§ MR. A. F. EGERTON
I rise, Sir, to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in answer to the gracious Speech which the House has just heard, and in doing so I stand greatly in need of that indulgence which the House always extends to those who address it for the first time. Not only is this the first time I have had the honour of addressing this House, but it is the first occasion on which I ever assisted at a debate. The state of Europe is now very different from what it was when the dissolution of Parliament took place. At that time every effort was being made to preserve that peace which has since been broken, and war is now, as the House is too well aware, unfortunately raging in one of the most fertile portions of Europe. I believe that in accordance with the words that have fallen from Her Majesty, Her Majesty's Ministers have endeavoured to preserve that peace, and they have been assisted in those endeavours by one of the ablest diplomatists of the 99 present day—I mean Lord Cowley, and I also believe that nothing was left untried to prevent the state of things that has un happily arisen. I have been told, and I have likewise seen it stated in the public prints, that an accusation would be brought against Her Majesty's Government that it had not preserved peace, and that through its means the influence of England had been diminished on the Continent. Now, Sir, I think that this was a Tory unfair accusation. I cannot, of course, tell what would have happened if other Gentlemen had had the conduct of affairs, but this at least I know, that the present Government has done everything that lay in its power. It must likewise he remembered, that the hands of Ministers were tied by the strictness of that neutrality for which the people of this country have so emphatically declared; and it was impossible, under such circumstances, for us to have the influence which we might have had if it had been known that our Government, under certain circumstances, could have entered into the contest. I therefore maintain that the country having decided most emphatically upon neutrality, it was impossible to avoid a certain loss of influence in the progress of the struggle.
Undoubtedly in the present state of Europe there is much to deplore. We see three nations now engaged in a. sanguinary struggle. Every telegram brings us news of some battle, or at least some skirmish. We have accounts every day of the ravages of war—of a war that is carried on upon a scale that reminds us of the wars of the First Napoleon. Well, Sir, what are the nations taking part in this war? In the first place, if we cast a glance at the nations taking a part in the struggle, we see the Italian nation—or at least if not the Italian nation, a number of kindred races—panting for that liberty which they have never enjoyed, never, that is, since the time I may almost say of the ancient Roman Empire. They did certainly once enjoy a shadow of liberty—or rather it was not liberty, but licence—and they wish to know what that liberty is which we enjoy, and which, perhaps, no nation ever more fully enjoyed than ourselves. Then, Sir, there is France. I am not about to enter into the merits of this struggle. I take facts as I find them; and I find that France has taken upon herself the duty of assisting these Italian nations. She is actually engaged in assisting them in the acquisition of a liberty 100 which she does not enjoy herself. Now let us look to the third Power. There is Austria, for whom, in spite of her many shortcomings, England must have great respect, in consequence of the part she took in the great continental struggle which ended in 1815. I do not, Sir, attempt to defend the course taken by Austria with respect to Italy at the commencement of the struggle; but there is this to be said in her favour, that she holds her possessions in Italy by the very same title that we hold most of our Colonies and dependencies abroad. It is not my intention to go into the justice of this struggle. I leave that to the casuists to decide. They may settle whether the wishes of nations or the force of treaties are to be the strongest. I believe our duty is to consider what was the actual state of things which existed, and to deal with the state of things as they existed.
There is one other nation, of which we know but little. I allude of course to Russia. We have, indeed, the assurance Her Majesty has given us that she is at peace with all nations, but we know not what course Russia will take; but I hope that she will take the same course as ourselves, and remain absolutely neutral. It was with the greatest pleasure that I heard the announcement in Her Majesty's Speech that the policy of this country was absolute neutrality. It is true that England cannot, like a surgeon in a difficult operation, stand by and coldly criticise the operator and the patient. We must, when we read of the state of excitement in which the public mind is at present, we must have mingled feelings when the news is brought to us of exciting battles; we can feel pity for the people whose houses are rifled, and for all the miseries incidental to war. We can feel admiration for the valour and devotion displayed by the French and Sardinians, and also for that displayed by the Austrians. But here our duty is very plain. We have no interest in this struggle. We have nothing to do but to look on; and I trust, whatever else may occur, nothing will take place to cause us to be mixed up with the struggle in any way whatever. If it is true that in this war between France and Austria, Austria is backed by the whole public opinion of Central Germany, we cannot tell what may be the result. It is impossible for any person to foresee the conclusion of the present struggle. And, therefore, in my opinion Her Majesty's 101 Ministers have taken the right course in strengthening by every mode in their power the defences of the country; and there is no reason to doubt but that they will be backed up in the course they have taken by public support. I believe, whether they remain in office—which I trust they will do—or whether they are succeeded by others, that, at least, in this respect, the measures that have been taken will be carried out by their successors to the utmost.
There is an old maxim—Si vis pacem, para bellum; and on this maxim it is satisfactory to know that the Government have acted. I have seen with pleasure the announcement that our fleet has been strengthened in a very material degree. I believe there is no doubt that we have a squadron in the Mediterranean that can cope with anything that can be brought against it. We shall soon have also a Channel fleet, which will add greatly to the power and dignity of the country whatever attitude she may take, but which, I trust, will only be required for harmless display and complimentary salutes. There was one measure that was alluded to in Her Majesty's Speech to which I must advert—I mean the manning of the navy. I trust that measure will secure to the nation a permanent body of sailors, and that we shall not again hear of hastily-manned ships and imperfectly supplied fleets. All these measures doubtless cost money, but I think there is no doubt that the country will bear any weight of expense that may be deemed necessary for such purposes. It is very satisfactory to know that the state of the trade and finances of the country is very prosperous, and as far, Sir, as my own experience goes in the county I have the honour to be connected with (Lancashire), trade has not suffered, or not suffered in any material degree, from the present state of continental affairs. Therefore, as the prosperity of the country has increased, and is increasing, I think we may hope that nothing will occur to prevent or interrupt that prosperity.
Sir,—There is one other leading feature, I may call it, in Her Majesty's speech, and that is the question of reform. I know not what may be the feeling of the House on this question. Not having had the honour of being a Member of the last Parliament, I do not intend to discuss what then took place with regard to reform; but in my humble opinion I must say that in the present state of affairs I 102 think Her Majesty's Ministers are wise in postponing the discussion of that question until another Session. We have now, I believe, only about seven weeks in which to settle the finances of the country and the rest of the necessary business of Parliament. Supposing, then, that any measure of reform were brought in, I presume it could not come before the country till about three weeks; then the discussion at that stage of the Session could hardly be such as the measure would require. It would be impossible to look into the details in a manner which the country would be satisfied with. I am therefore of opinion that Her Majesty's Ministers have shown a wise discretion in stating that this measure of reform will be considered in the next Session. I shall not discuss the character of that measure till it is brought forward. But I have reason to believe that there certainly will be in it a diminution of the borough franchise. I do not know what it is intended to do with regard to the counties, but as far as my opinion goes I should wish to have, to a certain extent, a diminution of the franchise for both counties and boroughs. I think the objects of such measures should he, as they have been proclaimed before the country, to give the working classes a share of the electoral franchise. It is not my intention to discuss this question further; but I trust that when the measure is brought forward, which we have in a manner promised to us, it will be satisfactory to the country, and that although Her Majesty's Ministers may not perhaps take counsel with the extreme party in the country, they may still, I trust, be able to bring forward a measure which will settle this highly important question for many years to come. For myself, I should wish to settle the question satisfactorily during this Session; but I think it is impossible, and I give Her Majesty's Ministers credit for really wishing to settle it in a manner that will be satisfactory.
Now, Sir, these are the salient points of Her Majesty's Speech. I do not know much of the new measures that will be brought forward. I believe the measure of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General of the last Session will be again brought forward, and that this will be one of the first to be introduced. I am not at present aware what other measures will come before us. We are told that we are threatened with an Amendment to night. Now, I know not whether this 103 Amendment must be considered as a general attack, or is what I may term a reconnaisance en force. The enemy may, perhaps, only show their strength and then retire. I know not what their tactics may be. If it should be a general attack, I think, without anticipating at all what our opponents are able to say, that that attack can only assume two lines—one of them an attack on the past policy of the Ministry; the other an attack on their present policy, and on what they are supposed to be about to do. Now, with regard to the past, I think it is not a part of my duty, standing in the position in which I stand, to defend them. I believe they are perfectly competent to defend themselves, and that the defence will be equal to the attack. But, then, with regard to their present and their future policy, we have all kinds of vague accusations. One of those accusation is that they are compromising the honour and dignity of the country; another is that is it contrary to their principles to preserve the neutrality of the nation in the existing struggle; a third accusation is that it is impossible that they can bring forward again a measure of reform that will be satisfactory to the country. With regard to the question of neutrality, why is it supposed that the present Government cannot preserve a strictly impartial neutrality? I cannot see any ground whatever for such a suggestion. I can imagine that if some of our opponents had been on this side of the House, such accusations might have been preferred against them on very good grounds. If we look back to 1848–9, some of us will remember that sentiments of sympathy were expressed with the Italian Republics. I can remember when the Duke of Genoa's flag was saluted by Her Majesty vessels, whether by the order of the Government or not I am not aware, but the act showed a belief that affairs in Italy might settle themselves after a republican fashion. I humbly think that if the noble Lord who was then Minister of Foreign Affairs, was at this time on this side of the House in the post of head of Her Majesty's Government, there would immediately be on the Continent a wide-spread belief that our sympathy, and our active sympathy, would be exerted on behalf of the Italians; and therefore I believe that the hands of all those who wished for war would be very much strengthened. It is said that the present Ministers possess an Austrian sympathy. I do not know whether they have; but this I do say, 104 nothing has passed to show that they have. I believe, Sir, that they, as well as other men, are honestly intending to preserve, and that they will preserve, that strict neutrality which they have promised us, as long as it is possible to do so, and that more could not be said of any set of gentlemen who may happen to hold the reins of Government.
With regard, then, to the question of reform, doubtless the extreme party both in and out of the House may have no confidence whatever in the Government in that respect, and it is very natural that they should not; but I cannot see why the country in general is to be identified with that extreme party. Supposing we have a division on the question which we are now discussing, it remains to be seen what the feeling of this House is as to the question of reform; and I am convinced that the general feeling throughout the country is in favour of a moderate measure of reform. I believe, also, that if a moderate measure is to be brought in, Her Majesty's Ministers are the men to bring it in. I will not detain the House longer. I have discussed the salient points in Her Majesty's Speech very lamely, I fear; but I thank the House for the attention with which they have listened to me, and I will now conclude by reading the Address in reply to Her Majesty's most Gracious Speech from the Throne.
§ The hon. Member then moved.
§ "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to convey to Her Majesty the Thanks of this House for Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech from the Throne:
§ "To thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty has with satisfaction availed Herself, in the present anxious state of public affairs, of the advice of Her Parliament, which Her Majesty has summoned with the least possible delay:
§ "To thank Her Majesty for having directed that Papers should be laid before us, from which we shall learn how earnest and unceasing have been Her Majesty's endeavours to preserve the peace of Europe:
§ "Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we partake in Her Majesty's regret that those endeavours have unhappily failed, and that War has been declared between France and Sardinia on one side, and Anstria on the other:
§ "To express our gratification at learning that Her Majesty, receiving assurances of friendship from both the contending parties, intends to maintain between them a strict and impartial neutra- 105 lity; and that Her Majesty hopes, with God's assistance, to preserve to Her People the blessings of continued peace:
§ "Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that, considering the present state of Europe, Her Majesty has deemed it necessary, for the security of Her Majesty's Dominions and the honour of Her Majesty's Crown, to increase Her Majesty's Naval Forces to an amount exceeding that which has been sanctioned by Parliament:
§ "Humbly to assure Her Majesty, that Her Majesty may rely with confidence on our cordial concurrence in this precautionary measure of defensive policy:
§ "To thank Her Majesty for informing us, that the King of the Two Sicilies having announced to Her Majesty the death of the King his father and his own accession, Her Majesty has thought fit, in concert with the Emperor of the French, to renew Her Majesty's diplomatic intercourse with the Court of Naples, which had been suspended during the late reign:
§ "Humbly to express our gratification at learning from Her Majesty that all Her Majesty's other Foreign Relations continue on a perfectly satisfactory footing:
§ "To thank Her Majesty for having directed that the Estimates for the year, for which provision has not been made by the late Parliament, shall be immediately laid before us, together with such supplementary Estimates as present circumstances render indispensably necessary for the public service:
§ "To convey to Her Majesty our humble thanks for having directed a Bill to be prepared for giving effect, so far as the aid of Parliament may be required, to certain suggestions of the Commissioner whom Her Majesty had appointed to inquire into the best mode of efficiently manning the Royal Navy, and for recommending this important subject to our immediate attention:
§ "Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we rejoice to learn that measures of legal and social improvement, the progress of which was necessarily interrupted by the Dissolution, will again be brought under our consideration:
§ "Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty would with pleasure give Her Majesty's sanction to any well-considered measure for the amendment of the Laws which regulate the Representation of Her Majesty's People in Parliament; and humbly to assure Her Majesty that, should we be of opinion that the necessity of giving our immediate attention to measures of urgency relating to the defence and financial condition of the Country will not leave us sufficient time for legislating with due deliberation during 106 the present Session on a subject at once so difficult and so extensive, we trust to be enabled at the commencement of the next Session to give our earnest attention to a question of which an early and satisfactory settlement would be greatly to the public advantage:
§ "Humbly to express our gratification that Her Majesty feels assured that we shall enter with zeal and diligence on the discharge of our Parliamentary duties; and, in common with Her Majesty, we pray that the result of our deliberations may tend to secure to the Country the continuance of peace abroad and progressive improvement at home."
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
Sir, I rise for the purpose of seconding the Motion which has been so ably proposed by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken; but he has travelled so completely over the ground that he has left little for me to do. It is customary, I am aware, on these occasions, however, for the Seconder as well as the Mover of the Address to touch upon the points which have been presented to the House in Her Majesty's Speech, and I have, therefore, to ask the House to extend to me its indulgence whilst I take the liberty of doing so now. Sir, war having unfortunately broken out in a part of Europe, it has become necessary for this country to assume a distinct and precise position with regard to the existing state of affairs on the Continent. The papers connected with those events will, I believe, be laid upon the table of the House, but until such time as that is done, and we are in possession of the circumstances which have led to this extraordinary position of affairs, it will be impossible to enter into a discussion of the details. At the same time, however, we may be permitted to suppose, from the fact that a nobleman of Lord Cowley's high standing, and one so completely in the confidence of both parties in this House, having been employed in the negotiations which took place, every means of maintaining peace had been exhausted, and every means of conciliation tried, before the Austrians at last rushed into war. Sir, the attitude which this country has assumed is that which, in my opinion, we ought to assume and maintain—that is, an attitude of the strictest neutrality. I feel confident that there is no hon. Gentleman in this House, on either side of it, who would not desire from the bottom of his heart to do everything in his power to ameliorate the condition of the inha- 107 bitants of Italy; but the question which we have to consider here is, not how that condition may he ameliorated, hut whether the Italians are likely to derive any benefit from the struggle which is now going on between the two despotisms who are striving for the mastery in that country. In my opinion, Sir, both those powers are equally despotic and equally severe; though the condition of the peasant is worse, perhaps, under French than under Austrian rule. That, however, is not the question before us. Our business is to place this country in such a state that we may maintain that neutrality which appears to be not only the will of the people but of this House; and to maintain it, moreover, with such a degree of power that if it becomes necessary for us to interfere at all we shall interfere with that amount of strength and of force which this country ought always to be in a position to put forth.
Sir, circumstances have of late years entirely altered the position of matters as regards our fleet. The motive power which has hitherto been the means of propelling our vessels has been superseded by another. The application of steam to the navy has materially altered the condition of our fleet during the last few years. I shall not inquire whether the Government of the day were dilatory or not in adopting that new principle which it was perfectly clear must eventually become the ruling motive power in navigation; but the fact is, that when the Earl of Derby's Government came into office the whole of the Navy of Great Britain was represented by some five-and-twenty sail of the line only, and in the course of the last twelve months that twenty-five sail of the line, I am happy to say, has been increased to fifty. With the two ships which were commissioned yesterday, we have now in commission, I believe, a fleet of twenty-four sail of the line, besides a fleet of heavy frigates that are nearly equal to ships of the line. I trust that we shall continue in this course, and that nothing will hereafter induce us to permit the navy of Great Britain to fall into the weak and miserable condition in which it was last year; for I believe that very weakness of our naval power has been an important element in precipitating hostilities on the Continent. If we had been backed by such a fleet as we possessed in the year 1792, when we had eighty-eight sail of the line in commission, and 130 sail of the line in all—if we had been backed 108 up by one-half that force—I do not believe that hostilities would have been declared between Austria and France.
The dissolution of the late Parliament naturally cut short a great many useful measures which I trust will now be revived; and I am happy to learn from Her Majesty's Speech that a Bill is to be brought in, founded upon the Report of the Commissioners on manning the navy. It is, of course, impossible for me to say how far that Bill is to go; but this I will say, that the Report which, with the single exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) was unanimously adopted by the Commissioners, embodies a system which, in my belief, it will be a matter of the highest importance to the country, should be carried out in its minutest details. The principal improvement of the system which it recommends is the education of boys for the navy, and you may depend upon it, that is the only means by which we can recruit and maintain our navy efficiently, and at the same time do something to raise the condition of the merchant service, which, I am sorry to say, we have every reason to believe is not at present in the state we could desire. There can be no doubt that all these things will cost money; but I submit to this House that it is perfectly impossible to have a good article without money. I think also that the labours of the Commission on manning the navy might be carried still further. The list of officers in the British navy is at present in such a state as to require that it should be looked into. The lieutenants' list, which is that portion of the service most urgently wanted on the outbreak of a war, is in such a condition that I do not believe it could possibly supply the number which would be required for active service in the event of war. It is at the same time crowded with old men, whose pay and allowances when they retire are hardly sufficient to keep them above the verge of pauperism. Indeed, I know lieutenants who are living upon less than a guinea a week after paying the miserable insurance which is to secure £200 to their wives and families upon their decease, and this applies more or less to every grade in the service. Now, I say, that is a state of things which is disgraceful to the country, and a Commission could not be better employed than in investigating, and, if possible, endeavouring to remedy this grievous state of things; the condition of the dockyards is also a matter which ought 109 to be inquired into. Circumstances took place in 1852, during Lord Derby's short administration, which led to an alteration with regard to the patronage of the dock yards, and that patronage is now worker purely and simply for political purposes, I have no reason to complain of any treatment I have received from a dockyard, but I state most distinctly that the system which is in operation there will not bear investigation by a Committee.
I come now to the great question which has agitated the mind of the country dining the last twelve months, and which must now be approaching to a settlement—I mean the question of Parliamentary Reform. That question I conceive to he perfectly impossible to deal with in the course of the present Session, although, alter the exhaustive debates which took place upon that subject at the beginning of this year, I think no Government can have any difficulty in framing a measure upon the aggregate of the views which the Douse of Commons expressed on those occasions. The more I listened to those debates the more was I impressed with the opinion that the country does not wish or require a stringent measure of reform; but that a measure of reform of a safe and moderate character is what would find acceptance with the great majority of the people. Sir, there are various reasons why the consideration of the question of reform should be deferred until next Session. Within the last year Her Majesty has assumed sovereign sway over countries which, in the aggregate extent of their territory, are larger than the continent of Europe. The finances of India, and the general administration and management of that country, have, as yet, received but little consideration on the part of this House; and it appears to me that, during the short period which it will be possible to keep the House together some little time ought to be devoted to the discussion of that subject. Two years ago Parliament was dissolved upon the China question, but from that hour to this the question of China has not been mooted within these walls. Now that a treaty has been concluded with that Empire, bringing one-fifth of the human race in closer approximation for trading purposes with this country, I think that, at all events, one or two nights might be set aside for discussing the policy of England with regard to that great Empire. I have had considerable opportunity of seeing the 110 state of matters in that country, and have always maintained the decided conviction that our dealings with it for the last twenty I five years have been one tissue of blunders, I and that is not difficult to be shown. At all events, we are now in a position to consider the question, and see if we cannot by some means draw the bonds of amity closer between ourselves and the Government of China, so that the fearful and atrocious outrages which have taken place there under our eyes may for the time to come be mitigated in some degree, if not altogether suppressed. With the views winch I entertain upon the question of reform, I do not think that I shall be deemed inconsistent if I reiterate the opinion that that question cannot be judiciously brought forward this Session. Indeed, I do not believe that any one would now press upon Her Majesty's Government to do so. In conclusion, I beg to second the Address which has been so ably moved by my hon. Friend.
§ Motion made and Question proposed,
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, I feel that I owe some apology to the. House for intruding myself upon its notice on an occasion so important as the present. My excuse must be that I act upon the advice and with the sanction of Members of this House older and far more experienced than myself who have told me that my position as a member for a large division of a county—a constituency from which I believe I have never concealed the strong views which I entertain upon the questions which we are to discuss to-night—gives me some claim to assume a position to which otherwise my Parliamentary career would not enable me to aspire. Sir, in moving an Amendment to the Address on this occasion, I am not acting without a precedent. In the year 1841, the Government of Lord Melbourne, having been defeated by an exceedingly small majority, dissolved parliament and appealed to the country on the ground of confidence, and on the first night of the first Session of the new Parliament an Amendment was moved to the Address by Mr. Stuart Wortley, with the sanction of Sir Robert Peel. That Amendment was an addition to the Address, expressing the opinion that Her Majesty's then Ministers did not possess the confidence of the House of Commons. It is, Sir, to an Amendment of a similar character that I am now going to ask the House to give its consent. Sir, whilst the Ministry of that day combated that Motion by a reference 111 to their measures and their general policy, they did not offer it any opposition on the ground of its being unconstitutional in its nature, or an undue interference with the prerogative of the Crown, and I do not anticipate that on this occasion we shall hear any objection to the Motion which I have to make on such grounds. Neither can I imagine that Her Majesty's Government will complain of the course which we are taking. I say, Sir, that the issue which we now put to the House is simply that which the Government have already put to the people. And it is to that question that I now ask the representatives of the people to give an answer. In dissolving the late Parliament, Her Majesty's Government did not rest their case upon any particular measure. They did not complain that they were not supported in their foreign policy. They simply put this issue to the country; they said, "For two Sessions we have endeavoured to carry on the business of the country, without being able, upon a party division, to go into the lobby with a majority of this House." They said that such a position was no longer consistent with their own dignity or advantageous to the country. And they asked the country to return a House of Commons in which their minority should be converted into a majority. Sir, I hope that the decision of the challenge which has been thus thrown down, and which we thus accept, will, at the conclusion of this debate be received by both parties in a spirit of fairness and of honour. For myself I can say, and I believe that in so doing I speak the sentiments of almost all the Members on this side of the House, that if we are defeated in the division on this Amendment we shall cheerfully and willingly bow to the decision of the House. We shall then know what is our position as an Opposition. We shall know that it will not be for hon. Members on this side of the House to aspire to guide the counsels of the country, but that it will be their part, while they exercise all the vigilance and watchfulness which is the duty of an Opposition, to give to the Government, as far as in their power, the undivided support of the House of Commons in the complicated and difficult state of the relations which they will have to carry on with foreign countries. If, on the other hand, this Amendment should be successful, then I cannot imagine that it will be otherwise than satisfactory to Her Majesty's Government to be released from a position 112 which they have already declared that, under such circumstances, they are no longer willing to occupy. I have no doubt that it will be satisfactory to them that the state of things which has existed for the last two Sessions should cease. I am most unwilling to detain the House at any length; but I cannot help asking you to look at one or two of the results which have followed from the attempt to govern this country by a minority in this House. When we refer to the period of the accession to power of the present Government we cannot forget the Conspiracy and Assassination Bill. A measure of that description had been recommended by the Earl of Derby on the first night of the Session, and that Bill was assented to almost unanimously by hon. Gentlemen who now sit on that (the Ministerial) side of the House. Unable, however, to refrain from the temptation of joining on a cleverly-framed pretext with a large portion of the Members who sit on this side of the House, they afterwards succeeded in defeating Viscount Palmerston's Government. But I may ask what did the new Government do with the Bill which they had said ought to be introduced? They neither brought forward any new Bill of their own upon the subject nor proceeded with that of the former Government to the introduction of which they had assented. I believe that in almost the first despatch that was issued from the Foreign Office by the Earl of Malmesbury that noble Earl disclaimed the belief that any insult was intended, or, if any were intended it was pocketed with all the offensive remarks that were made by the French colonels on the occasion. The next matter to which I shall advert was the attempt to deal with the Government of India. I do not mean to argue that the Bill which the Government introduced on that subject would have passed the House, even if they had been in possession of a good working majority. It did not appear to meet with much sympathy from Members on either side; and possibly, therefore, I cannot urge it as a good instance of the results of government by a minority. But this I may say, that if they had possessed a majority, they would at least have shown so much confidence in their legislative power as to bring the Bill forward to a second reading. For the Bill which was eventually carried the Government can claim little or no credit. There was not a Member who took part in the discussion, who had not as much to do with it as the 113 Government had. But while I am on the Session of 1858 I cannot omit mentioning, nor can I help thanking the Government for that great advance which we were allowed to make in the cause of religious liberty. That which repeated and protracted discussions in this House, repeated majorities in the House of Commons, the declared will of a great constituency, reason and justice—that which, as I believe, all these advantages could not effect, was at last easily—I will not say gracefully—effected by the Government of the Earl of Derby, by the simple process of elevating to the woolsack the most bitter opponent of the Jews. This is not the first time that the Conservative party have been forced to yield long-cherished prejudices and convictions—nay, sometimes the party has been admired the most when they have yielded the must. But let me remind the House that Catholic Emancipation and Corn Law repeal were not assented to in order to avoid an embarrassing vote or petty complications. I pass, Sir, from the remainder of the transactions of that Session. I shall not stop to inquire into the results of that well-meant but most unfortunate attempt to improve the condition and to give contentment to the Ionian Islanders; I shall come to the more engrossing topics which occupied so much of our attention in the course of the last Session of Parliament. Her Majesty's Government brought in a Bill to settle the question of church rates, which I shall not stop to discuss; it is sufficient to say that it did not meet the approbation of this House. They also brought in a Bill to amend the representation of the people. It is not my wish to reopen the discussion on that Bill, but I may say of it that while it obtained more respect it certainly did not conciliate more general support than their previous attempt at legislation on the question of India. I think that the causes of the want of support were to be found in this—that while the Bill made concessions in a popular direction so great as to alienate from it the cordial support of the Conservative supporters of the Government—concessions so great as to deprive the Government of the most valuable support of two of their most respected colleagues, it yet did not go far enough in the popular direction. The concessions it made were too grudgingly bestowed, too much fenced round with obstructions, to secure for the Bill the support of hon. Gentlemen on this side 114 of the House. It was a Bill which seemed to show a distrust of the classes whom it professed to enfranchise—it appeared to be an attempt at compromise between Liberal and Conservative opinions. I believe that the method we took to combat that Bill was perfectly fair and constitutional. I believe that the argument on both sides was conducted for the most part with great fairness; but I must protest against the manner in which some hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House attempted to force the Bill down our throats by allusions to perfectly extraneous circumstances. We were told that the peace of Europe was in danger from our collisions, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the speech which concluded the debate, said—I quote from memory, hut I believe I am substantially correct—he said, "I had hoped that the time was come when I might have come down to this House and told them, that the thunder-cloud which overhung Europe had passed away; but for this unhappy, this unfortunate Resolution of the noble Lord, that might have been." Now I say that the Resolution of the noble Lord referred to the Bill, and to no other matter than the Bill before the, House, and if the state of the Government was such that it could bear no attack upon its measures, then it was not the duty I of the Government to take that opportunity of attempting to alter the very basis and ground-work of our institutions—a subject which could not be mooted at all without undergoing the most full, and fair, and complete discussion. In spite, however, of this strong language, the Resolution of the noble Lord was carried. It may be granted that there existed great differences of opinion as to the courses which were then open to the Government. No doubt there were circumstances at that time highly favourable to the settlement of the Reform question—circumstances which it is possible may never occur again. There appeared in that debate a remarkable unanimity of sentiment on both sides of the House as to the kind of measure that ought to be passed. The country had fully, and clearly, and temperately expressed its disapprobation of the Bill of the Government, and had also pointed out the kind of Bill which it was ready to accept. No doubt, then, that a great opportunity of settling the question was lost on that occasion; but I hold that it was for the Government, and for the Government alone, to judge what course 115 was most fitting for its own dignity to pursue. It was perfectly competent for them either to go on with that measure or to bring in another Bill, and it was perfectly competent for them to take the course which they did, and to advise Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament; but while I do not deny that that course was competent for them to take, I deny that it was either a wise or a prudent course. Under any circumstances it would have been incurring a grave responsibility to say that a Parliament which was scarcely two years old, and with respect to which there was no reason to suppose that any great differences of opinion existed between the House of Commons and the country—a House of Commons which had shown great moderation, great tact, and great patriotism in the attitude it assumed with regard to foreign affairs—I think it would have been assuming a grave responsibility at any time to dissolve such a Parliament as this; but at such a time, at such a crisis, when the wisest man could not foretell what a day or an hour might bring forth, I say it was an act which I cannot characterize in any other words than as an act of rashness and recklessness. But, further, if the Parliament was to be dissolved, I maintain that it was only due to the country to place the issue fairly and intelligibly before them. I think it was not fair for the Government to abandon their Bill and to treat the Resolution as a vote of general censure, and to make that the ground of appeal to the country. I think they ought to have stated plainly, whether they abided by the principles of their Reform Bill or not. I think it was trifling with the subject to take up the question in accordance with a pledge extorted from them, and then on the first defeat to abandon it altogether, and to leave it to the chapter of chances, whether it would ever be brought before the House of Commons again or not. Then with regard to their domestic policy, I find that the Government has been weakened by the loss of two of its most distinguished Members. I find that they have not the cordial and real support of their own party—[Cries of "Oh, oh!"] I should like to ask those hon. Members who cheer so lustily, how many of them defended the Reform Bill on the hustings. I should like to ask them, whether a Member of the Government did not refuse to go down to canvass the constituency of Dovor with the Reform Bill tied round his neck. If that 116 is cordial support, then I do not understand the meaning of the term. I repeat, therefore, that it is doubtful if they have the cordial support of their own party. During their whole term of office they have, been unable to pass any measures of importance—[Cries of "Oh!"] True it is, that with assistance from this side of the House they have passed some measures, but they have originated nothing; they have lived upon scraps and hints from others, and we now find that they appeal to their foreign policy alone for their justification. They told us, shortly before the dissolution, that they were indispensable to the peace of Europe. A very few days after the dissolution, the aspect of affairs was sufficient to show the nullity of that plea. I will not go into the question of foreign policy before the papers which have been promised shall be laid upon the table; hut I say, that, so far as we know, it is impossible not to think that there has been very great mismanagement in the affairs of our foreign policy. England, at the beginning of the year, occupied as proud and as high a position in the councils of Europe as it was ever her lot to enjoy. We were as powerful as ever we were; we had come successful out of the Indian war; we were at peace with the whole world, and I cannot but think that it was then an object of the greatest importance and necessity for any nation in Europe to retain the respect and friendship of England. I think that England was then in a position to speak with authority and power to all the nations of Europe, and it is impossible to conceive how, if the Government had so spoken, the war could have broken out. At any rate it is sufficient for our present purpose that the plea which the Government urged—the plea that they were indispensable to the peace of Europe—has utterly failed. I say, speaking in the state of darkness in which we are kept on this subject, that their conduct, as far as we know it, in the past, is not sufficient to inspire us with confidence for the future. No man can have heard with greater satisfaction than myself the statement that Her Majesty's Government intend to preserve strict neutrality. But the House must recollect that the war which has now begun is likely to spread over the whole of Europe, and that complications may ensue to cope with which will require all the wisdom, prudence, and sagacity of the best statesmen which England can produce. I therefore think that the foreign policy of 117 the Government affords no reason why the judgment which we ask the House to pass on their domestic career should be stayed. Well, then, perhaps I may he expected very shortly to touch upon the consequences which we expect to follow from a successful issue to this Amendment. I have no doubt we shall be taunted in the course of this debate with the divided state of our party. It is not for me to tell the House what arrangements have been already made or what sacrifices we are ready to make, but I believe the House will hear in the course of this debate from the chiefs of each section that the great Liberal party is not so divided as it has been. We have learned a lesson from adversity, and the leaders of all the sections of our party are prepared to co-operate for the advancement of what they consider the good of their country. We have learned, as I said, a lesson from adversity, and perhaps, also, we have learned a lesson from the opposite side of the House. We admire the compact phalanx which we see in front of us, but we do not feel certain that there is not in that party as much difference on matters of principle as in our own. Our differences are, in my opinion, only differences of detail. Well, then, I say our prospects of success are such as to hold out the hope of forming a firm and stable Liberal Government, such as inspires me with confidence to move this Amendment. We shall he told, no doubt, that this is a party move. I admit that it is a party move. I admit that in a crisis of our domestic and foreign affairs, such as the present, I would rather see a party in office which, while it represents most fully and exactly she thoughts and feelings of all educated Englishmen, has at the same time always given a steady and consistent support to every measure of social and political reform. I would rather place power in the hands of such a party than in the hands of a party whose very name and being are antagonistic to all progress. I would rather see in office in this crisis of our foreign affairs the successors and inheritors of that policy of peace and noninterference which was advocated by Fox and Grey than the inheritors of the traditions of that warlike, interfering, and subsidising policy which characterized the Administrations of Castlereagh and Pitt. I admit that in this sense it is a party move; but I deny that it is a move undertaken for the political aggrandizement of any set of individuals, I say that office holds out no great temptations to any 118 statesman at this crisis in the national affairs. With the increase in our armaments, which I suppose every Government will think it necessary to continue, there must necessarily be an increase of taxation. With increase of taxation we shall probably have discontent throughout the country. There is nothing, in truth, but a heritage of trouble for statesmen whatever Government may be in power. This is no field for any but the noblest ambition. I ask, then, the House to decide this question on grounds far higher than those of personal ambition. I ask them to recollect that upon it may hinge the question of peace or war for England. I ask every Member of this House to put this question to his own conscience, and I say that he who does not so answer it will be wanting in his duty to this House, to his constituents, and to his country. I move, Sir, that the following words be added to the Address:—But we beg humbly to submit to Her Majesty, that it is essential for securing satisfactory results to our deliberations, and for facilitating the discharge of Her Majesty's high functions, that Her Majesty's Government should possess the confidence of this House and of the Country; and we deem it our duty respectfully to represent to Her Majesty that such confidence is not reposed in the present Advisers of Her Majesty.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, that he rose with much pleasure to second the Amendment which had been so ably proposed by the noble Marquess the Member for North Lancashire. In doing so, he must venture to observe that he was not actuated by any feeling of personal vanity in assuming the prominent position which he then occupied. He rose with feelings of diffidence to perform the important duty he had undertaken, but with feelings of confidence in the goodness and justice of the cause. He thought that the challenge thrown out by the Ministry at the close of last Session in the Speech from the Throne ought to be taken up, and that the question at issue—whether the Ministers possessed the confidence of the majority of the country, had been fairly and properly raised. He believed that the constituency which he had the honour to represent had answered the question, by not opposing the return of his hon. Colleague and himself. He said by not opposing their return, because in substance they were unopposed, although there was the shadow of an opposition at the last moment by a gentleman who appeared to have no very distinct political opinions, but whose personal qualifications might be 119 summed up in the fact that he had a large family and a small income. he might also answer the question by alluding to the history of the party by which the Ministry was now surrounded, and which had always opposed measures of progress and reform. But he preferred to answer it by a reference to the history of the Administration itself. How had it gained office? By a vote on an abstract Resolution. He was aware that they on his side of the House had been blamed for voting for the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for London; but surely hon. Gentlemen opposite did the same thing, with only this difference, that the Resolution of the noble Lord went to an essential portion of the Bill itself which it condemned, while that supported by hon. Gentlemen opposite had no relation whatever to the Bill under discussion. He would venture to allude to some of the acts of inconsistency committed by the Conservative Government last Session. In Opposition they had always supported the property qualification; in office they abandoned their opposition and allowed the property qualification to be abolished. When an India Bill was proposed they protested that it would be dangerous to our empire to legislate for India, yet they afterwards undertook to legislate for India, and they did so by bringing in a Bill so absurd and ridiculous that it gained for the Ministry the contempt it deserved, and became the laughing-stock of the country. They were rescued by the Resolutions of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), and the matter ended by the Government adopting a Bill brought in by another noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), although it was somewhat marred by the change of hands it had passed through. They had always opposed the admission of the Jews into Parliament. In Opposition they said that it would be interfering with the Christian character of the House if they were admitted; but in power, by means of a shabby form, they admitted Jews to seats in Parliament. He would ask, however, if they believed their admission to be dangerous, why did they admit them at all? If they thought they might sit in Parliament without danger, why did they not admit them handsomely? Then with regard to church rates. The measure introduced by the Government was no doubt well-intentioned, but it was simply impracticable, and tended rather to create confusion and arouse animosity than to settle the question, while it recognized the prin- 120 ciple that the Church of England was not a national establishment. Last Session Ministers were supported in office almost entirely by the Radical Members of the House gained by promises of a popular Reform Bill. But what was their Reform Bill? A Reform Bill was wanted to abolish the system of nomination, but their Bill, by its transfer of county votes from the boroughs appeared to have re-introduced the principle of nomination which it was the object of previous Reforms Bills to remove, and it disturbed the public mind by its fancy franchises, while it held that a £10 borough franchise was unalterable. Their excuse for bringing in a Reform Bill, to which they could scarcely disguise their hostility, was, that it had been recommended in the Speech from the Throne; now this again was their condemnation, the Speech from the Throne was always considered the speech of Ministers. If they thought reform essential they ought not to have accepted office, and if they did not think so, for what reason did they bring in a Bill on the subject? All the hopes they had given to the Radical Members as the price of their support were found to be delusive and hypocritical. Then with regard to the dissolution of Parliament, he thought Ministers justly deserved the condemnation of the House for taking a step so unjustifiable at such a crisis. The events that occurred were so momentous, that if Parliament had not been sitting at the time, it would have been summoned at once, in order to give weight to the position of the Minister at the head of affairs, and to entitle this country to respect from foreign Powers. But Ministers dissolved because they had not a majority in that House. He thought it was the universal opinion that the noble Lord who guided our foreign affairs knew as little of foreign diplomacy as he cared for the correct spelling of attachés. He was sure it was the universal opinion that the speech of that noble Lord in the other House on the last night of the last Session was marked by hesitation, vacillation, and ambiguity of purpose. How strong a contrast it presented to the words that fell from the noble Lord (Lord Clarendon). With regard to the noble Earl at the head of the Government, his opinions, expressed in the other House at the close of the Session, greatly differed from the views that fell from his lips a few days afterwards at the Lord Mayor's banquet. It was most important that England 121 should have at the head of affairs at the present moment a Minister who was thoroughly acquainted with foreign diplomacy, so as to entitle this country to the respect of foreign Powers, which we had now somewhat lost. The Liberal party, then, had no confidence in the men who filled office. Nor could he believe that any true Conservative could do so. Could hon. Gentlemen opposite themselves approve of such tergiversation as they had seen in their own ranks? Did they approve of the abolition of the property qualification—one of the points of the charter—the conduct of the Government with reference to church rates, and their mode of legislating for India, after they had declared that to do so would endanger the empire, their false promises and mischievous attempts at Reform? So much for the measures of the past Session. He must now allude to their antecedents. They were the men who opposed all the good measures passed during the present century—the success of which had contributed to the prosperity of the country, and had made the people happy, contented, and united. He would ask the most conscientious Conservative what would have been the case if the Tories had prevailed in their opposition to Liberal measures, if Old Sarum had been upheld, and Manchester had been refused municipal and political privileges. There would have been no municipal Reform, no removal of the restrictions on trade, no remission of heavy taxation. The Roman Catholics would still have been oppressed, and food would still have been burdened with taxes. He protested that the party now in power were no longer entitled to the name of Conservative, and that hon. Gentlemen who supported them would be carried down to posterity as followers of the Earl of Derby. As to hon. Gentlemen on his own side of the House, they advocated Liberal measures because they believed in them, and they were the true Conservatives, for it was only such measures as those that tended to the security of the throne and the integrity of the constitution. If the House believed with them that those men were in the wrong, and that it was only by the overruling of their efforts by Providence that the country had been preserved from imminent danger, and if they thought that at this crisis it was of paramount importance that the Government should be united and composed of Liberal men, there would be no difficulty 122 in voting for the Amendment, and thus telling the present Government that the country and the House had no confidence in them, and that the public interests imperatively demanded that they should at once resign their offices.
Amendment proposed at the end of the Question to add the words,—
But we beg humbly to submit to Her Majesty, that it is essential for securing satisfactory results to our deliberations, and for facilitating the discharge of Her Majesty's high functions, that Her Majesty's Government should possess the confidence of this House and of the Country; and we deem it our duty respectfully to represent to Her Majesty that such confidence is not reposed in the present Advisers of Her Majesty.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Mr. Speaker, I find no fault with the course taken by the noble Lord and his friends. I think it one convenient for the public service, and advantageous to the country, especially in the state in which we at present find it. I think it of great advantage that we should know whether the advisers of Her Majesty possess the confidence of Parliament, and I think that we have given satisfactory evidence of the sincerity of this opinion by advising Her Majesty to dissolve the late Parliament. But I would observe, in passing, that when the noble Lord talks of the precedent of 1841 as being identical with the position and conduct of the present Ministry, he will, on examination and reflection, find a very considerable difference between the two cases. It is true the Earl of Derby, from a sense of duty, advised Her Majesty to dissolve the Late Parliament, it having been assembled under the influence of his predecessors and opponents, and he, as is well known, counting in it but a comparatively small number of supporters. But what was the conduct of the Ministry that dissolved the Parliament of 1841? They dissolved a Parliament that had been elected under their own influence; they dissolved a Parliament composed mainly of their own friends, and the Resolution Sir Robert Peel felt it his duty should be moved by way of Amendment on the meeting of the new Parliament was authorized by very different circumstances from those at present existing, and certainly met a very different fate to that which, I think, awaits the Amendment moved by the noble Lord. Why, Sir, it was made a just reproach to the Ministry of Lord Melbourne, 123 of which the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) was the leader in this House, that it remained on these benches year after year, for two whole years, after it had received a signal defeat in 1839, and in continued and continual minorities, yet neither appealed to the country nor resigned office; and when it did appeal to the country it was on a vote of censure, carried in its own Parliament by those who had been originally its own supporters. Was that the position of the Government of the Earl of Derby? True, our measures were not successful, and this is not surprising, when it is borne in mind that they were brought forward in a Parliament of which only one-third were our supporters. I doubt whether any measures could have been brought forward, however matured, however happily adapted to the circumstances with which they were intended to cope, that would have been successful in a Parliament so constituted. It was no disgrace to us that our measures could not be carried in a hostile Parliament, but it was a just reason for advising Her Majesty to appeal to the country under the circumstances. Now, Sir, I think I have successfully shown that the position of Her Majesty's present Government is very different from that in which Lord Melbourne was placed in 1841, and which is now appealed to as a justification for the course taken by the noble Lord. But having made that observation in reply to the noble Lord, I again repeat that I find no fault with the course so taken. I have shown my sense of it by rising immediately to reply to the accusations he has made, and I assure the noble Lord and the House that I do so from a sense of the importance of this question, and the conviction that it ought not to be left for a moment unnecessarily in suspense. It is of the highest importance to the public interests that this question should be immediately decided; and I hope by my rising at this moment, at once to meet the charges made by the noble Lord and his Friends, that the House will he enabled to divide on it to-night, and thus settle at this momentous crisis which party indeed possesses the confidence of Parliament. I entirely reciprocate the sentiment expressed by the noble Lord and his Friends, and I undertake for hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House that if we are defeated, the Government by which we are succeeded shall receive from us a fair and constitutional support. But the decision ought not, at this crisis, to be delay- 124 ed for four-and-twenty hours; and, as the noble Lord and his Friends have thought it the proper course not to lose a moment in challenging the propriety of our being on these benches, so do I impress on the House the importance of not unnecessarily losing a moment in coming to the decision.
Now, Sir, what are the grounds on which the noble Lord and his Friends seek to establish the want of confidence he says this House ought to feel in Her Majesty's Government? For, though it may be in the power of a majority of the House adverse to Ministers to come to a resolution for their expulsion without a reason, still the noble Lord and his Friends must feel that a decision of that kind would lose all moral weight. The noble Lord on the present occasion, no doubt acting on the best advice, has really opened all the grounds on which a Resolution expressing a want of confidence in a. Government ought to he moved. I find the first of these grounds to be the failure of our measures in several instances in the late Parliament. Now, I do not think that is a fair ground on which to rest a vote of want of confidence on the part of the present one. Looking at the circumstances under which we acceded to power, and to which I have already referred, it was because we were unsuccessful in carrying our measures in the late Parliament that we advised an appeal to the country. If, therefore, the present Parliament decides on giving a fair and constitutional hearing to any measures we may bring forward, it will be quite unnecessary for this House to vindicate the charge against us of not having been able to pass our measures in the last. But the noble Lord says that, having been unable to pass our measures, we counselled a dissolution of Parliament,—a course constitutional, the noble Lord admits, but in his opinion reckless and unwise. With all deference to the noble Lord and his Friends, I think that is rather begging the question. Whether the dissolution was reckless and unwise is a conclusion for the present Parliament to form. Now, Sir, the noble Lord and his Friends admit that there were two courses open to us after the decision at which the House arrived on the Resolution of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell)—a Motion which the noble Lord at the time did not disguise was intended as one of censure and condemnation. We might have resigned our offices or we might have taken the alternative we ultimately 125 adopted. I do not think, in a constitutional sense, we were bound to resign our offices on being defeated in a Parliament not assembled under our auspices. It is a matter of notoriety that the last House was filled with those belonging to that educated class, that limited but highly favoured Whig connection, of which the noble Lord is an ornament, and who are the hereditary opponents of the political party we profess to represent. Under the circumstances I cannot see how the course we advised Her Majesty to take can be called unwise or reckless. There is nothing in a dissolution of Parliament which the great Liberal party, even if all its sections are agreed, should look upon with jealousy and distrust. I do not know whether the sections of that party who sit below the gangway are of opinion that frequent dissolutions of Parliament are always to be deprecated. That distrust of the people I thought was confined to the "educated" faction. I know the noble Lord the Member for London never hears of a dissolution of Parliament but he rises to condemn it; and that is perfectly in harmony with the political views of the party—the "educated" party—to which we are indebted for the Septennial Act. But I was not prepared to hear that all the re-combined sections of that party are of the same opinion on this important constitutional point—that frequent dissolutions of Parliament are unwise and reckless. But I am very glad the noble Lord, in the manly and promising speech he has made, has limited his objections to the dissolution, to the policy of that course, and has not condescended to intrude upon the House that trash of which we have heard so much with regard to the conduct of the elections, the corruption of the constituencies, and the compacts with foreign Powers and hierarchies. Perhaps the noble Lord thought the subject had been exhausted by a master. Perhaps he thought if he had, without sufficient examination, indulged in such statements, he might have been liable to the replies that followed them when they proceeded from another quarter. Now Parliament has met, I am glad to find that this question is, at least, to be discussed in the spirit of gentlemen, with high party views and on broad constitutional principles. There was a statement that came from a great authority, and which I know exercised considerable influence on the public mind, for it was made at a very apropos moment, when it was supposed it would 126 have great influence on the borough elections. I was at that time much engaged, and probably read the public prints with more haste than I ought to have done, but I read that statement because I took an interest both in the locality where it was made and the eminent individual who made it. When I saw in the newspapers the name "City of Carlisle," I naturally looked at what was taking place in that quarter. But rending, I fear a little incorrectly, I confess I did mistake, at the time, the speech which appears to have been made by a distinguished Member of this House for that of the young gentleman that he was introducing to his constituents. When I read that charge upon the Ministry which we were told was to be the basis of a parliamentary vote of want of confidence, when I read statements made without the slightest foundation and with a bitterness which seemed to me to be perfectly gratuitous, I could not help saying "Young men will be young men." Youth is, as we all know, somewhat reckless in assertion, and when we are juvenile and curly one takes a pride in sarcasm and invective. Nevertheless, one could not refrain from an interest in a young relative of a distinguished Member of this House, and, although the statements were not very agreeable to Her Majesty's Ministers, one was glad to recognize a chip of the old block. I felt—and I am sure my colleagues shared the sentiment—that when that young gentleman entered this House, he might, when gazing upon the venerable form, and listening to the accents of benignant wisdom that fall from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle, he might learn how reckless assertion in time may mature into accuracy of statement, and how bitterness and invective, however organic, can be controlled by the vicissitudes of a wise experience. Yes, Sir, the statements made in that speech of the right hon. Gentleman have been circulated in every form, and for a time have been credited in every quarter in this country. The public have really believed that a corrupt Administration has been obtaining returns from the hustings by the vilest means, and for the most infamous purposes. They have believed that the allowance to innkeepers for the billeting of soldiers was absolutely increased at the arbitrary will of a War Minister, in order to bribe the publicans to vote for Government candidates, though every hon. Gentleman in this House must 127 be perfectly aware that their predecessors had passed the Act by which that increase of allowance was constitutionally made, and that the Act had been for some time in operation. The public did believe that barracks were built and contracts given, when contracts were never entered into and when barracks were never built. More than that, the public really did believe that ray Lord Derby had subscribed—had boasted, as the right hon. Gentleman says he was informed, of having subscribed £20,000 to a fund to manage the elections. The Earl of Derby has treated that assertion, quoted by the right hon. Gentleman, with silent contempt. All the other assertions made at the time have been answered in detail, and therefore I suppose he thought the time might come when the subject being fairly before the House, he could leave it to me to say for him, what I do say now, that that statement was an impudent fabrication. But what are all these contracts with innkeepers to the compact with the Pope? Next to nothing. Sir, it is not an agreeable duty to have to listen to statements made until Parliament meets by Privy Councillors, by men who have filled the highest offices of state, and, for aught I know, who may be about to fill high offices of state, but upon which the moment Parliament meets, every one is silent. Neither the Mover nor the Seconder of this great indictment of want of confidence condescends even to mention them. And yet the charge is a weighty one. Is it true that the Earl of Derby has entered into any compact or contract, or understanding with any hierarchy in this country, or with any agent of any foreign Prince, to influence the elections of our own country? These are statements which ought not to be made by persons of eminence without some examination. Sir, I state, in a manner the most unequivocal and unhesitating, that there has been no compact of that kind, and that the support that was given in many instances to the Members on this side of the House at the late general election by our fellow-subjects professing the Roman Catholic faith was given, not only without compact and without conditions, but was given without even communication with Her Majesty's Government. I take it for granted that those who supported us under these circumstances, like the other subjects of Her Majesty, had formed their own fair opinion, right or wrong, on public events, 128 on public men, and on public policy. But it seems that the civil and religious liberty granted to the Roman Catholics, especially with the aid of the noble Lord, means civil and religious liberty to vote for Whigs, and to support Whig candidates. The moment a British or Irish subject professing the Roman Catholic religion votes for a Tory, it would seem that hon. Gentlemen opposite meditate the revival of penal laws.
Now, Sir, I have touched upon two grounds upon which this vote of want of confidence recommends itself to the House—this vote of want of confidence in the unusual form of an Amendment to the Address in answer to the gracious Speech from the Throne. First of all, it is said that in many instances our measures failed in Parliament; but that was the very ground upon which a new Parliament has been called upon to assemble. Secondly, it is said that we advised Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament, which, in the opinion of the noble Lord, was an unwise and reckless measure; but that, in fact, is the very question at issue. And now what are the other grounds? What has occurred since the dissolution to justify this Amendment of the noble Lord? The conduct, it is said, of our foreign affairs. It appears that the negotiations which were in progress when the late Parliament was dissolved have proved unsuccessful, and that war between some of the Powers of Europe has ensued. As far as I could collect the drift of the noble Lord—though I must say he showed considerable diplomatic ablility himself in the shadowy manner in which he framed that part of his indictment—there is, no doubt, some foundation for his statement ad invidiam that we have been unsuccessful in the management of our foreign relations, and that our negotiations, which had been undertaken to avert war, had not preserved peace. The noble Lord and his friends have a right to the suspicion that the conduct of our foreign relations since the commencement of this year have not been conducted with ability; but surely the only grounds upon which an opinion on that subject can be formed are the ample documents which I am about immediately to lay upon the table of the House. Surely the noble Lord, although he is a party man—and I do not honour the noble Lord the less because he is a party man, for I look upon the existence of party as the best security for our Parliamentary government and for our public liberty,—surely the noble 129 Lord as a party man will not lay it down as a principle that he and his friends, even if he had a majority, should decide upon the conduct of negotiations without reading and studying the documents which can alone inform him as to the nature of those negotiations? Would the noble Lord, as a party man, say that success is the only test of ability in negotiation, and that the Government that has failed in the conduct of a negotiation to avert war is not worthy to conduct the affairs of this country? Is that the principle upon which the noble Lord would insist? It is the only one left, and probably it is. The war that has recently broken out in Europe was in the memory of every hon. Gentleman in this House preceded by another war. It is only four years since a war took place, not merely between two of our allies, but between this country itself and a great military Power—Russia. Were there no negotiations then entered into to prevent war? Was not the stake infinitely greater and the responsibility proportionately increased when it was our own immediate action that was in question, and our own conduct on the important question of peace or war that was at issue? Well, I want to know who were then the Ministers? We were not responsible for those negotiations. The Government at that time was not a Government in a minority. That was not a Government formed of men of inferior abilities and of deficient experience, as you take every opportunity of informing us that we are. On the contrary, it was presided over by a celebrated European statesman, the Earl of Aberdeen, who had himself assisted in the construction of those famous treaties of 1815, of which we hear so much now-a-days. He had for his Foreign Secretary a distinguished minister who had filled the highest offices in the service of the Crown, and had been ambassador at great Courts, Who is to be your Foreign Secretary now I do not know, but a very distinguished man indeed is my Lord Clarendon. You had then the Earl of Aberdeen and Lord Clarendon, men of admirable ability and experience, to conduct your negotiations. But had you nobody else? Why, there was the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, who, like Coriolanus, showed his wounds yesterday to the populace, and is an avowed candidate for power. He is of opinion, as some others are too, that he has some knowledge of Foreign Affairs, and he takes every opportunity of intimating that he 130 is the only man who can wage war or preserve peace. The Earl of Aberdeen and Lord Clarendon had the assistance of the noble Member for Tiverton. I will say nothing of the noble Lord the Member for London, because his experience as Foreign Minister is but limited. Well, what did the noble Member for Tiverton, and the Earl of Aberdeen, and Lord Clarendon do in the way of negotiation to prevent the war? Why, the shame of those negotiations is not yet forgotten in England. The State paper of Vienna is not yet entirely blotted out of the consciousness of the people of this country. You had great advantages, and you signally failed; you had a majority in Parliament; you had wise and experienced statesmen; you had a still greater stake to prick you to exertion, and to increase your responsibility, and yet you were utterly discomfited. You had something yet more than we had with our poor means to preserve peace. You had an Opposition numerous and fairly ambitious, but in the midst of your negotiations that Opposition did not bring forward votes of want of confidence, nor propose cunning resolutions to embarrass the public service. We sat there, aided you in your difficulties, and supported you heartily and truly. ["No."] Is there any one can murmur "No"? I defy any man to bring an instance during that war in which we brought forward a single Motion to embarrass you, and when by your general misgovernment and misconduct of the war there arose a public outcry which called for your fall, it was a Member on your own side of the House who struck the blow, and it was by the votes of several sections of the Liberal party that the result was accomplished and you were ejected from office.
So much, then, for the third ground on which this vote of want of confidence is rested. I think I have shown the House that it is one which cannot be urged with plausibility even to the public of Carlisle, which believes in compacts with the Pope, and which credits monstrous assertions about billets being raised and contracts entered into for party purposes, if they are only circulated on high authority. There is still one more ground on which the noble Lord and his friends rest the vindication of the line which they are now taking, and that is the failure of our late measure for the Amendment of the Representation of the People, and the conclusion consequent on that failure of 131 our insufficiency to deal with the question of Parliamentary Reform. Well now, let us consider this point. It is unnecessary on this occasion to vindicate the measure which we brought forward in the last Parliament, hut I will state one fact, not upon my own authority, hut on that of men of high scientific character, not connected with politics or with parties, whose only object in their researches is to establish and promulgate truth, and that is that our measure would have increased the constituent body by not less than 500,000, being absolutely a larger addition than was made by the Reform Bill of 1832. There were great objections to details, but still details no doubt of importance, urged against that measure. It was said, for instance, that it would disfranchise county freeholders living in towns, that it would enable votes to be given by papers, and other objections were made to it. Admitting, for the sake of argument, that these propositions perfectly deserved the condemnation they received, have no propositions to amend the representation of the people been coupled and connected with propositions which were equally unsuccessful and equally condemned? Why don't we hear of them? Why are we always told of our unhappy proposal to disfranchise freeholders and to give votes by papers? The noble Lord the Member for the City has been in office almost all his life, he has had a monopoly of this question of Reform, he has been handling it and fumbling it as long as I can remember. What then has he done? He has twice brought forward Reform Bills and twice unsuccessfully. He proposed at one time—he, the great patron of the working classes—to disfranchise all the freemen in England. Why should not that proposition be urged as a reason for no longer entrusting him with the preparation of a Reform Bill? In one Bill he introduced a proposition hostile to the very principle on which representative Government is founded, and alien to the spirit of the constitution—representation by minorities. If there ever was a proposition received with universal condemnation that was it. Why should not that disqualify the noble Lord from meddling again with the sacred question of Reform? The noble Lord, who cannot for a moment tolerate Government by a minority, within my memory sat on these benches, and led this House as Prime Minister, in an avowed minority, resting entirely on the counsel and the support which he 132 received from Sir R. Peel. The noble Lord, who is so constant in his denunciations of Government by a minority, himself proposed to change the English constitution, and give representation to minorities at the hustings. I suppose he is the only person who can be intrusted with the preparation of a Reform Bill, because the other noble Lord, the Member for Tiverton, does not like the subject at all. It is one to which he does not conceal his disinclination. We, who, at least, have prepared and introduced a measure which would more than have doubled the constituency of the kingdom, are never to be allowed to give our opinions on a measure of this kind, while the noble Lord, who scarcely conceals his opinion that all Parliamentary Reform is a bad thing, and who tells you that if you are to have it you shall have as little as possible, is the popular candidate for the command of what we were told yesterday are now "the united sections of the Liberal party." I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) on the lamb-like manner in which he abdicated those portentous opinions which awhile ago frighted the island from its propriety.
I have now gone over the five grounds on which the noble Lords and his Friends rest their case for a verdict of want of confidence in the Ministry. I have shown to the House that the argument founded on the failure of many of our measures in the last Parliament is, if anything, one which should rather be urged in favour of a verdict of confidence from this Parliament, because, as it was in consequence of the late Parliament not sanctioning and supporting our measures that a new Parliament was called, we have a right to count upon the constitutional confidence of the House of Commons in that respect. I have shown to the House that the charge founded upon the "unwise and reckless measure of dissolution" rests on no substantial foundation, and I have shown incidentally that the charges which, during the recess, have been industriously bruited about as grounds for requiring a public investigation, and for passing a vote of want of confidence, are fabrications, without a tittle of evidence, and are entirely undeserving the credit of any sensible man. I have, I hope, shown the House that to pass a vote of want of confidence in us because our negotiations have failed to preserve peace would be so flagrantly and manifestly unjust, when you have no documents on which 133 you can found an opinion, and when those documents will immediately be in your hands, that I cannot believe that even hon. Gentlemen opposite can rest their vote upon that ground. I think I have shown the House also that if our unfortunante treatment of the question of Parliamentary Reform has been such as to disqualify us for the confidence of the House, the noble Lord our predecessor in that enterprise is not more entitled to confidence upon that subject, and that the other noble Lord, his rival or his colleague—I know not which—is not entitled to the confidence of the House upon that question in the slightest degree; while the hon. Member for Birmingham by his prudent retirement from public life is now entirely out of the question. Having made these observations in reply to the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington), I hope that the House will not think it intrusive if, before I sit down, I venture to say something upon the character of the gracious Speech, and upon the intentions of the Government. There are two main topics in that Speech which greatly interest—though perhaps at this moment not equally—the public mind. The first is with regard to the policy which we shall pursue in our foreign relations, and the next is with respect to this very question of Parliamentary Reform. Now, Sir, the gracious Speech, and the Address which has been moved with so much ability by my hon. Friend behind me, clearly and unequivocally state our policy with respect to the first subject. We have endeavoured in every possible manner to preserve peace. I shall be happy and ready when the time arrives, and when the papers are in the hands of hon. Members, thoroughly to vindicate the conduct of the Government on that head. Indeed I challenge inquiry, and all I ask is that the House shall not decide upon a question so momentous in the absence of all documents, and when it is impossible that any one can treat it with any general satisfaction; and if I make one or two observations upon the point it is only because the subject has been introduced and enforced by the noble Lord, and because I wish to correct one or two most erroneous impressions which appear to exist. It is my opinion, and I say it with no wish now to renew any controversy on that head, but I repeat that I retain the opinion which I expressed in the late Parliament, that the vote at which the House arrived on the 134 Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for London had a serious influence at that moment on our negotiations. I shall be able to prove it, but I only allude to it now in vindication of myself, because the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire has introduced some observations upon it. I said at that time, and I repeat now, that that vote destroyed all authority on the part of the Government of this country as a Government; but it did not destroy all our influence with the Emperor of the French at that time, because, although as the mere Government of England we had no authority, we yet did represent a principle which greatly regulated the conduct and influenced the feelings of the Emperor of the French. The Emperor of the French was governed at that moment, and had been, and generally is, by public opinion. The opinion of France was against war; the opinion of England, which he esteems only next to that of France, was against war; the opinion of enlightened Europe, I may say, was against war. Therefore, though our authority as a Ministry had ceased, yet, representing that principle of public opinion which the Emperor recognized, our representations were still listened to with respect, and upon that ground, notwithstanding the vote which the House came to, we still could influence, as we did influence, the conduct of the Emperor of the French. But as regards Austria, from whom neither the noble Lord nor ourselves anticipated at that moment the immediate mischief, she was not at all influenced by public opinion. With Austria, therefore, we entirely ceased to have any authority, being a Government condemned, and she laboured under the conviction—no doubt, an unjust conviction, though so far as negotiations were concerned it operated as a positive fact—that our immediate successors would be a Ministry favourable to war, and to war directed against herself. Therefore it was that Austria, not caring any longer for the influence of the English Ministry, whom she looked upon as a dead body, and caring nothing for public opinion, which still influenced the conduct of the Emperor of the French, took the rash and unfortunate step which every one must now deplore. In this sense, then, I contend that I was perfectly justified in the statement which I made, and it will be seen at the proper time, in the course of future discussions, that it was a perfectly authentic statement. The House will allow me also to notice one more point, which is personal 135 to myself. It has been charged against me that on the eve of the dissolution of Parliament I made a statement respecting the then state of our negotiations and prospects, favourable to peace notwithstanding the immense intervening difficulties, and even the fact that war then was more than imminent. Now, I beg to state to the House—and I dare say the circumstance may easily be recalled to many hon. Gentlemen who were Members of the late Parliament—that it so happened that a few moments only before I rose to make that statement a telegram arrived from Lord Cowley, which was immediately forwarded to me here, informing us that the Emperor of the French had entirely adopted the principle of disarmament before the Congress, which was one which Austria had insisted on as the foundation of a satisfactory settlement. And not only that, but that Count Walewski had that moment telegraphed to Sardinia, urging her, in a manner which he felt she could not resist, to accept the same principle. Was I not justified, then, under the circumstances, in assuring the House that there was still a prospect of peace before us? Was I not further fortified in that assurance when, the next day, a telegram arrived from Sardinia, accepting that proposition, which it was supposed to be impossible that she could agree to? Having ultimately failed, however, in those negotiations to preserve peace—and, as I hope I may say, with no discredit or dishonour to our counsels—what is the course that we have pursued? We have adopted the principle of strict and impartial neutrality; we have endeavoured to act in the spirit of that principle, and I treat with utter contempt, because I feel it would be impossible to offer a shadow of proof in favour of the monstrous statement, that in the course which we have adopted or the counsels we have given, we have ever had either an Austrian or a French bias. And I believe that the sincere feeling of both those Powers, irritated as they must be by the position in which they find themselves, is to do us complete justice upon that subject But, of course, though the policy of strict and impartial neutrality is demanded by the interests of this country, and is, I am sure, sanctioned by the public voice, we have felt it our duty to place Her Majesty, by her command at sea and by the completion of her armaments, in such a position that her authority will be felt and fully recognized. I maintain that in 136 those increased fleets and armaments we have not the indications of coming war, but the probable securities for continued and renewed peace; because, watching events, encouraging and fostering friendly relations, we may interfere, with other neutral Powers, at the right moment, and may yet attain, at a date much earlier than I think is too hastily adopted by the world, the restoration of that great blessing, of the value of which, from the experience of the last half century, this country is more conscious than it was in former times. That, Sir, is our foreign policy. I do not suppose that any one will challenge it on principle; and as to the means by which it should be carried out, I will again repeat that it is only by an examination of the ample evidence to be laid before you that you can form an adequate and fair opinion. And, notwithstanding the party character of this Motion, I do not feel that a vote of want of confidence can ever be arrived at against any Ministry in this country when the documents in explanation of their policy, and which are promised in Her Majesty's gracious Speech, have not been laid before the House.
Now, Sir, I will treat with as little reserve of the other principal topic referred to in the gracious Speech—Parliamentary Reform—although it may not be so interesting on account of the course which we have intimated that we intend to pursue with regard to it. I say at once that it is the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that it is impossible during this Session satisfactorily to deal with that subject. Of course, the language of the gracious Speech is different from that which, according to the practice of this House, can be used by a servant of the Crown; but I now take no refuge in ambiguous phrases, telling the House that if certain business of great urgency can be disposed of, we think that there is a chance of dealing with the great question of Reform this Session. We are of opinion that there is no such chance, and if that be considered by any hon. Gentleman as a fair ground for censuring the Government we are ready to meet that issue. If it really be the opinion of grave and responsible statesmen in this House, that in the present condition of this country, in the month of June, with measures of finance of the gravest character, with measures connected with the defence and armament of the country of the greatest urgency, to be brought forward, we can enter into a rash and reckless engagement 137 to deal with the question of Parliamentary Reform, I shall be certainly astonished; but if our opponents take that view, I must ask the House to join issue with them, and give a decision which I trust will be dictated by temperate counsels and good sense. But although that is the course which we feel it our duty to recommend the House to adopt during the present Session, we do not in any way wish to shrink, as advisers of the Crown, from the responsibility of dealing with this question. Now, even although it may offend the noble Lord the Member for the City, I must say, as I have said before, that I cannot admit that the question of Parliamentary Reform, or any great question which ought to be dealt with in this country, should become a political monopoly. I do not recognize the convenient dogma, now circulated, that great questions interesting this country, and more especially its domestic condition, are to be touched and treated only by one particular favoured, even though "educated" section. I think it would be very dangerous to the country that we should adopt the principle that any party which can be called to the administration of affairs should consider themselves shut out from dealing with any great question of public interest. If they do so, they are unfit to sit upon this bench of severe responsibility, and must take office under conditions injurious to the public service and the public interest. I do not want to enter into an historical disquisition upon the justice of this favourite theory of the noble Lord; but I do not find that in history Parliamentary Reform has been the particular privilege and property of the "educated" section. I know very well that Mr. Pitt did not belong to the "educated" section, but he was a Parliamentary Reformer. The Duke of Richmond was, I think, not one of the "educated" section, but he was a Parliamentary Reformer. I know many other illustrious men who at different times within the last eighty years have given their opinions in Parliament upon this subject, and very few of them have belonged to the "educated" section. I admit that the "educated" section has during the present century had a very fine opportunity of dealing with this question, of which they availed themselves with great policy and adroitness. I give them credit for the manner, for the statesmanlike manner in which they dealt with it, but I do not acknowledge their mono- 138 poly. I do not acknowledge the peculiar privilege which the "educated" section is so ready to assert. I observe, also, that until very recently the "educated" section has not, since 1832, shown any very great enthusiasm on the subject. I think that the other sections of the Liberal party, which I suppose are not to be considered "educated" sections, have shown much more sincerity on the subject than the "educated" section itself. I say, Sir, that we have a full and fair right to deal with this question; and what is more, I believe that as a party we can deal with it more advantageously even than the "educated" section itself. Now, Sir, I need not vindicate the measure which Her Majesty's Government brought in last Session in comparison with the measures of the noble Lord. That I have done; but I must say this for Her Majesty's Government, that they do not consider themselves bound in the measure they contemplate proposing by the measure which they brought forward in the last Parliament a bit more than the noble Lord considers himself bound by the measures which he has introduced. We all know that the subject is one of immense difficulty. I cannot agree with the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) when, in exception to his generally temperate remarks, he seemed to deny that Parliamentary Reform could become a matter of compromise between Conservative and Liberal opinions. No measure of Parliamentary Reform can be passed, or ought to be passed, which is not a compromise between Conservative and Liberal opinions. Of course, it is very easy for a demagogue to say, "This is the only scheme of Parliamentary Reform that I will agree to," because he does not want it to pass, and never thinks it will pass; but those who deal with the question like men of practice, and who, like the noble Lord the Member for the City and his Friends, mean to pass measures, could never tolerate the principle laid down by the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire, that Parliamentary Reform or any other great measure should not be a compromise between Conservative and Liberal opinions. The happier the compromise the more successful will be the measure; and the great aim of whoever is to carry it must be to bring forward a large, enduring, and satisfactory measure, which, on the whole, the great parties in the State will agree ought to pass. In dealing with 139 this question last Session we dealt with great boldness with the question of the county suffrage. It is very well to deride our labours, but I believe that the country takes a view of them very different from that which the noble Mover of the Amendment has been instructed to express tonight. I believe that the country does justice to the large measure which we proposed with regard to the county franchise, and recognizes the difficulties which we had to deal with it. I know that more than once it has been described in the great popular organ, of which hon. Gentlemen opposite are very proud when it says anything to their praise, as "the most enormous concession that was ever made," and therefore the contemptuous language with reference to it which it has been thought convenient to adopt in this House will never receive the sanction of the country. The question of the county franchise had been frequently and maturely discussed in this House. We made a proposition, and we met many objections which we thought might be urged to it, by countervailing proposals, modifying and mitigating its application. However you may object to them, they were, after all, only conditions mitigating or modifying our original proposition. The question of the borough franchise was not in that condition of maturity. Until the last great debate, that question has never been thoroughly grappled with in this House. It has never been brought forward by persons of any eminence, nor has it at any time attracted or commanded much attention. Well, in that direction we proceeded very cautiously, as you must do with that part of a subject for which the public mind is not so ripe as for the other. By our measure we proposed to introduce the middle classes to their share of the county constituency, and the working classes to their share of the borough constituency by means of a variety of franchises. I am perfectly ready to admit on the part of the Government that that proposition was not favoured by this House, nor was it sufficiently favoured by the country to be one upon which we can insist. The question of the borough franchise, however, must he dealt with, and it must be dealt with, too, with reference to the introduction of the working classes. We admit that that has been the opinion of Parliament, and that it has been the opinion of the country, as shown by the hon. Gentlemen who have been returned to this House. We cannot be blind 140 to that result. We do not wish to be blind to it. We have no prejudice against the proposition. All that we want is to assure ourselves that any measure that we bring forward is one required by the public necessities and will be sanctioned by public approbation and support; and therefore we are perfectly prepared to deal with that question of the borough franchise and the introduction of the working classes by lowering the franchise in boroughs, and by acting in that direction with sincerity; because, as I ventured to observe in the debate upon our measure, if you intend to admit the working classes to the franchise by lowering the suffrage in boroughs, you must not keep the promise to the ear and break it to the hope. The lowering of the suffrage must be done in a manner which satisfactorily and completely effects your object, and is at the same time consistent with maintaining the institutions of the country. So, I maintain, that not merely with regard to the borough franchise,—not merely with regard to the suffrage of the working classes,—but with regard to the whole question of the redistribution of seats, we are not bound by the proposition which we made last year, any more than the noble Lord is bound by the several propositions which he has made. I have two measures of the noble Lord which are perfectly distinct as regards the distribution of seats; one in which I find a proposal in favour of grouping, and in the other in favour of absolute disfranchisement. I find in one a scale of disfranchisement totally different from that one which the noble Lord promulgated upon the eve of the general election. Why are we, in dealing with this question, to be precluded from the same freedom and the same Parliamentary privilege as the noble Lord and his followers? On the contrary, Sir, I maintain that we are perfectly free to deal with this question as we think is best for the country. It is, in our opinion, best for the country that a measure of Parliamentary Reform should be brought forward which is of as conclusive a character as human circumstances will admit of. To obtain that result it must meet all those fair demands which are now recognized, and which the opinion expressed by the general election has stamped with public approbation. I say nothing as to the form in which that public sentiment may be developed—of course, I will not speak in detail of a measure not now to be brought before the 141 House—but I claim for Her Majesty's Government the right to deal with the question of Parliamentary Reform, not fettered or hampered by the proposition which they made in the last Session, any more than the noble Lord has been by his own proposals, but at the same time I assert our intention to deal with it in a large, liberal, and conclusive manner.
I have now, Sir, ventured to touch on all the points on which the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire has based his grounds for a vote of want of confidence. I think I have shown to the House that they are flimsy, and feeble, and illusive—that the noble Lord has not entered into that detail or established those principles that could justify this new Parliament in coming to so grave a decision. I have ventured to point out to the House the principles on which our foreign and domestic policy are established. Our foreign policy, notwithstanding what has occurred, will continue to be founded on peace as the great principle we mean to encourage, and our domestic policy on the principle of progress. Upon these principles our policy will rest, and we ask from this new House of Commons nothing but a constitutional confidence. We do not pretend to possess, and we do not aspire to possess, the obedience of disciplined legions, who, to use the expression of an eminent Liberal, are ready to vote that black is white to support a Government. That is not the kind of support we seek to obtain; but we believe that we do possess the constitutional confidence of this House, and that it will not take the earliest opportunity, on grounds so frail and flimsy as have been stated, to consent to adopt one of the gravest Amendments that can possibly be offered—namely, an Amendment on the answer to Her Majesty's gracious Speech, and which declares that the House has no confidence in the advisers of the Crown. Now, Sir, after this analysis—this frank and full analysis of the charges against the Ministry, and this explicit declaration of the policy that we intend to pursue, and on which our measures will be founded, let me ask the House, what does all this end in? It ends in a personal question. I do not object to that. I do not pretend for a moment that in the British Parliament we should avoid such questions. It is possible that our policy may be a sound policy, but that those who are carrying it on are incompetent, and therefore I admit that the personal question is a fair ground to take up 142 on a vote of want of confidence. I will not, therfore, shroud myself and my colleagues under our measures or our policy; I will meet the objections which may be raised on the ground of personal efficiency. This is necessarily and naturally the most delicate and embarrassing thing which a man can be called on to do; but we have to do many things in this House that are embarrassing, and to meet many difficulties that are delicate, and I will not shrink from this the most difficult part of the duty which I have to discharge. In old days, in the good old times, I should have had no difficulty in judging who were our rivals and who were to be our successors. I might look to the bench opposite and there see the noble Lord the leader of the Opposition and the distinguished colleagues of his former Administration and of his present cares, and without any great personal arrogance, and without any intrusion of egotistical pretensions on the part of myself and my colleagues I might carry on some comparison between the two bodies, with reference to the noble Lord's late Administration and his late acts, his general conduct and his final failure. I might, as they did in those days, say the best I could for ourselves and the worst for them. But then we no longer live in those good old constitutional times. I hardly know who are our rivals, still less do I know who are to be our successors. If it is the noble Lord and his friends I might contrast his policy with ours, his failures with ours, and make out a case upon which the House might adjudicate. But then the noble Lord, who lives not in the good old days of constitutional rivalry, but in the days of reconciled sections, will tell the House, "You cannot judge of my resources by the hon. Gentlemen who are sitting near me; others will come to my aid, and by their unquestioned abilities, and their varied experience, and with the bright evidence of their triumphant careers I shall form an Administration which will put you out, as the glorious sun does a farthing rush light, and the whole country will immediately see that they have a strong Government, entitled to their confidence." The noble Lord is, we understand, to receive great assistance from below the gangway. Let me look below the gangway. I see there two of the most eminent Members of this House, who have long and frequently been servants of the Crown, and who I know are taking a very active 143 share in meetings and proceedings out of the House. In the days of our youth Willis's Rooms were managed by patronesses. The distinguished assemblies that met within those walls were controlled by a due admixture of dowagers and youthful beauties—young reputations and worn celebrities—and it was the object of all social ambition to enter there. Now Willis's Rooms are under the direction of patrons, and there are two of those patrons below the gangway. They are the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert), who have signed the vouchers for the reconciled sections. They are two of the eminent statesmen who are to form this strong Government before whose claims and abilities we are to pale and be extinguished. Well we have some experience of those great statesmen. We know how the noble Lord conducts negotiations. We know how the right hon. Gentleman conducts war. You say that we have failed in our negotiations, and that we cannot be trusted in the event of possible war. Well, then, the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman won't help you much. Sir, I cannot presume to pursue the research. There was a time when I thought the burley eloquence of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) might have been heard on the Treasury Bench; but it would seem he has yielded up those claims which once were vindicated with that uncompromising eloquence that all admire, and some fear. I do not know whether, if we were at war, the hon. Member for Birmingham would pursue it with the same vigour with which he engages in domestic quarrels at home. I am not yet satisfied where the materials of that Government that is to conduct negotiations with such ability, and prosecute war, if necessary, with such vigour, are to be found. So far with regard to the personal question as to those still in opposition. With regard to this side of the House, I can say with sincerity—and I am sure I speak the sentiments of all my colleagues—that I have never for a moment put forth any personal claims to stand in the way of others taking their places on this bench, more willing and more able to advocate the views of their party and to serve the Queen. I say for myself and for my colleagues that we should not for a moment consider it a personal sacrifice, but that we should rather consider it a personal duty to retire from 144 the positions we fill in the Government if any Gentlemen on this side care to challenge them and to fill them. I have at all times—and what I say is well known to many hon. Members—been so anxious to see the efficiency of the public service studied and the interests of a great political party, the existence of which I believe to be advantageous to the country, preserved, that I have ever been ready to waive my own personal claims. As to charges against us of incompetency, so far as the other side of the House is concerned, I have not yet evidence that it would be supplied to the satisfaction of the country. So far as this side of the House is concerned, rivals may arise, and I have only to say, that if worthy, they will be cordially welcomed. No doubt it is much to be regretted that from the great dislocation of parties in this country, and the peculiar state of things that has obtained in this House, the area of selection for the public service is far more limited than I, for one, could desire. But that, Sir, is not the fault of the party who fill these (the Ministerial) benches. Whatever may be the fault of the Tory party, it is not a federation of great families. The Cabinet of the Earl of Derby, whatever its faults, was not established on an exclusive basis. Wherever there was ability it was recognized, and if all could not be placed in the positions they were competent to fill, every one on these benches was conscious that men were preferred because they were thought to be worthy of the offices conferred upon them. If, then, there is no ground to believe that any body of men on the other side of the House more competent to carry on affairs are ready to take our places; and if on this side of the House the state of feeling be what I have described, and that competent men are ever sure to be cordially received and supported, I am not sure that the country would gain much by the return in any combination and in any form of noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen opposite. I have seen for a long time with satisfaction a tendency in this House to increase the area from which individuals may be selected for the public service. The more you settle those long controverted questions which have for years embarrassed and embittered the legislation of this House, the more you will remove the obstacles to that great result. If this question of a Reform of Parliament were settled—and after all it is a question on which all men may agree, with few excep- 145 tions—I see no obstacle any longer to an expansion of the area from which individuals may be selected for the service of Her Majesty's Government. On this side of the House there is no prejudice of the kind which may have prevented many a worthy Member from filling his proper place under the Government of an "educated" section. Provided we are agreed on the main line of policy, the only object we desire on these benches is, that the ablest men on all sides may be so employed, and the tendency of our legislation for many years has been to remove those difficulties—often only conventional difficulties—which prevented the adoption of that more increased area of selection to which I have adverted. I hope, in the course of time, if we are so deficient, as we are told we are by our rivals, known and unknown, that others without that necessary change of sides which seems to some so advantageous to the commonweal, may be attracted to our standard by the recognition of their merits, and by the feeling they are dealing with a party who repudiate that exclusive principle which may prevail in other quarters. I trust, therefore, the House will not hastily adopt the Amendment which has come from one who, though I wish to speak of him in terms which his first effort in the House to-night fairly deserves, represents exactly that limited and exclusive party who so long adopted as the chief principle of its politics, that federation of great families as the only source from which the public service could be recruited. The course they have taken to-night has been, I think, a too eager one. I think it would have been as well if they had paused and taken another occasion than the Address to the Crown. But I do not complain of it, and on this ground. It is of paramount importance at this moment that the decision of this House should not be delayed. I speak with the most solemn conviction of the truth of what I am stating. I know that when I adverted to that subject at the beginning of my observations there were some ironical cheers from some unknown quarter. All I can say to the individual, or individuals, from whom those exclamations escaped is, that they are at least relieved from the great responsibility which rests on the advisers of the Crown. It is of paramount and vital importance that the decision of this House should not be delayed, if possible, for four-and-twenty hours. Why should you seek to delay it? 146 Does not every Member of this House fully comprehend the issue? It is not merely for the advantage of the public service; it is for the advantage of the kingdom and for the best interests of the Crown and of Europe that this question should be settled, and settled immediately. If it is decided against us, I shall accept that decision without a murmur. If I sit on those (the Opposition) benches, I shall give our successors, and my colleagues will do the same—I am sure I may answer for all who honour me with their confidence in this House—we shall give to our successors—provided they pursue a constitutional course in home affairs, and with respect to foreign affairs evince all that zeal and devotion which circumstances require—that support which every patriot is proud to afford to the Ministers of the country when a great emergency prevails. But if, on the other hand, this new Parliament shall be of opinion that the Amendment which has been brought forward to-night is not one that is just, or justified, on us will remain, both as regards our domestic, but especially as regards the management, of our foreign relations, as great a weight, as grave a duty, as awful a responsibility, as ever devolved on the shoulders of any Government; but from that duty and from that responsibility, however grave and however awful, we do not shrink.
§ VISCOUNT BURY
said, a grave responsibility rested at that moment upon the House. Her Majesty had been pleased to address them in a Speech, the terms of which, under ordinary circumstances, he should not, for one, have found fault with, and in the sentiments of which he could generally have concurred. It nevertheless derived great significance in consequence of the circumstances under which it was addressed to them, and it behoved them gravely and dispassionately to consider those circumstances. They ought to recollect the pledges which they had so recently given on the hustings throughout the country, and there was no reason why they should not give an independent assent to the Amendment rather than support the proposition of the mover and seconder of the Address. There was no charge against the Ministers of the Crown—there was no direct charge brought against them—but they must all remember the circumstances in which the country was now placed. A dissolution had taken place by the advice of the Government—at their instance—and 147 according to the words which had been placed in the mouth of Her Majesty, the object of that dissolution was that the country might have the benefit of a Ministry possessing the confidence of that House and the country. That was the issue raised by the Government, and he thought they were quite right in not shrinking from the result. The House ought, however, to be relieved from the imputation that this was a factious and improper move. That was not the fact; they had merely taken the earliest opportunity of bringing the question to an issue. He was not actuated by any factious motives whatever in the vote he should give at the conclusion of this debate. The question put to the country was one of confidence or no confidence in the Government of the Earl of Derby, and the country had decided in the negative. But if the Amendment of his noble Friend should not be successful, he (Viscount Bury) should feel it his duty to give Her Majesty's present Ministers no factious opposition, but, on the contrary, would endeavour to strengthen their hands in the great crisis in which the country was placed, for the purpose of upholding the honour of England. The matters of domestic policy and Parliamentary Reform adverted to by the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down were not the questions upon which he (Viscount Bury) would rest his opposition that night. The question upon which the Government were beaten last Session was the Reform Bill, and no sooner had they been defeated than they advised Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament, and they placed the dissolution, not on the question on which they had been beaten, but on the question of personal confidence in themselves and the Earl of Malmesbury. As had been stated by his noble Friend who moved the Amendment, not one of the supporters of Government, not even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks himself, whose address served as a cue to the cry of his party, had the temerity to say on the hustings that their conduct on the question of reform was a reason why the country should have confidence in Government. He would further remark, that in the Speech delivered from the Throne that day the Government most carefully avoided pledging themselves at any time to bring forward a Reform Bill. That Speech stated that Her Majesty would be ready to give her assent to any well-considered measure of Reform. For these words, of 148 course the Ministers were responsible; but he observed no pledge or assurance that the Government would even next Session bring forward a measure of Reform. The Chancellor of the Exchequer urged at considerable length that Ministers were not precluded by their position from bringing forward a measure of Reform, and that because the noble Lord the Member for the City had not carried some measures of Reform in which he had been engaged—the right hon. Gentleman urging that the present Ministers had as good a chance of bringing forward a measure of reform as the noble Lord the Member for the City. He (Viscount Bury) denied that. He was very much mistaken if any Reform Bill which the present Government were likely to introduce would be so satisfactory as a measure introduced by the noble Lord, because that noble Lord had devoted a great portion of his life to that question, while it was notorious that until circumstances forced it upon the present Government they were always enrolled amongst those who, no doubt conscientiously, opposed it. He would not detain the House on the question of Reform, though, from the strong feeling expressed on it by his constituents, he could not pass it over. In the present crisis, however, he thought that the question of our foreign policy was oven of more importance than any question of domestic policy. He was one of those—who, he believed, formed a large majority in this country—who were in favour of complete and absolute neutrality during the present struggle. The Earl of Derby at the close of last Session addressed the House of Lords in a very remarkable, and, in one sense, a very statesmanlike speech. He expressed an opinion that the war then on the point of breaking out would be a very sanguinary one, and could not be long confined within the narrow limits of Italy, and he uttered an expression which he (Viscount Bury) thought calculated to fill England with alarm, because although he said it would be the duty of England at present to preserve a strict neutrality, yet, at the same time, he intimated his opinion that if the war went on there was a chance, and a not very distant chance, of England being dragged into the struggle. He (Viscount Bury) believed they were all agreed that it was most desirable to avoid such a catastrophe as that, and that the supreme adviser of the Crown could not, under any circumstances, find himself in such a position as that this 149 country should be dragged into war unless he wished it to be so. On the 19th of last April, the Earl of Derby used this language:—If war breaks out, whatever may be the consequences, our neutrality, as long as it may last, must be to a certain extent, an armed neutrality, enabling us to take our part on that side, whichever it may be, that the honour, the interests, and the dignity of this country may indicate as the best deserving of our support.Now, he could not help thinking that there was a feeling in the Earl of Derby's mind, and if so, it was only in accordance with the traditions of the great Tory party to which he had allied himself—that it was not impossible that the question of war might be presented to his Cabinet in such an aspect as to justify him in plunging into all its horrors. He (Viscount Bury) might be permitted to doubt then whether to such a man the preservation of our neutrality ought to be entrusted. And it was not alone that noble Earl to whom these sentiments were confined. Other Members of his Cabinet had expressed similar opinions in equally forcible words. The First Lord of the Admiralty, the other day, at Worcester, said the war would most probably be too long protracted for England to preserve her neutrality. When, therefore, he heard one Minister of the Crown, before the war broke out, and another after it had commenced to rage, asserting that they saw ahead of them a position of affairs which would prevent our neutrality, he could not help saying that it was not to such men that the safety of England could be properly committed. There was another point to which he wished to advert, that was the leaning which the councils of England, under the present Ministry, must be supposed to have. A strict neutrality which manifested a leaning to one side or the other was a great absurdity, and he must say there were circumstances in the conduct of our Ministers which showed a leaning to the side of Austria. Look at the case of Tuscany. The Grand Duke of Tuscany was one of those Sovereigns who were under the protection of Austria, a man who could always say to his subjects, "If you refuse to obey me I can send for 20,000 or 30,000 Austrians to compel you to obey me;" and therefore he was obnoxious to Italian liberty. That man was deposed by his subjects and a republic was proclaimed. Now, the Earl of Malmesbury, in reference to revolutions abroad, had said, "We accept the revolu- 150 tions which they bring about by their own hands, we recognise their de facto and not their de jure Governments." He should like to know whether in the case of Tuscany the Earl of Malmesbury had acted up to that declaration. After a republic had been proclaimed in Tuscany, an English man-of-war went into the port of Leghorn, and refused to salute the flag of the Republican Government. There were as yet no papers laid before Parliament on the subject, but they knew from the public prints—and he believed the public prints were not misled—that a remonstrance from the Minister of a Foreign Power to our Foreign Minister was answered to the effect that we were not in a position at present to recognize a Republican Government in Tuscany. If we were not, then he (Viscount Bury) said our ship-of-war ought never to have gone into that port, because that was an insult to their nationality, and he could not but think that by refusing to salute that flag our Government showed a tendency towards Austria, and showed an unwillingness to recognize a revolution made by their own judgments and their own hands. If we were to be dragged into a war, for what were we to fight? Not, he hoped, to keep up that old and effete farce, the balance of power, or to preserve the Treaty of Vienna, which simply embodied the results of twenty or thirty years' war. Surely it could not be to keep up that worn-out Treaty; and yet, from what had fallen from the Earl of Malmesbury, it would seem that his Lordship thought the maintenance of that Treaty was the sine quâ non to the well-being of Europe. The Treaty of Vienna was a thing of the past. Until it had been systematically violated, as it had been in the last few years, we might have been bound by it; but we had broken it, and every other nation had broken it whenever it was their interest to do so. It was broken in 1830, when Belgium was separated from Holland; it was broken in 1846, when Austria took possession of Cracow, and annexed it to her dominions; and it was being broken now by England, which, with other powers, agreed by that Treaty to prevent, if she could, by the use of all her forces, the establishment on the Throne of France of the Bonaparte family. All those acts were a direct violation of the Treaty. In the speech of the Earl of Derby, to which he had already referred, that noble Lord had said, thatThe Government of Vienna is willing, and 151 would even regard it as a friendly act, that France and England should enter into an agreement that Piedmont should be guaranteed for a considerable time from all intervention.So that if the plucky little kingdom of Sardinia had not stood out from that arrangement we should have been involved in this unhappy war. He very much doubted, therefore, the sincerity of the Derby Administration in advocating neutrality, and, since they were not to his mind favourable to a real neutrality, he was not disposed to entrust the conduct of our foreign affairs to their hands. It was not because they had failed to preserve the peace of Europe that he found fault with them, it was because they had failed to secure the absolute neutrality of England. England was in such a position that it was impossible she could lose caste in the world by refusing to take any part in the struggle. The events of 1848 proved this. England did not suffer any loss of prestige in consequence of her policy of non-intervention, and he hoped she would steadfastly refuse to be dragged into the present European conflict. For that purpose he would rather entrust her destinies to those whose traditional policy was that of peace than to those who had always shown themselves to be the reckless advocates of war.
§ MR. MELLOR
said, he thought it was absolutely necessary, under the circumstances under which the new Parliament had met, to recall to the recollection of the House the state of things which preceded, and in fact led to the dissolution. The question of peace or war in Europe was then trembling in the balance, and yet because the House would not go into Committee on a Bill which no one had been found to defend, the Parliament was dissolved, and an appeal was made to the country. Now, almost the first paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech expressed Her Majesty's satisfaction at being able to seek the advice of her Parliament in the present critical state of European affairs. He could not help thinking that if the advice of Parliament was necessary at any time, it was at the time when it was dissolved, for no thing had occurred since which was not then foreseen. Now, however, that they were again assembled it became a question what course the House ought to adopt. For his own part, he thought there was no other line open to those who occupied the Opposition side of the House but to deliver the verdict of the country against the Government. He had come fresh from the hust- 152 ings pledged to do so, and he believed every Member of the Opposition had given his constituents a similar undertaking. Parliament had no alternative but to express want of confidence in the most emphatic, clear, and decided manner in the present Government. They were also told from the Throne that the necessary effect of the dissolution had been to interrupt various measures of legal and social improvement. On the other hand he would ask, was the dissolution worth that interruption? Again, they were told that the necessary effect of h at dissolution had been to incur a large expenditure for the defence of the country, for which the sanction of Parliament had not been obtained, and for which the Ministers would require a Bill of indemnity. Now, he did not mean to complain of that expenditure, for he was not acquainted either with its necessity or its amount, but it was one of those cases which showed the impropriety of the dissolution. They had the promise that night of a "well-considered measure of Reform"—a Bill at nine months, which would not be accepted by the House, nor endorsed by the nation. The country could place no confidence in the promises of "well-considered Reform." Why, then, should they trust the present Government for nine months? He did not believe in the sincerity of the Government upon this question, nor did he think the House or the country would place any trust in them. But even if the Government were sincere in those promises, their new Reform Bill would most probably be no better than their late Reform Bill, which was condemned by every one in the House that was not a member of the Government. Under what pretence then was it that the Government asked that confidence might be reposed in them on the question of reform, seeing their antecedents as a party, and the abortive measure they had last Session brought forward? Let the friends of reform, who adhered to it through evil and good report, come forward and deal with the question of reform. He believed the last dissolution was most uncalled for, and that the pretences upon which they had been sent to the country were wholly unjustifiable. He should be glad for the speedy arrival of the moment when he could go into the lobby to vote according to his own opinion, and according to the opinion of his constituents, against the present Government. He gave his most hearty support to the Amendment.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
153 said, that he had come down with very little idea of speaking upon the important subject under debate; but the singular silence which prevailed on the opposite (the Ministerial) benches—a silence which afforded one of the best proofs of the discipline presiding in that compact phalanx—compelled him to perform the somewhat difficult task of following speakers who had advanced arguments which had as yet been unanswered, and of endeavouring to add to the proofs which had been adduced of the incapacity of Ministers—an incapacity which, although they were not ready to admit, they were so slow to deny. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was most anxious for an immediate division, but upon a subject of such gravity as a vote of confidence or no confidence in the Government, he believed that the country would not be satisfied unless the eminent statesmen who occupied a leading position in that House explained the reasons which actuated them in the vote that they were about to give. The right hon. Gentleman after alluding to the "divisions" and to the "reconciled sections" of the Liberal party, looked below the gangway with a theatrical gesture which amused the House, and attracted the noble Lord the Member for London, and the hon. Member for Birmingham. This was not the first time the right hon. Gentleman had looked below the gangway, though with a different object in view. When his India Bill had proved such an egregious failure, he "looked below the gangway" to the noble Lord, and by his aid was enabled to save himself and the Government by proceeding to frame a Bill upon the Resolutions suggested by the noble Lord. When the question of the Ellenborough despatch was before the House, the right hon. Gentleman "looked below the gangway" and received assistance from the hon. Member for Birmingham: in fact, ever since the formation of the Derby Government, the right hon. Gentleman had been continually "looking below the gangway" for the succour of those whom he now attacked. The right hon. Gentleman also had made a bitter attack upon the right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham); but the House could recollect the time, not long since, when the right hon. Baronet opposed the Cardwell Motion, in a speech of wonderful ability, and when, in consequence, he was held up by his present accusers as the model for patriots and states- 154 men. The right hon. Gentleman had further denied, as an impudent fabrication, the report that the Earl of Derby had subscribed £20,000 to a certain fund for electioneering purposes. He (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) was glad to hear the denial, but the country was not by such a disclaimer to be cheated out of its conviction that means had been resorted to during the last election which had not been had recourse to on former occasions. The Government were very much mistaken if they thought that the subject was to pass away in oblivion, for he believed that before many weeks elapsed there would be statements made by men of greater influence than himself which would carry conviction to the breasts of the auditors. With regard to the dissolution, he looked upon it as an act of positive ingratitude, for an amount of forbearance had been exhibited by Parliament towards the Government which was almost unprecedented in English history. Although they accepted office with an avowed minority, he believed that the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for London upon the Reform Bill would have been either withdrawn or negatived if the Government had promised to leave the lowering of the borough franchise an open question for Committee. But they would give no promise on the subject. One hon. Gentleman connected with the Government declared that every point would be an open question in Committee; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary for the Colonies, and the noble Lord the Secretary for India took their stand upon the non-reduction of the Borough franchise, and the House knew not what to think. During the progress of the General election the Government candidates at one place proclaimed one view and at another place another upon this point. They had been informed tonight, however, by the mover of the Address, and subsequently by the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, that the borough franchise was to be reduced if the Government should have an opportunity of bringing in another Reform Bill, and thus the principle was quietly abandoned which had been the main excuse for the late penal dissolution, recommended to Her Majesty by those very men who had so strongly protested against the "Penal Dissolution" of 1857. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to supposed divisions in the Liberal party, but were there none in his own? Were the supporters of the Government so compact and 155 united a body as they wished the world to suppose? Could the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) go into the lobby arm-in-arm with that gallant knight of Malta, the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer), or the hon. Member for East Kent with the hon. Member for Dungarvan? (Mr. Maguire.) He believed that every Government must now-a-days be conducted upon Liberal principles, and he did not anticipate that a change of Ministers would lead to any great change of policy. The Civil Service Commissioners might probably be allowed to inquire into young gentlemen's orthography without being subjected to sneering letters from gentlemen in office, who appeared to attach but little importance to spelling, and magistrates might cease to be appointed merely for political qualifications and in order that parties might be balanced upon the bench—a system to which he entirely objected as introducing a political element where none ought to exist. The great advantage of a change of Government would be that the conduct of liberal and progressive measures would be restored to those who had always advocated them, and the public would be released from the fear that they were introduced unwillingly, and proceeded with in a manner which would rob them of half their virtue. He could not undertake to say whether the proposal of this Amendment was or was not a judicious party move; but he was sure that it must be attended with results beneficial to the country. If it were adopted, it would show that there was a Liberal majority, which must lead to the formation of a Liberal Government; while if it were rejected it would be shown that the Government was entitled to a fair support from their antagonists, and ought at least to meet with no factious opposition. He trusted, then, that Her Majesty's Ministers would yet feel that it was due to the House to defend themselves otherwise than by an obstinate silence against the Motion. It was hardly respectful that a Motion which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had called a Bill of indictment should meet with such cavalier treatment. The question the House had to decide was, whether Ministers were deserving of the confidence of the House and of the country. It was because he believed the Government were not worthy that he would vote for the Amendment of the noble Lord, and he might say that the penal dissolution which had been inflicted 156 on the House was of itself sufficient to deprive them of confidence in the Government.
§ SIR CHARLES NAPIER
said, he did not rise to speak in favour of the Amendment or against it. He should leave that to hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House who wished to get into office, and to the Government who wished to prevent them. He was about to speak of something far more important than squabbles between parties—the defences of the country. He was very happy to find from the speech of Her Gracious Majesty that it was intended very much to increase our naval force, and that the Government intended to put into execution the recommendations of the Commissioners with regard to manning the Navy. When the present Government came into office they certainly had much to complain of, for their predecessors had reduced the navy almost to a nonentity. He must therefore give them every credit for putting the navy into a better state, but at the same time he thought they had been a long while about it. It was not for want of warning that they put the navy into an efficient state immediately they acceded to office. The First Lord of the Admiralty had admitted that he received three warnings from the Surveyor of the Navy before he be began to stir, and he believed Sir W. Symonds had given a further warning before the right hon. Gentleman began to move. If the right hon. Gentleman had begun to reconstruct the navy when he first came into office, it would be in a far better state of preparation than it was now. It was pretty well understood that something against England was brewing between France and Russia, and although we had ten sail of the line in the Mediterranean tolerably well manned, and ten sail of the line now at home, and two more were commissioned the other day, yet the latter were very imperfectly manned. The Government had wisely issued a proclamation offering;£10 bounty to able seamen, £5 to ordinary seamen, and £2 to landsmen, but the men had not come forward in the manner which had been expected. He had been willing to make an allowance for the late prevalence of the easterly gales, which had prevented the ships coming up Channel; but sufficient time had now elapsed to ascertain the effect of the proclamation. Having been told there were no seamen in London, he 157 took the trouble the other day to go down to the Sailors' Home, and he found it full of seamen, some good, some bad, and many indifferent; but although he reasoned with them on the subject, they were very much disinclined to enter the British navy. He believed they had only been able to get 3000 men, notwithstanding all the proclamations, and out of that number, he was sorry to say, not 7½ per cent, were seamen. Now this was a difficult and tender subject at this moment. That he well knew; still he would suggest that a proclamation should issue that, in the event of a war taking place, those seamen who had entered before the recent proclamation raising the bounty should also receive the £10 bounty. He thought it was most important that they should show to the seamen that they would receive full justice. He believed that Prance had as large a naval force in commission as England had. [The First Lord of the Admiralty shook his head at this statement.] He hoped that the right hon. Baronet would be able to show the House the number of ships in commission in both countries, so that our naval strength, as compared with that of France, might be accurately known. The First Lord of the Admiralty ought to tell the House at once what the prospects were of our being able to maintain a much larger fleet than we had at present. There was said to be an engagement or understanding between France and Russia: and the House ought to have some information from the Government as to the state of the Russian fleet and French fleets, in reference to the possibility of a movement in the Baltic as the war developed itself. He had no fear of our fleet in any emergency if properly manned. It was due to the country, to the officers commanding the fleets, and to the men themselves, that the ships should be efficiently manned, and he hoped they would have a satisfactory explanation on that point. We had the means of manning twelve sail of the line with our coastguard and coast volunteers, but we had not at the present moment ships to put them into. He admitted, however, that that was a part of the service to which we ought not to have recourse, except in the greatest emergency, but they ought to be ready to receive men. [An. Hon. MEMBER: Question.] This was the question. This was the question, a question which belonged to him, and he did not want to enter into any other, There was an opinion that the 158 French were not good sailors, and that the French ships were not well officered; as a proof to the contrary, he might refer to the rapidity with which the ships of the French navy conveyed the troops from Marseilles to Genoa the other day, disembarked them in perfect order, and in a few hours were on their way back to Marseilles. A better proof of the efficiency of the ships in all respects could not be afforded. It was worth the while of the Government to bear that fact in mind, because it went to prove that in the event of a war with France we should have to contend against an enemy who knew his business perfectly well. If the Russians sent a fleet to sea—which they usually did every summer—if fifteen or twenty sail of the line, the Funds, which went down the other day at the mention of a secret treaty between France and Russia, would fall twice as low as soon as it was known the Russian fleet had set sail. If the Government had not men enough in the dockyards, let them enter more, so as to get a strong fleet prepared, and then every person would feel secure, and satisfied that the Government were doing all they could do. He was not speaking in fear of an invasion of this country at present, because the hands of France were full; but we ought to have ready a sufficient force to defend the shores and protect the honour of this country in the event of necessity.
§ MR. WILSON
said, he had thought it only due to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to pause a while to see if any of the supporters of the Government felt disposed to address the House, but it was clear that however large the numbers of hon. Members opposite might be, very few felt disposed to support the Ministry by their voice. He had missed especially from this discussion one hon. and learned Gentleman of great eloquence and ability—he meant the Solicitor General—who usually appeared on the first night of a debate to advocate the case of the Government, and stigmatize their opponents by some epithet—now a cabal and then a dodge; and he thought some such epithet would not be inapplicable to the proceedings of the Ministers that evening. It was quite unnecessary for him (Mr. Wilson) to justify the Amendment, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted that the Motion of the noble Marquess was not only fair, but, under the circumstances, he almost went so far as to say, necessary. He did not see how the House could have done its duty, having 159 defeated the Government in the late Parliament, and the Government having appealed to the country—he did not see how they could, consistently with their duty, have avoided challenging the issue now that the new Parliament was assembled, unless they were prepared to allow that the decision on that appeal to the country had been against them, and that the Government had the command of a large majority, which would enable them to carry their measures and maintain their position. But that was not the case; they were not prepared to admit that the present Government were in the position in which Mr. Pitt's Government were in 1785. He (Mr. Wilson) did not mean, however, to rest his vote upon the mere question of the dissolution of Parliament, but was prepared to show grounds for the Amendment in the management of the various departments, and of the finances of the country especially, by the Government. In the first place, he would ask the House had anything happened since Ministers were defeated in the late Parliament that should induce the present House of Commons to reverse the decision of its predecessor? The first act of Ministers after that defeat was to dissolve Parliament. They might have resigned, but they preferred to dissolve. It was well known that there was a strong feeling prevailing throughout the country, and he might almost say throughout Europe, of the impropriety of that course at such a time, and he complained of the dissolution not only on Parliamentary and constitutional grounds, but on European grounds. When Parliament was dissolved there was not, a single platform in Europe from which the minds of Emperors and Kings could be influenced. Having been in Paris a week before the dissolution he could testify that men of the greatest weight looked to the House of Commons as the place from which public opinion could alone make itself heard and influence the fate of war and of peace. On that ground, he complained of the dissolution, as opposed not only to English, but to European interests; and what excuse had they put forward for it? The hon. Gentleman who moved the Address had said that they might expect the Government to bring in a Reform Bill, if not this year, at all events next year; and, as he understood the hon. Gentleman, it would probably be founded upon the principles enunciated in the noble Lord's (Lord J. Russell's) Resolution. If they were pre- 160 pared to depart from the principles, which, when they brought forward their previous Bill, they considered a sine qua non, why did they not do it at once, and save all this trouble? There was another reason against the dissolution, which all statesmen allowed to be a constitutional reason, namely, that although it was the undoubted right of the Crown to dissolve Parliament, and of the Minister to advise the Crown to dissolve, he had no right to give that advice unless he had a fair ground to expect a majority in the new Parliament. But what hope had the Government of a majority? What did they expect? The Chancellor of the Exchequer told his constituents at the Buckinghamshire hustings that the Government expected 300 supporters in the new parliament, but would that give them such a majority as would justify a dissolution, or enable them to carry their measures? He (Mr. Wilson) could only characterize a dissolution under the circumstances in which it was resorted to as a sinful and unjustifiable act. Well then they came to consider what was the present state of the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman had often denounced the carrying on of a Government by a minority. It was not for the interest of the Government, the country, or of the House, that such a state of things should exist, and it was the duty of the Opposition to take up the challenge given by the Government itself, and ascertain whether Ministers had or had not a majority sufficient to carry on the government of the country. If the result of the division should show that they had, then a great advantage would have been gained by this Motion; for not only would they have knowledge of the fact and be enabled to prepare their measures according to their own views of the interests and requirements of the country with the fair chance of being enabled to carry them, but the country would have knowledge of the fact, and be prepared to extend to them its confidence. The issued raised upon the hustings was "confidence or no confidence." At all events that was the issue raised at Devonport, where all the weight and strength of the Government was brought to bear to induce its constituents to return a verdict in their favour. ["No, no."] Yes, he was opposed by a very respectable young gentleman, against whom he had not a word to say—the son of the right hon. the Secretary of State for War, and who was supported by all the influence of the 161 department over which the right hon. Gentleman presided. In his own case, not only was the legitimate power of the Government brought to bear, but the officers of the Government, paid out of the public purse, not only took part in the election, but were chairmen of committees; one of them was chairman of the committee of the noble Lord the Member for Plymouth, and another canvassed for and at the hustings proposed the son of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. It had always been held as the rule that persons engaged in the permanent service of the Crown should not take an active part in elections; so far was this carried, that in 1852, the President of the Poor Law Board was applied to to prevent overseers, although paid from parish funds, from canvassing in boroughs, and he stated that if they did so he would exercise the power he possessed under an Act of Parliament, and dismiss them from their offices. On the present occasion that rule had not been adhered to. It was not alone, however, on questions relating to the Government in the late Parliament, not only on the Reform Bill brought in by them and disapproved by the House, not only on the dissolution, and on their conduct during the elections, or on the fact of their being in a minority in that House, that he based his opposition to them, but on matters connected with the administration of the Government. He supported the Amendment clearly and distinctly on grounds connected with the state of the public finances, and the improper use of those finances in the expenditure of the country, and lastly, without waiting for the papers which the right hon. Gentleman had tauntingly told them they should have, he was satisfied with what they had already, and he was prepared to canvass certain points in the foreign policy of the Government from their own admissions and their own acts. First, with regard to the condition of the public finances. No doubt if they looked only at the public accounts and the statements of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the public might fancy that we were in a comparatively flourishing condition. A slight examination would, however, show that we were not only not in a flourishing condition, but that the course taken by the Government last year had placed us in a dangerous position. In the first place the Government had for some time gone far to reverse the policy which 162 that House had followed for many years past. The Government had allowed a large portion of the income-tax to expire, while the amount of duty placed on sugar, as a war duty, was allowed to remain. Of the indirect war taxation £3,000,000 had been retained, while the direct taxation had been reduced below the amount raised in time of peace. Last year the payment of Government bonds was postponed; and this year something of the same kind would probably be done. But what would be the state of the revenue next year? The duties that would expire next year amounted to £9,000,000; there were, no doubt, Long Annuities to the amount of £2,000,000 that would expire also; but still there would be a deficiency of £6,000,000 or £7,000,000. And what had the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, done to meet the difficulty? Little or nothing. He certainly proposed a stamp duty on bankers' cheques, and equalized the Irish spirit duties. But the proposed stamp duty, from which he expected £300,000, had only returned £190,000; and as regarded Irish spirits, there had been an actual diminution of receipts, as compared with the preceding year, of £94,000 in place of an increase, as anticipated, of £500,000; so that there had been a decrease instead of an increase; and whereas by the aid of the estimated increase in the duty on Irish spirits, the right hon. Gentleman computed the return from the excise at £18,600,000, there was a deficiency of £700,000 below the calculation, and if the amount gained from the bankers' cheques was deducted from that amount, there would still be a deficiency of receipt from the Excise, as compared with the estimate, of £500,000. With all these difficulties staring us in the face, with taxes to the amount of £9,000,000 expiring next year, and debt accumulating which ought to be paid off in 1860, no preparation had been made to meet the coming state of things, except these two attempts, which had proved so abortive that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had £500,000 loss than he had before. He should, perhaps, be told that there was a considerable excess of income over expenditure, and that the annual accounts showed a sum of £600,000 in that respect. But this arose from accidental circumstances—among others, by the sale of old stores for a sum of £1,194,000; a sum of £2,125,000 had been received from accidental sources, which could not be calculated on in future years. In short, 163 the permanent income had failed the right hon. Gentleman, whilst the accidental receipts had been greater than he had expected. The Customs' receipts had been in his favour in a great measure, owing to the accidental but extraordinarily large consumption of sugar. But if the House looked to the expenditure they would find it very much exceeded the estimate of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The interest on the public debt the right hon. Gentleman calculated would be £28,400,000; it turned out to be £28,527,000, or an increase of £127,000. There was an increase in regard to the charges on the Consolidated Fund of £40,000; and in the army expenditure of £762,000, besides £782,000 in respect to the Chinese and Russian wars. There was an increase of £59,000 in the civil service—on all the heads an increase of £1,880,000. On two points the right hon. Gentleman was within his estimate, and a saving of £645,000 had been effected; but there had been a balance upon the whole against the Treasury, or at least against the Chancellor of the Exchequer's estimate, of no less a sum than £1,050,000. On these deficiencies he would remark that in the case of the public debt there could be no excuse for the difference between the real amount and the amount anticipated by the right hon. Gentleman, because the charge could have been calculated to a penny. The packet service had also risen to the sum of £1,000,000 sterling a year. It was full time that the House should look at the principle on which this immense expenditure was based. In the year 1854 a Commission was appointed to determine the principles on which this great branch of public expenditure should be regulated, and it reported that no contract ought to be entered into by the Government for a term exceeding five years, and none except by public competition. Had those conditions been complied with by the Government? Before he (Mr. Wilson) left the Treasury an application was made by Mr. Cunard for an extension of his contract for the great Atlantic service. The application was made in the regular way through the Admiralty, and was looked at favourably by them. But the contract then had five years to run; it did not expire till 1862, and when application was made to the Treasury to renew it, what answer could be given but a negative? The application was repeatedly made, and the answer was uniform that the Treasury was not pre- 164 pared to bind Parliament prospectively for five years, and to ignore all chance of improvements that might be made in steam navigation in that time. There were other reasons for this refusal. The Treasury had just entered into a contract with an Irish Company and the London and North-Western Company to accelerate the communication with Ireland; and there was under consideration the question of communication with America from the West of Ireland. The Great Eastern steam ship was also in progress, and they were justified in looking to the probabilities of improvements being made in steam communication. What did the present Government do when they came into office? He was informed that one of the first things they did was to renew prospectively the contract with Cunard which had been refused; there was also another reason why the late Treasury refused that contract. When it was agreed that £191,000 a year should be paid for that contract, it was made on behalf of this country and of the Colonies also, but in the meantime the Canadian Government entered into a contract of their own, granting a subsidy of £50,000 a year, and if the contract had been renewed, it ought to have been made with reference to these special circumstances. The present Government having renewed this contract had, besides, entered into a contract with the Galway and American Company without having advertised for tenders or ascertained which was the best port for a communication between the West of Ireland and America, and this in spite of all the rules laid down and the Report of the Commission. The Secretary to the Treasury, in the discussion on this subject at the close of the last Parliament, said that this was not merely a postal service, but had reference to the interests of Ireland, and especially with reference to emigration, but that was not a sufficient excuse for the granting of a subsidy of £70,000 or £80,000 to a company for postal service. [Cries of "Question."] When any one was undertaking the duty of impeaching the conduct of the Government it ought to be done on solid grounds, and not on vague statements, and he was endeavouring to show how the finances and expenditure of the country had been dealt with. He would now refer to one or two remarks upon points connected with the foreign policy of the Government. There could be no doubt that both in and out of 165 the House there were two great principles which it was wished should be maintained—neutrality on the one hand and peace on the other; and he wished to show how far confidence ought to be reposed in the Government as regarded their power of maintaining either peace or neutrality. There was no hon. Member who had sat in the last Parliament but who must remember the 25th of February, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer answered a question of which the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had given notice. It was one of the most solemn occasions that he remembered. There was a general impression that we were on the eve of war, and when the noble Lord gave notice of his question it excited an interest not only in this country, but in Paris and in Europe generally, of no ordinary kind. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said:—I have the satisfaction of informing the noble Lord and the House that we have received communications which give us reason to believe that ere long the Roman States will be evacuated by the French and Austrian troops, and that with the concurrence of the Papal Government. Under these circumstances, Lord Cowley, who enjoys the entire confidence of Her Majesty's Government, has repaired to Vienna in a confidential capacity. The House will not press, nor expect me to enter into any details as to the precise character of his mission, or the nature of the instructions which Her Majesty has been pleased to give to her envoy. Enough for me to say that it is a mission of peace and conciliation."—[3 Hansard, clii., p. 880.]When these words were uttered, the impression they made on the House and on Europe was one of astonishment, as well as congratulation, but nowhere was the astonishment greater than at the Tuileries and the Foreign Office of Vienna. It was a grave thing to challenge a statement of a Minister of the Crown and in a way that would imply a distrust in the statement when it was made. But was the right hon. Gentleman justified in making that statement by anything which had occurred? No one could say so now. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to say that Lord Cowley had proceeded to Vienna. The fair inference was, and it was drawn by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, that in consequence of negotiations carried on by the Government, the evacuation of the Roman States by foreign troops would take place, and that in consequence Lord Cowley had gone to Vienna. But instead of this being the case, Lord Cowley received this information by tele- 166 graph, and received it with astonishment. Lord Cowley, they were told, had gone to Vienna, having the full confidence of the Emperor of the French and of Her Majesty's Government. On the return of Lord Cowley to London, but before his arrival in Paris, the Government received information from the Government of France, that Russia had proposed a Congress. Without waiting for the two days which were provided for, the Government anticipated the action of Russia, and wrote to the French Government agreeing to a Congress. Lord Cowley had never therefore had the opportunity of laying his proposal before the French Government, but was thrown over by the Government in favour of the Russian proposal. The Government, although believing their plan to be the best, accepted the Congress saying that they would not take the responsibility of rejecting any opportunity of obtaining the object in view. The result was, that the negotiations for a Congress were put an end to by the Vienna Proclamation and the breaking out of the war. He did not believe that by this vacillating policy the Government had acted in the manner best calculated to prevent war. It would have been infinitely better if the Government before they sent an envoy to Vienna to negotiate, had stated in writing the objects of the negotiation. At the close of the last Parliament there were expressions dropped by Members of the Government calculated to raise a suspicion as to what were their views. In "another place" the Earl of Derby said:—War once broken out in Italy, it is hopeless to imagine that it will be confined within the compass of that peninsula. Other passions will be aroused, other conflicting nationalities will arise, and other nations be called on to interfere in the conflict; and war once originated in Italy would at no distant period extend throughout its centre and to its frontiers, and wrap the whole of Europe in one general conflagration. It would not, my Lords, be difficult to trace the steps, nor would it be wise to do so, by which such an extension would necessarily come; but I will only say that even for this country it would be impossible to look with total indifference at any alteration of the occupation of the shores of the Adriatic. Our interest and power on the waters of the Mediterranean, and the possible consequences of any such catastrophe are such as would require the most careful vigilance and the most earnest attention on our part to guard against any possible contingency from the side of any Power whatever."—[3 Hansard, cliii. p. 1855.Since those words were spoken a large fleet had been sent to the Mediterranean, 167 as we were told, in addition to our fleet already there, which was powerful enough for all useful purposes. This had created no little excitement and alarm in the public mind, coupled with the Earl of Derby's allusion to the shores of the Adriatic. He would ask what shores of the Adriatic the noble Lord referred to? If he meant he Western shores of the Adriatic, and the coast about Venice, that would confine us strictly within the limits of the Italian war. If he meant the opposite shores of the Adriatic and intimated that an attack upon Trieste or any part of the territory of the German Confederation would be ground for our interference, that was a very dangerous doctrine, and entirely contrary to the views of the country at large. No doubt we were all agreed that, so long as the war was strictly confined to Italy, there was no reason for the interference of any other power than those actually engaged in it. It was well known, however, that if the war extended to the territory of the German Confederation, all the German powers would be bound to assist Austria; but even in that case, there could be no necessity for this country to break through its neutrality, and be drawn into the contest. That he believed was the opinion of a large majority both in the House and in the country. He could not help feeling some apprehension as to the conduct of the Government on this subject. He hoped the neutrality which we meant to preserve would at any rate not be such as might be inferred from a speech made by the Attorney General for Ireland in the last Parliament, when he censured the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) for not having supported a proposed settlement by which Venice would be restored as its condition to the Austrian dominion. He hoped no British Government would now be a party to such a bargain, to induce Venice to give up any advantages of freedom which she might have an opportunity of winning, in order that Lombardy or any other part of Italy should purchase liberty at that price. It had been urged as a reason for reposing confidence in the Government, that they would be able to carry a Reform Bill through Parliament, which no liberal Government could hope to do. But such a statement as that must have reference rather to the other House of Parliament than to this. Were they to be told, however, that the House of Lords ad no higher view of their functions and 168 duties than that they would be willing to carry a measure proposed by one set of statesmen which they would not carry if proposed by another set of statesmen? He had heard hard things said of the House of Lords, and many attacks made upon them, but never such an attack as this. If it could be truly said of them that they were actuated by such a motive, then he believed that nothing could be more calculated to shake the just influence of that august assembly over the minds of the People of England.
MR. DIGBY SEYMOUR
said, the question now at issue was not the duty on Irish spirits, the merits of the west coast of Ireland, the distance between Cork or Galway and Liverpool, or the subsidies of rival lines of steamers. He had heard with considerable surprise the introduction of such topics as these, and he must protest against the course which the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Wilson) had adopted in occupying the time of the House with such paltry details. Were they or were they not at that moment deciding the fate of a powerful Ministry, and- about to give judgment on an issue which effected he dearest interests of the country? He (Mr. Digby Seymour) was an independent Member of that House. [Laughter and cheers.] Yes, he repeated it fearlessly, an independent Member. He had gone down to a great constituency, without hereditary or other influence, but addressed himself simply to a frank exposition of his views upon social and political Reform, and to vindicate those views he had been sent to this House. He had come here unpledged, hut determined in his heart of hearts to support that policy which he believed would best conduce to the interests of Reform. The question had been asked that night, where was the Solicitor General? Could anything be more absurd? The Solicitor General was an eloquent and distinguished man, and he was too good a lawyer not to know that it was not for those who had to prove a negative to speak first, but that the onus probandi rested upon those who, in a crisis like the present, met the Government with a Resolution such as that now before the House. He protested against the hereditary leaders of the Liberals assuming that he and other Gentlemen on that side of the House, who held the same independent opinions, were prepared to follow them like a flock of sheep across the floor of the House. The noble Lord the Member for 169 Tiverton and the noble Lord the Member or London said that the Government of the Earl of Derby were not entitled to the confidence of the House and the country. Not with standing the Government pledged themselves in the Speech from the Throne, and through the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night, that they were prepared to bring in a substantial and honest measure of Reform next Session, do those noble Lords cry, "Out with them," without telling the country first what they will do if we put them out? Is this a fair issue? Is this fair play? Will those noble Lords pledge themselves to more liberal measures if they are restored to office? The Government of the Earl of Derby had made certain promises relative to the question of Reform, and had been true to them. They had laid a Bill upon the table which recognized the great principle of giving to the intelligence of the country a greater share in the representation. He did not mean to say, as an independent Liberal, that he was satisfied with the details of that measure, but certainly it recognized the principle for which he contended, and looking to Her Majesty's gracious Speech and the Chancellor of the Exchequer's explanation, at this moment the Liberals were offered more by the Government than they were by hon. Gentlemen on their own side of the House. If, however, the Government did not propose to give enough, what, he repeated, were the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) and the noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston) prepared to give? He hoped the noble Lords, before asking him as an independent Member to give a vote which, as the issue now stood, seemed to him unfair, un-English, and factious, would redeem their conduct by putting their issue upon a constitutional and intelligible basis, and telling the House how far they were prepared to go themselves. He must say that he sympathized deeply with the noble Lord the Member for London, who, in his present position, reminded him of the lines of Moore—One morn a Peri at the gateOf Eden stood, disconsolate.If, then, the noble Lord were admitted within the gate of office, would he give them a better Reform Bill? Will he legislate more speedily or more decisively? What offering will he bring to unbar the portals of the political paradise? Will he bring the Ballot? No! He is already pledged against it. Will he bring manhood suffrage? No! He had declared 170 the people not ripe for it. Will he bring a promise to realize his own views of last Session? If he did, he (Mr. Digby Seymour) and other members would support him, for the issue will then be one of principle, and not one of party. Unless the leaders of the Liberal party were prepared to answer that question in the spirit in which he had put it, and to answer it satisfactorily, he, for one, should give his vote heartily and sincerely to the Government.
§ MR. LAING
said, that when he had formerly the honour of a seat in that House he had ranked with independent Liberals, although he had never considered himself much of a party man; indeed, he sacrificed his seat in the last Parliament because he had felt it his duty to vote contrary to the leaders of his party. Having now been reelected as a Liberal he had considered the question referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Digby Seymour), and he had come to a completely opposite conclusion to that at which he seemed to have arrived. There were two great questions—Reform and our foreign policy—which they had to consider in dealing with the subject before them. As regarded Reform, he believed the conclusion which the country had arrived at was, that the Bill brought in by the Government was one which could not be accepted. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that night that they were ready to consider the question of the borough franchise. If so, why was Parliament dissolved? The borough franchise was not a now question, it had long been before the country—two of the right hon. Gentleman's own colleagues, who had left the Government, were willing to extend the franchise in boroughs, and yet it was only now that they were informed the Government were ready to consider the subject. As he had said, he was not much of a party man, and wished he could sec good reason for not disturbing the Gentlemen on the other side; but he must say, he did not feel it to be consistent with personal honour to call himself a Liberal, and sit on the Liberal side of the House, and yet oppose the great party to which he nominally belonged. And he could not but remember that it was the old leader of the Liberal party, the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, who had saved the country from having the question of Reform closed upon that inadequate basis to which he had alluded. As for foreign policy, his convictions were strongly in favour 171 of peace. If the present Government had succeeded in maintaining (he peace of Europe, that would have been a ground for his refusing to join in this vote of want of confidence. A short time ago we were told that keeping the Earl of Malmesbury in office was a guarantee for peace. Events had falsified that assumption, and the Government had been unlucky in well-meant efforts; with every advantage in their favour the war had broken out which they had failed to prevent. The question which arose, therefore, was whether, having failed to maintain the peace of Europe, there was any guarantee for the assertion that their continuance in power was necessary to prevent this country from being involved in the war? The evidence upon that point was not yet before the House; but from the declarations which had been made in Parliament by leading members of the cabinet, he drew the conclusion that so far as England was concerned, peace was more likely to be maintained by having a Liberal Administration in power. He took it for certain that, if this country were involved in the war, it would not be on the side of France, and that we should not go into it deliberately, but drift into it by the influence of German sympathies, and by some ill-advised and premature attempts at mediation, with a view to save Austria and Germany, by which we might be led into a quarrel with France, and so be involved in a war which probably no one of cither party would propose deliberately to enter upon. He could not help thinking that a change of Ministry would be more likely to entertain that alliance or good understanding with France which he believed to be the keystone of the permanent peace of Europe, and essential to the true interests of civilization. He gave the Government every credit for their good intentions, but he could not hesitate to follow his old leaders on the old principles of Reform, peace, and non-intervention, unless he did, what he was not prepared to do, abandon his party and go over to the other side of the House.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
—Sir, I think if any man could entertain a doubt with respect to the Motion which my noble Friend has made, calling on the House to express their want of confidence in the Government, the course the debate has taken this evening would be the most conclusive proof of its justice. How can the House have confidence in a Government who have no confidence in themselves? 172 How can the House have confidence in the Government of a party who, while boasting of the numbers of which they are composed, cannot find more than one advocate daring enough to come forward and defend them in the course of this long debate? Why, their silence on this occasion is sufficient of itself to warrant judgment by default, and is the most conclusive avowal that they are undeserving of the confidence of this House. Sir, I admit that if one champion was alone to fight their battle—if the rest of the army were so timid or so weak and powerless that they did not dare to enter into the arena, they made good choice of a champion.Si Pergama dextrâDefendi possent, etiam hâc defensa fuissent.No doubt that right hand would have been sufficient; but those who heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer must have felt, if the rest of the Government had anything to say in opposition to the Amendment of my noble Friend, that that speech, eloquent as it was, and full of unpleasant taunts and disagreeable reflections—attack on the one hand, and jest on the other—was wholly insufficient as an answer to that Amendment, which has been so ably moved and seconded. I think it is a most extraordinary spectacle that a Government, charged in the face of this House with being undeserving of the confidence of Parliament and the country, should have sat silent as they have done this evening. One would have thought that man after man of the remaining Members of the Cabinet—deserted though they be by two of their most respectable and distinguished colleagues—would have pressed forward with eager emulation to defend and justify the conduct which has been arraigned by the Motion of my noble Friend. But, Sir, it seems they are only anxious to conclude this debate. They entreat the House to take them upon trust, for argument we have not heard from them. They have nothing to say for themselves, except "For Heaven's sake, let the debate be as short as possible; let us come to a division to-night, when we have got our friends up; don't talk about our conduct, the less said about that the better; don't discuss our misdeeds; come to a vote; and then afterwards, if we have a majority, you can talk about them as long as you like." Sir, this is too grave a matter to be disposed of in that light and airy way. The question is, whether the Administration of one 173 of the greatest countries in the world is or is not deserving of the confidence of Parliament and the country. That is not a question to he dealt lightly with, and least of all at a moment when the flames of war are raging in Europe, and when no man feels certain how far this country may, or may not, under the guidance of those who at present rule, be affected by the conflict now being waged in Italy. I say, when great European and national interests are at stake, it is disgraceful for a Government so to treat the questions raised by the Amendment before the House, and to decline self-vindication. Then I say that On every ground the House ought to come to the vote that is proposed for their acceptance. I think, having regard to the manner in which the Government was formed, to the course they pursued, to their mistakes and defaults in domestic legislation, to their errors in foreign policy, and to the course they took in regard to the dissolution,—upon all these grounds the House is justified in withholding from them that confidence without which a Government cannot, with dignity or efficiency, hope to conduct the affairs of the country. I don't like to revert offensively to events connected with the formation of the Government; but on this occasion I must speak out. I say, they came into office by a Parliamentary manœuvre—by a manœuvre justified perhaps by the ordinary tactics of Parliamentary warfare, but which was not a foundation on which they were entitled to claim the confidence of the House. When the Conspiracy to Murder Bill was under discussion, about one hundred Members of the Liberal party differed from the then Government. I lamented the course they took on that occasion, but they had a perfect right to pursue that course, and with the opinions they held they did but perform a public duty in voting against the introduction of the measure. But what was the course taken by the leading Members of the Opposition on that occasion? Did they disapprove that measure? Did they not, on the contrary, in this House and in the other, urge on the Government to proceed with the Bill, and did they not, on the Motion for leave to bring it in, vote, to a man, with the Government for laying it on the table? But afterwards, when they saw a division among the Liberal party—when they saw a large number of the Liberals were opposed to the measure—then, yielding to that desire for office which I do not blame in itself, but with which they 174 now reproach those who oppose them, they abandoned their old opinions, and voted against the Bill which they had represented to be necessary to the honour of the country, and to the maintenance of a good understanding with a great neighbouring Power, and by that manœuvre they obtained Power. Well, then, I say their origin was bad; it was not creditable to them as a party, and they ought, I think, to have felt more gratitude for the forbearance with which those who were the objects of that manœuvre abstained from twitting them with their conduct. Being in, in that way, what was the conduct of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House? Did we harass them with any factious or vexatious Motions? On the contrary, they confessed that they were in a minority in the House of Commons. The noble Lord at the head of the Government, I think, admitted in his place in Parliament that his Government was only supported by a minority in this House; and if his Government, notwithstanding, has been able to support its existence so long, that simple fact alone is a proof that they have been treated with much forbearance. A Government standing so, cannot by possibility pursue their own course, or act upon their own opinions. But, at least, when such a Government do adopt measures which they take up in deference to the opinion of the majority, they ought, if they be a Government deserving by their capacity of the confidence of the country, to frame measures which will carry into effect the great principles they have adopted from their opponents in a manner acceptable to public opinion. In this, unfortunately, the present Government did not succeed. There were two great matters upon which they had to introduce Bills. There was the transfer of the Government of India to the Crown, and the Reform of the Representation of the People in this House. They adopted the transfer of the Government of India from the Company to the Crown, although out of office they had opposed it. They had, up to the last moment, resisted that transfer; but in office they immediately adopted it. This was very laudable, no doubt, because, being in a minority, the only consideration of their existence was, that they should submit, in great measures, to the will of the majority. But then, so unfortunate were they in devising and framing the measure which should carry out that great arrangement, that the measure they proposed was 175 met with universal ridicule, and was withdrawn without the slightest hesitation, and another substituted in its place. That second measure, undoubtedly, at last passed the House with considerable alterations; but I may be allowed to think that that second measure, although framed on the pattern of that which we had introduced, was less well adapted for working the system introduced. Their first measure of legislation thus utterly and entirely failed. Then they had to deal with another great question—Parliamentary Reform. In that also they had, out of office, been opposed to the carrying of the measure which they in office immediately undertook to propose. They had been anti-Reformers; but feeling, as I said before, that the condition of existence of a Government resting on a minority was, that it must adopt the principles of the majority, they became Parliamentary Reformers, and produced their Bill. Those who had watched the progress of their India Bill foretold that their Reform Bill would be an equal failure. People said, "No, men don't fall twice into the same mistake; they will not twice make the same blunder; they must have means of judging of public opinion and of opinion in this House. Depend upon it, they will introduce a measure that, with some modifications, will be acceptable to the majority of the Representative Chamber." And they brought forward a measure which, I believe, not one man in the House out of the Cabinet thought deserving to pass into law. There was hardly an hon. Member on their own side of the House that spoke in the long discussion who did not for one reason or another find fault with the measure they proposed. At last came a Resolution moved by my noble Friend which was calculated to redress two, at least, of the leading defects of the Bill they had introduced. That was carried by a majority sufficient to prove that the Bill, as it stood, could not go on through its other stages. Well, here was a second failure in regard to an important matter of domestic legislation. And when you see a Government which in the course of twelve months tries its hand at two great and important measures, and on both of them fails, I think it is not assuming too much to say that that Government is not one in which this House can be disposed to place confidence. Then what was the course they pursued on that occasion? The noble Lord the Secretary for India stated in the debate that if that Re- 176 solution was carried they should view it as a vote of censure. Sir, they had no right to view it as a vote of censure. It was a vote of censure on a measure, but it was not a vote of censure on them, excepting in-as-far as you may say it is a censure on a Government to declare that a measure which, after grave and long deliberation, they have produced, is not fit for the adoption of the House. They stated that they had two courses between which to choose—namely, resignation or a dissolution. I contend that they were not called upon to pursue either of those courses, but that there was a third alternative which they ought to have adopted. Being a Government resting on a minority—being a Government, and avowedly dependent on the acquiescence of the majority, I say the condition of their existence was that they should shape their conduct in accordance with the opinions and feelings of the majority. They ought, on that occasion, to have done the same as they did in regard to the Indian Bill. They should have withdrawn their objectionable Reform Bill, and brought in another framed on principles which the debates in this House had clearly shown to be in harmony with the general opinion of Parliament. If they had done this, and produced such a Bill, my belief is that it would have passed, and would at this very moment have been the law of the land. But it was reported of them that they said they had done that before, and could not repeat a course which they had once ventured upon. Why, they have made two mistakes. What they refused to do a second time was to correct the mistake and put themselves right. To be twice in the wrong they had no objection; but to be twice in the right was repugnant to their feelings. Another reason was given for their conduct, and a precious reason it was. It was said that I taunted them—that I bade them withdraw their Bill and bring in another, and that they would not do my bidding. Why, Sir, are they men or children? It might be a very good argument for a naughty child, when told to do a thing, to say, "I won't, because you have told me to do it;" but for men, for the statesmen of a great country dealing with an important question, to say they will not do what is right, because, forsooth, one of their opponents told them to do it, in a manner which they, perhaps, did not like, is either too jocose or too serious, I know not which. Certainly, men acting on such a principle ought not 177 to have charge of the interests of a great Empire like this. Then they dissolved. And I should like to know how many men in this House approved that proceeding. I am not speaking now of the personal inconvenience to which hon. Members on both sides have been put, but of the condition in which that dissolution placed the Government of this country in a great crisis of European affairs. Many things have happened which show that whatever other gifts the Government may possess, at least they are not endowed with the gift of prophecy. If they had been able to foretell that during the period when the country was deprived of a Parliament, and when the Ministry were consequently without the support which Parliament could give them, all Europe would agree to be quiet and to rest in breathless expectation for the result of the dissolution, they might, perhaps, have had something to say for the course they pursued. But men who looked with a statesmanlike eye at the state in which Europe was and might probably be before Parliament could again assemble—men who contemplated those measures which they found themselves compelled by a sense of duty to take without the consent of Parliament, and which ought not to have been taken without that consent—I allude to the establishments of the country—men gifted with foresight, I say, would have felt that nothing but inevitable necessity justified them in depriving the country of the presence of Parliament at so critical a moment as that at which they dissolved. The course they pursued was an unconstitutional course, because to add materially to our naval and military establishments, when Parliament was not sitting, unless they were called upon to do so by some overruling necessity, is not a measure consonant with the spirit of the constitution. Now, what that overruling necessity was we have not heard to-night, because they keep their secrets to themselves. We shall probably hear it all some other evening; but as yet no Member of the Government has risen to explain to us what imminent danger to the country required an increase to be made to our establishments when Parliament was not assembled to give its sanction to such a proceeding. I do not mean to find fault practically with what they did. I find fault with them for having wantonly and unnecessarily placed themselves in a position in which they were obliged to do it. We were told to-night 178 by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a delay of forty-eight or even twenty-four hours in the decision of this House will produce some unknown and awful peril. If a doubt existing in the minds of Foreign Governments for so short a period as to whether Her Majesty's Ministers have or have not the support of Parliament is likely to lead to such fearful results, how came it that they thought themselves justified in sending away Parliament, and placing themselves for six weeks or two months in a situation in which grave peril must arise to the best interests of the country? No doubt, the position in which they stood before was one calculated to lend strength to the Government in its foreign relations, because a Ministry which exists on sufferance, which is liable by any combination of a majority to be overthrown from week to week, or from fortnight to fortnight, cannot possibly expect that foreign Governments entering into negotiations with it will feel any confidence that the policy it begins will be followed up by its successors, and therefore with all civility and courtesy, they will decline the advances which such a ministry may make for the purpose of bringing about any great European arrangement. And so it was with the present Ministry. But even that state of things, weak as it renders a Government, much as it deprives it of that proper authority without which it is impossible either to preserve peace or put an end to war, if they had only brought in another Reform Bill, carrying it as they might have done with the concurrence of this House, would have been far better for the interests of the country during the interval that has elapsed since then than the total absence of Parliament, and the more than doubt which must have existed in the mind of every man in Europe whether the present Ministry would have the support of Parliament. For what was the issue they took—what the cause they assigned for the dissolution? They themselves declared that they dissolved Parliament because they had not the support of a majority; and it was therefore doubtful, and must have remained doubtful till Parliament had again met, whether the elections would furnish them with the majority which they then had not, and whether they would return to Parliament a Government backed by such an array of adherents in this House as would give stability to their tenure of office, and steadiness to any policy they might undertake. I say, then, that 179 the dissolution was a culpable proceeding. I say it was sacrificing what might eventually have been great national interests, in order to scramble for a few votes at different hustings. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke with great levity of the charges which have been made against the Government for irregular practices at the elections in certain parts of the country. I am not going to enter into that question now. But I will venture to tell him, that before any great length of time has passed there will be plenty of occasions—many more, perhaps, than will be agreeable to hon. Gentlemen opposite—when that subject will be brought under our notice. If, then, Her Majesty's Government are—as I contend they have shown themselves—unequal to the management of the domestic legislation of the country, I say they have shown themselves much more unequal to manage our foreign relations. They tell us, "Oh! you must not form or express an opinion upon that point because we have not given you our blue-book." Why, there is a black cloud hanging over the south of Europe which is quite sufficient to tell us the story without reference to a blue-book. We know the general outline of what has passed, and—without disputing the good intentions of the Government, for I have no doubt they did what they thought best calculated to prevent the war—I must say, my conscientious belief is, that the course they pursued brought on the war, and that a different course would have prevented it. Why, their great notion was, that the danger of war arose from France and Sardinia. Their idea was—instilled into them, I have no doubt, by interested parties—that if they could only hold language hostile to France and Sardinia, and patronizing towards Austria, they would preserve peace. That is the secret of what we heard in this and in the other House of Parliament; and up to the very last moment their belief was, that if they could only threaten France with hostilities by intimating to Europe, that in the event of war breaking out they would be found acting on the side of Austria, peace would be preserved, and war would be avoided. Why, they did not know that while they were entertaining such opinions Austria had been accumulating her forces in Italy, and had taken the decision for war, and that at the very moment when in this House the Chancellor of the Exchequer was talking of the "dignified conciliation" of Austria and the "sus- 180 picious and equivocal" conduct of Sardinia, that summons which within a week afterwards was declared by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, at a dinner at the Mansion House, to have placed Austria in the position of a great criminal was on its way to Turin. If they had known that—if they had been aware that Austria had then determined upon war—that although, as was stated to-night, France and Sardinia had agreed to the principle of disarmament, as a preliminary to a Congress, Austria was on the point of sending to Sardinia a summons which it was impossible for any Government entertaining the slightest feeling of independence or self-respect to accede to, and that the negation of that summons was in three days to produce an inroad into Sardinia and a violation of the peace of Europe, I cannot believe that they would have talked of the "dignified conciliation" of Austria, or the "equivocal and suspicious" conduct of Sardinia. It is quite plain that they were ignorant of the real state of affairs; that they were uninformed as to what was going on; that they were under a delusion as to the intention of the different parties, and that they believed the danger of war was imminent on the part of France and Sardinia, while there was no such danger on the part of Austria. The result proved that Austria was prepared, and that France was not, so that the danger was lowering upon Lombardy instead of descending from the Alps. They ought to have known that, and had they known it, perhaps you would not have found them threatening Austria with war, even if they had supposed her to be in the wrong. I think a threat to either side that any contingency of war was to involve England as an active party in the contest was wrong and imprudent, the more especially when it was launched at a proud, warlike, and independent nation, who must have understood what was meant, and would doubtless have resented it. If the Government had known what was going on at Vienna and what were the intentions of the Austrian Government, they would have held different language to Austria. I cannot but believe if, at that time, there had been in this country a Government possessing the confidence of Parliament, and resting for its support upon a majority of this House, that friendly, firm, but temperate language would have induced Austria to pause, and to abstain from that act of aggression which, in the opinion of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, 181 removed her from the position of a dignified conciliator to that of a criminal. It is plain Austria was alleging that her treaty rights in Lombardy and Venice were to be invaded. The Government might then have fairly said "Go into Congress. Let all the great Powers of Europe assemble, and we will stand by you in negotiation, in maintaining your unquestionable treaty rights; but do you, in your turn, and France consent to withdraw all military interference, and all improper administrative influence from countries which are not your own. Free the south of Italy from military occupation and from dictation to Governments, and let the Italians and their Governments deal with each other as independent nations invariably do. Leave them to settle their own differences, and probably the settlement will lead to your own prosperity." I cannot persuade myself that a Government, acting on statesmanlike views and possessing the support of Parliament and the confidence of the country, would not have been able to succeed at that moment in preventing the outbreak of the war which is now raging on the banks of the Po and the Ticino; and this leads me to the conclusion that the present Government is not entitled to the confidence and support of Parliament in regard to its management of our foreign relations any more than it is with respect to our domestic legislation. We are told that we must not lose a moment in coining to a decision upon this question. Why, whose fault is it if there has been delay in this matter? If the Government thought that a dissolution was necessary, why was that dissolution so long delayed? The dissolution might have taken place several days sooner than it did; and, the dissolution being determined upon, why was not Parliament called together sooner than it has been assembled? Parliament might have met earlier by several days. In that case the awful and mysterious crisis which appears now to exist, and in consideration of which we are called upon hurriedly and without discussion to come to a judgment upon the merits and the fate of the Government, would at all events have been anticipated by at least a week, and we might have had full time to discuss the merits or demerits of the Government without being accused of precipitating awful and dreadful contingencies. The question is, then, whether the recent elections have have not given a majority to the Government. I think that is a matter which 182 the country is entitled to have cleared up at the meeting of Parliament. We have been asked "Why hurry that decision now? Why not pursue the ordinary course of loyalty to the Crown by agreeing to an Address responsive to the Royal Speech; and why not wait for blue-books and authorities, and allow the Government to fill up their ranks with fresh allies, and to gain voices that may be heard in our debates? Why call upon us, on the first day of the Session, to entertain a Motion of this kind?" I say that the course now pursued is the manly, courageous, and straightforward course. We have had an appeal to the country. It was not upon the Reform Bill; it was not on the question of foreign policy; it was not upon one measure or another, it was simply an appeal to the country to determine whether the present Government does or does not possess the confidence of Parliament and of the people. I say, then, we should be neglecting our duty, we should be shrinking from the part which, as Members of this House, we are called upon to play, we should be disappointing the expectations of the country, if we were to sit silent hero, as (pointing to the Ministerial Benches) they are now sitting silent there—if we allow judgment to go against us by default, and if we had not ventured boldly to put the question to the House, whether the elections have or have not given a majority to the Government, and whether, therefore, the country as well as this House, has or has not confidence in the existing Administration. My belief is that the verdict will be against the Government. That is my opinion. But I am ready to say that, let the question be put in whatever form, a vote of this House ought to be taken. I think that it is not in accordance with the principles of the constitution or with the interests of the country that the Government of a great nation should be understood and believed to owe their existence to the sufferance and forbearance of the House of Commons. They are weakened for any purpose of domestic legislation; they cannot pursue or carry out their own opinions; they are tempted to pick up stragglers wherever they can find them; they are driven to depend upon stray votes; they are compelled to take a course unworthy of a Government, and they are prevented from acting in accordance with the system and principles of the party by which they are supported. Whatever may be the issue of this debate, I 183 think that this is a proper debate to urge the House to go into. If the decision of the House should be adverse, and if the result of the division should be a change of Government, I think that, following the comparison that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made, but without going into the comparative merits of individuals, the ranks of the Liberal party afford the means of forming a Government quite as efficient as the Government sitting upon the benches opposite—a Government which I may be permitted to say has lost some of its ablest Members. One noble Lord was thrown over, like another Jonas, upon the India question to save his colleagues. Two others seceded in consequence of differences upon their reform measure. I lament not to see in his place a fourth Member of the Government (Sir E. B. Lytton) who is absent from reasons which we all most sincerely regret, and which we trust will be of short duration, since we shall be delighted to see again in his place one who has so often charmed us by his eloquence, however we may differ from him in his conclusions. Well, Sir, looking to that remnant of a shattered Administration, I think it is not too much to presume on the part of the Gentlemen who sit on this side the House that it will be possible to form an Administration, the elements of which are as deserving of confidence as that which now sits upon the Treasury benches. If on the other hand, the Amendment is defeated and if, by a majority of votes, the existence of the Government is affirmed, I would rather that result should take place than that things should go on as they do now. It would be better for the country that the present Government in that case should be seen to have the confidence of the House. Their hands would be stronger. In domestic legislation they would be able to carry the measures they might think necessary. They would be better able to reconcile contending nations abroad, to avert the disaster of war, and to establish peace upon a basis at once firm and honourable. I am not in the least daunted by the indications that have come to us in mysterious and inarticulate sounds from the other side to the effect that they are in a majority. I should much rather that they should be in a majority, and that we should go out to be counted in the two lobbies, than that we should go on in the unconstitutional condition that we have hitherto been. I will not longer trespass 184 upon the attention of the House; but this I will say, that I am satisfied this debate cannot be brought to a close until many Members have expressed their opinions. It is a matter of too much consequence to the country, of too much regard to the honour and interests of the nation, to pass off like a turnpike-bill division at four o'clock in the morning, or by a "scratch" vote taken without discussion. If on the other side there are Members who have reasons to urge why you should not adopt this Amendment, let them be heard, and they will, no doubt, be answered by many who are capable of making a defence on this side. Let the House and the nation hear, and let Europe know, the grounds upon which you think you are entitled to the confidence of the country. A vote so come to would carry weight with it as the decision of the people, and, whichever way it turns it will be better than the present state of things.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that after what had occurred it would be useless to oppose the adjournment. It would be better to adjourn until Thursday.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday.
§ House adjourned at half after Twelve o'clock.