22 JULY 1882, Page 12



[TO THE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOR."' SIR,—As you do me the honour to mention my name several times in your recent article on "The Defeat of the Government," you will, perhaps, allow me a few words iu reply. I do not know whether I am entitled to speak on behalf of those whom you term " the dubious Liberals," nor whether you would in- clude in that designation Mr. Buxton, Sir Andrew Fairbairn, Mr. Flower, Mr. Mintz, Mr. Peel, and Mr. Roundel], so I mast be contented to speak for myself. I am one of those who had felt deeply pained and shamed by the indifference with which the Liberal party generally seemed to regard the unchecked in- crease of murder and similar atrocities in Ireland. The failure in this direction (though certainly not in all) of the Coercion Act was obvious and acknowledged. But no one seemed to recognise the necessity for replacing it with a more effective measure. I had repeatedly urged on my consti- tuents and others whom I had opportunities of address- ing the necessity for suspending trial by jury, and for devising some means to meet the difficulty of obtaining .evidence. I, therefore, welcomed Mr. Gladstone's announce- ment, made at the time of Mr. Forster's retirement, that some such measure would be introduced. The horrible tragedy of the Phoenix Park illustrated more vividly, but could not increase, the necessity for such a step. Then the Bill was introduced, and we are bound to suppose that it had been carefully weighed by the Cabinet and by the Irish Government. The Bill con- tained the power to search by night; and this power was emphasised by Sir W. Harcourt as most valuable. Then, all at once, without pressure from any quarter, this important pro- vision was flung away. Some of us, myself for one, protested at the moment, and announced the opposition which, nearly three weeks afterwards, we carried into effect. Mr. Gladstone's impetuous words about reserving his liberty of action, and reconsidering his personal position, took the whole House, and not least his colleagues, by surprise. Many who had intended to vote against the concession were deterred from doing so by fear of a resignation. Those of us who regarded these vague words as merely the expression of a momentary impatience, and quite certain to lead to no practical result, displayed, I venture to think, a sounder discretion. Now, as to the reasons which actuated my course; and first, on the merits of the point at issue. I felt persuaded that in the prohibition of search by night, except whore a meeting of an illegal society was taking place, the Government were wrong. It is eminently a question on which common-sense, unaided by special experience, can form a judgment, whether it is prudent when you are dealing with murderers and intending murderers, to exempt houses from search between sundown and sunrise. In my opinion, it was, as I said, to give a " close-time for the propagation of murder." And the only reason for the conces- sion which the Ministers of the Crown thought fit to adduce was that it commended itself to the Irish Government. I ven- ture to think that the Cabinet which consented to Mr. Forster's resignation after two years' service, sooner than follow his ad- vice on a serious question of Irish administration, are scarcely in a position to quote Lord Spencer's judgments as their solo arguments for a sudden, and, to all appearance, an infatuated, change of plan.

I shall not be supposed to undervalue the opinion of Lord

Spencer, or of my friend, Mr. Trevelyan ; but I confess that, in this matter, the Government seem to be impaled on the horns of a dilemma. Either, when they included the night-search in their original demand, they had not thoroughly weighed the question of its desirability ; or, having thoroughly considered it, they completely changed their minds in six weeks. In neither case do I see any special reason for blindly trusting their judg- ment, when it is unsupported with reasous, and seems to con- travene common-sense.

Then you make very merry at my expense, because I re- garded my action as a mark of confidence. Yet it seems to me to have deserved that title, both in its " ordinary" and in its technical sense. It is surely a mark of strong confidence in the discretion and humanity of a Government, to entrust it with powers which might be made so aggressive and vexatious. Arid, technically, I protested against my action being considered a vote of non-confidence, because I felt certain that it would not be so regarded or acted upon by the Ministry. But certainly, if we are to understand by the word " confidence " an absolute reliance on the opinion of the Government in every detail, and a belief that their judgment is infallible when dealing with Irish disorder, then I frankly admit that the experience of the last two years would make such " confidence " impossible. But there was another cause at work which influenced some of as oven more strongly than the actual merits of the particular question at issue. You speak of an "under-current of impati. once with what is called the tenderness of the Government for Irish feeling." If "Irish feeling" means the susceptibilities of the criminal classes in Ireland, I should quite agree with you. But I should prefer to express my own feeling by saying that it was, in my judgment, high time to demonstrate effectually and unmistakably that the utmost sympathy with real Irish grievances, and the keenest desire to remedy them, do not imply the slightest palliation of monstrous crimes, nor preclude a resolute determination to detect and punish them. If it seems superfluous to put such a proposition into words, the justifica- tion for doing so is supplied by your own most curious surprise that I should oppose a close-time for murder, although I have "belonged to the left wing, rather than to the right wing of the Liberal party," and have declared myself, " with some emphasis, to be favourable to a thorough-going reform of the Land Laws," —as if a wish to abolish entail implied any hesitancy in dealing with murder !

A third point which actuated me was the conviction that the concession had been made in the vain hope of conciliating Irish opposition, and so securing an easier passage for the remainder of the Bill. This I knew to be hopeless ; and the hopelessness was proved by the outbreak of obstruction which immediately followed the announcement of the concession, and, even more strikingly, by the action of the Irreconcilables, in leaving Mr. Gladstone to be beaten, when he was fighting for their own amendment.

Other considerations had their influence ; but I have enume- rated enough. Permit me to say, in conclusion, that the "peevishness," "irritability," "impatience," "want of mag- nanimity," and " weariness in well-doing," which you attribute to the Liberals who refused to let the Government throw away a serviceable weapon which they had themselves asked for, are the delusions arising from an imperfect acquaintance with the motives and aims of some of those whom you censure. Our votes on the Arrears Bill give you the most practical contra- diction. I could not better express my own view than in your words, which occur, curiously enough, just before the article on which I have been commenting :—" There is nothing which injures true Liberalism more than the sympathy of its left wing with all the loose ruffianism of unsettled States." Such a State, unfortunately, is Ireland ; and if, under the pressure of extra- ordinary difficulties, Ministers vacillate or waver in their dealings with it, the truest Liberalism, I believe, is that which holds them fairly to their duty.—I am, Sir, &c., [Mr. Russell's objection to "a close-time for murder" is not peculiar to Mr. Russell, Those who, including Lord Spencer, Mr. Trovelyan, and ourselves, consider his action a fortnight ago mistaken, do so, not because there is any wish to give " close-time for murder," but because there is a, very great wish to give innocent Irishmen and L•ishwomen a " close-time " for sleep and security from the police. Of course, if the domi- ciliary visits could be paid only to the murderous class, every- body would. be with Mr. Russell. But there was nothing weak in supposing that, as Mr. Forster's Coercion Bill had failed, the clause which Mr. Forster had, we suppose, approved, and which Lord Spencer never approved, ought to be removed from an Act for the execution of which Lord Spencer, and not Mr. Forster, was to be responsible. Lord Spencer thought that the search at night in innocent households would cause much more rebellious feeling, than the search in guilty households would cause fear and detection. And no doubt he is a better authority on the subject than Mr. Russell.—En. Spectator.]