§ MR. COBDEN
, who had given notice of his intention "to offer observations on the Administration of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, in relation to the Legislation and state of parties in this 1097 House," rose and said: Sir, in the very few remarks with which I shall trouble the House, it is not my intention to be the humble imitator of the able and eloquent men who, in this and in the other House of Parliament, were formerly accustomed, at the close of our Parliamentary labours to take a review of the measures of the Session. Indeed, there would be a very good reason for my not following their example this evening, because I think there is an absence this Session of measures to critcise. Nor is it my intention to speak as one of a party, or as representing other Members of this House. I know that in what I have to say I am the exponent of the opinions of many Members both present and absent. But, though I wish not to assume the character of a political representative or leader in any form, still, if I had yielded to more than one representation made to me, I should have made some such statement as I am about to make much earlier in the Session. I repeat, Sir, I do not profess here to be a party leader, and I have never in this House cared much for party politics, for I have generally had something to do outside of party; yet I am of opinion that in a free and representative community the affairs of public life must be conducted by party. A party is a necessary organization of public opinion. If a party represent a large amount of public opinion, then the party fills an honourable position, and commands the confidence of its fellow-countrymen; but if a party have no principles—it has been called a faction—I would call it a nuisance. And if a party violates its professed principles, then I think that party should be called an imposture. Now, these are hard words; and yet they are precisely the measure which, sooner or later, will be meted out to all parties by public opinion; and, late in the Session as it now is, it may be well if we, who represent both the majority and the minority of this House, take a review of our position with a view to seeing how far we shall be able to bear the inquest when the day comes—as come it will—for our conduct and character to be brought into judgment. Now, Sir, with regard to the majority, as I suppose we may on this side of the House call ourselves, I shall take the liberty of calling back to our recollection what has been in former times our professed principles. [Mr. HADFIELD: Hear, hear!] My hon. Friend is evidently in a doleful key—and does not seem, I 1098 think, to anticipate much gratification or renown from this investigation. I would make an exception, in his case, however; for if I was called upon to make the selection, he is the man I would name as having been at all times, in season and out of season, true and faithful to his principles. Now, Sir, what have been the professed principles of the so-called Liberal party? "Economy, Non-intervention, and Reform !" Now, I ask my hon. Friend—and it is almost a pity we cannot talk the matter over in private—if we were to show ourselves, on some great fête-day, as ancient guilds and companies used to show themselves, with their banners and insignia floating in the air—if we were to parade ourselves, with our chief at our head, with a flag bearing the motto, "Economy, Non-intervention, and Reform," whether we should not cause considerable hilarity? Of these three ancient mottoes of our party I am inclined to attach the first consideration to the principle of economy, because the other two may be said to have for their object the attainment of that end. Now, how have our party fulfilled its pledges of a policy of economy? Do my hon. Friends around me know to what extent we have sinned against the true faith in this respect? Are they aware that this so-called Liberal party, the representatives of economy, have been by far the most extravagant Government that has ever been known in this country in a time of peace? Are they aware that we have signalized ourselves as a party in power by a higher rate of expenditure than was ever known before, except in time of war? I do not mean merely that we have spent more money—because it may have happened that we have grown so much more numerous and so much richer in the lapse of time, that though the amount of expenditure might be greater, the proportionate burden might be less; but I mean that we have, as a party and as a Government, spent more money absolutely, and that we have been more extravagant relatively to the means and to the numbers of the people, than we ever were before. We have lately had a Return laid before Parliament that throws light upon this subject. It is a Return moved for by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote), who has taken so much interest in financial questions. It is called "A Return of Taxation per Head," and it gives you the amount paid by each individual in the 1099 State at four different periods extending over thirty years. In 1830–1 the taxation per head was £2 4s. 11d.; in 1840–1 it was £1 18s. 2d. Then you had just realized the fruits of the Reform Bill. In 1850–1 it was an average of £2 1s. 5d.; and in 1860–1 it was £2 8s. 1d., being a higher amount in 1860 than in 1830. So that during the existence of the present Government, while this party has been in power, the largest amount per head has been spent in taxation that has been known for thirty years—or, I may say, in any year of peace. Not only have we spent more money per head, but we were informed the same year by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who took considerable pains to investigate the matter and to bring it clearly to our full appreciation, that the taxation had increased faster than the wealth of the country between 1843 and. 1859. He showed that our expenditure had increased in more than a proportionate ratio of the increase of our wealth. That is the statement of our own Chancellor of the Exchequer. So you see that this so-called party of economy has been the most extravagant Government that has been known by the present generation. There is another illustration of this which I wish to bring home to my hon. Friends. How has this money been spent, and upon what has it been spent? I have given you an illustration of the increase of expenditure in four years. I will compare it—I am sorry to have to do it, but we must have the whole truth out and make a clean breast of it—I will compare our expenditure with that of the hon. Gentlemen opposite. I find by the Estimates for 1862–3, moved by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his budget of this year, that the Estimates for army, navy, and fortifications, including the packet service—(this last item was included in the Estimates of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, so I give it here to make the comparison fair)—were set down at £29,916,000. Now, I have the Estimates of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1858, and his Estimates for 1858–9, for the army, navy, packet service, and fortifications, were £21,610,000, or £8,306,000 less than the Estimates for this year. ["Hear, hear!"] I wonder how my hon. Friends can be encouraged to cry "Hear, hear!" with so cheerful a voice. In these Estimates I have put the 1100 £1,200,000 for fortifications which we have voted this year. It is very convenient for some noble Lords or right hon. Gentlemen to put the money voted for these fortifications out of sight, because they do not come into the regular Estimates; but if we are spending this year £1,200,000 upon fortifications, it is clear that is so much drawn from the available resources of the country, and it must fairly be put down to the expenditure of this year. Making the comparison in this fair way, we have increased our expenditure for these services in four years above the expenditure of the party opposite by £8,306,000, or at the rate of more than £2,000,000 a year. How has this arisen? Upon what grounds can it be that we have increased those warlike Estimates by £8,000,000 in the last four years—four years of the most profound and most growing and increasing peace, as far as the tendency of affairs between this and neighbouring countries is concerned? How is it that this can possibly have arisen? Now, this brings me necessarily to refer to the noble Lord at the head of the Government. One or two of my Friends said to me before I began to speak, "I hope you will not be personal;" and I have had warnings to keep my temper. I promise the House that I will keep my temper, and I will not be personal any more than I am obliged to be. The noble Lord in this matter represents himself a policy. I do not mean to absolve other parties that are with him from their responsibility in joining him. I do not mean to say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not fairly responsible for the Estimates he brings forward. He may have his motives. He will give and take probably. He will agree to spend more in one direction, if he can get some concession that he deems necessary in another. There must be compromises where twelve or fifteen men are working together. But, so far as regards the primum mobile of this increased expenditure, I cannot leave out of consideration the noble Lord himself, for this reason—he will not allow me to leave him out, because he is always prominently the first and foremost when anything of this sort has to be proposed or defended. Now, I have no hesitation in saying—do not let my Friends think I am going to say anything personal—that I put the whole of this increased expenditure down to the credit of the noble Lord. I do not excuse 1101 those who allow him to spend, to waste the money of the country—but he is the primum mobile in this matter. I tell him now—for it is the best thing to be plain and open, and I say it to his face, for I do not want to go down into the country and say it behind his back—that he has always been first and foremost in promoting extravagant expenditure for the last twenty years. I have sometimes sat down and tried to settle in my own mind what amount of money the noble Lord had cost this country since he had been in office; and I think that from 1840, dating from that Syrian business, which first occasioned a permanent rise in the Estimates—judging by the way in which he, in conjunction with others, continually stimulated the late Sir Robert Peel into increased expenditure—taking into account his Chinese wars, his Affghan war, his Persian war; his expeditions here, there, and everywhere—taking into account his Fortification scheme, which I suppose we must now accept with all its consequences of increased military establishments—the least I can put the noble Lord down as having cost the country must be £100,000,000 sterling. I think the noble Lord, with all his merits, is very dear at such a price. But how has the noble Lord managed to get this increased expenditure from the budget of the right hon. Gentleman opposite in 1858, to the budget of my right hon. Friend this year—£8,300,000? It has been by a constant and systematic agitation of the country. The noble Lord has been the greatest agitator I know in favour of expensive establishments. It has always been his practice, whether in this House, at the Lord Mayor's feasts, at school meetings, at reformatory meetings, at rifle corps meetings, or at some mediæval ceremony, such as his installation as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, to raise a cry of danger and of invasion from France. It is a very curious and extraordinary thing. The noble Lord and his Friends came into power upon two grounds—namely, that they would give us a better Reform Bill than the hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that they were the party who could always keep us upon friendly terms with France. It has ended in this very party kicking Reform out of existence, and we have had nothing since but a cry of invasion from France. This policy of the noble Lord has had two consequences. Understand, when I speak of the noble 1102 Lord's policy, I speak of it as sincere. The longer I live, the more I believe in the sincerity of men. They often deceive themselves, and often go wrong from culpable ignorance. I do not impute motives to the noble Lord, and least of all do I charge him with wilfully and knowingly misrepresenting facts; but there is no doubt, that in consequence of the noble Lord's "idea"—he talked of the "monomania" of my hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard in opposing his scheme—in consequence of the noble Lord's idea of a French invasion, the country has been kept in alarm on this subject. And what has been the consequence? It has had these two effects. It has prevented the people of this country from attending to their own domestic affairs, and it has prevented them from looking after economy in the expenditure of the State. I do not say the noble Lord intended that this should be the case, but there is a passage in a curious work which I have had brought to my recollection, and which is so completely illustrative of the position which the noble Lord occupies in relation to this question that I cannot refrain from reading it. The passage to which I allude applies immediately and directly to the point under our notice; and although I do not suppose the noble Lord has been plotting and acting in the sense which it describes to attain his ends, yet, by a singular accident, his line of conduct is most whimsically and amusingly portrayed by Archbishop Whateley, in a treatise entitled Historical Doubts relative to Napoleon Bonaparte, which contains the extract which I am about to record. The work is well known; it was written thirty years ago, and with the view of refuting sceptics by showing that very good arguments might be advanced to prove that no such man as Napoleon Bonaparte had ever existed. This is the passage—Now, it must be admitted that Bonaparte was a political bugbear, most convenient to any Administration:—'If you do not adopt our measures and reject those of our opponents, Bonaparte will be sure to prevail over you; if you do not submit to the Government, at least under our administration, this formidable enemy will take advantage of your insubordination to conquer and enslave you. Pay your taxes cheerfully, or the tremendous Bonaparte will take all from you.' Bonaparte, in short, was the burden of every song; his terrible name was the charm which always succeeded in unloosing the pursestrings of the nation.Now comes a very apt illustration of the course pursued by the noble Lord— 1103And let us not be too sure, safe as we now think ourselves, that some occasion may not occur for again producing on the stage so useful a personage; it is not merely to naughty children in the nursery that the threat of being 'given to Bonaparte' has proved effectual.That extract seems to me completely to represent the unconscious state of the noble Lord; and I should like to know what other ground there is for his popularity with the country—for he is said to be a popular Minister. When I come, for instance, to ask a question about the introduction of a particular reform in this House, the answer I receive sometimes is, "Nothing can be done while the noble Lord is at the head of the Government;" but, assuming that he is as popular as he is said to be, I cannot imagine any other ground for that popularity than that he is supposed to be the vigilant guardian of the national safety. [Loud cheers.] Now, you see Archbishop Whately is quite correct; there are a good many "naughty children" behind the Treasury Bench. The noble Lord thought he saw danger—where he could not say; and he has been protecting us against it to the extent of £8,000,000 sterling, and the reasons given for his policy, though not satisfactory to me, are, it seems, very satisfactory to himself and those around him. But the noble Lord's fantasy has done more than spend our money and put reform out of the nation's head; it has also prevented an investigation, full and comprehensive, of the mismanagement going on in both branches of our public services, especially in the navy. The noble Lord has been continually telling us that France was going to surpass us in naval power; that she was first building one vessel and then another. All the while, however, it followed that the country was not made alive to the mismanagement and waste going on in our dockyards, which, if there had been any spirit of inquiry, would have been found sufficient to account for our inferiority, without referring it to any aggressive designs on the part of France. We have had lately placed in our hands a very valuable pamphlet on this subject, written by Mr. Scott Russell, than whom there can be no better judge of the nature of shipbuilding, and the comparative merits of different kinds of vessels. He tells us that we have, during the last thirty years, spent £30,000,000 in our dockyards, for labour and material in the construction of a class of ships which are now totally useless, there being 1104 in our possession only two seagoing vessels which can be said to be really effective. He adds that he called the attention of the Government to the subject seven years ago; but you can never get an investigation into these matters, because there is always a way of getting rid of inquiry—either by abuse, or by an outcry against French invasion or French aggression. Lately a series of articles have appeared in the Revue des Deux Mondes, written by M. Xavier Raymond, which I would recommend the noble Lord to read. The writer is, perhaps, one of the most competent authorities on the subject of the English and French navies whom perhaps you could find. He enters very much into detail with respect to it, and I hold in my hand an extract from one of his articles which I think very appropriate to the point to which I am referring. It is as follows:—The British Admiralty are always wanting in foresight; they do not even know what is going on at their very door. France had seven years previously abandoned the construction of sailing vessels, when, in 1851, the House of Commons forced a similar policy on the Admiralty. Four years had elapsed since the French Government had determined not to lay down another screw line-of-battle ship, when all of a sudden, though somewhat late, the British Admiralty, discovering that we had nearly as many of these vessels as themselves, decided upon what the Queen's Speech in 1859 called the reconstruction of the Navy. The moment was assuredly most admirably chosen, seeing that it was notorious to the whole world that from the year 1855 France had not constructed a screw ship of the line, and that for a year the iron-clad La Gloire was visible under her shed at Toulon. Again, it has been necessary to wait till 1861, another seven years, before the Admiralty, conquered again by the House of Commons, renounced the further construction of screw ships of the line. If this be not waste and improvidence, where on earth are they to be found?Now, that is the judgment pronounced by one of the most eminent writers of France, who is thoroughly conversant with the question with which he deals, and it is simply a repetition of what has been said by my hon. Friends the Member for Sunderland, the Member for Glasgow, the Member for Finsbury, and other hon. Gentlemen in this House. Yet, notwithstanding all this, nothing has been done to remedy this monstrous mismanagement in our dockyards, of which complaint was made, while the country was constantly amused and stunned with the cry of French ambition and French invasion. I shall make only one other quotation from the 1105 writer in the Revue des Deux Mondes, whose name I have mentioned, but I would again intreat the noble Lord to read the whole of his articles during the recess. M. Xavier Raymond says—Whenever the British Admiralty fall into some fresh scrape, when they find themselves left behind by the superior management in the French dockyards, in order to extricate themselves from their dilemma they resort to an expedient which has never failed them, but which is little calculated to promote mutual good will between the two countries. It is an exhibition, certainly, of great cleverness, but cleverness of a very odious nature. Instead of candidly admitting their own shortcomings, they raise the charge of ambition against France, accuse her of plots and conspiracies, and agitate the country with groundless alarms of an invasion; and while thus obtaining the millions of money necessary to repair their blunders, we have, at the same time, the speeches of Lord Palmerston enunciating the singular theory, that to perpetuate the friendship of these two great nations it is necessary to push to the extreme limits the unproductive expenditure on their armaments.This, it appears to me, is a very serious question—and a very serious one at this moment. I do not believe the country or the House is at all aware of its full and extensive bearing on the circumstance that we are at present without a fleet. Mr. Scott Russell's pamphlet is headed "England without a Fleet." I shall now, with the permission of the House, read an extract from an American paper, to show what is thought on the subject on the other side of the Atlantic. This is a passage from an article in a late number of the New York Evening Post, in which the writer says—But it may be urged that the French and English fleets would open the ports of the South in spite of our resistance. The answer to this is, that the experience of our civil war has taught us to despise such fleets as the French and English Governments have now on foot, so far as attacks on our seaport towns are concerned. It has taught us to resist them by vessels sheathed in massive plates of iron, mighty engines encased in mail; too heavy for deep-sea navigation but well adapted to harbour defence, and of power sufficient to crush in pieces and send to the bottom, with their crews, the wooden ships on which England has hitherto prided herself. With these engines we might sink the transport ships bringing the European armies, as soon as they appeared in our waters.Now, there is not, I think, an intelligent naval man who will not endorse that doctrine. Admiral Denman, in a pamphlet which has probably been placed in the hands of other hon. Members as well as my own, observes—And, again, with respect to the invulnerable ships in which France has taken and kept the 1106 lead, it is equally agreed on all hands that a fleet built of wood must be certainly destroyed in a conflict with iron-plated ships. A French author scarcely overstates the case when he compares an iron-plated ship among ships of wood to a lion among a flock of sheep.["Hear!"] I hear distinguished naval men cheering the sentiment, and therefore I conclude it is unquestioned. If that be so, what becomes of the responsibility of the Government towards the country? I see before me one of the greatest merchants in England. Suppose he, or some great wholesale dealer, employs a clerk to manage a large department of his business, as is constantly done, and finds some fine spring morning that department crammed with goods of a perfectly unsaleable character; suppose, moreover, this clerk or superintendent had ample opportunity of knowing what description of goods would be wanted in the market, do you think his employer would allow him to escape without a reprimand under the circumstances, especially if he were to run up to him and say, "Oh, we are quite out of the market, Mr. So-and-So has got suitable goods; we have no chance against him?" Yet this is a parallel to the course which has been pursued by the Government. The Admiralty knew they were without a fleet capable of meeting modern vessels; but instead of being filled with remorse for their remissness in the discharge of their duties, they actually bully us, as the noble Lord has repeatedly done. He comes down to the House and says, "France has a far better fleet than we have; France has twenty or thirty iron-cased ships, and we are inferior to France," and makes that sufficient ground for adding another £10,000,000 or £15,000,000 to the Estimates, and no question is asked with regard to the £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 which, according to Mr. Scott Russell, have been absolutely wasted. I have said something to account for the way in which the money has been wasted upon our armaments. For this the present Government and the Liberal party are responsible. The present Government does not concern itself about this, except as laying the ground for future expenses, of it is impossible to predict how great magnitude. I warn, then, my hon. Friends whom I see around me, that unless we can in some way detach ourselves from this terrible system of mismanagement, we shall, as a party, rot out of existence—I will not call it by any other term—we shall rot out of existence, by-and-by, with such a load of odium about 1107 our necks, in the shape of undertakings entailing the most costly charge to the country, that such a thing as a Liberal party will never be tolerated—it will stink in the nostrils of the people. Look, for instance, at this vast expenditure for fortifications. Does anybody in this world doubt that that is entirely the work of the noble Lord? Anybody who has sat in this House and seen the sums voted on different parts of the fortification scheme must know right well that it is solely, individually, and personally the act of the noble Lord; it is the price we pay for what I suppose we must call the obstinacy of the noble Lord. But we are very much mistaken if we suppose that the expense of this fortification scheme will end when the bricks and mortar are done with. When the subject of the fortifications was debated in this House in May last, I placed under the gallery an artillery officer, who is well known in this House, who has filled one of the highest posts, and who was in the front rank during the Crimean war. He was going into the country, and the next day—having listened to the debate throughout the entire evening—he sent me a letter, in which he said—I cannot see any motive for this fortification scheme but this: it is not to protect us against a foreign enemy; because, if an enemy landed in this country, such fortifications would be an inconvenience and a danger to us. I can make nothing of them but this—that they are intended as a future excuse for keeping 30,000 more men in the country in time of peace than formerly.I believe that a gallant Officer opposite has expressed the same opinion. And yet all this is being done by the Liberal party. That is what we shall have to be responsible for. Why, even our children will shrink from the very name and the very imputation of having had fathers that belonged to so foolish, so extravagant, and so profligate a party. Take, again, this affair of China. Do not hon. Members recollect what was stated by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he brought forward his budget? Or if they do not, I will refresh their memory by reading a short extract from that speech. The right hon. Gentleman, in the budget speech on the 30th April, 1862, after putting down the charge for the China war at £7,554,000, adds,—"which, I trust, will be the end, strictly speaking, of the charge for the China war." Now, since then, we have not only launched into a war with China, but we have rushed headlong into 1108 an intervention, of which Heaven only knows what the dimensions will ultimately prove. It is entirely taken out of our hands; and what I hear in all directions is, that we shall have China upon our hands just as we have India. Let me read an extract from the North China Herald of a recent date. It says, in plain language—We again warn our countrymen whose good fortune it is to dwell in marble halls in their own native sea-girt island not to fancy that we can pause in this work of redemption. … The end may not be very far off; and if any of our readers seek to inquire of us what that end will be, we openly reply, nothing short of the occupation of this rich province by Great Britain. We have no hope of the Imperialists.Now, when I saw the vote of the House on that subject—when I saw the majority of this House which supported the noble Lord including a great number of hon. Members from the other side of the House, led by the right hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Walpole)—I could not help exclaiming, "Where is the Conservatism of this land!" For I do not know a more rash or reckless proceeding than for a Conservative party—the noble Lord does these things as a matter of course—to lend itself to such a step. Does not the Conservative party see that from time to time public opinion in this and every country turns round, and judges not merely parties in a State but the governing classes? And if this China affair should lead to what it may lead in a few years' time—if in twenty or thirty years the whole power of this country should for a time, as it sometimes has been, be thrown into the hands of the great mass of the people—how can we tell that the people will not judge the governing classes of the country by that very proceeding of taking possession of the vast empire of China? Here is a country to which you send about 3 per cent of your exports—for the last seven years your exports to China have not averaged more than 3 per cent of the whole exports from this island; and yet, for that infinitesimal fraction of your business, you are going to meddle in the affairs of 400,000,000 of people. You are going into a country eight times as large as France—ten times as populous as France—a country which is in a complete state of revolution—not merely with one rebellion, because your blue-books tell you that there are other rebellions besides that of the Taepings, which the Imperial Government is quite unable to put down— 1109 you have got into that country entirely because the noble Lord happens to be at the head of affairs. Does anybody doubt that this is one of the evils of the meddling disposition of the noble Lord—or what, in vulgar phraseology, would be called his filibustering policy in China. The noble Lord is known to have such a predilection for this kind of sensation policy that let an Admiral or General in any part of the world commit an act of violence, and he is sure to be backed by the noble Lord. He acts on that assumption; he acts wisely, and gets promoted. Let him send home a report of some act of violence or other, and the noble Lord will back him, I engage. With respect to China, the instructions sent out by Earl Russell were most explicit against interference. As has been stated by a gentleman who knows the country well, our commanders were instructed not to interfere at the very time when they began their raids and incursions; but they judged that the noble Lord would back them, and they judged correctly. And the House, in an incautious moment, and owing very much to what I must call the most illogical step of the right hon. Member for Cambridge, for whom I have the greatest respect—this House, aided by hon. Members opposite, committed itself to these rash proceedings. Who can tell what the state of our finances is at this moment? My right hon. Friend, at the opening of the Session, in his budget speech, drew the lines very close. I remember the sensation he produced in this House when he came to declare that he had an expenditure and an income of about £70,000,000, and a surplus of only £150,000. I recollect that that was considered to be very close sailing. Well, but to get that surplus he was obliged to assume that the troops that were at Tien-tsin were coming back again. But they have not come back. I am on a Committee in which that fact has come out. I do not know whether hon. Members have had the Report of that Committee or not—if not, I ought not to refer to it—but it has been referred to already in this House. Our representatives in China ordered these troops to Shanghai, and there they remain, instead of coming home; and that will do far more than take away the surplus, which, I believe, lost a little in the hops and beer licenses. However, looking at the state and prospects of our revenue—looking at what has happened during the past few weeks, and to what 1110 must happen in the next winter—looking to what must happen to affect our prospects—is not this a most rash and lamentable dilemma into which we have rushed under the leadership of the noble Lord in respect to China? Then, let us take another act—an act, I believe, entirely of the noble Lord. I do not say that the other Members of the party are not responsible; they are, as well as he. But when I am dealing with an army, I deal with the general; and when I deal with a party, I deal with the chief, who is primarily responsible. The expedition to Canada was entirely the act of the noble Lord. When my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham came down to the House last spring and spoke upon the subject, I intended also to offer a few observations to the House; but I was unfortunately deprived of the use of my voice for two or three months, and could not do as I intended. I will, however, now say a word or two on that subject. I know the country well. I have traveled over its entire length, from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Lake Michigan. I know the population in both divisions. I have been there more than once—and I tell you that the noble Lord's policy on that occasion was again a sensation policy. It was a sensation policy on a par with the sensation articles in the New York papers. In November of last year an act of aggression was committed by an American cruiser upon one of our steamers. Before the middle of December the noble Lord heard from the American Minister that the act was done without the instructions or the cognizance of the American Government, and that he had reason to believe that the whole thing would be explained and satisfactorily arranged. ["No, no!"] Yes, he had full reason to believe this. ["No, no!" "Hear, hear!"] Well, then, I will give Gentlemen their own way, and say that the noble Lord had not full reason to believe that the whole thing would be satisfactorily arranged. It makes no difference to the case as I am going to put it. The frontier of Canada is hermetically sealed by ice and snow till the month of March, and it was impossible for military operations to be carried on till March. But the noble Lord hurried over 8,000 or 10,000 troops to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Many of those troops were detained there, and never reached Canada at all, to my certain knowledge. He sent over large supplies of sledges, 1111 which I am told by a relative of mine, a colonel out there, all the horses in Canada could not have drawn unless they were put upon the sledges of the country, and which, therefore, the sooner they were burnt the better. All these hasty and ill-judged proceedings were taken before the noble Lord waited to hear what the answer was from the American Government. If he had waited until the first week in January—three months before any military operations could have been carried on upon the frontier and the lakes and rivers that divide Canada from America, he would still have had plenty of time to have sent out reinforcements. Our troops were not wanted in Canada in the depth of winter—they might as well have been at home; and I ask whether it would have made any difference in the settlement of this question whether those troops during the winter were in this country or in Canada? I say that to spend a million of money wastefully, that would now have been a great consolation to the hearts and homes of the famishing people in Lancashire was a wanton waste of public treasure. It was a part of the policy of the noble Lord, which has always been a "sensation" policy, the object being to govern the country by constantly diverting its attention from affairs at home to matters abroad. These are the grounds why I think that, as a party, we have no reason to congratulate ourselves, at least, upon the close of this Session.
Now, I want to say a few words upon the relation of parties in this House. I say that the state of parties in this House—speaking logically, for I do not wish to give offence—is not an honest state of things. And I say so for this reason—the noble Lord is not governing the country with the assistance of his own party. I have no hesitation in telling the noble Lord, that if the party opposite had, at any time during the last six weeks or two months, brought forward a vote of want of confidence in the Government, there are a sufficient number on this side of the House who would have given them the opportunity of carrying their Motion. Why has the party opposite not taken that course? I will tell my whole mind to hon. Gentlemen opposite now. I have spoken plainly to my own party; often before I have taken the liberty to speak as plainly to the party opposite, and they have never treated me the worse for it. I will tell them why 1112 they do not propose a vote of want of confidence in the noble Lord. It is because large numbers of them have greater confidence in him than they have in their own chief. What said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University, on that occasion when he refused to stand to his guns in the premeditated attack on the Government? The right hon. Gentleman said—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member will understand that to read extracts from speeches made in former debates during the present Session will be out of order.
§ MR. COBDEN
Then I will only give the substance. The right hon. Gentleman said that Lord Derby had stated both publicly and privately to his party, that he did not wish to displace the noble Lord. Well, but have hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House sufficiently appreciated the full bearing of that? What becomes of government by party? To whom is the noble Lord responsible for his acts? If he carries on his Government by means of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I say to them, without hesitation, "You are in power without the responsibilities of office." And what a state of things is that? Do you think it can last? Will the country allow it to continue? I know that there are men on your side of the House who have confidence in the noble Lord, because they consider that he is as good a—I will not use the word Conservative, because I regard myself as much a Conservative as any of you. ["Oh, oh!"] I think I have been the most Conservative politician of my age—["Oh, oh!" "Hear, hear!" and cheers]—but I will say that they believe the noble Lord to be as good a Tory as any of them. But what becomes of government by party, if you step in and enable him to carry measures in opposition to a considerable section of his own party? He is, and must be, a sort of despot as long as this state of things lasts. But do you think it can last? We need not mince the matter, or be mawkish about it; we hear it in private, in the library, and in the committee-rooms, that you think the noble Lord carries out your policy to an extent which your own chief would not be allowed to do. I believe that. I believe that he obstructs reform, and spends more money a great deal than would the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. But do you not think the game is nearly played out? The 1113 noble Lord has managed to act a popular part, and he has had what the French call claqueurs in the press, who, I admit, have done his work very well. But let us analyze the noble Lord's character as a Liberal Minister by his acts. How does the noble Lord treat his own party on questions in which, if they are honest men, they must be assumed to have considerable interest—considerable conscientious interest? Take, for instance, the question of the ballot. I do not intend now to argue the question; I wish to see the principle carried out. I will not now argue the right or wrong of the question. I look upon it as far more a moral than a political question; and I think that you Conservatives, as you call yourselves, are under as great delusion about the ballot as you were about the Corn Laws—and that if you had the ballot for five years, you would no more wish to part with it than we should. Wherever I have soon it in operation it has thrown an air of morality over the process of voting. There has been an absence of violence, there has been no riot, no drunkenness, no noisy music; the whole proceeding has been as quiet and orderly as going to church. How, then, does the noble Lord treat the question of the ballot? Whenever it is brought on, does he not ostentatiously get up and place himself in the front rank of its opponents, ridiculing and throwing contumely upon the ballot and those who advocate it? Take another question—that is that of the church rates. How has that question fared under the leadership of the noble Lord in this House? If you go back for seven years, you will find that church rate abolition was in a triumphant majority. Mark how that majority has dwindled down under the leadership of the noble Lord First of all to a tie, when the Question had to be decided by the casting vote of the Speaker, and then to a majority of one against it. But if, when the question stood in a large majority, we had badly a leader such as the party on this side ought to insist on having, that leader would have taken up the question and dealt with it in a becoming manner. Take other questions, in which Members on this side of the House take an interest, and which affect religious bodies who are generally found sending Members to this side of the House—the Burials Bill, the Marriage Affinities Bill, the Grammar Schools Bill and other similar measures—they have all gone back under the leadership of the noble Lord. Why is that? 1114 Because the noble Lord is known not to be very much in earnest about these things The consequence is that the conduct of the whole party becomes slack, and the principles advocated by the party lose ground. Take other questions to which the Government is not exactly committed. There is the Poaching Bill. I think you are wrong in forcing that measure. You will hear of it again, and had better not. I could not wait here till two or three o'clock in the morning to vote against that Bill; but I recommend you to take the advice of the Nestor of your party (Mr. Henley), and drop the Bill. What was the conduct of the noble Lord on that subject? The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary proposed Amendments, and opposed the Bill, giving many very good reasons for doing so. There have been innumerable divisions by day and night, but have you ever found the noble Lord voting against the Bill? No; he has given one vote, I believe, to help the Bill to be introduced, but he has not given a single vote against it. Why? Because he knows exactly how to please hon. Gentlemen opposite he says in effect, "I do not act along with these low people around me; I sit here, but I am doing your work for you." Take another question—the Thames Embankment. I think there never was so audacious an attempt made to sacrifice the interests of the many to the foolish and blind convenience of the few. How did the noble Lord act in that matter? He wanted delay, spoke about what might be done at some future time, but he did not vote for putting an end to the monstrous assumption at once. How does all this operate? It operates in two ways to serve the party opposite. In the first place, hon. Gentlemen opposite have their own way in everything; and, in the next place, the Liberal party is being destroyed for the future. The longer we sit here and allow ourselves to be treated with contumely through the questions in which we take an interest, the weaker we shall become, and the oftener we shall be defeated by our opponents on the other side. All this comes entirely from the character and conduct of the noble Lord. I have never taken much part in personal politics or change of parties, but I have had communications with hon. Friends sitting near me, who assure me that it must not be repeated. There are many Members gone, and there are many pre- 1115 sent who have too much self-respect to allow this state of things to continue. Then we are asked to face the alternative always put by those who sit behind the Treasury benches—would you like to see the Conservatives in power? I answer that by saying—rather than that we should continue as we are, I would see myself in opposition. Let the Liberal party be in opposition, and then you will have an opportunity of uniting and making your influence felt, because you will have the popular support, inasmuch as you will be acting up to your principles. You are demoralized as long as you sit on this side of the House, and allow the Session to expire as this is expiring, with such a state of things as we now find. I am not creating this state of things. What I am laying is only anticipating by a short time what will explode in the country when Members again appear before their constituents. Suppose we face the alternative which is always threatened by hon. Gentlemen who sit behind the Treasury Bench—namely, the alternative of opposition. When I came into the House, in 1841, I came into the Opposition, the late Sir Robert Peel having a majority of ninety votes. Well, the five years passed in that Opposition were employed in laying the foundation of a public policy, and in leading the public opinion to principles which have been in the ascendant ever since, and which have, I believe, tended to create more contentment, prosperity, power, and wealth in this country than any measures that ever were passed before. Now, that was the work of the Opposition. I believe the same work would go on again immediately we found ourselves sitting on the benches opposite. I have no hesitation in saying, that it would be quite as desirable for the Liberal party to have the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire sitting on the Treasury Bench and the Liberal party in opposition, as to have the noble Lord sitting on that Bench pretending to lead the Liberal party. But if we go on as we have been, where shall we find ourselves in a short time? Where will be our principles—where our party? Look at the Irish Members. I declare I look with great dread upon what is going on in Ireland. I am afraid that by and by I shall find myself an alliance with the Orangemen; and I should not be surprised if we reached that lowest depth of degradation—namely, being sent to an election with a cry of "No Popery!" 1116 There is no amount of reaction that we may not apprehend if the present state of things is to continue. Some people say, because of this going backwards on popular questions, that there is a Conservative reaction in the country. I agree with the noble Lord the Member for Lynn that it is a delusion to talk of reaction. Whoever may come into power, you cannot go on for two successive Sessions with such an Administration as we have had this Session. I say, therefore, that facing even that which I may regard as the worst alternative to this state of things, if there is nobody but the noble Lord to mislead us and mock our principles instead of enforcing them, let us go into opposition, and there we shall find leaders who will rally us to some principle. I have spoken thus freely because I thought there was a necessity for it. I would have spoken earlier in the Session if I could have found my voice; but I have now made a clean breast of it. What I have said (if there be in the words I have used any force of truth and logic) will have influence; if not, the words I have spoken will fall as wind. But, whatever happens, I know I speak in an assembly where there is a spirit of frankness, liberty, and manliness to hear and judge what I have said. I thank the House for the kindness with which they have listened to me.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I must acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has adopted the advice of his friends—though I am quite sure we may also attribute it to his own feelings—that in his remarks there was nothing personal. Whatever remarks he made in regard to me, therefore, so far from taking them amiss, I am really obliged to him for them. So far from doing me any harm with the country, I am quite sure, if they have any effect at all, they will rather do me good, and place me in a better position than before. The hon. Member complains that the present Government have departed from those principles upon which the Liberal Government was originally formed—namely, Reform, Economy, Non-intervention, and so on. Now, with regard to the first, I must be allowed to say, that if that measure has been for the moment set aside, it is not owing to the Government; it is owing in a great degree to the feeling of the House of Commons; it is owing in a still greater degree to the general feeling of the constituencies in the country; and it is most 1117 eminently owing to the course pursued in regard to the question by the hon. Member himself and by the hon. Member for Birmingham; for there is no denying that the tone which was taken on the subject by many of those who advocated the question, has had the effect of weaning from it a great proportion of those who were formerly most anxious for it. Now, in regard to economy, the hon. Gentleman takes, in my opinion, a mistaken criterion of what economy is. He seems to consider that economy consists simply in not spending money. Now, I consider economy to be this—the judgment which sensible men make of the wants of the moment, and of the best means of satisfying those wants at the least expense and with the greatest efficiency. If this be so, it is quite irrelevant to tell this House and the country that in a given year, now gone by, the expenditure of the country was so and so, and the navy and army amounted to such and such a number, unless you show that the circumstances of the country and of the world at the former period were precisely the same with those of the day in which he speaks. The hon. Gentleman, who is not very correct in his dates, spoke of the Estimates of 1858 as if they were those of the hon. Gentlemen opposite. He forgets that the Estimates of 1858 were the Estimates of the previous Government, of which I had the honor to be a Member. They were merely adopted by Lord Derby's Government. The Estimates of 1859 were those of Lord Derby, not the Estimates of 1858. But, I say again, it is useless to say that in 1858, or in 1835, or in any former year, the expenditure of the country was so and so, unless you show that at that time the circumstances and wants of the country were the same as at present. If the hon. Gentleman contends that the expenditure of the country for the present year, naval, military, and civil, is greater than the wants of the country require, one can only regret that the loss of his voice at the critical period prevented him from stating the reasons on which that opinion was founded. But I believe that opinion is at variance with the opinion of the House and of the country. With regard to the army, every endeavor was made to diminish it by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Coningham); but he was not supported by the opinion of the House or the country. Facts are more conclu- 1118 sive than arguments. If the country were of opinion that our military establishments were too great—that our naval forces were too great—I imagine the consequence would be that the people of the country would abandon themselves entirely to industrial and commercial occupations—they would say the Government have overdone our defense; we may devote ourselves quietly to our mercantile affairs. But that is not the case. We have seen for the last three years the people of this country, deliberately and in the most manly manner, organizing themselves and training and drilling thmselves for the eventual defense of the country; a proof—a decided, mathematical, logical and demonstrative proof—that, in their opinion, the military and naval defense of the country is far from being overdone—not extravagantly raised to a preposterous amount, as is the opinion of the hon. Gentleman—but, in fact, wants that supplementary assistance which their voluntary services afford, and which they so zealously continue to give. I set the opinion of the nation against that of the hon. Gentleman, and I say the facts do not countenance his opinion. But then, he says, we have been perpetually negligent in adapting in time our means to the end to be accomplished. He says we went on for a long time building wooden sailing ships—that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir John Pakington) took to building steamships—and then that we were obliged to adopt iron-cased ships; but in all these cases, he says, we were behind-hand with the necessity, and did not adopt the new arrangements till after others set us the example. That may be, and no doubt it is, a ground for charging apathy on the part of the Government from time to time; but it is not a ground on which to charge them with reckless expenditure. Successive Governments have not run into arrangements, which were necessarily more extravagant than those of former years, until they saw them to be necessary. We know that a sailing ship costs as many thousand pounds as there are guns—a 100-gun ship £100,000; whilst in the case of steam-ships it is £1,500, and iron-plated ships nearly £2,500 per gun; and it was therefore from no reckless desire to spend public money, but from a disinclination hastily to incur large expenditure, that successive Governments have paused before they adopted more expensive methods. The hon. Gentleman referred to what I said on 1119 a former occasion as to the relative force of the English and French navies in iron-plated ships. What I stated was that the number of iron-plated ships, built find building in France, was thirty-six, and the number built and building in England was only twenty-five; but I may now state that I have reason to think, that by the end of the present year my noble Friend at the head of the Admiralty will have a force of such ships built and ready for sea equal to that which France will have at the end of that time. But the hon. Member says that all this is owing to me, and he adds that in which I entirely agree with him—namely, that if it can be shown that I have cost the country 100 millions of money, I should be very dear at that price. But I entirely disclaim having had either the blame or the merit, as it may be thought, of the measures which produced that expenditure. That expenditure, whatever it may have been of late years, has been the result of the judgment of the Government, of this House, and of the country, as to what was necessary to maintain England in the position among the nations which she ought, and which she is entitled to occupy. It is quite idle, therefore, to say that the merit or demerit of that belongs to one individual or to another—it belongs to the collective judgment of the whole British nation. But, strange to say, the hon. Member quoted, in order to condemn me, a work written by Archbishop Whately. Why, what was that work? It was a satirical book, in which the author produced a number of arguments, plausible but false, to show that no such man as Bonaparte ever existed. The hon. Gentleman adduces these very arguments, confessedly plausible and false, to prove that I have been wrong in the policy I have pursued. I really think his illustration recoils upon himself, and that he is confuted by the witness whom he himself summoned into the box. Sir, I really plead guilty to the charge which has been brought against me—as Mrs. Malaprop says, "I admit the soft impeachment," and in admitting it I feel that I am admitting a matter of praise rather than one of censure. I frankly own—and I agree with the hon. Member, that if the people of this country are pleased to entertain a good opinion of me it is upon this ground—I frankly own that I have all along been anxious for the honor, the interest, and the safety of the empire; and it has been my object, as far as any small influence 1120 which I might possess could extend, to persuade both Parliament and the country to avert dangers which, if not guarded against, might at any time come upon us. I am quite ready to go to the bar of public opinion with the hon. Gentleman upon that point. I contend that the very accusation which he makes against me is, in fact, a ground of merit. If the country should think otherwise, as I believe it will not, of course he would be right and I should be wrong. Therefore I freely acknowledge that I have advocated at one time the establishment of a Militia, and at another that the dockyards should be defended against attack. And although the hon. Gentleman may quote the opinion of "an artillery officer who sat under the gallery," I think if that gallant officer were put in command of the troops who had to defend the dockyards, without the aid of fortifications, he would say, "How much better it would be if the opinion of the noble Lord at the head of the Government had been taken, and I could place my men behind works," I do not, however, attach very much value to the opinion of that artillery officer; who having, through the kindness of the hon. Member, obtained a seat in this House, to which as a stranger he perhaps might not otherwise have been entitled, was probably desirous of showing his gratitude by writing a letter leaning to the views of the person to whom he was indebted for that favor. Then the hon. Gentleman says that all the difficulties which have come upon this country in various parts of the world have been owing to my meddling policy, and to my habit of supporting those who act under me. Again, I confess to the charge preferred against me. I do think that those who employ officers in distant parts of the globe, are bound to support and defend them, as long as they believe that they have done their best according to their sense of duty, and have not acted in a manner deserving of just blame. That has been my practice as far as I have had to deal with such matters; and therefore I am rather proud to have this testimony from the hon. Member that our agents in remote parts of the world act in the confidence that they will be borne out and supported by the Government at home. But that what they have done has been wrong I utterly deny. The hon. Member alluded to various former events; but I will follow him only as to the most recent. He took the case of China, and he said, 1121 "We are going to involve ourselves in a war with the whole of China, or, at least, with a great part of the Chinese nation; we are about to take part in the civil war raging in that empire." Sir, we are going to do no such thing. What we are going to do is that which we have announced to this House and to the country—namely, that whereas, at a great expense of men and money, we had obtained great commercial advantages in China, to which, whatever may be the opinion of the hon. Member, the commercial interests of this country attach great importance—advantages which are capable of being greatly developed, and which may come much to our help now that our trade with the United States has been much crippled—we have felt it to be our duty to use the means which we have in China for the purpose of defending the seats of British industry and commerce there from the desolating ravages of the rebels, who have been laying waste a great part of the Chinese empire. But we are not going beyond those precincts—we are not going to advance into the interior to put down rebellion, and establish the authority of the Chinese Emperor. It is for the Emperor himself to do that. What we say to the rebels is, "These ports are ours, or at least they are secured to us for our commerce by treaty with your sovereign. These ports you must respect. Roam where you like in all those 400,000 square miles which my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Sykes) states that the Taepings occupy; we will not meddle with you, but do not you meddle with us; respect our commercial ports; and that means also that small part of the country around, which is essential to the supply of sustenance to the people living within them." I do not think our policy in China is an improper policy, or one which the people of England will be disposed to condemn. But the hon. Gentleman says that all these things are the reasons why the Government ought no longer to possess the confidence of the nation. He did not advert to one great feature of our policy, to which I should have thought he might have given some praise, in order to counterbalance such a weight of censure as he laid upon its other features. I allude to the neutrality which we have observed in the contest now waging in America. Certainly, there were not wanting those who were very urgent that we should take a part in that contest. We have declined 1122 to do so, and we have, therefore, avoided any conflict with the United States. But the hon. Member says we were very much to blame for having sent a certain number of troops—8,000 or 10,000—to Canada in the course of the winter. He says that was an unnecessary step and an expensive one. We know it was attended with some expense. But the hon. Member used a very curious argument, for he stated that we ought to have waited to get an answer from the United States Government before we sent out the troops. He says we were told by the American Minister here, before the troops went, that the act of Captain Wilkes had not been ordered by the American Government. But the American Minister did not tell us that it was disapproved—he did not tell us that it would be disavowed—he did not tell us that the insult to the British flag would be atoned for by the surrender of the persons who were taken from the British ship Trent. Therefore, the communication which Mr. Adams made, and made with the very best intentions, was not a communication upon which we could have been justified in acting, so far as to forego any measure of precaution which in our opinion was necessary. But everybody recollects the ferment which prevailed in the United States, the language held at public meetings, the honors paid to Captain Wilkes at the theatre, the language held in Congress, and also the letter of the Secretary to the Naval Department, approving the conduct of that officer. Then, I say, we were justified in assuming that that difficulty might not terminate in a satisfactory and amicable manner. That being the case, I hold that we should have been extremely blamable if we had not taken the precautions which we adopted. The hon. Member says it would have been impossible for any army to have acted on the frontiers of Canada in the winter. But we know that upon former occasions operations have been carried on in Canada at that season; and for us to have waited till the American Government had committed itself by an answer which there was every reason to expect, would, I say, have been as unfair towards that Government itself as it would have been—to use a feeble phrase—improper towards the interests of this country. We should only have been misleading the American Government into the supposition that after all we might not really be in earnest. And I do believe that the measures which we took were most 1123 materially conducive to opening the eyes of the American Government to the consequences of a refusal, thereby enabling their calm judgment to determine upon the course which it was most for their interest that they should adopt. I take no exception to the tone in which the hon. Member has addressed the House; he has said nothing to which anybody could take exception; but I do say that all he has said of me is, in my opinion, really more flattering than I am willing to admit. The hon. Member holds me up to the country as the man who has led the country to adopt measures essential to its defence; who has opened the eyes of the country to the possibility of dangers; who has roused the slumbering vigilance of Parliament and the country, and induced them to adopt measures which are economical in the highest degree, as avoiding dangers that would be infinitely more expensive. When the hon. Gentleman paints that picture of me, I can only say that I think he has done me more honor than I deserve. I say that those measures were economical; because let anybody—not men conversant with military matters, but men who read what is passing in the world—let them judge for themselves what would be the expense of any landing upon our shores, of the destruction of our naval dockyards, of any material impression upon the country—what would be expense of those events as compared with the small expenditure we are incurring to render such attempts upon the safety of the country impossible. When we talk of the expense of fortifications, we are often told to imitate our neighbors. But what did the French do? They erected fortifications around Paris which cost at least six millions, but I rather believe eight millions sterling. That is an amount large enough to cover the whole charge for the fortifications which we have proposed for the protection of various points and our naval arsenals which are liable to be attacked. Therefore, so far from thinking that the country will join with the hon. Member in condemning those arrangements, my firm opinion is, that the more they are looked at, the more they are considered by artillery officers—not that one sitting under the gallery, but by the service generally—when they are consulted, I think those who differ from us now will come round to the opinion that we have done no more than our duty in proposing and inducing the House to consent to those arrangements, 1124 and I do not despair even of the hon. Member himself, if he will consult a committee of artillery officers upon the subject.
Then the hon. Member came to the state of parties in this House. He has been kind enough to talk of me as the leader of the House and of a party; but the language he holds is, that I am unworthy to be the leader because I am not disposed to follow him and those who agree with him upon any question, whether I concur in opinion with them or not. It would, no doubt, be not at all right for followers to follow a leader from whom they differed; but it is too much for followers to insist that the leader should follow them wherever they please. The hon. Member says I have opposed the ballot. I have done so; and I did it because I unfortunately differ from him in opinion upon that measure. He believes the ballot would be a moral good. I believe it would have an immoral effect. If he can convince me that I am wrong, I would be most ready to adopt his views, but until that time comes, sitting here, sent by those whom I represent to act according to the best of my judgment, I must take leave to act upon my own judgment, and to oppose a measure which I think would be injurious to the public interests. Then the hon. Member mentioned other public measures, and he was very much astonished that I did not stay until half-past three in the morning to vote upon the Game Bill. Whatever my opinion upon that Bill might be, it was quite evident that there was so large a majority for it, and so small a minority against it, that if I remained, I should only lose my sleep, whichever way I intended to vote. I did give my vote against a Motion for reporting progress, because I did not think that was a proper way of dealing with the Bill, whether I assented to it or not. Then the hon. Gentleman says the right hon. Gentleman opposite ought to sit here, and I there. I can assure the hon. Member that I care less where I sit than he may imagine; but as long as it pleases this House that I should sit here, and I feel that in sitting here I can perform well the duties I owe to the country, I am willing and desirous of sitting here; and I should be sorry indeed if, while sitting here, I should not have the support and goodwill, as far as their opinions will admit, of the hon. Member and those who think with him. He stated himself—and that is the real truth of the matter—that Parliament is no longer divided, as it was 1125 in former times, by a broad line of separation into two great parties antagonistic to one another. In those times every man classed himself according to an arbitrary rule, every one knew how each man would vots, and, in fact, the result of a division was as well known before as after the event. But, of late years, and especially since the reform of Parliament, that state of things has ceased to exist. Now, this House is divided into a great number of separate knots as I may say, each acting according to his own opinion or to the opinions of some one Member, to whom he looks, or according to the aggregate opinions of the persons of whom his particular knot consists. It is in vain, I think, to expect that the House of Commons will in these days revert to the old arrangement; and then what is the Government to do? One party says, "Do what we order, and we will support you;" but by doing that the Government may be losing much support in other directions. The hon. Member tells us that unless we do so and so—support the ballot, bring in a Reform Bill, and all sorts of things—we cannot have his support. Well, Sir, I shall be sorry to lose his support, and I can assure him that I do not think the country at large will be gratified to see him going, as he has intimated, into opposition. I do not think it would make much difference except as to his place of sitting. But I am willing to hope that we shall not lose the support of the hon. Gentleman. At the same time, in the divided state of parties in the House of Commons, which is mainly in consequence of the reforms made some years ago, it is quite impossible for the Government to act upon the slavish, and I may say jobbing principles which were practiced formerly, of gaining united support by submission in conduct, such as the hon. Member desires to recommend. Now, any Government that respects itself must take its own line, and act upon what it believes to be its duty to the country. They of course expect support from those who sit upon the same side with itself; but if that support fail, and they happen to gain by concurrence of opinion upon any particular measure support elsewhere, why, of course they will not refuse that support. We are justified in that as long as we act in accordance with the dictates of our opinions, and propose measures which we think will be good for the country, or oppose measures which we think are bad. That is what we intend 1126 to do. That is what we have done. I believe that if any man will look through the list of Acts that have been brought into and carried through Parliament during the last two Sessions, he will find that as many measures of public benefit, of progressive improvement, have been passed as during any similar period of our history. I will not trouble the House by going through an enumeration; but if any one whose memory does not serve him will turn to the lists of Acts, he will see a great variety of most important measures that have been introduced and carried by the present Government. Then I say we have done our duty to the country, and therefore I think we have deserved the kind and cordial support which we have received from Members of this House. I should be sorry if in anything we have done or are likely to do we should forfeit that good opinion. We do, I think, enjoy the confidence of a majority of this House as testified by its divisions, and, really, I must take leave to say, with all deference to the hon. Gentleman, that I am satisfied we do possess the confidence of the country, especially in that for which he blamed us most—the course we have pursued with regard to America, and which has been sanctioned by the general opinion of the country. It is for the hon. Gentleman and those who act with him to judge. I should be sorry for good friends to part, but I cannot think that is likely to be the case here. As the hon. Gentleman says he has disburdened himself of all the objections that have been collecting in his mind during the Session, I hope, that having relieved himself, in the calmer moments of the recess he will look with kinder eyes upon the course which we have pursued, and judge in a more friendly spirit the intentions by which we are animated; that he will communicate with those of his friends in the country who may, as lookers on, see more of the game played in this House than he does, and who may perhaps take a somewhat different view from that which he has now expressed. I will therefore trust to the reflection of the recess, and hope that the hon. Gentleman and those who act with him will find, that notwithstanding particular differences on special points, there is more general concurrence between us than he is perhaps aware of, and that we shall not, after his mature reflection, stand less well in his opinion than I am sorry to gay we do at present.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, the leading counsel in this great controversy between the Liberal party and the Reform Government having stated their case, it will not perhaps be presumptuous on my part to exercise judicial authority, and offer some remarks, by way of summing up, on the merits of the question. Sir, I confess that I am not surprised that a Member, and one so distinguished, of the Liberal party, should have felt it his duty to call the attention of the country to the relation that subsists between the Liberal party and the Government which they created. Indeed, I have for some time expected that the painful sense of their position would probably have prompted some hon. Member sitting opposite me to make remarks in that direction. But, Sir, though I have awaited with some interest for the criticism, I have been myself far from wishing to precipitate it. I am content, and I believe all who sit on these benches are content, with the present position of the Liberal party. I have no desire whatever to interfere with that gradual, but at the same time sufficiently rapid process of decomposition and demoralization that we have long watched—the inevitable consequence of the circumstances and conditions under which the present Administration was formed by the influence and authority and votes of that self-same Liberal party. Now, Sir, we have been reminded to-night by the hon. Member for Rochdale of those particular conditions and particular circumstances. I myself have no wish, and had no wish, to recall their painful recollection. I was content to be silent, and that the prorogation should take place without any comment on the present singular state of public affairs in Parliament. Such silence often expresses more powerfully than speech the verdict and judgment of society. But as the hon. Gentleman has brought the question before the House, let me make one or two remarks on this condition of public affairs—a condition which has been treated very lightly by the noble Lord who has just addressed us. Indeed, he seemed to have forgotten almost the very terms referred to by the hon. Member for Rochdale, which we know were not assented to without some difficulty, and certainly assented to with considerable ceremony. The existing Government was formed for two purposes most distinct and most direct. They were to pass a more democratic Reform Bill than had been 1128 proposed by their predecessors; and they were to extricate the country from the dangerous position in which their predecessors had placed it in relation to France. Those were most distinct conditions. They were not whispered in a corner, but they were paraded with great pomp, not only in this House but in another place, which became as memorable for the moment as the House of Commons. The Government was formed to carry a more democratic Reform Bill. I need not remind the House that no Reform Bill of any kind has been carried. But the strangest defence that I ever heard was that which we have just listened to from the noble Lord as the reasons why the Government failed in this their first engagement with their party and the country. It was found, says the noble Lord, that the House was not particularly anxious for a Reform Bill, and the country did not much care for it. Is this the language we have a right to expect from a statesman of unprecedented experience—of one who is supposed not to act upon very grave matters but after due and deep reflection; a statesman, we assume, gifted with a fine observation of the temper of the times, and actuated by some sense of that responsibility which—though the House, as we are told to-night, may be broken up into fragments, and manipulated by a dexterous parliamentary tactician—by a responsibility which I still hope influences the conduct of a British Minister? Why, Sir, what were the antecedents of the noble Lord with respect to this question of Reform? A measure for the reconstruction of this House was brought forward by the late Government—I give no opinion on its merits, and I court not criticism—but it was a measure that was opposed by the noble Lord because it was not sufficiently comprehensive and sufficiently democratic. And it was animated by that conviction and influenced by that feeling that the noble Lord felt himself authorized to counsel a course and join in a vote which he knew would lead to a dissolution of the existing Parliament. Parliament was dissolved, the opinion of the country was given—the opinion of the country, whatever might be its verdict—I wish now to enter into no controversy on that point—the noble Lord, with his keen perception and great experience, must, I suppose, have been as able to judge as any of us; and after that verdict of the country had been taken—after the dissolution 1129 which he had forced—after the public judgment of the people had been offered for his consideration—the noble Lord entered into a confederacy, attended a public meeting in a public place, and made terms with the leaders of those convenient sections which are now to be managed in violation of the traditions and spirit of the English constitution, and there and then entered into an engagement to bring forward a more democratic Reform Bill than their predecessors whom he had defeated. And is it to be tolerated now that he should come forward with these jests, with this frivolous levity, and tell the parties whom he has deluded, and the people in the country whom he has disappointed, that after such grave conduct, with such an opportunity of forming an opinion, he finds that neither the Parliament that had been just elected, and of whose temper he was most competent to form an opinion, nor the people whom he had just left, really cared anything at all about Parliamentary Reform, and treats it as one of those manœuvres by which a Minister who does not rule a party contrives to get a majority? I am not at all surprised that a sincere Member of the Liberal party should be extremely astonished at the course that has been adopted with regard to Parliamentary Reform. I admit that Governments are not to be changed every day; and if the noble Lord, after the vote which led to the dissolution of Parliament—if the noble Lord, profiting by the experience which this public verdict of the country afforded him, had called his party together and had told them, "I am of the same opinion that I was, that a more democratic measure of Parliamentary reconstruction than that advanced by Lord Derby is the sound policy of this country; but I do not think, in the present temper of the country, it could be carried in Parliament. I throw myself on your generous confidence: do not press me to stake my existence on such a measure"—I dare say that party would have taken the common-sense view of the measure which Englishmen generally take. But I do think, that if the noble Lord was unable to carry a Reform Bill, he ought not to treat Parliamentary Reformers with habitual and studied contempt; that in speaking of the principles which, after all, made him Minister, and without which he could not have been extricated from a hopeless position on this bench, he should not treat the supporters of 1130 those principles with the contumely under which the hon. Member for Rochdale and his friends naturally smart. This at least they might have expected from the noble Lord—that he should profess, even if he did not practise, the principles of his party, and should not hold them up to public contempt and public odium. Now, this having been the conduct of the noble Lord with regard to the first great condition on which he obtained power, I must say I was much astonished to-night to hear the noble Lord say that the principal reason why he was defeated in his reform policy, and why he had not succeeded in carrying a measure for a Reform of Parliament, was the conduct—the inconvenient, the irrational, and outrageous conduct—on this subject of the hon. Member for Birmingham. Was not the hon. Member for Birmingham a colleague and confederate whom the noble Lord met on the platform of Willis's Rooms? Were the spirit, the policy, and the opinions of that hon. Member unknown? Whatever may be his faults, whatever may be his errors, this I think we shall all admit, that there has never been any attempt to conceal his opinions; but that, on the contrary, he has always expressed them with frankness—with perhaps a fatal frankness as regarded the attainment of his object, but certainly in a manner that left none of us ignorant either of his views or of his ultimate purposes. Yet this is the individual whom the noble Lord now singles out as the man who, by his indiscretion, prevented that great Parliamentary Reform policy from being carried into effect—forgetting, as he spoke, the regular programme of all sound Reformers, and stumbling when he tried to repeat the "credo" of their faith; he must have forgotten, also, the solemn compact into which he entered, at Willis's Rooms, with the hon. Member for Birmingham. I believe that the fact of his not having fulfilled his engagement might be accounted for in a more dignified and dexterous mode than that in which he attempted to account for it to-night. But that he should hold up to scorn the man who made him Minister—that he should point to him as the man whose conduct rendered him unable to carry his Reform policy into effect—appears to me an ungenerous indiscretion, and one which the people of this country, whatever may be their opinion of the hon. Member for Birmingham, cannot approve and sanction.
1131 So much for the first condition on which this Government was formed. Let us now look at the second. I have no more wish to be personal than the hon. Member for Rochdale; but I am obliged to make the noble Lord the hero of these remarks, because these are acts in which he had no colleagues to be responsible with him. The noble Lord was not Minister when he was on the platform at Willis's Rooms. He was not Minister when, standing before this very box, he called upon the new Parliament the moment it had assembled, and in the most precipitate, and, as I think, the most unusual and indecorous manner—he called upon it for a vote of want of confidence in the then existing Government; not merely because democratic reform was in danger, but because—and he did not say it hypothetically, the statement was grave, precise, and positive—because we, the then Government, had pledged ourselves to the Government of Austria on the questions then pending between Austria and France, and because peace with France, under these circumstances, was in danger. He counselled the House to vote a want of confidence in our Administration, because our foreign relations had been mismanaged or perverted, and that war with France was imminent in consequence of the short-sighted and prejudiced manner in which we had upheld the interests of Austria. That was not expressed hypothetically—it was a grave, precise, and positive statement. And yet, what did this very Minister do only a fortnight later? He rose in that seat which he had gained by pledging himself to a measure of democratic Reform—he rose in that seat, and said that with regard to foreign policy the course of his Government had been chalked out by their predecessors, and that course they intended to follow. I am not, therefore, surprised at the feelings which have been expressed to-night by the Liberal party through an exponent whom they must undoubtedly respect. They turned out the Government without discussion, in the absence of all evidence, not waiting even to read the records that had been printed, and that were in their hands twenty-four hours afterwards; they turned out the Government in order to obtain a more democratic reform of the House of Commons than we could consent to, and in order to save the country from a war with France, which they had been assured by the noble Lord was imminent. 1132 When they find they had not a Reform Bill, when they find that the noble Lord and his colleagues immediately pursued, in regard to foreign affairs, the course their predecessors had chalked out, and that during the three years that have elapsed since the noble Lord has become the Minister of this country, not three months have passed without his being involved in the most unseemly and the most violent courses with the French Government; when they remember that he has denounced the Government and the Emperor of France; that he has authentically informed us that he was going to look for new allies, and that on every public occasion on which the relations between the two countries have been brought under discussion in this House, those discussions arose from misunderstandings between the Governments of the two countries—I am not surprised that the Liberal party should also be somewhat disappointed that the second condition on which they made the noble Lord Prime Minister of this country has been so unsatisfactorily fulfilled. The noble Lord, indeed, told us the other night—I listened—and although I am not now going to enter into any controversy with respect to foreign affairs, I must confess that I heard the statement with amazement—the noble Lord told us the other night that there existed between the Governments of England and France a most perfect understanding upon all matters of public policy. But what are the matters on which this perfect understanding exists? Are they the affairs of Italy? Are they the affairs of Mexico? Are they the affairs of America? Is there, above all, such a perfect understanding on the Eastern question in all its ramifications? If there be that perfect understanding between the two Governments, all I can say is that the people of this country are mystified beyond expression; for the general assumption, not only of England, but of Europe, is, that upon all these matters there exist at this very moment great misunderstanding and misapprehension between the Governments of England and France.
So much I have felt it my duty to say with regard to those conditions which the hon. Member for Rochdale reminded us were the true conditions on which the present Government was formed. But I think that, before I leave that part of the question, I ought to do justice in some degree to the noble Lord as far as 1133 the first condition is concerned. I do not think that the noble Lord acted with any insincerity on this subject. I know there are some of my friends—ardent admirers of the noble Lord—who give him credit for great insincerity. But I act with greater generosity, and, I believe, with greater justice, towards the noble Lord. The noble Lord made his conditions, and the result of those conditions may not have been very satisfactory to the Liberal party, but they have been very satisfactory to the noble Lord. They put him on that bench; and I believe the noble Lord was perfectly prepared to give a more democratic Reform Bill if he could pass it. Nor do I think that the noble Lord would be in the least delicate as to the degree or character of the measure. But as the noble Lord could not pass it, with that tact which distinguishes him he found out suddenly that Parliament was broken into fragments; that party Government was a hoax; and that he must throw himself on the Conservative reaction of which we have heard so much, and in which I believe myself quite as much as the noble Lord. The noble Lord appears to me completely, entirely, and indisputably to represent that Conservative reaction. Under these circumstances, it is not at all to be wondered at that the Liberal party, imagining they had formed a Government and constructed their ranks to obtain two great political results—a large increase of democratic power at home, and safety from war with one whom they look upon as a cordial ally abroad—it is not to be wondered at that they should feel a little disappointed, and not so satisfied with the course of affairs during the last three years as the noble Lord and some of his colleagues. But it is possible that we on this side of the House may have a compensation for this disappointment. We do not share the disappointment of the Liberal party; we are quite content that there should not be a more democratic Reform Bill passed than that which we proposed; we are satisfied that our relations with France were such as became the English Government at the time that we directed affairs. It is possible, without going into any inquiry as to the circumstances under which power was obtained by the noble Lord—it is possible that he may have exercised that power during those three years in a manner highly satisfactory to the country, and conducive to the 1134 general interests of the realm. Let us see if that is the case, because if we find that the administration of the noble Lord has been of that character, whatever may be the feeling of the Liberal party, I am convinced that the verdict of the people of England will be in favour of the Government—that they will not care for the antecedents on which the Liberal party dwell—they will say that was the affair of the Liberal party, and that if they chose to make terms which were impossible, and to enter into conditions which they knew could not be carried out, that was their business; and if the noble Lord so exercises power that his Government has promoted the public good, then they would be satisfied that he should be Minister, Let us see how this stands. I think that the first question, and after all the most important question to this country which we can consider in the House of Commons, is this—are our finances in that state of prosperity or in that satisfactory condition that we should reconcile ourselves to the government of the noble Lord, even if he behaved so badly to his own party? I say this—I say it gravely, with no exaggeration I am sure, and with a sense of responsibility—I say it without entering into the causes—I do not wish to enter into causes to-night; I am now stating facts—I say that our financial condition is as dangerous at this moment as it was in the year 1840—that since the year 1840 the finances of England have never been in such a critical state. In fact, the circumstances of the two periods very much resemble each other. You have now that which you had in 1840. You have had two large deficits—two large and continuous deficits. You have commenced the year without a surplus, and all that has since occurred proves almost to demonstration that you must contemplate a third deficiency. You have increased your military charge by this war with China, which, however it may be described by the noble Lord, will lead, in my opinion, to a vast and an indefinite expenditure. You have had the accounts of the first quarter of your revenue published—the quarter in which those who took the darkest view of our financial position did not contemplate any serious result—and yet what do we find in that quarter? We find in it, under the head of Excise alone—the principal item of your revenue—a deficiency on the estimate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the amount of £300,000. This is the 1135 position of our finances—the financial position to which we have been brought by the Government of the noble Lord, which obtained power, as we were told to-night, under such doubtful and disagreeable circumstances; and this state of our finances does not offer any compensation for that disappointment to his followers, and that outrage on political propriety which always ensues when the chief of a party deserts the principles on which his political connection was formed. I say that in the state of the finances of the country there is no compensation for that conduct. The state of our finances is most critical, and our financial prospects are dark and dubious.
But the noble Lord will, perhaps, say, "We have a great expenditure, and we may have had an income not equal to that expenditure; but your money has been well spent—it has been spent in the noblest and the most necessary of objects for a free people—the defence of their shores," Well, I admit that if the noble Lord could prove that to be the consequence of his policy, he would establish a considerable claim, if not to public favour, at least to public indulgence. But we must examine this point carefully—we must not allow ourselves to be led away by declamation. The noble Lord makes it his chief claim to public confidence that he has, above all Ministers, amply provided for the public defence. Now, in the first place, I say that when we delivered over the conduct of public affairs to the noble Lord, the defences of this country had not been neglected. We left in this country 100,000 regular troops. That number has been diminished, not increased, by the noble Lord; and it has been diminished by means of that questionable proceeding, the expedition to America. We also left the noble Lord an organized militia, and he has not improved that force. Again, the rifle movement, which I look upon as one of the greatest achievements of this country, and which I trust will be as permanent as it is successful, was established by us, and the noble Lord can take no credit to himself for having formed, fostered, and encouraged it; for the first expression which he used with regard to it as a Minister, was a phrase of derision, when he called it "the rifle fever." Neither the Volunteer force nor the Channel fleet was established by the noble Lord. There is, however, another point of very great importance in reference to the national defences. The noble Lord boasts 1136 of the measure he introduced for defending the arsenals of the country. I will merely observe that the measure adopted by the Government in respect to our defences is a very doubtful one. I am not now giving any opinion upon it; I wish to avoid as much as possible any unnecessary controversy upon this occasion. It is, I say, a measure of a doubtful nature, and one in respect to which opinions are contradictory. I put that question aside, however, for the moment, and I turn to a point on which, among all parties in this House, there is no doubt and no controversy as regards our national defence—that is, that our principal means of defence should be our fleet. Now, what has the noble Lord done with regard to the fleet? No one denies that we left him, as regards that fleet, a commencement at least, and a most efficient commencement, of that fleet of the future of which we have heard to-night. The noble Lord himself tells us that our fleet is in a most unsatisfactory position. Then, I ask, why is it in such a position? We know that the noble Lord throughout his tenure of office has had unlimited means at his command; we have it in evidence that he has—I will not say wasted—but that he has spent £12,000,000 on the dockyards alone since he obtained power through that compact entered into at Willis's Rooms. What have we got for that money? I say that £12,000,000 were never expended in a manner more thoughtless, more inefficient, and producing less results. And what is the defence of a Government in that case? The First Lord of the Admiralty, in another place, unable to vindicate the condition of affairs, took refuge in the acknowledgment of a general ignorance upon the subject. He said that it required a long series of experiments before you can decide upon anything; and when the Government were charged with not having created an iron fleet, although they have spent £12,000,000 in the dockyards, the only reason assigned for that was that the House of Commons had never pressed them upon that subject, or expressed any opinion upon it. Now, what are we to think of a Minister, who, after having wasted nearly £12,000,000 on dockyards during three years of office, can offer no other vindication of the fruitlessness of his labours than that the House of Commons did not take up the subject of the reconstruction of our navy, and urge the Government upon the matter? Why, 1137 for what have we a Ministry? And was it worth while, for the purpose of obtaining such a result as this, to have meetings at Willis's Rooms, to enter into political compacts, and to attempt to regulate the conduct of a great nation on principles in which you had no confidence, and on a policy which you knew you could not carry into operation? I do not think the House will agree, that if our finances are in such bad order as they are—if we have spent these many millions, we have any compensation in an efficient expenditure, and in the results of that efficient expenditure. We have it not. Therefore, it is not on grounds of good management of the revenue; it is not on the ground of the efficient mode in which he has organized our navy, the principal means of our defence, that the noble Lord can lay claim to public confidence, or that any compensation can be be found for the conduct which the Government have pursued towards their own party.
What other grounds remain on which they may be more successful? Well, Sir, I was quite surprised that the noble Lord did not flourish a little more to-night on our foreign policy. Perhaps I should not say I was quite surprised, because I think there were many reasons why we were not treated to any very lengthened remarks on that familiar subject. In the first place, when you come to argument, and escape from the atmosphere of declamation, so convenient in popular assemblies on such a subject, the matter lies in a very narrow compass. Foreign policy consists partly of words and partly of deeds. As far as words, it takes the form of despatches and of counsel given to diplomatic agents. The only proof that the noble Lord could give us that his diplomatic words have been successful, would be the allegation of the results which they have produced. But we have not heard a word about results. We have often heard of the words and the representations of the noble Lord; but we have never yet heard, since he has been in office of any consequence that he has attained, or any results that he has achieved. Therefore I throw out of consideration that part of diplomacy which consists only in words. But in foreign affairs we have acts. What are they? A war with China is really the only fact we have—a war with China which, in my mind, was entered into in the most rash and imprudent manner—part and parcel, indeed, of a most rash and imprudent system, perfectly in union 1138 and harmony with all that the noble Lord has counselled on the subject before, and ruinously counselled for the interest of the country. But as regards foreign affairs, the only fact before us in these three years of the noble Lord's administration is the China war. I do not think, therefore, that the foreign policy of the noble Lord is an absolute compensation for the broken vows at Willis's Rooms, of which we have been reminded to night by the hon. Member for Rochdale. But let us be just. It may be that they have broken their engagements to their party; it may be that their finances are in a ruinous condition; it may be that the defences of the country, resting principally on the fleet, notwithstanding the lavish expenditure of the public resources, are in an unsatisfactory and perilous state, as the noble Lord admits and proclaims; it may be that our foreign affairs are so managed that we have embarked in a dangerous future with regard to a distant country, where the population is enormous, and where our resources are farthest from us—all this may be true, but still the members of the Government may be men so distinguished, their general conduct of affairs so vigorous and efficient that they may distance all competition, and in their general demeanour and conduct offer compensation for all the disappointment we experience, and all the dangers we have to encounter. Is that so? Sir, a very great part of the time of the two Houses of Parliament during this Session has been taken up by listening to evidence of the most unseemly brawls and misunderstandings between the different Departments. Not only in this House, but in another place, have we had dissension between the Treasury and the Admiralty, which I am sure neither House can have forgotten, and which has exercised a great influence on the public mind. We found our sailors deprived of their hard-earned prize-money, to which they were legally entitled; we have had squabbles between two Departments of the State, the accounts of which, if they had appeared in some newspapers, we should have looked upon as malicious libels, and should have expected that the Attorney-General would have been called on to prosecute the promulgators. But scarcely had the two Houses and the country recovered from that painful surprise, when they find the Colonial Office and the Treasury at log- 1139 gerheads; and more than that, we have evidence before us that there has for years been between those two Departments a chronic misunderstanding upon an important point. I need not remind the House of the painful rivalry of a morbid character between the First Commissioner of Works and the First Commissioner of Woods. That was distressing enough; but ere these scandals are forgotten comes the Secretary of State for India, and, with vindictive gaiety, scoffs to the winds the Chancellor of the Exchequer whom he had himself sent out to India, and proves in the most satisfactory and elaborate way to the House, that this highly-gifted Government, which shows such discrimination of human nature, had found out the most unfit and unbecoming person to send out to India to fulfil the gravest duties and incur the gravest responsibilities. Sir, this goes on to the very end—these unseemly discordances of a Whig Government. Only a few nights ago a right hon. Friend of mine brought forward with great ability the question of our relations with our important colony of Canada. Up jumps the Secretary of State, and says that for his part it would be with the utmost cheerfulness that he should witness a dissolution of the ties between the mother country and Canada. No sooner has he ended, and a few remarks are made by somebody else, than the Prime Minister rises and says, that with the connection between the colonies and the mother country are identified the greatness and the happiness of England. Well, Sir, I cannot therefore find in this impartial analysis—forced as I am to sum up the evidence, and give a judicial opinion between the two parties—any extenuating circumstances for the violation of engagements which will offer any balm to the outraged feelings of the great Liberal party. But, Sir, as the noble Lord has informed us that he no longer recognises the existence of any parties in the State, but that he looks on us as counters that he means recklessly to play with for the gratification of his own ambition, I may be permitted to say, that although the outraged feelings of those who made him Minister have to-night been expressed—I believe with dignity and truth—by the hon. Member for Rochdale, and though the noble Lord has himself admitted that so far as this Session is concerned he has little to pretend to which can recommend him to public consideration, but falls back on the 1140 achievements of former Sessions to excuse the shortcomings which he does not deny, I will at least say for the Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House, that the past Session is a Session upon which they have no reason to look back to, as a party, with regret. We have, in the first place, this Session, after long years of difficulty, and sometimes almost of despair, triumphantly vindicated the status of the Church of England. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Gentleman opposite, whom, I believe, I may call a Minister (Mr. Layard), sneers at the Church. Sir, there are few great things left, and among them is the Church. We have done this in a manner, too, most satisfactory, because we have done it by Parliamentary discipline—by Parliamentary discipline founded on its only sure basis, sympathizing public opinion. Sir, I think we have done more. Ever since that period of disaster and dismay, when my friends and myself were asked for the first time to sit upon these benches, it has ever been our habit, in counselling the Tory party, to recur gradually, but most sincerely, to the original elements of that great political connection. To build up a community, not upon liberal opinions, which any man may fashion to his fancy, but upon popular principles, which assert equal rights, civil and religious; to uphold the institutions of the country because they are the embodiment of the wants and wishes of the nation, and protect us alike from individual tyranny and popular outrage; equally to resist democracy and oligarchy; and favour that principle of free aristocracy which is the only basis and security for constitutional government; to be vigilant to guard and prompt to vindicate the honour of the country, but to hold aloof from that turbulent diplomacy which only distracts the mind of a people from internal improvement; to lighten taxation; frugally but wisely to administer the public treasure; to favour popular education, because it is the best guarantee for public order; to defend local government; and to be as jealous of the rights of the working man as of the prerogatives of the Crown and the privileges of the Senate—these were once the principles which regulated Tory statesmen, and I for one have no wish that the Tory party should ever be in power unless they practise them.
said, that he desired, as no one seemed disposed to rise, to say a few words. The noble Lord seemed to 1141 rejoice that he was supported by Members on both sides of the House; but he (Mr. Lindsay) did not remember that any Members from the opposite side were present at the meeting in Willis's Rooms, or were parties to the great compact there formed. He believed he was the only Liberal Member present that had doubts, and those doubts he expressed to the noble Lord. He said, if they destroyed the then Government, he questioned very much that the noble Lord's Government would pursue a more liberal policy than that to which Lord Derby's Government was pledged in respect to a Reform Bill. The noble Lord replied that he had very little fear for the Liberal party; and he (Mr. Lindsay) told him that the Liberal party, in regard to great questions of progress, so far as the noble Lord was concerned, had very little faith in themselves. And it had been so proved. If the late Government had remained in office, the great question of Reform would have been settled for the present generation, and the pledge on the question given by the present Government would not have been made to be broken. He believed, that if the noble Earl in another place had had his own way, he would have redeemed the pledges given by him at that meeting. He remembered that pledges were also given at that meeting in regard to economy and retrenchment; but how far had those pledges been kept? The expenditure, as shown that night, had gone on increasing year by year since the noble Lord had been in office; and if the noble Lord remained in office longer, it would go on increasing. If they got value for their money, they might complain less; but protests had been continually made, and made in vain, against the mode in which the money was expended. Seven years had elapsed since he first objected to the expenditure of large sums of money in the construction of wooden ships; but somewhere about eight millions had been since spent on wooden ships. The noble Lord at the head of the Government continued the construction of that description of vessel, because he said that our neighbour and ally at the other side of the Channel possessed a larger fleet of wooden vessels than this country possessed. The noble Lord, he might add, in referring to iron ships that evening, seemed to forget that the number of those vessels was no measure of their power. Yet, he presumed, if the noble Lord remained in office, they would be asked to vote money for more 1142 iron ships, on the alleged, but incorrect ground, that France had more than we had. It was rather inconsistent that the noble Lord should claim credit for armaments directed against France, when one of this objects for which he came into office was, to cultivate friendly relations with that Power. They should be told the specific grounds on which these great military preparations were deemed necessary. The noble Lord said the country supported him in his vast expenditure; but when the First Minister of the Crown declared that there was danger ahead, the country could scarcely help taking his word for it, and granting supplies. It was very singular that the noble Lord, who was so fond of intervention in cases where we were involved in nothing but difficulty and expense, should adopt a contrary policy in such a case as the present American civil war, where mediation would be hailed by the South, and gladly welcomed by a great proportion of the people of the North, and would relieve our own country from much of the difficulty and suffering which was now becoming so pressing.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he much regretted that the forms of the House would not allow any reply on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire; but as the question raised by the hon. Member for Rochdale was still before the House, he could not help expressing his surprise, after the support which the hon. Gentleman had received on the question of the rating in aid from that (the Opposition) side of the House, he should rise and read them a lecture on the relations of party. No Member of the House had been a sterner partisan than himself. Few had made greater exertions to reconstruct the Conservative party; but he valued party only as the exponent of principle. Unfortunately, of late the relations between principle and party were disturbed as much on the Conservative as on the Liberal side. He had joined in an attempt to re-organize on the ancient basis the Conservative party, after the disruption caused by the late Sir Robert Peel; and the result was, that the two parties which sat above the gangways on opposite sides of that House had been formed, but they found themselves and the House ruled by the party which had been formed below the gangway on the Government side of the House by the right hon. Mem- 1143 ber for Rochdale and others, which swayed the balance between the two official parties, and had decided the legislation of the country. He (Mr. Newdegate) and others had got tired of this state of affairs. The hon. Member for Rochdale must forgive those who during the Session had constituted the majority, if they had learnt something from his teaching. Government for the future must depend not upon party, in the old sense of the term, but upon the general concurrence of opinion in the House of Commons and in the country. He had not seen that the noble Lord's Government had forfeited the confidence of the House, and, as a Conservative, was not ashamed to hail union with the Old Whig party in defence of the Constitution, and under existing circumstances in enabling Her Majesty's Government to conduct the business and defence of the country. He rejoiced in the concurrence of opinion in support of those great principles on which the constitution rested. It was idle to talk to him of the departure from party. Party had no value with him but as it expressed principles which would maintain intact the constitution of the country, and preserve her influence and authority at home and abroad. The great question before the House and the country was the distress in Lancashire. A great calamity had befallen the country, and the Government ought to be supported so long as they took measures to meet the emergency. He (Mr. Newdegate) would respectfully invite the attention of the Government to a suggestion, he thought, important. He understood that there was more cotton in India than even had been predicted by the hon. Member for London; but he also understood that the agencies for the collection and transport of cotton to the ports were not sufficient to meet the unprecedented and unexpected demand. He believed that the most effectual relief which could be given to Lancashire was that by which its industry could be in some measure maintained. If the supply of cotton, therefore, during the present year could be collected more efficiently than heretofore, and brought down to the ports of India by public companies, the formation of which he understood to be contemplated, he thought the countenance of the Government ought to be given them. He understood that companies would be formed if they could receive the co-operation of the Government. Measures of that kind would not only tend to increase the supply 1144 this year, but cause a greater breadth of cotton to be sown for the future. If the Government found the capital of such companies subscribed by responsible persons, they might guarantee a certain amount of interest for a limited period—say, for two years, provided always, that the funds were applied exclusively to the collection of cotton during the present season, and the increased cultivation of cotton for the future.