§ Report of Address brought up, and read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Address be now read a second time."
§ MR. A. BALFOUR
said, he did not desire to call attention to any particular passage in the Queen's gracious Speech; But he wished to put one or two questions to the Prime Minister, referring chiefly to the subject of Mr. Goschen's Mission to the Porte. In passing, he might say he had no intention of criticizing the expediency of the step thus taken; on the contrary, he saw a strong reason for the Government thus acting, especially when he remembered the attacks which the right hon. Gentleman had made on Sir Henry Layard when at Constantinople. That being so, he put his questions to the right hon. Gentleman in the hope of being reassured by him on one or two points which some of the utterances of the Prime Minister in the country seemed to render somewhat doubtful, and more particularly in reference to his criticisms upon Sir Henry Layard. It would appear, in the first place, that the object of Mr. Goschen's Mission was to induce the Porte to accept and carry into effect the Berlin Treaty. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer had asked the Prime Minister a Question as to the nature of the pressure which was to be put upon the Porte; and the right hon. Gentleman was reported in The Times to have answered thus—With respect to the use of force, to "which reference was made in the speech of the Leader 240 of the Opposition, he may rest assured that Her Majesty's Government are a great deal too conscious of the gravity of all the principles and of all the results involved in such an idea to come to any conclusion of that kind, or to entertain any question of that kind, except when they are in the fullest possession of all the circumstances.He understood from that reply that no immediate exercise of force was contemplated by Her Majesty's Government, but he could not conclude absolutely from it that they did not intend immediately to use a threat of force; and his ground for saying that was not the speech made by the Prime Minister last night, but the statements which had been made by that right hon. Gentleman at various times in regard to the policy which ought to be pursued towards Turkey. Those who had studied the right hon. Gentleman's utterances would know that he thought that in 1876 a solution of the Eastern Question might have been arrived at had the English Government, in concert with Europe, threatened Turkey with force unless she adopted certain reforms; and he had entertained the idea that if such a threat had been used the exercise of force would have been unnecessary. If the right hon. Gentleman imagined that in 1876 the Porte could have been coerced without difficulty and without danger of actual resort to force, he must hold that view still more strongly now, with Turkey in her present position. He had, therefore, listened with some alarm to the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman, because he saw in it a certain possibility that, although Her Majesty's Government did not intend to use force, they had no objection to threaten force, being under the firm conviction that the threat would never require to be carried into execution. That was the first question with regard to which he wished to have his anxiety allayed. But, further, he understood that Mr. Goschen was to deal with two subjects relating to Asia Minor. The first thing which had to be remedied was thus described by the Prime Minister—We do not desire to see foreign influences established in Turkey; we desire only to see the obligations of Turkey carefully and faithfully fulfilled under the sanction of European authority; but the separate foreign influence of this or of that Power we regard as a sure source of jealousy, disunion, or even of more acute mischief.241 It appeared, then, that Mr. Goschen was, in the first place, to prevent or stop separate interference in the affairs of Turkey, and especially with respect to Turkey in Asia. He could, therefore, hardly believe that the Government did not intend greatly to modify, if not altogether to destroy, the Anglo-Turkish Convention. By that Convention the Turks were pledged to reform Asia Minor; we wore pledged, if they reformed it, to defend Asia Minor from Russia; and Cyprus was also given over to this country under the Convention. These three different provisions the present Prime Minister had, at various times, attacked in the country; but the two which he had attacked most violently were the cession of Cyprus and the defence of Asia Minor. When, therefore, he found the right hon. Gentleman directing his new special Ambassador at Constantinople to abrogate or modify the one provision of the Anglo-Turkish Convention which he had least criticized, he could not but believe that it was intended also to modify the others. If every provision except that by which we acquired Cyprus was to be modified, we might be left in the position of having obtained from the Turks what Gentlemen on his side of the House thought a valuable acquisition, and of having given nothing to them in return. Again, the Prime Minister said—There is also another impression, which lies deep in the minds of Ottoman statesmen, and which we are anxious to remove—the impression, namely, that England is disposed to trespass on Turkey's rights of sovereignty in Asia.Therefore, we might be placed in this curious position—that Mr. Goschen would go to Constantinople to re-assure the Turks on the subject of their possessions in Asia Minor by telling them that we should no longer defend them from the only Power by which they were ever likely to be invaded. He quite admitted that the right hon. Gentleman had taught them that the statements which he made while an irresponsible candidate were not to be taken too literally when in Office; and, in a speech which the right hon. Gentleman made yesterday, he seemed to directly contradict the opinions he more than once expressed before large and popular audiences. But though he admitted that they ought not to regard these utterances as authoritative illus- 242 trations of policy now that the right hon. Gentleman was in Office, he could not altogether ignore them; and therefore it was that he asked the right hon. Gentleman to re-assure them on the points to which attention had been called.
Apart from the questions which my hon. Friend put to me, there are a few remarks of his on which I offer an observation. In the first place, he said he was not surprised at the despatch of a special Ambassador to Turkey, when he recollected the attacks more than once made by me on the present Ambassador, Sir Henry Layard. He did not specify those attacks; he did not give me any means of reference to them. I should wish to know when and how those attacks were made. I do not wish to refer to a matter in which I have been, unfortunately, involved in a rather marked manner with Sir Henry Layard; but most certainly I am not aware that on any occasion I made any attack of that kind on Sir Henry Layard.
§ MR. A. BALFOUR
said, if he were asked to specify what he had in his mind he would state that he referred to an assertion more than once made by the right hon. Gentleman that Sir Henry Elliot and Sir Henry Layard induced the Porte to believe that England would support them in case of war, though all the official communications of Sir Henry Layard pointed to an opposite direction.
I do not hold or adopt at all the language which my hon. Friend attributes to me; and I should be obliged if, when he charges me with making an attack on anyone, he will more carefully and accurately specify what I have done. I do not consider that what I did was to make an attack on Sir Henry Layard. I had referred to, and commented upon, a passage in a despatch of Sir Henry Layard —I am now obliged to refer to it from memory—in which he conveys to the world his own most conscientious belief that England has interests of so vital a character in the maintenance of the Turkish Empire that ultimate interference on behalf of Turkey would be a necessity of her position. I believe I refer with substantial accuracy to that passage of the despatch. If I do not, I shall gladly make correction at any 243 future time; but the citation of a despatch from an Ambassador is not to be considered an attack upon him. Secondly, my hon. Friend at the close of his speech cited me as claiming what I conceive to be a most dangerous licence —a licence which he has treated with greater tenderness than it deserves. It was a claim that statements made in Opposition were not to be taken too literally when the persons who made them had come into Office. I think I see the nature of the error into which ho has fallen. What I have said is this —that there are things which may properly be said, may becomingly be said —nay, which it may be a positive duty to say, when the person is not a Minister, and particularly neither a Minister nor a Leader of the Party, which, at the same time, would not be becoming or proper to say if he were in a position of responsibility. With regard to my statements in Mid Lothian, my hon. Friend is perfectly free to quote them to whatever extent he pleases, and ho will never find me disposed to shelter myself behind such a claim as he has kindly ascribed to me. There was another matter broached before he referred to the Anglo-Turkish Convention. He stated that I had ridiculed the idea that if a threat of coercion had been delivered to Turkey by united Europe in 1876, Turkey would have resisted the threat of force so used. I think that is a little beyond the mark. I do not recollect to have ridiculed that idea, or thought it ridiculous to hold it. I did undoubtedly hold the opinion that Turkey would have yielded to the threat; and I supported that opinion by saying that there had never been an instance in which Europe had been united with respect to Turkey when Turkey had not acted in accordance with the wishes of Europe. To that extent I go, and no further. But, as my hon. Friend has drawn from that supposed idea the impression that Her Majesty's Government were about to use threats to Turkey, relying on their calculation that those threats were never to be executed, and that, consequently, they might use threats with levity, without the intention to act on them, I assure him I hold no practice more culpable on the part of a Government—if, indeed, it has ever been pursued—than that of resorting lightly to menaces, and pledging the honour of the country to 244 those menaces, without the intention to carry them into execution. Then with respect to the supposed instructions of my right hon. Friend Mr. Goschen, I should wish to explain what I think was a misapprehension, perhaps not unnaturally growing out of my speech to which reference was made. My hon. Friend stated truly that I stated that in the view of the present Government it is not desirable to encourage, either on our own part or on behalf of any other Power, the exercise of separate and solo influences in Turkey upon the Turkish question. We look upon the concert of Europe, the united influence of Europe, as the main, perhaps the sole, instrument by which there is a prospect of obtaining beneficial results; and, consequently, we look with jealousy upon the attempt to set up separate influences in Turkey, apart from the influence of Europe united and at large. I laid down that principle, not with special reference to the Anglo-Turkish Convention, but with regard to the general policy in connection with the Turkish Empire. With regard to the Anglo-Turkish Convention, any general principle that may be laid down by the present Government, or any Member of it, must necessarily be understood to be subject to the obligations — whatever those obligations may be, and upon them I pronounce no opinion at present—which may grow out of positive and definite contracts already made by a responsible Government on the part of the country, and binding on us in honour, whatever we may have thought of the policy that led to the conclusion of those contracts. There was one other point in regard to which I cannot admit the accuracy of my hon. Friend's description of the Anglo-Turkish Convention. He says England has undertaken to defend Asia Minor and to reform Asia Minor. One statement is a great deal more than the truth, and the other a great deal less. We have not undertaken to defend Asia Minor. We have not undertaken to defend any part of Asia Minor; but we have undertaken, subject to a provision, to defend a particular Frontier against a particular Power; and with regard to the undertaking to reform Asia Minor, it is not to reform Asia Minor, but to reform Syria, Arabia, and Egypt—the whole of the Turkish Empire.
Now, my hon. Friend supposes that there is, on the part of the Government, an intention concealed from the House, which intention has, at the same time, been conveyed in the shape of instructions to Mr. Goschen, to abrogate or modify that Convention. I think I may say that Mr. Goschen carried with him no special instructions on that subject. We have not received, as yet, some most important Reports which are in course of preparation with regard to Asiatic Turkey; and undoubtedly as respects our course under the Anglo-Turkish Convention, it is not in our power to arrive at such accurate and minute information as would lead us at present to the formation of any definite and precise view of the course we should take. I think I may not go too far in saying this—that, as we greatly objected to the conclusion in secret of Conventions of very great importance binding this country in a most vital manner, and in a manner which might be most onerous, without any prior knowledge on the part of this country or of Parliament, and as we do not think that method of using the Treaty power of the Crown is, on the whole, advantageous, whatever course we may think it right hereafter to take with regard to any of the provisions of the Anglo-Turkish Convention, our desire will be to ascertain or assure ourselves, before taking that course, that we are not about to do anything strange and foreign to the intentions and knowledge of the people of this country; but we should desire to the very utmost degree possible to associate Parliament and the nation with whatever course we may think proper to propose. The hon. Member may, therefore, rely upon it that any policy we may recommend with respect to engagements that were formed by the legitimate authorities of the country, and which we acknowledge to be in force, will be a policy most maturely considered by us, and I hope a policy not involving merely ideas or wishes of our own considered as a section of politicians, but such as will be congenial to the general views and convictions of the country.
§ MR. OTWAY
said, he had no intention of troubling the House with allu- 246 sions to the various topics in the Address in answer to the Queen's Speech; but he wished to notice one or two points to which little or no reference had been made by his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. His right hon. Friend had referred to two questions in relation to the Treaty of Berlin, one of which he described as critical, and the other as urgent. The critical point was the one relating to the new Frontier between Turkey and Greece, as indicated at the Berlin Congress. Now, whatever might be thought by other hon. Members, he held that the question having been once raised, and Greece encouraged, not only by this country, but by other European Powers, to hope for the rectification of her Frontier, it would be most unfair and improper if the efforts of the countries in question on her behalf were not to correspond with the words of their Plenipotentiaries. He went even further, and believed that it would conduce to the welfare of Turkey herself if the purely Greek populations that had for a long time sought union with the Kingdom of Greece were by European sanction to be united with that country. He hoped, as did vast numbers of people in this country and in the other countries of Europe, that the question to which he had referred might be settled in the way indicated by the Congress of Berlin, and that European Turkey might for the future be free of all danger of disturbance. The question which his right hon. Friend had described as one of great urgency was of far more serious character. A proposition had been made for the delimitation of the Frontier between Turkey and Montenegro, the effect of which, if carried out, would be to hand over certain populations—Maho-medan and Christian—to Montenegro; and he understood from the guarded Answer given that evening by his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to a Question relating to the subject, that the influence of our Government, in concert with that of other Powers, was about to be exerted for the purpose of effecting the transfer. Well, a European concert on Eastern questions was about the most difficult and delicate matter that any Ministry could possibly try to bring about. In his recollection, many efforts had been made to establish such a concert; but not one had ever succeeded. If, however, 247 the Governments of Europe, in concert, should hand over to the semi-savages of Montenegro the warlike Christian and Mahomedan populations of Albania, they would repeat the error which concerted Europe committed in 1815, when the Roman Catholics of Belgium were handed over to the Government of the Protestant Kingdom of Holland. He would recommend his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to weigh well every step that might be taken which should identify the name of England with action of that kind. They had always professed to promote freedom, and to endeavour to bring about a state of things that should cause the populations with whom he was immediately concerned to fulfil their national destiny; and to ask that a warlike race, composed of Mahomedans and Christians, should be cast into the arms of a people whom they abhorred—to use the force of arms to compel them to accept so hateful a connection would be a most unwise proceeding on our part. It seemed to him that we ought to know whether, in our endeavours to establish a European concert on the subject to which he was referring, the Government contemplated advocating force in order to compel certain populations to accept the rule of Montenegro. Turning to another matter, he said that there was a question of great delicacy pending between Roumania and the Bulgarian Government. The question of the delimitation of Frontier between Roumania and Bulgaria had received the attention of two International Commissions. The opinions of the Russian official alone interfered with the unanimity of the first of these Commissions. The second Commission reported in almost identical terms with the first, the Russian Commissioner alone, as before, dissenting. Now, he wished to hear from the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any effect was to be given to the decision of those Commissions or not. There was no country more deserving of sympathy or more entitled to credit than Roumania for the part she had taken during, and since, the Russo-Turkish War; and, considering the wrong she suffered by the cession of Bessarabia, it was doubly our duty to see that she obtained her rights. An allusion had been made in the Queen's Speech to the ap- 248 pointment of a special Ambassador to Constantinople. No great importance should be attached to that word. He had been present more than once in foreign countries to which special Ambassadors had been sent, and had remarked that such 'arrivals only led to points of disputed precedence with the Ambassador already on the ground. Having had an intimate personal friendship for many years with Sir Henry Layard, having entered Parliament at the same time, and combated together with him on many momentous questions, he was anxious to state what was due to his character. Whatever differences there might be as to his policy, a more able and devoted public servant could not be found. He was a man of unsurpassed energy and of great courage, who had never acted in opposition to the Government he served, but, on the contrary, always faithfully obeyed his instructions. A great compliment was paid to these high qualities by the late Government, who, although opposed to them in all their political views, selected him as the Ambassador of this country at Constantinople. Sir Henry Layard had been called a Philo-Turk; but that conveyed a wrong impression. With his immense knowledge of the country he was able to appreciate the many great qualities of the Ottoman people; but no man was better acquainted with the defects of Ottoman government, and no man ever made those defects known in plainer language to the Ottoman Government. He did this repeatedly in conversations with the Ottoman authorities, and in personal interviews with the Sultan himself. It was due to Sir Henry Layard, now that he was about to retire from one of the most difficult of posts, that his great services should be brought before the people of this country.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
, after listening attentively to the various speeches which had been delivered from the Treasury Bench, confessed to having some doubts as to whether the present Administration could not be most fittingly described as the "Government of Recantations." Those doubts had not been lessened by the observations which had just fallen from the Prime Minister. It was often difficult to follow the meaning of the right hon. Gentleman; but it would appear, from the observations which had fallen 249 from him that evening, the Government had not yet made up their minds at all with regard to the Anglo-Turkish Convention. This was the more remarkable because the right hon. Gentleman in his Mid Lothian campaign denounced the three main propositions of that Convention. Nay, he even went further, and denounced it as a whole in language of exceptional vigour, for he spoke of it as an "insane Convention." The right hon. Gentleman had said that his Mid Lothian speeches might still be taken as expressing literally his present opinions; and it certainly was a remarkable occurrence that an able, powerful, and wise Administration could not make up its mind whether or not to uphold an "insane Convention." The Government had, however, made up its mind not to renew the Peace Preservation Act in Ireland. Considering the present state of that country; considering the state of things that prevailed there not many months ago, and the speeches which were uttered by some hon. Members of that House, it was, to say the least of it, a great responsibility. Lest it should be said he exaggerated the serious condition of that country, he would adduce the evidence of a witness whose friendship for Ireland no one would dispute. In a remarkable and recent speech he found this passage—The revolt is really against the proprietors; hut it is also against the tenants. If a tenant pays rent, he comes under the condemnation of his brother tenants; and if a tenant he evicted and a farm vacant, and some other farmer enters upon the occupation of that farm, his peace, and even his life, are in danger.The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of the same speech to which he was referring, said—Now, what is the position of things in that country? This, I think, will meet with no contest whatsoever—that there is in Ireland at this moment an amount of discontent, of suffering, and of what we call disloyalty, which is not to he found in any other portion of the United Kingdom.…In the West of Ireland, in the Province of Connaught, you find there is something like a general social revolt. Rents are refused to be paid even by tenants who could pay them, and this course is recommended and encouraged by multitudes of persons. If evictions take place, if notices are given to tenants who do not pay their rents that they will he ejected from their farms, the officers who serve the processes are met by crowds of men and women prepared to hoot them, to condemn them, and in some cases actually by force to resist them,250 That was the language not of an enemy or opponent. It was spoken by a right hon. Member of the last Liberal Government and right hon. Member of this—the trusted friend and ally of the Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright). That was a description of Ireland at the present time, and the House had a right to know on what grounds the Government felt itself justified in dispensing with the Peace Preservation Act. A proposition had been made to suspend by law the power of eviction for two years; and he was far from satisfied with the reply which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had given to that suggestion. His language appeared to him (Mr. Chaplin) to give rise to the impression that he was prepared to entertain and consider the arguments which might be adduced in favour of such a proposition. If an impression was allowed to go forth in Ireland that the Government was prepared to entertain such a proposition, it would lead to disastrous consequences; and he could not believe that an English Administration would do anything of the kind.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
remarked, that some very important questions had been raised in the Address, and he had ventured to express an opinion upon some of them; and he might say that one very important branch of the subject which the House was called upon to entertain was the question of India, and he hoped and trusted that the question raised by the unforseen deficit in the Indian Exchequer would be considered on both sides of the House without any intervention of a Party spirit. He had great respect for the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), now the Postmaster General, who had so well and ably defended the interests of India in Parliament, and he (Mr. O'Donnell) had recognized his well-meaning attempt to draw certain Party profit out of it. He was satisfied the question of Indian finance was a question that equally concerned both sides of the House, and that its deplorable condition was the result of the administration of Indian affairs. Both sides of the House felt their responsibility, and he was sure he could appeal with confidence to his fellow-Members below the Gangway in opposition, in seeing that the discussion of Indian finance 251 would be conducted not only with a view of examining into the best way of obtaining a large profit, but also of ascertaining the cause of the serious and growing discontent and misery pervading tens of millions of the agricultural classes of India. The House had no conception of the wasting misery, which would disgrace a Turkish Province, and which was laying waste the Provinces of India. He hoard with pleasure that day the Question addressed to the Administration of the country by his hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn)—always true to his principles, whether sitting on the Opposition or on the Ministerial side of the House. He heard also with the greatest pleasure the Question addressed to the Government to know whether it would continue to retain the services of Sir Bartle Frere, who was held responsible by the late Government for letting them into errors they did not hesitate to deplore. Sir Bartle Frere was condemned by the then Opposition—now the present Government—of being the provoking cause of the shocking bloodshed in South Africa. He had no desire to say hard words of Sir Bartle Frere, but there were natural prejudices against the man, who was naturally associated with great suffering. There was blood upon the administration of Sir Bartle Frere, and it was due to the very conscience of Great Britain and Ireland that that man should be removed as early as possible from a scene which, through his misfortune, if not his fault, had been deluged with the blood of the innocent populations. He (Mr. O'Donnell) had asked a Question with regard to the condition of Roumelia, and he was well satisfied with the frank and open answer of the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke); but he believed there would be no more grievous mistake committed than if, in their zeal for the freedom of the Slav and the Greek, they were to shut their eyes to the claim of the Albanian. However, the thing he sought to bring out was brought out in the Answer of the hon. Baronet, and that was that early steps would be taken to remedy the mistakes which had been made by Her Majesty's late Government in regard to other branches of foreign policy, particularly concerning Albania. The Plenipotentiaries had ceded to the 252 Prince of Montenegro a quantity of land round Scutari, the most fertile in North Albania, inhabited by Catholic Albanians, and he trusted that the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who had often shown his sympathy with suffering nationalities, would see that the arrangement—a most unjust and oppressive one—would not be carried out. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) had raised a very important question with regard to Irish affairs, with respect to the agrarian condition of Ireland, and he (Mr. O'Donnell) thanked the hon. Member for the weight which he attached to this question. It was true the hon. Member did not discuss it from the point of view which he (Mr. O'Donnell) ventured to say was just to the people of Ireland; but at that particular time credit was due to every Member of that House who, whether in a hostile or friendly spirit, approached the Irish question with a due idea of its overwhelming gravity. Her Majesty's Government had proposed not to renew the Peace Preservation Act, and he thanked them for the spirit which had doubtless actuated them in making that concession, though, at the same time, he wished to be allowed to observe that the most of the Coercion Code had been practically repealed by the Predecessors of the present Government. To tell the truth, there was not much left of the Peace Preservation Act after the emendation which the recent Government were induced to make. One provision of the Act was directed against the free distribution of arms, and another provision provided that in cases of murder or apparent murder attributed to agrarian motives, the grand jury might charge the inhabitants of the district where the murder took place with compensation to the relatives of the murdered persons. On the subject of agrarian outrages, he ventured to think that the prohibition of firearms had very little to do with the commission of agrarian assassination. He thought in cases where an assassination had taken place, it would be found that the blunderbuss, or the pistol, or the rifle which did to death the victim, or otherwise the unpopular landlord or agent, had in very few cases passed the examination of the examining magistrates. When a murder was to be committed, he did not think the most 253 careful examination would prevent the smuggling of arms in small quantities required to commit these occasional assassinations. With regard to the second provision—namely, that which permitted the grand juries to levy compensation on districts, to be applied to the families of the persons alleged to be murdered for agrarian causes, he thought that that provision, so far from being in any way a provision for the preservation of the peace, only served to spread and exaggerate existing discontent, as the assassin had in all probability been brought from a great distance, and thus the really guilty persons did not suffer. But Her Majesty's Government had informed the House that they were prepared to enforce with firmness the existing law. He was one of those men who said out of the House what he would say in it, and he ventured to say, on his responsibility as a Member of Parliament, that if the Government were resolved to enforce with vigour the existing law against offenders, while they refused to take into consideration the miserably distressed condition of the country, then the Judges of Assize would have heavy work on their hands; and, further, he said that the offenders would possess the enthusiastic sympathy of the Irish race throughout the world. It would be perfectly impossible for the Irish peasantry to pay their contract rents for many a day to come; but the contract rents could be extorted by law, and the tenants could be cast out on the road side by law. If many of the landlords of Ireland used their legal rights to extort their contract rents, then there would be bad work in Ireland this year. Furthermore, he said, and he was not afraid to say it, that in any resistance which a desperate people might be driven to have recourse to, owing to the neglect of the responsible Government to meet the facts of the situation, it was the Government ten times more than the people that would be responsible for the consequences. It was all very easy to talk about the sacredness of contract, but there were many other things sacred as well, and human life was sacred too, and when the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire denounced as confiscation the proposal to suspend the right of ejectment for two years, he (Mr. O'Donnell) did not attach much value to the word confiscation when 254 used by the hereditary and habitual defenders of the rights of property. But was it confiscation to tell a landlord that he must not enforce his contract rent at a season of great distress? Why, it was a principle recognized by the law of the land. In the case of estate after estate the Courts of Equity had ordered the rents to be lowered much below the contract rent; and were the Government going to support by the law a landlord who held to his contract rent like a Shylock claiming Christian blood, when the Courts held that to do so would be inequitable? If the Government continued to arm the landlords of Ireland— proverbially so zealous as to the rights of property—and thus enabled them to exact their contract rents, then, he said, insurrection in Bosnia or Bulgaria was never so blessed as the insurrection of the Irish peasantry, armed he cared not whether with firearms or with scythes in defence of their homes. He spoke in no spirit of bravado, and he hoped he had sympathizers on both sides of the House when he appealed to every Liberal principle for justice to those Irish cultivators. He sat among the ranks of the Imperial Party, who were foremost in proposing a Vote of Thanks to Imperial soldiers for victories; and surely he should not appeal to hard or insensible hearts when he said he expected that they who recognized the valour of our soldiers would not be willing agents in bringing misery and desolation to the already hardly-tried homes of the Irish soldiers. The non-renewal of the Peace Preservation Act, the introduction of electoral equality in boroughs as between England and Ireland, and similar concessions, had nothing to do with the settlement of such pressing Irish difficulties as the inability of the contract tenants of Ireland to pay anything like their contract debts. It was all very well to talk about these men having entered into bargains with their eyes open, to say that if farms were over-rented it was the result of mad competition. It was not by an Imperial Parliament and a British Government which had robbed Ireland of its native Legislature that such a plea should be advanced. If the Irish people were reduced to this scramble for a miserable livelihood, it was partly because in many eases the best land had been taken from the Irish people to supply 255 bullocks for the English market. If the Irish people were reduced to this condition, that there were no manufactures in the land, and that even their fisheries and other industries had withered under Imperial misgovernment, it did not lie with the Imperial Parliament to twit the Irish peasantry with their scramble for the means of subsistence left them by Imperial legislation. Any general attempt of the Irish landlords to extort from the so-called contract tenants of Ireland the full amount of their contract rents or anything like it in this time of fearful distress, would only lead to disgraceful and dreadful scenes that might bring sorrow and mourning to hundreds of Irish homes, would cover with disgrace the Imperial Legislature, and would awaken—he said it in warning and not in menace—a flame in the breasts of Irishmen in America; and a conflagration begun in America might reach much further than was at present open to the ken of English Statesmen.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he should not have thought it necessary to say anything at all, on the present occasion, if it were not probable that the last speech would be fully reported and read in Ireland. He understood the hon. Member, in the strength of his sympathy with the distress of the Irish peasantry, to say that, under certain circumstances, the sympathy of this country ought to go with them in the resistance to the law.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, they must always take the law as it stood; resistance to the unamended law would also constitute resistance to the law, and therefore he was right in saying resistance to the law. He understood the hon. Gentleman to say that the indignation which he should feel, and the people of Ireland should feel, in ease the Irish landlords were not considerate during the present distress would be great, and he went further, and said the people of America would feel indignant if the Irish tenant did not receive considerate treatment. It was quite sufficient, however, if they confined their views of the matter to what the people of Great Britain and Ireland might think. If it were necessary for the Government to enforce the laws, he must really tell the 256 hon. Member that, having himself the strongest possible sympathy with the people of Ireland, he did not think any Government, of either side or any Party, could for a moment admit the notion that the law was not to be obeyed. He trusted that what the hon. Member appeared to foresee in the way of calamity to Ireland would not happen. He had no proof himself that there was any desire on the part of the landlords of Ireland to take advantage of the present distressed condition of the tenantry to enforce their rents, and he should deeply lament it if that should be the case. He should consider that harsh conduct on their part at any time, and more especially in a season of distress like the present, would call for the moral reprobation of the people of these Islands. But he must beg the hon. Gentleman and those who sat with him to remember the responsible position of the Executive Government. If the existing law were allowed to be disobeyed in one case, it would be disobeyed in many cases, if not in all. It was impossible even for those who were very anxious to reform the laws to allow them to be trampled under foot and to be defied. An illustration was furnished by the case of a process server, serving processes under circumstances of which he knew nothing, who had been stopped and searched and robbed of a number of processes, those for debt being ten times the number of those for rent. That showed that, if the Government were to allow the recovery of rent to be defied, it would soon be impossible to recover any debt at all. The hon. Member spoke of the sacred-ness of human life—a subject which he (Mr. W. E. Forster) had been compelled to think of anxiously ever since he took his responsible office, for the chief difficulty, or the only really questionable thing involved in the non-renewal of the Peace Preservation Act was the abandonment of the clauses relating to arms licences. He came to the conclusion that they might be abandoned, and he remained at that conclusion; but he was sure that the Government and himself would be showing an utter disregard of human life if they were to allow the process servers to go about, carrying out the law as it stood, with the possibility of resistance, without such a force as would make that resistance almost impossible. He must state that he should 257 feel it his duty, and he was sure his Colleagues would feel it to be their duty, to show in the clearest possible manner that they took the side neither of landlords nor of tenants in these unfortunate circumstances; to lose no opportunity of advising landlords, if it should be necessary, to show moderation and forbearance in consideration of the distress; and, in addition to that, while claiming moral influence with the people of Ireland on account of their wish to amend the law, to make it clear that after all they were an Executive for the administration of the law; and if he saw reason to believe that the law was likely to be disobeyed, he should feel, out of regard to human life, for the life of those who had to execute the law, and with regard also to those who unfortunately might have been encouraged to resist the law, that the kindest and most merciful thing he could do—the only thing the Government had a right to do—would be to accompany the officers with such force as to make resistance almost impossible. He did not look forward to any of these scenes happening, and he saw great reason to hope for some diminution of the distress. There had been very great and keen distress; but in some cases the accounts of it might have been exaggerated, and there might have been instances of imposition, as there always were when there was great distress. It was most likely to be keenly felt in the month or two preceding harvest, when the resources of the small tenantry were becoming exhausted. The permanent officials of the Department had worked with great intelligence, in no way sparing themselves, and he believed the arrangements made earlier in the year, in the provision of relief works, would meet the pressure between now and harvest and to some extent compensate for the exhaustion of the charitable funds. The permanent officers had determined to direct that the Inspectors should watch with the greatest care the most distressed Unions, so that the Guardians might be encouraged, and even obliged, to give out-door relief if necessary. Many of the small ratepayers were very much distressed, and it was determined that the order for their relief should be accompanied by the offer of a loan, the early payment of which it would be unreasonable to expect. He trusted they would be blessed 258 with a better havest. There was already some relief in a greater demand for employment in England. Every landlord in Ireland who had not got his rent paid, and was considering whether he should put the law into action or not by serving ejectment processes, should, he thought, pause; and if his words could reach such a man he would most earnestly beg him to wait until after the next harvest, and this for his own sake as much as for the good of the country. He would go further—he had no right to appeal to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dungarvan and those who sat by his side; but he would entreat them by all the sympathy they had for their poor fellow-countrymen to exercise their influence in favour of peace and order for the next few months. The hon. Member spoke of the Government getting the law obeyed while they were neglecting the miseries of the people. That was not true.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he had the greatest respect for the right hon. Gentleman. He had put the case strictly in a hypothetical form; and he said if the Government neglected the miseries of the people while the landlords exercised the full vigour of the law, then the Government would be responsible for the recurrence of evils. He fully recognized the excellent spirit of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
was much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for that remark. He could only say that he and his Colleagues would be unworthy to occupy the position they did if they could be justly accused of neglecting the miseries of the people. The Government would not neglect their duty; but he was sorry they had not been in the position they held long enough to be able to frame a measure which might meet the difficulties of Ireland at the present moment, and show the amount of preparation which would obtain the approval of the country. But if the Government could not bring forward any measure until next year, he asked that the difficulties of the position should not be made greater by scenes of disorder in the meantime. Would they let their hon. Friends on the Opposition Benches be in a position to taunt them with having given up the provisions of the Peace Preservation Act with regard to arms? Without the slightest feeling 259 of antagonism to any past Government, he was firmly impressed with the conviction that the distress existing in Ireland, whether exaggerated or not, was of that severity that it was a lesson and a warning to the Imperial Parliament of this country, and that no Government ought to he content without doing its utmost, as much as the law could possibly do, to make the distress almost impossible to occur again. In what he had said he had only spoken what he had felt, and he gratefully acknowledged the general marks of approval with which what he said had been greeted. He had no intention of returning to the debate of last night. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) had complained that he (Mr. W. E. Forster) had not spoken with sufficient clearness about the suggestion which had been made by the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell) of an ad interim Bill. It was quite true he had not pointed out all the objections he had, for they were various, to such a measure. Neither did he wish to give the impression that he would be able to support such a Bill; but in the present state of Ireland, in the present state of its representation, it would ill become him and the Government not to give a fair, full, and considerate hearing to any proposal that might he brought forward.
said, that all the evils of the Irish peasant were laid at the door of the landlord; but he (Mr. Macartney), as one of them, had no doubt that Ireland contained good and bad landlords; and the vast majority of them were as long-suffering and patient with their tenantry, as gentle-hearted and forbearing to those in distress, as any landlords could be. Like the peasantry of the country, they had one great fault in past generations — the want of thrift and due consideration in regard to their expenditure, and they suffered accordingly. Landlords suffered from non-payment of their rents, and tenants suffered from the over-indulgence of being allowed to fall into arrears and from the extravagance of their landlords. But customs were altering, and both parties were now looking after the pounds, shillings, and pence like their Saxon brethren. It was said, if the Government did not intervene, the peasantry would become the victims of their tyrant landlords, 260 and next winter there would be disturbances and bloodshed. Where were the ejectments to come from? In the North of Ireland there was hardly an ejectment this year or last. They never were so few. There were, no doubt, an immense number of civil bills; small traders, having given enormous credits, got alarmed, they seized everything, and nothing was left for the landlords. They had to forbear. In 1878 some tenants of his own, who resided 60 miles from where he lived, came over as a deputation to him, asking what deduction ho was going to give from their rents owing to the two bad seasons. They said they saw by the newspapers that the English landlords were giving reductions of at least 10 per cent. He showed that they had received a reduction of 12½ per cent since 1847; that from that year to 1854 they had received 25 per cent, and he had given instructions to his agent to report to him any case of distress, and abstain from enforcing payment of the rent. This year they made another application, which was signed by seven names. He referred to his rental list, and found that, of these seven persecuted men, none owed less than two years' rent, and three of them owed three-and-a-half years' rent. He, therefore, could pay very little attention to their remonstrance. A great many cases of that kind, he believed, had occurred in different parts of the country, and yet if he were to attempt to enforce a year's rent he should be considered a barbarian. He hoped, as the right hon. Gentleman had asked, that landlords would show forbearance and patience; but it must be remembered that landlords had to pay as well as to receive, and if they did not receive they could not pay. They had many of them extremely heavy mortgages to keep down, and the banks were not very willing to extend accommodation in times like these. If the Government maintained a firm hand, and were able by the ordinary law to preserve life and property, he hoped the evils predicted by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dungarvan would not take place.
§ MR. W. CARTWRIGHT
wished to say a few words with reference to that portion of Her Majesty's Speech which referred to the Treaty of Berlin. He would throw no reflections on Sir Henry 261 Layard, whom he had known for many years, and to whoso public services he was prepared to pay the highest tribute of respect. It was important not only that the clauses of the Treaty of Berlin should be effective in writing, they must be carried out in practice. There were three points which were most essential —the first related to the rectification of the Montenegrin Frontier, the second to the Greek Frontier, and the third was the 23rd Article of the Treaty. With regard to the Albanian Frontier, it was difficult to ascertain what was genuine and what was spurious Albanian nationality. From the information he had received, he was led to believe that a good deal of what was called Albanian nationality was spurious. It was factitious, and inspired from Constantinople. It was essential that there should be a development of what was truly national in the people, that they might one day take the place of the Turkish Empire. When the Roman Empire disappeared, what saved the world was the municipal institutions which were put forth. Let those institutions be developed, and good service would be done; but to try to maintain the semblance of a Turkish Empire was a real waste of power. It was desirable that the truth should be let in on Constantinople as soon as possible. Let it be known that, while no hand of a British statesman would be put forth to topple the Turkish Empire over, so neither would any hand be put forth to impart to it an artificial existence when it was no longer able to assert itself. In his opinion, it was not the upholding of the position of the Sultan, but the independence of the Balkan Peninsula, that was of essential interest to this country.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that, in rising to address the House on the subject of foreign affairs, and to reply to the remarks which had been made by the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Otway), the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Cartwright), and the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell), he wished, in the first place, to point out that there was one question raised by those hon. Gentlemen which was of peculiar delicacy. He alluded to the question of the Albanian Frontier. The hon. Member for Rochester, before he touched on this delicate and serious question, said, with regard to the Greek Frontier, 262 that it would be unfair towards Greece if, after having been encouraged as she had been by the reception of her claims by the Powers of Europe, she should find those Powers unable or unwilling to act up to the promises which they had made. Now, he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) hoped that the Powers of Europe were neither unable nor unwilling to act up to those promises; and he entirely concurred in the remark made by his hon. Friend that it was in the interest of the Turkish Empire itself that those promises should be performed. His own impression, derived from the latest information, was that there was every prospect of the Greek Frontier question being settled, and speedily settled, in the manner contemplated by the Protocol drawn up at Berlin. With regard to the Albanian question and that of the Frontier of Montenegro, he was not able to add anything to the replies he had made in the early part of the evening to the Questions of the hon. Member for Dungarvan and the hon. Member for Frome (Mr. H. Samuelson). He pointed out that, though there was a difficulty in obtaining an absolute concert of the European Powers on a question in which several of them were specially interested, nevertheless all the Powers had agreed on what was known as the "Corti compromise," which he had described to the House. The hon. Member for Rochester pointed out the extreme difficulty of inducing Austria, Italy, and other Powers exactly to agree to any plans with respect to the arrangement of the Montenegrin Frontier. But he would point out that the compromise suggested or proposed by Count Corti was agreed to by all the Powers of Europe. His hon. Friend spoke of the difficulty of handing over Catholic populations to Montenegro. But he must again point out, what he had pointed out in the early part of the evening, that the Prince of Montenegro already possessed, and possessed on that very Frontier, a considerable number of Catholic subjects exactly similar to those whom it was proposed to annex. His hon. Friend had spoken of the Albanian nationality. Nobody would for a moment deny that there was such a nationality, and that it deserved to be considered by the Powers of Europe. But there was a great deal in the remarks which fell from the hon. Member for Oxfordshire, 263 that there was a tendency to exaggeration with respect to that nationality. His hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire pointed out last year that a claim had been set up to the town of Janina which could not be maintained. Another claim had been set up with regard to geographical limits; but that claim ought to be very carefully examined before accepting the statements put forth on behalf of the Turkish Government, because in the early part of the Albanian movement the Turkish Government made itself responsible for those statements. Of late, however, the Turkish Government had found itself altogether unable to control this movement, and now, no doubt, it had entirely escaped the control of the Porte. The hon. Member for Dungarvan spoke of the claims of the Roman Catholics of Albania. But he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) must point out that, though the British Government was always anxious to respect the religious opinions of all others, yet there were Catholic Powers which cordially agreed to recommend the very compromise which the hon. Member denounced. Without expressing any opinion of his own with regard to the nature of the compromise which was agreed upon before the present Government came into power, he could not but think that if it were damaging to the interests of the Catholic people it was very probable that such Powers as Austria and Prance would have raised objections to it. It might be said that the Government of France at present did not possess the confidence of Catholics. But everyone knew that in her foreign policy France had always taken a great interest in everything that concerned the Catholic Church. The hon. Member for Oxfordshire alluded to what was called the Arab Tabia question, and his hon. Friend pointed out that no one had mentioned it of late. It was singular that that question had not been referred to, because it had been commented on at some length in the newspapers, and had been the subject of negotiations between the Powers. That question, however, if not actually solved as yet, was on the brink of a satisfactory solution, and the Roumanian Envoy, M. Bratiano, who had come over to settle it, had found his work all but done before he reached our shores. The Roumanian Government had expressed itself satisfied at the 264 conclusion of these very difficult negotiations. His hon. Friend had asked whether the fortresses had been demolished in accordance with the stipulations of the Treaty of Berlin? He could only say that they were in process of demolition, and that repeated inquiries had been made on the subject by the Powers, to whom answer had been given that the difficulty of the work of demolition was due only to the expense, and that that reason alone had delayed the action of the small Principalities. However, as the work was proceeding, the Berlin Treaty was substantially being observed. His hon. Friend the Member for Rochester had criticized the appointment of Mr. Goschen to Constantinople, and had doubted the wisdom of sending thither a special Ambassador. With reference to that appointment, the phrase "Special Ambassador" was not that which was actually made use of. In sending Mr. Goschen to the Porte he was described as Ambassador Extraordinary. There was, however, as he would admit, no great difference between the two; and he might point out that the mission of Sir Henry Layard when he first went to Constantinople was precisely the same as that now undertaken by Mr. Goschen. At that time Sir Henry Elliot was on leave, but continued to hold the post of Ambassador for nine months after the appointment of Sir Henry Layard, so that at one time there were two Ambassadors to the same Court—one on leave, and the other sent specially. Again, precisely the same course had been taken by the Government of France, and he was glad to know that Mr. Goschen would be able to act harmoniously with the special French Envoy. His hon. Friend the Member for Rochester had very justly praised Sir Henry Layard for his unsurpassed energy and ability, and, in saying that Sir Henry Layard was not very strongly pro-Turkish in his sympathies, had only stated a well-known fact. His despatches showed that his patience had become exhausted, particularly as he was well aware that the inability of Turkey to execute reforms seemed highly dangerous to her future existence. Sir Henry Layard had, in fact, pointed out in strong terms how great a risk Turkey incurred by the refusal to reform her administration. Sir Henry Layard had 265 to some extent exhausted his influence at Constantinople, and he himself would no doubt be disposed to think that a new man of great ability and courage coming to Constantinople would have considerable advantages in pressing the will of united Europe on the consideration of the Porte. His hon. Friend had specially spoken of the great importance of the reforms specified in the 23rd Article of the Treaty of Berlin. Now those reforms were not in the same position as those which concerned Armenia, as they were to be supervised by the European Commission at Constantinople. It was hardly possible to exaggerate the importance attaching to the duties of that Commission, and the Government would never be a party to any attempts to minimize them. The Commission, as had been pointed out last July by the hon. Member for Christchurch (Sir H. Drummond Wolff), had to exercise more control with regard to the other Provinces than towards Eastern Roumelia, because the Porte had the right of keeping troops in them at all times, so as to make itself respected. He believed that all hon. Members would feel confidence in his noble Friend who had been sent to represent the Government on that Commission (Lord Edmond Fitz-maurice), and who had, indeed, on one occasion made a speech to the House which served as an admirable text-book of the proceedings of the Commission. He believed that the execution of the reforms agreed to in the 23rd Article of the Treaty of Berlin, the accomplishment of reforms in Armenia, and of the will of Europe with regard to Montenegro, would, if loyally executed by the Porte, place the Turkish Empire in a safer and stronger position than it had occupied for many years.
§ MR. COURTNEY
called attention to the paragraph in the Queen's Speech which related to South Africa, and observed that he was not surprised at the way in which the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) had commended the expressions it contained, seeing that the Prime Minister had distinctly accepted the South African policy of the late Government. This evening the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies had stated that Her Majesty's Government had no intention of withdrawing Sir Bartle Frere, whose presence in the Colony was 266 necessary for the purpose of pursuing the policy which the Government had now adopted as their own. Therefore both the Agent of the late Government and the policy he pursued had been adopted—an Agent whom the Members of the present Administration condemned when they were sitting on the other side of the House, and whose policy the late Government excused on the ground that he had exceeded his orders, but that his presence in South Africa was so necessary that he could not be withdrawn. The present Government now adopted the same policy. That struck him as a very extraordinary position of affairs, and he regretted that the doctrine of accepted facts had not been expressed earlier, as its revelation might probably have influenced the language of some candidates at the General Election and also the votes of some of the electors. But, of course, we must take the thing as it stood, and study it as a curious problem in political history. The Motion brought forward at the beginning of last year by his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke) concluded with an expression of regret that Sir Bartle Frere had not been recalled. That Motion was also made in identical terms in the other House, and he believed all the 14 Members of the present Cabinet voted in one or the other House in favour of it. Moreover, most of the Members of the present Cabinet then expressed their reasons, which were to a great extent independent of the particular action which had occurred. His noble Friend the Secretary of State for India insisted that Sir Bartle Frere ought to be recalled because of the very bad example which would be given to our Colonial service if a Colonial Governor were allowed to remain at his post after he had shown flagrant disregard of his instructions. That, of course, was as good a reason now as then. For his own part, he should at all times be reluctant to interfere with the administration of a Colony to which we had given responsible self-government; but self-government in a Colony was always modified by the individuality of the Governor who represented the Home Government in the Colony. The individuality of Sir Bartle Frere in the Cape Colony was most marked in its effect soon after he arrived there. Sir Bartle Frere, the Cape Par- 267 liament not being in Session, ventured on the extraordinary step of dismissing the Minister who had until then possessed the confidence of that Parliament. When the Cape Parliament again assembled in Session, it accepted the dismissal of the late Minister, and accepted the appointment of the new Minister who had been called into power. This circumstance showed the enormous influence which Sir Bartle Frere's individuality exercised in the Colony. It was the sending of Sir Bartle Frere to the Cape which changed the majority in the Cape Parliament itself. It was the sending out of this "apostle of extension and advance" that rallied round him those people at the Capo who were ready for adventure and movement, and who were ready to run the risks and to accept the chances of extension of frontier and annexation of territory. The Under Secretary of State for the Colonies knew perfectly well that there was a great deal of difficulty lying before them in the future. If they withdrew Sir Bartle Frere, the difficulty of the future would disappear, because Sir Bartle Frere's policy would have been abandoned. In keeping Sir Bartle Frere in the Cape Colony, Her Majesty's Government made his policy their own. It was said that he was to be kept there in order that he might promote Confederation, and because he had no longer anything to do with Zulu-land or the Transvaal. These statements were not quite consistent with one another, as it was impossible that Confederation could be promoted without having to do with Zululand and the Transvaal. It was a matter of great regret that the present Government should keep this Confederation scheme going. He should have thought they would have found that Confederation was a mere fancy of a Colonial Minister who thought he could transfer to South Africa a scheme of policy which had been most successful in North America, without paying attention to the dissimilarity of the facts in North America and in South Africa. In North America you had people coming to ask for Confederation; whereas in South Africa no people asked for, but refused Confederation. If there was any feeling in these Colonies in favour of Confederation, if they were ripe for it, did not the House think that any Governor could 268 accomplish what the needs of these Colonies would demand? The whole scheme of Confederation had no relation to the facts of the Colonies which the Government wished to confederate. He should like to hear what the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. W. E. Forster) had to say about Sir Bartle Frere and Confederation. Two years ago the right hon. Gentleman congratulated the late Government upon having sent out Sir Bartle Frere as the very best man that could go. Last year the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman had so changed, that he said the late Government ought to have known that Sir Bartle Frere would have his own way. Perhaps he had a third opinion now; but these changes were puzzling to plain people. The people of the Transvaal had many virtues, and, no doubt, they had many faults. They were a very simple-minded people, and they would certainly be very much puzzled when they read the paragraph in the Royal Speech with regard to South Africa. The last thing he heard from the Transvaal was that a meeting of Boers passed certain resolutions and a vote of thanks to the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, and to other Members of Parliament who had denounced the annexation of the Transvaal, and advocated the restoration of the liberties of the Boers. And he found that in the Cape Colony Dutch people had got up a large Address to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government, inspired by remarks he made in Mid Lothian; and he (Mr. Courtney) wondered what would be the feeling of these people when, in the course of a few weeks, they read this paragraph in the Royal Speech and the report of the declaration which the Prime Minister made last night. They would remember how the Prime Minister denounced the annexation of a territory inhabited by a population including some 8,000 male adults, of whom 6,600 signed a protest against annexation. The Boers said—"Here is a great statesman who has taken up our cause, and he may be trusted to help us to regain our independence." That was the feeling which animated them in sending that Address to the right hon. Gentleman. But now they heard something very different from the Royal Speech, and also orally from the right hon. Gentleman himself. 269 The Royal Speech spoke of the diversified population of the Transvaal, and that language must be traced to the influence of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who appeared to have been much struck with the claims upon us of the Natives of that Province. Now, the late Government had expressly repudiated having been actuated at all by a consideration of the interests of the Native population of the Transvaal, but rested the annexation simply on the ground of self-defence. They annexed that country, not because of the sufferings of the Natives, but because its independence was a danger to ourselves. But now that annexation was to be maintained on totally different grounds. The Boers would not be able to understand all that; they were too simple; their minds did not move in such a complex fashion as to comprehend the change which seemed to have occurred. They would ask why it happened that their wrongs, which were made so much of a few months ago, were not even recognized now. And he confessed that he did not know what good answer could be given to that question. There was another point to which he might incidentally call attention. When the Transvaal was annexed, Sir Theophilus Shepstone, the agent in doing it, issued a proclamation containing many statements and promises. He was also at the time in communication with Mr. Burgers, the President of the Transvaal, up to the date of its annexation; and Mr. Burgers produced to him a paper of questions respecting the conditions of the annexation. Sir Theophilus Shepstone answered those questions with as much care as possible, desiring to commit himself as little as he could. But those who read the Proclamation of Annexation, with the conditions attached to it, and also the questions with the answers given, would agree with him at least as far as this—that there was great ground for saying that the Commissioner who annexed the Transvaal did it with the promise and on the condition that the autonomy of the Transvaal should be preserved, with an independent Legislature of its own. Soon afterwards, while the troubles were going on in the Transvaal, our Administrator issued certain police orders which were questioned before the Law 270 Courts there, and the High Judge of the Transvaal delivered a judgment as to the validity of those orders in connection with the conditions on which the Transvaal had been annexed. Many months ago he had asked the right hon. Baronet the late Secretary of State for the Colonies (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) to lay a copy of that judgment on the Table, and he had promised to do so; but it had not yet been produced. The High Judge laid down in his judgment that the Proclamation of Annexation contained within it a condition irrevocably granting to the Transvaal the maintenance of the representative institutions and the autonomy it possessed. The late Government had, however, issued Letters Patent from the Crown depriving the Transvaal altogether of its representative Government. Now, when the Colony of New Grenada was taken by us from the French in the last century, in the act of capitulation promises were made that its liberties should be respected, and that the people should be governed on the same conditions as the other Colonies of Great Britain in the West Indies, and that a representative assembly should, as soon as convenient, be called. Before any such assembly had been called, the Administration there, by an act of its own, made an alteration in the Customs duties of the Island. The validity of that proceeding was brought before the Court of Queen's Bench, and Lord Mansfield gave the unanimous judgment of that tribunal, which decided that since New Grenada had been taken over under capitulations, promising representative institutions and the same liberties and franchises as were enjoyed by the other West India Colonies of the King, that was an irrevocable abdication of the power of the King, and thereafter no alteration could be made in the constitution of Grenada except by Act of Parliament. It would be a question hereafter whether the issue of Letters Patent he had referred to was not altogether void. There was another difficulty with regard to the design mentioned in the Royal Speech to "extend to the European settlers institutions based on large and liberal principles of self-government," that the moment representative institutions were established, they would pass a unanimous vote repudiating the Imperial authority. If that, then, were the probable condition of the future, he 271 was at a loss to understand the retirement of the Prime Minister from his declarations on this subject in his Mid Lothian campaign. He (Mr. Courtney) was addressing a House which contained a larger number of new Members than any newly elected Parliament since the first Reform Act; and he would ask those new Members whether in their election addresses and speeches—free as they were from all complicity with the last Parliament, or recollections of having been led into the wrong Lobby —they did not denounce the conduct of the late Government in South Africa, and whether they did not feel great embarrassment now they were in this House to find that the grounds to which they appealed for the confidence of the electors was taken away from them by the action of the present Government? They were now asked to support in Parliament that which they condemned and denounced in the country; and their position would be one of extreme embarrassment when they went to make their annual address, unless they could throw a convenient veil of forget fulness over all they had said at the General Election. But more serious than that was what remained. Very few thoughtful Liberals could see the result of the last three elections without great anxiety and concern. He did not like to see these big turn-over majorities; they were unpleasant; they showed great instability in the public mind: but he asked whether they could expect any other result, if they made an appeal to the people on one ground—that of the policy of the existing Government being bad—and, having got into power, forgot all their pledges, and deserted that ground? In 1874 the constituencies deserted the Liberal Party, because they thought the Liberal Government was not acting up to, and was not true to, its principles; and if they had another General Election within the next few years, and if the public found that they had not done in Parliament that which they promised before getting into power, they would find the popular wave which had now borne them to power would leave them stranded high and dry. If so, they would not be able to complain of the mobility of the popular sentiment. The Prime Minister last night lamented that the old Constitutional practice of the existing Ministry meeting a new Parlia- 272 ment and taking a vote on their policy was abandoned, and he (Mr. Courtney) was beginning to share that regret. If the Government had not exercised an act of premature resignation, and had met Parliament, there would have been some necessity for a repetition here of the speeches on the hustings; and as those statements would then be made from one side of the House to the other, it would be difficult to forget, the audience being exactly the same, on the right side of the Speaker what had been said -in Opposition. He was very sorry to have to speak in this way. [Laughter.] He did not understand that laugh. It was no comfort for him to find the old bad policy persisted in.
MR. GRANT DUFF
said, that he would first deal with the question of Confederation. He would admit that the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) had always been consistent in himself upon the point; but he would remind the hon. Member that for many years the Confederation of South Africa had been an object of desire to statesmen. He would not rake up the embers of controversy by inquiring whether that object had always been pursued wisely; but, whether or not that was so, in the year 1877 Parliament, by very large majorities, affirmed that Confederation was a desirable object, and passed the South Africa Act. After passing the South Africa Act, a considerable period elapsed, which was filled up by the disastrous events which had called so much recent attention to South Africa; but, in the month of June last, the late Secretary of State for the Colonies invited, through the Governor, the attention of the Cape Ministers and Parliament to the subject. A good deal of correspondence followed; but eventually, in the month of January in this year, the Ministers of the Cape Colony themselves proposed that a Conference should be assembled to consider and report upon the practicability of the union of the South African Colonies; and, further, they broached a plan by which they suggested it should be carried out. The late Secretary of State replied, in the month of March, accepting the proposal. That, then, was the position in which the present Government found this matter when it acceded to Office; and it would be seen at a glance that whatever difficulties there might be in the 273 way of Confederation, it could not be said that if we held our hand and adopted an expectative treatment we could be accused of forcing Confederation upon an unwilling1 Colony, especially when the proposal came from the Colony itself, which suggested the means by which Confederation could be brought about. There were forces in the Cape Colony itself which made against, as well as forces which made in favour of Confederation; but Her Majesty's Government certainly did not go in any way beyond what was right and wise if they took no step which could in any way frustrate, or expose to the risk of being frustrated, the project of a Confederation. They wished it well, and awaited events in all hopefulness. With regard to Sir Bartle Frere, they were blamed, and blamed by some of their own friends, for not recalling him; but those who blamed them had not sufficiently clearly before their minds the state of affairs in South Africa. Sir Bartle Frere was no longer exercising those powers in the exercise of which he committed, as those who sat on that side of the House believed, very grave errors. Sir Bartle Frere was exercising other and much less extensive powers, powers in the exercise of which he might, no doubt, commit errors, as all men might, but in which he could by no possibility commit the kind of errors which were attributed to him in the debates of last year. Sir Bartle Frere was engaged in work of an essentially pacific sort, and in work which both sides of the House, with very few exceptions, desired to see accomplished—the union of South Africa in a Confederation by the wish and on the initiative of South Africa. His efforts might fail, though many in South Africa who disliked his Zulu policy were sanguine about the result. The proposed Conference might never meet, or having met, might lead to no settlement; but there was at least a fair chance that the Conference might succeed, and they would indeed be taking a grave responsibility upon themselves if, by removing Sir Bartle Frere at this moment, they sacrificed, as they undoubtedly would sacrifice, this reasonable chance of early Confederation. Besides, what would be gained by the recall of Sir Bartle Frere at this moment? It might be replied that it would emphasise our condemnation of 274 the Zulu War. Well, he thought the condemnation of that war by the Liberal Party and the vast majority of the electorate needed no emphasising. But it was said Sir Bartle Frere deserved to be punished. To that he answered that the object of punishment in civilized States was not vengeance on an individual, but the prevention of mischief; and if the mischief could be effectually prevented without punishment, then punishment was, in Bentham's words, "mere misery in waste." Nor should he be at all prepared to admit that the unhappy Zulu War was so completely the act of Sir Bartle Frere that his recall would be an act of what is called poetical justice. The Zulu War would never have taken place if Sir Bartle Frere had not seen that the doctrines of his school in India, the so-called "forward school," were in favour with some very powerful persons at home, and were supported by a certain amount of noisy opinion. The Zulu War was a mere bastard slip of the Afghan policy; and he thought the justice which had overtaken the authors of that policy at the late Elections was sufficiently poetical to be a warning to all future Governors and Ministers. Sir Bartle Frere had at various periods of his life done very good service to the State in several capacities; and he (Mr. Grant Duff) did not think he was over-sanguine in hoping that, under the auspices of the present Cabinet, whose tendencies were assuredly not in the direction of the faults which were with justice attributed to Sir Bartle Frere's policy in reference to the North-West Frontier of India and Zululand, he might yet do very good service. Coming next to the Transvaal, hon. Members would not, he thought, expect him to go into the question whether that country should or should not have been annexed. The present Government had, of course, to deal with things as it found them, and it found the Transvaal part of the Dominions of Her Majesty. The only question for it to determine was whether it should or should not reverse the policy of its Predecessors as to that country? That policy, however, had been accepted by Parliament and sanctioned by the advice of various prominent politicians on both sides. Nor could they in any way replace the state of things which existed before annexation. That state of things was bad, 275 very bad; but, deplorable as by his own showing was the position of President Burgers in the beginning of 1877, the Government could not re-create in Boer hands even as strong a Government as that over which he presided. What the Boers disliked was, not so much a foreign government, as any government which attempted to exercise authority at all. Supposing the Government were to give back the Transvaal, not only would all the old difficulties revive, but to them would be added the danger of a civil war between English settlers and the Boers. It must be remembered that though the latter were the more numerous, the former were more concentrated and more able to act together. They would, it was highly probable, if the strong hand of the British Government were now removed, refuse to accept Boer ascendency without a struggle, and they would be joined by desperadoes of all sorts from the neighbouring countries. That was not a pleasant prospect, and he would be a rash man who would be responsible for bringing it about. They should remember also that the English settlers would be backed by the moneyed interests throughout South Africa, in so far as it was concerned with the Transvaal. All the merchants who did business with that country, all the persons who had their means invested in landed property there, including probably many of the Boers themselves, would tremble for their fortunes if the country were left to Boer rule. Then, nothing that had occurred would prevent troubles rising once more between the Boers and the Zulus; and though the Zulus were far weaker than they were formerly, yet they were not weak enough to submit for an indefinite time to aggression on the part of the Boers, and such aggression would be inevitable. Further, the Government had to consider the position of those Boers who had been throughout partisans of the English, and whose interests must not be entirely overlooked. The determination of the Government of this country not to give up the Transvaal had been so often and so distinctly asserted, by so many different authorities, in so many different ways, that it would be difficult to recede, even if the old Government could be set up. And there were other things to be considered. There was the feeling of the vast mass of the Native inhabitants of the Trans- 276 vaal, who outnumbered the Boors by much more than 20 to 1, of whom there were, indeed, something like 800,000. It was quite impossible that after what had passed they should be quietly handed back to Boer rule. To do so would be to invite commotion, and would not be just in itself. It must not be forgotten that the Transvaal was a country nearly as large as France; and it was certainly a strong thing to assert that the will of even a considerable majority of the 34,000 Boers, for that was their number, all told, men, women, and children, should be final as to the future of so vast a territory. Under the very difficult circumstances of the case, the plan which seemed likely best to conciliate the interests at once of the Boers, the Natives, and the English population, was that the Transvaal should receive, and receive with promptitude as a portion of a Confederation, the largest possible measure of local liberties that could be granted, and that was the direction in which Her Majesty's present Advisers meant to move both in the Transvaal and in Natal. The Government wished, in short, so far as what had passed would permit, to take up the question of Confederation, so far as it affected the Transvaal, just where President Burgers left it in the remarkable speech which he delivered before annexation, pointing out to his countrymen that their only way out of the frightful calamities in which they were involved was a frank and honourable union with the English. He did not pretend to say that the course which Her Majesty's Government had determined to take would necessarily bring early prosperity to the Transvaal; but he thought there was a reasonable hope that agitation would gradually die out when it was clearly seen that to return to the old state of things was impossible, and the last accounts which had been received were certainly good. The revenue was coming in far better than it did, and altogether matters wore a more cheerful aspect. The hon. Member for Liskeard raised a further question about the validity of the Letters Patent issued with reference to the Transvaal. Ho was, of course, quite at liberty to do so, and it was right that the attention of the House should be called to the subject; but it concerned the late Secretary of State more than the present, and he 277 supposed that, although they might discuss such a question, no authoritative decision could possibly be given upon it, unless it were regularly raised and formally decided by a competent legal tribunal. As at present advised, the Government believed that the high legal authorities who were consulted by their Predecessors were right, and that the Letters Patent were perfectly valid.
§ MR. PELL
said, that the time of the House had been so much taken up at an earlier period in the evening by the discussion of other topics that but little time had been left for the consideration of what was evidently a most important question. Prom the able and conscientious speech of the hon. Member for Liskeard, it was obvious that a new view of the subject had been presented to the House, and upon the questions raised many hon. Members would wish to have the opportunity of speaking. He hoped that the House would not regard him as an obstructive if he asked that a little time might be given for the consideration of the questions raised. He did not think that the debate could be properly concluded on that occasion; and therefore, in order that the great questions before the House might be adequately considered at a future period, he begged to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."— (Mr. Pell.)
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, that if there were a disposition on the part of any considerable number of Members to have the debate adjourned in order that further consideration might be given to the subject, the Government would not desire to stand in the way of that feeling. He had not, however, during the course of the evening, been able to observe that there was any great disposition on the part of any section of the House to enter into a much fuller discussion of this subject than had already taken place. The hon. Member who had moved the adjournment of the debate had expressed himself desirous of hearing more upon the subject raised by the hon. Member for Liskeard. It appeared to him that if there were any disposition on the part of the House generally to hear more upon that subject on the present occasion, there would be some 278 manifestation of that feeling. He had not, however, observed any great disposition to pursue the discussion; and he did not think that, under those circumstances, the Government should assent to the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, that when the hon. Member for Liskeard rose to address the House, four or five hon. Members on the same side also rose. The noble Lord said that he had not observed any great disposition to continue the discussion of this matter. In his opinion, there was a very considerable desire on the part of many Gentlemen who had listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Liskeard. to hear a reply of a somewhat more convincing character than that given by the Under Secretary. There had been a good many recantations on the part of Her Majesty's Government during the short time since the House had re-assembled. When he remembered a speech made upon the very spot on which he was now standing by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, attacking Sir Bartle Frere, and when he remembered the language in which he denounced the conduct of Sir Bartle Frere, he must say that of all the recantations made by Her Majesty's Government this one was by far the greatest, and required a more ample and detailed explanation. He hoped that the noble Lord would not refuse the request of his hon. Friend that the debate should be adjourned. It was then past 12 o'clock, and there was a great deal of Business before the House. The questions to be discussed on the Report of the Address were of so important a character that he trusted the adjournment would be agreed to.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said that, in his opinion, the statements of the hon. Member for Liskeard were deserving of a very serious reply, and they certainly were deserving of a more serious answer than had been already given by the Under Secretary for the Colonies. He did not think that the reply of the right hon. Gentleman was either sufficiently full or sufficiently satisfactory. At the same time, even if the debate were adjourned, the Prime Minister would not have an opportunity of speaking, as he had already spoken on the question. That being so, he did not see any reason why the debate should not be concluded then.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: —Ayes 40; Noes 122: Majority 82.—(Div. List, No. 3.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Address agreed to: —To be presented by Privy Councillors.