§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [14th February.]—[See page 332.]
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ Debate resumed.
§ (4.15.) MR. W. O'BRIEN (Cork, N.E.)
I think that we Irish Members, at all events, have some right to complain of the habit—the growing habit—of the Chief Secretary to defer his speeches until the end of all Irish debates when there is no sufficient opportunity for answering him. There is clearly no sufficient object in following speakers like the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson), through the burlesque entertainment, very rollicking and very amusing, no doubt, which he presented to the House the other night. So far as I can see, the only serious statement made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman was that Ireland is at the present moment happy, tranquil, and thriving. But he told us in a sentence or two afterwards, or, at all events, he expressed a somewhat diffident hope, that this same Ireland would soon come to her senses. Well, Sir, when a man in one sentence tells us that Ireland is perfectly happy and in the next breath tells us she is per- 446 fectly mad, I do not think it is straining matters too much to conclude that it is possibly the hon. and gallant Member's own faculties rather than those of the people of Ireland that are temporarily in a state of disrepair. But, at any rate, the hon. and gallant Member is not the man we wanted to hear or have a right to hear. Still less was it the inoffensive and learned gentleman who was put up to answer the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). The Chief Secretary for Ireland is the man responsible for the administration of Ireland, and if he has a defence to make we ought to hear it in good time to be in a position to answer it. I venture to submit that he has no right to lie in ambush until the end of the debate when we will have no opportunity of returning his fire or of exposing his inaccuracies. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will stand up to-morrow night and make a very clever speech. We admit that he always does make clever speeches, evading always great issues, full always of small points and smartnesses. It is not the right hon. Gentleman's brilliancy and gibes and sophistries that we impugn; that is a matter for his own Party, who have had to suffer pretty dearly for the right hon. Gentleman's sarcastic fireworks. The point for us is whether his gibes and his nisi prius points have succeeded in crushing the National League, and whether they have succeeded in altering by one jot or hair's-breadth the feeling of determination of the Irish people. The hon. Gentleman, a couple of weeks ago, told us in a public letter that he was perfectly delighted with the progress he has made in the affections of the Irish people. [Expressions of dissent.] All I can say is that the letter is in existence, and that I read it myself in the Manchester Examiner, the right hon. Gentleman's own paper. I do not deny that the Irish people have made lately a very remarkable demonstration of their feelings in regard to the right hon. Gentleman. During his short term of office they have raised no less a sum than £120,000 by way of a national testimonial in acknowledgment of his services, but, somehow or other, instead of presenting it to the right hon. Gentleman they presented it to the National League—that National League which 447 he assured this House almost two years ago, on his reputation as a statesman, was as dead as a door nail, and was a thing of the past. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman is free to take his choice between those phrases.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
I never used them.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
All I can say is that I am speaking within the recollection of the House, and I leave it to the House to decide whether I have invented the phrase, or whether the right hon. Gentleman has successfully forgotten it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I only interrupt because the hon. Gentleman distinctly misrepresents something I said in the House two years ago. What I stated then was that in the suppressed districts the National League was a thing of the past.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will get very much comfort from that. At this moment it is very hard to tell what is, or what is not, a suppressed district. If there is one county in Ireland which is unquestionably a suppressed district it is the County of Cork. That suppressed district has just contributed £8,000 to the support of the evicted tenants of the right hon. Gentleman's administration. That is how the Irish people have testified their appreciation of, and their delight in, the right hon. Gentleman. No doubt he is a great favourite with the loyal minority; but up to the present the admiration of the loyal minority has not taken the form of £120,000, although we are so constantly assured that the loyal minority possess all the wealth and all the public spirit of the community. At the present moment it seems to task all the wealth and public spirit of the loyal minority to raise a small collection for one of the unfortunate victims of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell). The results have been modestly concealed up to the present. I should not be surprised if, in the hon. Member's next indiscreet moment, we have him blurting out that the loyal minority are "dead-heads" in the matter of subscriptions as well as "dead-heads" in intellect; that they are "laggards in love as well as dastards in war." They have to come to England for their sub- 448 scriptions, as they have had to go to Scotland for their orator. Seriously speaking, we now have had nearly three years of the Government's oppressions and of their prosecutions and of their sneering speeches, and where have they all landed us? How often are we told in this House that there are two rival powers in Ireland, and that this Act was passed to crush one of them. Has it been crushed? Will anyone stand up in this House and say that he seriously believes that the rival power is not this day more deeply rooted than ever, or more powerful than ever, than anything else in those suppressed districts, and more likely than ever it is to end, instead of being driven out, in driving the Government out of the Island, and becoming the National Government itself? [Ministerial cheers.] I cannot altogether interpret that cheer; I only know that it is not a cheer which seems to indicate much hope. All I can say, as to the glosses that are put upon every idle word that Irish Members speak, is that they speak their sentiments plainly enough, and the English people understand them thoroughly. The Government of Ireland is supposed to rest upon some sort of moral authority. Whore is their moral authority in Ireland? What moral authority of any sort or type have they outside the walls of their gaols, or the range of their buckshot? Nobody loves them in Ireland; nobody serves them except for pay, either past, present, or to come. My hon. Friend the Member for Cork reminded the House that the Chief Secretary has had the greatest opportunity that a Chief Secretary ever had in recent times in Ireland. He has had years of reviving trade. He has had the country absolutely free—no thanks to him—from those terrible murder conspiracies that his predecessors had to deal with. He has had all those advantages, and he has flung his opportunity away through the miserable vanity, for it comes to nothing else, of attempting to get a triumph over the Plan of Campaign. He has covered his party with the odium of perfectly objectless and futile coercion, and, like the old man in the fable, he has lost his ass into the bargain—instead of the right hon. Gentleman conquering the Plan of Campaign it has conquered 449 him. It is the Government who are I responsible, not merely for originating the Plan of Campaign, but it is they, and they alone, who are responsible during the past two years for continuing it. Again and again in this House, within those two years, the Irish Members undertook to put an end to the Plan of Campaign upon the one condition of the Government honestly giving to the Irish tenants the benefit of the land legislation of 1887, which they by their own sacrifices forced upon the Government. During the last two years the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has been endeavouring not to suppress crime, but to put the people on the Plan of Campaign estates outside the pale of the law, treating them as hostes humani generis, whom it was open for any one to crush; he has been trying, in the words of the hon. Member for South Hunts, to teach a lesson to those men for daring to combine, for daring to be in the right, for daring to be more than a match for the Government and the right hon. Gentleman. You have been trying to crush and exterminate those tenants by your superior force, by your wealth, and by the cruel powers of that Coercion Act which was given to you for a totally different purpose; you have been trying to make an example of this poor body of Irish tenants, and this poor body has made an example of you—for it has stirred up the blood of English men against the petty vindictive and detestable tyranny which has been maintained. One single generous Arrears Clause in your Act of 1887 would have saved all the difficulty; if you had made a single step in the direction of arbitration you would have settled the difficulty long ago, and you would have had perfect tranqillity and an absolute tabula rasa for carrring out a Tory policy. But it was not peace, but triumph, that you desired. You found it easier to continue your miserable policy of coercion than to produce a new policy which avoided coercion. You have striven for nothing else than to crow over us. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary wished to crush the men who have followed and trusted us; I think that if the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied with the results, Mark Tapley ought to have been a Tory Irish Secretary. At 450 every bye-election, in every town and village of England, we see that the people of Great Britain are finding out that instead of crushing the national spirit in Ireland the Government have been simply revivifying and intensifying it. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh affected to discover some incongruity in the terms of this Amendment; but the confusion exists only in the mind of the hon. and gallant Member. What we charge the Government with is that they have in Ireland the most crimeless country in Europe, and yet are not able to govern it, in spite of deeds worthy of Russian despotism, only so much meaner and scurvier. The right hon. Gentleman has brought this ignominy on himself and his party in the vain endeavour to crush a few hundred Irish tenants, whose cause is so just that neither the Chief Secretary nor the landlords dared to submit it to the opinion of any fairly-constituted Court. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh made some vague and apparently rather bothered assertions as to the right hon. Gentleman's success in Ireland. Against these vague assertions we place propositions which can easily be tested by facts and particulars. The right hon. Gentleman has undertaken five different lines of attack upon public liberty in Ireland. We are in a position to prove that upon every one of those lines the right hon. Gentleman has been ignominiously routed. He undertook to put down the Plan of Campaign, and failed. He undertook to crush the National League and failed; to intimidate the Press; he failed there ignominiously. He undertook to extract evidence by Star Chamber inquiry, and he failed again. He undertook to make imprisonment in Ireland a badge of degradation and disgrace—well, I will leave the English people to give their opinion upon that question some fine day. The right hon. Gentleman undertook to put down boycotting in the sense of exclusive dealing, such as the Irish Party have ever preached, and such as I myself for one, in the circumstances of Ireland, preach still. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would lay upon the Table the confidential Report of his commander-in-chief in Kerry, Colonel Caddell, as to how he has succeeded. Colonel Caddell only two weeks ago, after a campaign of six months' terrorism in Tipperary, was 451 himself ignominiously evicted from the chief hotel in the town, and had to fall back upon the police barracks. I am told that the proprietor of the hotel, himself a magistrate, made a pilgrimage to Dublin Castle to beg that this man, who was going to liberate the people of Tipperary from intimidation, should be directed to clear out of his hotel. We can name struggle after struggle, particular after particular, in which the right hon. Gentleman has failed; can the right hon. Gentleman, name any single particular in which the Irish Party has failed, or one single struggle which was going on when he passed his Coercion Act, which is not going on now, unless it is one which has ended in a triumph for the people of Ireland? If the right hon. Gentleman has the courage of his own self-complacency, I hope and pray that he may be tempted to go one step further, and that he and his noble relative may give us an opportunity of a General Election, to try whether the electors of Great Britain are as perfectly delighted with his work in Ireland as the right hon. Gentleman, himself is. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh was in fear that we on this side of the House have overlooked the straggle that is going on in Tipperary on the Ponsonby estate. But the hon. and gallant Gentleman need not have been in the least apprehensive. If there is a man in this House who at this moment looks more supremely foolish than the Chief Secretary, it is the unlucky Member for South Hunts. He has fallen a victim to the boast of the Chief Secretary; he guilelessly believed that the power of the National League was a thing of the past, and that their resources were exhausted. He has fallen a victim to the disastrous prophecy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, that the mission of the hon. Member for East Mayo to Australia would not defray his personal expenses. In an unlucky hour the hon. Member for South Hunts believed that the ground was clear for the Tory policy of 20 years, coercion in Ireland, with its much more important pendant of 20 years' purchase for the Irish landlord. In an unlucky hour for him he started out on his adventures as the champion of the landlords and the conqueror of the Plan of 452 Campaign and he has had his adventures Tough customer as the hon. Member may be, he has met tougher customers still; he has tackled Tipperary and he has caught a Tartar, and to judge by appearances he does not seem to be quite satisfied. With regard to myself, the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh has charged me with some policy of vengefulness against the hon. Member for South Hunts. I can assure him that so far from that being the case I never had the pleasure of beholding the hon. Member until he was pointed out to me on Friday night. My only feeling is one of commiseration for him in his present plight, and for the misery and suffering he has wantonly brought upon a body of tenantry who never wronged him, and whom his own agent has described as the victims of monstrous rack-renting. During the past two weeks Canon Keller and myself have had the opportunity of showing the facts to English audiences, and we have had the advantage off his following us and replying to us. The hon. Member has had assistance, also, from that respectable body represented by Mr. Houston, which has established such a title to be heard as a pattern of truth and honour and honesty I beg the hon. Member's pardon; I believe that the hon. Member has not had the assistance of that body, but of the Liberal Union. For my own part, I have never heard of the Liberal Union. He has had the assistance also of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who I rather suspect is the Liberal Union of Ireland himself. That hon. Member seems to betaking up the rôle of public orator for every rack-renting landlord in distress in Ireland. He went to Manchester; but instead of arguing the matter with the people of that city he said, "It is time that somebody should take this man (meaning myself) by the throat." I should have imagined there had been, enough of taking me by the throat, both literally and figuratively, within the past few years; and it is rather a bad compliment to the hon. Member's friend and patron, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, to suggest the process should now be begun all over again. But I do not at all resent the hon. Member's metaphors from the New Cut. If, however, he is-going to follow me in this debate, I should like to remind the House of the 453 wrigglings of the hon. Member upon this very question within the last few years. In 1886 he opposed the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork on the ground that there was really no particular crisis in Ireland at all, and that the farmers were very well off. But the Plan of Campaign in the following winter, and possibly some hints from the tenant-farmers of Tyrone, taught him the bitter urgency of that crisis. He did not think the Bill of the next Session half Radical enough; and hon. Members will remember, when the House of Lords threw out an Amendment which was not very important, the hon. Member's theatrical cry of "God help the Irish farmers," and they will remember also how the hon. Member threw up his engagements—Achillessulked in his tent until Achilles's brother-in-law was appointed a Land Commissioner at a salary of about,£900 a year. I only mention these things as two contemporary facts. The fact stands that the hon. Gentleman, who in 1886 opposed the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork, and in 1887 thought the Land Bill not half sweeping enough, in 1888 devoted himself to the hateful work of attempting to deprive the tenants of Ireland of the benefits of the Land Act. That is the record of the hon. Gentleman's work. For the last two years no emergency man in Ireland has been doing the landlords' humblest work more persistently—I do not like to say more venomously, but I feel bound to add with more splendid, unfailing and unvarying ill-luck, than the hon. Gentleman. I do not know whether the hon. Member is responsible for the brilliant banking arrangements on the Coolgreany estate; but I do know that the hon. Member is responsible for helping Mr. Olphert to desolate a whole country side, with the result that Mr. Olphert is begging, but unrepentant, to-day. I do not think Mr. Olphert was deeply enamoured of the advice of the hon. Gentleman; but poor creatures as may be the Ulster dead-heads, who figure as the mutes in a circle of Ulster minstrels, in which the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh is the banjo, and the hon. Member for South Tyrone the bones, I am rather inclined to think that at this moment Mr. Olphert would prefer the stupidity of the average Ulster deadhead to the mischievous activity of the hon. Member who bears 454 the integrity of the British Empire on his shoulders. Let me now come back to the struggle on the Ponson by estate: The facts are too plain and too strong for hon. Gentlemen opposite. Can the hon. Member for South Hunts deny that his own agent, who was employed by the syndicate, has himself, in a letter which is extant, acknowledged that the rents on that estate are exorbitant and indefensible? Let him read that letter to the House. It is a private letter, which was never intended for publication, but whenever we unearth guilt our publications are, at all events, genuine. We have no forged letters. The tenants have impregnable justice on their side to begin with. Further, can the hon. Member deny that the tenants offered and the landlord refused arbitration, because, as the Tory Recorder of Cork said, arbitration would involve a victory for the Plan of Campaign? If the Plan of Campaign is the fantastic swindle which the hon. Member for North Armagh has described, why is he afraid of arbitration, unless hon. Members know in their hearts that any victory for justice or truth must involve a victory for the Plan of Campaign? Can the hon. Member for South Hunts deny that Mr. Ponsonby's late agent stated in a letter that the whole thing was on the point of settlement between the landlord and his tenants when the hon. Member and his syndicate stepped in and wrecked that prospect of a settlement? Upon the hon. Member rests the responsibility and the guilt of clearing the whole estate of its wronged and rack-rented population Let our opponents deal with these points; they are the marrow of the case. If they are dumb, if they are hazy on these points, what becomes of the miserable mystifications which the hon. Member addressed to the representatives of his Tipperary tenantry, who came over to London at their own expense and implored him and entreated him to withdraw from this inhuman and devilish work. These few words were quoted by the hon. Member; who forgets what the answer was of the hon. Member for South Hunts, the answer which he paraphrased himself in Manchester the other night, when he said he replied to them that he would "see them hanged first." What are those miserable points compared with the points that I have laid before the 455 House? What are they to the talk about some wretched complimentary address presented about 20 years ago, written, of course, by the estate bailiff of Mr. Ponsonby, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had not come to the rescue of the tenants, who were as helpless and servile as a flock of sheep. Again, I say, let them answer these points. We have justice on the tenants' side to begin with, readiness for arbitration all along, and a settlement which would have been concluded only for the hon. Member's interference. If they can offer any satisfactory answer to these points, I venture to ask this House, when those Tipperary men's money is going to be used for the destruction of their fellow-countrymen on the Ponsonby estate, whether ever men were better justified in resenting and resisting; and I need hardly ask whether in the whole of history there were ever men who resisted more gloriously, more unflinchingly, and more valiantly, even when the whole force of the Coercion Act has been added to the weapons the hon. Gentleman already had at his command? The hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Saunderson) has raised the cry of intimidation producing this result. I think I shall have very little difficulty in showing that of all others this is the most disastrous plea that could possibly be raised by the friends of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Because it places them in this dilemma. In the first place, they will have to show what possible motive the people of Tipperary could have for intimidating themselves into giving up everything they possess in the world; and then, even if hon. Members could prove that they were such idiots, such lunatics, the Chief Secretary would be in the position of confessing publicly that the people of one small Irish town are more than a match for himself and his Coercion Acts and for all his bayonets, and are able to defy and to defeat all the terrors of eviction and coercion without, on their part, shedding one drop of blood. Now, first, as to this wild, this preposterous theory that the people are being forced into this fight against their will. I should not care to be the man who would walk down to intimidate and force the people of Tipperary, as the Chief Secretary and the Member for South Hunts ought to 456 have discovered by this time. Take a specimen case. Mr. O'Brien Dalton, one of the tenants, has surrendered his property without a blow, without resistance, property which, it is admitted, was worth £4,000, rather than pay £40 to this work of extermination; a sum which was a mere bagatelle to a man in his position. What possible motive could that man have except the noblest motive that ever warmed an Irish heart—that ever warmed a human heart—to save his countrymen from ruin, to keep his money from being employed for the destruction of his poor, homeless fellow-countrymen? Now, let me ask who it is who is carrying on intimidation t In Heaven's name, who is it that could intimidate a man to make that sacrifice? Remember this: from beginning to end there has not been a single public meeting with bands and banners and contingents from other places. The right of meeting is absolutely at an end, even in the graveyard. The very funeral processions are proclaimed as illegal assemblies, and the proclamations are posted on the church gates while the coffin is being borne to its resting place. This whole fight from beginning to end has been carried on by the men of Tipperary themselves. I myself and my hon. Friend the Member for East York were absolutely the only outsiders of any sort or kind who addressed the people of Tipperary before they took action, and both of us the very first time we opened our mouths were prosecuted, though the Government dared not proceed with the prosecution. Where is the intimidation? As to dishonesty, it exists on the part of the landlord who has been taking £10,000 worth of property—who has robbed the tenants of it, because they would not subscribe a few pounds to help the work of extermination. What possible motive have these tenants in combining, except the motive which would prompt any body of Englishmen to stand shoulder to shoulder before they allow their rights to be trampled down by their employers? There was never a more glorious, a more unselfish, a more heroic Trades Union than that of the gallant men of Tipperary, against which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and the hon. Member for South Hunts are diverting all their forces and directing them in vain. But let us take the other alternative; let us admit 457 for the sake of argument that there is intimidation, what then becomes, of the right hon. Gentleman's boast? Here is one small Irish town in which, at the present moment, there are over 100 armed policemen and 700 soldiers—an armed man for every male adult in the whole population. There is a larger force in that little town than it takes to police such mighty cities as Manchester and Birmingham. Is it the case of the Coercionists that with all those forces at their back, with magistrates who can send men to gaol for winking and nodding, magistrates who only the other day sent a man to gaol for twelve months for simply saying to his own cousin, "Bridget, why should you serve the police? "although the Chief Secretary's own soldiers—the Manchester Regiment— had been guilty of the graver offence in the same town of boycotting the canteen in which the policemen were supplied; is it the case of the Coercionists, I say, that with all these terrifying forces at their back the right hon. Gentleman, after six months' struggle, is utterly hopeless in the presence of an unarmed people in a small Irish town? I could understand it if the Chief Secretary could point to one single murder or any bloodshed committed by the people in the whole course of this struggle. But, no; the hon. Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunders in) may get up in this House and talk in general terms—he always does speak in general terms on such occasions—of crime and intimidation; but when such people are brought to book, apart from the one-night riots in Trpperary when some panes of glass were broken and powder squibs thrown about the streets by a number of unruly boys — [Ministerial cheers.]—yes, boys they must have been that an armed body of thirty-six policemen fired at, for of the five persons injured in the crowd the oldest was 20, the boy that was shot dead was 14, and two of the others were only 12 years of age—I say, apart from that disturbance, in respect of which no policeman had a single wound to show for himself, I defy the Chief Secretary or his Friend the hon. and gallant Member to point to a single policeman or bailiff or other officer of the law—I will not say killed, but even wounded, in the course of this tremendous struggle which has Involved the depopulation of a whole 458 town. Not a murder, and yet we have that marvellous spectacle unsurpassed in the annals of the world for heroism—the spectacle of those men day by day, week after week, and month after month, giving up their magnificent shops and warehouses without a blow, without a penny of compensation, street after street being reduced to the condition of a desert, and hundreds of tenants sacrificing thousands of pounds worth of pro perty rather than contribute a single pound towards the work of extermination. Why, Mr. Smith-Barry's own manager there resigned his position with £300 a year rather than associate himself with the cruel work. Not a gallon of milk will be supplied to Mr. Smith-Barry's family, not a firkin of butter ever enters his market, not a man will deal with him in his quarries, and in a little time, if he does not get sick of the work, not a single human step will tread the streets of the town except armed policemen and emergency men. The whole business, the whole population of this town are moving away to the new town we are building for them. They will have their new butter market, their new weigh-yard, their new shops and warehouses—in fact, a now Tipperaiy from top to bottom. And is the House of Commons asked to believe that all this can happen day after day in a town with a force of 800 police and soldiers, to punish the slightest encroachment of the law, if such were attempted? Are we asked to believe that all this comes about purely through the medium of some sort of intimidation of which no one can give the slightest explanation? Ah! there has been intimidation in Ireland, but it is the people who have been intimidated. There have been murders, but the people were the victims, and the murderers are walking free this moment. But let the Chief Secretary try his worst. He has failed in Tipperary as he has failed everywhere else in a way so gross, so notorious to every urchin in Ireland that really there has been nothing more ludicrous heard of in England since the day Sir John Falstaff related his gallant exploits at Gadshill. We have all heard of the shuffling of the coercion thimbles by which certain proclamations in Ireland are withdrawn, and others substituted, and in such a way that nobody except lawyers, and 459 very few of those can understand under which thimble the pea is; but, as a matter of fact, nobody cares a button. Let me give an instance of what the trick of the loop about proclamations conies to. In County Roscommon proclamations under certain clauses of the Crimes Act were withdrawn. Was that because the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had won in that county? No; but because in every single struggle we are carrying on under the Plan of Campaign in that county we have victoriously carried the day in spite of all the right hon. Gentleman's proclamations and suppressions and prosecutions. On every estate in that county on which the Plan has been adopted we have had an unbroken series of victories right under the Chief Secretary's guns. And now because we have no more worlds to conquer there the right hon. Gentleman turns round and coolly tells the English people that County Roscommon is in so satisfactory a state that he can withdraw his proclamations, the fact being that it is in a satisfactory state simply and solely because he and his coercion and his proclamations have been defied and defeated, and hunted up hill and down dale through that county until there is nothing left for us to thrash. We have thrashed the Chief Secretary in the National League, we have thrashed him in the Plan of Campaign, and we have thrashed him in the constituencies. And whenever this Government goes to the British people at the General Election, as some day they will have to do, they will go with the reputation of thousands upon thouands of cruel deeds in Ireland, but of not one successful piece of tyranny in the whole lot. In one respect; perhaps, coercion has been a success. The right hon. Gentleman has brought suffering upon thousands and thousands, but it has been of immense advantage to our cause. There is one portion of the Amendment with which I rather disagree. It states that—the happy growth of peaceful and amicable relations between the peoples of Ireland and Great Britain has been greviously impededby coercion. Coercion has done nothing of the sort. It has quickened and intensified the happy growth of those relations. It has taught the Irish people that if they have defamers on this side 460 of the Channel they have also got millions of earnest and devoted friends. The last few years have been years of darkness and suffering among the Irish people, but they have taught us how to know and to value our friends. We owe this largely to the blunders, the cruelties, and the sneers of the Chief Secretary. I believe whenever the Speech from the Throne contains, as it soon may contain, a final message of pacification and satisfaction of the aspirations of the Irish people, nest to the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, whose genius has commended to the heart and intellect of the British nation the abstract justice and wisdom of Home Rule, we shall have to thank the Chief Secretary, whose follies have made Home Rule inevitable.
§ (5.23) MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, South)
I shall deal with the arguments of the hon. Member for North-East Cork in due time, but I wish first to refer to a personal matter. The hon. Member quoted, or rather misquoted, from the report of a speech I delivered in Manchester on Saturday night week, and intimated that I had advised personal violence being applied to the hon. Member. [Mr. W. O'Brien: "Not at all."] What I said was this: I was dealing with the facts and the arguments of the hon. Member, and I said it was time that someone, so to speak—and these words he left out—should take this man by the throat.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
I hope the hon. Member will allow me to say I never saw those words in the report. I never could maintain that language, which was employed metaphorically, was meant to be taken in any other way.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I am glad to hear that, because if I had used the language literally it would have been most reprehensible, but it would have been milk and water compared with the phrases which the newspaper of the hon. Member is pouring forth upon his political opponents every week. That newspaper has exhausted the whole vocabulary of political blackguardism. The hon. and gallant Member for Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) said on Friday night that the force of these debates waned as the years rolled on. That is perfectly true. It is proverbially impossible to make bricks without straw, and but for the 461 speech of the hon. Member for North-East Cork the case against the Government in regard to Ireland would be as weak as the case against them in regard to Portugal. A comparison was set up by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) on Friday night between the coercion of Lord Spencer and the coercion of the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour). I hear the coercion of Lord Spencer all but justified now on these Benches. I heard it said that coercion was required to meet the crime and the secret conspiracy which burrowed then under Dublin Castle. But did Lord Spencer and his Chief Secretary, who is now sitting on the Front Opposition Bench, get any more assistance from the hon. Member for Cork and his party in dealing with that crime and secret conspiracy in 1882 and 1883 than the right hon. Gentleman opposite gets now? Not one bit. Not only wore hon. Members below the Gangway not content with standing idly by in 1882, watching the contest between the law and the League, but they charged Lord Spencer with murder and with being in league with informers, and they tried to blacken not only his public but his private character, and that of his Chief Secretary.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
Well, I will leave the right hon. Member for Bridge ton (Sir G. Trevelyan) to deny it. [Sir G. TREVELYAN was understood to deny.] Well, then, I must have strangely misread United Ireland. Now, eight years after, hon. Members are pleading justification for the Act of 1882. I do not think there has been anything like it since Saul of Tarsus, "breathing out threatanings and slaughter," was changed into Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles. Well, I have heard Mr. Forster lauded, I have seen Lord Spencer publicly embraced at the Eighty Club, and I see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton tolerated on these Benches. There may be great things in store for the Chief Secretary yet, if he only mends his ways and bends his neck to the yoke as other statesmen have done. There is a marked difference—the hon. Member for Cork is right—between the Crimes Act of 1882 and that of 1887. The Act of 1887 was passed under 462 entirely different circumstances from tha of 1882. The Act of 1882 was passed in a panic in the face of appalling crime and of a secret and terrible conspiracy. When the Act of 1887 was passed, my recollection is that no one ever declared that crime had increased to an extent that had never been known before. It was passed because agrarian crime was rapidly increasing, because intimidation was rampant, because individual freedom had ceased to exist, and because jurors had constantly and notoriously violated the oaths they had taken. The hon. Member for Cork has stated that this Act of 1887 has been worked with a severity which was totally unnecessary, and that the crimes of 1880 and 1882, having passed away, there was no ground for applying that Crimes Act with the severity which had characterised its administration. But I wish to ask, why have those crimes, and why has that intimidation ceased to a great extent to exist? What, I ask, was James Fitzmaurice shot for? I suppose some hon. Members think that because he was shot in 1886 his case ought not to be referred to. Then, I ask, what was Cornelius Murphy shot for, and why were scores of other League victims shot? The Crimes Act of 1887 was passed in view of intimidation and its results, and if those results do not now follow with the same unerring precision as formerly we have not to thank hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, but the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) sitting on the Front Treasury Bench. The hon. Member for Cork was very severe in denouncing what he termed Press prosecutions. He tried to lead the House to believe that these newspaper editors had been in the main prosecuted for publishing reports of the suppressed branches of the Land League and for inserting certain letters in their papers. On this point I am free to say that I wish the clause of the Crimes Act which authorised punishment for reporting meetings of the suppressed branches of the League had not been inserted; but still that is not what newspaper editors are being prosecuted for now. The hon. Member for Cork has said there were 16 cases in which prosecutions took place under the clauses of the Act directed against Press offences. I will give you but one instance out of the 16 of what those prosecutions 463 were, and this instance will well illustrate the cruelty of the system of boycotting. The Mayor of Sligo is the editor of the Sligo Champion, and he was convicted of what is called a Press offence and sent to gaol. What was he sent to gaol for? Was it for publishing a report of a suppressed branch of the League, or a letter, or a report of a meeting? Nothing of the kind. I will read to the House part of the Judgment given by Mr. O'Connor Morris, the Chairman of the County of Sligo, and a gentleman against whom hon. Members below the Gangway have not brought any charge. On the contrary, he has rather been held up as a pattern Judge, because he has almost invariably made the prisoners whom he has sentenced under the Crimes Act first-class misdemeanants. He says—and I quote from the Sligo Champion—It arose in this way. A man named M'Dermott went to America, leaving his wife and family unprovided for, and to Coffey, who was a shopkeeper as well as a farmer, a certain amount became due for shop debts. Whether it was fair or unfair, Coffey was desirous to get the farm rented by the M'Dermotts in order to get back his debts. He gave a sum amounting to over £200 for it. His Honour asked—Was there anything wrong in Coffey bidding for this farm, morally, socially, or legally? The Common Law of the land, as well as common sense, would say it was a perfectly blameless and legitimate transaction, and 10 years ago that would have been the opinion of every one in Ireland. Whatever view certain people might take of it, was it a legal act?Two years ago Coffey, who simply bought a farm, was rigidly boycotted, and the editor of the Sligo Champion wrote an article vindicating such boycotting, and advocating its being carried out to its utmost limit. That was what the Mayor of Sligo was sent to gaol for, and not because he published a report of a suppressed branch or other meeting. Then, let us take the case of Tipperary. The hon. Member for Cork has stated that these prosecutions have been carried on in perfectly peaceful counties, and he pictures the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary as carrying the brand of disturbance into places that have hitherto been quiet and free from excitement. I say, therefore, let us take Tipperary as a sample of a peaceful county. There is not the slightest doubt that the County of Tipperary two yeas ago was one of the quietest counties in Ireland, nor that 464 it was a prosperous and peaceable county one year ago. How did it happen that the peace of that county was invaded? Its peace was invaded not by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, but by hon. Members below the Gangway. I hold in my hand a copy of the Tipperary Nationalist, which says—Tipperary, it must be confessed, was not quite up to the mark in sustaining the reputatation which the fathers of the present generation achieved for the premier county.This means that Tipperary was peaceful, quiet, and contented. The Nationalism of Tipperary was not the Nationalism of the present day, but that which John Mitchell propounded when he landed there 10 years ago, and told them that he understood by Home Rule "the sovereign independence of Ireland." These hon. Members went down to Tipperary, and in the Press and on every public platform they hurled reproaches against that county for its quiet and peaceful condition, and deliberately lashed it into fury and the people into action. They have had their desire, and at the present moment Tipperary is like a town across which an avenging army has marched. I say, then, that none of these Press prosecutions have been for the minor offences which the hon. Member for Cork put before the House, but rather offences inciting to intimidation and to boycotting This is the only liberty of the Press which has been restrained or interfered with by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in the administration of the Crimes Act. I am aware that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir G. Trevelyan) objects to punishment for incitement. He has stated that crime does not always follow incitement, and that it is dangerous to punish it. But I would remind the House that on the 24th May, 1882, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian used these words in this House—In our opinion not only is incitement to intimidation—especially if addresssed to large masses and with influence at its back—not only is it a thing to be included as well as intimidation, but it is a thing of far greater responsibility and far greater legal and moral guilt than the mere execution of intimidation which has been inspired and suggested from high quarters.I put the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian 465 against that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division, and I think that of all the speeches that have been made in the course of this debate, that of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Trevelyan) was the weakest. I am not going to quote his action in the years 1882 and 1883. I believe most thoroughly that he was sincere at that time. I am certain he is sincere to-day, and believes that he is right; but I do not profess to be able to square the circle, nor do I understand how the right hon. Gentleman can harmonise his position in 1886 with that which he takes in 1890. I shall, however, deal with his speech on its merits, and I would call attention to a curious mistake he made with regard to the Land Act of 1887. On Friday last, and in the country previously, he referred to the notices of eviction served under that Act, totalling them up to 12,000, and practically making out that they were all evictions—at any rate, that in their effects they were tantamount to evictions.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
No doubt the Act of 1887 materially changed the law with regard to evictions, but what was the system that was previously followed? The right hon. Gentleman knows what it was, because he himself evicted more tenants than the right hon. Gentleman the present Chief Secretary. The system was this: The landlord obtained an ejectment decree, and if the tenant was to be evicted he was turned out without notice at all. He might be, and often was, re-admitted as a caretaker, but the physical eviction had already actually taken place. What the Act of 1887 did was this: it made the man a caretaker whenever a registered notice was served upon him. The mere service of that notice converted a tenant into a caretaker, and all his rights as a tenant ceased. The right hon. Gentleman has said 12,000 notices were served, but what was the number of evictions? There were 2,000 actual evictions in the years 1888-9, as against the 12,000 notices. If hon. Members will reduce this to a Rule of Three sum it will work thus: Given 12,000 notices served under the Act, with 2,000 evictions following, what has become of the balance of 10,000? Some- 466 thing must have happened to them They must either have settled with their landlords or they must now be living rent free. The moment the notices were served on them they ceased to be tenants, and therefore could not pay rent; and if 10,000 of them have been left in their holdings, they must either have settled with the landlords or be living rent free, which would exactly suit hon. Members below the Gangway. The right hon. Gentleman also spoke of duress under the Ashbourne Act; but he did not give a single case of duress, although he asserted that duress existed. I ask him to give us one case The hon. Member for Long ford declared not so very long ago that the Commissioners were carrying out their work in an admirable manner, and he had not one word to say against them. But now the right hon. Member comes down to the House and talks about the duress on purchasers without giving a single case. ["What about Draperstown?"] Why, the Commissioners refused to carry out the Draperstown proposal, and that is the very best argument in favour of the Ashbourne Act. The right hon. Gentleman said outside this House, and he repeated it on Friday night, that the hon. Member for North Monaghan had been put into gaol for advising the tenants not to buy certain lands.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
I stated in the House on Friday the facts of the case in which an indictment had been brought against the hon. Member for North Monaghan on another matter as well; but the Government, by indicting him for giving advice to the tenants, showed that they considered it a. punishable offence. I quite acknowledge that the hon. Member was not put into gaol on that indictment.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I am glad of that acknowledgment. Let the House understand that the hon. Member for North Monaghan was prosecuting the Plan of Campaign on the Smith wick estate in Kilkenny. What is the argument of the hon. Member for North-East Cork? I admit that I opposed the Tenant Relief Bill of the hon. Member for Cork in 1886, and I am not going to repeat the reasons why I opposed it. If another such Bill were brought in I would again 467 oppose it, and I plead guilty to the indictment of the hon. Member for North-East Cork. I did think the Bill of 1887, as it came down from the House of Lords, was defective, and I did my best to improve it, and succeeded. I will admit his third count in the indictment, too. I have laboured ever since against that system which he has been responsible for, and which has been declared by the highest Court in Ireland to be an illegal conspiracy.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
Chief Baron Palles declared the Plan of Campaign to be illegal in its very essence. I promptly admit that I have laboured as Lard as I could during the past 18 months against that Plan of Campaign, and in doing so I have had the entire approbation of those I represent in this House. Now I come to the facts of the Ponsonby estate, and let me say that I think the hon. Member for North-East Cork treated them very gingerly. There were plenty of denunciations of the hon. Member for South Hunts and of myself in his speech, but there were very few facts regarding the Ponsonby estate. The charge of the hon. Member is that these tenants were rack-rented. I am not going to quote any address to the landlords. I quite agree with the hon. Member that it was probably drawn up by the bailiff—I do not care a fig. But I ask: have these rents been changed within living memory? There is no charge of a grasping, greedy, commercial landlord buying this estate and going over to Ireland forthwith and raising the rent and grinding down the tenant. The real fact is, that the rents have not been raised within living memory; and it is absurd on the part of any one knowing Ireland to say that rents paid during and since the famine can be called rack-rent. This House in 1881 devoted a great deal of time to passing an Act for the express purpose of dealing with rack-rented estates, and is it possible to believe that the Ponsonby tenants were rack-rented after the year 1881? 468 If so, why did not these tenants leap into the Land Court to have their rents revised? What is the answer to that? Some of them did—27 of them, I think. What was the reduction made by the Land Court set up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian? A reduction of 13 per cent.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
Because the Land Commissioners were very much of the same character as the hon. Member's brother-in—law.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
That charge simply means that Lord Spencer packed the Land Court—Lord Spencer whose boots you have declared your readiness to blacken. He it was who saw every one of of these Commissioners before they were appointed, who examined into their antecedents and their qualifications; and when you tell me that the Court is packed, I say, if that be true, then Lord Spencer ought to be drummed out of the Liberal Party.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
Will the hon. Member allow me to remind him that the greater number of the Land Courts were appointed not by Lord Spencer, but by his successor?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I am referring to the year 1882, when Lord Spencer was in office, and when these Members were appointed directly after personal examination by Lord Spencer. Then I am told that one reason why they did not go into the Land Court was because of the arrears. Yes, and if this could be pleaded on the Ponsonby estate, I would admit it. But you are not at liberty to plead that excuse. In the year 1886 Mr. Ponsonby made a direct offer to these tenants of a clear receipt up to the 29th March, 1886, which swept away every farthing of arrears then due. The next charge is that the landlord has confiscated, the rights and property of these Ponsonby tenants. Well, I am going to take the pattern case of the hon. Member, or rather the pattern case of Canon Keller, that of Martin Loughlin. It amounts to this, that Loughlin was a judicial tenant, and when he got his rent fixed he also got the value of his tenant right assessed, and. it amounted, I think, to £800. Loughlin was evicted; he lost the whole of it, 469 and then it was said—"The landlord confiscated the tenant's interest." The facts, told to an English audience, would not be understood, but I ask the hon. Member, was Martin Loughlin protected by the Act of 1870, or was he not? I say that he was thoroughly protected. But it is said by Canon Keller that the landlord pleaded that he was willing to let Loughlin sell, and that that put him out of Court. Well, I throw the Act of 1870 aside, and where do we stand? Whether the landlord was willing or not to let Loughlin sell his interest, the Act of 1881 gave him the right to sell. Who prevented his selling? Not the right hon. Gentleman, not the Crimes Act —it was the leaders of the Plan of Campaign, who hold the creed that no man must buy or take an evicted farm. Who were the confiscators of Loughlin's £800? Not Her Majesty's Government, not the landlord, but the men who prevented his using the very Act which this House passed to protect him. The statement of the hon. Member for North-East Cork amounts to this: The Plan of Campaign had been in operation on the Ponsonby estate for something like four years. The battle had been fought out and there was some chance of a settlement. Negotiations went on for the sale of the estate under the Ashbourne Act. Mr. Brunker, the old agent of the property, who lived in Dublin, was sent down to negotiate the sale, and the charge against the hon. Member for South Hunts is, that at a critical moment, he interfered. The charge against the hon. Member for South Hunts is one of interference, and the charge is made by a Member who has interfered in almost every property in Ireland. The tenants have a perfect right to combine; does the hon. Member deny the right of the landlords to combine?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
Then why does the hon. Gentleman make this attack on the hon. Member for South Hunts.? I say that the tenants on the Ponsonby or any other estate, have a right to combine, but the landlords ought to have the same right. The charge against the hon. Member opposite is that he interfered on the Ponsonby estate, and prevented the bargain being consummated. That is the whole charge. Well, now, I have taken it at its worst, 470 and I say it is just that the tenants should have the right to combine, but the landlords ought to have the same right to combine and decide as to the price of the land they are selling. What course did the hon. Member for North East Cork take? The bargain was not consummated, the lands were not sold. The hon. Member for North-East Cork then went to Clonakilty, and declared that there was only one way of punishing the hon. Member for South Hunts, and that was to attack him personally. Let me show the House a little bit of the hon. Member's handiwork. Here is a letter from a Mr. Phillips, who is a Tipperary tenant of the hon. Member for South Hunts. Mr. Phillips writes:—I hold 270 acres of land from Mr. Smith-Barry, at a rent of £340, under lease and tenant right, which, with my improvements, I value at £1,000. The Land League has decided that all tenants must be prepared to give up their farms and allow themselves to be evicted. They are clearing on everything, and because I refuse to do this, and forfeit my £1,000, I am boycotted in the most determined manner. I am refused the common necessaries of life, and have to get everything from a distance. Blacksmiths refuse to work for me, and labourers have given notice to leave my employment. Heretofore people were boycotted for taking farms; I am boycotted for not giving up mine which I have held for 2.5 years. A neighbour of mine—an Englishman—is undergoing the same treatment. We are the only Protestant tenants on the estate.The House has heard a great deal from the hon. Member for North-East Cork of the success of himself and his friends in Tipperary. Is this one of their successes? Because a man with legal and moral rights, which cannot be questioned, who has no difference with his landlord, and who has no complaint against him, will not go out into the world and make himself a pauper and a beggar and allow his family to beg or starve, he must be boycotted, deprived of the necessaries of life, and ruined in mind, body, and estate. Then, look at the condition of things in the town of Youghal. When the hon. Member for North-East Cork was sent to gaol for some offence, a majority of the shopkeepers of that town determined to shut their shops out of sympathy for him—a course of action which they had a perfect right to adopt. But 20 shopkeepers of the town, who thought that the hon. Member had been rightly and justly punished, felt that they could not close their shops without 471 being guilty of the most arrant hypocrisy, and they therefore held a meeting, and resolved not to close their shops. And what followed? Because these men dared to exercise the ordinary rights of citizenship and to think and act for themselves they were rigidly boycotted, their shops were picketed, and not a soul was permitted to cross their thresholds. I myself help d to collect subscriptions. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] I think it was quite as honourable as sending round the hat in the way hon. Members do. I helped to collect subscriptions to keep some of the poorer of these shopkeepers. What right has any League or Association and. still less, any single man to organize a system of intimidation like this, which strikes at all human freedom and proposes to put an end to all private judgment? This is something very different from the patriotism of the olden times. Allow me to read to the House an extract from the writings of a man whose patriotism will not be questioned by hon. Members below the Gangway. He wrote:—Conciliation of all sects, classes, and parties who oppose us and who still hesitate, is essential to moral force, for if, instead of leading a man to your opinions by substantial kindness, by zealous love, and by candid and wise teaching, you insult his tastes and his prejudices, and force him either to adopt your cause or to resist it: if instead of slow persuasion your weapons are bullying and intolerance, then your professions of moral force will promptly be resisted by every man of public spirit.Who was the writer of these words? Thomas Davis, a, man at whose feet I suppose most of the hon. Members below the Gangway would be content to sit, but whose maxims they have totally forgotten. Is there anything of that spirit in the treatment of Mr. Phillips, in the boycotting of the Youghal shopkeepers? Not a bit, and I want to know why the Liberal Party support such contemptible tyranny as this? In the town of Tipperary, where these enormities are taking place, there is no grievance, and the House will have observed that the hon. Member for North-East Cork does ant venture to hint that the hon. Member for South Hunts is a rack-renting landlord. No such charge can be made against him. Indeed, the hon. and learned Member for Hackney, in his great speech before the Special Commission, actually singled him out as a good landlord—one who was not only 472 considerate in the matter of rent, but who took a real and active interest in the welfare of his tenants. Let the House clearly understand the issue that is being painfully and laboriously fought out in Ireland. On the one hand we have a great organisation, with immense funds at its disposal, determined to achieve a certain result. That organisation has stopped at nothing in the past; it will stop at nothing in the future. In the olden time we had it on the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian that crime dogged its footsteps. The tours of its agents were stained with blood; the more it worked, the wider its ramifications, the heavier grew the record of agrarian crime. This, at all events, we can now say on authority. The law and the League has come into deadly conflict, and the law has triumphed. Murder has ceased to a large extent; and why? Because the murderers have been either hanged or driven into exile. But what has taken the place of that condition of things? There has been substituted for it a far crueller tyranny. Men and women who offend the League are not now murdered outright so often. They are simply starved to death or into surrender. They are not so frequently injured in person; they are simply ruined in mind, body, and estate. Their property is not so frequently destroyed, nor is their cattle so frequently maimed. Those people who desire to be honest, to fulfil their legal obligations, to think and act for themselves in public affairs, are simply left severely alone; treated as the leper was treated of old, neither allowed to buy nor to sell; prevented in many cases from attending market or mass; their children driven from school, and their whole lives poisoned and blasted. This is what the hon. Member for Cork calls depriving boycotting of its vices, and this is what the Liberal Party, with its noble traditions, was demeaning itself by supporting. The Liberal Party of which I have read and which I have known has championed civil liberty the world over; they have stood for freedom of opinion, freedom of judgment, freedom of action everywhere. The oppressed have never turned to them in vain. All that seems to have passed away. The Liberals of this country have allied themselves with a Party that never had a single Liberal instinct, and which only 473 five years ago under the seal of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) declared the Liberal party to be a party of perfidy. This party is now engaged in attempting to stamp out all individual freedom in Ireland. Private judgment is suppressed in Ireland in a manner which would put the old inquisitors to shame; it is attempted to assassinate all freedom of thought and all personal independence. This is not freedom; it is slavery. You may dignify it with the name of justice to Ireland, and men may persuade themselves that they are working for justice to Ireland. But justice depends upon the maintenance of the Constitution, the enforcement of the law, and the righting of Irish wrongs; and it is because Her Majesty's Government have given good guarantees that this is their policy that I shall vote against this Amendment.
§ (6.15) MR. STANSFELD (Halifax)
Mr. Speaker, it is not my intention to attempt to follow the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) or my hon. Friend who opened the debate, into the questions concerning the management of the Ponsonby estate or the personal conduct of the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Smith Barry). I wish to do now what I did some time ago when I was in the Sister Isle examining for myself the state of affairs there—studiously and deliberately to refrain from entering into any personal or local questions and to confine myself to judging of the general condition of the mind of the people of Ireland. But at the close of his speech the hon. Member for South Tyrone announced certain propositions of a far reaching and extensive, and, I will add, extravagant character. First of all he spoke of the crimes of murder and violence which had been reduced by the hanging of the murderers. I know not what murderers have been hanged in pursuance of the coercive policy of the present Chief Secretary. Then the hon. Member said that a newer and far crueller tyranny than any tyranny of old was now being brought to bear; and how did he define that tyranny? Why, he said that the people who were engaged in it deal with those with whom they politically differ by leaving them severely alone. The policy has been to leave people severely alone, 474 to boycott them, if you prefer the phrase. [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] Do hon. Members who cheer mean to acquiesce in the proposition that boycotting, in the sense of leaving people severely alone, is worse than the old method of violence, and murder itself? The thing is preposterous and ridiculous, and I am amazed at a Member of this House concluding his oration by a proposition of that description. If to leave those who do not sympathise with the people severely alone be so terrible a punishment, whom must those be who inflict the punishment but the bulk and mass of the people, because nothing but action of that kind on the part of the great mass of the population could by any conceivable possibility or hypothesis have such an end. I will not go into those detailed questions because the subject before the House to-night is the policy of Her Majesty's Government. I have noted so far in this debate a circumstance not usual I believe in Irish discussions in this House, and that is that there is one fact on which we are all absolutely in agreement. That fact is the improved state of Ireland, the diminution of agrarian offences and the improved relations of the Irish people with us in this country and with those who live in their own land. I want to ask whether this is not the very first proposition of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr, Parnell), and whether the House does not unanimously agree with him on that point? I can speak to a great deal of the change that has taken place from what I have seen myself. That change must be due to adequate and appropriate causes, and I believe those causes to be the improvement in the position of the tenants under recent legislation, better harvests and higher prices, and the hopes inspired by the policy of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone). How can coercion, however administered, appease the Irish people? It is so extraordinary a proposition, so unreasoning and unreasonable an hypothesis that we can only say the wish must be father to the thought. It is not a new policy. If you had had measures for ameliorating the condition of the tenants, and if on the other hand you had had a strong Coercion Act administered in the old style, and not a second class Coercion Act like that of the right hon. Gentleman 475 (Mr. A. J. Balfour) you might have set up Some claim either to have appeased or cowed the Irish people. At this very moment in every county in Ireland you have a tenants' league voluntarily taxing its elf in order to form a common fund wherewith to fight the battle of all the tenants of Ireland against the landlords who have combined against them. Under these circumstances I want to know where has been the right hon. Gentleman's success? There is one thing his Act, and his policy, and administration can do and have done. They can irritate. I marvel at the patience and moderation of the Irish people. When I look at the Coercion Act and its administration I am sometimes tempted to say that the measure was constructed and devised in order to irritate and goad an enthusiastic and impulsive people into acts of violence against the law. I do not, of course, attribute such a motive, but I cannot understand anyone failing to perceive that there is much in the Act and its administration which seems almost nicely calculated to produce that result. I have never changed my feelings with regard to the Crimes Act. I have always felt and feel now that that Act was, on the part of its authors, an act of contempt against the very principles of law—that it was in itself the very greatest possible illegality. I say that no National League or Land League has ever produced so gross an act of illegality—speaking of the spirit of law—as this House has committed in passing the Crimes Act. We were told that the Crimes Act did not create a single new offence, and that it was all a question of procedure. Under that Act the Lord Lieutenant, a political partisan, of his own motion, without hearing any evidence, may determine and resolve that a political Association is dangerous, and, by proclaiming it, can make it illegal. The next moment, without any other circumstances whatever, everybody connected in any way with that Association becomes a criminal under the Act. And then we are told that no new offences are created. My right hon. Friend, the Member for Bridgeton (Sir George Trevelyan), in his speech on Friday last put in the clearest way before the House the operation of the Crimes Act in regard 476 to the creation of new offences. The Crimes Act is an Act which sets up an arbitrary power disguised under the cloak and pretence of law. The Government were not content only with giving the power to supersede the law to the Lord Lieutenant, but they abolished trial by jury, and put cases, some of them cases of constructive conspiracy, requiring the wisest judgment, into the hands of removable, promotable, non-legal, and dependent magistrates. You will say it is only a question of procedure, but in one sense all law comes back to be procedure. If you endow any human being with the power by his judgment to supersede the law, and if also you do not take care that your interpreters of the law have some real knowledge of it, and that they are impartial, judicially minded, and independent, then law itself soon ceases to exist. A word or two on the subject of the tenants. I cannot follow the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Russell) into the details of the cases he has been bringing before the House, or the details of the law, and I do not intend to do so, but there are certain things I see clearly, and I think not incorrectly, in regard to the tenants, and these I wish to state to the House. The Attorney General for Ireland said there was no case in regard to the tenants. Now, I ask this question. In what proportion of the tenancies of Ireland have there been judicial decrees for settlement or reduction of rents or agreements outside the Court founded on similar judicial decrees in similar cases? If I am not misinformed those cases do not amount to more than half the number of the tenancies of Ireland. I think I shall not be contradicted in that as a statement of fact. Well, if the cases are not settled for half the tenants of Ireland, if it is true—and it is indubitable—that the Government have determined and positively decided to refuse to deal with the question of arrears, I want to know how any man can urge that the tenants have no grievance now or that no duresse can be put upon them under the Ashbourne Act? Why, when we came to deal with the Highland Crofters we dealt very differently with the question of arrears there. I was looking over a Return a few months ago—it was the last Return then, I do not know whether another 477 Return has been issued since—and there I found that among the Crofters the figures showed an average reduction of 29 per cent, in rents, but 68 per cent. in arrears! Nobody can fail to understand that if a poor man is over-rented by the year that the accumulations of arrears are certain to crush him, and that if he has a mode of escaping by buying, with the assistance of the State, his holding from the landlord, the fact of the existence of these arrears may be used by the agent to compel him to pay a higher price than he would otherwise pay, and so the help of the State and the credit of the State goes to assist the landlord and not the tenant in these transactions. Now I put it to the Government whether they should not seek some better way, whether we are not bound to seek some better way? I say, first of all, this Act cannot have appeased, because it has irritated. I say it has not cowed; you have had evidence of that to-night. It would be ridiculous that a nation should, fitter a century's experience how to resist and defeat Coercion Acts, be cowed by the comparatively feeble and not very powerful Act of the present day, and with the hope for the future which Irishmen now entertain. What I should say would be this. That the true policy, the true and beneficial policy for the Government, and right in our minds, would be to press on the settlement of rents. The Land Courts are over-worked and cases are vastly in arrear. My first proposition is, then, press on the settlement of judicial rents. Next, I say, let the Government give themselves power to deal with arrears. Then, I say, when you have settled the rents and the arrears you can enter upon and settle the comparative values of the interest of landlord and tenant. But until then you will not be in a position to deal with the terms of a future Purchase Act. Then with regard to the general political question, I venture to say the Government would be wise, that not only would it be right from our point of view but wise from theirs, to allow free speech and free meeting an a way such freedom is not allowed in Ireland. I quite agree that offences deserving punishment ought to be punished, as also incitement to commit those offences, but I maintain that the Irish people have a right to combine, have a right to meet and to speak and to 478 agitate against coercion, against landlord oppression, and in favour of Home Rule. Who can say that the Irish people are left perfectly free to combine, to meet, and to speak for these objects? If you will accord these rights, retaining the power to prosecute for real and dangerous offences, offences of violence or of intimidation; if you will do that you will leave nothing but a strictly constitutional movement against your policy of Coercion and in favour of our policy of Home Rule, and you have no right to object to a constitutional movement and agitation. Now, the Attorney General for Ireland the other night ridiculed the supposed effect of the policy of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian. He quoted certain worthless figures from the statistics of agrarian crime for a few months before the declaration of the Home Rule Scheme and a few months after. Sir, it takes time for a great policy to work and show its effect, but there is no doubt about the effect of the policy of my right hon. Friend on the Irish mind, though that policy has been defeated in this House. The evidence of the hon. Member for Cork is worth infinitely more than the poor statistics and figures of the Attorney General for Ireland. Let me give the House some of the impressions I derived from a recent short visit to Ireland and a word or two on my experience there. I attended a number of meetings, and among them some of the largest meetings held in Ireland of late years. I hear an hon. Member whisper "No right of public meeting," but I will come to that. I spoke with perfect freedom. I attacked the policy of the Government. I denounced it. I endeavoured to give the people hope. I encouraged them to patience with our sympathy. I was not shadowed by the police, nether I or the friends who went with me. If my eye caught the eye of a constable it was he turned aside, not I. I have heard that the police had instructions that we were not likely to make dangerous speeches, and that they were to leave us alone; that we were to be boycotted, left severely alone; and they followed these instructions. Well, but I have a question to put to the right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary. He behaved handsomely to me and those who went with me. We had no trouble. 479 I do not even think the police reported us. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman trusted to the newspaper reports and found nothing dangerous in our speeches, or we should have heard from him. But the question I have to put to the right hon. Gentleman is this, if he conceded to me and my friends this liberty, why does he refuse it to the representatives of the Irish people? He would say, or he would like to say, that the cases are not parallel, but I defy the right hon. Gentleman to prove, and if he tries to maintain it he can be answered, that Irish Members have not been imprisoned for less than I deliberately said? This is a distinct challenge I address to the right hon. Gentleman. I say I went there knowing the law, I went there intending to exercise my right and not to exceed the law, and I say I did not exceed the law, and yet Irish Members have been tried, convicted, and imprisoned for saying less than I slid on these occasions. At every meeting I attended there was absolute order. They were vast meetings, some of them meetings of the whole country side, horsemen and pedestrians gathering together. In my younger days I was familiar with meetings on National questions, and I say, speaking of these meetings in Ireland, that they inspired me with the feeling that nothing but a National question could have brought them about. The Irish question is a National question and you will never defeat it; you will never succeed in stamping it and the National instinct out of the spirit of the Irish people. I wonder right hon. and hon. Gentlemen cannot carry their memory or their reading back to the days of 1848, and that they do not see how futile it is to attempt to set themselves against the patriotic instinct of an awakened people. I wonder, turning back to those days, that they have not learned that this National instinct is a reasonable and conservative instinct. I am not applying the word in the party sense —a truly Conservative principle and ins inct in the human mind. I say you may safely deal with this instinct, you may learn from experience of the past, from the lessons of history, that you will run no risk in respecting one of the highest instincts God ever implanted in the human breast. It is ungenerous folly to pretend that anyone 480 who is actuated by this National instinct of self-government desires absolute separation from the Government of this country. I have spoken of the orderly character of these meetings, and I would like to say something of the sentiments and tone of mind I perceived among those tens of thousands who attended there. There was every evidence of that reconciliation with the Ecglish people which you cannot pretend that your policy is calculated to bring about, but which has been brought about despite your policy, despite the administration of your Coercion Act in Ireland. This reconciliation has been brought about not by a change of law, simply by the promise of a better future given by my right hon. Friend, and endorsed by the Liberal Party, because the Irish people know and feel that it is not in the annals of the Liberal Party that it has ever taken in hand a great cause like this and failed sooner or later to bring it to a successful issue. I say I found that feeling towards this country, and I found everywhere a determination that we should remain an United Kingdom. I did not find a mere acceptance of this, I found it when announced as a proposition accepted with as great enthusiasm as the proposition directed to self-government. Their burning wish is to be one with us, on the terms of a subordinate but National Government and Parliament. How blindly foolish it. is not to be delighted to take action and. make terms of peace to heal the feud of centuries on these conditions. I found loyalty among them; that loyalty you are so fond of denying. I will give an instance from an incident that occurred at that mighty meeting at Mallow which I attended; it will throw a light on this question of loyalty which has been strained and taxed and tried for centuries past to such an extent that if the Irish people were disloyal we could not be surprised. That they are not so is due to the policy of my right hon. Friend and his Party. On that occeasion, at Mallow, a speaker, a member of this House, was comparing the meeting and its peaceable orderly character with a meeting some years ago when His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales was there. There was a crowd of Irish people at the station to present a 481 memorial, I think, of some grievances to His Royal Highness. There was a moment when the local authorities lost their heads and were within a very little of attacking the people. Fortunately, the officer in command had a cooler head than they had, and the thing passed off without an incident of such a character, which would have been doubly regret-able because of the presence of His Royal Highness. The speaker compared that meeting with the meeting then being held, and the comparison was a perfectly fitting and right comparison to make. But it occurred to me that it was capable of misunderstanding and misrepresentation; it occurred to me that people might say—we are so ready to think evil of each other—that this was a disloyal utterance, and that somebody ought to have protested against it. I was determined that it should be made clear, and when the speeches were over, I sprang to the front of the platform and demanded a few more moments. What I said to the vast crowd was this: I want you to look straight at this question of loyalty; listen to me and tell me whether you agree with me. I said the Sovereign of this Realm is no party politician; she acts on the advice of her constitutional Ministers. I said the Prince of Wales, the Heir to the Throne, ought not to be a party politician and is not a party politician; there is no difference in his attitude towards Members on one side of the House or the other, and therefore I call on you, determined as you are, and we are, that there shall remain one United Kingdom, I call on you with me to say, "God Bless the Queen of this United Land." More than ten thousand voices shouted unanimous acclaim. Now this was a, mere incident, take it for what it is worth, but does it not show that there is in Ireland a mind and a temper at this time a tendency, a desire for union and reconciliation, and a capacity for loyalty which perhaps you have not suspected, but which you ought not to be sorry to know. I say that what Irishmen are we have made them. They are the work of our hands. They are the result of mistaken policy, not of yours only but the policy of the past of this country. We would change that result; you would perpetuate it. Whatever there is bad and weak in Ireland is of our doing. What- 482 ever is good is due to that saving instinct of patriotism and nationality you fear so much. If it were not for that, if the whole question of Ireland were agrarian, there would be a. different tale to tell. It is because Irishmen think not only of their farms but their country that they have become capable of some moderate and constitutional courses. Irrespective of party, we ought to sympathise with that feeling. I do not think the Government will deny it, because they are proposing this Session to introduce measures which they hope will operate in this sense to satisfy the Irish mind and appease Irish discontent. You are perfectly right to bring these measures forward, framing them according to your own light and views. We will discuss them fairly fully, and freely; but will they reconcile the Irish people and consolidate the Union? I believe not. I am an opponent of the Government, but I believe with the profoundest conviction that you will absolutely fail, for I am convinced that on the other hand the wise policy, the wise, conciliatory, just and sympathetic policy of my right hon. Friend, and the party which is proud beyond expression to acknowledge him as their leader, that this policy, which has already consolidated the National Party in Ireland, making it supreme over all counsels and suggestions of violence, that policy which has already created a moral union of our peoples, will ere long become incorporated in the law, and when incorporated in the law will result in a permanent, effective, and complete cure, a true and lasting union of the peoples of the United Kingdom.
§ (6.55.) MR. G. WYNDHAM (Dover)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down prefaced his remarks by saying that he felt himself better fitted to address the House on the general aspect of the situation in Ireland than on the particular details which have been brought under the notice of the House by the two hon. Gentlemen who preceded him in debate. Sir, the very reverse is my case. I hope it is just possible I may be able to adduce a few facts that may lead the House to reconsider the opinions that would naturally be derived from the speech of the hon. Member for North-East Cork; but I am aware that I am wholly unable to discuss the general question of alternative 483 policies with which the right hon. Gentleman concluded his speech. I was glad to notice that he, following the example of other speakers, admits that the state of Ireland shows a very marked improvement, an improvement described in the Amendment which the House is now considering as "long continued." Perhaps the epithet to English minds does not appear altogether applicable to a period little exceeding three years. Opposite causes have been alleged from opposite sides of the House in order to account for this "long-continued" improvement,; but though we may differ as to the cause, I trust we all hope that the effect may attain the more ample proportions to which we are accustomed on this side of the water. One factor in this improvement has been noticed by the right hon. Gentleman, to which I cannot assent. He alleges that boycotting has altered its character and consists now merely in letting persons severely alone. If that be so, I ask who are the victims of agrarian outrage, which, it is true in very curtailed numbers, still stand in the Reports that come before the Government? I understand that in every case, or in nearly every case, for that is denoted by the use of the very word agrarian, the victim of outrage is a poor farmer, a cattle dealer, or other person who has excited the anger of those taking part in the agrarian movement now existing in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman attributed the improvement to the efforts of hon. Member? below the Gangway. We attribute it in a large measure to the steady administration of the law, because these outrages, although less numerons than they were—they are, I believe, little more than one-half of the number that occurred when the Government came into office— are still of the same nature; therefore I think it is most probable that the diminution, since it is only one of degree and not of kind, is attributable to the so-called coercive measures of the Government. Now, in discussing the Climes Act the right hon. Gentleman discovered that the two most obnoxious features in it were, in the first place, that branches of the League had been suppressed—and he described the act of attending meetings of such branches as a new crime—and, in the 484 second place, that certain offences could be tried by Resident Magistrates. Now Sir, the measure of exasperation to which the Irish people are subjected on these counts will, I think, somewhat surprise the House if they have listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and to the other speeches which have been directed against these two particular provisions. I find that out of 597 convictions under the Act last year, the total number of persons convicted for taking part in proceedings of suppressed branches of the League was one man. The right hon. Gentleman amplified the list of those who had suffered under this provision of the Act by saying that not only the persons who had attended the meetings, but that the speakers, the editors of newspapers who reported the proceedings, and even the boys who sold the newspapers, were all liable to prosecution and imprisonment. Sir, I find that the total number of persons convicted during last year for reporting the proceedings of suppressed branches of the League was also one man. These two solitary individuals, therefore, form a very large factor in the case of hon. Gentlemen opposite. And I find that the rest of the facts upon which they base their case are in very close proportion to those I have already given the House. Before leaving the subject of the small ratio borne by convictions in connexion with suppressed branches to convictions for other offences, I should like to touch upon a kindred matter. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the Bridgeton Division has addressed a great portion of his speech to an attack upon prosecutions directed against persons for inciting to crime, as distinguished from prosecutions directed against persons committing crime. Now out of the total of 597 cases to which I have already referred, I find that 589 persons were convicted for committing crime, for criminal conspiracy, intimidation, riot, and assaults on sheriff's officers and the police, while the number convicted for inciting to crime was six only. The other provision of the Crimes Act which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax selected for attack was the power of resident magistrates to try these offences. But it seems to me that the remarks savoured rather of two or three years ago than of the present 485 day; for just as I have been able to show that there wore but few prosecutions in connection with suppressed branches, so it may also be shown that the clause giving to resident magistrates summary jurisdiction over charges of conspiracy and intimidation has been so curtailed in its operation that it now only affects a little over one million of the four or five million inhabitants of Ireland. With regard to the general view which the right hon. Gentleman took of affairs in Ireland, and the advice which he gave to this Government as to the proper course to pursue in the future, I have little to say. But I do propose to offer to the House some information which I possess. I notice that he has again favoured the House with the experience he gained during the visits he and other hon. Members paid to Ireland in the course of the recess, in order to refresh their views upon the Irish Question. I see, too, that his experience has been the same as that of other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen. He found that, in his person, liberty of speech and the right of meeting weirs respected. And yet, in spite of this experience, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen are convinced that these liberties do not exist, and that exceptions are made in their favour, in order to mislead the public as to the true state of Ireland. I think in that they are mistaken. The right hon. Gentleman informed the House that when he visited Ireland he did not intend to exceed the law. As to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, who made the same point in the debate last year, through another person—and not with his consent, I believe—similar information was conveyed to the Government. The difference between these right hon. Gentlemen, and those who have brought themselves within the meshes of the law, is that the latter deliberately express the intention again and again of breaking the law. But apart from the announcement of their intention to abide within the law, the Government were well aware that in any speech which the right hon. Gentlemen made they would neither counsel nor give any support of any kind to intimidation, nor would they be guilty of any incitement to crime, for which other speakers have been proceeded against. There is one other point I desire to notice, because it will lead up to the few 486 remarks I wish to make upon the speech delivered by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North-East Cork. Amongst other difficulties which right hon. Gentlemen opposite see in the present situation in Ireland is the alleged fact that arrears compel tenants to pay higher prices for their holdings than they would otherwise be disposed to pay. It is constantly asserted that the arrears question is the one point upon which this Government have failed, and we are told that if they were to settle that, the agrarian difficulty would practically cease to exist. The solid facts brought before the House to sustain this charge have been largely drawn from the Ponsonby estate and the estate of Tipperary town, and we may presume, therefore, that in the Ponsonby estate hon. Gentlemen find their best arguments against the Government. But how far can they discover on the Ponsonby estate any ground for the sweeping allegations which are generally put forward, not to justify—for that is impossible—but to palliate the adoption of criminal methods. On the Ponsonby estate the Plan of Campaign has existed for some years. The Plan of Campaign has been described as a criminal conspiracy, not only by Chief Baron Palles, but also by Mr. Justice O'Brien, who stated that it was clearly and distinctly illegal, upon all principles known to the Common Law. Now, in order to justify the adoption of that illegal conspiracy the House will surely require vastly stronger reasons than have been brought before it to night by the hon. Member for North-East Cork. It would be supposed, from what hon. Members opposite have said, that every one of the errors of judgment which have been attributed by them to Irish landlords is rampant on the Ponsonby estate. The facts, however, are altogether different. As to the charge of rack-renting, while it is true that there has been a slight rise of rent in individual cases, it is also true that the total rent-roll has been only increased by a sum of little over £100 since the years of the famine; and it is likewise true that in consequence of the charges which the landlord has taken upon himself the net increase is a little more than £50—a small sum for a landlord who has expended £5,000 of his own money on the estate, and has procured another £5,000 from the Board of works to put 487 into it. Those who have had any dealings in land know that a man is entitled to expect some small return on capital outlay, and certainly a paltry £50 is not a very large interest on a capital of £10,000. This entirely disposes of the charge that by small increases of rent, carried on over a long period of years, the landlord has succeeded in confiscating the tenant's improvements. Therefore we must turn our eyes to the immediate past to find any excuse for the adoption of this illegal conspiracy. It is sometimes alleged that by the rejection of the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork ample warrant was given to the tenants to protect themselves by methods unknown to the law. But that Bill, if it had passed, would have touched only one-fourth of the tenants of the Ponsonby estate; so it is clear that if the tenants were compelled thus to act in self-defence in the absence of the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork, they would equally have had to act in like manner if the Bill had been passed. I will not go into details as to the conduct of this landlord towards his tenants; but I may say that the fact that evictions have been very rare upon the estate shows conclusively that the landlord has made no effort to exterminate his tenantry, as it is sometimes called, and has no design of converting his property into grazing land. It has been generally admitted, both by those who acted on the part of the landlord and those who acted on behalf, of the tenants, that the ultimate solution of the difficulty which had been brought about by the Plan of Campaign must be in the adoption of some scheme of purchase; and it has been stated by the hon. Member for North-East Cork that such a solution had been almost arrived at on the Ponsonby estate when the hon. Member for Huntingdon intervened, and, as the hon. Member puts it, "wrecked the settlement." But, Sir, the settlement never was on the verge of completion. There was a discrepancy between the offers made on behalf of Mr. Ponsonby and of his tenants, not, as has been stated, of £4,000 or £5,000, but of £20,000. I am aware that the opposite has been alleged on the authority of Canon Keller. Hon. Gentlemen may think that they must either believe Canon Keller and disbelieve Members of that House, or 488 believe hon. Members and disbelieve Canon Keller; but they are not reduced to that very disagreeable issue. They may avoid it by considering that two offers have been spoken of in the course of this controversy; the offer which Mr. Brunker, the agent, made and the offer which Canon Keller understood him to make. But of these the first is evidently the only one of any material interest, since it is the only one authorised by the landlord, and the sum mentioned in this offer exceeded by over £20,000 the sum which Canon Keller was prepared to give. It will, therefore, be seen that there was no prospect of a solution when the hon. Member for Huntingdon intervened. So far from wrecking a settlement on the verge of completion, he it was who induced the landlord, when an absolute deadlock existed, to make the offer of a, settlement, which will commend itself to the minds of all reasonable men. That settlement was wrecked, not by the Member for Huntingdon; but by those who control the operations of the Plan of Campaign. The offer was that those tenants who had not gone into the Courts, and who constituted with only 27 exceptions the whole of the tenantry on the estate, should pay an instalment, less by 32 per cent, from the old rent. Now, the original demand under the Plan of Campaign was a reduction of 35 per cent., so that the difference was one of only 3 per cent. But it may be said that arrears stood in the way. The House will judge whether Mr. Ponsonby adopted an intractable attitude on this question. Any tenant whose rent was £100 would have had to pay at that time £400; but, so far from standing stubbornly on his rights, Mr. Ponsonby was ready to accept £80, and extinguish £320. Which of the two parties in this case acted as the faithful servants of the tenants—the landlord, who had not received a single penny for four years, and who was prepared to extinguish £320, or four-fifths of the amount, or the controllers of the Plan of Campaign, who during that time received £65 a year and yet refused to extinguish the remaining £80, or only one fifth of the arrears due? If it be true that the amount poured in burnt a hole in the war chest, then I think they might have fallen back on the £40,000 489 collected for the Tenants' Defence Association, largely with a view to meeting the exigencies of the Ponsonby tenants. There is only one other matter in regard to which I shall claim the indulgence of the House. The Member for Cork censured, in no measured terms, a letter dealing with Press prosecutions, for which the Chief Secretary was officially, but for which I am alone personally, responsible. The Member for the City of Cork described the statements contained in that letter as most misleading, and selected one statement for special condemnation as the most unfounded ever made on the authority of an Irish Minister. I am prepared to abide by every word in that letter. I imagine the passage to which the hon. Member referred is the one in which it is stated that,No persons connected with the Press have, during the present Administration, been proceeded against, even though they may have broken the law, unless by their illegal conduct they interfered with the civil rights of persons entitled to protection by law.The hon. Member said that in the last two years Press prosecutions had been in every case, except one, not for editorial comments, but for such offences as reporting meetings of suppressed branches of the League. I will test the accuracy of that statement by examining the Press prosecutions of the last year. I find that out of 13 prosecutions directed against the Press last year, in five cases the illegal matter was contained in reports of suppressed branches, in one case in a leaderette, and in seven case in editorial comments. Since the hon. Member draws a distinction, which I do not recognise, between cases in which the illegal matter occurs in reports of suppressed branches and those in which it occurs in editorial articles, I have shown that he is in error in supposing that the case I selected was the only example of the latter. In the letter censured by him I selected the case of Mr. M'Enery not on that account, but to illustrate the proposition that intimidation through the Press is exactly on all fours with intimidation outside the Press. The victim was a man named Ryan, who had been subjected to boycotting for a period of four years. At the end of the year 1888 a meeting was held for the sole purpose of whipping up that boycotting. Speakers 490 at that meeting were sent to prison for the speeches they delivered, and the result was that Ryan enjoyed comparative peace, until Mr. M'Enery's paper commenced publishing weekly articles holding him up to execration and directing his neighbours to ruin him in his business. If it was illegal to intimidate Ryan—to insist on his being boycotted—outside the Press, it was equally illegal to bring about a like result by other means. To prove that I was entitled to select this case as typical of the policy of the Government I have only to point out that in 12 cases out of the 13 tried last year the charge was incitement to intimidation or intimidation. Is the Government to allow illegal acts to pass unpunished because they are afraid of the public resentment which can be called up by an appeal to the liberty of the Press, which, under the circumstances, nobody is entitled to make? A well-known County Court Judge recently declared that a newspaper writer had no right to make his paper an instrument for attacking individuals. I think the Government have done only their duty in these 13 cases, in 12 of which persons were held up to obloquy by name. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said the last Administration did not interfere with the Press to the same extent as this Government has done. That is true. But why? Not because they took a different view of the law, but because they attached more importance to the kind of outcry which can be raised by appeals to the liberty of the Press, than, I am thankful to say, does the Government of to-day. If it were otherwise we should expect to find a great distinction between the kind of cases in which they moved and the kind of cases in which the Government are moving. What, however, is the distinction or difference between the offence for which Mr. Walsh (Mayor of Wexford) was prosecuted last year, and the offence for which he was punished under Lord Spencer? His offence in the latter case was not that he published a report of a suppressed branch, but that he reported a meeting of the Ladies Land League. And the matter he published was by no means of a violent character. The notice merely expressed sorrow that a certain man held a grabbed farm, from which the tenant was evicted a year previously. Nothing 491 could be milder than that, but nothing more illegal considering the state of Ireland. The power conferred upon the Government in these matters is exercised, not merely to protect private persons, but also in the interests of the public peace. In cases of libel and intimidation it is the duty of Government to act, for if it failed to do so it would be difficult to censure the victim of a newspaper attack for taking the law into his own hands and breaking the head of his cowardly assailant. But in Ireland the consequences of intimidatory notices in the Press are more serious than in an ordinary case of libel in this country. What we fear is not so much that the victim will take the law into his own hands, as that he will suffer, perhaps in his person, probably in his property, and sometimes — in rare cases, I will admit—in his life. To show that I do not exaggerate the risks to which persons held up to obliquy in Ireland are exposed, I may refer to an outrage which occurred only the other day, when shots were fired into a house and a servant girl received a bullet in her back, from the effects of which she now lies in a precarious con—dition. This statement, which appeared in the papers of February 11th, has been fully confirmed. Such is the fate which overtakes those persons who are, as is sometimes said by the Irish papers, put in the pillory of public opinion. I think it is idle to say that it makes any difference whether these offences are committed through the Press or not. You might as well shoot a man with a bow and arrow instead of a gun, and then complain that you are condemned for archery. I am sincerely grateful to the House for listening with so much kindness to a speech which must have seemed somewhat offensive to some Members. And, in conclusion, I will only say that while the present Government possesses many titles to the esteem and support of those who sit behind them, I think that I shall be expressing the opinion of their followers when I maintain that that which appeals more nearly to our loyalty than any other feature of their administration is this—that they interposed to defend the Curtins, the Connells, the Hegartys, and the Ryans of Irish life whom lion. Members below the Gangway and the powerful organisa- 492 tion which they control seem bent upon grinding to the dust.
§ (7.32.) Sir JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
I think I maybe allowed to congratulate the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down on the able manner in which he has addressed the House in a maiden speech. I trust that there will ever exist in this House that feeling of esprit de corps which enables us to congratulate hon. Gentlemen, especially those young in years, who on their entrance to this House give so abundant a promise of becoming valuable additions to its debating power. I find no fault with the hon. Gentleman's speech beyond this—that he seems to have been dealing with what I must call the smaller details of the Irish Question, those which affect the law and the Government of the day, while he apologises for those things which are the effects of a policy which I think will not be very long maintained. I have endeavoured, in looking at this great question, not to shrink from the difficulties by which it is surrounded. There are in Ireland a very large proportion of very small landowners, who we have been told by the Fortescue and the Devonshire Commissions are not able to hold their own. Certainly the evidence of the Blue Books before us tends to show that this large class of small holders have been the victims of a certain class of landowners who have taken advantage of the improvements made by their tenants to raise their rents. There is also the fact, as shown by the Cowper Commission, that there exists in Ireland an impoverished set of landlords; indeed, we have been shown by evidence there, that not one-half of the landowners are able to deal with their own affairs. This is a problem which every Administration, whether advocating a scheme of local government for Ireland, or a moral government by force of law, will have to deal. In considering this question I have endeavoured to look at what is the actual position of Ireland at the present day, and one naturally asks oneself the question, what is the result of what has hitherto been done? I have examined various public sources of information, and am unable to find anything which presents a very flattering picture. The picture we have of that country is any- 493 thing but satisfactory to any of us. We find that there are disloyalty and discontent, together with a large amount of poverty, amongst the people, and that the laws under which they live are unsatisfactory to the large majority. But I do not find any evidence in the usual sources of information that the manner in which Ireland is being governed is adding in any way to the material prosperity of the country. The last speaker has stated the population of Ireland as being five millions. In my time it was nearly 30 per cent., or 40 per cent, above five millions. In 1874 it was 5,298,000; in 1882, 5,097,000; in 1886, 4,889,498; in 1888, 4,777,545; in 1889, 4,716,000. These figures are obtained from the Government computation which has been placed in our hands. But we also find that while Ireland has been going down since 1874, by something like half a million. Scotland, which began upon a smaller basis of population proportionately, has increased to a very large extent—the population of Scotland, in 1874, being 3,477,000, while in 1889 it had increased to 4,077,000. Then, again, if we look at the Irish police, we find that in 1859–60 the cost was about £700,000, but that it has risen in 1889–90 to 1,439,000, or just double what it was in 1859–60. Now let us contrast the proportions of police to population, and in doing so I would take two towns, namely—Leeds, with a population of 309,000, and Dublin, with a population of 349,000, the acreage of the two places being equal. Leeds has 421 police constables; in Dublin the number is 1,105. Then as to costs, in Leeds the constabulary charges amount to £37,117, in Dublin to £150,531. Then again if we take police rateable value we find that in Leeds it is 7½d. in the £1, while in Dublin it amounts to 2s. 6d. We will next take the proportion of police to inhabitants. In Birmingham there is one policeman to every 7,287 inhabitants; in Bradford, one policeman to every 880; in Dundee, one to every 874; in Sunderland, one to every 1,000; and in Dublin, one to every 296 inhabitants. In the meantime there has been a steady increase in the number of soldiers in Ireland, until at the present moment there are 26,854, supplemented by 12,000 policemen. This cannot be a satisfactory state of things to any one who is desirous of promoting 494 the true prosperity of that country. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has furnished us with Reports in which he has endeavoured to show the material prosperity ef Ireland by means of the Bank Returns. Looking to the Joint Stock Bank deposits, I find that in 1876 there are £32,815,000, in 1886 £29,223,000 and in 1889 £31,205,000, so that they have risen £2,000,000 since 1886, but are less by upwards of a million and a half than in 1876. The Post Office Savings Bank deposits have, however, gone up £800,000 between 1886 and 1889, but then comes a very curious, result in respect of the Government of India Stocks, which in 1871 are put at £36,927,000, while in 1889 the amount is stated at £28,219,000. In 1886 the amount was £30,484,000, so that they have gone down nearly £2,000,000 since the present Government took office. Then if we look at the agricultural crops we find that the increased yield per acre has been very considerable during recent years, but in 1889 there is a decrease in the acreage of wheat and oats as against the previous year of 51,500 acres. There is an increase in barley of 17,000 acres, but there is a large decrease in the acreage of potatoes and vetches amounting together to 21,000 acres, the decrease in potatoes alone being 19,000 acres. There is, however, a small increase in the acreage of turnips and carrots, namely 6,500 acres. These figures relating to a purely agricultural country show a great decrease in the elements of prosperity so far as the acreage under cultivation is concerned. In regard to horses and mules and cattle, the horses have increased by 8,000 since 1880 and there has been a large increase over the year 1888 in the number of asses; what that arises from I cannot say. In cattle there has been a decrease of 5,251, a slight increase in the number of sheep, while in pigs there has been a decrease of 17,000 in 1889 as against 1888. From these statistics it is quite plain that the agricultural interests of the poor in Ireland have not been thriving during the period the present Government has been in power. The hon. Member who just sat down and one or two other speakers have referred to the statistics of agrarian outrage. I have been enabled to go through the contents of the two Returns laid on the Table last year, although not 495 yet in the hands of hon. Members, but I as they are upon the Table there can be no objection to my using them. I find that when the present Government took office in the December quarter of 1886 there were only 80 agrarian outrages, putting on one side those under the head of threatening letters and "threats made otherwise." During that quarter there was no murder at all; in the next year during the September quarter, under the Coercion Act, there were 138 outrages, while in the December quarter the number was 103. In 1888, two years after the accession of the present Government, the cases went down in the March quarter to 62; in the June quarter they numbered 82; in the September quarter 90, and in the December quarter 66. In 1889 the Return is smaller: March 56, June 78, September 98, December 58. These figures plainly show that the Coercion Act has had no effect whatever on agrarian outrages in Ireland. The prosperity of the farmers is despite Coercion, and arises from the fact that the country brings out a great quantity of young stock, which is largely increased in value. I am perfectly certain, further, that the sympathy which has been shown in this country with the Irish people in their troubles has had an enormous effect in doing away with crime. The Irish are a shrewd people, and they well know that much of our sympathy would be withdrawn if there were any attempt to achieve by force and murder the solution of this question, to which some of us have set our minds. But there is another point, and I think clearly a most serious one,—I refer to the tenants and subtenants whose tenancies have been determined by the eviction notices under Section 7 of the Act of 1887, "the eviction-made-easy Clause," as I ventnred to call it on one occasion in the House. In March, 1888, there were 1,581 eviction notices; June, 1,975; September, 1,965; December, 1,010. There were about 14,000 notices of eviction under Clause 7 of the Act of 1887 during the two years. But another Return was laid on the Table of the House with respect to these evictions which I think the country ought to understand and appreciate. It is the Return showing the number of civil bills and ejectments in title for non-payment 496 of rent, over holdings entered at quarter sessions, and writs for recovery of rent and possession, issued from the Superior Courts, for five counties of Ireland— Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, and Mayo. In Clare, in 1885, there were 419; in 1886, 666; in 1887, 908; in 1888, 923, showing a constant increase of these notices and writs for recovery of rent. In Cork in 1885, 1,524; 1886, 2,518; 1887, 2,023; and 1888,2,467. In Galway, 1885, 804; 1886, 1,188; 1887, 1,202; and 1888, 1,559. In Kerry, 1885, 1,191; 1886, 2,084; 1887, 1,574; and in 1888, 1,162. In Mayo, 1885, 784; 1886, 1,264; 1887, 1,174; and in 1888, 1,838. There is no Return in the Library that I am aware of which gives similar figures for 1889. These figures show the frightful condition of these poor people, who have spent their lives and their money in building their homes and improving their holdings, and under the pressure of such an enormous number of evictions it is impossible to have a contented and happy country. The poor people are on the horns of a dilemma. They do not know whether they are caretakers for many weeks, or whether they are to be turned out into the cold before many days. The figures which I have quoted show very distinctly that there is a steadily decreasing population, and a steadily increasing cost for pauperism. There is also a steadily increasing charge for police, which is quite out of all proportion to other districts of the United Kingdom. There is, too, an increasing military occupation. There is a standstill of mercantile improvement, and I fear that the linen trade and other industries are very much affected. There is a decrease of the land under crops, and there is little or no improvement in horses or cattle in comparison with the prices. I would ask right hon. Gentlemen whether their laws have increased the loyalty of the people of Ireland, taken as a whole? There is no man on earth can answer that question satisfactorily. The people of Ireland are more discontented, or as fully discontented as they were. We have been carrying on the Government of the country in a manner which is against the wishes of 85 out of 103 of its representatives, and it cannot be claimed that such a mode of Government is according to our Constitution. We have always before us the fact that 497 we are governing Ireland against the wishes of her people, and of nearly all her corporate bodies and municipalities. What has the Government done to remedy this state of things? The question of arrears has frequently been brought up. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down seemed to think that there is not much in the question of arrears, but I believe we should not now be discussing Ireland had the subject been dealt with. The great question which Irish Members ask is, why do not the Government deal with the question of arrears? The returns in respect of the Crofters show that their arrears have been cancelled to the extent, in some cases, of 26, 50, and even 75 per cent. But in no instance have the arrears of the Irish tenants come under legislative action. Your attempt to put down the National League has failed, and I ask whether any man will maintain that the government of Dublin Castle is a satisfactory government? I come, now, to the working of the Ashbourne Act. I was very much opposed to the proposals of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian on the question of land purchase, but I regard those proposals as much more satisfactory than the proposals of the Government in relation to the extension of the Ashbourne Act. Either a very large demand is going to be made on the taxpayers of this country to buy out the Irish landlords, making the English and the Scotch people practically the landlords of Ireland, or else we are going to raise a new source of discontent in that country. The tenant who is able to buy his holding at the present moment will sit at 20 per cent, less rent than the tenant who is not able to purchase, and in 40 years he will become the owner, while the tenant who is not able to purchase will have paid 20 per cent, more rent and remains a tenant still. All I can say is that it seems to me that the Government are on the horns of a dilemma, and they will be unable to maintain peace between neighbouring tenants if part of the country is purchased under Lord Ashbourne's Act and all the rest is left in the hands of the landlords and tenants. I have taken the trouble to analyse the manner in which our money has been dealt with under the Ashbourne 498 Act, and I find a very extraordinary state of things. Where has the money gone? Eight proprietors in Ulster have got £1,584,000; in Munster, one landlord has obtained £ 109,770; in Leinster, three landlords, £320,579; in Con-naught, two landlords, £51,803. It seems to me that the money has gone where it is least wanted, and the impoverished districts have not been benefitted. But, Sir, I have a more serious charge to make against Her Majesty's Government than this. You have added to the demoralisation of the Irish people, in regard to respect for law, by the trumpery offences which have been made the subject of severe punishment under the powers of the Coercion Act—a man sent to gaol for having smiled and winked at another man in the market place, to stop his buying pigs, and an old man and woman imprisoned by two Justices for singing in the streets—"We shall have good times when the landlords go." What is the policy of Her Majesty's Government? Why to get rid of the landlords and buy them out, and these people were only singing a song in confirmation of the views of Her Majesty's Government. There is another consequence. All these hon. Gentlemen, whom you have made by your law criminals, are received with open arms by the people of England. At the public meetings that I have attended all that has been wanted has been an Irishman, and if the Irishman has been by the right hon. Gentleman's law on a plank bed he is always much more acceptable to the meetings. These are things that ought not to be. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: Hear, hear.] But they are consequences of the light hon. Gentleman's policy. It is he who has made these men who are apprehended as criminals heroes, and who has drawn sympathy for them from all parts of the civilised world. It is he who has done infinite harm not only to present but to all future Government in Ireland. To make these men martyrs is about the worst thing you can do if you desire to preserve law and order. I thank the House for having listened to me. What I am anxious for is that, whether we adopt Home Rule or not, something should be done to raise the whole tone of feeling with regard to law in Ireland. 499 Local County Councils are talked of for Ireland, but it seems to me that it would be very difficult indeed to govern that country by such means as you can adopt in England or Scotland. In many of the poorer districts of Ireland you will be unable to find a population able to undertake the management of public business, therefore, your only resource will be to give to Ireland the management of their own affairs in an Irish, but always a subordinate, Parliament.
§ (8.38). MR. A. CAMERON CORBETT (Glasgow, Tradeston)
The last speaker made one or two comparisons between Scotland and Ireland which I think it desirable at once to meet. The hon. Member alleged that while the population of Ireland had been steadily decreasing, that of Scotland had been increasing. I think if he had considered the figures a little more carefully, he would have found that they contributed nothing to the advancement of his cause. The agricultural population of Scotland has not been increasing. The whole increase has been in the industrial population. This increase of commercial population has taken place wherever Scotchmen have gone. It has not been confined to Scotland alone. In the North-East of Ireland, where you have a population of Scotch extraction, you find exactly the same commercial enterprise, and exactly the same commercial increase, and there is no town of Scotland which can show a more striking increase of prosperity and population than the town of Belfast. The hon. Member also dwelt on what he alleged to be the different treatment meted out to the Irish tenants and the Crofters in Scotland, complaining that the arrears of the Irish tenants had not been dealt with as the arrears of the Crofters had been, The two cases were, however, dealt with in the same way. It was found necessary in the case of the Irish tenants to pass an Arrears Act, so as to make it impossible for any man to be kept out of the advantages of the Land Courts on account of his arrears. In the same way, when the Crofters of Scotland were admitted to the privileges of the Land Courts they were allowed to have their arrears dealt with by special legislation. That was a fair and reasonable arrangement to make on the 500 establishment of the Land Courts, but it seems to me that any periodical repetition of arrears legislation would be as undesirable in Scotland as in Ireland. Nothing could be more damaging to the character of the tenants of either country than to allow them to suppose that if they allow arrears to accumulate they will, in the long run, reap a great advantage, because the Government will step in and diminish the amount they have to pay. As to the hon. Member's statistics concerning the prosperity of Ireland, I do not think they need much examination to prove that the commercial condition of Ireland has. largely improved. We have the Dublin Chamber of Commerce not only alluding to that improvement, but tracing it very largely to the action of the present Government. The last speaker used one illustration, which I do not think he would have employed if he had known the searching criticism to which it has already been exposed. He spoke of ballad singers, who it is alleged have been punished for singing—"We'll have good times in Ireland when the landlords go." This was cited as an illustration of the tyranny employed under the Crimes Act. When, however, the matter is investigated it is found that these people were summoned, not under the Crimes Act at all, but under the Vagrancy Act, precisely as they would have been in England or Scotland. They were old offenders and they were tried not by those magistrates who are termed "removables," but by the ordinary justices of the peace, and, as it happens, by justices who were appointed by Earl Spencer. When an Amendment to the Address is moved by the leader of the Nationalist Party concerning the invasion of the liberty of the Irish people, we are, I think, entitled to expect that he will bring forward the very strongest examples of the oppression which is said to be exercised in Ireland. That those examples would not be difficult to find one would certainly imagine from the statement of the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) that there are thousands of cases of oppression in Ireland which would be worthy of Russian despotism, only that they are more mean in their character. What are the sort of examples that have been brought before us? The whole weight of the speech of the 501 hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) rested on the charge that the Government suppressed boycotting, and upon the alleged interference with the freedom of the Press. We need not go outside the speeches which have been delivered by Nationalist Members during this debate to realise that boycotting does interfere, and terribly interfere with the liberties of the Irish people whenever it is practised. The hon. Member for East Water-ford (Mr. P. J. Power) told us that boycotting was a terror to the land grabbers, and gave with great satisfaction an account of a man who came forward and offered an abject apology, offered to make any public or private reparation, and to pay any fine that might be imposed by any properly-constituted tribunal if he were re-admitted to the League. It cannot be contended that such a statement is consistent with the existence of a state of freedom. Boycotting is not only suppressed in Ireland, but exactly the same kind of boycotting is illegal in this country as well. In adjudicating on the Salford boycotting case, an English Judge declared that a conspiracy which prevents a man carrying on his business is an offence against the English law. That decision would have covered the case of Feeley as fully as it covered the cases of Bellew and Fitzgerald. If interference with the carrying on of a man's lawful business were produced, to use the words of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), by nods and winks and smiling a humbugging kind of smile, it would be treated in Ireland and this country in the same manner. The second count in the indictment brought against the Government was the alleged interference with the liberty of the Press. The hon. Member for Cork has complained that editors of newspapers are prosecuted for reports of the meetings of suppressed branches of the National League, and draws a distinction between their responsibility for such reports and for leading articles. He told us, however, in the same speech, of the hon. Member for the College Green Division of Dublin being prosecuted for such a report, although there was no proof of the reported meeting having been held. I pass over the fact that the hon. Member for Cork did not think the fact of a meeting being reported in the newspaper of his hon. Friend the 502 Member for College Green (Mr. T. D. Sullivan) proved that such a meeting had taken place. The point I wish to draw attention to is that if in such a case you are not to hold the editor of a newspaper responsible when individuals are held up for the purposes of intimidation nobody can be made amenable for intimidatory language so used. Therefore if the Government refrained from taking action in all cases where the offence was merely connected with the report of the National League meeting the Government would be entirely unable to discharge its duty of protecting individual citizens from systematic intimidation. Something was said as to the tenants who adopted the Plan of Campaign being unfairly used because they were put outside the law. It seems to me that people who adopt the Plan of Campaign put themselves outside the law and that people who adopt such a policy in any civilised country would equally find themselves outside the law. If the tenants of an English landlord in an English county made for themselves a conspiracy of that sort such a conspiracy would be outside and against the law. The light hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton (Sir George Trevelyan) said the police should use their influence to preserve order and that they should be present and pleasant. The right hon. Gentleman had a special opportunity of judging not only of the difficulties of the task of the Constabulary but of the obsolute impossibility of the task he sought to impose upon them. We had an interesting experiment tried. One of the most attractive and persuasive of English gentlemen went over to Ireland a few years ago. He tried to administer the law and at the same time to conciliate the people. And the leading organ of the Nationalist Party described him as "the poorest, meanest, pitifullest creature who had ever held sway in Ireland in the name of England." We cannot doubt with such words in our mind that the right hon. Gentleman failed to be pleasant when he was present in Ireland. He failed through no fault of his own. He failed because he was connected with that law which is so strongly objected to by a considerable section of the Iris1, people. The enmity directed against the Con- 503 stabulary is similar to the enmity which was directed against him. The Constabulary could not serve opposing masters; they could not please those who vilified the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton, and at the same time carry out the policy which had to be carried out during the right hon. Gentleman's administration, and which the present Government had still to persevere with. I rejoice in the evidence that this debate has afforded that the game of law and order is not up. Law and order are advancing in Ireland, and along with their advance, the bounds of individual freedom are being widened. I trust the time is not far distant when every individual Irishman, to whatever class or party he belongs, will be secure in the fearless enjoyment of all the great blessings which liberty can afford.
§ (8.57.) MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)
I think we must all be of opinion that it would have been far better if the observations to which we have just listened had been delivered from the other side of the House. Anyhow, of one thing I am certain, and that is, that the Members of the Party to which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cameron Corbett) belongs will soon have to re-consider their position, and have to abandon the name which they at present give themselves. Unionists they are not; Liberals they are not, because more illiberal sentiments than those to which we have just listened I have seldom heard uttered in the House of Commons. I was very much struck with the hon. Gentleman's argument with reference to the Irish people not being entitled to the same consideration as the Crofters in the matter of arrears of rent. As I understood it, the hon. Member's argument is that, because the Irish tenants did not get relief in this respect when the Land Act of 1887 was passed they are not entitled to it now. Why did not the Irish tenants get relief from arrears in 1887? Because the hon. Member and his friends opposed the relief. We claim for the Irish tenants what has been given to the Crofter tenants of Scotland and which, if it had been given, would certainly have prevented a great deal of the trouble and vexation and irritation to which the Government of Ireland have been subjected. I have always been struck with the idea that 504 if in a Land Court a rent is reduced, it is reduced because it is too high. I heard a remarkable case that illustrates this. I saw a tenant evicted from a farm the rent of which had been reduced from £57 to £36 by the Court. But there were four year's accumulation of arrears of the old rent, and the man was ejected on these accumulations of an old rent which the Land Court had declared unjust. Now how, in the name of common sense, can any man support a policy that subjects people to ejectment upon a rent the Court declares unjust? How any man can persuade himself with any feeling for justice that the people of Ireland are not entitled to the same consideration the Crofters of Scotland are I cannot understand. I was very much struck with the remarks of my hon. Friend on boycotting. I am against boycotting. I do not believe in it at all, but I am as much opposed to it in England as in Ireland. But where there is one case of boycotting in Ireland there are ten cases in England. I could detain the House for hours giving instances and illustrations; and, in my opinion, boycotting is more cruel, or at least it is as cruel, in England as in Ireland. But we shall get rid of all boycotting when we do justice to the people of Ireland. It is the outcome of a bad system, and one comfort I draw from these debates is that we are nearing the end of this system. No one can have listened to this debate without feeling that to a great extent argument has been exhausted. Certainly argument has been exhausted on that side, and, to a large extent, it is so on our side. I may allow one exception. I think the hon. Member for Lover (Mr. Wyndham) has put as much of a new face on the subject as it is capable of. I listened to his remarkable speech with interest, and I hope as days go on, and that power which the lion. Member undoubtedly possesses is matured by age and experience, that the hon. Member will become a great acquisition to the House. I think he said everything new that could be said for the Party opposite, but what did it all amount to? To this: That the prosecutions we complain of, and which have deprived the Irish people of their liberty, have not been so numerous and severe as they have been described to be. But suppose we on this side admit that even? The matter is not one of degree, it is a matter of right and 505 wrong, and I maintain that whether it is a question of one or one hundred prosecutions a Government has no right to prosecute the Press for publishing reports of meetings that have taken place, every one of which reports might be published in an English paper without the slightest objection. How can you call yours a policy of equality and justice when what is done continually in England cannot be done in Ireland without subjecting a man to prosecution and persecution? Then the hon. Member says landlords are not so bad as they have been described to be, and that that is so even in regard to the Ponsonby Estate and others that have bean the subject of controversy. Well, I have no doubt there are exaggerations on both sides and on all questions. I do not pretend that everything that is said on our side can be supported by actual facts, but suppose that only half of what has been described is correct is it not our duly and is this not the time for this House to find a remedy? There is one point that especially calls for attention in such a debate as this, the claim, that I strongly challenge, made by the Chief Secretary that his policy is improving the condition of the people. Nothing couldbe more misleading, nothing more absurd was ever stated. How can you improve a nation by this repulsive policy? I drew my political milk from the pail of the great statesman who used to sit in this House, and who once used the magnificent phrase that "force is no remedy." It is because I firmly believe in the truth of that that I cannot believe and do not expect that there will be any improvement in the condition of Ireland arising from the policy of which we now complain. The lessons of history teach us that repressive laws all down the history of the world have been failures for the improvement of the people, and experience forbids us to expect happiness or contentment so long as this state of things exists. Instead of leading to all we want to see, it results in eviction, agitation, and constant complaint. Our debates show the amount of strife engendered by the attempt to hold people down against their will. There is one thing that pleases me in this Debate— the anxious desire evinced more than ever before for a union between the peoples of England and Ireland. That is one of the brightest and happiest 506 assurances for the future. I will not dwell on the cause of that. I believe the cause is mainly the desire on the part of a large party—not the majority in this House for the moment, but a majority in the country, as you will find when an appeal is made to the electors— a desire and a determination on the part of this party that the present state of things shall not exist much longer. The next General Election will reverse the present policy, and then we shall have a closer drawing together and a true union of the peoples. I am sometimes asked why the government of Ireland does not succeed as the government of Scotland does? There is a great distinction in the conditions of union. The agreement with Scotland was unanimous; it was arrived at with the consent of both parties. There was a sitting down together at a table of representatives of each side, and the shrewdness of the Scotch people was allowed to have its. way in refusing to give up their own laws and customs, in many particulars. But from beginning to end the union with Ireland was a forced union. Hence the difference in result. Give the people of Ireland the same right to self-government as is recognised in this House so far as the Scotch people are concerned, and the strife and irritation which have existed too long will disappear. Meanwhile, this Amendment points in the right direction. We have been told of a Local Government Bill for Ireland, but how can you give Local Government under a Coercion Law? The two principles will not agree; you must choose between them. I agree that a system of Local Government will help to remove the evils of Ireland, but you cannot apply it with success so long as it is connected with a coercion policy. It reminds me of what the ton. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth once said, that we go to Ireland holding in one hand a stick for punishment and in the other a bag of money for bribery. That is a union of measures that will never succeed. We must have a union which will recognise the right of the people to make their local laws in accordance with their own views. Do that, and the result will be a more healthy, more prosperous, more contented state of things than can accompany any other line of policy you can adopt. There are several other reasons why I 507 object to your policy. It is most costly. I do not think the people of England quite appreciate this—that every Irish man, woman, and child, including babies, costs for government 25s. per head! Is there another such a fact in the history of the world? There is no other country in the world where five millions of people cost six millions sterling annually to be looked after. The fact that the English and Irish people are paying this should appeal to the pocket side of the question, and I believe the people of England are awakening to the fact that we are keeping up this costly machinery to enable a few landlords to exact rents to which they have no just claim. It is not only costly, but cruel, and I believe it is tainting the English name all over the world. Wherever I go Ireland is pointed out as the dark spot in English administration. Believing as I do that the Anglo-Saxon race have the greatest mission in the world, I, for one, am anxious that this dark stain on the reputation of our race should be erased, and therefore I am desirous to bring Ireland as much into accord with the law of this country as any section of the Empire. I believe from my heart that when this miserable, wretched coercive policy is put an end to, and we have adopted the statesmanlike, and I will say Christianlike, policy of the right lion. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, all will be struck with wonder and surprise that it has taken so long to get to a point we ought to have reached long ago. For these reasons among many others I shall vote for the Amendment as a step in the direction we wish to go.
§ (9.15.) MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
We have had from this side of the House from two hon. Members who reflect the opinion of the other side very strong, and, because unwilling, all the stronger testimony to the utterly hollow nature of that paragraph of Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, which deals with the condition of Ireland, and to which the Amendment of my hon. Friend is directed. The hon. Member for South Tyrone, in what he intended to be a bitter attack upon the Irish people and their representatives, did, in fact, draw up a formidable indictment against the present administration of affairs in Ireland, because from first to last, until 508 his concluding words, there ran through his speech this refrain—that the Government's Irish policy is a failure, and that the combination of the people is a thing with which we must grapple, thereby acknowledging that after three years of coercion the Government are only at the beginning of their difficult task; thus he acknowledged, that which is acknowledged by most people at the present time. The Chief Secretary has embarked on a Sisyphean-like task, and when he fancies he has carried his burden to the top of the hill, it recoils, and he has to commence his odious and discreditable task over again. It simply comes to this the more the right hon. Gentleman succeeds in his work of coercion the further off he is from ultimate success; the more he finds success in his method of pacification the less are the people of Ireland pacified. The speech of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. Russell), as well as that of the hon. Member for the Tradeston Division (Mr. Corbett), both carry out the same argument, that you must go on coercing the people of Ireland, that you cannot afford to relax your efforts, that the people are doubly dosed with original sin, that, in fact, the one result of coercion is to make the perpetuation of coercion imperative. What are the tests of success we should apply? Shall we take the test of the feelings of the people of Ireland? If so, is it not notorious, and not to be denied even by the Chief Secretary, that he is further off than ever from winning the affections of the people of Ireland, and that there is greater contempt for law as at present administered in Ireland than, perhaps, at anytime during the past half century? Will it not be acknowledged that the present policy has done more to provoke disorder all over Ireland th*n the policy of any Chief Secretary who has undertaken government for generations past? The right hon. Gentleman brings forward as a test the prosperity of Ireland. Well, I wonder that he and his supporters have not claimed some credit for the improved character of the weather, and consequent better harvests for two years past. I wonder he does not take credit for control of the climatic conditions that have resulted in an alleviation of the condition of the agricultural interest in Ireland, for his argument comes to this and nothing else, when he 509 talks of increase in the deposit of the Joint Stock Banks and Savings Banks in Ireland, that people have a little more money because prices have been better somewhat. If this contention were not followed up by acts of cowardice and cruelty no contention could be more absurdly whimsical. This increase of deposits is due to circumstances as foreign to the Coercion Act as eclipses of the moon, the action of the tides, or any other cause entirely beyond the wit of man or the ingenuity of the Chief Secretary. I noticed that in his speech the hon. Member for South Tyrone made a series of very serious charges against the inhabitants of a certain portion of East Cork, and he contrived in the fewest possible words to convey the largest amount of misrepresentation the case could possibly bear. He referred to boycotting in the town of Youghal in connection with the imprisonment of my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cork. On that occasion there was no boycotting save that of exclusive dealing, and I will prove that in a few words to the satisfaction of the House. My hon. Friend was condemned to imprisonment and treated with a cruelty and barbarity that would reflect shame on the administration of any Government. He was dragged about by force, his beard and hair were cut, and in short he was treated in such a manner that universal indignation was excited throughout Ireland, The Chief Secretary so far recognised this feeling as intense and widespread that at a banquet a night or two after, the gentlemen who attended were afraid or ashamed to give their names in the ordinary manner to the reporters, were ashamed to admit reporters in an honourable open manner to a banquet given in the Metropolis of Ireland. The callous and sinister nature of the remarks made by the Chief Secretary on the occasion on a subject that should have been one of reproach to any man of refined feeling, excited to the highest pitch the feelings of the people of Ireland, and under these conditions all over Ireland for three or four days shopkeepers voluntarily shut up their establishments. The proceeding was almost universal. In Cork, a certain number of shopkeepers were exceptions. There was no intimidation. There may have been private comment on their 510 action but nobody interfered with the right of any person to give proper expression to his disapproval. In Youghal, which is close to the Ponsonby Estate, the people's feelings rose to the most excited pitch, and houses, but more especially shops, were shuttered. I believe for a period of three or four days, a certain number of persons, 17 in number I think, not 20 as the hon. Member said, out of a rather populous town, did not acquiesce in the expression of popular detestation; did not shutter their windows. And then the hon. Member endeavours to make out there was an attempt to intimidate these people. Now, the interference was of this character. The people were excited, loving my hon. Friend as they do, and all the more because of the persecution to which he was subjected, and of their own free will avoided these houses. They exercised their Common Law right; no matter what a trained and ingenious lawyer may say, they have an indefeasible right to deal where they wish to give the preference, and they avoided those houses where the proprietors had not shuttered their windows. Further than this there was no intimidation or combination or anything of the kind. It was an entirely spontaneous action on the part of the people. There was no picketting of the shops. I have it on the authority of the Chairman of the Town Commissioners, the parish priest, and leading men of the town, that nothing of the kind was attempted. When the matter was referred to in the meeting of the National League in the town, that meeting denounced any attempt to interfere with the right of those men to show their dissent from the majority of their fellow townsmen. But that which is one of the least respectable elements of argument in the speeches of the hon. Member displays itself. He contrives to introduce the sectarian element, and he says these 17 persons were Protestants. Perhaps they were, but it has nothing to do with the case, for several Protestant Nationalists shuttered their windows, not because they were Protestants, but because they were Nationalists, and disapproved of the inhuman treatment my hon. Friend had received. The fact is that Protestant Nationalists who did shutter their windows were in turn boycotted by local landlords and their supporters in the very 511 same way, But what does it all come to? I agree with the generous expression of sentiment from the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Cossham), boycotting should be denounced, and in the present state of society ought not to exist. But taking the conditions of society in Ireland as they exist, this boycotting I have alluded to is a defensive weapon used by the people of Ireland for the protection of their property and their families. It is not used, as it is in England, for the basest of all political purposes, for crushing political opponents, used by the wealthy against the poor, used by the Primrose League against poor shopkeepers, used by Tories against their Radical and Liberal opponents. Boycotting is to be deplored, but much more so is that the case in the villages and towns of Norfolk and Cambridge, where, I know, of scores of cases where it has been used against Liberals and Radicals, who dare not come on public platforms and avow their principles, but steal stealthily to the polls and there give an honest vote. They dare not openly express their sentiments without securing a sentence of social exclusion from the local landlords and branch of the Primrose League. Boycotting is more to be condemned with such cases than when it it is the act of a people fighting for the right to exist against unscrupulous landlordism. The hon. Member who made his maiden speech to-night, and who is, I believe, the Private Secretary to the Chief Secretary, said that Irish landlords are not so bad as they are painted. Perhaps they are not. But to-night we are not attacking the landlord system, and certainly not individual landlords, but when it comes to a contention that there is any parity between landlords in England and in Ireland, that is a contention so indefensible in argument that I need not refer to it further. We are led by the hon. Member for Dover gradually up to the main propositions in the argument of the Attorney General for Ireland, and I now refer to that part of his argument to which he addressed all his ingenuity— when he said my hon. Friend the Member for Cork does not appreciate the fact that boycotting even to the verge of starvation, if unaccompanied by intimidation and undue influence, cannot be punished under the Crimes Act. It can be made 512 the subject of indictment under the Common Law.
§ The ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN, Dublin University)
The word that I used was conspiracy.
§ Mr. FLYNN
I am quoting from the Times report, which I thought even yet could be relied upon, But I take the right hon. Gentleman's disclaimer. Well, if this can be done why is it not done? There was a case of conspiracy at Liverpool, but though there were elements in that prosecution not to the credit of English administration of the law, at any rate the accused had the protection of a jury. Were they not prosecuted under the Common Law? If you have equal laws and if these offences in Ireland can be made subject to indictment under Common Law, why are they not? If any of my constituents are accused of conspiracy why are they not indicted before a jury? The ex-Attorney General, now Chief Justice, knows very well the process of manipulation for a special jury; why have you not tried that for the past three years? The Attorney General went on to say:—If magistrates confuse the two kinds of boycotting and deal under the Crimes Act with a conspiracy punishable at Common taw, their decision can be reviewed and set right, as in the Killeagh case.I suppose it is because there is to be a gradual abandonment of the Crimes Act in Ireland that in so large a proportion of cases we are getting back to the musty statute of Edward III., for observe that when one part of the machinery for the administration of law breaks down, gets out of order, or its wheels get clogged, you furbish up some old machinery and make it exactly fit the same class of offences, make it do the same dirty work. I suppose it is because these decisions of magistrates have been received in this way that a respectable friend of mine last week got six months-imprisonment (in default of giving bail) for trying to influence a certain man, and to influence him without intimidation or anything of that kind. Hon. Gentlemen will say, "This is one of the unworthy quibbles with which these arguments abound; it is all very well to call it a punishment, but it is no punishment to ask a man to give bail." But 513 we have the opinion of Chief Baron Pallas on that point. He once said nothing on earth would induce him to be bound to be of good behaviour under these circumstances for a longer or a shorter period; and it is in default of giving such bail that these men have got six months' imprisonment under the rusty Statute of Edward III. This illustrates at what a cheap rate the Irish Administration values the right of liberty of the subject in Ireland. My friend, and others like him, got six months' imprisonment without appeal—a thing which would have been impossible under the Coercion Act. But the Coercion Act will not suffice in every ease. The Chief Secretary has resorted to an obsolete statute, and this statute during two years of the right hon. Gentleman's régime has been put in operation more frequently than during the 20 years preceding his rule. And this is the progress the right hon. Gentleman is making with law and order. Let us test the statement of the Irish Attorney General, that to conspire to bring people to the verge of starvation, if the conspiracy is unaccompanied with intimidation and undue influence, is not an offence under the Crimes Act. But it has been dealt with under that Act. I know it from what occurred in my own constituency, where a local landlord, who was refused supplies, was advised by a district inspector to wait on certain shopkeepers and demand certain goods, and where, because the shopkeepers refused to supply the goods, they were prosecuted and imprisoned. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary must know something about the cases that occurred at Cashel. Two members of the local police force the other day accompanied an emergency man, who is in care of one of Smith-Barry's evicted farms in the district, to several of the principal shops, demanding to be served with provisions and other necessaries. Almost in every case a blunt refusal was given. Amongst the shops visited were those of Mr. Patrick Condon, baker; the Messrs. Connolly, bakers; Mr. Michael Dargan, publican and grocer; Mr. Patrick Griffin, flour and meal merchant; Messrs. Maher Brothers, drapers, &c. In some of the shops threats of prosecutions and imprisonment were made to the shopkeepers, but without avail. "The 514 authorities," said a newspaper correspondent,—appear to be itching for a prosecution here' and since the beginning of the Smith-Barry dispute, some three or four months ago, the constitution of the local force has been much, altered. Inoffensive, easy-going men have been exchanged for those who have been prominent in working up cases of a similar nature in other districts.Well, these were cases in which there was no intimidation, and in which the threats came not from the shopkeepers but from the other side; but, nevertheless, many of the shopkeepers have been sent to prison. It does not matter what words are used to clothe the ridiculous summonses. It is the actual offence we are bound to look at, and the evidence brought forward in the Courts in support of the charges. We are getting from bad to worse in Ireland in regard to these matters. At one time, if a roan had a complaint to make, he either went to the magistrates for a summons, or to the local police barracks; but now, unfortunately, it has become the custom for the local police, no doubt acting under the instructions of the Chief Secretary, to get up these cases on their own initiative, and, after three years of this system, the Chief Secretary is boasting of the success of his administration. Truly had the hon. Member for Cork described the right hon. Gentleman's policy as one of exasperation, for it was one of exasperation tempered by contempt on the part of the bulk of the Irish people for the mean, shabby, and despicable way in which the Coercion Act is carried out. To show how the Police Force are used for the purpose of getting up prosecutions, we have only to look at the circular prepared by the late Captain. Plunkett and issued to the District Inspector about the time of his death. That document runs as follows:—BOYCOTTING.D. I.In any prominent case of boycotting in your district, especially in the case where the person boycotted is under Police protection, the proper steps to take are: —I. Get person boycotted to consent to go with police and demand supplies from those who have refused or are likely to refuse him, and more especially if such person refusing is a publican.II. If he consents send with him one or two intelligent policemen, with instructions to note carefully anything said and done, 515 and whether the article or articles asked for are in the shops for sale.III. If refused by two or more the boy-cotted person and the police should at once make informations setting forth what took place, and submit them to me for directions.IV. It is absolutely necessary that there should be a distinct refusal, and not an evasive one, and it does not follow that the persons refusing to supply the boycotted individual should be all traders or shop-keepers. The smith may refuse to shoe his horse, the baker to supply bread, the provision-dealer flour, the coal merchant coal, and all can be prosecuted for conspiracy. If three or more persons refuse to supply they should not cease asking, but f*o to others. It is advisable to have as many refusals as possible to show the conspiracy.T. O. PLUNKETT, D.M.December, 1887.Where, I ask, is intimidation if it is not on the side of the police? If the police had set out with the avowed object of exasperating the people of Ireland they could not have succeeded better than they have done. There is another point, which illustrates the spirit which has guided the right hon. Gentleman's administration. The Manchester Martyrs celebrations, which occur in November, and which have ceased to have reference to present politics, are proclaimed by the Government, and we have had more baton charging and more disorderly scenes on the part of the police of late than we have had at any time since 1881. The Chief Secretary claims that the relations between the Government and the people have improved. If he thinks so let him put it to the test. There will be elections in West Waterford and in one of the divisions of Tipperary. If he thinks his policy has been successful and has secured the approval of an influential section of the Irish people, let him put up nominees at these elections to represent his idea of law and order, and let us see whether his minority is increased or whether the people are not more emphatic in denouncing his parody on constitutional administration. If you believe in your policy, if you really believe in the words you put into the Royal Speech, I ask you to test it in any part of Ireland. If you succeed we shall then acknowledge that you are right and we are wrong, and that the coercive policy has some chance of success.
§ (9.48). Mr. DE COBAIN (Belfast, East)
The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) has argued that the tranquility of the Irish people arises very largely from a feeling of hope, and not from the firm and just administration of Irish affairs by Her Majesty's present Government. Bat I think my right hon. Friend the Attorney General for Ireland pulverised that argument when he reminded us of the fact that in the interregnum between the introduction of the Home. Rule Bill and its rejection by the House the statistics of crime show an enormous preponderance over those of the present time. The hon. Member who a short time ago addressed the House from the opposite side spoke of "the material depression" in Irish affairs. I think he could hardly be, conversant with the fact that trade and commerce have greatly improved, as is shown by the returns of railway and other companies. Hon. Members opposite have said that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Armagh (Col. Saunderson) is supported only by a handful of Orangemen in the North of Ireland. The Orangemen of Ulster are not a mere handful of men, and they are-the exponents of a feeling which pervades, I should say, a million of the population of the country, whilst at least two-millions of people out of the entire-population are in entire accord with Her-Majesty's Government. The hon. Member who last spoke challenged the Chief Secretary to test the opinions of the-constituencies in the South of Ireland; but, on the other hand, I challenge Gentlemen opposite to contest such a constituency as North Antrim. If the principle of proportional voting were to be applied to Ireland, the number of loyal representatives of that country would be increased from 18 to 40. I believe that so far as the elements of industrial enterprise and stability and obedience to the law are concerned, those who are in accord with the views of Her Majesty's present advisers represent a very large and continually growing section in Ireland. I have no hesitation in spying that while Her Majesty's Government by a policy of continuous firmness and justice have restored tranquillity to the Irish people, and have shattered that conspiracy which intimidated and prevented material progress, the condition of things. 517 is day by day growing better. I believe that what we want is to have just laws administered justly and fairly, and to have the law of contract observed. The area of agitation is daily growing narrower and narrower, and within a comparatively short period—or long before we reach the end of 20 years of firm and just Government—we shall have a condition of things which all the supporters of justice and order wish to see inaugurated in the Sister Country. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), adverted the other day to the formation of the magisterial tribunal in Ireland. I am free to say that I am in entire agreement with hon. Gentlemen in so far as the men who act as Resident Magistrates are not men trained in the law. I do not think the Magisterial Bench should be a place of refuge for worn-out officials and officers of the Irish Constabulary. I think the magistrates ought to be trained in the fair and just and impartial administration of the law. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that the Resident Magistrates are not the creation of Her Majesty's present Government, and that a large proportion of those who now occupied seats on the Bench were appointed by former Governments. It must also be remembered that their decisions have been very seldom impugned by higher tribunals. I should, however, prefer, as a matter of principle, that men trained in the law should occupy these positions. With regard to the relations of the Royal Irish Constabulary to the people, I am prepared to say that as far as my experience has enabled me to judge of the civic capacity of the police, they are not a competent police force properly so-called. I cannot forget, however, that when some years ago the relations of the police force to the population was impugned, the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway rushed to the rescue, and expressed their unbounded confidence in the manner in which those men serve the Crown. I believe if the constabulary throughout Ireland were constituted on the basis of the Metropolitan Police, it would be a more efficient force. It is the duty of a police force to be on terms of sympathy with the people, to be slow to resort to menace, and so to discharge its functions 518 that conflicts with the people shall very seldom occur. Generally speaking, the Irish Constabulary ought to give far more attention to such matters as are within the purview of the Metropolitan Police and less to military pomp and circumstance. I hold that the constabulary might be a good deal improved, and I am also clearly of opinion that the Magisterial Bench might with justice be reformed. The marked improvements to be seen in Ireland in the observance of the law, in the manner in which the people deport themselves, and in the deposits in the Savings Banks, afford indications of a prosperous future y and I hope that soon the Queen's Speech will contain nothing but congratulations on the tranquillity and happiness of that country.
(10.5.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRH (Bradford)
Mr. Speaker, I think it is matter of serious comment that we have reached nearly the end of the second day of the debate, and we have not heard any speech from the Chief Secretary for Ireland, or any other Member of the Cabinet. We have had a speech from the Attorney General for Ireland, who is always sensible, courteous, and fair. I congratulate him on achieving the post of Attorney General very much; I think the change in that post from the late occupant will be to the advantage of Ireland, and I hope his appointment is some indication of a change of policy in the administration. I shall be very much disappointed if it is not so. We have also had a speech from the hon. Member for Dover, a speech of great promise, though he necessarily went into details and disclaimed any intention of entering on the question of policy. But it does, appear to me that by this time we ought to have had a speech from some Member of the Cabinet of a more general character, and entering upon the general1 policy, past and future, for Ireland. It is not fitting that the Chief Secretary should reserve his speech until the close of the debate, when no Member will have an opportunity of replying. So far, the defence of the Government has been solely of the character of that made by the hon. Member who has just sit down—that the improvement in Ireland is wholly due to the wise policy of the Chief Secretary, and also to the firm administration of 519 the Coercion Act. I am perfectly willing, after personal inquiries, to concede that the condition of Ireland is greatly improved. My right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax stated that he had attended a great number of meetings in Ireland, but that he was on no occasion shadowed by the police. He stated also that he had on many occasions spoken on Irish questions in terms for which Irish Members had been prosecuted. My own experience is contrary to that of my right hon. Friend. Wherever I went in Ireland I was shadowed by the police in the most complete manner. My movements were telegraphed from Dublin when I left that city to go anywhere, and I found on nay arrival at any place a body of police prepared for me. The police followed me about in cars. When I went to the Ponsonby estate with Canon Keller I was followed by a car full of armed police. I remonstrated with the sergeant in charge of them. He said they were only patrolling the country, but on further cross-examination he informed me that he knew who I was, and that he had received orders to follow me. Then I went to Tipperary. In that interesting town I was followed by a considerable number of people to the house where I was staying. There, not unnaturally, I was called upon to say a few words to the crowd. Almost immediately there appeared, as if by magic, a force of police armed with rifles and bayonets, under the charge of Colonel Cadell. I had, therefore, to make my observations under the very disagreeable apprehension of a conflict, which was almost menaced by this body of armed police. Such a condition of things is as absurd as it possibly can be. There was not the slightest possible danger of conflict except such as might be provoked by the police. At Galway I attended the tenants' convention, to which a police reporter applied for admission. As it was a private meeting his application was refused, although I did my best to secure his presence, as I did not wish it to be supposed that I was afraid to speak before a police reporter. Later I went to Drogheda for the purpose of receiving the freedom of the city—an occasion when it might have been supposed one would not be subjected to these attentions. I must say I do not admire the taste of the Chief 520 Secretary in making that an occasion for the presence of a police reporter. Application, however, was made that he should be admitted; the Mayor refused the application; but when I said it would be more pleasing to me that the police reporter should be present, he was admitted. While in Drogheda I also received an unexpected address from the tenants of Lord Massereene, and the presence of a police reporter, I must say, only induced mo to speak my mind more fully. I have no doubt it was thought by the Chief Secretary, or those who manage these affairs in Dublin, that the sending of a police reporter on this occasion would deter me from speaking my mind. But I spoke fully on the subject, even as I have spoken in this House and in other parts of the country. I said that, in my opinion, the tenants of Lord Massereene were perfectly justified in standing by their combination and refusing to come to terms with their landlord until all these evicted tenants were replaced. I did not feel any risk at the moment in speaking in that manner, because I was convinced that the Chief Secretary would take no notice. At the same time, some of my hon. Friends, Irish Members, who have spoken in Ireland in terms less strong than I used, have been sent to prison. I could quote several cases on that point, but there is one to which I should like specially to call attention—that of the hon. Member for North Cork on the 25th February, 1888, when he was prosecuted for a speech he had made. It is not necessary to go at length into what he said, because the magistrate, in giving his decision, after quoting parts of Mr. Flynn' speech, said—So far these remarks mean a simple narration of historical facts, but there is the unfortunate observation of Mr. Flynn. 'I beg of you to remember the words of a great English orator, and stick firm to your just and lawful combination, and do not be driven from that either by the intimidation of the Government of the Castle, or by the open violence of the bludgermen.' We consider that the speech has been correctly interpreted by the Crown, and that, on the whole, it amounts to an incitement of certain tenants.He convicted him, and sentenced him to imprisonment as a common criminal for this very moderate speech. I cannot think how, if the Chief Secretary compared the speech which I made at 521 Drogheda with that made by the hon. Member for North Cork, he could think the one and not the other a subject for criminal indictment. But it throws an unpleasant light upon the matter, and many Members for Ireland have been prosecuted, convicted, and sent to prison, to sleep on the plank bed, and to live on prison fare. If that is a sample of just administration, I am very much mistaken in my view of it. Now, Sir, I am surprised this course should be adopted. I am still more surprised, having regard to what took place last year on the subject. It will be recollected that I brought this matter of the "shadowing" of Members before the House, and in the course of the debate the Chief Secretary replied to me across the Table in language which certainly is very unusual when used by one Member of the Front Bench to another—language for which he was called to account, evidently by his Chief, the leader of the House, and for which he made something like an apology in the course of the debate.
§ Me. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I was not called to account by anybody. I thought, perhaps, I had hurt the right hon. Gentleman's feelings, and it was, therefore, I made the observation he has alluded to. I have since regretted it.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I can only say that from all appearance the right hon. Gentleman had been called to account for those words by the First Lord of the Treasury. He certainly did make an apology, but it was a very lame one; it hardly amounted to an apology, and I do not think he has any need to regret that he made it. It was the poorest apology ever made. I am glad to add my testimony to that of other Members in the course of this debate, as the result of my own observation, that undoubtedly a great improvement has taken place in the condition of Ireland. But my impression is that the improvement is due to other causes than the administration of the Coercion Act. It is chiefly owing to increased agricultural prosperity, arising from two good harvests, and to the settlement of grave disputes between landlords and tenants. 522 I shall presently show that the Coercion Act has not only had no effect in bringing about a settlement of these disputes, but that it has had an exactly contrary effect. Then hope has risen higher in the hearts of the people that the day is not far distant when they will manage their own affairs in a Parliament of their own. If the Coercion Act had been directed against crime only they would not have opposed it as they did. If that Act had produced any good effect it would be found in the larger number of convictions in proportion to the crimes reported. But the statistics show no improvement in this respect. I have not the statistics of 1889, but I find that whereas in 1886, when there was no Coercion Act, 540 agrarian crimes were reported, out of which there were only 54 convictions; in 1888 the agrarian crimes reported were reduced to 344, but the convictions were only 32, a smaller proportion than in 1886. There are some crimes of which it is difficult to say whether they are purely agrarian. Of incendiary fires, in 1886 there were 103, with only five convictions. In 1888 there were 75, with only three convictions. In 1886 there were 75 cases of killing and maiming cattle and only three convictions; and in 1888 55 cases, with only two convictions. These figures do not tend to show that any diminution in crime has been due to the Coercion Act. But, Sir, after all, everyone knows that the Coercion Act has not been directed against crime; it has been directed against combination, and practically the whole and sole use made of it during the last three years has been to put down combination on the part of the tenants and to assist the landlords in collecting arrears of rent. As far as I can ascertain, there have been something like 3,000 prosecutions and convictions under the Coercion Act, and some hundreds more under the Statute of Edward III., which has been used to a larger extent and degree than has ever been the case before. The probability is that something like 3,500 prosecutions have taken place under these two Acts of Parliament. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to say that 95 per cent of these prosecutions are not directed to the great disputes between landlords and tenants, such as where the tenants have combined, as in 1886, for the purpose of resisting the 523 full payment of the rent in consequence of the pressure of agricultural distress in that year. I ask the Chief Secretary what evidence he can produce to show that these 3,000 or 4,000 prosecutions have had any success in putting down these combinations or in bringing these disputes to a satisfactory conclusion. My strong conviction is that he cannot show anything of the kind. The modus operandi of the Chief Secretary is this: wherever combination or disputes exist the first step taken is to proclaim the district; then prosecutions are issued againstpersons who are, or who have been, members of the local Land League, or who have attended meetings in the remotest degree connected with the League. Then, if meetings of the tenants are called, they are proclaimed as illegal, and the next step is to institute Star Chamber inquiries, the tenants being brought before that tribunal and pressure employed to make the farmers give evidence against their brother tenants with a view of breaking up the combination. The next step is to use the Acts to prosecute those who resort to boycotting, and the mode in which it is done is this: A policeman goes round with a boycotted person to various shops in the district and demands goods, when, if they are refused, prosecutions are instituted, and the shopkeepers are sent to gaol. Then, when any of these persons come out of gaol and demonstrations take place, further prosecutions are instituted on the ground that these demonstrations are held to be illegal meetings. The result is that in these various ways different batches of people are sent to prison as common criminals for the express purpose of breaking up the existing combination, and of thus settling existing disputes. In the single dispute between Lord Clanricarde and his tenants, no fewer than 170 parsons were sent to prison. In the Olphert case upwards of 200 persons went to gaol, and in the Leader dispute the number was upwards of 80, similar proportions being observable in a number of other cases. I believe I am right in saying that many hundreds of persons have been sent to prison for being members of local Land Leagues or attending meetings of Land League branches. The hon. Member for Dover has said that in the past year only one person was convicted under the Coercion Act of being 524 present at a Land League meeting—that may be true. But it appears that during the past year the authorities thought it better to take proceedings under the Statute of Edward III., and large numbers of people were sent to prison under that Statute for being present at meetings of the Land League. I will give an illustration which came under my own notice. In the town of Castlereagh no fewer than 18 person were prosecuted under the Statute of Edward III. for being present at meetings of the local Land League. There was no evidence that the meetings were held; but the magistrate called upon the defendants to give bail to be of good behaviour, and in default to go to prison for three months. The 18 were sent to prison for refusing to give bail under this Statute of Edward III. It will be asked, "Why did they not give bail?" The answer has been given by Chief Baron Palles, who stated from the Bench that nothing would induce him to give bail in preference to going to gaol for an offence which he had not committed. But what evidence is there that these proceedings have had the slightest effect in inducing people to give up becoming members of the League? In those districts where prosecutions of this nature have been most numerous, the only effect has been to increase the number of members joining the local branch of the National' League. Father Kennedy, the parish priest of the district in which the Leader estate is situated, and where prosecutions have been very rife, wrote recently a letter to the Freeman's Journal, in which he said—In no previous year have we had such a number of members to take the field with Thanks to our Recruiting-Sergeant Balfour every full-sized man in Meelin is enlisted at this moment under the banner of the suppressed National League. At the roll-call last Monday quite a legion of recruits pledged their support to the veteran leaguers, of whom, several still bear traces of the wounds received in their various encounters with the forces of coercion. Out of this parish alone scores of men have, time after time, been dragged to gaol for having attended a political meeting. No less than 120 coercion summonses have been issued with a view to the suppression of this branch.I believe there is no doubt as to the accuracy of that statement, and that the issue of these 120 summonses has had 525 the effect of increasing the membership of that particular branch of the League from 185 to 314. I will ask again what has bean the success of these proceedings? Now, there have been numerous proceedings against the Press of the last three years for reporting the meetings of the National League. The hon. Member for Dover has stated that all the Press prosecutions, save one, during the past year were for "intimidation." But this is no refutation of the assertion that the prosecutions were for the mere reporting, without editorial comment, the proceedings of local branches of the League. The hon. Member will excuse me if I say that the Government devised a plan of prosecuting under the head of intimidation for merely reporting the proceedings of the League. If a boycotting resolution was passed by a branch and this was published in the local piper, the editor, if prosecuted, was charged with "intimidation," though his act was merely that of publishing a report of the proceedings at a meeting of the brar.ch League. The Mayor of Wexford was prosecuted for intimidating certain parsons unknown, but the only proof in support of the prosecution was that he had reported in his paper a resolution passed at a meeting of a branch of the National League. What he did publish was merely a narrative of what occurred at the meeting, in a paragraph in an obscure part of the paper; the defendant made no comment on if, but for inserting the paragraph he was sent to prison as a common criminal. All these prosecutions against the Press, save one, during the past year were of this nature. What evidence is there that these prosecutions have been of the slightest avail? They have not stopped the publication of such reports. Notwithstanding such prosecutions all the Nationalist papers continue to publish these reports. Similarly, the Star Chamber inquiries have been quite fruitless. Tenants would not give evidence, and no successful prosecution has taken place as a result of such inquiries. I challenge the Chief Secretary to produce a single case of successful prosecution arising out of proceedings under the Star Chamber Clauses in respect of combinations. I now come to the question of boycotting. As I understand it the Government take a great deal of credit 526 to themselves for the diminution in boycotting, but I should like to know if it can be said that that diminution is in any way due to the proceedings under the Crimes Act. So far as I have observed that part of the Act has proved a failure. Since the Killeagh case in 1888, in which the Judge held that it was not merely necessary, in order to found a prosecution and obtain a conviction, to give evidence of refusal to sell, but that it was also necessary to show there had been actual conspiracy to compel and induce others in the way of intimidation or undue influence. Since that decision there have been very few prosecutions, it being impossible to convict. The Act has, consequently, proved almost a dead letter as against boycotting. Thus, in Tipperary lately eight householders were severely boycotted, and in Youghal 20 shop-keepers, but no prosecutions were undertaken, for it was known by the Government that they could not be maintained. The only prosecution in Tipperary was that of an editor, although some hundreds of persons were engaged in boycotting the shop-keepers. Now I ask the Chief Secretary to name any case in which any conbination has been broken up by the Coercion Act? Has the Plan of Campaign been put down by it? I will not deny that a very large number of disputes have been brought to a conclusion. I think that that is a most fortunate circumstance, but they have been brought to a conclusion by direct agreement between landlord and tenant, or in other cases by a resort to arbitration. And in those cases, I believe, in which settlements have been come to the landlord has conceded the very thing which in the first instance he refused, and the refusal of which led to the combination. I believe that in every case the settlement has been arrived at on the understanding that the evicted tenants should be replaced in their holdings, and the same result has been obtained in the cases in which there was arbitration, while the arbitrator also awarded an abatement of rent equal to, if not in excess of, that which they originally demanded. But for coercion these settlements would have been arrived at at a much earlier date, and those few disputes which are still going on would have been adjusted. 527 It is because the landlords believe themselves to be supported by the Coercion Act that they are prevented coming to a final settlement. With regard to the existing disputes, I wish to point out that the present condition of things is totally different from that which prevailed at the inception of the dispute. Now the landlords are prepared to make concessions in the shape of rent abatements, which they originally refused, and this is so on the Clanricarde, Massereene, Tottenham, and Ponsonby Estates. Even the hon. Member for South Huntingdon has made an offer of terms to the tenants on the Ponsonby estate equal to if not better than the terms demanded before the dispute began. The tenants admit that they would gladly accept the offer, but they point out they are bound in honour to stand by the evicted men if they will not come to terms, unless the hon. Member for South Huntingdon is prepared to re-instate those tenants. Lord Clanricarde, in his case, refused to re-instate any of the 111 tenants he has already evicted, but he, too, makes offers to the other tenants which they would gladly accept, and which they are only deterred from accepting because of the refusal of re-instatement. Lord Massereene and Colonel Tottenham, while willing to re-instite some of the men they have evicted, are not prepared to re-instate the leaders. They say that the leaders of the tenants already evicted are responsible for the dispute which has occurred, and, although they give the terms originally demanded by the tenants, the thing which causes the continuance of the dispute is this refusal to reinstate the leaders. The hon. Member for South Huntingdon, while willing to re-instate evicted tenants, will only do so on terms which they cannot possibly fulfil. These tenants, it must be remembered, have been out of their holdings for two or three years; their houses have been battered down, or they are in a state of dilapidation caused by emergency men. The farms have been derelict for two or three years; they have gone out of cultivation, and I believe I am right in saying that the hon. Member for South Huntingdon, while willing to re-instate the tenants, will not forego the costs, and also insists on payment of the arrears of rent which have 528 accumulated during the period the tenants had been out of the holdings; neither will he agree to re-build the houses which had been battered down. The tenants still in possession, thinking not of themselves, but of the evicted men, have declined to be parties to an arrangement which cannot possibly be fulfilled. One point seems to come out clearly in the present state of things, and that is, that the existing disputes are being carried on in a spirit of vindictive-ness by the landlords. For the most part the landlords are now being supported by syndicates of landlords, or by subscriptions handed to them on condition that they do not give way, but insist upon terms which will secure a victory against the tenants. The hon. Member for Dover devoted a great deal of his speech to a defence of the action of the hon. Member for South Huntingdon. I think he would have done better—seeing that he is so closely connected with the Government—if he had shown a little more impartiality in the matter of this dispute. His is another proof that the Government have thrown the whole of their influence on the side of the landlords in this case, and that, I believe, is clearly borne out by the history of the case. No step, indeed, is now taken by Mr. Ponsonby or by the hon. Member for South Huntingdon without the advice, support, or approval of the Government. The hon. Member for Dover, in giving an account of the dispute, omitted to mention the most essential feature of the whole thing, and that was, the motive of the hon. Member for South Huntingdon in forming a syndicate of landlords. The hon. Member for So nth Huntingdon told us that the estate was bought by himself and a few friends for the express purpose of defeating the Plan of Campaign, and he added that they hoped to inflict such a lesson on those who had taken part in the Plan as would deter other tenants upon other estates from embarking in a like adventure. The hon. Member evidently bought the estate for political purposes; he bought it for the purpose of inflicting punishment upon the tenants, in the interests of all landlords, and with the view of preventing other tenants from combining for the purpose of obtaining a reduction of rent. By a strange invention of logic immediately after 529 effecting the purchase, the hon. Member made an offer to the tenants of the very abatement which they had originally demanded, and the refusal of which had caused the disputes. By so doing he practically admitted the justice of the tenants' demands. All these proceedings go to show that there has been a vindictive exercise of the rights of property, and I believe it will come out in every other case of dispute that there is the same kind of vindietiveness. Last year I had some negotiations with the hon. Member for South Tyrone on the subject of the Olphert dispute. It appeared to me to be one which could be settled by negotiations, and the hon. Member for South Tyrone seemed to be anxious to facilitate such arrangement. But eventually Mr. Olphert refused to go any further, and the hon. Member for South Tyrone afterwards told me that the main reason for that refusal was that Mr. Olphert had received subscriptions from other landlords in the district, who had made it a condition that he should not give way to the tenants without achieving a victory over the combination. I say it is another illustration of the vindietiveness shown against the tenants. Although the landlord was most probably prepared to refer the matter to arbitration, yet the other landlords in the district were not willing that that course should be pursued unless a substantial victory was obtained against the combination of the tenants. In the same way, in the case of Lord Clanricarde, it is certain, on his own admission in the letters which he sent to the Freeman's Journal, that he is actuated by vindictive feelings against the tenants, and that he believes that he has received a legacy of hatred from his father, and is bound to treat them in that spirit. What I hold under these conditions is that, in the first place, the tenants in any dispute, who have combined together, are bound as honourable men, to stand by the evicted men and to insist upon the re-instatement of the evicted men as a condition of a settlement. The other point I wish to insist upon is that the Government is not justified in allowing the vindictive exercise of rights, and in supporting the wholesale evictions which are uncalled for in these estates where the remaining disputes exist. I 530 cannot doubt that if they were to use their personal influence with their land lords the difficulty would be removed, but if not, they ought to legislate with the object of removing it. Arbitration, voluntary or compulsory, is the remedy for this difficulty. The tenants, on their part, are perfectly prepared for arbitration, and are anxious to bring their disputes to a conclusion. The House, I think, ought to understand how serious is this difficult. There are 900 of these evicted tenants—they are all living in huts or outhouses within sight of their former holdings, except on the Cool-greany and Massereeno estates, where a certain number of sickly Protestant plants, as they are called, have been bribed into taking the evicted farms. The holdings of these evicted men are still untenanted. They are being supported by contributions drawn from the whole of Ireland, and there can be no doubt that this support will be continued till their re-instatement takes place. If the wholesale evictions on the Clanricarde, Olphert, and Ponsonby and other estates take place, the number of these evicted tenants will be trebled. They must, and will in the future still more, constitute a most serious difficulty for the Irish Government. I would ask the Chief Secretary what he con-terhplates doing in respect of them? I think it would be a wise course on the part of the Government to take time by the forelock, and to provide in some way for compulsory arbitration. In conclusion, let me say that, in my opinion, the Coercion Act has been used wholly and solely for the purpose of putting down combination, used with an incredible mealiness, and in absolute contempt of every constitutional right and every principle of justice. But it has not succeeded in putting down a single combination, and my conviction is that if it had not been for coercion the disputes would long ago have been settled. On the other hand, coercion affords no promise in the future of settling these disputes, and the Queen's Speech affords no indication of the intention of the Government to deal with this question, which, in my opinion, is one of such enormous importance, and which ought to be settled in accordance with the almost unanimous wish of the Irish people.
§ (11.5.) MR. SMITH-BARRY (Huntingdonshire, S.)
When I came down to the House this afternoon I expected that a strong attack would be made upon me with regard to my connection with the Ponsonby estate. I confess that I find my task much easier than I expected. There seems to be very little in the speech of the lion. Member for North-East Cork to which I need refer. What there was in it was fully answered by the lion. Member for South Tyrone and the hon. Member for Dover. As to the speech of the right lion. Gentleman who has just sat down, I will say that I have nothing to be ashamed of in the remarks I addressed to my constituents last year. Now, I shall not go at greater length than I can help into the details of the dispute on the Ponsonby estate. I have gone into them fully on a previous occasion. I have shown that the rents that were being exacted by Mr. Ponsonby were fair and just rents. The charge of rack-renting has completely broken down, and the best proof of that is that a certain number of tenants went into the Courts soon after the Act of 1881 was passed, and were, in the words of Canon Keller, "So disgusted with the paltry reductions given by the Sub-Commission that they did not consider it worth the trouble or the expense to submit their cases to them." I know that Canon Keller has said that the Sub-Commission Courts were packed Courts. If so, they were packed by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Many landlords have not been very well satisfied with the reductions made by the Sub-Commission Courts. They consider that the reductions were excessive, and the tenants consider that they were not sufficient. Probably impartial people will, under these circumstances, think that the reductions made were very nearly fair. With regard to the reduction offered by Mr. Ponsonby at the time the Plan of Campaign was started on his estate in 1886, the reductions were 20 per cent., which were fully equal to the reductions made by the Sub-Commissioners plus the reductions afterwards made by the Land Commissioners under the schedule of the Act of 1887. Therefore, the charge that the reductions offered then by Mr. Ponsonby were inadequate clearly falls to the ground. But Mr. Ponsonby was 532 prepared to give further reductions in individual cases, and was prepared to remit a considerable amount of arrears. Amongst the charges made by the hon. Member for North-East Cork there was one with regard to a letter—a stolen letter—written by my agent, with regard to a small portion of the estate. My agent wrote a confidential letter, stating his opinion of the value of the land over which he had been. He stated that the rent of some of that land, he thought, would be reduced 30 per cent, if the tenants went into the Land Court. He stated in his letter that some of the land was let at 20s. per acre ["Read"], and that he thought that the rent would probably be reduced to 12s. or 13s. But it turned out that the land this gentleman had seen, and which he supposed to be rented at 20s., was really let at 15s. an acre; so that, calculating the reduction on that very land, it would have brought it down to the value which this gentleman considered might be put upon it by the Land Court. But if the tenants were to get such a large reduction as had been stated all over the estate by going into the Sub-Commissioners' Court why had they not gone into the Courts? That is the very thing Mr. Ponsonby has been asking them to do for some years past. It is clear that either the tenants thought that this gentleman was wrong in his calculation, or they were aware that they had much better remain as they were. The next point is with regard to the negotiations for sale which were being carried on between Mr. Brunker and Canon Keller. I am supposed to have stepped in and stopped negotiations when they were just on the point of being satisfactorily concluded. That point has been answered satisfactorily by the hon. Member for Dover. I have said before, and I repent it now, that the difference was not, as stated by Canon Keller and the advisers of the tenants, £4,000, but £20,000; and the sum offered to Mr. Ponsonby was such that neither he nor his trustee—for he was only a limited owner—could accept, and, Mr. Brunker having written to him to say that he must be prepared to send an answer without delay, negotiations were then broken off. At that point I myself stepped in. I maintain that I had a perfect right to step in and save 533 any gentleman from running the risk of being crushed by an illegal conspiracy. Then it has been asked why do we not submit these questions to arbitration. No proposal for arbitration has been submitted to Mr. Ponsonby under which he would not have been bound by such conditions that no landlord could ever accept. Besides that, we hold that the Courts are the proper arbitrators. The Courts are amply sufficient to deal with this case. Not only that, but I really cannot understand how hon. Gentlemen opposite can have, I was almost going to say, the impertinence to ask any landlord to submit to arbitration after the result of the great arbitration on the Vandeleur estate. What has happened there? The rents on the Vandeleur estate were submitted to the arbitration of the hon. and learned Member for Hackney (Sir Charles Russell), who submitted an elaborate award, which was stated by hon. Gentlemen opposite to be a complete victory for the Plan of Campaign. Whether that is so or not I cannot say; but, at any rate, it was so in their view. One would have naturally supposed that, such being the case, the tenants would have accepted the award and fulfilled all its conditions; but they have declined to do so, and of the very first instalment, due on the 25th of last October, only a portion has been paid. [An hon. Member: It is untrue.] It is absolutely true, and I can prove it up to the hilt. I ask how we on the Ponsonby estate, or any gentleman who has an estate under the Plan of Campaign, can be expected to submit to arbitration when the award of such an arbitrator as the hon. and learned Member for Hackney was set at naught and not carried out? Very much the game thing-had happened on the Hill estate in Donegal. In such a state of things it is idle to talk of arbitration. After these negotiations with Mr. Brunker, and after I myself and this much-abused syndicate stepped in to assist Mr. Ponsonby through his difficulties, an offer was made to the tenants, the terms of which the hon. Member for North-East Cork and Canon Keller have carefully avoided mentioning, though they have been all round the country abusing me. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has given some sort of reason why the tenants have not ac 534 cepted that offer; but the offer has remained practically unattacked by any hon. Member opposite who has spoken on this question. That offer was such that the rents of the judicial tenants would have been reduced at once by 32 per cent., and by paying instalments they were to have all their arrears and costs and everything else wiped out. To the non-judicial tenants the same terms were offered. By this offer nearly £22,000 of arrears would have been extinguished, and the right right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford has just said he considered that offer quite equal to the demands of the Plan of Campaign. But I want to know, if the right hon. Gentleman considered that offer equal to the terms demanded by the Plan of Campaign, why did not the right hon. Gentleman and his friends re-commend the tenants to accept it? Why should they encourage the tenants to resist it and put the landlords in the extremely painful position of having to resort to eviction, because every other' means of settling the dispute was impossible. It is said that no terms were offered to the evicted tenants. That was pointed out immediately after the offer was made, and a letter was sent round to the estate bailiff, published in the newspapers, and circulated among the tenants as far as possible considering the existence of the Plan of Campaign, in which the evicted tenants and care takers were told they should be treated in a similar way to the other tenants provided they paid the costs incurred by the landlord, or, if they could not do that, that they might pay 3 per cent upon those costs—3 per cent upon a few pounds. We know what money is at the disposal of the Tenants' Defence Association, and I should have thought this would have been a most excellent and admirable way of disposing of some of it. With regard to the destroyed houses, the demand is made that those houses should be restored at the expense of the landlord. Hon. Gentlemen know perfectly well that nearly all those houses have not been destroyed by the landlord, but have been gutted by the tenants themselves. This is not a question of hardship between Mr. Ponsonby and his tenants; it is but one episode in the great Plan of Campaign. This is a fight forced upon Mr. Ponsonby, 535 not because he is an unjust or rack-renting landlord, but because he happens to be selected out of a number as one to try the Plan of Campaign upon. We Cork landlords, when we saw the Plan of Campaign started, said, "This is an attack, not upon one, but upon all of us. It is a combination, not merely of the tenants, it is a new development of the old Land League, it is a conspiracy to impoverish and expel the Irish landlords." We saw that then, and we have had our opinion very fully and thoroughly endorsed by a tribunal which the great majority of this House would respect. This is a combination, if you please, of landlords to fight the Plan of Campaign. Be it so; I maintain the landlords have an absolute right to combine. I have never denied the right of the tenants or of any other body of men to combine, provided that the combination be for a legal object, and carried out in a legal manner. I should like to quote a speech made in this House on the Irish Land agitation in 1882—Unfortunately, for many reasons, the landlords in many parts of Ireland were supine and were not enforcing their rights. [A laugh."] Now hon. Members might laugh, but that was really so. Personally he thought there was nothing of greater importance than that the landlords of Ireland should press their rights firmly and bravely, but with justice and moderation.That is an extract from a speech of the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre). The Cork landlords did combine to assist Mr. Ponsonby, but first of all we held a meeting, and we considered most carefully before we decided to help Mr. Ponsonby. We found he had a just and proper case and that his hands were clean, and we decided to support him, and I am proud to think we have done so. One would be led to suppose that my own interference on this estate began, not in 1886, but in 1889, when the negotiations between Mr. Brunker, and Canon Keller and Mr. Ponsonby were going on—that I had possibly dropped from the clouds. Perhaps I may be permitted to quote a passage from a speech made by the hon. Member for North-East Cork at a place called Inchiquin on the Ponsonby estate on the 6th of March, 1887, a few months after the Plan of Campaign was started. The hon. Member said— 536Don't harm a bone in their miserable carcases, for that would only be playing their game. But I do ask you publicly, every man in this great county, to draw a ring of fire around every man of those—a circle of excommunication; boycott them; stop their hunting; don't deal in the same shop with them. … We have come here to-day to throttle one of the vilest, one of the most atrocious conspiracies that was ever formed against the homes and the happiness of a body of industrious Irish tenants—a conspiracy to exterminate our people and to insult our priests—a conspiracy with Captain Sarsfield at the head of it, and Mr. Broadley and Mr. Smith-Barry and Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald at the tail of it. Well, the first thing I will make clear here to-day is that it is not Mr. Ponsonby we are fighting in this contest; it is a gang of landlord conspirators in Cork. … We have left them and their estates alone up to the present. … I tell them here publicly that if one of the homes on the Ponsonby estate is unroofed, that we will throttle them at their own rent offices.Were we not right? Were we not men of ordinary common sense to think of combining in face of proceedings to attack us, and of the speech of the hon. Member for North-East Cork? Now I think I need say no more about the Ponsonby estate; but I should like to say a few words about an estate in which I am even more deeply interested than the Ponsonby—that is my own estate in Tipperary. That was until lately a thriving and prosperous town; its fairs were well attended, and it was doing one of the best businesses in the south of Ireland. My tenants and I got on well enough; they paid their rents readily, and in bad times I made what was considered a fair and adequate reduction. I spent a great deal of money in the place and on the estate, and the tenants nodoubt spent a great deal of money there too. Here was a town in a perfect state of peace until, in the beginning of last spring, after the Ponsonby syndicate had been started, when the fight against me was originated by a, letter from Canon Keller, a parish priest on the Ponsonby estate, to the parish priest in Tipperary, asking how it was that my Tipperary tenants were furnishing me with the supplies to help Mr. Ponsonby. After a short time the matter seemed to drop, until the hon. Member for North-East Cork went to Tipperary. At first his visits were without effect, but after he had gone there five times the determination to withhold rent was finally made. The contest, started by two priests, and supported by the hon. Member, was blessed by the Bishop of 537 the diocese, of whom the hon. Member has said that one blast upon his bugle horn is worth 10,000 men. It was not until that blast was blown that the hon. Gentleman's eloquence succeeded in fanning the flame and starting this conspiracy. A deputation of my tenants was sent over to me urging me to withdraw from the Ponsonby syndicate, which I courteously but firmly declined to do. I considered, and I consider still it was no earthly business of theirs; I considered then and I consider still that my tenants had an equal right, which they would probably have exercised next, to say that I was sitting in this House and giving votes not in sympathy with the Irish people, and that if I continued to do so they would decline to pay me any rent. It seems to me that the analogy is perfect. I explained to my tenants that although the consequences to me might be serious, they would be far more serious to them; that my withdrawal from the Ponsonby syndicate would not have the slightest effect upon the action of Mr. Ponsonby towards his tenants, that the fight on the Ponsonby estate would go on all the same with or without me, and that their attack would be nothing but pure vindictiveness against me, because I bad taken part in a fight on another estate. What has happened? The town of Tipperary, which had been so thriving and prosperous, is almost in a state of dilapidation and decay. It is a melancholy thing to see how trade has been driven away from it and how business that used to be done there is already being carried to Limerick, Waterford, and elsewhere, and if a settlement were arrived at, even now, it would take years before the town could recover the injury that has been done to it simply to gratify the vanity of the hon. Gentleman opposite and those Ministers of Religion who have aided and abetted him. I charge it against those rev. Gentlemen and the hon. Gentleman opposite that the woes that have fallen on Tipperary, the evictions that will have to take place there, the misery inflicted upon people who will be turned out of their homes, will lie at their doors. This is the way hon. Gentlemen opposite are endeavouring to develop Irish industries. That is the way in which priests of the Holy Roman Church in Ireland are inculcating the doctrines of Christian morality. For my 538 part I have done what I believe to be my duty, not merely as an Irish landlord, but as an Irishman who loves his country. Whatever may be the fate of Tipperary, and whatever may be the result to myself, I shall continue in the course I have chosen, because I feel in my conscience that I have done what is right in this matter.
§ (11.40.) Motion made, and Question'" That the Debate be now adjourned,—[Mr. Campbell Bannerman]—put and agreed to.