18 DECEMBER 1880, Page 4



IT does not signify much, now that Parliament is to meet so soon, but we would warn our readers to believe but little of what they hear of " Cabinets." Discussion, even when sharp and aggravating, is not necessarily dissension. There is not a deliberative committee in the world which does not sometimes seem, to the fly on the ceiling, to be on the eve of quarrelling; and as regards this particular Committee, the fly is not unbiassed. The Opposition know quite well that the majority in Parliament, reinvigorated by contact with the con- stituencies, is still entirely staunch, and have nothing to hope, except that the Cabinet may be broken up by secessions from within. They welcome every rumour of dissension, therefore, with an enthusiasm of credulity, deduce all manner of " facts " from their own opinion as to the probable views of particular Ministers, and elevate mere accidents, like the antedating of a Cabinet Council, into portentous occurrences. The Cabinet this time, for instance, was arranged for Wednesday, but met on Mon- day ; and what could be the cause of that hurry, except a coming earthquake in Dublin ? Mr. Forster had demanded power to imprison everybody. Mr. Forster wanted troops. Mr. For- ster had detected a conspiracy to declare war on Britain. Mr. Forster had sent in his " ultimatum " to his colleagues, and was about to resign. The Clubs felt happy and Society delighted, for was not all this something to talk about, and evidence past dispute that the inevitable " reaction " against " the dark and sinister spirit " was already at hand ? If Lord Beaconsfield were what he was when he wrote the first chapters of " Coningsby," with how sardonic a glee would he have silently complimented himself on his felicity in describing Tadpole ! He at least probably knows that the Cabinet meeting was antedated to meet the convenience of Mr. Forster and Mr. Gladstone ; that Mr. Forster had no new tale of horror to unfold, though, like the rest of us, he daily feels more painfully the spread in the area of outrage ; that the disaffected in Ireland number at most 3,000,000, and the well-affected in the United Kingdom nearly 30,000,000—a cardinal fact which at least diminishes the probability of civil war ; and that, finally, Mr. Forster is a cool statesman, growing into years, and with far too much sense to believe that he could pacify Ireland by break- ing up a Ministry devoted to its interests. The reports about Cabinet discussions are, we do not doubt, half of them illu- sory, and the other half exaggerations. That Mr. Forster believes extra-legal action imperative in Ireland is not only possible, but probable, for he knows, as the public do not, how difficult it is to make the regular machinery work ; how irri- tated the Magistracy are at finding responsibility thrown on them, instead of falling, as usual, on the Castle ; how irksome it is to drive the Superintendents of Police out of their grooves, how irreplaceable Sir T. Larcom has been found, and how greatly an Irish agitation officered by Americans differs from one officered by Irishmen. He is, too, we presume, somewhat influenced by the daily repetition of stories each of them most harassing to a Minister responsible for Ireland, and by that pressure of the Departmental atmosphere which only the most original-minded Minister can ever wholly escape. But we do not believe that he considered an earlier meet- ing of Parliament possible, or demurred to the almost self-evident policy of bringing the whole subject before Parliament on both its sides and in the completest form. There is practically no other course possible, and in taking it her Majesty's Government will, we believe, have the support of every true Liberal. The entire party, amidst all its differ- ences as to details, has maintained steadily that the great grievance of Ireland, the irreconcilability of the tenure with the circumstances of the country, must be removed, and that the disaffected who are urging the people to resistance must be compelled to render obedience to the law. The only dispute has been as to the times at which these two objects were to be sought, and the nearly universal conclusion has been that they should be sought together,—that redress and repression should go on pari passu. The Cabinet has now announced semi-officially that this is its unanimous opinion also, and the decision will be found, as we believe, to have only anticipated and given edge to that of its supporters. The whole force of the majority will be at the disposal of the Government to carry a new Land Bill, and any measures deemed indispensable to restore respect for law.

So much has already been said about the Land Bill, and it

is so certain that it must concede fixity, fair rents, and free sale, that the public will be chiefly anxious to see the second branch of the Ministerial proposals. It is probable that a sus- pension of the Habeas Corpus Act will be included among them.. We had hoped, and still hope, that this form of repression, which. is of itself an announcement that the law has failed, and that society must for its own preservation make itself despotic, might be avoided, and we should still witness its employ- ment with something of reluctance and disgust. The business of Englishmen is not only to govern, but to govern through constitutional law. The existing law has not been properly applied. The magistrates have not used their legal power of arrest. The police have proved inefficient to a degree which- will destroy all English confidence in the much vaunted Irish Constabulary, who have evidently become soldiers in blue coats. It is heartbreaking even to read Acts like the White- boy Act, and see that not an effort is made to apply them in the very case for which They were intended. But we cannot, in the face of the facts, deny that the weakness of the machinery may be one of the facts, incurable for the moment,. with which the Government have to deal. It is all very well to rail at Mr. Forster—and how they will rail, unless he re- signs, when he will be a hero !—but if the magistrates will not act, and if the police will not prosecute, and if juries will perjure themselves, and if witnesses will remain silent, what remains except to act as lenient Judges would act if the situation were normal, and imprison, without wait- ing for a machinery which obviously will not work ? It may be necessary for a moment to suspend liberty rather than order should disappear, and to treat the social war as if it were a civil war, during which the Courts must be considered powerless. But we should entirely object to see the Govern ment rely for any length of time upon such an instrument.. It is a permanent reform in the machinery of dispensing justice,. and not a permanent system of repression, which Ireland re- quires. Arrest is not punishment, any more than a state of siege is administration. What is needed, is a system under- which any person guilty of crime, and specially of agrarian. crime, shall be promptly arrested, carefully prosecuted, and justly judged. To arrest him, we must have an improved police, and we confess we doubt, for the first time, whether a civil police, supported by soldiery, would not be more effective than the half-military, half-civil Constabulary of Ireland,. hitherto the object of such unbounded respect. To prosecute him, we must have a Public Prosecutor, and we are not sure whether the Scotch system, under which the Crown alone prosecutes, and the complainant is only one witness, is not the most efficacious of all. And to judge him justly, we must, we fear, dispense with juries, which in a country so saturated with party and political feeling are apt to be filled up with unjust jurymen. It is possible, and we make the suggestion, with pleasure, that Irish juries are calumniated ; that it is the- preposterous English fancy for unanimity, and not the jury,. which is in fault; and that under the Scotch system of verdict by a majority, or the Indian system of verdict by a three-fourths majority, juries would be found to do their duty. But the evidence as yet is that, in spite of numerous exceptions, the guilty expect the jurymen not to do it, and in that expectation the terror of the law and the confidence in the law fade equally away. The man attacked believes his assailant will be acquitted, and hardly cares to prosecute ; while the man assailing believes he shall escape, and has no motive to refrain. The belief, well or ill-founded, kills security, and the system must in some way, and at least as regards all popular crimes, be superseded. But the object of superseding it should be, not to stop a particular move- ment by terror, but permanently to amend and strengthen the machinery of justice, at a point at which it has been discovered to be weak. With a police which can discover crime, and prosecutors who will act, and Courts which will return just verdicts, the State will have done all in its power to make Law effective. With the remaining question, that of evidence, it cannot deal. We firmly believe that with just Courts—and a Court which acquits the guilty is as unjust a Court, though not as evil a Court, as a Court which condemns the innocent—evidence sufficient to satisfy good Judges will be forthcoming. But if it should prove otherwise, and Irishmen on this point should show themselves hopelessly demoralised, there is and can be no remedy. Bather than authorise Courts to convict against evidence, or on no evidence except police suspicion, it would be better to bear anarchy, or wink at lynch law, or let Ireland go, to set up on her own re- sponsibility the tremendous tyranny by which. an Irish

Republic would at once commence to drill its people into obedience and order. We must not strengthen the law by contemning justice.

With the meeting of Parliament, much of the fog which .now obscures all judgments, and much also of the vague apprehension which so distracts opinion, will be at once cleared away. This business, bad as it looks, is not so bad as it is imagined to be. We are old enough to remember the signs which preceded 'Forty-eight, and, as Lord Colin Campbell says in the letter we publish to-day, the agitation of 1814 was identical with this in object, and very much worse in de- gree. If things come to the worst, they come, if we must refer to such facts, to this,—that a singularly able Govern- ment, supported by the resources of twenty-eight millions of people, has to reduce to order an island with five millions of people, of whom two millions are on its side ; to restore respect for the law, and to redress a grievance which, though large and difficult, is thoroughly understood. To accomplish this, it has the power next week, by calling out the Reserves and embodying the Militia, to throw into Ireland 150,000 men, in addition to the considerable garrison already within her limits. Foreign help is impossible, in the presence of the Fleet, even if there were any foreign nation desirous of staking its existence on the rescue of a people which has every right of vote, of speech, of writing, and of agitation enjoyed by the remainder of a free kingdom. We do not believe that a strong Government, possessed of such resources, and heartily desirous to grant every reasonable reform, can be baffled, because Mr. Parnell so hates England that he would rather have revolu- tion, than see Ireland turned into a Paradise through her instrumentality.