§ (4,12.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
In moving the Resolution standing in my name, I have only one observation to make, and that is suggested by the remarks made by the hon. Member for Waterford when the House separated last night. It will be seen that it is proposed to adjourn after the first Order of the Day has been disposed of on Wednesday. That was the original plan of the Government, and we still think it would be the most convenient plan for the House. It is always desirable that the last business before the House separates, as well as the first business when we come together again, should be of such a non-controversial character as will allow hon. Members to leave the House somewhat earlier. I do not suppose there is the slightest chance of any other Orders than the first being disposed of on Wednesday, for my experience is that when controversial Bills follow on non-controversial Bills the latter suddenly assume a new character, and debate on them is unusually prolonged. Therefore I do not think I am doing any injury to hon. Members who have Bills lower down on the Paper.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, 'That Government business have precedence this day, and that at the conclusion of such business Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House without Question put, and that tomorrow the House at its rising do adjourn until Monday, the 7th of April, and at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Shop Clubs Bill Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House without Question put."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ (4.15.) MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
I think the House has reason to complain of the fact that two distinct Motions are put into one. So far as I am concerned, I am quite in favour of the first portion of this Motion, which takes 1005 precedence for Government business today, and if it were contested I should feel it my duty to vote in favour of it. But I complain that that Motion has tacked on to it another and entirely distinct Motion, with reference to the order of business tomorrow. I am not quite sure there is a precedent for that, but, whether there is or not, it seems to me a very inconvenient practice. I object to the second part of the Motion on the ground which has been indicated by the right hon. Gentleman himself. He has made the extraordinary statement that it has been his practice, as far as possible, to take practically uncontrovorsial business on the last day before the House rises and on the day after it re-assembles. Rut what is he proposing to do now? On the day the House reassembles he proposes to take the Licensing Bill, which no one can say is absolutely uncontroversial. And on the second day he proposes to take the new Rules, which are, of course, highly controversial. With regard to tomorrow's business, I desire to say that if the House is to meet at all, it will be no very great hardship that it should go on sitting the ordinary time up to half-past five. The first Order of the day is the Shop Clubs Bill, about which there is, I believe, considerable agreement, and it will take a comparatively short time. The second Order is an Irish Bill dealing with Irish local government. It is one of the greatest possible importance, and although it is quite true that in the remaining time at our disposal tomorrow we may not be able to bring the discussion to a conclusion, yet it is equally true that two or three hours debate on Irish local government would expose the defects which have arisen in the present system, and the time would be well utilised in pointing out to the Irish Government those defects. I think it is most unreasonable on the part of the right hon. Gentleman not to give us the whole sitting.
I propose to utilise this opportunity: to call the attention of the House very briefly to one or two matters of great importance in connection with the, administration of Ireland. We are now about to disperse for ten days or a fortnight, and during that period we will have no opportunity of questioning the Irish Government about their action. I feel from many recent indications in Ireland that during that period the Government may proceed further upon 1006 what, I believe, is the disastrous road of renewing coercion in Ireland en which they have entered. I do not desire to raise anything in the nature of a general discussion on Irish administration, for many reasons, one of which is that I am anxious that, without unnecessary delay, we shall come to the consideration of the Irish Land Bill. But I do desire to raise one matter which I I consider of the greatest importance to the future tranquility and welfare of Ireland, viz., the policy which the Government is pursuing in the prosecutions they are undertaking. There have been two prosecutions recently in Ireland to which I desire particularly to call attention. The first complaint I make is that where the Government find a state of agitation and agrarian disturbance and trouble, the first action they take is to arrest, try, and imprison the most responsible local leaders they can find. Take the case of Mr. John FitzGibbon, of Roscommon. One of the difficulties we labour under in this House in discussing Irish matters is that we have to speak to men who are ignorant of local circumstances. If I were addressing an Irish assembly, it would be unnecessary for me to tell it that in the county of Roscommon there is no more responsible, trusted, or able man than Mr. John FitzGibbon. He is a man in a good position of life, a man of education and ability, a man who, for the last twenty-five years, has been one of the most trusted leaders of the people, and one who if he had desired and been willing to do so, could at any time have had a seat upon these Benches. He is a man universally respected in the County of Roscommon by men of all politics; he is one whose word is to be trusted, and he is one in whom the people have the utmost confidence. And he is the sort of man whom the Government arrest and imprison when they find a state of disturbance in the county.
I notice in reading the trial that an interesting statement was made by Mr. FitzGibbon, showing the way in which Ireland is governed. The Chief Secretary paid a visit a little while ago to County Roscommon. He went down to Castlerea ostensibly to inquire into the wants of the people, to inform himself as to the necessities of the case, and to have 1007 consultation with trusted men. Mr. FitzGibbon stated in addressing the county court judge—When Mr. Wyndham, the Chief Secretary, visited Castlerea some time ago, he (Mr. FitzGibbon) called to see him in order to see what could be done for the tenants on the estate of Lord de Freyne, and as to whether any hope would be held out to them. He simply tried to give Mr. Wyndham what he thought he was doming to look for—information that perhaps he would make use of, and that perhaps he would be glad to receive. He went to the hotel and asked to see Mr. Wyndham. In a few moments a gentleman, whom he believed to be Mr. Wyndham's secretary, came to him and asked him his business and his name. He, Mr. FitzGibbon, told him. In three or four minutes he returned and reported that Mr. Wyndham was in a hurry, and regretted that he could not see him. He had not heard from Mr. Wyndham since, except in the present proceedings.The Chief Secretary boasted that he went to Roscommon to inquire for himself, but when the most representative man in the whole district went to the hotel and asked to see him, he said he was in a hurry and could not receive Mr. FitzGibbon. I just make that quotation in order to give an indication of the value of those trips to the West of Ireland on the part of officials. The officials when they go down, spend their time with the local landlords, the county inspectors, the police officials, the local agents and people of that sort, but when they are approached—they ought not to wait to be approached; they ought to go to such men as Mr. FitzGibbon—but when they are respectfully approached by a man desiring to impart information they have no time to see him. They leave the country and come back to the House of Commons and state that they have inquired for themselves on the spot. This trial which took place the other day before the County Court Judge O'Connor Morris was a very remarkable trial indeed, and I desire to read two or three sentences of what Mr. FitzGibbon said in his own defence, and then what the judge said in sentencing him, not with the intention or the desire of asking the House to review the sentence or to re-try the case. Not at all. Still less have I any desire of calling in question any conduct or words of the judge, but I desire to make this quotation in order to found a charge against the Executive that they are recklessly going into unnecessary prosecutions 1008 against men who are in reality a great restraing influence on the people in those districts, and who ought to be consulted instead of being refused audience and then prosecuted by the Crown. In his own defence Mr. FitzGibbon said—The change made in the condition of the tenants on the Dillon estate since the purchase was capable of any amount of repetition. Before the sale to the tenants, discontent reigned from end to end of the Dillon estate. Every time there was an agitation in Ireland the tenants on the Dillon estate were the first to take the field. He would guarantee the trouble had now ceased on the Dillon estate, and that the people living on the estate would cost the Government or the country very little in the future in the shape of prosecutions or the drafting of extra police into the district. The reduction of 6s. 8d. in the pound which they received was a small matter compared with the other advantages. There had been a number of men attached to the rent office who had been a greater terror to the tenants and had been more exacting in their demands than even Lord Dillon. Formerly, if the tenants' corn was shedding and the bailiffs' corn at the same time needed cutting, the tenants had to leave their own and cut his. In his own memory a tenant could not get his daughter married in a holding without first having to go and see whether the agent would approve of the young man that was to be her husband. …All that was now changed. They were a free people, their holdings were drained, their fences were made, the Government had taken them under its wing and now for the first time in a hundred years they felt that they could breathe the air freely. The great advantage that they looked forward to was this that their holdings would be increased in size.That is an extract from the speech of a man who has been sent as a common criminal into prison under the Coercion Act. In another part of his speech he challenged prosecution. He said—If he had said anything that he should not have said, he would ask his Lordship to call attention to it. One great object was to fasten the attention of the Government on those estates and to try and place them in the position of the Dillon estate. That was the great motive. Judge O'Connor Morris: Clearly.Then Judge O'Connor Morris said—I have read your speeches with great care, and as far as your speeches are concerned I don't think there is anything very criminal in them.Now I pass to the judge's charge. The House will see clearly from it his view of the alleged criminality of the conduct. He said—Some time ago the Executive Government of this country sold the Dillon estate, comprising many square miles and comprising 1009 hundreds of holding to the tenants in occupation of them. These tenants had not to contribute one shilling of their own, they had not to make any exertions of their own, and they had got the land in fee simple at an enormous reduction and were only to pay terminable annuities which were much less than any rents, less even than what were called fair rents. Was not the inevitable result of a transaction of that kind not only to cruelly handicap and cruelly wrong the landlords on the adjoining estates who sought to recover their rents, but also to fill the tenants on the adjoining estates with natural discontent? Therefore, this transaction of what was called a sale, but was not a sale, under a system of what was called land purchase, but which had no more to say to laud purchase than a gamble on the Stock Exchange had to say to land purchase, because no money passed—that transaction did not only the landlords, in his opinion, great injury, but it gave those tenants on the adjoining estates a legitimate grievance. He agreed that these tenants were subjected to great provocation; he agreed that they were led into temptation; he agreed that these gentleman were naturally induced to do as they did; and for all that, in his opinion the system of what was called land purchase, before the bar of history at least, would be held responsible. But they had no right to do as they had done. He agreed with a great deal that Mr. FitztGibbon had said in this unfortunate country abuses were allowed to grow up, and concessions as a rule were not extorted except by agitation. That had been the history of Ireland since 1782, when Irish legislative independence was granted, down to the present year, when there was an agitation for what was called the compulsory purchase of Irish land. They all knew what took place when O'Connell wrung Catholic Emancipation as the right of every Catholic subject from the hands of a reluctant Parliament. Undoubtedly these gentlemen had broken the law. What punishment was he to inflict? He did not agree with what Mr. Featherstonhaugh said that in considering the penalty to be inflicted for offences of this kind the motive was not to be taken into account. That was the hard, materialistic view that ran through too many of the English lawyers. It was the view that sent Napoleon to St. Helena, a circumstance which was one of the disgraces of English history. The moral element should he taken into account, and it was thoroughly unfair not to take it into account. If it was not taken into account the grossest injustice was often done. What was the fact? That many a man who had been hanged, many a man whose head had been cut off, had been recognised by history as a martyr and a lover of his country. In the present case he would take the element of motive into account, and he would be quite uuworthy of the position he held if he did not do so. The magistrates had sentenced these men to two months imprisonment, and to two additional months in default of rinding bail. Would these gentlemen now consent to find bail?Mr. FitzGibbon replied—Oh, no, my Lord. It just means imprisonment for four months.1010 Judge O'Connor Morris, having confirmed the sentences of the magistrates, said—I have no notion in a case of this kind to submit you to a degrading and humiliating punishment. That has been my invariable practice in cases of this kind and much worse cases.And then he went on to order that those gentlemen should be treated as first-class misdemeanants and not as common criminals. You have a state of disturbance in County Roscommon, and in order to impress the people with the principle of law and order, you seize the most respected leader you can find; bring him to the Court and try him before two police magistrates, under a law which does not exist in either Scotland, England, and Wales, and sentence him to imprisonment as a common criminal. When the case comes on an appeal before a judge whose conduct, I may remind the House, we have impugned, but who was defended as an upright and honourable judge—what happens? That judge says that these men remind him of the martyrs who gave their lives and liberty to a great cause in the past; he admits that they were trying to remedy a great grievance, and declines to treat them as ordinary prisoners and orders them to be treated as first-class misdemeanants. And the effect of this in Roscommon is that they hate and despise your administration. What respect can they have for your administration of criminal law when it is administered in that way? The reason I bring this forward at the present moment, just at the commencement of the holidays, is to impress upon the Government the danger of what they are doing. Let them deal with these offenders by ordinary law, but do not let them drive the people who have admitted grievances into extreme courses by sending those men who are the greatest reasoning influence in those parts to prison as common prisoners, and so degrading and insulting them.
In discussing the De Freyne estate some time ago, the Chief Secretary said the great agitation in this case was not an agitation against an alien or absentee landlord, but an attack on a man who had left the tenants on his estate, who made no effort to clear his estate, and 1011 who lived among the people. The inference the people might draw from that was that Lord de Freyne was a good and indulgent landlord, and that it was a monstrous thing that he should have been singled out for this agitation. In the trial of Mr. FitzGibbon, to which I am alluding, an extraordinary thing came out. The judge let out that on the De Freyne estate there had been an awful accumulation of arrears, and Mr. FitzGibbon stated that a few years ago—I think the date was 1894, but I am not sure if the date is correct—trouble had existed between Lord de Freyne and his tenants, and that he had been instrumental, in conjunction with Judge O'Connor Morris, in bringing about a settlement, whereby, on payment of two years rent, all arrears were to be wiped out. It transpired in the course of the trial that that agreement had been shamefully broken by Lord De Freyne; that a number of the tenants had been evicted and put back as caretakers, and that they were allowed to remain as caretakers so long as they continued paying the arrears. The case was mentioned in Court of a widow who was put back in this way and who, in twelve months, had paid no less than three years rent. Mr. FitzGibbon quoted a, number of cases, and the judge used very strong impressions. He said he was exceedingly sorry to hear that Lord De Freyne had not fulfilled the conditions of the agreement come to between him and his tenants a few years ago; he was sorry to hear that he had been extracting these arrears from these people. He said he was precluded from going into that matter, as Lord De Freyne was not before the Court, but apart from that, the tenants had a good cause of complaint against Lord De Freyne, whose conduct was a fraud against them. So that the House will see that when the Chief Secretary said what he did, and seemed to convey the impression that Lord De Freyne was not a harsh landlord, that fact is not borne out by the evidence in this trial.
Let me allude for a moment to another trial which took place in connection with the De Freyne Estate—the case of Mr. John O'Donnell. In that case 1012 Judge O'Connor Morris's language was even stronger. In sentencing Mr. O'Donnel, Judge O'Connor Morris said—There were no emblems to terrorise and no attempt at intimidation.and later—That being the state of things, it was natural and it was inevitable that the tenants on the adjoining estate should be discontented. He thought the tenants in this matter had a real and legitimate grievance. He was hound to say he thought the gentlemen had transgressed the law, and if they had they must pay the penalty; the term of imprisonment was not too great, but they would make them first-class misdemeanants; that he did not think there was any moral turpitude in their conductand he concluded by saying—And he might be permitted to say, having regard to the ability they had shown in those speeches, he hoped these gentlemen had a future before them.The judges under the Crimes Act had taken the same view as Judge O'Connor Morris, and tried these gentlemen as political offenders. But when they had done this they had done what was contrary to the intention of the Act, contrary to the intention of those who framed the Act, and contrary to the intentions of the Irish Government, because we are told that police court offences are to be tried in the police courts and that no one should be tried for political offences in the police courts. When we went to prison under the Crimes Act we were treated as common criminals; clothed, fed, and put to work like common criminals. Do the House think that that is a fair thing, and if they do, do they think it is a wise thing, for those offences which from their nature and motive must be regarded by every honest man as political offences, to expose these men to this humiliation and degradation? Judge O'Connor Morris thinks differently I go down to the De Freyne Estate and make a speech which cannot be called illegal, but because another man makes a speech of an illegal character, I can be tried for attending an unlawful meeting and be sent on conviction to prison as a common criminal. Is that fair? It is nothing of the kind. I am making no complaint. Those of us who underwent this treatment came out of prison without any particular feeling of animosity to those who sent us there, 1013 and we make no complaint; but is it wise either from the point of view of conciliating Ireland, or making the law respected in Ireland, or keeping down disturbance and crime?
I said, Sir, that I would not detain the House, and I will say nothing further, but I feel so strongly on this matter that I felt it my duty to allude to this question on the eve of the holidays, in order that some stray word may find a lodgment in the mind of the Government and induce them during the weeks we are separated to refrain from prosecuting local leaders in this fashion, and let the ordinary law deal with ordinary offenders. The immediate prospect in Ireland is very serious. No one can say yet what is in the right hon. Gentleman's Land Bill. If that Land Bill should prove to be a disappointment, and to hold out no real hope for the settlement of these people in the West, and if, on the other hand, you go on with this insane policy of coercion, then as sure as we are assembled in this House we are drifting on once more into a position in which there will be untold suffering and the destruction of many hopes, and in which probably will be destroyed not only the peace of the country and the hope of immediate amelioration, but the reputation and existence of the present Irish Government. For these reasons I have felt it my duty to raise this question, and I do hope before we get to the consideration of the Land Bill we may have some reassuring statement from those who are responsible in this House for the maintenance of law and order and peace in Ireland.
§ *(4.52.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. ATKINSON,) Londonderry. N.
I rise not for the purpose either of defending my right hon. friend the Chief Secretary, or recapitulating the arguments recently used by him in defence of his position. I merely want to make a few remarks as to the leading principles of administration which, I understand, the hon. Member for Waterford laid down as fitting to be followed by the Irish Government. First of all, let me congratulate him on his extraordinary change of view with regard to Judge O'Connor Morris.
§ * MR. ATKINSON
Last week the judge was so bad, so inefficient, that a Motion was made here to present an Address to the Crown to remove him from his office. Now, it appears he is a Daniel come to judgment, and the legitimate consequence of the judgment he delivered—at all events according to the hon. Member for Waterford—is that he should have acquitted the accused who were before him. The hon. Member said that Judge O'Connor Morris had been defended from these benches on the occasion when his conduct was before the House. I do not think that is a fair representation of our attitude. We endeavoured to show that the conduct of Judge O'Connor Morris as a judge did not, according to the ordinary principles which regulate such things, deserve that an address should be voted to remove him, but I did not venture to express any opinion in the sense either of approval or disapproval of the mode in which he discharges his duties, or the remarks which he thought himself justified in making in his judicial capacity, and I mean to follow exactly that line on the present occasion. What his opinions may be on the policy of purchase I do not intend to busy myself about. The only matter to which I wish to call attention is this—that the accused persons, or rather the accused person FitzGibbon, for he apparently is the only one in which the hon. Member is interested—
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
That is not so. I quoted from Mr. FitzGibbon's speech, but the quotations that I made from the Judge's charge had reference to his co-traverser, Mr. Webb; and in the other case of Mr. O'Donnell, I mentioned the co-traverser also.
§ * MR. ATKINSON
I accept the hon. Member's correction; I assume be is equally interested in the other accused. But with that I really have nothing to do. If these men were proved guilty of crime, then they ought to be convicted. The fact that they were in responsible positions and enjoyed the confidence of 1015 the peasantry of the country—[An HON. MEMBER: That is the crime!]—is all the more reason why, when they abused that confidence, and instigated the people of the country to commit crime—["Oh!"]—they should be convicted and punished. They were summoned for having instigated the peasantry to enter into a combination for the purpose of injuring Lord De Freyne. [An HON. MEMBER: That was not the charge. The charge was one of unlawful assembly.] The illegality of the assembly consisted in this—that it was convened for the purpose of instigating the tenants on the De Freyne Estate to enter into a combination not to pay their rent, and thus to injure Lord De Freyne. It was the object with which the assembly was convened which made it illegal. The very fact that they enjoyed the confidence of the country, and that their exhortations would be followed by action made their crime all the greater. Therefore it is impossible that in the administration of the criminal law any difference can be made at all as regards the criminality of persons on the ground of the position they occupy, or the amount of confidence reposed in them. The hon. Member for Waterford read many extracts from the speech made by Mr. FitzGibbon in his own defence, but he read no extracts from the speeches of Mr. FitzGibbon and Mr. Webb at the meeting for which they were tried.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
But I quoted the statement of the judge that he had carefully read their speeches, and there was nothing criminal in them.
§ * MR. ATKINSON
I am absolutely correct in saying that no quotation was made from the speeches. If I were to quote from them I think I could find many incitements to different tenants on the estate to combine not to pay their rent until they had made Lord De Freyne "eat grass"—that is, had forced him to yield, had starved him into submission. It is said that these gentlemen ought not to be punished, because their motives were benevolent, because they were anxious to bring about the purchase of estates, and purchase means a reduction of 20 per cent. in the annual outgoings of tenants. That may be a desirable object; purchase may be a desirable object, but it is not to be 1016 effected through crime. Take an example. The destruction of slum areas in London may be most desirable, but that can scarcely justify one in instigating the people to burn down all the houses in the slums. Nor would the fact that it is desirable to better the conditions of a certain class of people justify a meeting to incite the poor to rob the houses and distribute among them the property of the riot. However just and reasonable motives may be in themselves, they do not justify the resort to criminal means to effect the purpose desired. Therefore I cannot promise the hon. Member for Waterford that any change shall be made in that respect. With regard to men who break the law, whatever their motives, or position, or influence may be, there should be no distinction of persons. ["Jameson Raid."] Criminals must answer for criminal conduct, whatever their position or whatever their influence.
§ (5.2.) MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
said that as he was in charge of the Bill second on the Paper for Wednesday, the Motion made by the First Lord naturally did not meet with his approval. The Irish Party, while they had been fairly successful with regard to Motions, had been very unsuccessful in the ballot for Wednesdays on which to bring forward Bills. The best place they secured was the 33rd, and they were consequently very loth to give up the little chance they had of passing the measure in question. The first Order on the Paper was not, he understood, a contentious Bill, and would possibly go through against a comparatively short debate, and he could not see why the usual procedure of their allowing the, second Order to come on should be departed from. He was not particularly sanguine of passing the measure; the, mere fact that it was supported by the vast majority of the Irish representatives was sufficient to preclude such an event, as it seemed as though the Government, which professed to legislate according to the desires of the people, always refused to sanction any measure of which the Irish people were in favour. He was inclined to move an Amendment in order to try to obtain an opportunity of introducing the Bill in which he was interested. Experience 1017 had shown that there were many blots in the Act passed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, and reform was necessary. For that reason he had been asked by his colleagues to take charge of the Bill in question. He very much regretted that the speech which the Attorney General had just delivered, so far from giving them any encouragement that the Government would adopt reasonable measures in Ireland, showed that they were intent upon forcing discontent under the surface. Some time ago the Member for East Mayo made a proposal to the Government, and nobody except a man who had made the sacrifices he had, and who had proved his sincerity by the sufferings he had so cheerfully endured, could have made such a proposal with more weight. The hon. Member for East Mayo said in one of his speeches—That he did not enter into the agitation with a light heart, and he knew the sacrifices which the people were, called upon to make. His conviction was that if an honourable compromise could be made, it would be far better for the people that it should be made. If the Government would hold out any hope to these people on the De Freyne Estate, he would personally go down to the west and ask the people to pay the current half-year's rent, and ask them to wait for the Land Bill which was promised.What response had been made to that offer? There had been nothing but jeering and sneering and dragooning the people. They heard a great deal from the Chief Secretary and the Attorney General about law and order and the respect that should be offered to it, but those who prated so much about this should first make law and order worthy of respect. The Attorney General was asked by the hon. Member for East Cork whether his attention had been called to the fact that the Castle Authorities had ordered policemen to stand up against the doorposts and windows of houses where meetings had been held, to listen to what was going on and the right hon. Gentleman replied, saying that the police were doing this in order to inspire confidence in any people who might be boycotted, and with a view of getting information and evidence when necessary. Were the Government ordering stich disgraceful acts? He 1018 was surprised that at some of those meetings there was not riot and bloodshed, because there was nothing more exasperating than to see men at the windows and doors listening and taking notes of what occurred inside. No English hon. Member would credit that such a state of spying could be done with the authority of the Government. Though the Bills introduced by Irish Members might fail to obtain a Second Beading, the discussion of certain subjects was necessary, and often advisable, because they generally led to the Government adopting some suggestions, which they threw out in discussion. He regretted the spirit of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman just upon going away for the Easter holidays. As far as his judgment went, the Attorney General had not in the least replied to the points raised by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. He would not move his Amendment now, but before the debate concluded, possibly some of his hon. friends would move, thus enabling them to vote upon a clean issue, which would be submitted when all the words after "April" he had alluded to were struck out.
§ (5.15.) MR. DELANY (Queen's Co., Ossory)
said it was rather remarkable that at a time when the Government were dealing with this interminable Irish Land question they should be imprisoning men in Ireland who had been largely instrumental in bringing about this proposed change in the law. They had been told that the Land question would now be settled, and that they were going to receive a new Land Bill. He did not wish to delay the exposition of that measure, but he regretted very much that the men instrumental in bringing about that legislation were in prison. One hon. Member was lying on a plank bed, while the Chief Secretary for Ireland was reposing on the upholstered Treasury bench. Was that a satisfactory prelude to the introduction of legislation in a free country? He did not think there was anything so unfortunate as the fact that Ireland had to be brought to the verge of revolution before any remedial measures were granted. Irish Nationalists asked for compulsory sale of land, but in order to stifle that demand all the powers of 1019 the Executive in Ireland were being used. Trial by jury was set aside, and packed juries had been instituted, and removable magistrates brought into existence. The removable Magistrates Court never missed fire, although sometimes the packed jury missed fire, because it was not packed enough. He wished to call attention to the case of Sergeant Gallagher, who went into a room where three or four men were arranging a meeting. Arrangements were being made for holding the meeting when the Sergeant walked in with a bunch of grapes in his band. He offered them around, and said—You cannot expect anything from this movement of yours; the only means is physical force.That was from a Sergeant wearing the King's uniform. The League organiser replied that they had got a good deal from agitation already, and that they expected to get a good deal more.Oh," replied the Sergeant, "that is all nonsense. You cannot get anything from constitutional agitation; the only hope is physical force.That was on 20th December, and on the 22nd a meeting was held at Abbeyleix, and Sergeant Gallagher was the Government Reporter. He reported Mr. Deiahunt's speech, and prosecuted him, with the result that Mr. Delahunt was now a prisoner in Kilkenny Gaol, and Sergeant Gallagher was at large at Abbeyleix. He asked the Chief Secretary a question on the subject, and received a very courteous reply. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Sergeant used the expression as a jest. He wondered if the removable magistrate at Abbeyleix would have taken that as a defence if a Nationalist were concerned. He wished to call the attention of the House to the scenes in the drama. In the first scene the Sergeant declared that the only hope was physical force; then, at the meeting, the Sergeant reported Mr. Delahunt's speech, and Mr. Delahunt got three months, while the Sergeant remains at large. That was the prelude to the introduction of the Land Bill. He knew very well that the right hon. Gentleman was not going to bring in a Bill to meet the demands of the Irish people, which had been put forward in a legitimate and constitutional manner. His hon. friends and also some hon. Members opposite demanded compulsory sale. 1020 He did not believe that the right hon. Gentleman was going to meet that demand, and that was the whole secret of the failure of the Government in Ireland. Only yesterday he heard the Attorney General for England declaring, in connection with Education, how dangerous it was to go against legitimate public opinion in different localities, and that the localities had every right to be consulted, and ought to be consulted. He himself voted last evening with the Government in support of that principle. Were the Irish members consulted, was the Leader of the Irish Party consulted, in reference to the Land Bill?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member's observations will be more appropriate when the Bill itself is introduced.
§ MR. DELANY
said he had no desire to delay the introduction of the Land Bill, or to postpone the expectation with which the right hon. Gentleman's exposition was awaited.
§ (5.23.) Mr. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
As there is no Amendment to the Motion before the House, I think it will be in order for me to address two or three questions to the Secretary of State for War, which I had intended to put to him on Thursday last, had not the debate taken a turn which did not make it appropriate. Knowing how very anxious many hon. Members art; to hear the introduction of the Land Bill, I will put the questions of which have given the right hon. Gentleman private notice, in the briefest possible form, as I have no desire to initiate a debate. The first question is whether I am right in believing that innocent persons are no longer in South Africa compelled to be present at executions under martial law. I understood some time ago that orders were given to stop the practice, and I want to be assured that that is so. The second question is whether the practice of placing non-combatants on trains for the sake of endeavouring to secure protection to trains on railways believed to be threatened still continues. I need hardly say that the practice is contrary to the Hague Convention and contrary to the general usages of civilised warfare. 1021 [Several hon. Members: No, no.] Unquestionably. The only parallel I can find to it is the case which occurred in the Franco-German War in 1870, under somewhat different circumstances. The third question is this. A Return was lately granted in another place, on the Motion of Lord Spencer, showing the sentences passed by Courts-martial in Cape Colony. This Return was assented to by the Government, and it is to cover all the cases in which Courts-martial have pronounced sentence of death or penal servitude, the places where the courts were held, the persons who composed them, and what alterations in the sentences were made afterwards by authority. I desire to know whether the Government will consent to add two points. First, a copy of the proceedings of the Courts-martial in all cases in which sentences of death have been imposed. I look upon that as very important. There can be nothing more important than that we should know what the Courts-martial have done, both with a view to understanding the position in South Africa, and also to the maintenance of the constitutional rights of British subjects everywhere. The other point I should like to see added is a statement of all the cases in which the death sentence or penal servitude has been pronounced where the prisoners have been convicted on the evidence of natives. I am informed that the evidence of natives is now no longer taken by the treason-courts. When I was in South Africa some years ago, I was given to understand that no one was ever convicted on the unsupported evidence of natives. It is, therefore, of some importance that we should know to what extent native evidence has been used. My last point has reference to certain statements which have appeared regarding the treatment of prisoners of war in Bermuda. I do not want to repeat them, because they may be incorrect, but they have appeared in an American magazine of extensive circulation and high character, and are authenticated by a clergyman who says he visited Bermuda. All I ask is that the right hon. Gentleman should cause an inquiry to be made in Bermuda in order to enable us to have authentic information on the subject, and I hope it will turn out that he will be able to contradict them.
§ (5.32.) MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
said he hoped the Secretary of State for War did not think that he had not dealt very courteously with him in refusing the right hon. Gentleman the information in his possession and control in reference to the circumstances of Scheepers' execution, the asked the right hon. Gentleman to telegraph to Lord Kitchener on the subject. He desired to read to the House an extract from a letter of a soldier who was an eye witness. He could not give the name of the writer, but the letter, which was written home to the writer's wife and dated January 24th, 1902, contained the following passage—I went to see Commandant Scheepers shot last Saturday at 3 o'clock. He was shot about 200 yards from my tent. They brought him from town in an ambulance van with the band playing and the firing party following behind. When they got him to his place, he begged to stand up and face death, but they tied him down in a chair and blindfolded him, and 15 of the Coldstream Guards stood ten paces from him and fired, and it almost blew one side of him away. It was a sickening sight. He must have been a very brave man. He did not flinch, nor even turn pale; so they buried him as he was, and broke the chair up and threw it on top of him, and the band played back again.These were the details, but he could not give the name of the writer because the man might be ruined if his name was disclosed. The letter stated that the soldiers stood ten, paces from the man. The soldiers had the greatest hatred of these executions, and they were brought up close so that there might be no escape. If they could do so, the soldiers fired at the legs of the person who was to be shot in order that they might escape the charge of blood-guiltiness. The circumstances of this matter, as described in the letter, showed horrible barbarity; and be asked the Secretary of State for War in the interest of humanity, whether these things were true or not. He or Lord Kitchener must know by whose authority such a horrible outrage had been committed. It was scandalous and brutal. He believed if the people of England knew what was happening they would rise up and protest against it.
§ (5.38.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
The hon. Member has made an 1023 appeal to me on a particular subject, and has made it a subject of complaint that I have not hitherto taken notice of the statements he has made in the House in order to obtain inquiry. I am afraid, without any reference to the particular case the hon. Member has brought forward. I must tell him that the whole line that he has adopted for the last two years with reference to statements on the war, the Questions he has put, very often uncorroborated by any evidence what ever, and the constant pressure which he has applied to Ministers to divulge matters which, for the good of the country and in deference to officers in the field, it is their duty not to divulge—all these things made me exceedingly scrupulous about acting on any information or suggestion which he made with regard to the particular matters which he brought before the House.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
Any statement I have ever made in this House I have made in the bona fide belief that it was true, and on such evidence, possibly not legal evidence, that I was prepared to accept the responsibility of the statement. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to give me one instance during these two years in which I made an uncorroborated statement.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I do not doubt the bona fides of the hon. Gentleman, but I would remind him that the way to hell is paved with good intentions. [Cries of "Order."]
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
The right hon. Gentleman has said I have asked Questions on uncorroborated evidence, and that I have asked Questions which have been unfounded and untrue. I challenge him to give me even one instance. That is a serious charge.
I do not charge the hon. Member with stating things that are untrue, but I have stated that on absolutely uncorroborated information he has made suggestions with reference to our generals, and that he has made attacks upon Lord Methuen over and over again. By innuendo and suggestion he has brought into his Questions matters which are not fact, and which 1024 are likely to give infinite pain to those whom he mentions. In many cases the information supplied to him, though he may have had the bonâ fide belief that it is true, has been absolutely false; and in my judgment he has followed a most undesirable practice, which has recently become common, in pressing Ministers on matters which it is their duty to the King not to disclose. I therefore have, I confess, treated him, not, I hope, with scant courtesy, but with scant consideration. I think in this particular instance he would have been much better advised if he had sent me privately this statement regarding the execution and asked me to inquire into it, instead of which, for the benefit of the Continental Press and others, he aired his statement in, this House on the authority of one person, and gives it the publicity all over Europe which belongs to statements made in this House. I deprecate that practice, and so far as I can I will not give countenance or support to it. If the hon. Member chooses to favour me with information which discloses to me at all events the bona fides of the person who has given it to him, under those circumstances I will certainly consider whether any inquiry can be made. But I trust after this discussion he will realise that his manner of conducting interrogation in this House—
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
On a point of order, has the right hon. Gentleman any right whatever to lecture me?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Gentleman asks a Question and the right hon. Gentleman thinks the Question ought not to be asked, he has a right to express his opinion.
The hon. Member's methods of conducting interrogation are greatly to be deprecated in view of the public service. I will now leave the hon. Gentleman, in order to answer the questions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen. As regards executions, I hope I made it clear to the House some time ago that the compulsory attendance of persons at executions had already been not merely discouraged by His Majesty's Government, but that Lord Kitchener, 1025 on his own initiative, before his attention was called to the instance which had taken place, had forbidden it. With regard to the question of non-combatants, I am afraid I am not armed with the exact article of the Hague Convention to which the right hon. Gentleman alludes. He, I know, holds that it is inconsistent with the Hague Convention and civilised war that non-combatants should be put upon trains in order to prevent the enemy from wrecking them. That is not the view which is held by those who advise us in this matter. It is well known that in one great war, at least, that practice was continually followed; and, although I demurred on a previous occasion, and do now demur, to being asked to name another great nation who carried out a similar practice, because of the susceptibilities which are aroused by statements of that kind in this House, I should not have far to look for another example which would amply justify us in the course Lord Kitchener thought it necessary to take. With regard to courts-martial, the right hon. Gentleman asks for a copy of the proceedings and of the evidence in all cases where death sentences were pronounced. That would, I am afraid, delay for a very long time any Return that could be made. It would be much better, I think, that we should give, as shortly as we can, all the information that has already been asked for, coupled with the instructions to courts-martial. With regard to the evidence of natives, the Government cannot possibly consent to exclude their evidence. Natives are the persons who have suffered most from these murders, and their evidence is most material; but, of course, it is obvious that it has to be most carefully watched, and it is important that in every case where possible it should be corroborated by at least presumptive evidence in support from white people. I believe great attention has been paid by the courts-martial to the distinction between native and white evidence in these respects.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I must see, first of all, what we have, before I can give a promise. The obtaining of the information in regard to courts-martial from an area so enormous as that of Cape Colony means a tremendous strain on those engaged in the task. Fifty pounds weight of material arrived ten days ago, and I have not yet been able to go through it myself. With regard to the Bermuda prisoners, the last communication I had from the Governor was that there was no special arrangement for working them as if they were in a convict prison, but that they were segregated from the other prisoners, and that practically their condition was similar to that of ordinary prisoners of war, although some labour was being found for them. That being so, I am certain that the accounts of their treatment to which the right hon. Gentleman alludes must have been very highly coloured. I will undertake to see in their case that every consideration is given to them consistent with their condition as prisoners of war.
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
In regard to native evidence I agree that you cannot exclude it altogether in the court of justice. I do not think it has ever been excluded, but the right hon. Gentleman must know that native evidence has to be watched very carefully, and there is no more difficult task than to adjudicate in cases in which a considerable part of the evidence is of that character which requires to be carefully watched. There is no more difficult thing in jurisprudence than to weigh the evidence of natives who are uninstructed on the evidence of parties of suspicious character. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, if it has not already been done, he would see that there should be some trained person, experienced in dealing with evidence, sitting upon every court-martial, in order that it shall not be left to inexperienced officers to deal with the very difficult and delicate questions of weighing evidence of that kind. It can be done. It has often been done, and it may be done now if the Commander-in-chief thinks fit. I commend the question to the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. BRODRICK
In every ease, as I understand, a Judge Advocate is present, and he takes precautions that the due course of the law shall be observed. It should be remembered that not one of these sentences has been confirmed by Lord Kitchener without the whole of the evidence being first put before Mr. Solomon, who not only occupies a high position as a lawyer, but is thoroughly competent to weigh the value of native evidence.
§ Amendment proposed—
§ "To leave out from the word 'April' to the end of the Question."—(Mr. Flynn.)
§ (5.55.) Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 179;. Noes, 84. (Division List No. 87.)1029
|Acland - Hood Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Agg - Gardner, James Tynte||Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Maclver, David (Liverpool)|
|Allen, Chas. P. (Glouc., Stroud||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Majendie, James A. H.|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Malcolm, Ian|
|Ark wright, John Stanhope||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J (Mauc'r||Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriessh.|
|Arrol, Sir William||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Middlemore, Jno. Throgmorton|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Fitz Gerald, Sir Robert Penrose-||Mitchell, William|
|Bagot, Capt. Josce line Fitz Roy||Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants.)|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Firzroy, Hon. Ed warn Algernon||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)|
|Barn, Colonel James Robert||Flannery, Sir Forteseue||Morgan, David J. (W'ith'mstow|
|Balcarres, Lord||Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Morley, Bt. Hn. John (Monurose|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r||Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Morrell, George Herbert|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Gardner, Ernest||Moton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford|
|Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W (Leeds||Garfil, William||Mount, William Arthur|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Gibbs, Hn A. G. H (City of Lond.||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans)||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Gr'h'm (Buce|
|Beach, Rt Hn Sir Michael Hicks||Godson Sir Augustus Frederick||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Beaumont, Went worth C. B.||Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Gore, Hon. S. E. Ormsby-(Linc)||Newnes, Sir George|
|Bignold, Arthur||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Bigwood, James||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Green, Wal ford D (Wednesbury||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Bond, Edward||Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F.||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Boulnois, Edmund||Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord G (Midd'x||Peel, Hn. Wm. Robt. Wellesley|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn||Han bury, Rt. Hon. Robert Win.||Pemberton, John S. G.|
|Brand, Hon. Arthur G.||Hardy, Laurence (K'nt, Ashford||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Brassey, Albert||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Patt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Plummer, Walter R.|
|Brookfield, Colonel Montagu||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Butcher, John George||Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.||Purvis, Robert|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A (Glasgow||Heath, Arthur Howard (Hanley||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Heath, James (Staffords, N. W.)||Rattigan, Sir William Henry|
|Cavendish, B. E. (N. Lancs.)||Heaton, John Henniker||Rea, Russell|
|Cavendish, V. C. W (Derbyshire||Helder, Augustus||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J.(Birm.||Horner, Frederick William||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r||Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Chamberlayne, T. (Sthampton||Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil||Ropner, Colonel Robert|
|Chapman, Edward||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Round, James|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Russell, T. W.|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Kenyon, James (Lancs., Bury)||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop.||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Knowles, Lees||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Lawrence, Joseph (Monmouth)||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln|
|Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lawson, John Grant||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Cripps, Charles Alfred||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Smith, H C (North'mb. Tyneside|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Leveson-Gower, Fivderick N. S.||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Dickinson Bobert Edmond||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Talbot, Lord F. (Chichester)|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Lowe, Francis William||Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Dixon Hartland, Sir Fr'd Dixon||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Dorington, Sir John Edward||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Tritton, Charles Ernest||Wilson, John (Glasgow)||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Valentia Viscount||Wodehouse, Rt. H. E. R. (Bath|
|Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm||TELLERS FOR THE AYES— Mr. Anstruther and Mr. Hayes Fisher.|
|Welby, Lt-Cl. A. C. E. (Tauuton||Wood, James|
|Whitmore, Charles Algernon||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Hayden, John Patrick||Partington, Oswald|
|Ambrose, Robert||Healy, Timothy Michael||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Holland, William Henry||Reddy, M.|
|Atherley Jones, L.||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Jacony, James Alfred||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Roche, John|
|Bell, Richard||Jones, Divid Brymmon (Swansea||Samuel, S. M. (White chapel)|
|Blake, Edward||Lay land-Barratt, Francis||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Boland, John||Lloyd-George, David||Seton-Karr, Henry|
|Brigg, John||Longh, Thomas||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Came, William Sproston||MacNeill, John Gordon Switt||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Caldwell, James||Mac Veagh, Jeremiah||Sullivan, Donal|
|Campbell, John Armagh, S.)||M Cann, James||Tennant, Harold John|
|Carew, James Laurence||M Killop. W. (Sligo, North)||Thomas, E. Freeman-(Hastings|
|Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton||Mooney, John J.||Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Morley, Charles (Brecronshire)||Tully, Jasper|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Murphy, John||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Nannett Joseph P.||Weir, James Gaileway|
|Delany, William||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.)||Norron, Capt, Cecil William||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Doogau, P. C.||O'Brien, K'ndal (Tipperary Mid||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Elibank, Master of||O'Brien, P J. (Timperary, N.)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Elynn, James Christopher||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.|
|Galloway, William Johnson||O'Dowd, John|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Captain Donelan and Mr. Patrick O'Brien.|
|Grant, Corrie||O'Kelly, James (Roscomm'n N.|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||O'Malley, William|
|Harwood, George||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. WEIR (ROSS and Cromarty)
called attention to the failure of the Government to give opportunities for introducing Scottish legislation. He thought he was entitled to complain of the arrangements which excluded Scottish business, although he could not go into the details of particular measures. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he could find time for Scottish legislation. There were other matters upon which he required information and he should continue putting down Question after Question until he got that information.
Main Question put, and agreed to.
Ordered, That Government business have precedence this day, and that at the conclusion of such business Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House without Question put, and that tomorrow the House at its rising do adjourn until Monday the 7th of April, and at the conclusion of proceedings on the Shop 1030 Clubs Bill Mr. Speaker do adjourn the cause without Question put.