§ MR. DE GREY
rose to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in answer to Her most gracious Speech. He said, he could not but feel that if, under ordinary circumstances, no Member unused to take part in the debates of this House could venture to rise without asking the indulgence of the 44 House, still more must he, one of the youngest of its Members, claim that consideration which was always so generously bestowed on those who undertook the duty. But there were special circumstances which required that he should use peculiar caution in addressing them. In the last Session a great struggle took place, which terminated in a change of Ministry. It could hardly be said that the House had settled down into that regular division of parties which it usually presented; and if he should be so unfortunate as to say anything which might be distasteful to any section of the House, or to any Member of it, in commenting upon the various questions which arose out of Her Most Gracious Majesty's Speech, he trusted it would be-attributed solely to his want of practice and experience. Though this House might be more than usually divided in its opinions, he thought he should not be wrong if he ventured to express his belief that there was in it such an amount of fairness and independence that we might expect that good measures would receive a large amount of support from whichever side they might emanate, and that Her Majesty's Government would be met with that fair dealing which the circumstances under which they had taken Office (and he trusted with confidence the measures they would propose) would be acknowledged to have entitled them to. He would not pursue this train of thought further. There was much in the Speech of Her Majesty, whose most gracious presence at the opening of the Session had been a source of heartfelt gratification to them, in common with all Her loyal subjects—there was much in that Speech which was the subject of congratulation, and nothing more so than the fact that she was able to inform them that friendly relations subsist with all foreign Powers, from which assurance we might fairly infer that we should continue to enjoy the blessings of peace. The policy of Great Britain was assuredly a policy of peace. If there was one thing that distinguished this country from many others it was that she had long ceased to have any ambitious desire for territorial aggrandizement. Her flourishing trade at home and abroad, the enormous development of her manufacturing industry, and her sense of the obligations of justice, humanity, and religion, all led to a strong desire on the part of every class for the maintenance of peace. With this object they were commonly told that they must 45 avoid interference with the affairs of other countries; but, however much they might desire to act upon this policy, they could not altogether separate themselves from the great community of nations which everywhere surrounded them and their possessions. The tendency of railways and other modern improvements was to bring them more into contact with foreign Governments and peoples; and it was hardly to be hoped, except under a reign of universal peace (which, at present at least, appeared to be far distant) that they could preserve intimate relations with other Powers, without questions arising which might cause disputes and even force hostilities upon them. With a view to such contingencies this country must reserve to herself the right and power of defending her own dignity and honour whensoever and by whomsoever they may be attacked. To do this effectually she must necessarily keep up the efficiency of her fleets and armies, and strengthen them by all those modern appliances which had recently proved so formidable and effective, and had wholly altered the nature and operations of modern warfare. And they must not neglect to use every effort for ameliorating the condition and securing the increased comforts of their soldiery. The improved condition of all classes led to an earnest desire that the army should participate in these advantages. The necessity also of providing an efficient army of reserve must not be overlooked. They were, therefore, fully prepared for the paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech which called upon them to sanction some necessary expenditure for this purpose; and he felt confident that the House would not be backward in providing the means for meeting Her Majesty's wishes, at the same time that they heartily thanked Her Majesty for the gracious announcement that the Estimates had been prepared with every regard for combining efficiency and economy. The year 1866 had witnessed a great change in the map of Europe; with the events by which that change had been effected hon. Members must necessarily be familiar, for the circumstances which attended it were followed by every one in this country with the deepest interest. Strongly as he might feel as to the conduct of those who were engaged in that short but sanguinary and decisive struggle, he should be unwilling to provoke a discussion or to rake up those differences of opinion which no doubt existed upon this question. But, 46 fully admitting the expediency of avoiding, as far as possible, intervention in the affairs of other nations, he could not but feel a misgiving as to whether this country might not have acted with more firmness at a much earlier period, and used her influence successfully for the prevention of injustice and wrong. But, whatever their private and personal feelings might be, they could not but concur with Her Majesty in the hope that the establishment of a strong ruling Power in Germany would prevent any renewal of hostilities, and lead to a long and lasting peace in Europe. Her Majesty had been graciously pleased to announce that she had suggested to the Government of the United States a mode by which questions arising out of the late Civil War in America may receive an amicable solution. This subject had long occupied the attention of, and entailed a lengthened correspondence between, England and the United States of America. It was a question which, perhaps, admitted of some doubt whether the occurrences which led to this correspondence amounted to a breach of the Neutrality Laws; but much ill-feeling had been created, and it was not unnatural that the American people should feel strongly upon the subject. It was therefore to be hoped that the suggestion of Her Majesty's Government would be generously accepted by the American Government in the same spirit in which it had been made, and eventually lead to such an arrangement as would bring about a thorough mutual good understanding, and, if necessary, such an alteration of the Neutrality Laws as would clear up all doubts and prevent any such differences arising for the future. Upon the next paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech, relating to the war between Spain and the South American Republics, it was not his intention to comment at any length. The wanton destruction of property of a private nature in the bombardment of maritime towns, even in warfare, was an act contrary to all the principles of modern civilization, and it was not unsatisfactory to know that in this instance this was not done with impunity. Though the offers of mediation made by Her Majesty's Government in the hope of restoring peace to these distant countries had not been accepted, it was much to be hoped, in the interests of humanity, that all questions which had unhappily arisen between these descendants of a common origin might speedily 47 be settled under the auspices of a friendly Power. It was gratifying to learn that the efforts of Her Majesty and her allies had been directed to bringing about such improved relations between the Porte and its Christian subjects as were not inconsistent with the sovereign rights of the Sultan. As a Christian nation they could not but feel sympathy with all Christians who lived under Turkish rule; but it was satisfactory to find that Her Majesty had not found it necessary to exercise any active interference in those internal disturbances which had prevailed in some provinces of the Turkish Empire, and broken out in actual insurrection in Crete; and it was to be hoped that Her Majesty would now be able to promote with effect those benevolent objects that her efforts had been directed, in conjunction with her allies the Emperor of the French and the Emperor of Russia, to insure. Her Majesty also announced that she had acknowledged Prince Charles of Hohenzollern, who had been chosen by the inhabitants of the Danubian Principalities as their ruler; and it was to be hoped that his accession would lead to a firm union of those provinces, and be followed by that prosperity which was the natural consequence and, at the same time, the surest test of good government. Her Majesty further informed them that she had commanded a Bill to be submitted to Parliament for the Confederation of the British North American Provinces. At no period during the history of this country had the relations between the respective provinces and the Home Government been in a more satisfactory condition than they were at present. At no time had there been a more cordial feeling existing between them and the mother country. They had seen how willingly the Canadians had undertaken the organization of Volunteer forces and the training of militia, and freely disbursed the funds necessary for the defence of our mutual interests. England could not but reciprocate this feeling; and the noble manner in which the inhabitants of these provinces had come forward to defend themselves, and their connection with this country, must make every Englishman feel a desire that we should do our part to confirm and ratify a scheme of Confederation which had received the sanction of the authorities and the great majority of the people of these countries. It was understood that at present certain provinces had not joined in the plan of Con- 48 federation; but if, as it seemed the Government had reason to believe, the proposed Confederation, so far as it was intended to be carried out, was the real desire of the people, and was likely to strengthen them against possible enemies, it must be wise that we should give a willing assent to their wishes, and rejoice to see a United Canadia arise in the place of the now separate, but not unfriendly, provinces. One of those dreadful famines which seemed to occur periodically in India had, during the past year, attacked part of the Bengal and Madras Presidencies. Great difficulty appeared to have been experienced in conveying the necessary relief to the suffering districts, and had not an abundant harvest, under the blessing of Providence, helped to allay the sufferings which at one time carried off thousands every week, it was impossible to calculate what might have been the extent of those lamentable consequences which neither the liberal flow of private charity, which was always so readily forthcoming, nor the action of a sympathizing Government which the emergency called forth could ever have been sufficient to avert. There is no doubt an ample opening in India for those great public works and improvements which were calculated to develop the resources of an Empire; and when communication was better established by means of railways or canals the food produced in one part of the country, which might not, perhaps, be affected by the destructive causes operating upon another, would more easily be conveyed to the point where the necessity for it occurred, and relief would thus be more immediately afforded. Nor did it seem that the primary cause was entirely beyond the control of human foresight. In a country like India, whose rivers and streams were numerous, where in seasons of unusual drought in many vast districts the produce of cultivation was entirely destroyed, or cultivation itself rendered impossible, much might surely be done by means of irrigation, and a judicious expenditure begun in time might secure the inhabitants of those districts in a great measure from the recurrence of similar calamities. Parliament must heartily rejoice with Her Majesty that it was no longer necessary for the safety of her subjects in Ireland to continue the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. They must be thankful to feel that the attempt at insurrection there had been 49 successfully quelled and kept under control by the firmness with which it was met, tempered as that firmness was by the liberal mercy of the Government, and that without a single outbreak, or the shedding, he was glad to say, of one drop of Irish blood, showing that when a Government were determined upon a decisive course of action which they felt to be the best and surest means of putting a stop to threats of rebellion, offenders against the law would rarely venture to come to a direct issue with them, and that there was little real danger to the security of life and property which it was the first duty of every Government to maintain. But, while we congratulated ourselves on the result of the firmness and decision of those whose primary duty it was to determine the course of action to be pursued, we must not forget to give due credit to those on whom was thrown the arduous and delicate duty of carrying out the policy of the Government. In these days, when the liberty of commenting on the conduct of public servants was so freely indulged in, their responsibility was enormously increased, and it was satisfactory to feel that in this case the conduct of the Be who were engaged had met with approval from all parties. One of the most gratifying circumstances attending the past crisis was the fact, so graciously announced by Her Majesty, of the hostility manifested by all classes and creeds to the authors of these disturbances. Indeed, the stand taken against Fenianism by the large body of influential Roman Catholics, headed by their clergy, must have proved of the greatest assistance and support to Her Majesty's Government. Under these circumstances, it was not unnatural that the Government should have been anxious to consider whether anything could be done to mitigate the feeling of discontent which too frequently, and most unhappily for its prosperity, prevailed in that portion of Her Majesty's dominions. Among the questions which appeared to cause that discontent, one in particular arose out of the relations of landlord and tenant, and when we were told that a measure was in contemplation for securing to tenants compensation for farm improvements, we might, perhaps, look upon the announcement as a graceful tribute to the loyalty and good feeling which had actuated so large a portion of the population of Ireland. To us in England it appeared almost difficult to imagine that there should be a necessity for any special legislation on 50 this point. Our tenancies were subject to certain conditions, to which both parties agreed in the first instance; in the absence of previous agreement the custom of the country intervened to regulate those conditions; and all that the law had to do was to secure that the conditions agreed upon, or established by the custom of the country, should be carried out. But the circumstances of Ireland were exceptional; and he was far from saying that improvements in that respect might not be introduced with advantage provided they were framed with a due regard to the rights of property which never could be ignored in Ireland or in any other country. He believed it might be stated, without fear of contradiction, that Ireland was improving rapidly in prosperity and wealth. It was said that her cattle had increased 50 per cent and her sheep 100 per cent in twenty years, while the entire number of acres under crops had also increased. Her great desideratum was that internal tranquillity and respect for law which would alone allay the distrust felt by owners of capital for investments in Ireland—distrust which banished from her soil much of the enterprize and industry that would enable her to run the race of competition with other nations. The department of agriculture for which she was peculiarly suited was the feeding and rearing of live stock; and in manufactures, which in some districts had been carried on with no little success, her redundant population gave her immense advantages. Whether the suggestion made by a noble Lord, a Member of the other House of Parliament, in one of the very able letters which he had published for the registration of farm improvements could be carried out he (Mr. De Grey) would not venture to express an opinion, but it would no doubt receive the careful attention of the Government. A few weeks ago it was hoped that at the meeting of Parliament Her Majesty would have been able to announce that the cattle plague had ceased in the kingdom, but it still appeared to linger in certain districts, and there had been a recent and serious outbreak in the metropolis. While any cases occurred we could not consider ourselves safe from an extensive recurrence of this formidable disease; and its continued existence in an alarming degree on the Continent, and particularly in Holland, rendered it necessary that we should not relax those precautions which had been so successful in 51 checking, if not in entirely suppressing, its ravages. Suggestions had been made to the Government by the Royal and other great agricultural societies which, in combination with the experience obtained during the last year, would, he felt sure, lead to their proposing to Parliament such measures as might be necessary for continuing and improving, according to circumstances, regulations that had conferred such great and acknowledged benefits on the country. Her Majesty also acknowledged with deep thankfulness the abatement of the visitation of cholera, which at one time threatened alarming consequences in this country; but the superior knowledge of the causes of this pestilence obtained by science, and the attention to precautions suggested by that superior knowledge, had checked, and it was to be hoped would continue to preserve us, under the blessing of Providence, from the ravages of this disease. The evils prevailing in the mercantile naval service had specially attracted public criticism, and had been found to require immediate attention. When men were employed upon services to which any unusual amount of risk attached—and a seaman's life must always be a life of danger—every care should be taken that the ordinary comforts of life should be secured to them as far as was practicable, especially when the absence of these comforts conduced to sickness and disease. Such a service could not fail to be unpopular if the common requirements necessary for the preservation of health were not attended to, and our merchant seamen, who constituted one of the hardiest of our working classes, and to whom we look for the best supply of sailors for the Royal Navy, should at least have no cause to envy the condition of those who entered the same profession in the service of other countries. It was satisfactory to learn that the Government were prepared with a measure to improve the laws regulating the care of the sick and other poor in the metropolis, and for the re-distribution of some of the charges of relief therein. The question was one which undoubtedly required immediate attention. Our hospitals and institutions for the care of the sick poor were a glory and an honour to the country, but private charity could only reach a small portion of the misery which must exist among a population estimated at 3,000,000. It was generally admitted that our workhouse system was inadequate to the requirements of such a population, 52 and the public mind had been disturbed by recent revelations of what had been going on in at least a portion of our metropolitan workhouses and their infirmaries. He could not think that Parliament did its duty if it left to private charity that which was, in fact, one of the first duties of the State; but there would be no need to interfere with those noble institutions which were an admirable supplement, but which could never supersede the necessity of a State provision for the care of the poor in sickness. He now came to that paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech which referred to the vexed question of Reform. During the debates which took place in the last Session, it seemed to have been the general opinion of the House that the representation could not be left in the state in which it now was. The principal question was whether it was possible, with safety to the State, to admit a large proportion of the working classes into the constituency. If this could be done without danger to the Constitution, the feeling of most men's minds would incline to their admission. But our whole system was now one of compensation, in which all great interests were represented in certain proportions. These considerations must not be neglected in dealing with the question of the admission of a large body of working men to the franchise, and Parliament must feel satisfaction in hearing that Her Majesty's Government contemplated measures which would not unduly disturb the balance of political power. If the country generally desired Reform, it did not desire revolution. If Parliament was prepared to give to the working classes increased power, it was not prepared step by step to introduce a democracy. But in dealing with this difficult question one thing was certain, that unless all parties were ready to unite to support measures founded upon a careful consideration of all the points involved in the various discussions which had taken place, and the volumes which had been written on the subject, practically speaking, no measure of Reform was ever likely to be carried in this House. Parliament was informed that its attention would be called to this subject; but he would venture to express an opinion that if the Government should have reason to believe that the subject would be approached rather in a party spirit than with a due regard to all the various interests which required to be represented in this great country, they would scarcely 53 be prudent in undertaking the task of revising the Constitution in the face of a hostile and powerful Opposition. The next question to which Her Majesty drew attention was that of trades unions. The law with respect to trades unions, dating from the year 1825, was that no combination of workmen for raising wages should be unlawful so long as no violence, threats, or intimidation be used. This law appeared to be founded on true principles of justice, but it was evaded in practice, and a system was in operation by which workmen were forced to join unions and combinations against their will, and in direct contravention of the law, and outrages had occurred with the object of intimidating both masters and men. On the other hand, there were complaints on the part of the men of combinations among the masters. Of course, the masters could, on no principle of justice, be deprived of a right which they possess only in common with those who might combine against them. The evils that had been engendered by these disputes were not only injurious to both, and interfered moat materially with the general industry of the country, but threatened to transfer that manufacturing prosperity which this country had so long and pre-eminently enjoyed to our great rivals on the Continent. Under these circumstances, he felt confident that all classes throughout the country would hear with feelings of satisfaction and gratitude that an inquiry was to be instituted into the organization of trades unions and other similar associations, whether of workmen or employers, with a view of suggesting a practical remedy for that which was, or might speedily become, a national calamity. There were other measures of internal improvement promised by Her Majesty's Government, but to these he would not more particularly refer, as he felt that he had already too long trespassed upon the attention of the House. He feared that many of the subjects to which he had alluded he had touched upon somewhat superficially; but the multiplicity of subjects and his own inexperience might, perhaps, be considered a sufficient excuse. It was to be hoped that the Session would not be occupied, like the last, by fruitless and unprofitable discussions, but that the measures of improvement proposed by the Government would be allowed to be submitted to the careful and candid consideration of the House, and the fact that Her Majesty's Government had brought forward 54 so large a programme inclined him to think that such, at least, was their expectation; at all events, it was a proof that they had not been idle during the recess. It will be for Parliament to take these measures into consideration, and give effect to such of them as it might approve. He had now only to thank the House for the kind patience with which they had heard him. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to convey the thanks of this House for Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech from the Throne:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we rejoice to learn that Her Majesty's relations with Foreign Powers are on a friendly and satisfactory footing, and that we join with Her Majesty in the hope that the termination of the War in which Prussia, Austria, and Italy have been engaged may tend to the establishment of durable Peace in Europe:To assure Her Majesty that we learn with satisfaction that Her Majesty has suggested to the Government of the United States a mode by which the questions pending between the two Countries, arising out of the late Civil War, may receive an amicable solution, and which, if met, as Her Majesty trusts it will be, in a corresponding spirit, will remove all grounds of possible misunderstanding, and promote relations of cordial friendship:Humbly to express to Her Majesty our participation in Her regret that the War between Spain and the Republics of Chili and Peru still continues, and that the good offices of Her Majesty's Government, in conjunction with that of the Emperor of the French, should have failed to effect a reconciliation; and to assure Her Majesty that it will be a cause of satisfaction to us if, either by agreement between the parties themselves, or by the mediation of any other Friendly Power, Peace should be restored:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that discontent, prevailing in some Provinces of the Turkish Empire, has broken out in actual insurrection in Crete; and that, in common with Her Majesty's Allies, the Emperor of the French and the Emperor of Russia, Her Majesty has abstained from any active interference in those internal disturbances; but that the efforts of Her Majesty and Her Allies have been directed to bringing about such improved relations between the Porte and its Christian Subjects as are not 55 inconsistent with the Sovereign Rights of the Sultan:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the protracted negotiations, which arose out of the acceptance by Prince Charles of Hohenzollern of the Government of the Danubian Principalities, have been happily terminated by an arrangement to which the Porte has given its ready adhesion, and which has been sanctioned by the concurrence of all the Powers, signataries of the Treaty of 1856:Humbly to convey our thanks to Her Majesty for informing us that Resolutions in favour of a more intimate Union of the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have been passed by their several Legislatures, and that Delegates, duly authorised, and representing all classes of Colonial party and opinion, have concurred in the conditions upon which such an Union may be best effected; and to assure Her Majesty that we will give our most careful attention to the Bill which, in accordance with the wishes of those Colonies, Her Majesty has directed to be submitted to us, and which, by the consolidation of Colonial interests and resources, will, we trust, give strength to the several Provinces as members of the same Empire, and animated by feelings of loyalty to the same Sovereign:To assure Her Majesty that we have heard with deep sorrow that the calamity of Famine has pressed heavily on Her Majesty's Subjects in some parts of India; and to thank Her Majesty for informing us that instructions were issued to Her Majesty's Government in that Country to make the utmost exertions to mitigate the distress which prevailed during the autumn of last year, and that the blessing of an abundant harvest has since that time materially improved the condition of the suffering districts:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we have observed with deep concern that the persevering efforts and unscrupulous assertions of treasonable Conspirators abroad have during the last autumn excited the hopes of some disaffected persons in Ireland, and the apprehensions of the loyal population; but that we learn with the greatest satisfaction that the firm, yet temperate, exercise of the powers entrusted to the Executive, and the hostility manifested against the Conspiracy by men of all classes and creeds, have greatly tended to restore public confidence, and rendered hopeless any attempt to disturb the general tranquillity; and that, with Her Majesty, we trust that we may consequently be enabled to dispense with the con- 56 tinuance of any exceptional Legislation for that part of Her Majesty's Dominions:To assure Her Majesty that, with Her, we join in acknowledging, with deep gratitude to Almighty God, the great decrease which has taken place in the Cholera, and in the Pestilence which has attacked our Cattle; and that we regret that the continued prevalence of the latter in some Foreign Countries, and its occasional re-appearance in this, will still render necessary some special measures of precaution; but that we trust that the visitation of the former will lead to increased attention to those sanitary measures which experience has shown to be its best preventive:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that, estimating as of the highest importance an adequate supply of pure and wholesome Water, Her Majesty has directed the issue of a Commission to inquire into the best means of permanently securing such a supply for the Metropolis, and for the principal towns in densely peopled districts of the Kingdom:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for having directed that the Estimates of the ensuing year shall be laid before us, and for having caused them to be prepared with a due regard to economy, and to the maintenance of efficiency in the Public Service; and to assure Her Majesty that we will cheerfully consider any proposal for a moderate Expenditure, calculated to improve the condition of Her Majesty's Soldiers, and to lay the foundation of an efficient Army of Reserve:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that our attention will again be called to the state of the Representation of the People in Parliament; and, with Her Majesty, humbly to express our hope that our deliberations, conducted in a spirit of moderation and mutual forbearance, may lead to the adoption of measures which, without unduly disturbing the balance of Political Power, shall freely extend the Elective Franchise:Humbly to express our thanks to Her Majesty for informing us that the frequent occurrence of disagreements between Employers of Labour and their Workmen, causing much private suffering and public loss, and occasionally leading, as is alleged, to acts of outrage and violence, has induced Her Majesty to issue a Commission to inquire into and report upon the organisation of Trades Unions and other Associations, whether of Workmen or Employers, with power to suggest any improvement of the Law for their mutual benefit; and to assure Her Majesty that any application which shall be made to us for Par- 57 liamentary Powers, necessary to make this inquiry effective, shall receive our earnest attention:To convey to Her Majesty our humble thanks for informing us that Bills will be laid before us for the extension of the beneficial provisions of the Factory Acts to other trades, specially reported on by the Royal Commission on the Employment of Children; and for the better regulation, according to the principle of those Acts, of workshops where women and children are largely employed:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the condition of the Mercantile Marine has attracted the serious attention of Her Majesty, and that measures will be submitted to us with a view to increase the efficiency of that important Service:Humbly to express to Her Majesty the satisfaction with which we have learnt that relaxations have been lately introduced into the Navigation Laws of France; that Her Majesty has expressed to the Emperor of the French Her readiness to submit to Parliament a proposal for the extinction, on equitable terms, of the exemptions from local charges on Shipping which are still enjoyed by a limited number of individuals in British Ports; and that His Imperial Majesty has, in anticipation of this step, already admitted British Ships to the advantage of the now Law; and to assure Her Majesty that we will give our careful attention to the Bill upon this subject which Her Majesty has directed to be forthwith laid before us:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we will give our most serious consideration to the Bill which will be submitted to us for making better provision for the arrangement of the affairs of Railway Companies which are unable to meet their engagements; as also to any measures for improving the management of Sick and other Poor in the Metropolis, and for a re-distribution of some of the charges for relief therein:To assure Her Majesty that we will give our most careful attention to the measures for the Amendment of the Law of Bankruptcy, and the Consolidation of the Courts of Probate and Divorce and Admiralty; also to the means of disposing, with greater despatch and frequency, of the increasing business in the Superior Courts of Common Law, and at the Assizes:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the relations between Landlord and Tenant in Ireland have engaged the anxious attention of Her Majesty; and that a Bill will 58 be laid before us which, without interfering with the rights of property, will offer direct encouragement to Occupiers of Land to improve their holdings, and provide a simple mode of obtaining compensation for permanent improvements:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that, with Her, we pray that our labours may, under the blessing of Providence, conduce to the prosperity of the Country, and the happiness of Her People.
§ MR. GRAVES
Mr. Speaker—I have so invariably experienced the indulgence of the House when, on previous occasions, I have ventured to address it, during the short time I have had the honour to be a Member, that I feel I should be doubting that experience if I sought on this occasion to enlist its sympathy by any formal appeal to its forbearance. In undertaking the onerous task of seconding the Address in reply to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne, no one can have felt more conscious than I did myself how little personal consideration influenced the selection. But sharing in the representation of a constituency possessing no small commercial distinction, I hope it may be thought that I am warranted in accepting the task. Rarely has a Speech been delivered from the Throne which has been looked forward to with more intense interest than that which it had been our good fortune to listen to to-day, and I have the highest hopes that it will not only be satisfactory to the House, but that it will prove acceptable to the country at large. The Speech from the Throne embraces measures of the highest usefulness, aiming largely at the amelioration of the poorer classes of society, and involving questions of the highest moment. It will, I have no doubt, commend itself to the anxious consideration of the House. The felicitous expressions in which the hon. Mover has conveyed his pleasure at Her Majesty's presence to-day will be shared in by every Member of this House, and will excite throughout the country feelings of the greatest satisfaction.
In the few remarks with which I intend to trouble the House, I must necessarily travel over some of the ground that has been touched upon by the hon. Member for West Norfolk; but I shall endeavour to confine myself more particularly to those points which may be considered to possess more than or- 59 dinary interest at the present moment. I think I am justified in giving the preeminence among the questions connected with our foreign policy to that of the differences which have arisen between us and the United States—differences arising out of intricate questions of International Law, and which have been made during the past year the subject of a very able diplomatic correspondence. Claims and counter claims have been advanced in the full consciousness of mutual right; and it will be a matter of the greatest satisfaction if a mode can be suggested by which these claims can be amicably and fairly settled. I believe that when they were originally put forward, the moment was inopportune—that concession might then have been construed into fear on the one hand, or to threats on the other. But now, happily, a better feeling exists. There is a mutual desire to do each other justice. England, above all other nations, is deeply interested in the maintenance of stringent Neutrality Laws; and if it should appear ours are too lax, or are over weighted with legal proof, and that compensation may have to be made, I, for one, will rejoice if that decision should lead to the establishment of clearer views of the duties of neutrals, and also to the adoption of a more intelligible and more stringent Code of International Law for the government of all maritime Powers.
I am sure that this House will share in the regret expressed by Her Majesty that our mediation, in conjunction with that of her ally the Emperor of the French, has not been successful in bringing to a termination the disputes which have arisen between Spain and the Republics of South America. Those Republics should remember how unmistakably the sympathy of Europe was extended towards them at the commencement of those differences; and, remembering this, they should lend a favourable ear to any proposals for a friendly mediation which would be likely to bring these disputes to a settlement. There can be no doubt the longer this settlement is delayed the greater will be the injury to those young and prosperous countries; and therefore I hope that the friendly mediation referred to in Her Majesty's Speech—and by which I presume to be understood the good offices of the President of the United States—will be successful, and that a lasting peace may arise, alike satisfactory to the interests and honour of all parties.
60 From our foreign policy I turn to our domestic affairs, and I am sure that I shall be pardoned if I at once take up the question which engrosses at this moment men's minds, and to which our attention has been specially directed by Her Majesty to-day—I mean Parliamentary Reform. Happily for us we have advanced at that stage when argument becomes no longer necessary to justify the extension of the franchise. It is an admitted necessity by all parties in the State, and the only point that remains to be settled is the means by which a wise, just, and satisfactory settlement of the question can be arrived at. What the mode may be which the Government intend to propose for carrying this object into effect—whether it includes a Re-distribution of Seats Bill—whether it will grapple with the corruption which has been so ruthlessly brought to light in the last few months, and which I consider to be a serious blot upon our electional system, and a stain on the character of this House—whether it will deal with these questions or not, I have no means of knowing. But I am convinced of this—that the measure will not be framed in any narrow spirit; nor do I believe that it will be submitted to the House in any but the most earnest and honest desire to merit the approval, not only of this House, but of the country at large. The history of Reform justifies the remark which my hon. Friend has made tonight—that it should not be made a party question. So far I do not think that it has made any very great advance under party protection; and speaking for myself, without any inspiration, I think it should be taken out of the category of party questions, that the House should take it under its own protection, and deal with it in the firm determination to settle it on a basis of concession and compromise. I may be wrong in this view, but it is one that I hold strongly, and I throw it out, for what it is worth, for the consideration of the House. Scarcely less important than Parliamentary Reform is the connection between capital and labour—the breach seems rather to be widening than narrowing—and I think Her Majesty's Government has done wisely in deciding that an inquiry shall take place by Commission into this difficult and delicate question; for if the result of the inquiry should be to draw closer the links between the employer and the employed, it will be a subject for much congratulation. I do not know whether it is intended that the 61 inquiry shall embrace the question of the extent to which we are suffering from the effects of foreign competition in branches of industry that have been hitherto considered as England's specialities; but I think it very desirable that this should be done, and that all parties in this country should be shown, on the most unquestionable evidence, the causes which are at work, and what have been the results of their operation.
It is also, I perceive, in contemplation to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the quantity and quality of the water supplied to the metropolis and other large towns in England. The experience of the last twelve months has taught us how largely the public health is affected by the water supply; and no one can question the desirableness of having this very important subject investigated in all its bearings by a Royal Commission, instead of by local and partial inquiries. Living as I do in the centre of one of the most densely-populated districts in the country, I well know the interest with which this question is watched by the people, and the satisfaction with which the announcement of a Commission will be received by all who dwell in large towns. A measure will be submitted to us for enabling insolvent railway companies to make arrangements for settling their affairs. I have no doubt that in that measure due protection will be given to the public rights. It appears that there is no machinery existing at the present moment for meeting such a state of things; and it therefore becomes necessary to take legislative measures for remedying the inconvenience thence arising. We cannot be surprised, knowing the deep interest taken by Her Majesty in the Mercantile Marine, that Her Majesty has been pleased to call our attention to it. Much has, indeed, been done at various times for this branch of our industry. It has been relieved of many burdens and restrictions—but some still remain. There are anomalies, and restrictions, and exceptional burdens still pressing upon it. I think it has been wisely decided by the Government to deal with them; and I hope that, at the same time, the various Acts connected with the Mercantile Marine of the country may come under revision, and that the 600 sections may be consolidated and rendered more intelligible than they now are to owners, masters, and seamen. The allusion to our seamen is no less important. 62 There are evils at work that require treatment. Some of them may, perhaps, be beyond legislative cure; but I am perfectly satisfied that much in the way of remedy may be effected by wise and prudent legislation. It is possible, no doubt, to have too much legislation; aid it becomes a grave question whether' we have not had too much for our seamen, for the result has been to keep the owners of ships and their seamen further apart from each other instead of bringing them into closer union. Nothing can be worse than the discipline pointed at in the Speech, involving the shipping interest not only in serious losses and intolerable vexation, but inflicting on the country a large annual expenditure for bringing home deserters under the guise of distressed seamen. It is an increasing charge, for within the last two years it has increased from £25,000 to £30,000 for the mere food of these men—whilst to our shipowners it is a serious and intolerable vexation, in being compelled to provide passages for them. The seamen of the Mercantile Marine must be placed on a better system—a better system of recruiting must be introduced—we must have training ships established—the comfort and health of the seaman must be more carefully looked after—shipowners themselves must become more conscious of their responsibilities, and the commanders must take a greater interest in the welfare and comfort of their men. Then, and not till then, are we likely to see that permanent improvement in the Mercantile Marine which will enable us to look upon it as we have always done, as the boast of this country. The relaxation of the Navigation Laws—thanks to the enlightened policy of the Emperor of the French—is one which may be regarded with great satisfaction. From the 1st of January the tonnage duties collected from ships have ceased to be collected in the French ports, except in the instance of the ships of nations which have refused to grant in return similar privileges to French ships. Anticipating the desire that this country would only be too glad to assist in shaking off the remaining fetters from commerce, France has, without asking, placed the shipping of this country upon the most favourable footing; and a measure will be submitted to the House for ratifying that understanding, and I have no doubt that the removal of the few exceptional restrictions will be based on terms as equitable in their 63 nature as the proposal itself is justifiable upon public policy. The question of Law Reform is one of the very greatest interest. There is no doubt whatever that the judicial force and the machinery of our Law Courts has not kept pace with the progress of the country or the wants of trade. I am glad that the evils arising from the loss of temper, the loss of time, and the loss of money, attendant on the present system are likely to be removed. As to the advantage of the consolidation of the Divorce Court and the Admiralty Court, I am not very competent to speak; but I venture to hope that when the measure is brought before the House for dealing with the Admiralty Court, it will not be forgotten that there is a great necessity for reforming the Court of Admiralty itself, for making more summary its proceedings, and for extending its jurisdiction to classes of maritime commerce not now embraced, and which at present, owing to the expense and trouble involved in Admiralty proceedings, are either confided to arbitration or are never dealt with at all. I trust also that the advantages of a reconstituted Admiralty Court will not be confined to the metropolis; but that the great maritime ports of England, which furnish so large a share to the business of that Court, will have its advantages brought to their own doors by the establishment of Vice Admiralty Courts. As to the amendment of our Bankruptcy Laws, I cannot for a moment doubt the propriety. They are generally condemned—they are found inadequate to the proper protection of the trader—they are cumbrous—and they are expensive. I hope that in dealing with these laws some provision will be made to check the commercial immorality which has shown itself so widely within the last twelve months in the disgraceful failures which have taken place. It is true there are palliating circumstances for many of these failures in the terrible crisis which swept over the country last year.
Judging by the tests which are usually applied by this House as to whether any year has been a successful one or otherwise, the past year would rank as an eminently prosperous one, for our imports and exports have increased to a very large extent. Our imports, taken for nine months of the financial year last made up, compared with the same months in the preceding year, show an excess of £42,000,000, and our exports 64 show an excess of £23,000,000. It is not improbable that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may, by-and-bye, be able to announce to the House that the revenue has been equally elastic, and has more than answered his expectations. But the popular estimate of last year is very different, and is much more likely to be true than any conclusions based upon the figures I have just given. A crisis of unparalleled severity, causing a wide-spread derangement of credit, involved every branch of our National industry in most serious losses. These panics appear to be periodical in their character and uniform in their visitations; and I think it is well worthy of consideration whether some effort may not be made to ascertain their causes. Believing that excessive credit and abuse of the principle of limited liability had much to do with the crisis of last year, it was with sincere pleasure that I heard the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Watkin) give notice of his intention to bring before the House the results of the limited liability system. The shock which it has received will do much to disarm the power for evil of that system for the future; but I think, while the cause and the effects are fresh upon our minds, we should be wise in reviewing the provisions of the Act, and preventing such mischiefs from occurring in future. The manufacturing interest has happily suffered less than the commercial; but the exorbitant rate which money maintained for a large portion of the current year, must have largely paralysed the manufacturing energy of this country. These fluctuations in the value of money, occurring so frequently as they do, are exceedingly embarrassing to trade; and I hope that Parliament, in its wisdom, may be able to devise some means for, if not preventing, at least regulating these fluctuations. With the third great branch of our industrial economy—agriculture—I am not so conversant; but I cannot help expressing my earnest sympathy with that interest, for the twofold calamity which has fallen upon it—the cattle plague and the indifferent harvest. These may be regarded as natural visitations; but they go to swell the disasters of the past year, and to make the amendment of the Bankruptcy Law the more necessary. With regard to Ireland, I will now refer specially to the measures for the amelioration of that country which are alluded to in the Speech from the Throne. I hope that these are but the harbingers of 65 a new policy—a policy founded upon a just appreciation of the distinctions of race. I venture to think that the statesmen who seek to make that country contented and happy must do so rather by the application of legislation suited to the character and condition of the country than by the application of any uniform system of law. Holding these opinions, I rejoice that a measure will be introduced for the settlement of the long-vexed question of land tenure in Ireland. Public policy demands that that fertile land should be made as fruitful as possible, and that the occupiers of the soil should be encouraged and should have secured to them the fruits of the capital and the skill which they invest in the improvement of the land. I know that on this subject there exists the most varied opinions; but I have known Ireland long, and I have a right to express my opinion on the subject, for I consider under the existing laws, that encouragement and that security do not exist. Mercifully freed as that country has been from the ravages of the cattle plague and the commercial disasters so heavily felt in this country, Ireland has been making in material wealth at least a steady progress. She has added £2,500,000 to the value of her live stock within the last official year, and the deposits in her savings banks, which in the year 1840 amounted to £5,500,000, in 1860 reached £15,000,000, and in 1865 amounted to £17,500,000; thus showing that there is capital in the country for the improvement of land, and that there is not that absence of thrift in the national character which is so frequently alleged. One question I must allude to as having a deep bearing on the prosperity of that country—I mean the question of railways. At present there is a total want of system with respect to them, and they are so disconnected that I believe the resources of that country will never be developed until the railways are placed on a better footing. The fares ought to be lower, and greater facilities ought to be given to make the masses of the population customers of the railways. At present they are looked upon as a luxury rather than a necessity. In order to effect improvements, State interference may possibly be required; but I believe the increase of traffic would in time reimburse the State for any obligations it might incur with regard to them. If a precedent is wanted I might point to 66 India, and I think before long we may be able to point to one nearer home, for I am convinced that the necessity of taking over the telegraph system will force itself on the attention of the Government, and under the able management of the Post Office would increase its usefulness to an extent now little dreamt of, besides adding largely to our National revenues. The progress of the country has been greatly retarded by the discontent which has existed for the last few years under the name of Fenianism, and which has spread a blighting influence over the whole island; but the announcement made to-day in the Speech from the Throne points to a happier state of things, and leads us to believe that reason and common sense are resuming their sway, and that the spirit of discontent is yielding to a spirit of hope and loyalty. The wise and conciliatory government of the distinguished nobleman who is at present Her Majesty's Viceroy in Ireland (the Marquess of Abercorn) has largely contributed to this result—a compliment equally deserved by the nobleman who preceded him (the Earl of Kimberley). I accept, as marking a new era, the measures announced by the Government. I look upon them as a harbinger of peace, and as a proof that the spirit of Fenianism is drawing towards an end. It is not unnatural that I should turn from Ireland to our North American Provinces, where, if there had been any good ground for its reception, Fenianism might have been expected to find a home. But the miserable attempts made there to introduce it only tested the loyalty of the colonists, and proved how strong was the tie which binds the colonies to the mother country. In order to appreciate the advantages of consolidation it is perhaps necessary to visit them, and to become conversant, as I have become, with their almost inexhaustible resources, and the steady energy of the people. Covering 400,000 square miles, embracing near 4,000,000 of people, bound together by a community of interests and devotedly attached to the institutions of this country and to the Throne and person of the Queen, it would be difficult to speculate as to the results which may grow out of the union of these fine Provinces. I have heard it said that there is danger to Imperial interests in this measure, and that national aspirations may arise. I have no such fear. I believe the connection between the North American Provinces and 67 the mother country rests on more enduring foundations, and that they will be more than ever an important element in our national resources. Knowing as I do the difficulties which must have beset the negotiations for such a consolidation—the jealousies and rivalries which must have arisen, and the personal sacrifices which must have been made—I should not be doing justice to the delegates from the Provinces if I did not say they are entitled to the highest credit for the manner in which they have fulfilled their delicate but most important duties.
I have now to thank the House for the indulgence which has been shown to me, and to express a hope that the measures alluded to in the Speech—measures of vast importance to the country—may be dealt with by the House in a spirit of forbearance, wisdom, and conciliation. And my highest wish is that at the end of the Session we may be permitted to look back with satisfaction and to feel that among the measures we have passed is one for widening the bases of our institutions, and that by our legislation we have contributed to the happiness and well-being of the people of this country. The hon. Gentleman concluded by seconding the Motion.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That," &c. [See Page 54.]
I rise, Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of supporting the Address which has been moved and seconded from the opposite Benches. I heartily approve that well-established rule which on all occasions discourages the needless importation of subjects of difference into the debate on the Address to the Crown in answer to the Royal Speech; and I confess that on this occasion, independently of much other matter which the Address contains, and which we should wish to see brought out in discussion with the most favourable auspices, there are three announcements which of themselves would suffice, I think, to make any candid and well-judging man reluctant to see dissension introduced into this debate. I mean the announcement of a measure for the union of the North American Provinces; the announcement of a measure on that most important subject, the state of the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland—and, I must add, in terms in which I do not think the most fastidious among us can find anything to object to; and thirdly, the announcement, not less 68 gratifying than either of the others, but even more gratifying, that in the judgment of Her Majesty's Government the time has arrived when the existence of exceptional, and in one sense arbitrary, power in Ireland may reach its termination. I not only, therefore, am unprepared to move any Amendment on the Address myself, but if there were any Gentleman who entertained a different disposition, and to whom I might without impropriety offer a recommendation, I would earnestly beseech him to forbear from executing such an intention. Passing, however, to the subjects—the numerous and important subjects—touched upon in the Speech from the Throne, I am anxious to offer some remarks on some paragraphs which the Speech contains. And first, I will dwell for a moment on that very' momentous question, the Correspondence between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the United States of America, in reference to questions pending between the two countries, which questions have arisen out of the late Civil War. And I wish to convey an assurance to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, on the part of all with whom I have had an opportunity of communicating, that whatever he may have done or whatever he may propose to do on the subject will be judged, not in the narrow spirit of exacting from him, or endeavouring to exact from him, a precise conformity to the steps we ourselves have taken, but that as long as his measures and his policy may in our view be consistent with the honour and conducive to the interests of the country, everything which may proceed from him and his Colleagues will receive at our hands a most favourable consideration. Then I go on to the paragraph in the Speech relating to the insurrection which has distracted—I know not to what extent it still distracts—the important island of Candia. I miss from the Royal Speech an intimation which it is very common to convey—that upon certain subjects, and especially subjects of foreign policy, which have reached a certain degree of maturity, it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to submit papers to the House. Indeed, I observe that an hon. Friend of mine (Mr. Gregory) has already given notice of his desire to obtain information in that shape, and I feel myself justified in expressing a hope that Her Majesty's Government will be 69 prepared to lay before us such information on the subject as they possess—for this question is one which, although of foreign concern, yet cannot be regarded as very remote from our interests; nay, more, it cannot be regarded as a question in which we are altogether without rights. We know not at present from any authentic source the cause of this insurrection: we know, however, the deplorable calamities with which it has been attended, and the desperate resolution with which, against enormous odds, the battle has been fought. Now, what I am desirous to know—and I hope that the papers when presented by Her Majesty's Government will prove what I am desirous to know—is that the Government of the Sultan is not responsible for this insurrection, but that it had, before the commencement of the outbreak, given faithful and full execution to that important instrument—the hatti-scheriff—issued at the close of the Crimean war for the purpose of securing to the Christian subjects of the Porte at least the civil equality to which they were justly entitled, and which had been too long withheld. This is a question not only of the utmost gravity in itself, but one of justice in its connection with the general interests of humanity rather than with any special British interests in a more narrow sense; and it is likewise of the utmost importance with reference to the future peace of Europe. I congratulate Her Majesty's Government most cordially that the time has arrived when they are able to promise us—forming their judgment on the circumstances of the moment—that they will not, under these circumstances, apply for an extension of the exceptional powers of the Government in Ireland; and I join with them in rejoicing that the spirit which has been displayed by the community itself in aid of the Government has proved to be so potent an ally in averting the evil which at one time we had been led to apprehend—a phenomenon new in the history of Ireland—a phenomenon which, I trust, will lead to much reflection upon its causes, and which, after that reflection, will prove a powerful encouragement to us to prosecute the policy of liberality and of justice towards Ireland, of which, in part, we have already witnessed the happy effect. Her Majesty's Government refer to a subject of great interest in connection with the condition of the army, and with the foundation of an efficient army of reserve. If I caught 70 correctly the words of the Address, the promise which it is proposed to make to Her Majesty's Government in return is that we will cheerfully consider any demand which may be made for our assent to a moderate increase of expenditure. Now, I must confess that, if I were a captious critic, I should a little doubt whether cheerfulness of consideration is exactly that form of consideration which representatives of the people should give to proposals for an increase of expenditure. A careful and a ready consideration I have no doubt that subject will have, and I trust a fair and even a liberal consideration. Most certainly I express my confidence that, while we shall expect the Government to show that expenses which are perhaps necessary in one direction can be compensated by savings in another, the Government will receive the cordial support of this House in every well-conceived and every effectual measure for the attainment of that most desirable object, the foundation of a good system of army reserve. The Speech also touches upon a subject as delicate as it is important in the reference it makes to an inquiry that is about to be instituted into the disagreements between employers of labour and their workmen, and into the means by which that inquiry is to be prosecuted. I think there have been exaggerated statements made on this subject, which may to a certain extent have acted on the public mind. Such statements tend to propagate the idea either that differences between employers and workmen are now of a more aggravated character than in former times, or that the effect of these differences is to menace the commercial and trading position of this country. If there be those who really entertain that apprehension, let them pay attention to a single sentence in the speech of the Seconder of the Address, which acquainted us that the joint increase in the exports and imports from and to this country for nine months of the last year, as compared with nine mouths of the year preceding, amounted to £65,000,000. But that is no reason why the attention of Parliament should not in every useful manner be given to a subject which is of the utmost importance, and a matter in which undoubtedly there are yet serious difficulties and serious evils to be remedied. What I hope is that the interposition of Government in this matter will be an amicable interposition; and in particular, that when my right 71 hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department frames his Bill for obtaining from Parliament powers to make the inquiry effective he will bear in mind—as I am sure he will—the full and absolute right of all individuals, employers and workmen alike, to bring to market the commodity they have to dispose of, whether it be labour or capital, on the best terms in their power, as long as, and only as long as, they exercise their own rights without prejudice to the rights of others. There is but one other subject on which I have to detain the House for a few moments, and it is the subject to which—as has been rightly said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves)—there attaches at the present time an all-absorbing interest—I mean the question of the representation of the people. But I will here first offer a comment upon that which many of us had anxiously expected to see alluded to, but which, probably for some good and sufficient cause, does not appear in the Speech. I presume that is probably owing to the circumstance that the recent inquiries into corrupt practices in certain boroughs are not yet so absolutely completed as to have enabled the Government to advise the Crown to refer to this subject. At all events, nothing was said in regard to it. I am sure it is one which, from its importance, well deserves notice. If the question of Parliamentary Reform be difficult, at least it ought not to be difficult to deal with certain of its branches, such as cases of proved corruption. I beg to say that this evil, which has grown, perhaps, not more intense—I hope, on the contrary, less intense—but which has grown far more patent, and therefore more scandalous, of late years, has now become a matter not merely of domestic policy and expediency, but I will even venture to say of national honour. As long as we were in something like exclusive possession of a representative system, little notice was taken of these offences in foreign lands; but we have lived into a period in which almost every country possesses, in more or less perfect forms, representative institutions, and in which some countries enjoy them in high efficiency. Since that has been the case, it appears to me that Europe has conceived what I might almost call a sentiment of disgust at finding that evils of which those countries are scarcely conscious have become so rife and so virulent among ourselves. I hope it will be understood that I assume there is 72 a cause for silence in Her Majesty's Speech on this subject; but I must express the hope that when Her Majesty's Government take into their consideration some of the Reports—I will not now presume to decide which they may be—in which it shall appear, on judicial authority, that constituencies are tainted, as they have been in some former and well-remembered instances, they will not ask us to inflict the almost nominal and wholly unsatisfactory punishments which have bounded our action on former occasions, but will give evidence to the world, by something in the nature of strictness and severity, that we are in earnest on this particular question. As regards the paragraph in the Speech of Her Majesty, it is obviously open to the remark that its language is in some degree enigmatical; but I do not think it will be fair to make that circumstance a subject of complaint. On the contrary, I think Her Majesty's Government are perfectly justified in reserving that full explanation of their intentions to a future day which, if it had been attempted to-day, in a form necessarily imperfect, would probably have tended to prejudice the settlement of the question. Therefore, in assenting to the paragraph as it stands, I do so upon the double ground that there is nothing in its language which can give rise to a just reflection; and, important as is every matter connected with this subject, both as to substance and as to procedure, under present circumstances, I, for myself, and others, if they are so minded, retain the most perfect liberty to canvass, both as to substance and as to procedure, the measures and the steps to be taken by Her Majesty's Government, when in the proper time we become fully acquainted with them. I think there are three points in which may be summed up, in a great degree, our interest in the consideration and management of this matter. There is the question by whom the measure of Parliamentary Reform is to be submitted to Parliament; there is the question what is to be the substance and effect of such a measure; and lastly, there is the question when such a measure is to be brought under our notice, and when it is to reach its completion. As regards the first of those questions—by whom the measure is to be submitted—I humbly represent to the House that at this moment the interest of the country in the speedy settlement of the question is all-important; and, if there 73 be any of us who are less sanguine than hon. Gentlemen opposite as to the possible proceedings of Her Majesty's Government, that is no reason for endeavouring to cast impediments in their course. It is our duty to accept, wherever we can get it, a measure which will be adequate to meet the just expectations of the country; and if we intend to be willing parties to the introduction of such a measure by Her Majesty's Government, we ought not by anything we may now say or do to cast even the smallest difficulty in the way of that introduction. Sir, as respects the substance of the measure, I do not think the present occasion a proper one to discuss it; but as respects the time of the measure, I must again say, it appears to me that even the question of the substance is hardly more important. It is not necessary now to retrace the wearisome and irksome details of this protracted controversy, or to remind the House how many Sessions, how many Queen's Speeches, how many Parliaments have been involved. One thing only we can say, and that is, it is impossible for legislation to proceed in its orderly and accustomed course until this matter is disposed of—until this matter is disposed of it stops the way; it disturbs and impedes, and it not only disturbs and impedes, but it embitters every attempt to deal with other questions of difficulty. The vast and varied interests of this country, growing apparently more vast and more varied every day, and, in proportion as we reap the harvest of legislation with assiduity, causing new and thicker crops to spring afresh from the ground soliciting our attention, render it our duty to see and require that the measures adopted—so far as we can require from others—shall be directed towards the attainment, not only of an effectual, but also of a speedy settlement of this question. I therefore ask myself how I am to interpret the paragraph in which this subject has been brought under our notice, and I cannot doubt as to the manner in which I am justified in construing it. I will not ask for explanations; I will not make any remark which would have a tendency to force the Government to offer explanation for the purpose of avoiding misapprehension; but what I understand by this paragraph is this:—Her Majesty's Government, like ourselves, like the generality of the House, including their own followers and the whole country without distinction of party, are sensible of the 74 necessity of dealing promptly with this matter, and that, upon the earliest day which they can choose for the purpose, they will be prepared to propose, on their own responsibility, such measures as they shall think will be most effectual for the attainment, the effective attainment, and, above all, the speedy attainment of their object and the just satisfaction of the wishes of the country. I hope there i8 nothing unreasonable in that expectation. If that expectation be a just one, we ought to rest perfectly satisfied, cherishing the hope that the time is at hand when we may be able to remove from ourselves and out of the way this obstacle, and to remove from ourselves what threatens to become, if we do not remove it, a standing discredit to Parliament and the institutions of the land, and to give to all the other vast and diversified interests of the country that attention which they so imperatively solicit at our hands.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I heard, Sir, with great satisfaction from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) that there was no prospect of an Amendment to the Address being proposed to-night. After so long a separation it really is far from agreeable that on the first night we meet together we should resume our struggles; and in the months that are before us many opportunities will arise to compensate hon. Gentlemen for the self-restraint which they exercise now. There are one or two points to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred which I will notice before I touch on his last more interesting inquiry. The right hon. Gentleman has done justice to the contents of Her Majesty's most gracious Speech, and I think I may congratulate my Colleagues upon its reception by the House generally, though I am sure we owe it in some degree to the able interpretation which has been put upon it by my hon. Friends who moved and seconded the Address, the first with a pleasing propriety I am sure all must acknowledge, the Seconder with a weight of authority derived from his position and his acquaintance with commercial pursuits. In answer to the question which has been put by the right hon. Gentleman with reference to the disturbances in Crete, I may say that papers will certainly be presented on the subject. I believe my noble Friend (Lord Stanley) had a reason which for a short time may influence him in not immediately presenting them to the House; 75 but when that reason ceases to operate, my noble Friend will take the earliest opportunity of laying them on the table of the House. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) also referred to the circumstance that no allusion was made in the Queen's Speech to the inquiries into proceedings in certain boroughs. The reason why we made no reference to these inquiries was that the reports of them have not been received by the Government. [An hon. MEMBER: Not all.] Some have; but the right hon. Gentleman will feel that it would be convenient and proper to have them all in our possession before we make any announcement on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman then, in a tone of which I am sure I have no cause to complain, referred to the paragraph in the Speech announcing that the attention of Parliament will be called to the state of the representation of the people; and I think the right hon. Gentleman, remembering, I have no doubt, his experience in the position which I now have the honour to occupy, felt how very inconvenient it would be if, on the first day of the Session, a number of inquiries were made the answers to which might only lead to misapprehension, and which would really not be fair to those who are responsible for the consequences. I will not trouble the right hon. Gentleman and the House at any length upon the subject, because, with the permission of the House, I mean to take, not only an early, but the earliest day at our command in order to bring the whole subject before the House. [An hon. MEMBER: What day?] Monday next. That is the first day at our disposal, and I then propose to state the course which the Government mean to take upon this subject, and generally to enter into the matter. I trust, therefore, that under these circumstances we may not be pressed to make any statements to-night, but that we may be allowed to reserve our views and state them fully on that occasion. The right hon. Gentleman has done justice to the important subjects which have been brought under the notice of the House in the Speech from the Throne. I am aware, as all must be aware, that it will require on the part of the House considerable effort to do justice to the several themes which will be brought before them. But reaction is the law of life, and it is the characteristic of the House of Commons. There have been complaints of late of indolence and want of assiduity on the part of this House. 76 It is said that we have passed through Session after Session without doing what-our duty required. Now, in this Session an admirable opportunity will be afforded to the House, and if they only follow the example which the Government are prepared to set by the devotion of their time and labour to the pursuit of these propositions, I think we need not be frightened by the quantity of business before us, but may rather look forward to the end of a Session which will redound to the public advantage and to the character of this Assembly.
Motion agreed to.
Committee appointed, to draw up an Address to be presented to Her Majesty upon the said Resolution:—Mr. DK GREY, Mr. GRAVES, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Mr. Secretary WALPOLE, Lord STANLEY, General PEEL, Viscount CRANBOURNE, Sir JOHN PAKINOTON, Lord JOHN MANNERS, Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE, Mr. GA-THORNE HARDY, Lord NAAS, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Mr. HUNT, and Colonel TAYLOR, or any Five of them:—To withdraw immediately:—Queen's Speech referred.
§ House adjourned at Seven o'clock.