§ MR. H. COWPER
said, he must ask for the kindness and indulgence of the House while he made a few remarks, necessary to preface the Motion with 53 which he had the high honour to be entrusted. He could assure the House that he should at all times have felt the responsibility and the difficulty of the position which he now held, but he could not help thinking that that responsibility and that difficulty were somewhat increased by the peculiar character of the Parliament which met that day virtually for the first time. He was not going to give the House a history of the last two years, of which they probably knew more than he did; but he could not forget that, among the various opinions given by anticipation of that new Parliament by the most eminent men of both parties and by the country, on this point at least they all seemed to agree—that the assembling of that Parliament would be a turning-point and the inauguration of a new epoch in the history of the country. Probably no great popular assembly ever met, upon which, not only from the time at which it was first called, but long before, so many hopes and so many fears had been lavished: the fears would, he thought, now be acknowledged to have been somewhat superfluous; while, on the other hand, all must trust that the best hopes which it had awakened might in some measure be realized, whatever might be the duration of its existence; and he was sure that hon. Members on both sides would cordially echo the sentiment expressed in Her Majesty's Speech, that "the House had been chosen with the advantage of a greater enfranchisement of her faithful and loyal people." They were informed by Her Majesty that her relations with all foreign Powers continued to be most friendly, and that she had the satisfaction to believe that they cordially shared in the desire by which she was animated for the maintenance of peace. Of late the Great Powers had certainly shown the most manifest desire for peace, by the way in which they had sought to remove the difference between Greece and Turkey before it had attained any formidable dimensions. With that subject, he supposed—the popular opinion being what it was—they wished to have as little as possible to do. They felt that their interests in that part of the world—although upon certain occurrences they might become very great—were yet at present less than with almost any other part of the earth. Again, it was difficult for them to follow 54 out all the differences of race and religion which formed the subject-matter of that great question, and they would have been glad, if possible, that the parties directly concerned should have been allowed to settle it for themselves. But in a great country like ours, with a great history, they must of course always reflect on what had gone before, and be prepared, with whatever cheerfulness they could, to meet the responsibilities incurred by those who had preceded them. England had a great deal to do with the formation of Greece into an independent kingdom; since then we had added to her power for good or evil by relinquishing our protectorate of the Ionian Islands, and giving them up to her; and therefore it would have been impossible for us, if the affairs of Greece became an European question, to have remained altogether silent. Nor could we regret what we had had to do if it had stood between Greece and the vengeance which might have fallen upon her, or had recalled her to some recollection of her international obligations. Her Majesty had informed them that, in conjunction with her allies, she had endeavoured, by friendly interposition, to effect a settlement of the differences which had arisen between Turkey and Greece, and she rejoiced that their joint efforts had aided in preventing any serious interruption of tranquillity in the Levant. Still speaking of foreign affairs, Her Majesty informed them that she had beenEngaged in negotiations with the United States of America for the settlement of questions which affect the interests and the international relations of the two countries.The fact—which he believed was no mystery—for there had certainly been less mystery about these negotiations than about anything of the sort that he knew of—that the Convention had been begun in the time of the last Government, and therefore had the advantage of the consideration not only of the noble Lord the late Minister for Foreign Affairs (Lord Stanley), but of all the prominent members both of that Cabinet and of the present one, would form an additional guarantee, if such were necessary, that while we had gone to the very fullest extent we possibly could to obtain a friendly settlement of those questions, yet no consideration had been spared to main- 55 tain the interests, and of course the honour of England. They did not yet know how the Convention would be received in America, and the most contradictory rumours reached them daily as to its probable reception by the Senate; but it would, he thought, be well for Englishmen to recollect that it was much easier for them to approach that question in a spirit of moderation and candour than for the Americans. If the matter was decided against us, we should pay the costs without much reluctance; we should be glad that a tiresome and vexatious business had been brought to a close; and perhaps the strongest regret we should feel would be that the nation should have to pay, and not those gentlemen who had attempted to make their fortune at the expense of their country, and also at the risk of her repute for good faith. But with America the case was very different. The Americans, if there had been any injury at all, were the injured party, and if they were injured at all, they had been greatly injured. It was not, of course, for him to give an opinion as to whether those cruizers had escaped by any negligence on our part—that point would have to be determined by those to whom the question was referred; but at the same time he might say that, if certain reports of private conversations that they had seen were correct, there was not much doubt entertained upon the subject in the minds of those who ought to be best informed. If an injury was committed upon America, it was a very serious one, because it amounted to her whole commerce being swept from the seas, and her carrying trade driven into our ships. They could not, therefore, be surprised if the irritation, which had naturally been raised at the time in America, had not yet been quite allayed, even though several years had since elapsed. It was also to be remembered that those who were most anxious to settle the question had difficulties to contend with which it was not easy to appreciate, and hence those gusts of popular sentiment in America which reached us at intervals, disconcerting all plans that were proposed for settlement and leaving things very much as they were. But Her Majesty expressed herEarnest hope that the result of these negotiations might be to place on a firm and durable 56 basis the friendship which should ever exist between England and America,and such a result, he was sure, would rejoice not only every man in that House, but every friend of the happiness and progress of mankind. Her Majesty next referred to the disturbances in New Zealand, but he did not see in the paragraph any intention expressed on the part of the Government either to send out troops, or in any way to take a backward step from the decision come to, that the defence of the colonies should, be left to the colonists themselves. In this, he thought, so far as he was able to express any opinion upon the subject, Her Majesty's Government were quite right. The disturbances were of an exceptional character. As long as the troops were kept in the colony, the colonists did as everybody else would have done in the like case—they trusted to those troops; and after they had been withdrawn the colonists did not at first organize and drill a force capable of resisting the last outbreak of the Maories. But he did not think it would be a difficult thing for them ultimately to do so. Probably the Maories were as fine fighting men as any British settlers had had to meet; but the Europeans in New Zealand far outnumbered them, and ought not to find any difficulty in organizing among themselves the means of averting the recurrence of any further outbreaks of that kind. Carefully guarding himself from either implying or seeming to imply that any provocation had been given to the Natives on that unfortunate occasion, yet this general principle might be laid down, that the temptation to quarrel with, or oppress, or deceive the Natives, would be much diminished if those who otherwise might succumb to those temptations had the consciousness that they would be the first called upon to bear the responsibility of any untoward eventualities. It must be extremely satisfactory to the House to learn, on the authority of Her Majesty's Government, that it would probably not be necessary to renew the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland. They had been more or less prepared for that announcement by the fact that, during the last few months, they had heard of much fewer disturbances in Ireland than had occurred previously; whilst the dark cloud, which had now passed away, hung over Ireland, 57 it was necessary to suspend the most obvious right of free citizens. As long as this dark cloud had hung over Ireland, all plans and schemes to improve the permanent condition of the country seemed more dreams; but it may be trusted now that, cheered by this ray of hope, the friends of Ireland would be encouraged to renewed exertions on her behalf. The House would also gather from Her Majesty's Speech that it was the intention of the Government to open an inquiry into the present mode of conducting Parliamentary and municipal elections, with a view to discover "whether it may be possible to provide further guarantees for their tranquillity, purity, and freedom." It must be confessed that the present arrangements in respect to that matter were made for a very different state of things from that which now existed under an enlarged suffrage, and had, therefore, in many cases, become either useless or ineffectual. Probably one of the first points which might have to be considered in connection with this, would be the suggestion made, he believed by the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) in one of his husting speeches—namely, whether it would not be a good thing if the ceremony of the nomination day were done away with. Certainly it would be necessary to go far back in our history to find a time when the ceremony of the nomination day answered the purpose for which it was ostensibly intended—that was, to give the constituency an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the opinions of the candidates. He had no doubt that a certain number of the voters would feel a great unwillingness to forego the intense intellectual gratification of hooting the candidates to whom they were opposed; but he believed the greater number of the wiser and more orderly class of electors would be ready to surrender that doubtful privilege for the sake of the gain to the public peace which would ensue from the sacrifice, in the more quiet and easy way of conducting the business of elections. He might add, that the question of the Ballot, and the reception which it would meet with in that House, if any Motion were made on the subject—and he believed a Notice of such a Motion had been given that night—would depend upon the results of the inquiry to which he referred. There were, he un- 58 derstood, many hon. Gentlemen in that House who were opposed to the Ballot, or, at least, not friendly to it, who would yet fool obliged to accept it if it were proved to them that there was no other way of stopping intimidation and violence at elections. If a change in that state of things could be brought about by the kindly growth of public opinion on the subject, so that it would become impossible for landlords to coerce tenants, for manufacturers to coerce labourers, and for customers to coerce or attempt to coerce the tradesmen with whom they dealt, it would no doubt be well to wait for such a development of public opinion, even if it should be necessary to wait for some years, rather than resort to a mere mechanical process for stopping corruption and intimidation. If, however, the inquiry proved, as it possibly might, that intimidation and force at elections, instead of being on the decrease, was rather on the increase, and if, instead of public opinion demanding that every man should vote according to his real and conscientious convictions, independently of all other considerations, it should be ascertained that the opinion was beginning to prevail more widely than before that everybody who had social relations with a voter, either as a master or spiritual adviser, or as a customer, ought to exercise his power—in such a case he thought they would be obliged with some reluctance to accept the Ballot. He was sure the House would be pleased to hear that municipal elections were also to be included in the proposed inquiry. Unhappily, it had become too notorious that bribery had prevailed at municipal elections, not only to a greater extent than at Parliamentary elections, but probably also to a greater extent than at any previous period. It was high time for the Legislature to take up the question and see if something might not be done to put a stop to so grave an abuse. It would not be necessary for him to take up the time of the House by discussing many of those particular Bills of which notice had been given. He might be permitted, however, as a county Member, to express his great gratification that the question of Financial Boards was about to be taken up by the Government, and that the principle of representation would be applied to the control of the county rate. In the course 59 of his inquiries on this subject he had never heard any really well-authenticated accusation brought against the committees appointed by the magistrates at Quarter Sessions of in any way misappropriating or misapplying the monies over which they had control. It had, indeed, always seemed to him a circumstance very much to the credit of the class from which magistrates were generally taken that gentlemen could be found who, for no pecuniary or social advantage—without the hope of additional prestige—should be willing to take upon themselves the laborious duties to which he referred. But our principle had always been that representation and taxation should go together, and if the ratepayers in all parts of the kingdom expressed, as he believed they had done, a desire to have a share in the control of the rates which they themselves provided he did not see how, in common justice, such a claim could be refused. The last part of Her Majesty's Speech was taken up with a reference to Ireland and the Irish Church. Now, he confessed he had the greatest diffidence and reluctance in approaching this subject. He knew how well-worn the common stock arguments on the subject were, and he supposed that almost every hon. Gentleman in the House had himself made four or five speeches on the subject, and had probably heard as many or more made by others. They would scarcely thank him, therefore, for dragging them along so well-worn a road and reiterating stale arguments; and he confessed that when one left these main arguments the difficulties which presented themselves were so grave that he, for one, should be content to leave them in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government. (Cheers from the Opposition.) Hon. Gentlemen opposite must not think that those who sat on his side did not know what difficulties faced them, though with them the wish was not father to the thought that the difficulties would prove insuperable. The case stood thus:—The Liberal party, under the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman, and mainly in consequence of his teaching, had come to the conclusion that the Irish Church was one of the main obstacles to the contentment and peace of Ireland. Whether it were looked upon as a practical grievance, or 60 if it was admitted that by custom, or even by direct enactment of the law, some of the more obvious injustices involved in forcing the Church of a small minority on the nation had been mitigated, and it assumed the form of a sentimental grievance, that grievance, whether sentimental or practical, should be done away with. Some hon. Gentlemen perceived a great distinction between practical and sentimental grievances. For himself, he was hardly able to follow them entirely on this point, for it seemed to him that half the wars in the world had arisen from sentimental grievances, which had also given rise to far more than that proportion of private quarrels. Among any high-spirited body of men a slight or insult which would be regarded as sentimental was as much brooded over and as keenly resented as a blow, which he supposed would be considered a practical grievance. To go to a high-spirited, brave, generous, and, perhaps, more sensitive people than ourselves, and to say to them, "You must put up with what you complain of, because it does not affect your persons or your purses, but only your sense of personal equality and dignity," seemed to be the wildest piece of consolation ever offered. Of course, there were difficulties lying in the way—such as that of knowing what to do with the money. If State control were withdrawn, it must be decided what control was to be established over the Bishops and clergy who would be turned adrift; but taking into consideration the large amount of statesmanlike ability, practical knowledge of the subject, and legal skill which doubtless existed in the House, and also taking into consideration the fact that all these various points would be discussed in the House, he believed that so much common sense would be brought and converged on the Irish question that it need not be regarded as hopeless, nor need it occupy the attention of Parliament so long as was feared, or hoped, by some people. Happily, as the injury of a sentimental grievance lay in the intention of offending, so the intention of reparation, if honestly professed, was of itself an atonement. For his own part, he believed that no nobler message of reconciliation had been ever sent from one divided part of a country to another than that implied by the attitude of the Liberal party at the late elections. He believed 61 it would be accepted as such, not, perhaps, by those desperate men who took part in Fenianism, but by that large and important body of men who, if they took no part in Fenianism, held aloof from the movement because they disapproved, not of the end but of the means, and who had arrived solemnly at the conclusion that the greatest evil which had ever befallen Ireland was her connection with England. Those people had recognized this attempt of England to retrace her steps, to do despite to her national want of sympathy and imagination, to put herself in the position of the Irish people, and to judge the Irish question from their point of view; and from this they anticipated an era of hope. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to thank Her Majesty for the Most Gracious Speech delivered by Her Command to both Houses of Parliament:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her relations with all Foreign Powers continue to be most friendly, and to express our satisfaction at learning that they cordially share in the desire by which She is animated for the maintenance of Peace:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us of Her Majesty's endeavours, in concurrence with Her Allies, to effect a settlement of the difficulties which have arisen between Turkey and Greece, and to express the gratification with which we learn that these joint efforts have aided in preventing any serious interruption of tranquillity in the Levant:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that She has been engaged in Negotiations with the United States of North America for the settlement of questions which affect the interests and the international relations of the two Countries, and to assure Her Majesty that we share in the earnest hope that the result of the Negotiations may be to place on a firm and durable basis the friendship which should ever exist between England and America:To assure Her Majesty that we have learnt with grief that disturbances have occurred in New Zealand, and that at one spot they have been attended with circumstances of atrocity; and that we participate in Her Majesty's confidence that the Colonial Government and people will not be wanting either in energy to repress the outbreaks, or in the prudence and moderation which we trust will prevent their recurrence:62Humbly to thank Her Majesty for directing that the Estimates for the expenditure of the coming financial year should be submitted to us, and to express our satisfaction at learning that while they have been framed with a careful regard to the efficiency of the Services, they will exhibit a diminished Charge on the Country:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we rejoice to learn that the condition of Ireland leads Her Majesty to believe that we may be spared the painful necessity, which was felt by the late Parliament, for narrowing the securities of personal liberty in that Country by the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act:To express our readiness to inquire into the present modes of conducting Parliamentary and Municipal Elections, and to consider whether it may be possible to provide any further guarantee for their tranquillity, purity, and freedom,:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that measures will be brought under our notice for the relief of some classes of occupiers from hardships in respect of Rating, which appear to be capable of remedy; for the extension and improvement of Education in Scotland; for rendering the considerable revenues of the Endowed Schools of England more widely effectual for the purposes of instruction; and for applying the principle of representation to the control of the County Rate, by the establishment of Financial Boards for Counties:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that we shall be invited to recur to the subject of Bankruptcy, with a view to the more effective Distribution of Assets, and to the abolition of Imprisonment for Debt:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that our serious attention will be given to the Ecclesiastical Arrangements for Ireland, and to the legislation which will be necessary in order to their final adjustment; and that in the prosecution of the work, we shall bear a careful regard to every legitimate interest which it may involve, and that we shall be governed by the constant aim to promote the welfare of Religion through the principles of equal Justice, to secure the action of the undivided feeling and opinion of Ireland on the side of Loyalty and Law, to efface the memory of former contentions, and to cherish the sympathies of an affectionate People:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that, with Her, we fervently pray that the Almighty may, in this, as in every matter of public interest, never cease to guide our deliberations, and that He may bring them to a happy issue.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, he was sure the House would believe him when he said it was with no conventional humility nor assumed difficulty that he rose for the first time within those walls to address hon. Members. He trusted he should experience at their hands the same indulgence which they were accustomed to accord to those who addressed the House for the first time. When he was elected a Member of the House he formed a resolution not to trespass upon its attention unless he had a practical knowledge and acquaintance with the subject under discussion, and unless it seemed to him important that he should state his opinions upon it. When the honour of seconding the Address was unexpectedly conferred upon him he felt that it was owing, not to any personal reputation attaching to him, but to the circumstance that he was the representative of a large constituency, and that he had been selected by the working classes of that constituency to represent them in Parliament. Probably there had never been so many grave and important questions laid before Parliament in a Speech from the Throne as in the Address which Her Majesty had delivered that day.
When the Reform Bill of 1832 was passed many people were apprehensive as to the results to the security of the institutions of the country, and as to the effect on our legislation. He believed, however, it was now admitted on all hands that the legislation since that time had been wise, wholesome, beneficent, and stimulant; and it might be therefore fairly assumed that the larger measure of Reform passed the Session before last would result in an increase of security to our institutions, and give the same satisfaction to the people of the country that had characterized the first Reform Bill. Speaking as a representative of a large constituency of working men, he might make a remark which could not be gainsaid. It was that never in his experience, and never probably in the history of this country, were the people of this country, as a mass, so loyal to the Throne and institutions of the country as at the present time. Whatever might be the grievances, real or supposed, of the working classes of this country, it was to that House they looked for redress. It was to that House and the Constitutional 64 means which it afforded them they looked for all the beneficial changes they desired.
Her Majesty's Speech assured Parliament of the peaceable relations of this nation with foreign Powers. The people would receive that assurance with satisfaction, because peace would enable us to develop a beneficial home policy. It would enable us to improve our legislation, to enlighten our people, and devote our attention to those great social questions which at this moment were awaiting solution.
The Estimates referred to in the Royal Speech were stated to be framed with a careful regard to the efficiency of the public service, and it would be satisfactory to the House and to the country to know that they would show a diminished charge upon the public. He believed that if there was one question in which more than another the people of this kingdom felt interested, it was that of economy. While there was no desire and no need of parsimony, the nation did certainly desire efficiency combined with economy. Large reductions in the public expenditure would conduce to considerable reduction in taxation, and this would, it was believed, lead to no slight diminution of that pauperism, the existence of which was at this moment felt to be so great an evil.
He rejoiced greatly at the promised inquiry into the mode of conducting Parliamentary and municipal elections. He rejoiced that the word municipal was coupled with Parliamentary, because for years past there had been boroughs in which no election had been carried on its own merits, but in which bribery had always prevailed irrespective of the qualifications and characters of the candidates. He was aware of a case in which a sum of £10,000 had been spent in carrying a single municipal election; and, in some towns, during the last twenty years, there had been no contested election decided on its own merits. It was his opinion that the country had arrived at a conclusion that electoral freedom and purity of election could only be secured by the Ballot. He believed, therefore, that it would not be long before the country was congratulating the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. H. Berkeley) on the success of the measure which that hon. Gentleman had for so many years advocated in the House of Commons.
65 The Speech from the Throne further announced that a measure would be brought forward for the relief of some classes of occupiers from hardships in respect of Rating. The ratepaying clauses of the Reform Act were, no doubt, alluded to in that passage. He was sure that when the House was enacting those clauses it never intended or expected they would work such hardships as had resulted from them. He held in his hand a letter from the President of the Chamber of Commerce of Birmingham, in which it was stated that the Guardians of the parish of Birmingham had resolved to petition Parliament on the subject. It appeared that in connection with the levy of the May rate in that parish 15,000 summonses and 5,000 distress warrants had been issued, and that no fewer than 6,000 persons had applied to be excused from payment of the rates on the ground of abject poverty. Mr. Wright, the gentleman referred to, said that it was impossible to overrate the suffering which had been inflicted on the population of Birmingham by the abolition of compounding. It had made the very name of Reform to be cursed by large numbers of poor people, who felt that its effect was to impose a penalty on them for the exercise of the franchise. It also acted with peculiar injustice on single women. In other boroughs there had been the greatest difficulty and labour imposed upon overseers and rate-collectors, while there had been increased cost of collection and great loss of rates. He was glad, therefore, that the House would shortly be called upon to do justice in this respect.
They found that their attention was to be invited to Bills for the extension and improvement of education in Scotland, and for rendering the considerable revenues of the Endowed Schools more widely effectual for the purposes of instruction. Every one ought to rejoice that Scotland, which had always been forward in education, would be enabled to complete her educational system. The parochial schools were no longer equal to the exigencies of the day, and in the large towns an immense mass of the poorer classes of the population were receiving no education. He understood that Boards were to be instituted for the purpose of making sufficient provision for education in districts where at present there was not that provision. The 66 Endowed Schools of England was a subject which required the gravest attention of the House. There was no doubt, from the Report of the Schools Inquiry Commission, that the greatest possible abuses existed in the Endowed Schools of this country. He had known a case of a small school endowed for the education of thirty poor children twenty years ago, where the parishioners in their wisdom, not having a schoolmaster at hand, had taken a man who had been working on the roads and appointed him; and he was the schoolmaster to this day, irresponsible and irremovable. He would be glad to see exhibitions opened to clever boys in national and elementary schools. Such encouragements would promote habits which would give boys an aptitude for business.
They found that Parliament was promised a Bill on the subject of Bankruptcy. If there was a commercial question on which commercial men felt strongly, it was on the gross inefficiency of the Bankruptcy Laws. Our Bankruptcy Laws had done much to injure the reputation and credit of this country abroad, while they had entirely failed in punishing the great criminals who sinned against the principles of honest trading. The small trader whose guilt was of the open and vulgar kind was perhaps punished; but the large trader, who by subtle proceedings managed to defraud his creditors on a grand scale, escaped with comparative immunity, and was set free to renew his depredations on society over and over again. Without pretending to know anything of the details of the promised Bankruptcy Bill, he thought he might assume that it would in its principles approximate to the Scotch system, which gave great satisfaction in Scotland. While 12½ per cent was sufficient to realize the assets in a Scotch bankruptcy, in this country nearly three times that percentage was required. It would, therefore, be a great satisfaction to the commercial community of England to know' that there would be a Bill to amend our Bankruptcy Law.
He should not detain the House on the subject of the Irish Church—a question which the hon. Mover of the Address had treated with so much ability. What had already been said on it in the House of Commons had been sufficient to induce the country to come to a decision. In principle, the question might 67 be taken to be settled. All that remained to be done was to settle the details. This would be done by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government (Mr. Gladstone). He ventured to hope that in regard to Ireland there would be legislation which would tend to make that country one with England and Scotland—one with them in its institutions, and one with them in respect for the honour, the laws, and the liberty of the British Empire. In conclusion, he would also express a hope that the Reformed Parliament—which had now commenced its sittings—would enact such laws as would conduce to the security of the Throne, the honour of the State, and the prosperity and happiness of the people. The hon. Gentleman concluded by seconding the Address.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That," &c—[See Page 61.]
§ MR. DISRAELI
I am glad, Sir, to find that the hon. Gentleman who has made this Motion has so framed the Address, in answer to the Speech, that he has not asked the opinion of the House upon any controverted question. The salutary rule which he has followed has obtained of late years in our proceedings, and its observance has been attended with considerable advantage. Generally speaking, our proceedings have been conducted in a manner satisfactory to both sides since that rule was established; but there are circumstances attending the relations between Her Majesty's Government and the present House of Commons which just now render the adoption of that rule particularly convenient, and one which I think the House ought to approve. Her Majesty's Government have acceded to power, in consequence of the unmistakable declaration of the constituencies that they wished the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends to be intrusted with the opportunity of dealing with a question, no doubt, of great difficulty; and, in my opinion, it would be unjust, equally to the Government and to this House, if we were to allow ourselves to be drawn into a partial and desultory discussion on a question which ought to be placed before us in a complete form, and upon which we ought to have the advantage of the responsibility and knowledge which result from a Ministerial exposition. Considering 68 the circumstances under which the present Administration was formed, no Government, in dealing with the question of the Church in Ireland, could possibly have come before the House with a stronger primâ facie claim to a full and candid consideration of the question; and as the right hon. Gentleman has very properly given Notice that he will on an early day invite the attention of the House to the subject, I would confine myself at present to expressing a hope that when that statement is made it will be received by the House, and will be considered by the House with the gravity worthy its importance, and calculated to maintain the reputation of this Assembly.
Sir, I am sure that the House heard from the Throne, with entire satisfaction, the description of the relations which subsist between Her Majesty and foreign Powers, and that the House will echo the answer made in the Address. These relations are described—and I have no doubt truly described—as being of the most friendly character, and as long as those relations are conducted, not upon the principle of selfish isolation, but one of sympathy with the fortunes, with the progress, and prosperity of other nations, or even with those troubled conditions of things which sometimes must occur—those friendly relations will, I believe, be maintained. It is, I am quite sure, a matter of great and just congratulation to Her Majesty that, by her friendly interposition, and that of her Majesty's allies, the settlement of the difficulty between Greece and Turkey has probably been brought about. That, in the gracious Speech from the Throne, we are not informed of the particular mode in which that friendly interposition was brought to bear is, to me, a matter of regret. When so considerable an event as a Conference between the Great Powers has occurred upon a matter which might have led to a European war, and when the Sovereign of this country was represented in that Conference, I think it is almost without precedent that no notice should be taken of the subject in the Speech from the Throne, and that the occurrence of so considerable an event should not be brought before the consideration of Parliament. I would even frankly admit that I wish we had been thus officially informed that the Conference had been held, because had 69 that been done we should have been promised Papers, and, therefore, we should have had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the reasons why that Conference was agreed to. At present, I confess, I do not clearly comprehend the cause of that Conference, because the friendly interposition of Her Majesty and her allies might have been made in the usual diplomatic manner, and I cannot doubt that if the expression of their opinions and feelings had been properly conveyed, the same result would have happened. I do not, however, care to be critical upon this matter, because the result is one which the House must regard as highly satisfactory. The independence of Turkey has been asserted, and asserted by the Porte itself, appealing to the spirit of public law and the opinion of Europe. Founded on that appeal the Porte has vindicated its authority, and I think the general opinion is that a sound and just policy has been successfully asserted by a Power in whose welfare England is undoubtedly interested. I trust that among the not least favourable consequences will be that the organized system by which the Porte has been continually assailed of late will probably cease, that this considerable check will afford a moral lesson to the habitual disturbers of the peace in that quarter of the world, and that the Turkish Government will have the opportunity of devoting its energies to the development of the resources of that country, still for its richness unrivalled, and in which, I believe, they will find the best mode of extricating themselves from financial difficulties, which, though considerable, are not more so than those of many other countries.
The hon. Gentleman very properly dilated upon the relations between this country and the United States of America. I should have been very glad if it had been in the power of Her Majesty's Government to announce to us to-day that the Convention between the two countries had been ratified by the Senate; but it at least remains for us to express our more than hope that that ratification will take place, anticipated as it is by men of wise and temperate opinion on both sides of the Atlantic; and that thus an act will occur that will terminate a long misunderstanding between two countries deeply interested not only 70 in each other's fortunes, but associated with each other by feelings of mutual affection and respect.
I was glad to observe in a short, but important, paragraph in the Address, that our attention is called to the preparation of the Estimates for the coming financial year, and that in this instance the principle, which, though the right one, has not been invariably followed, is to be observed, that they are to be framed "with a careful regard to the efficiency" of the public service. I am convinced that the mere curtailment of expenditure without reference to efficiency is one of the un-wisest courses which it is possible to adopt; because the inevitable result is that it leads to a great reaction of profusion, and that you subsequently find you have as large an expenditure as you had before the reduction, with the additional disadvantage of an inefficient service in the interval. I, therefore, highly approve that the reductions are to be made on the principle of efficiency, and I have no doubt that, guided by that principle, the result will be satisfactory to the public.
I am not surprised to find that Her Majesty's Government will not ask for a renewal of the extraordinary powers by which the rights of the Irish people have of late years been occasionally suspended. It is a subject upon which, of all others, we must be guided by the opinion of the existing Government of the day—we must be guided by the opinion of those who at the same time are in possession of the most authentic information on the subject, which we, who are in a mere private position, cannot obtain, and who are under a consciousness of responsibility that we cannot for a moment share. I have no doubt that the Government have well considered this subject, and that they have taken a wise course, whatever may be the result, in what they have intimated to us to-day. Now, this leads me to a paragraph on which several observations have been made by the hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Address, and it is one which, I think, requires some little explanation. When I read that paragraph and found that we were recommended to inquire into the present mode of conducting Parliamentary and Municipal Elections, I confess I could not help feeling that it was involved in some 71 degree of ambiguity. But reading it with the interpretation which we have received from the hon. Mover and Seconder of the Address, I collect this—that Her Majesty's Government propose to appoint Parliamentary Committees in both Houses to inquire into the present modes of conducting Parliamentary and Municipal Elections, and to consider whether it may be possible to provide any "further guarantees for their tranquillity, purity, and freedom." Now, Sir, if I am right, I cannot refrain from observing upon what, according to my experience, appears to be a very unusual course,—namely, that Her Majesty's Government, when they found inquiry necessary upon any subject, should put the statement of the fact into the mouth of the Sovereign, without being prepared to propose on it a Royal Commission. If it is not a case for a Royal Commission, and if Her Majesty's Ministers think a Parliamentary inquiry sufficient, I do not think that this is a matter which, ought to be announced in a Royal Speech, but would have been more properly brought under our notice in the ordinary course of business in the House. One remark upon this idea of considering "whether it may be possible to provide any further guarantees for" the "tranquillity, purity, and freedom" of Parliamentary and Municipal Elections, and I confine myself to Parliamentary elections. We must remember that last year we passed an Election Act, and, whatever doubt may have been entertained then as to the policy of it, I think no one now can doubt it has provided further guarantees for "tranquillity, purity, and freedom." I think the results of the legislation of last year in all respects, as read from the table this evening, in interesting detail, must have convinced every one that that one Act has already produced very considerable effect. I would say more than that; I think that the public opinion of the country has recognized, from the experience of late elections, and from the application of that Act to the elections, the fact that at last we have obtained, if not an adequate, if not a complete—and I I leave that open for future discussion—yet a very considerable guarantee for the "tranquillity, purity, and freedom" of our elections. It would be wise, to my mind, to give that Act fair play, 72 because one thing is quite clear, and it is that none of us will be able to appreciate, sufficiently estimate, and comprehend the influence of the Election Act of last year until there has been another General Election. It will be at the next General Election you will find out the beneficial consequences of the searching and satisfactory inquiries which are now carried on under this Act. I think that every impartial man on both sides of the House must agree that, by the legislation of last year, we have at last obtained a very considerable guarantee for the purity and freedom of our elections; and, in my opinion, it would be a very wise course to watch the progress of that Act, and to take care that it has a fair opportunity of effecting what it was intended to do, and which, I think, so far as we can see, it has so satisfactorily accomplished.
There is one paragraph in the Speech which I read with some regret, and that is the paragraph which refers to education. No doubt the subject of Scotch education deserves attention—the late Government had prepared a Bill on the subject—and no doubt a measure by which the revenues which still exist for the purpose of education, and which, are so little utilized, may be rendered more effectual would be approved. But I regret very much to see that in this portion of the Speech there is no longer any mention made of a general measure of popular education. I cannot say I think that the circumstances which at present exist render such legislation on our part less necessary—I would say less urgent—than a year ago; and I am surprised to find that Her Majesty's Government seem to be of opinion that this is a subject which, can be avoided. I regret very much that the measure introduced last year, not, indeed, as a complete measure, but yet one which would have been an advance, was not passed. I did not regret so much that it was not passed last year; for I thought, whoever might be Minister, it would be impossible for this Session to lapse without a general measure of education. Omitted as it is now, no longer noticed in the Speech of the Royal Commissioners, and of course not in the Address, and with the prospect which we have before us of our time being occupied with subjects which, however happily treated they may be, 73 must lead, I think, to much debate and discussion, I regret to feel that the progress of any measure of public education appears to me now to be postponed I would almost say sine die. There are other measures of importance mentioned by Her Majesty's Government which I am sure the country would be glad to see dealt with during the course of the present Session. Many of them, like that relating, to Bankruptcy, have for a long time occupied attention, and have been matured, I have no doubt, by the thought and experience of many who are Members of this House. I trust under any circumstances we shall be able to dispose of the particular question of Bankruptcy in the course of the present Session. There is no doubt Her Majesty's Government have to deal with considerable questions, and they have to deal with one of the gravest and most difficult a Ministry can entertain. To effect the fresh financial arrangements founded upon the sound principle which they have announced in the Royal Speech they have necessarily to bring forward measures which will demand much attention; and no doubt they will have to depend very much upon the forbearance, the assiduity, and the patience of the House in order to effect the progress of public measures. We have been reminded by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Address that the Government have to appeal to a House formed of new materials—and a new House necessarily is in a great degree inexperienced; but I hope I may be permitted to express my firm conviction that, though the materials of the House may be novel, the country will find that the legislation which has led to the introduction of that novel material was not a mistake; that this House will not be less efficient than those that have preceded it; and that, both in the fair manner in which its Members will consider questions and the businesslike method in which they will apply themselves to carry any great Bills which may be necessary, they will so conduct themselves as to maintain the reputation of this House and win the confidence of the country.
said, he would interpose only for a moment between the House and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), but he could not forbear remarking that he thought there was an omission in the Royal Speech. He felt 74 something akin to disappointment that no reference was made to the great events which had recently occurred in Spain. Every friend of civil and religious liberty must have watched with peculiar interest the changes which had taken place in the Peninsula; if the comity of nations was to be considered a thing of value in our political life, it was matter of regret that no reference had been made to the conduct of the Provisional Government and the people of Spain; and he believed that courtesy and kindness were as acceptable in public as they were in private life. He was not eccentric or hypercritical in making these remarks, because when the King of Naples was expelled from his dominions in the autumn of 1860, in the Speech delivered from the Throne in 1861 Parliament was told—Events of great Importance are taking place in Italy. Believing that the Italians ought to be left to settle their own Affairs, I have not thought it right to exercise any active Interference in those Matters.He should have been much pleased with a similar declaration on this occasion in reference to Spain, because the Spanish people were high-spirited and brave, and were once a great people. Seeing that through so many years of traditional misgovernment they still cherished a high national spirit, he thought a recognition of the fact would have been acceptable to them, and worthy of an Assembly like this, whose boast was that it teaches the nations how to live.
I rise, Sir, to offer some explanations to the House upon points which have been raised in the speeches we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) and from my hon. Friend (Mr. White) on this side; but there is nothing in the character of the occasion or of the speeches which can render it necessary for me to trespass for any length of time upon your attention. I think the House will agree with me that my hon. Friend who has proposed this Address acquitted himself of the task with marked ability; and my hon. Friend who seconded the Address, although he pleaded with so much modesty, in the introduction to his sound and judicious remarks, for the indulgence of the House, may, I feel confident, rest assured that not only the importance of the constituency he represents, and not only the fact that the class 75 of working men very largely contributed to Ms return, but likewise the intelligent interest he has taken in the solution of questions of the greatest interest and importance to the community will at all times secure for him the friendly and kind attention of this House. Sir, in the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli), especially so far as they had reference to the most important of all the subjects likely to engage our attention during the Session, I have found not only nothing to complain of, but nothing except what betokened a spirit of moderation and a tone entirely worthy of the high position which he holds. If, therefore, I remark upon his comments in a controversial tone, with a view to satisfy—I will not say so much the objections he took as the scruples he has expressed, it must not be taken that I speak in a spirit of complaint. But I will first deal with the observation of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. White), who regretted the absence from Her Majesty's Message of any reference to the revolution in Spain. My hon. Friend justly observed in his remarks that the revolution in the kingdom of Naples in 1860 formed a not improper subject of mention in the next following Speech of Her Majesty; but he will recollect that the Neapolitan revolution of 1860 was immediately followed by the most unequivocal signs of popular and general approval, and by the establishment of a Government which appeared to us to present the promise of stability; and my hon. Friend is aware that the revolution in Spain has not up to this time led to that desirable result. It seems, therefore, hardly expedient, that, on the one hand, we should, through the mouth of Her Majesty, invite Parliament to express satisfaction with a work as yet incomplete—since, although it has passed through its destructive stage, it has not yet reached its constructive stage—or, on the other hand, that we should run the risk, by a reference in bolder terms, of being thought indisposed to sympathize with the feelings of the Spanish people, which undoubtedly do to a very great extent command the strong sympathy both of the Government and the people of this country. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman takes something like exception to the paragraph referring to the differences between Turkey and 76 Greece, on the ground, if I understood him rightly, of its omission of any reference to the causes which led the Government to become a party to the assembling of the Conference. Now, Sir, the reason this paragraph has been couched in general rather than pointed terms is that, although we think the end in view has been substantially gained, we cannot as yet say it has been formally attained. The envoy despatched by the French Government to Athens as the bearer of the resolution of the Conference had, according to the latest intelligence which has reached me, arrived at Marseilles upon his return, but we are not at this moment, though we may be within the next four-and-twenty hours, cognizant of the exact nature of the intelligence he brings. And, with respect to the assembling of the Conference, I think the right hon. Gentleman will see that the best opportunity which can be given to the House of forming an opinion upon the subject will be the time when we are able to present the Papers that relate to it. Until the answer of the King of the Greeks has been received, and that answer has been found to be of such a character as to permit the Conference to declare itself formally discharged of its office, and in consequence dissolved, we should not be justified in assuming, however we may hope and believe it to be so, that the whole question was at an end, or in promising to produce the Papers having reference to the subject. I cannot pass over this paragraph of the Speech without allowing myself the satisfaction of dwelling for one moment upon the nature of these transactions. It is not to claim for Her Majesty's Government, nor for this country, any special credit or applause for what has occurred; it is rather to record and take note of what appears to me to be a sign of some real advance in civilization. Here, Sir, is a case where two Powers, exasperated by traditional animosities, and with their respective transactions entangled by various sympathies and antipathies of race, were on the point of resorting to the arbitration of force and bloodshed for the settlement of their differences—and where the employment of purely moral influence has been sufficient to avert that calamity. Now, I am quite certain that if there exists one sentiment more unequivocal than another on both sides of this House, 77 and on every bench of it, and throughout the country, it is that, without resorting to arbitrary doctrines or pedantic rules, we may be enabled quietly and steadily to make progress towards establishing in Europe a state of feeling which shall favour and facilitate that common action among the Powers of Europe whereby, becoming the organ of legitimate and strong opinion, they may be able by this kind of influence alone to avert the great calamity of war. What is required for that common action is the absence of intrigue and a total repudiation on the part of every Power concerned of narrow and selfish views. It is but justice to the Powers engaged in these recent transactions that I should state, on the part of my Colleagues and myself, how fully we acknowledge that entire singleness of view and of purpose, that simple prosecution of great public objects, by which every one of those Powers has been governed in the negotiations. With respect to the Government of France, it is, happily, no novelty that that Government should be allied with that of England in an especial manner with respect to the settlement of affairs in the East. With respect to Prussia, it was Prussia that perhaps principally suggested the method of proceeding by Conference. With respect to Austria and Italy, their conduct has been actuated by precisely the same spirit as that of the Powers I have named; and no one could suspect from anything which has occurred that the result had ever been made the battlefield of conflicting interests and pretensions. The position of Russia was singular, inasmuch as she had the power by her single dissent to baffle the whole proceedings and frustrate the peaceful object of the other Powers; but although a question has been raised—perhaps justly—with respect to the conduct of a diplomatic agent of Russia, which has not appeared to the world to be in complete conformity with the specific intentions of the Imperial Government, it is but common justice to that Government to admit that its influence has been used in the most positive and decided, and in the fairest and most respectful manner to bring about the acquiescence of interested Powers in a result to which they were naturally somewhat reluctant, but which, at the same time, their best friends believed to be a result conformable with their true interests. And, not 78 least of all, it must be admitted that the Porte, which had suffered injury at the hands of Greece on grounds of International Law, had substantial cause of complaint respecting which it was entitled, if thought fit, to make use of its undoubtedly superior material means. It should, therefore, receive credit at the hands of this House for having been content to forego what in other times and under other circumstances might have been supposed to be a great advantage, and to place its cause in the hands of its allies, reposing entire confidence in the justice of the motives from which they acted. Nor do I think that the King of the Greeks should be entirely omitted from our consideration of what has occurred. He has had serious internal difficulties to contend with, and it is gratifying to find that, at this early period of his life, he has shown himself capable of appreciating national interests, and especially the conditions of national honour and national dignity. It is not necessary to dwell at any length upon the paragraph relating to America; we have endeavoured to be very careful in the statement we have made, and it is not to be supposed, simply because that paragraph expresses no overweening confidence, that we entertain the smallest doubt that the same good sense and good feeling which governed the course of those negotiations under the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) and the American Executive will continue to govern the policy of that great country. The right hon. Gentleman has also adverted to the paragraph recommending inquiry into the present mode of conducting Parliamentary and Municipal Elections; and in the first place he puts a construction upon it, and next he expresses apprehension of the tendency he thinks may be ascribed to the measure he supposes to be contemplated. The proper construction to be put upon the paragraph is not precisely what the right hon. Gentleman supposes. When Her Majesty' s Government recommends to Parliament inquiry into a particular subject, I think I stand on the ground of precedent when I say it by no means implies that that inquiry will be made in both Houses. In fact, it is not in the power of Her Majesty, conformably with the ordinary course of business, when she makes a promise to Parliament respecting inquiries or measures, to guarantee absolutely the fulfil- 79 merit of that promise in both Houses. For instance, a measure is promised with respect to Bankruptcy. That measure will be introduced in one House; but what guarantee have we that it will ever go before the other? I think I may say, with respect to this inquiry, that a recommendation of this kind is perfectly satisfied in its meaning and intention if the Government be prepared, as it will be prepared upon its responsibility, to recommend that the inquiry be taken up and prosecuted either in the one House or the other. Without saying, therefore, that the inquiry is beyond the cognizance or jurisdiction of the other House, if they thought fit to make it a matter of investigation, it is obvious that its object and scope belong to this House, which has naturally the deepest interest in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman is, I think, not well founded in his criticism when he states that the opinion of Her Majesty's Government being in favour of inquiry, the subject ought to be committed to a Royal Commission, or else ought to be kept to themselves until they make a Motion in this House. Now, Sir, it appears to me, with respect to the propriety of introducing topics of this kind into the Speech, it depends entirely upon the magnitude of the question, upon the interest it commands, upon the absence of any public inconvenience in reference to it, and upon the confidence the Government entertain that they will be able to give effect to their intentions. Upon these grounds, it did appear to us eminently suitable that we should at this moment, when very great interest is felt in the subject throughout the country, do something to satisfy that interest by the announcement of our own clear and unequivocal intention. Then the right hon. Gentleman states that the paragraph in question seemed—as it never was intended to be—in the nature of a disparagement of the working of the new Act for the trial of Election Petitions. The right hon. Gentleman says that we have obtained a fresh guarantee for the "tranquillity, the purity, and the freedom of elections." Sir, I do not in the least object to the expression of that opinion by the right hon. Gentleman. I think that probably until the whole of the petitions have been tried and disposed of, the time has hardly come for expressing anything like a positive judgment in a speech in this House, and still less in a Speech from 80 the Throne. But I confess my own view and that of my Colleagues is not unfavourable to the working of the Act as far as it goes; and considering the great share the right hon. Gentleman has had in passing the Act through this House, I very sincerely congratulate him on its having become the law of the land, and I trust the more its character is unfolded in the working, the more the favourable view of it may be confirmed. But the working of that Act has, I conceive, reference not to direct guarantees for the "tranquillity, purity, and freedom of elections," but to indirect guarantees—very important it is true, but still wholly indirect—which are afforded by a good system of punishing breaches of "tranquillity, purity, and freedom of election" whenever they occur. It is not the working of the Act which would be the direct and natural object of inquiry by this Committee. Its working would probably be examined; but the object of the inquiry that we propose relates, not to the punishment but to the prevention of breaches of "tranquillity, purity, and freedom of elections;" and the right hon. Gentleman will see that every thing that occurs, from the first beginning of an election down to the final act of return, is included within the idea, and within the province which, if the House approves the proposal of the Government, will be assigned to this inquiry. The right hon. Gentleman made further comments upon the paragraph in the Speech which refers to education, and stated that he deeply lamented the omission of all reference to the question of national education on a broad and general basis, and that he feared it was to be regarded. as postponed sine die. Sir, I will not pretend to quote the authority of the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues, who did not mention the subject of national education in the Speech of last year; and yet, although they did not think it so necessary to mention it on that occasion as the right hon. Gentleman now believes it to be, they did introduce a measure on that subject. But two questions arise to my mind in connection with this criticism—the first is, whether real progress in great national questions is achieved by the simple fact that a Government introduces a measure to Parliament without the hope of passing it; and the second question is, what is the purpose of a Queen's Speech? Is it the business of a 81 Queen's Speech to set out in detail, I will not say all possible measures, I will not even say all great measures, but all urgent measures? I think that is putting the question fairly. Now I believe that the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman does proceed upon an implied proposition,—which I think erroneous,—as broad as that. I think he seems to suppose that every great and urgent measure ought to receive notice in a Speech from the Throne. I humbly differ from that opinion, although the authority of the right hon. Gentleman is a high one. It seems to me that there is no greater temptation to a Government—and against which a new Government especially ought to be on its guard—than that of promising in a Speech from the Throne a great number of measures of vast and widely-extended interest, without any careful reckoning or calculation of the time at their disposal for carrying them into law. Sir, I believe that if this Speech which has been delivered from the Throne, be open to criticism at all, and if the advice of Ministers in the framing of it is to be challenged, it is rather for its containing too much than too little. I may, perhaps, over-estimate the great demands which will be made on our time by one great measure; but when I see that we speak of dealing with the hardships of occupiers as regards Rating, with education in Scotland, with Endowed Schools in England, with the representative principle in controlling the County Rate, and with the subject of Bankruptcy—these are five matters all of them of very great importance—in my opinion we shall be among the most fortunate of administrators should we be able in the course of this Session, with all the aid that the patience, intelligence, and indulgence of the House can give us, to carry those five measures, as well as our one greater measure, to a successful issue. Sir, the motive by which we have been guided in our advice to the Throne as to the enumeration of subjects is a very simple one. We have felt, as we have said, that one question had a paramount claim upon our notice, upon our care, upon our most patient and determined energies, such as they may be—I mean the settlement of the great question of the Irish Church; and I think that, apart from any differences of opinion prevailing in this House, every man will agree that those who take the 82 responsibility of stirring such a controversy as that are bound to allow no secondary object, however important it may seem to them, to interfere with their efforts for bringing it to a satisfactory issue. We had then to ask ourselves what subjects there were which were great, and what subjects there were which were urgent, and which with favourable augury we might hope to introduce into the House of Commons, because we might hope in a very great degree, or almost entirely, to separate them from the discussions or dissensions of party. If we wish for party conflict it may be that, in the one wide field open before us, we shall find enough to satisfy the greatest appetite. At all events, it is our wish not to multiply such subjects; and with reference to one which may be regarded as a subject of party conflict—I mean the question with respect to Rating—I will say that we shall endeavour to treat it in such a way as to remedy a practical grievance without reference to former controversies. The same thing applies to all the other great questions introduced in the Speech; and I hope that the House will approve the principle by which we have been actuated, first of all in endeavouring to afford it abundance of occupation for the employment of its various energies and resources upon questions not likely to lead to strong party differences; and secondly, to keep the field clear, as far as we can, for the great question of the Irish Church. Sir, we are deeply sensible of the pressing and urgent nature of the question of national education; and permit me to say this one word more, that we do not think this Speech without practical indications of our convictions in that respect, because the settlement of popular education in Scotland, though a much easier and somewhat narrower measure than the settlement of the same question in England, is a matter much more material than may be supposed for facilitating the solution of the problem in this country. And the same object will be promoted by the measure to be introduced for the regulation of Endowed Schools. And as I have mentioned this question and deprecated the inference—I think somewhat precipitate—of the right hon. Gentleman, that the question of national education is undervalued simply because it is not mentioned in the Speech, I may 83 cover many other great subjects with1 the same declaration, and in like manner protest against the application in this case of the ancient proverb, that that which is out of sight is out of mind. There is one subject in particular which, perhaps, beyond all, after what has been named, occupies a very high place in the estimation of Her Majesty's Government as to its importance and necessity—I mean the question of the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland—a subject which it would be totally impossible for us to justify our omission to deal with during the Session, or to mention in the Speech, upon any other ground than that we cannot overcome the physical limitations of time by which we are bound, and that it would not be in the fulfilment of our duty, but a breach of our duty, if we were to hold out to the House expectations of legislation upon matters to which we do not think that a just reckoning of our resources would warrant us in applying our attention. On the Irish Church I will only say that I hail with satisfaction the declarations of the right hon. Gentleman. Our earnest desire is to act in the spirit of that portion of the Speech which expresses the conviction of Her Majesty that this question will be approached and that this work will be prosecuted with a desire to afford a just satisfaction to every legitimate interest; and that there will be upon our part every study, if we can, to satisfy the sympathies, and, if we can, not to provoke the antipathies and animosities by which this question is beset. Our hope is that the Parliament of this country will be disposed to take a just and dispassionate view of the stage at which the question has now arrived, and of the prospect which the future offers, and will be inclined not so much, in some of its sections, to insist upon a rigid adherence to what has been formerly desired, as effectually to co-operate in the prosecution of a purpose which is essential to the welfare and the unity of the Empire. The House, I feel satisfied, will not be wanting on its part in the endeavour thus to deal with a subject of as grave consequence and as great difficulty as has ever been intrusted to its care. And, on our part, great will be our responsibility and severe will be the censure which we shall deserve, should we, either by the substance of our proposals or by 84 the manner in which we endeavour to press them forward, fail to sympathize and correspond with those good and wise dispositions on the part of the House.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he wished to call the attention of the House to a matter connected with their own proceedings. Every one might have remarked when the Clerk read the Reports made by the Judges, with respect to the Election Petitions they had tried, that the substance of those Reports was brought before the House in a manner in which it was impossible for the House to deal with it, and he (Mr. Newdegate) could not help feeling that this was scarcely prudent or becoming on the part of the House, for this was the first occasion on which they had received Reports from the Courts of Law, after those Courts had been intrusted with the conduct of inquiries and of business deeply affecting the composition and the very existence of the House itself. He was strongly of opinion that some alteration of their method of receiving these Reports ought to be adopted, for the manner in which they were now received was simply trifling with a responsibility which the House had for centuries refused to delegate, but jealously retained in its own hands. This was not the only respect in which he felt uneasiness as to the future of the House. Hitherto the House of Commons had been the first representative Assembly in the world—the most independent representative and deliberative body intrusted with legislative powers the world had ever known. Now, he feared that the present composition and organization of what were called parties in this House threatened the independent deliberative powers of the House; that there would be a great loss of independent action and exertion on the part of hon. Members generally, and that in these two respects, the one touching the independence of its composition, and the other the independence of its deliberation and of its action, the House should take thought for its own sake and that of the country. He was not about to follow the two right hon. Gentlemen (Mr. Disraeli and Mr. Gladstone) in their criticisms upon the composition of the Speech from the Throne. In literary composition and in that of Royal Speeches they were arcades ambo, nor should he touch upon 85 more than two points—one an omission, and the other an evasion, which characterized the Speech and the treatment of it by those who had preceded him, except the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. White), who had most properly drawn attention to the omission of all notice of what had occurred in Spain. The Spanish people, following the example of the Neapolitan people, had delivered themselves from the oppressions and disgrace of a Government which was the blind instrument of an Ultramontane priesthood. He (Mr. Newdegate) rejoiced that the Spanish people, though Catholic, had manifested their determination to be free; to enter, as a nation, the ranks of freedom; to gain for themselves the enjoyment of those privileges of freedom and independence as a nation which England had spent millions of money and tens of thousands of the lives of her sons to secure for her. It was a grand effort, and proved that the vitality of Catholic Christianity, with the capacity for freedom which, when pure, that religion confers, still breathes in Spain. But, was it not strange—and he (Mr. Newdegate) was not surprised that the hon. Member for Brighton felt it—that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Gladstone), who had been one of the chief movers for the liberation of Naples, a Member of the Government who introduced a Notice congratulating the Neapolitans upon their emancipation from Ultramontane tyranny into the Speech from the Throne in 1861, should now not admit one cheering word of congratulation and encouragement for the Spanish people into the Royal Speech, of which he must have been the chief composer? From what had the Spanish people delivered themselves? From the agents of the temporal power of the Papacy. What had the Church of Rome lost in Spain? Temporal power. And what was the object of the Papacy everywhere? Temporal power. The Papal hierarchy could not bear the existence of such an exemplar of toleration in religion, of such a source of freedom in Ireland as a Protestant Church, which was devoted to the dissemination of a pure religion, not to the acquisition of temporal power. The contrast was painful to the Ultramontane hierarchy, and it was to gratify them that the Protestant Establishment was sought to be destroyed. This policy was the reverse of 86 that upon which the Spanish nation had entered. On its removal, the obstacle which the Protestant Church presents would be done away with, and the Papal Church would soon be dominant in Ireland. The temporal power of the Pope would gain more representatives from Irish constituencies; the representative force of the temporal power in Ireland must increase, and if the legislative union between England and Ireland was maintained, that temporal power would obtain an increased hold upon that House of Commons, and through the House of Commons over England. It was not surprising that the Prime Minister, who advocated such, a policy for the United Kingdom, should omit all notice of what had occurred in Spain from the Royal Speech.
§ MR. W. R. ORMSBY GORE
, as an Irish Member, could not but express his disappointment at no allusion being made in the Queen's Speech to the reform of the Railway system in Ireland. That subject was one not only of urgent but of paramount importance to that country, and he still clung to the hope that the Government had some intention of bringing in a measure relating to it. He would therefore take the liberty of asking them whether they proposed to reform the present state of the railways of Ireland?
§ MR. CORRANCE
said, he did not rise to offer any extended observations upon the policy contained in the Address, in which there was, no doubt, much which might excite the curiosity, and even, possibly, the opposition of hon. Gentlemen on his (the Opposition) side of the House. It was at all times a more grateful task to advert to matters upon which both sides could agree. Prominent in the list of good things which were promised by the Government was financial reform. He could not conceive that it would be for the interest or consistent with the policy which he had always advocated, to throw the least impediment in such a path. No doubt the obstacles in it would be numerous enough; and he confessed that he felt the other day a little apprehension lest the grave matter of the mending of the pens for the Civil Service might not, after all, form an obstacle of a formidable class. Her Majesty's Government were the guardians not only of the public purse, but of the public honour; and in pledg- 87 ing themselves to financial reform, he hoped they had duly considered the nature of the task they had undertaken. He was sorry to be obliged to add the expression of his regret that one or two subjects were not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne in which the public took a deep interest. The questions to which he alluded were those relating to pauperism and local taxation, as well as the prevention of the cattle plague, which was a matter of the greatest importance to the agricultural classes. These were subjects which, if properly dealt with, produced no political results. The adjustment of the incidence of local taxation the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had himself admitted to be of the gravest moment, and it was not too much to have expected that it would have found some recognition in Her Majesty's Speech. There certainly was some reference to the better management of the county rates; but that was a different question. Then, again, there was no allusion to the cattle plague. That subject had been inquired into by a Parliamentary Committee, and the question turned on the matter of finance. Extraordinary concessions had been made to Manchester, Salford, and Liverpool, at the instance of two right hon. Gentlemen, and the loss of the Bill was the result. But, as an instance of the speedy repentance of those localities, or of the ingratitude of mankind, those two right hon. Gentlemen lost their seats. He was desirous of referring to those points on that occasion with a view of conveying as much as anything else a warning to the Government with regard to the future; for it must, he thought, be acknowledged that the agricultural community, consisting of landlords, tenants, and labourers, had not had its due share of that enlightened legislation by which the commercial classes had of late years so largely benefited. If such should continue to be the case the result would be that their representatives would take their place in that House as an interest apart, in order that they might the better be able to fight their battles, while the action of the Chambers of Agriculture would, he had no doubt, be found to exercise a potent influence on Parliament. The Government did not seem to him to be sufficiently alive to the importance of those considerations, and he 88 trusted their attention would be more closely directed to subjects with which the interests of the agricultural classes were so intimately associated.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
, in reply to the hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. W. R. Ormsby Gore), said, that if he would repeat the question which he had put to him with respect to Irish railways next week, he would be prepared to answer it.
§ MR. MACFIE
expressed his satisfaction at finding that the subject of education in Scotland found a place in the Royal Speech. He believed that the measure would have an entirely unsectarian and undenominational character.
§ MR. M'MAHON
regretted that no mention was made in the Speech of a measure of Reform relating to Ireland, and hoped that steps would be taken to remedy the inequality at present existing between the county and borough representation in that country. In England, at present, the proportion was about two borough Members to each county Member, and he wished to see the same state of things exist in Ireland, instead of their being two county Members to one borough Member.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, he could well understand that the magnitude of the Irish question was some justification for not mentioning matters of comparatively trivial importance; but he was of opinion that the policy of conciliation which the Government had resolved to carry out towards Ireland would be incomplete if they refused to yield to the strong feeling which existed in that country as to the expediency of allowing bygones to be bygones, and granting, as far as possible, a general political amnesty.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, he was glad to hear that Her Majesty's Ministers were about to take steps which he hoped would ensure the loyalty of Ireland, and he would give them his best support. But surely disloyalty was not the highest recommendation to justice. Those whose fidelity to the Reigning Family had never been impeached ought to have their claims to equality considered. Was the Annuity Tax to be retained in Scotland while the Irish Church was disendowed and the Maynooth Grant and the Regium Donum were discontinued? Why was not justice done to English Dissenters in the matter of burial grounds? One sub- 89 ject would require the attention of Parliament not only in the interests of one part of the United Kingdom, but of all. He hoped that when the Irish prelates were removed from the Upper House the English prelates would be removed also. They represented only a minority of the people of the United Kingdom. They had supported church rates as long as they could; they had opposed his humble efforts to do justice to Dissenters by abolishing tests and disabilities, and Churchmen themselves were of opinion that great benefit would result to morality and religion in this country by the removal of the Bishops from Parliament. It would be a glorious day for this country when the Bishops were no longer in a situation to dishonour their Christian profession by urging perpetual war on all occasions against political justice and equality to all classes in the country. The reform contemplated in the Irish Church would not stop there. The opinion of the country would be that the House of Lords should be relieved of the presence of men who were not hereditary Peers, but simple life tenants, and who were often aged tutors and schoolmasters.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee appointed, to draw up an Address to be presented to Her Majesty upon the said Resolution:—Mr. HENRY COWPER, Mr. MUNDELLA, Mr. GLADSTONE, Mr. CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER, Mr. Secretary AUSTIN BRUCE, Mr. Secretary CARDWELL, Mr. CHILDERS, Mr. JOHN BRIGHT, Mr. WILLIAM EDWARD FORSTER, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL, Mr. GOSCHEN, Mr. OTWAY, Mr. AYRTON, and Mr. GLYN, or any Five of them:—To withdraw immediately:—Queen's Speech referred.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Right o'clock.