HC Deb 08 April 1881 vol 260 cc1036-55

, I have to move that the House, at its rising, adjourn to Monday, the 25th of April. I do so in the belief that it will be the wish of the House to adjourn at the close of the Morning Sitting; and I take the opportunity of saying that the late Secretary of State for the Colonies (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) was perfectly correct in his reference to what I stated on a former occasion in connection with a discussion on the subject of the Transvaal. I shall have great pleasure if, as an independent Member, he may be able to find an early day for his Motion after the re-assembling of the House; but I do not recede from what I previously said; and if he is not able to do so in that way, I shall give him the first opportunity I can find for the discussion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House, at its rising, do adjourn until Monday 25th April."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


I think, Sir, I may venture to say, on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Gloucestershire, that he will readily comply with the suggestion of the Prime Minister, and endeavour in the ballot which is presently to be taken to obtain a day on which to bring forward the important Motion of which he has given Notice. But in case he is not successful, he hopes, and we hope, that an opportunity will be given to him by the Government at no distant day for the discussion of that question. It is one of the very greatest and most pressing importance; it is one that we have abstained from raising during the last few days or few weeks, because we were under the impression that information would probably be given to us, which it now appears we are not likely to receive before we separate. We have abstained until it became impossible to be silent any longer in case of misconstruction, and, consequently, my right hon. Friend has given his Notice. I am sure the feeling of the House will be one of entire accordance with the Motion which has just been made by the Prime Minister. I think the House will be satisfied that the time has come when we may take a little repose after the lengthened and exhausting period which Members have spent in this House; and I could only have wished that our holidays might not have been embittered by such severe holiday tasks as they are likely to be. I can assure the Prime Minister and the House that when I made the appeal to the right hon. Gentleman a few minutes ago to put off the discussion on the second reading of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill to a somewhat later day than the first Monday after Easter, I did so without the slightest intention of interfering with or postponing the real discussion of that measure, or of impeding the progress of Business. It has been throughout the Session my desire—and the desire of those with whom I have the honour to act—to facilitate, as far as possible, the progress of Business; and I think that the House will do us the justice to admit that, even when we have occasionally found it necessary to oppose the proposals made by the Government, which seemed, perhaps, to be an opposition intended to retard the progress of Business, we were really acting in the best sense in its favour. I undertake to say that if we, the Conservative Party, had not had the courage to stand up some weeks ago to resist the proposal made by the Government for the declaration of "urgency" on Supply, we should at the present time have been in less good temper, and should have done less good work than has been done. I do not wish to go back on that time, or to throw blame on the Government for the proposal; but I am satisfied that it was the duty—and that it will be the duty—of the Conservative Members of this House, while they abstain carefully from anything in the nature of obstruction to the Business of the Government, to insist on their rights as an Opposition to discharge their functions in fully criticizing all the measures which the Government may introduce, and in demanding full time and opportunity for their discussion. We look on the last three months which we have spent within these walls with no feeling of dissatisfaction, as far as we are concerned. We cannot but feel that there have been many important questions raised, and many important statements made, which to us, at all events, have had what I might call rather a refreshing effect. We have seen many charges that were made against us practically disproved and practically abandoned by those who a year or so ago were so free in their language of censure against us. I myself will confess to the House that I have spent some considerable part of this Session—as, indeed, I did of last Session also—in great anxiety of mind, because I understood that one of the principal functions which the present Government were to discharge was that of setting to rights the disordered condition of the finances of the country, and altogether upsetting and reversing the very un- businesslike and unstatesmanlike character of all the proposals of the late Administration. When I heard the magnificent heralding with which the friends of the Government came forward just before the introduction of the Budget, I thought I was to receive a tremendous castigation; but when the event happened, I was pleased to find that, after all, though the Prime Minister made an eloquent speech, and one of great length and great interest, it resulted in almost next to nothing, and certainly very little indeed that we, or I personally can complain of, as a reversal of my own policy, a policy for which I can be held to be responsible. Indeed, I have sometimes almost felt as I could imagine King Richard III. to have felt in his tomb when he found he was to be rehabilitated. For after observations have been made upon one measure and another—and observations have been made which I have received with something more than equanimity—it has been not a little remarkable that in the course of these three months we have had occasion to see the very serious results of the conduct which Her Majesty's Government had promised before they took Office, and the difficulties which they have created for themselves. I do not wish to enter upon such personal questions to which I have alluded; but I think there are questions upon which the country has had serious reason to regret the difference between the course pursued by Ministers before and after they took Office. I cannot exaggerate the importance which I attach to that particular subject to which may right hon. Friend (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) is about to draw attention. Certainly, there are many questions in relation to the policy which has been pursued by both Governments in South Africa which are open to fair discussion; but when we are lectured, as we have been, by the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Grant Duff), who is such a master of the "tone" that ought to be taken in putting Questions, or in giving Answers, I must say that the tone which has been taken by the right hon. Gentleman himself, as the representative of the Government in this important Department, is a tone which I think ought to be very greatly deprecated. During this Session we have not forgotten some of that fine language, and those quota- tions from Virgil about debellare superbos, &c., which produced a wholly different effect on the minds of the people of this country from that which now, unfortunately for the Government, prevails. I should be entirely unjustified, however, if I were to enter at length into questions of this sort. I am satisfied with pointing generally to the peculiar character of the pre-Easter Session, and assuring the House that we have endeavoured, as they may have seen, to promote, as far as we possibly could, the proper conduct of Business—and that similarly we shall persevere during the remainder of the Session in the discharge of that duty. I am bound to say, with regard to the particular question as to the time of taking the second reading of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill, I do not think it would cause loss, but would rather save time, if we were allowed ample opportunity of considering that measure before we commit ourselves on the second reading. With regard to the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), of which Notice has been given, that is a Motion made entirely on his own responsibility. It is not to be taken as implying that we have been able to make up our minds on the grave questions which have been submitted to us. The statement made by the Prime Minister yesterday was one which involved large considerations of policy of every kind, and which demands the most serious consideration. Demands were made or indicated which the country ought to have a full opportunity of considering, and which we ought to have an opportunity of considering in consultation among ourselves while we are able to freely meet and consult. We are denied that. We shall think it our duty to discuss this matter fully; and if the result of taking the second reading of the Bill immediately upon the House re-assembling causes a longer time to be occupied in its discussion, that will not be our fault—we shall not be responsible for the delay that may take place. But it is not our intention at all to interpose anything in the nature of needless delay in the discussion of a measure of such immense importance and of such great difficulty—a measure which, if we may trust report, has run through no less than 22 editions in the Cabinet, and cost the Government the loss of the services of one of their most eminent Colleagues. We are rejoiced to have so lengthened a holiday, and my right hon. Friend (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) will take his chance of finding an independent day on which he may bring forward his Motion relating to the Transvaal; but if he does not succeed in obtaining one, we will trust to the redemption of the pledge given by the Government for facilitating that important discussion.


said, when the right hon. Gentleman spoke about the second reading of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill, he gave as one of the practical reasons why the discussion should not be delayed, that no appeal had been made by the Irish Members, and he glanced towards the seats below the Gangway, as if they were the only Irish Members who sat there. He would remind the House that there were Irish Members and Irish Members. Ho would suggest that the discussion on the second reading should be postponed until, at least, one or two days after re-assembling. And in making this appeal, he felt he was only repeating the sentiments of every Irish Member who sat above the Gangway, the majority of whom came from the North; as otherwise, those who wished to come to Parliament on the Monday would have to start on Saturday, as there were no trains in the North of Ireland on Sunday.


ventured to appeal to the Prime Minister that, while giving all necessary opportunities for consideration, he should not allow any unnecessary delay to interpose, for one reason out of many—namely, the peculiar reason that in the Bill there would be a merciful protection for the unfortunate and wretched people who were now spilling their blood in a struggle with the officers of the law in Ireland, who were carrying out the ejectments which were commenced. If the Bill was passed within a reasonable time, all the ejectment processes now initiated would be brought within the beneficent protection of one of the clauses of the Bill. Therefore, he appealed to the Prime Minister, that while affording to the House all reasonable opportunities for discussion, he would not allow the Bill to be unnecessarily delayed. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the little fusillade he had lot off, which might be indulged in on occasions like the present, took credit to himself that the House was just now in better humour than it would have been if it had allowed the Government to vote "urgency" as to Supply. But he hoped he might be allowed to point out that if "urgency" in Supply had been found unnecessary, it was because of the unusual for bearance of the Irish Members during the past three weeks. ["Oh!"] He fearlessly placed himself on the recollection of the House as to whether it was not true that from the day that the Bill over which they had such protracted contention passed, whether they did not almost absolutely neglect their duties to their constituents in the extent to which they abstained from discussing the various items in Supply? The Home Rule Members could have played a part which would have rendered the finishing of the Government Business impossible; but they did not want to put the Government in that position. On the other hand, if they had interposed, they could have knocked the right hon. Gentleman's (Sir Stafford Northcote's)minute calculations against the adoption of "urgency" in Committee of Supply to the winds; but his Friends had exercised this reticence for certain reasons. And although he did not wish to parade them as benefactors of the House in any exaggerated degree, he thought it right to say what he had on their behalf. He would now take this opportunity of saying a few words in reference to recent arrests in Ireland under the Act passed a short time ago, and he would ask the attention, more especially, of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. A young friend of his, a Mr. Higgins, of Westmeath, who was arrested the other day, was a young man whom ho knew to be well-conducted, respectable, intelligent, kindly, and, he believed, virtuous.

Message to attend the Lords Commissioners;—

The House went;—and being returned;—

Mr. Speaker reported the Royal Assent to several Bills.

Question again proposed, "That this House, at its rising, do adjourn until Monday 25th April."


was glad to find that the Government intended to take the discussion upon the Land Law (Ireland) Bill immediately after the Recess; but, in the meantime, he ventured to make an appeal to the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant in reference to the present condition of the country. In the Question he put to the right hon. Gentleman earlier in the day, he called his attention to the fact that in one of the Irish counties—as, indeed, hi most of them—ejectment notices were being served with lavish hand, and the appeal he ventured to make to him was that he should endeavour, as far as possible, by advice or otherwise, to stay the execution of these decrees, and interpose between certain harsh landlords and an unhappy population. The right hon. Gentleman stated that he knew nothing of these decrees until they reached a stage when they had to be put into execution with the assistance of the law; but it did not appear to him to be difficult for the right hon. Gentleman to ascertain, as a matter of private information, that these notices were being scattered in showers over the country, and that the minds of the people were disturbed at the prospect before them. He would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to say whether he would not, as far as possible, hold back the armed assistance of the police and the soldiers in the enforcement of harsh decrees, which would shortly, he trusted, be against the letter of the law, as they were at present against the spirit of all civilized law and equity. He strongly appealed to lam to discourage the carrying out of these decrees so far as to withhold where he could the armed assistance of the military in enabling the landlords to recover their exorbitant rents. The right hon. Gentleman favoured him that afternoon with a somewhat benignant lecture as to the kind of advice he ought to give the people of Ireland. He could only say neither he nor his Colleagues, so far as he was aware, had over advised the Irish people to withhold any payment of just rents; but as the right hon. Gentleman gave some advice to him, he should in return advise the right hon. Gentleman to do his best to discontinue the assistance of the police and military in enforcing the harsh and unjust decrees of the landlords, which he hoped before long would go against the very letter of the law. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman, before they entered upon the beginning of this great discussion, to do everything he could to prevent a recurrence of those discouraging, ominous, and terrible warnings which within the last few days had given the Government another proof of the necessity of making the strongest effort to interfere between the Irish tenant population and the enforcement of cruel and unjust evictions.


To prevent misconception, Sir, I think I ought at Once to state, in reference to an impression which appears to prevail that I and and those with whom I act can say whether the law should be carried out or not, that that is altogether a mistake. The general administration of the law is independent of our control. The magistrates and the police are bound to give assistance to the Sheriff if he calls for it. It is not in the power of the Irish Government to refuse it. If we did refuse it, we would be doing what is unconstitutional, encouraging a breach of the law, and interfering with the enforcement of debts between man and man; and many of the processes referred to are not for rent, but for ordinary debt. It is our duty to see that whatever is done in the way of assisting the Sheriff is done with as much forbearance as possible, and with every precaution to prevent loss of life. No one can more regret than I do what has occurred within the last few days in Ireland; but I must again repeat that if advice were given to the tenants not to oppose the law, it would certainly be advice which would lead to their good, and to the preservation of law and order. I do not wish to make remarks upon what might have happened; but I cannot help saying that it is a notorious fact that Irish tenants have been recommended, and very strongly recommended, not to pay their rents, even if they were able to pay them. This I must say—that, in consequence of what has happened, I have given the strongest possible recommendation, and, as far as it has been in my power, the strongest possible order, that where it is necessary to give protection to persons who have to enforce legal rights, such protection should not be given unless the constabulary and magistracy are able to give it in such force as to prevent the possibility of resistance. That, I think, is the best way to preserve order. But may I not hope, after the measure which was brought in last night, that the Irish people, as well as the people of the United Kingdom, will be convinced that the Government are anxious to do all in their power to promote the interest of the people of Ireland? May I not hope, too, that there will be an effort made on all sides, and by all persons who desire to see the condition of Ireland improved, to have as much quietness and as little disorder and resistance to the law as are possible?


No one doubts, Sir, that the Government have gone to the very limits of concession in the Bill they brought in last night; and I only hope, after what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, that he will not weaken the authority of the law by the instructions he has given to such an extent as that it will be difficult to vindicate the law and preserve the peace. I rise to renew the appeal I made just now, which was of a character exactly the opposite of that made by the two hon. Members who spoke on this side. I was under the impression, Sir, that we were about to start for our holidays; but if we are, during the Recess, to be called upon to master the provisions of undoubtedly the most difficult and complex measure I ever remember to have been submitted to this House, in a manner adequate for its proper discussion—then, so far from passing a holiday, we will be engaged in the hardest work of the whole Session. I fully admit the difficulty of the situation. There is, no doubt, the present condition of Ireland to consider; and there is the time which has been consumed by measures of coercion which have been passed this Session to remember; and also the arrears and delay of Business which were thus brought about. But I cannot help pointing out that both for the present state of Ireland, for delay, and for the necessity for coercion, it is the Government, and the Government chiefly, if not entirely, who are responsible. And, no doubt, the Government are responsible for the condition of Ireland to-day. They were warned 10 years ago, at the time of passing their land legislation in 1870, that, in all probability, that legislation would produce a condition and state of affairs such as we have unhappily witnessed. But with regard to delay and arrears of Business, what is our position to-day? Why, the Government undertook in the most solemn manner during last Session— and it is right that this fact should be pointed out—they most solemnly pledged themselves to call Parliament together in the autumn if it was found that the existing laws were not sufficient to maintain order in Ireland. It is acknowledged by the Government that the law was not sufficient. If the law had been sufficient the Government would have maintained order. The question was put to them this Session why they did not fulfil the pledge they had given; and the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant said—"I will make no further allusion to that question, because I have already answered it." I deny that the question has ever been answered by the right hon. Gentleman, or that he has ever justified himself for breaking the pledge he gave. The right hon. Gentleman forfeited his pledge, and the result has been three months' waste, and that measures of the utmost stringency became necessary for Ireland. With reference to some other Business of the Session, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred to the Budget, and I hope it will not be out of place if I refer to that subject. I heard with some surprise and regret the observations which fell from the Prime Minister with regard to the effect of the repeal of the Malt Tax. The right hon. Gentleman seems to me to speak with two voices on this subject. Last year the repeal of the tax was announced as an immense boon for the benefit of the farmers; and now the right hon. Gentleman says it was introduced as a measure for the liberation of trade. I must say that I was astonished when I heard the right hon. Gentleman, apparently in terms of exultation, tell the House how the repeal had already reduced the price of barley by 10s. a-quarter, and had caused the use of rice and maize, both of which facts must inflict great damage on the farmers. We on this side of the House may have been wrong in our views on the question of the Malt Tax; but I do think the right hon. Gentleman ought to have refrained from using terms of exultation, when he knew that a Bill introduced solely for the interest of the farmers had turned out to be most injurious to their interests. I need hardly remind the House of the recent votes given by the Government and those who sit on their side of the House on two other subjects. I do not think the farmers will thank them for their votes, either on the question of the outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease, or their more recent vote on the question of the highways. They were accompanied into the Lobby by those who by the name of their organization might be supposed to represent the farmers. I allude to the members of the Farmers' Alliance. Their action confirms a suspicion I have long entertained that the Farmers' Alliance is a political and partizan clique, and that it was not formed by the fanners, but by the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. James Howard); and when the world at large becomes acquainted with the fact, it will not be surprised at the fact that the votes of the hon. Members to whom I allude are directly against the agricultural interest. There are some other matters for our reflection of a less agreeable character than those which I have mentioned. I will not allude to the latest performance of the Government—the Land Law (Ireland) Bill; but I do trust that never again will an English Parliament separate for an Easter or any other Recess under the sense of shame and humiliation with which we shall separate tonight, when we come to consider the depth of degradation to which we have been brought by the conduct of the Government in relation to South Africa at the bidding of that party of peace at any price, whose false and utterly un-English views have been the cause of more wars and more misfortunes to this country than I believe any Member of this House will care to think of or remember. I do not hesitate to say, in his presence and hearing, that there is no man in this country so responsible for the war in the Transvaal as the present Prime Minister. I say deliberately that by his reckless and inflammatory speeches during the General Election—and, for aught I know, for the purposes of the Election—he directly incited, and was largely instrumental in bringing about, the rising in South Africa, which has been so fatal to the character, prestige, and reputation of this country. Having succeeded in his attempt to grasp at power, the right hon. Gentleman next commenced a war which it is now as clear as day was an unnecessary and wholly unjustifiable war, which has been concluded by a dishonourable peace. I remember that at the close of the General Election, when he had won a fight the sole object of which was the political destruction of his great opponent—whose illness is cause of grief in all circles—the right hon. Gentleman said—"We are now going to open a now and happier chapter in the history of our country." I commend that sentence to the careful attention of hon. Members on both sides of the House and of the country during the Recess. For my part, I have not yet discovered in what part of Her Majesty's Dominions that "new and happier chapter" has begun. Whether it is on the Continent of Europe, where we have already been once led by the Prime Minister to the very verge of war, and where, at this moment, the great issues of peace or war are still trembling in the balance; whether it is in India, where many who are more competent to express an opinion believe the policy of the Government has dealt a fatal blow, not only at the prestige, but at the safety, of our Empire there; whether it is in South Africa; whether it is in Ireland, where we are even now witnessing the scenes to which the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) has called our attention; or, coming nearer home, whether it is in this House, where, under his guidance we have witnessed scenes absolutely unparalleled in this Assembly; whether it is in any of these places I cannot tell; but this I do know—that if the last 12 months' experience under the auspices of the right hon. Gentleman constitutes "a new and happier chapter" in the history of England, then I pray God that, so long as the name of England is maintained among the nations of the world, we shall never again enter upon the opening of another new and happy chapter in our history. Unless I utterly mistake the feelings of the people of this country, they will, when they contrast the policy of the present Primo Minister with that of his Predecessors—whose courage, patience, and patriotic generosity when in Opposition, cannot be forgotten—they will be smitten with a feeling of deep remorse, and will hasten to repair the error which they committed in a moment of unequalled political excitement, by pronouncing on the Ministry of the day a just and righteous condemnation, and describing them as the worst and most incapable Adminis- tration that ever encumbered the Treasury Bench or mismanaged the whole Business and dishonoured the name of the Empire of the Queen.


I am a great deal too much accustomed to the orations of the hon. Member to feel the smallest surprise, disappointment, or displeasure at that which he has just delivered. It has been an oration entirely in character, and I cannot wish him to depart from himself. It would be an abuse of the time and patience of the House if I were to follow him through all the details of the speech which has drawn forth such marked approbation and audible applause from the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton). I will leave the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire under the influence of that shame and humiliation which, in common with the hon. and learned Member for Bridport, he has been endeavouring to heap upon us. I have some consolation in thinking that these are not the sentiments shared by the majority of the Members of this House. I yielded to the desire of the hon. Member who addressed the House at this juncture because I expected to hear from him some original observations of a practical kind as to the proposal I had to make for the date of the second reading of this Bill. I am sorry to say that on that subject, on which my expectations had been highly raised when I knew the hon. Member was about to speak, he has added nothing whatever to the materials for forming a judgment upon the question, and he has not shown the slightest shred or tittle of a reason why I should depart from the decision at which we, as a Government, have arrived. The hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Tottenham) says that I was not justified in appealing to the judgment of the Irish Members; "for," says he, "there are Irish Members and Irish Members." I am not quite sure of that; but what I admit is that there are Irish Members and an Irish Member. An Irish Member has made an appeal that I believe to be in complete contravention of the sentiments of nine-tenths of those other Members who come from Ireland, and who know that on all grounds, and not the least of all on the ground which has reference to current proceedings for ejectments, it is of the utmost consequence that we should lose no time that we can properly spare in proceeding to the consideration of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill, and says that if we do that he shall be obliged—I can hardly command any muscle of my body in repeating his words—that he will have to leave his home on the Saturday preceding the Monday on which Parliament will re-assemble. When I consider what is involved in that statement—the anxiety, the premature action which it will bring about—and when I recollect that on the other side I have nothing to allege but the interests of the Empire and the state of Public Business, I am overwhelmed; but I am bound to say that those considerations which I have last named ought to induce us from their real weight to expect of the hon. Gentleman that he shall rise to the height of this great occasion and leave his home on the Saturday evening. Then, with regard to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, I may say that the right hon. Baronet has introduced an innovation—innovations are generally in favour on the Opposition side of the House—on the present occasion by making the humble occasion of a Motion for the adjournment of the House the opportunity of pronouncing, in the first place, a glowing eulogy upon the proceedings of the Conservative Party. I do not in the least begrudge him the satisfaction of pronouncing that eulogy, and his hearers on that side of the House the pardonable pleasure of hearing it. Indeed, I am almost tempted to follow his example, and to pronounce a corresponding eulogy, which I could with a perfect good conscience, and with equal warmth of tone, on the proceedings during the last three months of the majority of this House. I will, however, exercise self-denial in the matter, and will pass on, refusing to myself the pleasure of speaking such a panegyric, and of giving those who hear me any satisfaction that they would have derived from hearing it. But I must say that when I pass on to the other portion of the speech of the right hon. Baronet, I again find something of a novel character in his choosing the humble occasion of a Motion for the adjournment of the House for making a general attack on, and a denunciation of, the conduct of the Members of Her Majesty's Government, and for asserting that it had inflicted grave mischief on the country. He says that he is astonished at the abandonment of the charges which, before the late General Election, were so loudly pronounced, and which were aimed at those who constituted the late Administration. Sir, I have no desire to intrude into the sanctuary of the right hon. Gentleman's mind, nor to examine into what, in his opinion, are those charges, or what, in his opinion, constitutes their abandonment. For my own part, I think it no part of my duty to go back to a repetition of those charges, though it would be a great satisfaction to me if I could find and feel—which I have not yet found and felt—that there were any of those charges which I could abandon. I am obliged to say so much. It would be invidious to go further. Then my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies is blamed for the answer he gave to a Question that was put to him. I must say that I am always sorry when personal matters of this kind are introduced into a debate; but I must say I vindicate that tone. I think it was thoroughly justified by the occasion which called it forth, and that the opinion which I now express was in the most unequivocal manner at the moment the tone was assumed declared to be the opinion of a large portion of this House; so that I do not think my right hon. Friend need too severely wince under the chastisement he has received. For my part, whether it be upon the Malt Tax, upon the Budget, on South Africa, or on Afghanistan—upon which I must say that I thought that the appetite even of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire would have been tolerably well satiated by what he and his Friends got the other night in the speech of my noble Friend the Secretary—of State for India, not less than even in the remarkable division which followed it—with respect to all these things, on the proper occasion when they come forward in the regular course, we shall be able to meet, and I think to confute, charges such as those of the hon. Member; but I decline to confute them, to deal with them, or to acknowledge them at all upon this Motion for the adjournment of the House to the 25th of April.


said, he was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, in his position of Leader of that House, had thought it consistent with his duty to make a personal attack upon the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton), and also upon the hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Tottenham), who had said nothing but what he was entitled to say. In his (Earl Percy's) opinion, the latter attack was most unjustifiable and was most uncourteous. The hon. Member for Leitrim had merely stated that the arrangement proposed to be made by the right hon. Gentleman was personally inconvenient to himself, and the right hon. Gentleman had thereupon held the hon. Member up to ridicule as preferring his own personal convenience to the interests of the people of Ireland. That was the first time he (Earl Percy) had heard the Leader of the House hold a Member up to ridicule, not only for the amusement of the House, but in a manner which was scarcely courteous. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the attitude which had been taken by Her Majesty's Government in making these personal attacks upon hon. Members was supported by the majority of hon. Members opposite. In that case, all he (Earl Percy) could say was, the more the pity for hon. Members opposite, and the more the pity for the House of Commons. There were those who were of opinion that the tone of the House of Commons during the present Session was in strong contrast with that of former Houses of Commons. Ho should have thought that the Prime Minister, who, he believed, had a sincere desire to uphold the dignity of that House, would, with his long experience, have asserted his privilege as Leader of Her Majesty's Government, by moderating the zeal of his Followers, and by inducing them to show to lion. Members on the Opposition Benches the fair play and courtesy which one gentleman usually showed to another.


appealed to hon. Members opposite to allow the discussion to close, in order that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade might make his statement with regard to the Bankruptcy Bill—an important measure, with reference to which the whole mercantile community was extremely anxious. It was very desirable that the Bill should be published before the Recess.


said, he had heard with great pleasure the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that more care would be exercised in the regulation of the proceedings of the Constabulary shooting parties in Ireland. He understood from the right hon. Gentleman's remarks that, for the future, the Governmental proceedings for carrying out an unjust and a condemned law would be conducted on such a scale as to render the resistance of the unarmed people to the forces of the Crown still more hopeless than at present. The right hon. Gentleman justified the action of the Government by saying it was the absolute duty of the Executive, in all cases, to carry out any law, however bad, which might be in the Statute Book. There were, however, many laws in the Statute Book which were not carried out. While admitting the difficulty of the right hon. Gentleman's position, he ventured to think that, at any rate, when the shooting party was called into requisition, it should be a recognized thing that they should be accompanied by a magistrate, upon whom might fall the duty and glory of ordering the shooting down of the most miserable sections of Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland. It was quite clear that the people of Ireland, knowing the Government were bound to redress their grievances, felt all the more keenly the hardship of being now deprived of the rights of property which in a few weeks were to be considered their own. So surely as the Constabulary went forth to hunt the people out of their homes, so surely would the most disastrous occurrences be the result. They had seen several instances of that lately, and he trusted the Government might not consider it derogatory to their authority, or in contravention of any existing laws, to provide that on every occasion a collision might be expected a magistrate should be present to go through the formality of reading the Riot Act, if necessary. He must take that opportunity of protesting against the action of Her Majesty's Government in Afghanistan, which amounted to little more than a mere Party manœuvre. If Her Majesty's Government wished to show that they really desired to consult the feelings of the Afghan people, let them withdraw support from the usurper Abdurrahman. He could not, however, think they did, because they were supplying arms and ammunition to a foreign usurper for the purpose of shooting down the loyal adherents of the rightful Ruler of the country. It was very probable that his opinions might not square with the opinions of the large majority of hon. Members in condemning the policy of Her Majesty's Government in Afghanistan; but he had before in that House had to stand alone, as much against the Liberal Party as against the Tory Party, in condemning the annexation of the Transvaal; and while he was still unshaken in his conviction as to the policy of that annexation, he could not admit that the manner in which the Liberal Party had acted lately was creditable. In fact, it was equally discreditable to the Liberal Party, and injurious and disgraceful to the country at large.


desired to say a word of personal explanation in reference to the attack which had been made upon him by the Prime Minister. He should not have thought of interposing such a trivial argument as personal inconvenience in the way of a great measure of the Government, had not that line of argument been started by the Prime Minister himself, who distinctly stated that the convenience of Irish Members sitting below the Gangway would be an element in the consideration of Her Majesty's Government in fixing the day for the second reading of the Irish Land Bill, and he thought the convenience of those Members sitting above the Gangway was entitled to as full consideration as those below it.


hoped, if the Chief Secretary for Ireland went over to Ireland during the Recess, he would insist on more care being taken in the arrests that were made. In every case of arrest, where the person arrested was a farmer, he had the sympathy of the whole population, who sent their horses and gave all the help in their power; and if the person arrested happened to be a shopkeeper, he had equal sympathy from the townspeople; yet the right hon, Gentleman said these persons were the terror of the population of their districts.


thought the Prime Minister was quite justified in the tone which he adopted in regard to some of the Tory Members. The Tory Party, during the present Session, had succeeded to a wonderful extent in dragging the so-called Liberal Party through the mire. They had succeeded in getting them to abolish trial by jury in Ireland, at the very time that the Prime Minister was giving credit to the Emperor of Russia for introducing trial by jury into Russia. Thus, while Russia was going forward, and being praised for it by the Liberal Party in England, that Party was going in the very opposite direction as regarded Ireland. Then, the so-called Liberal Party had succeeded in abolishing the rights of persons charged with offences in Ireland; and the so-called Liberal Government had succeeded in closing the mouths of Irish Members in that House, when they condemned the dishonest grounds upon which coercion was asked for by that so-called Liberal Government, and when, only last night, the Prime Minister acknowledged that Ireland was in a thoroughly peaceable state, and that coercion was un-called for. He (Mr. Biggar) would lose no opportunity for showing to the people of Ireland the hypocrisy of this self-willed Government, carried out as it was by a tyrannical and mechanical majority.


said, he would not have risen but for the fact that he had been twice honoured by the Premier's notice. If the right hon. Gentleman wished to shorten debates, the best way to do so was to treat hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side with ordinary civility and courtesy. If he wished to lengthen debates, the best way of doing it was by making rude and personal attacks. He (Mr. Warton) rose to enter a protest, not so much against the personal rudeness of the Premier—he could not help being rude, as he was great in everything but temper—but against the nauseating way in which the right hon. Gentleman talked boastfully about his majority, and would take the liberty of warning him that, as had been the case before, that majority might disappear. He had referred to the division on the Afghan question, on which the Government had a majority once, and once only. On many occasions the Government had only had one-half or one-third of their nominal majority. Moreover, it was well to have a giant's strength, but tyrannous to use it as a giant.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House, at its rising, do adjourn until Monday 25th April.

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