SIR WILLIAM STIRLING MAXWELL
, in rising to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in answer to Her gracious Speech, said: I am not sure that I have 56 any precise right to claim the consideration of the House in performing this duty; but I, nevertheless, stand greatly in need of its kindness and indulgence.
The House will be glad to hear from Her Majesty that Her relations with Foreign Powers are so cordial and friendly. I am sure that the use of influence arising from these cordial relations to the maintenance of peace in Europe and the faithful observance of international obligations will be a use conformable not only to the dignity of Her Majesty's Government, but also to the interest and desire of these whom we represent in this House. Nothing can be of advantage to any great nation in Europe, or the world, which will not be found advantageous also to this country, connected, as it is, with each of these nations by tics, which every year renders stronger and more numerous.
Sir, the late House of Commons signified its cordial approval of the then projected marriage of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, and I am sure that the present House of Commons hears with equal joy of the completion of the marriage, and welcomes the arrival in this country of His Royal Highness and his Imperial bride. I am not saying too much, I hope, when I say that any event which promotes the domestic happiness of Her Majesty also spreads satisfaction through every household in the United Kingdom. A Royal marriage between two great Houses like these of England and Russia does not, perhaps, exercise that amount of political influence with respect to international relations which in other times it was supposed to possess and exert. But there can be no doubt that an auspicious marriage like this docs exert a social influence greater than any which ever belonged to such marriage in other days. The marriage for which London was last week illuminated will unquestionably bring more Russians to visit the Tower of London, and will send more Englishmen to visit the Kremlin of Moscow, than were formerly attracted hither or thither by that dim and distant alliance commemorated in the ode of the Poet Laureate. No event which makes England better acquainted with Russia—a nation which we and our forefathers have known, for so many generations as a cordial and valuable ally, and which we have learned during one brief period to respect as a gallant foe—can fail to 57 be productive of advantage to both countries.
Sir, the House will bear with pleasure of the close of the war with the King of Ashantee, and will also cordially ccho the hope expressed in the Royal Speech, that the negotiations for peace will result in a better state of affairs than has hitherto prevailed upon the West Coast of Africa. The Speech docs no more than justice to the discipline, endurance, and courage, under trying circumstances, of Her Majesty's forces of both services, and of all ranks, in all the duties in which they were engaged. Indeed, Sir, I might almost venture to say that these men and their leaders have more than maintained the traditionary reputation of the British arms. There are military historians who have recorded their opinion that British soldiers can stand and fight as few can, but that they cannot march; and we know that a great commander has told us that his victories were won no less by the legs of his soldiers than by their arms. I think that the advance on Coomassie has tested in a sufficiently severe manner the marching powers of the troops engaged. Of the gallant leader of the expedition—Sir Garnet Wolseley—I may say that his energy, foresight, and military skill point him out as one of a band who will fill the places of the great leaders who are gone, and of these who are passing away. It is not necessary for me to dilate on the services of one who may probably be honoured on a future occasion by receiving the thanks of this House. But I think I ought to mention the name of Captain Glover, whose services have been hardly less remarkable than these of Sir Garnet Wolseley himself. He and his three English companions seemed to have discovered the secret of infusing something of the spirit of our northern races into the negroes of the Tropics. As a Scotchman, I hope that I may speak with feelings of national pride of the behaviour of our favourite regiment, the gallant 42nd, upon whom so much of the brunt of the fighting fell, and rejoice that in the jungles of Africa, it maintained the honour won upon the famous battle-fields of other continents. We have, it is true, to deplore the loss of many officers and men, some of them slain in battle, and 58 more smitten by the deadly climate. Many of these were volunteers. Among one of the earlier victims was the son of a noble Lord who has long hold a prominent place in the deliberations of this House (Lord Elcho), and I believe that not only his friends but all the Members of this House will sympathize with him and with his family in their great loss. But whilst we indulge in such natural emotion, it is a comfort and a pride to think that there are such men ready to die for their country, and that when the note of preparation sounded for what seemed to be an ignoble war on the shore of Africa, it could surround our flag with such volunteers.
The Indian Famine is a subject which we must all have watched with great pain and anxiety. The House will, therefore, cordially approve of the course which Her Majesty has taken of sending orders to the Governor General of India that no cost should be spared to mitigate that dreadful calamity. The people of the three kingdoms have shown their sympathy for their Indian fellow-subjects by holding meetings and by subscribing large sums of money for their relief. Indeed, if money alone could relieve the calamity, we might be under little apprehension on the matter. There is no want of money to buy food, or of food to be bought for money; but the difficulty seems to consist in bringing the food and the starving multitudes together, and sometimes in inducing these unfortunate people employed; and still less is it to bestir themselves for their own relief. It is impossible to extemporize means of transport, or roads upon which these means are to be employed; and still less is it possible to extemporize changes in the habits of an ancient people The moral of the calamity seems to be, that we must lose no time in extending and developing the resources of India, and by completing a network of roads and railways, render the recurrence of such a calamity impossible in the future.
There are several passages of the Speech which deal with alterations in our system of Judicature. The Bill which was passed last Session necessitated the re-modelling of the Judicature of Ireland, and, in a less degree, certain changes in the Judicature of Scotland. In these matters I have no doubt that Her Majesty may depend upon the loyal 59 co-operation of all learned Gentlemen in this House. I am sure also that the Bill for amending the law relating to Land Eights and for facilitating the Transfer of Land will be a great been to all these who have hitherto suffered from the present defective state of these laws.
With regard to the law of Master and Servant, the Government has announced its intention to issue a Royal Commission. It is possible that some Gentlemen in this House might have preferred that the subject should be dealt with at once by a Bill introduced into the House. But it is for the Government, which is to be responsible for such legislation, to determine whether it has or has not sufficient materials for forming a judgment. If it has not, then it has taken the legitimate and the usual course for obtaining and analyzing the necessary information. I feel sure the Commission will be composed of persons who will command the confidence of the country. The Sale of Liquors Bill will also, as the Speech informs us, be a subject for your consideration. Sir, I hope that any Bill which may be brought in will be framed, in the interest not of any particular class, but of the nation; that the liquor traffic will continue to be conducted in a proper and orderly manner; that certain grievances which have been complained of will be redressed; and especially that the defects of the licensing system may be removed.
As a Scotch Member, it has given me great pleasure to find that a paragraph in the Speech has been devoted to Scotch subjects. From this, I infer the possibility that, in the course of the Session, some few days may be devoted to Scotch legislation. With regard to the transfer of land, we have long required remedial measures. Scotchmen may be well proud of the fact that a great desire to acquire land in that country has recently developed itself among Englishmen, and that the stream of migration which for so many generations appears to have taken a southern course has now set in the opposite direction. Her Majesty's Government will find, therefore, on both sides of the House, many Members who are not Scotchmen, who will, nevertheless, both understand and endeavour to remove the defects of the laws relating to land rights and the transfer of land in Scotland. Other 60 Scotch measures are promised in the Speech, but are not specified. Amongst these measures, I myself should wish to see one for the amendment of the Law of Entail, and another dealing with the vexed and vexing question of game.
Sir, I think that I have now touched upon most of the more important topics of Her Majesty's Gracious Speech. Some of us, perhaps, might have desired in the Speech at the beginning of the Session some mention of other public questions in which the country is greatly interested. But we must consider the circumstances in which we are placed—circumstances which, in my humble opinion, appear to preclude the Government from touching many things with which they might have wished to deal, and with which, in due time, they probably will deal. May I be permitted to call the attention of the House to some of these circumstances? Some short time ago a great Minister, of the highest Parliamentary reputation, surrounded by Colleagues worthy of such a Chief, found himself in circumstances of considerable embarrassment, arising from the fact that he possessed a majority of only 65 in the House of Commons. Accordingly, he and his Colleagues determined—no doubt after the gravest and most mature deliberation—to dissolve the late Parliament; and they also considered it part of their duty to make that dissolution an elaborate surprise. It was obvious that the right hon. Gentleman, the late Prime Minister, by the Dissolution and by his manifesto, was determined to astonish the country. The country, not to be outdone, seemed also bent on astonishing the right hon. Gentleman. After the waste of two months of Parliamentary time power has been transferred from the hands of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to these of his rival now on the Treasury Bench. The Advisers of the Crown, instead of having the usual six or seven months in which to prepare the legislation of the coming-year, have been compelled to enter upon the administration of offices to which some of them are new, to organize the business of the Session, and to meet Parliament within the space of three weeks. The tactics of the right hon. Gentleman have taken away from Her Majesty's Government six-sevenths of the time which is usually devoted to the preparation of legislation, and one-third 61 of the time usually devoted to carrying that legislation into effect. Under these circumstances, Sir, I think that Her Majesty's Government has exercised a wise discretion in not making its programme too wide or too ambitious, and in acting upon the advice addressed to his own Colleagues and friends some few years ago by a distinguished Member of the late Cabinet, when he warned them to limit the number and bulk of the vehicles which they proposed to drive abreast through Temple Bar. If ever there was a body of Gentlemen who may be said to have had "greatness thrust upon them," it is the present occupants of the Treasury Bench. A few weeks ago they were preparing for the familiar work to which they were so much accustomed upon the left-hand side of the Speaker's Chair; but now hero they are addressing themselves to still more arduous duties on the right. Their party and friends are no doubt glad to see them whore they are. We are happy to see our political principles once more in the ascendant; but our natural feeling of gladness will not, I hope, rise into undue exultation. We must never forget the great obligations under which we he to the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his Colleagues for helping to place us whore we are. We must remember that our majority, such as it is, and considerable no doubt as it appears to us, is still below the modest minimum of 65, which was lately so contemptuously discarded. We must also remember that Parliamentary history is mainly made up of the rise and growth of majorities, and also of their decline and fall. There can be no doubt that the Liberal party will very shortly emerge from the not very profound pit which, carefully prepared for its opponents, has become the temporary resting-place of that party and its leaders. I hope that I am not taking too great a liberty when I express the satisfaction with which I have heard that the right hon. Gentleman, of whom the House of Commons is so justly proud, the Leader of that party, is not going to withdraw from his leadership. The right hon. Gentleman has been an eminent Member of many Parliaments. He has enjoyed the personal respect and esteem of both parties in all the Parliaments in which he has sat; and we might easily blot 62 from the records of his career all mention of measures, which he has passed and has aided in passing, which are still matters of party controversy, and yet leave a catalogue of public services such as few men have been able to render to the State, and such as we all must acknowledge to have been great. As to the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown, I am sure that all his party must congratulate him upon acceding to his present position. Enjoying, as he does, the goodwill of the House, I feel sure that the whole House wishes him to enjoy health and strength to fulfil his important duties. Some of us have had the advantage of seeing his bearing under all these vicissitudes of political fortune incidental to a party leadership which has lasted longer than any other chronicled in the annals of the House of Commons. We have seen him in place and out; in majorities and in minorities; on this side of the House, and on the other; every change affording some fresh evidence of the resources of his genius. Six years ago we saw him retire from the post he now holds—after a brief and troubled Administration, defeated, decisively and signally, but neither) dismayed nor cast down—and calmly and cheerfully resume the labouring oar of what to many men might have seemed a hopeless and thankless Opposition. Sir, he has to-night received the reward of his constancy, his patience, and his courage. As his triumph and that of his Colleagues have been great; and great also and notable, I am sure, will be the practised skill and noble moderation with which that triumph will be used for the benefit and service of their country. In conclusion, I have only to thank the House for the kindness with which it has listened to my remarks. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to thank Her Majesty for the Most Gracious Speech delivered by Tier Command to both Houses of Parliament:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her relations with all Foreign Powers continue to be most friendly, and that Her Majesty's influence arising from these cordial relations will be exercised for the maintenance of European peace and the faithful observance of international obligations:63To assure Her Majesty that we rejoice to learn that the Marriage of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh with the Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrowna of Russia is a source of happiness to Her Majesty, and to unite with Her Majesty in welcoming it as a pledge of friendship between the two Empires:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the War with the King of Ashantee has terminated in the capture and destruction of his capital, and in negotiations which, we trust, may lead to a more satisfactory condition of affairs than has hitherto prevailed on the West Const of Africa:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we rejoice to learn that the courage, discipline, and endurance displayed by Her Majesty's Forces together with the skill and energy evinced in the conduct of the expedition, have maintained the traditionary reputation of the British Arms:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we join in Her Majesty's regret that the drought of last summer has produced scarcity amounting to actual famine in some parts of Her Majesty's Indian Empire, and that we learn with satisfaction that Her Majesty has directed the Governor General of India to spare no cost in striving to mitigate this terrible calamity:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the Estimates for the services of the approaching financial year will be forthwith submitted to us:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty has issued a Royal Commission to inquire into the state and working of the recent Act of Parliament affecting the relationship of Master and Servant, of the Act of 1871, which deals with offences connected with Trade, and of the Law of Conspiracy as connected with these offences, with a view to the early amendment of the present law on these subjects, if it should be found necessary:Humbly to assure Her Majesty 'that we will give our earnest consideration to the measures of public usefulness which may be presented to us, and that we fervently join in Her Majesty's prayer that the Almighty may guide our deliberations for the welfare of Her Realm.
§ MR. CALLENDER.
said, he must claim for himself that consideration which the House always extended to these who had the honour of addressing it for the first time. He did so, not as a mere matter of form, more particularly as he felt that no small responsibility 64 had been placed upon him in being selected to follow one who was no stranger to Parliamentary procedure, and whose re-appearance in the House had been so cordially and heartily and deservedly welcomed. The announcement that they were at peace with all the world, and were likely to continue so, was at all times a source of satisfaction, especially so as during the last year no treaty had been infringed, no arbitration had been given against us, and no other indemnity had to be provided out of the taxes of the year. The House would, no doubt, cordially approve a line of foreign policy which was based upon the fulfilment of international obligations, the observance of which was the best guarantee for lasting peace—obligations which we were bound to observe by honour, treaty, and duty, and the ignoring or neglecting of which would lead to national misfortune and disgrace. The union of Royal personages was no longer a matter of mere State-craft. The anticipations of great commercial advantages arising from them, such as at one time influenced public opinion, had long since been found to be illusory, as they often proved rather the cause of discord and enmity than of unity and strength. But the marriage of a son of England had far more important grounds of universal interest. That divinity which hedged in the Tudor monarchs, which kept them aloof from their subjects, and which had not been unknown in later days, had happily found no place in the mind or actions of that gracious Lady who holds sway over the affections, even more than over the persons of her subjects. On all occasions Her Majesty had shown her interest in everything which affected the public welfare, and the hour which brought a new daughter to add to the joy and happiness of the Royal Household, the union which cemented two great Families, was a fitting occasion for the House to offer to the Sovereign an expression of their respectful sympathy and hearty congratulations. Might we not hope that the calm and brilliant day which welcomed Her Royal Highness to the shores of her adopted country might be a harbinger of her future life—bright, joyous, and sunny—and could we form any better wish than that she might ever inspire and receive the affectionate loyalty which all classes of society so heartily paid to every member 65 of the illustrious Family with which she was now connected? The skill of Sir Garnet Wolseley and the courage and discipline of the forces under his command had brought to a successful termination the "unhappy war on the Gold Coast," and the ability of the General and the valour and discipline of his forces could hardly have been put to a more severe test or accomplished a more complete result. His hon. Friend had alluded, in eloquent terms, to the achievements of our forces, and he would only draw attention to one circumstance which had not been referred to. A mere handful of men, somewhere, he believed, under 1,800, had marched 100 miles in a tropical climate, overcoming the dangers of pestilence and war, and successfully encountering in many skirmishes and in two pitched battles an enemy to be numbered by tens of thousands and favoured by every advantage of position. They were now on their homeward voyage, and the whole of this had been effected in the short space of one month from the landing of the expedition. Without disparaging former services of our forces and with a full assurance that on and future occasion our Army and Navy would be found adequate and prepared for any duty to which they might be called, he ventured to think that no work could compare with this for brilliancy of conception and completeness of execution. Our rejoicing on the success and safe return of our forces would have been largely increased had we received the assurance of the completion of a treaty which would have served the interests of humanity and freedom, and perhaps secured for the future the safety of our native allies. In India a large district, comprising 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 persons, was exposed to the greatest calamity which could befal a nation—an evil immense, inevitable, and fatal. The Census Commissioners, without any anticipation of the coming calamity, had reminded us that, in depending on a single article of vegetable diet, the inhabitants of Bengal closely resembled the people of Ireland. In 1846–7 we had to deal with a population so close to our own shores that escape seemed no difficult matter for a largo part of the population; private liberality was not stinted, and £10,000,000 of public money were expended, yet, in spite of all our public and private efforts, famine and 66 pestilence decimated the country. "We had now to deal with a larger population, a wider district, and difficulties of transport which could hardly be overestimated. One of our highest Indian authorities, Sir Bartle Frere, stated last December at the Society of Arts that to multiply the difficulties of the Irish famine by five would give a very imperfect idea of what must at the lowest computation happen in Bengal; and this prediction had certainly not been falsified. We were told that a population of 3,000,000 would have to be supplied with their daily food for many months to come, but it was significantly added that the condition of a large part of the population had not yet been reported upon, and it must not be forgotten that this was the optimist view of the official mind, private accounts from all sources giving much more appalling details. We heard in one district of 85,000 famished and emaciated people wandering along the highways, and it was computed on good authority that 100,000 were in imminent danger of starvation. Deaths from famine had already been recorded, and its extent and severity were rapidly increasing. This was not the time to discuss the wisdom or efficiency of the measures already taken. Time would show whether it would not have been wise to prohibit the exportation of grain, and whether efficient means of transport could have been prepared in due time. It was a satisfaction to be informed that the Government had instructed the Viceroy to spare no cost in mitigating the calamity, as also to know that the interests of our vast dependency were intrusted to a Minister who knew hew and when to act with promptitude and decision. Whether the Government might suggest a grant from the Imperial Treasury, or the guarantee of a loan to be raised by the Indian authorities for the direction and extension of public works, the House, he felt confident, would cordially support any measure, provided it was speedy and efficacious. Considerable surprise had been expressed at the course taken by these great Northern towns which were so intimately connected with the commerce of our Indian possessions, and he wished to state that their action had not been dictated by any feeling of parsimony or indifference, but by a desire to know what steps the Government proposed to 67 adopt and to supplement to the greatest advantage any measure on which the House might determine. A meeting, which he thought had been too long delayed, was hold yesterday in the city which he represented (Manchester). It was presided over by the Mayor, and was largely and influentially attended, more than £2,000 being subscribed at the time, while he had no doubt the fund would reach a sum commensurate with the wealth of the city and the importance of the object. He hoped that when the present calamity had passed away attention would be directed to the prevention of these frightful visitations, five of which had happened in India during the last 12 or 14 years—4,000,000 human lives having, it is said, been sacrificed. It was surely the province of the Government to care for the preservation of human life, and we ought not to be so entirely unprepared for an emergency like this. Owing to political circumstances to which his hon. Friend had adverted, the measures to be brought before the House were comparatively few, but they were of special importance, particularly what were called working men's questions, though in using that term he would guard himself from being supposed to imply that they would not affect and be equally beneficial to all classes of society. The delay and cost in the transfer of land had long been a just cause of complaint, greatly injuring that large and increasing class who desired to find a safe and profitable investment for their savings. Any measure simplifying and cheapening the system would promote health by encouraging the building of better dwellings, and would be Conservative in the best sense of the term by giving a larger number of persons an interest in the welfare of the country. The proposal to apply to Ireland the Judicature Act of last Session—contemplated, he believed, by the late Government—was a just and necessary sequence of legislation cordially approved by the highest legal authorities. No question was of greater importance than that affecting capital and labour, referring especially to the Master and Servant Act and the Law of Conspiracy. The working classes alleged, and he believed justly, that these laws, the remains of barbarous and obsolete enactments, interfered with their independence and caused many cases of hardship, and with 68 remarkable unanimity they demanded that legislation should take a different course, and that the common law of the land should regulate all such matters. So far from the appointment of a Royal Commission being intended to delay or impede a speedy settlement of these questions, he believed it would have a contrary effect. A Commission enjoying, as this would doubtless do, the confidence of both parties, would be able to sift evidence and form a public opinion which he hoped would insure a speedy and lasting solution of the question. The value of Friendly and Provident Societies had been greatly impaired by legal incapacities. Any measure which rendered the present system more secure and involved only the minimum possibility of loss would no doubt be hailed with satisfaction. He would venture to express the opinion that the present time was most favourable for discussing and bringing to a settlement these and other kindred questions. The Government, possessing the confidence of the country, with a large majority in both Houses of Parliament, and untrammelled by pledges, commanded advantages which few of its predecessors had enjoyed; and there could be no doubt that every Member of the House would most cordially promote any measure that would improve the health, gladden the homes, stimulate the activity, and maintain the independence of these great industries which formed so large a part of the intelligence and added so much to the wealth, and greatness of this country. The hon. Member concluded by seconding the Motion.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That,"&c. [See page 62.]
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
, in moving an Amendment, at end of sixth paragraph, to add the words,Conscious of the obligation of Parliament to take especial care of the condition of India, we desire to assure Your Majesty of the interest and anxiety with which we shall be ready to consider any measure that may be brought before us tending; to mitigate the distress which now prevails in that portion of the Umpire, and to avert such calamity in future.said, that concurring as he did in nearly all that had been said by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Callender), and not desiring to take exception to any statement in the Address which had been moved, he nevertheless 69 ventured to ask the House to hear a few words in addition, which it appeared to many hon. Gentlemen around him would not be inappropriate on the present occasion. They had to deal with a great and unusual exigency. The largest and most populous part of the Queen's dominions was threatened not merely with dearth, but with absolute famine; and these charged with the administration of affairs had not concealed from the Government, and the Government had not concealed from the public, the pressing nature of the difficulty and the danger. He was one of these who in former Parliaments had frequently and earnestly sought to direct attention to the condition of India, and had endeavoured with others more competent to do so, to anticipate something of the evils which had now arisen. Without easting stones behind, without laying blame any whore, or lowering that question to the level of party politics, he would venture respectfully to say both to the old and the new Members of that House, that it would be of evil augury for the credit of that Parliament if a day were allowed to pass without an audible and intelligible expression of their united opinion that more attention and care than ever was necessary to save India from the recurrence of such grave calamities. He was old enough to remember that their predecessors on these benches had been brought face to face with another terrible exigency in another portion of the Empire. As he looked round him he could recognize the features of hardly a score of these now on that (the Opposition) side of the House who sat in the Parliament of 1847. They were then led by a man of great experience, integrity, and courage, to whom none need object to be compared; and on the first day of the Session in that former Parliament, when famine threatened a large portion of the people of Ireland, Lord Russell did not hesitate to ask the House to assent to an expression of its utmost interest and anxiety in the adoption of measures not only for the alleviation of famine, but for its prevention in future. There then sat in that House the late Sir Robert Peel, whose opinion he wished to recall, as to what it behoved Parliament to do with famine looking them in the face. So far from congratulating himself that subscriptions of a few thousand pounds in 70 the capital of Lancashire and other sums in other towns of the Empire had been collected; so far from looking merely to the raising of money by loan—as he understood from his noble Friend the Under Secretary for India it was intended to do in this case—to alleviate the pressure and provide the means of relief through public works; so far from thinking that such a resource might be relied on and that then the country might slumber in security, Sir Robert Peel stated that—The first object to which we ought to direct our attention is, the restoring to its natural state the relation between labour and these who employed it. When there are 430,000 persons employed in Ireland by the State, at the enormous expense of £158,000 a week, it is clear that something should at once he done. We should endeavour to direct this labour first to the immediate cultivation of the soil, in order that we may have the prospect of a future harvest; and then, when this prospect shall be tolerably certain, to the permanent improvement of the soil."—[3 Hansard, Ixxxix. 161.]That was the statesmanlike view urged by the late Sir Robert Peel on Parliament, and which was afterwards followed up by legislation, in order to avert the recurrence of shame and peril. With great respect, therefore, he would now say it was their duty to set about these things in respect to India. Let no man imagine that they could afford, even on selfish grounds, to let the people of India starve to death by millions. It would be a disgrace to a great Empire, revelling in untold and unexampled wealth, and with no foreign war or domestic trouble, to shrink from the performance of the sacred duty of endeavouring to redeem the past and to justify before the world the assumption and the retention by force of our sovereignty over 200,000,000 of people. Therefore, he thought they might with propriety add to the Address some words to the effect he had already stated. As the Address would become part of the proceedings of the House, he thought it would not be presumptuous if an individual on that (the Opposition) side of the House should make a proposition of the kind. He had no doubt of the disposition and the high and honourable ambition of the now First Minister, who, he cordially hoped, would act in a manner worthy of his position. That right hon. Gentleman was, no doubt, about to tell them something of his policy and intentions. The long-anticipated day had come at last when 71 the right hon. Gentleman would speak, and they should hear him; and believing as he did that it was most essential for the honour of the Minister, as well as for their own, that his policy should be strengthened and fortified by a declaration that that House was ready to do anything in reason to relieve India from her miserable plight, he wished to see such an addition made to the Address as he had suggested. What was the conduct of the Government of Earl Russell in 1847? Why, not content with merely providing loans, a Motion was immediately submitted to the House to waive the Standing Orders for the purpose of abolishing for thee time being the Navigation Laws, which stood in the way of the importation of cheap food into Ireland. There was not an hour lost in hesitation by the Government, but they at once proceeded to deal with measures of legislation. The late Secretary for India had told them the perils that were impending over that country. They had heard much on questions of Indian finance and trade, they had seen Gentlemen who were high authorities on these subjects, some no longer here, but some still in their places, who had directed their attention to these things. The dreadful consequences of famine it was impossible to exaggerate. It meant the loss not only of the present crop, but of one or more future harvests. It meant the wasting away by disease of untold numbers of the population beyond those who actually starved. It meant a stampede of large numbers of the native population from their homes. In Ireland the last famine was followed by three years of dreadful disease and suffering, and all these things the history of British India showed would take place if a great effort were not made by that House, supported, as he well knew it would be, by public opinion out-of-doors. They had elsewhere heard the policy of the Viceroy denounced, which had, it was and, tended to make food scarce. They had a right to ask what was the judgment of Ministers on that question. Was it not also a fact that the duty on salt in India was a matter of a very serious character, salt being an article of as much importance as rice? And what, again, was the state of things with respect to the export, of food? What he asked the House was, whether it could 72 not put aside other business in order to deal with such questions, and to show how real and earnest was the interest it took in the affairs of India? Time was when the East India Charter left a Joint Stock Company to govern Bengal as they liked, but in 1858 the Ministers who now sat on the benches opposite advised the Crown to assume the government of India, and the Queen issued a Proclamation, which spoke gracious and promising words to her subjects in India, assuring them that they should have the same care and the same justice as was enjoyed by her people in England. Had Parliament acted up to its responsibility? For his own part, he wished the Crown to feel as proud of its administration of the dependencies of the Empire as of its home government; but it would be the merest affectation to pretend that that pride could be legitimately claimed for it in a country which had seen Pagan, Moslem, and Mahratta works designed for the collection of rain for purposes of irrigation left to go to ruin under British indifference and neglect. India was perfectly tranquil now. There was nowhere any sign of discontent, or of sedition; and there could therefore be no excuse for any perpetuation of hard treatment of the population in their present misfortune. When they had done in India all they could do, when they had restored reproductive works and made the soil as prolific as it might be—and when they had ceased to levy fifty per cent of the produce of the land in the shape of land tax—to defray civil and military charges to the amount of millions annually—money raised in India and spent in England—when they had done all this, and when they had cut down their home charges to a reasonable amount, they might talk with a clear conscience of causes of distress which were beyond their control. Meanwhile it was the bounden duty of a Christian Legislature to put on record its views upon a matter so important, and to prove its sincerity in desiring to relieve such a terrible calamity. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Amendment.
Amendment proposed, at the end of the sixth paragraph, to add the words—
And that, conscious of the obligation of Parliament to take especial care of the condition of India, we desire to assure Your Majesty of the interest and anxiety with which we shall be ready to consider any measure that may be brought before us tending to mitigate the distress which now prevails in that portion of the Empire, and to avert such calamity in future." (Mr. Torrens.)
§ Question proposed, "That these words be there added."
Sir, the House will, I am sure, forgive me—and I may ask for your forgiveness—if I forbore to rise from my seat until the words of the Question had actually passed from your lips; because I felt it was possible that other Gentlemen, Members of this House might think fit to follow the example which was set by my hon. Friend the Member for Perthshire (Sir William Stirling-Maxwell), the Mover of the Address, and question the conduct of the late Government in advising Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament; and I was not only desirous, but considered it my duty to give an opportunity, so far as lay in my power, for any observations of that hind, believing that, inasmuch as I must of necessity bear, not indeed the exclusive, but a special responsibility for that advice, it would be convenient and advantageous to the House that I should hear the criticisms made on our conduct, which any hon. Member might desire to make, before I took notice of the subject. As the immediate question which has been submitted to the House is not the adoption of the Address, but an Amendment to it, I will in the first place say a few words with respect to that Amendment, and I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens) who has proposed it will admit that we approach, at some disadvantage, the consideration of words which have been heard for the first time from the Chair in a debate of this character. Listening to these words as read by you, Sir, I can have no doubt that they do the greatest credit to the humane sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury. He is not satisfied with the statements of the Speech, but desires, if I gather rightly the purport of his Amendment, to have a more emphatic repetition of the sentiments suggested by the Speech, or contained in the Address which has been moved and seconded. In that Address 74 we are called upon to express the regret with which we have heard of the calamity in India, and the satisfaction with which we learn that measures have been adopted without reference to the cost, for the purpose of mitigating that terrible calamity. We are also called upon, in the closing passages of the Address, to assure Her Majesty that we shall give our careful and earnest consideration to all the proposals which may be made to us by Her Majesty's Government in relation to the subjects mentioned in the Speech. Well, Sir, that being so, it is matter for the Government to decide whether it will be necessary or politic for us to proceed on the present occasion beyond these assurances. For my own part, I feel bound to say that I do not think insufficient provision has been made by the terms of the. Address, as it stands, on the subject of the Amendment. At the same time, should it be the view of the Government that this more emphatic language should be used—even though it may seem to savour of tautology—I certainly should not be the man to rise and object to its adoption on a question of this character. But this, I must, however, observe in passing—that it cannot be the object of my hon. Friend, or of any other hon. Member of this House, through the medium of words introduced by way of Amendment into an Address in answer to a Speech from the Throne, in any manner to commit the judgment of this House, or to bind it to adopt any particular course, with regard to the calamity of the Indian Famine. It must be understood, I think, on all hands, that if the Government deem it right to adopt the Amendment, they will be doing so simply by way of giving further assurance of the strength of our feelings on the subject to the Sovereign, and not by way of asking for an expression of our judgment with regard to any proposals which they may hereafter make—an expression which, it seems to me, would be somewhat hasty and premature, and for which I do not suppose my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury himself would now ask.
Now, Sir, I will refer very briefly to one or two points in the Speech, and I am glad to say that I have little, or almost nothing, to observe in the way of criticism. First, I will make reference 75 to a subject which has been most becomingly touched on by the hon. Mover and Seconder—I mean the marriage of the Duke of Edinburgh with the Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrowna. It was my fortune last Session to make a proposal to the late House of Commons with reference to this marriage, and the House of Commons showed on that occasion a ready and zealous loyalty by making a becoming provision towards the support of the Royal pair. The union has now, happily, been solemnized, and I am bound to say that I believe there has been no case in the whole history of marriages, Royal or other, whore the bride left a home more characterized by the strength and warmth of affection binding its inmates than that which the Duchess of Edinburgh has quitted. I only hope that in leaving an atmosphere so enlivened and warmed by domestic love, the Grand Duchess may find that she comes among a people not only ready to greet her on her first arrival with demonstrations of loyalty and interest, but so to surround her with every token of love, that in time she may come, not to forget, indeed, but scarcely to miss, all the attractions of that home which she has been content to forego for the sake of her illustrious husband.
We next come to the subject of hostilities in Africa, which have now been brought to a happy termination, and I am bound to say that I think it has been most becoming and judicious on the part of the Government to advise Her Majesty to refer in terms of marked approbation to the conduct of all these who have been engaged in vindicating not only the honour of the English arms on the West Coast of Africa, but likewise the interests of humanity at large. It might seem invidious, whore all have served and all have done so admirably well, to draw distinctions. It has been every arm of the service and every rank of men who have the roughly deserved the honour of the national name they bear. But, of course, in every case of this kind the responsibility of the commander is something special and exclusive, and I wish to say one word relative to the conduct of Sir Garnet Wolseley, inasmuch as there are many persons—chiefly, perhaps, out of this country—who can scarcely be expected to understand or be prepared to believe the 76 arduous nature of the task which was committed to the hands of that officer. This is not the time nor the place to enter into the details of that task, but I may venture very briefly to say that it included a combination of difficulties such as has rarely attended military operations even when they were on a far wider scale, and made far more ostentatious claims upon the interest and approval of the world, and that in no military operation, I believe, in the history of this country during the last half century—perhaps I might go still further back—have the results more completely corresponded with the aims of the commander or done greater credit to his sagacity. That task included difficulties of various kinds, and all of them presenting themselves in the highest possible degree. There was in the first place a want of information with regard to the circumstances in which any expedition into the interior would find itself, which, I confess, surprised the Government; there was a want of detailed knowledge of the country which had to be penetrated; there was a formidable danger arising from the climate, with regard to which we were not able, till Sir Garnet Wolseley reached the coast, to tell whether we should be justified, under the circumstances, in exposing the lives of Her Majesty's subjects by a march to Coomassie; and lastly, the whole of these formidable difficulties were complicated by a limitation of time so strict that the smallest error of computation on the part of Sir Garnet Wolseley must necessarily have led to consequences which the House would have regarded with the deepest pain and anxiety. It is right that I should here say a word with regard to a subject which has been touched from time to time during the discussions which have occurred during the recent elections with regard to the conduct of the Government. It has been maintained that the military operations undertaken by Sir Garnet Wolseley ought not to have been sanctioned by the Government without the consent of Parliament. Now, some may think it was on account of the limited scale of these operations that we did not deem it fit to advise Her Majesty to call Parliament together for the consideration of the subject. That would be an entire error. It is perfectly true that the scale of these operations was a very limited 77 one, but it is also true that the moment when we determined upon the despatch of several battalions to the "West Coast of Africa, it would have been over-confidence, it would have been even rashness and presumption on our part to have assumed that the scale of operations contemplated at that moment was certain to prove adequate to the fulfilment of the objects we had in view. Therefore, it was not on the ground I have just mentioned that we refrained from taking the constitutional course of calling Parliament together for the consideration of the subject. It was entirely and exclusively on account of the question of time. I have referred to the limitations under which Sir Garnet Wolseley found himself as to time on his arrival. Had there been even a few days' delay, that boundary of time would have been passed, and a point would have been reached when it would have been most unsafe and unwise to expose our troops to the action of the climate. Had we thought fitting to recommend Her Majesty to summon Parliament, some time would have been lost in bringing it together, some time would have been lost in the consideration of the Papers we should have felt it our duty to lay before Parliament, and some time would have been lost also in the consideration of the Vote we should have had to propose. Although consisting only of small portions, the time thus spent would have so abridged the season available for military operations as to have converted a project which we thought to be warrantable and wise into one which I think it would not have been desirable for Parliament to sanction. Either it would have been necessary to postpone military operations for another year; and to endure a continuance of all the evils attending the actual state of things, or to expose our troops, not to risk only, but almost to the certainty of losses, which I am sure the House will appreciate our anxious desire to avoid. We were aware that we were taking on ourselves a great responsibility, and in a matter of which Parliament was always most careful; but we felt that the limitations of time were too urgent and too serious to admit of any different course being taken, and it was under the circumstances I have named we acted otherwise. Nothing can, as a general rule, 78 be more imprudent or more dangerous than that Government should be encouraged lightly to undertake military operations without the direct assent and approval of Parliament; but I believe that when the circumstances connected with the limitation of time are taken into consideration, the course we pursued will meet with the approval of the House.
Now, with respect to the paragraph of the Speech which touches on the subject of the Indian Famine I will only express my hope that when the House comes to consider the facts of the case, whether in conformity with the Amendment of my hon. Friend, or in conformity with the terms of the. Address—and the measures which have been adopted by the Governor General of India and by my noble Friend who lately hold the seals of the India Department, they will find that not only has there been no indifference and neglect, no want of a due appreciation of the gravity of the emergency, but that every means has been taken which could properly be adopted for the mitigation of a very grievous calamity.
Sir, I shall venture here to pass a few words of criticism on the paragraph of the Speech which refers to the recent Act of Parliament affecting the relations of master and servant. I do not intend to give any distinct or positive opinion upon that paragraph. I must confess, however, that I entertain a doubt as to the wisdom of the course; which has been pursued in advising Her Majesty to issue a Royal Commission instead of bringing the subject, as circumstances might admit, under the consideration of Parliament. This is a matter which touches in the nicest and most intimate manner the feelings of classes which are placed in the closest daily relations of goodwill or conflict, as the case may be. In this House the people of the country are accustomed to repose perfect confidence, and I greatly doubt whether a Royal Commission can from its nature command the same kind and amount of confidence as the House must ever obtain. Moreover, I am certainly not aware that there is anything so difficult or complicated in this matter as to make it necessary to pursue the course which is now proposed. We have had on former occasions a most accurate investigation of the facts, the documents on the subject 79 have accumulated in enormous proportions, and I should certainly have been glad if it had been possible for Her Majesty's Government to act on their own responsibility in the matter.
And now a few words upon the reference which has been made by my hon. Friend to the late Dissolution of Parliament. My hon. Friend (Sir William Stirling-Maxwell) has not adverted to a variety of objections which have been taken here and there in the public journals or in speeches connected with the elections to the advice which was given by the late Ministers, and I certainly will not occupy the time of the House in meeting objections that have not now been raised. I will address myself directly to the point urged by my hon. Friend, and it seems to me that he has opened a field which is considerably wider than we are usually called upon to enter in the discussion of such questions. I congratulate my hon. Friend upon the opportunity he has obtained for displaying his great powers, and amongst others, his powers of sarcasm, but I am by no means certain whether he is equally to be complimented upon the prudence of that course, or upon the precedent which now, for the first time, after a series of years, he has thought fit, so Jar as it depends upon him, to set. I am grateful to him for the kind terms in which he has spoken of me. I have not the slightest objection to the substance of his remarks, unless, indeed, as being connected with the rather responsible office of Mover of the Address. I think that that question is one most fairly to be raised, and I will address myself to it from that point of view in which he presented it to the House. I think that there was one observation in which he was not so happy as in the rest, and that was with reference to his own Friends among whom and behind whom he sits, for he described it as a lamentable waste of time that we should have lost the weeks between the 5th of February and the 19th of March in transferring powers from a set of men whom he regards as incompetent and dangerous, to a sot of men whom he regards as possessed of every title to his confidence and to the confidence of the country in the work of legislation. I certainly cannot avail myself of what I should have thought was the more natural position of my hon. Friend. I 80 should have thought he would have said that "there has been a loss of six weeks "—which by some process of arithmetic which I do not understand, he says is the loss of one-third of the Session—"in connection with the change of Government, but the advantage of having a sounder and more trustworthy Government installed, entirely diminishes any regret which I might otherwise have had." I think I am now making for my hon. Friend, in this point of view, a rather better case than he himself presented to the House. But, Sir, my hon. Friend says that the late Government dissolved the Parliament because it had only a majority of 65; and he very properly observed that, according to repute, the majority of the present Government does not quite attain that figure. He said that it does not reach—I think he used the expression—the despised minimum majority of 65. My hon. Friend seems to think that there is but one important element in the position of a Government, and that is the numerical amount of its majority. Now, upon that point I join issue with my hon. Friend. I think he fundamentally misunderstands the Constitution of this country, if he supposes that the actual majority that a Government may possess in an existing House of Commons is sufficient to give it more moral and political strength for the discharge of its arduous duties, after it has become apparent or when it is becoming clear that the possession of that majority is not agreeable to the sense and the convictions of the country. Now, Sir, there is the whole difference between my hon. Friend and myself. We have seen in other countries at former periods—I will not speak of the present—too much reliance placed upon a Parliamentary majority. There was a magnificent majority in Franco in the years 1847 and 1848. That majority was relied upon, not only by a Ministry, but by a Dynasty, and that reliance was continued so long that at length the legitimate event of an election being denied, the popular dissatisfaction burst through its bounds, and what in this country would have been a Ministerial crisis ended in a revolution. I do not think that we are in the habit in this country of carrying matters to such extremes. But why? Because in this country we watch the signs and currents 81 of public opinion. We recognize the general title of the country to be governed in conformity with its wishes and its intelligence; and the mere possession of a Parliamentary majority, satisfactory as it is when it is a true indication of the actual current of feeling and opinion of the country, is no adequate support and no adequate warrant for the continuance of a Government in office if it has become clear, or when there is reasonable ground for supposing that the desires of the country are in an opposite direction. I will endeavour now, Sir, to state broadly and strongly the propositions on which I think my hon. Friend has proceeded:—that the simple possession of a party majority entitles a Government to continue in office, irrespective of all other circumstances, until the day has come for the Parliament to naturally expire. None of these propositions apply to the late Government. I will tell my hon. Friend that, as far back as two years ago I observed to an intimate friend with whom I was in daily communication at the time when the indications of single elections in the country were becoming considerably marked that, if they continued to run in a similar direction, and to maintain a great degree of force, they must end in abbreviating the existence of the late Parliament. That was my opinion, and it was an opinion which, I think, warranted and justified the advice that we have given to the Crown. Well, Sir, it cannot be said by my hon. Friend, or by any one else, that a majority of 65—or whatever it may have been—it cannot be said the Government of the Queen possessed any exuberant strength during the late Session of Parliament, or that at its close its condition and its relation to the House was entirely satisfactory. I must now refer, not for the purpose of controversy, but simply for the purpose of history, and in justification of my own conduct, to a circumstance which bears materially upon the case, the ugh it has not been observed upon by my hon. Friend. It is the duty, as I hold, of the Administration in this country never to continue to carry on the business of the country unless it is convinced that it is possessed of the strength necessary for carrying it on with dignity and with credit. That is a duty never in abeyance; but ordinarily when a Government finds that it docs not possess that 82 adequate and necessary minimum of strength, there are two alternatives before them. It may advise a Dissolution, or it may tender a resignation of office. Under the circumstances of last year we did not possess that choice of alternatives. We knew that in the late Parliament there was not a party ready to take our place to administer the affairs of the country. After what had occurred in the Spring it was not in our power to place Her Majesty in the position in which she would have been compelled again to call upon the Party opposed to us to undertake the administration of the affairs of the country, for that had been done once before, and, I do not say whether rightly or wrongly, had been refused. That being so we had no alternative to consider except the question of Dissolution. Well, then, hew did we stand with respect to the course of affairs in the Recess? If hon. Gentlemen, and especially my hon. Friend, will examine the course of the elections during the Recess, they will find that until the close of last year these elections were not very unequally balanced. There were in the months of October, November, and December nine elections of Members of Parliament. Three supporters of the Government were returned without a contest. There were six contests for seats in the House of Commons, and of those six, three were won by the Government and three were won by their opponents. There was nothing of a very formidable character in these elections taken as a whole. In the beginning of January, however, things began to assume a more or less critical and adverse aspect, and I think it was impossible for us to put out of our view the indications of opinion given by the single elections in that month. There were in the first few days of that month two vacancies which were at once occupied by Members of the party opposite without contest. A third vacancy occurred in the borough of Stroud—a stronghold of the Liberal party, whore the Liberal candidate was defeated by a large majority. The fourth vacancy occurred in Newcastle, whore the Liberal majority had been enormous, and there the Liberal candidate carried the scat, but it was a doubtful contest. Moreover, two more vacancies immediately afterwards occurred, with respect to which it was clear that 83 they would go as the two opening vacancies of the month had been disposed of, and undoubtedly the position of the Government, so far as it could be estimated by single elections, was very considerably worsted in the month of January. But it was only at that time that we were in a position to judge of the important measures which we should have to propose with reference to one of the greatest departments of administrative and legislative duties—I mean with reference to the finances of the country, for it is not until the fourth quarter of the financial year that, compatible with usage or compatible with safety, an estimate can be safely formed as to the finances of the coming twelve months. It was then found that we had an immense surplus with which we would have to deal. From the time when I assumed the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer in the summer I had entertained the hope that it would be in our power to propose the abolition of the income tax. Circumstances would not have warranted our making the proposal at that time; but in the month of January we saw that we should be enabled to make what we thought would be the greatest and most beneficial propositions of finance to the country that it had over been our lot, I may say, to submit. But we saw, likewise, that these propositions would require the possession of considerable authority, and we felt that, under the circumstances of the time, we did not possess that authority. It was not, therefore, from the theatrical motive which my hon. Friend was kind enough to impute that we disturbed the ordinary course of business by a Dissolution. It was upon that careful comparison of the work we bad to do with the strength we possessed for doing it, that we arrived at the conclusion which my hon. Friend says surprised him—a surprise which I do not think was exclusively felt on his side of the House. For that advice we are responsible. We do not repent of having given it. We think that if any justification is required for having advised a Dissolution, the justification is to be found in the result. I do not investigate causes. I will not ask to what combination this change is due. I can look, constitutionally, at nothing except the voice of the constituencies represented as an aggregate in the returns to Parliament. So regarding them, and avoiding 84 all invidious analysis, I point out that a greater number of seats has been transferred from the one party to the other in the late General Election than has been single occasion since the critical years 1831–1832, more than 40 years ago. And, Sir, although I cannot pretend not to wish it were otherwise, and although, while wishing my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer all imaginable good luck with his finance, I cannot pretend to be as well satisfied at its being in his hands as in ours; yet, as an Englishman, as one attached to the institutions of the country, and as one who hold an office which bound him to regard the principles of the Constitution, I cannot regret a Dissolution which has given to the people of this country an opportunity of pronouncing their opinion upon the conduct of affairs, though I think the judgment which has been passed is an erroneous one. Hon. Gentlemen opposite can hardly suppose that my satisfaction with the result of the Dissolution was likely to be absolute, and not relative. I am ready to go far, but I cannot consent to go quite so far as that in speaking of this result. We found that the suspicions we entertained, arising from a course of single elections, and gradually gathering strength, were confirmed by the actual results, and I do not regret a Dissolution—whatever its result to us, whatever its result for the moment to the party with which I am associated—which has given to the people of this country a constitutional opportunity of declaring what its convictions were with respect to the conduct of public affairs, and which has ended in a transfer of responsibility to these who are designated by public opinion as the favoured objects of their affection. I have thus far confined myself strictly to a reference to what has been said in the course of debate, and will not detain the House by touching upon any points which have not been particularly mentioned this evening. Of course, there will be other occasions for vindicating the no of conduct pursued by my Colleagues and myself. For the present I will only say one thing. The expression of opinion and the transfer of power which has lately been made have, I admit, been of a very emphatic character. An issue was most distinctly raised. It was raised, I admit, by us. It was 85 raised in the form which we thought most favourable to ourselves, as well as to the country. It was raised at the time which at any rate was fixed by us, and for which we are responsible. Presenting that issue in our own way, time and form, the constituencies have rejected our proposals. Under these circumstances I agree with my hon. Friend that the Gentlemen who have succeeded to power are not to be considered as if the change which has been made were the result—I will not say of any intrigues, but of any operations of their own. Their accession to power is the act of the country, and as it is the act of the country I feel that they have every title to be fairly tried in the exercise of power; that every factious objection should be avoided, that every fair opportunity should be given to them, that they should have an open space given them for the development of their plans and the application of their principles. In this way the country will be able to judge as to the wisdom of the choice it has made; and if it finds cause to approve that choice, the result of such approval will be a new term of power to the Gentlemen who now hold it. Should that be so, well and good; but if on the contrary, further consideration should lead the people of this country to a different conclusion, I have no doubt the constitution will be found ultimately to provide a remedy for any dilemma in which they may find themselves.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, it will be gratifying to Her Majesty's Government that the objections to the Address, which has been moved and seconded with such great ability, have met with slight favour to-night. There appear, however, to be two points which have been urged against it which I will at once notice. The first refers to the passage in which we have alluded to the terrible calamity which now exists in parts of India. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Fins-bury (Mr. Torrens) seems to think that our expressions with reference to this circumstance are somewhat imperfect; and he has moved an Amendment which, unluckily, is not before mo, but the spirit of which, I think, I record with tolerable accuracy. I understand that my hon. Friend thinks we ought to call upon the House vaguely to pledge itself to do something which he does not define, in order to prevent the recurrence 86 of calamities like these we now have to contend with. My hon. Friend refers to the conduct on previous occasions of Ministers who were placed in similar situations, and particularly to that of Lord John Russell—an eminent statesman, of whom I shall always speak with respect—when he had to deal with an Indian famine nearly a quarter of a contury ago. [Several hon. MEMBERS: No, with Ireland.] I thought the remarks of my hon. Friend applied to an instance in India of a similar kind, illustrating it by reference to what had occurred in Ireland; but I did not catch Treaty accurately his expressions, as he spoke just then in a very low tone. The fact, however, is this—The hon. Gentleman says that Lord John Russell proposed the suspension of the Navigation Laws. Well, that I cannot do. But the hon. Gentleman says you can deal with the duty on salt. Now, the duty on salt has very little to do with thee calamity with which we are now threatened in India. That is occasioned very largely by the imperfect means of communication existing in the country. I do not think, therefore, that to deal with the duty on salt would be a satisfactory remedy, or one which ought to be noticed in a Speech from the Throne, and in an Address from this House in answer to that Speech. Then the hon. Gentleman says—" Why not speak decisively on the subject of the export and import of food?" Well, that is a subject of grave controversy on which eminent men hold very different opinions, and I doubt the policy at the present moment of introducing any discussion of the kind. The hon. Gentleman says he has moved this Amendment with the view of strengthening the hands of Government. I confess for myself that Amendments of this kind never strike me as being a particularly felicitous mode of strengthening the hands of the Government. If they do not directly involve, they imply censure, while they purport to be friendly. I should say that my hands would be stronger if the hon. Gentleman were not to pursue the Amendment. It is extremely undesirable that at a moment like this there should be any difference of opinion in this House as to the policy which ought to be followed generally with respect to this great calamity. And I cannot help thinking that if the hon. Gentleman calls for a 87 division, the result would not be one which any candid mind could deem satisfactory. Now, the hon. Gentleman says we have called upon the House in only vague, and, apparently, to his mind, meagre terms, in our reference to this terrible state of things. I think the expressions used are adequate. They are not extravagant, but adequate to the occasion. They were expressions counselled by those who deeply felt the responsibility of their position upon these subjects, and who were deeply impressed with the great calamity which has affected an important part of the dominions of the Queen. The Under Secretary of State for India has given Notice that on the first practicable night of the Session he will submit an important Motion, bearing immediately upon the subject. That would be a convenient occasion on which the Government might express their general views as to the remedies which ought to be pursued, and it would also supply a convenient opportunity for hon. Gentlemen opposite to make any suggestion which may occur to them. I trust, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will not persist in his Amendment. Another objection has been urged by the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us to another paragraph in the Address. The right hon. Gentleman regrets that we propose a Commission to inquire into the relations, and the various laws which affect the relations, between master and servant. That is a matter of opinion. It would be impossible on an occasion like this to go into the details which would be necessary to satisfy the House as to the course which, on the whole, we thought it the wisest and most expedient to pursue But if the right hon. Gentleman or any other Member of the House supposes for a moment that we advised this paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech with the view of evading the difficulty, or of merely gaining time, I can assure him he is under a very erroneous impression. We did not take that step until we were convinced that the time necessary for attaining so great a public advantage as this investigation will furnish would not, in all probability, be of such duration as would prevent our legislating this year, if the investigation sanctions such a course, and if in our opinion such a course is necessary. Nor can I admit the position which the right 88 hen. Gentleman took up, that because for other reasons it may be advisable to recommend the Crown to issue a Commission to investigate a subject, the Government is bound and Parliament is tied down by the conclusions at which the Commission may arrive. The influence of that Commission, if it consist of men commanding the public confidence, would be considerable, but it would be a legitimate influence. But Parliament is not deprived of its proper functions because a Royal Commission is appointed on any subject. If we are to legislate, the matter is brought before this House, and this House will have an opportunity of giving its decision on the merits of the ease. These are the names we have recommended to Her Majesty to adopt for this Royal Commission—the Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Winmarleigh, Mr. Bouverie (long a Member of this House), the Recorder of London, Sir Montague Smith, Mr. Roebuck (a Member of this House), Mr. Goldney (a Member of this House), Mr. Macdonald (a Member of this House), and Mr. Thomas Hughes, a Member of the last Parliament. These Gentlemen represent different political opinions, they are men of ability, experience, and learning, and several of them of a class not influenced directly or immediately by any controversy on the subject. I feel assured, therefore, that this Commission will possess the confidence of the country, and that they will really assist the Government and the House in arriving at a satisfactory conclusion. And, after all, we cannot legislate without an appeal to Parliament, and without the Members of this House having an opportunity of expressing their opinions. These are the only two points, I believe, on which objection has been taken to the Address which has been moved and seconded by my hon. Friends. I am glad that the House has indicated that they will agree to the Address and to many of the subjects therein referred to. I am glad that there are such sincere congratulations offered to the Crown upon the late Royal Marriage, which was first introduced to our notice under the Government of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I think I may say, with perfect truth, that it is a marriage of pure affection between the children of two houses, in which, though Royal and 89 Imperial, the domestic principle is as much reverenced and cherished as in any home in Russia or Great Britain. "With regard to the position of affairs in Ashantee, the right hon. Gentleman has raised a point which I would not myself have introduced, but as he has raised it I cannot leave it unnoticed—I refer to the conduct of the late Government in not calling Parliament together when that war commenced. It appeared to me as I listened to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that there was a fallacy in the position which he took up—namely, that the summoning of Parliament involved the postponement for another year of warlike proceedings. I do not understand that to be so. I understand that the Crown, by the exercise of its prerogative, could have commenced and pursued the war when time was so valuable, and yet that Parliament might have been called together and Ministers might have explained the circumstances under which they advised the Crown to go to war; and no doubt from the circumstances peculiar to this case, Parliament would have given them the indemnity they required. It does appear to me that the position of the right hon. Gentleman, that the summoning of Parliament involved the postponement of warlike proceedings for a year, is not consistent with the principles of the Constitution, or Parliamentary practice. The war, however, has now been brought to a successful termination, and we are willing to give the right hon. Gentleman and his Government every praise for the preparations they had made. I certainly am not disposed to indulge in captious terms with reference to a subject which I, for my own part, would not have introduced. We must now look upon that war as concluded, and although anxiety may hereafter arise as to the consequences, I will not touch upon them now. I will only ask the House to join in the Address which has been proposed, to do justice to the spirit and energy of the eminent commander of the forces employed, and to the gallantry and endurance and admirable qualities which, by both officers and men, were signally displayed in an expedition, which, though not on a largo scale, will, nevertheless, rank in the future among our glorious deeds of arms. The right hon. Gentleman occupied a great portion of his interesting 90 speech by a narrative, which, really, it is not necessary for me to follow. It must, no doubt, be peculiarly interesting to his friends; and he himself, in common with all men liking an opportunity for self-justification, had every light to avail himself of this occasion. But I will not follow him. I am not dissatisfied, naturally, with the result. I have an opinion on the matter myself, and I accept the constitutional view which the right hon. Gentleman has taken, cordially and cheerfully. I thought, however, the right hon. Gentleman was a little unfair on my hon. Friend the Mover of the Address (Sir W. Stirling-Maxwell). My hon. Friend the Mover of the Address is not in the position in which Movers of Addresses generally are;. He has returned to a House in which he has sat for years, which he long adorned, and whore he was respected by both sides. My hon. Friend, therefore, naturally took a more general view of the circumstances than these novices who gain their first laurels by a speech on the Address, and he seems to have made some general observations probably without consultation with anybody. Of course, in his position consultation would have been totally unnecessary. At the same time, I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite was a little ungrateful to my hon. Friend. I understood from the right hon. Gentleman that he came down to the House; prepared to headman observations from his own Friends and his own side in consequence of the policy he pursued in dissolving Parliament Put they were silent, and I must confess I admire their taste and feeling. If I had been a follower of a Parliamentary Chief as eminent as the right hon. Gentleman, even if I thought he had erred, I should have been disposed rather to exhibit sympathy than to offer criticism. I should remember the great victories which he had fought and won; I should remember his illustrious career, its continuous success and splendour, not its accidental or even disastrous mistakes. I think, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman scarcely did justice to the generous feelings of his Friends when he anticipated any criticism respecting the Dissolution to come from them. But it appears to me that if my hon. Friend who moved the Address had not touched on the subject there would hardly have been an opportunity for the 91 right hon. Gentleman to refer to it. Therefore, though on the whole the observations of my hon. Friend the Mover of the Address may have travelled out of the ordinary routine of speeches made on an Address, I think the House has not any cause to regret that they have been made, since they brought from the right hon. Gentleman so interesting a reply. I think I have now touched upon the very few points that it is necessary for me to notice to-night. The criticism from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Torrens) has not been considerable. I collect that the House generally approves the Address, and I hope, therefore, the hon. Gentleman will not persist in calling for a division on the Amendment, which I should certainly feel it my duty to oppose. The Address was brought forward with remarkable ability by my hon. Friend, and seconded by the hon. Member for the City of Manchester (Mr. Callender) in a mode which makes me hope it will not be the last time he will address the House. Under these circumstances, I trust the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury will save us from a division, and that it will go forth that in the House of Commons there is perfect sympathy for the condition of India, and perfect unanimity in our resolution in every way to bring forward measures and adopt means by which the misery which now prevails in that country will receive all the assistance which it is in the power of Parliament to give.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. PELL
desired, before the Question was put, to make one or two remarks on the subject of local taxation, which was not referred to in her Majesty's Speech. That subject, he trusted, would not be neglected by Her Majesty's Government. He hoped something would be done to remedy the injustice which many people believed they were labouring under, although, at the same time, he trusted the Government would not follow the example of the late Administration by imposing new charges on the owners of land and houses before disposing of the general question as to whether the balance were hold evenly between the owners of personalty and the owners of realty.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.92
§ Committee appointed, to draw up an Address to be presented to Her Majesty upon the said Resolution:—Sir "WILLIAM STIRLING MAXWELL, Mr. CALLENDER, MR. DISRAELI, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Mr. Secretary CROSS, Mr. Secretary HARDY, Mr. HUNT, Sir CHARLES ADDERLEY, Mr. SCLATER-BOOTH, Viscount SANDON, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL, Lord GEORGE HAMILTON, Mr. WILLIAM HENRY SMITH, and Mr. DYKE, or any Five of them:—To withdraw immediately:—Queen's Speech referred.
§ House adjourned at Right o'clock.