in rising to move the Address in reply to Her Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne, said.: Mr. Speaker, Sir, I feel that in undertaking so onerous and yet so honourable a task as the one before me, I must appeal to the House to grant me, to the fullest extent, that generous forbearance which it has always shown to those in a similar position. Sir, when we contrast the present state of the Eastern Question with its condition at this time last year, I venture to think it bears a very favourable comparison. The Treaty of Berlin has been successfully carried out. Russian troops no longer occupy Turkish territory. Russia is no longer at the gates of Adrianople, as she probably would have been if the original Bulgaria, as defined by the Treaty of San Stefano, had been allowed to remain as a Province. And Bulgaria itself, reduced to half the size proposed 63 by Russia, has been pushed back behind the Balkans—the passes of which mountains the Turks have a right to seize and occupy in the event of Russian aggression. Besides this, Austria holds a position not only of great military but of great administrative importance in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was said at first that success would never attend the efforts of Austria to administer these Turkish Provinces on the principles of Western civilization, and that Bosnia would always resist her troops; yet what is the state of affairs there now? We see now that perfect tranquillity reigns in that country, and that religious equality has been established. Farming of the tithes has been abolished, and this, together with all taxes, are collected regularly and at stated times. The result is that the burden of taxation is not nearly so much felt as formerly, and it is the belief of persons well qualified to form an opinion that before long that Province will be able to pay its own way. I admit that Turkey has been slow to begin any reforms; but we must remember that the habits of a country are not to be changed at once, that the official class is naturally against all reforms, and that it is only within the last year or two that the necessity for reform has been insisted upon. Besides, Turkey has only just emerged from a long and disastrous war, she has no available money, and she has no longer that credit amongst other nations which she once had, and which she has so unfortunately wasted. But as Austria has been successful in Bosnia, we may hope that Turkey, with such an example before her, may yet see that security for property, justice in taxation, and improved means in communication, would be the basis for a lasting and prosperous future. The closing act of last Session was a discussion on the Treaty recently concluded by this country with the Ameer of Afghanistan. At that time Sir Louis Cavagnari, appointed under the provisions of that Treaty to be Her Majesty's Representative at the capital of that country, at the express desire and under the especial guarantee of the Ameer, had arrived at Cabul, and had been received with all the honour due to his position. Within a month, we received the lamentable tidings that he and all his Staff had been treacherously massacred. Whatever may be our 64 opinion as to the policy of that Treaty, and of the war, we must, I am sure, all join in lamenting the death of one of the most distinguished and able of our Indian officials; and we must all feel that another act of gallantry has been added to the already long list that the history of our Indian Empire contains when we recall to our memories the brave defence made by our Envoy and his devoted followers against an overwhelming crowd of treacherous Afghans. I may even go further and say, with universal assent, that when an Envoy of Great Britain and his Staff has been cruelly and treacherously murdered, the only course that could possibly be adopted was that of vindicating the dignity of this country and dealing prompt justice for the crime that had been committed. Fortunately for us, the arrangements that had been made under the Treaty of Gandamak greatly facilitated our action, for, whilst hopeful as to the permanence of our relations with Yakoob Khan, the Government of India had rendered its position substantially independent against all accident by securing the permanent command of the main roads and passes from India into Afghanistan. When, therefore, it became necessary to move upon Candahar and Cabul the advanced positions which we held on the Frontier proved of the most material assistance, and fully justified the selection which had been made. Since then, Sir Frederick Roberts has had to contend with difficulties which have required all his skill as a general to meet, and I venture to think that this House must feel that it was fully justified in the eulogium which it has already passed upon him, showing its high appreciation of the manner in which his duty has been discharged, and of the valour and devotion displayed by all his troops, both British and Native, who have been engaged in that campaign. Nor should we fail to acknowledge the peaceful conduct of affairs in South Afghanistan under the guidance of Sir Donald Stewart, who has shown himself to be not only a gallant soldier but also an able administrator. Sir, Her Majesty, in Her Gracious Speech, informs us that the military occupation of the country still continues to be a necessity; but we must all hope that the time will soon arrive when further military operations may be suspended, and that the 65 people of Afghanistan will be satisfied that we have no desire to annex their country or to unduly interfere with them; but, whilst securing our Frontier and our own legitimate influence, our desire is to live on friendly terms with them in future. There is no part of our recent proceedings which, I think, we may all agree in looking upon with more satisfaction than the system of Frontier railways, which has been commenced. Not only will they be of inestimable advantage from a military point of view, by improving our means of communication, but they will also, it may be hoped, at no distant period, lead to the development of commercial intercourse, which will, of itself, be the best means of extending our influence and the blessings of peace and civilization. The Zulu War is, we may trust, both now and for ever a thing of the past. We none of us can forget the news of a year ago of the melancholy catastrophe of Isand lana, and the gallant defence of Rorke's Drift. We cannot forget how the Government, although the war was in no way begun by their direction or with their consent, sent out large re-in-forcements with such praiseworthy celerity that in a few short months the campaign was brought to a close by the decisive victory of Ulundi—a victory most glorious in itself, for our foes, although termed naked savages, were greatly superior to us in point of numbers, and wore probably the bravest enemy that had ever fought against the troops of Great Britain. There must naturally be some difficulty for a time with the Transvaal and with the Confederation of all the South African States; but we may indulge in the hope that now South Africa, as a whole, is relieved from its imminent danger of aggression from an artificially great, but most dangerous military State, she may be enabled to carry out her undoubted future of defending herself without aid from this country. With respect to Home affairs, much as we may regret, yet we cannot hide the fact from ourselves, that a great and widespread depression is now felt throughout the agricultural community of Great Britain. In some districts it may be more deeply felt than in others; but through the length and breadth of the country, from the largest and most experienced farmers to the smallest holders of land, all have 66 suffered more or less severely. I venture to think that it is not very difficult to trace the causes of this depression. We know what the harvests of the last few years have been. In 1879, owing to the long-continued wet and cold, the harvest was deficient both in quality and quantity, and in some districts it is no exaggeration to say that there was no harvest at all. In 1878, the harvest, although not so deficient in quantity, was far from what it ought to have been in quality. In 1877, in 1876, and in 1875, we find that the harvest was in each year more or less deficient. But it has not only been against bad harvests that the British farmer has had to contend. He has had also to contend against bad prices, prices the lowness of which has been brought about by the stagnation in trade, coupled with an almost unlimited importation of grain and cattle from abroad—prices which have made it well-nigh impossible for our farmers to work their land at anything but a loss to themselves. During last Session a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the whole cause of Agricultural Distress, and to see how far it might be possible for us to try and prevent such a catastrophe from again occurring. That this Commission could in itself alleviate the distress, I am sure that neither my hon. Friend who moved that it should be appointed (Mr. Chaplin), or any of his warmest supporters, ever for a moment supposed; but when, as at the present time, all sorts of reasons for this distress are given and all sorts of remedies are proposed, the Commission, by inquiring fully into the matter, may prove most useful as a means to an end whereby, if it lies in our power, we may discover how to guard ourselves in the future. But, Sir, besides the reasons which I have given for the present state of agricultural affairs, many, I know, lay the blame upon the Land Laws, and maintain that if they were in some cases abolished, and in other cases greatly altered or modified, we should never again be liable to a crisis such as that which we are now passing through. They say all our distress is due to the Laws of Entail and Primogeniture—to the large size of estates, to the restrictions of cropping; and they maintain that so long as the and is not their own farmers will not be able to farm for their own profit. Others, 67 again, contend that peasant proprietorship is the real panacea for all our evils—in short, that our land system has practically broken down. I am not here either to condemn or defend our Land Laws. If it be clearly and conclusively proved that they are a stumbling-block and a hindrance to the progress of agriculture, doing harm alike to landlord and tenant, then I feel sure that no sensible man would, for one moment, object to such alterations being made in them as might seem best. And it is upon matters like these that I believe a Commission, such as that which has been appointed, may make a most useful and instructive Report, from the powers that it possesses of collecting evidence from all parts of the United Kingdom and from men of all shades of opinion. Regrets have been expressed that there are not a greater number of small proprietors, and that the number of yeomen, or, as they are called in Cumberland, statesmen, is rapidly diminishing. I think all will agree with me that it is a great pity such should be the case; but with respect to the former class, if we take Scotland—and I suppose in England it is much the same—if we make an investigation, we shall find that there are many lairds owning properties of fair size as to average, but poor in the quality of the soil—with all the surroundings to make home charming, yet without the means of keeping it up, who have found it be more profitable to sell their properties, yielding only 3 per cent with a large yearly expenditure, to some wealthy man from Edinburgh or Glasgow, and to invest the money thus obtained in securities which, without any annual expense, will bring them in a return of 4 per cent or more. In the same way, we shall find that the yeomen or statesmen prefer to sell their land, and with the proceeds of the sale rent a farm from some large proprietor. Although the classes I have mentioned are not so numerous as formerly, yet there is in England a district in which, at the present time, a large proportion of small freeholders exist. I refer to that part of Lincolnshire which lies between the banks of the Humber and the sea coast. These freeholders have bought their land, partly with their own savings and partly with money which they have borrowed. They inhabit a large and fertile tract of country—there are no 68 resident landlords, no woods, and no game. Now, if it can be shown that these freeholders are in bad times better off than the surrounding tenant farmers, then, doubtless, there is good ground for saying that there is something wrong in our system of landlords and tenants. But if, on the other hand, it can be shown that in bad times many of these freeholders, farming for their own profit, cannot improve their land—paying no rent cannot pay the interest on the money they have borrowed—cropping their land as seems to them best yet growing less than formerly—if it is shown that, holding their own small holdings, unfettered by any laws of entail or primogeniture, they are not only worse off than the tenant farmers, but are not even so well off, in many cases, as the hired labourer, although they both work and fare harder than he does—then I think we may fairly assume that there are other causes to account for the prevalence of agricultural distress besides the Land Laws, and that a system of peasant proprietors will not meet the case. For my own part, whilst I quite recognize the fact that there may be some useful alterations made in the Land Laws, yet I trust that in the course of this and the following years we shall find the real remedy for the agricultural distress in the shape of good harvests and revived trade. But, Sir, much as we may regret the distress that exists in England and Scotland, our sympathies must be still more deeply roused by the sad state of things in the West of Ireland. There the farmer seldom knows prosperity even in fair seasons, and his usual struggle to obtain a livelihood becomes, after a season like the last, a struggle against absolute famine. We can only hope that, by means of the liberal contributions now being raised in this and in the countries, by the exertions of the re dent landlords, by the issue of food and fuel as ordered by the Government wherever it may be necessary, and by the loans offered by it at a nominal rate of interest, this lamentable calamity may yet be averted. Her Majesty has announced in Her Gracious Speech that two measures of great importance—namely, the Criminal Code Bill and the Bankruptcy Bill, will be submitted to our notice. I trust that the House will give its fullest consideration to these measures, 69 and assist Her Majesty's Government in passing them during the course of this Session. Now, Sir, at the conclusion of my task, which I feel that I have but ill-fulfilled, I beg to thank the House for the extreme kindness with which it has listened to my remarks. I beg to move—That an humble Address be 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 the Powers continue to be friendly, and that the course of events since the prorogation of Parliament has tended to furnish additional security for the maintenance of European Peace on the principles laid down by the Treaty of Berlin, although much remains to be done to repair the disorder with which the late "War has affected many parts of the Turkish Empire:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that a Convention for the Suppression of the Slave Trade has been concluded between Her Majesty's Government and that of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us of the hope expressed by Her Majesty at the close of last Session that the Treaty of Gundamak had happily terminated the War in Afghanistan; and that, in conformity with its provisions, Her Majesty's Envoy, with his retinue, was honourably received and entertained by the Ameer of Cabul:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that, while engaged in the exercise of then-duty, Her Majesty's Envoy and those connected with the Embassy were treacherously attacked by overwhelming numbers, and, after an heroic defence, almost all massacred:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that so intolerable an outrage called for condign chastisement, and that Her Majesty's Troops, who, pursuant to the stipulations of the Treaty, had withdrawn or were withdrawing from the territories governed by the Ameer, were ordered to retrace their steps:To thank Her Majesty for informing us of the skill exhibited by the officers and men of Her Majesty's British and Native Forces in the rapid march upon Cabul, and on other lines of action, and of the high credit thereby reflected upon those Forces whose bravery has shone with its wonted lustre in every collision with the enemy:70Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the abdication of the Ameer and the unsettled condition of the Country render the recall of Her Troops impossible for the present; but that the principle on which Her Majesty's Government has hitherto acted remains unchanged, and that, whilst determined to make the frontiers of Her Indian Empire strong, Her Majesty desires to entertain friendly relations alike with those who may rule in Afghanistan and with the People of that Country:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her anticipations as to the early establishment of peace in South Africa have been fulfilled, and that the capture and deposition of the Zulu King, and the breaking up of the military organization on which his dynasty was based, have relieved Her Majesty's possessions in that part of the world from a danger which seriously impeded their advancement and consolidation:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that a native outbreak in Basutoland of considerable importance has been effectually quelled by Her Colonial Forces, while the Transvaal has been freed from the depredations of a powerful Chief, who, having successfully resisted the former Government of that Country, had persistently rejected all attempts at conciliation:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty has reason to hope that the time is now approaching when an important advance may be made towards the establishment of an Union or Confederation under which the powers of self-government, already enjoyed by the inhabitants of the Cape Colony, may be extended to Her Subjects in other parts of South Africa: and to thank Her Majesty for informing us that Papers on these and other matters will be laid before us:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for directing the Estimates of the year to be prepared and presented to us without delay:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the Commission issued at the close of the Session to inquire into the causes of Agricultural Depression throughout the United Kingdom is pursuing its labours:To thank Her Majesty for informing us of the special precautions which Her Majesty's Government have deemed it necessary to take in view of the threatened distress in Ireland, and of the measures which the course they have adopted will render necessary:71Humbly to assure Her Majesty that our careful consideration shall he given to such measures as may he submitted to us, and that we earnestly trust that the blessing of the Almighty may attend and direct our labours.
§ MR. J. P. CORRY
Sir, I rise to second the Motion of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Perthshire (Colonel Drummond-Moray), and in doing so, I feel that it is not necessary for me to ask the indulgence of the House if, as an Irishman and one who has the honour of being one of the Representatives of the largest and most self-reliant constituency in Ireland, that I should first of all refer specially to that part of Her Majesty's most gracious Speech which relates to the present state of matters in that country, and what is to be submitted to Parliament in reference thereto. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has already given Notice that he will ask leave to-morrow to bring in a Bill to give effect to the views of the Government, which, I think, shows that they are not indifferent to the matter. When my hon. Friend the Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) in 1876 occupied the position I have now the honour of filling, he congratulated the House on the omission from Her Majesty's Speech of any reference to the affairs of Ireland, and he did so on the ground that the country was so peaceable and prosperous that it was not requisite in any reference to the state of the country to separate it from the other parts of the United Kingdom. I am sure no one regrets more deeply than Her Majesty that the same state of matters does not exist at present. Sir, there are not many subjects about which we can all agree; but I think I may safely venture the statement, that few will be found to dispute, that we have in these countries, for the past four or five years, been passing through a period of great—I would almost say exceptionally great—commercial and agricultural depression, and that Ireland being the poorest country it has been more seriously felt there than in either England or Scotland. But even at the risk of giving offence to some of my countrymen, and of even being contradicted, I feel bound to tell the House and the country that, in my opinion, the distress in Ireland is not so general as one would be led to expect from the way it is being written 72 and spoken about in some quarters. I admit to the fullest extent, and deeply deplore, that in some districts of the country, especially that lying along the Atlantic Ocean, there is very great distress, and, as far as I can learn, and I have taken some trouble to inquire, I believe that in some parts it arises quite as much from a scarcity of fuel as it does from a scarcity of food. But, Sir, what is the history of these very localities, even in the most prosperous times? Why, that there is a considerable amount of poverty and hand-to-mouth existence amongst the people, and one of the causes which gives rise to that state of matters is over-population. What is it that has happened? It is this. A farm was originally let to a tenant, by-and-bye his family increases and it becomes divided between him and one or two of his sons, and in order that the sub-division may not come under the notice of the landlord or his agent, the rent continues to be paid by one, whilst it is made up by two or three, and hence the farm that could have supported one family has two or three living on its production. What is more, the seed, especially of the potato, has not been changed for 30 years. The only remedy for such a state of matters is emigration. This, however, is a cure which I am aware is not popular in some quarters. This is so for many obvious reasons. One, no doubt, is that agitators find it better to have a multitude of half-starved ignorant people who will be led by them, and through whose clamour they may get up an excitement, and, if possible, goad whatever Government may be in power to pass measures which are not for the welfare or prosperity of the entire community. With regard to the Province of Ulster, I can speak confidently; and I assert, without fear of contradiction, that at present, with the exception of the coast line of Donegal, that the state of matters are on the whole better than they were this time last year, and in those districts where manufacturing industries are carried on they are very much better indeed. As to the staple trade of Ulster, I venture to say it has not been for years in so prosperous a condition as at present, and that there is every hope of its continuance. Our mills and looms are in full operation, and everyone knows that when that is the case employment is plentiful. There 73 is no doubt that the improvement of the trade in the North of Ireland has arisen from the undoubted improvement which began to show itself in the United States in the beginning of last year, and which reached us in October. One of the greatest wants in the other Provinces of Ireland is manufacturing industries; but can it be wondered that no one has confidence enough to start anything of the kind? Unless there is security, no sane man would risk his capital in a country where it would be liable to be rendered worthless at any moment by such an agitation as has been sweeping over the greater part of Ireland for the repudiation of just liabilities. Why, Sir, it is the old story. Agitation is the curse of my unfortunate country. To the question, Why is capital not attracted to Ireland, when so much of it is seeking investment?—the answer is undoubtedly what I have given. One bubble has scarcely time to burst until another of greater dimensions, and possibly, as I believe in the present case, of more dangerous materials, is being blown. It is difficult for an Irishman, who has a deep and, perhaps, a much deeper interest in the welfare of his country than the so-called patriots, to read with any degree of patience the inflammatory, and I will say in many cases disloyal, language which is addressed to his excitable and possibly uneducated countrymen. We are being constantly told that the chief cause of all the distress and discontent which exists in Ireland arises from the want of having an Irish Parliament meeting in College Green. Why, Sir, the prosperity of Ulster since the Union has been as great as that of almost any other part of the United Kingdom, and we, Sir, who live there most certainly do not want to go backwards. In Ulster we understand Home Rule to mean Repeal of the Union, and I am satisfied that 99 out of every 100 who call themselves Home Rulers mean by it nothing short of that. Most of us, no doubt, have read the letter of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition (the Marquess of Hartington) to the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone), who sits behind him, with reference to the pledge which the noble Lord who is at present contesting that borough in the Liberal interest has given to the Home Rulers to secure their support. I think we in this House, and the country ge- 74 nerally, would be glad to learn from the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition mesa definitely than is expressed in that letter what his views are on the Home Rule Question, which, I say, means Repeal of the Union. No doubt, the noble Lord does say that he could not see his way to give the pledge Lord Ramsay has done; but, at the same time, he goes on to say that he has no pretension to dictate to an independent candidate, and that the noble Lord has his warmest sympathy and cordial wishes for his success. Is the language of the noble Lord to be interpreted by Liberal candidates for Parliamentary seats to mean that they may give similar pledges to that Lord Ramsay has given whenever there is a considerable Home Rule vote? If so, and a number of the noble Lord's supporters in the next Parliament come in pledged to vote for this very innocent inquiry, I wonder what Lobby he will find himself in? We all remember what happened last Session on the Army Discipline and Regulation Bill. The noble Lord expressed very strong views as to the flogging clauses; but owing to the pressure of the hon. Member for Birmingham who sits below the Gangway, and those who were acting with him, the noble Lord felt himself compelled to change his front; and I believe I am correct in saying that he actually moved a Resolution to abolish flogging in the Army. On that occasion it looked to me as if the noble Lord was being driven instead of leading, and what has happened before may happen again. I therefore think we should have from the noble Lord a declaration more explicit than he has yet given with reference to the whole matter. Perhaps I may here be allowed to say that I read with great interest a letter which the hon. Member for York wrote to my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I hope the suggestions contained in it will receive the earnest attention of the Government, as I am satisfied that a further extension of the Provisional Order system would be found in many local matters of great advantage to England and Scotland as well as to Ireland. Ulster, in many respects, is not so favourably situated as the other Provinces, and yet everyone who visits Ireland is struck with the difference which is observable in the thrift and comfort of its inhabitants from the other parts of 75 Ireland. The borough which my respected Colleague and myself have the honour of representing comprises about the 24th part of the entire population, and if all Ireland were to follow its example the Government would not have much trouble in providing for exceptional times of distress. I recollect very well the Famine of 1847, and how in many parts of Ulster the distress that did exist over and above that which was provided for by the Poor Law was locally met, and, in addition, large contributions were given to help the distress in other parts of the country. Sir, those who have been taking the lead in the recent and present agitation boast that the result of it has been a general reduction of rents; and had it not been for them no effort would have been made, either by the Government or private individuals, to meet the exceptional state of matters which I have already admitted exists chiefly on the sea-coast. That I most emphatically deny. I am aware that the noble Duke who so worthily represents Her Majesty in Ireland, and those associated with him in its government, did not wait for any pressure to be put upon them; for so soon as it was feared, from the unfavourable state of the weather, that there might be a deficient harvest, instructions were at once given for accurate and reliable information to be collected and supplied to them, especially from those localities which were likely to suffer most; and it is well known that early in November the Local Government of Ireland issued a Circular offering loans for drainage and other works, which would enable landlords and town commissions to give employment; but for some reason very few availed themselves of the offer. The cry of the agitators was, and still is, that the Government undertake reproductive works. Yes, Sir, another of our great curses in Ireland is the want of self-reliance. So soon as any pressure comes, the Government is called on to do what you in England and Scotland do for yourselves, and also what we in Ulster do. What has been done by the Government since November? Of course they acted as wise men, with the facts of the case before them, and knowing what took place after the famine of 1847, when money was wasted to an enormous extent. They have been acting through the 76 constitutional and legitimate channels; and I have no doubt, from the reports of the action of landlords, town and harbour commissions, and others, that there will be a larger expenditure of money in useful, and, I hope, in most cases, of reproductive improvements. As we have been informed by Her Majesty's most gracious Speech, in making such arrangements the Government has exceeded its powers, and Parliament will be asked to pass a Bill of Indemnity, which I cannot imagine will occupy much time or give rise to any difference of opinion. In speaking on the question of land, I feel that I can do so without the prejudices of either a landlord—as in the ordinary acceptation of the term I am not one, owning no agricultural land—or that of a tenant farmer. Everyone is aware that after the Famine of 1847 the Encumbered Estates Court was established, which brought into the market very largo estates, which were broken up or sold to parties who had the money, not only to invest in the land, but also to spend on its improvement. That is what has been going on ever since—now under the Landed Estates Court to a greater or less extent, and more recently under the Church Temporalities Commissions; so that it is idle to say that land in Ireland has not been accessible to all who had the desire to acquire and money to invest in it. I am free to say that I am one of those who consider that the transfer of land might be made less tedious and less expensive; and, for myself, I can see no objection to an extension to the Landed Estates Court, or the same system of sales as has been adopted by the Church Temporalities Commissions. At the same time, I would have it most strictly and safely guarded, so as to prevent abuses. I am told on very good authority that of some of the properties which were held by the Church Commission, and which have been sold to the tenants, only the good farms have been sold, and that the inferior ones are still on their hands, and that the probability is that what is called the Church Surplus will be greatly reduced by a much lower price having to be taken for the unsold lots. Besides, I believe there is no doubt but that, in not a few instances, those who have purchased are in arrear of their annual payments; indeed, very reliable authority has been furnished on that point by the 77 Secretary to the Church Commission, who states that, out of a total sum of £ 182,800 receivable in 1879 for land instalments and interest of mortgages, the arrears on the 31st December last was £7,450. I would ask, what is the amount likely to be on the 31st December, 1880? From another source we learn that out of 41 parties who purchased holdings, or rather seemed to do so, in 28 cases the conveyances were made out in the name of another person. These facts do not point with any great satisfaction to the great panacea which has been insisted on for all the evils of Ireland—namely, that of getting rid of the landlords and the establishment of peasant proprietors. I have no objection to see an increase of peasant proprietors; but it must be carried out without any compulsion or violent changes. I hold the opinion that a very long time would not elapse before there would be large proprietors again. I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without expressing my high appreciation of the praiseworthy and disinterested work which that noble lady the Duchess of Marlborough, who has all the instincts of her noble family, which we in the North of Ireland are so proud of, undertook in starting a Relief Fund to aid those special cases of distress which employment nor any other means of assistance was likely to reach, and the hearty response which has been given to her appeal by the Lord Mayor and citizens of London and other places in England and Scotland. So soon as the anti-rent agitation was started, bankers and those who had money lent in the country got frightened, and at once an order went forth to stop all further advances and collect as much as possible of outstanding debts. Especially as soon as the passing of the Land Act of 1870, all over the country a class of money lenders has started into existence who have been lending money on most usurious terms. What takes place is—a farmer wants £10 or £20 for a month to make up his rent. He obtains it from the money lender to whom he is to refund £21 for the £20 borrowed, and if it is not forthcoming at the end of the month he pays £1 and the loan continues on the same terms, so that if it runs over 12 months the moderate rate of 60 per cent would be paid for the loan. No one knows better than my hon. Friend the Member for county Cork (Mr. 78 Shaw), who is chairman of a prosperous and well-managed bank whose business is chiefly in the South and West of Ireland, that what I am stating is correct. I was told on very good authority that a bank in Ireland, which has a large business amongst the farming class, had lately as many as 100 processes at one quarter sessions; and I must say I was more than astonished when I read a speech of my hon. Friend the Member for county Cork, in which he is reported to have said that there was in Ireland a national antipathy to a bailiff and process-server; that he felt it himself when he saw one of those fellows prowling about the country—he felt inclined to take the linchpin out of the wheel of the car. When I read it, I looked back to see if it was not the utterance of some less responsible person, knowing the usual moderation of the hon. Member, and the way in which he addresses himself to any question he undertakes to bring before this House; and I cannot think how he can allow his name to be associated with such teaching. His words will be treasured up by those who will not scruple to use them in a literal sense, and by others who will find it convenient to repudiate all sorts of contracts. It was not from the landlords that the pressure first came, but from those parties I have been referring to. The poor deluded people have been told in the most emphatic way to pay the shopkeepers, and those whom they want again. The most prominent, no doubt, are the money lenders; but the landlords are either not to be paid at all, or, if so, only what the tenant considers a fair rent. I have no doubt but amongst those who have been active in denouncing the landlords and landlordism are those very money lenders, and who will not be amongst those who will make any abatement in their demands. I ask, can it be wondered at that, after such teaching as that we are all now familiar with, there should be an outbreak of lawlessness? And I greatly fear we have not seen the end of what has been smouldering for some time. Sir, after what has been said, and so well said, by my hon. and gallant Friend on the other topics referred to in Her Majesty's Speech, it is not my intention to dwell at any length on them. But I cannot allow the opportunity to pass without saying that, when it is insisted 79 on by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, and their friends outside, that the Government are responsible for the South African War, which has been successfully terminated, and which I hope will be the last this country will ever be engaged in, in my judgment nothing could be farther from the truth. The Government has given abundant proof in the Papers which have been submitted to Parliament that they did everything they could to prevent such a calamity; but when it was forced on them they acted with that decision which is characteristic of Englishmen, and of Irishmen, too, as in the settlement which has taken place a distinguished Irishman played an important part. I, of course, refer to Sir Garnet Wolseley. I wonder what right hon. Gentlemen opposite would have done had they boon in Office? Would they have recalled the troops that were already in the country, or would they have sent out additional ones? I am sure that they would have acted precisely as the Government did, and in that they would have been sustained by the Conservative Party. But how has the great Liberal Party acted during all this anxious time? Why, everything that possibly could be said and done to weaken the hands of the Government; but with what effect they know best themselves. With reference to what has taken place in Afghanistan, can it be possible, no matter how blind some people wish to be, that anyone can doubt but that Russia had been for some time intriguing with Shere Ali, and that the time had arrived when it was necessary for the Indian Government to see that it did not go too far? And as soon as it was decided to test the matter, and the Embassy which we were sending was turned back, the cry of the Liberal Party was—"What else could be expected, seeing that there was such a display of force accompanying the Embassy?" And then, recently, it was—"That the Government are greatly to blame for having such an insufficient force in Cabul to protect the late lamented Sir Louis Cavagnari." No matter what is done, we are told on very high authority that it is done in a stupid and blundering manner; and until the present Government is displaced, and the enlightened Government who occupy the front Opposition Bench—or as many of them as will remain after the next 80 General Election are in their places—nothing will be right; not even the weather. Sir, I do not hesitate to put the question—How was the honour and interests of this great Empire upheld during the late Administration, and how have they been under the present one? Why, it was then said that the British Lion was asleep, and that the country occupied the position of a second-rate Power, if even that. Is that the language that is held now either in this country or abroad? This House has over and over again given the answer, reflecting, as I believe, the voice of the country. I must say that I cannot see the policy of the Liberal Party placing in the fore-front of their attack the question of the foreign policy of the Government. It is, however, an issue which I am sure Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House, and also our friends outside, are quite ready to meet them on. We cannot object to their plan of reuniting the divided sections of their Party, and they have my best wishes for the failure of this experiment. Recently, a storm of words swept over a section of Scotland, and I believe that the country which my hon. and gallant Friend the Mover of this Address represents came in for a share of it. At the moment the noise was so terrific, that all outside the charmed circle who had been instrumental in raising it expected that everything which in any shape stood in its way would be uprooted and never be heard of again; but, greatly to their surprise, when it passed over, and the atmosphere cleared, there was no damage done, but instead, everything was more staple and secure than before. I believe, Sir, that when matters are settled in Afghanistan, as indicated in the Queen's Speech, we will have a North-West Frontier to our Indian Empire so impregnable that the peace and prosperity of the country will be secured for a very long time. Those who have listened to or read the speeches of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford during the Recess must have been amazed at his coolness and powers of assertion; and when we consider, and that on his own authority, that to his other unquestionably great gifts he has added that of being a prophet, and not even content with that, but also that he claims to have the only true interpretation of his own prophecies, it must be gratifying to his 81 friends. In my humble judgment, it would be strange if the interpretation did not fit into the prophecy; but I think it will be found, now that the hon. and learned Member has come to the place where his statements can be challenged, that it will turn out that his prophecies will prove to be the creation of a strongly imaginative brain, and that if the hon. and learned Member wished hereafter to be remembered as the Prophet of Oxford, it would be with the epithet which I leave others to supply. I had intended, as a mercantile man, to have said something on the financial question, but I have already detained the House too long; and being a subject which will engage the attention of those much more competent to deal with it, I will only say now that as the tide of improved trade has undoubtedly set in the hopes of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer may revive also, and that if not this year, when next year's Financial Statement comes to be made—as I fully expect that he will occupy the same seat after the General Election—he will be able to say that the Revenue has again begun its leaps and bounds, and that it is not the case, as our opponents have been telling us and the country, that only during the period of a Liberal Administration being in power is there prosperity in the country. Certainly, during the late Government's lease of power, the progress and prosperity of the country were very great; but, as is the case after every such period of excitement, there comes a time of depression, and it fell to the lot of the present Government to come into Office just as the wave of prosperity which had been flowing over the country began to recede. I conclude by thanking the House for the very great patience with which it has listened to me, and I certainly would not have undertaken the duty which I have so imperfectly discharged had I not felt that, in being selected to perform it, the honour was as much owing to the constituency I have the honour of representing as to any merits of my own.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, &c." [Seep. 69.]
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
It is usually the duty, and a very agreeable duty it is, of a Member of the Opposition to rise at the conclusion of the speeches of the Mover and the Seconder 82 of the Address to pay a tribute, if he be able to do so, to the manner in which the task of moving and seconding the Address has been discharged by those who have undertaken it.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
I rise at the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) to a point of Order, and to inquire whether, Notice of an Amendment to the Address having been given at an early stage of the proceedings, he is not entitled, according to the usual practice of this House, to move his Amendment before the noble Lord, or anyone else, shall have the opportunity of speaking.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The noble Lord rose in his place and caught my eye, and I accordingly called upon him to address the House. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw), no doubt, at an earlier part of the evening, did give Notice of his intention to move an Amendment to the Address; but no Amendment stands upon the Notice Paper in his name, and, even if it did, that would not give him a right of precedence over the noble Lord.
THE MARQUESS OE HARTINGTON
I was saying that it was with the greatest pleasure that I rose on this occasion to discharge that usual duty as far as regards the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Address, who did so with perfect tact and temper, and with great ability. But I must say that I do feel called upon to make some protest against the manner in which the hon. Member who seconded the Address considered it proper to discharge the duty he had undertaken. On an occasion when it is usually considered that topics of difference should be avoided as much as possible, and when it is the desire of a great portion of the House that we should join together in an unanimous Address to Her Majesty, it does not seem calculated to promote harmony in our proceedings, or to improve the temper and spirit with which we are entering upon our labours of the Session, if the hon. Member who is charged with the important duty of seconding the Address takes the opportunity of delivering a carefully prepared—I may say a carefully written—speech in which he attacks everyone who has been unfortunate enough during the past few months to fall under his displeasure. The Members of the late Government, 83 especially the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), the hon. Member for the county of Cork (Mr. Shaw), and many other persons, have been referred to by the hon. Member in terms of considerable severity, although I am not aware that the conduct either of myself or of any of the hon. Members whom I have mentioned was referred to in Her Majesty's Speech. The hon. Member, therefore, seems to me to have travelled somewhat beyond the usual bounds in making these attacks upon so many persons whose conduct does not appear to be immediately in question at this moment. To revert, however, to the main subject before us, I think that a great many Members of this House must have felt somewhat surprised to find that we were summoned to assist Her Majesty's Government in the conduct of affairs during the present Session. This Parliament has existed for a time which exceeds the ordinary duration of Parliaments, and if its existence continues for two or three months longer it will have existed for a longer time than any other Parliament is recorded to have existed during the present century. I think that there is good reason why the ordinary practice, which is that Parliaments should not continue to transact public business up to the very extreme limit of their existence, should have been allowed to prevail on the present occasion. As long as a seat in this House is, and I hope it will long continue to be, an object of ambition and desire, it is extremely natural and inevitable that as the end of Parliament approaches some of the discussions and proceedings will be more or less biassed by the wish of Members to do that which is agreeable to their constituents, and not in all cases what is for the best interests of the nation. I think that is an influence which cannot be, under any circumstances, without some effect. I do not say that there may not be circumstances in which this consideration may be disregarded; but I do think that, in the present instance, any special circumstances which exist would rather be in favour of making an earlier appeal to the country than in favour of prolonging the existence of Parliament. It cannot be denied that since the election of this Parliament events of the greatest importance have taken place. It cannot be denied that those events were entirely 84 unforeseen by the electors at the time that this Parliament assembled. The course which the Government has taken in regard to these events—I am not now saying whether that course was right or wrong—was a course which elicited great difference of opinion in the country. It was repeatedly challenged in this House, and it is a matter of fact that the course which has been taken does not command the approval of what is, at all events, a considerable part of the constituencies. Under these circumstances, and considering that Parliament is throughout supposed to act upon the authority derived from the immediate sanction of the constituencies of the country, there exists a strong reason in favour of an earlier appeal to the country in order to ascertain whether the policy which the Government has pursued, and which we have so frequently attacked, really commands the sympathy of the country. It would have given greater authority to the decisions of the Government and Parliament. Our deliberations, whatever may be done by the Government and Parliament in this Session, must be done in a certain sense of uncertainty as to the opinions of the country; and I do not hesitate to express my opinion that the interests of the country had been better served had Her Majesty's Advisers recommended a dissolution of Parliament this Session. I am not going to enter at length upon a discussion of foreign policy. As time goes on the day must inevitably come when the appeal must be made to the country. We, and those acting with us, will be ready, and claim the right, and feel ourselves bound to put before the country many of those protests we have ineffectually made in this House. We shall claim the right of once more examining the foreign policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government. We shall endeavour to examine it as to its reasons and results, as to its justice and morality, the consequences which resulted from it, as they affect the honour and best interests of the country. I shall not on this occasion travel beyond the limit of those questions which appear to be naturally appropriate; and therefore I shall only ask Her Majesty's Government for some information upon those transactions which they have recently I been engaged in, and which appear to affect the interests of the country. First I would ask the Government whether 85 they are able to give the House any information as the position of the negotiations with regard to the rectification of the Greek Frontier? We believe that, in consequence of the action of the Turkish Government, those negotiations have been completely broken off. It? would not be very easy to overrate the importance to the people of Europe of the vexed question between the Greek and Turkish States. The Greeks are an active and ambitious people. They command, to a great extent, the sympathy of the Powers of Western Europe, although, perhaps, they have not found any protector so powerful or zealous as that which championed the cause of the Slav people. It may be asked, what has Greece done to entitle her to make any such claims? We are reminded that if the Kingdom of Greece had not observed the neutrality recommended to her by the Powers of Europe, Turkey, hard pressed on land, but powerful on sea, would have been able to inflict severe punishment on her. That may be so; nevertheless, I believe that the sympathy which Greece commands in a very large part of Europe is so strong that European public opinion would not have allowed that chastisement should have been inflicted by Turkey on Greece. I believe, further, that if the Greek Question again breaks forth—as it inevitably will, if these questions are not settled, and before long—the sympathy of Europe will not permit the Turks to inflict punishment upon Greece. I believe—although we do not hear so much of it now as of matters going on in other places—this Greek Question is a sore in the side of Turkey as dangerous to her as any other wounds inflicted on her lately. I believe it is for the interest of the Turkish Government itself that this question in which Europe has expressed a strong desire should be settled. A few weeks ago the usual assurance could scarcely have been given us that Her Majesty's Government was "on friendly terms with all the other Powers." We were informed a few months ago that, in consequence of the persistent refusal of the Turkish Government to initiate any of those reforms which had been promised, and in consequence of its disregarding the remonstrances of our Ambassador, the British Elect was about to be sent to Constantinople, for the purpose of extort- 86 ing from the Sultan an acquiescence to our demands. And, still later, in consequence of a dispute between the British Ambassador and the Turkish Government, in reference to a missionary and a Turkish subject, and the alleged neglect by the Turkish Government of promises made as to religious toleration, we were informed that diplomatic relations with the Porte had been suspended. I presume that on this subject Her Majesty's Government will lay Papers before us, and until we have those Papers I have no desire to go into the details of the business. What I now want broadly to point out is, that I feel some doubt as to whether acts of single interference like these are likely to be productive of any useful result. There is no doubt bitter disappointment existing in the Turkish capital as to the small amount of sympathy and support which the Government of this country accorded to Turkey during the war, and bitter disappointment at the policy of withholding any material assistance since the war. The English alliance is openly disparaged by men of power and influence in Constantinople; I am not aware that it is very greatly supported by any. There are not wanting Powers ready to suggest that it would be more to the interest of the Turkish Government to look to other quarters than England for advice and support, or, at any rate, to prevent vexatious interference. Indeed, it seems to me extremely possible that separate and single interference in the affairs of Turkey may, without being productive of any good, lead us into very awkward complications. But I only wish to point out now that these complications seem to be the inevitable result of the Convention we entered into with Turkey a year or two ago. The fruits of that Convention are now becoming evident. They are partially recorded in a Blue Book presented to Parliament during the Recess. What do we find in that Book? We find Reports from Consuls and Vice Consuls, and some from Her Majesty's Ambassador, all telling us the same story of the misgovernment in the Asiatic Provinces of Turkey—the misgovernment, or want of government at best, to secure to its subjects the blessings of peace, liberty, and security. Constant remonstrances, we find, are made upon these subjects by the Consuls and Ambassador. The answer 87 is always the same, and that is to the effect that the allegations are admitted, that reforms cost money, that the Turks have no money, and that it was impossible, therefore, to comply with the demands of Her Majesty's Government. There are one or two extracts from that document which appear to me to bear out the statement I make. The first is an extract from a verbal Note presented to the Porte by Sir Henry Layard—It would unhappily appear that the only authority now existing in those districts to which Her Majesty's Ambassador has referred is that of Turkish Agas and Beys, who exercise it in plundering, outraging, and oppressing the unfortunate Christians under their rule.The next extract is the following:—His Excellency added that he was scarcely surprised to hear of the excesses committed by the Circassians, as these people, having been hunted out of Europe, and having been deprived of all they possessed, had been sent into Asia without any provision having been made for their maintenance and support. The consequence naturally was that they were compelled to starve or to rob, and they not unnaturally chose the latter alternative.Another account is very much to the same effect. On the 23rd of June, Sir Henry Layard wrote—I must do both Kaireddin Pasha and Carathéodory Pasha the justice to say that they fully admitted that my complaints were well founded. His Highness said that he was prepared to commence at once with the special reforms to which I had referred, not in one, but in three of the Asiatic vilayets. He had already made them a matter of study. There was still the same want of money, which was a most serious obstacle to the introduction of some essential reforms, such as the organization of the gendarmerie; but he was engaged in studying a financial scheme which, if carried out as he hoped it would be, would afford the necessary means to the Porte.Well, these extracts might easily be multiplied from the Blue Book. They disclose a sad state of things in any circumstances; but there would, in ordinary circumstances, be no reason why such a state of things should reflect any discredit on this country or impose any special responsibility upon us. But, unfortunately, since the Convention of the 4th of June the case is otherwise. We have by that instrument undertaken a serious responsibility in these matters. Had we been free from that engagement our duty might have been very well discharged by the constant remonstrances which Sir Henry Layard made; our responsibility might, perhaps, have been 88 discharged by the emphatic protest which the Blue Book shows Sir Henry Layard to have made. Sir Henry Layard said—Unless the Porte takes care and acts with wisdom and foresight it will some day have an Armenian question in Asia similar to the Bulgarian question in Europe, which led to the late war. The same intrigues are now being carried on in Asia Minor to establish an Armenian nationality, and to bring about a state of things which may give rise to a Christian outcry and European interference. I have warned the Turkish Ministers over and over again that unless they hasten to carry out the stipulations of the Treaty of Berlin with respect to the Armenians and the Convention of the 4th of June, and to take the measures which are absolutely required for the protection of the Christians and for the better government of the Asiatic Provinces of Turkey, they will find out, when it is too late, that the Sultan may be in danger of losing some of them altogether.But the state of things is this—that that inevitable result which Sir Henry Layard predicts cannot now come to pass until after either the resistance of England has been overcome, or until England has abandoned the solemn guarantee which she gave. We have guaranteed to Turkey the possession of those ill-governed and distressed Provinces, and we have accepted a consideration for that guarantee. We have accepted, not the reforms made by the Turkish Government, but the promise of reform; and the worthlessness of that promise, the incapacity of the Turks to fulfil it, does not relieve us in honour from the obligation of the guarantee we have undertaken. We have accepted, under the Anglo-Turkish Agreement, another consideration, which is equally worthless with that Turkish promise. We have accepted the occupation and the garrisoning of Cyprus; and we cannot repudiate our engagement without restoring that island to its rightful owner. That is a specimen of the results of the foreign policy which, I cannot help thinking, has been framed more for Party purposes and for home consumption. We have not increased by one iota our power of interference or of action for any good end, if we thought it necessary, and we have incurred the discredit of a partnership such as I have described, and we have incurred that discredit for the present wretched state of things which we desire to remedy, and which we are bound to remedy. Perhaps the Government will inform us what has been the result of the inter- 89 ference to which I have alluded? What was the result of the negotiations which, as we understand, led to the appointment of Baker Pasha to supervise re-' forms in Asia Minor? Will the Government inform us whether Baker Pasha has any authority not only to supervise reforms, but to institute them? Will they inform us what are the means which he has at his disposal for instituting reforms? Well, we were informed a short time ago, in a manner somewhat strange, that an alliance of the greatest importance to the interests of this country had been concluded. The German and Austrian Alliance was announced at a Party meeting by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, not as a matter of which he had any positive knowledge—he had heard of it by common report—but it was, he said, a message of "glad tidings for peace." We are entitled to ask now whether these glad tidings are true or not? Has the noble Lord discovered whether this Alliance has been concluded? What is its nature; for what object has it been concluded? And does he still believe that it promises all these inestimable blessings which he seemed to expect from it while it was in a hypothetical state? In my opinion, it is very easy to exaggerate the importance of that Alliance, as I think it was easy to exaggerate the importance of the Triple and Imperial Alliance of which we heard so much. For myself, I am far from disparaging its value, and, certainly, if it can calm the susceptible nerves of Her Majesty's Government—if it leads them to believe, as we always have endeavoured to contend, that the duty of maintaining the independence of Europe, of preserving the balance of power in the Mediterranean, and of repressing the ambitious advances of Russia in South-Eastern Europe, does not solely and entirely rest on their shoulders—if it induces the Government to adopt that which I think is a more reasonable view of the case, then it is of great importance. No doubt Alliances and understandings between Sovereigns and statesmen—the Triple Alliance to which I have referred, and the more recent Alliance—may have a great effect in influencing and guiding policy; but no Alliance, however close, can have more than a temporary effect, if it is not based on the true and permanent inte- 90 rests of the countries concerned. I believe that even the Governments of Russia, of Germany, and of Austria, autocratic as they are, cannot afford to disregard the material interests or the wishes and feelings of the people of their respective countries. But if we desire to know what are the interests and the wishes of those countries, we must look to the feelings of the people as well as to the words and promises of their Sovereigns and Ministers. It is not the interest of those countries to permit Russian aggrandizement in Europe at the expense of Turkey. That is the view that we have always maintained. And I believe that, however much it may suit our vanity to imagine that the Treaty of Berlin was entirely our work, other Powers more closely interested and more directly concerned had more to do with that settlement than has been supposed. The noble Lord seemed to think the agreement of Germany and Austria was to a great extent directed at the repression of the independent Nationalities on the Danube; but that would be a short-sighted policy for us to follow. For myself, I do not know whether or not Austria may feel that she has a temporary interest in repressing their growth; but Germany has no interest in repressing them, nor do I believe that her policy will be directed to that end. I think it would also be very short-sighted on our part if we committed ourselves to any Alliance or to any policy which would prevent us from giving our free and full support to the independence—the growing independence—of those Nationalities. They are the heirs—and I believe they will be the heirs—of the Turkish Empire in that part of the world; and I do not know of any duty or other consideration which calls upon us to join in any proceeding directed against their independence. The message of peace to which I have referred has had, it must be acknowledged, a somewhat singular inauguration. One of the Powers—parties to that Treaty—has recently thought it necessary to prepare for a very great augmentation of her ordinary enormous military establishment. It is often said that we on this side of the House are indifferent to European politics. It appears to me that it is Her Majesty's Government and hon. Gentlemen opposite who are sometimes indifferent to 91 what is passing in the world excepting in a certain quarter of Europe, and in the deserts and among the mountains of Central Asia. How can any statesman look at the present condition of Europe as a whole without alarm? At no time have we ever seen Europe so completely armed as at the present moment. At no time were the military forces of the great European States so fully organized as they are now. At no time has so large a proportion of the proceeds of industry been diverted from peaceful objects. It is impossible not to see that it is this state of things which is the chief cause of the anxiety that prevails everywhere throughout all Europe. In Russia the strain is almost greater than it is possible for her to bear, and the condition of affairs is such that not a few statesmen think and believe it is impossible that Russia can escape either domestic convulsion or a European war. Germany has followed on the same lines. The measures she has been compelled to take against social disturbance nave been the effect of her enormous military force. France has borne the burden, apparently, with less strain than other Powers; but things change rapidly in France, and it would be unwise to count upon the continuance of the present state of things in that country. Under such circumstances, it seems to me it would be prudent to look well to our own security. I do not think it is necessary, I do not believe it is desirable, that we should join in this race of enormous armaments. But in such a state of things as this, when a storm is hanging over Europe—and no one can tell where or when it may burst—if the Government were to come down and say that, in their opinion, the naval power and superiority of this nation ought to be maintained, I, for one, should hesitate in criticizing such a statement and opposing those demands. I say that our position is this, and the state of Europe is this, that we ought to concentrate our resources, and limit, instead of extending, our responsibilities. But this is not the course we have pursued. In every quarter of the world we have undertaken fresh responsibilities. Her Majesty's Speech refers to the conclusion of the war in South Africa; but it ignores the chief subject of difficulty in that part of the world. We have, no doubt, deposed the Zulu 92 King and broken the military power of the Zulu nation. I do not now discuss the settlement of Zululand or consider whether it is hopeful for the maintenance of peace or not; but, undoubtedly, the chief difficulty in South Africa is the condition of the Transvaal, to which no reference has been made in Her Majesty's Speech. I believe that Papers on this subject are promised. I am not going to state at this time my opinion as to the policy which ought to be pursued there. I will only say that it is perfectly clear now that the annexation of the Transvaal was a measure adopted by the Government and sanctioned by the House under wrong impressions and under incorrect information. We were informed that a large majority of the European settlers and inhabitants of the Transvaal were in favour of that annexation. It is now proved conclusively that a large majority, at all events, of the Boers are bitterly against it. We are now told that the annexation was rendered necessary because we could not permit the foreign policy of the Government of the Transvaal in their dealings with the Natives; but we have been ourselves compelled, to adopt almost precisely the same line of policy which was adopted by the Boers; and, under these two circumstances, I say it ought not to be considered a settled question, simply from the fact that the annexation had taken place. If it had been necessary for the peace of the community of South Africa that the Transvaal should devolve upon us, by all means let that be proved; but if, on the other hand, we find it would be more honourable to restore the Government, I say that no false sense of our dignity being involved in the question ought to stand in the way. Our true dignity would be best consulted by acknowledging that we have made a mistake, if, indeed, it is found that a mistake has been made, and restoring the Government of the Transvaal. As to Afghanistan, Her Majesty's Speech contains no statement of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. It contains some references to what has taken place; but it does not contain that which every Party in the country is now looking for, and men of all shades of opinion are asking for—a clear and distinct declaration from the Government of what their future policy in Afghanistan is to be. I will not pretend for a moment that any 93 explanation which the Government can give can be satisfactory to us, because I do not believe they can announce any future policy which will not leave our relations with Afghanistan in a far worse condition than they were before the war. I will not now go into the question we debated last Session, as to the justice of the war. I want only to look at the policy which dictated the war, and at that alone. I do not suppose the Government will deny that the war was the result of a settled policy. It can hardly be maintained that it was the result of an unforeseen disagreement between ourselves and the Ameer, of circumstances over which we had no control, and which left us no alternative but to fight for our honour and interest. The Government scarcely concealed, although they used the usual phrases of regret at having to resort to arms, their satisfaction at the course of events which had given an opportunity of placing our relations with Afghanistan on what they considered a footing so much more satisfactory, and, indeed, the only satisfactory basis. They exulted in the acquisitions gained at the conclusion of the Treaty of Gandamak. They exulted at the influence that Treaty had enabled them to obtain over the foreign relations of Afghanistan. They laughed at the apprehensions which had been expressed. They pointed to the realization of their anticipations. They did not conceal their triumph over Russian intrigue, and referred to the despatches which announced the conclusion of the Treaty of Gandamak as not only the record of military operations conducted to a successful conclusion and an honourable peace, but as the record of a successful and triumphant policy. What was that policy? I will set aside the acquisition of territory, the military value of which I will not discuss now, but as to which I imagine there must be considerable doubt. Having acquired some portion of Afghan territory, the idea of that policy was that Afghanistan, as a more or less perfectly organized State, would be placed, with regard to its foreign relations, on the same footing as other organized States, and that these relations would be so influenced by us that, as was expressly said, "our enemies should be their enemies, and our friends their friends." That was the policy supposed to be brought to successful conclusion by the Treaty of Gandamak. 94 And what remains of it? As soon as it was put to the test, as soon as we used the first privilege we had acquired under that Treaty, we found the Sovereign with whom we had concluded it a fugitive in our camp, and everything in the form of government in the country utterly disappeared. We found that, so far from having the acquiescence of the people in our influence, we were confronted by an enormous mass of the armed population, and were driven for several days to defend ourselves in our encampment. At this moment we have another campaign to undertake before we can even begin to consider what is to be done in the future. Well, we are now told that it is impossible to withdraw the troops from Afghanistan under present circumstances; but the House and the country will expect to be informed as to the policy Her Majesty's Government intend to adopt when those military operations have been brought to a successful conclusion. It is useless to go on helplessly repeating, as it appears to me the Government are disposed to do, that they adhere to their old policy. I have endeavoured to show that that policy is gone. The State of Afghanistan does not exist; our old policy was formed on the basis that such a State did exist, and before it is possible to say you adhere to the lines of the old policy, you have to undertake the task of re-constituting the State of Afghanistan, of reforming its government, and of placing a Ruler upon its throne. Our former experience is not in favour of adopting the task of placing and supporting a Ruler over the Kingdom of Afghanistan. We have had experience of that, and it is an experience that Parliament will not, I think, be desirous of repeating. But if we refrain from that undertaking, what then? We shall leave Afghanistan in a state of utter anarchy. Even if the idea be adopted of breaking up the country into various provinces, under the command of more or less independent Chiefs, it leaves the country to the certainty of intestine warfare; and what possible foreign policy is there in a State organized in that manner, or what influence can we have? There is another question upon which this House will be desirous of having some information as early as possible. This House and the country have seen with very great re- 95 gret reports of military executions on a very large scale at the time of the occupation of Cabul by our troops. I should be the last to desire to impute any needless cruelty or severity to any British officer, believing, as I do, that the feeling of every officer in the British Army is entirely opposed to anything of that nature. I do not wish, therefore, to express any opinion whatever upon these reports until the receipt of further information. But I think that some information should be given as early as possible as to the number of persons who have been executed, and as to their offences. The earliest information should also be given as to the Proclamation that was issued threatening to treat and punish as rebels all persons who opposed the advance of the British troops on the march to Cabul, and incited the people to rebellion. I think it would be a most strange thing to stigmatize as a rebel any Afghan in arms against Yakoob Khan, whose authority had never been firmly established. But even if he had been more ade factoSovereign than he was ever proved to be, I do not know upon what ground the English troops were to be made the executioners of those who might dispute his authority. Nor do I know what object of policy was served by that Proclamation. I do not at present, as I observed before, want to express any opinion upon this subject; but I hold that the Government of India were far more responsible for this Proclamation, and the action taken upon it, than the military authorities. Those authorities were in constant telegraphic communication; and whatever may be the facts as to what was committed in Cabul, I shall be disposed to hold that it is the Indian Government, and not the military authorities, whom this House ought to hold responsible for what has taken place. I regret very much that the time of Parliament must be so fully occupied during the present Session with this and kindred questions, for it is well known that this protracted Parliament has left to its concluding Session very large arrears of legislation, and not only are there these large arrears of legislation, but the state of affairs at home is one which will call for very careful and full consideration. We all see with pleasure and satisfaction the long-hoped-for revival of trade and industry; but, unfortunately, the 96 Revenue, which suffered last year from the depressed state of trade, has not answered the expectations of the Government, who based their calculations upon an earlier revival of trade than we have experienced. I am afraid, therefore, that the financial proposals of the Government are not likely to be very satisfactory, and that they are likely to occupy a good deal of the time of Parliament. The Government's financial policy has been one of postponement—a policy which could only be justified by a hope of better times. It will be a severe disappointment to many industries in this country if, at this moment, the hopes of revived prosperity should be checked in consequence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling upon the country to make additional sacrifices to meet the additional responsibilities thrown upon him. But, Sir, I am afraid that from, the lists of reviving interests must be excepted the agricultural interest. I am afraid a heavier depression than that from which it suffered last year still weighs it down. I do not suppose that in a Parliament, which contains so many Representatives of the agricultural interest, such confidence will be felt in the Royal Commission that has been appointed, that we shall not be called upon from time to time to discuss the causes of the depression. In fact, Notice has already been given tonight by an hon. Member that the attention of Parliament will be called to the subject. I may, therefore, reserve any observations which I may have to make upon the condition of the agricultural interest to another opportunity. Before I sit down, I cannot help saving a few words upon the position of Ireland. As Notice has been given of a formal Amendment to the Address on the subject of Ireland, there will be full opportunity for discussion, and it will not be necessary that I should say as much as I otherwise would. I fear that the present distressed state of the agricultural interest has caused much suffering, inconvenience, and loss of comfort in England; but I fear that in some districts in Ireland it has reached such a point that the actual means of subsistence are, I am afraid, wanting to a large number of the population. The Government, I am sure, will be anxious to take the earliest opportunity of stating what steps they have taken for the 97 purpose of meeting the present state of things. The Government have had ample warning from a very early period of the autumn. They were warned by many Members of Parliament, representing Irish constituencies, as to what might be anticipated. The Government in Ireland have every source of information at their disposal. The have the whole organization of the Local Government Board to refer to, and they can also obtain information from registrars, magistrates, the Royal Constabulary, and other Government officials. They have, in fact, every means for ascertaining with the greatest possible accuracy the condition of Ireland at any moment. They have, no doubt, received Reports from all those sources; and what the House will desire to know is, what action has been taken upon the Reports that have been made, and, above all, whether that action has been taken in time? As far as we are aware, the chief steps hitherto taken by the Government have been an extension of the system under which the Board of Works is authorized to make loans to the landed proprietary for works of improvement. I do not deny that this may be the best means of meeting the present state of things where the system is applicable; but a doubt arises whether it is applicable everywhere. When a famine was apprehended in the cotton districts of Lancashire some years ago, for the purpose of providing employment for the people, it was determined that advance should be made not only to private individuals, but also to local municipal bodies. I have not heard that any such provision has been made by the Irish Government for enabling local bodies to obtain loans with which to undertaken works. If this step has been taken it has, at all events, been taken very recently. What I say the Government will have to do is to show that such steps have been taken, and in time. I think that everything depends upon the time at which the measures were, taken for works of this sort cannot be undertaken immediately, or they may turn out unwise. There is another point upon which the House will probably desire have some information. The regulating the relief of the poor in Ireland are much more severe than those which regulate the same subject in England. In ordinary times I believe the practice of 98 the Poor Law relief in Ireland is admirable, and that it is administered at least as well as in most parts of England, if not better; but I think it becomes a question whether, in times of exceptional depression, some power ought not to be given to the Local Government Board to moderate the stringency of the Poor Law relief rules. With regard to out-door relief, it seems hard that when the crops almost entirely fail the people should be driven to surrender, not only their present holdings, but have to go into the workhouse. I shall be glad to know what measures have been taken by the Government, or what measures they contemplate taking, for alleviating this state of things. I need not say I have seen with very great regret and pain the agitation taking place in Ireland last autumn. It was one not for the protection of the smaller occupiers, who were unable on account of the pressure of the times to pay their rent, to protect them from harsh and cruel evictions, but one, it appears to me, directed to the object of establishing different relations from those existing at present between landlord and occupier. It was an agitation which advocated as a means to that end what was, practically, repudiation of contract. This was the advice given by the leaders of that agitation. It appears to me that our minds ought not to be distracted from the question of the distress in Ireland by any feeling which may be raised in our minds by that agitation. Looking to the character of the advice given, I think that it has been a subject of astonishment, not that that advice has been taken to the extent to which it has been taken, but that as not been taken to a very much larger extent. I know very well that there still many matters affecting the prosperity of Ireland which this Parliament will and ought to be called upon to deal with. We have endeavoured, generally in vain, on many occasions during this Parliament to alter laws which, in our opinion, press hardly and unjustly upon the people of Ireland We have endeavoured to assist them in obtaining perfect equality of laws and institutions as cornered with this country, and I do not think we ought to be diverted by anything that has happened, by any agitation that has arisen, from that endeavour. But I cannot help feeling that one of the greatest causes 99 which depress and weigh against the prosperity of Ireland is the absence of that capital, to be expended either in agricultural or other industrial enter-prizes, which has so greatly tended to the development of the resources of this country. I cannot help thinking that the very greatest evil that could be inflicted upon Ireland would be the adoption by the people of the advice to repudiate contracts which they have entered into. I will not refer to any of the subjects of legislation which have been mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech. But these are, no doubt, extremely important and practical, if not very exciting and inviting. This Parliament, however, whatever may be its merits, has never shown itself particularly anxious to engage with vigour in any work of legislation. In fact, in my opinion, this Parliament has been guided by two principles. It has given to Her Majesty's Government an unhesitating and undeviating support, and it has also shown a marked and steady aversion to work, and especially the work of legislation. No doubt, many measures which Her Majesty's Government have introduced have been met and opposed in a manner which has been most regrettable, and I think there has been during the present Parliament a great waste of time, and methods of opposition have been resorted to which are deeply to be deplored. I feel strongly that, unless some effort be made to restore the authority and the efficiency of Parliament, what has occurred during the existence of this Parliament may not only tend to its own discredit, but may exercise the most baneful influence on Parliaments yet to come. It is hardly, in my opinion open to Her Majesty's Government to complain, as they have complained in the country, of the nature of the opposition which they have most. They have never made any determined attempt to repress that opposition. They never brought forward any measure, or suggested any action, for enabling the House to maintain and exercise its authority over a small minority. On the other hand, they have given the most convincing proof in their Power that these short comings, if, indeed, they were in their opinion short comings at all, were short comings a venial character, by announcing their determination to prolong to the very verge of its possible 100 existence a Parliament which has been distinguished by a steady refusal to pass the measures which the Government have brought forward. The Government have proved that this shortcoming, whatever it may amount to on the part of this Parliament, may be compensated by the fidelity with which they have maintained an Administration and a Party in office and power.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, although the noble Lord opposite (the Marquess of Hartington) commenced his speech by mutilating the common form of expressions of congratulation to the Mover and Seconder of the Address, and confined his congratulations to my hon. and gallant Friend the Mover (Colonel Drummond-Moray), I must not follow the example which he has endeavoured to set. I cordially agree with the noble Lord in saying that we have never listened to a better and more promising speech than that in which the Address was moved; but I must take exception to the criticisms which the noble Lord passed upon the able and, as it seemed to me, very telling speech of the Seconder (Mr. J. P. Corry). I can quite understand that there may have been parts of that speech which were not altogether agreeable to the noble Lord, for, it seemed to me, my hon. Friend put one or two home questions which the noble Lord has very carefully abstained from noticing. I will not expose myself more than I can help to the reprimands of the noble Lord by introducing into the discussion of the Address more contentious matter than I can help; but the noble Lord himself has not altogether followed the precept he has endeavoured to impress upon us, for he has contrived to introduce a good deal of contentious matter into the observations to which we have listened, and I could have wished that he had been good enough to reply to the one particular question of my hon. Friend's, which is that we should like to know something about the attitude which he and the Liberal Party are taking towards the question which my hon. Friend called the Repeal of the Union. We should certainly like to know whether, for the future, it is to be an open question, like the Permissive Bill, the vaccination measure, or any other matter of that sort, or whether it is to be a question of cardinal and vital import- 101 ance upon which there ought to be unanimity on the part of those who aspire to guide the country. But I do not desire to press this matter now. At the present moment it is my duty to offer, as far as I can, an answer to the observations which the noble Lord has made. Now, with regard to what was the beginning and the end of the noble Lord's speech, it seems to mo that he is in a very unhappy state at having to meet the Friends whom he sees around him so often. He had hoped to get rid of us; he does not altogether like our company—but that, perhaps, is due to the point of view from which the noble Lord regards the House. But, certainly, he has made remarks upon the continuance of this Parliament which I think were altogether uncalled for, and, I would almost venture to say, somewhat unconstitutional. We know that by the law Parliaments may continue for seven years; and we know that by custom and Prerogative there is no privilege of a Minister which is more completely acknowledged than that of advising the Crown when and at what time to dissolve Parliament. That privilege has been exercised, and sometimes in a rather strange and unexpected manner, by Ministers of whom the noble Lord has a bettor opinion than he has of the present Prime Minister; but we claim for ourselves the same liberty which has been accorded to all our Predecessors; and I venture to think there is nothing in the history of this Parliament, in the condition of the country, or the state of the world at large, that can throw any doubt upon the wisdom and propriety of the course which the Prime Minister has pursued in abstaining from offering any advice to Her Majesty which would have dissolved Parliament before its full time had run. Why, with regard to the great bulk of the questions affecting our foreign policy generally, what has the noble Lord told us? He said that with many of these matters he did not intend to trouble the House, because they were, in fact, closed transactions. Well, they are closed transactions; and it is happy they are so. But would they have been closed transactions if, in the middle of the settlement of the most delicate and important questions affecting and exciting populations far removed from our own country, we had been thrown into all the turmoil of a General Election? The 102 result would have been that all those matters which were gradually settling down in Europe would have been disturbed by the agitation which would have been caused at homo. I think that is a point which must have escaped the notice of some of those who criticize the conduct of the Government in not hastening forward the dissolution of the British Parliament. We know that that is always a time of great excitement, and that at a moment when foreign affairs were settling down it was exactly the time when it was not desirable that that excitement should be produced. But the noble lord tolls us that this is a very bad House, that it is a House which has got into a way of obstructing Public Business, and he marvels, considering the character we have established for it, that we keep it in existence, and then he is good enough to say that he lays all the blame of this obstruction not so much upon those who obstruct as upon the Members of Her Majesty's Government. Well, we are accustomed now to hear everything that goes wrong laid to the charge of the Government. I, however, hardly expected to hear this particular charge brought against us; but I am quite prepared to expect that, amongst the number of sins which are brought against us, this should be included. But I must be allowed to say that if the noble Lord means to say that the proceedings which have caused so many remarks, and which he very justly says have somewhat detracted from the character of this House, are to be charged upon those who have failed to take adequate means of repressing them, he and his Friends must bear their full share of the responsibility. I altogether repudiate his statement that no proposals have been made with the view of preventing the difficulties which have arisen, and I say that when we have made proposals we have not been met by the noble Lord, and still less by those who sit about him and enjoy his confidence, with that support and that cordiality which we had a right to expect; and, further, I will say that if in this Session we are to conduct our business, as I trust it will be conducted, in a manner in accordance with the high character of the House of Commons it can only be on the condition that those who sit on this side of the House shall receive the entire and honest support of those who, 103 sitting on the other side, take a leading part in our discussions. I am sorry to have been led into these controversial remarks, which the noble Lord so justly deprecates; but I was placed in a position in which I really could not help myself. I shall now endeavour to say as briefly as I can a few words on some of the points to which the noble Lord has referred in his commentary upon the Speech. The noble Lord asks us what is the present position of the negotiations with regard to the Turko-Greek Frontier. Well, that is, undoubtedly, a question of very considerable delicacy. Her Majesty's Government feel entirely with the noble Lord that it is a question which affects the interests of Turkey herself quite as much as it affects the interests of Greece. Her Majesty's Government have more than once impressed upon the Turkish Government and people that the interests of Turkey are largely involved in the settlement of the question as regards defining her Frontier on that side, and as far as it has been in our power we have impressed upon both parties the importance of being reasonable, and endeavouring to bring those negotiations to a satisfactory settlement. But there have been difficulties in the way—there have been, I think, great mistakes made on both sides. There have been unreasonable propositions on the one side, met by unreasonable counter-propositions on th.6 other side; and it has been exceedingly difficult to bring the two parties to anything which offered the prospect of a settlement. I believe there has been some doubt as to the time when certain proposals were made; and, therefore, I will trouble the House with a few dates. The matter has been lately under the discussion of the, Greek and Turkish Commissioners at Constantinople, and the details will be contained in the Papers which will very soon be presented to the House. But, to put the case shortly, be first meeting was held on the 17th of November. Other meetings were from time to time suggested, but were put off until the 29th of December, at which time, the Conference seemed to have come to an end; but in the meanwhile, on the 19th of December, M. Waddington communicated to Her Majesty's Government the proposal of a line of Frontier which he recommended, and the proposal was submitted to the other Great Powers. On the 104 21st of December, however, the French Ministry resigned, and it was not until the 7th of January that M. de Freycinet, the new French Minister of Foreign Affairs, informed Lord Lyons that he adhered to M. Waddington's proposal, and was anxious to have the opinion of Her Majesty's Government upon it. My noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (the Marquess of Salisbury) has since discussed the matter with the French Ambassador, and the result will be found in one of the Papers which will be communicated to the House, in which Lord Salisbury expressed himself in favour of proceeding by an International European Commission. The matter will be more clearly shown by the Papers which will be laid upon the Table, and I will only say again that it is a matter to which we attach great importance in the interests of both parties and in the interests of European peace. Well, Sir, I hope I need not go into all the details of all the questions to which the noble Lord has referred. There is no doubt that the state of Turkey is one which causes the greatest difficulty, and I am glad to see that the noble Lord perceives that there is a difficulty in this matter. The country has been instructed, and I believe a large number of people are under the impression that if it had not been for some extraordinary and entirely gratuitous action on the part of Her Majesty's Government everything would have been perfectly comfortable in the Turkish Empire, and that the state of affairs would have been such as to cause no anxiety; that, at all events, if there were difficulties, they could very easily have been removed. We have never taken that view; we have always known that the position was one of the greatest possible difficulty. We have known that the reform of the Turkish Empire was not a matter which could be accomplished by a despatch written from our Foreign Office, even if it were written by a Liberal Foreign Secretary—for they are very good at writing despatches and giving good advice which never seems to come to anything. We have always felt that if anything was to be done it could not be done by a few despatches, but that it must be done by patience and perseverence, by representations continually renewed; by the taking of every opportunity, good, bad, 105 or indifferent, which might present itself of impressing not only on the Government, but on the populations of the Turkish Empire, how needful and desirable those reforms were. And that, I venture to say, has been the course taken by our distinguished Representative, Sir Henry Layard. He has been constant, in season and out of season, in endeavouring to give effect to those remedial measures; and it is a little mortifying to him, whether he speaks or whether he does not speak, to find that he is equally the subject of abuse and found fault with for meddling in those matters. These difficulties are of the greatest possible magnitude, and that subject to which the noble Lord referred, rather, I think, in a contemptuous tone—namely, that arising from the financial embarrassments of the Porte—adds enormously to the task. In this case, Turkey is in a condition which is very unsatisfactory—embarrassed by the consequences of a very great war and by enormous financial losses, yet in that position she is called upon at once to make reforms such as might well be the work of many years. All I can say is, that the Government do not shrink from the task they have undertaken—that they will not shrink from it; but are doing, and will continue to do, the best they can to bring about a better state of things in Turkey. As I have said, Papers on the subject will be presented, and I think I must prepare the House to see in those Papers very strong fresh evidence of the unfortunate condition of parts of Asiatic Turkey; but that is not a lesser, it is a greater, and the more reason why we should not shrink from the task we have undertaken. The noble Lord has referred to other European questions—the question of the relations between Germany and Austria, the increase of the German Army, and the general condition of Europe, and he tells us that he never knew a time more alarming than the present—alarming, on account of the attitude which different nations are taking up with respect to each other, alarming on account of the political and social condition of those nations. And what is the inference which the noble Lord draws from this? It is that England ought to limit her responsibilities, for that then she could look on all those things with an eye of calmness. Sir, there is the difference 106 between us. I come to an exactly opposite conclusion. I say that if Europe is in this condition, if there are those dangers to be apprehended, we cannot afford to abrogate our position in the Councils of Europe, and that it would be ill for the peace and prosperity of Europe that we should do so. I do not know that it would be altogether in accordance with the practice of Parliament if I were to discuss the relations between Germany and Austria. I can only say that there is no matter which gives us greater pleasure than to see cordial relations existing between those two Empires, such as I believe do exist. I believe they are relations which are acceptable to the peoples of those two great Empires, and such as must tend to their advantage, and to the preservation of the peace of Europe. Then the noble Lord speaks of an alliance for the purpose of repressing the Danubian Principalities. Well, that is only another of those mares' nests which the Liberal Party are always finding for us. East Roumelia and Bulgaria and the other Principalities are making fair progress; they are working out problems which I hope will be satisfactorily solved, and they are making great advances in constitutional government and in the development of their own States. What they chiefly require is to be let alone, and not to be too much patronized and hampered by meddlesome assistance from without from other Powers. Well, Sir, I will say nothing more at present as to those foreign questions. I think the terms in which Her Majesty has been pleased to address us represents correctly the present state of affairs. The general course of events has been such as to give additional security for the maintenance of European peace, and that has been the leading principle of the Treaty of Berlin. The noble Lord has spoken upon other questions, and has touched one which, of course, is of the highest interest and importance. He has referred to our relations with Afghanistan, and laments that there is no declaration in Her Majesty's gracious Speech of our policy. The noble Lord has given us his own version of what that policy is, and, at the same time, has made some remarks upon questions which undoubtedly excite the interest of the House and of the country. We have already presented a Blue Book on the subject, and further 107 information down to the latest period will be in the hands of hon. Members to-morrow morning. I think I heard a Notice given this evening, by an hon. Member who takes a great interest in Indian affairs, of a Motion of his own which will give an opportunity for a full discussion of the question; and therefore it may not be necessary for me to detain the House at any length with reference to it. At the same time it is right for me, in answer to the observation of the noble Lord with respect to Sir Frederick Roberts, to say one or two words, because we cannot too soon vindicate, as far as the information in our possession at present enables us to vindicate, the character of that distinguished officer, who, I am sure, deserves the highest admiration. All through the transactions in which we have been engaged he has played a leading part, and has distinguished himself by his conduct as a military commander, in which capacity he has shown characteristics which have called forth the warmest commendation; and he is certainly a man to whom, in the difficult position in which he has been placed, we ought to be very chary of imputing motives which can derogate from the character of a British officer. The noble Lord attempted to throw blame upon Sir Frederick Roberts, and he asked, what were the instructions given to him by the Indian Government, remarking with great truth that, as to responsibility, very much depended upon the nature of those instructions. The Papers will be in the hands of hon. Members in a very few days, and I will quote a very short paragraph from the Instructions which were sent to Sir Frederick Roberts on the 29th of September, 1879. He was told, among other things, that—In regard to the punishment of individuals it should be swift, stern, and impressive, without being indiscriminate or immoderate Its infliction must not be delegated to subordinate officers of minor responsibility, acting independently of your instructions or supervision, and you cannot too vigilantly maintain the discipline of the troops under your orders, or superintend their treatment of the unarmed population so long as your orders are obeyed and your authority is unresisted, You will deal summarily in the majority of cases with persons whose share in the murder of anyone belonging to the British Embassy shall have been proved by your investigations; but while the execution of justice should be as public and striking as possible, it should be completed with 108 all practicable expedition, since the indefinite prolongation of your proceedings might spread abroad unfounded alarm."—[Afghanistan(1880), No. 1, p. 98.]Sir Frederick Roberts, in acknowledging and replying to these Instructions, which he did on the 16th of October, said—For the thorough investigation of the causes and circumstances of the late outbreak, and the collection of all possible evidence regarding the conduct of individuals since the arrival of the British Embassy in Cabul, I have nominated a commission, consisting of the members marginally named—President, Colonel C. M. Macgregor, C.B., C.S.I., C.I.E.; members, Surgeon-Major Bellew, C.S.I., and Mahomed Hyat Khan, C.S.I. Their duties will be comprehensive, and will include the submission of representations regarding the punishment to be inflicted on all persons whom they may find guilty of participation, direct or indirect, active or passive, in the attack on the Residency, or of other connected offences calling for notice. Every such recommendation will be carefully considered by me, and his Excellency the Viceroy and Governor General in Council may rely upon my carrying out most strictly the instructions conveyed in Paragraph 8 of your letter under reply.Since that Correspondence has passed, statements have been made in reference to the course taken by Sir Frederick Roberts which have caused Her Majesty's Government to call upon Sir Frederick for a complete account of the number of persons executed; and we have been informed by telegraph that a full account is on the way. Such full account is on the way, and will be laid before Parliament when received. I hope, therefore, the House will perceive that we have not neglected or delayed inquiry into these matters, and shall not say more now than to ask the House to do Sir Frederick Roberts the common justice of waiting for his reply before condemning the action he has taken. It is impossible to pass from this question without the House knowing that it is since August last the terrible catastrophe occurred in Cabul, and saying that at the time the last Session closed Her Majesty's Government had no reason to believe that the position of our gallant Envoy Sir Louis Cavagnari and his colleagues was one of anxiety or danger. He had been specially invited to Cabul by the Ameer, on the ground that it was in the capital the most secure protection could be afforded him, and he had proceeded to the city with a small escort purposely to show that his visit was of a friendly character, and that it had no 109 concealed design of violence or force behind it. The suddenness of and the circumstances of the attack which was subsequently made upon the Embassy, and the gallant way in which Sir Louis Cavagnari and his comrades defended it against overwhelming numbers, are all well known, and I would venture to say that no day in the history of the Indian Empire of the Queen will shine more brightly, as far as the gallantry of her servants is concerned, than that on which her Envoy at Cabul and his fellows fell fighting in defence of the Embassy. The noble Lord has asked us to pronounce a policy in regard to foreign and colonial matters, and in answer to him I can only repeat that our policy is in those respects unchanged. The principle of our policy with regard to Afghanistan and our North-Western Frontier has always been this—that we have not desired to annex territory or to extend our Empire, but simply to secure a sufficiently strong Frontier to our Indian Empire to inspire our subjects within it with confidence, and to put an end to all anxieties and suspicions which may have existed in their minds from fear of possible invasion in consequence of a weak Frontier. In carrying out this plan, the other policy which we have always had in view was that beyond that Frontier, so made strong, we should have a State, or, if you please, a number of States, in such relations with us that they could not be made the base of hostile operations against us. For that purpose it has always been the policy of former Governments, as well as of ours, to maintain friendly relations with the Ameer and the people of Afghanistan, so as to keep them out of the influence of foreign Powers; but the result has been that which the House so well and so sorrowfully knows. That has been our policy, and it was only when we found ourselves unable to trust to the fidelity of Shere Ali to the engagements he had entered into, when we found it impossible to view with indifference his reception of a Russian Mission, while he refused a Mission from us, that we felt ourselves obliged to take other steps which have led to the present position. But our policy and our views are the same as they have ever been. We still desire to maintain and strengthen our Frontier. We still desire to maintain an independent State or an independent cluster 110 of States outside or around us. It is a matter of comparative indifference to us whether we have to deal with one or several States; but it is impossible for me to enter into a consideration of these questions at the present moment. The organization that Afghanistan may hereafter assume must be treated as a whole, and we are unable to give explanations now because events have not yet developed themselves, and we have not yet obtained that position that would enable us to withdraw from the positions we occupy. As at present advised, our position is the one which we have always held in regard to this question. As for the other questions to which the noble Lord referred, I can simply say that it is at this moment out of my power to give him information concerning the Budget, and that on the subject of the Boers and the annexation of the Transvaal, as to which the noble Lord commented on the omission from Her Majesty's Speech of any reference to those subjects, Papers will speedily be laid before the House which will include some relating to the condition of the Transvaal, and will also show what the view of Her Majesty's Government is with reference to its future government. When the noble Lord says we were led to annex the Transvaal under a false representation, and that it was not true that a majority of the people assented to that annexation, I would remind him that the annexation was effected by a single British officer, Sir Theophilus Shepstone, with a handful of policemen, and that no opposition was then offered to his proceedings. It is a most important matter that will require full consideration; and it is a matter of great congratulation to us that Her Majesty is able to declare that we have now better hopes than we ever had before of bringing about that great scheme of the Confederation of our South African possessions which has been so long an object of desire. The noble Lord made some observations on the unfortunate condition of the country, and on the unfortunate condition of agriculture, which all must admit for the moment is greatly depressed. At the same time, it is a matter for congratulation that there appears to be a real and substantial revival in many branches of industry and trade in this country, and it cannot but be that the revival must benefit the great 111 interests of agriculture. Undoubtedly, however, we are very far as yet from being in a condition to congratulate ourselves. The noble Lord concluded with some remarks on the condition of Ireland. As far as that subject is concerned, the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) has given Notice of an Amendment to the Address, which will raise a discussion with regard to Irish distress, and upon that I shall have something to say; but I may now observe that I shall to-morrow, in asking leave to introduce a Bill to indemnify Her Majesty's Government for what they have already done, and to make some further provision, say something at length on the subject. Therefore, I hope my hon. Friends will not think me at all treating Ireland with indifference if I say less now than I should otherwise have been disposed to do. But I do say that we have from the beginning of the autumn watched with the greatest interest and with warm sympathy the condition and suffering of certain parts of Ireland. The noble Lord has said that Her Majesty's Government has at hand sufficient machinery to enable it to get every kind and amount of information concerning the condition of Ireland to enable it to deal with the distressed condition of the country which we all deplore. That is perfectly true, and when the hon. Members see the Papers which have been presented to-day, and which will be in their hands to-morrow, they will find that the Irish and the English Governments have not been remiss in making use of that machinery. They will find that from September—for the first document among the Papers in question is a Circular issued by the Local Government Board on the 5th of September—down to the present day, the Irish Local Government Board have been engaged in collecting the fullest and most reliable information with regard to the condition of every part of Ireland, and making recommendations with regard to such parts as seem to call for special aid. I think that is a matter of great importance, because I need not remind the noble Lord, with his experience of Irish affairs, nor those who can remember the circumstances of the great Famine of 1846, 1847, and 1848, of this—that if we are to make provision against a great calamity of that kind, for the relief of existing dis- 112 tress, and for the prevention of future suffering, we must exercise the greatest care in what we do. It does not do merely to put our hands into our pockets and to throw about as much money as we can indiscriminately; but we have to look not only to the immediate but to the future results of what we are doing. "When we are told that we ought to have spent money upon this or that particular class of works, one must not forget the experience which we had, and which forms part of the history of the Famine of 1846—namely, that men preferred to work upon the public works rather than to pursue their ordinary work of tilling the land. We have to beware lest, by taking too much upon ourselves, the idea that the Government should provide work might make the people or the local authorities careless of making proper exertions for themselves. It should be clearly kept in view that what the Government can do must merely be supplemental to local exertion, and in order to make their aid supplemental, they must take care that the aid they offer does not become the principal source to which the people look for relief. When I introduce to-morrow the Bill to which I have referred, I shall think it right to make some further observations on this subject, and to go more into detail. With regard to the particular questions which the noble Lord has raised, I think that he will find, on referring to the Papers I have mentioned, that we have not confined ourselves to offering loans to landlords. We have offered them, on favourable terms, to the sanitary authorities, and we have done more—we have made provision for calling together, in case of necessity, the baronial sessions, and for inviting them to make presentments, and have made the terms very easy upon which loans can be obtained on such presentments being made. We have also directed our attention to another matter of great importance—that of out-door relief. The very first thing, indeed, that we thought of was to tell the Boards of Guardians to take care, whatever happened, to prevent anybody dying from starvation. At a very early stage we warned those bodies to provide stores of food and fuel, and to take care that they should be distributed in case of necessity, encouraging them to understand that there would be some latitude given in the distribution. In the 113 Bill which I shall have the honour to present to the House to-morrow, we propose to give greater powers, subject to the supervision of the Local Government Board, to the Boards of Guardians, and to enable them to afford such relief to the holders of land, suspending that provision which limits the power of receiving it to persons who have not any land at all. I mention this fact to show that we have gone into the details of this subject, and that we have not overlooked the points to which the noble Lord referred. Without doubt, however, we shall be criticized both for what we have done and for what we have not done. That is always the fate of those who stand in the position of the Government, and who are obliged to enforce prudence, although doing the best and wisest thing for the interests of their patients, if I may call them so. When we do so enforce prudence, we must expect to be very much abused and to be called hard-hearted. I trust, however, that what we have shown has not been hard-heartedness, but hard-headedness. I cannot sit down without acknowledging the charitable spirit that has manifested itself on this occasion in both countries. We know perfectly well that there are various committees and agencies formed for the relief of the distress in Ireland, and that persons are ready to devote not only their money, but their work and their time to the assistance of these poor people, and I am satisfied that the stream of charity which has so freely flowed on other occasions will not fail us in the present case. I hope I may be excused for speaking personally of the efforts of one noble Lady who has taken a part in this good work. I know she does not require any words of mine, and does not desire any praise for what she is doing. She is acting on the impulse of her own heart, and is doing all in her power to fulfil the high duty which she believes is cast upon her by her position in Ireland. She and all others are working with the sincere desire of doing good; and if we, the Government, are bound to show a little more prudence and apparent hard-heartedness, it is not because our sympathies are less, but because we feel that our responsibilities are greater. I will not enter now into the other topics that have been raised, and I hope that on this subject I have 114 said sufficient to induce the noble Lord to think better of what we have done. I oven hope that the hon. Member for the County of Cork will be reasonable and fair enough not to carry out his proposal to move an Amendment to the Address, but that he will wait to hear what the Government have really done, and are doing, towards the relief of the distress in his country before proceeding to condemn us. Perhaps, however, he will think that it will be easier to condemn us before than after he hears us, and that he will be more unfettered in making his attack if he does so in comparative ignorance of what we have done than he will be if he waits until he has received full information on the subject, and finds that we are blameless in the matter.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that he had to refer to certain questions of home affairs which were mentioned in the Address, but were not referred to either by the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) or the Leader of the House, and other matters of domestic legislation, the omission of which was still more remarkable. For instance, at the end of last Session a promise was renewed, which had frequently before been made, that the Corrupt Practices Bill should be in the first rank of the Government measures of the present Session. He was sorry not to see it mentioned in the Speech. As dissolution was certain within a year, the importance which it undoubtedly demanded ought to be given to the Corrupt Practices Bill, and they ought this Session thoroughly to consider the law of corrupt practices. It was admitted that the law on the subject needed reform. Then there was the subject of the Ballot Act. That Act, as they knew, would shortly expire, and would require to be renewed in a way that would enable the House to discuss questions of scrutiny and other matters. Of course, it could be renewed by a Continuance Bill in the last week of the Session; but he ventured to say that would be a most unsatisfactory mode of dealing with a matter of that kind. There was a Select Committee in 1876, which thoroughly considered the working of the Ballot Act, and which made many recommendations as to its amendment. There were questions which were not dealt with by that Committee, but 115 which were discussed the year before when the Ballot Bill became law, such as the terrorism exercised on many tenants by their landlords. Again, he wished to know whether the Government had abandoned the Employers and Workmen Bill or not? He trusted they had not. Their County Government Bill and their Valuation Bill had now, it seemed, finally disappeared. For all practical purposes they might be looked upon as dead. No subject was more worthy the attention of the House than that of county government; but it was evidently one with which a Conservative Ministry was unable to deal. He did not know whether the Copyright Bill of last year would be re-introduced; but, if it were brought in again, he hoped it would assume an amended form, for artists of all kinds were much opposed to the measure as it stood last year. Then the Home Secretary had promised last Session to deal completely with the Metropolitan Water Supply. He had seen Notices which led him to suppose that the Government were going on with a scheme; but the question was so important that he thought it should have now been mentioned by the Government. Turning to the Irish paragraphs of the Queen's Speech, he remarked that they contained no reference to any amendment of the Irish Land Laws. There were many not connected with Ireland who believed most firmly that giving money would not remedy the evils without going to the root of the matter by dealing with the Irish Land Laws; and they ought to be told whether the Government intended to bring in any measure relating to them this year. He had heard with great satisfaction what had fallen that night from the Leader of the House with regard to the claims of Greece; and it would be the determination of hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House to keep the Government up to what the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, and to see that the arrangements which his language suggested were carried out. There was no allusion in the Speech to the affairs of Egypt. Never had this country been committed to so large a scheme fraught with dangerous complications for the future without the knowledge of Parliament as was now the case with respect to Egypt. The Papers on the subject 116 were last year kept back till they were too late to be of use; and the documents issued showed that the European controllers were really to exercise almost the whole powers of government. With regard to the Treaty of Gandamak, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that there was no reason to suppose that the position of our Envoy at Cabul was one of peculiar danger. What had occurred within the walls of that House sufficed to refute that statement. The hon. Members for Elgin (Mr. Grant Duff) and Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), and other hon. Members of the House, had over and over again pointed out that that would happen which actually had happened. As to the retribution for the massacre, the right hon. Gentleman had read the instructions given on the 29th of September by the Government to Sir Frederick Roberts; but he had not mentioned the Proclamation issued by Sir Frederick Roberts upon which the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) had based his animadversions. It was clear to anyone who read that Proclamation that General Roberts went far beyond his instructions; and the Indian Government, who were in daily communication with him by telegraph, must have been perfectly cognizant of what he did. General Roberts was instructed to punish for acts connected with the attack on the Residency; but in his Proclamation he expressed his intention to punish persons who had not been concerned in that attack, but were Afghan soldiers who had fought against us while we had Yakoob Khan in our camp. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had quoted the words "direct or indirect assistance," and "active or passive assistance in the attack on the Residency." Perhaps they might hereafter be told that the words were so wide that they would cover the execution of men who belonged to regiments members of which were also concerned in the attack on the Residency. They might have subtle casuistical arguments raised about the matter. With regard to the number of men we hanged and otherwise executed, he thought that as the Government had sent over for the information it would not be well to press them. He desired further to ask the attention of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Colonies to a statement in the para- 117 graph of the Speech referring to South Africa. The capture and deposition of the Zulu King were referred to with approval; but no reason had ever been given for his capture and deposition. Although they could not debate the subject, he thought it might be advantageous to the defence of the Government themselves that they should continue the story of the Zulu War by indicating their general opinion upon it. They had previously obtained a very clear statement from the Colonial Secretary as to the reason why Sir Garnet Wolseley was sent out. They had no reason to suppose that the instructions to Sir Garnet had been changed, although he had been told to accept any reasonable terms of peace. He did not do so; and the House should take notice of the fact that the Opposition altogether denied the necessity for avoiding making that peace which was promised it in May. With regard to the Transvaal, they had certainly expected to find in the paragraph of the Speech relating to it some expression of sorrow as to what had happened there. Arrests were being made there for high treason, and the bitter feeling against us was beginning to spread. They were told that matters wore progressing towards Confederation. But, so far as they knew at the present moment, affairs were progressing backwards towards Federation, for there was less prospect of such a thing than ever. They had been informed that there was no objection made at the time of the annexation; but although only one officer made the declaration, it was to be remembered that the 24th Regiment was stationed on the Frontier. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not go so far as to say that our rule was popular among the Boers; and although matters in South Africa were progressing but little, he thought it would be hardly possible to reach a good settlement with them without a Federation of some sort. The paragraph in the Speech gave a far too optimist view of the situation. Confederation was impossible as long as we continued to govern the Transvaal against its will, and the Government had only succeeded in making the South African paragraph satisfactory by omitting all reference to these facts.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
desired to offer a few observations on one subject only referred to in Her Majesty's most gracious 118 Speech, and, before doing so, because he happened to differ from the line taken by the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) and by the hon. Baronet who had just spoken (Sir Charles W. Dilke) in regard to the position of affairs in the Transvaal, he wished simply to say that the references made to that subject were rather unfortunate, and with regard to the Transvaal he could not but think that the Opposition had so far committed themselves that it was hardly fair to treat it now as an open question. If the maxim of Talleyrand was to be accepted, that speech was given us to conceal thought, a happier exposition of it could not be found than in Her Majesty's Speech. One looked at these paragraphs with wonder, for there were clever men in the Ministry, men of literary ability and an appreciation of the value of words; but, looking at these paragraphs, which were gravely presented to the Houses of Parliament, and regarded by the country as the result of the advice given by the Cabinet to the Sovereign, one must feel they had reached a very low standard indeed in politics and literature if that was the best that could be produced by such a Cabinet. For a moment he asked the House to look at the Afghanistan paragraph of the Speech. In an endeavour to interpret that passage one met with considerable difficulty. What was the principle that remained unchanged? So far as he knew the history of our operations in Afghanistan it was a history of a change of principles from day to day—a change of policy and of operations brought about by changes in conditions and circumstances. There was an assurance from the Ministry that their principle was unchanged; but he would defy anyone to say on what principle the Government had acted in Afghanistan. The truth was, it was a "happy-go-lucky" policy throughout—an awaiting for events or a drifting along that had drifted the country into new perils and complications. But there was a sort of admonition in the other portion of the paragraph, which read—While determined to make the frontiers of My Indian Empire strong, I desire to be on friendly relations alike with those who may rule in Afghanistan and with the people of that Country.The methods by which we endeavoured to establish friendly relations there were 119 only too conspicuously before the world, and our extreme friendship might he judged by the number of executions which our General now in hostile possession of the country found it necessary to make. Never was paragraph more ridiculous presented to men of sense to interpret, and it was the best comment upon the Government's Afghan policy that they were unable to produce anything better than this memorable paragraph. But a question had been raised on which he had from time to time endeavoured to obtain information from Her Majesty's Government, so far as he could keep the Government up to the professions made in the House. He alluded to the Turkish Convention, and he was induced to ask the attention of the House to that, because last night the noble Lord, who was stumping Liverpool as an electioneering agent in the interest of the Government (Viscount Sandon), made it a subject of a part of a speech. It would be observed that the Convention was only feebly, distantly alluded to in the Speech from the Throne. After the reference to the friendly relations with foreign Powers, the Speech continued—The course of events since the prorogation of Parliament has tended to furnish additional security to the maintenance of European peace on the principles laid down by the Treaty of Berlin.But the principles of the Treaty of Berlin were not general principles. They were simply propositions in reference to the relations between Turkey and the Powers, and here were Her Majesty's Ministers endeavouring to induce the House to believe there were great principles laid down in the Berlin Treaty, which, in fact, did not exist therein. Then Her Majesty's Ministers ventured to refer to the condition of affairs in Turkey in these terms—Much, however, still remains to he done to repair the disorder with which the late War has affected many parts of the Turkish Empire.He wished to call the attention of the House to the fact that in this way the Government were utterly ignoring the enormous responsibility they had incurred in Asiatic Turkey. The noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) in a few chosen sentences had already criticized that portion of the Government's 120 action; but when he (Mr. Jenkins) looked at Her Majesty's Speech he was rather startled to find that all we had at the end of two years for the responsibility we had incurred in Asia Minor—after all the promises repeatedly made in both Houses of Parliament, and to the country outside the House, with regard to what the Government were going to do—all he could find in 1880 was that the Government were able to say "much remains to be done." The truth of the case was, everything remained to be done. It would have been more correct to say nothing had been done—nothing at all—after obtaining the Turkish Convention, occupying Cyprus, and promising to defend Turkey against attack from Russia. Not long ago—at the end of last Session—Her Majesty's Speech alluded to the reforms promised by the Ottoman Government and the manner in which Her Majesty's Government would urge their adoption. Her Majesty's Government had continued to urge, but in vain; and he ventured to say if the present Government were in power for another seven years their representations would be equally in vain. It was right to hold Ministers who called for the confidence of the country on the grounds of certain things they had done to the words they had used, and he reminded the House of his repeated challenges to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to show thebona fidesof their promises to enforce reforms under the Convention; and now he hoped it was not saying an improper thing when he said he believed it was a mere sham devised for election and Party purposes. In August, 1878, he had called, the attention of the House to the position of the Turkish Convention and the pledges we had given, and at that time the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, "Wait and see how results will expose the fallacy of the anticipations." But for nearly two years he had waited, and still not a glimmer or sign of these Turkish reforms. Of course, the Government had had difficulties, and had to deal with a Government slippery as an eel and as difficult to skin; but were the Government ever really in earnest in their programme of reform? Did they ever prepare a programme of reform which they were willing to accept? It was humiliating to consider how we had been overreached by this weak Power, 121 on whose behalf our Fleet had assumed such a migratory character. The noble Lord the Leader of the Government in "another place" on the 13th February, 1879, had complained of the harsh measures dealt out to the Sultan. His sincerity and ability to carry out reforms in Asia Minor having been questioned, the noble Lord stated, at that time, that communications between Her Majesty's Government and that of the Sublime Porte had been of a satisfactory character. Subsequently the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made similar statements and gave similar assurances. Lord Beaconsfield stated that he had heard what he stated by telegraph; but it turned out that his information was absolutely incorrect. There never was a symptom of anything like even a just acknowledgment of the responsibility incurred by the Sultan. If this was not an important matter for the consideration of Parliament he did not know what was. How was it that instead of being in a position to dictate as to reforms to the Government at Constantinople, Her Majesty's Government had the least influence, and England was the weakest Power in Europe in controlling the action of the Sublime Porte? This he could prove if he cared now to detain the House; but he wished to take notice of a speech made last night at Liverpool by a noble Lord, who was certainly not one of the most influential Members of Her Majesty's Government. He (Mr. Jenkins) could not help saying that Viscount Sandon had been sent down to Liverpool to deceive by his statements the people of England. He stated that in the affairs of Turkey the Government had achieved a magnificent triumph, and found fault with the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) for having entered into a criticism of the Turkish Convention. The noble Lord said that the Government were not going to bolster up the bad Government of the Porte, but that they should try and reform it, and then he complained of people like the hon. and learned Member for Oxford, who had criticized the action of the Government in the affairs of Turkey. Then the noble Lord said that Her Majesty's Government would bring back prosperity to Syria. He (Mr. Jenkins) thought the noble Lord could only carry back prosperity to Syria in a hand-cart, and the pic- 122 ture of the noble Lord doing so would be very effective. Although the Russian troops had left Turkish soil for two years they were now told that the English Consuls and Vice Consuls were taking note of everything that the Turkish officers were doing, the consequence being that the latter were trembling. Now, that was the result of our action two years after the Russians had evacuated Turkish territory. He had there a letter written by a gentleman well known to, and respected by, hon. Members of that House on both sides, and what he stated might be absolutely relied upon. He wrote that the English interest in Turkey was at the lowest ebb. Every suggestion made by Englishmen was resisted, because it came from an English source. Before the Turkish resistance to anything English was passive; but now the Turks were determined to show by their acts that they were not disposed to be dictated to by us. The promised reforms of Lord Beaconsfield had never been carried out, and the large schemes of reforms to which he referred never had a chance of success. Not even the shreds and fragments of the reforms suggested by us were carried out, and no proof was forthcoming that England's influence had been successful in bringing any reform to the front. The writer concluded by saying that the great mistake made from the first was in supposing that the Turkish Government was capable of any reform. Therefore, he (Mr. Jenkins) contended that what our Government proposed to do in the way of forcing reforms upon Turkey turned out to be sham, and had had no practical result. Hon. Members opposite were in the habit of saying that those hon. Members who sat below the Gangway were craven at heart, and not public-spirited enough in support of English interests. Well, as one of that body, he wished to say that he was always opposed to Russian aggression against the interests of this country, and he and they regretted to see English influence thrown over in Turkey. He contended now, as he had often contended before, that Her Majesty's Government had by their policy played into the hands of Russia, after engaging in the solemn undertaking of a Convention with Turkey. The effect of that Convention had been absolutely valueless. It had not been productive of a shadow of a reform, 123 and, that being so, he thought he was justified in calling upon Her Majesty's Government to explain to the House why it was that at this moment England was the weakest Power as regarded her influence with Turkey.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, he did not rise with any intention of continuing the debate upon the general issues which had been raised; but he would desire to refer to an extraordinary omission which was observable throughout the debate. They had been told that they had entered upon a great Imperial policy. He did not wish to enter upon any controversial topic; but the question he desired to ask was with respect to the cost of the war which had been undertaken. Was the cost to be borne by India or by England, or was it to be borne by both; and, if the latter, what were to be the proportions? India had contributed £2,600,000, and, so far, £320,000, or one-seventh of that sum, was all that England had been called upon and asked to contribute. Now that hostilities had re-commenced, he trusted the Government would not propose to apportion the additional expenditure between England and India on the same unjust principle. If they did so, it was a course, he believed, which would meet with the greatest disapprobation on the part of the English people. The question had not been referred to either by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he hoped the Government would give them some distinct assurance on the subject; but he had carefully abstained from giving Notice of any Motion, in order not to embarrass the Government. Another omission from Her Majesty's most gracious Speech was the matter of the water supply of London; and he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he intended to redeem the promise he had made last Session?
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was quite prepared to state the views of the Government upon the question of the Afghan expenditure. The present occasion, however, was scarcely a favourable one; it would be better to wait until the Papers which had been promised were before the House. With regard to the water supply 124 of London, he (Mr. Cross) had no doubt a great improvement would be effected by placing the works of the eight existing Companies under one management; and he might say that, following up the promise he gave last Session, he had been in communication with the various Water Companies on the subject. He was not at present prepared to state the result of his negotiations with them; but he hoped to do so in the course of a week or ten days at the outside, and to bring forward certain proposals in the form of a Bill. It would be a Public Bill, and, considering the difficulty of making a bargain as between the consumers of water and the ratepayers on the one hand, and the several Water Companies on the other, the course pursued would be this—the Government would lay before Parliament such terms as they had been able to induce the Companies to assent to, and which they thought advantageous for the public to accept, and submit them to Parliament in the form of a Bill; and that Bill on its Second Reading would be sent to a Hybrid Committee, in order that all parties interested in it might have a fair opportunity of considering whether the bargain so proposed was one which would be advantageous, on the whole, to the Metropolis. Of course, all the Committee would have to decide would be whether it was a bargain which ought to be carried into effect or not. It would certainly not be competent for them to alter the terms of the bargain.
§ MR. DILLWYN
hoped the Government would fulfil their oft-repeated promise of passing a Bill for the amendment of the Lunacy Laws. He himself would bring forward a Bill on the subject this Session in the hope that the Government would aid him in carrying it through. As, however, the views of the Government on the subject seemed to be very much in accord with his own, he would not press it for the present. With regard to the obstruction of Business, he thought the Government themselves were the chief culprits. They did not seem to be aware that in carrying Bills forward a stage or two, and then dropping them every Session, they wasted much valuable time, and were, in fact, the greatest obstructives in the House. With regard to the debate of that evening, he did not hold with the doctrine that it was inexpedient to move Amendments on the Address. When statements were made 125 in Her Majesty's Speech with which any section of hon. Members did not agree, he held that it was the duty of those hon. Members to express their views in an Amendment, otherwise the proceedings of that House in relation to the Address would partake of the nature of a sham. It was, moreover, in accordance with ancient custom that Amendments on the Address should be moved. Bearing in mind the criticisms expressed on the Government during the Recess by many Members of the Opposition, he did not think the debate of that evening would be a reality if they agreed to the Motion unanimously. He regretted that an Amendment was not to be moved by the Opposition, if it were only to give the House an opportunity of protesting against the alleged atrocity with which the war in Afghanistan was being conducted. In that country our troops were engaged in a war which was calculated to rouse the most vindictive feelings in the hearts of a people of whom it was our true policy to make friends, and to maintain in a state of independence; and even though an Amendment were not moved in reference to any other point in the Address, the House ought, he thought, at all events to be asked to record its condemnation of that portion of the Proclamation of Sir Frederick Roberts in which it was declared that all the Natives of Afghanistan who took up arms to resist would be executed as felons. No more atrocious proclamation had ever emanated from Russia or Austria against people whom they were oppressing. He agreed with every word of the manly speech of his noble Leader; but regretted that the noble Lord had not had the courage to move an Amendment to the Address.
§ MR. SHAWmoved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Shaw.)
§ MR. FAWCETT
hoped that, before the House rose, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, (seeing that he was in his place) would give some distinct assurance that an early opportunity would be given for discussing the apportionment of the expenses of the Afghan War, and contended that 126 that question was one which could not be conveniently discussed on the Motion of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), which related to the policy of the war. The right hon. Gentleman might, perhaps, even that evening make a statement to the House as to the payment of those expenses. If he could not make such a statement now, would he say when he could make it?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he thought it was rather unreasonable on the part of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) to ask him to make a statement on that subject. He entirely appreciated the spirit in which the hon. Member took up this matter. He honoured the way in which he had always looked after the financial interests of India, and he quite admitted that this was one of those questions which the hon. Member had a right to have information upon; but he must decline, at the present moment, to go into a discussion of the question which the hon. Member invited him to discuss, and he had no statement just now to make on that subject. With regard to the Motion of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) that the debate be now adjourned, he confessed he was very much at a loss to understand what the meaning of the Motion could be. At an early hour of the evening the hon. Member gave Notice that it was his intention to move an Amendment to the Address, making a Vote of Censure upon Her Majesty's Government for not having taken the proper measures for the relief of Irish distress, and, if he recollected rightly, the hon. Member proposed to invite them to discuss certain questions as to the general and landed system of Ireland. If that was the object of the hon. Member, he had ample time to proceed with his observations, as it was only 10 o'clock. After the House had heard what he had to say, they would be able to judge whether it was a matter which could be finished to-night, or whether an adjournment was necessary. The Irish Members did not know what the Government proposed to do, yet they were prepared to take measures which would result in the postponement for one or two days of the introduction of the Government Bill setting forth remedies, such as they might be, which Her Majesty's Government proposed. He should have thought that was a serious 127 responsibility for Irish Members to take. The Government had taken upon themselves the responsibility to advise the authorities to go beyond the law to meet the distress which unhappily prevailed in Ireland, and they were bound at once to come to Parliament to ask for an indemnity for what they had done. They were anxious to do that at the earliest possible moment, and to state at the same time what further measures they proposed, when they were met with this Motion for an adjournment of the debate, which must interfere with the Business for to-morrow. There would be ample opportunity to express an opinion to-morrow; but if the Representatives from Ireland thought it was more desirable to pass censure on the Government and to air their political speeches than to pass measures of relief, then upon them must rest the responsibility. He should oppose the adjournment.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
said, the question of the action of the Government was one to which it was impossible to do justice at so late an hour. Within the last few minutes official Correspondence of great importance on the subject of Irish distress had been placed in the hands of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw). On those Papers rested the question of the action or inaction of the Government during the last three months. From them Irish Members now had for the first time the opportunity of seeing how far the Government were culpable. As for the insinuation that the Irish Members were postponing measures of relief to Ireland, there might be a little loss of time by the adjournment; but he thought it could be made up in another way. It was perfectly plain, from the inaction which had characterized the Government during the last three months, that neither they nor their administrators had any idea of the responsibility which rested on them, and of the danger which they had created. It was better that they should learn from the Irish Members, after they had contrasted their experience with that now disclosed, what the opinion of the great body of the Irish people was on this important matter, Before they proposed a perhaps much too limited measure. For his part, he regarded the proposal to force on the debate as one of the coolest he had ever 128 heard, considering that those who should take part in the discussion were ignorant of the information which had been just placed in their hands, but which they had not had time to make themselves acquainted with. They were, therefore, entitled to ask the House to consent to the adjournment of the debate. He protested against the conduct of the Government, and hoped his brother Representatives would insist that the debate should not be a sham. When the debate did occur it would not be for the purpose of airing speeches, it would not be a sham, it would be something real.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, it would be perfectly ridiculous for them to go on. He had looked at the Papers which had been placed into the hands of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw), and he found them to contain most important matter. Seeing that there was much correspondence in them detailing the amount of distress and the manner in which the Government proposed to deal with it, he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not oppose any longer.
§ MR. P. MARTIN
said, it was admitted that the official Correspondence and Papers which within the last half hour the Government had placed in the hands of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) would be used to justify the actions of the Government, and explain the delay on this point complained of in the Amendment. It was, then, a plain matter of justice Irish Members should be enabled to read and consider those documents. Let the Government, then, listen to reason. It was not fitting that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should taunt the Irish Members as being desirous of speaking for speaking sake, and then refuse the adjournment. If those Papers were of value and to be used, it was surely right Irish Members should have the opportunity of reading them. It was absurd that the House should be now called on to discuss questions in respect to a matter of such grave interest as the distress in Ireland without the aid of those Papers. It was apparent, from the dates, that this Correspondence had been some time printed. Why was it only now given to the hon. 129 Member for Cork, and not issued in the ordinary way for the general benefit of Members in the House. That was a bad omen. If Government persisted in their refusal to listen to reasonable remonstrance, they would but waste the time of the House, as it was too much wasted last Session from time to time by similar conduct on the part of the Government. When hon. Members showed themselves anxious to conduct the Business of the House in a fair and proper spirit, he said that was the way they were met. They were told they could get up and make speeches to the constituencies. This question was not to be thus treated. Everyone knew the distress was deep and widespread in Ireland. A most strange precedent was about to be set. An Irish debate was hurried on without full information being given. He did press the subject upon the serious consideration of Her Majesty's Ministers, and hoped they would give them reasonable time to consider these important Papers.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
I think I can give the House a very good reason why this debate should be adjourned, and not carried on as suggested, by the Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has to-night announced to us that to-morrow he will bring forward a measure which the Government consider will cope with the distress in Ireland, and, possibly, if the measure is satisfactory, the Amendment may not be moved at all; but of all absurd positions for a Legislative Assembly to place itself in, I can conceive none more so than that Notice of an Amendment should be pushed on without Members having the opportunity of judging what steps the Government have taken, or intend to take, on the subject. Common sense shows that the debate should be adjourned. If we had not been told that Papers were to be placed before us which would give us information on the subject, then the debate might very well have gone on; but as circumstances are at present, I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer will agree that a more absurd position than that of the House going on with the debate at the present time, when we have only half the information before us, cannot well be conceived.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
wished to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the Employers 130 and Workmen Bill would be again introduced that Session, and, if so, whether it would be the same as last year? He also wished to know whether the Copyright Bill would be brought forward, and, if so, whether the proposals of the artists who had signed the Memorial would be embodied in it? He would like also to be informed whether the Corrupt Practices Bill would be brought forward, and to know, further, something about the renewal of the Ballot Act?
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, it was unfortunate that his hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) had not caught the Speaker's eye when he rose early in the evening. If he had, an important debate on the condition of Ireland would have taken place, and the House would have been saved long speeches on foreign policy similar to those they had heard a hundred times before. It would reflect on the conduct of the Irish Representatives if they did not make a protest against the treatment they received in this country. If the House declined the Motion for adjournment, they would be in this position—that the Gentleman who is particularly qualified for speaking on the matter would be precluded from taking part in the debate. He would be unable to speak, because his Motion would be outvoted. These were considerations applying only to the Irish aspect of the question. There were other aspects. They had been engaged since 2 o'clock, and, so far as he could recollect, it was not the practice of the House on the opening night to sit to any protracted period. This, therefore, was a reasonable demand. He was sorry, speaking as one of the Irish Members of the House, that they could not rely upon the co-operation of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition in bringing Irish questions forward. If they had that co-operation, they would not be in. the ridiculous position in which they found themselves at the present moment. He was of opinion that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should not pursue the obstructive tactics which he had announced.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, the result of the continuance that evening of the debate would be that, instead of one debate to settle the question/they would have half-a-dozen of small debates. Hon. 131 Members would recollect that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) was unfortunately precluded from speaking at the hour when an important question of this sort should have gone on, and when it would have received attention in the House and in the Press. The result would be that in any case an adjournment must take place, because there were so many Members from Ireland who had a large knowledge of the state of affairs, and who would speak. The question really was, whether they should adjourn at half-past 10 or half-past 12. He thought the Government had better adjourn now and have the matter properly considered to-morrow.
§ MR. MELDON
said, he would have been glad had the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) given way earlier in the evening, that they might have heard the hon. Member for Cork's (Mr. Shaw's) views on the subject. He thought now that was a time when the Motion of his hon. Friend should be agreed to. Some little sympathy ought to be shown the people of Ireland; and on that question his experience was that it was not the custom of the House to take the debate the same evening the Address was proposed, but that it should be postponed one or two nights. It had been suggested that the question of Irish Members was not a question of substance, and he admitted the Government would have something to say in defence of their policy of the last six months as one not only of exasperation but of cruelty. He thought it was too late, at 11 o'clock, to commence a debate on the matter. He was sorry that some hon. Members who had taken great interest in the affairs of Ireland were not present to press their views, and he hoped Her Majesty's Government would not attempt to force the matter that evening on that account.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, he understood the Motion of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) as a Vote of Censure upon the Government; and he was, therefore, surprised that any attempt should be made to proceed with it until the facts were in the possession of hon. Members. He would suggest that the House should vote the Address and postpone the discussion. He thought they should hear what the Government had to say before they proposed a Vote of Censure upon them.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, that the attention of every foreign country was directed to the action that Government intended to pursue in relation to the distress in Ireland. He would imagine that the Government ought to be the very first persons to afford facilities to his hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw) to bring forward his case—a case, which, he said, he would be able to make with convincing proof. Instead of doing that, they, for the sake of some two hours' talk, said "No, go on and debate this momentous question in the dark." He scarcely knew words strong enough to use to express his disapproval of the conduct of the Government in reference to this matter. Why should the Government withhold their consent to adjournment? What could be done in respect of discussing the important matters that had been brought forward in the few hours they had at their disposal? Either the Government had, or they had not, a complete and thorough answer, which would show that they had done everything that could be expected of them. If they had, and had brought to bear every engine possible to ameliorate the distress in Ireland, he would be but too rejoiced.
§ MR. O'CLERY
said, at that hour of the night it was not proper to discuss this matter. Surely, the Motion of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) would bear the light of day, seeing that it was not intended as a Censure on the Government. He agreed with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) that it was absurd to proceed with the discussion in the absence of important Papers bearing on the subject which the Government possessed. He could not understand the silence of the front Opposition Bench on this subject. Liberals at that moment were only too anxious to catch the Irish vote, and why none of them should come forward now and aid them in their attempt to get a free consideration of this subject he could not imagine. For them to do so would be the best way to show their good feeling towards Ireland. He sincerely trusted the Government would consider the matter, in order that they might have a full discussion on the subject, and so adjourn the debate.
§ MR. REDMOND
said, it was only proper that something should be said in reply to the arguments which had been 133 used from that side of the House. He supposed, however, the Government were determined to carry their will by mere numbers, and to give no satisfaction whatever to the Irish Members in their endeavours to do their duty to their constituencies. Their object was an important and solemn one. They were endeavouring to do their duty towards their country by pressing for an adjournment of the debate, not for the sake of popularity, but to insure as far as they could the necessity of the Government fully considering this important question of the distress in Ireland, with a view to its alleviation. It was discreditable that on that, the first night of the Session, the Chancellor of the Exchequer should meet them in the way he had done.
MR. JOHN GEORGE MACCARTHY
joined in the appeal which had been made to the Government to consent to an adjournment of the debate. They had to deal with a grave crisis. There was a universal feeling in Ireland amongst men of all classes and parties of the intensest alarm, a feeling of the gravest apprehension, at the present state of affairs. From all districts in the West and South of Ireland the cry of famine was reaching their ears. The gravest alarm existed in the public mind—in the mind of all thoughtful and considerate men—and naturally and properly the Representatives of Ireland, through their Leader, virtually requested permission when they had an opportunity—for that was what it came to—to bring before the House what appeared to them to be of far more importance than any foreign affair or distant war whatever, the distressed condition of their country. They desired to bring before the notice of hon. Members the fact that, at the present moment, they ought to remember that within a few hours' journey of their own doors hundreds of their own fellow-citizens and fellow-Christians were now likely to perish of famine. When the Irish Members took the earliest opportunity, through their Leader, to submit the gravest of Imperial questions engaging the attention of this Imperial House, they were denied permission to do so. They then, at a late hour in the evening, wore asked to enter upon that subject. He ventured to say to the House that to so deal with this, the greatest of Im- 134 perial questions, was to trifle with it. They in Ireland had been trying year after year to convince those who thought otherwise that there was justice to be had from fair-minded Englishmen—that there was justice to be had from the House of Commons. They would henceforth, if so simple a request as the present were denied, then be deprived of the argument, and they would have to tell their fellow-citizens that when the lives of the people were at stake, when the question at issue was the lives of Irishmen and Irishwomen, it was cast aside for some foreign matter, or in order to consider some distant war, and that, in the next place, an attempt was made at a late hour in the evening to hurry the subject on.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, I am very well aware that the question which hon. Members from Ireland wish to discuss—that of Irish distress—is by far the most important one that can come under the consideration of this House. I do not believe that there is any difference of opinion among us on that point, or that it is one which ought not to be fully discussed whenever a proper opportunity occurs. The only question, as it seems to me, is what would be a proper opportunity—what will be the best opportunity—for debating it? In my humble opinion, an unfortunate course has been taken in this matter by the hon. Member for the county of Cork (Mr. Shaw). We learn from Her Majesty's Speech—and I hope there will be no delay in the matter—that the Government are about to make proposals to the House having reference to the measures they have taken, and are about to take, with regard to the distress in Ireland; and therefore, in my opinion, the more convenient course to take would be to wait and hear what the Government have to say upon the matter, and what proposals they intend to submit to the House. The hon. Member for Cork, however, gave Notice, almost immediately after the announcement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of his intention to move an Amendment to the Address, and we were right in concluding from that circumstance that the hon. Member and his Friends were in a position to introduce the matter, irrespective of any further information which might be laid before the House by the Government. It appears somewhat inconsistent 135 that the hon. Member should announce his willingness to proceed at once with the Motion condemnatory of the Government proceedings, and then demand an adjournment of the debate on the ground that certain Papers are not in his hands. As to my having taken precedence of the hon. Member, and as to the course of the present discussion, it is to be remembered that Her Majesty's Speech refers to a variety of subjects, and that it is desirable and usual that the debate on the Address should be of a general character. Indeed, it is a practice that any hon. Gentleman who wishes to say anything in respect to any one of them should have an opportunity of doing so. Had the present matter been taken early in the evening the discussion on the Address would have been confined to the discussion of the Irish question. Although, as I have already admitted, the Irish question is most important, still it is not the only one referred to in the Royal Speech, and I do not think it would be desirable that the consideration of all the other subjects referred to in the Speech should have been practically put aside in order that that one question should be now debated. Having made these remarks, I can only say that I regard the demand for an adjournment as unreasonable, and I cannot, in justice to the Government, think they are bound to concede it. I cannot help thinking that the course the fairest to the Government and the best for the interests of Ireland is that this important debate should be begun at the most convenient time—that is to say, when we know what the views of the Government in relation to the question are.
§ MR. MACDONALD
thought the proposition of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) a fair and wise one, and would vote for it. It would enable the House to have a discussion, not as to what the Government intended to do, but what they had done, and whether they had done all they could at right time. The contention of the hon. Member for Cork and his Friends was that it had not been done at the right time.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
Sir, I think the hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. Macdonald) does not understand the position in which the House is placed. What are the real facts of the case? An Address has been moved in reply to the gracious Speech from the 136 Throne, and it has been stated, in the course of the discussion which has taken place, that Papers showing the course which has been adopted by the Government in Ireland will be—in fact, that they have already been—presented to Parliament, and will be in the hands of hon. Members in a few hours. That is the immediate ground for demanding that the debate should be adjourned. Some hours ago, Mr. Speaker, the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) rose in his place and endeavoured to catch your eye, for the purpose of stating his views and submitting an Amendment to the House. He was prepared, apparently, to adopt that course on grounds which commended themselves, to his judgment, without waiting for any information whatever, and without having the slightest idea as to the action adopted by the Government. Some hon. Members who have spoken lately, however, have admitted most candidly that they had no reliable information whatever as to that action, and have said that until they were aware of it they were not prepared to express any opinion upon it. In these circumstances, we are asked to adjourn the present debate in order that hon. Gentlemen may make themselves masters of the Papers which have been promised, and which will very shortly, in due course, find their way to hon. Members. The House is aware that on the first night of the Session Papers are promised on almost all matters which have formed the subject of consideration to the Government for many months previously—Papers on the subject of Afghanistan, on the foreign relations of this country, and on other matters. If we were to adjourn the discussion of the debate on the Address until all those Papers are in the hands of hon. Members, I should like to know where we would terminate this initial stage of our proceedings? If this were merely a question of adjourning a debate on an interesting subject for a night or two, I am not prepared to say that there would be any great reason to urge against it; but what is the course which the hon. Member for Cork asks the House of Commons to adopt? He has already been informed that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is desirous of availing himself of the earliest opportunity of introducing a measure dealing with the question of distress in 137 Ireland; hut that is a measure which the hon. Member and his Friends are desirous, apparently, of pushing far away from us. From past experience, he would be a bold man who would say when a discussion such as the hon. Gentleman wishes would terminate. How long Ireland might have to wait for that measure—a measure affording relief to distress—I certainly should not undertake to say. The position of Her Majesty's Government is this. We announced our intention of introducing a measure dealing with the question of distress in Ireland. We have promised Papers showing the course which we have hitherto adopted. We do not ask the House now to commit itself to the step which we have taken. The Address in reply to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech contains no expression of opinion whatever as to the details of our measures. It merely, so far as I remember its phraseology, thanks Her Majesty for having communicated to Parliament the facts contained in that Speech. Hon. Gentlemen who may entertain certain views as to the omissions or commissions of the Government will he in no way debarred at a future time from expressing their opinions on the subject. The stage of Report upon the Address will come up in the natural course of events to-morrow, and if any hon. Gentleman wishes to state his views, then he will have an opportunity of doing so; or perhaps he had bettor adopt the advice of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington), and wait until h is aware of what the action of the Government has been, and until the Chancellor of the Exchequer has introduced his Bill. I think that would he the most convenient course to follow.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. J. Lowther) had argued as if it was necessary that the measure which the Government proposed should be carried through all its stages until it received the Royal Assent and he came law, before anything could be done to relieve the great distress which existed in Ireland. It would, indeed, be a poor Executive which could do nothing to prevent the starvation of the people until a long and, perhaps, complicated measure had been passed into law. He did not think hon. Members need be alarmed at the prospect held out 138 to them that by adjourning the discussion they were interposing between the Irish people and the projected measure of relief. He thought the right hon. Gentleman himself gave the House very good reason why there should be delay in the discussion. He seemed to throw blame on the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw) because he was ready, at an earlier stage of the evening, to give the House his views on the subject without waiting for the Papers promised by the Government. But his hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw) was acting with perfect consistency. The hon. Member for Cork was willing to go on with the discussion at first, because he had not then had the promised Papers, and knew nothing of their existence; but he had subsequently received them, and he saw that they might, perhaps, throw a great deal of new light on the matter; therefore, when he saw that, it was quite natural that he should wish for a little time to fully consider them. He did not think much time would be lost by the concession which the Government were about to give. The noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) had said it was usual in the House to have a general discussion on the Address in the first instance. But that was a mere piece of ceremonial which he apparently thought of more importance than a famine threatening a population. He thought the Government would act wisely, and would lose no time, by granting the concession asked to the Irish Members; and he must say he could not but join in the expressions of regret that they had not had the assistance of more English Members in their efforts to obtain the slight concession asked from a somewhat unwilling Government.
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. J. Lowther) had remarked on the fact that the Irish Members had not waited to learn from the Papers the circumstances of the case; but it was a remarkable fact that there were some 30 or 40 Representatives of Ireland who were so ignorant, having used their eyes and ears in Ireland for the past five or six months, and the Government action had been so secret—so impossible to discover—in the saving of life, that they were charged with ignorance from the Treasury Bench, and were told that in some Papers to be laid on the Table that every revelation would be made. He never heard a more 139 fallacious proposition. If the Government had dealt equitably with the famine in Ireland, then their efforts must be notorious. If their efforts had been efforts of which they knew nothing in Ireland, such efforts were a failure; and they would have Irish Members forget that they were sent there to denounce the inaction—the culpable inaction of the Government during the past six months in Ireland. He was astonished to hear the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition say the question of the adjournment of the debate was a minor matter. They knew very well what the Parliament of England would do if tomorrow an enemy were surrounding our shores, and threatening a hostile invasion. "Well, there was an enemy already invading the shores of Ireland, and one which they had historical reason to dread—an enemy that had on former occasions slain, not 10,000 of their countrymen, as in the Battle of Hastings, but an enemy that had whitened the soil of Ireland with the bones of victims to be counted, not by thousands, but by tens and hundreds of thousands; and they wanted Parliament to do in regard to that enemy what it would do if an enemy were menacing its shores with an invasion, and not allow it to waste six months in allowing that enemy to commit such ravages as it had done. They could not go to the Castle gates, and create a noise in the portals. They had to reserve for this occasion the indignation they felt, and the accusation they had against the Government. They wanted Parliament, if it was competent to deal with Irish public emergencies, to say that everything should be suspended until this crisis was adequately dealt with, and that the Minister who allowed the enemy to steal upon us should be adequately censured. He had been urged to insist upon this matter being brought forward at the earliest opportunity; and this course was the more necessary in consequence of the contemptuous indifference with which the Government had treated the representations addressed to them some months ago by three-fourths of the Representatives of the Irish people. He had a bitter recollection of what took place in Ireland in 1846 and 1847. He saw it all, and he recollected the scenes that occurred with horror and indignation. It was said that the Irish nation seemed to have forgotten the noble gene- 140 rosity of the English people in 1846–7. He had never failed to express in Ireland or in England the gratitude the Irish nation should ever remember for the individual action of many private ladies and gentlemen at that time, and had always advised his countrymen to be thankful too; but the secret why this apparent forgetfulness was general was because the Irish people saw that the wealth of the Government was withheld, and that work was thrown upon the inefficacious agency of private charity which the Government themselves should have done. In 1846–7, they saw people perish in Ireland by hundreds—and in his own parish that was so—because they then had a Government almost as inactive as that now presided over by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. In 1846 there was much circumlocution, but nothing was accomplished. They who saw the fearful slaughter then were alarmed now, as they recollected those memories, and compared what they saw then with that which was happening now before their eyes. The Government of itself stood condemned. The hon. Member for Cork desired to discuss this matter, but was not allowed to go on, for the Government told them nothing could be known of what they were doing except through the Papers on the Table. He (Mr. Sullivan) himself felt very strongly on this subject, for Irishmen had reason to feel very deeply on the matter. They did not merely wish to criticize the Government's good intentions; but they wanted to point out the failings of the Government. Last Whitsuntide he and a few other hon. Members stood up in their places in the House and warned the Government that this would occur. They knew that they were speaking to deaf ears. They were charged with exaggeration, and they were told that they were panic-mongers. And now, forewarned and forearmed, what had the Government done? Why, there was not any part of Ireland in which £10,000 or £20,000 had been expended to relieve the distress; and yet Her Majesty's Government, if many of its panegyrists were to be believed, were called the greatest Government in Europe or the world. Let them look at the prompt action of the French Government in the late case of the inundations of the Loire; let them remember the vigorous measures taken by the Austrian and Hungarian Govern- 141 ments when a great flood distressed their country, and compare those instances with the inactivity of Her Majesty's Government. This great, magnificent Government had done so little in seven months, that it could only be discovered by a printed Paper pushed across the Table. He complained—or, rather, he arraigned the Government as guilty before Heaven and that House of being the cause of the misery, the crimes, and disorders in Ireland. He repeated that they were guilty of causing the crimes and disorder in Ireland by not taking the active steps which they ought to have done to meet the distress. The Government knew of the danger before it came, and they could have done seven months ago what they proposed to do next week. But it was only when the voice of passion was heard that the Government began to move. The conduct of the Government in this matter taught them again the lesson that when the Representatives of Ireland tried to urge in a reasonable manner the claims and necessities of their country on the Government they were ignored, and that it was only by the force of passion or despair that the Government could be got to do anything at all.
§ MR. A. MOORE
said, there could be no doubt of the existence of a deep and generous sympathy felt by hon. Members for the distress in Ireland; but he really did think that hon. Gentlemen near him were placed in a very unpleasant position, this most important question of the condition of Ireland having been pushed on until a late hour. The whole night had been allowed to pass before they could bring the question before the House, when they really ought to have had the matter fully discussed and fully debated. They all knew what the Government could do in the case of an emergency, and they could do just as they pleased. Three years ago the Government, as part of its high-spirited foreign policy, spent £4,000,000 for the purchase of shares in the Suez Canal. There should not have been any delay in putting measures for the relief of Irish distress into execution. He hoped, therefore, that this debate would be adjourned until to-morrow night, so that immediate steps could be taken.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, it was a pity that, instead of wasting time in this discussion on the ad- 142 journment, they had not debated the Address, and continued it, if necessary, to-morrow evening. He rose to answer one or two questions which had been addressed to the Government by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) in the course of the conversation as to their intentions with respect to certain Bills. He was able to state that the Employers and Workmen's Liability Bill would be introduced in the other House and referred to a Committee. It was not the intention of the Government to re-introduce the Copyright Bill this Session.
§ Question put.
§ The Housedivided:—Ayes 62; Noes 174: Majority 112.—(Div. List, No. 1.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Sheil.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I presume that this Motion is only proposod formally with the view of again moving the adjournment of the debate. I resisted that Motion, because I thought it was rather an occasion for acting instead of talking. However, if the Motion for the adjournment of the House is withdrawn, I will consent to the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. SHAW
I am sorry to say, Sir, that I think the division we have just taken is a very unfortunate commencement of the Session; but it is in no way due to the Irish Members. I intended to ask the House to adjourn this debate, and I privately asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether they would agree to that course. I left them under the impression that they would agree to the adjournment. If they had said "No" distinctly, I should not have hesitated to have moved my Amendment, with a view of partially debating it to-night. Therefore, we have to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what has occurred. The right hon. Gentleman informed us that there were some very important Papers which would be placed in our hands to-morrow morning; and, therefore, I thought that they would at once, in consequence, agree to an adjournment of the debate. 143 As for myself, I may say that I was prepared to condemn the conduct of the Government without having further information than we have, and, in fact, I took the reference to the Papers which are to be produced as an indication that the Government were anxious to have the debate adjourned. I think I may say that I am not in the habit of interfering unnecessarily in this House, and in what I have done in moving my Amendment I thought that I was discharging my duty, and acting in no other spirit. I feel that I have been placed in a very unpleasant and painful position in consequence of the absence of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. He has gone out of the House for some time, and under the circumstances I consider it very unusual. I believe that this has all arisen in eon-sequence of want of precision and decision on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If the right hon. Gentleman had decided at once when I asked, I should certainly have resolved to go on with the debate to-night.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I rise, Sir, to claim the indulgence of the House. I must say I cannot understand what the hon. Member for Cork is talking about; but I suppose he refers to a few words he passed with my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland and myself behind the Speaker's Chair. The hon. Member intimated his wish to adjourn the debate, and I replied that the debate could not be adjourned, but that the wished-for discussion could be entered into on the Report on the Address to-morrow, when a statement would be made as to the plans of the Government. The hon. Member did not seem to be contented with that, which was all that was said. I had certainly never said that I was in favour of the adjournment of the debate. I am sorry that any misunderstanding should have arisen, for I have always found the hon. Gentleman straightforward in his dealings with the House. But 11 think that it is highly inconvenient that those private conversations should be made the subjects of discussions in the House; because the disclosure of them will make it difficult for others to take place. What I said was, that it would be better to agree to the Address to-night and discuss the condition of Ireland on the Report. If 144 that had been done we should not have lost time, and I could have made my statement as to the intentions of the Government in moving the Report. I now consent to the adjournment of the debate, and at its close I shall make the statement which I think it my duty to make.
§ Motion, by leave,withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Twelve o'clock.