HC Deb 08 May 1882 vol 269 cc320-6

Sir, I rise for a purpose which I think the House will anticipate; it is to move the immediate adjournment of the House. It is a course, I believe, Sir, that will be found in conformity with what has been done on previous occasions when sad events have come home to the mind of Parliament and the public. I believe, Sir, that this event, made known on Saturday night and yesterday morning, is unparalleled in our history—and unparalleled for the blackness of the crime which has been committed—unparalleled, as I fully believe, for the horror it has excited in the entire people of the United Kingdom. Having said that, I shall make this Motion, I will say—and I promise the House to be as brief as I can, since I must, in a very few words, advert to the character of the event—that in the death of Mr. Burke we are robbed of one of the ablest, the most upright, the most experienced, the most eminent members of that Civil Service to which, in the hands of its permanent officers, we owe so much in the government of the country. But, Sir, the hand of the assassin has come nearer home; and though I feel it difficult to say a word, yet I must say that one of the very noblest hearts in England has ceased to beat, and has ceased at the very moment when it was just devoted to the service of Ireland, full of love for that country, full of hope for her future, full of capacity to render her service. Sir, under these circumstances, on which I will not dwell, so far as the Government is concerned, all previous arrangements and intentions must be reconsidered, and, to a certain extent, recast. I do not think that this is the occasion to touch upon Business, for, in truth, the very aim of such an adjournment is to testify the feeling of the House that it is not in a state at the moment to grapple with the serious cares of Parliamentary Business. I will, therefore, limit myself, Sir, to giving Notice that we shall think it our duty to ask the attention of the House at once to what is felt to be most deeply pressing, and what I believe, in the present state of the sentiments of the House, will be found to be perfectly practicable. We intend to ask the House on Thursday next to permit us to introduce a measure relating to the repression of crime in Ireland, and we have the fullest confidence that if that measure really corresponds in its spirit to what it ought to be, we shall be duly supported and assisted in its various stages by the sentiments of all quarters of the House. That, Sir, will be on Thursday next. Next to that, and I hope upon an early day, we shall introduce a measure with respect to the question of arrears in Ireland; but it will be felt that I cannot name a day for that purpose, inasmuch as it must necessarily depend upon the progress we may make in the stages of the earlier measure. It will not be delayed one day beyond what necessity requires, and I earnestly hope that the postponement will be very short. I think I ought to add nothing to the words I have said. I thank the House for having assisted in the performance of the most painful task that ever devolved upon me when stand- ing at this Table. I move that the House do now adjourn.


Sir, I rise to second the Motion which has been made by the Prime Minister, and I feel sure that I need say no words to recommend that Motion to the House. It is, indeed, in accordance with former precedents, when this House has suddenly been deprived of one of its Members, that adjournments are occasionally moved. On this occasion we have to deal with a case very different; indeed, far beyond any of those to which I have made allusion. It is impossible for any man in this country, and I would venture to say throughout the civilized world, to refrain from sharing in the feelings of horror with which we have been thrilled by the news of this event; and certainly for us who sit in this House, and have had for many years the privilege of knowing and valuing and esteeming the late noble Lord, it is a sad and melancholy duty to pay our respect to his memory. Sir, I do not know that I can add—it would be in bad taste if I were to attempt to add—anything to what has been said by the Prime Minister as to the value of the lives which have been lost. As to Mr. Burke, we who have known him intimately in official life are able to speak of his high conscientiousness and of his great ability and industry in the discharge of the duties of his office; and I am sure that everyone must feel that in him the Irish Administration, and the Administration of the country, have lost a servant of the highest value. With regard to the noble Lord who has been taken from us, none of us who have been brought into near relation with him but must have appreciated his high qualities, his great amiability, and the remarkable promise—the more than promise—which he gave of usefulness to his country. Sir, I trust that the House will assent to the Motion which has been made, not feeling or showing in the slightest degree that this blow which has been dealt has caused the least difficulty or embarrassment to the Government of the country, feeling sure that the Government have, even under this heavy blow, at once taken upon them, as they were bound to do, the preparation of the proper remedies, and assuring the Government, as I do now, of the hearty co-operation of those who sit on this side, and I believe I may say of the whole House, in such measures as may be necessary for the restoration and preservation of peace in this country. I beg, Sir, to second the Motion for the adjournment of the House.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


Sir, I wish to express on the part of my hon. Friends and on my own part, and, I believe, on the part of every Irishman in whatever part of the world he may live, my most unqualified detestation of the horrible crime which has been committed in Ireland. I cannot advert to the steps which the Government propose to take. I do not deny that it may be impossible for the Government to resist the situation, and that they feel themselves compelled to take some step or other in the direction indicated by the Prime Minister; but I wish to state my conviction that this crime has been committed by men who absolutely detest the cause with which I have been associated, and who have devised that crime and carried it out as the deadliest blow which they had in their power to deal against our hopes in connection with the new course on which the Government had just entered.


I am sure, Sir, the House will believe me when I say that it is with no intention of making any remarks upon the cause of this crime, or any description of the lessons which should be drawn from it, that I rise to say a word or two on this sad occasion. I rise simply because I think that some personal tribute is especially due from me. I knew and respected Lord Frederick Cavendish. I knew his worth, his spotless integrity, his remarkable industry, his great courage, and his unselfishness. I was more aware than many Members of the House of those qualities, because I have been brought more in contact with him; but I was also more aware of his possession, to an extraordinary extent, of a sound judgment; and when I heard of his appointment as Chief Secretary, I thought it was the best appointment that could be made, considering, not only his patriotism, his unswerving impartiality, his integrity, his administrative power, but especially this faculty of judgment. There are other Members who knew him as well—there are, perhaps, some who knew him better. But there is no Member, I believe—certainly, no Member present at this moment—who knew Mr. Burke so well as I did, and I feel it to be my duty to say a word or two about him. I had the most intimate relations with him, under difficult circumstances, for two years. It was a very short time before I found out what manner of man he was, and I can truly say I believe the Queen and the country never had a more faithful, a more upright, a more truly honourable and unselfish servant. His industry—his devotion to his duty—was something more than we are accustomed to. During the last two years he never had a fortnight's holiday. Day after day, from morning to night, he plodded on with work which was most distasteful uncomplainingly, quietly, with a silent, dignified reticence that belonged to him, without much acknowledgment, without much praise—he never expected it. But we all thought he was safe from such a visitation. To give the House an idea of what that man was, his silent, dignified endurance and power of doing his duty without any looking for reward, I will mention one fact. Some months ago, I saw many men in the Civil Service decorated, and I thought Mr. Burke was one who should have an honour conferred upon him. I wrote and told him I thought I ought to press it. I wish I had here the words of his answer. He said he was satisfied with the respect of those who worked under him and with the confidence of those above him, and he entirely forbade my asking for it. I must say one other word. I think I never met with a man so completely without prejudice—so completely and absolutely fair, and so determined to do justice to all classes, and that in a country where it is sometimes difficult. I must say—and I should like them to know it—that the tenant farmer, and the poor tenant farmer, never lost a truer or more faithful friend than in that Galway landlord, who treated his own tenants well, and stood up for the Irish tenantry in the place where they sometimes thought their interests were forgotten. Over and over again he has pointed out to me the other side of the question—the question from the tenants' point of view—and if there was a case of hardship on the part of the landlord towards the tenant, Mr. Burke, of all the men I met in Ireland, was the most ready to denounce it. I am sure the House will forgive my saying this, because I knew him so well. I think all will feel with me that it is a tribute, not only due to him, but due to his mourning family, who were united with him in the bonds of deepest affection—and, although I hardly venture to mention her name, due to his sorrowing sister, whose relaxation in her life of care for the good of others was to be cheered by making his hard lot more pleasant. I think it will he some satisfaction to her to know that the House of Commons feels, as I am sure it does, what a heavy loss has been sustained by her brother's death.


Sir, the House will readily imagine that it is with great reluctance that I intrude upon them on such a sad occasion. It is not my intention to make any reference to the sad loss which this House has sustained. Members of older and higher standing than I can lay claim to have more properly discharged that painful duty. But, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has referred to the heavy loss which has been sustained in the public service by the sudden death of Mr. Burke. It was my privilege to be associated for about the same period as the right hon. Gentleman officially with Mr. Burke. In politics and in religion, he held views differing widely from my own. I think it only due to his memory to state that I firmly believe that he never for one moment allowed his political convictions or his religious opinions to prevent him from rendering as conscientious assistance to one who, like myself, differed on those points with him, as he did to the right hon. Gentleman, or to others with whom he might politically feel in harmony. I have referred to those differences of politics and religion, for I did not wish it to be thought that those differences ever for one moment obtruded themselves into the personal relations of Mr. Burke with those with whom he was officially connected. A more genial friend, as well as a more loyal colleague, neither I nor any other Member of this House ever possessed; and I should not feel myself justified, on an occasion like the present, if I did not bear my humble testimony to the very great worth of that most conscientious public servant, and the irre- parable loss which Her Majesty has sustained in his untimely death.

Motion agreed to.