in the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman. The object of this legislation was to break down this tyranny; and in the struggle with the National League he apprehended that the Government were entitled to the support of every true Liberal in the House who valued Constitutional liberty. Various 597 charges had been made against the Liberal Unionists in this matter. They were told that they were associating with Conservatives, and that no crime could be deeper. Well, he was not very careful to answer in that matter. He apprehended it had ever been one of the honourable traditions of English political life that, when a foreign danger threatened, Party differences were sunk for the common welfare of the common country. They were now face to face with a domestic danger greater than many a foreign war had occasioned, and he considered that every honourable tradition of English political life called upon men, in a crisis such as this, to sink considerations of Party—to vote as they believed the welfare of their country demanded. They were told that legislation of this kind was inconsistent with representative government. So far from being inconsistent with it, he believed it was a necessary complement of the extension of the franchise in Ireland. Surely the first principle of Liberalism was that the electors, in whoso hands the franchise was put, should be at liberty to exercise it freely according to their own judgment, and that House was bound to see that such measures were taken as would enable the House and the country to hear what was the true voice of the people of Ireland. They would never hear that true voice so long as an organization existed the purpose and the effect of which was to make the machinery of the polling booth and of the ballot box merely efficacious in registering the decrees of the branches of the National League. They were told that the Government ought to be engaged in conferring local government upon Ireland. He would ask the House whether an extension of the powers of local government to Boards chosen throughout the country would be likely to be a blessing or a curse so long as the organization of the League was in force, and so long as it was at liberty to use the weapon of Boycotting, which it was known to use with such terrible effect? But he would like to read what was said on this question of local government by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) at Inverness, on the 17th November last. He was asked certain questions after his speech, and the first was this—Keeping in view that all sides in politics in England and Scotland not only desire, but insist 598 on, decentralization, and a large and comprehensive scheme of local self-government, would you not be willing to accept of such a scheme for Ireland also—in the first instance, to see how it worked, with power to improve and develop it by degrees, as circumstances might require?What was the hon. Member's answer to that?—Certainly not; because I do not think that any scheme short of the Bill of Mr. Gladstone would work any good in Ireland. And such a proposal as this would work a great deal of mischief, and make the settlement of the question more difficult.Yet after that statement made by, perhaps, the most prominent Member of the Nationalist Party, they were hearing, night after night, taunts hurled against the Government for not introducing a Local Government Bill for Ireland. All he could say on this subject was—"Surely in vain is the net spread in sight of any bird." What was the alternative to which they were invited if they were not to persevere in the policy on which the House determined last Session? What other course was open? The proposal was that Her Majesty should hand over the government of Ireland to the officials of the National League. For that was the proposal of the Home Rule Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, short of which the Member for East Mayo had said they would accept nothing. It had, however, been said that there had been concessions on certain points of that Bill. For his part he believed that those concessions were absolutely illusory, and that no solid concession had been made on any one of the points to which attention had been called. But there was one point on which there had not been even the semblance of a concession. They all recollected how much many hon. Members were impressed with the necessity of some security for the maintenance of law and order in Ireland. An Irish Parliament was proposed to be created, with an Executive dependent upon that Parliament. Had any concession been made upon that point? He had read attentively every speech that had been made by the author of that Bill of 1886; and he confessed that he had not found in one of them the slightest indication of a willingness in any way to restrain the powers that would have been conferred under that Bill upon the Irish Legislature and the Irish Executive 599 with regard to the maintenance of law and order. And there was a very sufficient reason for it. Hon. Members below the Gangway would not stand any such concession for one moment. He wished to call the attention of the House, and especially of Members who were most struck with the difficulties in regard to the maintenance of law and order as an obstacle to the Bill of 1886, to a speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), in which—also speaking at Inverness—that hon. Member declared that the fundamental condition which they required was that the administration of the law in Ireland should be under the control of the Representatives of Ireland, as well as the making of the laws; and no system of local government would give them that. It was thus a sine quâ non that the maintenance of law and order should be handed over to the proposed Legislature and Executive in Ireland, and that without any of the checks without which many Members formed the greatest reason for voting against the Bill of 1886. He asked the House, he asked the country, he asked the electors to realize the fact that it was not proposed, and could not be proposed, that the administration of the law should be in any way withdrawn from the proposed Irish Government. How would the control of the administration of the law, of the police, of the magistracy, and of the Judges be employed? On that point he would quote, not from the Nationalist Members, but from what had been said by an English Member in that House. The hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division of Nottingham (Mr. J. E. Ellis) yesterday, in the course of his speech, said—Such were the men who were carrying out what he would call this infamous Act—he warned those men deliberately—that when the Liberal Party crossed to the other side of the House—and it would not be long before that took place—every detail of their administration would be carefully scanned. And if there were any instances that would allow of their being brought up and punished for what they were doing in Ireland, that opportunity would be taken.That remark was cheered by the Nationalist Members, and it was a very significant warning with regard to the proceedings of any British Parliament. He (Mr. Finlay) was not concerned by what the hon. Member might think or say. No British Parliament would act 600 in the vindictive spirit expressed in the words he had just quoted. He would like to ask the House what would be the fate of those who had been engaged to the best of their ability, loyally, and trusting to the honour of England, in the administration of Irish affairs, if they were to be handed over to the tender mercies of an Executive which should represent the majority at present dominant in Ireland? The unparalleled baseness of the proposed surrender required no comment. They had heard, of course, a great deal about the grievances of hon. Members below the Gangway. He (Mr. Finlay) confessed he sympathized with those grievances; but he wished they would not employ such heated language in speaking upon them. The hon. Member for North-East Cork talked about the "torture" employed in the prisons of Ireland under the Crimes Act. He (Mr. Finlay) considered that no word could be more remote from the fact with regard to prison life. As he understood the matter, there had been no difference whatever made in the treatment of prisoners under the Crimes Act as compared with prisoners under any other Act, unless it were that more indulgence was shown to the former. ["Oh, oh !"] There was, perhaps, one grievance. Hon. Members were very anxious to appear before the country as heroes and martyrs; but there were certain disagreeable preliminaries consequent upon and to be gone through before that state could be attained, and they seemed to wish to have all the glory of heroism and martyrdom without any of the inconveniences. He sympathized with that grievance also; but, after all, their great grievance really was that the administration of the Crimes Act by the Chief Secretary was beginning to tell—it was taking it out of their power to coerce those who had hitherto swelled their majority. That was their great grievance; and, in comparison with that, everything else sank into insignificance. The Chief Secretary had been made a target for a perfect storm of abuse. He (Mr. Finlay) dared say the right hon. Gentleman knew how to appreciate that abuse at its true value. Hon. Members below the Gangway spoke of him now as they used to speak of Mr. Forster, But next year, if it were convenient for the purposes of political warfare, they would no doubt be ready 601 to talk of him as they now spoke of Mr. Forster. Let the right hon. Gentleman go on without fear or favour in this matter. The goal he had in view was that there should be no law in Ireland but that of the Queen. Until that was achieved, they would have no Constitutional liberty in Ireland; and he hoped the House would lend its support to the Government in the arduous task of grappling with the endeavours of the National League to upset the law of the Queen and establish a law of its own.
§ MH. H. GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)
said, he would not for a moment presume to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Finlay) in any of the technical or legal arguments which he had used, as they had been already abundantly answered in the course of the debate. He was not very much surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman had expressed himself anxious that the debate should conclude, because, as yet, no answer had been given, either by the hon. and learned Gentleman himself or by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, to the damning indictment of the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), who had opened the debate to-night. The hon. and learned Gentleman had then gone on to point out that the Coercion Bill had been a gigantic success on account of the bitterness of feeling which it had created in the minds of the Irish people. For his (Mr. H. Gardner's) part, he could not for the life of him see that that was any proof of the success of the measure, or that the Government or their supporters ought to make it a source of congratulation. It was exactly as the hon. Member for North-EastCork had pointed out. The Coercion Bill in Ireland and the policy of the Government had created bitterness, and was tending to prevent rather than bring about such an opinion as had already been effected in part by the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). But it was not for the purpose of following the hon. and learned Gentleman that he (Mr. H. Gardner) had risen. If he did venture to trespass on the time of the House for a short period it was not because he felt that he could add in any way to the words and the arguments which had 602 come from hon. Members on that side of the House; but it was because he desired to emphasize upon the Government the fact that the deep and indignant protest which was felt against the coercion policy of the Government in Ireland did not come alone from Irish Members of Parliament, or Members who had Irish constituents in their division, but also from those who, like himself, had no Irish voters in their constituency, but represented purely an. English and essentially a quiet agricultural division. It was in the name and with the consent of thousands of agricultural labourers in his constituency, and thousands of others in the county in which he lived, that he protested against the Irish policy of the present Government; and he did go more willingly on account of the somewhat unworthy sneer that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had used in a speech of his the other night when he said that Members of the Liberal Party were afraid to repeat in the House what they had said on platforms during the Recess. The right hon. Gentleman had been guilty of a very unworthy sneer, and he (Mr. H. Gardner) presumed that he meant by his words not only to include the eminent Leaders of the Liberal Party, but also the minor lights like himself. The right hon. Gentleman would feel with him that the courage and honour of even a minor light like himself was as important to him and to his constituency as was the courage and honour of the most eminent Member of the House, and he told the right hon. Gentleman that he was ready to repeat in his place everything he might have said about the Government during the Recess. There had been a great deal of talk during the Recess, and if the right hon. Gentleman would use his undoubted influence with the Government to obtain him an opportunity, he should be very happy some evening or other to come down and repeat to him every one of the speeches he had made behind his back. They had been told in the Gracious Speech from the Throne that the coercive policy of the Government in Ireland had been a. success. Well, he ventured to utterly deny that fact, and he would go further and say that no one was more conscious of its failure than right hon. Gentlemen connected with the Government 603 on the Treasury Bench. Instead of success, the whole administration of the Coercion Act had been a source of weakness to the Government, and had dealt no slight blow to the stability of the Government. They who looked forward to the triumph of Home Rule in Ireland intheno distant future might well regard with satisfaction the coercive blunders of the present Government, were it not for the suffering and indignity which it had involved on the Irish people. He would go further, and say that they had not, on their side, a better electioneering agent than the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He ventured to say that the Coercion Act in Ireland had failed. He would ask the House to consider at what its powers were aimed. Undoubtedly they were aimed at the continuation of the Plan of Campaign, and against the power of the National League. Had the Government succeeded in this instance. On the contrary, it seemed to him that the Plan of Campaign had almost everywhere triumphed, and almost justified its existence; and as to the National League, he took it that that body was stronger now than it was when the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary came into Office. The Government claimed credit for a higher intention than the mere suppression of the National League. They hoped, no doubt, to bring about a better government in Ireland. They hoped, no doubt, to bring about a restoration of the confidence of the people in the administration of the law, and they sought to establish better relations between the Government of Great Britain and the people of Ireland. He would ask the House whether they had succeeded in that endeavour? He thought they were all agreed on that side of the House that the essence of all government lay in the consent and contentment of the governed. If, then, the Government had not secured that, how could they claim that their policy had been a success? If they could show any kind of success at all it was merely the triumph of repression, and that was a small boast for a Constitutional Government to make in this country at the end of the 19th century. They had been taunted with not repeating the phrase of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, "Remember Mitchelstown;" but having heard the speech of the hon. Gentleman who commenced the 604 debate that evening, the Government would see that hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House did remember Mitchelstown. He ventured to say that on that occasion the deep-lying principles of Constitutional government had been violated. If hon. Gentlemen thought he had gone too far in saying that that melancholy incident was against those deep-lying principles, he had on his side the high authority of Mr. Burke, who in 1793 said—''If the hearts of the people are not with the hands of the soldiery, you may call your Constitution what you please; hut, in reality, it merely consists of three parts—Cavalry, Infantry, and Artillery, and nothing else.At that time the Irish Constabulary was not in existence, or Mr. Burke would, perhaps, have included them. It was the favourite statement of hon. Members forming the composite majority in that House, that the Coercion Bill of last year set free the people of Ireland from the miserable state of intimidation in which they were placed. He remembered the hon. and learned Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay), in an eloquent speech, saying, last year, distinctly that the measure of coercion so-called was simply a measure of emancipation for the people of Ireland. That was said on the eve of the last Election, when he and his Friends went about saying there was no coercion at all. He did not know whether the hon. and learned Member was of the same opinion now; but, at any rate, the Government had passed their measure of emancipation, and set free this miserable people. How had they employed their freedom? If the reports in the newspapers were to be believed, that nation of emancipated slaves had cheered to the echo those men whom hon. Gentlemen opposite called tyrants, and endeavoured to prove their devotion to them. The only excuse the Coercionist Party had for ignoring the opinion of Ireland, as expressed by a vast majority of her Representatives, was that their seats had been won by the intimidation of a priest-ridden and League-ridden people. This statement had been repeated that evening by the hon. and learned Member for Inverness; and it had been repeated a day or two ago by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson). In the somewhat vague, if amusing, diatribe of the hon. and gallant Member there were two points 605 which seemed of importance—one was that, in his opinion, the National League was, if possible, more powerful in Ireland during the last six months than in the past, which did not say much for the government of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and the Coercion Bill which he used; and the hon. and learned Gentleman still adhered to the extraordinary fallacy that the vast majority of Gentlemen who came to that House from Ireland had gained their seats by intimidation and oppression. But the Government had passed their Coercion Act, which was administered with the high capacity of the right hon. Gentleman, the ultra-Coercionist Member of a Coercionist Government. He asked why the Government, having passed their enfranchising Bill, had not given their newly-enfranchised electors the chance of using their freedom? It was because they knew that if there were an Election in Ireland they would not win one single seat, and that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway would be returned to Parliament in greater numbers. But the Coercion Act had not only failed; it had been administered in such a way as to make our Government ridiculous in the eyes of Europe. If the Government really meant to tame Ireland into submission by their 20 years of resolute government, they needed the courage of a Bismarck, and not the bravery of the Irish Secretary. Why had they not set about their task in a business-like and dignified manner? What was the use of this peddling, irritating tyranny? This policy of imprisoning Members of Parliament, priests, and editors for short periods, from which they emerged greater heroes than ever? Why had had not the Government the courage of their opinions; and why did they not disenfranchise the country altogether? The reason was but too plain; it was not that they would not, but that they dare not, because they knew that if they were to propose any such measure in that House and put it before the country, the public opinion, not only of Ireland, but of the whole United Kingdom, would be against them. What, then, was the use of their petty tinkering policy, which made us the laughing stock of the world? He would now say a few words with regard to the subject of the National League. About 56 years 606 ago, under Lord Liverpool's Administration, that House of Parliament set to work on the task of suppressing an organization which, in his opinion, somewhat resembled the National League. He alluded to the Catholic Association. It resembled the National League in this way, that it possessed the confidence of the great majority of the people of Ireland; it was, moreover, established to bring about a great political change, and it commanded the sympathy of some leading statesmen and a great many other persons in this country. Mr. Plunkefe—at the time Attorney General—said that "the history of Ireland was a history of associations." If that were true then, it had been true, with some brief intervals, ever since. He deplored the fact that associations in Ireland should be able to win the confidence and obedience of the people from their legitimate rulers. He went further, and said that he deplored the necessity of the National League, because the necessity of its existence was an outward and visible sign of incapacity or maladministration of the present Government in Ireland. But he lamented the supremacy of associations in that country for other reasons, because associations, whether they were the National League or the Orange Society, must of necessity be Party associations representing Party feelings. He was well aware that the party which the National League represented was nine-tenths of the people of Ireland; but he regretted that a minority, however small, should not be represented in an association of such national importance. Well, was it not manifest that if the Irish people, as history proved, were determined to place their confidence in associations of their own countrymen, would it not be wise to give them the only national association which could not be a Party association, which would be backed by lawful authority, which would represent all creeds and classes—namely, a Legislative Assembly in Dublin? Nothing could better display the mistaken policy of coercive measures for Ireland than the way in which the people of England regarded the so called criminal manufacture by the Coercion Act. He regarded it as a significant fact that, not only in Ireland, but in England, there were crowds who cheered the political victims of the Government. The English 607 were a law-abiding and law-loving people; and if a vast number of them showed, as they undoubtedly do, sympathy; not to say approbation with those whom the Government called criminals, was it not more likely that the Coercive Law was wrong rather than numbers of hitherto honourable men should suddenly become demoralized? He had merely risen for the purpose of protesting in the name of a purely English constituency against the policy of the Government in Ireland, a policy which, had it not been for the promise held out by the right lion. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, would have plunged that country in despair and gone far to wreck that true and lasting Union of the two Kingdoms which bon. Members on his side of the House so ardently desired.
§ MR. DE LISLE (Leicestershire, Mid)
said, that he desired to make a few remarks on this question, because it was one in which his constituency took a great interest, and because Separatist agitators took a great interest in his constituency. Upwards of 60 meetings had been held in his Division since the General Election, and some 10 Members of Parliament had been down to try and convert Mid Leicestershire to the Home Rule gospel. He could also claim the great honour at that moment of being the only Catholic supporter of the present Government in that House. He had read recently with great pleasure an article in the Moniteur de Rome, which, although not strictly speaking an organ of the Vatican, was well known not to express opinions that were offensive to it. That article contained a significant paragraph, asking how the Irish Nationalists could count upon the sympathies of Catholics, and how the supreme and moderating power of the Church could work in her favour when such culpable and revolutionary elements mingled their aim with the national movement? It was to him a matter of satisfaction and pleasure to know that at least in the remarks made to the Irish pilgrims a few weeks ago, he, whom he revered as the Vicar of Christ, had no word of censure for the policy of Her Majesty, or the personal conduct of the Irish Secretary. He had been elected by the division of a county which only six months before had polled 1,040 votes in favour of a Radical candidate; and if that Radical majority had been turned into 608 a majority of 135 for himself, it was because he had come forward as an opponent of every form of Home Rule or autonomy for Ireland; it was because he had said, "If there is crime there must and shall be coercion;" and it was therefore as the champion of coercion, as some called it, that he stood there. He would endeavour to show that the present policy of the Government in Ireland was the only possible policy. There were going on in Ireland two movements. One of those claimed for the Irish people an independent and separate nationality. He denied that the Irish had ever been a separate nation in the strict sense of the word, and if it depended upon him they never should be. The English were a race which had succeeded in building up of many Nationalities one Empire, and when he spoke of the opposite Party as Separatists, he meant it in the sense of Separatists who wished to set up an Irish nation with a separate autonomous Government. Besides the great Nationalist idea which dominated the Irish mind, this latter was permeated with the idea of social revolution. Through social mutiny they wished to march to national independence Without wishing to say anything offensive, he might mention that he had been much abused by the Irish Press, which he considered a great honour, although, of course, he should have preferred to be looked upon by them as a friend rather than an enemy. He was only an enemy to the Nationalist cause. He claimed to have received, in some sense, an Irish education, and he had no wish except to see Ireland in the full enjoyment of the same liberties as those enjoyed in England; and there were still certain measures which were wanted to complete the equality between the two countries that would certainly receive his cordial support if they were brought before the House. There was principally a measure wanted to deal with Irish education. The Catholic portion of the Irish people did not enjoy those advantages in respect of education to which they were entitled, and that was the rock on which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had originally broken down. It was after this that the right hon. Gentleman had written his articles upon Vaticanism, and since that—as far as he could judge—tiio policy of the right hon. Gentleman had been 609 that of a dazed and revolutionary politician. That was another subject on which Irish Members would receive his cordial support He thought it most unjust and improper that in a House elected as that House was at present, the only men who were incapacitated to stand as Representatives of the people of Ireland were the Roman Catholic clergy. He said it was an unjust thing and one which ought to be remedied, that in a country where the clergy exercised so much influence they should be excluded from the political world. It was not right that men who were the natural loaders of the people, as were the Irish clergy still, should be debarred by the law from coming to that House to join in the legislation of the country. Perhaps it would be best if the four Catholic Archbishops had seats in the House of Lords; and if the Church of the people were represented in the Upper House, as the English Established Church was, there would be no injustice in excluding the clergy from the Lower House; but the present conditions placed the clergy in a position of political ostracism. He only claimed for the teachers of the Christian Revelation rights which were not denied to men who preached what they were pleased to call the "Fruits of Philosophy." Returning to the socialistic movement which existed in Ireland, he found in The Freeman's Journal of last week the report of an address delivered by Mr. Davitt, who stated his programme concisely in these words—The issue is one of stupendous magnitude. … The fight is not only for political supremacy between the masses and the classes, it is likewise a struggle between producers and monopolists for the just distribution of the produce of England and Ireland.If he (Mr. De Lisle) were to refer to the movement as a hydra, for social anarchy was a terrible hydra, he should say that it had a Davitt head which represented socialism, and a Dillon head which aimed at crushing landlordism, and a dynamite head which advocated assassination. Last year a letter appeared in The Catholic Herald, New York, in which it was said that the time had come to put an end to him (Mr. De Lisle), because he had dared to censure the anarchical attitude of the Catholic hierarchy. With reference to the question of landlordism his view was that they could not do without it. Although they might de- 610 stroy the present landlords and divide the land among the people, Parliament could not prevent them borrowing money upon the land, and by that very transaction new landlords would be created. He did not think that by putting the gombeen man or petty local usurer in the place of the present landlords, the really poor peasantry would be any the better for it. Furthermore, he rose to congratulate the Government on the policy which they had so consistently maintained, and he did so with pleasure because he found there was a feeling in its favour growing up in the ranks of the Catholic clergy, as well as of the educated laity, which they should not have expected to find a year ago. At a meeting at the Foreign Office a year ago or more he had spoken of the Catholic hierarchy of Ireland as acting the part of a higher anarchy. Those words had given great offence, but he believed the recent utterances of the Bishop of Limerick, condemning Boycotting and the Plan of Campaign as sinful and criminal, had entirely justified his remarks. They had now the expression of opinion of a distinguished Prelate of the Irish Catholic Church to confirm them in the belief that Boycotting and the Plan of Campaign were sinful and criminal; and as the whole of the so-called Coercion Act was directed to put an end to these sinful and criminal proceedings, it was entirely justified. He considered that this confession of opinion by the Bishop of Limerick was of great value to the Government, because it showed that there was a body of the clergy forming a large majority who held similar views; indeed, he was in a position to know that such was the fact. That letter of the Bishop of Limerick had not been published 24 hours when there was another expression of opinion published in the Freeman's Journal on the part of Bishop Healy, who agreed to every word Dr. O'Dwyer had written. The revolutionary attitude, however, continued to be championed, and he referred to a letter which appeared in The Tablet last Christmas twelve months, which claimed that—Ever since the Union, rebellion was a sacred duty for every honest Irishman, provided there were a reasonable chance of success.It was a remarkable fact that the author of these opinions had been since promoted to the important post of the Pro- 611 sidency of Thurles College, the second moat important educational establishment of the Catholic Church in Ireland. That promotion seemed to be a reason for very grave misgivings on their part, and it was that declaration of opinion which justified him in making the remark with regard to the Catholic hierarchical higher anarchy. From the point of view there expressed, the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian would be a fatal mistake, because it would give the necessary leverage to justify, aye, sanctify, rebellion—namely, "a reasonable chance of success." He did not think that any sensible man could now have a shadow of doubt as to the cause of Fitzmaurice's murder. It had been traced home to the League. There was not a link missing. The murder was an eloquent but terrible proof of the truth of Bishop O'Dwyer's words—You cannot mark a man out to be Boycotted, or universally shunned, without running the risk of prompting his murder.He now wished to reply to a certain manifesto in the form of a letter which had been addressed to Monsignore Persico, signed by Lord Ripon and others. He denied that he was guilty of what was here called want of respect and veneration to the Catholic Church; but he did certainly think that what had been done in Ireland was not only detrimental to religion, but also a grave injury to the country to which the clergy whose conduct was in question belonged. He believed that the Persico mission was intended solely to inquire into the truth of charges which had been alleged, and whether the attitude of the clergy was or was not inconsistent with their sacred duty. This was a case in which a question of morality was involved, and he considered it one in which the highest ecclesiastical authority should consider whether the charges made were true. He was not alone in the view which he had expressed, and he would quote from a letter of an Irish landlord—Colonel Chichester, who knew Ireland well—which was one of a series in a controversy that had been taking place in The Tablet on the subject of Boycotting. The letter contained these words:I, for one, look on the Plan of Campaign and the system of Boycotting, no matter on what terms they are carried on, as utterly dishonest and indefensible.612 It was certainly a matter of great satisfaction to him, and he believed also to a very large number of other Catholics, to have read the words addressed to the Irish Pilgrims the other day in Rome by His Holiness the Pope, who had publicly expressed the hope that the Irish people would obey their Prelates, and the Prelates obey the law. His Holiness had expressed his confidence in "the justice of the men who were placed at the head of the State"—that could only mean Her Majesty's responsible Ministers—and thus he exhorted the Irish people to obey the law. He had seen in The Times to-day a statement of two or three facts, which to him would be quite sufficient to justify the passing of the Crimes Act. As an instance, it appeared that in reference to a marriage of a humble farmer and a young girl at Tralee, the possibility of the bridegroom being shot at no distant date was considered a necessary contingency to be provided for in the marriage settlement. According to The Times, the husband was to receive £50 down and £100 by promissory note at 12 months if he were not shot in the meantime. There were many other instances which he would not then refer to, because he thought he had detained the House long enough. But these accumulated facts proved how systematic and general had become the social tyranny and wickedness of the Land League. It was a melancholy thing to see Catholic priests and laymen co-operating with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley), who now attacked the United Kingdom as he had so often attacked the Church:The great ship of your Church, once so stout and fair, and well-laden with good destinies, has become a phantom ship;‥‥and you who work it are no more than the ghosts of dead men.The great ship of the State, still so stout and fair, and well laden with good destinies, had become a mutinous ship; and therefore he said that those who worked it should arise and, not like ghosts of platform men, but like patriots and fearless statesmen, sweep away all who dared to resist the law. If Her Majesty's Government continued in the way they had so well begun, and if the health and strength of the right hon. Gentleman the Irish Secretary were preserved to them some years longer, he 613 believed that which they all hoped for would be achieved—namely, the peace and happiness and enrichment of the people of Ireland.
§ MR. EVELYN (Deptford)
said, that the right hon. Member for Mid Leicestershire (Mr. De Lisle) in the speech he had just made had presented a curious and an almost inexplicable phenomenon which had bewildered him more than any other object with which he was familiar. The hon. Member was, or professed to be, a Catholic, and yet he indulged in insults against the Irish hierarchy and against those who held the creed which he professed to reverence. The hon. Member in his long and discursive speech attempted to make out a claim on the Irish Members by stating that he would advocate certain plans of Catholic education and other movements which would find favour with those hon. Gentlemen; but, in the meantime, he was prepared to continue the great oppression of Ireland. The hon. Member would not, by presenting these other subjects for their consideration, earn the gratitude of the Irish people. His observations had ranged from China to Peru; and though he (Mr. Evelyn) had expected that he would end by reading a number of letters from The Times, he had not unnaturally concluded by giving them the whole book of the Prophet Jeremiah. But he (Mr. Evelyn) would pass from the hon. Member to consider the Amendment before the House. It might be discussed either as a Party Motion, the carrying of which would involve the defeat of the Government, or it might be discussed on its merits; and if it were, there was no reason why it should not be accepted by every Member of the House. From both points of view he felt it to be his duty to vote for the Amendment. He wished to get rid of this Coalition Government; he did not call it a Conservative Government, for in the course the Government had pursued they had been false to the best traditions of the Conservative Party. The hon. Member (Mr. De Lisle) had sounded the praises of the Union. They had heard the praises of the Unionists sounded by many Gentlemen to-night— in fact, music of this kind was very common in the country. The Unionists were extolled with considerable oratory at Primrose League and other meetings; 614 and the country had heard a vast deal more about this Paper Union than the union of hearts and sentiments. It could not be disputed that Lord Salisbury was prepared in 1885 to throw over the Paper Union altogether. The interview between Lord Carnarvon and the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) must have been well known to Lord Salisbury after it had occurred. It was true that in 1888 Lord Salisbury gave a denial; but what was it? They knew that Lord Salisbury was practically prepared to go in for Home Rule, and they knew what Lord Salisbury's denials were. He said that the assumption that every other Member of the Cabinet besides Lord Carnarvon had expressed feelings in favour of Home Rule was an utter, complete, and absolute falsehood. This was pretty strong, and the noble Lord generally used strong language in denials; but nobody ever said that every Member of the Cabinet of 1885 besides Lord Carnarvon had expressed feelings in favour of Home Rule. What was very confidently believed was that several Members of the Cabinet, including Lord Salisbury himself, were quite prepared to go in for Home Rule. They were all glad to find that the Land Act of last Session had had an ameliorative effect on the condition of Ireland. But they could have wished that it had dealt with the question of arrears, and that it had not given undue facilities to evicting landlords like Lord Clanricarde. He hoped that the Act might soon be amended, and made more serviceable to the Irish people on these subjects. But he was thankful to know that, even as it was, it had tended to the diminution of crime. With regard to coercion, he could not but remember what he had witnessed in a late visit to Ireland. He wished that more Englishmen would go over to Ireland and judge for themselves, and not listen to excited statements and inflamed newspaper articles against Ireland. He had witnessed with his own eyes the misery of the people and the oppression under which they laboured, and he could not but feel that it was only too true that the Crimes Act, which they were told was to be directed against crime, had been really directed against political opponents. This had been clearly shown in the cruel administration by the Government of that 615 tremendous weapon which the House put into the hands of the Government last Session. He, for one, had to confess with regret that he had voted for coercion; but he did so, as was well known, reluctantly, and because he understood that this terrific weapon was to be used for the repression of crime, and crime alone. He now found that that was altogether a fraudulent pretence on "the part of the Government. He believed that Lord Salisbury all along had it in his mind to exercise the power that he sought from Parliament in a cruel and abominable manner. On the 16th of May, 1886, Lord Salisbury made a foul and slanderous attack on the Irish people. Lord Salisbury declared that what was wanted for Ireland was 20 years of resolute government. He did not complain of that declaration; but Lord Salisbury went on to say that they wanted confidence in the Irish people, and that it depended upon the people they were to confide in; and he added—"You would not confide free representation to the Hottentots." At the time that speech was made he (Mr. Evelyn) happened to be contesting the borough of Deptford against a most able and eloquent adversary, and had the humiliating task of trying to explain away those words of Lord Salisbury. Later events had shown that he was quite wrong, and that his opponent was right, and that all along the present Premier had in his view the establishment of a Hottentot Government in Ireland. In November last Lord Salisbury made a memorable speech at the Mansion House. He said then that any one of his Colleagues was worth the whole 86 Members from Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"] The expression of approval which came from his hon. Friend sitting below (Mr. Johnston) he did not wonder at; but he did wonder at such a vulgarism coming from the lips of the Prime Minister of England— IIn vino veritas. Taking these two speeches together— the Hottentot speech and the speech at the Mansion House—did they not show that Lord Salisbury had an utter contempt for the Irish nation; and had he not insulted the Irish? When he was contesting Deptford, and read the Hottentot speech, he had a personal reason for not quite approving of that speech, for he had the honour to have 616 Irish blood in his veins. He knew that Lord Salisbury had denied likening the Irish to Hottentots; but let anyone read his words, and put their own construction on them. Now he came to the administration of the Crimes Act, and he was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was not in his place, because he had something to say to him. As to the cruel administration of the Crimes Act, he wondered how the right hon. Gentleman could smile and smile, and still be a Chief Secretary. What would not do at all, and what would not be approved by the English people, was that he should treat political prisoners with cruelty, and he should steal their great coats, and that he should gloat in conversation over the weak hearts of his intended victims. The man who did this was a man about whom he would express no opinion, because if he did he should, perhaps, be transgressing the Orders of the House. But he would say that he considered the Government of Ireland by the Salisbury-Balfour clique—he would not say by the Ministry— but by the clique, which controlled the Ministry—to be thoroughly infamous. His hon. Friend on the Front Bench smiled; but let him answer the speech of the hon. Member for Cork, who had proved to the House that the Chief Secretary had thrown into prison old women, boys, and girls, and had committed all that oppression which had still to be denied. Now, he wished to say a word with reference to the treatment of Mr. Blunt, A question had been asked that evening as to why Mr. Blunt had not been given some food when he was dragged from his prison in Galway to the civil action now going on in Dublin. The answer was that Mr. Blunt had the ordinary food of prisoners; but what he contended was that Mr. Blunt was in an exceptional position, and that it was a cruel and shameful thing to give a man the ordinary food of prisoners in the 24 or 30 hours during which he was going to a Court of Jus-tics, half-fainting, to be severely cross-examined. Lord Salisbury and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would have to answer for all this, and for other abominable cruelties to the English nation. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman the Member for North- 617 East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) that one of the reasons of the diminution of crime in Ireland was the feeling entertained by the Irish people that there was some degree of sympathy entertained for them by the English people. Such a feeling would necessarily have a great effect upon a warm-hearted people like the Irish; and he trusted that Parliament would do everything it could to cultivate that feeling. He remembered the compliment paid by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Chief Secretary—by the despoiler of Egypt to the despot of Ireland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of the right hon. Gentleman as "Brave Mr. Balfour." Where was the bravery of the right hon. Gentleman? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) lately went to Loughrea, and did exactly what Mr. "Wilfrid Blunt had done. Why was he not picking oakum like Mr. Blunt? He (Mr. Evelyn) would tell them. It was because the "brave" Chief Secretary dared not tackle a Privy Councillor and an ex-Minister. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford had done admirable service. He had made the Chief Secretary shrink, and he had brought the hermit of the Albany to something like reason. He would say no more, except to make one or two remarks personal to himself. He wished to say that a great many statements had been made about him which he would not notice at all. No one cared less for jeers and sneers than he did when he knew he was doing his duty. There was only one remark to which he would refer, and that was that he had written to Lord Salisbury. He had done nothing of the kind. He wrote a letter to the First Lord of the Treasury, who so ably led the Conservative Party in that House, and from whom he had always received the greatest courtesy; but he did not write to Lord Salisbury. He felt great regret at parting from his hon. Friends on that side of the House; but he would advise them—though he did not expect they would take his advice—to go over to the other side, and purify themselves from the disgrace which had been brought on the Conservative Party by the policy of the Government in Ireland. After the discipline of Opposition they might come back to those Benches and assert the true 618 principles of Conservatism, which were enunciated in his early career by Mr. Disraeli, and which, he thought, would lead to a conciliatory policy towards Ireland. During his (Mr. Evelyn's) visit to Ireland he was sometimes cheered by the Irish people; but he felt ashamed of those cheers, having voted for coercion; and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford, on the day of Mr. Blunt's condemnation, was going to Ballinasloe to address a public meeting there, he asked him (Mr. Evelyn) to accompany him, but he refused. He had said—" You can address the Irish; but I have voted for coercion, and I feel I have no right to speak to them and get praises I do not deserve." He could assure hon. Members opposite, however, that the votes he had given against Ireland had been given under false pretences; but the vote which he should now give would be given with all his heart and soul.
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said, he was sure the words of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Deptford (Mr. Evelyn) would be heard by the majority of people with much pleasure. With the exception of the speech of the hon. Gentleman, whose retirement from the House they must regret, but whom they hoped, since his retirement must be, to see replaced before long by Mr. Wilfrid Blunt—with the exception of the hon. Gentleman's speech everyone in the House must have observed the extraordinary tameness and wearisomeness of the debate since the hon. Gentleman the Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) resumed his seat. The speech which was delivered by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Loughborough Division of Leicestershire (Mr. De Lisle) scarcely required and scarcely deserved any comment; but he turned for one instant to the speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay), because the speech was characterized by what very frequently characterized the speeches of hon. Gentlemen of the hon. and learned Gentleman's way of thinking. The hon. and learned Gentleman span a large web of words and reasonings; but there were no solid facts at the bottom. The House must have been astonished, and people out-of-doors must be astonished, when such a speech as the hon. and learned Member's was the speech 619 that was made by their opponents in answer to the remarkable attack made upon the Government by the hon. Member for North-East Cork. The hon. and learned Member for Inverness was so good as to say that the liberation of the Irish voter from the control of the National League was the only and necessary condition to the conferring of the franchise upon the Irish people. He (Mr. James Stuart) would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman and his Friends if they were going to contest Limerick; and he would ask, if they were going to contest Limerick, what sort of a show they expected to make there? He would put another question to their opponents—to the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell)— would the hon. Member agree along with his hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) that they should each resign their seats and that each should contest the seat of the other, and then see how matters stood? He thought that in any practical way they liked to put it, when they tried to realize what the result might be at the poll of thus removing the restraint of the National League, they would be convinced—as, at any rate, he was—of the flimsiness of the arguments the hon. and learned Gentleman had adduced. His speech was chock-full of those ancient platitudes, as they had become, which stood in the place of argument amongst hon. Gentlemen of his way of thinking. Why did not he—why did not the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—when he spoke, bring into his speech more facts bearing on the question. And why did not the Government make haste, before this night closed, to answer what the hon. Member for North-East Cork had stated? Why did they not answer what the hon. Gentleman had said about the Army, and what he had said about the Police? And why did not the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, or someone else opposite, stand up to meet the strong assertion, and the strongly-backed assertion, as to the total failure in every direction of their Coercion Act? He (Mr. James Stuart) did not intend, in the few remarks he had to make, to go at all over the whole of the question; but he intended to confine himself to one or two matters of fact, bearing, as they did, on the Amendment which 620 was before the House. He asserted that the supporters of law and of order in Ireland were not the Government and not that loyal and patriotic Party, as they called themselves, but were such Gentlemen as the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien). He believed that upon them and the much-maligned National League lay much more than upon any other the preservation of la wand order in Ireland. There was a matter which had been referred to in the House, and which he might mention in passing—it was the question of the meetings at Dungannon, Omagh, and Dromore. The proceedings in connection with these meetings gave them an example of how the Executive Government had been disturbers in that part of the country—a part of the country which could hardly be said to be under the immediate influence of the National League. A meeting was to have taken place at Dungannon. On the same day, at the same hour, and at the same place, the Orange Party in the district stated they would hold a meeting. Instead of preventing the second meeting being held, the Government proclaimed the meeting which was first announced. He went, a week or so afterwards, to Omagh. A meeting was there advertised in the same way by the Party to which he belonged. In the same manner the opposite Party—the loyal and patriotic Party—gave notice of a meeting at the same place and at the same time. The walls of Omagh were placarded with notices that the rebels and assassins should not be permitted to hold a meeting there. Yet that being in the early days of the visits of English Members of the House to Ireland, he supposed the Resident Magistrate and the Government thought better of it, for the meeting was not proclaimed; no steps whatever were taken to prevent the people holding their meeting; and the other side never put in an appearance, thus showing the baselessness of the threats by which they endeavoured to stop free speech. Some time afterwards the same kind of thing occurred at Dromore. The very same notices were given on both sides; and, with the double experience before them, the Government again adopted the principle of stopping the first of the two meetings. Now, he maintained that the Govern- 621 ment had as much ground for permitting the meeting first announced at Dromore in the hope and in the belief that it would be uninterrupted by the Orange Party, as they had to take the reverse opinion. He had had some other experience of the action of the Government authorities in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland made very much, some time ago, of what he called the extreme inaccuracy of his (Mr. James Stuart's) assertions. On the 12th of September last the right hon. Gentleman, speaking of the firing of the police at Mitchelstown, said it was not a random fire, but that it was a deliberate fire of men acting under the orders of their officers, who instructed them to fire only on those portions of the mob attacking the barracks. Exactly opposite the barracks there was a shop kept by a grocer named Costella. Side by side this shop there was a door into Costella's house. That door had above it a fan-light, and when a person opened the door a stair went straight up in front of him. He (Mr. James Stuart) saw that fan-light. It was riddled with buckshot. It was about on a level with the first floor, and directly opposite the door of the police barracks. Mr. Costella told him that when the firing began nearly everyone in the street ran into his shop. There were about 30 people. He took them up the stair into his house, and while they were on the stair—there were women among them— while they were on the stair a policeman, putting his rifle through the window of the police barracks opposite, fired right into the fan-light. Certain he (Mr. James Stuart) was that he himself saw the holes of the buckshot in the fan-light. He saw the marks of buckshot on both sides of the stair, and he had in his possession one of several of the buckshots which were picked out of the wall. "It was a miracle," said Mr. Costella, "that no one was hurt." He (Mr. James Stuart) asked whether the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was prepared, in the face of that statement, to maintain that it was not a random fire, but a deliberate fire of men acting under the orders of their officers, and firing only at those who were attacking the barracks? He asked the right hon. Gentleman, if he maintained that his statement was 622 strictly accurate, how he could account for what he (Mr. James Stuart) had just described? When he returned from Mitchelstown to Dublin, he was requested by his hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), and his hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), to go away almost immediately to the estate of Lord Massereene at Dunleer. The circumstances were these. On the Tuesday previous to his visit notices of eviction had been given. That was Tuesday the 27th of September last. There had assembled in connection with these evictions a very large crowd under very threatening circumstances, and the evictions had been suspended in consequence of the danger of carrying them out. It was feared that on the following Tuesday, for which notices of eviction had again been given, there would be some further serious gathering of angry people, and that there might be a collision between the authorities and the people, which might lead to bloodshed, and his hon. Friends asked him if he would go to Dunleer on that occasion and on their behalf do whatever he could—they gave him carte blanche— to prevent any collision between the people and the authorities. He undertook to do that, and went to Dunleer. When he arrived, he found the circumstances as expected; he found the evictions about to go on, and a large number of people in considerable excitement. When he stepped upon the railway platform he found there no fewer than 300 policemen and 150 soldiers, and he asked for the Resident Magistrate. There were two Resident Magistrates on the spot, one of whom was certainly not very civil, and the other of whom was a little less uncivil. He explained to them that he had come there with a view of endeavouring, if it were possible, to prevent some of the poor people from being shot. They listened to what he had to say. He said that he had come to the conclusion that danger existed there from the contiguity of an excited crowd with a large number of soldiers and police, and that the best way his visit could be utilised would be for him to lead the people away some distance from the scene of the evictions, in order that he might address them, and speak to them words of caution and of hope. The Resident 623 Magistrate told him that he was not on any account whatever to allow any meeting to be held, and that he should break it up if one were held. That, of course, was the purport of his words—he (Mr. James Stuart), at this distance of time, not being able to repeat the exact words. He was thus prevented, by the exercise or the threat of forcible intervention, from doing the only reasonable thing which anyone desirous of preventing a collision between the police and the people would have been desirous of doing; and he believed that the peace was kept that day more from the belief in the crowd that as the day wore on such a meeting as he had described would be held. He mentioned that to show that the persons upon whom the Government relied for keeping the peace were the very people who kept the matches about amongst the gunpowder. He left Dunleer that same evening, and went north to Gweedore, in Donegal. There was there a very grave and serious danger of a collision between the authorities and the people, and he was requested by his hon. Friends to do his best to prevent a collision. In referring to the affairs at Gweedore, he should have occasion to refer to a matter which had been commented upon in the House, and upon which his accuracy had been impugned by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson). He would take care that in what he said in the House with respect to that matter he said neither more nor less than what he had already written in the public prints. His statements with respect to Colonel Dopping, the agent at Gweedore, were in print and could be contradicted, if it were in the power of anyone to do so. Now, what was the condition of things in Gweedore? The estate upon which there was difficulty was that of Captain Hill. He did not desire, and did not intend in what he said to make any invidious remarks upon Captain Hill. On the whole, Captain Hill had done as well as he reasonably might be expected to do; he had made an agreement with his tenants, which gave them more than they were at that time demanding. He (Mr. James Stuart) would do nothing to provoke soreness in the matter. He would not go back on the long past, and the question as to how much and when 624 the rents of the tenants in Gweedore were raised by Captain Hill or his predecessors; but he would take matters as they stood at present in Gweedore. The inhabitants of that part of Donegal were an extremely interesting people, and were an extremely well-conducted people. He was informed by persons on the spot of both political Parties— amongst others, by the Resident Magistrate, Mr. Ffrench—that in that parish on the north-east coast of Donegal there had scarcely been a case brought before any of the ordinary Criminal Courts. The people were a very simple people, they were an excitable people, and they were a people for whom an immense deal had been done by their pastor, Father M'Fadden. They did not gain their livelihood on the farms on which they lived, for these were but small pieces of land with houses attached which they had built or dug out of the bog themselves; but the children worked some 20 or 30 miles off in the lower parts of Donegal and in Derry and Tyrone, and the elder members of the families were in the habit, at certain seasons of the year, of going over by boat from Derry to the South of Scotland. They were a very trustworthy people, so much so that he was informed that when one of them had once worked on a farm in the South of Scotland he was generally asked to return the following year. During the last year or two this class of work for the people of Donegal had greatly fallen off. They had had great difficulty in paying their rent, not only on that account, but on account of the great failure of their own crop. Now, there were 7G5 tenants on the Gweedore estate. How were these tenants dealt with under the Land Act of 1881? Only 288 got their rents reduced under that Act. These 288 got their rents reduced by one-third; but that had not brought them down to what they had been some years before. Why did not the other tenants get their rents reduced? Because, for the most part, they occupied sub-divided tenancies, and by a clause in the Act they were excluded from the operation, of the Act. But surely, under the circumstances, a fair agent would have given those unfortunate people the same advantages as others got. No reduction, however, was offered to these tenants. The rents could not be paid, and the 625 agent, Colonel Dopping, proceeded last year and this year, on behalf of the landlord, to take out a very considerable number of ejectment orders. When he (Mr. James Stuart) arrived at Gweedore these orders were really showering upon the country side. The form of notices was that prescribed by the Act. In pursuance of it a very large number of tenants were rendered, caretakers on the mere notification. The whole country side was in a state of nervous anxiety, each person feeling that he would be the next victim. He held in his hand a copy of a notice that was sent just before he arrived to the various tenants. This copy, apparently, was printed in lithographic ink, which showed that there must have been many others of the same kind printed. The notice was as follows:—If I go to Gweedore and obtain warrants for the possession of the house occupied by you as caretaker I shall most certainly have the house knocked down. So if you wish to be retained as tenant you had better at once pay up all dues and costs to me.In that notice there were two points of importance which showed what the feeling was in the district. The destruction of the houses of those who had made them and of those who had hitherto lived in them had been the ultimate resort of landlords in that part of Ireland—at any rate, when they had entered more or less upon a war of extermination. He held in his hand a letter of a landlord in the Gweedore district, which was to the effect that he would not now accept 99 per cent, of all the rents and costs due to him, as he was going to clear out the two townlands. The writer said he wanted his land, and he asked the people to remember that they were merely living on his land as long as he chose to let them. He said he would not regard costs in carrying out his plan; he had ample private means, and in what he was doing he was only following out the Christian precept that a man might do what he liked with his own.In five, or, at the most, ten years," he concluded, "there will probably not be a single family left there.These were the sort of sentiments expressed in more quarters than one of the Gweedore district. Under such circumstances, it was not to be wondered at that there was much excitement in the district. He had in 626 his possession a post-card which was addressed to the postmistress of Gweedore by the agent, who was staying at the Gweedore Hotel. He said he would give her a last chance for settling before he left, and if she did not settle she would have no one but herself to blame—that if she were turned out she would lose her postal business, and would never get it back again. He (Mr. James Stuart) asked if that was a proper threat to address to a person in such a position? When he arrived there, so much anxiety was felt in the district that public meetings there had been prevented by the Resident Magistrates, Mr. Burke and Mr. Ffrench; and let him say, as to Gweedore, that he had no fault to find with the action, of either of those magistrates. There were 100 policemen there who were paraded about, and there was a gunboat expected, or, at any rate, a general statement made that one would arrive. Arrangements to settle the difficulty existing had been attempted; but they had failed from the determination on the part of the agent that whatever was done he would not forego the costs. That matter of costs was a very serious matter, and one which had been referred to before by the Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien). He would tell the House how it stood on that estate at Gweedore. Last year, of 66 ejectment notices the total rent was £235; but the costs incurred by the landlord in respect of those ejectment notices was no less than £346; so that the costs in the case where the ejectments were about to take place were a material part of the matter in dispute, and the agent, following out the same practice as had been followed out in the late Lord Leitrim's estate, insisted on the payment of costs as well. Such was the state of things in Gweedore when he arrived; there was an excitable people subjected to the continued harassment of these eviction notices, and also threatened with the burning and destruction of their houses, which destruction the Resident Magistrate had shown that he did not approve of by refusing to give police protection to the agent when carrying out that part of the threat. When he (Mr. James Stuart) arrived there he found a considerable commotion arising because of the attitude taken up by the agent. 627 That gentleman was going about with a rifle, and the day before his (Mr. James Stuart's) arrival, whilst crossing a field, a stone had been thrown at this agent by a boy. He would criticize what the agent did in words which, from the agent's own statement, he felt sure that gentleman would admit to be a true description of the case. With an angry crowd about, the Resident Magistrate having previously requested him to give up his rifle, with an eviction sturdily defended going on, when a stone was thrown at him, he "made as though" he were going to use his weapon. He (Mr. James Stuart) was merely using the phrase of one who was in authority at the time when he said that at that moment the peace of Donegal hung by a thread. The danger likely to result from the action would be more clearly shown if he read a letter which he had received from the reporter of The Freeman's Journal, who had been an eye-witness of the transaction, in which it was stated that when Colonel Dopping, with the evicting party, was passing behind the house of one of the tenants, a boy standing alone threw a stone at him, whereupon Colonel Dopping—Lowered his rifle off his shoulder and levelled or presented it in the direction of the boy, saying, 'Mind yourself; I have my eye on you.' I do not say he took deliberate aim, but he certainly acted in the way I have mentioned.A District Police Inspector then rushed between the Colonel and the boy, whereupon the Colonel lowered his gun. He (the reporter) might mention that the boy was so small that none of the police thought it worth their while to take him into custody for throwing the stone. The reporter went on to say that subsequently an idiot boy had thrown a stone at the Colonel, when the agent brought his rifle to the port, repeating some similar expression. He (Mr. James Stuart) had written to The Times, and had made the observation that he had never said that Colonel Dopping had intended to shoot either of the two boys, but—That the point was that the people believed that he would shoot, that they believed the rifle to be loaded, that his whole conduct encouraged these beliefs, and that the danger to the public peace in consequence was grave.Colonel Dopping, in making his statement of the incident to an interviewer 628 from one of the Unionist newspapers, said—That he did not usually carry a rifle with him, but that he had done so on this occasion, hearing that the police authorities themselves considered that the force was insufficient;and he said—The Constabulary were under the orders of Mr. Ffrench, a Resident Magistrate, who had arrived the evening before. At the first house that was visited this gentleman asked me to give up my rifle to a sergeant, but I declined to do so.It was certain an angry altercation took place between the agent and the Resident Magistrate, who order the former not to enfilade him. He (Mr. James Stuart) had also received a letter—and this was the last he would refer to—from a gentleman who, not being a politician, had asked him not to make public his name, but whose name he would communicate to any hon. Member privately. This gentleman, who was staying at the Gweedore Hotel, being engaged in sporting in the district, said that on the evening oft he day in question, he being with others at the hotel in the public room, had heard Colonel Dopping, in talking over the occurrence, say—My rifle is of service sometimes, for had I not brought it down at one time to-day, and called out to the people, ' Now, look out,' we should have had a shower of stones thrown. They did not know that it was not loaded "—or words to that effect. When he (Mr. James Stuart) arrived at the spot he, at the request of Father M'Fadden and the Resident Magistrate, endeavoured to make some terms between the agent and the tenants, so as to bring about a settlement. He had a long discussion with the agent, who would not accept the terms offered—that he (Mr. James Stuart) was willing to join in a guarantee sum in order that there might be no difficulty on that score. The agent, however, permitted him to carry the matter to the landlord. He went to the landlord and placed the matter before him in Dublin. In the meantime, happily, the evictions were suspended, although at some period not very long after there was some danger of their beginning again. But owing to the action of Father M'Fadden, and also of the Crown Solicitor, Mr. Mackay, and the Resident Magistrate, there was brought about an agreement between the landlord and the tenants which, was really better than that under discussion at the time he referred to. The amount of 629 money to be paid was about £1,500, and the evicted tenants were to be reinstated; the receipts were to be given up to November, 1887, and they were to be given not by the agent of whom he had spoken, but by another agent employed for the purpose by the landlord. Father M'Fadden had written to him several times in regard to the progress of the negociations. In one letter he said that he had not succeeded in gathering all the money that was required, as he did not like to press for it from the poorest of the poor tenants. He said he was about £195 behind hand; but eventually Father M'Fadden paid that sum out of his own pocket, being assisted to a small extent by some friends in England. At any rate, the whole sum was paid to the landlord. The curate had written to him (Mr. James Stuart) stating that in order to collect the money the people had begged hard in all directions—a fact which showed the poverty of the district and the desire of the people to pay the money. He mentioned these things to show that not 1d. was got by the ordinary action of the law, or by the action of the agent. He mentioned thorn to show that a reasonable offer was made to the agent, and that the refusal of that agent to accept it, and his attitude at the evictions, was loading to very serious risk to human life and very serious danger. That the offer was a reasonable one was shown by the fact that it was adopted by the Crown Solicitor and Mr. Burke, the Resident Magistrate, who endeavoured to secure it, or, rather, to secure the adoption of an offer which was better for the tenants. And, further than that, he wished the House to notice that Father M'Fadden had shown himself to be as good as his word. After having undertaken to pay the £1,500 he did so, though, it was a larger sum than he could raise from the tenants themselves. Well, after doing this good work, Father M'Fadden proceeded to a neighbouring estate, where he recommended that the combination which had been come to on Captain Hill's estate, and without which it would not have been possible to settle the matter, should be adopted. It was by no means a "no rent" action on his part. His desire was to settle the matter, which involved his collecting rents for the landlord which could not be collected in any other way. Never- 630 theless, he was tried and clapped into prison for his efforts on that neighbouring estate. The curate, in a letter he had. written to him (Mr. James Stuart), said that the £1,500 in the case of Captain Hill was paid over to the same solicitor who was then prosecuting Father M'Fadden; as the curate expressed it—What are the poor people of Gweedore to think of that? So you see Father M'Fadden collected and paid the whole money agreed to, and he is having his reward, He is to be tried on Saturday, and I hope and pray we may be able to keep the people quiet. I have them gathered every day, advising them to patience and not to give Balfour a chance.Now, he (Mr. James Stuart) asked in all this history who was it who had been carrying about this place the sparks among the gunpowder? Who was it who had endangered the peace of Donegal, and had increased the chance of an outbreak? Why, it was the agent who was not trusting to the authority of the police, but was himself, in spite of the authorities, carrying about a rifle in a manner which was described by the Resident Magistrate as irritating. Then. the imprisonment of Father M'Fadden, after he had honourably carried through, one arrangement and was endeavouring to deal in a similar way with another, was not a means by which they could expect to secure either peace in Donegal or the payment of rents in the future in that part of the country. He (Mr. James Stuart) had endeavoured, by these three or four incidents, to make evident the position he took up at the beginning of his remarks—namely, that danger to order and peace arose, so far as he had seen, principally on the part of the loyal and patriotic Party, as it was called; whereas the persons who were endeavouring to preserve order were gentlemen connected with the National League. There could be no doubt whatever that, however good or however bad his (Mr. James Stuart's) judgment might have been, his position in Gweedore at this time was intended to be and did end in being a means of pacification and bringing about the payment of rent. If it had not been for such action there was every reason to believe that the excitement in the district under the circumstances he lad detailed would have ended in very dangerous results.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
I 631 hope the House will be quite satisfied with the explanations given by the hon. Member with regard to Colonel Dopping; but I failed to hear any justification for the allegation that Colonel Dopping had gone about with a loaded rifle. If the hon. Member has made a mistake we can dismiss the subject; but it would have been much better frankly to admit the mistake. Several remarkable speeches have been made in the course of this debate from the Opposition Benches, and I will venture to refer to two or three topics which, I think, require some further argument. First, with respect to the speech of the hon. Member who opened the debate this evening, I think we must all have been struck by the passion—real to some extent, no doubt—which characterized that speech. But one cannot help feeling that there was a good deal of the actor about the speech. [Cries of "Oh !"] I have yet to learn that one is not justified in stating the effect which a speech produces on one's mind provided the statement is made in courteous language. If, however, that speech was not acting, it was nothing more or less than a defiance of the law and the expression of rejoicing in the triumph of lawlessness against order. It was utterly impossible to listen to the concluding sentences of that speech without being perfectly satisfied that it was not intended to promote peace and goodwill between the various parts of the United Kingdom. We ought in dealing with such a speech to speak carefully and frame our language carefully, because the hon. Member, no doubt, has strong personal feelings on the subject. Now, we are discussing an Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), which is, in effect, a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government. I do not know whether the hon. Member was the actual framer of the Amendment. But if he was he seems to have been somewhat unfortunate in the choice of the language he has used. The Amendment begins by representing to Her Majesty that the operation of the legislation of an ameliorative character of last Session has tended to diminish agrarian crime. Now, when did the hon. Member begin to form that opinion? Why, until that Amendment was put upon the Paper there had been no Member below the Gangway who had spoken 632 in favour of that legislation. I have read a good many of the speeches of the hon. Members below the Gangway delivered in Ireland; but I do not remember one single speech in which a word of praise has been given to that legislation. What is the cause which has led the hon. Member for Cork to take this view? It was necessary, if he could, to draw a contrast to this House between the two pieces of legislation passed by the Government last Session with regard to Ireland. It was necessary, if he could, to attribute all the success, whatever it has been, in dealing with Ireland to one measure and not to the other. In order to do that, for the first time Members below the Gangway have been obliged to represent that the legislation with regard to land has done good. Irish Members are not always true prophets, though they have sometimes shown wonderful gifts that way, and no more remarkable prophecy has ever been made than that quoted by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) with respect to the hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan). But what were the words formerly used by the hon. Member for Cork with regard to the Government Land Bill six months ago? He said—Rather than accept such an illusory concession to the Irish tenants who have had their rents judicially fixed, I would see the whole Bill go by the hoard.It is, therefore a strange thing that hon. Gentlemen who refused the Bill as illusory in August last now desire, in a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government, to represent that the land legislation of last year was of a character tending to diminish agrarian crime. I leave hon. Members to form their own inference how much real approval there is on the part of hon. Members below the Gangway of this legislation. Whenever we venture to call attention to the sayings or doings of hon. Gentlemen opposite we are always met with the observation that they have changed their minds and that they were formerly wrong. But when it serves the purpose of hon. Gentlemen opposite to show that Members of Her Majesty's Government have changed their minds or are inconsistent, it is considered a good argument to cite speeches which have been made by 633 those who sit on this side of the House. It seems to me that it would be a little better if there were more of the spirit of fair play in arguing with one another on these questions. The hon. Member for Cork has considered it right to disinter from its grave the suggestion which was made more than two years ago as to the so-called alliance between Lord Salisbury and the Leaders of the Parnellite Party in this House, when it was deemed desirable to turn out the right hon. Gentleman opposite. New actors and new names have been introduced into the story different from those which were at first suggested. Desiring, I suppose, to enforce what was said by the hon. Member for the City of Cork, the hon. Member for East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) to-night said that the majority in 1885 was obtained by foul means. I suppose there are some Members who still think so. Although I was not in the House, I have a pretty clear recollection of what happened at that time. Now, is it true, or is it not, that before the Liberal Government was turned out there was an arrangement, direct or indirect, between Lord St. Oswald, then Mr. Winn, and the hon. Member for Cork or anybody else as regards the terms of not again bringing in coercion, or any other matter of Irish policy? That has in writing been distinctly denied by Lord Salisbury, by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), and by Lord St. Oswald. On this subject, I will read a letter, dated July 31, 1885, and then I will appeal to the House for its view of the fairness and justice of the charge to which the hon. Member for Cork devoted three-quarters of an hour in his speech the other night. That letter ran thus—I have just received your letter enclosing report of Mr. Herbert Gladstone's speech at Leeds, and directing my attention to a passage in which Mr. Gladstone asserts that there is an alliance for Parliamentary purposes, and also for the purpose of the General Election, "between Lord Salisbury and Lord Randolph Churchill on the one side, and myself and my Colleagues on the other, upon the basis—first, of the dropping of the Crimes Act; second, of the Bill for the benefit of the labourers; and, third, the passing of a Land Purchase Bill. Your letter also points out a further paragraph in the same speech, in which Mr. Gladstone is reported to have defied me, among others, to contradict these alleged facts, I can only say that there is not the slightest foundation for any of these statements of Mr. Herbert Glad- 634 stone. I have no knowledge of any such alliance, nor have any of my Colleagues. I have held no communication upon any of the public matters referred to with any Member of the present Government, or any of their officials, directly or indirectly, except across the floor of the House of Commons.What, then, does he mean by saying that there was an understanding with the Conservative Whip made when this matter was discussed? What becomes of the bargain that the Coercion or the Crimes Act should not be renewed? The letter goes on—The first intimation I received of the intentions of the Government in respect of these matters was from Lord Carnarvon's speech in the Lords and that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Commons.—Yours truly, CHARLES S. PARNELL.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
The hon. and learned Gentleman will, perhaps, allow me to say that the only statement in my speech of the other night which is touched by the letter he has just read is the statement with reference to the communication with my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Derry (Mr. Justin M'Carthy). Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will show what other statement is touched. There are three statements in the letter—one with reference to the non-renewal of the Crimes Act, one with reference to a Land Purchase Act, and one with reference to the labourers. The letter denies that there had been any communication on my part, or on the part of any of my Colleagues, of course as far as I was aware, with the Government or with any of their officials upon any of those three matters. There had certainly not been any communication on my part up to that date with the Government or with any of their officials on either of those three subjects. As far as I am concerned that letter is perfectly accurate, and I hold to it now just as much as I did when I wrote it. But as far as my hon. Friend the Member for Derry is concerned I undoubtedly went beyond my warrant. When I spoke for my Colleagues I should have confined myself undoubtedly to speaking for myself. There had been, at the time I wrote the letter, a communication between my hon. Friend the Member for Derry and Lord St. Oswald with reference to only one of these subjects. I do not believe that as regards him or any other of my Colleagues the other two subjects had 635 been mentioned up to that time, although with reference to the Land Purchase Bill it was a subject which undoubtedly was mentioned at the interview between myself and Lord Carnarvon subsequently to that letter of July 31. I undoubtedly did take too much upon myself when I said that none of my Colleagues had had any communication with any Member of the Government, either directly on indirectly, with reference to the question of the renewal of the Crimes Act. I said so innocently and in perfect honour, as I was not then aware of the communication between my hon. Friend the Member for Derry and Lord St. Oswald. More than that, I had taken the pains to question several of my Colleagues before writing that letter, and they had informed me that there had been no communication between them and the Government. I did not, however, take the precaution of consulting my hon. Friend the Member for Derry, partly, perhaps, upon account of negligence, but chiefly because I had never noticed him in communication with any of the Government Whips. I adhere to every particle of that letter now just as I did when I wrote it except as regards the interview between my hon. Friend the Member for Derry and Lord St. Oswald, on the subject of the renewal of the Coercion Act. My hon. Friend's statement, which I repeated the other night in the House—namely, that Lord St. Oswald gave him to understand that the Coercion Act would not be renewed, or that the Tories did not intend to renew the Act—has not been contradicted by Lord St. Oswald, and I hope that if the hon. and learned Gentleman is able to do so he will give us a contradiction tonight.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I do not think the House will consider that I have shown any unwillingness to allow the hon. Member for Cork to make an explanation; but, in consequence of his statement, I must make one or two more observations on this matter. I care nothing for the moment about the Bill for the benefit of the labourers, and the passing of a Land Purchase Bill. That was not the sting of the hon. Member's allegation, and I appeal to those who heard his speech. The sting of the hon. Member for Cork's accusation against us the other night was that in order to turn out the Liberal Government, and 636 in order to secure seats at the General Election, a bargain had been made with us with reference to the dropping of the Crimes Act.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I am not pretending to quote his exact words; but I appeal to any man that heard that speech, and I am willing to have the report in any of the daily papers read to see who is right in this matter. With all due courtesy to the hon. Member for Cork, I assert that he alleged the other night that there was an understanding, bargain, or alliance between Lord St. Oswald and some Members of the Irish Parliamentary Party that the Crimes Act should not be renewed. These charges were put into writing by Sir Frederick Milner, who called Lord St. Oswald's attention to them, and he replied—As you asked for a reply, I can only, as regards myself, give a distinct and unqualified contradiction to the statements made, and say that there is not a single word of truth in them.This was on the 24th of July, 1885. [An hon. MEMBER: Read Milner's letter.] The charges mentioned in Sir Frederick Milner's letter, and contradicted by Lord St. Oswald, are the same as those quoted by the hon. Member for Cork. We therefore have Lord Salisbury, the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), Lord St. Oswald, and the hon. Member for Cork himself contradicting in the most categorical and specific manner that which was alleged to be the understanding, bargain, or arrangement with the Conservative Party, and yet the hon. Member for Cork now repeats those charges. After all these denials, it seems strange that the men who are now pluming themselves on being able to disregard what has gone before, should rake up what was little less than a slander on the Conservative Party for the purpose of justifying the present alliance between the hon. Member for Cork and that section of the Liberal Party of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) is the Leader. One other observation I wish to make, and it is not an unimportant one. Reference was made by the hon. Member for Cork to the memo- 637 randum written down at the time by the hon. Member for Derry (Mr. Justin M'Carthy), and the hon. Member's remarks were directed to showing that Lord Salisbury was acquainted with Lord Carnarvon's views on Home Rule, and shared them.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I can only appeal again to the recollection of the House. What was the object of insisting at considerable length upon the connection between Lord Salisbury and Lord Carnarvon? The hon. Member insisted that there must have been communication between Lord Salisbury and Lord Carnarvon, and that Lord Salisbury, therefore, must have known of it—[Mr. PARNELL: Hear, hear !]—but it was unfortunate that the hon. Member did not consult the written account of the transaction given by the hon. Member for Derry.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
That was not the point of the hon Gentleman's observations the other night. His contention was that Lord Salisbury had been cognizant of and indirectly a party to the negotiations which the hon. Member for Derry alleged had taken place with Lord Carnarvon respecting Home Rule. But if that is the hon. Gentleman's view, it is a pity that he did not consult the written memorandum, which was set down by the hon. Member for Derry, in which he stated, "Lord Carnarvon then said that he spoke for himself. On this point I remember distinctly that he said he spoke only for himself." Notwithstanding this clear and definite statement of the hon. Member for Derry, this matter has again been brought forward as an instance of want of faith on the part of the Conservative Party. However, to say the least of it, I think the hon. Member for Cork has been unfortunate in his illustrations. Now, I desire to say a word or two in regard to the action of the Executive in Ireland, which has been criticized by two distinguished men, one, the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) and by the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Herbert Gladstone). What is the duty of an Executive Government? I submit that its duty is to adminster the law im- 638 partially, fairly, and straightforwardly, and not to shrink from that duty, however inconvenient it may be. We have heard some extraordinary doctrines. I would ask right hon. Gentlemen opposite whether they endorse the doctrine that Acts of Parliament passed in one Session may be disregarded and disobeyed a few months later? We are not dealing with Acts of Parliament passed many years ago, but with an Act passed by a large majority of this House in August last. Hon. Members are entitled to hold their own views as to the advisability of passing such an Act, but no man is justified in disobeying that Act, or inciting others to disobey it. It has also been urged that the Act may be resisted because it passed through this House without the accustomed method of Parliamentary discussion. But whose fault was that? I sat in the House hours—days and nights. [An hon. Member:—You are paid for it.] Yes, I was paid for it, and I did it, but I am only mentioning this to show that I had full opportunites of judging. Over 1,000 amendments were proposed to that Bill. I make no charge against hon. Members for obstructing that Bill, but it is not very consistent of them, after the prolonged discussion that took place, extending over 10 days, to complain because certain clauses of the Bill were not discussed. If a Bill passes through both Houses, and receives the Royal Assent, it does not matter how much or how little discussion has taken place upon it. It is the duty of every subject to obey that law. I protest against the doctrine that, if you dislike an Act of Parliament, you may disobey it, instead of pursuing the constitutional course of endeavouring to get it repealed. What were the views of the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow on the subject in 1882? I will ask the House to let me read a quotation from the right hon. Baronet, which I venture to submit enunciates in a very few words what the duty of the Executive Government in such a case is. It seems to me impossible, though they may have changed their opinion of facts, that right hon. Gentlemen opposite can have changed their view of the duty of the Executive Government. The right hon. Baronet said—The present Crown officials—I borrow that phrase from the Amendment Paper—went to 639 Ireland at the beginning of May last. They were sent there "with a commission from the Crown and from Parliament, and unless they sincerely and cordially accepted that commission, they had no right to go at all. That commission was that the Grown officials should do their best to maintain the Union of the two countries, and to diminish—and, if possible, to extinguish—organized political and agrarian crime in Ireland. The duties were absolute.What is the meaning of that language? I am only using a phrase which I have often used before in this House when I say if it was right "to diminish, and, if possible, extinguish organized political crime" in 1883, it was not wrong to do so in 1887. And I will, before I sit down, show, I trust, to this House, that what the Executive Government has been doing in Ireland has been—dealing with organized political and agrarian crime and nothing else. I mentioned, Sir, a few moments ago a very remarkable accusation brought against some parties in Ireland by the hon. Member for Leeds. He told us that there had been heard very little condemnation from these Benches of the hideous crimes of the landlords in Ireland. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman remembers the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian from this place? I wonder whether he remembers the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian when introducing the Government of Ireland Bill, and the Land Bill which accompanied it, when he proposed to compensate the landlords of Ireland? Was there one word in those speeches to justify the suggestion that the landlords had been guilty of hideous crime?
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I accept the hon. Gentleman's correction, that he meant to refer to the oppression of some landlords; but I am referring to the expression "hideous crimes. "That expression means something which can be brought within the pale of the Criminal Law. Speak of the conduct of the landlords as oppression, speak of it as inhuman conduct if you like, but I submit you have no right to charge any people with being guilty of hideous crime unless you can point to some criminal act committed. But that was not the only part of the accusation brought against the landlords by the hon. 640 Member for Leeds. He said further that—It was a matter of notoriety that the landlords of Ireland and the loyal minority had during the last 10 years done their best to hamper Liberal Governments and to give every assistance to Conservative Governments.During the last 10 years! Does any right hon. Gentleman who has had anything to do with the government of Ireland say that the loyal minority did not do their best to support the Liberal Government in enforcing law and order? [Cheers, and "No, no!"] I am only studying the history of Ireland as part of contemporary history—for I have nothing to do with the Executive Government of Ireland—and I put this to right hon. and hon. Gentleman opposite that it is not quite a fair statement to say that the loyal minority in Ireland did not support the Liberal Government in their efforts to maintain law and order in that country. I assert again that there is no man who has studied the Irish question more thoroughly than the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow, and without dealing with any question of policy or with any question of whether the right hon. Baronet ought to have done this or that, I ask the House to listen to his judgment upon this question of support by the loyal minority. In February, 1883, the right hon. Baronet said:—I have heard a great deal beforehand of the bitterness of Whig and Tory in Ireland, but as far as my personal experience and observation are concerned, I never came across men more ready at a crisis cheerfully and unostentatiously to place patriotism before party than the Conservatives of the sister Isle.I confess I do not understand how the right hon. Baronet can have swallowed his convictions in the way he has done. I am not speaking of policy, but I am speaking of his judgment on the conduct of particular men, and his judgment on the conduct of those particular men showed that the then Governments did receive loyal support from the loyal minority in Ireland. I want therefore to know on what authority the hon. Member for Leeds asserts that the loyal minority have, during the last 10 years, hampered Liberal Governments instead of helping them. I venture to think that when such an assertion is made, at least it should be supported by some facts and arguments; and I think 641 I am justified in saying this—that those who have followed the Irish question during the last three or four years will not come to the conclusion that the assertions made by the hon. Member for Leeds last night are justified by facts. Surely it does not tend to promote a union of hearts to bring forward that kind of accusation as a sort of pleasing incident in the course of a discussion which is supposed to be conducted for the purpose of promoting a union of hearts between two great peoples. As I have referred to the union of hearts, I must observe that the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division fell into a most curious mistake when commenting on the statistics, which I submit did prove, as far as statistics can prove, the case of the Government. The right hon. Baronet said—Look at what we did. You have only reduced crime by a few paltry hundreds or so; we brought down crime by thousands.I wonder whether it occurred to the right hon. Baronet when he spoke thus that that arose from the union of hearts between the Irish Party and the Government of 1882. Mr. Speaker, whatever may have been the work for good of the Crimes Act of 1882, it was carried in the teeth of the Opposition of the Irish Party. [An hon. MEMBER: And the Tory Party.] That observation certainly is not correct, for the Conservative Party loyally supported the Liberal Government in passing the Crimes Act of 1882. But I am dealing now not with the passing, but with the carrying out of the Act; and I say it is very strange, if it was the union of hearts which effected the reduction of crime in 1887, that there should have been in 1882. when crime was so greatly reduced, not a union of hearts between the Government of the day and the Irish Party, but the direst hatred. No language now is too soft to describe Lord Spencer; and as for the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division, he does not know himself when he hears himself spoken of by the Members below the Gangway. This was the kind of language used of Lord Spencer at that time—The cold-blooded murderer of at least five innocent Irishmen within the last few months, one of whom he knew, beyond any manner of doubt, to be innocent of the crime for which he died—a nobleman whose very fingers dripped with the blood of innocent Irishmen.642 That language illustrates the relation of the Parties at the time when there was no union of hearts. I shall believe in the union of hearts when the speeches of hon. Members from Ireland outside the House are more in accordance with the sentiments they express here. The second part of this Motion of Want of Confidence deals with coercive legislation, and I ask to be allowed to say a word or two upon the subject, the more so because we have had most extraordinary statements made by the hon. Member for North-East Cork. He asked— "Have you crushed one single organization?" and I remember another hon. Member asked whether any branch of the National League had been effectively suppressed. I may be wrong, or I may be right, but the House will allow me to give my view, derived simply from reading the Nationalist newspapers, of the present condition of the National League as compared with its past condition. It is very easy to assert in this House that suppression has done no good, that the Members are as numerous, and that the money comes in as plentiful as before; [" Hear, hear !"]—well if money is flowing in the House would like to have some information as to what is done with it—but we are able to judge of these questions on parallel lines. It was my duty to assist the Chief Secretary in August last, and to satisfy myself as to the real condition of the National League, and my only source of information was the Nationalist papers. Members below the Gangway will remember that I called down derision upon my head because I happened to include one paper which was not Nationalist. Now what were the features of that time? One of the engines of tyranny by which persons were intimidated and oppressed was that their names were advertised in the Nationalist papers as having offended against the National League. I quoted several instances; the Chief Secretary quoted more; and the Solicitor General for Scotland, in a speech which many of us remember very well, quoted others. We pointed out that a most powerful engine, and one which was keeping alive Boycotting, intimidation, and that system of tyranny which we were satisfied existed in Ireland, was advertising people by name for having offended against the National League. 643 I do not suppose there are many Members of this House who read United Ireland. Well, let me put before them a comparison of two weeks. In the week ending the 16th of July, 1887, there were 39 individuals mentioned by name as having offended against the National League in some way or other. This meant that henceforth these men were marked men. Now, I assort that since the suppression of the branches, there has practically been no naming of persons in the National Press as offending against the League. For the week ending the 7th of January, 1888, there were in United Ireland, The Nation, The Weekly News, and The Cork Daily Herald, same 60 reports—many of them duplicates, for the suppressed branches send the papers many reports—but in these 60 there was only one reference to a person as having offended against the National League. [An hon. MEMBER: It was no longer necessary.] Why was it necessary in the middle of 1887? Because it was then part of the scheme of the National League to Boycott individuals who offended against it. Is there any honest member of the National League who will say now that he would not be glad that landgrabbers should be Boycotted? But if it were only for this one fact that now for a period of five or six months, that kind of intimidation which was of the very worst kind, which consisted of particular individuals in small parishes being held up by name as having offended against the popular element, has disappeared from the Nationalist Press, then I say that, as far as I can judge from the papers put before me, the Act has had a most useful and salutary effect. But this fact demands comment from another point of view. If these branches of the League are as strong as they were before the passing of the Crimes Act, why do they now desist from this habit? I demur to the statement of the hon. Member for East Cork that these branches are as they were. I ask those who know the place and do not simply trust to paper reports of the meetings, but who go down to the country, whether they will of their own personal knowledge allege that the same number of persons go to the National League meetings. [Cries of"More !"] All I can say is that there are those on this side of the House who know Ire- 644 land well, who will say that those meetings, instead of being defiant and open, are now held in secret. Do right hon. Gentlemen opposite consider that it is no advantage that the National League meetings, instead of being engines of terror, are now only hole-and-corner meetings? I should have thought that an unlawful meeting held by a small number of men in a secret place, had very much loss effect on the inhabitants than a large open meeting, where people could be forced into sympathy with the object of the meeting. At any rate it is my view—[Home Rule laughter]—I do not know whether it is asking too much to be allowed to finish my sentence—that if in numbers the meetings are enormously reduced, as we believe they are, if their influence in the district is enormously reduced together with their power of intimidation and terrorism, the position is changed very much for the better. Some time in this debate we shall have the Chief Secretary speaking.[Ironical Home Rule cheers.] Well, we cannot all speak at the same time, at any rate on this side of the House; and being supposed to be the person at present addressing you, Mr. Speaker, I say that the view we take is that there has been this sensible gain to law and order by meetings being obliged to be held as hole-and-corner meetings; that now resolutions are passed condemning coercion and the action of the Chief Secretary and the Government, but the meetings do not direct their spite against individuals. Nothing, in my opinion, does the Chief Secretary more credit than his utter indifference to abuse. We shall probably some day have specimens read with some sense of shame of the language used by the Nationalist Members. However, harsh, words break no bones, and we can afford to be abused if the effect of the Act has been of material good to the people. Now, I have said that the National League has been, to a very great extent, crushed. [Ironical Home Rule laughter.]That may not be the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite; I do not say that the work has been done, it has yet to go steadily on, but a very great step has been taken and a great advance made. But there is another side to this picture which will enable us to test this. It has been asserted boldly in this House more than once that there is no connec- 645 tion between the National League and crime. The hon. Member for East Cork to-night said that there was no connection between the Plan of Campaign and crime. I do not think that the experience of those who really know Ireland will confirm that view. It was all very well when the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) was giving the details of that lamentable and piteous case of the murder of Fitzmaurice to say that the Lixnaw branch of the League had disappeared before that time. I assert that no one who reads that story and sees the absence of any other motive for killing that man to see that it is impossible to suggest any other reason than that he had offended against the League. I care not for the trumpery excuse that the National League there had ceased to exist as a body—its spirit had not ceased.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN (Cork, N.E.)
said, that there was not a single case of the Plan of Campaign in the County of Kerry.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I was referring to the National League. I said that I should speak of the National League and of the Plan of Campaign, but I cannot do both at the same time. I was quoting a case which was quoted in this House when the hon. Member was not present. The case was also quoted by the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) the other night. I do not propose to read the record of it, but without any doubt it has intimate connection with the National League. I will at once take a case which, on the evidence before me, appears to be directly connected with the Plan of Campaign in the county of Ros-common. A man who was driving with his daughter and a labourer to a fair with live pigs in his cart was stopped by about 20 men with blackened faces; he was savagely beaten and the pigs cruelly scored with knives. They had refused to join the Plan of Campaign which they were trying to establish on the estate. Now, it is utterly impossible to examine into these oases without coming to the conclusion that the only cause which could be assigned for the outrage was that the victim, or victims, had given some offence to some party connected with the National League. If it was not so, what should we have? We 646 should have hon. Members getting up and saying—"Oh, I can give you an explanation of that. That man had offended these people, and these people had a private spite at him." I assert, as my own opinion, that we cannot find any motive to account for these charges, except that the poor unfortunate victims had in some way or other offended the National Party, and the hint was given in one way or other—the hon. Member for Cork will know what I mean— which led to the outrages being subsequently committed.
§ MR. DILLON
What do you mean by "hint?" Mr. Speaker, I protest against this language. The hon. and learned Gentleman has used language in this country against me and my hon. Colleagues which is intolerable. He now rises in his place and states that a hint has been given to commit crime in Ireland— [Ministerial cheers']—and he points to us. Those cheers only emphasize his words when he says we know perfectly well what he means when he speaks of a hint being given. Let him be a man, if he is a man, and state distinctly what he means.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
The hon. Member knows perfectly well— [Cries of "Withdraw:" and "Explain yourself!"]—that I made no suggestion, direct or indirect, against him. If he had been in the House the other night he would have heard the hon. Member for Cork tell a story about a college don who had told the people not to nail a man's oars to the pump. That was referred to by more than one speaker as an instance of a hint being given, and the hon. Member for Cork knows perfectly well what I referred to when I said that. Now, if any man can take offence out of that—
§ MR. DILLON
Yes; I do take offence at it, and I ask you, Mr. Speaker— [Cries of "Order !"] I rise to the point of Order, and I say that the hon. and learned Gentleman has increased his offence by the words he has used. The hon. and learned Gentleman has referred specifically to certain words used by the hon. Member for Cork which are common-place as being a hint to commit a certain deed, and he thereupon emphasized the charge he has just levelled against us, that we were in the habit— for that was the meaning of his words— of giving a hint to commit crime. 647 Now, I appeal to you, Sir, to rule on this point of Order whether it is competent to any hon. Member to make such charges against other hon. Members of the House?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have heard nothing which calls for my intervention, or any point of Order that I could take notice of.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I never intended to make such a suggestion as that of which the hon. Member complains. I said what I have more than once put forward in this House, that it is impossible to account for these outrages without coming to the conclusion that the victims of them had offended the National Party. I simply say again distinctly that neither directly or indirectly did I intend to make any such suggestion as the- hon. Member for East Mayo has thought fit to assume against me. I have never made directly or indirectly any accusation against any hon. Member of this House, and nothing that I have said justifies the attack of the hon. Member for East Mayo. Let me call the attention of the House to other cases of very considerable importance. There is the case of Thomas Grosland, Castle Island, County Kerry, who, on December 20, was fired at and wounded in the legs and hands. The poor unfortunate man applied to Father Fitzgerald for a dispensary order, but was refused, although he was entitled to it on every ground, and the only possible reason that can be suggested is that a relative of his had been a witness in a Government case in which two men had been hanged. How was it this man could not get a dispensary order? If we draw the wrong conclusion, will any hon. Member, when he comes to speak, give us the information as to what was the real cause of such an inhuman act as the refusal of the order? There is another matter to which I wish to call attention. It is perfectly evident that there are a large number of abstentions from attendance at the League meetings. It is all very well for hon. Members to say there is no falling off, but I see in United Ireland, mention made over and over again of the fact that people have, since the proclamation of the Crimes Act, abstained from attending the meetings. I draw my own conclusion, and it is this—that it is untrue to j suggest that there has been no falling I 648 off, and to say that the National League is the same powerful agency which it was six months ago. If it be true, as the Amendment asserts, that the ameliorative character of the land legislation, and not the Crimes Act, has diminished crime, what is the meaning of the continued denunciation of land-grabbing? I want to know what offence against God or man the land-grabber commits? ["Oh!" and derisive laughter.] A derisive cheer is no adequate reply. Let me explain what I mean by land-grabber. I understand by a land-grabber a man who, seeing that land is vacant because a tenant has been evicted or because of some dispute between landlord and tenant, enters into the occupation of it. He is called a land-grabber. I do not appeal to the Irish Party, for they would treat me with those derisive shouts of laughter to which I am accustomed, but I will appeal to those who will reason this case out. I ask the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley)to explain what crime against God or man the land-grabber, as he is called, commits? I hope the right hon. Member will point this out so that we may judge, for I cannot see the crime. If it be not the object of the League to prevent good feeling between landlord and tenant, what is the meaning of the treatment of a land-grabber? I believe that this lies at the root of the Irish difficulty. Here is what United Ireland says about it—We do not hesitate in our conviction and our advice that land-grabbers and emergency men should be shunned as vile vermin and poisonous, mean traitors for sordid gain, not merely to the class from which they spring, but to every instinct of humanity. But this we do say, resistance to eviction and Boycotting of land-grabbers and the crowbar brigade, though good things in themselves, make no part of the Plan of Campaign.Just observe the insidiousness of that argument. But what do they say?— that Boycotting is a good thing in itself. I think the House will have no difficulty in forming an opinion as to the conclusion at which the readers of United Ireland would arrive. On the 25th of September the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) made a speech, and I think it shows why people are afraid to become one of that despised class, the land-grabber. He said, speaking at Tallow— 649The chief prop of landlordism is land-grabbing—taking a farm from which another tenant has been evicted; and I can only say that I regard land-grabbing, not merely as a political crime, but as a moral crime, and a man cannot engage in it without staining his soul.[Home Rule cheers.] That is cheered. Does the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) cheer it? [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT assented.] He nods his head. Does he agree with me for once? The hon. and learned Member goes on, "For my part, I have never been squeamish as to the way in which I should throttle landlordism." ["Oh !"] Well, the truth will come out at times. That is the aim, to drive the landlords from the country. ["No!"] Hon. Members cannot shout out "No!" without contradicting their speeches. Let me quote Mr. Davitt on the subject. Mr. Davitt, in his speech at Rathkeale on the 30th of January, said—While the land-grabber is a thief at any time, a man who in this manner will take an unfortunate neighbour's farm now, while Ireland's enemies are trampling on our principles, is worse than a coercionist. He is a cowardly, slimy renegade—a man to be looked on as a social leper, contact with whom should be considered a stigma and a reproach.Do hon. Members remember the passionate appeal of the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) as to the objects and endeavours of the National Party? Does the hon. Member for North-East Cork repudiate the language of Mr. Davitt or not?
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
Will the hon. Member pardon me? I am not referring personally to him. The language—
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
I stated that there was a sort of Boycotting which was wicked, and which we had done more than the right hon. Gentleman to put down. I paid, also, that there is Boycotting which is legitimate, and which can never be put down.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
I am not sorry I gave way. Now we have heard the extent to which Boycotting is approved, and the extent to which it is repudiated. I want to know, when the right hon. Member for Derby speaks tomorrow night, whether he will endorse 650 Mr. Davitt's observation that a land-grabber is a cowardly renegade, a man to be looked on as a social leper whose contact should be accounted a stigma and a reproach? I could quote to the House more of the utterances of hon. Members, but I have done enough in extracting from their lips in this House the admission that they sympathize with some Boycotting, and that they think a land-grabber is a man who is to be treated in that way. I have only one more word to say. As Member of a Government to which I am proud to belong, I do not suggest that we can afford to relax our efforts. I know perfectly well that there is a great deal more work to be done. I know perfectly well that we have to combat with an organization which for 10 years has exercised a baneful influence over Ireland. It is a hydra we have to fight; every one of its heads will have to be scotched and the life-blood of which will somehow or other have to be reached; we have not yet gained the end; but I do say that we have made a step in advance, and that when ignorance disappears as education proceeds, those who are now simply following the baneful influence of the National League will see on which side it is right they should be. It is said that the darkest hour is that before the dawn. I do not say that the dawn has broken; but I do say that there is light in the East, spreading its rays more and more over the whole horizon, and I believe that if the Government is straightforward and consistent in carrying out its policy, although it may take time, although they may have to surmount many difficulties, sooner or later we shall have the sunshine of full perfect liberty, and every subject of Her Majesty in Ireland will be able to enjoy and exercise his full and true Constitutional rights.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I think it will be admitted that the debate to-night has taken a rather extraordinary course. It was opened by a most formidable indictment, both personal and public, by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), and I expected while that speech was progressing that the Chief Secretary, whose conduct was so much impugned, would at once have sprung to his feet to answer the charges made against him, and to refute and re- 651 but the extraordinary facts which, the hon. Member brought forward. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman ironically cheers that statement. Why did he not at once got up to answer those charges? The hon. Member for North-East Cork said, for example—I will only give one example—that his soldiers and his police themselves needed to be policed. Those were facts so remarkable that I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman would not have delayed a moment to answer them, instead of sending his secretary to rummage despatch boxes and setting the telegraph at work to the Castle at Dublin to find out whether the allegations of the hon. Member were true or not. On the first night of the Session, the right hon. Gentleman made a rather unhappy allusion to people saying things out of doors which they were afraid to substantiate in the House; but I think we have seen to-night that he is not very ready to substantiate his own allegations. Instead of the right hon. Gentleman following the powerful indictment drawn against him and his system of government by my hon. Friend, a hon. and learned Friend of mine (Mr. Finlay) got up and began by saying that he would not follow the details of my hon. Friend, as if details were not the very essence of the matter! The hon. and learned Member for Inverness gave us, instead of a reasonable and reasoned answer to the hon. Member for North-East Cork, what, with all respect for my hon. and learned Friend's abilities, I cannot but call a series of the idlest platitudes I have heard in the course of this debate. He deplored the heated language of my hon. Friend. I think his language was not more heated than could be expected in the circumstances under which he addressed the House. The hon. and learned Member for Inverness only made one remark which seems to me to deserve attention. He said that this House was the last place in the world to be made a Court of Appeal from the judgments of the Courts of Law. That is a very old story. I will call the attention of the House to what happened in regard to the Coereion Act of 1881, and in regard to the Act of 1882. When these Acts, with all the exceptional and stringent powers contained in them, were brought before the House the argument was—"We need have no fear 652 or jealousy in passing these provisions, because the House itself will be able to supervise their administration and the way they are carried out after they are passed." But after they were passed, the very same argument was used against supervision by this House as was used by the hon. and learned Member to-night—namely, that we are the most unfit Body in the world to be a Court of Appeal. Now, I should like to say a word as to the history of this debate. Yesterday afternoon the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division of Nottingham (Mr. J. E. Ellis) brought forward a number of most serious instances of disregard of care in receiving evidence, and of disregard of judicial impartiality on the part of Resident Magistrates, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland (Colonel King-Harman) got up and did not say one single word in disproof or in palliation of any one of those charges. He did say one thing in his rather ex-plosive peroration, that Ireland must and would be governed. As if the right hon. Gentleman and his Order and the class to which he belongs have not had the government of Ireland in their hands for centuries, and a very nice mess they have made of the government both for Ireland and themselves. I cannot imagine a greater proof of political infatuation than this, that the right hon. and gallant Gentlemen, the present Under Secretary for Ireland (Colonel King-Harman), should be a Privy Councillor, an important official, should be receiving, or at least, concerned in prospective and retrospective emoluments, while the hon. Member for North-East Cork is treated as a degraded criminal, unworthy to take part in the government of his own country. When we think of the distractions of Ireland, of the necessity of looking in every direction for aid in solving the enormously difficult problem with which we have to deal, I repeat it is indeed infatuation that you can find nothing better to do with a man so earnest, of such distinguished ability, so eloquent, so public-spirited as my hon. Friend than to lock him up in gaol in Ireland, while we vilify and calumniate him in England. Referring further to the history of this debate, another hon. Member, who has taken part in it, the hon. member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. 653 W. Russell) has permitted himself to make a remark which concerns me, and which I think most hon. Gentlemen will agree it would have been better taste to leave unsaid. It was a remark expressive of his anxiety lest certain evil communications with me should corrupt the good morals and faith of the Catholic Church. There is something particularly edifying in this solicitude in the spokesman of the Rump of the Party of ascendancy—that Party, who, when they had the power, took away from the mass of the Irish people their wealth and their temples, drove them into holes and caverns, and on account of their religion deprived them of all hope of becoming possessors of land, of becoming members of any liberal Profession, and even of deriving light from education in their own country. We know how to measure the sincerity and good faith of the innuendo of the hon. Member. The Party of ascendancy has surely fallen on evil days indeed, when, under the name of Unionists, they are going about beating the hideous Orange drum in Ulster with one hand and with the other stealthily plucking at the sleeve of Mousignor Persico. I will now offer a very few remarks upon the speech of the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down, (Sir Richard Webster). I shall certainly not follow him into his criticisms of the negotiations between the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and Lord Carnarvon and the Conservative Party. I will only point out that in a speech which the Chief Secretary made recently, either at Manchester or at Birmingham, he referred with delicacy, but still sufficiently plainly, to a temporary alliance which he admitted had existed between his Party and the followers of the hon. Member for the City of Cork; and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) in 1885 was not so shy as he probably is now about admitting that there was coquetting between his present allies and confederates and Gentlemen below the Gangway. Speaking at St. Leonards in September, 1885, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said—I wonder whether the Conservatives have forgotten a little episode at Liverpool, when two highly honourable and worthy Members of the Conservative Party refused to go to Liverpool to meet one of their great chiefs,"—654 whom I think I see in his place (Lord Randolph Churchill)—Or I wonder whether they have forgotten what the Conservative Members said after that famous Maamtrasna debate. I was in the House that night, and as I stood at the door of the House some Conservative Members rushed passed me saying, when they had listened to speeches from the Front Bench, 'We cannot stand this,'But that has very little to do with the great question before us, which is whether the state of Ireland justifies the system on which it is now being governed. The hon. and learned Gentleman asks us to say whether it is lawful to disregard an Act of Parliament because we disapproved of its provisions. But that, Sir, is not the question before the House. The question is not whether we may or may not disregard the provisions of an Act; the question is whether it is administered with dignity, or with prudence, or whether it is administered hardly, harshly, and mischievously. The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite able to appreciate the distinction. It is open to us, and it is quite natural for us, who disapproved of the policy of the Act, to criticize very sharply the spirit and the method in which it is administered. This Amendment criticizes that administration, and I believe, so far as my right hon. Friends and I are concerned, we have criticized the administration of the Act, and it is the administration which we condemn as much as we condemn the policy which inspired the Act. The hon. and learned Gentleman has admitted one or two extraordinary views, as coming from that Bench, of their aims in the administration of the Act. He says that they are dealing with organized political crime and nothing else.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
Not "and nothing else." I do not think the House understood me as meaning that.
MR. JOHN MOELEY
Well, I do not press it; I took the words down, but the point remains almost as strong— you are dealing with political crime. That is what we have told you all along. The hon. and learned Gentleman pointed out what he meant by crime—something brought within the reach of the Criminal Law. That is a lawyer's account of the matter, which I do not think will satisfy politicians and statesmen who have to deal with the government of the country. These somewhat pedantic and narrow 655 distinctions do not take us far. Like the Chief Secretary, the lion, and learned Gentleman practically gave up the case on the statistics; he admitted that the statistics did not, in fact, prove the case of the Government. I think in that he was extremely wise. The hon. and learned Gentleman made no attempt to answer seriously and in detail the contention of the hon. Member for North-East Cork that the National League is as strong as ever it was, if not stronger; and as to the money that was coming in, he said he would like a little information. He said he was told that money came in very slowly to the National League. Last night, after the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Parliamentary Under Secretary had declared that the National League exchequer was running extremely dry, I happened to take up The Freeman's Journal, and I found a report of a meeting of the League held on the previous day, which gave, with what looked like chapter and verse, an account of the gums received from each locality. What were the results? In the first fortnight of February, 1885, the Irish subscriptions to the National League amounted to £242; in February, 1886, to £385; in February, 1887, to £490; and in the first fortnight of February, 1888, they rose from £490 to £520. I notice, too, this remarkable fact, which, perhaps, the Chief Secretary may be able to explain—that subscriptions came just as freely, apparently, from districts where the National League was suppressed. If faith is to be placed in these figures there is no failing off in the supplies to this organization which you say that you are going to pluck up at the roots. As to the Plan of Campaign, enough has been said by the hon. and learned Gentleman. Is it true, and the Chief Secretary will have to answer this question—is it true or not that while you were wasting time in irritating public feeling in Ireland, the Plan of Campaign was in full swing? It seems to be true beyond denial. As for Boycotting, the figures were produced the other night by the Chief Secretary. I then remarked that there were other explanations on this subject than those given by the Government. A friend of mine wrote to me from Portumna, a district well known as a turbulent district, and he said that there 656 were great numbers of men there who had been Boycotted, but that latterly every single man in Portumna, excepting the postmaster, had joined the Plan and had made his peace with the League. ["Hear, hear!"] At the same time, I am not saying whether that is desirable or not. [Ministerial cheers.] I am giving other explanations besides that upon which the Government alone rely. Another explanation which cannot for a moment be minimized is that landlords have given or been forced to give reductions. That has naturally produced peace in districts which previously were greatly disturbed. The hon. and learned Attorney General made one most serious remark, for which I think his right hon. Colleague will barely thank him. He made the astonishing assertion, considering what the history of Ireland is, that secret meetings are better than public meetings. I have known a great many extraordinary things said by Conservatives and Liberals too about Ireland, but I think I never heard a statement that showed such ignorance of the very curse and bane of society in Ireland as that remark of the hon. and learned Gentleman. And when you talk of suppressing meetings, when you talk of suppressing branches of the League, you forget that even if you did suppress meetings, you are encouraging that habit, that baneful habit of mind, which has been the curse of Irish society and which has even followed Irishmen across the seas. When you put down meetings do you think that men do not see one another after the mass, in the chapel yard, in the fairs, at their athletic associations? And by suppressing meetings and forcing them to arrange secret interviews, you are encouraging and fostering that habit of mind which I repeat has been one of the worst curses of the Irish people. I wish to say a few words upon the treatment of political prisoners. I do not agree with the doctrine laid down by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) that a Member of Parliament is no more than, and ought to be treated as no more than, anybody else. My right hon. and learned Friend took upon himself to say that that was the democratic view. I do not think that my right hon. and learned Friend lives in a political atmosphere which, qualifies him to say what is or is not the democratic view. I cannot trust 657 him with the utmost confidence for speaking the democratic view, but I could trust him as to the aristocratic one. On the democratic view I prefer to trust my own knowledge of the British democracy, and I do not believe that our people are bent up in anything more at this moment than that this House should be restored to its fullest dignity and its fullest authority. I am one of those who do not shrink from any reform in procedure that would add to the authority and dignity, the majesty, I may say, of this House. I would like to see it enlarged by every method; because if we do not have collectively any of that dignity which doth hedge a King, at least do not let us forget that we are the heirs of the noblest traditions in the history of freedom, that we are the possessors of vast and boundless powers for good and evil, and that we are the chosen repositories of the confidence of the people of this realm. With these sentiments and ideas, I confess that it was with a repugnance which I am sure plenty of lion. Gentlemen opposite shared, that last Friday night, for instance, I found every exit from this House guarded by bands of detectives, not to protect us, but to arrest Members of this House. I am not going to argue whether or not there was a breach of Privilege; but I am certain there was a want of common sense in those proceedings, that they constitute an indignity on this House, and that they could easily have been avoided. We are approaching through this Act a serious Constitutional position; and I put it to the House—and you who are the Constitutional Party ought not to lose sight of it—remember that you have made a permanent change in the law, you have permanently empowered the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to make new crimes. ["No!"] Oh, yes; and with the aid of a dependent magistracy—for such I must call it—you may convert any number of Irish Members into criminals, and deprive one-sixth, one-fourth, or one-half of the Irish constituencies of their Representatives. I say that these immense powers being permanent, it is my deliberate opinion that the House of Commons will have to consider whether they will not have such an alteration in the Rules of Privilege, that during the Session of Parliament the present exemption on civil process shall be extended to criminal process— 658 ["Oh !" and "Hear, hear !"]—except in certain grave cases, such as treason-felony and other serious matters. Well, I am not going to argue that question to-night. I will pass on to the immediate point as to political prisoners. On the last day of last Session, as the Chief Secretary may possibly remember, I ventured to warn him that public opinion would not endure the treatment of political prisoners on the same footing as if they were guilty of ordinary crimes; and I believe that what has happened since has fully borne out that opinion, for I believe that if one part of the administration of the Crimes Act has excited more disgust and repugnance than another in the country among both Parties, it is the way in which Members of Parliament and others have been treated as prisoners. The right hon. Gentleman treated us to a very smart academic repartee. He said that an offence did not become political because it was committed by a politician. Well, after all, that left the matter very much where it was; and I admit fully the enormous difficulty or even impossibility of defining a political prisoner. That difficulty was felt in the year 1866, when an Extradition Treaty was before Parliament, and it exercised some of the most acute minds in the House. Of course, in one sense, Guy Fawkes was a political prisoner; so was Orsini, who threw the bombs at the Emperor of the French; so are some of the dyna-mitards; and, of course, we all agree that the political complexion that may possibly be imparted to acts of this description does not exempt the perpetrators of them from the penalty which such acts deserve. So far we agree; but the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) said it was a piece of mawkish sentimentalism for Radicals to insist on different treatment for political prisoners and other prisoners, and ought not to be entertained.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I think the right hon. Gentleman was not present when I spoke. What I said was that any old Radical would have scouted the notion that a Member of Parliament was to be treated differently from a peasant.
§ Ms. JOHN MORLEY
A Member of this House is now treated in a different way. He is treated on civil process in one way, and other persons are 659 treated in another. If an Irish peasant has the same exemption from civil process as a Member of Parliament, I am glad to hear it. Let me say one word about the old Radical. It is remarkable that in 1867 a Petition was presented to this House in favour of certain Irish prisoners. They were Fenians, and among them was O'Donovan Rossa, of whom we have heard so much. That Petition, which was presented by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), prayed that the prisoners suffering as Fenians or on other political charges should not, in the execution of their sentences, be confined with common prisoners who were suffering for offences against the ordinary Criminal Law of their country; and the Petitioners went on to pray that in the punishment awarded them there might be none of those of a degrading nature, as such punishments seemed to the Petitioners to be inapplicable to men who, however misguided, had different motives and sought different ends from those of ordinary criminals. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Birmingham said—"With the general spirit of that Petition I entirely concur;" and Mr. John Suart Mill—who was at that time MemberforWestminster—said that the Petition did not contain a single sentiment to which he did not adhere. I venture to think that these two Gentlemen were as good representatives of the old Radicalism as the hon. Gentleman, and were not inferior to him either in intellectual vigour or moral elevation. But why perplex ourselves with these considerations as to what is or is not a political prisoner, because in 1877 Parliament passed, under the guidance of the present Lord Cross, the Prisons (Ireland) Act. That Act contains two sections which bear strictly on the matter in hand. The 48th section is—Section 48.—The General Prisons Board shall cause provision to be made in such prison or prisons as they shall think proper, so that prisoners convicted of misdemeanour and not sentenced to hard labour shall be divided into at least two divisions, one of which shall he called the first division; and "whenever any person convicted of misdemeanour is sentenced to imprisonment without hard labour, it shall be lawful for the Court or Judge before whom such person has been tried to order, if such Court or Judge think fit, that such person shall be confined during his sentence in such prison or in 660 some one of such prisons, and be there treated as a misdemeanant of the first division, and a misdemeanant of the first division shall be treated in accordance with such rules as may from time to time be made in that behalf under the provisions of this Act.It was under that section of the Act, I believe, that an hon. Member of this House—the hon. Member for South Galway (Mr. Sheehy)—was made a first class misdemeanant. I wish particularly to call attention to the next section—Section 49.—Every person under sentence inflicted on conviction for sedition or seditious libel, and any person who shall be imprisoned under any rule, order, or attachment for contempt of any Court, shall be treated as a misdemeanant of the first division.It was under that section, I think, that Mr. O'Donel—the magistrate in Dublin—ordered that the hon. Member for the College Green Division of Dublin—ex-Lord Mayor of Dublin (Mr. T. D. Sullivan)—should be made a first-class misdemeanant. My contention is that if the Crimes Act had not been passed in a reckless hurry we should have been able to insert a clause similar to the 49th Section of the Act of 1877, and which should have applied to some, at least, of the offences with which the Coercion Act professes to deal. Look how absurd the law now is—that if a person charged is guilty of sedition or seditious libel he must be a first-class misdemeanant, but that if he is only guilty of what everyone in the House will admit to be infinitely less serious than the graver form of sedition—if he is guilty of such an offence as was committed by the hon. Member for North-East Cork—then there is no compulsion in the Crimes Act to treat him as a first-class misdemeanant. I submit to the right hon. Gentleman opposite that this has placed the House in a ridiculous position, because it was not the intention of Parliament—still less was it the intention of the constituencies—that Members who committed such an offence as that of the hon. Member for North-East Cork should be treated as if guilty of degrading crimes, and should be subjected to the same discipline as degraded criminals. I will not go further into this matter. I only wish to protest as strongly as I can— I and I believe I speak for nearly all of us who sit above the Gangway as well as those who sit low—against this treatment of men who have not been guilty of 661 dishonourable and degrading crime, and that we find it thoroughly odious and repugnaut to all sound feeling. The hon. Member for North-East Cork tonight hit the true root of an 6vil in this Act and in its administration with which we are more immediately concerned. He said most truly that the Act had been drafted on the theory that the people of Ireland were pining to be relieved from the pressure of the National League. What you confound with intimidation and pressure is, in fact, public opinion. I do not care where you look for public opinion in Ireland, I do not care what your tests of public opinion may be— whether you look at the popular Press over a large area of Ireland, whether you look at the attitude of the clergy, whether you look at the attitude of the Parliamentary Representatives or at that of the municipal representatives—in every case you find public opinion is against your policy and against the way in which it is carried out. What the right hon. Gentleman regards as public opinion in Ireland appears to be that which is held by the majority in Belfast, and by so email a minority in Dablin, that it could not win one single division of the capital city. The Government, by the course they are taking, are doing the best that could be done to rouse men who have never before taken part in political agitation to a sense of the humiliation of their country. I cannot forget that when I was in Dublin the other day one of the foremost physicians in that city came on the platform and said that he had never been at a public meeting before, that he had never been an agitator, and that he had never sympathized with Home Rule; but that the tyrannical despotism of the administration of the right hon. Gentleman had compelled him to join those who wished to bring about an organic change in the government of their country. Do not let the right hon. Gentleman suppose that this is an isolated case. There are thousands and thousands of men in the middle classes in Ireland, quiet men who only wish to live in peace, who are animated by the same feeling. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman may shake his head, but he is not well placed to see such things. The right hon. Gentleman is the last person to know who are now rallying to the national cause. When the 662 Coercion Act was in the House last year the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) described it as an "emancipating Bill." Why, we saw a specimen of the way it worked the other day, on the occasion of Father M'Fadden being taken to Dungannon to undergo his trial, when there was a perfect corps d'armée to receive him. There were dragoons, hussars, foot soldiers, and constabulary—I am not sure that there was not a gun—but there was a total force of 500 men to carry out the emancipation of the peasantry of Gweedore from a single priest. The language of the right hon. Gentleman merely illustrates the delusion with regard to Irish affairs under which the Government and, I am sorry to say, the majority of this House appear to labour. When the right hon. Gentleman was in Dublin he showed his ignorance of Ireland by saying that he wished he had time to go all through the country in order to explain to the people how they were being cajoled and duped. I should like the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for North-East Cork to go together through Ireland on a journey and to let us see whether the right hon. Gentleman could persuade his audience that the hon. Member was cajoling and duping them. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson), to whom I always listen with the greatest interest and respect, said the other night that his countrymen are not a law-abiding people. I certainly recollect that the hon. and gallant Member did on one occasion use threats and menaces of what he would do in the event of a Home Rule Bill being carried, which went to show that he, at all events, was not a very law-abiding person. But is it an innate necessity of the Irish nature that they should not be a law-abiding nation? We find that the moment they remove to Australia or to Canada they become—-with the exception of a few rowdy Orangemen now and then—a most law-abiding people. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary again shakes his head, but I will refer him to a book—to read when he has spare time, which, I hope he will have before very long—on Australia in which he will find it stilted, with indisputable instances, that the Irishmen in that 663 country are as law-abiding as any Englishmen or Scotchmen. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh put a question to me. He said that he was curious to know whether I had come back from Ireland still convinced that the Irish were a loyal people. Well, Sir, a civil question shall have a plain answer. I have come back more persuaded than I was before that the Irish will be a loyal people when you give them institutions which are worth being loyal to. How can you expect them to be loyal to this Parliament when, as you all know—who know anything of Irish history—that no boon has ever been got from this Parliament which has not been extorted by agitation and pressure? How can you expect loyalty to grow in a soil of that kind? If you govern Ireland with somewhat less of the pedantry of a collegian and somewhat less of the discipline of a martinet of the barrack, if you approach them sympathetically, if you do not irritate and exasperate them with small and petty bits of vindictiveness, they would become loyal, and rally fast enough to your flag. The hon. and gallant Member quoted something which he stated the Mayor of Waterford said to me. He alleged that the Mayor of Waterford said, "I am a rebel, and I always shall be a rebel." As a matter of historic fact—if it is worth going into—what the Mayor of Waterford said, was that he was born a rebel, and always would be a rebel against such despotism as that of the right hon. Gentleman. That does not strike me as a very pernicious or treasonable sentiment. Every heated word which comes either from the Mayor of Waterford or from any Irish Member below the Gangway, or any Irishman anywhere else, is chronicled, exaggerated, and printed in capital letters. The most curious thing is that we are urged to believe that whenever they say anything bad or heated they mean it, and when—as now—they say things which are pacific and good then we are assured that they do not mean it. That is a piece of unfairness which does a great deal of harm and against which I very warmly protest. In conclusion, I have only to remind the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that he is at this moment in the very same fool's paradise in which Mr. Forster was when he came here in the 664 beginning of 1882 and congratulated, himself and the House upon the success of the Coercion Act. I was not then in the House, but I take credit to myself that I never for a moment believed, or, so far as I could help it, allowed others to believe, that there was any reason for congratulation. I warned him that there was mischief. Mischief indeed there was. Again, when Lord Spencer's administration had run its course, when he thought that he had achieved some degree of success, the moment came when he, too, found that he had been, as Mr. Forster had been, and as the right hon. Gentleman now is, in a fool's paradise. Lord Spencer found the waters rising up to his chin—those I think are his own words—the waters of disaffection, turbulence, and trouble. If the right hon. Gentleman could see for himself he would find out that his officials are telling him what they believe—what it is their professional interest to believe— but what he may depend upon it, as the months roll by, he will find to be untrustworthy and insecure, and which he will find the people of this country will not much longer endure.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. A. J. Half our)—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Tomorrow.