§ MR. DISRAELI rose, pursuant to notice, to move for a "return of the number of Public Bills, and their titles, the orders for which, in any of their stages, had been discharged during the present Session, and the date of the discharge of each of such orders;" and said:—Sir, I have thought it expedient, before we disperse, to ask the House to consider the course of public business during the present Session of Parliament—I take this step, Sir, with no intention of preferring a Bill of indictment against those who are mainly responsible for the management of public affairs in this House. I do not hold the opinion that the last day of the Session affords either the most convenient or the fairest occasion for the prosecution of a party attack; and I should not now make the Motion which I am about to place in 1431 your hands, Sir, were I not convinced that there are great evils and even great dangers connected with our present position; and did I not believe that in the course of this discussion some suggestions may, perhaps, be thrown out which may, during the recess, exercise an influence upon the public mind, and lead to the application—when we meet again—of some remedy for the grievances to which I am about to advert. Sir, the course which I am now taking is not unprecedented, but it is far from being a usual weapon in party warfare. Indeed, on looking for precedents, I am not aware that there is more than one instance to which I can call the attention of the House, in the way of authority; and it scarcely becomes me to refer to that instance, because the precedent was furnished by myself. In the year 1848 I felt it my duty to ask the House to consider the course of business during the Session which was then about to close. I think, Sir, that reference will acquit me, or anybody else, of indulging in the dangerous habit of taking advantage of occasions of this description to disturb the serenity which should attend the last hours of our companionship—or of having seized such opportunities to express opinions adverse to Ministers—a course which I should prefer taking during the progress of the Session, when, if defeated in argument unfairly, one might recur to the subject, and when the Government would be afforded no excuse for saying that at the termination of their labours they had been called upon unexpectedly to vindicate proceedings which a single opportunity did not permit them completely to defend. In the year 1848 I made a Motion similar to that which now lies upon the table, and I think I may be acquitted of having been upon that occasion actuated by any party feeling, inasmuch as the Gentlemen who then sat upon the Ministerial benches had but recently attained their seats there, and had obtained them mainly by the efforts of myself and my friends. It was, then, neither with the object of disturbing those Gentlemen in the occupation of those benches, or of damaging their reputation with the country, that in the year 1848 I felt called upon, owing to the exigency of the subject, to ask the House of Commons fairly to consider what had been accomplished during the progress of the Session which was then just about to terminate. That 1432 Session of 1848 was of a duration, I believe, unparalleled in the annals of Parliament. The House of Commons had sat for ten consecutive months, and when those ten months were concluded, it is not to be denied that the account of our labours proved them to have been of a very fruitless character. Great dissatisfaction and great discontent, as a consequence, prevailed throughout the country. Many reasons were assigned and many causes alleged in explanation of the fact that so prolonged a sitting had been productive of results so unsatisfactory and so slight. [It was said then—and this was a very favourite mode of accounting for the mortifying fact—that it was to be attributed to the forms of the House, which, it was contended, were not suited to the age in which we lived or to the proper discharge of the multifarious transactions with which we had to cope. Again, it was said that another cause which produced these unsatisfactory results was, the too protracted discussions which took place in this House; it was said, that there existed too great a desire upon the part of Members of the House to give expression to their sentiments, and that they exhibited too much eagerness to debate the questions which were submitted to our consideration. Now, it appears to me that both those allegations have at all times a very dangerous tendency; but I think that tendency was especially dangerous in the year 1848, because the Parliament of that day was a young Parliament. There were then, I believe, 280 new Members in the House, and nothing, in my opinion, is more to be deprecated than that Gentlemen who have but recently entered within these walls, and who consequently cannot have any great experience as to the mode in which our proceedings are conducted, should be led to suppose that any standing order, or form of the House presented an obstacle to the satisfactory prosecution of the business of the national. Those who are better acquainted with the proceedings of the House know that its forms have been adopted after deep consideration and mature experience, and that the first of the allegations to which I have just adverted has little or no foundation.] The second allegation is, that hon. Members are too prone to discuss the questions which come before them; and that is a charge which ought to be regarded with no small degree of suspicion. I say this because what, after all, is the House of Commons 1433 if it be not a House of discussion? It is a House of Parliament. Its very name denotes its character. It is a House of free and ample speech, and whatever question may arise as to the policy of our legislation, however little our wisdom may be thought of, or the labours of our Committees appreciated, I have ever held the opinion, and that opinion I still continue to maintain, that the main claim which we possess upon the confidence, and, as I hope, upon the affections of the people of this great empire is, that there prevails in the country a general and well-founded conviction that there exists in England at least one place in which, in the long run, truth will be always elicited. Well, Sir, so anxious, and so naturally anxious, were the Government in the year 1848 to avail themselves of any plausible excuse to divert from themselves the rising odium which attended the results of our Parliamentary labours, that the Prime Minister of the day actually proposed and nominated a Committee to inquire into the subject of the forms of the House, to ascertain whether those forms in reality constituted ah obstacle to the efficient discharge of the public business; and, if so, how they might be modified in order to facilitate its transaction. The noble Lord the Member for London, who Was at the time Prime Minister, was a Member of that Committee; among its other Members were the late Sir Robert Peel, the late Mr. Goulburn, and, if I recollect rightly, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham), and Mr. Cobden. I also was a Member of that Committee, and, if I mistake not, we enjoyed the advantage of the experience and judgment—most valuable in such matters—of the hon. Member for Malton (Mr. E. Denison). We considered the subject with great attention. We examined a member of the American House of Assembly to the rules which were applied to the transaction of public business in the United States. We also examined an illustrious exile who was then residing in this country—who had been Prime Minister of France, and who was a great master of debate—I mean M. Guizot—as to his experience upon the subject of our inquiry; and the result of our deliberations is now among the records of the House. I did not want the information which, as a Member of that Committee, I obtained, to convince me that neither to the 1434 forms of the House, nor the freedom of discussion which we enjoy, was the unsatisfactory nature of the progress of the public business during the Session of 1848 to be attributed. It was with such feelings, Sir, and at the desire of many of my friends, that I undertook the laborious task of reviewing a Session which had lasted for ten months; of endeavouring to prove—that neither of the causes alleged had the slightest influence upon the course of public business in Parliament during that Session, and of vindicating—I trust completely—the character of the House of Commons, in reference to the accusations which had been made.
§ It is with the same objects, and actuated by similar feelings, that I have brought forward this Motion this evening. I do not think it is a Motion that ought to be made, except under circumstances of urgency. It is, in my opinion, of importance that we should discover what the cause is of that general discontent and dissatisfaction with the labours of this House, which could scarcely have been anticipated, but which I think everybody must acknowledge have, within the last six weeks or two months, arisen in the public mind. I do not by any means admit that it ought to be regarded as a matter of course that the Minister of this country should be prone to legislation. I, upon the contrary, maintain that the Minister is the last person in this House who should take an active interference in matters of that kind, upon all occasions. As a general rule, I think it as well that the Minister should not deal with any subject which may require legislation, unless he feels convinced that he can proceed in a manner which will be at once satisfactory and conclusive. I should say that when there arise questions that greatly interest the public mind, although a restless and even in a certain degree a rational feeling may demand legislation with respect to those questions, and although even it is possible that they may be ripe for solution, yet I contend that they may, in many instances with advantage, be left to independent Members of the House for the purpose of initiating preliminary discussion in their case—discussion which, by imparting knowledge and ultimately eliciting truth, may leave those questions in a position to be dealt with ultimately in a satisfactory manner by the Government. Therefore, Sir, I should never think of casting it as an imputation upon any Minister 1435 that he was somewhat reserved in matters of legislation, and that he was not prepared to ask the House to sanction measures in connection with great topics, unless he felt convinced that there were urgent reasons for their introduction. I can, moreover, conceive a state of affairs in which a Minister, anxious to do his duty to his Sovereign and to his country, might yet deem it necessary, upon the assembling of this House, to call upon it simply to fulfil the high functions of granting supplies to Her Majesty, and of voting the sums required for the service of the State, to the exclusion of all questions of legislation. The country, for example, might be involved in a great struggle, and I can understand that a Minister might then, notwithstanding that there were matters of internal interest that called for the speedy consideration of Parliament with a view to their settlement, be of opinion that the crisis was of such a nature as to require all the energies of the Government to meet it, and such as to justify the Minister in calculating with confidence upon the temper and forbearance of the public and of Parliament, and not to bring forward those measures. I can also conceive that there may be another situation in which the Minister may be placed, which would call for the exhibition of that temper and that forbearance. We may not be positively at war, but we might be upon the point of concluding a peace by which a great struggle was about to be terminated; and the Minister may then say, "all my energy and all my vigilance are required to carry on the important negotiations which are to close this contest, and to lay the foundation of a settlement that may secure an enduring peace to Europe." In these circumstances I can easily conceive that a Minister might be justified in not appealing to Parliament to pass measures relating to internal affairs, however important, and might simply content himself with asking the House of Commons to vote the supplies necessary for the public service. But of these three pleas, or of any one of them, the noble Viscount opposite cannot avail himself to-night, should he think it right to answer the fair, and I trust not unbecoming criticism, which it is not my main object in rising this evening to make, upon his conduct of the public business during the present Session, but which the nature of my Motion must casually and incidentally elicit. The noble Viscount cannot, in the first place, plead in his own 1436 defence to-night, that it is his opinion that we have legislated enough, and that there are no questions of great importance pressing for the consideration of the Legislature. The noble Lord cannot take that course, inasmuch as he has voluntarily, during the present Session, introduced to our notice, not only questions of great importance, but—as I think I shall be able to show the House—a greater number of questions of great importance than probably was ever introduced by any Minister into Parliament. Nor can the noble Lord avail himself of the second plea to which I have adverted, namely, that this country being involved in war—in a formidable struggle—this House or the public could not fairly expect that important legislative proposals should be made. The noble Lord is not entitled to set up that defence, because at the commencement of the Session he advised Her Majesty, while thanking her faithful Commons for the devoted manner in which they had supported her in the late struggle with Russia, to recommend them to give their most attentive consideration to many subjects of great importance in connection with the internal affairs of the nation. The noble Lord, I may add, cannot avail himself of the third plea—that, although the state of war had terminated, the negotiations for peace were of a nature to demand all his energy and vigilance, to the exclusion of the ability to direct his attention to the preparation of great measures of legislation—because, besides those subjects to which the noble Lord advised Her Majesty in Her most gracious Speech to direct our attention, and since the negotiations for peace commenced, the noble Lord has introduced measures upon other subjects, and those of no secondary importance, to which he solicited the consideration of Parliament. I therefore think we need not argue to-night the question whether legislation is or is not necessary in the present circumstances of the country, because Ministers themselves are the principal witnesses to the fact that legislation, and that upon a vast scale, is required.
§ Now, Sir, in making these observations, I wish to guard myself against the use of any language which could be fairly said to savour, even in the slightest degree, of exaggeration. I have stated that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had, in the course of the present Session of Parliament, introduced to our notice measures of great importance, and a greater number of measures of great importance, 1437 than were ever submitted to Parliament by any Minister who occupied those benches. That assertion I think I shall be able to substantiate. Without mentioning many measures, the magnitude of which, when I refer to them in detail, will speak for itself, but which are of a secondary interest when compared with the principal features of the legislative scheme of this Session, I may be permitted to remind the House of some of the chief subjects which have been laid before us for consideration. We have, in the first place, been asked to create a court of appeal—a high court of appeal; the highest court of appeal in the last resort. Every hon. Member will, I am sure, concur with me in the opinion that that is a subject which may be described as the greatest of legal questions. It may be justly so described in all countries; but in our country it is more than the greatest of legal questions, because it is also the greatest of constitutional questions; because, in considering the creation and construction of a high court of appeal we, from the nature of our institutions, have not only to fulfil that prime object itself, but incidentally to consider the very elements of a senate, or rather of an upper chamber. We have also this year been called upon to deliberate upon anew law of partnership, founded upon new principles—principles better adapted, than those upon which the present law is based, to the exigencies of this advanced age—principles which would facilitate the application of capital to commerce in the most commercial country in the world. We have been asked to take into our consideration the whole law of divorce, and extremely important changes in the law of marriage. We have been called upon to review the whole discipline of the Church—the testamentary jurisdiction of the country—the police of the country—the reform of the most ancient, the most wealthy, and the most powerful of our municipalities, an institution intimately connected with the history and the liberties of England—the superannuation of the whole of the civil service of the country—the criminal appropriation of trust property—the education of the entire kingdom—the retirement of Bishops from their sees—and last, and not least, the accurate means of ascertaining the most important produce of the empire by means of a system of agricultural statistics. Well, Sir, these are no light questions. These are questions not only 1438 among the most grave that concern a State, but they involve the very principles upon which society itself depends. Sir, I do not know that I can place the legislative scheme of the Minister more fairly before the House than by referring to the Speech from the Throne at the commencement of the Session, and calling the attention of hon. Members to those propositions which, subsequently, were submitted, upon the authority and with the sanction of the Government, to the consideration of Parliament. There were four subjects—I should rather say four groups of subjects—which, in the heat of war, Her Majesty was advised by the Minister to recommend to the attentive investigation of Parliament. The first, which was the simplest, embraced the assimilation of the mercantile law of Scotland and of England. The second was that improvement in the law of partnership, founded altogether upon new principles, and aiming at the increased application of capital to commerce, to which I have before adverted. The third was a measure which was to relieve the mercantile marine of this mercantile country from charges of great weight under which it had long laboured, and against which loud complaints had been raised. And the fourth series of measures, and the most important, dealt with a large and extensive reform in the laws of Great Britain in the first place, and, in the second place, in those of Ireland. Now, Sir, such was the nature of the legislative scheme which at the commencement of the Session, and in a time of war, was recommended, in the language of the gracious Speech from the Throne to "the attentive consideration" of Parliament. And how, let me ask, have we disposed of the four series of measures to which I have just alluded? With respect to the first question—the assimilation of the mercantile law of England and Scotland—I am ready to admit that the Government may be considered as having fairly redeemed the pledge which they gave in its regard. A Bill to effect a change in the mercantile law of Scotland has now, I believe, passed through both Houses of Parliament. A measure seeking to change the mercantile law of England was also laid before us. It involved, indeed, a principle of the most dangerous character—a principle which aimed at doing away with the necessity in mercantile transactions of written contracts. The practical sagacity, however, of this House protested against that principle, and, with the aid of the 1439 whole commercial body, saved the nation from the dangers which would be consequent upon the operation of a proposition so unfortunate. The obnoxious principle was struck out of the Bill, and in that shape the Bill was passed into law. We may, therefore, I think, admit that the Government have, upon the whole, fairly redeemed the pledges which they gave us with respect to the first series of measures which were noticed in the Royal Speech. How, Sir, did we proceed with regard to those improvements in the law of partnership which we were led to expect—to that measure which was to be founded upon a new principle; which was to be adapted to our advanced and enlightened age; and which in this peculiarly commercial country was to facilitate the application of capital to commerce? Now, I am bound to say that the Government exhibited every evidence of sincerity with respect to this second class of measures, for upon the very first day upon which we met—the 1st of February—the important Bill to which I allude was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board of Trade. After discussion—after being amended and reprinted on the 25th February—upon the 10th of March that measure was abandoned. Her Majesty's Government, however, determined to deal with a subject which they felt to be of paramount importance, lost no time in profiting by the discussion which had taken place, and accordingly, upon the 7th of April, a second Bill to amend the law of partnership, and to accomplish the great objects for whose attainment its predecessor had been framed, was introduced into the House of Commons by the same right hon. Gentleman. It was introduced on the 7th of April. Upon the 14th of July it was abandoned. Now, as my object is not to prefer a Bill of indictment against the Minister—my aim being a higher one, as I trust I shall be able to substantiate—I must call the attention of the House to this fact. Here we have an important subject recommended to our attentive consideration in the Speech from the Throne. We have a Bill brought in with regard to it by Her Majesty's Ministers and abandoned. But that is not all. A second measure is introduced, and that also is abandoned. Now that is a very remarkable, and, I cannot help thinking, a very unfortunate catastrophe for the Minister of any public department to experience; but what I would 1440 now take the liberty of observing to the House is, that such a catastrophe is not peculiar to the Vice President of the Board of Trade, hitherto thought to be so peculiarly unfortunate in his legislative enterprises. I find that the President of the Poor Law Board was not much more successful. Upon the 3rd of April that functionary introduced to our notice a Bill for the amendment of the poor law. Upon the 23rd of May that measure was abandoned. I find the Minister—profiting equally with his right hon. Colleague by experience—re-introducing this Bill, or rather introducing a new measure upon the subject of the poor law, on the 23rd of May. On the 10th of July I find that measure also was abandoned. Here, then, we have two Ministers introducing Bills upon subjects of the highest importance, and not only failing in their efforts to carry them, but recurring to the experiment and again encountering failure. But, Sir, this species of double failure is not peculiar either to the Vice President of the Board of Trade or to his right hon. Colleague at the head of the Poor Law Board. The Irish Government, represented in this House by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, upon the 15th of April introduced a Bill for the better regulation of lunatic asylums in Ireland. Upon the 21st of May that measure was abandoned. The right hon. Gentleman, however, did not lose heart, and accordingly he, two days afterwards, brought in another Bill dealing with the same subject as his former measure. He brought it in on the 23rd of May, and upon the 14th of July it was abandoned. Thus, upon three subjects—and I have mentioned the last two cases incidentally to illustrate and in some degree to soften the position of the Vice President of the Board of Trade—upon three subjects of moment we find three Ministers trying their hands at legislation and failing in their efforts; not despairing in consequence of one failure, but making a second attempt, once more to be unsuccessful. Thus much, then, Sir, for the law of partnership. Let me now direct the attention of the House to the third group of measures referred to in the gracious Speech from the Throne—namely, those measures which were to relieve the whole mercantile marine of England from those local dues and passing tolls so long matters of grievance to that body. Here, Sir, I am afraid I shall not find any of the colleagues 1441 of the Vice President of the Board of Trade to be his equals in mischance. I find, upon the 4th of February, the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board of Trade, I am sorry to say, bringing in a Bill to carry out the objects alluded to in the Royal Speech with reference to the subject I have just mentioned. Upon the 26th of February that measure was abandoned. I come now to the fourth series of measures referred to in the Royal Speech. There are, first, the measures for the improvement of the law in Great Britain. It appears, as far as I can ascertain, that five measures were brought forward by Her Majesty's Government with that praiseworthy object, and I think, when I state their titles, hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House will agree with me that no Ministry ever yet brought forward a series of measures on subjects of such deep interest and extensive application. First, there was a Bill to establish a new jurisdiction in matters of wills and administrations throughout the country. That Bill was introduced on the 14th of March; and on the 10th of July it was abandoned. The next Bill was that great measure to found an appellate jurisdiction in the last resort. It was brought from the Lords on the 9th of June; and on the 10th of July it was abandoned. The third measure related to a subject of no less importance than that of divorce. It was brought into this House on the 4th of July; and just let me remind the House of the circumstances under which it came down to us. It had passed with great difficulty through the House of Lords, where it had been subjected to the criticism of some of the greatest intellects of the country. It dealt, I believe successfully, with most of the points which are the opprobrium of our law of marriage, and it laid the foundation of a satisfactory adjustment of those points which it did not profess to settle. That Bill was introduced into this House on the 4th of July; and on the 17th of July it was abandoned. The next measure of this character—a measure of legal reform—dealt with a subject on which the present state of our law, I do not hesitate to say, is a disgrace to that enlightened and civilised society to which it is our pride to belong; it was a measure which dealt with the criminal appropriation of trust property. I can conceive no subject more deserving of the attention of a Government, I should say that the nation itself ought never to rest satisfied 1442 until the state of the law upon that subject is amended. The most iniquitous consequences have, for a long series of years, resulted from the state of our law upon that subject. I am bound to say—I speak upon the matter on the highest information, and I would not otherwise presume to make the statement—I am bound to say that what is taking place in this country every day renders it still more necessary that a Bill of that kind should be passed. I have not the date when that Bill was introduced into this House; but I have the fatal day before me—the 21st of July when it was abandoned. The fifth measure, which was the Church Discipline Bill, was not abandoned. It was introduced into the other House of Parliament, and there it was rejected on a division. So that none of those five great projects of law, upon subjects which no one can, for a moment, hesitate to admit demand the "attentive consideration" of Parliament—to use Her Majesty's gracious words—and were subjects of urgent necessity, if any subjects for legislation can deserve that name—none of these five great projects have received the sanction of Parliament during the present Session. Now, let us look to the measures proposed, with a view to the reform of the law in Ireland, and let us see whether we have been more fortunate in that respect. Soon after Parliament met, a Bill was introduced by the Government for the reform and reconstruction of the Court of Chancery in Ireland. That measure proposed to create two Vice Chancellors, who were to be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, at salaries of £3,500 a year each. It proposed to create six chief clerks at salaries of £1,000 a year each, and six junior clerks at salaries of £350 a year each. It proposed to abolish the offices of Masters and Examiners of the Court, and to allow the present functionaries to retire on full salaries—that is to say, the four Masters on salaries of £3.000 a year each, and the other functionaries with corresponding allowances, which I need not mention to the House. This Bill was followed immediately by another, having relation to the Courts of Bankruptcy and Insolvency in Ireland, and which was introduced on the 29th of February. It was proposed by that second Bill to constitute two Judges, with salaries of £2,000 a year each; a chief registrar, with a salary of £600 a year; a chief clerk with a salary of £500 a year; and two assistant registrars with 1443 salaries of £400 a year each; and it conferred the power of pensioning off, at the full salary of £1,200 a year, a gentleman who was once a Member of this House, and who has held his present office for a period of not more than two years. The effect of these Bills, when introduced into the House, was of a startling character. It was first of all, I believe, supposed that this was an ingenious scheme for compensating the sister country for the failure of the Tipperary Bank. That was of course, however, only a superficial view of the case, but it was the popular idea when these Bills were brought before us. Now what happened to these Bills? The Bill for the reform of the Court of Chancery in Ireland was introduced on the 4th of February; and on the 1st of July it was abandoned. The Bill to construct a Court of Bankruptcy and Insolvency in Ireland was brought in on the 29th of February; and on the 17th of July it was abandoned. These, however, were not solitary cases in Irish legislation. There was a Bill with respect to juries in Ireland, which was another of those measures of legal reform. It was introduced on the 5th of February; and on the 27th of June it was abandoned. There was a Bill with respect to juvenile offenders in Ireland, which also formed part of this great scheme. It was introduced on the 4th of February; and on the 27th of June it was abandoned. There was a Bill to deal at last with the metropolitan police of Dublin—a subject which had long attracted the attention of Parliament. That Bill was introduced on the 22nd of April; and on the 1st of July it was abandoned. Thus, you see, that five great measures of legal reform in England, and five great measures of legal reform in Ireland, are introduced by Her Majesty's Government; and in every case those measures are abandoned. I admit—because I wish to state the case fairly towards the Government—that two measures have been passed for the reform of the law in Ireland, which I think will be highly beneficial; one is a Bill for the construction of a Court of Appeal in Chancery suits in Ireland, and the name of the other I cannot at this moment remember. But an hon. Friend of mine, who is not now present, stated that these Bills were virtually Bills brought forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside). My hon. and learned Friend proposed five considerable measures for the reform of the law and the courts in Ireland, and I am happy to say 1444 that I contributed to have those Bills, as well as the Government measures on the same subjects, referred to a Select Committee; and I believe those Bills of my hon. and learned Friend formed the basis of, and virtually are, the measures which passed through Parliament.
§ Sir, I have now gone over the four great subjects which were referred to in Her Majesty's Speech from the Throne, and I have placed before the House—and I hope with no rhetorical misrepresentation, for my speech consists entirely of a reference to the records of this House—what has been the result of these projected measures of the Government. But Her Majesty's Government introduced many other measures which cannot be classed in any of the categories referred to in Her Majesty's gracious Speech. Let us see, in the calmest manner and without any comment, by a, reference to the records on the table, what has been the fate of those other measures. There was a measure for the superannuation of the members of the Civil Service. That question is not a new one; it is a question, I admit, of very great difficulty; it has been for more than twenty years a Parliamentary question, and has taxed the utmost efforts of successive Chancellors of the Exchequer. I had that case before me, and I was prepared to take action upon it. I know that the right hon. Gentleman who was my immediate successor (Mr. Gladstone) gave the utmost attention to it; and that the right hon. Gentleman who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer is perfectly master of the subject is evident from every observation he has made upon it in this House. It is, therefore, clear, that when Her Majesty's Government determined on grappling at all with the question, they must have done so, not only with the intention, but with the hope of settling it. Now let us see what has been the result. The Civil Service Superannuation Bill was introduced on the 15th of February; and on the 18th of July it was abandoned—and thus terminated the hopes of a most meritorious and a most ill-used body of Her Majesty's servants. There is another very important question with which Her Majesty's Government determined to deal; and that, again, is no new question, but one which had long engaged the attention of Parliament—I mean the reform of the Corporation of the City of London. That question has been more or less before Parliament for a period of twenty years. There have been, 1445 if I recollect right, two Royal Commissions appointed to investigate that subject, and never were there move ample materials ready than in that case on which legislation might be founded. I may further observe, that the position of the Government with respect to that question was one of unusual favour and advantage, because a colleague of the noble Lord, a Secretary of State (Mr. Labouchere), one of the most distinguished Members of the Cabinet, was, if I am not mistaken, one of the Royal Commissioners on the occasion of the last investigation. When, therefore, Her Majesty's Government resolved at last to act, they had the advantage of having in the Cabinet one who was completely master of the subject; and every one must have anticipated that the measure they would bring forward would be one perfectly adequate to the occasion, fully matured, and thoroughly adopted to the circumstances of the case. The consequence was, that the moment Her Majesty's Government announced that they had a Bill prepared upon that subject, a general feeling prevailed in the House, in the City, and, I may say, in the country, that at last this great reform was to take place. But what has been the fate of that measure? The Bill for the reform of the Corporation of the City of London was introduced on the 4th of February; and on the 26th of June it was abandoned.
§ I have here, Sir, another catalogue of measures to which I must advert at the risk of wearying the House; but it is of the utmost importance that we should accurately know the data on which any conclusion at which we may arrive upon this subject should be founded. I must now advert to a measure which was brought forward for the local management of the metropolis. It was brought forward by the President of the Board of Works, and he is a man, one would suppose, who knew what he was about. On the 28th of February the Bill was introduced; and on the 9th of May it was abandoned. I now proceed to a department over which another officer—the President of the Board of Health (Mr. Cowper)—presides. The President of the Board of Health was, I believe, originally a member of the profession of Mars. He was, therefore, not to be daunted by the unhappy enterprises of his colleagues. He was resolved to show a martial courage befitting the situation, and when he introduced his Bill on the 26th of May, he stated that he would not 1446 abandon it—he demanded battle. The Bill was rejected; and I am sorry to say that, after that fitful blaze of valour, the courage even of my right hon. and gallant Friend seemed to evaporate. On the 26th of May he introduced the Burial Bill; and on the 12th of July it was abandoned. The right hon. Gentleman also introduced a Vaccination Bill on the 7th of March; and on the 10th of July it was abandoned. I have referred to the efforts that were made by another right hon. Gentleman to amend the poor law; I have noticed the two attempts that he made with that object; but I did scant justice to the legislative enterprise of that right hon. Gentleman, for I find that, besides these great efforts, he also introduced a Bill on no less difficult a subject than pauper removal. That Bill was introduced on the 1st of April; and on the 27th of June it was abandoned. There was a Bill of Her Majesty's Government that aimed at dealing with a difficulty which many Administrations have had to encounter—namely, the claims of the coal-whippers of London. A Bill to settle that difficulty was introduced on the 28th of April; and on the 4th of July it was abandoned. I must here shed a tear over the fate of a Bill which was to settle the site of the National Gallery. It was introduced on the 5th of June; and on the 12th of the same month it met a fate which I deplore. It was not abandoned, but it encountered a fate which did not permit us to hear more of it this Session. There was a Bill introduced with respect to the Dulwich charity, which demanded legislation. It was introduced on the 17th of July; and on the 21st it was abandoned. The Queen's Colleges in Ireland also engaged the attention of Her Majesty's Government. A Bill was introduced upon that subject on the 15th of July; and that Bill, too, was abandoned. The state of education in Scotland had also long occupied the attention of the Government, and upon that subject a Bill was introduced this year, which everybody thought, from the spirit of the Lord Advocate, and the uncompromising tone which seemed to animate his interesting rhetoric, was sure to be persevered in. But, no;—I find that after having been introduced on the 9th of April, it was abandoned on the 27th of June. There is another Bill, scarcely second even to these in importance, and that is the Bill on agricultural statistics. That Bill met with the same melancholy fate as the 1447 others. It came to this House from the House of Lords; it was never brought to a division, but it was abandoned.
§ Now, Sir, I ask any Gentlemen in this House—I care not where they sit—whether they are votaries of Conservative progress, as we are, or whether they are advocates of Liberal movement, as hon. Gentlemen opposite are or ought to be—I ask any Gentleman is this a satisfactory state of affairs?—I ask those Gentlemen who habitually attend the House, and take the greatest part in its discussions, whether, before I placed this clear and accurate statement before them, they themselves were aware of the extent and importance of the legislative failures which have taken place this Session? I have already admitted that Her Majesty's Government succeeded in passing the Bills included in the first group of measures to which I referred at the commencement of my observations; and I have now to acknowledge that they have passed two other measures. One of these is the Bill for the retirement of the two Bishops. Now, I can only say myself that I regret that that measure did not deal with the whole question, and that it has therefore settled nothing. It is really not a measure to settle the question of the retirement of Bishops; it is a private and personal arrangement; it only provides for the retirement of two Prelates; and, although the question is one which opens considerations of the highest interest, the measure we have passed cannot be regarded as an Act of a public and general character. The other measure passed by the Government is the County Police Bill; and an excellent measure, in my opinion, it will prove. I do not wish to depreciate the merits of Her Majesty's Government in passing that Bill, when I remind them that the subject to which it relates had long engaged the attention of Parliament, and that a well-matured measure for its settlement had been introduced by the Government of Lord Aberdeen, the noble Lord himself, as Secretary for the Home Office, representing that Government upon the occasion; I only make that observation for the purpose of reminding the House that, although that measure was an important one, the House was prepared for its enactment; and that the discussion, of it did not greatly occupy their time.
§ I think, Sir, that under these circumstances we cannot be surprised at the great dissatisfaction and discontent that have 1448 suddenly arisen—more out of doors, I believe, than here, and therefore all the more dangerous—the great dissatisfaction and discontent that have been created by the mode in which public business has been conducted this Session. I believe—I am ready frankly to admit it—I believe that at first the House and the country were perfectly prepared to view the position of the Government with the utmost indulgence as regarded legislation. A Ministry that had terminated a war, and that was engaged for a considerable time during the sittings of Parliament in protracted negotiations for peace, was in a position to appeal to the forbearance, the indulgence, and the confidence of Parliament; and if they had said—"We are engaged in these great affairs, and therefore you must not expect from us that we should attempt to deal with any of those questions which must ultimately be settled by legislation,"—no one, I believe, would have murmured either here or in the country. But I say that it is not now in the power of the Government to urge that plea. Her Majesty's Ministers, having duly considered their position, and having greater opportunities of accurately ascertaining the real nature of that position than we who are not connected with them could possess, resolved to draw the attentive consideration of Parliament to a variety of the most important subjects that could engage the attention of a Legislature. They have held out to the country great expectations, and they cannot now be surprised that the country feels disappointed. But if this were a mere question of transient disappointment, I should not have an observation to make upon it. I cannot, however, help thinking that the time has come when the House would do well calmly to consider what is the cause of a state of affairs which we all must regret—which is most mortifying to us as a legislative assembly, and which, I think, cannot be very satisfactory to Her Majesty's Ministers. It is in order to ascertain that cause, and not, as I have already said, to frame a Bill of indictment against the Ministry, that I want to engage the attention and consideration of the House this evening, trusting that in the course of the discussion suggestions may be thrown out which must fall on the public mind, and ultimately lead to some remedial agency for this evil state of affairs. Now, Sir, it cannot be said that this unfortunate result has been occasioned by the forms of the House. I do not think there is anybody now 1449 —not even the younger Member for Lambeth (Mr. Wilkinson)—who will get up and say that the forms of the House are its real cause. Hon. Gentlemen who have studied the forms of the House must be aware that since the year 1848 down to the present time, those forms have undergone a gradual but prudent curtailment; so much so that those who have considered well that subject, and who know how much wisdom and experience are embalmed in the forms of the House, rather apprehend that there has been of late years too great a diminution of the checks which they afford against precipitate legislation, than believe that we can facilitate the conduct of public business by the reduction of their number. Nor do I think there is anybody who will pretend for a moment that protracted debates or long speeches have brought about this result, because since I have had the honour of a seat in Parliament I never remember a Session which has been more remarkable for the absence of prolonged debates, or in which those Members who are in the habit of addressing us at that length to which they are entitled by their eloquence, their knowledge, their experience, and their position in this House, have trespassed so little on our attention. It is not the forms of the House, it is not the freedom and amplitude of our discussions, then, that have occasioned this lamentable state of affairs. To what cause is it then to be ascribed? I will state what I believe to have been the cause of it, and I beg the noble Lord and his colleagues not to suppose that in stating it I mean anything in any way personal to themselves. Quite the reverse. I believe the cause of this failure in legislation is mainly, if not entirely, to be attributed to the fact that the noble Lord and the hon. Gentlemen who now form the Ministry cannot command a Parliamentary majority. In the general conduct of affairs the greatest respect is paid to Gentlemen who occupy their position—a position which they obtained, in my opinion with all honour, and in a manner which, as far as the noble Lord is concerned, does, I think, the utmost credit to his spirit and promptitude. I say that the greatest respect is paid to Gentlemen who occupy that position; and I believe there is great willingness on the part of the House to fulfil its functions as to Supply. All the money which is required for the public service is cheerfully granted to the noble Lord when we are at war—if troops are wanted they are at once given to him; 1450 and when he is engaged in negotiations, and requires forbearance, that forbearance is yielded with equal readiness. Whether he prosecutes a war or makes a treaty he can count on the support of the House. But when Her Majesty's Ministers, turning to the functions of a Minister in a legislative assembly submit measures to the consideration of Parliament, they do not meet with that confiding support which can only exist in this House, when it is founded on traditionary connection or identity of principle. The noble Lord and his colleagues are, therefore, never sure that their measures will succeed; and there are two consequences that result from this circumstance of the most injurious character. The first is—and it is a great evil—that the Queen's Ministers should deem legislation necessary on subjects of paramount importance, and yet should not be able to succeed in legislating thereon. But there is another evil inevitably consequent upon this, and to which I attribute a considerable share of the present disaster. The moment a Government is habituated to defeat, the moment they find the chances are that the measures which they propose will not succeed, those measures cease to be prepared with that scrupulous exactitude, that fineness, that finish, and that completeness of detail, which chracterise the measures of a Government that feel, on introducing a Bill to Parliament, all the responsibility of successful legislation; and thus it happens that a Ministry is tempted to obtain popularity for a moment, and to make for themselves some transient reputation—if you can call it reputation—by dealing with a variety of subjects, so that the country may say "Here's a Government of men of business; these are the men we want. They are going to construct a high court of appeal; questions that have remained unsolved for 300 years are now about to receive a solution from these practical men; the law of divorce is to be reformed; the law of matrimony is to be improved; the law of partnership is to be adapted to the requirements of an enlightened age and a commercial country; and other great subjects on which the thought of the nation has long been collected are at last to be settled by men who, regardless of party considerations, are determined to show what can be done by people who are animated only by a desire to pass wise and useful I measures." When Parliament met it was announced on high, although anonymous, 1451 authority, that a new era had arrived in the history of the English Parliament; that the mere struggle for power and place was to cease, and that instead of it we were to have a body of Ministers who were essentially practical men of business—who were to deal with all the difficult questions that had baffled all preceding Governments. We were told that the maxim, "measures not men," was, for the future, to form the principle of our political life; and very shortly after that we had an illustration of the new system in the introduction of the Partnership Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board of Trade. But, Sir, what did all this end in? Why, after six months of idle phantoms and of empty noise, it is no longer "measures not men," but it is men without measures.
§ Now, if it be true—and I cannot think that when the matter is pondered over many will doubt that it is true—if it be true that this unfortunate state of affairs arises from the fact of our having a Government who are unable to command a Parliamentary majority, what is the remedy which is before us? I know I shall here be met by an objection which is heard, not, perhaps, in this House so much, but which is heard in every part of the country, in the saloon, and in the market-place alike, "this is all the consequence of the Reform Bill." ["Hear, hear!"] One of my hon. Friends near me says "Hear, hear!" and that shows how popular and how plausible is that idea. But is the Reform Bill the real cause of this state of affairs? Because, when there is a great difficulty there are always many specious explanations afloat, and the question is, although they be specious, are they true? During the last twenty-four years the Reform Bill has been in operation; and during more than a moiety of that time—for a period of at least fourteen years out of the twenty-four—you have had the affairs of this country carried on by Ministries of almost every shade of opinion, who have commanded large and compact majorities. Lord Grey, who represented the high Whigs, had not only a large and commanding majority, but he had a majority of which the only fault was that it was too large. Lord Melbourne, who represented what was called Whig-Radicalism, but what in more courteous phraseology we may now call Liberalism—Lord Melbourne for five years carried on the Government of the country with a sufficient 1452 majority, even in a Parliament which had been called together by his political opponents. Certainly, the last two years of the six or seven over which the administration of Lord Melbourne extended were not distinguished by the same amount of Parliamentary support, but that circumstance was not to be attributed to the House of Commons; it was to be attributed to a fact which I am sure the Friends of Lord Melbourne have lived long enough to regret—the fact, namely, that he clung too long to office. On his retirement from power Sir Robert Peel appealed to the country as a Conservative Minister, and Sir Robert Peel obtained an ample majority to enable him to carry on successfully the government of the country. It does not appear, therefore, that there is any truth in the popular statement that the Reform Bill is the root of all this evil.
But it is said that this state of things may be attributed to the fact that parties are broken up. It is a favourite topic to talk of the "dislocation" of parties. Party, they say, no longer exists, because there are no longer distinctive principles among public men. That I believe is also a very current opinion. But is it true? It would be well for us to consider, for the interest of the country and for our own honour, whether the fact is so. I will not venture to make any observations upon hon. Gentlemen who are Members of this House. It is my happiness to think that I have personal friends on both sides of it, and indeed, in my opinion, the question is one too great to depend upon the opinions of individual Members either on the one side or the other. If I look to the country—if I look to society in its real sense—I mean to the society of all classes in this country—I do not find that parties are extinct—I do not find, when I listen to men of influence and mark among those classes of the community that take an active part in public affairs, that distinctive principles have ceased. I find that there exist two great classes of opinion, which are fairly represented—not that I think the epithets originally were either very happy or very precise, but which have passed into universal and popular acceptance—by the terms Conservative and Liberal. I hold, Sir, that those are two classes of opinions which are perfectly distinct, and in most instances are entirely opposed the one to the other. I will, with the permission of the House, proceed briefly, by way of illustrating my meaning,
to advert to some points in which I think that distinction is particularly manifest. I wish to speak of both these classes, I assure hon. Members, with the greatest respect. They are both represented in this country by numerous bodies of men, each opinion is supported by numbers, by intelligence, by property, and by respectability in every sense in which that word can be used. But their dissimilarity is perfectly perceptible. For example, I hold that a Conservative principle which regards the Parliamentary settlement of 1832 as a satisfactory settlement. I hold that to be a Conservative principle which, without blind or bigoted adherence to the doctrine on all possible occasions, believes that tampering with the suffrage is a great evil to the State. I believe I am right in saying that it is a Conservative principle which holds that the due influence of property in the exercise of the suffrage is a salutary influence. I think it is a Conservative principle that in any representative scheme the influence of landed property should be sensibly felt. I hold it to be a Conservative principle that we maintain the union between Church and State—that we should not only maintain, but expand, the ecclesiastical institutions of this country. I hold it to be a Conservative principle that the estate of the Church should be respected, and that the Church itself should not be a stipendiary of the civil power. I hold it to be a Conservative principle that we maintain the Church in Ireland, believing that maintenance perfectly reconcilable with the rights and privileges of all classes of Her Majesty's subjects in that kingdom. I hold it to be a Conservative principle to cherish and protect all traditionary influences, because they are opposed to a crude centralisation, and because they are the source of an authority at once beneficent and economical. I hold it to be a Conservative principle that would respect existing corporations (ironical cheering). Sir, those ironical cheers from the hon. Gentlemen opposite convince me that I am right in this estimate, and that there is a body in this country which, though I scarcely had expected it, is even represented in this House, and which holds opinions exactly the reverse of those which I have stated. [Cheers from the Ministerial Benches.] Those cheers from the Ministerial benches show that there is in this country, and even in this House, a body who believe that the Parliamentary
settlement of 1832 ought not to be maintained—that it arrests the progress of the movement they desire to see; a body who believe that the influence of property on the exercise of the suffrage, which we regard as wholesome, ought to be prevented; a body who, instead of cherishing and encouraging, hold the influence of landed property in the representation of the country to be an influence which ought not to be encouraged, but rather to be checked. I have no fear of misrepresenting the opinions of hon. Gentlemen opposite when I say that there are those among them who look at least I with suspicion upon the union between Church and State, and who, if they bow to it, bow to it only because it is established; who are not in favour of expanding—indeed, scarcely of maintaining—our ecclesiastical institutions; who would willingly see the Church a stipendiary of the civil power; who are opposed to traditionary influences ["Hear!"], who, as the cheer of the hon. Gentleman assures us, would rather, instead of a free magistracy, have a magistracy framed upon what they consider more precise principles, but in my opinion, principles not so favourable as the present to the preservation of the public liberties of the country. I do not find fault with hon. Gentlemen for entertaining such opinions; I am trying to state them fairly; but their assent to my exposition proves that I am right in my assumption, that in this country there are two great parties, each representing distinctive principles. If I go to another great branch of public life—if I touch on the subjects which a few years ago did not attract much notice, but which at the present absorb the attention of Parliament, to the injury, perhaps, of many of those measures of internal improvement to which the Queen invited our attention in Her most gracious Speech from the Throne—I mean foreign affairs—I find in the country—I am not speaking of this House, for far be it from me to be personal to any hon. Gentleman—that there are opinions on all the great questions of foreign politics perfectly opposed to each other. Nor is this an unimportant consideration, for, let me remind the House, it is upon the prevalence of one or other of these two classes of opinion, the whole form and aspect of the history of this country may be said to depend. I have always considered, in respect to foreign affairs, that there were three great questions upon which it becomes
any man who aspires to be a statesman in this country, as well as of any Parliamentary party which incurs the responsibility of supporting particular individuals, to have clear and precise ideas. These three subjects are—the Russian empire, the Austrian empire, and our relations with the United States of America. There is no doubt a class of persons in this country who have always looked with great jealousy upon the expansion and the policy of the Russian empire; and when we went to war with Russia the object of that party—the avowed object, which they upheld with energy, eloquence, and earnestness—was the necessity of dismembering the Russian empire. For my own part I have always been of opinion that the dismembering of the Russian empire is not an object which any statesman ought to propose to himself; that the dismemberment of the Russian empire could not be attained—even if we were successful in attaining it at all—without one of those long wars which might fatally exhaust the energies and lower the character of this country in the scale of nations; and even if the dismemberment took place, we should find that the ultimate result would be, that the balance of power in Europe would be distributed in a manner prejudicial to our interests. That I take to be the Conservative view upon this question, as opposed to the views of the other section. I apprehend that there are in this country two distinct opinions, each supported by powerful parties, on this question of foreign policy. Take, again, the case of the Austrian empire. I hold that it is the Conservative opinion that the maintenance of the Austrian empire is necessary to the independence, and, if necessary to the independence, necessary to the civilisation and even to the liberties of Europe. Sir, there is a contrary opinion to that. A great party in this country is of opinion, that from the dismemberment of the Austrian empire very great political advantages might be obtained, not for this country only, but for the whole civilised world. I would now bring you to a question which has recently been engaging our attention—to Italy. Just as the dismemberment of the Russian empire involves the question of the restoration of Poland and Finland, so the dismemberment of the Austrian empire involves tile question of the independence of Hungary and the emancipation of Italy. Are we to be told, that upon these subjects
there are no different opinions in this country? Is there a single Gentleman here who is not conscious that even tomorrow he may be called upon to vote upon these questions, questions upon which the whole policy of the country depends? I hold it to be a Conservative principle to believe that, if we or any other Power should forcibly interfere in the affairs of Italy with the view of changing the political settlement of that country, the result will be, as in the case of an attempt to dismember Russia, one of those protracted wars that might fatally exhaust this country, and which, even supposing it to be successful, would leave Italy, very possibly not in the possession of Austria, but under the dominion of some other Power as little national. Let us look next to our relations with the United States. What is your policy with respect to that country? There are those who view with the utmost jealousy and regard in a litigious spirit, the progress of the United States of America—who think that any advance in their power, or any expansion of their territory, is opposed to the commercial interest, and perhaps also to the political influence of England. But I am not of that opinion—I am of a contrary opinion—["Hear!"]—I apprehend, then, that with respect to these three subjects of foreign policy, on any one of which we may at any time be called upon to act, there are distinctive opinions: and, therefore, it is idle to pretend that parties have ceased to exist, because on all political subjects, men are now united in their sentiments. While nothing can be more monstrous than attempts on the part of the people of the United States to attack the possessions of civilised Powers—attempts, for example, to appropriate Canada or Cuba—while such violations of international law would, in the case of the United States, no doubt bring the same retribution and the same punishment as would visit infractions of public law by any other country, yet, I cannot forget that the United States, though independent, are still, in some sense, colonies, and are influenced by colonial tendencies; and, when they come in contact with large portions of territory scarcely populated, or, at the most, sparsely occupied by an indolent and unintelligent race of men, it is impossible—and you, yourselves, find it impossible—to resist the tendency to expansion: and expansion, in that sense, is not injurious to England, for it contributes to the wealth of this
country—(let me say this in a whisper, lest it cross the Atlantic)—more than that—it diminishes the power of the United States. In our foreign relations with the United States, therefore, I am opposed to that litigious spirit of jealousy which looks upon the expansion of that country and the advance of these young communities with an eye of jealousy and distrust. When I am told that parties are broken up, I reply that the Conservative party in this country retains the opinions that it always professed, and is prepared to stand by those opinions. I take it for granted that those who profess contrary opinions are equally in earnest and equally ready to assert them. But, Sir, if there is such a thing as a Conservative party—if there are such persons as Conservatives in this House—I should like to know where are the Liberals, and by whom are they represented? I do not know whether Her Majesty's Government represent them; for, so far as I can form a judgment, the opinions the noble Lord has generally professed—and I take him as the chief and ablest exponent of the views of his political associates—I cannot believe that the noble Lord is not as ready as any gentleman who sits on this side of the House to approve the Parliamentary settlement of 1832. The noble Lord has frankly and explicitly told you that he does not disapprove of the just influence of property on the exercise of the franchise—that he would resist any endeavour artificially to restrict it. He is not opposed to the land having a sensible influence on our representative system. This very Session he has announced his intention to support the Irish Church establishment—he cannot therefore be supposed to be adverse to our Ecclesiastical institutions. He has never been hostile to traditionary influences—he has on every occasion cherished and promoted them. The noble Lord has never joined in any attempt to pull down the free magistracy of the country; on the contrary, he has in several instances upheld them. But, Sir, I may, perhaps, be told that, although in domestic politics the noble Lord does not differ from Gentlemen on this side of the House, it is in his external politics that he is so dangerous—that he reserves all his Liberalism for foreign affairs. ["Hear, hear!" from an hon. MEMBER on the Ministerial side.] I am glad to have my statement borne out by a follower of the noble Lord. But is this true? It so happens that during the Session of Parliament the feelings of the
House have been tested upon those three great cardinal points, upon which the foreign policy of the country must depend—the Russian empire—the Austrian empire—and our relations with the United States. Let me remind the House what was the popular feeling that existed this time last year in respect of the question of the Russian empire. Dismemberment of the Russian empire was then looked upon, not as a probability, but as an absolute necessity, by a great party in this country, and men high in office, some of whom I believe were colleagues of the noble Lord, sanctioned that opinion. Hon. Gentlemen in office publicly announced that no peace could be sanctioned by this country which did not restore the independence of Poland, or, at least, wrest the Crimea from the possession of the Emperor of Russia. There can be no doubt that there was a very general opinion that on the subject of the Russian empire the noble Lord entertained views of a very extreme character. It was, in fact, in reference to that very subject that I took occasion, in one of our debates, to lay down what I conceived the Conservative principles on which peace should be negotiated with that country. I maintained that the dismemberment of Russia was impossible, perhaps not desirable, but if attempted to be obtained it would lead to a war the duration of which I would not attempt to predict. I indicated on that occasion what I deemed were the wise and statesmanlike conditions—on which peace might be obtained. Those were not the views sanctioned by those who surround and follow the noble Lord; but when the hour for practice arrived—when the time came for the solution of the question, and we all looked to the noble Lord to ascertain his views with respect to the Russian empire, he appears to me to have been as Conservative in his conduct as we could have wished to see him. He agreed to a peace which recognised the integrity of the Russian empire, and the terms of the treaty were framed very much in accordance with the policy that I had sketched out. Therefore, as far as his views concerning the Russian empire form a test of his opinions, the noble Lord is as little a votary of Liberalism as he is on the wide range of questions of internal interest to which I have adverted. Then, turn to the Austrian empire. That unquestionably was a subject on which—notwithstanding our recent experience of the Conservative policy of the noble Lord in regard to Russia
—the greatest hopes are entertained by the sincere supporters of Liberal principles; and the circumstances that occurred at the Conferences at Paris seemed to authorise some such expectations. But what really occurred? Till almost within a few weeks back, it was supposed that a violent interference was to take place in Italy, and the most important changes were anticipated, which would have totally altered the balance of power in Europe; still, so far as I can observe—from all that I can hear—there is no chance whatever of any such dangerous course being followed by the noble Lord; but, on the contrary, in a true Conservative spirit, he is endeavouring, in conjunction with our great Ally, to obtain those temperate changes in the condition of Italy which all desire, by the aid and influence of Austrian authority. Let us now come to the third case which I put. Can any one doubt that many persons believed—and for that belief, perhaps, there were more colourable causes than in the other instances—that the noble Lord would never be content with less than a war with the United States. We were told that he was prone to resent an injury or an insult without so much as asking or waiting for explanations—that no explanations would be satisfactory—that he was resolved on picking a quarrel, and a quarrel he would have. What has really occurred during the present Session of Parliament? That which seems to me a lamentable circumstance, if not a very great insult to the Government of this country. I may be permitted to say that when Mr. Crampton received his letters of dismissal from the President of the United States, I from the first endeavoured, as far as I had any influence, to discourage any discussion with respect to our relations with the United States on the narrow issue of the enlistment quarrel, and desired that when the discussion did take place it should embrace the principles on which our policy towards that country should be founded;—for I was certain that if that discussion took place, in time the people of this country would have adopted a tone which Would relieve the American mind from the only cause which, as I believe, keeps alive feelings of suspicion and jealousy against this country—namely, the mode in which they were dealing with the question of the appropriation of territory. But how did the noble Lord behave when the Minister of the Queen was—I may say—expelled from the United States? It was expected by every one who had investigated
the affair that this country would be involved, if not in a war, at least in a bitter and protracted controversy. But, on the contrary, the mild dignity of Conservatism was never more effectually represented than it was on that occasion by the noble Lord. How then, after our recent experience, can any one regard the noble Lord as the firebrand which he was for some time assumed by the world to be? Well, Sir, under the circumstances I cannot but think that the Government of which the noble Lord is the head, is Conservative. Whether I look to subjects of internal interest or the conduct which it has pursued with respect to the high questions of foreign policy, I do not see that Her Majesty's Government, in pursuing the course they did, were pursuing any other than a course in harmony with Conservative principles and Conservative practice. But because Her Majesty's Government have pursued such a course, are we justified in saying that parties are broken up? It may be very convenient to some persons to promulgate such a theory. It may be very convenient to some that such rumours should be believed; but I protest against their authenticity. I apprehend that there is a Conservative party and a Conservative policy, and if the noble Lord and his Colleagues are pursuing that policy, the inference is erroneous that the Conservative party is extinct. What party is really extinct it is not for me now to say. I would rather leave that question to the inference and the critical conclusion of the House and the country. I know it may be said that it would be more straightforward, and more in accordance with the genius of the people of this country, that the Conservative policy should be carried out by those who are avowedly Conservatives; but what I say is, that we who maintain Conservative opinions—and I do not think the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield will again term us fancifully "what remains of the Conservative party in this country"—and who deplore the consequences of a Parliamentary Session like that now closing—that we have two sources of consolation in the present state of affairs. In the first place we have, what I think should be, and what I have no doubt will be, the greatest consolation to us—to see our opinions prevalent in high places. The second, which is scarcely less important, is, that the inevitable consequence of the existing system will be an injurious influence
upon the position of our rivals, the Liberal party. No party can long exist where its chief and selected men are in power, and continue to hold office, not only without carrying their principles into effect, but without even frankly avowing their profession. I see before me many Members of the Administration who obtained their seats in this House by their protestations to their constituents—by their Liberal engagements to the great Liberal party—but who, having adopted a Conservative policy, still retain their seats in that Administration. It is for them to explain their position to their constituents, and to the party in the country whom they are supposed to represent. But I would say to the Conservative party, do not lose heart; if this system continues, the Liberal party will be thrown back fifty years; nothing can long resist the deleterious influence of the position in which they are now placed with reference to the possession of power. We have then these two sources of consolation; and the people of this country will, upon reflection, soon discover what is the reason that measures of great public necessity are not passed in this House, though they are proposed by a Minister. They will find, upon reflection, that from the competitive emulation of great political parties has sprung that wise and temperate system of Government which has so long characterised the history of this country; they will cherish with still greater interest, and they will value still more highly, the distinctive principles which form parties. At any rate, when we are told—as we have been told for the last six months—that the present lamentable state of public affairs is occasioned by the break-up of parties, we, at least, can say, "That allegation does not apply to us; we are a Conservative party; we hold Conservative opinions; we are prepared to maintain them; and if a Minister who has no opinions cannot pass his measures, he has no right—and those who defend him have no right—to libel the constitution of the country, to which we owe all our reputation and our greatness." Sir, I now move for—
A Return of the number of Public Bills, and their Titles, the Orders for which, in any of their stages, have been discharged during the present Session, and the date of the discharge of each of such Orders.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, the 1462 right hon. Gentleman, in reviewing the proceedings of the Session, has, in the latter part of his speech, gone somewhat far a-field. Diverging from questions relating to Parliamentary business, he has called attention to the constitutional division of parties in this country, and has touched upon subjects which affect the general interests, not only of Europe, but of the civilised world. While listening to those observations of the right hon. Gentleman which related to the political tenets of the Conservative party, I was led for a while to admire, with internal thankfulness, the generosity—unequalled in this country—of a political opponent who was inculcating upon those who are considered to be his followers the doctrine, that there was nothing in the opinions or conduct of Her Majesty's Government which should prevent them from giving to that Government their entire support. I was looking forward with hopeful expectation to the manner in which in the next Session of Parliament we should all go out into the same lobby—if, indeed, there could be found any man who would give us an opportunity of doing so by a Motion adverse to the Government or involving its existence. But, Sir, I was soon disabused. These brilliant prospects were soon converted into darker hues, and the feeling of overflowing gratitude gave place to sentiments not quite so friendly. The right hon. Gentleman, feeling perhaps confidence in the attachment of his own supporters, knowing that the incitements he was holding out to desertion would be without effect, and that he was acting with perfect security in apparently desiring to transfer to us that allegiance which hitherto has been, devoted to him, proceeded to adopt what I must say was a somewhat treacherous course, by endeavouring to sow disunion in the ranks of those who sit on this side of the House. Sir, I am not afraid of the result of these endeavours. I feel as confident that that part of his speech will not produce schism on this side as I presume he felt confident that his apparent inducement to desertion would not, on any future occasion, thin the ranks upon which he relies. So much, then, for that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which related to internal affairs, upon which, however, I will just add one word. While in the end he reproached Her Majesty's Government for abandoning liberal views, in the earlier part of his speech he made it, as it were, an accusation 1463 against the Government, that they had devoted all their attention to disturbing the internal interests of the country, and had inundated the House with more measures of improvement than it was possible to pass in the course of the Session. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's profession of faith as to foreign affairs, no man will dispute the accuracy of his statement that our relations with Russia, with Austria, and with the United States of America are cardinal points upon which the foreign policy of this country must turn. I will not discuss with the right hon. Gentleman the practical application of his own peculiar views with regard to those three great Powers; but I must say that when, as the leader of a great party, the right hon. Gentleman takes the opportunity of explaining—from what our cousins on the other side of the Atlantic would call a "political platform"—not merely to those who happen to listen to him, but through this House to the country, the principles upon which the political policy of himself and his party is in future to be founded, I must say I think his omissions are more remarkable than his statements. It is somewhat singular—somewhat surprising—especially after the events of the last two or three years, that the right hon. Gentleman should have had nothing to say with regard to our relations with France. What we are to infer from the silence of the right hon. Gentleman on that point I cannot tell; but one may say of it that which was said of the statue of Brutus, that its absence was more striking than the presence of the others. Certainly Her Majesty's present Government have not made so imperfect a catalogue of the cardinal points of the foreign relations of this country. Of their catalogue France forms a most essential part. These, however, are the mere ornamental parts of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I shall now turn to the more practical portion of it. I do not rise, Sir, for the purpose of carrying on a party controversy with the right hon. Gentleman. I do not, in the first place, admit the correctness of the opinion which he has expressed, that the public mind of this country is impressed with notions adverse to the efficiency of this House; and, without meaning to apply to the right hon. Gentleman any charge of want of sympathy with the House, I must say I do not think it is for one of its Members to endeavour to run down the House in the estimation of the country. I 1464 shall not be tempted by the opportunity which some parts of the right hon. Gentleman's speech afford for entering upon political controversy, but shall rather endeavour, in a very few words, to vindicate the authority and character of this House. The great charge which the right hon. Gentleman has made is that a large number of measures relating to important matters, and the merit of which he did not dispute, which we have introduced to Parliament have failed; and he has inquired what was the cause. I might, if I were disposed to argue the question in that way, speak of it as a question of internal dissension in this House—"Si causam quœris circwnspice." If we ask the cause why so many of these measures have failed, I might answer that it was on account of the obstruction they met with from hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. ["No, no ! "] At all events they failed from the resistance which they met in this House. But I do not state that in accusation of those whose obstruction has been the cause of the failure; I do not state this with the view of reproaching them for their conduct, because, for reasons I have to state, I do not think there is any just cause of complaint that good measures have been obstructed. If we were in an arbitrary country—if this were a country in which the sovereign power had nothing to do but to call round it men conversant with the different matters on which it might be necessary that new laws should he framed—if we had nothing to do but to collect the cumulative wisdom of different persons learned in the matters on which we wished to legislate, and having framed laws in accordance with their views, at once to issue them on authority, and cause them to be carried into effect—then, of course, measures would not be brought forward one day to be withdrawn the next, or abandoned after long and earnest discussion. But we must recollect that such is not the constitution of this country, and much it is to our advantage that it is not so. When, however, we are enjoying great advantages from our constitutional organisation, we must take the rough and the smooth, the good and the bad together, and must not repine at defects which are inherent in our system, from which, on the whle, we realise such great and incalculable advantages. The Government finds, on looking round, that in certain departments of the State, in particular portions of the administrative 1465 system, affecting, perhaps, our commerce, our agriculture, and other interests, abuses and inconveniences have arisen, requiring practical remedies to be applied. The Government does its part; it devises measures calculated, as it thinks, to accomplish the ends in view, and submits those measures to Parliament; and when they come into this House no one supposes that their success or failure is to depend entirely upon their merit or demerit. Why, measures of great importance—measures calculated to produce important reforms in particular branches of the system into which abuses have crept, must necessarily meet with great resistance, partly from prejudice, partly from want of information, and partly from interested motives; because in all abuses there must be a certain number of men who profit by them, and who in our representative system are enabled to bring their resistance to bear upon this House. Therefore it is no reflection on a measure that it is opposed—it is no proof that it is not a good one, that it is not well constructed, or is not well adapted to its purpose, that when it comes into Parliament it should meet, in the first instance at least, with such resistance as to cause its failure. Well, such has been the case, undoubtedly, with regard to many of those measures to which the right hon. Gentleman has adverted. I repeat, I do not state that as a reproach to those by whose obstruction these measures have failed. Failure, at first, is an unavoidable incident to free discussion, of freedom of opinion, and of the intercourse of Members of Parliament with persons out of the House, whose organs they must necessarily be, and whose organs, if they were not, we should not—in this House, at least—see the opinions of the community properly represented. Any man who expects to see great improvements in any part of our system accomplished off-hand—to see every first attempt successful, and everything that is required done in one Session—will be lamentably disappointed. It never has been so; it never will be so; it never can be so. it is a necessary result of our free constitution that the best measures cannot be carried until a considerable length of time has elapsed, until they have been well discussed, and are well understood in the country, until prejudices have been overcome, until, interests have been silenced, and until the great majority of the country has become convinced, not only of the existence of the abuse, but also of the goodness of the 1466 remedies which it is proposed to apply. If any man looks back to the different improvements which have been made at any past period in the legislation of this country, he will, I think, perceive that such has been the usual course of events. And, Sir, though such slowness of progress is mortifying to those who bring in such measures, knowing that they are good ones—though it is disappointing to that portion of the community out of doors, who are anxiously looking for the improvements aimed at, and although, more especially, it exposes this House to censure from those ardent spirits who, not happening to be here, think that if they were here they should, by their energy, their ability, and their eloquence, overcome all resistance, and carry their views into practice, though these disappointments and mortifications occur, yet, perhaps, on the whole, this delay is not to the disadvantage of the country, because measures of improvement, however good in themselves, might fail to produce the utmost benefit which they are adapted to secure, if they were carried too hastily, before the public mind had been fairly brought into accordance with them, and before ample discussion had afforded the means of sifting them thoroughly, of removing anything in them, which might be defective, and of bringing them, as far as possible, into harmony with the state of things with which they were to be connected. I say, then, Sir, that although we must regret that many of those measures which we felt it our duty to introduce in the course of this Session have not passed into law, it must be remembered that a year or a Session is but a moment in the history of a people. It is indeed a long period in the minds of ardent and ambitious men, but it is not long in the progress of a country; and the country need not suppose that, because good measures have not been passed at once, measures of the same kind will not in some future Session become law. Sir, there has certainly been no want of application or of devotion to public duties on the part of Members of this House. There never was a Session in which during the same number of days the House devoted a greater number of hours—day by day and night by night—to the public service than in the Session which is now about to close. The days on which the House has adjourned before midnight during the present Session are few in number. Indeed, during the greater portion of the Session 1467 we have been sitting till a late hour of the morning. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. Brotherton) seems to have entirely abdicated his functions. He has nobly sacrificed his own wishes and theories to the public good. He has not interfered of late with the sitting of the House after midnight. Therefore, if measures of importance have not passed into law in the present Session of Parliament, no one can say that it is owing to any want of diligence on the part of the Members of this House. It may be said, that it has arisen from the too great loquacity of Members—that the measures in question have been discussed too much. Well, I might at first be disposed to say, that I would rather there had been less discussion; but, taking a larger view of the matter, I do not complain, and I do not think the country has a right to complain, of the length of any discussion which was bonâ fide intended to improve or to throw light upon the measure under consideration. Now, in so far as the Government itself is concerned, hon. Members ought to bear in mind what proportion of the time of sitting included in the Session has been at our disposal. A few days ago it appeared that the House had sat 104 days. Of these, fifty-one were Government days; the rest, were days at the disposal of private Members. Of the fifty-one days, twenty were occupied by Committees of Supply, in discussing and passing estimates which form a necessary part of the public service, and the whole of these twenty days, therefore, were necessarily abstracted from the time available for the discussion of public measures. There were, I think, only twenty-two days during the whole Session on which the Government was able to bring forward and obtain a discussion upon measures of its own. And when hon. Members consider the great diversity of opinion which necessarily prevailed upon many of the subjects which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned—when they consider the complicated interests which were involved, and the resistance which some of those interests naturally offered to our proceedings, I think they will not feel that on those two-and-twenty days we were inattentive to our duty, or that more might easily have been accomplished. Moreover, Sir, three of those days were given—I need not remind hon. Members that it is not unusual for Members to ask the Government, in Parliamentary phraseology, "to give them a 1468 day"—three of those days, I say, were given to independent Members, Motions hostile to the Government; three other days were taken by Members hostile to the Government, without our leave being asked, on the Motion for going into Committee of Supply. There were a few other days which were unavailable for any purpose of real business; and, as I said before, the whole amount of time during the whole course of the Session which the Government had at their disposal for their own measures, was two-and-twenty days. Now, Sir, as I have said, I do not reproach hon. Gentlemen opposite for having, from a sense of duty, obstructed measures which we thought, if passed, would have been of great advantage to the country. We trust that those measures may succeed in a future Session. Indeed, when measures of great importance are produced, which involve a conflict of interests and alterations of systems long established, I do not know that there is any disadvantage in allowing them to stand over for a time, in order that they may be well considered by the country, and that in the recess they may have directed to them the studied attention of those who are competent to understand and appreciate them in all their details. I am not even sure, if we had had our choice in regard to some of the measures to which the right hon. Gentleman has adverted, that it would not, upon full consideration, have been the better course to subject them to more mature deliberation, and reproduce them for discussion in another Session. Well, Sir, I do not stand here simply on behalf of the Government against an Opposition. An Opposition is so called, because it is its function to oppose. We do not complain of opposition to the Government, especially when it is founded upon a real conviction, derived from constituencies or large bodies of men out of doors, that the measures proposed are either bad in their nature, overstrained in their enactments, or difficult in their provisions. I do not complain of that; but standing here—if I may without presumption undertake a duty which the right hon. Gentleman has cast upon me—to defend the House of Commons, I say that, in my opinion, there is nothing in any of the statements which the right hon. Gentleman has made that ought in the slightest degree to weaken the confidence which the country has felt, and, I maintain, does feel, in this House as a branch of the Legislature. Sir, it is not 1469 unnatural that those who sit on the opposite side of the House should take advantage of the end of a Session to recount what they term the "failures" of the Government; but, I must say, Sir, that we bear with great calmness and fortitude those partial disappointments and inconveniences to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded, because we look with some pride and satisfaction at the victories which we have achieved upon the few occasions on which we have been called to do battle upon any great field of action. We recollect—the country will recollect—that, although good measures have been defeated by determined opponents after midnight, although the pertinacious resistance of hon. Gentlemen ensconsed on the heights of the Opposition benches may, in a few instances, have been successful, and although we may have sustained some checks by having our Bills refused to be taken into consideration after such and such an hour, yet we know that, whatever may have been our mortifications and "failures" of that nature, yet upon the five or six occasions on which there have been found Gentlemen who have fairly given us a challenge to deadly combat, to fight à l'outrancc, we have had majorities such as it has been the lot of few Governments to enjoy. We remember that our majorities have grown from 100 and 104 to, I believe, the unprecedented number of 194; and therefore, looking to these great achievements, which will not easily be effaced from the memory of the country, we think that during the recess, we may console ourselves with the reflection that, in spite of those partial inconveniences to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred, we have had proofs unmistakeable that we enjoy the confidence of the House of Commons. There is no denying, there is no gainsaying the record of divisions upon votes of censure. We have had the satisfaction of seeing that, when Motions have been made, the avowed and clear object of which was to take from those who now are charged with the conduct of affairs the power which they wield, the sense of this House was expressed decidedly against such Motions. I would humbly trust that our future conduct in the offices which we hold will not belie the good faith and goodwill which the past has evidenced, and that when we meet again next year we shall not find that anything has happened in the recess calculated in any way to weaken the confidence in us which large majorities 1470 of this House have been kind enough to express. Sir, it is true that there are many measures of great importance which we have not been able to carry. It is also true that we began this Session having on our hands the conduct of a great and an arduous war. It is true that our attention was directed to the vigorous prosecution of that war. It is true that soon after the Session began, we had thrown upon us the difficult and delicate task of conducting negotiations for peace—negotiations to be carried on in concert with Allies, in which our own opinions were not to be our only guide, and in which, therefore, great delicacy of management was required. It is further true, that we succeeded in bringing these negotiations to a satisfactory termination. Therefore, Sir, while, on the one hand, the right hon. Gentleman has done us but justice in recounting all those various and important questions to which the different Members of the Government had succeeded in giving their attention in spite of many distracting cares, while he has done us the simple justice of acknowledging that no Government, in the most peaceful and tranquil times, ever more successfully devoted their attention to measures of a great range and scope of internal improvement, and which—though for the reasons I have mentioned failed to pass—prove, at all events, the sedulous and unremitting attention of the different Members of the Government to the business of their respective departments—on the other hand, we may boast of having brought a vast and important European transaction to a good and satisfactory settlement. Sir, I trust that nothing I have said will bear, any more than the speech of the right hon. Gentleman bears, the aspect of party acrimony as between different sides of this House. I do justice to the motives which led him to make his statement; but, at the same time, I think there was nothing in that statement—I trust I have shown there was not—which ought in any degree to lower the character of this House in the opinion of the country, or to induce the nation to think less highly than it hitherto has done of our powers and functions as a deliberative and legislative assembly.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he would not presume to detain the House by entering into the discussion which had been going on for some time with regard to the respective merits of what were called Conservatives and Liberals. He 1471 was one of those who had but a hazy perception of what constituted the exact difference between them. He found individuals on the other side entertaining Liberal views upon particular questions, and, on the other hand, he found gentlemen on the Ministerial benches entertaining what he called Conservative views upon particular questions. It did not appear to him to be at all useful or necessary to enter into any investigation of that kind. He wished to make one or two remarks upon some of the measures to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred. The Government had failed to carry many most useful measures; and although their failure was no doubt to a certain extent caused by that obstructive spirit which always stood in the way of reforms that trenched upon vested interests and shocked prejudices, he thought also there was another thing which conduced to their failure—namely, a belief that the Government were not very much in earnest—that they would not care very much about being defeated. He found fault with the noble Lord at the head of the Government for being too ready to beat a retreat and abandon his measures on a small show of opposition. That was what the noble Lord had done with reference to the Bill which dealt with the local charges on shipping. The Lancashire district regarded that measure as one of very great importance; but no decision was ever come to by the House with respect to it, for it was never pressed to a division, but, in the midst of the debate, all in a moment, it was abandoned. They were told that the subject was to be referred to a Select Committee; but it had already been under the consideration of a Royal Commission, and had received the fullest investigation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wells (Mr. Hayter) showed too much timidity on that occasion, for if the Government had persevered they would, he believed, have carried the second reading. The reason given for withdrawing the measure, and leaving the Vice President of the Board of Trade in the lurch, was that Gentlemen on that side of the House had not sufficiently supported the Government—that they had not made speeches in favour of the measure; but he took that opportunity positively to deny that he and those who acted with him were not anxious to give the Government all the support in their power, and the only reason why 1472 they did not express their sentiments was that the debate was suddenly brought to a conclusion, and no opportunity of doing so was afforded them. He never recollected the abandonment of a measure in the midst of a debate under similar circumstances. He hoped, however, that the Vice President of the Board of Trade would assure them that a, measure on the subject would be brought forward by the Government next Session, with a resolution to carry it, if possible, through Parliament. There was another measure which he (Mr. Gibson) had himself introduced, for the repeal of the oath of abjuration, with respect to which he had some observations to make. Although the Ministers in the House of Commons supported that measure, a Cabinet Minister in another place voted against it. He was astonished that Ministers were unable to come to any understanding among themselves with regard to a measure of that description; he thought that the vote given by the Earl of Harrowby against it was a wretched vote for a member of a Liberal administration, and he hoped the noble Lord would inform his colleague that no Administration whose leading members gave such votes could claim the support of Members on that side of the House. The oath which he wished to repeal had been condemned by the House of Commons, it had been called "blasphemous" by Lord Derby, yet Members were still compelled to stand at the table and take it. He contended that no Member could take it, after the condemnation which had been passed upon it, without a sense of personal indignity. Lord Derby introduced a Bill for the purpose of dealing with the oath, but abandoned it without any apparent reason. The oath was retained only because it perpetrated no injustice on a portion of Her Majesty's subjects, who by its means were indirectly deprived of their civil rights. He hoped the Government would make this a Cabinet question, for it was disgraceful that the City of London should for nine years have been deprived of one of its representatives, because that representative, although entitled by law to a seat in the House, was unable from conscientious motives to take an obnoxious and impious oath. The last subject upon which he had to remark was the allusion of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) to the readiness with which, during the present Session, Parliament had granted supplies 1473 to the Crown. Now, the public, in his opinion, believed that the House had been voting money in blind profusion; that they had been utterly reckless in regard to the public expenditure, and he was afraid that recklessness was not altogether confined to the House, but was shared by a considerable portion of the people. The language of the day was, "Do not reduce your establishments; keep up both your army and your navy; recollect your want of preparation at the commencement of the last war; and that House had sanctioned an expenditure of something like £80,000,000 per annum. If such language was held in the first year of peace, what hope had they of any reduction of taxation, of a continuation of those financial reforms which were commenced by Sir Robert Peel, and were carried on until the unfortunate moment when the war began? He was glad to hear the noble Lord the Member for London say, that it was not the policy of England to be a great military Power; but he was afraid that the Government had to some extent been pandering to the notion that they ought to aspire to that character. He believed they were not more to blame in that respect than the House, but they were certainly somewhat influenced by what Lord Brougham once called a childish passion for military parade, Such parade did not suit the genius of the institutions of England, and he thought they should still rest for their main defence on their navy. It was strange, indeed, to find candidates for seats in that House recommending themselves to electors upon the ground that they would take care that the army and navy should be kept up and that a sufficient amount of money should be expended. The duty of Members of that House was to take care that our establishments were not unnecessarily large. The business of that House was primarily to take care of the purses and liberties of their constituents, and they might be sure that the Crown and the governing classes would take care of the army and navy—their (the House of Commons) great difficulty would rather be to keep those establishments down. He hoped that next Session the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) would show that he was an economist, and that he would adopt Earl Grey's motto of "Peace, retrenchment, and reform;" otherwise the noble Lord might find that this feeling in favour of large military and naval establishments 1474 in time of peace was only a feeling of the hour. It might turn out to be a hot fit, and the noble Lord might have to suffer the cold shiver which was sure to come at the general election, when hon. Members had to go before their constituents.
said, that some years ago, at his instance, a Commission, was appointed to inquire into the subject of legal education. That Commission was composed of Mr. Justice Coleridge, Vice Chancellor Wood, and himself, and other Members of the legal profession. It had worked bard, had made inquiries into the state of education abroad, on the Continent; it had framed a Report which was happily unanimous. Yet since that Report was laid upon the table, nothing had been done. There was a strong feeling on this matter. People would not go and serve on Commissions if they were to be so treated. Vice Chancellor Wood and Mr. Justice Coleridge had devoted much time and attention to the inquiry. He would ask the noble Lord if before the next Session something could not be done on the subject? The Solicitor General was known to take great interest in it. At the beginning of the Session he had put a question to the Home Secretary about it. The Report had been discussed by the Bar and was generally approved of. There was another subject which he had to bring before the House—that of the creation of a department of Public Justice. It was an important subject, which had occupied much of the attention of his noble Friend Lord Brougham, who had considered that if such department was formed, it would be the means of introducing several useful reforms. The Lord Chancellor had adopted the plan of appointing some person to improvise legislation on the matter. He (Mr. Napier) did not know what the plan was, and therefore would not criticise it; but next Session he should ask the same question as he had then, whether a Bill would be laid before Parliament? He hoped that at the opening of the next Session, the difficult subject of criminal jurisprudence would be dealt with, and he thought it worthy of the attention of the Government during the recess. Before he sat down, he would refer to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) with regard to the oath of abjuration. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London had supported two distinct 1475 questions—one to modernise the oath of abjuration, and the other dealing with the Jewish question. This question was altogether distinct. There would be no difficulty in removing the objections to the oath of abjuration if no reference were made to the Jews. He would recommend his right hon. Friend if he wished to make his measure acceptable, to confine himself to the modernisation of the oath, as proposed by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, and in that case he (Mr. Napier) would give it his support. He had brought the two matters to which he had first alluded before the House, in the expectation of an assurance from the Government that they would consider them both, and submit to the House their views on the department of Public Justice.
§ MR. MOWBRAY
complained of the inattention which private and particular interests met with at the hands of the House. The Charity Commission had recommended a reform of Dulwich College, which the House had neglected to sanction. A Report with respect to Sherbourne Hospital was framed in June, 1855. A Bill had been brought into that House on the 1st July last, which might as well have been brought in on the 1st of February, and the consequence was, that the Bill was abandoned. He certainly could not congratulate the Charity Commission in its working, and he hoped, that next Session, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baines) would be prepared to bring in these schemes at the time when the Legislature could deal with them.
§ MR. WILKINSON
observed, that there was much difference of opinion respecting the Bill for Dulwich College. One party supported it, while it was opposed by another, who wished it to be referred to a Select Committee before it passed. If the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had been pleased to sneer at his experience in reference to a measure which he had proposed to the House when he brought forward that measure, he hoped that he had spoken with becoming modesty of his experience. He could, if he pleased, retort on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, which had met with no cheers from either side of the House. He had listened to that speech with pleasure, but he could not help thinking that it would have been none the worse if it had been delivered in an hour instead of two.
§ MR. HADFIELD
congratulated the House and the Ministry on the temper, 1476 the dignity, and the forbearance they had shown during the Session. He congratulated more especially the Government on its conduct at an instant when we were at the point of war with those whom we might almost call our countrymen and our kinsmen—the citizens of the United States. So far were we from lowering our character by our dignified forbearance in that affair, that we had raised it to a point which it would not have reached in any other way. He appealed to the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. L. Heyworth), who had just returned from the United States, whether our conduct had not, in the estimation of the people of that country, raised our character to a point it never reached before. He hoped that these trifling matters, which had so nearly caused war between the two countries, would never occur again.
§ MR. BAINES
said, he wished to say a single word as to the working of the recommendation of the Charity Commissioners. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman that the Act of Parliament relating to that Commission required considerable amendment; and if, during another Session of Parliament, he held the position which he then held, he hoped he should have the benefit of the experience of the hon. Member in amending that Act. Still, out of five cases which had been taken up by the Government, three had received the Royal Assent. Of the two which had not passed, the hon. Member for Lambeth had given satisfactory reasons for the postponement of the measure respecting Dulwich College. As to the Bill respecting Sherbourne Hospital, it had been introduced at a time when it was expected that there would be no opposition. The House was probably not aware what had happened to the Bill in the House of Lords. The Sherbourne Hospital was an eleemosynary charity. The Lords had introduced Amendments into the Bill, among which was one saddling the estate with the payment of £200 a year, and another transferring four advowsons belonging to the charity, from the trustees to the Bishop of Durham. These changes—he might almost call them monstrous—were of a character to which the House could not agree.
§ MR. VANCE
complained of the manner in which Irish business was carried on in that House. He instanced the Transfer of Lands Bill, which had been nineteen times set down for second reading, and on all occasions had come on after twelve o'clock 1477 at night. There was the Burial Bill, which had reached the Committee stage, and had been set down sixteen times, and had never come on till twelve at night. In the same way the Juries Bill had been set down nineteen times for second reading. If the right hon. Gentleman would at an early period of the next Session give a few days exclusively to Irish business, it would give more satisfaction to Irish Members.
§ MR. L. HEYWORTH
bore testimony to the good feeling and the respect towards this country which he had found everywhere during his recent visit to the United States.
§ MR. LOWE
said, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had read a passage from the Speech from the Throne respecting an Amendment of the law of partnership. He had alluded to the Bill which he (Mr. Lowe) had introduced to amend that law, as a very inadequate attempt to redeem that pledge, and to his withdrawal of two Bills on the subject. This was quite true. The Bills did not redeem the pledge. But did not the right hon. Gentleman know that the Joint-stock Companies Act was only the Partnership Act under another name?—that it had redeemed the pledge to the very letter, and had passed a law of partnership in a better form than partnership existed in any part of the world, even in America. As to the Partnership Amendment Bill, it was true that he did withdraw in March the first Bill which he had introduced on the subject. It was because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), to whom the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have delegated the superintendence of his party in that House, had taken a formal exception to that Bill, that he had withdrawn it. He (Mr. Lowe) was not well versed in the forms of that House, and he therefore took it for granted that the objection was correct. He had then introduced another Bill, which had been read a third time; but the House introduced a clause which overthrew the principle on which the Bill was founded. He then certainly did in one sense abandon the Bill, but he abandoned it because he was defeated upon it—not in the sense intended by the right hon. Gentleman. He had said, again, that he had abandoned the Coalwhippers' Bill. Now, that Bill was given up because the coal owners came forward and said that they would do all that was required of them—which was merely not to pay their men in public- 1478 houses—without an Act of Parliament. They had accepted the pledge of those gentlemen, and withdrawn the Bill. He hoped, therefore, that when the right hon. Gentleman next made out an account against him that he would omit those three Bills from the list.
§ Return ordered.
§ The House adjourned at Nine o'clock.