§ MR. STRUTT
, in rising to move an humble Address in Answer to the Speech from the Throne, said:—Sir, I could have wished that the duty which has been entrusted to my hands had fallen into those of some hon. Member of greater ability and experience than myself, and I have been encouraged to undertake it only by the hope that any shortcomings on my part will meet with the kind consideration and indulgence which the House never fails to accord to those who stand in the position I now occupy. In viewing the subjects to which Her Majesty's Speech alludes, we come to one which, first in order, holds also, I venture to say the foremost place in the thoughts of every hon. Gentleman present. Not many weeks ago the whole nation was watching with intense anxiety for tidings from the bedside of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. It has pleased God in His mercy to dispel the cloud which then overhung us, and to remove the danger which threatened the life of the Heir to the Throne. I am sure that it will have been with no ordinary feelings of joy that the country will learn of his perfect restoration to health and strength. Therefore, I may add—and I am using no meaningless words when I say so—that the renewed expression of Her Majesty's thankfulness for the deliverance of her son will find an echo in the heart of every hon. Gentleman present. Sir, it is in times of distress and anxiety that our real feelings rise to the surface and seek expression; but if any proofs are wanting of the strength of the ties of affection which bind Her Majesty to the hearts of her people, they will be found in the unanimous and spontaneous burst of sympathy which arose from all classes of her subjects during that period of trial. Hon. Gentlemen will receive with gratification the announcement that a day has been appointed when an opportunity will be given for expressing their thankfulness to the Almighty for the deliverance of 43 His Royal Highness, and for publicly recording their sense of the calamity which has been averted from the nation: and it will be a cause of additional congratulation to us all if Her Majesty's own state of health, which has supported her during her anxiety and distress, shall enable her, as is hoped, to take part in that solemn public ceremony. Sir, the House will learn with satisfaction that measures are to be introduced to put a stop to the Slave Trade, and especially to regulate the traffic much resembling that trade carried on in the South Sea Islands. The kidnapping of the unhappy inhabitants of those islands has been practised to a great extent for a considerable time past, until a climax has been reached in the murder of the unfortunate Bishop Patteson, himself one of the first and most energetic in denouncing that unrighteous traffic, and who has fallen a victim to the not unnatural feelings of revenge roused in the breasts of those uneducated islanders by the cruelties to which they have been subjected. It is sincerely to be hoped that any measures adopted by the Government to check and restrain that traffic will have the desired result, by abolishing a traffic which is a disgrace to our civilization. Sir, Her Majesty's Speech next refers to the communications which have passed between our Government and the Government of France on the subject of the Commercial Treaty; and it is to be regretted that the correspondence has not brought about any agreement to modify that important Convention. The Treaty has been long enough in force to enable both countries to judge fairly of its results. The beneficial effect it has had on the trade of this country will be generally acknowledged; and, more than that, its operation has done much to incline the public mind of France to look with favour on the policy of Free Trade. Anyone who has watched the growth of opinion in that country and the course of the debates on financial subjects in the French Chamber will be struck with the fact, that there seems to be springing up a very strong feeling as to the advantages to be derived from commercial freedom; and I cannot help thinking—though in this I may be merely expressing my own view—that the consent given by the French Chamber to the French Government's withdrawing from the 44 Treaty, if it should think fit, was owing more to the exigencies of the occasion and the peculiarities of the present situation of France, than to any desire on their part for a return to the policy of Protection. I trust that any modifications of the Tariff which may be effected will not unnecessarily interfere with the enormous trade which has grown up within the last few years between the two countries; and also that under no circumstances will anything occur to impair the cordiality which has long prevailed between the two nations. I now approach a subject which within the last few days has not unnaturally attracted the attention of everybody in this country; and in doing so, it will be my endeavour, if possible, not to say one word which will be matter of question, or which may be calculated to foment any ill-feeling that may have arisen. It will be in the recollection of the House that at the meeting of Parliament last year Her Majesty informed the House that a Joint Commission had been appointed by her Government and that of the United States for the purpose, if possible, of coming to some agreement as to the differences which existed between the two countries; and a Treaty was afterwards framed by which it was hoped that those differences would be settled, and that good feeling strengthened which ought to subsist between two nations identical in language and race. As hon. Gentlemen are aware, in the Case drawn up for the Arbitrators by the American Government they put forward claims not only for the direct damage inflicted by the Alabama and other ships, but also for indirect damage, including the rise in the rate of insurance, the loss of their mercantile marine, and even for the reimbursement of the expenses of the war. It is not for me to give expression to the regret with which this country has learnt the nature of those claims—claims which, if they ever could be conceded, would tend to make the position of a neutral more onerous and intolerable than even that of a belligerent, and which we certainly believed were intended to be excluded by the Treaty when it was negotiated. It is of no use concealing the fact, that this is the first intimation we have received that there could be two constructions put upon the Treaty. That a different construction has been put upon it by the two contracting Powers is 45 now only too certain; but I cannot help expressing my opinion that the construction put upon it by Her Majesty's Government and the country is the natural and obvious one; that their interpretation of it is borne out not only by circumstantial evidence, but by the Treaty itself, when read together with the Protocols; and that claims to indirect damages were never meant to be included in the Case which was to be sent for amicable settlement by arbitration. Those points will, no doubt, be argued more fully by those who have much more right to speak on them than I; but, however unfortunate the misunderstanding which has arisen may be, I feel confident that the course the Government are pursuing is the only one which can be satisfactory to the House and the country. Further information on this subject will, no donbt, be afforded to us. I cannot leave this grave topic without expressing my earnest desire that the friendly settlement of these differences which has been initiated, may in no way be disturbed by anything which has occurred. Turning our eyes nearer home, it is satisfactory to see that in this, and also in the sister country there has been a perceptible diminution in the number both of grave crimes and of habitual criminals; that in Ireland likewise there is a remarkable advance of agricultural industry. That affords evidence that the measures passed during the last two or three years for that country are working smoothly, and likely to lead to still more beneficial results. Another paragraph in the Speech points to the proofs of the general prosperity of this country—and, probably, at no time, within recent years, has our trade been in a more satisfactory state than it is at present. That state of things has had its effect on the general condition of the people; and pauperism, as compared with former years, is, if slowly, at all events, steadily decreasing. In deference to a very general wish, expressed publicly by hon. Members representing northern constituencies, you will not be surprised to find that one of the first measures to be introduced to your notice is a Scotch Education Bill, and the discussions which have previously occurred in this House, and in the country, on this subject, will, I hope, facilitate its settlement, on a basis satisfactory to the majority of those interested in it. As one of the Representatives 46 of a district which is rapidly developing its mineral wealth, I rejoice to read that a measure for the better regulation of Mines is also to be brought in at an early period of the Session. Since a measure on this subject was introduced at the beginning of the present Parliament much information has been collected, and, doubtless, the measure about to be proposed will contain provisions of a most valuable nature. When we remember that, annually, on an average, nearly 1,100 men lose their lives, and many more are permanently maimed by accidents in mines—over which we have more or less control, it will be evident that that is a matter of great urgency. Sound legislation on that subject, while it will be for the true interests of employers, is only what is due in humanity and justice to the large class of persons who daily risk their lives in the pursuit of a branch of industry which is one of the great sources of our national wealth and strength. Another question, to which much public attention has lately been directed, is the amendment of the licensing system, on which Her Majesty's gracious Speech intimates that a measure will be laid before you. Perhaps the very divergent views held by different parties on that subject do not render it any easier of adjustment. I will not enter into any details, but I will say that if some means can be found of solving it—some measure which will diminish the excessive number of existing public-houses, and take away the temptation to which so many of the lower orders are now exposed, and which, while retaining the better class of houses, and placing all under an improved and more stringent system of police, will also give due consideration and fair compensation to the vested interests that may be interfered with, I think we may do much to grapple with the great evil of drunkenness, which produces so much crime and misery. The prolonged discussions which remain so vividly in our recollections of last Session will have led you to expect that a Bill on the subject of the Ballot would be presented again to your notice. I, for one, am not willing to believe that the time occupied by those discussions last year was in any way wasted; for, in the first place, the details of the Ballot Bill were thoroughly sifted, many of them being of a difficult 47 character; and, moreover, those debates were the means of putting clearly before the country all the arguments which could possibly be used against that measure, and of giving the constituencies an opportunity, if they thought fit, of making their views known upon it. I will not now attempt to go over again the ground trodden in our past discussions; but I may be permitted to say that I look on the Ballot, if not as an immediate antidote to all kinds of corrupt practices, as at least the only means of meeting those cases of illegitimate influence of which you all have so much knowledge. Repressive measures have, I think, done much to check bribery, and public opinion is making its way against intimidation; but there are some undue influences of a subtle and almost indefinable character, against which I believe no penal provision, however stringent, can supply an effectual remedy, and which public opinion will never reach; and it is by the Ballot alone that you can cope with that evil. A measure, therefore, which will once for all stop those mutual recriminations, those charges and counter-charges of the exercise of unfair influences which are so rife during contested elections—a measure which will also ensure that our elections shall be conducted in a quiet and orderly manner, and that the voter shall be protected, will be of very great value. A good Bill dealing with corrupt practices will be a very valuable adjunct to one establishing vote by Ballot. The measure about to be introduced will, no doubt, contain stringent penalties against illegal practices, and a penalty, I hope, against personation, one of the chief evils against which you have to provide. These two Bills will, I trust, prove that the House is in earnest in its desire to secure both freedom and purity of election. It may be that the list of measures included in the Speech from the Throne is not so long as those which have sometimes been offered to you; but when you consider the nature of the Bills which have been promised, and consider also the great number and variety of the Notices which have been given this evening, I think the time of the House is likely to be fully occupied for this Session. It may be that there is not one of those measures of so overwhelming and so absorbing an importance as to engross 48 our attention to the exclusion of all the others—it may be that those measures generally are not of such a character as to elicit any strong political feeling or to excite party spirit; but I think they are not the less worthy of your careful consideration on that account, as they affect most nearly the social wellbeing and the moral and material progress of all classes of Her Majesty's subjects. The concluding passage of Her Majesty's Speech will meet not only with a hearty response from this House, but also from the country at large; and I believe I may express on their behalf that it will be their earnest endeavour, appreciating as they do the advantages of that rule which has made England great, and her people prosperous and happy, "to sustain the constant efforts of the Crown to discharge the duties, to uphold the rights and to defend the honour of the Empire." It now only remains for me to thank the House for the kind indulgence they have granted me. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to convey the thanks of this House for the Most Gracious Speech delivered by Her Command to both Houses of Parliament:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we heartily concur in Her expression of thankfulness to the Almighty for the deliverance of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales from the most imminent danger, and that we share Her Majesty's recollection of the profound and universal sympathy shown by Her loyal people during the period of anxiety and trial:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that She purposes that, on Tuesday the 27th instant, conformably to the good and becoming usage of former days, the blessing thus received shall be acknowledged on behalf of the Nation by a Thanksgiving in the Metropolitan Cathedral; and to assure Her Majesty that we rejoice to learn that it is Her desire and hope to be present at this celebration:To thank Her Majesty for having caused directions to be given to provide the necessary accommodation for the Members of the two Houses of Parliament:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the assurances of friendship which She receives from Foreign Powers continue to be in all respects satisfactory, and to assure Her Majesty that we are confident that Her endeavours will at all times be steadily directed to the maintenance of these friendly relations:49Humbly to join with Her Majesty in regret ting that the Slave Trade, and practices scarcely to be distinguished from Slave Trading, are still pursued in more than one quarter of the World, and to assure Her Majesty that our earnest attention will be given to the proposals of Her Majesty's Government with reference to offences of this class in Australasia:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that various communications have passed between Her Government and the Government of France on the subject of the Commercial Treaty concluded in 1860, and that from a divergence in the views respectively entertained in relation to the value of Protective Laws, this Correspondence has not brought about any agreement to modify that important Convention; but that on both sides there has been uniformly declared an earnest desire that nothing shall occur to impair the cordiality which has long prevailed between the two Nations:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us of the steps which have been taken in pursuance of the Treaty of Washington, and of the friendly communication which Her Majesty has caused to be made to the Government of the United States, with regard to Her Majesty's understanding that certain Claims which have been included in the Case submitted on behalf of the United States, are not within the province of the Arbitrators:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we rejoice to learn that, with very few exceptions, Ireland has been free from serious crime, and that Trade in that part of the United Kingdom is active, and the advance of agricultural industry remarkable; and that we share in Her Majesty's satisfaction at the decrease of the number both of the graver crimes, and of habitual criminals, in Great Britain:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the principal Estimates for the coming year have been prepared, and will at once be laid before us; that the state of the Revenue affords favourable indications of the demand for employment, and the general condition of the people; and that these indications are corroborated by a decline of pauperism not inconsiderable:To assure Her Majesty that our serious consideration will be given to the measures of national interest which will he presented to us:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we will devote our best energies to the work of legislation, and that we trust that our endeavours, in unison with the loyalty of Her people, may, under Divine Providence, sustain the constant efforts of the Crown to discharge the duties, to uphold the rights, and to defend the honour of the Empire.
§ MR. COLMAN
Mr. Speaker,—Sir, in rising to second the Address to Her Majesty, which has been so ably and fully moved, I desire to ask the House for that indulgence which is always accorded to one rising for the first time. Some hon. Friends told me it was not necessary; but I venture to think that they have not experienced the sensation of having to echo Her Majesty's Speech, and then to echo the speech which has been so ably made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Derbyshire (Mr. Strutt), who has just sat down. It will be anticipated by the House that the first remark which I wish to address to it will be in reference to the first paragraph of Her Majesty's Speech—namely, that which refers to the illness, and, I am happy to say, the recovery, of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales; and, in speaking of this, I desire to do so not merely as a Member of this House, but on behalf of my constituents, and, if my hon. Friends opposite will allow me, on behalf of the county in which the city I represent stands. I am not going to say that East Anglia is more loyal and more devoted to the Crown than the inhabitants of any other part of the kingdom, for where the whole nation was aroused it would be invidious to particularize; but I may say on behalf of the county in which His Royal Highness has fixed his residence, that in no part of Her Majesty's dominions was the anxiety more intense than in the county of Norfolk. None rejoiced more heartily in his recovery, and we hope his life thus happily spared may long be devoted to promote the welfare of the country at large.
It cannot be without a feeling of shame that we have heard at this time of the 19th century, in Her Majesty's Speech, a reference to the Slave Trade. When we remember that this country had, at a great cost of treasure, abolished slavery some 50 years ago, and that later another great nation, at a cost not alone of treasure but of life, had also abolished the Slave Trade, it must be with a feeling of great shame that we heard that some of our fellow-subjects bring discredit on the name of the British Empire by intermeddling with this most abominable traffic. I hold in my hand a letter from a friend who happens to be related, though distantly, to the Bishop whoso death is 51 referred to in Her Majesty's Speech, and from all I have heard of him and know of him, no man could have devoted himself more thoroughly or more heartily to the work he had to do.
The next paragraph which comes before us is that relating to the Commercial Treaty concluded in 1860 with our neighbour, France. I am sure we must all deeply regret the financial difficulties in which that country is now placed, and though we venture to give advice, it will not be from any selfish feeling, but from a desire that the policy which we have followed for some years past with such satisfactory results should be also followed by France. It cannot be amiss, at this time, to call attention to the fact, that it is not a question of theory with us as to whether the Treaty has been productive of good to the two nations. The total of the imports and exports between the United Kingdom and France for 1859 was £26,500,000, and for 1869 they were nearly £57,000,000—that is to say, an increase of more than £30,000,000 sterling, or 115 per cent. I hope, therefore, it will be only after due consideration that that Treaty will be abrogated, and, at all events, that after its abrogation we may still retain that cordiality which has so long prevaied between the two nations.
Now, Sir, the House will have listened with intense anxiety to that paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech which refers to the Treaty of Washington. The country has been startled by hearing that difficulties have arisen in the arbitration which we cordially hoped was about to settle all our differences with the United States. And now we hear, not merely from rumour, but from Her Majesty's Speech, that—Large claims have been included which are understood on my part not to be within the province of the Arbitrators;and I venture to say that the British nation will re-echo that understanding. There will be no inclination on the part of this House or the country to impute any improper motives or unfair dealings to that great country, America, to which we are so closely related; but at the same time it cannot be forgotten that misconceptions have by some means or other arisen; and the earnest desire on this side the Atlantic, and I believe also on the other, is, that these misconceptions may be cleared up, and that all 52 differences may be brought to an end. It is stated in the public Press that the American case assumes that there was a strong feeling on the part of this country against the Northern States. We cannot account for the sympathies of individuals; but we are entitled to point to the fact, that if on the part of some there existed sympathy with the South, there was on the part of others, and a very large portion of our fellow-countrymen, a strong sympathy with the Northern States. This is not a question of theory, but of facts. The vast cotton industry in the north of this country, threatened as it was with ruin, and feeling, as the operatives concerned in it did, the pinch of poverty and want, faced that rather than utter one single word in disparagement of the North. And, in speaking of the losses sustained by the cotton industry, I think I am entitled also to make this remark—that it seems to have been inferred, on the part of the United States, that we were about to prefer some claim for compensation on account of the losses sustained by that industry, and in other ways. If such a notion existed in the United States, I may venture to say it never was for one moment entertained in this country. We believe that claims of that sort, for indirect losses, are, to use the words of Her Majesty's Speech, "not within the province of the Arbitrators;" and I trust that when it is understood on the other side of the Atlantic that these claims are not made by this country, we shall hear nothing more of the indirect claims which have been unhappily preferred. And not only should we regret that this arbitration should fail on account of the matter immediately involved, but because it would bring the principle of arbitration into disrepute. If I mistake not, the American nation has been from its earliest history favourable to arbitration for the settlement of international disputes, and I hope, therefore, that no permanent difficulty will arise in this settlement; but that America and this kingdom will soon settle their differences by a fair and legitimate arbitration.
Passing from foreign affairs to domestic ones, it is a happy thing for a country when it feels, not only that it has peace abroad, but prosperity at home. And I think I can appeal to the experience of many Gentlemen in this 53 House, and to the Revenue Returns, the Board of Trade Returns, and the Banking Clearing House Returns, whether this is not the fact. And I believe our prosperity is sound and legitimate, and not due merely to a temporary inflation of prices—all classes of trade partake of it. There is also another wholesome feature in it, and that is, that the working classes of this country partake of it as well as the capitalists. Perhaps the House will allow me to give certain figures, for which I am indebted to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Board of Trade, and which will be published in a few days, respecting the exports and imports of the United Kingdom for the month of January past. They are really so startling that some explanation is necessary, and I understand it is this—during the past month of January some ports were kept open in consequence of the mildness of the weather, which were not kept open in January, 1871; but, oven allowing for that deduction, there is a large margin left. Now the figures are—the imports into the United Kingdom for the month of January, 1871, wore about £24,500,000, and for January, 1872, they exceeded £30,000,000. The exports from this country for January, 1871, were £11,500,000, and for January, 1872, £19,000,000. This shows a very healthy state of trade. We have also been told that one proof of the prosperity of our country is the reduction in the amount of pauperism, and it is very satisfactory to know that for the month of October last, the last for which Returns have been published, the reduction of pauperism amounts to nearly 50,000 persons.
We are promised, in a paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech, Estimates "suitable to the circumstances of the country;" but I trust that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not feel that, because we happen to be unusually prosperous, he is bound to increase our taxation proportionately. At all events, if we are to have a large expenditure, I should like to see it take the form of the reduction of the National Debt.
We are also promised a Ballot Bill. I trust that without any unnecessary delay the House will agree to it, and will send it up as speedily as possible to "another place," so that there may be ample time for discussing it there. I hope that the 54 measure will not be confined to dealing with Parliamentary elections only, but that its provisions will be extended to municipal elections also, because I believe that the latter are often the nurseries for bribery at Parliamentary elections. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Forster) informs me that it will relate to municipal as well as Parliamentary matters.
We are also promised a measure in relation to sanitary affairs, and I am sure the country will receive this with very great satisfaction, for the state of our sanitary affairs is not at present satisfactory. I hope, however, that when the right hon. Gentleman introduces the measure, and considers fully the details of it, he will remember the towns which I know best about—I mean the towns of the agricultural districts, which are not wealthy towns. I believe, according to the ordinary course of affairs, money borrowed for sanitary improvements has to be paid back in 30 years; but I see that in educational matters 50 years is allowed. Now, I do not see why for sanitary improvements we should be compelled to pay in 30 years what in educational matters we pay in 50 years.
We are promised also a Bill in relation to the licensing system. All I can say is, that I think something needs to be done. I believe it would be impossible to regulate the liquor traffic off the face of the earth, nor do I think it would be well to do it; but I hope we may have a measure brought forward which will appeal to the common sense of the country, and by which we shall have a much bettor state of affairs relating to the licensing question than exists at present.
One word before I sit down on the difficult question of Education. If I were to consult my own feelings or convenience, I should probably pass the question by; but, as a Nonconformist, I feel that I should be shirking my convictions if I failed to say a word. As a Nonconformist I cannot but say I regret certain portions of our recent legislation; but, as a citizen, I regret them still more because they tend to promote sectarianism, rather than to place education on a broad national basis. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government, and the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill, will not for one moment imagine 55 that we, as Nonconformists, undervalue religious teaching; but we have our own convictions of the way in which that teaching is best promoted, and we believe it is better to leave it to the freewill of Christian people rather than that it should be promoted and paid for by the State. Now, in saying this, I desire to sympathize with the position of the Government. It is patent to, and must be admitted by, all, that when the measure was before the House, Nonconformists were not at one on the question, and I am not, even now, prepared to say that every Nonconformist will agree with my opinion on this subject; but the principles we advocate are growing rapidly, and growing daily in the country; and I hope that when the Education question comes on we may discuss our differences fairly and temperately, with the view of promoting education, and bringing it home to every child in the kingdom.
In conclusion, I beg to thank the House for its indulgence; and I trust that the House during this Session will, in the words of Her Majesty's Speech, show both "energy and wisdom," and that our labours may promote the good of the country, and uphold the stability of the Throne.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That," &c—[See Page 48.]
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, although a considerable interval has elapsed since we had the honour of seeing you in that Chair, yet the time appears to have passed somewhat rapidly, and not to have exercised that softening influence of comparative oblivion over our controversies which is so salutary. I attribute this in a great degree to the new system adopted by Her Majesty's Ministers of vindicating their characters and their policy during the Recess. We really have had no time to forget anything. Her Majesty's Ministers may be said during the last six months to have lived in a blaze of apology.
Now, Sir, I must protest against this new system, which does not permit us to return to our labours with renovated physical powers, or with our mental faculties refreshed, as we used to do in old days. I think that for a Ministerial vindication there is no place more fit than the floor of this House; and as for Ministerial explanations, they are of so ambiguous 56 a nature that even here they are difficult to apprehend, but in the Recess I find them impossible. Besides, the Notices of Motion plentifully given this evening will afford Her Majesty's Government ample opportunities of defending their conduct, past or present. If it is in the power of the Government to prove to the country that our naval administration is such as befits a great naval Power, they will soon have an occasion of doing so; and if they are desirous of showing that one of the transcendental privileges of a strong Government is to evade Acts of Parliament which they have themselves passed, I believe, from what caught my ear this evening, that that opportunity will also soon be furnished them.
I am, at the present moment, unwilling to enter into critical comment upon the numerous subjects introduced into the Royal Speech, because I know there is one subject which at this time engrosses the thoughts and feelings of the people of England. I would willingly confine the few observations which I feel it my duty to make to that subject; but it is difficult, and perhaps would be scarcely courteous, to avoid some notice of the important announcements in that Paper, and I will briefly, therefore, refer to them before touching on the graver matter. From the nature of the paragraph treating upon Ireland, the condition of that country appears to me to be not of so satisfactory a character as I could have desired. Ireland, we are informed, is "free from serious crime." Now, at what degree crime commences or ceases to be serious is unknown to me. Whether it depends upon the mercurial temperament of the Irish people, which may impart to crime a different character, I cannot decide; but it certainly seems to me that while we are informed that Ireland is free from serious crime, there has not of late in that country been any lack either of predial outrage or political violence. But, whatever may be the conduct of the Irish, or the condition of Ireland, I protest against exceptional legislation for that country, and I read with some alarm the following paragraph, respecting which Her Majesty's Government will no doubt give us explanations. It is said in Her Majesty's Speech that "Several measures of administrative improvement for Ireland will be laid before you;" and this follows a statement that— 57In particular, a Bill, having for its main object the establishment of Secret Voting, together with a measure relating to corrupt practices at Parliamentary Elections, will immediately be presented to you.Now, I should like to know whether we are under an erroneous impression on this side of the House in believing that the Ballot Bill is only to be passed in reference to Ireland? I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government would intimate even by a nod of the head at this moment his decision on the subject, that I may not proceed on an erroneous hypothesis as to the intention of the paragraph. If it be not the intention of the paragraph, I can only account for its strange arrangement and phraseology by supposing that some intervening paragraph has been struck or slipped inadvertently out of the Speech. In the Speech it is said that "several measures of administrative improvement for Ireland will also be laid before you;" but unless the Ballot Bill is peculiarly to be applied to Ireland, no announcement of these measures is contained in the Speech. I cannot, therefore, resist the impression that Her Majesty's Government intended to deal with the "third branch of the Upas tree," and that on mature reflection the reference to it was omitted without the necessary alteration in the paragraph that followed.
I will assume for a moment, then, that the Ballot Bill is to be introduced, and introduced immediately, and that it is to apply to the United Kingdom. I should much regret that precipitate introduction if it causes any delay in those important measures which are announced by the Government, especially the Mines Regulation Bill, and I regret to find that both that measure and the measures founded on the Report of the Sanitary Commission seem again destined to be delayed till the passing of the Bill on Secret Voting. Some allusions have been made by the hon. Gentlemen who have addressed us this evening, to the expectation that the Ballot Bill will be passed almost as a formal measure, in consequence of the discussions of last year, and that it will not much interrupt the Business of this House. Now, I trust there will be no attempt on the part of hon. Members on either side of the House, with regard either to the Ballot Bill or any other subjects, to 58 carry on an opposition, the only object of which is to cause public delay; but I must repeat what I ventured to assert and maintain at the close of last Session, that I thought that it was unfounded and unjust to say that the discussions that had taken place upon the measure wore not highly beneficial. I, for my part, much regret that the Government press on the measure; and I shall offer to the principle of the Bill an unceasing and unflinching opposition. We have now for long generations been building up in this country a great fabric of political freedom, and we have founded that fabric upon publicity. That has been the principle of the whole of our policy. First of all, we made our Courts of Law public; then we made our debates in Parliament public; and during the last 40 years we have completely emancipated the periodical Press of England, which was not literally free before, giving it such power that it throws light upon the life of almost every class in this country, and I might say upon the life of almost every individual. It seems to me, therefore, most inconsistent that in deference to a now obsolete prejudice—for such I will venture to call it—we should deviate from that principle of publicity, and throw a veil of secresy over the conduct of the most important body in this country—the constituent body, a body which I maintain is as independent as it is powerful. I can easily understand that when you had a limited and feeble constituency, many might conscientiously support the system of secret voting; but that is past. You have now a powerful and a numerous constituency. No one will pretend that acts of oppression can now to any great extent be exercised; the homogeneous sympathy of all classes in the country who possess the franchise would defend any individual or any body that was attacked in such a manner. Then, again, no one can pretend that bribery can be practised now to any great extent, for we have stopped it by removing the venue from this House and establishing local investigation by the Judges—an Act which expires this year, but of which I am glad to understand from Her Majesty's Government they mean to propose the continuance, I trust without in any way affecting its fundamental principles; that Act, I must repeat, has virtually put an end to bribery at elections 59 in this country. I cannot, however, flatter myself after what occurred last year that I shall be successful in obtaining a majority in this House against the principle of a measure which is not, I think, in harmony with our present constituencies; but I do hope that Her Majesty's Government, when they again bring forward their Ballot Bill, will not recommend it to the House upon grounds that are notoriously inaccurate, and which I trust will not be drawn into a precedent. They pursued that system last year; I hope it will not be followed in the present. When I say grounds of notorious inaccuracy, I may mention two main grounds adopted by the Government, which, I think, are fairly subject to that charge. We were told when it was introduced that one reason for the measure was, that secret voting was the practice of all free States. Now, as we proceeded in our discussions, we found that this was notoriously inaccurate. Secret voting is not the principle of all free States, or even the majority of free States. In all the United States of America, with one exception, voting is not secret, and in Australia—which was brought forward as a great instance—the voting in the most important of the colonies is not secret. It is true it is secret in South Australia, a colony of which I certainly should not wish to speak with any disparagement, prospering, as it happens to be, under the administration of a personal Friend of mine (Sir James Fergusson) who once sat on these benches. I do not think, however, South Australia will be offended if we venture to intimate that her political institutions are not exactly of such a character as to be the type and model of a country like this. Another of the grounds notoriously inaccurate on which the Ballot Bill was introduced was the statement, repeated again and again by Her Majesty's Government, that the Ballot Bill was inevitable, because every man in England had a vote. That was quite inaccurate, and, now that we have the Census on the Table, is notoriously inaccurate. Every man in England has not a vote. The constituent body, though numerous, is confined to a minority, and, compared with the majority, is not by any means a large minority. We have before us the fact that in England one person in every 15 only has a vote. So much for universal 60 suffrage, at which some say we have now arrived. We have it proved by the Census that there are about 6,000,000 adult males in England, and we know by the results of the last registration that the number of the constituency is probably not more than 1,800,000. So much for manhood suffrage, by which some say we are now ruled. The constituent body of England is a qualified body, as it has always been. It is a minority, but it is a powerful minority. I believe it to be an independent minority; I believe it to be a Conservative minority; and I think the elections which are occurring every day will soon convince those who opposed the late Reform Bill, as well as some who supported it, but, perhaps, were a little frightened in so doing, that they supported and passed a measure of an essentially Conservative character.
I now come to the question which alone would have impelled me to trouble the House to-night for a short time—the paragraphs of the Royal Speech which refer to our relations with the United States of America. Those paragraphs, though I wish not to criticize them with severity, are not, in my opinion, adequate to the occasion. I hope that this is a subject on which I can address you without my motives being impugned or my views misinterpreted. Ever since I have sat in this House—now the greater part of my life—I have always endeavoured to maintain and cherish relations of cordiality and confidence between the United Kingdom and the United States. I have felt that between those two great countries the material interests were so vast, were likely so greatly to increase, and were in their character so mutually beneficial to both countries, that they alone formed bonds of union between them upon which public men might count with confidence. But I could not forget that in the relations between the United States and England there was also an element of sentiment which ought never to be despised in politics, and without which there cannot be enduring alliance. When the unhappy Civil War occurred, I endeavoured, therefore, as far as I could, to maintain in this House a strict neutrality between the Northern and Southern States. There were, no doubt, great differences of opinion, as must occur in events so momentous. Those differences of opinion were shared by hon. 61 Members on both sides of the House; but as regards the House of Commons, it is a fact that throughout that great struggle there was never a party fight of any kind in this House upon the subject. There were some at a particular time—for a long time during that contest—who were anxious to obtain the recognition of the Southern States by this country. I never could share that opinion, and I am bound to say that my Friend, the late Lord Derby, with whom I acted whether in Government or in Opposition, was equally opposed to that policy, as was his son, the present Earl of Derby. We were of opinion that had that recognition occurred it would not have averted the final catastrophe; nay, it would not have procrastinated it, and it would at the same time have necessarily involved this country in a war with the Northern States, while there were circumstances then existing in Europe which made us believe that the war might not have been limited to America. I know that at that time very different opinions were expressed by some of the most eminent statesmen of the day. There were expressions tending to favour a recognition of the Southern States attributed to Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell, as well as to some who now sit in this House of not less eminence. I thought they were indiscreet expressions; I thought at the time they did not exhibit that great foresight which, especially in foreign affairs, distinguished Lord Palmerston, and for which I generally gave credit to the other eminent men to whom I have referred. But after all they were only expressions in a free Parliament, in a free country, and though they might have been delivered by Ministers of the Crown, I am bound to say they never affected their conduct in maintaining a complete neutrality with respect to the contest between the Northern and Southern States. Sir, I am unwilling to speak as it were of myself in this vein; but I am vindicating the policy of a party, and I am trying on a critical occasion to prevent misconception as to the sentiment and conduct of England in another country, feeling as I do that we have to deal with probably the most important circumstances that have ever happened, certainly since I have been a Member of this House. I say that when, from circumstances, I was placed in a responsible situation and could 62 influence the policy of this country, I lost no time, in concert with my Colleagues, in acting strictly in unison with that policy which for years I had supported in Opposition. I conferred with them, and especially with my noble Friend the late Foreign Secretary (the Earl of Derby), and it was in consequence of those consultations that we proposed to refer to arbitration the decision upon the claims which had arisen during the neutrality we had observed in the American War, and which then commenced to take the now popular name of the Alabama Claims. That act on our part proved the sincerity of our opinions, and I do not for a moment doubt, and have not for a moment doubted, the wisdom of that policy which recommended the settlement of those claims by arbitration. Well, Sir, it was said in "another place," in the course of important discussions, last year upon this subject, that had the Treaty negotiated by Lord Derby become law between the two countries, it would have been open to the most preposterous claims on the part of the American Government—in fact, those indirect and constructive claims with which we have of late become but too familiar. Now, this is not an occasion on which I would defend the policy of the Stanley-Johnson Treaty, for we have much to speak on to-night, and I fear that this is a subject on which we shall have only too many opportunities of offering our opinions; but I will remind the House, in passing, that when the Senate of the United States rejected the Treaty negotiated by Lord Derby for submitting to arbitration the Alabama Claims, it was rejected on this distinct ground—that it shut the United States from preferring, under its provisions, these indirect and constructive claims which are now the subject of so much attention and anxiety. Well, Sir, when our successors followed the same policy, and resolved—I think, wisely—to negotiate on the same principle of referring those claims to arbitration, we gave them—though it might not have been necessary—our approbation, and were prepared to give them our support. You must remember that when the Senate rejected the Treaty negotiated by Lord Derby, these indirect and constructive claims first assumed what I may call an authentic and formal shape. When the Government of which I was a 63 Member first proposed to refer the claims to arbitration, they were unquestionably only claims that could be preferred in consequence of injury and destruction by the direct acts of any privateers which might have left Her Majesty's ports; but when the Senate rejected the Treaty on the ground to which I have referred—namely, that it did not include the indirect and constructive claims, those claims were heard of for the first time. We were then told, for the first time, that we were expected to give compensation not merely for the direct acts of those privateers which might have left the Queen's ports, but for a variety of things—such as the loss incurred by the transfer of the carrying trade from the American to the British flag, from the increased premiums of insurance arising from the consequent prolongation of the war, and the expenditure incurred by the United States in carrying the war to a termination. That was the first occasion when these constructive claims were preferred. Well, the Government of the right hon. Gentleman then took a bold step, a step which might have been criticized, but which I do not criticize, which I approved at the time, and which I am ready to uphold. They proposed that the diplomatic venue should be changed—that the Treaty should be negotiated at Washington and not at Westminster. I approved that step. But that step must not be misconceived. There were grave reasons which rendered a chance of success in negotiating a Treaty between England and the United States greater at Washington than at Westminster. The peculiar character of the constitution of the United States, the influence of the Senate upon foreign politics, and the contiguity of those who negotiated the Treaty to the Members of the Senate, would afford the opportunity of ascertaining that which would probably obtain acceptance, and of overcoming any prejudices that had to be removed; all these favoured Washington. But the House must not for a moment suppose that because the negotiation was carried on at Washington instead of Westminster the direct control of Her Majesty's Government—whoever might form that Government—was in any sense or for a moment by that circumstance diminished. I will venture to say not a sentence—nay, not the punctuation of a 64 period—was ever allowed, without being submitted to the scrupulous and anxious examination of those who had the responsibility of controlling the negotiation. And, therefore, when we talk of what has happened at Washington, and indulge in superficial conclusions that certain consequences have occurred through the inadvertence, or inaccuracy, or neglect, or carelessness of any individual who may have been at Washington, we are really assuming what cannot be the fact. The Government of England had the responsibility, and whoever may form that Government will never shrink from their responsibility in the negotiation of a Treaty of that kind. This Treaty was negotiated under the immediate, if not the personal, supervision of Her Majesty's Government, and I have no doubt that the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government gave to that negotiation their most anxious and their most scrupulous attention.
Well, I come now to the point when this Treaty arrived in this country. When this Treaty arrived, I, for one, saw many things in it which I did not approve: I regretted very much the ex post facto dealing with the Law of Nations. I thought that perilous, and I could not persuade myself that it was necessary. There were other things in the Treaty to which objection might be made, but not of so great moment. But I conferred with my Colleagues. I conferred especially with my noble Friend the Secretary of State of the late Government and with the noble Lord the Lord High Chancellor of the late Government, men most capable of comprehending such affairs and of affording a sound judgment upon them, and, though they disapproved equally with myself—and perhaps more—of these concessions, and even had other objections to the Treaty, they were clearly of opinion that it was impossible, according to our Constitution, for the Houses of Parliament to interfere. They felt that the Treaty was, in fact, completed, from the language of the credentials of the negotiators, which pledged Her Majesty's Royal word that she would sanction everything which they should sign—that, in fact, it was a complete Treaty, not merely morally, but legally, without the form of ratification. Circumstances 65 might occur in a negotiation carried on by a single person in a distant country, in which it may be of the utmost importance that ratification should be withheld. But under the circumstances under which the Treaty of Washington was negotiated, the two Houses of Parliament were stopped in any way from interfering. They could not interfere with any effect; and what could be more unwise when such a Treaty had been negotiated—when there was a prospect of a cordial and enduring understanding being established between England and the United States—what could be more improvident, what more unpatriotic than that the time of Parliament should be taken up by captious criticisms, which could only have tended to exacerbate feelings on the other side of the water, and to destroy all the beneficial effects which we hoped had been accomplished? But although in consequence of those feelings no action was taken by the party with whom I act, either in this House or the other House of Parliament, still it was fated that a discussion should take place upon the subject. One of the most eminent statesmen of the day, a nobleman who long led this House, and whose name, although I was his opponent in politics, I shall never mention—certainly not in the House of Commons—but with that respect and admiration which he deserves—I mean Lord Russell—felt it his duty to call the attention of the House of Lords to this Treaty. Lord Russell, eminently a constitutional statesman, probably had doubts about the question of ratification; and he was not clear that the House in which he sat might not express its opinion on the subject of the Treaty, and might not by its vote form some obstacle to its being carried into execution, though I think that the course of the debate proved that the noble Lord had no great faith in that position, and that he had really brought forward the subject to vindicate his own views, and to point out the impolicy of the provisions which he denounced. But that debate eventually turned out to be of the greatest importance upon the question that is now agitating the country—because the argument of Lord Russell was that we had made unwise and unworthy concessions to the United States of America—and he pointed particularly to 66 the ex post facto dealings with the principles of International Law to which I have referred. He thought, as I thought then, that they were perilous, and perhaps he thought they were unnecessary. But what was the answer of Her Majesty's Government in the House of Lords? I will not trouble the House with extracts. I have not come down with passages copied from Hansard, because I know nothing is more wearisome than the reading of such extracts; but I feel sure I shall not misrepresent any noble Lord who spoke on that occasion. When Lord Russell attacked the Government on the unwise concessions they had made in the Treaty of Washington, what was the answer of Her Majesty's Government? "True, we have made these concessions, and we are about to vindicate these concessions. We believe that they were wise and politic; but you quite forget the greater concessions made by the Government of the United States—you quite forget that they waived all those indirect and constructive claims which they formerly pressed upon us," and which, by way of taunt, and unjust taunt, Lord Granville told Lord Derby might have been preferred under the Treaty which the Senate of America had not ratified, on the alleged ground that under that Treaty such claims could not be preferred. "Now," said Lord Granville, "this is a great and beneficial Treaty to both nations, but it is most advantageous to England;" and reciting and referring to the elaborate enumeration of the indirect and constructive claims made by the American Secretary of State, Mr. Fish, Lord Granville said—"Instead of this, we have secured a limited area of defined claims, and we have given to the whole proceedings a limited and defined character. Under this Treaty we can only be called upon to give compensation for proved acts of destruction which have been directly occasioned by privateers." That is enough, I think, to prove what was the view of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the Treaty. But I must be allowed to pursue the subject a little further. The opinion of the noble Lord the Secretary of State ought, I think, on such a subject, to be deemed sufficient. But this is a subject which I much fear will not easily disappear from the notice of Parliament, and a too-wide and accurate 67 knowledge of the opinions of public men upon it cannot be circulated. It so happens that Her Majesty's Chief Commissioner at Washington was present at this debate, for he is a Member of the House of Lords. Lord De Grey, now Marquess of Ripon, spoke on the subject, and he spoke, like Lord Granville, at great length. He reiterated, in most distinct terms, the interpretation placed upon the Treaty and accepted by Her Majesty's Government—and not only accepted by Her Majesty's Government, but made by them a subject of boast, and justifiable boast, of their success, and of the advantages which had accrued to England in consequence. There were other Members of the Administration who addressed the House on that occasion, but I will refer only to one—namely, to the Lord High Chancellor of England, who occupies a peculiar position with reference to this question. The Lord High Chancellor of England is at the head of his learned profession. He is a lawyer placed in the Cabinet for various reasons no doubt, but certainly in old days on constitutional principles perhaps more in vogue than at present. The presence of that great officer in the Cabinet was upheld and defended on the ground that he should always be present with his great authority to guide the servants of the Crown in the interpretation of treaties and in the framing of the language of conventions, and in the exact and precise character of all the Monarch's engagements. Now, what does the Lord High Chancellor of England say? No language could be more precise than that of the noble and learned Lord. He deigned again to repeat the taunts which had been levelled at the head of Lord Derby, because the Treaty which my noble Friend had negotiated the noble and learned Lord erroneously thought would admit these claims. But instead of that he said—"We have given you a precise instrument. The character of this Treaty is limited. You know exactly what risks you will incur. You are responsible for the acts of privateers alone, if you have not shown due diligence;"—and to use the precise words of the noble and learned Lord—"all is limited and everything is definite." I say, then, there can be no doubt that in the month of June, 1871, now a distant period, there was no doubt in the opinion of 68 Her Majesty's Government as to the intention and meaning of the Treaty of Washington. Well, I want to know from Her Majesty's Government, in the first place, when they address us to-night, what was their authority for these representations? The negotiations were secret—I have no cognizance of them—they were secret from the beginning. Was there any secret Protocol? Was there any secret Article in the Treaty? Was there any written document of any character whatever which would justify their speaking with that confidence? I am sure the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government will feel that on an occasion like the present it is his duty to speak to us most definitely on that subject. But let me pursue this theme another step. These expressions of opinion were given in the proudest Assembly in the world—in the Parliament of England. Statesmen of the highest character and reputation, of all parties, expressed their opinion upon that Treaty. It is impossible that the American Government could be ignorant of those utterances. The Case of the American Government, which I suppose is in the hands of hon. Gentlemen—probably it is not, though it is in the hands of everybody else, for I have observed that information is occasionally very late in reaching hon. Members of this House—is known everywhere, it has been printed and translated, and circulated in every Court, and Cabinet, and country of Europe. What do we find in the American Case? We find extracts of speeches of my Lord Palmerston, and extracts from the speeches of my Lord Russell, and from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman, which, according to the American Government, years ago countenanced a policy favourable to the recognition of the Southern States. Can we suppose that a people and Government of so delicate and prompt a susceptibility should be ignorant of the debate which was held in the House of Lords in June, 1871? And, if so, can we doubt that they would have had some communication with Her Majesty's Ministers? I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether any communication was had with Her Majesty's Ministers? Did they hear from the Representative of the United States in London, or from the Secretary of State in Washington, through our own Minister. Did they 69 receive any protest from the United States Government at the monstrous interpretation placed on the Treaty of Washington by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, by the chief negotiator of the Treaty, and by the Lord High Chancellor of England? We have, I think, a right to know that, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us. Now, we are informed in the Speech from the Throne, that—Cases have been laid before the Arbitrators on behalf of each party to the Treaty. In the Case so submitted on behalf of the United States large claims have been included which are understood on my part not to be within the province of the Arbitrators. On this subject I have caused a friendly communication to be made to the Government of the United States.Now, in the first place, let the House clearly understand what is meant by the statement that in the Case submitted on behalf of the United States large claims have been included "which are understood on my part not to be within the province of the Arbitrators." The claims are those indirect and constructive claims to which I have referred, and, if not completely, so far as I know accurately described. They are claims to compensation from this country for losses occasioned by the direct action of privateers which may have left the ports of Her Majesty from want of due diligence on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and the destruction which they caused upon the marine and upon the commerce of the United States. But they claim compensation also for the transfer of the carrying trade, in consequence of those acts, from the American to the British flag; for the raising of the premiums on insurance during the period of the Civil War; and especially and specifically for the expenses occasioned during the last two years of the war—that is, the prolongation having been occasioned, according to this view, by the privateers that had escaped from our ports. Now, that being the case, I want to know when this friendly communication was made by Her Majesty's Government to the Government of the United States? and I think the House has reason to press the Government upon that point. Look at the facts. I do not think that the House is well treated by these frigid and jejune paragraphs. They are apt to mislead; they are apt to impress the House with the idea that this, which is the most important question that can 70 come before the House of Commons, is in the mind of the Government a question of only comparative importance, and to be met in an ordinary manner. When were they informed of this Case of the American Government demanding these enormous claims—claims which were properly described by Lord Derby last year as "wild and preposterous?" When were they first brought under the notice of Her Majesty's Ministers? I have heard that the Case has been in the possession of some persons in this country for more than a month, and it is not to be supposed for a moment that they had the advantage of priority of information over Her Majesty's Ministers. When, then, was this Case presented to Her Majesty's Ministers—this Case demanding compensation which might inflict on this country a tribute greater than could be exacted by conquest—one that would be perilous to our fortunes and fatal to our fame? When were Her Majesty's Government in possession of this "wild and preposterous demand?"—these being the epithets used by a statesman of cool temperament and rational mind. I ask Her Majesty's Ministers when they were first in possession of this demand? If they were in possession of this demand a month ago, did they then send this "friendly communication" referred to in the Royal Speech? We have, I think, a right to ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite to-night—not what was the nature of this communication, for I am sure the discretion of the House, under the difficult circumstances in which they are placed, would give the Government all fair play—but I have a right to ask when this "friendly communication" was made to the American Government? If I had received that demand a month ago I should not have lost time in making "a friendly communication" in reply; and long before this period an answer might have been received by us to our "friendly communication." I press this point upon the House, because I think it is one upon which we ought to receive full information from Her Majesty's Government. I repeat, I do not ask them to give us information of what that "friendly communication" contained; and I think we ought to allow Her Majesty's Ministers to follow their own course in this respect. Let us, as the House of Commons, endeavour, in the 71 difficult position in which we are placed, to take at this moment a forbearing, but still a firm view of these circumstances. So far as the meagre information in Her Majesty's Speech will enable us to form an opinion, it seems to me that a Treaty has been negotiated between two powerful countries, united, I still hope, by feelings of cordiality, and that each Power applies to that document a totally different meaning and interpretation from that which is applied by the other. What is the course which, under such circumstances, ought to be taken? I can conceive no misfortune greater than that the people of the United States, on the one hand, should suppose that the Queen of England was, for a moment, contemplating a forfeiture of her Royal word. On the other hand, I can conceive nothing more deplorable than that the people of England, who throughout these transactions have behaved, I maintain, in a spirit of true friendship to the United States—in a spirit of real generosity, and who have been ready to make great concessions, and who have acted, to use the language of the American Case, as became "those who have a brotherhood of blood"—I can conceive, I say, nothing more deplorable than that the people of England, after such concessions, should believe that they have been treated by the United States Government in a spirit of cunning and chicane. These are the two great evils which we see, and which, if possible, we ought to avert. I confess, for myself, that there appears to me no course to be taken by Her Majesty's Government in this case but one of extreme frankness. It does appear to me that if we get into a Serbonian bog of diplomacy upon this matter the consequences may be enormous and fatal. It is one of those questions which ought not to be allowed to drag its own slow length along. It is a question that ought to be met with entire frankness and friendship. Her Majesty's Government should say—"We have signed this Treaty, and we have one interpretation of it; you have, much to our astonishment, placed upon it an interpretation perfectly different. It is impossible for us to consent to conditions which the honour of this country forbids, which the ordinary calculations of prudence that should govern and regulate the proceedings 72 of all States condemn, which are too monstrous to enter into the heads of any practical and responsible statesmen. And, as it is impossible for us to accept your interpretation, we ask you whether you will not, on reflection, believe that ours is the just and true interpretation—and if you do come to that conclusion, we are prepared to adhere to every letter of our engagements—but if you will not do this, then we ask you to cancel, with no ill-feeling, a document which was intended to conciliate and cement the feelings of friendship between two great countries, but which has, unfortunately, led to results so opposite and so mischievous." I hope the right hon. Gentleman will speak in that vein to-night. I have not spoken to embarrass the Government. I wish to support the Government. I wish to strengthen the Government. I wish that the Government, in communicating with the United States, should show that they are supported by the Parliament and the people of England. The people and the Parliament of England from the first were anxious that these claims of the two countries and the two Governments should have been settled in a spirit of conciliation; and if there were to be concessions, that those concessions should be upon the side of England. But we cannot, in justice to ourselves, to those who have preceded us, and to those who will succeed us, consent to propositions too enormous for practical purposes, wholly preposterous, as they have been described, and which, if persisted in, can only lead to an alienation of feeling, which no one in this House, or in this country, will more deplore than myself. I will not trespass for more than one other moment on the attention of the House. But there is one paragraph in the Speech which requires no criticism; it deals with a subject on which we are all agreed and that touches the hearts of all. I am confident that we can most sincerely assure Her Majesty of our sympathy with her during the late terrible circumstances which, at one time, threatened so seriously both the happiness of Her Majesty and the welfare of this kingdom. The unexpected and startling events connected with the illness of the Prince of Wales have evoked and manifested the deep loyalty of this country and the personal affection which is felt by the people towards the Prince. After 73 all his sufferings it must be an ennobling solace to him to feel that he possesses the affections of his fellow-countrymen. And we in this House—of whom probably there is not one who is not personally acquainted with the Prince—know that he is entirely deserving of their confidence and their affection.
Sir, I wish to express on the part of the Government—and I think I might say on the part of the House—an obligation to my hon. Friends who have moved and seconded the Address, for having introduced to us the topics contained in the Speech in a manner remarkable for good taste, for ability, and for undeviating judgment. But before I touch on those topics, I must allude briefly to the observations which fell from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) upon some few matters not mentioned in the Speech. The right hon. Gentleman adverted to the administration of the Navy. As to that important subject, I will only say that at present we have but one duty to perform, and that is to express our readiness that the subject, in all its parts, should be submitted to the same searching scrutiny which last year we engaged to institute into the case of the Megœra—an engagement I trust it will be thought, that by the institution of the Commission now sitting, we have done our best to redeem. Another subject is the appointment of Sir Robert Collier. The right hon. Gentleman, following the strain of others, has charged us with evasion of an Act of Parliament. A distinguished political Friend of his—Lord Derby—remarkable among other points rather for the use of measured than of unmeasured language, has also charged us with violating the provisions of an Act of Parliament by a transparent evasion. And to-night the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. Cross) has given Notice that he will move a Resolution relating to the same matter. This is not an occasion on which it would be becoming in me to enter into the merits of that appointment. My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor and myself have endured in silence, and I hope it will be admitted with tolerable patience, unceasing attacks; constant rain of invective—I admit by no means confined to political opponents—which has been discharged upon us for having violated and evaded an Act 74 of Parliament. So far from complaining of the right hon. Gentleman for having referred to this subject, or of the hon. Member for having given Notice of his intention to bring it under the notice of the House, I rejoice that, as they entertain that opinion, they mean to submit it to the judgment of Parliament. The fact, however, that the hon. Gentleman chose a Friday for his Motion suggested to my mind that he intends it as an Amendment on going into Committee of Supply. I trust that is not the case, for the Motion ought to be a direct and substantive Motion. Short of positive acts of treason and disloyalty, I know no heavier charge that can be made against a Minister of the Crown than that of deliberate evasion—and all evasion is deliberate—of an Act of Parliament. I trust then, Sir, that the issue will be fairly raised. No complaint will be made; every assistance will be given on our part to the taking of the judgment of the House upon a matter with respect to which the country has, for so long a time, been very largely addressed through the medium of the Press, and by the mouths and pens of public men. I do not think it is necessary for me to say more at this moment; unless, perhaps, it be right, now that we have reached the place where this issue can be tried, that I should respectfully assure the House that we shall be prepared to rebut the charge, to maintain the construction which, in good faith, we have put upon the Act of Parliament, and to contend that the opposite construction, while it is not required by the text of the statute, is mischievous to the public service.
I now come to the topics which are contained in the Speech. The right hon. Gentleman has just alluded at the close of his able address, and in the tone which I should have expected from him, to the illness of the Prince of Wales. It is not a little remarkable—I may say it without fearing the reproach of exaggeration—that almost the whole of that Recess, which the right hon. Gentleman said had passed so quickly, has been divided between the severe, serious, and painful illness of Her Majesty, which occupied the earlier portion of the time, and the yet more severe, perhaps less painful, but far more alarming illness of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. I am sure that, had it not been for the extra-ordinary 75 appeal which that latter malady has made to public feeling, we should have felt that the former illness was one which made a strong call upon our sympathies. Her Majesty was a great, as well as a patient sufferer, and I regret that she still is unable to declare herself altogether free from the traces and consequences of that illness. At the same time, she entertains—and is sanguine in entertaining—the hope that she will be able to join with a large portion of her subjects in person, and I might say with all her subjects in heart, in returning a solemn thanksgiving for the mercies which the nation has received. The illness of the Prince of Wales will, I believe, Sir, be remembered in history as a marked political event. It is rarely that such an opportunity is afforded to a people of indicating what are its true and real feelings respecting the great and central institution of the country. If there were those who, in any portion of this country doubted as to the real character of those sentiments, that doubt, at least, can subsist no longer. As Britons we could not but feel a lively satisfaction in noticing the extraordinary and electric rapidity with which public sympathy extended itself beyond the limits even of these islands. It is said, and said truly, that the Queen has an Empire on which the sun never sets; but wider even than the Empire of her sceptre was the range of that electric sympathy. In the most remote of her colonies—among the vast populations of India—among those separated from us as widely as man can be separated by race, language and belief—in countries, even, which we must call foreign, notwithstanding their unity of blood; especially—and I am glad to make the reference on this occasion more emphatically—throughout every part of the United States, as well as in every portion of Europe, there rose up to Heaven prayer and supplication for the deliverance and recovery of the Prince of Wales. It was not merely an English or a British, it was not merely an Imperial, it was a world-wide sentiment which was evoked. These events, so remarkable, although they could not be witnessed at the moment they occurred by the illustrious personage whom they most nearly concerned, have been made known to him since, and have been fully understood and valued by the Prince, 76 distinguished as he is for his kindly and genial disposition, so receptive and appreciative of attachment. It is my firm conviction that the trial of health and peril of life which he has been called upon to pass through will leave an enduring mark upon his heart, as well as upon his memory, during all the years of life which it may please Providence to vouchsafe to him.
The announcement of the intended Thanksgiving has been received in this House as we fully expected it would be received; and I believe that we shall have but one mind and one heart among us in our desire to join, and even to join personally—at least, where no absolute impediment intervenes—in this act of thankfulness on the part of the nation.
Sir, the course of the discussion tonight—as far, especially, as the Speech of Her Majesty is concerned—has been confined to comparatively a small number of heads. And I am desirous to shorten my reference to some of the points on which the right hon. Gentleman touched. I must, however, say a single word about Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman commented on the statement in the Speech that, with very few exceptions, Ireland has been free from serious crime; and he declared that he knew of no criterion by which he could distinguish crime which is serious from crime which is not serious. Well, the right hon. Gentleman in that remark reproduced the ideas of Draco. But it is rather more than 2,000 years since that distinguished personage drew in the vital air, and I really was under the belief that the distinction between crime serious and crime not serious was pretty well understood. I will not say what construction the phrase might be subjected to if it happened to be embodied in a treaty; but for ordinary purposes of parlance, and for the purposes of the Queen's Speech, I think that the phrase is definite enough, and that it conveys both a perfectly intelligible, and a not less satisfactory, assurance to the House. In former years we were obliged to admit, even although we had to lament, the wide prevalence of agrarian crime in Ireland. Last year we had to state that it prevailed intensely, though not widely, in a particular portion of the country; and I think we should have failed in our duty if we had not humbly 77 advised Her Majesty to place it on record this year that these painful circumstances have ceased, and that with few—I think I might say the very fewest—exceptions Ireland during the winter has been free from serious crimes.
The right hon. Gentleman thinks that a paragraph referring to Irish education has dropped out of the Speech. That was a most ingenious solution for him to offer of a difficulty which is due to another and a very simple cause. I assure him that he has undergone no such serious loss as would undoubtedly have fallen upon him if he had been defrauded of any one of the paragraphs of this Speech. But the accidental transposition of two of the paragraphs of the Speech has given rise to an interpretation of which, no doubt, he was perfectly en-titled to avail himself.
With respect to the question of secret voting, considering that before 48 hours have elapsed, my right hon. Friend by my side (Mr. W. E. Forster) will be engaged in explaining—indeed, may possibly have finished—his explanation of the views with which the Government introduce and desire to press that measure, I may think myself dispensed from the necessity of travelling over the ground opened by the right hon. Gentleman. I do not acknowledge the arguments which he has been so kind as to put into our mouths; but our quarrels on that head, such as they are, may stand over. For, as he himself has observed, we have grave matters on our hands to-night. As respects the measure for the Regulation of Mines, the right hon. Gentleman has complained that this is postponed to make way for the Ballot. But the Ballot, so to speak, has possession of the House; and has, therefore, Parliamentary precedence. And I must own that I doubt whether the reproach, which I think unfounded in itself, comes well from the right hon. Gentleman, who, when he last took office, found ready the very recommendations, being, as they were, the proceeds of the labours of one or more Committees, now embodied in the Mines Regulation Bill; and yet during the two or three Sessions that he held office he postponed the subject altogether, in order that he might carry forward political matter which he judged, and perhaps rightly judged, to be of even more pressing importance.
78 However, these are matters comparatively small in comparison with the great subject on which the right hon. Gentleman has justly bestowed a largo portion of his speech. The right hon. Gentleman remarked that, in his judgment, the paragraph which described our views upon the Alabama Case was not a paragraph adequate to the emergency. If I may presume to draw the distinction, I am prepared to contend that it is adequate to the emergency, in the sense of being adequate to the time at which, the circumstances under which, and the persons by whom it is offered. The right hon. Gentleman, not being placed under precisely the same limitations as those persons who advised the Speech, is perfectly justified when, in his place in this House, he goes forward to consider what consequences are to follow from the important proposition there announced. But I venture to give a confident opinion—and, further, even to claim his assent to the statement—that the duty of the Government, and of those who represent England in a correspondence and in a controversy, if such I may call it of this vast importance, is to limit themselves absolutely and strictly to that which at the moment the necessity of the case requires. Our object is to make it not difficult, but easy for the Government of the United States to meet us. And if we are so minded, it is obviously and plainly our duty to state the case to the Government of the United States, and especially to state it to the public of this country, in the mildest terms which will suffice, and, as nearly as we can, to be satisfied with assuring the understanding of the nation that we do not undervalue the momentous importance of the question.
The right hon. Gentleman has entered upon an historical review, into which it is not necessary that I should follow him, further than very humbly to echo the declaration that he has made, and the claim that he has advanced on his own part, that he should himself be favourably interpreted on a question which I believe he has always—which I myself can bear witness that he has on many occasions—treated with that judgment and discretion which are among the best fruits of an enlightened patriotism. It is not necessary, however, for me to follow the right hon. Gentleman in detail through that portion of the Speech in 79 which he dealt with the Clarendon-Johnson Treaty, or with the Stanley-Johnson Treaty. There were some historical points on which, I think, he was not entirely accurate; but they are hardly relevant to the pith of the matter now before us. With respect to his observation that Lord Granville, and I think some other Member of the Government, declared that under the Stanley-Johnson Treaty these enormous claims for indirect losses might have been pleaded by the Americans, I will only make the two following remarks. In the first place, I am confident that no one will be more glad than Lord Granville to find upon close examination, if such be the case—and I am given to understand it is the case—that these indirect claims could not be pleaded under the Stanley-Johnson Treaty. Secondly, if there was an impression in the House of Lords, at the time to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, that a door was opened in that Convention for the introduction of indirect losses, that impression at least does not seem to have been confined to Lord Granville. It appears to have been shared by Lord Cairns, who is reported to have placed the former and the latter Treaty on the same footing, and to have expressed an apprehension that under either of them it would be allowable that indirect losses should be pleaded. My belief, and I think I share it with the right hon. Gentleman, is, that at no time have we acceded to an instrument, not only at no time have we meant to accede to an instrument, but at no time have we acceded to an instrument under which these claims can be legitimately produced or sustained.
The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the vastness of the claims which may be advanced under this head. He has said that they approximate to the tribute exacted by the victorious from the vanquished at the termination of a sanguinary war. I think that when the right hon. Gentleman used those words he had in view the payments which were imposed by Germany on France—payments four times, six times, or even ten times as great as are furnished by the principal examples in history. I do not know that the payment actually made by France after the Great War amounted to more than a fifth or at the very utmost a fourth part of that sum. 80 Now, it is perfectly true that the American Case does not state any figures for indirect loss; but, together with other documents of authority, it supplies data from which figures may be computed by no very elaborate or doubtful process. I will not now enter into those data; but, as far as a judgment can be formed upon them, and comparing them with the official estimates made by the highest American authorities of the total charge of the Secession War, I do not hesitate to say that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, bold as it was, was, in my opinion, not only within, but very considerably, I might say very largely, within the extreme limits to which these claims may be extended. I only say this to show that, in my opinion, and so far as my knowledge goes, nothing that has yet been said as to the amount of these claims has in any way partaken of exaggeration. But it is not their amount on which we stand, excepting—and this is important—that the amount of the claims is an important element in the presumptive portion of the argument—namely, in dealing with the question whether it was possible or conceivable that it could enter into the mind of any country to admit the presentation of any such claims at all.
Next, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has very properly adverted to the important subject of responsibility; and he contends that while the Commissioners are not responsible, and while Parliament is not responsible, the whole of the responsibility rests with the Government. I will endeavour to state my view of this part of this question briefly but with clearness. I hold that whatever responsibility rests with Parliament in this great matter is between the Members of the House of Commons and their constituents. It is for the constituencies, and not for us, to establish Parliamentary responsibility, if it is to be established at all. I do not entirely apprehend or follow the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman on the subject of the ratification of this particular Treaty; but it is not necessary for me to enter into a contest with him upon the subject, because I agree with him unconditionally that the Government cannot cast off any part of their responsibility upon Parliament. Still more is this true with regard to the Commission; and when I consider how much we are indebted to its members 81 for their intelligent, patient, and energetic labours, I cannot but regret to see cast upon them, anywhere or in any degree, the blame of what has occurred. If there is matter for blame, which at present I do not admit, at any rate no portion of it attaches to the Commission. The right hon. Gentleman says, and says truly, that it was the business of the Government here to watch and follow the negotiations at all their points. That duty the Government have performed to the best of their ability and means, and we shall, I hope, therefore hear nothing in this House about the responsibility of the Commissioners, for any responsibility which might originally have attached to them, is now absorbed in that of the Government; and whatever there may be found in this transaction that deserves blame attaches to us and to us alone.
Now, Sir, I proceed to ask, do we deserve that blame? I ask first, is there ground for blame in the Treaty of Washington itself, apart from the construction which we now find put upon it?
The right hon. Gentleman says that there was much to object to in the Treaty. And I do not stand here for a moment to deny that by the Treaty, such as we construe it, large and even extraordinary concessions have been made to the American Government. I think we were justified in making those concessions, considering the peculiar circumstances out of which the claims arose, the length of time which had elapsed since they had first arisen, and the feeling, above all, which habitually prevails among the people of this country with respect to the United States. For although it is the duty of this country to be governed by justice in all its transactions with other nations, if there was one country to whom the people of England were willing to give more, and from whom they were willing to exact or demand less than another, that country I believe to be the United States of America. In the opinion of many high authorities, it was a very great concession to submit our conduct to arbitration at all. I admit that, as far as my own impression goes, arbitration was a thing in itself reasonable under the circumstances; but I cannot treat the contrary opinion, considering by whom it is held, as of no weight or value. But it was undoubtedly a great concession—the 82 right hon. Gentleman thinks it was an unwarrantable concession—to establish in the shape of the three Rules a retrospective standard of action by which our own conduct was to be tried. That was not done lightly but advisedly. It was a large concession to the United States; and by it we are prepared to abide. Another concession, and one not I think undeserving of notice, was this. The Government of this country conceived that, in connection with the Fenian invasion of Canada, and with much which had preceded that invasion, we were entitled to make large claims upon the United States of America for indemnification, and to urge complaints of palpable and serious wrong. Who could easily have blamed us if we had said—"We agree to arbitration upon the Alabama claims, but we agree to it only on condition of your going to arbitration upon the claims arising out of the Fenian invasion, and belonging generally to the Fenian case? "We did not insist on including these claims. Our not insisting was a remarkable concession—a concession, I believe, made wisely and advisedly, but still a concession most liberal in itself. There is one other point, and a very material one, which the right hon. Gentleman has not noticed. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen have fresh in their minds the Protocols presented to them last year. If they refer to those Protocols, they will find that in one of the recitals the American Commissioners are stated to have produced a very carefully classified sketch of the claims they were about to make. These claims were divided by them into direct losses and indirect losses due to the Alabama and the other vessels which I may call her sisters. Among the indirect losses come the premium of insurance, the loss of trade, the prolongation of the war, and the addition to the cost of the war by its prolongation—a claim which is treated as apparently distinct from the claim made on account of the prolongation of the war. There is also a separate statement of the heads of direct loss. Now, what are the direct losses which we have consented to admit to be placed in the arbitration at Geneva? According to the view which would present itself to any impartial man, of course you would be disposed to anticipate that they could only be at the utmost the value of the ships and cargoes 83 destroyed by the cruisers, and nothing else. It is not so. The American Commissioners put forward, under the head of direct losses, claims not only for the ships and cargoes destroyed by the Alabama and her sister ships, but likewise for the whole charge incurred by the American Government in fitting out and sending cruisers in pursuit of these vessels, and our liability in this respect we have consented to refer to arbitration. Of course we shall contend, and I trust we shall show, that these claims ought not in whole or in part to be admitted; but there stands the fact, that we have consented to plead upon them, and by our consent we shall abide. I am not sure that I may not have surprised, and even startled, the House by this recital. I trust I have not suggested to the mind of any hon. Member by this communication that the Treaty is disadvantageous, and that therefore we may with advantage allow it to drop on account of the American claims for indirect losses, for I well know it is not in this light that solemn engagements with a foreign country are viewed by the House of Commons. And I think that what I have said may in some part serve to show to this country, show to the United States, and even show to the civilized world, that we were not using a merely empty phraseology when we said, in the early stages of this negotiation, that we were determined to stretch to the utmost all the considerations which were capable of undergoing such a process; that everything except national honour and national safety should be risked for the object we prized so dearly—namely, the thorough re-establishment of cordial relations with the United States. It is, I admit, a fair matter for discussion and consideration in the House whether the concessions which I have enumerated were or were not too large. I shall feel no resentment or surprise if we are questioned, or even blamed, as to some particulars for having made them. However, I need not say that if we have gone these lengths, if we have made these remarkable concessions, if they were embodied in the Treaty, and if we are prepared, as of course we are prepared, to abide by them, there must at last, somewhere or another, be a limit to the business of concession.
And now the right hon. Gentleman has put to me certain questions which I 84 will endeavour to answer not perfectly, but as well as I can from memory, without a minute and precise reference to documents, which I do not happen to have at hand. First, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has put to me one question of the greatest importance—whether in the debate in June, 1871, carried on in the House of Lords and reported in Hansard—a book with which we know the framers of the Case under this Treaty for America to be familiar—several Ministers of the Crown did not declare, in terms the most explicit, that we had obtained the exclusion of these claims for indirect loss from the matters to be submitted to arbitration. That, I believe, is strictly true; and the right hon. Gentleman assumes—and I think is right in assuming—that by some process or another these declarations must have come to the knowledge of the American Government. On this statement and this assumption, both of them indubitable, the right hon. Gentleman further asks, whether any protest has been made on the part of the United States against those perfectly explicit and—as on our part—authoritative declarations? My answer is as brief and as simple as possible—that no protest of the kind, within my knowledge, has been made in any shape or form. The right hon. Gentleman then states he will not ask me what communication we have made to the Government of the United States; but he presses me upon the inquiry at what time we became acquainted with the American Case, and upon what date our own communication was made to the American Government? I need scarcely say that the prior duty of the whole strength of the Foreign Office was the preparation of the British Case. That Case, I think, occupies a folio volume of near 200 closely-printed pages, and as soon as it was presented it required to be translated for the use of some of the Arbitrators, with a care scarcely less than that bestowed upon the original. The American Case arrived in the shape of an octavo volume approaching 500, if not 600 pages. When copies of it arrived, it was, I believe, found necessary to reprint it, of course confidentially, for the use of the Cabinet. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that more than a month has elapsed since the Case was first sent to the Foreign Office; but it has not been in my possession, if I recollect 85 rightly, for more than about a fortnight, while most of the other Members of the Government have not had it so long as myself. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly justified in the scrutiny he thus institutes; but this was a matter in which we would take no step without careful examination and repeated deliberations; and it was, therefore, only on Saturday last that the communication mentioned in the Speech was actually forwarded. I think I have answered the questions of the right hon. Gentleman, as far as the circumstances of the moment will permit, and I now desire to revert to the statement which has been made from the Throne. The Queen has been advised to say to the Houses of Parliament—Cases have been laid before the Arbitrators on behalf of each party to the Treaty. In the Case so submitted on behalf of the United States, large claims have been included which are understood on my part not to be within the province of the Arbitrators.I have stated that I believe that declaration to be adequate for the first word in this matter, but I am far from saying that it will also be adequate for the last word. It has been assumed that there is a great ambiguity in the documents; and if there is, it undoubtedly follows that very serious blame accrues to those who have been parties to the framing of documents of such importance in terms of such ambiguity. It has been repeatedly said—I speak of many of the articles which I have read in the London journals on this subject—that we really never meant that indirect losses should be placed before the Arbitrators, and that, on this ground, we beg to be let off from having them considered. But we do not mean merely to take our stand upon the ambiguity of the Treaty; we do not propose to allow in argument that it may bear two contradictory senses, either of which can with equal plausibility or with equal fairness be put forward. We have advised the Queen to state in her Speech the construction which, as to certain claims, we put upon the documents. This construction, we believe, we can show to be the true and unambiguous meaning of the words, and therefore to be the only meaning admissible, whether tried by grammar, by reason, by policy, or by any other standard; and not one of several conflicting and competing meanings, which can 86 all alike attach to the Treaty, but the just meaning, which it unequivocally bears. I do not hesitate to say that so far as we are concerned we shall not take for the principal groundwork of the argument our title to an escape from the difficulty upon a plea of doubtful and disputed interpretation. It is never safe to say in argument exactly or finally what you will do until you hear what the other side have to say, and as we have not yet had that advantage, I speak with due reserve, and subject to correction on further and better information. But as far as we ourselves can judge, according to the best critical process we can apply to this document, we see no reason to admit that any fault in point of ambiguity has been committed; and we shall appeal to the direct and authentic sense of the document itself for confirmation. At the same time we do not make that appeal to the text of the documents alone. We appeal to the declarations referred to by the right hon. Gentleman—to the public declarations of the British Government in June last, uncontradicted and received without protest in any quarter. Again, different Articles of the Treaty afford distinct and independent arguments of great force in favour of the interpretation, for which we shall be prepared to make our claim. We do not think that the first Article, even taken by itself, bears the construction which it has been endeavoured to attach to it. To other Articles we are disposed to make special reference. Again, of course, we reserve to ourselves the right to fall back on the plea that a man or a nation must not be taken to be insane, or totally devoid of the gift of sense. But it amounts almost to an interpretation of insanity to suppose that any negotiators could intend to admit, in a peaceful arbitration, claims of such an unmeasured character as the right hon. Gentleman has partially described, such as I for a moment glanced at, and such as it is really impossible to have supposed the American Government to intend. For these would be claims transcending every limit hitherto known or heard of—claims which not even the last extremities of war and the lowest depths of misfortune would force a people with a spark of spirit—with the hundredth part of the traditions or courage of the people of this country—to submit to at the point 87 of death. I now, however, confine myself to an argument founded, I grant, on probability and on assumptions only. It aims simply at a demonstration of the absurdity of the supposed interpretation; but it is surely a well-known principle in the construction of all public documents that you are never to presume absolute infatuation or insanity on the part of a negotiator, when a rational construction of the terms of an engagement will exempt him from such a suspicion.
I do not know that I need trouble the House further upon the argument in this case. But I may state that I look forward with a sanguine hope to the course which it is likely to take. We have intimated to the American Government in distinct but courteous terms that which at first was necessary to be said. We have not stated what our course would be in the event of contingencies which have not yet arrived, and which we think and hope never will arrive. We believe that we are standing before a tribunal of reason, and that this question should be tried in a reasonable way. We have to rely on the friendly disposition which prevails on the part of the people of England towards the people of the United States. We have also to rely on the disposition which we believe to prevail on the part of the people of the United States towards the people of England. There are, no doubt, different modes of procedure prevailing on the other side of the Atlantic from those which prevail on this side of the Atlantic. There are different habits and usages, the growth of institutions, and of political and social circumstances, such as every free nation will develope and shape into the form most congenial to itself. I have adverted to the welcome given to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales during his American visit, and to the manifestation of feeling at his illness. Only this very day, as I opened an American newspaper, there fell from the inside a sheet of no mean poetry, worthy of a more permanent form of record, referring in terms of the deepest feeling to the anniversary of the Prince Consort's death, and to the renewed and profound interest which that anniversary on its last return brought with it. How can I fail to assume that if, as I believe, we are equally strong in the language of the documents, the general reason of the Case, and the proof of intention, the weight of these considerations 88 will be first carefully tested, and then equitably recognized, by those with whom we have to do?
But there are, we also feel, other parties to this controversy besides England and America. Our lot is cast in an age when the whole of civilized mankind tends more and more to form, as it were, an unity; not, indeed, as far as action is concerned, but as far as the circulation of opinion and the formation of judgment are concerned. We live now in a time when the collective opinions of mankind are capable, far more than heretofore, of being formed into deliberate judgments on great questions as they arise. The opinion of the civilized world will, without doubt, be formed and pronounced in a manner informal perhaps, but perfectly intelligible on this matter; and it will doubtless form one of the important elements for consideration in reference to the Treaty of Washington. The intelligence and diplomatic skill of Europe have been already directed to the consideration of the question at issue, and I rejoice to find, from the manner in which the Continental Press has treated the subject, that the character of the judgment, so far as it has been arrived at, is in conformity with the opinion declared by us, that certain claims made by the United States are understood by the Crown of Great Britain not to be within the proper province of the Arbitrators. I hope then, Sir, that the right hon. Gentleman may be disposed to think that the Government are not unwise in limiting themselves to this declaration. We reserve to ourselves the power to point out to the Government of the United States, if there shall be occasion, that the claims which we understand to be put forward by them are of such a character that no nation with its eyes open, or in possession of its senses, could be supposed capable of admitting them even at the last extremity, and much less, then, in a free, rational, and independent negotiation between two great countries; but my present reference to this subject is made simply for the purpose of a general argument, and in order to throw light on the supposed character of the negotiation. We have gone no further with the United States than was necessary to raise the matter to be discussed as between friends in a friendly spirit. It was in a friendly spirit that the Treaty 89 was formed; and it is in a friendly spirit that this great and mortifying impediment, as the right hon. Gentleman justly termed it, will be met and encountered, as I believe, by the Governments concerned; but under no circumstances, as I need hardly say, shall we allow ourselves to swerve from our sacred and paramount duty to our country.
§ MR. O'REILLY
entered his protest against the omission of all allusion to the subject of Irish Education in Her Majesty's Speech. Four years ago the Prime Minister had announced his intention to do complete justice to Ireland, and he indicated three measures which he said it would be necessary to pass to cut down the offshoots of the Upas tree of Protestant ascendancy. Two of these subjects he had dealt with—namely, the Disestablishment of the Irish Church and the reform of the Land Laws. He had not, however, yet touched the question of the reform of the laws relating to education in Ireland, and the Roman Catholics, who formed the great body of the population of that country, were in precisely the same position as the Dissenters in England were before the passing of the University Reform Bill of last Session in respect to obtaining degrees in the Roman Catholic Universities of Ireland. He hoped that before long a statement in reference to the matter would proceed from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
said, the feeling expressed by the hon. Member for Longford was shared by almost every Irish Member. After the manifestations of public opinion made in Ireland on the subject of education it had been expected that some announcement would be made in Her Majesty's Speech as to the course which the Government intended to take with reference to the question. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had alluded to the unity of the civilized world; but measures of conciliation towards Ireland would do far more than Continental opinion to quiet American bunkum and remove the American difficulty, and he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman, although challenged to do so, had distinctly avoided any reference as to what were the intentions of the Government with regard to remedying what was at present the greatest wish of the sister kingdom—the unfair and unequal state 90 in which the education of that country was placed.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee appointed, to draw up an Address to be presented to Her Majesty upon the said Resolution:—Mr. STRUTT, Mr. COLMAN, Mr. GLADSTONE, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Mr. Secretary BRUCE, Mr. Secretary CARDWELL, Mr. GOSCHEN, Mr. WILLIAM EDWARD FORSTER, Mr. AYRTON, Mr. STANSFELD, Sir HENRY STORKS, Mr. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN, Mr. WINTERBOTHAM, Mr. CAMPBELL, Mr. GLYN, and Mr. ADAM, or any Three of them:—To withdraw immediately:—Queen's Speech referred
§ House adjourned at half after eight o'clock.