§ SIR COLMAN O'LOGHLEN
said, that he had placed a Notice on the Paper, stating that he would call attention to the state of Ireland, and the legislation for that country proposed this Session by Her Majesty's Government. He should not, in the absence of so many Irish Members, propose a Resolution on the subject, as he had intended doing, because he did not think it right that Resolutions should be moved simply in order to be withdrawn. He wished, however, to call the attention of the House to the fact that no legislation had been effected by the Government to remove the discontent which existed in Ireland, and also to obtain some statement from Her Majesty's Government, and from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was really Her Majesty's Government, as to the policy which it was intended to pursue, and as to what would be done next Session. During the last eighteen months we had been compelled to suspend the Constitution of the country on account of an insurrection, the embers of which were even now not altogether extinguished. Upon every important measure brought forward during the present Session, tending to effect any improvement in the condition of Ireland or the Irish people, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had preserved what he might describe as a studied silence. When the Motion for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was brought forward the Chancellor of the Exchequer made no observations. On the two occasions when the Land question was submitted to the consideration of the House, no declaration of opinion was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When the hon. Member for Kilkenny introduced the question of the Irish Church for discussion the Chancellor of the Exchequer expressed no opinion. And even when the subject of Irish education had been brought forward by the hon. Member for Brighton the Chancellor of the Exchequer was still silent. This had appeared to him the more extraordinary, because the right hon. Gentleman had not always been so reticent. The right hon. Gentleman, for instance, in addressing his constituents on the 13th of July last year, acknowledged that the state of Ireland was very unsatisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman on that occasion said— 182I have no hesitation in expressing my own opinion, and I am sure it is also the opinion of my colleagues, that the condition of Ireland is not satisfactory to this country. When I observe, year after year, the vast emigration which takes place from Ireland I feel that it is impossible to conceal from myself the fact that we are experiencing a great social and political calamity. I acknowledge that under some conditions, and even under general conditions, emigration is the safety-valve of a people. But, Gentlemen, there is a difference between blood-letting and hæmorrhage. What I see in Ireland is not that scientific repletion which re-animates the health and gives vigour to the constitution, but a wasting away of nature, which, I think, ought to be staunched, and the political styptic which is required under the circumstances, it is the duty of Statesmen to discover.In spite of this opinion nothing had been done up to the present moment. Had the promised "styptic" been discovered? He trusted that before the evening was over the right hon. Gentleman would make a satisfactory announcement to the House. It might be well for a moment to compare Ireland with Scotland. In Scotland they saw the people contented and happy. If the Scotch had any grievances to complain of they were either sentimental grievances, or at all events grievances not brought before the House. But the people of Ireland were discontented and disaffected, and during the last twenty years the grievances of Ireland had been continually before the House. What was the cause of this difference between Scotland and Ireland? The great questions connected with the Land, the Church, and Education had been long since settled in accordance with the feelings of the Scotch people, while those questions in Ireland had remained unsettled to this day, and were still most fruitful sources of discontent. There could be no doubt that the vicious Land system of Ireland had been the cause of a great deal of the crime, discontent, and disaffection which prevailed in that country, and the different illegal associations which had from time to time existed in Ire-Land, as well as Fenianism, were to be attributed to that cause. Fenianism, there could be no doubt, had been created and encouraged in America by the wholesale system of emigration produced by the land system in Ireland. Lord Dufferin denied that the Land system had been the cause of the emigration, but Lord Lifford admitted that the Land system had been the cause of the emigration. He was not going to suggest what alterations were required in the Laud Laws of that country, 183 because it must form the subject of discussion in another Session, but all he now said was that it was a question that must be dealt with by Her Majesty's Government in a comprehensive manner if they ever hoped to remove that discontent which prevailed in Ireland, and make the people of that country happy and contented with the Government under which they lived. Then there was the question of the Church. In Ireland there were two Churches—one, the Church of the State, alien to the people; the other, the Church of the people, alien to the State. The Church of the State was the Church of the ascendancy party in Ireland, and had never enlisted the affections or feelings of the Irish people; while towards the Roman Catholic Church, which was the ancient Church of the country, the Government had so acted by obnoxious laws against her Bishops and clergy as, if possible, to disassociate them from the Government. It was not, therefore, to be expected that they should possess any other feeling than that of opposition to the existing Government of the country. Besides these two subjects there was the question of Education, which must be dealt with by the Government. It had been brought before the House this Session by private Members, and had been discussed, but in respect only of a mere fragment of the question as a whole. Some might think the system of Education now practised good, others might think it bad, but whatever the opinion of individuals it was certain that the system was not in accordance with the feelings of the people of Ireland. Therefore it was incumbent on the Government to examine as to the wants of Ireland in this respect, and supply a sufficient remedy. A Return had been moved for by the hon. Member for Armagh as to the number of Bills affecting Ireland which had been introduced to the House during this Session. With a single exception, not one of the Government Bills dealt with the main causes of Irish dissatisfaction. First came the Law Bills, and prominent among them was the Chancery Bill, which, after having been systematically opposed by the present Government, when in opposition, during three years, was now passed under the guidance of the Attorney General for Ireland. [Lord NAAS: I did not oppose it.] That was so. But the present Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, supported by hon. Members now on the Ministerial side of the House, defeated it for years. They had also passed a 184 Bill for creating a Judgeship in the Irish Court of Admiralty, and another Bill for regulating the officers of the Law Courts in Ireland. Were these the promised styptic for emigration? Surely none of them could be regarded as remedies for the grievances of Ireland. And what else had they? They had the Bills introduced by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary (Lord Naas) and in referring to him he did not wish to speak disparagingly of the conduct of the Irish Executive. The Government of Ireland had never been conducted in a better manner than it was at present. The Lord Lieutenant (the Marquess of Abercorn) had discharged the duties of his high office with a dignity and grace which, if equalled, had never been surpassed; and the noble Lord the Chief Secretary had conducted the Irish business in this House with the greatest possible courtesy, and he deserved the thanks of the people of Ireland for the manner in which he had administered the affairs of Ireland during a season of great difficulty. Every one acquainted with Ireland knew the pressure which had been brought to bear upon the noble Lord, to induce him to resort to coercion and oppressive measures, such as martial law and flogging, to put down Fenianism. Instead however of adopting such a course he had allowed the majesty of the law to be asserted in the ordinary way, and by the ordinary tribunals, for which he deserved the best thanks of the House and the country. Here, however, his praise must end, for he asserted that it was not sufficient for a Ministry to discharge merely the duties of the Executive. The functions of a Government comprised something more than this, and no function could be neglected with more serious consequences than that of taking the initiative in legislation when that legislation was demanded by crying evils. The reference made to the Land question in Her Majesty's Speech from the Throne had not been forgotten. Nothing could have been more explicit than the promise made in that pregnant paragraph. But what had come of it? The Bill introduced by the noble Lord (Lord Naas), although it had not met with the full approval of Irish Members on the Opposition side, was not opposed by them. They hoped to mend it in its progress through the House and would all have voted for it. But short and simple as it was it was opposed by Irish Members sitting behind the noble Lord, and the 185 other night the Order was discharged before the Bill had been read a second time. The few other Irish Bills were trifling in the extreme; they comprised two for building bridges, one for compounding the debts of Galway harbour, another to do the same service to the Limerick harbour, one or two for setting lunatic asylums in order; to these might be added the Habeas Corpus Suspension Bills, and there the catalogue ended. It might be said that the Government could not bring forward legislation of a comprehensive character for Ireland, because the House had been occupied with a much more important question—namely, the English Reform Bill. He did not think the slate of Ireland a less important question than that of the Reform Bill, but the latter subject naturally attracted more of the attention of hon. Members. He admitted, however, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had a more than ordinary arduous duty to discharge that Session. It must have been a great surprise to hon. Gentlemen opposite to find themselves suddenly transferred to the Ministerial side of the House—not through any triumph of their own principles, but through the dissensions among their opponents. The right hon. Gentleman had not only to prepare a Reform Bill, but a creed for his party, and to prevail upon his party to agree to it. That might be some excuse for inaction on Irish questions this past Session. But that formed no reason why the House should not be told what were the views of the Government on the affairs of Ireland, and what legislation was to be expected from them on the subject next Session. He knew that some persons thought legislation was not wanted for that country — that all Ireland wanted was to be let alone, when she would soon become the happiest land in the United Kingdom. But he did not believe that was the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the year 1844, in a debate in that House on Lord John Russell's Motion on the state of Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman spoke in a manner which showed that he deemed legislation necessary; and nothing had occurred since then to make him alter his views on that point. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman said—He wanted to see a public man come forward and say what the Irish question was. One said it was a physical question; another a spiritual. Now, it was the absence of the aristocracy, then 186 the absence of railroads. Let them consider Ireland as they would any other country similarly situated, in their closets. Then they would see a teeming population, which, with reference to the cultivated soil, was denser to the square mile than that of China. That dense population, in extreme distress, inhabited an island where there was an Established Church, which was not their Church, and a territorial aristocracy the whole of whom lived in distant capitals. Thus they had a starving population, an absentee aristocracy, an alien Church. This was the Irish question. Well, then, what would hon. Gentlemen say if they were natives of a country in that position! They would say at once the 'remedy is revolution'—but the Irish tenants cannot have a revolution—and why?—because Ireland was connected with another and a more powerful country. Then what was the consequence? The connection with England thus became the cause of the present state of Ireland. If the connection with England prevented a revolution, and a revolution was the only remedy, England logically was in the odious position of being the cause of all the misery of Ireland. What then was the duty of an English minister? To effect by his policy all those changes which a revolution would do by force. That was the Irish question in its integrity.Such was the declared opinion of the right hon. Gentleman on the Irish question as given in the pages of Hansard for 1844, when he was not, as now, a Minister of the Crown. He asked, was the right hon. Gentleman prepared to give effect to that opinion? Did he still regard the Irish Established Church as "an alien Church." Would he deal with the case of Ireland in the spirit of "resolution," or leave that country in its present condition, the prey of faction and a cause of misery to the whole kingdom? There is still an "alien Church" in Ireland: regarded by the people as a badge of conquest, it is a standing source of discontent. Is that anomaly to continue for ever? There is still in Ireland an "absentee aristocracy." Is nothing to be done to check absenteeism? The Church question may be dealt with by legislation, but absenteeism is one of the evils of Ireland that cannot be reached by legislation. Her most gracious Majesty the Queen, of whom he desired to speak with the profoundest respect, might by her example produce a most beneficial effect in that country in reducing absenteeism. If the Royal Family would occasionally live in Ireland, if they had a residence there, as in Scotland, it would do more towards putting down discontent and disaffection than regiments of soldiers, and bodies of police. The instinctive loyalty of the Irish character would be quickened by the personal presence of the Sovereign, which the Irish 187 people would feel as a compliment to them. The only way of checking absenteeism was by the example of the exalted Lady to whom he had referred, and that example would, he was sure, be followed by the aristocracy and landholders of Ireland. His chief object in rising this evening was to elicit from the Government some statement of their intentions with regard to Ireland. He was convinced that the Government could not devote their attention to a more important subject as affecting the welfare of the Empire than the Irish question; and if they would deal with it in the spirit which he had suggested — bringing the Land, Church, and Education questions in harmony with the feelings of the Irish people—they would make themselves beloved by the Irish people. He appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose genius he had always admired, and who had now as much power in this country as any Minister ever possessed, to favour them that evening with some notion of what course he intended to adopt next Session in regard to the Irish question; and he hoped his appeal would not be in vain, and that the response he would receive would be worthy of the occasion.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
felt that his hon. Friend had so well and so fully stated the position of the Irish question, that he should crave the indulgence of the House whilst he attempted to supplement his hon. Friend's statement by some few observations of his own. But then at the termination of a long Session, memorable as regarded its legislation towards the English people—barren, he regretted to say, as regarded his own country—he conceived it incumbent upon him, as the representative of a large and influential Irish constituency, to shortly review the situation, and in a calm and temperate spirit to suggest to the House considerations of interest to Ireland, founded on convictions long and honestly entertained. He (Sir Patrick O'Brien need scarcely say he felt the deepest pain at the necessity which had so long existed for bringing before that House (he might almost say in a moaning spirit) the state of Ireland. But he feared that for many years there had not existed a period when the future of that country should be viewed with greater apprehension. It was true that an insane attempt at insurrection had been suppressed; but the spirit which prompted it had been far from being extinguished, and how far the admittedly existing disaffection could be 188 removed — how far the dangers arising from it might be avoided, ought to, and he felt was, the anxious desire of every Member in that House, be he Catholic or Protestant, be he Tory or Liberal. He would admit that they could not hope by legislation to suppress Fenianism, but at the same time he felt convinced that an enlightened policy, vigorously carried into action, would remove the sympathy which existed for it, and cut off the supply of its recruits which that sympathy furnished. To thoroughly suppress the Fenian conspiracy more was needed than mere legislation. There must arise in Ireland, what heretofore unhappily had not existed, a union of classes, of races, and of religions. Their estrangement destroyed all mutual confidence, rendered them as aliens to one another rather than as united citizens of a common country, and prevented that feeling of common interest, socially and politically, which could alone arise from a perfect fusion. In Ireland the profession of the religion of the Slate by the humblest of its members, as well, he regretted to say, as by those whom education ought to have taught better, carried with it the idea of some fancied social superiority. They seemed to consider that being a Protestant in Ireland conveyed as it were a kind of Dutch polish which did not appertain to their Catholic fellow-countrymen. English and Scotch Members in that House could form no notion how that idea prevailed in Ireland, or how political, but more especially religious, distinctions kept classes and races dissevered. It was from this point of view that he regarded the Irish Church; he was not there to assault its theology or its discipline, still less was he prepared to battle over its temporalities, but it was as being a barrier to that social union of all classes that he was opposed to its continuance. Of the clergy of the Establishment he would speak no words of depreciation. In the University which he had to thank for affording him an education he had known many of them, with some of them he had formed friendships, and to their intellectual and moral character he could bear willing testimony; but in a great question of that description individual character was of small importance. He looked at the Establishment as the great cause of the separation and isolation of Irish classes, and, call it a sentimental grievance if they would, it stood in the way of the future union and happiness of the people, and in that sense he felt that 189 it ought not and could not be preserved. When a Fenian addressed an intended proselyte he spoke to him in a language which he understood — it was not of the ornate character which the great statesman Burke used in his famous letter "To a Noble Lord"—His grants were from the aggregate and consolidated funds of judgments iniquitously legal—and from possessions voluntarily surrendered with the gibbet at their door.But he conveyed the same idea; it was in words which were sown in a congenial soil, and he then pointed to his condition—a tenant, perhaps liable by no fault of his own, by no want of industry, but by, perhaps, the caprice of his landlord, arising from political, religious, or other motives, to be evicted from his holding, and this too in a country where his tenancy was his all—no manufactures to fall back upon—emigration or something worse his sole resource. In such a state of things was it surprising if the Irish people afforded a too willing car to those who attempted to inveigle them into conspiracy? To avert such a state of things something should be done, and he trusted that the hon. Gentlemen opposite would relinquish old prejudices and voluntarily grant what otherwise must be effected by legislation. The landlords of Ireland had in their own hands the power of effecting great results. Were they to grant leases to their tenants, of course at fair and remunerative rents, they would thus afford that security to the tenant, the absence of which was the source of so much evil; and he (Sir Patrick O'Brien) felt assured that if such were the case, and should the tenant on his part fail to perform his legitimate obligations, there would be no sympathy for him amongst his neighbours. No doubt such a course might at first blush seem distasteful to the landlords of Ireland. They had been brought up with ideas of high ascendancy, and an exaggerated notion of their political rights; but he believed that many of them, he might say the majority, were men of kindliness and generosity, and would waive even old established prejudices when their doing so would plainly appear to tend to the peace and prosperity of their country. For his own part he believed he knew something of Irish politics, and he could confidently assert that Government, by adopting an enlightened and generous policy, would strengthen their political position in Ireland more than they could conceive. One other question he 190 would shortly allude to. He (Sir Patrick O'Brien) gratefully acknowledged the obligation which he himself owed to the University for the education it afforded him, but at the same time he felt that the question for the Statesmen in that House to consider was not whether a secular or denominational system of education was the better, but rather which was the system the country demanded, which would they accept? Viewing then the all-important necessity of education, the crotchets of individuals as regarded particular systems should be disregarded. At that moment in Ireland the demand for denominational education was not confined to Catholics. The Protestant clergy were equally imperative in calling for religious education; and he for one felt that, when 4,000,000 people, through their recognized representatives, expressed their wishes upon the subject, no Government ought or could disregard them, or postpone their accomplishment in deference to the abstract opinion of a small section of the community, however enlightened or however influential. He had, at the commencement of his observations, expressed his conviction that religious differences were the curse of Ireland; and in reading, on the evening before, a speech of Mr. Shiel's, he had met a brilliant passage upon that subject, which he would ask the indulgence of the House to be permitted to read—But we are prevented by our wretched religious distinctions from co-operating for a single object, by which the honour and substantial interests of our country can be promoted, fatal, disastrous, detestable distinctions! Detestable, because they are not only repugnant to the genuine spirit of Christianity, and substitute for the charities of religion the rancorous antipathies of a sect, but because they practically reduce us to a colonial dependency, make the union a name, substitute for a real union a tie of parchment which an event might sunder; convert a nation into an appurtenance, make us the footstool of the Minister, the scorn of England, and the commiseration of the world.Those were the opinions expressed over twenty years ago by one of Ireland's greatest orators. They were, unfortunately, as applicable at the present time as they were in 1844; and he felt that there would be some hope for the country should they find an echo in the breast of every Irishman.
§ SIR FREDERICK HEYGATE
said, he was astonished that the hon. Baronet (Sir Colman O'Loghlen) had called attention to the distinction between the Land Laws of Scotland and of Ireland. The Land Laws 191 of the former country if carried out in Ireland would inevitably lead to a great displacement of property. The mode of land letting was totally unlike in the two countries. In the Highlands a great number of small farmers were removing as they were in Ireland. In the Lowlands of Scotland the farms consisted of large areas of land, containing in some cases 1,000 or 2,000 acres. Such a condition of things if introduced into Ireland would inevitably lead to enormous emigration. In Scotland the law of hypothec was so severe that the landlord could follow the tenant's cattle after they had left his land and seize them for the payment of rent. With regard to the Chancery Bill, which was for a great number of years before the House he was sorry the hon. Gentleman considered that he had given on that subject a factious vote. But he believed that the hon. Baronet had himself on one occasion defeated the Bill by joining the majority—no doubt by mistake—which excess of one vote rejected the Bill. With respect to the general question of legislation for Ireland it would be an unfortunate time, when agitation and rebellion were prevalent, to consider alterations in the great institutions of the country. Besides the hon. Baronet appeared to have forgotten that the great question of Reform had occupied not only the time of the Government, but almost the whole attention of the House. As to the Bills of the noble Lord, he confessed he thought that it would be fatal to the rights of landed property to allow a tenant to borrow money on the security of his landlord's estate without his landlord's consent, and he had suggested the very course which had been adopted in the other House—namely, that it be referred to a Select Committee. Still it was by Gentlemen opposite, and particularly by the hon. Member for Galway, that those Bills had been most strenuously opposed. As to recent emigration, he attributed it to the emigration of past years. It was only human nature that persons who received so striking a proof of the superior prosperity to be enjoyed in a foreign laud as was afforded by remittances from their friends who had preceded them, should have a strong desire to seek their own fortunes abroad. A gentleman of great authority, who had come over from America for the express purpose of investigating the true condition of Ireland, informed him that he had found the country in a far better state than he had been led to believe, and that 192 he was convinced that no legislation could have prevented emigration. A great deal had been said about Fenianism, but it could not fairly be attributed to the causes stated by the hon. Baronet. Among the causes to which he thought it might be owing, one was the effect of the large previous amount of emigration to America, and to the remittances which had been sent over from the United States, not in small mites, but in large sums, given by some of the first merchants in New York. He asked the same high authority, who had come to this country from the other side of the Atlantic, why the people there went on subscribing their money, as they could not suppose that the population of Ireland was powerful enough to overcome England? The gentleman replied by asking why the people in this country subscribed money to enable the Poles to rise against Russia without the remotest chance of success. There was, he said, no accounting for it. He came to inquire whether Irish distress and emigration arose from bad legislation, and he stated that he found Ireland in a better condition than he had expected, but that the temptations to emigrate to America were so great that it was impossible for any legislation to stop it. Another cause was the succession of bad seasons. The Government had been charged with neglect of the interests of Ireland. But it was not time to make great alterations when the country was not at peace. Upon many subjects connected with Ireland no insignificant progress had been made during the present Session. The Government had assented to the issue of a Commission with respect to the Church in Ireland. The Land question had been debated in that House, as also in the House of Lords. A Committee was sitting on the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill. The question of the Irish railway system was after all the most important, perhaps, for Ireland. The Government had pursued the sensible course, not of taking for granted figures hastily brought forward, but of referring the question to a most pains-taking Committee. He felt certain that, if the Government should be able to see their way to a sound and practicable measure, they would bring it forward next Session. The question of education was a most difficult one but when they were told by the hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House that every individual in Ireland was in favour of the denominational system, he must, on behalf of one of the provinces of 193 Ireland, express a contrary opinion. He could adduce in proof of his assertion the Report on the subject of the National schools, from which it appeared that the number of pupils under instruction in those Schools was progressively increasing, and the average attendance last year was greater than before. It was a remarkable fact that out of a population of 5,400,000 the attendance at the National Schools numbered 900,000. He could not hear the general statements condemnatory of the landlords of Ireland and remain silent, being convinced that they would allow no private interests of their own to stand in the way of any measures which would promote the prosperity of the country. Hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House were by no means indifferent to the true interests of Ireland; they were quite prepared to support measures founded on justice and truth, and likely to promote the real advancement of the country.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, he was quite ready to admit the very kindly and candid disposition of the hon. Baronet; but those who knew anything of Ireland must be well aware of the reasons why that part of the country with which he was connected had so greatly prospered compared with the other provinces of Ireland. The Land question was settled in Ulster: there they had tenant-right, while the three other provinces had no such advantage. In Ulster, the Church question was settled: the Established Church enjoyed its revenues; the Presbyterians had the Regium Donum; and with the Queen's Colleges there was no educational difficulty; but the other provinces were made the scene of constant oppression and misgovernment. What was the real condition of the South of Ireland? As a rule, there was no security for the tenant—no protection for his industry. He knew there were many great improving landlords; but, as a rule, the state of things was that leases were discouraged in three of the provinces of Ireland. Let him suppose a man in Tipperary. He held from year to year—he might make improvements, but, if evicted, he had no claim for compensation, and his landlord might turn him out a beggar. There were hundreds of such cases. In Ulster there existed a sort of tenant-right which protected the tenant in case of eviction, and enabled him, at any rate, to make sure of having some money in his pocket when he had to leave; but in Tipperary a man might be evicted, and he had no right 194 to protect him—nothing that he was able to dispose of to the incoming tenant. Something was wanted similar to what existed in Ulster, and that would be given by leases. It was unfair to twit hon. Members with having opposed the Bill of the noble Lord. The hon. Member for Galway had only done by that Bill what they had been invited to do, and what they had done, in the case of the Reform Bill, rendering it by their suggestions, Motions, and Amendments, a great scheme, worthy not of one side or the other, but of the British House of Commons. The Bill of the noble Lord was good so far as it went, but the hon. Member for Galway was right—it could not be satisfactory without leases. It would only hold out with one hand what it destroyed with the other. What was wanted was a measure that would appease the deeply-seated discontent of Ireland. He knew it was too much the habit to despise the Celtic people. He would tell the House, then, what he had seen they were capable of under good legislation and generous treatment. He had been in the other House of Parliament in March last year with a Roman Catholic Bishop from New Brunswick. A noble Lord was addressing the House, and expressing his deep regret that emigration was draining away the life-blood of Ireland. Earl Grey used some such expression, when a gentleman standing near said to the Bishop—I don't agree with Earl Grey; for unless Irishmen leave the country—unless Ireland be re-peopled with Englishmen and Scotchmen, there is no chance of her prosperity.The Bishop knew he (Mr. Maguire) was about to go to America, and asked him to come and see with his own eyes a living refutation of the implied slander. In company with the same Bishop on his late visit to New Brunswick, he went 200 or 300 miles up the St. John's River, and into the heart of an essentially Celtic settlement. What did he see? In 1861, the first man and woman went into the living forest, where no human foot but that of the lumberman had ever trodden. The second year another man and woman went there; the third year the settlers began to pour in in lance numbers. He was there in October, 1866, when he saw 600 human beings in the settlement. They passed through a long avenue of the forest, and from a moderate eminence saw a vast plain—miles of it cleared and dotted all over with human habitations. He was in fifty 195 of these farms and houses. He scarcely saw one shanty—in most instances they were large, roomy, log cabins. There were cows, horses, hogs, and barns bursting with produce. Not only were there large and commodious log cabins such as settlers in the United States and British colonies were content with for years, but he saw fourteen or fifteen large framed houses, as good as any he saw in the United States, occupied by these people, who had scarcely £600 among them when they first entered the forest. That was what the Irish people could do when the opportunity was afforded them, and he had known it done in a hundred other instances. Among the people who dwelt in that clearing were those who had been cleared from estates in Ireland. He was told by a member of it of a family who, having been robbed, stripped, and plundered by a landlord in Galway, had been driven by sheer disgust and destitution across the ocean, and was now rising every day in wealth and independence. Instances of this sort were enough to show that the Irish peasantry were as competent as any peasantry in the world to become laborious and thrifty, if the road were left open to them; but in Ireland it was not. Let them compare what was done in the colonies, in the matter of land, with what was done at home. In Prince Edward's Island, some time since, a league was established for the avowed object of resisting the payment of rent. Now, they did not talk of this in Ireland; all they wanted was security against the oppression and the unreasonableness of the landlords. The result of the agitation in Prince Edward's Island, however, was this—that the Colonial Secretary (Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton) sanctioned a plan for disposing of land in the island belonging to absentee landlords at a reasonable price, and for distributing it among the old as well as among new tenants. He believed that, under this arrangement, a vast property of 110,000 acres belonging to the Cunard family had been broken up. The Parliament of Canada had also, with the sanction of the Home Government, purchased the seigniorial rights that interfered with the independence of the tenants, though their pecuniary value was only 2d. an acre, at the cost of £1,000,000; but the Home Government refused to sanction in Ireland that which they had cheerfully assented to in the colonies. What had been done for Ireland? Twenty-five years ago the hon. Gentleman had described her 196 condition in the gloomiest colours; and the same language was as true now as it was then. Was not the question of the settlement of Ireland equally important with the settlement of the Reform question? For his own part, he hoped that the question of Reform would not be heard of again in that House for the next twenty or twenty-five years. Of course, in saying that he did not wish it to be supposed that he alluded to the Irish Reform Bill, which he hoped would be carried next Session. Ireland wanted peace, and it was only by contentment that peace could be obtained. One great cause of Irish discontent was owing to the Established Church in Ireland, which inflicted a badge of degradation upon that country which would not be submitted to for a moment by England or Scotland. They had been told that the men of Ulster were against tearing up the old institutions of the country; and he was against tearing up those which were worth preserving. Was the Established Church in Ireland worth preserving? There was no dominant Church in Scotland. The Established Church there was the Church of the majority. ["No, no!"] Well, he would leave Scotch Members to settle that question among themselves. At any rate, they had not in Scotland one eleventh of the population possessing all the ecclesiastical revenues of the country. Scotchmen would be very different to what he took them for it they would stand for twelve months being treated on the question of their Church as the people of Ireland were treated as regarded their national religion. [Mr. WHALLEY: How about Wales?] He had nothing to do with that country, and the hon. Gentleman might answer that question for himself. Again, the question of education should be settled in accordance with the wishes of the vast majority of the Irish people. The hon. Baronet who spoke last stated that Fenianism was chiefly the result of bad seasons; but he could tell them that the feeling of discontent in Ireland had been deepened—he did not say caused—by the denial in this country of the existence of distress in Ireland in 1860–1–2–3. He had no desire to use threatening language, but he warned the House and the people of England that such a feeling of animosity and vengeance existed among the Irish in America as would some day or other prompt them to endeavour to plunge the two countries into war—a result that would be calamitous, indeed, 197 for Ireland, but would be calamitous also for the two countries. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had at present more power than any man in England, possessed the heart and the courage for the attempt, he might immortalize and render his name far more great and glorious as the pacificator of Ireland than as — he would not say the juggler of Reform, but as the carrier of a Reform Bill. In the one case, the right hon. Gentleman would gain eternal honour; in the other, a mere party triumph. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would rise to the comprehension of the question, and would grapple boldly with the causes of Irish discontent. He must not, however, be understood as placing the Church, the Education, or the Railway question, before the Land, for this was the fundamental point. The Church might be settled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a single Session, and Education in a single speech; but unless the people remained in the country it could not prosper. If Parliament shrank from Compulsion, let them hold out inducements to landlords to give leases, for with security of tenure the humblest peasant in Connemara, Cork, or Tipperary would become loyal and contented. He would then be as strong a Conservative as the gentleman who had the highest rent-roll. It had been said that there was an analogy between Ireland and Scotland. He contended that there was none. In Scotland no man would take a farm unless he could obtain a lease; but, in Ireland, he was obliged to take the farm whether he could procure a lease or not. If 1,000,000 more of the population crossed the Atlantic, a feeling of burning hatred would be aroused which would hereafter cause our Statesmen to mourn over neglected opportunities of conciliating the people and removing the causes of discontent on this side of the Atlantic and of machination on the other. Irish Members would return home with the miserable satisfaction of having made places for a few eminent lawyers, but of having still left their countrymen ready to listen to the wildest whisper of rebellion. Our Statesmen would mourn in sackcloth and ashes that they had not availed themselves of the opportunity of conciliating the people of that country. In the name of Ireland, and in the name of this great Empire, he asked the House not only to save Ireland, but to prevent the safely of the Empire from being endangered.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he did not concur 198 with the hon. Member for Cork in thinking that the Land question went to the very root of our Empire. His own theory was this—and he challenged the Chancellor of the Exchequer to deny it—that the real evil? of Ireland — that which distinguished Ireland from Scotland and Wales, and which distinguished Irishmen from Englishmen—was entirely, absolutely, and exclusively, the action, policy, and mode of procedure of the Romish priesthood. ["Hear, hear!" and a laugh.] This was evinced in every page of our Statute book and in every page of our history, ever since Ireland had been made the head quarters of the Romish priesthood. He thought some better answer should be given to this opinion, which he stated distinctly, than ribald interruptions, ridiculous exhibitions of laughter and the extraordinary silence of the Government. He had offered in every form and shape to prove his statements by evidence. He had asked for Committees, and had challenged contradiction of his statements. But his attempts had been thwarted in various ways—sometimes by the House being counted out, sometimes by one device, sometimes by another. Something more was required than ridiculous assertions of the grievances of Ireland by hon. Gentlemen below the gangway. What were the grievances of Ireland? What were the grounds on which the House was called upon to incur unlimited expense in regard to the Fenian insurrection, which according to the authority of the Prime Minister, contradicting the statements of his predecessor, were an exact continuation of the proceedings of 1848, those being an exact copy of all former insurrections? The Fenian insurrections which had been put down were to be identified, not with the Land question, but with nil the preceding Irish rebellions, from 1641 downwards. The three great questions affecting Ireland were the Land question, the Church Establishment and Education. He called upon the House to remember the solemn warning of Sir Robert Peel when he granted Roman Catholic emancipation, which he described as the last effort for the conciliation of Ireland. The Roman Catholic priesthood said, "Grant us that, and we shall be satisfied, and we will never interfere with Established Church; we only want our civil rights." Sir Robert Peel said if that attempt was not succesful they ought never to make another concession. But this as well as all other attempts made to conciliate 199 the priesthood had failed. The hon. Member for Cork had alluded to the difference between Scotland and Ireland. What were the differences between these countries with respect to the Land question, the Established Church, and Education? In Scotland there was an Established Church which was not the Church of the majority of the people; but the old Church and the Free Kirk travelled harmoniously together the road to salvation. In Wales a larger proportion of the people than in Ireland dissented from the Established Church and supported their own Ministers. In Wales, which was occupied by a race more alien in habit and language than the Irish, they heard no such complaints as were sent up from Ireland, and if he or any one else attempted to preach sedition in that country he would be looked upon as an absolute lunatic. But from Ireland they heard cries of distress at every excess of rain or cold, and at every ordinary casualty. The difference between Ireland and Scotland and Wales, with respect to the Church question was this — the Romish hierarchy in Ireland found it a convenient means of arousing the passions of their own people and of disparaging the character of this country, to point out the apparent injustice of a Church Establishment supported by the endowments of the State, whilst a large body of the people were obliged to support their own ministers. The object of the establishment of that Church in Ireland was not to indoctrinate or teach the Thirty-nine Articles, or any other creed, but to bring under the control of the Sovereign and the State, the religion of the country, so as to protect the country against that foreign invasion, which came in not with the sword of the conqueror but with the slipper of the priest. What was the difference between Ireland and Scotland and Wales with respect to the Land question? The Irish people said they wanted permanent rights. The Common Law of England showed that all the freehold land got gradually out of the absolute possession of the old landlords, and large blocks got into possession of the present tenants, first by custom the basis of copyhold tenure, which had merged into freehold. In Ulster the people, by arrangement with the landlords, had made agreements which were useful to both parties. To suppose that the Irish people were more interested in having their improvements secured than the people of this country was a mistake. But that matter, like everything else, was taken 200 advantage of by the Irish priesthood, who laughed in their sleeves when such pretences were put forward. Was not the House rendered contemptible and laughed at by the people of this country when continuous debates took place on questions which every farmer thoroughly understood? The fact was that the Romish priesthood took advantage of the distress which they by their own practices had inflicted on the people, and acted upon that ignorance which it was their main business to perpetuate. On the point of education, it was well known that the Roman Catholic priests claimed, in the name of their religion, the exclusive right to teach the children of their faith. What was the remedy for that? To repeal the Catholic Emancipation Act, or re-enact the penal laws? He was as far from recommending such a course as any hon. Gentleman in the House. The people most deeply interested in securing a remedy for Ireland's wrongs were the Roman Catholics themselves, and the policy he recommended was this—he would have them made acquainted in the fullest and most complete manner with the doctrines held by the priesthood, and the manner in which they acted as men and teachers. ["Agreed!"] The Irish Members might well be agreed with him in this, for they might well be anxious to seek liberty from the bonds by which they were enthralled. When the people thoroughly understood all the devices of Popery, it would be for them to decide whether they would live under such a system, and whether they would have exclusive denominational religion for their children. If the parents still wished to have the denominational system, and to put their children exclusively into the hands of the Roman Catholic priesthood, then let them have it. But it was not the people of Ireland that desired the denominational system. It was the work of Dr. Cullen and the priesthood. He would undertake to prove that the emigration which had lately taken place from Ireland, was not to escape from the oppression of England, but to escape from the oppressive exactions and the dictation of their own clergy. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would take up the challenge which had been made by the hon. and learned Member for Cork, and enter upon the inquiry he (Mr. Whalley) advocated, he would have opportunity to obtain a position in the history of this country and of the world such as few 201 men before him had ever obtained. It was only yesterday that he had a conversation with a Member of the Italian Parliament, who said to him that if they held up to the people what were the doctrines and the practices of the Roman Catholic clergy, that even the priests themselves — all but those who had shared the highest prizes of the profession—would say, "Oh, yes, we are glad you have found us out, we shall be glad to get rid of this system, and we will heartily join the people." No men more heartily despised the system and doctrine of Popery than the Italian priests, and all they wanted was men like Garibaldi to protect them.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Clare that the House is about to disperse at a time when the state of Ireland is very unsatisfactory. When, indeed, we remember that the Habeas Corpus Act remains suspended in that part of Her Majesty's kingdom, to say that the state of Ireland is unsatisfactory is inadequately to describe its condition. The truth therefore of the statement will not for a moment be challenged. I would go even further than the hon. and learned Member for Clare, and say that most persons interested in Ireland, especially those responsible for its government, must view the state of society in Ireland with great regret and anxiety. But I have not heard from the hon. and learned Member for Clare, nor from any Gentleman who has addressed us, any intimation that they attribute the peculiar condition of their country to the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, or to that of our predecessors in office. It therefore becomes us to consider whether the causes which have led to a suspension of civil rights in Ireland have not arisen from something totally irrespective of any system of government established or encouraged by England. The present condition of Ireland has been occasioned probably by a combination of circumstances almost unprecedented in the history of any other country. There never was an instance before of such an external influence as has been brought to bear upon Ireland, creating disaffection to a certain degree, but exciting alarm in a much greater; exercising over a society which, as a rule, shows no spontaneous sympathy with this external agency, such a baneful control. Much is already known to the House of the working of this external agency; much of it also still remains to be made 202 known. Probably the day will soon come when fuller particulars of this occult influence will be made familiar to us all. At present, however, the action of this agency would greatly perplex, if not baffle, the energies of any Government, and I think I may claim credit to the present Government for the manner in which it has exercised, under circumstances of painful difficulty, the great powers which Parliament in its patriotic wisdom has intrusted to it; for, while the action of the Government has preserved tranquillity among the people, it has done so without having recourse to anything at all approaching tyranny.
The hon. Member, pursuing his consideration of this subject, quoted a passage from an address which I delivered to my constituents when I had the honour of accepting office. In that passage I deplored the general condition of Ireland, with especial reference to the vast tide of emigration which was then taking place, but which I am glad to know is at this moment diminishing. [Lord NAAS: "Hear!"] I listened to the hon. Member as he read that passage with attention, and heard no word which I can regret or that I wish to re-call. Even if produced by inexorable economical laws, I must regard the violent and sudden diminution of the population of Ireland as a political calamity. When we remember how much the Empire owes to the hearts and arms of Ireland, we cannot help feeling that it is a question whether the strength of the Empire has not been diminished by this drain upon her people. Therefore, I do not regret the declaration of that opinion, which was well considered, nor do I think I have reason to withdraw any expression which I then used with regard to the means which might be devised to prevent, or at least to lessen, this drain upon the population. I was then in communication with my noble Friend who accepted office at the same time as myself, and we had freely conferred together and with our Colleagues on that subject. It was the result of our consideration that it was by no means impossible to devise some measures which might have a remedial tendency in that respect. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork, laid it down that the emigration from Ireland was entirely to be attributed to the want of a satisfactory tenure of land in that country. He said that all they wanted was the Ulster custom; that if they had in Ireland generally the custom of Ulster 203 with respect to tenure they would be satisfied. I listened to that observation, of the hon. Gentleman, and I have heard it made before. But when I consider that the amount of emigration from Ulster in proportion to its population is greater than the emigration from any other part of Ireland, I am somewhat perplexed as to the conclusion at which I should arrive. I do not deny that a great deal may depend on the relation between landlord and tenant. But if I am correct in the statement I have made in regard to the amount of emigration from Ulster, it shows how very complicated the causes must be which have brought about this state of affairs, and that the simple statement of the hon. Gentleman must not be accepted as being at all a satisfactory solution of the present position of Ireland in that respect. Thinking that the relation between landlord and tenant in Ireland might be improved. Her Majesty's Government, by my noble Friend the Chief Secretary, introduced measures with regard to that subject. Of course, they had the complete adhesion of the Cabinet, and personally, they had on my part a strong conviction of the enlightened wisdom of their general policy. But what reception did they meet with? That they were not mean measures, nor conceived in a petty spirit, and that they aimed at dealing largely with the subject, must, I think, be evident from the subsequent comments made upon them by many gentlemen whose confidence we generally have, but whose approval at first we did not possess. On that occasion our Friends, the expression of whose opinion has been adverted to to-night, behaved with the utmost forbearance. They were not willing to discourage us, even if they hesitated for a considerable time in the expression of their opinion; and they were prepared, I believe, at the last moment to make many concessions. But what reception did our proposals meet with from hon. Gentlemen opposite, who on this question had taken very leading and determined parts, and who had made use of very strong expressions in relation to it? I must say I do not remember any measures ever brought forward which were received with more captious criticism, or in a colder and more discouraging manner. One hon. Gentleman, the Member for an Irish county, who had over and over again dilated on the absolute necessity of any Government dealing with the question of the relations between Irish landlords and tenants, although we had 204 introduced our measure—a measure of no mean proportions—stated in my hearing that it was a mere mockery, and that he preferred the present state of affairs to that which our proposals would produce. What was said by another Member for an Irish county, then sitting opposite to us? "You have brought forward a measure of compensation to the tenant,—compensation is all moonshine." That was the very expression I heard used. What encouragement, therefore, did we get from Gentlemen who had declared that the subject was one which must be dealt with by the Government of the day, whoever might compose it? What prospect is there of settling this difficult question if, while those who are supposed to represent generally the interests of the landlords are prepared to meet their opponents in a spirit of concession, those, on the other hand, who year after year have insisted that compensation to the tenant should be the principle of a regenerating policy in respect to land in Ireland get up in this House and tell you that compensation is all moonshine? I mention this in vindication of the Government. We hear it stated that we have not attempted to legislate for Ireland. I take the greatest subject of all, that of the land. You have always told us that the Church question, that the Education question, is nothing as compared with the Land question. I say then that, although the time of the House has necessarily been greatly absorbed by other important questions, we have brought forward large measures with reference to the relation of landlord and tenant in Ireland—the largest and most liberal measures, I believe, ever brought forward by a Ministry. And I say that we did not obtain from hon. Gentlemen opposite, who arrogate to themselves the function of exclusively representing the interests of the tenant, the slightest encouragement, but rather a reception calculated to prove fatal to the course and conduct of our legislation. Yet now we are told that, although they spoke in terms of such intense depreciation of our proposals, they were resolved to give us their assistance. I think, therefore, that we are not open to the accusation of the hon. and learned Baronet as regards the Irish Land question and the relation between landlord and tenant, and that we have not been neglectful of Ireland even in the present Session. But now it is said, "After all, the question of leasing is the whole question. Give them power, and take 205 steps that leases should be granted, and the whole question may be deemed to be satisfactorily arranged." The hon. Member who made that observation must have forgotten that, besides the more considerable measure introduced by my noble Friend the Chief Secretary, there was also a leasing measure introduced, which was treated by hon. Gentlemen opposite as though it were hardly worthy the consideration of the House. Therefore, the charge of the hon. and learned Baronet has fallen entirely to the ground. He may return to his constituents with the consolatory conviction that he has not only discharged his duty to their interests; but, what is more, has given to his political opponents the opportunity of entirely exonerating themselves from his imputation.
But we are told that we have wholly neglected another subject for legislation; and extreme disappointment has been expressed that, during a protracted debate the other day, in which the question of Irish education was involved in connection with one of its most eminent institutions, I did not give the House my opinion. I was not, I believe, present at so much of that debate as I ought to have been Public affairs called me elsewhere. But I watched it with great interest, and I am pretty well aware of what took place and of the division which occurred. I found the hon. and learned Baronet, and many of his Friends, of whose opinions on Irish education I thought I had some cognizance, supporting the motion of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) with regard to Trinity College. But the success of that motion would have placed that institution in the category of those Queen's Colleges, the establishment of which has been so much denounced, and the general character and tenour of which have been held up to so much general public reprobation. Without questioning the propriety of the conduct of the hon. and learned Baronet and his Friends, I must own I was perplexed by it. While it seems that he was astonished at the non-expression of my opinions, I was somewhat surprised at the expression of his, as they appeared to me contrary to all the opinions which he has before expressed, and which his Friends have supported. But the question of Irish education has not been neglected by Her Majesty's Government. It is one of great difficulty. I have no wish to conceal my belief that the question of a Roman Catholic University is not to be neglected; 206 and that it is a subject which should be met, I hope, in a spirit of wisdom, I do not say by both sides, but by all the parties who have entered into the controversy on that matter. While the question is one of great difficulty, it is one which I think ought to be considered and settled. I trust that by all the parties connected with the controversy there will be exhibited such a spirit of conciliation and wise forbearance that we may arrive at a conclusion which will be for the public advantage.
There is another question which the hon. and learned Baronet says he is surprised I have not favoured the House with my opinion upon this year, and that is the question of the Irish Church. The hon. and learned Baronet is exceedingly disappointed because I did not take the opportunity of speaking in a debate originated by the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) on the subject of the Irish Church. If I thought I could at all advance the prosperity and welfare of Ireland by following in the line of those who indulge in historical invective as a means of remedying political discontent, I might also have taken some part in that debate. But debates on the Irish Church consisting substantially of announcements that that institution is a badge of conquest, and ought therefore to be subverted, appear to me to be only encouraging a vein of expression and feeling which cannot in any way conduce to the welfare of that country. The great misfortune of Ireland has been that too much has been destroyed, and too little renovated; and I cannot bring myself to think that by going on indiscriminately destroying we shall produce a state of affairs in that country to be desired. Even if there were no other or higher considerations involved, when we are told that Ireland has suffered, and is still suffering, from absenteeism, a course of policy which would drive a large body of intelligent, pious, and, to a certain degree, opulent, resident gentry from that country does not seem one which should commend itself to our adoption as conducive to its welfare. The hon. and learned Baronet also quoted a passage from another speech of mine, which I made several years ago—in the year 1844 I think—on the subject of Ireland. It was unnecessary for him to quote that passage with the elaborate accuracy he did, in order, of course, that my memory with respect to it should be thoroughly refreshed. I believe I have heard it quoted at least six times this Session; and there has hardly been a Session 207 of Parliament for the last ten or fifteen years in which it has not been brought to my recollection. Well, Sir, it is a rhetorical passage. What degree of error it may involve is another question, and one which I shall not now trouble the House by discussing. Rhetorical passages must always be subject to criticism. They convey general results. But I may just say that the hon. and learned Baronet and all his predecessors by whom this passage has been quoted—though I have not ever thought it worth while to trespass on the time of the House by making any remarks on the point—have quoted it most unjustly. The passage has reference to the peculiar condition of Ireland in 1844, when the great Irish orators who then flourished among us were in the habit of telling us night after night that we were responsible for the good government of what they familiarly but ardently described as the teeming population of that country. The hon. and learned Baronet, however, tells me to-night — and his predecessors by whom the passage was quoted always said the same thing — that nothing has been altered in the position of Ireland since I made these observations. But that is not a true statement. The greatest changes have taken place in the state of that country during the interval. The teeming millions which were described as giving for every square acre a population greater than that of any part of England no longer exist. The 8,000,000 by which Ireland was then peopled have dwindled down to 5,500,000. Thus, one of the most material causes of her peculiar political position, which I painted, it may be, with a somewhat coarse brush, but, as I believed at the time, and believe now, with no little degree of truth, has undergone a vast change. Ireland does not to-day present to us the singular spectacle which she did in 1844, of an immense teeming population in an impoverished land. The statistical and political circumstances—and the political must always depend a good deal on the statistical circumstances of a State—are greatly altered. The very conditions under which the problem is to be considered and solved are widely different. The diminution of the population of Ireland by 2,500,000 is one of those great changes compared with which none of the great events that occur in the history of a nation, as conquests, for example, can be regarded as of greater importance. It is, in fact, one of the greatest and most 208 remarkable events which have occurred in the history of any country; and that the hon. and learned Baronet and his Friends should, under those circumstances, twit me year after year with having uttered expressions in 1844 before that change, and ask me whether I am now, since that change, prepared to act in accordance with those expressions, is really, not only unjust, but, to a certain extent, absurd. The great diminution in the population of Ireland, one of the most remarkable events of our century, must therefore be taken into account in considering the condition of that country. What may be her future condition, and what it may be in the power of Governments and Legislatures to effect for her, I cannot pretend to foresee. All I can say is that personally the present Government take the deepest interest in that important portion of Her Majesty's dominions. I should like to see Ireland—what her gifted race deserve that she should be—a thriving, a happy, and a prosperous land. That is a result which I believe may be brought about by a combination of those circumstances which only, in my opinion, can realize good government—a desire, on the part of those in authority, to govern with justice, and, on the part of those who are governed, to meet, in a spirit of forbearance and gratitude, the efforts of those who are sincerely anxious for the amelioration of their condition. When I remember what Ireland has been and what she is now, her ancient history, and her present condition, the eminent men she has produced, the gifted race who possess her soil, and the great assistance which England has always received from her connection with that island, I cannot think that in an age, which is an age of progress, and which is marked each successive year by some considerable improvement in all the principles of good government, she has not a brighter destiny before her than that which, unfortunately, within our experience has been her lot. I hope the population of Ireland may be sustained; that it has been greatly diminished by different economic causes no one can deny; still, by the improvement of agriculture, the promotion of manufactures and the arts of life, by a combination of various industries, and by avoiding a too great devotion to one source of the wealth of nations. I trust her position may be, not only greatly, but rapidly, improved. Of this I am conscious—and I speak for my Colleagues as well as myself — that no 209 material advantages can alone satisfy a nation, and that the Government of Ireland must be—as I trust it now is—inspired by principles of justice, and animated by a due deference to the fair claims of the people who inhabit that country.
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
I have heard with the deepest surprise the speech which has just been delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I can hardly venture to express to the House the feelings with which I believe that speech will be received throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. As I understand that speech, and as most hon. Gentlemen sitting near me understand that speech, it amounts to a distinct declaration on the part of Her Majesty's Government that they have done all they intend to do with regard to the Irish Land question; and that they consider they have done enough to justify themselves for not atttempting to do anything effective next year, by referring to the manner in which their measure on this subject was received this year. For my own part I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has really any cause of complaint because of the Amendments proposed in his Bill by the Irish Members. The Chancellor of the Exchequer complains that the Irish Members have clamoured for leases, abandoning the once popular doctrine of compensation for improvements. The complaint comes to me as a novelty, which I have heard for the first time, that the Irish Members repudiated the doctrine of compensation. Why, that is the doctrine which they have so long advanced on behalf of the Irish people, and which has been so earnestly supported by all who were desirous of seeing a settlement of the Irish Land question. Some phraseology may have been made use of by some persons in the heat of debate which has escaped my memory—that may seem to the right hon. Gentleman to warrant that allegation; but I can assure him that he labours under a grave misapprehension if he rests under the belief that, for one moment, the Irish Members repudiate the docrine of compensation. They one and all hold it to be a most essential doctrine, that there should be legislative protection granted to the tenant. If a tenant, by his industry, his capital, or his labour, which is his capital, improves the land he occupies so as to make it more valuable, and so as to render it fit to produce a higher marketable value, we say that man ought to have the benefit of the improvements which he himself has 210 made, and that he shall be compensated for the improvements which he has created. [Lord NAAS: Hear, hear! That was my Bill.] I am glad to hear the noble Lord cry "Hear, hear!" I have described the principles for which we contend, but those were not the principles enunciated in the Bill which the noble Lord introduced. The noble Lord wished to enact that the tenant in occupation should be debarred from all right to improve his land in certain respects without the written consent of the landlord. Six classes of improvements were recognized in his Bill, three of which the Commissioner might give him power to make, while he could not make the others without the written consent of the landlord, and these latter three were the most important in an agricultural point of view for the occupying tenant. Examine into the agriculture of this country, and you will find the best agricultural authorities declaring that the essential improvement of the land is to be effected, not so much by drainage, not so much by fencing, not so much by putting houses upon it, but that the great improvement in the land is effected by properly cultivating, digging, ploughing, and manuring it, and rendering the soil more productive. There is no authority which has laid down that doctrine more clearly than Mr. Caird in speaking of the backward condition of the land in Norfolk for the want of proper arrangements between the landlord and the tenant. If you examine into the practice of agriculturists in Ireland, you will find that the tenant, when his lease is expiring, feeling that he has no security for the improvements which he has made, in justice to his own conscience, and the interests of his family, exhausts the land, and gets back from it as much as he can before he surrenders it. He knows, perhaps, that he will not get a renewal of his lease, and therefore he is bound to get as much of the capital he put into the land back from the land as he can while he is permitted to remain on it. The moment a lease is approaching towards its termination the tenants try to "scourge the life out of the land," and to exhaust it; and it is handed back to the landlord in a worse condition than ever. This may, to some extent, account for the unwillingness of some landlords to grant leases. Having said so much in reference to the Land question, I think it will be a very strange announcement for the Irish people to hear also that Her Majesty's Chancellor of the 211 Exchequer said that, as regard the Church question, he desires, on behalf of his Government, to announce that he will take no part whatever in settling that question. Can any man have heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to-night without coming to the conclusion that that is the meaning of it? He says he will be no party to driving 2,000 or 3,000 educated gentlemen, who spend £200 or £300 a year each, out of the country when so much is said about absenteeism, and the only defence he is able to make for the Irish Church is that the money wrung from the people, and put into the coffers of this alien Church, is spent in Ireland by a certain number of gentlemen; and those gentlemen are to be continued in that alien Establishment in order that they may spend their money in that country. The right hon. Gentleman states emphatically that he will not touch the question of the Irish Church, and I would ask is that not a grievance in Ireland winch the Government of this country is bound to deal with? Let us look at the condition of Ireland for one moment. Is it a condition which is satisfactory to any party in this House? Is it a condition which is satisfactory either to the Members of the present Government or to the Members who formed the late Administration? The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that the condition of Ireland is very much changed since he delivered his speech in 1844. But are we not daily reading in the journals of Ireland, no matter whether the opinions of the paper be Whig, Tory, Radical or Liberal Conservative, appeals made to the charitable inhabitants, imploring them to subscribe for the purpose of saving the lives of the people in the West of Ireland? Is this not a shame to the Government and Legislature of the country? The population may have been decimated and reduced by 2,500,000, as the right hon. Gentleman says, but whose fault is that — to what is that due? Is that a result for our rulers to be proud of? If we have not the teeming population, have we not still the alien Church and the absentee proprietary, for which a strong Government ought now, as when discussed before, be expected to produce remedial measures? The people are less numerous, but the Church is not less alien, and if it ought to have been removed according to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman; because it was alien at that time, he ought, before defending it now, to demonstrate that it has 212 ceased to be alien and is one with the people. This question has been ably debated and fully discussed, and I should have been unwilling to have intruded any details upon the House, but I could not quietly sit and hear the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the Liberal Irish Members, and those who represent the agricultural interests in that country, have abandoned the question of compensation. They do not give up the claim to compensation, but they desire that, along with compensation, there should be given a certainty of tenure which should secure them against eviction. We desire them to have a sense of safety, and, if they add to the value of the land, that what they do add should not be confiscated from them; there is no injustice to the landlord in that doctrine of compensation. The principle of compensation is this—not that the tenant shall receive from the landlord a sum which may have been recklessly expended on the soil by the tenant—but that he shall receive compensation for the actual improvement which he can show he has effected in the condition and marketable value of the holding; that, in fact, the tenant shall receive compensation from the landlord in proportion to the amount of improvement which he may have effected in the annual value of the land by his industry and his capital. That is our doctrine of compensation. We have been often told in this House that tenant property is protected at present, and that it requires no compensatory legislation to secure him in the full fruits of his industry. But it is not so; the moment the property of the tenant touches and becomes mingled with the property of the landlord it ceases by law to be the property of its rightful owners, and is confiscated to the sole use of the landlord. If a tenant farmer purchases a cow, or horse, or sheep, he acquires a property in the animals so purchased. If, however, instead of investing his money in cattle, the tenant farmer proceeds to the adjacent town and spends £20 or £100 on bricks, on draining pipes, and on guano, surely it will be admitted that his right by purchase to a property in the bricks, the drain pipes and the guano is as complete and perfect as would be his right by purchase to the cattle. Well, so says the law, and if any robber waylay the farmer on the high road and take away that property he will be treated as a felon. But if that tenant use those bricks to build a house on his farm, 213 if he use those pipes to drain and improve his land, if he scatters that guano over a ploughed field, and so incorporate his hundred pounds' worth of purchased property with the soil of the landlord, that property, which the week before was his, and to take which without his consent would be felony, ceases to be his, is by law confiscated to the landlord, and the tenant who bought it, paid for it, and whose by right it is, ceases to be the owner of it in law, and would be prosecuted if, after his eviction, he attempted to possess himself of his own property. We want, then, that this law shall be changed, and that all the bonâ fide property of the tenant shall be his—his at all times, and shall not be confiscated by being brought into contact with the property of the landlord. And now, Sir, as regards Education, the explanation which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given is fair and candid. He boldly states that that question ought to be dealt with, and he asks the House to give it a frank and generous consideration. I think hon. Members will cheerfully give that promise; I think I can speak on behalf of a number of Irish representatives near me, and say that we are ready at once to enter into a conference for the purpose of considering what ought to be done in a broad and generous spirit. The principle which ought to be held in view is this—that as those Protestants who wish to enjoy a University education can do so without let or hindrance to the full development of their religious opinions—arrangements ought to be made for granting University degrees to the Roman Catholic students, and that there shall be a College or University which shall be full and free for the instruction of Catholic pupils in those principles of religion which they are taught to revere. If the right hon. Gentleman had been as plain with regard to the Land question, and if he had asked us to go into a conference on that question in a manly, frank, and generous spirit, we should have received the announcement with the greatest possible gratification. I ask Her Majesty's Government, and those who support it, to look at the condition of Ireland from another aspect? Are the people contented? Are the middle classes well affected towards the Government? Do the gentry in Ireland feel secure in their homes, and safe against the recurrence of those disturbances which have taken place during the past two years! Is not the present disaffection owing to the want of confidence 214 of the whole masses of the people in the justice and impartiality of the governing powers of this country? That remark applies not only to the present Government, but those who preceded them, although I must say the last Government did endeavour in some respects to legislate for the people of Ireland. But mere intentions will effect little: coercive laws you have tried often, but always in vain. For once let the English Minister try the effect of generous and comprehensive measures of justice.
LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, it was not his intention to follow the rambling discussion and useless dissertation upon Irish questions generally which had been entered upon by hon. Members opposite, without the slightest explanation of how they were to be dealt with in the present Parliament. The real key to the cropping up of the Land question was that hon. Gentlemen would soon have to meet their constituents and explain how it happened that a Bill meeting the wants and wishes of the Irish people had failed to become law this Session. That Bill not only afforded compensation for the capital which was spent upon the land, but also for the labour which contributed to give it its real value. Those who had prevented the Government from carrying this Bill now attempted, by raising illusory and profitless discussions, to conceal what their own line of action had been. Everybody knew from the state of public business in the present Session how little time any individual measure could command. The proposal, therefore, to add a profitless rider—in other words, a simple obstruction to the passing of the Bill, showed, on the part of any one knowing the usages of the House, a palpable, barefaced determination to render legislation impossible. To charge upon the Government the consequences of the acts of Gentlemen opposite approached very closely to hypocrisy. The Irish people would be very much deluded if they put faith in statements made with that object in view. The hon. Member opposite might assert for himself that he had never repudiated the doctrine of compensation, but he acted with those who did, and the effect upon the Bill was precisely the same. It was their fault that there was not at that moment upon the Statute book a sound and useful enactment for giving compensation to tenants in Ireland for improvements. It was the want of practical good sense and practical honesty on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite which was the bane of 215 Ireland. He should like to know where were the eloquent voices of Irish Members on the Opposition Benches when really good Bills for their country were introduced. It seemed to be the desire of many Irish representatives rather to have a popular grievance than to have sound legislation for Ireland. To represent the landlords of Ireland as aided by the soldiers and police in seizing the property of the unfortunate tenants was a favourite illustration of professional agitators fond of maligning their countrymen; but the people ought by this time to place a just value on the idle declamation so characteristic of some of the Irish representatives, as distinguished from the practical good sense of the English and Scotch representatives.
§ MR. PIM
said, there was one observation made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer which surprised him much, and that was that the Irish Land Bills of this year were the most liberal measures on this subject ever submitted to the House. He did not think that they were so liberal as those introduced upon former occasions by Conservative Governments. The measures introduced by the present Prime Minister, when Lord Stanley, and by the Conservative Government of 1852, might both advantageously compare with the Bills of this year. But it was not a material question now whether the Bills of this year were liberal or not. The Bill of the late Government had been accepted as a settlement by some of those best entitled to the respect of the Irish people in connection with this subject. The essence of that proposal, as stated by Lord Dufferin, the ablest defender of the landlord view of this question—Was to leave the right of contract perfectly free; but to substitute, where no contract existed, a presumption that, within certain limits, any improvement made by the tenant was his property.Lord Dufferin also says—That it cannot be disputed that such a declaration on the part of the law is no interference with the right of property,—and thatIt is in some such compromise, if in any, that a solution of the Irish Land question is to be found.Legislation in reference to the Land question ought to have in view, first, to give the most ample scope for contracts; secondly, to afford the utmost facility for enforcing contracts; and, lastly, in the 216 absence of contract, to establish, by rule of law, the presumption that the ownership of the improvements was in the person who made them. The proposal of the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland (Lord Naas) in the present Session amounted, to some extent, to an adaptation of the Montgomery Act, which had been of great advantage to Scotland. But the noble Lord's Bill would not work well in Ireland, because it contained restrictions which the Montgomery Act did not contain, and withheld powers which the Montgomery Act gave, so that the legislation proposed in the present year was inferior to that which was enacted a hundred years ago in reference to Scotland. The subject had now been before Parliament for a longer time than the Reform question, and he was not without hope, notwithstanding his discouraging tone, that it would receive the serious attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that, at the commencement of next Session, they would see better prospects of its being dealt with by the Government. The Act which had been passed 100 years ago for Scotland had settled the Land question in that country. If a similar measure had been passed for Ireland, he believed that similar satisfactory results would have followed. He deprecated the hostility of the Ulster Members to the discussion of the Land question. He believed that they were opposed to it under the impression that it was mixed up with religion. He wished he could disabuse them of that notion, and then he might hope that they would discuss it with impartiality. It was not a question of Protestant and Roman Catholic. It was not even a mere tenant's question, but one which concerned the whole people, and the proper settlement of which would raise the condition of landed property for the benefit of the whole nation. It was true that the religious question exercised an important influence in Ireland. The Roman Catholics demanded equality, and they ought to have it. It was urged that equality would not satisfy them; but that if they obtained it, they would next demand supremacy, for which they required equality as a stepping-stone. Being a Protestant he could not pretend to answer for Roman Catholics in this respect; but this he would say, that nothing less than equality ought to satisfy them, and that no Protestant Member of that House would, under similar circumstances, rest content without it. The real question is, how far are their claims just? And the best way 217 of acting would be to do as the lawyers did in a disputed case—namely, pay the money into court. Give the Roman Catholics what they were fairly entitled to, and trust to public opinion to prevent their demanding, at least with success, what was unreasonable. When justice was done, Protestants would be better able to resist unjust demands. The condition of Ireland was most unsatisfactory, and he did not see how it would be better in twelve months than it was now. It was regretable that the Habeas Corpus should be suspended; but he believed that that suspension worked for the benefit of the country. He did not attribute the bad feeling which prevailed in many parts of Ireland to any one cause. He believed that it was the result of various causes—the fruits of oppressive government during the long course of centuries, and it was not to be got rid of without time. It would, however, be got rid of in time, for the circumstances of England and Ireland rendered it impossible for the two countries to be separated, and the people would ultimately adapt themselves to each other. It was impossible to review this subject without reference to the past. Ireland had been in times past systematically oppressed and kept down—the Roman Catholics by the Protestants, both by England. He would support himself by the authority of the late Sir George Lewis, as quoted by Lord Dufferin. Sir George Lewis says—At the same time that a wide and impassable line was drawn by the law between the two religions, and the one persuasion was made a privileged, the other an inferior class, the whole of Ireland was treated as a province or colony, whose interest was to be sacrificed to those of the mother country. Hence arose the restrictions on Irish commerce—on the exportation of corn, cattle, and woollen goods—avowedly for the benefit of England. A system of government administered in this spirit, and in a country where a people were already in a state of great rudeness and disorder, necessarily led to the degradation and demoralization of the bulk of the population.The present circumstances are the natural results of such a policy. Our fathers sowed the wind, and we are reaping the whirlwind. The recovery must be the work of time; but before the healing influence of time could commence, every portion of that which was unjust must be rectified. Every splinter of the arrow that inflicted the wound must be extracted by a skilful hand before the wound could be healed, and that had not yet been done. Before recovery could be effected 218 there must be a removal of all injustice, and of all semblance of injustice, to Ireland. Hon. Gentlemen representing the North of Ireland referred with just pride to the condition of Ulster, but it ought not to be forgotten that the linen manufactures planted there were encouraged by England, while its policy was to discourage the woollen manufactures of the South. Mr. Cobden remarked on this subject that—If we look to the prosperity of Ireland's staple manufacture—the only industry that was tolerated by the Government of this country—it warrants the presumption that, under similar circumstances, her woollens, or indeed her cottons, might equally with her linens have survived a competition with the fabrics of Great Britain.It should be recollected that full justice would not be done by the mere cessation of injustice. There should be reparation also; but he did not look for reparation for the past, but only justice for the future. Unhappily there was no national sentiment in Ireland — no real public opinion existing amongst the people. The parties are not Whigs and Tories, or Liberals and Conservatives, but Roman Catholics and Protestants. The question of religion was a constant source of disunion. Every public matter that was mooted was viewed as it affected Protestant interest on the one side, and the interest of the Catholic Church on the other. Until this question was settled there was no hope of union, of the formation of a sound effective public opinion, or of the existence of a general feeling of nationality. The feeling of nationality was not necessarily antagonistic to England. National feeling was strong in Scotland, and the feeling of union with England was strong also. The great effort of Statesmen ought to be to remove religious inequality in Ireland. Nothing would give peace to Ireland except the removal of the inequality under which three-fourths of the population laboured. Equality was justice, and that equality ought to be established. He hoped that the subject which had been debated that night would receive more attention from the Government than the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had led them to expect, for no man was better fitted to settle the question than he was. He believed that questions affecting Ireland could never be settled so well as by a Conservative Ministry, who, having shown their power by settling the Reform questisn—for he might say now that it was 219 settled—could certainly settle the Irish question also. No one knew more about the Land question than the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, and he felt certain that if they had further opportunities of discussing these subjects, much less difference would be found to exist between the noble Lord's views and those entertained by the country than was generally thought. He trusted this subject would be taken into the anxious consideration of Her Majesty's Government, with a view to a satisfactory settlement of a long-vexed question, and one which from its present condition was a source of great and general discontent.
§ MR. MONSELL
I never was present at a debate that gave me greater pain than the one we are now engaged in. It is abundantly evident that neither my noble Friend the Member for Tyrone, nor the Chancellor of the Exchequer, appreciate in any degree the dangerous position of Ireland and the peril which that position involves to the United Kingdom. I am most anxious to avoid anything which can have even the appearance of party conflict, so I shall say but little on my noble Friend's speech. He scattered broadcast imputations of hypocrisy, bad faith, and ignorance, on everybody who happens to differ from him as to the best mode of settling the Land question. That question is one of great difficulty. My noble Friend (Lord Naas) deliberately avoided in his Bill the question of tenure. All other compensation Bills had indirectly tended to promote some security of tenure. There really was nothing extraordinary if hon. Gentlemen at this side of the House, who considered that no measure that did not promote the giving of leases could be satisfactory, had given expression to that opinion. They had done so fairly, and it required somewhat of a heated imagination to discover in their conduct any grounds of complaint. I pass on now to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. A distinguished Statesman, just before the French Revolution of 1830, said he should be less anxious if Prince Metternich were more so. I certainly should feel much more hopeful as to our prospects if I could discover in the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer any real conception of what the state of Ireland is. I am happy to find that the grievances arising from the present state of University education in Ireland are recognized by the right hon. Gentleman, and 220 that he is prepared to redress them. At this side of the House we shall be prepared to give a candid consideration to any proposals he may make on the subject; but I must say that he has very much misunderstood the course we took on the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton. I submitted an Amendment to that Motion which, if it had been carried, would have preserved the distinctive religious character of Trinity College, but would have opened the University of Dublin to the whole nation. Trinity College rejected my proposal. It deliberately preferred that the Dublin University should remain the University of a sect to a proposal which would make it the University of the nation. My right hon. Friends the Members for Louth and Merthyr Tydvil and I, believing that, without religious equality the evils of Ireland cannot be cured, had but one course open to us:—If Trinity College refuses to open its privileges to the whole nation, in our opinion those privileges ought to be abolished. We wish to "level up;" if we are prevented from doing so we must only "level down." I sincerely trust that we shall not be driven to persevere in this course. I hope that the eminent men who direct the councils of the University will not insist on preserving a monopoly which is an anachronism, and that before the next Session comes they may have acquired a little more wisdom, and I must add foresight, than have characterized them during the late debates. I have expressed my satisfaction as to the right hon. Gentleman's statement upon University education. I must say — and I say it without the slightest tinge of party spirit — that my satisfaction with the enunciation of the views of the Government ends with that statement. The right hon. Gentleman limits the action of the Government on the landlord and tenant question to the Government Bill of the Session, which, notwithstanding the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that it was the most liberal Bill introduced on the subject, is, I venture to say, far less liberal in its provisions than the Bills of 1845 and 1853, and obviously, as I have already pointed out, does not touch, or attempt to touch, that vital question of tenure with which the Bill of the late Government dealt. The right hon. Gentleman's measure will, at all events, give no satisfaction in Ireland. On the Church question the right hon. 221 Gentleman is explicit — he gives us no hopes that he will even touch it. I do not think his attempt to reconcile his present inaction with the views he so eloquently put forward in 1844 very successful. He says, that Ireland had a teeming population, at the earlier period, and that now her population had diminished. If he had been able to show that the relative numbers of those who belong to the different religious bodies there had been materially altered, he would have used an argument of some weight; but the fact was otherwise — the members of the Established Church are nearly in the same proportion to the whole population now that they were then. The injustice of appropriating the funds destined to supply the spiritual wants of the whole nation to a minority remains unchanged; and while the funds remained the same, those to whose use they were exclusively appropriated had diminished from 850,000 to 650,000. But while the Chancellor of the Exchequer was explaining away his former wise and liberal views, what was occurring in Ireland? Never in the memory of any living man was there such deep-rooted disaffection as there was now. Never were the minds of the people so alienated from the Government under which they lived. They were indifferent to the action of Parliament. Their eyes were turned not to Westminster but to Washington. That disaffection prevails among the lower classes no one would deny; but it goes up much higher in the social scale. I do not refer to actual Fenianism, but to that feeling of hostility to Great Britain which is from day to day becoming more intense. I have made inquiries on that subject which satisfy me that this feeling pervades, not the town population only, but also the farming classes. It pervades the vast majority of those who pay less than £100 a year rent. Many of the younger members of the families of even larger farmers share it. Most of the shopkeepers in the smaller towns, and many of the smaller shopkeepers in larger towns are in ardent sympathy with it. What is the newspaper that is waited for with the greatest interest? The Irishman, which is full of unmitigated treason. If you want to get a frame for a picture, you find the framers and gilders overwhelmed with demands for frames for General Burke's portrait. You see placards in the streets of the large Irish towns advertising 222 Voices from the Dock, — in other words, pamphlets containing speeches delivered by the Fenian prisoners at their trials. Only the other day, at Dungarvan, many of the respectable inhabitants showed the direction of their sympathies by providing champagne and every delicacy of the season for some American Fenians arrested there. At Waterford, not long ago, the mass of the people in one part of the town hurried out at short notice to rescue some Fenian prisoners who were marching through the town. These were the sort of things which were taking place every day in the South of Ireland, and which demanded the most serious consideration of this House and of the Government. Has any Cabinet ever devoted to that consideration one-tenth part of the time it bestowed on the compound-householder? Is any verification of the truth of my description asked for? Look across the ocean—Cœlum non animam mutant quiTrans mare currunt.Does not every Irishman who lands in America at once become a Fenian? Does the voyage change his opinions? Is it not manifest that there he only professes openly the political creed he may have concealed at home? Here then is the result of 600 years' connection between England and Ireland—military occupation—suspended liberties—universal discontent, and a new Irish nation on the other side of the Atlantic, re-cast in the mould of democracy, and watching for an opportunity to strike a blow at the very heart of this Empire. Now, let me ask what is the cause of this disastrous combination? Is it destiny? Is it a wayward fate? Must we fold our hands in despair? Are we powerless in this emergency? Is it impossible for two distinct races such as the English and the Irish to be cordially united in feeling? Look at Alsace. There you have a population of German race—speaking the German language, separated only by a river from the rest of the German race: and yet the inhabitants of Alsace are as thoroughly French in feeling as the inhabitants of Touraine, and woe to the Germans who endeavour to tamper with their allegiance. Well, then, if race is not the obstacle to concord, is it religion? Look at Silesia—in 1742 Silesia was taken from Austria and annexed to Prussia. From that day to this Catholic Silesia has expressed by word and deed nothing but thankfulness for the transfer it underwent, 223 and, as was shown in the war last year, no part of the Prussian dominions contains a population more devoted to the House of Hohenzollern than the Silesians are. Look again at Canada—look at the Canadians of French origin. All history teaches the same lesson, justice and equality have a binding force which nothing can destroy. But, Sir, let me ask is it not the most natural course to go to the Irish people themselves, and find out from them what is the cause of their dissatisfaction? You will find that they all will give the same reason. I am going to repent what my hon. Friends who come from Ireland have heard usque ad nauseam. The people of Ireland say that they are not governed according to their own wishes, or feelings, or requirements, but according to the wishes or prejudices of the people of England. They say that they have no effectual control over their Government, which is controlled by England, and that measures admittedly just and suited to Ireland are abandoned because the Government of the day is obliged to conform its measures, even those that regard Ireland alone, to the views, often ignorant, and to the narrowest prejudices of the people of Great Britain. I do not say whether this view is right or wrong, but I can vouch for its being the opinion, nay the conviction, not only of the peasantry but of the middle and farming classes in the greater part of Ireland. ["No, no!"] I do not know who says "No, no," it must be some one not very well acquainted with Ireland. I see now who it is. It is the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General for Ireland. The other day that learned Gentleman said that the people of Ireland were not at all discontented. To the authority of a Gentleman who made such a statement it is quite unnecessary to oppose any argument. What the people of Ireland, then, ask is to be governed according to their own requirements, just as the English and Scotch are according to the requirements of their respective countries; and they point to two remarkable instances in confirmation of the view that Irish interests are sacrificed to English opinion. They take the Land question, an old grievance, for more than two hundred years ago Sir John Davies said—No care is taken of the inferior people. Tenants-at-will, by reason of the uncertainty of their estates, did utterly neglect to improve the land.They say that Parliament recognized this 224 grievance twenty-two years ago—that it deliberately admitted that the Irish law of landlord and tenant was not adapted to the wants of that country; and yet, in spite of eloquent speeches and the exertions of eminent statesmen, nothing had been done to redress the grievance. Over forty Bills have been introduced—not one that touches the admitted grievance has been passed. They ask—not, I think, unnaturally—would an English or a Scotch grievance have been so dealt with? Next they turn to the question of the Irish Church. For a longer period, even than twenty-two years, ever since 1834, the most eminent orators and statesmen have declared that no grievance like it exists, or ever has existed, in the world. Nowhere else, as Macaulay, Brougham, Lord Grey, C. Buller, &c. — a cloud of distinguished witnesses — have proclaimed, are the funds destined for the spiritual wants of a whole people appropriated to the exclusive use of a small minority. But eloquence, and reason, and authority, and logic, have been powerless against prejudice. An injustice pregnant with evil to the social state of Ireland—an injustice the magnitude of which you have so long admitted — remains untouched. Can you wonder that the Irish people compare your admissions with your acts, and believe that they are governed according to the wishes and prejudices of the people of England rather than according to their own requirements? Do you wonder that they resent the deprivation of that which Guizot in his last volume declares to be the end of representative government—namely, that the people should have a constant direction and effectual control in their own government—that they should be ruled, not according to abstract principles but according to the peculiar wants generated by their own special circumstances? If you mean to satisfy them, then, you must give them what they reasonably and justly ask for, not what those at a distance think suitable for them. Let them be the judges in their own concerns. It is, believe me, perfectly idle to attempt to change the condition — the perilous and menacing condition of Ireland—unless you gain the hearts of the Irish people. Those hearts you never can gain until you remove the impression that English policy or prejudice, not Irish interests, rule your deliberations. No advancement in national prosperity—no improvement in the material condition of the people 225 will do anything so long as that policy of injustice rankles in the mind of the people. Indeed, the more educated they become, the more they are able to compare their lot with that of the inhabitants of other countries, the more acutely they must feel their own wrongs. I earnestly entreat Her Majesty's Ministers seriously and deliberately to consider this matter. Depend upon it our present position is charged with danger—do as you would be done by, Give what you would wish for yourselves in similar circumstances; I ask for nothing more. Regulate the Irish Land question, not according to English ideas, but according to Irish wants; regulate Irish education so that the rights of conscience may be held sacred; regulate the Irish Church according to those immutable principles of justice which your most eminent statesmen have so often proclaimed in discussing it. Do to Ireland as you Mould that she should do to you if she were strong and you were weak. Do this — make those that are not Fenians loyal, and you need not trouble your heads about the Fenians. Act thus, and you will soon obliterate from the Irish heart the memories of the past. On the other hand, if you refuse to do this, do not be blind to the consequences — you will have perpetual discontent deepening from day to day, and you will do best if you confine yourselves to one law more—one to make the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act perpetual.
§ MR. O'BEIRNE
defended the conduct of those who repeatedly pressed upon the attention of the House the complaints of the Irish people, and maintained that, instead of improving, the condition of Ireland had deteriorated since its union with England. The words uttered by the noble Lord at the commencement of the Session were quickly re-echoed on that side of the House, and the Irish Members thought they were words of hope, yet now at the end of the Session of 1867, not a single step has been taken in the way of good legislation for that country. He was determined to support any man who proposed good measures for the benefit of Ireland. But he was disappointed. The promises of the Liberals were fair, but their performances were nil, because before they had the opportunity to fulfil them they were driven from their places. He believed that Mr. Gladstone had a sincere feeling in favour of what he might term the Irish question, and he should be glad to see him 226 in a position to carry out his views. At the same time he admitted that the promises of the present Government were equally fair, and he concurred in the encomiums lavished on Lord Naas, but whether it was the Reform Bill, the pressure of business, or the laxity of conduct which seemed to come over a man when he entered on office, there was no question that he had not fulfilled the promises he had made to meet the difficulties of the Irish question and heal old sores; for his speech on the 2nd of August last, in which he said it was the duty of the Government to propose to Parliament measures for the benefit of Ireland, remained a memento of those unfulfilled promises, No doubt the noble Lord had, in concert with the Cabinet, inaugurated the Session with earnest zeal. He introduced two Irish Bills of importance and he (Mr. O'Beirne) had heard with surprise the unfounded assertion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that they were not received with encouragement by Members on that (the Liberal) side of the House. It was true that these Bills did not go the length desired by the Irish Members on that side of the House, but they never meant to throw any obstacles in the way of their passing, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was grievously in error when he made that statement. But the noble Lord, when he laid these Bills on the table, seemed to have finished his work as the legislator and benefactor of Ireland. They continued dangling before the House in such a way that it appeared to him that there was really not much intention to press them forward. What had happened? The "massacre of the innocents" commenced a few days since, and amongst that massacre those two Bills were conspicuous victims. It was a mockery to introduce measures which were never intended to be carried. The noble Lord should tell them at once that he did not mean to legislate; if he did, those Bills ought to have been carried through at all hazards. The Reform Bill had been made the excuse for not dealing with this subject; but it would have been more straightforward, more honest to have told the House that the time that would be occupied by the Reform Bill would prevent Irish legislation, in which case he did not believe that any member from that country would have objected to delay the question till next Session, if a disposition had been shown to deal with them at the earliest possible period. Such a policy as that 227 which had been pursued tended to foster distrust and create dissatisfaction which was nearly akin to disaffection. He suggested no threat, but, if this policy was continued, a day might come when the whole force, physical and mental, of this kingdom, might be found inadequate to stem the torrent of rebellious disaffection which might now, by well timed conciliation and concession, be altogether avoided. The Irish people were generous, but sensitive, and he regretted to say that many of the speeches delivered in the House by the hon. Gentleman near him (Mr. Whalley) had caused considerable dissatisfaction in Ireland. That hon. Gentleman said that he was an echo of the feelings of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but the echo of the hon. Gentleman bore the same resemblance to the Chancellor of the Exchequer as the celebrated Killarney echo did to the original sound. In Killarney the question put was, "How are you Paddy Blake?" and the echo was, "Very well, I thank you." He could not help expressing his regret that, so far as any indication had been given by the Ministry, there was very little chance of any good measures for Ireland emanating from that quarter.
said, he would not have attempted to address the House at that hour were it not for some remarks which had been made by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. His indisposition to address the House was not owing to the circumstance that he did not appreciate the importance of the question, but because he believed no practical good could arise from the discussion. They had heard tonight a great deal which they had heard before about the grievances of Ireland. In many respects those grievances had been most eloquently described, but when he looked for a practical remedy he heard none proposed. He did not intend to follow the various speakers in the remarks they had made. They had said a great deal which would command the attention of the country and excite much interest in Ireland; but as regarded the particular accusations brought against himself on the subject of the Land Bills he desired to say a few words. An imputation had been thrown out by the hon. Gentleman opposite that these Bills were not introduced with the bonâ fide intention of carrying them into law. He was the best judge of that, and he could assure the House that no speech was ever made with a more sincere intention of carrying those Bills than that which 228 he made in the beginning of this Session. He believed that, if passed, they would have conferred a great boon upon the county, and when it was said on the other side that he had not proposed them as a settlement of the question, he must have been too modest in the language which he used in introducing the Bills. He said on that occasion that he could hardly hope to succeed where so many men of great ability, knowledge, and eloquence had failed. But he also said that if those Bills were passed they would go a long way to remedy many grievances ostentatiously put forward on behalf of the Irish people, and that they would offer a simple and easy mode of obtaining compensation for real improvements in the land. He did not think, therefore, that he was open to the imputation of having brought forward those Bills without an intention of passing them, or as a mere attempt to touch the outside of this great question without contributing to its solution. It would be safer and wiser if the House were to deal with the question of compensation separately, and leave the question of tenure by itself. If this Land question was ever to be dealt with, these two subjects of compensation and tenure must be kept apart. His opinion was that if the House attempted to deal with the latter question with the view of forcing the proprietors to give their tenants any particular form of tenure the attempt would be defeated. He had endeavoured, therefore, to deal simply and practically with the question of compensation. Whatever might be said of the details of the Bill upon that subject, no one could deny that its object was good. That object was to redress a grievance which had been put forward again and again on the part of the tenantry of Ireland. And yet it was said that any measure of compensation was mere moonshine, and was not asked for by the Irish people. He was filled with astonishment that Gentlemen, who for years had been clamouring for something of that kind, should turn round and say, "That is not what we want at all; compensation is a mere bagatelle; what we want is a measure on the subject of the tenure of land." He should be glad to see the practice of giving leases more prevalent in Ireland. The question was a very critical one, and no doubt likely to give rise to considerable difference of opinion. But he would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that before they recommended anything in the shape of compulsory leasing, 229 they ought to show that the granting of leases led to fin improvement in the cultivation of land. If the discussion on the Land Bills had proceeded he should have been prepared to show in the clearest manner that it had never yet been proved that the leasing of land would be a panacea for the ills of Ireland. He believed there was one thing which would lead to the giving of leases, and that was, if the tenantry themselves could show to the proprietors that where leases were given for a reasonable term, there industry, thrift, and the comfort of their dwellings were promoted. That would be the best argument to produce in favour of giving leases. He was not at all prepared to say that the granting of leases was not going on to a certain extent gradually, slowly, and steadily, and he was very glad of it. But he believed that if the giving of leases was to be promoted, it could best be done by the tenants placing themselves in a position to say to the landlord, "If you will give me a lease I will show you that I am both able and willing to treat the land in the best possible way." It was quite a mistake to imagine that there were no such things as lenses in Ireland. It was of course very difficult to give statistics on the subject, but he had consulted a great number of persons who were well acquainted with this matter, and their impression, which he believed was not far wrong, was that out of the whole of Ireland between one-fourth and one-fifth of the land was at the present moment leased. Beyond that, too, if the demand for leases on the part of the tenants were greater the system of leasing would be much more general than it now was. He had had some personal experience in this matter, and he found that the anxiety for procuring leases was by no means so great as had frequently been asserted in that House. Fixity of tenure was promoted more by the present system than it would be by a system of leases. As long as men remained yearly tenants they felt tolerably certain that the farms would remain under their care from year to year, from father to son, without any increase in the rent, whereas, at the termination of a lease of fourteen or twenty-one years, they felt equally certain that there would be a re-arrangement of affairs which might not perhaps be so advantageous to them as they might desire. To that fact a great deal of the prosperity of Scotch agriculture might be attributed. But the Government had evinced the disposition 230 which they felt in this matter by introducing a Bill—for the provisions of which, indeed, they took no credit, inasmuch as they were due to the late Government—for promoting and facilitating the granting of leases in Ireland. In introducing the Bills which they had brought before the House the Government had been actuated by no other desire than to contribute something towards the settlement of this long-vexed question. If the Bills had been withdrawn it was simply because the great measure, the consideration of which had taken the place of every other subject during the last five months, had utterly precluded the possibility of sufficient time being given to other important questions. He did not pretend to maintain that they had proposed any legislation of a very important character; in fact, the Bills with which they had been able to proceed could not have been pressed forward at all if they had been seriously opposed. They had, as a rule, been taken at a late hour of the night, when it would have been impossible to have discussed any measure of cardinal importance. He felt certain, therefore, that the failure of the Government in this respect would not be attributed by the country to any indisposition, or want of courage to deal with the subject. He had a strong hope—indeed, he anticipated with a confidence almost amounting to a certainty, that the important questions which required solution might yet, in a succeeding Session, be settled in a satisfactory manner if Members on both sides approached them in a spirit of compromise, and with a sincere desire to procure their settlement. That would be especially the case in reference to the subject of Education. It was their duty to endeavour as fully as possible to meet the wishes of the Irish people. The opinion of all classes in that country was that religion ought to form a portion of the educational system, whether in schools, Colleges, or Universities. By keeping that principle in view we should be able to approach the consideration of these questions in a manner which would give satisfaction to the Irish people. He could not help expressing his surprise at the division which had taken place the other day on this subject. A Motion on that occasion had been brought forward by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) insinuating in the strongest and plainest terms the necessity for a system of mixed education in Trinity College. An Amendment 231 was moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell) which if it meant anything at all meant that the system to be pursued in the College in future should be a denominational one. The two propositions were directly opposed. The one was as clear, as decided, and as emphatic a negative to the other as could possibly be. Yet the Amendment was withdrawn, and the advocates of denominational education in the Universities went into the lobby with those who were in favour of a directly opposite system. This was not calculated to facilitate the question; but he hoped that the conduct pursued on that occasion was a matter of chance, and arose from the opinion entertained by some hon. Members that if the whole system of Trinity College could not be altered it was better to leave it alone altogether. He was not, therefore, without hope that the course pursued on that occasion was more the result of accident than design. He felt convinced that the question of University education in Ireland could be settled in a manner which would be satisfactory to the Irish people. He would only say, before sitting down, that he and his Colleagues felt deeply the responsibility attaching to every person connected with the administration of Ireland in the present time. The past year, he could assure the House, had been one of deep responsibility. He would make no attempt to say anything in defence of what had been done in regard to Fenianism after the kind and flattering terms in which it had been referred to that night; but he could not sit down without expressing a hope that the events of the past year would not be forgotten by the Irish people. If anything could show them how foolish, how hopeless, how insane, and how wicked, were the attempts to overthrow the Government of the country by force, the events of the past winter would furnish that proof. Surely it would also show the people of that country that in dealing with crimes and offences of that kind the ordinary laws of the country were fully strong enough to preserve peace and protect the loyal members of society in the enjoyment of their rights. He hoped that the lesson would not be lost upon the Irish people. He hoped that they might be brought to believe that which he knew to be true—namely, that in the House and in the country there was a most friendly disposition towards Ireland; that there was every disposition to make allowance for the 232 weakness and folly which had been displayed by so large a portion of the population, and to favourably consider all proposals, no matter from whom they emanated, which tended to benefit the people and promote the happiness, welfare, and prosperity of the country.