The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Speeches (In Full) of the Rt. Hon. W. E. Gladstone, M.P., and William O'Brien, M.P., on Home Rule, Delivered in Parliament, Feb. 16 and 17, 1888., by W. E. Gladstone and William O'Brien This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org/license Title: The Speeches (In Full) of the Rt. Hon. W. E. Gladstone, M.P., and William O'Brien, M.P., on Home Rule, Delivered in Parliament, Feb. 16 and 17, 1888. Author: W. E. Gladstone William O'Brien Release Date: October 27, 2012 [EBook #41194] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE SPEECHES (IN FULL) OF *** Produced by Charlene Taylor, Eleni Christofaki, Paul Murray and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries)
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Mr. Gladstone. In following the right honorable gentleman, I shall only touch those portions of his speech which go the heart of the question. In my opinion, they constituted a very small part of his address (cheers), the rest being criminatory and incriminatory matter, which, however amusing to a portion of the House, really assists us very little in getting at the root of the great question before us. I do this particularly because there is a great difficulty, owing to the enormous range of the question, in confining the debate within the narrow limits to which we all desire to confine it. My honorable and learned friend, the member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay), last night, when no member of the Government seemed in a condition to follow the speech of the honorable member for Northeast Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), (Opposition cheers), gallantly stepped into the breach, and performed that office on behalf of ministers, which has so often been performed by those who are sometimes termed "Dissenting Liberals"; namely, that of finding expedients of defence for the Government which they and their adherents behind them have been unable to discover. (Opposition cheers.) My honorable and learned friend said he thought it high time that the debate should draw to a close. I can perfectly understand reasons why he should desire that there might be no debate at all on this subject (laughter and cheers), but when he says that the discussion has extended to unreasonable length, I point to the speech of the Attorney-General last night, of the length of which I am far from complaining, but which was evidently in sharp contradiction with the view of my honorable and learned friend.
Why, sir, it has not been possible to include in this debate a number of questions which deserve, and may yet have to receive detailed criticism. For example, the law of public meetings has hardly been touched, and yet it is gravely involved in the 2proceedings of the recess. ("Hear, hear.") The relations between landlord and tenant have hardly been touched, and to that notwithstanding a similiar observation will apply. ("Hear, hear.") The treatment given to prisoners of a particular class has not been the subject of discussion, and I will make none of these three matters subject of discussion; but at the same time no one can doubt that all of them, and many more besides, are fit for the attention of the House. ("Hear, hear.") I must proceed by the method of selection, and I am bound to say that so far as I am personally concerned, if it had not been for the pointed references to me, and the perfectly fair and just challenges delivered against certain portions of my speeches in the recess, I should gladly have remained out of sight. I am of opinion that such speeches as have been made by the honorable member for the city of Cork in moving his amendment, and by the honorable member for East Cork on the memorable occasion of the opening of last night's debate (Home Rule cheers), go more to the heart of the matter, and more to the mind of the country, than anything that can be said or urged by those who, whatever else may be said of them, cannot deny that they stand in the position of leaders of a party, and are liable to the imputation of party interests. On the other hand, these gentlemen are in a position to say that they have shown us independence of party. They have dealt a death blow to Liberal administrations, and the members of those Liberal administrations never have complained, and would not have been justified in complaining. They are the advocates and the organs of a nation. (Opposition cheers.) They are in a condition to speak with an effect to which they cannot make any just pretension when they address themselves to the heart and to the understanding of another nation on whose judgment they are content to rely. ("No," from the Ministerial benches, and counter cheers.)
But, sir, there was a part of the speech of the right honorable gentlemen which he introduced with an apology, and which I think it right hriefly to follow. He referred to the communication between Lord Carnarvon and the member for Cork, and I cannot question for a moment the denials he has made. But what were those denials? I attended as well as I could to his 3statement, and his denials were three. In the first place, he denied that any engagement or agreement had been made. Sir, I am not aware of its having been asserted. He denied, secondly, that it ever had been stated to be the intention of a Conservative Government to grant a measure of Home Rule. I am not aware, sir, that that has ever been stated. Thirdly, he denied on the part of Lord Carnarvon, and I accept the denial with all my heart, that Lord Carnarvon had ever used any words inconsistent with the maintenance of the Union. (Ministerial cheers.) But these three denials leave entirely untouched the material parts of the case. What are these material parts? If the right honorable gentleman wishes to dispose of them, I can only say that they are not disposed of by what he has said to-night, and he must set about with a new set of statements and denials in order to get rid of them. (Opposition cheers.) It was stated by the honorable member for the city of Cork, that he found himself in substantial—I might say, in entire agreement with Lord Carnarvon on the question of Home Rule. That has not been denied. (Home Rule cheers.) It has been stated that Lord Carnarvon spoke for himself, and that I do not question, in so far as a Lord Lieutenant can speak for himself. (Opposition cheers.) The right honorable gentleman, the Chief Secretary, did not deny in the speech he has just made, and certainly there was space in that speech for such denial, that Lord Carnarvon and the honorable member for Cork were in substantial agreement on the policy of Home Rule.
Mr. Balfour. I may say that, from the abstract I read, Lord Carnarvon clearly, in my idea, did not express his opinion about the Home Rule policy.
Mr. Gladstone. The honorable member for Cork declared that he had an interview with Lord Carnarvon, and that he found himself in agreement with Lord Carnarvon on the subject. The right honorable gentleman has not denied that. (Home Rule cheers.)
Mr. Balfour. I interpreted Lord Carnarvon's statement as distinctly denying that.
Mr. Gladstone. I ask for the words of Lord Carnarvon's statement which contains that denial. (Cheers.)
Mr. Balfour. I will obtain them as quickly as I can, but it 4would take me out of the House to do so now. (An honorable member: "Send for them.")
Mr. Gladstone. It is a very dangerous practice to make statements of that kind and importance without the material on which they are founded. (Ministerial cries of "Oh.") I affirm that I am in the recollection of the House that whatever inference or interpretation the right honorable gentleman made upon the declarations of Lord Carnarvon, there was not a word in the passage he read which contained, or which approached to containing, a denial of the statement of the honorable member for Cork, that he and Lord Carnarvon were in substantial agreement on the policy of Home Rule.
Now I ask the right honorable gentleman what he thinks of another statement made by Lord Carnarvon in the House of Lords, and within the memory of all of us, in which, speaking of the measure of entended government that ought to be granted to Ireland, he said that they ought to meet all the just demands of that country for local self-government, and likewise ought to be directed in some degree towards giving reasonable satisfaction to national aspirations? Does the right honorable gentleman say that he is in favor of giving reasonable satisfaction to national aspirations? On the contrary, it is the very phrase and the very idea which, on no consideration, will he recognize, and it is the phrase and the idea which form the basis of the views of Lord Carnarvon, and here the right honorable gentleman cannot contradict me. Well, I think, having got so far, I may go farther. Lord Carnarvon, being Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and being a member of the Cabinet, or whether he was a member of the Cabinet or not, was absolutely bound to make kown his views to Lord Sailsbury, if not to the Cabinet at large. He did make known his views to Lord Salisbury in the fulfilment of a primary duty. Lord Salisbury continued to repose his confidence in Lord Carnarvon. For months afterwards Lord Carnarvon continued to be Lord Lieutenant. When he retired he did so professedly on account of his health and amid the expressed regrets of his colleagues. Now, sir, we are called separatists. (Ministerial cheers.) We are denounced as such. (Renewed Ministerial cheers.) I am glad to have any of my assertions supported by honorable gentlemen opposite, whose 5approval is conveyed in that semi-articulate manner which they find so congenial. (Opposition cheers and laughter.) But we are called separatists, and because we wish to give effect to the national aspirations of Ireland within the limits of the Constitution and with supreme regard to the unity of the Empire. (Ministerial cries of "Oh," and Opposition cheers.) Lord Salisbury, as the head of a Conservative Government, was content to stand before the country, having in Ireland a Lord Lieutenant who was prepared to give satisfaction, reasonable satisfaction, as we are, to national aspirations, and at the same time to give Ireland everything in the way of local self-government that ought to be conceded consistently with the unity of the Empire. (Opposition cheers.)
Now, it appears then that a Tory Lord Lieutenant may dally as he pleases with the sirens of Home Rule. It appears that when a general election is pending, the Prime Minister may regard the entertainment of a Home Rule policy as no object whatever to placing unbounded confidence in a Tory Lord Lieutenant. But when the election is over (Home Rule cheers), when the Lord Lieutenant is gone, and when Liberals declare that they desire to meet the national aspirations of Ireland with a reasonable and safe satisfaction, then, forsooth, they are to be denounced as separatists. (Opposition cheers.) I must say a word upon the entertaining speech of the honorable and gallant member for North Armagh. I was struck, I confess, when, after all his assaults upon us, the honorable gentleman gravely concluded with an argument in favor of law and order, but with an insinuation that his countrymen would not be very much disposed to adopt that doctrine. Well, I don't agree with him about his countrymen, but if we were engaged in an endeavor to show that Irishmen were not sufficiently good to recognize the principles of law and order, undoubtedly the instance to which I should refer would be the honorable gentleman himself. The honorable and gallant gentleman is here, forsooth, to instruct and to educate us on the subject of law and order, while he reserves to himself the right of declaring, and more than once declaring, in this House, as far as I remember—(Col. Saunderson: "Yes.") So much the better. All right. (Laughter and cheers.) He declared that "if Parliament passed 6ant act for granting to Ireland a carefully guarded portion of the independence she once possessed, he will be the man to resist and to recommend resistance." (Opposition cheers.) He is dealing with gentlemen below the gangway, and he has the consummate art and the consummate courage to advertise himself as the apostle of law and order. (Cheers.) Then the honorable member referred to a speech of mine in which I referred to the lamentable murder of Constable Whelehan in the county of Clare. The Chief Secretary was not ashamed in this House, where he could not be answered, to say that I had made adverse comments on the conduct of Whelehan, a man who had lost his life in the service of his country.
Mr. Balfour. I said it in this House on Friday last, and I say it again. (Ministerial cheers.)
Mr. Gladstone. I have no intention of charging the right honorable gentleman with anything which is not true in fact. I am glad he has contradicted me. I did not recollect, for I did not hear it. But it was totally and absolutely untrue. (Opposition cheers.) Either he had not read what I said, or if he has read it, and the same applies to the honorable and gallant member for North Armagh, they have absolutely misrepresented the purport of the speech they professed to quote. I never named Whelehan except to deplore his death, and to express the hope that his murderers would be punished. In my reference to that speech, there is not a word to show that Whelehan was the man who was the unhappy organ of the police in ministering pecuniary payment to the infamous informer, nor is there one word in all that reference of blame to her Majesty's Government. On the contrary, there is an express declaration that I laid no blame upon her Majesty's Government with reference to the case of Whelehan. Why, then, did I refer to it? On this account: The honorable and gallant gentleman, in the careless way in which he refers to these things, said I must be cognizant of the fact that prices were paid for obtaining information I said at Nottingham; I made no reference at all to the rather difficult question of payment of prices for obtaining information: but what I referred to was the payment of prices, not for obtaining information, but for concocting and concerting crimes. (Cheers.) After the 7gradual revelations that were made to us of the mode in which Ireland is administered, according to the traditions of that country, it is perfectly possible that such things may have been done, though I have never heard of them. But when I did learn in that particular instance of that foul and loathsome practice of paying money for such a purpose to a man, as far as we are yet informed, who was to attend a meeting of the criminals for the purpose of putting a hand to the arrangement and the execution of it (loud cheers), then I did think it was time to protest in the name of the Liberal party, if not of the whole country, against the practice which, in my opinion, is in itself odious to the last degree, which would not be for a moment tolerated in England, and in reference to which I thought it wise and right to point out that it was dangerous as well as odious, that when in a similar case the population of England had become cognizant of similar practices, they themselves had resorted to the commission of crime for the purpose of marking the detestation with which they regarded it. ("Hear, hear.")
I pass on to the remarks of the right honorable gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and I feel bound to refer to the observation he made during the general debate on the address last week, to what he called the practice of members on this side of the House of making statements outside this House which they would not repeat within it, and especially to his adverse and rather angry comments on tne pacific tone of the speech which I had just delivered. The right honorable gentleman overflows with pugnacious matter. He is young and inexperienced in debate, and bold and able as I confess him to be, I think that when he has been fifty-six years in the service of his country, it is possible that his stock of contentious eagerness may be a little abated. (Laughter and cheers.) I have many reasons, but if I must give a reason why I was particularly anxious to avoid the needless introduction of contentious or polemical or accusatory matter in speaking on the opening debate on the address. I felt that an Irish debate was pending; and in the second place, the great object I had in view was to assist and to promote the purpose of the Government,—to promote, I will also say, the honor, dignity, and efficiency of this House, by 8giving what I may call in homely language a good start to the business of the session, by detaching it from everything like controversy. But if the right honorable gentleman laments the uncombative character of that discussion, I think he will derive probably ample satisfaction in the future. There is no fear, I believe, that Irish debate will be wanting in animation, possibly in animosity, so long as the right honorable gentleman continues to be Chief Secretary. (Opposition cheers and laughter.) The right honorable gentleman even on that occasion found in my pacific speech matter deserving of indignant rebuke. I repeat my lamentations that some of the most difficult and the nicest parts of the law are removed by the operation of the Coercion Act of last year from judges and juries to men whom I termed of an inferior stamp. That was the observation I ventured to make, and the right honorable gentleman was rather wrathful over it. I fully admit that he is a perfect master of tu quoque. He said, "Whoever they are, they are the men whom Lord Spencer appointed." In the first place, that is quite inaccurate; and in the second place, if inaccurate, it was totally irrelevant. It is perfectly inaccurate.
Mr. Balfour. I said that sixty out of seventy-three were appointed mostly by Lord Spencer, or else were the appointments of previous Governments revived by him.
Mr. Gladstone. And so the right honorable gentleman thinks that what he calls reviving—that is to say not dismissing—is the same thing as appointing. ("Hear, hear," and laughter.)
The gentlemen of whose conduct as resident magistrates I especially complained, were Mr. Eldon, Captain Seagrave, Mr. Cecil Roche, Mr. Meldon, and Mr. Carew. These five, and undoubtedly these are the gentlemen I had specially in view when I spoke of men of an inferior stamp, not one of these was appointed by Lord Spencer. (Cheers.) But supposing they were, the statement of the right honorable gentleman was absolutely and ludicrously irrelevant. What I was speaking of was not the discharge by the resident magistrates of their ordinary and traditionary duties, but the extraordinary duties which the right honorable gentleman and the Government have insisted in putting upon them. The right honorable gentleman was especially indignant with me, because at a given date in the 9recess, or before the termination of the session, I telegraphed to some correspondent the words, "Remember Mitchelstown," and that in a speech at Nottingham I had developed my meaning of that phrase with all the force I could. The right honorable gentleman thought fit to point at me the reproach that I was not disposed to maintain here what I have said elsewhere.
Now I have referred to my own statement at Nottingham about Mitchelstown, and I can only say I not only adhere to it, but I strengthen it. I never in my life uttered words, or sent words by letter or telegram, which I more rejoice to have used, and am better content to have used, than the words, "Remember Mitchelstown." (Loud Opposition cheers.) It was not done inconsiderately. It was done considerately, for the sake of Ireland and the country, and for the sake of preventing the enormous mischiefs, probable sufferings, probable bloodshed, and the consequent resistance to the law that might arise in Ireland in consequence of what had occurred at Mitchelstown, and of its adoption and appropriation by the right honorable gentleman. (Cheers.) What was it? It was this: A legal meeting ("Hear, hear") of 4,000 men assembled; the police, under the plea of the common practice of having an official reporter at the meeting, instead of prior communication with those who held it, instead of going to the platform at a point where it was open and accessible, formed a wedge of twenty men, and endeavored by force to drive that wedge into the middle of the crowd. I am here to say that a public meeting is an orderly assembly; that to observe order in a public meeting is part of the law of the land ("Hear, hear"); that the driving a wedge into the meeting was an illegality on the part of the police; and that the police who drove it into the crowd were themselves guilty of illegality, and ought to have been given into custody. (Cheers.)
On this deplorable occasion the agents of the law were the breakers of the law, and those breakers of the law, acting in the first instance under subordinate authority, were adopted and sanctioned by the right honorable gentleman, with the full authority of the Government. (Cheers.) What was the second act of the police? Their wedge was not strong enough; they were pressed back out of the crowd, and it seems to me with 10perfect propriety and legality, whereupon they brought a large force of police and charged the crowd, because the crowd had not concurred and co-operated in the former illegality. That was a fresh illegality committed by the police. Then violence began; then began the use of batons; then began the use of sticks and cudgels; then began the sufferings of the men in the crowd, and of individual members of the police, on which the right honorable gentleman is eloquent, and which I regret as much as he does. But the police in these two illegalities of attacking and batoning the crowd were defeated. The crowd did not pursue them. (Cheers.) According to all the information before us, the crowd were recalled, and again took their places in the square. A mere scattering and sprinkling of most probably boys, we know not how and to what extent, were in the street where the police barracks are to be found; and among them, those boys or others, succeeded in breaking three windows of the police barracks. (Laughter.) Those three windows were exalted and uplifted by the right honorable gentleman into a general attack on the barracks, compelling the police, in self-defence, to fire on the people. In one sense I must say the police did not fire on the people, for no mass of people was there to fire on. I said at Nottingham, and it is the result of all the inquiry I have made, that there was not more than twenty people in the street opposite the barracks, and under these circumstances the police actually fired into the windows of the opposite house, where there were peaceful people, women, and children; and they fired deliberately at individuals, two old men and one boy, whom they destroyed. That I do not hesitate here to denounce—I think I did not use the words at Nottingham—as cruel, wanton, and disgraceful bloodshed (Loud cheers.) It recalls the period of Lord Sidmouth, and was bloodshed which, so far as I know, has had no example in its wantonness and causelessness since the memorable occasion in Manchester, which is popularly known as the Massacre of Peterloo. (Cheers.)
Now, I have given the right honorable gentlemen my views about Mitchelstown. (Opposition cheers and derisive Ministerial cheers.) It was time that I should say, "Remember Mitchelstown." Mitchelstown might have become what in one particular class of language is termed a "prerogative instance." The Mitchelstown 11police, commended by the right honorable gentleman, were held up to the police in Ireland as the pattern which they were to follow. (Cheers.) They were told they had acted only in self-defence, and the measure and meaning of self-defence, as exhibited at Mitchelstown, I feared, and it was reasonable to fear, would be the meaning and the measure of self-defence on every other occasion, when, by legality or illegality, the police found an opportunity of coming into collision with the people. (Cheers.) I tell the right honorable gentleman frankly that, in my opinion, he had become, by clear implication, a breaker of the law. (Cheers.) He had given to the breaking of the law authoritative countenance and approval, and not only so, but he had done it under circumstances where that authoritative approval, conveyed to the mind of the police, would naturally, justly, and excusably, almost necessarily, have pointed out to them that that was to be the model and rule of their conduct in every example of the kind. (Cheers.) Sir, it was in the interests of law and order that I denounced the conduct of the police. (Opposition cheers and derisive Ministerial cheers, in which Mr. Balfour joined.) It will be a long time, I think, before he can discover an instance, either on this bench or among any of those who are our friends, in which the law and order of the country, and the security and the lives of the people, had been treated with such recklessness as they then were by the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues. (Cheers.) I have done my best to inform myself, and in conformity with, I believe, uncontradicted and consentient statements, I contend that the inferences I have drawn from these facts are just inferences, and that it was not only natural but necessary to adopt precautions on the part, I will say, of England, against the fatal imitations which Mitchelstown might have produced, and to take securities for law and order in Ireland, first of all, as I pointed out to the people of England, that these things ought to be watched; and secondly, by making known to the Government, and to their agents and their organs beyond the the Channel, that if such occurrences did happen, they would not pass uncensured. (Cheers.) I believe I never spoke more useful—I will go further, and say more fruitful—words than when I telegraphed, "Remember Mitchelstown." (Loud Opposition 12cheers and derisive Ministerial cheers.) I now come to the statistics of the right honorable gentleman, with reference to boycotting. The Government are particularly stingy in their statistics, but they have given some figures as to boycotting. I do not recollect that boycotting was ever made a portion of Government statistics before.
Mr. Balfour. We have made statistics before on boycotting.
Mr. Gladstone. Yes; but I am speaking of the ancient and traditional practice which this Conservative Government are always so indisposed to follow. (Opposition cheers and laughter.) Statistics of crime deal with facts and matter of record; statistics of boycotting, as far as I understand, are matter of opinion. ("Hear, hear.") What amounts to boycotting,—what is the test of it? There must be, and will be, cases of harsh and unreasonable persecution under the name of boycotting. It is never to be forgotten, though it is very common to forget it, that when you have a state of things that prevails in Ireland,—old and sore relations of friction between class and class, the sense of still remaining suffering or grievance, and consequent instability of social order,—the criminal elements that will always subsist in every community (though I thank God to say that I believe they subsist in Ireland more narrowly than almost anywhere else), I will find their way into social questions, and undoubtedly you will have bad, and very bad, cases exhibited in matters such as these. Therefore the exhibition of particular instances is a very unsafe and insufficient test. They ought to be quoted with great accuracy. The right honorable gentleman has been defending to-night his chosen instruments of the present year. ("Hear, hear.") Yes, but he was met immediately with point blank contradictions on matters of fact, and at present I shall enter no further into that question, which evidently must be made the subject of further examination. ("Hear, hear.") But the right honorable gentleman gave us last year a case of boycotting which was touching to the last degree,—the case of the Galway midwife. (Cheers and laughter.) Does the right honorable gentleman say that the instance he selected last year—the instance of the Galway midwife—was well founded? (Cheers.)
Mr. Balfour. Absolutely correct in every particular. (Ministerial cheers.)
13Mr. Gladstone. All I can say is, that here likewise the right honorable gentleman has been met with a point blank contradiction. ("Hear, hear.") But what are we to say of boycotting statistics as a basis for legislation or for congratulation on the rising felicity of a country, when the right honorable gentleman, out of the thousands of cases he has had before him, can only select for us two upon which he is at once met by having his facts challenged, and his conclusions falsified? (Cheers.) Let me point out this. My right honorable friend, the member for Newcastle, well remarked on a former occasion, that there is a chapter of statistics which, if the right honorable gentleman had chosen to enter it, would have been far more to the purpose on this occsion than these he has laid before us, though they are not wholly without value; and that is the statistics of evicted or derelict land. ("Hear, hear.") There could be no difficulty whatever for the right honorable gentleman to have called for returns of the acreage on farms, which, in different counties in Ireland, either all over Ireland or in selected counties, had been derelict a year, two years, or three years ago, in the time of Lord Spencer and down to the present date, and had shown us how, under the recovered liberty of the Irish people, about which he boasts, the acreage of these derelict farms had gradually been diminished. The right honorable gentleman has not only avoided but shirked that question (cheers), and he shirked it because he substituted for any attempt at a rational answer to my right honorable friend, a jeremiad upon the state of feeling which he thought might be produced in Ireland when he found my right honorable friend using language which, in his opinion, was capable of being interpreted into sympathy with the operations of the Land League. ("Hear, hear.") A more unjust charge never was made. (Opposition cheers). But, just or unjust, it has nothing to do with the question.
The right honorable gentleman found himself, and the Queen has been instructed to found herself in her speech, and the organs of the Government have based themselves in their articles, upon the assertion that liberty, as they phrase it, is returning to the people of Ireland. If that liberty were returning, it would be exhibited in a proportionate diminution of derelect farms. ("Hear, hear," from Mr. Balfour.) Then why 14have you not shown it? (Opposition cheers.) There is one part of the statistics that we have read with increased satisfacfaction, that is the diminution in the amount of crime, limited as that diminution is. I thought when the right honorable gentleman constructed his artificial return, he had some very special purpose in view. It is the first time that I have known the month of January do such good service, and when I look into the return, I find out the cause: The return of offences reported to the constabulary are reported under three major heads,—offences against the person, offences against property, and offences against the public peace. With regard to the offences against the person and property, I find that if I take the five months only of last year, after the passing of the Coercion Act, and compare them with the corresponding five months of the year before, there is no diminution whatever. ("Hear, hear.") But in the month of January there was in offences against the person a sudden, a most well-timed, and fortunate, and rapid decline, for they fell from ten to three. The right honorable gentleman drew January into his service; by means of that declension, he was able to show a diminution of six per cent of offences against person and property. I am extremely glad of it, and wish there had been a great deal more. The offences which have sensibly and really diminished are those against the public peace, and I rejoice that they have diminished. But why? The right honorable gentleman stands up and says that the cause of the diminution is the Coercion Act, but I think I have shown that whereas the diminution of crime proper, as directed against person and property, is an exceedingly small diminution, the diminution of offences against the public peace is much larger. I make it out to be that that they fell in these six months from three hundred and twenty-four to two hundred and thirty-eight, or a diminution of about twenty-five per cent. These are exactly the offences that would diminish under the operation of a conciliatory Land Act. (Opposition cheers.)
The right honorable gentleman has the boldness to say that we, on this side of the House, never gave any credit to the Land Act. Why, sir, the Land Act, grossly imperfect as it was, culpably imperfect in the matter of arrears (cheers), contained 15a great and important provision which the member for Cork in vain had demanded in the September before, which, if it had then been granted, you probably never might have heard of the Plan of Campaign. (Cheers.) It was denounced to the House by the Government of that day as being a provision totally incompatible with that morality, forsooth, on which right honorable gentlemen prided themselves. (Laughter.) I speak of the provision which, under a great responsibility, her Majesty's Government, though far too late, introduced as a most valuable gift. It was quite evident that, so far as offences against the public peace were concerned, the reopening of the judicial rents, and the concession made to leaseholders, could not but operate in the most powerful manner in favor of that diminution. (Cheers.) There are two other questions to be considered, viz., how the law has been administered, and how the administration of the law has succeeded. Has the administration of the law been of a character to reconcile, or has it been of a character to estrange, or has it been calculated to teach respect for the Government, or to bring the Government into increasing hatred or contempt? I am not going into details of prison treatment, but I am going to touch the case of two members of Parliament, with reference to a matter other than prison treatment. I am not cognizant by direct and personal knowledge of the facts, but I have received them from quarters thought to be thoroughly informed. Unless I had so received them, I would not think of laying them before the House.
Mr. Sheehy, a member of this House, has been arrested and remanded without bail. It was a misfortune which might have been taken into consideration at the time that his wife was ill of a disease known as scarlatina, or scarlet fever. He was offered bail by the Government if he would promise not to open his lips in public. By Government—that, I presume, means the Executive Government. I want to know what title the resident magistrate had to make such a condition as that. (Opposition cheers.) Most dangerous is this introduction of the new discretion of resident magistrates,—a discretion of imposing new restrictions upon prisoners. Why is it necessary to impose 16these conditions? If Mr. Sheehy chose to commit an offence while he was under bail, he could be taken up for that, and I want to hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or some member of the Government, a distinct account of the new doctrine that those conditions may be imposed, which are written, I believe, neither in law nor in custom, which have been set in action in Ireland, but which in England, we know, are not heard of, and would not be heard of or tolerated for a moment. (Cheers.) Mr. Sheehy, I must say, very properly entirely declined to accede to that condition, and he was tried and sentenced to three months' imprisonment. He appealed, as he was entitled to do, and bail was accepted for his appearance at quarter sessions, so that he would have been able to obey the almost sacred domestic form of tie which was at the time incumbent upon him. But as he was going out of the door of the court he was arrested again on another charge, and brought away immediately to a distant part of the country, his wife being in the very crisis of her illness, and her life seriously threatened. On the second charge he was sentenced, not to three months, which would have enabled him to appeal, but to one months imprisonment, (Nationalist cheers), depriving him of the power of appeal.
Mr. Chance. Which had been promised by the right honorable gentleman to the House.
Mr. Gladstone. The right honorable gentleman, the Chief Secretary, is perfectly aware of that promise. He is perfectly aware that in the debate last year he was charged by my right honorable friend near me (Sir W. Harcourt) with breech of faith with regard to that promise, and to that charge of breach he has remained, I must say, very patiently silent. (Opposition cheers.) Now, is that the sort of administration of the act of last year which her Majesty's Government are prepared to defend? (Opposition cheers.) Is it thus that Ireland is to be reconciled? (Nationalist cheers.) Is it thus that the Irish nation is to be converted? Is it in this House of Commons, the most ancient and the noblest of all the temples of freedom, that such operations as this are to be either passed over in silence or defended by those engaged in them? (Loud Opposition cheers.) I cannot understand the extreme severity of 17treatment in certain particulars, if I am rightly informed, meted out to this gentleman; but I wish to keep for the present to what relates most distinctly to the administration of the law as apart from prison discipline, and in that view alone I would mention the case of Alderman Hooper and others. Alderman Hooper was sentenced for publishing reports of the National League branches that had been suppressed, although, as I understand, there are plenty of these reports published within the cognizance of the Government, with respect to which those who publish them have not been sentenced and have not been proceeded against.
Well, Mr. Alderman Hooper was proceeded against, and was sentenced for publishing these reports for a term of one month. He would have had there no right of appeal, but was again simultaneously charged for publishing another report; another sentence of one month was pronounced upon him. These sentences, though cumulative with regard to him, were not cumulative with regard to the right to appeal. (Cheers.) Therefore, while the right honorable gentleman professed to give the right of appeal for all sentences above a month, by this clever device he has contrived to inflict upon Alderman Hooper, a member of this House, an imprisonment of two months, and yet that Alderman Hooper should have no right of appeal. And there again, sir, I say I am sorry to use strong words, but I am tempted to do so outside this House, and I will do so in this House. (Opposition cheers) This was explained to be not only a constitutional violence, not only a clear evasion of the spirit of the law, but an incredible meanness (loud Opposition cheers), a meanness in the method of administering the Crimes Act, and a spirit is displayed which, if the Irish people had only a hundredth part of the courage, the pluck, and perseverance which they had shown through seven centuries, could only tend to alienate and estrange them from those who attempt so to govern them. (Opposition cheers.) The word that I have thus used I am going to use again. (Ministerial laughter.) I am very desirous to invite the concurrence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the propriety of my application of it, or whether he considers that nobleness would be a better description of the circumstances which I am about to describe. Without knowing 18what I am going to say, the right honorable gentleman accepts my challenge, and, therefore, I am justified in exhibiting a specimen of the nobleness with which this administration of Ireland is conceived and executed.
I have before me a list of six people prosecuted, not for publishing reports of suppressed branches, but for selling them. Their names are: Macnamara, at Tralee; Mahony, Tralee; Molloy, Tralee; Brosman, Killarney; Green, at Killarney, also; and at Ennis, another Macnamara. (Irish honorable members: "This same man twice.") Two of the cases were dismissed, but four of them were sent to prison,—one for a month with hard labor, another for a month with hard labor, another for two months with hard labor, and another released on a promise not to do it again. Again this method of interfering with private freedom by arbitrary restriction, governed by no law, justified by no usage, devised by this spirit of Irish administration (cheers), and with respect to which I want to know how far this importation into the law and jurisprudence of the country is to be carried under the auspices of her Majesty's Government. Well, now, sir, I want to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he is to speak to-night, does he see nobleness in the prosecution of these men? ("Hear, hear.") Does he think it rational to prosecute these men? (Cheers.) Does he think it right to require of the vender of a newspaper that he should read its contents? Does he think it right to require that he should have formed his judgment of those contents, that he should have made up his mind whether the proceedings described in the newspaper were legal or illegal? and is that the responsibility which he thinks ought to be imposed on the vender of a newspaper under pain of being condemned to one month or two months' imprisonment? This administration of the Crimes Act, to which I must advisedly apply, until I am better instructed, the term "meanness," has yet, at any rate, had no defence offered in the course of this debate. (Cheers.) The remaining point of the administration of the law on which I will comment is of a different character. It is with respect to exclusive dealing.
It will be remembered that we, in our charges against the bill last year, did not say that it justified the proceedings of 19exclusive dealing. I do not believe the act does justify them; but this I am bound to say, that the interpretation of the act appears to be deliberately applied in a variety of instances for the punishment of simple exclusive dealing. The right honorable gentleman ought to know, if he does not, for I delivered the speech in his hearing, that when I spoke of the dismissal of curates by rectors and the deprivation of their daily bread, that men with wives and children were to be turned out upon the world, I was not, as the right honorable gentlemen charged me, comparing them with cases of conspiracy, but I was comparing them with cases of exclusive dealing, which, while they are practised freely both in Ireland by the opponents of the Nationalists, and in England by the party of the right honorable gentleman (Opposition cheers), unpunished by the law, I believe it is stretching and straining even the deplorable and shameful act of last session to make it include such cases. Now, sir, I wish to mention eight cases, but first I find I was quite wrong in saying that two of the cases for selling newspapers had been dismissed. They were not. The defendants were released upon promise, and the other four punished. I have now before me eight cases of exclusive dealing, two of which were dismissed, but in all of which the Government proceeded. In one of these cases a man was punished with a month's hard labor for refusing to shoe a horse for a boycotted person; another, for refusing to sell groceries to a boycotted person; a third, for refusing to shoe a horse; and a fourth, for declining to deal with emergency men. Those are all cases of exclusive dealing. They are not cases of conspiracy. In fact, these men have been punished for doing in Ireland that which would be perfectly lawful in England, and which, I believe, is perfectly lawful even in Ireland, under any fair interpretation of the act. Now, has the act succeeded, or it has failed? I do not think gentlemen will object to the proposition that its real object was to put down the National League and the Plan of Campaign.
Now I come again to the speech of the honorable member for East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) which, I venture to say, was a memorable speech. (Cheers). To him, as I have never had the privilege of private or personal communication, I will say publicly in 20this House that though, as he says, imprisonment under the condition he describes is a hard and severe thing, which drives the iron into the soul of a man and leaves him such that he hardly can be again what he was before, yet I trust that the right honorable gentleman has derived some consolation and encouragement to persevere, at least, in lawful and patriotic efforts for setting right the wrongs of his country. I hope he has derived it from the enthusiastic reception that he encountered in this House and out of it, and, I will add, for the credit of honorable gentlemen opposite, from the respectful, and, to some extent, I think, the symathetic silence with which they also accorded him a kindly reception. (Cheers.) The speech of the honorable member was of an importance which has not in the smallest degree been appreciated by the Chief Secretary. The right honorable gentleman has argued the case in his old manner; and whereas the honorable gentleman charged him with having said that he pleaded ill-health against the prison dress, what appears is that the Chief Secretary says that the honorable member had sheltered himself by ill-health against the demand to wear prison dress. For that statement of the right honorable gentleman, as amended and admitted, there is not a shadow of foundation. (Irish cheers.) That you cannot contradict, although you have plenty of myrmidons, and, perhaps, some minions. You cannot show that either by word or act, the honorable member entered this ignominious plea. Why has the right honorable gentleman passed by in silence another personal statement of the honorable member, which I tell him he had no right to pass by, and with respect to which I will now put it to him and the House, that after he has had an opportunity of making Lord Salisbury's defence, he has utterly failed to tender any defence at all? (Cheers.)
Mr. Balfour. He did not require any.
Mr. Gladstone. That is just the matter I am going to argue, and we will see how it stands. The statement of the member for Cork was to this effect, that Lord Salisbury in one of his speeches, after some jocose references which exhibit the tase of the Prime Minister (Opposition cheers), and which are a great deal too common in speeches proceeding from such quarters, held up to British indignation the illegality of the conduct 21of the member for East Cork, and stated that it had led to disturbances, to attacks upon persons which even placed life in danger, and to gross outrages. In reply, the honorable gentleman stated that his intervention at Mitchelstown produced no act of violence whatever, but on the contrary averted it. The Chief Secretary has not been able to controvert that statement. (Cheers.) Not being able to controvert it, he has passed it by. He has neither the courage to prosecute, nor the generosity to withdraw. (Cheers.) Lord Salisbury made an allegation of a gross and grievous character, which his nephew in this House cannot say a word in support of.
Now, however, he says that that allegation of Lord Salisbury, injurious as it is, and remaining without a shadow of defence, needs no apology. (Cheers.) I hold that until Lord Salisbury can show that he was justified in the broad and most important statement that he made, a personal apology from him is due to the member for East Cork. (Opposition cheers.) This is a personal matter, but it is no slight thing that charges of this kind should be made by the Prime Minister, and that then, forsooth, we should have a shuffling and a shrinking from any attempt to deal with them. With regard to the act for which the member for East Cork was put in prison, the honorable gentleman, has pointed out the attendant circumstances and the consequences of his act; but the right honorable gentleman instead of admitting the virtue of those pleas, generalized his charge, and said it was the habitual and settled practice of the Irish members to do these things. Why, then, did they select for prosecution this instance, in which the member for Cork is able to state, without contradiction, that his intervention, whatever judgment may be given on the naked question of its legality, not only saved tenants from distress, but the public peace from disorder and outrage? (Cheers.)
Now I wish to call attention to the most important part of the statement that I am presuming to make. When I heard the address read from the chair, I said that the heart of it was the challenging paragraph; and when I heard the speech of the member for East Cork last night, I said to myself, "Never did I hear so challenging a speech." The assertions of the member 22for East Cork opened up the whole question, and gave to the Government the opportunity by contradiction, by grappling with those assertions, of establishing their case and of showing that their designs against the National League and the Plan of Campaign were, at least, in process of accomplisment. Here I must say a word about the Plan of Campaign. It is an interference with the law. It has, no doubt, substituted its authority for the law. Far be it from me to assert that necessarily such a plan in the abstract is an evil. But it is something more. It is a sign that the law does not do its work. It is a sign that the conditions of legality do not exist. It is a warning to set about restoring them. This is not the only place where extra legal combinations and anti-legal combinations have been brought into existence for the purpose of mitigating social disorder. Having cited several of such organizations, such as the Swing organization, the Camorra society in Italy, and Lynch law in America, the right honorable gentleman said, these, all of them, are in their nature evils, but such is the imperfection of man and the imperfection of his institutions, that sometimes things that are evils in themselves are the cure of greater evils, and in respect of the Plan of Campaign, what has to be shown, is that without it Ireland would have been happier and more tranquil than it is at present.
Having recapitulated Mr. O'Brien's six statements as to the beneficial effects of the plan, Mr. Gladstone continued: Now, whereas we now appear to know that there are about forty cases settled under the Plan of Campaign, there is no case in which payments made under the plan have been censured as rapacious or unreasonable by a single Land Commission. Now, be it recollected that I am not arguing upon the propriety of the plan. I am arguing upon its success. I have shown that there is not the smallest shred of contradiction against any one of those allegations, and that, taken as they stand, they show that at this moment, notwithstanding the boasts of the administration, the Plan of Campaign stands in Ireland entire, successful, and triumphant. Since it has been under the proscription of the right honorable gentleman for a certain time, it appears, according to the facts before us, to weigh considerably heavier 23than it did before he had anything to do with it, and well this illustrates the success of the right honorable gentleman's policy. (Home Rule cheers.)
There is one still more important point. The right honorable gentleman made no attempt to connect the National League or the Plan of Campaign with the commission of crime and outrage. The Attorney-General did make an attempt, and what was the narrow basis of that attempt? Why, it was one upon which a tight-rope dancer might perhaps have found a footing, but from which men with only ordinary means of locomotion must have fallen. (Laughter.) He got hold of two crimes,—one of the Plan of Campaign, and one of the National League, and how did he establish the connection? Intuitively, out of his inner consciousness, for as he could not see the causes of the crimes, he thought it reasonable to put them down to these institutions, and, to prevent jealousy, he gave one crime to each. (Laughter.) What course was open to the honorable and learned gentleman? What course remains open to the Government if they intend, as they ought deliberately and seriously, to show a connection between crime and outrage, and these considerable powers which they are laboring to put down? There are two courses they might pursue. If there were grounds for this imputation, the Attorney-General ought to have searched the evidence in all the numerous prosecutions the Government have instituted, and to have shown from that evidence that witnesses testified, and that judicial authority acknowledged, facts which tended to show that a connection existed between crime and the National League, and crime and the Plan of Campaign.
Not the smallest attempt was made by the honorable and learned gentleman or by the Government to do anything of the kind. The reason was that they could find no such evidence, and I give no credit to the Plan of Campaign or to the National League for the absence of such evidence, because to encourage crime on the part of either, or to tolerate it, would be suicidal to them. (Cheers.) The right honorable gentleman might have pursued the course which I took in 1881, when arguing the unhappy bill of that year (unhappy as to the nature of its provisions), which was designed to meet what was at the time a 24most threatening evil. I argued that the Land League, as i operated at that time, was an organization imparting danger to the country. I showed, or tried to show, that wherever you traced the footsteps of the League, you traced the increase of crime. The Attorney-General did not pursue that course, because he knew it would result in total failure. Therefore I think we have evidence before us, so far as it goes, and it goes pretty far, to show that as regards these great objects which the Government have had in view, of putting down the National League and the Plan of Campaign, their efforts have resulted in total failure.
Whether it be the Land Act, with its beneficial or imperfect provisions, or whether it be that dawning of the rays of hope, that beginning of the knitting together of the heart of one nation to the heart of the other, the diminution of crime is a matter of rejoicing, and we wish it were greater, we congratulate the Government, and we heartily hope that in the hands of beneficial and benign causes it may continue to decrease. Well, such is the retrospect. What is the prospect? What is to come? Will the Government continue still to deal with signs, and never to look at the substance, to legislate against symptoms and manifestations and never to touch the disease, to try and prune off from the rankly luxurious vegetation, here a twig and there a leaf, and never to ask themselves whether the proper purpose and design is not to bring it out by the roots? There are many things which are said by the Government in debate, but there is one thing which they and their supporters most rarely say. I think, as far as my recollection and experience goes, I may almost venture to go further, and assert they never say,—I never had heard them express a confidence that they will be able to establish a permanent resistance to the policy of Home Rule. (Opposition cheers.)
I am glad not to be met with adverse challenges when I say this. If this be a question of time at all, then it is most important to consider what is the right time. I don't disguise any more than the honorable member for East Cork the strength of the combinations that are opposed to us. They are very strong indeed; they have nearly the whole wealth of the country; they have nearly the whole of the high station of the country; they have most of the elements of social strength which abound 25in them; they have with these all the things which belong to wealth, to rank, and to station in this country, which is vast in its amount, they are very strong, and by their strength they may secure delay, but delay in a subject of this kind, a controversy of nations, is not an unmixed good. It has its dangers and its inconveniences. You are happily free at this moment from the slighest shadow of foreign complications. You have at this moment the constitutional assent of Ireland, pledged in the most solemn form, for the efficacy of the policy which I am considering. But the day may come when your condition may not be so happy. I do not expect, any more than I desire, these foreign complications, but still it is not wise wholly to shut them out.
What I fear is rather this, that if resistance to the national voice of Ireland be pushed too far, those who now guide the mind of that nation may gradually lose their power, and may be supplanted and displaced by ruder and more dangerous spirits. These very institutions, the National League and the Plan of Campaign, which would vanish into thin air upon a rational settlement of the Irish difficulty, might with their power drive such deep roots into the soil, they might acquire such a mastery, if not over the understandings, over the passions of the people, for passions in these cases will always be let loose, they might acquire a strength which may enable them hereafter to offer serious hindrances to government which is good. I venture to express a hope that there will be deeper reflection upon these matters. In the present administration of Ireland, it is too plain you are endeavoring to do what the language of Lord Salisbury shows is too clearly your intention, what has long been endeavored, but under circumstances wholly different. For seven hundred years, with Ireland practically unrepresented, with Ireland prostrate, with the forces of this great and powerful island absolutely united, you tried and failed to do that which you are now trying to do with Ireland fully represented in your Parliament, with Ireland herself raised to a position which is erect and strong, and with the mind of the people so devoted that if you look to the elections of the last twelve months you find that the majority of the people have voted in favor of the concession of Home Rule.
26If this is to continue, I would venture to ask gentlemen opposite under such circumstances as these, and with the experience you have, is your persistence in this system of administration, I will not say just, but is it wise, is it politic, is it hopeful, is it conservative? (Cheers.) Now, at length, bethink yourselves of a change, and consent to administer, and consent finally to legislate for Ireland and for Scotland in conformity with the constitutionally expressed wishes and the profound and permanent convictions of the people; and ask yourselves whether you will at last consent to present to the world the spectacle of a truly and not a nominally United Empire. (Loud Opposition cheers.)
Mr. W. O'Brien rose amid loud and prolonged cheers from the Irish members, and speaking for the first time in this House since his release from Tullamore Jail, said: All the speeches which have been made in support of the Government have seemed to follow the keynote struck by the Chief Secretary. They all appeared to be more or less artfully designed to draw angry retorts from these benches. It is one of our national faults to be very ready to resent injustice, and a most generous use our opponents have made of that characteristic. ("Hear, hear.") The whole policy of our opponents towards Ireland, and the whole object of the powerful London newspapers, seems to be to get at the worst side of Irish and of English character, and to sting and goad us into doing things which will put new life into national prejudices that are expiring in spite of you. (Opposition cheers.) Irishmen and Englishmen are becoming only too united for your purpose. Yours is a noble ambition! But you have failed in Ireland, and you will fail, I promise you, in this House also. There was a time when we came here with our hand against every man's, and every man's hand against us. We expected no quarter, and to the best of our ability we gave none. It seemed to no purpose to struggle against the tremendous and cruel forces arrayed against us; but that is all at an end forever, thanks to the right honorable member for Mid-Lothian. (Cheers.)
We have come to this House no longer as enemies among enemies. We count ourselves Ishmaelites no longer in this House, nor in this land of England. We are now among allies and friends who were not ashamed nor afraid to stand by our side and by the side of our people in many a bitter hour of trial and calumny last year. (Opposition cheers.) We come here now among a people whose consciences, I believe, have been 28deeply stirred by the sufferings of our unfortunate people; and though we are confronted by a hostile majority, callous to those sufferings, we know that that majority does not represent Scotland and Wales. (Opposition cheers.) We believe that it does not even represent England. (Renewed Opposition cheers, and counter Ministerial cheers.) It is a majority obtained by foul means and upon representations which have turned out to be utterly false. We know that it is a majority who, two years ago, were not ashamed to receive their offices at the hands of the men whom they are now libelling in England and torturing in Ireland. (Loud Opposition cheers.) We have no respect for that majority. I doubt whether in their secret hearts many of them have much respect for themselves. ("Hear, hear.") I know very well that they are extremely ill at ease. We believe, as I say, that we are winning. (Cheers.) The right honorable gentleman opposite (the Chief Secretary) has failed in Ireland. (Home Rule cheers.) He has failed to smash our organization. He has failed to break the spirit of our people. He has failed to degrade us, I won't say in the eyes of our countrymen, for that would be absurd, but in the eyes of every honest man within these three realms. He has failed in every one of those calculations in which he indulged so confidently last autumn.
I shall prove before I sit down that failure is written on every clause and upon every provision of this act, abject failure, discomfiture, and disgrace. I shall be able to prove that sorely as our people have been tried and wronged, that they have managed to survive one of the most horrible Coercion Acts that has ever been directed against human liberty: that they have been able to crush and baffle it at every point, and that without one deed that they look upon with shame, but by sheer force of an incomparable national feeling. (Cheers.) Now, in the first place, I shall try to deal very shortly with my own case; and if I refer to it at all, it is, not in order to notice the coarse sneers of the honorable member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell),—I do not think it would be as parliamentary as it is true to say malignant sneers ("Hear, hear"),—I think it possible that before very long those sneers may be answered in the only way they deserve, by the electors of South Tyrone,—it is because I recognize that I am the very 29worst parliamentary criminal under this act. I am the only one who could have been proceeded against under the ordinary common law, with the shadow of a chance of conviction. Every colleague of mine who has been punished is being punished for new and statutable offences for which no jury in the world would convict under the ordinary law. The point I press upon the House is that if I can justify my offence, then I say, with a thousand times more force, the conviction of every one of my colleagues is an outrage upon justice, and their treatment in prison is an indelible disgrace to the man who planned it. I find that foul misrepresentation has been resorted to to mislead and to deceive the English public as to the offence for which I was sentenced.
Within the last week I have been reading the papers, and I am sorry to find that Lord Salisbury was not above stooping to encourage and to lead this attempt most unfairly and untruly to poison the English mind against me. He made a speech at Oxford, in which he indulged in flouts and gibes at my own humble expense. I do not complain of that. It is not the first time that he has been accused of making flouts and gibes at the expense of persons with whom he was more intimately allied than he is with me. (Opposition cheers and laughter.) But here is how this great nobleman describes my case to an English audience. He says, "What is there in the case of Mr. O'Brien to make him a martyr?" And then he goes on with his creditable witticisms. He says, "I do not refer to his small clothes. (Laughter.) Their vicissitudes would furnish a theme for an epic (rewewed laughter), and I hope an Irish bard will arise worthy of the subject. (Continued laughter.) But taking the man apart from his clothes." (Roars of laughter; Ministerial cheers.) I notice that your cheers do not rise to a roar. (Opposition cheers.) I do not answer these remarks. The noble lord went on, "What is there to excite the sympathy of the loyal subjects of England? He broke the law; he incited others to break the law, and recommended that the men who were endeavoring to collect just debts should be met with violence. In consequence of his recommendation, they were met with violence. They were scalded with hot water, and some of them were brought next to death's door. What is there to excite 30the sympathy of the loyal subjects of England?" (Cries of "Nothing.")
Now I shall tell you briefly the circumstances under which my advice was given, and the results of that advice. I will ask any candid man in England, after he has heard me, whether that speech of Lord Salisbury is not calculated to convey to the average Englishman an impression, so false, so misleading, that I am afraid I should be obliged to travel beyond the region of parliamentary epithets to characterize it. Now, on the 2d of August, this House had, practically speaking, passed the Land Bill, enabling over a thousand people of Mitchelstown, who were leaseholders, to have their rents revised. On the 8th of August, word reached me that the police and the military were gathering in Mitchelstown to carry out an eviction campaign. The effect of that campaign would have been to forestall all the operations of the Land Bill, and, practically speaking, to defeat the intentions of Parliament, and to fling these poor people naked upon the world before the relief, which was actually entering the door, could reach them. (Opposition cheers.) That was technically legal for the landlord for a few days longer, but I hold that if ever there was a crime committed against society, it was that which was being attempted the day I went down to Mitchelstown. Well, but what was to be done? If the right honorable baronet, the late member for West Bristol (Sir M. Hicks-Beach), were still Chief Secretary, at all events, in his early manner, we might have had some hope that the Queen's troops would not have been made accomplices in such an act.
On the day I reached Mitchelstown, on the appeal of these poor people, I found that evictions had already been carried out on the non-residential holdings, where there was no possibility of resistance. Ah! It is an old story in Ireland. No mercy for the weak who can make no resistance, no scruple about perpetrating a wrong when it can be done in the dark. (Home Rule cheers.) That was the bitter thought which passed through my mind that day, when these poor people, my own constituents, came to me in helplessness and despair, to know what was to be done to save them from the ruin that was impending. There was just one hope for these people in all the world, and it 31was this. The Northwich election was pending (Opposition cheers), and the Irish evictions were an awkward topic for a Tory candidate. The stories of Glenbeigh and Bodyke were beginning to horrify the English mind. I knew that Tory statesmen would not scruple to lend troops if it could be done without commotion, but I thought they might hesitate, lest they should lose the Northwich election. I had not a moment to consult anybody, and absolutely on my own responsibility, and on the spur of the moment, I did there and then, in the open square of Mitchelstown, and in the hearing of a number of policemen, tell the people if, under these special circumstances, the evictions were carried out before the Land Bill, which was almost law, did become law, it would be no outrage of the law, and that they would be justified before God and man in defending their homes by every honest means. (Cheers.)
I might have been right, or I might have been wrong. I have no doubt that technically it was illegal for me to save the people, as it was legal for the landlords in a few days to ruin them. Technically speaking, I dare say, it would be an evasion of the law to hold the arm of an executioner if the executioner and I knew that a reprieve was actually arriving. That was precisely the case with these poor people. The reprieve was coming, and the reprieve has come. (Cheers.) Whether I was right or wrong in law, the result proved that I did not miscalculate the statesmanship and the morality of the Tory Government. What happened? The moment that it became evident that those eviction scenes would ring throughout England, the eviction campaign was abandoned. The very day I made that speech in Mitchelstown, all was peace with the tenants. Not another eviction took place, and Captain Plunkett, who came down to superintend the eviction campaign, remained, I am glad to say, and proud to say, only to turn his energies to getting up a prosecution against me. Not a single eviction has taken place there from that day to this; not an act of violence has been committed; not a blow has been struck; not a single hair has been injured of any police officer or bailiff in consequence of that speech of mine. Not one; and yet Lord Salisbury is not ashamed to say what he did.
What was the result? That those poor tenants, who but for 32our action—but for the action of John Mandeville and myself—would have been beggared and homeless men, were able to take advantage of the Land Act, such as it was, while we were in prison. A Land Sub-Commission, carefully chosen, was sent down to the Mitchelstown estate to prophesy against us, and to prove the guilt and the dishonesty of the Plan of Campaign. But they could not do it. These picked Tory officials, two of them convicted rack-renters, were obliged to declare that these poor tenants were entitled to remain in their homes, and on lower terms and at a lower rent than had been demanded. (Loud cheers.) What has happened since? The landlord has actually taken refuge from the judgment of even a Tory Land Commission in the moderation of the Plan of Campaign. Three days ago my honorable friend and collegue, the member for South Tipperary, signed, sealed, and delivered a treaty which secures these poor people safely to their homes. This is the transaction as to which Lord Salisbury is not ashamed to say that I "recommended that the men who were employed by the Crown in the recovery of just debts should be met with violence, and that in consequence, some were maltreated and scalded and brought to death's door." (Opposition, cries of "Shame.") The fact is, that not a single act of violence took place in any way on the estate after my speech. But justice was secured to those people and their children in their homes. (Cheers.)
If there is anybody who has reason to blush at the name of Mitchelstown, and to remember Mitchelstown apart from the blood that was shed there, I should think it is not I, but her Majesty's Government. They had neither the humanity to forbid these evictions, nor the courage to persevere with them. They superintended and sanctioned them as long as there was any prospect of resistance; they had the cowardice to abandou them the moment they threatened to become inconvenient to a Tory candidate, and they had the incredible meanness, while my hands were bound in prison, to present a story to the English people, in a false and untruthful guise, in order to reconcile Englishmen to having me treated worse than a thief or a cutthroat, for saving my own constituents from the fate which now the Land Commissioners and everybody on this earth acknowledge would have been a most unmerited and a most awful 33calamity. I won't weary the House by going into all the miserable circumstances, all the foul play, and the violence and the indecencies that were resorted to against us. Unfortunately they are common-place and every-day occurrences in Ireland, through the infamous tribunals you have set up. I certainly am not going to enter into any recital of the miserable little prison torments and iniquities that were employed to give us pain and humiliation, and to besmirch the character of the Irish representatives in the eyes of the people of England and Ireland. I think we can afford to pass these things by. I believe that our opponents are not all so lost to generous and manly sentiments as not to feel ashamed rather than exultant about the Chief Secretary's exploits.
There is another class of opponents. I am sorry to think that men who are capable of inflicting pain of this description are quite capable of deriving a still keener pleasure in knowing that the torments have told, and that their victims smart under their wounds. I cannot gratify them, for the simple reason that I do not feel wounded. I do not feel in the least degraded. I rather suspect that the right honorable gentleman, under his jaunty bearing, has his conscience not quite so easy as mine. I confess that I did feel keenly when in prison a letter which the right honorable gentleman published to a Mr. Armitage, not making any honest charge against me, but conveying a stealthy and loathsome insinuation that I sheltered myself under the plea of illness from being forced to wear prison dress. I challenge the right honorable gentleman to refer to any one of the three official doctors who examined me, for one tittle, I will not say of foundation, but even of countenance, for such an assertion. (Loud cheers.) Here we are now face to face. (Great cheering from the Opposition.) I challenge him in defence of his own character, for it is his own character that is at stake (cheers), to appeal to any one of those three officials to give him the slightest countenance. ("Hear, hear.")
I have said I was angry about it when in prison, but since reading the letter over fully, I am angry no longer; I confess it would be an ample vengeance, if I were a much more vindictive man than I am, for a statesman who had any reputation to lose, 34to pen such a letter. (Cheers.) The letter conveyed a hideous and cowardly imputation against a man whose mouth was shut. (Cheers.) That letter breathed in every sentence of it the temper of a beaten and an angry man (cheers),—I was going to say, of an angry woman (laughter and cheers), but I don't want to say it, because it would be a gross libel on a gentle and tender sex. ("Hear, hear.") From all I have been able to learn in England since, I feel that it is no longer necessary for us to defend ourselves to the English people. (Cheers.) I feel there is not a Tory of the fifth or sixth magnitude, who really in his heart believes for one instant that Irish members are such poor creatures as to cry out against the appearance of a prison. (Cheers.)
The honorable member for Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) said that we attempted to set up a distinction between members of Parliament and the peasants, our comrades and friends who are convicted under the act. There is not a shadow or a tittle of foundation for that statement. ("Hear, hear.") We have claimed nothing for ourselves as members of Parliament that we don't claim equally for every man convicted under the summary clauses of the act; for if he is a criminal, there is no reason why he should not be tried before the ordinary tribunal. ("Hear, hear.") We do not ask poor men to make a hard fight harder by resistance to prison rules; but if we win, they shall win as well as ourselves. ("Hear, hear.") Our position simply this: You are perfectly welcome to treat us to all the punishments that your courts of law prescribe for the very vilest miscreant in society,—the plank bed, or bread-and-water diet-solitary chnfinement, or deprivation of books and writing materials; you are perfectly welcome to heap every physical degradation on us, if that is your generous and chivalrous treatment of political prisoners, and you will never hear a word of complaint from us if you stick to that; but if you not only do that, but go further, and try and subject us to moral torture, from which criminals are altogether exempt, when you ask us to make a voluntary acknowledgement of our equality with criminals, then we say, "No; we will die first (cheers from Irish members), and you will have to learn the distinction between your criminal classes and Irish political prisoners, even if it should take a 35coroner's jury and their verdict to make the distinction." (Loud cheers.) I can only say that if any one has reason to blush, it is not we. ("Hear, hear.") I hope I am not detaining the House. (Cheers.)
The only thing I can plead is, that I shall not have an opportunity very soon of claiming your attention; but I should like to ask, "Where is all this to end?" What object has it accomplished? and if it is to go on for ever and for ever, what object can it ever possibly accomplish, except misery to a weak people and eternal worry and shame to yourselves? (Cheers.) Is it the object of the right honorable gentleman to convert the Irish people, or to dragoon them out of the aspirations which are as deeply lodged in the breasts of millions of men as the blood in their hearts? Does the right honorable gentleman in his wildest hour imagine that he has made one single genuine convert through the length and breadth of Ireland? (Cheers.) Even to take it on the lower and meaner sphere of brute force, I ask the right honorable gentleman to name one single village club that he has effectually stamped out. (Cheers.) Can he produce a single man from our ranks that he has really frightened, as the result of all the terrific power that he has been wielding in Ireland?
I ask honorable gentlemen opposite to remember with what a shout of exultation they passed the Crimes Act last session, and how they triumphed over us. I can well remember the shouts and peals of delight with which they welcomed the declaration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I think, when he said this was to be a duel to the death between the National League and the Government, and that they accepted the challenge. Well, are they satisfied with the results? (Cheers and laughter.) I ask honorable gentlemen whether they would have yelled so loudly last autumn if they could have foreseen the results of the most terrible Coercion Act ever passsd, giving the most unchecked powers that ever a despot was armed with, would be so miserable and ignominious and mean? (Cheers.) Did you or did you not expect that the act would crush the National League? Honorable gentlemen are silent. (Cheers.) I remember the shout of derision which came from the other side of the House when I ventnred to intimate a doubt whether the act, 36terrific as it looked, would succeed in crushing the Plan of Campaign. Has it been crushed, or even crippled? (Cheers.) Ask the deputation of Irish landlords (laughter and cheers) who waited on Lord Salisbury the other day with a begging letter,—ask them how many of them would be willing to try a fall with the Plan of Campaign in the morning. (Cheers and laughter.) It has never had so uniform and unbroken a course of victories as it has had this winter.
The greater number of the important struggles in which we were engaged when this act was passed has been brought to a victorious conclusion under the mouths of the right honorable gentleman's guns. (Cheers.) And upon what terms? I could speak for an hour, giving you instances of the results; but the one thing that applies to them all is, that in every single instance at least the original demands of the tenants have been acceded to. ("Hear, hear.") Every evicted tenant has been reinstated (cheers), and every shilling of law costs incurred in the struggle has been borne as an indemnity by the landlords. (Cheers, and "No.") You could have got as good a result as that without the act. On Lord de Freyne's estate, when the act was passing, the agent, Mr. M'Dougal, wrote this letter: "Spot the men in your district who are able to pay and won't; we will see, now that the Coercion Act is about to become law, whether we won't make them honest men." It turned out that the dishonest men beat Mr. M'Dougal and his master. They had confidence in the Crimes Bill and the right honorable gentleman last autumn. Where is Mr. M'Dougal to-day? He is gone, dismissed, and everything that the tenants were then demanding has been conceded.
The very day after I came out of prison, I learned that the new agent had had an interview with two of the most prominent of the campaigners on the estate, and he not only agreed to the tenants' terms, but he agreed to refund the sum of over £1,700, which Mr. M'Dougal had dishonestly extorted from the tenants before the Plan of Campaign. (Cheers.) This money was wrung from the tenants by terror, by serving one hundred and fifty writs of ejectment before they had the protection of the Plan of Campaign.
Then as to the estate of Bodyke, where the proceedings 37last summer horrified England, and for which her Majesty's Government could provide no remedy; what is the result? Last year, Mr. O'Callaghan, one of the hardest rack-renters, refused an offer of £907 for a year and a half's rent of fifty-seven tenants; he has now accepted £1,000 to wipe off two years' rent of seventy-two tenants. (Cheers and laughter.) That is to say, after losing all his money, and after costing the British taxpayer £40,000 for the expenses of his evictions (cheers), he has now come to the conclusion, and he is one of the most desperate of rack-renters, that the Crimes Act is no go, and he has struck his flag to the Plan of Campaign upon worse terms for him by far than he would have got before the passing of the Crimes Act. (Cheers.) Only this very day a letter came to my honorable friend, the member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), from the principal man who stood almost between the living and the dead on that estate,—the Rev. Peter Murphy,—in which the writer said: "A thousand thanks for check. You have acted nobly by us, and we have every reason to thank and be grateful to you. What pleases me most of all is, that our victory over Colonel O'Callaghan is complete, and approved by all who understand the matter fully. He did his utmost to get the tenants to purchase. He would have sold on any terms rather than yield to the plan, but we absolutely refused to purchase as long as the rope remained round our necks. (Cheers.) We would not entertain the idea of purchasing at all, until restored to our holdings and free as the mountain air to meet him on equal terms." (Cheers.)
"The next gale," the writer says, "is not to be asked until the end of June. Reductions suited to the different degrees of poverty, of fifteen per cent upwards to twenty-five and thirty per cent are secured." (Cheers.) That is the way the right honorable gentleman is abating the power of the Plan of Campaign. (Renewed cheers.) And remember that these poor tenants have won in spite of him, not merely by adhering to the Plan of Campaign, but also because every man of them who was evicted retook possession of his holding in defiance of the Crimes Act, and has held possession of his holding for the last six months. (Cheers.) And the lesson the right honorable gentleman, this triumphant Cromwell (laughter), has taught them is 38that, thanks to their own pluck, and not to his mercy, they are more secure in their homes to-day,—well, than the right honorable gentleman was in his tenancy of the Treasury Bench. (Cheers and laughter.)
I am at this moment officially aware of several estates where the struggle is still proceeding. The landlords are placing their hopes, and are opening their negotiations, not with the right honorable gentleman, or with Dublin Castle, but with the man who sits there, my honorable friend, the honorable member for East Mayo (loud cheers), and with other members of this criminal and illegal conspiracy; a conspiracy as to whose dishonesty we have heard so many homilies from honorable gentlemen opposite. Why, I sometimes wonder that the homilies they address to us and to our suffering people upon the violations of the ten commandments do not blister the lips that utter them. ("Hear, hear.") This dishonest conspiracy. No land court that has ever revised their demands has been able to pronounce them to be other than most just and moderate. ("Hear, hear.")
My honorable friend, the member for Cork, mentioned the other night that there were only three really great estates in Ireland on which the landlords are offering any resistance. One of them is the Brooke estate, in the county of Wexford, where the agent, Captain Hamilton, is an emergency man by profession. ("Hear, hear.") The second is Lord Massareene's property, in the county of Louth, where the agents also are emergency men by profession; and the third is the estate of Lord Clanricarde. It must be a proud thing for Englishmen to know that the right honorable gentleman on that estate was exercising one of the most abominable systems of petty persecution that ever was practised, in order to strike down the defenders of those poor people, to smother their voices, and to tie their hands in their struggle with a man who in the Queen's own law courts has been branded as a monster of cruelty and avarice! (Loud cheers.) I wish her Majesty's Government joy of all the credit that they will get out of their holy alliance with Lord Clanricarde ("Hear, hear," and laughter), and I wish him joy of all the rent he will get out of them. (Cheers and laughter.)
The fact is, and there is no use in blinking it, that, instead of 39overthrowing the Plan of Campaign, the right honorable gentleman has only made it more secure and more irrestible, by driving us to do our business with less publicity. ("Hear, hear.") The machinery of the plan has been now perfected to such a degree that we find that one single campaign on an estate is sufficient to keep the peace of a whole county. (Cheers.) Aye, and to settle the rents of a whole county more satisfactorily and more honestly than an army of land commissioners. ("Hear, hear.") I will tell you why. It is a very simple reason. Because the penalties of such a struggle are so heavy as to intimidate any tenantry from putting forward an unjust demand, and they are also sufficiently great to terrify a landlord from resisting a just demand. ("Hear, hear.") It may be a rough-and-ready method; no doubt it is; but what is the result? That in ninety-nine cases out of one hundred last winter it succeeded without any struggle at all.
I challenge honorable gentlemen who speak of the immorality and dishonesty of the Plan of Campaign,—I challenge the right honorable gentleman to name any single deed of outrage or of crime that is traceable to the Plan of Campaign, from end to end of Ireland. (Cheers.) I challenge him to name any one case in which the demands we have put forward have been declared by any land commissioner or judical tribunal in the country to be dishonest or exorbitant. I challenge him more than all to adduce to the House to-night one solitary case in which he has succeeded, with all his powers and his terrors, in breaking up a combination that was once formed on an estate. (Cheers.) And remember always that this Plan of Campaign is the merest segment of the Irish difficulty. It is a mere rough-and-ready way, which has been found effective to cure the blunders of your legislation, and to cure your folly in not closing with the bill of my honorable friend, the member for Cork. (Cheers.) My honorable friend and myself and others are the mere Uhlans and cadets to the army of millions of Irishmen who stand ranked under the standard of my honorable friend, the member for Cork. (Cheers.)
Now, as to the National League, I want to examine the right honorable gentleman. (Laughter.) We have heard it stated over and over again in most portentious accents in this House, 40that the authority of the National League and of her Majesty's Government could not co-exist in Ireland; that either one or the other must pack up and go. What has all this tall talk come to? ("Hear, hear.") Is the Leage gone, or does it show the slightest sign of going? There are eighteen hundred branches of the National League in Ireland; rather more, I believe now, because the right honorable gentleman's act has added some more. (Cheers.) Not more than two hundred and fifty of those branches have been nominally grappled with. There are about fifteen hundred branches, or over five sixths of the whole organization, on which not a finger has been laid. Why? Is it that the right honorable gentleman has conceived a sudden affection for the National League? (Laughter.) Is it that these branches are declining in power, or is it that they have abated their principles one jot in terror? No; but because the Government has made such a disastrous and grotesque mess of their attempt to suppress a couple of hundred branches that they dared not face the ridicule, the colossal collapse, that would attend any attempt to grapple with the whole of this organization. (Cheers.)
Everybody who knows the so-called suppressed counties of Kerry and Clare knows that the suppressed branches hold their meetings just as usual, under the noses of the police. We know it by the figures and by the cash which comes that the subscriptions, instead of falling off, are increasing. The resolutions are passed in the usual way, and I can tell you they are regarded with more sacredness and more efficacy than usual by the whole community. I will read an extract from a branch report in United Ireland the week before last ("Hear, hear"), one of these suppressed branches which have, according to the local policeman, disappeared from view. It says: "A large representative meeting was held on Monday, Mr. George Pomeroy in the chair." No concealment of names. "Balloting for officers and committee took place with the following result, after a most vigorous competition for offices (Nationalist cheers), the only emolument for which will probably be a couple of months in jail: J. O'Callan, 60 votes; G. Pomeroy, 58; S. O'Keefe, 56; D. Hanlon, 50; O'Leary, 60; Power, 44; Fitzpatrick, 47"; and so on. "The first five are elected." (Nationalist cheers.)
41There is no disguising the fact that your whole suppressive machinery, the whole machinery for effectually suppressing the League, has totally broken down, and for a very simple reason, because the act was conceived upon the theory that you were dealing with a people who were only pining to be delivered from the terrorism of the National League (cheers), whereas you find to your cost you are dealing with a people who are the League themselves, ready to guard it with their lives, and to undergo any amount of torture rather than betray it. (Nationalist cheers.) Why do you not put the Secret Inquiry clauses in force for the purpose of suppressing branches of the National League? Why! Because you know you would have to send thousands of people to jail who would rather go there than let you wring one tittle of information out of them. Your only other source is informers, and it is our proudest boast that with an organization numbering upwards of 500,000 men, up to this time you have not been able to bring a single informer into the market, though no doubt the market price of the article was never higher. (Cheers.)
I want the right honorable gentleman to tell us here to-night what he has got by all his wild and vicious lunges against the Irish people. I have no patience with talking of "crime in Ireland," outside Kerry. The Moonlighters and the Government have had Kerry to themselves for the last five or six years. Between them be it, and let them divide the honors. (Loud Nationalist cheers.) They tell us of a number of persons partially boycotted. I do not know what the local policeman may be pleased to call "persons partially boycotted"; but I am pretty sure the list would go up or down, according to the requirements of the Government. Let the right honorable gentleman give us a list of new land-grabbers who have taken farms (cheers), or let him give us a list, and I only wish he would, of the land-grabbers who, since this act has been put in force, have accepted their neighbors' farms. As to legitimate boycotting, I shall always hold with the perfect right of the community to exercise legitimate influence on men who for their own base and greedy purposes are the pests of society.
I admit that there are two classes of victims at the mercy of the Chief Secretary,—public speakers and public newspapers 42Public speeches are the merest appendages of our organization. And why are public speakers at his mercy? Simply and solely because we do not choose to be driven away from our free right of public meeting, but choose to assert it, as Mr. Blunt chose to assert it in the light of day. (Cheers.) If we choose to give our speeches in private, we could run a coach and four through the provisions of this act with absolute impunity. My friends here were for months engaged on the Plan of Campaign. We have no secrets we are afraid to acknowledge. ("Oh, oh.") None. I only hope the honorable gentleman who says "Oh"—(an honorable member: "Rochester".) Certainly. They have actually been for months and months on the business of the Plan of Campaign, even with warrants over their heads.
Talk of me in connection with Mitchelstown. I may be giving the right honorable gentleman a tip, but I do not object to say that my honorable friend, the member for South Tipperary (Mr. J. O'Connor), was far and away a more formidable person than I was in the Plan of Campaign; but because he happens to be a man of few words, he will be walking in this lobby to-morrow night instead of reposing on a plank bed, as he would if he had spoken. (Cheers.) I do not mind telling it, and he will not mind it either, for his work, and he is victorious. I might say a good deal about the meanness of this policy of subjecting journalists to milk-and-water diet, for the simple fact that they recorded the right honorable gentleman's failure ("Hear, hear"), because that is the sting of their offence,—because the meetings are held, and held in spite of the Government. (Loud Nationalist cheers.) You might as well issue a proclamation suppressing the sun in the heavens, and then go about smashing the faces of the sun-dials for recording that the sun is moving on its way in spite of you. (Laughter and cheers.) Worse still is it to attack the humble news venders, and intimidate their wives and their little children. ("Hear, hear.")
The Chief Secretary might have remembered that the right honorable gentleman who sits next him (Mr. W. H. Smith) is a person who in former years might easily have come under the same category. (Nationalist cheers.) The right honorable gentlemen sold United Ireland in his day. ("Hear, hear.") I mention it not as a reproach to him, for he was an extremely 43good customer; but if he had not parted with his Irish business as he did, under the subsequent legislation of this Government, the right honorable gentleman would have been liable at this moment to three months on a plank bed for having for six months sold the paper. (Cheers.) I hope that chivalry on that side of the House has not died out, and that they will not resent in the case of a miserable shopkeeper at Killarney what they will condone in a Misister of England. I can speak of my own knowledge of that policy, and its absolute and downright failure, even against so vulnerable and perishable a property as we know a newspaper is. But the right honorable gentleman has not succeeded in suppressing a single newspaper, and he never will, although he has proceeded from the editors to the printers, and from the printers to the printer's devils. (Cheers.)
There is only one redeeming feature in the right honorable gentleman's policy, and that is its colossal and monumental failure. That fact actually softens in the hearts of the Irish people the memory of the atrocities he has committed against them. We feel that we have taken his measure now, and that we are a match for him. (Irish cheers.) We feel that he has failed, and that he will go on failing as long as grass grows and water runs. We are almost grateful to him for what he has done to advance the Irish cause by awakening the consciences of Englishmen (Opposition cheers), by knitting the two peoples together in common human sympathy, and common abhorrence of the brutal and cruel system of terrorism which he is exhibiting in full working order in Ireland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer claimed at Hastings that at all events the Chief Secretary had held his own. This was rather a meek and unassuming claim, after the high and swelling boasts that we heard from the same lips in the palmy days of last session. (Cheers.) But has he even held his own? He has demoralized every department of his own Irish government, and every class of his own officials. There is not an office in Dublin Castle that is not at this moment subjected to as much espionage and as many precations against betrayal as if it were the palace of the Czar. ("Hear hear.") He has the distinction of having developed an entirely new phase of the Irish difficulty among her Majesty's soldiers.
44My friend Mandeville and myself were whirled away by special train in the middle of the night to Tullamore, and I confess I felt considerably consoled when I heard that the next use the right honorable gentleman had to make of a special train was to take her Majesty's soldiers away from Tullamore for cheering Mandeville and myself. (Laughter and cheers.) Don't let him ride off on the statement that these were mere Irish soldiers. Some of them were, no doubt; but there were also his own countrymen, the Scottish Fusileers. (Cheers.) By some unhappy accident they too had to be hurried off by special train for some awkward manifestations at Mitchelstown. The right honorable gentleman had to employ police patrols to watch the prison officials. He cannot even count on the Royal Irish Constabulary, for to my own knowledge he had to employ policemen to watch the police. (Laughter and cheers.) That is what is called "holding his own in Ireland." He succeeded only in kicking out a few of the bonfires that were lighted on the occasion of our release; but the spirit of nationality that lighted them is beyond his power. It will burn when the memory of his unhappy time in Ireland will be a mere speck among the dark clouds of misgovernment, which are passing away into a forgotten and forgiven past.
The right honorable gentleman and his friends plead for a little more time. There are in this House many members who can remember Mr. Forster's triumphant account of his experience at Tullamore; that he was winning; that the people were with him; that the followers of my honorable friend (Mr. Parnell) were a mere back of broken men and reckless boys, and that you had only to give him (Mr. Forster) a little more time to make his victory appear to all the world. That was seven years ago; but the triumph has not appeared. Does the wildest man in this House imagine that the second Tullamore experience will be more successful? Does the Chief Secretary's best friend claim that he is a cleverer man or a more profound statesman than Mr. Forster? He is no doubt in a position to inflict untold suffering on our poor people. I do not deny that it is no child's play for us. No man's health is exactly the same after imprisonment of the sort that some of my poor friends are enduring to-night; but the sufferings in the prison cell are only small compared 45with those that the Chief Secretary is bringing on many a humble family ("Hear, hear"), to say nothing of the petty persecution that is going on at the hands of every village constable who has a quarrel with the people, and of the confusion, uncertainty, and ruin into which the right honorable gentleman is plunging the whole business of the country. It is a burning shame that such an ordeal should be inflicted on a people whose only desire is to live in peace, and to rule in peace in their own land. ("Hear, hear.") It is sometimes almost unbearable, but the Irish people will bear it. We are not cowed. We are not even embittered.
The right honorable member for Mid-Lothian has accomplished in two years what seven hundred years of coercion had not accomplished previously (Irish cheers), and what seven hundred more would leave unaccomplished still. He has united the hearts of the two peoples by a more sacred and enduring bond than that of terror and brute force; and our quarrel with England, our bitterness toward England, is gone. (Cheers.) And it will be your fault and your crime if it ever returns,—a crime for which history will stigmatize you forever. We, at all events, are not disruptionists. (Cheers and counter cheers.) It is you who are the disruptionists and the exasperationists and the separatists. We have never made a disguise of our feelings. We say what we mean.
The right honorable gentleman, the member for Newcastle, and many another good friend beside him, have been over in Ireland this winter, and they can tell you that when the name of England is uttered now in an Irish crowd, it is no longer uttered with hatred, but with hope and with gratitude to those awakening British hearts which have never authorized this policy of the Government in Ireland. You are the Separatists. We are for peace and for happiness, and for the brotherhood of the two nations. You are for eternal repression and eternal discord and eternal misery for yourselves, as well as for us. We are for appeasing the dark passions of the past. You are for inflaming them, whether for purposes of a political character I do not know, but for purposes in the interests of that wretched class of Mamelukes whom you support in Ireland, who are neither good Englishmen nor good Irishmen, and who are being your evil 46genius in Ireland, just as they have been the scourge of our unhappy people.
That is the state of things; and in such a cause and between such forces, I believe the end is not far off, and to the God of justice and of liberty and of mercy, we leave the issue. So far as we ourselves are concerned, we shall be amply compensated, whatever we have suffered and may have to suffer in our grand old cause, if we can be sure that we are the last of that long and mournful line of men who have suffered for it. And, believe me, upon the day of our victory, we will grant an easy amnesty to the right honorable gentleman opposite for our little troubles in Tullamore, and we will bless his policy yet as one of the most powerful, though unconscious, instruments in the deliverance of Ireland. (Loud Opposition cheers.)
Mr. Finlay (who arose amid loud cries of "Balfour" from the Opposition and Home Rule benches) said that the honorable member who had just spoken had charged the Unionist party with inflaming passions and animosity in Ireland that were in a fair way of dying out. He was not aware of any section of the party against which that charge could be made. It had always been the mission of the Unionist party to see that equal justice should be done in Ireland, and to appease those animosities which were the relics of past misgovernment and past misfortunes. They believed that in a country so divided as Ireland was, equal justice might best be done in an Imperial Parliament, and not by handing over one part of the country to the domination of another. The honorable member had said that there was no bitterness on the part of the Irish members towards England. But the party had three voices. One was the voice that spoke in the House of Commons, the second the voice that spoke in Ireland; but to get at the real springs of the movement, they must hear it on an American platform. (Ministerial cheers.) He objected to that House being turned into a court of appeal from judicial sentences in Ireland, and he regretted to have heard the cheers which came from the Opposition side of the House when the honorable member for West Cork had said that he recommended the tenants at Mitchelstown to resist the law by force. (Mr. Gladstone expressed dissent.)
The first line indicates the original, the second how it should read: