§ [FIRST NIGHT.]
§ MR. A. R. D. ELLIOT
Sir, I rise to move that a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, thanking Her Majesty for Her Most Gracious Speech; and in so doing, and in making the few 41 remarks I intend to offer on some of the salient paragraphs of that Speech, I shall have to ask the House for its indulgence and kind consideration. Anyone who heard Her Majesty's Speech read to the House—indeed, anyone who ever read a Queen's Speech—must be struck, in the first place, with the immense range and variety of topics with which it deals. It cannot but be that Her Majesty, reigning not only over 35,000,000 of inhabitants in these Islands, but ruling, also, over large districts in three Continents, and being, moreover, the Sovereign of a country which stands first in point of trade and as a seafaring nation—it cannot but be that in every region of the world Her Majesty's interests and the interests of this country may be touched by others.
Sir, it is satisfactory to find that, notwithstanding the wide character of the interests of this country, notwithstanding how widely spread are those interests throughout the world, Her Majesty is able to assure us that her relations with Foreign Powers remain in a satisfactory condition. We may assume without rashness, with reference to those great Powers which are not named in Her Majesty's Speech, that the relations existing between this country and those Powers are, at all events, satisfactory; and I find that the only great European Power specially mentioned is that of our nearest neighbour—France. In connection with the paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech relating to France, I would refer to the Speech from the Throne on the Prorogation of Parliament in August last. In that Speech we were told that theOccurrences arising out of the French operations in Madagascar form the subject of communications with the Government of France, which, conducted in the spirit of friendship, will, I doubt not, lead to satisfactory results.It must be gratifying to all Parties, and to hon. Members in every part of the House, to know that those anticipations have been fulfilled—that those communications were carried out in the spirit indicated, and that they have led to a satisfactory termination. This, no doubt, has been brought about by the two great Powers treating each other in a proper and self-respecting spirit—that is to say, by approaching the question as private friends between whom offence has arisen—the one not putting forward a 42 claim for damages in a huckstering spirit, or pressing for any humiliating apology; the other not refusing to admit that offence has been given, nor refusing also to give to Mr. Shaw, who had been injured, substantial compensation. Those who have referred to the precedent of 1844—I mean the Pritchard case—will see a great likeness between what then took place and what has recently occurred, and that the result now achieved is as satisfactory and very similar to the termination which was in the former case put to the difficulty between this country and France. We must, therefore, all hope and feel that the soreness, which naturally arose between the two countries, has been satisfactorily put an end to; that the dignity of each has been preserved; and that we may now look forward to uninterrupted cordial relations between ourselves and France.
The paragraph of Her Majesty's Speech which deals with the different Provinces of South Africa is also of a re-assuring character. We find that Her Majesty has directed communications to be held with the Representatives of the Government of the Transvaal, and that it is to be expected that solutions will be arrived at of the difficult questions as to the maintenance of order and the suppression of misconduct on the frontiers of that country.
But, Sir, although it is gratifying to know that these communications are likely to proceed satisfactorily, it cannot be supposed that it is to that portion of the Continent of Africa our thoughts are, at the present time, chiefly turned. There is no doubt that the greater number of the subjects of the Queen are regarding, at the present moment, with anxious interest the proceedings in the North-Eastern part of that Continent. They are following the Mission of the very gallant British officer who has been despatched to the Valley of the Nile; they are following, with hope and some anxiety, his long journey up that river; and one cannot but feel that a new personal interest has attached, and now attaches, to what is taking place in the upper regions of the Nile. That personal interest has created a far greater amount of feeling as to what has occurred, or is likely to occur, in the Soudan, than would have attached to the question whether or not Egyptian authority was to be preserved in that 43 Province, or as to the success or failure of the operations of the False Prophet. The interest is naturally extremely great in the movements of General Gordon. I should like to point out, in connection with this subject, the position in which Her Majesty tells us the Egyptian occupation stands; and in order to show what have been the objects always openly avowed by Her Majesty's Government, both as to the sending out and as to the maintenance of British troops in Egypt, I shall again refer to the Speech from the Throne in August last. In that Speech we were informed that—The work of administrative re-organization has steadily advanced;and that—The constant direction of My efforts to the maintenance of established rights, to the tranquillity of the East, and to the welfare of the Egyptian people remain unchanged.Sir, that policy, as might have been supposed, was duly acted upon. That policy, announced in August last, was, up to November, successfully carried out under the able management of Englishmen, servants of the Crown, in Egypt. A great deal was done to carry out the intentions of Her Majesty's Government. A military force was organized, with a view to maintaining order in the country; provision was made for taxing Europeans in respect of some imposts which, until then, they had almost entirely escaped; it was further provided that the number of European officials, much too large for the necessities of the country, should be reduced, and steps were also taken to improve the administration of justice. All this, as I have said, went on successfully, and without interruption, down to November last. Then, Sir, as the House will remember, came the calamitous event of the ruin of General Hicks and his Army. That event came, when, consequent upon the great progress that had been made in carrying out the intentions of Her Majesty's Government, the Queen, as we have been informed by Her Majesty's Gracious Message, had ordered the evacuation of Cairo by the British troops and their concentration at Alexandria. It cannot be contended for a moment with any justice or truth that in the policy sketched out by Her Majesty's Government hitherto, or, indeed, in the circumstances of the case, 44 this country had come under any sort of responsibility to maintain Egyptian authority over the Province of the Soudan. But, Sir, as I have said, upon the happening of the terrible disaster to the Army of General Hicks, this state of things arose. There was panic spread throughout Egypt, although the place where the disaster bad taken place was at an immense distance from that part of the country occupied by our troops; and Her Majesty's Government thought it right to countermand the order which had been given for the evacuation of Cairo, and that countermand was given for precisely the same reason that British troops had been sent to Egypt—namely, that the internal tranquillity of Egypt was to be maintained—that the guarantee of peace and order in the country should not be weakened, and thus endanger the good work which, as I have shown, proceeded uninterruptedly until November last. But let us consider, for a moment, what was the position of the British troops in occupation. There was a force at Cairo and a force at Alexandria; the British troops were resting upon, or were within easy reach of, the Mediterranean. The defeat of General Hicks by the False Prophet had taken place far beyond the Nubian deserts, at a place in almost the same latitude as Madras; and it cannot be supposed that Her Majesty's Government were in a position, even if they wished to do so, to exercise direct authority over the Soudan. There being no obligation of duty, and no obligation in the way of interest, to any direct interference on the part of Her Majesty's Government with the affairs of that Province, it became necessary to consider what advice should be given to the Khedive. That advice, which, as we are informed by Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, was given to the Khedive, was probably contemporaneous with, or was given immediately after, the orders of Her Majesty countermanding the withdrawal of the British troops from Cairo. That advice was that the Egyptian authority, which had been already shown to be too weak to be maintained over the Soudan, should be withdrawn from the interior of the Provinces. No suggestion was made to the Khedive that he should withdraw from anything more than the interior of that country, because it was thought desirable, and 45 the House no doubt will feel it to be desirable that the ports on the Red Sea should be kept out of the hands of those who might possibly make use of them to facilitate the Slave Trade. Sir, the permission given by Her Majesty to General Gordon to assist the Khedive was given distinctly in order to carry out the constant policy of Her Majesty's Government, and in order to enable the Khedive to carry out that evacuation of the interior of the Soudan, which Her Majesty's Government have thought desirable. Whether or not any such policy can be advocated as that of direct interference by the British authority, or even by British arms, in the interior of Africa, at that enormous distance from Cairo—if any such policy can be suggested—it cannot, at all events, be for a moment contended that it would be other than a new policy. Her Majesty's Government hitherto have been content, in their temporary occupation of Egypt, to ensure tranquillity and order, and to give assistance to the Egyptian people by a better administration of their affairs, and by the better organization of their forces, to enable them in time to stand by themselves.
I pass now to matters nearer home, and I am sure that there can be no possible difference amongst us as to the paragraph of Her Majesty's Speech which relates to the state of Ireland being of a most satisfactory and re-assuring character. It is a matter, perhaps, hardly of surprise, but it is a matter of regret, that in the very arduous duties which have had to be performed by Lord Spencer and by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland they have been subject to attack on both sides—I think I am not saying too much by very unbridled tongues. But, Sir, the Lord Lieutenant and my right hon. Friend have not swerved in any degree from the path of duty. They went to Ireland in order to maintain the law there; to maintain the law without fear and without favour; and it is lamentable that in so doing they should have been exposed to the censure they have incurred. But all in this House—at least most of us, and most of us throughout the country—feel that the attacks which have been made upon the Lord Lieutenant and my right hon. Friend will only have the effect of increasing 46 the amount of gratitude due to them; and we can all join in congratulating them, as representing the Executive in Ireland, upon the success which Her Majesty's Gracious Speech tells us has been achieved.
Now, Sir, to look in the direction in which Liberals generally like to look—that is to say, to look forward—Her Majesty's Speech is of an exceptionally important character; and as a Scotchman I may be allowed, first of all, to notice the paragraph at the end relating to Scotch Business. It will be satisfactory to Scotch Members and to the Scotch people to learn that their loudly-expressed wishes in this House for the better administration of Scotch affairs have already received the attention of Her Majesty's Government. It can, I hope, be hardly necessary to explain to English and Irish Members what this movement is which has been so strongly marked in Scotland. I have seen it somewhat infelicitously described as the Scotch Home Rule movement; but there is no wish, either on the part of the Scotch Members or the Scotch people, for any weakening of the authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. What we wish, on the contrary, is that Parliament should be better able to do its work than it has hitherto been, and that it should be able to give more rather than less of its attention to matters specially interesting to us. Our hope is that in any arrangement that may be made no injury will be done to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, but that it will become more closely attentive to Scotch affairs. We are well aware also of the advantages that accrue to us from taking a share in the responsibility of the government of a great Empire, and Scotland would be the last place in which any desire would be felt either to escape from the control or to shrink from the responsibilities which attach to it as an important and powerful part of the United Kingdom.
Sir, there is a Bill of great importance referred to in Her Majesty's Speech—a Bill to provide Municipal Government for the population of this enormous Metropolis. That is a matter of very great importance. It seems a strange thing that for so long the affairs of such a huge Metropolis as this have been conducted in the "happy-go-lucky" way which has been the case hitherto; 47 and it is satisfactory to learn that some sort of arrangement, probably not precisely similar, but somewhat analogous to, those which have been found convenient and useful in the large towns of the country, will be established for London and the Metropolitan districts. It cannot, of course, be forgotten that London is not only the richest, and the greatest, and the most populous of the towns of the world—that it is not only the most important of the towns of Great Britain, but that it is the centre of a great Empire; and it may therefore appear that some matters, which in Provincial towns are properly considered to be the exclusive business of the citizens, are, when we are dealing with the affairs of a great centre like London, naturally considered of exceptional interest, and almost of Imperial importance. These considerations will make the measure one of the most important character.
I come now to the announcement on the subject of Reform, and I must here be allowed to say that although I should have felt proud on any occasion to move the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne, it is with extreme satisfaction that I ant able to do so on the present occasion, when the great measure of the Session beginning to-day will be a measure dealing with the representation of the people. Our Constitution, which we all admire, and which we are thoroughly accustomed to, has no greater merit than that of elasticity. No stereotyped, no hard-and-fast Constitution could ever have suited a nation like this. It could not possibly have suited the growing wants of a growing people. From time to time it has been found possible to re-arrange our Constitutional provisions, whilst always preserving the same great elements, so as to give fresh strength and vigour to the Constitution itself. We all know how the great Revolution which was ended in 1088, and which entirely overthrew the old Stuart theory of Monarchy, instead of proving disastrous to the Monarchy itself, established it upon a rational and wider basis, and gave something until then unknown in British history—security for the reigning House, which I need hardly say has not been seriously interrupted in the course of two centuries. In 1832, again, a fresh change, and a very great change indeed, was 48 made in the Constitution. There was then established, or rather re-established, a general and universal system of popular election, and it was found that the increased numbers who were introduced to take art in the government of the country strengthened Parliament for the discharge of its legislative functions, and also did much to give greater strength and stability to the Institutions of the country. It was chiefly due to the great reforms and changes then brought about that half a generation after the passing of the Reform Act, when Governments on the Continent of Europe were tottering either to their foundations or to their fall, in this country our Institutions remained almost without a shock. This was due to the wide basis on which those Institutions had been placed; and if there is any lesson to be learned from previous steps in the direction of Reform, it is that the well-tried Institutions of the country will stand all the firmer by being given a wider basis. Not so long ago, in 1866–7, the subject of Reform was again discussed in this country; and the Reform Act of 1887 has also proved that increased power and energy to legislate in the direction of benefiting the whole people were acquired by Parliament, and again it was found that no Institutions of the country suffered any danger whatever. But as the Constitution and the nation did not begin to grow at the year 1688, so the Constitution and the nation did not cease to grow in 1867; and the Liberal Government of to-day is doing what Liberal Governments have done in like circumstances in the past—they are introducing a measure to bring additional classes within what has been called "the pale of the franchise." It is not likely, I need hardly say, that, considering who are the right hon. Gentlemen who form the Government, they should approach such a question as this in any other light than as true friends of the Constitution—it is not likely that they will attack the Constitution; and I believe that Liberals of all sections will be united in hoping that they will strengthen it by a very considerable measure of enfranchisement. In the paragraph of Her Majesty's Speech upon this subject it is contemplated to extend the franchise with which we are already acquainted, beyond certain local limits, rather than 49 to invent a new one; and, therefore, if for no other reason, I should hope there is no cause to anticipate a repetition of the foolish fears of 1866. I have noticed in this House a method of debate which I myself think unsatisfactory—the habit of hon. Members opposite of claiming the unexpressed and unavowed sympathies of a certain portion of the Liberal Party. By a process to which thought-reading is a joke, they claim to know what are the real wishes of a certain section of the Liberal Party. I do not profess to speak with much experience of this House; but after the four years during which I have sat here, I can only say that those taunts have been used on occasions when, for my part, I could not find out that they were warranted by facts; and I believe that, on this occasion, it will be found that the Liberal Party throughout all its sections is united in the cause of Reform, Without being a prophet, I can anticipate that the Whig Leaders of the past will be held up for our example. We shall be told that the reforms sketched out would have done something more than startle such a sound Whig as Lord Melbourne, or that they are enough almost to make Lord Palmerston turn in his grave. I should like to point out that the names of Melbourne and Palmerston are not the only names cherished by the Whig Party. There are the no less Whig and much more inspiriting names of Lord Grey and Lord John Russell, Leaders who were in the very van of Reform; and at a time, moreover, when Reform, from the magnitude of the changes contemplated, really seemed, in the estimation of many persons, to deserve the much more terrible name of Revolution. It would not become me, and I have no information on which I could do so, to anticipate at all precisely the nature of the proposals which will be submitted for our consideration; but from the constitution of Her Majesty's Government we have a right to expect that the measure will be thorough-going—that it will be a complete and straightforward measure. The time that has elapsed since the question of the county franchise was first mooted has been sufficient, at all events, to ensure that the subject has been thoroughly considered. It is now 12 years since it was brought before the House of Commons by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord 50 Lieutenant of Ireland; it it is seven years since those proposals received the assent of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington); and it is four years since a General Election expressed an emphatic approval of the principle which they embodied. Moreover, during the last four years, and especially during the last few months, meetings have taken place throughout the country—perfectly orderly, perfectly well-behaved, and perfectly law-abiding. But these meetings were not only orderly and well-behaved, they were also, I am happy to say, perfectly determined; and it is impossible now to doubt what are the wishes with regard to this subject of the great majority of the electors throughout the country. Of course, the clauses which will be of chief interest to us in the measure which will be laid before us are those that deal with enfranchisement and the extension of electoral qualifications; but it is not too much to express a hope, which I do express, feeling with confidence that my anticipations in that respect will not be disappointed, that Her Majesty's Government will also consider, in the measure which they are about to bring forward, the absolute necessity of destroying what I may call the manufacture of fictitious electoral votes. This subject it may be difficult to deal with; but it is to be hoped that Her Majesty's Government will take the matter seriously in hand, and that an end will be put to the monstrous abuse of swamping the political opinions of the various local and rural districts by the introduction of the votes of persons who have no connection, except an artificial one, with those districts where they exercise the franchise. Sir, I would ask even those Members who may not expect as much as I do from such a measure as this to consider not only whether it will be beneficial, but whether it has not now become absolutely necessary. It is the fact that this measure is announced in the Speech from the Throne which gives such exceptional importance to the present Session of Parliament. It does not require to be a prophet to foresee that the fifth Session of the tenth Parliament of the Queen cannot pass away without leaving behind it very serious consequences. What those consequences will be depends, 51 of course, upon Parliament itself, and chiefly, I may say, upon that portion of Parliament congregated within the walls of this House. We have to consider whether those consequences shall produce benefit or mischief to the State. The responsibility weighing upon Her Majesty's Government is immense; but, Sir, responsibility does not fall entirely, and will certainly not rest solely, upon them. After all, a great responsibility rests upon the Leaders of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition is, no doubt, Leader of a minority; but he is, nevertheless, Leader of a powerful Party both in this House and in the country; and although he is not, in the limited sense in which we use the words here, a Member of the Government, he is yet one of those who do very essentially take part in the actual governing of the country. It often happens that the Leader of the Opposition may be almost the second man in the State; and, with the power which he can bring to bear on debates in this House and on discussion in the country, his influence is rather out of proportion to the somewhat modest position which to some persons he might appear to fill. Still, it remains true that he is one of those to whom the guidance of the country is in some degree committed. We may hope that the country will not be disappointed in looking forward, not only to the Leaders on this side of the House, but also to the Leaders on the other side, for the exercise of wisdom, of patriotism, and prudence in their action, and in trusting that they will reject, with the contempt it deserves, the advice of such counsellors, if any such there are, who would seem only to care for the winning of some mere Party gain, at the sacrifice of the credit of Parliament and the best interests of the country. After all, Sir, though from time to time it may be the case that in every Party there are some irresponsible persons who speak in unmeasured terms and use language violent but not weighty, we must remember that the bulk of each great Party is of different mettle, and that, however wide may seem the gulf created between us here by Party differences and Party prejudices, the great end of our labours remains the same. Each great Party, I hope, looks forward to serving the best interests of the State; of each great 52 Party it is the chief end to promote the welfare and the good government of the people, and to ensure that so long, at all events, as we have anything to do with it, the strength of the nation shall remain undiminished, and that there shall be no tarnish on the brightness of its name. Sir, I beg to move—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to convey the thanks of this House for the Most Gracious Speech delivered by Her Command to both Houses of Parliament:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty continues to hold friendly and harmonious relations with all Foreign Powers:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty's communications with the President of the Trench Republic, arising out of special incidents in Madagascar, have closed in a manner such as tends to confirm the cordial understanding between the two Countries; and that Her Majesty has likewise, in conjunction with the President, appointed a Commission to discuss a basis of arrangement for the future regulation of the Newfoundland Fisheries and the avoidance of disputes:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that an Agreement has been arrived at with Portugal respecting the River Congo and the adjacent territories; and that arrangements are in progress for the resumption of diplomatic relations with Mexico:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that Negotiations for a Treaty of Commerce with Turkey have commenced; that an Agreement on commercial relations with Spain has been signed, which awaits the sanction of the Cortes; that a revision of the Commercial Treaty with Japan, on a basis generally agreed to by the Treaty Powers, is nearly completed; and that a Treaty of Commerce and Friendship has likewise been signed with Corea:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that, having had every reason to be satisfied with the tranquillity of Egypt, and with the progress made in the establishment of orderly institutions, Her Majesty gave, during the autumn, instructions for the evacuation of Cairo, for the further reduction of Her Majesty's Military Forces, and for their concentration mainly in Alexandria:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we learn with regret that in the month of November the Egyptian Army appointed to maintain the rule of the Khedive in the Soudan was defeated and broken up with heavy loss:53To thank Her Majesty for informing us that, upon the occurrence of this defeat, Her Majesty deemed it wise to recall the order Her Majesty had given, as a precaution against the possible effects of the Military reverse in Egypt itself, and to preclude all doubt as to the certain maintenance of its tranquillity, but that while an unforeseen and calamitous necessity has thus required Her Majesty to suspend the measure Her Majesty had adopted, the aim of the Occupation, which has been explained to us at former times, continues without change:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty has offered to the Egyptian Government such counsels as appeared to be required by a prudent regard to the amount of its resources, and to the social condition of the Country; and that Her Majesty has also despatched Major General Gordon to report on the best means of giving effect to the resolution of the Khedive to withdraw from the interior of the Soudan, and has permitted him to act in the execution of the measure:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty has directed communications to be held with the Delegates, whom the Government of the Transvaal has sent to this Country, for the purpose of urging a reconsideration of the Convention of Pretoria; and that nothing has occurred to discourage the expectation that these communications may be brought to a favourable issue:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the Estimates of Charge for the Public Services during the year 1884–5 have been prepared, and will speedily be laid before us:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we rejoice to learn that Her Majesty anticipates that the Revenue of the current year will not fall short of the expectations upon which we founded our financial arrangements:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we learn with satisfaction that the condition of Ireland continues to exhibit those features of substantial improvement which Her Majesty described on the two occasions when Her Majesty last addressed us:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that a measure will at once be presented to us, which will have for its principal object the enlargement of the Occupation Franchise in Parliamentary Elections throughout the United Kingdom:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that a plan will be laid before us for the extension of Municipal Government to the whole 54 Metropolis; and that the preparation under this head, which has been made by Her Majesty's directions, has not been limited to London; but that the actual presentation of further Pills of the same class must depend upon the progress we may be enabled to make with the weighty business which has been already set forth:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that our careful consideration shall be given to the measures which may be submitted to us; and that we earnestly trust that the blessing of Almighty God may attend our labours.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH
In rising to second the Address, I desire to express my deep sense of the honour done to the great constituency which I am privileged to represent, in being asked to perform this duty. I congratulate the House upon the general tranquillity which prevails throughout the world, and the excellent relations which this country continues to maintain with all the great Powers of Europe. This freedom from foreign complications offers a golden opportunity for much-needed domestic legislation, and I trust that Parliament will take full advantage of it, and support Her Majesty's Government in the valuable reforms of which Notice has been given to-day.
The House will be glad to learn that the Revenue is likely to fulfil the expectations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that, too, notwithstanding that trade continues dull and profits small in all the great industries of the nation. Unfortunately, the elasticity of British trade has suffered considerable abatement for several years past; but it is satisfactory to think that the mass of the labouring population is pretty well employed and fairly well off, owing to the cheapness and abundance of food. I have to thank the Government, on behalf of the commercial classes, for their vigilant attention to the interests of trade—they are negotiating Treaties with Spain, Turkey, Japan, and the Corea. Of these Treaties, some are in a more advanced stage than others, and I would especially commend their action with respect to Spain, for we have suffered for a long time from the almost prohibitory tariff of that country, and I trust that success will crown their efforts.
With regard to Ireland, I rejoice that there has been a marked diminution of 55 crime and increased prosperity over a considerable portion of that country. It is, however, deeply to be regretted that in the Province of Ulster there has been a revival of old and half-forgotten feuds; but it is to be hoped that the Government will firmly use the powers entrusted to them, in order to prevent further collisions and effusion of blood in that Province, as well as in other parts of the Sister Island. Nevertheless, one cannot help feeling that, after all, something more is wanted than mere physical force to keep the peace in Ireland. There needs to be diffused a far deeper sense of the evil wrought by bitter words, and of the moral responsibility which rests upon all those who are in a position to guide public opinion to see that their language tends to promote peace on earth and good will amongst men. I feel sure that no deeper desire animates our great Leader than to wipe out, as far as may be, the sad memories of a melancholy past, and I am sure that I interpret the feelings of the House when I say that we wish to be spared the painful necessity of having exceptional legislation in one of the three Kingdoms. I appeal, therefore, to those who influence the opinion and feelings of the Irish people, to make it easy to return to Constitutional government, and to meet us half way in the attempt to do equal justice to every section of the inhabitants of the British Isles.
A population almost as large as that of Ireland is looking forward with eager interest to the promised London Reform Bill. It has often been felt to be an anomaly that the Metropolis alone of all the cities and towns in the country should be deprived of local self-government. It has suffered intensely from conflicting jurisdictions and feeble administration, and the time has fully come when an end must be put to the state of chaos which now prevails. Next to the Franchise Bill, which my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. Elliot) so ably dealt with, and which, therefore, calls for no comment from me, no measure excites more public interest; and that interest has been greatly deepened since the bitter cry of "Outcast London" has sounded in our ears. The nation has at last awakened to the fact that a hideous mass of human misery lies at the base of our social fabric. The wealthiest capital in the 56 world has also the deepest abyss of squalid poverty. We intend that these evils shall be dealt with, as far as may be, by right legislation; but it is rather the duty of local, than Imperial, bodies to grapple with such questions as the housing of the poor, the enforcement of moral and sanitary regulations, and the provision of open spaces, public baths, and facilities for healthy recreation. We look, therefore, with hope to the creation of a great municipal body in London, which will distinguish itself by attacking social abuses of every kind, and make this City one that the poor as well as the rich may be proud to live in.
I rejoice that the great cause of temperance has received the attention of Her Majesty's Government, and that they intend to deal with it on the principle of giving control over the liquor trade to the ratepayers. I trust that the provisions of the various Bills relating to local government will contain such powers as will satisfy the great army of temperance reformers. I do not speak of extremists, but of those who mourn over the excessive intemperance of the masses of our fellow-countrymen, for they know only too well that our squalid poverty is mainly the result of this national vice. I venture to go a stop further, and say that nothing will satisfy the deep feeling of the nation except such measures as will largely diminish the temptations to drunkenness, and such as will, in some measure, protect those poor besotted victims who cannot protect themselves. We have given far too great facilities to this dangerous trade in the past, and we are reaping the harvest in an hereditary pauper class which poisons our national life and remains untouched by all the amenities of civilization. The time has come to grapple with this plague; the conscience of the nation is alive to the sin and the danger of spending nearly £130,000,000 annually upon strong drink, and the Government will receive the support of ail right-thinking men in devising machinery that will cope in some adequate degree with this terrible evil.
I pass now to a measure that excites great interest amongst the large tea-faring and shipowning classes of the country. The lamentable loss of life at sea is a painful drawback to that great trade which gives us our maritime supremacy among the nations of the world. 57 Many honest attempts have been made of late years to reduce these casualties. The name of Mr. Plimsoll will always be held in honour as the champion of the British sailor. Partly as the result of his agitation, the Board of Trade has assumed very extensive functions of control and surveillance of late years. Yet it must be admitted that the results have belied the expectations formed. The frightful tale of human misery goes on almost unchecked, and the conviction has been formed that we must act on different lines. My right hon. Friend the indefatigable President of the Board of Trade is prepared to show a more excellent way. He will lay before the House a Bill, the object of which is to increase the sense of responsibility on the part of shipowners; to make it the interest of all, as it is already their duty, to keep their ships in a seaworthy state, and to disconnect the hope of profit from the loss of a ship. It is, I feel sure, in no spirit of unfairness to an honourable calling that the Bill is introduced. It is cheerfully conceded that the great body of British shipowners are an honour to their country; but it cannot be concealed that there are some exceptions to the rule, and the law will be altered so as to be a check on evildoers, while not interfering with those who do well. No doubt, this difficult question will be dealt with as successfully in a Grand Committee as the Bankruptcy Bill was last Session.
That most useful body, the Railway Commission, will have its powers extended, and the control which the State most wisely maintains over our great railway system will be strengthened. Few subjects interest our commercial classes more than just and uniform rates of carriage; and these can only be assured by a powerful central jurisdiction.
The country will also be glad to learn that the repression of corrupt practices at elections is not to be confined to national politics, but is to be extended to municipal elections as well; and we must hope that the effect will be to purify that important fountain of our nation's well-being.
I rejoice that the Government intend to meet the strong temperance sentiment of Ireland, by introducing a Bill to complete the system of Sunday closing of public-houses. We shall then have 58 three out of four portions of the United Kingdom privileged to have one day in the week free from those temptations to intemperance. Is it too much to express the hope that the remaining portion will demand its inclusion within the scope of this beneficent law, and strengthen the hands of the Government to complete the sacred chain that guards the Day of Rest.
As representing a large body of Welsh constituents, I am glad that the claims of the Principality to higher education continue to engage the attention of the Government. Nothing is more creditable to Wales than its eager desire to perfect its educational system. The efforts of the poorer people are beyond all praise; and any aid the National Exchequer can give will be well spent among that peaceful, industrious, and religious people.
I may add, in conclusion, that the country expects much from the devolution of Parliamentary work on the Grand Committees, and hopes for a term of beneficent legislation unhindered by obstruction or vexatious Party strife. This Parliament has large arrears of Business to overtake; a full tale of work has been set before it to-day; therefore let us hope that this work will be done so as to deserve the gratitude of the nation we represent and the Empire we govern.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, &c."—[See page 52.]
§ MR. BOURKE
said, in rising to propose an Amendment to the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne, he desired to make an apology, or rather an explanation, to both sides of the House for intervening so soon in the course of the debate, as he was quite sure the House generally looked forward to and would have been glad to hear the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), according to the usual precedent. His explanation, however, was a very simple one, and he hoped it would be accepted by the House. He was there that evening in obedience to a wish of his right hon. Friend. He must beg to be allowed to congratulate both the hon. Gentlemen the Mover and the Seconder of the Address upon the very great ability of the speeches they had delivered in performing that task, and having done that, 59 he would move the following Amendment:—We humbly direct Her Majesty's attention to the want of success which has so far attended the attempts of Her Majesty's Ministers to place the affairs of Egypt on a sound footing, either as regards the reconstruction of its Government, the re-organisation of justice, the satisfactory adjustment of its finances, or the tranquillity and security of its frontier provinces; and we humbly submit to Her Majesty, that the course which Her Majesty's Ministers have pursued has tended to weaken the authority of the Native Government, without providing any adequate substitute, and that such a course is fraught with danger to Egypt, and tends indefinitely to postpone the establishment of a state of things in which the withdrawal of Her Majesty's Forces will be possible; while it dangerously increases the responsibilities and liabilities of this Country both towards Egypt itself and the Powers of Europe; and, further, we humbly express our opinion that no measures will he effective for attaining the objects of Her Majesty's Policy in Egypt, and providing for the improvement and security of that Country, unless they are founded on a distinct recognition by Her Majesty's Ministers of the obligations which they have incurred by their intervention in the administration of Egyptian affairs.He thought the House would not expect him to refer to those subjects mentioned in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech which did not relate to his Amendment. He presumed that if any doubts whatever had existed in the minds of hon. Members as to the prudence of moving such an Amendment, or as to the duty of the Opposition on this occasion, a perusal of the Speech from the Throne must have dispelled any doubts that had been entertained. He observed, in reading the paragraphs relating to Egypt, that the same uncertainty, the same obscurity, the same vacillation characterized those paragraphs which characterized from the first the policy of Her Majesty's Government. More than that, he thought that those paragraphs contained statements that were very difficult to reconcile with the facts which the Government had already authoritatively laid before the House, and the events which had occurred before the whole world. He would not dwell upon the policy which led to the war; he would not dwell upon the negotiations with France, which he and many of his hon. Friends thought stirred up Mussulman fanaticism all over the world, making Arabi Pasha into a hero, and causing a rebellion to be turned into a great national movement; nor would he dwell upon 60 the unnecessary slights which he thought this country had given to the Sultan of Turkey, nor upon the events of the war which led to the burning of Alexandria, to the trials of Arabi Pasha and the others, nor to the exiles who were now in Ceylon. These subjects, no doubt, were interesting if one desired to form an opinion as to whether the late war was or was not necessary; but he wished on this occasion to draw attention to the events which had taken place since the war broke out in Egypt, and the position in which the country now was, and that which they now occupied in it. Having conquered the country, having destroyed the Army, and taken possession of the capital, there was no limit to the grand words and fine language which Her Majesty's Government used with respect to the duties which lay before them. The Government of Egypt was to be reconstituted, the whole Administration was to be re-organized, the people were to be rescued from anarchy, and a beneficent Government was to govern the people, and to bring them justice, liberty, and happiness, based upon a sure foundation. That was the programme held out to the House of Commons and to the world, and that was the prospect they had hoped and were told they would see realized. Anyone who thought over these subjects could not help admitting that the Government undertook a most gigantic task. But they approached that task with a light heart, and apparently without thoroughly seeing the enormous difficulties before them. They chose for their first instrument and first officer for carrying out this great policy one of the most distinguished and able men, he believed, in Her Majesty's Service, whether civil or military. Lord Dufferin was ordered from Constantinople to Cairo, in order to sketch, according to the instructions of the Government, a plan for a new Constitution. No one could read that famous despatch, and the many other despatches which Lord Uniform wrote at that time, without confessing—gladly confessing—that the noble Lord performed his duty with all that ability and knowledge of foreign countries and of Colonial countries which had always distinguished him. After that despatch came home it was immediately adopted by the Government and made the foundation of the whole of the new Constitution 61 for Egypt. That was done without the slightest hesitation; and he believed various Khedivial decrees had already been passed giving effect to some of the provisions of that Constitution. The country had not boon vouchsafed that information by Her Majesty's Government which would enable him to state with any degree of certainty how far these Khedivial decrees had been issued; and, therefore, if he was obliged to have recourse to the usual channels of information, and not to authoritative documents, it was not his fault, but the fault of the Government. There was one important fact connected with the despatch of Lord Dufferin, and to his mind it had always appeared the most important one, because it showed from the first, he thought, that although Lord Dufferin had instructions to frame this Constitution upon what they might call Parliamentary lines, and although he executed his task with all that literary skill which he was known to possess, there ran through a portion of that despatch a lurking impression upon the mind of Lord Dufferin that this Constitution was particularly ill-suited to Egypt. There was a warning contained in that despatch that after all it was a paper Constitution; and that paper Constitutions were comparatively easily made, and were proverbially insecure and utterly unsuited to Oriental countries. Having given this Constitution, however, or proposed to give it, to Egypt, Lord Dufferin said—and said with a warning voice which he (Mr. Bourke) was quite certain his Lordship meant to be in earnest—that it was necessary to prevent the fabric we had reared from tumbling to pieces, and unless we were prepared to shield and protect the system that we were about to introduce and adopt, it was vain to expect a success, or that Eastern politicians would identify themselves with its existence, and that no subversive influence must be allowed to intervene between England and the Egypt she had re-created. Thereupon the Army, under a new English General of great distinction, was re-created; and it was thought necessary by the Government that this Army should have all the characteristics of our own Military Force. They had, moreover, refused to allow Baker Pasha, who had already done so much in that direction, to re-organize that Army, and 62 to take command of it, because he was not on full pay in Her Majesty's Service. They, therefore, took the command out of the hands of Baker Pasha, and gave it to that distinguished officer, Sir Evelyn Wood. The next step they took was to re-organize the Police; and that step was also a very significant one, having regard to future events. In the beginning the command of the Police was given to Baker Pasha. They said now, however, that he had gone wrong, and that everything that had been done must be undone. They told him that he must send away all the Albanians he already had, for they would never do for this new police, which was to be a civil force, that everything that made it in any way like a military body must be done away with. A distinguished financier was transferred from India to Egypt, and another able financier was brought from Constantinople to advise the Khedive and his Government on all financial matters. Englishmen were placed in every Department of the State, and foreigners were dismissed or pensioned. Her Majesty's Government, in fact, endeavoured to make themselves absolute masters of Egypt; the Egyptian Ministers were relegated to obscurity, were deprived of every scrap of power they had, and seemed only to be retained in Office, apparently, for the purpose of drawing their salaries and bearing the blame of a new system that was imposed on them, which they could not understand. Now, the question arose—What progress had been made in realizing the prospects held out to the people of Egypt from the first? The hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Address had made some observations with regard to the good work that was going on in Egypt. The hon. Gentleman, however, must have seen that country only through the roseate hues of the Queen's Speech, without making any inquiry whatever on his own account on that subject. For himself, he (Mr. Bourke) could not speak from official documents, because he had not got them; but all he could say was that every visitor who had passed the last few months in Egypt, and whom he had had the honour of meeting—every correspondent who wrote to the newspapers, every author of a book on the subject bore the same testimony—namely, that everything in the various 63 Departments of the Government of Egypt was in a state of deadlock; that the people were suffering from exactly the same causes as had been described hundreds of times; that justice was delayed; and that the indebtedness of the fellaheen remained precisely what it was before, with the prospect of becoming much worse. Nothing had been done in the way shadowed out by Lord Dufferin to relieve the fellaheen from the crying evils to which they were exposed, or from that system of usury which everyone acquainted with Egypt knew to be so frightful. The cadastral system of survey begun by the late Government, which must be the foundation of any just and rational system of taxation, land reform, and finance, had been starved from the want of funds, while the cruel evils of conscription and of a most oppressive system of usury, crushing all life and hope out of the unfortunate Natives, remained. Mr. Gibson was sent by the late Government, who advised the Khedive to take measures for carrying out a thorough cadastral survey. The indemnity claims also were unpaid, and we had a considerable responsibility connected with those claims; for, no matter what had been the immediate cause of the burning of Alexandria, there could not be any denial of the fact that had it not been for our presence in Alexandria that conflagration would never have taken place. Then, again, there was the important subject of the Capitulations, as to which it was impossible for the country to be well governed so long as they existed. He did not for a moment say that, under certain circumstances in the East, the Capitulations were not necessary; but if all those great reforms were to be introduced quickly into Egypt, there could be no excuse for maintaining those Capitulations, which were the greatest source of heartburning and the greatest impediment to financial reforms; and every enlightened Egyptian Minister disliked the very name of them. Meantime the finances of the country were in a most deplorable condition; and he believed that, irrespective of all the claims arising out of the burning of Alexandria, £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 had been added to the permanent Debt of that country. At the same time, there was this further ominous fact, that 16 months of the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government had already exhausted the 64 borrowing powers of that country, and there was, he maintained, throughout the country a general decline of credit and confidence. These remarks he desired to apply only to Egypt Proper, and not to the Soudan, although the distinction between the two portions of the country was somewhat of modern and European invention. [Laughter.] The Prime Minister, he was afraid, did not agree; but some of Her Majesty's Ministers had described the Soudan as a recent acquisition—a description which was misleading, for the Soudan was conquered by Mehemet Ali more than 50 years ago. The Opposition were told that they ought not to complain of the existing state of things, because Her Majesty's Government had given a grand Constitution to Egypt, with a Legislative Council and an elective Assembly. He said boldly, however, that no one who had had any experience in Egypt had the slightest faith in the Constitution which was being imposed on that country. The patient was, in fact, dying while the doctors were experimenting on his miserable frame. The Government had given Egypt a grand Constitution founded on the Anglo-Saxon model, but did anyone who knew that country have the slightest faith in the efficacy of a system founded upon such a basis? The hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Villiers Stuart), a Friend and quasi-official of Her Majesty's Government, who had been ordered to report on the condition of Egypt, stated that he went to that country prejudiced in favour of a Legislative Council, Parliamentary institutions, and all the rest of it, but that after examining hundreds of witnesses and travelling over every Province of Egypt, he was perfectly convinced that such institutions were utterly unsuited to the country. They were not the kind of institutions the fellaheen wanted. What the fellaheen wanted was to have the load of debt removed from their shoulders, taxation to be placed on a fair basis, the land to be irrigated, justice to be simply and fairly administered, the cruelty of conscription to be done away with, and security to be afforded for life and property. That was what the fellaheen wanted, and it was our duty to have tried to give it to them. The system which had been set up by Her Majesty's Government could not be worked without an innumerable host of highly-paid 65 English functionaries. The system might be suitable to an Anglo-Saxon community; but be would ask the bon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), or anyone who bad administered a Native State, was that the kind of Constitution they had set up in India, for instance? At any rate, Sir Lepel Griffin, who spoke with great authority on this subject, bad said that above all things it was most important that we should utilize Native officials as much as possible; that we should retain as much as possible local institutions, and avoid as much as possible bringing in unsympathetic European officials to administer justice they did not understand. In Egypt, however, they bad placed the Khedive, his Ministers, and the European officials in an embarrassing and unfortunate position. They had forced that Constitution upon them, deprived them of all power and authority, and they said to the European officials—"This is the system you are bound to administer; and although you are ignorant of the language and even of the customs of the people, you must, somehow or other, persuade the Ministers that this is a system which is good for the country, although they themselves have no confidence in it." He would gladly read to the House an extract of a letter from an eminent authority on Egyptian affairs; he was not at liberty to mention his name; but he was sure his opinion was one which the House would value. He declared that the English bad destroyed all semblance of the original Egyptian system of government—an imperfect system it was true—but still a system, and they had put in its place something which would never survive the departure of British troops from Egypt. For his own part, be declined to share in that work at all; he declined to be made a figure-head for carrying out reforms which he believed to be worthless. The English Government were not only unpopular, they were making themselves ridiculous in the eyes of Europe; and if they wished to have Egypt governed after their own fashion they must be responsible. That was the opinion of a gentleman whose judgment he believed would be accepted with confidence. Her Majesty's Government, unmindful of the warnings which were given to them as to supporting a system which they had 66 given up, but more intent upon preserving peace below the Gangway than on preserving peace in Egypt, had, at the instance of hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House, kept on saying that they were about to withdraw our troops from that country, and so remove the only sign intelligible to an Egyptian that we meant to maintain order, for such a declaration was interpreted by the Egyptians to mean that England no longer wished to concern herself with their country. Any declaration made respecting the goodwill of the Government for Egypt they regarded as mere nonsense, because it was very well known that as soon as the English vacated Egypt every vestige of their system would at once be swept away. They must remember the effect of a declaration that they proposed at no distant date to evacuate the country. No one would serve under a Government that proclaimed its own speedy dissolution, and no surprise ought to be felt that their English officials felt a difficulty in finding Egyptian officials to work with them, and discovered that it was impossible to overcome the passive inertia which prevailed in every Department of the State. While sympathizing with all his heart in the desire to withdraw from Egypt, he could not forget that this question of annexation was carefully considered by Her Majesty's late Government, and that, although from some quarters of Europe it met with great encouragement, this policy was rejected advisedly by Lord Beacons-field. The policy and system of Her Majesty's Government could not be worked without English support. He did not believe that anybody could think for a moment that it would for six months survive our departure from the country. Yet Her Majesty's Government had wilfully shut their eyes to the necessity for occupying Egypt, and doing that which their own acts had rendered absolutely necessary. The way in which the question of the Suez Canal was treated last Session had also made the whole subject of the withdrawal of our troops from Egypt still more difficult, because so long as England occupied Egypt the Suez Canal was safe; but if they withdrew, after having given over the monopoly of the canalization of the Isthmus of Suez to the French Company, what guarantee 67 had they of the safety of the road to India? The Government still wilfully shut their eyes to the consequences of their own acts, which had brought a crushing blow on Egypt, sent thousands of Egyptian troops to their doom, incurred the loss of many English lives, and deprived Egypt of many Provinces, giving an enormous impulse to the Slave Trade, destroying all the efforts of our great civilizers and travellers, such as Livingstone, Burton, Speke, and Baker, increasing Mahomedan fanaticism all over the world, and enormously increasing and multiplying our responsibilities. Before Lord Dufferin went to Egypt the question of the Soudan was brought forward in that House. It was well known by Her Majesty's Government to be in the greatest state of disorder, but they had declined to interfere there. They had known for a long time of the wretched system of conscription which prevailed for the Soudan, under which old men were dragged away in chains to render unwilling service to their tyrannical oppressors. They had directed Lord Dufferin to report on the condition of Egypt Proper; but all this time the Government were perfectly aware that there was one man, and one man alone, who was thoroughly acquainted with the whole question, but General Gordon was never asked a single question on the subject, and they allowed months and months to pass without taking his advice with respect to a matter on which he was competent to speak with the utmost weight of authority. On the contrary, General Stewart, a most gallant officer, was sent out to report, and a most interesting Report he prepared on the Soudan. But what did he say? He said that among the causes of the revolt were the suppression of the Slave Trade and military weakness. Over-taxation was, in his judgment, another of the causes. But he added that, in many cases, the Natives were compelled to provide for their taxes by engaging in the Slave Trade. Her Majesty's Government knew all these things, and yet they kept on declaring their own irresponsibility. It might be urged that Egypt and the Soudan were separate countries, but that was not so; the Soudan was ruled from Cairo, and so long as we held Cairo we were responsible for the Soudan. In fact, the attitude of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the Soudan 68 was altogether inconsistent with their position in respect to Egypt Proper, and they had no excuse for not recognizing the condition of affairs which had been brought about in the Soudan by their own bad management. the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon, last year, stated that there seemed to be something like a rebellion in Egypt, and that it might easily assume proportions which might shake the Governing Body of the country as it had not been shaken before. Her Majesty's Government seemed to think at the time that a period might arrive when we should be obliged to interfere in Egypt; but no measures were taken to assume the responsibility which properly belonged to them in the matter. Lord Dufferin, in his Report, treated the question of the Soudan at great length, and Lord Dufferin never for a moment seemed to contemplate the abandonment of the Soudan; indeed, he pointed out that Egypt could not be expected to acquiesce in any such proposal. He therefore advocated the development of the Provinces, and even went so far as to propose the making of a railway from Suakim to Berber, which would be used by pilgrims, and which would open up the whole of that vast country and cause an expansion of commerce with its civilizing effects. Lord Dufferin also dealt with the great question of the Slave Trade; he made certain recommendations which were not adopted. Things went from bad to worse. The Mahdi obtained an accession of strength every day, which was not to be wondered at, as he knew that the English Government had publicly declined to interfere. Lord Dufferin showed that the condition of the Soudan had always been a matter of prime importance with statesmen who were connected with Egypt, yet the Government had determined to do nothing, and that determination had been the main cause of the frightful disaster that had ensued to General Hicks's Army. When it was too late, and many English officers had been killed, the Government undertook that responsibility which they ought to have undertaken long before. Then came the murder of Consul Moncrieff. For his part, he was certain of this—that Consul Moncrieff died in the belief that he was discharging his duty, and that it was in that belief that he took that fatal journey, and not from a 69 mere love of adventure. By his murder the Service had lost a most meritorious and gallant officer, and it would be well if the Government would state whether they gave him orders to undertake the expedition which terminated in his death. He would ask, also, whether it was true that Sir Evelyn Baring was present at the Council of Egyptian Ministers when it was decided to send Baker Pasha to Suakim? In carrying out his task he had to take not a military but a civil force with him; while the two Armies in Egypt, under the control of Her Majesty's Government, but paid by Egypt, were relegated to the duties which a civil force ought to undertake. Baker Pasha seemed to have no faith in the expedition on which he was sent, knowing what he did of the Egyptian authorities, for he was perfectly certain that, controlled as they were by the Egyptian Government, they would supply him with worthless material. Material which might have been of great use was to be found in the troops of Zoebehr Pasha, of whom he (Mr. Bourke) had heard the following report. When Zoebehr Pasha volunteered to go to the Soudan, hundreds of these Black men said to him that, though they did not wish to go, they would only go where he took them. For some reason or other these Black troops were sent to Berber and Suakim; but Zoebehr, their Leader, who they thought was going to accompany them, was prevented from going, and was left behind, and they were consequently allowed to labour under a conviction that a gross breach of faith had been committed against them. The result was, that when on their way to Suez as many as 200 out of 1,200 preferred to take a flying leap out of the train rather than proceed to the Soudan. After the disaster of Hicks Pasha Cabinet Councils took place; reasons were given at that time by the Egyptian Government against abandoning the Soudan; but, notwithstanding that, Her Majesty's Government absolutely forced upon Egypt the abandonment of the Soudan from Wadi Haifa to the Equator, giving up beleaguered garrisons, and giving up both the European and the Native civil population in them. But what of the European Governments whose subjects had been abandoned in the Soudan? Had the Government any information with respect 70 to their opinions? In taking this course the Government had incurred a stupendous responsibility, and he knew of no right which Her Majesty's Government had either to counsel or order the abandonment, or to take any part with Egyptian officials in abandoning territory which belonged to the Sultan of Turkey. At first, the result of the announcement of the evacuation of the Soudan had been most injurious and disastrous to Baker Pasha. He had been ignorant of what was going on, and was negotiating with the tribes for the purpose of opening a passage between Suakim and Berber; but the moment the announcement of the intentions of Her Majesty's Government was made, all those negotiations fell to the ground, because the tribes felt that the best thing they could do was to make peace with the Mahdi. This seemed to have paralyzed Baker Pasha's transactions, although nobody who knew him could help feeling that no man in this world was better fitted to lead a forlorn hope than he. But he had to fight with such bad material that he (Mr. Bourke) greatly feared there was truth in the rumour which had arrived that evening that his troops had been cut up, although he hoped and believed the General's own life had been spared. Now, with regard to General Gordon's appointment, respecting which it was hardly worth while to allude to the ludicrous incidents attached to it, although he could not mention his name without expressing what was the wish of everybody—that his efforts would be attended by success. He was one of the most remarkable men in the world, and those who knew him felt that he was one of the few and of the best types that ever lived of the single-minded hero. General Gordon might have been consulted all this time by the Government; but he was allowed to resign his commission and go to the Continent before he was recalled to go to the Soudan. There was a paragraph in the Speech which he felt difficult to reconcile with the facts. In it they were told—I have offered to the Egyptian Government such counsels, as appeared to be required by a prudent regard to the amount of its resources, and to the social condition of the country. I have also dispatched Major-General Gordon to report on the best means of giving effect to the resolution of the Khedive to withdraw from the Interior of the Soudan, and have permitted him to act in the execution of the measure.71 Have permitted him to withdraw! Anyone would suppose from that that the Khedive was very anxious to get the Soudan off his hands, and to have General Gordon's assistance, whereas the reverse was the case. The Khedive was most anxious not to withdraw from the whole of the Soudan.
§ MR. BOURKE
said, it was not his fault if that was not the case. He had his information from the public journals.
§ MR. BOURKE
If the right hon. Gentleman taunted them now with not knowing the whole facts of the case, why did he not present the Papers? The Khedive, being pressed by Her Majesty's Government with regard to the abandonment of the Soudan, said he was willing, but not anxious, to accept the facts as they were with regard to Darfour and Kordofan. But there were many other Provinces which the Khedive never intended to abandon. The right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) recently denied that the idea of sending out General Gordon to the Soudan was arrived at suddenly a few days ago, and said that they had considered the question many months ago. He (Mr. Bourke) hoped the Government would clear up this point, because it had been expressly stated in a letter in The Times shortly afterwards that this was not the case. In fact, a direct denial was given to the statement. The right hon. Baronet, of course, made that statement in good faith; but it was of great importance to those who wished to know the state of affairs in reference to the Soudan to arrive at the truth on that point. If it was right to send General Gordon now on a forlorn hope, it must have been more right to send him to Egypt many months ago, when he would not have had such enormous difficulties to encounter. Then arose the question of what the position of General Gordon really was. Had he gone to represent Her Majesty's Government and to open negotiations with the tribes for the abandonment of the Soudan; and, if so, who was in future to take the Government 72 of the Soudan under their control? Who was to superintend the suppression of the Slave Trade? General Gordon had been told to tell the tribes that slavery must cease. If the Government thought the public would accept this, they must suppose them to be very simple. He sincerely hoped success would attend General Gordon; but he could not share the enormous responsibility in sending this gallant gentleman, under these circumstances, without any protection. Then there was the change in the General's route. the reason given was that it was thought to be a masterly stroke of policy that the Sultan of Dalfour should be restored to his Kingdom; but, as it turned out, the gentleman they had sent out in the suite of General Gordon as the Sultan, in addition to many other disqualifications, happened to be the wrong man. [Laughter.] Of course, he was open to correction from the right hon. Gentleman; he only spoke from what appeared in the newspapers. He should like to know what was to become of the Natives in all parts of the Soudan? The Government were assuming new responsibilities in the Red Sea. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had said that the status quo would be maintained on the littoral of the Red Sea. He supposed, therefore, Her Majesty's Government were to be responsible for what went on upon the Egyptian soil; but he should like to know exactly how that was, because they were told that in sending out General Gordon the Government insisted upon the Khedive giving up the Soudan, which came to this—that the whole of the Soudan might be in rebellion with impunity; but England was, at the same time, bound to protect the littoral of the Red Sea, and in that case their policy in the Soudan would become more indefensible than ever. Irrespective of that, according to all great authorities, the fact of giving up the Soudan would involve enormous additional expense upon Egypt. He thought he had shown to the House that the policy of Her Majesty's Government had been unsuccessful; by that policy the authority of the Egyptian Government had been weakened; that the withdrawal of Her Majesty's Forces had been indefinitely postponed; and that the responsibilities of Her Majesty's 73 Government had been dangerously increased—a result due to the want of a manly and straightforward recognition of the position which the country had assumed in Egypt; that policy had led the country into a false and anomalous position. The Government was hampered by their own imprudent declaration from the first, and there was only one thing now which they could do to escape from the difficulty into which they had brought themselves—confide to other hands the duty of effecting the settlement of Egypt and maintaining the honour of England, for they had gravely compromised her interests in that country. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Amendment.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
said, that if any condemnation were wanted of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, the evidence of their conscious guilt was to be found in their silence. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had sat taking copious notes during the exhaustive speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bourke), and the House expected from him some line of argument which should possibly defend the vacillating policy of Her Majesty's Government; but in this they were disappointed, and scathing criticisms remained unanswered. It appeared to him that the Government were awaiting the arguments of the Opposition, as they had none of their own, and he felt convinced that the outside world would not misunderstand that silence, but construe it in its true and proper light. He did not propose to go into all the historical matters connected with the long blundering failure of Her Majesty's Government's policy in Egypt, but there was one matter which he ventured to call the initial blunder. He referred to the remarkable document called the Joint Note, which should be more justly called the "bogus ultimatum," and which was issued by Her Majesty's Government, in conjunction with France, with the occult purpose of never being acted upon. To that note were traceable 74 many of the disasters marking the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The fact that it was not intended to be acted upon was kept carefully out of the Blue Books, but it leaked out in the French Yellow Book. The difficulty the Government had to consider was how far they could accommodate the views of the Radical tail with the ideas of the Radical head, because these two portions of the Party were constantly coming into conflict. It was known that the Radical section would not tolerate a policy of action, but would be perfectly satisfied with a policy of threats. In order to conciliate the Radical faction and France with a view to obtaining a Treaty of Commerce, Her Majesty's Government were consenting parties to the issue of the "bogus ultimatum." If that Note had been really acted upon, there was little doubt that Arabi's rising could never have attained the proportions which it did attain. He would have been sent out of the country, instead of being allowed to blossom from a rebel colonel into a Pasha. No sooner had the rebellion been quelled than the Radical section of the Liberal Party wished to know how soon we were to withdraw. He should like to ask Her Majesty's Government what was the purpose of the expedition? If its purpose was simply to quell rebellion, then no sooner was Arabi put down than the Mahdi arose. Surely the purpose of the Government was not to go to Egypt to subdue sporadic rebellion? The policy of the Government was to place Egypt on a proper footing; but were the interests of that country reviving? Were there not in Upper Egypt exactly the same abuses now, and perhaps more, than existed before the expedition was sent? Were not the fellaheen just as much oppressed as they were then? If the interest of Egypt was not the object of the Government, he should like to know what was; but they were silent on that point, as they were upon every other. What did they give to Egypt? Why, they gave advice. When the Prime Minister, merely repeating what the then Leader of the House (the Marquess of Hartington) had stated, that the English troops would be withdrawn in six months—[Mr. GLADSTONE: Never.] Well, within a few months. ["No!"] The Leader of the House made a statement at the 75 beginning of last Session to the effect that the English troops would be withdrawn within six months, and he thought the Prime Minister made a similar statement at the Mansion House.
I never said anything on the point of time. I think the hon. Member may have been misled by this—I may have referred to the question of time in regard to the contraction of the force.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
said, the outside public understood there could be no question that Her Majesty's Government did intend to withdraw the troops, and he was confirmed in that opinion by the statement in the Speech from the Throne. Soon after the statement was made by the Prime Minister, the Mahdi, inspired with additional confidence, massacred the brave Army under Hicks Pasha. The Government had successively adopted five different policies for getting out of the difficulty. The first was to repudiate all responsibility for Hicks Pasha's expedition. The second was to suggest the despatch of Baker Pasha and his gendarmerie on a forlorn hope to relieve the Egyptian garrisons—an expedition which had just ended in disaster. The third was to invite Turkey to send a force against the Mahdi, which was scarcely consistent, seeing that the Prime Minister had prevented Turkey from joining in the expedition against Arabi. The fourth was that the frontier of Egypt should be placed at Wady Haifa. For his own part, he could not imagine a more monstrous, or a more foolish proposal, than this of bringing to the doors of Lower Egypt the hordes of barbarians who had devastated Upper Egypt. And the last proposal was that General Gordon should go to Khartoum, and by means of the golden key and his own personal reputation should persuade the tribes to remain within the frontier which did not belong to them. That was the suggestion of a civilized Government as the panacea for the evils of Egypt. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board said the Government had been in communication with General Gordon, who was some months ago willing to undertake the Mission to the Soudan. If so, it certainly took the Government long enough to decide upon sending him. They allowed him to enter the Service of the 76 King of the Belgians, and after he had made all his arrangements for that purpose, and left England to proceed to the Congo, called upon him to give up his service and go to the Soudan. Her Majesty's Government were, in fact, a Government of expediency—a Government of accidents and chances—a Cabinet of political Micawbers, always waiting for something to turn up. But what turned up was not always advantageous. The news received that evening was of a disheartening character, and it closely concerned brave General Gordon, who had gone out upon a forlorn hope. This Government of accidents hoped that the rebellion might be stopped, but if the Soudan were to be given over to the rule of the Mahdi he would rule there supreme; and he wished to ask if Her Majesty's Government had considered the effect of that? By the exertions of such men as Gordon, Baker, and others, the abominable Slave Trade had been put down in the Soudan; but now the friends of the slave-holding Boers were adopting a policy which would lead to the renewal of that worst of human crimes, which would again desolate and disgrace the whole of the Soudan territory. The policy of the Government had throughout been shilly-shallying and cowardly, and if they chose to impose upon the country a cowardly policy, in order to support the pieces of a tottering Cabinet, that was no reason why the Opposition should remain silent. With regard to the abandonment of the Soudan, had Her Majesty's Government considered the fact that there were about 280,000 Christians and 60,000 Jews in Egypt, and that of these there would be many settlers in the Soudan? They appeared, however, not to have had sufficient experience of what fanaticism would do in the matter of the massacres of Alexandria, when they waited until those massacres were over before they intervened, for they were adopting a similar course now. One more success of the Mahdi might imperil the lives of every one of the Christians now settled in Egypt, and what then would the civilized world say to England if, by the action of the Government—a Liberal Government—these men, women, and children were massacred? Would it be sufficient to say that the Birmingham Caucus was against intervention, or that the right hon. Gentleman the Member 77 for Birmingham thought it unadvisable to annex Egypt? That was really and truly the position of affairs in Egypt at the present moment. There was a weak and vacillating policy put forward by a Government composed of heterogeneous elements, a Government without cohesion, through the impossibility of uniting its Members in concerted action—a policy which had led to the disasters in Egypt as to disasters elsewhere. The defeat at Majuba Hill resulted in the Boer Convention; at Alexandria no action was taken until after the perpetration of the massacres; and in Ireland they did not understand the position of affairs until the murders at Phoenix Park called attention to them. And now they wanted to find a cheap and easy road out of a great difficulty, which it was impossible to do. The time was not far distant when the country, sick of a policy of vacillation and cowardice, would call them to account for their conduct, and they would then no longer retain the confidence of the electors.
At the end of the twelfth paragraph, to insert the words but we humbly direct Her Majesty's attention to the want of success which has so far attended the attempts of Her Majesty's Ministers to place the affairs of Egypt on a sound footing, either as regards the reconstruction of its Government, the re-organisation of justice, the satisfactory adjustment of its finances, or the tranquillity and security of its frontier provinces; and we humbly submit to Her Majesty, that the course which Her Majesty's Ministers have pursued has tended to weaken the authority of the Native Government, without providing any adequate substitute, and that such a course is fraught with danger to Egypt, and tends indefinitely to postpone the establishment of a state of things in which the withdrawal of Her Majesty's Forces will be possible; while it dangerously increases the responsibilities and liabilities of this Country both towards Egypt itself and towards the Powers of Europe; and, further, we humbly express our opinion that no measures will be effective for attaining the objects of Her Majesty's Policy in Egypt, and providing for the improvement and security of that Country, unless they are founded on a distinct recognition by Her Majesty's Ministers of the obligations which they have incurred by their intervention in the administration of Egyptian affairs."—(Mr. Bourke.)
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 20; Noes 77: Majority 57.—(Div. List, No. 1.)
§ Main Question again proposed.78
MR. MAC IVER
, in rising to move as an Amendment—That this House, while appreciating the importance of the questions which are presented for consideration in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, is of opinion that the depressed condition of Commerce and Agriculture demands prior attention,said, that when he gave Notice of his intention to move this Amendment it was not anticipated that the question which the House had just decided would be so speedily disposed of. He therefore found himself called upon to address the House rather unexpectedly. That, however, would not deter him from striking a chord which he believed would find an echo from one end of the country to the other. He apologized for the construction of the Amendment, which, on reconsideration, he found did not express his meaning with that courtesy and grace of language which was appropriate to such occasions as this. The Amendment put very bluntly a statement which was an attack upon Her Majesty's Advisers because of their neglect of commercial questions generally. He referred not only to our trading relations with foreign countries, but especially to our relations with our Colonial Dependencies. The words which they had put into the Speech of Her Majesty showed but little attention to those great questions which, beyond all others, affected the well-being of the people, not of this land only, but throughout this great Empire, on which the sun never set. What did the Speech show Her Majesty's Government thought of our commercial relations with foreign countries, or with our great Dependencies? What did they think of the prosperity of our trade with those Colonies which were loyal to us while we were not loyal to them? What did the present Government, if they could be called a Government, think of Canada, Australia, of the Cape, of India? In what way did they think of these places? Only with regard to petty squabbles and matters which, as compared with the condition of commerce and agriculture, were of no importance whatever with regard to the well-being of our country at home or abroad. But he would take some of the paragraphs in the Speech, and criticize them in detail. He would like to know whether Her Majesty was at this moment Suzerain of the Transvaal? 79 Was it not of immensely more importance to our fellow-subjects in lands beyond the seas to have considered by the House matters of trade and commerce? He would not say that the Government cared nothing about Madagascar, for the function of the Government was not needlessly to interfere there. They knew that the French Government, wishing to remain on good terms with Her Majesty's Government, were willing to pay a sum of money for what they did in Madagascar. Next to that came the announcement that a Commission was sitting in Paris on the question of the fisheries in Newfoundland. That was not a great question. Then there was the resumption of diplomatic relations with Mexico; and then the negotiations for a Treaty of Commerce with Turkey. Then Spain was mentioned; and upon this question of our commercial relations with Spain they came upon a matter of great importance to the people of this country. He gave Notice that afternoon that he would ask a Question on Monday of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs—whether in the Agreement which was spoken of as having been signed Her Majesty's Government had taken steps to ensure that the Convention contained a stipulation that British and Spanish vessels should be allowed to trade in Spanish ports on equal terms?—and if that Question could be answered satisfactorily, it would immensely surprise him, and he would be the first to acknowledge the services Her Majesty's Government had rendered to the trade. When he pressed this Question home he believed it would be found that they had entirely neglected the interests of our shipping in the trade with Spain. If they had not, he would congratulate them on the boldness with which they had changed front with respect to their fiscal policy. He had unlimited confidence in the blundering capabilities of Her Majesty's Government; and he should be immensely surprised if the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs got up and said that the Government had done their best to induce Spain to place British ships on a par with Spanish ships. At the present moment it was practically impossible for ships under the British Flag to trade outwards to Spanish ports; and he wanted to know what the Government had done 80 to remedy this great injustice. There were no words too strong to use on this matter, for unless the Government had done this, they had neglected the consideration of one of the great interests of the Empire. In such matters the Government ought to pursue a course similar to that which would be pursued by any private man of business. They should bargain for something in return, and not give Spain what she wanted in regard to Wine Duties without obtaining what Great Britain wanted in exchange. He next came to the question of Egypt mentioned in the Speech. It was said there was tranquillity in that country. He happened to have travelled home from the Mediterranean in company with some gentlemen from Egypt—gentlemen who had had every opportunity of knowing practically what the condition of affairs was in Egypt; and he ventured to think that if those gentlemen had seats in that House they would not be found to be supporters of Her Majesty's Government. They told him that Egypt was worse under the British occupation than it was before, and that English people in Egypt had but one hope for the future, and. that was a change of Government at home. The charge he brought against Her Majesty's Government was that they had no policy with regard to Egypt, but a hand-to-mouth policy—a policy varying with the circumstances from day to day; in fact, a policy in harmony with their policy upon every question—the policy of retaining themselves on the Treasury Bench, of securing the emoluments to themselves and their friends. He believed that those who at the present time ruled the destinies of the country obtained their power by means which were no credit to themselves. Their speeches were not speeches of candour—they were not speeches of truth. [Cries of "Order!"] It seemed to him that those speeches had put the Government in great difficulty on almost every question with which they had had to deal. Whether it was on Egypt, or South Africa, or Ireland, the Government was confronted with the speeches made by its Members in the endeavour to obtain Office. He, for one, however, would forgive the Government much if, being in Office, they would return to those honourable traditions of the Liberal Party which 81 prevailed in old days like those of Lord Palmerston, who really wished for that which was best for the good of the country. But what kind of people were they who were at present in power; and what did their scheme of Reform mean? It meant that they might so manipulate the constituencies as to maintain themselves the longer in power. He believed no such manipulation could be successful. Conservatives had no reason to fear the extension of the franchise; they could trust to the common sense of the people of the country. That which most concerned the people of this country were not such matters as those referred to in the Speech from the Throne. For one person in the country interested in the matters referred to in the Speech there were nine persons who were more interested in questions affecting trade and commerce; and they did not find that the Government had devoted any real attention whatever to these questions. France was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech; and he wanted to know why the Government did not devote some attention to our commercial relations with France? "Why did they not take some steps in regard not only to France, but other countries, to procure open markets for the products of this country, as this country gave some open markets for the products of other lands? The reason was that the Members of the present Government pinned their reputation to a theory which had seen its day and had passed away. They talked about the marvellous increase of commerce in this country. They forgot the marvellous increase in other lands, and they forgot what coal and steam and electricity had done for us. They would not, however, be allowed much longer to forget their duty. The day was not distant when there would be a loud call from one end of the land to the other, from Liberals as well as Conservatives; and that cry would assert that the depressed condition of commerce and agriculture demanded the first attention of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Amendment.
§ MR. WARTON
said, that he was delighted to have an opportunity of seconding an Amendment of such great importance. [Laughter.] He could quite understand that laugh from hon. Gentlemen opposite, since it showed that, 82 like the Government themselves, they could not appreciate the relative importance of things. The Government had introduced a number of trivial subjects into the Speech from the Throne, but not a single word was to be found about the condition of trade and agriculture. There was not a single industry in the country which was not languishing. All classes were discontented with their policy. They came into power with lavish promises of bringing about a general state of prosperity. The Home Secretary, in particular, was profuse in his assurances that the advent to power of the Liberal Party would bring good times to the country. But now they cared not for these things. What attention did the Gallios of the Treasury Bench pay to the Commission of Agriculture? They tried to divert the attention of the people by the promise of Reform. They offered the franchise to men who wanted bread. In these circumstances he was glad to see an Amendment of this kind moved, especially after the sharp practice of which the Government had been guilty. They had seen that evening the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke) committing himself to a trick worthy of an attorney of the shadier sort. During the delivery of the speech—the masterly and unanswerable speech—of the right hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bourke) the President of the Local Government Board made a great show of taking elaborate notes, thereby leading the House to believe he was going to answer the speech; but the Division had been taken, and the Minister in question had not uttered a word. He was surprised that the Government were not ashamed to snatch a Division on a debate on their policy in Egypt at a time when it might be that Baker Pasha's Army had been destroyed. That Division would not redound to the credit of the Government, and some even of their own supporters would be ashamed of what the Government had done. The general impression would be that his right hon. Friend's speech had not been answered because it was unanswerable. It was of the utmost importance that the subject mentioned in his hon. Friend's (Mr. Mac Iver's) Amendment should be fully considered, and he hoped that someone, perhaps his hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), would 83 deal with the question. Such a proceeding as had taken place would certainly not tend to promote the good feeling which ought to subsist between the two sides of the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
asked where the hon. Member for Birkenhead proposed to put his Amendment in the Address?
At the end of the thirteenth paragraph, to insert the words, "That this House, while appreciating the importance of the subjects to which attention is invited in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech from the Throne, is of opinion that the depressed condition of Commerce and Agriculture demands 'prior attention."—(Mr. Mac Iver.)
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, the House had been placed in a very awkward position. An Amendment had been brought forward by a responsible Member of the Opposition, the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, with all the pomp and ceremony of a Party Amendment; and it was commended to the House by a powerful speech. They had all seen the Government take note of that speech, as they could not avoid doing. The President of the Local Government Board and the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs took elaborate notes; and it was perfectly clear, according to all the precedents of the House, that they were initiating a great debate on the Egyptian policy of the Government. Through an accident, which he need not explain to the House, that debate had fallen through. He thought it quite impossible that they could go on with the debate on the Address generally after what had taken place. Every Member of the House believed that there was to be a great debate and a great Party Division on the policy of the Government, and that that Division would not take place sooner than Thursday. Under these circumstances, considering that all their arrangements had been displaced—he did not mean the arrangements of the Conservative Party merely—for he would remind hon. Gentlemen that the people who chiefly suffered from the collapse of the debate were not the Conservative Party, but the Government, 84 who had left two admirable speeches absolutely without a word of reply. It was impossible to allow the debate to continue. He therefore begged to move that the debate be adjourned.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, he rose to second the Motion. He was one of those who, unfortunately, was not present when the debate collapsed in a manner which he ventured to characterize as an absolutely unparalleled attempt to evade Parliamentary criticism. [Cries of "No!"] An hon. Member said "No!" He was quite right. It was paralleled in the history of the present Administration. They had always evaded their challenges. When they endeavoured to give them a challenge—when they proposed in the most formal manner to challenge them, they attempted to snatch a Division at a time when no one was present. [Cries of "No, no!"] What was the state of things that night? Two speakers had risen, one of them his right hon. Friend (Mr. Bourke), who spoke with peculiar authority on the question under discussion, and who made a speech which, whatever might be the opinion of Members, was certainly, for its grasp of the question, to be admired by everyone in the House. When he sat down they were led to believe the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke), who was sitting opposite, was going to reply. They had communications through the ordinary channels of this House, and they were led to believe that that would be the course of the debate; and everybody on this side thought, when his right hon. Friend sat down, that the right hon. Baronet would rise and offer some remarks on the part of the Government. He did not rise, and the hon. Member for Greenwich (Baron H. De Worms) was put up, and made a speech worthy of his high reputation in that House, and again the Government thought fit to sit still, and in the face of the country to make no answer to the charges brought against them. He thought the country would judge of that policy. They would know perfectly well that what the Government desired was this—they wanted to evade a direct challenge. ["Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member, in making these observations, is going beyond his right in seconding a Motion for the Adjournment. The hon. Member 85 is aware that he must confine himself to that Motion.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, he bowed entirely to the Speaker's ruling. He would only say further that the conduct of the Government in this matter called for the gravest consideration on the part of the Opposition and on the part of the country, and he did trust and believe that an opportunity would be taken before long to force the Government to accept the challenge which they had thrown down in vain to-day.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
Sir, the hon. Member for Mid Lincoln (Mr. E. Stanhope) had an excellent example set him, I must say, by the speech of my hon. Friend who moved this Motion, and who moved it in a manner perfectly clear and intelligible, and entirely free from any irritating matter. The hon. Gentleman contrived to import that matter into the debate, which happily led to his being called to Order by you, and it is on account of his being called to Order by you that I entirely refrain from noticing the unjust and injurious statements which he had contrived to lay before the House before your intervention descended upon him. But, Sir, with regard to my hon. Friend, while I agree very much with the spirit of his Motion, I cannot agree with the Motion itself; and I almost think he will be inclined to agree with me, for reasons which I shall give. It is that by acceding to the Motion we should sacrifice some amount of time and the possibility of discussing some of the subjects that are still open, while at the same time we should gain nothing, because whatever disabilities we he under now through the Forms of the House and the incident that has taken place, we should be exactly in the same position and under the same disabilities when the House met again. That, I think, if I understand the matter rightly, is a conclusive reason against the adjournment of the debate, and the course I should recommend would be that so far as any other subjects which any hon. Gentleman wishes to discuss he should avail himself of his right to introduce those subjects, and that we should thus make use of our time. With respect to the other matter of his 86 arguments, I may, perhaps, be allowed by the House to offer a suggestion. It will not, I think, be right for me to discuss the causes of the catastrophe which unhappily arose with regard to the debate upon Egypt. What I would wish to do is, and I shall make it the object of anything I say as nearly as I can, as we cannot recall that particular vote, we should endeavour to get the House back into the position in which it stood before that Division took place. I should suggest, and I think I should be correct in saying that upon the Report of the Address—[Cries of"Oh, oh!"] I hope the hon. Gentleman who sneers at me will be so kind as to point out some better mode of procedure. He may adjourn the debate to-day, he may adjourn the debate to-morrow or half a dozen times, but he will remain under exactly the same disability. I do not wish to exempt the rest of the debate on the Address from being discussed. I recommend that we should go on with the discussion, and that all Gentlemen who have points to raise should raise them. With regard to this particular question, which can no longer be raised upon the Address—if I am wrong upon that, Sir, I think you will correct me—as we cannot any longer debate it upon the Address, then it is best we should debate it upon the Report, when it can be debated with precisely the same freedom, and every Motion can be made that any hon. Gentleman thinks it desirable to make now. That, Sir, is the best suggestion, it appears to me, that the state of the case admits. I purposely avoid all retrospect and justification. The time for that may come, but the present time would not be suitable or regular for such a purpose.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
, on a point of Order, asked the Speaker whether it would be in Order, on the Report of the Address, to re-introduce an Amendment similar in substance to that which had been introduced to the Address itself and negatived?
§ MR. SPEAKER
On the Report it would be open to move an Amendment; but I am not prepared to say that the precise terms moved and negatived on this occasion can be brought forward on the Report. The whole question of the policy of the Government may be debated to any length the House should think proper.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
asked whether the Speaker would consent to put from the Chair a Motion censuring the Government in substance for not fulfilling the obligations they had entered into with regard to Egypt?
MR. JOSEPH COWEN
said, the Prime Minister's suggestion to continue the discussion would have been well enough if the Members who had given Notice of Amendments to the Address had been present in their places to go forward with the discussion. But they were not present, and to force on the debate in their absence would be to do them a very great injustice. It was a loss to waste the evening; but it was a loss that the House was not responsible for, and which private Members ought not to suffer from. He thought some explanation should be given by the Government how the collapse that they had all witnessed had come about. He was quite willing to believe that it was accidental; but it was one of those accidents that were extremely inconvenient, and the seldomer they occurred the better. The Prime Minister had given no explanation, and he thought his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board should state how it happened that he did not reply to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bourke). It was in accordance with the courtesy and custom of Parliament that a Minister in charge of the Office that the right hon. Member for King's Lynn formerly held should reply to him, and it was a mark of disrespect to him that his speech should have gone, not only unanswered, but unnoticed. Of course, the Opposition knew their own business best, and he had neither the right nor the wish to suggest any course they might choose to pursue. But it struck him that if the general Egyptian policy of the Government was to be discussed fully and fairly, it ought to be done on a distinct Vote of Censure, and not upon the Report of the Address. If it was taken then, it would be after long debates on other subjects, and at a very inconvenient time.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
If I may be allowed to trespass on the patience of the House, I would say that, so far as I am concerned, I was quite willing to have spoken, and, indeed, was anxious to speak. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn 88 (Mr. Bourke) sat down at 8 o'clock, we had reason to suppose that an indefinite number of Members on both sides of the House were about to take part in the debate. I was not present in the House when the debate actually collapsed. My noble Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) was in his place; but he had been directed not to take part in the debate to-night. He had been distinctly told that the debate was to last three nights, and he very naturally had been told to wait before replying, because there was every reason to suppose that in the course of a three nights' debate statements would be made which would require the knowledge of someone connected with the Foreign Department to answer in detail. It would have been most improper to have put up the Representative of the Foreign Department in this House at the beginning of a three nights' debate. If I myself had been present, I certainly would have risen to prevent what occurred this evening; but I had reason to believe that the debate would be continued by independent Members.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, the President of the Local Government Board had devoted his remarks to a defence of the conduct of the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as to which nobody had said a word; but he had given no valid explanation of how it was that the debate was allowed to collapse. The right hon. Gentleman told them that he was burning with anxiety to speak, and that as it was suggested to him that independent Members on both sides were anxious to continue the debate, therefore he maintained silence. He (Lord John Manners) should like to know what authority the right hon. Gentleman had to say that independent Members, as he called them, on the Opposition side of the House were anxious to speak before him? As to the independent Members on the other side, if the right hon. Gentleman had been informed of the names of those who desired to speak, it was unintelligible that he should not have succeeded in inducing one of them to rise and continue the debate. There was one thing to him still more unintelligible—namely, that when the right hon. Gentleman saw and heard that not one of those 89 independent supporters of Her Majesty's Government was prepared so to continue the debate, he did not rise, when the Speaker was putting the Question, to continue it himself. Having listened to the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, he confessed that during the many years he had sat in the House he had never listened to so lame and impotent an explanation—an explanation which explained nothing that required explanation, and which threw an unnecessary ægis over the not prostrate form of the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. A debate on the Report was not a satisfactory mode of discussing a great question of Imperial policy; and he did not think that the all-important question of the present condition of Egypt could be properly dealt with in that way. The Opposition were entirely irresponsible for the unexpected collapse of the debate; it rested exclusively upon the shoulders of Her Majesty's Government; and, as they had brought the House into that disagreeable fix, they should find some more dignified and more convenient method of treating so grave a matter than that of taking it on the Report.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, that as he had the misfortune to fall under the censure of the Prime Minister, who never liked anyone to smile when he was addressing the House, he thought he had a right to say that he considered the House was entitled to some more satisfactory explanation than had been offered; that notwithstanding the elaborate notes made by the President of the Local Government Board, and the promptings of the Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman should have preferred that the interests of Egypt should suffer rather than that his dinner should suffer. It might be days or a week before they arrived at any knowledge of what the policy of the Government was with regard to Egypt; and therefore it was that he smiled when he heard the Prime Minister suggest that they should relegate the debate to the Report. The course pursued that evening was totally unparalleled during the 11 years he had had the honour of a seat in that House. There were several Members on the Opposition side of the House who were anxious to speak, and the Government 90 ought to afford them a proper opportunity.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Unquestionably the House is placed in a position of embarrassment. I do not wish to raise any angry discussion; but I am bound to say that, as my noble Friend the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) has just said, the conduct pursued by the Government does appear to be most extraordinary and such as we had no right to reckon upon. My right hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bourke), after the most solemn challenge that could be given, and after an Amendment of which Notice was made public some little time before the House met, brought forward in a speech of considerable length, but with no waste of words, an elaborate indictment against the policy of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt. We were distinctly informed by the usual methods, and our observation confirmed us in the belief, that the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) intended to answer that speech. It would have been impossible for him to have answered it without speaking at considerable length, because of the extent of the subject; and, therefore, everybody had a right to expect that some time would be spent in the discussion that would naturally have been raised. When my right hon. Friend sat down the right hon. Gentleman opposite did not rise, as everybody supposed he would do. What happened? My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Baron de Worms), who, I believe, had contemplated answering the right hon. Gentleman in any observations that he might have made, then rose, after the Speaker put the Question, in order to prevent the collapse of the debate, and made a speech. Again the same thing happened, and no Member of the Government and no supporter of the Government took up the challenge. Under these circumstances, it was inevitable that there should be a collapse of the debate. Now, we are asked what is the course which we are to pursue. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour), in the most natural manner in the world, proposes that the debate should be adjourned; and I think the House will see that, unless we take that course, very great injustice will be done to other Members of the House who have publicly 91 given Notice of Amendments on the Address, which they are not here now to move, but which they have every right to be able to move. For instance, there is my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), who has given Notice of an Amendment of great importance. Supposing that we do not adjourn, and that we resume the discussion of the Address, what will be his position? There may be various questions raised, there may be all sorts of discussions, and, therefore, it does not follow that we may be allowed to proceed with the Report of the Address tomorrow. It seems to me that the course proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford is the natural and legitimate course, and the one fairest to those absent on the collapse of the debate. They had reason to suppose that they would have an opportunity of bringing forward their Amendments, and I would strongly recommend the House to adjourn the debate. We feel that in some way or other it will be necessary that we should insist on obtaining the real verdict of the House on the question that was raised earlier in the evening. Of course, there may be various ways of raising that issue; but I cannot believe that the Government will evade it when fairly challenged. We have already had a very extraordinary scene, and one which, I think, will be the cause of some perplexity to people out-of-doors. But do not let us make matters worse by huddling up discussions of importance, such as that to which I have alluded, and others also, and by preventing Members having what they had every right to expect—namely, a fair opportunity of bringing forward their Motions.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had spoken on that subject, as he always did, with great moderation. Nobody, with one exception, supposed that it was an intentional or deliberate plan on the part of the Government. No one had been more taken by surprise than he himself had been when he heard the bell ring and a Division called. He was not in the House itself, but in the precincts at the time. It had been perfectly understood on both sides that the President of the Local Government Board would reply to the speech of the right hon. Member for King's Lynn; 92 but when a reply was made to a speech, it was not always made immediately on the conclusion of that speech, but usually in the course of the evening. ["Oh, oh!"] That was in the mind of his right hon. Friend and of the Treasury Bench generally. Everybody knew that incidents to which the frailty of human nature was subject made some hours more convenient for Members to be present than other hours; and as that was a very important subject, it was thought better that his right hon. Friend should speak to a full House. It was no secret that it had been intimated to both sides of the House that he intended to speak towards half-past 9; that was a very usual arrangement. By accident the debate collapsed between 8 and half-past 9, and it was to be regretted. But now, what was the situation of the House with reference to the Address? It appeared, as he was informed, that as the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for King's. Lynn was specifically introduced after the 12th paragraph of the Queen's Speech, dealing with Egypt, the question of Egypt could not, as a matter of form, be renewed in this debate. He understood from the authorities that that was technically the rule in such a case. Nobody on that (the Liberal) side desired that the House should be in any way deprived or defrauded of the opportunity of challenging the Egyptian policy of the Government. The Government desired that there should be that opportunity as much as the Opposition, and the only question was the best way in which to give the Opposition the opportunity of doing that which they desired. His right hon. Friend at the head of the Government had suggested it should be done on the Report of the Address, and that was received with some tokens of dissatisfaction on the other side. [Opposition cries of "Hear, hear!"] Yes; but that was by Gentlemen not very well conversant with Parliamentary proceedings. ["Order!"] That was an observation he was going to justify. The same thing happened in a matter which they regarded as of equal importance when they themselves (the Government) were in Opposition in 1878; and hon. Gentlemen opposite would remember that a Motion of great importance, in a debate of several days, was moved upon the Report of the Address by his hon. 93 Friend the Member for Bedford. He found in Hansard, on the 9th of December, 1878, "Address Reported. Amendment (Mr. Whitbread)." That, he thought, was a precedent which showed that his right hon. Friend was not making a futile proposition when he said, now that an accident had deprived the House of the opportunity, let them do the best they could and take the Egyptian debate upon the Report. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said—"What are we to do with the debate upon the Address itself?" There were other topics besides the Egyptian topic which hon. Gentlemen desired to raise, and the Government were quite prepared to deal with them, reserving for the Report stage the question of Egypt. This would afford every reasonable opportunity for discussion. The Government regretted what had occurred, because they were willing to do all they could to give the fairest opportunity to everybody in the House to bring forward any questions in which they were peculiarly interested. He need hardly remind the House that what the Government had to do was to regulate matters as well as they could, and give the fairest opportunity without unnecessary waste of time for the despatch of Business. If hon. Gentlemen opposite said they were taken by surprise, and, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite had said, do not let these questions be muddied in a hurry, then, of course, if that was the view which the Opposition took, the Government were not opposed to the adjournment then.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, the two questions before the House seemed to be how to remedy the unfortunate state of affairs brought about by the collapse of the debate on Egypt, and how to take care that hon. Gentlemen who did not expect their Motions to come before the House so early should not be shuffled out of the position they held. He understood the Prime Minister to state that he was quite willing that they (the Opposition) should bring-forward an Amendment directly challenging the policy of Her Majesty's Government on the question of Egypt when the Report stage was reached. That was no concession on the part of the Government, because it was an absolute matter of right for the Opposition to raise that question on the Report in 94 somewhat the same form as they had done in the Amendment. With regard to hon. Members who had other Motions to propose, he understood that if it was objected that the debate could not proceed by reason of their absence the adjournment would be agreed to. He thought that the best solution of the question, and he hoped that such a thing as had just happened would never occur again.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at half after Ten o'clock.