§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Mr. Speaker, I have received Her Majesty's gracious permission to make a statement—I trust it will not be a long one—explaining the reason why I have been obliged to take the step, most painful to me, of resigning my seat in the Government of my right hon. Friend. I believe it is customary that such a statement should 107 be made; but notwithstanding that it is customary, and notwithstanding the permission that I have received, I must honestly say that, from personal considerations alone, I would not have made it for two reasons. I do not wish to trouble the House, or to take up its time with any personal considerations; and, also, I am so sensible of the difficulties connected with the government of Ireland that I would gladly avoid giving the reasons why I am obliged to differ with my Colleagues. I cannot suppose that my statement of the reasons will have effect; and as the step has now been taken, and as the line of policy has been adopted, and, therefore, must be carried out, I should have preferred saying nothing which could in any way cause inconvenience in what must happen. But I believe the public and this House generally demand that any Member appointed to any responsible or important post should say why he has resigned it. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, a day or two ago, rightly stated that the reason for my resigning was that I did not think it right to share the responsibility of the release of the three hon. Members of Parliament who were detained under the provisons of the Protection Act. Now, I trust the House will believe me when I say that if I could have thought it right not only that these three Gentlemen should be released, but that every person detained under the provisions of that Act should also be released, I should only have been too glad to have consented. No one who has not realized the odious position which any Minister is placed in who has to carry out the provisions of an Act involving the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, can have any idea how odious it is—a man being made, as it were, the gaoler of his fellow-subjects—the duration of their imprisonment and, in some measure, their treatment depending upon his responsibility, and upon the fact that it is necessarily his opinion, rather than the law, which must be considered. That is, I say, so odious a position, that I cannot imagine any Chief Secretary who would not be glad beyond measure if he could have felt that he could rightly advise his Colleagues that they should be released. And now, just let me say that as to the other prisoners under this Act, so with these three hon. Members—I have tried 108 to work the Act according to the repeated promises and assurances that I have made to the House that we only detained the Queen's subjects in prison without trial for the purpose of the prevention of crime, and not for the purpose of punishment. Then, why am I opposed to this unconditional release at this moment? Well, Mr. Speaker, I am obliged to give my reasons. If I speak at all—if I give any explanation—I must give a full one. Therefore I must speak plainly, but I hope not offensively. But the same reason which made me think I was obliged to vindicate the detention of the three hon. Members on the ground of the prevention of crime makes me now object to their release, because I believe that it will tend to the encouragement of crime. Now, why were these Gentlemen arrested? I have often told the House—I do not think I need dwell upon it—but I must just give the actual grounds of the arrest. Two of these hon. Gentlemen were arrested on suspicion of treasonable practices. The hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. O'Kelly) was arrested on that ground; and the same warrant was issued, although not until two or three days after his arrest, with regard to the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell.) The hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) was arrested on the ground of intimidation, and there were two warrants which I signed in regard to the hon. Member for the City of Cork, also for intimidation. I will make no allusion at present to the warrants for treasonable practices; but I must make a remark or two with regard to those for intimidation. I have often asserted that these arrests for intimidation were—[At this point the entrance of Mr. Parnell into the House, and the cheers with which he was greeted by the Home Rule Members, drowned the voice of the right hon. Gentleman and prevented the conclusion of the sentence from being heard.] Perhaps [the right hon. Gentleman continued] I may say that, although I could not advise the release of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, I am glad that as he is released I shall have the advantage of having him sitting opposite to me while I am obliged to allude to him in the course of my statement. I will take the two warrants against the hon. Member for the City of Cork—the 109 two warrants for intimidation. I have often stated that I did not consider that the persons arrested on such warrants could, in any right description, be termed political prisoners. Also, I can hardly agree with what, no doubt, is the opinion held by several of my hon. Friends—as clearly shown in the Notice of Amendment placed on the Books of the House a day or two ago—that they were not simply arrested for illegal agitation. It was our duty to arrest them upon what we considered reasonable suspicion of the commission of a crime punishable by law, being either an act of intimidation or an incitement thereto. That is to say, that the Act gave us no power to arrest merely for illegal agitation; but it did give us power to arrest on suspicion of, or participation in, those actual crimes by which men were ruined or injured, or forced, by the fear of being ruined or injured, to do things which they did not wish to do, or not to do things which they did wish to do. Now, it is a common notion that they were arrested—that the hon. Member for the City of Cork was arrested—merely for obstructing the action of the Land Act. It is quite true that one of the warrants that I signed was for intimidation to prevent persons from applying to the Land Court, and the other was for intimidation against the payment of rents. But I must state that the obstruction of the Land Act was a very small part of that intimidation for which it was thought necessary to pass the Protection Act, and under which I worked its provisions. The real ground why these Gentlemen were arrested, and why many others were arrested, was because they were trying to carry out their will—their unwritten law, as they often called it—and to carry it out by working the ruin and the injury of the Queen's subjects, by intimidation of one kind or another; and that that was carried on to such an degree that no Government could have allowed it to continue without becoming a Government merely in name and a sham. I must repeat now that if the hon. Member for the City of Cork had not been placed in Kilmainham at the time he was placed there, he would very quickly have become in reality what he was called by many of his friends—the uncrowned King of Ireland. I do not for a moment say that he or the other hon. 110 Members now present incited to outrage or the intimidation of special individuals; but what they did was, to my mind, far more dangerous than that. They organized and instituted, and successfully carried into force, a system of the intimidation of individuals generally, punishing them for obeying the law of the land and doing what they had a right to do, and very often what it was their duty to do, and punishing them for disobedience to their will and to their unwritten law. I have been obliged to go over the grounds on which these Gentlemen were arrested, Now, under what circumstances could I have approved of their release? I will at once admit that it was impossible to detain them for ever, and that we must have looked forward to their release at one time or another. I would have released them as soon as I obtained security that the law of the land would no longer be set at nought and trampled under foot by them; but until I knew that they either could not or would not try to put their will in the place of the law, and make men do what they pleased, and until I knew that the Queen's Courts and the Queen's servants would be able to prevent them from punishing the Queen's subjects by ruin for disobedience to any ukase they might claim to issue, I would have detained them in custody; and that not on the principle of punishment for crime, but for the prevention of crime. There are three conditions, on either of which I would have considered their release safe; but, to my mind, not one of these three conditions has been fulfilled. There should have been a public promise on their part; or Ireland quiet; or the acquisition of fresh powers by the Government. Now let me explain what I mean by these conditions. What do I mean by a public promise? I mean a public undertaking, or promise, to make no further attempt to set up their will, or rather their law, against the law of the land; and, under no circumstances, to aid or abet, or instigate to intimidation, to prevent men from doing what they had a right to do. We have no such promise. The hon. Member for the City of Cork, who has been alluded to this evening, has in no way, that I am aware of, disowned—I am alluding to his famous Ennis speech—this system of intimidation, of tabooing people, and 111 of ruining people because they did not do what he was trying to make them do. In no way whatever has he disowned that speech, or the principles which induced him to make it. I am told that hopes are held out to us that there will be a change of action on his part, and on the part of his friends. Publicly, we certainly have had a Bill brought forward for the amendment of the Land Act. Yesterday week the introduction of that Bill, and the discussion upon it, induced me to say at the close that I thought it was hopeful of a better tone of feeling; but what I want is the avowal of a change—not a promise to help the Government if the Government will do something, but an undertaking to cease to oppose the Government in the execution of the law. And I must say that I entreat the House, and may I entreat my old Colleagues, not to rely upon these expectations; and, above all, not to act upon them? Let the House do what it thinks right upon these questions; let it pass what Bill it thinks fit upon that most difficult and urgent question of arrears—and I will go as far as most Members in regard to that matter—let them do what they think right upon the Purchase Clauses of the Laud Act, or upon any other amendment of the Land Act; but do not try to buy obedience to the law by concessions. A surrender is bad, but a compromise or arrangement is worse. I think we may remember what the Tudor King said to a great Irishman in former times—"If all Ireland cannot govern the Earl of Kildare, then let the Earl of Kildare govern Ireland." The King thought it was better that the Earl of Kildare should govern Ireland, than that there should be an arrangement between the Earl of Kildare and his Representative. In like manner, if all England cannot govern the hon. Member for Cork, then let us acknowledge that he is the greatest power in Ireland today; but I believe that with all England, helped by a large portion of Ireland, no concessions are necessary—that no arrangements are necessary—and that the Government should not be weakened by any concession. Well, then, I repeat, my first condition has not been fulfilled. There has been no public undertaking to cease from intimidation under any circumstances; there has been merely a hope held out publicly yesterday 112 week, that if Parliament passed a certain Bill, that if it settled this difficult question of arrears on a certain basis, then the Party below the Gangway would cease to obstruct the law. I am talking of the condition of the hon. Member and his Friends telling us that they would not continue the action which they had pursued. I would have taken their word. The hon. Member for the City of Cork knows how I differ from him—he knows what a wonder and surprise it is to me that he can bring himself to do what he has done; but he is not only a gentleman in station; he is also a man of honour, and I would have taken his word. But his word we have not got. The next condition would be Ireland quiet—so quiet that he and his Friends could not, if they tried, do much harm, or, at any rate, not so much harm as would vindicate us in keeping them any longer in prison. I am sorry to say that that condition is not fulfilled. I differ from some—very likely from many Members of the House—I think there is considerable improvement in the condition of Ireland. There is no open resistance to the law. The Land League has been defeated, first in its dictation as to what rent should be paid, and next as to its orders that no rent should be paid. Rents are very generally paid to a very great extent all over Ireland, in spite of the Land League. "Boycotting" has been checked. The pike which was hoisted in the presence of the hon. Member, and which he may be said to have made and forged in his speech at Ennis, that pike has, to some extent, been struck down; and though there is intimidation, there is not so much as there was. I am not now taking any merit to myself, or even to those who have been acting under me and with me. But, of course, with the hard experience we have had for many months, we have found out the weak points of the Administration, and we have strengthened the strong points. The patrolling and the action of the police are much more vigorous and more effective than they have ever been before. We hear of cases of men being found out and discovered and arrested in the commission of outrages, which we did not hear of at first. I must say that an arrangement, which, with the assistance of my noble Friend, Lord Cowper, I was able to make, for the appointment of six special 113 magistrates, has done great good. There have been far fewer crimes in consequence. [An hon. MEMBER: Major Bond.] The hon. Member knows I am not alluding to Major Bond—he knows that I am alluding to the six special magistrates. Only one word more. I am not going to dwell upon the matter. It would not become me to take advantage of the kind indulgence and attention of the House, on this personal occasion, to enter into debateable subjects to which the House will have hereafter to give its attention; but I cannot allude to the magistrates, or the Castle at Dublin, without begging hon. Members to withhold their judgment in condemnation of the arrangement soft he Castle. Undoubtedly it was desirable that there should be less government by writing, and more government by personal supervision; but I hope that the Queen may be served, and long served, by such faithful and devoted and loyal and hardworking servants as most of her servants in the Castle of Dublin; and I may say the same of the police and the Resident Magistrates in the performance of their most arduous duties. Let me call attention to what has been done, and to what very nearly was not done. A danger which was very imminent last autumn—namely, that there would be no government, at least no legitimate government, in Ireland—has been warded off; and I cannot resist the temptation of relating what, a week or two ago, a lady stated to me in Ireland. I do not know that she would like me to give her name; but she is a lady who has been fighting valiantly against every kind of intimidation—and the women have shown fully as much courage as the men—in Ireland. She said—"Well, I have differed from you sometimes; but I am compelled now to acknowledge that there is a Government in Ireland." Why had we this Government in Ireland, and why were we able to maintain it? My right hon. Friend said truly that the Protection Act had not failed. It was by the Protection Act—and I know of no other means by which it could have been done—that we secured government in Ireland, or, rather, prevented the government of Ireland from not being the Queen's Government; and that we broke up the Land League, or, at any rate, so far broke it up that it had to become a Ladies' Land League; that it tried to 114 hide itself under petticoats, or to fly to Paris, or take refuge in the sanctuary of this House. I must say one other thing, and that is that I took pains to obtain what I believe to be confidential, but accurate information, from every parish in Munster and Connaught, and from parts of Ulster, and from some of the counties in Leinster; and the information that I obtained was that, in many cases, the districts are more peaceable now and less disturbed than they were on the 1st of January; and that, upon the whole, the state of things is better, although, undoubtedly, it is still very bad. There are still many outrages. They have slightly diminished of late; but there are many as compared with last year and the year before. Undoubtedly, the secret societies have been more active; and I am very glad my right hon. Friend stated that they would occupy the attention of the Government. But this much I must say, and that is that if there is one thing worse even than secret societies, it is the open acknowledgment of the powerlessness of the law without the assistance of the law-breakers. Better even secret societies with which we must contend, and which we must put down as we have put them down before; better even these hideous incidents of the demoralization of Ireland than paying black-mail to law-breakers. There is no doubt, also, that the Land Courts are at work, and that the Land Act has taken hold of the imaginations of men, and is appealing very strongly to their interest; but the battle of law against lawlessness is not won; and I believe that, since that battle was begun, there never was a time in which it was more dangerous to relax the authority of the law. I know very well there are many on both sides of the House who do not agree with me; that they will not admit that, unless this step had been taken, we had hope of success. I believe that soon the law would have been shown to be all-powerful; that soon these secret societies, in their last manifestation, would have been put down; and that we should have had, neither secretly nor openly in Ireland, to contend with organizations defying the law. I hope the step that has been taken will not make that time more distant. That was the second condition, that Ireland should be quiet, and it has not been fulfilled. Now, there was a third condition, and 115 that was the one to which I myself looked forward as the condition upon which we should have been able to open the prison doors. That was the passing of a fresh Act—an Act which seemed to be required by special circumstances. I will not take up the time of the House on this point. I only rejoice that my right hon. Friend sees the necessity of an Act; but if he had been, more or less, for the last two years in Ireland, as I have been, however important the questions of Procedure are—and no one more than I acknowledges their importance, or is more anxious to see them carried out—I think he would feel that this Irish matter, this law for strengthening the power of the Government, must take, or, rather, ought to take, precedence of anything else. What I hope will be pointed to in such an Act is the greater certainty of punishment, and more appeals to the district to make them interested in the prevention of crime. But what I had hoped was this—that as soon as possible—there may be different definitions as to how soon that may be—there would have been an agreement that, as soon as the absolutely necessary Business was disposed of, this Act should be passed, and then I had fully hoped that we might, at any rate, have tried the experiment, not merely of releasing these three Gentlemen, or those who were arrested on similar grounds, but of releasing all whom we have detained without trial. Well, my Colleagues have decided otherwise, and I had to consider what I should do. It may be that I am mistaken. I only trust that I am. You may well say—What is the opinion of one man against that of 13, many of them far better qualified to form an opinion than I am. That one man, however, had the opinion so strong, that it was impossible for him to appear here, and not to acknowledge that he held it. I hope, as I say, that I may be mistaken. There may be an immediate diminution of outrages. Most heartily do I hope there will be. I observe in The Times correspondence from Ireland yesterday—[An hon. MEMBER: Patton.]—I do not know whether hon. Members will dispute the statement—that since the release many men are hoping that rents will be even better paid than they have been, and that the May rents, only just due, will be paid. I am glad to hear it. 116 I am glad that men should be doing their duty in paying the debts they owe, and that many men and women who have been put to sore straits for the want of their rents should be getting their money. But it is not altogether. with an unmixed feeling that I heard that statement made in that way. It may teach this lesson to both landlord and tenant—that the hon. Member for Cork and his Friends can get rent paid, and debts paid, when the Government cannot. And I cannot forget that for many months we have been teaching the lesson, and with success, that whatever the hon. Member and his Friends did, or tried to do, the Government would insist upon men paying their lawful debts, whatever obstacles these hon. Members might interpose in the way. But, Mr. Speaker, that is a lesson which it is not difficult to unlearn. There may, as I say, be this immediate diminution. Another fear which I had, and had very strongly, is one in which I hope, with all my heart, I am wrong, and that is that the price paid for this immediate diminution of outrage, if we obtain it, will be a weakening of the powers of Government, not of this Government merely, but of any Government, to perform its first duty of giving protection to life, liberty, and property, and doing it without any arrangements with those who threaten to defy the law. There is another matter which I will only allude to for a moment. There were two of these warrants for treasonable practices. I hope that treasonable practices, by which I mean incitement to excitable people in Ireland to what may lead them into armed resistance—though, perhaps, it may not be so intended—may not be made more probable by the course that has been taken. What I have to say is this—that with these fears, amounting to strong convictions, I could not retain my position. I asked myself the question in every possible way. No man tears himself away from his Party without a desperate wrench, and without trying to find how he can avoid it. I asked myself this question—"Will the arrangement which has been made, which I entirely approve of, which, I may say, I promoted, and which, I may almost say, I instigated—will the appointment of my noble Friend Lord Spencer as Lord Lieutenant help me to maintain my position?" When I say I promoted it, 117 let me give the reason. It was not from any want of confidence or reliance in my noble Friend Lord Cowper, or from any failure of assistance from him. He and I have worked together with the greatest harmony and agreement through all these difficult times. But I promoted the appointment of Lord Spencer simply for this reason—that in the great difficulties which there were in Ireland, it was necessary, as I thought, that there should be a Cabinet Minister there to direct affairs. As I happened to be a Cabinet Minister, who also had to be in London, I plainly could not be in two places at once. I asked myself for a moment whether, inasmuch as the new Lord Lieutenant would have the most actual responsibility for the administration, I could not silence my fears and not listen to my convictions. But I was obliged to remember that I should have to vindicate his policy in this House. Everyone who works with others is, I suppose, sometimes obliged to refrain from saying, or even from doing, what he would like to say or do; but I do not think that any man is called upon to vindicate or to say a thing which he does not believe, or of which he does not approve. It is quite true—and I could not but think that there was force in the statement—that I might to some extent be intensifying the danger by leaving my post—that it would appear to make the change more marked; but there, again, no public good is really advanced by an act of private dishonor. Nor do I really believe that the public good would be diminished. I think there is a greater chance of an immediate diminution of outrages. There is the great pleasure amongst hon. Members opposite and their Friends of getting rid of the late Chief Secretary; and if this puts men into good humor in Ireland, as well as here, it may be that in their efforts to stop outrages, if they make them at all, they will be stronger than they would otherwise have been. Most certainly the price paid, and which I fear must be paid, for such diminution of outrages—the weakening of Government—will be less than if there had been the disgraceful spectacle of my swallowing what was known to be my convictions in order to retain my seat in the Government. I therefore was driven to take this step. It has been very painful to myself. I shall not de- 118 tain the House much longer. It is painful to leave the Councils, and the proud position of being one of the Leaders of that great Party, to which all my life I have belonged; though, to my own mind, I have not in any way forsaken any one of its principles, and most assuredly I remain a faithful soldier in the ranks. It is painful to leave Colleagues and intimate friends at a time of difficulty; and, above all, it is more painful to me than I can find words to express to leave the service of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, than whom there never was a Chief who won more the affection, the loyalty, the respect, and the reverence of one who has served under him. I have only two things more to say. This step having been taken, I hope it may succeed. Anything which I can do without dishonor to my conscientious convictions will be done to smooth the difficult path of my Successors, both Lord Spencer and my noble Friend (Lord Frederick Cavendish), who, I am glad to hear, is the man who is to succeed to the not very enviable post of Chief Secretary. I have now only to thank the House most sincerely for the generous and kind attention they have given me. May I add one word more to thank, as I do most sincerely, the very large majority of the House on both sides, for the personal kindness they have shown to me for two years in the difficulties, which have been not slight, of the post which I have occupied.
§ MR. O'KELLY
Sir, I have to ask the indulgence of the House to address a simple question to the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I am one of those persons whom he has held in prison for the last six months, the only charge made against me being one of treasonable practices. May I ask the simple question on what that charge was founded? ["Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must point out to the hon. Member that the right hon. Gentleman has, under the exceptional circumstances, made an explanation to the House. But as there is now no Bill, or other Question before the House, the hon. Member is out of Order unless he desires to make a personal explanation.
If, Sir, the statement the hon. Member wishes to make partakes of the nature of a personal ex- 119 planation arising out of the statement of my right hon. Friend, I will give way to him; otherwise, in conformity with the practice of Parliament, I should wish to make a statement upon the same subject as that of my right hon. Friend, and which, I think, will be of some use to the House as tending to clear its views of the position. Does the hon. Member wish to proceed? [Mr. O'KELLY: No.] Then, Sir, let me say, in the first place, that the statement of my right hon. Friend has been such as I had expected from him—such as I had expected from him from the experience of a long and close association, which has given me abundant means of appreciating his personal qualities. I have on all occasions spoken freely upon that subject, and I need not now enter into details; but I may say this, in acknowledgment to my right hon. Friend, that no man believes more fully than I do—and more fully than I am certain every one of his late Colleagues do—that in retiring from Office at this period it has not been his intention in any manner to abandon or compromise the Liberal principles to which he has devoted his life, and I hope that for very many years to come—for my right hon. Friend is a good deal younger than I am—he will continue still to defend and adorn those principles. There was, Sir, but one passage in the speech of my right hon. Friend which caused me surprise and regret, and I cannot but believe that it was introduced by inadvertence. It was the passage in which he referred to the course taken by the Government in laying down from the commencement of the Session that, notwithstanding the grave condition of affairs in Ireland, the question of the Procedure of the House should take precedence of all other questions. [Laughter.] I will patiently wait, Sir, till those manifestations cease. I am persuaded they are not approved by the great body of this House; and I think that some day or other they will be regretted by those who make them. Those circumstances are too grave for such manifestations. I only regret them on my own account, because I have a difficult duty to perform, and my desire is not to fail in that duty more than is unavoidable. I have referred to my right hon. Friend's reference to the course taken by Her Majesty's Government with regard to the Procedure of the House only to express 120 my regret that he should have made it, and I now pass on. There are three or four observations, not, however, of very great length, which I wish to make on portions of my right hon. Friend's statement. The first observation I have made in order—namely, the reference to Procedure. The second, Sir, is with respect to a considerable portion of the speech of my right hon. Friend, in which he entered into a vindication of the arrests which have just been terminated by release. I hope that my right hon. Friend has no apprehension—indeed, I am quite certain he has no apprehension—that Her Majesty's Government, as it is now constituted, is likely to shield itself from any portion of its full responsibility for those arrests. It has been justly said that the policy of my right hon. Friend was the policy of the Government, and the arrest of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) was the subject of direct personal communications between my right hon. Friend and myself—two or three days, I think, before it took place. Had it been the pleasure of hon. Gentlemen opposite to make any reference to those arrests I should not have stood in their way; but at the present moment I only advert to this matter in order to acknowledge, and even more than acknowledge—to claim my full share in. the responsibility for each and all of those arrests. The third point I wish to notice is regarding words used by my right hon. Friend more than once in his speech, equivalent to saying that he desired to obtain from the hon. Member for the City of Cork and those with whom he acted an avowal of change. I wish to lay emphasis on the word "change." It is something like, in effect, asking for a penitential confession of guilt. I think I am correct in saying that I express the sentiments of the Government, and I certainly express my own clear and full opinion, when I say that I disclaim alike the desire and the right to ask of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, or any of those who sit near him, anything of the sort. In considering whether we should be justified in closing the prison doors on the hon. Member for the City of Cork, I had no title to ask any question but the one whether I believed that the effect of his release would be prejudicial to the public tranquility. I do not believe the hon. 121 Member would ever come with a declaration of that kind, and certainly I am not the man to go to any Member of the House and ask him for any statement involving his own humiliation. We differ widely from the hon. Member. No man has spoken out more broadly the whole extent of the imputation that he thought might lie against the conduct of the hon. Member than myself. But I frankly own that for this purpose, whatever opinion I hold—be it true or false—it has nothing whatever to do with the question whether we should have been justified in prolonging the imprisonment, which on our responsibility we were compelled to do. Well, Sir, that is the third remark I wish to make. The fourth is this. I do not complain at all of the statement of my right hon. Friend, and I know the difficulty of making these explanations on parting from Office. It has been my own fate on former occasions, and I only wonder at, and admire, the self-denial and self-abnegation which has marked my right hon. Friend's statement. I find in it a new faith and assurance that both our public and personal relations will remain unchanged. But my right hon. Friend has also, and I think again and again, used expressions, not unnatural from his point of view, to this effect—"Do not Buy obedience to the law; do not enter into any arrangement; do not pay blackmail." Now, with every one of those propositions I entirely agree. But I hold them—and this is the point of difference between my right hon. Friend and myself—I hold them to be wholly without application to the circumstances in which we stand. There is no arrangement between the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork and us. That very word "arrangement," which has been used by my right hon. Friend, I myself used on Tuesday in order to repudiate the idea. There is no bargain, no arrangement, and no negotiations; for nothing has been asked, and nothing has been taken. By those words I abide in their strict sense, and I repeat what has been already stated, that we have frankly availed ourselves of information tendered to us as to the views of men whose position in Ireland makes them, at any rate, sensible factors in the materials that go to determine the condition of that country; and that information has led to conclusions on our part to which we 122 have hastened to give effect. But in that information I do not assert, I do not insinuate—on the contrary, I exclude all promises, which we have neither asked nor given. Now, Sir, what is buying obedience to the law, and what is paying black-mail? To pay black-mail, or to buy obedience to the law, is to give something that you would not otherwise give. Are we going to do so? What, then, is that it we are going to give? What is it that we have promised in conjunction with the release of the hon. Member for the City of Cork? Sir, there is nothing promised in connection with that release. It is, as the House knows, the intention of Her Majesty's Government, upon the earliest opportunity they can find, to legislate on the subject of arrears of rent. On Wednesday in last week I had not received the information that has since come to my knowledge; I spoke simply upon the public manifestation—a manifestation of the greatest and most salutary importance—afforded by the Bill then under discussion, even though I could not assent to many of its provisions. I spoke simply with the manifestation afforded by the Bill, and by the speeches with which it was proposed and. supported; but I stated on that occasion, as I may be permitted to remind the House, that we admitted the necessity of dealing with the question of arrears, and that there were two methods of dealing with them, the one permissive and by loan, and the other compulsory as regards the individual and by gift; and I expressed a great desire to know the sentiments of Irish Members of all sections in reference to this question. Sir, I believe the impression made on those who did me the honor to attend to the slight exposition that I made was that, in endeavoring to describe these two methods of proceeding, the leaning of my speech was towards the method unquestionably more effectual—namely, the method resting on the two pillars, so to speak, of gift and of compulsion—and I referred in terms of not too literal adhesion, but of general commendation, to the framework of the clause—Clause 10—in the Bill then under discussion. Now, those were the declarations of Wednesday week. They do not constitute blackmail. They do not constitute price paid for obedience to the law. They referred to a measure which it would have been 123 our duty to propose and to carry. Whether we had or had not received any information as to the views of the hon. Member, it would have been our duty to propose and to carry such a measure, even as part of our general obligations to the people of Ireland. Now, having gone thus far, I wish to refer very briefly to the three conditions laid down by my right hon. Friend. I am not sure whether the House gathered with perfect clearness what was plain and obvious to me, aided as I was by previous knowledge of the sentiments of my right hon. Friend, that these conditions were not cumulative.
Then I am perfectly satisfied. I will take those conditions, with the permission of the House, in the reverse order. The third condition was this—that my right hon. Friend would have been ready to release the three Members of Parliament lately detained after the passing of a fresh Act, with additional powers for the government of Ireland.
Yes; but that is no qualification at all of what I am about to press; but we were to wait, as regards these gentlemen, for the passing of a fresh Act establishing new powers for the government of Ireland. Now, the point I wish to put to the House—I hope I may be able to make it clear—is that, if it was our conviction that the release of those three Gentlemen was a measure favorable to the peace of Ireland, and not unfavorable to it, then it was our bounden and absolute duty not to wait for the passing of such a measure. It could not have had a shadow of justification. Then take the second condition of my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend, said Ireland was not quiet, and undoubtedly we do not greatly differ from the statement given by my right hon. Friend in the picture which he drew of the state of Ireland, and we do not found our justification upon any allegation in the face of the House that the present condition of Ireland is quiet or satisfactory. Then my right hon. Friend clearly conveyed to the House, without having Ireland in a condition quiet and satisfactory, and without having any Act for strengthening 124 the powers of the ordinary law, he would have been willing to concur in the release of the prisoners who had been released had there been a public undertaking from them of a satisfactory character with reference to their conduct upon and after their release in regard to the maintenance of law and order. Now, let us consider what this involves. We had information which, with the views we entertained, carried to our minds the weight of a rational conviction that those hon. Gentlemen, on their release—taking into view the debate of Wednesday, and the declaration of what was, in their minds, regarded as quite essential—namely, the settlement of the question of arrears—I say we had in our minds the belief, founded on information, that those Gentlemen would find themselves in a condition to range themselves on the side of what I should call law and order and individual freedom in Ireland. There is still one element wanting in the conditions stated by my right hon. Friend. He says he would have required a public undertaking. Now, Sir, what does that mean? It means that we must have entered into an arrangement with the hon. Gentleman. It means we must have knocked at the door of the cell in which, unhappily, he was for the time confined, and should have said to him—"We are not going to take exception to what we understand to be fair sentiments; but we are going to require of you to make a public undertaking." Sir, we made no demand of that kind upon the hon. Gentleman. In my opinion, it would have been a grave and serious error had we made such a demand. We desire to trust ourselves freely, Sir, notwithstanding the wide differences that have prevailed between us, to the honour, to the spirit, and the unrestrained liberty of the hon. Gentleman and those with, whom he acts. Again, then, Sir, I have only to refer the House to that which previously it has been my duty to state. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford has to-day illustrated it by saying that it was his duty to open the prison doors upon either one of two conditions—first, that the release would not be dangerous; the second, that the intention of the persons released was not such as to inspire him with apprehension. But, Sir, I must observe that, although my right hon. Friend thinks it was of vital necessity that we should 125 have asked the hon. Member for the City of Cork for a public undertaking, my right hon. Friend has himself, and I am extremely glad of it, ordered the release of very numerous persons in Ireland without any public undertaking whatever—expressed or implied. So that the proposition conies to this—that, although I was ready to release others in whose intentions as to law and order I had no reason to confide, yet we were to draw the line of distinction against the Members of this House who were imprisoned, and to negotiate with them for a public undertaking as a condition of release.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend; but I think I must have very poorly expressed myself if I conveyed the impression that I made it a condition that we were to ask the hon. Members for a public undertaking. I never for a moment thought that. What I stated was, that if any of these three things happened—that Ireland was so safe that they could not do harm, or if we obtained fresh powers which enabled us to try the experiment of letting them out, or that they themselves came forward with an undertaking.
I am very glad, Sir, that my right hon. Friend's explanation makes a farther contribution towards clearing the situation. My right hon. Friend says he would not have gone to ask for any public undertaking. Well, but then, Sir, in my opinion, that does not alter the case as to our position. We were in the position of having received information—["Oh, oh!"]—I submit myself to the hon. Gentleman the Member for—but, no; I will not name him, and will await his pleasure. We were in this condition. We received information upon evidence which we knew to be most trustworthy, and which conveyed to our minds the conclusion that I have described—namely, that were the intentions which, as I have said, the Government referred to on Wednesday week fulfilled, it would be a course which would attain the objects of my right hon. Friend. But then, Sir, what were we to do? One thing of two we must have done. We must either have gone to Kilmainham and asked for an engagement—[renewed cries of "Oh, oh!"]—I must own, Sir, this interruption is to me unusual and un- 126 known in this House. Either we must have gone to the hon. Member for Cork, and asked him for an engagement, which my right hon. Friend justly says he would have objected to doing, or else, having information as to the views of Irish Members, the hon. Member for Cork included, which gave to us the conviction I have described, we were still to have kept him in prison. Was it possible for Ministers of the Crown, possessed of such information in regard to persons whose honor we have no title to dispute, to treat it as if it had never reached them, and to continue them in their confinement? Well, there is the whole case, I think in some degree elucidated by the discussion to-day, by the explanation of my right hon. Friend, and the explanation the House has permitted me to make as it stands between us. I will only close as I began, by thanking my right hon. Friend for his kind expressions towards myself, and by stating my undiminished confidence alike in his ability and character, and by renewing all the fervent wishes I have expressed for his future happiness and welfare.
§ MR. PARNELL
Sir, I desire to trespass on the time of the House for a few moments, not to join in the debate which appears likely to be originated by the two speeches we have just heard; but for the purpose of making a statement of a personal character with reference to what we have heard from the Prime Minister as to the part I have taken in the matters which have been touched on by the right hon. Gentleman. My statement, Sir, will be of a very simple character, and in making it I desire to put the House and the public fairly and fully in possession of anything which I may have said or written to any friends of mine during the last week or so, regarding the maintenance of law and order in Ireland, and regarding the question of the amendment of the Land Act. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has made two statements, which, on the face of them, are of a contradictory character. He stated in the first portion of his speech that the Government had thankfully availed themselves of information tendered to them with reference to the views of myself and of the hon. Members for the Counties of Tipperary and Roscommon.
§ MR. PARNELL
And that this information had led the Government to the conclusion upon which they had acted—that upon our release we would find ourselves in a position to range ourselves upon the side of law and order. That is the statement of the right hon. Gentleman.
Not quite literally; but if the hon. Member will kindly go on I shall be able to correct him later.
I think I had better refer the hon. Gentleman to the record of what I said. On each occasion on which I referred to the subject I may not have given expression to my full view; but I stated quite distinctly that, according to our understanding, it was absolutely essential in the view of the hon. Gentleman—as, indeed, I had understood it to be in the view, in the Wednesday's debate, of all the Gentlemen present in this House holding the same sentiments—that the particular question of arrears should be settled upon a certain basis. Subject to that modification, I think the statement is correct.
§ MR. PARNELL
I accept the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman; but the statement I have just quoted is the one I wish to comment upon, and which I wish to compare with the subsequent statement, the effect of which is what the right hon. Gentleman has just given. Later on in his speech the Prime Minister said that they were in the position of having received information that, were the intentions of the Government announced on Wednesday regarding the arrears carried out, a course would be taken in regard to the restoration of law and order.
Oh, no, Sir; I beg pardon. I never made that statement. On Wednesday I referred to two alternative methods of procedure, and I did not state any decision of the Government on that day as between the 128 one and the other. My understanding about arrears was that, in the view of Irish Members sitting in that quarter of the House, it was vital that one of those methods, and not the other, should be accepted; but I never stated that I supposed, nor was I represented to suppose, that the statement made by me on Wednesday in last week was all that was sought by the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. PARNELL
I do not wish to contrast the two methods of settling the arrears of rent, or to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman on Wednesday pinned himself or the Government to one method or the other. What I wish to point out is that the right hon. Gentleman stated that the Government was in the position of having received information that, were the course adopted by the Government on Wednesday regarding the arrears fulfilled, we should take a certain course.
Oh, no; pardon me; I never said such a thing; because no intentions of the Government were announced on Wednesday, except as to dealing with the question of arrears.
§ MR. PARNELL
Precisely; that were the intentions of the Government announced on Wednesday—that is to say, the intentions of the Government to deal with the question of arrears fulfilled—a course would be taken by us with regard to the restoration of law and order. Well, Sir, I have quoted the two statements of the right hon. Gentleman—
§ MR. PARNELL
In order to show that they are of an entirely different character. In the first portion of the speech the idea is conveyed that if my hon. Friends the Members for Tipperary and Roscommon and myself were released, we would take some special action in regard to the restoration of law and order. I presume that the right hon. Gentleman has received communications from some of my friends to whom I may have made written or verbal or written communications on the state of Ireland; but I wish to say emphatically that I have not, in conversation with my friends, either verbally or in writing, entered into the question of the release of my hon. Friends and myself as any condition. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] I have not, either in writing or verbally, referred to my release. I have not, either in writing or 129 verbally, referred to this release; and with respect to the first statement of the Prime Minister—I am sure the right hon. Gentleman did not intend it—I wish to say it is the reverse of the fact. I have stated verbally to more than one of my friends, and I have written that I believed the settlement of this Arrears Question, which compels the Government to turn out into the road tenants who are unable to pay their rents, who have no hope of being able to pay rents to which they were rendered liable in the bad seasons of 1878, 1879, and 1880, would have an enormous effect on the restoration of law and order in Ireland—would take away the last excuse for the outrages which have been, unhappily, committed in such large and increasing numbers during the last six months; and that if such a settlement were made, I believed that we, in common with all persons who desire to see the prosperity of Ireland, would be able to take such steps as would have a material effect in diminishing those exceptional, those lamentable outrages. I have desired to make a statement with regard to a matter of fact. I do not wish to enter into the debatable matter which has been introduced by the late Chief Secretary for Ireland.
Sir, if the House is kind enough to allow me to say a few words of personal explanation I will not trespass upon it for more than five minutes. I merely wish to say that there is one sentence which I have taken down verbatim from the Prime Minister's speech, which is calculated to convey a wrong impression, and I think it would be desirable, before any formal debate should take place, that the House should be in possession of the truth. The right hon. Gentleman said the Government were in the position of having received information, on evidence which they knew to be most trustworthy, that were the intentions expressed by the Government on Wednesday in the discussion on the Land Act Amendment Bill fulfilled the hon. Members would find themselves in a position to range themselves on the side of law and order. Now, Sir, I only desire to say on my own behalf—I speak only for myself—that during the somewhat lengthened period since I last appeared in this House I never had, either directly or indirectly, in any sense, any communication with the Ministers of the 130 Crown or the Government of Ireland. What the right hon. Gentleman's source of information may be I do not know; but the only explanation which presents itself to my mind of the statements and hints which have been thrown out from that Bench is that I was aware of the drafting of a Bill which was submitted to this House, and that I never took any trouble to conceal my conviction that if the proposals in that Bill were passed into law, and the Coercion Act were withdrawn, it would be easier to maintain law and order in Ireland. I have never taken any trouble to suppress my conviction to that effect. I said it over and over again to friends, but I did not care in the least degree whether it reached the ears of the Government or not. In making that statement, I have not deviated a hair's breadth from what I said before in this House—namely, that if you leave the Irish people their public rights and stop evictions you will stop outrages and you will have no trouble to maintain law and order. I say the provisions of that Bill would stop evictions, and if you leave the Irish people their right of public meeting, and if you restore to the responsible Leaders of the Irish people the responsibility and power of controlling the people, you will find it less difficult than you have done to maintain law and order in Ireland. I have only to say, in conclusion, that having been for some time under the custody of the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, against whom, I may say, I do not entertain the slightest personal animosity, I now feel myself just as free to take any course which may seem right and judicious to me, the Government not having yet stated what they proposed to do, as I did when I went into Kilmainham Gaol; and if the Prime Minister believes that I feel myself in any way honorably bound to shape my actions otherwise than may seem to me right, he is greatly mistaken.
§ MR. O'KELLY
The right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, in the course of his speech, has taken occasion to repeat over and over again the statement by which he endeavored to blacken our characters when he put us into prison. In the course of his speech to-day he has not thought it necessary to adduce the slightest proof in support of the serious charge which 131 he brought against me personally. After arresting me, as I hold, without cause, without justification, he has risen in this House to defend his conduct, and in doing so he has directed against me a charge of a serious nature, as though it was a matter of no consequence to accuse me of being concerned in treasonable practices, without deigning to adduce one iota or one shadow of proof in justification of that assertion. When I rose to challenge the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, I wanted to ask him to state here in the House, that hon. Gentlemen might form some just notions of the grounds of his action, upon what information and upon what proof he laid that charge of treasonable practices against me. The right hon. Gentleman intimated that, if I had not come to him for liberation, he would have allowed me to remain in prison. But, Sir, anyone who knows me must know that sooner than ask the right hon. Gentleman to liberate me I would have died in prison. The statement made by the Prime Minister appears to throw on us some shadow of suspicion that we came to the Government offering some conditions. ["No, no!"] That was the impression made upon me. It is an impression, at least, that we are justified in repudiating at once, because there is no shadow of foundation for it. The right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland has constantly stated that we were enemies of law and order in Ireland. Now, I challenge that statement, and I say that there has not been within the four seas of Ireland so great an enemy of law and order as the right hon. Gentleman. I say, further, that there is not a man in Ireland who is anxious for disorder or in favour of violence. [Cries of "Order!"]
I must point out to the hon. Member that he is now going beyond the bounds of personal explanation. He is now attacking another Member of the House, which he cannot do within the limits of a personal explanation.
Perhaps I have been carried away too far in answering the charge brought against me; but it is no light charge to throw in the face of men as honorable as the right hon. Gentleman himself, whose lives are quite as pure as his, whose lives will bear examination quite as well as his, to charge 132 them with being the enemies of law and order in their own country, and, further, to make against some of them a specific charge of great gravity without adducing the slightest evidence in support of it.
I only wish to say a word of explanation. I believe there is no difference as to the sense of what I stated; but I perceive, upon consideration, that the words I used—the words "upon release"—may be understood, if taken alone, to imply that the hon. Gentlemen covenanted to do something on release. But I think the positive declaration I have made, that there has been nothing given and nothing taken, may be regarded as quite ample to remove any misapprehension. I am not surprised that the hon. Gentleman should be sensitive on the subject. With regard to what happened on Wednesday, I will not go back upon that matter; but I hope it will be clearly understood that I had been aware all along, from information I had received, that the hon. Member for Cork City undoubtedly looked to the effective settlement of the Arrears Question as the basis of a restoration of law and order in Ireland.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, the House has, in accordance with its usual custom, given to the right hon. Gentleman who has recently quitted the Ministry, and to the Prime Minister, as representing the Ministry which he has quitted, and to the other Gentlemen whose names have been brought into the discussion in a manner which seemed to require some statement from them, an opportunity of making personal explanations. But it does seem to me that it would not be inappropriate that those who have no personal explanations to give should still be allowed to make one or two observations upon the extremely vague statements we have heard in the course of the evening. I wish, in the first place, to say what I am sure is the feeling of the House, that upon no occasion on which I have heard a retiring Minister make a statement of the grounds of his retirement have I heard anything more dignified than the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. As one who has frequently had occasion to differ from the right hon. Gentleman in the course of his conduct of Irish affairs, I wish to express on my own behalf and that of my Friends our sense 133 of the great labour, industry, courage, and fidelity with, which he has discharged his duty. The grounds which the right hon. Gentleman has stated to us as the grounds on which he felt it necessary to sever himself from his late Colleagues are of so serious a nature, that I think his statement will cause general uneasiness and alarm in the country. The right hon. Gentleman began by telling us the ground on which he separated himself from his Colleagues—that they were prepared to allow a certain number of Gentlemen, Members of this House, and other "suspects," who were detained under the Protection of Person and Property Act, to be discharged; and that he separated himself from his Colleagues on the ground that he could not take the responsibility of an act which, in his opinion, would tend to the encouragement of crime in Ireland. Now, Sir, I do not wish to draw any distinction between, the action and position of the late Chief Secretary for Ireland and the position of the Members of the Government. They were all equally responsible. But we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman had, far beyond all his Colleagues, the opportunity of knowing exactly and appreciating the real state of affairs in Ireland; and when he tells us that this act, which of itself seems to require some explanation, was one which he could not confirm, because he thought it dangerous, and because he thought it might tend to the encouragement of crime, I must say that that is a statement so serious that it demands on the part of his late Colleagues the most ample and satisfactory explanation of the grounds upon which they proceeded. What did the right hon. Gentleman tell us? He told us that if the original act of arresting these Members had not taken place, the state of Ireland would have been so serious that the Government would have become the Government only in name. He told us that they were the authors of an organized system of intimidation—that it was absolutely impossible for the law to take its course if these Gentlemen were not checked in their career as they were. He goes on to say that he quite understood that they could not remain in prison for ever, and that he should have been content to agree to their discharge if one of three conditions had been 134 secured—if either there had been a public promise on their part to make no further attempt to set up their will against the law, or if the state of Ireland had been such as to give the assurance that quiet and order were restored, or if the Government had acquired fresh powers of dealing with disorderly and illegal practices. If any one of these conditions had been fulfilled, the right hon. Gentleman was willing to consent to the release of the "suspects." But he tells us that none of these conditions were complied with; and I would ask the House, having listened to the Prime Minister and the dialogue which has taken place—a rather peculiar dialogue between himself and the hon. Member for the City of Cork and the other two Gentlemen—whether we can at all satisfy ourselves that the Government have made out a case? There is one condition, unfortunately, which we know is not fulfilled. Neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the Prime Minister has ventured to say that the state of Ireland is yet a state of peace and quietness. That being acknowledged by all, it is unnecessary I should dwell on it. They do not rest their conduct on this. Very well. What do they rest it on? Is it upon their intention to acquire fresh powers or upon the avowals made of the intention of the hon. Members to range themselves on the side of law and order? That appears to be the ground mainly put forward and rested upon by the Prime Minister. It is mainly because of the assurance which he thinks he has received, that these Gentlemen are prepared to range themselves on the side of law and order, that he has taken this very serious step. I should like to know, first of all, what sort of advice the Government have taken on this matter to induce them to think that this step is a safe one? Evidently it was not the advice of their late Colleague. Whose advice was it, then? Was it the advice of the Resident Magistrates and of the authorities throughout Ireland? I think we ought to have some information on that head. These are the gentlemen who are administering the law under great difficulties, and sometimes at some risk. They are men thoroughly acquainted with the condition of the country. Have they been consulted, and have they acceded? I ask this with all the more earnestness because I re- 135 member well that at the time of the accession of Her Majesty's Government to Office, they had placed before them by those who were well qualified to speak from different parts of Ireland, representations to them and to the Government who preceded them, of the necessity of renewing the Peace Preservation Act. They set those opinions aside, and rested upon their own judgment—upon their own a priori opinion—and so far as I can make out, it is very much more upon their a priori opinion than upon anything of a more substantial character they have taken this step. The right hon. Gentleman said just now that if he was of opinion that the release of the "suspects" would have the effect of promoting order, rather than endangering it, he was bound to release them. Certainly But where is the evidence? I think he has failed to make out his case. I entirely understand the main point which has been insisted upon by the hon. Member for Cork City and the other two Gentlemen—namely, that they made no kind of condition as to their release being dependent upon acting under any engagement whatever. That is the point they have insisted upon, and naturally insisted upon, in order that they do not compromise their own honor by desiring to obtain their release on conditions; but, while I understand that, I fail to understand how far they have gone in expressing their opinion that Ireland may be pacified now that it is their intention to support measures for the pacification of the country, supposing certain arrangements are carried out by the Government. References are made continually to what was said in regard to the Bill who was before us on Wednesday week dealing with the question of arrears. Evidently that Bill is in some way connected with the arrangement. To what extent has that Bill been accepted? How far are the particular provisions of that Bill to be insisted upon How far are Members to be bound by the course taken in regard to the Bill? That is a matter with regard to which many of us are still in doubt. If that is one of the conditions, let us ask as to the remaining ones. Is the Government about to ask for the acquisition of fresh powers or not? That is a point on which there ought to be no misunderstanding; but I am sorry to say I am very far from yet under- 136 standing it is the intention of the Government seriously to propose a measure of the kind. We are told we are to go on with Procedure, and that we shall know after that. I am bound to say that seems rather like a mockery. I think it will have the effect of giving the impression in Ireland, either that the Ministers do not know exactly what they are going to do, or that they are halfhearted about it. What seems to me most important is that there should not be the possibility of mistake on the part of the Irish people as to the firmness and intentions of the Government. If they have measures of a remedial character for dealing with Arrears, or with the Purchase Clauses, or any other part of the Land Act, let us know what they are. Do not keep them dangling before us, exciting hopes, producing extravagant demands, and creating additional confusion; but let us have a statement of their policy, let us be told precisely what measures they intend to bring forward, and let us have all this beyond the possibility of misunderstanding or doubt; and, similarly, if they require any fresh powers for the administration of justice, and for the maintenance of peace and order, let them bring forward these measures, and let them lay them before the House and the country, and then we shall understand, and then the people of Ireland will understand, that this new departure on the party of the Government is not in the nature of a concession. I can quite understand that it will be necessary to suspend the proceedings in the various stages of the least urgent Bills for the purpose of passing the necessary measures, and it would be a great point if we even had the declaration of a policy before us; but now we do not know whether there is any policy at all. It seems to me that we are at the point of a new departure. The old policy has been abandoned. The policy they have insisted on for more than a year has been dropped. Why has it been abandoned? Is it because it has succeeded or failed? You abandon a policy for one of two reasons—either because you have attained your object and it is no longer necessary, or because that it has failed, and you resolve to try something else. But here we are left in the dark as to whether it is one thing or the other. Indeed, I sometimes doubt whether they have 137 themselves made up their minds, for when we ask questions they do not deign to enlighten us on points on which this House has an absolute right to require information. Instead of giving us any information, they say—"You see what we have done, and if you do not approve, bring a Vote of Censure against us." That is a pleasant and easy way out of the difficulty; but I venture to think that it is one which will be wholly unsatisfactory to the country. It is a question on which the House and the country have a right to be informed; but we are left without the information which it is absolutely necessary we should have. I do not think that at the present moment it would be right for me to go into the general question of the condition of Ireland. I feel it is one of increasing gravity. It is one upon which we are entering and trenching in a manner extremely dangerous and unsatisfactory. But what I am anxious to press upon the Government is that they should, as speedily as possible, make up their minds and explain their policy to the House. Do not let it be drawn from them by driblets. That is what I am always afraid of in the present Government with regard to these matters. They do not come forward and make a clean breast of it; they do not come forward and say this is our policy or that is our policy. They allow themselves to be pushed on here and invited there, tempted on one side and bullied on the other, admitting this and hinting that. In that way you get perfect confusion in the minds of those whose interests are affected, and a corresponding weakening of authority on the part of those whose duty it is to maintain peace and order. The conduct of the Government, unless followed up by a distinct statement and a vigorous policy, must weaken the hands of those who are charged with the duty of maintaining law and order in Ireland, and at the same time must dangerously stimulate the expectations and passions of evil-disposed people. That which seems to me the cardinal point of the whole matter is that we should so act as not to give to the lawless part of the population the idea that they have obtained a triumph over the Government. I am bound to say, as matters stand at present, it looks suspiciously as if they had. The Government has it still in their power to show 138 that this is not the case, if they will but take energetic and prompt steps for the purpose of showing what their policy is and the manner in which they intend to give effect to it. I beg to move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Sir Stafford Northcote.)
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, he would not have troubled the House but for the hazy and mysterious answer given by the Prime Minister at an earlier part of the evening, when he had asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he had received any assurance from the Gentlemen in Kilmainham with regard to their future conduct and the withdrawal of the "no rent" manifesto. He again appealed to the right hon. Gentleman for information on the subject. The Prime Minister appeared to take great credit to himself for not appealing to the hon. Member for the City of Cork to give an assurance that on his release he would abstain from the practices for which he had been detained in Kilmainham. He would, however, recollect the language in which the right hon. Gentleman announced to the enthusiastic citizens of London the arrest of the hon. Member for the City of Cork. This was the language then used by the right hon. Gentleman—Even within these few moments I have been informed that towards the vindication of law, of order, and the rights of property, of the freedom of the land, of the first elements of political life and civilization, the first step has been taken in the arrest of the man—(loud and prolonged cheering, accompanied by the waving of hats and handkerchiefs)—in the arrest of the man who, unhappily, from motives which I do not challenge, which I cannot examine, and with which I have nothing to do, has made himself beyond all others prominent in the attempt to destroy the authority of the law (cheers), and to substitute what would end in being nothing more nor less than anarchical oppression exercised on the people of Ireland. (Loud cheers.)On February 16, 1882, the Attorney General for Ireland made use of these words—Mr. Parnell himself was at this time steeped in treason to the lips. There was an obvious attempt on the part of Mr. Parnell and the Land League to subvert the supremacy of the Queen, and, using a legal expression, to levy war against her. Mr. Parnell was accordingly arrested. They must not imagine there was any desire on the part of the Law Officers of the Crown in Ireland to shift the responsibility 139 to the great Officers of the State. The Law Officers, when asked for their opinion, had no hesitation in giving it, and there was quite enough to sustain that opinion in point of law." [3 Hansard, cclxvi. 810.]That, then, was the opinion of the Attorney General for Ireland, who now remained on the Treasury Bench—while his Colleague retired—pachydermatous of notions of official decorum. On March 28, on the Motion of the hon. Member for Sligo, the Prime Minister said he was tempted to inquire—What instincts of barbarism they were that were now being principally stimulated and indulged in Ireland; who were the persons by whom these instincts were deliberately stimulated, with the effect of carrying rapine, murder, and mutilation into the homes and dwellings of the families of the innocent people in Ireland as a punishment for the offence of paying rent." [Ibid. cclxviii. 171–2.]Such were the declarations that had come from the Treasury Bench. He held that if the statements of the Prime Minister and his Colleagues were true when they were made they must be true now. Either there existed no case for the arrest of the hon. Members who had been imprisoned and no justification for keeping them in prison after the periodical re-consideration of their cases by the Lord Lieutenant, or there must exist such justification still. On the 13th of April, according to the result of the review of the cases of the imprisoned Members, nothing had occurred to cause the release of the "suspects." Now, however, they were free. He would ask were they still "steeped to the lips in treason," were they still "the promoters of outrage," or had they given an assurance that when released they would not resume the practices for which they were imprisoned? Michael Davit was to be released. Had he given an assurance that he would not resume the practices for which he had been thrown into gaol a second time? They had heard a good deal about the subterranean communication with Kilmainham. He could not at first understand whether there had or had not been such communication. He had difficulty some time ago in finding out another mysterious transaction—the Mission of Mr. Errington to Home. He wondered whether the hon. and gallant Member for Clare (Mr. O'Shea) had gone to Kilmainham as an agente raccommandato on a confidential mission to the hon. Member for the City 140 of Cork. It was very extraordinary how those moderate Home Rulers were being employed—one being sent to communicate with what the Prime Minister termed as "the social power of the Pope," and the other to confer with the social revolution in Ireland. On April 4, the Prime Minister said—We have, in fact, for six months been engaged in—there is no mistake about it—a deadly conflict with an adverse power.That adverse power was the Land League; and the Land League had beaten the Government, and the Prime Minister seemed to recognize in the hon. Member for the City of Cork the real Ruler of Ireland. Hitherto the policy of the Prime Minister had been to give sops to Ireland, while endeavoring to maintain their status quo. That policy had broken down, and the right hon. Gentleman had had recourse to the desperate remedy of handing over the government of Ireland to the Land League, a remedy based on the principle of "Heads I win, tails you lose." The Government hoped by that remedy to obtain a certain amount of tranquility in Ireland. But if the remedy did not succeed they would retire, and leave the confusion in Ireland to be dealt with, by someone else.
§ MR. O'SHEA
said that, as his name had been mentioned several times during the debate, he desired to say a few words. Since he had had the honor of a seat in that House, he had had the advantage of making many friendships on both sides of it, and amongst every Party and every section, and, having the opportunity of correcting any misunderstanding as to opinions held here and there, he hoped he should not be regarded as too officious if he endeavored to put matters right. He certainly took upon himself some time since to offer some suggestions to various persons, and he was glad to think that those suggestions had been kindly received and candidly considered. Now, it was most natural that a person wishing his information to be constantly and continuously correct, should occasionally refresh it at the fountain-head. It was, animated solely by such a desire, and uninspired by anybody whatever, that on. Saturday last he visited his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork, in Kilmainham, and he could assure his hon. Friend who had just spoken, who was al ways seeking for deep plots and 141 secret missions, that his return ticket was not paid for out of the Secret Service Fund.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said he hoped that before the debate preceded much further they should have some reply from the Government to the questions addressed to them by the Leader of the Opposition, so that there might be some limitation to the debate and some vindication of the credit of the Government. Could they assure the House that the action they had taken had been taken on the authority and with the concurrence of those who had been employed specially to preserve peace and order in Ireland? The House had no information or knowledge of any guidance which the Government had received. The question for the House was, What view would be taken of the action of the Government, not merely by politicians, but by those whose co-operation with regard to the maintenance of order was loudly called for by the Prime Minister seven months ago, when he proposed to take action against the Land League? The right hon. Gentleman had been very careful to tell the House that the Coercion Act had not failed, and he had shown them how he thought that Act had helped the Government in a great crisis; but he was careful to limit the improvement of Ireland to the 1st of January last. What was the position at the present moment? The Government said they had acted on the views of men who were actors on the scene in Ireland. Had they consulted anybody else? The right hon. Gentleman had told them that they found they could go through the crisis in Ireland without a Coercion Act. Would it be in the power of any future Government under those circumstances to venture to propose a suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act? He believed it would be absolutely impossible for years to come for any Minister to come down to the House and propose a suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. The Government had turned their faces from the Conservative Benches and looked for suggestions from Members below the Gangway. He wished to know what was to be done in regard to the settlement of the question of Arrears, as to which the Prime Minister had made declarations that could not fail in the meantime seriously to affect the payment of rent? 142 Was that settlement, among so many other urgent matters, to be deferred until the question of the clôture had been decided? It was essentially necessary that whatever measures were taken should be taken without delay. If the time were allowed to pass without the adoption of efficient measures, and if the result were the renewal of outrages, a heavy burden of discredit would rest on Her Majesty's Government.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said that, looking at the gravity of the occasion, he was surprised that the Prime Minister, or some one of his Colleagues, had not risen to answer the important questions that had been put to them. He ventured to say that never in the history of this generation had they been in the midst of a greater or graver crisis than at the present moment. There seemed to be a surprising apathy in the House at the condition of Ireland, which, he would venture to say, during the present century had never been in a worse condition. The Prime Minister had reversed the whole front of his proceedings; he had played into the hands of those whom he had denounced less than six months ago as the instigators of crime and disorder in Ireland; yet now, without telling the House that any change had taken place for the better in the condition of Ireland, he had restored those persons to liberty whom he had previously stated it was absolutely necessary, for the maintenance of peace and order, to retain in prison. He thought that the Prime Minister had treated the House with very scant courtesy in respect of the proceedings of Tuesday. Twice the right hon. Gentleman told the House that it was absolutely necessary that the Rules of Procedure should be proceeded with at 2 o'clock, showing that, in his opinion that was of far more importance than the condition of Ireland, but stated that at 9o'clock he would make a statement certainly not of wide importance. Without a word of warning, at the 2 o'clock Sitting, when the Wigan Writ had been disposed of, he made a statement of the utmost importance. When he came down to the House at 2 o'clock, at least he ought to have informed hon. Members of what he was going to do so as to enable them to be in their places. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman frankly that a leader of men required showing some courtesy and consideration to 143 those whom he addressed, and that if he exhibited those qualities a little more he would certainly lead the House better than he was able to do at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman had now not ventured to tell them that Ireland was in the prosperous, contented, and happy condition which he told the people of Mid Lothian that it was in.
No; I never said that. I never spoke of the prosperity of Ireland at that time. I described the period since 1870 as one of great comparative contentment. I did not describe the prosperity of the period at all.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he always endeavored to render the right hon. Gentleman's words correctly; but any mention of them in the House was always almost absolutely and entirely denied. He would read the words used by the right hon. Gentleman—There is an absence of crime and outrage, with a general sense of comfort and satisfaction, such as has been unknown in the previous history of the country.He appealed to every man of fair dealing and honour in that House whether in those words were not combined everything he had just stated, and which had been so absolutely and entirely denied by the Prime Minister?
I rise to Order. The hon. and gallant Member most distinctly, and without any mistake as to his meaning, charges me with untruth in the denial of words which he says I have used; and I wish to know if he is in Order in so doing?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Baronet would not be in Order in imputing falsehood to any hon. Member; but I did not understand him to do so. The hon. and gallant Member must, however, accept the disavowal of the expression attributed to the Prime Minister.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said that if the right hon. Gentleman could deny that the words he had read were made use of in a celebrated speech of his, then he would retract every word he had said.
I have explained to the House on a former occasion that that was not a celebrated speech at all. [A laugh.] Again I thank the hon. 144 Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) for another of those repeated instances of courtesy he has shown me. I have previously stated that, in my opinion, that speech was not really a public speech. It was delivered in a small room to my Committee. The description I gave was a description of the general state of Ireland as it appeared to me. My belief is that there is a misstatement in the use of the word "is" for "has been;" otherwise I believe the report to be substantially correct.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, that the speech was made in the Liberal Club in Edinburgh, and he challenged anyone to say that a statement that there was an absence of crime and outrage, and a general sense of comfort and satisfaction previously unknown in that country, did not amount to saying that Ireland was a prosperous and contented country. In the May following the right hon. Gentleman found Ireland not to be in that prosperous state, and it was his bounden duty either to have continued the much despised Peace Preservation Act, or to have brought in some other measure. Instead of that, he did not attempt to deal with the subject till January, 1881. In the meantime he had allowed the Land League to have all its own way, without doing anything to repress outrage and crime. He was now going to revert to the system which, after trying, he had declared it impossible to get on with, and that Ireland could not be governed without the most stringent Coercion Act ever introduced. The Conservative Members sat up night after night to enable him to pass that Act, and they were now rewarded by a reversal of the policy which they had been told a short time ago was essential for the peace and prosperity of the country. As he had done before, he was now beating an ignominious retreat, and handing over to the Land League the welfare and control of Ireland. When the right hon. Gentleman, at the Lord Mayor's Dinner in 1881, used the words quoted by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff), all the Liberal papers said—"Here is no pandering to rebellion. He is now determined that every means shall be taken to maintain law and order." What a change had a period of six months produced in the right hon. Gentleman's 145 convictions! Was the state of Ireland now any better than it was then? The Returns showed that in the first three months of 1880 the outrages were 294, and in 1881, 769; but that in the same period of 1882 the crimes had risen to 1,417. Yet this was the time the right hon. Gentleman had chosen to change his front and to let out of prison the very men whom he had charged with creating the present condition of things in Ireland. There was a remarkable speech made last night at Hertford by no less a person than the Secretary for the Colonies. In that speech Lord Kimberley said—We cannot persevere in the policy of shutting up men without trial, and therefore we release a considerable number of them. Is the Government to blame? Is not their policy perfectly intelligible, perfectly consistent with all we have said and done? We come forward and say:—'Our measures have to a certain extent succeeded, but experience has shown we need stronger measures for the enforcement of order, and we shall ask Parliament to grant us those measures.'He put that portion down, because it was the only thing in that speech which was worthy of being taken down. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) asked the right hon. Gentleman, and he asked the Home Secretary, whom he saw smiling, when they were going to have those measures laid before them? If the House did its duty none of the Government measures, not even the Procedure Rules, would be allowed to be proceeded with until they knew the line of policy which was now about to be adopted with regard to Ireland. The late Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant—than whom no more honest and straightforward man had ever filled that post—had, amidst all his difficulties, borne himself in a manner deserving of the highest praise. He asked the Prime Minister whether, between the months of August, 1880, and January, 1881, the right hon. Gentleman had not come more than once to London and asked for further powers. There was a time when the troops and the police were used in Ireland with vigor and effect, when the law was maintained and disorder suppressed. That was not the case at present; and he should like to hear some explanation on that subject, particularly how far the right hon. Gentleman had been permitted to act. He should also like to know what were the instructions given to the police to guide 146 them in the performance of their difficult and most delicate duties. Had the hon. Members for the City of Cork and Tipperary altered the purpose with which they had entered on this crusade—namely that England and Ireland should be separated; that Ireland should have her own Parliament and manage her own affairs? If they had not altered that intention, he would ask had not the question been stimulated by the Prime Minister, who, in ambiguous language, had held out a hope that Home Rule would be given to Ireland? One thing more he wished to say—namely that he had never heard from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman or of his Colleagues the slightest commiseration for those who had. Suffered so grievously throughout this trying crisis, and whose lives and property had been sacrificed to the desire of pacifying people who never would be contented with anything that could be given them. It was well that the country should look to what might happen, and would certainly happen, unless the right hon. Gentleman, with those stronger measures which he was to have at his back in case of emergency, acted with energy. The people of this country would never for moment consent to the separation of Ireland from England; and. the Minister who led up to civil war and to a re-conquest of Ireland would have his name written in the blackest pages of the history of his country.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Sir, I think it is only the energy and excitement under which my hon. and gallant Friend sometimes speaks that could induce him to bring so heavy a charge against Gentlemen sitting on this Bench as that they have felt no commiseration for the victims of outrage and disorder in Ireland. [Cries of "Expressed!"] Why, I have myself expressed it over and over again. I do not think that, in his calmer moments, the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex would entertain such a charge; but, in the most energetic terms I can use consistently with self respect, I repudiate such an accusation. My hon. and gallant Friend refers to my having smiled; but that was in relation to another charge he made, and which was equally unfounded—a charge that the Prime Minister had acted discourteously in making an important statement at an unexpected time. But what are the circumstances under which he 147 charges us with an act of discourtesy? The right hon. Member for Bradford tendered his resignation. Lord Salisbury in the House of Lords had given Notice of a Question which made it absolutely necessary that a statement should be made; and it was out of courtesy and consideration for the House of Commons that the Prime Minister determined to make his statement as he did, thinking it not fitting that the matter of the release of the prisoners and the resignation of the Chief Secretary should be made to the House of Lords before it was communicated to the House of Commons. It is out of such materials that the charge of discourtesy is fabricated against the Government; and I cannot help smiling at a complaint which strikes me as so unreasonable. A much more serious imputation has been thrown out. We have been asked why not the troops and the police have been more used. And the hon. and gallant Member couples that with a well-deserved eulogium on the administration of Irish affairs by the late Chief Secretary. Who is it that does not use the police and the Constabulary to the satisfaction of the hon. and gallant Member? Why, the Irish Secretary. By his complaints the hon. and gallant Member casts the gravest imputations on the political capacity of the Chief Secretary, whom he just now eulogized. It is perfectly obvious that the course the right hon. Gentleman has taken shows that whenever a policy is pursued of which he disapproves he will no longer be responsible for it. The hon. and gallant Member has no right to say that the Government have in any way trammeled or restrained the late Chief Secretary in any course which he thought essential and expedient for the good government of the country. That is the observation I rose to reply to; but I will answer the question of the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Brodrick). They asked if we had consulted the Resident Magistrates? We have not. It is not a policy which depends at all on them. I can state in a single word the nature of the policy we have pursued, and, in my opinion, it is not inconsistent.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, he asked the right hon. and learned Gentleman if the Government had consulted the Resident Magistrates, or any of those con- 148 nected with the administration of law in Ireland?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Well, it is still less a question of law; it is a question of the highest policy. With respect to the imprisonment of the Members of Parliament, the Government is charged with the grave responsibility of determining whether the imprisonment of certain individuals was or was not essential to the maintenance of law and order in Ireland. They determined at a certain time that the imprisonment of those persons was necessary. How did they arrive at that conclusion? Simply by their own judgment. They had the discretion and the power, and they, taking a general view of the condition of things at the time, and the relation of those individuals to the circumstances of Ireland, came to the conclusion that it was necessary for the cause of law and order in Ireland that those individuals should be confined. They have now come to the conclusion that, having regard to the circumstances and to the relation of those persons to the condition of Ireland, it is more advantageous to the cause of peace and order that they should be released. Is not that a reasonable conclusion? The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down has stated it himself. He says—"I have no doubt that in the first instance there will be less outrage in Ireland, and more rent will be paid." What a confirmation is that of the opinion the Government has formed! They formed their opinion in the same way as they had formed it when they considered that it would be advantageous to law and order that those persons should be confined. It is certainly a matter of opinion. The late Chief Secretary had to do the same thing daily, certainly weekly. He detained certain persons in prison, and then, on a certain day, he had to form an opinion that it was either necessary or not necessary to keep them in prison any longer. It is now found to be conducive to law and order that the hon. Members should be discharged, and it is upon that principle that they have been discharged from prison. That course was adopted without any secret conditions. Hundreds of men have been discharged without any conditions. Why is not that principle to be applied to these men in the same way as it has been applied to others in the past? My 149 right hon. Friend has formed the opinion in hundreds of previous cases that it was advantageous that certain persons should be discharged; but then arose a difference of opinion between the Government and the late Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman thought it would not be advantageous to law and order to release these Members, whereas the Government thought it would. Is there, or is there not, ground for believing that the hon. Member for the City of Cork and the other persons who have been released will use their influence and exertions in favor of law and order, or against law and order? The whole question is in that single sentence. Upon the determination of that question depended the further question whether it was wise to release them or not. The Government was of opinion that these persons would use their influence and exertions in favor of law and order in Ireland now, and had, therefore, taken the responsibility of releasing them. Many persons will doubtless condemn the Government for so doing; but the Government, having formed their opinion, will abide by it. Their policy is based on fair and reasonable grounds, and there has been no real change of policy. My right hon. Friend has thought it right to release persons whom he considered it safe to release, and that is the policy of the Government now. We, upon our responsibility, have come to the conclusion that it is safe to release those Gentlemen, and we have the conviction that the effect of that release will be to conduce to the cause of law and order in Ireland, and will more tend to quietness than their continued imprisonment. That is a fair and candid statement of the grounds on which the Government has acted, and if they are wrong they deserve to be condemned. I do not know that I have anything more to say—[Mr. LEWIS: Hear, hear!]—I do not expect to be treated with courtesy by the hon. Member for Londonderry. No Member on this side of the House ever does receive that treatment from him which he might expect—
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I cordially assent to that proposition. The only question is as to its application. I ought to have apologized to the House for taking any notice of the interruption.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, he was surprised that the Home Secretary had endeavored to throw the whole blame of the non-success of the policy of the Government on the shoulders of the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). Whether that policy was right or wrong, the Members of the Government, individually and collectively, were responsible; and. when that policy had been found to fail, it was unstatesmanlike to attempt to throw the responsibility on the Member of the Government who had had to carry it out. He did not for one moment contend that the Government, as a whole, was responsible for each individual arrest; but the mode of action employed by the Chief Secretary was the policy of the Government. If not, why did not the Government interfere with the mode of procedure taken by him? The Home Secretary said there was no change of policy; but that was a mere haggling with words. The new policy was diametrically opposed to the recent policy of the Government; their policy for many months had been coercion coupled with conciliation. He supposed the Coercion Act was no longer to be carried out, and the Land Act was to be amended—so that the two old methods were to be thrown to the winds. The Home Secretary had said the Government had acted on their own judgment, and had not taken the advice of the Resident Magistrates or of the Executive in Ireland. It was monstrous that the Government should take these steps without the mature advice of those who were able to give it. How was it possible for the hon. Member for Cork City to give the Government better information on the state of affairs in Ireland than their own responsible Officers—namely the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary? But this new departure had been brought about by the demonstrations made by the Radical Jackal Press, which had been so long howling for the blood of the Chief Secretary. Those who deserted him in these circumstances did not deserve the name of a Government. It had been said they had been discharging "suspects" from time to 151 time; but no one knew anything about or cared for the greater number of these "suspects." It was a very different thing releasing the Leaders of the Land League, whose policy at present guided the majority in Ireland. If there was anything in the argument of the Home Secretary, he could not see why the Leaders should not have been the first to have been released. It was said that they were now on the side of law and order; but when there was agitation it was the duty of the Executive to maintain law and order. As matters stood now, the Government devolved their primary duty on the hon. Member for Cork City. They confessed that it was impossible for them without his assistance to stop outrage and agrarian crime; and they, therefore, appealed to him to do what he could to save their reputation, and to help them to bring back law and order—i.e., they were now appealing to one who had been the chief instigator of breaches of the law to restore peace. The Home Secretary said the Government had acted on the best information. The foundation for that appeared to be that there had been some kind of communication with the hon. Member for Cork City. In the face of the country and of Europe the Government was disgraced, because they had failed in their primary duty to protect loyal subjects. There was scarcely a Member on the Opposition Benches who did not agree with every word that had fallen from the right hon. Member for Bradford. One of the strongest supporters of the policy of the late Chief Secretary had been the Attorney General for Ireland. No one had used stronger language against the "suspects," and especially against the hon. Member for Cork City, than the hon. and learned Gentleman had done. He would say to his face that it appeared inconsistent with the duty he owed to the late Chief Secretary to take the loaves and fishes of Office and to continue to be a responsible Minister of the Crown. [Several hon. MEMBERS: He is not responsible.] He is responsible for the legal advice tendered to his official superiors. He maintained that the present Government had, at a time of the greatest difficulty, deserted their Colleague, not that the right hon. Gentleman had deserted the Government. The conduct of the right hon. Gentleman 152 had been perfectly consistent from first to last. An advocate of the Coercion Bill, he had refused to truckle to the Land League, and, like an English statesman, had sacrificed his Office rather than his opinions. He only trusted, for the sake of the right hon. Gentleman's reputation, that he would never again find himself in the irksome fellowship of a Liberal Administration. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, and the Members of his Government had effected a complete change of front. No more than a week or two ago they steadily set their faces against any alteration of the Land Act, declaring that the peace of Ireland depended upon its having a fair trial; but now they themselves proposed to amend it, and with that object placed themselves at the mercy of the lately imprisoned Members, and implored them to save the Government. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India had the other day asked why the Opposition did not challenge the Government policy; but they all knew on which side of the House the majority was to be found, and in the case of such a challenge as the noble Lord contemplated the majority would be swelled by those who had so recently been regarded as the enemies of law and order. He could assure the Government, however, that, whether their policy was right or wrong, the greatest desire of the Opposition was to see Ireland well governed by the responsible Advisers of the Crown.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
said, that during the time he had been a Member of the House it had not been the practice to make personal attacks such as he had been subjected to tonight; and he thought it was not likely that in a House composed of Gentlemen from every part of the Kingdom that this example would be followed. The hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) had been pleased to attribute to the Attorney General for Ireland, because he had not resigned his Office together with the Chief Secretary, base and sordid motives. He (the Attorney General for Ireland) considered it sufficient to deny that aspersion absolutely and, he supposed it was unnecessary to say, indignantly. The hon. Member who had last addressed the House, in language which he supposed 153 it would not be un-Parliamentary to characterize as coarse, had spoken of his preference for the loaves and fishes, but had not contrived to elicit a cheer from a single Member of the House. Now, he certainly had not thought fit to resign his Office; and in retaining it he had, he believed, the approval of the late Chief Secretary. For what, then, was he to be assailed? Since he had had the honor of a seat in that House, and of being connected with the Ministry, he had at all times done his duty. He appealed to the House whether he had ever shrunk from his duty? Was he likely, then, to shrink from it now? His undoubted duty now, he believed, was to stick to the ship, rather than to weaken and embarrass the action of the Government in the present crisis. The Government had embarked upon a policy which they were satisfied would secure peace, tranquility, and happiness to Ireland; and he believed it was his duty to support that policy. He trusted that the faith worthy confidence reposed in hon. Members below the Gangway opposite would lead them to do their best to assist the Government in their endeavor to restore tranquility and peace to their unhappy country, and to create good feeling amongst all those classes of the people who had been so long sundered and estranged.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, he was desirous of avoiding personal controversy, recrimination, and the imputation of motives. He thought the majority of the House would agree with him in thinking that they could not be justified in giving to so serious a subject a personal color. He was bound to say, although he had opposed the policy of the Government, he did not recollect anything which the Attorney General for Ireland had uttered during the last two years that would justify him in suspecting for a moment that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's public action in the House had been dictated by motives of personal aggrandizement. As a general rule, no class of persons was more open to the reproach of personal motives than those who indulged in personal accusations. The hon. Member had complained that the Government had not consulted the magistrates and those who were responsible for the mechanical administration of the law in Ireland; 154 but he failed to see the force of that criticism. It was the exclusive consultation of the police and magistrates of Ireland which had led the Government into so many deplorable mistakes. They had revelations within a recent period of the kind of judicial advice which might have been expected from certain Irish magistrates on a question of this description. They had their Major Bonds and their Major Trails, and their Inspector Smiths, and various other gentlemen. He admitted that the question of the liberation of the three hon. Members was a matter intimately connected with, the preservation of law and order; but he would not ask anybody, was the government of England carried on by the advice of the police and magistrates of England? He knew very well the Home Secretary was not in the habit of consulting the unpaid magistracy of England, or the sub-inspectors of police in England, when he had determined to recommend for the adoption of Her Majesty's Government some scheme of public policy. It had been insinuated by the late Chief Secretary for Ireland and by others that the liberation of the lately imprisoned Members was nothing more or less than a buying of the Land League. Why, the Conservative Party, who was so loud in bringing this accusation against Her Majesty's Government, had themselves adopted the policy of buying the Land League. And for what purpose, if not to purchase the support of the Irish Parliamentary Party in that House? The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow) praised the speech of the late Chief Secretary. Now, he must confess that he had himself some sympathy with a man who, occupying a high position among his own Party, felt that the time had come when he could no longer consistently maintain his connection with his Colleagues. But he was bound to say that there was not one strong point, not one telling argument, in that speech which the right hon. Gentleman had not, consciously or unconsciously, borrowed from his political opponents. He could not help thinking that every strong point was a Tory argument, and every weak explanation in his speech was the explanation of a man who, though, no doubt, actuated by the most honorable intentions, had a very mistaken view of the requirements of the Irish Adminis- 155 tration at the present time. The Government had been accused of buying off lawlessness by concession. But that was only a reproduction of the argument used last year by the Opposition, when the House was told that if they passed the Laud Bill they would be buying off the lawbreakers in Ireland. But the House was more concerned to know what would be the effect of the action of Her Majesty's Government upon the people of Ireland. Speaking on behalf of the constituency which he had the honour to represent, he had no hesitation in saying that Her Majesty's Government had not done a wiser act, or shown more true courage and true statesmanship for the last two years, than when they determined upon the liberation of the lately-imprisoned Members, and upon departing, as far as was in their power, from the hated policy of coercion. It had been frequently said, during the last two years to Irish Representatives who had taken a line in reference to these matters somewhat like his own, that they did not sufficiently support Her Majesty's Government. Indeed, he was asked a short time ago why he had not gone to Ireland to uphold the cause of law and order, and the policy of Her Majesty's Government; and he had a very ready answer. It was this—that he had approved of one-half of their policy, the policy of remedial legislation, which he believed was calculated to do a great deal towards removing the grievances of the tenant farmers of Ireland; but that they knew very well that with equal energy he opposed their coercive legislation, and that if he went to Ireland he should have, while praising them with one voice, to condemn them with another; and the result of such an advocacy need not be described. But now he was in perfect unison with the policy of Her Majesty's Government, because they had made a declaration which he trusted nothing would happen in Ireland to prevent them from fulfilling—the declaration that they relied more upon the effects of remedial legislation than upon force to bring back contentment to the people of Ireland. The hon. Members who had that night again taken their seats in the House had justified the expectations formed of them when in clear and emphatic terms they repudiated the idea of making any conditions with the Government. It 156 would have been impossible to induce any of those hon. Members to quit their prison upon such terms. At the same time, they had expressed the opinion that the remedial legislation which the Government contemplated must necessarily produce a good effect upon the feelings and dispositions of the people of Ireland. The changes consequent upon the resignation of the late Chief Secretary opened up another question—namely, why Irish affairs were not put into Irish hands? He did not see why he should hesitate to say now, as he always did, that there could be no end to the Irish difficulty until the Irish Administration, root and branch, local and central, general and national, had been placed substantially in Irish hands. From rumours which had reached him to-night, he was led to believe that Her Majesty's Govennment intended to try once more the experiment of administering Irish affairs by English brains and understanding. He hoped they would succeed; but he, nevertheless, adhered to his original conviction, that both Parties in the House must recognize that the only ultimate solution of the Irish difficulty was that state of mind on the part of England which recognized that Irish opinion must by law be made as potent in the government of Ireland as English opinion in the government of England. He freely admitted that, while recognizing this, it was not fair to expect any Government to make at once a change from the present system to the one which he had described; but when they were re-forming the Administration of Ireland they ought to try whether, in the ranks of Irish gentlemen, someone might not be found competent to undertake the government of his country. English Administrators had only too closely followed the spirit of the advice given by the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow), that nothing should be done without consulting the Resident Magistrates and police; but he ventured to think that if an Irishman acquainted with his countrymen, who had resided for many years amongst the people, were installed in the government of Ireland, he would be 20 years ahead of an Englishman in Irish administration in ascertaining what was the drift of Irish opinion and determination, and he would exercise one of the highest faculties of a statesman in forseeing difficulties and in 157 taking measures to meet them. Irish administration ought to be placed in Irish hands, no matter what Party was in power. He should be delighted, if the Conservatives were in power, to see either of the distinguished Members for Dublin University Chief Secretary for Ireland. It might be that they would not direct a policy in sympathy with his religious convictions; they might not altogether agree with his Celtic aspirations; but he and others could console themselves with the reflection that—Our tyrants thenWere still at least our countrymen.He was not one of the number of Irishmen who thought that the time had come when an Irishman possessing the national sentiment, and the true stamp, and the true colour, could undertake to administer the affairs of Ireland. He believed a great deal remained to be done before it would be prudent—he did not say for the English Government to appoint an Irish Nationalist to Office, but for an Irishman to undertake so arduous a task. But, at all events, let them not indulge in personal recrimination. Let them try, if they could, to recognize in the recent act of Her Majesty's Government that they had incurred great responsibility, great risk, in doing a just, a noble, and a generous act. Her Majesty's Government had made a large and a noble sacrifice upon the altar of peace when they determined to no longer support their old Colleague and Champion and Friend, the right hon. Member for Bradford. He appealed to the Gentlemen of the Conservative Party, and asked them if they had no contribution to make to this problem except the contribution of angry criticism; and would they tell him that such a contribution was calculated to promote the peace of Ireland?
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, he felt great diffidence in rising to make a few observations after listening to the remarkable and instructive address which they had just heard from the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power). That address was full of wisdom and instruction, and he trusted that it would not be thrown away, either in its sentiment or in its recommendation, upon Her Majesty's Government. He did not rise either to attack the Government or to defend them. He rose to make a 158 few remarks upon the act which had signalized the past few days. It was not for him, nor for any Member in that House representing Ireland, to defend the odious policy of coercion. The shame of that Act did not lie upon their shoulders, for Irish Members on both sides of the House had, with equal unanimity and equal earnestness, protested against that form of coercion which was involved in the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, believing that it would eventually bring confusion and disaster upon Ireland. The policy of allowing one man to apprehend his fellow-men, and to keep them in prison without an opportunity of justifying their conduct, led from one backward step to another, until, in a short time, they found nearly 600 of their countrymen locked up in Her Majesty's gaols in Ireland. Whose policy was that? It was not merely the policy of Her Majesty's Government—it was the policy of the House of Commons; and the House of Commons was the tribunal which was now to be vindicated if this Act was to be renewed. But those only who could be really vindicated in history were the Irish Members, who, from both sides of the House, protested against the Act from the very first. There was one remarkable thing which would happen from the reversal of this policy. They saw to-night the solution of that alliance which had existed for a time between the Conservative Party and the Irish Members opposite. He often told his hon. Friends opposite that that alliance was based upon a foundation which had something in it that would give cause for regret. That alliance was based upon a love and a desire for coercion so far as the Conservative Party were concerned; and upon the abandonment of that policy they saw the Conservative Party openly and ostentatiously renouncing their alliance with hon. Gentlemen opposite. They stated that the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government would tend to the ruin of the Empire; but they declined to formally arraign their conduct before Parliament, because, forsooth, their ranks would no longer be swelled by the Irish Members sitting opposite. He never knew an instance in which history had in a short time so completely vindicated itself as showing the hollowness and insincerity of the Conservative alliance. 159 [An IRISH MEMBER: There was no alliance.] He was not saying that the Irish Members made a formal alliance, but that the Conservative Party made an alliance with his hon. Friends opposite whenever they thought they could embarrass Her Majesty's Government. He knew well that when a crisis came such an alliance must come to an end, because it had no honest foundation. It had been alleged to-night that the release of the Members who had been confined in Kilmainham, and of the other "suspects" imprisoned in Ireland, was a triumph for the Land League. Such a statement was exceedingly absurd. The persons who most objected to the coercion policy were not Land Leaguers. Many Members who objected to coercion used language of the most condemnatory character with regard to the tactics of the Land League, and, therefore, to state that the abandonment of the policy of coercion was a triumph of the Land League was to state what would not bear a moment's examination. He would not have troubled the House at all if he did not desire very earnestly to point out to the Government that, although one great step had been taken for the pacification of Ireland, everything would depend upon the rapidity with which the remedial measures procured by the Prime Minister were introduced and passed. Almost everything that had teen done in the way of remedial legislation had been branded upon its forehead with the words "Too late." At that moment there were many anxious hearts in Ireland waiting to know how soon they should be able to return to their humble homes. There were thousands of persons in Ireland on that very night trembling on the verge of eviction; and those persons felt, to an extent which, perhaps, Members of that House never felt, how hope deferred made the heart grow sick. He entreated Her Majesty's Government to bring in their promised measures with expedition. They were entitled to believe that those measures would meet with no opposition from either side of the House. At all events, it was quite certain that they would not meet that opposition which had been so formidable on other occasions—the opposition of the Irish Members. On the contrary, the Bill which was introduced the other day, and which 160 had obtained the approval of the Prime Minister, would, he was quite sure, receive the support of everyone who had the good of the country at heart. The following telegram, which he received yesterday from the remote part of Ireland in which he lived, would show the imminence of eviction in that part:—Relieving officer got notice to-day of over 30 families—about 180 individuals—to be evicted immediately for arrears. The victims are absolutely unable to pay. Press for suspension of evictions pending a settlement of the arrears of rent.The only reply he could make to that telegram was to say that he depended upon the sincerity and good faith of the Prime Minister, and upon the determination of the Government that evictions should cease. He knew they had pledged themselves to deal with the question of arrears, and he entreated the people to rely fully on that pledge. That was the telegram which he sent in reply. But suppose week after week passed away, and these poor people were turned out upon the hillside; suppose they saw their little growing crops, upon which they relied to feed their families, taken from them, and their humble houses made desolate, what would happen in that part of the country? Nobody had spoken more strongly than Irish Members against the horrible outrages which had been committed in Ireland, and he hoped nobody would think he would for a moment justify them. But he must say that, looking at his own family and at his own children, if he thought they were about to be turned out upon the hillside—the mother, the children, the young and the old—without any fault of their own, but in consequence of the non-growth of the crops in bad seasons, bitterness of feeling might rise in his mind. [Mr. T. D. SULLIVAN: And if they had no money?] He was glad to think that his hon. Friend believed it was only those who were without money that suffered eviction; but many had suffered eviction who had money. He spoke of those who suffered eviction because they had no money; and he confessed that he did not know what amount of restraint he would require, though he possessed the advantages of education, to prevent him from nourishing a sentiment of revenge, which might 161 even lead him to commit a breach, of the law. He believed nothing had happened in Great Britain so horrible as that which, had taken place in Ireland during the rage of evictions. They were fully described in English newspapers, but seemed to create far less impression than disasters in far distant lands. If the arrears were dealt with, at once, he believed eviction would stop and a reign of peace would set in in Ireland. Everything else was secondary. In other respects he hoped the question would not be dealt with piecemeal. There was purchase by the tenants; and he trusted also that the Government would see their way to taking leases in hand. Could not all sections of Irish Representatives combined join to help the Government to frame a comprehensive measure which should, once for all, settle the question? Let them put their heads together, and make an honest effort, in a spirit of wisdom and conciliation, to perfect the Land Act; and let it not be said that, with, the experience of the past two years before them, the Government of the day and the House of Lords required to be taught a still sterner lesson of wisdom before they dealt effectually and thoroughly with the tenure of land in Ireland.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, that some hon. Members seemed to derive satisfaction from the belief that historic justice had been done by the breach of the alliance between the Conservative and Home Rule Parties. No doubt, the Home Rule Party had changed their line of action. But he could not admit that there had been any dissolution of that alliance, because the alliance had never existed. It was perfectly true that on several occasions Gentlemen from Ireland had been united with the Conservatives in a common hostility to the Government. But there never was between the two Parties that sort of alliance which, appeared now to exist between the Home Rule Party and the Government—namely, a harmony of policy. The Home Rule Party might, on isolated occasions, have voted with the Conservatives; but there had never been any union between them of designs and aims. The Attorney General for Ireland, in a personal explanation, had made severe reflections upon his hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir 162 H. Drummond Wolff), who, he said, had charged him with having remained in the Government from sordid motives.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
said, the hon. Member for Portsmouth had used language which, if it meant anything, meant that he had remained in Office from sordid motives.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
begged to disclaim any such meaning. What he had said was that he thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman ought to have left Office with the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), and he thought so still. He had not imputed sordid motives to the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
said, he was glad to accept the hon. Gentleman's explanation, and withdrew the portion of his speech which referred to that subject.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
wished that the Prime Minister had been in the House when the Attorney General made his explanation, because the right hon. and learned Gentleman had hinted to the House why he remained in the Government. It appeared to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that it was the nobler course to remain in the Government even though he dissented from its policy.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
said, that was an unfair representation. What he had said was that he thought it his duty to stick to the ship in the policy which would pacify Ireland.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
begged to apologize. But when anybody said that he would stick to the ship he generally meant to imply that the ship was sinking. But he was of opinion that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not at all more to be blamed in that matter than the rest of the Government. This was not a time when it was possible to make a general review of the new Irish policy. The House had only heard the negative parts of that policy, and was in the dark as to what was to be done in the future. But whatever might be the final judgment of the House one thing was clear. In the first place, if the new policy was right the old policy was wrong; and, secondly, if it was right, the Government had initiated it at a 163 most inopportune moment. If the old policy was wrong, the Conservative Party had a just cause of complaint. Coercion and imprisonment were as repugnant to them as to any Party in that House, notwithstanding the taunts that were levelled at them, and they had accepted the Coercion Acts simply because the. Government came down, and, on their responsibility, told the House that the Acts were necessary for the preservation of order in Ireland. The whole responsibility, therefore, lay with the Government, and it was an undivided responsibility. The only inference that could be drawn from the course adopted by the Government with regard to the Irish Question was that the Party represented by the hon. Gentleman behind him, which had been responsible in the main for the failure of law and order, had gained a great victory. That inference was inevitable, because it had been constantly asserted that outrages in Ireland were continued for the purpose of compelling the Government to make concessions to that Party. It was impossible for anyone in Ireland to refrain from drawing the conclusion that the releases were ordered in consequence of the outrages. Did the Government suppose that in future the people of Ireland would refrain from committing outrages, which they knew by experience was capable of profoundly modifying the whole policy of this country? When did the Government realize the opinion which the hon. Gentleman behind him entertained? He understood that the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had asserted that he had been released because the Government had discovered by some method, not yet explained, that the proposals of the hon. Member, with regard to arrears and certain other things of an analogous character, were not unreasonable. He wished to know whether that was the case. He gathered from the discussion that there had been some communication between the Prime Minister and the hon. Member for the City of Cork, as to which his notions were rendered more cloudy by the explanation of the hon. and gallant Member for Clare (Mr. O'Shea), who appeared to have gone to Kilmainham on his own responsibility, to have communicated with the hon. Member on his own responsibility, and to have communicated the result to 164 the Prime Minister. If the Government had now discovered that the opinions which they entertained six months ago as to the proposals of the hon. Member for the City of Cork were erroneous, if the hon. Member was now released because the Government have discovered that he advocated a policy which, in fact, he had always advocated, the conclusion was that they had unjustly detained the hon. Member in prison for six months. He did not see how the Government were to escape from that. It appeared that all along these Gentlemen had been imprisoned under a mistake; that the Government had always agreed with them, but that, unfortunately, there had been some misunderstanding, which had only just been cleared up. They were an unhappy couple who had long quarrelled, but were now happily united under the auspices and with the blessings of the hon. and gallant Member for Clare. The Prime Minister took great credit to himself for not having insisted on a promise from the hon. Member for the City of Cork that he would do nothing to disturb order. The delicacy of the Prime Minister appeared to him singularly ill-placed. The right hon. Gentleman had no hesitation in announcing last year, in a crowded and enthusiastic meeting in London, that a warrant had been issued for the arrest of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, as an enemy of law and order, and as an incitor to outrage. It was strange now to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he would not for a moment think of asking the hon. Member for a pledge that he would not break the law of the land. Either the hon. Member for the City of Cork had some right to complain of the course which the right hon. Gentleman had taken seven months ago, or the country had some right to complain of the course the Government were taking now. The Government had announced, in indignant language, that they only intended that the Conservative Members should criticize their conduct if they brought forward accusations against them in the shape of a Vote of Censure. No one knew better than the right hon. Gentleman that a Vote of Censure never could represent the impartial judgment of the House on a question of policy. The question that was determined on such a Vote was whether the present Government should 165 be kept in Office or not. It was not a judgment upon the policy of the Government; it was a Vote of General Confidence in them. If the right hon. Gentleman really wanted an impartial judgment, let him encourage a Motion which would challenge the whole policy of the Government, and which would not be in the shape of a Vote of Censure. He did not think the result of such a Vote would altogether harmonize with their wishes. The Government had announced their firm determination not to allow the House to know, much less to discuss, their policy about Ireland, until they had passed all the Procedure Resolutions. Until that was done Members were to consent to have their mouths shut about the Government policy as to Ireland. Now, considering the length of time those Resolutions had already taken—and he had no ground for doubting that the discussions on them would continue in the future as they had in the past—nothing could be more obvious than that the discussion of the Government policy on Irish affairs was postponed to an indefinite date. Was it tolerable that murder and outrage should be used as a lever to compel the House to pass measures pleasing to the Government? The Coercion Act existed nominally; but, to all practical intents, it was abrogated. The Irish Executive, which had found a Coercion Act insufficient to preserve order, were reduced to the Common Law, and the Government gave us no hint when this state of things was to end. The course which the Government proposed to take with regard to Ireland was contrary to public policy and usage; and the Opposition would be justified in using every means in their power to prevent the Government doing anything whatever until they had given the House some explanation of the policy they meant to pursue in Ireland.
§ MR. CARTWRIGHT
said, he did not endorse the views of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down as to obstructing the Government. But he thought there was some force in the appeal he had made as to the Government giving some explanation of their policy with regard to Ireland. He did not think that the issue had been fairly put before them that night. It was not simply an issue between a policy of coercion and a policy of non-coercion; but between the present policy of coer- 166 cion and the policy which was to be pursued after the expiration of the existing Coereion Act. Last year he voted for coercion in deference to Her Majesty's Ministers, who recommended it on their authority and experience. It had been foreshadowed by the Government that on the expiring of the Coercion Act Ireland would be dealt with by some further legislation; and he thought it only fair to those who had voted for their policy of coercion that the Government should put them in possession of the outline of the substance of the policy they proposed to adopt. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had hinted at a measure for strengthening the ordinary powers of the law in Ireland; and it would certainly do much to strengthen the confidence of those who desired to support the Ministry to put them in possession of the policy which they proposed to pursue. The gravity of the situation in Ireland was evident from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary; and it was only right and fair that the Government should take their followers into their confidence, and make known to them the main features of a Bill which they must have considered before they arrived at the grave determination they had done.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
observed that many grave questions had been raised by the statement of the late Chief Secretary; and he desired to express the admiration which, in common with everyone else, he felt for the manly, fearless, and straightforward statement he had made, and which, if there were room for it, would increase the respect universally felt for him by Members on all sides of the House. Speeches had been made by some Members of the Government; and, as far as he could gather their meaning, he did not think they had done much to strengthen their position. The Secretary of State for the Home Department, when asked if the Government had consulted the magistrates and other authorities in Ireland, replied—"No; we have done this entirely upon our own judgment." When he heard that statement he could not help remembering that that was what the Government had done before, when they first came into Office two years ago. They acted on their own judgment, in spite of advice and warning from the magistrates and other authorities; and when he re- 167 membered the disastrous consequences and the miserable state of things that had resulted from acting on their own judgment at that time, he was not much encouraged in his hopes of the future of Ireland when they were informed that the Government had not consulted those in Ireland who ought to know best the state of the country, but had acted solely on their own judgment. It must be obvious to all who heard the speech of the Prime Minister that the Government had been influenced in this grave decision mainly by two considerations. One was the Bill and the statement of the hon. Member for New Ross (Mr. Redmond), and the other was some information which the Government had received, but which, up to the present time, they had not thought fitting to disclose to the House. The Prime Minister said he attached much importance to the statement of the hon. Member for New Ross; but that hon. Gentleman concluded the speech in question by an observation to the effect that nothing could ever be satisfactory to Ireland but the concession of Home Rule. Was it to be inferred from the importance attached to the speech of the hon. Member that this new concession was to be made to the extreme Party in Ireland? If not, it was the duty of the Government to say so without delay. It was this certain information which was conveyed by the uninspired visitor to Kilmainham, and in an equally uninspired manner to Downing Street, that was the key of their policy. The Home Secretary put this question to the House—"Was there, or was there not, reasonable ground for the belief that the Gentlemen just released would in future be on the side of law and order in Ireland?" That depended entirely upon the information supplied to the Government; and the House and the country were entitled to full details as to what that information was, so far as the House could judge—from the only information at its disposal. From the public speeches of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) there was not the slightest ground for believing that he would be on the side of law and order, because he had said that he would never rest until he had brought about the separation of England and Ireland. ["No, no!" and an hon. MEMBER: Home Rule!] His words might have been "until he had secured Home Rule for Ireland." He believed that he was cor- 168 rect in saying that the establishment of an Irish Parliament was one of the objects which the hon. Member had specified. The course now taken by the Government was merely a repetition of the old policy of concession upon, concession which commenced in 1870, and which had failed, and failed disastrously, from that time to the present. From the point of view of hon. Gentlemen behind him, no doubt it had succeeded; and he did not hesitate to say that the hon. Member for the City of Cork stood in the most triumphant position that he ever remembered to have been occupied by any Member of that House. The hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) was justified in using any legitimate pressure to induce the Government to lay before the country a full statement of its intended policy. Even if, as the Prime. Minister said, it was absolutely necessary to complete the Resolutions on Procedure, the Government could lay the Bills they would propose forthwith upon the Table. Let the right hon. Gentleman make a full statement of his policy. The country were likely to form a wrong impression of the right hon. Gentleman. They would say—"We have placed this powerful Minister in Office, and yet, in spite of all his power, this Minister is making the Queen's Government ridiculous—in spite of all his professions he is nothing but the tool of the agitation he has so long denounced, the dupe, the plaything, and the puppet of the Land League." He should be sorry if any such opinion were entertained of the right hon. Gentleman; and therefore he once more appealed to him to lay before the House the policy he intended to pursue with regard to the future of Ireland.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he was not surprised at the considerable amount of discontent expressed by Members of the Conservative Party at the turn which events had taken in Ireland, for it had been the Tory policy which had been followed in Ireland for the last two years. Many remarkable events had been discussed that evening; but there was one which he thought had not been sufficiently dwelt upon. He referred to the withdrawal of the Motion of the late First Lord of the Admiralty, by which he had held out to the Home Rule Party the inducements which he hoped would place the Tory Party in Office. There was, however, one thing which could 169 not be withdrawn, which was the Report of the Lords' Committee, which, at any rate, told them that honourable people besides Liberals could review their decisions, and advance most forcibly the platform of the Land League. In spite of the emphatic disclaimers on both sides, he was afraid that an attempt would be made to represent what had taken place that evening as something in the nature of a bargain. As one suspected of Conservative leanings, he ventured to appeal with some feelings of part fellowship, and to mix in the appeal words of warning that the little game would totally fail if any indiscreet partizans of theirs should misrepresent the real gravity or the real honesty of the consummation reached that evening. There was no bargain on the part of the released Members. The House would recollect that when coercion was proposed last year he warned Liberals of the mistake they were making in being misled by the magistrates and Irish permanent officials, and the advice which they were sedulously pouring into the ears of the late Chief Secretary. The Irish Party occupied the same platform as they did previous to the arrests; and the only difference was that the Liberal Party had come to understand the views of the Irish Members as to the necessity of dealing with the arrears of rent, and as to the necessity of largely amending certain portions of the Land Act. Why did the Government not believe them upon these points seven months ago? It was because Tory influences predominated over the Liberal policy. The events of the week were a great triumph for the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell); but if, as he believed, the promises and engagements made on behalf of the Liberal Party were as sincere as he trusted they were, the Liberal Party and the Premier had gained a greater triumph, inasmuch as they had not feared to do right even at the cost of much apparent inconsistency. At last the fact had been brought home that the coercion policy in Ireland was a mistake. The Prime Minister would betray, in the gravest manner, the interests of his Sovereign, whilst acting dishonourably to himself, if he delayed for a single moment that different system which he thought ought to be applied. If the Government acted zealously and straightforwardly in the spirit of their 170 personal declarations, they would have the honest, but none the less independent, support of every Liberal from Ireland; and he appealed to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) to urge upon the Government rapidity in the introduction of remedial legislation. He had heard appeals to the Government from hon. Members on the other side of the House to lay on the Table a measure to diminish the severity of the Criminal Law. There were thousands of families threatened with ruin through eviction, and their defenders and sympathizers were the persons who recruited the ranks of insurrection. The degree and extent of amendment of the Criminal Law must depend upon the amount of crime with which they had to deal and the probability of the extension of crime. If the Government would first do their best to remove the evils the Irish tenantry were suffering from eviction at the hands of landlords who had no mercy, then such measures of repression as might be found necessary would deserve a fair hearing; but all who loved Ireland should resist the introduction of measures of further coercion unaccompanied by remedial legislation. If the Government brought in without delay a measure dealing with arrears, and also facilitating the purchase of holdings by the tenants, there would be such a miserable residuum of outrage to deal with that it would be unnecessary to introduce an exceptional measure of coercion. While the Liberal Party and the Irish Party were endeavouring to bring back peace and contentment to Ireland, the only contribution offered towards this end by the Conservative Party had that evening been withdrawn by the late First Lord of the Admiralty. He warned the Conservatives that they would not be backed up by the country in a policy of mere nagging and twitting the Government with its inconsistencies. He trusted there would be no disposition in any section of the Liberal Party to form a little head and centre of opposition to remedial legislation for Ireland. If there were any disposition on their part to mar the good relations which now seemed to predominate in the ranks of the Liberal Party, he warned them that they would fail to achieve anything but their own discomfiture. The step which had been taken in Ire- 171 land was irrevocable, and all their future policy must be built up on the basis of that irrevocable fact. Therefore, he appealed to every man of statesmanlike instinct and honest heart to accept the advance of the Irish National Party. Their desire was to erect on broad bases the edifice of Irish national prosperity, and also to form a lasting chain of goodwill, friendship, and affection with the people of England. But, whether they had to deal with ill-will or good-will, what had been done could not be undone; and, therefore, he asked all hon. Members to recognize the fact that the Irish situation could only be dealt with on the basis of justice to the tenants, on the basis of a statesmanlike and generous treatment of the question of arrears, and of the amendment of the Land Act; and in the near future the question must be faced of conferring the government of Ireland on the responsible leaders of the Irish people. He did not venture to use anything that might seem minatory in his language to Her Majesty's Government. He was prepared to accept the engagements they had made; but he hoped they would be rapid in the application of their remedies. If they proceeded fearlessly and unhesitatingly in the good path upon which they had entered, he was certain that long before this time next year the troubled condition of Ireland would be only a memory of the past; and that the vast majority of English and Irish Representatives would be able to transact together the Business which was required for the welfare both of England and of Ireland.
§ MR. GIVAN
congratulated the Government on the course they had so magnanimously taken in releasing the three hon. Members. He could not understand the course adopted by the Conservative Party on this occasion. The Londonderry Election was a recent event; and he recollected that during the contest the hon. Member for the City of Londonderry (Mr. Lewis), who sneered so much at the Prime Minister during his speech to-night, gave his support to a candidate who stated that coercion was a policy which would not be resorted to by the Conservative Party, and that the Land Act did not go far enough. He (Mr. Givan), as one who never believed in the policy of coercion, and who had opposed the Coercion Act from its introduction, stood up now 172 to say that the course which Her Majesty's Government had adopted was the only course likely, at the present time, to restore peace to his distracted country. The true remedy for the present condition of Ireland was an amendment of the Land Act. He believed that no man ever desired to discharge his duty more conscientiously and generously than the late Chief Secretary; but he could not conceal the fact that he believed the right hon. Gentleman was often influenced, when Chief Secretary, by the police system and the Castle officialism which were so detrimental to government in Ireland. They all knew the business qualifications of the noble Lord who had been appointed Chief Secretary; and he hoped the noble Lord's first act would be to divest himself of those humiliating Castle influences. The fate of Ireland was at that moment trembling in the balance. He believed that the new departure was a departure in the right direction; and he hoped it would be followed by some legislation to assist the tenants in their difficulties with arrears; to extend the Purchase Clauses, so as to enable the tenants to purchase, which they would not do under the provisions of the Land Act; and to extend the benefits of that Act to leaseholders. Then he believed peace would be restored to Ireland, and that the new coercive or protection measures, which hon. Members were so anxious to have adopted at once, would be found to be of a very mild kind indeed. The hon. Member, in conclusion, again expressed his satisfaction at the course taken by the Government in releasing the "suspects," and also releasing Mr. Michael Davitt.
§ MR. GIBSON
When on Tuesday the Prime Minister made his statement to the House I think everyone followed it with the deepest interest; and I think it must have been present to the mind of that great statesman himself that each word that he uttered developed and increased to an acute degree the interest of the House. It was obvious that a great and serious decision had been arrived at, and equally obvious that that grave and momentous decision was made known to the House casually, suddenly, without Notice, and without any sign which could indicate that it had received the deliberation which its importance required. No reasons were 173 offered, and no explanations were tendered. I do not intend, in connection with a great question like this, to indulge in mere personal charges. The matter is far too important for that. But I think it is to be regretted that on an occasion of such gravity the Prime Minister should not have thought it his duty to make a statement of a more complete character. When that regret was very temperately indicated by my right hon. Friend near me (Sir Stafford Northcote), we were met in a way that was simply unworthy. We were told—"We give you no grounds; but if you are dissatisfied, say so, and we will vote you down." That was hardly the way to deal with a fair, reasonable, and thoroughly justifiable question on an occasion so important. I think, also, that it was hardly necessary for a statesman holding the high position of the Prime Minister to say that it was no new policy which was being introduced, and that it was in harmony with the old lines. Such expressions as those are simply nonsense. When the Government cannot get their Lord Lieutenant to stay in Office, and cannot induce their Chief Secretary to be responsible for their actions, surely it is rather idle to say that they are proceeding in harmony with their preceding conduct. We have more knowledge tonight; but I am not sure that the increase of knowledge which we have received will lead to an increase of confidence. Speaking for myself, I am bound to say that a discussion more calculated to intensify the interest and increase the anxiety of the country has never been heard in Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), as I must now call him, speaking with the greatest moderation, and with all the weight of a great character and a long political life, made use of words which, if they do not bring conviction to men's minds, must surely cause every man in this House, who is not heedless or thoughtless, to reflect gravely on the state of affairs. When I heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and when I heard the three alternative propositions which he submitted to his Colleagues, with whom he had obviously desired to remain—when he formulated those three propositions, by the acceptance of any one of which he would have been induced to remain in the Cabinet 174 —my feeling was one of immense astonishment that, in a crisis so grave, the Ministry could not see their way to the acceptance of any one of them. It looked as if the Government, coûte que coûte, were determined to embark with their eyes shut on a new policy, which might lead they knew not where, and for which they had no reason to offer either to their Colleague or to the country. The main proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford was that the present Coercion Act might well be allowed to come to an end; but that the period that would elapse before its expiration should be utilized in the enactment of other provisions which would so strengthen the general law of the country as to enable the change to take place safely and reasonably. That is a suggestion so temperate and fair that it is inexplicable to me that it was not considered worthy of acceptance by the Government. Now, I ask on what information has the Government proceeded? That is a question to which we ought to have an answer. It was not upon the information of the Lord Lieutenant, for he had given notice to quit. It was not on the information of the late Chief Secretary; it was, in fact, in opposition to his opinion. His successor, whose appointment I do not criticize, knows necessarily nothing about the subject. If, then, the Prime Minister is unable to vouch his late Lord Lieutenant; if he has acted against the advice of his Chief Secretary; if he is unable to say that his Law Officers agree with him; if he is unable to state that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland gives his sanction to this change; if he is unable to cite a single report or suggestion in support of his action from anyone who has the means of obtaining the necessary knowledge, am I not entitled to demand upon what information have the Government proceeded in making this momentous change? I think it is to be regretted that in the speech of the Prime Minister on Tuesday he did not make himself understood more completely. He protested, I now think, a little too much in saying that there was no negotiation, or contract, or anything of the kind. I will not say there was a contract or a covenant—to use the right hon. Gentleman's words—but if there was not an understanding I am at a loss to know 175 what is the meaning of an understanding. The right hon. Gentleman knew that the hon. and gallant Member for Clare (Mr. O'Shea) was going to Kilmainham with the knowledge of the views and intentions of the Government. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No.] Perhaps I may be allowed to state my own proposition. I will take the words of the right hon. Gentleman, and then I must demand leave to draw my own inference. I must, for the purposes of argument, draw inferences from the words which will be before the country to-morrow in the three forms in which the Prime Minister gave them; because I notice that there is a most extraordinary development in the frankness of the right hon. Gentleman. In the first place, he stated—The information which led us to the conviction to which we recently gave effect.Nothing can be more interesting or bald than that. Then the right hon. Gentleman proceeds to the second development and says—Then we were forced to the rational conviction—the previous one was not characterized—That the three Gentlemen in Kilmainham would find themselves in a condition to place themselves on the side of law, order, and individual freedom.Now, Sir, there we have a further development. The right hon. Gentleman, if I may be permitted to say so, was, I think, hardly as happy as usual in his speech to-night, because having made that second statement, there appeared a third branch of the Upas tree. This further development threw further light on the question. The right hon. Gentleman says—They had information that, were the Government suggestions of Wednesday as to arrears carried out, these Members would be willing to act as I have stated.
§ MR. GIBSON
The meaning is as clear as crystal. I took down the words which I have read; and it appears that the information was conveyed by the hon. and gallant Emissary from this House to Kilmainham that the Government undertook the settlement of the arrears question on the basis of gift and compulsion.
Nothing of the kind. [Cheers, counter-cheers, and cries of "Withdraw!" from the Ministerial Benches."]
§ MR. GIBSON
I have said nothing personally offensive. I am dealing with statements which appeared to me to culminate in the particular statement to which I have referred. Of course, I am in the wrong. But now let us see the real meaning of this transaction. The Government have, by an emissary, recognized that they were willing to settle the arrears question on the basis of gift and compulsion.
§ MR. GIBSON
And, on the other hand, the hon. Gentlemen in Kilmainham seem to have conveyed—or it was understood, or hoped, that they conveyed—in a manner, that they thought that if some such thing were done there would be a better chance of law and order. The meaning of all this is that the hon. Member for the City of Cork and his Colleagues—I will not say made a contract, for everybody knows that was not precisely the case—made it to be understood that if the proposals indicated were adopted it would lead to the lessening of outrage and to the smoothing of the course of law and order. I have now put my meaning on this transaction. It has already obviously landed the Government in a series of misunderstandings. All I can say is that if the hon. Members lately in Kilmainham are able to put a clearer meaning on the matter than I have given they are a great deal cleverer than me. As far as I can gather, the lucidity and clearness of the Prime Minister's statement is such that we are unable to assign to it any more definite meaning. I venture to think that this action of the Government, which has led to this series of understandings or misunderstandings, bears a strong similarity to an arrangement which binds the Government and leaves the other parties free. I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland was cognizant of the proceedings. I should say, probably he was not. But, in any event, the Government seem throughout the whole business to have preferred acting on the casual and uncertain belief expressed by the hon. Member for the 177 City of Cork as to what might happen if something were done in the matter of the Arrears Clauses rather than on the deliberate opinion of their own Colleague, the then Chief Secretary for Ireland. Now, Sir, everyone in the House must be glad that the Government can see their way to the release of any people subjected to the great irk-someness of such confinement. I am sure there is not a single man in the country that would not be pleased to see every person in confinement released if the Government, on their own responsibility, and for sufficient reasons, could feel that it might be safely done. There is no difference of opinion as to that. I can only say, notwithstanding the unworthy and petty charges made to-night—I have never made such imputations—that the Conservatives hate coercion as everyone else does. But the way the Government have acted in this measure—the methods they have pursued—have been such as to excite the gravest alarm, the maximum of anxiety, and to lead us to believe, who have listened to every word and watched every step of the transaction closely, that the Government have no policy, no purpose, and no courage. If the Protection Act was necessary last year; if it was necessary to confine three Members of Parliament during the clôture debate; if the right hon. Gentleman now says, as he said on Tuesday, that up to the very moment they changed their minds they were right, I should like to know when and where did it become wrong to proceed on their previous methods? The right hon. Gentleman, whom I will not quote at length, on the 18th of August last year, in a discussion on the administration of the Coercion Acts, introduced by the hon. Member for the City of Cork, used these remarkable and clear words—Our course is clear; we must under no circumstances compromise the peace of the country……We must do our hest to confront danger, and to compress it, and we must make no terms of accommodation with those who defy or endeavour to frustrate the law."—[3 Hansard, cclxv. 297–8.]Sir, that is an interesting sentence, read by the light of subsequent events; and though I would be the last in the world to suggest any moral inconsistency in these words, it is obvious that it requires acuteness not to see that the present 178 persons and the occasion hardly fit in. Sir, I have listened with attention to everything that has been said. The right hon. Gentleman's speeches, I am bound to say, have been characterized by a want of amplitude and detail that is almost unique in the right hon. Gentleman's oratory. He has certainly not given any lavish statement of the causes which have led to this change, and he has given no statement of his reasons. The past administration of the Government must have been either right or wrong. If wrong, they must been blundering foolishly and wickedly for months. If right, did it become by a miracle wrong in a night? The right hon. Gentleman alleged three reasons. I do not want, in the slightest degree, to distort any words that he has said. He gave three reasons. He called them reasons. He said that it would be conducive to the interests of law and order, and of the security of property. But that is a perversion of language. They are not reasons. They only amount to a prophecy. And, bearing in mind what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford has said, one can hardly feel any great confidence in this particular prophecy of Her Majesty's Government, and there is nothing in their past career of prophets to make us accept their statement with absolute faith. Taking that as their reason, have the Government stated, or suggested, how long this reason has been in operation? Do they expect what?—a short lull, or more than a short lull?—it may be they will get it. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: Hear, hear!] The Home Secretary is easily pleased. Well, I have to remind the right hon. Gentleman that he has a chance of a short lull. But what is the certain price to be paid for it? What are the weighty words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford? Why, that the transaction is likely to lead to the weakening of the respect for law, and to the enfeebling of its power. The Home Secretary said, using a grand word, of this transaction that it was an effort of the highest policy. It may be attended by immense and stupendous results. In that sense he may call it the highest policy. But when the right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say, not thinking, I imagine, at the moment what was the effect of his words—if I may pre- 179 sume to say so—that it was done with a knowledge of the circumstances, and having regard to the relation of the persons released to the real state of the country. I ask him what circumstances? We have been told none. They have no apology to give us—not a name, or a report, or a suggestion. I ask again, what circumstances have you stated? You are unable to suggest one solitary circumstance or fact, except this—that you have determined, for some inscrutable reason of your own, to throw over your Chief Secretary, for what reason you have not stated to the House. It appears to me that the Government have suddenly turned over a new leaf, and that that new leaf is to be the first page of the chapter of accidents. It appears to me that they went one side for a time and then went to the other, and the only analogy I can find for the Government policy is the modest and humble one of a ferry-boat. Were we not entitled to a clear statement of their principles, and to a clear statement of their guarantees for the peace of the country? As far as I can see, the Government proceeded on a sudden inspiration that it would be wrong to keep the "suspects" in prison without trial. That might be a reason for organizing some mode of trial; but not for letting them out and postponing their trial sine die. Can you draw any distinction at all between the Gentlemen who have been released and the remainder of the prisoners? If the reason for their release was that you cannot keep them in prison without trial, are you not bound to release the rest? I do not see, in the face of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, how any logical distinction can be drawn. The Prime Minister spoke of "the demands of necessity with regard to future legal provisions for securing peace and tranquillity;" the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) went further, and said the existing law was not sufficient "to afford the police all the power they ought to possess for the suppression of crime." In the face of these admissions, I ask what is the reason for the delay in stating to the House these measures, and to an early indication of them? The Government, in postponing that statement, lays itself open to the charge of making a promise to the loyal, and postponing its realization to satisfy the disloyal. There are measures which 180 have been referred to as of extreme importance; the question of arrears has been described as one of the utmost moment, as well as the Bright Clauses of the Act. Surely the sooner some proposals are made the better. The Government may take either of two courses; they may say—"We cannot at present pass these measures;" but they should not say—"We will postpone a statement, or even indication of their provisions." At all events, I am entitled to assert this—that if they do so they will weaken the Administration, and paralyze the arm of authority in maintaining the law. But I ask the House whether, in speaking of these matters, the Prime Minister has ever said one word of sympathy to the loyal classes in Ireland, who have been placed in circumstances of such extreme difficulty, and who are struggling, some of them, to protect their lives, and all of them to protect their properties? The question of the day is—How are you going to rule Ireland at the present moment? The Government have laid down their arms, while they tell us, at the same time, that, at some indefinite period, we may have to manufacture new ones. I ask, how are outrages to be lessened? No answer. How is impunity for crime to be diminished? We are not told. How is the Queen's Government to be carried on? God only knows. Is terrorism lessening? The Prime Minister does not even suggest that. [Mr. GLADSTONE here pointed to Mr. W. E. FORSTER.] I am dealing with the Prime Minister now; and it is a strange commentary upon these proceedings that I should be referred to the late Chief Secretary. The Prime Minister himself does not venture to suggest that he rests his case upon a diminution of crime. The right hon. Gentleman said, on April 4 of this year—There is, I am afraid, on the whole, an aggravation in some degree in the character of the outrages committed.… The gravest subject is the absence of evidence that the outrages in Ireland are not associated with some influence behind them higher than that which belongs to those who commit the outrages."—[3 Hansard, cclxviii. 694–5.]Has the right hon. Gentleman invoked the assistance of that "superior influence?" Sir, what is the character of this criminal agitation? It is disloyal to the backbone, and seeks for a separation between the two countries, 181 and struggles to secure a disruption of this Empire. ["No, no!" from the Irish Members.] There is no disguise upon this question. The right hon. Gentleman has made frequent concessions, and each concession is made the starting-point of a new one. I am thoroughly familiar with this question, and I know some of the writings of Mr. Devoy and Mr. Davitt—men of courage—who plainly express their views. I know what the hon. Member for the City of Cork—a man of power of speech and clearness as well as of courage of expression—said at Cincinnati on February 23, 1880. His words were—When we have undermined English misgovernment, we have paved the way for Ireland to take her place among the nations of the earth. And let us not forget that that is the ultimate goal at which all we Irishmen aim. None of us—whether we he in America or in Ireland, or wherever we may he—will be satisfied until we have destroyed the last link which keeps Ireland bound to England.The Lord Chancellor of Ireland, my right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Law), in the course of his masterly statement at the State Trials in Dublin, indicated that the farmer in all that movement was but a cat's-paw in the hands of the agitators. The Home Secretary, in his powerful speeches last year on the Arms Act, demonstrated that this movement was Fenianism in a slightly varied form; and your new Lord Lieutenant, whom you have sent to govern Ireland in some new method, has pointed out in the House of Lords the intimate connection of this movement with rebellion and sedition. But the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, the Home Secretary, and even the new Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, fade into insignificance as compared with the greatest authority of all, that of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The words of the right hon. Gentleman, used at Knowsley on the 27th of October last, were most remarkable. Speaking of the agitation he said—They wished to march through rapine to disintegration and dismemberment of the Empire; and, I am sorry to say, even to the placing of different parts of the Empire in direct hostility one with another.These are grave words. The authorities that I have referred to have stated their opinions in a way as clear as crystal, showing that you are dealing with a disloyal agitation which cannot 182 be satisfied, which regards every concession only as an instalment; and that is the agitation which you have dealt with as you are dealing! And what is the crumb of comfort that the right hon. Gentleman says he has got from the speech of the hon. Member for New Ross (Mr. Redmond) the other day—able, lucid, and moderate in its tone? The closing words of that speech were a strong indication that the speaker and the Party for whom he spoke would not be satisfied without a separation. ["No!" from Irish Members. The hon. Member's words were that, if that Bill passed into law—the whole Bill and nothing but the Bill—it would do something towards bringing about that millenium "when Irish laws would be made by Irishmen on Irish soil." Moreover, at this moment, there are warrants in existence for detaining men in custody for treasonable practices. I read in The Times that two arrests were made yesterday in the county of Cork for treason-felony. This indicates that the conspiracy is as strongly disloyal now as at any time during the last few years. It is worthy of note, in regard to the Papers distributed yesterday morning, that the main strength and power of this agitation is not in Ireland at all. It draws its main force from a Press in America—["No!"]—from agents in America, and it is fostered and supported by gold from America. And, as I have said before, I say again, that I believe that if the Government of the day, assuming that they had courage, had only to deal with the disaffection of Irishmen in Ireland, unhelped from America, they would find it, if not a small matter, at all events one that could be more readily dealt with. This is a political movement, that acts by the social discontent which it stimulates, and governs by the outrages which it sanctions. Am I not entitled to ask how do the Government propose to suggest to the country that they are coping with this disloyal movement by their new departure? Any man of intelligence must see—I do not now speak of the release of the "suspects"—it is the indication of the Government policy, their mode and method of action, the way in which they have dealt with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster), and other matters—that they have strengthened the 183 cause of disloyalty and weakened the cause of loyalty. The Government say—"Our action hitherto has been a blunder, therefore we shall have no action in future; our present position is nearly hopeless, therefore we shall trust everything in future to a hope; all our prophecies in the past have been falsified, therefore we shall try one more on the chance of its proving true; we have tried in vain to work upon the fears of the lawless and disloyal, now we shall try the chance of appealing to their pity and their forbearance." The Government deny that this is a new departure. I admit that it is not a new departure, because a new departure would require courage, resolution, and nerve. It is merely a development of an old departure—of feeble concession, of weakness, and of vacillation. But the right hon. Gentleman, if he remains in power, will some time or other arrive at a period when there is nothing to concede. Church funds will not last for ever; there is a limit even to the property of Irish landlords; even the most prolific parent will at some time or other arrive at a period when he has no children to throw to the wolves. You must come to the end of this hand-to-mouth policy; and at last you will have, sooner or later, to face the question of the disintegration of the Empire. You are now, as far as I can see, without clearly considering what you are doing, deserting outworks, and trenches, and parallels. You thought you had bought a peace with part of the property of the landlords by your Land Act, and you have found that it was not a peace. Now, you think, by new concessions, and by more "becks and wreathed smiles," that you will win a truce. Be it so; you have not got your peace, and you may not get your truce; but, sooner or later, whoever is responsible for the government of Ireland will have to face the alternative of cowardice or courage. One of the gravest questions connected with this piteous policy of the Government is its effect in Ireland. Surely it is already known there that the Government intend, by a novel process, to encourage an Executive to suffer intentionally from creeping paralysis. The law in Ireland, God knows, is not strong enough for the constant tricks that are being played with it, nor is the Executive so potent that it can lightly run the risk of exposing 184 itself to the charge of impotency. What has been done has been done, and you have only to read the Press of Ireland to realize its effects. A discouragement which cannot be recalled has been the source of immense and painful anxiety to the loyal classes; but through evil and good report they have adhered to the cause of law and order, ever true to their motto—"Faithful, though not favoured." That class have never used the language of fear or cowardice, and they do not mean to use it in this crisis, trying as it is; but they appeal with confidence, as they are entitled, to the sense of freedom, justice, and courage in this great nation. Ministers have chosen in this transaction to play the pious but humble part of waiters upon Providence. The speech of the Prime Minister, exceptionally cautious, indicates no policy; but it clearly conveyed that he was ready to consider and reconsider everything, in the heaven above, in the earth beneath, or the water under the earth. The country is absolutely sick of uncertain promises and qualified refusals. This uncertainty of language feeds the criminal agitation that is sucking out the life-blood of the nation. There is, fortunately, thank God, in Ireland what the Government cannot take away at present—much material prosperity; there is a very considerable loyal class; and, besides that, all the great classes who have anything to lose are ready to support the Government in putting down terrorism—a circumstance entitled, at all events, to the consideration, if not the sympathy, of Parliament. They wish to support the Government; but no class, no matter how loyal—no class, no matter how much their material prosperity may depend upon it, can support the Government unless the Government give them something to support. Is the time come—will the time ever come—that the Government will take their stand upon anything? Say, if you like, what you will give while you have the power; but you are bound equally at once to make up your mind and boldly state what you will never grant in any conceivable circumstances. I do not think it is fair and legitimate to be always suggesting that you may give, that you will give, that you possibly will not give at present, that you may give hereafter. If by strong words and re- 185 solute action the Government conveyed to the Irish people that they could govern and would he obeyed—they have never yet tried that simple expedient—they would make a real advance to the maintenance of that law and order which are the first conditions of civilization, and the surest and strongest guarantees of freedom. I have never taken, and never shall take, gloomy views, or utter Cassandra expectations in reference to my country. I believe in the future of Ireland; but it is impossible, no matter how sanguine a man may be, not to regard that future with painful solicitude, when the First Minister of the Crown proclaims in his place in Parliament that he governs by fitful changes, by startling surprises; that his system is without method, and his policy is without stability. Ireland needs to be ruled with justice and with power; but I reluctantly say that the conduct of the Government has forced upon me the conviction that they have failed to impress the Irish people with the steadfastness of their justice or the invincibility of their power.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Notwithstanding the powerful and somewhat exciting invective embodied in the peroration of the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson)—a peroration which, as far as I can judge, lasted three-quarters of an hour—I shall, in the few remarks I have to make, maintain a tone of perfect calmness. It is the more easy to me to do this, because it appears to me that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's invective has been fully counterbalanced by the impotence of his conclusions. What was the result of his impeachment—for it was nothing if it was not an impeachment—of the conduct of the Government and of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone)? Why, Sir, the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) has been abandoned.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
It has been postponed sine die, for no day has been fixed for it, and the Opposition still decline to formulate anything in a manner in which the House can take cognizance of the charges they bring against Her Majesty's Government. I am not going to depart from the position I took up the other day on this point. It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen to say that if we bring forward our scheme they will bring forward theirs; what I want to know is whether, besides abusing the policy of the Government in vague terms, they are prepared to condemn our action and to bring forward a scheme in a form in which they and their supporters are prepared to vote for it? We see no indication of any such intention; and, therefore, as long as the Opposition refrain from taking what, under the circumstances, I apprehend to be the legitimate and Constitutional course, I shall venture to continue to believe that they are actuated more by a desire to damage the Government in a Party point of view than by any sincere intention to benefit Ireland. I must congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) on the unwonted freedom he has acquired to-night. I congratulate him on having, if I may use so vulgar an expression, the muzzle taken off. The right hon. and learned Gentleman told us he would put no gloss on the conduct of the Home Rule Members, and he certainly proceeded to describe it without any gloss, but in sufficiently vigorous language; but it was not the language held in regard to the Home Rule Members by the Leaders of the Party of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, so long as, what I suppose I must call, a fortuitous conjunction existed between them and the Party of Home Rule, and there was a union for the purpose of opposition between the Members of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Party and the Home Rule Party. I feel tolerably certain that no course we could possibly have taken, either in respect of the release of the prisoners or in any other branch of the Irish Question, would have defended the Government from their reproaches. It has been my fate to watch closely the course of the Opposition during the present Session, during the Recess, and during part of last Session, and I cannot say that I 187 have ever seen, at any time, any symptom on the part of the Leaders of the Opposition, or of their followers, of an intention to support the Government in their Irish policy, no matter what that policy might be. ["Oh, oh!"] Why, Sir, I have heard the Land Act persistently assailed, not only while it was being discussed in the House, but since it has been passed; and I am at a loss to know how the Opposition could support the policy of the Government, and help in the pacification of Ireland, if the law of the land is persistently and bitterly assailed by those who have accepted it. And although it suits hon. Gentlemen now to be extremely complimentary to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), and to hold him up as a model of all that an Irish administrator ought to be, according to my recollection, it was precious little support my right hon. Friend received from them as long as he sat on this Bench. [Mr. R. N. FOWLER: No, no!] The hon. Alderman says "No, no;" but I shall retain my opinion, and, in the way of effective support, I say it was precious little he could get from hon. Gentlemen opposite; and as for the arrest of the prisoners under the Coercion Act, I cannot say that even that policy—a change of which now causes such acute indignation to hon. Members—was often very cordially supported by hon. Members opposite. We have heard many bitter attacks made on the Government, and founded on the condition of Ireland; and the complaint which invariably accompanied every one of these descriptions of the present state of Ireland is that we have kept so many hundreds of men in prison, without any form of trial. That is the way in which the administration of the Coercion Act, up to the present time, has been received by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It appears to me that the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down and his Colleagues have been inclined to make the mistake which, I admit, all Oppositions are sometimes liable or apt to make—namely, that of somewhat too indiscriminate censure of their opponents. If we are so very wrong as we are now represented to be in having released a certain number of political prisoners, it strikes me as almost impossible that we can have been so very wrong, as we were often told we were, 188 in keeping them in prison. The right hon. and learned Gentleman tells us it is simply nonsense to say that there has been no change in our policy; and he has practically endorsed the assertion of the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) that the Coercion Acts are dead, and that we have abandoned all of our power and responsibility under them. Well, simple nonsense or not, I absolutely deny that assertion. The Coercion Acts are in existence, and our responsibility to Parliament for the due execution of those Acts remains now exactly what it was when those Acts were passed. I am not disposed now to enter into any lengthened defence of what has been done; but I hope still that the time may come when our policy will be formally challenged. If I were to attempt to put into a very few words my statement of the course we have pursued, it would be something to this effect—My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) arrested, with the assent and entire concurrence of the Government, the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and certain other Members of this House and others, because we believed that they were the active leaders in an organization, the object of which was to intimidate persons in the discharge of their duties and in the exercise of their rights. We believed that the organization of which those hon. Members were the leaders was one so formidable that we could not be responsible for the peace of the country and the execution of the law if we did not, at that time, exercise in their regard the arbitrary powers conferred on us by the Coercion Act. Well, Sir, we therefore exercised those powers which Parliament had intrusted to us. I may call my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) to witness that we believed that, to a great extent, the action which we thus took has been successful, and that the organized resistance to the law, the organized refusal to pay rents, and the organized attempt to dictate what the amount of those rents should be, has, to a great extent, failed, owing to the action we took under the Coercion Act. We are asked, why do we think now that we are able to release the leaders of this agitation? It is because we have reasonable grounds for believing, as we had reasonable grounds 189 for believing in October the reverse, that those hon. Members and leaders will not now, or, if they wished, that they cannot, act in a manner to obstruct the execution of the law. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has asked us on whose information we have acted? I think he rather said on whose advice we have acted? We have acted on the information supplied to us by the Lord Lieutenant and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, and we have drawn our own conclusions from it. [Laughter, and cries of "Oh!"] I observe that some hon. Gentlemen appear to be immensely amused. They also have fallen into the same mistake and misapprehension as that which it appears the right hon. and learned Member fell into. If I asserted that we had acted on the advice of the Lord Lieutenant and of my right hon. Friend the late Chief Secretary I could understand their amusement. Certainly, we have not acted upon their advice; but we have acted upon the information and the facts supplied to us by the Lord Lieutenant, and we drew conclusions which my right hon. Friend was unable to share. Well, the right hon. and learned Gentleman ventures to add that an understanding exists which is extremely likely to lead to a misunderstanding. I do not apprehend that there is any danger of a misunderstanding, because, as far as my knowledge extends, there is no understanding whatever. We are bound by the declarations we have made in this House, and we are bound by no other undertaking whatever; and the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), and the other Members who have been in prison, are bound by the statement made by the hon. Member for the City of Cork in this House to-night, and by no other undertaking whatever. There the matter rests, and I do not see where there is room for misunderstanding. We have reason to believe, and certainly nothing that has fallen from the hon. Members of the Irish Party to-night has led us to draw a different conclusion, that the conduct of the hon. Member for the City of Cork and his Friends will not at present be hostile to the administration of the law or the peace of the country, but will rather tend in the opposite direction. If we are mistaken in that impression, no doubt we have incurred a very great responsibility. We have 190 never asserted, and we do not now assert, that the hon. Member is bound by an understanding to us. We have acted upon the knowledge we have acquired, in the House and out of the House, of the intention and disposition of the hon. Members who were lately in prison; and having acquired that information, acting for ourselves, it would not have been impolitic, but we should not have been justified in keeping them longer in prison under the Coercion Act. Hon. Members speak as if there has been some question about extending an amnesty for political offences. There is nothing of the sort. The hon. Member for the City of Cork and his Colleagues have been convicted of no offence. We were only intrusted by Parliament with the power of keeping them in prison on reasonable suspicion of being concerned in certain offences so long as we thought that it was imperatively required for the vindication of the law. That was the question we had to ask ourselves when the arrests were ordered. That is the question, day by day and week by week, we have had to ask ourselves since that time; and when the moment arrived when we could no longer say that their continued detention was required for the safety of the country, at that moment we were not absolutely only justified, but absolutely compelled, to agree to their release. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Cartwright), and the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), have appealed to the Government to place them quickly in possession of the intentions of the Government as to the measures required for the strengthening of the law. I can perfectly well understand that hon. Members opposite should desire that we should immediately, even if we do not bring in a Bill, proceed to explain our intentions. They think anything better than that we should be allowed to proceed with the proposals as to the Procedure of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Cartwright), in making this appeal, has distinctly asserted, at the same time, that he entirely shares the opinion of the Government as to the paramount importance of making progress with the Rules. I put it to him, with his experience of this House, whether it is in accordance with practice or convenience, or the despatch of Public Business, that 191 we should throw down to the House for irregular discussion proposals which we intend to embody in the form of a Bill. These measures are in active preparation at the present time. I believe that the course we have announced—of taking Procedure first—will be most convenient and most expedient. It is all very well to ignore and decry the importance of these proposals. I have no doubt whatever in my own mind, looking at the question even from an Irish point of view, that it is one not second to any question connected with Ireland. I believe that one of the chief causes—indeed, the chief cause—of the disparagement of authority in Ireland has been the disparagement of the authority of this House. This House has, during a long period of years, absorbed into itself a great part of the power, functions, and responsibility of the Executive Government of this country. It has, in my opinion, absorbed into it almost greater powers than can be discharged by any Legislative Assembly; but, certainly, when the people of Ireland see this House reduced by the action of a few of its Members to a position of almost complete impotence and helplessness, we cannot be surprised to find that the Executive power should also feel the effect and see its power diminished. I believe that one of the first requirements for the re-establishment of law, order, and authority in Ireland is, that this House should proceed to place itself in a condition to discharge the duties devolving upon it. I believe it owes that duty not only to England and Scotland, but it owes it equally to Ireland; and I consider it is incumbent upon the Government to press forward, without delay, the Procedure Rules. In the meantime, Sir, as I have said, it is absolutely idle to say that the Coercion Act is dead. Exceptional powers have been taken. Those powers exist as long as the present Government or any Government remains in Office. The Government is bound to make use of them when the necessity arises, and until the period for which these powers have been granted expires no Government can divest itself of the responsibility which is placed upon it. Under these circumstances, I trust the House will not consider it necessary to prolong this protracted discussion, unless, indeed, hon. Members opposite take heart of grace, and nerve them- 192 selves to bring to the test of a formal Motion the charges they have so freely made against the Government.
said, he did not rise for the purpose of making a speech at that hour of the night; but he wished to make one observation upon the speech which had just been delivered by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India. The noble Marquess seemed to be extremely solicitous that hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House should formulate some Vote which should criticize the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. But before that was done there was a little preliminary to be gone through, which the Government did not seem to be particularly anxious to perform, and that was that the Government should inform the House exactly what it was that they had done. He had listened attentively to the debate, and particularly to the declaration of the First Lord of the Treasury; and at present he was entirely unable to understand upon what particular information it was that the Government decided to release the three hon. Members from Kilmainham. Let the House consider the remarkable revelations which had been made in the course of the evening. The hon. and gallant Member for Clare (Mr. O'Shea), without communication with the Government, and acting entirely on his own motion, went last Saturday to Ireland with a return ticket, which he stated was not purchased out of the Secret Service money. It was not very strange that the hon. and gallant Member should have gone there; but when he reached Dublin he had a hasty interview with the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), in Kilmainham; and what did he do next? Why, he rushed back immediately to London. Surely that was a somewhat extraordinary thing to do, if the hon. and gallant Member had no mission to fulfil. The most remarkable thing of all, and of which no explanation whatever had yet been vouchsafed to the House, was, that when the hon. and gallant Member arrived in London he found, by a remarkable coincidence, a Cabinet Council sitting; and, somehow or other, the information he had obtained from the hon. Member for the City of Cork in Kilmainham on the Sunday was, by some mysterious process, communicated to the Cabinet Coun- 193 cil, sitting in Downing Street on the Monday. The House had a right to be informed, and ought to be informed, what that information was; because, when the Prime Minister first made his statement to the House that evening, he based the release of the "suspects" by the Government on the information they had received, and what the House had not yet heard, and what everybody who had listened to the debate was bewildered about, was, what that information was. It was said that no promise had been given by the hon. Member for the City of Cork, and that there was no promise from either of the other two hon. Members who had been released from Kilmainham Gaol. Then he was unable to understand how the release had been brought about; and before the House was asked to censure the conduct of the Government they ought to be informed what the information received by the Government actually was. He thought when the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India and his Colleagues had made up their minds, and had the courage to reveal to the House what this information was, then would be the time to invite a Vote of Censure upon the Government. But while Her Majesty's Ministers chose to shroud themselves in mystery, and to refuse all information to the House, and only to give information in a few enigmatical sentences that were immediately contra-dieted by the Irish Members—["No, no!"]—they must expect the House to be discontented. Hon. Members opposite challenged his assertion. Now, he did not think any single statement made by the Prime Minister had not been immediately and flatly contradicted. It was a remarkable thing that when the hon. and gallant Member for Clare (Mr. O'Shea) rose in his place for the purpose of making an explanation of his share in the matter his information stopped short precisely at the point at which it began to be interesting. The hon. and gallant Member told the House all about his journey to Ireland and all about his railway ticket; but he said nothing about the information he conveyed to the captives or to the Government on his return. Indeed, the hon. and gallant Member had not even stated that he saw the hon. Member for the City of Cork; and, therefore, the House was totally unable to judge what the importance of the in- 194 formation given to the Government was. He did not think the Conservative Party would be very speedy to propose a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government for what they had done until they were fully informed as to the ground on which the Government had acted. But the noble Marquess went a step further than this, and challenged a censure of the Government policy. That action, however, would seem to be rather premature. The noble Marquess was, in his opinion, too eager for a Vote of Censure on the policy of the Government to be moved on that side of the House, for before he could expect that course to be taken by hon. Members he ought to go through the formality of informing them what was the policy of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had been asked, over and over again during the last month, what he was going to do to preserve law and order in Ireland; and, notwithstanding that he had not ventured to deny the truth of the language used by the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, that the state of the country was a "disgrace to our civilization," no indication of his intentions had been forthcoming. If the Government did not condescend to state the details of their proposals, which hon. Members did not ask for, they might, at any rate, follow the example of the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), who had stated in a few sentences the outline of the measures which he advocated—namely, for securing the speedy punishment of offences he was in favour of replacing trial by jury, and of levying compensation for injury and loss of life upon the district in which the offences were committed. Would the right hon. Gentleman state to the House the nature of the measure he was about to propose? The Government could not say that the measure was one upon which they had not yet made up their minds, because the noble Marquess had stated that it was already in course of active preparation, and, therefore, they must know the nature of the measure. Why, then, did they not state their proposals to the House? It was because they knew that the very moment they revealed the nature of the measure the temporary truce with their present Irish allies would terminate; the peace which, they had patched up by the concessions 195 they had made would not endure for half-an-hour after they made the Irish Members acquainted with the measures they had in preparation. He would not detain the House longer than to observe that when the Government condescended to inform them what it was they had done—when they stated the policy they were going to pursue in Ireland, it would then be high time for the noble Marquess to challenge hon. Members on that side of the House to move a Vote of Censure; but until they had done so, he thought it would be more seemly on the part of the noble Marquess to withhold his taunts.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that he had never put so great a strain upon his conscience as when he voted for the Statute for the Protection of Person and Property in Ireland. In that case he voted for investing the Government with the power of issuing lettres de câchet. He confessed to hon. Members for Ireland that he regarded that arbitrary Act as a most unconstitutional measure, that could only be justified by the extremity of the case; but he had trusted that, while that Act was administered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), from his knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman's character and his attachment to Constitutional principles, he would, before the termination of that most disgraceful Act, introduce some measure that would grant the Irish people the justice of a trial. The right hon. Gentleman's statement that night showed that he was right in so trusting to him; but that he was wrong in trusting such powers to Her Majesty's other Ministers. He was perfectly certain, from the statement, so highly honourable on his part, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford had made that night, that the right hon. Gentleman had been labouring against difficulties, not from without, not created by the Land League or by the rebellion in Ireland; but that he had been labouring against a want of due support from his Colleagues in the Ministry. And this was proved by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman's career had terminated by a final refusal to restore Constitutional government and trial in Ireland. After this, he (Mr. Newdegate) hoped that no one would venture to taunt himself or any other Constitutional Conservative with 196 not having afforded due support to Her Majesty's Ministers in their difficulties; for, if Members on his side of the House felt as he felt as to the character of the so-called Protection of Person and Property Act, the result for it must make them ashamed of having vested such, powers in the hands of the Government, who had proved that such confidence was misplaced. He did not wish to detain the House, but he could not refrain from uttering these few words; and he would only add this. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had urged the House to proceed with the clôture, when by this extraordinary policy of concession he had restored to the House the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), who was the originator of disorderly Obstruction in the House. [Cries of "Order!" from the Home Rule Benches.] He repeated that it had been proved before the Committee of 1878. The hon. Member for the City of Cork was the originator of Obstructive disturbance in that House. [Renewed cries of "Order!"] It was proved before the Select Committee which sat in 1878, and it was useless for anyone to deny it. Well, the right hon. Gentleman having restored to the House the man who was the promoter of disorder, which he had declared the incapacity of the House to deal with, unless additional Rules for preserving Order of Debate were adopted, what was the measure which the right hon. Gentleman urged upon the House? Why, the clôture, to which, only two years ago, he himself objected, on the ground that it would not punish the authors of disorder, but punish and incapacitate the House itself. And then the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India had the hardihood to taunt the Conservative Party with not being anxious to proceed with a measure which the Prime Minister himself, only two years since, declared would add to the incapacity of the House, which had originated in the disorderly conduct and the rebellious action of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, whom he had now liberated from prison.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
appealed to the Chair whether the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) was in Order in speaking of an hon. Member of the House as rebellious?
§ MR. SPEAKER
ruled that the words used by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire were not Parliamentary.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
admitted that, perhaps, he was wrong in using the word "rebellious," and would therefore withdraw it; but he had heard the evidence which Mr. Speaker had himself given before the Committee in 1878, and which was on record, and he maintained that he was entitled to say that it was then proved on evidence, in which the Speaker concurred, that the hon. Member for the City of Cork was the chief originator of the disorderly scenes which had led to the suspension of hon. Members, and necessitated the adoption of the Rules of Urgency on the part of this House to secure the freedom of its own action.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, he could not help regretting that, after the earnest appeals made to them by the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) and the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Cartwright), the Government would take into their early consideration the questions of arrears and leases in Ireland. The action of the Government had changed the state of affairs in Ireland very considerably, and it was now impossible for anyone who knew Ireland to hope that any rent would be paid until this question of arrears was settled. He therefore urged upon the Government not to allow any measure to stand between the House and the decision of that question. There was no one on that side of the House who was a stronger advocate of the clôture, as proposed by the Government, than himself; but, notwithstanding the pressing nature of that proposal, he was bound to confess that there were different degrees of urgency, and he maintained that the whole question of urgency in this matter had changed during the last week. If the Government persisted in going on with their 1st Resolution with regard to the Procedure of the House, he considered they would be doing nothing less than gambling with the time of the House; and, moreover, they would, so to speak, be gambling on the worst principle of "Heads—we shall not win; tails—we shall most certainly lose." He thought that anyone who was acquainted with the state of the Order Book of the House of Commons would know that it was impossible that the discussions on 198 the 1st Resolution could be concluded in less than three weeks; and, therefore, if not upon the suggestion of hon. Members opposite, he hoped the Government would reconsider their position with reference to the Resolution in question, upon the appeals of their constant supporters. There was, he ventured to point out, a strong feeling amongst the Liberal Party that the questions of arrears and leases should not be deferred to the end of the Session; and although the general opinion in the House was that a grave crisis had arisen, he believed that on all sides there would be a desire to assist the Government in proceeding with the remaining Resolutions, which were, more or less, agreed to, and which might well be got through within the next week or fortnight. Surely, by that time, the Government would have come to a conclusion as to the measures they intended to bring forward. He would impress upon them that if they proceeded with the clôture in the present grave crisis, they would be destroying any chance of dealing with the Irish Question this Session, as well as deferring their chance of dealing with English legislation in the next.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
said, the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India had charged Members on that side of the House, and himself in particular, with not having supported the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) when he occupied a seat on the Treasury Bench. He rose for the purpose of stating that, during the long-protracted debate of last Session, he had remained in his place during the whole of the first night and until 3 o'clock in the morning of the second, as did also many other hon. Members on that side, for the purpose of supporting the right hon. Gentleman in his endeavour to carry the measure brought in by him for the government of Ireland. Again, although the noble Marquess might not have been present on two occasions, once at the close of last Session, and once during the present Session, he had stated in that House that—Much as he differed from the right hon. Gentleman, if there was one man sitting on the Treasury Bench who was actuated by a sincere and manly desire to do his duty to the country, that Gentleman was his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant.That language having been, used by him, 199 it was not right on the part of the noble Marquess to taunt him personally with not having supported the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, when he was a Minister of the Crown. Moreover, his hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) had, during the present Session, although he could not exactly recall his language, spoken in strong terms of his personal respect for the right hon. Gentleman. They were deeply opposed to the policy of the Government with which the right hon. Gentleman had been connected, and, for his own part, he was very glad that he was no longer in such bad company; but, so far as personal respect for the right hon. Gentleman was concerned, he believed that everyone on that side of the House had the greatest respect for his ability and devotion to the service of the Sovereign, as well as for his high character, and, therefore, he could not regard his withdrawal from his position on the Treasury Bench, in the present crisis, as anything short of a national calamity.
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
said, this was the first time in his experience in Parliament that a Ministerial resignation had taken place, and he had neither the inclination nor the experience by which to enter into the political aspects of the subject; but he did not think he ought to allow this occasion to pass without expressing his sense of personal regret that a statesman who, in the thankless post he had occupied during the past two years, had shown all the dogged and patient qualities that had made England free, should now be under the necessity of severing himself from the Cabinet, of which he had been an ornament. He had no right to speak for the right hon. Gentleman; but he had it from others, who the right hon. Gentleman would acknowledge were dear to him, that one of the wishes of his life for many years had been to be able to do something to ameliorate the condition of the country he visited when he was young. Two years ago that opportunity came; and he gave an earnest of his intention, first by the Relief of Distress Bill, and. then by the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, which was thrown out by the other branch of the Legislature. It might have been better for his reputation, in regard to Ireland, if he had resigned even at that time, 200 when he found himself obliged in stern irony to carry out laws which he himself had said were oppressive; but, instead of that, he stuck to his post and to his Colleagues—and his post had not been a bed of roses. It had been his (Mr. Richardson's) lot on one or two occasions to call upon the right hon. Gentleman shortly after the receipt of telegrams from Ireland informing the right hon. Gentleman of the shedding of innocent blood in Ireland—on one occasion the blood of a woman—and when he saw how the right hon. Gentleman felt it, and how he felt that he was being blamed for these occurrences, he said to himself that he would rather have been a prisoner in gaol than in the position of the right hon. Gentleman. And he would go further, and say he believed that when the occurrences of these days became history, and when the correspondence of the leading statesmen was published, as was the correspondence of Pitt and Peel and Palmerston, then, and not till then, even some of the hon. Members opposite, or their descendants, would acknowledge that the ex-Chief Secretary for Ireland, who had been denounced as the enemy of Ireland, had in many cases been her truest friend.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.