§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Kildare, N.)
said that seventeen years ago, when he had the honour of introducing a Motion of this kind before, he was replied to by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh, whom they were glad again to see in his place. They had many a wordy war across the floor of the House and there had been many an angry scene in which he and those who sat with him and the hon. and gallant Member took part, but all were ready to admit that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had always borne himself in an honourable and gallant manner, and no one was more glad than he to see the hon. and gallant Member again amongst them.
No section of the Members of this House ought to be more concerned with this Motion than those who represented English constituencies. The law it sought to repeal was an outrage on the English Constitution, which had been slowly built up on the patience, sufferings, and struggles of the English people. In Ireland that Constitution had been frequently suspended; it had been suspended no less than eighty-six times since the Union, and he would point out to representatives of the Government here to-night that whatever might have been the ideas of their predecessors upon the subject when they introduced these Coercion Acts, not one of them had dared to come down to the House with a proposal to make them permanent. Mr. W. E. Foster, while Chief Secretary for Ireland, ruled the Irish people very severely and dealt most severely with Members on the Nationalist side of the House, but when it was suggested to him in 1881 that he might make the Coercion Act he was then proposing permanent, he replied that he would never dare to do any such thing, that he would never give any man such powers as he had himself by that Act, because he said he had confidence in himself that he would not abuse those powers, but he would never hang a sword of Damocles over the heads of the Irish people for another to take down at will. Even he, who they only 378 now remembered as a young man, who came to their country and aided the people when they were suffering from famine, strong and bold man as he was, would not take on himself the latitude he might have done and propose a permanent Coercion Act for Ireland.
It was generally said in these discussions that this was only a Procedure Act and that it did not change the law, but procedure was a very important thing in the administration of law, which was originally devised to protect the liberties of the subject. Therefore it was idle to say that a change in the procedure did not change the law itself. He renumbered distinctly that when the Crimes Act of 1882 was being passed in this House, an Act that provided for the trial of persons accused of certain offences mentioned by the Act by a Commission of Judges and not by a jury, that great Irish lawyer and Judge, Baron Fitzgerald retired from his office and resigned his Judgeship rather than administer a law which he said struck at all the fundamental principles of law and justice. Before this Act was brought in, and before the Government—which had now, with a short interval, been twenty years in power—came into office, speeches were made in the country entirely different in character to those made after the Conservative Government came into power, and the man who created most influence in the country and brought about that condition of things which made a Conservative Government possible in 1885 said, before proposing coercion—The Government must have terrible facts and terrible evidence to support their demand.That was the language held by Lord Randolph Churchill and all those who constituted the Government when they came into office. The Act he now proposed to repeal by his Motion was brought in 1887 when the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, then the Chief Secretary for Ireland, said—I stated before and I state again that we do not rest our case on statistics of agrarian crime in Ireland.The right hon. Gentleman did not rest his case on the statistics because they would not support the introduction of any such Bill and would not justify it. The right hon. Gentleman relied upon 379 the speeches made by Irish Members of Parliament to their constituents and by other gentlemen, the principles contained in which speeches had since been affirmed by this House by the Home Rule Bill of 1893 and the Irish Land Act of 1903. But the right hon. Gentleman had a weak case even then, and to supplement the effect of the speeches which he had quoted, said in justification of this measure that—Some members of the National League had only in view this disinterested object, but he could not forget that the league leant in part on those secret societies which worked by dynamite and dagger.The right hon. Gentleman used those words on March 28th, 1887 and on that evening the First Reading of the Bill was carried. On April 28th, a month after, there was published in The Times the Piggott forged documents and on the same evening the Second Reading of the Bill was carried. He bracketted the statements of the Prime Minister, then Chief Secretary of Ireland, with the letters of Piggott which appeared in The Times on April 28th. The charges then made recklessly by the Prime Minister from his place in the House, and which were backed up by the assassin paper The Times, were within a year afterwards, after much toil and trouble on the part of the Irish people, refuted by the Royal Commission, but the falsehood, had done its work. Pigott had perished by his own hand, but The Times newspaper still vented its spleen on that portion of the Empire which had so excited its hatred, and the Act was put on the Statute-book ready to the hand of any future Chief Secretary who might be weak enough to yield to the enemies of Ireland.
This Act was passed ostensibly for the prohibition of and the dealing with crime. In fact it was passed for an entirely different purpose. The first section recreated practically what was once known in the history of this country as the Star Chamber. It was idle to urge, as had been urged, that this Act would inflict no injury whatever on law-abiding persons. He had in the course of his experience come into collision with a similar section of one of these Acts prevailing in Ireland. He remembered once being summoned to a Star Chamber inquiry which was opened 380 to inquire into a certain matter in county Cork. He had noticed that most of the people examined before these inquiries were examined on almost every matter except the one they were called upon to testify—and when he was called upon he was determined to have a test case with the magistrate. When he appeared before that gentleman he asked him whether he was going to confine himself to the subject-matter of the summons. The magistrate turned upon him savagely and asked him how he dared to ask such a question. He replied that he had not only dared, but unless he had that assurance would refuse to be sworn, and as a result the magistrate committed him to prison before the day was out. In the course of a week he was liberated and on the following morning received a similar summons. He again appeare before the magistrate, who said, "Well, sir, have you changed your mind," to which he replied, "No, sir, have you changed yours?" The interview was of a very angry character and he was sent back to prison. Then he took another course; he sent a letter to the Chief Secretary of the day and in return had a reply of a kind but firm character, and on the third occasion when he appeared before this magistrate it struck him that this gentleman had also received a letter, because he said he had never intended to go further than the summons. He was then duly sworn, asked a few questions about a matter of which he mew nothing, and was allowed to go. He asserted that he was brought there not to give any information but for the purpose of being annoyed and persecuted.
It was nonsense to say that this law affected no law-abiding person—he claimed to be as law-abiding as anyone on the opposite side—because another section of this Act created a special jurisdiction which practically for all purposes abolished trials by jury in Ireland. He remembered, in 1888, that he made a speech to his constituents for which he was afterwards prosecuted under this very clause. In that speech he had not incited anybody to commit a crime or to do an act of intimidation, yet the indictment upon which he was prosecuted was that he had incited some person unknown to intimidate a person or persons unknown against taking a 381 farm unknown the property of a person unknown to those who drafted the indictment, and, though the House, would hardly believe it, on that indictment he was sentenced by two magistrates to four months imprisonment. But that was not the worst feature of this clause, because under this clause all those cases of conspiracy in trade disputes that had lately been tried in this country by the High Court, cases against workmen that had been tried before the High Court and taken from thence to the Court of Appeal and to the House of Lords, would, if they had occurred in Ireland, have been tried under this clause by two magistrates and the benefit of a jury would have been entirely denied to the people interested. It was not only that the procedure was bad in this respect, but the section put the liberties of the people into the hands of a set of magistrates whose position depended entirely upon their complacency with the authorities and who were removable by the very persons who ordered the prosecutions.
The next clause enabled the Government to have persons tried by special juries and to change the venue. That was doubtless made out to be a very harmless provision, but the way in which it worked out was that an accused man might be taken into a county where the majority of the people differed from him in faith and politics, and be tried before a jury selected from a special panel. Not only had the Crown a special list of jurors, but it was specially marked by those who knew the jurors' politics, so that by the exercise of its unlimited right of challenge the Crown was able to put into the box a jury composed of men entirely opposed to the accused. Whether the trial was properly conducted or not, the accused, under these circumstances, could not possibly have the idea that he was being fairly tried.
The next important section empowered the Lord-Lieutenant to proclaim an association if he was satisfied that it was interfering with the administration of the law. That was a most unconstitutional provision, and in the hands of unscrupulous men was capable of being used for any purpose whatever. Lord Londonderry had 382 recently stated that the Chief Secretary was going to govern Ireland according to Unionist principles and for Unionist interests. What did that mean? Under this clause, at the very time when land transactions were taking place and the people needed the counsel of their advisers, meetings could be suppressed and branches of the United Irish League dissolved. At the time of the Land Act of 1881, Mr. Parnell announced his intention of having a number of test cases brought into Court in order to secure the fixing of a standard, and thus to save the people the cost of having their rents fixed individually. But no sooner was the announcement made than he was clapped into gaol. In like manner, in 1887, the country was proclaimed soon after the Ashbourne Purchase Act had been put into operation, and now again when land transactions were taking place proclamations were threatened. Under this clause the Act could be made to serve every Unionist purpose. It was administered by Unionists; the Chief Secretary, the Attorney-General, and the Solicitor-General were Unionists, and all the magistrates who had to administer the Act were drawn from the same Party; so that the law could be used, not to put down crime—for that did not exist—but to suppress one class in the interests of another. Writing of the Bill in 1887 Sir G. Trevelyan said—The real defect of this measure in that it is a coercion Bill directed against the spoken and written expression of opinion, and which will be worked by administrators who have proved beyond all question that they are actuated by the strongest Orange sympathies.That was true then, and it was true to-day; the spirit which prevailed in Dublin Castle then prevailed still. Shortly before that time there were in the Castle men who sympathised with the people—Mr. Hamilton and General Buller—the latter of whom, like Sir Antony MacDonnell, was sent over to see things with a fresh eye. He divested himself of his sword and went amongst the people, with the result that, backed up by Mr. Hamilton, he reported that the people had grievances which ought to be redressed. Then a Unionist Government came into office, and he got his discharge, just as hon. Members opposite were now 383 seeking to get Sir Antony MacDonnell discharged.
Seeing that the Act was not warranted by the condition of the country, why was it maintained? Certain causes of irritation had been to a large extent removed. The Land Act of 1903 and its predecessors were working out the salvation of the country in one direction. Land was changing hands, the period of evictions might be said to be over, and that fruitful source of whatever crime existed in the past being removed there was no necessity for the continuance of the Act. Moreover, it had been utterly useless in the past. In 1895 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose stated that eleven convictions had been obtained, and added—But I believe, and in that I am supported by the great authority of Lord Spencer, that with the exception of the Phœnix Park cases everyone of those convictions would have been obtained without a special inquiry.The right hon. Gentleman was strongly of opinion that the ordinary law was sufficient. And what good had the Act done? Between 1889 and 1892, 3,243 persons were imprisoned under its provisions, and another 189 were sentenced between 1901 and 1903. Did any hon. Gentleman opposite believe that a single one of those persons was from their point of view a better man than before? Twenty- three Members of Parliament had suffered forty-four terms of imprisonment between them, and was it supposed that any of them were any better affected towards English rule in Ireland in consequence? The Act was utterly useless for its purpose, and for this and other reasons he asked why such a blur should be kept on the Statute-book. He trusted he had given sufficient reasons for abandoning a causeless, irritating, and insulting law, which was neither justified by the conditions of the country nor effective in conducing to its happiness. He begged to move.
§ MR. HUGH LAW (Donegal, W.)
pointed out that recent developments in Ireland gave to this Motion an actuality and urgency which some months ago might have lacked, as it was perfectly 384 clear that the pendulum was once more swinging in the direction of active coercion. The only alternatives before any Government which attempted to administer Ireland were full and free trust in the people and coercion. There was no middle course, though attempts had been made to find one. The late Lord Salisbury said that Ireland was to have twenty years of resolute Government. That turned out to be coercion pure and simple. Long before the twenty years were over coercion was found by the authorities to be a very unpleasant method of government, and an experiment in conciliation was tried by the present President of the Local Government Board. During the first months of he Secretary ship of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover the pendulum reverted to coercion, but the policy being found unsatisfactory a fresh experiment in conciliation was tried. By the inevitable law of fate which doomed to futility every attempt to govern Ireland except in accordance with the will of the people the pendulum had once more swung, and they were again face to face with coercion.
How long was this to go on? Had the Government any end in view? Had they any policy? The late Chief Secretary during the latter part of his administration had a policy, summed up by the Lord-Lieutenant as attempting to govern Ireland within the Union according to Irish ideas. The present Chief Secretary professed himself unable to understand what the phrase meant. If not according to Irish ideas, according to whose ideas were the Government going to govern Ireland? It could not be according to English ideas, as certainly English ideas would not approve of the proclamation of meetings or the dragging about public roads of Members of Parliament who attempted to address their constituents. The truth was the Government were proposing to govern Ireland according to the ideas of a little dwindling faction from the North-East of Ireland, men who were never tired of defaming their own country who made the catch-cry of "persecution of the minority'' an excuse for the coercion of the majority, and whose idea of persecution was exactly the same as when 385 Thomas Moore wrote his "Humble Petition of Orangemen" about a hundred years ago—
If the Chief Secretary listened to those men they would drag him down as they had dragged down so many of his predecessors. He need look for no constructive policy from them. He would make no advance in the governing of Ireland, and his Chief Secretary ship would not be remembered as having added anything to the welfare of the country. Those men could hinder, exasperate, and retard, but they could net stop the advancing march of the nation. He begged to second the Motion.
- 'To the people of England, the Humble Petition
- Of Ireland's disconsolate Orangemen, showing
- That sad, very sad, is our present condition,
- Our work is all gone, and our noble selves going;
- That forming one-seventh—within a few fractions
- Of Ireland's seven millions of hot heads and hearts,
- We hold it the basest of all base transactions
- To keep us from murdering the other six parts."
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, in the opinion of this House, the presence of The Criminal Law and Procedure (Ireland) Act on the Statute-book is a gross violation of the Constitution, without parallel in any other portion of His Majesty's dominions, and that the Act should be immediately repealed."—(Mr. John O'Connor.)
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said that after a prolonged absence it was like old times to come down to the House and take a humble part in a coercion debate. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to imagine that the Ulster Members had the great happiness of guiding the counsels of Dublin Castle, but he could assure them that they had no more influence in that direction than any other Members of the House who openly and candidly expressed their opinions. From Questions that had been asked recently it might be supposed that His Majesty's Government were of opinion that Ireland was remarkable for the 386 amount of crime, and that, to use Mr. Gladstone's words, Irishmen had been supplied with a "double dose of Original sin." That was all beside the question under discussion. He was happy and proud to believe that in regard to crime, as ordinarily understood, Ireland had a favourable position as compared with other parts of the Empire. ["Hear, hear!" "Then why attain coercion?"] Because the Act was not directed against ordinary crime. The Motion before the House declared—That, in the opinion of this House, the presence of the Criminal Law and Procedure (Ireland) Act on the Statute-book is a gross violation of the Constitution, without parallel in any other portion of His Majesty's dominions.The hon. Member might have carried the terms of his Motion further; he might have said that no other country had such an Act on the Statute-book. Would the hon. Member go further and also say that no civilised country had such a society as the Irish National League? He would venture to say that there was no other country which, if it had to deal with such a society associated with so much crime and outrage in the past, would meet it with so lenient a measure as the Act now condemned by hon. Members opposite. No law-abiding man of any class or creed or section of politics was in the least interfered with by the existence of such an Act. The hon. Member opposite gave an account of something which occurred in his earlier days which was the cause of his being temporarily withdrawn from the sphere of freedom. Then he informed the House that since that time he had been a law-abiding citizen. He did not know the circumstances of the hon. Member's case, but what he should like to know was, could any hon. Gentleman opposite bring forward a case in which any man in Ireland who chose to live within the ordinary laws of the land had been interfered with, and was interfered with, by this Act.
It had been said over and over again in the House that the Crimes Act interfered with the liberties of the Irish people. Certainly it interfered with the liberties of some of the Irish people, because some of the Irish people held an entirely different idea 387 of the meaning of liberty than that which he attached to it. [NATIONALIST cheers.] He was very glad that those words of his were acceptable to hon. Gentlemen opposite. His idea of liberty was that any man, whoever he might be, was free to pursue his vocations, whatever they were, within the law; so far as he could make out from hon. Gentlemen opposite, not only from their speeches in that House but especially from their speeches on the other side of the St. George's Channel, their meaning of liberty was the liberty of a certain set of Irishmen to force another set of Irishmen to obey their dictates. That was not his idea of liberty, and if the Act which they now desired to repeal interfered with that liberty, then it was a proof that no better Act could be passed for Ireland. If any stranger could have come into the House for the first time and heard an Irish debate, and listened to the speech of the hon. Member for North Kildare, he would never have imagined that in Ireland there existed such a thing as the Irish National League. Anybody who took the trouble to read the newspapers, and to follow the course pursued in Ireland by hon. Gentlemen opposite and by their friends who guided the procedure of that association, would see that there was at the present moment in Ireland an organisation which had for its object—quite outside the law—guided by their own policy, which had the power and authority in many parts of Ireland of constraining Irishmen certainly to do that which they did not desire to do.
What was the main object of the Irish League? Its main object was with regard to the land. They did not attack landlords now, because the House had removed the property of landlords from their own keeping. The National League at the present moment appeared to devote its energies to planting the people on the land. That was so in a large part of Ireland where grass land existed. These grass lands were to be broken up and divided amongst those in Ireland, who either had no land, or if they ever had had land had lost it. That was the ostensible object of the league. He had no objection to the league if its objects were pursued in a legal manner. But how were they pursued? How 388 was its policy carried out in Ireland? Was it carried out as policy had been in England, in Scotland, or in Wales, by Members of Divisions going down and giving calm and peaceful advice us to how its lawful object should be achieved. He thought he could show the House that the National League in Ireland at the present moment did give advice, but gave it in very strong language which certainly was not of a Parliamentry character. He took, for instance, a meeting in Ireland, reported in the Freeman's Journal. In a speech delivered by the Rev. Canon M'Alpine, that gentleman said—Now I say, and I accept the fullest responsibility for my words, that in a crisis like this, should the State fail to discharge the first duty which it owes to the community—namely, to preserve and to support life—our people would be the veriest fools if they allowed themselves to starve so long as fat sheep were grazing on the hillside or sleek kine were browsing on the plain.Would hon. Gentlemen accept that for their policy as enunciated by a, priest and politician? That was the advice given by a gentleman who occupied a prominent position in the Irish National League. He would give them another instance. This was what Mr. O' Reilly said at a meeting of the United Irish League at Kilconnell on December 11th last—I do not want you to make the green grass red again with the blood of martyrs. I am opposed to murder in any form. But I would nearly sympathise with the devil if he were to come up and sweep a grabber to hell.That was good stout National League advice. He went on to say—Now I appeal to all present to immediately take out cards of membership of the United Irish League, and not only that, but to be prepared to give the life of the damned to any person who is condemned by that organisation.That was the way advice was given by the Irish National League. It was all very well for hon. Gentlemen to make eloquent speeches in that House, but did they approve of that language? If they did not, why did they not say so in Ireland. He had still another instance. This was Mr. Kelly, who made a speech in South Galway in November last. This gentleman said he often thought, on learning of the extravagant prices being paid for land, that the people must be gone mad. Some of these people deserved to be shot down as John Blake had been 389 shot, and the revolver was there still. Whenever a man was found going into the enemy's camp he should be brought down. That was the advice of an organisation to cope with which this Act had been put on the Statute-book. No man had defended the Act more e'oquently than the hon. Member for South Tyrone, and in those days no hon. Member brought forward more cases of the tyranny of the Irish National League than he did. Now the hon. Member for South Tyrone talked of "gerrymandering." These might be different ways of politicians in Ireland who were carried away by their national sentiments and their un-national eloquence. Here was a quotation which he thought the House ought to hear and some hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to remember. At a meeting of the South Galway Executive of the United Irish League held at Loughrea on April 16th, Father Newell, C.C., spoke as follows in condemnation of outrages—It there is anything that merits my approbation it is the condemnation of those outrages on brute beasts and other outrages that might bring disgrace into our ranks. I see no member of the Ballinderry branch of the league here, and I do not come before yon because my brother happens to be the parish priest there. I come to condemn the outrages that have been committed in Ballinderry under the guise of nationality. You all know the outrages that have been committed there. Their efforts were directed against the process-server and with what result? That the branch of the league has degenerated, and has even committed sacrilegious acts under the guise of nationality. They have gone into the Catholic Church and brought out pews belonging to the bailiff. I say we are un-Irish and un-Christian, and unworthy of the name of Nationalists if we cannot fight the enemy outside the church. I have come here to withdraw our allegiance from the Ballinderry branch. It is unbecoming of Irishmen and Catholics to resort to such base, treacherous, unmanly tactics. I would not be a man if I did not come here to give expression to my feelings.What had been the result? The services in Father Newell's church had since been boycotted by his former congregation, who had also refused to pay him his Easter dues. That came from a priest in Ireland who understood the character and nature of the Irish Nationalist League, and this was the organisation which would have absolutely supreme command in Ireland if this law was entirely removed from the Statute-book. This Act pressed 390 upon no law-abiding Irishman, add if it pressed on the other kind of Irishman, the more it pressed the better.
The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had said that there were two ways of governing Ireland—(1) by coercion, and (2) according to the will and wishes of the Irish people. Did he mean the will and wishes of the kind of Irishmen opposite, or of the kind of Irishmen on the Unionist Benches? If hon. Gentleman opposite were able to get up and say that a great change had taken place in Ireland, that they were conscious, and that the Irish people were conscious, of the immense generosity that had been shown by Great Britain and the House of Commons to the Irish people, and that they were ready to bury the hatchet, and to forget and forgive and not allow their minds to dwell upon those things in the past which they would like to raise—if they said that, there might be some way of meeting them. But he saw no signs of reformation—he saw no signs in the speeches made in the House and elsewhere that the generosity of the House and the country at large, which had showered almost £200,000,000 upon Ireland to help to settle the land question—he saw no signs of any softening of their animosity towards Great Britain. On the contrary, speeches were made on he other side of the House which, far from tending to mollify the existing asperity, roused and kindled anew those animosities which ail true Irishmen would like to see obliterated.
He had had some experience of Ireland. His family had dwelt in Ireland for nearly 400 years. He himself had now almost reached the allotted span of life. He had been in the House for many years, and he believed hon. Gentlemen opposite, although they disagreed with him, would believe him when he said he also loved his country, although the saw it from a different point of view. But from his point of view the lesson which the House ought to learn, and any Government ought to take to heart, was that there were two things that ought to be remembered by those who desired to govern Ireland and make it a peaceful country—one was an unswerving enforcement of justice, and the other was to seek the sympathy of 391 the Irish people. Without law and order they would have those periodical recurrences which all Irishmen ought to regret. But if the Government was animated, as he believed this Government was, by the sentiments he had mentioned, they would lay the final foundation on which the peace, happiness, and prosperity of his country might rest.
§ MR. HAVILAND BURKE (King's County, Tullamore)
said he hoped it would not be considered that he was paying any empty compliment when he said that he was glad to see the hon. and gallant Member in his place once again in the House, because he, at any rate, attempted no mystery upon the House of Commons. He was glad to see him in his place as representing truly, consistently, and straightforwardly the Ascendancy Party and the old Orange policy in the House of Commons. The hon. and gallant Member stood there as representing a Party in Ireland which contended that the majority of the Irish people had no right to be consulted as to the government of their own country. For his own part he preferred the position of the hon. and gallant Member to that of a man who, under any subtle subterfuge, came there to split hairs as to the government of Ireland.
But what, after all, was the question? It was this, that Ireland, alone in the whole British Empire, was singled out as the place that might not have the right of trial by jury. Any broken-down wreck, who might have disgraced himself, as some of them had done, without character, record, or qualification, might be made a resident magistrate, and two of these creatures, dependent for their livelihood on pleasing Dublin Castle, had it in their power to decide whether a Member of that House, or any other man, might or might not be sent to serve various terms of imprisonment, with or without hard labour. But, quite apart from any partisan question whatever, this was a thing that the House sooner or later would have to deal with, and he ventured to say to such Members of the Liberal Party as might be tempted to treat the Irish question as a matter of no account that they would have before long to 392 seriously consider this as a vital and far-reaching constitutional question. The papers contained columns as to the terrible sufferings of men who went to prison for refusing to pay rates under the Education Act. The people of this country would have to turn their attention sooner and more seriously than they might dream of to the question of Irish Members of this House having to undergo in prison two or three months hard labour under the Coercion Act passed by this Parliament. If there were any Members of the Liberal Party in this House who thought they could trifle with the question of coercion and drop Home Rule, he told them that there were plenty of men on the Irish Benches and elsewhere who would not allow them to do so, and who were going to make this question one of the first magnitude.
It was absolutely scandalous that so little should have been heard in that House in regard to an Act not passed in circumstances of exceptional urgency to meet a special case of public excitement, but passed as a permanent Act. It was a blot on the escutcheon of the British Empire that an Act should have been passed insulting the whole of the Irish people—an Act by which any two swashbucklers and bottlewashers appointed by Dublin Castle might sentence the chairman of an Irish county council, or a Member representing an Irish constituency, to serve for a more or less long term in an Irish prison with hard labour. This Motion dealt with the whole constitutional grievance between Ireland and Great Britain, and even if a guarantee were given that no prosecution could happen under the Act within the lifetime of the youngest man now on those benches, he said without hesitation that the Act would be an outrage and an injustice which it would be their duty to bring before the House whenever they could. It was not a question of the number of prosecutions, or the amount of punishment inflicted; the great cardinal question involved was that the kingdom of Ireland—kingdom was the word used in the Act of Union—was under this exceptional law. So long as that Act endured it would be a standing insult to and outrage on the people of Ireland.
393 It had been pleaded that this exceptional Act of Parliament was wanted because evidence could not be got to back up the prosecution when a Government prosecution was brought. Might he refer to circumstances which occurred in a place very much nearer the House than Ireland—a part of the kingdom called London. Only two months ago there was a case at the Old Bailey where two men were sentenced to seven years penal servitude for this crime. They waylaid a respectable working man's wife, robbed her, brutally knocked her about, rushed her into a doorway, and violated her. When the sentence was about to be passed a local inspector of police said that these men were only members of a large and well-organised band which had the whole district in terror, and that the great difficulty which the police had to contend with was that they could not get people who were habitually blackmailed and assaulted by these ruffians to come forward and give evidence. Not long ago a respectable factory girl was coming out of a workshop in broad daylight near Trafalgar Square when she was shot and wounded, and the only explanation was that she had given evidence against a bully who had assaulted her. The police had no clue to the offender. He had been making a very careful record of such cases, and, when he had it completed, hon. Members opposite would be surprised to find the number of cases in which inspectors of police in London had come forward time after time before Judges and complained that their difficulty in putting down the ruffianism which was rampant in London was due to the fact that people dared not for the sake of life and limb come forward and give evidence against the offenders. Would the legal Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench bring forward a Suspects Bill for London? Why should they not do so when they had the evidence of the police authorities given before magistrates and Judges that whole districts in London were terrorised and that evidence could not be procured?
The police records of crime in Ireland, as compared with Great Britain, showed that there was no crime in Ireland worth talking about. In England magistrates from the moment they 394 were appointed were absolutely independent of Liberal or Tory Government officials. What was the position of the resident magistrate in Ireland? He was appointed by the Lord-Lieutenant, who could dismiss, transfer, or remove him; he was responsible only to Dublin Castle. He was an absolute political hack. There was not a decent clerk in the Post Office who was not more independent of the Government than an Irish resident magistrate. He knew perfectly well that, when he was appointed to try a case under the Coercion Act, if he did not please his master he was liable to go, and probably would go. Looking at this matter from the point of view of the public interest, what was the effect of the Crimes Act? It was to create an absolute contempt for law in Ireland, a justifiable contempt which he shared to the full. It might be said that he had not suffered much. He had not suffered anything to be compared with many of his colleagues, but did hon. Members think that he had forgotten, or that he would ever forget, the outrage that was put on him when he was sentenced by a half-pay officer and a retired policeman to two months hard labour, and three months more if he did not get bail, for going down to his own constituency to address a public meeting? Did they think that that was a sore which would ever cease to rankle and fester in his mind? This was a question which would have to be dealt with as one of privilege. He would advise hon. Members before they talked about the iniquities of Russia, or the evil doings of Turkey, to consider very much more closely than they were doing at the present time what was being done in Ireland. He would advise them not to maintain the hypocrisy of lecturing the Government of St. Petersburg about its autocratic methods while they denied to men serving in that House the constitutional right of addressing their own constituents. This was a matter affecting the rights and privileges not only of Irish Members, but of all Members of the House. On these grounds he heartily supported the Resolution.
§ MR. O'MALLEY (Galway, Connemara)
said the right hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh had quoted isolated 395 speeches in which strong language had no doubt been used. He did not think the isolated cases which had been referred to by the right hon. and gallant Member could in any way be charged against the national movement. The United Irish League was most strongly opposed to the use of any strong language that might in any way be a hindrance to the work in which it was engaged. Here and there in Ireland speeches were made at times which were reprehensible, and which the Nationalist Members, the Irish people generally, and certainly the organisation with which they were associated, were as anxious to condemn as hon. Members opposite. But in order to justify the statement of his hon. friend the Member for West Donegal that the policy of the Government was tending in the direction of coercion he would quote a letter which appeared in that day's Freeman's Journal. It was from the Rev. Canon M'Alpine, and dealt with an article which appeared in the Dublin Daily Express a few days ago. The letter was sent to that journal, and a copy of it to the Freeman's Journal. It was as follows—
§ "Mount St. Joseph's, Clifden,
§ "29th May, 1905.
"To the Editor 'Daily Express,'
Sir—From an intimate knowledge of the district, from a visit paid to three police stations in the parish, and from an interview with Mr. Glasgow, D. I., R.I.C., I am in a position to state that there is not the smallest particle of truth—that there is absolutely no ground whatever for what appeared in a recent issue of your paper, 'that here in Clifden a large grazier had to unconditionally surrender his grazing forms because his cattle and sheep were found drowned in trenches every day, and his herds refused to work for him, and that other petty little outrages such as wall razing, breaking of gates, etc., had also come to light.'
In the name of common sense, and for the credit of Irish journalism, may I ask what reason can you give for publishing such lying statements of an innocent people? Clearly, between you and your contemporary the Irish Times, a regular rivalry subsists just now on Irish matters as to who will do most in libelling an individual, defaming a district, and maligning a community. Respice finem.—Yours,
P. CANON M'ALPINE, P.P., V. G.
§ It would be clearly understood from that letter that an attempt was being made at the present moment in Ireland to justify the Chief Secretary in introducing 396 once more the old weapon of coercion to cure Irish grievances. But as coercion had been tried for very many years, and had invariably failed, he and his friends on those benches, and the Irish people, would look on with equanimity at the career of the right hon. Gentleman who occupied the position of Chief Secretary at the present time. He believed that at the end of the right hon. Gentleman's career coercion, if he indulged in it, would be ultimately to the advantage of the Irish cause.
§ He would give another illustration of the new policy which had been inaugurated in the last few weeks in Ireland. It was generally recognised in this House by all Parties that a great many of the ills and sufferings of the Irish people were due to the land problem of the West—due to the fact that the greater portion of the best lands in the West were now in the occupation of graziers, while the tenants in Connemara, Mayo, Donegal, Sligo, and other western counties, were trying to eke out an existence on the non-economic holdings surrounding the large tracts of grazing lands. When the Land Act of 1903 was passing through the House the late Chief Secretary fully recognised the evil, and stated that the Act was calculated and intended to remove it. The people of Ireland were frying from the country now in greater numbers than in recent years, and, in view of the poverty of the country and the periodic famines which occurred there, it was not surprising that violent speeches should be made from time to time at political meetings. That condition of things was undoubtedly due to the fact that the land problem of the West was still unsolved, and that something must be done to enlarge the non-economic holdings by taking from the graziers the lands which they now held, and handing them over to the tenants. Therefore the Irish people, very naturally and properly, through their organisation, were directing all their efforts to that end.
§ During the previous week there occurred in his constituency a case which he would refer to particularly. In the village of Glann, near Oughterard, a miserable mountain district where every tenant was living 397 on a non-economic holding, and barely eking out an existence, there were some grass farms. These grass farms were reclaimed by the hard labour and sweat of tenants who were evicted some years ago. One of these grass farms was in the hands of a man named Patrick O'Toole who lived twenty or twenty-five miles away from the place. He was a shopkeeper and a bailiff, and, being a bailiff, he was a handy man to the landlord of the district. He was made a justice of the peace some years ago. He was able to pay a high price for the grass farm which he held on the eleven months system. The Glann and Oughterard branch of the United Irish League met, and very properly considered the advisability of Mr. O'Toole giving up his grass farm. The secretary wrote Mr. O'Toole a letter, to which he begged hon. Members opposite to listen, because it threw light on the western problem and the policy which the Government were at present pursuing. The letter was in the following terms—
§ "Glann and Oughterard,
§ "U. I. League,
"April 12th, 1905.
SIR,—At a meeting of the above held at the league Rooms, Oughterard, on the 9th inst., a resolution was adopted calling on all grazing tenants holding grazing lands in the parish to surrender same on or before next May, in the interest of poor tenants holding uneconomic holdings, we have to ask you are you prepared to surrender your Glann farm within the time mentioned.
A reply from you is expected on or before Thursday, 20th inst.
|B. RUTLEDGE||Hon. Sees., U. I. L.|
To Mr. Patrick O'Toole, J.P., Annaghvane, Connemara.
§ There was no strong language used in that letter. It was an invitation to Mr. O'Toole to give up his grass farm in the interest of the poor tenants of the district. What happened? Mr. O'Toole handed the letter to a policeman [Cries of ''Hear, Hear" from Conservative Members] and Mr. Rutledge was arrested and brought before the stipendiary magistrate, who had accepted bail of £100, with two sureties of £50 each, for his appearance at the next Galway Assizes. Probably that was legal, but all he could say was that the next time 398 he was in Connemara he should refer to this case, he would not write a letter to Mr. O'Toole, but he would denounce Mr. O'Toole, and all the other Mr. O'Tooles who held these grass farms, and let the Government prosecute him if they liked. If legitimate action of that sort had not been taken in Ireland during the last twenty-five or thirty years he should like to know where the Irish question would be to-day. He merely rose for the purpose of drawing attention to this particular case. He had no doubt that this man would be tried before the assizes and that he would probably get a year or two's imprisonment. But the very fact that he was sent to prison would constitute him a hero in the eyes of the whole of the Irish people. If that was the way Ireland was to be governed then, he maintained, the hostility which existed between England and Ireland would continue, and the Irish problem would remain unsolved. He hoped the Chief Secretary would not pursue this career of coercion which he was entering upon, and that the right hon. Gentleman would not take the advice of the Irish representatives, led by the right hon. Member for North Armagh, who sat behind him. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to take a lesson from the past; but if the right hon. Gentleman indulged in his career of coercion he believed it would be ultimately to the advantage of the Irish cause.
§ MR. ASQUITH (Fifeshire, E.)
said he wished, in a few sentences, to state the reasons which would induce him to vote in favour of the Motion, as upon many occasions he and those who sat with him had voted for similar Resolutions in the past. He could not recollect in his Parliament try experience any Government measure which met with a resistance so strenuous and so relentless as the Crimes Bill of 1887 did from the Opposition of that day. Parliamentary conditions were harder then than now. They had no 12 o'clock rule; and he remembered low that Bill was fought line by line and word by word night after night, up to 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, in one of the hottest summers on record. It was o meet that strenuous and pitiless resistance that the expedient of closure 399 by compartments was first invented. Looking back to the circumstances of that time after nearly twenty years, he wished to record his conviction that never was there an opposition better warranted by the circumstances of the case, or one that would be more properly repeated on the same scale if similar occasion arose.
Speaking for those who belonged to the Liberal Party, why did they then, and why did they now, contemplate with such peculiar repugnance this special piece of legislation? The answer was very simple. It was because the Crimes Act of 1887 embodied, and so long as it remained on the Statute-book would continue to embody, two principles which in their view as Liberals were foreign to the spirit and to the very genesis of our Constitution. In the first place, it put into the hands of the Irish Executive a discretionary power, practically unlimited both in point of space and in point of time, to suspend in Ireland some of the elementary safeguards of personal liberty. In the second place, and he was not sure that this was not even more important, it conferred that power not in regard only to a special emergency, of the gravity of which Parliament could judge, when the occasion arose, upon the evidence; but it conferred that power as one of the everyday ordinary weapons in the armoury of the Executive, and as part and parcel of the permanent law of the land. There had been occasions in the history, not only of Ireland, but of Great Britain, when it could be plausibly argued—he did not say convincingly—that such an exceptional state of things had been created that the ordinary machinery of the law, however well adapted to normal conditions, required to be supplemented and strengthened and made more summary in its operation. He did not think that experiments made in that spirit had been particularly successful in their results. But even in the darkest days of reaction, of Sidmouth and of Castlereagh, 400 the most high-flying of ministers always recognised that it was for Parliament to decide in each particular case whether such an expedient was necessary. The authors of this legislation had for the first time boldly put aside all our constitutional traditions and principles. It was reserved to them to propose that, for instance, the question whether trial by jury in regard to certain classes of offences should absolutely cease to exist, should for all time be left to the uncontrolled discretion of the Irish Executive. People talked about governing Ireland according to Irish ideas. Let them think of governing Ireland according to English ideas. Was there a single Member in this House who in any stress of emergency would permanently entrust the Executive sitting on the Front Bench opposite, from whatever Party it wag selected, with any such power with regard to the liberties of Englishmen?
He thought his hon. friend was justified in asking the House in the terms of his Motion to say that this Crimes Act was in principle an unconstitutional measure. It might be said that this was only a theoretical objection, that it was an academic point. The epithet "academic" might as well be applied to some of the noblest and most notable protests ever made in that House, by Pym and Burke and others, which in these days Englishmen without distinction of Party looked back upon with pride and gratitude. But he was not afraid to push the matter a stop further. If they dismissed these constitutional points as being merely theoretical, he would ask this question:—Had the legislation of 1887 been justified by its fruits? They were often told that the restoration of order in particular districts in Ireland had been due to the existence of this law and the exercise by the Executive of the powers which it conveyed. He confessed that he himself was sceptical about there being any demonstrable relation between the 401 alleged cause and the alleged effect. He was perfectly certain that if what might be called the police and magisterial side of Irish administration during the last eighteen years had been conducted upon the same methods and in the same spirit as in England and Scotland, the foundations of social order would have been infinitely less liable to disturbance. Hon. Members who sat on his side of the House were as anxious as anyone on the Treasury Bench could be that the law should be enforced, that order should be maintained, and that personal liberty should be safeguarded in Ireland. But they parted company with those who originated this legislation, and those who now defended it, when they came to talk of means and methods. From the point of view of practical administration it seemed to him that the Crimes Act, so far from removing, had gratuitously aggravated the difficulties of Irish government.
What was the root-difficulty in the administration of the law in Ireland? What was it? How did it arise? How was it to be accounted for? No one would have the hardihood to assert that the Irish people sympathised with crime. Their criminal statistics, compared with the statistics of England and Scotland, were extremely favourable to them. The difficulty was, as everyone knew whose eyes were not blinded by prejudice, not that the Irish people were in sympathy with crime, but that they were out of sympathy with the methods and Ministers of the law. In England and Scotland, and, he thought he might say almost without qualification, in every other part of His Majesty's dominions throughout the British Empire, the vast majority of the people looked upon the 402 agents and officers of the law as their friends and fellow-workers. In Ireland, too often in the past, too often now, the exact contrary was the case. What was the remedy? Surely it was not to do what the authors of this legislation did, to clothe the officers of the Executive in a country where they had already this antecedent antipathy between the bulk of the population and the administrators of the law, with extraordinary and extra-legal powers, the result of which must be, as they predicted in 1887, and as every succeeding year had shown, to widen and deepen the chasm, already, as Heaven knew, wide and deep enough, between the law on the one side and the people on the other. He expressed his own deliberate opinion when he said that no worse service was ever done to the cause of order in Ireland than the enactment of this statute. The remedy was to be looked for in an entirely opposite direction. It was to establish, or re-establish, if they could, in Ireland that harmonious co-operation between popular sentiment on the one side, and Executive authority on the other, which in the long run, as all experience showed, was the only effective security for the maintenance of order. It was to endeavour to bring about in Ireland what had been brought about spontaneously in almost every other part of His Majesty's dominions, the reconciliation of those two forces which in Ireland, and in Ireland alone, were permanently estranged the one from the other. A strong ruler, and there was an immeasurable difference between strength and noise, would, if he were wise, look in that direction and not either to the enactment or the enforcement of provisions such as those of the Crimea Act for the real solution of the difficulty which vexed the 403 right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, which vexed his predecessors, and which would vex his successors until at last the Parliament of this country recognised the essential conditions of Irish government.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. WALTER LONG, Bristol, S.)
said the right hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House declared that there was an immeasurable difference between strength and noise. Many of those who listened to the right hon. Gentleman, whose memories of the past history of legislation in that House were not so short as his appeared to be, must have had irresistibly brought to their minds the conviction that there was a still greater difference between words and actions. The right hon. Gentleman had made one of the most remarkable speeches to which he had ever listened. He had declared, if his words meant anything, that the Party of which he was a distinguished and leading member were pledged to the repeal of this measure. And in justification of that declaration he had reminded the House that he and the Party with which he was associated offered to the Crimes Act the most strenuous opposition of which they were capable. But what a commentary on the Parliamentary action of the right hon. Gentleman and his Party! Since that Act was passed had the right hon. Gentleman and his Party had no opportunity of translating words into action?
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said the right hon. Gentleman interjected "None what- 404 ever." But for three years the right hon. Gentleman and his friends were responsible for the government of the country; for three years it rested with them to repeal that legislation, if they had thought it desirable, which he had declared was the most injurious to the best interests of Ireland that had ever been passed. Why did not he and his friends do it?
§ MR. ASQUITH
During the whole of those three years the Act, under the administration of my right hon. friend, remained a dead letter, and no one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that, although it takes two Houses of Parliament to pass an Act, the veto of one House would prevent its repeal.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said they now heard the strong man in support of his own argument. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was worthy of a better line of argument than that. He fell back on the other Chamber. If the right hon. Gentleman believed that this Act of Parliament was the greatest wrong ever done to Ireland he might at all events have tried to repeal it. Instead of trusting to what he believed the other House would have done, he might at least have invited the House of Commons to repeal the Act. The right hon. Gentleman had another argument, and a still more interesting one. The right hon. Gentleman had a holy horror of "law and order perorations." He would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have been the last man in the House to find fault with perorations. He had always regarded him as a master in the art of peroration, and, as he was for a time a distinguished head of the Home Office 405 he had also looked upon him as a strong Minister prepared to enforce the law. If the right hon. Gentleman found fault with law and order perorations, it could only be, not because he disapproved of law and order. but, because he disapproved of the form of the peroration. That ought to be to a Gentleman exceptionally endowed with the gifts of oratory a matter for sympathy rather than condemnation. This was not the only Irish subject which the right hon. Gentleman looked upon with some dislike; he had been rather chary about his references to Home Rule, and he thought they could set the one against the other. For his own part he was not ashamed of anything he had said in regard to the maintenance of order in Ireland. His withers were unwrung even under the condemnation of the right hon. Gentleman, in regard to what he had said either inside or outside this House in regard to the maintenance of law and order in Ireland.
The right hon Gentleman said that the enactment and retention on the Statute-book of this statute was in itself an insult to Ireland and an injury to Ireland, and that it estranged Ireland and Great Britain. The right hon. Gentleman gave as a second reason for the inaction of himself and his colleagues that, under the administration—let him say the strong, the independent, and courageous administration—of the Member for Newcastle, now the hon. Member for Montrose, there was no resort to the Crimes Act, and, therefore, it was not necessary to repeal it. That was a curious argument, but in the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman it was not the administration of the Act which had been represented as an insult to Ireland, but its presence on the Statute-book. [An 406 HON. MEMBER on the IRISH benches: It is an insult.] The right hon. Gentleman said that the presence of this Act on the Statute-book was the cause of the estrangement between England and Ireland. But that was not the argument that had been put forward below the gangway. The argument put forward had been that a new policy had been adopted in Ireland, and that the present Chief Secretary had embarked upon a policy of coercion.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
said that last year when the right hon. Member for Dover was Chief Secretary the same Motion was proposed, and they on the Irish Benches said then that the presence of this law on the Statute-book was an insult to Ireland.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said he was quite aware of that, and of the fact that the same charges were made against the Chief Secretary then as now, though the then Chief Secretary was extolled as the apostle of conciliation and the present Chief Secretary was denounced. That did not alter the argument he was addressing to the House. Repeal of the Crimes Act had been advocated on the ground that the presence of the Act was in itself an insult. How was it an insult?
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that if it suspended the Constitution, why did not hon. Gentlemen opposite repeal it when they had the opportunity? How could the presence of the Act on the Statute-book be an insult to Ireland if the Act 407 at present was not employed, and if it could only be employed in circumstances which made it absolutely impossible to deal with what some people opposite said was not crime, but what he certainly held to be one of the most insidious, difficult, and dangerous forms of crime. It had been said with perfect truth that the condition of Ireland to-day showed a marked improvement. That was a fact at which all must rejoice, and all must desire to see the improvement maintained. He was not going to contest the proposition that this was an exceptional Act or to argue whether or not it had a parallel in other countries, because that did not seem germane to the discussion. The Act was placed on the Statute-book to enable the Government to deal with forms of crime which required exceptional powers to deal with them; and he confessed that when he heard speeches from right hon. Gentlemen opposite denouncing the Act, when he remembered that they had had the chance of repealing it and did not do so, and that their own Act of 1882 gave them powers to deal with every one of these difficulties in the same drastic way, he thought it was a little bit dangerous for those who might be responsible, and who, indeed, seemed to think they would very soon be responsible, for the government of this country, to declare, as they had declared that night, that they were prepared to strip themselves of those powers.
What was the actual position they had to consider? He knew that hon. Gentlemen opposite contested the value and accuracy of figures connected with agrarian outrages. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: Always; they are bogus.] 408 He would not take that observation seriously. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: You took Sheridan seriously.] He could show from figures that certain classes of agrarian crime had increased in number. He could show, though it might be difficult to realise it, that the amount of grass land unlet to-day as compared with this time last year was very much larger. The significance of that was to be found in this—that one of the beneficent results which it was hoped would follow from the Land Act of 1903 was the division of the grazing land amongst the holders of uneconomic holdings. That was the object which hon. Gentlemen opposite said they had in view, and it had been enthusiastically advocated by speakers in Ireland. [An HON. MEMBER: And by the Government when they were passing the Act.] It was one of the objects of the Act, and a legitimate object; but it depended on how they attempted to achieve it. If they attempted to achieve it by forcing grazing tenants by the tyrannical methods of intimidation and terrorism to quit their holdings, they were doing something which was altogether wrong, which could not be justified, and with which the law was bound to interfere. Take the resolutions passed by the various branches of the United Irish League. They had for their object the breaking up of grazing land. He knew that hon. Members opposite described the statistics which he had given as bogus, and as being an improper test to apply to ascertain the condition of things in Ireland.
This, however, was not a question to be decided by the number and character of crimes committed in parts of Ireland as compared with parts of England, or in 409 one part of Ireland as compared with another part. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife told them with absolute truth that it was not by this test that they could decide. He said there must be in the country an acceptance by the people of the laws under which they were governed. If the right hon. Gentleman accepted the logical conclusion of that argument—if he accepted the policy of Home Rule in its completeness—the argument was sufficient for his purpose. But if he did not accept the logical conclusion of Home Rule his argument was a mere delusion for himself and an attempt on his part and of those who followed him to deceive the country as to the real issues before it. He did not blame the hon. Members below the gangway opposite for cheering the sentiment that we could not govern the country unless the people were prepared to accept the laws by which we governed them. That was the view they had consistently held with great ability and at great sacrifice in and out of season, in ill luck and in good luck. But that was not the view held on the benches opposite except in isolated parts. It would be interesting to know whether they were prepared to surrender all attempt to govern Ireland according to existing conditions and to govern it under Home Rule conditions. The right hon Gentleman's views were in no degree shared on the Government side. He quoted the language of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who two years ago admitted that Ireland was contented and peaceful, but said—Yon may have a recurrence of past incidents, you may again have a condition of things under which you cannot govern the country without tins legislation, and therefore I will be no party to its repeal.410 Not being prepared to govern the country according to Home Rule views, they said the House could not be asked to repeal a statute of this kind until not only terrorism, outrage, and crime were repudiated, but until it was recognised that in order to secure the successful working of the land legislation there must be steadfast abstention from anything like illegal action. So long as people were not prepared to reinforce the law by their active support and sympathy so long would it be impossible to ask this House to remove an Act of Parliament which the Executive Government might require in times of stress and difficulty not for the suppression but for the protection of the liberties of the people.
He denied that the Act involved suspension of the liberties of the people. There was an entire failure on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite to realise the condition of things with which from time to time they were face to face in Ireland. It was said that the Government were animated solely by a desire to protect the rights and property of the landowning class. Was that the class mainly affected by the agitation now going on in Ireland? Was there nothing to be said for the tenant-farmer who desired, within the law, to occupy the holding which in many cases he and his family had held for many years, out of which he thought he could make a fair living and for which he was prepared to pay a fair rent? Was nothing to be said about the form of coercion which sought to compel him to give up that holding for no other reason than that some of his neighbours would rather have the land for someone else. They desired to make the land more available for 411 distribution, and that, wherever possible, uneconomic holdings should be made economic, but it was not to be tolerated that these objects should be attained by reprehensible and illegal means. The time had not yet arrived when they could with justice and with wisdom remove this particular Act from the Statute-book, and he asked the House to resist the Motion. He believed that a great improvement was going on in the condition of Ireland. He agreed with his hon. and gallant friend the Member for North Armagh—whose return to the House they all so heartily welcomed, and whose complete restoration to health and strength they all hoped for—that there were signs of a return of prosperity and contentment amongst the people of Ireland. That condition of things would be strengthened if the people of Ireland realised that within the maintenance of the law there was to be found not merely protection for the property of the rich but also protection for the property and the liberties of the poor. When that lesson had been learned the House might be asked to repeal the Crimes Act, but not now could that repeal be justified; and he therefore asked the House to reject the Motion.
§ MR. DILLON
said that since the Union eighty-three Coercion Acts had been passed, but there were peculiarities attaching to the existing Act that specially justified the Motion. This was the first of the kind to be made perpetual, and it was the first that upon its introduction had been resisted by one of the great English Parties. That made no difference in the manner in which it was regarded by the Irish people, but the moral sanction that the agreement of both Parties gave was wanting in the existing Act. How 412 futile was it for the Government to attempt to maintain the Act in face of the declaration of the Opposition that they would take the first opportunity o remove the Act from the Statute-book! In the face of such a declaration it could only be to irritate and exasperate the Irish people that the Government Persisted in maintaining the Act. The Liberal Party did not repeal the Act in 1894, because if they could have passed Home Rule the Coercion Act would have been automatically repealed, but they governed Ireland without coercion, and when the present Government returned to power they were for a time ashamed to use the Act. He contended that the Coercion Act was passed in dishonour and forced through the House, the members of the Government being parties to the conspiracy. Pigott and The Times entered into the foulest conspiracy that was ever concocted against the liberties of the Irish people, and this Act was the child of that conspiracy. The right hon. Gentleman had made a lame defence against the charges brought against his Administration, and he charged him with being a party to a change of policy in Ireland that had encouraged the propaganda of bogus charges.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
gave an emphatic contradiction to the statement. There was no foundation whatever for any charge of the kind, and he reminded the hon. Member that the statistics of crime were compiled by the police. He would remind the hon. Member that the statistics of crime had to pass through the Office of the Under-Secretary for Ireland, and therefore the accusation that they were bogus charges lay against the Under-Secretary as well as himself.
§ MR. DILLON
said that it was not the statistics of crime, but the Answers given by the right hon. Gentleman himself in the House that he referred to. As an illustration of what he meant he cited the case of Mr. Persse, about whose adventure the newspapers in this country had rung. What was the history of the attack upon Mr. Persse's house. The newspapers of this country rang with the details of this atrocious outrage, and it was said that a body of armed men attacked Mr. Persse's house and fired into it through the windows. It was said that a brave English lady handed a double barrelled gun to Mr. Persse, who rushed out of the house and blazed away right and left at the invaders. This account of the incident went all over England. They put Questions in the House about it, and they were told that
§ the case was being carefully inquired into by the police. For weeks that account of the story was allowed to do duty without any official contradiction. What had turned out to be the case? That the whole story from beginning to end was a deliberate invention, invented by Lord Ashtown and his gang of liars who were organised for the purpose of blackening the reputation of Ireland. It was not on account of the official statistics that he blamed the right hon. Gentleman, but what he did blame him for was that by his Answers and by his silence he gave countenance to those infamous charges and encouraged this campaign of bogus outrages.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 106; Noes, 163. (Division List No. 191.)415
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.)||Gilhooly, James||Murphy, John|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)|
|Ambrose, Robert||Goddard, Daniel Ford||Norman, Henry|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Grey, Rt. Hn. Sir E.(Berwick)||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid|
|Asquith, Rt Hn Herbert Henry||Hammond, John||O'Brien, P. J.(Tipperary, N.)|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Bell, Richard||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Blake Edward||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||O'Dowd, John|
|Boland, John||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||O'Malley, William|
|Brigg, John||Johnson, John||O'Mara, James|
|Bright, Allan Heywood||Kennedy, Vincent P. (Cavan, W||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Buchanan Thomas Ryburn||Kilbride, Denis||Parrott, William|
|Caldwell, James||Lamont, Norman||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W||Purvis, (Robert|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||Reddy, M.|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Leese, Sir Joseph F (Accrington||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Cremer, William Randal||Lough, Thomas||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Lundon, W.||Roche, John|
|Delany, William||Lyell, Charles Henry||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Dillon, John||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Runciman, Walter|
|Doogan, P.C.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Shackleton, David James|
|Douglas, Charles M.(Lanark)||M'Arthur, William (Cornwall)||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||M'Crac, George||Shipman, Dr. John S.|
|Emmott, Alfred||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Evans, Samuel T(Glamorgan)||M'Kean, John||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Fenwick, Charles||M'Kenna, Reginald||Spencer, Rt. Hn CR (Northants)|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Mansfield, Horace Rendall||Sullivan, Donal|
|Findlay, Alexander(Lanark NE||Markham, Arthur Basil|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Mooney, John J.||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Flynn, James Christophen||Morley, Rt. Hn. John (Montrose||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyn|
|Tomkinson, James||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)||Patrick O'Brien and Mr.|
|Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)||Woodhouse, Sir J T (Huddersi'd||Haviland-Burke.|
|Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)||Young, Samuel|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby-||Morrison, James Archibald|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs.)||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Gretton, John||Mount, William Arthur|
|Arnold-Forster, Rt Hn Hugh O.||Groves, James Grimble||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
|Arrol, Sir William||Hall, Edward Marshall||Muntz, Sir Philip A.|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Hambro, Charles Eric||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Hamilton, Marq of (L'nd'nderry||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Percy, Earl|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Heath, Arthur Howard (Hanley||Pilkington, Colonel Richard|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. Gerald W (Leeds||Heath, Sir James (Staffords NW||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Helder, Augustus||Plummer, Sir Walter R.|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Henderson, Sir A. (Stafford, W.)||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Hickman, Sir Alfred||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Beach, Rt Hn Sir Michael Hicks||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Randles, John S.|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Bill, Charles||Houston, Robert Paterson||Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine|
|Bingham, Lord||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Renwick, George|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hunt, Rowland||Ridley, S. Forde|
|Bond, Edward||Hutton, John (Yorks. N.R.)||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred.||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Bull, William James||Kennaway, Rt Hon Sir John H.||Round, Rt. Hon. James|
|Butcher, John George||Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hn. Col. W.||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Campbell, JHM (Dublin Univ.)||Kerr, John||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Kimber, Sir Henry||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Cavendish, V.C.W.(Derbyshire)||Knowles, Sir Lees||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J A. (Wore||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander|
|Chapman, Edward||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Sandys, Lieut.-Col. Thos Myles|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Lawrence, Sir Joseph (Monm'th||Saunderson, Rt. Hn. Col. Edw. J.|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)|
|Colomb, Rt. Hon Sir John C. R.||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks NR||Seton-Karr, Sir Henry|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Lee, Arthur H. (Hants, Fareham||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Smith, H. C. (North'mbTyneside|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Smith, Rt. Hn. J Parker (Lanarks|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S||Stewart, Sir Mark J M'Taggart|
|Davenport, William Bromley||Lowe, Francis William||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Denny, Colonel||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Macdona, John Cumming||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Tuff, Charles|
|Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Maconochie, A. W.||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Duke, Henry Edward||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Walrond, Rt. Hon Sir William H|
|Fellowes, Rt. Hn. Ailwyn Edward||M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinburgh W||Welby, Lt.-Col. ACE (Taunton|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r||M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire)||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Majendie, James A. H.||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Malcolm, Ian||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Finlay, Sir R. B. (Inv'rn'ssB'ghs)||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Wilson-Todd, Sir WH (Yorks.)|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriesshire||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R (Bath|
|FitzGterald, Sir Robert Penrose||Melville, Beresford Valentine||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Forster, Henry William||Milvain, Thomas||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Galloway, William Johnson||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)|
|Gardner, Ernest||Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||Morgan, David J (Walthamstow||Alexander Acland-Hood and|
|Gordon, Hn. J. E (Elgin&Nairn)||Morpeth, Viscount||Viscount Valentia.|
|Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)||Morrell, George Herbert|