Order read, for resuming adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [7th June],
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, &c. [seep. 104].
And which Amendment was, 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 again proposed, "That those words be there added."
MR. SERJEANT DEASY
said, he was sure he should not ask in vain for the kind indulgence of the House while he laid before them the reasons which he thought ought to influence them in adopting the Amendment which had been proposed by the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire in a speech which gave such great promise of future excellence. At the outset he must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the admirable state of discipline to which he had brought his Parliamentary forces. Composed as they were, in a great measure, of what might be called raw recruits recently raised in the country, he thought their obedience to the word of command was highly creditable to the right hon. Gentleman's powers of drill. There could not have been a better test of this than what occurred last Tuesday night, for, although there were upon the benches opposite, as experience in the Reform debate had shown, gentlemen representing counties—not dumb, bucolic animals, but gentlemen gifted with powers of addressing the House with great effect, and willing also to use those powers—yet such was the state of discipline of the party opposite, that, in obedience to the wishes of their leader, they all abstained most cautiously from giving expression to their opinions; and no taunts, no arguments, could induce those hon. Gentlemen to break the spell which had been thrown around them by the great enchanter. Now, however creditable to the rank and file of the minis- 194 terial party that discipline was he did not think it equally creditable to their leader. He did not think it a fair manœuvre even in parliamentary warfare. In a new House of Commons, just called in answer to an appeal to the country, it was not consistent with the dignity of the House, or with the character of Her Majesty's Government, to attempt summarily and speedily to force a precipitate division. He quite agreed with the right hon. Gentle man that no time should be lost, not even an unnecessary hour, in giving a verdict of the House in answer to that appeal; but he did think that neither the House nor the country would be satisfied by a chance majority obtained by a manœuvre and a chance surprise, on whichever side it might be. He was glad that the manœuvre had been defeated, and that the surprise had failed; and that, whatever might be the decision of the House, whether for Her Majesty's Government or against, at least the country would know what was the real opinion of the House. With these preliminary observations he would address himself to the question which was the subject of their discussion, and he wished in the first instance to allude—and as he was the representative of an Irish constituency he hoped the House would not consider him out of place in alluding to the constitution and conduct of the Executive Government of Ireland under the Earl of Derby. When the present Government was placed in power he entertained serious apprehensions for the social condition of Ireland, arising from their advent to power. He feared it would have the effect of reviving and embittering those social differences and religious asperities which were so much to be dreaded, because they had been productive of so much mischief in Ireland. In that respect, he was willing to admit his anticipations had not been realized. His countrymen had borne the change with greater equanimity than he anticipated. He made the admission most frankly, and he was glad of it. He could assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that he entertained so great an abhorrence, not only on personal grounds, but on account of the effect on the prosperity of the country, of any revival of religious feuds in Ireland, that he would not willingly purchase any advantage, either to himself or to the party to which he belonged, at so serious a sacrifice. But he did think there were serious objections to the constitution of the Executive Government of the Earl of Derby in Ire- 195 land. His Lordship placed in the highest offices of the State two gentlemen, eminent in their profession, gentlemen i who had obtained for themselves great distinction in that House—gentlemen to whose eloquence he had ever listened with great pleasure, excepting only when that eloquence was directed against himself, and of whose success he had himself felt proud—he meant the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland and the present Attorney General for Ireland. Unfortunately—he meant of course not the slightest disrepect to those gentlemen, never having had a personal difference with either—still it was a misfortune to the country that these two gentlemen should have been placed in the highest position in Ireland. They had uniformly distinguished themselves in debates in that House on Maynooth and on other topics, by expressions of opinions, no doubt sincerely and conscientiously entertained, but which were hostile to the opinions of the majority of Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland. They were also connected with a party the recollections of whose rule in Ireland were, to say the least of it, not agreeable in that country. The consequence had been, that since their advent to office the distribution of the patronage of the Crown had assumed an exclusive character. He did not blame them for that. It was natural that, being placed in power, and having an uncertain tenure of it, they should wish to advance the interests of their party. It might not be their fault, but it was their misfortune and that of the country, that the Executive Government in Ireland should be so constituted as to regard with jealousy and distrust, and to be regarded with jealousy and distrust by, the great bulk of the Irish people; and that those who constituted the majority were excluded from all patronage. That exclusion was not confined to the patronage of the Crown; but, unfortunately for the Government and for the country, the same system of exclusion had pervaded even the formation of juries and the conduct of political prosecutions both in the south and north; for whilst in Kerry every Roman Catholic had been excluded, in Belfast every Liberal Protestant had been excluded, and he must say that he could not regard the statements which had been made that evening by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, as amounting to anything like a promise that any substantial 196 measures of relief were contemplated by the Government. On the other hand, he had heard with regret the statement which had been made by the right hon. and learned Attorney General that the Government intended to propose an alteration in the system of national education in Ireland in order to make it conformable with the views of the Church Education Society in that country. For these reasons he should be anxious to substitute for the present Irish Executive one that would not govern by and through and for a minority, but by and through and for the great bulk of the people. Now, this subject of the government of Ireland was not only relevant to the Amendment before the House, but was of peculiar importance on the present occasion. Important at all times, it derived paramount importance from the circumstances in which the country was now placed. We were now in deep water, and we might approach the region of storms. War had broken out in Europe, the progress and termination of which no man could foresee; and he would tell all parties, Liberals and Conservatives alike, that it was important with reference to Imperial interests, as well as to the interests of Ireland, that that feeling of jealousy and distrust of all Governments which was so deeply implanted in the Irish mind should be removed or mitigated, and that immediate measures should be taken for its removal; but he did not believe that that jealousy and distrust could be removed or mitigated until the right hon. Gentlemen opposite ceased to be the rulers of Ireland. He might be told that the result of the Irish elections was rather at variance with the statement he had made, but he confidently asserted that that result did not represent any change in public opinion or public feeling in Ireland. He admitted that a considerable portion of the Ministerial gain derived from the late dissolution had come from Ireland; but for that success they were indebted partly to the territorial influence—he did not speak of undue influence, but of the power naturally exercised over electors unprotected by the ballot and dependent upon the will of their landlords for the possession of their farms, and on the possession of their farms for their subsistence, and partly to the feeling of disappointment created by hopes unfufilled and expectations unrealized under the Liberal Governments which had preceded them in Ireland. They were also indebted for it to gentlemen who differed from them 197 upon every political question, but who, nevertheless, supported them at the recent elections. He was glad, however, to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer say the other night that that support was not obtained as the result of any compact or promises of favours to come; but it so happened that, before and pending the late elections, statements were made by gentlemen who were supposed to be well acquainted with the intentions, and to be in communication with the leading Members of the Government, in which it was alleged that concessions—and large concessions—were contemplated, and those statements were not disavowed until after the returns had been made. He quite agreed that there was no reason why there should not be Roman Catholic Conservatives as well as Roman Catholic Liberals; but he had observed with pain that at many of the recent English elections, when men who had always been the champions of the Catholic cause were opposed by Conservatives, the votes of the Roman Catholic electors had been given against their old friends. He did not think that that was consistent with gratitude, policy, or justice, nor could he admit that the concessions which had been made liberally and frankly by the Secretary for War—who, he believed, had been actuated solely by a sense of justice to the Catholic soldiers, and not by any political motives—afforded a sufficient reason for forgetting the services, long tried, unpurchased, and unpurchaseable, of the Liberal party. There were, he thought, three grounds upon which the Amendment before the House could be maintained and might be justified. They were asked to declare that they reposed no confidence in Her Majesty's Ministers; and in answering that question, the House had a right to consider—first, their political antecedents previous to their accession to power; secondly, the success or failure of their legislative measures since they had occupied the benches opposite; and thirdly, their administrative efficiency, and particularly their foreign policy. With respect to their political antecedents, he did not mean any disparagement to them; but he must say that those antecedents were not such as were calculated to recommend them to the confidence of a Liberal House of Commons. Their whole lives had been spent in opposing every measure which originated with the Liberal party, and which had been successfully carried by that party. They had hitherto acted as the party of resistance; 198 and it would have been better for their future efficiency and for the cause of constitutional government in general, if they had remembered their antecedents and never abandoned the functions of the party of resistance to assume the functions of the party of pi-ogress. With regard to the success or failure of their legislative measures, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had deprecated the trial of the Government by any such test as that. The right hon. Gentleman said that their failure in previous Parliaments was no reason for refusing them confidence in this. Now, that was an argument which he could well understand if their measures had failed, because of the opposition that had been offered to them in the late House of Commons, and if the Government were prepared to reintroduce those measures into the new House; but if that failure was to be ascribed to the inherent defects of the measures themselves, it afforded a fair test of the capacity of the Government and of those with whom the measures originated. At any rate he should apply that test to them. They had endeavoured to introduce three important Dills in the last Parliament. They attempted to legislate on the Government of India, for the settlement of the Church Rate question, and the representation of the people. Each and all of the great measures which they had introduced had been signal failures. The India Bill was received with derision and did not go to a second reading; the Church Rates Bill was displeasing alike to Churchmen and Dissenters; and the Reform Bill was as universally condemned as any measure ever introduced into that House except their Indian Bill. Except the occupants of the Treasury Bench no one defended it but the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge (Mr. Macaulay). What course had the Government pursued with respect to that question? When the Bill was before the House they adhered to the standard of the borough franchise as fixed by the Reform Bill of 1832. Rather than depart from that they sacrificed the services of two of their colleagues, who now sat behind them in honourable retirement. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that hon. Members who sat below the gangway were supporting revolutionary projects, and the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Colonies, whose eloquence they ail recognized, and whom he deeply regretted that they should not hear in the course of this debate, warned those who supported 199 the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for the City, that the principle for which they contended would inevitably lead to the abolition of small boroughs and pave the way for the advent of democracy. The Amendment was adopted, and against the remonstrances of their own friends—of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge, who was their colleague—of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, whom, if report spoke true, they desired for a colleague, and of the right hon. Gentleman who recently contested the West Biding of Yorkshire—the Ministers recommended a dissolution of Parliament. The result of that dissolution had been that they had gained an accession to their numbers of 30. By what means that was obtained he did not inquire, because there were no materials—no evidence on which to decide. That, of course, was a matter yet to be investigated, He would not, therefore, make any charge. He had no evidence against them of having exercised any other than that legitimate influence which all Governments were in the habit of using. The Liberals in that House now met, he admitted, with diminished numbers, though he hoped not with diminished strength. "The pressure from without" was calculated to produce, and he hoped had produced, greater cohesion within—a cohesion not obtained by any sacrifice of principle above or below the gangway, but by mutual concessions—yes, by such mutual concessions as those who had not sworn to the words of any one, who had not bound up their allegiance with any particular leader,Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri,must necessarily make in order to secure combined action in the conduct of public business. And what was the conduct pursued by the Government on the first night of the Session, after a vote of want of confidence had been proposed by the Liberal majority of the House? They said, first vaguely through the lips of the hon. and gallant Mover of the Address, and then more explicitly through the lips of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that they were prepared in a future Session to adopt that very principle of the reduction of the borough franchise which they had previously described as revolutionary and stigmatized as paving the way for democracy. Why was not that announcement made before, and why was it made now? It was not made before simply to admit of their 200 candidates presenting themselves at the hustings with some pretence to the character as well as to the name of Conservatives. It was made now for the purpose of obtaining, if possible, some few stray votes. In one instance, he hoped a solitary one—that of the hon. and learned Member for Southampton (Mr. Digby Seymour)—this declaration had obtained a vote; but he did not believe that the example would be followed by many. He hoped and trusted that it would not. He would, however, appeal to the gentlemen of England whether this was conduct of which they could approve, and to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his colleagues he might address the question which the right hon. Gentleman himself once addressed to an eminent statesman when seated on the Treasury Bench: "You call yourselves Conservatives? Conservative of what?" They were certainly not Conservative of our Parliamentary constitution, because they proposed to destroy, or so greatly to enlarge the basis of that constitution. Such, then, had been the course of their domestic legislation. With regard to their foreign policy, when last Parliament met, peace, though precarious, had not been broken; the Government presented themselves in the character of mediators, and they told the House and the country that upon their continuance in office depended the preservation of peace in Europe. They warned the House against any change of Government, lest, thereby, tranquillity might be endangered, and they said that negotiations were pending by which they hoped to ensure the continuance of tranquillity. That that prediction had not been verified was proved by the event. The danger they had warned the House of had occurred. War had broken out; one fair portion of Europe was already desolated by its horrors; and no one could say where or when it would terminate. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that failure did not necessarily imply incompetency, and he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman. He also said, and he was right, that the House had not as yet before them all the particulars of the negotiations which had eventuated in so unfortunate a result. It was true that the House had not the papers before them which would enable them to judge of the conduct of these negotiations; but surely those who read the public prints had seen quite enough to enable them to form some opinion upon the subject. They had seen in the affair of 201 the Charles et Georges, in the sudden abandonment of the propositions for mediation submitted through Lord Cowley to the French and Austrian Emperors, and the equally sudden adoption of the Russian proposal for a Congress, to which was immediately ascribable the breaking out of hostilities, that the interests of this country would not be materially prejudiced by the removal of the Earl of Malmesbury from the Foreign Office. With respect to the other departments, he had no doubt that right hon. Gentlemen opposite discharged their duties with great zeal, efficiency, and anxiety to promote the public service; but it was no disparagement to them to say that their continuance in those offices was not indispensable to the public interest. They had also discharged their duties with great courtesy; but he trusted that there were to be found on that (the Opposition) side of the House hon. Gentlemen of equal ability and zeal, who could discharge their duties with equal efficiency and courtesy. The question had been asked what were the consequences to result from the adoption of the Amendment, and the Liberal party had been taunted with their dissensions; but that was a taunt which he thought might be retorted upon hon. Gentlemen opposite. Did the noble Lord the Secretary for India (Lord Stanley) agree on all important political subjects even with his colleagues in the Cabinet? In the last Parliament they had a remarkable proof that he did not, when a measure relating to church rates was before the House. Was there no diversity of opinion between the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer and many of those who sat behind him? Take the two hon. Members for North Warwickshire for instance. Was there a perfect coincidence of opinion on every important question between the right hon. Gentleman and them? Of course there were diversities of opinion among the Liberals, as there must always be among gentlemen who were not bound by allegiance to a master, but were attached to a cause. For his own part he could see no reason why, if the present Government were displaced, as he hoped they would be, a Government more strong, efficient, and durable—more respected by foreign powers, not so much affected with Austrian sympathies, equally anxious, and more able to preserve that neutrality which all so much desired, should not be the result of the change. He was sure there were abundant materials for such a Government both above 202 and below the gangway, and he believed that those noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen would incur a serious responsibility if, after having proposed this Amendment and carried it, they failed to present to the country such a Government as he had referred to. On the other hand he might ask what would be the consequences of failure. If the Government won they would be indebted for it to the votes of stragglers from the Liberal side—Gentlemen who differed from them on all political questions. Now, was that a satisfactory state of things? Was a Government which at the very outset of a new Parliament was only able to protect itself from censure, if it did protect itself, by a nominal majority, fit to inspire respect at home, or add weight to its suggestions abroad? Was it likely to have weight in the Councils of Europe or to preserve to us the blessings of peace? Suppose that it wa3 able to drag on a precarious and feeble existence to the close of the present Session—a very extreme supposition—was the House satisfied to entrust in the hands of such men those negotiations for peace which would probably be opened up during the recess? He confessed, for his part, that he saw no course out of the difficulties in which the Government had involved the country by their unwarrantable dissolution, except by agreeing to the Amendment of the noble Lord. If it failed, though he did not anticipate failure, he believed that even then the existence of the present Government would not be of long duration. He would address the Liberal party in the words of the Roman poet—Opassi graviora; dabit Deus his quoque finem.But whatever the consequences might be the issue to him was clear and plain. They had given the Government every advantage in the attack, with every disadvantage to themselves. In military language they had committed themselves to an assault on a strong and fortified position; to use a legal phrase, they had taken upon themselves the onus of proof. The Government might be satisfied in this case with a verdict of not proven. The Liberals must obtain a verdict of condemnation, or they did nothing. He therefore asked the House to register the decision of the country. There must now be no mistake on the matter. The question was one of confidence or no confidence in the Earl of Derby. In such a case every hon. Gentleman must, of course, decide for himself. With regard to the hon. Gentlemen below him (Irish Members below the gangway), he had no doubt that 203 those of them who meant to support the Government were actuated by a sense of public duty alone. But, for himself, his duty was plain. From the first he had entertained no confidence in the Earl of Derby; and, believing that it was for the interest of his own country and of the empire at large that his rule should cease, and that the reins of Government should fall into other hands, he had no alternative but to vote for the Amendment of the noble Lord.
said, it was with no ordinary diffidence that he ventured to throw himself upon the indulgence of the House—a diffidence which arose from his total inexperience of Parliamentary usages. But he felt that he would be guilty of a reat neglect of duty if he allowed that inexperience to interfere with the expression of his conscientious opinions. It had been made matter of reproach to that, the Ministerial side of the House, that they had, on the former evening, allowed hon. Gentlemen on the other side to monopolize the whole of the discussion. They had been taunted with being unable, or unwilling, to explain their reasons for sitting on that side of the House. Though, as a new Member, he might be supposed not the best fitted to reply, and therefore might not feel himself individually bound to participate in the debate, he was unwilling to decline the challenge which had been thrown out. The frank admission of the noble Lord, who moved the Amendment, left no doubt that this was decidedly a party move. He had no wish to assume the authority to lay down any standard as to the principles which ought to characterize the debates of the House, but he felt that even a party move ought to have some grounds of sense and show of reason on which to found it. Now, he had watched the whole of this debate; and though the party opposite had had the sole occupation of the battle-field, he had not heard a single argument that went to prove the justice of the Motion. He would not allude to what took place in former Parliaments. It was not for him to defend the policy or the acts of Her Majesty's Ministers—it was not for him to defend men who were so much better able to defend themselves; but he must be allowed to express the belief that the dissolution of Parliament was the only constitutional course which, under the circumstances they could have pursued. He believed they had taken the straightforward line of policy in refusing to carry 204 on the Government as the obedient slaves of an opposing majority. He believed they had acted constitutionally in advising Her Majesty to appeal to the country to send to her assistance such a body of representatives as would enable one party or another to rule with authority. And now that the House had met it was their bounden duty not to impede the course of legislation, but to give the Government a fair chance of unfolding and carrying the measures they thought beneficial for the nation. There was one thing above all others of which they were bound to take care—that if by their decision they now declared that the present Government were not to retain the reins of office, they should be prepared with a strong Government to take their places. Now, he would ask hon. Gentlemen to look round on the other side and ask themselves where that Government was to come from. It was now said that the diversities which they all knew to have existed on the other side had been arranged, while Her Majesty's Ministers were taunted with having lately lost two of their ablest colleagues. Well, he regretted that; but when he contrasted this honourable, though painful, conduct with these arrangements of differences in prospect of office on the other side, he could only say that it was not on his side, at any rate, that men consented to stifle their principles for the sake of place. The two noble Lords opposite were, it was said, ready to act together. It would ill become him to speak with any but feelings of the most profound respect of those two noble Lords, but he might ask, were the antecedents of one of them—the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston)—such as to lead them to believe him gifted with that combination of energy, discretion, and consideration for the feelings of foreign powers which would enable him to preserve that strict neutrality which the country so much desired? With regard to the noble Lord the Member for London, he might ask whether that noble Lord would take up as his ground of action the broad basis of the English constitution, and on those principles which he had always advocated; or whether he would extend the hand of friendship to men whom he knew to entertain opinions that, however honourably and conscientiously they held them, were opposed to the feelings of the large majority of the House and country? He would now for a moment refer to the question of that support which it was made matter of 205 complaint against the majority of the Irish Members that they were about to give to the Ministers. It could not be said of him that he was attached to any hierarchy, but he felt unbounded pride in the thought that while he stood there as a sincere Protestant, and one who, as was known to all who knew him, was incapable of sacrificing his principles to his interests, yet he stood in that House as the representative and champion of a great Catholic constituency. He denied most emphatically that the Catholics demanded any illegitimate preponderance whatever—he hurled back with scorn the imputation that they were prepared to make their religion a matter of bargain and sale. If, then, hon. Members opposite wished to know why it was that the Roman Catholics of Ireland had supported the Government in the late elections he would answer, it was because, disgusted with the treachery of which they had been made the victims by other parties, they had made up their minds to give a fair trial and an honourable support to men who, they believed, would give them that substantial justice and due consideration to which they were fully entitled as an important element in the country. He would appeal to the Irish Members of Parliament—those men who had not always received due credit for their conduct—men whose talents had not always met in that House with that consideration which they deserved—men who, though they were opposed to him on many points, yet he believed had conscientiously devoted themselves to the welfare of their common country—he would ask them had they forgotten the treatment they received from other hands, and remembering how they had been alternately coaxed and insulted and on almost every occasion cajoled, were they prepared to see their country again made the tool of faction and the mere shuttlecock for place? Let them give the present Government a fair trial; and if on that trial they were found wanting he would be among the first to join with them in an attempt to remove them from office. But until that were proved, he asked his countrymen to join with him in giving a cordial support to men who, as he conscientiously believed, were prepared to maintain our due influence in the councils of Europe and uphold the integrity of this great empire.
§ MR. GRANT DUFF
said, that of the many weak points which the position of the Government presented, he would select only one—the extraordinary incapacity, 206 not to use a stronger term, which had been shown in the conduct of our foreign relations. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Address had observed that the feeling of the country in favour of neutrality had been so unequivocally declared that it was impossible to withstand it. Was this quite true? Were the days of English statesmanship so completely gone by, that Her Majesty's Ministers were to be now and henceforward nothing more than the middlemen who transmitted the commands of popular opinion, as proclaimed through the daily press, to the clerks in the public offices? It would, he conceived, be admitted on all hands that the one object of every Englishman who interested himself in contemporary politics, from the first of January in this year to the day when it was announced that the Austrians had crossed the Ticino, was to preserve, by every possible means, the peace of Europe; but was it so certain that this could be best effected by a premature declaration of absolute neutrality? What if Lord Malmesbury had tried the effect of a little moral pressure upon Austria? Would Russia have been unwilling to assist in squeezing the interesting patient? Would Prussia, after a little bluster, have been so very sorry to see her nearest and bitterest enemy stripped of her Italian possessions? He said that be knew some one would tell him that this was impossible. Even now they would say the feeling in Germany is all but uncontrollable. The various Governments can hardly prevent the whole fatherland rushing across the Rhine. All this story of German enthusiasm was full of wild exaggeration. True it was that theAugsburg Gazette published frantic articles against France, and theAugsburg Gazette is calledThe Times of Germany; but names often remain in this world when realities have passed away, and theAugsburg Gazette was not now a fair exponent of German opinion. The Augsburg Gazette was to all intents and purposes an Austrian paper, although published in Bavaria. The great majority of its subscribers lived in Austria, and it was obliged to write so as to be acceptable to the Austrian censorship. Any one who wished to know the real state of feeling in Germany should consult the Cologne Gazette, which was now by far the most influential German newspaper. He held in his hand a copy of that paper, of date June 5th. In it he found an article in which the editor, after quoting at length the re 207 cent leader in The Times, which described in such strong language the feeling of Germany, went on to state that we in England were altogether mistaken about the state of things beyond the Rhine; that in truth such excitement as there was, was the result partly of philo-Austrian intrigues, and partly of an invasion panic, similar to those with which we in England are often visited, and one of which, it is amusing to learn, is now raging in the north of France, where, it appears, they expect a visit from our Guards and Militia. He would read an extract from a leading article of theNational Gazette of Berlin, which had just reached him. It was in these words:—We must admit that, while no power beyond the limits of Germany has given us the smallest cause of offence, the behaviour of Austria and of some of the smaller German States is a tissue of indiscretions.The German States principally alluded to were, he believed, Bavaria and Hanover. The Austrian sympathies of Bavaria were of course easily accounted for. Bavaria was a Catholic country, and the clergy there very erroneously, as he conceived, imagined that the maintenance of thestatus quo in Italy was essential to the Roman Church. When, however, people spoke of Germany, they generally thought of Protestant Germany. Hanover, indeed, was a Protestant country, but, for the Austrian sympathies of Hanover, there were special reasons; an exceptionally large amount of Austrian securities was held in that country, and most of the Hanoverian families of consideration had relatives in the Austrian service. He would venture to say, that the only organ of public opinion of much repute in Germany, which held strongly Austrian views, was the notoriousKreuz Zeitung, and those who remembered the part which that journal took during the Russian war, knew to what section of politicians it belonged, and would care little for its opinion. When, then, the feeling of Germany was such as he had described, when Russia stood affected as she does stand affected, would it, he again asked, have been so very impossible to have exercised some moral pressure, and to have forced her to abandon so much of her pretensions in Italy as to have prevented a war? "Oh! but," he was told, "this would have been playing the game of French ambition." Would it indeed? The Government well knew that it was not from motives of mere ambition that the French 208 Emperor entered Italy. He did not stand there to defend the Emperor; far, indeed, from that; he did not pretend, for a moment, that the campaign was commenced from any high motives, but the Government knew well the sequence of events; they remembered the state into which the Emperor had been thrown by the Orsini attempt; they knew that, for a time, he had been perfectly unmanned; they knew that soon after that period the picking of a quarrel with Austria had positively been determined on, unless some great and tangible advantage could he gained for Italian freedom. From the 1st of January onwards, well-informed foreigners in London had continually asserted that war was merely a question of time if Austria did not yield to diplomacy. The war had now commenced, but he fully believed that, whatever circumstances might force him to, the present intentions of the Emperor towards Italy were tolerably honest. The same pressure from the Carbonari, or their representatives, which compelled an intervention, would insure that. Why, then, when the Government knew all this, did they declare so unnecessarily early for the absolute neutrality of England? They did so for the same reason which has actuated almost the whole of their conduct since they came into power. They have been guided, not by what they thought right, but by what they thought temporarily expedient. They feared that if they did not immediately, in obedience to the cry of the hour, announce an absolute neutrality, that they might give us, who sit on this side, some party advantage, and so they sacrificed the substance of peace to its shadow, and preserved at best, for a little time, the base tenure of the offices, instead of conferring upon Europe a great and bloodless benefit.
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) made a complaint the other night that, as he said, we had left all the argument to the other side, and that it rested with the unsupported speech of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to vindicate the policy of the Government. It is true, that after the able speech of the noble Lord who moved the Amendment, the debate was continued principally from the opposite benches in somewhat desultory speeches; but I appeal to all who heard the debate of that evening whether, though the preponderance of numbers might rest with hon. Gentlemen opposite, victory and suc- 209 cess did not rest with my right hon. Friend? Indeed, the noble Lord seemed to be of that opinion himself, when, in a debate of this importance, on the very first night he felt constrained himself to enter the lists to restore the unequal fight, and to inspirit again the flagging courage of his party. The noble Lord took up a position which has been followed by nearly all the speakers on the other side—that this House of Commons ought to refuse its confidence to Her Majesty's Government, on the ground of their failure both in domestic legislation and in the administration of our foreign relations. With reference to the first point, the noble Lord said that through the whole course of the past Session we had found ourselves unable to carry those measures which we considered desirable for the public service, and unable to carry out, as a Government, those opinions which he had expressed in Opposition. But the noble Lord may be reminded that a failure to carry measures, thought to be necessary to the welfare of the country, is not incidental to the career of the present Government only. The noble Lord may be reminded that if Her Majesty's Government attempted to settle the question of church rates and failed, that question had also been unsuccessfully treated by our predecessors. The noble Lord has been reminded, that if we were unsuccessful in our measure of Reform, the noble Lord the Member for London has been twice in the same predicament. And although the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) himself is not open to the same remark, he is not open to it solely upon this account, that although he promised to the House a measure of Reform, he was not able to redeem that promise. But we are told, too, that we were not able to carry our first India Bill. The noble Lord, however, was also in the same position. Night after night the Bill of the noble Lord appeared to no purpose upon the notice paper, and if I recollect rightly the history of the India Bill which was actually carried, some of its most important provisions were stoutly and stiffly but unsuccessfully combated by the noble Lord. But it appears to me, that looking at the origin of the present Government, the argument of the noble Lord is rather distinguished for its ingenuity than its weight. Under what circumstances did the Government of the Earl of Derby come into office? They came into office because, not more by the vote of this House 210 than by the unanimous and indignant decision of the whole people of England, the noble Lord was expelled from power. The Earl of Derby was compelled, under these circumstances, to take upon himself the responsibilities of office, knowing that he was not supported by a majority in this House, because in the position in which the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton placed the affairs of this country, no other administration seemed at the time to be possible. And the argument of the noble Lord comes to this, that, because in the last Session the Earl of Derby had, in obedience to the commands of the Sovereign, undertaken to form a Government which did not possess the confidence of the majority of the House of Commons, it is the duty of this House also to refuse to us its confidence. But the noble Lord says, further, that we are not entitled to the confidence of this House, because we have not been able to carry into effect in office the opinions which we expressed in Opposition. Now, I beg to point out to the noble Lord the application of which that argument is capable. We are told that if this Amendment should be carried a Government is to be formed upon a wide basis. It is to embrace, I will not say all sections of the Liberal party, because, although the noble Lord who moved the Amendment says that the various sections of that party differ only upon details, and not upon principles, I venture to state that I see upon the Opposition benches many hon. Gentlemen who differ more widely in opinion from the noble Lord than the noble Lord differs from the Gentlemen on this side of the House. But we are told that the new Government is to be formed upon the principle of mutual concession. Now I think the House of Commons and the country have a right to know by whom those concessions have been made, to whom they have been made, and what is their general character. I would ask whether the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) who did such good service to the Conservative cause during the last autumn and winter by going about from town to town and propounding schemes that startled and alarmed the whole country—I would ask whether in this new coalition that hon. Gentleman is to carry into effect in office the opinions which he expressed in Opposition? Of this at least I am sure, that the House of Commons and the country will not extend their confidence to any Government that may be formed— 211 supposing this Amendment should be carried—unless it be distinctly understood what are the terms on which that Government is to be constituted, who are to make the concessions that are to precede its formation, and what are the principles by which the policy of the future Cabinet is to be guided. But leaving to those who may follow me that part of the subject which relates to our domestic affairs, I shall now venture to say a few words in answer to the argument of the noble Lord that we are not entitled to the confidence of the House of Commons on account of our management of the foreign relations of this country. The noble Lord has put his accusation against us upon this point in two points of view. He says first, that he finds fault with our administration of foreign affairs because we have not prevented the outbreak of hostilities in Italy; and he says next, that we do not deserve the confidence of this House, because he believes that our declaration of neutrality is not sincere, and that we are, as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cork county (Mr. Serjeant Deasy) declared, inspired by Austrian sentiments. Now, with reference to the first point, I could understand an accusation being hurled against us to the effect that we had not interfered at the right time, that we had not interfered in the right manner, that we had not shown ourselves sufficiently energetic, and that we had not made the necessary exertions for maintaining the peace of Europe; but I must remind the House that these are exactly the points upon which, in the present state of its information, it is impossible that it can form any conclusive opinion. Before you can come to any such opinion, you must read the papers which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has this evening laid upon the table. It will be only then that it will be in the power of the House of Commons to decide whether we have used our efforts in the right manner and at the right time, however unsuccessfully, to maintain the peace of Europe, and then I confidently anticipate its verdict in our favour. But the demand of the noble Lord that you should condemn the Government, not on account of the means which they adopted for the purpose of giving effect to their policy, but on account of the result of their efforts, is so wholly irreconcilable with every principle of justice that I am sure you will not listen to it for a moment. The noble Lord, however, seems to have been aware that the 212 House of Commons could not pass an opinion upon the conduct of the Government without knowing what they did, and he has, there fore, volunteered to the House of Commons some information with respect to the course which they pursued. He has told us that we used language of menace to France, that we patronized Austria, and that we allowed it to be understood through out Europe that if hostilities should break out, and if we should be engaged in them, we should be engaged in support of Austria. I know not from whence the noble Lord received that information. But of this I can assure the House, that from the beginning to the end there is not one tittle of truth in the statement which has been made by the noble Lord, that at no time did we venture to use the language of menace to a nation which, the noble Lord truly said, is proud and high-spirited, and jealous of its honour, and that we never throughout the whole of those proceedings did anything more than to hold an impartial balance between the two parties, and to give them both that advice which our position as the allies of both entitled and enabled us to give. But even if we have been unsuccessful in maintaining the peace of Europe by negotiation, it appears to me that the noble Lord is the very last man who ought to make our failure a subject of accusation. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland, in the course of the last Session, called the attention of the House to some very striking incidents which took place in the year 1848, which those who were then Members of the House cannot have forgotten, and which those who now for the first time occupy seats' in Parliament can make themselves acquainted with by referring to the papers on Italian affairs for that year. From those papers they will learn that if the Italian question, the difficulties of which now menace the peace of Europe, and may, if this country do not maintain its neutrality, wrap the whole civilized world in flames, was not settled in the year 1848, that is entirely owing to the noble Lord. I will not, however, now quote the offers which were made to Her Majesty's then Government by Baron Hummelauer, and neither will I enter into an exoneration of the conduct of the noble Lord who at one time refused to accept those offers and at another expressed his approbation of them. It will be enough for me, with regard to the particular point to which I am directing the notice of the House, to refer 213 to the recorded opinion of the noble Lord upon the Italian question. The noble Lord in a despatch to Lord Ponsonby used these words:—I have to say that a question so important in itself, and so mixed up with national feeling and with traditional policy as the question whether Austria shall or shall not retain a portion of her Italian possessions, has seldom been decided simply by negotiation and without an appeal to arms; and it seems now to have become inevitable that the fortune of war must, to a certain degree at least, determine the manner in which this question between Austria and the Italians is to be settled. The part which naturally belongs to the British Government in this matter is to remain spectator of events until invited by the contending parties to interpose by good offices with a view to an amicable arrangement.It is the noble Lord who then said the Italian question must be left to the arbitrement of arms—it is the noble Lord who then maintained that it was the duly of the British Government to stand aside with folded arms patient spectators of events, and not to interfere until the parties exhausted, perhaps by protracted contests, should have asked for the interposition of their good offices; and yet it is the same noble Lord who would then have left the matter to the chances of war, and abstained from diplomatic negotiations, that now turns round upon Her Majesty's Government and blames them, not for having undertaken negotiations, but because the negotiations which they undertook were unfortunately unsuccessful. [Viscount PALMERSTON: What is the date of that despatch?] It is dated, I think, in July, 1848. I believe that, as regards our efforts for the settlement of the Italian question, and the prevention of hostilities, I may now fairly challenge a comparison between the policy of 1859 and the policy of 1848. But the noble Lord says—and this is his gravest charge against the Government—that we are not sincere in our declaration of neutrality, and that we have been influenced throughout these proceedings by Austrian sympathies. In reply to that statement of the noble Lord I can only say that not a single word has been ever dropped, not a single act done, nor a single line ever written by any Member of Her Majesty's Government, that could in the remotest degree justify such an insinuation. But if the noble Lord challenges an examination into sympathies, if he accuses us of Austrian sympathies, I think I may not improperly ask the House to consider whether the noble Lord himself is entirely free from sympathies with the other side. 214 I will not inquire too curiously into the nature, or the object, or the results of Imperial hospitalities. I will not speculate upon combinations at Compiègne; but I will assume that the visit of the noble Lord in that quarter was at least a compliment paid by a great monarch to an illustrious statesman, and paid, perhaps, with some desire to offer a slight acknowledgment of the earnestness with which the noble Lord endeavoured, at no distant period, to alter the laws of this country for the purpose of gratifying an Imperial ally. I wish, however, rather to refer to more recent events. The noble Lord lately made a speech at Willis's Rooms. The noble Lord was there supported by the noble Lord the Member for London, and by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham—a combination so extraordinary and so portentous that I believe any man who a few short months ago would have ventured to predict it would have been considered a fit subject for a lunatic asylum. But what did the noble Lord say upon that occasion and in such company? He made a statement of his views, which we have been informed was not entirely satisfactory, even at that early period of the alliance, to the hon. Member for Birmingham; and the noble Lord then offered an explanation of his foreign policy. In that statement he put forth as the keystone of his foreign policy the maintenance of the most intimate alliance with France. Now, there is no one who more values the alliance we have so happily maintained with France than I do. It appears to me that nothing has conduced more than that alliance to the advantage of this country, to the advantage of France, and to the advantage of Europe at large. But I must take leave to say that at the moment when this country was professing a strict and an impartial neutrality, it was not a little extraordinary for the noble Lord to have proclaimed as the first object of his Government, if it should be formed, a determination to maintain not friendly relations with both the contending parties, but the most intimate alliance with one only of the belligerents. That, however, is not all. The noble Lord made a speech on the occasion of his election at Tiverton, and in that speech he said he trusted that before the close of the campaign he should see the Austrians driven out of Italy. I can easily understand that many of those who hear that statement may in their hearts desire to see such a result accomplished; I can understand that those who love freedom 215 and liberty may desire their extension to Italy, but at the same time I must ask whether you are at this time, above all others, going to commit the guardianship of our "strict neutrality" to a noble Lord who tells you he has one common object with the Emperor of the French, that he hopes to see the French arms successful, and that the keystone of his policy will be to maintain the most intimate relations with the Government of France? Is such a declaration consistent with a strict or an impartial neutrality? But the case does not rest even there. The noble Lord, very infelicitously, as I thought, referred in his speech to what he termed the "bad origin" of the present Government. But I ask in what did that Government take its origin? It took its origin in the expulsion of the noble Lord from power, not more by the vote of this House than in consequence of the general feeling entertained throughout the country that he was sacrificing its honour and its interests to the Government of France. The noble Lord said there were Members on this side of the House who agreed with him at the time that vote was taken. But there are also several Members on this side who are not open to that imputation, and among them is myself, for I voted against the first reading of the noble Lord's Bill. I would ask further, with reference to this leaning which the noble Lord has always shown towards the present Government of France, are you quite sure that the same noble Lord who was not unwilling to alter your laws to gratify the Emperor of the French may not be induced to modify his policy in some other respect for the same reason? In the early part of the observations I have addressed to the House I said, that in in a Government formed upon the broad basis of which we have heard, there must prevail, even in reference to their domestic policy, great differences of opinion, and that some at least of its members cannot carry out in power the opinions they expressed in Opposition. But what would be the probable position of such a Government in respect to foreign affairs? The noble Lord opposite (Viscount Palmerston) will have to forget that for his loss of power last year he was indebted, in a great measure, to the noble Lord the Member for London. The noble Lord the Member for London will also have something to forget. He must forget that as a Member of this House, he was asked by the noble Lord the Member for 216 Tiverton, then at the head of the Government, to adopt that which he himself described as a "policy of humiliation and shame." And when this Government, that is to embrace all the talents and all the sections of the party opposite, shall be formed, I believe it will be impossible to overlook the claims of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton (Mr. M. Gibson). Now what position will that right hon. Gentleman occupy with reference to the future management of our foreign relations? I allude to this subject in a spirit of sincere friendship for the right hon. Gentleman, because I believe that he would find himself in a very embarrassing position as a member of the proposed Administration, and that he would be utterly unable to carry out in power the opinions he expressed in opposition. What were the opinions expressed by the right hon. Gentleman with reference to the policy of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton? I assume that the right hon. Gentleman is likely to be a member of a Cabinet in which the noble Lord, from his long experience, his vast knowledge, and his great capacity, must, as far as regards foreign affairs, exercise a paramount influence; and what is the right hon. Gentleman's opinion of his probable future colleague? In the month of February, 1858, he quoted in this House, from the pages of a public journal, a passage with reference to the policy of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, which, he said, seemed to him to be "aimed with wonderful accuracy and with a very discriminating appreciation of the real character of the noble Lord, and of the character of his foreign policy." That passage is as follows:There is no constituted authority in Europe with which Lord Palmerston has not quarrelled; there is no insurrection that he has not betrayed. The ardent partisans of Sicilian, Italian, and Hungarian independence have certainly no especial cause for gratitude to a minister who gave them abundance of verbal encouragement and then abandoned them to their fate. On the other hand" [mark this] "when Lord Palmerston has made up his mind to court the good will of a foreign power no sacrifice of principle or of interest is too great for him.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton must admit that these words are large enough to include the abandonment even of "a strict neutrality." He then went on to say that the passage "concluded in these emphatic words:"—From first to last his character has been the want of a firm and lofty adherence to the known interests of England, and it is precisely from a 217 want of such guiding laws of conduct that our foreign policy has degenerated into a tissue of caprices, machinations, petty contentions, and everlasting disputes.These words are not mine. I believe them to be in many respects not just to the noble Lord. But this I must state, that it' the right hon. Gentleman who said they were "aimed with wonderful accuracy at the character of the noble Lord," and who so sanctioned, affirmed, and adopted them, should join a Government of which the noble Lord is to be a leading member, he will find some difficulty in carrying out in power the opinions he expressed in Opposition. The words in question have been recently uttered; the events to which they referred are not remote; and I do not believe that the House of Commons, now that the issue is directly put before them, will by a vote of want of confidence in Her Majesty's present Government establish an Administration one of whose principal members, and upon questions of foreign policy the paramount and most influential member would be that noble Lord whose conduct has been thus described by one of his future colleagues. I leave the whole question with confidence to the issue of the vote. I believe that the House of Commons will by its vote—whether we divide to-night or to-morrow night—enable us, in strict accordance with the opinions, the wishes, and the feelings of our fellow countrymen, to carry out that policy of strict neutrality to which we are pledged—a policy which we believe to be as necessary to the interests of this country as it is to the highest interests of humanity and civilization.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, in the observations which, with the permission of the House, I shall address to it, I shall endeavour to confine myself strictly—or as strictly as one can do under the circumstances—to the grounds upon which I feel it my duty to support the Amendment which has been proposed. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has not, in my opinion, done very much to clear up the question before us. Admitting all he says to be true, it comes nearly to this—that he thinks the noble Member for Tiverton is about as bad as his own colleagues. I think that is nearly the whole effect of the hon. Gentleman's speech. Now, I am not about to defend the conduct of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, nor am I about to retract any single sentence that I have ever uttered with regard to him; but I 218 may bring it to the notice of hon. Gentlemen opposite that they have almost unanimously expressed in private—and some of them have expressed in public—their deep regret that they have not been for years past ranged under his banners. I will not attempt to adduce any proofs of that fact, because on both sides of this House what I have stated is well known to be true. Sir, I am very glad that the tactics of last night are departed from, that the silent system is not to be imposed upon hon. Gentlemen opposite throughout this debate. I was afraid that we were coming back to the system which was pursued many years ago, when hon. Gentlemen were not allowed to speak upon a question, which is now happily settled, for fear they should say something that it would be almost impossible for their then leader to answer or to atone for in debate. I shall not endeavour to establish the propriety of the course I am about to pursue on at least several—I was nearly saying on any—of those grounds which the hon. Gentleman who last spoke has attempted to meet. I should not think it necessary to vote against the Government because they have insisted upon a dissolution of Parliament,—a proceeding which, no doubt, a large number of hon. Members of this House always deem objectionable. I should not vote against them merely because certain vague charges of corruption at the recent elections are brought against them, for I know that our system is balanced between considerable freedom in the large boroughs, corruption in the small boroughs, and coercion in the counties. I know further that practices which I should neither like to be concerned in nor to defend have not been confined to the present holders of power; and, unless I have more distinct proof than has yet been adduced, I should not think myself justified in supporting a vote of want of confidence in the Government on account of any charges I have heard with regard to their proceedings in the recent electoral contest. Neither should I for a moment think of assenting to a vote of want of confidence on the ground that they have not maintained peace. If they had "drifted" this country into war—if by their mismanagement they had permitted this country to become engaged in war, that might be a fair ground for such a vote; but I do not see how Her Majesty's Government can in fairness be held responsible for the maintenance of peace between two other great Powers of Europe. More 219 than this, I admit that in this case, I have no facts before me sufficient to convince me that the Government have not done all that it was in their power to do to prevent that fearful calamity which has recently broken upon Italy. These have been alleged as reasons of complaint, and they may be reasons of complaint, but to my mind they afford no sufficient justification for the support which I am inclined to give to the Amendment. There is one point, however, with regard to which, with the views I entertain, I feel that I have great reason to complain of the conduct of the Government, and to doubt the wisdom of the course they have pursued. I refer to the neutrality to which they pledge themselves, and of which they boast. Now, I want to know whether that neutrality is a real or a pretended neutrality. I have heard from members of the Government, in whom I am free to admit I have the greatest confidence, that they are as anxious to keep out of war as I can be myself, and I do not for a moment say that this is not the fact; but I think I can show the House that the course which the Government have taken is calculated to excite doubts in the minds of many of the people of this country, and generally among the populations and the statesmen of the continent of Europe. It will, I think, be admitted on both sides that, so far as public opinion has been ascertained through the press, by means of public meetings, or by ordinary conversation in every-day society, among persons of all ranks in this country, it would be difficult to find one single Englishman, or Irishman, or Scotchman, who at this moment is in favour of our being mixed up in any way whatever with the hostilities which have been commenced. I think the cry—I may even say the positive hunger—of the people for the continuance of peace is evident from all we see, and hear, and know, and that it will be admitted by every hon. Gentleman whom I am addressing. Now, what is our position? If the peace is broken, so far as England is concerned, it can only be broken, I believe, by a voluntary act on our part, or by the act of some other Power, and I think it is quite clear that it can only be broken as regards France. It is evident that, so long as we are at peace, Austria will never attack us—can never attack us; and I think it is equally clear that, unless we have resolved upon war, it is almost as impossible that we should attack Austria. In point of fact, 220 war between England and Austria is almost as improbable as a fight between a fish floating in a river and a horse grazing upon its banks. Surely Austria could not assail England, and there is scarcely any considerable point of the Austrian dominions assailable by England. There is, therefore, in reality no kind of danger of any accidental occurrence of war between England and Austria. The question of neutrality, then, applies almost entirely and exclusively to the Government of France. Now, what has been done with regard to this subject? I wish to make this statement to the House, because I think that while we have the cry of neutrality upon our lips nothing should be done that can render the maintenance of that neutrality difficult or impossible. From the moment war was declared—I am not sure whether before, but certainly immediately afterwards—there was a great parade of apprehension that we were going to be engaged in hostilities. I am told that there has been a considerable increase of the naval power of England in the Mediterranean. It is quite clear that that force cannot be directed in any way against Austria, or be maintained from any apprehension of Austria. Well, a great stir has been made about enlistment for the navy; and the Crown of England is exhibiting itself in the streets with advertising vans, flags, and music, for the purpose of enlisting any stray individual who wishes to change his service and his occupation. At the very time this is being done there are, I am told, in your depots some 3,000 or 4,000 able seamen who will any day be capable of manning at least twelve line-of- battle ships. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen seem to be doubting in some measure what I say—I can only tell them that I am not a great authority on these matters, and I should not have made this statement if I had not received it from persons who are, I believe, acquainted with the facts, and perfectly able to form a judgment on the subject. Well, I do not think all these preparations can have reference to any probable hostilities with Austria. I come, then, to what has been done with regard to other means of defence. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that there are in this country more soldiers than we have had at any one time since the time of the great war; and yet he invites every one who has—or who wants to have—a little notion of military affairs, to engage himself as a rifleman in the various corps 221 which are to be formed throughout the country. I know there are gentlemen who think that these things are useful. But at least they will allow that there is, perhaps, something to be said on the other side. For myself, I rather agree with the humorous and ingenious author of the Bigelow Papers, who says somewhere that if there be anything more foolish or more ludicrous than military glory, it is militia glory, and I fancy that rifle corps glory is something more ludicrous still. What I want to put to hon. Gentlemen is just this:—If there be any necessity for all these things—and understand that I am not finding any fault with them—if there be only one country in Europe—namely, France, with which, under any conceivable circumstances arising out of this war, you can be brought into contest, is it not likely, and even inevitable, that all those preparations you are making, both by land and sea, at the time you tell the whole world that your forces are so great and so complete, should destroy in the minds of the French Government and the French people any belief whatsoever in the language you hold as to your professed neutrality? I dare say—I think it very likely—the rifle corps movement was merely a movement of party tactics; because we know very well that the yeomanry and the militia have served such a purpose, and probably also the rifle corps project will do something to add strength to the Conservative element in some parts of England; but what I say is, that you are driven to one of two things—either you suspect the French of designs against us, or else you contemplate at no distant period the possibility of our attacking France. One of those two conclusions hold that you cannot escape, after the conduct which the Government has adopted. I wish, then, to ask the House whether, as rational men, apart from those superstitious fears which sometimes haunt the minds of almost everybody, there is any fair ground for adding from year to year to the armaments of this country on account of apprehended danger from France. The present Emperor of the French, in my opinion, at least in his conduct to this country, has given us no cause for this suspicion. Will the House allow me to say I have a right to be deemed one who can exercise an impartial opinion on this question? I did not approve what I call the hasty recognition of the accession of the Emperer to the Throne of France. It did not appear to me a matter about which we ought to have been 222 enthusiastic. I never approved the intimate personal alliance which has existed between the Ministers and the Court of this country and the Court of France. I was not one of those who crowded the streets of London when the Emperor with the Empress came here, and when the Press, which now assails him, asked the people to prostrate themselves, as it were, before his chariot wheels. I never joined in that excessive and fulsome laudation of the Emperor which I have heard, I am sorry to say, from Ministers and Members on both sides of this House. Having, therefore, no feeling of hostility to any ruler or any people in Europe—and it might not much, matter, possibly, to either if I had—still, standing here to discuss this question, I have an impartial opinion, and if the House permits me I will express it. I say that for what was done at the time the Emperor of the French attained his present position of power, he can owe no grudge to the Government or the people of England. I say that he went with England into the Russian war, not because he wished to go into it, but because he thought it highly useful to him; and he was evidently anxious to associate himself closely with all the foreign policy of this country. He went, too, into the war with China at the request of the Government of England; and I say he has had an opportunity since then to carry out those malevolent designs which some men think he entertains, if he had really cherished them, at the time when all the military resources of England were being sent some 10,000 miles away to suppress a gigantic and most perilous revolt. I say, then, that at this moment he has on his hands a war with a great military Power—a Power not less great, probably, than that of which he is the chief. He has enough on his hands to tax the energies of any ruler and of any people. And surely it is not necessary to appeal to the common sense of hon. Members, and to argue that whatever was the danger heretofore of our having any conflict with France coming from the side of France, that danger must be immeasurably diminished by the circumstances in which the Government of France is at this moment placed. Is it possible that that which has been proved to have been wholly imaginary before should become real now? Should we not rather say that, even if it had been real before, it must have become but imaginary now? Well, then, I argue in this way. I maintain that there is no increased 223 cause to suspect France; but, on the contrary, if there ever was any cause, that that cause is now lessened and reduced to a minimum. But what is the conclusion to be drawn from the proceedings of our Government? If you agree that there is no reason for distrusting the Government of France, you are driving people to the other inference, that your own Government contemplates the possibility—nay, the probability, of an attack by this country upon France. ["No. no."] Well, I am willing to admit that disclaimer. Don't let hon. Gentlemen opposite suppose that I am charging the Government with this. I am only showing that from the unfortunate course they have taken, their proceedings lay them open to such a charge; and I shall be glad to have—as I hope during the rest of this discussion we shall have—even more frankly than we yet have had, declarations on the part of Ministers which will satisfy, not England only, but Europe, upon this great and perilous question. It is not the impression of England only. You know very well that these proceedings have created an uneasy feeling in the minds of the people of England. They think that you know something that they don't know. And when they see what is reputed to be the most powerful organ of the press in London writing in a manner to make that alarm only the more alarming, it is not to be wondered at that there should be an uncomfortable impression in England. But this is not confined to England alone. In Germany—as everybody may learn from the "German press, and from all those who have recently travelled in that country—the same opinion is generally expressed, and all those proceedings of yours are quoted with the inference that as they cannot be directed against Austria, but must be directed against France, therefore the Government of England are disposed rather to take sides with Austria than with France. But if you inquire what is the feeling in Paris, and in France generally, you find that there is there growing up a great want of confidence in the British Government, very much like that which I believe prevails in this House at this moment. I don't think this arises from anything that the Government has written or has said, or from anything that their agents abroad have done; but it springs out of the circumstances I have detailed, that there is at this moment in the minds of the Government of France, and in the minds of the intelligent people of that country, who 224 read what is going on in England, a growing conviction that the alliance which has so long subsisted is being gradually, if not rudely, rent asunder, and a coldness and apprehension are appearing where there had been friendship and perfect security. Now, Sir, I am disposed to blame the Government for all this. If they choose to say they have no such intention, I am not able to dispute it, but I am satisfied that in England and on the continent of Europe their proceedings must have been deemed to be altogether unnecessary if they were not connected with a latent belief on the part of the Government that sooner or later they would he compelled to take sides against France. And, Sir, recalling the late speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to his constituents. I recollect that there was—what shall I call it?—a bounce and a boasting about the pecuniary condition of this country which I did not think quite becoming in a Cabinet Minister and a financier. The right hon. Gentleman told the world that £20,000,000 a year—I forget whether for ten or twenty years—did not signify anything to an industrious people like this. And when he referred to that stupendous calamity and burden, our national debt, he said, selecting his metaphor, I suppose, from his own personal experience, "Why, it is no more than a fleabite!" I think when a Cabinet Minister, and a Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaks to a large audience of his constituents and his countrymen, it would be becoming in him to be a little more careful as to his accuracy in these matters. Does the right hon. Gentleman reflect that this very debt, which he treats thus lightly, has been the cause, during the years in which it was contracted and since, of the impoverishment of millions of families; and that there is not a gaol or a workhouse whose walls have not resounded with the sorrows of those who have found these receptacles their homes from the pressure which over-taxation has brought upon them? Well, Sir, I cannot have confidence—I am sorry to say it—in a Minister who thus endeavours to mislead the public, or in a Government whose neutrality, as far as you see any active explanation of it, is to be found only in continued and gigantic preparations for war. I am told that dreadful things will happen if there is a change of Government. That is always said when a change of Government is about to take place. An hon. Gentleman 225 behind me (Mr. Kinglake) in an interesting book of Eastern travel, has told us that he was at Cairo when the plague was very destructive there; and he states that whenever anybody died, which was almost, I suppose, every few minutes, a company of professional howlers were employed. So I find that, whenever a Government isin extremis:, whether it be Whig or Tory, professional howlers are engaged, and we can hardly hear ourselves speak from the wailing and lamentation with which the Houses of Parliament and the West-end resound. With respect to the next Government, however, I have no objection to look in the face those difficulties which to hon. Gentlemen opposite are so mysterious. I think that in all probability we shall have the same professions of neutrality that have already come from the Treasury bench, but at the same time I hope and believe that, so far as regards that country with which alone there is the smallest danger of our becoming embroiled, there will be felt among all classes of its people that there is somewhat less of coldness and somewhat more of sympathy than have been shown by the present Government. But I have no objection to tell the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton that I have never approved that intimate and personal alliance which has existed between France and England for a few years past. I have never thought, although it has been very popular in England, that it was an alliance which added to the dignity or to the power for good of either Government, or of either nation, and therefore I shall be glad to find, if there is to be a new Government soon formed, the French alliance converted into one that will be evident to the world by a generous and dignified conduct on the part of both Governments, rather than by a course of proceedings which seemed as if intended to separate them from the other nations of Europe. One more observation upon the question of neutrality. We should show in our foreign policy that we have learnt something from the past. The last great European war, or rather the treaty which was drawn up at the end of it, and which efforts are now being made to undo, left us with that debt, with that taxation, with that pauperism, with that wide-spread misery, of which you cannot read one millionth part in the most accurate history of the period. The Russian war, to which I was from the first opposed, is now gene- 226 rally felt by all classes of the people to have been a war fruitless in everything except loss of English blood and English treasure. I want both sides of the House—for we have no different interests in such a matter, nor do we pretend to a morality or a patriotism which you have not—to consider whether, after our experience during any number of years which you choose to name, it would not be a wise thing for us now to come to the conclusion that in future we shall hold ourselves strictly aloof from continental wars in which we can have no interest, or at least our interest in which can only be such as we must always feel whenever any people in any part of the world is suffering. If we do so, with the happy position which we hold in this island, with our free press, and with the friendly intercourse which exists between England and the other nations of Europe, we shall set an example that must have a great and beneficial effect, and if at any time two foreign countries should, through unhappy circumstances, become involved in war, as it would be known that it was the solemn principle of England never to shed its blood in European conflicts, we should be a tribunal altogether impartial, to which our continental neighbours could appeal with the belief that if our counsels or our good offices were asked, they would be given in that spirit of generosity and confidence in which they were solicited. I will now pass, Sir, to the other great question—a home question—on which I feel as strongly, or nearly so, as I do upon that to which I have already referred—I mean the question of Parliamentary Reform, The right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer made everything that could be made of his position in his speech the other night—a speech which, considering the case he had in hand, was as much to the purpose as it would be possible for human ingenuity to make it. He took the course of a most able advocate when he kept all his followers quiet, and advised the prisoner not for the life of him to open his mouth, for if he did, there would be no possibility of avoiding a conviction. The right hon. Gentleman made something like a general defence of the course his Government has pursued with respect to the question of Reform, and having from past experience great confidence in the extreme generosity and simplicity of many hon. Members on this side of the House, he asked us to have faith in him for the 227 future. But he postpones the redeeming of his vague pledge till another year, as if anybody could tell what another year may bring forth. The debt has been due to the people long. They have asked payment for years. There have been several attempts to give something like an instalment, and three months ago the right hon. Gentleman himself tendered a Bill, which met with a most unfortunate but deserved fate. He pretended to pay a portion of the debt, but he offered the people notes of the Bank of Elegance, and coin which had never passed through the Royal mint. His Reform Bill, in short, was not only not a Reform Bill at all, but the whole country has pronounced with one voice that it was anti-reform. It did not fail because he had not a majority to support the Government, for if every man on this side had left the House he could not have persuaded his own Friends to pass it into law. How many letters and remonstrances did the Earl of Derby receive from Members of his party with respect to that Bill? Nearly as many, I venture to say, as all the hon. Gentlemen now before me who were in the last Parliament. We are asked, then, to take a promise for next year. Last year we had a promise, and this year there has been a proposition which pretended to fulfil it. How it fulfilled it we all know. What reliance, then, can we place upon the promises of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for next year? Then, has the past policy of the Government on this question of reform been such as to encourage us? Where is the Reformer who can look for even the most moderate amendment of the representation from the Treasury bench? I want to see him, "Hoping all things, believing all things," let us have him upon the floor of the House, and let him give us the reason for the faith that is in him. Whereas the Chancellor of the Exchequer is supported by a party who all their lives have been opposed to everything like real Parliamentary Reform; whereas he brought in a Bill at the end of February last which would have gone far to upset whatever there is of freedom in our Parliamentary representation; whereas in the last great debate he repudiated the notion of lowering the borough franchise, and his Colleague the Secretary for the Colonies declared that theirs was a Government to maintain the supremacy of the middle classes, and shut out the working classes from political power; whereas the light hon. Gentle- 228 man now stands before us hardened and impenitent upon this question; can it be possible that, seeing all this, such is the simplicity, the innocence, the child-like faith of one or two individuals on this side that they still pin their faith to him, and believe that he is not only a Reformer, but is actually panting for the coming of next Session, when he may take the wind out of the sails of the noble Lord the Member for London, and convert me into an enthusiastic admirer of his new measure. I do not blame the Gentlemen to whom I allude; they may be in a state of mind of which I can form no adequate idea, but certainly their counterparts will not be found among the 28,000,000 of people out of doors. Let me ask the House whether it is fitting, after all that has been said and done, that the question of reform should be again thrown over for another year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be to blame if he could not pass his Bill between this and the time when hon. Gentlemen think it their duty to kill grouse. But I say, if he had repented of his past conduct, if he were now the Reformer which some hon. Gentlemen in their innocence take him for, he would at least place his Bill upon the table and let the House see what it is. He might even read it a second time, supposing it to be a good Bill; and if in "another place" the weather should be found too hot to discuss a question which even in the coolest times cannot be palatable in that quarter, why should we not have a November Session for the passing of so important a measure? It has been said that it is impossible now to form a stable Government; and that Her Majesty must have advisers even if it be at the risk of having a Government supported only by a minority of this House. But I would ask the House, when it complains of this state of things—and it often has complained of it; it was alluded to before the dissolution, and by the words then put into the mouth of the Queen the constituencies were almost besought to send up a majority on one side or the other, that Her Majesty might secure advisers who could remain in office more than six months;—this has been the case for some time past, and when the House complains, it would inquire whether it does not arise from the state of the representative system? There is no doubt that it is caused by the absence of freedom in the county constituencies, and the mean corruption, the buying and selling of votes, in the 229 small sections or boroughs, which place them alternately on one side of the House or the other, according to the zeal or liberality of the Government in power. In a state of the representation which contains two such elements I do not look for any return to this House which shall give such & majority to this side or to that as will enable a Government to hold the position before this country—or, if you meddle with foreign affairs, before foreign Powers—that a Government should wish to hold. Now, with regard to the new Government, the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland has a peculiar interest in that question, but I presume it will be the duty of the new Government to bring in at an early period a measure of reform at least very different to the measure of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and different to anything he has shadowed forth. I take it for granted, if the measure be laid on the table, that it will be one on which the Cabinet has agreed to stand, and to seek not only the votes of Parliament but the approbation of the country. That measure would give us, I assume, if the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) adheres to the very moderate programme he sketched before the dissolution, a £10 rental as the franchise in the counties, and a £5 or £6 franchise in the boroughs. In the large boroughs that, I have no doubt, would give considerable satisfaction, but in the smaller I think it would be felt that it excluded many who would be included in the larger towns, where rents are generally higher; but, altogether, it will be a very considerable and substantial extension of the franchise, and wholly different to the delusive proposition offered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But there is one other reason, besides the question of neutrality and that of Parliamentary Reform, by which I think it will be admitted that hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House are fully justified in the course they have taken; and I was glad to observe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not make any complaint of the course so taken. If those hon. Gentlemen who are now opposite were on this side of the House, I believe all will admit that this is precisely the line of action they would recommend to be adopted. Now, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated in general language that the Government has been doing very well, that it has not been shown that it has done anything very bad, that it has done 230 nothing that furnishes a sufficient reason that it should be asked to walk over to this side of the House. But surely, the right hon. Gentleman knows that there were two different parties in the last election. The Address was moved by an hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. Egerton) in a speech the House liked very much; it was very unnaffected and very sincere. The hon. Gentleman was returned by a great constituency (South Lancashire). Why did he go into the field against a Gentleman who last Session sat on this side of the House? There must surely have been some difference between them. Another Gentleman (Mr. S. Wortley), who had sat everywhere in the House, and who last spoke from the bench near the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford, contested the West Riding of Yorkshire, and when he boasted of the 13,000 plumpers be obtained against the 15,000 of my hon. Friend (Mr. F. Crossley), was there nothing to fight about? Had the electors of Yorkshire only been amusing themselves? Was it like riding after the hounds for exercise merely, or was there something they expected to get at the end of the chase? Why did you send down a political wanderer to give my friends in Birmingham some trouble in the election? Surely there was some difference existing between the candidates? If, then, there was anything to fight about in the election, I take it for granted, unless we are about to pass an imposition on our constituents, there is now an essential difference between your side of the House and this. I know that some hon. Gentlemen do not believe there is; the hon. Members for North Warwickshire think that their side of the House has been for some time drifting towards this, and that the gulf that separates us is neither so deep nor so broad as when I first took a seat in this House. But unless we have grossly deceived our constituents there is still a case and a cause on trial between you and us, as there was a cause on trial a few weeks ago on every hustings in the United Kingdom. Then what is it? You assume that the constituencies have sent up a majority of one way of thinking, and you suppose it is proper in us to support the Government of a minority of another way of thinking. That is an unreasonable thing to ask. I never heard of its having been asked before; and if it is ever asked again I am sure it will receive the same answer as it will receive now, unless we went to the hustings 231 on a fradulent pretence, unless we opposed ourselves to each other when there was no cause for opposition,—I say that having come here, having taken our oaths and our affirmations at the table, and having taken our seats with the view of commencing the business of the Session, it is utterly impossible the Government can suppose—it is a mere joke to ask—that a majority of one set of opinions will consent to the permanent direction of a Government holding opinions of the contrary character. I know it is a painful tiling to attend the political execution of a Government,—I am not sure that it will occur, that is a matter resting in the bosom of each individual member, and to-morrow evening may settle it,—but we cannot allow any feeling of tenderness to influence us. Some hon. Gentlemen will have to cross to this side of the House; others will have to go over to that; but we may console ourselves with knowing that the general level of happiness in the House will remain about the same. There is one other point in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to which I wish to make some allusion. He threw out as a sort of bait, what the angler calls "making a cast,"—he threw a fly over these benches, to see if any one would rise to it; he said that the Tory party, or the Conservative party, or the Liberal Conservative party—it has so many aliases that one does not know what to call it—had never been so exclusive as the Whigs; that if it found any one on the other side possessing capacity and ability, and willing to undertake the responsibilities of office, it invited him to the Treasury bench. He said that distinguished men had sat on that bench who had had no connection with the English aristocracy; but it has always been on most stringent conditions. You allowed Sir Robert Peel to lead you? but when Sir Robert Peel did something that all the world admitted was most beneficial to the country, you cast him off. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), who rendered most distinguished service to that great question, was cast off in the same manner; and you displayed considerable rancour in doing so—a rancour such as has never been manifested on this side of the House, although the exclusiveness existing here has no doubt been deplored by many who wished to get on to the Treasury bench. Indeed, the rancour you showed was something one can scarcely comprehend, and it did im- 232 mense harm to your own party, for it enabled the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to become your leader, and to occupy the eminent and proud position in which he stands or sits, at this moment. But from what I heard said that time by the party in private about the Peelites, I have always had an idea that many hon. Members opposite had got their reading of the Old Testament rather confused, and that they had somehow mixed up the Peelites with the Hivites and the Hittites, and thought it was not merely a political difference that had occurred, but something more for which they condemned the few distinguished individuals, who, contrary to their wishes, had done so much good for their country, to perpetual extinction. The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, has nothing to boast of on that question. The Whig party has been exclusive, foolishly so, I think, and ruinously to themselves; but they have managed to secure capacity with some show of success in conducting the Government; and possibly, when they are reduced to that sort of extremity which political parties cannot altogether escape, they may ask for that assistance they have not always thought it worth while to have. But, now, I wish in one or two sentences to sum up the reasons for taking the present course. The Government, according to all Parliamentary rules, does not posess the confidence of the House of Commons. I believe if we pursue the present policy of the Administration the neutrality of England cannot be maintained in practice. I believe the Government that has done the utmost damage to the cause of Reform in the past Session will, if it has the opportunity, endeavour to betray it in the Session to come. I think with a new Government a more friendly feeling with France is likely to be preserved. I think also that the new Government will at an early period lay on the table a measure of Reform that will be distinctly and considerably in favour of the House and the people, and which it may become the duty of the House and the people to accept. The right hon. Gentleman was very ingenious on the difficulties he described in regard to what is to be done with the reconciled sections of the Liberal party. For my own part, I have nothing to do with that matter. For sixteen years I have sat in this House, and I can truly say that I have never given a vote for the purpose of displacing a Conservative Government or 233 of embarrassing a Whig Government, but for the purpose of forwarding the principles which you all know that I hold, and the policy which I have always frankly avowed and maintained. I suppose the stoutest ship, and with the strongest tackle, will sometimes find itself where it did not expect to be; but if there be a change of Government I expect to sit opposite, very near the seat of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University (Mr. Gladstone), if he does not change his place. I wish to pursue the same course that I have pursued in time past—a course of vigilance with regard to the Government. I never quarrelled with Governments which pretended to be Liberal because they did not do all I wanted, or go so far as I wanted. I have never quarrelled with one of them yet, except when it has deserted the principles of its ancient party, and has asked us who sat on the same side of the House to support that which we knew it would be impossible for us with any show of consistency to support. Well, if there comes a new Government in, and my seat be there, I shall watch it with the vigilance that I have exercised in time past, and, I admit, with as much forbearance as I can show consistently with what I believe to be my duty to those great political objects to which my life has been devoted. If they pursue an honest and straightforward, though I will admit a, moderate course, I shall bear in mind the difficulties by which they are surrounded, and I shall be anxious to continue them in office as long as I find them disposed to move on fairly and reasonably in that direction which may be said to be indicated by the average opinions of those who sit on the same side of the House. If, unfortunately, they should do some of those things which they have done in times past, my sorrow will be great, my opposition, if I am here, will be inevitable, and I am afraid some night or other I shall find them, as before, handed over to the Philistines who will sit opposite to them. I hope, whoever may form this Government, whoever may be the members of the Cabinet, that they may look to the past, and see how they have failed so much. Since the fall of the Government of Sir Robert Peel there has been no good handling of the Liberal party in this House. The Cabinet has been exclusive, the policy has been sometimes wholly wrong, and generally feeble and paltering. If in the new Government it shall be found that there are men adequately representing 234 these reconciled sections, acting with some measure of boldness and power, grappling with the abuses which are admitted to exist, and relying upon the moral sense and honest feeling of the House, and the general sympathy of the people of England for improvement in our legislation, I am bold to hope that the new Government will have that which Her Majesty evidently wishes—a longer tenure of office than any Government that has existed for many years past.
§ LORD ASHLEY
said, that although he would frankly admit that the Amendment was a party move, so far as concerned one of its objects,—namely, the turning out the Government, he must at the same time deny that those who occupied those (the Opposition) benches were actuated by any motives of personal or political aggrandizement. Their sole object was to obtain a good Government for the people of this country, and to promote the country's welfare. He admitted that in many instances the conduct of the present Government merited the approval of the House, but he contended that generally speaking they had proved their incapacity. He would cordially support the Amendment with the view of replacing the present Government by a strong and sagacious Administration, that would carry weight in the councils of Europe, command the respect of the people in England, and have the wisdom to originate good and sound measures of social development and practical Reform.
§ MR. PALK
said, that he should have contented himself with giving a silent vote against the Amendment but for the importance of the question at issue. The whole debate, in his opinion, had been nothing but a struggle between rival statesmen on the opposite sides of the House for place and power, and the only question of importance—namely, the real interests of the nation at large—had been completely forgotten. Hon. Gentlemen at the opposite side of the House boasted of their numerical majority, and that the differences formerly existing between them, which had prevented them from carrying those measures which they believed to be right and just, were now no longer in existence. In a tirade of vague pomposities the House has beard a great deal about the evils that should be remedied, the sacrifices that should be made, and the Government that ought to displace that at present in office; but they had not heard a word of definition with respect 235 either to what the evils were, what the sacrifices required were, or what combination of statesmen were to carry the country through the perils now surrounding it. The struggle for power had existed for years past; and it had become year by year more intense, and in the same ratio that its intensity increased were the interests of the nation forgotten by both the contending parties. What had been the result of the dissolution—a step rendered compulsory by those unseemly disputes? It was admitted on all hands that if it had not strengthened materially the Conservative, it had weakened the Liberal party; it had weakened the hands of Government in its negotiations with continental disputants, and had prevented that which might otherwise have been consummated—an amicable settlement of those unhappy differences. Professional politicians viewed what was going on out of doors with the same eyes that they regarded what took place in that House; but he could tell them that the country was getting sick and tired of this continual struggle for place. These repeated dissolutions would not much longer be endured, for it was felt that the interests of a nation could in no way be furthered by having great measures of legislation postponed until the time arrived when rival politicians were able to makeup the differences which separated them. Hon. Gentlemen opposite called themselves Reformers, and yet they had been offered by a Conservative Government a better Reform Bill than they were ever able to obtain from their own party. They were told that they would have liberty to amend, to alter, and to enlarge that measure; but rather than aid in the patriotic object of making that measure such as the country desired, they had combined—singularly enough, for the purpose of opposing that which would be productive of benefit to the nation. Again with reference to the vote of censure now under discussion he regretted to hear the reasons that had been assigned for it. During the elections they had been astonished by a statement in the journal which was supposed to lead public feeling in England, and to possess means of information greater than those enjoyed by any other journal, to the effect that a secret treaty had been concluded between France and Russia; and that statement, though denied, was again and again persisted in. What the result of such an alliance would have been to this country was shown by 236 the universal feeling which it created as to the necessity of a general armament. And it was in deference to that feeling that the Government had seen fit to increase the naval establishment, which through the mismanagement of former Administrations was suffered to become inadequate for the requirements of the country even in time of peace. Now however that England was safe from attack, and in a position to give weight to those representations, which hereafter might he of great value in restoring peace and in stopping the effusion of blood, they were told by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), that the Government was unworthy his confidence, because he could only see in those measures of protection a covert intention of joining Austria against France! Was the fate of a Government to be decided by such special pleading as this? Would not a little honesty be a better policy? The Liberal party might fairly say, "We have got the majority, we envy you your position and your places, and therefore we will vote you out of them;" but to found a vote of censure on the flimsy pretence, that the Government had erred in providing for the defence of the country was both dishonest and disingenuous. What would have been the course adopted in that House if the Ministers had not added to the strength of the navy, but had left it in the state in which they found it—one of admitted inferiority to France? Why, in that event he felt confident they would equally have found some right hon. Gentleman or noble Lord—it was the fashion to put noble Lords forward on such occasions now—rising in his place to impeach the conduct of the Government. They were told that this manœuvre was to be successful, and that the Treasury benches were to welcome new occupants. He wished to know whether with new men they were also to have new measures on those subjects which the leaders of the Liberal party had kept dangling before the eyes of their supporters year after year? Why was the House to submit itself to the leadership of Liberal statesmen when they confessed themselves to be weaker than when in consequence of internal discussions they had been obliged to quit office and power? He had no desire for place, and it mattered little to him who sat on the Ministerial benches; but there were certain objects which, in common with the people of England, he held dear and wished to preserve, and he believed that these—the 237 working of our free institutions and the well-being of the country itself—were perilled by the rivalry of noble Lords who were willing to sacrifice everything to their desire for power. Unless the House of Commons stepped forward and vindicated its own dignity and character, they must not be surprised if the country with one voice demanded a Reform Bill which would sweep the aristocracy and the "educated orders" from power, and place it in the hands of men who would probably have no great veneration for ancient institutions, but who would at all events be determined to maintain and carry on the Government of this country with a regard to their own interests and the right use of power.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, that as one of the Members who had joined in the vote on the Conspiracy Bill, which turned out the late Government, he should be the last man who would consent to a vote of want of confidence in the present ministry on light grounds, and, therefore, he was anxious to state his reasons for the vote he was about to give on the question now before the House. That question was, whether the domestic or foreign policy of the country had been such as to command the respect of the nation and justify the confidence of the House of Commons, and were the interests of the people safe in the keeping of the Ministry? Much as he admired the ability and tact of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the exertions of the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary for War, he could not bring his mind conscientiously to answer the question in the affirmative, and felt himself bound to support the Amendment. There were many reasons to justify him in coming to that decision. One was the legislative failures of the Government. Seldom had it fallen to the lot of any Government to mismanage and blunder to such an extent as the present Government had done during the last two Sessions. He considered that the Reform Bill of the Government would have been a reversal of the policy inaugurated in 1832, and that it was founded not on progressive, but rather on retrogressive principles, and so far from giving more power to the unrepresented classes, it would have simply and solely added to the influence of the territorial aristocracy. He so far agreed with the hon. Member for Birmingham that he could not expect any good measure of Reform from a Government which had offered such a proposition for the acceptance of the House of Commons. The second charge which 238 he brought against them was that, not having been wise enough themselves to introduce a satisfactory Reform Bill, they neither took the course recommended by two of their own colleagues, nor adopted the advice of the House of Commons, but at a moment when Europe was on the point of being plunged into war, advised the Queen to dissolve Parliament. They did so because they trusted by certain influences to increase the number of their supporters. He conceived that in so doing they took a most unpatriotic course, which deserved the unqualified disapprobation of the House. Was it constitutional, or rather was it desirable, whenever the Minister of the day happened to differ from the House of Commons on an important measure, that they should straightway advise Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament? He believed that this was a most dangerous practice, which was increasing, and of which he was glad to find the people were beginning to complain. But was there no remedy for it? There was a remedy patent enough, to disfranchise those boroughs which could so easily be influenced, and give the seats to large manufacturing towns. Then as to their administration of foreign affairs. So far from being able to admire the foreign policy of the Government he looked upon it with some degree of dread. Though the members of the Government had been careful to conceal their sympathies from the House, the mover of the Address said he had a strong respect for Austria. Now, it was because he (Mr. Baxter) had no respect for Austria that he had no confidence in Her Majesty's Government. He believed that it was to the tyranny and oppression of Austria that the war in Italy was to be attributed, and that, as was said by the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), they would never have peace in Italy so long as Austria had a soldier there, and he trusted that this war would not end until every German soldier had been driven across the Alps. He was glad to hear what was said by the hon. Member for Birmingham of the Emperor of the French. However little they might admire the internal administration of Louis Napoleon, they had no reason to be dissatisfied with his conduct towards this country. He would go further, and say he doubted whether this was a proper time for making alarming speeches and forming rifle corps. He wished not to be misunderstood. Let them be prepared to defend the honour of the country, but he 239 objected to their taking measures against a contingency he believed they had no reason to expect. He had expected to hear a speech from the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, who, in his opinion, would have got up in his place and asked for an explanation of the extraordinary things they had seen in Ireland, when Roman Catholic priests supported the Members of the Government. He wanted some explanation about Cardinal Wiseman's letter, and why Irish constituencies should receive Conservative candidates with open arms? The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that if they passed this Amendment they would bring back to office members of those great families whose exclusiveness had done so much to dissatisfy the Liberal party. There were those who thought that the adversity of the Whigs ought to have lasted a little longer, but he was disposed to think with the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) that adversity had taught them wisdom. If not, the independent Liberals must repeat the process, and as they did in 1858—turn them out. Looking, however, at the question fairly and candidly, he could see no reason why at this moment there should not be a Liberal Administration, not composed of men belonging to the old Whig families, but an Administration fairly representing all parties, and who would bring forward measures of real and substantial progress.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he would not have addressed the House had he not detected in the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) some things which as an Englishman he was unwilling should pass without observation. If he understood rightly, the hon. Member rested the support which he gave to the vote of want of confidence on three material grounds, and the most important complaint against them was founded upon their foreign policy. In the succint and able summary of his opinions which the hon. Member for Birmingham gave at the conclusion of his speech, he said he hoped to see upon a change of Government something more of sympathy with Finance. He had a right to ask what the meaning of that was? He had a right to ask whether the hon. Member, whether as a man of peace, he meant that we should sympathise with a nation that had broken the peace of Europe in a most deliberate and reckless manner? He (Mr. Liddell) was as alive as anybody could be to the importance of the French alliance; and he believed that the moral 240 influence of France and England, combined for good purposes, might rule the world; but, if the policy of the future Government were foreshadowed in the remarks they had heard to-night, they had a right to know in which policy of France, peace or war, they were to sympathise. They heard much of Italian freedom as the object of this war, but he augured little good to Italy when he found her supported in arms by one and counselled by another despotic Power. The next great charge made by the hon. Member for Birmingham against the Government was that he suspected that its professions of neutrality were insincere, and he rested that charge upon the fact that England had been increasing her armaments. He (Mr. Liddell) however, believed that if there was one act of the present Government which had received the unanimous approval of the House, and endeared them to the people of England, it was the efforts they had made to maintain our naval supremacy. The hon. Member scoffed at the militia and yeomanry, as he had often done before, but such remarks would be again, treated with the silence which they deserved. When, however, the hon. Member, who professed to be a sincere and honourable exponent of popular views, took upon himself to say that neutrality was endangered by the establishment of volunteer rifle corps, he replied that the people and not the Government had demanded them from a feeling of insecurity, and that no Government, however strong, could successfully oppose that national feeling. There was one other point which the hon. Member for Birmingham adverted to—his own peculiar hobby,—Reform. He could not help noticing and congratulating the hon. Member upon the remarkable change in his opinions since last year; the hon. Member paraded during the whole of the autumn from hustings to hustings and from county town to county town, and the effect of his speeches was only to alarm the people by the extravagance of his views. In his speech that night he had foreshadowed what the policy of a Liberal Government should be, in his opinion, upon the question of Reform, and it needed no prophet to predict that the bon. Member would form one of any Government formed by those who sat on his side of the House. The Bill he now shadowed forth, however, was not the one he had previously produced, but a moderate Reform Bill si- 241 milar to that which had been advocated by the two right hon. Gentlemen who were supposed to represent the Tory element in the Cabinet, and who had left the ministry a short time ago because their views were not adopted. He congratulated the hon. Member on his present moderation. As to the want of confidence vote, if he could look at the matter simply as a social question, he should regard with indifference any change of Government that might take place; for this simple reason, that at the present day the House and the country were so divided into minute sections, and so nearly allied in opinion upon most subjects that all Governments must necessarily bring forth pretty much the same measures. He believed that a Reform Bill, from whichever party it came, would, when it left the Committee, be much the same both in principle and detail. It was on considering the foreign aspect of the matter that he could not make up his mind to vote for a new Government. There was great prestige attaching to certain great names, such as Napoleon, Nicholas, Metternich, each and all of them had excited sometimes admiration, oftener alarm; but if there was one name in modern history more unpopular in Europe than another, it was that of the noble Lord opposite(Viscount Palmerston). He admired the character of the noble Lord; and if we were to have a change of Government, would prefer to see him at the head of it, for he believed his measures would be always tinged with principles which influenced hon. Members on the Conservative side of the House; but his foreign policy was always alarming and often intrusive. If he were in the Government it was to be feared that his name would carry influence destructive of the peace of Europe. This opinion was entertained not only by Conservatives, but by Whigs. And a similar feeling influenced many Roman Catholics, which might account for the support which the present Government had received from that body. He did not think that the present Government had always done right, he had often found fault with their measures, but he should cordially support them because they had fulfilled their pledges, and he believed were sincere in their determination to maintain a strict neutrality.
§ MR. J. H. GURNEY
said, that reference had been made in the course of the debate to the conspiracy Bill of last year—he had voted in favour of the first reading of that Bill, and being absent on the occasion of 242 the subsequent division had authorized a right hon. Friend of his to enter his name as pairing in favour of the second reading. He had supported that Bill because he thought that the claim made on the Government of this country by the French Government was a good and righteous one, and one which the Government was fully justified in yielding to, and when the Bill was defeated and the Government thrown out he considered it a great evil, not merely on account of the Bill being lost, but on account of the Government being changed. Frequent changes of Government must be attended with inconvenience, and therefore he did not approve of change for the mere sake of change. The very fact of the loss of office by the late Government would make him pause before he contributed to another change by seeking to eject their successors from office. If a case were made out against the present Government that compelled him to vote for a change he should be prepared to meet the inconvenience of that change, but he frankly confessed he did not feel that any such case had been established. He was one of those who voted in favour of the Government Reform Bill, believing that, although it was not a perfect measure, it furnished an adequate basis for legislation, and that if it had been allowed to go into Committee it might have become a measure acceptable to the nation, and so passed into a law that would have satisfactorily settled the question. Having given that vote he could not object to give credit to the present Government for their sincere desire to produce, in the next Session of Parliament, a Bill that might meet the views and desires of the country, and he saw no reason why, profiting by the experience they had had that Session, they should not in the next be able to lay such a Bill before the House as to meet with general acceptance, and one which would be the more likely to pass, because the present Government had influence with the Conservative side of both Houses of Parliament that no other Government had, and it was not to be supposed that any Reform Bill could be passed without a certain measure of co-operation on the part of both sides of the House. With reference to foreign affairs, it appeared to him that the present Government had studiously and honestly endeavoured to carry out the national wish maintaining perfect neutrality between the belligerents now engaged in warfare. For 243 one thing, particularly, the present Government did deserve the confidence of the House and of the country—he alluded to the efforts they had made to put the country in a state of defence. He did not conceive that those efforts at all implied the existence of any hostile feeling to our French allies. They had no right to think or to speak otherwise of the present ruler of France than as the faithful ally of this country; but it was also right to recollect that the most despotic rulers were not always their own masters, and that observation applied most emphatically to a ruler who, like the present Emperor of the French, had a throne based on the popular will, and not rooted in the antiquity of hereditary legitimacy. And when we knew that there was a large proportion of the French people, and a still larger proportion of the French army, to whom a war with this country, should it unfortunately break out, would not be unacceptable, but the reverse, it would in his opinion be inexcusable folly not to provide ourselves with those defences which were a necessary insurance for the safety of this country. And although this necessary defence might involve great expense, yet that expense would be the cheapest insurance possible for the security of its prosperity and wealth. It was to be recollected that there was nothing in the preparations that had been made, and which he trusted were continuing to be made, which were in any degree of an aggressive nature. They were wholly defensive in their nature, and afforded no just ground for offence to any foreign power whatever. Looking at the reduced state of the navy when the present Government came into office, he had not implicit confidence that these defences would be adequately kept up in case another change of Government should take place. Therefore, although it was exceedingly disagreeable to him to give a vote adverse to those among whom he had sat since he had the honour to be in that House, yet, in pursuance of what he believed to be a public duty, he intended on the present occasion to vote against the Amendment that had been proposed.
§ MR. F. CROSSLEY
said, that like the hon. Member who had just sat down, he had always been against unnecessary changes of the Government, and therefore when the present Government came into office, and an appeal was made to the independent Members of the House for support, they required to know what the Go- 244 vernment were about to do with regard to the great question of Reform. The reply was that if they had the recess to consider the matter, they would bring forward a Bill which would give satisfaction to the country. On that ground he gave them an independent support, but when the Bill was introduced, and he saw what kind of a measure it was, and that no change whatever was made in the borough franchise, he advised the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the night that he introduced it to withdraw it, and reconsider the question, as he was sure the Bill would not give satisfaction, especially to the working classes. The right hon. Gentleman the other night seemed to wish that their Reform Bill should not be remembered, and told them that he would bring in a Bill some nine months hence, and the hon. and learned Member for Nottingham said he asked them to take a Bill at nine months date. But it was not even so much as that. It was only a promise to give them a Bill nine months hence. There was no statement of what the amount would be. The late Reform Bill was rejected by a majority of thirty-nine, and the Government sent them to their constituents. Hon. Members could only speak for themselves—his own constituency was so satisfied with the part he had taken that he should have been returned without a contest, but he was induced to offer himself for the West Riding of Yorkshire; and that constituency, which was the largest in the kingdom, consisting largely of agricultural as well as of commercial interests, returned him and his colleague against a supporter of the Government and of the Bill. His constituents repudiated the Government Bill, and he thought it was perfectly useless for the House to wait nine months longer on such a promise as that which was given to them the other night. He certainly should not continue to give them the independent support he had given them in the last Session unless he received a satisfactory assurance that they entirely repudiated the Reform Bill which they brought forward in the last Parliament. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer contained no such assurance, but rather a defence of that Bill, and he was therefore convinced that a substantial measure of Reform was not to be expected from those who had all their lives opposed it, and who during the late election had done their utmost to prevent the return to that House of earnest and sincere Re- 245 formers. As regarded the question of peace or war, neutrality was the word adopted not only by both sides of the House, but by all parties in the country; yet he had read speeches that had been; delivered by gentlemen holding office in the Government, and by their supporters, in favour of an armed neutrality. The state of neutrality which the Government professed was a state of armament which they intimated would enable us to step in when we could do so with effect. He thought, however, that they should only interfere when England and the interests of England were meddled with, but not before. We ought in taking up our arrangements to conduct our business in a business-like way, and with all the economy possible. If £22,000,000 a year would not defend this country from a foreign invasion £40,000,000 would not. He believed that money was ample; it only required better management; and he believed that if, as in mercantile affairs, they only inquired rigidly into the question of value received before they gave the money, the administration of the taxation of this country would be far more judicious and economical. With regard to the composition of another Government, he was glad to find, and he thought it was perfectly right, that there ought to be a combination of all shades of Liberal opinions in the new Ministry. They had had to fight a good deal against an outcry about combination in the West Riding of York, and they had there charged them with an unholy coalition; but he was satisfied that if a Government were formed, as it ought to be, by men of talent, holding various shades of political opinion, that they would have a strong Liberal Government, that would not drift the country into war, but would settle the great question of Reform in a manner satisfactory to the people.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, he merely rose to answer the appeal made to him by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter). He was asked why he had not required an explanation of some supposed communications between Dr. Wiseman and the Earl of Derby. It was not for him to ask for explanations relative to a correspondence till he had ascertained the fact that such a correspondence existed. Had he seen ground for believing that such a communication had passed, then, doubtless, his Protestant feelings would have been aroused, and the explanation alluded to would have been demanded. But after the declaration made by his right hon. Friend the 246 Chancellor of the Exchequer, he wondered that any Member of the House could venture the remark. The Chancellor of the Exchequer distinctly stated that it was all an electioneering report, and that there was no ground whatever for it. He had also been asked whether he and his colleague did not differ from the Government on the question of Maynooth. To this he replied, that they differed from the present Government on many points, and he had often expressed that difference, and probably should do so again. But then he did not less differ from the party opposite. In fact, he differed from them more than from his right hon. Friend below him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer). He thought both essentially wrong in some points, and he believed that neither party would ever have the entire confidence of the country as a Government till they had retraced their steps. As to the defensive preparations spoken of, it was idle to imagine that, because these had been made, the Government was therefore disposed to go to war. The fact was, that the late Ministry had left our armaments in a most incomplete state, and the country had been frightened by the false economy which they had displayed. In the present state of Europe it was necessary to keep up our army and navy on an efficient footing, not with any wish to go to war, but simply, in case of need, to protect our own shores.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he would confine the few observations he wished to offer to the Mouse to an explanation of the vote he was about to give, rather than enter upon, the question of the general policy of the Government, as to which he agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the issue had been so narrowed as to leave little room for argument. The appeal made to the country by Lord Derby was so simple and intelligible—namely, whether he and his colleagues possessed the confidence of Parliament and ought to have its continued support—that they did not complain, and no one could be surprised, to find a very early opportunity taken for testing the result of that appeal. Ministers, it was believed, were now in a minority in their own Parliament; and if this were true it was a condition of things which was anomalous, unconstitutional, and for many reasons too dangerous to be allowed to continue. The party possessing a majority in the House of Commons must be held to represent the national opinion. This being so, it was responsible for the national- 247 policy, and ought manifestly to direct that for which it was responsible. The first duty of the new Parliament, therefore, was plain. Its duty was to devise some means of correcting an anomaly which no one could defend, and to re-establish that first law of Parliamentary government in England—namely, government by a majority. But it was no less the duty of the majority, in effecting a change which must be preceded by a severe party conflict, to choose well the ground on which that conflict should be fought. Every one must feel the gravity of the circumstances under which the Parliament had now assembled. The country was beset with difficulties, and even threatened with dangers, and an Opposition had its corresponding responsibilities. It beloved the House, therefore, to act on some safe public ground, and to take good heed that in displacing the existing Government they should carry public sympathy with them by showing an adequate necessity for the attempt, in some peril to be averted or some advantage to be gained by a change of Administration at such a crisis. Now, it appeared to him that Her Majesty's Speech suggested the one paramount and absorbing question on which that issue could fairly be taken. Her Majesty informed them that in the differences which had arisen between continental Powers which had engaged some of the attention of the House last Session, and would occupy so much more of the attention of the present Parliament, her mediatorial efforts in the interests of peace had entirely failed—that war was now raging in Italy—but that her determination was announced—and in this Her Majesty was loyally supported by all classes other subjects—that England should remain strictly neutral. But she went on to inform them that she had felt it right in the present state of Europe to make an addition to her naval force, thereby disclosing an apprehension that circumstances beyond her control might unhappily arise to compel reluctant England to become, in spite of her reluctance, a belligerent Power. These facts, indeed, were well known before, but this authoritative announcement of them was perhaps one of the most important which had in our time been made by the Sovereign to the people. We had borne a part in negotiations now concluded, and unless Providence averted the calmity we might be entangled in the war just begun. Her Majesty in making this announcement to Her Par- 248 liament had performed her duty, and it was now for Parliament to perform theirs. It had become the duty of Parliament to satisfy itself as to the part which the responsible advisers of the Crown—the representatives of England while Parliament was not sitting or was non-existent—had taken in the negotiations preceding the war. The diplomatic transactions of the last few months must form a most important chapter in modern European history, and England's contribution would to us be the most interesting portion of that chapter. He thought, therefore, it was their first and imperative duty to ascertain whether the Ministry had in these grave complications exhibited the capacity, the energy, the firmness, the foresight, and, above all, the impartiality which was essential to such an exigency. In a speech recently made to his constituents by a distinguished Member of this House, the question was placed on grounds which could not, he thought, be overlooked by Parliament. He stated, speaking in the face of the war-storm now rising, "I make this grave charge against the Government—either they have been themselves grossly deceived, or they have attempted to deceive the country. I place them in that dilemma." But he (Mr. Horsman) felt that unless Parliament pursued their inquiry to some conclusion, it was not only the Government, but the country that was placed in the dilemma. Had the Ministers of England suffered themselves to be deceived by foreign Cabinets, or had they themselves attempted to deceive Parliament? If they had attempted to deceive Parliament we ought to know that, and ought to follow up the knowledge by exacting a severer penalty than the loss of office. If, on the other hand, they had themselves been deceived; if they had been the victims of a duplicity by which the other Cabinets of Europe had been deceived; if the Government, by their own weakness, and credulity, and incapacity, had been to blame, then their fate as a Government was sealed. But if it proved true, as had been publicly stated, that a secret combination had been formed between two of the most powerful and agressive despotisms in the world, in furtherance of a policy not yet developed; if a deep plot had been laid for deceiving the Governments of Europe, and the Cabinet of England had been deceived, then a new danger to England had been brought to light, and he must be a bold man who would un- 249 derrate it. These were considerations that appeared to him to be very grave and demanding very urgent investigations. It also seemed to him that that investigation could not be too calm, too rigid, or too soon. He thought they ought to try the Government on that ground, and that by the result of the trial they had, if they claimed it, a right to stand or fall. In this great national exigency, there was one leading requisite, one test of fitness, that transcended all others in reference to the Government of this country. It was essential that that Ministry should be in power that was most competent to the direction of international affairs. That was the subject which more than any other would, for some time to come, occupy any Cabinet. External dangers of the most formidable character now threatened us. By statesmanship, by capacity, by judgment, those dangers might be averted at a distance. By blindness, by incapacity, by ignorance, they might be brought so near us that we might have to confront them in the Channel, or even on our own shores. Now, he felt that he durst not deal rashly or presumptuously with these questions, and that, for the satisfaction of the country, for the guidance of Parliament, and for the instruction of any future Minister, it was absolutely essential that they should have full and complete information as to the past, as the best guide and security for the future. As the papers relating to the recent negotiations had been promised by the Government, it appeared to him a matter insignificant whether the discussion on those papers, resulting in the condemnation or acquittal of the Ministry, took place a fortnight earlier or later, compared with satisfying the country, that they had postponed their judgment of the Ministry till the materials were in their hands for pronouncing a right and safe one, and had thus been faithful to the nation in what he believed to be one of the most perilous passages in its history. That was the opinion he entertained and on which he had been prepared to act; and it was for that reason he regretted that an Amendment was to be moved to the Address, and the issue raised between the Ministry and the Opposition, which he should have preferred to see raised on the question of foreign policy. He felt that he stood in a totally different position on this question from the noble Marquess who moved the Amendment. The noble Marquess had nothing to do with placing the Government in power. He 250 was satisfied with the preceding Government, and did all he could to keep the present Ministry out of office. Therefore, in moving the Amendment his conduct was in perfect keeping with his Parliamentary antecedents. But he (Mr. Horsman), on the other hand, had deliberately and advisedly given a vote that led to the displacement of the preceding Government and the accession of the present one. In doing so he knew the responsibility which he incurred, and the obligation which lay on him not to lend himself to any effort to displace them that took the form of a personal or party movement. He had made no secret of his regret that the Amendment had been moved, and he had stated the grounds on which he should have preferred to take the trial of strength between the Ministry and the Opposition. If the Government had themselves taken that ground; if they had opposed the Amendment on that ground; if they had raised a protest against a vote being taken before Parliament, had the papers in their hands, and were able to form a judgment; if they had appealed to the justice of the House to protect them against a judgment so premature, he confessed that he for one would not only have found it very difficult to resist that appeal, but that he came down to the House on Tuesday expecting that it would be made and pre-pared to express his sentiments in its favour. But both in that and the other House of Parliament the leaders of the Government accepted the course taken by the noble Marquess. In moving his Amendment the noble Marquess stated that he did so in reply to the appeal which Lord Derby had made to the country, and he announced, as speaking for his party, and by the authority of its chiefs, that if the result of the division should be favourable to the Government it would be considered as a settlement of the question of the continuance of the Government on the part of himself and his friends, and in that settlement he promised acquiescence. Nothing could be more manly than the tone in which the challenge was given, nothing more generous than the spirit in which acquiescence in defeat was promised. He had listened with great interest to the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, certainly, if the challenge was frank and manly, nothing could be more frank and fearless than the acceptance of the challenge. So far from making any complaint of the course taken by the noble 251 Marquess, the right hon. Gentleman admitted that it was a proceeding which the Government had anticipated, and which they had invited and expected when they dissolved Parliament, and he entreated the House to lose no time in coming to a decision on the question. By common agreement, then, the vote on this Amendment was to be taken as a settlement of the question whether or not the constituencies had returned a majority to that House in favour of the present Ministry, or whether the majority was adverse to their continuance in power. Every individual Member, therefore, would be called on in the division that was to take place to give an answer to the appeal of Lord Derby. Those who had been returned on the ground of having confidence in the Government would of course vote with the Government, and others who had been returned to say the contrary would vote for the Amendment of the noble Marquess. On an issue so limited and so simple it was impossible for him to hesitate as to the vote he should give. He had been no party to raising that issue, and would have supported the Government if they had protested against it; but it was impossible to maintain for them a point which they had themselves abandoned. He was therefore compelled to say that the answer he had been commissioned to give to Lord Derby's appeal was not favourable to his continuance in power.
§ MR. H. KER SEYMER
said, that while he intended to vote against the Amendment, he felt constrained to repeat, what had been already admitted, that there could be no ground of complaint against the noble Marquess for moving it. The Government had appealed to the country; and by the result of that appeal they were determined to abide. He did not, in fact, see how they could possibly have taken the course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman who had last spoken. On a general question of confidence, or want of confidence, how could the Government select one special point—as for instance, their foreign policy—and claim delay on account of the absence of the papers relating to it? With due deference to the right hon. Gentleman who seemed to have been looking out for an opportunity of supporting Her Majesty's Government, without being able to find it, he said that such would not be an honourable course. The question of confidence or no confidence was not abstract but practical; and he could well conceive that some 252 hon. Gentlemen opposite would pause before withdrawing their confidence, unless they could see their way to the formation of a strong Liberal Government. As the country must have a Government, he thought that many Members of the House might follow the course suggested by the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Gurney). Before going into the question of the difficulties that stood in the way of forming a strong Liberal Government, he would notice some observations of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. He thought those observations were not quite fair. The noble Lord spoke as if the Conservative party had supported the Conspiracy Bill, and had then gone in the teeth of their former votes, and opposed it. What were the circumstances? He recollected the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, not liking to take the unusual course of opposing the introduction of a Bill brought in by the Government upon their responsibility, saying that he would vole for its introduction, but he expressly guarded himself against being understood by that act to promise the measure his support in the future stages. On the contrary, he expressed disapproval of the Bill, and said it was an inadequate measure; that Count Walewski's despatch ought to have been answered, and that the noble Lord at the head of the Government should have written a spirited reply, such as Mr. Canning would have written, in answer to it. Well, the right hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson), being at that time a Member of the independent Liberal party, and anxious, as the independent Liberal party always were, to upset Governments, took advantage of that speech of the right hon. Gentleman—saw what the opinion on the Conservative benches was, and framed such a Motion as the Conservatives, with the opinions they entertained on the subject, had no alternative but to support. That, then, was the true history of the transaction; and it had not been fairly represented by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. They all knew the result of that Motion. A Government was formed by Lord Derby; and its first act was to establish friendly relations with our most powerful ally, and nearest neighbour, the Emperor of the French. The next thing they did was to procure the release from prison of the two English subjects who were so cruelly treated by the Neapolitan Government, and whose case had been rather prejudiced than aided by the preced- 253 ing Government. They then proceeded to bring forward their India Bill, which he admitted was not very favourably received by the House and the country. But it was not for Gentlemen opposite to say much about India. He did not think that the country or this House would easily forget that grand assault upon the Government which was commonly called the "Cardwell Resolution." Of all attacks upon a Government that he could recollect he never knew one which ended in so ignominious a failure. And when the noble Member for Tiverton said that the Government ought to be grateful for the forbearance with which they had been treated, he (Mr. K. Seymer) entirely denied that any such forbearance had been exhibited towards the Government. On the contrary, almost as soon as they were in office an attempt was made, which failed, to eject them, which, however, so completely miscarried that it could not be repeated in the same Session. If that was the sort of forbearance for which they were hound to he grateful, he begged to differ from the noble Lord. The Government then sought to settle the question of church rates, which their predecessors had failed to deal with successfully. The Bill of his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge received the general support of Members on the Ministerial side of the House. He (Mr. K. Seymer) thought that it was framed upon a just principle, and that although there might have been faults of detail in it, if it had passed the second reading, it might eventually have ended in a fair settlement of the question. It was opposed, however, by Gentlemen opposite entertaining the most various opinions upon the subject of church rates. It was opposed by a right hon. Gentleman who ought to have supported it, seeing that he held nearly the same opinions as his right hon. Friend; it was opposed by those who, willing to relieve Dissenters from the rates, were nevertheless unwilling to abolish them in those places where they were paid without difficulty, and were not a, practical grievance. No doubt a Government in a minority were always liable to have their measure rejected in the same way; but he did not think that the failure of that Bill could be attributed to the faults in the measure itself; so far from that, it lay rather with Gentlemen opposite, who might have settled the matter long ago, and who, not having settled it when they might, ought to have come forward and given 254 their assistance to the Government in the endeavour to arrive at a solution of the question. With regard to the Reform Bill, too, the same course was adopted. The Government not being in a majority, they were met in an unusual way by the noble Lord the Member for London selecting one or two provisions which were unpopular, and establishing the bad precedent of taking the sense of the House upon them, instead of upon the second reading of the Bill. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, he believed, was inclined to support that Bill, or, at all events, to allow it to be read a second time. Indeed he said as much—and no doubt many hon. Members opposite would have voted with him. Therefore the noble Lord the Member for London, not caring to oppose the Bill on the second reading, by an ingenious device defeated the Government. The recent history of the Liberal party in this House was exceedingly instructive. It was a singular fact, hut it was notorious to all the world, that all the upsets of Liberal Governments had of late years proceeded from the Liberal side of the House. The question which upset the Government of the noble Lord the Member for London on the Militia Bill in 1852, was an Amendment to leave out the word "local," proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, carried in not a full House, and which was so much resented by the noble Lord the Member for London, that he immediately gave up the charge of the Bill on the spot, and actually moved that the Bill should be brought in by Lord Palmerston and Mr. Bernal. He did not suppose the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton cared much about the word "local," but it answered his purpose of causing a break-up of the Ministry nevertheless. And here he would quote some observations which were made by the right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) with regard to the course of proceeding then adopted by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, for they bore much upon what took place in the last Session of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman said,The noble Lord adopted the unusual course, not of meeting the proposal of the Government with a direct negative, but of attempting to impose upon the Government the obligation of bringing in a Bill which was different from that which they had prepared."—[3 Hansard, cxix. 863.]Now, mutatis mutandis, that was precisely what took place with the sanction of both noble Lords in the last Session of Parliament. Well, the noble Lord the Member 255 for Tiverton, being at the time a species of guerilla leader, or a Garibaldi below the gangway—was not sent for by Her Majesty, and Lord Derby formed a Government. They all knew what was the fate of that Government. Having brought forward a proposal with reference to the House-tax, which was very just though not popular, the Government were defeated, and certain right hon. Gentlemen, of various shades of opinion, finding themselves voting together in the same lobby, thought the time had come when a strong Coalition Government might be formed. He recollected his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer saying at the time that the country did not favour coalitions, and he was right. The attempt proved to be unsuccessful. The break-up of the Liberal Government which succeeded was likewise the act of the Liberal party. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield brought forward a Motion for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the calamities and sufferings of the army in the Crimea, and in its turn the Government of Lord Aberdeen was dissolved. The Government of Lord Palmerston was then formed; and again there was a disruption, three of the noble Lord's ablest colleagues quitting him in consequence of a misunderstanding relative to that Committee. The next attack on a Liberal Government was made by means of a "Round Robin" of hon. Gentlemen opposite, colleagues of the noble Lord the Member for London, requesting him to resign his office as Colonial Secretary in Lord Palmerston's Government, and resign it he did—a striking instance of the union which existed among the Liberal party. The next attack was directed against the Government of the day upon the China war. He (Mr. Ker Seymer) certainly voted with the majority on that occasion, and he never gave a. vote with greater satisfaction in his life. But the decision of the House of Commons was dexterously made use of by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton as the ground for an appeal to the country, and the noble Lord in his address to his constituents actually took advantage of the atrocities committed by the Chinese to speak of the Conservative party as if they were the abettors of those atrocities, and responsible for their commission—he raised a cry about the outraged honour of the British flag, and he obtained a majority. That majority, however, was not of long duration. Majorities, so formed, could 256 never long be depended upon; and the noble Lord was turned out of office upon his Conspiracy Bill. Well, the Liberal party were now said to be united. He (Mr. Ker Seymer) took leave to doubt it, inasmuch as there were several questions on which the country called for a decision, but with respect to which there were decided differences of opinion. To refer to one or two of them. There was the question of Parliamentary Reform on which they did not at all act or think in common. Then there was the ballot—a vital question—it was not a matter of detail and it was a question which he did not see the possibility of the "united Liberal party" settling satisfactorily. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London might be squeezable on this point. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle was, he suspected, half squeezed already. But the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton | was stanch. He had made many excellent and manly speeches against the ballot. It would not do to say that the ballot was to be an open question. How could it remain an open question with hon. Gentlemen opposite who maintained that an extension of the franchise without the ballot would be worse than nothing, and only place the unfortunate labourer in a more dependent position than the present constituency? The speech of the noble Lord on the hustings at Tiverton must be unsatisfactory to the advanced Liberals on the question of reform, as they must have expected a good reform programme from the noble Lord. He now held in his hand a "revised report" of the noble Lord's address to his constituents at the late election, "price 4d."; and he must say that he thought it rather dear, for he had never read a more meagre performance than his great programme of the noble Lord, "price 4d." He observed that noble Lord said this:I would say now what I said in the House of Commons, that I think there ought to be a lowering of the county franchise; that there ought to be also a lowering of the borough franchise; that there ought to be some transfer of seats from small places to large." ["Hear, hear."]Well, was there not some transfer in the late Government Bill?This, however," (continued the noble Lord), "I will say, without meaning offence to any man, and I hope that no one will take it in that light, that I would not propose to make the borough franchise so low as to swamp, by numbers of men not possessed of property and intelligence those to whom the franchise is now entrusted, and who in my opinion have exercised it with honour to themselves and advantage to the country.257 Why there was nothing here to which hon. Members sitting on his (the Ministerial) side of the House might not subscribe; but there was much that was inconsistent with what had been said by the hon. Member for Birmingham. That hon. Member was not content with reforming the House of Commons; he wanted to go further still, and reform the House of Lords. Here also was a report of that hon. Member's speech, "revised by himself, price one shilling;" and he must say that the pamphlet was much more worth a shilling than the noble Lord's was worth fourpence. At the time that speech was delivered the hon. Member was a leader of the great Reform party, and had prepared a Reform Bill, with a "schedule of disfranchisement and the redistribution of seats." He had now subsided into a member of "the united Liberal party," and he (Mr. Ker Seymer) would like to know what was to become of the "schedule of disfranchisement and the redistribution of seats." He should expect that a very small schedule would be satisfactory to the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. Indeed, he fancied that the noble Lord would rather have none at all. The hon. Member for Birmingham said, "We know, everybody knows, nobody knows it better than the Peers, that a House of hereditary legislators cannot be a permanent institution in a free country" [Mr. BRIGHT: Read on]; "for we believe that such an institution must, in the course of time, require essential modifications. Last year, or the year before, the Queen herself proposed to nominate persons to a life peerage." But that was a mere legal arrangement intended to increase the number of law Lords in the Upper House, and did not justify the hon. Member in saying that "a House of hereditary legislators cannot be a permanent institution in a free country." Now, this, it might be said, was a mere harmless theory; but the hon. Member was not one who held his opinions as simple theories. He was not a closet politician. He was an active, earnest, sincere politician; and when the hon. Member said that, he had no doubt he thought the House of Lords was incompatible with the freedom of this country, and that, believing and meaning it, he would endeavour at every opportunity that occurred to give effect to his opinions.
§ MR. BRIGHT
If the hon. Gentleman would look at the speech which he had made at Glasgow he would find that the 258 statement he had just made was entirely incorrect.
§ MR. KER SEYMER
really did not know what the hon. Gentleman had said at Glasgow; all he knew was what the hon. Gentleman said at Manchester. The hon. Gentleman might have qualified his statement at Glasgow, but he had certainly quoted correctly the revised edition of his speech at Manchester, and it was important that the country should know how far Gentlemen who were apparently about to act in concert agreed in the opinions of the hon. Member for Birmingham which he certainly did not intend should be dormant, but which he certainly would act upon. But whilst the Liberals had these difficulties ahead on the subject of Parliamentary Reform, he did not see clearly how they were to deal with the question of church rates. The noble Lord the Member for London objected to Mr. Walpole's measure upon the ground that it gave up the principle of an Established Church; but the sternest opponents of church rates objected to them on the ground of opposition to an Established Church. The Liberation Society had just held a meeting in London, and they said that they wished to liberate the Church from State control, and that they considered the abolition of church rates as a step in that direction. On what principle, then, did Gentlemen opposite intend to deal with that question? Perhaps the two noble Lords might bring forward a measure such as was hinted at by the right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey)—a moderate measure of compromise. If they did, no doubt they would receive support from this side of the House, as they would if they opposed the ballot. But what then became of the great "united Liberal party." Why, it would be the old story over again. These were questions upon which there would be irreconcilable differences, and the noble Lords would have to rely upon the support of the Conservatives against their own allies sitting below the gangway. Another question which would press for solution was the army and defences of the country. The hon. Member for Birmingham said, "Why should you arm;" and had laughed at the militia and the volunteer rifles. He had done so again tonight, and his special charge against the Government was, that they were putting the country under arms. But that was just the very point upon which he (Mr. Ker 259 Seymer) believed the policy of the Government was most popular. He said this fearlessly—he did not care who were in the Government, but any Government that expected to have the support of the people of England, must go on with the system of maintaining the coast defences, arming the people, and keeping up an efficient navy. That was another point, however, upon which the most irreconcilable differences prevailed on the benches opposite. He wondered if the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Gilpin) would still retain the opinions he had expressed some years ago. He (Mr. Ker Seymer) took them at second hand; but that was a description which had been given of them in this House with great success by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. The noble Lord said the hon. Gentleman entertained the opinion that if the French invaded this country, we were not to think of opposing them, but should invite them to tea; and, whilst sitting round the urn we should tell them that they had done a very wrong thing, and had better go back again. If that hon. Gentleman entertained the opinions which had thus been attributed to him by the noble Lord, how could he, as one of the "united Liberal party," consistently support the arming and defence of the country?
was sure the hon. Gentleman would not willingly misrepresent him. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman was not aware that after that statement of the noble Lord a letter was published by him (Mr. Gilpin) in the newspapers, declaring that he was not the author of the pamphlet to which the noble Lord had alluded, and that he had nothing move to do with its principles than the noble Lord himself. At the same time, too, the author of the pamphlet published a letter, with his name affixed, acknowledging the authorship, and that gentleman was a merchant in the City of London.
§ MR. KER SEYMER
said, he did not wish to misrepresent the hon. Gentleman. He was merely quoting from the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. The hon. Member for Birmingham had called the keeping up of large military and naval forces a system of large out door relief for the aristocracy. Did the hon. Member maintain that opinion still? If so, there was no doubt he would act on the conviction. How, then, could he be one of a "united party" with the noble Lord the 260 Member for Tiverton and the noble Lord the Member for London? He (Mr. Ker Seymer) wished to make a few observations on the speech delivered by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton on Tuesday evening. That noble Lord was very conversant with foreign affairs, and a great portion of his speech on that occasion had reference to the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord said that the Government had been mistaken in respect of the policy of France and Sardinia on the one side, and that of Austria on the other; that they had supposed the aggression likely to proceed from one quarter, when in reality it subsequently proceeded from another; that they thought it would proceed from France and Sardinia, whereas, as subsequent events showed, it proceeded from Austria, The less the noble Lord said about that the better. He (Mr. Ker Seymer) remembered that in 1848 the noble Lord went on censuring Austria for being about to attack Sardinia almost up to the very moment when Sardinia made an attack on Austria. The present Government had not been so mistaken about the present war. No doubt, at last Austria made an aggressive movement; but every traveller—every one who had recently visited the north of Italy—had known that war was meant, and that the determination to have war was openly spoken of in Sardinia. It had been generally understood that it was a mere fencing between parties as to who should appear in the eyes of Europe to be wrong. He did not believe that Her Majesty's Government had been at all deceived. They thought there would be war, though they did everything in their power to avert it. The noble Lord said the Government had been unable to prevent the war, because, not having a majority in Parliament, they did not carry weight with their counsels. Now, was the course which the noble Lord recommended the Government to take one which would have had the effect of conciliating foreign Powers towards England, or increasing the weight which their counsels might have? When the second reading of the Reform Bill was under discussion the noble Lord said to the Government, "Don't resign; take my Reform Bill; remain, even though you be thereby disgracing yourselves in Parliament and degrading yourselves in the eyes of those outside it." When he (Mr. Ker Seymer) supposed the 261 Government would have been successful in their negotiations was that what was to follow from the advice of the noble Lord? The Government had thought otherwise; they thought it better to improve their Parliamentary position, and they had done so. Hinc illœ lachrymœ—hence the complaints of the dissolution. As an independent Member, he (Mr. Ker Soymer) would avow that he had no sympathy with Austria. He had sympathy with the Italians; but he had no sympathy with the Italians and the French fighting against Austria. He had an objection to one despotic power waging war with another despotic power to obtain liberty for the people of a third nation. What had been the first result of such a proceeding in the present case? Why, that constitutional liberty was suspended in Sardinia. The free constitution of that kingdom, including the freedom of its press, had been suspended. We did not know whether that was in compliment to Sardinia's great ally, or because he did not wish to have any discussion of his movements in the press; but this we did know, that the constitution of Sardinia had been suspended, and that its press was not now free. He feared, too, that it would be a long time before Sardinia again enjoyed that liberty of which she had been in possession for some years past. He, for one, could not look forward to any satisfactory result to Italy from the present war whichever side might be the conqueror. He admitted that he did not understand the question of nationalities, though he did understand the question of constitutional liberty. If this question of nationalities were raised he did not know how soon our turn would come. We had a protectorate over the Ionian Islands, but Russia claimed to be the natural protector of Greek nationality, and had more right to interfere with us for the Greeks than France had to interfere for the Italians, so that he did not know whether our turn might not come next if this question of nationalities were raised. He did distrust France as a protector of Italian liberty, who had put down the Roman Republic. Who now kept liberty down in Rome? Was it not France? In saying that he had no sympathy with Austria, he must add that this country had no cause of apprehension from that country. Austria was not an aggressive power to England. We would not add a frigate to our navy or a battalion to our army in consequence of an apprehension of such an aggression 262 from Austria. The instinctive feeling o the country perceived where the difficulty lay. He did not wish to mention names; but every child in England knew why we were arming. Perceiving elsewhere a desire to solve a difficulty by the sword the people of England were determined to be well armed, not for the purpose of aggression, but as a measure of defence. When he spoke of the defence of England he included that of Gibraltar, Malta, our protectorate of the Ionian Islands—in fact, all our possessions. For such a defence we must have a fleet in the Mediterranean. He should not go at any greater length into the question of our foreign policy; but Her Majesty's Government bad expressed their determination to maintain a strict neutrality, at the same time that they provided for the defence of the country, and believing as he did, that the Liberal party were not united enough to carry out their own principles, and that the Conservative party was both united, and the strongest one in the country and in Parliament, he felt bound to give his most determined opposition to the Amendment of the noble Lord.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
—Mr. Speaker, I do not rise to enhance the value of the reported speech of the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton, much less to depreciate the value of the reported speeches of the hon. Member for Birmingham. I shall not now follow the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down into an historical sketch of the decline and fall, as he thinks, of the great Liberal party; neither shall I speculate upon the prophecies in which he has indulged as to its future policy. I find the question before us to-night to be this—Shall the Government which the hon. Member for Dorset supports continue in the possession of power with the consent of a majority of this House? That is the issue to be decided, and to that issue I will endeavour to address the few observations which I have to offer to the House. Now, Sir, I am placed in a somewhat painful position. I have been driven from the seat which, by the forbearance, or, indeed, grace of hon. Gentlemen opposite I have some time occupied in this House, and having been received upon these benches [ironical cheers]—hon. Gentlemen opposite cheer because pain has been inflicted upon an individual, but I do not believe that sound is one of certain triumph, or that it pressages certain victory—well, Sir, having been received upon these benches, 263 I am not permitted to give a silent vote—and I would gladly have given a silent vote—but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the leader of the party opposite, has thought fit to indulge in observations which render silence on my part impossible. That right hon. Gentleman occupies the proud position of leader of this House, and, being so, is at the head of the largest and most respected body of gentlemen in this country. I may be mistaken, but I have always believed that among gentlemen there was an established rule [laughter]. What, Sir! has it come to this? After such an attack has been made upon me by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, am I not to be allowed to offer any explanation to the House? I cannot believe that this is a course which will be sanctioned, even by a new House of Commons. I was saying, Sir, that where an error has been committed, and an explanation has been asked, and when there has been an admission of error, an apology for error, the expression of regret, and when that expression of regret has been allowed to be published, I thought there was an established rule among gentlemen that the subject should not again be revived. But it seems that I was in error, for the leader of the House has thought fit to revive this subject after it has been dealt with in the manner I have described. I should be sorry, indeed, if this debate, upon a question involving the policy and the interest of a great nation, were allowed to grovel on the ground, and to be de graded into a mere question of personality, instead of being elevated to those higher regions where such important subjects ought to be discussed; but, since that topic upon which I gave an explanation in answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War has been revived, I may be permitted to say that I adhere to the statement which my answer to him contained,—that, although I was decidedly wrong in saying that the alteration in the amount of billet money was made by an act of prerogative, Parliament not sitting, yet I adhere to the statement that it was proclaimed on the eve of a general election, and that the alteration was used for election purposes; and, however painful it may be, since the matter has been forced upon the House by the leader of the House, I will now produce my evidence to that effect. The son of the right hon. the Secretary of State for War was a candidate for Devonport. Naturally proud of the name which he bears, and of 264 his connection with the right hon. Gentleman, he avowed himself, in his first address at Devonport, to be the son of the Secretary of State for War; and almost immediately after his first appearance in Devonport as a candidate there was issued a placard, which I will now read to the House.A Fact for the Licensed Victuallers and Beer-shop-keepers. The present Government have taken care that, from the 25th April instant, every person upon whom a soldier is liable to be billeted shall be paid four-pence per day, instead of three half-pence. At a moment like the present, when recruiting is going on to a much larger extent than usual, this been is one of great consequence, and evidences the desire which a good Conservative Government has to remove oppression and wrong wherever it may be discovered. Licensed victuallers and beershop-keepers will appreciate this boon, and understand well the difference between a Conservative four-pence and a Whig three halfpence.The placard concludes with the motto "Vivat Regina." Well, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer next referred, I think, to the subject of the reparation and re-occupation of the barracks at Berwick. I understand that an election petition from Berwick has been presented to this House: I have reason, therefore, to believe that that matter will be the subject of judical inquiry, and until the opportunity for such inquiry is given I shall abstain from further reference to it. So also with regard to the packet contracts at Dovor and the Lever contract at Galway. The hon. Member for Falmouth (Mr. T. G. Baring) has to-night moved for returns with respect to the Dovor contracts. The noble Member for Tiverton, in his speech on Tuesday night, expressed the opinion, in which I most decidedly concur, that these questions must be submitted to a severe scrutiny, and the result of that scrutiny I will not anticipate. The next point, I think, to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred was the Catholic alliance. Upon that question I may say that throughout my political life I have, to the utmost of my power, defended the claims of my Roman Catholic fellow-subjects to perfect equality of civil and religious rights. I have stood by them in circumstances where many of their former friends failed to support them. I did my utmost to prevent the passing of the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, and I have uniformly supported every just demand which they could make for the full and free exercise of their religion. I certainly did ob- 265 serve with regret that, during the late general election, ecclesiastical power was used, or was said to have been used, to influence Roman Catholic voters against the Liberal party, and I think that in finitely more has thus been done than could have been done by their opponents to injure their cause. I will press this point no further. I think that Roman Catholics voters, and even the heads of the Roman Catholic Church, have a perfect right to exercise an independent judgment upon these subjects; but I must say that I was astonished when I saw that my hon. and learned Friend the hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer) was reported to have declared upon the hustings that the Roman Catholics had reason to expect that Her Majesty's present advisers would grant a charter of incorporation to a Roman Catholic University in Dublin. Now, Sir, faith will remove mountains; but the credulity that could lead men to suppose that a charter of incorporation, revised by the right hon. Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Whiteside), the Member for the Protestant University of Dublin, and with the great seal of Ireland appended to it by the hands of Lord Chancellor Napier, would be granted to a Roman Catholic University in Dublin implies a belief in miracles exceeding anything that could be conceived of infantine simplicity. But, Sir, the latest charge of the Chancellor of the Exchequer appears to me the most serious. It refers to a statement I made that it was reported that a large sum of money had been collected for election purposes among the noblemen and gentlemen of the Conservative party, and that it was boasted that Lord Derby had headed the subscription with the large amount of £20,000. Now, this matter has been dealt with by Lord Derby himself. He has denied the subscription of £20,000; he has denied the subscription of £10,000; he has denied the subscription of £5,000; but I do not see that Lord Derby has denied that he subscribed a less sum, such as £200. Not only has he not denied his subscription, but he distinctly admits the existence of a fund of the description to which I adverted, and a subscription to a large amount. Nay, more. With great playfulness he said, that subscriptions of this nature take place at every general election, and that the assertion that these large funds existed had no doubt produced upon some of the elections an effect very different from what I had anticipated. The 266 noble Earl was satisfied with giving to these reports, erroneous in a measure, a, contradiction in terms so courteous that I rejoice in having this public opportunity of thanking him for the courtesy of his denial. But, Sir, the Chancellor of the Exchequer declared that upon this matter he was the representative of Lord Derby; and again reverting to his position—the highest in this House—I must say that he indulged in his denial in the use of an expression which during my long experience in Parliament I have never heard equalled. I will say that his denial was couched in terms so offensive that I am almost ashamed to mention them.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I rise to order. I shall be most happy if I am able to remove a painful impression from the right hon. Gentleman's mind. The right hon. Gentleman quoted a statement made in an anonymous paragraph. In his speech he referred to the statement as one he had received in that manner, and which he did not make upon his own authority, and that anonymous paragraph I characterized as an impudent fabrication. That paragraph was in my possession, was published and circulated in the newspapers before the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I might have regretted that the right hon. Gentleman should have assumed, even provisionally, the truth of that paragraph; but I certainly never meant to characterize his statement in the terms which he has quoted.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
I really, Sir, am rather perplexed as to the course I should adopt with respect to the explanation now given by the right hon. Gentleman. He said that the statement was "an impudent fabrication." Well, Sir, in all my intercourse with that right hon. Gentleman, I am not aware that I have over said or done anything which could have given him reason to offer me personal offence. I could hardly believe that you, Sir, would have permitted the use of such an expression if it had been clearly applied to a Member of this House. I did not think that the rules of this House would have justified it; and certainly it was not for me to call the right hon. Gentleman to order.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I think that, perhaps, if I state to the House the impression which the use of that phrase made upon my own mind it may help to terminate this rather painful discussion. The 267 impression made upon my mind at the time (and I distinctly remember the terms employed)—certainly was that, as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has explained, the fabrication in question had been made use of, but that it had not originated with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle.
§ SIR JAMBS GRAHAM
Certainly, Sir, what the right hon. Gentleman has said, confirmed by your high and unimpeachable authority, is some satisfaction to my wounded feelings. But the right non. Gentleman went on to remark upon the mild influences of age on me; though the right hon. Gentleman presents in his own person a contradiction to the Horatian maxim,—Lenit albescens animos capillus;because by experience he knows that one may lose one's curls and still retain one's taste for sarcasm and invective. Sir, I own my age to this extent. I had the honour of a seat in this House when the right hon. Gentleman first took his place in it. I early, indeed immediately, recognized his great abilities, and without envy, without the slightest grudging, I have watched his rise to his present pre-eminence. But intemperate language in a position such as the right hon. Gentleman occupies is always a proof to me of a falling cause, and I regard that speech and those expressions as a happy omen of the coming success of this Motion. The right hon. Gentleman will pardon me if I express to him an opinion. I regard him as the red Indian of debate. By the use of the tomahawk he has cut his way to power, and by a recurrence to the scalping process he hopes to prevent the loss of it. When the right hon. Gentleman uses towards one who has offered him no offence language of the tone and character which he has applied to me, I say this, that I was astonished by the rudeness of the assault; but I readily forgive it on account of the anger and disappointment, the vexation and despair, of the assailant.Nune ad te, et tua magna, Pater, consulta revertor.I gladly turn from these personal topics, but under the circumstances I felt it impossible to leave them wholly unnoticed. I now pass on to review some of the acts of the late Government—I mean of the present Government. On Monday next, perhaps, the expression I inadvertently used will be more apposite. Like the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Ker Seymer) 268 I was a party to the overthrow of the Government of the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton. I voted also as that hon. Gentleman did on the China question. I never gave a vote with more confidence. I never looked back upon a vote with less regret. So likewise with regard to my vote on the Conspiracy Bill. I voted with the majority on that occasion, and having overthrown the Government of the noble Viscount, it appeared to me to be a public duty not upon captious or light grounds to oppose the Government which succeeded it. I appeal to the House—I appeal even to hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench—whether through the whole of last year I did not give them a fair support whenever it was in my power to do so. During the progress of the India Bill I did my utmost to render the passing of that measure as easy to them as possible. With respect to the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Card-well), I agreed with them in condemning the Oude Proclamation. Did I conceal my opinion? Did I not rather do my very utmost to aid them? On no occasion until the introduction of their Reform Bill did I refrain, when a sense of public duty allowed of it, from supporting them. I may be permitted to advert, as other hon. Members have done so, to the first India Bill which they proposed. I see opposite to me the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India. I admire his talents; I think highly of his administrative skill; I sometimes almost regard him as the spes altera Romœ. For that first India Bill I believe he was not immediately responsible; hut it was a Bill not actually stillborn but smothered with ridicule almost before its first feeble cry was heard. The noble Lord afterwards brought forward a measure of substitution, and I must be allowed to say that in dealing with the grave difficulties of India he has not been very successful. After the termination, or rather the overthrow, of that fatal mutiny in India by the skill of our Generals, the gallantry of our troops, and the ability of the civil and military servants formerly attached to the East India Company, two great difficulties remained. These were the financial affairs of India and the reorganization of the Indian army. Now, how has the Government handled these great questions? With respect to finance and debt, the statement was officially made to the House about the 8th of February that the Indian Exchequer would require assistance by loan to the 269 amount of £5,000,000 sterling. A month, however, had hardly elapsed before it turned out that this estimate was deficient by a sum of nearly another £5,000,000, and it now remains for this House to provide a further loan to the extent of £5,000,000. Next as to the reorganization of the Indian army. What is the position of affairs as to that problem at this moment? While the state of Europe has for some time past been such as to cause anxiety in many quarters, 100,000 English troops have been detained at the opposite quarter of the world. As late as March last the Executive Government sought to send to India ten companies of artillery. I do not see the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (General Evans) in his place, but we all know that it was by the intervention of this House, at the earnest entreaty of that gallant officer, backed by the opinion of many other hon. Members, that the sending out of those ten companies of artillery was prevented. But is that all? The reorganization of the Indian army is the capital difficulty with which the Government and the Legislature of this country have to contend, if we hope to give permanent security to our Indian possessions. Well, what has the Government done with regard to that great question? They threw it down before a Commission. There are arrayed on that Commission two Secretaries of State—the Secretary of State for India, and the Secretary of State for War—the Commander-in-Chief, and Indian authorities, and servants of the Crown. They are so exactly balanced in numbers, so equally divided in opinion, that they have, as I believe, looking to the evidence and the questions put, a Secretary of State on each side, the Commander-in-Chief and the Queen's officers inclining one way, while the Company's servants and other authorities incline the other. The consequence is that this great question not only rests in suspense, but is the subject at this moment of the greatest conflict of opinion, and it remains still undecided by the authority of Her Majesty's advisers. Talk of divisions! Where could you have wider division than that which exists between the Secretary of State for India, the Commander-in-Chief, and the Secretary of State for War on this subject?—yet their united counsels are necessary to bring this important subject to a definitive solution. A word upon the subject of finance. I was not disposed willingly or needlessly to oppose the Govern- 270 ment, or to offer any hostile remarks upon their budget of last year; but what was that budget? Without the intervention of Parliament, upon the responsibility of Government, it allowed £2,000,000 of direct taxes in the shape of income-tax to be remitted. It allowed to remain unremitted £3,000,000of war taxes upon tea and sugar and other necessaries largely consumed by the people. It increased our debt in time of peace to the extent of £2,000,000 by a fresh loan; and if that sum has since been repaid, it can only have been so out of the balances at the Exchequer, which it is an object of paramount importance to keep full at so critical a juncture as the present. The hon. Member for Dorset has adverted to the subject of church rates. Here, again, notwithstanding my earnest desire to support the Government, I found it utterly impossible to countenance the measure which was brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University on behalf of the! Government. It appeared to me to violate every principle for which a Churchman could contend with respect to the union between Church and State; while it offered a premium to Dissent without satisfying Dissenters; it left an angry controversy open; in short, in my opinion a more feeble effort to deal with a great difficulty was never witnessed in this House. So with respect to the Jews. Of all the impotent conclusions that Parliament ever arrived at, I think the so-called settlement of the Jew question stands unparalleled. It leaves the difference between the two Houses untouched, and, so far from preventing controversy, it is so shaped that in each Session the question can hardly fail to be revived. Already, Sir, you have had ample proof that it has not put an end to angry and disagreeable contention in this House. I now turn to foreign affairs—though I do not intend to travel at length into that matter. I must say, however, that I heard with surprise a statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night with regard to Austria. He said, speaking of the Resolution proposed at the end of the late Parliament by the noble Lord the Member for London, that the carrying of that Resolution altogether paralyzed the influence of England with the Cabinet of Vienna: that after the success of that Resolution Her Majesty's Government were looked upon as a dead body, and the counsels of the British Cabinet were altogether 271 unavailing. I am open to correction, but if I am not much mistaken, it was after the vote in question that the Government of Lord Derby advised the Government of Austria to suspend its threatened invasion of Sardinia until a proposition made at their instance to France and Sardinia had received an answer; and, so far from their influence being paralyzed at Vienna, in an evil hour the Austrian Government hearkened to their counsel, and suspended the invasion of Piedmont for four days, to their own great and, perhaps, in a strategical view, irreparable loss. I differ from the hon. Member for Birmingham with regard to the policy of the Government in arming the fleet. Their conduct in that respect has been, I think, quite correct. With the view of mediating at a fit opportunity between the contending parties, and in the interests of peace, it is right that England should be strong, and strengthening our fleet has this great advantage, that to continental Powers who fight with armies England so armed cannot be an object of suspicion or anger. The dissolution of the late Parliament, however, is a point upon which the Government are fairly liable to severe censure. That dissolution was in theory a rash and improvident measure, while practically it has led to evil results. ["Oh!"] I am not speaking of evil results in a party sense, but of evil results in a national sense. Is it seemly that the First Minister of England, having made a declaration of policy in the House of Lords, and circumstances varying, and he seeing it to be necessary more or less to correct his statement, should not have an opportunity of making that correction in Parliament, where his authority is supreme, but should be driven to explain himself at a civic feast in the Mansion-house of the city of London? The Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs has talked of the levity of hustings speeches, but what was the extraordinary gravity of the speech which he addressed to his constituents at Horsham? Some doubt had been thrown upon the question of the relations between France and Russia. There was no opportunity of answering any question here or in the House of Lords; Parliament was dissolved; and the hon. Gentleman was compelled by a sense of public duty to make the following important communication from the hustings at Horsham:—In connection with the question of the supposed alliance between France and Russia, the Government of this country considered it their 272 duty to address to the Emperor of Russia a direct and categorical inquiry as to whether such a treaty containing anything hostile to England did exist; and the answer received from Prince Gortschakoff was as follows:—' I do not deny that there may exist a written engagement between France and Russia, but I can assure you in the most positive manner that such arrangement contains nothing that in the most distant manner could be interpreted as constituting a hostile alliance against Europe. If Lord Malmesbury should be questioned on the subject, he may answer with confidence in the above sense, and I give you my personal guarantee that the declaration will not be falsified by the facts.'
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
I may be permitted to state that in one report of my speech the language which the right hon. Baronet has quoted is certainly attributed to me; but if the right hon. Gentleman refers to other journals he will find that the word "Europe" is simply a misprint for "England." The expression used in the answer received from Prince Gortschakoff was, "a hostile alliance against England."
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
I am glad to receive the explanation of the hon. Gentleman; but could anything prove more conclusively the inconvenience, to say the least, of having such important matters communicated to the public in an election speech, with imperfect means of reporting?—and what must be the opinion of Prince Gortschakoff when he hears that during an interregnum of nearly six weeks our Government were driven to the necessity of publishing the contents of important despatches from the hustings at an election? But the awkwardness does not end here, for I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave to his constituents at Aylesbury a somewhat different account of the Russian communication. The Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs did not deny that Prince Gortschakoff admitted there was a written engagement, but I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer said at Aylesbury that there was no written engagement.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
No treaty—a written engagement as distinguished from a treaty. But if there be nothing hostile to England in this written engagement which is not a treaty, why has it not been communicated to England? Has it been so communicated? If it has not, that is a circumstance of the utmost gravity, capable of exciting serious apprehension, and showing how dangerous it was to disable the 273 Crown from taking the advice of Parliament at so critical a juncture. Now, I have before said I entirely approve of an efficient armament. But during the interregnum, and when the Government, as described by Lord Derby himself, was in the position of an officer about to be tried by court-martial, with the judgment not yet pronounced, when he could not tell whether his sword would be returned to him or not—under these circumstances Her Majesty's Government has, without the advice and knowledge of Parliament, taken two of the most important steps with regard to the army and navy any Government could adopt. Public necessity may have justified those measures. I am not prepared to deny that they wore necessary; but I say this, that by adopting those measures Her Majesty's Government have exposed themselves to a most awkward alternative. They cither knew there was an imminent danger of war, or they were ignorant of it, and had been grossly deceived. I do not think they would attempt to deceive us; but being deceived themselves, and having recklessly dissolved Parliament, they were involved in a great constitutional difficulty, and dealt with the army and navy in a manner I will shortly describe. First, with regard to the navy; they have issued a royal proclamation in which they offer a large bounty—£10 to able seamen, £5 to ordinary seamen, and £3 to landsmen. Now, I deny that any offer of a bounty was necessary in the cases of the ordinary seamen or landsmen; and with respect to able seamen Her Majesty's Government have forestalled the decision of this House upon a question of the gravest and most difficult character. The hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Southwark has stated that the number of able seamen likely to be obtained by the bounty is small; but, small or great, the offer of the bounty involves an immense principle. What will be the effect of this bounty offered to novices on the 40,000 experienced men now serving in your fleet? What has been the experience of the operation of a bounty in the army? Has it not led to desertion to an enormous extent—to the desertion of not less than 20,000 men in the year? How will the bounty react in the naval service in your Channel fleet? Will you venture to give leave of absence to your seamen who have not received the bounty? And if you do not, what will be the effect on their contentment? Then, again, with respect to 274 the system of continuous-service men, which every wise naval administrator during the last five years has endeavoured to encourage, you must ask yourselves whether any men are likely to enter for continuous service when they know, that not in a time of war, but under the distant apprehension of war, a bounty of £10 is offered to every able seaman? And what must be the effect of the system on the merchant service? I have always contended that the effect of offering a bounty must be to raise the rate of wages in the merchant service by more than a corresponding amount; and I have been informed that wages have recently risen by not less than 20s. a month. Now, taking the number of men in your mercantile marine at 300,000, it is evident that an increase of £12 a year in the wages of each man would be equivalent to the imposition of one of the heaviest taxes to which the shipping interest could possibly be exposed. It would bear it were it necessary; but is it necessary? During the Russian war I resisted the plan of a bounty, yet I and my colleagues succeeded in manning the fleet. I am persuaded that this plan of a bounty in time of peace forestalls that which is the compensation for compulsory service formerly exacted at the commencement of war. You have had recourse in time of peace to an expedient that should be strictly reserved for a time of war, and I believe the measure is imprudent and impolitic in the highest degree. With regard to the army, the Government has, by another proclamation, encouraged the arming of the entire community; I am wrong in saying the entire community—it is one class of the community only. But if the system is carried out this class-arming cannot stand for a moment; and if you arm the whole community the utmost precaution will be necessary—precautions carefully considered and wisely framed—or the consequences will be dangerous to the State. On this subject I will refer to an admirable passage in the works of M. Guizot. When Louis Philippe came to the throne it was his duty to assist in the organization of the National Guard of France. Of this measure M. Guizot says:—The danger and the merit of the National Guard consist in the excitement of hopes essentially different. Different classes in the community view a project of this kind from different points of view. All entertain their peculiar hopes, and all favour for the moment the establishment of a National Guard. The powerful organization of this body gave great satisfaction to those who were uneasy with respect to the independence and foreign influence of the nation.275 That is the view of the leading journal of the day in this country:—The friends of order hoped to find in the National Guard a force ready to maintain order, should the army fail from its weakness or disaffection. The Liberals flattered themselves that the National Guard being always available, a great standing army would no longer be necessary.This view is also entertained in this country:—The democrats were delighted to see the great body of the people armed, and thus placed in a position to interfere with effect in the management of public affairs.Now, I think these sentences are pregnant with warning. Yet Parliament, not being sitting, by an act of the prerogative alone, the first step has been taken towards the establishment of a National Guard. During the interregnum, the Executive, with a boldness far exceeding its strength, has decided questions with regard to both army and navy greater than any Government ever before dealt with. I will now-only trouble the House with one short reference to the subject of Reform. This was one of those questions on which I found it impossible to continue my support to Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, and said truly, with respect to the £10 county franchise, that the Government thought it expedient to accompany it with some countervailing provision, that might modify the application of it. When he came to speak of the borough franchise, he said that the great danger, in his view, was "keeping the word of promise to the ear," while "breaking it to the hope." Now, that is an exact description of what the Government did with regard to the county franchise; by countervailing provisions they contrived to neutralize it, and even to throw its influence in the opposite direction. But we have not fought this battle in vain. Her Majesty's Government have suddenly discovered that a lowering of the borough franchise is desirable. In the last Parliament the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer contended, with a pertinacity and an ability which I well remember, that the principle of the Government Bill—a principle which they would not allow to be touched—was the identity of the suffrage in the counties and the boroughs. Now, however, the right hon. Gentleman not only discovers that it is expedient to lower the 276 borough franchise, but he actually holds out a prospect of a wide disfranchisement of the small boroughs, and a reconsideration of the question of a redistribution of seats. But why were not these concessions made in the last Parliament? If they had been as frankly made before the dissolution as they were made on Tuesday last, I am satisfied that a Bill might have been carried with the consent of a large majority of this House, to which the other House of Parliament also would have given their sanction, and this angry question of a Reform of Parliament might have been settled on the very basis which Her Majesty's Government now contemplate. That is not a new view of the subject. It is precisely the view which the sagacity of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) and the integrity of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge presented to the Cabinet when this subject was first taken into consideration by Her Majesty's Government. Well, now where are we? The principle of identity of suffrage being essential in the view of Her Majesty's present advisers any lowering of the franchise in boroughs was dangerous, inadmissible, and in favour of the views of these democrats with whom I and the hon. Member for Birmingham are classed. So dangerous was it that it was not to be tolerated for a moment. ["Hear, hear!"] Gentlemen behind there cheer. What, may I ask, is your view of it at this moment? Are you prepared for a £10 franchise without compensating provisions, and are you prepared for a considerable lowering of the franchise below £10, and for an extension of disfranchisement and redistribution of seats? Is that your view? Say so with the Government, and then all the difficulties with respect to Reform will for the present be at an end. But I say that great questions have been paltered with, great hopes have been excited. I have some sympathy with the late House of Commons which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) treats with so much contempt. I think that it was treated in an unworthy manner. But you shall hear, both with respect to the dissolution and with respect to the vote of want of confidence, words which convey with the utmost vigour and perspicacity the opinion which I entertain as to this Amendment; and perhaps the House will bear with me when I say 277 that it is with this quotation that I mean to conclude. The words are these:—For the exercise of the prerogative of dissolving, for the time, for the mode, for the occasion, for all the circumstances attending a dissolution, the advisers of the Crown will be responsible to a future Parliament. It is a desperate effort by means of agitation and excitement to prop up for a while a tottering Administration. There is a time when the measure of the iniquities of a Government is full. There is a time when if they refuse to listen to the voice of friendly warning or to attend to gentler hints, forbearance must end, and the plainest language must be spoken to them."—[3 Hansard, lviii. 1173.The quotation I have road from are the words of the Earl of Derby in 1841, when I had the honour of voting with him on a Motion made by Sir Robert Peel, of want of confidence in the Government of Lord Melbourne. The time has arrived. Hints are disregarded. The plainest language must be spoken. The noble Marquess has proposed words sufficiently intelligible, there can be no mistake, and without hesitation I give my support to the Amendment of my noble Friend.
—Sir, the right hon. Baronet who has just spoken, with more than his usual ability and lucidity, has asserted—and I must say in a somewhat confident tone—that the Amendment of the noble Lord would be affirmed by the vote of the House. If, after a fair and impartial hearing the House is of opinion that the Amendment ought to be affirmed the decision will be one to be submitted to with cheerfulness and respect by Her Majesty's Administration. But before that decision is arrived at common justice requires that something should be heard on behalf of an Administration which the right hon. Gentleman, with all deference to him, has maligned. We were prepared for this Amendment, long before the noble Lord gave his notice, by the discussions that for some weeks before the meeting of Parliament took place in the press. I confess that I read those discussions with pain and humiliation. There was in them no exposition of principle; there was no statement of future luminous measures; there was no profound policy sketched out: but the burthen of all the articles of the Whig journals was this—will the noble Lord the Member for London agree with the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton? "Oh! happy day; oh! joyful hour "—the noble Lord the Member for London smiles on the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. 278The dawn is o'ercast, the morning lowers,And heavily in clouds brings on the day.For the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton frowns on the noble Lord the Member for London. On that smile or on that frown depend the hopes, the fears, the fate, the glory of England. These noble Lords have combined. What are the opinions of the great sections or parties who are either to adopt or reject this proposition it is not for me to say. We may remember that the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for London was carried, and Her Majesty's Government are still in their places; and why? Because the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton in his speech in the last Parliament condemned them to retain their places, and Her Majesty's Ministers have done their best to obey him. What did the noble Lord now say? He said, "Why you are a most provoking party, your discipline is so perfect, your order is so complete, that when I wish you to speak you maintain silence." In anticipation of the noble Lord we were silent; while he spoke of course we were speechless, because we were under the wand of the Enchanter. But what has he said? From the position he holds I expected to hear him, when he rose to address the House, expound the principles of the now coalition, and claim the support of the House according to the principles which, he advanced or the measures which he might announce. He did neither. And how did he argue his impeachment? Was there ever, even for a man of his imagination, a speech more singularly destitute of freshness or novelty? He commenced with the old story of the Conspiracy Bill:—and I must say the noble Lord was not very respectful to the last Parliament that heard that measure discussed and that decided against it, because he expressed no remorse, no repentance for having introduced that Bill. In point of fact, while he commented upon the conduct of the Government he censured the Parliament that censured him, and so disposed of the Conspiracy Bill. Then he proceeded to India. But how wearisome it is to refer to an old debate, in order to discuss how the India Bill was carried. From a practical man we might have expected a proof, if that were possible, that the Government of India under my noble Friend (Lord Stanley) was weakly, inefficiently, or corruptly conducted. If the affairs of India have been 279 wisely and well managed it is a poor ground on which to impeach the Ministry to refer to former debates, which led to the carrying of the measure under which the Government of India is now conducted. Well, then, he said, all your domestic measures have been failures. Now, the noble Lord is a fair opponent in debate. Is that accurate? I might ask him, at the period when he himself conducted the domestic affairs of the country with what measure of public utility is his name is to be associated. Might I take the liberty of inquiring of him what is the character of that measure to simplify the title to Landed Estates in England, on the introduction of which the hon. and learned Member for Wolverhampton congratulated my hon. and learned Friend, the Solicitor General upon serving a Ministry that allowed him to bring forward a measure of so large a nature? What right has the noble Lord to asperse the Administration and say, "You never proposed a domestic measure that was not a failure," throwing out that imputation in the lump, but not condescending to details? The noble Lord then proceeded to the great question of his life—and this question is one to which I will allude as shortly as possible. The noble Lord suggested that if another Minister—which was a delicate allusion to himself—had been in office, that war might not have been raging, which was now destroying the fairest portion of Italy. The noble Lord, who moved his Amendment in a speech that was very graceful and eloquent, and contained, I presume, an exposition of the principles of unadulterated Whiggism, expounded what the principles of Mr. Fox were. He said he wished to see those principles upheld by the great party to which he belongs, instead of the opinions of Pitt and Castlereagh being acted upon by the existing administration, and he stated correctly what the opinions of that great champion of popular liberty were. I admit that Mr. Fox advocated the principle of non-intervention in the affairs of Foreign States. Nay, he went the length of insisting, against Mr. Pitt, that when the French nation cut off the heads of the King and of the Queen of France, England had no right to interfere. I admit the principles of the noble Lord, and the only thing I quarrel with is their misapplication; because adopting his principle and adopting the argument of the noble Lord, I shall insist upon the vote of the hon. Member for Birmingham as a just 280 man, against the speech that he has made to-night, if he would rather, as he stated on a former occasion, vote against those who would pursue a policy of interference, than vote for others who would declare in favour of the disfranchisement of one or two rotten boroughs more than their opponents. I shall apply myself solely to the question of Italy. Diplomatists are pleased to say that there is something in the question of foreign politics which is difficult for plain, every-day men to understand; but there is no such difficulty in this case. The noble Lord who moved this Amendment and the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton argue that the conduct of the Government has led to this war, and that the management of foreign affairs would be in safer and wiser hands if transferred to those gentlemen who sit opposite. But I will disprove that by a very short and temperate statement. I will show in a few simple words how this Italian question recently stood, and how the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton behaved respecting it. What was the state of Europe in 1848? Louis Philippe was overthrown, France could not engage in the affairs of Italy, because she was entirely occupied with her own internal affairs—with questions which concerned her social existence. Radetsky and the Austrians had withdrawn from Milan, and the Austrians proposed to the English Government to deliver up the whole kingdom of Lombardy if we would act as mediators. The noble Lord was informed that the fate of Italy was in the hands of England, because France could not interfere. The noble Lord himself has stated that the object of the great settlement of 1815 was to exclude the French from Italy—that Lombardy was forced almost on Austria, and that she took it unwillingly to preserve the balance of power, and in order to exclude France. Austria proposed to withdraw from Lombardy, on equitable terms, which the noble Viscount rejected. The noble Lord has contradicted me once before on this matter, hut I hardly think he will contradict me again. Let me call the attention of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle to the part which he took in this very transaction—because how he and the noble Lord are to sit together in the same Cabinet, I cannot understand. A special message came from Austria to the noble Viscount, and offered to the noble Viscount the entire kingdom of Lombady if we would interpose as mediators in the quarrel. 281 After ten days' consideration the noble Viscount answered that England would not interfere unless Austria would agree to give up not only Lombardy but Venice. Lord Ponsonby apprized the noble Lord that Austria would not give up Venice—and our offer was refused. Radetsky again drew the sword—the war broke out in Italy—what followed everybody knows, and I assert that the noble Lord is thus the author of all the confusion which now prevails there. Lord Normanby knows the truth of this, for four months afterwards the noble Viscount opposite wrote to him a despatch imploring him to use all his influence with the French Government to induce Austria to repeat the offer she had made; but Austria refused, and told us it was too late. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, who to-night exerts his eloquence to endeavour to bring back the noble Lord to power, investigated this question carefully and closely, and let me read to you the bitter words in which he described the noble Viscount's conduct and character. "Austria," he said—Austria, at the moment the first onset was made, appealed to the noble Viscount and to Her Majesty's Government, in the midst of its difficulties, to mediate between her and Piedmont. But what was the sine qua, non on our part towards a friendly Power in the midst of difficulties? The noble Viscount insisted, as a condition precedent to an acceptance of the mediation, that Austria should not only abandon Lombardy but surrender Venice; and as Austria would not consent to the surrender of Venice, the noble Viscount declined to undertake the mediation. It is impossible to say what has been the effect of that act of the noble Viscount. My belief is, that the insurrection of Hungary was the consequence; and, what I regret as much as any man, the intervention of Russia, the interference of that country to crush the Hungarian insurrection having thus been rendered necessary.That is a severe criticism; but I maintain it to be strictly true; if it were not I would not quote it. And now follows worse:—Has the noble Viscount promoted the cause of Italian liberty by the course he has pursued? Piedmont was twice in one year at the mercy of the invading army of Austria. Rome is in possession of the French army. Lombardy is under the military rule of Austria. Venice was reconquered. And we cannot forget the daring exploits in Naples, which the noble Viscount was so anxious to uphold.That is the summary of the foreign policy of a Minister who has told you in this debate that the foreign policy of the country is in such unsafe hands that un less you transfer the management of it to him—him, who is branded by the right 282 hon. Member for Carlisle as the author of the war in Italy and the insurrection in Hungary—you will not discharge your duty to your constituents. I see opposite, too, a right hon. Gentleman who signed the circular to call the meeting at Willis's Rooms, who understands the Italian question well; and he, I remember, in this very matter charged the noble Viscount with what I should be slow to impute to him—equivocating with the Ambassadors of foreign Powers, and dealing with the Ministers of other States in the spirit of an attorney. Such is the opinion of a right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Wilts (Mr. S. Herbert), who called a meeting to restore the noble Viscount to Power. That opinion was expressed in reference to a matter of which I dare say the noble Lord the Member for the City of London will remember something—the political escapades of Lord Minto in Italy—"the wandering missionary," as Sir William Molesworth called him. Did any man ever hear of a Government sending out a nobleman to exhort the subjects of a foreign State to agitation which might end in insurrection, to make speeches to the crowd from a balcony, and call out to them "Viva l' Indepenza d'Italia"? The right hon. Gentleman, in the words I quote, gave the House an admirable summary of all the absurdities and follies which were perpetrated by that noble Lord under the direction of the noble Viscount opposite.Well, we got deeper and deeper in the mire of those arrangements, till, step by step, the noble Lord arrived at the conclusion that Sicily must be separated from Naples, and set up as an independent State. Sicily, with a population not exceeding that of this town, the only question with him being whether that State should be a republic or monarchy. We began by promoting constitutional reforms; we ended by promoting separate nationalitiesThe ability with which the facts relating to this matter were investigated by the right hon. Gentleman, and the ridicule which he heaped upon the noble Viscount, convince me that, if with his experience and knowledge of Italian affairs he sits down in the Cabinet of the noble Viscount, it will last but a very short period. Without all their teeth drawn I cannot conceive how this "happy family" is to get on, but I am convinced that if such a Cabinet did not speedily fall to pieces it would plunge the foreign policy of the country deeper into the mire than it has ever been before. I agree with the noble Marquess who moved this Amend- 283 ment (the Marquess of Hartington), that Fox laid down correct principles as to the foreign policy of this country; but I submit to him that I have shown the noble Viscount opposite to have violated these principles most signally in the instance of Italy at least. What is the meaning of non-intervention? Every law book on international law lays it down that you have no right to interfere in the domestic affairs of a foreign nation, but I should like to ask any reasonable man (not a diplomatist) why did we withdraw our Ambassador from Naples? As I understand it, the meaning of that act was that France and England were of opinion that they had a right to direct Naples as to the manner in which she ought to conduct her internal Government. It could not mean anything else, for Naples never showed any disposition to attack or insult us. What, then, becomes of the noble Viscount's practice of Fox's principles of non-intervention? But what do you say to the noble Lord's behaviour to Belgium? Belgium is a free State; Belgium took no part in the Russian war, and never made any attack upon us; yet, what was done by the famous Treaty of Paris with respect to Belgium? Why, Lord Clarendon and the representatives of France, without any notice to Belgium, signed a protocol, purely, I believe, to gratify the Emperor of the French, compelling her to modify her free press according to the demands that might be made upon her by the Government of France. These are my short grounds for stating that the foreign policy of the noble Lord has been incomprehensible, and that you ought not to change the Administration at least upon the ground of his superior management of foreign affairs. But there are other points that have been made in the course of this discussion, and I come at once to the speeches of the hon. Member for Birmingham and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle. It has been said that comparisons are odious; but I protest that I prefer the manly, bold, and candid opposition of the hon. Member for Birmingham to the slow and subtle accusations of the right hon. Baronet, delivered with much solemnity, but with no small carcasm. The right hon. Baronet comes before you, he says, an injured man, and in a most unforgiving manner he forgives you. What right has he to represent himself as an injured man? I, too, like others, have read his speech at Carlisle, and I have to call him to account 284 now for his imputations upon me and the Government of which I am a Member, and from which he shall not escape. When the right hon. Gentleman speaks under the blue flag of Carlisle a sacred flame of vehemence is kindled within his breast, and he employs a very different tone there from the calm and solemn and deliberate manner in which from the heights of his philosophy he lays down his maxims of policy for your adoption. But what right had he to attack my right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty, or my gallant Friend the Secretary for War, in a manner so unjustifiable that he has been compelled to withdraw his accusations? Is it only the honour of the Member for Carlisle that is sacred in this country? What was the meaning of his coming here to-night fortified with his placard in his pocket? What was his accusation? It was that an act of corruption had been perpetrated by a gentleman as pure in his public conduct as any man who ever crossed the threshold of this House. And what is his excuse for that unjustifiable charge? That he had forgotten that the change made in the allowance to the soldiers was done under an Act of Parliament. He admits that he was entirely mistaken; and then, in effect, he says, "I charged an act of political corruption. I find that I was all wrong; but you ought to be greatly obliged to me for confessing my error, when I couldn't help it." The real fact is that the War Office circular to which the right hon. Baronet referred was the immediate consequence of the passing of an amendment in the Mutiny Act. It was issued and signed by the proper officer without any communication whatever with the Secretary of War, and the Under Secretary who drew out the circular was Sir Benjamin Hawes, who is, I believe an excellent Whig, and according to the tenets of Gentlemen opposite, a Whig can do no wrong. The right hon. Baronet this evening said that he would not notice Galway and the Lever line of packets; but I shall notice it. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that when his speech reached Ireland it very much hurt the feelings of many persons there; and you will observe that the advocate of popular rights speaking on the hustings considers that he has a licence there that would not belong to him elsewhere. He says in his speech at Carlisle—" What is the case as to Galway? Here I can speak more positively." He certainly was more positively wrong if possible. But I must read his charge in his very words. After 285 stating the nature of the Cunard contract he comes to the charge of corruption, his object being to account for the result of elections which had recently taken place in Ireland, not according to what we know to be the fact, but according to his own uncharitable exposition of the matter. When I have shown the right hon. Gentleman that his statement is groundless, I have no doubt that, with the same generosity that has characterized his retraction of all the other charges, he will, in the handsomest manner possible, make reparation to those whom he has aggrieved. His charge is this:—Now, Government bethought themselves, at the instance of a valuable body of members in the west of Ireland, that it would be desirable to add to this communication a communication by Gal-way, at a cost of £70,000 a year. I say it would have been cheaper for the people of England to give the Government £100,000 capital to be expended in secret service money in buying up the Galway votes and debauching the voters rather than £70,000 under contract for seven years.The charge is too plain to be misunderstood. You, the Members for the West of Ireland, made a corrupt proposition to a corrupt Government, and that corrupt Government, on the eve of an election, made this bargain; whereas it would have been cheaper to have bought you with cash, and to have given you the means of debauching the voters of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman is familiar, I have no doubt, with the writings of Sheridan, and he will remember that that incomparable wit describes those who draw upon their imagination for their facts. Where, I ask, were the facts to justify that statement made upon the hustings at Carlisle? What authority had he—I will not say for inventing, but for imagining; that charge which he brought against a body of Members of this House and against the Government of which I am a humble Member? That accusation is utterly destitute of foundation. I beg to inform the right hon. Gentleman that neither Lord Eglinton, nor Lord Derby, nor any Member of the Government would be guilty of the practice to which he adverted any more than he would himself. What are the facts which he did not make himself acquainted with? In 1852 I sat upon a committee which was held at the Mansion House in Dublin, when a most eminent merchant, Mr. Guinness, was Lord Mayor of Dublin, and upon the committee were Mr. G. A. Hamilton, Colonel Latouche, the present Chancellor of Ireland, the Lord Mayor, and myself. 286 The question which was suggested by a large body of mercantile men to that committee was whether, in consequence of the great traffic that existed between Ireland and America it might not be possible to establish a packet communication between Galway and Halifax, which the map showed to be the shortest line of communication between the great continent and Ireland. I ventured myself to write a pamphlet on the subject—although the discerning public would not read it—to prove what I had believed for many years. The Belfast Chamber of Commerce investigated the subject, and so did various other mercantile bodies throughout Ireland. The Belfast men said, If we get this communication from Galway, we will complete the lines of railway from the west to the north—we will send all our traffic to the west of Ireland—we shall have a mail which will give us our letters and our remittances one or two days earlier than we receive them now; and as an integral part of the British empire we think that we have a right to this accommodation. Now, what was the contract? Not one farthing has been paid upon it yet, and never will be, unless it be possible to construct that description of vessel which shall make the passage from Galway according to the terms laid down in a strict bargain. When those vessels shall be made and that accomplished, the contract may take effect—but not till then. Now, every Member of Parliament from the north, south, cast, and west of Ireland is in favour of a communication from Ireland to America; but the right hon. Baronet, instead of viewing with favour the feeling of an entire nation, and recognizing its right to demand a moderate stipend to promote the traffic between two great and free countries, turns round upon the Government, and stigmatizes its members as corrupt for listening to these just and reasonable demands. I warn the right hon. Baronet against this harsh policy, and he will excuse me for giving him this warning. The elections for Ireland are over. For the first time since 1829 a Conservative majority has been returned. Let him not suppose that if we do, by the confidence of the country, gain political power, that we are about to use it otherwise than to promote and advance the good of all classes. Is it true that Galway is corrupt? Why the noble Lord who represents that town is in opposition to the Government. The interest of his family is rather given to the noble Viscount. I never heard that 287 he has been corrupted by the contract. I have never heard it, and I do not believe it. He will vote, I suppose, against the Government, as he has always manfully done, and that will be the best refutation of the charge that the Members of the west of Ireland have been debauched or corrupted. The next point which the right hon. Baronet made was the Roman Catholic compact. Too long have the Whigs used the religious question for their own benefit. As long as the Roman Catholics of Ireland voted for the Whigs they were a virtuous, enlightened, grateful, and consistent people. After the Whigs have for many years possessed power and done nothing—after long experience of their inability to do any good for the country, some Roman Catholics think fit to exercise the franchise in favour of native gentlemen whose families sat in former Parliaments; they say they are tired of all agitators, and they have returned—to their honour be it spoken—men whom they can believe. And now they are accused of being factious and corrupt? I beg to inform the right hon. Baronet that I mightretort on him—coalitions are odious. As for myself, I represent my native University, and it is the highest honour which I can ever hope to possess. But the righthon. Baronet is mistaken if he supposes that I am about to join him and certain so-called religious journals, which write up the noble Viscount while maligning the Roman Catholics because they thought proper to support, without corruption, men who, I trust, will benefit the empire. A coalition is a very odious thing. There has been a coalition Government. The noble Viscount was Home Secretary, and the right hon. Baronet was then in office. A coalition was made in Ireland which will never be forgotten, as the saying is, "while grass grows and water flows." Mr. John Sadleir was made a Lord of the Treasury. I have just had in my hands the papers relating to the last of that party who was placed in the Income-tax Office, and has become a defaulter. One was expelled from this House. Another is said to have committed suicide. Another was likewise in the Income-tax Office, and having committed serious offences escaped. That was a coalition which we can all understand and remember. I am of opinion that the rank and distinction which were then given to the notorious principal of a provincial bank gave credit and circulation to its paper, and caused ruin to many innocent persons. I ask who was it placed Mr. John Sadleir in power? The 288 noble Lord the Member for the City of London is not likely to inquire how it happens that he does not possess that popularity in Ireland to which his personal virtues, commanding talents, and great distinction might entitle him. I have always received the utmost courtesy from the noble Lord, but insult is remembered more than injury. He once described the Protestants as a miserable, monopolizing minority, in a passage which is not original, for I found it in one of the orations of Mr. Fox.
We have only been accustomed to it in Ireland in its original shape, and I am glad the noble Lord was so candid as to refer to the authority which he quoted. The noble Lord described the Roman Catholic religion in his celebrated letter, and so disposed of the Irish nation. It was said, that when Parliament created the £12 voting franchise in Ireland, the Conservative party would be destroyed; but the fact is, that it is stronger than it ever was. The right hon. Baronet talked of the Catholic combination, and said he had read in the speeches of the hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer) something about a charter, and that we had granted it.
MR. WHITE SIDE
I understood the right hon. Baronet to insinuate that, coupled with the fact that I am member of a Protestant University, though it is not exclusively Protestant, and has not been for the last sixty years, I was to assent in some way to this charter which is to be granted hereafter to a Roman Catholic college in Dublin.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
I said just the reverse, that it was incredible you should advise such a charter.
MR. WHITE SIDE
That is a mode of speech. When a man wishes to insinuate a thing, he says it is quite incredible. I will give a clear and satisfactory account of what happened on that subject. Twenty-five Irish Members of Parliament waited as a deputation upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as twenty-five Members waited upon him in reference to the land question, and they asked the Minister to be good enough to consider the subject of the charter. It was totally unconnected with the elections, and I believe occurred a month or two before the elections. Let me ask why 289 these should not so act, if they thought fit? We see what are the ideas of the right hon. Baronet. If Members of Parliament only ask what he approves, they are very well-behaved men; but if they notify that they have a demand to make of a public nature, of which he disapproves, and which is published in the newspapers it is a conspiracy. These twenty-five Members did wait upon the Minister. The Minister heard them for the first time in his life, and informed them that the subject would be considered. Neither myself, nor the Chancellor of the Exchequer, nor the Lord Lieutenant, nor my noble Friend the Chief Secretary, nor any one that I know of, directly or indirectly, gave any promise, express or implied, in reference to the charter to induce those gentlemen to give any vote they do not choose to give on this or any other night. The right hon. Baronet is accustomed to give us the chilling testimony of his experience of political life. I am not a very old Member, nor have I long been a servant of the Crown, but I understand it to be my duty, as a servant of the Crown, to act directly, honestly, and in a manner which will bear the test of investigation, and I do not understand the policy to which the right hon. Baronet is accustomed if it be that description which he exemplifies. I will state everything which passed in reference to the Roman Catholic party without reservation. They called on the Minister and asked him whether he would undertake a settlement of the land question. I believe that is a question to which they are sincerely and conscientiously attached. The hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) applied to me to know when certain Bills which I undertook to draw, would be brought in. He called attention to the case of a priest who had been evicted and deprived of the value of his improvements, made in the faith of a supposed contract, and he asked whether such a grievance could not be remedied. I answered that I thought it could; but I never told any man save the members of the Government, what would be the provisions of the measures I should propose. The Irish independent party did not say, "Before we vote, tell us what you can do for us." That independent party have never asked directly or indirectly for a place, and they have never received it. The hon. Gentleman, (the Member for Dungarvan), refused to be a magistrate of the town 290 which he represents; which I think was an absurd decision, because a Roman Catholic has a right to be a magistrate as much as a Protestant. Mr. Fagan, who is now no more, called the attention of my noble Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, to the investigation into the University of Dublin, and said that all the recommendations had not been carried out, because no new scholarships had been founded to which Roman, Catholics might be admitted. My noble Friend undertook the settlement of that question, and the heads of the University in a spirit of true liberality, did found fourteen additional scholarships, which were thrown open to members of the Roman Catholic religion. I am not ashamed to have approved of that measure. I repudiate an uncharitable policy. If the Roman Catholics prefer to come to the ancient University which I represent they will be heartily welcome; they will meet with no insult, no discourtesy; they will inform i their minds by the study of the noble works of antiquity, and will enter public life better prepared for the duties which they have to discharge. Such has been our conduct with reference to Irish measures; and if the people of Ireland are contented with them, that is the highest praise which 'the Government can receive. The hon. and I learned Member for Cork (Mr. Serjeant Deasy) very feelingly objected to two appointments—those of the Chancellor and the Attorney General. That was very natural. He thinks that those officers might be changed with advantage, and he possesses both the abilities and the inclination to undertake the duties of my office. I have been asked what the criminal code was to be. A measure has been prepared establishing the same criminal statute law for England and Ireland, and it is ready to be laid on the table of the House. The conspiracy to murder question and others of importance are dealt with in that measure, which, while it reduces the cases in which offences are to be punished by death, simplifies and consolidates the law; thus accomplishing that which, under the administration of the noble Viscount, was never effected. Was it, then, worthy of the right hon. Baronet,—is it worthy of eminent men in this country—to try to raise against us the religions question in Ireland? We have not compromised our faith or our religion. We hold both sacred, but we have learned to think we can maintain both with perfect 291 sincerity and consistency, with charity and justice to all classes of our fellow-countrymen; and I am of opinion that the people of Ireland will, when they are once satisfied of that, he as willing to give their confidence to the Protestant gentry of that country as to any other set of politicians. Never forget the Income-tax. Never forget the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wells (Sir W. Hayter), who, immediately before the debate on the budget of 1852, penned up a small number of Irish Members in a corner, and told them that they might be sure the Income-tax would never be extended to Ireland. They rejected the budget of Lord Derby, they destroyed the Government, and they got in return the income-tax and a personal explanation. Recollect that when you give your votes, and do justice to the present Government. Sir Robert Peel, when about to be condemned according to the principles of Radamanthus, who punished first and inquired afterwards, once said in this House:—I call upon you not to condemn before you have heard, to receive at least the measures I shall propose, to amend them if they are defective, to extend them if they shall fall short of your expectations; but at least to give me the opportunity of presenting them, that you yourselves may consider and dispose of them.I ask the House, is it just upon the invitation of the two noble Lords who have now composed their differences to destroy the Ministry before their measures have been heard? And to do it, why? Observe the fair and manly argument of the hon. Member for Birmingham—how unlike the speech of the right hon. Baronet! That hon. Gentleman said, "I do not object to the dissolution. I do not object to your foreign policy. I do not charge you with corruption at the elections, because I have no facts to go upon." On what ground, then, does he quarrel with us? Upon the one single ground of Parliamentary reform The hon. Gentleman is about to descent: from being the leader of a great party to become the follower or assistant of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. The noble Viscount will, no doubt, be very comfortable when he has on one side the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. M. Gibson) and on the other the hon. Member for Birmingham. Biography is a delightful study. The hon. Member for Birmingham is a master at sketching character, and the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton is not behind him in that art 292 The hon. Member for Birmingham has sketched the character of the noble Viscount, and the noble Viscount has returned the compliment. The hon. Gentleman said of the noble Lord—I have observed the noble Viscount's conduct ever since I had the honour of a seat in this House, and the noble Viscount will excuse me if I state the reason why I have often opposed him. The reason is, that the noble Viscount treats all these questions, and the House itself, with such a want of seriousness, that it has appeared to me that he has no serious, or sufficiently serious, conviction of the important business that so constantly cornea before this House. I judge the noble Viscount as a man who has experience, but who with experience has not gained wisdom; as a man who has age, but who with age has not the gravity of age, and who now, occupying the highest seat of power, has (and I say it with pain) not appeared affected with the due sense of the responsibility that belongs to that elevated position. We are now in the hands of these two noble Lords. They are the authors of the Russian war. It lies between them that peace was not made at Vienna upon some proper terms, and whatever disasters may be in store for this country, or for Europe, they will he at the doors of these noble Lords.The noble Viscount has favoured us with his view of the political character of the hon. Member for Birmingham. Speaking of that hon. Gentleman, he said—He (Mr. Bright) asks me to explain the meaning of 'the balance' of power. Now, the hon. Member for Manchester and I differ so much upon almost every question involving great principles, that I am afraid I shall be unable to gratify him by complying with his request to explain the meaning of the expression 'the balance of power.' The hon. Member, however, reduces everything to the question of pounds, shillings, and pence, and I verily believe that if this country were threatened with an immediate invasion likely to end in its conquest, the hon. Member would sit down, take a piece of paper, and would put on one side of the account the contributions which his Government would require from him for the defence of the liberty and independence of the country, and he would put on the other the probable contributions which the general of the invading army might levy upon Manchester; and if he found that on balancing the account it would be cheaper to be conquered than to be laid under contributions for defence, he would give his vote against going to war for the liberties and independence of the country, rather than bear his share in the expenditure which it would entail.Now, Sir, I think that a coalition of persons who entertain these agreeable opinions of each other will form a Ministry of which England may be proud. I entertain no doubt that the noble Viscount and the hon. Gentleman will enter upon their duties each with a solemn sense of his responsibility and a firm determination never to yield to anything said by a colleague. 293 The hon. Member for Birmingham has a great horror of war, but the Members of his philanthropic sect have a peculiar way of making war in their own fashion. I remember hearing a story of a Quaker who, being on board a ship which was attacked by pirates, and finding one of them boarding the vessel, clasped him round the waist and dropped him overboard, saying mildly, "Friend, thou hast no business here." And injustice to the hon. Member for Birmingham I must say that I have no doubt that if an enemy touched our shores, he would be found among our volunteers, and that if he did not fire a rifle he would wield a bludgeon with no little execution. The policy of the hon. Member is one of neutrality, but his neutrality means a general disarmament of the country. He says that he will vote for the noble Viscount because there is no danger from Austria or Sardinia; he has no suspicion of any other country, and the best way to show that we have no suspicion is to break up our army, dispose of our ships, and disband our sailors. Is that the policy of the noble Viscount? Why, there is not a more bellicose Minister than he. He would not allow the honour of England to be invaded, nor her soil desecrated by the foot of an enemy. The policy of the noble Viscount and that of the hon. Member for Birmingham are wide as the poles asunder. Why, then, does the hon. Member support the noble Lord? He says to the present Government, "I know very well that I cannot gain my objects through you; I never shall be able to carry out my views while you are in power, and therefore I am determined that you shall change places with the noble Lord." The hon. Gentleman in effect says, I will make the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton Minister, in order that I may squeeze what I can out of him. When I have done that, then, like Warwick, I will kill him and go on breaking up Ministry after Ministry, until I have accomplished that which is the darling object of my life. Now, that is a clear and intelligible policy, and it is manfully avowed. I cannot help congratulating the hon. Gentleman, as well as the right hon. Member for Ashton and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wilts, who signed the requisition convening the meeting which took place at Willis's Rooms, on the prospect of the entire unanimity of feeling which is likely to pervade the Government of which they are to be members, and upon the circumstance, 294 that while they are prepared to agree on matters of principle, they are perfectly ready to set aside mere matters of detail; such, for instance, as the ballot. The speech which was made on that question by the late Attorney General in the course of last Session must no doubt have been very flattering to the feelings of the noble Viscount, in whose Administration he served, while he must have been equally flattered to find that his own remarks upon the same occasion where characterized by one of the stanchest of his adherents (Mr. Berkeley) as "complete rubbish." For my own part, I have read with no little regret certain statements which have been made as to the constitution of that future Administration which the noble Viscount appears so anxious to construct. I have seen placarded the names of more than one hon. and right hon. Gentleman, Members of the Liberal party, who, it is said, are to be consigned to political extinction. The noble Viscount, it seems, is about to take, not a cordial, but, it is to be hoped, a respectful farewell of his old friends, and to find his new colleagues below the gangway. That is not a course which is likely to enlist the sympathies of a united party, such as that to which I have the honour to belong. We have stood by one another in the conflict, and we certainly should not dream of placarding the names of those Gentlemen in our ranks who had always been true to their leaders, or saying to them a new Ministry must be formed by the sacrifice of the most respectable members of the old. But, perhaps, it is somewhat presumptuous in me to advert to a subject of this delicate nature. I shall content myself with saying further that the question upon which you are called upon to decide by the noble Mover of the Amendment under discussion is whether, as matters stand, the existing Administration is entitled to your confidence. With respect to the answer which you will return to that question I have come to a different conclusion from that at which the noble Viscount opposite seems to have arrived. I confidently anticipate that your verdict will be pronounced in favour of the Government.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ The debate was thenfurther adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.