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ouosing the action of the Legislature | hon. Gentleman has judged the matter. and the Government, and for every pur- He has gone so far as to say that the pose which is consistent with the laws police could not have done less than of the land, and with the peace of the they did, and that all they did was in country. That is exactly what appears the last extremity wrung from them by to us not to have been the principle by dire necessity, and so long as he was wbich Her Majesty's Government were Chief Secretary for Ireland he would prompted in the case of Ennis, where take care that in like necessity they they not even attempted to show that should do the same. Had the right hon. their proceedings were in conformity Gentleman pursued what I think the with the law as laid down by the highest more usual course, had the right hon. legal authorities. Then the right hon. Gentleman maintained a discreet reGentleman went to those proceedings at serve on account of the nature of the Mitchelstown which have once more case, and at the same time pledged himharrowed
up the feelings of the country at self to the House of Commons that large, and I must say that his conduct every effort that he could use should be appears to me to have been marked by employed to get at the truth, in order to singular rashness and imprudence in bring it out to the view of Parliament the line he has taken upon that subject. and the world, I for one-inconvenient It was perfectly competent for him to as it might appear at this period of the say in these grave circumstances, after Session in some points of view-unthe loss of two lives, if not three-if doubtedly would have accepted at once only two, the third hardly trembling in that declaration of Her Majesty's Gothe balance, but approaching certainly vernment, and would have declined ang the latest hour-it was open to him to discussion of the question. But it is say that “This must be the subject of impossible to take that course—the right inquiry not less grave, and I decline to hon. Gentleman has made it impossible. enter upon any discussion. I decline to He has done all that he could to bias a say who was right or who was wrong, judicial inquiry. With all the authority and we must have these things searched of his Office he has declared what is now and probed to the very bottom, and the firm and fixed opinion of the Execuwhatever may be my private impression, tive-and he has compelled us to state at any rate the opinion of the Executive how the thing appears to us on the facts Government must not be given until we as they are before us. I reserve, Sir, are in possession of the fullest informa. my ultimate judgment upon them. I do tion. For my own part, I wrote to my not consider that anything but presump. right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, tions are open to me at the preseut when this painful intelligence was first moment. I consider the presumptions divulged, that I felt persuaded that that or the assertions-the presumptions or would be the course which the Govern- the judgments, of the right hon. Genment would take. Instead of that the tleman are right in the teeth of the right hon. Gentleman has rushed head-facts as they are given on trustworthy long into the thick of the fray; he has information. I am sorry that there made up his mind, and he has con may be many here who did not hear tended in this House that all that was the extremely lucid, and I think fair done was right, and that if the police and impartial statement of the senior had not done what they did they would Member for Northampton.
I listened have been guilty of the grossest neglect. to it with great attention. I have that the people in mass who had been gathered what I could from the public attending the meeting attacked the journals, and from what has been said barracks, and that the strictest laws of in this House, and especially I may self-defence required the police to fire say from the reports supplied to The upon them. These are propositions to standard newspaper. It appeared to which, with an imprudence which I me to be written by a man of great cannot describe, the right hon. Gentle- intelligence, and a man of whom I am man has at a moment's notice been justified, I presume, in believing that at ready to pledge himself. He has identi- | any rate he has not made his report fied himself with every one of these pro- under the influence of predilections for coedings. It is idle for us to say now the cause of the Nationalists. Then that the police are to blame. The right there is a mixture here again of state
ments of fact and of doctrine. Doctrines | turbance. Then I say these are addi-
upon the subject. You tell through.” In matters such as these a tell me that there are meetings of a very large share of responsibility must dangerous character, and
likely in the rest on those who commit the first error, circumstances of Ireland to lead to dis- and it certainly was a gross and most VOL. COCXXI. THIRD SERIES.
dangerous error to attempt to force a body that the people who had been at the of 20 policemen through a dense crowd. meeting attacked the barracks and What The Standard correspondent says were on the point of breaking into them, —and he seems to be a credible and fair and that the police fired in self-defence reporter-is that when the people were and to save their comrades who were ran at in this way "sticks were raised still outside. But what proof has ho threateningly at the police." The police given us of that? The proof was that were not struck, but sticks were raised one man, seriously wounded, crept into in a threatening manner. This was at the police barracks. the first onset. The crowd then “pushed Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: I gave the the constables to the rear.” That was statement on the best authority the Gothe conduct of which the crowd were vernment could get. guilty. The crowd refused to part, and MR. W. E. GLADSTONE: I deny pushed the police back. Then came the that that contained proof on the side of second event. Who was responsible
to what appeared to be the one strong for this? The effort to get the short point-and it was a very weak pointhand writer through the crowd had of the case of the right hon. Gentleman. apparently failed. Why did the second What proof has the right hon. Gentlebody of 50 police come up ? Was it to man given us that the people who were bring the shorthand writer through the at the meeting pursued the police to the crowd? No. We hear no more of the barracks and attempted to storm the shorthand writer. According to The barracks ? He gave us no proof whatStandard correspondent, this second body ever. There is, however, in support of of men formed up at the foot of the the story told by the other side the fact square as a reserve to the dozen men that the victims of the police fira con. who had tried to force a passage for sisted of an old man who had been for the Government reporter. When these 21 years a soldier, another old man who latter men again advanced “they drew subsequently died, and a boy of 17 years their staves and charged at the people.” of age. Were these the men who with I say that they had no right to charge blackthorn sticks had been driving the at the people to secure a passage for the police back? All the facts show that shorthand writer. No one has a right, there was no substantial attack on the be he a Government shorthand writer barracks, but that there were merely a or a police constable escorting a Go- | few persons, among whom were some vernment shorthand writer, to disturb a boys, scattered in front of the barracks, public meeting. The right to be pre- and that, judging by the accounts in the sent at a public meeting is subject to newspapers, some few windows may the obligation to observe its order and have been broken. I do not push these to obey its rules. Anyone who breaks statements, which are necessarily im. that order, whether he be a policeman perfect, to the precipitate and imprudent or police Inspector, or a civilian, is a length of the Minister of the Crown, who disturber of the public peace. We now has dived to the bottom of this subject; come to the saddest part of all. These but I say that these are presumptions 50 policemen having charged the people, entirely adverse to the propositions of were repulsed and driven back. There the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope we was much hard fighting, and many of shall hear, before this debate closes, that the police suffered. I am sorry for this great and sad and grievous matter, that; I have great respect for the police which has created a sentiment of horror of Ireland, for I believe they do their and disgust throughout Great Britain, best under very difficult circumstances. will not be allowed to remain in the They certainly have most painful duties dark, but will be searched and probed to to perform in carrying into execution the bottom, and the whole facts made the policy of the present Government. known to Parliament and the country, I will not question their chivalry and pro. The right hon. Gentleman said he wished nounce on the present occasion, or on to pursue a course of conciliation and their present action. At any rate, they firmness in the government of Ireland, were defeated and driven back, and and that he has every confidence that it many hard blows were given and taken. will all come right in the end. I wish I Then comes the saddest chapter of all. could say that there is either firmness or The right hon. Gentleman has told us conciliation in the course he has taken.
I am afraid that all that has lately taken "If we tampered with the law, what place in Ireland tends all too power- justification is that for you ?" But fully to support our contention during when did the right hon. Gentleman disthe present Session of Parliament-that cover that he tampered with the law ? the legislation of the Government, which MR. W. E. GLADSTONE: I have they stated to be directed against crime, not discovered it. is not directed against crime. The right MR. GIBSON: Can it be credited hon. Gentleman referred to the amount that the late Lord Chancellor of Ireof crime in the County Clare and the land, Mr. Law, who had the confidence recent serious outrage which has been of the right hon. Gentleman, put his committed in that county. But what signature to illegal proclamations, that better means has the right hon. Gentle- Lord Herschell, who was then Solicitor man of dealing with that crime uuder General, joined in an illegal proclamathe Coercion Act than he would have tion, and the right hon. Gentleman the had without that Act ? We are con- Member for Derby (Sir William Harfirmed in our belief that the policy of court), who was then Home Secretary, the Government is not a policy aimed at and his late Lord Chancellor, Lord crime, but that, under the guise of pur- Selborne-all concurred in issuing suing crime, it pursues combination; it illegal proclamations, and that 130 deprives the poor man of the arm by meetings, or thereabouts, were put which he can alone maintain his position down? The right hon. Gentleman now in the confliot in which he finds himself; appears to have thrown overboard the and that it is aimed at the liberty of the whole body of educated legal opinion. Press, at the liberty of the subject, and There were altogether 130 meetings at the liberty of public meeting. I, for proclaimed. Ninety of them my part, am convinced-and the circum- assemblages at evictions, and 16 were stances of every day tend more and more coursing meetings proclaimed, because to support that conviction that the they thought that a comparatively people of this country will not follow the innocent national pastime might be conright hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues verted, and was converted, into a screen in a course which can lead to nothing for some mischievous design. In addibut disgrace and disaster.
tion there were 30 meetings proclaimed THE ATTORNEY GENERAL for over a period down to January 1882. IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON) (Liverpool, The right hon. Gentleman must have Walton): The right hon. Gentleman, had these 130 meetings present in his in the remarkable speech which he has mind, judging from the questions in the just delivered, has insisted very strongly House addressed to bis right hon. Friend on the duty of reticence; but he appears, the Chief Secretary. It is not a question nevertheless, in his own observations to that could have escaped the attention have given the countenance of his sup- of the right hon. Gentleman, or of his port to those who have denounced the Law Officers. It must have been preconduct of the police at Mitchelstown sent to the mind of the Home Secretary, as that of murderers. In regard to the when he made the speeches on the proclamation of the Ennis meeting, the Crimes Bill, to which attention has been right hon. Gentleman in one part called by my right hon. Friend. The of his speech condemns the conduct of right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Government in proclaiming that Derby, when he was defending the Promeeting, and in the latter part of the clamation Clause in the Orimes Act, same speech ho said he would not ex. stated that it was to supply machinery; press any opinion upon that point. The but it did not alter the principle on right hon. Gentleman also said that the which the Government were entitled to question of constitutional law was one proceed. We have been told by the of personal tu quoque.
right hon. Gentlenian the Member MR. W. E. GLADSTONE: No, no. for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. GladOn the contrary, I said it was entirely stone) that the power exercised in the separate from it
. I complained of the time of Lord Cowper was extensive, and right hon. Gentleman for mixing the was rightly and legally exercised. The two together.
same statement was made by the right MR. GIBSON : The right hon. Gen. hon. Gentleman who is now the Member tleman used this expression. He said for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow
(Sir George Otto Trevelyan). The the Government to intervene until the right hon. Gentleman the Member meeting is actually being held? The for Derby, however, has told us to right hon. Gentleman again and again, night that he was advised by his in the course of his speech, asked us Law Officers that no such power existed this question-“Why did you not wait at all, and that was the reason for until the meeting was held, and until applying to the Legislature for another you knew what was going to be done?" Act. [An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear!) This is the vital question in the inquiry I leave it to the hon. Gentleman who upon which we are embarking. Is it, said “Hear, hear!” to justify the two or is it not, constitutionally competent for statements—the statement in 1882 that the Government, on satisfactory and the law justified what was done, but reasonable information to which it gives had imperfect machinery; and the credit, to proclaim a meeting as illegal? statement here to-night, that the Law (An hon. MEMBER: Certainly not.] The Officers of the Crown advised that no right hon. Gentleman the Member for such power existed. It is just as well Derby does not agree with his Colleagues to clear up this question of the prin- below the Gangway, because he has adciple of constitutional law. Does law mitted that it was; and therefore it change as we know political opinion comes to this-What are the grounds changes, or does it not? Does law upon which that power of the Executive change as we know justice changes, is to be exercised? Let me call attenaccording as Gentlemen sit on one side tion to this circumstance. The right hon. of the House, or another side? Gentleman has admitted that the GovernHitherto it has been the idea of lawyers ment can proclaim a meeting that is prothat law is a thing which does not alter posed to be held in futuro. It is not except by the agency of an Act of Par. necessary that the avowed objects of the liament, and what I want to find out is meeting should be illegal. He knots on what ground the right hon. Gentle- very well that the objects put forward in man the Member for Derby in fair play, regard to numerous meetings in the takes it upon himself to denounce the time of Lord Spencer were of the most Government to-night, when they have innocent character-namely, to present founded their action exactly on the same addresses to certain Members of Parlia. principle which guided his own Law ment. A mere declaration of the objects Officers? The question confronting us of the meeting beforehand can in no way is this. There can be no doubt, as I un fetter the action of a responsible Governderstand the law, that the Proclamation ment. Again and again meetings of itself does not ascertain conclusively the that kind were prohibited. character of a meeting which is to be
MR. PARNELL: Not in the time of held in the future; and I distinctly Lord Spencer. stated in my answer to a Question the MR. GIBSON: I can assure the hon. other evening, that it was a precau- Gentleman that meetings of such a kind tionary measure, and that if a Procla- were proclaimed in the time of Lord mation was issued wrongfully, persons Spencer. If you once admit the power who were aggrieved by the order of the of the Executive to proclaim a meeting, Executive would have their remedy. the mere declaration of innocent objects I assert this to be clear constitu- cannot restrain that power. A second tional law, that if the Executive observation I would make is this-that had reasonable and safe grounds for the action of the Executive cannot be believing that a meeting announced to judged to be right or wrong from the be held would be attended with danger fact that the language at the meeting to the public peace, or to public tran- subsequently held was moderate. With quillity, or was designed for an illegal these two preliminary observations, I object, in that case it was the right and think the right hon. Gentleman the the duty of the Executive to interfere. Member for Derby will find that I am What I want to ascertain from the right not so much out of agreement with him hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby as he appeared to suppose. I come now is this-does he dispute that it is com. to consider what are the circumstances petent for the Government beforehand under which the Ennis meeting was proto issue its Proclamation, or is it his claimed. The right hon. Gentleman the proposition that it is not competent for Member for Mid Lothian, in his last