I rise with sincere regret to ask the House to agree to the Motion with which I shall conclude—regret that it has not devolved upon some younger and more eloquent Member of this House, one to whom it might have been a better opening to Parliamentary distinction, with the probability of a longer period wherein to enjoy it. But as it has devolved upon me, I would ask from the House such consideration as it is so ready to accord to one who, though not addressing it for the first time, yet has not frequently trespassed upon its time and attention.
The House will, I am sure, see with regret that Her Majesty has not been able to carry out her intention to be present at the opening of Parliament, and will join with me in the hope that the indisposition of Her Majesty may be only temporary and of no serious nature; and further, that the House and the nation will join in the prayer that Her Majesty may be speedily restored to her usual health, and that a life so valuable to her subjects may be long spared.
59 I may, with one exception, congratulate the House upon tie information contained in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech.
With regard to our Foreign Relations, it will be satisfactory to observe that, not only are our own relations with foreign Powers on a satisfactory footing, but also that there is a growing desire upon the part of foreign nations to conduct their negotiations and to settle their differences by requesting, not the interference, but the advice of disinterested neighbours. We, in this House, represent the vast interests of a great nation, which requires in an especial manner the blessing of peace, in order to develop its resources; and it is, I am sure, a satisfaction to know that the probability of war will in future be much diminished, and that wars will be much less frequent than they have hitherto been.
The House will observe with satisfaction that it is proposed to amend the Laws respecting the Occupation and Acquisition of Land in Ireland. The difficulty and delicacy of the subject are only weighty reasons why the Government should attempt to deal with it, and though there will be an immense number of conflicting interests to deal with in working out this question, I believe still that it will be possible for the Government to discover some measure that will reconcile those interests, and bring the question to a Parliamentary settlement. Possibly, when the question shall come to be more looked into, those interests may be found to be not so entirely separated as at first sight they may appear to be. I am sure that the Government will give to this measure all the attention that they can possibly direct to it, and that they have also during the Recess studied it with the utmost care; still I can hardly hope that the measure will be one that will satisfy all parties; but yet I do hope that it will satisfy the moderate men of both sides, and will have equal regard to the interests of the landlord, the tenant-farmer, and the agricultural labourer. If such a measure as this should be brought into the Housel fool certain that it will command the support of Members of both sides of the House. It is impossible, I suppose, to hope that party feeling shall be kept entirely out of the discussion of this matter; but I know that there are 60 many Members who are superior to the more vulgar indications of party feeling, and I think we may confidently hope that by the assistance of such Members on both sides of the House, a measure may become law that will be satisfactory to the whole of the nation.
A hardly less important measure has been promised in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech—I mean that of National Education. That is a question which excites very considerable interest within the walls of Parliament, and the House must be aware of the intense interest which it excites out-of-doors. There are differences of opinion on the matter, but one thing has been decided by the voice of the nation, and that is that the children of England shall be educated. It is not for me to discuss the merits of rival schemes, or to speculate as to what the provisions of the Government measure may be; but I think that upon examination it will be found that the great difficulty which is supposed to exist in the way of the Bill—the religious difficulty—is not so very great a difficulty as is generally supposed. I feel sure that, among those who have taken an active part in the various assemblages that have been held all over the country to discuss the question, there are but few earnest and sincere men who wish to exclude religion from the education of the country. I believe that they simply understand the application of the principle in different ways; and it would be hard if when the measure is discussed, means should not be found for arriving at a settlement.
Among the other important measures that are to be submitted to the House are those concerning the Incidence of Rating, amending the Laws relating to Licences for the Sale of Fermented and Spirituous Liquors, and for amending the Laws as to the Disabilities of Members of Trade Combinations.
As regards the incidence of rating, there is hardly any subject that is of more importance to the working classes than that of local taxation. No hon. Member can but be aware of the great inequalities that exist, and the way in which those rates press upon the labouring classes; and the discussion that has already taken place cannot be otherwise than beneficial and tend to some beneficial settlement.
As to the licensing system, the enor- 61 mous interests involved are well known to many Members of this House. There are many Members who are aware of the enormous amount of capital which is invested in houses which it is intended to bring under the operation of a new law, and no doubt much good will be derived from the discussion, even if no settlement should be arrived at.
Now, with regard to the disabilities of members of trade combinations. I am not aware what the measure is likely to be, but it seems to me that it will require considerable care and attention. I do not know whether it is intended to assimilate the law of trades unions and friendly and benefit societies; but it will be an object of deep consideration whether the funds of societies which the officials are permitted to employ in promoting strikes should be placed under the same protection of the law.
I observe with satisfaction that it is intended to bring in a Bill to consolidate the Laws as to Merchant Shipping. It seems to me that any measure which tends to the improvement of the merchant navy must tend, sooner or later, to improve the service to which I have the honour to belong; and not only this, but tend also to the general welfare and interest of the country.
In that part of Her Majesty's Speech which is more particularly addressed to this House, it will be observed with satisfaction that there is a prospect of the reduction of taxation, and the promise of economy as well as efficiency in the maintenance of the public establishments. The House and the Government will, I am sure, remember that there can be no true economy without efficiency, and though it is perhaps necessary that reductions in the public expenditure should be made, I trust that the Government will endeavour to carry out such reductions without injustice to individuals or any undue desire to reduce the efficiency of Her Majesty's forces. I am sure that the Government will keep this matter in view—that a proper force should be kept up to give strength without extravagance.
I would now gladly conclude, but there is one more subject to which I must allude. Her Majestry has expressed her regret at the extension of agrarian crime in several parts of Ireland, and the House will share most deeply in that regret. I am sure that neither you nor 62 Her Majesty's Government have any intention to make things appear better than they are, and the House will be gratified to observe that there has been a partial improvement in the state of affairs in Ireland. It is consolatory to know that after many years of well-meant legislation for Ireland an improvement, although but partial, has occurred. For myself, I believe that the effects of recent remedial legislation for Ireland has yet to be felt. I hope, at all events, that the Irish nation will believe that it is the sincere desire and intention of Parliament to do away with those grievances under which, until lately, they have suffered. The present disturbed state of certain portions of the country may be traced to the evil influence exercised by only a small body of men. I think it is hardly possible that a high-minded and generous people like that of Ireland can resist the softening influences of just and impartial legislation, or that they will be swayed by the machinations of secret and cowardly assassins. It will be for the Government to consider what measures may be necessary for maintaining the public peace, and I am certain that no powers which it may be proper for the Government to demand in the present state of Ireland will be refused by the House. Her Majesty has declared it to be her intention to cause the law to be respected, and it will be for the Government and for the House to support Her in that determination. I thank the House for the attention with which they have received these few and imperfect remarks. The hon. and gallant Member 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, and to express our sincere regret that recent indisposition has prevented Her Majesty from meeting us in person:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the friendly sentiments which are entertained in all quarters towards this Country, and which Her Majesty cordially reciprocates, the growing disposition to resort to the good offices of Allies in cases of international difference, and the conciliatory spirit in which several such cases have recently been treated and determined, encourage Her Majesty's confidence in the continued maintenance of the general tranquillity:63Humbly to thank Her Majesty for directing that Papers shall be laid before us with reference to recent occurrences in New Zealand:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the Estimates for the Services of the approaching financial year are in a forward state of preparation, and that they are not only framed with a view to the effective maintenance of the Public Establishments, but that they will impose a diminished charge upon the Subjects of Her Majesty:To assure Her Majesty that we hear with pleasure that the condition of the Revenue has answered to the expectations which were formed during the past Session; and to express our readiness to carry to its completion the inquiry which was last year instituted into the mode of conducting Parliamentary and Municipal Elections, and thus to prepare the materials of useful and early Legislation:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that our most earnest attention will be given to the Measure which has been prepared with a view to amend the Laws respecting the occupation and acquisition of Land in Ireland, in a manner adapted to the peculiar circumstances of that Country, and calculated, as Her Majesty believes, to bring about improved relations between the several classes concerned in Irish Agriculture, which collectively constitute the great bulk of the people; and that we share in Her Majesty's confidence that these provisions will tend to inspire among persons, with whom such sentiments may still be wanting, that steady confidence in the Law, and that desire to render assistance in its effective administration, which mark Her Subjects in general, and thus will aid in consolidating the fabric of the Empire:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that, among many other subjects of public importance which appear to demand our care, a Bill has been prepared for the enlargement, on a comprehensive scale, of the means of National Education:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that in fulfilment of an engagement to the Government of the United States, a Bill will be proposed to us for the purpose of defining the status of subjects or citizens of Foreign Countries, who may desire naturalization, and of aiding them in the attainment of that object; and that we shall be further invited to consider Bills prepared, in compliance with the Report of the Commission on Courts of Judicature, for the improvement of the constitution and procedure of the Superior Tribunals of both original and appellate jurisdiction:64To assure Her Majesty that we humbly join in Her Majesty's opinion that some satisfactory legislative settlement should be effected of the question of Religious Tests in the Universitie and Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, which may contribute to extend the usefulness of these great Institutions, and to heighten the respect with which they are justly regarded:To thank Her Majesty for acquainting us that Bills have been prepared for extending the incidence of Rating, and for placing the collection of the large sums locally raised for various purposes on a simple and uniform footing; and to assure Her Majesty of our readiness to undertake the amendment of the Laws which regulate the grant of Licences for the Sale of Fermented and Spirituous Liquors:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that Measures will be brought under our consideration for facilitating the Transfer of Land, for regulating the Succession to Real Property in cases of Intestacy, for amending the Laws as to the Disabilities of Members of Trade Combinations, and for both consolidating and improving the body of Statutes which relate to Merchant Shipping:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we participate in the concern with which Her Majesty has announced to us the recent extension of Agrarian Crime in several parts of Ireland, with its train of accompanying evils:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the Executive Government has employed freely the means at its command for the prevention of outrage, and that a partial improvement may be observed; but that, although the number of offences, within this class of crime, has been by no means so great as at some former periods, the indisposition to give evidence in aid of the administration of Justice has been alike remarkable and injurious:To assure Her Majesty that, humbly trusting with Her Majesty to the permanent operation of wise and necessary changes in the Law for the removal of such evils, we shall be prepared for the adoption of special provisions, should such a policy appear during the course of the Session to be required by the paramount interest of peace and order:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we fervently join in Her Majesty's prayers that our labours may be constantly attended by the blessing of Almighty God.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
Mr. Speaker, in entering upon the responsible duty which has been entrusted to me, I must express my wish that it 65 had been committed to some one of greater experience in the House. I cannot lay claim to the customary privilege of those who address you for the first time, but during the one Session in which I have had the honour of a seat in Parliament I have attempted to confine my brief remarks to matters of which I had previously some knowledge. On the present occasion I cannot but speak with all the hesitation of a wholly unpractised Member, for I find myself called upon to follow the hon. Gentleman into the discussion of a vast number of subjects, with many of which I have less acquaintance than almost any Member of the House. My embarrassment is in creased by the complete manner in which my hon. Friend has dealt with Her Majesty's most gracious Speech, and I should hardly venture to detain you with any additional observations that could be made, were it not that in attempting to escape the task which has been imposed upon me I should seem to be wanting in respect towards the House, and to the great constituency which I represent.
We may, I think, congratulate ourselves upon the brevity with which Foreign Relations are treated in the Speech. The words "friendly sentiments" form, however, this year, no unmeaning phrase. I believe that, were it diplomatic, it would be nothing more than true to say that we are upon a footing of intimate friendship with all the Powers. For many years we have not seen the world so entirely at rest, We are not reminded that to the good offices of England, not merely tendered, for that they always are, but joyfully accepted by the interested nations, this tranquillity is largely due. During the late difficulties that arose between Turkey and Greece, between Turkey and Egypt, and between Belgium and France, our mediation is understood to have calmed angry feelings, and in at least one case to have prevented war. I think, then, that while expressing our gladness at the continuance of harmony we should not forget, on the one hand, how we ourselves have helped to bring about the now prevailing concord, nor on the other how happily increased are the chances of the maintenance of peace by the triumph of the principle of popular sovereignty in France and Spain.
Speeches from the Throne have often 66 clauses that seem to remain standing from year to year, and, whether or no it be always very apposite, the paragraph about foreign relations is one of these. But this year it has attached to it a rider which is novel to the point of being bold—the phrase in which we are congratulated upon the readiness the nations show to submit their differences to their allies. Those instances of the happy practice which I have already stated to the House are familiar to all, but circumstances which have occurred would seem to warrant this generalization from them: that there is no nation in Europe which would venture now to act in opposition to the opinion of a majority of the Powers. We have often had suggestions and oftener dreams from writers of much distinction, in which they have proposed the creation of a League which they style "The United States of Europe," but, putting aside the impracticability of their scheme, I would ask the House what end it could attain which we do not now secure? When nations know that not only their rivals, but their friends will expect that the opinion of the Powers should be taken upon the international actions which they propose, they will hesitate before they so much as discuss within their council chambers measures which in the old bad times they would have executed without a thought. There may be gracious promises, there may be phrases of sympathy for all our fellow-citizens, but there is nothing in the Speech to which we have this day listened which is fuller of the hopes that reach all hearts, than the simple words in which we are told that the nations have decided that in future they will refer their differences to friends.
With one foreign Power, if the word "foreign" be strictly applicable to a people whose tongue and whose thought are ours, relations are returning to something better than their former state. Time and the sympathies of race are too strong for politicians and for Governments. As the days roll by bitter words are forgotten, and men begin 10 wonder where the angry feelings of the past can have had their rise, when they note the calmness of the reasoning with which former subjects of dispute are now approached on either side of the great seas. We are told in the Speech that we are soon to deal with the Naturaliza- 67 tion matter. No declaration could give more pleasure to the millions of persons, now citizens of the United States, who were born on British soil, and there is reason to believe that the settlement that has been reached conflicts with no sentiment of English dignity, and with no principle of modern English law, but that it will prove even more satisfactory to the Americans than the arrangements they have made with Prussia.
The list of the principal measures that are to be proposed to us during the present Session is, perhaps, the longest that was ever set before a Parliament; but the measures are neither more numerous nor more weighty than the House has a right to expect when Her Majesty is advised by Ministers who possess in a remarkable degree the confidence of the country and of the House. Not only are there the two great measures to which my hon. Friend has referred, but some of the other Bills proposed are so intimately connected with these two that it is difficult to discuss the one without the other. I believe, for instance, that when we reflect upon the opinions that prevail in the enlarged constituencies by which the present House of Commons has been returned, we shall see that it would have been impossible for a Minister to have dealt with that which is peculiar in the land difficulties of Ireland, without at the same time proposing to us legislation upon those evils which are common to the land systems of both the British Isles. Nor are the twin land Bills, to which I have referred, more closely connected than the twin measures which are proposed to us on Education. A Bill for the abolition of University Tests is required to complete the nationalization of the Universities, and these must be made the nation's if you are to systematize education throughout the land. Indeed, such a measure appears to be desired as a supplement to the Education Bill by so large a majority within these walls, that without going beyond the limits which are set by custom to those who take a somewhat formal part in the discussion of a Speech from the Throne, I may, perhaps, be permitted to express a personal hope that, whatever the difficulties that may arise, the Session will not end without the University Tests Bill having passed into law.
The announcement that an Education 68 Bill is to be proposed by Her Majesty's responsible advisers has been received with pleasure by the House. There will be many who will read the declaration by the light of the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Committee of Council in his speech at Bradford. I venture to think that the promise that he made, that no religious or irreligious difficulty would be allowed to stand in our way, is not merely the intention of the Government, but the deliberate opinion of the people. Whether or not this is so, it is at least a. conviction firmly held by those who dwell within the towns of England; and were we unhappily to fail to obtain our end during the present Session, nothing can prevent our carrying on the struggle until the reproach of ignorance shall be removed from off the land. It is not we who cause the religious difficulty, but those who insist that sectarian teaching shall have a place in all schools that are supported from the public funds. Whenever the people have been consulted, whenever they have been asked whether they would have education hindered by sectarian differences of any kind, their answer has not been doubtful; and it would almost seem as though in this controversy the whole of the people were collected on one side, and confronted only by a few of those who ought to be their leaders. There is one thing in this matter that we must not forget, and that is that if the people are determined that sectarian differences shall not stand in the way, it is because they are prepared to insist that at all hazards the greatest possible spread of education may be secured, and, if I may speak now for myself alone—for I am ignorant of the details of the plan that Her Majesty's Government will propose—I know not how, without compulsory attendance you will secure the education of every child. If, however, opinion be too much divided still for such a scheme, it might be possible to recognize the vast differences, both of opinion and of fact, that separate some portions of the country from the rest, and to pass a Bill which, while it should be final as regards those parts of the land where no defence could be founded on existing facts, should elsewhere supplement the system which has already secured so many good results. Such a measure would meet with the support of all friends of education, but 69 it would only inspire the inhabitants of the towns to continue the fight until they have secured for every portion of the British Isles those blessings which the Bill would carry to certain of the more favoured spots.
In debating the remaining clauses of the Speech from the Throne, we stand even less than we have done hitherto upon controverted ground. Her Majesty, addressing Her then Parliament two years ago, was graciously pleased to say that the frequent occurrence of disagreements between employers of labour and the workmen they employed, had induced Her to issue a Commission to inquire into the organization of trades unions, and to suggest an improvement in the law. Of that Commission the Ministers have now had time to study the Report; but in introducing a measure upon trades unions they are but carrying out a promise they have already made within these walls. For my part, I do not entirely agree with the views of my hon. Friend as to the details which ought to find a place in such a scheme; but it may be sufficient to say that a House—in the election of which the working classes have had so large a share—will not be indifferent to a measure which they conceive to be their due.
It is with some hesitation that I approach the last of the paragraphs of the Speech, for the subject of Ireland is already so familiar, and has been treated so exhaustively by my hon. Friend, that I could not with any conscience detain the House while I might attempt to show that if the condition of Ireland be such as to need exceptional remedy, it is also such as to require exceptional care. It is true that we have to congratulate ourselves that agrarian outrage has of late been less, and that Her Majesty's Government hare not thought it necessary to propose the suppression of the Habeas Corpus Act. On the other hand, no one can wonder that they should have shown that, if necessary, they will be prepared to supplement the deficiencies of the law. Those who supported the Church Bill of last Session never pretended that it would reconcile the irreconcilable. No one ventured to assert that for all our endeavours to solve that question there would be immediately one Fenian the less. But those whose case it is proposed to meet this Session—the occupiers of the land in Ireland— 70 they who with their families form the bulk of the Irish population—they who are not Fenians, but through whose sympathy Fenianism obtains that half support which alone has made it formidable—these men we may perhaps detach from the forces of rebellion. It is not proposed to bribe the tenants, to win them to our side by measures which would be indefensible except in the emergency of a desperate case; what is to be done is to shape into legislation a recognition that there is in the relation of landlord and tenant in Ireland a something which we have not here. Whatever may be our differences as to the means by which our end is to be wrought, it may perhaps be admitted upon both sides the House that the anxious thought that was displayed in the preparation of the Church Bill of last Session, is not likely to have given place to unthinking rashness in the drafting of the land scheme of this year. There is no hon. Member but will admit that it is our duty to deal with a question without a settlement of which no lasting peace in Ireland is possible, and it is in the feeling that the Session will not end without a satisfactory settlement being reached that I beg, Sir, to second the Address.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That," &c—[See Page 62.]
§ MR. DISRAELI
Mr. Speaker—The Speech from the Throne promises the introduction of many important measures, but I think, Sir, this is hardly an occasion when it would be convenient to the House that we should enter into any general criticism upon them. I will, therefore, only express a hope that when these measures are brought forward we shall find they are treated by Her Majesty's Government in a manner not unworthy of their importance. Nor, indeed, should I have ventured to trouble the House at all to-night had it not been for some passages towards the end of the Speech, which refer to the condition of Ireland. Those passages, I confess, appear to me to be neither adequate nor altogether accurate. Her Majesty's Government acknowledge that the condition of Ireland is not at all satisfactory; but, while admitting it is bad, they remind us that on previous occasions it has been worse. They tell us that they have employed freely the means at their com- 71 mand for the prevention of outrage—a statement which the House must have heard with satisfaction from so authoritative a quarter, because certainly the popular and general impression was the contrary. As I understand the language, which to me seems involved, and certainly is ambiguous, the Government inform us that, contingent upon their passing certain measures, they will resume the duty of a Government, and protect life and property. I confess I am sorry to see in a document of this Imperial character that any body of men who are responsible Ministers of the Crown are of opinion that to protect the life and property of Her Majesty's subjects is a contingent duty.
Now, with respect to the condition of Ireland, and why I think this notice of it by Her Majesty's Government is neither adequate nor accurate. Unquestionably before this we have had murders in Ireland, and assassinations, and mutilations, and violence in all its multifarious forms—threatening notices, secret societies, turbulent meetings, and a seditious Press. All this has happened before. But on all previous occasions when such disorders have pervaded that country reasons have been alleged, and, if not universally, have been generally adopted by influential persons in the country as explanatory of their occurrence. I remember, Sir, that when I first came into Parliament—thirty years ago now, and something more, I am sorry to say—the state of Ireland was most unsatisfactory; and then it was commonly alleged that it was in a great degree to be attributed to what was called the maladministration of justice; and the conduct of high personages on the judicial bench was impugned and defended in this House, and recriminations were indulged in with all the animosity of party conflict. Well, no one can pretend now that the scenes of outrage which extend over a considerable portion of Ireland can be attributed to maladministration of justice. For the last ten years—I may say twenty and even more—the administration of justice in Ireland has been as just, as pure, and as learned as in this country; and I say this, well knowing that those who sit upon the bench in Ireland have, in the majority of cases, been appointed by the party opposite, and that most of them are members of the Roman Catholic 72 community. Generally speaking, too, if you take also a large view of the conduct of juries in Ireland, particularly under the trying circumstance of the last few years, the law has been vindicated by them with courage and loyalty. Maladministration of justice, then, cannot be alleged to-day as the cause of the crime and outrage which prevail in Ireland at this moment. Another cause which used to be alleged was religious dissension. People said—What can you expect from a country where you allow the minority of the people great privileges in respect of their religion, and permit ecclesiastical inequalities to exist; put an end to the Protestant ascendancy which you support with so much zeal, and you will put an end to these disorders?" Religious dissension was very generally received as the cause of the disturbances and disorders of Ireland; but that plea cannot be urged now. The Protestant population of Ireland now possess no exclusive privileges, their Church has been despoiled and her prelates have been degraded. You have established certainly in theory ecclesiastical equality—though I fear in practice it will be found that those who were lately in possession of those privileges will hardly rise to the level of those who are now considered in theory their equals. But no one can any longer say that it is Protestant ascendancy which is the cause of these horrible disorders. Well, during the long discussions which have occurred in this House now for so many years a third reason has been frequently alleged as the true cause of the disturbed state of Ireland, and that was a seditious priesthood. Now, I am not going to maintain that things have not been said and things have not been done by isolated members of the Roman Catholic priesthood of late which every man of sense and honour on both sides of the House must reprobate; but we know that the great body of the priesthood is arrayed in support of Her Majesty's Government, and therefore it cannot be alleged that a seditious priesthood is the cause of Ireland's trouble. The Roman Catholic congregations are exhorted from the altar to uphold the Ministry of the right hon. Gentleman, and I am told that, even amid the perplexities of the Œcumenical Council, right rev. Prelates have found time and opportunity to despatch canvassing letters to the hustings 73 of Longford and Tipperary. Then we have sometimes been told that all those outrageous occurrences which periodically happen in Ireland are solely occasioned by an organized system of agitation conducted by individuals who in ado agitation profitable. "Get rid of agitators," we were told, "and you will soon find Ireland tranquil and content. "That appears to have been the opinion of a right hon. Gentleman who is a Member of the Administration; for I observe that in addressing his constituents lately he informed them that the condition of Ireland at this moment, in respect of all its crimes and outrages, was the consequence of the desperate condition of the Irish agitators. He told them that these mischievous men are up in arms because they know a Ministry is now in office which is resolved to carry measures to put an end to their profession; and he admitted, with his characteristic candour, that if there had not been a change of Government it is not at all impossible that the agitators, interested in always maintaining a grievance, would have permitted Ireland, under the late Administration, to be tranquil and content. Now, I must say, it strikes me as the most remarkable circumstance in the present condition of Ireland, that she is agitated without agitators. Of course, at such a critical period like the present—a good many of the old hands have appeared, and there is no doubt they thought the time was come when, to use a classical Liberal expression, they could carry on a "roaring trade" in the way of agitation. But the most curious thing I have observed in the course of events in Ireland during the last twelve months is that the agitators mean in station, not very distinguished in ability, have invariably contrived to be on the unpopular side. Although the state of Ireland has been such that, now for a considerable period, once in every week some deplorable outrage has been perpetrated, I must do the agitators the justice to say that, in my opinion, none of those acts can fairly be ascribed to them. Again, all must agree that there have been moments in the history of Ireland when disorders and disturbances there could be traced and attributed to the influence of a foreign country. Notably at the beginning of this century—or, probably, to speak with greater accuracy, I ought to say at the end of the last cen- 74 tury—there were Irish traitors residing in France, in direct alliance with the French Republic, who threatened, and did certainly accomplish, the invasion of Ireland; and this foreign influence was undoubtedly the main cause of the disturbances in Ireland. And recently, within our own immediate experience, some of our Irish fellow-countrymen who are alienated in feeling and sentiment have, in another republic, the republic of America, by peculiar means, exercised a foreign and disturbing influence upon Ireland. We should be, I think, glad to admit, and proud to remember that the same thing can never be said of the American Republic which, was justly said of the French Government—that they ever, for a moment, tolerated, sanctioned, or encouraged the Fenian conspiracy. [Murmurs.] I speak of course only so far as my own experience extends; but, to that extent, I say that the conduct of the American Government was marked by a spirit of honour and political integrity. But, no doubt, the Irish in America have had the means of founding associations and of acting on the opinions of the population of Ireland. Accordingly, there is no doubt that in these two instances foreign influence produced these disorders. Now, with regard to the Fenian conspiracy, which some little time ago was alleged as the cause of these disturbances, I must express my own opinion—I have expressed that opinion before, and its accuracy has been challenged; but, at least, it is an opinion formed after considerable thought, with some responsibility, and with some means of arriving at an adequate conclusion. And the opinion which I so expressed was that the Fenian conspiracy was of foreign growth. Under the Government of the Duke of Abercorn, that conspiracy was, in my opinion, completely broken and baffled. That happened in America which happened in Europe after the Thirty Years' War. In America, as in Germany, the majority of the people, on both sides of the important questions then at issue, were actuated by high principles. But there were naturally a great number of military adventurers who mingled in the fray, and who, when peace was somewhat unexpectedly brought about, wished to employ their military knowledge and experience to some purpose. And the Irish, who are 75 a military nation, had in the American army a great many of their race. But it is an error to suppose that the scheme of invading Ireland and establishing a Republic in that country was confined to Irishmen. If the projected Fenian army had taken the field, the commander, and, I believe the second in command, would neither of them have been Irishmen, nor, so far as I am informed, Roman Catholics. The result of that conspiracy was that, baffled in every way, with all their schemes thwarted, they found, when they came really to the pinch of the question, that both parties to the plot had been deceived. The military adventurers could not count, as they had been led to believe they could do, upon an armed nation rising to receive them; and that part of the Irish nation which sympathized with the conspiracy was disappointed at the inadequate means with which these great intentions were proposed to be accomplished. Hence between the two parties there arose feelings of suspicion and disgust And, notwithstanding all that we have heard, I do not believe that there is any reason for now tracing the disordered state of Ireland to Fenian machinations. I have ventured to mention five causes which, during many years have been brought forward as accounting for the disorders and disturbances which periodically occur in Ireland; and I say that they are all obsolete or non-existing as regards the present state of affairs. There is, I admit, a sixth and a final cause which must be noticed, which has been alleged on previous occasions—and that is the tenure of land. The tenure of land is also now mentioned as the cause of the discontent and dissatisfaction of Ireland; but the tenure of land in Ireland is the same as it was at the Union, except that it has been modified in some degree, and always to the advantage of the occupier. ["No"] At any rate the tenure of land is the same now as it was when Lord Carlisle governed Ireland, and it must be the same as when the Duke of Abercorn governed Ireland. But the tenure then did not produce those scenes of disorder and outrage which have excited the fears and attention of the whole nation for a year, and which are now mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech. It seems that has happened in political affairs which is 76 said to be impossible in physical affairs—namely, spontaneous combustion. The Irish people—that is to say, a great portion of the Roman Catholic population, in Ireland—have rushed into a riotous hallucination. They have suddenly assumed that a great change was about to occur in their condition—a change which, if it should be accomplished, would weaken and perhaps destroy the amount of civilization which they already possess, and which, if carried to its last consequences, would resolve society into its original elements.
I want to know what is the reason that this great portion of the Irish people has suddenly indulged in the wild dreams that have led to this wild and evil action? It cannot be the policy of the Ministry. However we may differ as to the measures of Her Majesty's Government with respect to Ireland, there is no doubt that their policy as regards the Roman Catholic portion of the population is a conciliatory policy. Her Majesty's Government announced their intention to redress all the injuries of the Roman Catholic population, to remove all the abuses of which they have long complained, and under which they have suffered, and generally to ameliorate their condition. The announcement of such a policy could not have brought about the wild and destructive conduct of which we now are all complaining. The truth seems this—The Irish people have misinterpreted the policy of the Government. They have put a false interpretation on the policy of the Government; they have considered that the Government meant to do something different from that which I assume, and shall always believe, it is the intention of the Government to do. But I want to know this—Were the Irish people justified in the erroneous interpretation which they put on the avowed policy of the Government; and if they fell into the dangerous error of misinterpreting that policy, did the Government take all the steps, or any of the steps, that were necessary to remove that false impression and to guide the mind of the Irish people to a right conception of the state of affairs and a duo appreciation of the intentions of the Government? It is unnecessary for me to dilate on the Irish policy of Her Majesty's Government: whatever may be its merits in the opinion of some, or 77 its errors in the opinion of others, there is one point on which I think we must all agree, that it has been expressed on the part of Her Majesty's Government with the utmost frankness and explicitness. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, when he was in a scarcely less responsible position than the one he now occupies, at a time when he was a candidate for the highest post in the country, challenging the confidence of his Sovereign and of his country upon his Irish policy, and speaking, no doubt, with a sense of responsibility not less than that with which he would speak now, told us what his view of the Irish question, as it was called, realty was. He said that the state of Ireland was to be attributed to Protestant ascendancy, and that his policy was to put an end to Protestant ascendancy. Nothing could be clearer, more frank, or more explicit. Protestant ascendancy, the right hon. Gentleman said, was at the bottom of all the disorders and all the grievances and misery of Ireland; it was a tree which had produced three branches which I shall call—not in the language of the right hon. Gentleman, but in accordance with his meaning—branches of predominant perniciousness, extending into the Church, the land, and the education of the country. That was the declaration made to England and to Ireland. England can not complain of the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman, because that policy was announced before the General Election, and the vote of the English constituencies ratified the determination of the right hon. Gentleman to insure the destruction of Protestant ascendancy in Ireland. But, now what have been the two great causes of excitement and disorder in Ireland? There have, no doubt, been several, but there were two which were prominent last year. One was a desire to free the political prisoners, and the other a demand to transfer the property of one class to another class. Those were really the two great causes. Now, unfortunately, from some observations made first in the course of debates in this House, but afterwards dwelt upon and amplified elsewhere, the public mind, not only of Ireland, but also of England, had been led to believe that Her Majesty's Government in some way connected the destruction of the Protestant Church with the Fenian conspiracy. It was generally understood to 78 be the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that the Fenian conspiracy, if it had not entirely occasioned, at all events precipitated the fall and decided the fate of the Protestant Church in Ireland. When the Government of the right hon. Gentleman was formed there was a desire exhibited by that portion of the Irish people who were then apparently his supporters—that is, not by those who professed the Protestant religion, and who viewed the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman with alarm, but by the mass of the Roman Catholic population of that country—to receive the Government of the right hon. Gentleman with favour; and they agitated the country in no unfriendly spirit upon the two subjects I have named. It is of importance, in clearly understanding the condition of Ireland at this moment, that the House should discriminate between the way in which the freedom of the prisoners, for instance, was advocated in the beginning of the year by some persons in Ireland, and the mode in which it was agitated towards the close of the year. The House will remember that when we assembled last year a remarkable and dramatic scene took place. The Lord Mayor and Corporation of Dublin presented themselves at the Bar with a Petition to Parliament. In their Petition they requested us to support the Church policy of the right hon. Gentleman—a policy which might be regarded as a foregone conclusion, and about the success of which, though there might be some question about the details, there could be no doubt. But in that Petition, couched in a friendly spirit, with the view of making Her Majesty's Government popular in Ireland, they also urged that an amnesty should be granted to the Fenian prisoners. I have received some Irish deputations in my time, and I thought I saw at the Bar some faces that I recollected. To be historically correct, I ought to add that the completeness of their Irish policy was that the Government should purchase all the Irish railroads and immediately reduce the tariff for passengers and goods. That was their policy then. The Lord Mayor and the Corporation of Dublin were the supporters of Her Majesty's Government. They came in a friendly spirit, and in asking for an amnesty for the Fenian prisoners they believed that they were supporting the Government. But 79 what happened? No doubt there is no more difficult question for the Minister of a constitutional State to decide than that of granting an amnesty to political offenders. It is much more difficult for a Minister of a constitutional State than it is for the Minister of a State where what is known as "personal rule" prevails. In such countries there are revolutions, strokes of State, and other manœuvres which continually render it necessary that, without much inquiry or discrimination, large bodies of subjects should be imprisoned; and as it is of course very inconvenient to keep thousands of subjects in prison—and very expensive—when order is restored and tranquillity can be depended upon, the throwing open of the prison doors and releasing the prisoners is a convenient way of celebrating the birthday of the Sovereign or the marriage of his son or daughter. But in a constitutional country it is entirely different. A political prisoner, generally speaking, cannot be imprisoned without his guilt having been proved to the satisfaction of a jury of his countrymen; and even under the rare circumstances in which a man in a free country may be arrested and imprisoned without being condemned by a verdict of a jury, still, if there be a suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act it is suspended with the free will of Parliament and its suspension is under the vigilance and control not only of Parliament but of a free Press, It may, therefore, be fairly assumed that political offenders in this country are in a very different position, in regard both to the merits of their conduct and to the comparative sufferings they endure, from the political prisoners who by squads and battalions are immured in dungeons in countries where no constitutional rights are in existence. Therefore it is the most difficult of all duties to decide upon the question of an amnesty in a constitutional country. As a general principle, though I do not say it is one from which you should never deviate, an amnesty, if there is to be one, should be complete. Now, what was the conduct of Her Majesty's Government? Her Majesty's Government responded to the friendly invitation of the Lord Mayor of Dublin and people of that kind—I mean those friends who were, to use a barbarous expression, "ventilating" the question, in order to 80 get support and popularity for the Government—by deciding upon a partial amnesty. Now, let us see what were the inevitable consequences of a partial amnesty. You had a Paper placed upon the Table last year which gives some account of the prisoners who were freed under the partial amnesty. Now, who were the first three men thus freed? Men who had been found guilty of high treason, and whose sentence of death had been commuted into one of imprisonment? With that commutation I am not here to find fault. Possibly I may myself share its responsibility, but this I will say—that when the Government of which I was a member had to deal with questions of this kind, and we had to assert the majesty of the law and to establish order and tranquillity, no one can accuse us of vindictive conduct in the punishments we retained. Now, the effect of releasing these three men, who had incurred the severest penalty of the law and whose sentence of death had been already commuted to imprisonment, was that others who had a brother, a son, or a sweetheart, perhaps, in prison, naturally complained that those whose conduct had incurred the penalty of death should be released, while those whose crimes were not so great should still be detained in prison. On the part of the Government it was urged that they must exercise some discretion, and that, in considering the case of these prisoners, they determined to free those in whose harmlessness they were pretty confident and secure, and that none were let out but those who could do the State no injury. Well, now, was that the fact? Look at the next three men who were let out. They were three men who had incurred long terms of imprisonment, from twelve to fifteen years, men of decided opinions and violent conduct, not one of whom had ever given the slightest sign of penitence. One was an able writer. He emerged from his cell and immediately wrote a leading article against the Government, calling upon his fellow-countrymen to commence their efforts to free themselves from the slavery under which they had so long laboured. Another of them—and that is a mysterious case, which may by-and-by be brought under the consideration of Parliament—went to a banquet and made use of his liberty to excite Irishmen—they say he was not an Irishman him- 81 self—to violence, and he told them that the sabre was the only solution of their sufferings. Well, then, I say the great body of the Roman Catholics of Ireland who had relatives in prison naturally felt indignant. They regarded this partial amnesty as a most ill-considered act. These people who before were unhappy in the fate of their relatives—who no doubt felt that they were unfortunate, and that they did not deserve their doom—began now to smart under a great sense of injustice. They said—"You have let out men, some sentenced to death, others to long periods of imprisonment, who immediately use the liberty you have given them to excite hostility against the Crown and to create sedition in the country. But our relatives are still immured, who have not been convicted of offences so heinous or incurred sentences so heavy." Well, what happened? The feeling for the Fenian prisoners, which was at first got up rather to assist the Government than not, became a great national sentiment, and culminated at last in an incident which has been referred to with solemnity this evening, an incident most humiliating to the Government, and stimulating to violence and disturbance, and other classes of crime. The country was raised to a high degree of excitement when it was most important that it should be appeased and kept quiet. I said just now that you must remember this—that the great body of the Roman Catholic population, without being Fenians themselves, may justly sympathize with the Fenians. Let me explain this, for it is important the House should bear it in mind. The people of Ireland had been told, now for a great many years, that the Protestant Church in Ireland was a badge of conquest. They had been assured that it was an enduring testimony of their ignominious position as a nation, and that though these might not seem its immediate effects, it was indirectly the cause of all the humiliation and discontent of the country. Now, when the great body of the Roman Catholic population found that the badge of conquest was destroyed, and, at the same time, that it was in consequence of Fenianism that they were rid of that which they had been educated to believe a badge of conquest and a source of infamy, was it not very natural, without being Fenians themselves, that 82 they should evince some sympathy for the Fenian prisoners? For they naturally reasoned—"It is not necessary for us to vindicate their conduct in making war on Her Majesty, of whom we are willing to be the dutiful subjects; but we have the highest authority in the land to lead us to believe that if they had not committed these crimes we should not have been released from this enduring badge of our servitude and humiliation. And surely, if over there was an occasion when bygones should be bygones, it is this, when there has been a change of Ministry to carry into effect the avowed consequences of Fenianism." The people naturally thought that with the destruction of the Protestant Church the offences of these men ought to be condoned. That is the reason why you have such a strong feeling among the Irish people on behalf of the Fenians, and that is the real cause why you have had all this terrible excitement in Ireland, and why you have been called upon to do an act which would be a blow to all government—namely, without security and on no intelligible plea suddenly to open the gates of all the prisons of the country and free men who were condemned by the solemn verdict of juries and after trials the justice and impartiality of which have certainly never been impugned, even by the Fenians themselves. So much for one of the two great causes which have brought about this condition of Ireland. So far as I can form an opinion upon the facts as they appear to us, it seems to me that one of the great causes of the excitement in Ireland, of the spirit of turbulence, discontent and disloyalty which have been rampant during the last twelve months is to be attributed to the conduct of the Government with regard to the Fenian prisoners.
And now let me ask the House to consider the other cause. The agitation in Ireland has been for two things—to free the political prisoners, upon which I have already touched, and in the second place—it is better to state it in plain language—virtually to transfer the property of one class to another. Now, let us see what has happened with respect to that. Let us inquire what excuse, what reason there is for the erroneous interpretation which the people of Ireland have put on the intentionally beneficent policy of the right hon. Gentleman. 83 Now. I apprehend that they reason in this manner:—"The policy of the Government is to put an end to Protestant ascendancy. That there is no mistake about; we have it on the highest authority." Then they would go on to say—"It is the cause of all our miseries, but its three most enormous products are the Protestant Church, the tenure of land, and the present system of education." We all know how the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with the Protestant Church. It was not necessary for the people of Ireland to wait until the termination of the last Session of Parliament to know the policy of the right hon. Gentleman on this subject, because, at the beginning of the Session, the right hon. Gentleman was pledged to the destruction of the Protestant Church. Therefore, so far as the formation of public opinion among the Irish people was concerned, from the beginning of last Session they took it as a foregone conclusion, as an accomplished fact, that the Irish Church was abolished. Well, they reasoned in this way—"The Irish Church is abolished; the Bishops and rectors are deprived of their property. The next grievance, according to the same high authority, is the laud. Is it not a natural consequence that, if you settle the question of the Irish Church by depriving the Bishops and rectors of their property, you will settle the question of the land by depriving the landlords of their property? "I do not say that that is the policy of the Government; I do not say that we thought that was the policy of the Government; but I say that is not an unnatural inference of the Irish people. I say, in the next place that it was the actual inference of the Irish people. There could be no mistake in Ireland about it, because a right hon. Gentleman, too short a time a Member of this House, now the Master of the Rolls in Ireland, on his appointment by the new Government to an office which, as far as the interest of the country was concerned at the particular time was second to none—the office of Attorney General for Ireland—addressed his constituents, and he used these significant terms—that the Prim Minister would introduce three Bills, one about the Church, one about the land, and the third about education; and on this declaration of policy he was elected. Therefore, there is no doubt 84 that the Irish people drew the inference that the same policy was to apply to the land as to the Church. Now, I will give a proof of that. In 1868, the Irish land question occupied the attention of the Government, as it had occupied for some time the attention of successive Governments. There was a desire, I must say, on the part of those in Ireland who had been called agitators, and who had been very much abused, to bring it to some settlement, and they made communications to the Government. Now, I think their plan was—first, utterly irreconcilable with priciple; secondly, that it would have ultimately aggravated the evils it was intended to cure. But throwing those great objections aside for a moment, it was not an outrageous proposition. Those who had taken the most active part with regard to the question of the tenure of land in Ireland, those societies and bodies of farmers attended a meeting which had been convened, and agreed to accept what was recommended by Mr. Butt—namely, a lease for sixty-three years, with rents fixed at the Poor Law valuation and 20 per cent added, a reassessment to be made at the end of the term, and the improvements to be then given to the landlord. I will not enter into the argument now, but I could never have sanctioned that proposition. But, though it may have been an unwise one, everybody will admit that it was not a revolutionary proposition. Well, that was in 1868. But the moment the agitation arose about the Irish Church, or rather at the period when it was quite clear from the vote of this House that the Irish Church was doomed, those societies and bodies of farmers all receded from that engagement. They all said instantly—"The question has now assumed a totally different aspect; we will no longer be bound by the offer that we made"—and which I believe they made in all sincerity—and the question entered into a now phase, until it culminated in the resolution arrived at by the meeting of Munster fanners when they declared, that nothing short of perpetuity of tenure would be satisfactory. Well, is it not clearly demonstrated, that they did expect that an analogous policy would be applied to the land to that which was applied to the Church? And I say, was there not ground for the false interpretation that they thus put on the policy of the Go- 85 vernment? And what steps did the Government then take to remove that false impression? Why, Sir, we had a discussion on this head last year. I will read a passage, a very short one, from the speech of a noble Lord, who, for every reason, I regret is no longer a Member of this House. Lord Stanley, on the 30th of April, 1869, addressing the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister, said this—What we want—and it is for that purpose alone I now rise—is to obtain from the Government a declaration—it need not be in many words, but I hope they will be plain and distinct—that, while on the one hand, the claim of the tenants to compensation shall be admitted and respected, the proprietary rights of the landlords, on the other hand, will be firmly maintained. Let them only be firm upon that point—let them only act upon what I have no doubt is their own view of the subject—let them only maintain the law calmly and resolutely, and depend upon it you will get over this agitation, as you have got over hundreds of similar agitations. But, if everything is to remain in a state of obscurity until next year, if the Irish people are left in the dark, if they are left, unchecked and uncontradicted, to entertain any wild fancies upon this matter that may float through their minds, then I fear that the present excitement and disturbance will continue, and will even increase; and in that case, but in that case only, I will say, that for what may occur in the next few months the Executive authority must be held responsible."—[3 Hansard, cxcv. 2001–2.]Lord Stanley sat by me when he made those observations, and they had my entire assent. They were clear, they were firm, they were temperate, they were wise. They were made in April, when there was excitement, disorder in Ireland—when there had been even some dreadful deeds committed. But, looking at what happened at the end of the summer and throughout the autumn, that period of April was a period of comparative tranquillity. Now, I ask the House to consider this question calmly and impartially. Did the Government, when those wild misconceptions and excitement prevailed in the minds of the great body of the Irish people, take any step to enlighten them, to guide them in a right direction, and to avert the fearful acts which have been their consequence? Sir, what happened in Ireland? Generally speaking, these farmers often acres, those millions of peasants, are naturally influenced by the example of leading men on these subjects. What means have these poor people, who scarcely ever see a newspaper and have nothing 86 it all to guide them—what means have they of forming an opinion as to the probable course and intentions of Parliament or of Ministers, but by the words and the conduct of those who are leaders in the society to which they belong? Now, I do not say that Her Majesty's Government are responsible for the words or the conduct of the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray). I have no doubt that hon. Gentleman is a perfectly independent Member of Parliament; and it is not for me for a moment to insinuate that Her Majesty's Government are responsible for anything that he says or does. But the people of Ireland know that the hon. Member for Kilkenny has great confidence in Her Majesty's Government; he has taken every opportunity of expressing it. They know well that he took a decided line on the Irish Church question; they know, or at least they believe, that if not in confidential, he was in friendly communication with the Prime Minister on that subject; and they know that whenever he spoke on it there was sympathy from official quarters with his remarks and his general views. They know very well, moreover, that upon his general views Her Majesty's Government ultimately acted. I take the hon. Member for Kilkenny to be a fair specimen of an influential and bustling class of Members of Parliament, who are naturally looked up to by their fellow-countrymen, who think them knowing men and acquainted with what is going to happen. Well, he attends meetings, makes speeches, moves resolutions on the land question, and speaks with all the authority of a man who was right on the Irish Church question; and he says to his hearers—"We must be firm; we are sure to get what we want if we are firm; but nothing must satisfy you except fixity of tenure." Is it, then, at all surprising that the Irish people should suppose that by the same course as they got rid of the Protestant Church, of the Protestant Bishops and rectors, they will also get rid of their landlords and obtain fixity of tenure? But there were persons of more exalted position who took a leading part in the affairs of Ireland during the last year. I am not going to make the Chief Minister responsible for the conduct of a Lord Lieutenant of a county, who may have his own views, and may act upon 87 them. He may be independent, and may be imprudent, but a Prime Minister is always in confidential communication with Her Majesty's representatives in every place; and if Her Majesty's representative happens to be not only a Lord Lieutenant of a county, but also a strong partisan and supporter of the Government, it is quite clear that a man of the authority of the present Prime Minister need only give a hint, or order others to give a hint, to a Lord Lieutenant to prevent any imprudent or violent act on his part. But what do the Irish people see? They see a Lord Lieutenant, a Knight of St. Patrick, calling meetings, attending meetings, making violent speeches—I should say incendiary speeches—and counselling his audience to call upon the Government to grant to Ireland fixity of tenure—that is, the transfer of the property of one class to another. Well, is it surprising that all these circumstances should have created in Ireland another and a second source of great excitement on a subject so much calculated to quicken the feelings of that people? In connection with these incendiary speeches, let me, in passing, remind the House of what happened many years ago with reference to one of the most respectable Members of Parliament, who was held in the highest personal esteem by both sides of the House. When Sir William Verner, at an obscure local dinner gave as a toast, "The battle of the Diamond"—one of those unhappy conflicts, as hon. Gentlemen are aware, between Roman Catholics and Protestants in the worst days of Irish history—the matter was immediately brought before Parliament, and I am not sure that the Sovereign was not advised to deprive him of some of the honours he possessed. I am speaking from memory; but was that offence of Sir William Verner—and I would not extenuate it—more outrageous or more incendiary than the allusion of the Queen's representative to "the glories of Vinegar Hill?" Let us see what occurred in Ireland after this to induce the Irish people to entertain a soberer view of affairs. There was the elections. If anything can elicit opinion, it is an election. Her Majesty was advised to elevate an hon. Member of this House (Colonel Greville-Nugent) to the peerage. If blood and large estate qualify for that great post, I think Her Majesty 88 was wisely advised; nor, Sir, as far as I am concerned, do I object at all to see the son of that noble Lord (Captain Greville-Nugent) his successor in this House. I think that if that is the natural result of local influences, of the affection of his neighbours, and of the respect in which he is borne, it is a salutary result, and one which I should never question. But that hon. Gentleman, who may probably at this moment be sitting in this House, could not come into Parliament without expressing the opinions which he came in to support. And what were those opinions? Why, they were described by two solemn declarations—namely, that he was in favour of a complete amnesty for the Fenian prisoners, and for fixity of tenure in respect to Irish land. Of course Her Majesty's Government are not responsible for the opinions of independent Members of Parliament; but, as the hon. Member for Longford is not a very old man, the poor people of Ireland may be pardoned for thinking that he would not be offended if some good advice had been given him by men in authority. It would not be unnatural if they said—"Depend upon it, he would not pledge himself to the emancipation of the Fenians and to fixity of tenure (which is the transferring of one man's property to another) unless he knew what he was about. They made his father a Peer, and he is here to say the right thing." That was the Longford Election, and I think the circumstances to which I have referred were calculated to much mislead the minds of the people. All this time, while the minds of the people were so much misled and such a degree of excitement was added to that which had existed on the subject of the Fenian prisoners, deeds of outrage, crime, and of infinite turbulence were perpetrated simultaneously, and I believe as a necessary consequence of that misleading of the public mind. But there was another Election—a very interesting Election, which has been already alluded to tonight. What happened at that Election? There was a Gentleman who occupied a post of trust and confidence in the late Whig Administration, of which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) was the organ in this House. If there be any post which more than another requires dis- 89 cretion and prudence, and one which, more than another requires a man who weighs his words, it is that of Law Adviser to the Castle. Well, the Gentleman who had filled that honourable post was, I will not say the Government candidate, because hon. Gentlemen opposite might blame me for using so unconstitutional a phrase, but the only candidate who came forward to vindicate the policy of the Government, and to support them. I know nothing of the green scarf which he is said to have worn, but I think it highly probable that he did attire himself in that way, for his mind seems thoroughly permeated with that hue, as appears from all his observations. He came forward as the advocate of the immediate release of the Fenian prisoners, and gave three cheers for the people in prison—a most remarkable exhibition of discretion on the part of the late Law Adviser of the Castle. He declared himself a firm supporter of fixity of tenure in land. Now, Sir, notwithstanding the reckless manner in which the late Law Adviser of the Castle—who it was generally supposed was going to be something greater than Law Adviser to the Castle if he succeeded in securing his Election—notwithstanding the reckless manner in which he pledged himself to his intended constituents, he was defeated. He was defeated under circumstances which we shall have to consider in the next eight-and-forty hours. The people of Ireland had to choose between a sham Fenian and a real Fenian, and it is astonishing what a preference is always given to the genuine article. But now I must call the attention of the House to what occurred when the Government candidate was defeated, though he had pledged himself to all those revolutionary doctrines. All this time, especially from the period when Lord Stanley delivered those observations which I have quoted, horrible scenes of violence had been occurring in Ireland, but the Government would never move. Landlords were shot down like game; respectable farmers were beaten to death with sticks by masked men; bailiffs were shot in the back; policemen were stabbed; the High Sheriff of a county going to swear in the grand jury was fired at in his carriage and dangerously wounded; households were blown up, and firearms surreptitiously obtained. All this time the Government 90 would not move, but the moment the Government candidate was defeated on the hustings—a Government candidate pledged to confiscation—pledged to a course of action which would destroy all civil government—the moment that occurred there was panic at the Castle, there was confusion in the Council; the wires of Aldershot were agitated; troops were put in motion, sent across from Liverpool to Dublin, and concentrated in Waterford, Tipperary, and Cork. And all this because the candidate who was prepared to support the Government had lost his election. I remember one of Her Majesty's Ministers saying, I think last year—"Anyone can govern Ireland with troops and artillery." So it seems; even that right hon. Gentleman. But I will not further notice on this occasion anything that may have been said or done by that Minister, because I hear with deep regret that he is obliged to be absent.
Now, I ask the House to consider whether this state of things has not resulted from an erroneous interpretation which the people of Ireland have put on the avowed policy of Government, and from the circumstance that the Government have refrained from attempting in any way to remove that misconception; and what is the position in which we are now probably to be placed. Her Majesty's Government have given notice of their intention to bring forward in a few days a measure respecting the tenure of land in Ireland. I have every hope—I will say every expectation—that it will be a just and prudent measure. If so, it will obtain impartial consideration on both sides of the House, and, so far as I am concerned, it will obtain cordial support. I apprehend it will be a measure that will deal with all necessary points, and with none other; that it will contain nothing that is visionary and fantastic. But if it be a measure of this kind what will the late Law Adviser of the Castle say? What will the Earl of Granard, Her Majesty's representative, Lord Lieutenant of a county, and Knight of St. Patrick say? Above all, what will the hon. Member for Kilkenny say? And when men in their position—men of intelligence and education—are disappointed, what will be the feeling among the great body of the Roman Catholic population of Ireland? What will be the feeling of 91 the farmers and peasants who denounce the proposed settlement of 1868, and who said at their last great meeting that nothing but perpetuity of tenure would do, because that was a word about which there could be no mistake? Sir, I think this is a matter of very serious consideration for the House. I object to the position taken by the right hon. Gentleman. He will excuse me if I say that on this point the language in the Speech from the Throne is ambiguous and confused. Are we to understand that no measures for the protection of life and property are to be taken until these Bills have been passed, and the effects of them hare been felt in Ireland? If that is the case we may be prepared for a scene of disorder and disturbance in that country such as has never been before experienced, and such as we shall find great difficulty in successfully encountering. The mention of Ireland in the Queen's Speech is to me inadequate and inaccurate. I may be asked by the right hon. Gentleman—"If that be your opinion why do you not move an Amendment on the Address, and give us what you conceive to be an adequate and accurate description?" I believe that would be not only unwise, but under the present circumstances of the case a most improper stop on my part. If we are to have a Bill on the tenure of land brought in, we ought, if possible, to consider it free from party feelings, and with the anxious desire, not to satisfy the wild vagaries of the Irish people, but to lay the foundation of the future welfare and prosperity of Ireland. Then, if so, I can imagine nothing more unwise, or I would say unprincipled, than to precipitate a party division on such a subject only a few days before the introduction of the measure. But I do wish to impress upon the House the great responsibility which they incur on this subject. This is still a new House of Commons. Men have entered it who are proud, and justly proud, to be Members of such an Assembly; but they may depend on it that if they do not resolve to consider the question of Irish government not only in a large but a firm spirit—if they think it possible that the spirit and sense of the people of England will long endure the chronic state of disturbance that now prevails in Ireland—they are much mistaken. And they may be equally certain that 92 when this Parliament comes to a conclusion, which they have entered with so much pride and so much justifiable self-complacency, if they err in the course they take on this question—if they sanction a policy which, if unchecked, must lead to the dismemberment of the Empire and even to the partial dissolution of society—they will look back on the day they entered Parliament with very different feelings from those which now influence them, and they will remember this House of Commons with dismay and remorse.
said: I may be allowed to tender my thanks, and the thanks of the Government—in conformity, I am sure, with the feelings of the House—to my hon. and gallant Friend the Mover and my hon. Friend the Seconder of the Address in answer to the Queen's Speech, for the able manner in which they have discharged the arduous duty committed to them. It was hardly to be expected, after the events which have occurred in Ireland, that the short debate of to-night should pass over in a manner as absolutely pacific as has been the case on some former occasions. And yet, having listened to the lengthened remarks of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), I am bound to say that I cannot regard them with dissatisfaction. In one part of his speech, indeed, I found the greatest cause of congratulation—namely, that the right hon. Gentleman, however he may feel the difficulties suggested by the recent revival and extension of agrarian crime in Ireland, yet, acting wisely and prudently, hesitates to recommend, and declines to recommend, a resort by Parliament at the present moment, and under present circumstances, to the use of coercive and special measures; and in listening to the entire tenour of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman I derive this topic of congratulation—that he feels and is aware of the gravity of the present position of affairs as between Ireland and England. He feels that the questions which have been opened in Ireland have now reached a point which may be the last of all our opportunities for their satisfactory solution; and although will reply to the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman upon the conduct of the Government, I will first thank him for this, that in the speech he has made he has done nothing to aggravate the diffi- 93 culty which as a Parliament we shall have to encounter. Rejoicing, therefore, Sir, that no practical issue is raised between us, I do not make any complaint of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. The essence and bulk of his speech have consisted of criticisms liberally bestowed, partly on the Executive Government, and partly on those who may occupy a position towards the Executive Government—more or less qualified, of confidence and support. But the right hon. Gentleman also complains of ambiguity in the speech from the Throne, and he makes a demand in this respect which it is but fair I should answer. I confess I do not understand out of what terms of the Speech it is the doubts and difficulties of the right hon. Gentleman have arisen; but I think I can remove them by an express declaration. In the intention announced by the Government, and embodied in the gracious Speech of Her Majesty, so far as that intention imposes a careful daily regard to the condition of Ireland and their duty to propose everything which that condition requires, there is nothing ambiguous or contingent. That duty is absolutely paramount and primary; and, anxious as the Government are that they should give the first place in the order of the Session, as it is also in the mind of Parliament and of the country, to those remedial measures of permanent operation on which their permanent hopes are fixed, yet they feel there are duties which, under certain circumstances, might impose the necessity of immediate action, and occasions which might compel them—although God forbid they should be compelled—to suspend the great purposes of the future, in order that they might meet the crying and irrepressible wants of the present. I hope that in that declaration there is nothing that can be called contingent, with reference to Ireland, between remedial measures and special provisions, if such should be unhappily required. The right hon. Gentleman, by an ingenious and exhaustive process, sought to show—or, perhaps, I ought rather to say desired to leave on the minds of his hearers the impression that Her Majesty's Government are responsible in some manner or other for the recent aggravation in the condition of Ireland with respect to agrarian crime. [Opposition cheers.] Yes, just so, and I think 94 I see in those cheers, and in the spirit from which they proceed, the whole reason and purpose of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think that he intended to drive home the charge to Her Majesty's Government. He did not, I think, mean to strike us under the fifth rib or to produce a permanent impression on public opinion. The right hon. Gentleman is not to be severely blamed. He has a party at his back, and it is not surprising, if some members of that party, being shocked, as indeed all must be, at recent outrages in Ireland, rushed to the conclusion that strong measures ought to be taken. I think that courtesy to his party required that arguments of this kind should be found for them, when, after the Recess, we meet with appetites a little whetted by disuse of politics, and when hon. Gentlemen opposite were naturally desirous that our proceedings should be criticized in the most innocent and moderate manner. Before the right hon. Gentleman introduced the real culprits he paraded the exercise of the prerogative of mercy. He began by citing everybody and then acquitting everybody. It is not the maladministration of justice which is the cause of these outrages. We admit it. It is not the conduct of the landlords that has been to blame. It is not the conduct of the Roman Catholic priesthood, for the right hon. Gentleman, with a manly and just spirit, bore testimony to their conduct. It is true that, according to the reports in the newspapers, there were individuals of that body who may have been concerned; but there were a very few individuals who had used language ill-becoming the positions they hold as ministers of peace, bound to consider alike prudence and the interests of religion. But it is also true, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, that, speaking generally, and with the rarest and most trifling exceptions, the influence of the priesthood has been exerted in the support of order and of the Executive Government. I join most heartily, then, with the right hon. Gentlemen in their acquittal. The right hon. Gentleman has also acquitted the Fenians, and to a degree to which I can hardly follow him, and I will only say that this part of the case will well bear an adjournment. I am not sure that any one else was acquitted; but I may say generally that the right hon. Gen- 95 tleman acquitted all and sundry. At last it appeared that the causes of all that has happened are to be found in the false interpretation of the policy of the Government. I admit that it is difficult to render an accurate account of the cause of these evils, and I should not presume to dogmatize in regard to them. But I now come to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that the policy of the Government has been misunderstood in Ireland; that the misunderstanding was natural in consequence of the part they took, and that such misunderstanding has been the cause of the mischiefs we must all deplore. These statements are supported by two allegations—first, that there appeared last Session at the Bar of this House an imposing group of the official representatives of the municipality of Dublin, who were staunch supporters of Her Majesty's Government; and that, deferring to the representations which were then urged upon us—first in regard to the support of the Irish Church Bill, and next in regard to the liberation of the Fenian prisoners—we granted an amnesty of which the right hon. Gentleman complains, because he says it is a bad amnesty under the circumstances, and secondly, because it is a partial amnesty. Now, I must take the liberty to say that the right hon. Gentleman here takes a slight liberty with history. It is true that the deputation was headed by the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs of Dublin, and that it appeared at the Bar of this House. It is true that the Government permitted the release of a certain number of the Fenian prisoners; but it is not true that this release was due to that solemn apparition at the Bar, and for this reason, that the release of these prisoners was a measure adopted by the Government before the Session of Parliament began, and was announced by the Government within a week of the Session, and three weeks before the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs of Dublin gave us the honour and satisfaction of seeing their characteristic costumes within our walls. But, Sir, I cannot find much fault with the right hon. Gentleman if he has used slender and flimsy material in the construction of the fabric which it was almost a necessity that he should roar tonight; because no workman is responsible for doing anything more than the best he can with the materials which are 96 placed at his disposal. I cannot see where the right hon. Gentleman could have found any materials in the slightest degree more favourable for his purpose than those of which he has made such an ingenious use. The challenge of the right hon. Gentleman was that the amnesty of the Government was bad because it was a partial amnesty. I take issue broadly with the right right hon. Gentleman upon that point. I do not, of course, blame the right hon. Gentleman for not having challenged the amnesty at an earlier period—he was perfectly in the right to wait until the consequences likely to flow from it had unfolded themselves; but I take the liberty of challenging the right hon. Gentleman's proposition that a partial amnesty must of necessity be wrong. I, on the other hand, maintain the reverse proposition. In my humble opinion it is the duty of an Executive Government—and upon this principle the Government acted in the present instance—to make an examination into the various characters and classes of the prisoners. In conducting that examination, the Government found among those who were confined many of whose reclamation no present hope could be entertained, and others who would become formidable to the public peace if released. But when large numbers of men, after a movement like that of Fenianism, are taken before the Courts, not with indecent haste, but still with something of rapidity, and found—and justly found—guilty by the score of offences, and it is required by public necessity that they should be sentenced to prolonged terms of imprisonment, it is impossible that any amount of care can enable punishment to be meted out to them in strict accordance with the amount of guilt attaching to them, and, therefore, it became the duty of the Executive Government, and of those who fill the offices of my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. C. Fortescue) and of the Viceroy of Ireland—not in consequence of any agitation either in or out of this House, but from their own sense of what is due to public policy, to public justice, and to public humanity, to inquire into the case of each individual prisoner, and to deal with it in the manner they sincerely believe to be right and just. The grounds upon which all those prisoners to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred have been released 97 were these three:—In the first place, release was granted to all those who were regarded as not being deeply implicated in the conspiracy, but who might rather be regarded as having been misled than as having been deeply tainted with disloyalty. In the second place, those who inquired into the matter asked themselves what was the significance of those particular persons, because in cases where they were without influence or consequence, and without following or power to act upon their countrymen, it is a poor satisfaction to keep a large number of men of that description in penal servitude for a long term of years for a political offence. Well, there was only one who belonged to the third class, namely Kickham, who has not been named, but was referred to in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman as a writer in the Irish Press. The case of Mr. Kickham is a very simple one. I do not know whether it would have been in his power to have pursued his occupation in prison: but the case turned entirely upon the question of his physical condition. That was so bad, and the maladies which threatened him were so serious, that the Government must have contemplated that his prolonged imprisonment would have led to a fatal termination. Now, does the right hon. Gentleman think with reference to a single person of this kind, of no great faculty or influence after all, that it would be wise in us, in the face of the Irish people, to have prolonged an imprisonment, when we were professionally advised and warned as to its probable termination? So much, then, for partial amnesty, as it is called, an expression which means that it was a discriminating amnesty founded upon a comparison of severity of punishment with degrees of guilt, and which, in this case, is synonymous with a just and wise amnesty. "Then," says the right hon. Gentleman, "the amnesty has been one of the most prolific causes of Fenian outrage." But the amnesty was granted early in February, and the right hon. Gentleman himself admits that it was not until the autumn that the main outbreak and outrages occurred, and surely that alone is calculated to tell greatly against the right hon. Gentleman's objection. Has, however, the right hon. Gentleman been able to show in any measure that there was any connection whatever between 98 the augmentation of agrarian crime to which he has referred and the partial release of the political prisoners by Her Majesty's Government? It is perfectly true that some of the individuals to whom the amnesty was offered have refused to abide by its terms at first—whether they have since altered their minds on the subject I know not—but they are utterly insignificant persons, and in making them the theme of a discussion in this House the right hon. Gentleman has bestowed upon them an honour to which they were not by any means entitled. The right hon. Gentleman then challenged the conduct of the Government upon this ground, which, he said, by causing our policy to be misunderstood, had also in no slight degree contributed to the agrarian outrages in Ireland. He said that the people of that country had misunderstood the policy of the Government, who had so conducted themselves as to allow the conclusion to be drawn that having destroyed the Irish Church by the Act of last year they intended to destroy the Irish land by their Bill to be introduced in the course of the present Session, as being part and parcel of what had been denounced under the term of "Protestant ascendancy." Of course the right hon. Gentleman carefully disclaimed holding any such an opinion himself. I am very reluctant to follow the right hon. Gentleman into the meaning of the term Protestant ascendancy, because I wish to disassociate, as far as possible, the land question of Ireland from all former discussions, in order that it may be decided solely on its own merits. As we cannot usefully draw illustrations from the controversy of the past for the controversy of the present, let us start afresh. I, for one, am quite willing to forego any proof of connection between the land laws of Ireland and Protestant ascendancy, rather than quicken in the minds of hon. Members or of the public any sentiments that can associate the proceedings they are to set about, I hope, next week, with the necessarily controverted subjects we dealt with in the last Session of Parliament. But there is another part of the right hon. Gentleman's argument to which I must refer. He says it was known that we were going to destroy the Church, and consequently inferred—if it had been a parallel argument he would have said 99 the land of Ireland, but the right hon. Gentleman felt that it would not do to put the proposition in that form, so he said it was known that we were going to strip the Bishops and clergy, and therefore it was inferred that we were going to strip the proprietors. But to strip the Bishops and clergy was the very thing that we were not going to do, and there is no Bishop or clergyman in Ireland who does not possess, and will not possess, after the disestablishment every shilling he owned previously. In order to make out his argument, the right hon. Gentleman, hopelessly pressed by the poverty of his materials, refrained not only from stating accurately the nature of the Irish Church Act, which was a measure for destroying the Establishment, and saving the rights of the Bishops and clergy; but he turned the measure inside out; but he saw that if he had stated what it was it would have been absurd to attribute to an Irishman, or any one else, the parallel reasoning that we were going to destroy the land or the cultivation of the land in Ireland. The right hon. Gentlemen undertook, apart from these arguments of parallelism, to adduce some proofs of the statement that it was owing to the declarations, or the non-declarations, of the Government that our intentions had been misunderstood, and hence had arisen all this mischief in Ireland. Accordingly, he referred to a speech delivered by the present Lord Derby, whose absence from this House I, and I am sure every Friend who sits near me, cordially join in regretting; although we are glad to think that his absence from this House does not mean the withdrawal of his time or his abilities from the service of his country. And when the right hon. Gentleman drew a cheer from his supporters by quoting from the reply to the noble Lord the statement that great would be our responsibility if we refrained from making a declaration of our intentions, I sat in fear and trembling, thinking to myself, "Here has the right hon. Gentleman hit upon some unfortunate expression of mine in answer to that Question, or of one of my Colleagues,"—which was much more unlikely. I sat in misgiving, waiting for the quotations which the right hon. Gentleman was about to make from the declarations of the present Government; but I was considerably comforted when I 100 found that the right hon. Gentleman did not make any reference to those expressions, and advisedly so, for, having ransacked all my speeches, he could not find anything of the nature he had described. I will not quote my own speeches, which are to be found in the usual and orthodox volumes of record; but I may quote two or three lines from an indisputable witness—my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir Thomas Bateson). It may be objected that he is an English Member, but it is with a strong Irish flavour. The hon. Baronet has given notice of a Question to-night which I think ought to immortalize him. If he has no other title to go down to posterity he will be recollected from generation to generation as the author of the longest, the most complicated, and the most entangled question that was ever by one human being administered—or proposed to be administered—to another set of human beings. My hon. Friend followed me on that occasion, when it seems I had threatened the rights of property, and he said this—"He rejoiced that the First Minister of the Crown had not declared for fixity of tenure." Then what becomes of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman that we have given any ground for the supposition that we intend to destroy the land of Ireland? Well, I suppose that the right hon. Gentleman must not be blamed for not making bricks without straw. We must not be held responsible for what Mr. A, or B, or C, or D) say, who have received no authority whatever from us. A noble Lord, the Lord Lieutenant of a county in Ireland (the Earl of Granard), has been spoken of; but as that noble Lord is included in the Question which the hon. Member for Devizes is to put on a future day, it would be more convenient that any discussion to be raised upon that question should stand over until then. I think I have a little right to complain of the right hon. Gentleman for an act of suppression. He quoted my hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny. The hon. Member for Kilkenny certainly did excellent service to the country in connection with the question of the Church Establishment in Ireland. I am not ashamed to make that declaration. But we had no covenant or compact with my hon. Friend; he is free of us, and we are free of him. We shall, as separate constellations—each of them finding 101 abundant and ample room in space—continue to march in our own orbit, I have no doubt, very good friends with each other, but each claiming liberty of thought and liberty of action. So much for the case of the hon. Member for Kilkenny. The right hon. Gentleman also spoke of the son of the noble Lord, lately Member for Longford, against whom it was very difficult indeed to establish a charge; but the most important and telling charge of the right hon. Gentleman opposite—his real culminating accusation—was the case of Mr. Heron, "the Law Adviser to the Castle." The right hon. Gentleman fell into an error about the Dublin Corporation; but his error with regard to Mr. Heron was of a more serious character. Mr. Heron, as Law Adviser to the Castle, is said to have given certain cheers, or to have worn a certain scarf, indicative, or supposed to be indicative, of sentiments which perhaps the Government could not approve. But the fact is he had not been Law Adviser to a Liberal Government for a period of between three and four years; he had ceased to be the Law Adviser to the Castle, and had returned to his native and primitive independence. Is it not rather hard upon him that he should be expected to tune his instruments according to what in our view constitute instrumental or vocal harmony, when he is as free in the face of the Government as the right hon. Gentleman? This is a very serious doctrine laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, that Leaders of a party, such as must necessarily form a Government, are to be responsible for all the sentiments uttered by all their independent supporters; and not only so, but, that the people of Ireland, and, I suppose, other people—for the right hon. Gentleman will hardly insist that the people of Ireland are under any intellectual disability—are not to take the declarations of the intentions of the Government from the mouths of members of the Government or from the measures of the Government, but are to take them from those stray speeches made, or articles written, by their independent supporters. Before the right hon. Gentleman fully adopts that doctrine, let him well measure the length to which it will extend. If the doctrine be laid down for a Government, it cannot possibly stop short of touching the Opposition. I had not intended to re- 102 fer to a subject of this kind. I almost feel as if I were making an ungrateful return to the right hon. Gentleman, after the pledge he has given that any measure of ours on the subject of Irish land shall have his careful consideration. I will make my reference only sufficiently distinct to show that it is not idle or without meaning. But if we are to be held responsible for the declarations of those to whom he has referred, is the right hon. Gentleman to be held responsible for the declarations of those who held the very highest Executive offices in connection with his Government? He has said that he indulges in the cheerful hope that our measure upon Irish land will be conceived in a spirit of justice and sound policy. Is that what has been said by those with whom he was connected in the late Government? I think the right hon. Gentleman could not have read the speech made by a nobleman who received a very high mark of approval from the Crown in reference to his administration of the Government of Ireland, and who lately, in public, warned the Protestants and people of Ireland that any measure which we might produce relating to the land of Ireland would be no better than either a party manœuvre or an engine to augment the influence of the Roman Catholic priesthood in Ireland. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to observe that I do not consider that he is responsible for that declaration; but if I offer him such liberal terms—if I do not take account of observations made by a noble Duke standing in such close political relation to himself—I may very well claim that he shall not consider as our political and public mouthpiece a gentleman who—though we may highly respect him, and though we should be very glad if we could obtain his confidence—has, nevertheles, ceased for three or four years to be the Law Adviser of the Liberal Government. Indeed, had Mr. Heron succeeded in his candidature, we have not the slightest notion whether he would think fit to support or oppose the Government measures. He was not the Ministerial candidate for Tipperary; he never called himself so; and no idea existed that he had any claim to the title until the right hon. Gentleman, with befitting condescension, was pleased to bestow it. I think I have shown that we are not responsible for this supposed 103 misunderstanding of our policy, which the right hon. Gentleman thinks is the cause of the late extension of agrarian outrage. I will not dwell on that subject, We have reached, perhaps, nearly the close of this discussion, and I will add very few and very modest words. It is quite possible that Gentlemen opposite, like others, may recognize that in the paragraphs of the Speech relating to Ireland, we have endeavoured to give a true and unvarnished account of the actual state of things in that country. Undoubtedly there has been an erroneous impression existing with regard to the number of outrages now and in former times; but we have not kept out of view this aggravation with regard to recent outrages, that there has been a complete failure in obtaining such evidence as would bring the offenders to justice. There are, no doubt, two sets of people in Ireland with regard to whom the perpetration of crime at this particular period would appear to be conducive to their aims. In the first place, those who are connected with Ribband societies would, perhaps, not unnaturally argue, from their most false point of view, that by establishing a reign of terror they would extort a larger measure with respect to Irish land from the fears of Parliament. Most false, most untrue; but, at the same time, an idea not unlikely to be entertained, especially when we consider that whenever there is a tendency, either from permanent or temporary causes, to the general commission or to the general indulgence of crime, the same period tends to bring to the surface all the really bad and vicious elements of society; and the criminals and bad men, who are to be found in Ireland, as in every other country—though it is due to Ireland to say that they are not to be found there in extraordinary numbers—these bad men will find at such times the opportunity of giving vent to feelings of vengeance and of carrying out plans of private revenge. There are two things to be borne in mind. The first is this—To the Fenians it is of vital importance that, by some means or other, this House should be impeded in the work of giving effect to its determination to establish just laws in Ireland. There is no uncharitableness in charging that upon the persons who call themselves Fenians, because they have shown 104 that disposition by the most undeniable public manifestations, and by violent interference with the right of public meeting and of freedom of speech. I cannot wonder at it; for I believe that if we should happily succeed in proposing to the House, and the House should co-operate in passing good and just laws for removing the evils now accompanying the tenure and cultivation of land in Ireland, it will be from such laws, and from such laws alone, that Fenianism will at length receive its death blow. The very best exertions of the best Executive Governments can do no more than put down its outward manifestations; let us go down to the root—let us go inward to the source; and that is what we hope and mean to do. That is what they are determined that we shall not do. And I cannot hesitate to say that they would, indeed, be blind to the whole nature of the question in which they are engaged, unless they took every legitimate means—and sometimes, I am afraid, very illegitimate means—of producing disturbance and want of confidence in Ireland; everything, in fact, that may provoke Parliament to turn aside from the path of beneficial legislation to discuss angry and coercive measures in reference to the present state of Ireland. It is fair to admit that, while the direct action of Fenianism has had its stimulating effect upon the general lawlessness, and has contributed to the increase of outrages and of public mischiefs, a share of responsibility is also duo to us, which I do not seek to evade. I admit that whenever great questions of this kind are raised, and especially whenever they are raised, by an Executive Government, a certain excitement is necessarily communicated to the public mind in any and in every country, most of all in a country where the public mind—under long suffering, consequent on innumerable errors of government, has fallen into a morbid state. This certainly is a remarkable circumstance—that, as far as our evidence goes—and we have heard the statement from many quarters—last year has been distinguished by somewhat more than the ordinary regularity and punctuality of I payment of rents in Ireland. That is a satisfactory thing in itself; but the feeling to which this circumstance is attributable may lead in different directions to very important results. It betrays 105 an expectation in the minds of the people of Ireland that hereafter they are to pursue their avocations as cultivators of land with greater advantage than they have done hitherto; and if they think that some reparation is to be made to them in respect of the unrequited labours which they have heretofore bestowed upon the soil, their tenacity of attachment to the particular spot which they have held is quite sufficient, on the one hand, to account for an increased desire to discharge their share of the covenant implied in the payment of rent to the landlord; while, on the other hand, it leads them to regard with greater jealousy and apprehension the process of eviction, and to entertain the determination, even with the strong hand, to resist its application. These are matters which, as it will be necessary for us to discuss hereafter, I need not trouble the House, I think, at the present moment with details with regard to the condition of Ireland; but having defended—and I think it due not only to my Colleagues but to the right hon. Gentleman himself that I should endeavour to defend—the Executive Government against the charges in which he has most immeasurably indulged, I will conclude by thanking him for the evidence he has given that he feels the gravity of the situation of England in the face of Ireland, as an Imperial question, and from the promise which I have on the part of others, as well as himself, I hope that the propositions we are about to make will receive a fair and candid consideration.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
observed that it was a curious circumstance that as last Session there appeared to be practically but little difference between the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition on the principle of the measure for disestablishing the Irish Church, so now upon the tenure of Irish land their unanimity would lead to the question out-of-doors, where does this policy come from? The right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) had stated the Fenian conspiracy to be the cause of legislative interference with regard to the Irish Church, and that the Fenian conspiracy was of foreign origin, while the Prime Minister admitted that the Fenian conspiracy was the motive power which impelled his policy with respect to the Irish Church, and now the right hon, Member for 106 Buckinghamshire endorses the policy of an interference with land, which is the sequel of the foreign policy with respect to the Irish Church. He (Mr. Newdegate) had last Session a suspicion that the policy which overthrew the Establishment of the Irish Church was a foreign policy, but he had scarcely expected that his suspicion would be verified by the high authority of both the right hon. Gentlemen. There was a strong feeling out-of-doors that during the last two Sessions the attention of the Legislature had been too much devoted to Irish matters. He had risen for the purpose of directing attention to an omission in the Speech. It was notorious that for the last two or three years the artizans in our manufacturing districts had been suffering from grievous want arising from the absence or scarcity of employment. The remedy proposed by certain benevolent individuals was emigration, and he would remind the House that banishment was once regarded as a very heavy punishment. Enforced emigration was, after all, nothing but banishment, and he could assure the House that banishment with many had not yet lost its sting. Over and over again they had been told that among the crimes of England must be numbered her policy, which had led to the expatriation of many of the Irish people, and yet they were told by those who thought themselves philanthropists that thousands upon thousands of English and Scotch artizans might do well if they should follow the course of the expatriated Irish. He could not help thinking that it was significant that they should have put into their hands a Speech from the Throne in which no allusion was made to this depression. There was not a word in it having reference to the sufferings of the working classes of this country, although they formed a large proportion of the English people. He had heard them express the opinion that Ireland was permitted to occupy too much of the attention of Parliament, and that it was time some hon. Member should call attention to the great distress which existed amongst a large portion of Her Majesty's subjects in England, a distress not of recent origin, but existing now for three years. The pressure which those men felt had touched but lightly the wealthier classes. Some two or three years ago, when the collapse of certain speculations took place, 107 some of the wealthier classes felt the pressure; but large classes of operatives and artizans were suffering most acutely from the depression of trade for a period of three years continuously. In addition, they were now beginning to feel the pressure of foreign importation. They found that their products were now superseded by the importation of foreign manufactures, and they ask the House not to ignore their case during the present Session, as they did in the previous one—and there was an immediate occasion for such a discussion. They were told that the Treaty with France was about to be renewed. Under that Treaty many articles were imported into this country which displaced the labour of the British operatives. And not only articles of French origin, but articles from other countries were allowed to pass through France, and come into England duty free, by virtue of the French Treaty. The operative classes of this country had come to the knowledge that the external trade of this country was not increasing so largely as that of other countries which adopted a different commercial system; and they complained of the total want of reciprocity exhibited by those other countries towards us in respect to certain articles of trade. While the head of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition agreed in so wonderful a manner upon general policy, there was a feeling growing up among the operatives that they were not represented in that House. True, the people had their remedy in their own hands under the present extended suffrage. He should be greatly deceived if they did not now use the power they possessed in proving that fact, and of showing that it was not just or wise, when the people were suffering dire distress from the depression of trade for a period of three years, that no notice of their condition should appear in the Speech from the Throne. He was willing to accept the fact of the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Bright) as a reason for postponing the discussion of the subject on that occasion. He lamented the indisposition of the right hon. Gentleman; but this did not, in his opinion, justify the omission of notice of this depression of the working classes from the Speech delivered that day from the Throne. This bore an appearance of neglect on the part of Her Majesty's 108 Government. It was an idle hope, if the Government thought that they had, as it were, washed their hands of the interests of those men because they succeeded in passing sundry measures which they called free trade measures. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government was so uneasy about the action of the Fenians in Ireland that he had changed the whole policy of the United Kingdom towards that section of it. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman that there were men actively at work now amongst the operative classes of this country who would readily catch hold of any evidence of neglect on the part of the Government, or that House, to carry out their own views in spite of either. He simply rose to beg the House not to ignore the state of depression which existed amongst the operatives, on account, as it were, of the patience with which these sufferings had been borne; as by so doing they would only be increasing a wide-spread feeling of discontent, which would speak trumpet-tongued in the ears of the Government.
§ MR. EASTWICK
said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down had done good service in calling attention to the omission of any reference to the existing distress in the Speech from the Throne. Thousands would be calling for an explanation of that omission. Her Majesty's Government were well aware of the distress that existed, and that it had gone on increasing up to this moment. This fact had been brought to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, and, if it had not, the statistics on the subject ought to have forced it upon his consideration. If Her Majesty's Government were not prepared with measures to alleviate the distress they should, at least, have expressed sympathy with the suffering to which they might not be able to apply a remedy. They had heard a great deal about Ireland during this discussion, but very little of England. The case of Ireland was not one of distress, but of discontent and disaffection, and he could not suppose that the discontent and disaffection in the sister country created a stronger claim upon the attention of Her Majesty's Government than the sufferings which were borne so uncomplainingly by the people of this country. He hoped the Ministers would offer some explanation upon this subject, and show that they were prepared to deal with the facts 109 which it was idle to deny, and impossible much longer to overlook.
MR. ORMSBY GORE
said, that at the close of last Session ninety Members of Parliament waited upon the Prime Minister to induce him to take measures for the reform of the railway system in Ireland. He hoped the Chief Secretary for Ireland would allow him to ask whether Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to legislate on the subject this Session.
said, he did not know whether it was the intention of the Government to fuse several counties into one for the purpose of holding assizes. If they contemplated doing away with the old boundaries of counties he should offer the proposal his most decided opposition.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, that the Government did not intend to make any declaration upon any great question with regard to Ireland until they had introduced their measure about the land. But in a short time they would be prepared to announce their intentions with respect to the subject to which the hon. Member (Mr. Ormsby Gore) had referred.
§ MR. MACFIE
said, that the sufferings of the shipbuilders in the port of London had, no doubt, been in the minds of some hon. Members; but that was due to a change in the location of trade, for the business which was so bad in London was one of the most prosperous on the Clyde, where a great part of the shipping, not only of this country, but of foreign countries, was built. He gave, he hoped rightly, a large meaning to the expression in the Speech in regard to the Empire, and trusted Government would have the honour of consolidating the Colonies and the United Kingdom in one great and prosperous Britannic Empire. But the Queen's Speech could not contain everything. If there was any fault to be found with the Speech it was that, it presented too large a bill of fare.
Motion agreed to.
Committee appointed, to draw up an Address to be presented to Her Majesty upon the said Resolution:—Captain EGERTON, Sir CHARLES WENTWORTH DILKE, Mr. GLADSTONE, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Mr. Secretary BRUCE, Mr. Secretary CARDWELL, Mr. CHILDERS, Mr. GOSCHEN, Mr. WILLIAM EDWARD FORSIER, Mr. AYRTON, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL, Mr. OTWAY, Mr. STANSFELD, and Mr. GLYN, or any Five of them:—To withdraw immediately:—Queen's Speech referred.
§ House adjourned at half after Eight o'clock.