Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/319

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Gladstone
Gladstone
307

the chief secretary, was compelled to introduce through the prevalence of severe distress in Ireland. The bill, which was originally a single clause in a general measure for the relief of Irish distress, gave compensation for disturbance to tenants evicted for not paying their rent, and therefore not within the Land Act of 1870. It was confined to cases arising out of the recent failure of the crops. Gladstone defended it as an exceptional measure required to maintain the principles of property. The second reading was carried by 295 votes against 217. The bill did not satisfy the home-rulers, who refused to vote for going into committee on it, and also abstained on the third reading. The bill was read a second time on 25 June, and a third time on 26 July. But Lord Beaconsfield strongly opposed it, and on 3 Aug. the House of Lords rejected it by 282 votes to 61.

During the autumn further efforts were made to carry out the treaty of Berlin. On 14 Sept. a naval demonstration, organised by all the great powers, was made off the coast of Albania, and on 26 Nov. Dulcigno was formally ceded by the Porte to Prince Nicholas of Montenegro. Meanwhile the state of Ireland was going from bad to worse. The government appointed an Irish land commission, of which Lord Bessborough was chairman, to inquire into the best means of amending the Irish Land Act, and they also took active steps against the promoters of resistance to the law. On 2 Nov. criminal informations were filed against Parnell and thirteen other leaders of the popular party. Their trial was fixed for 28 Dec. Meanwhile they took no notice of the prosecution, and continued to act as before. An Irish landlord, Lord Mountmorres, was brutally murdered, and no one was made amenable for the crime. There was a clamour in England for measures of repression, many meetings of the cabinet were held, and on 9 Nov. Gladstone, speaking at the lord mayor's dinner, declared in very emphatic language that the law would be enforced in Ireland at all costs.

The session of 1881, which dealt almost exclusively with Irish affairs, lasted from 7 Jan. to 27 Aug. The queen's speech announced that her majesty's forces would be withdrawn as soon as possible from Afghanistan, and that Candahar, which had been occupied by Lord Lytton, would not be permanently retained. It also promised a bill for the protection of property in Ireland, another for the protection of life, and a third for the reform of the land laws. Gladstone gave notice that as soon as the debate on the address was finished he should ask for precedence for the Irish coercion bills, to give them their popular name. Irish obstruction at once began. The debate on the address was prolonged for eleven nights, and was almost wholly devoted to Ireland. Subsequently Forster introduced his peace preservation bill, of which the principal feature was the absolute power of the lord-lieutenant to arrest any one reasonably suspected of sedition and detain him without trial, till 30 Sept. 1882, when the act would expire. This was a strange bill for a liberal government to bring in. But the state of Ireland was so serious that ministers were supported by the vast majority of the house. Opposition came only from the Irish home-rulers, and from a few independent radicals, such as Joseph Cowen, Mr. Labouchere, and Charles Russell (afterwards lord-chief-justice of England) [q. v. Suppl.] While these debates were in progress the trial of Parnell, Mr. Dillon, and the other state prisoners came to an end at Dublin. The jury were unable to agree, and the government did not put the defendants on their trial again. The Irish members endeavoured by physical endurance to prevent the coercion bill from being brought in. The knot seemed inextricable; it was cut by the decisive action of the speaker in putting the question [see Biggar, Joseph Gillis, Suppl.; Brand, Sir Henry Bouverie, Suppl.]

The first reading of the bill was carried by 164 to 19, and Gladstone at once gave notice of a motion for accelerating its further progress. This was that, at the suggestion of the speaker, supported by forty members rising in their places, public business might be declared urgent by a division without debate, and that thereupon the control of procedure should pass into the hands of the speaker for so long as he throught necessary. This resolution was to be moved on 3 Feb. But the Irish members were determined to prevent it from coming on. When Gladstone rose, Mr. Dillon, following an unfortunate precedent set by Gladstone himself (14 July 1880), moved that he should not be heard. He was at once suspended, and removed by the sergeant-at-arms. But the obstruction was continued by the thirty-five other home-rulers who were present, until, by half-past eight, they had all been turned out of the house. Then, at last, Gladstone was able to propose his resolution, with amendments, which he accepted from Sir Stafford Northcote, to the effect that a motion for urgency must be made by a minister, that it might be brought to an end by another motion, and that at least two