§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [15th February], "That the said Address be read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
, in rising, according to Notice, "to call attention to the present serious state of the agricultural interest," said, that he was sure he need not apologize for bringing to the notice of the House so serious and important a question as that of the agricultural distress in this country. He would venture to say that at no time during the present century had there been in this country that amount of distress which, unhappily, existed at the present moment in the agricultural districts. This question should be discussed calmly and temperately, because it was in no sense a Party question: and he had the authority of the Prime Minister, as well as that of the Speaker, for saying it was one deserving the most serious consideration on the part of the House. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington) had made a speech at Yeovil, and he had read that speech with the greatest interest and attention. It was a most moderate speech, and with the greater portion of which he and, he thought he might say, they would all agree. He said that he thought great commiseration was due to that class which was now suffering under the greatest deprivation and distress. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) claimed great credit for that class for the fortitude it had shown, and would venture to say that never had that deprivation been borne with a greater determination on the part of all classes interested in agriculture to maintain, so far as they were able, the position in which they now found themselves. Great credit was also due to them for having, notwithstanding their great distress, endeavoured to discharge their duties faithfully and honestly. This was also the proper time to say that, in his opinion, great consideration 986 had been shown by one class to another. He happened to be in a position to know what had been going on during the last few years; and he would venture to say that never had the landlords of this country done so much to mitigate the distress of the tenant farmers as during the last few years and at the present time. He did not think anyone would say that the tenant farmers had not tried to do their duty. Upon this point, if they looked at lists of bankrupts in The Gazette, he thought the farming business would be found to contrast favourably with any other business in the country. Great leniency had been shown by the landlords towards their tenants, and they all had endeavoured to do their best to weather the storm that had come upon them, though never had they been less able to bear the pressure on them than on the present occasion. Without singling out one class more than another, he would say that all classes had been spending more than they were warranted in spending. Formerly people lived more within their means than they had done of late years. That was a serious point; for if all classes would only return to the prudent courses of former days, they would be better able to cope with the difficulties that lay before them in the future. Never had they had such a succession of bad weather as during the last five or six years. Taking the five years from 1877 to 1881, there had not been one really good harvest in this country. Sometimes they had had a good springtime, leading them to hope there would be a prosperous harvest; but their hopes had again and again been disappointed. Never had the agricultural interest been in such a depressed condition; and he was confirmed in that statement by a passage he recollected reading from a speech delivered a short time ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, at Birmingham, he believed. The right hon. Gentleman there estimated the loss to the agricultural interest during the last four years at £150,000,000. But they had another high authority upon the point—namely, the Prime Minister. He stated in his speech at Leeds that the loss had amounted to £130,000,000, but that £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 must be de-ducted from that because, on account of the badness of the harvest, very few labourers 987 were employed. Anyone who knew what it was to have a bad hay harvest or corn harvest would understand that the greatest expenditure then took place, because it was necessary to have the men ready at hand, although the weather was such that they could not work; so that they were paid for doing absolutely nothing at all. But the estimates he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had referred to fell far short of the reality, for, in his opinion, £175,000,000 would not be one farthing too much to name as the sum that the agricultural interest had lost. But then they must look at the deterioration of the farms throughout the country. All those fructifying influences, without which no good crops could be secured, had failed, not only from want of sun, but because the tenants had not had the means of purchasing those artificial manures and lime so absolutely necessary for the cultivation of the soil. He would now make another statement which he felt perfectly justified in making—namely, that out of the 580,000 tenant farmers in this country, 250,000 of them, if called upon immediately to pay their just debts, would not have a single farthing left. Fortunately, they had not been called on to do so, and they would not be called upon. All were looking forward to better times; but of this he was absolutely certain—that unless there was a good harvest next year utter ruin would befall the agricultural interest, as regarded many of its members. That was a serious statement, and he would ask hon. Gentlemen to think over it for themselves. He was able to speak from personal knowledge of the loss that had been sustained, and from his own experience in the ease of a farm of 460 acres that belonged to himself, and which he also farmed. Looking at the present prices of cattle and sheep, it was impossible for these farmers, impoverished as they had become, to buy stock for their farms; so that they were in a most serious position. This was one of those pressing questions which would have to be dealt with by whatever Government happened to be in power. The parties to give relief were those who had laid the burdens on the land. Let the House look back for a moment. How had the question of rents been affected? Looking back to the time of the Crimean War, the House would remember that 988 immediately after the termination of the War there came a time of great prosperity, when a large class of persons, such as shopkeepers and others, who had laid by money, considered it would be a profitable business to invest their savings in agriculture. They accordingly proceeded to buy land; and, by the active competition that prevailed among them, they raised the price of land considerably. Then came a large demand for land to be held on tenancies; and no landlord, when he found tenants ready and willing to take his land, could be blamed for letting it at such a rent as they were willing to give. The rents might be too high; if so, they would have to come down; but they were the rents which the tenants were able to pay at that particular time. Then, after the Crimean War, came the Indian Mutiny; then successive European wars, as well as the great American War, terminating, in 1870, with the Franco-German War. Free Trade never fairly came into play, so far as the agricultural interest was concerned, on account of those great wars which had been waged. They had had, to a certain extent, a monopoly; they got good prices, and, though rents were fairly high, those rents could be maintained, because there was a free and ready sale for every article they produced. But within the last five disastrous years, since the cessation of the wars on the Continent and in the United States, more produce had been raised in these countries; and this came into competition with British produce, depressed prices, and caused much suffering to our farmers. Rents, of course, were obliged to come down, just as they had formerly gone up, for with the burdens now on the land, and with the present conditions of the labour market, those rents could not be maintained; and he must say that the landlords of England had almost universally met the tenants in a fair and liberal spirit, to enable them to cope with the difficult times, while the tenant farmers, in their turn, had, in most trying circumstances, endeavoured honestly to do their duty to the landlords. When, however, men were nearly ruined, they were much more willing to listen to advice which, in prosperous times, evil counsellors would not venture to offer them, agitators went among them, because where the carcase was there the eagles would be gathered together. He warned 989 the farmers to beware of those agitators. Now, he wished the Government to consider whether some remedial measures might not be granted to the agricultural interest. A poor man, a shopkeeper, who also did some business in buying and selling faggots, had come to him wanting a farm. He strongly advised the man to remain where he was, and said everything he could to induce him not to take a farm. The man's answer was—"You wish to keep me back from getting into a better position." The man said he had nearly £1,000, and he let to him a small farm of very good land; but that man had lost the whole of his capital through the last five bad years. He was farming to the best of his ability; and it was to be hoped that he would be able to weather the storm. The President of the Board of Trade was one of those who had acquired a fortune by manufactures. In whatever way that fortune had been made—and he had no doubt it had been made honestly; whether it had been made by the general reduction of prices was a question that he would leave the right hon. Gentleman to consider—he maintained that there was no reason why men who had been so fortunate as the right hon. Gentleman had been should not contribute something towards those burdens which real property was alone called on to bear. There was a farm of 265 acres of heavy land in a certain county, which was let at between £200 and £250 a-year; the present rent was £160; the land tax was £14 10s.; the tithe last year was £70, and something like £67 this year; and the rates and taxes were £40. Why should that farm be so heavily taxed, while men enjoying large fortunes, like those of the right hon. Gentleman, paid nothing but Income Tax? The rents of farms had been very greatly reduced, and, of course, the produce had also been very much less; but notwithstanding this the local taxes were the same as they had been heretofore. Everyone knew what these burdens were. There was the poor rate, the education rate, the highway rate, the sewers rate, and the rates for the administration of law and justice, as well as the tithes. With regard to poor relief, he thought that could be best managed by local authorities; but they might receive something towards defraying its cost. Then there was the education rate. Why 990 were they called on to pay an education rate, when those persons who had money invested in anything else but land, and who derived equal advantages from the education rate, paid nothing? Again, since the abolition of turnpike tolls, those who formerly contributed largely to the highway rate—the brewers, the manufacturers, and others—paid nothing except on their mills or other buildings which were rated, while the poor agriculturist had to bear the burden of all those rates, and to maintain the roads which other people used. The charges for law and justice, and also for lunatics, ought to be borne by the Government only. He would not now enter into the question of the police, except to say that it was one of serious national interest, because the police protected all classes, whether in town or country. In the Prime Minister's otherwise admirable speech to his tenants at Hawarden there was one remark which he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) was sorry to read. He always read what Members of the Government said, in the hope that he might find some crumb of comfort in their speeches. The right hon. Gentleman did admit that their burdens were excessive, and that they ought to have some relief; but he went on to say that while the present occupiers of farms would get the benefit of any remission of local taxation, the future occupiers would not get that benefit, which would go into the pocket of the landlord. ["Hear, hear!"] Why should not the landlord get some little benefit as well as other people? There was not, he believed, at present a landlord who, if the tenant were relieved of rates, would wish to raise his rent because a certain amount of the local taxation was borne by the Government. The one thing which a landlord disliked, and even abhorred, was changing his tenant. A change of tenant meant an expenditure which the landlord did not calculate on having to incur. Moreover, there was a feeling—though some wished to do away with it—there was an honourable feeling between landlords and tenants that they both rowed in the same boat, that they should live and let live, that they both had duties to perform; and the last duty which the landlords of England would wish to have imposed on them would be that of raising their rents. That was his view of the landlords' in- 991 clinations. They had been suffering from the losses caused by five bad seasons, and he would put that at 70 per cent of their whole losses; they were also suffering most severely from American competition, affecting them in a way never before experienced. In days gone by, whenever there was a bad harvest, there was always a sale for the produce of the farm, whatever it might be; even if the wheat or barley were stained, it always commanded a certain price. But the corn supplies from America knocked inferior or second-class produce out of the market altogether; it became perfectly unsaleable, and could only be used to feed cattle with. The tithes charged also fell heavily upon the agriculturist, and all the more so because in the years of the greatest adversity they had to pay the most, for the amount of it was calculated upon the prices of the previous good years, and regulated by the quantity of American corn imported, which, as he had stated, prevented the sale of inferior corn, and not by the price of English corn alone. The lighter corn, which used to fetch a fair price, did not now command any price at all. Then there was the labour question, one of the difficult questions of the present day. The labourers, no doubt, had suffered and had borne their sufferings well; but he should be surprised if he heard any denial of this statement—that the fathers of these men did nearly half as much again as these men did now; and, more than that, they received higher wages for less work, and you could not trust them to do the work which their fathers did. Roughly speaking, it took three men now to do what two men did formerly. Not only was the farmer at this disadvantage with his labourers, but he had also great local burdens to sustain. The Prime Minister, he was sorry to say, in his speech to his tenants at Hawarden, had asserted that the landlords would obtain the benefit of any remission of local taxation. He was quoting from memory; but he thought the Premier also said that the fair course would be to raise the succession duty—not the probate duty, but the succession duty. A more unwise or unfair suggestion could not possibly be made. Land was unlike other realized property; and when a young man succeeded to his property in land he had, perhaps, to 992 pay sums of money to the widow, to brothers and sisters, and so forth. It was not like succeeding to realized property, and he had much difficulty in raising money with all these calls upon him. In fact, they could not call upon him to pay a heavy succession duty at a worse time. He hoped, therefore, they would do nothing of the kind, and trusted the Premier would reconsider a proposal so unjust, and would listen to the counsel of the noble Marquess near him, whose opinions and feelings, gathered from his speeches, he knew and earnestly hoped would prevail. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to make provision in the coming Budget, so as to afford some relief to the burdens of the farmers, and would conclude by thanking the House for the attention which they had given to his observations.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, he wished to say a few words as to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir Walter B. Barttelot). He had listened carefully to find what remedy he proposed for the evils he had described, and, so far as he could gather, the only relief he pressed for was a reduction of local taxation. He had spoken of losses of £3 or £4 an acre in cases he had mentioned; and he (Mr. W. Fowler) could not see how the remedy he proposed could be regarded as adequate, when, so far as he could discover, if all that was asked by him were granted, it would only make a difference to the farmer of about 1s. 6d. an acre. He agreed with the hon. and gallant Baronet as to the extent of the loss incurred by the farmers in recent years. He did not think they could take the loss in a bad year, as compared with a good year, at less than £1 an acre, taking all sorts of land together, and that would make a total loss of nearly £50,000,000 in a year over the whole country. The hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) said that was not an unfair calculation. Now, in the last seven years, they had had hardly one good harvest. Happily, in Ireland, they had two good harvests in 1880 and 1881; but they had not had one in England. Let them hope that they were now to have better seasons, and then, if seven years hence the hon. and gallant Baronet made a speech, he thought he would be much more cheerful in his tone. The ques- 993 tion for them to consider was how far those losses sprang from want of sun, which they could not remedy, and how far from bad laws, which they could deal with. They could not affect the sun, or the spots on the sun, by Act of Parliament; but if their farmers were hindered by an uncertain climate, they could see to it that they should not be further injured by bad laws. He thought they ought to go rather more deeply into the question than the hon. and gallant Baronet had done if they would understand the present situation thoroughly. The hon. and gallant Baronet had complained of the want of produce; but he had not said a word as to the prices at different periods, and that point was one of great importance. Now, he (Mr. W. Fowler) had taken from a paper recently written by Mr. Caird some remarkable figures, showing the amounts and prices of different articles imported in periods of five years, that was, 1860–4 (inclusive) and 1875–9 (inclusive). They were as follows—Imports of food in 1860–4, as compared with 1875–9: Live cattle, increase in quantity 90 per cent, increase in price 16 per cent; sheep, increase in quantity 150 per cent, increase in price 15 per cent; fresh meat, increase in quantity 220 per cent, increase in price 13 per cent; butter, increase in quantity 75 per cent, increase in price 16 per cent; cheese, increase in quantity 135 per cent, increase in price 8 per cent; salted provisions, increase in quantity 250 per cent, decrease in price 7 per cent; barley, increase in quantity 90 per cent, increase in price 10 per cent; oats, increase in quantity 122 per cent, increase in price 14 per cent; wheat, increase in quantity 75 per cent, decrease in price 4 per cent; Indian corn, increase in quantity 225 per cent, decrease in price 14 per cent; potatoes, increase in quantity 750 per cent, increase in price 10 per cent.It was quite clear, therefore, that prices were higher than they were. The farmer got much more all round than he used to do for his produce. The trouble had been that recently he had had so little to sell. There were three sets of laws which materially affected the farmer—the laws as to taxation, the laws as to occupation, and the laws as to ownership. The hon. and gallant Baronet had referred only to the first of those. He (Mr. W. Fowler) believed that the state of the laws as to the other matters was one great cause of their present depression by hindering the free application of capital to cultivation. Those two great branches of the law must be 994 dealt with sooner or later. There was no dispute as to the necessity of an amendment of the law as to the occupation of land; for, if he remembered right, the Bill on that subject of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) passed last Session its second reading without a division. The simple fact was that the English farmer had not proper security for his capital under the existing law. He knew very well that no ordinary amount of capital would have enabled some farmers to stand up against their losses in recent years; but he thought it would be found that the farmers with large capital had not suffered as severely as the small farmers. [Mr. CHAPLIN: More.] It was true that individuals amongst the larger farmers had suffered severely; but he was assured by hon. Members opposite, and especially by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chippenham (Sir Gabriel Goldney), that the chief cause of their having suffered was the fact that too often the habits of the large farmer were not so careful and economical as were those of the smaller man. Another hindrance to the farmers existed in those rules and agreements which prevented a man from cultivating his land as he thought fit. Too often he had to ask for leave before he could make any change of his cultivation, however necessary. No doubt, changes had taken place; but on too many estates there were still old-fashioned and foolish rules which hindered the farmer in his work. But the House would have to deal also with the far wider question of the ownership of the soil. Mr. Caird, in his recent paper, had stated that only a fee-simple owner could really do justice to the soil in difficult times. In that he (Mr. W. Fowler) heartily concurred. They could cultivate to best advantage only when the land was altogether free, and that could not be unless the owner was a holder in fee simple. He did not see how a man who was only a life owner could do justice to his land. He could not borrow freely, he could not sell freely; and he believed they would always have these difficulties in cultivation until they freed the land from these trammels. The hon. and gallant Baronet had referred to American competition. If the information he (Mr. W. Fowler) obtained on the other side of the Atlantic were correct, he believed that competition would 995 be far more severe in the future than it had been. Already the acreage under wheat had fallen from 3,600,000 to about 2,800,000 acres. That was another argument in favour of freedom, so that their farmers might not suffer from bad laws as well as from severe competition. He should like to tell the House something as to the amounts of articles grown at home which were now imports, for he thought their farmers might do far more than they did as to some of these. They imported in 1880 as follows:—Live cattle and sheep,£10,000,000; meat, including bacon and hams, £16,429,000; eggs, £2,235,000; butter, £12,141,000; cheese, £5,091,000; wheatandflour,£39,327,000; barley and oats, £10,000,000; peas and beans, £2,000,000; potatoes,£2,800,000; total, £100,023,000. Take butter alone. Theypaidtheforeignfarmers£l2,000,000 for butter in 1880, and yet they could not get good butter at home. In his own county he could not buy good butter. He was compelled to keep his own farm and make it for himself; in fact, they could not get a decent bit of butter inside that House, and yet there was a great market for good butter in their cities. In New York people paid 3s. and even 4s. per lb. for butter; and he was sure that hon. Gentlemen here in London would gladly pay 2s. per lb. for the genuine article. He wished to inquire why the English farmer was content to lose so good markets and to sit down in a sort of apathy and despair? He was much struck by a remark made the other day by Mr. F. B. Lawes, a name well known in that House. He said, writing to The Agricultural Gazette, that he had ceased to write for the English farmers—they did not care to read—he was now writing for the American farmers, who were anxious to read the reports of his experiments. In America the agricultural journals circulated widely, whereas Mr. Morton, the editor of The Agricultural Gazette, announced that his circulation was so poor that he feared sometimes he might have to give up his paper. For his own part, he (Mr. W. Fowler) thought they wanted more freedom for both owner and occupier, and that in that they would find the best remedy for their present troubles. He wished to see each generation of owners truly free—able to do what they liked with their own. He would take nothing from any man. He would hurt 996 no man. He wished merely to free the land from the trammels of a worn-out and obsolete system. Hon. Members opposite were afraid that a spendthrift, if owner of an estate in fee, might ruin a family. For his part, he thought families must take care of themselves. That House had to regard the nation before the family. Spite of all possible precautions they constantly saw families decay, and no laws could prevent the fall of families when caused by the follies and vices of their members. He believed that many a man was injured by these settlements, because the knowledge of his prospects being certain, whatever his conduct might be, prevented him from using that caution and prudence in his conduct which he might otherwise exercise. And such a man damaged his family, whereas, if he knew that the family inheritance might pass from him, he might be saved in his youth, and thus assist in preserving the dignity of his house. He asked for freedom—for the removal of all absurd and worn-out restrictions, so that they might have such a holding of their land as should be worthy of a great and free people.
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
said, it was very desirable that agricultural depression should be referred to, and, perhaps, hardly enough allusion had as yet been made to so important a subject. It was true they were looking to remedial legislation by way of re-adjustment of unjust taxation as mentioned in the Queen's Speech, and not to any proposals embracing Protection. But he must entirely differ from the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler), who said any relief in that direction must be small. What did he call small? The average rate in agricultural parishes was now 3s. in the pound. That came to an income tax of 6s. in the pound on a farmer's assessed income, or, if they put it under Schedule A, to 3s. in the pound on the landlord; or, if they divided it between them, to 4s. 6d. in the pound. All that was for public purposes, and imposed contrary to the intention of the statute on land only. But that was not all. They were told land was so lightly taxed that it ought to bear more; and that if it bore local burdens, it escaped Imperial taxation, and the probate duty was given as an instance. Whenever that question was 997 raised, they would have a good deal to say about that. He would only remind the House now that two days ago he put a Question to the Prime Minister as to the injustice of the income tax levied on land under Schedule A. The right hon. Gentleman admitted the injustice. Sir Robert Peel went further—he said when the Income Tax was 7d., that under Schedule A was 9d. He (Sir Baldwyn Leighton) put it a little lower himself; but that must be set right if they were to go into the burdens on land. Then, why was the land tax, which was originally assessed on personalty as "moveables" as well as land, now only charged on land? Those were questions that would have to be settled, if the probate duty was touched, besides the question of rates. But they would have other opportunities of going into questions of local taxation; and he desired, with the permission of the House, to say a word about Ireland, on which, no doubt, attention was chiefly fixed. The House might be congratulated, he thought, on the moderate tone of the debate so far, when they considered the interests involved and the disorder and misery of that distracted Island. He would desire to avoid, as far as possible, all contentious matter, and rather to look at the economic view of the subject. It must be premised, however, that the inaction and utterances during the past months had, in a great extent, consciously or unconsciously encouraged the agitation. When they should have a debate on the question of confiscation and compensation, which he would not anticipate, except to say that it seemed to him that as the Government were so greatly mistaken in their calculation of the effect of this Bill, it would be a fair thing to consider whether the tithes should not be restored to the landlords. As to the administration of the Act, they would have discussions on that, and he thought there was a Motion in "another place" for a Committee to go into the subject. But to his hon. Friends on that side he would say, if mistakes had been made, they would not have been made with impunity; and 500 men in prison, with 500 men, women, and children maimed or murdered; an army of 50,000 men keeping order; and last, but not least, departing capital and departing industries, made up a fearful sum in the debit account of a Province or a Government 998 unless it could be liquidated. It was to that liquidation or remedy that he desired to speak. They could not now alter the past; but they need not despair of the future. What he wanted to convey to the House was that the Land Act, even if as successful as might reasonably be expected by its authors, would not entirely solve the problem. They had too much overlooked the element of race in dealing with Ireland. Now, what they must do for Ireland was somehow to develop her industries and absorb her population—a population that possessed many virtues, but which did not shine in those qualities of thrift and self-reliance which made the wealth of nations. Those industries might be summed up in "three F's." They heard a good deal of the "three F's" last Session. Here were three more F's—Flax, Fisheries, and Fineries. Those were the.staples and resources of Ireland. Her linen trade, the only important manufacture that had not been destroyed; her boundless coast and inexhaustible fishing grounds; and her manufactures of poplin, lace, and other light fineries. Without the development of those collateral resources, he maintained that the Land Act would not be sufficient; nay, more, it might aggravate in some cases the agrarian difficulty. Ownership and 15 years of fixed tenure might tend to sub-division, and make the last state worse than the first. Then, if the hovel population of the South and West did not buy each other out by a system of natural eviction, their state, stereotyped on the soil in an impossible economic condition, would become truly pitiable, unless some staple industry could be developed by which they might live. Let them look at an agricultural parish in England, and imagine to what the more thrifty and capable labourers there would be reduced if they were compelled to remain and live on the soil. In England they had natural outlets; but in Ireland those natural outlets had been deliberately destroyed. This country, many years ago. deliberately destroyed Ireland's factories and industries; and the ruined chimnies and factories that were yet to be seen in parts of Ireland were monuments of a policy for which they were now paying the penalty. The condition of Ireland was abnormal, and the remedies would have to be abnormal too. Now there was one manufacture, 999 to which he had already referred, which alone, almost of her industries, had flourished in Ireland, owing to soil and climate probably, but which had in addition the peculiar advantage that the raw material was an agricultural production of the country where it was manufactured. He referred to flax. He believed the attention of the Government should be seriously given to the development of that cultivation by small model farms, or factories of the raw material, or by other means. And he even thought the Government might consider the propriety of going a step further, though he feared the right hon. Members for Birmingham would fall upon him and discharge vials of wrath on his head, if he ventured to suggest, as a policy worthy consideration, the fostering that industry by a protective duty; but he thought such a course was worth examination. As he had said, the conditions were abnormal, and the remedies would have to be abnormal too, Now what did the political economists say about such a policy? Allow him to premise that, though he held greatly to all sound political economy, he thought those writers sometimes got run away with by their abstractions, and perhaps by not fully appreciating human nature. Adam Smith could not define rent, and Mr. Stuart Mill tried to prove to an astonished House of Commons that the cattle plague was no serious loss to the agricultural interest, because the value of the cows that survived would be increased by the loss of those that died. Then what political economist had assessed what the Prime Minister described as pretium amoris in an Irish tenant, who gave twice the value of the fee simple for a bit of land, besides the rent? And how those writers had gone astray with regard to their Colonial relations in not understanding the natural love of the emigrant for the Mother Country. But, after all, what did the political economists say? They told them that there were two conditions under which a Protective Tariff was admissible. In a young Colony or nascent State, and by way of reciprocity or bargain with a Protective State. Ireland at present fulfilled one, if not both these conditions. But all he had to say to-day was that he thought if the flax cultivation could not be elevated into a staple industry by any other means, such 1000 a policy was at least worthy consideration. He found by the Returns that the acreage under flax had decreased lately by 10,000 acres, and was now chiefly confined to the Northern Province. Why was that? He held in this hand a paper purporting to show an improved mode of manufacture which would enable even the unskilled to prepare the yarn. An acre of land properly cultivated would, it is said, produce £200. Suppose it only gave £50, that would maintain a man's family. Then it was home industry; and he need not remind hon. Members from Ireland that that was a supreme advantage for such a country. But there were these other considerations. Ireland now was costing them, it was said, in peaceful times £3,000,000 a-year, instead of bringing in money to the Treasury. How much under present conditions she was costing they would know presently; perhaps double that. Then the present land settlement was peculiarly favourable for the production of what it was well known was an exhaustive crop. Again, they have heard much of Home Rule and Separation. Supposing such a policy were adopted, it would bring the two countries nearer in friendly relation. He had trespassed too long on the patience of the House, he feared; but what he desired specially to convey was that, standing alone without some better mode of industrializing the people, that Land Act would not solve the problem of distracted Ireland.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, that the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) did not seem to exaggerate in any way the difficulties under which the agricultural interest was labouring, nor, as far as he (Mr. Arnold) had been able to inquire, had he overstated the generosity which the landlords of this country had displayed in their efforts to preserve a good feeling between their tenants and themselves. But it appeared that there was great unwillingness on their part to put their shoulders to the wheel in the right direction. The hon. and gallant Baronet seemed to be a very fit Representative of the county of Sussex. Agriculture in that county was certainly somewhat unprogressive compared with other counties of England. The Assistant Commissioner, who had lately investigated this matter, men- 1001 tioned only one considerable landlord in that county as having adopted the conditions of the Agricultural Holdings Act. In Sussex small farms were very rare. He was not surprised to find that the Assistant Commissioner concluded his Report with a strong recommendation to the landlords of Sussex to adopt his view—that the farms in Sussex were too large, and that it was desirable to encourage small farms. That recommendation was applicable to other counties. He also wondered that the hon. Baronet, in speaking of the difficulties he experienced in farming, made no allusion to a very important measure which the Government introduced last year—namely, the Bill for the Prevention of Floods, which would certainly have operated very usefully and beneficially in the county in question. That Bill, however, was hindered in its passage; and when hon. Gentlemen came to the House to plead the cause of agriculture, he thought they ought to take some shame to themselves on that account. Agriculture, however, had difficulties to contend with not peculiar to Sussex. He (Mr. Arnold) would read to the House a clause in a lease of land belonging to a Nobleman resident in that county. A tenant held the farm, on which the game was strictly preserved, with the following stipulation:—No allowance shall be made for damage done, or said or supposed to be done; but the landlord promises to take a liberal view of special damage upon proper representation.Under such a condition of things the tenant had not a fair opportunity of improving his land. In 1878 the average production of wheat in Sussex was 24 bushels per acre. A farmer of three acres in another county had told the Assistant Commissioner that two of the acres were his own, and that he paid a rent of £2 for the other acre. In 1878 he produced 45 bushels per acre upon that little spot of land. How did he do this? By putting capital into it, and by farming it in an intelligent and progressive manner. In 1870 he produced 57½ bushels upon one acre and a quarter. That was a return which could not be shown from the large farms of this country. To match it one must go to the Island of Jersey, where the average was about 45 bushels per acre. In reference to the local burdens on land to which the hon. and gallant Baronet referred, he (Mr. Arnold) 1002 would say that the question deserved the serious consideration of the House and of the Government; but on turning to the Blue Book he found men whose opinions would generally be most readily accepted expressing very positive views in opposition to those of the hon. and gallant Baronet. Mr. Dent Dent, the present or late President of the Royal Agricultural Society, while stating that small farms had diminished of late years, thought a great mistake had been made in throwing small farms together. "I find," he said, "that small farms are more easy to let than large ones, and in consequence command higher rent." He also said that local rates had not increased much. What other facts came from the great landed estates? In some cases landlords imposed the most extraordinary conditions on their tenants. On the estate of Mr. Lane Fox the Assistant Commissioner reported that every tenant farmer contracted to walk a foxhound puppy. One of those tenants gave a curious opinion on the subject of Protection—namely, that ships ought to be rated because worn-out sailors had to be maintained. He (Mr. Arnold) wondered whether the tenant farmer remembered that if ships were rated the cost of his artificial manures would be increased. The hon. and gallant Baronet, in speaking of highways, said that the large employers of labour paid nothing towards their support; but hon. Gentlemen opposite appeared to be in the habit of forgetting the enormous benefit which they, as landowners, derived from the capital and industry of large employers of labour. The value of agricultural land depended very largely upon such employment of capital. According to Mr. Caird, the agricultural land of this country had, between 1850 and 1875, increased in value by as much as £275,000,000. It had never been stated that local burdens had increased to anything like a similar degree. It was, however, unquestionably the fact that rents in Sussex and other counties had increased immensely. He (Mr. Arnold) did not think that rents were too high; but he held that agriculture in this country was being pursued on lines which were radically wrong, and required fundamental alteration. The hon. Baronet who had been speaking about Ireland (Sir Baldwyn 1003 Leighton) enunciated what was really the Conservative policy for the settlement of this agricultural question. It was all out now, and it was emigration and large farms. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther), who spoke the previous night, was once waited upon in Dublin with reference to the relief of distress in Ireland, and on that occasion he used words which had not only made him offensive to the Irish people, but which were an offence against their interests that would never be forgiven. What he said was that Ireland needed "grass seed" more than anything else. A grosser insult never fell from the lips of a Minister. It meant that the people should be cleared off and the land bestowed on miserable pasture. Emigration and grass seed was the Conservative policy. Professor Baldwin had said that in Ireland 4,000,000 acres of land which had been turned into pasture were only producing one-fifth part of the food which they would have produced as arable land. The effect of the grass seed remedy was that the production of food had declined by as much as would provide for 2,000,000 of persons. In conclusion, he asked the hon. and gallant Baronet and his Friends to remember that the Government had offered them the largest and most beneficial measure that could possibly be suggested in promises for the reform of the laws relating to the entail and settlement of land. He (Mr. Arnold) wished himself for free land, and he said that hon. Gentlemen who were really sincere in their desire to promote reform in agriculture could do so by joining hands with the Prime Minister and supporting him in the measures of Land Law reform which he had promised to bring before the country. The most effectual measure for the promotion of the agricultural interest would be to relieve the soil from the Laws of Entail and Settlement.
§ MR. PELL
said, that the remarks of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Arnold) indicated the spirit which was too much abroad of dictating to landowners and tenants the way in which they were to cultivate their land. He would venture to say that the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. J. Lowther), in recommending that 1004 land in Ireland should be put into grass, instead of being continued under tillage, was only giving advice which many in England had already begun to act upon. Although the times had been as bad as they could be for the tillers of the soil, and ultimately for the landlords—for the blow had now reached them—he could not join with those who thought the condition of agriculture so bad that rents must continue to fall, and that the occupation of land must be abandoned. Yet, he believed that a great number of agricultural tenants had been absolutely and entirely ruined and their capital lost. Those who, like himself, were small owners, as well as tenants had suffered severely, for small landowners had been doing no better than those who hired land. The most serious thing they had to encounter was the succession of bad seasons they had experienced of late years. Last year their expectations of a good harvest were disappointed at the last moment by the weather. Many remarks had been made with respect to another cause of depression, the competition from America. He could inform the hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) that, according to recent accounts, America had suffered as severely as they had; the proof of that was that the imports were very much less than they had been. Large farmers in America had found large farms as disadvantageous as they were found to be in England. The distinction in the matter was that the American difficulty arose from the scarcity and dearness of labour. He believed that the difficulty was even much greater in America than in England. A friend who was in America 10 months ago assured him that there were thousands of acres of wheat uncut for the want of hands to drive the machinery. He would like to call attention to the importation of wheat to show how it had fallen off during the past three years. The quantity of wheat imported from the United States in 1879 was 3,621,000 cwts.; in 1880, 3,645,000 cwts.; and in 1881, 2,365,000 cwts. But there was something more remarkable still. In the month of January, 1880, the United States sent us 2,319,000 cwts. of wheat, which was more than two-thirds of the quantity of wheat imported from all parts of the world; in 1881 the quantity was increased; but this year the quantity sent us from the United 1005 States was only 1,880,000 cwts. There was also a remarkable change in the places from which grain was imported into this country. Wheat production in America had become more the result of cultivation and less of crop. The Americans had found out that reckless cropping would have to give place to cultivation. Cultivation had been carried to a very high degree on the Pacific Coast; and the Pacific States, which sent us in 1879 only 382,000 cwts. of wheat, sent us in 1881, 1,094,000 cwts., equaling, within a few cwts., the whole of the exports from the Eastern States, and from the prairie lands to the east of the Rocky Mountains. India, too, as had been long expected, was beginning to take the first place among the countries that grew wheat. She was rivalling the Pacific States. In fact, he thought she had a little exceeded them in her powers of production and export this last year, and up to the end of the first month of the present year, British India had sent out 1,376,000 cwts. He therefore thought they must not charge their American cousins altogether with being the cause of the depression in Great Britain. He believed that within the last four or five months wheat had been as dear at Chicago as it had been at Liverpool, and in New York the price of good meat was within a penny per lb. of what it was in England. They should bear in mind the enormous increase of population in America, which created a belt of hungry mouths between ourselves and the centres of population in that country. He only wished to put these matters forward as an object of encouragement. Then, by way of contrast, he must say a word upon the value of land. The value of land had suffered very serious diminution, and he believed that the value of English freehold land for farming purposes had come down from 30 or 33 years' purchase to 25 years' purchase. The fall in rents, he felt sure, had not yet ceased, and numerous applications had been made for reassessment on that ground. What, then, was to be done? Any remission of taxation would be acceptable, and the landlord and the tenant would be glad to share it between them, however small it might be, for "little fishes were sweet." A good many landlords and a good many tenants felt that if the chain was not heavy, at all events, the galling was 1006 very irksome—a remark which had been made with great aptness a short time ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. They must be assisted in reforming themselves. Those who desired reform in administration could get but little assistance from the Local Government Board, who were already too much occupied with Poor Law questions and other matters, such as the Conservancy of Rivers. He agreed with his hon. and gallant Friend in the belief that the circumstances of the case were such as to justify them in asking from the Government some assistance and consideration as would make the burdens under which they laboured easier and more tolerable. That question ought not to be made a political one. If anything could justify the appeal made to the Government by his hon. and gallant Friend, it was the attitude which the farmers had maintained throughout their difficulties. They, and especially the small freeholders, had exhibited the best qualities of the English people.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he thought that, considering the urgency of the subject of the present state of agriculture, and the hopes which had been raised by the Prime Minister during the Recess, farmers had some reason to expect greater notice of this subject in the Address from the Throne than it had received. He entirely agreed with the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) in regard to losses which farmers had sustained during the last few years. He did not, however, go entirely with him in believing that depression was so much due to the absence of sunshine and to the state of the weather as he seemed to think; and he would quote, in support of his view, the very important Paper recently published by the statistician of the Board of Trade, which showed that from one-third to one-fourth of the annual losses during the last few years had been due to deficient quantity in the crops, and that from two-thirds to three-fourths was due to various other causes—difference in prices, and increase in rent and wages. In connection with the question of labour, he must say that, so far as his own experience went, he did not consider that the agricultural labourer had in anywise deteriorated. The labouring man in Scotland was doing as much work 1007 as he had ever done; in fact, he was doing a great deal more, because implements had improved very much indeed. "With regard to the agriculture of Sussex, he was glad to learn that a good many landlords there were directing more attention to the subject than heretofore, and that they had instituted a system of agricultural experiments, from which he had no doubt they would derive great benefit. From recent observations, he thought the agriculture of Sussex was as far back as any part of the United Kingdom. Last year he had observed a system of ploughing carried on there which had been abandoned in Scotland in the end of last century. With farming in such a style, it was impossible for the farmers to meet the competition from abroad. No doubt, the seasons had been bad during the last four or five years; but he observed that in the case of those farms which had been judiciously cultivated for a generation or two, the losses had been smaller than on others; and he wished there to state his emphatic contradiction, so far as his experience and observation went, of the statement that high farming had been most unprofitable. He was perfectly satisfied it was no such thing, and it would he a very unfortunate thing for farming if it were so. But he would say that injudicious manuring had been attended with very bad results during the last four or five years. If farmers generally were better informed on the scientific side of their business, they would be able to raise far greater crops than they did at present, and that with greater economy. He had been surprised to hear the hon. and gallant Baronet refer to the well-worn saying which they were accustomed to hear at agricultural dinners, that landlord and tenant rowed in the same boat, giving the House a case in illustration, the result of which was that the tenant lost his capital of £1,000 in some four years, while it was to be presumed that the hon. and gallant Baronet got his rent during the same period. For himself, he was in favour of the relations between landlords and tenants being based on the strictest commercial principles. The practice of giving casual abatements of rent sapped the enterprize, self-reliance, and independence of the tenant; and he was very sure that as long as that system continued they could have very little 1008 hope for the prosperity of the agriculture of the country. While agreeing with the hon. and gallant Gentleman with regard to the losses the farmer had sustained, he was very disappointed to see the remedy he had suggested. He quite agreed with him in thinking the taxation of the country was a great deal too much; but he should expect the greatest relief to come from the economical administration of the funds, and this was to be expected from County Boards. In Scotland, under representative County Boards, the roads were kept in better condition than they had been before, and without any greater expenditure. As to the police, it occurred to him that they were occupied to a considerable extent in game preserving and game watching, and that their numbers might be very greatly reduced. There was no doubt, if they had local representative Boards, they might expect a considerable reduction in the number of police. As to improvement, there seemed to him to be two fundamental remedies. In the first place, he thought there must be a very considerable reduction of rent. No doubt, that had been going on very considerably of late years; and he thought that, on the whole, the landlords of England had made voluntarily as great a reduction of rent as had been made compulsorily by the Assistant Commissioners in Ireland. He thought, also, that the Government should intimate their intention with regard to the abolition of the Law of Distraint. It would be in the recollection of the House that last Session a Resolution which affirmed that it was expedient to abolish the Law of Distraint was brought forward by an hon. Member, and, after discussion, the House agreed, without division, to the Resolution. Her Majesty's Government had supported the Resolution warmly, and it seemed to him to give effect to their convictions then expressed; and also, in deference to the Resolution of the House, they ought now to bring forward a Bill for the abolition of the Law of Distraint, or, at least, take up the Bill which had been introduced by his hon. Friend, and make it a Government measure. He thought the farmers of England and Ireland were entitled to that, at least, at the hands of the Government during the present Session. The other funda- 1009 mental reform which was necessary was one which would give the tenant farmer security for his capital. The hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) had endeavoured to extract some comfort from the diminution of the imports from America. He (Mr. J. W. Barclay) could not discover what comfort was to be derived from that, because the explanation of the whole matter was this—that last year they had a poor crop in America, and, consequently, they had much less wheat to send. But the area devoted to wheat in 1881 and this year was not any less than in former years. What seemed to him by no means comforting was this—that, notwithstanding the great falling-off in the supplies from America, there had been no increase in the price of wheat in this country. Competition from abroad, however, was not confined to America, but had also extended to India; and he believed New Zealand and the Australian Colonies would, within a few years, contribute largely to the supply. Whoever knew the circumstances and the conditions under which the British farmer carried on his business, as compared with the foreigner with whom he had to compete, must come to the conclusion that it would be as impossible for the British farmer to carry on his business against the foreigner as it had been for the handloom weaver to carryon his business after the power-loom was introduced. It was true that in America difficulty was sometimes experienced in getting labour, and that labour was expensive; but, as a general rule, the price paid for labour on a quarter of wheat was not greater in America than in this country. There was, of course, the freight to be added to the price, but that did not exceed 7s. 6d. per quarter, and, in view of the great competition, was likely to diminish. He had himself known contracts entered into last year at a lower rate than that he had named, and their tendency was to fall still more. In this way the Western States were being brought, in a sense, nearer to our doors, and it became necessary for the British farmer to rely on something more powerful than mere relief from local taxation. When the American farmer came to be pressed to make a living at lower prices for wheat, he would be able to do it, and they might expect that from year to year the 1010 pressure of competition would be greater and greater. It seemed to him that the only hope of the British farmer was in endeavouring to increase the quantity he produced per acre on his farm. That was the great point in which the British farmer had an advantage over the American. He had not the slightest doubt, speaking from his own experience, that if the British farmer had security for his capital and freedom of cultivation, he would be able to increase the produce of his land by 50 per cent, and he had good authority for placing the increase much higher. This was speaking of wheat alone; but then, again, cereals were the simplest class of agricultural produce, and if the British farmer worked under a different system of tenure, and had security for his improvements, he would grow higher class produce, such as vegetables, and make more butter and cheese. It was only by this higher class of produce that the farmer could hope to be able to pay his present rent. But it was not so much a matter of rent as of the conditions under which the farmer carried on his business. How would the cotton-spinner fare if surrounded by the restrictions which fettered the farmer? He could not possibly survive foreign competition, and it was as impossible for the farmer as it was for the cotton-spinner. In former times the farmers enjoyed a natural protection. The cost of transit was very much greater than at present. Large portions of the world were involved in destructive wars, and the farmer in those days was able to get a much larger price for his produce. But year by year the full force of competition had been brought to bear on the British farmer, and under this fierce competition the system of tenure by the cultivator had broken down. It would be utterly impossible to continue it, whatever the seasons might be, on the present conditions. The farmer must have his hands as free to deal with the land as the cotton manufacturer to deal with his cotton. Under the present system there was what might be called a creeping paralysis setting in over the country. In the first place, the lower classes of land, which did little more than pay the cost of labour, were going out of cultivation. But this paralysis would extend, and it would be only the more select portions of laud that would be maintained 1011 in cultivation and pay a fair rent. If that were so, it was surely urgent upon the Government and Parliament to take some measure which would insure that those who cultivated the land would be allowed to do so under conditions which were fair and just. The landlords had confiscated the improvements of their tenants, and had exercised their great powers in such a way that they had tilled the goose that laid the golden eggs; and it was only in the finer parts of the country where fair rents were still obtained. But he was assured that, on estates where the management was liberal, and the quality of the land satisfactory, there were still no vacant farms. In these circumstances, it was surely for the advantage of the landlords, no less than of the tenants, if they would face the difficulties of the position now; they should not trust merely to a return of sunshine to bring prosperity to agriculture, for a return of sunshine would mean lower prices. In conclusion, he urged the Government to take the first step by abolishing the Law of Distraint; the farmers and the House were entitled to no less from the Government, interfering, as it did, with their progress in the country.
§ MR. STORER
said, he agreed that there could be but one opinion as to the way in which the agricultural interest had been treated in Her Majesty's Speech. Let them compare the way tenant farmers in England had been treated with what had happened in Ireland. He did not, however, approve the manner in which the Government had dealt with the tenant farmers in Ireland; it taught them to rely upon legislation instead of upon their own efforts, and was opposed in principle to any legislation previously introduced into this country. But although the Government had offered the Irish tenants 30 per cent reduction, they had been outbid by Mr. Parnell, who had offered 75 or 100 per cent, and the consequence was that the agitation continued very much as before. The people of England would certainly not continue long to look upon such a state of things with equanimity. Meanwhile the condition of the agricultural interests in England claimed attention. The farmers, from a succession of unfortunate circumstances over which they had no control, saw their capital gradually melting away from them, until 1012 they had many of them been ruined. The unjust burdens which were thrown upon the land had helped to bring about that state of things. What other section of industry, for instance, was burdened with what was virtually an income tax of 3s. in the pound? There was but small hope, however, that the Government would listen to any proposal for alleviating the burdens of the lands, though agriculturists, like drowning men, would be glad to catch at any straw. With regard to the question of local taxation, even if the relief only amounted to 1s. 6d. per acre, it would be very welcome to the tenant. They did not, he believed, want the Law of Distress abolished. Something could, no doubt, be said against that law, but much could also be said in its favour. The landlord, knowing that his rent was secure, could often extend a helping hand to the tenant, whom, in other circumstances, he would leave to fight his own battle. In addition to the financial burden of land, bad seasons, and, above all, foreign competition contributed to impoverish the farmer. There was no doubt that foreign competition was the great factor in the existing agricultural depression, and—he would not say if it were allowed to go on unchecked, for no one proposed to check it—but if relief in some shape was not given to the farmer the agriculture of this country was doomed. Circumstances had altered very much since Free Trade was first adopted, and the time had arrived when an inquiry into the whole working of our so-called "Free Trade," but which was not Free Trade in reality, was necessary. Something should be done for the agriculture of this country if we were not to sink as a nation. He did not ask, however, that the same treatment should be extended to the farmers of England that had been applied to the Irish farmers, because, although the farmers might "live and thrive" under that system, the landlords certainly would not do so. The whole question was one that deserved to be made the subject of the most searching inquiry, and not to be treated in the way in which it had been dealt with in the Speech from the Throne, in which Her Most Gracious Majesty was made to say to the English agriculturists—"Gentlemen, I wish you good morning; the weather has been remarkably mild."
§ MR. M'LAGAN
said, that the discussion which had been introduced would be of advantage not only to the Government but to the country generally. With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), who was an authority on the subject of American competition, he was convinced it would be of benefit and advantage because of the encouraging views he held out to the farmers. He agreed that so long as Protection prevailed in America we had no reason to dread competition from farmers in America. They could not raise their agricultural produce at so low a rate as if they had Free Trade; and he would say to those hon. Members who desired a return to Protection, that they ought to be on their guard, as the farmers of this country were, as a body, thoroughly of opinion that they would not be able to thrive except under Free Trade. The farmers of America, who had already suffered far more than the farmers here, would be obliged, in order to enable them to cultivate to advantage, to spend far more on labour and manure than they had hitherto done, and the result would be that, instead of being producers and exporters of grain, they would become the consumers of that immense quantity of grain which was being used on the Pacific Coast; and for these two reasons, added to what the hon. Member for South Leicestershire said, he thought the farmers in this country had no reason to be dismayed by the spectre of American competition so often held up to them. On the other hand, they had the pessimist view from the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay); but certainly his speech did not at all convince him (Mr. M'Lagan) as to the difficulties which they laboured under from that depression. That there had been great agricultural depression there could be no doubt. Now, what were the causes? That bad seasons were in great part one cause he could adduce many proofs. Farmers themselves had come to him and said that the prices were not bad; that if they had only the produce to sell they would be as well off as ever they were. During the Recess he had the opportunity of studying this aspect of the question, and he had come to the conclusion that so far from agricultural produce having fallen in value, the greater produce on which we were de- 1014 pendent in this country had risen very much in value. For instance, beef, mutton, butter, cheese, milk, oats, had all risen. Wheat, again, this year had fallen very much, and those lots of land which had fallen out of cultivation had been those devoted chiefly to the cultivation of wheat. There could be no doubt, as the hon. Member for Forfarshire had said, that a great deal of land had gone out of cultivation; but what was the quality of these lands? They were clay lands. The hon. Member for Forfarshire thought he was entitled to blame the bad laws and the conduct of proprietors; but, in his opinion, the true occasion of it was that we had had a succession of very wet, cold seasons, and it was quite impossible that anything could grow on those cold clay lands, and that was the reason why they had gone out of cultivation. Whatever might be in the future, he had perfect hope that even those lands would, if they were farmed with better seasons, be again cultivated and produce the crops which they had hitherto been doing. He agreed, however, with the remark of the hon. Member for Forfarshire, that the farmers of this country had still some hope of redress from great loss, by applying themselves to the cultivation of a different produce from what they had hitherto been doing. When they found, for instance, that the prices of beef, mutton, and butter and dairy produce were increasing, surely the wise farmer would at once try to cultivate that produce and abandon the growing of wheat, when it could not pay at the present prices. While it was quite true that returns had risen during the last 20 years from about 25 to 30 per cent, they must not suppose that there had not been a, quid pro quo. During that time the proprietors had laid out large sums of that money in draining lands, and in buildings, and if they only reckoned 5 per cent upon that, they would soon come out with the increase of 25 per cent; if the rents were reduced 25 per cent, it just meant that it was so much lost to the proprietor of the money which he had so laid out. But a more serious tiling than even the reduction of rent was to be found in the deterioration of the soil, and he was surprised some of the practical Members who had spoken had not taken notice of it. The soil at the present time had not the same fer- 1015 tility about it that it had 10 or 12 years ago, owing, first, to the succession of wet seasons having washed the elements of fertility out of it, and, in the next place, to the fact that the farmers had lost so much of their capital that they had not been able to restore those elements. In that way the soils were in a very deteriorated way indeed, and it would require a large sum of money to bring them back into their former condition. That was not only an individual loss, but was a national loss. The depression in agriculture was not like the depression in trade, or bad times on the Stock Exchange. If stocks or shares fell it was generally a fictitious price that fell, and the intrinsic value those shares represented was still the same. Now, with depression in agriculture it was different; the intrinsic value of the land by the causes he had mentioned was very much reduced indeed, and therefore it was a very great loss to the nation. He recollected several instances in which farmers had suffered from bad seasons and nothing else, but he would only mention one. There was the case of a farmer in East Lothian, who in 1879 lost about £2,400 upon his farm with the bad seasons. The year 1880 was a good year in that county, and the result was that this farmer not only made up his losses of the previous year, but some profit besides. He adduced that case to show that really what they had to complain of as the principal cause of the depression was bad seasons, over which they had no control. But were there no remedies for the depression? Some had been mentioned in the debate on the other side of the House. They were told they should have a reduction of local taxation. He was quite willing to take any gift that might be given to him, but this local taxation was a very small loaf indeed. As a rule, however, he objected to the giving of local taxation from Imperial funds for two reasons—because it encouraged centralization; and because, in the next place, it caused a great carelessness in the management of funds amongst the local authorities; and he would much rather if some plan were devised such as had been indicated by the Premier, by which they could have the local taxation reduced as far as possible. The farmers of this country wanted something far greater than that; they wanted immediate relief in the 1016 reduction of rent. How was that to be given? To their credit, many landlords had reduced their rents 25, 30, and even 50 per cent without any legislation whatever; but they must not forget that there were just as many proprietors who were quite willing to reduce their rents, and who could not do so on account of the Law of Settlement and Entail. He knew one case of a landlord who was willing to give a reduction of his rents, but this landlord said that if he gave relief to the extent of 10 per cent he would have no income whatever. They should thus take care that if they were generous to the farmer they should not be unjust to the proprietor. But how could they afford relief? He saw the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Bright) and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) in their places, and he hoped that these right hon. Gentlemen would be able even yet to recommend that some decisive measure be introduced this year. He would go so far as this, that if there was not time to deal with the Law of Entail and Settlement, a short Bill might be brought in by which proprietors bound up by entail might have it in their power to borrow money at the same rate as if they held their land at fee simple, and that that should be put upon the land. This would enable many proprietors to give a reduction of rent to the tenants, which otherwise they would find it quite impossible to do. Another cause of difficulty was the high cost of labour; but whatever they did in trying to find a remedy for the depression, they must not look to reducing the wages of the labourer. The labourer had had his wages increased only to bring him up in the social scale to the position he ought to occupy, and were they to reduce a labourer's wages they should just be reducing him in the social scale. There was, however, another subject which they had to do with, and that was railway rates for agricultural products. He trusted the Committee on this subject would be able soon to come to the House with their Report, so that some steps might be taken, even this Session. It was absolutely necessary they should have some alteration in the rates. It was preposterous that wheat in America had been carried at a cheaper rate than the railways of this country would, and 1017 the difference in these railway rates was all the difference as to whether the farm could be profitably cultivated or not. As Legislators, what they must specially see to was the amendment of those Land Laws, which at the present time he thought nothing else but a curse to the country, and the sooner they removed those shackles from the land the better. As regarded the farmer, it was quite in their power to pass some legislation so that the farmer might have his capital well secured, and he trusted the Government would this year support the Bill of the hon. Member for Mid Lincoln (Mr. Chaplin), which went in that direction, and which, if passed in the state it now was, would be productive of much good to the agricultural interest. In the Speech from the Throne it was stated that a Bill was to be introduced for the abolition of the Law of Entail in Scotland. That Bill would give great satisfaction throughout Scotland, and no opposition would be given to it by Scotch Members. He would, however, suggest to the Lord Advocate that in abolishing entail he would take care that a worse custom be not introduced, and that was, that proprietors would not have it in their power to put their properties into trust, and really produce worse effects than the Law of Entail actually produced. He knew at present in Scotland where there were some estates that were in trust—not from debt being upon them, because they were perfectly free; but the heir in possession was in a far worse position at the present time than the heirs of other estates in Scotland. Now, if entail were abolished, he wished the Lord Advocate would take care that the Act would not be evaded by proprietors having it in their power to put estates in trust. That would be a most grievous wrong, most prejudical to proprietors themselves, and most detrimental to the interests of the country generally.
§ MR. GREGORY
observed, that the county of Sussex, one division of which he had the honour to represent, had been accused of being in a backward state of agriculture. As regarded the adoption of the Agricultural Holdings Act, the reason it had not been adopted was that the custom of the country was more beneficial to the tenant than anything that could be found in the Act. The tenant had actual security for his manure, his drainage, and his cultivation; and 1018 the landlords had never been backward in meeting the tenants in the matter of permanent improvements. Moreover, a tenant practically had all his repairs done by his landlord. In respect of cultivation Sussex was really in the position of two counties. One part consisted of clay, loam, and sand; while the other district lay upon the chalk, and was adapted for entirely different purposes. In the chalk districts there was good pasturage for sheep, and on the sides of the hills wheat and barley were cultivated with great success. On the clay and sand hops were grown, and dairy farming went on. To endeavour, therefore, to obtain an average of the amount of wheat grown throughout Sussex would be an entirely fallacious calculation. It would be not a true calculation as regarded the wheat really produced in the districts of Sussex adapted for it. He now proposed to make a few observations on the general subject. The question that had been principally debated that evening was as to what could be done, independently of the seasons, to benefit the agricultural interest. That resolved itself into the two subjects of local taxation and the relations of landlord and tenants. As regarded local taxation, the recommendations of a Committee which sat some years ago on the subject had never been carried out. The mode of collecting the rates, as formed by that Committee, was burdensome and vexatious to the taxpayer and unduly extravagant. But the tenant farmer also felt the injustice of the tax itself. He could not help seeing that a great amount of property in the country escaped from taxation altogether. He saw people use the roads who contributed nothing to their maintenance; and he had to bear other really Imperial burdens, towards which the fund holder, the mortgagee, or the debenture holder, paid not a shilling. The tenant farmer did not ask for the increase of taxation in bulk, but for its equalization. He would wish to see Imperial and local taxation so amalgamated that the burdens would be borne equally by all persons and all descriptions of property. It had been suggested that the Law of Settlement should be abolished as regarded land. He did not think that a distinction could fairly be made in that respect between real and personal property. At present, settlements of per- 1019 sonal property were encouraged; and it would be hard to deprive a man whose property happened to consist of realty of that mode of providing for the future and for his children which the owner of pure personalty enjoyed. But something might be done with matters as they now stood, by giving relief as between those who were owners of limited estates in land and the occupiers. He considered that there should be a solvent landlord as well as a solvent tenant; that was to say, a landlord with capital to enable him to meet the just requirements of the tenant and to improve the property. There should be an unqualified power of sale, and the land should be readily convertible and easily transferable. A limited owner of land should have power to apply his own capital in the improvement of the land and to charge it upon the land, and he should have the power of borrowing money upon it. That was a question which had been discussed years ago by the Incorporated Law Society, of which he was a member; they considered that the owner of land should have further powers of clearing his property from liabilities and of raising money for the improvement of his estates, such as in building, draining, roads, dykes, and so forth. He would suggest to the Government that they should give facilities for passing a measure of that kind. If they could not do it themselves, let them give some hon. Member such facilities as lay in their power. The thing was perfectly feasible. It could be carried out with common concurrence. Such a measure would greatly improve the position of an owner as well as an occupier of land. A limited owner should, in reference to the cultivation of his property, be brought into the same position as an absolute owner. The owner of landed property should be induced to realize his position and his obligations; but there was a difficulty in this inherent in human nature, and not confined to owners of land only. A person having possession of anything he valued had a great desire to hold it, and a great reluctance to relinquish it; and the consequence was that, in many instances, where an estate had become incumbered, the owner would not recognize his position, and, by realizing his property, relieve himself from the incumbrances. This, of course, could not be had by 1020 legislation, but facilities might be afforded to those who were willing to avail themselves of them; and he hoped the Government would consider the suggestions he had made, and endeavour in some way to deal with the question.
§ MR. WILLIAMSON
said, he had no wish to prolong the debate on the Address, although he thought Members on that side of the House ought to be satisfied with the complete justification it had afforded of the conduct of the Government. With reference to the question of agricultural distress, the House and the country had no reason to regret that a little time had been devoted to a subject of so much importance. Undoubtedly, the country had suffered very much from the distressed condition of the agricultural interest. With every word that fell from the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler) he entirely concurred. He believed deliverance was not to be found for agricultural distress except by putting into force those principles and views of legislation which the hon. Member for Cambridge indicated, and which would be of so much advantage to the country if taken in hand and acted upon by the Government. The hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) spoke of the diminished imports of wheat from the Eastern States of America as if they were connected with the labour difficulty. That, he was quite sure, was a mistake. The diminished imports had arisen from bad weather, and nothing else. In regard to the Pacific slope, the hon. Member spoke of it furnishing increased quantities of wheat owing to most careful irrigation. The fact was, there was not a 20th part of the wheat which came from that quarter grown by irrigation, and the only improved agriculture about which he spoke was simply letting the land lie fallow once in six or seven years. He, along with the hon. Member, noted with satisfaction the increased exports from India. In October, November, and December they amounted to 1,250,000 quarters; and these Indian exports, amounting in the cereal year to 3,500,000—probably 4,000,000—of quarters, had made all the difference between scarcity and abundance, and had certainly kept down the price of bread. Workingmen had cheaper loaves, not from American wheat, but in consequence of the large shipments from. India. Undoubtedly, the 1021 farmers had got smaller prices owing to this supply; but, on the other hand, with a population of 8,000,000 or 10,000,000 more than the land could sustain, it was of the highest importance that we should have an abundant and cheap food supply, and, consequently, these imports from India ought to be a source of great congratulation and satisfaction to all.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, he did not rise to continue the debate about Ireland, because he could not hope to add anything new to the speech of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton). He wished to direct attention to some remarks made a few nights ago by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the senior Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket). That right hon. and learned Gentleman said that when the Sub - Commissioners visited Kilmallock, which was in a state of excitement, an additional constabulary force was required, and an agent giving evidence before the Sub-Commissioners had to be protected by the police. It was quite true that there was a large police force in Kilmallock; but it was there before the passing of the Land Act. No additional police were brought into the town while the Sub-Commissioners' Court was sitting. He was present during the two days the Sub-Commissioners sat, and there was no excitement whatever. The agent referred to was, no doubt, Mr. Townsend, whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman the senior Member for the University of Dublin defended in that House last year. This agent had been under police protection for the past 12 months, owing to his tyrannical conduct towards the tenants who had refused to pay their rents to him. The only excitement in the district of Kilmallock was caused by the landlord, Mr. Coote, forcing that agent on the tenants against their wish. They willingly bore the costs of execution rather than pay their rents to this agent. Whenever a tenant died or whenever a tenant's son or daughter got married the first act of this agent was to put on an increase of rent. On the occasion alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman this agent went to Kilmallock to give evidence in the celebrated case of Clery, in which the rental was reduced by the Sub-Commission only £180 per annum, although the agent increased the rent over £300 per annum on two occasions 1022 within the last 15 years. He denied that Mr. Townsend was accompanied by police through the town of Kilmallock on the occasion, and though that agent was standing amongst the people in a crowded Court without police protection no person offered him the slightest insult. He thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman the senior Member for the University of Dublin ought to have made some inquiries before he allowed himself to be the medium for misleading the House in this matter.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, he regretted that on such an occasion as the present the Conservative Benches should be almost deserted, and especially that the right hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther) was absent, because they had not heard in that debate a word about that wonderful specific for British agriculture—Protection. It showed, however, that the demand for Protection was really only an Election cry, and was not believed in by those who raised it. He was also sorry that the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J.W. Barclay) should have said that the tenant farmers of England had been left unable to carry on their occupations, because the landlords had, as it were, sucked the last drop of blood out of them. There was, he believed, hardly a single instance in which rents had been raised, except where the landlords had laid out much money on permanent improvements, and where they had put on a very small percentage on the sums laid out with the full consent of the tenant. There was a great difference between Irish and English landlords. In England, whilst the landlords, as a rule, had reduced rents 12 and 15 per cent, it must be remarked that they had laid out large sums of money for permanent improvements; whereas in Ireland landlords had increased rents without adding any improvements of their own. The landlords of England, he thought, were not guilty of the accusations made against them by the hon. Member for Forfarshire, as they had practically and voluntarily reduced their rents 15, 20, and 25 per cent, having regard to the interest lost on the money spent for improvements. The question of rates was a very serious one, not only to the agriculturists, but also to the other inhabitants, the small occupiers and tradesmen of the rural districts. 1023 With reference to the Agricultural Holdings Bill, he must say it was not the principle of the Bill which was objected to by landlords and tenants, but the expensive machinery by which it was intended to carry it out. The Bill ought to have been called not an Agricultural Holdings Bill, but a "Lawyers' and Land Valuers' Promotion of Business Bill." He should be glad to see a good Bill brought in, giving compensation to tenants for their unexhausted improvements. He agreed with the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler) that if limited owners had more freedom given to them, it would be far better both for them and for their tenants. Large estates that were heavily mortgaged were a nuisance to all around. Estates held by non-resident proprietors were, for all practical purposes, entirely worthless to those who lived in the county; and he did not exclude from that observation estates known under the title of Crown Lands. In North and Mid Lincolnshire two-thirds of the rents were collected and taken away, hardly a farthing being spent in the county. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners were another example of absentee landlords. They had none of the outgoings of ordinary landlords; they spent no money in the county, and had no succession duty to pay; and it was a shame that public servants should be permitted to extract from tenant farmers rents which they could not afford. He would conclude by advocating more freedom for the tenant as well as for the landlord in this matter.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he thought that a debt of gratitude was due to his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) for having rescued from oblivion the important subject of the agricultural interests of England. He was sure that the House would remember that they were engaged during the whole of last Session in discussing the Irish Question. This was the peculiar—he did not desire to be uncourteous, but he had almost said the insane—policy of Her Majesty's Government last Session; and, as far as he could see, they would be engaged for a considerable period during the present Session in an exactly similar discussion. But, notwithstanding the deplorable condition to which that country had been reduced during the two 1024 short years of Liberal Administration, they must not, and could not, afford to neglect English interests and English questions. Everybody knew that the condition of the agricultural interest in England was a matter of the highest and deepest national concern. All were agreed that it was by far the largest and most important interest in the country; and it was equally notorious that it was still suffering from a most severe, prolonged, and aggravated depression, which, if it continued long to prevail, could not fail to re-act with the most injurious consequences upon every class and interest in the country. Under those circumstances, he could not fail to be surprised at the bare and meagre notice it had received in the Gracious Speech from the Throne; and he thought it would have been better to have passed it by altogether than to have given it such a notice as it had received. Agriculture, it had been pointed out that night, was in an almost desperate condition. Whether that was so or not, he was quite certain that the farmers in every part of the country, anxious, disquieted, and alarmed, were looking with the greatest interest to some hope of relief which might be held out to them by the Government. What, however, under the circumstances, did the Government tell them? That "a mild winter was eminently suited for farming operations;" an obvious truism which every farmer knew from the day when he began to farm. Except a few unimportant words, that was the sole allusion to the subject in the Speech from the Throne. Her Majesty's Ministers had held out hopes of conferring local government upon them, but that was not what the formers wanted; what they wanted was relief from local taxation. They did not even know what the Government did propose to do; they had never heard a word from them; and if his hon and gallant Friend had not risen he did not think they would have had from the Government a single word upon the subject. They, however, expected to hear what Her Majesty's Government intended to do for them in that direction. Of course, the Government might say—"But a Royal Commission is sitting at this moment to inquire into the whole of the question, and you can hardly expect us to enter into the question until that Commission has re- 1025 ported." If that was to be the answer to be made, he, for one, would be inclined to admit that there was a great deal of force in it; but he wanted to point out that there were a variety of subjects, quite independent of the Report of the Royal Commission, upon which great interest was manifested by the farmers. A Question had been put the other day to the Vice President of the Council on the subject of the foot-and-mouth disease, and they heard that that disease still prevailed in some parts of the country. From information which had reached him, he was not surprised to hear that that was the case. They had a debate on that question last Session; and it had been demonstrated in the course of that debate that, though during the last nine months in which the late Administration was in Office this country had been perfectly free from that disease in consequence of their having stamped it out completely, very shortly after their Successors came in cargoes of diseased animals had been landed in Deptford. He did not think they were ever likely to be free from the disease as long as the present Government continued in Office. He would like to tell the House why that was his opinion. The debate to which he referred occurred in March; and, in spite of the remonstrances they had made at that time, it was the fact that cargoes of diseased animals had been regularly and systematically admitted into tills country every month from that time till now. He would read to the House a list of the cargoes which had landed during the past year. In April, 6 cargoes; in May, 5; in June, 6; in July, 2; in August, 16, of animals absolutely suffering from disease; in September, 15; in October, 13; in November, 6; in December, 9; making in all 78 cargoes of animals suffering from foot-and-mouth disease which had been admitted into England since the middle of last Session, and they were not confined to one port. They had landed at London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Hull, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, and Falmouth; and, under the circumstances, he could not be surprised that in Lincolnshire the disease prevailed to a serious extent, and he thought it would be admitted that, until the Government changed its policy, he thought it was likely to prevail. He ventured to hope 1026 that even yet the farmers of England would hear from the Government that night that they would pursue a different policy. One of the first performances of the Government when they came into Office was to effect a reformation which was intended to confer a great boon on the farmers—he referred to the repeal of the Malt Tax. He gave them full credit for that measure at the time; but the opinion had begun to be entertained by a great many farmers—and he was rather coming round to the opinion himself—that, instead of conferring a boon, it had inflicted a great injury upon them, inasmuch as it had tended very largely to reduce the price of barley in this country. If that was the ease, he hoped it was not too much to expect that the Government would take the subject into consideration, with the view of seeing whether, by some re-adjustment of the taxation by which the present revenue was raised, they could not devise some means to convert that, which was said to be an injury to the farmers, into the boon and the benefit which they originally intended it to be. The hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) had contrasted unfavourably the produce of large farms with that of certain small farms, on which he said 45 bushels of wheat per acre had been raised. But 45 bushels of wheat per acre was no very remarkable performance. He should be disappointed, indeed, if on any farm in the world for which he paid £2 an acre he could not raise that quantity of wheat. Such a comparison as the hon. Member had drawn was not likely to carry conviction to the minds of gentlemen accustomed to grow grain themselves. The hon. Member also said the Agricultural Holdings Act had been adopted on only one estate in the whole county of Sussex. There, again, the hon. Member was in error, for certainly that Act was enforced also on the Sussex estate of the Duke of Richmond. He was also entirely mistaken in supposing that Mr. George Lane Fox was an unpopular man in Yorkshire on account of his foxhunting, as the hon. Member would see at any assembly of Yorkshire farmers where that gentleman's name happened to be mentioned. Indeed, he did not know a single tenant who had any objection to foxhounds. The hon. Member, again, had referred to Ireland, and 1027 had condemned in the most violent terms the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Lowther) for what he had termed his "grass seed" policy, and he had cited Professor Baldwin in support of his argument; but nothing was clearer in Professor Baldwin's evidence than his conviction that but small benefits could ever be conferred upon the peasantry of Ireland until the people were moved from their small holdings. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler) seemed to think that the laws of the ownership and occupation of land were the main cause of the present agricultural distress, and that the employment of more capital was the remedy upon which we ought, for the most part, to rely. As regarded the laws relating to the ownership of land, they on the Opposition side of the House were in no degree bigoted about them. So far from being opposed to any change in those laws, they were prepared—and he believed he might speak for a considerable number of his fellow-Members—to give the most candid and liberal consideration to any suggestion which in their opinion was likely to tend to the improvement of agriculture. He could not altogether agree with the hon. Member that the employment of more capital upon land would by itself be any remedy whatever for agricultural depression. He rather inclined to the opinion expressed by Mr. Clare Sewell Read and others, that it was precisely the persons who had embarked the largest capital in land who were the greatest losers. Perhaps he might except the small peasant proprietors, who had no landlords to fall back upon—no remissions of rent to assist them, and every farthing of whose mortgages was ruthlessly exacted. But next to them certainly as the greatest losers he would put the large tenants. The smallest sufferers of all, he believed, were the small tenants That was, however, only the expression of his own opinion. The subject was one upon which every hon. Member would shortly be able to form an opinion for himself. He would give an instance which he thought warranted him in concluding that the employment of large capital was no remedy for agricultural depression. At the beginning of last harvest he was travelling by rail through 1028 a small estate adjoining his own, on which there was a field containing no less than 300 acres of barley of the finest quality. It was a beautiful sight. But what happened? The following day it began to rain, and it continued raining in that district for a whole month without ceasing. Now 300 acres of barley would cost, at £8 per acre, £2,400 to produce, and those 300 acres producing each five quarters at £2 per quarter would realize £3,000. The farmer would consequently have been justified in counting upon a profit of £600. But, in the unfortunate circumstances which occurred, he would be a lucky man if he got £1 a quarter for his barley, so that he would realize only £1,500, and have a loss on one field alone of £900. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Cambridge that there ought to be some relief from local taxation, and agriculturists meant to get it; but relief from local taxation alone would not relieve the depression. He agreed also that there ought to be a law by which every tenant should have secured to him compensation for unexhausted improvements. But he differed altogether from the hon. Member in his assertion that the existing laws had been by any means the cause of the depression. There were many parts of England where ample security was enjoyed by the tenant and where, nevertheless, the loss had been greatest. Moreover, if the laws relating to the ownership and occupation of land were the cause of the present depression, how could the hon. Member explain the fact that under those same laws we had in past years attained a degree of agricultural prosperity such as had never before been seen among the nations of the world? It was idle to talk of these laws being the cause of, or their removal the remedy for, the existing depression. He complained that the Agricultural Holdings Bill, which he had introduced last year, and which had received the sanction of the House, had at the last moment been defeated by the action of Her Majesty's Government. He could not agree with the strong opinions that had been expressed with respect to foreign competition. At one time he was much alarmed at the prospect of foreign competition; but he believed that America had within the last two years reached her highest pitch of agricultural pros- 1029 perity, and that this country had seen the worst of the competition from that quarter. He therefore indulged the hope that, with the return of favourable seasons, and if Her Majesty's Government would support his proposal with reference to the Malt Tax, we should be able to hold our own against foreign competition. He would take the present opportunity of making some remarks on the Irish Question. They were told in Her Majesty's Speech that the condition of Ireland had been improved. He should like to know since when? Would anyone venture to say that the condition of affairs was improved since Her Majesty's Government came into Office? Was it not immeasurably worse than when they succeeded the late Administration? The Chief Secretary for Ireland said that a few weeks ago he did not think he should be able to meet Parliament without asking for further powers. It was clear, therefore, that a short time ago the Government thought further powers were necessary to enable them to deal successfully with the state of affairs in Ireland. No one could take up the public papers and read of the maimings and burnings, and outrages, without feeling that the state of things in Ireland to-day was a dishonour to the country, a disgrace to our Government, and that its state was one which would warrant and justify the condemnation of any other civilized nation in the world. Under these circumstances, the Government had, he would not say permitted this state of things, but they had failed to cope with it, and, having refrained from asking for those powers which they themselves considered necessary to deal with the condition of affairs in that country, they deserved the condemnation of the people of England; and if he were right in that view it was not long before some Member on the Opposition side would feel it his duty to propose a Motion censuring their policy. The policy of the Government had been a ghastly failure, and had led to the demoralization of the people. The Government had failed, and they knew it. They had failed in their opportunity, and they had failed deliberately, but not without warning from the Opposition side of the House. For very shame's sake the Government could not, they would not dare to, propose any further confiscation just at present. Three points 1030 were advanced last Session in opposition to their policy. They were told, in the first instance, that their Land Bill must unquestionably come to a dead-lock on account of the clumsiness of their machinery; and that prophecy had been literally fulfilled. Then they were told that before the ink was dry which made judicial rent the law an agitation would arise against paying any rent at all. Had not the "no rent" manifesto been a complete justification of that prediction? The third point was that as the plan of concession and confiscation of 1870 had only led to more concession and confiscation in 1881, the same result would follow their new attempt at legislation. The only concession now left to them was the concession of Home Rule, the indication of which by the Prime Minister had so startled and amazed the country. The Prime Minister had made an explanation last night; but he could not say the right hon. Gentleman had much bettered his position by his explanation. It would have been eminently satisfactory if anyone had understood him. So far as he (Mr. Chaplin) was concerned, he found the explanation even more vague than the original speech. He wished to ask the Government what was to happen when those provisions for the supremacy of Parliament that the right hon. Gentleman spoke of had been made? The right hon. Gentleman said that he was not prepared to give to Ireland that which in point of principle it would be wrong to give to Scotland, if Scotland demanded it. This reference to Scotland only complicated the matter more, for what the Prime Minister might be prepared on some future day to do for Scotland Heaven only knew. Were they or were they not prepared to entertain the establishment of an Irish Parliament as an open question? If they were able to say "No," well and good; if not, then the House of Commons and the people of this country would have every reason to believe that the Prime Minister was prepared, although he dared not at present openly avow it, to make this new and fresh concession to Irish outrage and Irish agitation which might probably end, for aught he knew and it seemed probable for anything he cared, in the ruin and disintegration of the Empire.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, the hon. Member who had just sat down had brought 1031 an indictment against Her Majesty's Government and against the House in general that they had not shown sufficient interest in matters connected with agriculture, and had contrasted the large space of time devoted to Irish questions compared with English questions; but keen agriculturist as that hon. Member was, he himself was diverted from English agricultural questions by his splendid oratory on the subject of Ireland. The hon. and gallant Member for Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) also complained of the little attention given to agricultural subjects from the Government Bench; but the Government had been mainly engaged in defending themselves against attacks from the other side of the House, and up to that time the Front Opposition Bench themselves had scarcely referred to the great agricultural interests. The tenant farmers, however, would have reason to be satisfied with the tone that had been taken in the discussion. They would see that sympathy had been felt with the enormous losses that they had undoubtedly suffered, and that that sympathy had been confined to no one side of the House. What were the remedies which it was possible for this House to afford the subject of agriculture? With the exception of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), every Member who had spoken from the Conservative Benches had pointed out as the only remedy practicable for the moment some relief of local taxation. There was one remedy which he rejoiced to think had not been alluded to that night, although it was alluded to successfully at two great Elections which had recently occurred. They had heard nothing of the 5s. duty on corn. What had become of it? Had it been discarded by the Conservative Party so soon as they met in Parliament? Was it a pious opinion which might be held during the Recess and which was abandoned in the more serious Business of Parliament? Neither the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincolnshire, nor the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther) referred throughout the course of the long debate to the subject of the 5s. duty. [Mr. J. LOWTHER: I asked for a day to discuss the question.] The House would look forward to the day and the division when the question of the 5s. duty would be proposed by either 1032 responsible or irresponsible Members of the Conservative Party; and meanwhile the farmers would understand that their chosen Representatives had, when the occasion offered, ignored the subject altogether. They had, on the contrary, devoted themselves to the single question of the lightening of local burdens, a subject with which the Government had already promised to deal. There was another point which the hon. Gentleman opposite had carefully avoided, but which was not without interest to farmers—namely, the question of the division of the rates between owners and occupiers. It was not, however, by a simple relief given to ratepayers that the agricultural necessity could be materially helped. They all fully recognized the disastrous consequences of four wet seasons; but the point to which many of them attached great importance was that the farmers should be in a position to be able to resist the effects of such depression. They believed that the farmers would be better able to resist the effects of this depression if they were not handicapped by laws which tied their hands. It would be to the advantage of both the owner and occupier to have greater freedom as regarded capital and farming and dealing with the land in every possible respect. He imagined that they might even say that some good would result from the disastrous conditions of the late bad seasons if the nation awoke to the necessity of dealing boldly, yet prudently, with the Land Laws; and especially if it was able to discover the means by which the greatest possible yield might be derived from the land. He had heard with the greatest satisfaction that the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire had said that any proposals that were made with regard to the laws relating to the ownership of land and their reform would meet with the impartial consideration of himself and his Friends. That was already a great advance in public opinion, because only a short time ago any statement to the effect that the Law of Entail, Settlement, or Primogenature was to be interfered with would have been treated almost as revolutionary. The question was not simply one of high-farming, or how much capital could be employed on the land; but the question was whether capital could be attracted to the land by better legislation, giving compensation 1033 for improvements, and also giving liberty in every possible respect as regarded farming. Competition from America and India could not be met by Protection, but by better legislation, giving compensation for improvements, and securing liberty as to farming. The fear of hon. Gentlemen opposite as to the competition of the United States was beginning to calm, and the simple question as to how the English owner, the farmer, and the labourer—for their interests were one—could best withstand any such competition was evolving itself from the mass of opinion on the subject. The bulk of evidence up to this time before the Royal Commission went to show that the yield from the soil could be increased by judicious legislation, which would set free capital, and thus stimulate agricultural energy. He did not think the country would ever hope that the agricultural interest would be saved by the greater dearness of food for the people. They could not hope that relief would be brought to the agricultural interest by such a cessation of the supplies of food from abroad as would raise the price of the great articles of food to the consumers of this country. But if by acting upon the yield they enabled the farmers better to compete with the foreigner, then it would be a benefit to agriculture and to the nation at large. He trusted that when the subject of local taxation arose in a practical form, hon. Members opposite would meet with much support and sympathy on the Ministerial side of the House; and he trusted in the same manner those remedies which they on the Liberal side believed to be essential to the position would receive support from the Opposition side, for the question was not one of Party, but of national importance.
said, he hoped the House would pardon him if, before the debate concluded, he called attention to the affairs of South Africa, and to the grave apprehensions which prevailed as to the working of the Convention signed with the Boers. Was it the case that the Boers had only been induced to sign the Treaty of Peace by being promised that an opportunity should be given for the revision of the Treaty? He challenged the Government to point to a stipulation in the Treaty made last year between Sir Evelyn Wood and the Boer Leaders which had been fulfilled, with the single 1034 exception of the article which provided that they should separate and fight no more. How could the Government, because the Volksraad ratified the Convention under protest, say that they did not see any reason to qualify their anticipation as to the working of the Convention? He should like to know whether the British rifles taken at the Majuba engagement, and which for a considerable time the Boers carried about as trophies of their success over British authority, had been given up? Perhaps the Under Secretary for the Colonies would have no objection to furnish a Return upon the subject? He also wished to ask what had been done to bring to justice the murderers of Captain Elliot and Dr. Barber? A few days ago he had asked a Question about a Native Chief named Montsioa. The case of this Chief was one in which the honour of this country was very seriously at stake. He had been loyal to British interests, and he wished to know whether any instructions had been sent to the Commissioner to protect that Chief, because it would be a great national disgrace if, after the services he had rendered to us during the war, he was left exposed to Boer vengeance? He wanted to know also what was to be done with Cetewayo? The whole conduct of the Government with reference to that unhappy captive had been extremely puzzling. When in Opposition they denounced the war that had been made against him, yet when they got into Office they kept him in captivity. As, two years ago, he had voted with the Government and against his own Friends on a question affecting Cetewayo, he had a personal right to ask why the Government did not give expression to the opinions which they held so strongly when in Opposition? He could not understand how Ministers could sit quietly enjoying the pleasures and honours of Office and leave a man who, as they said, had been unjustly treated, to languish in captivity. The only reason he could see was that Cetewayo had a rival named John Dunn, who had been placed in a position of Sovereignty, and who had made a very good thing out of the Government. He had a suspicion that there were some strong interests in Natal of which John Dunn was the foundation. A rumour also prevailed that Cetewayo was to be brought to England. What 1035 were they going to do with Cetewayo? Were they going to send him back as a captive, or to let him go free? There were no Peace Preservation Acts in England, and if Cetewayo chose to refuse to return to captivity what would the Government do with him? Would they take him to Dublin, where Kilmainham might be handy? Habeas Corpus was not yet suspended in London.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
said, that having lately visited South Africa, he wished to say a few words. It was very painful to hear it said, as he often did when travelling in the Orange Free State, that the English Government gave way, not from any love of justice, but because they were beaten by the Boers. That was the view entertained by the Boers, whatever might be said by hon. Gentlemen opposite. If ever there was a righteous war, it was the war in the Transvaal. It was directed against a people whose whole existence had been a course of rapine, cruelty, and murder. It might have entailed a loss of 5,000 lives to have put down the insurrection in the Transvaal; but the result would be that 50,000 lives would be sacrificed by the raids which the Boers would make among the Natives. Therefore, he thought, on the ground of humanity the war should have been prosecuted. The British Government had abandoned the Natives whom it had urged to be loyal, and he could not but feel that this was a most mournful passage in the history of the British Empire. Then the unfortunate Natives were handed over to their relentless enemies, and would see their children carried off into slavery, and have to submit to other dreadful outrages. He supported the appeal which had been made to the Government for the restoration of Cetewayo. He had the pleasure of having an interview with the Zulu King, and he had arrived at the conclusion that he was most anxious to cultivate friendly relations with Her Majesty's Government. It appeared to him that the only alternative open to the Government was either to let Cetewayo go back to Zululand or to put John Dunn in his place. Was Dunn a man we ought to support? He admitted his courage; but he knew of no other virtue he possessed Under these circumstances, he earnestly hoped that Cetewayo might be restored, because his only faults were 1036 the faults of his country, while John Dunn was at best a renegade Englishman.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, he regretted that the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) had not waited until the two Blue Books which had been laid on the Table of the House were in his hands before disseminating unfounded statements and false views throughout the country. He could understand, however, that such reasonable delay might have taken away from the hon. and learned Member the opportunity he had of making his speech. The main point in the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman was as to how far the stipulations contained in the Convention with the Boers would be observed. All he could say in answer to that was, that if any inconvenient results followed from that Convention they must be proved to exist, and the Convention be shown to be unworkable before any steps could be taken to make it workable. The Government, had, however, no reason to believe that the Convention would not work, and they had refused to enter into the question of the future review of the terms agreed upon by the Triumvirate. The Volksraad adopted a resolution, not affirming any promise on the part of the British Government to review the Convention, but expressing a hope that if the conditions were found impracticable they would review them in a friendly and conciliatory spirit, a thing any Government would be glad to do. With respect to the murder of Captain Elliot and Captain Barber, the complaints as to the unfairness of the trial of the supposed murderers were completely answered by the Blue Books, and the same source contained satisfactory information as to the property to be given up. Again, the Boer Government had nothing to do with the attack made by Montsioa, but they did their very best to prevent such an attack being made. The hon. and learned Gentleman had asked what was going to be done with Cetewayo? Well, it was a very great difficulty to know what was to be done with him. The present Government did not settle the late war. It was settled while the previous Government was in power, He did not hesitate to repeat what he had said before, that the war was totally indefensible; but as Cete- 1037 wayo had been removed from Zululand, and Zululand divided among 13 kinglets, was it possible to remove these kinglets and let him go back? In regard to the treatment accorded to Cetewayo, every privilege short of freedom had been accorded to him. [Mr. E. N. FOWLER: Quite recently.] It was many months ago—soon after he (Mr. Courtney) came into Office. It was in contemplation to bring Cetewayo to England in the course of the approaching summer; but at present nothing had been decided as to his ultimate destiny. He (Mr. Courtney) could answer for it, however, that everything would be done to redress the injustice which Cetewayo had undoubtedly suffered. The question was one of difficulty, but whatever reparation was possible would be made.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, I think that this is the ninth night of the debate upon the Address in reply to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech, and I undoubtedly feel that the subjects which might be fairly raised on the Address are far from being exhausted. At the same time, we must come to an end of this kind of preliminary discussion, for many of the matters which have been touched upon will undoubtedly come before us in the course of the Session, and I suppose we are now approaching the last stage of the debate. I wish to offer a very few observations upon certain matters which have been under discussion in the course of the last few weeks, but I shall not attempt to go at any length into the greater number of them. What have been the subjects of our discussion? There have been speeches delivered to-night on two matters, both of very great interest, and both of which must come under the consideration of the House before very long. With regard to the subject with which we have been last engaged—the question of our South African possessions—we have, of course, only just touched upon it. My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Gorst) has very fairly and distinctly raised a number of questions of very great importance, and the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Courtney) has replied that the answers to most of those questions are to be found in the Papers now upon the Table. Under these circumstances, I should be very wrong to enter into any minute consideration of the 1038 subjects brought before us by my hon. and learned Friend. At the same time, I cannot avoid saying that there was one point mentioned by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Courtney) which seemed to me to indicate the danger to which we are exposed under the arrangements which have been made by Her Majesty's Government. I refer to the account which he gave us of the manner in which hostilities have been carried on beyond the borders of the Transvaal among the Natives, and the manner in which some of the Boers have been led to take part in those hostilities. It is precisely over and over again an illustration of the kind of difficulty which led to our troubles in South Africa, and which we had hoped was provided against by the settlement we had made, and which set aside the difficulty which all Europeans are under in that country of being placed in the midst of a large semi-civilized or altogether uncivilized population. There is a constant attempt on the part of a European to mix himself up in the quarrels of the Native States or Native people; thereby bringing danger and difficulty not only upon his own Colony, but upon all Europeans in South Africa, which can hardly be met with without serious consequences. I will not go further into that matter now, nor into the question of South Africa generally; but I hope that whenever it does come up for discussion we will discuss it with efficiency and due attention to the cardinal point in English policy, whether as conducted by the late Government or the present—namely, the necessity of providing against the danger of these irregular collisions between the Europeans and Natives, and the consequences which may follow from them. We have also had an interesting discussion this evening upon a matter of the very highest importance—namely, the condition of the agricultural interest of this country. That is a matter which it would have been impossible, under existing circumstances, that we should altogether pass over in the preliminary discussion of the Session, and I feel convinced it is one which must be brought before the House in a more regular manner, and that the excellent service which my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) and others have done by the speeches 1039 they have made to-night will be but a prelude to a more practical and a more serious effort to call attention to the subject. Of course, we cannot but feel the very great importance to the national interests of the country at large of the severity of the suffering which has been, unfortunately, the lot of our agricultural fellow-countrymen for the last two or three years. I hope they may be met with more cheerful views than some hon. Members have expressed to-night; but I hope the House will not be led away from the consideration of more practical grievances or practical remedies by what are mere optimist views. I hope that matters will improve; I hope that there is some improvement already; and I believe that, by abstaining from false remedies and by concentrating our attention upon true ones, we shall be enabled to promote the recovery of that interest which is so essential to the welfare of the country. I was not present in the House at the time the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) taunted us with some inattention to this matter, and made use of old and favourite epithets which hon. Members opposite are so fond of. I do not know that there are any other matters in the Gracious Speech upon which it is necessary that I should say more than I have done, with the exception of one subject. With regard to foreign affairs, I merely wish to take notice of an observation which was made by the Prime Minister the other night, which he seemed to think was a very strong answer to some remarks I made, and which was applauded by his Friends as an extremely clever answer. I expressed an apprehension with regard to affairs in Egypt that the Government appeared to be allowing itself to drift, and that I very much feared what the effect of that drifting might be. My right hon. Friend thought it was sufficient to say that he observed, on the other hand, that Lord Salisbury, in "another place," had expressed a fear lest the Government were going to war in Egypt, and he thought we might set the two statements one against the other—the one disposing entirely of the other. Now, my opinion is that exactly the contrary is the case—that, instead of one disposing of the other, the two entirely harmonize. My fear is that if we allow matters to drift we are not 1040 very unlikely to drift into war. At present, however, we do not appear to have sufficient information before us to enable us to discuss the subject. Then I come to the one subject which has occupied by far the larger part of the discussion of the last fortnight—I mean the question of Ireland. Upon the first night of the Session, after the Mover and Seconder of the Address had spoken, I invited the Government to tell us what their views were of the real state of the country, and the prospect we had of seeing an end to the troubles with which she has unfortunately been visited. We have had most interesting speeches from various Members of the Government and other hon. Gentlemen who are well acquainted with the condition of Ireland, and we have had a great deal of light thrown on many points of the highest importance. But I must confess that, after all we have heard from different Members of the Government on the subject, I am not even now satisfied that there is anything to justify the somewhat rose-coloured picture which the Government have given us of the state of things in Ireland. I must say, in the first place, as regards one portion of Her Majesty's Speech, Her Majesty's Government are entirely justified—perhaps even more than justified—in what they state, and that is as regards the necessity they have found at the last for exercising the powers intrusted to them for dealing vigorously with the Land League Organization. The case which they have submitted to the House, supported by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, the Attorney General for Ireland, and the Prime Minister, seems to be overwhelming. The only question is, whether the steps which they have taken and justified ought not to have been taken a great deal sooner, and whether the justification and demand for them did not much precede the time at which they were taken? In the course of this discussion it has been a little remarkable to observe that the Government, after having had complete command of the time of Parliament last Session, and after having been able to submit their plans for giving greater power to the Executive, and also their plans for what they call remedial legislation, are obliged to meet us in the year following with what, in a large measure, is something in the nature of a defence. 1041 They are obliged to come with apologies and defence as to the result of the great powers intrusted to them. That is in itself somewhat remarkable; but what I think is still more remarkable is the nature and the character of the defence which they set up. It seems to me for the most part to turn upon some mere points of detail, or to resolve itself into an attack upon their Predecessors. No one complains in Party warfare of one Government attacking its Predecessor; but I hope the House and the country will bear in mind that an attack upon your Predecessors is not always a justification for yourselves. We have something more important to consider than the relations between the two Parties; what we actually want to know is, what the Government are doing, what they propose to do, and how far what they are doing and propose to do is really likely to be of benefit or the reverse? In the course of this debate it has seemed to me that even yet the Government have hardly realized the great gravity and seriousness of the position in which they stand, and that they are like those who cannot see the wood because of the position of the trees. They have been so engaged in the daily details of repressing outrage and the arrest of those who are engaged in criminal practices, that they hardly take a full view of the position of the country. Yet, that is really what is so serious. There is no doubt that a most serious change is going on in the political condition of Ireland; and we want to know whether they have brought themselves to see what the effect of crushing out the landlords of Ireland to a great extent will be upon the whole social system? Hon. Gentlemen who speak about landlords are apt to say that we are of a similar class to the landlords, and sympathize with their views, and are anxious to make good their case, without regard to the general interest of the community. In our view, it is precisely the opposite. While we feel that, under the injustice and the hardship which have fallen upon them, the landlords deserve our sympathy and attention, we take a wider view. We feel that the landlord class is an important component part of your own political system. We feel—though it is a trite observation—that they are your garrison in Ireland. It seems to me there never was a time 1042 when you were more likely to have need of your garrison than the time in which we now live, and that seems to be coming upon us, because we have to contend against an organization and an agitation which is not only socially, but also politically, most dangerous to the country. Yesterday the Prime Minister referred to a quotation from a letter by Lord Beaconsfield, and said that Lord Beaconsfield spoke of a state of things, and prophesied something quite different from that which has actually arisen. The right hon. Gentleman said there was no great prescience on the part of Lord Beaconsfield, because Lord Beaconsfield spoke of a political revolution and a political agitation, and the Government had had to deal with a social revolution, of which Lord Beaconsfield said nothing. He went on to say that you might have social agitation without a political revolution, and a political revolution without a social agitation. That may be true; but the fact is that on the present occasion you have the two together. It is not what you might have, but what you actually have. What is so serious here is that you have a political agitation working through a social revolution. That is what makes it doubly and trebly dangerous, and makes it demand more serious attention than it seems to receive on the part of Her Majesty's Government, I wish, therefore, to ask what you are to expect if the present landlord class is pushed out of Ireland? In many places at the present moment the movement is in the direction of making the country intolerable to them and pushing them out. If they are not maintained in the country, I wish to know what it is you propose to put in their place? [An hon. MEMBER: The tenants.] "The tenants." That is one solution; but I do not think it is the solution offered by Her Majesty's Government. The observation made, I think, by Queen Catherine de Medicis to her son, when he informed her of the assassination of the Due de Guise, "Vous savez tailler; il faut savoir coudre"—which we may translate freely, "You must not only cut down, but you must be able to build up"—seems to me to be very applicable to the present state of things. There is the difficulty. We do not see any very great evidence of that constructive ability on the part of Her Majesty's 1043 Government which will be necessary to secure peace and order in the future. They only tell us—"Give us your moral support. We believe we are now in a fair way to grapple with this great difficulty, and order will be restored, and matters will go on satisfactorily." I hope that is so. I hope that the accounts which we have—even in spite of the formidable appearance which Ireland presents, and the Reports mentioned by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, which have been carefully and, in the best spirit, accepted by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Gibson)—are true, and that we may see order gradually restored. Well, you may restore order; but how long will it be before you restore confidence? It is a comparatively easy thing to stop outrage and obtain payment of rent; it is a different thing to be able to restore that feeling of confidence and goodwill which is so essential to the real maintenance of the peace of the country. I am tempted to ask whether there is any promise in the action of the Government to lead us to hope for the restoration of peace? And I must say—although I should greatly regret to have to say one word which would be held to weaken the Government of the time—but I must say their conduct during last year was not of a character to inspire us with any confidence that they know what is to be done, and that they are determined to do it. When their action has been taken, it has frequently been taken too late; but that is by no means the worst. It has been taken in a manner which leads us to doubt whether they had the courage necessary, the knowledge necessary, or whether they were agreed among themselves as to what was to be done. There are several instances; but I am not going back to the old question of the non-renewal of the Peace Preservation Act when they came into Office further than to say that I think it adds to the strength of the case made against them, that they make such excuses for not having renewed it as that which the Prime Minister condescended to make—namely, that they had only 10 days in which to renew the Act. A more damning kind of excuse than that I can scarcely imagine. If the Government thought that the Peace Preservation Act ought to have been renewed, and if they had then found that they were unable to complete the renewal 1044 of it within the 10 days which elapsed between the time of the House getting to work last year and when the Act expired, they ought to have told us then. They might then have thrown the blame for it on their Predecessors. If they had done so, they would have been able to come forward with their great majority, and with the offers and promises of remedial legislation which they were able to make to Ireland; and, I will say, they ought to have come forward and asked for a renewal of the Act. If they could not have it renewed, at all events they ought to have had it revived. But what is the distinction between renewal and revival? It is just about as great as the Attorney General draws between standing "down" and standing "by," but it is a distinction which suits their purpose as a matter of fence between themselves and their opponents. It is a question whether they were aware of the state of Ireland, and whether, being aware of it, they deliberately declared in the words of Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech, that the state of things had improved, in order to show why they declined to call forth their powers. We are told that perhaps they did not know what was the condition of affairs in Ireland, and reference is made to the language of the Prime Minister upon the subject; but even that ground, is cut away, because the Prime Minister tells us that in the winter before the present Government came into Office, the late Government, although they saw the danger approaching on account of the proceedings of the Land League, which the right hon. Gentleman was evidently watching with great interest, took no measures against the Land League. The right hon. Gentleman then says that because their Predecessors only gave them 10 days for the renewal of the Peace Preservation Act, that if they had attempted to revive it there must have been an interval of two months between the expiring of the old Act and the coming into operation of the new one, during which time all the mischief might have been done. But, Sir, all the mischief could not have been done in the time; and, what is more, I will venture to say that it would not have been done, because the proposal to renew the Act would have been a manifestation on the part of the Government, with its powerful majority, of its intention to deal with 1045 the state of Ireland, and would have had a considerable effect in tending to repress the acts of lawlessness that have been committed. Therefore, we have reason to say that there was a want of vigour and apprehension on the part of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the condition of the country, which is discouraging when we look forward and consider how they intend to deal with it. Then, again, there is the question as to how Her Majesty's Government ought to have acted after the failure of the State Trials. At those Trials evidence was given, and the strongest language was used by the Law Officers, to the effect that the Land League was an illegal organization, and that its objects were altogether illegitimate. The language used, the revelations that were then made, and the doctrines which had been laid down, were all before us, and upon that, we think, the Government might and ought at the time to have made a proclamation declaring the Land League illegal. They could have done that then, without waiting for the legislation of Parliament, and even if they did not act then, they might have acted later, when the Act was passed. But they did not then act with such vigour and determination as showed that they were willing to use the powers at their disposal. When we on this side of the House make these charges, the reply of some Member of the Government is that the Tories have but one idea of dealing with the condition of affairs in Ireland, and that is by coercion; and the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, referring to a speech of mine, says that I complained that the Government had not used the Act with sufficient severity. At the time the right hon. and learned Gentleman made that remark I challenged it, and stated that I had said nothing about severity. What I did say was that the Act had not been used with efficiency; and my opinion is that if you had put its powers into execution at first you would have had to exercise less severity than you have since been obliged to do upon those who have fallen under your lash, and, as I need scarcely say, what is still more important, you would have saved an immense amount of bloodshed and misery to the innocent people of Ireland who have been suffering from your misjudged leniency. There seems to be something 1046 very like a divergence of opinion between the Irish Government as represented by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, and a certain portion of the Cabinet as represented by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, because two totally different lines are taken j by those right hon. Gentlemen with regard to the condition of Ireland. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland speaks in the strongest manner of the state of the country, as well as of the Land League and its organization, from the very commencement of his connection with the Government of Ireland. He speaks of that publication The United Irishman, as having been established for the purpose of encouraging murder and treason; he alluded to the members of the Land League as steeped to their eyes in treason; and he said that this state of things had been in existence for months before the time at which the present Government came into power. There is no doubt that, according to the Law Officers of the Irish Government, a case for action was plainly made out. Why that action was delayed the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland did not seem to me to give us any very clear idea. But when we come to the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, we find that his view is something of a very different character from that of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland. He (Mr. Chamberlain) maintained that the organization was a great deal bettor than, and apparently a very different thing from, that which the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland described it to be. With the right hon. Gentleman the organization of the Land League was chiefly remarkable as being of the greatest value in supplying pressure for the purpose of obtaining reforms. We have heard enough, no doubt, of comments upon that part of his speech; but there is another part of it that has not been commented upon, and which struck me when I read it as being of a very remarkable character. The right hon. Gentleman was addressing an audience at Liverpool, to whom he was endeavouring to explain how it was that having waited so long the Government at last found it necessary to move and take very strong measures, 1047 and he gave this as the reason—namely, that between the time when the Tories said they ought to have interfered and the time when the Government actually did interfere, two things had happened—one of them being the passing of the Land Act, while the other was that the Land League had changed its objects. Now, I maintain that to be distinctly an error, and, in fact, the reverse of truth. I do not, of course, mean to charge the President of the Board of Trade with stating what he did not believe to be true; but that statement is distinctly contrary to all the evidence which we have, because from the time when the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell) said that he would not have taken off his coat for the Land League, if it had not been that it was a step towards other objects, and from the time when the State Trials took place the character of the Land League was clearly made manifest. From that time the Land League has not changed its object. It might have been at one time more conciliatory in its policy, or at another more defiant and ready to declare open war; but its object has not changed. But if the right hon. Gentleman thought the Land League was, up to the time the Act was passed, a beneficial and innocent association, and if he represented the opinion which was prevalent in the Cabinet, this would, at all events, account for the want of vigour and firmness which seems to have had a great deal to do with the growth of this miserable state of things. I daresay we shall have opportunities for the further discussion of these matters, and at present I will do no more than express a hope that the Government and all of us will be very careful not to do anything to increase the evil which already exists. It is quite bad enough, and it is hard to deal with it. I have no doubt the Government are now doing everything in their power—exercising all their vigour in order to put down agitation and lawlessness and to restore order amongst the people of Ireland; and, if this be so, I trust they will have the full support of all good citizens in the country. But I must impress upon them that they should be very careful of the language they make use of, because by imprudent and injudicious language they might very easily defeat the object which all of us have in view. And while upon this 1048 point, it is impossible not to refer with great anxiety to that which is a subject of interest in this House—I mean the language used by the Prime Minister a night or two ago. I believe from what he has stated that its import is not quite so serious as some consider it to be, because as far as I can make out from the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman last night it was something between a dream and an electioneering move. At all events, the right hon. Gentleman carefully impressed upon us that he was expressing opinions of his own and which he believed were shared by very few Members of this House. Let us hope that they are not shared by those immediately around him. I trust that the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington) will be able to assure us on the part of his Colleagues and himself, that they as a united Cabinet are determined to maintain the integrity of the Empire, because we can but feel that language such as that used by the Premier, however it can be explained away, remains, and because we are acquainted with the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman can quote speeches made by him in this House years and years ago, and comment upon them as prophetic of what has since come to pass. Hon. Members will call to mind how he quoted the Irish Church Act, and how, to the surprise of everybody, he, who was formerly the great supporter of the Irish Church and afterwards the foremost in disestablishing it, was able to refer to observations made in former years that contained the seeds and germs of that which afterwards developed. It is the same in the present case. There is even a similarity in the expressions employed. He does not expect those things will come in his time; it is most unlikely he will live to see them; it is not within the range of practical politics, and so forth. Such things may be all very well in quiet times; but the difficulty now is that we are not in quiet times. They are not quite harmless even as they proceed from the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman here; but what must be their effect when they are received, as a large proportion of the Irish peasantry receive them, from the reports of Irish newspapers, very likely incorrect in themselves, and, perhaps, furnished with all sorts of additions, 1049 comments, and paraphrases which are likely to convey false impressions to their minds? I venture to think that the subject is one which demands more consideration on the part of Her Majesty's Government than they have been able to give to it; because, hard as is their task, difficult as is the position of the Chief Secretary for Ireland and that of the Government generally with regard to Ireland, you make it infinitely harder if you lead the people to suppose that there is something in store for them beyond that which they have already—something of an entirely different character; something to satisfy the aspirations of, at any rate, the more moderate section of the Home Rule Party. By these means, you will only keep up the fever of excitement, which is the very thing you have to guard against. If it were not so late, I should refer at a greater length than I intend to do to some remarks of Lord Derby upon this subject. In an article written by him some months ago on the state of Ireland, there are some excellent observations which deserve attention, as showing how impossible it is to satisfy the demand for local independence and legislation in Ireland without falling at once into the danger of raising further hopes. The noble Lord pointed out that if a Parliament existed in Dublin, all the limitations placed upon its authority would be swept away one by one. In conclusion, I would appeal to Her Majesty's Government to deal with this question as absolutely and frankly as it is possible for them to do, and, if there is a general sense throughout the Kingdom that they are upholding the integrity of the Grown and its Dominions, they will be supported; if the contrary, then I fear that evil will come both to the Government and the country.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, I hope the right hon. Gentleman was right in the opinion expressed in the early part of his speech—that, as we are now approaching the end of the ninth night's discussion on the Address and the Report, hon. Members who have further observations to make will undergo the inconvenience of doing so even at this late hour, in order that on Monday the House may enter upon the consideration of Business of a more practical character. If I may for a moment 1050 invest myself with the powers with which, I trust, you will shortly be invested, having been present during the greater part of the evening, I should be inclined to say that the House, as a whole, is fully of opinion that this debate has been sufficiently prolonged. Before I make any observations upon the remarks of the right hon. Baronet who has just spoken, I should like to say a word or two with reference to the subject on which the discussion of this evening has turned. The hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) described in very forcible and, generally speaking, accurate language, the extreme depression under which the agricultural interest, or, at all events, some part of it, is now and has long been labouring. I think there is no subject more interesting to the House generally, and especially to the Members of it who represent agricultural constituencies, while none is more important to the country at large than that which has been brought this evening under our consideration; and I am not in the least surprised that hon. Members should desire not to allow this debate to close without showing that they, at all events, sympathize with the distress and difficulties which the agricultural interest has so long suffered. Sir, in that sympathy Her Majesty's Government most heartily concur—the subject has been referred to in Her Most Gracious Majesty's Speech—and I think the agricultural interest may be satisfied that this sympathy with them will be forthcoming from all parts of the country. But it is not the province of this House to devote a considerable portion of its time to expressions of sympathy. What we desire here is to discover something that will remove these difficulties, and raise the depressed interest from the condition in which it is now placed; but in that respect I may be allowed to say that the discussion of this evening has not been of so practical a character as might be desired. We have not heard from the other side of the House any suggestion of a remedy of which we heard something before the meeting of Parliament—a remedy that won two electoral triumphs in the counties, and which was to relieve the pressure of American competition. We have heard from hon. Gentlemen opposite no practical suggestion, except in the way 1051 of some scraps of relief, or aid, to the agricultural interest, in the shape of remissions or re-adjustment of local taxation; and no reference has been made to the question which excited so much interest in the English counties at recent Elections, except by the hon. Member for South Shropshire (Sir Baldwyn Leighton), who disclaimed any desire to return to the policy of Protection, while one hon. Gentleman sitting behind him uttered a solitary "No." It seems to me that it will carry small consolation to those tenant farmers who believe in the possibility of a re-imposition of Protection, that, on an evening devoted almost entirely to the discussion of agricultural interests, not one hon. Gentleman has spoken in defence of that idea. I do not deny that the question of local taxation is one which it is necessary that the House of Commons should discuss on the grounds both of justice and fairness with a view to affording relief, however slight that relief may be, if it can be proved that the agricultural interest is burdened with more than a fair share of taxation. The question has been referred to in Her Majesty's Speech; and in connection with the subject of local self-government, the House will be invited by the Government to consider what may be the proper extent and the most equitable and provident form of contribution from Imperial taxes in relief of local charges. But, Sir, it would be idle to pretend, it would be a delusion to the tenant farmers of England to imply, that by any re-adjustment of local charges an adequate relief can be afforded against calamities so great as those under which they have been suffering for the past seven years. It has been admitted that the chief causes of those sufferings have been a succession of almost unprecedented bad harvests, accompanied by an intensity of foreign competition never before experienced; and therefore, when we see how small a portion of the tenant farmer's outlay is applied to the payment of rates, it would be a mockery and a delusion to hold out to him the hope that any re-adjustment of taxation could seriously aid him in his contest with forces of such magnitude. I am inclined to agree much with a portion of the speech of the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay), who has, I think, shown that agriculture is carried on under excep- 1052 tional and difficult conditions—conditions under which, he says, it would be extremely improbable that any manufacturing industry could be conducted; and I am inclined to his opinion that, if Parliament can do anything for the relief of the agricultural interest, it will be in the direction of restoring freedom to those engaged in it, so that they may be able to manage their business upon the most favourable basis. The Government desire by legislation to remove every legal impediment to the exercise of agricultural industry under the most perfect conditions of freedom, and we desire to do anything which can be done to give tenant farmers full compensation for unexhausted improvements. Sir, I look with distrust upon any proposal which appears to me to go in the direction of not giving additional freedom to those engaged in agriculture; but, on the contrary, in the direction of imposing further restrictions upon them. I desire that the owners and occupiers of land should be left free to settle their own affairs and make their own contracts. The freedom of which the hon. Member for Forfarshire spoke, as enjoyed by those who are engaged in every other industry, is not a freedom which they owe to any legislative enactment. It is a freedom which they have achieved for themselves; and I say that all that the Legislature can do for the agricultural interest is to remove the unwise fetters which have been placed upon it by previous legislation. I should certainly hesitate before I proposed new ones, or laid down a hard-and-fast line of contract between landlord and tenant, which could not be carried out successfully under varying conditions. Sir, I will now refer to one or two observations only made by the right hon. Baronet who has just sat down (Sir Stafford Northcote), and who complains that, after all the explanations which he has listened to, he is still of opinion that in Her Majesty's Speech the Government have taken too rose-coloured a view of the signs of improvement in Ireland. But it appears to me that the part of the Royal Message of which the right hon. Baronet complains is expressed in terms of the most guarded character. It admits the extreme gravity of the circumstances still prevailing in Ireland, while, as I have pointed out, in the most guarded terms 1053 it points to hopeful symptoms of improvement. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the junior Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) indulged in some speculations as to the views of Her Majesty's Government for Ireland in the future which I find some difficulty in following. He asks whether we were really acquainted with the actual condition of affairs in Ireland, and whether, after the process which he described as "crushing out the landlords," we were aware of what the outcome would be? I do not know whether it is possible to convince the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his Friends that we are fully aware of what is the present condition of affairs in Ireland; but I do know that we have been endeavouring during the whole of last Session, and in the interval which has since elapsed—in the first place, by effecting what we considered to be an improvement in the law, to reform the relations which were certainly not satisfactory between the landlords and tenants of Ireland; and, secondly, by the exercise of the ordinary and extraordinary powers of the law conferred upon us, to restore law and order in that country. That is the view which Her Majesty's Government take of their duty, and I do not know that we should be much assisted in the discharge of it were I to follow the right hon. and learned Gentleman into speculations with reference to any state of things which might exist in Ireland after the landlords have been crushed out. Our sincere hope is that the landlords will not be crushed out, but that their relations with their tenants will be placed upon a better footing; that there will be a better feeling between the two classes, and greater mutual prosperity; and that, instead of being crushed out, the landlords of Ireland will become more permanent and more secure in their position than they have been for a long period. The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred also to a topic which has been discussed over and over again, not only in the present nine-nights' debate, but throughout the whole of the Recess, and during a great part of last Session. He is not even now satisfied whether we ought in the year 1880 to have renewed the Peace Preservation Act. Sir, if after two years' continual discussion the right hon. and learned Gentleman is in doubt as to that subject, I despair of arriving at finality on 1054 any question relating to the conduct of the Government in discharging its duties. The right hon. Baronet has charged us, in a speech of great force, with acting neither sufficiently soon nor with sufficient vigour; but he will forgive me for saying that this charge has already been made against Her Majesty's Government. Upon this point I will only say that I entirely repudiate the allegation that we have ever given countenance to the Land League as an engine of political or social agitation. It is of no use disputing about what has been said by this or that Member of the Government. I point to what we have done; we prosecuted members of the Land League a year ago, under the ordinary law. How, then, is it possible to contend that the Government were favouring an association which they thought it necessary to prosecute as illegal? Since the failure of that prosecution we have contended against the organization by every means in our power. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland has employed the forces of the police and the forces of the Crown for the protection of those who are engaged in opposing the edicts of the Land League, and giving protection to those who dare to disobey them. In every way in our power we have been working in the defence of the law against the efforts of this association. It is asked—"Why did you not suppress the Land League by proclamation?" It was not suppressed by proclamation, because the proclamation would have been ineffective until there were means of giving effect to it. It was not until after extraordinary powers had been conferred on the Government that we were in possession of the necessary power. Then it is said—"Why was the Land League not suppressed immediately after the passing of the Protection of Life and Property Act? "The answer has been given over and over again. The Government had undertaken not to make use of those powers except for the purpose for which they were conferred—namely, for preventing intimidation and violence. The Government were not convinced until the moment at which they acted—though they all along believed that the Land League was mischievous, and led to violence, disorder, and intimidation—it was not until they were absolutely convinced, 1055 in the course of the autumn, that the leaders of the Land League and the organization were directly connected with a system which led to intimidation and violence, that they thought themselves justified in acting under the Peace Preservation Act. The right hon. Gentleman finally referred to the speech, which was delivered more than a week ago, by my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, and which has been so much commented upon. The right hon. Gentleman seems to have derived some satisfaction from my right hon. Friend's defence of the speech of the First Lord of the Treasury last night. I will not call it an explanation—I will not admit that it required explanation. The right hon. Gentleman says it now appears to him to be something between—he is not quite sure whether it was a dream or an electioneering speech. Is the right hon. Gentleman quite sure that it was not a "pious opinion?" No one has held stronger opinions, nor has endeavoured to express them in stronger and more decided terms than I have, as to the views we have always held with regard to the system called Home Rule. I did not hear the speech of my right hon. Friend; but, when I heard and read comments upon it, I was seriously alarmed, and thought my right hon. Friend had said something very terrible. I have read the speech carefully several times since; and I have been unable to ascertain what were the passages in that speech that caused the alarm. I observed, in almost all the criticisms, that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have carefully refrained from quoting the passages upon which they rested their alarm, but rested it upon what they call the general character and tenour and spirit of the speech. In my opinion, a great deal of the importance given to the speech has been derived from glosses placed upon it by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and by hon. Gentlemen from Ireland. I read that speech with some anxiety; but when I read it what did I find? Three things. In the first place, a re-assertion of those principles which my right hon. Friend has, on various occasions, proclaimed—principles which we have always been aware he held very strongly—namely, that it is extremely desirable, and almost absolutely essential, that some means should be found whereby this overburdened 1056 Parliament may be relieved of some of the work of detail with which it is loaded, and which might equally well be discharged by some local bodies. The second thing I found was a re-assertion, in the strongest terms of the principle, that in any such devolution of the duties of Parliament it is essential that means should be taken for the maintenance of the political unity of the Empire and the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. And the third thing I found was the utter failure of any scheme which has hitherto been put forward under the name of Home Rule to provide for any satisfaction for this desire. The ground we have always taken has been the utter absence of any provision in any Home Rule scheme of those conditions insisted upon by my right hon. Friend for the maintenance of political unity and the maintenance for such purpose of the Imperial Parliament. It appears to me that everything in this question depends upon the side from which it is approached and the spirit in which it is entertained. If we approach it from the point of view of the necessity of relieving Parliament of some of its labours, if we approach it from the point of view of securing for every part of the United Kingdom—for every community capable of self-government—as much self-control and management of their own affairs as can be conferred upon them, then it appears to me to be a subject which may be safely, and not only safely but usefully entertained; but, in my opinion, if we are to approach it, as hon. Members from Ireland seem inclined to do, from the point of view of a desire for the restoration of the independence which Ireland lost at the beginning of the present century—the re-establishment of a Parliament sitting in Dublin and independent of the Imperial Parliament—the re-establishment of a system of government in which the only link would be the Crown, then I feel that an irreconcilable difference is between us which it will be impossible to bridge over.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, that when the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) commenced his very interesting and instructive observations he stated his conviction that it was against the sense of the House that the debate should continue longer. He (Mr. 1057 O'Donnell) was happy that the noble Marquess had made an exception in his own case; otherwise the House would have been deprived of the statement of the Ministerial position to which it had just listened. It was just possible, however, that similar Ministerial inconsistencies of a more serious character were expected to occur when the Government obtained, as they hoped to obtain, their means of manipulating the evident sense of the House. Another slight inconsistency in the speech of the noble Marquess was his protest against the action of the Conservative Opposition in reading between the lines of a previous recent speech on local government in Ireland, and seeing between those lines what the Premier had by no means expressed in the lines. He was happy to hear that protest from the noble Marquess, because he had observed, during the whole of the speeches on the Ministerial side directed against his hon. Friend (Mr. Parnell) and the other imprisoned Laud Leaguers, their strong point was that they were able to read between the lines of the Land Leaguers' speeches, and to see there what was not contained anywhere in the text of the speeches. When his hon. Friend the Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell) declared to the people of Dublin that all the lessons of Irish history taught the people to fight out their struggle within the lines of the Constitution, the Chief Secretary for Ireland said—"This is the text; this is Constitutional; but if you read between the lines it is the blackest treason." He (Mr. O'Donnell) had followed with attention the observations of the Leader of the Conservative Opposition; but he must confess that he was a good deal disappointed with the tenour of those remarks. He observed, for instance, that the right hon. Gentleman complained that the Liberal Party devoted themselves to criticizing points of detail, and to attacks on their Predecessors. Listening somewhat attentively to the criticisms of the Conservative Party, it had struck him that they had limited their statements on Ireland to points of detail, and to attacks on their Successors. He entirely agreed with the Leader of the Conservative Opposition that the Government had not taken action sufficiently soon in Ireland, for that had been his conviction all along. During all the un- 1058 troubled years in which the Conservatives held sway over Ireland, why did they take no action to deal with the evils in that country? At that time the Home Rule Party in that House was headed not only by an honoured Liberal, but by an ingrained Conservative, Mr. Isaac Butt. If ever there was an opportunity of dealing fairly and frankly with Ireland, that opportunity was then presented to the Conservative Government, and no man could have been hectored into terms more than Mr. Isaac Butt, the Leader of the Home Rule Party. He did not, however, feel disposed to deal at lengh, or to presume to deal with severity, with the speech off he right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Conservative Opposition. Severity, he thought, was generally out of place in dealing with the speeches of the right hon. Baronet, whose paths over the House left something almost of the nature of a maternal caress. He must express his regret that the debate had been so discursive; but that, at any rate, had not been the fault of the Irish Party. They brought forward the Irish case fairly upon an Amendment, and they had prepared consecutive speeches for the discussion of the administration of the Government, and even the speeches of the Conservative Opposition. The hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) had delivered a speech which had received, as it deserved, the highest encomia from both sides of the House; and in that speech he had dealt with the Ministerial case. That speech required an answer; but the Ministers ran away. If that was a manœuvre, it was not a very dignified manœuvre; and, to the astonishment of the Irish Members, the Government were not prepared to meet the consequences they had incurred. They, however, took an opportunity of reviving the Irish Question when they thought they had the Irish Members at a disadvantage; and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, who could not drop the pearls of his eloquence on the floor of the House during the dinner hour, first talked out the debate on the Report of the Address on Wednesday, and then continued his oration on the next day in full proportion to his own estimate of his own merits. Practically, that way of dealing with the Irish case did place Irish Members at a disadvantage. They were the great bogie or 1059 hobgoblin that was frightening English constituencies into cheating the English nation out of the liberties of Parliament. If they were that hot-headed and thoughtless faction, the Government might certainly have found due cause for irritation, and been led to adopt the destructive policy which might suit such men as Boss Kelly. He did not think they had observed the little peculiarities of Government so long without having acquired some useful information with regard to the habits and tendencies of Her Majesty's Administration. But while they complained of the manner in which the debate on this subject had been most unfairly prolonged, and prolonged in a manner most calculated to do as much harm as possible to the high reputation of the Irish Party—though he was not going to be provoked into a retaliatory policy, which Government would like to see them adopt—he thought that before the closing of the debate he might be allowed to adduce, very briefly, some of the leading features of the case from the Irish side of the question. He believed it was admitted on both sides of the House that not only the Coercion Act, but the Land Act of last year, was a deplorable error and blunder, to speak mildly. If it turned out, after all, that the great Land Act was a great failure, the only justification for coercion was agrarian reform, and the only justification for such agrarian reform was that it should be successful. It so happened that they were now in full possession of all the necessary information with regard to the success or failure of the Land Act. With regard to the success of the Land Act in inducing tenants to apply to the Courts, they found there were now some 66,000 applications to have fair rents fixed, and that in only 1,300 cases had fair rents been fixed; of course, in all the cases the decisions were subject to appeal. Let them take the great county of Antrim, where 3,019 originating notices had been lodged before the Irish Land Commission. How many of those cases had as yet come to a hearing? In Antrim 50 cases had been heard by the Sub-Commissioners. In the great county of Galway 5,575 tenants were induced by the copious promises of hon. Gentlemen like Her Majesty's Solicitor General for Ireland—the hero of the vote for Porter and "fair rent" placards, as he had seen him recently described—5,575 ten- 1060 ants had lodged originating notices, and he found that in the great county of Galway not a single case had yet been heard. In the great county of Mayo, represented by an hon. Member (Mr. O'Connor Power) who was not backward in his recognition of the merits of Her Majesty's Government, he found that 8,004 tenants had been induced, possibly on the flattering recommendation of their Representative, to have recourse to the Land Courts; and he found that out of that large number of cases the magnificent total of 113 had received a first hearing before the Land Courts and 69 before the ordinary Civil Bill Courts, making the stupendous total of 182 cases heard out of 8,004 applications lodged. The same story was to be told in regard to every other county in Ireland. He had referred to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland and Member for County Derry (Mr. Porter). It might be useful to note that 2,741 farmers in Derry had lodged originating notices in the Land Courts, being, he believed, exactly the same number of votes recorded for the hon. and learned Gentleman at the recent election. But out of the 2,741 who had lodged applications to have a "fair rent" fixed only three had succeeded in obtaining a first hearing for their case. He did not know whether the hon. and learned Solicitor General, in his heart of hearts, had such a bad opinion of the Land Court as to think that he might maintain the allegiance of his supporters best by giving them as little legislation of the Land Court as possible. There, however, was the fact that, on the whole, 66,845 originating notices had been lodged, and only 1,313 cases had been heard. It must be remembered, too, that the 66,845 tenants who had applied to the Land Court only represented a mere fraction of the total tenantry of Ireland; in fact, but for the "no rent" manifesto, and the action of the Land League in keeping the tenants out of the Land Courts, the burlesque—the fiasco of the Land Courts—would have been 10 times worse. Now with regard to another important point of the Land Act. The great clause for the settlement of arrears was the chef-d'œuvre; the culminating point of the Chief Secretary for Ireland's ingenuity in the construction of the Land Bill. The total amount of the arrears that had 1061 come into the Land Court was £1,500, and the benevolent action and the philanthropy of the Chief Secretary for Ireland was represented by the magnificent advance of £500. That was a sum that he (Mr. O'Donnell) might have felt disposed to advance towards relieving the misery brought about by the Government's administration in Ireland. Then with regard to the clauses adopted at the suggestion of another philanthropist, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—he referred to the so-called "Bright" Clauses, which had the object of creating present proprietors. He believed that about three dozen serfs had been changed, transformed, regenerated into peasant proprietors, under the healing influences of the land legislation of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. In a word, from whatever point they looked at the Land Act, it was a failure. They had heard, in the course of the debate, from a Gentleman who was well qualified to speak on the subject—the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Dickson), that Liberal who defeated both the Parnellite and Conservative candidates, and whose success had been trumpeted from one end of the country to the other—they had heard from that hon. Gentleman that even the first batch of applicants would not have the first hearing of their cases for several years.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
said, he did not say the first batch; but he stated that the entire cases in Tyrone would not be heard for two or three years. Already there were many cases settled.
said, that, according to the report of the hon. Member's speech in The Times, he had said three or four years. Another hon. Member from Ulster, and a distinguished Liberal (Mr. Givan), who, he was happy to say, was on the very point of becoming a Home Ruler, speaking at Liverpool recently, said the Land Act was not for the requirements of Ireland, and that, owing to the numerous applications to the Court, matters were proceeding so slowly that it would be impossible to adjudicate upon all the cases for seven or eight years. The problem before the House and before all reasonable citizens of the country was—What was to be-come of Ireland during those seven or eight years? If the Land Act was not working under the kindly auspices of 1062 the Chief Secretary for Ireland, evictions were going on at a rapid rate. The right hon. Gentleman had succeeded in obtaining the eviction of upwards of 17,000 men, women, and children during the last few months. On the evidence of the decisions of the Sub-Commissioners themselves, in the pitiful handful of 1,300 eases out of 66,000, it must be presumed the tenants of Ireland were suffering under excessive, exorbitant, cruel, and unjust rents, and that even the first batch of cases would not have their cases disposed of for many years, and evictions were to go on, according to the policy of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, for three, four, five, six, and seven years—evictions for unjust arrears, for exorbitant rents, and there was not even a line in the Land Act to stop the hand of the plundering landlord and the crowbar brigade. There was no wonder that the Conservatives, whatever their deficiencies in the past, would hesitate before succeeding to the responsibilities of such a fearful position as that. They had a system of coercion which had been used to effect what was never in the mind of Parliament; they had a Land Act which did not work, and which was not likely to work, and now they were about to have the gagging of Parliament, and the voice of the Irish Representatives would be silenced. He claimed certain independence upon various questions. He did not hesitate, in the palmiest days of the Land League, to state his objections to some points of its programme; and he would not hesitate to do the same thing to-day if he believed that the Land Act had a chance of assuaging the miseries of Ireland. But the Land Act was still-born, and the Land League, which the Premier admitted the previous day had not superseded, was the only hope of the Irish people, and not only so, but it was the only hope of the English people. The policy of the Land League in establishing the so-called "no rent" programme was a policy entirely dependent upon the action of Her Majesty's Government. Let Her Majesty's Government restore the Constitution, and the Land League would at once recognize that it had no longer any right to use the weapon of "no rent." Hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House ought to see that it was not at all clear, even from their point of view, that it was an act wholly and morally wrong to 1063 suspend the payment of rent. Did the rents belong to the landlords legally? Did not the decisions of the Sub-Commissioners plainly prove that a large portion of rents belonged to the tenants? Therefore, when they were forcing them to pay rents, a portion of which belonged to themselves, they were simply upholding a system of plundering the tenants. The tenants considered that in suspending the payment of rent they were suspending the payment of that part of which, under the decisions of the Sub-Commissioners, belonged to themselves. The hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Dickson), had given Notice of a Bill, which had been duly blocked by a select number of Irish Conservative Members. The hon. Member, who was an Ulster Liberal, had given Notice of a Bill for the purpose of enabling the tenants of Ireland to pay rents at Griffith's valuation, pending the settlement of fair rents by the Land Courts. Was that a monstrous and villainous suggestion? It was the suggestion of the Land League. The hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell) said again and again—"The rents in Ireland are too high; the people are oppressed by the landlords; they cannot pay the present rents; let the landlords, pending a fair settlement, accept Griffith's valuation." A leading supporter of the Government in Ulster had stated that nine-tenths of the landlords would be willing to accept Griffith's valuation, pending a final settlement, if they were not urged on by coercion. Let that final settlement be what it might, he was of opinion that there was room for a certain amount of lease holding still in Ireland. He would not compel people willing to remain in the position of landlord and tenant—the landlord to be expropriated compulsorily, and the tenant to be turned into a peasant proprietor compulsorily; but he maintained that a solution of the Irish Question could only be found in allowing a fair proportion of the Irish peasantry to become proprietors of their holdings. He said this in the name of men in gaol, who could not be present to speak for themselves. If the Government brought in a fair measure to enable tenants to become peasant proprietors, he could promise them that they would find Parnell and Dillon and O'Kelly voting for it. With regard to the "no rent" manifesto, that was a measure of war declared against those who had declared a measure of 1064 war against the Land League; and as to the Premier's remarkable announcement, the right hon. Gentleman might, or might not, mean Home Rule in Ireland. There was nothing in that statement which should alarm the most reactionary Conservative. The right hon. Gentleman had told the House that he was now saying in Parliament what he said in Mid Lothian, and what he said in 1872 to Mr. Butt. The right hon. Gentleman said he had not advanced a step further—that he was to-day where he was in 1872; and in 1892 he might not have progressed an inch further in his Home Rule ideas. He (Mr. O'Donnell) could not but think that there was a very great similitude between the relations of the Premier and the Home Rule Party, and Mr. Digby Grant and Mrs. Cripps, in a remarkable scene, admirably played by our leading player. When Mrs. Cripps presented her little Home Rule accounts, Mr. Digby Grant, with that suavity which was not confined to Mid Lothian, hastened to acknowledge "her little account." "A gentleman cannot do less" he says, and he adds, "a gentleman cannot do more." It seemed to him (Mr. O'Donnell) that that was exactly the attitude of the Prime Minister towards the Home Rule Party. He acknowledged their Home Rule scheme, and a gentleman—a statesman "could not do less, a statesman could not do more." Mr. Digby Grant continued—"Present your account, my dear Mrs. Cripps, next year I shall continue to acknowledge it." Next year the Premier would, no doubt, continue to acknowledge the Home Rule scheme. The right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Opposition was afraid that these vague utterances of the Premier might stir up agitation in Irish breasts—that a race which had kept true to its nationality for a number of centuries; a race the eldest born of Europe's peoples, were suddenly stirred to what they were going to forget by the copious words in which the Prime Minister wrapped up his thoughts. He (Mr. O'Donnell) could assure the right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Conservative Opposition that Irish nationality did not depend even on much more expressive statements than anything that could be extracted from the Liberal Premier. Irish nationality was like the Rock of Peter, a great many barks would go to pieces against it—the barks of many great 1065 States even; but Irish nationality would remain. If the Conservative Party were really anxious to see institutions built on a firm foundation, they might search the whole world over and they would not find a firmer foundation for an edifice to be raised than that which existed in Irish nationality. One of the reasons why he bitterly complained of the manœuvre in relation to the dinner-hour-not-spoken speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland—one of the reasons why he bitterly regretted that the inner susceptibilities of the right hon. Gentleman were not more carefully considered by his Colleagues was that he had hoped to have been able to make use of this occasion to lay before the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington) some statements with regard to most important questions in India. Now, notwithstanding the Irish Members were so vowed to Separation, so indifferent to the interests of this Empire, it so happened that most of the great questions touching the welfare of the vast masses of the peoples of this Empire had been introduced by Members of the Irish Party. From the Transvaal to the Indian Vernacular Press Act and flogging in the Army—on which subject the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had the distinguished honour of being followed by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, and in which something was made known about the floggings in the Indian gaols—in fact, in a multitude of such matters attention had been called to what was going on by the Irish Members. He would only, as a mere specimen of what he wished to lay before the Secretary of State for India, describe a resolution passed at a Conference of Baptist Missionaries recently held at Calcutta with regard to the effects of the Government traffic in opium and intoxicating drugs and drinks for revenue purposes. The resolution stated that the missionaries of the English Baptist Missionary Society in India in Conference assembled, having had under their consideration the close connection of the Government of India with the manufacture and sale of intoxicating drugs and drinks as a means of revenue, were constrained to protest against the official tendency to increase the facilities 1066 for the consumption of these articles as a most serious hindrance to the spread of Christianity, injurious to the public health and morals, and degrading to Christianity. The whole voice of the Native Press of India denounced the frightful crime of the multiplication of the facilities for intoxication amongst the sober peoples of Hindostan. He trusted the Secretary of State for India, whose deep interest in the well-being of the people of India he readily recognized, would give the House an opportunity of having this important question fully and fairly considered. He hoped also that the members of the United Kingdom Alliance, so deeply interested in the promotion of temperance at home, would not, without lifting a hand, stand by and hear the complaints of 250,000,000 of our dusky fellow-subjects begging to be saved, as they had begged for generations, from demoralization, the effects of which we could see at home at St. Giles's and Wapping. He could assure Her Majesty's Government that, far from having any objects detrimental to the welfare of this great Empire, there were none more earnestly in favour of all that ought to be supported in it, and Her Majesty's Government and the Opposition could count on no more devoted allies than the Irish Party, the natural Representatives and spokesmen of the unrepresented Nationalities of the Empire. He thanked the House for listening to him at this advanced hour; but he thought that, under all the circumstances, some protest such as he had ventured to make was required against the manner in which the Government had acted.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, that, at that early hour of the morning, he should not think of detaining the House for any length of time upon the subject of which he was about to treat. He should not have risen at all had he not been successful in the ballot both on Tuesday and to-day, but without a chance of being able to bring the subject he had in his mind before the notice of the House. What he wished to refer to was one of the most scandalous incidents in the scandalous history of the Irish Administration—namely, the appointment of Major Bond to the Magisterial Bench in Ireland. The importance of the subject would be his excuse for calling attention to the subject at that early hour 1067 of the morning. Having heard something about Major Bond, he had read up the question, and had been astonished to see the indifference to public opinion and the indifference to common justice exhibited by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Mr. W. E. Forster) in making the appointment. Notice of a Question on the subject had been given to the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman had four days in which to make inquiries and ascertain the real facts of the case before giving his reply. The Question itself, moreover, was so put as to make the right hon. Gentleman acquainted with the important facts, therefore ignorance could not be pleaded. The right hon. Gentleman's reply was a justification of the conduct of Major Bond. The Question was—Whether or no the Major Bond described in the 'Daily News' as one of the specially appointed resident magistrates presiding for the first time at Clonbur Sessions, is the same officer who up to December last was the Chief Superintendent of Police in the borough of Birmingham; and, if so, whether or no his attention has been called to the following Resolution passed by the Birmingham magistrates, and dated November 22nd 1881:—'and that the Watch Committee be informed that in consequence of the Chief of Police having given elaborate detailed evidence of what took place upon an occasion at which he was not even present, and such evidence being wholly erroneous, the magistrates cannot continue to regard him with confidence;' whether or no his attention has been called to the following Resolution passed by the Watch Committee:—'That this Committee having carefully considered the Report of the magistrates, and the conduct of Major Bond, in giving evidence as to proceedings which took place when he was not present, and also the importance of any evidence given by a Chief of Police being fully reliable, feel that they cannot but concur in the Resolution of the Justices in ceasing to regard Major Bond with confidence;' and, whether or no he is aware that Major Bond was allowed to resign his office after a Resolution for his dismissal had been adopted by the Watch Committee, and approved by the Town Council?The right hon. Gentleman made an amusing reply, and seemed to pay a great deal more attention to turning the laugh on his Questioner than to coming to the real merits of the case. The right hon. Gentleman made two most extraordinary statements. First, he said—"He hoped his hon. Friend would think that Her Majesty's Government had ground for their appointment of Major Bond;" and then, with full knowledge of all the circumstances, he said this—and it appeared to him (Mr. Callan) 1068 the most extraordinary statement of the most extraordinary Chief Secretary he had ever heard—"He did not think it was his duty to enter into an investigation of any charge like that to which his hon. Friend referred"—that was a charge of perjury. What were the facts? On November 29 of last year, Major Bond came before the Watch Committee, to whom had been referred the Report of the Borough Justices. The Committee ordered that a copy of that Report should be furnished to Major Bond, and then adjourned the consideration of the case for a fortnight, awaiting Major Bond's explanation. At the adjourned meeting Major Bond's letter of explanation was read, and Major Bond gave a personal explanation. Another adjournment took place, and finally the matter came before the Town Council of Birmingham, when it was resolved, by a vote of 48 to, he thought, 10, that if Major Bond did not resign he should be dismissed, and amongst those who voted for that resolution was to be noticed the name of Alderman Chamberlain, a name with which the Chief Secretary was probably familiar. There were four numbers of The Birmingham Daily Post containing reports and articles of the case—sixteen and a-half columns in all—and to these numbers the right hon. Gentleman could refer if he chose. From one of the leading articles the following was an extract:—We cannot put the matter more clearly than it was put by Mr. Hart, the Chairman of the Watch Committee. The real point is that he gave evidence on oath at the Warwick Sessions of proceedings as having occurred in his presence, when, as he now admits, he was not present, and, consequently, did not witness proceedings such as he describes. This is the real point, and no special pleading, however ingenious, and no denial, however vehement, can explain it away, or can avert the only possible conclusion that must be drawn by every candid mind.He (Mr. Callan) was curious to know whether this Major Bond or Mr. Clifford Lloyd occupied the higher position in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman. The Birmingham Daily Post said further—To speak from hearsay in such a case, or to blunder in giving evidence upon oath, necessarily destroys confidence in the person who falls into an error of such extreme gravity. And when that person is the chief officer of a police force, upon whose faithfulness of statement the liberties and even the lives of those who are brought before the magistrates may 1069 depend, how is it possible the trust so grievously broken can ever be restored? It is a matter of sincere regret for us to be obliged to say so; but we cannot do otherwise than concur with the resolutions of the Justices and the Watch Committee that their confidence can no longer be continued to the Chief Superintendent of Police. And we cannot but feel, as the necessary conclusion from such an expression of opinion, that the public interests call for the retirement of Major Bond from the position he holds.The question was, did Major Bond give evidence as within his own knowledge of occurrences which took place when he was absent? On December 27 he resigned, and, on his resignation, he issued a Napoleonic "General Order" that he (Mr. Callan) at first thought must have emanated from Kilmallock. This "General Order" was issued to the corps he had commanded; and in it, referring to Birmingham, Major Bond said—This once turbulent town, over which he had been placed as guardian of life, property, and public morality, had settled down to a most satisfactory state of quiet and good order and as a peace-loving community.["Hear, hear!"] Well, if that expression of opinion was, on behalf of the Radicals of the House, an endorsement of the perjury on the part of Major Bond, he would accept it and would treat it as it deserved. What did The Liverpool Daily Post, of this very week, say? He would quote what it said as an endorsement of his own opinion. It said—It is easy to understand why a strong feeling of indignation should exist against the appointment. Major Bond was dismissed at Birmingham as unfit to be a Chief Constable, because he acted on hearsay evidence, and swore to facts of which he was not cognizant, and yet he is considered quite good enough to fill the post of stipendiary magistrate in Ireland at a time when these functionaries are armed with powers of a most extraordinary and exceptional character. The Birmingham magistrates found that Major Bond had given elaborate evidence of what took place on an occasion at which he was not even present, and that such evidence was wholly erroneous. It was only a publican's licence that was here concerned; but Major Bond is now promoted to a position in which it it is no longer publicans' licences, but the lives and liberties of Her Majesty's subjects, that are at his disposal. In Ireland, as Mr. Collings points out, the ordinary safeguards for personal liberty are suspended, and everything depends on the accuracy of evidence, the care and discretion of the magistrate. It is not likelyt hat we have heard the last of Major Bond's appointment.1070 No, he (Mr. Callan) could promise that they had not heard the last of it. But he gave the Chief Secretary for Ireland this last opportunity, at 2 o'clock in the morning, before the Address was finished, and he asked him to avail himself of this opportunity to explain. Though it was too late for the Press to quote his answer, yet there would be an official record at least, and propriety and sense of justice called for a sufficient answer. All were equal in the eyes of the law. [A voice: "No!"] Well, they ought to be. Could the right hon. Gentleman give any justification for stating in the House that when these allegations were brought forward he did not condescend even to make an inquiry into them? He (Mr. Callan) intended to take steps in the matter that that opportunity for inquiry might be had in the House; and he hoped the Chief Secretary for Ireland would relieve the Irish Members of the necessity of bringing the matter forward again by making the only satisfactory declaration he could—namely, that Major Bond would no longer have the lives and liberties of the Irish people at his mercy.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Sir, I make no allusion to the manner in which the hon. Member (Mr. Callan) has made his statement; and, indeed, I am glad that, even at this late hour, I can make a remark or two on the matter. Allow me, as shortly as possible, to refer to the history of the appointment. Major Bond was appointed one of the temporary stipendiary magistrates for three months. When he made application for the appointment, he brought testimonials which were very strong; and it appeared he had been a very successful police officer at Cardiff; and he had also strong testimonials from Birmingham. Of this particular charge which has been brought against him I was not aware. I appointed him, without that knowledge, upon the strength of the high testimonials he received from Birmingham. On hearing this charge, I sent for Major Bond, and certainly, if the charge had been such as the hon. Member speaks of—but I do not know that it really was made by anybody in that form—and if I had reason to believe that Major Bond really had "perjured himself," then, though I had made the appointment, I should at once have 1071 cancelled it. But, on seeing him and on hearing his statement, I felt that it would be a great injustice to him, and a thing of which nobody could approve, if I cancelled the appointment. Will the hon. Member just hear what the stipendiary magistrate of Birmingham has written of what happened?I will state the facts briefly without comment. At the Licensing Sessions of the borough magistrates, mainly on the testimony of Major Bond, the magistrates refused to renew the licence of a most objectionable publican in that town. Appeal was made to Quarter Sessions at Warwick, and Major Bond attended there as a witness to prove some formal matter—a service of notice or something of that kind. When in the witness-box, he was asked several questions as to what had taken place at the meeting of magistrates at which the application was made. Taken by surprise, he answered to the best of his recollection, and unwittingly confused two different meetings, at one of which he was not present and knew of only by hearsay.I have also a copy of the resolution at which the magistrates arrived; it is as follows:—They inform Major Bond, in answer to his letter, that the magistrates have no intention of imputing to him, nor did they impute to him in their Report, a wilful falsification of facts in his evidence given at Warwick.The charge is not, therefore, in the slightest degree brought home to him. [An hon. MEMBER: Then why was he dismissed?] Having heard his statements, and having also the strong testimonial from the Recorder of Birmingham, not only before the occurrence, but after it, I did not feel justified in cancelling the appointment.
§ MR. LEAMY
really thought that, considering that on Monday an attempt would be made to curtail the liberty of speech of the minority, in the last few days, the English Radicals might show Irish Members some consideration. If this debate had been prolonged, it was not due to any attempt on the part of the Irish Members to delay the House, but simply because a great number of topics were introduced by English Members. The whole of the evening, when there was an important speech of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland to reply to, was taken up by English Members; and if Irish Members were now constrained to call attention to the appointment of a resident magistrate at a time when the liberties of the Irish people were suspended on the word of a magistrate, and any man 1072 was liable to be sent to gaol, then he asked that there should be a full explanation of this particular appointment, and he thought they might claim to be listened to. Let the Chief Secretary for Ireland say why was Major Bond dismissed from Birmingham? How could the Executive expect the people to have confidence in the administration of the law if they sent to Ireland, at a time like this, a man who was considered unworthy to carry out the law in an English town? What was the use of saying that Major Bond did not tell the Chief Secretary that he had been dismissed from the Birmingham Police Force? The fact was he was dismissed; and was it to be understood that dismissed police officers were to administer the law in Ireland? He did not know what opportunity there might be of bringing this before the House again. They had already found the Chief Secretary for Ireland most anxious to pay the highest possible compliments to Mr. Clifford Lloyd, a man not only detested by numbers of people in the South of Ireland, but spoken of in the strongest terms by the hon. Member for Drogheda (Mr. Whitworth), whose sympathies were not with the Home Rule Members, who was a supporter of the Government, and ought to support the friend of the Chief Secretary for Ireland; and, therefore, Irish Members were not unnaturally suspicious. Another astonishing fact was that this man, Major Bond, was dismissed, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland appointed him without knowing the grounds of his dismissal. Surely there were enough of Irish gentlemen whose characters were beyond reproach, and against whom no accusation could be levelled, willing to accept the pay and discharge the duties of a resident magistrate. But instead of one of these, the Chief Secretary for Ireland went to a dismissed police constable. Of course, he (Mr. Leamy) knew very well that the right hon. Gentleman was resolved to persist in the course he, up to then, had adopted; and he (Mr. Leamy) would say in the House, as he would say in Ireland—he did not regret it, he was glad to see it—that an English Minister who came to Ireland with a good reputation had undermined that in Ireland, and he had convinced the Irish people that it was no use trusting any longer to any English Minister. Two years ago 1073 Irishmen did regard with gratitude the services of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; but in two years that gratitude had been completely killed by intimidation of the people, maladministration of the law, and by the appointment of creatures like Major Bond to administer the law. It had taught the people to detest the Government—he would not say to hate it—as, for the first time in the history of the connection between the two countries, the Irish people had for the English Administration nothing but the utmost, the most sovereign contempt.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, he had two questions that admitted of easy answer. They had heard a good deal about the suppression of facts by a certain official in Ireland, when he was about to receive his appointment; and he would ask, did Major Bond, when receiving his, give the least idea that any such transaction as his dismissal from Birmingham had taken place? Did he give the faintest suggestion that so important an event had occurred as his dismissal from the force at Birmingham? If he did not give any suggestion of the kind, did the Chief Secretary for Ireland think he was a man of a character such as ought to be presented to an important office in Ireland? Another question was, would the Chief Secretary for Ireland lay before the House the Report of the Borough Justices?
§ MR. STOREY
said, he was very glad the hon. Member who spoke last (Mr. Justin McCarthy) had asked those questions in such a moderate and respectful tone. He, also, would like to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman. He did not think this was a matter that should load to an argument of length, or give rise to passion; but let them accept the statement of the Minister, that Major Bond had not been proved guilty of perjury. Still, what was it that Major Bond did, put it with the utmost fairness for him? He went before the magistrates, he got into the witness-box, he took an oath, and, as the Chief Secretary for Ireland said, he so mixed up matters in his mind that he confused one meeting with another, and swore to occurrences at a meeting where he was not present. Now, as an English Radical, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman, when the liberties of the Irish people were suspended, was that the sort of man to send 1074 to Ireland as a magistate? Did he not suppose that he might again mistake one meeting for another, or one man for another, and through the confusion of this dismissed Chief Constable some men might be unjustly put in prison? The right hon. Gentleman had expressed a wish to act kindly towards Ireland, and he (Mr. Storey) believed that; but would the right hon. Gentleman say that he would feel as confident in the administration of the law as he ought to be, and that justice was being done, when Major Bond was the man administering the law?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Sir, with the indulgence of the House, I will reply to these questions. Major Bond was not dismissed; he resigned; that is the fact. [An hon. MEMBER: He was compelled.] He told me he had resigned, and he told me of his difference with the Watch Committee. I may have been to blame for not then writing to Birmingham, and inquiring what was that difference. I grant thus much; but I was very busy at the time, and then I had before me very strong testimonials. With regard to what has been said by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey), if I had the slightest belief that Major Bond had been in what he had done, if not perjuring himself, but in any way paltering with his oath, then I would not have agreed to the appointment. But it appears, from the best information, that he merely made this mistake. Having given evidence, he was then allowed to make a statement on oath about some other matter not concerning the question really before the Court, and which I do not believe had any real bearing on that before the Court; and in making this statement he made the mistake of not first stating that his evidence was concluded. I may add, I said to Major Bond—"You are appointed for three months. Remember, sharp eyes will be watching you very closely; and if you do not use great discretion, you certainly will not be continued in the appointment."
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
asked the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, if he would lay on the Table the Reports of the Borough Justices and of the Watch Committee? The Irish Members had just reason to complain of the appointment of Major Bond, who, unquestionably, was a per- 1075 son about whom "reasonable suspicion" might be entertained. There should be some careful inquiry made into the conduct of this man.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
If the hon. Member will give Notice to move for a Return, I have no doubt it can be laid on the Table. It is not that I wish anything to be concealed. [Mr. BIGGAR: Oh, oh!] Well, hon. Members can themselves get at the Report; and they can very quickly find out whether there is any concealment. It would not, however, be fair to Major Bond to give one side of the question without giving the other. If anything is laid on the Table, it ought to be both sides of the story.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 129; Noes 14: Majority 115.—(Div. List, No. 11.)
§ Address agreed to:—To be presented by Privy Councillors.