HC Deb 30 March 1882 vol 268 cc314-427


Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [20th February], That when it shall appear to Mr. Speaker, or to the Chairman of a Committee of the whole House, during any Debate, to be the evident sense of the House, or of the Committee, that the Question be now put, he may so inform the House or the Committee; and, if a Motion be made 'That the Question he now put,' Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman, shall forthwith put such Question; and, if the same he decided in the affirmative, the Question under discussion shall be put forthwith: Provided that the Question shall not be decided in the affirmative, if a Division be taken, unless it shall appear to have been supported by more than two hundred Members, or unless it shall appear to have been opposed by less than forty Members and supported by more than one hundred Members."—(Mr. Gladstone.)

And which Amendment was, To leave out from the first word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "no Rules of Procedure will be satisfactory to this House which confer the power of closing a Debate upon a majority of Members,"—(Mr. Marriott,) —instead thereof.

Question again proposed, "That the words 'when it shall appear to Mr. Speaker,' stand part of the Question.Debate resumed.


Sir, I may say with the greatest sincerity that I am very sorry that this important and prolonged debate should not have concluded on Monday last; because, if it had been so concluded, I should have been spared the task and the duty of making the ob- servations which I am about to offer to the House. I promise, however, on an occasion of this kind, when we are all endeavouring to be virtuous, not to say more than is necessary, and not to keep the attention of the House from other speakers who may wish to follow me. I may begin by saying that, with regard to hon. Members opposite, most of whose speeches I have heard, I am very much surprised at the hostility which they have shown from the beginning to the proposal before us. It seems to me, from the course they have taken in the matter—although, doubtless, they will not agree with me upon the point—as if they had, in their own idea, only a very remote prospect of ever taking their seats on this side of the House. I have arrived at that conclusion because they seem to have no special interest in this question—a question which does not affect the Government of the day any more than it will affect succeeding Governments. I must say that, had I been on that side of the House, and any Government with a powerful majority at its back had proposed an Amendment of the Procedure of this House of this kind, I should have been very anxious to give them all the support in my power, in the hope that it might be of advantage to my own Party if we should at any time afterwards be allowed to take our seats upon these Benches. I am surprised also at another thing, and that is the almost universal, and ingenious exaggeration as to the probable effects of this Rule which has been imported into this discussion. I should like to ask whether there is any Member of this House who does not admit that the House of Commons is in great difficulties with regard to the management of its Business? No one can deny for a moment that the House is in such difficulties—indeed, all the speeches made on the other side of the House have admitted it, and some of them to a very great extent—and I believe there is a consciousness in the minds of all men in the House, even those who do not want any amendment, that the House suffers materially under the difficulties which press upon it, and the attempts to transact Business which the country naturally expects of it. Well, if that be so, then I should say that we ought to be also agreed that some real and effective remedy for those difficulties is called for. Do not let it be supposed that it is a matter which affects merely some dozen Gentlemen sitting on these Benches. It is one that affected the late Government equally with ourselves; and the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) knows perfectly well what difficulties he and his Colleagues had to contend with when they were in Office—difficulties which are growing from year to year. I can speak with impartiality on this question, because, although I have been in this House nearly as long as any Member in it, no one will charge me with having at any time unduly prolonged a debate, or with having offered anything like obstruction to any measure which has been proposed by either a Government or by a private Member of this House. Neither can it be supposed that it much concerns me what happens with regard to the prosecution of Business under the present Government. In speaking on this subject, therefore, I am entitled to regard myself as being as impartial in this matter as any hon. Member in this House. In my opinion, there is no doubt whatever that the time has arrived when, unless the House does something to free itself from its difficulties, it will stand before the country as having greatly neglected its duties. That the House admits fully the difficulty of its position is abundantly clear from the fact that it has, from time to time, appointed Committees to examine into the cause of and the remedy for that difficulty. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) has sat upon some of those Committees, and has complained a score of times to the House of the dangers that he saw ahead with regard to this matter. Committees so numerous have been appointed to consider this Question that no one can tell us how many of them have sat. A Member of the Government has stated that 14 such Committees have sat; while an hon. Member opposite tells us that he believes there have been at least 20 appointed. But, whatever be the number of such Committees, at all events many of them have sat and have discussed this question, and they have had Members of this House, of authority, called before them, who have given evidence, and among those Members there have been at least three Speakers of this House, and yet, after all, they have been unable to come to any definite conclusion on the subject, which they could offer with confidence to the judgment of the House. If, therefore, all these Committees are of opinion that something required to be done in the matter, and yet found a difficulty in recommending what should be done, is it not certain that throughout the constituencies there is now a universal complaint which answers to our own judgment upon this matter? Hon. Members opposite, when they are speaking to their constituents, taunt the Liberal Government with having done nothing, and the Liberal Government, when it is not a Government, but is the Party in Opposition, taunt the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his Friends with having done nothing. I do not say that either Party does its duty as well as it might do it; but we are all conscious that no Ministry in this House, with our present Rules, with our present habits, and under recent circumstances with which we are all familiar, can do what the constituencies expect from the Administration which it has placed in Office. The main question before us, therefore, is whether what has been proposed is likely to be effectual or not in relieving us from our difficulties—I refer to the Resolution which has been brought before us by the First Minister with regard to what is called the clôture, and which, in fact, proposes that we shall adopt something like it. For my own part, if I were not on this Bench, I should say openly what I now say privately—that I think that the measure so proposed, if it has any failing at all, falls short in this, that it is not sufficiently comprehensive and sufficiently stringent. I think that I shall be able to convince some hon. Members of the truth of what I say before I have done. The Resolution, to my mind, is a very limited and a very moderate one. It proposes that if a debate be unduly prolonged—and I must have an honest interpretation given to that phrase—unduly prolonged and obstructed, that there shall be a mode appointed by which the House may bring to some definite conclusion the Business upon which it is engaged. What is the proposition which the Government have made? It is a very small one. It is to this effect, that when a number of Members, under 40—that is, less than a quorum of the House— continue to speak, without any moderation and limit of time, and there is a general weariness in the House, and a sense that the debate might rightly be closed, then, if there are more than 100 Members present who wish the debate closed, it shall be closed. The other proposition of the Government is equally simple. It is, that when more than 40 Members—that is, more than a quorum of the House—continue to speak under the circumstances I have mentioned, then that not 100, but 200 Members shall be required in order to close the debate. This is not a great arithmetical puzzle. I think the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Raikes), but, at any rate, the right hon. Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), who, I admit without reservation, made a very able and temperate speech in opposition to the views I hold, said so. But the puzzle is no puzzle at all. When there is under a quorum of the House desirous of continuing the debate, there must be 100 desirous of closing it. If there is more than a quorum, the majority must be at least 200. Let us see what that is in practical working—100 to 40 is a two-and-a-half times majority. With 200 to 40, which is the next step, the majority is five times as large as the minority. Then we come to 200 to 100. The majority in that case is equal to double. In 200 to 150 the majority is four to three. I should like to ask the House to observe—and this is what I call an important point—that, as regards small minorities, the proposition which has been made by the Government is much less severe than the proposition of those who think a two-thirds majority would be advisable. I do not think that has been commented upon. As regards small minorities, our plan is the most moderate, the least severe. With regard to large majorities, the other plan is the more moderate. Observe what is the difference. In the two-thirds plan, which hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like—they do not seem to like anything in this matter—I am only afraid that I may convert them—but if they were to look the figures over, they would see that an obstructive minority—I will use the term—of 20 only requires 60 Members in the House in order that the debate may close under the two-thirds plan; but, according to our proposition, it requires 100 to be in the House. If 30 be the small minority, according to the two-thirds plan, 90 must be in the House; according to our plan, 100. If the small minority be 40, the two-thirds plan requires a House of 120; our plan a House of 200. In the case of 50 the two-thirds plan requires 150, and our plan 200 to be in the House. Therefore, it is obvious that with regard to small minorities, the proposition of the Government is the more moderate of the two. But when you come to large minorities the case is somewhat reversed. Hon. Gentlemen have dealt with that as if it were of great importance; to my mind it is of the least importance. The importance is to guard the moderate and small minorities. Judging from my experience of large minorities, I should say that they can always take care of themselves. And, besides, it is obvious that the Speaker of the House, in the case of a large minority, say, 199 to 201, never would undertake to say that it was the evident sense of the House that the debate should close. It is impossible for any rational man to suppose we should believe that the Speaker would say so, for he would have no accurate measure of the sense of the House, and he would certainly jeopardize his own reputation were he to undertake to divide the House when the numbers were, say, nearly equal. Therefore, I venture to say, without fear of contradiction, that the Government proposal is reasonable—so reasonable, I think, that even small minorities have no right whatsoever to object to it. And as for large minorities, whatever be the Rule you propose, you may rely upon it that a large minority will always have its influence, and always be secure from unjust treatment in a deliberative Assembly wherever they do not resort to brute force to express their views. As regards the question of 201 to 199, it should be remembered that the House is now often constituted by one vote. When an hon. Member has drawn attention to the fact that there are not 40 Members present, and the Speaker has counted up to 39, the entrance of another Member constitutes the House, so as to be able to give consideration to, and to come to a decision on, the gravest questions. On the other hand, if attention be called to the fact that 40 Members are not present, and the Member giving that information does what was often done years ago, that is, slip behind the Speaker's Chair, and thus avoid being counted, if the Speaker is unable to count more than 39, the House stands adjourned. So that one Member is competent to make the House, under certain circumstances, competent for its gravest transactions; and one Member can disperse the House and send us all to our homes. I should like to ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to allow me to make a few observations on the real or simulated alarm they exhibit in regard to this matter. ["Oh!"] If I say it is not simulated, it would seem as if I did discredit to their judgment. But if they wish, I will admit that that alarm is real. I have seen great alarm in this House on many occasions. No one can have been here 40 years without having observed occasions when there was the utmost terror at some great harm that was about to happen. I have observed that hon. Gentlemen opposite are often seized with this fit when any good or reasonable measure is proposed. Why, Sir, in the year 1846 I recollect the House discussing for 11 nights before going into Committee a question which aroused alarm. The alarm was real, not simulated. It ended in dethroning a great Minister, the greatest Minister of our time, unless we accept the First Minister of to-day. It ended also in the dismissal of all his Colleagues, not only from this Bench, but from association with their Party. And, after all that terror, we know now that, 30 years afterwards, hon. Gentlemen on the other side, who had been so excited, have enjoyed great profit and prosperity from the policy they so much condemned. Later than that, in 1866, there was exactly the same expression of fear. Some hon. Gentleman opposite threw out a Bill and destroyed the Government. They threw out the Bill because they said that the £7 franchise would swamp all the rich and respectable people in the country. Well, they came into Office, and in the very next year they passed a Bill which gave a vote to every man who was rated to the poor, however small or humble was the cottage or hovel in which he was living. And to show that they have not repented, and that they have received no harm, now, in every Recess, in speeches especially to constituencies in the North, they always remind the working men of the liberal and patriotic Act which conferred the franchise upon them. ["Question!"] That is not the question, I am aware. I mentioned it as an illustration. Another phrase used on the other side is that we are endeavouring to limit freedom of speech. But, what I understand by freedom of speech refers not so much to the quantity as to the quality. Every Member of this House who chooses may arise and say things now which two or three centuries ago would have brought him under the direct discipline of the Crown. All that has passed away. Now we may say anything we like, and some hon. Members, as we have heard on a recent occasion, have said things that I should very much regret to think that I had said. Then, in this House also we may say very severe and ill-natured things, and, it may be, very inaccurate things, which if said outside would bring us under the Law of Libel; but from the Law of Libel we are free in this House. Now, this is freedom of speech, when you may say what you think right to say; and neither the power of the Crown on the one hand, nor the power of the Law of Libel on the other, can in the least degree interfere with what you have said. But as to quantity of speech, I would ask hon. Gentlemen if they know of any deliberative assembly in the world where there is not some limit to speech? Go to your church assemblies; have they not some limit too? We know that the clergy are apt to be rather long in their speeches, and that their debates extend over many hours; but they all have some mode of bringing a debate to an end. What is the course in all the public meetings held in this country? What would become of public meeting if the right asserted by some Gentlemen here were exercised on those occasions? Is not it the commonest thing known to us all that, after a debate has gone on to such a length after the programme of speakers has been gone through, somebody proposes to speak, or continues to speak, too long, and the chairman is at liberty to, and constantly does, put it to the meeting whether Mr. So-and-So shall be heard, or whether he shall be heard any longer, and as the meeting decides the gentleman—as I have seen it, and I think I have never seen it otherwise—has yielded to the opinion of the meeting and to the deci- sion of the chair. But for this, public meetings in this country would be absolutely of no use, and we know that in the freedom of the Press and the freedom of public meetings we find all the elements of whatever permanent freedom there exists in this nation. Then there is another—what shall I call it?—hobgoblin, or something which is very alarming, which meets hon. Gentlemen, and they say—never having seen anything like it on their side, I suppose—they say that on this side of the House the majority will be led by a powerful Minister. In this country Ministers do not become powerful except by some great qualities, and they are only powerful when a very large portion of the public puts reliance in them. And then I think it is a great blessing that a powerful Minister should exert great influence over his Party, and that his Party, being a majority elected with him by the constituencies, should influence Parliament to serve the country. But hon. Members opposite seem to me as if they did not like to look at more than one point of the question. They say that a Minister who has a majority will do this, that, and the other; and they leave out of view the question of the highest authority in this House, without whose opinion, without whose judgment, and without whose express intimation to the House the most powerful Minister who ever sat, or who ever will sit here, and the most powerful Party itself, would be absolutely helpless in this matter. That is not merely my construction. It must appear to be so to every Gentleman who hears my voice. I hope some hon. Gentleman who follows me will attend to this—driven from point to point in argument, hon. Members have at last said—Well, we know that is what you expect of the Speaker of the House; but what security have you that the Speaker will act up to your expectation? Well, I would say this—My right hon. Friend has been about 50 years a Member of the House. I have been a Member nearly 40 years. I have seen three eminent Speakers occupy that Chair—Lord Eversley, Lord Ossington, and the right hon. Gentleman the Speaker now in the Chair; but has anybody noticed any trace of any partiality on the part of those Speakers? There is a score of opportunities every Session, one might say, if a Speaker thought it worth his while to do it, he might give some petty advantage to the Party with which he is connected. Now, those three Speakers of whom I have spoken have all been connected with the Liberal Party. They have served in the Office of Speaker during the Administrations of Sir Robert Peel, Lord Russell, Lord Aberdeen, Lord Palmerston, Lord Derby, Lord Beaconsfield, and the Prime Minister who now leads the House. In the last Parliament Gentlemen opposite sat on this side of the House. They were the Conservative Party. Mr. Speaker took the Chair then, as now. He was then, and no doubt is now, connected by sympathy with the Liberal Party. But no one said in the last Parliament that as between the two Parties in the House the Speaker was not perfectly impartial. I defy any man to say that at any time during the Parliamentary life of the oldest Member of the House anything has ever been done by any Speaker which would lead to the conclusion that you are relying upon an unsafe security when you ask the Speaker to take the initiative in a matter like that before the House. Now, Sir, I will ask hon. Gentlemen—Do not you suppose that the Office of Speaker is so eminent and dignified that it necessarily almost shuts out the possibility of partiality? Is it possible that any Speaker would sacrifice his great honour and his historical position for the purpose of giving some small advantage to the Party on this side of the House? Now, then, I insist upon it, and I think the House and every dispassionate, fair-minded man will come to the same conclusion, that the danger hon. Gentlemen have spoken about, and which they are so alarmed about, is, in point of fact, only a phantom, and that the safeguards provided in this Resolution are sufficient and complete for the proper maintenance of the Business of the House. An hon. Gentleman said that we are not all agreed on this side of the House. Well, hon. Gentlemen opposite have not told us of their opinions; but, possibly, they are not all agreed. I should be very sorry if, on every matter that came before the House, it was to be expected that all men would think exactly alike. We have an Amendment by the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott). That is an Amendment that means that the House shall do nothing whatever. If any Member of the House wishes to support that Amendment, he supports a proposition that, in regard to the shortening or closing debates by any contrivance whatever in the way of any vote in the House, that is a thing which cannot be recommended. I may say here that there has been some reference made to the word "bare" and "bare majority," and I see it stated in some of the papers that the word "bare" was left out of the Amendment at the suggestion of the authorities of the House. Well, I believe I am at liberty to state, without fear of being in error, that the authorities of the House—I mean Mr. Speaker, in the first place, and the Gentlemen at the Table—have had nothing whatsoever to do with the leaving out of that word; and the Amendment stands, as I understand, exactly as it was proposed at the Table by the hon. and learned Member for Brighton. Well, that is one of the propositions. There may be other propositions. I do not condemn them; but it seems to me that if I were sitting on this side of the House and not connected with this Bench—if I thought that anything ought to be done and that something effective might be done—there being no matter of conscience involved, for this is not a matter of blood shedding or of a terribly atrocious and evil policy of any kind; it is a matter upon which we may all agree without any amount of suffering, or upon which many may disagree without quarrelling—I should say that if a Government in which I had confidence had recommended this Resolution I would accept it—and if the Party with which I usually acted in the main, and for the most part, approved of it, and would all but unanimously support it, then I should have no feeling of conscientious objection to submit my judgment to the judgment of my Leaders and my Party. [Cheers and ironical cheers.] If hon. Gentlemen opposite come to their unanimity by any process differing from that, I hope they will state it. There is one other point on which I shall address a few words to the House—to the Conservative Members as well as to those on this side. It may be observed that in what I have said I have made no appeal whatever to Members of this House who call themselves the Irish Party. I have made no appeal to them for reasons which need no elaborate explanation. Some of those Gentlemen who call themselves the Irish Party have avowed, over and over again, that they are practically at war with the Government and with the Imperial Parliament. They in this House, and their Press in their own country, and their confederates in the United States of America, have avowed in all forms of language, on many occasions, and by many methods, that their object is to make government by this House of Commons not difficult only, but impossible. Two hon. Members of this House—for we are all honourable men—two hon. Members of this House, one not now present, but absent under circumstances not without his own control—I say two hon. Members of this House, whilst in the United States, were present at a Convention of Irish delegates in Chicago. It was a Convention which, as far as it had power, declared war against the Crown and the Government of the United Kingdom. Subscriptions were collected at that Convention, and were handed in openly, with the view of equipping soldiers to take part in the expected and intended war; and the Gentlemen to whom I refer, as far as I gathered from the report, said nothing at the Convention. They were parties to the resolution. They were parties to the address. They spoke in the Convention. [Mr. HEALY: No!] I have read in an Irish-American paper a most elaborate, careful, and interesting report of the speeches at that Convention. Towards the end one of the leading speakers said he thought it was better, for reasons, that their friends from Ireland should not take further part in their deliberations; but there was a speech in that report of an hon. Member of the House. ["No!"] I do not know whether the hon. Member who says "No" would say that it was made at a part of the proceedings which was not in the Convention, as here we should distinguish between the House and the Committee—but in that report of the speeches there was a speech of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy), and there was a speech of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor); and there was a speech, three columns long, of an Irish priest who went over with them, and there was not a voice raised by Members of this House—Members who have taken the Oath of Allegiance at this Table—there was not a voice raised by those Members, so far as the report which. I read goes, which in the slightest degree expressed a difference from, or a condemnation of, the language to which I have been referring; and, no doubt, Sir, those Gentlemen on that side of the Atlantic and in that Convention were themselves what may be called the Mason and Slidell of this new secession. I say, therefore, that it is not worth my while to appeal to those Gentlemen. They are at liberty to hold their opinions, they are at liberty to conspire, and they are at liberty to rebel; but, at any rate, they are not at liberty to make it impossible for this Imperial Parliament to transact the Business which it has to do. I think that if there be within the walls of this House a Party, however small, avowing objects such as these, and pursuing a course such as this, it behoves all Members of the House of a different kind to consider the position in which they are. I appeal to hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, to the Conservative Party—I differ from them, as they know, very much in many things, but I admit that if they are mistaken they are in intention patriotic, and that they would wish the honour of Parliament to be sustained, and the interests of the country to be guarded—I may, therefore, fairly appeal to them, and I may appeal to hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House—English Members, Welsh Members, Scotch Members, loyal Irish Members, I may appeal to them, and ask them whether this House of Commons, with its centuries of renown and its centuries of service, is to be made prostrate, powerless, and useless, at the bidding and by the action of a handful of men, who tell you that they despise you, and who by their conduct would degrade you? Do not let them suppose that they are greater friends of Ireland than I am. Why, Sir, I acknowledged the wrongs of Ireland, and urged that they should be redressed, when some of those Gentlemen opposite were in their long clothes. I am not less the friend of Ireland because I condemn those who, in my opinion, have been of late her worst enemies. But, leaving Ireland out of the question, and confining my view to this House of Commons, may I not say that we are 600 men, select men, chosen from all parts of the Three King- doms, and for what? For the high and noble purpose of legislating for a great and powerful Empire; and I ask you whether you are willing now to assist Her Majesty's Government in altering, to some small extent, the Rules and practice of this House, in order that the House of Commons, in spite of the mischief of the few, may find itself hereafter able to fulfil the great duties which the people of this great nation have committed to its charge?


I remember, Sir, that a few years ago a distinguished American Minister said to one who was then the Representative for Foreign Affairs in this country, and who had a difficult answer to make to a deputation at a critical time, that he was anxious to know how a European diplomatist would answer, and, so to speak, "dance among the eggs." Now, it was with a curiosity akin to that of this American Minister that we watched tonight how the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster would acquit himself in speaking on behalf of a Liberal Government in a debate the object of which—in the opinion of Members on this side of the House, and of a great many Members on the other side also—must tend, in a great degree, to the limitation of the right of free speech. The right hon. Gentleman has ridiculed our alarm, and he has spoken, in terms which I need not characterize, of the Members of the Irish Party who sit below the Gangway on this side of the House; but he has given us absolutely no reason why we should not entertain the feelings of alarm which he ridiculed. Throughout this debate there has prevailed, up to this evening, a tone of studied moderation, from which I shall endeavour not to depart. But I cannot but comment upon the very marked differences of opinion which have been made manifest in the course of this debate among the supporters of the Government, and even in its very ranks. The Prime Minister, in the speech with which he introduced these Resolutions, showed that he was obviously anxious to hold on to old Rules as long as possible, and that it was with a feeling of pain that he found himself constrained to depart from the old lines followed by the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman also said that he trusted the House would continue to appreciate, nay, to worship, liberty of speech. The President of the Local Government Board follows in the same strain, saying that no Member of the Government has ever suggested that they should stop a debate which is neither repetition nor Obstruction. But the President of the Local Government Board, the hon. Member for Bedford, and now the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, have spoken of the alarm which is felt on these Benches; and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Bright) says that that alarm is simulated. Not one, however, of these Gentlemen has adduced any proof of our being mistaken. The right hon. Gentleman talks of the "phantom" which has caused our alarm. He should remember that it is feared also by above 100 Members of the Liberal Party. ["No, no!"] Well, such was the statement of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson), and, up to this time, it has not been contradicted. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen tell us that there is no intention of using this Rule for the prevention of free speech; but we must look not to their intentions, but to future possibilities. How can we be confident that on all occasions the intentions which the Government have expressed will be those which will be realized? Of that we have before now had some experience; and we are perfectly entitled to look not only to what is intended by the Resolution—a Resolution which, it appears, is to become a Standing Order of the House—but also to what its terms might hereafter, under various circumstances, be held to imply. If we looked only to the speech of the Prime Minister we might, perhaps, be to some extent re-assured; but the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India and the Home Secretary have spoken in a very different tone from that of the Prime Minister. What did the noble Marquess say? Did he say that it was only unrestricted loquacity or needless repetition which was to be guarded against? No; he went a great deal further; and much of the difficulty which we now have to face has been caused by the expressions which the noble Lord thought fit to use. He said— The statement that the privilege of speech is not a personal right attaching to the position of a Member of Parliament may he an assertion that will startle some hon. Members; but I think a very little consideration will show it to be a true assertion, and I should like very much. to see the contrary of that assertion formulated and defended. If it is true that the privilege of speech is a personal privilege, it belongs, I presume, equally to every Member of the House."—[3 Hansard, clxvii. 1327.] Now, I hold that the privilege is a personal right, notwithstanding the noble Lord's statement, for we are chosen to speak in Parliament as well as to vote; and it is the duty of every Member, on fitting occasions, to represent his constituents byword of mouth, subject only to his sense of responsibility to the House. But I will call a witness into court who speaks with greater force than I can. The duties of a Member of Parliament have been defined in the following expressive and weighty words:— It is often said that we are not delegates; but if we are not delegates we are not rulers. we are sent here to represent the general views of our constituents. We have morally no power to cut off the influence of those constituents—to make fundamental changes in the Constitution, and to vary, alter, and overthrow the practice of 600 years. From this it will appear that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster did not always hold the views now put forward by the Government. As to the personal privilege of speech, to which the noble Lord referred, he will find a sufficient answer in words spoken in 1867. The noble Lord—I am not going to quote his words, but the meaning is clear—used a curious expression. He said there were other places where free speech could be exercised outside this House; and another hon. Member has gone further, and said if we wanted to express our views we might go outside to do it, for Parliament was no place for that. I venture to say, in the first place, that that is an entire and complete alteration of the meaning of Parliament. In the second place, if the public mind is to be influenced with regard to measures before this House, not by discussions taking place in the House, but discussions outside, you will import a doctrine rather dangerous and somewhat difficult to define. It is obvious that while the discussion is going on out-of-doors the measures on which the discussion is taking place may be passing into law under this Rule. The Home Secretary was more cautious, but the same argument ran throughout his speech. He spoke of the immense work which, lies before Parliament. He began by saying there was the Address, on which he gave a significant hint that the discussion was one which might have been cut short under these Rules. He said, in the month of March, they had the Army and Navy Estimates, and he pointed out the difficulty which arose of Motions being put down between the Government and necessary Supply. Evidently, the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman goes a great deal further than Motions on going into Supply. It would apply to all Motions which stand in the way of the Business of the Government, and it would lead to an entire revolution. Then, the right hon. and learned Gentleman says, the month of March is gone and we come to April, and he points out that in April the Government might be in difficulties with regard to their Mutiny Bill. Now, all this is by no means new. These are not things which have occurred to this Government of all Governments. On the contrary, I may point out that it was the duty of the late Government to pass one measure which will greatly facilitate the progress of the Business of any Government. We are naturally led to fear from all this that what is intended to be used against Obstruction will too often be turned against that which is legitimate opposition. I do not wish to misquote the President of the Board of Trade; but I have clearly in my mind the recollection of a speech in which he spoke of Opposition, and used the word as being a very convertible term with Obstruction. It is because we know these facts and views are in the minds of those, at all events, who hold the newer Liberal ideas, and that ultimately this Rule will be entirely diverted from its course, that we take the strong position which we have assumed. As a matter of fact, the Government have been a little ungrateful to the House for the manner in which Business has been expedited this year. Have they been obstructed? Their main Votes have been passed on the first night they were discussed, no doubt at a late and inconvenient hour. I have a clear recollection that on many previous occasions these votes have occupied sometimes two or three nights. It is true that last year Urgency was asked, and asked by the Government. They were alarmed about their Business. The House thought that it should not be granted, and the Government did per- fectly well without it. Having no other course, the Government took the House into their confidence, and the House responded, as it always will when treated in that manner. References have been made to the last Parliament as if the late Government had no Obstruction to contend with. I am not going back on that which may be a matter of controversy. The Prime Minister spoke of the Obstruction which took place in 1879 and in 1877. I tried then to believe that the Obstruction was honest. I was prepared to admit that then, and I admit it now; therefore, although I refrain from saying how much assistance we received from the House, even after the main question of corporal punishment was disposed of, we carried on the necessary Business without the clôture, and passed some considerable measures. No answer has been given to the question—How would the clôture help the Government this Session? Would it have helped them on the Address? Would it have helped them on the Estimates? I do not think that that is a contention which will be made. The clôture could only have been applied against, to use the language of the Home Secretary, Motions which stood in the way of the Estimates, and those Motions could be dealt with by other Amendments on the Paper. I should like to call attention to what may happen in Committee, and in doing so I assume I have a right to argue as to the intentions of the Government from the actual words of the Resolutions which have been submitted. Now, my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) pointed out that the clôture can be applied in this way. At the present time, on going into Supply, the Question is moved, "That the Speaker leave the Chair." If an Amendment is moved, the clôture can be applied. Then to the Motion, "That I now leave the Chair," the clôture can again be applied. That has been clearly shown. It appears from the New Rule— That when it shall appear to Mr. Speaker, or to the Chairman of a Committee of the whole House, during any Debate, to be the evident sense of the House, or of the Committee, that the Question be now put, he may so inform the House or the Committee; and, if a Motion be made 'That the Question be now put,' Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman, shall forthwith put such Question; and, if the same be decided in the affirmative, the Question under discussion shall be put forthwith. Now, how is this going to be applied in Committee? If the clôture is passed upon a particular Amendment, all other Amendments may be, although pertinent to the subject, shut out. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman cheers ironically. I should like him to deal with this point, as it may materially facilitate progress. The effect of the Resolution, unless it can be explained in some other sense, may he to cut out Amendments in Supply. I will not be rash enough to suppose that the right hon. Gentleman intends it to work in this way; but it is perfectly competent for anyone to say that this is the position, unless restrictive words are used, in which Parliament may find itself. Suppose the original Question was that £100,000 should be voted for such-and-such a purpose. An Amendment might be moved with which the House disagreed. I venture to contend that, in the terms of the Resolution—I do not say it is the intention of the Government—it would be perfectly competent to the Chairman—I am speaking, of course, impersonally, and without reference to the right hon. Gentleman who is now Chairman—to propose that the Resolution was carried, the Amendment negatived, and the clôture carried upon it. It is said that the clôture is not to be applied to such cases; and, as I understand, the argument in favour of the Resolution is not so much that it is intended to stop Obstruction as to expedite Business. But that can be done by the Resolutions which follow, which are framed with the object of expediting the Business of Parliament. That can be done in two ways—either by stopping questions from being brought forward or by shortening the proceedings. But the question is not whether the Resolution is intended to be used in a particular way, but whether, under the terms of the Resolution, it can be so used. I should have been disposed to argue—if my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Laun-ceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) had not already done so—that the word "may" implies that it is the duty of the Chairman to put the Question, and means the same as "must" The President of the Local Government Board said "No;" but that was a bare assertion, and the right hon. Gentleman advanced no argu- ment, and showed no reason in favour of his opinion. But the right hon. Gentleman goes further, and to-night the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that it is to be at the discretion of the Chairman or Speaker whether the Question is to be put. That is a delicate matter, and I can only add one more to the testimonies which have been paid to the present occupant of the Chair. But we have to look on this not as a Sessional, but as a Standing Order, made for all time. See the enormous difficulties and responsibilities in which you are involving the Chair! Suppose the Speaker or Chairman ignored or misinterpreted the feelings of the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) noticed this; other Members have noticed it also. In practice, some Rule would be devised which would be followed by each successive Speaker or Chairman, and the discretion of the Speaker would be abandoned. I find, Sir, that the question was raised in a discussion which took place in February, 1880. The difficulty then dwelt upon was as to the ascertainment of the "feeling of the House," when many Members were not present in the House, but in the Lobbies and precincts of the House. My right hon. Friend the then Chancellor of the Exchequer clearly showed the difficulties which might arise, and the great inconvenience under which the Speaker or Chairman might labour in having his discretion confirmed or disapproved by the House. It has been said quite truly that the Speaker or Chairman would be an independent and impartial person. No one has expressed a doubt on that subject. But—speaking of him, not in his official, but in his personal capacity—is it certain that he would be entirely independent of the Government? Then, in the case of Members not actually in the House, but in the Lobbies and precincts, to whom could the Chairman look save to those useful persons to whom we look for the declarations of the numbers in Divisions? I fear, if we accept this Resolution, that we shall place the Chairman or the Speaker in an invidious and unpleasant position. I know that the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Thorold Rogers), in his temperate and able speech the other night, the President of the Board of Trade, and others, say that we on this side of the House are detracting from the Speaker's authority. No, Sir; I venture to say that it is far from our intention. We wish to save the Speaker from that which, in our minds, is an invidious position. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster asked us whether we could suppose that the Speaker or the Chairman would be actuated by the prospect of some Party advantage? We do not suppose anything of the kind. But the Resolution would place the impartiality of the Speaker or Chairman not in any real danger, but in danger of suspicion; and it is for that reason that it is our bounden duty to guard him from such dangers. With regard to the clôture, the Home Secretary the other night quoted the opinion of Lord Eversley, who expressed a fear that we should be obliged some day to come to the clôture. Lord Eversley, when examined on the subject, on the 6th of March, 1854, said that he believed that some day or other the House would be obliged to adopt a method of bringing debates to a summary end; but he added words which I do not say destroy the effect of the Home Secretary's quotation, but materially modify them. Lord Eversley, after expressing that opinion, adds—"I should postpone the adoption of that summary process till the latest possible period." My right hon. Friend near me, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, has been quoted as an authority in favour of the clôture. This statement has, however, been already explained in the public Press. What my right hon. Friend really said was that it was thought by some to be possible that we might have to come to the clôture, but that he himself was entirely opposed to it. "That," my right hon. Friend said, "is a method which, I venture to think, this House will pause very long before they adopt. It is wholly at variance with the traditions of the British House of Commons." Now, let us see what is said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn). Speaking no later than two years ago with regard to the clôture, he said he trusted there was no sort of a possibility of its being adopted, and that any such proposal would meet with the most determined opposition. Again, another Member of the House expressed his opinion on a former occasion that the Government had done wisely in seeking to punish individual Members who were guilty of Obstruction, instead of altering the Rules of the House. That was said by no less an authority than the present Postmaster General. Then there is one who, on financial questions, has always proved himself to be a lively and a careful investigator, although his pertinacious good humour, and his thirst for knowledge respecting the Estimates, have, no doubt, been a source of very mixed feeling. What did the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) say? He said that he altogether repudiated the idea of the clôture. The hon. Member for Walsall (Sir Charles Forster) also spoke in the same sense. All Committees and authorities have considered it as absolutely the last alternative which should be brought before the House. They all say—"Let us put it off as long as we can." We have, I think, a right to ask why no Minister, up to the present time, has told us what reason there is for carrying this Resolution before the other Resolutions? If other means failed, doubtless the House might approach its consideration; but the burden of proof lies upon those who insist upon placing it first. I should have thought it a task well worthy of a Prime Minister, whose vast abilities and matchless eloquence even a political opponent may express admiration for, to bring back the House to a remembrance of its old traditions, to vindicate the rights of Parliament against those who wish to bring those rights into contempt, and to maintain on its behalf that freedom of which on other questions the right hon. Gentleman has been the foremost advocate. But we have here a measure which the most incompetent Minister could carry if he only had a compact majority behind him. I do not want to go into the question of a mere majority, except to a very slight degree. The Home Secretary said it was the only question before the House; but I understood you, Sir, to say it was otherwise, and I think that has been confirmed this evening by the manner in which you explained the Question to be put. And the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has said this evening that he understands it is not a question at all of a mere or of a bare majority. I could point out many instances where hon. Members opposite have expressed themselves against the principle of a bare majority. I will, however, only mention the hon. Member for Walsall and the hon. Member for Swansea, who have spoken against giving the power of clôture to a bare majority. I will not argue this, for the argument seems to go very much against the adoption of the clôture at all. I have not argued, therefore, against a bare majority. But what I wish respectfully to point out is, whether the Government would not advance Business more by leading than driving? If any Government endeavours to drive instead of leading, infallibly they will oblige the House to look, not at the spirit in which these Resolutions have been proposed, but at the actual letter of them. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) said he did not believe much in advancing Business by the policy proposed; and the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) showed clearly how, if oppressive measures were adopted in one respect, difficulties would arise in other matters in regard to which they could not be interfered with. Surely, trusting to this, one power, forced, on the whole, upon an unwilling House, is very little better than the course adopted by the wise men of Gotham, who built a hedge round the cuckoo under the impression that that would keep the bird from flying away. If the clôture is not to be used, it appears to me that the Business of the House will not be advanced. We cannot be led away by the assertion that this is to be hung up as a weapon in terrorem, not to be used, but to frighten evildoers and to keep ill-luck from the Government, very much like a horseshoe nailed on a stable door. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade says we dislike the clôture because it is a French word. I do not dislike it because it is a French word, but because it is an institution not known to England, and which has never been employed in an English Parliament. That is an insular view if you please; but, as the clôture is imported from abroad, so I believe it will be used here as it is used abroad. I believe that it will do more than anything else to do away with the spirit of fair play and mutual conciliation with which hitherto the Business of the House has been conducted. Before I sit down, I wish to disclaim that connection between ourselves and the Irish Members of which the Home Secretary spoke the other night. I do not know that we need look very far after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to-night to see, perhaps, why hon. Members from Ireland may not altogether like to find themselves in the same Lobby as the Government. To form a combination for the purpose of getting the Government into a difficulty is very far from our intention. Look at the situation in which the House is placed at this moment! The Amendment is by an honest and earnest Liberal. [Mr. JOHN BRIGHT: Very!] The hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) has made as strong a speech against the Resolution as any Member of the House. The hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter) has also spoken against it; and other hon. Members, in a greater or less degree, have expressed their disapproval of the measure of the Government. We have taken our present course, not, as many hon. Members affect to suppose, for the purpose of embarrassing the Government, but to preserve our rights while we can. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India speaks of this vote as a Vote of Want of Confidence. His position reminds me of the lines— Rather than fool it so, Let the high office and the honour go To one that would do thus. I am half through; The one part suffer'd, the other will I do. We believe that less objectionable measures than the present would have done, and we do not believe that this measure will succeed, as the Government expects. No one has as yet answered the question put by my hon. and learned Friend (Sir Hardinge Giffard)—would any hon. Member on that side of the House have supported this measure if it had been proposed by us when we were in Office? Reference has been made to the fact that the clôture has already been used in this House, though it has only been used on the occasion of measures of gravity being before the House. For instance, as has been pointed out, the clôture. was virtually adopted in the Candahar debate, and it will prevail with regard to the decision which will be taken on this vote to-night. If the Government would take the House into their confidence—would lead, not drive, when it becomes absolutely impossible to carry on the Business of the country, we should have free room for the exer- cise of those rights of discussion which never attained such a height of freedom as they have attained within the walls of this House. These are the privileges for which, by a strange irony of fate, we on this side of the House find ourselves contending against a Liberal Government. I have only to thank the House for the patience with which they have heard me.


said, that while all Members were bound to consider the question with a due regard to the traditions of the House, Irish Members would be pardoned if they paid particular attention to the effect of restrictions of debate on the Irish representation. Independent Irish Members on both sides of the House could never form more than a small minority of the entire Assembly. Both the great Parties had this common ground, that they were equally determined that individual liberty of speech should be curtailed, and that, by direct or indirect means, debates should be shortened if they passed certain limits. The debates had shown how each Party proposed to effect this. The Liberal Party proposed the clôture. This measure would be felt by the Liberals when they were in a minority, and by the Tories when they, in turn, were in a minority. The clôture was not directed specially against Irish Representatives. So powerful an instrument could not have been necessary to silence an Irish minority. If that had been the special object of the Government, they could, without endangering their position, have easily passed a sufficient measure. The Conservatives would never have said a word about liberties and traditions, but passed it with the enthusiasm they displayed in support of coercion, as long as it could substantially affect only the Irish minority in the House. The Conservative Party, on the other hand, in their speeches, demanded measures by which individuals on various grounds could be silenced, and by which, small minorities could be fettered in debate. There was only one small minority of importance in the House—namely, the Irish representation; and what the Conservative Party wished was an arbitrary system of clôture against that minority and its Members. The case, then, stood thus. Both great Parties agreed that restriction must come. Everyone knew it would come. As a practical man bound to chose, he unhesitatingly preferred a measure aimed at minorities consisting of the great Parties, to a system aimed at the Irish representation alone, and capable of use against only an Irish minority. With every respect for the opinion of some other Irish Members, he recoiled from the dishonour of leaving on the Journals of the House a system of restrictions aimed exclusively at Irish Members. A measure available against English minorities would be viewed with dislike and used sparingly, for fear of precedent, against any body of Members. If his hon. Friends succeeded in their main object of ousting the present Government, and in obtaining a Tory Administration, the first thing the Conservatives would do would be, in one form or another, to pass an Irish clôture, dishonouring to the Irish representation, and far more stringent in effect than the present proposal. It was alleged that without clôture a renewal of coercion would be impossible. This statement, contained in an extraordinary document lately issued by the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) and others, meant that it was impossible for a majority of 6 to 1 to pass a Bill against a small minority. He trusted that coercion, introduced under the unwarrantable circumstances which marked the introduction of the present Coercion Act, would always be firmly opposed. But impossible was a strong word. Though there was a good deal of credulity in Ireland, as in other countries, he did not believe that the simplest and most illiterate Irish peasant could be gulled into the belief that without the clôture a renewal of coercion would be impossible. Everyone knew a large majority could compel a small minority to let any measure pass. Nay, more; experience had taught them that, after a certain amount of resistance, Mr. Speaker was ready to stop debate, and the House was ready to approve his conduct, and thereby create a precedent. Then there was not the smallest truth in the assertion that without clôture a renewal of coercion was impossible. What rendered a renewal of coercion possible was told the people of Ireland a few days ago by the leading Home Rule journal, in these words— If coercion be perpetuated, it is at the door of the Moonlighters the extreme measure must fairly be laid. He was opposed to any measure specially directed against Irish Members. He should support the clôture because it would render it practicable to pass just laws for the United Kingdom in a reasonable time. He would support it especially in the interests of Ireland, because it would break down the obstruction to radical reforms in Ireland, which begot disappointment and disloyalty by resisting and delaying every great measure proposed for that country. The clôture would induce men to enjoy freedom of speech without abusing it, and thus, instead of destroying, it would maintain the ancient traditions and liberties of the House of Commons.


Mr. Speaker, perhaps the House will excuse the eldest ex-Whipper-in in the House for expressing an opinion on this subject. I rejoice to see the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in their places, because the years of my service in the House are about the same as those of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, though they have not reached the number of those for which the Prime Minister can take credit. As a quondam Party organizer I am senior to yourself, Mr. Speaker, though I have had the honour and the pleasure of acting with you when you were the organizer of the Whig Party. While we had the organization of the two great Parties in this House, though during most trying times, the confusion, Mr. Speaker, which has been witnessed of late years did not prevail. The hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy), who has just spoken, was examined before the Committee on Public Business which sat in 1878—the last Committee on Public Business. I produced, as a Member of that Committee, figures which the Committee accepted, and which proved that the Obstruction from which the House had then been suffering was originated and was carried on by small minorities chiefly composed of Irish Members. It is a singular fact that the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington), who was a Member of that Committee, though he accepted all the details of these figures, induced the Committee to reject the totals which gave a summary of the results. That summary, Sir, is the foundation of the alarm which has been expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Limerick, because it showed that of the small obstructive minorities previous to 1878, the larger number consisted of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and other Irish Members, one of whom is imprisoned with him as a "suspect." A large number of these minorities did not include more than, or indeed so many as, 11 Members each. After the Committee of 1878 had reported, I ventured to submit to the House a proposal to the effect that the House should deal with the offence of Obstruction on the principle of the Common Law, so that when it was represented to this House that a Member had been guilty of persistent and rebellious Obstruction, such as that of which the hon. Member for the City of Cork undoubtedly had been guilty, the House should deal with the offence of that individual Member, and with the offences of others in like manner. My proposal stands now on the Notice Paper as an Amendment to the 9th Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. I trust that this clôture will not be adopted. I can adduce against it the Report of the only Committee who distinctly considered the proposal for the adoption of the clôture in this House. When I name the Members of that Committee, I think their character will give force to the objections to the clôture. This Committee on Public Business sat before the several Committees on which I have served. The Committee was appointed in 1848 because there had been a certain tendency towards confusion in this House in consequence of the separation of the majority of the Conservative Party from the late Sir Robert Peel on the question of commercial policy in 1846—the commercial policy to which the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster referred when he said that it caused unfounded alarm among the Conservative Party now in Opposition. I venture to ask that right hon. Gentleman, who is one of the Members for Birmingham, whether, in the present condition of agriculture in Warwickshire, there is no cause for alarm? At this moment the Mayor of Birmingham is urging that encouragement should be given to farmers in the form of prizes and premiums in dairy produce. The Mayor is a brother of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, and intimates by his action that he, at all events, thinks that corn-growing in Warwickshire is not in a prosperous condition. But I was speaking of the Committee on Public Business of 1848, and I will now name the Members who composed it. These were Lord John Russell, Sir Robert Peel, Sir George Grey, Sir James Graham, Mr. Hume, Mr. Disraeli, the Lord Advocate, Mr. Goulbourn, Sir Robert Harry Inglis, Mr. Bernal, Sir William Heathcote, Mr. Cobden, Mr. Morgan John O'Connell, Mr. Brotherton, Mr. Henley, Mr. George Alexander, and Mr. J. Evelyn Denison, the late Speaker of this House; and to this Committee was afterwards added Mr. Greene, who was for many years afterwards the Chairman of the Committees of the House. This Committee examined, among other persons, M. Guizot, who was then in England, having been Prime Minister in France under the expelled King Louis Philippe. M. Guizot and others, among whom was a distinguished American, gave evidence with respect to the action of the clôture in the French Assembly and the House of Assembly of the United States, upon which evidence the Committee of 1848 made the following observations:— Your Committee, in weighing the value of this evidence, had to take into account how materially the constitution and the mode of transacting Business in the House of Commons differed from those of the two Legislative Assemblies referred to. In France the clôture has been found available without any restriction on the length of speeches. In the United States a limitation of the length of speeches has been found necessary, in addition to the power of closing the debate. In France important Motions are considered in the Bureaux before they are discussed in the House. The House meets in the morning, and the attendance is continuous. We have at present an example that the attendance in this House can scarcely be called continuous. This Committee add— The clôture, in the form in which it is used in France, could not be applied to our debates without the risk of unjust surprises, and without other inconveniences."— They go on to say in their Report— Your Committee, however, ventures to express an opinion that the satisfactory conduct and progress of the Business of the House must mainly depend upon Her Majesty's Government, holding, as they do, the chief control over its management. They (the Committee) believe that by the careful preparation of measures, their early introduction, the judicious distribution of Business between the two Houses, and the order and method with which measures are conducted, the Government can contribute in an essential degree to the easy and convenient conduct of Business. They trust the efforts of the Government would be seconded by those of independent Members, and that a general determination would prevail to carry on the Public Business with regularity and dispatch. But is there at present a judicious distribution of Business between the two Houses? We cannot fail to remember that the present Government have lately induced this House to vote the condemnation of the House of Lords, because that House has acted upon its undoubted right in appointing a Committee of its own on the Irish Land Act; nor can we forget that the complaints of the House of Lords are continuous, because no fair share of Business is allotted to them. I do not think we can come to any other conclusion than that the present difficulties of this House are attributable, and very largely attributable, to the conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers. I have cited the opinion of men who, in their day, were first-rate authorities, an opinion in which the late Sir Robert Peel, Lord John Russell, and Sir George Grey concurred with Mr. Cobden. In the opinion of that distinguished Committee, the measure now proposed by Her Majesty's Government is singularly ill-adapted, to this House—is fraught with danger and inconvenience. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has made a minimizing speech, to induce us to believe that this is a measure which will be very seldom resorted to. But the eldest organizer in the House ventures to tell him that, if not frequently resorted to, it will be comparatively useless in forwarding the Business of the House. What is it, let me ask, that this House has suffered from? From constant interruptions, owing to the abuse of their Privileges, by small knots of Members. From the fact that small minorities—chiefly an Irish minority—in the endeavour to force extreme and ulterior measures upon the House, has from day to day persisted in obstructing the Business of the House. I venture then to say that the evidence is strong that unless the clôture is frequently applied it cannot meet the evil and inconvenience from which this House has been suffering for the last four or five years, as anyone may see who will take the trouble of examining the Proceedings of the House and Hansard's Debates. No man values more than I do the individual rights of independent Members. It has been my fate to be an independent Member for many years, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster ought to have some sympathy with me, for when I was Whipper-in to the Conservative or Protectionist Party, I was tried by a sort of court martial, with Lord Lyndhurst in the chair as President, and the late Lord Beaconsfield as my accuser, because I refused to "Whip" the House against Lord John Russell's Reform Bill of 1852. I expressed the opinion that when that noble Lord felt the necessity for proposing such a change that change was inevitable, and that the sooner it was made the better and more moderate it was likely to be. I have ventured to urge on the House that it must take cognizance of the conduct of individual Members and of small minorities, because, since the last Reform Act, the character of the House has greatly changed, and Obstruction has increased, in great measure owing, as I believe, to the rebellion in Ireland, for I can call it by no other name. There is your difficulty. You have no need to coerce large numbers; your difficulties have been created by small numbers; and upon the principle of the Common Law you should never punish large bodies when you can single out the principal offenders, and by making examples of them deter others who might be inclined to imitate their bad example. My belief is that if the Notice which stands in my name had been adopted in 1879, it is very probable that the hon. Member for the City of Cork and the other hon. Member who is in prison as a "suspect" would now be in their places in this House. But the House failed to check these hon. Members; the House placed no restriction upon their obstructive action, no restriction upon their disloyal attempts to incapacitate the House. Hence the present difficulty. I own that I have been disappointed in the conduct of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India. Evidence has been afforded in this House that the noble Marquess has urged upon his constituents the adoption of the clôture as a means of forcing on measures which he deems to be advantageous. The noble Marquess has been an advocate of the clôture from 1878, and before that. In 1880 I made the proposal which stands now in my name as a Notice upon the Order Book, and there was a great disposition on the part of the Conservative Members to adopt it. But what said the noble Marquess? Why, that he was astonished that any such proposal should ever be entertained. He said— It is the Government who are charged with guiding the course of Business, and of directing and controlling it in the House. It is the Government who are principally responsible for the conduct of that Business."—[3 Hansard, ccl. 1465.] There I agree with the noble Marquess. He then proceeded to say, with respect to the proposal of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, which in principle was the same as mine, though much feebler— But in the Resolution now before us, the House will observe that when the Speaker has named a Member, the matter is left to be decided by the majority of the House. Now, it appears to me that it is questionable whether there is any advantage whatever to be obtained from the proposed action of the House itself."—[Ibid. 1471–2.] The noble Marquess therefore proposed that your authority, Mr. Speaker, should be supreme without reference to the House—a position which no Speaker has ever occupied in this House. The noble Marquess further asked— Where, then, is the necessity for bringing in the action of the House at all?"—[Ibid. 1472.] Why, even Her Majesty's Ministers do not propose this at present. The noble Marquess continued— I cannot but think that something of dignity is taken away from the character of the proceeding by requesting a vote of the majority of the House, and not leaving it nominally, as well as practically, in the hands of the Speaker himself."—[Ibid.] The noble Marquess thus proposed that you, Sir, should constantly exercise the totally exceptional authority by which, on an occasion of a great emergency, you terminated a debate; while you, Sir, have emphatically declared that you felt that what you did on that occasion was an operation which ought never to be repeated. What further said the noble Marquess? What reason did the noble Marquess assign? He said— Because the Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means was the only person who could possibly, from the necessity of the case, be cognizant of all that had taken place; and if it is the intention of the Government to strengthen their hands, I think that it could be more effectually done by placing the necessary power in their hands, and not by"—let the House mark this expression—"not by delegating it to the majority of the House."—[Ibid. 1473.] I could not understand the noble Marquess in the Committee of 1878; but when he thus spoke in 1880, I understood him perfectly. Then the noble Marquess went on to say— I quite agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer "—the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon—"that you cannot at all defend the adoption of the clôture; in this House; but when considering this question the House will do well to remember that this is a proceeding to which in time you will be forced to come, and that it is a proceeding which would undoubtedly be efficient for the purpose for which it would be intended."—[Ibid. 1476–7.] Then, further on, he added— We ought to bear in mind that we have in reserve a simpler and more effectual means of proceeding"—that is, the clôture.—[Ibid.] These, unfortunately, now seem to be the opinions entertained by the Government. They propose to place this House and its Business under an extraneous authority, for the authority of the Speaker, if it be sole and distinct from the action of the House, is extraneous to the House. I hope, Sir, that the House will excuse my having quoted so largely; but I should state that speech of the noble Marquess from which I have quoted was delivered in this House on the 26th of February, 1880, and that on the following day it was answered by the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Government. On the 27th of February, in the adjourned debate, the right hon. Gentleman said— Reference has been made to the practice abroad of what is termed the clôture; but let us observe and bear in mind that, whatever the clôture may be as a means of saving the time of a deliberative Assembly, it is, I think—and so, I presume, Her Majesty's Government (the Government of Lord Beaconsfield) have thought—inapplicable to the present discussion, because, as a penal measure, it would surely be altogether inappropriate. The clôture is not the stoppage of a particular Member who is supposed to have offended; it is the stoppage of the debate; and, therefore, to bring in the clôture for the purposes which this Resolution contemplates would be simply to enact that the House would punish itself, and the great interests with which it is charged, in consequence of the offence of a particular Member."—[3 Hansard, ccl. 1593.] I cannot state the objections to the clôture in stronger or more eloquent terms than these, and I cannot conceive what the circumstances are, or what the pressure is, which has induced the Prime Minister to turn straight round on his deliberate opinion so clearly expressed only two years ago. I am afraid that we have an agency in the Government which is of a very arbitrary character—that we have a Caucus in the Government itself. I believe, Sir, that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who is known in the town of Birmingham for a rather arbitrary disposition, though his great talents are acknowledged, has been the introducer not only of the Caucus, but of this proposal of the clôture. We know that right hon. Gentleman in Birmingham, and I will give the House a proof of what we think of him. At the last Election, what were the numbers polled for the three hon. Members for Birmingham? For the senior Member (Mr. Muntz) there were polled 22,969 votes; and for the President of the Board of Trade 19,544 votes, or 3,425 less than for the senior Member; whilst for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster there were polled 22,079 votes, or 2,535 more than for his right hon. Colleague the President of the Board of Trade. That, I think, is strong inferential proof of opinion in Birmingham. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade is very democratic, but, at the same time, very arbitrary—two characteristics which, though apparently inconsistent with each other, are often combined, as is well known to everyone who, like myself, has visited the United States; and it is my belief that this clôture, which in the year 1848 was condemned by the distinguished Committee to which I have referred—the only Committee who ever considered the question fully—is, as that Committee declared, inapplicable to this House and will be dangerous if adopted. These, then, are the grounds of my opposition to the Resolution now before us. I consider that at present a direct attack is being made upon Parliamentary government. This House has in this Session been induced to attack the House of Lords for exercising its undoubted Privileges and performing its assigned duty; and now there is proposed to this House a measure that is not calculated to meet the difficulties which were proved before the Committee of 1878, but that is calculated to enable a majority arbitrarily to silence a minority. Again I say that if this measure—the clôture—be not used frequently it will be practically useless; while, if it be used frequently, it will change to the verge of destruction, if not actually destroy, the noble character which this House has borne for centuries as the greatest example of Representative Institutions among the nations of the world. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has told us that we are alarmists. If I am an alarmist I am not satisfied, as he knows, with merely expressing my alarm; and I am confident if you pass this measure, which I believe to be inconsistent with the character of the House of Commons, you may expect that those who have been the quiet Members of the House and quiet members of society will make their voices heard when they find that you no longer respect the characteristics of this House, which they believe to afford, at least, some of the surest foundations of their freedom.


said, it was not his original intention to take any part in the debate; but he wished, with the permission of the House, to say a few words in reply to some statements made by opponents of the Prime Minister's Resolution. But, first of all, a word with respect to the phraseology of the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott), which reminded him of the old joke in Whately's Logic—"No food is better than potatoes," which was capable of two distinct meanings. One meaning was that they had better go without food than eat potatoes, and the other that no species of food could excel potatoes. The Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Brighton said— No Rules of Procedure will be satisfactory to this House which confer the power of closing a Debate upon a majority of Members. Now the hon. and learned Member wished them to understand that the clôture ought not to be enforced by a simple majority; but the form of his Amendment would justify an inference that no majority, however large, should have power to close debate. If, then, they voted for this Amend- ment as it stood, and still contended that they were in favour of some kind of clôture, then, logically, they must be in favour of the clôture with a vengeance, for as they said that the clôture ought to he established, and that the majority ought to have no power to enforce it, then it was obvious that the power to close a debate must be vested in the hands of some minority, a reduction ad absurdum which, moreover, many of the arguments against the proposal of the Government tended to establish. It seemed to him that the Amendmeut was in substance identical with a claim for that liberum veto by which it was formerly in the power of one individual in the Polish Assembly to arrest even the most necessary legislation. They had seen that the result of that right in the Polish Assembly had been the ultimate ruin of the country. Many of those hostile to the proposals of the Government were so because they dreaded the possibility of an abuse and a finally acquired power in the direction of rash legislation. For his part, he admitted the desirability of the utmost deliberation when great political questions were before the House, the very difficulty which might seem to stop the way being, in fact, the most important element in securing full justice to every shade of opinion. There was all the difference in the world between slow legislation and no legislation. Look at the numerous important qnestions which were pressing for solution—agriculture, the relations between capital and labour, Bankruptcy Laws, and a whole host of others which had long loudly cried for the interference of the Legislature. Some day the patience of the country would become exhausted, and a sudden and imperative demand would be made upon Parliament to pass a number of measures dealing with subjects of extreme delicacy and requiring the most serious and calm deliberation. Some means were, therefore, absolutely necessary to enable the House to get through the Business before it. But it was argued that the result of establishing the clôture would be that unpopular men would not be heard, and unpopular Parties and sections practically deprived of deliberative voice. He really thought that on this point they must appeal to experience. How had the clôture worked elsewhere? In Germany it was not even suggested that there had been any attempt to abuse clôture by shutting the mouths of unpopular men. [Mr. O'Donnell: On the Socialist laws.] He was present during the debate, and there was no attempt to shut their mouths. In Prance he was not aware that it had been exercised in any matter of first-rate importance. They had heard something of the opinions of M. Guizot; but he must say that the hon. Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) had been somewhat unfair in his reference to that politician. The testimony of M. Guizot really amounted to this—that during his long life he did not remember one instance of the abuse of the clôture. If they were of opinion that a change was necessary in their Forms of Procedure, they should make a change adequate to the occasion. Nothing could be more dangerous to their credit than to take feeble and ineffectual steps to amend their Rules. From the very infancy of political discussion some restraint had been put upon loquacity. The stroke of the clock warned the most eloquent Professor that he must bring his lecture to a close. In a Church Congress the inexorable bell of the President forced the most loquacious orator to resume his seat. The House was not asked to do anything so despotic as that. As the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Thorold Rogers) pointed out, it was only asked to revive in a mild form some of the ancient Rules of Parliament; and he ventured to think that no impartial person could object on the ground of its real interference with the liberty of discussion. As to the far-reaching impression which this division would create, he might observe that all over Europe some of the keenest intellects had for some time been engaged in criticizing Parliamentary institutions. The result of this examination was anything but favourable, and the enemies of Parliamentary government had found ample material in the proceedings of that House to point to it with many a telling sarcasm. In days not far distant the friends of liberty were able to boast that the British House of Commons showed the possibility of reconciling perfect freedom of speech with obedience to the law; but recent proceedings in the House had been used to illustrate the practical failure of Parliamentary institutions. If, then, they were able by increased efforts to redeem their former honour and restore themselves in the good opinion of the nation once more, they should be doing a service, not only to their own country, but to all elective Assemblies, which, with one or two exceptions, were everywhere in the civilized world children of the famous and ancient Parliament of England.


said, he felt bound to complain of the unprovoked attack that had been made upon many Members on his side of the House by the speech of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that evening, though a remarkable one, would not rank amongst his highest and happiest efforts—not from any deficiency on his part, but from the difficulty in which he found himself in successfully defending a course like that proposed in the 1st Resolution. The right hon. Gentleman had twitted the Conservative Party with not supporting the Resolution, because they did not seem to expect to again sit on the Government side of the House; but they were happy to be able to disclaim, in spirit and word, the desire for Office. They preferred to adhere to the great principles of the Constitution, to the liberty of Parliament and of the English people, rather than to court any possible advantage which might accrue to them, or any Party whatever, by a change of places in the House. As to the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaugh-nessy), he forgot, when he taunted the Tory Party with a desire to overwhelm small minorities, that the Rules to which he took exception were to be found among the Government proposals. He contended this 1st Rule would not put down Obstruction. It would not put an end to Obstruction as it had been understood in previous Sessions; and the greatest Parliamentary authorities of the past had considered, and had left it as their deliberate judgment, that such a measure would not put down Obstruction. The Tory Party were most anxious to put down Obstruction; but this proposal would put an end to discussion and debate on great and important questions when it was convenient for a Minister, or the Government of the day, to do it. It would not put an end to, but would refine Obstruction. It would drive men into be- coming Obstructives who had never been Obstructives before. The late Government had experience of Obstruction far greater and more prolonged than any which the present Government had to contend with. The remarkable feature about this scheme was that among those who were the greatest advocates of the cläture were men on the Front Bench opposite, who were Obstructives in the last Parliament. It was said the Tory Party taunted the Government with failure to carry their measures, owing to Obstruction. He was not prepared to answer for every Member of the Tory Party; but he could not recollect a single instance where the Government was taunted with failure of legislation owing to Obstruction. He admitted, however, that there had been charges against the Government that, owing to their mistakes' and blunders in Ireland, they had wasted the time of the House over coercive measures for that country. As to the experience of the clôture abroad, in France, where the form of clôture most resembled the present proposal, large majorities were systematically and tyrannously kept down by its operation, and every Party in that country had in turn protested against the hardships under which they suffered by reason of its constant application. Only recently, on an important occasion, it was applied after one speech had been made by the Opposition. He was of opinion that the clôture would be used for Party purposes in critical times. Had it existed it would have been put into operation during the recent debates on the proposed Vote of Censure on the House of Lords, in order to prevent the exposure of the conduct of the Government in connection with the Land Act. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that the freedom of the Press and the right of public meetings were the great securities for the liberties of the people. But how long did the right hon. Gentleman suppose that these rights would exist after the destruction of the freedom of the Representatives of the people? It was a significant fact that in most of the countries in which the clôture existed there was neither freedom of the Press nor freedom of speech out-of-doors. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the fairness and sincerity of the occupants of the Chair. For his part, he looked forward with dread to a possible time when the Government of the day would secure the election of a Speaker who would put the clôture into operation whenever the Government should wish it. He regarded the expression of regret by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that the measure was not more severe as an indication of the increasing tendency on the part of the Radicals to introduce measures which were in the direction of despotism pure and simple. The Resolution, if not an arithmetical puzzle, was full of inequalities, and under its operation he predicted that the rights of minorities would be invaded. Was it not notorious that the opinions of a majority of the House were opposed to this Resolution? It was perfectly notorious that if it were not for the exterior pressure, for the pressure exercised by what was known as the Caucus, from the fear of Dissolution, that over 100 hon. Members on the Liberal Benches would join the Opposition.["No, no!"] If this measure had been proposed from the Conservative Benches, he did not believe that 10 of them would have voted for it. In the speech which the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington) had made in support of the Government Resolution he had been attacked personally, the noble Marquess having, by implication, charged him with Obstruction. He now challenged the noble Marquess to bring forward one single act of his which bore, directly or indirectly, the character of Obstruction. ["Oh!"] He did not know from whom the word proceeded—


asked the hon. Member to address himself to the Chair.


said, that be challenged that hon. Member to produce any single instance in which he bad, either directly or indirectly, done anything to obstruct the Business of the House. He had never moved the adjournment of a debate, and he had never spoken repeatedly on any occasion. Once or twice he had endeavoured to bring before the House questions of Imperial interest, inadequately, he admitted; but he was a Member of the House, and claimed a Member's rights. He had as yet proposed no special Motion during this Session. For the noble Marquess to allege, in support of the clôture, his references to the advance of the Russians in Central Asia was unusual and discourteous. It was true that his attendance in the House had, perhaps, been more regular than that of the noble Lord, and it was also true that he had not yet had an opportunity of becoming a Minister of the Crown, and of showing himself, in that position, unable to give the House news which was less than six months old. Neither had he lent a great name and position to furthering the ignoble projects of the politicians of Birmingham. What was the cause of this extraordinary Resolution being brought before the House? It was, in the first place, because the Government were discredited throughout the country, and they relied upon this clôture proposal as affording them a cry with which to go to the country in the event of their being forced into a General Election. They were discredited in the country because of their conspicuous administrative failure, of their failure to maintain law and order at home, and to maintain the position of this great country abroad, and of their failure to carry out their legislative promises to the country. It was because he considered that it would be powerless to prevent Obstruction, that it would be fatal to freedom of debate—the most ancient and cherished privilege of Members of that House, by which alone the rights of the English people could be maintained—and that it would be destructive to the liberties and the privileges of the people themselves, that he should record his vote against this most pernicious measure.


said, he thought the House would not consider it unreasonable that hon. Members from Ireland, sitting on the Government side of the House, should desire to take part in this debate; and still less unreasonable would they consider it if they were aware of the unconstitutional pressure put upon them with the view of causing them to desert their duty, and prove unworthy of the trust that had been reposed in them. He did not deny that this was a difficult and complicated subject; and in considering any difficult and complicated subject the proper course was to endeavour to arrive at the principle which underlay it. What, then, was the principle which underlay this proposal? It was this—that the time of the House of Commons belonged to the people. It was the property of the people of England, Ireland, and Scotland, and, in some measure, of the people of the Colonies, and of the Dependencies of the Crown. It was not the property of the House of Commons in any other sense than that the House of Commons was the trustee for all Her Majesty's subjects. For what purpose was that time given to them? It was for the purpose of alleviating the burdens of the people and making good and reforming bad laws. If, therefore, they did not mate good use of this time they were doing wrong to those who sent them there. Now, he thought everyone would admit that the Procedure of that House might be improved. He should not, therefore, enter upon that question. The question he desired to deal with was much more serious. He desired to ask, were they deliberately wasting the time of the House? If they did waste that time they were worse than fraudulent trustees who wasted property or money committed to their care. Property or money could be restored; but time lost to the legislation of the country was gone for ever.

He deliberately said, then, that there was a number of individuals calling themselves a Party whose object in that House was to waste the time of Parliament, to make legislation impossible, and to cast a slur upon all their ancient institutions. That was a serious accusation to make, and he would not have made it were he not in a position to prove every word he said; and if the House would give him its attention for a few minutes he would endeavour to do so. To do this he asked the House to go back some years. In 1868 the present Head of the Government moved his Resolution with reference to the Disestablishment of the Irish Church. The Tory Ministry was defeated, and a General Election followed. It turned almost entirely upon questions relating to Ireland. It was an expression of the determination of the English people to put an end to the feud between England and Ireland, and, by redressing the grievances of the Irish people, to make both countries one harmonious nation. In 1869 the Protestant Church of Ireland was disestablished and disendowed. In 1870 they had the Land Bill. In 1871 and 1872 they had the Ballot Bill, an Act of far more importance to Ireland than to any other part of Her Majesty's Dominions. 1873 brought the Irish Uni- versity Bill, which failed to get the acquiescence of Parliament. But what was passing in Ireland all this time? They had had the Fenian insurrection, which, if not entirely put down, was left unable to rear its formidable head; and the events of that time had greatly depressed the spirits of the people. With the view of remedying this state of things, in 1870 a few gentlemen met together in Dublin. They were, in a great measure, Conservatives—they were not those who usually took part in politics. They desired to see if it were not possible to raise the tone of the Irish people, and to obtain for them the measures they thought just. The Home Government Association was, therefore, formed. The General Election took place, and Mr. Butt was returned to Parliament as the Leader of the Party known as the Party of moderation and conciliation. In 1873 there took place a National Conference in Ireland, and it inaugurated a policy which was devised by Mr. Butt. That policy was based upon the belief that Parliament was desirous to do justice to the Irish people, but that it did not know what measures were requisite. Mr. Butt, who was above all a Constitutionalist, explained to his followers that the Irish Members ought to prepare all those Bills which they would wish the Cabinet to carry into law. Accordingly they did so. He himself belonged to that Party. They produced "University Bills and Bills to amend the Parliamentary and municipal franchise. They pressed a series of measures upon the House; but one sentiment actuating them all was this—that it was their duty to conciliate English opinion, and to make the English people do Ireland justice by making them feel that justice was with the Irish demands. In 1875,however, Mr. Parnell was elected for Meath. For about one Session afterwards things went on tolerably quietly; then those who were in the House at the time would recollect that the system of Obstruction sprang up. That system of Obstruction was carried on with the avowed object of bringing Parliament into contempt, and preventing that Representative Institution, the House of Commons, from legislating. The House would not forget the first opportunity that presented itself of absolute and wearisome Obstruction. It was when the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) introduced a small cart- load of Blue Books, and, for four consecutive hours, read extracts from these books in a voice inaudible and inarticulate, compelling the Speaker to remain in the Chair listening. That conduct gave great umbrage to Mr. Butt, to whose Party the hon. Member for cavan then professed to belong; and when this Obstruction went a little further, Mr. Butt, on March 29th, 1879, addressed to the hon. Member for Cavan a letter, from which he was anxious to read an extract— The impression, rightly or wrongly, is that you and Mr. Parnell are actuated by a desire to obstruct the progress of Business, either from the wish to embarrass the Government, or, as is more generally thought, from the motive of putting the House to all the inconvenience in your power. No harder task was ever imposed on man, than that of trying to win respect and influence for the Irish Party in the House of Commons—a policy which I myself devised and placed before the country. He added that he had not time to write a similar letter to the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell), and asked the hon. Member for Cavan to show him this one.

Obstruction grew from day to day. Now, the great difference between Obstruction which was legitimate and the Obstruction which was resorted to by certain of the Irish Party was easily seen. Occasional Obstruction to great measures was a permissible thing in the House; but Obstruction on every occasion upon measures great and small, carried on for the purpose of Obstruction and delay, was unconstitutional, and rebellious against that House. That was the doctrine of Mr. Butt, and it was a true doctrine, Accordingly, on the 21st of April, Mr. Butt wrote to the hon. Member for Meath— Alienation of our English friends is not the only or the worst result that will follow from an unnecessary delay in the progress of Public Business. There is no Party so interested in the expedition and discharge of the Business of the House as the Irish Party. Believe me, that every hour during which we prevent the discussion of an English measure will be set down to the account of Ireland, and set down, in all probability, fourfold. The policy of Obstruction must alienate our truest and best English friends. It will expose us to the taunt of being unable to administer even the forms of our representative government, and end in discrediting and damaging every movement we make. But, if I urge these grounds of prudence, I am not insensible to that which is higher than all prudence—the duty of maintaining before the civilized world the dignity of the Irish nation and the Irish cause. That will only be done while we respect ourselves and our duties to the Assembly of which we are Members, an Assembly to degrade which is to strike a blow at representative institutions all over the world, a blow which will recoil with terrible severity on the very claims we make for our own country, but which, whatever may be its effects, would be unworthy of ourselves and of our cause. He (Mr. Mitchell Henry) thought the House would regard these published letters as worth reading at this time. But, of course, there was a Party in Ireland captivated with this new policy of Obstruction, and Mr. Butt had to deal with it. He accordingly wrote a letter to the Rev. Joseph Murphy, who was strongly inclined to support the new policy, in which he said— If once this policy of Obstruction be entered upon it will be impossible to carry anything in Parliament by discussion or debate. It is the abandonment of Constitutional and the adoption of unconstitutional action in its stead. Now, perhaps hon. Members recognized some connection between the unconstitutional action in that House and the unconstitutional "no rent" policy pursued out-of-doors. He saw a close connection. Mr. Butt went on— To what will it lead f No one will say that a perpetual obstruction of all Business is to be the perpetual condition of the British Parliament—Parliament must put down Obstruction, or Obstruction will put down Parliament. There is no rule that Parliament would not adopt, no Statute which it would not pass, rather than yield to the dictation of a few men who attempted to use the Forms of the House to destroy it. He concluded with this noble passage— I have learned to feel some pride in a seat in Parliament, and to set some value upon political influence and power; but, were these put before me, I would forfeit them for ever rather than betray my duty to my country—rather than resort to an unconstitutional course of conduct. I know it can have finally only this result—to bring to the cause of Ireland nothing but disaster and disgrace. Shortly after this, in 1878, Mr. Butt resigned the Leadership of the Party, and in 1879 he died a broken-hearted man. All that he had now said explained the reason of the difference which existed between Irish Members sitting on the Government Benches and Irishmen sitting on the Benches opposite. He would pursue this subject no further, except to say that, previous to the General Election of 1880, he published letters to his con- stituents and spoke frequently against the policy of Obstruction. Twice he met the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) on political platforms, and twice, to the best of his ability, opposed his policy. No one, therefore, could now say that he was guilty of unfaithfulness to the trust of his constituents. He had been sent there, in fact, as an opponent of Obstruction, and as a supporter of Mr. Butt's policy of conciliation. As such, he had always spoken in that House, and as such he would continue to speak so long as he held his seat. He had shown, on the other hand, that the policy of hon. Gentlemen from Ireland sitting opposite was a new policy, which was not endorsed by the people of Ireland.

He now desired to say a few words with regard to the clôture. He had been always in favour of a reasonable and proper measure of clôture. Four years ago, in the Irish journals, he prophesied to hon. Members when they were entering upon this policy what it would lead to. Hon. Members opposite, whom he wished he could call his Friends, were ready to join the Conservative Party in opposing this measure. Did hon. Members from Ireland think the object of the Conservative Party was to protect them? No thing of the kind. The Conservatives would be quite ready to support any measure for putting down hon. Members opposite. In fact, the Conservatives did not want any more than a simple majority in order to apply their favourite measure of putting down hon. Members one after another by the action of a penal Rule. It was absurd, therefore, for hon. Gentlemen opposite to expect to gain anything from a coalition with that Party. A great deal also had been said about an arithmetical puzzle; but the two ends of the scale of this clôture were devised for two different purposes. Would anyone say that a division in that House of upwards of 400 Members was not an adequate representation of the opinion of the House? What was debate for? It was useful only to inform the mind of the House; and if, when they came to divide, a representation of 400 Members or upwards was not enough to decide any question whatever by a simple majority, he should like to know how Business was to be carried on? A jury addressed by counsel, after hearing witnesses, constantly told the Judge that they had heard enough and wished to come to a decision; but hon. Members were not content to allow the House of Commons, when they were actually saturated with speeches, and unable to attend to or take in any more, to come to a decision. They objected to Mr. Speaker knowing the mind of the House from what he saw and from what was communicated to him, stating that he believed the House desired to divide and that the clôture should be put in operation. Hon. Members said it was a great hardship that a majority of 1 should settle whether they had heard enough; but they were quite content that the same majority of 1 should immediately after, in the same House, constituted in the same manner, settle all such questions as peace and war, or the fate of a Ministry. Then, with regard to the other end of the scale, what was the object of it? The object of it was to protect the minority. One hundred Members must be in the House, and the clôture could not be proposed unless 100 Members voted for it. Well, suppose, in that instance, they were to have a two-thirds or a three-fourths majority, what would be the effect? It would simply diminish the sense of responsibility which must rest with the occupant of the Chair, who would always remember that he had the protection of the minority in his trust. He believed that the duty of the Members of that House was exactly the same, whether they were from England, Scotland, or Ireland. They were Members not only for Ireland, but for an Imperial Empire. Probably they might eventually legislate for Irish subjects out of that House, but they must legislate for Imperial subjects in that House; and if they proposed, by action of theirs, to exercise an organized system of Obstruction towards the House of Commons, they were unfaithful to their trust. As Members of an Imperial Parliament, the Members, wherever they came from, had one common duty, and that was to preserve to the people of this country the priceless inheritance of a free Parliament—of a Parliament for which generations of men had laboured and fought and died—of a Parliament free to act as well as to speak, and which would not allow itself to be mocked with that counterfeit of freedom, the licence of a small minority. To preserve this precious inherit- ance Parliament had suffered much, and had still much to suffer; and they, its Members, must suffer with it. They must take part in labours which for the time seemed fruitless, and endure tediousness that impaired their physical strength and disturbed their minds; but over all these things Parliament would triumph, and they should triumph with it— So sinks the day-star in the ocean bed, And yet anon repairs his drooping head, And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled ore Flames in the forehead of the morning sky.


said, he should not trouble the House with any remarks upon the poetical peroration of the hon. Member for Gal way. The question with which they had to deal was one merely of a practical character, and he believed they could effectually deal with it in prose. What was called the unapproachable gravity of the occasion was now before them. It was doubted in some quarters a few days ago; but incidents which had lately come to light proved that in the mind of the Government, as well as in their minds, the occasion was one of unapproachable gravity. He had been accused of causing offence and uttering insult, because he had intimated his belief that the tactical arrangements of the Government rendered it convenient for them to imprison the votes of three Members of that House. But was he not in a large measure justified, when he found that the Government had suddenly broken off a delicate and confidential mission to bring one vote from the Tiber to the Thames? It was as unpleasant to him as to any Member of that House to cause offence or give insult to anyone; but when public duty required him to express his convictions, he cared not what the result might be, and though the conclusion he drew might be offensive, mature consideration convinced him that it was the true conclusion. An attempt had been made to make it appear that the people of Ireland felt little interest in the question then before the House. He called the attention of the House to the fact that it was too familiar to them that every avenue for the free expression of Constitutional opinion had been closed in Ireland, that the leaders of the people, the clergy of the people, and some of the bravest and best of the women of Ireland were pining in gaol. Such a moment was not the moment when it could be expected that the people of Ireland would dare not merely the civil, but the military power of this great Empire in the expression of their public feeling. What a story the Irish journals told them to-day of attempts made by the electors of Ireland—by those electors whose rights were sacred as those of electors in this country—of attempts made by them to meet together and instruct and suggest to their Representatives what course they ought to take, and in these attempts terrorized and prevented by those outsiders in Ireland who represented the territorial interest, and by those military and those police whose pay they in the House were expected to vote with silence and with tame assent. It was impossible at such a moment for the electors of Ireland to give expression to their feelings. They could, however, do so indirectly by making a recently liberated "suspect "Chairman of a Board of Guardians in place of a Lord who had held the position for 20 years. Those were the protests which the people made against the Algerian, and worse than Algerian, hold on the country which was maintained by this country. He was proud to say that the Irish journals left no doubt of the opinions of the Irish people upon this question. In despite of their military and police, meetings had been held, and wherever they had been held one voice had gone forth, and that voice had said that any attempt to silence or to restrict the Irish Representatives in that House should meet with the condemnation of the Irish people, and that any man who was accessory to the success of that attempt should meet with their hatred and their contempt. That evening had snowed telegraphic messages from the Lobby of the House of Commons. He and his hon. Friends about him had received telegrams beyond number, informing them of letters, of messages, and of memorials addressed to Irish Members who sat on the Government side of the House, praying them to have no hand in this ignoble and base attempt to silence the Representatives of their people. A Petition had reached him which the Forms of the House would not allow him to present, which was signed in a few hours by 1,400 electors of the City of Dublin, praying those Irish Members who sat on Government Benches on that occasion to vote for the Irish people. He passed from this part of the subject by saying that in spite of the extraordinary difficulties, in spite of the most complicated and most universal terrorism prevailing over the face of Ireland, the Irish people had left no doubt of the feelings with which they regarded these attempts of the present Government. The interposition in that debate of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, coupled, as it had been, with the equally significant silence of his right hon. Colleague the President of the Board of Trade, was an episode too singular to escape attention. It was not often even in that House of late that they had been favoured with the right hon. Gentleman's eloquence. It was certainly strange that one whose tongue for 40 years had moved as freely, as actively, and with as little moral constraint, derived from consideration for the feelings of others as that of any man in the House of Commons or in England—that he should appear that night as the advocate of a measure which proposed to deprive his fellow-Members of even the right to brief and moderate speech. He repeated that the right hon. Gentleman had never been distinguished in his public speeches for either brevity or moderation. And it was he who now proposed to deprive his fellow-Members of the right to even brief and moderate speech. For, if the clôture were ever in operation, as he had no doubt it would be, when once the majority had declared their will, although some men might have spoken with neither brevity nor moderation, every man afterwards would be shut out from doing so, however brief or moderate might be the remarks he proposed to address to the House. He could, to some extent, understand the attitude assumed by the right hon. Gentleman. Men hated to be confronted with their cast-off principles. It was from the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman that proceeded the terse and pregnant maxim that "force is no remedy." Force had been proved to be no remedy. And he and his friends, who knew well the evil to which that maxim had reference—who knew that it would prove to be the grave of a reputation, the moral ruin of a great Party and its disastrous failure—they knew, then, that force would be no remedy. But the right hon. Gentleman apprehended that Irish Members in that House would come from time to time to accumulate proofs in that House of the truth of his own principles, would endeavour to prove to him and to the House that force was no remedy. The ease and dignity of the Treasury Bench had had such an effect upon that man of a fiery tongue who wielded the fierce passions of a democracy that he did not wish any longer to be confronted with his own principles raised in protestation against him. The right hon. Gentleman did not wish to hear those things; he wished to buy oblivion—to live alone like the lotus-eaters described by the Laureate, and to forget his past. After the speech which they had heard that night—a speech full of sad recollections of moral retrogression as well as of intellectual decay; after that speech he would have a cruel heart who could wish the right hon. Gentleman a heavier punishment than he would endure in those still hours of reflection and retrospection which occurred in the life of every man, and when he would remember that he had been the mouthpiece of a coercive Ministry after the greatness and magnificence of his past career. The right hon. Gentleman, before he ever saw him, before he thought that anybody would see him in the cruel position which he occupied that night, employed in one of his addresses, with great force and dignity, an illustration from the Scriptures. The right hon. Gentleman on that occasion, referring to some offers of office and dignity which had been made to him, reminded his audience of the story of the Shunamite woman. He said that when a person asked the Shunamite woman, who had done some public service worthy of reward—" Shall I speak for thee to the King, or to the Captain of the Host?" the Shunamite woman replied—"No; I will dwell among my own people." Since then the right hon. Gentleman had reconsidered the subject. His view of the Shunamite woman had changed since that earlier day, and the position in which they found him to-night was that the Shunamite woman had come under the influence of the Captain of the Host. He did not know whether it was the right hon. Gentleman who once compared the Ministers of this country to a row of extinct volcanoes. [Cries of "No!"] The remark, he was now told, was made by a deceased statesman, and it might be most fitly applied to the men now occupying the Treasury Bench. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was the most complete extinct volcano at present existing in the world. Formerly his eruptions were full of violence and splendour; but what remained now of the democratic volcano of England? Nothing more than the empty void and the cold crust that once was living fire. The observations of the right hon. Gentleman, indirect and remote from the subject, could not be dignified with the name of argument. With what propriety and reason did the right hon. Gentleman compare the practice of public meetings with the Procedure of this supreme deliberative Assembly? Public meetings were not deliberative assemblies, and did not affect, except in rare cases, public opinion beyond their own vicinity. Moreover, they were generally held by persons of one particular opinion for the purpose of registering a decree. Moreover, when a speaker became unpleasant at a public meeting, the way to silence him was by clamour. The right hon. Gentleman ventured somewhat rashly into the arithmetic of this question; but he might much better have left the "stern and unbending lines of arithmetic" to the care of the Prime Minister himself, who was known to be a master in that department. His rashness in dealing with the arithmetical aspect of the case appeared in the remarkable omissions which occurred. In his argument he dealt pretty exhaustively with the case of minorities, and he endeavoured to show that small minorities would have the intellectual delight of being overborne by majorities much larger than themselves; but for a right hon. Gentleman of so frank and so unreserved a career, it was singular, to say the least of it, that he paused at the point where minorities become large, and he shrunk from giving his opinion of the moral or material worth of a majority of, say, 201 overpowering a minority of 200. He came now to consider the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to Members from Ireland. He had noticed that it was ever poli- ticians of fastidious lives who hurled extreme charges against other men. He might search the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman, and look, for instance, at that famous passage about the British Lion, in which the right hon. Gentleman expressed a wish that the beast or the brute were dead. If he were to look at that and at other passages of fierce, he would not say of coarse, invective with which the right hon. Gentleman had often assailed his fellow-subjects of the Crown, and, perhaps, virtually even the Crown itself, he should find as many passages as seriously open to rebuke, and even to denunciation, as any which could be found in speeches spoken by Members on that side of the House. What was the characteristic argument by which the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to politically defile the Irish Party? Was it for any language spoken by them in that House, or for any article in their political policy, or for any manifesto, document, or speech issued by any meeting of the Party, or any Member of the Party, in the Dominions of the Queen? The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the Oath of Allegiance. It was a dramatic touch on which the right hon. Gentleman, a great master of dramatic touches, relied to awaken the passions of those around him. But they never swore allegiance to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, or to the Government of which he was a Member. They swore allegiance to the Sovereign of this country. [Ironical cheers from the Ministerial side.] That cheer was ungenerous, if not unmeaning, considering the quarter from which it came. They had pursued objects and sought for purposes compatible and consistent with the Oath of Allegiance; and they defied the Chancellor of the Duchy and the Prime Minister to find in the action of their Party, as a whole, or in the action of individuals, any declarations or acts incompatible or inconsistent with that Oath. The right hon. Gentleman's rhetorical reference to the Oath of Allegiance was not a thing of very pregnant meaning. He (Mr. Sexton) had his own understanding, as every man had, of the Oath of Allegiance. He did not concur with the views of Paley, their great English writer, who, after six elaborate essays, by which he endeavoured to prove the meaning and the force of the Oath of Allegiance, left it in a much foggier condition than he found it. The meaning of the Oath of Allegiance was not open to considerable doubt; and he maintained that for any purposes which they had avowed, as for any objects which they had sought, the scope for free action, the scope for free expression, and the scope for public effort left to them by the Oath of Allegiance was quite sufficient for them for all their purposes. What was the argument by which the right hon. Gentleman desired, at this critical moment, to cast discredit on the Party to which he (Mr. Sexton) had the honour to belong? Two hon. Gentlemen—the Member for the borough of Wexford (Mr. Healy) and the Member for the borough of Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor)—happened to be in America on a political mission—a mission of life and death to their people, who were being evicted and subjected to the worst influences of despair, and who were thrown into a condition of actual starvation, at a time when the landlords of Ireland, with the tacit encouragement of the Government, were allowed to persevere in acts of tyranny and cruelty. The right hon. Gentleman and the House knew full well that the mass of the Irishmen who had gone from Ireland to the various countries of the world had taken with them a burning and a bitter hatred of the Government of England. [Mr. ARCHDALE: As many Protestants went as Roman Catholics.] He (Mr. Sexton) feared the hon. Member's arithmetic was not accurate; but, at all events, he seemed to be unaware of the fact that the Protestants evicted from Ulster in the last century were some of the sturdiest and stoutest soldiers who fought on the American side in the War of Independence, which wrested the brightest jewel from the British Crown. The men who met at Chicago were the men, or the sons of men, who had been turned out of their humble homes in Ireland by virtue of tyrannical Land Laws, which no one had condemned with more eloquence than the right hon. Gentleman himself. They saw their rooftrees torn down by the crowbar, they saw the fires put out upon their fathers' hearths, they had to rend the dearest ties of men's affections, they left the shores of Ireland with eyes blinded by tears, and they went to a foreign land with bitter hatred in their hearts to that tyrannical system which caused their ex- patriation; and he challenged any Member of the House to deny that it was the dearest hope of that great mass of Irishmen, wherever they were situated in this wide world, to free the people of Ireland from at least the existing system of British rule—that system which corroded the national life of Ireland, and which took out of the hands of the people of Ireland their own national resources. The hon. Members for Wexford and Galway found themselves in America, and what were they to do? Were they, in order to gratify the new found fastidiousness of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, which they, not being prophets, could not have anticipated—were they to keep away from this assembly of their countrymen—were they to isolate themselves from their own kith and, kin and, in the midst of the great mass of patriotic and high-minded Irishmen on the American Continent, to proclaim themselves not Irishmen, but Englishmen? They attended the Convention as spectators. They did not speak. The Government had endeavoured to mix up the matter of the Convention with other matters. They attended the Convention; and because they did not make themselves the mouthpieces of the Birmingham school, or some other school of English politics; because they were true to the traditions of Irish history and true to the political gospel of the Irish race, the right hon. Gentleman arraigned them in that House as traitors to the Crown. They had a perfect right to attend as spectators. If he (Mr. Sexton) had been in America he should have considered it his first duty to have been at that gathering. [Cries of "Oh!" from the Ministerial Benches and Irish cheers.] Not because he should regard himself bound by the proceedings of that Convention, not because he should consider the Irish people at home bound by any extreme action which in other countries and under other circumstances might be taken by the Irish race; but because he should deem it his first duty, as one concerned in fighting the cause of the Irish people, to attend that great representative gathering of Irishmen in America, to learn from them directly, with his own ears, the feelings of the Irish race in America. No politician interested in the future of Irish affairs should be without that important information; and, therefore, he held that his hon. Friends attending that meeting were availing themselves of an educational agency of the greatest value. More significance than that he refused to give to the incident, and he could not help saying that the use made of it by the right hon. Gentleman was unworthy of him, and unworthy of any Minister; and least of all should it have proceeded from a Minister who, in his speeches and in his life, had certainly gone to the utmost possible limits allowed to an English agitator. The question before the House was—["Hear, hear!"]—if he had departed from the question it was because the right hon. Gentleman had persisted in taking him from Westminster to America—the question before the House concerned, primarily and chiefly, the two great English Parties. ["No, no!"] He spoke with the most unequivocal frankness. He did not think it greatly concerned the Irish Party, which had in the House up to that time, whatever might be thought by others, touched only the fringe of Parliamentary activity. The proceedings of the Legislature were so complicated, and in its capacity for business it so far transcended the power of any other Legislative Assembly, that, no matter what Rules might be devised—clôture or no clôture—it would be impossible for it, looking at the vast ambit of its Business, and considering the infinite variety of the Business it had to manage, to prevent any Member of it, possessing the spirit of a man, from making their activity permeate—permanently permeate—every department of the Legislature. He was not an Englishman, neither was he a Representative of an English constituency; but the House would allow him for the moment to take the part of an English spectator, and tell them, with as much impartiality as they would give him credit for, what he thought the effect of the clôture would be upon the future of that Assembly. As an Irishman he felt that the miseries, the misfortunes, the discontent, and disaffection of his country had sprung from the spirit which had governed the House in past times, and the laws which had been the emanation of that spirit. If he had been an Englishman born and bred, whether a representative Englishman or not, he should take a pride in the records of its acts, and in the influence which it had brought to bear upon the history of the world and the course of the human race. He would admit that that Assembly had been, to a large extent, the upholder of class, and that its enactments had borne the brand of class legislation. But he was bound to say that the Parliament of England had struck its roots deep into the hearts and history of the English people. It was an ancient and a proud Parliament; and although it might not have responded very speedily or successfully to the demands of the English people, yet he would say, as an Irishman, endeavouring for a moment to eradicate his own prepossessions, that the House had slowly, though surely, responded to the general needs and wishes. It was an ancient and a proud Parliament; and, therefore, if he had been an Englishman, he should take pride in it. It had the capacity both to rule the affections of the English people and to take the leading place in the Assemblies of the world. What was the secret of that power? First, it was the position—the unexampled position—held by the Speaker of the House of Commons. He was not under an obligation to please any Party, or to have regard to any Party. He was elected by one Party, and often kept in Office by the other Party, which showed the thorough belief of both sides of the House in the impartiality that characterized the high Office of the greatest Commoner in England. This House, conscious of its strength, had always, with the common sense that Englishmen claimed, postponed the hour of victory of the majority till the minority had been fully heard. The minority of the House were actuated by such loyalty to their Party that, having once been allowed to argue their case, they went quietly into the Lobby and accepted their defeat in a loyal and law-abiding spirit. These were the secrets of the power of that House; but, if the Government had their will, would this power continue? Would Parliament continue to inspire the respect and affection of the people of England? Would it be any longer called the Parliament of free speech? The Government sought to establish a system by which a majority, without regard to the minority, would be enabled to say they would hear no further debate. The majority and the Party in power were convertible terms; and in future, he appre- hended, there would be in the mind of the occupant of the Chair an inevitable bias in favour of the Party sitting on his right. The occupant of the Chair would be anxiously, and even nervously, desirous of acquitting himself of the responsibility which this Rule would place upon him. His mind, when a debate had proceeded to any length, would be in constant search of what was called the "evident sense" of the House. It was possible that he might mistake a momentary clamour for that evident sense, and that his opinion might not be sustained by the vote of the House; but what, in the event of such an occurrence, if his decision was discredited by the vote of the House itself, would become of the high impartiality of the Speaker? He believed that the Office of Speaker would never survive such a shock. And what of the majority of the House? He had said that hitherto that majority had always been willing to postpone the moment of victory till the minority had liberated their minds; what would be the consequence of such a Rule as this? Surely the majority, at the first moment of irritation or weariness produced by a long debate, would naturally begin to turn to the relief afforded by the operation of the Rule, and would clamour for the application of the clôture. The minority, on the other hand, who might be willing enough to shorten a debate, if fair play were allowed them, would be tempted and challenged to exert and assert their right to continue the debate. Thus, every one of the three great influences that Parliament held in respect would disappear. All would go—confidence in the impartiality of the Speaker, the forbearance of the majority, and the satisfaction of the minority. That was the view that he had been obliged to take of the matter; and now, returning to his natural attitude as an Irishman in revolt against the attempt to silence the Irish Party, he was able to say what he himself felt in regard to the prospect. He had always observed that it boded ill for Ireland when both the great Parties in the House were agreed. That condition of things in the past, which had secured and continued a tolerably good feeling between the two English Parties, had been unfavourable to the development of the rights and liberties of Ireland. He expected that there would be no such good, feeling in future. The clôture, whether frequently or rarely used, would be an irritant poison in the blood of the House. Friendliness between the two English Parties would disappear under its influence; and, therefore, he looked forward to the future not only with tranquillity, but also with the hope that the perpetual conflict which the clôture would generate between Liberals and Conservatives would drive home to their minds the pregnant political truth that, till they satisfied the aspirations of Ireland, Parliamentary government on the basis of the tranquillity of the past would be impossible. He had now to take the will for the deed, the intention for the execution, and to ask the House what was the cause and the provocation for this measure? As far as Ireland was concerned, it was, in the first place, an act of revenge; and, in the second place, a mobilization of forces for renewed hostilities. If they entertained any doubt as to that, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had made it all perfectly clear. It was an act of revenge, because it was plainly suggested by the opposition of the Irish Members to that Statute which placed the liberties of the Irish people at the feet of an official of the Queen. The measure could not have been due to the experience of the last Parliament, because if there had been any dilatory debate in that Parliament, the inventors and chief practitioners of the art were Gentlemen now on the Treasury Bench; and, moreover, in the last year of that Parliament, the Prime Minister himself had appeared in a public magazine as the most ingenious and elaborate apologist of Obstruction. It could not, therefore, have been the experience of the last Parliament that had led to this measure. Nor could the Resolution be due to the experience of the first Session of the present Parliament, with which the Government had professed themselves well satisfied, nor to what had occurred in the present Session, because the Government had made up their mind on the subject before that Session had begun. No; the cause of the measure was to be found in the experience of last Session, but not in the incidents of the passage of the Land Bill through the House, for the right hon. Gentleman had expressed his sense of the assistance given him by the Irish Members, who had saved the Government on two crucial divisions. The right hon. Gentleman could not deny that, next to himself, the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) had the most perfect knowledge of the Bill. It followed, then, that the resistance of the Irish Party to the Coercion Bill was the real cause of this gagging Resolution. If the arguments of the right, hon. Gentleman in The Nineteenth Century could possibly apply to any condition of things as the justification of any Party, his words and sentiments might stand on record as the justification of the Irish Members for their obstinate resistance to a measure which they knew to be undeserved. And what terms could be extreme in denouncing the Coercion Bill? It was an Act ostensibly passed against crime, but really used to put down political agitation. It was an Act which, according to the Treasury Bench, was directed against the disorderly classes in Ireland; but it was used against the leaders of the people, against the clergy, and against ladies of a highly respectable position and of unstained life. The Irish people upheld the Irish Party in their opposition to the Resolution; and he challenged the right hon. Gentleman to turn to his own article in The Nineteenth Century, and by his own words and sentiments the Irish Party would be justified. This Resolution was, as he had said, not only an act of revenge, but it was a mobilization of forces directed against Ireland. The last speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland was a warning of what the Irish people had to expect, though the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, indeed, understood the melodramatic business better. The speech in which the right hon. Gentleman, with intonations of ungovernable passion in his voice, and fierce light in his eye, pledged the Government to further and more drastic measures of coercion, was a warning to the House, and to every Member, no matter on which side he might sit, who derived his mandate from the Irish people, of the moral significance of the vote he would give to-night. Let there be no mistake. If he voted for the Resolution he would vote for further coercion. A year of folly had not been enough for the Government—a year of disaster and disgrace had not been enough, and half a year in which to reconsider their course and their steps had not been enough. They did not seem disposed to take the salutary advice tendered by the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Courtney) to make an effort to bring the law in Ireland into harmony with the convictions and associations of the people. That was done in every civilized country; but the determination of the Government, so far as they could discover it from their dark hints and blacker looks, was to persevere in their course of despotism, and to force the people, by their Algerine enactments, into collision with the law. He did not believe they would succeed in that object. As the gag imposed upon Ireland had proved ineffective, so he believed the additional gag that would be imposed upon the House of Commons would not help them out of their difficulty. For himself, so filled was he by the burning passion which agitated the Irish mind on this question that no human consideration would make him hesitate in the vote he would give. Some time ago The Times said to Irishmen—"We do not pass what laws you ask, but we listen to what you have to say; and, unreasonable and passionate Celts that you are, what more can you desire?" He thought that a very inconclusive argument, for to listen to a man was a small satisfaction if you did not give him what he wanted. But the Government had advanced on The Times, which was willing to listen. The Government would neither grant nor listen. Irishmen were not only to have their demands refused, but their speeches silenced. So deep was the feeling of Irishmen on this question, that if he were an Irish Member who had incurred, by his past conduct, the hatred of the Irish people, he would endeavour, by his vote to-night, cast in favour of freedom of speech, to obtain immunity for any fault he had committed, and he believed that by so doing he might atone for errors in the past; because a vote given at a critical moment, in the face of the social and political influences which the Government could bring to bear, would show his sympathy and solidarity with the Irish people. As for himself, his constituents had sent him no message. He believed they had confidence in him, and he hoped he would never do anything which would lead them to withdraw that confidence. But if he were to vote with the Government to-night, he should regard this night as one from which to date his political outlawry in Ireland. The vote of this night would be for years to come the starting-point of political criticism and denunciation in Ireland, for the Irishman who, by his vote now, should violate the trust placed in him by the people, would seal his own political extinction. For his own part, he would prefer that his name should go down to posterity with the Masseys, the Corydons, and the Armstrongs, than that it should be said that, as an Irish Member, he followed the Government into the Lobby—a Government which had filled the gaols with the leaders of the Irish people, and with their priests and women, and who struck thereby the deadliest blow at the rights and honour of Ireland.


It did not need the stirring and eloquent address of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright), which we beard in the early part of the evening, to convince me that the Prime Minister was more than justified in asking the House to consider the existing Rules which govern the Business of the House of Commons. We, who sit on this side of the House, are in entire accord with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in this—that we acknowledge the propriety, and, I may say, the absolute necessity, of some change being made, unless the House of Commons is to sink beyond the power of recall in the mind and estimation of the country. I can only say this much in addition—that however much we may differ as to the mode in which this change is to be effected, however much we may be opposed to the particular proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, yet, not the less is the House of Commons indebted to him for seriously endeavouring to grapple with what is acknowledged, on all sides, to be a great, a growing, and an intolerable evil. Having said this much, I hope my motives will not be misconstrued if I say this also to the House—that while I am prepared, as far as I am concerned, to agree to almost any alteration of our Rules which can be shown to be requisite in order to restore the character and useful purposes of this Assembly, yet I am diametrically opposed to the 1st Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman. And I am opposed to it not only on its merits, and because it contains what I regard as the mischievous and dangerous principles of a general clôture, but because I consider that it is not the right mode of procedure; and, because, if carried tomorrow, it would not be an efficacious mode of dealing with the mischief we have to encounter. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has given us a description of these evils to-night; but before I proceed to examine them, I desire to say a few words in answer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and then, with the permission of the House, I should like to point out one or two objections to the clôture which have not been raised, I think, up to the present time. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster commenced his observations by informing us that he could not conceive what was the cause of our attitude on this side of the House; and he followed that up by the frank admission that if he had been in Opposition he should have treated the question from a purely Party point of view. The right hon. Gentleman also told us that we ought to agree that some real and effective remedy is called for. Now, we do agree with that; but our point is this, that the remedy is not a real one, and that if carried it would not be effective. The right hon. Gentleman said—"Is this Resolution effective or not? That is the question you have to consider." Then he added—"It is a simple and moderate remedy; but it is not severe enough." I quite admit that it is simple. Whether it is moderate and wanting in severity is another question altogether; and that it is not likely to be effective, I hope to be able to show the House before I bring my observations to a close. The right hon. Gentleman ridiculed the idea that under any circumstances the Speaker could introduce the clôture when there was so narrow a majority as 1, in 200. If that is the case, what objection can there be to giving the majority of two-thirds, which is asked for by some hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House. In the second place, I would venture to point out to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that there are frequently a considerable number of hon. Gentlemen in the Lobby and the Smoking Rooms, and in other parts of the House, and that it would, consequently, be impossible for the Speaker to arrive at an accurate estimate of the evident sense of the House. There are two objections to the clôture, which seem to have escaped the attention of the right hon Gentleman, to which I wish to draw the attention of the House for a moment. The first of them is this—that if the clôture is to be habitually used in our debates—and if it is not to be so used I really do not see what is the object of passing it—then it is obvious that in future, in any considerable debate, only a limited number of hon. Gentlemen will be able to exercise what is at present their undoubted right of liberty to speak; that, in fact, whenever the intending speakers are more numerous than usual, only a certain number of them can be heard, and a certain number of them must be inevitably excluded. If that be so, then arises at once the very important question, how are these speakers in future to be selected? At the present moment that selection is left, by the universal consent and concurrence of the House, entirely to Mr. Speaker; because every hon. Member knows quite well that, however often he may be disappointed in his endeavour to catch the Speaker's eye, sooner or later his time will come, and. that before the close of the debate he will have an opportunity of addressing the House, if he continues to think that what he desires to say warrants him in continuing his endeavours to address the House. But under the clôture all that will be changed. The time will come when the clôture will be demanded, and then it will be absolutely too late; and, whatever the impartiality of the Speaker may be, he will be unable, when the evident sense of the House is clear, and the clôture has been asserted, to call on any further speaker to address the House. It will practically come to this—that the first, the chief, and the greatest of all our privileges at the present time—namely, the right to speak—will be exercised in future, not as a matter we have a right to claim, but solely at the mercy or discretion or the vision of the Chair, or whatever you may be pleased to call it. Really, that is a responsibility so great, a power so novel, and so tremendous in its character, that, although I do not doubt that many of us, even in a case like this, would be disposed to make an exception, Sir, in your favour, as long as you are the occupant of that Chair, I do not believe that the House of Com- mons would ever be willing permanently to place in the hands of some unknown individual who may be your successor, however lofty his position, and however distinguished his ability and character; and then it comes to this—if I rightly interpret the sentiment of the House—that we should have to come to some arrangement by which everyone who desires to take part in a debate would have to ballot for precedence precisely as we ballot now with regard to precedence for Motions and Bills. Would such a course be likely to improve the character of our debates; or would it not be likely to lead to some curious and unexpected debates? For instance, the possible exclusion, if they were unlucky in the ballot, of the Leaders on either side of the House, who desired to take part in a debate; and it would lead to circumstances of a ridiculous or of a highly inconvenient character, and, as far as I can judge, in all probability, both. But, assuming that Mr. Speaker should never think it right to initiate the clôture before the Leaders of the House have spoken, and if you did not have this ballot, then I foresee that another inconvenience, quite possible, and, I believe, highly probable, would happen. And it is this. Whenever the clôture was imminent, and there were still many hon. Members who desired to speak, if the Leaders of the House rose to wind up the debate, in company with several other hon. Members who rose at the same time, and the Leader of the House was selected by the Speaker, then the clôture, almost immediately afterwards, would be naturally expected; and what would probably happen then would be this—that some Friend of an hon. Member who had risen, but who had not been called upon to address the House, would, strictly in accordance with the existing Rules of the House, immediately make a Motion to this effect—that the hon. Member who had risen, and had not been called upon, should be "now heard," or "do now speak." That would be a Motion strictly in accordance with our existing Rules; and the House will observe that, in a case like that, it would be made from no want of courtesy towards the Leader of the House, and from no disrespect to the Chair, but as the sole chance of obtaining for a Member the opportunity of speaking. It is evident that a matter of that kind would lead to wrangling, debate, and division. It would be repeated again and again; and I am convinced that in this way there would be absolutely a loss of more time than would be gained if your Resolution was carried as it is now. If the House will give me their patience for a very few moments—passing over many of the objections which have been urged to the clôture—I wish to examine the precise nature of the evils with which we have to deal at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has described them at some length to-night; and he attributed them, perhaps with some justice, mainly to the Irish Members. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister gave a somewhat different description of those evils on the opening night of the debate. And here, again, we are considerably indebted to the right hon. Gentleman, who has placed these evils clearly and distinctly before the House. I have carefully read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman again since I heard the statement which he made; and this is the description he gives of the evils. He said— There are two great evils which form the salient feature of the picture before us. One of them is the great increase in the labours of the House; the other is the diminution in power on the part of this Assembly to perform them. Now, Sir, I can say nothing in regard to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman for delegating a certain portion of the labours of the House, because they are not now before us. But, with regard to the second great evil—the main evil we have to deal with—namely, the diminution in the power of the House to perform its labours, the right hon. Gentleman made this statement, which I beg the House to observe— By that diminution of power I mean this—namely, the diminution of power on the part of this Assembly over its own Members individually. Therefore, the loss of power of its Members individually is the main evil, according to the right hon. Gentleman, with which we have to deal, and which we have to consider at the present time. With that description I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. Formerly the House had the exercise of power over its individual Members, not by any Rules or regulations, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out on the occasion to which I refer, but by virtue of that deference almost invariably paid by the Members of the House whenever the will of the House is clearly and unmistakably expressed. Now, that power in great degree is gone. And why? Because—and I will again quote the authority of the right hon. Gentleman—the deference which was paid 20, or 30, or 40 years ago is no longer paid universally by individuals to the House. I can supplement that statement by experience of my own—experience, I am happy to say, which does not extend over more than half of 30 years, but which is sufficient to enable me to corroborate his view of the deference formerly paid. So far I go entirely with the Prime Minister in his description of the evil. I am ready to agree, and I believe both sides of the House are ready to agree, to almost any alteration in order to restore to this Assembly the power over its individual Members which it has lost, which can be shown to be requisite and adequate for the purpose. But I must point out to the right hon. Gentleman that this power over individual Members is one thing, and the power of the majority to suppress a whole minority collectively is another thing altogether. And when I come to the remedies which the right hon. Gentleman proposes, then I am afraid that he and I must part company altogether. Let me now turn to a speech made by another hon. Member, a supporter of the Government, whom I do not now see in his place. I allude to the hon. Member for Glamorganshire (Mr. Hussey Vivian). The hon. Member, with a blunt and frank admission, which left nothing to be desired, said—"Formerly we always had a clôture, and a very effective one it was. In those halcyon days," he said— Our debates were conducted in a good old-fashioned and gentlemanlike style, by mutual understanding. The Whips on either side arranged the day of division by an agreement between themselves; and if any hon. Member ventured to address the House after we thought we had had enough, why we simply howled him down. Whatever may be said of the old-fashioned practice of howling down, nobody can deny that there is a great deal of truth in what is said. Formerly hon. Members did yield to the manifest dis- position of the House; and when that disposition was evinced, either by the howling of the hon. Member for Glamorganshire or in any other way, it was a clôture, and a clôture of a very effective kind. Let me ask the House this question—What kind of clôture was it that was found so effective at that time? That is a question which I desire to submit to the candid and impartial consideration of independent Members. Certainly it was not a general clôture, such as that demanded by the right hon. Gentleman. Nobody can deny that if a Minister or an ex-Minister, or a Member of great authority, thought it necessary to rise in his place, even after the Leader of the House had wound up the debate, to point out, perhaps, something of great importance which had escaped the observation of the House, the howling clôture would never have been applied to him. No one would have dreamt of it. On the contrary, he would have been listened to with all the respect his position demanded and deserved. Therefore, I say that it certainly was not a general clôture like that we are asked to sanction now, but a kind of clôture which was applied and limited strictly to individuals, and to individuals only, who, neither very wise nor very judicious, in all probability had failed to appreciate the general sense and disposition of the House. What is the only inference we can draw? Why, that the Prime Minister and his supporters, instead of proceeding with the 1st Resolution, ought to agree to an Amendment which was placed on the Paper almost immediately after the scheme of the Government was announced, and which, in place of a general clôture, substituted an individual clôture. Well, Sir, that is my answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; and when he asks us whether we are not willing to make some small alteration in our Rules in order to maintain the character of this Assembly, I say that is what a great majority of Members on this side of the House would like to do. Now, Sir, what can be the objections to this proposition? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department threw no light on the matter. He was followed by the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whit-bread); but he left the matter in very much the same condition as it was left by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I do not wish to go into what these hon. and right hon. Gentlemen said, because I do not wish to detain the House a moment longer than I can help; but it seems to me that a proposal of this kind would really cover almost everything that we want; it would, at all events, exactly meet the evil which the right hon. Gentleman has so accurately described, and it was no small recommendation of it that it would enable us to dispense with all the other alterations in the Rules which were proposed by the Government. I am afraid that, in this respect, I shall be in a minority even on this side of the House, as far as I can judge from the speeches of right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Front Opposition Bench; but none the less do I adhere to my own firm conviction that our existing Rules ought not to be lightly tampered with or altered. Depend upon it, they have been adopted in former days for good and weighty reasons, they have grown up from the wisdom and experience of ages, they are the guardians of our privileges, and the safeguards of our liberties and rights; and I, for one, should be most unwilling, as regards the major part of them, to see anything like a sweeping alteration in them, and especially because a system of individual clôture, such as I would like to see adopted, would render any material change in the existing Rules unnecessary. Take the case of Motions for Adjournment at Question time. The power of moving the Adjournment is a privilege which I value highly, as one which, under certain circumstances, may be of great use to the Opposition. At the same time, I frankly admit the privilege has been much and grossly abused very often of late; but see what would be the effect of individual clôture in a case like this. Now, the remonstrances of Mr. Speaker are often made in vain; but, then, if the admonition of Mr. Speaker be disregarded, I assume he would probably rise almost immediately and caution the hon. Member offending, and if that were not sufficient, it would be in the power of the House to instantaneously silence the hon. Member by a Motion that he be no longer heard. Well, Sir, I shall be told, I suppose, that that would involve a great waste of time in the divisions taken for the purpose of silencing such hon. Members. I do not believe it for a moment, and for this reason—that with this latent power in reserve divisions would become unnecessary. You may be certain that except in some cases of great importance, which might warrant a Motion for Adjournment, hon. Members would yield at once to Mr. Speaker; and if, in addition, the House should think fit to order that for the first offence the hon. Member should be silenced for the night, and for the second offence for a week or month and so on, I am certain that the House would very soon discover that it had found a new and simple, but a most efficient weapon, a weapon which would enable the House to instantaneously compel, by the exercise of its authority, that which formerly was invariably yielded by hon. Gentlemen in this Assembly—namely, submission to the dictates of good feeling and good taste. I am well aware, Sir, that I really have no right or claim to intrude upon the House at an hour such as this. It is not because I have not risen before, and if hon. Gentlemen will do me the favour to listen to what I have to say I promise them I shall not detain them more than a very few moments more. I was about to observe that all we desire at the present time, and what above all we ought, as far as possible, to endeavour to accomplish, is to restore, as far as may be, the tone and the temper which formerly prevailed in this Assembly. That is what we ought to aim at now, and that is exactly what your 1st Resolution never is likely to accomplish. Your 1st Resolution is a contrivance for punishing the many for the offences of the few; it is a contrivance, not for the suppression of offending individuals only, but for the suppression of an unoffending Party; and, consequently, it is also a contrivance to irritate a whole minority. Well, Sir, I ask the House, is that the way, do you think, to bring about a restoration of a spirit of conciliation and of general deference, such as we all desire to see? I must apologize to the House for having taken up so much of its time. I really would not have done so; but it does seem to me that this question is as essentially one for independent Members as it is for the Leaders of the House. This is not the first time I have offered my opinions to the House on the sub- ject. More than once I have endeavoured to submit them to the House, with the fate which usually attends upon the efforts of private Members. During the last Parliament, and at a time when the proceedings in this House had already become the scandal and the amazement of the world, but when, I am bound to say, the subject did not possess the same paramount interest to the Prime Minister which it possesses at the present time, I submitted these views to the House. I am convinced that it is in this direction that we must look for the ultimate solution of all our troubles and our difficulties at the present time; and it is because I am convinced that, so far from having the effect which you anticipate, your Resolution will have a precisely opposite effect, and will lead to mischiefs in the future, worse even than the disease—mischiefs of every character and of every kind—I, for one, must give an uncompromising opposition to the Resolution which is now proposed. Well, Sir, I am not much disturbed, I must confess, by the rumours of a crisis which are hovering in the air. I do not believe a word about it, and I do not believe the Government will resign, even if the vote taken to-night is adverse to them. ["No!"] An hon. Member says "No!" I will tell him why. Because, if they did, they would occupy a most ludicrous position; and when the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India comes down to this House with a speech of menace and resignation in his pocket, he ought to remember that he serves under a Chief who has expressly declared, on the opening night of this debate, that this Resolution which is now before us is not the most important Resolution of the series he proposes. For a Government to talk of resignation on an Amendment which, on the showing of the Prime Mimister, is more or less a subsidiary Resolution, is the most ludicrous thing I ever heard. The noble Lord ought to show more courage on the eve of a general engagement. If the case of the Government is a good one, what reason is there to be alarmed; if it is a bad one, I venture to say that the sooner they recede from their position the better. I think the noble Lord should be very careful for many reasons, for his action may be calculated to give colour to some absurd stories which have been going the round of the Lobbies, and which I have seen in the newspapers, as to the curious postscripts which the noble Lord is sometimes supposed to add to some of his correspondence. I do not believe it for one moment; but, whatever may be the fate which is in store for Her Majesty's Government, of this at least I am assured, that if the right hon. Gentleman persists in forcing upon the House of Commons a policy and a principle which is repugnant to the instincts of the great majority of the Liberal Party, and of Gentlemen of all opinions in the House, no long time will elapse before he will discover that he has again accomplished the political destruction of his Party and his Friends, that he has done this for the third and last time in a great career, the most brilliant, I admit, but the most strange and the most disastrous, in the political annals of our history and our time.


said, that as one who had long been a Member of the House, and who had a reverence for its traditions, he wished to rescue it from falling into the position of a debating society. The right hon. and gallant Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) had stated that a great number of Members on the Liberal side of the House thoroughly disliked the clôture, and, therefore, objected to this Resolution. That might be so; but, sitting among them as he (Mr. Dillwyn) did, he had certainly not heard them express their dislike, and, indeed, he failed to remember a time when there had been so general a concurrence of opinion. Even the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Lancashire must admit that, seeing that he had enumerated and accounted for the few hon. Members on the Liberal side of the House who would vote against the Government. He should not have ventured to obtrude himself in the debate if his name had not been mentioned as one of those who was formerly opposed to this measure. No doubt, he had always been anxious to maintain the rights of minorities in the House of Commons, and he had opposed the clôture, as it was called. But this was not the clôture pure and simple at all. If it were the clôture pure and simple he should oppose it now. clôture pure and simple would enable the Government, at the end of the Session, to do as they pleased. Obstruction was often necessary at the end of the Session, when the House was thin, and the Government, with their own 40 or 50 Members, could command a majority and rule the country. That was what he objected to. He objected, at the end of the Session, to "small Houses" doing exactly what they liked, at the will of the Government, But he had never objected to a qualified clôture, which was all the present Resolution amounted to. All he desired was that care should be taken before a debate was closed that it had been thoroughly exhausted, and that it was only in a sufficiently full House that the clôture was declared. That was what Her Majesty's Government now proposed, and, instead of there having been any change in his opinions, he had himself, last year, proposed a measure almost identical with that which they were now discussing. Although he approved of the proposal made by the Government, he certainly preferred his own; but this was not a time for splitting straws in a great Constitutional crisis like this. His proposal was, that any Member, having obtained the consent of the Speaker, should be at liberty to move that the debate be closed; and he further proposed that the debate should be closed, not by a fanciful majority, but in the good old English way—namely, by the majority. He had made provision, however, that the majority should consist of not less than 150 Members. He said this in order to establish his own consistency, and to show that, in supporting the Resolution moved by Her Majesty's Government, he was still advocating and voting for a course of Procedure in that House which he had always been in favour of. No doubt the altered circumstances of the present times called for an altered method of dealing with them. The circumstances of the present were very different from the circumstances of the past. The right hon. Gentleman in the Chair, and others who had been in the House for a long series of years, knew that there had been a great change in their mode of Procedure; and he would mention one or two facts to illustrate the change. When the House met at the time Lord Eversley occupied the Chair—now so worthily filled by the right hon. Gentleman its present occupant—he always considered it necessary to count the House before taking the Chair; and there was frequently a difficulty in getting 40 Members present to constitute a House. The attendance was generally slack, and there were very few Members present except on great occasions. Consequently, it often happened that there was "no House." There was no difficulty then in getting seats; whereas now-a-days Mr. Speaker always took the Chair without counting the House, and there was no difficulty whatever in insuring the making of a House. All the seats were occupied, and many hon. Members who wanted them had great difficulty in finding them. That was one change. In the next place, how were the proceedings of the House conducted now? In olden times the debates were generally concluded within a reasonable time, because hon. Members who wished to speak refrained from repeating arguments upon points which had already been exhausted, knowing that it was useless to say that which had already been said before. The consequence was that the debates were brought to a close within a reasonable time. Now-a-days hon. Members, for reasons best known to themselves, never seemed to be tired of speaking. They never seemed to think that a debate could be exhausted as long as they were able to make another speech. Time after time it occurred that debates which ought to have finished in one night were carried over two or three nights, with nothing whatever that was new being added to the information of the House. This abuse—if he might so term it—this inordinate flow of talk, which had now become the habit of the House, was what necessitated this new Rule more than anything else. He entirely agreed with the opinion already expressed, that there was no injury any hon. Member could inflict on the public greater than that of wasting the time of the House. The Resolution was proposed in order to apply a remedy to that special abuse. Then, again, the Obstruction was formerly a special Obstruction, and was rarely resorted to, except on special occasions, to prevent particular Bills from passing—such, for instance, as the Bill for the admission of the Jews into Parliament. Obstruction was never the rule of the House. What was the case now? Obstruction, instead of being reserved for special occasions, was the rule. It was quite true that there had not been much Obstruction lately. The same thing happened last year. At one time there was a lull; but it was felt that it was a calm that could not last. The present circumstances were the same; and there could be very little doubt that the calm and quiet times they had been enjoying lately would not last long. He thought the necessity for an alteration in the Procedure of the House arose from the increased representation of the people in the House of Commons. Formerly the people of the country were not adequately represented; the privileged classes were in a great majority, and the working classes were in a great minority. The result was that the Privileges of the House were used as a bulwark to protect the rights of the people, and any infraction of the privileges, rights, and power of the minority was always viewed with great jealousy. Here, again, there had been a marked change. Instead of the masses of the people being in a minority in the representation of the House, they had now a much more efficient representation than they ever had before, and were in a large majority. He quite agreed that they were not even yet represented as largely as they ought to be; and he concurred in the views of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold), who advocated the extension of household suffrage to the counties. Nevertheless, the representation of the people in the working classes was much greater now than it had ever been before; and, what was more, they had an additional protection for the free exercise of the franchise in the ballot. Should the Conservative Party say, "That is all very well, but how about our protection; ought not we to be protected now we are in the minority?" his reply was that that was an argument which ought not to be used. The privileges of the monied and landed classes needed no protection, because it seemed to him that those classes were always able to take care of themselves. But even if they were afraid of losing their protection in the House of Commons, they ought to support the Resolution, because the monied and landed interest had another Chamber ever ready, even to endanger the Government, or the peace and welfare of the country, in order to guard their own Privileges whenever they saw them in any way attacked. He should not have said this much if his opinions had not been personally referred to in the course of the debate. The Question before the House was, whether there was any real cause now for a change of their Rules? He thought there was a great demand for a change on the part of the people themselves, in order to restore to the House the character which it used to possess of being able to transact the Business of the country. It was also felt that it was absolutely necessary to push forward the Business of the country, which was of an urgent character, and had already got greatly in arrear. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington) told them, on the 20th of February, that the Government had at that moment in contemplation various measures of the highest importance, and in which the country was deeply interested; and the noble Marquess further stated that it would be impossible to deal with them unless some alteration were made in the present mode of Procedure. He did not think the noble Marquess ever uttered truer words. He was sure there was an urgent desire for an alteration on the part of the country; and it was the duty of the House to pass such Rules as would enable the Government to forward such legislation as the circumstances of the times imperatively demanded. [An hon. MEMBER: clôture.] He did not often trouble the House, and he had very few more words to say. It was freely admitted by hon. Members who had spoken against the proposition of the Government that some reform in the mode of Procedure was required. It was generally acknowledged that the mode in which the Business of the country had been obstructed was a disgrace and a discredit to the House of Commons. But hon. Members opposite wished to wait a little longer. He thought the House had waited long enough. It was on the 20th of February, about five weeks ago, that this very debate was commenced; and on that occasion, although he did not hear the words himself, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) was reported to have said— But I cannot sit down without making one appeal to the House generally. We are, as a House, on our trial. Nothing that can be done in the way of restriction or regulation will meet this evil properly. There is only one way in which to meet it, and that is by our own resolution to perform our duties in a sensible, in a workmanlike, and at the same time in a reasonable and gentlemanly manner."—[3 Hansard, cclxvi. 1159.] This was the third year of the present Parliament; and had their work been done in a sensible, a reasonable, or a workmanlike manner? He confessed that he was not of that opinion, and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he himself thought so? The right hon. Gentleman spoke these words on the 20th of February, five weeks ago, and the House was still engaged upon the very same debate. No doubt, part of the delay had been occasioned by proceedings in "another place," which necessitated the opinion of the House of Commons being taken whether the other House should be allowed to override the feeling and judgment of the country. Personally, he confessed that Her Majesty's Government were justified in refusing to accept the Motion of the House of Lords, and in appealing to the House of Commons for an expression of opinion upon it. At all events, there they were, on the 30th of March, still discussing a question which was introduced to the notice of the House on the 20th of February. Most hon. Members appreciated the conduct of the Government in their honest efforts to protect life and property in Ireland. ["Oh, oh!"] He had no wish to appeal to hon. Members below the Gangway; but he would appeal to the Liberal Members, and he was satisfied that there were very few Representatives of the people who would not support the Government when they were endeavouring to do their best to restore law and order in Ireland. These were some of the grounds which induced him to vote for the Resolutions of the Government. He would not prescribe which Resolution should come first. He left that to the Government, and it was only fair and reasonable that they should lay down their own course. But he did appeal to all Liberal Members to give their support to the Ministry in their honest endeavours to rescue the House and its proceedings from the contempt and ridicule which, he was sorry to see, were slowly but surely gathering around them.


Sir, I am sure that all those who have sat in this House for a good many years with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), and who have marked his independent and, hitherto, consistent course as a defender of the rights of the House against successive and opposing Ministries, must have listened with mingled feelings—partly of amusement, partly of regret; I may say, also, partly of apprehension—to the speech which he has just delivered. It struck me that the hon. Member spoke almost as if he were under the sense of some embarrassment, and some little difficulty, in reconciling his present position with his past action; and that it was owing to this feeling that he hit out a little wildly. I am not surprised that the hon. Gentleman should have felt some difficulty in his way, because here is the position from which he started two years ago. His words then were very few, but they were very clear. This is what he said on the 26th February, 1880, with regard to the clôtureHe trusted that there was no sort of possibility of its being adopted, and that any such proposal would meet with the most determined opposition."—[3 Hansard, col. 1488.] I can quite understand that he has had two years to turn round in; and let us hope that he has done it to his own satisfaction. It must be admitted that, although his change has been tolerably rapid, he has not been quite so quick in his movements as some others we see on the Benches opposite. Reference has been made to various instances. It is not necessary to repeat all the utterances that have been made on this subject; but there is one Member of the Government whom I am sorry not to see in his place at this moment—the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education (Mr. Mundella)—who appears to have made a sharper turn on this question than anybody else. I hold in my band an extract from a speech which the right hon. Gentleman made at Sheffield on the 2nd of February in the present year, just four days before the Session opened, and this is what the right hon. Gentleman then said— As to the clôture, it would never he proposed by the Government, because they were as anxious as the Conservatives were to preserve the rights of minorities. Well, Sir, this is a striking illustration of the wisdom of the advice given in an American book, and once referred to by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright)—"Don't prophesy unless you know." Unfortunately, the right hon. Gentleman did not know at the time he made that speech that at that very moment Her Majesty's Government had already decided upon introducing the clôture. "But," says the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), "I never knew an occasion on which greater unanimity prevailed among the Members of our Party than prevails among us now." I do believe that upon the main point there is a good deal of unanimity among hon. Members opposite. That is to say, that there certainly are a great number of hon. Gentlemen opposite, whom we expected to see take a different course, who are unanimous in the opinion that they must vote for the Government on this occasion. There is no mystery about the matter, because we have been told by one of themselves how it happens that they have arrived at that unanimous opinion. The hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) told us the whole secret. The hon. Member said—"I hate the clôture as much as any of you do," and he gave uncommonly good reasons for doing so; but he added, "Although I hate the clôture, if I do not vote for it, the Government perhaps may go out." It is evident, therefore, that if the hon. Member hates the clôture, he loves the Government more. It is not for me to blame hon. Members opposite whose consciences dictate that course to them. I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Committee of the Council on Education has returned to his place, and, as I would not say anything with reference to him in his absence that I would not say in his presence, I will state that I have just referred to a speech delivered by him at Sheffield on the 2nd of February last, in which he said— As to the clôture, it would never be proposed by the Government, because they were as anxious as the Conservatives were to preserve the rights of minorities.


I beg to assure the right hon. Gentleman that what I said was, that the Government would never propose the clôture without proper safeguards.


I quoted the words precisely as they are given in the report of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in The Standard. I do not doubt for a moment that the words he has just stated were used by him on the occasion referred to, and I am glad to have had the opportunity of eliciting from him the fact that he made this qualification. But I must say, with regard both to that qualification and the distinction which the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) drew between the clôture pure and simple and the clôture as proposed with certain safeguards, that I do not attach very much importance to those differences. It is, however, of importance that we should understand what is the particular form of clôture we are about to vote upon, because there seems to have been some little confusion with regard to the language of the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott). As I understand, the hon. and learned Member moves that no alteration of our Rules of Procedure will be satisfactory which involves the voting of the clôture by a majority. By that I understand him to mean that he does not intend to name any particular majority that he would require to have, and that he simply asks the House to pronounce against the clôture being voted by a bare majority. That, I infer, is the distinction which he draws; and in that respect his Amendment differs from the Amendments, of which Notice has been given, by the hon. Member for Caithness (Sir Tollemache Sinclair) and the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock), both of which name the proportionate majorities which they require for the purpose of the clôture being voted. Well, Sir, as I have pointed out, the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Brighton leaves the proportion of the majority an open question; it merely affirms that the voting of the clôture by a bare majority would not be satisfactory. ["No!"] An hon. Member says "No!" but that, at all events, is the meaning which the hon. and learned Member himself attaches to his Amendment. Such is the meaning also which, I believe, the House attaches to it, and which, I understand, is attached to it by the country. For my own part, I am bound to say that I have a strong objection to the clôture in any form. But I understand there are many hon. Members who take a different view of the matter, and who, while they are of opinion that the clôture is desirable, will join in the protest of the hon. and learned Member for Brighton against the clôture with a bare majority. There is another point upon which I should like to say a few words, because it has reference to a subject partly of a personal character. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), I think, and some other Gentlemen, have made observations in the course of the debate as to the Government not having, as they say, made any "formal communication" to the Leaders of the Opposition in regard to these Rules. I think it is only right to state that, shortly before the opening of the Session, the Prime Minister did communicate to me a draft of the Rules which he was about to propose, and he gave me the opportunity of consulting with my Friends. He did not exactly come to me and say, "I wish to consult with you as to what we shall do," but he gave me the opportunity of making observations with regard to these Rules; and if I could have seen my way, by any communication with him, to facilitate the proceedings of the Government, I should have been most happy to have made that communication. But, as I explained to him, whilst I agreed substantially with almost the whole of the other Rules which the Government proposed, and upon which I thought we might have come to an agreement in the ordinary manner across the Table of the House, there was one Rule—namely, the first of the series—on which, I said, there would be a sharp divergence of opinion. I thought it right to give the right hon. Gentleman that explanation, and felt that in so doing I was meeting the communication of the Government in a spirit which I hoped they would see no reason to complain of. Now, I am quite of opinion with the right hon. Gentleman in the statement which he made at the beginning of this debate—that the question of some amendment of the Rules of Procedure was one which had forced itself on the attention of the House, and had been, for a considerable time, a matter of more or less anxious consideration. But he said, in the first place, that this was a matter not so much for the Government as for the House itself to consider; it was not a Party Question, but one in which the House was interested and had to decide. But, he added, experience proved to us that there was no use in multiplying Committees; because Committee after Committee sat, examined witnesses, and made Reports, while, really, little or nothing came from them. "In fact," said the right hon. Gentleman very properly, "you want a propelling power, besides Committees; and the Government are about to prepare it." I think the Government were quite right in offering to supply that propelling power. But I say, also, that while they rightly submit to the House those provisions which they think ought to be adopted, the House ought to be allowed freely to discuss and decide upon them. "When I speak of freely discussing the Government proposals, I do not mean merely that we should be at liberty to discuss, to amend, or to oppose every proposal which the Government brings forward, because that is a kind of liberty which the right hon. Gentleman could not deny us—I have no objection, of course, to make to the Government using all their powers of argument, their influence and advice, for the purpose of inducing the majority to accept their views and to set aside ours—but I say it is not free discussion when there is imported into it considerations which have nothing to do with the merits of the question; that is to say, when you are told you are not to vote according to your view of its merits, but under the threat that unless a certain measure is passed something is to happen. The Government may be so rash and so ill-advised as to say—"In consequence of our being unable to have our way, we will throw up altogether the conduct of affairs, and thereby throw the country into a state of confusion." This, I say, is altogether contrary to free discussion; and the conduct of the Government in the present instance furnishes a very bad omen for the Rules we are asked to pass, if they are enforced by such arguments and accepted by Gentlemen under such a pressure as I have described. But let me turn for a moment to the argument which the right hon. Gentleman produced in support of his own Rules. We have had, of course, other arguments from the Colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman, and some things have been said by them which have thrown light upon parts of the Government proposals; but I prefer to go as far as possible on the case of the Prime Minister. He told us that what the Government were about to propose were Rules for the purpose of meeting the normal condition and exigencies of the House in order to deal with cases of wilful Obstruction and Urgency. With regard to wilful Obstruction, he said that must be dealt with specially, and he referred to the Standing Orders that we passed three years ago, and which he proposed to strengthen; while, with regard to cases of Urgency, he did not propose to deal with them by means of these Resolutions, because, as he said, they must be dealt with as they arose. I should say we are perfectly ready to accept any reasonable amendment of the Rules of the House for the purpose of meeting cases of wilful Obstruction, and to concur in passing a Rule analogous to them for dealing with cases of Urgency. "But," says the right hon. Gentleman, "that is not the point I want to impress upon the House; I want to impress upon the House that for years past the Business of the House has been increasing, and the power of the House to get through its Business has been decreasing; I want to call attention to that, and to propose some remedy for the evil." Well, Sir, we want, as far as possible, to give the right hon. Gentleman assistance and cooperation in attaining that result. But the right hon. Gentleman says that the first and most important of all the proposals he has to make is that we should relieve the House of part of its Business by a process of devolution; and he emphasizes that by saying that no restrictive measures, even if we were prepared to give the Government all they asked for in that respect, would meet the case. This is a most interesting and important statement. It is one which, whatever our feelings may be, deserves careful inquiry and discussion, and is a subject of the highest interest. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister does not think it a matter which he can bring forward in the first instance, and so he puts it aside and takes up the most disputable and the most difficult of all the proposals he makes—namely, that with regard to the clôture. Now, in proposing the clôlure, the right hon. Gentleman made this observation. He said that in times past the House had by degrees, as it found its Business extend, set aside, one after the other, the privileges of private Members in order to make better way for Public Business. The privileges of private Members have been dealt with, undoubtedly, in a summary manner. When I read the speech of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, it occurred to me that there was a considerable resemblance between the way in which he treated some private Members, and the way in which the constable treats the civilian when he says—"Now mind, if you kill me, it is murder; if I kill you, it is nothing." The noble Lord said, in effect, to the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton)—"If you obstruct me, it is clôture; if I obstruct you, it is nothing." But that is not the tone of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who said that private Members had been called upon to submit to an invasion of their privileges. He gave us some instances—such as the Rule relating to discussion on the Orders of the Day; the Rule of Progress in Committee; and another, which I believe he mentioned. Now, all these are alterations which are entirely in harmony with the other Rules which he is now going to propose, or which, at least, I hope he is going to propose, for facilitating the conduct of Business and diminishing the number of occasions on which there might be discussions and expenditure of time; but they have nothing to do with the question of clôlure, which goes far indeed beyond any of the Rules or precedents to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. Will the House consider for a moment what are the principal forms of Obstruction? You have one form of Obstruction in Members speaking against time; another, in Members speaking too often; then you have the frequency of repeated Motions for Adjournment; and the multiplying of frivolous Questions. These are the great heads under which you place the various forms of Obstruction. I am not now speaking of wilful Obstruction, which must be dealt with as a separate offence. There is the 2ndKule, which deals with Motions for Adjournment before Public Business is reached; the 3rd Rule, which limits debate on Motions for Adjournment; the 5th Rule, which gives Mr. Speaker or the Chairman of Committees power to call attention to tedious repetition, and to direct a Member to discontinue his speech; and the Rule, that if Mr. Speaker considers any Motion for Adjournment is made for the purpose of delay, he may forthwith put the Question from the Chair. These Rules, I say, will largely diminish the opportunities for Obstruction; and when you take them in connection with the other provisions, such as for putting an end to discussions on the postponement of the Preambles of Bills, and on the Question of Mr. Speaker leaving the Chair, hon. Members will see that we have the means of greatly facilitating the progress of Business in the House. Now, Sir, we are prepared to accept the principle and spirit of almost the whole of these Rules; and I must say that the addition proposed to be made to the "Half-past Twelve" Rule is one which I consider of the highest importance, and I hope that when we reach that regulation, some further provision will be made so as to exempt from the operation of the Rule questions of appointment of Standing Committees. These are practical matters which, if you will deal with them in a practical spirit, and according to the practice and precedents of our Predecessors, you will be able to adjust without heat or animosity, and, as I believe, with a full knowledge of what the effect of the alterations you make will be. But I venture to say with regard to this Resolution of the clôture, that no man can say what will be its effect. It causes great animosity, great excitement, and, I will undertake to say, a good deal of dissatisfaction even amongst that unanimous Party which sits opposite. ["No!"] Hon. Members say "No!" Well, I am very sorry if it does not. Matters have gone farther than I was prepared for, if the consciences of hon. Members opposite have become so seared. But I will leave them to settle that point among themselves, and will only add that, however satisfied they may be, I am filled with greater apprehension when I see them entering with such a light heart on what appears to be so serious a matter. I say you are raising a false issue altogether, when you merely reply to our objections to the clôture by saying—"You must not deny that the present state of the Business of the House is unsatisfactory." We do not meet you with that. We say we are prepared to accept the greater part—the practical part—of your proposals; but we object to one of them, the working of which we do not understand, but which we feel will be productive of a great deal of evil. I believe that Rule will have a bad effect upon the conduct of debates in this House; that it will tell for evil on the position of the Speaker; and I should think it will also tell badly, to some extent, on the character and conduct of Members of the House itself, because we shall be left in the unnatural position of not being allowed to discuss the various subjects presented to our consideration with that freedom to which we have hitherto been accustomed. We are told that the clôture will never be abused, and that we are always arguing on its abuse. But, Sir, the Forms of the House are abused; and it must be remembered that the clôture may be abused likewise, because you will be exercising this power under the eye of the public, under the pressure of the constituencies, and especially of the caucuses. You are extremely likely to find that the pressure of the caucuses and the comments which will be made on your proceedings by the Press, if those proceedings are disagreeable to the majority out-of-doors, will be of a character which will unfavourably influence your debates. But you will, perhaps, say—"That does not signify, because the opinion out-of-doors is the opinion of this House. Why are we the majority if we do not represent public opinion out-of-doors? "That is all very well if you are to look upon this as giving over the Government of the country bound hand-and -foot to the majority; but what we have always said was, that it was the high privilege of this House to stand up against the majority of the moment, or the power, whatever it may be, of the day, and demand that the opinion of the minority, however unpalatable for the moment, should have at least a fair and full hearing. We are told—"What has that to do now with the House of Commons? Things are very much altered. If you want to discuss go out-of-doors and discuss—discuss in the Press or on the platform." Are we really to take that as the advice of the Liberal Party? I think if that is to be the case, and if this House is to be turned into a mere Court of Registration to register the decisions of the tribunals of the Press and the platform, you will, depend upon it, find a great falling off in the number of Gentlemen who will think it worth their while to come and take part in the Business and proceedings of the House. Another alternative has been offered us by the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), who is good enough to point to the House of Lords and say—"If you Gentlemen who are Conservatives find yourselves in a minority, and if you find you cannot argue your cases fairly and fully before this House, you have got another remedy, because you can go to the House of Lords." I should like to know if anyone is prepared to advise us to go to the House of Lords and say—"We have come to the House of Lords; the House of Commons refuses to give us freedom of speech, will you give it to us? "That is what the hon. Member for Swansea suggests; and what I say is, that I want to keep the power of free discussion in our own House. I do not want to go to the House of Lords; I do not want to go to the Press or to the platform—I want to have freedom of debate secured to us here; and I undertake to say that when you part with that, you part with what is the most precious jewel you have. But, then, it is said—"Oh! yes; you are arguing entirely on extravagant and extreme cases." Well, I do not know what "extravagant and extreme cases" are, when I see these sudden conversions taking place. It may be all very well this year, or next year; but two years seems to be a long time in the memories of some Representatives.


Hear, hear!


The right hon. Gentleman cheers me. He says, rather pointedly, "Hear, hear!" but two years ago I was as strong against the clôture as I am now.


And other subjects?


Oh; as to "other subjects," I do not know that it weakens my present argument, if it could be said that there had been a change. When we were in command of a majority in this House, we did not use the influence we had to bring about the clôture. On the contrary, under every temptation that way, we always protested against it; and so distinctly protested against it, that when a newspaper which supports the Government thought it desirable to call me in as a witness on their side, it was good enough to cut off just half the sentence I spoke. That does not alter what I was about to say. I am told—"You are taking extreme cases; and, after all, there is no danger, because this matter is not to be in the hands of the House, or in the hands of the Ministry of the day, but in those of the Speaker." I think it is a very serious thing indeed, a very serious question whether you ought to put the Speaker into this position. If this is to be a power which is to be frequently used, I venture to say the position of the Speaker will become intolerable, because, upon almost every occasion, he will be made the subject of comment and of attack—if not in the House, at any rate out of the House. He will be made the subject of comment and attack both when he exercises the clôture and when he does not. He may be as impartial as an Archangel; but he will always be charged with partiality by those who feel disappointment at the course he has adopted. I venture to say, moreover, that this is not an imaginary danger. I heard the Chancellor of the Duchy speak just now of the Speakers he remembered in the course of his Parliamentary career. No doubt, the Speakers whom he recollects, and whom he mentioned to us, and who are always held in great honour, have been men upon whose impartiality we could thoroughly rely, and in whom we were justified in placing implicit confidence. I remember the circumstances under which they were elected. They were elected under circumstances which would remove them from great temptation to anything in the nature of impartiality. The right hon. Gentleman will remember the circumstances under which Sir Charles Manners Sutton was set aside, and Mr. Abercrombie was chosen, at the commencement of a Parliament in which, I think, the Prime Minister himself held a seat in the Ministry. What were the grounds on which Sir Charles Manners Sutton was objected to? He was objected to because he had taken some improper part in the action of the new Ministry; and when that charge was disproved and abandoned—and here is the point to which I wish to draw attention—the ground on which Mr. Abercrombie was particularly recommended was this, that in the Reformed Parliament it was very desirable, for the well-working of the Reform Act, that there should be a Speaker in sympathy with that measure which had just been passed. That is drawing matters very fine indeed, but it is an indication of the sort of danger that may occur in the present case. It may be found necessary, when a new Speaker is elected, to appoint one who is in sympathy with the New Rules that have been passed, so that they will not be mere dead letters, but will be worked in accordance with the spirit of the Party who might then be in a position to nominate the Speaker of the day. I am told that the Speaker might be in a difficulty, in judging by the mere Business of the House, or by the mere cries from one Party or another, as to what is the evident sense of the House. But let me ask what is to be done in this case—which I have not yet heard mentioned—Suppose, after a debate has gone through one evening, a question arises as to an adjournment, and supposing the Ministry of the day think it undesirable that the debate should be adjourned, and divide against it, and have a majority against it? As matters now stand, if the minority are tolerably strong, and they think they have a good case, they will divide over and over again. The Speaker, after two or three divisions, will have had a clear indication that the body of the House, or the majority of the House, do not desire to have an adjournment, and, therefore, desire to close the debate. What is the Speaker to do in such a case? He almost necessarily, I think, would have to put the Question, and then you would have the clôture adopted, on the very first evening, perhaps, of the debate, when the Opposition has not had time to master the facts brought forward, or to array their forces. That is what may happen when the Speaker is in the Chair. But what I think much more serious and much more difficult is the case of the Chairman of Committees. I cannot help observing that all through this debate the Government, and those who have spoken for this proposal, have, almost studiously, omitted to mention the case of the Chairman of Committees; and yet I will undertake to say that nine-tenths of the cases of Obstruction have taken place in Committee. In the Chairman of Committees you have an Officer of the House who is always a Gentleman of ability and standing in the House, a Gentleman in whom we always have had confidence, and who—as far as we have had experience of a large number of Gentlemen who have been Chairmen of Committees—we have always found to be fair and impartial in the discharge of his duties. Still, the weight and authority of the Chairman of Committees are by no means those of the Speaker, and the questions which will come before him are innumerable. How are you to deal with those questions of Obstruction which will take place in Committee? How are you going to deal with repeated Amendments on clause after clause which you will not be able to put a stop to by exercising the clôture once or twice? You will have to repeat the clôture at every turn; and when you have done that you will find, in a large proportion of cases, that Members will indignantly resent it, and endeavour to defeat your object by making new proposals such as they have it perfectly in their power to make in Committee. It does seem to me that the position of Chairman of Committees would be a most painful one. He would very soon find himself in the position of having remarks made about him, and the House might be put into relations with him which would greatly enfeeble his authority. I must apologize to the House for having detained them so long at this hour of the night; but the question is one of the very highest importance. We are taking a step of which it is impossible to calculate the consequences. It does seem to me, in spite of the manner in which this Resolution has been pressed upon us, and the urgency with which we are told we must adopt certain measures to deal with the Obstructive Party, that these are measures which we might easily adopt to get rid of a momentary difficulty, but which would leave greater difficulties behind them. It is the old fable of the horse and the stag. The horse allows the man to mount him, and never gets rid of him—"Non equitem dor so, frœenum non depulit ore." But I have attempted to argue; and there are occasions, of which I am afraid this is one, when argument is of little or no use—it is now no question of argument, except of argument with the master of many legions, all of whom are sworn to obedience. I can but raise my voice; I can but urge the House to consider; I can but press upon them my strong conviction that, in taking the step we are now asked to take, we are taking one that endangers the position of this famous House and the liberties of which we have been so proud. I will not venture to detain the House by reading more than one line or so; but I hope I may be allowed to read just one quotation from a book written by a famous Foreigner who studied the condition of England some years ago—I mean M. de Montalembert. These are his words, speaking of the difference between the English and the Foreign system— England is not like these Continental gardens and parks with straight avenues and well-trimmed trees, where you look forward and backward, right and left, and see on all sides neat lanes watered by vigilant gardeners; it is a vast forest, with roads both straight and crooked, abominable sloughs, charming lakes, centenary oaks and scented briars, where all is spontaneous and vigorous, abounding in every part with life and vigour. Sir, I object both to the French word and the French institution.


I am glad to see, Sir, that the right hon. Baronet, though he objects both to the French word and the French institution, does not object at all to a quotation from a French writer; and I myself was struck with the peculiar appropriateness of one of the most marked phrases of that quotation, over which it appeared to me that the right hon. Baronet travelled rather lightly. He said that England had, amongst other figures he described, an "abomiable slough." Our contention, put in a homely phrase, is this—that the House of Commons has got into one of these abominable sloughs; and that the question is, How is it to get out of it? Now, Sir, at this hour of the night, I shall endeavour to select, as carefully as I can, the points on which I may have to touch; but, after a debate so lengthened, and on a question so important, there are several points on which I must touch clearly and distinctly. I am very glad my right hon. Friend (Mr. Mundella) came into the House at a very opportune moment—not, indeed, in time to save 200 or 300 Gentlemen sitting opposite from enormous vocal exertions, but in time to show that the right hon. Baronet had quoted from an incorrect and untrue version of his speech. ["No, no!"] Not incorrect and untrue? Then I will give hon. Members the advantage of further light on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman was reported to have said some brief words to the effect that he would not have the clôture absolutely; but what he did say was, "that he would never have it without qualifications—that we should never propose it without qualifications." Those were his actual words, and the difference is important, because I, myself, am ready to adopt and make my own the declaration of my right hon. Friend, and say I should not have proposed, and should be most averse to proposing, and in the present circumstances—or in any circumstances I can anticipate—should refuse to propose, the closing power without qualifications. Now, what are the qualifications we have introduced? The first point on which I must join issue with the right hon. Baronet is the point upon which he has touched—namely, the question upon which we are going to vote. He says the question upon which we are going to vote is only whether the closing power may be brought into operation by a bare majority; and he says that that is the construction which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott) puts on his Motion. I must say I did not hear it; but, whether it is so or not, I apprehend it is totally impossible for him to construe his Motion. He must accept the authoritative interpretation which may be put upon the Motion by those who are qualified to interpret it for the House, and whose interpretation cannot be disputed. I venture to assert with considerable confidence the direct reverse of what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman. I say that the question we are to decide to-night is not the question whether the clôture, by a bare majority, as it is called, is or is not to be had. The question is—Whether we are to introduce into our system, in any form, a limitation of the quantity of debate? And in order that I may give hon. Gentlemen every advantage, I will state in a still more definite form that which I have to state, and which I state with the utmost confidence. I hope my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brighton, if he be in his place, will do me the favour to listen to what I say. It is this, if the Amendment become the Main Question, and, after having become the Main Question, be recorded it as it stands—and the words we are debating are the present words of the Amendment—if the Amendment as it stands be recorded as the deliberate and final decision of the House, then it will not be competent to anyone to move the introduction of any closing power by a majority in any shape whatever. That is the question; and let it be distinctly understood what we say is that matters in this House have reached a state which is not adequately appreciated by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I hope they will do me the justice to admit that in introducing this subject to the House I did not introduce it in the spirit of controversy and Party, and I shall endeavour strictly to adhere to that position as well as I am able; and all that I charge against them now is this, that I do not think they have looked as closely at this matter as we have. ["Oh, oh!"] Surely that is an innocent thing to say. We are more bound to look closely at the matter than they are, and that is the extent of my charge against them. If they had looked at it as closely as we have, I do not believe they would have indulged in the exaggerated predictions which have formed the staple and substance of nearly all the speeches we have heard from them. What we contend is, that there are certain technical amendments which you can make in your Rules which will do good. There are great schemes of a division of labour, and devolution of power, which may, perhaps, be patiently elaborated, carefully tried, and gradually developed, and which will be of immense importance, but of which it is impossible at this moment to assume the acceptance or success upon any large scale. But, in addition to all that, although it be true that you may deal with offences of Obstruction penally, that is not enough. We have reached a point when you must look at the quantity as well as the quality of debate, and see whether the time has not arrived when, in moderation and with carefully-devised guarantees, some limits ought not to be administered. That is the contention upon which we are to decide to-night—we on this side being pledged to the affirmative, and those who oppose us—the hon. and learned Member for Brighton and any others with him—being pledged to the nega- tive. The right hon. Gentleman says this question ought to be freely discussed, and that it cannot be freely discussed unless the Government are prepared to accept any results of the discussion at which the House may arrive. Now, Sir, I put it with some confidence to the right hon. Gentleman, with the experience he has of the working of political authorities in this House, that he is here in contradiction with himself. He was good enough to quote what I had said in a description in which I endeavoured to convey to the House, that the House itself, through its Committees—its natural and legitimate instrument—had totally failed in dealing with this question, and why? Not because the Committees were incompetent to discuss it; not because the arguments were not brought here and there with great ingenuity and pains; but because there was a want of a guiding authority and a propelling power; and unless the House could supply that power itself, no choice remained to it but either to continue in its present embarrassments, or call in that kind of authority and influence which belongs of necessity to the Government of the day, having the confidence of the House. The right hon. Gentleman commended me for that. But what is the meaning of the authority and influence of the Government of the day, if, after all, it comes only to this, that we are to submit our arguments, but we are wrong if we attach our existence even to the most vital portions of this plan? I am not one of those who have any exaggerated anticipations of the working of this scheme. I have not described it as being invested with magic powers; and I will by-and-bye state how far I think it is, in its intention and possible power, from producing some of the results ascribed to it. Still, we have undertaken the responsibility—and it is a great responsibility—of proposing to the House the introduction of a measure which is in principle novel; and in making that proposal under the circumstances under which we make it, and considering the necessities of the case, I say it is our duty, as was said by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for India, to support that proposition by every legitimate means we can bring to bear. As to threats, I know not what the right hon. Gentleman means; and, judging from the vagueness of his lan- guage, I do not think he knows himself. If the right hon. Gentleman means what was stated by my noble Friend, I say it is not fair to call that a threat. The Government have a right to be the judges of their own honour and integrity in a case of this gravity, where the House of Commons is in danger of being reduced to impotence and to a disgraceful state of things; and when the Government undertakes the task of endeavouring to retrieve it from that mischief, I say it is impossible to conceive an assumption of graver responsibility; and no Government which do not, as to their main outlines and principles, know their own mind on such a subject as that, is fit to hold for a day the reins of power. At the same time, I am very far from admitting that on that account there is any need for our discussing this question in a spirit of Party, or for our framing our measures with a view to Party aid; and here I will refer briefly to what was stated by the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) in his able speech. The hon. and learned Member put a question, I think not unfairly, and I will endeavour to meet him in terms as explicit as his challenge to me. He said—"One of two things; either this is a measure for the common good of all, or it is a measure for putting forward Party measures." Just let us see how that stands. In one sense I admit that these plans for the reform of Procedure are favourable to legislation such as may be agreeable to the majority of the House. Do you consider that to stamp them with the character of Party measures? I say no; and I confidently say, in answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman, that this is a plan devised for the common good of all. But if you are to improve your Procedure, and relieve the House of Commons from its present deplorable condition, you cannot possibly do otherwise than increase the power of the majority to perform its work. Although, happily, it is always the case in this country that there is much which is dissociated from the interests of Party, yet, unquestionably, the majority has opinions of its own which it is sent here to propagate; and I do not hesitate to admit that in that sense a reform of Procedure is favourable to legislation in the spirit of the majority. But would that be a reason why the Procedure should not be reformed? It is a very different question indeed, as I think, which the hon. and learned Gentleman had to review. I do not think, when he stigmatized this as a Party measure in one of the alternatives, he at all intended that. I think he meant—Is it a device for restraining liberty of speech on the part of the minority of the House of Commons? That is a question you have a right to put, but which I do not hesitate to answer wholly in the negative. There is not a word said by the hon. and learned Gentleman in his speech with regard to the privilege of speech, and its priceless value as an absolutely essential condition of our political life, which I do not accept and am not ready to echo. But I go further, and assure the right hon. Baronet and others who have spoken that it fills us with astonishment to understand by what process hon. Members opposite have filled their minds with the dire apprehensions and horror they entertain. It has been said that there will be tyrannical Speakers—tools of the Government—who will use this clotÛre, one after the other, to put down liberty of speech. Is that so? The right hon. Gentleman knows something of Speakers, and he has not accepted the idea of a tyrannical Speaker. He knows perfectly well that there never can be a tyrannical Speaker in this House. ["Oh!"] I am glad to observe, and I think it right to record, that that expression of dissent came from a very peculiar quarter.


rose to Order, and said, the remark did not come from the Irish Members, but from the Conservative Benches.


I beg to say it was I who made the exclamation.


I sincerely apologize to the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) for the assumption I made; but I am bound to say, not as an apology or an extenuation, but in self-defence, that the local association, symbolizing, perhaps, political accord, has become so great that it is impossible in every case to know from whom an exclamation comes. With regard to the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), I must say that I think, from his long experience, he ought to have known more of the position of the Speaker than to suppose it possible that such a case could arise. But I will give my view of the position of the Speaker. The Speaker does not govern this House by the exercise of power. He governs it by influence, and his influence depends upon his winning the confidence of the House. Without the confidence of the House, he cannot continue Speaker for a month; and the confidence of the minority is as essential to that as the confidence of the majority. It is on that account that I am surprised when I hear the references that are made to the possibility of the exercising an oppressive power, not by the present Speaker, but by the abstract Speaker who looms in the distance. Even the matters to which the right hon. Baronet referred, so far as they go, support me in what I say. The circumstances were very peculiar circumstances under which Mr. Abercrombie (afterwards Lord Dunfermline) was elected to the Chair of this House. There was more political colour in that election than there was in subsequent elections to the Chair. It was only fair to those who at that time constituted the Liberal Party to say that they felt—as I have always been assured they felt—that the act required special justification, and the justification they gave was alleged political intrigue on the part of Sir Charles Manners Sutton, while Speaker, in conjunction with the Ministry of Sir Robert Peel, but anterior to the operations which brought about a change of Ministry. But what was the consequence? The consequence was this—and it is well worth recording—that Lord Dunfermline, though, I believe, a man of the strictest honour, and, undoubtedly, of very great ability, and to whom we owe some of the greatest Parliamentary services ever rendered by a Speaker, yet allowed his Speakership to be coloured by something like political partizanship, and it terminated after four years' duration. Does not that support the doctrine I lay down—that every Speaker, who desires to be firm in his position, must possess the confidence of the entire House, and if he were inclined to abuse his power he would find it impracticable to do so? The fact is this—You have painted pictures of a tyrannizing majority; but if there were a tyrannizing majority in this House, does not everyone know that the minority of the House, constituting the re- gular Opposition, has in its hands the means of resistance not justifiable under ordinary circumstances, but justifiable against a tyrannizing majority, which are amply sufficient for its defence? Have you not seen what can be done by a body of some 20 Irish Representatives; and do you suppose it is not in the power of 200, or sometimes 300, Gentlemen, by using the Forms of the House against a tyrannizing majority, to secure themselves against oppression? As far as I am able to form a judgment, it is impossible to conceive apprehensions more entirely dreamy and groundless than those which have possessed the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They seem to think there is some transformation about to pass over the spirit of English life. They seem to suppose that henceforward all majorities are to be actuated by this abominable spirit; are at once to renounce the traditions of Englishmen, in which they have grown and passed their political existence. I will, if you like, allow that monstrous paradox. I will grant that improbability, reaching to incredulity, to be a realized fact. I say, if it were a realized fact, you would still have in your own hands the amplest powers of self-defence, and no person could work the House of Commons upon any principles that would ever allow of the doing of systematic injustice to those who constitute the Opposition in this House. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman seemed annoyed because someone had referred to the House of Lords, and pointed out that the Gentlemen opposite are the very last persons who need conceive these exaggerated alarms. What is their case? Their case is that they are to be a minority of the House, who are to be absolutely oppressed. Is it no satisfaction to know that they have the House of Lords at their back? If they think that the House of Lords would have no power for their defence in the extraordinary case that they have supposed, all that I can say is, that they must then believe something else more outrageous still—namely, not only that the Speaker, not only that the majority are engaged in this nefarious enterprize, not only that the House of Lords is impotent, but that the whole nation is perverted and corrupted, for, unless that were so, sound public opinion would support the House of Lords in defending, at least as far as legislative measures were concerned, the rights of an oppressed minority. Well, Sir, I must say it is always a sign of an instructive character when I observe Gentlemen entirely contradict themselves in the course of their own speeches; and within the space, I think, of two minutes I have heard, a Gentleman who is a very temperate and much respected Member of Parliament—the Member for Mid Kent (Sir William Hart Dyke)—after having propounded boldly and confidently that this closing power would be ineffective, and would fail for the purposes he ascribed to it—and, I must say, it would entirely fail for any such purposes—immediately went on to say—"We are now asked to make so vast a change that is nothing more or less than a revolution." First of all, the right hon. Gentleman said the power asked for would wholly fail to produce any serious results, and in the next breath he characterized the change as revolutionary. Another contradictor of himself was the hon Gentleman the Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy), on whose speech I wish to make a few comments. He, too, coolly announced that the proposal to introduce a closing power was made with the view to renew the Coercion Bill of last Session. I think I can convey information to the hon. Gentleman. He thinks that it is closure which renders coercion possible in this House. I tell him that it is crime which renders coercion possible. This power was, he says, introduced for the purpose of coercion, and on that account he is going to oppose it; and then he proceeded to say that, after all, it would totally fail when it was met by a determined and, what he called, a malignant Obstruction; so that at the same time that he ascribed to us its purpose, and on account of which purpose he intended to vote against the measure, he said—"The scheme is absurd, and never can attain the end for which it is devised." I am exceedingly indebted to the hon. Member for ascribing to us this most absurd proposition, this proposition which I denounce in stronger terms even than he has used, if it be considered as a means of passing coercion upon the House; and here, Sir, I will venture to refer to a misconstruction of the actual words of the Resolution. According to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Leices- tershire (Major General Burnaby), when a discussion on a clause in Committee had begun, and there is a long series of Amendments on the clause, the first happening, perhaps, to be frivolous, the others, possibly, may be very valuable, and if the closing power is applied to the first Amendment it affects the whole of the Amendments, and there is no more debate upon the clause. That, he seriously says, is the effect of the 1st Resolution. He hopes that we shall be able to satisfy him that it is not the effect of the Resolution. Why, Sir, the Resolution is so plain that it cannot be made plainer. What is to happen in the case of the exercise of the closing power? This, and this only, is to happen—the question under discussion shall be put forthwith. What is the question under discussion? It admits of no doubt whatever. It is the question which the Speaker or, in Committee, the Chairman will next put from the Chair. It has no possible application to any other debate or any other question whatever, and has not the smallest effect, therefore, upon the moving of subsequent Amendments. With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman has said concerning the position of the Speaker, I will not say that from one point of view it is not worthy of notice. We must deal in cases of this kind by endeavouring to make that selection of propositions which is, on the whole, the best. I admit it is a new responsibility added to the Chair; but I feel perfectly certain that if the responsibility is found too heavy, the consequence will be the power will be rarely, and perhaps insufficiently, used. From the first I ventured to state, and I re-state most confidently, the power never will be used except in comparatively rare and in very clear cases. And if it overloads the Speaker, or overloads the Chairman of Committees, the consequence of that will be that, in order to maintain the essential conditions of their Office, which absolutely require the confidence of the House in general, they will be obliged to pass by many opportunities and occasions when the reasons of the case would justify the exercise of the power. Even now it is notorious that many things that might be justly taken exception to on the ground of Order are, of necessity, passed by, because it is impossible for anyone in a position like that of the Speaker of Committees to interfere inces- santly with the proceedings of the House. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Longford makes an assertion that by means of the closure it is intended to bring in coercion. When the hon. Member takes upon himself to speak of the motives and intentions which are in the minds of Members of the Government, I think I am entitled to meet his assertion with a strong and positive denial. He has no right to make it. He knows nothing of our intentions; he cannot read the interior of our minds; and it is not fair nor just to impute to us an intention which he himself denounces as not only guilty, but absurd, in defiance of our declarations. I can tell the hon. Gentleman, if he is to be the interpreter of our conduct, I will be the interpreter of his. I make no complaint of his junction with hon. Gentlemen opposite; it is a perfectly natural course in his position. He and the "no rent" Party—for that is the best name for them—are but a small fraction of the Irish nation; and, though they are a small fraction, they are a fraction determined to go all lengths. They have one great object in view, and they pursue it with fidelity, constancy, and courage, and that is to enervate the power of this House and to reduce it to impotence. They have another object, subordinate, perhaps, but not unimportant. It is to eject the present Government from power. I make no complaint of them whatever for that. It is part of the policy they pursue. Their policy of "no rent" I look upon as mad and guilty; but they choose their own starting point, and, having chosen it, I cannot wonder I cannot complain that they take steps the best fitted to advance it. They know what is going on in Ireland. They know the views which the present Government entertain as to the means by which the "no rent" Party can be coped with. They know that the Gentlemen who sit opposite do not concur in our views—and most naturally—and with perfect consistency they desire to get rid of the present Government and the supporters of the Land Act, because that Land Act is an Act which they fear. They believe and apprehend that it will win—and it has in some degree won—the people of Ireland away from the Land League. Let me remind the House that the proposition which is now made to the House, though new in form, is not new in substance. I have described it as a proposition intended to limit, with proper guarantees, the quantity of debate even apart from the offence of positive and wilful Obstruction. That is not the first time it has been done. There are two modes of limiting the quantity of debate. One is to stop the length of particular debates. The other is to abolish the opportunities. We have been busy ever since the Reform Act in limiting the quantity of debate by abolishing the opportunities of debate; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), in an able speech delivered the other night in a spirit of candour and comparative moderation, actually recommended that we should diminish the opportunities now afforded for debate. I ask whether that in principle is not the same thing? It may not be, perhaps, from your point of view; because I admit that if you are determined to say that this closing power is a power to be exercised against the minority of the House, it is not, from your point of view, the same thing. We utterly disbelieve it; for us, it is quite natural to say that the power of free speech, on which you insist for the House at large, is diminished by diminishing the opportunities. If we had proposed that the power of raising a debate on the Question that the Speaker leave the Chair should be taken away, that would be to an extent, at all events, an invasion of the right of free discussion. We are told sometimes that there are many hon. Members on this side of the House who do not like these proposals. I am not surprised that it should be said, because I admit that to me nothing can be more repugnant than the introduction of any limiting proposals whatever. But when I have to choose between two evils, I prefer to take the smaller of the two, and hope to get rid of the greater; and therefore I class myself amongst those who, in that sense, do not like any of these limiting proposals. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucestershire spoke very fairly when he made an admission very different, I must say, from the other statements that have been made. The right hon. Gentleman said—I cannot be sure I quote his exact words, but I do not think I deviate from his intention when I say he said—that if this Rule were passed as it stands, and if it were abused by the majority of the House, the effect would be that the majority of the House would suffer at once in the estimation of the people; and that if we came back to Westminster next year as a Government, we would come back as a Government weakened in our hold upon Parliament and public conscience. That means that the people of the Three Countries would disapprove of this tyrannical use of power, and would cause that those who were guilty should at once discover the result in the comparative weakness to which they were reduced. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) said that we ought not to make the folly or misconduct of the few the measure of the privileges of the many. It is a very sound sentiment, and it is exactly the sentiment which we quote in favour of our plan. What we allege is, that at this moment the misconduct which interferes with our progress is the misconduct of the few, and that the many are the victims of that misconduct. The many came here to perform the duty with which the nation intrusted them; they came here to watch and criticize the Government; and they came here to conduct the Business of Legislation; but the conduct of a few, of an insignificant minority—not absolutely, perhaps, of one political complexion, but certainly not amounting in all to one-twentieth part of the House of Commons—has been the main cause of bringing about this state of things. It is an actual fact, and not a remote apprehension, that the misconduct of the few has measured and has limited the privileges and the powers of the many. I do not at all disguise the fact that we have to deal with other matters besides wilful Obstruction and gross irrelevancy. There is amplitude of speech. It is very necessary that something should be done in that matter. I myself am charged as an offender in this respect. The other day I was taken to task by an hon. Member for the length of my speeches, and I am not prepared to deny it. I think there is good ground for the complaint which the hon. Member made. A great deal of responsibility attaches to one who holds high Office, or is the Leader of a Party; but look at the condition at which we have arrived! The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) reproved me for amplitude, in perfect good faith, though he is not the Leader of a Party nor the holder of a responsible office—he reproved me for amplitude in a speech which was itself two hours long. Can it be that some change of a mild and reasonable kind is desirable in these respects. You say, and say truly, that the multitude of speakers is constantly increasing, and, with the further extension of the franchise, may still more increase. A cruel aggravation has presented itself to Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House. They have been subjected to pressure which is almost intolerable, and which, I confess, I have wondered at as much as I have admired the patience with which it has been borne. If hon. Gentlemen sitting on this side had spoken during the last two years in the same proportion as the other fractions of the House, I do not believe we should have made any progress at all. This is a matter which is not at all invidious; but one which requires a dispassionate examination. Is it necessary for the House to handle questions at such length as they are usually handled now? The House of Lords determined in a night to appoint a Committee to inquire into the Irish Land Act. We object to the proposal, and offer a Resolution, which is intended to express an opposite conclusion; but that Motion is not disposed of in one night, but it requires four nights. [An hon. MEMBER: Five.] I think it was four, but if it was five it is so much the better for my argument. And why is this? It is not because the House of Lords has less time at their disposal than we have, because they have a great deal more time; but they did not find it necessary to enter into the subject at length. We, however, cannot dispose of it under four nights. If it is to be considered as a political Motion, I have already pointed out that a far graver Motion was disposed of, 51 years ago, as rapidly as the House of Lords disposed of the question to which I refer. That was the case of Lord Ebrington's Motion in 1831, in this House, after the rejection of the Reform Bill by the House of Lords, which was disposed of in a single night. Last year we had 11 nights' debate on the Address, and this year eight nights. Is that really necessary? We ask how is this closing power to apply to it? In my opinion, it will apply to it, not only by a gentle action, but by a double action. I believe that it will be judiciously, cautiously, and fairly exercised by the Speaker in the Chair; and I believe that, as in the case of railways in regard to competition, the mere expectation of competition did a good deal to keep down abuses, the mere apprehension of the exercise of the power will have a gentle but material effect in checking the tendency to inordinate speaking. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) has seen that there are the greatest difficulties in the way of abusing a power of this kind. What is our exact position? We see the case as he does; but I think we see it on both sides. We see the House as it now stands, exhausted with its labours, failing in the performance of its duties, beginning to lose somewhat of its estimation in the public mind, and lapsing by degrees into a slavery to its own system. This House has conquered every external foe, and now it runs the risk of being vanquished itself by those who, perhaps, are not the noblest of its children. What do we ask? We ask you to apply, or to endeavour to apply, a remedy to this specific mischief, the growing amplitude of debate, which, even apart from positive disgrace, and apart from increasing mischief, is rapidly tending to a point which will soon make the transaction of Business impracticable. We have endeavoured to make the remedy mild and moderate and practicable. We do not ask you to assent to our remedy tonight. The words of the Resolution before you to-night are merely a few words necessary to form a peg upon which to hang our Resolution. We do, however, ask you, by negativing this Amendment, which shuts the door against every application of a remedy—we do ask you, by rejecting that Amendment, to assert a principle which means, and which assures the House, that this House is able, casting sophisms aside, to look at the substance of things. That it means not phrases, but work, and that neither individual folly nor combinations shall be allowed to stand between the House of Commons and the discharge of its great duties to the Crown and to the nation.


, who rose amid interruption, remarked that hon. Gentlemen opposite need not be impatient, because he only wished to make a short reference to the speech delivered in the early part of the evening by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright). In the course of the night he had risen several times for the purpose of getting an opportunity of doing so. He had not intended, otherwise, to interpose in the debate upon the cloture. It was a question in which he took a very limited interest, for he had no objection to see the English House of Commons, having destroyed the Irish Parliament, now degrading their own. He should confine his remarks to the statements which had been made by the Chancellor of the Duchy. The right hon. Gentleman stated that his hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) and himself (Mr. Healy) were present and spoke at the Chicago Convention, at which subscriptions were made for equipping soldiers to fight against the Crown, although both hon. Members had taken the Oath of Allegiance at that Table. He had informed the right hon. Gentleman, by a negative sign, that neither the hon. Member for Galway nor himself spoke at the Chicago Convention. They were simply present at a meeting in Chicago which was held later, and which was held altogether independent of the Convention. So far as he was concerned, the cause of his not speaking at the Convention at which they were present was not that he was afraid in the smallest degree of being involved in any responsibility for its proceedings, but because it should not be said that any of the Irish Representatives had interposed any authority or influence they might possess to induce the Irish people in America to come to any conclusion whatsoever. That was the sole reason of their silence. He fully and entirely endorsed every one of the resolutions come to at the Chicago Convention; and as to the subscriptions which the right hon. Gentleman said were raised to equip Irish soldiers, he must candidly say that he never heard a word about them until, on his way back from America, he read a speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman at Birmingham, of which the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman in the early part of the evening was simply a re-hash. While he was upon bis legs he was also anxious to contradict another statement which had been made by a Liberal Member—namely, that his hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) subscribed £200 towards the objects of the Chicago Convention. He only wished that his hon. Friend had such a sum of money that he could afford to be so generous. His hon. Friend, no doubt, considered that he did sufficient for Ireland in devoting his time and his services to the Irish cause for five or six months in America; but his hon. Friend had promised no subscription whatever. But, of course, like another contradiction, in which a statement made by the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Herbert Gladstone) was repudiated, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster would not condescend to notice this one, but on some future day would go down to Birmingham and repeat his assertions in spite of what was now said; and in due course of time the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman would be handed down to his heirs, executors, and assigns in the Liberal Party of the future, to be utilized by them in their dealings with the Irish Members. Before he sat down he wished to make one remark upon a point in regard to which it was necessary to associate the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster with the Prime Minister. The Premier said the intention of the Irish Members was to enervate the power of the House of Commons and to reduce it to a state of incapacity for the discharge of its proper functions; and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said there was a Party in the House whose sole object was to insure the degradation of that Assembly. Now, he had no desire to place the Irish Members in a position which was not clearly intelligible, or to be laid open to the witty expression once applied by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) to the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell)—that he was "un homme incompris." He would simply remind the House that the position of the Irish Members was not by any means the position which either the Premier or the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster asserted, and for this reason—that while those right hon. Gentlemen attributed to them disaffection, disloyalty, murder, and outrage there happened to exist in the background in Ireland a Party who were 10 times—aye, 1,000,000 times more opposed to the British Crown and Constitution than any Irish Member in that House. ["No!" and "Hear, hear!"] He did not expect that that declaration would be received with unanimous consent. The Irish Members in that House occupied a central or an intermediate position. If they were supposed, in their attacks upon the House of Commons, to represent the disloyalty of Ireland, then he confessed that he knew nothing about disloyalty. He frankly told the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and Her Majesty's Government that, so far as the action of the Irish Members in that House was concerned, they might be thankful for the fact that it was only a very small portion—merely the half-notes of the minor key of Irish disaffection—that reached them from the Benches on which he sat. He would tell the Government that there was a power beyond the Irish Members in that House, and despite of them, with which they had nothing to do—with which they had no connection; and that it was well for the Government that they had only the Irish Members to malign. Her Majesty's Government could not reach these other men; and the Irish Members were not responsible for them. He had now explained what the exact position of the Irish Members was. It had been said that the Irish Members had been returned to the House for the purpose of breaking up and degrading Parliament. The fact was simply this. Their endeavour—certainly his endeavour—had always been to impress upon the Irish people that Parliamentary agitation was, to a large extent, of little avail unless they were themselves prepared to keep up the agitation outside the walls of Parliament. He had pointed out, over and over again, that, so far from the agitation of the Irish Members in the House of Commons being of any use whatever, it was a waste of energy, unless they were backed up outside. Trusted men at times were returned there, year after year, to oppose the Government in that House; and, year after year, the Government, by their strategies, had been able to win them over. There was the same probability of their turning round now as there was in bygone times. Hence he always told the Irish people that Parliamentary agitation was only, so to speak, the left arm of Ireland. If Parliament were to expel all the Irish Members to-morrow, he should care very little for it; because he knew that, although Parliament might gag the voices of the Irish Members tomorrow, they could not impose a clôture on the voice of the Irish nation. The Government must remember that they had not to deal only with the Irish Members in that House, but with 20,000,000 Irishmen outside the walls of Parliament. That, then, was the position of the Irish Representatives; and to-night, if his words could reach those hon. Members who attributed to himself and his Friends extraordinary ideas about Parliamentary government, he would ask them what the Irish Members possibly could be if they had not behind them the voices and the support of the Irish people? Personally, he should be but the fractious and vulgar humbug which he was continually told he was by the English Press, if he had not behind him the force, and the voice, and the feelings of a nation. With what courage could the Irish Members stand up in that House, before the exponents of "British fair play," drawing forth offensive speeches and derisive cheers, if they did not occupy the position of persons who knew they were suffering in a good cause, and that that cause had behind it the memories of the oppression, injustice, and misrule of seven consecrated centuries?

Question put, "That the words 'when it shall appear to Mr. Speaker,' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 318; Noes 279: Majority 39.

Acland, Sir T. D. Balfour, J. B.
Agnew, W. Balfour, J. S.
Ainsworth, D. Barclay, J. W.
Allen, H. G. Baring, Viscount
Allen, W. S. Barnes, A.
Allman, R. L. Barran, J.
Amory, Sir J. H. Bass, A.
Armitage, B. Bass, H.
Armitstead, G. Bass, M. T.
Arnold, A. Baxter, rt. hon. W. E.
Asher, A. Beaumont, W. B.
Ashley, hon. E. M. Biddulph, M.
Baldwin, E. Blennerhassett, Sir R.
Balfour, Sir G. Blennerhassett, R. P.
Bolton, J. C. Dundas, hon. J. C.
Borlase, W. C. Earp, T.
Brand, H. R. Ebrington, Viscount
Brassey, H. A. Edwards, H.
Brassey, Sir T. Edwards, P.
Brett, R. B. Egerton, Adm. hon. F.
Briggs, W. E. Elliot, hon. A. R. D.
Bright, J. (Manchester) Errington, G.
Bright, rt. hon. J. Evans, T. W.
Brinton, J. Fairbairn, Sir A.
Broadhurst, H. Farquharson, Dr. R.
Brooks, M. Fawcett, rt. hon. H.
Brown, A. H. Fay, C. J.
Bruce, rt. hon. Lord C Ferguson, R.
Bruce, hon. R. P. Ffolkes, Sir W. H. B.
Bryce, J. Findlater, W.
Buchanan, T. R. Firth, J. F. B.
Burt, T. Fitzmaurice, Lord E.
Buszard, M. C. Fitzwilliam, hon. H. W.
Butt, C. P. Fitzwilliam, hon. W.J.
Buxton, F. W. Flower, C.
Caine, W. S. Foljambe, C. G. S.
Cameron, C. Foljambe, F. J. S.
Campbell, Sir G. Forster, Sir C.
Campbell, R. P. F. Forster, rt. hon. W. E.
Campbell-Bannerman, H. Fort, R.
Fowler, H. H.
Carbutt, E. H. Fowler, W.
Carington, hon. R. Fry, L.
Carington, hon. Col. W. H. P. Fry, T.
Gabbett, D. F.
Cartwright, W. C. Givan, J.
Causton, R. K. Gladstone, rt. hn. W.E.
Cavendish, Lord E. Gladstone, H. J.
Cavendish, Lord F. C. Gladstone, W. H.
Chamberlain, rt. hn. J. Glyn, hon. S. C.
Chambers, Sir T. Gordon, Sir A.
Cheetham, J. F. Gordon, Lord D.
Childers, rt. hn. H. C. E. Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.
Clarke, J. C. Gourley, E. T.
Clifford, C. C. Gower, hon. E. F. L.
Cohen, A. Grafton, F. W.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Grant, A.
Collings, J. Grant, D.
Collins, E. Grant, Sir G. M.
Colman, J. J. Grenfell, W. H.
Colthurst, Col. D. La T. Grey, A. H. G.
Corbett, J. Guest, M. J.
Cotes, C. C. Gurdon, R. T.
Courtauld, G. Hamilton, J. G. C.
Courtney, L. H. Harcourt, rt. hon. Sir
Cowan, J. W. G. V. V.
Cowper, hon. H. F. Hardcastle, J. A.
Craig, W. Y. Hartington, Marq. of
Creyke, B. Hastings, G. W.
Cropper, J. Hayter, Sir A, D.
Cross, J. K. Henderson, F.
Crum, A. Heneage, E.
Cunliffe, Sir R. A. Henry, M.
Davey, H. Herschell, Sir F.
Davies, D. Hibbert, J. T.
Davies, R. Hill, T. R.
Davies, W. Holland, S.
De Ferrieres, Baron Hollond, J. R.
Dickson, J. Holms, J.
Dickson, T. A. Holms, W.
Dilke, A. W. Hopwood, C. H.
Dilke, Sir C. W. Howard, G. J.
Dillwyn, L. L. Howard, J.
Dodds, J. Hutchinson, J. D.
Dodson, rt. hon. J. G. Illingworth, A.
Duckham, T. Inderwick, F. A.
Duff, R. W. James, C.
James, Sir H. Philips, R. N.
James, W. H. Playfair, rt. hon. L.
Jardine, R. Porter, A. M.
Jenkins, D. J. Portman, hn. W. H. B.
Jenkins, J. J. Potter, T. B.
Jerningham, H. E. H. Powell, W. E. H.
Johnson, E. Pugh, L. P.
Johnson, rt. hon. W. M. Pulley, J.
Jones-Parry, L. Ralli, P.
Kingscote, Col. R. N. F. Ramsay, J.
Kinnear, J. Ramsden, Sir J.
Labouchere, H. Rathbone, W.
Laing, S. Reed, Sir E. J.
Lambton, hon. F. W. Reid, R. T.
Lawson, Sir W. Rendel, S.
Lea, T. Richard, H.
Leake, R. Richardson, J. N.
Leatham, E. A. Richardson, T.
Leatham, W. H. Roberts, J.
Lee, H. Robertson, H.
Leeman, J. J. Rogers, J. E. T.
Lefevre, right hon. G. J. S. Roundell, C. S.
Russell, G. W. E.
Leigh, hon. G. H. C. Russell, Lord A.
Lloyd, M. Rylands, P.
Lubbock, Sir J. St. Aubyn, Sir J.
Lymington, Viscount Samuelson, B.
Lyons, R. D. Samuelson, H.
Mackie, R. B. Seely, C. (Lincoln)
Mackintosh, C. F. Seely, C. (Nottingham)
Macliver, P. S. Shaw, W.
M'Arthur, A. Sheridan, H. B.
M'Arthur, W. Shield, H.
M'Clure, Sir T. Simon, Serjeant J.
M'Intyre, & Æneas J. Slagg, J.
M'Lagan, P. Smith, E.
M'Laren, C. B. B. Smyth, P. J.
M'Minnies, J. G. Spencer, hon. C. R.
Maitland, W. F. Stanley, hon. E. L.
Mappin, F. T. Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.
Marjoribanks, E. Stanton, W. J.
Martin, R. B. Stevenson, J. C.
Maskelyne, M. H. Story- Stewart, J.
Mason, H. Storey, S.
Matheson, A. Stuart, H. V.
Maxwell-Heron, J. Summers, W.
Meldon, C. H. Talbot, C. E. M.
Mellor, J. W. Tavistock, Marquess of
Milbank, F. A. Tennant, C.
Monk, C. J. Thomasson, J. P.
Moreton, Lord Thompson, T. C.
Morgan, rt. hn. G. O. Tillett, J. H.
Morley, A. Tracy, hon. F. S. A. Hanbury-
Morley, S.
Mundella, rt. hon. A. J. Trevelyan, G. O.
Nicholson, W. Verney, Sir H.
Noel, E. Vivian, A. P.
O'Beirne, Major F. Vivian, H. H.
O'Brien, Sir P. Waterlow, Sir S. H.
O'Conor, D. M. Waugh, E.
O'Shaughnessy, R. Webster, J.
Otway, Sir A. Whalley, G. H.
Paget, T. T. Whitbread, S.
Palmer, C. M. Whitworth, B.
Palmer, G. Wiggin, H.
Palmer, J. H. Williams, S. C. E.
Parker, C. S. Williamson, S.
Pease, A. Willis, W.
Pease, J. W. Wills, W. H.
Peddie, J. D. Willyams, E. W. B.
Peel, A. W. Wilson, C. H.
Pender, J. Wilson, I.
Pennington, F. Wilson, Sir M.
Wodehouse, E. R. TELLERS.
Woodall, W. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Woolf, S. Kensington, Lord
Alexander, Colonel Davenport, W. B.
Allsopp, C. Dawnay, Col. hon. L. P.
Amherst, W. A. T. Dawnay, hon. G. C.
Archdale, W. H. Dawson, C.
Ashmead-Bartlett, E. De Worms, Baron H.
Aylmer, J. E. F. Dickson, Major A. G.
Bailey, Sir J. R. Digby, Col. hon. E.
Balfour, A. J. Dixon-Hartland, F. D.
Baring, T. C. Donaldson-Hudson, C.
Barne, F. St. J. N. Douglas, A. Akers-
Barry, J. Dyke, rt. hn. Sir W. H.
Barttelot, Sir W. B. Eaton, H. W.
Bateson, Sir T. Ecroyd, W. F.
Beach, rt. hn. Sir M. H. Egerton, hon. W.
Beach, W. W. B. Elcho, Lord
Bective, Earl of Elliot, G. W.
Bellingham, A. H. Elliot, Sir G.
Bentinck, rt. hn. G. C. Emlyn, Viscount
Beresford, G. de la P. Ennis, Sir J.
Biddell, W. Estcourt, G. S.
Biggar, J. G. Ewart, W.
Birkbeck, E. Ewing, A. O.
Blackburne, Col. J. I. Feilden, Maj.-Gen. R.J.
Boord, T. W. Fellowes, W. H.
Bourke, rt. hon. R. Fenwick-Bisset, M.
Brise, Colonel R. Filmer, Sir E.
Broadley, W. H. H. Finch, G. H.
Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F. Finigan, J. L.
Fitzpatrick. hn. B. E. B.
Brooke, Lord Fletcher, Sir H.
Brooks, W. C. Floyer, J.
Bruce, Sir H. H. Folkestone, Viscount
Bruce, hon. T. Forester, C. T. W.
Brymer, W. E. Foster, W. H.
Bulwer, J. R. Fowler, R. N.
Burghley, Lord Fremantle, hon. T. F.
Burnaby, General E. S. Freshfield, C. K.
Burrell, Sir W. W. Galway, Viscount
Buxton, Sir R. J. Gardner, R. Richard-
Byrne, G. M. son-
Callan, P. Garnier, J. C.
Cameron, D. Gibson, rt. hon. E.
Campbell, J. A. Giffard, Sir H. S.
Carden, Sir R. W. Gill, H. J.
Castlereagh, Viscount Goldney, Sir G.
Cecil, Lord E. H. B.G. Gooch, Sir D.
Chaine, J. Gore-Langton, W. S.
Chaplin, H. Gorst, J. E.
Christie, W. L. Grantham, W.
Clarke, E. Gray, E. D.
Clive, Col. hon. G. W. Greene, E.
Close, M. C. Greer, T.
Coddington, W. Gregory, G. B.
Cole, Viscount Halsey, T. F.
Collins, T. Hamilton, Lord C. J.
Commins, A. Hamilton, I. T.
Compton, F. Hamilton, right hon.
Coope, O. E. Lord G.
Corbet, W. J. Harcourt, E. W.
Corry, J. P. Harvey, Sir R. B.
Cotton, W. J. R. Hay, rt. hon. Admiral
Crichton, Viscount Sir J. C. D.
Cross, rt. hon. Sir R. A. Healy, T. M.
Cubitt, rt. hon. G. Herbert, hon. S.
Dalrymple, C. Hicks, E.
Daly, J. Hildyard, T. B. T.
Davenport, H. T. Hill, Lord A. W.
Hill, A. S. O'Donnell, F. H.
Hinchingbrook, Vise. O'Gorman Mahon, Col. The
Holland, Sir H. T.
Home, Lt.-Col. D. M. Onslow, D.
Hope, rt. hn. A. J. B. B. O'Shea, W. H.
Hubbard, rt. hon. J. G. O'Sullivan, W. H.
Jackson, W. L. Paget, R. H.
Johnstone, Sir F. Patrick, R. W. C.
Kennard, Col. E. H. Pell, A.
Kennaway, Sir J. H. Pemberton, E. L.
Knight, F. W. Percy, Earl
Knightley, Sir R. Percy, Lord A.
Knowles, T. Phipps, C. N. P.
Lacon, Sir E. H. K. Plunket, rt. hon. D. R.
Lalor, R. Power, J. O'C.
Lawrance, J. C. Power, R.
Lawrence, Sir T. Price, Captain G. E.
Leahy, J. Puleston, J. H.
Leamy, E. Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.
Lechmere, Sir E. A. H. Rankin, J.
Lee, Major V. Redmond, J. E.
Legh, W. J. Rendlesham, Lord
Leigh, R. Repton, G. W.
Leighton, Sir B. Ridley, Sir M. W.
Leighton, S. Ritchie, C. T.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Rolls, J. A.
Lever, J. O. Ross, A. H.
Levett, T. J. Ross, C. C.
Lewis, C. E. Round, J.
Lewisham, Viscount St. Aubyn, W. M.
Lindsay, Sir R. L. Salt, T.
Loder, R. Sandon, Viscount
Long, W. H. Schreiber, C.
Lopes, Sir M. Sclater-Booth, rt. hon. G.
Lowther, rt. hon. J.
Lowther, hon. W. Scott, Lord H.
Macartney, J. W. E. Scott, M. D.
M'Carthy, J. Selwin - Ibbetson, Sir
M'Coan, J. C. H.J.
Macfarlane, D. H. Severne, J. E.
M'Garel-Hogg, Sir J. Sexton, T.
Mac Iver, D. Smith, A.
M'Kenna, Sir J. N. Smith, rt. hon. W. H.
Macnaghten, E. Smithwick, J. F.
Makins, Colonel W. T. Stanhope, hon. E.
Manners, rt. hn. Lord J. Stanley, rt. hn. Col. F.
March, Earl of Storer, G.
Martin, P. Sullivan, T. D.
Marum, E. M. Sykes, C.
Master, T. W. C. Synan, E. J.
Maxwell, Sir H. E. Talbot, J. G.
Metge, R. H. Taylor, rt. hn. Col. T.E.
Miles, C. W. Taylor, P. A.
Miles, Sir P. J. W. Thomson, H.
Mills, Sir C. H. Thornhill, T.
Molloy, B. C. Thynne, Lord H. F.
Monckton, F. Tollemache, H. J.
Moore, A. Tollemache, hn. W. F.
Morgan, hon. F. Tottenham, A. L.
Moss, R. Tyler, Sir H. W.
Mowbray, rt. hn. Sir J.R. Wallace, Sir R.
Mulholland, J. Walpole, rt. hon. S.
Murray, C. J. Walrond, Col. W. H.
Newdegate, C. N. Walter, J.
Newport, Viscount Warburton, P. E.
Nicholson, W. N. Warton, C. N.
Noel, rt. hon. G. J. Watkin, Sir E. W,
Nolan, Colonel J. P. Watney, J.
North, Colonel J. S. Welby - Gregory, Sir W. E.
Northcote, H. S.
Northcote, rt. hn. Sir S. H. Whitley, E.
Williams, Colonel 0.
O'Connor, A. Wilmot, Sir H.
Wilmot, Sir J E. Wynn, Sir W. W
Winn, R. Yorke, J. R.
Wolff, Sir H. D.
Wortley, C. B. Stuart TELLERS.
Wroughton, P. Cowen, J.
Wyndham, hon. P. Marriott, W. T.

Main Question again proposed.

Debate arising.

Debate further adjourned till Monday next.