11 DECEMBER 1880, Page 8


Air R. FORSTER'S Circular of December let to the Magis- 1 tracy of Ireland proves, what many experienced Irish- men have recently been asserting,—that it is not the law which is weak in Ireland, but its agents, the permanent officials at the Castle, the magistrates, and, above all, the police. There is law enough to put down intimidation. As Mr. Forster shows, it is a highly penal offence to assemble in arms or in disguise to the terror of her Majesty's subjects ; or to terrorise by force or by menace any person into quitting his employment ; or to injure lands, houses, cattle, or goods ; or to write convey, or send threatening letters ; or to administer unlawful oaths ; and special power, backed by imprisonment, is given to magistrates to bind over persons whom they " suspect " of being conspirators to commit such offences, and to compel all persons to give evidence before them. No intervention of a jury is required, and the magistrates have only to discover reasonable" evidence,—that is, evidence satisfactory to their minds. It is difficult to conceive of a stronger law, or to understand why, with such a law in existence, it was deemed necessary to ask for power to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act. The Pall Mall Gazette suggests that the officials, having always obtained arbitrary power when they asked for it, could not be at the trouble to carry out the existing law ; but though that reason undoubtedly had its weight, there is, we fear, another of still greater influence. Neither magistrates nor police are thoroughly trusted by the Executive,—the magistracy, because they are timid ; the police, because they have lost either the power or the will to do detective work. It is useless, if Ireland is to be pacified, to shut our eyes to facts, and the truth is, that the machinery of justice in Ireland is as much responsible for her condition as the Land Leaguers. The Judges grow so exasperated, often with good reason, that they seem to the people not Judges at all, but powerful exponents and agents of party animosity, and are abused in language of unen- durable violence. The Magistrates, alien in race, creed, and feel- ing, are so detested and distrusted that they hesitate to do justice, a phenomenon witnessed, we are bound to add, in the North of England also, during the Trades-Union contest, and in the East of England when the machine-breakers and rick-burners were in full swing. The police have become soldiers, have, as regards agrarian disputes, a certain sympathy with the people, and are not supported sufficiently by picked and trained de- tectives. The whole machinery wants renewing and strength- ening. The Government, at any cost, should clean out "the Castle," replacing the officials who cannot get rid of their tradi- tions with picked men, including some Anglo-Indians accustomed to govern ; should appoint cool stipendiaries in the infected counties, men who will take a shot as part of the day's work for which they are paid,—men, if necessary, who have dealt with bushrangers in Australia, or cattle-lifters in the Far West ; and then import from the Irish cities, from Glasgow, and Liverpool, and East London, and the great American centres a thousand or more detectives, engaged at any neces- sary price, and willing to take their lives in their hands. And then the whole should be instructed that their business is not to do violence, or to oppress, or even to spy, but to carry out the law steadily and coldly, as it would be carried out against embezzlers, or forgers, or men guilty of cheating the revenue, and, in particular, to hunt out every intimidator, if the search takes twenty years. Irish assassins or abettors of outrage are no more sustained by a consciousness of right than any other wrong-doers, and the law, steadily and even mercifully, but inflexibly carried out, is always too strong for the resistance of men not inspired by the sense that they, and not the magistrates, are the defenders of soeiety. In every case in which there is any evidence at all, there should be a prosecution. Half the prosecutions will fail, but in the remainder there will be a conviction, and even a chance of conviction impresses the majority of criminals. The single sentence reported from Omagh of twenty years' penal servitude on a man who shot at his land- lord will check assassination through a district, just as one landlord who defends himself impresses a whole lodge of rent-defaulters. The state of Ireland is bad enough, but it is not half so bad as the condition of many districts in America. which have, nevertheless, been reduced through the ordinary law to profound order. If evidence is absolutely unprocur- able, justice cannot be done ; but human nature is the same everywhere, and when sufferers once see that the law is in motion and magistrates determined, evidence soon comes forward. The Land League has many sins to answer for, but it is ridiculous to accuse it of a weakness in the machinery of justice which results from the failure of the administrators of the law. Their business for the moment is to act as if they had volunteered for a forlorn-hope, and if they will not, they should be summarily superseded by men who will. The Indian civilians, who were just the same people by birth, training, and education as Irish Magistrates, had to do it, throughout the Mutiny,—that is, to administer justice, unprotected by soldiers, amidst a people thirsting for their lives ; and they did it, without either credit or thanks. We admit, of course, to the full that a governing caste which dwells among the people must always be more or less timid ; but if there is a country in the world where officials ready to run risks can be obtained for money, it is Ireland. With depart- mental chiefs unwilling to insist on prosecutions, magistrates afraid of the accused in the dock, and police disinclined to do more than carry out orders, the administration of justice would fail anywhere.

It is nearly the same as to the collection of rent. Every- body is saying or fearing that if " the three F's" become law, the landlord's compensation, security for his rent, will not be realised. The tenants will not pay the quit-rent, any more than the rent. They forget how very strong the new legal machinery will be, or can be made. The proposal put forward is, that if a tenant does not pay his rent, he should be re- quired by a Tenure Court to sell his holding to another tenant. If he refuses, he will be liable, like any one else who resists the order of a Court—like Mr. Dale for example—to be im- prisoned till he obeys ; while any neighbours who may intimi- date a buyer will be guilty of "contempt." That is a dreaded liability in Ireland, because there is no jury to coerce or cajole,—so dreaded that sales by order of the Land Court have, in the height of this agitation, been successfully carried out. Attempts were made to intimidate, but a quiet intimation from the Judge that he should treat any such intimidation as "contempt," brought the interruptions to a summary close. In Ireland, as elsewhere, it is not cruelty that is required to overcome resistance, but light punishment, which there is no reasonable or hopeful chance of avoiding. If every Land Leaguer knew that if he intimidated he would, by a law of nature, have toothache, he would not intimidate, and it is quite possible to make gentle laws nearly automatic. All that is required is a vigilant prosecutor on behalf of the public, a police with eyes in its head, and a magistrate who does not particularly care whether he is shot or not. There is not an Irishman, be he Orangeman or Nationalist, who does not know that those things are attainable.