§ Order for Committee read; House in Committee.
§ Clause 1.
§ MR. NAPIER
said, he rose to make the statement of which he had given notice in the early part of this week on the subject of these Bills. It was in consequence of the appeal he had made to the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) on a former night, that he was then enabled to make observations which he deemed necessary in reference to the extraordinary statement of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland, to which, as yet, he had had no opportunity of replying. He confessed that statement had quite taken him by surprise; and it was, therefore, with the deepest and sincerest regret that he now felt himself compelled to ask the attention of the Committee to the circumstances under which he was called upon to address them. The right hon. Baronet, at the end of the morning sitting of Tuesday, said—and that he (Mr. Napier) might not misrepresent him in anything, he would give the leading passages in his speech on that occasion as they were reported in the Times, and he believed the report was substantially correct—the right hon. Baronet had stated, in reference to the two Bills before the House—namely, the Landlord and Tenants (Ireland) Bill and the Leasing Powers (Ireland) Bill—that if they had been Government Bills, they would not have been proposed at this period of the Session—Sir J. Young assured the House that if these had been Government Bills, they would not have been proposed at this period of the Session. Nothing could be fairer than the course taken by the Government upon these Bills, or more courteous to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Napier), to whose skill and ability they were undoubtedly owing. A Committee of that House, fairly appointed last Session, discussed these Bills, and at 165 a late period of the Session they were sent up to the House of Lords. They were taken up by the Duke of Newcastle, but it was found impossible to carry them at that time. The Landlord and Tenant Bill, the Leasing Powers Bill, and the Tenants' Compensation Bill, were read a second time by the House of Lords, and it was resolved that the Bills should be considered by a Select Committee at the beginning of the present Session. A noble Lord, a Member of that House, brought in this year a Landlord and Tenant Bill, and a Leasing Powers Bill, which had a resemblance to the Bills of last Session, but without the Tenants' Compensation Bill. These Bills were all sent to a Select Committee of their Lordships' House. The Landlord and Tenant Bill emerged from that Committee, but no Tenants' Compensation Bill, and that which he (Sir J. Young) proposed and was responsible for was not before the House at all. The two first-named Bills were, he thought, good measures as far as they went. The Landlord and Tenant Bill was a good consolidation of the law, and the Leasing Powers Bill was a very good measure, and, taken by itself, was a great improvement on the law. But was he to take this for the whole code of tenancy? Was the House to take a part of legislation without the rest, and would the two Bills now before the House be acceptable without a Tenants' Compensation Bill? He inclined to think they would not. If hon. Members who were usually supporters of the Government had asked the Government to proceed with the Bills this Session, the Government would have done so. But no one representative of an Irish constituency, who had come to him on the subject, had wished these Bills to be persevered with during the present Session. Still he had determined to leave the decision to the House, and he had obtained a morning sitting for the discussion of this subject. After what had taken place that day, he must confess he did not think it fair and right to press these Bills further upon the House. The compensation clauses of the first Bill, unless accompanied with the provisions of the Tenants' Improvement Compensation Bill, would only create dissatisfaction.Not only was he (Mr. Napier) desirous not to misrepresent the right hon. Baronet, but he was anxious to put his observations in the best light. It was quite true, as the right hon. Baronet stated, that he (Mr. Napier) had been treated up to yesterday with very great courtesy, and with every respect by the Government in the matter; but having been so treated, with propriety and candour, as he supposed, he could not have had any doubt that he was in full cooperation with the Government to have these Bills passed with all the energy which could be brought to bear upon them by both. The first intimation he had received of the slightest indisposition on the part of the Government to proceed with these Bills occurred yesterday—not before; and he (Mr. Napier) would appeal to the Committee and to the country, therefore, as to the manner in which all par- 166 ties had been treated in the matter. But more than that, he complained of the way in which a question which he conceived to be most important to Ireland had been dealt with. The right hon. Baronet put his case on this ground. He admitted that the two measures then under discussion were valuable measures, and that there could be no objection to them; but that the third Bill, which he (Sir J. Young) had proposed—the Tenants' Compensation Bill—and for which he claimed the responsibility, not having come down to that House from the Lords, he considered it would be unfair to ask the House to go on with the other two Bills, which, he added, were not Government measures, or they would not have been proposed at that late period of the Session for the consideration of the House. A discussion had previously been raised as to whose Bills these were, some hon. Members saying that these were Government measures, and others that they were his (Mr. Napier's); and the very first words used by the right hon. Baronet were "if these had been Government Bills"—and the right hon. Baronet added that he was not responsible, because the whole of the measures were not before the House, and he would not go on with but a part, said to be imperfect and defective. In the other House of Parliament, however, the Duke of Newcastle had made a very different statement on the same afternoon. On that occasion the Duke of Newcastle expressed himself in these terms—The Duke of Newcastle said it would have been very convenient if the noble Earl had given him only five minutes' notice of the question which he had meant to put to him, as he had only heard of the facts to which he referred just as the noble Earl rose, from a noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Bath), and therefore had had no opportunity of conferring with his Colleagues on the subject, and of confirming or setting right the statement which the noble Earl had made. He would, however, take the earliest opportunity of doing so, but he might say now that it was always intended, that it had always been intended, to persevere in the Bills to which the noble Earl referred to, if the circumstances of the Session permitted, but still, at the present period of the Session, and considering the lengthened discussions which had always taken place on this subject, it might be impossible, even if a few Members persevered in their opposition to it, to carry those Bills without throwing over all other public business. The Bills were not party Bills, and had never been looked on as such, and though, technically speaking, they might not be Government Bills, there was no doubt that the Government had adopted them in their essence, He was quite sure that there was no unfair repudiation of these Bills contemplated by Her Ma- 167 jesty's Government, and that the only reason why they were withdrawn was, that it had been found impossible to proceed with them during the present Session.Nothing could have been more fair than this statement. If the case presented by the right hon. Baronet had been, that from circumstances over which he had no control, or from the unscrupulous use of the forms of the House by Members who opposed the Bills, he had been defeated in his attempts to proceed with these measures, he (Mr. Napier) should have had nothing to say on the subject, as he would consider that a fair excuse for relinquishing them. But the right hon. Baronet did not put the case on that ground; he put it entirely on this ground—that as they were not accompanied by the Tenants' Compensation Bill, which had passed the House last Session, he could not go on with them. He (Mr. Napier) had never had the slightest intimation from the Government, though he had been in frequent communication with them on the subject of these Bills, that it was not their intention to press two without the third; or that the Tenants' Compensation Bill, having been rejected by a Select Committee of the Lords, they felt themselves not to be bound by that decision, and that they did not intend to press forward the others. So far from this, he believed there was not a dissentient voice in that Committee, on which were several Members of the Government—the Duke of Argyll presided over it. The other two Bills were adopted as a fair settlement of the question, and sent down to the House of Commons as Government Bills. The first reading was moved by the right hon. Baronet, and he (Mr. Napier) believed the second reading also; certainly it was moved by a Member of the Government; and the day was fixed for going into Committee. He was himself at that time absent in Ireland. Communications had been made to him with regard to them, and he applied to the noble Lord to know what day he could give for them to be taken into consideration. He admitted that every courtesy was shown him at that time, and everything conduced to make him think they were to be bonâ fide proceeded with. He had kept continually working at them with that view, spending his own time and that of others in considering them; and now, having proceeded so far in this way, under the belief that these two Bills were to be passed, he learnt from the lips of the right hon. 168 Baronet that they were renounced by the Government in consequence of the rejection of the Bill of the right hon. Baronet by the Select Committee of the Lords; and the sore that had so long been festering in Ireland was to be again torn open, with the intimation that these Bills would not be proposed unless that rejected Bill accompanied them. He (Mr. Napier) wished to know whether the Members of the Government in the two Houses resolved on speaking different things. The right hon. Baronet had talked of those Members who honoured the Government with their confidence; perhaps he had communicated his intentions to them. But those hon. Members who represented Ulster, and who, for the most part, did not honour the Government with their confidence, they were certainly kept in ignorance, as well as he (Mr. Napier) himself, on the subject. The first thing the right hon. Baronet said was, that these two Bills were not Government Bills. If so, who placed them on the paper? By whom had they been brought forward? The right hon. Baronet wished, perhaps, to say that he would not take the onus of these Bills. He had intimated that they were his (Mr. Napier's) Bills. He (Mr. Napier) could have well understood the right hon. Baronet if, on the rejection of the third Bill, he had come forward and stated that he would not be bound by the Select Committee; but that he had not done, nor had he intimated to him (Mr. Napier) and such intention or opinion. Let him for a moment trace the history of these Bills. Originally there had been three of them—the two now before the House and the Tenants' Compensation Bill. All three were confided to the Duke of Newcastle to take charge of them in the House of Lords, and in his Grace's hands he had been quite satisfied to leave them, knowing that when Secretary for Ireland, in 1846, he had given great attention to the subject and in conjunction with the right hon. Baronet, prepared a Bill on the same subject, which had not gone beyond the first stage of it in consequence of the change of Government. They were presented to the House of Lords accordingly. But a noble Marquess, who endeavoured to be as unkind to him (Mr. Napier) as possible, asked the Duke of Newcastle, on the 8th of August last year, whether the Bills had been submitted to the law advisers of the Irish Government, and what was their opinion as to the safety and accuracy of the Bills. To that his Grace replied that, after the change of 169 Government, it was thought desirable that the Bills should be submitted to the law officers of the new Administration; they had been accordingly submitted to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and the Attorney and Solicitor General for Ireland, and they reported that the Bills had been drawn up with great care and accuracy, accompanying their report with a recommendation that they should be passed as speedily as possible into law. Under these circumstances he (Mr. Napier) thought he needed not be ashamed of the paternity of the two Bills, as there were no higher authorities on the subject who could be officially consulted. On the next day, on moving the second reading of the Bills, the Duke repeated that the Bills had been referred to and approved by the present Lord Chancellor and the present law officers of the Crown in Ireland. He ended by saying, "Her Majesty's Government were ready to place the responsibility of settling this question to the credit of the late Government, if the proposed measures succeeded, with a certainty of blame to themselves if they did not." What occurred last Session of Parliament was this:—When his Grace proposed to submit them to the House of Lords, he (Mr. Napier) was absent in Ireland, and there was great confusion and unpleasantness on the matter; and it being then close on the end of the Session, the Earl of Aberdeen said, that the Government would undertake themselves at the beginning of the next Session to send the Bills to a Select Committee of the House of Lords, and have them fully considered—that they would then see what could be made of them, and would endeavour to pass them as they should be moulded by the Committee. In the interval between Session and Session, he (Mr. Napier) had again looked over them, and he had taken all the advantage in his power of the observations made in the House of Lords. He could not but perceive, he admitted, that the Tenants' Compensation Bill was objected to in all its parts, and he found that so much misrepresentation prevailed in Ireland, that, in reply to his noble Friend (the Earl of Donoughmore), he addressed him a letter stating the true facts of the case. He then sent this to the Duke of Newcastle and informed his Grace that he would disembarrass him of the two Bills. The difficulty was to find a father for the Tenants' Compensation Bill, though with regard to its authorship there was no doubt, for in the official list of Bills 170 published in July, 1853, the Landlord and Tenants Bill and the Leasing Powers (Ireland) Bill were set down to him (Mr. Napier), and the Tenants' Compensation Bill to the Government; the third reading was, in fact, moved by the Solicitor General for Ireland. He (Mr. Napier) had endeavoured, as he said, to amend the two Bills, and the Earl of Donoughmore proposed them in their amended form upon the first night of the Session. The Duke of Newcastle thought, in consequence of the pledge already given at the end of the last Session, that he ought to produce all in their original form, and he did so. In three weeks after, the noble Marquess alluded to (the Marquess of Clanricarde) produced another Bill, and a fourth Bill was produced by a noble Lord connected with the north of Ireland (Lord Dufferin). All these Bills were referred to the Select Committee over which the Duke of Argyll presided. Shortly after that Committee sent a message requesting him (Mr. Napier) and the Solicitor General for Ireland to attend and give evidence. He (Mr. Napier) did for many days attend accordingly, and he heard with some surprise and indignation the charge which had been made against the Committee the other day by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny, after witnessing the unwearied pains, the ability, the attention, and the impartiality of that Committee. It was in his (Mr. Napier's) mind impossible to have made a better selection than the Duke of Argyll to preside over such a Committee, conversant as he was with Scotch law, from which several of the provisions of the Bill were borrowed; his Grace had made himself master of almost every branch and every detail of the question, and he had never met and he could never expect to meet with greater courtesy and fairness than had been exhibited by that nobleman. His Grace it was who suggested that Mr. Ferguson, to whom he (Mr. Napier) was so deeply indebted for the preparation of these Bills, should be sent for and paid by the Government; and it was due to the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Young) to state that he at once acceded to that proposition. The Committee went to their work, and on the 11th of May they made their Report. On the 18th of May the Duke of Argyll, on moving the recommitment of the Bills, made a full explanatory statement. He said—With regard to the first Bill, when it was read a second time some weeks ago a strong feel- 171 ing with reference to some of its provisions was expressed by noble Lords on both sides of the House. In the discussion which had taken place in the Select Committee there had been, on the one hand, a firm determination to maintain those great doctrines of property on which must depend all agricultural and, indeed, all other improvement; while, on the other hand, there had been an equal determination not to allow a pedantic adherence to abstract principles to stand in the way of the real justice of the case.After mentioning the titles of the various Bills referred to the Committee, the noble Duke said that—With respect to this measure, the whole of their discussions had arisen with respect to the clauses relating to the compensation to be given to the tenant for existing improvements. It would, however, be a mistake therefore to suppose that these clauses were all that was important in this Bill, for, in truth, the most important parts had no reference whatever to compensation. On this question he (the Duke of Argyll) adhered to the great fundamental principle that the relation between landlord and tenant should be founded upon contract. In perfect consistency with this, however, he thought they might pass enactments referring to the relations between landlords and tenants in cases were there was no agreement, or where the agreement was silent.The noble Duke went on to say—He thought that it would be politic in the House to ease off the hardships which might be attendant upon this period of change, by making provision for the compensation of tenants for the expenses they had actually incurred by erecting buildings under customs which were now passing away. With this view the Select Committee had determined, to a certain extent, to give a retrospective operation to the principle of the Act of 1851, which he had already described to the House. In the Bill as it was originally introduced, it was proposed to declare absolutely that 'all buildings which shall have been erected at the sole expense of the tenant shall belong to him, and be removable from the farm.' It was, however, objected to this that in many cases the tenant had been sufficiently compensated for his outlay by the length of his lease, and the Committee had therefore modified the clause as follows. They had prepared a list, in the first place, of the cases in which any claim on the part of the tenant should be absolutely barred; and, in the second place, a list of circumstances which should be taken to limit the amount of the claim. The tenant was to be absolutely barred from making any claim for buildings erected at his own expense if they were erected in pursuance of any agreement, if they had been already compensated for by any abatements or allowances of rent, or if they were erected in violation of any covenant against sub-letting, and, lastly, if they had been enjoyed for twenty-one years. The amount which could be claimed by the tenant as compensation, should the landlord elect to purchase the improvement, was to be reduced in proportion to the length of time short of twenty-one years, during which the tenant had enjoyed the improvement; and the landlord might also reduce it by showing that allowances or abatements of rent had been 172 made on account of the improvement, or by showing that arrears of rent were due to him. He believed that, thus modified, the clause was founded upon sound principles, which it would be equally for the interests of landlords and tenants that that House should adopt. After the Landlord and Tenant Bill and Leasing Powers Bill had been passed through the Committee, they next came to the consideration of the Tenants' Compensation Bill. It was proposed originally that the Bill should have reference to improvements not only in, but on, the soil; but when the Bill left the House of Commons the improvements in the soil were totally excluded, and as the Bill came to the House of Peers there was nothing referred to in it but roads and fences. It was thought by the Select Committee that it would be absurd to have a special Bill for roads and fences, having already dealt in another measure with houses and buildings, and the Committee had reported against the expediency of proceeding further with the Tenants' Compensation Bill. They had reported in favour of the other two Bills, and he should, therefore, move their Lordships to go into Committee on those Bills.It certainly was most satisfactory to himself, as a matter of personal congratulation, that out of all the Bills which had been referred these two alone should have been selected by the Committee to be proceeded with. In May the right hon. Baronet was aware that the two Bills went into Committee of the House of Lords. On the 11th of May the report was brought up, and every one was aware that in that report the Tenants' Compensation Bill was unanimously abandoned. On the 18th May the Duke of Argyll made a speech, and explained the reasons for this proceeding; so, therefore, the right hon. Baronet must have been aware that his Bill relating to tenants' compensation would not go on; and yet Mr. Ferguson was brought over at the expense of the Government. The two Bills came on for third reading on the 26th May. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde), with persevering consistency, called attention to the fact that no one was responsible for the Bills. The Duke of Newcastle then made a statement, in reply to the noble Marquess—The Government had no disposition whatever to please any extreme party in Ireland by these Bills. So far as the Government had had a hand in these Bills no such object had existed. It had undoubtedly been sought to allay any irritation which might exist on the part of any of the people of Ireland, in consequence of injustice which they might feel had been inflicted upon them; but the object of the Bills had been simply to amend the law relating to landlord and tenant, as much for the benefit of the landlord as for that of the tenant, and to satisfy those moderate men who wished the interests of both to be consulted, and not any extreme party whatever, whether of land- 173 lords or tenants. The noble Marquess, and also the noble Earl who moved the first Amendment, had complained that these Bills had been introduced without any one being responsible for them. Now, though he (the Duke of Newcastle) had introduced these Bills in the exact form in which they were last Session received from the House of Commons, in order that they might be referred to a Select Committee to be moulded into a form for submission to the House, yet the Government—one of its Members having presided over that Committee, and having most carefully superintended the examination of these Bills and been a party to the amendments which were made—the Government was not prepared to throw upon that House or upon any other person the responsibility of these Bills. The Government accepted the responsibility of them exactly as if they had been framed under its direction, and had been introduced in the shape in which Government Bills were generally introduced. If the noble Marquess meant to deduce from his argument that the Government intended to shift upon the House the responsibility of accepting these Bills in whatever form they might come from the House of Commons, he could assure the noble Marquess that there was no such intention; but the Government was not prepared to offer to the House of Commons the insult of saying that they would reject any amendments which might be introduced into the Bills in that House. As regarded these Bills, as regarded others going from this House, the Government accepted the responsibility of them in the shape in which they were sent down to them by their Committee, and they would judge how far the principles involved in the Bills, as they now stood, were affected by any alterations which might be made in another place, and by their honest conviction as to the condition in which they came up they would be guided in the course which they should take." [3 Hansard, exxxiii. 1006.]Now, at that time the Tenants' Compensation Bill had been rejected by two Cabinet Ministers, by the unanimous Report of the Select Committee of the House of Lords; and no one on the part of the Government had raised a voice against the other two Bills, which it was proposed should be proceeded with as Government Bills, and might therefore be regarded as a fair settlement of the question. The proceedings were fair and open; they were dealt with in the other House as Government Bills, and for his own part he shrank from no just responsibility, and he would ask the House to say if he had not acted with the most perfect fairness with respect to these Bills. He had no wish to refer to personal matters; he always avoided doing so if possible, as he desired only to have kindly feeling, whatever might be their political differences. But he was bound to refer to Tuesday last, and before doing so he would just state that he had previously received one letter from a Member of the Government inclosing a sugges- 174 tion relative to the Landlord and Tenant Bill, and another letter from another Member with a suggestion as to the Leasing Powers Bill. These suggestions, he would say, he considered to be valuable. He repeated it was not his inclination to refer to personal matters, but he must do so on this occasion, and he then must fearlessly ask the House to say if he had been honourably treated in this matter. He would appeal to the noble Lord to say whether it was likely he would, day after day, have given his time to the question, or have attended every time he was requested by the Duke of Argyll and the Lords' Committee to give assistance, had he not thought the measures would be proceeded with bonâ fide, and had he not known that there existed a great anxiety in Ireland to have the question settled? It had been the fashion to keep the question open—a question affecting a large mass of property; and it was generally felt that any settlement was better than no settlement. But what was the present position of the question? After so many years of labour, it was never worse than now; and all this had been accomplished by the unexpected and unjustifiable statement made by the right hon. Baronet on Tuesday last. He (Mr. Napier) owned the subject was one of intense interest to him; he had given his assistance and his time to the Government freely and without stint, and he owned he thought that under such circumstances a high-minded Government would have rallied round him to support a beneficial measure—not a measure that was all that every one might wish—not such a measure as the right hon. Baronet might wish—nay, not even such a measure as he (Mr. Napier) would have wished; but a measure which had in view, and certainly was calculated to accomplish largely a beneficial purpose. He would say, in a Constitution like ours, it was impossible that the views of one should override the opinion of many, and though he might desire to go somewhat further than the House of Lords—yet, looking at the prevailing opinions on the landlord and tenant question—looking at the opinion of the Lord Chief Justice Campbell and other high authorities—looking at the difficulty of dealing with the question and the general opinion of moderate men that the two Bills presented a fair settlement of the question; considering that so much was already done towards that settlement, and that what was done had 175 been mainly owing to the good sense and ability of the Duke of Argyll in consequence of the manner in which he had managed the proceedings of the Committee, he deplored the conclusion at which the Government had arrived. He much doubted whether any other man could have got so liberal a settlement of the question as had been obtained by the Duke of Argyll. The two Bills came from the House of Lords substantially as Government measures. The House of Lords had passed these two Bills, considering them to contain a fair settlement of the question. And what was the course taken in the House of Commons when the Bills came down? The right hon. Baronet, holding, as he did, a high official position, ought not—he would take the liberty to say—ought not to hand himself over to any particular section of Irish Members. These measures related to property in Ireland, whether connected with landlord or tenant; the question, therefore, was one which ought not to admit either of party or class legislation. The right hon. Baronet knew how he had been attacked by both parties in Ireland for the course he had taken with reference to this question; he had endured much abuse, and had been subjected to a great deal of misconception, for dealing with the question at all between landlord and tenant. But the right hon. Baronet now took a new position, and said it was unfair to press the two Bills, because they were not accompanied by the Compensation Bill. Why, how were the Bills proposed to the House? The second reading was moved, a debate was got up, and the Bills were proceeded with in the ordinary way. Was the right hon. Baronet, then, taken by surprise by what occurred here last Tuesday? These Bills were on the paper yesterday; and the right hon. Baronet asked whether he could have expected that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Serjeant Shee) would have allowed the Bills to proceed—he could not have expected that, for it would have been ruin to some Members had he done so. Why, so long ago as the 15th of June, he found on the paper a notice standing in the name of Mr. Serjeant Shee, to the effect, that, on the Motion for leaving the chair, he would move that these two Bills be postponed until the second reading of his own Tenants' Compensation Bill. He (Mr. Napier) came down yesterday and heard a long speech in which he was coarsley abused; he expected that, as he 176 was accustomed to it, always consoling himself with Dean Swift's lines—On me when dunces are satiric,I take it for a panegyric.The hon. and learned Gentleman said he would not trust him (Mr. Napier) out of his sight, for he had not his confidence. He did not want the hon. and learned Gentleman's confidence. The hon. and learned Gentleman appeared, however, to have none to spare, except for the Government, who appeared to give their confidence to him in exchange. The hon. and learned Gentleman complained of the number of Amendments he had placed on the paper, and enumerated them. But these Amendments nearly all related to verbal matters. The number of Amendments occurred this way. They were noted in the Committee of the House of Lords, and he was told that the House of Lords would adopt them; and during the recess he was ready to put them in a legal form. But he could get no copies of the Bills at that time, as altered by the Committee in time for the House of Lords, and as he had only recently obtained copies he could not introduce the Amendments before. These Amendments were mostly verbal and grammatical; some proposed to substitute clauses more accurately framed; but, with the exception of one of the Amendments, there was not any which had anything to do with any question of disputed principle. When he proposed to have the Amendments printed he was opposed by the learned Gentleman, who would not consent to so reasonable a thing. He was obliged to sit down without obtaining his object, that object being merely to make the Bills at an early stage more accurate and complete. He would do the right hon. Baronet the justice to say it was not on that ground he had put his case. The right hon. Baronet had put it on this one point, that his Tenants' Compensation Bill ought to accompany the other two Bills, because, after what had taken place, the compensation clause of the first Bill, unless it were accompanied by the Tenants' Compensation Bill, would only create dissatisfaction. If that was the opinion of the right hon. Baronet and the Government, let the House just see in what position they were placed. The Select Committee of the Upper House, the Duke of Argyll presiding, and acting on the part of the Government, the House of Lords itself, and, indeed, almost all parties were agreed as to the value of the two Bills, and were of opinion 177 that the Tenants' Compensation Bill should not pass. And yet Government now said that the two Bills could not proceed, however valuable they might be, unless the Compensation Bill accompanied them. He did not object to Government having their opinion on the subject, but then he would ask, was it fair, reasonable, or just to the country, or to himself, after bringing the Bills up to the point at which they stood—Bills pressed forward substantially as Government measures—after throwing the responsibility on others, and after he had been invited by Government to give his unremitting attention to that subject—after he had given his time and attention to the Bills, believing them to be bonâ fide beneficial measures, was it fair to him to say, if the Tenants' Compensation Bill could not be passed, the whole question should be thrown overboard, and the decision of the House of Lords pronounced to be wrong? Was it fair, he would ask, for the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny to taunt him with bringing in a Bill from political objects rather than to settle a great question? He would ask the House whether from the first time he had spoken on the question, he had ever shown a disposition to act with party or political feelings? It was at the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet, before he took office himself, that he had given his attention to this question. When the right hon. Baronet sat on the opposition side of the House in February, 1852, at a time when there was a severe attack on the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) the right hon. Baronet, as well as the Secretary of the Admiralty, asked him to take up the question. His opinion was then well known—it was embodied in that publication for which he was substantially responsible. He did take the question up from that time, and having taken it up as an independent Member, and followed it up with all the weight he could bring to bear as a law officer of the late Government—after having throughout followed one consistent course in reference to the question—he thought that at least he was not open to any of the imputations that had been thrown out against his course of proceeding. With respect to the Bills before the House, the right hon. Baronet admitted their value—they had the approbation both of the Government and the House of Lords, and the Tenants' Compensation Bill was the right hon. Baronet's Bill. The right hon. Baronet would recollect that when he introduced his Bills, two of them were more or 178 less connected with the subject of tenants' compensation. One of these Bills he admitted was more comprehensive in one respect than the measure of the right hon. Baronet. But the Select Committee were of opinion that his measure was too complex. He believed there was no section of that House who refused to concede the abstract principle, that if a tenant made an improvement on his farm he ought to be compensated; the only difficulty was as to the mode of carrying the principle out. The Committee of 1853 examined a good deal of evidence, and here was the Resolution they came to—That the attention of the Legislature be directed to an early consideration of the laws which regulate the relation of landlord and tenant in Ireland, with a view to their consolidation and amendment; and especially to consider the practicability of such legislation as might provide adequate security to tenants for permanent improvements, and otherwise place the relation on a more satisfactory basis.Well, then, he did accordingly attempt to consolidate and amend the law on these subjects. The two Bills were to be considered as consolidating and amending Bills. With regard to tenants' compensation, he did the best he could to adjust it; but the Committee thought the machinery too complex, and they set it aside. The right hon. Baronet then brought in his Bill, and that Bill be supported, and as far as he was individually concerned he did not think it would he injurious to property; but he found that great dislike existed towards it in Ireland, and that scarcely any was inclined to accept it. Many said it was contrary to all principle, and as it did not include compensation for improvements in the soil, others said it was worth nothing. The right hon. Baronet brought forward his Bill in the belief that it would be of use, but it had been ultimately rejected in the House of Lords. The question, then, was—the two Bills being considered a fair settlement of the question—Government having endorsed and adopted them in two Sessions—the Bills having passed through Committees of their own nomination in both Houses—he having given his co-operation, because invited to do so by Government—and having not the slightest reason to expect but that the two Bills would be passed, the question was, whether under all these circumstances the Government were justified in having at the last moment thrown these Bills overboard for the reason given by the right hon. Baronet? And he fearlessly put it to the Committee and country to decide, whether 179 his conduct had not been consistent, and whether they who had thrown up the whole question at this moment, after so much had been done, were the parties deserving of praise or censure? He believed honestly that it was only holding out a delusion to the farmer tenants to encourage them now to look forward to the passing of this rejected Bill. Had he foreseen what was to be the result of the matter, he certainly would have taken no part in the question. The course adopted by Government would only invite further agitation hereafter, and keep the minds of the tenantry of Ireland in an unquiet state of expectation; that was not just to them, nor honourable and candid to him. It was always his wish and desire, whatever might be the difference of political opinion, to be on terms of good feeling with all parties, but under the present circumstances he thought he had a right to complain of the manner in which he had been treated, and the unjustifiable course pursued towards him by the Government.
§ SIR JOHN YOUNG
said, it appeared to him that the right hon. and learned Gentleman made his complaint upon two grounds. The first was, that he had not been treated fairly—that he had not been honourably treated by him; and the second, that the postponement of these questions was not, under the circumstances, wise and judicious, and was likely to lead to evil. Now, with respect to this last point, it was clearly a matter of opinion to be decided on by every one according to the facts to be brought before them; but with respect to the right hon. Gentleman's first ground of complaint—that he had not been treated fairly by him—all he could say was, that if the right hon. Gentleman thought he had not been fairly treated, he very much regretted it. But he would recall to the right hon. Gentleman's recollection the circumstances under which he had spoken on Tuesday last. He had pressed the noble Lord the leader of the House to give the right hon. Gentleman a day for proceeding with his Bills, and finally Tuesday last was fixed. He (Sir J. Young) then came down, having heard that considerable opposition would be offered to the Bills. He had, in fact, a fortnight ago stated to the right hon. Gentleman his fear that they would be met with strong opposition. At that time, however, he certainly had had no idea of the strength of this opposition; he had thought that the opposition would have soon died away, but on Tuesday, as would be recollected, 180 Mr. Bouverie had scarcely taken the chair in Committee before the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee) rose to propose that he should report progress; and the hon. and learned Gentleman was followed by a number of other Members on that side of the House, who were generally supporters of the Government, and who repeated in public the statements they had made in private—that they one and all opposed further proceeding with these Bills during the present Session, and stating their wish that they should be postponed in order to allow of its due consideration by all parties in Ireland. That wish was also expressed with equal emphasis by more than one deputation which came from Ireland, and it did not seem very unreasonable. Last year these Bills were brought forward, and met with strong opposition in the House of Lords, and were postponed in that House; this year, parties who were supposed to represent the tenant interest one and all prayed for the postponement of the measures, in order that they might have time to consider them, and see whether they would or not accept the propositions that were made by those who might be considered representatives of the landlords. There were two perfectly distinct phases of opinion under the guise of tenant-right agitation in Ireland—one to a certain degree fair and reasonable; the other wild, visionary, and unpracticable. There was one set of political agitators who aimed at no agricultural improvement, whose only object was merely to keep alive the cry at elections, and to place the tenants in a position of independence of their landlords, so that they might be enabled to vote against them. Another class based its views upon a real desire for agricultural improvement, and in that view insisted on the right to compensation for improvements actually made by the tenant, as in Ulster. It appeared to him impossible for human ingenuity to devise a scheme that would unite the allegiance of two parties with views and ends so different; but every one with whom he came in contact, as representing either the one or the other party, had begged for the postponement of the legislative measures, in order that the propositions of the House of Lords might be duly considered. The question was, how far he was precluded from entertaining this request. The right hon. Gentleman said they were the Bills of the Government. Either they were so, or they were not. Supposing they were, was not Go- 181 vernment at liberty to deal with them? If they were, then he dealt with them as the Bills of the Government, and it was their judgment that, with a view to the final settlement of the question, a postponement should take place, and that time should be given to those representing the tenant interest to consider fully their own position, and the state of opinion both in Parliament and in the country, in order to see whether they could agree upon reasonable terms. Supposing the Bills were not Government Bills, what was there unfair or dishonourable in his tendering his advice to the person who had charge of them not to press them on at present? He did not act with a view of exciting agitation, or of keeping open a difficult question; but, on the contrary, he believed that the time given by the recess for consideration would facilitate the settlement of the question. He did not believe that the tenant class in Ireland were so easily misled as to be induced to suppose that this question could be carried against the public opinion of England, against the unanimous voice of the House of Lords, and when in that House it had been found difficult to get a small majority to carry the moderate proposition of last year. He was convinced that the postponement of these Bills, so far from keeping the question open, would turn to good account, and would lead to its being satisfactorily adjusted. He was ready fully to admit that the right hon. Gentleman had all along bestowed the greatest pains upon this subject, and that he had acted towards him (Sir J. Young) with the greatest courtesy; but the view which the right hon. Gentleman took was, that he was to act for both parties. Surely it was not acting for both parties when there were men interested on both sides who broadly declared that they would not accept this settlement of the question as at present advised, and asked for time till next Session to consider the subject fully? That was a fair proposition, and one that he was bound to accept. He did not know that he could say anything more in defence of the course which he had pursued, except to repeat that either these were Government Bills, or they were not. If they were Government Bills, he had surely a right to deal with them, and he thought that, under the circumstances, the wiser course would be to postpone them;—and if they were not Government Bills, surely he had a right to advise their postponement. With regard to the Bills them- 182 selves, what were they? The Leasing Powers Bill was an enabling Bill, giving to landlords the power of making leases which should be binding on their successors, and the other, the Landlord and Tenant Bill, was a consolidation of the existing laws, and, as he had been informed, a very good consolidation, but neither one nor the other contained any element for the final settlement of the landlord and tenant question. Representations had been made to him by persons who represented, he believed, the tractable and industrious tenantry of Ulster, that the retrospective clause in the Landlord and Tenant Bill would leave the tenantry of Ulster in a worse position than if no such clause existed. The complaint made by those persons was, that owing to the custom of the country, upon the faith of which the tenantry had laid out large sums of money, the tenant was supposed to have some claim to a renewal of his lease, and they wanted validity to be given to that custom. That custom went beyond the retrospective clause of the Bill, for the Bill said that a tenant should have an interest in improvements which he might make, but that that interest should cease after the lapse of twenty-one years. Now, in Ulster, it had never been the habit to lay out money when the tenure was so short as twenty-one years, so that this clause would not be of as much advantage to the tenantry as the custom at present in existence. He questioned if any Gentleman in that House would take a farm and lay out 200l. in improvements if he lost all interest in them in twenty-one years. That was what the clause proposed, and the tenantry of Ulster said that they would be placed by it in a worse position than they were at present, for, although their custom was not imperative, it was so sanctioned that, in reality, they received more than this Bill would give them. When such persons came to him and made these representations, and when deputations came to him, as he understood, from the respectable tenantry in different parts of Ireland, surely it was not unreasonable in him on that ground alone to have urged the House not to pass these Bills during the present Session? On the other hand, on Tuesday four hours were occupied in advancing a single clause of the Bill, so that, supposing these Bills, which had gone through a Select Committee of that House, which had been for about two months before a Select Committee of the House of Lords, to have been 183 debated clause by clause in that House, he would like to know to what date the Session would have been protracted to pass them? There was one other position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman which was, that he (Sir John Young) should be allowed the conduct of these Bills with the proviso that he was not to make any alteration in them. If he had the responsibility of these Bills—and he was quite willing to take it—although he did not wish to detract from the merit due to the right hon. Gentleman for his attention to this subject, still he was bound to state his conviction that the best course to be pursued was to postpone these Bills to next Session, and then to take them for what they were worth. If anything were to be superadded to them to meet the demands of the tenants, that would be a separate and distinct question, which might be dealt with in time to come; and he did not believe that any difficulty would be added to the final settlement of the question by having given to the tenantry time fully to consider the subject. He thought if any man had been aggrieved in this matter, he (Sir John Young) was the party, and not the right hon. Gentleman. On Tuesday last the noble Lord the Member for Coleraine (Lord Naas) got up and asked what course the Government proposed to take with regard to these Bills. He (Sir John Young) was "discourteous" enough not to make any answer. Shortly afterwards the hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. Conolly) rose and urged the Government, in no very polite terms, to state what they intended to do. He (Sir John Young) still remained silent. Hon. Gentlemen opposite then put up another hon. Member to ask the same question. Then it was, being so pressed, that he stated that he thought it would be better, under the circumstances, not to proceed with the Bills during the present Session. Therefore, instead of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Napier) being the aggrieved party, he (Sir John Young) thought that he himself was the party aggrieved. He believed if the question had been left to the right hon. Gentleman himself no more would have been heard about it, but a noble Lord in another place on the same evening referred to the subject. He had reason for that supposition, because on the 26th clause of one of these Bills he had proposed an important Amendment, which the right hon. Gentleman at first would not hear of, but which, after a few days' 184 reflection, he had adopted and embodied in the Bill. That showed what was the result of reflection with the right hon. Gentleman, and he was persuaded that in this case reflection would have produced the same effect. He should be sorry for anything to occur to interfere with the courtesy and good feeling which had always existed between the right hon. Gentleman and himself; but he thought that it would have been well if the right hon. Gentleman had taken more time for consideration before making this attack upon him. He (Sir John Young) repeated that he was the aggrieved party; he had treated the right hon. Gentleman throughout with uniform courtesy and with perfect fairness, and the only return he had had from him was, several very cavilling observations and perfectly groundless accusations.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, that in the ordinary course of proceeding, the Landlord and Tenant and the Leasing Powers Bills would not have come under discussion at this time; but when he heard that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had a personal complaint to make against the Government, having great respect for the right hon. Gentleman, and not wishing the Government to remain under that imputation without an opportunity of explanation, he had consented that the charge should be made and the explanation given at the commencement of the sitting that evening:—and he had done so at some sacrifice, because there was a Bill which stood next, of which he had charge, and which it was important to proceed with. He would now submit, therefore, to the Committee that, the right hon. Gentleman having made his charge as fully as he wished to make it, and his right hon. Friend having made his explanation, this matter should not be pressed further. ["Hear, hear!"] If any hon. Gentleman said it was his wish that the debate should go on, certainly he (Lord J. Russell) had no power to prevent it; but in that event it would assuredly prevent him showing any similar courtesy again. What he should now propose would be, that he should move to report progress. The Bills would then remain in the possession of the House; the right hon. Gentleman might afterwards, before the close of the Session, if he thought fit, move that they be brought forward in Committee; but in that case his right hon. Friend (Sir J. Young) would move that the Chairman 185 report progress, with the view of proceeding no further with them in the present Session. He believed that the whole of this misunderstanding had arisen from a misinterpretation of a few words which had fallen from his right hon. Friend on a recent occasion. The right hon. Gentleman said that his right hon. Friend (Sir J. Young) had stated that he would not propose these Bills, and the right hon. Gentleman founded a good deal of argument upon that remark. Such a statement would certainly be inconsistent with the course which the Government had taken in either House of Parliament, and inconsistent with what his right hon. Friend had said and done in that House. But what his right hon. Friend said on the occasion in question was, that he thought it right not to press these Bills during the present Session. Now, between the words "propose" and "press" there was great difference. He (Lord John Russell) was not present on the occasion, but he understood that "press" was the word which his right hon. Friend used, or meant to use. Be that as it might, however, looking at, the progress they were likely to make with these Bills before the close of the Session, and considering that so many hon. Gentlemen objected to them, he (Lord John Russell) thought it would be inexpedient to proceed further with them for the present.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, the noble Lord would agree with him that they who represented the opinions of Ulster in that House would be condemned in the eyes of their constituents if they had not elicited from the Government what their intentions were in reference to that the most important question that affected their country at this moment. The complaint that he had to make against the Government was of a breach of faith. That accusation at least had the merit of being short and distinct. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Young) had complained that he was the aggrieved party, if any, in that it was not until he had been pressed by several hon. Members on Tuesday last that he disclosed the intentions of the Government as to the measures in question. It was perfectly true, as the right hon. Gentleman had stated, that he was greatly indisposed to respond to the questions then put to him; but he (Mr. Whiteside) had not been five minutes in the House on Tuesday before he was told by an hon. Member that he would find, from the tone of the speech made by the hon. and learned Gentleman 186 the Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee), that these Bills would be abandoned by the Government. He was told that by an experienced Member of that House, who well understood the by-play of the Government. It was of that that he (Mr. Whiteside) had now to complain. Nothing could be more courteous and kind than the conduct of the Government in the other House of Parliament in regard to this question. The other House of Parliament, through the intervention of the Ministers there, threw out one of the three Bills—a circumstance which the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Young) pretended was the reason why they should not proceed with the two remaining good Bills which he (Mr. Whiteside) for his country should pass into a law. What was the language used on Tuesday by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Serjeant Shee)? "Here is a code," said he, "to which the Government are pledged, one Bill a very good Bill, another a very good Bill, and a third my own Bill, much better than either. I cannot accept these two good Bills, which are calculated to tranquillise the country." He, and those acting with him in this matter, did not represent the counties of Tipperary, Kilkenny, or Clare, where there were very few improving tenants, but they sat in that House representing the industrious population of a province in which tenant right was a matter of the last importance. He said that these Bills had been sacrificed by the right hon. Gentleman to gain a certain support in that House, and that he and those with whom he acted were astonished at the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman, and quite as much pained as surprised. Now, whatever might be said of the legal reforms of the Lord Chancellor, he never heard any one doubt his Lordship's veracity. What did the Lord Chancellor say when this subject was under discussion in the other House? He said—The true mode of legislating on this subject, as well as the most safe and efficacious, was to give the greatest facilities for contracts, and the greatest facilities for enforcing them. When that was done by Parliament, Parliament had done nearly all which legislation could effect.Then, with reference to the third Bill, he said—The question of retrospective compensation stood on a very different footing, and he confessed he looked on that portion of the measure with some trepidation."—[3 Hansard, cxxxi. 50.On the first night these Bills were introduced into the other House these were the opinions expressed by the Lord Chan- 187 cellor; and, after that, did any one doubt that the third Bill could never be passed into a law? And what did the Duke of Newcastle, who introduced the Bills, say? The noble Duke was a War Minister now, but at that time he was a Minister of peace. He said—They would refer these three Bills to a Select Committee, in order that men representing all parties in Ireland might combine, and, if possible, come to some conclusion, aye or no, on the question of compensation to tenants. He could not but believe, with respect to two of the Bills, that, under the superintendence of noble Lords in Committee, they would be made sufficient for all purposes and most invaluable to Ireland."—[3 Hansard, cxxxi. 28].Yes, those Bills were most invaluable to Ireland. Did the noble Duke know what one of those Bills did? Why, it enabled any person or corporation under disability, to make leases precisely, as the Lord Chancellor said, in the direction in which Parliament might safely walk. And it was not merely an enabling Bill, but it was a remedial one also, for it provided means for the future of obtaining compensation for all rational improvements. It carried out what was reasonable and right, and what was approved by the Ministers of the Crown. If the right hon. Gentleman (Sir John Young) was opposed to retrospective compensation, why could he not have had the manliness to say so at once? The right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to place the House in a dilemma by saying that these Bills were either Government Bills or not; but he (Mr. Whiteside) did not think that a Minister of the Crown, or a Gentleman holding the position of the right hon. Baronet, could safely speak as he did on Tuesday, and then use that language. The right hon. Gentleman in his (Mr. Whiteside's) hearing said distinctly that these were not Government Bills; and he said because they were not Government Bills he could justify the conduct he had pursued towards them. When, however, they turned to the language used by Ministers in the other House, they found they were treated as Government Bills. He (Mr. Whiteside) would tell the right hon. Gentleman why he was called on to justify the conduct pursued by him on this occasion. It was because Her Majesty's Ministers, consisting individually of many talented men, were, as a Coalition Ministry, without consistency, without principle, and without a policy. After what had taken place, the right hon. Gentleman and the other Members of the Government might rest assured that ere the next winter 188 was past the Tenant League agitation would be again renewed in Ireland, and that men, having no interest in the soil of the country, would recommence their criminal tactics of agitation, and, in order to gratify a criminal ambition, disturb the peace of the country in the vague endeavour to obtain some visionary advantage for others and themselves. It was true the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee) made a long speech on Tuesday; but had he not a right to make a long speech? It was equally true that he praised the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Young); but the moment he (Mr. Whiteside) heard the panegyric, he saw the fate of these Bills. What was the result? The hon. and learned Gentleman might retire from that House satisfied that, because he had aided the right hon. Gentleman in defeating two useful Bills, it was in the power of that indefatigable party with whom he was identified, not only to defeat Bills of a certain kind, but to defeat every Bill, and to become the rulers of the British Senate. He (Mr. Whiteside) believed these to be good Bills—he believed them also to be Bills calculated to give great satisfaction to the country; but because they were likely to give satisfaction to Ireland, the hon. and learned Gentleman would not allow them to proceed, lest some cause of agitation should not remain among his unfortunate countrymen, by means of which men, when they ceased to be agitators, might sink down into contented placemen.
MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said, that he was not aware that there sat on that side of the House any Members of the Tenant League, though there were on the other side several Members connected with the League, with whom the hon. and learned Gentleman frequently had the satisfaction of voting in the same lobby. The hon. and learned Gentleman had accused the Government of a breach of faith and an abandonment of principle—language that could only be justified by the most extreme necessity. The observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman led to the inference that the Government had abandoned these Bills, not because they were bad Bills, or because they were not calculated to benefit the country, but in order to catch votes, and to gratify a particular party in that House. But what took place on Tuesday night? Not alone the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kilkenny, but the hon. Gentleman 189 the Member for Wexford (Mr. M'Mahon), whom no one would accuse of being a supporter of the Government, and several Members on that (the Ministerial) side, pressed upon the right hon. Gentleman the inexpediency of proceeding further with these Bills during the present Session. When the Bills were introduced into that House, they were, along with a Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny, referred by the Government to a Select Committee. He might remind the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside), that two days afterwards, the Earl of Derby, then at the head of the Government in the other House of Parliament, in reply to a question put to him, denounced one of these Bills that had been sent to the Select Committee as communistic and as intended to confiscate property. He (Mr. FitzGerald) had always been an advocate of the tenant interest, but he unhesitatingly stated that those Bills which came from the Lords, though they contained much that was unobjectionable, would not have been satisfactory, and that the passing of the two Bills alone, now before the House, would have been the very means of producing agitation. He lamented that a whole evening was likely to be taken up in discussing a mere personal grievance of the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier). The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) had said that the passing of the Bill would have ruined certain gentlemen, and destroyed their political capital; but, so far from anything of the kind taking place, he (Mr. FitzGerald) believed it would have increased agitation. They had all considered this question together, and there appeared to be concurrence of opinion on it in all parts of the House, amongst those who represented Liberal constituencies in Ireland. They made an appeal to the right hon. the Chief Secretary for Ireland that the Bills should not be pressed forward in their present shape until the Compensation Bill; and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Napier) now complained that a personal grievance had been inflicted upon him because at their united request that course was adopted. He (Mr. FitzGerald) recollected that when the right hon. Gentleman introduced these Bills, he said that the measure that was called his Compensation Bill honestly carried out the intentions of the Devon Commission. The right hon. Gentleman was ready to use the word honesty on all occasions, and no person doubted 190 him; but he (Mr. FitzGerald) would wish that the word was less frequently used. The Bill carrying out the recommendations of the Devon Commission was abandoned, and now they were told by the right hon. Gentleman that the other measures would be satisfactory to the tenants. The other measures, without the Compensation Bill, would not be satisfactory, and for that reason, and that reason only, they had pressed upon the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to withdraw those Bills. At twenty minutes to four o'clock on Tuesday he consented to withdraw them, and that was really the only cause of complaint which the right hon. Gentleman had against the representative of the Irish Government in that House.
§ MR. LUCAS
said, he certainly did not expect or wish to take any part in the very pretty quarrel that had arisen between the right hon. Gentleman on the one bench and the right hon. Gentleman on the other. He had nothing to do with their refinements or quarrels, provided they confined them to themselves, but they had both gone out of their way to attack others who were not mixed up with the dispute. The right hon. Gentleman who made the first statement, and the hon. and learned Gentleman near him, and the right hon. Baronet, all spoke of a party connected with the discussion of this question in Ireland as making use of the grievances of the tenants for the purpose of keeping up political agitation, without having the smallest notion of procuring a redress of the grievances of the tenants. The right hon. Gentleman on that side of the House went beyond the language of the right hon. Baronet opposite, and said they were obstructing the course of legislation on the subject, and that some proceedings should be taken to put down the course they had pursued. He (Mr. Lucas) was astonished to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin use that language. The right hon. Gentleman had forgotten what had taken place, or he never could have uttered the words that fell from his lips. They had had only one discussion on the subject in that House during the present Session. Last Session the subject underwent long and mature consideration, and at the close of the Session he (Mr. Lucas) received in the lobby the thanks of the right hon. Gentleman for the facilities which he (Mr. Lucas) had afforded for the settlement of this business. He (Mr. Lucas) had also received the same 191 thanks from the right hon. Gentleman publicly in his place, and had received likewise the thanks of the present Solicitor General for Ireland in the other "lobby." Where, then, was the obstruction on his part? He had not opened his mouth during the present Session on the subject, and they had had but one discussion upon it, which accidentally took place on the Motion to report progress, after having gone into Committee. But because the right hon. Gentleman, and the hon. and learned Gentleman near him, could not get their views adopted, they had the astonishing presumption to charge a large body of men in that House with being obstructionists, and said they ought to be put down by the power of the Government and of the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) had made also the offensive imputation, that if the measure was passed, their political capital would be gone, and they would be ruined. But he (Mr. Lucas) would tell him that, so long as he (Mr. Whiteside) remained in that House, with his bigotry and fanaticism, and with the unjust spirit that animated all his proceedings when the religion of millions of his fellow-subjects were concerned—if they had not political capital in themselves—they could never be in want of that which the hon. and learned Gentleman's bigotry and fanaticism would supply. Thanks to the hon. and learned Gentleman's genius for statesmanship, they were not in want of employment, because he and his friends had provided it for them during the present Session. It was not on the land question they were obliged to occupy the attention of the House, but in resisting that most unjust aggression which the hon. and learned Gentleman and his friends had made upon their religion, and which, in spite of his threats, they should always resist with the same firmness and determination as they had displayed in the present Session. He (Mr. Lucas) might have mistaken the right hon. Baronet's meaning when he spoke of those who were making use of this question not to procure redress for a great grievance, but to keep up political agitation. The right hon. Baronet apparently alluded to Members in that House. He (Mr. Lucas) had received, as he already said, the thanks of the Solicitor General for Ireland for his efforts during the last Session to promote the settlement of the question; and when the hon. and learned Member for Ennis (Mr. J. D. 192 FitzGerald) said there was no Gentleman sitting at his side of the House to whom the taunts that were thrown out could apply—when the hon. and learned Member said there was no Member of the Tenant League sitting on the Treasury side of the House—and that consequently all the imputations that came from both sides of the table were to be lavishly distributed amongst the Members acting with him (Mr. Lucas), he (Mr. Lucas) begged to tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that there was one Member from Ireland sitting, not on his (Mr. Lucas's) side of the House, but sitting on the Treasury side above the gangway, in receipt of a State salary as a Member of the Government, and one of the law advisers of the Crown, who was for a long time a member of the council of the League—whose name was on the back of Sharman Crawford's Bill—who publicly professed in repeated speeches throughout the course of a year or eighteen months that he would never accept office, "So help him God," in any Government that would not make that Bill a Cabinet question, and who, having made his political capital out of that agitation, had recanted his professions, had swallowed his oaths, and who ought to have been present on that occasion, when a question of this kind was discussed and imputations of this kind were thrown out from the Treasury benches. That hon. and learned Gentleman now sat on the Treasury benches, and duly earned, and continued to earn, the wages of his extraordinary apostacy. Sitting as that hon. and learned Gentleman ordinarily did, in terms of familiar intercourse with the right hon. Baronet, and being his great helper on that and other questions, it would have been more decorous, and he (Mr. Lucas) would say more decent, had the right hon. Baronet refrained from throwing out those imputations which, at all events, could be proved to be true of no one but his own Colleague. So far as the people of Ireland were concerned, of whatever shade of opinion or class they might be, they would know that the Bills were abandoned, and that legislation on the subject for this Session was at an end. They were not interested in the past except so far as it gave them a light to know the future. They were all, of whatever opinion or class they might be, deeply interested in the future. He had listened with painful attention in the hope of learning from the Government what were their intentions for the future. He had not yet 193 learned their intentions. They had a right to ask, at the end of two Sessions during which this question was carefully considered and discussed, what were the intentions of the Government for the future? Did they mean to take up this question next Session with the intention of making a final settlement of it? Did they intend to bring in merely the two Bills of the right hon. and learned Gentleman without the Tenants' Compensation Bill, the principles of which were sanctioned and affirmed by the House? He thought the last two hours and a half would have been very ill spent if no additional matter was introduced into the debate, and if they did not receive from the Government a statement that would assure the people of Ireland of what they might expect at the hands of the advisers of the Crown.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I do not mean to enter into the personal question, or to attempt to correct the misapprehension of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, or to explain the words which have been imputed to my right hon. Friend near me; but the questions which the hon. Gentleman asks as to the intentions of the Government with regard to this important subject, though it does not require any detailed answer, yet certainly I think deserves some notice. It has always appeared to me that this question was one of the utmost difficulty in the way of settlement; and I cannot but recur at present to the course I was obliged to take myself respecting it on a former occasion, and which I am sorry to find comes to be very nearly repeated three years after. My right hon. Friend (Sir William Somerville), when Chief Secretary for Ireland, was very sanguine with respect to the settlement of the landlord and tenant question in Ireland, and he introduced a Bill which was referred to a Select Committee. The Select Committee paid very great attention to the Bill, went through all the clauses of it, and amended it. When that Bill came out of the Select Committee my right hon. Friend was in hopes that he might be instrumental in settling a question which was not only a cause of great heartburning, but stood in the way of material improvement. But large deputations came over from Ireland—I saw some of them myself—and they stated that the remedies proposed were of so conflicting a nature that it would be useless for them as tenants to endeavour to take advantage of them, and 194 they requested that the Bill might be abandoned. Upon examining the Bill I could not but see that there was great justice in their representations, and their observations led me certainly to take a very desponding view with regard to the settlement of this question by mere legislation; because I think in attempting to settle it by legislation you are between these two dangers: if you attempt to make your remedy exceedingly simple, you depart from the course of justice—you either impose upon the landlord or upon the tenant burdens which you have no right to charge upon him—you interfere with respect to contracts in a manner in which legislation ought not to interfere—you deprive a man who has property in land of the right of exercising the rights of property, or else you give to the tenant a very insufficient and delusory remedy. On the other hand, you may, as was stated by those deputations from tenants, make the process so difficult and so dilatory that they would not take any advantage from it. So that certainly I came to the conclusion, which I stated in this House, and which was the subject of so much attack, that it was useless to go on and endeavour to fix by legislation the precise mode of contract, which was only likely to be beneficial if it were carried into effect by good faith, confidence, and liberality on the side of both landlord and tenant. If you go on the presumption that the landlord will use all his powers as a landlord and all which the law gives him to oppress his tenant, and that, on the other hand, the tenant would endeavour as much as possible to cheat the landlord out of his rights of property—if you go on that supposition, you can never arrive at a satisfactory settlement of this question. These were my opinions; others, however, were more confident, and my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Young), who sits near me, was exceedingly confident as to the possibility of making a settlement of this kind; but, above all, the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier), who has made his complaint to-night, was very sanguine about it, and gave himself very great pains and trouble concerning it. I have nothing to say but what I have always said, that he deserves the highest praise for the attention he has bestowed upon this very difficult question. When the right hon. Gentleman brought forward his measure, and when I heard his explanation of it, I confess—instead of 195 thinking that he did not go far enough—that I heard some of his proposals with some of the trepidation which it appears my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor has expressed. I thought he was going rather too near to those social principles which are somewhat dangerous when introduced into Acts of Parliament. The measure, which was intended to do justice to all parties, was sent before a Select Committee, and that Select Committee adopted the proposals and stipulations with regard to the relations of landlord and tenant. The Bill then went to the House of Lords, where that part of it which was intended for the benefit of the tenant, and to give to the tenant certain rights that were not usually given to him by the law in this country, was strongly objected to by the landed proprietors in the House of Lords, and also by the great law Lords, the lights of that House, who seemed very unwilling to assent to that part of the Bill. They have this year passed a Bill which contains some provisions favourable to the tenants of Ireland, but which does not go to near the extent which the persons holding the opinions I have referred to wish to carry the law. I therefore think it is not unnatural that, when the Bill came down from the House of Lords and was found to be deprived of that portion of it which the noble Duke the Lord Privy Seal told me was calculated to excite discontent and dissatisfaction among those who had hitherto been favourably disposed to pass a legislative measure on the subject, though they could not concur in the extreme position which had been propounded in Ireland upon it, it should have created dissatisfaction among those who hold those extreme views; and here I beg leave to disclaim altogether those imputations which have been thrown upon those hon. Members who have been most extreme in their views upon this subject in opposition to myself. They are men who have evinced the most constant perseverance in urging the claims of the tenantry of Ireland. The most persevering and energetic of them all is a man whose integrity is not to be disputed by any man—I mean Mr. Sharman Crawford—who has come to London for some purpose, and who has expressed his great despondency about the Bill passing this year, but whose anxiety on the subject, and whose views also, I think, no human being can doubt for a moment. No doubt in every party, whatever their opinions, 196 political or religious, may be, there are some who look only to their own selfish advantage—I dare say the Tenant League party have men of that kind among them—but as a party, as far as I have known them, I am willing to give them the same credit that I would give to any other party who feel persuaded that their views are consistent with justice, and that the adoption of them would be for the benefit of Ireland. But what is more natural, when a Bill comes down from the other House containing what is supposed to be a settlement of a much-disputed question, but which does not contain any of those provisions which certain parties think essential, that they should protest against it and should say, "If this is passed we shall be told that nothing more can be done by Parliament; we shall therefore make every opposition to this measure?" Though I do not agree in their views, still I think nothing is more natural or more consistent than that conduct. If we had plenty of time and not any other business before us, I think it very possible that one of these Bills might have been amended, and that the clauses might have been so altered as to admit of the Bill being sent up to the other House of Parliament, and of their agreeing to a measure which would have given satisfaction generally to the tenantry of the North of Ireland. The House of Lords might have embraced that proposition or have rejected it; but it is obvious that at the present period of the Session it would be impracticable to go through the immense number of Amendments which have been suggested. With those Amendments and the new clauses which would be proposed, it is obvious that, with the business still remaining to be done, the House would have to sit for two or three months longer in order to get at the end of such a question. I therefore come to the conclusion—unwillingly, I confess, for I should have been disposed to agree with my noble Friend in the other House of Parliament, that it would have been desirable to pass this Bill if the time had permitted—but I come to the conclusion that it is hopeless to attempt during the present Session to effect a settlement of this important question. Whether my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland is right in supposing that during six or eight months' further deliberation the whole substance of these several Bills may be contained in one Bill, or may still be presented 197 in separate Bills, it is impossible for me to say. If there is a disposition shown on the part of those who take an active interest in this question to the production of one legislative measure on the subject, I quite agree that whether the Bill which is called the Tenants' Compensation Bill be contained in the Landlord and Tenants' Bill, or be in a separate Bill, is a matter of immaterial importance. But I own, if we find that the question is still a subject of so much passion that no disposition exists to agree to a Bill to the extent of that which we have now before us—namely, the Bill which is called "the Landlord and Tenant Bill"—then it would be almost useless to attempt to enter upon a consideration of the subject. There is one thing which the Lord Chancellor is reported to have said, and which was quoted by the hon. and learned Gentleman—namely, that the best thing to be done upon this subject was beyond all question that which I think no one will dispute, and that which my noble Friend (the Marquess of Lansdowne) has always contended for—that you should endeavour to make your law as perfect as possible with regard to voluntary contracts; that the tenant on entering upon the land should have the means of knowing perfectly what he has covenanted to do, and what his rights are. When that contract is made, there should be a simple mode without delay or expense—which in itself is perfectly practicable, and is in fact contained in this Leasing Powers Bill—by which the tenant may enforce his rights. I must own that the Leasing Powers Bill appears to me to be a most excellent Bill, and one which I hope will enter into our legislation hereafter. The hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) has made use of some very hard words against the Government on this subject. I do not wish to refer to the history of the conduct of the Government to which he belonged with respect to this question, nor will I refer to the speculations that were made here with respect to the second reading of the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee), which was always opposed by us. I will not use any hard words; I think it much better not to enter into any rejoinder upon this subject, the difficulty of which is sufficient of itself to engage our attention, but it is enough to show that one party is as vulnerable as another on the subject. The subject being in itself a difficult one, there 198 was some consolation to be derived from the statement made by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny on Tuesday last, when he proposed the postponement of the Bills. I understand that the hon. and learned Gentleman stated, as one reason why it would not be necessary to settle this question at the present time, that there was a better state both of material prosperity and of feeling in Ireland, and that he did not think any angry contest could be created by postponing this question. Such a statement, when coming from one who has been always arguing for the immediate settlement of the question, is very satisfactory. I have seen a gentleman to-day, an old friend of mine, and a man who has much property in Ireland, and he entirely confirms the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He told me that he has never known a time when the landlords and tenants of Ireland were on better terms together, and that the state of Ireland was very greatly improved. I may add to this statement, that I have within a few days received a private letter from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in which he expresses his satisfaction, both at the state of peace and tranquillity which prevails in that country, and the general good feeling that exists among all classes. I therefore hope that there may come a time when these Bills may be considered with greater dispassionateness and deliberation than they have hitherto been. It is not altogether a work of legislation. Much depends on the conciliatory disposition of the parties between whom the contest at present prevails. I do hope that the extreme views of both parties will be modified. I hope the views of those who ask that the rights of tenants shall be carried beyond what is reasonable, and of those who are for the maintenance of the rights of property and of landlords in such a way as works inconvenience and hardship to tenants, may be modified, so that at last we may arrive, if not at a perfect mode of legislation, yet at least at an attempt at some very useful and happy enactment upon this difficult, long-pending, and important subject.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, that if the Government were sincere in their desire to settle this question, they had adopted a very curious and unsatisfactory mode of accomplishing that object. If they had been sincere, they would not have adopted the Landlord and Tenant Bill, which only 199 made the law more stringent, and adopted it as a Government measure, only with the view of abandoning it. He believed that the declaration just made by the noble Lord would be a death-blow to the hopes of the tenantry of Ireland, who would remain in this country if there was hope of a fair settlement of this question, but who would now leave the country in increased numbers to swell the greatness and increase the prosperity of a foreign land. The fact was, the Government had not the courage to make a fair and honest Landlord and Tenant Bill a Cabinet question, and until they did so they would never carry a measure that would settle this question. He threw back with contempt on the right hon. Gentleman the taunts he had thrown out that they were making political capital out of the question; every man in Ireland was interested in the settlement of this question, and let it not be said that a man was not interested because he had not a large estate and a great number of tenants. He wished to God the Government had had the power and the candour to have carried, at the commencement of the Session, some satisfactory measure which would have stopped the bleeding wounds of Ireland, and stayed the tide of emigration which was now desolating her shores. With regard to the obstruction which it was said he and his Friends threw in the way of the Bill last year, he would say that some of the Irish Members abstained from discussing the Leasing Powers Bill last Session, because the Irish Solicitor General warned them that a long discussion of the measure might imperil that Bill. It now appeared, from the speech of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, that there was no hope of the Irish tenantry obtaining justice from the Government with respect to the improvements they might effect upon their lands. The Government, after all their promises, now showed that they had only been trifling with the Irish tenants. A meeting of Irish Members of Parliament took place in Dublin some time ago, at which fifteen of them resolved that they would support no Government which would not make a Bill containing the principles laid down by Mr. Sharman Crawford a Cabinet question. But the present Government had not made, nor had they promised to make, a Bill of that sort a Cabinet question. In compliance with that resolution some of the Irish Members 200 now sat on the Opposition side of the House; and he did not think that their speeches or votes were open to the imputations of the hon. and learned Member for Ennis.
MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said, he had never taunted the fifteen Irish Members alluded to with respect to their speeches or votes in that House. [Mr. MAGUIRE: You did so three times.] As for the hon. Member for Dungarvon (Mr. Maguire,) he had distinctly congratulated him on the distinguished company which he kept in that House. He had said that that hon. Member went into the same lobby with Mr. Disraeli, against the proposition that the Catholic juveniles of London who would come under the operation of the Middlesex Reformatory Schools Bill should be instructed on Sundays by Catholic priests. He had also said that the hon. Member for Dungarvon was to be found in company with Mr. Whiteside, who had the hardihood to assert in that House that a portion of the Irish Members were keeping up agitation in Ireland for their own purposes. He (Mr. FitzGerald) was present at the meeting of forty-one Irish Members alluded to by the hon. Member for Dungarvon, but he had the good sense not to concur in the resolution of fifteen of them, who pledged themselves to oppose every Government that would not adopt Mr. Sharman Crawford's views on the landlord and tenant question.
§ MR. POLLARD-URQUHART
rose, to express his regret at the speech just delivered by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, and at the refusal of the Government to secure to the tenantry of Ireland a measure that would secure to them compensation for any improvements that they might effect on their farms. It would be in the recollection of some hon. Members, that in the year 1845 Sir Robert Peel said, he could hold out terms of bold defiance to the American Government on the Oregon question, because he had just sent a message of peace to Ireland in the shape of the Maynooth College Act. And was there less reason for sending a message of peace now to Ireland when we were engaged in a war with a man who ruled the sixth part of the habitable globe, and who was defended by granite fortifications and tempestuous seas? It was true that Ireland was at present perfectly quiet. She was never more free from sedition or agrarian outrage; but he warned the Government that the people of Ireland had 201 discovered a far more effectual and dangerous way of embarrassing them than by sedition or outrage—namely, by availing themselves of the enlarged constituency, which gave them a greater means of acting on their representatives than they had before possessed. By that agency the Irish tenantry could put the screw upon their representatives in that House, and compel them to embarrass the proceedings of any Government that would not do justice to Ireland. He would ask, were not the people of Ireland justified in the view they had taken of this question, when four millions of tenants in Ireland were deprived of those securities which were possessed by almost every tenant in every other part of Europe, and which were absolutely necessary to the due development of industry? Did the Government think that the cottier tenants of Ireland would quietly submit to be taxed for the keeping up of expensive armaments to carry on distant wars, in which they had no personal interest, if the Government did not do everything in their power to secure to them the enjoyment of those rights which were enjoyed by almost every tenant in continental Europe, and to which they were fairly entitled? What interest could the Irish tenantry take in our national glory as long as they were denied their honest rights? The noble Lord in 1846 turned out the most eminently practical and successful Ministry of modern times, because they did not bring forward measures of conciliation for Ireland; and he asked, did not the conduct of the present Government justify the people of Ireland and their representatives in pursuing what was termed an obstructive course? Was it nothing that the continued denial of these rights was driving thousands of the Irish tenants to America, upon whose shores they landed with feelings of bitter indignation against the English Government, whose injustice compelled them to seek new homes. Was it not most impolitic in the Government to do anything which could have the effect of raising up a foreign Power with feelings of hostility against England?—and that they were most assuredly doing by driving away their fellow-subjects to America, where they would become England's bitter enemies. Our relations, even at this moment, with America, were not of so pacific a character that we could afford to lose our Irish fellow-subjects, with the strong probability of their becoming our American 202 enemies. He earnestly entreated the Government, as they valued their future prospects in these arduous times, to show themselves willing and anxious to do equal justice to every section of their fellow-subjects in the United Kingdom.
§ SIR ARTHUR BROOKE
did not wish to deprive tenants of any privileges which the legislation of that House might justly confer upon them, but he believed that no Bill with reference to this question could be proposed which would not be a direct infringement of the rights of property. The tenants of the North of Ireland would suffer materially if any of the Landlord and Tenant Bills that had been proposed in either House of Parliament should pass, because they already enjoy greater privileges than any contained in those Bills. If a Bill were passed, the northern landlords would abandon their present system, and give their tenants no more rights than those specified in such Bills, and the consequence would be that many tenants would be subjected to great sacrifices. He believed the Chief Secretary for Ireland had misunderstood the remarks of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier), who complained not so much of the withdrawal of the two Bills which he had prepared, as of the want of courtesy manifested towards him in not communicating with him upon the subject. He (Sir A. Brooke) hoped that the Tenant Leaguers would abstain from agitating Ireland on this question during the next Parliamentary recess. The Irish people were now in a better condition than they had been for some years. All parts of Ireland were in a satisfied state, and he hoped that no inflammatory harangue would be addressed to them on this question by those gentlemen who had heretofore conducted the affairs of the Tenant League.
§ MR. POTTER
said, he believed it was true that considerable sums of money were laid out in the North of Ireland on the land; but in the south, which was in a very different condition, both politically and otherwise, the tenants had not dared to lay out their money on the land; and the event showed they had reasoned correctly, for at one period a meeting—not an open, if not exactly a secret one—had been held at Dublin, at which the landlords resolved to grant no more leases to the tenantry. While this state of things lasted, there would be no development of industry. He appealed to the right hon. Baronet the 203 Chief Secretary, whether it was not the fact that millions of money were now lying unemployed in the Irish banks, simply because the tenants were afraid to invest it in the improvement of their land. Under these circumstances he regretted that the noble Lord had held out no hope of some measure for the protection of the tenants.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I cannot allow this conversation to cease without making one or two observations with reference to my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Napier). I observed with great regret that some doubt has been attempted to be thrown upon the sincerity of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin in undertaking the consideration and conduct of this question in Parliament. I can easily understand that to a gentleman of such great susceptibility and such high sense of honour as my right hon. Friend such an imputation must be extremely painful; and being perfectly well acquainted with the conduct of my right hon. Friend in this matter from first to last, and knowing how single-minded it has been in every respect, I think I should not be doing my duty if I did not express my opinion upon this subject. Sir, long before my right hon. Friend introduced this question to the notice of Parliament—nay, long before he even imagined that he should have the opportunity of introducing it in a responsible position—he conferred with me in the most confidential manner on the subject, and intimated to me that it was a question which a public man, who aspired to take any great part in the conduct of the affairs of the country, could not safely neglect or evade. He placed under my notice the labours of Mr. Fergusson, who has been so often referred to to-night, and his own part in those labours, and I am therefore able to speak with some confidence and some authority of the sentiments which influenced my right hon. Friend in dealing with this question. Long after that period accident brought both my right hon. Friend and myself into a position in which our sincerity could be tested on this subject; and it was then that my right hon. Friend sketched those measures which with great elaboration and completeness he afterwards introduced before the House; and I am bound to say that, without having regard to minute details, which under our happy Constitution are always considered and settled by the criticism of the two Houses of 204 Parliament, I myself gave my complete adherence to the general views which my right hon. Friend entertained upon the subject of the tenure of land in Ireland. It was my opinion that it was a question which those who aspired to govern the United Kingdom ought to meet; that it was a question that should be met in the general spirit and scope of the plan which had been sketched out by my right hon. Friend; and I was perfectly prepared to support him in the measures which he proposed for the consideration of Parliament. We have been told to-night that those were measures that it was impossible could be passed through the two Houses of Parliament. Well, Sir, I am not at all of opinion, after they had been subjected to the critical examination of Parliament, and after they had been subsequently submitted to the mature consideration of a powerful Government—I am not at all of opinion that they were measures which would not have been passed, and passed in a manner which, I think, would have contributed to the happiness and well-being of Ireland, and have proved satisfactory to all moderate men of all parties, whether of the landlord or of the tenant class. The Lord President has told us to-night, adverting to the measure respecting tenants' compensation which was introduced by my right hon. Friend—and he sneered at it while he did so—that it contained a communistic sentiment. In my opinion, it did not contain, and had no tendency to, any legislation of that character. There certainly were bold, but wise provisions contained in the measure of my right hon. Friend; but they were restricted with such prescience and sagacity, so prudently and judiciously limited, that the application of those provisions would have been, in my mind, for the advantage of that portion of the United Kingdom. I cannot say the same for the Tenants' Compensation Bill which was produced by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant under the authority of the President of the Council. That was a measure, indeed, which did not include any of those restrictions or prudent limitations recommended by my right hon. Friend—that was a measure, in my mind, which had a communistic tendency—that was a measure, in my opinion, which was open to the great objections which the Lord President urged, although he unfortunately forgot that the object of his criticism should not 205 have been the measure of my right hon. Friend, but rather the measure of the Chief Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant. Well, Sir, it is impossible for us to consider the peculiar subject which is under our consideration to-night without taking a large and general view; we cannot enter now into minute details upon such a subject as the tenure of land in Ireland. The Lord President to-night has told us that the reason why he does not support the two measures which have been brought before our consideration is, that the season is too late, in his opinion, to venture to ask Parliament to go into their consideration. Well, Sir, I am ready to admit that that is a legitimate reason to be offered by a Minister, and especially by a Minister who leads the House of Commons. Whatever may be the causes of the delay, if a Minister finds that at so advanced a period of the Session as the middle of July, an important question is about to be introduced to Parliament, and that there is little prospect of a satisfactory consideration of it—I say that that plea for procrastination is, primâ facie, a valid plea. But, before I enter into a discussion as to whether it is a valid plea in this case, let me remind the Committee that it is a plea totally inconsistent with that which was offered by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant to-night. The noble Lord tells us that this is an important question, that it is a question of great magnitude, but that we are so advanced in the Session that it is impossible to do justice to it. But what says the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant? In point blank contradiction to the Lord President he tells us that this question may be one of great importance and of great magnitude, but that it is brought before us in such a form that upon no condition whatever will the Ministry consent to its consideration. [Sir J. YOUNG: I never said that.] You may not have said it in those very words, but I will ask the Committee, was not that the meaning of the statement of the Chief Secretary? If that were not his meaning, the right hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of telling us what his meaning was; but it is very unfortunate that we should have discussed this question until this hour, and yet not have arrived at what the meaning of the right hon. Gentleman is. I understood the meaning of the noble Lord to be this—it was offered to us with plainness 206 and straightforwardness, and I am sure that I have no desire in any way to misrepresent him—that this was an important question, but that at this advanced period of the Session he could not ask the House of Commons to consider it with any prospect of it being fairly discussed or satisfactorily concluded. What says the Chief Secretary? I understood the Chief Secretary—and of course I am subject to his correction if I mis-state him—I understood him to say, that whether it be February or July, you are asking the House to legislate upon this important subject upon conditions which he considered at all periods to be unacceptable—that you have declined to legislate upon a most important and indispensable portion of the subject, and therefore he cannot agree with you. The Committee can correct me in a moment if I am mis-stating the right hon. Gentleman, and they can decide in a moment whether the statement of the right hon. Gentleman is consistent with that of the Lord President. Sir, I will not dwell upon this flagrant and glaring inconsistency further, though really, so far as the conduct of the business of this House is concerned, the validity of the noble Lord's plea depends upon other circumstances. But I cannot adopt from the Lord President even his undisputed statement. I agree with him to this extent—that if the Session be so far advanced, as undoubtedly it is, it may be inconvenient to enter into a discussion of one of the most important propositions that ever was submitted to the consideration of a British House of Commons; but why have six months been wasted? What have we been doing these six months that we could not consider and attempt to settle a question, not now introduced for the first time, but years ago, to the consideration of Parliament—a question which for a long series of years has been a subject for the consideration and study of statesmen—which, two years ago, was formally introduced to the consideration of Parliament—which was submitted last year to the consideration of the House of Lords—and which, by special arrangement, in order that no time might be lost, has been, with all the fruits of the mature deliberation of the other House of Parliament, sent back to us this year? One would have thought, considering the gravity and all importance of the subject, considering the period of time that it has occupied the attention of Parliament, considering the special circum- 207 stances under which, after having been introduced to the notice of Parliament, it was submitted to the mature examination and settlement of the House of Lords last year—one would have thought after all this, that the House of Commons this year having sat six months, the Government would have been able to have offered some solution of the question. What have they been doing, I want to know? What have Her Majesty's Ministers been doing the last six months that we have not had this question fairly considered and ably arranged? I want to know what is the catalogue of their legislative exploits which may be an excuse for the period of time which has been thus employed or thus wasted? I want to know, if they have been at war, what conquests they have achieved? I want to know, if they have been at peace, what beneficial arrangements—what advantageous legislation—they have accomplished? Have they reformed Parliament? Have they revised Parliamentary oaths? Have they educated the country? Have they even educated Scotland? What corrupt constituencies have they punished? What have they done which may be a valid excuse for not having dealt with this all-important measure? I should have thought that, instead of moving to report progress, it would have been more satisfactory to the country, and more satisfactory to the feelings of any Minister who pretends to lead the House of Commons, if he had given some reason why six months should have elapsed in which they, having done nothing, should not have done this. Report the progress of these two Bills! Why, Sir, it's too derisive a proposition to be made. Report the progress of the Ministry! Tell us what they have done. Make a Motion to that effect. Report the progress of Her Majesty's Government. Come forward to the table and tell us what Her Majesty's Ministers have done. And that would be a reporting of progress far more edifying and satisfactory, I think, than the Motion which has been made by the Lord President this evening. Well, Sir, if the noble Lord and his compeers have not succeeded yet in dealing with this difficult question—at any rate, vast and difficult as it is, the late Government attempted to deal with it with some efficiency and with all sincerity—what is the prospect which the noble Lord holds out of the future legislation of his Government—if it be a Government— 208 upon this subject? A few nights ago a distinguished Member of the Treasury bench spoke of the conduct of the Gentlemen upon this side of the House—at least, right or wrong, not inconsiderable in number as a party connection, and more important still, in my opinion, for the principles which they profess—he spoke of them as "a party, if they be a party." That was the courteous comment of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Well, then, I think if we are spoken of as "a party, if we be a party," that I may speak of the noble Lord and his Friends as "a Government, if they be a Government." But, conducting our debates in a spirit thus mutually provisional, I would ask the noble Lord, who tells you he can do nothing at present, whether he will answer the question of an hon. Gentleman who addressed him from the other benches, and who asked what are the intentions of his Government with respect to the tenure of land in Ireland for the future? I think that that was a very fair Parliamentary question. How it was met I leave the Committee to decide. The noble Lord says that it's a difficult question, and therefore we are not to deal with it. My idea, Sir, of a Government is, that it is a body of men who ought to deal with difficult questions. I know that the Lord President, for a number of years, has, somehow or other, contrived to govern this country— personally speaking, I admit, with admirable ability—for he is a ripe scholar, an adroit debater, in my opinion no common orator—still I think that the secret skill of his administration has always been that he has evaded questions that are difficult. But I do not think that that is a satisfactory answer to the Gentleman who addressed that query. The question may be difficult. In my opinion it is very difficult; but I think that it is the duty of the noble Lord and his Friends—especially when I remember the public expression of their sentiments upon the subject of the tenure of land in Ireland in 1846—I think, I say, that it becomes the noble Lord to be something better than a critic upon his opponents on this subject, and that he ought to do something upon the question of the tenure of land in Ireland beyond reading to us passages from private letters from Lord Lieutenants. Why, the noble Lord has never yet had a difficulty upon Irish politics which he has not attempted to answer by reading a passage from a private letter from a Lord Lieutenant. But, says the 209 noble Lord, "I could retaliate upon this subject. I could remind you what occurred when you had to deal with this question. I could remind you of your consenting to the second reading of the Bill of the learned Serjeant, and of the subsequent speeches which were made condemnatory of that measure in the House of Lords by the Earl of Derby." Sir, if the noble Lord thinks that that is a retaliation he is perfectly welcome to make use of it; but knowing that the noble Lord is one of the most adroit debaters in this House, and that if he has a weakness, it is that he always overstates his own case, and always misstates his opponent's, I am quite sure that the noble Lord could have made a great deal of that point if he had not known that it was utterly worthless and untenable. True it is we did consent to the second reading of the Bill of the learned Serjeant the Member for Kilkenny (Serjeant Shee); but did we agree to the second reading of that Bill because we in any way approved of it? On the contrary, we expressed our disapprobation of it. But when there was a variety of Bills in this House upon the subject of the tenure of land in Ireland which were about to be referred to a Select Committee, we thought that it would be most unfair, and not only most unfair, but that it would justly excite great odium and suspicion in Ireland, if we said, "This Bill shall be shut out from the tribunal, and shall not be submitted to that critical, and searching, and impartial examination which the other Bills upon this subject are to be submitted to." We acted in that instance quite in deference to the highest Parliamentary authorities and precedents; and I believe that nothing would have been more unjustifiable, nothing more unjust, nothing more calculated to provoke suspicion in Ireland, than if we had said, "All these Bills upon the subject of the tenure of land in Ireland shall be submitted to the Select Committee, but we will specially prevent one particular Bill being submitted to the same test and tribunal, because we disapprove of the general principles upon which it is founded." It was in complete consistency with our view on this matter that the Earl of Derby, almost at the same time, in the House of Lords, utterly condemned the principle of that measure. In so doing, allow me to say, he took a course which, if he had only considered what some statesmen consider 210 —influence in this House and the power of commanding votes—he certainly would not have pursued. He took that course in the very teeth of menace, and, because he would not be misunderstood, with the entire consent of his Colleagues; and whatever may be the consequences of that course, I, for one, have never for a moment regretted it. Sir, one of the supporters of the Government who have spoken upon this subject has described the learned Serjeant the Member for Kilkenny as a supporter of the Opposition, or rather he has repudiated the claim of the Government to the support of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The Chief Secretary has described the learned Serjeant as not one of those Gentlemen who honour the Government with their support. Well, Sir, I confess, especially at this advanced period of the Session, that I will not enter into the inquiry of who are the Gentlemen who honour the present Government with their support. That is one of those questions which might lead not only to debate, but even to an adjourned debate. I hardly know any question of the present day which might be susceptible of such variety of treatment and of such interminable discussion. Whether, after the longest discussion, it could satisfactorily be proved to the country that there are any Gentlemen who extend to Her Majesty's Government that unbounded confidence which, of course, they may desire, we need not now settle, and I shall leave it as one of those vexed controversies which agitate and perhaps amuse the political world. I want, upon the present occasion that the House and the country—as I think is due to my right hon. Friend, who has acted throughout this business in a manner so honourable, so honest, and, as I know, so single-minded, taking up this question before he ever anticipated being in a responsible position, and finding himself in a responsible position, pressing it upon the attention of the Cabinet with all the energy of which an able man is capable—I want that the House and the country, in deference to him, should clearly understand what we are talking about this evening, and that the noble Lord shall not rise in a thin House with no one present, and think that he is to stifle the expression of Parliamentary opinion by moving that you, Sir, should report progress. Why, Sir, I am in the habit frequently of sitting oppo- 211 site the noble Lord, and taking an humble part in the conduct of the business of this House; I am constantly in the habit of witnessing Motions to report progress which the noble Lord generally most energetically or plaintively opposes; and, in deference to the noble Lord's feelings, I very often exercise the slight influence which I have—the result of kindly feeling, and not of authority—in preventing those Motions for reporting progress. What, therefore, was my astonishment when the Lord President, having fixed this evening with solemn notice for this discussion, moved that you report progress, after hearing from a distinguished Member of the late Irish Government his statement upon this important subject—the most important subject connected with the Government of Ireland—a statement which I am sure made, and which I was witness of having made, a deep impression upon the Committee, followed by a statement of a very different character, and, as I believe, upon the part of the Chief Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant, producing a very different effect. I am, of course, unwilling to speak with any personal allusion to the statement of the Chief Secretary. It was made at the twilight hour, which, according to Dante, "softens the heart," and may perhaps soften the brain; but certainly, that any man filling a responsible position, and a position of such extreme responsibility as the Chief Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant, should suppose that those muttered sentences upon such a subject could carry any conviction to a Committee of the House of Commons, or any satisfaction to the country upon this vital question, appears to me to exceed the most sanguine estimate of Ministerial audacity. But, Sir, I say that it is to me most surprising that the Lord President himself, having fixed in the most formal manner the occasion for hearing the statement of the late Attorney General for Ireland, and having listened to the rejoinder of the Chief Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant, should have got up and said that in the state of the affair there was but one course to take, and, under the circumstances, to move that you report progress—that appears to me to have been a most singular, unauthorised, and indefensible course. Why, Sir, what was the motive of my right hon. Friend in asking permission of the House to make that statement? My right hon. Friend, 212 acting from that impulse of personal feeling which is always respected by Gentlemen in this House, upon whatever side, thought that his honour was impugned, and that the public interest was affected by the course which the Government had chosen to take upon this all-important question. Why, Sir, the sense of honour and self-respect is, after all, the most powerful stimulus that a man has in public life. We all agree in that. But if, in addition to supposing that his honour is wounded by the conduct of the Government in this House, a public man believes, at the same time, that the public service has been grievously injured, then I say that he is fully authorised to make such an appeal as was made by my right hon. Friend to the noble Lord. But what does he make that appeal for? Does a man make that appeal in order that he may get up and merely state his case, and receive a common-place formal and official answer in reply? On the contrary, it is that he may elicit the opinion of this House on the main question; it is that he wishes to ask Gentlemen among whom he lives, and whose opinions—whatever be their political party—he respects, whether they believe that, on a considerable question of his public life he has acquitted himself in an unworthy manner, or whether they believe that the Government of the country has trifled with him in an unjustifiable mode. Is that to be answered by the Lord President getting up and moving that you, Sir, shall report progress? Why, Sir, he might have left that to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Salford. That would have been consistent conduct on the part of the Government—that would have been in admirable taste—that would have achieved and accomplished in the happiest manner, that which the noble Lord has himself condescended to attempt. I have not, Sir, seen of late in this House that extreme readiness to pass without sympathy or respect over the feelings of eminent Members, who think themselves aggrieved by the conduct of this House or by the Ministry, or by the public circumstances of the day. I have not seen of late any unwillingness on the part of the House to pass by unnoticed, or without giving fair opportunity of explanation, without a decent expression of sympathy, or of opinion of a contrary character if necessary, the conduct or policy of public men when they 213 have appealed to this House. Why, Sir, we had a very important measure—a measure, perhaps, quite as important as the question of the tenure of land in Ireland—long under the consideration of this House and of the country. It was a measure which had certainly excited the sympathies of some, and the alarm and susceptibilities of others, throughout the nation—it was one which might have affected the organisation of political parties—it was in every respect a question of great public interest, and a Member of this House, of great eminence, was connected with that question. The country expected a measure upon that question, as it expects a measure upon the tenure of land in Ireland. Upon the conduct of the eminent man whose name was connected with that measure, depended much more than depends on the labours of my right hon. Friend. Upon the decision of the House on that question depended the fate of parties, and, perhaps, the destinies of Administrations. Well, that was discovered to be a question at the last moment involving difficulties; it was supposed for a long time that it was one which would be easily settled—so easily settled that the Government was formed with the avowed purpose of settling it; but it was discovered to be a very difficult question. Well, Sir, the individual connected with that question, when the hour arrived which could no longer be postponed, and he felt that the measure could not be carried—when he felt, as an honourable man, that the Ministry of which he was a Member might, if that measure were not carried, be subjected to vile imputations—came forward, stated the motives that had influenced his public conduct—placed himself fairly before the country, interested in the character of so eminent an individual, and asked for the verdict of the House. Did anybody get up then, when the Reform Bill was abandoned and say, "The best thing we can do is to move the previous question, and ask Mr. Bouverie to report progress?" On the contrary, the House felt that the individual who appealed to them was justified in appealing to them; and not only justified in appealing to them, but that it was his duty as a man, as a public man, and as a statesman, to enter into the details of the motives that had influenced him, and of the circumstances which had prevented the legislation which he believed to be all-important; 214 and we respected the occasion and the individual. I ask for my right hon. Friend the same treatment, and that the conduct of those who have endeavoured to suppress opinion on this subject, who have endeavoured to place in an insignificant position a most able and estimable man, who in high office endeavoured to fulfil his duty to his Sovereign and his country, shall not be sanctioned or tolerated. My right hon. Friend has, perhaps, too plaintively touched upon the injury to his own private feelings in this matter; perhaps he has dilated a little too much upon the abuse, the odium, and the obloquy to which the fulfilment of his duty has subjected him in his attempt to do that which he thought was politic. Sir, if there be such weakness upon the part of my right hon. Friend, such expressions, in my opinion, ought to increase the feeling in his favour of the House generally; and, for my part, I only respect still more the public man who will manfully and sincerely confess that he is sensible to the power of an unjust attack. I think, however, it would be a wise thing for those who embark in the strifes and struggles of political existence either to be less sensitive, or to conceal their susceptibilities. When my right hon. Friend has been abused as much as some of those who were some time since his Colleagues, we shall hear far less of his complaints to the House than we have to-night. But there is one point in the appeal of my right hon. Friend, on which, from a sense of candour and of justice to Her Majesty's Ministers, I feel it right to express my opinion—that he has been seduced into an excess of sensibility. My right hon. Friend complains of a want of fairness towards him on the part of the Government; they behaved, if we may trust, as almost every one must trust, the expression of his opinion—they behaved with some degree of perfidy. He tells you—and it is a very simple story—that these Bills were submitted to the consideration of the House of Lords; that a Committee of the House of Lords was appointed to examine them; that some of the Members of that Committee were Members of Her Majesty's Government; that the Chairman of that Committee was the Lord Privy Seal; that they examined into the question, and that it was their unanimous opinion that of the three Bills—the one entitled the Tenants' Compensation Bill should not for 215 a moment be encouraged—that it should be thrown aside; that, in deference to the determination of that Committee, another of Her Majesty's Ministers—a Secretary of State—came forward in the House of Lords and adopted two of the Bills as Government measures, and these two were the Bills which had, to a great extent, been matured by the labours of my right hon. Friend; that subsequently, and in due course, these two Bills were brought back to this House; and that after the Committee of the House of Lords, with Members of the Government serving on it, with a great officer of State for the Chairman, had availed themselves, through a prolonged and protracted investigation, of the knowledge, energies, and unwearied assiduity of my right hon. Friend, and had, by their organ in the House of Lords, accepted two of these measures, and had discarded the third as impolitic and incurable, they then sent them down to the House of Commons; that in that House a distinguished, but inferior Member of the Government—the Chief Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant—rose in his place, after all this protracted labour and investigation, and senatorial approbation of those measures, and announced that, in consequence of the third Bill having been rejected, the two others approved and adopted by Her Majesty's Ministers in the House of Lords could not be recommended for the sanction of the House of Commons. My right hon. Friend seems to have been touched to the quick by this conduct; it was but natural that he should be so, interested as he was in the subject—having given—and this I beg the Committee to recollect—long hours, and almost years, of study and painful investigation to his subject—having, in office and out of it, devoted thought and heart to its solution—after having placed himself in painful collision with Members of his own party, both in this and in his own country—after having received the confidence of the Lord Privy Seal—after having received the approbation of a Secretary of State, and the unanimous sanction of a Committee of the House of Lords—after having seen his measures passed by that House—he is thrown over scarcely with common respect by the Chief Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant. And I think the Committee will sympathise with this distinguished man—the late Attorney General for Ireland—in the disappointment 216 he has expressed. But although I feel that the expression of his opinion was justified, I admit that it was too extreme. My right hon. Friend quite forgets that, however the Government may have behaved towards him, they have only followed the rule which, with admirable impartiality, they have always extended to themselves. He must remember that if they have treated him faithlessly, it is much the same way—so far as we can learn, not only from private report, which is not always right, but from public demonstration, which must ever influence us all—it is, I say, much the same way in which they have conducted themselves towards each other. I think that my right hon. Friend was overcome by a surplusage of sensibility when he complained of the perfidious conduct of the Government towards him, being only a simple Member of the Opposition; for I cannot understand that the process and treatment by which the Reform Bill was postponed differs much from those who have been employed in the settlement of the tenure of land in Ireland. I think my right hon. Friend ought to take that into consideration, and if, before he made this appeal to the Committee—which I candidly admit he made without consulting me—if he had asked the opinion of some of his friends, who regard his honour, and take as much interest in his career as those whom he did consult—if he had asked me—and he is generally kind enough to consult me on the course he pursues—I should have said, "I most earnestly recommend you not to take the course you propose; for, however reasonable such a course may seem to your admirable simplicity of nature, yet I believe it is best that you should forget the treatment you have received, though I can believe that in your case the sense of outrage is infinitely increased by the deep and profound conviction I know you entertain that these measures are admirably calculated to benefit your country." If the case had been thus put to my right hon. Friend, and it had been told him that, in order to conduct the affairs of the country in a Government of such singular material as the present, these little misconceptions must necessarily and perpetually occur—that they are obliged, even among themselves, to make each other withdraw Bills after they have given the most solemn pledges that they would introduce them—and that their administration of the 217 affairs of the country cannot be carried on without habitual perfidy—of course I mean confined to themselves, and not as regards the public, with whom they always accomplish their promises—if all this had been stated to my right hon. Friend before he made this appeal, he would not have done so. He must have felt that appeals of this character to the country at this moment are extremely inconvenient. We are involved in circumstances of great difficulty; this is a great national emergency, and it is of the utmost importance that we should persuade all Europe that we have a powerful Government, supported by a unanimous Parliament; therefore I should have said that if, instead of bringing this appeal forward, my right hon. Friend had, as by the Standing Orders he had the power to do, moved that no strangers should be admitted for the remainder of the Session, so that no report of our proceedings should transpire under any circumstances, I think such a course would have tended to strengthen the Ministry and to consolidate a Government, on whom depends, as at present, so perilous a responsibility. Therefore, I think that my right hon. Friend has, to a certain degree, erred in that particular. But still, if, from these feelings, which will always animate gentlemen, which will make them not stop to speculate upon what is prudent, but upon what is due to their honour and to their public character, my right hon. Friend has thought this appeal necessary, I do believe the House of Commons will sympathise with that appeal so made to them, and that it will not hesitate—not, perhaps, by a formal vote, but at least by that expression of feeling which cannot be misunderstood—to show to my right hon. Friend and to the country, that, whatever may be their opinions upon the main question, they are sensible that, as a public man, he has earnestly endeavoured to do his duty, and that he does not deserve to be treated as he has been treated by Her Majesty's Ministers this evening.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
The question, Sir, as I at first submitted to the House, is a very simple one. I had appointed an important Bill as one of the first Orders of the Day. A right hon. Gentleman, whom everybody respects, thought himself aggrieved by the conduct of the Government upon another subject, and wished to give a personal explanation. I said, if he wished to make any personal explanation, or to 218 bring any charge against the Government, I would postpone other business, however important, in order that he might have that opportunity. The right hon. Gentleman was fully heard; my right hon. Friend near me (Sir J. Young) offered his explanation; and I then thought that, as I had given way to the right hon. Gentleman, sacrificing the progress of an important Bill, the House would consent then to proceed to the proper business of the evening. Some hon. Gentlemen, however, who take a deep interest in this question, spoke upon it, and protracted the debate; but the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has taken another course—he has taken the course of making a party attack upon the Members of the Government with reference not merely to this Bill, but with reference to their general conduct—he has taken the opportunity of referring to a measure, or rather to the course taken with regard to a certain measure, to which he was a party when he was in office, and to which I, not wishing to rouse angry feeling in debate, very likely should not have adverted. However, the right hon. Gentleman has called attention to that subject, and I feel myself obliged to call attention to that subject too, in order that the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman may be valued at what it is worth. Mr. Sharman Crawford, when a Member of this House, was in the habit of proposing to introduce a Bill which the Members of my Administration thought contained principles which ought not to be countenanced by the House. We always fairly declared our sentiments on the subject, and either on the proposal to introduce such Bills, or on the second reading, stated our objections fairly. The right hon. Gentleman, when a Member of the Government, thought fit to pursue a different course. There were other Bills introduced by the Attorney General of that Government—the Attorney General for Ireland—and he (Mr. Disraeli) consented that an hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Serjeant Shee) should have leave to introduce his Bill on the same subject. The learned Serjeant and those who supported him were evidently surprised at the concession, but at the same time greatly gratified, as they took it for granted that the Select Committee was fairly to consider that Bill, that its provisions were to be fairly before them, and that the Committee were to consider whether they were just to the landlord and fair to the tenant. 219 But, after having made that concession, which so greatly pleased the Gentlemen interested in that Bill, the Earl of Derby, then the head of that Government—not, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman, to satisfy his own views and at the risk of losing support—made a declaration of an opposite character. The fact was, that great alarm was excited in the other House of Parliament. The supporters of the Earl of Derby's Administration there felt that property was in danger by the introduction of that Bill and its second reading. One noble Lord asked a question upon the subject. It was then that the Earl of Derby was understood to have declared that he utterly disapproved the principles of that Bill, that it was not intended seriously to consider them, and that he for one never would sanction the principles contained in that Bill. Why, what did all this amount to? Deception, in the first place, towards those who had proposed the Bill. They were allured by the notion that their Bill was to be fairly considered; and then, after they had obtained that concession, they were told that it was mere deception, that that Bill had been sent to a Select Committee, without any intention of fairly considering its provisions, but had been simply sent there for the purpose of being rejected. I must say I think a more disreputable and more discreditable course on the part of a Government never was pursued than that of allowing a Bill to be read a second time in this House, referring it to a Select Committee, as if it was to be fairly, deliberately gone into, and then assuring the other House of Parliament that it was not to be fairly considered, and that there was no intention whatever of paying the least regard to its provisions, but that the chief of the Government pledged himself to the rejection of all its provisions. Such was the conduct which the right hon. Gentleman has thought fit to bring under the notice of this House; and, when I purposely avoided laying any stress upon that conduct, he brings it forward in such a way as to make it absolutely necessary to call to the recollection of the House what that conduct really was. If he thought that that Bill was a fair Bill—that it contained provisions which deserved the attention of this House—it should have been fairly considered in Committee. If, on the contrary, he thought that it contained provisions dangerous to property, the declaration 220 that such was the opinion of the Government should have been made when it was proposed for the second reading. But this was not done, and an attempt was made to gain the favour of those who had always supported the principle of that Bill; but when the Government of Lord Derby found that this conduct had excited the alarm of a numerous body of the Members of the upper House of Parliament, they took a totally opposite view. Such was the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman, when in possession of power. He has found great fault with the conduct of Her Majesty's Government during the present Session. But, Sir, it is to be considered that, with regard to the party which the right hon. Gentleman leads, he is in a very peculiar position, and that position very often induces him to pursue a line of conduct which, if his position were not so peculiar, would not, perhaps, be the line of conduct he would pursue. He is the leader of a party who have attached much importance, as regards their credit or their character, to the traditions which belong to that party, and to the maintenance of certain principles to which—whether they are sound principles or not for the Government of the country is not now in question—they are deeply attached. It consequently follows that when any great question comes before the House in which the principle of conservatism or progress is clearly at issue, when any of those questions upon which that party have been always afraid of innovation are at issue, then they are ready to follow the right hon. Gentleman; but if the questions involved nothing of this, or they were questions in which it appeared to them the honour of the country is involved, or if in following up their principles it led to a support of Her Majesty's Government, then that party—whether the right hon. Gentleman will lead them or not—give their fair and hearty support to the Government accordingly. The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, finds himself disabled from that course which a leader of Opposition, disapproving of a Government, would naturally pursue—namely, upon some question or other bringing to an issue the conduct of the Government, and whether or not it deserves the support of the House of Commons. He finds himself unable to bring that question to an issue, and the support he would have upon many of these questions would be such as to strengthen the Government 221 which he wishes to overthrow. There is another course, however, which the right hon. Gentleman finds it in his power to take, and that is to lie in wait for Motions which are made by independent Members; and, whatever the colour of those Motions may be, provided there is no great principle involved in them—no immediately disastrous consequences to ensue from the adoption of those Motions—then the right hon. Gentleman has influence with his party—then Gentlemen who have not much attended to the question are ready to follow his lead, and he pursues upon these questions one undeviating course, which is, whatever the question may be, to endeavour to put the Government into a minority, and then take his chance of saying that their measures have failed and that Motions which they opposed have been adopted. I have now stated the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman with respect to a measure of much interest when he was in office, and I have stated what has been his frequent conduct since. It is certainly a conduct which is somewhat new to me. [Derisive cheering from the Opposition.] Yes, it certainly is new to me; because, Sir, I have been a Member of a Government which has been opposed by such leaders as Sir Robert Peel and others who preceded him in the lead of the Conservative party. Such leaders, when they found that their opinions induced them to oppose the Government, openly and fairly opposed it, but they never thought of coming down to this House merely to take up any Motion which might be under discussion. If they thought it was a question which did not tend to the transaction of public business, they considered it their duty either to abstain from opposition or give their support to the Government. The right hon. Gentleman, however, thinks that no such duty is incumbent upon him. He seems to consider that Motions in which the character and the institutions of the country are involved constitute a game in which it is perfectly competent to him to embarrass the Government when he can, to utter his sarcasms, to come down with his taunts, and not to consider what important consequences may follow. If the right hon. Gentleman can find that his party will go with him upon a great question—such as I do not say a vote of want of confidence, but any question involving a principle upon which a Government must stand or fall—let him 222 take that course and act as his predecessors have done. But, if there is a question upon which he and his party really are not bound by any principle of theirs to oppose the Government, if, on the contrary, it is a question in furtherance of their principles, let them act with that regard to character and to integrity of conduct which have distinguished their party in former times. I believe that this is one of the causes which has made the conduct of the business of this House what it has been during the later part of the period in which the right hon. Gentleman has been leader of the Opposition. I am not going now to refer to these various questions to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded. Each in its turn was, no doubt, of importance. The Reform Bill, to which he has adverted, I certainly postponed with the greatest reluctance; but I postponed it with the agreement of the majority of hon. Members on this side of the House, and in accordance, I believe, with the general feeling of the country at large. I am not now shaken in my view of the importance of that measure, nor, if I felt myself pledged to yield and to withdraw the Bill, was it at the suggestion of my Colleagues—because I myself, having charge of the measure, was obliged to propose to the Cabinet that I should take the course I did. But I did so, finding it impossible to stand against that general impression which prevailed not only in this House, but throughout the country, that it was not expedient to proceed with it. Sir, I have not on that account at all changed my opinion with regard to the importance of that question, and I feel great confidence that the time will come when those defects which remain in the first Reform Bill will come under the consideration of the House, and when amendments of those defects will be effected. I have only further to say, that, with regard to the right hon. Gentleman who began this discussion, nothing was further from my intention, in moving that the Chairman should report progress, than at all to disparage the speech that he made or the conduct that he has pursued. I cannot conceive that he thought that during the present evening we could make much progress with regard to these Bills. What has happened to these Bills is what has happened frequently, and almost every Session, under various Governments, when in the middle of July it has been found impossible to go 223 into various complicated questions, and to obtain a solution of that which has always been difficult. I therefore do not see that there is any advantage in attempting to pursue these Bills any further. I have already spoken with regard to the merits of the landlord and tenant question in Ireland. I did not say, as the right hon. Gentleman stated, that it was the duty of the Government to leave this question without a solution. What I did say was, and what I believe is, that the most useful measure that could be provided would be a measure giving power and force to voluntary contracts, and a simple remedy for the breach of these contracts. One of the measures of the right hon. Gentleman certainly does contain provision for that purpose, and I trust that before long it will become law. Whether it may be possible to go further than that, and to make compulsory arrangements between landlord and tenant, is a matter upon which I have very great doubts, not merely because it is a difficult matter for legislation, but because I doubt whether legislation upon that subject can be so minute as to act at the same time with efficacy and with justice.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
said, that though by no means inclined implicitly to follow the Government upon all matters in reference to Ireland, yet he would readily acknowledge that the course pursued by them on the present occasion met his approval. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had introduced these Bills, which were referred to a Select Committee, when the fate of the late Government was on the balance, and astonished the House by declaring in favour of tenant compensation. One of these Bills, however, was, in his (Mr. V. Scully's) opinion, a mere landlords' Bill, which he could never consent to pass as an isolated measure. The whole of the Bills went to a Select Committee, notwithstanding his (Mr. V. Scully's) protest. Lord Derby's Government was then in the balance, and he (Mr. V. Scully) believed there was a bonâ fide intention on their part, therefore, to pass these Bills. The Tenants' Compensation Bill, however, as introduced by the right hon. Gentleman, was an utter delusion. He (Mr. V. Scully) should have been much better pleased if the noble Lord had given some exposition of the intentions of the Government on the subject of these Bills next Session. His reasons for believing the right hon. Baro- 224 net (Sir J. Young) was sincere in his course with regard to these Bills was, that he had sent them bonâ fide to a Select Committee, and that he had manifested a determination to go on with the Tenants' Compensation Bill, but he had reluctantly postponed it at the request of the hon. Member for Kerry. On the 20th of June the Bill was brought forward, and opposed by the worst enemies of Ireland, the Tenant-League representatives in that House, now leagued with hon. Gentlemen opposite. The result of the opposition of the hon. Member for Meath was that the Landlord and Tenant Bill was proceeded with, and it was not until the 21st of July that the Tenants' Compensation Bill could be brought forward, in consequence of the opposition of those hon. Members. The Secretary for Ireland could not do more for any Bills. It was quite impossible that these Bills could pass in August when they went to the House of Lords. They were, therefore, thrown over; and at the opening of the Session, they, in conjunction with other Bills on the subject—seven in all—were referred to a Select Committee of twenty-two Members, most of them in opposition to the Government, or belonging to the Conservative party. This Committee accordingly rejected the Tenants' Compensation Bill, which the hon. Member for Dungarvon had designated as a libellous mass, and which the right hon. Member for Bucks had denounced as impolitic and unendurable. He (Mr. V. Scully) did not concur with the right hon. Gentleman, and he thought it would be more satisfactory if the right hon. Gentleman had indicated what he would do on the subject when he came into office—an event, of course, looked upon by him as "looming in the future." The Bills coming from the House of Lords were not printed for the House of Commons and delivered until the 9th of June. On the 12th June they were read a second time, at the instance of the right hon. Baronet, in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman was absent for some considerable time after, and it was not until the 29th June it became his convenience to come to London. At a late hour of the night of the 29th June the right hon. Gentleman expressed a wish to commit the Bill pro formâ, for the purpose of proposing certain Amendments, and then he adjourned the debate. On that occasion the noble Lord said, the usual courtesy was, to 225 afford the right hon. Member an opportunity of putting the Bill into shape; proving that the Bill was the Bill of the right hon. Member, and not of the Government. On the 11th July the Bill stood on the paper with no less than six closely printed pages of Amendments, containing as many as a dozen new clauses. There were four pages of Amendments by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny, and three by another hon. Member. These were to be considered, with 140 clauses of the Bill, and the Tenants' Compensation Bill also. Any man of common sense would see that there was no practical chance of going on with any of these Bills, except the present one, the Landlord and Tenant Bill. The only safe course, therefore, to pursue on the part of the Government was to throw over the Bills altogether; and the only course open to the Liberal Members of that House was to support them. He hoped the noble Lord would consult with those men who were able to give him honest advice as regarded these measures in the future on one side of the House and on the other—such as the hon. Member for Fermanagh, who had a deep interest in the question, and not those men of extreme opinions, who called themselves the leaders on the question, and had no weight in the country. He trusted the noble Lord would not be deterred by anything which he advanced that evening from endeavouring to settle this question. With regard to the attack of the hon. Member for Meath on the Solicitor General for Ireland, who had been compelled to leave London for Ireland that morning on private business, he (Mr. V. Scully) was sure the language indulged in would not have been used had that hon. and learned Gentleman been present.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, with regard to the taunt of the hon. Member (Mr. V. Scully), that the hon. Member for Meath would not have used such language in the presence of the Solicitor General for Ireland, he would refer the hon. Member to the Committee upstairs, where the hon. Member for Meath met the Solicitor General face to face, and there made his accusations. He (Mr. Maguire) was present at a meeting in Ireland when the hon. and learned Gentleman himself took a resolution into his hands, making it more stringent, for the purpose of binding independent Irish Members to resist any Bill on the subject of landlord and tenant which did not em- 226 brace the principle of Mr. Sharman Craw-ford's Bills. The hon. Member for Meath had not obstructed the Tenants' Compensation Bill, but simply wished its postponement until the Landlord and Tenant Bill, an equally important measure, had been considered by the country. The charge of the hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. V. Scully) was merely intended to cover the retreat of the Government, whom he (Mr. Maguire) contended should either declare their intentions on this subject or resign their posts. To justify the Tenant League from the aspersions of the hon. and learned Member for Cork would be attaching too much importance to them.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I do not wish to enter into any personal controversy with the noble Lord; but there is one observation which he made, which, as it concerns the general business of the House, I cannot allow to pass unnoticed. The noble Lord has made some comments on the relation which exists on this side of the House between the Members of the Conservative party and those who have the office of directing their general conduct. It seems to him that they have no confidence in their leaders, and that their leaders have no confidence in them; but, nevertheless, he admits that they are always putting Government into a minority. That is extremely unfortunate for the Government; I admit that that is a very inconvenient result to arise from the anomalous circumstances to which the noble Lord has referred. But I wish to disabuse him of the impression which he seems to have imbibed, that my principal business is to study how we can put the noble Lord in a minority. On the contrary, I can assure him that if he occupied my position under similar conditions, and under the circumstances which now prevail in the political world, he would find that the principal business and duty of the leader of Opposition is to study, if possible, how the Government should not be put in a minority. The noble Lord has made a very strange comment upon this remarkable state of affairs. He says he does not expect that I should propose a vote of want of confidence in the Government. I think he was quite right in that remark, because that is a Motion which ought only to be made under very extraordinary circumstances; and I may say, in passing, that, although quite a constitutional proposition under those circumstances, it is indirectly somewhat 227 interfering with the prerogative of the Crown. The noble Lord says, "I do not expect you to propose a vote of want of confidence in the Government, but you ought to ask the opinion of the House on some great question; and if on that great question the opinion of the House is adverse to that of the Government, Ministers would draw the necessary deduction." But as the noble Lord admits that it is not my province, and that it is not incumbent upon me to propose a vote of want of confidence in the Government, I wish he would have the kindness to inform the House what is the great question which he wishes to be brought forward, and upon which he wishes to obtain the opinion of the House of Commons. Is it a question which concerns the distribution of political power—such as a Reform Bill? or is it a system of National Education? Surely these are great subjects; and, although there are not many subjects of that importance which can be quoted as having been brought before our consideration this year, there have been some other subjects of first-rate Parliamentary importance, the result of having submitted which to the notice of the House has generally been to place the Government in minorities—in considerable minorities—some twelve, fourteen, or sixteen or eighteen times during this Session. I do not say that that is any reason for the noble Lord to take the course which he contemplates as possible under other circumstances and with other persons; but, when he says, "I do not want you to bring forward a vote of want of confidence in the Government, but I wish the opinion of the House to be tested by a decision on some great question," he is bound to tell us, after the experience of the Session, what is the character of the great question which he wants the decision of the House to be asked upon. The noble Lord is laying down a principle applicable to our meetings every day. The noble Lord, disquieted by the phenomena which he observes around, gives vent to his feelings by saying that he is opposed by a body of Gentlemen who have no confidence in their leaders, and whose leaders had no confidence in them. That is fortunate for the Government. It seems to me that, if the contrary were the case—if they were opposed to a party who had confidence in their leader, and whose leader had confidence in them, bad as is the present state of things, the Government would not last out 228 the evening. The noble Lord is fortunate in having that peculiar combination which has, however, produced such disastrous results to the Government. But as the noble Lord has brought forward votes of confidence and votes of want of confidence in a Government, and as he is a constitutional scholar, and on great occasions is accustomed to read the House lectures on constitutional questions, I need not remind the House that generally before the reformed Parliament, which he wishes to reform again, and since the reformed Parliament, whenever any Government has found itself in extreme difficulty—not perhaps in as frequent minorities as the present Government, for in that respect its fortune is peculiar and unprecedented—but whenever any Government has been in frequent and embarrassing minorities, the conduct of the Government has not been to get up in that pettish spirit of which we have had so many instances during the present Session from almost every Member of the Cabinet in the House of Commons, and to taunt us with not bringing forward a Motion or vote of want of confidence in the Government—which I must, in justice, say the noble Lord has never sanctioned, but has in a direct manner disapproved of. But what has been the conduct of the Government in old days? What has been the conduct of the Governments of which the noble Lord during the last twenty years has been, more or less, so distinguished a Member? Why, they have always felt that nothing can be more embarrassing, nothing more inconvenient, nothing more injurious to the Parliamentary constitution of England, than that power should be possessed by men who apparently cannot pass measures and do not possess the confidence of the House of Commons. What, then, have Ministers done? Why, like men of spirit, men who had confidence in their cause and in their standing in the country, who were not squabbling among themselves, and giving up measures like some Administrations of which I have heard—they have gone to some eminent man on their side—such as Lord Ebrington, now Earl Fortescue—and said, "This is intolerable—this in painful—this system of constant minorities—it is painful to us as men of honour; it is much more than that—it is injurious to the Parliamentary constitution of the country—and we call upon you as one of our most distinguished supporters 229 to come forward and test the opinion of the House of Commons, and propose a vote of confidence in the Administration which you uphold and support." Why, Sir, in old days what did the noble Lord do when he was in minorities? He did not get up and make a few observations like those which he has made to-night—for I cannot call it a speech—he did not get up and ask the Chairman to report progress when the conduct of the Government was called in question. No, he went to Lord Ebrington or some other of his supporters, and said, "We will have the question settled at once—it is not for the advantage of the country that this state of things should continue, and we ask you to give a notice in order that we may have the opinion of the House of Commons tested, for we will not be a Government on sufferance?" And that is the course which the noble Lord ought to pursue if he means to have the confidence of the House of Commons proved in the present Government. I would advise him first certainly to consult the Secretary to the Treasury as to whether he has a majority or not. Of course that is a friendly intimation, and he will follow his own discretion. Now, although hon. Gentlemen on these benches do not wish to disturb the present Administration, they consider they have the right of exercising the privilege of opposing measures of which they do not approve. I have said before that I, for one, would never be a Member of an Administration that existed on sufferance. It is not that I depreciate the great sacrifices which right hon. Gentlemen and noble Lords make in the fulfilment of their duty. I think we ought to be very grateful to them for being Members of an Administration on sufferance. I ascribe it entirely to patriotism. What they gave up publicly or privately it is impossible for us to estimate, but I have no doubt we ought all to feel grateful to noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen who endure such multiplied and such continuous mortification. But when we are willing to give the noble Lord credit for patriotism and for no lower feeling, and he and his friends get up and tell us that the confidence of Parliament ought to be tested, I tell him that those who ought to test the confidence of Parliament are Her Majesty's Ministers, and I call upon the noble Lord to do that which he and his predecessors have done before—to ask some of their principal supporters 230 to introduce that question to the House. The noble Lord says that he meets with an opposition which is carried on in a spirit to which he has been unaccustomed. I think that was a most unauthorised observation on the part of the noble Lord. The noble Lord says that Sir Robert Peel did not do this, and that other leaders of Opposition did not do that. I know pretty well the career of Sir Robert Peel in opposition, having sat on the same benches with him for many years, and having read the history of his political career when I was not a Member of Parliament; and I ask the noble Lord to adduce any period when Sir Robert Peel conducted an opposition, when he had to encounter a Ministry which, on the average, was in a minority twice a week? Why, the Opposition is now carried on by other parties. With the exception of the divisions on the University Bill—some of those divisions having been originated by Gentlemen who are habitual, if not avowed, supporters of the Government—every division on which the Government have been placed in a minority have originated with those who formerly sat on their own benches. I, therefore, protest against the opinion which the noble Lord has stated. If he wishes the confidence of the House in the Government to be tested, he is bound to ask one of his supporters to originate a Motion for that purpose. I do not want the opinion of the House of Commons to be tested, or else I would ask the House to express an opinion on the subject. I do not wish to disturb the Government. I admire their powers of sufferance. I am willing, as one of a grateful community, to do justice to their patriotism. Sir, when the Coalition Government was formed, I was asked how long it would last, and I ventured to reply, "Until every Member of it is, as a public character, irretrievably injured."
House resumed; Committee report progress.