§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, I have to move the second reading of this Bill, which has come to us from "another place" under the short title of the Special Commission Bill, 1888. It is for the examination of certain charges and allegations against Members of Parliament and others, which it is thought necessary, for the avoidance of public scandal, should be 256 inquired into. The matter and purpose of it is one which is familiar to your Lordships from discussions out-of-doors and in this House. The agitation which for the last few years has prevailed in Ireland has followed two parallel lines. There has been a Party professing to act by Constitutional means, and, to a certain extent, doing so, which has had for its main object an alteration of the Constitutional relations between this country and Ireland, and it has worked in the ordinary Constitutional manner. I do not say that it has not even confessedly used some methods which are not Constitutional; but in the main its action had been by means of of Parliamentary movements, electoral organization, and public addresses to the constituencies in these Islands. But parallel with that movement there has been a movement of another kind—an organization that has acted by crime, which has been guilty of violence, intimidation, mutilation, and murder, and has used these means for the purpose of intimidating their Constitutional opponents, and of forcing from this country the concession of a change which this country is not prepared to adopt. These two organizations have been professedly apart, and the violent measures resorted to by the more violent of the two organizations have been loudly repudiated by many members of the other. But they always worked for the same end. They have had the same friends and the same enemies. They have carried out the same plans, and have injured the same persons, and the natural result has been that an impression has grown up that they were not so far apart as they seemed to be, but that there was communication and complicity between them. The impression to which I refer is one which I am not prepared on the present occasion to examine, or to express any opinion upon, in respect of its probability or truth; but I will only say it is an impression to which body has been given by a series of elaborate, careful, and powerful statements in the leading newspaper, The Times, which has distinctly accused the more Constitutional organization, which I may call the Nationalist organization, with being practically in harmony, and complicity and conspiracy with the other and more violent organization to which the name of Fenian or Invincible has been given. 257 These statements were made last year so conspicuously, so emphatically, and were supported with such an elaborate array of apparent justification that they excited a great deal of attention and a great deal of scandal, because what they practically amounted to was that the Members of Parliament and others who were professedly maintaining the Constitutional agitation were in reality guilty of full knowledge and complicity with, and were practically accessories in a system of outrage which often culminated in murder. This scandal became so serious that a Member of Parliament in the other House, unconnected with the Government, and certainly by no means at the instigation of the Government, brought the matter before the House of Commons as a question of Breach of Privilege. The House of Commons refused to entertain Sir Charles Lewis's proposal on general grounds which make both Houses of Parliament unwilling to enter into conflict with the Press on matters of this kind. But it was felt that the scandal was so great that some means of dissipating it were highly desirable. Ordinarily, when men are accused of something so terrible as complicity with murder, and there is no justification of the accusation, appeal is made to the Courts of Justice in this country, and the accused person clears his reputation by an appeal to the tribunals of his country. The Gentlemen incriminated on this occasion abstained from and declined to take that course. Lest there should be any difficulty of a pecuniary character, or lest it should seem that they came before the tribunal with insufficient authority, the Government made a very special and unusual offer, in order to enable them to clear their reputations, which had been so gravely assailed. It was proposed that by order of the House of Commons a suit for libel or a criminal information—I forget which—should be instituted against The Times newspaper, and that it should be conducted, as all such proceedings are, by the Attorney General; but in order that full satisfaction might be given to those whose characters were assailed, they should select any Queen's Counsel they pleased to act with the Attorney General on the occasion. They declined, however, to accept this offer, and therefore there was no means by which this grave scandal could be sub- 258 mitted to the arbitrament of the tribunals of the country and the characters of Members of Parliament cleared from so deep a stain. They themselves proposed that it should be submitted to a Committee of the House, and I think with very good grounds the Government held that a Committee of the House under the circumstances could not be looked upon as an impartial tribunal, and the House of Commons itself was of that opinion. The matter, however, was allowed to rest for a short time, and then it appeared that all the Members of the Irish Party were not willing to leave their characters in this manner undefended, and that there was one gentleman who was at all events resolved that, as far as he was concerned, his reputation should be cleared in the way and by the methods which men ordinarily employ on such occasions. Mr. O'Donnell, who had been a conspicuous Member of Parliament, but who was not, I think, very closely within the allegiance of Mr. Parnell, but who had taken a prominent part, and also an independent part in that Party, brought an action against The Times for libel against him. Of course, no further steps were taken by the Government or by anybody else while this action was pending. The action in due time was tried, and it came to a rather remarkable end. The defendants pleaded two different kinds of defence. They pleaded, in the first place—I am, of course, not capable of giving a technical description of the pleadings, but I give what I believe to be the essential meaning of them—that Mr. O'Donnell was not in fact attacked in the documents which were characterized as libellous, and they also pleaded that, as regards the persons against whom they were in reality directed, the statements were in fact and substance true. The result of that pleading was that necessarily the whole of these allegations were set out in the opening speech of the counsel for the defendants. But when the matter came to be decided by the Court they decided upon the first plea that Mr. O'Donnell was not really struck at by the statements set out, and that consequently the trial was at an end. There was, therefore, no ground for going into the question of the truth or falsehood of the charges which the counsel for the defendants had set out at length. They re- 259 manned, therefore, stated in a Court of Justice as matters which he was prepared to prove in evidence, but he never had an opportunity of showing whether he could prove them or not. This was a renewal and a very aggravated renewal of the scandal of last year. For the statement was no longer one which appeared only in the columns of a newspaper. It was one which had been repeated in a Court of Law by a responsible counsel, and which he alleged he was able to prove by evidence that he would bring. Still, however, the gentlemen who were implicated declined to avail themselves of the ordinary means of clearing their reputations from this attack by a criminal information for an action of libel. They stated—it is not easy to ascertain what their grounds of action, or rather their grounds for refusing to act, were—they stated that they distrusted a British jury, which they thought might be prejudiced on the subject. But that consideration alone would not have decided it, because these libels had been published in Ireland, and it was perfectly competent to them to bring the action before an Irish jury if they preferred it. However, they declined to take this action, and the scandal remained unabated. They again demanded that the matter should be referred to a Committee of the House of Commons. The Government again took that demand into serious consideration. But they were compelled to observe that by the action of the House of Commons itself it had been established that such a tribunal was not a fit one for the decision of questions in which grave and deeply contested political issues were closely interwoven. Now, we have been in the habit for the last century of trying Members of Parliament before Committees of the House of Commons. It was not for a very grave offence, you may say; it was only the allegation of bribery. But still bribery is precisely one of those charges into which political feeling is deeply interwoven. From the time of Lord Granville down to 1867 the question of the allegation of bribery was constantly submitted to Committees of the House of Commons. Their form was repeatedly changed in order to obtain a more satisfactory and impartial tribunal. But at last in despair, the Government in 1867 proposed to Parliament that it should abandon this attempt, and that 260 the trial of Members for bribery should be committed to the ordinary Judges; and that wherever there was ground for thinking that bribery had extensively prevailed, and had been the act of many persons, and that light could be thrown upon the manner of its committal by a more careful investigation, then a species of Commission had been instituted which had large powers of discovery, and, among others, that most important power of giving an indemnity to witnesses against the results of any confession which they might make before the Commission for the purpose of facilitating its operations. This seemed to us a precedent which should guide us. To submit again a matter of this kind, deeply connected with political controversies of the most exasperating kind, to a Committee of the House of Commons was to go back upon the experiment, to use again the weapon which was condemned, to repudiate all the experience which the century had given us. It was a retrograde proceeding to renounce the weapon which had succeeded and to recur to the weapon which had failed, and we could not but observe, looking back to the time when these Committees of bribery existed in the House of Commons, that the House of Commons as a body, in those days, was much more capable of furnishing an impartial tribunal than it is now. I am not, of course, using any language that is in the slightest degree intended to be disrespectful to the Members of that House. I am only taking notice that political conflict is much more keen and acute than it was 20 or 30 years ago. In the days of Sir Robert Peel there were many Liberals who sympathized with Sir Robert Peel, and in the days of Lord Palmerston there were many Conservatives who sympathized with him; and there was a central body in the House from whom you might expect a considerable amount of impartiality. I doubt whether such a tribunal could be framed at the present time. We thought it better, therefore, to take the precedent of Election Commissions, especially as in two remarkable instances it had been fortified by application to another kind of subject—an application which had met with singular success. This system of Commission has twice been used for matters other than bribery. It was used for the Sheffield outrages of 1867, and it 261 has been used during the present year for the misdeeds of the Metropolitan Board of Works. In both cases the success has been very remarkable. The disclosures that have been made are useful, and no one has suggested, even by the most distant hint, that absolute justice has not been done. We, therefore, resolved that the only way left to us on this occasion to abate this great scandal was to propose a Commission of the kind I have indicated. At the same time we felt it was to a certain extent a matter that must depend upon the concurrence of Parties in the House of Commons. If any considerable Party in the House of Commons had said when the Bill was introduced or read a second time, that they were not prepared to accept this method of solving the difficulty, that they objected to the course we were taking on principle, at all events we should very carefully have considered our course, because we should have felt that such a position offered considerable difficulties to the action of the Commission. But no such obstacle appeared in our way; the Commission as we proposed it was accepted by the House of Commons on the second reading without a dissentient voice. A misapprehension seems to have arisen that in promising this Commission we had also promised to allow the terms of it to be altered and modified much as various Parties in the House might wish. But that was a matter clearly outside our duty. If we make ourselves responsible for such a Commission at all, it could only be on the terms we thought just—and the terms we thought just were that it should be a Commission consisting of the most impartial men and possessing the largest and most unrestricted powers. Efforts were made to restrict these powers; but in those we were unable to acquiesce, and we felt that such a Commission, having once been accepted by the unanimous voice of the House of Commons on the second reading, it was no longer competent for us to retire or withdraw such a proposal, for we should be exposing ourselves to the charge, which was not dimly foreshadowed in some of the speeches we heard, of insincerity in the proposals we made. My Lords, the Commission so adopted is that which we now submit for your Lordships' concurrence. I do not say that it is a proposal that we make with any satis- 262 faction. We make it as the only means of dissipating a great and serious scandal. We have touched the matter with much reluctance; but because our belief is that the Commission will do good, that it will put an end to controversies of a most painful and dangerous kind, we have recommended it to your Lordships, and we have full confidence that justice will be done. We have nominated in the Bill three of the ablest and most impartial members of the judicial Bench. If there have been words impugning the impartiality of one of them which have fallen from men who ought to have known better, they have not left the faintest stain upon the distinguished man against whom they were uttered, but they have covered with dishonour the lips from which they issued. I believe the effect of this measure will be to solve these painful controversies. It is not well that men of the high position of Members of Parliament should be accused, should be openly accused, in the most conspicuous, formal, and solemn manner, of having tampered with outrage and murder. Let us know the truth. We only wish to know the truth, whatever the issue may be. We are sure that we have done good service in having driven away from the atmosphere of public discussion a cloud of dangerous and scandalous doubt.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ LORD HERSCHELL
My Lords, if I consulted my own inclination I should certainly observe silence on the present occasion, because I am too painfully convinced that, whatever caution I may maintain in the language I use, it will be subjected to misconstruction, and most probably to misrepresentation; and if I needed further proof of that than is supplied by the experience of the past, I should have received it in the closing words of the noble Marquess opposite. My Lords, I shall have something to say on that point by-and-bye. But I must at the very outset repudiate the charge and imputation which the noble Marquess has flung at my late Colleagues in the other House because they took the course which their conscience and their judgment dictated as the right one, and which they were bound to take, holding the views they did, and for which I for one venture to 263 insist they are not in the slightest degree deserving of blame. The views which I entertain, and, whatever imputations may be made to the contrary, honestly entertain, with reference to the measure before your Lordships' House, are so strong that I dare not keep silence, painful as it may be to say some of the things which I may have to say. My Lords, it appears to me that the measure is one unfortunate in its origin, unfortunate in its scope and object, and unfortunate in the circumstances which accompanied its passage through the other House. It appears to me to establish a precedent most novel and fraught with the utmost danger. Let me ask your Lordships to look at it in its broad aspects for a moment without personality. Charges of the gravest character are made against men taking an active part in political life. Charges no doubt of a serious character have been made, and to test these charges and inquire into them a tribunal has been appointed at the absolute discretion of their most vehement political opponents, who have always been most bitterly opposed to them, and those who entertain these feelings towards them have also determined what shall be the limit and the scope of this inquiry, and as to which they have listened to no word of remonstrance or protest whatever. That is the bald aspect of the case, and I beg you to ponder for a moment what such a precedent may mean. No doubt your Lordships believe that it may well serve the present occasion. Is not that a matter of the utmost moment when looking to the possible development of such a precedent in the future; and the development may be one which those who support this Bill may most regret to see? Has not such a transaction as this at least the colour and appearance of unfairness? and I think I shall show you that the unfairness is more than it seems. Let me say at the outset that I do not charge Her Majesty's Government with the slightest intentional or conscious unfairness in the course which they have taken in reference to this Bill. I fully allow they have acted with perfect honesty and the most complete intention to act fairly between the parties. Unhappily, however, political passions run strong, especially on the matters with which this measure deals. The noble Marquess himself has said that 264 this question, into which inquiry is to be made, is deeply connected and interwoven with political questions; and if I wanted proof of how judgment may be biased by the political excitement on this subject, I have it in the language used by the Home Secretary with reference to this measure. He was explaining the reasons of the Government for not assenting to a Committee, and he said that they who had been engaged in conflict very often with Members of the League were disqualified by their hostility, while, on the other hand, Members opposite were disqualified by sympathy and association in a common political struggle. On these grounds the Home Secretary said they refused to appoint a Committee. If the question then is one which excites such strong political excitement, and if excitement has proceeded to this length, that no Conservatives or Liberals were to be trusted to try a fellow-member for fear they should deal harshly with him, then I say it is unreasonable to suggest a want of complete and absolute trust in the ability of Her Majesty's Government to deal perfectly fairly and justly with this question? May such a feeling not be reasonable? I will say this word in passing with reference to the appointment of a Committee. I deeply regret that a Committee was not appointed, and I entertain the strong conviction that if an appeal had been made by an English Member whose personal character had been attacked, a Committee would have been granted. I dare say those opposite honestly differ from me. I regret that, considering the heated condition of feeling between those on the Irish side of the Channel and those on this side, we should seem to be less willing to grant such an inquiry to Irish Members than to English. I believe, I for one believe, that such an inquiry would have been a better course and a wiser course to take, and a safer and a less dangerous course to take, than that proposed in the measure introduced to your Lordships. I will ask you to look for a moment at the origin of this measure. About a year ago, as the noble Marquess has said, there appeared in a newspaper a series of articles, the work of an anonymous writer, having obtained his information we know not whence, with what justification for his statement we have no information. 265 These articles contained, no doubt, charges against some Irish Members, mixed up with a vast number of vague general allegations and accusations and insinuations out of which it was very difficult indeed to extract the particular charges which were to be depended upon, and I shall show your Lordships paragraphs which have no meaning unless they are intented to convey some insinuations. That was the origin. Thereupon the position was taken up that a Member of Parliament or any honourable man who had been thus accused by an anonymous writer in the Press was to be deemed, in spite of his denial, guilty of the acts laid to his charge, unless he brought an action to establish his innocence. This is a novel doctrine indeed. I always understood it was one of the cherished maxims of our law that a man is to be deemed innocent until he was proved to be guilty—a maxim which has permeated the political and common life of the country, and one which I trust may long continue to be cherished. But now it is said, if only the charges are grave enough and raise scandal enough, though made by an anonymous writer in a newspaper connected with your political life, unless they are disproved, everyone has a right to deem them established. That is a doctrine against which I shall never cease to protest and resist. If yielded to, it would make public life in this country intolerable. Accusations are made against public men in proportion as newspaper competition goes on, and if we are told that accusations are to be dealt with in this way, then it seems to me a precedent is being made which will be in the highest degree mischievous and terrible. My Lords, these were accusations made by a newspaper, strongly supporting the Conservative Government, against the opponents of the Government, but one has seen accusations made in a Radical newspaper against a Conservative Member of Parliament, on what foundation I know not, but he has brought no action. He has never disproved the charges, and two Members of the Government have gone down to his constituents to countenance him and support him. If such a view as this is to be adopted it ought to be adopted impartially, whatever the political character of the newspaper. But I protest 266 against it from whatever quarter it comes, and I say I would sooner quit public life to-morrow than consider myself bound to take action for libel in a newspaper, however grave it might be. Those who had not had so much experience as I have had, talk glibly enough about bringing actions, and that this is the course which every man would take. It is a course which men have abstained from taking, and they were thought none the worse for it. Accusations of the most serious character have been launched against public men, and they have lived them down. Did Cobden bring an action when accusations were made against him some 40 years ago, when he was charged with inciting to violence and outrage and even to murder? No man now has a doubt as to how unjust the charges were; but I protest against the view that a man is bound to defend himself against charges in the newspapers. At the least he subjects himself to serious expense, and if it is in any way bound up with politics or political associations, to serious risk. We are told that with the light of publicity glaring upon them neither Conservative nor Liberal Members are to be trusted to give an impartial judgment. Yet these men are to be deemed guilty if they were not willing to trust themselves to a tribunal, chosen by chance, of 12 individuals, whose political antipathies may be more intense than those of Members of Parliament, who are declared by the Government to be unfit to inquire into the charges. To say that men are to be deemed guilty because they do not bring an action for libel is to lay down a doctrine which all of us will live to regret. But this Bill is framed not merely with a view to inquire into statements made in these newspaper articles. The noble Marquess made it a case of inquiry into allegations made in a speech in a Court of Justice. It is altogether without precedent to treat that as an accusation which must be investigated in order to clear the character of any person. It is true the statements were made by Her Majesty's Attorney General, but it was not the Attorney General who made them. It was the counsel for The Times newspaper who made them, and he made such statements as he was instructed to make. He was there considering the interests 267 of The Times, and the interests of nobody else; and it is instructive when we are referred to the action of Mr. O'Donnell, who was met with the statement that the charges did not affect him, and who was mulcted in costs. It is not very encouraging for others who were told to go to the Law Courts to clear their character. But I protest against a speech made by any counsel, however eminent, being treated as primâ facie evidence. I will venture to say there is no counsel living who has not over and over again made statements of facts to the jury which, when the matter came to be sifted in the course of the trial, were found to be unworthy of any substantial consideration; and, therefore, I altogether repudiate the doctrine which is incorporated in this Bill, that charges made by counsel against Members of Parliament, and others in a suit brought between two private persons is ground for appointing a Commission of Judges to investigate those charges and determine upon them. Now, my Lords, upon this matter having taken place, there appeared in The Times last year, and there was again before the jury the other day, two letters, alleged to be written by Mr. Parnell, from which the inference was drawn that he was approving of murder or inciting to murder. It was natural that Mr. Parnell should ask, as he did, that a Committee might be appointed to inquire into those charges. Well, my Lords, the Government took time to consider what course they would take, and, having considered it, they made this offer to Mr. Parnell—that they would appoint a Commission, consisting mainly of Judges, to inquire into the charges against Members of Parliament; and the First Lord of the Treasury said—If the hon. Gentlemen are prepared to accept the offer which has been made, I am prepared to put on the Notice Paper a Motion for leave to bring in a Bill with reference to the Judges;and on a later occasion he told Mr. Parnell that it was a matter for him to accept or to reject, at his pleasure. Now, if it was a matter concerning Mr. Parnell—I mean if it was to be an inquiry directed to those matters with which Mr. Parnell had personal association, if it was a question of writing those letters, or of personal association with crime, no doubt it would have been natural, and it seems 268 to me would have been proper, to allow him to accept or reject an inquiry subject to this; that he was placed, I must say, in a very difficult position. He was told—"Accept this before you know what the tribunal is to be—a tribunal which we, certainly not your warmest friends, have constituted—accept it before you know what the reference is to be; or else reject it, and then lay yourselves open to the charge that you are unwilling to submit those matters for investigation." What next transpired? At that time the only reference made to the nature of the measure was that it was to be a measure to inquire into charges and allegations against Members of Parliament. In some respects the scope was wide enough, but still there was a considerable limitation, to apply only to a few men; but when the measure was introduced it was found to be one to inquire into charges and allegations made against Members of Parliament "and other persons." When the first offer was made to Mr. Parnell, when he was told that he must either accept or reject it, there was no mention made of these "other persons." I will show in a moment how serious a change that makes in the scope and nature of the inquiry. We are now informed that when that offer was made the words "and others" were omitted by a slip.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The words were printed in the Notice Paper next morning before the Bill was introduced.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
Yes, I am aware of that; but Mr. Parnell was asked before that by the First Lord of the Treasury, whether or not he accepted the proposal of the Government, the Leader of the House saying—"I will then put on the Table the Motion for introducing the Bill." The introduction of the Bill, he was told, depended upon his acceptance or rejection of that proposal of the Government. I am not intending to charge the Government with any intentional bad faith towards those with whom they are dealing; but I would ask them and other Members of your Lordships' House to try and put themselves, for a little time, in the position of those to whom undoubtedly they are bitterly opposed, whose views they detest, whose action they have been opposing. We cannot judge 269 any man justly unless we try to see the thing from his point of view, and try to understand how we should feel if placed in his position. Now, I come to the scope of the inquiry. It is an inquiry into the charges and allegations made in the Attorney General's speech against Members of Parliament and other persons. What does this involve? It involves the action of every human being connected with the Land League or the National League in Ireland for the last nine years. They all come in under those stupendous words—"and others," which are used in the first clause of the Bill. Now, my Lords, first consider for a moment the position in which it places Mr. Parnell and the other Members against whom certain distinct and specific charges have been made which have gone home to the public mind, and which even Conservative Members in the other House have said are the only matters which the public cares about. In the second reading debate all the actions of the various members and officials of the Land League and of the National League throughout the whole of Ireland became the subject of this inquiry. If it had been understood that this Commission was to deal with a general reference of that sort, there might be something to be said for the Bill; but when we consider the origin and nature of the Bill and the offer which the Government first made, which was at once to be accepted or rejected, is there any one of us who would like an inquiry into definite, specific, and disgraceful charges against us to be mixed up with an inquiry as to everybody connected with political associations with which we have had to do? But that is not all. This is an inquiry into charges and allegations—allegations which are not, properly speaking, charges. I do not know whether your Lordships have read the articles, or whether you read the speech; but, if so, you will know that it is full of vague suggestions and innuendoes; that it is full of statements and admitted facts about which there has never been any dispute or question—all of which are within the scope of the inquiry and are to be inquired into. Those who were accused claimed that the charges they had to meet, so far as they were concerned, whatever else might be determined upon by the Commission, 270 should be specific, so that they should know what they had to meet, and could defend themselves. They asked that their cases might be taken separately, and individually dealt with. How was that proposal met? It was met by the taunt that their only motive could be a desire to conceal what they had done and escape from the inquiry. This claim was termed, I regret to say, by a lawyer, a passionate plea for technicalities. Now, there is no man living more hostile to technicalities than I am. They are pitfalls to the unwary suitor, and they often defeat the administration of justice. But there are technicalities of a different character. There are so-called technicalities bound up with our system of jurisprudence—one might just as well call a technicality the maxim that a man should be heard before he was condemned, as to style the objections taken to this Bill as a technical objection. There are many so-called technicalities constituting our system of procedure which have been evolved by the experience of the past and sanctioned by the wisdom of those who have gone before, and among those technicalities is that which entitles any man if he has to meet a charge to have a definite statement of what the charge is—aye, and even such particulars as can be given him of time, place, and occasion, so as to enable him as best he may to meet it. I venture to insist that all those matters which the parties concerned claimed they were justified in claiming, and more than that—I say that if the truth is to be elucidated and justice done it is essential that some such procedure should be followed. Let me point out one or two instances of injustice which it is possible may result from this method of inquiry. It is obvious that Mr. Parnell—I take his case only as an illustration—will think it right to be represented before this tribunal by the best legal assistance he can obtain. Certainly, those who have attacked him and will attack him again will not be found wanting in that respect. Now, counsel of eminence are an expensive luxury. They are an expensive luxury if a case lasts for two or three days or a week; but if the inquiry lasts for months, then, it seems to me, that the expense is likely to become absolutely ruinous; and will any man suggest that it will be safe for 271 Mr. Parnell or any other incriminated man to withdraw his counsel during any portion of this inquiry? He will never know on any day what evidence may be called and what witnesses may not appear against him, and he must be there with his legal assistance; and if the inquiry last weeks or months, the expense, I say, may become to him absolutely ruinous. And this does not only concern him. This is a dangerous precedent, for who may not be ruined hereafter by its being followed? It is true that for a time political associations may come forward and find funds to help the accused, but, after all, beyond a certain point it is difficult to rely upon them. It seems to me that in this matter you are imposing a burden of a most terrible character which I am sure no one of us would ever like to be subjected to. Now, of course, we know as regards the scope of this inquiry that there has been a great amount of crime in Ireland—outrages, murders, and violence, that every person of right feeling must deplore. Those are matters with which we are perfectly well acquainted. We know that violent language has been used, which may be differently construed; which some may construe as mere political agitation, and which others may regard as inciting to crime. That language will probably be differently viewed according to the political feelings and bias of those who use it. But, my Lords, all this is to be brought before this judicial tribunal for review and consideration. The noble Marquess spoke of the point at issue being complicity with crime. He used that language more than once. I was struck with the fact that the noble Marquess made that the point at issue. He said that that was the scandal which it was desirable to inquire into. I know that in the other House one who is a supporter of Her Majesty's Government said that, in his opinion, this inquiry ought to be limited to the connection of Mr. Parnell with murder and violence; but there is no such limitation in this Bill. That is not made one whit more the subject of inquiry than violent speech or action. They are all included, and upon all of them the learned Judges are asked to report. I confess that I feel somewhat sensitive upon this point. I have a peculiar reason for feeling sensitive. My belief is that there will be 272 most serious risk of injustice—assuming the innocence of Mr. Parnell and his friends of any real complicity with crime—in this respect, that speeches which are published in the Press and acts of violence or intimidation, or other discreditable acts, by whomsoever committed or however far removed Mr. Parnell and those persons may be from complicity in these acts—all these will be attributed to them, and they will got the discredit of all. Now, my Lords, as I have said, I am peculiarly sensitive upon this point. The noble Marquess referred to a Commission over which I have the honour to preside. But it seems to me to be a Commission as remarkably unlike that with which we are dealing as two Commissions can well be. That was a Commission to inquire into the working and action of a Public Body, and not with charges with regard to individuals, and in that case there is no political controversy. I have seen in that matter—and this is it that makes me sensitive—what a tendency there is, when facts are proved discreditable to the character of two or three or half-a-dozen persons, to attribute these things to the whole body of which these persons form a part. I have heard serious complaints of the injustice which has been felt with regard to this. It is impossible in the case to which I am referring to avoid this; but in any such case as that with which we are now dealing is it not obvious that with this inquiry going on day after day, week after week, the public, far more even than they have done in attributing the faults of two or three on the Metropolitan Board to the whole body, will attribute everything to Mr. Parnell and his leading Friends? And while this Bill is called the Members of Parliament (Charges and Allegations) Bill, the noble Marquess has said it is not; that it is the Special Commission Bill. That is the short title by which it may be called, which is often a very different thing indeed from the real title, for which the short title is allowed to be substituted. The title of the Bill is "Members of Parliament (Charges and Allegations) Bill," and as a matter of fact that title has not been altered. But of this I am sure, that outside this House it will be called the Parnell Commission. It is called so already. I see that appearing in newspaper after newspaper, 273 and do you suppose that every attack that is made upon the reputation of certain individuals, not necessarily connected with Mr. Parnell or his Party, will not be immediately attributed in the public mind to Mr. Parnell? I am bound to say that, in my opinion, if that is to be the inquiry to be entered upon, the Judges are the last persons that ought to be called upon to undertake it. You are mixing up two very different things—inquiries into charges directly affecting individuals, and inquiries into charges of outrages and offences which have marked the last few years in Ireland. There ought to be a deeper probing, a wider investigation than this Bill contemplates. These offences and outrages have, no doubt, been connected with the Land League and the National League, but were there not crimes and outrages as terrible and as numerous before even the Land League or even the National League existed in Ireland; and would it not be at least as important to inquire how far these political organizations, these agrarian organizations, and outrages are the independent outcome of a social system which has produced the same rank fruit before, as to assume that because people connected with the Land League or the National League have committed crime that therefore the crime could not be committed but by the Land League or the National League? We know better. We know that when you have political agitation, and excitement and excesses connected with it, men will fasten themselves on to these organizations. It is impossible to prevent or avoid it. But, my Lords, that seems to me to be a question far wider and deeper than any which the Commission can inquire into. When this was pointed out in the other House, then a different position was taken up by the Government, and I think a different position from that taken by the noble Marquess. It was then said—"The charges against Members are of quite subordinate importance; they fall into the second rank; the important point is the connection of the Land League and the National League with crime." When did that become the primary object? When did it become clear that it was essential to the public interest that there should be such an inquiry? It was never suggested in the years following 1880, when 274 the noble Marquess and his Party were in Opposition, and since that they have been in Office two years; it was never suggested till now. Did the Government think such an inquiry necessary when they made the offer to Mr. Parnell—"Accept or reject this Commission at your pleasure?" I could imagine that if it had been a matter of Mr. Parnell's character to be inquired into, the Government might have allowed him to accept or reject this inquiry; but that they should do this with reference to an inquiry which they hold to be in the interests of the country is to me perfectly unintelligible. I do not believe that the Government intended anything of the kind when they made that proposal; it would be unjust to them to suppose so. I believe that as time went on they drifted away from one position into another, until at last they took up the position of the inquiry not being one into the charges against Members, but into a political organization. I say that, if there is to be any such inquiry into the Land League and the National League and their actions, that inquiry ought to have been made years ago. We are going back through a period of nine years, or, at least, a period of six years. I maintain that, if such an inquiry is expedient or desirable, the long delay may prove a difficulty. There is not only the danger that witnesses may forget, but the—to my mind—greater danger of a too active imagination on the part of witnesses who have really forgotten. That, at all events, is my experience. I will give one illustration of how a difficulty may arise. One of the allegations made at the late trial which are to be inquired into was that Mr. J. Redmond, on the day after the Phœnix Park murders, proposed a resolution condemning in strong terms the murder of Lord Frederick Cavendish, but made no mention of Mr. Burke, and that it was hence to be inferred that he approved of the murder of Mr. Burke. According to the statement of Mr. J. Redmond, that gentleman wrote immediately to explain that at the time he was not aware of Mr. Burke having been killed, but The Times did not insert his letter. Attention was called to the question in Parliament, and when this matter was dealt with in these articles last year, the charge was again made against Mr. J. Redmond, in spite of his having taken 275 the course which he had. What is the statement of The Times with regard to it? They say that the time which has elapsed disables them from verifying the facts; and they cannot say whether he had written to them or not. May not the same difficulty occur with regard to events which have taken place at even a longer interval? If it be essential that there should be such an inquiry as this, it should be a separate one, and it ought not to be entrusted to Her Majesty's Judges. The noble Marquess spoke of this Commission as being analogous to the Election Judges. But that is strictly a judicial proceeding. With regard to the constitution of the tribunal, I know that I am treading on delicate ground; nevertheless, what I believe it right to say will say, no matter what imputation any man may cast against me for saying it. My Lords, I should have thought that, when that tribunal was to be constituted for the trial of matters deeply involving those who were the political opponents of those who instituted it, it would have been well to have sought at least one member of that Commission whose political sympathies are rather with the political views and aspirations of those whose interests are so deeply and vitally at stake, because we are told that this is a matter deeply interwoven with politics. I would appeal to your Lordships—if your character was going to be inquired into in a case closely connected with politics, would you not have the right of demanding that some of those who were to carry on the inquiry should have some sympathy with your political views? I know it is said that these Judges are non-political. If by that is meant men who have never taken any active part in politics, that is a matter of small importance. If by non-political Judges you mean men who have never thought upon politics, who have no political sympathies, who have passed their lives indifferent to those things in political life which concern their fellow-men, I do not believe that such Judges exist. Some people seem to think that there are Judges who live up in a balloon in the air, and who take their seats on the Bench, and again disappear, who never enter a club to chat about the topics of the day with their fellows. I do not believe that such Judges exist. My noble and learned Friend (Lord Bramwell) near me will permit me to use him 276 as an illustration. Some four or five years ago my noble and learned Friend would have been classed among non-political Judges. But does anybody who has listened to my noble and learned Friend in this House fail to see that he entertains and enforces most precise, vigorous, and decided views with regard to most political questions, and that he gives to them an incisive expression to which we listen with delight? Do your Lordships suppose that all those strong views have germinated in that active brain during the last few years, and that while he was a non-political Judge he cared nothing for political questions? I believe that any of the Judges, whatever their views or sympathies, would do their best to act honestly, justly, and impartially; but when we are told that the selection has been made because these Judges are the most impartial, I confess I cannot help regretting that an effort was not made, before the names of those constituting the tribunal was made public, to ascertain whether any strong or decided objection was entertained to them or any one of them. If that had been done, some of the criticisms upon which the noble Marquess has made strong comments would have been avoided. I feel myself placed in this matter in as painful a dilemma as I was ever in in the course of my life. I do not exaggerate when I say I have spent anxious hours in considering what it was my duty to do in this matter. I am in this dilemma. If I am silent I may be taken to approve of the tribunal constituted, and my silence might be used as an instrument for the purpose of prejudicing my Colleagues who have spoken in the other House. If I speak I am assumed to criticize the Judges and their qualifications, which may have a mischievous effect. My difficulty has been increased by what was said in "another place" by the First Lord of the Treasury, that the constitution of the tribunal had the approval of all whose judicial experience made them worthy of attention. I do not think for a moment that I was included by the First Lord of the Treasury among those whose judicial experience makes them worthy of attention, and of that I do not complain. But from the Office I held, however unworthily, I feel bound to speak, and I know there are multitudes in this coun- 277 try who will proclaim the same faith. The worst of it is that when you drag your Judges into these matters you cannot avoid the criticisms of which you complain. Finding myself in this dilemma, all I will say is this, that if I am silent with reference to the constitution of this tribunal it must not be inferred that I imply my approval of it. If any such inference is drawn and used against me after I have explained my reasons for reticence, it will be most unjust and ungenerous. I have a most serious objection to this measure, and it is that it is a political inquiry with a political object, closely connected with that field of politics which has excited the strongest feeling; and that the Judges of the land are to be taken from their proper functions and brought into the arena of political battle I am convinced will one day be regarded as a serious evil. When you charge this man with this offence or that man with another, you raise a clear and distinct issue upon which the opinion of the Judges may be accepted; but when you leave to these Judges an enormous mass of allegations from which to infer the political action of men engaged in politics for a number of years, whatever the decision of the Judges may be, it cannot and will not escape criticism. If they are proposed to decide in favour of those against whom the Commission is directed they will be criticized by one party; if they decide adversely they will be criticized by another. Do you suppose that men to whom those charges have been the breath of their political life for years, and who have gone about the country maintaining them, will abandon their views because the Judges may have reported against them? "On questions of fact," these men will say—"The judgment of the Judges is no more to be respected than ours. If it were a decision upon a point of law we should bow to it, but the action of this man or that is a matter on which the opinion of a Judge is no better than that of any other man." That is the sort of language which will be used, and I believe it cannot be used without injury to the usefulness of the Judges who are made the subject of it. They will go back to their ordinary work, but their position will not be what it was before, and never can be. I have for all the best of my life been connected with the ad- 278 ministration of justice and the practice of the law; for the character and reputation of the Judges no man is more concerned. I shall care to be remembered more as a lawyer than as a politician. Therefore, I confess I read with pain criticisms on the action of Judges. I think them unjust. But when I look forward I cannot but think how inevitable it is that this criticism should fall upon those who are going to deal with this matter. My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships any longer. The matter is unfortunate, and I feel bound to point out that the whole matter has been made the more unfortunate by some of the incidents which accompanied the passage of the measure through the other House of Parliament. The noble Marquess has spoken of this measure as if it had received the unanimous assent of the House of Commons. I must say that shows how political opinions may affect one's judgment or understanding of the commonest recent events. It is true there was no Division against the second reading of the Bill in the House of Commons; but the measure in the form in which it was drafted was protested against as vigorously as protest could be made. How could those who did not oppose the second reading anticipate, or how were they bound to anticipate, that Her Majesty's Government would not listen to their remonstrances or regard any of their Amendments when the Bill came into Committee and its details had to be determined? The objection of the Irish Members never was to the Bill as a whole, but to the details and scope of the inquiry, and under those circumstances I say they were right in assenting to the second reading, and right in trying as best they could to amend the provisions of the measure in accordance with their views as the Bill passed through Committee. One of the unfortunate occurrences to which I have alluded was that the Attorney General was called into consultation in connection with the proposal which the Government were going to make to the House. He had been connected with the matter as counsel for The Times newspaper; it was true he was also Law Officer to the Crown; but it is very difficult for the public mind to separate action in one capacity from action in another. Noble Lords will admit that it would have 279 been better that he should not be consulted, and that it was not unnatural that suspicion was excited on his being consulted. Let me take the opportunity of saying that I have read with regret the imputations which have been made against the honour and integrity and fair action of my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General. I have known him nearly a quarter of a century, and I am sure that, however much he may have been mistaken in the course which he took—and into the merits of which it would be profitless to enter here—I am satisfied of this, that he has done nothing which has been inconsistent with the most absolute integrity and with the most perfect belief in its prudence and justice. As counsel for The Times his sole duty was to them, but as Law Adviser of the Government his duty was also to them, and unfortunately in the public mind his action in these two-fold capacities has become somewhat interwoven. Another complaint is with regard to the obstruction that it is said was made to this Bill in Committee in the House of Commons. It appears to me to be rather a curious view to take—at one time to represent this measure as accepted by and acceptable to the great majority of the House of Commons without distinction of political views, and at another time to complain that a large section of the House had done their best for a long time to obstruct its passage. I think that the extended discussion which took place in Committee was legitimate and was natural. It arose, some of it, from the unfortunate incidents to which I have just alluded, and some of it from another occurrence. An interview had taken place between the First Lord of the Treasury and the proprietor of The Times, the defendant in the action of "O'Donnell v. Walter and another," while this matter was pending, and at such interview there had been some conversation with reference to the Bill. My Lords, I think that that was a most unfortunate occurrence. Let noble Lords consider what they would have felt under like circumstances. Do they suppose, if that had happened to them, that they would not have had their suspicions excited and been likely to use somewhat vigorous language, and to consider the incident somewhat more important than probably it really was? In the heat of 280 political conflict we do not judge things with the most exact balance. But, my Lords, there was another and, I think, a still more unfortunate incident, which I confess appears to me most grave, because it was setting a precedent of a dangerous character. I mean the mode by which the Government brought the discussion to a close, by moving that the further consideration of the Bill in Committee should practically terminate at a particular hour. That has never been done before under such circumstances. There was much said about a similar method being applied to expedite the passing of the Crimes Act last year, but that measure was at least pronounced to be urgent. Here is a measure as to the urgency of which no one can pretend that it makes any difference whether it passes a fortnight sooner or later. It is true that this has been done by a Conservative Government about a measure in which they are interested. Naturally men get irritated by long discussions about anything; but I will ask your Lordships to remember how fatal a precedent has been set. That precedent can be used in time to come to limit the consideration of other measures for which no urgency can be pleaded except the dislike of their supporters to discussion. There exists in the House of Commons a Rule which can be used to put a stop absolutely to undue discussion, and there is only one thing to limit its application—that is, that it shall be used at the discretion of the Speaker or Chairman. That weapon was in the hands of the Government, and was used by them from time to time. They have exercised that power in the past, and all discussions are stopped by that means which the Speaker or Chairman shall pronounce to be undue. That power was given to the Chairman or Speaker as a check in favour of the minority against the action of the majority; but the action of the Government has entirely done away with that check. The discussion in Committee was closed not because it was undue in the opinion of the Chairman, but because it was undue in the opinion of the Government; they say that the Committee shall be closed at a certain date, and that no further Amendments shall be considered. It is a most grave matter that the Government should take advantage of a measure such as this to introduce so serious a precedent. There is one other consideration which I 281 will present to your Lordships' notice. I cannot but think that an inquiry such as this, bringing again to the front all the acts and the bitter feelings of past years, is not likely to improve the state of feeling between Englishmen and Irishmen, or to cause it to become less bitter than it is at present. I have always looked forward with hope to the time when that feeling should become less bitter than, unhappily, it has been in the past, and I cannot but think that Her Majesty's Government must have entertained the same hope, and must have had the same object in view, although we may he seeking its realization by different roads. But just conceive for a moment what will happen under this Bill. You are, I suppose, going to bring over from Ireland all the witnesses to be examined, except the Members of Parliament who are attending to their duties in the House of Commons. I do not suppose it is intended to send a tribunal of English Judges into Ireland to examine witnesses there, so you are going to bring these men over here from the remote shores of Galway and from the most distant parts of Ireland; they will be taken far from their homes, to be examined by a tribunal of Judges on matters personally affecting themselves, though they may, it is true, appear by counsel or solicitor, whom they may obtain here or bring over from Ireland. Can anyone conceive anything more likely to create irritation and ill-feeling than proceedings like this? Multitudes of men may be taken for days and weeks together from their business, occupations, and friends in order that the charges of which the Commission will take cognizance may be investigated. They may not have the means to defend themselves. Suppose the matter was reversed; suppose the Commission sat in Ireland, and people were taken from England to Ireland to answer charges made against them. I want to divest myself, in speaking of those matters, as far as possible, of that prejudice which I know naturally is likely to affect the judgment of many of us against this Bill, which all of us ought, as far as we can, to be on our guard against. I am, however, fortified in the view I have taken by the knowledge that there are some—I believe not a few—who are as far as possible from sharing my political opinions who share the views I have ventured to put 282 before your Lordships to-night. My Lords, I have spoken at times perhaps with warmth—I admit that I have felt deeply—but, at least, I hope I have spoken temperately, and in no respect unfairly. I shall not, as far as I am concerned, though I do not know what course will be taken, put your Lordships to the trouble of dividing on the Bill, though I confess the language of the noble Marquess renders it difficult for those who entertain the views I do to abstain from taking that course. I shall, however, feel compelled to say "Not-Content" in order that it may not be taken that the measure is passed with my consent. For my part, I feel that some of us will not be sorry, when they see the consequences of this measure, that their names did not appear as supporters of it. So strong is my feeling in reference to this Bill that, although I shall not ask the House to divide, I will, at least, say "Not-Content," for I believe it to be a measure which is as dangerous as it is novel, and which may be fraught with consequences hereafter which we may all of us most deeply regret.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord opposite has had a very difficult task, and he has peformed it with consummate ability. He has exerted all the resources of his long experience and high forensic powers to cast a glamour, if I may say so, round the cause he has undertaken. I shall not attempt to follow the noble and learned Lord through all the windings of his able speech; indeed, so extremely technical was it in some parts that it would be imprudent for a layman to attempt to follow him. I have no hesitation in giving my full support, as an individual, to the course the Government have taken, for the best of all reasons, that the provisions which are embodied in this Bill were recommended by me as earnestly as I could find words to do, just about this time last year. Your Lordships will remember that about April or May last year there appeared in The Times a series of charges which were followed up by the publication of a letter in fac simile of Mr. Parnell's writing. Such a charge, happily, had never been made before, and such a charge had never been attempted to be substantiated in the same way. It led to an angry and a heated contro- 283 versy. Mr. Parnell expressed his willingness to accept a Committee of the House of Commons. The noble and learned Lord opposite dwelt very favourably on that Committee as a solution of the difficulty. I confess that I cannot agree with him on that point. Indeed, I can conceive no tribunal in the present state of the House of Commons so absolutely disqualified for dealing with such a question. On the other hand, Her Majesty's Government proposed to Mr. Parnell to offer all facilities for instituting proceedings in the ordinary Law Courts; but neither Party would waive their own view and accept the proposal of the other. Not merely were these hideous charges levelled against individuals, but a large and important section of the House of Commons was placed under the direct stigma of crime. They brought the character of the House of Commons into issue. The noble and learned Lord argued this question as if it rested with Mr. Parnell and as if individuals were the main consideration. The interests of any body of individuals when charged with such monstrous crimes become, to a certain extent, public property; but in this instance the House of Commons and the great institutions of the country were dragged into the controversy. It was under those circumstances that I urged so strongly on a former occasion the advantage of appointing a Commission; whether it consisted, as now, wholly of Judges, or whether it was composed in part of Judges and in part of laymen. I never supposed for a moment that such a tribunal was applicable to ordinary cases, but this was an extraordinary and exceptional case, so mixed up with Constitutional questions that it deserved special treatment. The proposed Commission will meet the reasonable requirements and claims on each side as far as any human tribunal can do so. It will combine a clear and searching professional inquiry with all the fairness which you can expect from human beings. When I spoke of Constitutional questions I spoke advisedly. The fair fame and usefulness of the House of Commons seem to me to be mixed up in the satisfactory clearing up of this question. I can conceive now, as I thought last year, nothing so ruinous to the fair fame of that House as to allow such a charge as this to 284 remain unsettled. Consider what it really means. It means that you have a large section of the House of Commons so condoning and so conniving at the most hideous crimes that they become participators in those crimes. I can only recall two cases in any degree analogous to this state of things in the whole history of the House of Commons. In the beginning of the last century you had a large Jacobite Party in the House of Commons. There were many serious and grave charges levelled against them, and history had failed to clear up many points. They were pledged to upset if they could the existing dynasty. They plotted with outside opponents of the existing state of things, and grave charges were brought against them. But I venture to think that none of those charges were so grave as that with which we have to deal at the present moment. Again, at the close of the same century there was a Party in the House of Commons who sympathized warmly with the French Revolution, and whose language carried them to the extreme verge of disloyalty to the Crown and the country. But no one ever brought such a charge against them as has been repeatedly, unequivocally, and distinctly levelled against the followers of Mr. Parnell. My Lords, if this grievous charge remains uncleared can anyone doubt the pernicious influence it must have upon the House of Commons? It seems to me that wisdom and eloquence and the other retinue of Constitutional and Parliamentary qualities are hurrying down, not a gentle slope, but a very steep incline. Night after night we have a saturnalia, orgies, and rowdyism, and if that state of things continues the whole of the respect which formerly was accorded to the House of Commons by the country will pass away; and, important as the Irish question may be, you will have matters still more important—namely, the institutions and the Constitution of the country, which will be brought into controversy. I will not follow the noble and learned Lord in what he said in regard to the composition of this tribunal. I can conceive easily the delicate and difficult position in which he found himself. He regretted that Judges should be in any degree mixed up with these political matters. My Lords, I cannot share that regret. The same apprehen- 285 sion was expressed at the time when it was proposed to hand over the election and bribery Petitions to the Judges. There was then even more reason for apprehending a serious result; but no such result followed. I believe myself that of all the tribunals which could be constituted for such a difficult case as this a tribunal composed of English Judges is the fairest. If I were compelled to appear before any tribunal, I should desire no better nor safer one than the Judges. But I admit that if I had not such great confidence in them there would be ground for anxiety. The powers are great which are given to them, and Party enmities run so high that men's judgment at the present day may easily be distorted. But I think all reasonable men desire that the inquiry should be not indefinite, not irrelevant, and not too much of a fishing nature. I think they desire also that both offences and persons should, as far as practicable, be specified, because that is the practice, I take it, and the spirit of English law. Lastly, I believe they desire that the offences which come before that tribunal shall be heinous offences, such as I understood from my noble Friend who introduced this Bill it was intended to take cognizance of—murder, conspiracy to murder, violence, mutilation, and so forth. There are, no doubt, many other crimes which are cruel and abominable, and which, in the ultimate course of crime, may lead to something still graver; but, after all, we should not constitute special tribunals for the trial of such cases as these. The ordinary Law Courts are good enough for that purpose. What we intend to be dealt with by such a Commission as this are those heinous crimes which have sent a thrill of horror through the country, and which make it impossible to accord to men who remain under the stigma of them the same respect which otherwise they would be entitled to. There are two charges now before us on which public attention is fixed. The first question is whether the letters alleged to have been written by Mr. Parnell are genuine letters or forgeries. The second question is how far the Irish Party in the House of Commons is, as a whole, in complicity with that violent and criminal class to which my noble Friend alluded. I trust the Commission will clear these matters 286 up thoroughly and effectually, and, if I may say so, speedily also, because if the parties accused are innocent, it is contrary to all justice that charges should hang over their heads one day longer than is necessary. But, on the other hand, if they are guilty, it is to the public interest to declare that guilt in the plainest words, and that no delay should be taken as to the further steps which must of necessity follow. I believe that this tribunal, composed as it is, will discharge its onerous and grave duties, and so believing I, for one, am content to leave the matter in its hands.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord HALSBURY)
My Lords, I waited to see whether there was any noble Lord on the Opposition Benches who was disposed to take part in the debate before I thought it right to say anything in answer to my noble and learned Friend. I wish to add my testimony to the candid and high minded tone which pervaded the speech of my noble and learned Friend. I am very glad that he has spoken as became him on behalf of those who have no opportunity of defending themselves in this House. I recognize to the full the tone and spirit in which my noble and learned Friend has approached this question. But there are two errors into which he fell, which exhibited the fervour of the forensic rather than the calm of the judicial mind. My noble and learned Friend's first error was in supposing that the Government have any interest in the guilt of those who are accused of these various crimes. I believe they have no such interest. I believe it would be a far more useful factor in the pacification of Ireland if it should be established by these men that there was no connection between the Parliamentary Party and the party of violence, because one of the most mischievous impressions on this question is that the latter party have the support and sympathy of the Irish Party in the House of Commons; and, so far from its being the interest of the Government to prove the guilt of the persons incriminated, their interest ought to be, and I believe is, the other way. The other mistake is that the Government are responsible for the promotion of this Bill. One would suppose that the Government had proposed this as an independent mea- 287 sure. That is an entire mistake. The Government had no more to do with the action of "O'Donnell v. Walter" than my noble and learned Friend himself. What happened was this—The cause lasted some time, and came to an untimely end owing to the interposition of the learned Judge, who declared that he could not permit considerable portions of the opening of the Attorney General to be proved. Up to that time everybody had supposed, including the Attorney General himself, that he would go on to give evidence, I do not say to prove the truth of his client's allegations. If the matter had rested there the Government would have had no more interest in the question than any of Her Majesty's subject. But in renewal of an application made on a former occasion, Mr. Parnell and his friends thought it desirable that there should be some inquiry into these allegations. What charges and what investigations were they that Mr. Parnell asked that a Committee of the House of Commons should inquire into? It is absolutely impossible to try any one of the facts alleged in the Attorney General's speech without bringing it into relation with the others. Suppose we take what my noble and learned Friend refers to as one of the most definite of the charges, the writing of certain letters. What do they prove by themselves? The first letter in itself contained no charge, but simply contained a reference to something which had been done beforehand; it was neither in the nature of complicity beforehand, nor was it anything in the nature of absolute approbation afterwards. Suppose anybody had thought right to investigate that charge before any tribunal, limiting the question strictly to the authenticity of the letter? The first thing would be that the Judge would say, "I cannot try that question by itself; it must be proved what the reference was to, what the writer's relations were to the person to whom the letter was written, who the other persons are with respect to whom it was necessary to make the excuse that for public motives there must be some disavowal." I think my noble and learned Friend has hardly done justice to the Bill in its passage from the House of Commons. My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury said the Bill was an offer—after he had 288 taken up the position—rightly or wrongly, that a Committee of the House of Commons was about the worst tribunal you could select, inasmuch as the question of moral delinquency was mixed up with political questions. It could not be suggested that to decide a question of that character those who sat night after night in bitter hostility to the incriminated persons could form a fair tribunal. Then as to the words "other persons" being omitted by a slip from the verbal offer, a sufficient answer to that is the reply of the Opposition—"Put down your Notice, do not leave it vaguely. We will see what it is, and then we will say whether we will accept it or no." The Notice accordingly was put down, and the words "other persons" appeared on it, for very obvious reasons. That did not put the Government in a different position; but I quite admit that the position of the Government has been altered since that offer was first made. The offer not having been accepted or rejected, and the Bill having been read a second time without a single dissentient voice, the position of the Government became a very different one. It was no longer an offer made to an individual, but the deliberate voice of Parliament, which the Government was bound to respect and give effect to. So far as the question of Amendments being made in Committee are concerned, and the charge that the Government refused to make any concessions, the answer is to be found in the main lines of the Bill. The limits of the inquiry were, over and over again by Members of the Government, asserted in the face of Parliament to be essential, and they declared that they could not permit any alteration of those general lines in the Bill; yet, in face of these warnings, the Bill was read a second time without a single dissentient voice. What position, I ask, would the Government be in if, after having refused Mr. Parnell a Committee, they had not presented him with an alternative tribunal? It would have been said, "You will not allow these charges to be investigated by the tribunal we ask for, and you substitute no other, limiting us to bringing an action against The Times and submitting ourselves to the judgment of the jury." I will not advance the proposition that everybody who is abused in the news- 289 papers should bring an action for libel. Here is a case in which a newspaper of high authority and great respectability——
§ LORD HALSBURY
My noble Friend says "No." I cannot agree with him. I think there are some newspapers in this Metropolis which are an absolute disgrace to journalism, and with respect to whom I should not condescend even to notice the abuse which from time to time they level at public men. I think The Times and many other papers are of such a character of respectability that no public man can afford to disregard such grave charges as are made in this case. If Mr. Parnell would not bring an action, he ought not to complain if an effort was made, even by his political opponents, to give him the opportunity of clearing his character. I come now to the same delicate ground which my noble and learned Friend trod with such delicate steps. I do not say that any tribunal which is to be selected is to escape criticism. It is right that Parliament should criticize tribunals; but is it necessary to use insulting and reviling phrases about gentlemen whose only offence is that they have consented to take these difficult and arduous duties on themselves, with respect to which, however they are discharged, as my noble and learned Friend said, it is hopeless to expect that they will escape calumny? Is it necessary to abuse individuals, to use coarse and vulgar invective about the Judges even before the Bill under which they are to act has passed through Parliament, and before, therefore, they have entered on the inquiry? I think my noble and learned Friend must have misunderstood the observations made by the Prime Minister. I think that such phrases as have been used with regard to one of the Judges do cover the lips which utter them with disgrace; but the Prime Minister did not suggest that there should not be any criticisms with respect to the tribunal itself. I care little about the imputations cast upon myself. I have no doubt those who uttered them cannot believe in a better motive, or invent a worse one, than the objects they have attributed to me in the selection of the tribunal. I do not condescend to defend myself against such invective; 290 but I do feel that I owe it to the Members of the Commission, who have consented to serve their country, to say that I believe if you poll Westminster Hall, or that which is its substitute, you will not find a dissentient voice against the statement that they are all men of high honour and integrity, and that they are Judges of experience. It would be impertinence in me to speak abstractedly about them—their competence to do this or the other. They are English gentlemen and experienced Judges, and I think that might have saved them from any personal attack. My noble and learned Friend indulged in some impassioned rhetoric about giving an inquiry of this sort to Judges at all. They were to be treated as of no more consequence than anyone else. Did he always think so?
§ LORD HALSBURY
If my memory serves me right, the Government of which he was a Member instituted such tribunals in Ireland, where questions of life and death were involved. Why was that done? Because the ordinary tribunals were not able to do justice. He thought then, or at least his Colleagues did, that it was consistent with the maintenance of respect for the law that a tribunal of Judges should inquire into questions of life and death, and this by selected Judges.
§ LORD HALSBURY
Even there I cannot agree with him. Does he mean to say that these particular murders which the Judges were to inquire into in Ireland were not political? No one has ever suggested that there was ever any difficulty in getting, in ordinary cases of crime unconnected with the agrarian question, a good and proper verdict from an Irish jury. But it was because you could not get that in agrarian cases, touching on political matters, that you were obliged to constitute these tribunals. I think it is a little too late for Her Majesty's Opposition to complain as to the Constitutional question in connection with a tribunal which has no power of life or death, no power to inflict punishment on those who may, nevertheless, be reported to be guilty. I think my noble and learned Friend criticized in a technical spirit 291 the proposals of the Prime Minister. He referred to the trial of Election Petitions, and, "Oh," said my noble and learned Friend, "these are not Judges." They are Judges. I owe an apology to your Lordships for having occupied so much time. I repudiate as earnestly as I can the notion that the Government are here as prosecutors on one side, and Mr. Parnell and his friends are on the other side as defendants. I utterly repudiate such a suggestion. It is for the advantage of the State, and to clear the House of Commons of a grave and important scandal, that the Government have interfered—not to try themselves the accusations, not to give Mr. Parnell and his friends a partizan tribunal, but to select persons who, in our judgment and belief, are thoroughly above and beyond all Party bias. We are determined to acquiesce in the decision of that tribunal, which, notwithstanding all that my noble and learned Friend says, will, I believe, carry weight in the country, whatever that decision may be; and, although, no doubt, whatever the result, there will be some mean and paltry minds on both sides in politics who will attribute mean motives, and refuse to acquiesce in the decision, I believe the great body of our countrymen will recognize that the Judges have undertaken a difficult and onerous duty, and that they have honourably discharged it to the State.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, I do not suppose that anyone will seriously hold that the Government are not responsible for this measure. We are told that in some manner they were compelled to propose this marvellous measure, and yet that they are not responsible for initiating it. I do not believe that I shall hear the noble Marquess disclaim responsibility for this measure. Reference has been made to the second reading having been passed in the other House unopposed. If the Opposition had opposed it, it would have been carried all the same, and it would have been alleged that the Opposition did not want to have au inquiry—that they wished to conceal certain things. But in assenting to the second reading they meant to consent to some inquiry. They never intended to consent to inquiry as unlimited as it is now. The Government are now going 292 into an inquiry extending over the last five or six years, and into the whole state of the country. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has criticized rather severely what was said by my noble and learned Friend (Lord Herschell) upon the subject of the Judges. I am not disposed in the least to go into their antecedents, or express an opinion upon their personal qualifications; but I protest against the notion that, when these extraordinary powers are about to be entrusted to the Judges, we in Parliament have not an absolute right to criticize individuals. I cannot admit for a moment that, provided the remarks were made in a proper and temperate tone, there is any dishonour or discredit in bringing forward any opinion which may be entertained with regard to one of the Judges. I have no opinion of my own on the subject, because I have no knowledge on which to form an opinion; but I am bound to say that I have heard repeatedly from men of high character, and beyond suspicion, remarks which convince me that a grievous mistake has been made in the constitution of this Commission. More I will not say than that. With what my noble and learned Friend said about the novel doctrine with regard to the repelling of attacks made by newspapers upon political men I associate myself most absolutely. It is perfectly intolerable it should be laid down that because an anonymous writer thinks fit to bring forward charges against some public man in this country, such public man is bound to bring an action for libel against the newspaper, or else remain for ever under the shadow of the accusation. With regard to the authority of the newspaper, it depends very much whether the person happens to be of the same colour as the newspaper or not. Newspapers have got functions to discharge as advocates of one particular view in politics, and nobody for one moment imagines that it is possible for any political journal to be impartial in regard to its comments on individual public men. What is regarded by one person as almost a crime is exalted every day by another equal in ability as being honourable and admirable. I maintain that in these matters it is impossible to regard attacks which are made even by newspapers of the highest 293 class as a thing which an honourable man is bound to take notice of. My noble Friend has referred to the evil which he thinks will result from the practice, if it comes to be a usual one, of employing Judges for purposes of this kind. I do not think that the employment of Judges even in inquiries into corrupt practices at Parliamentary elections has been altogether without evil. It is not for the advantage of our Judicial Bench that they should be engaged in our political controversies. I am glad that no great harm has resulted; but, after all, inquiries into Parliamentary elections are very different affairs from this. An investigation into a political election is a local matter; but here you have what I may call an indictment of a nation, or a large part of it—that is to say, 85 out of 101 Members who represent the Sister Country. And remember that this charge is not confined to Members of Parliament who follow Mr. Parnell, but it involves the whole field of inquiry with regard to the connection between the National Party and crime. I was not a little astonished to hear the noble and learned Lord liken this inquiry to the tribunal of Judges proposed by the Government with which I had the honour to be connected to try certain murders in Ireland. But the Judges in the case alluded to would have had specified charges of murder to try, and the only question was whether it was fit that the Judges should try the case without a jury; but surely that is quite a different matter from a roving Commission to inquire into the events of the last six or seven years, to return not a verdict upon particular charges, the result of which might be life or death to a man, but a general report regarding a number of vague matters affecting the reputation and honour of many men without their having the opportunity of facing specified charges and knowing what they have to meet. It was said by the noble and learned Lord that whatever may be the result it will carry conviction to men's minds. I observed that the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, in a speech he made the other day, declared, in effect, that even if all these things advanced by The Times were disproved it would not have any effect on his mind—that his mind is made upon altogether different grounds. The minds of men 294 are made up, and whatever be the result of this political indictment it will be a mere move in the political game. I do not say that it may not damage this Party or that to a certain extent, according to the nature of the evidence that may be produced; but I make this confident assertion—that, whatever the result, there will be found one large Party in this country who will take the most unfavourable view of all that has been done in Ireland, and another very large Party who will take quite the contrary view. This is a pure political matter, to be judged on political grounds. No one disputes that these accusations in The Times—of course, justifiable from their own point of view—are brought forward for the purpose of doing as much harm as possible to the Home Rule Party, and it is upon that ground, and that ground only, the matter will be judged. I say it is an unprecedented thing in the history of this country that you are about, by a majority, to confide to certain Judges the investigation of a political controversy without a definite issue, the result of which must be great dissatisfaction to one side or the other, which I do not believe will conduce to the interests of the country, and which may do some harm to the Judicial Bench. And what possible good can result from this on the relations of England and Ireland? Do you really suppose that after all that has taken place in the last few years this inquiry of yours can have any effect but to aggravate evil passions, to rake up matters which, to some extent, might be forgotten, to increase the unfortunate bitterness which exists between the large majority of Irishmen and Englishmen, not only not to advance what we all desire—namely, a better understanding between the two countries—but greatly retard that period, and all for what? All because one newspaper published in London has thought fit to publish some letters the authenticity of which is in question.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND (Lord ASHBOURNE)
In the speech which we have just heard from the noble Earl we have had nothing to tell us what he would do if he were master of the situation, nor, indeed, in the other House of Parliament have any of his Friends ventured so to speak. They allowed the second reading to be 295 taken nemine contradicente, and not one of them gave a voice or a vote against the third reading. The noble Marquess the Prime Minister, in introducing this Bill to your Lordships, stated that its object was to provide able and impartial Judges to sift and examine these questions with the widest powers. Nearly every criticism made to-night from those Benches has been contrived so as to indicate in half-sentences that a tribunal composed of some of the most eminent Judges of England is not worthy of having attributed to it the characteristic given to it by the noble Marquess—namely, that it was composed of the most able and impartial men that could be found in the country. The rest of the criticisms were intended to work out this idea—that the powers given to this tribunal should be mutilated so as to compel the Judges to act with their hands partly tied, and with their discretion seriously impaired. What alternatives are suggested to this Bill? The noble Earl has suggested hardly any; his position has been that of one "willing to wound but yet afraid to strike." But, as far as any alternative at all was present to the minds of noble Lords opposite, it was that of a Committee of the House of Commons. But every single objection that can be taken to the form of an investigation conducted by a set of men trained to the work can be advanced with tenfold greater force against a Committee of the House of Commons, which is not even presided over by any Judge trained to judicial methods, and which would have as wide a discretion as that which it is now proposed to give, but which noble Lords deny should be given, to Her Majesty's Judges trained to every method for the discovery of truth. If it is looked into, the comparison which noble Lords opposite make between the two tribunals is absolutely untenable. But there is one other alternative that might be suggested. It is very well worthy of note that this debate has come to such an advanced stage without any statement or suggestion being given that the ordinary tribunals of the country might not have been appealed to. It is almost ludicrous to speak of these charges as anonymous statements in a newspaper. Were ever charges put forward with more exceptional force? These charges have been repeated in a 296 Court of Justice. I have listened with considerable attention to the speeches made by the noble and learned Lord and the noble Earl opposite, but I have failed to find any suggestion on their part that any conceivable human tribunal would have satisfied them. The noble and learned Lord opposite, with regard to this tribunal appointed to ascertain the truth in this case, said that an offer might have been made to get a Judge who had some sympathy with Mr. Parnell.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
Well, the thought which the noble and learned Lord conveyed to my mind was that an offer might have been made to find a Judge who had some sympathy with the Party represented by Mr. Parnell.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
The noble and learned Lord says that an offer should have been made to get a man so political that it was notorious what his political views were. I think that is the fair inference to be adduced from the words of the noble and learned Lord.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
explained that his argument was that all this talk about Judges with no political sympathies or antipathies was ridiculous, and that if there were three Judges it was at least desirable to have two of them who thought in one direction and one in another.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
I expect that the noble and learned Lord is rather sorry to have used his original sentence. He seems to me now to have somewhat recast it, and presented it in a slightly different form; but, as I understand the noble and learned Lord, he is unable to suggest any tribunal that would be pleasing to him, and appears almost to suggest that in a tribunal composed of Judges of the highest character, those whom the charges affect should have to do, not only with the constitution of the tribunal, but with the framing of the indictment, possibly in the drawing up of the judgment. The noble Earl, in speaking of Her Majesty's Judges, followed the caution of the noble and learned Lord.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I said that I had no personal acquaintance with the Commissioners, and had no opinion on the constitution of the Commission; but that many things had been said which I deeply regretted to hear.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
I admit that the noble Earl was in an enormous difficulty on the subject. If he said nothing he possibly feared that it might be said that he was not party to the observations made in the other House, and if he said anything it might seem to indicate that he desired to make reflections on Her Majesty's Judges. The truth is that the Judges selected are three as able and eminent Judges as could be found in the judiciary of any country, and that not one single syllable can be urged against the fairness and reasonableness of the tribunal. I venture to think that the Judges will fulfil their responsible duties as honestly, honourably, and fairly as may be expected from the eminent men they are, and I venture to think that the tribunal appointed by this Bill is a tribunal that will be found to satisfy the statement of the Prime Minister that it is composed of able and eminent men, clothed for the purpose of this investigation with the widest possible powers.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, I can only say that if the Government are satisfied I am perfectly satisfied, so that for once we are a united family. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, any more than the noble and learned Lord who has just spoken, did not say one word with regard to one portion of my noble and learned Friend's speech which was of some consequence—namely, that which referred to to the gross injustice done to the persons to be brought before the Commission, and also to the extremely dangerous precedent set for the future. Not one word did either of these noble and learned Lords say on that subject, as to which it might be thought your Lordships would be anxious that the public mind should be satisfied. The noble and learned Lord referred to the history of the Bill in passing through the House of Commons. I certainly understood him to say that the organ of the Government in the House of Commons made a precise statement. I think it was this year that Mr. Smith said if he was anything he was a man of business. If a man of business 298 comes down to the House of Commons and, not trusting to his memory, reads from a written paper——
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I thought that after the references made by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack to what had passed in the House of Commons I should be allowed to give my answer. It has always been the custom in this House to refer to what has been said by responsible Ministers in the other House, and no objection has been made to it. But if the noble Marquess objects I will relinquish that point, though I think it makes my case very strong indeed. First of all there was a proposal made in the most formal manner which the noble and learned Lord said was a mere slip, and yet he said afterwards that it was the conduct of Mr. Parnell which made the Government change their front.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
The noble and learned Lord who has just spoken made au attack upon the Opposition because he said they did not approve of any tribunal. But Her Majesty's Government refused a House of Commons' inquiry, which would have been in accordance with all precedent. The noble Marquess objected to it very much on the ground of the deterioration of the present House of Commons.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
During my experience I have seen just as much anger and Party feeling as at present. But, be that as it may, taking men like Sir John Mowbray, Mr. Whitbread, and scores of others whom I could mention, men of known integrity and impartiality, you would have had as impartial a tribunal as you could conceive; and, at all events, you would have had the advantage of starting with men whose minds have not been cast in the same mould. The noble and learned Lord said, I believe, that the Bench and the Bar were unanimous in thinking that the three gentlemen named were Englishmen, gentlemen, and Judges. No doubt they are; and I do not believe that there is 299 a man in the country who will dispute that they are men of honour. But will the noble and learned Lord go a little further and say that there is this perfect unanimity at the Bar and on the Bench that this tribunal is a good thing abstractedly, or that the persons composing it are satisfactory?
§ LORD HALSBURY
I certainly cannot answer that question, because I have not heard anything from the Bar or the Bench on the subject; but I do not want it to be inferred from my silence that I have heard anything to the contrary.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
With regard to this Bill, we have been reproached with the unanimity of feeling in the House of Commons on this subject. That unanimity I entirely deny, and while I agree with every word advanced by my noble and learned Friend (Lord Herschell) against this Bill, I say it is impossible for me to separate my action from that of my former Colleagues in "another place" on a matter affecting the honour and credit of one of their Members. I will only add that I think it would have been better if this House had an opportunity of going into the details of the Bill. But, knowing the demand on the time of the Government, and gathering from the speeches which have been made that there is no chance of their departing from the principles they have laid down with regard to the scope and intention of the inquiry, I do not wish to offer any objection to a more rapid procedure than in other circumstances I should think right.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, there is, as you know, a considerable section of this House which, while not acting on the same political lines as the present Government, is, nevertheless, in sympathy with them as to the manner in which Irish affairs should be conducted; and on the part of those Members I feel bound to say that we take our full share of responsibility for this measure, which we accept as being, in all the circumstances of the case, necessary and wise. I do not wish to go again over the same ground as noble Lords who have preceded me; but this I will say—that though many criticisms have been uttered upon the decision to which the Government has come, not much has been said as to the alternative course which should have been taken. 300 In the first place, ought there to be an inquiry, or ought there not? I quite agree in what has been said, that it is not the duty of public men in ordinary cases to prosecute for a scandal uttered against them. But this is not an ordinary case. It is not a charge supposed to be dictated by the political prepossessions or private malice of some individual. It is not a charge confined to a single newspaper. The imputations, be they true or be they unfounded—and upon that I am expressing no opinion—have been stated throughout the country and circulated throughout the country in every form. They do not rest upon the authority of any single newspaper, and, undoubtedly, they have been very generally believed in this country. Any gentlemen engaged in public life against whom such accusations are made are bound to take some steps to vindicate themselves. Well, if that be so, in what manner is the inquiry to take place? I believe it is the opinion of nine out of ten that an inquiry of some sort should be held. But if there is to be an inquiry, the ordinary and natural course would be to have the matter submitted to a legal tribunal. But the gentlemen against whom these attacks are made decline to take that ordinary and natural course. They say—"We should have to go before an English jury, and in the present state of political opinion we have no hope of justice from an English jury." But they are not tied down to that course. They have the choice of going to an Irish jury, and so avoid the prejudices which they fear would prevent their obtaining justice here. To that they make no answer, but they still refuse to bring the case before an Irish jury. They propose an alternative method. They say, "Let us have an inquiry before a Parliamentary Committee;" and that I was surprised to find was the course approved by my noble and learned Friend behind me. To my mind that is absolutely the most unfit tribunal you could find. What is the objection they take to a jury? Simply that a jury would be composed of political partizans who would not do them justice. But if a jury is not fit because it contains some persons whose political feeling would interfere with their strict impartiality, where is the sense of going to another tribunal every one of whose members must be more or 301 less connected with a Party system and imbued with Party feelings? It may be said that the result of both Parties being represented on a Committee would be that one side would neutralize the other; but the inevitable result would be a Majority and a Minority Report, and naturally the prepossessions from which none of us are free would cause these decisions in each individual case to follow strict Party lines. I do not think such a result as that would be either creditable to the House of Parliament in which it originated, or calculated to lead to a satisfactory decision. But when we have to deal with a Party which will not go before a jury, and when there are a majority of men who say that there are practically insuperable difficulties in the way of trusting an issue of this kind to a Parliamentary Committee, what other alternative is there but that of referring the questions to a Commission constituted in some such manner as this? Objections have been raised to employing the Judges in inquiries of this kind; but I would ask whether it is not part of the ordinary duty of Judges to preside at trials which sometimes are more or less of a political character? If it had been determined to keep them out of the question, any other Commissioners who could have been appointed would necessarily have held an inferior position, and would have been wanting in the same experience. If a new tribunal is constituted, it is surely desirable that the most competent persons should be selected as Judges. With regard to the question of the expense to which the accused persons may be subjected if the inquiry resulted in proof of their innocence, or, what is the same thing, in the absence of proof of their guilt, I think that the question of expenses is one which at a later period, if any injustice is done, might reasonably be rectified. The objection does not, however, come very well from those who professed themselves anxious to have these questions fought out before a Select Committee. With regard to the time of the inquiry, there would probably be greater delay if questions of this kind were to be threshed out before a non-judicial body, or before a tribunal less accustomed to deal with evidence and less familiar with judicial rules and procedure. A great objection has been taken to the inclu- 302 sion in the inquiry of charges against "other persons" besides Members of Parliament. On that point I may observe that you may spread your net so wide that you will catch nothing; but, on the other hand, where an inquiry of this sort is concerned, it would be extremely unsatisfactory if an inquiry which promised to lead up to some important result had to be summarily cut short, because it might turn out to be an inquiry into some particular piece of evidence not concerning any Member of Parliament, but some other persons. If you limited the inquiry, the proceedings would necessarily be imperfect, and possibly inconclusive. For my own part, I am not insensible to the difficulties and causes of objection which may be urged against this Bill in the very peculiar and difficult situation in which the Government and Parliament are placed by this inquiry; but I do not know of any course which would not have been open to greater objection and led to greater abuses.
said, that he had given Notice of a Motion to postpone the Bill; but, as the noble and learned Lord (Lord Herschell) had not intended to vote for it, he could only state his reasons for this step. He believed that the inquiry must be very protracted, and if reported from day to day all the securities against collusion by witnesses after the first day would be greatly increased, and many unwilling witnesses might be called; but even the present Government and Parliament would not have made them answer all questions. He (Lord Denman) believed that Mr. Parnell had not written or sympathized with the letter attributed to him—his conduct in lamenting the deplorable event, the very naming of which gave pain, which took place only four days after his release from Kilmainham, proved, to his (Lord Denman's) mind, that he abhorred the design of Casey, and that his detestation of it did not arise from its being the cause and excuse for a very severe Coercion Act. The absence of himself and his Friends in voting for the exemption of Secret Societies from visits at night from the police convinced him that their desire was to restore order. He had been subjected to constant annoyance and provocation; but, like the late Emperor, he had known how to suffer without com- 303 plaining. With the rules of evidence so relaxed as they were, a cause might have lasted for days, and no man could be forced into a Court of Justice. In a criminal information the party aggrieved was a necessary witness; but punishment of the offender gave little satisfaction. The loss of circulation was the greatest punishment that could be inflicted on any journal, and sometimes vindication of truth had enabled a falsifier almost to ruin a rival. One letter from Mr. Parnell had been published by The Times; by correspondence in newspapers the whole truth might be elicited. He (Lord Denman) had many friends of all parties and ranks in Ireland, and while he regretted that such words as "Take a firm grip of the land" had been followed by consequences far more grave than their authors could have foreseen, he hoped that tenants might be convinced that farming without capital never could succeed, and that ejectments were the only mode in all civilized countries of change of tenancy, which tenants would find true if they wished to dispose of their property after letting it to a tenant. If the Commissioners were to find that Mr. Parnell's denial were incontestably true, they might shorten the proceedings, and not go beyond the finding that evils had arisen post hoc, but not propter hoc. He rejoiced in the quiet of Sheffield which had followed the inquiry, and hoped that this inquiry might elicit the truth. Notwithstanding his sense that this mode of inquiry was unnecessary, he would not press his Motion.
§ On Question, resolved in the affirmative: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.