§ Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
, Member for Woodstock, rose in his place, and asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the communication made by Her Majesty's Government to Earl Cairns with reference to 839 the Franchise Bill; but, the pleasure of the House not having been signified, Mr. Speaker called on those Members who supported the Motion to rise in their places, and not less than forty Members having accordingly risen in their places,—
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I am rather sorry that hon. Members opposite said "No" when I asked the leave of the House; because I think, if they consider this matter impartially, they will see that it is, perhaps, one of the gravest questions connected with the Franchise Bill, and it is evidently an incident which ought to be illustrated and placed on record by the House of Commons in the clearest manner. The Prime Minister yesterday, at the Foreign Office, at a meeting of the Liberal Party, made a statement with reference to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords, which he did not think it his duty to communicate to the House of Commons in the afternoon. The Prime Minister knew, or must have known, that the policy of the Government, with reference to the Reform Bill, would be discussed yesterday afternoon in the House of Commons; and it is, to my mind, perfectly inexplicable, and I think it is altogether unworthy of the First Minister of the Crown, unworthy of the Government, unworthy also of the Liberal Party, that a statement of so grave a nature should have been made at a time when no reply could be made to it, when no comment could be passed upon it, when no corrections could be applied to it, and should have been deliberately and carefully withheld at a time when all these advantages might have been secured. That, Sir, is the first serious and deliberate accusation I have to make against the Government. If that statement which the Prime Minister made was true in the manner in which he stated it, it might be held by many to reflect most seriously and most injuriously on the character of Members of the House of Lords. The next point is that the Prime Minister states that the matter was not private and confidential. Lord Salisbury states, in the most positive manner—I was told that the communication was absolutely secret and confidential, and was, therefore, most careful to frame my words so as in no way to disclose it.We know from the Prime Minister's 840 speech that a conversation took place between Lord Granville, Lord Cairns, and Lord Salisbury.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
It came out from the discussion between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition—["No, no!"]—at any rate, a proposal was made of an absolutely secret and confidential character. ["No, no!"] I put the case as we look at it from our point of view; and, being of that character, it was not possible—unless, I suppose, the offer, whatever it was, was accepted—that the communication could be alluded to in Lord Salisbury's speech in the House of Lords. The matter, I understand, was to be absolutely secret and confidential unless it became the basis of a public transaction. ["No!"] Then I will ask the Prime Minister to get up at that Table and say why, when Lord Derby got up in the House of Lords at about 8.30 o'clock—[An hon. MEMBER: About 7.30, I should say.]—why, when the Lord Chancellor was speaking at 11 — and when Lord Granville spoke at 1 o'clock, if these communications were not of an absolutely confidential character, they were not brought before the House of Lords by the Colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman? There can be absolutely no doubt in the mind of any impartial man that, in the first place, the communication, unless it was accepted, was of a secret and confidential character; or, at any rate, the Leaders of the House of Lords were allowed by the Government to understand that it was of that character. Now, observe that the communication having been abortive from some reason or other—we do not know what the nature of the communication was, having no document before us—when that communication became abortive, and the Bill was rejected, the Prime Minister at the Foreign Office proclaimed a secret and confidential communication, which, at his own instance, and his own initiation, and his own origination, had taken place between himself and the responsible Leaders of the Opposition. If that is to be done, I fail to see how for the future any transactions of any sort or kind involving communications between the Government and the Opposition are to be carried on. It absolutely 841 destroys all confidence in the honour of public men. ["No, no!"] I say it does. How in the future can any Leader of the Opposition, or any responsible person in the Opposition in his senses, receive any communication from the right hon. Gentleman about public affairs? It is absolutely impossible. You may have the gravest state of affairs with respect to foreign matters; it may be almost the duty of the Prime Minister to make a confidential communication to the Leader of the Opposition; how, after such an incident, would any Leader of the Opposition dare to receive or act upon any communication made to him by the Prime Minister? It is absolutely impossible. [Laughter.] I am quite surprised that hon. Members should treat this matter lightly; it is not a light matter. I believe it is a case without precedent. The hon. Member who laughs must know that confidential communications do go on. In the government of this country secret and confidential communications must from time to time pass between the Leaders of the Government and the Leaders of the Opposition; and it is of the very essence of public life that if there are private and confidential communications they shall not, for the sake of a mean Party advantage, afterwards be made public in a manner which may prejudice opponents in the eyes of the public. Let us see how the Prime Minister puts the case. This private and official communication was made at a time when it could not be noticed in the House of Commons; the proposal was carefully taken up to the House of Lords before the House of Lords decided on the Franchise Bill; and the Prime Minister insinuates that these offers were made directly to the Leader of the Opposition.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
The Prime Minister says he stated it; but he said distinctly in answer to me just now that he did not know that Lord Salisbury personally intervened. Are we to have these contradictions in less than 10 minutes from the Government Bench? First the Prime Minister says he did not know that Lord Salisbury intervened, and now he says that the offer was made directly to Lord Salisbury. ["No!"] Very well, he withdraws it. ["No!"] Then he admits it. Then he 842 admits it was not made directly to Lord Salisbury. It appears from his statement that he does not know Lord Salisbury personally intervened. The right hon. Gentleman tells the Liberal Party that the offer was rejected because the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords said he could not discuss redistribution with a rope round his neck. Mark, he takes up an expression which he fancies or imagines was used by Lord Salisbury some time or other—God knows when—and he gives it to the Liberal Party, and through the Liberal Party to the public, in order to give the public to understand that Lord Salisbury had made this definite reply to this confidential and secret communication.
I think it is a remarkable proceeding on the part of the noble Lord. He refers to a report in a newspaper of which I said it was a particularly accurate one; but in one respect I cannot admit it to be accurate, and that is in respect of the very thing he now charges me with—namely, having stated that Lord Salisbury said in reply to the offer that he could not speak with a rope round his neck. I never conveyed anything of the kind.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
The right hon. Gentleman is reported in The Times to have stated distinctly that Lord Salisbury said he would not discuss redistribution with a rope round his neck. The statement occupies about two lines out of the 20 devoted to the subject which are admitted to be accurate; and, while attaching the greatest possible respect to everything which falls from the Prime Minister, on this occasion I still think greater weight should attach to the skill and fidelity of the shorthand writer. It was communicated to me—["Order, order!"] Then, I say, I have since heard from other sources that the case was put before the Liberal Party in such a way as to produce the impression upon the meeting that offers had been made to Lord Salisbury, and that they had been contemptuously rejected, and that is the impression conveyed by the report of the Prime Minister's speech. Mark, also, that although the Prime Minister made this highly imperfect statement to the Liberal Party, he did not say a single word about the counter propositions which had been made to him by the Leader of the Opposition in the House 843 of Lords. Another suppression of information most essential to a fair consideration of the question. It now appears that two counter propositions were made to the Prime Minister from the responsible Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords. I want to know, when the Prime Minister was making this statement to the Liberal Party, why did he keep back from the Party and from the public the fact that so far from contemptuously rejecting the offers of the Government, so far from having made use of the expression attributed to him in the report, he did consider them, and he did, at the eleventh hour, make counter propositions to Her Majesty's Government? But everything material is suppressed, and everything injurious is insinuated. I am glad of this opportunity of doing what little I can to put the public on their guard against the methods of warfare now being initiated. We had a specimen of them last night. I was not surprised at the President of the Local Government Board adopting methods of that kind; they are entirely in harmony with all his previous career; but I am surprised when the Prime Minister, who belongs to a very different order of men, sets an example, which, God knows, others are ready enough to follow, of studiously misrepresenting to the public the attitude, at a very critical moment, of the Leaders of the Conservative Party. This is the state of affairs. At the eleventh hour, having allowed the Bill to be discussed the whole night, the Government originate an offer which is not asked for by the Opposition, and they allow the persons to whom it is made to be under the impression—I believe rightly—that the offer was made confidentially; they gave the persons to whom it is made scarcely any time to consider it; they do not allow their own Colleagues to allude to it, so as to obtain the opinion of the House of Lords upon it; and, when the Amendment has been voted upon, the Prime Minister goes to a meeting of the Liberal Party, and in order to stigmatize the Tory Party in general and Lord Salisbury in particular, he gives this entirely incomplete and garbled statement of the facts. Not a word is said publicly about the origination of the offer by the Government—from this bold Government, which would defy the House of Lords to mortal combat, but 844 which, at the eleventh hour, grovels before them. Their independent rights were attacked by the Prime Minister while the Bill was in this House; but when the Lords come to the exercise of their independent rights, he originates a private and confidential communication, he hangs up a flag of distress, and he makes a last effort to prevent the House of Lords from exercising those rights which he had questioned in this House. That is the conduct of the Liberal Party—that bold Liberal Party which is going to fight a tremendous Constitutional battle, with the House of Lords as a battle cry. When the enthusiastic supporters of the Government, who met yesterday in London and in various parts of the country, learn the nature of the methods employed by the Leaders of the Liberal Party at one time to coerce, and at another time to persuade, the House of Lords, they will not feel ecstatic admiration for them. I am glad I have had the opportunity, not by the indulgence of the House, but by the kindness of hon. Gentlemen on this side, to bring this matter before the public. At any rate, it has enabled us to put a totally different construction, an entirely opposite and contradictory construction, to that placed by the Prime Minister upon this secret and confidential communication. I may say that Earl Cairns has stated in the other House, in the most positive terms, as well as Lord Salisbury, that the negotiations were secret and confidential. I am glad that this will go before the public in its proper light, and the public will know what amount of reliance they can place upon the honour of the Liberal Party, and to what extent Liberal Leaders can go in the art of traducing and falsely representing their opponents. I beg, Sir, to move that this House do now adjourn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Lord Randolph Churchill.)
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I wish to respond, in a single sentence, to the challenge the right hon. Gentleman threw out to me just now. He asked—"Upon what authority do you say that this communication was private and confidential?" I say I make that statement upon the authority of Lord Salisbury, who told me the communication 845 was made to him by Earl Cairns, and that he understood it to be private and confidential. I make it, secondly, upon the statement of Earl Cairns, who stated that the communication was made to him by Earl Granville, that he thoroughly understood it to be private and confidential, and that he had so represented it to Lord Salisbury. I state it, thirdly, upon the negative testimony of Earl Granville, who, having heard these two statements made by Lords Salisbury and Cairns, did not deny them.
I have only one observation to make, and it is upon the single point of what I must call the foul language of the noble Lord. [Opposition cries of "Oh!" and "Order!"]
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Mr. Speaker, I must appeal to you, Sir, on a point of Order; I wish to know whether it is in Order for the Prime Minister to use words which would not be tolerated from any other Member of the House, imputing to another Member of this House that he has used foul language? I must ask your ruling on that point.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I do not think the Prime Minister will insist upon using the term "foul language," though, of course, the nature of the charge made by the noble Lord is a very serious and grave one.
I shall not, Sir, make use of any term of which you disapprove, and I shall withdraw any which you may rule out of Order. My reference was this. The noble Lord had distinctly accused me, and accused the Liberal Party, of traducing an adversary.
It is impossible to conceive a charge more disgraceful. It is a charge which implies falsehood in the persons who use it. There is no traducing by error. Traducing is a wilful act; and that wilful act imputed to me by the noble Lord is the act to which I applied the phrase complained of. I shall take no further notice of it—I shall pass over it. There is an intelligible matter before us, on which it is right I should say a word. The right hon. Gentleman opposite says that Lord Salisbury stated in the House of Lords that he understood that certain communications were confidential.
Secret and confidential, if you like—it is the same thing. The right hon. Gentleman further said that Lord Cairns also stated that he so understood it, and so conveyed it to Lord Salisbury, and that Lord Granville did not contradict it. Most certainly not, Sir; I should have been very much surprised if he had.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I beg pardon. I said not only that Lord Cairns said he so understood it, and so stated it to Lord Salisbury; but that Lord Cairns understood Lord Granville to say that it was private, and Lord Granville did not contradict it.
Does Lord Cairns assert that Lord Granville said the communication was private? Does he say that?
Now we have got a definite statement; and the statement is that, on the authority of Lord Cairns, Lord Granville asserted that the communication was private and confidential. Is that so, or is it not?
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I stated, upon the authority I have mentioned, that Lord Granville made a communication to Lord Cairns in such a form, as led Lord Cairns to understand that it was private and confidential. So much was Lord Cairns impressed with that belief that he asked Lord Granville whether he should be at liberty to mention it to Lord Salisbury. That is what I understand; but my right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Gibson) was present when the whole of this conversation took place, and he will state what he heard.
The statement now is—and it is a great variation from what was said before—that Lord Granville stated the matter to Lord Cairns in such a way that Lord Cairns understood it was private and confidential. If Lord Cairns so states, I have not the least doubt he so understood it; but it must be borne in mind that the noble Lord has challenged me, without giving any 847 Notice of the charges he was about to make, and especially he has coolly accused me—he, forsooth, has accused me, who have served my country for a long time before he was born—of traducing my adversaries and betraying confidential communications. That is a most strange method of proceeding. I have not the smallest doubt that, if Lord Cairns and Lord Salisbury say so, they understood this matter to be private and confidential. All I have said on that is that, so far as I was concerned, and so far as I have knowledge of Lord Granville's share in it—Lord Granville having fully communicated with me about it—there was not one word or syllable, or any expression or sentiment whatever, tending to give it a private and confidential character. I will now say what I had not present in my mind when the noble Lord first spoke to me, that Lord Cairns was not the only person to whom, as I understand, Lord Granville made the communication. I believe it had been communicated some time before to a noble Duke in the other House, and I believe, also, that it was communicated by Lord. Granville on Tuesday to a noble Peer in the other House. But whatever it is, my statement is this, in the most positive manner, that there was nothing that passed between Lord Granville and me to imply that this was a private and confidential communication. It was intended for the basis of a public proceeding of the most responsible kind. It is said now that I withheld it from this House. Why, I withheld from the House the whole of the speech which I made in a different place and for a different purpose. I did not think it becoming to stir up a controversy in this House with the House of Lords unless I was prepared to follow it up with a Vote of Censure on the other House, which we did not think to be any part of our duty. But without in the least degree questioning the statements made by the two noble Lords as to their understanding, and very much regretting that they should have been led, or should have led themselves, to put a construction which is totally different from mine, I affirm, in the most positive manner, that never did one syllable pass between Lord Granville and myself which contemplated—and I never contemplated in any way or in any degree—that this was to be a private and confidential 848 communication. Another doctrine has been laid down which I will not comment upon, I having stated that a report, generally accurate, is inaccurate in a certain particular, inasmuch as it describes me as saying what I know perfectly well I had not the smallest intention of saying, and could not in my right mind have said, the noble Lord passes over that declaration of a Member in his place, and states that he adheres to the report, and refuses to take my word. So far as I know, I believe that it is an absolute novelty in the proceedings of the House of Commons, and it is not necessary for me to make any observation upon it. I have stated all I have to say in the most positive and unqualified terms as to the character of this communication, and I decline to be placed in the position in which statements, after I have given every opportunity for their being made, are to be reserved until after I have spoken.
§ MR. GIBSON
The Prime Minister has made an observation at the close of his remarks rather inviting me not to speak.
§ MR. GIBSON
No one knows better than the Prime Minister that if I had interposed a few sentences I should have exhausted my right to speak. We are not dealing with transactions and incidents which took place years or months ago, but which took place yesterday; and the Prime Minister's recollection may be assumed to be sufficiently pointed and precise to explain everything that is represented in reference to it, especially when we bear in mind that the right hon. Gentleman has his own keen powers of memory and his own great powers of speech, and that he has had the best possible means of communication with his Colleagues in the other House during the progress of this discussion. We on this Bench have made ourselves familiar with what has occurred here and elsewhere; and I am confident that the Prime Minister might have taken the same course without any difficulty whatever. In my opinion, my noble Friend the Member for Woodstock has done a good service to the country in presenting for reconsideration the statements which went forth on the wings of the Press this morning, as the manifesto of the Prime Minister, as to 849 how the country should regard recent occurrences in the other House of Parliament. I accept the statements of the Prime Minister. I am not going to call into question anything he said; but this I will say—that but for the debate here, and the explanations vouchsafed elsewhere, it would have been, I believe, the universal impression that the right hon. Gentleman did desire to convey that Lord Salisbury used those remarkable words in reference to the incident which was described by himself in the House of Lords. It was certainly my impression. Anyone reading the Prime Minister's speech without the explanations of to-day would have been under the impression that the right hon. Gentleman desired to convey to the country that the last offer of the Liberal Ministry on the altar of peace had been received with a flout and a sneer by Lord Salisbury and rejected without consideration. We are bound, of course, in face of the Prime Minister's statement, to reject that idea, and let it now go forth that the right hon. Gentleman is not in a position to say what Lord Salisbury said in reference to the communications that had been made to him, or to state the method in which he received it, and that that portion of his address, which, I believe, was received with almost louder cheers than any other, was a portion of the speech that was cheered, not for the first time, as the Prime Minister himself will recognize, under false pretences. But there is another part of yesterday's transaction that I think has been explained in a very unsatisfactory manner. I accept fully the statement of the Prime Minister; but what occurred at the Foreign Office was in the last degree unfortunate. The Prime Minister summoned his Party, and allowed the Press to be present—Party meetings, generally speaking, are more or less confidential—but to this the Press were invited for the delivery of a prepared manifesto. I never object to any responsible Minister, particularly one in the great position of the Prime Minister, addressing a manifesto to the nation; but in the words of that manifesto he should take care that, however unintentionally, there is nothing which might be interpreted so as to do an injustice to his great political opponents; and before using matter, in its circumstances private, in its nature confidential, he should satisfy himself, by ample com- 850 munication and close investigation of the circumstances, that it was a communication he was at liberty to make to his Party, that he was entitled to give it publicity, and to use it against the House of Lords for having refused the proposals made by the Prime Minister—proposals which the Prime Minister of England intended to use for his own Party purposes in public to advance his own measures against the House of Lords. I put this question to fair public opinion in this country. [_Cheers and counter cheers.] The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) cheers as if he was to be taken for the public opinion of this country; but I ask anyone who read this portion of the statement of the Prime Minister if he did not present it to those who were listening to him as being one of the most important points he could urge on public opinion against the House of Lords? What are the facts of the case? The Prime Minister's statement is that Lord Granville and his Colleagues in the House of Lords treated this as an open proposal to be made public.
§ MR. GIBSON
Is it not astounding, then, that in the lengthy and deliberate speech of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack (the Lord Chancellor), who is acquainted with the value of words, and with the necessity of keeping a communication private where it is intended — a speech made hours after this communication — no reference was made to these proposals? If it had been suggested that the noble and learned Lord may possibly not have been taken into the confidence of his Colleagues, is it not simply miraculous, if the story of the Prime Minister represents the fact, that Lord Granville himself should have closed his speech without saying one solitary syllable about it? The matter does not stand one moment's investigation. If, indeed, this was intended to be a public transaction, why in the name of common sense was not the matter mentioned in the House of Lords? The only reason there can be is this—that the noble Lord thought, knew, and understood that it was a private and confidential communication. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] It was only when we read it in the Press that we became aware of this marvellous statement; when the Prime Minister came 851 down to the House yesterday not one solitary syllable was said. Both, in the other House and in this anyone could judge from obvious and plain inferences that this was intended to be a private transaction that had come to an end. I now pass to the facts; but facts, indeed, are not necessary; inferences speak trumpet tongues, and no man can question them. The Leader of the Opposition has mentioned in plain terms that the matter was a private one. The Prime Minister is indignant, and repudiates the statement, and demands the author of it. Lord Salisbury has stated in the clearest way that he understood, and it was conveyed to him, that this was a private and confidential communication. Lord Cairns knows the value of accuracy; he knows the requirements of a position like this; and what are the words of the noble and learned Lord? Frank, manly, and indignant. He declares, with regard to this transaction, that he would sooner have cut off his hand than have allowed this matter to be known. Lord Granville did not, by word, or deed, or suggestion, say one solitary syllable to explain or weaken these indignant denials. I venture to say, if it is regarded in relation to inferences, there is no man who will not see there has been an extraordinary misadventure in what occurred in the Foreign Office yesterday; and if anyone walks into the other House and asks Lord Granville, no one can question the statement that he would say that he regarded it as a private transaction.
§ MR. GIBSON
In reply to the question across the Table as to whether I heard them say it, I say I did. It was Lord Granville's impression that this communication was private; and I should be astounded if, in any shape or form, there can be any qualification of that statement of mine. There are right hon. Gentlemen now present on that Bench who were present at the time these incidents occurred, and must know what occurred in their presence. Of course, I do not question the Prime Minister's statement that he believed the transaction to be one he could divulge; but it is deeply to be regretted that he did not take, when making a statement to his Party, ample care to fortify himself with the best authority. 852 This statement has been fastened upon by the Press, and has been brought into great prominence; and it is matter of regret for his own sake, in the interests of that accuracy which is so highly valued, that he did not more fully inquire into the matter before putting it before the world.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Sir, I do not think it necessary to assume the indignant and heated attitude the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gibson) has assumed; but what is the character of the charge he makes? He says that the Prime Minister was not entitled to refer to this transaction at the meeting at the Foreign Office yesterday. Now, Sir, let us see exactly how, and why, that statement was made at the Foreign Office yesterday, and then I will refer to the question whether the Prime Minister was entitled to refer to it. Charges have been made in many quarters, and by no one more offensively than by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), that the deliberate object of the Prime Minister, in his speech upon the third reading of the Bill, has been to provoke the House of Lords into a quarrel, ending in the rejection of the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] Very well; that is the opinion of hon. Members opposite. Sir, in the presence of a charge of that character—a charge, in my opinion, as gross as it is unfounded—I wish to say that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government was entitled—in my opinion, he is bound—to show to his Party and to the nation that his conduct had been exactly the reverse of what is now attributed to him by the noble Lord, who always contradicts one moment what he has stated the last. He says that the Prime Minister "grovelled" before the House of Lords. ["Hear, hear!"] Do you cheer that? These are absolutely contradictory statements. ["No, no!"] The charge which the noble Lord brought against the Prime Minister was that he deliberately provoked the House of Lords into rejecting the Bill; and yet, in the same breath, the noble Lord said that the Prime Minister "grovelled" before the House of Lords.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
rose, but, being received with loud cries of "Order!" resumed his seat, saying that he could explain afterwards.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The noble Lord has not treated the Prime Minister with the courtesy which is usually observed in this House; and, when the noble Lord declines to behave to other Members with that courtesy which is usually accorded by one Member to another in this House, he is not entitled to receive that courtesy at the hands of others. Those are the contradictory charges which have been made against the Prime Minister, and they are neither of them well-founded. What the Prime Minister did was, it seems to me, in measured and weighty words, to point out to the House of Lords and the country the grave consequences that would ensue upon the violent rejection by the House of Lords of the measure unanimously passed by the House of Commons. ["No, no!"] Oh! hon. Members opposite go back upon the two dissentient voices; a measure, then, passed with two dissentient voices by the House of Commons. The Prime Minister was determined that nothing should be wanting in the way of conciliation that might open a door to the Leaders of the House of Lords. I will say no word in condemnation of the House of Lords. I speak of the men who have misled the House of Lords, and who still continue to do so, of the men who have used every exertion and every pressure they could to coerce a very unwilling majority of that House. ["No, no!"] I say what I know. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock said yesterday that he was aware of the sentiments of many noble Lords who were extremely unwilling to reject the Reform Bill, and I know of those sentiments, too, and I know also of the methods that were adopted to overcome those sentiments. Therefore, I am making no attack upon the House of Lords as a body. What I have to say has reference to those who have led, if they have not driven, the majority of the House of Lords into the course they have taken. The Prime Minister, so far from desiring to make difficulties, in the way of provocation or of exasperation, thought that, at the last moment, in the spirit of conciliation, he would make to the Leaders of the Opposition in that House a proposal that would go as far as possible to meet their views. He could not consent to what had been proposed in this House by the right hon. and gallant Member 854 opposite (Colonel Stanley)—namely, to suspend the Franchise Bill until the Redistribution Bill was passed. It is obvious that if that course had been adopted, the Franchise Bill would never have come into existence at all. He could not accept either the proposal that the Franchise Bill should be put off until 1887, which was another suggestion made; he could not accept that; but he thought that, making a solemn declaration recorded by both Houses of Parliament and receiving the Assent of the Crown, would be a method which might have met the views of those who desired a real guarantee for the passing of a Redistribution Bill. What does he do? The Prime Minister draws up, in his own handwriting, this proposal which was sent with meek humility to be communicated to the Leaders of the House of Lords. We all know that with documents of much less importance than this, if they are intended to be private, the first thing you do is to write upon the top of the paper "confidential." But this communication is made without the most ordinary precautions being taken of writing "confidential" upon the top of it. If anyone on the other side thought that there was a doubt about the matter, one would have thought that the question would have been asked whether this communication was confidential or not.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Then comes back an answer on a piece of paper, as I understand, not marked "confidential" either. I do not say what may have been the view of the Gentlemen who received that communication; but the person who has to be responsible for that communication is the man who made it. The Prime Minister of England is the person who is responsible; he is the person who sent that communication, and he gave no intimation whatever that he understood or intended it to be a secret or a confidential communication; and in speaking to his Party and to the public he had every right to refer to it, as showing that his conduct was not provocative, but conciliatory. But the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote) thinks that he concludes the question by asking—"Whydid not Lord Derby, the Lord Chancellor, or Lord Granville refer to this communication in the course of the 855 debate?" "Why should they have done so? We have asked, over and over again, why the House of Lords did not pass the second reading of the Bill, and put into that Bill any clause which they chose with regard to redistribution. What was the answer of Lord Salisbury? The answer was—"What was the use of inserting such a clause, when they knew that it would be rejected?" Is not that the answer to hon. Members opposite? What was the use of Lord Derby, the Lord Chancellor, and Lord Granville making a proposal in their speeches which they knew would have been rejected within a few hours? That is a conclusive answer to hon. Members opposite. Everybody must, I suppose, regret that a misunderstanding has arisen between the two Parties; but when the Prime Minister says that he made that communication without the smallest idea of its being confidential, he is entitled to be believed by the House and by the country. But you may depend upon it that neither the country nor the House of Commons will think that the most important part of this matter was whether this communication was confidential or not—what they will look at is the substance of the communication, and see for themselves whether every effort was made on the part of the Liberal Party and its illustrious Chief—[Loud laughter]—to act in a conciliatory manner. Hon. Members laugh, but those are our sentiments, and you will find we shall abide by them. We are determined, with reference to this quarrel, which you are forcing upon us, that we will show this House and the country that we have not willingly entered upon it. But when the noble Lord calls us pusillanimous, and tells us that we are running away, as he told us yesterday, I can tell the noble Lord that if he has a stomach for the fight, he will have enough of it. The noble Lord may, if he likes, call it "grovelling" to the House of Lords; but it will be thoroughly understood by the country that the Prime Minister made to the House of Lords a fair and reasonable proposal which they might have, and which they ought to have, accepted, and that whether they used the one phrase or the other is entirely immaterial. What is certain and clear is, that they rejected that proposal, and they rejected the Bill.
said, that after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Sir William Harcourt) there could not be the slightest doubt that, on the second reading of the Bill, Lord Cairns and Lord Salisbury had been led into a trap. Until the right hon. Gentleman had addressed the House, he (Mr. Gorst) had been disposed to believe that Her Majesty's Government were entirely innocent of any such intention, and he was still disposed to think the Prime Minister was guiltless of any such intention; but after listening to the speech of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, he could not conscientiously say that he was altogether innocent. That was not the first instance in which the guileless Prime Minister had been led into making Treaties or Conventions by the intervention of some Members of his Cabinet. The Secretary of State for the Home Department had tried to make the House believe that the document was not private and confidential. With lawyer-like quibbling, the right hon. Gentleman had said that if it had been confidential the manuscript would have been so marked. That quibble was, however, altogether disposed of by the honesty of Lord Granville in "another place;" for Lord Granville had stated that the document was handed by him to Earl Cairns as a private and confidential document, and certainly it was so regarded by Lords Salisbury and Cairns in the debate and up to the Division on the Franchise Bill. As a matter of fact, a proposition of such a character ought not to have been made privately and confidentially, but publicly. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the majority of the House of Lords was an unwilling majority, and that it was coerced by its Leaders into the rejection of the Franchise Bill. If that was the case, why was not the proposal of the Government—this last offering upon the altar of peace—made publicly, so that the Lords themselves could have judged of it? What right had the Prime Minister to attempt to excite the people of the country against the House of Lords when the individual Members of the House of Lords were not put by the Government in possession of their proposal? The Secretary of State for the Home Department, with all the subtlety of a lawyer, said the offer had not been 857 made to the House of Lords itself, because it was known that it would not be accepted. The unwilling majority that was to be dragged into the Lobby against the Bill was not informed of the proposition because the Government were certain they would reject it. If, however, it was useless to make the proposition to the unwilling majority, what was the good of making it to Lord Cairns and Lord Salisbury? The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department was convicted out of his own mouth. In truth, he (Mr. Gorst) could toll the right hon. Gentleman why the proposition was made. It was made as a trap. As the right hon. Gentleman had just said, it was made that it might afterwards be stated in the country that the Government had made every possible effort to conciliate the House of Lords. Of all the incidents in these debates, nothing had more indicated dishonesty of purpose on the part of the Government than their making this last offer of peace, not to the Members of the House of Lords, who they thought would accept it, but to those noble Lords who they knew would reject it. He accepted what had been said by the Prime Minister; but he must be aware that, if not through his fault, at least through his misfortune, a most unfair idea went out to the world yesterday respecting the action of the House of Lords in rejecting the measure. The impression which had gone abroad since the publication of the Prime Minister's speech was, that when a proposition was made to Lord Salisbury, to induce him to pass the second reading, he answered that appeal with a flout and a gibe. The fact, however, really was, that the noble Lord, instead of answering with a gibe, had answered it by a counter proposition, which had been carefully concealed from that House and the country. The Secretary of State for the Home Department had said that his noble Friend accused the Government of grovelling before the House of Lords. What his noble Friend really said, however, was, that they provoked the House of Lords openly in their speeches, but that, at the same time, they grovelled secretly before the Leaders of the Opposition in that House. The Government so acted not with the view of passing the Bill, but in order to get the Leaders of the Opposition into a 858 trap; and to be able to say afterwards that they had made every effort to pass the Bill. Under these circumstances, was it not unfortunate that the manifesto of the Prime Minister had gone forth to the world, containing, as it did, an unjust reflection on his political opponents? The effect of the transaction must be to cause grave doubt in the minds of many hon. Members on both sides of the House, whether, so far from being the last offering on the altar of peace, the proposition of the Government was not a trap, in which noble Lords were unwarily entangled in order that they might be held up to the obloquy of the country.
§ MR. P. STEWART MACLIVER
said, he wished to say a few words to qualify the statement made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gibson), that Lord Granville admitted the document was private.
§ MR. P. STEWART MACLIVER
said, that was not the impression he (Mr. Macliver) had derived from what he heard the noble Earl say.
§ MR. P. STEWART MACLIVER
said, the impression which he and others derived from Lord Granville's statement in the House of Lords was totally different from that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He believed that when the reports of Lord Granville's speech were published, it would be found that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's impression of it was not the right one. He held that the communication was entirely public, and that the Liberal Party had been quite justified in what was done on the previous day.
MR. JOSEPH COWEN
said, the proceedings in the House of Lords at the beginning of the week had generated a large amount of Party spirit, and he had no wish in anything he said to add to it. The passage in the Prime Minister's speech of Thursday, now under discussion, was its kernel. It was the central and most important fact; and he was not astonished, that public interest had been concentrated upon it, or that it had been made matter of debate there. But he took an entirely different view of the proceedings to what was taken by hon. 859 Gentlemen opposite. He thought that that portion of the speech was the best, and redounded to the honour of both the Government and the Prime Minister. What were the facts? The Gentlemen on that side of the House were wishful to pass a Reform Bill. The Gentlemen on the other side, if not wishful, were willing to pass one. There was really no difference in principle between them. Even the House of Lords had assented unanimously to the principle embodied in the Bill. The difference was entirely over procedure. The Conservatives wished to have a complete scheme of Reform put before them at once. The Government deemed it better to present their scheme piecemeal—the franchise at one time, and redistribution at another. It was a debateable question; but, in his judgment, the course the Government had followed was the better. But the fear of the Opposition was, that the Franchise Bill might become law before a redistribution scheme was passed; and if that was done, there might be an Election upon a new suffrage, but without a requisite distribution of seats. If an Election was precipitated in this way, by events in Egypt or elsewhere, then the House of Commons would, the Lords feared, become a Convention. That, as he understood, was the position that the Conservatives took up—for fear one part of the Reform scheme came into operation before the other was passed, they resisted the passage of the Franchise Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] Well, then, they admitted that. How had the Government tried to meet that objection? The Prime Minister had given an engagement that, if the House of Lords would pass the Franchise Bill, the Government would bind Parliament, by an Address to the Queen, not to dissolve until such times as both the Redistribution Bill and the Franchise Bill had passed. He regarded that as a reasonable and conciliatory offer. It was impossible, in the face of such a proposal on the part of the Government, for the Opposition to say that the Ministry were seeking to overreach them. He believed that the Prime Minister had no such intention. He (Mr. Cowen) had taken no part in the Reform Bill discussion; but he had followed the proceedings closely; and the one thing that had struck him in connection with them was the extreme 860 moderation and candour of the Prime Minister. From the first to the last, he had shown a marked disposition to meet the wishes of his opponents, without sacrificing principle. The Bill itself was emphatically Conservative, and the temper in which it had been advocated was equally so. And this last proceeding on the part of the Government was in harmony with all that had gone before. An unfortunate misunderstanding had arisen respecting the overtures to the Conservative Leaders in the other House. It was beyond dispute that the Prime Minister understood that this offer was public, and should be treated as such. He had made that statement, and he did not think anyone would doubt it, not even the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). He was certain the country would accept the right hon. Gentleman's declaration, that he understood the transactions to be public, and that he meant them as a peace offering. But Lord Granville had not had the same impression. He had treated the overtures as private, and hence their miscarriage. This was to be regretted; for if the Peers had known what the Government proposed, it was probable, if not certain, that the opposition to the Bill would have been modified, and the majority reduced. But what had been done was done and could not be recalled, though it had none the less been useful. That discussion had not been without its value also. He had no doubt the Government were willing to renew their offers of compromise. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] The Bill was to go to the House of Lords in October. Their Lordships knew now what the Government were prepared to do; and it would not make for their reputation as statesmen and men of business if, with so small a difference, they could not find means of coming to terms. His own desire was to see the Bill carried, and carried as soon as possible. When people had political power, they could use it as they liked, and he (Mr. Cowen) would make any sacrifice to get it for them. He did not believe it was the interest of any class or Party to rush headlong into an excited political agitation. However justifiable it might be, or however exhilarating to those engaged in it, it was attended with this disadvantage—it concentrated public attention only on one thing, and had a ten- 861 dency to retard other useful work. If they could by any means hit upon a plan of operation by which the Bill could pass into law in the Autumn Session, the Government and the country would have to be congratulated. And if the explanations and proceedings that afternoon contributed in any way to further that end, they would confer a national service. That was the practical outcome of their debate, and he hoped that it would be utilized in that sense and to that end.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, that it had been assumed that, if the proposal of the Government had been fully considered by the Opposition in the two Houses of Parliament, it would have been accepted in the form in which it was made. He ventured to say that the proposal was absolutely worthless. Indeed, he would go further, and say it was only made for the purpose of being declined. Such a pledge, undertaken by two Houses of Parliament, even supported by the Crown, could not absolutely, in the pressure of circumstances, and in view of unexpected contingencies, insure the passage of a Redistribution Bill. It simply amounted to this—that the two Houses of Parliament should pledge themselves to make the discussion of a Redistribution Bill the first work of next Session; but no proposal or agreement would satisfy the Conservative Party, as to what they held to be the necessities of the case, which did not clearly provide that the Franchise Bill should not take effect until Parliament had actually passed a Redistribution Bill. The right hon. Gentleman stated that Lord Granville was informed by Lord Cairns that the House of Lords would have been willing to accept the proposal of the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey). He (Mr. J. Lowther) would have come 1,000 miles to vote against that proposal; and it was absolutely impossible that Lord Cairns could have held out the slightest idea that the Conservative Party would have been satisfied to put a date in the Bill. They had been told that the Government were anxious to bring in a Redistribution Bill at the earliest possible opportunity; but if the Franchise Bill were once passed they could not but feel that the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman for a Redistribution Bill might become sluggish. He (Mr. J. Lowther) wished distinctly 862 to put on record his opinion that the so-called concession alleged to have been made by the Government was a worthless sham, and never had the slightest chance of being accepted. Indeed, no proposal bearing the slightest resemblance to it would ever be accepted by the Conservative Party. Personal reference had been made to himself by the right hon. Gentleman, who had referred to his statement that the Bill had not the slightest chance of becoming law during the present Session. He had, however, gone much further than that, as he had expressed his own individual opinion that the Bill, as a single-bar-relled measure, would not become law during the lifetime of the present Parliament.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, it was clear that the Prime Minister's communication was in no sense confidential, as if the noble and learned Earl and the noble Marquess had accepted it, the proposal must at once have been communicated to the whole Party. He, therefore, held that a heavy responsibility lay upon both noble Lords for not having taken that course.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he could not agree with his right hon. Friend the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther) that the proposal made to Lord Cairns by the Government was of an illusory character, or that it was not worthy of attention. Although novel and unprecedented, it was an important and substantial proposal, and he should be sorry to pass a judgment upon it at a short notice. But he thought it should have been made by the Government, upon their responsibility, in moving the second reading of the Bill in the House of Lords; and, in his view, very considerable doubt was thrown upon the bona fides of the whole transaction, by the fact that it had been treated in a hole-and-corner spirit, instead of being laid before both Houses and the country in a manner that could not be misunderstood. A candid statement on the part of the Government, in regard to this proposal which was now before the country, might have greatly influenced the decision of the House of Lords; and it ought not to have been made in the underhand way in which it had been to Lord Cairns and Lord Salisbury.
§ MR. HEALY
said, that if the proposals of the Government were taken up 863 by Lord Salisbury, and the Bill was still only in a state of suspension, and not absolutely rejected, Lord Salisbury would have the Government at his mercy. It appeared to him that there were two Parties on the Liberal side in regard to the matter; one, not an insignificant, nor an uninfluential Party, which was anxious to make war on the House of Lords; and another, represented by men like the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who had said that they wanted no quarrel with the House of Lords. Already they had a specimen of what would be taking place. Only yesterday they had a speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), who was an ex-Minister; and, in reference to that speech, he (Mr. Healy) would simply say that if the Bill which had been rejected were only the Land Bill, and if his (Mr. Healy's) hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) were addressed by farmers on the subject, and had used the language spoken of by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, they would be charged with advocating cattle houghing and shooting in the legs. What was the language used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) had recommended calmness; but that did not suit the bellicose man of peace, the warlike Quaker. "I hope," said the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Bright), "that everybody who can be calm during the next three months will be as calm as they can—in other words, if any person who cannot be calm sees a Member of the House of Lords passing by, do not let him pick up a stone and shy it at him." If that language were used by an Irish Member about Irish landlords, was not that the plain inference that would be put on language of that kind? The right hon. Gentleman then proceeded to say that those moderate counsels were not followed in 1832, when there were fires and burnings throughout the country. What happened in 1831 and 1832 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham would like to see repeated in 1884. Thus the right hon. Member for Birmingham, who, as a former Member of two Cabinets, occupied a responsible position, actually re- 864 commended violence in advocating the Bill. ["Oh! oh."] He was entitled to put that construction on the right hon. Gentleman's speech. If any outrage or misfortune happened to any Member of the Upper House during this threatened agitation, he firmly believed the responsibility for it would rest on the head of the right hon. Member for Birmingham. The right hon. Gentleman said that he did not think that the advice of the right hon. Member for Ripon would be followed. What would have been said of any Member of the Irish Party who had used similar language? They used to be told that "crime dogs the meetings of the Land League;" yet the man who had been a responsible Minister of the Crown could apparently use language which was forbidden to smaller men. Now, if the Tory Party were in power, and if they had the advantage of an irresponsible Government, and the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, they would be as much justified in clapping the right hon. Member for Birmingham into prison for that language, as the Liberal Government were in clapping Irish Members into prison for language used by them in Ireland. Here they had, at this meeting in the Foreign Office, the great Liberal Party smacking its lips, and rolling its tongue at the memory of the state of affairs in 1832, when, as he had said, they had murderous outrages and incendiary fires all over the country; and this was the same Liberal Party which clapped men into gaol for making speeches of the same kind. Well, if that was the language of the responsible Leaders of the Liberal Party, what would be the language of every whipper-in of the Party down the country? When the Lords rejected the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, and they got up in Ireland an agitation analogous to the one now being started in England by the great Liberal Party, for simply calling attention to the fact that 1,000 men were clapped into prison.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The matter before the House is a communication made to a noble Lord by the Government. That has nothing whatever to do with the question the hon. Member is now pursuing.
§ MR. SPEAKER
No, that is not the Question; and I must again remind the hon. Member that he is not speaking to the Question. The matter the House is now discussing is one of definite and public importance—namely, the communication made by the Government to certain noble Lords in "another place."
§ MR. HEALY
Quite so, Sir. But it was in consequence of what was said at the Foreign Office yesterday that this debate arose. Of course, Mr. Speaker, if you tell me that I am out of Order in discussing, upon the Motion of the noble Lord, what took place at the Foreign Office yesterday, I accept your ruling; but, as I understand it, this discussion has arisen owing to what occurred at the Foreign Office, because it was there that the public learned, for the first time, the fact of this communication having passed. However, my purpose has been served; and although I have some more elegant extracts to refer to, and as what I have said appears to be disagreeable to some hon. Members, especially to the Clerks at the Table, I will not further persist in my observations.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
said, he concurred with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Sclater-Booth) that this communication was not of a worthless character, but one of the gravest importance. If the communication was a private one at the time, it was well known now; and as they had it on the authority of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill) that the Bill in the other House was not dead, but in a condition of suspended animation, there was still a course open to those who had voted under a misapprehension, and without a true knowledge of all the circumstances. It was a grave and a tremendous responsibility that the Leaders of the Opposition had incurred in putting the Bill aside; and he doubted whether, if they had made known to their followers the communication of the Government, a large number of them would not have attached great importance to it as affecting their votes on the Bill. He could not think that any Legislative Body, hereditary or otherwise, would stand well before the country in face of the facts that had been disclosed by the debate. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock had said that the speech of the Prime Minister on the third reading of the Bill de 866 stroyed all hopes of arrangement, the meaning of which was that the Peers had rejected the Bill because of the Prime Minister's language. As to their not having a scheme of redistribution before them, they had the most binding form of engagement of which it was possible to conceive—that the whole energies of the Government would be devoted to passing a Redistribution Bill next Session. He regretted very much to see the other House going into the contest which must arise. He did not fear the result, for it was well known on both sides what the outcome would be; but he would, if possible, most willingly spare the country the turmoil and bad feeling of an agitation, and the checks to all other legislation which must ensue. Let it not be forgotten that an agitation would go far beyond the object to be attained. He would urge upon those who had the means and the opportunity of communicating with their Friends in the other House to ask whether there was not yet time, in the light of the revelations made in that and "another place," to reconsider the situation once again.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he had listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), who laid stress upon the supposed value of the arrangement which was suggested by the Government. What was it? It only repeated, in the form of a Resolution, the promise given to the House by the Prime Minister. It was no more and no less than was expressed in the Resolution which the Prime Minister had consented to be embodied in the Bill. No one doubted the complete good faith of the right hon. Gentleman when he made that engagement; but what was said on the other side was that an engagement of that kind was one that it would be very difficult probably for him to carry out, and that circumstances might intervene to prevent it. That was the answer to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Bedford. Who could tell what might happen during the next Session? There would be the ordinary Business of the country to transact; the question of Ireland would have to be faced, an important measure affecting the peace and good order of the country having to be renewed, which would place a serious responsibility upon the Government of the 867 day; and there would be foreign affairs to consider; so that clearly it was absolutely impossible for the Government to enter into an engagement with the certainty that they would be able to carry it out. He agreed with the hon. Member that the effects of agitation often went beyond the objects to which it is at first directed. There were always men attached to agitators whose intentions were very much in excess of the legitimate object of the agitation; but the responsibility rested on those who encouraged the agitation, and who made use of means that were corrupt and debasing to our political life. If they were to enter into a battle, let them do so using fair and honourable weapons. They would have to meet misrepresentation. They would not hesitate to denounce it as misrepresentation, and they would not refuse to say that the misrepresentation was used for a purpose foreign to the interests of the country at large, and endangering the prosperity and Constitution of the country for a mean and paltry ambition.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he was very sorry that anything should have fallen from him which gave the Prime Minister occasion to impute to him the use of foul language. He could only say that it never had been his intention to address the right hon. Gentleman in other than courteous language. Recollecting the vast difference which separated them, he wished to say it never had been, and it never would be, during the many years he hoped the Prime Minister would remain in that House, his intention in any way to use language incompatible with the full recognition of the lofty position which the right hon. Gentleman occupied in the House. But he owned that he was in a state of great vexation when he read in The Times that morning the speech of the Prime Minister at the meeting of the Liberal Party. He rose for the purpose of saying that the Members of the Government would be disposed to agree that he might claim the satisfaction of having endeavoured to take up a mediatory attitude on the Franchise Question, and the one object he had at heart had been to avert a Constitutional conflict been the Lords and the Commons. Therefore, when he heard the Prime Minister's speech on the third reading of the Franchise Bill, he owned he was exasperated at the utter 868 shattering of all his hopes. His contention was that the speech of the Prime Minister on that occasion entirely altered the character of the question before the nation, and made it, not the enfranchisement of 2,000,000, but the existence of the House of Lords as an independent Body; and that was a point on which they could not afford to give way. He owned, also, he was greatly vexed when he read in the paper that morning of the offer which was made at the last moment by the Government. It was, above all, a hard measure on the Leaders of a great Party who were obliged, before they could take a serious decision, to ascertain the general views of the Party, and who had ascertained them and decided on certain action—it was hard upon them that a new arrangement should be proposed to them at the eleventh hour, when there was literally no reasonable time to consider it. It was a fair and a just contention that if the Government were prepared to make any proposal of such a nature, they incurred a grave responsibility in not having made it earlier, in order that the views of the whole Party might be taken upon it. Especially did he blame them that, having such a proposal to make, they did not make it openly in the House of Lords. Had they done so, the position of the Government would be much stronger than it was at present. The fact was, the proposal never was before the House of Lords. It never was before any deliberative Body, and it was not open to anyone to say truly that it had been before the Lords, so that it could be considered in all its bearings. He frankly admitted that, although at his time of life he ought not to be afraid of Parliamentary struggles, he was afraid of the struggle that was now impending. ["Hear, hear!"] He was not, however, afraid for the reason that hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to suppose. It was not that he feared that the extreme wing of the Party opposite would be successful in sweeping away one of the oldest institutions of the country. He had no great fear of that; but he was afraid of the violence that might take place, and which would put the country into a position that would not enable it to judge fairly the question of Reform. He would co-operate, to the utmost extent of his power, in endeavouring to avoid a Constitutional 869 struggle of such a nature as that opened up by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) at the Foreign Office. He did not know whether the Government were still in a frame of mind that would lead them to approach again the altar of peace. He did not know whether there was anyone among the Conservative Party, on the Front Bench or anywhere else, who would accompany the Government in that approach; but he did say, after the misunderstanding which occurred about the proposition, if there was a possibility of those offers being considered deliberately and fairly by the general body of the Peers and the Commons, and if by any chance those proposals might result in an arrangement which might bring the two Houses of Parliament into greater harmony, then he would welcome them gladly even now, and would be disposed to attach the heaviest responsibility to any public man who would endeavour to prevent such a consummation.
I have to thank the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill) for what he has stated about myself. I was, no doubt, at the moment a little irritated at language that I thought very strong; but, on reflection, I must own that the noble Lord has always been very courteous to me. Perhaps I may be permitted, under the peculiar circumstances, to say, with regard to the substantial political part of his speech, that the Government are still in the spirit and frame of mind which dictated the suggestion that has been under the consideration of the House; and although the House of Lords may for the time have lost all power over the Franchise Bill, yet, undoubtedly, if the opportunity was offered them, they would seek to show that they remained in that frame of mind, and that they were prepared to continue in it.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he would remind the Prime Minister that his proposals had never been placed before the House of Commons.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.