I rise. Sir, to put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government which will require some explanation; and I will therefore commence by moving the adjournment of the House. I think the justification of that course will appear from the matter which I have to state. I did not expect, when I closed the remarks which I had to make to the House yesterday afternoon, on the subject of the Ministerial Explanations, that it would be my duty to revert to that matter at so early a date. But the character of the debate which took place in this House was unexpectedly altered by a remarkable declaration, withheld from us by the Prime Minister during the lengthened speech which he addressed to us at the commencement of the Sitting, and given in so enigmatical a manner and at such a period that neither my hon. Friends who sit about me, nor I myself, were in a condition to follow him or to comment upon that speech. But even that declaration, enigmatical as it was, does not constitute the whole, or even the main part, of the subject which I wish to bring under the notice of the Government and the House, and with respect to which I am about to put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. I must remind the House briefly of what occurred with regard to an essential portion of the right hon. Gentleman's communication. The right hon. Gentleman told us at the commencement 1788 of the Sitting that the advice Ministers had tendered to the Crown was to dissolve the present Parliament; but that if, for any reason, Her Majesty saw cause to prefer a different course, and to ask the advice of other persons, Her Majesty's Government would place their resignation in Her Majesty's hands. Her Majesty, said the right hon. Gentleman, did not accept their resignation, and she was ready—I am quoting now what I believe to have been his words, but up to this time I have only given the substance of them—"she was ready to dissolve this Parliament as soon as the state of Public Business would permit." I myself, Sir—and, I believe, the whole House — distinctly understood the meaning of those words; and I testified, and others did so too in the remarks which they offered, that, according to our view, the advice offered as to an immediate dissolution had not been taken, that the resignation of the Government had not been accepted, and that the condition in which we stood was this—the Government proposed to carry on the Public Business until after the completion of those portions of business which they had declared to be essential—namely, business having relation to the subject of Reform—when they should be in a condition to advise Her Majesty to dissolve the present Parliament. The reference to such a dissolution was undoubtedly not open to objection; although, on other grounds, it was my duty to take exception to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, and other Members took exception to it likewise with great justice upon other points. One of them, in particular, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), rightly charged that the right hon. Gentleman, by the mode of his communication to the House, for the first time, I believe, in recent history, certainly within the recollection of the present generation, or, as far as I know, within any other recollection,—seemed to make Her Majesty the suggester of the course which was about to be pursued by the Government, instead of the acceptor or rejector of the simple and single advice tendered by them to her, as has been the case on every former occasion. However, feeling the absorbing interest and importance of a great public question, I think I may say for some, if not all of us, who sit on this side of the House, that we were desirous to pass by topics purely political, and in that 1789 strain the debate was closed. But, at the close of the debate, the right hon. Gentleman gave us, in that enigmatic manner which is so peculiar to him, a most important addition, which was likewise, in fact, an alteration of the speech which he had made, because he signified that Her Majesty had given an unqualified assent to a dissolution of Parliament, without reference to the new or to the old constituency. Had I had the power of following the right hon. Gentleman, I should have asked for an explanation of that statement. I own it excited my suspicion; I thought that it meant more than the words were intended at the moment to convey, and that it was a sort of cover for future and ulterior designs. But I wish now to illustrate that which occurred at the close of our debate, when none of us who had entered into it were in a condition to comment on the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and when the House, at the approach of the inevitable hour of dinner, had sunk to low water mark. The illustration which it appears to have received from a statement made elsewhere is really most significant. It signifies not to me in what other place this statement was made. I am not going to run across either the letter or the spirit of any of our rules—I speak of statements credibly reported, to have been made, it matters not in what place, by responsible Advisers of the Crown; and it is upon this statement that I wish to put a distinct question to Her Majesty's Government—a question which, I trust, will lead, either upon this or upon some other occasion, if it should be requisite, to an answer equally clear and distinct. It appears that one Member of the Cabinet (the Earl of Malmesbury) made a declaration elsewhere which was in precise concurrence and agreement, so far as I am able to learn or to comprehend it, with the first edition of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. After that had been done, exception was taken to that statement upon grounds essentially similar to part of the objections taken in this House, and a question appears likewise to have been put asking for further information from the Government. In answer to that question the Duke of Richmond is reported to have spoken, and to have touched upon one or two points to which in my remarks I have referred. In the early part of what fell from him, he is reported to have said—I can only recapitulate imperfectly what my 1790 noble Friend (the Earl of Malmesbury) stated so clearly as to the position of affairs at this moment. The Prime Minister, on the part of his Colleagues, tendered to his Sovereign the resignation of their Offices on Friday afternoon. Her Majesty took time to consider the matter, and received the Prime Minister again in audience upon Saturday."—[3 Hansard, cxci. 1690.]Now, Sir, I submit to the House that is a statement totally different from the one made by the right hon. Gentleman. ["No, no!"] That is a statement that the Prime Minister went down to Osborne and tendered the resignation of the Government to the Queen. I do not now inquire how it was, and why it was, the Duke of Richmond gave that form to his statement—I have no doubt in perfect integrity—because that is a matter which may call for further comment. ["Oh, oh!"] No doubt, it is the wish of the hon. Gentlemen who interrupt me that no such comment should be made; but the duties incumbent on Members of this House are not to be discharged otherwise than in accordance with our deliberate convictions; and sense of what is right. Sir, as to the statement made, what I want to point out is this, if I have not made myself clear:—The right hon. Gentleman said he went down to Osborne and advised a dissolution, but if Her Majesty should see fit not to accept that advice he tendered his resignation. The statement of the Duke of Richmond yesterday was that the right hon. Gentleman tendered his resignation on Friday. The noble Duke did not say a word about the right hon. Gentleman having advised a dissolution. That is the first discrepancy I wish to notice, and respecting which I wish for information. I want to know whether this statement is accurate and correct. But I pass on to a matter equally unintelligible, and I think more weighty and mere important—in truth a matter calling for the gravest attention of this House—I will not say now, because that may depend on the Answers which may be given, but probably hereafter. The remainder of the statement is as follows:—After the noble Duke announced that Her Majesty had declined the resignation, and that the Government would continue to conduct the public affairs as long as they were able to do so, he is reported to have gone on and spoken as follows:—And in the event of any difficulties arising, Her Majesty was graciously pleased to state that she would make no objection to a dissolution of Parliament."—[Ibid.]The noble Duke then appears to have proceeded 1791 to reiterate that important statement. I may say I have endeavoured as well as I was able to ascertain whether the report of the noble Duke's observations is correct. With that object I have applied to one very competent witness, and the evidence I have received is that it is correct. Well, then the noble Duke is reported to have made these further observations—It of course will depend upon the state of affairs whether that dissolution shall be a dissolution under the existing constituency, or whether it shall be a dissolution under the new constituency to be formed under the Reform Acts; but Her Majesty was graciously pleased to state that she would make no objection to either course being adopted by her Advisers whenever they should see fit to tender to Her Majesty a recommendation on that subject."—[3 Hansard, cxci. 1690.][Cheers.] Now, Sir, in the first place, I hear cheers which I think it material to note from the opposite side, as I presume they are an indication of the opinion of the hon. Gentlemen who utter them that the sentiments expressed by the noble Duke are right and constitutional sentiments. I am not about to ask the right hon. Gentleman, or the Government, whether Her Majesty did say she would make no objection to a dissolution, or to any other course being adopted by her Advisers when they should think fit. Sir, a long experience of over thirty years has satisfied this House and the country that Her Majesty well deserves—if ever any Sovereign deserved—this simple testimony, that she knows and that she has ever walked in the lines and pathways of the Constitution. It is not for one moment to be supposed that there is the slightest question to be raised on that subject. I gladly echo back the just statement of the right hon. Gentleman that to the advantage of having acquired a thorough knowledge of the principles of the Constitution Her Majesty possesses, in addition, the inestimable advantage of what he pointedly, and not unjustly, described as "a vast experience of public affairs." Sir, my question is not as to what has taken place, or to what has not taken place, between the Sovereign and her Ministers; it is simply as to the words purporting to have been spoken by these Ministers themselves. These are words respecting which I wish to know whether they are avowed or disavowed by the right hon. Gentleman for the whole Government. We have heard enough, indeed, of differences in the speeches of Members of the Cabinet. The noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign 1792 Affairs sits within one of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and the latter right hon. Gentleman sits within one of the First Commissioner of Works. I need not refer to the icy temperature of the discussion which was raised by the Foreign Secretary in dealing with the vote on the Irish Church, nor to the glowing language in which some of his Colleagues described the glory of the task they had undertaken, nor to the devoted avowal made by the First Commissioner of Works—that he sits on those Benches for the purpose of defending the Irish Establishment, and that he will not sit on them when he can no longer do so for that purpose. But this is a totally different matter. It is one respecting a declaration made by Ministers of the Crown, and purporting to define the relative positions of the Crown, the Government, and the House of Commons. In making such a declaration the Member of the Government who addresses Parliament speaks for the whole Cabinet; and to the very least syllable of a statement such as this we are entitled, we are bound, to ask the Government whether they adopt the statement of their Colleague? As to the meaning of the statement itself I need say but little. I think it is plain enough. The Duke of Richmond tells us that leave for a dissolution had been obtained by the Government beforehand in anticipation of events, with reference to cases which have not arisen, with reference to the entire course of public business; not simply, though that would be quite enough—and wholly without precedent—in respect of the Irish Church, but in respect of every stage of any Bill which may come before the House of Commons. He parades this leave before our faces—this leave to dissolve the House of Commons in case difficulties should arise, that is, in case any of its votes should be displeasing to Her Majesty's Government. Having stated the meaning of that language, I carefully refrain at the present moment from going further. My duty is to make the request—I think a not unreasonable one—that this language may either be explicitly adopted or explicitly disavowed. As to what may follow such adoption or disavowal it is perfectly unnecessary for me to speculate; my business is to ascertain the fact. I know that perhaps amid the pressure and distraction of affairs it is possible, though hardly probable, that the right hon. Gentleman has not become acquainted with the exact expressions used in "another place." 1793 It would be most unjust on my part to press for an answer to an inquiry which, so far as the right hon. Gentleman is concerned, may be a hypothetical inquiry. I have no objection, therefore, to his taking time to ascertain the facts; but I ask for a distinct and intelligible answer to these Questions: First, whether language of this kind was used by the Duke of Richmond, now one of the confidential Advisers of the Crown; secondly, if it was so used, whether it is adopted by Her Majesty's Government as signifying the relations in which they stand to the House of Commons, and the position in which they would ask the House of Commons to continue to discharge its functions in the execution of the legislative business of the country?
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ MR. DISRAELI
I would first observe that I had myself yesterday no wish whatever to again address the House; but pointed inquiries were made to me on particular heads, and it was necessary therefore that I should reply to them; and I had an opportunity of replying to them subsequently to my original statement, an hon. Gentleman having moved the adjournment of the House. That would have given the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone)—although he had spoken previously—an opportunity of speaking again. Therefore the remark of the right hon. Gentleman that he was silent and reticent then because the forms of the House would not allow of his noticing my observations really has no foundation. It was perfectly open to the right hon. Gentleman to make any comments whatever on any discrepancy which he may have thought he observed in my statements as to the audiences graciously accorded to me by Her Majesty. But the right hon. Gentleman was silent. I do not think that on subjects of this kind there ought to be any difference of opinion between the two sides of the House. It is for the interest and the honour of both sides of the House that on a matter of such grave import there should be no misunderstanding. We may all use expressions which are liable to misinterpretation; but I do unequivocally maintain that there was not the slightest difference — certainly not the slightest intentional difference—between my original and my subsequent statement as to what occurred at the audience which Her Majesty graciously 1794 accorded to me. That there was a misunderstanding, however, on the part of the right hon. Gentleman and of other hon. Gentlemen as to one point was very obvious to me as the discussion went on, and accordingly at the right time I took the opportunity of correcting that misunderstanding. I will again repeat very succinctly, but very accurately, what occurred when, by Her Majesty's gracious permission, I attended Her Majesty at Osborne. After putting Her Majesty in possession of the views entertained by the Government of their position, I did at once, considering the present state of affairs, recommend a dissolution of Parliament, not only in justice to Her Majesty's Government, but for the sake of obtaining the decision of the country on the great question at stake. I understand that this is the statement I made last night, and I repeat that statement. I did also, when in audience of Her Majesty, add, in reference to the first and inferior motive of that advice—namely, the personal claims of the Ministers—that if Her Majesty thought a more satisfactory settlement of the question at issue could be attained, or that the best interests of the country would be better considered by our immediately retiring from Her Majesty's service, we should retire only with that feeling of gratitude to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. The advice then which I gave, with the full consent of my Colleagues, was, to advise Her Majesty to an immediate dissolution—to a dissolution of Parliament "as soon as"—according to custom and the constitutional phrase—"as soon as the state of Public Business would permit." That was the statement which I made, or certainly intended to make, to the House, and I believe that is generally recognized as the statement which I made.
As I do not wish the right hon. Gentleman to rise in order to explain again, I wish to ask him whether the recommendation made to Her Majesty referred to a dissolution with the present constituency?
§ MR. DISRAELI
What I complain of, and what has led to misapprehension, is that when a person in my position comes here and makes what he intends to be a clear and plain statement of what occurred, hon. Gentlemen rise up and interpose matters which really have nothing to do with the question — ["Oh, oh!"]—nothing to do with what I am stating. I have stated what occurred in that audi- 1795 ence; but when I have made what I think was a very clear statement on that subject the hon. Gentleman gets up and says, "But did you refer to something else?" I repeat my statement as I made it. We recommended absolutely and unequivocally, without reference to any particular circumstances, that Her Majesty should dissolve Parliament for a particular reason, as soon as the state of Public Business would permit. And Her Majesty, without reference to any point such as the hon. Gentleman mentions, ultimately sanctioned that advice, refusing to accept our resignations, and expressing her readiness to dissolve Parliament as soon as the Public Business would permit. That was the statement which I made last night. I afterwards, having Her Majesty's permission to speak frankly to the House, and wishing, as indeed, it was my duty, to conceal nothing, but simply to discharge my duty to the House, made a statement in reference to the meaning which the House might wish to ascribe to the phrase "when the state of Public Business will permit." And I need not remind the House that I was in a position in which no Minister was ever placed before, because the circumstances which now exist never existed before. Therefore it was my duty to lay those circumstances before Her Majesty; but this had nothing to do with the original advice given, or with the original decision of Her Majesty. I had to state facts which are perfectly familiar to every Gentleman in this House—that there is an existing constituency and a newer constituency—which matters Her Majesty must have been well acquainted with, although I nevertheless felt I ought to bring them directly under Her Majesty's notice. I did hope that if we gave up all the Bills which we had introduced into the House, and confined our attention merely to the supplementary measures connected with the Reform Act, the House would act cordially with the Ministry, so that we might be able to bring affairs to so expeditious a conclusion that the General Election might be taken by an appeal to the new constituency. That is what I conveyed to the House yesterday—that was the observation which I felt it my duty to make to Her Majesty, and I could not have appeared in this House upon the subject without frankly communicating the fact in the same spirit to the House. But that has nothing whatever to do with the original object of my visit to Osborne. I did at once, in cones- 1796 quence of the state of affairs, and in consequence of the position in which we were placed, recommend a dissolution of Parliament; and, as I have already stated to the House, I did, on behalf of myself and my Colleagues, tender our resignations. Her Majesty refused to accept our resignations, and sanctioned a dissolution of Parleament as soon as the state of Public Business should permit. I am sorry to have been under the necessity of going at any length into this subject on the present occasion; but after the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, it was absolutely necessary that I should put the matter clearly before the House. And now, Sir, I think that, having been the Minister who was in audience of the Queen, my statement on this subject may be taken as the authentic statement; and if a statement is made in "another place" by a Minister who is my Colleague, and which may be different from the statement I have made here—and I must candidly say I was entirely unaware, until the right hon. Gentleman told the House this evening, that any remarks of the kind had been made, for I have had no opportunity of making myself acquainted with them—but if any of my Colleagues in "another place" have conveyed a different impression to the House in which they sit, it appears to me that—I having been the Minister who was in audience of the Sovereign, and who came down here to make an authentic statement by Her Majesty's command and permission—the logical consequence would be that my Colleague in "another place" should be called upon to explain the differences between the statement alleged by the right hon. Gentleman to have been made there and the statement made by the Chief Minister, who has been in audience of the Queen, and who, by Her Majesty's command and permission, came down to the House of Commons to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
If a Member of this House wished to ascertain what had been stated by a Member of the Government in "another place," the proper course to take would be to ask a question of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. My right hon. Friend does not sit in the other House, and consequently has no opportunity of questioning the Colleague of the right hon. Gentleman. He has, however, a legitimate and proper opportunity of questioning the right hon. Gentleman here, and why the right hon. Gentleman 1797 has complained of my right hon. Friend's giving him an opportunity of giving an explanation in this House I, for one, am at a loss to understand. I admit there may be a defect of understanding on my part; but still I think there is an ambiguity in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, who has not told us whether the dissolution which he recommended to Her Majesty, and which her Majesty sanctioned, will be with the present or the future constituency. Now, the Duke of Richmond, as I understand, stated in "another place"—and the accuracy of the report is not disputed — that the power of dissolution was in the alternative, and the important business still before this House is to be conducted under the impression, at any rate in this House, that if the Ministry are defeated a second, or rather a fourth, time, then, at last a dissolution is to come. Those who have been at a public school know what "a first fault" is; but it appears that, according to this new constitutional doctrine, the right hon. Gentleman, according to the explanation of the Duke of Richmond, has gone a step further than he enunciated yesterday, and now the doctrine seems to be that, if the Government suffer a tremendous defeat once, or twice, or three time, it shall count for nothing; but that, if they are defeated again, there shall certainly be a dissolution and an appeal to the existing constituency. Now, that seems far worse than anything which has been yet proposed. On this point let me appeal to the good sense of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who has a considerable knowledge of constitutional practice. How is it possible for the deliberations of this House to be fairly conducted, or for the relations between the House and the Crown and its Ministers to be properly has been carried maintained, if this is to be the understanding? I think all this follows from the course which the right hon. Gentleman has pursued. I insist upon it that it is a sound doctrine that, under such circumstances as exist at present, Government ought either to resign or dissolve; and, in the latter event, they ought to state distinctly and clearly that they will only just conclude the business already in hand, appealing to the good sense of the House to assist them in doing so. Now, if you are determined, as the right hon. Gentleman intimated yesterday, to carry on this Parliament till the new constituent have had an opportunity of expressing their opinion, eight or nine months must certainly elapse—and 1798 possibly eighteen or nineteen months—before we can have a dissolution, because the Scotch and Irish Reform Bills now stand in the position which the English Reform Bill occupied last year; and, if we are to have long and elaborate discussions in Committee on the clauses of those Bills, it is not at all unlikely that, at the close of the discussions, some demand may be made that the register of the new voters in Scotland and Ireland should not come into operation till the succeeding year, so that a further lease of Office will be given to the Government. It conies to this—the House of Commons have distinctly expressed this want of confidence by an overpowering vote. [Cries of "Move!"] I say there has been a Vote of Want of Confidence of the House on the Irish ecclesiastical policy of the Government. I contend, and without dread of dispute, that this was not, as the right hon. Gentleman alleged yesterday, an unprovoked and unnecessary move on the part of the Opposition; but that it was provoked by the Government stating and inviting an opinion upon their Irish Church policy. Then, what was the meaning of the vote to which we came? It was that we had no confidence in the Irish ecclesiastical policy of Her Majesty's Government; that we did not approve the principle of levelling up rather than the principle of levelling down; that we had a distinct policy which was the exact contrary of that of the right hon. Gentleman, and that in this most material respect we had not the slightest confidence in the Government. That is equivalent to what has been admitted in the past practice and history of this House to be substantially a Vote of Want of Confidence. It is idle, after a Resolution of that kind had been carried by such a majority, to say—"It is true you may not like our Irish Church policy; you may not think it right to endow a new Roman Catholic College, nor to increase the Regium Donum; but look how unassailable are our foreign administration, our Indian government, and our financial management." That is no answer to the vote of this House that, in respect of their Irish Church policy, the Government does not possess our confidence.
§ MR. SANDFORD
said, that the statement of the noble Duke in "another place" was perfectly plain, straightforward, and was expressed in language not so cautious and not so mystifying as that of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. The statement that the right hon. 1799 Gentleman had just made was in perfect accordance with the narrative of the noble Duke; but he must confess that, after hearing the first statement of the right hon. Gentleman, he laboured under a very different impression of what had taken place than he did after hearing the explanations of this evening. What he understood this evening was that the right hon. Gentleman had advised a dissolution of this House, and Her Majesty had consented to it, and, further, that the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to press that dissolution, not upon any necessary measures for completing the Reform Bills, but only if, upon the introduction of any new matter or subject, a vote equal to a Vote of Want of Confidence were carried. If he understood the right hon. Gentleman —and it was a point that should be cleared up—the House was at perfect liberty to alter the Irish and Scotch Reform Bills and the Boundary Bill as it pleased. He hoped the House would not endorse that it should enter into legislation on these matters with the threat of dissolution hanging over its head. He could have understood the right hon. Gentleman stating that the Government were perfectly willing to complete the work of Reform and then to dissolve, that would be a fair and just proposition; but if the right hon. Gentleman meant to say he had the power in his pocket to dissolve the House if it altered the Scotch or Irish Reform Bills, or rejected the Boundary Bill, that was a most unconstitutional proceeding on the part of any Minister. The declaration of the noble Duke appeared to have been amply borne out by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. CARDWELL
The right hon. Gentleman says that if anybody questions a statement that has been made, or supposed to have been made by one of his Colleagues, the logical course is to put a question to that Colleague himself. It appears to me that when we want to know whether the language of a Colleague of the right hon. Gentleman is the language of the collective Government, acknowledged, approved, and avowed by the right hon. Gentleman himself, and when we speak of transactions in which the right hon. Gentleman, and not his Colleague, took a part, whatever the logical course may be, the fair and straightforward course is to propround a question to the right hon. Gentleman himself, and if there is no mystery at the bottom of this matter there will be no difficulty in giving a simple answer to 1800 the question. It is our bounden duty to see whether there is any mystery, or whether there is plainness and straightforwardness on the part of the right hon. Gentleman and the Government. In the reply of the right hon. Gentleman last night he used these words—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."—[3 Hansard, cxci. 1742.]Now, Sir, in those words, taken by themselves, there is not rising to the surface, perhaps, the appearance of a menace or threat; but these words do not stand by themselves; they are explained by other words which have been used by a person justified in speaking on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. He refers to the same transaction, and his words are these—We intend to conduct the affairs of the country so long as we are able to do so; and in the event of any difficulties arising Her Majesty was graciously pleased to state she would make no objection to a dissolution of Parliament. It, of course, will depend upon the state of affairs whether that dissolution shall be a dissolution under the existing constituency or whether it shall be a dissolution under the new constituency to be formed under the Reform Acts."—[3 Hansard, cxci. 1690.]Now, Sir, we have a practical object in endeavouring to obtain an answer to this question. As long as I have been in Parliament, or have read anything even of the rudiments of the Constitution, I have believed there were two things which to violate was to violate the essential condition of freedom in this country: one was to give the Sovereign the appearance of expressing an opinion to Parliament, and the other was placing Parliament in reality or in appearance under the menace or threat of dissolution. Now, Sir, it appears to me upon the statement of the right hon. Gentleman—it is not yet clear, but we are giving the right hon. Gentleman a fair and straightforward opportunity of saying whether it be the case—firstly, that he tendered simple, unqualified, direct advice to his Sovereign, and not contingent or optional advice; and secondly, he is not now placing us under the menace or threat of a dissolution in regard to the future conduct of our business in this House. That was the object of the question propounded by my right hon. Friend. I humbly submit to the House it cannot be put off by clever phrases and ingenious evasions in debate; and that we are entitled to be told in what character we are about to legislate during the short remainder of the Session, and 1801 whether we are the free representatives of those who sent us here or we only hold our places at the will and pleasure of the right hon. Gentleman?
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
My right hon. Friend the Member for the city of Oxford (Mr. Cardwell), has put an intelligible and very simple question, to which the Government are able to give a very intelligible and simple reply. But the question as it was originally put by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) was one which it was not perfectly easy to understand, and still less easy to answer. The question as it was put had reference to what had been said by my noble Friend (the Duke of Richmond) in "another place." My right hon. Friend the First Minister had not read or seen the report of what the Duke of Richmond had said; and I may say for myself, that I also had not seen it; but a question has; now been put by the right hon. Member for the City of Oxford to which the Government have not the smallest difficulty in giving an answer. The right hon. Gentleman asks, whether it is to be understood that the Government hold out to the House any menace of a dissolution. ["No, no!"] It will be in the recollection of the House whether that was not the question of the right hon. Gentleman. We were asked, unless I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, this question, whether it was to be understood, in the account which my right hon. Friend had given of his interview with Her Majesty, and of Her Majesty's expressions of approval of the recommendation that had been made to her, that a menace was held out to this House by which the House was to be considered to proceed to wind-up the business which now lies before it under the threat of a dissolution. I say at once, on the part of the Government, there was no intention of that sort, and that no such menace was held out.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that, having listened attentively to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government yesterday, he had failed to understand the exact situation of affairs, which, therefore, might not be so well understood by other hon. Members and throughout the country as it ought to be. He had been enlightened by the statement made in "another place," and he had listened to the further explanations that had now been made, and he was now more confused than he was before any explanation was given. He was inclined to 1802 to think this confusion arose from the fact hat the Prime Minister had given the House, not a statement of what took place between himself and his Sovereign, but a short summary of his own idea of the communications which passed between them. ["Oh!"] He must repeat that assertion, and adhere to it, because the right hon. Gentleman did not profess to give an account of the communications between his Sovereign and himself; but he gave only the effect of it; and the communications could not have been of the brief nature he had described to the House. In attempting to give a short version of what must have taken place he might have done justice to himself; but it was not so clear he had done full justice to his Sovereign. A very painful impression would be created throughout the country, and more especially in Ireland, when the full nature of the right hon. Gentleman's statement of the result of his communication with his Sovereign was understood. For what was that result? Did the right hon. Gentleman tell his Sovereign that a great majority of the House of Commons had, after full discussion, deliberately resolved upon a policy with the object of satisfying the people of Ireland, and that it was necessary, in the opinion of the great majority of the House, that that policy should be immediately carried into effect? Did he tell his Sovereign that he was determined to resist that policy to the utmost, and would use all the power and influence of the Government for the purpose of setting at defiance the deliberate judgment of the House of Commons? Did he ask to be left in Office for that purpose; and was it for that purpose his Sovereign said he should not resign, but should continue to administer public affairs? The House must know something more of the circumstances under which the right hon. Gentleman said he tendered his resignation, which his Sovereign refused to accept? Did the right hon. Gentleman advise his Sovereign to accept his resignation? This practice of tendering a resignation was unintelligible unless it was accompanied by the most solemn advice to the Sovereign to accept it, and unless all the arguments were used which were necessary to induce the Sovereign to accept it. ["Oh, oh!"] If this were not done, how could a Minister of the Crown suggest that the Sovereign was keeping him in Office for the purpose of resisting the deliberate judgment of the House of Commons? It was absolutely necessary to explain the whole interview, 1803 and not the effect of it, when that effect was to give a character to a Ministry at the expense of the Sovereign. Then, in a further communication with the Sovereign, language was used of a most equivocal character. This was when a suggestion was made that Parliament should be dissolved "as soon as the state of Public Business would admit." In the ordinary sense of those words they meant that Parliament would be dissolved within a fortnight. If such language were addressed to any hon. Member conversant with public affairs, and he were told that Parliament was to be dissolved as soon as the state of Public Business would admit, he would at once understand that there would be a dissolution within a fortnight. Was that the sense in which this recommendation was made to Her Majesty, or had it some different meaning? If so, it was an ambiguous piece of advice, leading to no satisfactory result. They had not as it appeared to him, had a fair and frank statement of what took place between the Sovereign and the First Minister, and he was prepared to repeat the assertion that the name of the Sovereign had been used towards the House in a manner wholly unjustifiable. What was the proposition that had been made to the House? The right hon. Gentleman asked the great majority of the House to come to this extraordinary bargain, that they should abdicate their functions during the residue of the Session, and refuse to proceed with the Public Business submitted for their consideration, and that for no purpose that he could conceive, save to keep the present Government in Office. He wanted to know whether, when such a proposition was made, the House did not feel itself outraged when it was asked to abdicate all its functions, forego all its privileges, and postpone all its business, for no other object than to gratify the ambition of the First Minister of the Crown?
§ MR. GRAVES
I would not have risen at the present moment if I were not ac-actuated by a strong feeling, which I believe to be shared by many of the Independent Members of this House, and I hope that they will not hesitate to express their opinion upon the present aspect of affairs. If I have hitherto remained silent on the obstruction to the business of this House which is caused by these discussions, it is not because the questions which now occupy so much of our time might not have been as well dealt with at the close of the Session, when they would not have stood 1804 in the way of others, but because I felt that any appeal to either side of the House would be received as useless. But if I have hitherto remained quiescent in this state of things, that is no reason for my continuing to do so, and allow, without observation, the ordinary business of this House to be obstructed night after night as it has hitherto been. I, for one, enter my protest against this state of affairs. I do not wish to use harsh words. I would rather throw oil on the troubled waters. But I think it deserves consideration, whether it is right or just that questions, however grave and important in themselves, should be allowed to monopolize the whole of our time, especially when suddenly interposed? The half of the present; Session is now run, and we have Estimates that are still to be approved by the House; we have the Scotch and Irish Reform Bills almost untouched; we have the Boundary Bill and the Bribery Bill to consider; we have the Education and the Bankruptcy measure to discuss. These might be small matters in comparison with the topics of factious party warfare; but they are matters of grave consideration for the country at large, and I urge them on the fair and candid consideration of the House at large, and not with a view to the interests of the one side or the other. We have these measures; and, what is more, we were told by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland that he had a measure prepared for the settlement of the land question in Ireland, and I, who know something of that question, tell the right hon. Member for South Lancashire that if he had taken up the Irish land question he would have earned the lasting gratitude of Ireland, and not the lasting bitterness which will follow his attempt to overthrow a Church. These are the reasons which have induced me to bring the House back to the business that lies before it; and I appeal to Independent Members on both sides of the House to condemn this system of perpetual party warfare. I do not wish to impute motives, or I should allude to the semblance of wilful obstruction. The business of the House has come to a dead lock, and unless those Members who are above party feeling will step in and interfere in a bold and decided manner, the present state of things will be anything but creditable to us. Men come here from different motives: some for amusement, some for occupation, some for place. But there are also some who come here from a simple and earnest desire to do their duty, 1805 and to assist in carrying out the practical legislation of the country, and to do this they make great sacrifices. But I begin to think that such men are out of place in this House. My experience has certainly not been of great duration, but I speak of the experience of the last few Sessions, and especially so far as the experience of the present year. I know I need not appeal to the right hon. Member for South Lancashire, because he has committed himself to a course which, however unexpectedly introduced to this House — however some may regard it as an obstruction to practical business—still he pursues it with an impetuosity and an impulsiveness which would render any appeal to him a mere waste of time. But I do appeal to those Members who last year so boldly and manfully asserted the rights of private judgment, and who by their independence saved their party from disgrace. To them we owe it to a large extent that we have a Reform Bill — to them we owe it that that Bill was carried through this House—to them, who represent, like myself, large constituencies and important commercial interests—to them I make my appeal to stop these party contests that are going on night after night. They are the men who have great weight and importance in this House; and I ask them to assist in bringing the House back to that state in which it will be possible to transact the ordinary and necessary business of the country.
§ MR. OSBORNE
I freely grant that the hon. Member for Liverpool, who has just resumed his seat, is an apt type of the purity and placidity of this House. But when he says that he is about to pour oil upon this debate, I must say—and with his commercial knowledge he will recognize the article—that there is an oil called petroleum, which has anything but calming effects upon the surface on which it is poured. When the hon. Gentleman undertakes to lecture Members on this (the Opposition) side in good round words upon the position of affairs, and talks of the stop which has been put to private business, I think he might have taken larger views, and recollected that there are questions of such great public import that a Member, whether private or having held an official capacity, is quite warranted in coming forward and expressing his opinion upon them. I do not wish to lay any stress upon ducal declarations in "another place." They are generally confused, and frequently ungrammatical. If I want an ex- 1806 planation of Ministerial policy I do not go to the subordinates of the Government, however distinguished by title; I come to the great man himself—to the Minister who sits in this House. Well, the right hon. Gentleman last night explained the course he pursued, and I am free to say that I am not disposed to quarrel with the decision to which Her Majesty's Ministers have come. And why? Because I think that a question so large in its import, so vast in its ultimate effects upon Imperial policy—I mean the question of the disestablishment of the Irish Church—is a question which may be well referred to the enlarged public opinion of the new constituencies. I think so for another reason, which is that the present constitution of this House is so miserable, and many of its Members so weak and so vacillating, that the sooner they are got rid of and sent about their business the better for the country. But, Sir, while I agree with the decision to which Her Majesty's Government have come, I must say I condemn the means by which that decision has been arrived at. Why, Sir, what have we heard to-night? We have heard the personal claims of Ministers urged as a reason for the forbearance of the House; and, curiously enough, those personal claims have been put before the peace of this country. What else have we heard? For the first time at least in this century the authority of the Crown has been made use of almost as sympathizing with the difficulties of the Administration. Nay, more, the name of the Sovereign has been for the first time, I would almost say, besmirched in the arena of political conflict. Now I say that this is a most unhappy state of things, not only for the Crown itself, but for the House of Commons and the other House of Parliament. It would almost seem to me—listening to the enunciations made in "another place"—not by a noble Duke, but a man who uses the purest English and never is mistaken in his meaning—that there is a mysterious power behind the Throne who tenders most unconstitutional and obnoxious advice, and who, not content with being the presiding genius of the Government, strives to control the rights and privileges of this House. I hope—without adding my petroleum to that of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves)—the House will resist anything of that kind; and if this House is to be dissolved, I, for one, think the sooner the better, for, however inconvenient it may be to us, it is better 1807 that great public questions should be set at rest, once and for ever, and I hope, too, that the appeal will not be made, as I see signs of doing, on the old historic cry of "Our Protestant Queen and No Popery!" ["Oh, oh!"] Yes, I have seen signs of that in speeches that have been made on the other side, and I think I see an hon. Gentleman opposite, who is probably preparing to follow me, who will raise that ill-omened cry through the country. Let us get through the necessary business as soon as we may; and I, for one, much as I should dislike a visit to my constituents, and not looking for place in another Government, but looking to the vast interests of this country, and putting my "personal claims" entirely on one side—which, mark you, is not always done by other people—I for one say, the sooner this House is dissolved, and the great issue put before the country, the better will it be for the Sovereign of these realms and the Constitution of the country.
COLONEL STUART KNOX
said, he did not know whether he was the person alluded to by the hon. Gentleman. [Mr. OSBORNE: No; I never thought of you.] At all events, what he would say was, "Justice to all, and no surrender of the rights which belong to us." His object, however, in rising, was to remind the right hon. Member for South Lancashire that it was only on Thursday last he accused an hon. and gallant Friend of his of want of courtesy in asking questions without notice. Now, he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman, whether it was only the Leader of a factious Opposition, after a meeting of the party at his house, one of the would-be leaders of whom—the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie)—had lately called them "a rabble," who thought himself entitled to ask questions without notice; for it was evident from what had occurred that the right hon. Gentleman below him (Mr. Disraeli) had received no notice of the Question that had been asked.
§ MR. HORSMAN
I hope, Sir, the House will not allow itself to be led away from the important Question before it by matter unconnected with that question, but that we shall receive from the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government some further information with respect to the Audience with which he was honoured by Her Majesty last week, and as to the relations of the House to the Ministers of the Crown in consequence of the advice he gave, and the manner in which it was re- 1808 ceived. I confess I am one of those who, like my hon. and learned Friend behind me (Mr. Ayrton), find themselves more perplexed than enlightened by the speeches made by the right hon. Gentleman. I thought I did understand his first speech; I felt myself rather embarrassed on hearing his second; and I am entirely confused on hearing his third. The first thing I do not understand, and it is one upon which my right hon. Friend endeavoured to extract an explanation, and upon which I hope we shall have a clear answer, is this—Did the right hon. Gentleman advise Her Majesty to appeal to the present constituencies or not? I cannot understand from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman whether he advised Her Majesty to allow an appeal to be made to the present constituencies, or to the new constituencies as soon as the state of public business would allow. That is an important point upon which we have a right to be informed. The statement I understood the right hon. Gentleman to have made yesterday was this—that he had advised Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament immediately, or, as I understood, as an alternative, to accept the resignation of Her Majesty's Ministers; that Her Majesty declined to accept the resignation of her Ministers, but gave an unqualified assent to the dissolution of Parliament. Well, when the right hon. Gentleman advised a dissolution of Parliament and Her Majesty gave an unqualified assent, it appears that the Government never intended to do what they advised; but at the second audience on Saturday morning the right hon. Gentleman recommended something different—namely, that Her Majesty should not for certain reasons at once dissolve the present Parliament, but that she should, with a view to circumstances unforeseen, intrust him with a general power of dissolution under the knowledge and threat of which the deliberations of Parliament would be carried on. Now that was what I understood to be conveyed by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman yesterday, and to be expressed more fully in the statement made by the Duke of Richmond. That noble Duke stated that Her Majesty, under the advice of her Ministers, had given powers so unconstitutional and placed this House in a position so novel that if we were to carry on our deliberations under such circumstances many of us would feel that we had scarcely a choice as to relieving ourselves from the task of coming to the further Sit- 1809 tings, I will not call them the deliberations, of the House. Then the Duke of Richmond, having more fully explained what was conveyed by the right hon. Gentleman, made very frequent, unusually frequent, use of Her Majesty's name, to show that Her Majesty had given her Ministers power to resort to dissolution at any moment or for any purpose whenever they might say they had a difficulty with the House of Commons. Now the points on which I wish on the part of the House to have an answer from the right hon. Gentleman are these:—First, did he advise Her Majesty to dissolve or appeal to the present constituencies? The second question is, did he advise Her Majesty to intrust him with a general power of dissolution to be used whenever he thought fit to advise it; and the third is, did Her Majesty authorize her Ministers to communicate to Parliament that we were to deliberate subject to the summary exercise of that power? These are all points of importance, more especially as I gather from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, confirmed and strengthened by that of the Duke of Richmond, that powers have been granted as stated, although I do not believe that such powers were for one moment thought of by Her Majesty. It is conveyed to us, however, that the right hon. Gentleman possesses those powers, And that we are deliberating under a threat of their summary exercise at any moment that we happen to place the Government in difficulties. I say we have a right to know, and must know, whether those are the powers which the Government profess to have; and we must enforce the knowledge, because the character of this House and its independence and dignity are involved in the answer.
said, he had another question to ask, which he thought the Government should answer—namely, Whether, if the Scotch and Irish Reform Bills were passed, a measure would be introduced whereby the registration under those Bills should be made in the autumn? The right hon. Gentleman proposed to go on with the Scotch and Irish Reform Bills, and immediately after to proceed to appeal to the new constituencies. He would ask, What, then, was the result of the vote of last Thursday, which was a Vote of Want of Confidence? It appeared to him that Her Majesty's Government had entirely disregarded the vote of Thursday last; and if the business of the House was brought to a deadlock, as the hon. Member 1810 for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) had said, it was brought to a deadlock by Her Majesty's Ministers who clung to Office. It was a matter of complete indifference to him who occupied the position of Prime Minister, but it seemed to him entirely unconstitutional to hold over that House a threat of dissolution, which was to occur at an indefinite time.
SIR HENRY EDWARDS
said, he agreed with the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves), that it was high time that the private Members of the House, whether representing large or small constituencies, should speak out. When the present House of Commons was elected, nothing had been heard of the disestablishment or disendowment of the Irish Church. Reform was the great question of the hour, and it had remained so up to the present time. The English Bill had been passed, and the Government now asked the House to complete the Scotch and Irish measures and the Boundary Bills before venturing upon a dissolution, which might jeopardize its completion. On the new question of the Irish Church, the country had as yet had no opportunity of forming an opinion. On what grounds, and for what objects were these discussions continued then? During the past two or three days they had been maintained by some half-dozen hungry expectants of Office, and, if such a course were allowed to continue, the electors would justly complain that the whole of the most important business of the country was stopped, merely for the purpose of gratifying the ambition of certain right hon. Gentlemen. By such a course, however, they could probably remind their representatives that they were returned to legislate for the good of the country, and not until the right hon. Member for South Lancashire thought it necessary as a means to dislodge his great adversary from Office, for the personal interest of those who sought to obtain seats in a new Cabinet. It appeared to him that such an exhibition of faction was never before made by an Opposition, manifestly for the object of displacing one Government, and re-instating another.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
said he wished, as a humble Member of the House, to add his protest to that of his right hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Bouverie), when he denounced the impropriety of introducing the name of the Sovereign in the way in which it had been done by the Prime Minister. 1811 He had never expected to hear a Minister come down to the House, as the right hon. Gentleman had last evening, and shelter himself behind the Throne. He also wished to join with the right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), and insist on direct answers to the questions he had put. The House wished to know, whether the Prime Minister had it in his power to dissolve the House at any moment? He could not understand, nor could he believe that the Sovereign had given such power to the right hon Gentleman. He therefore wished to hear from the Prime Minister, whether the prevailing impression was founded on the truth; and, if not, to hear him distinctly deny that the Sovereign had given him the power his words had led the House to believe he possessed? On the other hand, presuming the right hon. Gentleman to have the power of dissolution in his pocket, he wished to know for what purpose and on what account it was to be used? Was it to be used because of the result of the first division on the Irish Church—the majority of 60? No; the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to let that vote pass if the House would permit him to continue sitting on the Treasury Bench. Was the House to be dissolved because of the second vote, when the majority against the Government was swelled to 65? No; the right hon. Gentleman was content to allow these votes to pass if the House would allow him to remain on the Treasury Bench. Was the power to be used if the House declared for the second and third Resolutions by a still greater majority? No; the right hon. Gentleman had told them that if he were still permitted to sit on the Treasury Bench he would regard those Resolutions as the natural corollaries of the first. Was it to be used if the House, on considering the Scotch Reform Bill, decided that the number of Scotch Members should be increased by some other means than by adding to the number of the House? Upon this point the right hon. Gentleman had not enlightened the House; but information on the subject was necessary; because he, in common with others, wished to amend the Scotch and Irish Bills, and he wished to know whether, they could do that freely and independently, or whether they would deliberate in the constant fear of dissolution? Was the power to be used after the Irish Reform Bill had been taken out of the hands of the Government and moulded by the House? Was it to be used if the Estimates were cut 1812 down? Or for what was it to be used? The right hon. Gentleman knew as well as possible that the question of the Irish Church would be advanced just as much this year with him in Office as it would be if he were in Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman had stated he was prepared to accept the second and third Resolutions, but was silent on the declaration of the right hon. Member for South Lancashire that it would be necessary to proceed with a Bill to suspend the action of the Crown regarding the patronage of the Irish Church. Would the power be used when that Bill was passed by the House? The right hon. Gentleman knew quite well that the Irish Church question would be referred to the country, whatever Government was in Office, as soon as it was possible to appeal to the new constituencies. He knew it was in the power of no Government unduly to delay appealing to those constituencies. Then for what did he sit on the Treasury Bench? What principle did he maintain by persisting in retaining Office? The right hon. Gentleman was not there to oppose the action of the Opposition on the question of the Irish Church; he was not there to defend his own view of the Scotch or Irish Reform Bills: respecting all these matters he was "in the hands of the House." If the right hon. Gentleman went to the country he had evidently only one available cry, and that was the old one of "No Surrender," with the clear understanding that it was limited strictly, at all times and under all circumstances, to the tenure of his own place.
§ MR. LOWE
I cannot persuade myself that it is the wish of hon. Gentlemen in this House, not even of the hon. Members for Liverpool and Beverley (Mr. Graves and Sir Henry Edwards), that this discussion should come to an end without some answer having been given to the Questions put by my right hon. Friend at the beginning of the evening; and it is only as a forlorn hope, and on the adventuresome expedition of trying once more to get an answer to that Question, that I trouble the House for one moment. I do not offer any comment on the subject now; but I entreat hon. Gentleman opposite, out of regard for their own character, out of regard for the august name which has been dragged into this debate, out of regard for the character of this House and what will be thought of us in the country, not to have it said that a simple, straightforward Question has been put to the Government and that the Go- 1813 vernment has avoided answering it. ["No, no!"] Is it not so? My right hon. Friend, quoting the speech of the Duke of Richmond, asked the First Minister of the Crown whether he disavowed or adopted that speech. That was a very simple question; but how was it answered? The right hon. Gentleman re-stated what he said last night as to his own communication with the Crown; but my right hon. Friend knew his duty far too well to ask the right hon. Gentleman to describe to the House what took place between him and the Sovereign. It is in the discretion of the right hon. Gentleman, as First Minister of the Crown, to decide what portion of his communication with Her Majesty it is consistent with his duty, subject to Her Majesty's Royal permission, to lay before this House. He was not asked to enlarge upon his own statement; he was asked whether he avowed or disavowed the statement of the Duke of Richmond; not what took place between him and Her Majesty, but as to the accuracy or inaccuracy of the statement made by a Member of his own Cabinet in "another place." He was asked simply to say, "Do you endorse that statement—aye or no?" That question was in the first place evaded, and then followed up by the rejoinder, "You had better ask the Duke of Richmond himself." That is the whole answer given by the first Minister of the Crown, and it is one on which I think I need not dilate. But not only has the question been evaded; another has been substituted for it, because the right hon. Gentleman was followed by his Secretary of State for India. The right hon. Member for the city of Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) read the speech of the Duke of Richmond a second time, and added some words by way of a commentary, in which he characterized the speech as a menace. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India jumps up and says, "The question of menace is easily answered." But that was not the question put by my right hon. Friend; he wanted to know whether the construction put on the speech of the Duke of Richmond was a right construction or not; whether, in fact, that speech was the speech of the Government; whether the Government stood by it or not. Now, Sir, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will allow that in staling the case I have done it with all due regard for the amenities of debate; and therefore, if I enjoy his good opinion, which I am sure I must have earned by the manner in which I have in- 1814 troduced the subject, I will take the liberty of doing what I presume will be not disagreeable to the right hon. Gentleman; I will read over the words of the Duke of Richmond, and again ask the Government whether the Government avows them or not. Well, Sir, for the third and last time of asking, the Duke of Richmond said—The result is that we still occupy the same position we did before, and intend to conduct the affairs of the country so long as we are able to do so; and in the event of any difficulties arising Her Majesty was graciously pleased to state that she would make no objection to a dissolution of Parliament. It, of course, will depend upon the state of affairs whether that dissolution shall be a dissolution under the existing constituency, or whether it shall be a dissolution under the new constituency to be formed under the Reform Act; but Her Majesty was graciously pleased to state that she would make no objection to either course being adopted by her Advisers whenever they should see fit to tender to Her Majesty a recommendation on that subject."—[3 Hansard, cxci. 1690.]I ask the right hon. Gentleman, are these words the words of the Government—Aye or No?
§ MR. DISRAELI
I address the House for the second time; but under the circumstances perhaps they will allow me to do so. It has been stated that the name of the Sovereign has been improperly introduced into these debates—not so by me. I have introduced that august name in the spirit of our Constitution, with the permission of Her Majesty, and I know well, in a manner which cannot be impugned. A great many questions have been addressed to me, varying in terms, but probably having the same end, and when they have been answered, a new one has been proposed, a new form of inquiry has been made, and then we have been charged with not replying. Now, I do not approve myself the mode by which the inquiry as to the conduct of the Government is made. It consists of bringing before the House—without any notice whatever—an extract from a newspaper report of observations alleged to have been made by one of my Colleagues in "another place," with whom by no possibility can I have had any communication on the subject, and then founding upon that extract a variety of inferences which have immediately been fixed upon me, as if I had committed myself to every conclusion which every speaker has thought it right to make. I shall not address myself to points like that, but to the great points of interest to the House. The advice that I gave to Her Majesty to dissolve 1815 the Parliament was confined solely to the question of the Irish Church. And if any other difficulty arises in the conduct of affairs, upon which it occurred to me and my Colleagues that such advice should be given with reference to any other subject, it would be our duty then again to repair to Her Majesty and give that advice. The consent of Her Majesty is solely to the issue upon which Her Majesty's consent was required—namely, the question of the disestablishment of the Church in Ireland. That is my answer, and I hope a complete answer to those various forms of questions which have been urged in this House. Then the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) says—"You accepted the first and second divisions upon the question of the Irish Church, and you are no longer resisting our policy upon that question." I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I am not going to assent at all, either to the second or the third Resolution. I said that for the sake of expediting Public Business, looking on these Resolutions as corollaries of the first, I should not sanction any lengthened debates or organized divisions, at the same time that I should urge against them my most decided negative. In making that admission, for the sake of the convenience of the House and with a view of expediting public business, I did not for one moment mean to say—and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire never for a moment supposed that I admitted—because I undertook in the spirit which I have already described not to oppose the second or third Resolutions in as peremptory a manner as I should otherwise have done—that I was in consequence pledged in any way not to oppose the Bill that he is about to bring forward. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not for a moment pretend that he concluded I was not going to oppose his Bill. And therefore the argument of the hon. Member for Bedford is totally illusory, and founded upon an assumption for which there is no warrant whatever. I repeat, then, to the House that the advice which I tendered to Her Majesty respecting the dissolution, and the consent of Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament, referred solely to the subject of the disestablishment of the Church, and was confined solely to that subject. Then I am taunted with this inquiry—"Why did yon not immediately dissolve Parliament?" Well, Sir, everyone must know that we are placed 1816 with reference to that point in circumstances of a peculiar and unprecedented character. In that situation it is for the public interest that we should endeavour to arrive at some understanding with the House, which, while it will facilitate the progress of Public Business, will be of the greatest advantage to the country. It is from no unworthy motive, from no desire to shrink from the consequences of our own advice, that we necessarily pause for a moment. Hon. Gentlemen know perfectly well the cause. But do not let the assumption remain for one moment longer—an assumption wholly unauthorized by anything I have said — that the permission which Her Majesty gave to dissolve the Parliament had reference to any other subject than the disestablishment of the Church.
§ MR. LIDDELL
, speaking as an Independent Member, said, it was always a dangerous and hopeless task to attempt to carry on the Government in a minority of the House of Commons. The present occasion was one of extreme gravity, if not of danger—great and deplorable events had before now resulted from smaller beginnings; and, not being himself a strong partizan, he wished to make an appeal to both sides of the House. He regretted extremely that the resignation of Her Majesty's Ministers had not been accepted, because he could not see how they could continue to occupy their present position with either honour to themselves or advantage to the country. They all knew the acceptance or rejection of a proposal depended materially upon the shape in which the suggestion was preferred; and he thought that the name of the Sovereign had been brought forward on recent occasions too prominently, and that the First Minister had sheltered himself under that august name more than he was justified in doing. He wished to point out the danger of the present position of affairs. The name of the Sovereign had been used to retain in Office a Government pledged to a particular line of policy, which appeared to have been condemned by the House of Commons. It might be doubted — and possibly the result would prove that the doubt was well-founded — whether the opinion of the country was really in accordance with the expressed opinion of the House of Commons. Consequently, he rejoiced that the advice was proffered by the First Minister to Her Majesty of a dissolution; and he apprehended now that it might be an immediate dissolution. That being so, he wanted 1817 some further explanation from the First Minister. He believed, in common with many other Members of the House, that something in the nature of an in terrorem influence was being exercised by the Government over the House of Commons. What was the meaning to be attached to the words which had been used by the First Minister—"If, in the transaction of the necessary business, any difficulties should arise, &c.?" Did the right hon. Gentleman mean that, in the event of a collision, or opposition to any measure necessary to complete the business of the Session, the Government would use the power—which they undoubtedly possessed—of dissolving Parliament? A doubt existed in his mind whether those words were not intended to control the free action of that House, and he for one deprecated any such attempt. Having appealed to the Government for an explanation on that point, he would now appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite. The House had unmistakably evinced its feeling on the question of the disestablishment of the Irish Church, and they knew that the Government had obtained permission from Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament upon that question. Was it any use, then, to continue to battle upon this ground to the obstruction of all other business? Even if the Resolutions were all agreed to, no man in his senses believed that it would be practicable to pass a Bill founded upon them this Session. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire said he intended to bring in a Suspensory Bill. But, even if he succeeded in passing it through the House of Commons, he was hardly credulous enough to believe that it would succeed in the House of Lords. He therefore asked the House to set its face against any further waste of time. He had sat in that House for seventeen years, and he never remembered, and he did not suppose the oldest Member could recollect Public Business in such a state of arrear as at present. After the declaration of the Government, and knowing that a dissolution was to take place on the specific question of the disestablishment of the Irish Church, he would ask the House to let them proceed to carry through the absolutely necessary business uncontrolled by any idea of menace or penalties. Let them proceed as quickly as possible to pass the measures necessary to complete the "Reform Programme," and then the country would respond to the appeal made to it.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he wished to remind the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government that last year he said, in reference to the Reform Bill, "Pass the Bill, and then, if you please, turn out the Ministry;" and he now asked the right hon. Gentleman to keep his word.
§ MR. WHALLEY
expressed his feeling that the circumstances before them, which were alleged as a difficulty, were in reality the reason why there should be an immediate dissolution of Parliament. The question of the disestablishment of the Irish Church involved the English Church as well, and the right hon. Gentleman had now an opportunity of obtaining an expression of the opinion of the country under the present constituencies on a larger scale than any Minister had enjoyed on any question upon record. He called upon the right hon. Gentleman to act upon the authority he had received from Her Majesty, by dissolving Parliament in spite of all consequences as soon as the immediate exigencies of Public Business could be provided for, and if the right hon. Gentleman did not adopt that course he (Mr. Whalley) should be prepared to support the right hon. Member for South Lancashire in a Vote of Want of Confidence, or in any other course he might pursue.
I wish to make an explanation with regard to an observation of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, who found fault with me, not without some justice as far as the letter of the matter was concerned, for some words used by me this evening. I stated that it was not competent for me to speak last night after I had addressed the House once. That was not true in the letter, but it was true in the spirit. I followed the right hon. Gentleman last evening, and the Motion for the adjournment was not made till after I had spoken. I therefore thought I had lost my opportunity of speaking again, though, of course, I might have spoken again on the question of adjournment, as the right hon. Gentleman himself did.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, references had been made in the course of the discussion to noble Lords speaking in "another place" by name, and there had been quotations from the ipsissima verba of the Earl of Malmesbury and the Duke of Richmond. He wished to know whether that was justified by the rules of the House. He did not desire to narrow the rules of the House in this particular; but he should 1819 be glad of the opinion of the Speaker upon the point, in order that they might arrive at uniformity of conduct. It would be a great satisfaction to him personally if the Speaker declared that all Members of the House might make use of similar references whenever the occasion justified it, and that such privilege should not be confined to those who were more distinguished only.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the rule of the House was that allusion to debates in the other House was not in order; but it was hardly possible that under all circumstances that rule could be absolutely and literally complied with, especially when declarations had been made by Ministers of the Crown on points affecting the position of the House of Commons.
I am anxious to state, for the information and convenience of the House, a point in connection with my third Resolution. The third Resolution, in point of form, hangs upon the second Resolution, because it refers to "the purpose aforesaid"—namely, the purpose of preventing the growth of new vested interests and restraining the operation of Commissioners. I propose, for the convenience of the House, in order that the Address upon the third Resolution may contain the whole substance of the Resolutions, to insert words in the third Resolution which will bring in that part of the substance of the second Resolution which is necessary fully to express its sense.
Oh, certainly; most unquestionably. Besides putting them in print I wish to take this public opportunity of drawing attention to them. They will be in print to-morrow morning.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.