Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/292

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

O'Reilly should not visit Canada. Did the right honorable gentleman know more about Canada than its Premier and its Minister of Justice? One Government decided in one way, and the other in a different way. Which decision was right? A constitutional question of the gravest import was involved. If a Canadian Government allowed a man to visit the Dominion, did the Home Secretary mean to say that the Home Government could interfere? Then, again, the prerogative of the Crown in England was the prerogative of mercy. The Crown sometimes interfered for the purpose of releasing a man, but it was new to him (Mr. Sexton) that the Crown should interfere to imprison a man whom the right honorable gentleman and the Government had determined not to molest. The right honorable gentleman betrayed an indifferent knowledge of the correspondence of his own department. Here was a letter signed "Godfrey Lushington," and dated the 29th of January, which said that the Home Secretary had received an application, but could not accede to the request.

Sir Wm. Harcourt.—I could not give him leave to go to Canada.

Mr. Sexton.—But the right honorable gentleman has assumed to himself the right to refuse leave. His (Mr. Sexton's) object was not to appeal on behalf of Mr. O'Reilly, who would probably never repeat his request—indeed, it was doubtful if he would now accept the permission if it were offered to him. He (Mr. Sexton) wished to protest against the course which the Home Secretary had pursued, and to point out to the Government that they were exposing themselves to ridicule and contempt throughout America. They were worse than the Bourbons, for they learnt nothing, forgot nothing, and forgave nothing. He would ask the right honorable gentleman for his decision on the constitutional question.

Sir Wm. Harcourt said that he had never heard of O'Reilly before, and his case certainly could not be dealt with in any exceptional way. The case had come before him as that of a man who had committed the offense known as "prison, breach," and he could only deal with it on the ordinary line of prison discipline. He (the Home Secretary) had not interfered with the Government of Canada. O'Reilly might be a very much respected and distinguished person, but that would not prevent him from being, in regard to his offense, dealt with as any other prisoner.

Mr. T. P. O'Connor said that in politics there was nothing so good in the long run as a forgiving temper, but the Home Secretary, after an interval of twenty years since the conviction of Mr. O'Reilly, could only speak of that gentleman's case in so far as it concerned "prison discipline." The member for Stockport, in bringing forward his plea for the establishment of a court of criminal appeal, had not supported his arguments by reference to any Irish cases, though there were many