13 MAY 1882, Page 5


WE can see no reason, in the great crime which has sad- dened the United Kingdom, for any departure from the remedial policy the Government had previously adopted ; rather, We see reason for more resolute adherence to it. That policy is to govern Ireland according to Irish ideas, so far as the Moral Law and the integrity of the kingdom will admit ; and it would be sound, if the Land Leaguers themselves had been the authors of the assassinations. There could, in that case, have been no further truce or consultation with them, no further tolerance of their action in Parliament or out of it, no relation towards the association but one of avowed war; but religion is not tainted by the conduct of persecutors, or freedom by the crimes of anarchists, and the Government ought still, even in that extreme case, to have gone unshrinkingly forward to remove every removable grievance even alleged by the Irish people, and to help them towards the social condition with which alone they will be content. That was what we did with our own artisans when the great manufacturing cities were reeking with Trade- Union outrage, and the policy was wise, and right, and successful. As it is, however, there is no occasion for an argument against which so•many would revolt. The Land Leaguers had nothing to do with the murders, which were palpably directed against them as much as against Government, and were intended to make all conciliation or compromise between Ireland and Great Britain impossible. They were organised by one of the Secret Societies, whose members alike desire and profit by anarchy, who are animated, not by love of Ireland, but by implacable hatred of the British, and who saw in the chance that the New Departure might succeed, a crushing blow at once to their interests and their hopes. They desired to establish a blood- feud between Britain and Ireland, and chose out the one man in great position against whom Ireland could have no com- plaint, in ordel to make their object absolutely clear. To allow their criminality to deflect the course of the British Government, would be to allow it to succeed. The object of the assassins was to create fury in England and suspicion in Ireland ; their hope was that the British would begin a campaign of repression, which could be represented as an outburst of brutality ; their dearest wish was to hear that Englishmen were shedding Irish blood, imprisoning Irish leaders, refusing all consideration to the Irish distressed. To gratify such passions is for a British Government impossible, and they would not be justified in doing it, even if retroces- sion was of itself wise. It is, however, not wise. There is not one argument for the recent modification of policy in the direc- tion of remedial legislation which is affected by the murders. If it was right to release the political suspects last week, it is right this week, when the party of anarchy has displayed in so terrible a manner its profound distrust and loathing for them. If it was right to abandon Coercion yester- day, it is right to-day, when the assassins have shown how little it cowed them, how useless it was to prevent them, how futile a protection it afforded to society. If it was wise before the murders to compound for arrears, it is right after them, when the murders show that societies of organised desperadoes are ready to take advantage of the discontent which those arrears create ; and if we needed peasant- proprietors before, we need them more now, when the garrison of order so demands reinforcement from the body of the Irish people. The argument for remedial legislation would be irre- sistible, even if no public promises had been made ; but they were made, and to break them would be to dis- play a degree of vacillation in presence of armed out- rage which would reflect the deepest discredit upon the Government. There never was a time when a reputation for nerve, firmness, and vigour was so indispensable to British administrators ; and it must be destroyed if a policy gravely accepted and acted on is abandoned under the coercion of the dagger. The advocates of terror forget that there is such a thing as courage in doing right, nerve in enduring obloquy, and firmness in acting on conviction, in the face of momentary temptation—and the temptation to Mr. Gladstone and Lord Hartington must have been hideously strong—to swerve from the right path. There is but one way to make

the dagger powerless, and that is to show that it never affects policy or influences the men against whom it is directed, and who, so far as the assassins are concerned, can always be replaced. These arguments would be correct even if Ireland sympathised in any degree with the criminals ; but if she does not, their strength is doubled,—and the evidence is distinctly that she does not. The assassins have gone far beyond the point up to which Irish imagination confuses assas- sination with private war, and a revulsion of feeling has occurred of the most hopeful kind, which savage repression, or cynical breach of promise, would only help to check. If Irishmen can only be induced to believe that this, the murder of the innocent, is the inevitable end of toleration for outrage, then that toleration must be in the way to cease,—and that is the lesson they learn from the murder of these victims. It is not when the people are helping you to detect crime, and threatening. criminals with Lynch-law, that it can be wise to renew a policy of arbitrariness which rests avowedly or tacitly on the belief that the sympathies of the people are with crime, or that they fear the criminals much more than they do the law.

Besides, what is the alternative which the Terrorists, re- presented by the Times, would have the Government pursue ? Are they to repeal the Land Act, because a party as hostile to the Land League as to the Administration has murdered inno- cent men ? That would be to affirm that because political assassins are guilty persons, and are Irish, therefore Irish peasants are not entitled to relief from rack-rents. Grant, what is utterly false, that the tenants sympathise with the crime, and still they are entitled to justice, like the rest of the com- munity. We do not inquire, when we set County Courts in motion to recover a bootmaker's debts, whether the bootmaker is or is not a person of anti-social opinions. Or are we only to refuse to compound arrears ? That would be to say that Bankruptcy Laws are inexpedient, unless all bankrupts are good persons, a bit of morality at which the Times would jeer. Or are we to abandon any project for increasing the number of peasant-proprietors ? That. is to say, we are, be- cause of disorder, to refuse to increase the number of those who, on a hypothesis admitted by all parties, will, through their change of condition, become more interested in main- taining order. Such suggestions are childish, and those which have for their object simply punishment, and not the strengthening of the law, are even worse. The Terror- ists would, if they spoke out frankly, say that they believed the Irish to be a people who never respect a Govern- ment unless it is terrible, who place force above justice, and who, to be orderly, must be cowed. If not cowed, they will. commit murders as bad as the one which has so excited England to lamentation. Where is the evidence of that ? Where, in the whole history of Ireland, is the proof that Coercion, the punishment of the guilty or the suspected by arbitrary will, has ever cured the spirit of lawlessness,. or even arrested outrage ? We have tried this method for, centuries, and outrage was never more rife than after those' centuries of " discipline." It was under a Coercion Act in full operation that all recent outrages have occurred, even thf› last and most horrible, because most unprovoked, of all. Terror, so far as we can exercise it, so far from making Irish- men quieter, only makes them more willing to combine for. crime, more reluctant to give evidence, more determined not. to allow the Courts to act. If it is said, Coercion is too light, we ask how, with our institutions and opinions, it is to be made heavier ? We cannot shoot unconvicted men merely to- create a panic. Place the whole of Ireland under martial law,. put General Roberts in command, and issue the manifestoes, issued in Afghanistan, and how much nearer are we to obtaining any evidence upon which even court-martials can convict ? It is possible, of course, to dispense with evidence, and execute at the will of the General in command ; but what would be the result of that, beyond a quantity of bloodshed, and an in- creased feeling that, after all, assassination is lawful, because the Government use it ? The disposition to lawlessness would. only be stimulated, to burst out again the moment repression was removed. The Terrorists will tell us to suspend law, and let the Police act, but they never show that the result. of Police action will be peace. Do what we will, we shall never make the Irish Police as powerful as the Russian, and the only result of their unlimited power is that the Czar is a prisoner in his palace. Consistent,. steady terrorism, admirably carried out for ilfty years, did not consolidate Austrian rule in Venice, or even prevent inces- sant assassinations of officers. The assassins who stabbed. LordFrederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke could not have had more to dread from a court-martial than from a criminal Court, or have been hunted by soldiers more keenly than by policemen. Besides, even were military rule effective, which, as against assassination, it is not, the object is not to cow Ireland, but to reconcile Ireland ; and that is not done, as we see, by substituting military occupation for civilised government. That the legal procedure, the method of applying the law in cases of agrarian or political crime, re- quires to be greatly simplified and strengthened, is admitted to be true, but then that is precisely what the Govern- ment which the Terrorists so utterly condemn proposes to do with no sparing hand. To carry out the intention of their critics, the law of evidence must be abolished, not the juries merely,—that is, every capital sentence, even when just, must be made to appear in the eyes of the populace a judicial murder. Is it even conceivable that respect for life can be restored by such treatment, which, moreover, even if efficacious, could not be administered for more than a few weeks, after which the English people, re- covering their senses, would ask how they reconciled such conduct with their own demand for liberty ? Even the Times will admit that consistency in governing Ireland is of some value. Well, there is only one policy in which the English people will ever bring itself to be consistent, and that is the one best described as the "policy of remedial legislation under a strengthened law."