§ On the Report of Supply being brought up,
MR. BERNAL OSBORNE, pursuant to notice, rose to call the attention of the House to the course which Her Majesty's Government intend to pursue with respect to the business of the Session, and said: If I needed any justification for interposing between the House and the reception of the Report of Supply, I should seek it in the unusual course taken by Her Majesty's Government. But if that course is unusual, still more unusual was the reply made by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir John Pakington) in answer to several hon. Members who called on him to give some sketch of the principles and policy of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, to my astonishment, and I believe to the astonishment of all present in this House at the time, referred us not only to a statement made in another place, but to certain speeches made on the hustings in Buckinghamshire and other parts of the country. In the first
place, I believe we have no cognizance of any statement made "in another place," and still less of any statements made on hustings in Buckinghamshire or elsewhere. Therefore if I needed to make any apology for interfering on the present occasion, it would be entirely owing to the most unprecedented and most unparliamentary course taken by the right hon. Gentleman. He has referred me to a statement made in "another place." Well, even giving him the benefit of that statement, I nevertheless maintain that the House is as yet ignorant of any principle laid down in that statement, and that as yet no policy has been propounded. That statement was particularly obscure in itself, and it has not been made clearer by those references given me by the right hon. Gentleman. If it has not been made clearer by what was stated on the hustings at Droitwich, it has become still more ambiguous in Buckinghamshire; and if any one turns to North Leicestershire, it will be found peculiarly evasive— contradictory in King's Lynn; and utterly unintelligible in the county of Suffolk. What was the statement made and the course taken by the head of the Government? As far as we are informed by the public press, the noble Lord seems rather to have made an apology for his present conduct than to have given any indication of his future policy. It seems that the first persons to whom he appealed to aid him in forming a Government were two noble Lords and a right hon. Gentleman, a Member of this House, who have always been diametrically opposed to his policy. So much for his attempt at constructing a Cabinet on his own principles. Well, when these two noble Lords and the right hon. Gentleman did not think it consistent with their position or principles to assist him in forming a Government, the noble Earl then turned to his more immediate supporters; and, I am free to say, has constructed an Administration which, as far as the personal characters and abilities of the Members of the Government are concerned, is equal to any Administration I have seen in this House. But the question is, not about the abilities of those hon. Gentlemen nor their respectability; the question is, what have been their principles and what is to be their policy? Now, I am aware of the inconvenience of referring to statements made in "another place," but I have no other course to pursue; and as I have been referred to them, let me see what the noble Lord at the head of the
Government stated, with one exception, to be the groundwork of his policy. The noble Lord spoke at very great length, but I think that the country and the House would come to the conclusion that though he spoke much he said very little. I think that his speech turned more on the exigencies of his own position than the interests of the country. Now, what did the noble Lord say was to be the course of his policy? He said: —
My Lords, it would be idle for me to enter into any general description of the opinions or the views which I hold upon public affairs. Such abstract declarations of policy are in point of fact of little or no use. They are mere words which may be construed into any sense, or, as sometimes happens, into no sense. I can only say, my Lords, that the policy of the Government to which I belong will be that which I hope might naturally be expected from the composition of the Administration.
And there we are left. The composition of the Administration! Before, however, we look to the composition of the Administration let us survey their position and examine their antecedents. A Government has come into office in an acknowledged minority. It is not pretended that they are the only possible Government. I will take upon myself to say that there are several hon. Gentlemen on both sides of this House who, if they had been called upon, could have formed n Government. It must not be supposed—and I think it would be a most mischievous thing if it were supposed—that the Government of this country depends upon one, two, or even three individuals. Let us see, then, what is the position of an Administration which numbers a considerable minority as its supporters. This Government call upon the House of Commons for three things—for time, forbearance, and money. Now, before granting any of these demands I think we are bound to ask what claim the Government have to make them, and what their past conduct has been. It appears to me that we have reached a new era in Parliamentary history. Formerly contests in this House were conducted not merely in order to obtain places, but for the establishment of rival principles. What do we see now? We see on the opposite benches a party who in Opposition systematically thwarted and opposed all the measures of the late Government. ("No, no!") I repeat that a party which systematically thwarted the late Administration have come into their places, and not content with bringing forward such measures as were upon the papers of the House, are ransack-
ing the pigeon-holes of their predecessors with the view of proposing measures which have not their confidence. [No, no!"] In answer to that "No!" I will presently prove my assertion. Since I have been a Member of this House, if there is one thing which more than another I have heard insisted upon by the leaders of the present Government, it is the necessity that a Minister should have a policy and a principle. Over and over again have I heard the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) denounce a Minister who had neither a policy nor a principle. Over and over again have I heard him, in most magnificent language, and in periphrastic phrases, denounce that hand-to-mouth system which characterized the Whig party. As we have been referred to speeches made at the hustings, however, I may quote the language of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir J. Pakington), who, in his speech at Droitwich, put the same idea into more homely phrases. The right hon. Gentleman said, —" What Englishmen like is, that, whether a man be right or wrong, he should have an opinion; and, having an opinion, should stick to it." Now, let us see what are the opinions of the right hon. Baronet, and whether his adhesion is to his past principles or to his present position. I must call to the recollection of the House the conduct of the noble Lord at the head of the Government at the commencement of the present Session. On receipt of intelligence of the guilty enterprise in Paris which we all mourn, that noble Lord called upon Her Majesty's Government in very strong language to bring forward some effectual measure for repressing such attempts in this country. A measure was proposed in this House by the late Administration; and what was the conduct of the present Government? When the hon. Member for Bridgewater (Mr. Kinglake) moved his Amendment, which I regard as the twin brother of the Amendment proposed ten days afterwards by the right hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson), what was the course taken by the then Opposition? The present Lord Chancellor for Ireland (Mr. Napier), with all the solemnity which distinguishes him, called upon the House to pass the measure. "Be just," said he, "and fear not." The present Chancellor of the Exchequer was loud in support of the Bill. He treated the question as almost one of French feeling,
and gave hiss earnest support to the introduction of the measure, as being agreeable to the Emperor of the French. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Bridge-water met with no support. It was withdrawn, and the introduction of the Bill was triumphantly carried. Ten days afterwards, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. M. Gibson) moved another Amendment, which was singularly ingenious, but which, if you, Mr. Speaker, had not decided it to be Parliamentary, I should have said was highly irregular and unparliamentarily. The right hon. Member for Ashton bad hitherto taken a different course. He had always been the eloquent and able advocate of principles which are supposed to be symbolized by the lamb; but on the occasion to which I refer he mounted the lion. The opportunity was too tempting to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) and his party. He lost no time in getting up behind the right hon. Member for Ashton, and by good management and considerable address —aided, I am sorry to say, by the somewhat careless conduct of the noble Lord lately at the bead of the Government— he defeated—I was almost going to say jockeyed—the noble Lord. Now, I do not charge the right hon. Gentleman who did this with intrigue, but I do say that it was a manœuvre discreditable to a party, and which will not add to the reputation of British statesmen. I will not detain the House by going into any discussion of the Conspiracy Bill. For my own part, I lament that the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) did not send an answer to the Walewski despatch; but I look upon that as a venial error, and, however strong my opinion may be, I do not think the omission called for the withdrawal from the noble Lord of the confidence of this House. Now, Sir, one word about this celebrated Walewski despatch, of which there have been so many various readings. I find that no two Gentlemen agree about it. The right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech here the other night, called it an unfortunate "lucubration;" the present Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Whiteside) called it an "insulting despatch;" but what did the First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir J. Pakington) tell his constituents at Droitwich? He said to them, "After all, my opinion is that the despatch has not been well translated. I feel certain that too
much has been made of it, and that no offence was intended by the French Government." Well, if that was the opinion of the right hon. Baronet, he was bound, on such an occasion as the last debate, to have expressed it in this House. He was, I think, bound to tell the House that, in his opinion, no offence was intended, and that the despatch had not been "well translated." He was probably thinking of his own translation; but he ought not to have deferred acquainting us with so important a fact until he appeared on the hustings upon his acceptance of office. I too think the Walewski despatch has been made more of than it deserves. I believe that, if the counsels of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had been followed, an answer would have been sent to that despatch; but, as the House has chosen to expel that noble Lord from power upon such a ground, I, for one, am satisfied, and bow to its decision. We have been informed by a noble Lord (the Earl of Derby) in "another place," of only one measure which he intends to submit to Parliament—namely, a new India Bill. I think no one who recollects the course taken by the present Administration on the introduction of an India Bill by the late Government could fail to be struck with such an announcement. What was the course pursued on that occasion? It is, I believe, considered discourteous to oppose the introduction of any Bill, even when proposed by a private Member; yet the bun. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring) would not permit the India Bill of the late Government to be introduced, and, in "another place," my Lord Grey, to whom the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) applied for assistance in forming an Administration, presented a petition from the East India Company against legislation, before the Bill was even submitted to this House. On that occasion— the 12th of February—the present President of the Board of Control, Lord Ellen-borough, after abusing the Directors of the East India Company, made this very remarkable declaration:—
I think the time for making any change is peculiarly inopportune; if there had been any obstruction on the part of the Directors to the measures of Government, if they had not made themselves in all respects ancillary to the Government, then there would have been a necessity for instant legislation; but I have never heard it even suggested that there has been on their part the slightest obstruction to any measure proposed by the Government. Stand as sovereigns of the country before you think of forming a new Go-
vernment … I regard with distrust the measure, whatever it may be which the Government intend to propose. I must say I always view with great distrust extemporized constitutions. Time and God's Providence alone make constitutions of great empires! When men in their self-sufficiency and arrogance think they can at once strike off a constitution which is to be the foundation of the happiness or misery of millions of our fellow-creatures they are baffled by their own weakness and the littleness of mind which pretends to grasp so vast and important a subject. Such persons defeat their own objects.
Well, when the Bill was brought into this House, what was the course taken by the present Government? In this House the right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer said:—
I say again you are beginning at the wrong end; you ought to have adopted the course which I recommended last year. When you had put down the rebellion you ought to have sent to India a Royal Commission, with plenary powers, &c. Then, when you had made yourselves, when the country had made itself master of the situation, then it would have been high time to legislate.
But there was one speech made by a right hon. Gentleman who did not take the objection that this was an improper time to legislate. He, forsooth, was for continuing the present government of India for all time. The right hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) answered the speech of my right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir G. C. Lewis) by quoting the observations of another right hon. Friend, the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood). Sir, I propose to answer him by quoting his own speech in the same manner.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is irregular to quote in this House speeches made here during the same Session of Parliament.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Certainly quotations from newspapers of speeches made in this House during the same Session of Parliament are not according to the rules of this House.
§ MR. OSBORNE
I bow at once to what you, Sir, have laid down as the law, but it is the first time I have ever heard it enunciated. However, hon. Gentlemen will not easily forget what was said on that occasion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Enniskillen denounced the Ministry in the strongest language for interfering with the East India Company at all. He said it was the most perfect Government that could be imagined, and he likened the Ministry to a weathercock for 188 changing their policy with respect to India within four years. What is their course now? My Lord Derby says he has great respect for a majority of this House. Whence this sudden reverence? When we recollect that the admission of the Jews to Parliament has been passed here by numerous and over whelming majorities, I say it is a species of hypocrisy to pretend that a majority in this House has altered his opinion as to the proper time for bringing in an India Bill. The right hon. Gentleman who has referred me to his speech at Droitwich found fault with Her Majesty's late advisers for their vacillation and weak-ness. I ask him is their no vacillation in his own Cabinet? What course do they intend to pursue with regard to the Bank Act? Hon. Gentlemen will recollect that in December of last year a Committee was named for inquring into the operation of this Act. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer opposed the appointment of that Committee. He said there was no occasion for further inquiry, and he added that he was ready for instant legislation. I ask the right hon. Gentleman have they settled that point among themselves? Then again, when he talks of vacillation, I ask him what course do the Government intend to pursue with regard to church rates? The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) votes against church rates, and has, I believe, written a pamphlet in favour of their total abolition. Then, what do the Government intend to do respecting education? The First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir J. Pakington), when, while in opposition, he has brought forward a Motion on this subject, has always been answered by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Henley), and by the right hon. Gentleman the present Vice President of the Committee of Council for Education (Mr. Adderley). Then, again, I should like to put a question with reference to the Jew Bill. There are three right hon. Gentlemen now in the Cabinet who vote in support of that Bill. On the other hand a noble Lord in '' another place,'' who has been called to the peerage and placed on the woolsack (Lord Chelmsford) is its most efficient opponent. But, Sir, while I am on this subject, I find in one of the hustings' speeches to which I have been referred that the Solicitor General for England (Mr. Cairns) thus expressed himself:There are two sorts of questions—questions of principle and questions of expediency. Now, 189 the admission of the Jews, for instance, is one of principle Which must never be abandoned. But take the question of Parliamentary reform. That is one of expediency, on which at different times, and under different circumstances, different opinions may be properly formed. On a question of expediency, every man in a Government must not hold on to his own crochet, otherwise the Government could not get on; but on a question of principle no man should yield.There is another subject which has been totally omitted from the speech of the noble Lords and from the statements made on the hustings—I allude to the government of Ireland. I take it that the future government of Ireland, whatever party may be in power, is a subject of deep importance to both countries; yet we have had no allusion in any speech either delivered in "another place" or on the hustings as to the policy which is to be pursued with regard to Ireland. All we can judge of is from the appointments which have been made. Now, I do not hesitate to say that these appointments are not looked upon with any peculiar favour by the Irish people. I believe the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland drew up the rules and regulations of the Orange Society in that country. On the other hand, the late Lord Chancellor wrote a letter to the Lord Lieutenant, I think, of Down, declaring that the Government would appoint no man to the magistracy of Ireland who was a member of an Orange Lodge. What course does the Government intend to take in that particular? Then, what is their policy to be on the important question of national education in Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman the present Home Secretary (Mr. Walpole) moved and carried an Amendment in this House, the effect of which, if persisted in, would have been to destroy the existing system. The late Lord Chancellor was a Commissioner under that system, while the present Lord Chancellor is a supporter of the rival system of the Church Education Society. What, then, will the Government do respecting national education in Ireland? There is another question to which I should like to refer. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner), whose honesty and integrity of purpose I shall always respect, is in the habit, irrespective of all Governments, of bringing forward a Motion for withdrawing the present grant to Maynooth. What has been the conduct of Her Majesty's present advisers with regard to this subject? I hold in my hand a paper by which it seems that no later than last year thirteen Mem- 190 bers of the Government voted against the Maynooth grant. I will not trouble the House with the names, but all these thirteen Gentlemen supported the Motion of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. What do they propose to do when he brings forward the same question next week? What, in short, is the policy of the Government with reference to Maynooth? Let the House remember what has been the conduct of the new Ministry on this question? There is hut one right hon. Gentleman on the Ministerial bench, the First Lord of the Admiralty, who has ever stayed here and given his support to the Government when that Motion has come on; all the rest walked away, and: were content to leave the Government to fight that question with the hon. Member. I do not think it is an irrelevant question, then, to ask what course is to be adopted respecting Maynooth? A promise has been held out for the year 1859 that Lord Derby will bring in a Reform Bill. The noble Lord has no great opinion of a Reform Bill. He says he rather objects to it, but still, if pressed, he will bring in such a measure. Here are his words:—Believing that, with all its anomalies and all its imperfections, that Act (the late Reform Bill) has given to the country a representative system the result of which is a House of Commons which fairly and fully represents the feeling of the numbers as well as of the intelligence and the property of this country, I should myself have been well satisfied if it had been the pleasure of Parliament that no legislation upon a subject so exciting should be called for or demanded from the Government.That is the opinion of the noble Earl. He is very unwilling to do it, but he says he will do it. But what do we gather on this question from the description of right hon. Gentlemen on the hustings? The noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) said he was true to the principles of "rational Toryism." He asked what was the meaning of a Reform Bill, and went on to express his own opinion that no doubt the representation of the counties was deficient and unfair. That is the noble Lord's definition of a Reform Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) said he had no particular regard for the £10 franchise, and that he would give no pledge as to what his course would be. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the late Reform Bill was a gross Whig job. Yes, but how will the right hon. Gentleman reconcile this with 191 the language of one of the framers of the Reform Bill, Lord Derby who said that it adequately represented the property, intelligence, and feelings of the country? I want to know, then, what sort of measure we may expect; for I cannot believe that the Government intend to carry out the Reform Bill sketched by the last representative of the opinions of the late Mr. Feargus O'Connor in this House—I mean the present Attorney General for England. I wish to know what are the principles on which the New Reform Bill is to be founded — whether on the principle of "rational Toryism," as expressed by the noble Lord (Lord John Manners), or on the extreme Chartist principles enunciated by the Attorney General? It is true that we have had the speech of the noble Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley), who is, I believe, a true and rational reformer. But he occupies a very peculiar position in the Cabinet—a position which I think we should all honour; but, at the same time, I very much doubt whether this Reforming Æneas will be able to carry the Conservative Anchises on his back. No, Sir, I much fear that he will find some Dido of Conservatism to obstruct him in carrying out his good principles. Well, then, I think I am justified in asking what are the principles and what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government? We all remember that in 1846 there was a great statesman at the head of a Parliamentary party in this country. That distinguished man, in his wisdom and sincerity, thought fit to adopt certain measures which had originally been introduced by his opponents. What was the treatment which he received? Why, Sir, he was denounced by the Conservatives of that day as the head of an "organized hypocrisy." He was accused of having caught the Whigs bathing and stolen their clothes. He was hurled from power amid the regret of all right-thinking men in England. And what, let me ask, were the expressions which were then used with reference to his adoption of the measures of his opponents? This was the language which was held by the right hon. Gentleman opposite in this House: —The noble Lord (Lord John Russell), the representative of Mr. Fox, will not gainsay the motto of that great leader—' Men, not measures.' I would ask Gentlemen opposed to him, how has the opposite system answered for them? You have permitted men to gain power and enter place, and then carry measures exactly the reverse to those which they professed in opposition. You are reconciled to this procedure by being 192 persuaded that, by carrying measures you disapprove of and they pretend to disrelish, they are making what they call the ' best bargain' for you. I say that the Parliamentary course is for this House to have the advantage of a Government formed on distinct principles. Here is a Minister who now brings forward, as his own measures, the very schemes and proposals to which, when in opposition, he always avowed himself a bitter and determined opponent; let me ask the admirers of the 'best bargain' system how they think the right hon. Gentleman would have acted had they been introduced by the noble Lord opposite? * * If you are to have a Parliamentary Government, the conditions are you should have a Ministry which declares the principles upon which its policy is founded. What have we got instead? We have a great Parliamentary middle man—he is a man who bamboozles one party and plunders the other till, having obtained a position to which he is not entitled, he cries out, ' Let us have no party questions, but fixity of tenure.'This was the language which was used towards that great man, Sir Robert Peel, in 1845. What, I ask, is the Conservative party prepared to do now? Are we to have no party questions? Is there to be fixity of tenure? For my own part, I am indifferent to mere party cries. But I at the same time hold, that they who, when in opposition, honestly advocate certain measures, ought to deem it to be their duty, when in office, honestly to carry those measures into effect. I am not aware that that is a proposition from which any hon. Gentleman in this House is prepared to dissent; and of this I feel assured, that any Minister, who assumes the reins of power by a discreditable manœuvre, will advance neither his own cause nor promote the interests of the country. I have now, Sir, in as short a compass as possible, endeavoured to examine the antecedents of the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. They have given no explanation of their principles or policy in this House; and, if the observations which I have deemed it to be my duty to make should prove to be successful in drawing from them such an explanation, I, for one, shall be well satisfied with the result.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, one of the advantages arising from the recent change in the Government is, that some voices again sound within these walls which have for a long time been silent. I for one must confess that, when I listened on Friday last to that wild shriek of liberty which proceeded from the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, it was with no feeling of alarm or apprehension, but rather with one of anticipated pleasure. He will, however, permit me to ob- 193 serve that the weapon which he was wont to wield so effectively has become a little rusty. No doubt, however, with sufficient practice, it will resume that brightness which dazzled us of yore. I may be allowed to add, by way of consolation to the hon. Gentleman for his present position, that it is only while in opposition he can find that practice which I can assure him it is absolutely necessary he should avail himself of before he can entirely regain that cunning of fence for which he was once celebrated.
Now, the hon. Gentleman has to-night repeated the charge which he made on Friday last—namely, that I have been guilty of an act of either great presumption or great inadvertence in taking my place upon these benches without offering to the House some formal programme of the measures which we are prepared to bring forward or of the principles which we profess. I am sure, however, the House will acquit me of any intention of acting towards it with disrespect. Had I supposed for a moment that hon. Members expected any such exposition upon my part, I should have been prompt in my endeavour to act in accordance with their wishes. But so far as my Parliamentary experience could guide me in those matters—and I believe I may say it is somewhat longer than that of the hon. Member for Dovor—the course which he has indicated is not that which has been habitually, or, indeed, ever pursued in the House of Commons. I do not, for instance, recollect that the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Palmerston), when he acceded to office in 1855—and he was then in a more eminent position than that which I have the honour to hold, inasmuch as he was the chief of the Cabinet—favoured the House with any formal statement as to the measures which he meant to introduce or the policy which he intended to advocate: on the contrary, the noble Lord was brought into office—as most Ministers are—for a particular purpose—as the best Minister to fulfil a particular and pressing object, to the attainment of which he directed, with great success, all the energies of his mind; and I may be permitted—notwithstanding those imputations of intrigue and manœuvre which have been made against us, and which I am happy to think no hon. Member condescends to believe—to say, that I conceive Her Majesty's present advisers were also called upon to take the reins of Government for the performance of 194 a special duty to which it was necessary we should at once direct our attention. A Bill was introduced into this House by the late Government and rejected—['' No, no!"]— and the consequence was that the authors of the measure retired from office. ["No, no!"] I do not wish to misstate anything. A Bill, at all events, was brought in by the Minister, and upon the Motion for its second reading an Amendment was carried, which the Government declared they held to be equivalent to its rejection. I was, therefore, virtually correct in what I said. Under these circumstances, it became our duty to endeavour to effect a reconciliation between this country and our ally, and to refrain from pursuing that course of which the House of Commons had by a large majority signified its disapproval. Now, so far as that question is concerned I am not aware that we have exhibited any great neglect in the fulfilment of our duties, or that that which we have already achieved affords any very strong evidence of failure in our policy. Indeed, it was only this very night I laid upon the table of the House papers which will in a few hours be in the hands of every hon. Member, and which show that the misunderstanding which unfortunately existed between us and Franco is entirely at an end:—not only, I may add, is it at an end, but that great object has been attained without that condition which we were led to suppose was inevitable—that it should be accompanied by the passing of a measure which this House has virtually rejected, and of which the people of this country entirely disapprove.
Sir, while addressing myself to this point I may say, in answer to the accusation which has been made against me by the hon. Gentleman opposite of having voted for the Amendment on the second reading of the Bill after having spoken and voted in favour of the measure upon a previous occasion, I should not venture to trouble the House on the subject had not the hon. Gentleman pressed it so closely on its attention, that to pass it over in silence might seem to indicate a wish upon my part to evade the question. I may say in answer to that accusation—and the words which I used in the debate upon the introduction of the Bill will be in the recollection of many hon. Members—that I expressed my readiness to vote for the Motion of the noble Lord opposite, because I thought we should, by assenting to it, 195 be taking a step which would serve to show a faithful ally that we sympathized with him in the difficult position in which he was placed. I, however, at the same time stated that I reserved to myself the right of taking upon the second reading of the Bill, if ever it should come to a second reading—the very words which I used—a free and unfettered course. I described the measure as feeble and inadequate to the attainment of the object which its authors professed to have in view, and I do not think there is a single gentleman in this House who imagined that I would give it my support in its subsequent stages.
Now, Sir, the hon. Gentleman opposite maintains that, in not entering into an exposition of our policy in the House of Commons, we have pursued a Hue of conduct which is both unprecedented and unparliamentary. I have adduced the example of the late Minister to show that when the Government of 1855 was formed no formal programme was laid before us of its principles or of the measures which it proposed to bring forward. What, let me ask, was the course taken by the Government by which it was preceded? The Chief Minister of the Crown in this House, under the Administration of Lord Aberdeen, was the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord John Russell). The Government was a coalition Government, and it was but natural that some explanation should be expected from the noble Lord of the circumstances under which he acceded to office, and why it was that he had placed himself in intimate political connection with a distinguished statesman to whom he had been opposed during the whole of his life. We might very reasonably have expected that the noble Lord would have taken the opportunity to inform us how he could reconcile the position which he then occupied with the opinions which he had previously professed. But what course did the noble Lord pursue? Why, upon the 10th of February, 1853, the day upon which Lord Aberdeen's colleagues took their seats after their re-election—an instance almost parallel with the present— the noble Lord said:—I think it may be convenient to the House if I state the course which Her Majesty's Government think it fit to pursue with respect to the measures which it is their intention to bring forward in the early part of the Session. In the first place, I beg to say at once that it is not my intention, nor is it at all necessary for me, to make any statement with regard to the general 196 principles and views of Her Majesty's Government. A statement of that kind has already been made by my noble Friend at the head of the Government in another place, and that statement is so generally known as to require no further remark on that subject."—[3 Hansard, exxiv. 17.]Now, that was a Government of which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dovor, who is my accuser upon this occasion, was, although a subaltern, still a distinguished Member; and yet he submitted in silence for five years to this unprecedented and unparliamentary course. Now, let us remember what were the relations between the noble Lord the Member for the City of London and Lord Aberdeen. They had come together for the first time in a somewhat unexpected combination; and certainly there might have been reasons — though evidently not sufficiently valid—for the House expecting some formal statement; but none was made. But the noble Earl now at the head of the Government and myself have been for many years in relations of intimate political confidence, and therefore I can appeal to the statement made by my noble Friend in "another place" with much more authority than the noble Lord the Member for London could do under the circumstances I have mentioned. Yet the noble Lord's appeal was considered by the House of Commons to be perfectly satisfactory.
But then, the hon. Gentleman who is so anxious that we should take a course which is not unprecedented or unparliamentary —is indignant at the formation of a Government all the Members of which are not, upon all questions, entirely of the same mind. "What," says the hon. Gentleman, "are you going to do about church rates?" Well, then, I say to the hon. Gentleman, "What did you do about church rates?" I find that, upon the question of church rates, the late Government was beaten in this Session, and although I may not refer to the speeches, yet I may allude to the division of Wednesday, February 17th. I find that an Under Secretary of State, and a noble Lord holding high office in the Household, voted against the Ministerial suggestion, while the hon. Member for Dovor, like most of the other Members of the Government, stayed away. Why do I mention these things? Not to taunt the hon. Member for Dovor, or any of his late colleagues, but rather to remove some of the difficulties which are apparent to him, and which he considers to be obstacles in the way of the present Government. He will 197 now know that those difficulties may possibly be evaded. But, again says the hon. Member, "What are you going to do about the Jew Bill?" I reply, "What did your Government do about the Jew Bill?" You respect Parliamentary majorities; you were proud of the majority you had upon the measure to which I have always given a cordial support; but what was wanted from the late Government was support in the House of Lords, where the difficulty arose; and what did we find there? We found a Member of the Government in that House always voting against the measure, which had been carried in this House by large majorities. Therefore, Sir, I hope the hon. Member is convinced this is not the only Cabinet in which differences of opinion exist, even upon the Jew Bill. Then, again, how did the hon. Gentleman and his friends act upon the ballot question? We had a division upon that question last Session, and I want to know how the late united Government—whose Members all held the same views upon the same subjects, or who ought to have done so— how they voted upon a question so interesting to all sincere and earnest Reformers? I find that upon the 30th of last June the subject of the ballot came before this House, and a division took place. I find the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the President of the Board of Control, and other Members of the Government voted in the majority against the ballot. But in the minority I find the names of a nobleman holding office in the Household, of the Attorney General, of the Vice President of a Board, and the distinguished Secretary for the Admiralty—that distinguished individual who is now alarmed at the prospect of a Cabinet being in existence which is not of the same mind upon all questions that can possibly be brought under the consideration of Parliament. Now, I think the course that was taken by my noble Friend in another place was a much more judicious course than that which should have been pursued according to the views of the hon. Gentleman—namely, that a Minister should state a formal programme of measures which are never carried, and elaborately develope a policy which a deluded people afterwards finds to be barren of all results. I think it is much better when the general principles of a political connection are known that the Government should bring their plans before Parliament than that they should simply give the 198 House a long catalogue of measures which are never passed, and vague announcements of a policy to which no one can attach a practical or precise idea. We represent the Conservative party. We wish to support and maintain the institutions of the country, but we also wish to improve them. We believe that the best way to maintain the institutions of the country is to improve them; and therefore, we can't permit the hon. Gentleman to be such a monopolist of all plans for the amelioration of society as he and his friends on all occasions, in a manner so greedy and covetous, aspire to be considered.
Now, Sir, entirely in deference to these general views is our intended introduction of the India Bill, which the hon. Gentleman has treated with so much asperity. I deny that there has been in respect to that Bill upon our part the slightest inconsistency. I am prepared to maintain at the proper time—not now, when I should only weary the House — that the course we are about take upon the subject is one eminently consistent with all we have ever 3aid, and which I believe will be completely satisfactory to the country. I never stated, nor do I say now, that the course we are taking is in deference to the majority of this House. A majority of this House is always to be respected, but is not to be obeyed with servility. We were opposed to the introduction of the Bill of the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Palmerston) upon the ground that it was inopportune in the present state of India, and that it was unwise to weaken the influence of the Government in a country where revolt was raging. But what are the character and influence of the East India Company after the vote of this House? It is not that a majority of this House is in favour of immediate legislation which influences our decision upon this point, but it is the moral consequences of that vote as affecting the position of the East India Company which make us consider it a duty to deal with a question which has been thus touched, and must no longer be tampered with. That measure, Sir, it is the wish, and at present the intention of the Government to introduce before the Easter recess, and therefore the House and the country will soon be able to decide upon the motives which have influenced us in the course we have taken and the propositions we shall submit to them to meet the exigencies of the question. I think when the House remembers that we have satisfactorily settled the 199 question which immediately brought us into office, and that we are prepared before Easter to lay upon the table a Bill for the government of India, it will agree that we have not been idle since we entered upon office, but that we have exerted ourselves to deserve the confidence of our Sovereign, our country, and Parliament.
The hon. Gentleman has referred to a subject upon which years ago he used to be singularly happy, but one which then excited feelings very different from those which now influence the House in respect to it. He asks us what policy are we going to adopt in Ireland? Years ago, when Irish questions excited all the acerbity of political passion, and when a question of Irish policy was certain to lead to an inflammatory debate, no one was more happy than the late Secretary to the Board of Admiralty in irritating a question of an irritable nature to the very climax of excitement, and in enlivening a painful subject with illustrations which excited our laughter even amid all the heat of a party contest. But really it is so long since Irish questions have been a source of disturbance and disquietude in this House that one hardly feels equal to the occasion, when the hon. Gentleman assures us the country is awaiting with deep anxiety the announcement of our Irish policy. I hope, Sir, our Irish policy will be the same as that pursued by Lord Eglinton five years ago. Lord Eglinton is again in the same office; he will be animated by the same feelings and guided by the same instructions; and I hope we shall find from those instructions and those feelings that the same result will be obtained —that he will be the popular representative of the policy of the Cabinet, and that Ireland will continue under his rule as quiet in temper and as prosperous as it is at present. Again, the hon. Gentleman says, "What do you mean to do about the Orange magistrates—do you mean to make Orangemen magistrates?" Well, I am not an Orangeman. I am sorry that circumstances over which none of us could have had any control have led to institutions like Orange and other kindred societies; but I cannot help thinking that they did not spring out of nothing. There were causes originally which occasioned their formation, and we must deal with the establishments and institutions which we find. But if the hon. Gentleman wants me to give a pledge that because a man is an Orangeman he shall not be a magistrate, I can only say I 200 never will consent to anything so essentially unconstitutional. Sir, I contend that there ought to be no disqualification of magistrates except that which the law of the United Kingdom proclaims and defines. If an Orangeman ought not to be a magistrate, let us bring in a Bill to declare that; for nothing can be more unjust and more unconstitutional than that any ruler of a country should make that a disqualification for a place of trust which after all only depends on his own conviction or caprice, and not on the law of the land.
The hon. Gentleman next asks "What are you going to do about national education—do you mean to disturb the system of national education which was founded by the chief of the present Government?" Sir, we have no intention of the kind. We shall maintain that system of education inviolate; but if we can combine with it, without in the least impugning the principle on which that national system is founded—if we can combine with that a just relief to those Church schools which now receive no assistance from the State, I think that is a question which will deserve the consideration not only of Her Majesty's Ministers, but of Parliament. It is one which moderate men on all sides have considered with great respect, and if we see a mode of adjustment which we believe will be satisfactory to all parties we do not preclude ourselves from introducing it and attempting to give it effect.
The hon. Gentleman then went to the climax of all politics, and that is Parlimentary reform. He seems extremely alarmed at the opinions which are prevalent on these benches on the subject of Parliamentary reform. Nobody, it appears, may poach upon that manor except the Liberal party. The hon. Gentleman, in his profuse quotations,—for which he was always remarkable, though unfortunately they have not been on this occasion relieved by the brilliancy which in the old days reconciled us to endless extracts from Hansard—. the hon. Gentleman has fixed on the speech I made recently at my county town as one of his texts; and he says I stated that the Parliamentary Reform Bill of 1832 was a gross Whig job. [An hon. MEMBER: "So it was."] An hon. Gentleman behind me says, "So it was." My hon. Friend is nameless—for I don't know from whom that expression of opinion proceeded—but I must tell the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Osborne) and the House that it is a mistake to suppose that I ever used 201 that phrase. On the contrary, I hope I shall always speak with the respect due to a Parliamentary statute of that importance, which had engaged for so long a time the earnest attention and solicitude of the country. I certainly did say—and I have said it before, not merely on the hustings of Buckinghamshire, but in the House of Commons—that, though it was a great statute, which no doubt in its primary purpose had the welfare of the country and the advantage of the State for its principal objects, unfortunately from the unreasoning excitement of the time, facility was given for perpetrating gross jobs during its progress through Parliament of which certain parties had not been slow to avail themselves. And, Sir, I believe that is the general opinion of the country. I am sure it is an opinion of this House not restricted to the Conservative benches, and I believe it will be the calm decision of posterity. Let us now meet this question, with respect to which the hon. Gentleman says it is necessary that we should be explicit, and that there should be no evasion—let us meet it, I say, with that frankness with which he desires to see it treated. Sir, I state that which hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House will acknowledge to be true,—that when that Bill was first proposed in this House there was a violent party in the country who laid it down as a principle, while Parliament was deliberating upon it, that they would have "the Bill the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill." The consequence was, that there were many Amendments at that time proposed and suggested, not only on the Opposition but the Government side, which were not duly considered—which were indeed rudely rejected; and after that Bill became law, there was considerable dissatisfaction with many points of detail which the country in its more sober moments recognized as not having been maturely considered at the time of its passage through Parliament. But in this House it was always laid down by the party who were then in power— and who were in power, and properly in power, in consequence of the passing of that Bill, that the great cause of suspicion against the Tories was, that they did not give a sincere adhesion to the Reform Bill. It was said the Tories ought never to be permitted to regain power in this country, because, it was alleged, if they got into power they would alter the Reform Bill. And this was so great a clamour, and such an 202 amount of prejudice was fostered in consequence of it throughout the country, that for many years the noble Lord (Lord John. Russell) and his friends sat upon these benches, although there was great discontent and dissatisfaction with their conduct amongst the Liberal party, who were committed to their support lest the Tory party should come into power and change the Reform Bill. Under these circumstances, in the year 1834 Sir Robert Peel rose in this House, and in the most solemn manner addressed himself to thst question. He made a compact, as it were, with the country and with Parliament. He engaged, with the party of which he was the leader, and with the colleagues with whom he was acting in public life, that he would accept the Reform Act, and he did accept it heartily and sincerely, as the settlement of a great question, and that, if he found himself in power, he would neither directly nor indirectly attempt to change or tamper with its provisions. And on that compact the Conservative party, as it was called, sincerely and honourably acted; and whenever measures were brought forward to change that Act—not from our side, but from the Liberal party—the Whig Ministry were invariably supported by the Conservative party in maintaining intact the spirit and provisions of the Reform Act. At last, and late in the day, "finality" was deserted; and we were told—and told by the leader of the Whig party—that there must he a new settlement of the question and a new Reform Bill; and from that moment I held myself free—and I am sure I am expressing the opinions of those with whom I act and of the great body of the Conservative party, not merely in, this House, but throughout the country —from that moment we held ourselves free to consider the question of Parliamentary Reform upon its merits, and that if any future plan were brought forward to change the Parliamentary constitution of this country we were open to offer those suggestions which, to our minds, might appear to lead to a settlement most conducive to the public weal. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London has had ample opportunities of bringing forward a new Reform Bill. It is, I think, seven years ago since a new Reform Bill was introduced to this House. It was not successful; though the opposition did not come from the Conservative side. The noble Lord brought forward another Bill. I am not aware that that measure engaged 203 the sympathy of the House to any great extent. But by the very fact that the First Minister in this House had twice brought forward a new Reform Bill, the question became of that public magnitude that it was totally impossible that a public man of any leading could ever neglect to recognise its importance. Lord Aberdeen became Minister; and after Lord Aberdeen the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton; and we always heard that those Ministers were going to introduce a new Reform Bill. At last the subject was introduced to the attention of the House of Commons even in a gracious Speech from the Throne; and this year the recommendation was repeated. Thus then its importance was distinctly recognised. Is it wise then that a question of this vast importance should remain unnoticed and unsettled? Is it wise that the country should be allowed to believe that it could be taken up by statesmen for party purposes or selfish ends? If there is anything more likely than another to poison the feelings of the people and to alienate their best sentiments from the institutions of the country, it is the suspicion in the public mind that schemes for reconstructing those institutions are used by public men for party purposes. It is impossible that a question like that of Parliamentary Reform can be hung up and taken down at the convenience of any statesman; so that when in Opposition he is to brandish it in the face of those in office, and when a Minister to replace it in the dark corner of forgetful-ness. Under these circumstances, we feel that it is our duty to consider that question, and to consider it with the earnest determination of endeavouring to make a settlement of it that will be satisfactory to the sober-minded people of this country. The hon. Member for Dovor asked me what are the principles on which our Reform Bill is to be founded? I do not think I am called on to tell the hon. Gentleman what are the principles of a Bill which we do not propose to introduce to the House during the present Session; but if the hon. Gentleman asks me what will be our Reform Bill, I will tell him what it will not be. It will not be a Bill devised to prop up a political party, or to uphold the interests of a particular class. It will be founded on principles of general justice, and I hope it will give universal satisfaction.
But, says the hon. Gentleman, what business have you and your colleagues in that place; you have not a majority in the 204 House of Commons? Why, that is the very question. I do not at all agree with him that we are not supported by a majority of this House. I entirely repudiate the statement of the hon. Gentleman, that the party in opposition constitutes the majority of this House. Where is the majority of this House, and who has it? Has the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton a majority of this House? If so, why is he sitting on that bench? Has the noble Lord the Member for London a majority of the House? Why, it is only a fortnight ago that the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton beat him by a majority of 200. Then, where is the majority? Is it represented by the hon. Member for Dovor, or by the hon. Member for King's County, or by the hon. Member for Richmond? fur they are the gentlemen who want from us a declaration of our policy, and a programme of the business which we mean to introduce. If they have not the majority, and if the two noble Lords to whom I have referred have not the majority, it does not follow that I am to suppose we do not possess it. On the contrary, we shall carry on the affairs of the country with the utmost energy, and I hope with the utmost prudence; we shall endeavour to do our duty to our Sovereign, to the country, and to Parliament; and so long as we are animated by that conviction, and till the reverse is proved by facts which I do not anticipate, I shall believe that we possess the constitutional confidence of the House of Commons.
§ MR. HORSMAN
had the misfortune to differ from so much that had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Dovor (Mr. Osborne), that if he had confined himself to the constitutional question which he had raised, as to the position of the Government and the principles they were prepared to avow, he (Mr. Horsman) would have allowed the discussion to terminate with the display that had taken place between him and the right hon. Gentleman. But his hon. Friend, representing the late Government, and questioning the present one, gave the discussion rather the character of a triangular duel, by accusing a large section of his own party of having, in assisting to place the present Government in power, been guilty of a discreditable manœuvre. He felt bound to say that he differed from his hon. Friend, not only as to the circumstances by which the present Government were placed in office, but as to their present character and position, and 205 the duty which it was incumbent upon the Opposition to pursue. Those who sat on the Opposition side of the House had at present, in relation to the Government, the old and familiar option of three courses. They might proceed at once by a hostile vote to place them in a minority with the view of expelling them from office; or, avoiding that direct course, they might go on day after day with fearless and eloquent attacks upon the Government (like those of his hon. Friend the Member for Dovor), to a certain extent obstructing the public business, but, at the same time, raising no decided issue; or they might pursue the course of extending to them the courtesy usually shown to the servants of the Crown, and postpone till the occasion most convenient to themselves should arise for making that decisive and hostile movement which they hoped would one day displace them from those benches. It appeared to him that the first and last of these courses were perfectly legitimate, and such as no one could take any Parliamentary exception to; but he objected to, and he thought the House would not approve of, the second, of which his hon. Friend had unfortunately net the example. His opinion was, that if they could justly charge the present Government with having obtained office by stealing into it by some indirect method, or with grasping at it by any factious movement—if they could attribute to them when in Opposition a systematic course of unbecoming conduct to gain that object, then those who now sat on the Opposition side of the House would be justified in showing them no quarter; but he must say, differing from his hon. Friend the Member for Dovor, that ever since the day the late Government was formed the opposition to it had been, in his judgment, conducted with a moderation and forbearance to which he remembered no parallel in all his Parliamentary experience. During the whole time of the Russian war, during the negotiations respecting the treaty of peace, and the subsequent dispute on the Principalities, and throughout the disturbances in India there were many occasions on which the Opposition, if so minded, could have dealt towards the Government a good deal more than mere casual unfriendly criticism. He had a strong persuasion that if those on his side had then been occupying the Opposition benches, such a total abdication of the functions of an Opposition would have been considered unpatriotic; and unless his memory deceived him, when 206 they had the pleasure of occupying those benches before, they had more party divisions in three weeks than their degenerate successors had ventured on in three years. So far did the Gentleman now in office carry their forbearance to the late Government that they frequently paid its supporters the compliment of saying that they preferred their leader to their own. He remembered he was rather astonished to hear at an election in his county an hon. Friend of his belonging to the opposite side state on the hustings that he was determined to give his support to the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, because he believed him to be the best Tory in the House. He must also on another point do justice to the Gentlemen opposite. It could not be fairly charged against them that they had of late manifested any great avidity for office. On four occasions Lord Derby had been invited to form a Government. On two occasions he declined, and on two others he accepted the invitation. He declined in 1855, and they taunted him with cowardice. He accepted office in 1858, and they were astounded at his temerity. The hon. Gentleman beside him (Mr. Osborne) had only done justice to the noble Earl at the head of the Administration when he said that from the materials available to him he had constructed it in such a manner, and had placed in the head offices such men, as the public opinion of the country would be likely to endorse, while in his lesser appointments he had shown a commendable desire to sustain that intellectual character of the Government which the House must over feel an interest in maintaining. It must be admitted that the country had received the change which had taken place in the Government with great indifference. It had not shown any of that anxiety and alarm which many gentlemen naturally expected. The funds had continued not to fall, and the country most provokingly refused to rise. A practical business-like country such as this could not be expected to rise very often. It rose last year, and returned to the House a most powerful majority to sustain the most powerful Minister that had been seen in modern times; and the country had a right now to ask what had become of that Minister and that majority. Now, he would speak of the Gentlemen who sat on the front Opposition bench with the feelings that be could not but certain for those with 207 whom he had for so many years been associated in the intercourse of public life and private friendship; and of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton he could only speak in the manner in which every man must feel and speak of him who had ever stood to him in a position of official subordination—expressing the highest sense of his unvarying courtesy and kindness, and of that generous consideration and protection which superadded feelings of personal obligation to those of admiration and esteem. But standing there as one of the majority by whose votes the late Government had been displaced, by what his hon. Friend (Mr. Osborne) had described as a discreditable manœuvre, and accepting all the consequences of that vote, he was saying nothing inconsistent with the feelings he had expressed when he reasserted now, in Opposition, what he had stated publicly in his place behind the Government, and when he repeated out of office what he had respectfully but pertinaciously urged in office, that the downfall of the Government and the subsequent embarrassment and disorganization of the party were both inevitable from that fatal and inveterate habit of the noble Lord, lately at the head of the Government, of ever looking to the Opposition benches for sympathy and support, and turning the cold shoulder to his friends; always more intent apparently upon neutralizing and conciliating foes than on confirming friends; relying too much on adroitness and dexterity for that permanent strength which could only be acquired by solid fidelity to principles; and, above all, that committing the great mistake of imagining that that powerful, that earnest and that high-mettled majority which was so triumphantly given him last April had no other mission than to support the personal position of the Minister, instead of the principles of a party. It was this over-confidence and carelessness, and the false security arising from a miscalculation both of the noble Lord's own position, and of the position of his party, that had led to so fatal and rapid a change that, whereas in August last they had left the House a united party, under the most powerful Minister that had been seen since the Reform Bill, they had reassembled in February a disunited and disorganized party, under a Ministry that they knew could not live till Easter. When, therefore, his hon. Friend (Mr. Osborne) asked the present Government 208 what their principles were, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was perfectly justified in retorting, "Tell us what were the principles which you as a Government maintained three weeks ago." Why, that was a question which some of those who sat near him had asked themselves in vain. Was it the principle of Parliamentary Reform? That was indefinitely postponed. Was it religious freedom? Upon that point the answer of the right hon. Gentleman seemed to him most complete. The conduct of three Members of the present Cabinet on this subject, when in Opposition, did them great honour, and that of the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) in particular, had been of a character which it was impossible to speak of otherwise than with respect. But what was the position of the Liberal party on this question? While their opponents were advancing they were retrogressing? For the first time in the history of the Liberal party, to its disgrace and shame, the question of religious freedom had so retrograded, that that which was inscribed on the Liberal banner—that in connection with which they had gained their most glorious victories, and conferred the greatest benefits on mankind—for the first time, that question of religious freedom was made an. open question in a Liberal Cabinet. That was what was done last year—this year the question had been abandoned by the Cabinet, and intrusted to more faithful hands. On the question of church rates, again, what were their principles? Every one had heard, either from his constituents or from hon. Members who were present, that when a large and important deputation waited on the late Premier upon the subject of church rates, during the recess, they left him stung with the feeling that their reception had not been such as they had a right to expect. Was it, again, the principle of administrative reform and the pure dispensation of patronage? How was that illustrated in what he could not otherwise characterize than as the shabby nepotism which lately, in the county of Kent and at Manchester, filched from their legitimate claimants those professional appointments which, contrary to all precedent, had been appropriated to the aristocratic connections of the Cabinet? Was it then, last of all, the maintenance of the independence and honour of the country on which they prided themselves as a party? The vote which had displaced 209 the noble Lord had given the reply to this question. He thought it right to bring all these facts to the remembrance of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), in order that they might be well pondered over before he returned to office. It was the season of adversity that was ever most favourable to the admission of truth, while in the sunshine of prosperity there was nothing but adulation. The assiduity and eloquence of his hon. Friend (Mr. Osborne) were so great that they seemed likely to realize a speedy return to office, and to leave to the members of the late Government but a short period for penitence and good resolves. He heard it said that it would be unwise to allow the present Government to remain undisturbed in office, because the Liberal party might otherwise fail to get them out until next year, and they might do a power of mischief in the meantime. Now, he must say, for his own part, that this prospect of fixity of tenure on the part of the Government for five or six months did not appear very disheartening; and by the majority on the Opposition side of the House, who preferred principles to place, and the character of a party to the location of its chiefs, it would not be viewed with very great dismay. In the first place, he doubted the inclination of right hon. Gentlemen opposite to do mischief. He could not refuse to admit that the present Government comprised in their party very much of the intelligence, the wealth, and the character of the country. Their leaders were men of high honour and undoubted patriotism; and so far as great questions were involved, the motives of leaders of that House were equally to be trusted from whatever party they might be taken. Then, on the other hand, even if they had the disposition, they had not the power to do mischief. Power at present was deposited with the Opposition. He believed that the Opposition could control and dictate every measure, and that their power as a party was greater on that side the House than it was when they sat on the other side six weeks ago. He believed that the interests of truth and of progress would be more surely promoted by real liberality in an Opposition than by professed liberality in office. While he admitted it to be the most desirable state of things to see a popular Administration in power, with its adversaries in Opposition, yet he was satisfied that the most unsatisfactory, the most unsafe, and the most unwholesome of all conditions was that in which there 210 was neither a Liberal Administration on one side nor a Liberal Opposition on the other. He would not say that the House ought to be satisfied with the cry of "measures, not men;" for he agreed with Mr. Canning when he said, "When you say I am to look to measures and not men, you might as well tell me I am to look at the harness and not at the horses that draw the coach." Public morality must have fallen to a very law ebb when you could not pretty well tell, from the known character of the men, what their measures were likely to be. The duty of the Opposition, under existing circumstances, was to take care that, by a false move, they did not give an advantage to their opponents. It was impossible not to see that the position of the Government was so weak, that it could only be strengthened by imprudence on the part of the Opposition. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite only occupied those benches for the first time on Friday—they had sat upon them one day, and they had already signalized the event by two remarkable concessions. The first was the announcement that the Conspiracy Bill, which he believed was originally suggested by Lord Derby, had been abandoned; and then the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for War, who appeared heretofore the mouthpiece of the Horse Guards, overtrumped his predecessor by declaring his intention to give further effect to that system of competitive examination for the Artillery and Engineers which Lord Panmure had intimated his intention to abandon. The difficulties of the present Ministry would increase with their Cabinet meetings. His hon. Friend (Mr. Osborne) had referred to the question of national education in relation to the present Cabinet. He believed that the last act of the late Government had been to accede to the appointment of a Royal Commission on this subject, and the first thing the noble Karl at the head of the Government would have to do, when his Cabinet met, would be, as his hon. Friend had intimated, to prevent the First Lord of the Admiralty from firing a broadside into the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. Then there was the Jew question. It was impossible not to see that between the Lord Chancellor in the other House and some of his colleagues in the House of Commons a very great difference of opinion existed. And when after all these points had been arranged, the noble Earl at the head of the Government, believing that an armistice 211 had for the present been concluded, went home to repose, he would be met on his own threshold by his youthful Secretary of State for the Colonies, and reminded that there was a small family difference to settle on the question of church rates. Their difficulties, in short, were such that, if the Opposition exercised that forbearance and judgment which they were bound to show, they would have no cause for alarm. His hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Osborne) said it was impossible to ascertain what the principles of the Government were. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, "We are a Conservative Government, guiding a Conservative party." There was some difficulty in understanding what Conservatism meant. The best definition he had ever mot with was that discovered by an ingenious Scotchman; it was so practical that he would venture to state it to the House, and they would then be able to judge of its truthfulness. It was immediately after the Reform Bill, when the word "Conservative" was first suggested by the late Sir Robert Peel. At the election for the county of Edinburgh, an old and intelligent ten-pounder said he had just been canvassed by Sir George Clerk, but had told him that he could not vote for him, because he had always known him as a Tory. Sir George said he was a Conservative. The elector said, "I was very much puzzled as to what he could mean by saying he was a Conservative, so I got a dictionary, and looked out the word. I found 'Conservative' came from 'conserve.' That did not help me much, so I looked out the word ' conserve,' and I found it meant 'preserve.' That did not help me much, so I tried once more, and I then thought I had made a discovery. 'Preserve' meant 'to pickle.' I then thought I saw the meaning of a Conservative. I always believed the Tories had got us into a pickle, but I never expected to hear that they would confess it." Now, he thought the course which the Opposition ought to pursue was to remain patiently on that side of the House, until they found themselves in such a position that a move might be made wisely and consistently with advantage. For his part, he did not think that sitting for a time on that side the House would be a very great disadvantage to them. He did not believe that their constitutions were likely to he much damaged by the change of climate, and he was for their remaining there until they found themselves under leadership 212 which would enable them to move to the other side and maintain their position there with honour to themselves and advantage to the country.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I am not one of those who conceive it necessary for a Minister on taking his place in this House, to make a declaration of his policy. I stated that to be my opinion in 1852, and I remain of that opinion now. I, therefore, shall never call upon the right hon. Gentleman to make a declaration of the policy which he means to pursue. I conceive that when a party who have sat for years in this House and have given opinions upon a variety of questions that have come under consideration, come into office they will generally maintain those opinions. At the same time, having been in office myself, I am perfectly aware that a party succeeding to office may find some questions in such a position as precludes them from immediately acting upon the opinions which they formerly expressed, and compels them to take a course somewhat at variance with that which they may have formerly pursued. I, therefore, was not surprised when the right hon. Gentleman declared—or rather when a noble Lord in "another place" declared—that when this House had decided by a great majority that an Indian Bill should be introduced, he considered that the staving off the question for another year was not a desirable object. It is, then, not upon the subject introduced by the hon. Member for Dovor, but upon another subject arising out of some part of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that I feel it necessary to make a few remarks. Before I do so, perhaps I may be allowed to say, that I do not feel it necessary either to review the course pursued by the late Government or to make any statement with respect to the question which led to its resignation. With regard to the late Government, I shall always respect my noble Friend who wa3 at its head, and shall always think the public indebted to him for the great exertions which he made during the war, and for the opportune moment at which he signed the treaty of peace with Russia. I think that nothing can efface those obligations from the memory of Englishmen. With regard to the vote which led to the dissolution of that Government, I cannot think that the hon. Member for Dovor meant to impute any discreditable manœuvre to those Members of the Liberal party who considered it their duty from the first moment to 213 oppose the Conspiracy Bill which my noble Friend then at the head of the Government introduced. I stated at once my objections to that Bill. I persevered until by a vote we had got rid of that Bill; and I considered that a course, not only conducive to the benefit of the country, but a manly and open course to pursue with regard to a measure of public policy. The right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) in going over with considerable talent—a talent which is not new to us— various questions, and making a contrast between the late and the present Government, has not succeeded in effacing from my mind the recollection that during the many years that I have been in this House, while the party to which he belongs has pursued a policy which they have deemed conservative, I have been in favour of a policy which I deem reforming, and that upon all the great questions of religious liberty, such as those affecting the Catholics, Protestant, Dissenters, and Jews — upon all questions of civil liberty, such as the Reform Act—and upon all questions of commercial liberty, such as free trade— I have been opposed to the views of that Conservative party. And I cannot but expect questions will arise upon which, if they maintain their principles, I shall again find myself differing from them. But that is no reason why I should at the outset endeavour to embarrass a Government which have just taken their scats. Her Majesty having been pleased to confide the high offices which they hold to her present Ministers, it is our duty as a House of Commons to hear the various measures developed which they propose, and to consider the merits of those measures, and also how far we can rely on the promises which the Ministers held out to us. There are two questions which the right hon. Gentleman touched upon which I confess I am not entirely satisfied with what the right hon. Gentleman said, and those two questions are, in the first place, the appointment of Orange magistrates in Ireland; and in the next place the system of national education in Ireland. With regard to Orange magistrates, the right hon. Gentleman states very fluently a principle which no doubt is generally correct,—namely, that unless there is some Act of Parliament to disqualify, the Lord Chancellor ought not to impose arbitrary disqualifications. But the right hon. Gentleman apparently forgets that many years ago it was proposed by the late Mr. Hume to pro- 214 ceed by somewhat severe measures against the Orangemen of Ireland, and that I then proposed an Address to the Crown, praying His Majesty the late King to be pleased to discourage Orange societies on account of particular qualities which belonged to them — I know not whether the Orange societies retain those qualities at present—but with respect to that Address I had the good fortune to obtain the entire assent of the late Mr. O'Connell on the one hand and of the present Earl of Derby on the other. I do not think it would be beneath the consideration of the present Government to keep that Address in view, and to act in the spirit which influenced the House of Commons at that time, although there may be circumstances—(I am not entering into that question)—which make these Orange societies totally different from those to which the Address applied. With regard to the question of national education in Ireland, which the right hon. Gentleman professes to a desire to maintain, I observe with some alarm that he proposes to give some advantages to Church societies, which advantages will cut up by the roots the very institution he professes to prize—will destroy the system of national education in Ireland which by the avowal of all parties has been successful since 1831, when Lord Derby first established it—and will lead either to great jealousy of parties and to requirements on the part of the Roman Catholics, which neither the present Government nor probably this House would desire to yield.
But, Sir, I now come to the question which alone induced me to rise to address the House, and that is the description which the right hon. Gentleman has given of the Reform Bill. The right hon. Gentleman may at various times perhaps in this House, perhaps in his addresses to his constituents, have spoken of the Reform Bill of 1831 with very little respect; but the right hon. Gentleman is now in the position of a Member of a Cabinet who propose to bring in a new Bill on that subject; and I own I cannot expect a just or impartial measure from a man who has recently given such an unfair and, I will say, such an unfounded description of the Bill of 1831. This is the description which I find the right hon. Gentleman gave in his speech at Aylesbury last week:—I have never changed my opinions as to that Reform Bill. I consider that a subject of that magnitude was dealt with in a manner that was entirely unworthy of it; I did believe then, I 215 believe now, and I think almost everybody now considers, that there was in the concoction of that Bill a greater number of jobs than was ever perpetrated before; and, though the nominal object of the Bill was to improve the representation of the people, the great substantial object was the consolidation of Whig power.Now, let me ask who were the chief Ministers concerned in the framing of that Bill? At the head of the Ministry of that day was Lord Grey, a man who for many years of his life had been kept out of power, for which he was eminently qualified, by his perseverance in behalf of an unpopular question, — namely, the rights which belonged to the Roman Catholic; and by his adherence likewise to the principles of reform. Another chief Minister of that day was Lord Althorp, a man of the purest public virtue, and known by all who were acquainted with him to be averse to office, averse to patronage, and to all the accompaniments of official position. These are the two men upon whose memory the right hon. Gentleman has uttered these reflections and cast this reproach. I say that that reproach is totally unjust and unfounded. Nor is that all. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham) and I were both upon the Committee of the Cabinet which had to prepare that Bill; and we had many persons associated with us in examining various plans, who acted according to statistical and geographical principles without regard to any party views whatever. Moreover, all these plans and measures which resulted from those principles so acted upon by myself and my right hon. Friend were submitted to a Cabinet of which the Earl of Derby was a distinguished member. I ask, then, if the right hon. Gentleman is prepared, without the smallest proof, to say that Lord Grey, Lord Althorp, and Lord Derby were parties to what he designates a series of Whig jobs. The right hon. Gentleman has never at any time brought forward the slightest tittle of evidence in support of his assertions. If he would do so I should be ready to go over the history of that Bill with him. Indeed, I am ready now, almost from recollection alone, to go through its various details, and to deny and disprove the assertions of the right hon. Gentleman. But before he brings this charge against the memory of such illustrious persons—before he prefers this accusation against the Cabinet of Earl Grey—I think he should make himself master of the details of the Reform Bill, and should also frame specific charges 216 founded on some kind of fact, instead of putting forward mere vague unsupported allegations. But I must mention another circumstance. Upon the Opposition benches at that time sat the late Sir Robert Peel, Mr. Goulburn, and Lord Hardinge—men of the highest honour; and yet they never brought charges similar to these which we have now heard. Indeed, I remember Mr. Goulburn taking credit to himself for never having repeated the accusations on this subject which had been so falsely made out of doors; and I believe there was only one person sitting on the Opposition benches at that period who uttered these imputations. The right hon. Gentleman can know nothing of the facts; he did not sit in Parliament at the time; but I own that I look with great suspicion, great doubt, and great jealousy, upon any Reform Bill of which the right hon. Gentleman is to be the concocter, if this is the belief which he holds of the last. I remember relating in this House on a former occasion a story which is told of Cardinal de Retz and the Great Condé. The Prince was opposed to the Cardinal in arms, and on entering the room of the latter one day in order to consider of some terms of peace, he saw a quantity of trashy pamphlets lying on the table. He looked them over, and found every species of bad motive imputed in them to both sides—to Cardinal de Retz on the one part, and to the Prince himself on the other; upon which the Great Condé remarked, "These men impute to us the sort of conduct they would themselves hold if they were in our places." That, I think, was a just reflection. I believe the right hon. Gentleman's charge on this subject is a proof that that is the kind of spirit in which he would concoct a Reform Bill. The men who were intrusted in 1831 with the great duty of framing the Reform Bill had no wish to act with any unfairness, either as regarded the landed and the commercial interests on the one hand, or the great Conservative and the Reform parties on the other. I recollect stating in this House, at the end of the discussions on that Bill, my belief that on the whole the landed interest would probably rather have the majority in the Reformed House of Commons. I held that opinion because I reckoned among the representatives of the landed interest not only the county Members, whom the right hon. Gentleman assumes to be the exclusive representatives of that interest, but also 217 the Members for a great number of country boroughs, in which it was notorious that men identified in sympathies with the landed interest, whether as Peers owning large estates or as squires of more moderate means, possessed undoubted influence. With regard to the two great parties in the State, my belief was that that monopoly of power which the Tory party had then held for seventy years would not continue, but that the party which gave the greatest satisfaction to the country, and which by its measures and conduct most conciliated the people at large, was likely to succeed during the existence of that Reform Bill. I think events have shown that I was not wrong in my opinion. The position held by Sir Robert Peel, who certainly enjoyed the confidence and the good will of the people, was a proof that that measure did not give place or power to one party only. Under the circumstances I have stated, however, I own, with regard to this question of reform, that I think we have but very little security indeed. The speech of a noble Lord in another place, to which we have been referred, tells us that that noble Lord is not sure whether there are any defects in the present state of our representation; but that if he finds any such defects he will consider them, and if he finds a remedy he will produce it. We are, therefore, left to the chance—first, that he may find no defects, and next that, finding some defects, he may not find what he considers a remedy for them. I am sure Lord Derby would not hold out to the country anything that he did not sincerely believe to be true; and therefore I do not think, according to his own showing, that he is very likely to give us a Reform Bill. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman, on the other hand, I look with the greatest suspicion to any measure of which he may be in any part the framer.
I cannot, however, sit down without saying that I am very much gratified to find that the correspondence which has taken place between the Government of Her Majesty and that of the Emperor of the French has resulted in the termination of those differences which produced so bad an effect in this country. I think the noble Lord now at the head of the Foreign Office is likely to carry on the affairs of that department with great regard for the dignity and interests of England, combined with a conciliatory spirit towards other States. I hope that while we maintain the alliance with Franco—the most precious 218 alliance to this country of any—we shall not consider that that Power is the only friendly Power in Europe. I believe the position of England at this time is such that there is nothing which she can ask, or nothing which she ought to ask, which should be hostile to any of the great, or, indeed, to any of the smaller Powers of Europe. I trust, therefore, that our relations with other States may be placed on a cordial and permanent footing; and then, whatever I may think of the domestic policy of the present Government, I shall hail with joy and gratitude the results of their foreign policy.
§ MR. DRUMMOND
It cannot be the wish of the House on this occasion to enter into a debate on the Reform Bill; but having heard the remarks made by the noble Lord opposite, and those made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I cannot refrain from saying that I much more agree with what has fallen from this side of the House than with what has proceeded from the other. The noble Lord touched, perhaps unwittingly, the real motives of the framers of the Reform Bill when he spoke of their having been excluded from office by the rival party for nearly seventy years. That was the key to the whole of that measure. And as to the proofs of the way in which the matter was managed, and as to the evidence of the perfect equity displayed towards the Conservative party, the noble Lord will perhaps be gratified with some of the proofs which will hereafter be shown to him.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I do not rise, Sir, to interpose in the passage of arms which has taken place between my hon. Friend the Member for Dovor and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a passage of arms in which I think the House will admit that each knight has distinguished himself for the ability with which he has wielded his weapons, so much so, indeed, that it would be difficult to say which side had the advantage. But I wish to say one or two words in consequence of some remarks which fell from my right hon. Friend, the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman). I am not going to seek in his speech the answer which he appeared to give to the question put and repeated with great anxiety by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire—namely, where the majority of this House was to be found. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud seemed to 219 know where that majority is, and appeared as if he were conscious that he could wield it when he pleased. And, although, after the very handsome terms in which he expressed himself in regard to the Members of the new Government, one would hardly have expected such an announcement from him, he yet informed the House that whenever the time came at which he might think such a proceeding fit and proper he would be prepared to wield that majority against hon. Gentlemen opposite. With regard to those who sit on this bench, I can only say that we readily deferred to the opinion of this House, that we are willing to continue that deference, and that there will be no factious attempts on our part to anticipate the period at which that majority, if it exists, shall be manifested adversely to those who now occupy the seats of office. But, Sir, my right hon. Friend, reviewing the conduct of the late Government; and mixing with his observations many expressions of kindly personal feeling towards myself, seemed to think that our course had been rather to seek the support of those who sat on the other side of the House than to pursue an appropriate line of conduct, and depend for support upon those by whom the Government was ostensibly maintained. I can only say that, sorry as I was to lose the assistance of my right hon. Friend, I was not aware that that loss was occasioned by any want of political confidence on his part in the Government of which up to that period he had been a distinguished, useful, and an honourable Member. If it be, as my right hon. Friend says, that as the head of the Government I looked chiefly for support to the other side of the House, I must say that recent events have shown that my expectations of assistance were founded upon no good and substantial grounds. It is perfectly true that, pursuing that course which I and my colleagues thought was best for the interest of the country, we were glad to receive support from any quarter of the House in which were to be found members who concurred with us in the course which we were taking. I should have been ashamed of repelling the support of those who agreed with us merely because they happened to sit in one part of the House rather than another. I was always sorry when our measures were not sanctioned by all those who sat on the same side as we did; but I never thought that any measure was the worse because it obtained the concur- 220 rence of those who upon general grounds were not disposed to agree with us. I think that that occasional support was as honourable to the Government which received it as it was creditable to those by whom it was given; and undoubtedly if ever it should be our lot again to be responsible for the conduct of affairs, I shall not think that we are acting in opposition to the interests of the country because measures which we think right happen to meet with the concurrence of those who, upon general questions, are not disposed to agree with us. But, Sir, when my right hon. Friend seems to imply by a quotation which he made that I am not a Liberal but a Tory, I beg leave to remind him that in the case of all those great measures of domestic policy upon which my noble Friend the Member for the City of London so justly prided himself as the grounds upon which he appealed to the approval and confidence of the country, I had the honour of concurring with my noble Friend, and of assisting him, as far as was in my power at the moment, both in advocating and carrying them. My right hon. Friend has referred to the vote which placed us on this side of the House. Sir, if by the course of events we find ourselves here, rather than there, I will not impugn the motives of those by whom we were placed in this position. Undoubtedly a large number of those who honoured us with their support, from a most sincere and conscientious conviction upon the introduction of the Bill, afterwards voted against us, upon that Motion which was intended to get rid of it. I mean to cast no reflection upon Gentlemen opposite, but nevertheless I must remind the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks that the vote which they gave in support of the introduction of the Bill and against the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Bridgewater (Mr. Kinglake) which was withdrawn, but upon which the House discussed the very question of the answering of Count Walewski's despatch, was utterly and entirely at variance with that which they afterwards gave upon a precisely similar question, on the proposal of the second reading of the Bill. The Gentlemen who pursued that course undoubtedly had reasons for it, which I am not impugning. They thought, and very fairly thought, that there was an opportunity of placing in a minority a Government which they did not approve. I do not blame them for adopting that course; but still I cannot altogether admit 221 the assertion that there was no manœuvre, no fair Parliamentary manœuvre, the result of which was to place them in the seats which they now occupy. I admit that that manœuvre may he a blameless one. I can only say that those who sit on this bench have no intention of adopting a similar course. The right hon. Gentlemen opposite have now, after being constitutionally called upon by the Sovereign, that responsibility which belongs to office. They have undoubtedly announced in general terms that they intend to adopt some of the principal measures which we had stated our intention of proposing, or had actually proposed. As long as they take up those measures without spoiling them by the manner in which they adopt them they are entitled to receive all the support which we can give them in making arrangements which we ourselves thought essential to the interests of the country.
Sir, with regard to the course which we pursued during the three years that we held office, that I am willing to leave to the impartial judgment of history. I was called to office, not by any effort of my own—not by any Parliamentary proceeding in which I was a mover; I was called to office because two other combinations which had been attempted had failed, and I felt it my duty under such circumstances to do all that I could to promote the interests of the country. We carried that great and difficult war to a successful termination. In conjunction with our great ally the Sovereign of the French empire, we obtained a peace which I believe every one admits sufficiently accomplished the objects for which the war was undertaken, and we persevered in requiring the complete execution of that treaty, although great difficulties were interposed in the way of the fulfilment of some important conditions of the compact. We had to encounter other foreign difficulties of less magnitude, which we overcame; and when that great event occurred which convulsed our Indian empire from one end to the other, we spared no exertion to put an early termination to the struggle. With regard to our internal legislation, I maintain that during those three years we have succeeded in pursuading Parliament to pass several measures of great importance —measures connected with the industry of the country, and measures abolishing systems which had endured for ages,— and making arrangements which had long been desired, but which had previously 222 been wished for in vain. It was owing to our perseverance that, although the last Session of Parliament was shortened by the dissolution, and although we were told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire we intended to waste a Session, we carried through Parliament three measures of great importance—the two measures concerning divorce and testamentary jurisdiction, and the Criminal Breaches of Trust Act. We carried those measures, which were of great importance and effected great improvements, by the perseverance with which we urged the House not to separate until they had been passed into law. I merely mention these things; but, as I said before, we are willing to leave our administration to the verdict of impartial history, and I feel perfectly satisfied that when the results of. that administration shall be impartially regarded we shall be found not to have abused the trust which our Sovereign, our country, and Parliament placed in us.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, that the noble Lord had completely misunderstood one of his expressions. In reply to his hon. Friend (Mr. B. Osborne) who spoke of the proceedings of Gentlemen opposite as having been sytematically hostile to the Government, he quoted as a proof of a rather friendly feeling an expression used by the late Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford) on the hustings. He had not the least idea of adopting that expression as his own, and he could assure his noble Friend that he would not, as a matter of courtesy, so speak of him, however he might at any time criticize his measures.