§ MR. RIDLEY
rose to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, in answer to Her Majesty's 53 Most Gracious Speech from the Throne; and said—Sir: It was with the most lively feeling of satisfaction that we received some time ago the announcement that it was the intention of Her Majesty to open Her Parliament this year in person; and I rejoice that it is my privilege this day to congratulate this House and the country upon the happy circumstance that no untoward event, no anxiety for friend or family, no ill health of her own, has stood in the way of the fulfilment of a purpose so agreeable alike to Her Majesty and to the nation.
Nor is it, Sir, of less fortunate omen that Her Majesty is able to announce to Parliament the brilliant progress which her son, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, is now making through that vast Empire, which will shortly, as we are led to day to hope, bring under such happy auspices a new title to Her Crown. There have been, Sir, anxieties—I ought, perhaps, to say, grave anxieties—attending the journey; there have been heavy responsibilities thrown upon those who have had the charge of a progress which has scarcely a parallel in history—certainly not in the annals of the British Crown. But we are assured, Sir, to-day, that those anxieties and fears have so far proved groundless; we know that the ordering of that journey has been marked by the most signal foresight and success. The people of this country, Sir, are following with the keenest attention the incidents of His Royal Highness's triumphal visit, which are so dramatically brought before them day by day: they are realizing with a vivid distinctness, which cannot but have the happiest results, something of the vast and varied interests which attach to the history, the religion, the civilization of those older races who are with them the subjects of Her Majesty, and who are receiving Her son with so loyal and enthusiastic a welcome. They appreciate to the fullest extent the energy and self-devotion for the public good of which His Royal Highness is giving so conspicuous an illustration. They can understand—for have they not experience of it themselves?—how his uniform kindliness and courtesy is winning the hearts alike of Princes and people, and is likely to leave behind it an enduring influence for good upon the relations between us and those vast mil- 54 lions whom it is our lot to govern. It is, Sir, I make bold to say, the hope and the expectation of this House that when His Royal Highness shall have happily returned among us, he will be found not only to have enlarged his personal experience and knowledge of those deeply interesting subjects of the Throne to which he will at some period—we hope along distant period—succeed, but to have achieved a great and valuable work in aiding to consolidate and harmonize that magnificent inheritance.
It happens, Sir, in accordance with the line of thought evoked by this important circumstance in our history, that Her Majesty's Speech this year is emphatically that of the Sovereign of a great people, who with their large possessions have responsibilities equally great of which they cannot divest themselves. It is satisfactory to hear that our relations with all Foreign Powers are cordial, and to know that we are everywhere at peace. But the House this day is brought face to face with a vast group of questions relating to the East, of which that commonly known as the Eastern Question is but one in the series, and the extreme importance of which to our Imperial interests it is perhaps impossible to over-estimate.
Sir, in the far East, it is a matter for congratulation that a serious struggle has been again avoided with that huge Empire of China, the maintenance of friendly relations with which is of such importance, as well directly to the commercial interests of this country as indirectly to the finance and revenue of India. Happily, the reasonable and firm demands of our Minister at Pekin were, though only at the last moment, acceded to, and Her Majesty is able to assure us that an investigation, in which She herself is represented, is being officially conducted into the outrage committed upon the English expedition sent from Burmah to the Western Provinces of China, and that She awaits with confidence a successful result of the inquiry.
The Malayan Peninsula has been the scone of an outbreak which has cost us more than one valuable life; but the war—if war it can be called—has been brought to a conclusion with signal skill and courage. I fear, however, it cannot be said that our difficulties have altogether been disposed of. They are difficulties of a kind which invariably threaten great Powers who, from out- 55 lying settlements, and with small available resources, have to control, without governing, the barbarous tribes of some region just beyond their frontier. From the nature of the case it is impossible always to provide beforehand for every contingency which may arise from such undefinable relations, and it too often happens that we have to deplore the loss of some fearless servant of the Crown, who is performing his mission alone and with his life in his hand, in the name of a nation great indeed and powerful, but powerful only in his case to avenge the outrage of which he has been the victim.
Sir, it is to a problem somewhat similar in character that the recent difference of opinion between the Cape Government and the Colonial Office may, perhaps, be traced. It seemed very desirable that all the English and Dutch communities of the South Coast of Africa should agree in some common policy towards the Natives of the interior, and should provide for some common defence in case a Native war should unhappily arise. Lord Carnarvon accordingly suggested a Conference of delegates from the various Colonies, and proposed also that they should consider the expediency of forming a Federation. The proposal, however, was not received with universal approval at the Cape, and it was in consequence suspended. Whether it be ultimately adopted or not, it is strongly to be hoped that the Papers which have been promised by the Government will show that the good feeling between the Colonies and the Mother Country has in no degree been impaired; and that if there has been any misunderstanding as to the intention of the proposal, that misunderstanding has been removed.
Some few years ago, Sir, a private Company, originated and promoted by one courageous and determined man, whose name will ever be associated with it, commenced a bold project, which was to open through Egypt a new highway between the Eastern world and the nations of the West. They were not supported by English capital—they were even opposed by English Ministers. But their project proved a success, and England discovered that a thoroughfare had been created which it was absolutely indispensable to her political, no less than her commercial, connection with the East should be open to the passage of her ships. From 56 the first the international character of the Canal has been acknowledged both by the Ruler of Egypt and the Porte; but the controversy on the tonnage dues showed the difficulties which might arise between us, as the principal customers of the Canal, and the shareholders, no less than the inconveniences and even quarrels which might follow from the zeal of a foreign Government in promoting the objects of the Company. Under these circumstances it can be no matter for surprise that the country received with almost unanimous approval the announcement that Her Majesty's Government intended to propose to Parliament to sanction the purchase of those shares in the Company which were held by the Khedive. It was understood that an opportunity had offered itself for us to give timely aid to one of the original owners—who held these shares in "trust," as it had been declared, "for European nations"—and to become at the same time one of those who were interested in the Canal by property as well as by policy. It was thought that this opportunity had been rapidly and promptly seized, and that the legitimate influence of England in a highway of such vital importance to her had been secured, or at least strengthened, in a manner least likely to wound the susceptibilities of its founders, or to give rise to foreign jealousies or suspicions; and it was taken both in this country and abroad to indicate the presence of activity, foresight, and resolution at the head of our affairs. The House and the country now look with eager interest to the utterances of Her Majesty's Government upon the subject. Their action will, doubtless, be subjected to the severest criticism; but I do not hesitate to express my conviction that the verdict will be one of approval, and that it will be held that Ministers have, by this bold but peaceful stroke of policy, strengthened the position and vindicated the dignity of the Empire.
Antagonism, Sir, of race and religion, which is so important a factor in all Eastern questions, is again giving great cause for anxiety in some of the Provinces of Turkey in Europe. An insurrection, which has, happily, not extended beyond the limits of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been excited by the long unredressed grievances, principally agrarian, under which the Christian popula- 57 tion in those Provinces have suffered. The Government of the Sultan has failed to offer reforms which would satisfy the insurgents, and has been unable to put an end to the insurrection by force of arms. Accordingly, the three Northern Powers, who have all along been endeavouring to bring about a peaceful settlement of the difficulty, have invited the Western Powers to concur in a Note which should, in a friendly manner but with explicit firmness, invite the Porte to the establishment of certain specific reforms—these reforms being, in the opinion of the Powers, the minimum which could be expected to satisfy the insurgents, to effect a permanent and not a delusive cure, and to remove the dangers to which the Powers most nearly concerned are exposed. I do not doubt, Sir, that it will be thought that Her Majesty's Government has pursued a wise and prudent policy in giving a general support to Count Andrassy's Note. The initiative has been most naturally and properly taken by Austria and the two neighbouring Powers; but a consideration of our whole Eastern interests in their broadest sense shows that it was almost impossible for us to stand aloof, had we even wished it; while the approval and concurrence of England, whose history is so full of friendliness towards the authority and Empire of the Sultan, would seem to be a further guarantee that the requests so proffered are reasonable and moderate, and to give additional reason for the hope that this friendly intervention will be successful. Our expectations as to the effect of that Note seem, fortunately, to have been so far realized, and we may hope that we may now look with confidence to the action of the Powers most directly interested to assist in re-assuring the peace of Europe.
Sir, the responsibilities which attach to the position which we hold among Nations have been this year pressed forcibly home to the most indifferent spectator of events by the prominence which circumstances have lately given to our relations to Slavery and the Slave Trade. For many years we have set ourselves a noble task, and have been expending money and lives in suppressing, so far as we could, the infamous traffic in human life which is still the disgrace of many parts of the world. Wherever we have had the control over 58 it we have abolished—sometimes at heavy cost, but a coat we have never grudged—the institution of Slavery, so that it is our proud boast that the slave who sets his foot on British soil, or upon a British ship on the high seas, is at once a free man. There are still, however, some independent Powers which tolerate or maintain the institution of Slavery, and with many of these we are of necessity brought into contact—with some of them we have treaty engagements. It is perfectly obvious, therefore, that the doctrine elsewhere so easy of application is surrounded with delicate complications when our ships, being in the territorial waters of such countries, become bound by the obligations not only of international law, but of international comity. To have carried our practice as far as some persons would seem to wish we had done would have, I will venture to say, involved us in more than one war, and that not with unimportant only or least powerful nations. We have, in fact, Sir, to consider, not so much what we should wish to do were our Empire absolutely universal, but what our power—great indeed, but still limited—will permit us to do; and for this reason I believe that the Government have been well advised in taking the course which they propose in order to ascertain with accuracy the extent of our existing powers and obligations. It is well that the extremely imperfect information which prevails upon this subject should be supplemented, and that the whole country should be completely and thoroughly aware how we stand in this matter; for so only can the action of the Executive in cases often very difficult and complicated be fairly and adequately judged by public opinion—so best will their hands be strengthened in carrying out to the fullest practicable extent the glorious traditional policy of this country. The House will not be surprised to learn that Her Majesty's Government contemplate legislation this Session on the subject of Merchant Shipping, and it may, no doubt, be anticipated that it is intended to put this measure, or these measures, in the forefront of the legislation of the Session. No Government, indeed, could afford to ignore the state of public feeling throughout the country upon this subject. But in this state of public feeling lies also their opportunity, and it appears to be a 59 peculiarly favourable one; for if, on the one hand, there has been set going—in a manner familiar to us all, and one calculated to do infinite honour to the feelings, at all events, and impulses of its principal originator—if there has been set going under these circumstances a motive power the value of which can hardly be overstated, it is also, happily, the case that the passions and prejudices which have on some sides, naturally perhaps, been aroused, have had time to calm so that this House approaches the discussion enriched by much experience and backed by public sentiment which is, perhaps, all the more strong because it is less demonstrative. It cannot, I think, be sustained that our mercantile navy, has deteriorated, whether in regard to its officers, its safety of carriage, or the estimation in which it is held by foreign countries. There is, however, unhappily reason to believe both that the condition of the sailors is unsatisfactory and that some part of the annual loss at sea is preventible. It is this latter point—the condition, that is of the ship—which is, perhaps, most before the mind of the public; but I may be permitted to express a hope that the other point may not be forgotten, and that measures may be taken, so far as by legislation it is possible, to increase the supply and improve the circumstances of the men—especially in our sailing vessels—upon the efficiency of whom the security of a voyage so much depends. In dealing with the other branch of the subject, it will not, I trust, be considered presumptuous in me if I venture to enforce the necessity of bearing in mind one great principle which should, as it seems to me, guide this and indeed all legislation. It has been hitherto, so far as I have observed, the uniform policy of Her Majesty's Government—and I doubt not we may confidently reckon upon its continuance—to require those who have the most personal interest and experience in the particular subject-matter to be responsible for effecting any result which the Legislation declares desirable, and then to maintain a Government control over that responsibility. In this case it is the shipowner, and the shipowner only, who can look effectually to the safety of the ship, and it should, therefore, be our policy to seek to make his responsibility a reality. We may, perhaps, do something—though it will, I 60 fear, be a difficult and hazardous attempt—in the way of preventing insurance being a temptation to negligence or crime; but, our object being to see that the dishonest shipowner does that which the honest shipowner already does, we must rely in the end upon the enforcement of his liability. From this point of view we should be very careful not to impose regulations or precautions of too minute or too rigid a character. We should put all facilities for securing safety in the way of the owner, and remove as far as we can all hindrances: we should simplify and consolidate the law which he has to obey, and, being then in a better position to provide for a greater degree of publicity and liability, we might confidently hope to eradicate much of that which now casts some discredit upon a noble profession.
Sir, speaking on behalf of a constituency in the main agricultural, I rejoice that among the few home topics in Her Majesty's Speech there has been found place for the subject of Primary Education, and for the promise of some further relief to Local Burdens. Let me say this only—for I fear to weary the House—on this latter point. I take it as a happy augury that Her Majesty's Ministers have seen their way to this mention of it. I trust it may be the prelude to a determined effort—of which I believe they are well capable—not only to redress inequalities in taxation, but to bring simplicity and order into the chaos of local management. The Agricultural Children's Act, passed as it was with the best possible intentions, has not been absolutely a dead letter, but still may be said to have been almost inoperative. As far as those whom I have the honour to represent are concerned—if the House will allow me to make this one allusion personal to them—I will venture to assert that such an Act was not required for the children of the Northumbrian peasant. That it was demanded in some other parts—perhaps most parts—of England was and is, unhappily, the case; and I trust, therefore, that whatever measure may be passed, whether to improve this Act or to supplement the main Act of 1870, that it will be an operative one, while it is at the same time of such elasticity as not to inflict unnecessary machinery or expense upon districts where it is not required, 61 Sir, there is one other topic in Her Majesty's Speech to which it would ill-become me not to allude. Anything which concerns the welfare of the place, be it school or be it University, where so many of his not least enjoyable days were passed, and to which he owes so large a debt of gratitude for anything that may be useful in his maturer life, must always command the sympathies and interests of every man; and that sympathy and those interests cannot but be intensified when they are bound up with the well-being of either of our great English Universities, which have exercised so deep an influence upon our national history. Every Oxford or Cambridge man, and more especially, perhaps, any one whose direct connection with his old college has been only recently severed, must have been watching with close interest the efforts which have been going on within those old walls with which he is so familiar to increase their utility to the nation, no less than the growing interest which has been taken in them by the outside public, by whom their system, their discipline, and their constitution have been hitherto, perhaps, but little understood. Such a man will hail with satisfaction any legislation which will conduce to the more profitable employment of the endowments, the extent of which has now been accurately ascertained. But he will trust, too, that Parliament will touch these old institutions with a tender hand; that it will enact enabling and not restrictive measures; that it will not do anything towards destroying the independence or usefulness of the collegiate system, while it aims at making these Universities the centres of study and the homes of the highest scientific and literary research.
Sir, the Session which has this day been inaugurated is not one which appears likely to be characterized by history as one which has witnessed numerous large domestic reforms. That it will see much useful work in this direction is the hope and trust of all of us; but in the meanwhile it opens upon us with the prospect of being signalized by wider deliberations, which win call forth the greatest qualities of debate, and display to a fuller extent than for years past the power and dignity of the Imperial Parliament. For myself, I have felt most deeply sensible of the grave responsibility under which I have attempted to 62 fulfil the duty which I have undertaken, and of the kind and forbearing indulgence which the House has extended to me in performing it. I thank them most heartily for this favour received at their hands, and will conclude by moving that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, in answer to and in the terms of Her Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne. The hon. Member accordingly moved—That an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, to thank Her Majesty for the Most Gracious Speech which Her Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her relations with all Foreign Powers continue to be of a cordial character:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty has considered it Her duty not to stand aloof from the efforts now being made by allied and friendly Governments to bring about a pacification of the disturbed districts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that Her Majesty has accordingly, while respecting the independence of the Porte, joined in urging on the Sultan the expediency of adopting such measures of administrative reform as may remove all reasonable cause of discontent on the part of his Christian subjects:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty has agreed to purchase, subject to the sanction of Parliament, the shares which belonged to the Khedive of Egypt in the Suez Canal:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the representations which have been addressed to the Chinese Government, as to the attack made in the course of last year on the Expedition sent from Burmah to the Western Provinces of China, have been received in a friendly spirit, and that the circumstances of that lamentable outrage are now the subject of an inquiry:To assure Her Majesty that we rejoice to learn that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has enjoyed uninterrupted health during his journey through India, and that we join in regarding the hearty affection with which he has been received by Her Majesty's Indian subjects as an assurance that they are happy under Her Majesty's rule, and loyal to Her Throne:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for reminding us that at the time the direct Government of Her Majesty's Indian Empire was transferred to the Crown, no formal addition was made to the style and titles of the Sovereign, and for 63 informing us that Her Majesty deems the present a fitting opportunity for supplying the omission.Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that directions have been given for the issue of a Royal Commission to inquire into all Treaty engagements and other International obligations hearing upon the subject of the Slave Trade, and the action of British national ships in the territorial waters of foreign States, with a view to ascertain whether any steps ought to be taken to secure for Her Majesty's ships and their commanders abroad greater power for the maintenance of the right of personal liberty:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that a Bill will be introduced for the punishment of Slave Traders who are subjects of Native Indian Princes:To assure Her Majesty that we rejoice to learn that the general prosperity of Her Colonial Empire has continued to advance:To join with Her Majesty in trusting that the operations of Her Majesty's troops in Malay have restored order and re-established the just influence and authority of this Country:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for directing the Estimates of the year to be prepared and presented without delay:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that our careful consideration shall be given to the measures which may be submitted to us, and that we earnestly join in Her Majesty's prayer that our deliberations may, under the Divine blessing, result in the happiness and contentment of Her Majesty's people.
§ MR. MULHOLLAND
Mr. Speaker-Sir, I rise to second the Address which has just been read and moved so eloquently by the hon. Member for North Northumberland; and, in so doing, I have the pleasure at the outset of adding my testimony to that of the hon. Member as to the great satisfaction that has been felt, not only, I believe, by all the Members of this House, but by all classes of Her Majesty's subjects, at Her Majesty's most gracious presence to-day. When we last assembled here on a similar occasion, there was a deep and sincere sympathy for the cause which then deprived us of that most gracious presence; that cause happily no longer exists, and I am sure that I express a unanimous feeling, when I say that on this occasion the pleasure is not less in- 64 tense and universal. I do not propose, following as I do the hon. Member who has moved the Address, to refer to the various topics in Her Majesty's Speech with the same completeness of detail in which they have been already brought before the notice of the House in his eloquent speech. To do so would be to travel again over much of the same ground, which, although to some extent inevitable, I desire as much as possible to avoid. But even at the risk of repetition, the subject of our foreign relations is too important not to be alluded to in its usual order of precedence. There has been sometimes a tendency to forget the intricacy and closeness of the ties which, notwithstanding our insular position, bind our interests and those of foreign countries together. If politically we may seem of all nations the most independent, yet commercially, from the extent and ramifications of our trade, our interests are the most diffused and interwoven with those of others, and foreign complications would be the sure prelude to commercial disturbance and social distress at home. Self-interest, therefore, not less than higher considerations, demands that England should not pursue a policy of isolation; that she should not abdicate her place among the great European Powers, but should hold it with firmness and dignity. Such has been the attitude of Her Majesty's Government; and the satisfaction will be general in learning that as a result Her Majesty's relations with Foreign Powers continue to be of a cordial nature. The influence of this country thus acquired and retained will no doubt continue to be exerted—as it has been hitherto—to promote the cause of justice and the preservation of peace. Although the clouds show some signs of breaking—and I hope may soon be dispersed—the political horizon is not so serene as it was during the last Session of Parliament. The insurrection that has broken out in one of the Turkish provinces, as referred to in Her Majesty's Speech, was not, apparently, of itself important; but that Empire contains so much explosive material that any disturbance, however local, must necessarily cause uneasiness. Even those who believe that the existing position of affairs in Turkey is not satisfactory, nor likely to be permanent, may well fear that any alternative at present possible 65 would be still more pregnant with danger. It will, therefore, be considered a source of congratulation that Her Majesty has used her influence in conjunction with the other Great Powers, not only towards the removal of any grievances of which the Christian subjects of the Porte may have cause to complain, but also for the preservation of the independence of the Ottoman Empire. England is interested in the maintenance of good government, peace, and order in the East of Europe, not only as the greatest commercial nation, not only as a great European, but as a great Asiatic Power. The Turkish Empire lies between us and India, and events that might disturb the peace of such a highway would be to England events of direct and vital concern. This is true, especially with regard to Egypt. A few years ago the genius of an eminent French engineer, by piercing the narrow strip of land that connects Africa with Asia, reversed the revolution that had been previously effected by Vasco de Gama, and restored to its ancient and apparently natural channel, the commerce between Europe and the East. The importance of the complete freedom of such a passage once opened is universal, but to England it is supreme. The key of it ought not to be entrusted to any private—not even to any national—keeping, for it is a matter of international concern. It was, therefore, with an unexampled warmth and unanimity of approval that the people of this country received the intelligence of the provisional purchase by Her Majesty's Government of the Khedive of Egypt's interest in the Suez Canal. Sir, I have no doubt that the House will approve and confirm that purchase. It must be remembered that the alternative was not whether this large share of the ownership of a Canal that to England is an artery of her life-blood should be retained by the Khedive or acquired by us—it was whether it should be acquired by us, or by another nation. It was natural that after the first enthusiasm excited by the intelligence of the purchase had somewhat subsided, the ingenuity of hostile criticism should seek to depreciate the bargain. Although it is commerce that will be most directly benefited, we must look at it, not as a commercial but as a political transaction; and when it is asked in what way will our position be 66 improved by a part ownership of the Canal, the instinct of the country, wiser than the critics, replies, that in the event of danger from any cause threatening the freedom of the passage, our national influence must be thereby increased; and that if the international freedom of the Canal has not been secured, at least a most important step has been taken towards its ultimate security. Sir, I believe that I echo the national conviction when I say that the country is indebted to Her Majesty's Government for the vigour and courage shown at a critical moment, in assuming the responsibility of an act for which there could be no precedent, because the occasion was unprecedented. It will be now clearly understood that England considers India a vital part of the Empire, and that she will not shrink from any effort or any sacrifice that may be necessary for its preservation. When during last Session it was announced that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales was about to visit India, the announcement was received with unmingled pleasure. The results of that visit appear to have even exceeded our expectations. We rejoice to learn from Her Majesty that it has not injured the health of His Royal Highness, and his presence has shown or evoked a feeling of personal loyalty among all classes of the Native population for which we were perhaps scarcely prepared. It has also, by bringing together in the State ceremonials the different Native Princes, probably given them a common pride in the greatness of the Empire—a greatness of which, as dignitaries, they themselves to some extent partake. We, too, when we have read of the assemblage of those feudatory Princes, have perhaps realized the greatness of that Eastern Empire as we never realized it before. The well-known tact and courtesy of His Royal Highness have produced in India the best effects, and in England the result of his visit will not be less beneficial if it lead us to take more interest in that great country, to realize more truly its extent and importance, and if it unites us in a closer sympathy with our fellow-subjects there. The time, therefore, seems to have been happily chosen for Her Majesty to crown this great Empire that we have built up in the East, by assuming a title long foreshadowed by events. That Her Majesty should now become 67 Empress of India, in fact as she has long been in name, will be accepted as a graceful symbol of the more intimate connection that we hope may follow the visit of Her Royal son. It is possible to underrate the influence of imagination in national affairs—with an Oriental people it may be difficult to overrate it; and I can conceive nothing more likely to kindle and preserve a national sentiment of loyalty among our fellow-subjects in India than this direct connection with the August Head of our ancient Monarchy by a yet more splendid title. Satisfactory as may be the position of affairs in India, it is gratifying to learn from Her Majesty that the condition of our great and extended Colonial Empire is equally prosperous. We now justly estimate the value of our Colonies; commercially and politically they are pillars of our Empire, and our union with them is secured by ties stronger and more permanent than those of mere self-interest—the ties of a common loyalty and a common blood. I hope that these feelings may always be cherished as giving our Colonies a value that, marvellous as their material progress is, no statistics can express. The House will have been prepared for the announcement that a measure will be introduced during the Session with reference to Local Taxation. I am not, of course, in the confidence of the Government as to the nature of the proposed Bill; but it will probably be of the same tendency as that which recently received the approval of the House. The principle appears reasonable and just, that expenditure for purposes essentially Imperial, ought not to be borne exclusively by any one species of property, but ought to be shared equally by all. A reform of this kind may, I hope, eventually be followed by endeavours to effect a greater uniformity of valuation and a greater consolidation of administration and of rates. I trust, Sir, that when the proposed measure for the amendment of the Merchant Shipping Laws is laid before the House, it will receive the earnest and unprejudiced attention of all Members, without distinction of Party, with reference to a settlement of that difficult question. Last Session the feelings of the country were much excited by it; but I think it was wisely determined that final legislation on a subject of such national importance should be preceded 68 by the most careful and deliberate inquiry. No one could read the statistics of the losses of life at sea without emotion, and everyone must desire to protect our seamen from unnecessary risks, but no legislation can altogether eliminate danger from their calling, and excessive or unwise interference with our shipping might inflict a national injury that could never be repaired. Among the many causes of the losses we deplore, not the least fatal is the want of a sufficient supply of good seamen, and I hope that one of the remedies adopted may be an extension of the system of training ships upon our coasts. Sir, I congratulate the House upon the omission from Her Majesty's Speech of any reference to the affairs of Ireland, that part of the Kingdom with which I am myself more especially connected. Ireland is now happily so peaceable and prosperous that it is not requisite, in any reference to the state of the country, to separate her from the other parts of the United Kingdom. An excellent harvest has produced its usual effect upon an agricultural people; and the deposits in banks, the circulation of the currency, and the traffic on railways, all show an increase in the produce, the trade, and the wealth of the country. Ireland does not possess the mineral resources which lie at the foundation of England's manufacturing supremacy; but, notwithstanding this disadvantage, Ulster has appropriated one of the great staple manufactures of the Kingdom, and the Linen Trade, having suffered less than most others during the depression of the last two years, continues to give employment in its different branches to all classes of the population of Ulster, a population distinguished not more for its industry and intelligence than for its loyal attachment to the Constitution and the Throne. Advance in material prosperity has throughout Ireland been followed by a marked diminution in crime, happily justifying the relaxation made last year in the exceptional Acts previously unfortunately necessary for the preservation of the peace, and also enabling the Government to gradually restrict the area to which these Acts are applied. If attention continue to be directed to the development of the material resources of the country, increased intercourse and extended trade will, I hope, gradually convince the warmest 69 patriot, in a land where patriotism is the strongest sentiment, that he will be most patriotic when he draws as closely as possible the ties by which nature has inseparably connected the destiny of Ireland with that of England, and has made her a part of the richest, the greatest, and the freest nation in the world. Her Majesty has again brought before our attention a subject that was last year also alluded to in the Speech from the Throne, and that will ever excite the greatest interest in this country—the continued efforts for the suppression of the Slave Trade. If there are defects or ambiguities in our treaties with foreign Powers or in International Law tending to obstruct those efforts, those treaties or that law should be amended or explained, and I have no doubt that this House will approve of the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate the subject. This is no Party question; upon it every Member of this House can have but the one desire, the discouragement of Slavery, as opposed equally to civilization and Christianity, and the extinction of the Slave Trade as a disgrace to mankind. I will not detain the House by further reference to the other subjects specially mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech, as they have been already effectively dealt with by the hon. Member who preceded me. But allusion is made in that Speech to important measures which may be brought before us during the Session, if time should permit. I think it was a wise discretion to refrain from enumerating these measures in detail, as we know well that unforeseen difficulties often intervene, and a sanguine forecast is an unnecessary temptation of fortune. If circumstances should allow their introduction of those measures, it will no doubt be found that Her Majesty's Government continue to direct their efforts in domestic legislation to the improvement of the social and sanitary condition of the people. What they have attempted in this direction has hitherto met with the approval of this House, and the results have earned the approbation of the country. Sir, I believe that it is the earnest wish of all parties in this House to elevate the condition of that teeming population, whose numbers and rapid increase affix upon us all a grave responsibility. Where there are differences among us, they are chiefly as 70 to the means to be employed. I trust, therefore, the measures referred to may be successfully passed, and may prove as effective as those that in this Parliament we have already enacted. I trust also that the knowledge that it is the policy of the Government and the desire of all parties in the State to promote, so far as legislation can promote, the education, the advancement, and the moral and physical well-being of the people, may diffuse such confidence in our institutions as to prevent the disturbance of this beneficial progress by agitation for organic change. Sir, I feel deeply indebted to the House for the patience with which it has heard me. If I did not bespeak it, it was merely because I knew that on such occasions as this the indulgence ever outruns the demand.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, &c." [See p. 62.]
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Mr. Speaker, the topics which have been adverted to in Her Majesty's gracious Speech are numerous and important—and as we have been already reminded more important than those which have been brought under the consideration of Parliament for some time. But numerous and important as those topics are, there are few, if any, I think, which, with the amount of information before us, can be adequately discussed, and, certainly, there are none of them on which this House can reasonably be expected to pronounce this evening a final opinion. Parliament has, on other occasions, assembled under very different circumstances. The Speech from the Throne on some of those occasions may have announced the commencement or the progress of a war, or the commencement or progress of negotiations. On the other hand, it may have announced the intention of the Government to propose some great changes, in which great principles affecting the Constitution of the country were involved. In such instances it may have been impossible for the House to vote the Address to the Crown without amendment, or certainly without full and adequate discussion, without more or less pledging itself to the policy which had been submitted to it by the Government. But in this case, and on the present occasion, 71 the legislation which the Government proposes, important though it may be, does not I think—at first sight at any rate—involve the consideration of any large principles to which the House can be committed; and important as are the announcements which have been made in respect to our foreign relations, we are as yet without such information as would enable us adequately to discuss the questions to which they relate. It will, therefore, be the duty of the House to wait until the Papers upon the subjects that are promised are laid before us, and we have had time not only to read, but to consider them before proceeding to a discussion of the subjects to which they refer. I admit that much information, in addition to that contained in the Queen's Speech, has been given to us in the able speeches of the hon. Gentlemen the Mover and Seconder of the Address. The House will, I am sure, agree with me that seldom or never has the very difficult task of moving and seconding the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne been performed with greater talent than on the present occasion. That, however, will not, I think, affect the considerations which I have mentioned. The House will no doubt also agree with me, that in any observations which it will be my duty to make upon the Address which has been moved, it will be rather my duty to endeavour to elicit information from the Government upon points which may seem to require explanation, and also to afford to the Government an opportunity of removing misconceptions in some case, where their policy has, as I think it has, been misunderstood.
The first subject which has been mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech as calling for legislative action is a measure for regulating the Ultimate Tribunal of Appeal in the United Kingdom. This is an imperative duty which is cast upon the Government after the legislation of last year; but I fear that the Government will not recommend to us the adoption of that powerful, efficient, and most convenient tribunal which once received the sanction of both branches of the Legislature, but which, for some inexplicable reason, the Government last year recommended should not be entrusted with the functions of a Court of Final Appeal. However that may be, it is of the utmost importance that this 72 question should now be set at rest; that the Courts of Law should be able to devote their undivided attention to putting in operation the great changes which have recently been made in our system of Judicature; and that the attention of the public, the Judges, and the profession should no longer be distracted by doubt and uncertainty as to what the Ultimate Court of Appeal is to be.
Merchant Shipping legislation is also expected by Parliament and the country. The Report of the Royal Commission and the discussions which arose in this House and in the country during the last Session have, I think, done much to clear the way of the Government with reference to the introduction of this measure; and I do not think, therefore, that the Government will fall into either of the mistakes which they made last year. They will neither underrate the difficulties with which the subject is surrounded, nor the interest with which the subject is regarded by the House and the country. As has been remarked by the hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Address, the interest which was manifested on this subject in the country during the last Session of Parliament has been adequately sustained during the Recess, and the tone which has animated the discussion, both on the part of the shipowners—who are personally and directly interested in the subject—and of those who have more especially taken up the cause of the seamen, shows a most satisfactory desire not to interpose unnecessary difficulties, but to meet each other in a spirit of conciliation. I thought that the hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Address entered into a very able consideration of the principles which ought to guide the Legislature in dealing with this question; and I do not think it necessary that I should occupy time by following him upon the subject, especially as, Notice having been given, we shall have the very earliest opportunity afforded to us of devoting our attention to the subject.
I am glad to learn from the Queen's Speech that the subject of Primary Education is to receive attention at the hands of Her Majesty's Government. No indication has yet been given of the treatment which that subject is to receive, but after the speech which was delivered by my right hon. Friend the Home 73 Secretary during the Recess, and after the signal success which has attended the introduction of education into a mass of places where it had been neglected before, I can scarcely doubt that the measure which will be recommended to this House will be one which will extend very greatly the benefit of education to the children of the rural districts, remedying those defects in their education by means of the compulsory teaching which is enjoyed by children of the large towns.
I shall make no remark upon the legislation proposed with regard to the Universities. We have had no intimation which would enable us to form an opinion as to the manner in which Her Majesty's Government propose to deal with that difficult question, and therefore I shall, before entering upon it, await such fuller explanation as may be forthcoming. I cannot, however, help referring here to some omissions in the list of measures which are to be proposed to Parliament which must have struck every one. The subject of the prevention of the pollution of rivers occupied a place in the Speech of last year; and, in addition to that, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board gave us very strong reason to hope that the Government would be prepared this year to deal with the question of the supply of water. The legislation for the improvement of the sanitary condition of the people which has been so long and so often promised by Her Majesty's Government can hardly be supposed to be exhausted by the Consolidation Act which was passed last year; but, nevertheless, not one of these subjects receives notice in Her Majesty's present Speech. I think we are entitled to ask why the Pollution of Rivers Bill has been dropped, and why none of the other measures are referred to in Her Majesty's Speech. Are they not matters that demand and deserve the earnest consideration of the House? In my opinion, it is because Her Majesty's Government shrink from dealing with that which they, and we, know to be the root and foundation of successful treatment of any such subject. They know that the country feels more strongly year by year that the Central Government cannot adequately provide for all the wants of our vast and increasing population, which lives under 74 conditions and difficulties so different and circumstances so varying in their character. Year by year public opinion becomes more convinced than ever that our system of local self-government has not kept pace with the wants of the increasing population; and year by year, in some respects, our local institutions are becoming less adapted to their purposes than they were under the conditions in which our ancestors left them. Now, if the Government would attempt to reduce to something like order the confusion which prevails in local institutions in rural districts; if they would attempt to extend to rural communities, and especially to communities which are semi-rural and semi-urban, the advantages and privileges which are possessed to a very great extent by the inhabitants of larger towns; and if they were to attempt to bring into more reasonable and harmonious relations the various local governing bodies, they would be able to do more for the improvement of the condition of the country and the sanitary condition of the people than they can hope to do by the exertions of the Central Government.
Sir, Her Majesty has referred, in terms of satisfaction, to the condition of our colonial Empire. The Government have on various occasions taken great credit to themselves for their colonial policy, and praise has been freely given to them in that respect. I do not grudge them the credit for that policy, but I do maintain that their colonial policy is not an invention of their own. They take great credit to themselves for the exertions they have made in promoting the federation of the South African States. I do not grudge them the credit for that, but it must not be forgotten that the negotiations which ultimately resulted in the confederation of the North American Colonies were begun under a Liberal Government; and that, although they were completed by a Conservative Government, they were initiated and received their first assistance at the hands of Liberals. While they are taking credit for their colonial policy, it is incumbent upon the Government to explain—and I am glad that Papers are to be presented to Parliament which will afford the explanation—what has been the nature of their policy with regard to this South African Federation. As far as I have heard, and as 75 we are informed, a gentleman has been sent there, armed with powers of which we do not know the precise nature, but who has taken the somewhat unusual course of agitating the colony against its responsible Government. I can hardly think that a course of policy approved of by the Government as the favourable commencement of a policy which aims, I presume, not only to form a closer connection between the South African colonies, but a closer connection with ourselves.
I must next refer for a short time to the remarkable paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech which deals with the subject of Slavery and our relations with slave-holding countries. It will hardly be denied that the paragraph owes its introduction into the Speech to the discussions which have arisen during the Recess upon the two Circulars on the subject of Fugitive Slaves which have been issued by the Government. These Circulars have been discussed throughout the country, not, perhaps, with full knowledge of all the questions of international law involved, and possibly not even with a full knowledge of our own municipal law as it affected, or was affected by, the question. But, at the same time, they have been discussed in a spirit which I think this House will admire, inasmuch as it shows an unabated pride on the part of the country in the result of its exertions for the suppression of the Slave Trade and a determination on its part not to relax those exertions unduly. I need not say much with regard to the first Circular, as it has been withdrawn, and we know, on the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it never received the approval of the Cabinet. As I say, the Circular has been withdrawn and much of the legal doctrine set forth in it has been reversed, because we find that, by the second Circular, not only under no circumstances is a slave received on board one of Her Majesty's ships on the high seas to be restored to the country from which he escaped, but also that when a slave is once received on board one of Her Majesty's ships in a port or elsewhere within the territorial limits of a friendly country, no demand is to be entertained for his surrender and no inquiry is to be made into his status. Thus, two of the propositions which were laid down 76 in the first Circular have been directly contradicted in the second Circular. It would, perhaps, be a curious topic of inquiry how the first Circular came to pass through the ordeal of an examination by the Foreign Office, by the Law Officers of the Crown, and by the Admiralty; but with regard to both Circulars the question arises—What was the necessity for issuing either of them at all, and why, when the first was withdrawn, did Her Majesty's Government think it necessary to reverse the legal doctrines laid down in the first by issuing the second Circular? I am not prepared to say that the instructions contained in the second Circular are inconsistent with any principles either of international or of our own law, nor am I prepared to say that they are inconsistent with the precedents which may be found in the practices of former Governments. I think it is perfectly true that a distinction has always been drawn—a distinction of which Parliament and the country is fully aware, and which must be known even to the Anti-slavery Society itself—between the Slave Trade and domestic slavery. The Instructions of the Admiralty directed the commanders of our ships to explain to the inhabitants of countries whose ports they visited, the distinction between the Slave Trade which this country was determined to suppress, and the institution of domestic slavery with which it does not claim to interfere. But those Instructions were perfectly well known to our commanding officers, and it appears to me that it was to make an invidious distinction as against the slave to call the attention of our commanding officers, in the terms which have been employed in the second Circular, to the reception of slaves as compared with the free man. It was felt by the country, and I have no doubt that it was felt by hon. Members of this House, as it was felt by Her Majesty's Government, that the matter could not rest where it was, and therefore Her Majesty's Government have felt called upon to make what I confess I take to be one of the most extraordinary announcements to have ever been made by a Government of this country. What, Sir, has been the course of the Government in this matter? They issued one Circular, we have been told, upon the highest legal authority, and that Circular has been withdrawn. They 77 issued a second Circular, after full and deliberate consideration by the Cabinet, and that Circular has not met with approval in the country. What course are the Government prepared to take in regard to it? Are they prepared to maintain the policy of the second Circular or are they not? Are they prepared to acknowledge a second time that they have been in error, and to withdraw the second as they did the first? No: it does not appear that they are prepared to adopt that policy. Are they prepared to say that a new policy ought to be adopted in deference to the express wishes and feelings of the country—a policy in advance of that which has been adopted by previous Governments? No, Sir, that is not the course which they are prepared to adopt; but what they are prepared to do is to fall back upon the device of appointing a Royal Commission. The Royal Commission therefore is intended to provide the Government with a policy which they are unable to find for themselves. And what is this Royal Commission to inquire into? It is to inquire into all Treaty engagements and other international obligations bearing upon this subject, and all Instructions from time to time issued to naval officers, with a view to ascertain whether any steps ought to be taken to secure for our ships and their commanders abroad greater power for the maintenance of the right of personal liberty. But I presume that the Treaty engagements and other international obligations bearing upon this and other subjects are to be found in the archives of the Foreign Office, and I presume that the Legal Advisers of the Crown could inform Her Majesty's Government as to the effect of those engagements and obligations without the assistance of a Royal Commission, and I presume that the Admiralty could, without much difficulty, inform them of the nature of the Instructions which have been issued to our naval officers; and yet those are the only matters into which the Royal Commission can inquire. I think, therefore, that all the information which this Royal Commission can gather is either already or might soon be in the hands of Her Majesty's Government, and what then remains for the Commission to do? It is to ascertain as already said, whether any steps ought to be taken "to secure for my ships and their com- 78 manders abroad greater power for the maintenance of the right of personal liberty." It might be supposed that question might be determined for themselves by Her Majesty's Government. The answer to that question has been already given by the country. It knows perfectly well what it wants, and if the Government does not know, the country, in my opinion, is perfectly prepared to tell them. It does not wish for our ships to be made the refuges for escaped domestic slaves or for political refugees in every port which they may visit, nor does it want that they should be made asylums for distressed persons; but it does want in the case of a fugitive slave or of a political refugee, or of persons in distress, whatever the circumstances may be, that the discretion of our commanding officers should not be fettered by invidious rules, such as those contained in the second Circular, but that they should continue to be, as heretofore, the judges of the circumstances under which the slaves or freemen are to be received on board Her Majesty's ships and to receive the protection of the British flag. The country wants that not only the slave whose life may be in danger should be received on board Her Majesty's ships, but the slave woman, whose personal honour may be endangered, and the slave in danger of cruel punishment, should be received. The country thinks—and I think rightly—that this is a discretion which may be well and safely trusted to Her Majesty's officers. They are not to receive needlessly persons for whose reception Her Majesty's ships are not intended, nor to interfere needlessly with the domestic institutions of the country, but they may be allowed to judge of the circumstances of the case in the future as in the past. Further, the country wants, I think, that when, for sufficient cause, a fugitive slave has been received on board, under the protection of the British flag, that slave shall not be surrendered, or restored to slavery, or removed from Her Majesty's ship under any pretext or upon any demand whatever. That, I believe, is what the country demands, and what I think this House will require, and if international engagements and obligations stand in the way, I think that the House and the country will call upon Her Majesty's Government, without delay, to use their best efforts to remove 79 these obstacles without resorting to the intermediate process of a Royal Commission. We know perfectly well what is the effect of the appointment of these Royal Commissions, when there is really nothing the Commissioners can recommend, and it is simply a question of policy to be undertaken. We had an example of the sort of assistance that a Royal Commission furnishes to the Government in the case of the question relating to employers and workmen, a very difficult subject requiring the consideration of Her Majesty's Government, and which was referred to a Royal Commission. There the facts of the case were already well-known; but, as Her Majesty's Government were not prepared to deal with the question, they referred it to a Royal Commission. The Commission furnished the Government with very little additional information, but the Commissioners made some valuable recommendations in their Report. Those recommendations, however, were entirely thrown over by the Government, and therefore the only result of the appointment of the Commission was—what it will be in this case—to obtain a short respite for the Government and, what they wanted particularly, a further delay. I hope, however, that Her Majesty's Government will, at all events in the present case, be able to assure us that the second as well as the first Circular will be suspended pending the inquiry by the Royal Commission, and until the Government have had an opportunity of making up their minds what they will do with regard to this subject.
I now advert to the paragraph which mentions the state of our foreign relations. Her Majesty informs us that events have taken place which have again brought to notice what is known as "the Eastern Question." There is no doubt the events of last autumn—the insurrection in Bosnia and in Herzegovina, and the partial repudiation of its Debt and engagements by the Turkish Government—have produced a great change in the feeling of the people of this country in regard to the Turkish Government. The insurrection has shown, at all events, that the Turkish Government has not been able to conciliate the goodwill and loyalty of its subjects. The reports which have been received through the Press in consequence of that insurrection have shown 80 that in many Provinces of Turkey great misgovernment and consequently great disturbance still exist. The partial repudiation of its Debt, to which I have referred, has reminded us that Turkey has embarked upon a career of maladministration and extravagance which if persisted in, must defy all the efforts of European States to save her. It is not extraordinary then that such events as these should have produced a great change in the public opinion of this country, but I think it would be a mistake if we manifest too much impatience in regard to these events. No doubt many among us have been disappointed at the results of the last 20 years—results so different from those which were expected to follow the exertions which were made in the Russian War on behalf of Turkey. But I think the House will forgive me if I quote some words which were spoken in this House in 1856 by my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone). Speaking in this House on the 6th of May, on the General Treaty of Paris, my right hon. Friend said—Great Britain and France have not yet been able to afford a complete solution to the problem which has existed for 600 or 700 years. It was hardly a century and a-half ago when a Mahomedan Empire carried pillage, carnage, and terror throughout Europe; and now, since it has ceased to be an object of fear, it has become the principal cause of anxiety and solicitude to Europe. The juxta-position of a people professing the Mahomedan religion with a rising Christian population, having adverse and conflicting influences, presents difficulties which are not to be overcome by certain diplomatists at certain hours and in a certain place. It will be the work and care of many generations—if even then they were successful—to bring that state of things to a happy and prosperous conclusion."—[3 Hansard, cxlii. 93.]It seems to me, Sir, that those words are as true now as they were 20 years ago, and they seem to me to convey to the House a salutary and somewhat needed warning against undue impatience with regard to the events which have recently occurred. No doubt a step has been taken towards a solution of the difficulty, though not in the direction which was indicated by Lord Palmerston—namely, in the direction of the reform of the administration of the Turkish Government; but it is a step which is as likely ultimately to favour a solution of the difficulty, being a step in the direction of increasing the independence of the 81 Christian subjects of the Porte. Her Majesty's Government say that Papers are to be laid before you respecting their action in supporting the Note presented by the Austrian Government. The House, I think, will wait till the full text of the Note is before them, and it is able to appreciate the exact amount and extent of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Before giving any opinion upon the action of the Government, I am not disposed to raise any preliminary objection to the action which Her Majesty's Government has taken. I have no doubt that, as far as it was in their power, they have taken steps to maintain the independence of the Porte. I even think the Members of the Government who concluded the Treaty of Peace of 1866, provided the interference was of a proper and respectable character, would not have objected to the interference which has taken place. Lord Palmerston, who was himself one of the greatest supporters of the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire, would not have been averse to such interference as appears to have taken place. Speaking of the Firman referred to in the Treaty of Paris, that noble Lord said—In fact, that it should he revoked is a thing which I hold to he as impossible almost, morally speaking, as that the sun should go backwards. That which is more possible, however, is that, for some time to come, cases will arise in which the Firman will not be fully executed by the authorities of the Porte in distant provinces, and in places not immediately under the view of the Consuls; and if that should occur, the fact of the Firman having been adverted to in the Treaty, and the issuing of it having been recorded in the Treaty, would give to the Allied Powers that moral right of diplomatic interference and of remonstrance with the Sultan which I am perfectly convinced would be quite sufficient to accomplish the desired purpose."—[3 Hansard; cxlii. 125–6.]We can hardly say that the contingency anticipated by Lord Palmerston has not arrived, and that something more than Lord Palmerston anticipated has not happened. Indeed, it may be almost said that the Firman to which Lord Palmerston alluded has not been put into execution at all. Well, then, according to Lord Palmerston, the right of the Powers to intervene diplomatically is preserved, and I trust that the Papers to be laid on the Table of the House will show that the intervention has not 82 exceeded those limits pointed out by Lord Palmerston on that occasion.
Before I sit down I wish to make one or two observations upon the purchase, referred to by Her Majesty, of shares of the Khedive in the Suez Canal. I hardly know, Sir, whether I ought to allude to this transaction as being connected with the Eastern Question. But if I regard the time when the purchase was made, when the great Northern Powers appeared to suppose that they could take the affairs of Turkey into their own hands without much consultation with the other Powers of Europe, if I take into account the almost unanimous opinion expressed by the Press, and by the public generally where opportunity has been given, I should say that this purchase was intimately connected with the Eastern Question. But, on the other hand, if I take the words of Lord Derby, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, at Edinburgh, I am forced to come to the conclusion that the purchase had no connection whatever with the Eastern Question; that it was undertaken solely upon its own merits; that it would have been undertaken last year before the Eastern Question had arisen, or it might have been undertaken next year after the Eastern Question is settled, if the opportunity had arisen. Well, Sir, in this conflict of evidence, I for one have no hesitation which way to decide. Lord Derby says that all foreign nations are in the habit of believing what we say; and if foreign nations are in the habit of believing what our Government says, much more is the House of Commons in the habit of believing the clear explanations of Her Majesty's Government. Therefore, though I do not say for one moment that this purchase may not have consequences far wider and greater than were referred to by Lord Derby, or than the consequences which, according to Lord Derby, determined the Government to undertake the transaction, these consequences may or may not have been foreseen by the Government; but I will take from Lord Derby that the purchase was determined on considerations altogether irrespective of what is called "the Eastern Question." I prefer in my remarks on the subject to touch the matter from the Government point of view, and to endeavour to obtain from the Government some explanation of the transaction on their own basis. This perhaps is the 83 proper time, and it may be the only time, when one or two observations may be made upon the conduct of the Government in not at once resorting to the advice of Parliament for the confirmation of their action in this matter. The transaction was one of sufficient importance to have justified that course. The sum involved, although perhaps not a large sum in proportion to the interests at stake and the objects in view, was nevertheless not an inconsiderable sum, and when we consider the jealousy with which this House insists that every small item of the ordinary national expenditure, which varies little from year to year, should be submitted to the rigid scrutiny of this House, it does seem extraordinary that a day's unnecessary delay should have been allowed to elapse before the opinion of the House of Commons was taken on this large, extraordinary, and altogether unprecedented purchase. I may be told that the decision of the Government had to be an immediate decision; that Parliament is not more pledged now than it would have been in December to reject or confirm the transaction, and therefore no advantage would have been gained by an earlier summoning of Parliament. It may be true that Governments have had before now to decide grave matters on their own responsibility, sometimes even on a declaration of war, but it is, I hold, a Constitutional practice, and also a salutary practice, that in cases of this kind Parliament should be called together, though the decision of the Government may not be irrevocable, and that Parliament should have, as it has not had, the opportunity of expressing its approval of, or its dissent from, the policy of the Government. And surely there would have been very great advantage if this course, which I think the proper course, had been taken. If Parliament had been summoned and the Government had at once laid before it the exact nature of the transaction in which they were engaged, the motives which had prompted them, the objects which they intended to secure, and the use to which they intended to put the property that they had acquired, they would have prevented a great many misconceptions and many mischievous exaggerations which have prevailed both in this country and abroad. Such a course would have prevented many mischievous 84 speculations, and would have prevented some disappointment. It would also have shown the confidence which the Government reposed in the wisdom of Parliament in resorting to their advice on an occasion of so much importance. But, taking the matter as it was explained by Lord Derby at Edinburgh, we know that what the Government wanted, and what they think they have obtained, is an additional security for that which is to us a necessity—a free and uninterrupted passage through Egypt to India. What the House and the country, I believe, desire to know is somewhat more precisely in what way they have accomplished those objects. When we speak of additional security that has been obtained, it would be as well to know, in the first place, whether we are talking of additional security in time of peace or in time of war. If you are speaking of a time of war, I fail to see what change has been made in our position by the purchase of these shares. I believe that the territorial sovereignty over the Canal belongs to the Khedive, or perhaps rather to his Suzerain the Sultan. At all events, the territorial sovereignty of the Canal is not in the hands of the country which has purchased the shares. I apprehend that in case of war, unless the Khedive were an active ally of either party, it would be his duty to close the Canal, as it would be his duty in the same way to close any other part of his dominions to the troops or the ships of either belligerent. At any rate, the Company have no control over the Canal; and therefore, if we are speaking of a time of war, it is very doubtful how far we have obtained by this purchase an uninterrupted passage through Egypt to India. Then if we are speaking of the time of peace it must be remembered that whether the shareholders are French or English or of whatever nation, a commercial company, acting on commercial principles, their object is dividend; audit is difficult to see how that dividend was to be secured if a free and uninterrupted passage through Egypt was not allowed to that State which possesses, as we are told, three-fourths of the traffic which passes through the Canal. I do not for a moment deny that questions have arisen in which the interest of the shareholders has conflicted, or has been supposed to conflict, with the interest of the ship- 85 owners. But the Government of this country has intervened, as it had a right to do, as the representative of the greatest shipowning country in the world, and it has intervened successfully, and by the interference of the Khedive and the Sultan this country has, as it was entitled to do, held the Company to the engagements to which it was bound by its concessions. I do not deny that if we had acquired the whole of the shares in the Company held in private hands, or had acquired a preponderating part of those shares, we might have had it in our power to make very great improvements in the Canal and in its administration, which might have been of great advantage not only to ourselves, but also to the other nations making use of it. But we do not know at present what share in the management of the Canal we have obtained by the purchase we have made. It appears to be certain, at all events, that in the councils of the General Assembly of the shareholders our influence is a very limited one indeed. We have never been told whether we shall be represented at all by the share we have obtained, or even, if so, to what extent, in the directorate of the Canal; and, as far as the information given to the public goes, we do not know what authority for the improvement of the Canal or of its administration has been secured by this great purchase of the Government. I also admit that if we had acquired ordinary shares of the Company—shares entitled to dividend—we might have had a very large indirect and moral influence in the management of the affairs of the Canal, though we might have had very little direct influence. But, unfortunately, the shares bought by the Government are, it seems to me, shares that do not tend to give us any influence whatever, either indirect, direct, or moral, of any kind, in the councils of the shareholders. Our influence with the shareholders, as far as I can ascertain, is of a totally distinct character from that of ordinary shareholders; for whereas the ordinary shareholders naturally desire to secure an immediate dividend, we, under any circumstances, are not entitled to any dividend for the next 19 years, and therefore our interest is not identical with, but entirely opposed to, that of the ordinary shareholders. Their interest is to postpone works for the improvement of the Canal, 86 and to do everything to secure present profit. To us present profit is of no moment. What our interest is, is to put the Canal in the best possible condition during these 19 years. Therefore, we do not appear to have obtained in the councils of the shareholders any voice in the management of the Canal at all commensurate with our purchase, or that directly or indirectly we have acquired such an interest as some people may choose to imagine. Supposing, however, that a satisfactory answer can be given to these questions, and that the Government can clearly show that, as Lord Derby said, we have obtained additional security for our communications with India, the House will desire to look narrowly at the manner in which this has been effected. And now as to the manner in which the transaction has been carried out. It appears to me to be a mistake to say that we have paid £4,000,000 for these shares. We are not entitled to the dividends for 19 years, and I have seen it calculated—and I believe the calculation is an accurate one—that the present value of the shares we have purchased is about £1,250,000 or £1,500,000 sterling. Admitting it to be right that this country should not make an usurious bargain with the Khedive, the deferred value that we would have to pay him may be taken at £2,000,000, or, in, other words, we are investing £2,000,000 for the sake of £200,000 a-year to be paid by the Khedive. No clear explanation up to the present time has been given of this transaction; but, taking it in connection with the mission of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shore-ham (Mr. Cave), it appears to mix us up in an extraordinary manner with the finances of the Khedive. Lord Derby, in his speech at Edinburgh, disclaimed any idea of a Protectorate of Egypt; but do not these two transactions look something very like a financial Protectorate over Egypt? The House will, I think, await with some curiosity the explanation of the Government as to its financial dealings with the Khedive. The investment of £2,000,000 in a loan to the Khedive is either an investment that was made on exceedingly bad security, or else, if we are going to undertake to put the finances of the Khedive on a satisfactory footing, we are embarking in a very large and very hazardous 87 enterprize. When the Papers are laid on the Table, I hope they will furnish the fullest information as to the instructions which the Government gave to the right hon. Grentleman the Member for Shoreham; for I cannot help thinking that the Government of this country is placed in a somewhat unenviable position by what has taken place since the mission of the right hon. Gentleman began. It cannot be satisfactory to the Government, certainly it is not satisfactory to hon. Members of this House, to know that every Stock Exchange in Europe has been agitated from day to day by reports of the proceedings of the Envoy of our Government; that one day it should be reported that the Envoy is coming home, having quarrelled with the Khedive, and that stocks should consequently fall, whilst on the next day it should be reported that the Envoy is on good terms with the Khedive, and that the stocks should immediately rise. I trust the Government will clearly explain to the country and to Europe what is the nature of the mission with which the right hon. Gentleman has been charged, and what course the Government intend to pursue in regard to Egypt. I believe the Government will admit that there is a great deal to explain, and on them rests the burden of proving that the action they have taken was necessary for the security of the Empire. They will not deny, I think, that such transactions as the present are of a delicate nature, and only to be entered into from high political and national considerations. Conducted even without the machinery of the Stock Exchange, they would be of doubtful policy. Our Government is not adapted to interfere in the management of great industrial enterprizes of this kind; their interference in such matters would rather check than encourage private enterprize and energy. We know, however, that such transactions as this cannot be conducted without the assistance of the machinery of the Stock Exchange, and of course suspicion is easily awakened as to the character of the operation. Even in the present instance large dealings are spoken of, and reports are current of large fortunes being made. Probably there is no other country in Europe where such a transaction as this would have been effected without the character of the public men negotiating 88 it being suspected. In our case, thank Heaven, no such suspicion can be whispered; but I believe that if such transactions as this should ever unfortunately become the rule, not even the character of English statesmen would escape being called in question. I think the Government, in this matter, have much to explain; but, at the same time, I have not desired in connection with it to speak in any Party sense. If I have appeared to criticize in a hostile spirit the transaction which the Government has entered into, it is because I have deemed it the best way to elicit the information which the House and the country desire. The Government, I think, will be glad to seize this opportunity of removing the misconceptions and exaggerations which have prevailed on the subject, and of laying before the country at this late hour a frank and sincere explanation of the policy which they have pursued. I feel that I have now detained the House long enough, and I will simply thank them for the patience with which they have listened to me.
§ MR. DISRAELI
There is one point on which I am most happy to agree with the noble Lord who has just addressed the House, and that is in his appreciation of the ability with which the Address was moved and seconded this evening. We are always gratified at a display of ability on either side of the House, for it is to the interest of all of us to sustain its reputation; and I am not using what some might suppose to be the conventional language of Parliament when I say that I have seldom seen the difficult and delicate task of moving and seconding the Address fulfilled more ably, or, so to speak, in a bettor House-of-Commons spirit than to-night. I am sure my hon. Friends must be gratified by the reception they experienced on both sides of the House, and by the courteous recognition of their ability by the noble Lord.
Having touched on this matter the noble Lord proceeded critically to analyze the contents of the gracious Speech from the Throne, and he took a course which, I think, on the whole was convenient, and was, in some degree, an example of his rhetorical skill, by passing to some points which, though mentioned in the Gracious Speech, are not at this moment of the extreme interest of those which occupy the earlier portion 89 of it. From what I gathered the noble Lord seemed to approve the intended legislation. He seemed to think the subjects deserved the attention of Parliament; but he regretted that more details were not given of the character of the Bills about to be introduced. When the Bills are brought forward, however, I think the noble Lord will obtain, in the usual Parliamentary manner, those details which he requires.
The noble Lord seemed to treat as a mere idle phrase in the Speech from the Throne that there were other important subjects to which, if opportunity is permitted us during the Session, we shall also, besides those noticed, call the attention of Parliament. I can assure the noble Lord that that was not an idle phrase; but it appeared to us that we had of late years—both parties—rather got into the habit of giving a catalogue of measures, excellent in themselves, and which, no doubt, both sides sincerely wished to carry, but which experience had shown it was impossible to carry; and then Government was taunted at the end of the Session with their list of abortive measures, whilst those measures which they had passed—measures, perhaps, of much importance and utility—were forgotten in the reprobation excited against them by not completing the catalogue which they had announced. We have other important measures that are not specified in Her Majesty's Speech. They are quite ready; and if it is any satisfaction to the noble Lord, I may say there is a measure to prevent the pollution of rivers.
The noble Lord next proceeded to the Colonies, and touched on a subject which at this moment engages the feelings of the people of this country—namely, slavery. For my part, I do not pretend that this side of the House is more zealous than the other in its attempts to discourage and abolish slavery. It is a national policy. It is a policy accepted, and must be accepted, by all who attempt to carry on the business of this country. Each Party and every Government is influenced by the same motives, always working for the same end in this matter. I might appeal with confidence to the fact that the present Government have made strong efforts not only to discourage, but to abolish slavery, under circumstances in which it was previously thought impossible we could interfere. 90 Originally the British Government terminated slavery within its own dominions; then the great passion of the people assumed another phase—it would not be satisfied until it had entirely abolished the slave trade; and I may say these two great objects have been virtually accomplished. But this country has always hesitated to attempt to interfere with what for convenience is called domestic slavery in other countries—firstly, because of our inability to deal with the evil; and, secondly, from the consciousness that our limited interference had a necessary tendency to aggravate the evil. But it did so happen that after the settlement of the war on the West Coast of Africa, Lord Carnarvon—than whom no Colonial Minister can be animated by a more powerful desire to sustain an anti-slavery policy—had an opportunity of which he availed himself, though it was considered a dangerous experiment, absolutely to terminate domestic slavery throughout the whole of that extensive region known as the protected districts of West Africa. I am not attempting to arrogate to ourselves any peculiar claim on the confidence of the House on this head. We are perfectly willing to admit that our predecessors—as I am sure our successors also, whoever they may be—would act exactly as we have acted. Still, I think I am justified in reminding the House of our conduct on the occasion I have referred to.
The noble Lord touched upon the two Circulars which have so much attracted the attention of the country. Now, with regard to that matter, I am perfectly ready to admit that the Government are responsible for the first Circular. I am myself responsible for it, although I did not see it. I hope I am not in the loose habit of fathering mistakes on some anonymous, obscure member of the Administration'—probably a permanent clerk—and saying he is the guilty person—nothing of the kind. The Circular was issued under the usual circumstances, which ought to have insured, no doubt, a different result. The Government are responsible for it, though I am not here to defend it for a moment. But the country condoned the error—they were satisfied when it was recalled, and I need not dwell upon it further. To my mind the second Circular is a much more fit subject for our consideration. For that 91 Circular the Government is responsible. The second Circular was prepared by the Cabinet, under the direct influence of the Lord Chancellor; and, in our judgment, it is an accurate declaration of the law so far as it is possible to express the instructions which have to be laid down for the guidance of those who have to carry them out. Then the noble Lord says—"What is the necessity of any Circular at all?" "Why, the necessity of Circulars is this—that our officers on foreign stations found themselves every now and then committing acts in the most innocent-minded manner which ended in actions being brought against them, damages being incurred, and compensation being paid by this country for them. Therefore, it is easy to understand why they should appeal for instructions. But, then, I am told, and we have been told to-night by persons sitting in this House of very great authority—we have been told that, and we have heard it every day for the last two or three months in the country—Why did you let your instructions be known?—why not have secret instructions? Now, I cannot agree with that suggestion. I think that great embarrassments, that great evils have arisen in this case from their being secret instructions, and there is nothing that I would more disapprove than of secret instructions for a regular and continuous conduct. It is intelligible that in a diplomatic arrangement, where you have to gain some particular point in a temporary and transient matter, you may find it necessary to give your negotiator secret instructions; but that you should have secret instructions for the fulfilment of a permanent duty, and that by officers of Her Majesty's ships, appears to me to be a most impolitic and unwise thing. I do not agree that we should not have made our instructions public in the last instance. I think they ought to have been made public from the first, and at all times, in order that the criticism of the country and public opinion might operate upon them, and I cannot doubt that the effect of this mutual assistance between the country and the officers would be highly beneficial to the latter in the fulfilment of their duties. Well, then, the noble Lord says—"But what is the use of issuing a Commission?"—a Commission which is to inquire into treaties, into the stipulations of Treaties 92 which are all to be found, no doubt, in the archives of the Foreign Office, and upon which your Law Officers ought to be able to give a definite opinion. But the Commission to which the noble Lord refers is not to look only into the stipulations of Treaties; but it is to look also into the state of public law, and see whether it is possible or necessary to alter that law which would require negotiations with foreign countries. It is not, then, a mere, reference to the stipulations of Treaties, it is to consider the public law upon this subject—to see whether it is advisable that it should be altered, and how, by negotiation, those alterations can be effected. There is another reason for the inquiry besides these technical reasons which I think sufficient. The feeling of this country always will be on this question more or less deep, and it must be a satisfaction to the country to know that there should be a full and free and open inquiry into the subject by those most competent to form an opinion upon the matter; and therefore I cannot take that view of the case which the noble Lord does. I believe the proposition which Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to recommend to the notice of Parliament is a wise and will be a salutary arrangement. The noble Lord, having touched upon these topics with less fulness, he then proceeded to the great points of his speech.
First of all he called our attention to that part of Her Majesty's Speech in which She has informed the House that She has agreed to support the Austrian Note, which seeks to induce the Porte to carry out certain suggestions which it submits with the view of terminating the insurrection that exists in the provinces of Herzegovina and Bosnia. The noble Lord, although seeming to shrink on the present occasion from any objection to the course we have taken, expressed a fear that our intervention may have passed the line which we ought to have pursued. I do not think Her Majesty's Government acted differently from the course they should have taken in the case of the Austrian proposition. The Austrian proposition, as the House knows, is a public paper which contains a great many suggestions of changes in the administration of the Turkish Provinces in question, and many fresh proposals which, if adopted, no doubt would 93 be favourable to the Christian subjects of the Porte. Suppose, for example, we bad refused to recommend the Porte to give a favourable consideration of the Austrian Note. We should have placed ourselves in a position of isolation. As a general rule, I must say that that is not a position in public affairs which it is desirable for this country to take. Generally speaking, if you place yourself in a position of isolation and do not act with the other Powers, you may certainly in some cases avoid the imputation of having combined to bring about a result which in some degree you may not entirely approve; but you deprive yourself of the means and opportunity even in a business of which you greatly disapprove of mitigating much which you cannot sanction, and of preventing much which you would not adopt. In this case it was not our opinion that it was one in which we ought to hold aloof. But suppose we had taken another course. Suppose we had refused to sanction the Austrian Note. What would have been the consequence? The consequence would have been that the Sultan probably would have rejected it. The House must feel that this country would incur a great responsibility by taking a course which she could not sustain. It would not do to counsel the Sultan to reject the Austrian Note, and then, when he found himself opposed to all the Powers of Europe, shrink away and say—"We gave you that advice, but we are not prepared to support you in acting upon it." Would it have been prudent to support the Sultan under such circumstances in choosing the question of the government of a small province like Herzegovina as the occasion, perhaps, of deciding the fate of the Turkish Empire? I think that that course was not one which could have been pursued with any advantage. Now there was a third course proposed by eminent persons, and no doubt received the sanction of men whose judgment upon such matters is not to be despised, and that was a proposal for a Conference in the matter. Had we proposed a Conference upon the state of the insurrectionary provinces of Turkey the other Powers would scarcely have agreed to the Conference. In all probability the other Powers, who had their scheme and matured it after great sacrifices and difficulty, 94 would not have accepted our proposal. But if we had succeeded in having a Conference—what could we have done at the Conference? We could only propose the very suggestions which are made in the Austrian Note, or some somewhat identical. There are subjects which we believe can be touched, and yet the independence of the Porte be respected, and subjects of that kind, perhaps identical ones, would, after all, had there been a Conference upon our advice, probably alone have been brought forward. Then I come to this—that, under these circumstances, there was no other course for England to take but calmly and gravely to consider whether it was not better and necessary—absolutely inevitable—to support the Austrian Note and advise the Porte to accept it. But before we did that we considered our course carefully. We did not act precipitately. We did not agree to the step without hesitation—prudent and proper hesitation. We did not suddenly change our mind and agree to the course of policy which we have approved. We received assurances from Russia and from Austria which to me are satisfactory, because, I am not ashamed to say, I believe they are sincere. And if what I have said were not sufficient to make the House approve of what we have done, I think, they will agree with us when I mention the last incident in this matter. Before we agreed to support the Austrian Note, it had been intimated to us, in the most unmistakable manner, that it was the desire of the Porte, however much it might be opposed to receive such a Note, that if such a Note were presented, England should not stand aloof. I hope, therefore, the noble Lord will not feel that there is any foundation for the fears he entertains—that we have embarked rashly on an intervention to which there could be no limit. So far as England is concerned, she is as free and as independent to act in this matter—if this attempt at a settlement of the Provinces should fail—as she ever was; and she will act in the manner which becomes those—as far as her present Administration is concerned—who wish to maintain the Empire of England, its independence, and its freedom in all those quarters which are affected by this great controversy.
I now come to the question of the Sue Canal, The noble Lord found 95 a good foundation for his speech in our conduct in reference to the Suez Canal. The noble Lord's speech on the Suez Canal was of a peculiar kind, and it appeared to have affected the whole of his argument. Virtually he said this—"Did you embark in this speculation for the reason alleged by Lord Derby?"—and the noble Lord quoted words attributed to Lord Derby. Lord Derby has, in other places, alleged other reasons. I suppose the House is not surprised that there are more reasons than one. "Did you embark in this speculation for the reason alleged by Lord Derby at Edinburgh, or did you do it on account of the Eastern Question?" Well, first of all, I should like to know what the noble Lord means by the Eastern Question; and I should like to know what Member of the Government has ever used the words "Eastern Question" with regard to the Suez Canal? Why, Sir, the relations between the British Government and the Suez Canal are not relations of yesterday. This is not a subject kept in obscurity by Her Majesty's Government, or by the Government that has preceded us, who had also some experience of the Suez Canal and the nature and value of its property. The interest we felt in the Suez Canal had many ramifications. When we acceded to office two years ago, an International Commission had only just ceased its labours at Constantinople upon the dues of the Suez Canal, and upon the means of ascertaining and maintaining a limit of them, and it had arrived at reasons entirely protested against by the Proprietary. What was the state of affairs there? Lord Derby had to deal with them. The proprietary of the Canal threatened, and not only threatened but proceeded, to stop the Canal. They refused pilots; they threatened to change the signals; they took steps which would have intercepted that mode of intercourse with India. Well, what course did the English take? We appealed to the Suzerain—then more powerful on such questions than at present. But it was with extreme difficulty—it was only by exerting our influence at Constantinople, and also at Cairo, by the influence, not only of the Suzerain but of the Khedive himself, that the mischief was prevented. And how was it prevented? Why, affairs had got to such a point that a force 96 of 10,000 men was ordered to the scene of action; and it was only at the last moment that the proprietary of the Canal gave up its hostile operations, but under protest—protest still continually renewed—calling upon the Porte, as Suzerain, to re-imburse and compensate them for the losses which they had experienced by adopting the tariff forced upon them. From that moment it became a matter of interest to those responsible for the government of this country to see what could be done to remedy those relations with the Suez Canal. It was a matter of immense difficulty, but still it was not neglected by the Government; for during that period, on more than one occasion, M. Lesseps came over here himself, and entered into communication with us as he had before with our Predecessors, but there was no possible means of coming to any settlement which would be satisfactory to the proprietary. Now what was the peculiar influence—a very transitory influence, but still an influence—by which we managed to bring about a tolerable state of affairs? Why, it was the influence of the Suzerain and the Khedive—principally, of course, of the Khedive. We found him—as Governments of England have generally found him—a faithful ally; one disposed favourably to consider every fair claim of this country. It was the influence of the Khedive, who was proprietor of a moiety, certainly of two-fifths of the shares, that counteracted the dissatisfied spirit of the proprietary. But it suddenly comes to our knowledge that the Khedive, on whose influence we mainly depended, is going to part with his shares. We received a telegram from Cairo informing us that the Khedive was anxious to raise a considerable sum of money upon his shares in the Suez Canal, and offered them to England. We considered the question immediately, and it appeared to us to be a complicated transaction—one to which there were several objections; and we sent back to say that we were favourably disposed to assist the Khedive, but that, at the same time, we were only prepared to purchase the shares outright. What was the answer? The answer was that the Khedive was resolved, if he possibly could, to keep his shares, and that he could only, therefore, avail himself of a loan. There matters seemed to end. 97 Then, suddenly, there came news to the Government of this country that a French Society—the Société Générale—was prepared to offer to the Khedive a large sum of money—very little inferior to the £4,000,000—but on very onerous conditions. The Khedive communicated with us, and said the conditions were so severe that he would sooner sell the shares outright and—which I had forgotten to mention—that, in deference to his promise that England should always have the refusal of the shares if he decided to sell them, he offered them to the English Government. It was absolutely necessary to decide at that moment what course we should take. It was not a thing on which we could hesitate. We knew, on the 20th of November, that there was a French Society who was prepared—I say nothing about the terms—[An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear!]—I say nothing about the terms, but they were severer than ours—to give the Khedive nearly £4,000,000 for his shares. Now, I must call the attention of the House to a remarkable diplomatic scene. The Papers will, no doubt, be laid on the Table of the House; but I quote from the French despatches in the Yellow Book placed upon the Table of the French Assembly. On the 20th of November it was believed in France that this French Society to which I have referred had succeeded, and had got the Khedive's shares, and the French Minister—not Ambassador, who was absent, but a gentleman we know and respect highly—M. Gavard—was absolutely instructed to call upon Lord Derby—I do not say for the purpose of pumping him—but to sound him whether England would tolerate the purchase of those shares by the French Society in question; and Lord Derby spoke with the utmost frankness on the subject. He said it was a very grave point; that he did not think England would view with favour the whole of the Khedive's shares passing to the French Company; that while we accorded to M. Lesseps the glory of this great work, and did not want the shares ourselves, we should be very glad if the Khedive retained his shares, and that things had gone on quietly, as we should have trusted to his just management. But, said Lord Derby, if you come to us for our opinion as to what the feelings of England would be in respect to the purchase of all those 98 shares by France, I will frankly tell you that she would consider such a result as a calamity, and I certainly could not look with approval upon the accomplishment of such an arrangement. Well, on the 27th of November, the French Ambassador, the Marquis d'Harcourt, returned to England and called on Lord Derby upon the same subject—the Suez Canal shares of the Khedive; and it was to ask an explanation why England had bought them, and what was the intention of England in so doing. Therefore, within those seven days—between the 20th and 27th—all those various phases had occurred in the transaction, and during that period, having only had 48 hours, we did arrive at our decision. Lord Derby told the French Ambassador why we had decided. He said we should have been very well pleased if the thing had remained as it was; but that England could not see with satisfaction all those shares in the hands of one Company, and that, therefore, we had taken the step he came to inquire about. To pretend that Lord Derby has treated this business as a mere commercial speculation, as has been stated by an hon. Member of this House, is idle. If he did not act in accordance with the principles of high policy, I should like to know what high policy is, and how a man can pursue it. Apart from looking upon this as an investment, if the shares had been offered, and if there had been no arrangement of paying interest for 19 years, so far as I am concerned, I should have been in favour of the purchase of the shares. I should have agreed with Lord Derby in thinking that England would never be satisfied if all the shares of the Suez Canal were possessed by a foreign Company. Then it is said, if any obstacles had been put in your way by the French proprietors of the Canal, you know very well that ultimately it must come to force, and you will then obtain at once the satisfaction you desire. Well, if the government of the world was a mere alternation between abstract right and overwhelming force, I agree there is a good deal in that observation; but that is not the way in which the world is governed. The world is governed by conciliation, compromise, influence, varied interests, the recognition of the rights of others, coupled with the assertion of one's own; and in addition a general conviction, resulting from explanation 99 and good understanding, that it is for the interest of all parties that matters should be conducted in a satisfactory and peaceful manner. Therefore I say that even if the arrangement had been such as the noble Lord assumes, and we had had but very little power in the representation and management of the Canal—even if that had been the case, I cannot doubt that the moral influence of England, possessing two-fifths of the shares in this great undertaking, must have made itself felt, must have had a considerable influence upon the conduct of those who managed the Company, and must have resulted in arrangements tending to mutual and general advantage. The noble Lord has sneered at our having only a few votes in a meeting of shareholders; but I think that one effect of the mission of Mr. Cave and Colonel Stokes will be to bring about a different result. It is not convenient at this moment—the House will understand when the negotiation is not absolutely finished that it is not convenient to enter into particulars; but I am justified in saying that, as far as one can form a judgment, there is every prospect of English interests being amply and adequately represented in the management of the Company. Then the noble Lord finds fault with us for not resorting to the advice of Parliament after we had completed the provisional transaction. He says—"This is a case of unprecedented expenditure, and you ought to have appealed immediately to Parliament." I would remind the noble Lord that it is not a case of unprecedented expenditure, because not a shilling has yet been expended. When the Bank Act was suspended Parliament was instantly summoned, because when the Bank proposed to pay for gold with paper the nation became much alarmed, and desired that the causes for such a course should be inquired into, in order that, if necessary, a Parliamentary indemnity should be given. There is no violation of the law in what has taken place. It is very much like a complaint I heard the other day, that we ought to have gone to the Bank of England, and not to the house of Rothschild, in reference to this purchase. The Bank of England would no more have advanced £4,000,000 for the purchase of these shares, and taken the responsibility of holding them upon themselves, 100 than they would have paid off the National Debt. The Bank of England would have been ready, I dare say, if it were legal, to advance £4,000,000 to the Government. But the house of Rothschild did not merely advance £4,000,000. "We said—" Will you purchase these shares on our engagement that we will ask the House of Commons to take them off your hands?" They did so. That was a great risk, and I believe they would not have undertaken it if they had not felt that it was of great consequence to the country that they should do so. It would be a rare and unexpected and unparalleled thing for the Bank of England, or any other bank, to undertake such a responsibility. Well, now, the noble Lord says he wants to know how this Canal purchase is to be an additional security for our route to India—is it in time of peace or in time of war that it is to be an additional security? Well, I have no hesitation in saying in time of peace, and I think I have shown him that our possessing this great interest in this undertaking, that our possessing this power and consequence, is an additional security to us—a security in times of peace. When the noble Lord asks me, Is it an additional security in time of war? I would say that I must refrain from entering into speculations of what England will do in time of war, or what will be the circumstances in the Mediterranean or the Levantin times of war. We are contemplating this purchase in reference to a time of peace, and we may form such conclusions as we like as to what might be its worth in a time of war. And in times of peace no one can doubt the advantage of this purchase, when you remember when we had not a share how we were then menaced with the shutting of the Canal. We know how there are a thousand ways, without authorizing the use of preponderating force, to assert our rights; there are a thousand ways of obstructing the navigation of the Canal, and if the interest we have obtained is merely for times of peace, it is a most important result. As for the assertion that in this affair the whole of what the noble Lord calls the "Eastern Question" is concerned, I have nothing to do with it. I have nothing more to do with that than with the idle observations that we hear every now and then on the course 101 we have pursued—that we have changed our Eastern policy, and that we have substituted another policy for that which is the ancient policy of England. I utterly deny that. The policy of England in that part of the world is much more simple than would be suspected from the cloudy descriptions of it which one sometimes encounters. England is a Mediterranean Power; a great Mediterranean Power. This is shown by the fact that in time of war always, and frequently in time of peace, she has the greatest force upon those waters. Further more she has strongholds upon those waters which she will never relinquish. The policy of England, however, is not one of aggression. It is not Provinces she wants. She will not interest herself in the re-distribution of territory on the shores of the Mediterranean as long as that re-distribution does not imperil the freedom of the seas and the dominion which she legitimately exercises. And therefore I look upon this, that in the great chain of fortresses which we possess, almost from the metropolis to India, that the Suez Canal is a means of securing the free intercourse of the waters—is a great addition to that security, and one we should prize. Now, I think I have touched upon most of the subjects, except one, which the noble Lord treated upon, and that is the analysis of the price which the shares really ought to have commanded. I will not enter upon that subject at present, because on Monday next we shall have an opportunity of going, if necessary, and if desired by the House, into the most minute details of figures. All I will now say is, that I entirely protest against, and shall be prepared to show that there is no foundation for, the statement of the noble Lord. The fact is, that though we gave £4,000,000 for the shares, there were other £4,000,000 in a hostile quarter ready to be paid for the same shares. Therefore, it is not likely that there would be two competitors who were offering the same sum, if, as the noble Lord has so satisfactorily proved, we ought to have got the shares for half the sum we have given for them. But there will be a better opportunity on Monday for the noble Lord and his Friends to go into the subject in detail than would be fitting upon the present occasion, when all discussion upon it must necessarily be desultory; although I trust I have met 102 most of the objections of the noble Lord as far as they go. On Monday next we shall again go into this question, when it may be sifted and it may be examined by men of different orders and tones of mind. Some may take an economical view of the subject, some may take a commercial view, some may take a peaceful view, some may take a warlike view of it; but of this I feel persuaded—and I speak with confidence—that when I appeal to the House of Commons for their vote they will agree with the country, that this was a purchase which was necessary to maintain the Empire, and which favours in every degree the policy which this country ought to sustain.
If the House, Sir, will be good enough to favour me with its attention for a short time, I will at once seek to relieve hon. Members from the apprehension which will, perhaps, be uppermost in the minds of many, that what I am about to say at this peculiar hour will lead to a prolonged debate. I intend to confine my remarks to one or two points which will excite no controversy whatever between the two sides of the House, although they relate to the very important subject of what is termed "the Eastern Question," in respect of which I desire to discharge myself of what I feel is a peculiar responsibility cast upon me. I shall therefore make no reference whatever to the many interesting topics which have been dealt with by my noble Friend and by the right hon Gentleman, because I think with them that other opportunities are at hand when we shall be in a position to deal with them to a greater advantage than we could at the present moment. In referring to the Eastern Question, apart from the subject of the Suez Canal, the right hon. Gentleman appeared to be under the impression that the noble Marquess in his speech, not, perhaps, in the way of direct assertion, but of apprehension and doubt, had suggested something like a censure upon the conduct pursued by Her Majesty's Government in giving their adhesion to the Austrian Note. Now, Sir, for myself I have no authority, nor do I assume any, to explain the speech of the noble Marquess, but, speaking as one of the auditors of that speech, I must say that I am at a loss to conceive in what part of it, or in what words, the right hon. Gentleman discovered any such disposition 103 on the part of the noble Marquess to question or censure this portion of the Government's policy. The noble Marquess, with that prudence and wisdom which marked the whole tenour of his speech, endeavoured to warn hon. Members and the public against expecting very speedy results from any intervention that might be attempted; In the wisdom of that warning we are all disposed to concur; but, if I rightly understood the noble Marquess he expressed his unhesitating approval of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in giving their adhesion to the Austrian Note, so far as we are acquainted with the particulars—and we are of course very imperfectly acquainted with them. But I wish to say a word or two on this special question. If, indeed, any doubt or misgiving existed in the minds of any one as to the propriety of this proceeding on the part of Her Majesty's Government, I think that the reasons which the right hon. Gentleman has given for the course they have taken, would sufficiently justify their conduct in the matter. I, however, hope that in giving the reasons he has done for the acts of the Government the right hon. Gentleman did not intend to convey the idea that there are no other and broader and deeper motives for the step they have taken than those he has assigned. At any rate, I wish to explain to the House very clearly what I conceive to be morally and historically the position of this question as it concerns this country and its relations with the Turkish Empire. To do this satisfactorily I must revert to the period of the Crimean War, and perhaps the House will excuse me for making the reference, for I am, indeed, the only man in this House who was responsible as a Minister for leading the country into that war, and therefore I may be supposed to be in some degree cognizant of the views which led us to take that step, with regard to which there has been much diversity of opinion and much misrepresentation. What was generally understood to be the purpose of the Crimean War, was expressed in the phrase that we sought to maintain the integrity and independence of the Turkish Empire. That was a phrase which was a favourite with the public at that time. It implied that we were to make very vigorous efforts to repress the designs and attempts by the Russian Empire which appeared 104 to be dangerous to the peace of Europe. Some persons thought that England had a separate interest in that war independent of that of Europe, but that was an idea that I never entertained. But in upholding the integrity and in dependence of the Turkish Empire I will venture to say for myself and the Government of that day that they entertained the strongest opinion as to the conditions which were requisite for that integrity and that independence. I am not going to refer to anything so slight and trivial and so likely to be misleadiag as individual recollections, but I point to facts which amount to demonstration of the proposition. References have been made to-night to the opinion of Lord Palmerston that he was most anxious to maintain the independence and integrity of Turkey. Lord Palmerston, there can be no doubt, was sanguine beyond most men in his belief that these would be maintained. He had a freshness and almost youthfulness of faith on the subject, which no one could regard without interest, especially when his long and distinguished life was approaching its close. But Lord Palmerston knew on all occasions that a vital and essential condition of that state of things was the redress of grievances within the Turkish Empire; that it was totally impossible in the face of Christian Europe that the state of things prevailing at that period between the Mahomedan Power and the subject Christian population, especially the Europeans, could be persisted in, and the people of these countries, anxious as they were to stop Russian aggression, never would have entered on that war unless they had received what they thought conclusive and sufficient guarantees that these grievances would be redressed. This was not a mere matter of individual opinion, and so strong was this feeling in Europe that in the very heat of the crisis the Sultan, by a most solemn instrument, was compelled to pledge himself, as far as the constitutions of the country would permit him, to redress those grievances, and to place them upon a religious—of course, I do not say a political—equality with the rest of his subjects. That instrument was one of the great and fundamental facts of the time of the Crimean War, and my proposition is this—that, after the Crimean War, after that effusion of life and treasure, after Europe had been involved 105 in the struggle, and its whole existence, as it were, suspended upon it for those years, and after it was made known to Turkey that it was absolutely necessary, in view of those who supported her, that stringent and effectual provision should be made for the redress of those grievances, it is doubly impossible after those facts have been placed on record, that the Government of this country could fold its arms and say that the relations of the Turkish Ruler and his Christian subjects are to us matters of no concern. We cannot now turn round and say—" We have no right to expect anything from the Sultan, and the Christian population of Turkey has no right to expect anything at our hands." I am most grateful, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government, instead of being actuated by that principle—a principle totally inconsistent with the facts of history and with the most obvious and most elementary obligations of national duty—have given in their adhesion to the Austrian Note. I do not enter fully into this question at the present moment, because I do not feel myself prepared to do so; but all I can say is, that I am most thankful that the Government have not taken a course of abstentation upon this important occasion. When we know the terms of Count Andrassy's Note, it will be our duty to consider them, and all further steps that are taken in this matter will be subject to the control and the government of this House. But at the present moment, recollecting as I do that there were many apparently friendly counsellors of the Government, at the period when they had this matter under deliberation, who were warning them—in the Press—to do nothing at all; I for my part congratulate and express my acknowledgments to the Government for declining to be inveigled and misled by those unwise counsellors. I will not now enter into the question whether the promises of the Ottoman Government with regard to its Christian subjects have or have not been shamelessly broken. This I must say—the Ottoman Government has been well represented to us in many of its personal Representatives. It has had Ministers of great ability within our memory; but, unfortunately, most of those men, whose energies and talents induced Lord Palmerston to entertain such sanguine expectations with regard to Turkey, have been 106 removed by early death. In this country for nearly 30 years, I think, if not more, we have had the advantage of seeing the Porte represented at the Court of our Sovereign by a Minister who enjoys the respect and regard of all who have the pleasure of his acquaintance. When the Sultan of that extended Empire visited this country, the impression which his personal demeanour produced upon those who were brought into contact with him was an impression of the most satisfactory description. I think I am bound to say, in justice to the Ottoman Government, that I believe that the resolutions which were announced at Constantinople at the time when that Government promised internal reforms were sincerely made. But the difficulty of the case of Turkey is this—it has not, as a general rule, or it has only to a very scanty degree, a class of men of power, influence, education, and station, without whom it is impossible to give effect to the decisions of the Government. In certain cases, no doubt, improvements were effected shortly after the Crimean War, in accordance with the provisions of the Firman or Hatihumayoun which had been issued by the Sultan. It will be for the Government, when the time has arrived, to give us full information of the particulars of the recent intervention, and to give us such information as may enable us to judge whether the promises that were so solemnly made have been kept, and whether we have reason to hope that if those promises are now renewed, they will be more effectually kept in future. But I fear that a want of executive power will defeat the best intentions of the Government of Turkey. This proposition, for my own part, I maintain, that if promises such as these so solemnly given have really failed in their fulfilment, it is not possible to go on with a mere repetition of promises. Europe, the Christian conscience, and the conscience of mankind will expect some other sort of security for the redress of great and dreadful grievances than mere words can afford; and however desirous we may be to maintain the integrity and independence of the Turkish Empire, that integrity and independence can never be effectually maintained unless it can be proved to the world—and proved not by words, but by acts—that the Government of Turkey has the power to administer a fair measure of justice to 107 all its subjects alike, whether Christian or Mahomedan. Believing myself that this is a subject on which we have no difference of opinion according to our political separation, and that at the same time it is a subject of great importance, I was very desirous to make these brief explanations, and I thank the House for the kindness with which it has listened to them.
§ MR. BUTLER-JOHNSTONE
said, that if it had not been for the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Gladstone), he should not have thought fit to present himself to the attention of the House; but the right hon. Gentleman had, under the cloak of approving a particular act of the Government, recommended a policy which was not the policy of the Government, and which he was happy to say was directly contrary to the spirit of the policy of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that by the insertion into the Treaty of Paris of the promise of reforms made by the Sultan on that occasion, European Powers had acquired the right—a moral right at any rate—to see those reforms properly carried out. He would ask whether that was a right which only dated from to-day, and whether, during all the many years that the right hon. Gentleman was at the head of affairs, he had once remonstrated in a friendly way with the Porte relative to the condition of the country, when those remonstrances might have been effective and could not be interpreted as hostile acts? Then, again, the right hon. Gentleman went back to the year 1856, at the close of the Crimean War. He (Mr. Butler-Johnstone) would ask to be allowed to go back to that year too, and to say that all the troubles and difficulties in which Turkey was at the present time involved were owing to what occurred at that epoch. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to Turkey as a despotic form of government. Well, previous to that year Turkey was the least despotically-governed country in the world. It was a government essentially of checks and counter-checks: the Pasha elected by the Divan, the Cadi by the chief of the Law, the local administration of the Provinces, all independent of each other, and at Constantinople no Imperial measure decided on without due deliberation by a Divan. In 1856, as a result 108 of the Crimean War, the influence of European nations—of the Western nations—became predominant, and, under cover of this predominance, Ali Pasha introduced a revolution in the government of Turkey, from which it has ever since been suffering—namely, from being a constitutional government, he converted it into a despotism by the abolition of the constitutional Divan. What were the cardinal vices of the Turkish Empire at the present day? The first great grievance in Turkey was the maladministration of the Provinces, which arose principally from the fact that the Pashas were changed at the mere will of the Sovereign. The under-officials, when the eye over them was being constantly changed, became corrupt; but, in former times, the Sultan had no power to change the Governors of Provinces without consultation, with his Divan. Another source of corruption was that Firmans and decrees were continually being passed by the Sultan and were not yet obeyed in the Provinces. Thirdly, there was the financial condition arising from its Debt. Now, each one of these vices arose from the pernicious change introduced when the Divan was abolished and the Government of Turkey revolutionized into a despotism. These Firmans and decrees had no binding force in Turkey, because no arbitrary decrees could by the Constitution of Turkey—which was centuries old and had never been legally abolished—be issued; and if you wished to see these decrees and Firmans enforced and carried out, you must try to bring about the revival of the old Turkish Constitution. If your efforts were devoted to this end, you might effect a, great and beneficial reform in the Turkish Empire which mere adhesion to the Austrian Note could never effect. If the Government thought that the reception of the Andrassy Note was the conclusion of the Eastern difficulty, he could only congratulate them upon ther simplicity. He trusted that the Government would preserve absolute freedom of action, so that in time to come their policy might not be fettered. Anybody who expected that the Ottoman Empire had no sources of vitality in it would be entirely disappointed. As to the Suez Canal purchase, he did not remember such another unanimous verdict of approval in this country as had ratified that transaction, 109 therefore it was not worth while to defend it. He would only venture this criticism, that the new order of things which had been introduced by this purchase seemed to recognize the importance to us of the marine highway to India; but this highway could not be of much importance unless England was absolute mistress of the seas. She could not be this until she had annulled the Declaration of Paris, to which, in a fatal moment, she put her hand. The purchase of the Canal shares to him seemed to imply the annulling the Declaration of Paris.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
I am one of those hon. Members who survived the horrors of the middle passage in the rush to the House of Lords this afternoon. I went into that Assembly in the hope of hearing something that would be satisfactory to that portion of the United Kingdom which my hon. Friends around me, and myself, as well as some of those on the other side of the House, represent. I confess that during that passage I thought that if the time comes, as I think it will come, when perhaps even Her gracious Majesty herself will open Parliament in another place, her retinue will be able to manage the ceremonial somewhat more respectfully so far as the Commons are concerned. I do not know if I should to-night have ventured to intrude upon the House of Commons, if it had not been for the observations which fell from the hen. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) who seconded the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne, who expressed his satisfaction at a circumstance which, I feel certain, will produce an exactly opposite feeling across the Channel. The people of Ireland will not feel satisfaction at the statement that the condition of the country is a matter of absolute indifference to Her Majesty. The hon. Gentleman to whose speech I refer stated that Ireland was tranquil, that Ireland was prosperous, and he very justly said that the Irish people were thankful to Providence for the excellent harvest with which they were blest last year. The Irish people have, indeed, reason to be thankful to Providence, for it is little they get from man. When, however, he told us that there was satisfaction, prosperity, and tranquillity in the country, he might have remembered that at this present 110 moment—the House of Commons may feel proud under the circumstances—that there are, I believe, now—within the last three weeks—six counties in Ireland enjoying the ordinary rights of British subjects. The rest of Ireland is under the galling code of coercion, which is the heritage of the last Session. Finding, as the Irish Members have, that the interests of their country are not sufficient to occupy the attention of Her Majesty's Government, and being desirous of showing their fellow-subjects in England that the statement that Ireland is governed by the same laws as this country is not the fact, they have decided to introduce Bills which will give this House an opportunity of pronouncing an opinion whether or not the statement that Ireland lives under English law is true or false. It is perfectly untrue that Ireland is governed by the same laws as England. The Parliamentary franchise, the municipal franchise, and the municipal privileges of Ireland are quite different from those of England. We have been so fortunate as to obtain in the Ballot such a position as will enable us soon to bring some of these matters before the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman, whom I am proud to follow, will submit to the House a subject which might have been thought well worthy of an intellectual Cabinet—ameasure for improving higher education in Ireland. He will also introduce a Bill designed to amend some glaring and patent defects in the law relating to the tenure of land in that country. The other Bills which will be introduced will, at all events, show that there is on the part of the Irish people a determination that no stone shall be left unturned to show to the Houses of Parliament that they desire to be judged fairly. If their legislation is neglected they will, as far as they can, and as long as they are obliged to come to this House for their local legislation, endeavour to repair the errors which I think will be shown to exist, and which might have met with some attention on the part of Her Majesty's Government. I can only say that they will give the House of Commons an opportunity of learning what it is that Ireland demands. There will be no shrinking from any debate on the subject of the demand of Ireland for the restoration of her national Parliament and for the modification of 111 the powers of that Parliament. Although I will not touch on the subject of foreign policy, which Her Majesty's Ministers think quite sufficient to fill all the void in the minds of the people of England and Ireland—for it appears that we are to have a Session devoted chiefly to foreign policy—I wish to guard against the idea that Ireland concurs in or is satisfied with the foreign policy of England. The Irish people are disposed to support a policy founded on good faith and justice, and which will make this great country invulnerable to its enemies. To effect this, however, they must be united among themselves; and if the tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) is to be regarded as an expression of the sentiments of this House, I am sure they will not be united. It is a calumny to say as, I trust, will be proved to demonstration in the course of this Session, that it is the intention of the Irish Members to obstruct legislation in this House. Their desire, on the contrary, is that the grievances of their country should be redressed, and they will endeavour to give the Government and the House an opportunity of redressing them.
§ MR. RONAYNE
said, he had also heard with great astonishment the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) congratulate his country on being treated with sovereign contempt. With regard to the alleged prosperity of Ireland, if the statements he had been hearing on that subject from his youth upwards, from Lords Lieutenant, and in Speeches from the Throne, were true, Ireland ought to be the wealthiest and most prosperous country in the world. He knew nothing personally about the linen trade of the North, which the hon. Member had described as being in a prosperous condition, but he had been assured by many gentlemen who were connected with that trade that for the last three years it had been the reverse of prosperous, and that there was nothing but grumbling and growling at its state. If bad trade, small profits, short time for the workers, and several heavy failures were evidence of prosperity the hon. Member was right, not otherwise. With regard to the rest of the country, if the hon. Member had given them the number of Civil Bill processes, the number of notices to quit, and the number of ejectments which had been issued last 112 year he would have furnished them with some means of forming an idea of the prosperity of the country. The Chairman of the Munster Bank, a Member of that House, had recently stated to his constituents that last year was the worst the bank had ever had. With respect to the deposits in the Irish banks, which had been said to have increased, they did not, taken altogether, equal the amount deposited in the London and Westminster Bank alone. He denied that the increase of deposits in the Irish banks was any proof of the prosperity of the country; the reason was that the people had more security now than they felt they had formerly, and they now kept less money in their own hands, and they were encouraged to do so because, in addition to security, they also received interest upon their deposits. Some years ago there were several grounds which prevented them from having any confidence in the banks, and among them such banks as the Sadlier's banks. It was true that labouring men in Ireland now had better wages and more continuous occupation than they used to have, but a shilling used to go twice as far as it did now, and the existence of higher wages was owing to the fact that there were fewer hands. You had got rid of the surplus population, half of them had gone to their graves and half to America, and, of course, the people that remained were better off; but that did not prove that Ireland was wealthier or more productive. For instance, if two persons had a little shop by which they earned 10s. a-week between them, they would be starving, if you killed one, the other would be comparatively well off, but that would be no proof that the shop was producing any more. The produce of Ireland had decreased, the land of Ireland was going out of cultivation, and the people were decreasing, and he could not therefore allow the House to be misled by a misstatement as to the prosperity of the country which was not borne out by facts. These things indicated in other countries decline, but in Ireland they were regarded as signs of prosperity.
§ MR. WARD
said, that the Irish Members in that House and the people of Ireland outside its walls were aware that Ireland was neglected, and had not the just measure of legislation that she was entitled to. They were told that if 113 they brought the grievances and requirements of Ireland before the English Parliament, they would obtain a just consideration and redress. Now, he must say that there "were many, very many questions in Ireland which called for just legislation, and which had not yet received it; and it was only three years ago the then Prime Minister declared that the state of education in Ireland was intolerably bad and called for legislative improvement; yet now, after three years, there had not been a single proposal put forward by Her Majesty's Government to improve the state of education in that country. They were told that something was to be done for University education in England; but not a single proposition for relieving the educational wants of Ireland was made by the Government. The only other topic to which he would advert was one of some delicacy. He meant the question of dealing with the political prisoners. The present was a favourable opportunity for the Government to have done a graceful act by enabling Her Gracious Majesty to announce in Her Speech that there had been an end put to the imprisonment of those men who had already expiated any offence of which they had been guilty by a most cruel imprisonment of 10 years. There was a large mass of people in Ireland, and in England also, who considered it cruel and impolitic to keep those men in prison any longer, especially after the liberation of their leaders.
SIR JOHN SCOURFIELD
wished that Her Majesty's Government would redress the grievances which arose in this country from the importation of cattle from Ireland. On one side of the water the Government Inspector passed the cattle, and on this side he stopped them. He considered it unjust to impose expenditure on one county for carrying out the cost of quarantine in another. He thought instructions ought to be given to the Government Inspectors to regulate matters in reference to this question in a just and satisfactory manner.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, the Prime Minister might be assured that the continued imprisonment of the Irish prisoners was not conducive either to the interests of humanity or the interests of his Government. It was not worth the while of the Government to keep Ireland 114 in a chronic state of discontent by keeping these men in prison, and the Government could do nothing which would give such satisfaction to Irishmen as the release of the political prisoners. They were not even ringleaders, but bravo soldiers and sailors who had fought well for England.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee appointed, to draw up an Address to be presented to Her Majesty upon the said Resolution:—Mr. RIDLET, Mr. MULHOLLAND, Mr. DISRAELI, Mr. CHANCELLOR. of the EXCHEQUER, Mr. Secretary Cross, Mr. Secretary HARDY, Mr. HUNT, Sir CHARLES ADDERLEY, Lord John MASNERS, Mr. SCLATER-BOOTH, Viscount SANDON, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Mr. BOURIKE, Viscount BARRINGTON, Sir JAMES ELPHINSTOSE, Mr. WILLIAM HENRY SMITH, and Sir WILLIAM HART DYKE, or any Three of them:—To withdraw immediately.
§ House adjourned at a quarter after Nino o'clock.