§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, after the division on Thursday night, I mentioned that, in our opinion, it altered the relations between Her Majesty's Government and the House, and that it would be necessary for them to consider their position; and with that view I asked the consent of the House to an adjournment for some few days. I now ask further permission from the House to make a short statement on the subject, to give them the result of the consideration of our position, and to state the course which, in consequence, we think it our duty to pursue. I believe I am trespassing on the strict rules of the House in making a statement of this kind without a Motion, but these are rare occasions, and I am sure I can trust to the indulgence of the House. The House will recollect that when, in 1866, the Earl of Derby was summoned by the Queen to take the ma- 1695 nagement of affairs, his party was in a very considerable minority in this House, which was elected under the auspices and at the appeal of his political opponents. It was, therefore, quite open then to the Earl of Derby, in the spirit of the Constitution, to recommend Her Majesty to dissolve this Parliament; and it is possible that, considering the somewhat distracted state of the Liberal party at that moment and the general anxiety which prevailed to support a Government with some principle of cohesion, that the appeal might not have been made in vain. But the Earl of Derby recollected that this Parliament itself was then but recently elected, and there were other reasons of gravity and principle, which induced him to hope that he might be able to carry on affairs with the present Parliament, and therefore he waived what has been considered a constitutional right upon that occasion. The next year, 1867, the Government of the Earl of Derby found itself called upon to meet one of the most difficult and important questions of modern times—namely, the Reform of this House—one which had baffled all statesmen and had broken up and discomfited all parties. Nevertheless, the Government of the Earl of Derby attempted, and attempted successfully, to deal with that question, and they passed a measure which all must admit to have been large in its conception and provisions, and which, I believe, has given very general satisfaction to the country. At the close of the year, after the passing of such a measure, it would have been the Earl of Derby's wish to advise Her Majesty to dissolve this Parliament—a right which he had waived in the first instance—and to take the opinion of the country upon his conduct and that of his Colleagues in carrying this large measure of Reform. But the House is aware that the Earl of Derby was prevented from taking that course, because, notwithstanding the efforts of the Government and the equal efforts of this House, there were certain supplementary measures connected with the settlement of the Reform question which it was really impossible to pass last year. But all these measures, in principle, were accepted, and adopted last year; and, accordingly, there was a fair prospect that, under these circumstances, the Earl of Derby having completed the measure of Parliamentary Reform, and carried all the other measures that were absolutely neces- for the good government of the country, 1696 might have had, at the close of this Session, the advantage of that appeal to the country which he believed he had fairly earned. The Earl of Derby having waived, what was not strictly perhaps, though practically it had been held to be, the constitutional right of a Minister upon taking office, to advise the Crown to dissolve a Parliament elected under the influence of his political opponents; having waived that right at the end of 1866; and the course of circumstances having again prevented him from availing himself of that right at the end of 1867,—The Earl of Derby, I say, felt that he was placed, unintentionally, of course, by any one, but still inevitably, in a position of some unfairness, and regretted that he had not had the opportunity which, I think, all must admit he might legitimately have expected to enjoy.
I will ask the House to permit me succinctly to inquire whether, in the administration of the country by the Government of the Earl of Derby, and during the period in which I have had some influence in affairs, anything has occurred to derogate from the effect which the exercise of such a constitutional right under our advice might have been expected to produce? Sir, I am most anxious, on this occasion, to use no expression which can for a moment be considered in the slightest degree coloured; and I would speak, if I could, on an occasion so critical as the present, with the judicial accuracy of the Bench. But I think I may say, speaking in the hearing, I hope, of fair, though I know of vigilant critics, that during the period we have so held Office the conduct of our administration in no important branch was ever impugned. I think I may even go further. Not only was the conduct of no important branch of our administration ever impugned during that period, but our administration in every branch was supported by this House, and commended even by our opponents. I will take, notably, the administration of Ireland, that being the country the proposed legislation respecting which has brought about the present political crisis. It is on record that the Leader of the Opposition, Earl Russell, has on more than one occasion, and in the most marked manner, expressed his entire approbation of the administration of Ireland under the Marquess of Abercorn. He has congratulated the Earl of Derby on possessing such a Colleague; and he has publicly in 1697 Ireland announced that, under the Vice-royalty of Lord Abercorn, the Irish enjoy an impartial administration of justice. It will be remembered that the administration of Ireland has been conducted under the most difficult and trying circumstances; and, speaking in the presence of many Irish Members of great ability, of long acquaintance with Parliamentary matters, and of extreme vigilance as to the conduct of Ministers, I appeal to their recollection whether, during the whole period of our administration, the conduct of the Government in Ireland has not always been spoken of with respect and sympathy by hon. Members opposite? That administration has been acknowledged by many of those hon. Members to have been a firm and successful, but, at the same time, a lenient and merciful administration. If we look to the administration of our own home affairs, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had to cope with that dark and fell conspiracy I which infested Ireland, without the advantages which the Marquess of Abercorn possessed in the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act as an instrument by which he might baffle the intrigues of foreigners. Yet I think it has been generally and generously admitted in this House, and I believe also in the country, that my right hon. Friend met these difficult circumstances with great firmness, with unceasing vigilance, and with complete success. If we look to our financial measures, not one of them has been questioned or opposed; and I must acknowledge that those which I myself brought forward were supported, generously supported, by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. So much for our Government of Ireland and for our administration of home affairs and of finance. I now come to the greatest Department of the State, one, which perhaps, is brought less prominently before this House than others—but which, after all, more than any other affects the prosperity of this country. Upon the judicious management of our foreign affairs depends pence or war; the tranquil pursuits of industry, and the amount of taxation which must be levied in the country. For by a single blunder in the conduct of our foreign affairs the most provident arrangement of finances ever planned may in a moment be cancelled and destroyed. Just before the House adjourned for the holidays the conduct of my noble Friend the Secretary of State in the affairs of Turkey 1698 was attacked in the other House of Parliament with some acrimony. The conduct of my noble Friend was triumphantly defended on that occasion, and by whom? By the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition! He himself had been Foreign Secretary, was cognizant, therefore, of the merits of the case; and he vindicated in a complete manner and gave his entire approval to the management of the Turkish question by my noble Friend. Allow me to say that foreign affairs, although they have not been much brought before the House, have been in a very critical state during almost the whole time that we have been in Office; and I claim for my noble Friend that by his judgment and by his great ability he has kept this country clear from very perplexing difficulties. Well, Sir, what happened with regard to affairs in Turkey really has happened with regard to all our other external relations in the most important parts of the world during the greater period of the time we have conducted the Government of this country. They have been in a state of great tension, requiring perfect temper, calm judgment, conciliatory manners, and a clear conception of the interests of this country. But I need not dwell upon this subject, because if I were to call witnesses in favour of the administration of our foreign affairs, by the present Government, they would be found on the Benches opposite; for those affairs have never been brought under the consideration of this House without the warmest and most generous attestations of the judgment and skill of my noble Friend, notably in the case of a prospect of a collision between France and Prussia, which terrified the civilized world, and, notably, also, in the management of our relations with the great trans-Atlantic Republic, which when we acceded to office were in a state far from satisfactory; but which can say now promise to realize the best expectations which statesmen can indulge in. Indeed, if it had not been for those unfortunate domestic misunderstandings which have prevailed and have diverted the attention of the public men of America from other duties, we have had on more than one occasion recently a very probable prospect of a settlement of those questions which had perplexed our predecessors, and been a source of great anxiety. Sir, I will say, also, that at no period within my recollection has the influence of England been greater on the 1699 Continent of Europe than it is at the present moment; and that not by busy, intermeddling—not by thrusting our opinions on other Powers—but by a conviction on their part that the Government of this country is animated only by justice, by a sincere desire to maintain peace, and by an anxious wish to conciliate other Powers by a fair and not obtrusive sympathy. The consequence has been that, though the Government was established on a liberal but clear basis of non-interference, I believe that no Government, during the period that it has been in power, has been applied to more frequently by all the Great Powers of Europe for its friendly offices and to exercise its influence than the present one.
Now, Sir, in the management of our foreign affairs there was one subject which occasioned my noble Friend—avowedly a lover of peace, and, as all know, a most cautious Minister—the utmost anxiety. That was the state of affairs we found in Abyssinia, our relations with which country were of so painful and perplexing a kind that my noble Friend, after great hesitation and deep reflection, felt it his duty to call the attention of the Cabinet to that state of affairs, as one that could not longer be tolerated, and which for the credit of this country ought to be terminated. The House is well aware of what were the consequences of that appeal to the Cabinet by my noble Friend. I do not arrogate for a moment to ourselves the merits which attach to admirable troops and admirable commanders; but the House knows that, if the Expedition had failed we must have borne the responsibility; and I think every impartial mind will admit that in its management there were some circumstances for which Her Majesty's Government may claim credit. First of all, for the decision that the Expedition should be undertaken; secondly, for the selection of the commander; and, thirdly, for the energy and fertility of resource with which our troops were sustained and supported. Though that Expedition necessarily took its origin from the Department over which my noble Friend presides, its management fell to the Secretary of State for another Department; and whatever may be the fate of the present Ministry, I am sure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India will ever be remembered in reference to that Expedition by the House of Commons with respect and by the country with confidence. I think that 1700 in attempting to put before the House the position of the Government I have shown that if we were entitled, according to the spirit of the Constitution, when we acceded to Office, to advise Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament, and if we were further entitled to take such a step in consequence of having passed the Reform Bill, there is nothing in our administration of the affairs of this country, under the great heads to which I have adverted which ought to deter us from adopting, such a course, or ought to make us fear an appeal to our fellow-countrymen.
Now, Sir, in this state of affairs a new question arose in the House of Commons. It arose suddenly at a few days' notice. I am not imputing that as any blame to the right hon. Gentleman. I am only stating facts. I do not wish to have any controversy on an occasion like this, but I am recalling the recollection of the House to facts. At a few days' notice the House was asked to consider a proposition of a startling character, which was, in fact, no less than the disestablishment of the Church in a portion of Her Majesty's dominions. It so happened, as the House is aware, that on the Motion of the Leader; of the Opposition (Earl Russell) there had been a Royal Commission issued by the present Government to inquire into the condition of that Church. It was also I well known that the Commission had been intrusted to very able men, and that they were pursuing their labours with considerable energy and determination. It was even known that there was more than a prospect of their reporting the result of those labours to Parliament this year. Therefore, considering the peculiar duties which devolved upon the Government—namely, of passing the supplementary Reform Bills, I do not think it was unreasonable in them that they should have met the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman by referring to the Royal Commission, by impressing upon the House the expediency of waiting until the Commission had reported, and then, either in this, or probably in the next Parliament, taking that course which the wisdom of Parliament, with the information from that Commission before it, should authorize and induce them to adopt. Well, Sir, the House was not of that opinion; and, therefore the question was brought before it, the distinct issue whether the Church should be disestablished in Ireland. Now, Her Majesty's Ministers were entirely opposed to 1701 that policy, and for distinct reasons which I will give. I go into this matter, not with a wish to obtrude any arguments on the House at this moment, or to introduce any matter of controversy; but merely with the wish that the House should on such an occasion clearly and distinctly understand what were the reasons for which we opposed the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone). We opposed the disestablishment of the Church in Ireland, firstly, because we considered it to be a retrograde policy—that it was calculated to revive and continue animosity, and that it ran counter to that policy of conciliation of classes and creeds which had for thirty-four years been pursued in this country, and not unsuccessfully. Secondly, we opposed it because we thought it endangered property. Thirdly, we opposed the policy of disestablishment because it disunited the principle of religion from authority, and by so doing, in our opinion, degraded and weakened authority. And fourthly, lastly, and chiefly, we opposed it because, if that principle were adopted, we could see nothing that would prevent its application to England sooner or later, and in our opinion, much sooner than was anticipated. The consequences of the application of that principle to England would be very serious. If the union between Church and State is abolished, the Church must either become an imperium in imperio, and so become probably more powerful than the State, and weaken the action of Government, or it must break into endless sects and schisms, which would finally be absorbed by the tradition and discipline of the Church of Rome. I say, then, that equally, in either alternative, the Royal supremacy must be destroyed. The Royal supremacy has hitherto been looked upon as the corner-stone of the Constitution. It is universally admitted to be the only security for religious liberty; and, in our opinion, it is one of the main guarantees for our civil rights. These were the reasons why the Government opposed the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. The House, however by a large majority, decided in favour of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, and we had then to consider whether the vote of the House in that respect militated against the constitutional claim to which I have before referred, to advise Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament, and which, in our opinion, was not weakened by 1702 our general conduct in the administration of affairs. There were three reasons which convinced us that the decision of the House did not militate against the assertion of such a privilege on our part; and they were these:—In the first place, it was evident that no conclusive legislation upon the Church in Ireland could take place in this Parliament. That is acknowledged. In the second place, it was notorious that this question had never been hinted at on the hustings when this Parliament was elected. And thirdly—and I state this with the utmost respect to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and an unwillingness to assert an opinion which is not the opinion of the majority, but I am bound in duty to my Colleagues to express it — it is our profound conviction that the opinion of the nation does not agree on this subject with the vote of the House of Commons.
Now, Sir, before I advert, as I will do in a moment, to the course which we feel it our duty to take with reference to that vote on Thursday night, I would ask the indulgence of the House to touch upon a subject which, indeed, concerns the interests of the House itself. We have been accused — and, I am sorry to say, not merely out-of-doors—of unworthily clinging to Office, and of governing this country by a minority. Accustomed as I am to aspersion, I should be perfectly willing to let these taunts pass unnoticed, but that they involve—in my mind and in the opinion of my Colleagues—a public principle of importance. Now, Sir, in the first place I would observe that I know of nothing in my conduct in this House, since I have sat in it, or in the conduct of any of the Gentlemen who on former occasions have been my Colleagues in the Governments of Lord Derby, which at all justifies this taunt of unworthily clinging to Office. I would remind the House that in 1852, when I was leading this House, and was put in a minority on the measures which I brought forward, I was openly adjured, and I was privately solicited—and Lord Derby experienced the same appeals—not to resign our trust. We were assured, then, by the highest authorities, by Gentlemen who were our rivals, and many of whom became our successors, that the vote they arrived at was not a vote—being a financial vote—which authorized our resignation of Office: and the utmost efforts were made to prevent our retirement. Now, 1703 although Lord Derby's opinion on that point was the same as my own, he, with characteristic geneivsity—considering that, as I sat in this House, I had borne the burden of the fight on the subject—left it to me to decide. And I never hesitated for a moment as to the course to be adopted; being in a minority in our own Parliament, we went out of Office. There was no unworthy clinging to Office under those circumstances. Well, Sir, what happened in the year 1859, when I brought forward the first Reform Bill which I introduced to the notice of Parliament? We were placed in a minority by the success of the Motion of the noble Lord (Earl Russell), who then sat below the Gangway on the opposite side. Lord Palmerston was then Leader of the Opposition, and he adjured me in the most decided and solemn manner neither to resign nor to dissolve; and he privately repeated this. He said—"You have failed on a question on which every Ministry has failed—on which every party and every public man has failed; and the vote we arrived at was not a Vote of Want of Confidence. As far as I am concerned"—and he was the man who led the party, and who became Minister when we retired from Office—"nothing of the kind was intended." But we did not follow the advice of Lord Palmerston. We appealed to the country, which was as constitutional a course as resigning, and our conduct showed that on that occasion there was no unworthy clinging to Office on our part. But now it is said we are governing by a minority. Well, Sir, if that be true, the imputation is upon the House of Commons. If a body of men have for nearly two years con ducted affairs by a minority, the imputation founded upon such a circumstance re coils upon the House, and not upon the Government. The fact is, there is no foundation for the charge. It is very true that, told by the head, we have never had a majority of pledged partizans; but there have been relations of courtesy and cordiality between the Government and the great body of the House, and we were allowed to carry on affairs—as I have shown not unsuccessful^'—because the majority of the House did think that, under the circumstances of the case, it was to the ad vantage of the country that we should continue to administer affairs. It is not wise on the part of the House of Commons to analyze with too close a scrutiny the numerical elements by which a Ministry is 1704 carried on. To do so would vitiate the practical qualifies for which this House is celebrated. Allow me to remind you of a parallel case. When Lord John Russell was first made Prime Minister, he took Office under circumstances very similar to those under which we acceded to power—the Conservative party was broken then as the Liberal party was broken in 1866. Lord John Russell took Office with a majority of 100 sitting opposite to him, and no single Member of that majority ever joined the party of Lord John Russell. It was perfectly on the cards, if they had agreed on some particular subject, as the Opposition have recently done, that Lord John Russell should have been thrown in a majority any night. But no one reproached Lord John Russell for carrying on the Government with a minority, and he carried on the Government with a minority for no less a term than five or six years; and he did it for the advantage of the country and with the full approbation of Parliament, being morally supported by a majority as we have been morally supported by a majority. It is advantageous for the House that they should have clear conceptions on this subject, because it is not for the honour of the House that it should be said that any body of men who did not possess the confidence of the majority are still able to conduct the affairs of the House. There is only one other remark which I will presume to make upon this subject. The same noble Lord to whom I have so frequently referred in the course of these observations has recently written several pamphlets, and he has written one in which he has made free comments — which I shall not notice — on my conduct, and has also given me advice. He says that, in the situation in which I am placed, I ought to follow the example of Sir Robert Peel, and resign. Now, Sir, in the first place, allow me to remark that there is no similarity whatever between the position occupied by the present Government and that occupied by the Government of 1835. Sir Robert Peel was defeated three times on the Irish Church during the five months he sat on this Bench as Prime Minister; but he was defeated four times also on very important questions—one being not less important than the election of the Speaker. From the very first day that he assumed this place to the last day of his retaining it, he met with a violent and unscrupulous opposition. I do not say that offensively, for, 1705 no doubt, this conduct was founded on reasons which were felt to be sufficient. But when Sir Robert Peel resigned, look at the language which he used. He said—"I will not continue this struggle, be cause I can no longer bear defeat in a Parliament which was elected under my auspices and on my own appeal."
Having made these remarks, I will now, with the permission of the House, revert to the vote of Thursday night, and state to the House the course which Her Majesty's Ministers, under these circumstances, feel it their duty to take. After that Vote, I lost no time in soliciting Her Majesty to be graciously pleased to grant me an audience, and, with that promptitude which Her Majesty always displays when the public interest is at stake, she granted that audience immediately, so that I had the advantage of being in audience of Her Majesty on the afternoon of the very day on which the vote was taken. On that occasion I placed—I am sure fairly and completely—before Her Majesty the position of the Government and the position of parties, and the position of the country with respect to them; and I told Her Majesty, with her permission, that, under the circumstances—with which from my previous narrative the House is perfectly acquainted — the advice which Her Majesty's Ministers would, in the full spirit of the Constitution, offer to Her Majesty would be that Her Majesty should dissolve this Parliament, and take the opinion of the country as to the conduct of her Ministers and the question of the Irish Church. But, at the same time, with the full concurrence of my Colleagues, I represented to Her Majesty that there were important occasions on which it was wise that the Sovereign should not be embarrassed by personal claims, however constitutional, valid, or meritorious; and that if Her Majesty were of opinion that the question at issue could be more satisfactorily settled, or the just interests of the country more studied, by the immediate retirement of the present Government from Office, we were prepared to quit Her Majesty's service immediately, with no other feeling but that which every Minister who has served the Queen must possess—namely, of gratitude to Her Majesty for the warm constitutional support which she always gives to her Ministers, and, I may add—as it is a truth which cannot be concealed—for the aid and assistance which every Minister receives from a Sovereign 1706 who now has had such a vast experience of public affairs. In fact, Sir, I tendered my resignation to the Queen. Her Majesty commanded me to attend her in audience on the next day, when Her Majesty was pleased to express her pleasure not to accept the resignation of her Ministry, and her readiness to dissolve this Parliament so soon as the state of public business would permit. Under these circumstances, I advised Her Majesty that, although the present constituency was no doubt as morally competent to decide upon the question of the disestablishment of the Church as the representatives of the constituency in this House, still it was the opinion of Her Majesty's Ministers that every effort should be made with a view that the appeal, if possible, should be directed to the new constituency which the wisdom of Parliament created last year; and I expressed to Her Majesty that, if we had the cordial co-operation of Parliament, I was advised by those who are experienced and skilful in these matters that it would be possible to make arrangements by which the dissolution would take place in the autumn of this year.
Before I conclude I wish to refer to something which peculiarly concerns the Public Business, but which happened after I quitted the House on Thursday night. I am told that, unexpectedly, a scene of some warmth occurred, and that it was stated by one of the highest authority in this House, and for whom, notwithstanding our constant struggles, I personally have much respect, that I** did not treat him fairly in the arrangement of the business for this night—that I had even deceived him. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no!] Well, I shall take the words which the right hon. Gentleman alleges he used, for I am sure he will only say that which is strictly true; but I will refer now to more important matters. I did not leave the House, and should not have left the House—though hon. Members may understand that there was an exigent reason for my doing so—unless I had thought that between the right hon. Gentleman and myself there was a very clear understanding as to the course of business. If the right hon. Gentleman, at the time he agreed with me as to the duration of the adjournment, had expressed any wish respecting the day for which the Resolutions should be fixed I would have met him, as is my custom, without any difficulty. But he did not al- 1707 lude to the subject. If the right hon. Gentleman had asked me for Monday, Monday he should have had; but as to the arrangement of the business of the House by me being a violation of any pledge or understanding, I honestly confess that I paid very little attention to the arrangement of the business for this Monday. I gave formal and indifferent orders when I left the House, and I thought it more than probable that I should never appear again at this table, except to make the formal arrangements which the public business of the country required. Nothing, therefore, could be further from my intention than to treat the right hon. Gentleman in the manner in which he seemed to convey to the House I treated him. Sir, however bitter may be our political dissensions, I trust that the conduct of business in this House will always be a subject of perfect courtesy and the most impartial fairness. I am quite sure that if that rule is not rigidly adhered to a popular assembly like the present will cease to be an assembly of Gentlemen, and must be a scene of rude anarchy. Sir, with regard to the Resolutions upon the Irish Church—having disapproved the first Resolution, I, of course, disapprove the second and the third; but I look upon these two Resolutions as corollaries of the first Resolution; and being now about to make an attempt to tarry on the business of the country with the utmost expedition, I certainly have no wish whatever to enter into protracted debates and formal divisions on the second and third Resolution. I shall offer them my hearty negative, but I shall take the course which I have indicated; and so far as the right hon. Gentleman is concerned, I shall be perfectly ready to place at his disposal the earliest public day that is at my command. But with regard to the Motion which the right hon. Gentleman has placed upon the Paper, I could not assent to such a Motion with any self-respect. Indeed, if I assented to it, I do not think I should be consulting the general interest of the House To such a Motion I must give my unqualified assent. [Mr. GLADSTONE: You mean opposition.] Yes, opposition. The right hon. Gentleman corrects me so fairly that I hope he will not insist on the course he has indicated. I have now stated to the House the results of the consideration of their position by Her Majesty's Government, and I have, by the permission of the Queen, without reserve, laid before them 1708 everything that has transpired since the division of Thursday night.
It appears to me, Sir, that whether the course adopted by the right hon. Gentleman in introducing into the statement he has made so much matter of a retrospective nature and so much matter of an argumentative character be a novel course or not, it is attended with this inconvenience—that those who have travelled over the ground along with the right hon. Gentleman, and who are not able to take the same view of the matters he has touched upon as necessarily presents itself to his mind, cannot pass by in absolute silence the retrospective portions of his speech. Now, with respect to the panegyric which the right hon. Gentleman has pronounced upon the conduct of most of the Departments—not all the Departments, nor all the great Departments—of the State under the present Administration, all that I have to say is that I think such a panegyric would have been more in place upon some occasion when the existence or the general conduct of the Government was questioned by an opponent than when the right hon. Gentleman was only showing to us the reasons which have satisfied his own mind and that of his Colleagues that he would best perform his duty to his country by continuance in Office. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman's statement upon this matter assumes in so far the character of a challenge, that, while I freely own in respect to various Departments of the State that I see no reason why Parliament should regard the conduct of public affairs by them otherwise than with satisfaction, there are other Departments—and, I must say, the whole of the great spending Departments, the military and the naval Departments, and the great controlling Department of the Treasury—with respect to which I, for one, cannot express anything that approaches to satisfaction or approval, and must reserve my free right to question both the past conduct and the present intentions of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of finance. I do not now refer to finance. He will understand that I refer to that other great function of the Treasury which makes it the main security of the country for moderating the public expenditure. I pass on from that subject, and I must notice what was stated by the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the Irish Church. The right hon. Gentleman succinctly, but in very plausible terms, ran over the whole of the arguments which 1709 have governed himself and his Colleagues in their opposition to the policy recommended from this side of the House and adopted upon three separate occasions by a large majority of the House of Commons. Certainly I think that the right hon. Gentleman cannot complain of the liberty which is afforded to him by the House, because he says—and, indeed, he repeated the statement at several intervals in his speech—that he would on no account use angry language, that he would entirely avoid the origin of controversy, and yet these declarations are in his mind sufficiently elastic to allow of his describing in the same speech the conduct pursued within the memory of many of us by the party which now occupies these Benches as a violent and unscrupulous Opposition. I shall endeavour to follow rather the precept than the practice of the right hon. Gentleman, and will only say that, with regard to the assertions and arguments that he has used upon the Irish Church, I do not think that anything he has said will tend in the slightest degree to weaken the strong convictions or the fixed intentions which I believe prevail on this subject; and I must say also, that I think the right hon. Gentleman did an act of gratuitous and unnecessary courtesy when, after he had drawn the frightful picture of a land surrendered to the ravages of unlimited sectarianism, and had pointed out that the unfortunate destiny of all those divided parties was to be swallowed up in the devouring maw of the Church of Rome—I think it was unnecessary to specify that he did not mean by the expression he used any ill compliments to the Church of Rome. Certainly not, Sir. Unquestionably not. Compliments to the Church of Rome so extravagant as that, I, for one, never have heard. I will only say I believe they would surpass alike the expectations and even the capacity of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk (Sir George Bowyer). I think, Sir, an apology to those unfortunate members of the Church of England and the Nonconformist bodies, the Church of Scotland, and the Presbyterians not established in Scotland, would have been considerate on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, because we have been in the belief that there is in the religion that we profess something in the nature of a guarantee and a security, and we regard those opinions that threaten us with absorption and extinction through the power of the 1710 Church of Rome as servile and debasing. The right hon. Gentleman said we were all aware that the Commissioners on the Irish Church are working with considerable energy. He may be aware of it; I certainly was not at the time when this Motion was made, although I have heard a great deal of its action since. While I am speaking of what I may call the revelations of the right hon. Gentleman, I must refer to one remarkable in its character. It was that in the month of December, 1852, as I understand the right hon. Gentleman, almost all or many of the leading persons who were at that Ministerial crisis opponents of the Government, and who subsequently became Members of the succeeding Administration, made representations — I believe he said to the Earl of Derby and himself—to the effect that they ought on no occasion to resign in consequence of the adverse vote at which the House of Commons had then arrived. It is not for me to contradict the right hon. Gentleman. I had myself some share of the responsibility for the overthrow of that Government. I do not know in what category the right hon. Gentleman considers me to have stood; but certainly I was not one of those persons who made such a representation; and not only so, but being on the most cordial terms of political and personal friendship with almost all who constituted the succeeding Cabinet, I can only say that the declaration I have received from the right hon. Gentleman is the first assurence that has ever come to me—nay, the first inkling of such intelligence as that representations of that nature were conveyed to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Earl of Derby. The right hon. Gentleman has made constitutional propositions, or rather propositions touching the Constitution, such as I for one am not able to pass without notice. The right hon. Gentleman treats it as a matter of course that every Administration, or at least every Administration sitting in a Parliament that was called into existence before the Ministry itself, is entitled, for no other cause than the cause of its own existence, to inflict upon the country a dissolution; and the right hon. Gentleman has distinctly told us that that infliction was the measure which he advised Her Majesty to adopt upon the present occasion. I have said to "inflict" upon the country a dissolution, because, from very old date and by high Parliamentary autho- 1711 rity, the epithet "penal" has been attached to dissolutions of that character. Sir, I question, I challenge the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman. I must tell him that if he wants authorities to support his doctrine—if he wants precedents to sustain it, those precedents must be drawn from the former conduct of the Earl of Derby and himself. Where will the right hon. Gentleman find a ease, until Friday last, in the whole history of this country, in which a Ministry, twice defeated by majorities of 60 and 65, advised the resort to a dissolution? There is no such case. The right hon. Gentleman speaks as if this resort to a dissolution—an adverse or penal dissolution—were an everyday practice. What are the instances of such resort? The case of 1841 is a doubtful precedent; the Government which appealed to the country did so with a majority against it of a single vote. It was the fame in the famous and memorable case of 1784, when, if I recollect rightly. Mr. Pitt appealed to the country after a division in which 190 Members voted for him and 191 against him. The right hon. Gentleman has named Sir Robert Peel; but he will not tell me that the opinion of Sir Robert Peel was that every Ministry was justified, upon the plea that the Parliament had not been elected under what the right hon. Gentleman calls its influence, in making a dissolution a previous condition to its resignation. In the first place, I deny that the question whether the Parliament was elected with this or that Government in Office is a consideration which, according to the doctrine of our Constitution, enters into the case in the manner and in the degree in which the right hon. Gentleman has represented it docs. The right hon. Gentleman seems to suppose that such is the influence of an existing Government that it must necessarily be taken for granted that the effect of that influence is powerfully and conclusively felt in the elections. [Mr. DISRAELI made a gesture of dissent.] Very well, if the right hon. Gentleman does not take that for granted he only enables me the more broadly to question his proposition and to ask him to show me, from the history of this country, and from great constitutional authorities other than Members of the Governments of Lord Derby, where the doctrine is laid down that, irrespective of other considerations, an Administration as an existing Administration is entitled to make an appeal to the country a condition previous to 1712 its resignation of Office. Sir Robert Peel in 1846—beaten by a small majority, and having just carried a measure which insured for him unrivalled popularity—did not thus appeal to the country. I conceive the right hon. Gentleman is the person who is bound to prove his proposition. He has quoted no precedent whatever. [Mr. CONOLLY: Lord Palmerston in 1857.] The hon. Member must just this moment have come into the House. I have myself been quoting precedents where Ministers have appealed to the country, and he supposes me to be affirming the proposition which I deny. I do not lay down the doctrine that any Ministry has the right to appeal to the country before resigning; but I challenge and deny the doctrine that all Ministers have the right to appeal to the country. Lord Palmerston appealed to the country in 1857 upon a most important question of public policy. [An hon. MEMBER made a remark which did not reach the gallery.] Pardon me, we must not confuse together things essentially distinct. The right hon. Gentleman for the first half-hour of his speech never referred to the question of public policy, but argued that from the moment Lord Derby came into office he had the constitutional right to a dissolution, which constitutional claim he then proceeded to argue was not weakened but strengthened by the good conduct of the Government. It is against this proposition of the right hon. Gentleman that I am now venturing to argue. There are two conditions, as it appears to me, which are necessary in order to make an appeal to the country by a Government whose existence is menaced a legitimate appeal. The first of them is that there should be an adequate cause of public policy; and the second of them is that there should be a rational prospect of a reversal of the vote of the House of Commons. I have not said one word against the advice given by the right hon. Gentleman so far as it may bethought it can be founded upon one of those two principles. At the same time, I am not willing now to conceal my opinion that the right hon. Gentleman was not well justified in that advice. The right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues, as I have shown, are too much given to this practice of dissolution. Dissolution in 1852, dissolution in 1859, dissolution in 1868—and all these to determine the question whether the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends were to continue in office. Dissolution in 1852—the people gave their reply, and it was a 1713 negative one; dissolution in 1859—the people gave their reply, and it was again a negative one; and I entirely question this title of Governments, as Governments, to put the country as a matter of course to the cost, the delay, and the trouble of a dissolution to determine the question of their own existence. But if I am told, on the other hand, that the right hon. Gentleman would never have thought of referring to the country, especially for the third time after two unfavourable answers, the mere Ministerial existence of himself and his Colleagues, but that he did think he was justified in referring to the country the great question of the Irish Church, then, Sir, my duty is to regard that matter from a perfectly distinct point of view; and I say first of all that the right hon. Gentleman would be the first Minister who had declined to adopt, as a sufficient evidence of the judgment of the country, those majorities of 60 and 65 which have been recorded against him. Now, that is a matter of history—that is a matter of historical fact; and it is open to the right hon. Gentleman, or any other Member of this House, to question what I have said. But that is not all. We are now told that the question of the Irish Church was what was to be referred to the constituencies. Well, but the right hon. Gentleman has from the first denied that the present Parliament or the present constituencies ought to deal with the question of the Irish Church. And not only has he denied that, but it is admitted on all hands, nay, it is part of the case of the right hon. Gentleman when he comes to another portion of the argument, that when we are about greatly to broaden the basis of our representative institutions it is fair and right that the ultimate decision of the question should depend on the representatives of the new constituencies. Therefore the plea that this was to be a reference on the question of the Irish Church is no plea at all. Suppose that the right hon. Gentleman's ill-judged advice had been accepted by Her Majesty—as, happily, it was not — but suppose it accepted by Her Majesty, and the new Parliament had met, for what purpose would the new Parliament have met? Would that Parliament have disposed of the question of the Irish Church? Certainly not. All that the new Parliament could have done would be to have dealt with such a policy as I have humbly recommended, and shall again humbly recommend, the adoption of 1714 a Suspensory Act. That is the utmos the new Parliament would have done, and then it would have been justly confronted with the necessity of completing the work of Reform, and adjourning to the Parliament of the paulo post futurum the final settlement and adjustment of the Irish Church question. Therefore, I am bound to say that the only question for the sake of which the right hon. Gentleman thought fit to advise Her Majesty, in the face of great public inconvenience, to dissolve the present Parliament, with the certainty of another dissolution impending within a few months—possibly six or nine months afterwards — the only question, I say, for the sake of which he gave that advice was in truth the question of his own Ministerial existence. I do not wish to be responsible by my silence for allowing the statement of that advice to the House to pass without notice; that I, for one, do not think that the right hon. Gentleman who gave it was acting in the spirit of the Constitution, and I am heartily and thoroughly glad that that advice, though tendered, was I not accepted. Now, Sir, with respect to the position of Her Majesty's Government, I need not detain the House. The plan I of the right hon. Gentleman is this. He is at issue with the House of Commons—with what he on Friday morning called "the present" House of Commons—upon the subject of a proposal which one Minister, the First Commissioner of Works, declares to be the most revolutionary that has been made during I forget how many centuries—I forget how many, and I do not wish by any mistake of mine to commit the noble Lord — and with respect to which the Prime Minister told us that its ultimate consequences will, I think, be more grave than those of a foreign conquest. And it is to the House of Commons standing on the Resolutions so described in the language of the Ministry, that the right hon. Gentleman now proposes to proceed to a dissolution, a dissolution not immediate, according to the course of historical precedent, but postponed for a time which he vaguely designates as "in the autumn," but which may, I think, probably be rather in the winter, and during that interval—and I think I have spoken moderately with regard to it—he standing on these relations with the House of Commons, proposes to carry through questions of great constitutional importance. And so it is that a Government professing to represent a constitutional party interprets 1715 and applies the principles of our Constitution. Sir, having described the position, I cannot subscribe to the propriety or wisdom of the course of the right hon. Gentleman; but that is not my affair. The fate of the right hon. Gentleman is in the first instance in his own hands, and, as far as I am concerned, I have other matter to consider which demands and which absorbs my whole attention and anxiety. We have not had perhaps all the advantages of the right hon. Gentleman in the choice of the mode in which, and the time at which we should declare our intentions; but our intentions—and when I say our intentions I speak of the intentions of those with whom I have been able to communicate, or whose minds I think I may venture to interpret — our intentions have this advantage, that they are in their nature clear, simple, and decisive. There is one question which is paramount to every other—the question of the relations, the Imperial relations, between England and Ireland, and the branch of that question which partly the proceedings of Her Majesty's Government, partly the state of affairs, and partly, if you like—for I do not shrink from the responsibility — our proceedings, have thrust into the foreground is the question of the Irish Church. What we have held may be summed up in these two propositions that it was the duty of this House, emphatically, intelligibly, and without delay, to declare its mind upon the great question of the Irish Church Establishment — whether it ought or ought not to continue. That was the first of our propositions. Thus far we have proceeded. The House has declared itself with an emphasis and decision which on our part leave nothing to be desired. So far, therefore, as I may presume to judge, we have all of us advanced much too far into the interior regions of this question to leave the idea open to anyone that there can be advantage in postponing or retreating from it now. The second of our propositions has been from the first that the abstract Resolutions ought, for reasons which when the time comes I shall be prepared to slate, to be followed up, so far as depends upon the majority of this House in the exercise of its constitutional power, by the passing forthwith of a Suspensory Act, which shall have the effect of distinctly declaring the mind of the present Parliament, and of preparing the way for the action of the next Parliament. Well, Sir, there is nothing in the statement of the right hon. 1716 Gentleman which, as it appears to me, modifies in any degree the force of this conclusion. We are prepared to go forward with the Resolutions that lie on the table, and of course it follows that we are prepared to go forward with the ulterior steps depending upon the carrying out of these Resolutions. Sir, I have no covenant to make with the Government; I have no question to put. The right hon. Gentleman, I assure him, is quite mistaken if he supposes that I intended on Friday morning to impute to him any breach of faith; for I did not believe that the arrangement of business of which I complained had been made by him, or if it had been made by him I should have been very loth to use words for which I had not sufficient evidence or warrant. What I said I was perfectly justified in considering on Friday morning was this, that on Friday afternoon we were in a condition, and were entitled, with the perfect understanding of the House, to proceed immediately after one Order had been disposed of, which I felt confident would not stand for more than a few minutes in our way, with the second and third Resolutions. That being so, I never doubted for one instant that when the right hon. Gentleman interposed, and said to us at any early hour on the morning of Friday that he proposed to adjourn to Monday, it was with the intention to place us on Monday afternoon in the same position in which we stood at that time. I think that was a reasonable construction, and my request a reasonable request. The Notice which I gave I gave advisedly, and with the purpose of pressing it to a division, in case I should find there was a public exigency to justify such a course. Now let me consider, after this explanation, how the matter stands. As I remember, and as I think the hon. Gentleman himself admits, his pledge to us was this—to give us, from the facilities at his command, a fair opportunity for the consideration of the Resolutions. So I understood him before, and so I understand him now. With regard to what is to follow, that is a matter which, if the House affirms the Resolutions, the House will no doubt be prepared to consider when the time comes. I should not be justified in asking from the right hon. Gentleman at this moment—and I do not think it would be for the public interest that at this moment I should endeavour to obtain from him — any further understanding. As I understand the question between the right 1717 hon. Gentleman and myself, it is this: that he does not wish us to proceed today with the Resolutions; but I think I understood him to say that he would give me the earliest day which, with a reasonable regard to the convenience of public affairs, he can. I have no doubt that will be a very early day; and certainly those who think they have got in hand matters of very substantial and profound public interest and importance ought to be exceedingly loth to enter into conflicts with the Government on questions that are merely verbal or slight. I have only to say that I accept the offer of the right hon. Gentleman. I will not make the Motion of which Notice stands in my name for this evening. The right hon. Gentleman will have better means than perhaps I have of judging whether the discussion on the Resolutions is likely to occupy any extended time. Whether it is or it is not, of course my duty remains the same. I own that I think the view of the right hon. Gentleman that the second and third Resolutions are corollaries to the first Resolution is a sound and just view; and I therefore hope they may speedily receive the assent of the House in Committee. And when the Resolutions have been so assented to, of course it is obvious that the next step, and a very important step, will rest on the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government. I do not think it would be becoming in me to anticipate the time and the manner in which they may be likely to discharge that responsibility. All that I feel it necessary to say is that, as far as my conviction, and as far also as my intentions are concerned, our duty appears to me to be clear: to make no immoderate proposal, to discern carefully the limits, within which, at the present time, our action ought to be confined; but, having to the best of our judgment and ability defined those limits, and having been supported in the views, which we have thus far taken, by the voice of an overwhelming majority of this House, to persevere in every due and regular step that is necessary to insure the progress and the passing of the Bill, of which we shall have to speak when the proper time arrives, for the purpose of suspending appointments in the Irish Church.
§ MR. CONOLLY
said, that, to put himself in order, he would conclude by moving the adjournment of the House. He was sorry that the right hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) did not agree 1718 with him that the precedent set by Lord Palmerston in 1857 was strictly applicable to the present occasion. But those who had the misfortune to come from Ireland and to represent Irishmen in that House felt, as they thought they had a right to feel, a deep interest in the present question; and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, said it was not in their power to appeal against the decision of Thursday night, he must tell him that the abstract Resolution which had been affirmed by a large majority was in itself a great injustice to the cause which the right hon. Gentleman had in hand, and also to the Irish people. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman, whether to bring before a moribund and self-condemned Parliament a question of such vital importance to the Irish Church was not in itself an unstatesmanlike act, and whether it did not justify those who wished to maintain that Church in appealing against the adverse decision to which he had referred? They had no chance in the present Parliament; and therefore he, for one, called on their Leader altogether to reject its conclusions on that question, and appeal to the justice of the people of England. What was the use of the Reform Bill and the enlarged constituencies if they were to be tied and bound to the decision of the right hon. Gentleman with a faction at his back? Those who stood by the institutions they had inherited from their forefathers would not give them up because the right hon. Gentleman had been enabled for that occasion to re-unite his scattered band of adherents to oust the present Government. He said that their trusty Leader on that (the Ministerial) side, at all events, had their confidence in the course he had taken. If there was a difficulty in the present state of affairs, the right hon. Member for South Lancashire was to blame for it; because he had brought forward in a dying Parliament a question, the decision upon which bound no man in the three kingdoms. That decision was null and void. They would have none of it; they appealed against it to the real and enlarged constituencies; to the more honest, and, as he believed it would prove to be, the stronger portion of the people of England. The hon. and learned Member for Clare (Sir Colman O'Loghlen) had analyzed the Irish vote on that Question unfairly, stating that 56 Irish Members had voted for the right hon. Member for South Lancashire, and 45 1719 against him. But if they looked into the matter more carefully they would find that the 45 Irish Members who voted in the minority represented very nearly double the number of constituents that was represented by the Irish Members who voted with the majority. Therefore, as far as the Irish vote was concerned, it was substantially against, and not in favour of, the right hon. Member for South Lancashire, who for factious objects alone, and through his greed of power, had brought about that crisis. The question affected not merely the Irish Church, but the Act of Union; for, if the Article referring to that Church were repealed, what would the other Articles be worth? Thus there was more than appeared in the proposals of the light hon. Gentleman.
§ THE SPEAKER
said, it was out of order for the hon. Gentleman to discuss the Irish Church Question, or to refer to past debates.
§ MR. CONOLLY
said, he would cheerfully bow to the right hon. Gentleman's decision; but he had felt himself called upon to state that the Irish regarded the recent vote as grossly unjust.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Conolly.)
§ MR. LOWE
I wish, Sir, before we pass from this subject, to be allowed to call attention a little more closely than has hitherto been done to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman as to his interviews with Her Majesty. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say—and if I misrepresent him I hope he will be kind enough to correct me—that he advised Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament at once and to appeal to the old constituencies that are to be displaced by the Reform Act, and that he offered Her Majesty as an alternative that the Government should resign. "In fact," he said, "we tendered our resignations." Her Majesty, however, as I understand the right hon. Gentleman, refused both those propositions. She refused to dissolve Parliament at once, and she refused to accept the resignation of the Government. But, having refused these two things—I do not quite comprehend how it came about, for whether the suggestion proceeded from Her Majesty or from the right hon. Gentleman is left in ambiguity—somehow or other it came about that the proposition which the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to make to the 1720 House is that he will dissolve, referring the question to the new constituencies, and he thinks with the co-operation of the House that may be done in the autumn or winter. Now, what I want to point out to the House is that this is a most fallacious way of representing what has really occurred. The right hon. Gentleman's proposal to refer the matter to the old constituencies was a real, bonâ fide proposal. Whether it was a wise one or not I am not going to say; but to say that he comes down to us with a dissolution in his hand, authorized by Her Majesty, and that that is the result of the division the other night, is merely trifling with the House. Why, what would have happened if the Irish Church question had never been raised and there had been no division? The right hon. Gentleman would, with the assistance of the House, have passed his measures during the Session, and would, as we all understood, have dissolved as soon afterwards as possible, so that a new Parliament might meet next spring. Well, Sir, there have been two adverse divisions, there have been large majorities against the Government, yet what does the right hon. Gentleman announce to us? That he is going to do precisely what he would have done had those divisions not occurred. I took note of the words of the hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. Conolly). The House smiled when the hon. Member said he treated the divisions as null and void, but he was only following his Leader, for that is precisely what the right hon. Gentleman does. He treats the solemn decision of the House, on a question which he himself characterized before the division as of the last importance, as mere air, absolutely making no difference whatever in the course which the Government meant to adopt. The statement about a dissolution being resolved upon in consequence of the division is a mere blind and delusion; for there would have been a dissolution in any case, and the two decisions of the House have had no weight whatever in the Councils of Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman treats us as persons whose decisions are absolutely insignificant, making no difference whatever in the decisions of Her Majesty's Government, except that they have lost us a day of the Session, and given the right hon. Gentleman the trouble of a trip to Osborne and back, and of coming here to mystify us with this story of a dissolution. That is 1721 the way in which he treats the House. How does he want us to treat him? He says "In order that we may carry out this we count upon the cordial co-operation of the House." Cordial co-operation? how has it been deserved? What has the right hon. Gentleman done that he should have a right to count on our cordial co-operation in anything? He tells us in one breath that what we do is absolutely null, and asks us to trust a Government not only in a minority, but branded with the want of confidence of tills House, to carry measures re-modelling the Constitution in two of the three members of the United Kingdom. That is the position he takes up; but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) says, it is more for his consideration than ours; our business is to go straight on. I could not, however, forbear from pointing out to the House how entirely they are mystified if they suppose that any change whatever has been wrought in the counsels of the Government, or any new element at all introduced into those counsels by the Resolution we came to. We are asked, not for a few weeks, while the necessary business is got through, and while preparations are made for a dissolution, but for nine or ten months at the very least to place the whole Government of the country in the hands of persons who neither trust Parliament nor are trusted by it. In their hands during the remainder of the Session are to rest these important measures—the Scotch Reform Bill, the Irish Reform Bill, the Boundary Bill, the Bribery Bill, and all questions of finance; while during the Recess they are to enjoy in the same way the power of directing the foreign policy of the country and military affairs, and of exercising all patronage and everything else: and why? Simply on account of the abstract right they assume to have a dissolution, which abstract right is so cogent that it will survive for nearly a year the time when the possibility of amicable action between them and the House has come to an end. No doubt, if the Earl of Derby, true to his principles and to the declarations of his political life, had on his accession to Office asked for a dissolution in order to take the opinion of the country, nothing could have been more fair end just; but when, instead of adhering to the principles of their party, the Government adopt the principles of the majority opposed to them, and constitute themselves the servants of the House, 1722 what right have they to ask an appeal to the country, against a House whose will they have carried out? If ever the right existed it was certainly forfeited by the transactions of last year. If ever there was a case in which we ought to insist on the rule that a Parliamentary majority and not a minority should govern, that case has arisen at the present time. I can imagine nothing tending more directly to put an end to Parliamentary government as hitherto existing in this country than that a Government, defeated in April under such circumstances as these, should be allowed, on account of difficulties of their own creation—for they arise out of the Reform Bill — to remain in Office till February, March, or April next. On what principle of constitutional government, I ask, can such a thing be justified? A Government may be justified in not going out immediately on being defeated, while preparing for a dissolution; but to remain in Office for nearly a year without anybody's confidence that I know of cannot be justified on any constitutional principles.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
wished, as an Independent Member, to remark on the statement of the right hon. Member for South Lancashire that the Irish Church question had no reference to the question of a dissolution. The Government had been taunted with being a warming-pan Government, and the right hon. Gentleman now argued that the Government, having acceded to Office while in a minority, were bound to carry out the will of the majority. If that doctrine were to prevail, it would give him, as Leader of the Opposition, the power of forcing through Parliament—it might be in defiance of the opinion of the country—any measure, which he might unexpectedly bring forward, as a Member of the Opposition, and therefore without responsibility, using the Government as his agents. Such a practice, he contended, would be a flagrant violation of the Constitution. The right hon. Gentleman opposite was evidently not an advocate for triennial Parliaments, since he had condemned the Prime Minister for having appealed to Her Majesty in favour of a dissolution as one of the alternatives he had submitted. Thus, the right hon. Member for South Lancashire virtually proposed to suspend the Constitution for so long as the present Government remained in Office. A House which had deliberately condemned itself as not sufficiently representing the people was not entitled to pass any other measures 1723 than those necessary to complete our representative system. Yet during this constitutional interregnum the right hon. Gentleman had unexpectedly brought forward a proposal to disestablish and disendow the Church in Ireland, having in the Session of 1866 walked out of the House, and refused to countenance that proposal. The right hon. Gentleman's complaint was that the head of the Government, acting in the spirit of the Constitution, on finding himself in a minority on this question, had submitted for the decision of his Sovereign whether the Government should resign, or whether this great issue should be referred to the country. There was no ground of complaint in this; unless it were that the Government did not insist on appealing to to the constituencies, which they themselves had condemned, and four-fifths of which had by statute been declared not adequately to represent the national convictions and will. He saw no feasible or constitutional course except that which the Government, had recommended to Her Majesty, and he trusted, that the Government would abstain from proposing measures touching the Constitution, or any others than those necessary for completing the representation of the people. And as soon as those measures had passed, and the ordinary requirements of the public expenditure had been provided, the Government were bound to submit to the nation the great issue that had been raised by the right hon. Gentleman upon the Irish Church. Any other course would be unconstitutional. He could not but think that the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) implied anything but a confidence on his part that the constituencies when appealed to would affirm the decision of the majority of the House of Commons.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he understood the First Lord of the Treasury to have stated that, with the assistance of the House, the Government would be able to take a dissolution of Parliament in the autumn. Now, the Reform Act of 1867 would not come into operation among the new constituencies until January 1, 1869, and he wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman proposed that the House should assist him by amending the Reform Act so that a dissolution might take place in the autumn? No doubt many new questions would be raised before the Revising Barristers which would result in appeals to the Court of Common Pleas. Many 1724 difficult questions might arise, and any course such as the right hon. Gentleman had indicated would thus be productive of great personal inconvenience.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that, before the right hon. Gentleman answered that question, he should be glad if he would give his (the Opposition) side of the House some better and clearer explanation of the position in which the Government stood, not only towards that House, but towards Her Majesty herself, because he had left the House in considerable doubt as to whether public affairs were now to be carried on under his advice and responsibility as a Minister of the Crown, or whether they were being carried on under the advice and responsibility of Her Majesty. If he understood the right hon. Gentleman correctly, he had placed two alternative propositions before Her Majesty for her consideration; but when two propositions were placed before the Sovereign it was obvious that a Minister shifted from himself the responsibility of taking either one or the other, and put the entire responsibility on the Sovereign to whom he gave such equivocal suggestions and advice. It seemed that Her Majesty was embarrassed by not having the clear advice of her Minister; and it was not very apparent whether Her Majesty suggested that something else should be done, or whether her Minister suggested it to the Sovereign. If so, the right hon. Gentleman must have put three courses to Her Majesty, and left with her the responsibility of deciding which course should be adopted. That state of things was a very serious perplexity to Gentlemen on his side of the House; for they did not know whether they might not be taking a course which was not only contrary to the views of Her Majesty's Ministers, but to the views of Her Majesty herself, which had been brought before the House in so extraordinary a manner. The matter was one that might exercise a very material influence over the minds, not only of Memmers of that House, but of the entire country. According to one portion of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, he appeared to be a suffering Minister, who was holding Office by the wish of the Queen, for the benefit of the people. A Minister in that position carried with him an enormous amount of sympathy, and throughout the whole country such a suffering Minister must receive an assistance and support which would not be accorded to a 1725 Minister who held Office on his own advice and responsibility against the twice-repeated judgment of the House of Commons. The House was entitled to know whether the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues sat upon that Bench upon the undivided responsibility of Ministers of the Crown, without any reference to the views and opinions of the Sovereign herself. To impose upon the House any other state of affairs was unconstitutional, and might lead to the most disastrous consequences. The right hon. Gentleman not only left the House in this ambiguity, but in the name of the Sovereign he tendered a kind of bargain to the House of Commons, and a bargain of the most marvellous character. A great majority of the House, after protracted debates, having come to the conclusion that a certain course of policy was necessary, this majority was to be declared merely nominal, and its conclusion to be set aside. And what was to be the consideration for such an abdication of duty on that side of the House — that the right hon. Gentleman should for eight or nine months have at his disposal the whole power and influence of the Executive Government and the patronage of the Crown for the purpose of defeating the policy which a majority of that House had deliberately adopted? That was a most extraordinary bargain to propose; and the right hon. Gentleman must have supposed that his right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) was in a state of unusual weakness, if he imagined he would entertain such a proposition. He was glad that his right hon. Friend would have nothing to do with such a suggestion, and that he had met it in the way he had done; for his duty was to go steadily forward with the policy he had enunciated, and to bring it to a legitimate conclusion in the present Session. He thanked his right hon. Friend for entirely repudiating the offer of Her Majesty's Ministers. Such a course would have been impracticable, and unworthy the acceptance of the majority of the House. The duty of the Opposition was to assert and to re-assert that essential policy which would alone secure the pacification of Ireland; and if Ministers desired to remain in their places they must accept it, and do the work of that (the Opposition) side of the House. There must be no flinching from that; and if the Government declined to accept the situation, then they must proceed upon their 1726 own undivided responsibility, and not shift or cast it upon the august Sovereign whom they ought to serve, but whom in reality they did not serve when they thus brought Her Majesty's name into question.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had stated that it was his intention to propose to Parliament some legislation which would enable a dissolution to take place in the autumn. Now, strictly speaking, the autumn did not end until the 21st of December, and as, by the Act, the new registration would not be in force until the 1st of January, 1869, he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman—not to fix the day—but to state at about what time he contemplated going to the country to a General Election; and, further, whether the new Parliament would be called together as soon as it was elected?
§ MR. BOUVERIE
Sir, I must raise my voice, humble though it be, against the continuance of the present most mischievous, anomalous, and unconstitutional state of things. The right hon. Gentleman two months ago announced that he had been authorized by Her Majesty to assume the first place in the Government of this country, and as First Minister of the Crown attempted to indicate the policy that he meant to pursue. By way of making it clear, he said that policy would be the policy of the Earl of Derby. Considerable doubts were entertained at the time as to what this policy of the Earl of Derby meant. But now, I apprehend, we have some further information on this subject, because the Earl of Derby has recently indicated his policy on the question which is now before Parliament, and, as I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman's Government have exactly followed the counsels of the Earl of Derby. The policy of those counsels appears to be to try and set the two Houses of Parliament at loggerheads with each other, and to put this House of Commons at variance with the Crown. Now, it is a most essential part of the working of our Constitution in modern times that this House should be in harmony with the Crown. In ancient times we had perpetual quarrels and differences with the Crown, and for more than 100 years those quarrels continued. They were of the most portentous character, for there were two rebellions, three revolutions, and one change of dynasty before we got the system of government into the right groove, and established that mode of government 1727 which brought the Crown into constant harmony with the House of Commons. That mode of government was that the majority of the House of Commons gave their confidence to the Government, and the Government represented the Crown, and in that way there was a permanent cessation of all variance between the House of Commons and the Crown. But, if the views now expressed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite are to be followed out, no long time will elapse before there will be a renewal of those differences between the Crown and the House of Commons which all who take an interest in the good government of the country must have hoped had ceased for ever. The right hon. Gentleman attempted to lay down a most startling doctrine, on which my right hon. Friend below me (Mr. Gladstone) has most justly animadverted — that a Ministry were entitled to a dissolution, and that, when defeated on some great question, they might keep that right of dissolution, as it were, in their pocket until a convenient season, and threaten the House of Commons with it. Against such a doctrine I, for one, protest. For 100 years after the Revolution it was an admitted axiom in this House that when the Government of the day could not command a majority in the House of Commons on great questions of policy there should be a change of Administration. A new rule was, however, introduced at the time to which my right hon. Friend below me alluded — during the first Government of Mr. Pitt, in 1784—which has been clearly laid down by high constitutional authorities. I will read to the House the opinion on this point of one whom many of us knew, whom some of us loved, and whom, I am sure, we all respected — I mean the late Sir George Lewis. He says in his book on the Administrations of Great Britain—It was not, in fact, definitively and clearly established unlit the year 1784, that where there is a conflict between the personal opinions of the Sovereign and those of a majority of the House of Commons the latter and not the former is to prevail, unless, indeed, a dissolution and a new election should reverse the decision of the previous Parliament.He then goes on to quote the opinion of Earl Russell, than whom there is no better authority on Constitutional Law, who says—The precedent of 1784, therefore establishes this rule of conduct, that if the Ministers chosen by the Crown do not possess the confidence of the House of Commons they may advise an appeal to 1728 the people, with whom rests the ultimate decision. This course has been followed in 1807, 1831, 1834, and in 1841.Now, what, let me ask, is the difference between that course and the course which the right hon. Gentleman opposite informs us the Government are going to pursue? He does not tell us that the business of the Session is to be wound up immediately, and that the dissolution will take place at once. He simply says, "There is to be a dissolution at some future time to enable the constituencies to pronounce an opinion on the question at issue between the two sides of the House, and to return new representatives, and because that opinion cannot now be given, in consequence of the new constituencies not having yet been called into existence, we shall continue in Office until their opinion can be given, and shall carry on the affairs of the country, in spite of an adverse majority of the House of Commons."This, I contend, is an entirely new rule which the right hon. Gentleman seeks to establish, that because some difficulty exists in the way of a dissolution at the present moment the Government are nevertheless to remain in Office under all the circumstances of the case, and to exercise all the powers of an Executive. It is, in short, an advance on the doctrine of power to dissolve greater than has been made since the Revolution, and which the House would do well, I think, to regard with the greatest jealousy. And what is the precedent to which the right hon. Gentleman referred us, with bated breath, when dealing with this point. He tells us, "It is true we are in a minority, and much has been said on the inconvenience which results from such a state of things, but we have a great authority in our favour—no less an authority than that of Earl Russell, who, when he was first Prime Minister, took the reins of office, although in a minority, and held them for five years." Now, what, I would ask, are the real facts of that case? Earl Russell; became Prime Minister when Sir Robert Peel resigned in 1846, and was avowedly supported by that distinguished Statesman and his Friends. There was no adverse division against Earl Russell's Government during the remainder of that year, and I may inform the right hon. Gentleman that it is a constitutional doctrine that a Ministry which comes into Office, although in a minority, is entitled to have a fair trial. When the Administration of Mr. Addington succeeded that of Mr. Pitt, Mr. Pitt, al- 1729 though they were in a minority, argued with great force that, having been intrusted with the conduct of affairs by the Crown, it was but right that a fair trial should be given them. I may add that in the case of Earl Russell's Government the right hon. Gentleman seems entirely to forget that that Government having taken Office in 1846, there was the very next year a General Election, and that a majority was returned by which it was supported until 1852. I venture to say that the position into which the right hon. Gentleman is driving the House is most unsatisfactory and mischievous. All the machinery, by means of which our business is conducted, is turned topsy-turvy The theory of our Parliamentary government is a very simple one. The Government propose certain measures, which they recommend for the adoption of the House of Commons, and it is the duty of the House to criticize and control the Government. In that way the public business is fairly conducted, and truth is, on the whole, arrived at. But now this state of things is about to be reversed. Her Majesty's Ministers must propose measures either in accordance with their own principles or with those of the Opposition. If the former, they are liable to be at once checkmated, and the conduct of business is not likely to be such as will be conducive to the welfare of the people. If, on the other hand, with a view to securing our support, they do not resist any measures which we bring forward, then we have no legitimate Opposition; the proper counterpoise of the Constitution is lost; there is no fair discussion, and measures pased under these circumstances are likely to prove entirely unsatisfactory. It is hopeless to expect to escape from this dilemma under the state of things which the right hon. Gentleman proposes for acceptance; and if he persists in the course which he has this evening shadowed forth, he will add nothing to the credit of his own Government, while he will create great mischief in the administration of the affairs of the country.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said he thought the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bouverie) had misrepresented the constitutional history of the country, in stating that from that history no precedent could be adduced of a Minister, who having the confidence of the Crown, but being in a minority in that House, continued to hold office. Now, that was the position of Mr. Pitt, who assumed the reins of government 1730 on the 18th December, 1783, not by any proceeding of his own, but on the dismissal by the Sovereign of the Coalition Ministry. Between that time and the dissolution which took place in March, 1784, Mr. Pitt was in a minority ten or twelve times. He afterwards appealed to the country on the ground that the House did not represent its opinions. He held Office till the country had become aware of the course intended by the House, and, looking at the result, he was justified in what he did. The hon. Member proceeded, amidst continued interruption, to compare the position of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government with that of Mr. Pitt, and concluded by reminding the House that Mr. Pitt persisted in his course until he had reduced the majority of the Opposition to 1, when he dissolved Parliament, and obtained an overwhelming majority from the country.
Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding the reply which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire has made to the observations of the First Minister of the Crown, and the speeches that have followed, I think there are still some things that may with advantage be said before this debate closes. I believe that some Members of the House received the observations of the right hon. Gentleman opposite with surprise, and that some received them with astonishment. I am not sure that the feeling of astonishment will not prevail throughout the country, and that it will not be expressed for many years to come by those who look back upon the transactions of this period. The right hon. Gentleman asks us to overturn the long-existing usage of Parliament; he asks us to disregard that which is the first principle of our Parliamentary action. I am not stating this a mere matter of my opinion. I say that, apart from party considerations, there is not a Member of the House of Commons who will differ from me in the opinion I now express. He asks us to do this to maintain in Office a Minister who acceded to Office by arts which, in my opinion, were not the most worthy in their character, and who has maintained himself in Office by adopting—so far as he has adopted any policy—a policy utterly at variance with everything he professed when in Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman says—and some of his friends say, and I suppose think, that there is a disposition to do him and his Administration; some injustice — [Mr. NOEL was under- 1731 stood to dissent.] But some of those on the other side talk as if we were doing the right hon. Gentleman some injustice. Now, two years ago a Government had been in Office eight months. It brought in a Bill perfectly consistent with its principles, and that Bill and that Government were assailed by the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends with no ordinary virulence. The result was that the Bill was rejected, and the Government was overturned. If any Government ever had a right to dissolve Parliament, I believe that Government had; but, acting on a scrupulous feeling, which I should say was somewhat too sensitive, that Government did not dissolve Parliament; they retired from Office. At that time I believe Her Majesty the Queen was anxious they should retain Office, and gave them her full consent, if they thought right, to dissolve the Parliament; they did not dissolve the Parliament, but retired from Office. That having taken place, the right hon. Gentleman treated certain Members of the House who had made a compact with him in a manner that was not thought by them very fair or honourable. The Session was wound up, and in 1867—the year afterwards—the right hon. Gentleman and his Government met Parliament, and in the course of that Session repudiated their allies, hooted their principles out of the House, and brought forward measures wholly opposed to their former principles, and, in point of fact, instead of any longer resisting a moderate proposition such as that of the Government of Earl Russell, they themselves advanced a proposition more extensive than that which, in the past year, they declared to be subversive of every Conservative institution of the country. Now, I will take care not to exaggerate anything. I will not describe what took place during that Session—I should raise a blush on the cheeks of some hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I would not do that. But I pass from the Session of 1867 to the autumn and winter of that year, and during that time, as hon. Gentlemen are aware, there was a grave manifestation of discontent in Ireland; there was great alarm through every part of the United Kingdom; there were troops pouring into Ireland continually; there were Commissions specially appointed to try offenders; there were State trials in abundance—at this moment there are, I believe, about 100 men undergoing sentences to various terms of penal servitude 1732 for their offences, and, more than that, some men suffered death by the hands of the executioner, for offences arising from circumstances springing out of discontent in Ireland. Well, now, the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs) who has the most impartial and dispassionate judgment, probably, of any of the Members on that (the Treasury) Bench, and of whom the right hon. Gentleman has to-night spoken in terms of praise which I will not say were exaggerated—this noble Lord said in the winter, only just before the meeting of Parliament, that the question of Ireland was "the question of the hour." Well, Sir, what happened when the House met? Why, this happened; a noble Duke, I believe, in the other House of Parlialiament—["Order."] — the other House of Parliament speak of us freely, and I know not why we may not refer to them. A noble Duke said that the policy of the Government with regard to Ireland was about to be explained in this House; and it was explained on a memorable evening by the noble Earl the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The noble Earl on that occasion, as we have reason to remember, made a speech extending over three hours and twenty minutes by the clock. He explained to us their policy, and I maintain that it was a policy of evil. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has entered into this subject at greater length than I shall, but I shall make one observation upon it. The policy which he shadowed forth was this: that he would pay the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland — he would endow it; that he would charter and endow a Roman Catholic University; and that he would pay an increased, a double sum, as Regium Donum to the Presbyterians. He was anxious to maintain the Established Church in Ireland to teach Protestantism, but, at the same time, he was willing to endow a University which should bring up the young men of the laity of Catholic Ireland firmly grounded in the tenets of the Roman Catholic religion. Now that was a policy that did not agree with the opinion of this House, nor did it receive, as far as I can judge, the slightest support from any section of the people of the United Kingdom. Well, Sir, what followed naturally from that? Why this—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, speaking as the organ — the mouthpiece—and the Leader of the majority of this House, brought forward a 1733 counter policy, and a policy which I venture to say, has met, to a degree which many hardly anticipated, the approval of this House, and which is every week and every day receiving testimonials of approval throughout the country. Now, the right hon. Gentleman at first did not know very well how to meet this. The course he took was to put up—or to permit — the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn to move an Amendment; and that Amendment, brought forward by a Minister second only to the Prime Minister in importance was flatly refused by the House, which rejected it by a majority of no less than 60 votes. And let me remind the House that more than one-half of all its Members voted in oppostion to the Amendment. Well, that is not a pleasant thing for a Government, though an adverse vote is not necessarily a humiliation to a Government. But I say that it is a great humiliation to a Government if it persist in clinging to Office after a vote of that character. Well, but the right hon. Gentleman came down to the House after the Recess, and he put on a kind of no-meaning, nothing-intending countenance, and proceeded with the business of the evening as if he positively never heard that there had been an adverse vote against his Government; and by-and-by, having got into Committee, the first Resolution was proposed, and the majority of 60 had swollen to 65. Now what has been the course—and I put it to hon. Gentlemen opposite—I put to any Member of the Government—of every Minister in our time—under any circumstances, I will not say like these, for there have been no circumstances exactly like these, but under circumstances approaching to them? I will not go back further, although I could, than the Reform Bill, and I say take the Government of Earl Grey, or the Government of Lord Melbourne, or that of Sir Robert Peel, or the first Government of Earl Russell; that of Lord Aberdeen, Lord Palmerston's Government, or the second Administration of Earl Russell, and taking these Governments, tell me if the Minister has not taken as his rule the decision of Parliament, and when he has lost the confidence of the majority of the House, as shown upon any matter of importance, he has in accordance with constitutional practice withdrawn from the Treasury Bench? I should like to ask why we are to depart from this practice now? I should have been very glad to have heard the right hon. Gentleman the 1734 Prime Minister give a fair reason; for that would have made it unnecessary for us on this side to call in question the position which he has assumed. The proposition is that the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends should be about twelve months more in Office. Well, I do not quite understand the proposition for a dissolution in the autumn. I doubt very much whether it be possible. In any case it will be so near the winter as to be greatly inconvenient, and I shall be somewhat surprised if it can be accomplished. I want to ask some one to tell us why we are to depart from Parliamentary usage, and from the acknowledged principles of our constitutional practice, for the sole purpose—there is no other purpose whatever that has ever been indicated in connection with it—of keeping the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends on that Bench. Can you give us a reason; can you give us an argument; can you give us a fact; can you even give us a decent pretence for it? Why, Sir, we saw this morning in a journal, which has a constant small liaison with the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, an article indicating the course which the right hon. Gentleman was likely to pursue. There was not the word "communicated" at the head of the article; but I dare say it was written after due consultation. What that article says is this:—"The Ministry can do nothing"—that is, between now and the General Election—"and the succession of the Opposition to power immediately after the General Election is certain." Well, now, I would not assert anything of the kind, although the general opinion, I believe, in the House and in the country is, that it is highly probable. But as this comes from a great friend of the right hon. Gentleman, it probably expresses the opinion of the Government. ["Order!"] When I say great friend, I mean the friend who serves the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends almost every morning as well as he can. But, Sir, there was one reason given by this journal for what it advances winch must create some amusement, and it is that, after the eight or nine months between this and the spring of next year, the Opposition will be much more prepared, it will be much riper, it will be found out who are the proper men to take Office, and that of the score at least of Gentlemen who expect to be in the next Cabinet, the expectant Prime Minister will have time to make a suitable selection; and that in the meanwhile the Government which is now 1735 in Office, being absolutely powerless as a Government is to take upon itself to perform the duties of an Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India in one of the debates—the debate, I think, before we went into Committee—told us—it was about midnight, but still we listened to him with attention — that the action of the party to which he belonged would be to resist the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire step by step. They would resist going into Committee, and if they were beaten they would resist the First Resolution, and the Second Resolution, and the Third Resolution; in fact, they would take the part of Opposition, and, while recognizing the superior power and authority of the right hon. Gentleman and those who support him, they would, to the utmost of their power, resist that authority. Now, I recollect Sir Robert Peel once addressing a Whig Government in very serious language. He told them that if they could come before the House with the authority of an united Cabinet, he thought what they had to recommend might be received with more attention. Is there any Gentleman in this House now who has ever seen since he sat in this House a Ministry that was so entirely chaotic with regard to a question of great public policy like that which is before us as is the present one. Why, when the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn made his speech, Gentlemen that I see opposite sat almost aghast; but when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department rose to answer the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and his voice resounded through the House with the old ring of Protestant ascendancy and "No surrender," the countenances of those hon. Gentlemen brightened, the gloom left them, and they became as exhilarated and excited as I have seen them on so many occasions when they have been in the wrong. Well, Sir, I say that if you take the speeches of the Foreign Secretary and those of the Home Secretary, the Secretary for India, the First Commissioner of Works, and the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, you will not be able to make out distinctly what would be the general result, the net result of all their opinions if you could put them together. And then again, if you were to take the opinions of many other hon. Gentlemen opposite who have not spoken, you would find that they differ to a large extent 1736 from all the propositions shadowed forth by the Government, and from many of the opinions expressed on their own side of the House during the debate. Well, but we are advised to go on as we are, because we shall not get the Scotch Reform Bill, and the Irish Reform Bill, and the Boundary Bills passed if we do not. But the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that he cannot pass the Scotch Bill as it is. A majority of the House intends to pass a Scotch Bill which shall accord with the opinions of those Members of the House from Scotland who are in favour of Reform; and I may say the same of the Irish Bill, for I understand that the Irish Members are prepared to make, or have made, certain propositions with regard to the Bill, and that Gentlemen on this side of the House, perhaps with an entire unanimity, will support the Amendments which they are prepared to submit. I am of opinion that both of these measures would be much better carried by a Government really in favour of Reform—because it is absurd to say that the Government which prepared these two Bills were in favour of any honest measure of Reform either for Scotland or for Ireland. ["No!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite for either Scotland or Ireland who are not Reformers have no right and no reason to contradict me. I did not include them in my statement. I was speaking of Gentlemen on this side of the House who wish for an honest, or what the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister called last year "a sincere," measure of Reform. I believe that both these Bills would be infinitely better in the hands of a Government representing a majority of the House and being Reformers, than in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and the supporters who sit behind him. But now the real difficulty which the course of the Ministry is bringing us into is one of a much more serious character, and I would ask the attention of the House—even of those who do not agree with us—to this. I wish to put it to them whether the point I am about to raise is not one of some importance. I will assume that what has been said by the newspaper from which I quoted is true, and that the Government could not expect a majority after the next Election. The passage is this—"The succession of the Opposition to power immediately after the next Election is certain." Now, I assume that to be true. I do not assert it, but everybody thinks that it is true, and I do not like to run counter to 1737 general opinion. Now, if this is to be so, and if we, as the majority of the House, permit the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues to remain in Office during the rest of this Session, I undertake to say that the Irish Church question—I speak now of the Bill which is to finally settle it—cannot even be grappled with by the House until the Session of 1870 — two years from the present time. The calculation is very simple. If the right hon. Gentleman, unhappily, as he would think, should be turned out of Office in the spring of next year, I presume that some Gentlemen who sit below me will take the place of himself and his Colleagues. When they come into Office in the middle of the Session, it is quite obvious that they cannot during the Session undertake the settlement of the Irish Church question. They come in in February, or March, or April. They have no time, with the business of the Session on their hands to go into the necessary inquiries, and discussions, and deliberations, which will be extensive in character, and often of a most delicate and difficult nature, for the purpose of preparing and submitting to the House a comprehensive measure for the settlement of this great question. [An Hon. MEMBER: They are going to do it now.] The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. What they are going to do now is to lay a foundation for what is to be done hereafter. If the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government were now to say that he agrees with us on the question of Ireland, and on this Church question, and that he intended at the earliest possible period to introduce this measure to carry out that intention, I should not blame him in the least if he said he would require an autumn and winter Recess to prepare a measure of this magnitude and of this delicacy to submit to the House. Any Minister would require that length of time fordoing so, and therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire at any time during the next Session of Parliament, were to come into Office according to the prediction of this newspaper, what will happen? That he cannot, during that Session of 1869, attempt to settle this question. He will require the autumn and winter of 1869 to prepare a Bill, and therefore the final measure on the Irish Church cannot by any possibility be introduced to the House before the Session of 1870. Now, I hope no hon. Gentleman opposite will disagree with me when I say that, if this matter is 1738 to be done at all, a delay of this kind is not only very unfortunate, but it may be perilous. An hon. Baronet on the other side of the House, the Member for the county, I think, of Londonderry (Sir Frederick Heygate) has spoken on this matter with great moderation, and in a manner, I am sure, which entitles him to the very respectful attention of the House. That hon. Gentleman said that he thought delay upon this matter was dangerous, and that if it was to be done it was very desirable that it should be done soon. And I have heard—I am not speaking of what has been said in debate — but I have heard, on that side, as well as this, expressions of opinion that if Parliament is really in earnest in settling this question, every other thing ought as it were to be put aside for the moment in order that the attention of Parliament might be exclusively turned to it, that the question should be settled finally, as speedily as possible. Now, the Session of 1868 has been, I am sorry to say, so far very unfruitful in legislation. It will not be unfruitful on this Irish Church question if the Resolutions from this side of the House are passed, and if the small Bill which is to be founded upon them should also pass. But the Session of 1869 will be absolutely wasted, as regards the question of disestablishing the Irish Church, if the right hon. I Gentleman should remain in Office till some period in that Session, and then should be obliged to give way to his successor, who might be disposed to settle this question, but who certainly could not attempt to do that until the Session of 1870. The hon. Member for Londonderry did not go into detail as to his views; but I understood him to think that if there was delay there might be great animosity created on this matter; that its settlement might involve a penalty in the amount of anger and animosity created which would be a high price to pay for it. But, I say, if you delay the matter for two years after that which the House has now done, you will create doubt and uncertainty and suspicion in the minds of the Irish people, for whom you are about to legislate; and you may find that that satisfactory opinion in Ireland which has been growing rapidly from the moment when the opinion of the House was expressed on this subject, may be changed, and men may say that the Imperial Parliament, though it pretends to legislate wisely for Ireland, doubts and hesitates and delays, and, perhaps, after all, may refuse to do that which during this Session 1739 it has been promising to the Irish people. Well, but if we change the Government now—and I am no advocate for a change of Government merely as a matter of change—but if we change the Government now, and proceed with this measure as far as we can in its preliminary steps this Session, And with the final measure next Session, all that is good and that is growing of good in the Irish mind at this moment over the South and West of Ireland will be strengthened and confirmed, and every step you take, and every debate you hold, and every decision which is favourable to them to which you come, will bring some of the wavering thousands and thousands of the Irish people into alliance and sympathy with the Imperial Parliament and Government. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman asks us to give up all this merely that he may remain in Office — ["No, no!"] — well, I maintain that when I have finished my sentence you will not be able to deny its correctness—that he may be maintained in Office until after the dissolution of Parliament. My right hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Bouverie) and some other Gentlemen have referred to that question of the demand of Ministers to have a dissolution of Parliament. I think it is one of the most outrageous propositions, on the principle on which it is demanded on their side, that has ever been made in the House of Commons — why you are making the Government not much better than a number of cricketers, who think that as their opponents have had an innings they should now have an innings. You are not now viewing the question as statesmen or as patriots; for surely no Minister has a right to go to the Crown and insist on or recommend a dissolution merely for the interests of the Minister or of his Colleagues. If he can recommend a dissolution honestly, with the view of supporting the character of the House of Commons, and with the view of ascertaining honestly the opinions of the constituencies, then I hold a Minister may do that any time during his tenure of Office. But now you are asked to reverse all that has been done in past times, to overthrow every principle on this subject which other Ministers have acted upon, and to keep Ministers in Office while the Opposition is in power. I certainly am astounded at the course taken by many hon. Gentlemen opposite. They cannot be satisfied with what has been done during the last two years—neither last year nor this. The hon. 1740 Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), I perceive, is not satisfied. I can see even at this distance anxiety pictured upon his countenance. He is ready to ask himself what next, and next. He knows there is no Government, and he knows there is no Opposition. He knows that in that state of things the legislation of Parliament becomes inconsistent and irregular, and tends very often, it may be, to serious evils. Well, now, I do not think it is a satisfactory state of things that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire should sit on this side of the House, the representative of the majority, and the actual Minister in power, while hon. Gentlemen opposite hold to the places of Government, and are themselves quite unable to carry any measure. They cannot resist these Resolutions upon the Irish Church; they cannot carry their Scotch Reform Bill; they cannot, I believe, carry their Irish Reform Bill. I know not that there is anything connected with the Government which they can carry during this Session of the slightest importance, except the passing probably of that very unpleasant thing the addition of 2d. to the income tax. But, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends, if I may quote a phrase which I believe is to be found in Lord Derby's translation of a great poem, are to enjoy the ambrosial provender which is set before those who hold high Office in this country. The right hon. Gentleman has given the House no reason for his claim of dissolution except the interests of himself and of the Government. He has not set before the House that we do not represent the constituencies on whose account we sit here. Nobody denies that. If there be one thing more certain than another, it is that Gentlemen on this side of the House have been compelled rather than otherwise by their constituents during the last mouth to support the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman. And, therefore, on that ground, the right hon. Gentleman opposite has no claim whatever to ask for a dissolution, and no claim whatever to sit as Minister, if that dissolution cannot be granted to him. Lord Burleigh said once—and he was considered a wise Minister—that England would never be undone except by a Parliament. I advise this House of Commons to look very warily as to its steppings and its course under the advice of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. I see in his course, and in that of his Colleagues, 1741 no adherence to any recognized principle—no regard for Parliamentary practice, and no care for constitutional usage; but a resolution that, having acceded to Office, to high Office, to the highest Office under the Crown, he will make every exertion to Stick to it until he is actually driven from it by some decided and perhaps some offensive vole of the House. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman's course is not good for the reputation of himself and his Colleagues; that it is very adverse to the character of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and adverse even to the Conservative theories which they entertain; and I believe, at the same time, that it is throughout the whole country damaging to the character of Parliament. And if it damages the character of Parliament, I know nothing that can possibly happen that can be more damaging to the interests of the people of this kingdom.
§ MR. KENDALL
said, he must protest against the assumption that there were only two parties in that House, and, as an Independent Member, he thanked the Prime Minister for the advice he had tendered to Her Majesty; any other course would have been a betrayal of his party. He contended that when the present Parliament was elected, the constituencies had not the slightest idea that the disestablishment of the Irish Church would be mooted, and the Prime Minister had therefore an undoubted light to appeal to the present constituencies. He did not see how they could get out of that. No one dreamt of it when Members were last at the hustings, and all he could say was that, had he been Prime Minister, he would not have hesitated for a moment, and he was only sorry that the dissolution had been delayed so long.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, he did not think that the Irish Reform Bill could be fairly and temperately dealt with while the House had the chain of an impending dissolution hanging round its neck. He had merely risen for the purpose of expressing an opinion which was shared by many Others—that if they were to be visited with a dissolution it would be more becoming and more constitutional that that dissolution should be at once.
§ SIR ROBERT COLLIER
said, he wished to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government on the subject of the proposed dissolution in the autumn. A great number of important and delicate questions would no 1742 doubt arise in the new registrations, questions with which the Revising Barristers had never before had to deal, and on which it would be absolutely necessary that the opinion of the Court of Common Pleas should be taken. Now, that Court did not sit till the 2nd of November, the term was not over till the end of November, and the registration appeals could not be decided before that, even if they were not protracted till the sittings after term, in which case there could not be a dissolution till December, unless it was intended to do away with those appeals. He wanted to know whether the right hon. Gentleman proposed to take that very unsatisfactory course?
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I am not going to trouble the House at any length, but one or two observations have been made which I must notice. Mainly, I shall speak with reference to what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) and others with regard to the audience which I had with Her Majesty. Now, what occured with regard to a dissolution or resignation was simply this—that Her Majesty's Ministers advised Her Majesty in the present state of public affairs, and mainly to obtain the opinion of the country upon the great question at issue, to dissolve Her Parliament, but at the same time they stated that if that course were embarrassing to Her Majesty they would tender their resignations. Her Majesty did not accept our resignations, and gave her unqualified assent to a dissolution of Parliament without the least reference to old or new constituencies. It was, as I thought I had distinctly shown at a subsequent period—and speaking with reference to the difficulty of this matter of dissolving at the time most convenient to the public interest—that I adverted to the peculiar and unprecedented circumstances, and in so doing I was acting under the representation which was made to me shortly before I went to Osborne by a Gentleman well known and deeply versed in these matters. By relinquishing, as we should feel bound to do, any attempts at legislation which we have made, and by confining ourselves solely to passing the Boundary Bills and the two Reform Bills for Scotland and Ireland, we were informed that it was possible to have an autumnal dissolution, and by an autumnal dissolution I understand a dissolution in November. These statements were made by Gentlemen learned in the 1743 law and thoroughly experienced in matters of the kind; and though I shall not at this moment question the correctness of the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down—and I will make a note of his observations—I must say I feel confident, on account of the quarter from which I received my information, that that result can be attained. This, I think, is all it is necessary for me to say at present, though, of course, I shall take an early opportunity of laying before the House fuller information respecting the views of Her Majesty's Government on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) was very severe in his comments on the position of the Government, but I am totally at a loss to understand what the right hon. Gentleman wanted. Does he want an immediate dissolution of Parliament, and, if he does, is he prepared to support Her Majesty's Government in endeavouring to obtain it? I shall be very glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman what his intentions are upon that point. With a view to an early dissolution in connection with the new constituencies, it is of the utmost importance that we should pass the Boundary Bill. Until it is passed it will be impossible for me to introduce, as I am recommended to do, a short Bill to alter the days at present arranged for the Registration. Unless we get the Boundary Bill passed early in June it will be impossible to take steps which will, as I am informed, secure an early dissolution. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) has made a speech framed upon a system which he first introduced into the House of Commons—which, however, has not yet been followed by any other Member, and which I trust will be a solitary precedent. The plan of the hon. Gentleman, when he wishes to cast odium on his opponents, is always to make quotations from some newspaper which habitually opposes the Government; and, having done that, to insinuate that they have been written by members of the Government. I must say that the first time the hon. Gentleman had recourse to that device I was amused by its airy gaiety and happy audacity of invention. But it has become so habitual to him that he seems to be always thinking of newspapers, and to believe that the world is governed by newspapers—which is the real cause of all the mistakes of his career, 1744 because he always assumes that newspapers are public opinion. I believe, however, that when the appeal, from which he expects certain results, is made to the new constituencies, the hon. Gentleman will find that he has been entirely misled by trusting to the calculations and representations of newspapers. So far as the Government are concerned, I hope that in future, when the hon. Gentleman imputes to us the communication of articles which he describes as the manifestoes of our opinions—I hope that he will not make his quotations from journals which habitually oppose Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne, in a speech which he made to-night, and which was characterized by all that amenity of manner and suavity of demeanour which render him such a favourite with the House, seemed to throw some new light upon certain events in this House; for he told us that the vote on the Resolutions on the Irish Church was not, as it has been described by the hon. Member for Birmingham and other Gentlemen, the expression of a profound conviction and statesmanlike opinion on a most important subject, but that it was in reality a vote of Want of Confidence in the Government. Now I say that if you wish to pass a vote of Want of Confidence in the Government, it would be more satisfactory to the country, and I believe, also, to the majority of this House, that it should be a straightforward vote. For what happens when we have these sinister votes of Want of Confidence—if, indeed, this be a vote of Want of Confidence? When the Government are beaten by a considerable majority, then, according to the right hon. Member for Calne, it it is a vote of Want of Confidence; but, speaking from my own personal experience alone—and I dare say my Colleagues and friends could testify to many other instances—I may say that I have received a variety of communications from Gentlemen who voted, no doubt, from conscience and conviction on the Irish Church question, and who gave that large majority to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and those communications state that they did not thereby intend in any way whatever to imply a general want of confidence in the Government. Therefore, there ought to be no mistake or misunderstanding on such a subject. If you wish to pass a vote of Want of Confidence, propose a vote of Want of Confidence. Let the case be fairly 1745 argued, let the House give a deliberate opinion on the subject, and let the country judge. But if votes like those which have lately been given in this House, and which I believe are conscientious votes, on a subject of the greatest importance, are to be suddenly transformed and metamorphosed into votes of Want of Confidence, we shall be getting into a habit which cannot increase the reputation of the House for candour, or enable us to carry on our affairs in that manner which I think has been on the whole satisfactory.
§ MR. CARDWELL
I rise Sir, for the purpose of asking the right hon. Gentleman to state with perfect clearness a point on which I am not sure we have entirely understood him. I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say he has been informed by some person of legal knowledge and great acquaintance with electioneering matters that it would be impossible, if the Irish and Scotch Reform Bills and the Boundary Bill were proceeded with, to take measures for a dissolution in November. In answer to that an objection was raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Plymouth (Sir Robert Collier), which he believes to be a difficulty in the way of proceeding in that matter. I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that on this point he will consult either the Law Officers of the Crown or, at any rate, legal gentlemen on whose opinion he can positively rely, and that, on an early occasion, he will state to the House the precise course which it is the intention of the Government to take.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, he was unable to see the great importance of what was termed an early dissolution. It implied that business would be slurred over, There would be an untimely "massacre of innocents," and the Scotch and Irish Reform Bills would be hurried through. Of course the question of the Irish Church must go before the new constituencies; but that was no reason why the present House of Commons should not dispassionately and thoroughly settle the other important questions now under the consideration of Parliament.
remarked that nothing had been said about the Order for the resumption of the Committee on the Resolutions on the Irish Church, and expressed a hope that they might be proceeded with on Thursday.
§ MR. DISRAELI
replied that the right 1746 hon. Gentleman should certainly have Thursday if an earlier day cannot be obtained.
§ MR. DISRAELI
After the Committee of Ways and Means we shall go on with the Representation of the People (Ireland) Bill. With regard to the Boundary Bill, representations have been made to me by hon. Members opposite. I believe it would be very inconvenient to them to have the Boundary Bill to-night. Therefore I will not press that; but I hope we shall go on with the representation of the People (Ireland) Bill.
§ Motion, by leave, Withdrawn.