§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Extension of the Household and Lodger Franchise.
§ Clause 2 (Uniform household and lodger franchise).
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 9, to leave out the word "and."—(Mr. Stanley Leighton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'and' stand part of the Clause."
said, that perhaps the Committee would forgive him if he reminded them where they were. The Amendment of the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Stanley Leighton) was only a grammatical Amendment; but it was moved with the view of introducing a very important modification of the clause. The hon. Member for North Shropshire proposed to enlarge the scope of the Bill by extending the uniformity which the Government desired to introduce as regarded an occupation franchise to uniformity between boroughs and counties. As regarded the property franchise, the hon. Member was met by the Attorney General with a very curt and short speech, in which, to use a vulgar phrase, the hon. and learned Gentleman endeavoured to shut out the hon. Gentleman. But in the subsequent debate the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Ecroyd) spoke with great authority, not only as to the feeling of the working classes, but of the constituency of North-East Lancashire, of which he was a resident and voter. The hon. Member pointed out that a strong feeling of inequality and injustice existed on the part of many working men, and the Government were brought to see that the matter was one which must be discussed, and for that reason Progress was reported. Those who supported the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Shropshire could not be accused of any opposition 547 to the principle of the Bill. In fact, the proposal was not in any way to militate against the principle of the Bill, but to extend that principle—to give, in fact, to the opinions of Her Majesty's Government a more extensive practical operation than they proposed to give to them themselves. The great principle of the Bill was to establish uniformity between counties and boroughs. The Government stopped short at the uniformity of the occupation franchise, while those who supported the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Shropshire proposed to go further, and to extend uniformity to the property franchise, and, in fact, to all franchises, so as to make all franchises identical with the boroughs and counties. The first argument the hon. and learned Attorney General used was that this was a disfranchising proposal. That was really a very foolish argument, because the nature of a disfranchising proposal would be to deprive somebody of rights which he now possessed; but, of course, in this as in all other alterations of the Franchise Laws, it would be provided that the rights of the existing voters were preserved and maintained. Therefore, if this Amendment were carried, not a single person possessing the right to vote for a freehold in the county would be deprived of that right. Nor would the Bill be disfranchising in the sense that it would exclude any number of people from having a franchise in the future. Neither would it be disfranchising in the sense that any class of people would be deprived of the exercise of the franchise, because, although a portion of the county voters having a qualification within the boroughs would, no doubt, be debarred from coming upon the county Register, yet, on the other hand, the borough Register would be increased by the persons possessing those votes. Therefore, he thought the Amendment did not demand any argument based on the proposition of disfranchisement. Now, supposing that this question had no history, and that now, for the first time, they were creating a franchise in the United Kingdom, and they had to determine that persons who possessed freehold property in boroughs should be entitled to vote, where would they determine that they should exercise that vote? Was there any doubt whatever that, having deter- 548 mined that a man was entitled to vote, they would at once give him a vote in. the place in which he had his freehold? What earthly connection would such a person have, for instance, with the county of Lancaster? The City of Liverpool was not really a part of the county of Lancaster at all. It had separate institutions, a separate Court of Quarter Sessions, and it did not contribute to the county rate, but had separate rates of its own. Therefore, persons possessing freeholds in Liverpool had no interest in the county of Lancaster; and the proper thing to do was to give them a vote in the borough. When they looked to the history of the question it was all in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Shropshire, because the principle of giving freeholders in boroughs votes, not in the boroughs themselves, but in the counties which happened to be adjacent to those boroughs, was one which was always vehemently opposed by Sir Robert Peel. It grew into importance after the first Reform Bill; and he believed—perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would correct him if he made a wrong statement—that Sir Robort Peel always protested against giving votes in counties to persons possessed of freeholds in boroughs. The argument of Sir Robert Peel was also used by the Whigs of those days, who contended that the county franchise was exclusively a property franchise, and the borough franchise exclusively an occupation franchise; and it was upon the ground that it was desirable to place property in the boroughs and counties on the same footing that the franchise was given to the boroughs. Still, that argument would not hold good now. Although they were going to retain the 40s. freeholder in the counties, yet the electorate of the county would be just as much based upon an occupation franchise as the electorate in the borough. The 40s. freeholders would become an insignificant minority of the county electors, because the principal ground of qualification for the franchise in the counties, just the same as in the boroughs, would be the occupation of dwellings. Therefore, the whole argument by which the scheme was formerly supported had fallen away, and it was necessary for Her Majesty's Government 549 to discover some fresh argument, as the old argument would not do. What was the reason for dealing with the question at this moment? It was that, somehow or other, if they did not they would create or perpetuate an anomaly, as had been well pointed out by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Ecroyd); and it would be absolutely essential to make some alteration in the franchise in the course of a very few years. There was great talk always in that House about justice, and one thing the working classes of the country liked was equality. They liked to see one man treated in the same way as another. If, however, the Bill were left in its present shape they would have this anomaly, and it could not be avoided—that a man who occupied a dwelling house in a borough, and had besides a little piece of freehold land, would have two votes—one for the borough and one for the county; whereas a man in precisely similar circumstances, who happened to live just across the boundary, who had precisely the same kind of dwelling house and a similar piece of freehold land, would have only one vote—namely, a vote for the county. These people would naturally say—"Why have I only a single vote—a vote for the county—while my neighbour, who lives just across the boundary, has two votes, one for the borough and one for the county?" That anomaly must in some way be removed, if it was intended to make the franchise uniform. They were not at present considering the question by what means that uniformity was to be obtained. The hon. Member for North Shropshire proposed to obtain it by giving the freeholder a vote for his freehold in the boroughs. The hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Ecroyd) proposed to reduce the anomaly by giving a person a vote for every occupation he had, whether in a borough or county, and giving a second vote for the property he possessed either in the borough or county. Both of those plans had this advantage over the Government Bill—that they were both just; that was to say, that they both treated the resident within the borough and the resident within the county in precisely the same manner. There might be objections on other grounds; but either of these plans, if adopted, would put a stop to the anomaly, which was the great reason for the amendment of the 550 Bill. He did not suppose that the hon. and learned Attorney General, when he addressed a few observations to the Committee on the last occasion, intended seriously to submit to Parliament, in the few words with which he endeavoured to close the discussion, altogether that there were no other arguments to be advanced. Of course, it was right that he should state the arguments used by the hon. and learned Gentleman. One argument was that about the franchise which he had already referred to, but which was only one of those catch phrases which people sometimes made use of, but did not seriously intend to put forward. There were, however, two serious arguments made use of by the Attorney General. In the first place, the hon. and learned Gentleman said there was this objection—that by adopting the Amendment they would be giving votes in the boroughs to people who were not residents; whereas the borough franchise had always been accompanied by the condition of residence. That would be a very good argument if it were consistent with facts and probabilities. But the Government had, practically, established a residential qualification in every constituency by the passing of the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal) Practices Act of last Session. By that Act it was provided that no candidate should pay the travelling expenses of any elector for going to the poll to vote. Therefore, there was practically a residential franchise in every constituency, so far as persons were concerned who resided within reasonable distance of a borough. There might be a few zealous or eccentric persons who might be disposed to take a journey down to Mid Lothian in order to vote against the Prime Minister. Perhaps there might be half-a-dozen persons who would bear the expenses of their own travelling down to Mid Lothian in order to record their votes against the right hon. Gentleman; but they were quite exceptional cases, and need not be noticed in legislation. Undoubtedly, the Act of last Session constituted residential electors; and the present Bill, practically, put upon the Register people who did not reside in the electoral districts. If they gave the franchise to all persons within the boroughs, those only would exercise the franchise who lived within such a dis- 551 tance of a borough that they could come into it at their own expense for the transaction of their own business, or for other purposes. The other serious argument of the hon. and learned Attorney General was that a proposal of this kind would give great encouragement to the manufacture of fagot votes. That was founded on facts and probabilities; but in this very Bill there was a clause which provided against the manufacture of fagot votes. The only way in which fagot votes could be created within a borough that he knew of—perhaps some hon. Members who had been connected with election matters could suggest that there were others—was the purchase of some extensive premises in the borough, and creating in regard to those promises a great number of freehold rent-charges. That was how the thing was done now; but this Bill contained a clause which would put a stop to that practice. Clause 10 was inserted from the Conservative Bill of 1859, in which that clause appeared for the first time. He could not say that he had any particular love for that Bill; but his hon. Friends on that side of the House would naturally support a clause which was taken from the Conservative Bill of 1859, and that clause would practically put a stop to the creation of fagot votes. It would no longer be possible within boroughs to create fagot votes; and he thought if there were power practically to enfranchise, by means of fagot votes, a number of people living in the outlying villages surrounding the boroughs it would be a serious objection. Those were the two reasons given by the hon. and learned Attorney General against the adoption of the present Amendment. But the Bill of last Session practically got rid of nonresident voters and established residential constituencies; and there could be no doubt that if the clause of the Bill taken from the Act of 1859 were adopted it would prevent the creation of fagot votes. Therefore, the reasons which had been given so far against this proposition fell to the ground. At present the case stood this—the hon. Member for North Shropshire proposed an Amendment which would rightly extend the general scope of the Bill, and carry out the principle of the Bill more completely and thoroughly than Her Majesty's Government in their original proposal wore disposed to do. There was, 552 undoubtedly, as the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Ecroyd) had shown, a great anomaly now existing which would give rise to much dissatisfaction. The Government had only been able to give two reasons against the proposal, both of which were inadequate and unsatisfactory. Unless some further arguments could be advanced, he thought the Committee and the Government themselves ought to agree that this Amendment should be inserted.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) had made an excellent speech in favour of uniformity of franchise, which was not the question now before the Committee, but which would be taken on the succeeding clauses. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would establish uniformity of franchise by the only way in which it could be established—namely, by the abolition of property qualification, then he would give the hon. and learned Member his hearty support, whether the Government liked it or not. There were other Amendments on the Paper which would practically carry out the same object. The hon. and learned Gentleman made light of the argument of the Attorney General — that the Amendment, if carried, would be disfranchising. It would be disfranchising in exactly the same way as the Act of 1867 disfranchised every occupying freeholder in the boroughs under £10 value. The Act of 1867 transferred all such persons from the lists of the counties to the lists of the boroughs; and the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Stanley Leighton), if it was adopted, would transfer at once 135,000 electors in England and Wales from the county to the borough Register. For his own part, rather than see the Amendment adopted—and he was surprised to see it advocated by a borough Member—he would prefer the abandonment of the Bill, and for this reason— that the introduction of a freehold franchise in the boroughs would not only transfer 135,000 voters to the boroughs, but would give indefinite power for the manufacture of borough votes. That was not all. Parliament could not sanction such a system without carrying it out also in regard to the municipal vote. It would not be possible to apply it to the Parliamentary vote without applying it also to the municipal vote, and that would 553 dislocate the whole of the municipal life of this country. His objection to such voters was that they would have no necessary connection with the sanitary or commercial interests of the boroughs. It would be impossible to maintain that a freeholder was liable to the sanitary and commercial incidents of the borough in which his property was situated. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate was present, and he would be aware that in Scotland the soil of the boroughs was taken out of the counties; whereas in England it was part of the county. That was a great anomaly, which he should be glad to see abolished; but as it would probably be fatal to the policy of the Bill he would not dwell upon it. Speaking as a borough Member, he could not avoid expressing his astonishment that a borough Member should support the introduction of such anomalies as these into the borough franchise; and, as he had already said, he would rather see the Bill abandoned than see the Amendment adopted.
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY
said, the Amendment was a very important one. The borough qualification for a county vote was already an anomaly, as had been pointed out by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst). As far as he understood the law, a house situate within the precincts of a borough was qualified to confer two votes—one upon the owner and one upon the occupier—one for the county and one for the borough. It had been often stated, although he believed the assertion to be entirely unfounded, that this was a privilege which had existed for centuries, and therefore ought not to be interfered with. He believed that it only came into operation after the passing of the first Reform Act of 1832. Previous to that time Knights of the Shire represented the property of the whole county, and their constituents were independent freehold proprietors. The burgesses for the boroughs were returned by freemen, scot and lot voters, burgage tenants, and various other electors, including pot wallopers. In fact, the county Members represented the property of the entire county; whereas the borough Members represented certain privileged classes. All this was done away with by the Act of 1832, when a uniform occupation franchise of £10 was given to the boroughs, and an occupation fran- 554 chise of £20 to the counties. The change was made on the principle of justice— that each elector ought to vote where his property was situated. The Attorney General the other day, in the somewhat curt remarks he made, said he opposed the proposition of the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Stanley Leighton) because the Liberal Party had opposed it in 1859. Because, forsooth, an injustice was committed in 1859, therefore it should be perpetuated in 1884. An argument such as that, brought forward by so able and dexterous an advocate as the Attorney Genera], left the inference that there was not so much in the way of objection to the Amendment as might be supposed. He did not think the hon. and learned Attorney General was a Member of the House in 1859. He (Sir Rainald Knightley) was; and he remembered, during the long discussions which took place, extending over many nights, that many important Constitutional questions were amply and fully discussed. During the whole of those discussions he never heard any real argument urged against the proposal of Mr. Disraeli, who was the Leader of the Government at the time. The best argument against it was that made use of by Lord John Russell, who said—"If you have uniformity of suffrage in the boroughs and counties, it will inevitably pave the way for equal electoral districts." That was a sound argument for an old Constitutionalist like Lord John Russell to advance; but it could not be urged by the present Government, who had introduced a measure the sole principle of which was uniformity of suffrage, and a much lower proposal than that which was made by Mr. Disraeli either in 1859 or in the Bill of 1867, those two measures being based on diametrically different principles. This was a much more important question than people imagined, and it affected a very numerous class. He held in his hand a Return moved for in 1858 of the number of the registered electors in England and Wales who were entitled to vote for Knights of the Shire in respect of property. Taking the number as they stood, he found that in South Leicestershire, before it was divided, out of a total county constituency of 20,460, 11,536, or more than one-half, voted for property situate within the limits of boroughs. In Middlesex, out 555 of a total constituency of 14,957, 8,043, or considerably more than one-half, voted for property situate -within the limits of boroughs. In North Warwickshire, out of a total constituency of 6,632, 2,756, or more than one-third, voted in a similar manner. No doubt, those electors whose qualification existed in the boroughs had considerable influence at all county elections. He did not wish to dwell upon that particular point now; but he wished to point out the very great benefit which would accrue to the borough constituencies if those electors were taken from the counties and included in the boroughs. Take, for instance, the town of Northampton. He found that in the town of Northampton, in 1859, there were 691 electors —he believed the number had largely increased since, and now amounted to nearly 900—who voted for freeholds situate within the limits of the borough. They were men of considerable substance, all of them living in their own freehold houses, and they formed a valuable body of electors. He should be very sorry to lose them as constituents; but what an advantage would it be to the borough of Northampton to have such an addition to its voters. He ventured to say that if these electors voted for the borough of Northampton, instead of for the county, neither the whole Member nor the half Member who now sat for it would have the slightest chance of being returned again. He would now take an entirely different class of constituents, for the electors of Northampton were not corrupt. He would take, for example, the borough of Taunton, which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General represented; or he would take the City of Chester, for which the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was unseated. He would take the City of Oxford, which did not re-elect the Home Secretary, because, he presumed, that on the second occasion the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not purchase a sufficient number of supporters. He might take others similarly situated; and what advantage there would be to infuse into those borough constituencies a large number of voters who would not be liable to be influenced by motives of corruption. The Amendment of the hon. Member for North Shropshire would, of course, be beaten by the 556 mechanical majority of the Government. Hon. Members opposite had scarcely displayed the courtesy of listening and replying to the arguments which his hon. Friend had used. In olden times Liberal Members had the courtesy to listen to and reply to the arguments of their opponents; but now a great mass of Liberal Members ostentatiously and almost insultingly left the House, and, knowing nothing about the debate themselves, trooped back like a flock of sheep at the bark of the watch-dog when the Division bell rang in order to record their votes.
I rise to defend hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House from the assault of the hon. Baronet, and to say that no Government majority in this House is less entitled to be termed a mechanical majority than that which supports the present Government. That majority, on several important questions, has distinctly, in vindication of its own independent judgment, broken itself up, and persistently kept the Government in a minority from the first meeting of Parliament until now. Therefore, the idea of a mechanical majority is rather a strained expression; and I must be allowed to express a different opinion. My hon. Friend, if he will allow me to call him so, has shown a feeling of extreme sensitiveness to-day with regard to anomalies. He is shocked at anomalies, and he is ready to get rid of a number of most respectable and most valuable constituents simply because, he says, their existence is an anomaly. But I thought that it was an old Conservative principle that we ought to be very tolerant of anomalies if they are useful in their operation. The hon. Baronet has admitted that this anomaly is useful in its operation, for it gives him a number of valuable men in his constituency; and it is, therefore, surprising that he, who has been so long an ornament of the Conservative Party, should be so anxious for its removal; but I may add that in getting rid of this anomaly he would establish another. The soil of the town of Northampton to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, as has been well said, is just as much a part of the county of Northampton as the soil outside the borough. That being so, the hon. Gentleman proposes to establish a state of things in which a freehold held in one part of a county 557 outside the town shall give a vote for the county, while a freehold in another part of the county — namely, in the borough—shall not give a vote. He proposes this in order to get rid of an anomaly, and with the inconvenient consequence of depriving himself of a number of valuable constituents. The argument against this clause is a very short one. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold) said that he would rather part with the Bill than admit this Amendment; but I confidently hope that he is not likely to have to choose between these alternatives. I do not believe that there will be any effective rally in favour of this Amendment. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gorst) complains that the speech of the Attorney General was a very curt speech; but our object on this Bill, and especially in Committee, is, as far as we can, to make curt speeches, and the reproach of being curt is not one of which we shall complain. The hon. and learned Gentleman ridiculed the idea of its being a disfranchising Amendment; and he said that no person at present possessing the franchise would be disfranchised. But it was Lord Beaconsfield, when Mr. Disraeli, who introduced the phrase "disfranchising clause" as applied to a provision in the Act of 1867, which did not touch any individual possessing the franchise, but which prevented other persons belonging to that class from becoming enfranchised. Therefore, we hold that in this sense this is a disfranchising Amendment. There are between 130,000 and 140,000 persons living within those parts of counties which are within the boroughs who have votes for the counties. The whole of the successors of these persons would be disfranchised by this Amendment. The hon. and learned Member was understood to say, what I am sure he did not mean, that this method of voting by property qualification within the boroughs was an innovation introduced in 1832. My hon. Friend who has just sat down said nothing of the kind. He must know perfectly well that this is part of the ancient system of voting in this country. Where is the anomaly to be removed? Why should we say there are a certain portion of the counties which are to have property votes, and certain other portions which shall not 558 have property votes? It appears to me that the anomaly sought to be introduced is a much worse anomaly than that which is sought to be redressed. In our view, this disfranchising innovation gives a great deal of scope to the re-introduction of faggot voting. It would enable a vote to be attained by means of a very small outlay of money. There are a number of persons in the population—domestic servants, sons in families, and likewise persons having property in a neighbourhood qualifying simply to get a vote— who would be a very unsound and inferior element to introduce into the constituencies. Our intention is very well known—namely, to resist all alterations of the basis of the franchise proposed in the Bill. That is what we believe to be the rule imposed upon us by our duty and by every consideration of prudence; but with regard to this proposition it seems to me that it has not been supported by any sound argument, nor does it commend itself to any quarter of the House.
MR. J. LOWTHER
As a general rule, it is a very easy matter for any hon. Member to make up his mind how to vote on any Amendments proposed in the Bill. It is certainly an easy matter to any Member who, like myself, is dead against the Bill, root and branch, and every line of it. It is an exceedingly easy matter to make up one's mind how to vote on any given Amendment; but I must say that in the present case I find a great deal to be said on both sides of the controversy which my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Stanley Leighton) has succeeded in raising. In the first place, I cordially join in deprecating what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) has called the curt, and perhaps not very courteous manner in which the Amendment, like many others, was, in the first instance, dealt with. I do not suppose that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General meant otherwise than to be perfectly respectful to the Committee and to my hon. Friend who raised the question; but he certainly left the impression on the Committee that he failed to realize the great importance of the subject he attempted to deal with. Reference has been made to the fact that this provision which my hon. Friend seeks to persuade the Committee to adopt is, in its main effect, so 559 to say, a reproduction of an abortive attempt to grapple "with the Reform Question by the Conservative Party in 1859. One of the great dangers of so-called Conservative Reform Bills is that they are apt to crop up to the disadvantage of the Conservative cause at subsequent dates; and I must own that I am very glad no responsibility, in any shape or form, for the so - called Conservative Reform Bill of 1859, or any other Bill which comes within that category, rests upon myself. The main ground on which I understood that the Bill of 1859 was rejected by Parliament was that it was considered, in respect of the very proposal my hon. Friend has now made, seriously to infringe upon the privileges of the 40s. freeholder. I think it was very properly rejected on that ground, although I think there were other grounds existing in the minds of those who rejected it, and who had other objects in view. They selected, undoubtedly, a very good stick with which to beat the dog they desired to attack. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) spoke of this not being a disfranchising proposal. I confess that for once, at any rate, the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister appear to me to be perfectly unanswerable. Undoubtedly, if the proposal is aimed at eliminating from the Register a whole category of electors, it does not cease to be a disfranchising proposal because there may be some actual voters 90 years of age or upwards whose disfranchisement is not to be allowed, but who are to exercise the franchise for their lives. Those, however, who came after them would be debarred from exercising the same franchise. Therefore, I think the Committee will admit that the Amendment is a disfranchising proposal, although there may, nevertheless, be something to be said for it. The House and the Committee, including the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, have been considering the subject as if they had to say "Aye!" or "No!" upon the broad proposal, without any means whatever of reconciling what, at the outset, appeared to be totally opposite opinions. I think, however, there is a means of bringing together my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire and the Prime Minister, and those of us who for 560 the moment agree with him in the view he takes of the subject. We are asked to decide whether the elector is to vote for the county or for the borough. Has it never occurred to the Committee that they might equitably split the difference by giving a vote for both? In connection with this branch of the subject, I would venture to call the attention of the Committee to an Amendment which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Knaresborough (Mr. T. Collins), and which ought to elicit respectful attention. That Amendment is to add at the end of Clause 2 this Proviso—Provided always, that any elector who is entitled, in any borough or county, to vote as an owner or as an occupier, shall be entitled to be placed on the register of owners and on the register of occupiers, and to vote in both capacities.Now, that raises a question which I venture to think has not been under the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not wish to forestall the discussion upon it; but I think it raises a very important issue, and one which I believe the Committee will do very well carefully to weigh before it arrives at a decision upon it. That is not, however, the point to which I venture to draw the attention of the Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Knaresborough (Mr. T. Collins) would allow the elector to vote twice for the same constituency, and I should myself go further, and say more than twice. What, however, I wish to put is this—why should not a freeholder be entitled to vote as an occupier in a borough, as he is entitled to a voice in borough affairs; and, at the same time, why should he not also, as a freeholder holding a property qualification in an integral portion of the county, record his vote both as a freeholder for the county and the borough? The hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold) went a little beyond the point we have now reached when he spoke of the in-eligibility of the freeholder to vote for the borough, because he had no connection with the sanitary and commercial interests of the borough. I should have thought that the holder of property in a borough had a very important connection with its sanitary and commercial interests.
MR. J. LOWTHER
I should say that property, however small, would be very materially affected in its value in a borough by the absence or observance of proper sanitary arrangements; and the hon. Member gave one of the strongest arguments in favour of the direct representation of owners of property when he referred to that very important subject which has been urged on us so much in recent times. The hon. Member went on to speak of the sins of the Act of 1867. Now, I certainly have no intention to constitute myself an apologist of that Act. But I do not think the Act of 1867 did disfranchise the class to which he refers. As the matter now stands, I could not certainly support my hon. Friend in his proposition as originally submitted to the Committee; but I hope he will consider the propriety of modifying it. And then I am not altogether without hope that the Government would be prepared favourably to consider it, so as to allow an elector to vote in respect of his property qualification, both for the county and the borough.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he might put the argument of the right hon. Gentleman in the simple American phrase "Vote early, and vote often." Now, he had no difficulty whatever in deciding how he should vote, because he had registered a vow—perhaps he ought to say he had made an affirmation—to vote against every single Amendment put forward, either on that or the other side of the House. Although the Prime Minister said that his majority was not mechanical, he (Mr. Labouchere) avowed himself to be a purely mechanical creature, as far as this Bill was concerned. But while he had no difficulty in avowing how he was going to vote, there were a good many Gentlemen on that side of the House who experienced a difficulty in deciding whether they ought to discuss the Amendments brought forward at all. Perhaps they had fallen into that difficulty owing to the statement which appeared in The Standard that morning—a newspaper which might almost be called the official organ of the Opposition.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, the right hon. Gentleman disclaimed that such was the case. He was afraid that it was only necessary to name any one thing in order to have half-a-dozen Gentlemen on the other side saying "Certainly not." At any rate, he (Mr. Labouchere) still recognized the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) as the Leader of the Opposition; and he wished to know from the right hon. Gentleman, whose courtesy and kindness he wished to bear testimony to, whether the statement in The Standard was correct or not, because it was a matter which must underlie the whole discussion of the Amendment of the Bill. The statement was, that certain Gentlemen, calling themselves Leaders—and he presumed they were the Leaders—of the Conservative Party in that House, and in "another place," had met together, and had entered into a species of conspiracy against the deliberate will of the nation, and had agreed to throw out this Bill if ever it went into "another place." ["Hear, hear!"] "Hear, hear!" said hon. Gentlemen opposite; but all he wished to point out was, that if this statement was correct, what was the use of their discussing the Amendments, and why should hon. Members be put to the trouble of discussing them? Why should they seek to amend the Bill when, whatever happened, it was to be thrown out in "another place?" He thought that was a species of menace to the House of Commons; and he thought that they on the Liberal side of the House ought to have a frank understanding from the right hon Gentleman whether the Leaders of the Opposition, whoever they might be, had agreed to throw out this Bill in "another place."
§ MR. THOMAS COLLINS
said, he had ventured to remark on the second reading of the Bill that it had no chance of passing. That opinion had been confirmed by the statements made in the course of the discussions in Committee. Now, if that were the feeling entertained with respect to the Bill in some parts of that House, it was still more so the feeling in the country and in "another place." The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) asked what profit there was, under those circumstances, in 563 discussing the measure, to which he (Mr. T. Collins) replied that he saw much profit in discussion, because it was necessary to guide public opinion, so that in a future Parliament a Bill might be introduced for dealing with the question of the representation of the people upon a wider and better basis. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite jeered that statement. But he, at any rate, would always complain of the Bill of 1867, inasmuch as it went too far with reference to enfranchisement, and because it went no distance at all with reference to the redistribution of seats. That point was not open to be discussed on that occasion, still he ventured to express his opinion upon it. He was no friend to the cause of electoral districts. He had seen the Ballot Bill passed by a Whig Government, and a Reform Bill by a Conservative Government; and he was quite prepared to take the present Bill and discuss it, with the view, if possible, of making it better, notwithstanding the remarks of the hon. Member for Northampton. The question, however, immediately before them was as to whether they ought to transfer the borough freeholder from the county to the borough? Now, he objected to that transfer pure and simple, because they would thereby interfere with and reduce the power of the owners of property. Practically, as the Bill stood, although it was an anomaly, the Government were giving a dual vote—one for the county and one for the borough—yet he could not see any principle or justice in such a case that a man owning and occupying at a distance of two miles outside the borough of Leeds, for instance, should merely vote once—namely, for the county; whereas a man who was within the borough should vote for the three borough Members and for the county Member also. It might be said that this could be got rid of. But he was not for getting rid of it, because it was, as far as it went, a separate enfranchisement of property; it gave property, qu^ property, a vote. He wanted to set the matter on a proper footing by means of an Amendment which he had placed on the Paper, and which proposed to add to the clause the words—Provided always, that any elector who is entitled, in any borough or county, to vote as an owner or as an occupier, shall be entitled to 564 be placed on the register of owners and on the register of occupiers, and to vote in both capacities.If that Amendment were passed, persons who lived outside the borough would be on an exact level with those who lived within it; if they happened to. own or occupy, whether within or with out Leeds, they would have a double vote. The position was so just and clear that it was hardly worth while arguing it. It was said, however, that the arrangement would lead to the creation of a number of fagot voters; but, in his opinion, the days of fagot voting were over. The extension of the franchise now proposed would, if the Bill became law, create constituencies of, in some cases, 20,000 members; and who on earth would attempt, with constituencies of that kind, to buy fagot votes? As long as the constituencies wore smaller, there was, he admitted, some temptation to do so. But he objected altogether to the term "fagot voter," because Justice Tindal, who, on a question which involved that of the legality of splitting votes, said—They do not come within the Act, and on this ground it is a wise, just, and moral thing to encourage the multiplication of votes.Moreover, he was a fagot voter himself in the county of Yorkshire. He hoped that in the next Parliament, if not in this, a Bill would be passed which would totally disfranchise all boroughs which had not at least 20,000 inhabitants. He should not object to apply that principle to boroughs with less than 40,000 inhabitants—certainly he hoped that no borough with less would be allowed to return more than one Member. When the Bill, if it ever did so, became law, the time would have arrived at which, rightly or wrongly, all small constituencies would have to cease. It would be scarcely respectful to a luminary of the law to describe the argument of the Attorney General as moonshine; but the hon. and learned Gentleman must know that, under such circumstances, no one would be tempted to spend £100, more or less, on the purchase of a vote. With regard to the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Stanley Leighton), he should be unable to vote for it, because it was a disfranchising proposal. He was not afraid of the extension of the franchise, 565 nor did he think it would work any injustice; but he could not support the clause in its present form, and for the reasons stated he hoped that the Prime Minister, as a repentant man, would consider the Proviso he should propose to add to it hereafter.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, it had always struck him as being one of the greatest anomalies that a man who was resident in a borough, and also had a freehold in the borough, should have a vote for the county, unless they gave to the man living in the county, and who had a freehold in the borough, the right to vote for the borough. He could not conceive that the Prime Minister would for one moment deny that this proposal was just and fair, especially in view of what would happen with regard to expenditure in boroughs —namely, that the man who might be most interested in seeing that the expenditure was fair and reasonable was to have no voice in the matter. He thought the hon. Member for North Shropshire was wrong in his proposal; but he was of opinion that an Amendment should be introduced to allow a man living in a county, and having property in a borough, to vote in that borough as a freeholder, and in the same way as a man in a borough, having a freehold there, had a vote for the county.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he opposed the Amendment on one principle, and on one only—namely, that it would do more than anything else to open the door to equal electoral districts—the ultimate object of democratic legislation. It would be impossible for those who supported the proposal of the hon. Member for North Shropshire to allow their voices to be heard afterwards against that mode of destruction of their Constitutional system; and that was a matter which could not be weighed too seriously in considering what might be the next step taken by Gentlemen at present sitting below the Gangway opposite when they took their places above it. They could not put aside the fear that all the theoretical proposals of that body might soon come upon them; and he trusted that those who desired to retain some part of their Constitutional system would not be parties to destroying the few safeguards that remained. He had been glad to hear that the Prime Minister had recognized the possibility of an 566 unsound and inferior element being introduced into a constituency; because that admission constituted a considerable check upon the "flesh and blood" argument, which was always associated with the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
pointed out the anomaly there would be in allowing a working man in a borough, living in his own house and owning another, to vote under the occupation franchise and for the house he possessed in the county; while the working man on the other side of the street, perhaps living in his own house, was only allowed to vote for the county. When it was pointed out, a few days ago, by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Ecroyd), it made a considerable impression upon the House; and the question was, how could that anomaly be removed? The proposal before the Committee was that the freeholder should vote either for the borough or county—whichever the freehold might be situated in—and the anomaly would, no doubt, be removed by its adoption; but he, for one, could not support the Amendment, because it appeared to him to be a thoroughly disfranchising measure. He thought there was a great deal of force in the observation of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis), that it would pull down the great barrier between county and borough, and he certainly wanted to keep them distinct. Again, if the Amendment were accepted, he believed that the 40s. freeholder would be in great danger; and it must not be forgotten that if a man had an interest in the county he had a right to vote for the county. For these reasons, if the Amendment were carried to a Division, he should feel it his duty to vote against it.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, he had thought that the Amendment would be agreeable to the Government. The Government appeared to be under the impression that if the Amendment were carried it would destroy the assimilation of the county and borough franchises, and that they would have to abandon the Bill. But he wished to explain to the Committee that his Amendment would not prevent their accepting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. T. Collins), or one in the direction desired by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West 567 Lancashire (Sir E. Assheton Cross) — that was to say, a further Amendment which would give a double vote. If such an Amendment could be carried, well and good—he should not object to it; but his proposal was that there should be identity as between the county and borough franchises, which, as far as he was concerned, might be brought about in any way so long as the same rule applied to boroughs as to counties. And here he was at issue with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire, who seemed to cling to the anomaly that there was something entirely different between the knights of the shire and the burgesses of the shire. Now, that distinction had long ago been swept away. Fifty years ago the county Member represented the freeholder only; but now he represented something quite different. The distinction was first struck at by the Chan-dos Clause; then by the £12 occupation franchise; and now it would be entirely destroyed by the lodger franchise. Again, some hon. Members had declared that this was a disfranchising Amendment. It was nothing of the sort. There were something like 160,000 freeholders in the boroughs who had votes for the counties. The freeholder in the borough would still be able to exercise his franchise; and, so far from its being a disfranchising measure — why the great argument against it was, that there would be such a large number of freeholders in the boroughs that the other electors would be swamped. Then it was said that the Amendment was a step towards electoral districts. But all constituencies were electoral districts; what they objected to were equal electoral districts, and the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) had omitted to use the word "equal." Then it was said that the Amendment would lead to the manufacturing of new votes. But that was the very thing the Bill was intended to prevent, and it would be a failure altogether if it did not do so. Besides which, as anyone might now qualify for the county by buying a freehold in a borough, the objection, if it were an objection, remained in the Bill as it stood. The freeholder who would vote under his Amendment would be a man who had a material interest in the borough. The Prime Minister and the Government dared not disfranchise the 568 freeholders in the boroughs; and, therefore, they tried to maim them—they tried to destroy the power of the freeholders in the constituencies by a side-wind—by swamping them. At present, half the county voters wore freeholders; but under this Bill they would be but one-seventh of the whole number. It was, then, the Bill, and not the Amendment, which was a disfranchising measure, so far as the freeholders were concerned. Did the opponents of the Amendment think a man dangerous because he had a 40s. freehold? Was he the less trustworthy on that account? Why, everyone agreed that such men constituted a most valuable set of voters, so far as the counties were concerned; but when it was proposed to hand them over to the boroughs, hon. Gentlemen representing boroughs said they would rather not have them. He thought the broad principle should be raised in that House that every borough Member ought to represent all the interests in his constituency. The best of the borough interests were taken away and handed over to county Members, the borough Members only representing the residuum. He thought it a fair statement of a principle which ought to be embodied in a Bill of this kind that every man should have a vote for the place in which he had a material interest. The Prime Minister, he believed, had stated that a town was part of a county; but it was not so in the sense in which they were dealing with it. For all political, legal, and local purposes it was distinct and separate. On the ground both of justice and logic, he claimed that his Amendment should be accepted. He was sorry hon. Members opposite did not see the justice of the Amendment, which was really intended to prevent one class dominating elections.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 9, after the word "and," insert the words "a uniform."—(Mr. Warton.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
proposed, in page 1, line 9, to leave out "and lodger." They had had from his right hon. Friend the Member for West Surrey (Mr. Cubitt) a very interesting account of the lodger franchise. The right hon. Gentleman showed how very 569 difficult it was to work; that, practically, it had never worked at all, except in those particular places where the agent had taken special trouble to get the lodgers put on the list of voters. It must be quite evident to everybody that in counties it would be very much more difficult to have a pure Register of lodgers than in boroughs. Lodgers were people who came to-day and were gone to-morrow; and, therefore, in the lodger franchise there was a very great opening for fraud. In the speech he made in introducing the Bill the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister alluded to the Redistribution Bill it would be necessary to bring in, in order to carry out its provisions; and he gathered from what the right hon. Gentleman said that the Register would be self-acting. Now, he (Sir E. Assheton Cross) could not conceive a self-acting Register of lodgers. Lodgers stood on a distinct footing. It was well known who the occupiers and who the owners were; there were official persons whose duty it was to take notice both of the one and the other. But there was no official who was bound to take notice of lodgers; and, therefore, unless some machinery could be discovered by which the lodger franchise would be properly worked, he was afraid the lodger Register would open the door to a great amount of fraud, and to an enormous amount of difficulty and expense in keeping the Register pure. He was fully persuaded that if the Register were left unaltered there would be the greatest difficulty and danger experienced in dealing with lodger franchises. His chief object, however, in moving this Amendment was to get from the Government some expression of opinion upon the subject.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 9, to leave out the words "and lodger." —(Sir R. Assheton Cross.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'lodger' stand part of the Clause."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he did not quite understand whether the right hon. Gentleman intended to put this proposal to the test of a Division; because towards the close of his speech he said he had moved the Amendment chiefly for the purpose of eliciting the views of the Government upon the 570 subject. The right hon. Gentleman had said that lodgers were persons who came to-day and were gone to-morrow. That was perfectly true of town lodgers, and it was also true of lodgers under £10 in counties. It was perfectly true that lodgers in towns were a flitting population, because they were mostly workmen who had very frequently to follow their work. The county lodger over £10, however, was by no means the unsubstantial person the right hon. Gentleman seemed to suppose. Lodgers over £10 formed a small class, no doubt; but they included amongst them some of the most Conservative persons in the country. For instance, the majority of curates were lodgers over £10, and the effect of the present proposal would be to disfranchise them. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) was inclined to believe, from inquiries he had made, that the county £10 lodger was a man of substantial mind, a man who very properly ought to have the franchise. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Surrey (Mr. Cubitt), who addressed the Committee the other day, said the lodger franchise was a failure. That was so in certain places; but in constituencies like Westminster and Chelsea, where the agents took a great deal of trouble in the preparation of the Register, lodgers constituted some of the very best voters. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the phrase "self-acting Register," which had been used in relation to the Redistribution Bill. It must not be understood, however, that it was intended to propose any change of the law as regarded the lodger franchise. The phrase "self-acting Register" had reference to another matter.
MR. J. LOWTHER
asked if he understood the right hon. Gentleman to abandon the intention of dealing with the question of redistribution? [Sir CHARLES W. DILKE: Oh, no.] The House was certainly given to understand that the Government considered the passage through Parliament of a Redistribution Bill as an essential preliminary to the Bill now before them coming into active operation.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he did not propose to make any change in the announcement previously made.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, the statement of the right hon. Gentleman was so far satisfactory that he did not 571 wish to put the Committee to the trouble of a Division.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, that in the absence of the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Lord Claud Hamilton), which he much regretted, it had fallen to him to move the Amendment which stood in the noble Lord's name. The subject of the Amendment was not altogether unfamiliar to the Committee. They had already had a discussion with regard to the extension of the franchise to Ireland; but that discussion had been raised on an entirely different issue to that which he now placed before the Committee. The discussion which had hitherto taken place had boon on the subject of a refusal of a measure of Reform to Ireland on account of the condition of that country. The Amendment which he now put before the Committee required that in consequence of the state of Ireland they should deal with that country separately, and not in the same category as Great Britain. The Amendment was one which he thought would commend itself to the Committee very much more forcibly than the Motion which was made on a former occasion did. The Motion which some days ago the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) moved was one which the Prime Minister insinuated was not put to the vote, because the hon. Gentleman might not have received the entire support he would have wished for from the Opposition side of the House. On that pretext no adequate answer was attempted to the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire. The hon. Gentleman challenged two right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who had given divergent sounds on this subject, to explain themselves more fully, and to explain the reasons which had caused one of them, at least, to change his views on this question. That had not been done, and the Committee were to argue the question again; but, he was glad, with information in their hands which they had not formerly possessed. He believed that when he brought the latest information before the Committee it would be admitted that the question bore a very different complexion. They had hitherto been asked to include Ireland in the Bill on the ground of abstract justice, and the idea of any Party move 572 in the matter had been indignantly repudiated on the Ministerial side of the House. Within the last few weeks he had had the opportunity of facing several popular audiences; and he could assure the Committee that they had all expressed indignation of the strongest possible character at the proposed extension of the franchise to Ireland. He did not wish, and he would not now detain the Committee by entering into any recriminations as to the motives which had induced the Government to adopt this course. Those had been touched upon on previous occasions, and would, no doubt, be pretty well set forth by the hon. Gentlemen who would follow him in the debate. But he would take the Government on their own ground. They professed their desire to bring about equality between England and Ireland; but he would show them they were making an inequality of so remarkable and so striking a description between the franchise of the two countries that it positively amounted to a gross injustice to the other parts of the United Kingdom; and he would point out to them also that in doing this, from whatever motive, they would concentrate in the House of Commons all the evil passions, all the patriotic follies, and all the delusive sentimentalities, which were now wasted at public meetings held throughout Ireland. The Prime Minister had said that this measure was founded upon justice; the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. B. Forster), who was in favour of the proposed extension, said, in 1879, that the real way to treat Ireland was to assimilate her institutions to those of England; but the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) was more discreet than his Colleagues, because he had said that England and Ireland should be treated diversely. Now, the Committee had a right to know how the Government had carried out the programme which they laid down for themselves in respect to Ireland. Had they assimilated the institutions of Ireland to those of England? Had they attempted to do so in their legislation during the last four years? The whole legislation of the last four years had been directed to the establishment of the greatest possible inequalities between this country and Ireland; and yet, at this moment, when 573 it suited their purpose, they came forward with the cry that equality, justice, and generosity must be dealt out to all classes of Her Majesty's subjects. With regard to Irish land, the Government had done their best to establish a Code which was absolutely divergent to that in England; and which was so favourable to the tenant that no English tenant had ever thought of asking for it. With regard to Local Government, they had not failed to carry out the pledge which they gave in the Queen's Speech—namely, that they would introduce a measure on the subject, a measure which they said would educate the people for the possession of the franchise. Now, however, they proposed that the measure of Local Government should follow the extension of the franchise. Again, the Government had to face this question, which was, to his mind, the most important of all — namely, that the present administration of the Poor Law in Ireland was such as would bring the franchise into an absolutely anomalous position. In this country, the man who accepted relief was struck off the list of voters; but in that country, where there was not merely individual relief, but absolutely national relief, it was provided that the man who was relieved should be endowed with the faculty of voting. That was an inequality which he thought would appeal very much to the newly enfranchised labourers in this country. He asserted that the Government's equality, under these circumstances, was nothing bettor than humbug and sham, even if they could establish it. As a matter of fact, they were about to establish no equality whatever. A Return had been furnished to Members of the other House of Parliament. There was, however, great difficulty in obtaining in this House the necessary funds to cover the expenses of its preparation, because hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on the Ministerial side were very much afraid to let in any light on the question. They wanted the House to take a leap in the dark, and they stood out a whole evening against the Return being granted, on the alleged ground of its great cost. What was the nature of the Return? He thought it was of a nature which would startle the Committee. It revealed a state of things which the great majority of the House were not, he was sure, aware of. As a matter of 574 fact, it had largely influenced Members on the Opposition side of the House, some of whom, in their generous sympathy with the Irish people, were doubtful whether they should not vote for the extension of the franchise to that country. What were the circumstances? At present there was in the counties of Ireland a total electorate of 200,000. That was to be increased by the Prime Minister's calculation to something like 700,000. In the Irish county constituencies this result, which was almost incredible, was arrived at. The total number of inhabited houses was 760,000, and of that number no less than 662,000 were under a £4 rateable value. He should, no doubt, be told that there was a large number of agricultural labourers in this country who occupied houses rated at less than £4, and that, therefore, equality was being established. But perhaps the Committee would tarry with him a moment longer, while he pointed out that from the Return in question it was an absolute fact that more than two-thirds of the 662,000 houses—that was, 435,000—were rated under £ 1 a-year. He defied any Member of the House to mention any class in this country who lived in houses rated at less than £1 a-year. Why, the very existence of such a class was in itself sufficient to betoken great social misfortune; it certainly was not calculated to inspire any special confidence in any verdict which they might give. And the Government were about to hand over the deciding force in every county constituency in Ireland to the inhabitants of these miserable dwellings. What were these dwellings, and what were the inhabitants? In. the last Session of Parliament there were two or three measures introduced for the improvement of the condition of the Irish peasantry. They were told that the Irish labourers were in so miserable a plight that they had never demanded the franchise; that they were utterly ignorant; that they lived in hovels unfit for pigs; and that they were the subject of public charity. Such were the men to whom the Government now proposed to give the deciding force in every constituency in Ireland, and, by implication, in every Division in the House of Commons. Would the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury state whether the class proposed to be en- 575 franchised were really capable citizens? He (Mr. Brodrick) had listened patiently to hear from the right hon. Gentleman, or from some other Member of the Government, a definition of a capable citizen. He could understand the position of the Government if there was to be manhood suffrage. It was well known that the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) was an advocate of manhood suffrage, though he had taken the greatest pains not to give vent to such opinions in the House. The right hon. Gentleman perfectly understood what it was to wink with one eye to the constituencies and with the other to the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman saw plainly that he had got the power of discounting any lapse of the Ministry in the House by the professions he made outside the House. He (Mr. Brodrick) considered that in justice to the English and Scotch constituencies the vote ought not to be given to anyone is Ireland, but to capable citizens. The hon. Member for Waterford said, the other night, that he was not prepared to deny the vote to any man of intelligence. What was the intelligence of these Irish serfs? Why, the average intelligence of half-a-dozen of them would not make up the intelligence of one of the minors of the North of England whom they were now asked to enfranchise. The other day the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) rose in his place and said they on the Opposition side of the House did not represent the entire Conservative Party; because if they were prepared to trust the people of Great Britain he saw no reason why they should not trust the people of Ireland also. How was it that during the last four years the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gorst) had constantly shown his distrust of the Irish people? Why, he remembered that only two years ago, when it was proposed to adjourn for five or six days over Easter, the hon. and learned Gentleman got up and said the state of the Irish people was such that the House, before they allowed themselves to separate for five or six days, must have an absolute assurance from the Government of what they intended to do to preserve and vindicate law and order. Now he rose in a generous spirit, and said he did not know why they should not trust the 576 Irish people. If they established this political equality they ought to establish some sort of social equality between these classes and the people of this country; but the Government refused to bring forward such measures as a scheme of emigration, and other schemes by which the population might become self-subsistent on their own soil. He had been much struck by a sentence delivered by one who was not much prejudiced on the side of Irish landlords— namely, Mr. Henry George, who said—To educate men condemned to poverty is but to make them restive. To base on a state of most glaring social inequality political institutions by which men are theoretically equal is to stand a pyramid on its apex.If they believed that these people were fit to exercise the franchise, they ought to do everything in their power, first of all, to put them in a social position in which they might, to some extent, be independent. He knew that many hon. Members thought that the more they broadened the foundations of any institution the stronger they made the superstructure; he know that the Chief Secretary believed that, and was ready to enfranchise almost any man. That was very similar to saying they strengthened the superstructure of an Art Society by adding to it a number of men who had no knowledge, and desired to know nothing of colour or form. There were also many hon. Members who would support this measure because they thought they would thereby add one more to the pile of benefits already conferred oil Ireland. What was the justification for such hopes as that? There were a number of constituencies which were very like that House. Every Division in that House might be turned by the Irish vote; and in those constituencies the vote might be turned by the Irish residuum; and he confessed that he thought the feeling of some hon. Members, in many instances, bore a close relation to the number of Irish in their constituencies. Those Members, he thought, should look forward to see what would be the effect upon that House, and what would be the effect on the country, if, for the sake of a more fleeting triumph, they insisted upon taking a leap in the dark, compared with which every other leap that had boon taken in that way was a mere trifle. There were certain inevitable results 577 that must follow. The Prime Minister had spoken of his early retirement from politics, and he was going to leave others to settle these difficulties. He stated that there might be a destruction of the Ministry, and possibly a dissolution of Parliament; but did that imply that the state of Ireland was likely to be less happy than it had been? Were they only to consider whether they were going to make Ireland less happy? Had they not a right to consider whether it would be possible to carry on Public Business in this House? They had seen enough of what had occurred in the last two or three years—incessant naggings at the Ministry; strings of Questions asked—they had seen enough to know that there was nothing but a hollow pretence in the suggestion that the distance of the Irish constituencies from that House prevented hon. Members giving full expression to their opinions or their full attendance. A case which had to be bolstered up by such arguments as those must be weak indeed. There was also something in their minds beyond that, to which they had a right to claim the attention of the Prime Minister— namely, the utter disfranchisement of the whole minority, whether Protestant or Catholic, in Ireland. The existence of such a minority was admitted to be an important factor in Irish affairs by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War a few months ago. The Government proposed, by handing over the whole of the country to a low class, to disfranchise, first of all, those Whig-Catholics who had given them the best support they had received in that House, and who had been the substratum of all the measures upon which the Prime Minister had hitherto relied for healing the wrongs of Ireland; and they would, undoubtedly, shako the Protestant ascendency in the North of Ireland, if it should not happen that the Irish labourers took a different view. He was not sure that the case was so clear for extending the franchise of labourers. He was not sure that that matter occupied the very first place in the mind of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), seeing his calmness with regard to it; neither did he feel sure that the agricultural labourer in Ireland, as elsewhere, would not turn out to be Conservative in his instincts; but that did not affect the 578 point at issue. The question was, whether at any given election, at any given moment, when the question arose which had been agitated all over the country, the influence of these men could be gained by any argument than that of the hatred—the undying, absurd hatred—which they were taught to feel towards English institutions? And when the Prime Minister scoffed at their influence in that House, he would point out that if the hon. Member for the City of Cork, three days ago, had had 20 more Members behind him, and at his command, the Prime Minister would not now be sitting where he was. That such a crisis would arise he firmly believed. They might struggle and fight; but within 10 years, if this franchise was now given, they would be forced to concede Home Rule. All that the loyal men in that House and in the country could do would not be sufficient to prevent it, and the responsibility would rest upon the Parliament which accepted and the Ministry which had initiated the movement. They ought, he thought, to consider the very wise words which were spoken by Lord Sherbrooke—then Mr. Lowe — in 1867 in reference not merely to the Irish Question, but in reference to the question of extending the franchise generally to a class who had been predominant over every other class. Mr. Lowe then said—When we consider a Reform Bill, and the giving of the franchise to a class which has it not; the transferring of electoral power; we should hear in mind that the end we ought to have in view is not the class which receive the franchise, nor the district which obtains the power of sending Members to Parliament, hut that Parliament itself in which these Members are to sit.That was a consideration altogether neglected by the Government; and they had also neglected the warning of Mr. John Stuart Mill delivered at the same time, that—Predominant power should not be turned over to persons in the mental and moral condition of the working classes.If that was true of the working classes in Mr. Mill's time, 17 years ago, was it not much more true of the Irish working classes at the present day, especially the lower classes? He knew he should have the whole Ministry against him, and that with the majority would vote all those who felt philanthropic towards the Irish people, and all those who had 579 greater fear of Lord Salisbury than love for the Irish working man. But he believed there would be in the Lobby of the minority a large number of men who had no fear of expressing their opinions in the country and in that House; and that the minority would have with them, every statesman who had attempted to deal with Reform, except the Prime Minister; and they would also have the sympathy of all those constituencies that had no Irish vote to prevent them from acting as they felt.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 10, to leave out the words "United Kingdom," and insert the words "Great Britain."—(Mr. Brodrick)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'United Kingdom' stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. TREVELYAN
Some hon. Members, perhaps, have fondly believed that this question would be settled and disposed of during a single debate in Committee; but I gather from the last words of the hon. Member who has just sat down that on this occasion it will assume a more practical aspect, and that the hon. Member proposes to carry it to a Division, because he gives us a formidable list of the persons whom he will have with him in the Lobby either in person or in sympathy, from Lord Sherbrooke and Mr. Mill down to a long list of persons who in sympathy will be with him, though voting in the opposite Lobby. Under these circumstances, us we are going to a Division, and as we are told that we have no reason to give for the part which many of us will take in that Division, except our political and personal interests, I am bound, in the shortest words I can find to pack my argument into, to give hon. Members the reasons why we differ from the views of the hon. Member who has just spoken, and intend to take different action. In the first place, we can take no other action on this occasion. There are only two courses which could possibly be followed if we accepted the Amendment of the hon. Member. One of those courses would be to put off extending the franchise to the English and Scotch people, who have waited quite long enough, and we are not going to ask them to wait for an indefinite time longer. The other course would be—and I am far from thinking that that would be an impos- 580 sible course—to extend the franchise to England and Scotland and to attempt to exclude Ireland. The Prime Minister spoke strongly on this question, and it is not becoming for Governments to protest too much; and therefore I cannot hesitate to renew his strongly expressed assurance that no power on earth could induce a Liberal Ministry to push forward, and, if necessary, accept in an amended shape, a Bill extending the franchise to England and Scotland and excluding Ireland. I can only say that in such a Ministry I personally could not hold Office for five minutes after such a decision had been come to. For what reason? I am not going into abstract principles; but on the strongest political, practical, national grounds it would be nothing less than madness to exclude Ireland from a Bill extending the franchise to England and Scotland. What is the history of agitations in all countries, and especially in Ireland? The history is this—a violent political agitation is got up on account of some legitimate universally recognized grievance; and even after that grievance has been remedied the agitation still continues in pursuit of other objects into which I will not now enter in a critical manner, but the justice of which is not universally recognized. I will give an example. In 1825—that was, perhaps, the hottest moment in the matter — there was a powerful and violent agitation in favour of Catholic Emancipation. Hon. Members opposite will scarcely say that that object was not a legitimate one, for it was one of the proudest boasts of the Party to which they belong that it had promoted Protestantism; but the result was that that agitation went beyond legitimate limits. It went in favour of a repeal of the Union; and I imagine that neither Gentlemen above the Gangway on the other side, nor on this side, would consider repeal of the Union an object that could be successfully asked from Parliament. Therefore, if you wish to plunge Ireland with absolute certainty into a formidable agitation for purposes which Parliament cannot grant, you will sot that agitation on foot by putting upon Ireland this exclusion from the franchise as a definite mark of English distrust and want of confidence. On that broad ground, which I hold to be absolutely indisputable, we cannot seek to extend the franchise in the countries of 581 England and Scotland without at the same time extending it to the counties and boroughs of Ireland. The hon. Member says—"How can you seek to extend the franchise and trust the Irish people when you have shown by your Coercion Acts that you distrust them?" This has over and over again been given as an authoritative reason why we could not extend the franchise to Ireland. In 1867 Mr. Disraeli, who was then Prime Minister, promised an Irish Reform Bill, and in 1868 he passed that Bill. The most essential feature of that Bill, as I think Irish Members will agree, was the reduction of the borough franchise from £8 to £4. That was a very important reduction. It at once increased the Irish borough constituencies by one-half—from 30,000 to 45,000; and the change in the Irish borough constituencies was out of all proportion even to the numerical increase, for I do not think it is too much to say that at above £8 there was comparatively little infusion of those ideas which many hon. Members consider to be dangerous, and all regard as advanced. But, below £8, undoubtedly the borough constituencies are, to a considerable extent, permeated by those ideas. Under what circumstances was that important change brought about by Mr. Disraeli? Did the Government at that time, in the words of my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Brodrick), trust the Irish people by giving them the full enjoyment of their civil rights? There is no civil right so important as freedom from arbitrary arrest without trial before a public tribunal; and yet in February, 1866, a Bill suspending the Habeas Corpus Act had been brought in and passed, and it was renewed time after time on the express ground that treasonable conspiracy still existed all through the time when Mr. Disraeli was promising u Reform Bill, and all through the time when he was carrying that out; and it did not expire until the Reform Bill had been passed. Not only at that time, but since 1847 there were not only the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act, but Peace Preservation Acts in force, which were, with certain exceptions, as severe as, or at any rate contains some of the most severe provisions which the present so-called Coercion Acts contain. I have a list of the provisions of the Prevention of Crime Act, and I find that five of 582 the provisions of that Act, which is now brought forward as an argument for not extending the franchise to Ireland, were in full force from 1847 to long after the Irish Reform Bill of Mr. Disraeli became law. And now just observe this. What are the charges brought against the present Government by hon. Gentlemen opposite? One charge upon which they most frequently insist is that for a certain time the present Government left Ireland without a Coercion Act. Another charge is that they have not properly used the Coercion Act they have now got. It would be difficult to exaggerate the strength of the language that was used all through last winter and autumn against the Irish Government because they did not stop public meetings throughout the entire length and breadth of Ireland, when they were being held by the National League. And now we are asked to agree to this proposition—that there always had been a Coercion Act in operation in Ireland. [Several IRISH MEMBERS: No, no!] The principal charge brought against the Government is that they left Ireland without a Coercion Act for a few months; and it is now contended that there should always be a Coercion Act in Ireland; that at this present moment, or at any rate as late as last autumn and winter, Lord Spencer and myself ought to have stopped every National League meeting; and yet we are asked not to extend the franchise to Ireland until there is no Coercion Act there, and until public speech is free. That string of propositions we are called upon to affirm; and the hon. Member rested his case very much on the very poor condition of life of a great number of these voters. He said they were unfit to be voters; that by admitting them we should be taking a dangerous leap in the dark; and that by admitting them we should disfranchise wholesale the loyal population of Ireland. I meet the hon. Member upon that point; and I say it is a misuse of words to assert that you disfranchise one set of people by enfranchising another. The doctrine held by Gentlemen on this side of the House is that the principle of this Bill must apply to Ireland as well as to England and Scotland. These men, it is quite true, are mostly men who hold at a very small valuation; but you have 583 yet to prove that they will be bad citizens. You have not proved that yet, and yon. will have to prove it. The hon. Member, it seems to me, answered himself when in the course of his speech he said that the Irish agricultural labourers would very likely be Conservative. They may be Conservative, or they may be Liberal, or they may be advanced Liberal; but one doctrine will hold good for all, and that is that they will use their votes for the purpose of having their interests considered in the great clash and conflict which takes place in the House of Commons. I think it necessary to say here what, perhaps, you cannot expect Irish Representatives to say, though I have heard it said on all sides—namely, that at the present time the representation of Ireland is, as it were, a privileged representation; and I will venture to say that there have been many debates in this House which have shown that this House has come too much to look at the constituencies of Ireland as pure and unmixed constituencies of tenant farmers, and to think that there are among them hardly any poorer town artizans or rural labourers. When I say poorer, you must recollect that at this moment in the Irish towns there are excluded a very large number of men who are poor in no sense of the word. In a town like Cork there are only 4,700 electors; while in an. English town of the same size there are 19,000. No one would believe that in a flourishing city like Cork the 14,000 or 15,000 people between these two figures are all poor, ignorant men who have no means of influencing the legislation of the country.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
Then with regard to the counties, we do not ask or insist that these voters shall be better or wiser men than those who at present have votes, or that they shall be as good or as wise; but what we do insist upon is, that they shall be men who have a right to be represented, and to have a fair share in what Parliament can give, and a fair influence on the councils of the country. I do not in the least believe that the effect of extending the franchise would be to make a man dangerous. You cannot make a man dangerous by giving him a vote—so far as you do anything 584 at all, you make him less dangerous, for you enable him to do something to attain his political ends, instead of leaving him to grumble and fret and, perhaps, resort to violence. In the course which they are pursuing with regard to this Bill, the Government believe that no harm whatever can come to law and order in Ireland; but that very great advantage will in the long run result from large classes being placed on the side of law —classes which at this moment, so far as citizenship is concerned, are outside the law. For these reasons, the Government will, on the occasion of the Division which the hon. Member promises, urge their supporters, one and all, to go into the opposite Lobby from him.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he did not know whether the Government was to be congratulated on the answer which had just been given to the Amendment by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. He would venture to say that not only the Amendment, but the facts and logic of his hon. Friend (Mr. Brodrick) deserved something more at the hands of Her Majesty's Government than had yet been given. He concurred with the observation with which the right hon. Gentleman commenced, that it was satisfactory to know that the debate was to be followed by a Division; but he thought that Division ought to be preceded by a clear, comprehensive, and exhaustive argument. No one, at least among the right hon. Gentleman's opponents, had a greater admiration of the public career of the right hon. Gentleman than had he (Mr. Lewis); but the right hon. Gentleman must permit him to say this —that it was evident throughout his speech that he was actuated more by feeling than by reason; and having committed himself and his Government to this most extraordinary step of an extension of the franchise carried so far as this measure proposed to carry it, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have thought it necessary to be enthusiastic and emotional rather than argumentative and reasonable. The right hon. Gentleman, going to an extreme which the House was but little accustomed to at his hands, lad said that, in his judgment, it would 30 nothing less than madness to attempt to exclude vast masses of the Irish community, under existing circumstances, 585 from the franchise. Now, he (Mr. Lewis) would venture to say, on the other hand, that in the opinion of the vast masses of intelligent people in England it would be nothing less than madness to include that country within this Bill. It was on that point, and in the broadest way, that he took issue with the right hon. Gentleman. He would venture to present his case shortly to the Committee, calling in aid the arguments and some of the facts which his hon. Friend (Mr. Brodrick) had referred to. But, before he went into the main subject, he wished to refer to a certain argument which had been used in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. One of the right hon. Gentleman's chief arguments was, that by refusing certain concessions, or certain measures, which he considered to be just, there would be caused not only trouble with reference to the particular measure itself, but agitation would be excited upon matters with which the people of this country could by no possibility sympathize. But that was exactly the result which had followed the past course of the present Government. They had conceded the question of the Irish Church, the question of Irish Land, and other important matters as well; but instead of stopping agitation, this course had only increased it. In order that there should be no mistake about this, he would read a passage from a pamphlet recently issued by the Representatives of the National Party—by one of the Leaders of the Party—who did not hesitate to say—who even boasted of it—There can be no peace until the longing for Irish autonomy is satisfied. No minor reforms of any kind will suffice; and that equality of rights and privileges which the consciences of modern statesmen would demand, and which cannot long be withheld from Ireland, will, instead of settling the matter, be but a stronger lever in the hands of Ireland to attain what she desires and claims as her right.In other words, Parliament was told by those to whom it was proposed to extend this franchise—Aye, you may give it to us; but it will not prevent us from agitating for those things which the Chief Secretary says the Government will not think of granting—on the contrary, it will be the cause and incentive of our proceeding further in order to obtain our demands.
§ MR. LEWIS
Another argument used by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was that Mr. Disraeli, in 1868, reduced the borough franchise when an Act for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was still in existence. But was it usual to compare great things with small in that way? What was the reduction of the franchise in 1868? It was simply the addition of 15,000 persons to the borough registers in Ireland. In other words— for he would give the full benefit of it to the Government—50 per cent were added to the borough voters in Ireland. But what was the addition which was now proposed to be made to the Irish electorate? Why, it would increase the number of voters in the county constituencies of Ireland to twice and a-half their present number—it would not make an addition to, but would absolutely overload and swamp the present constituencies, which would entirely disappear, at least in the form in which they existed at present. That was another argument used by the right hon. Gentleman, who finished up by saying that it was totally incorrect to urge that the measure would disfranchise a certain set of voters because it enfranchised another set. That might be a very proper criticism as a mere matter of language; but everybody knew what was meant by the suggestion that where there were a number of voters of a certain class, and that number was added to by the introduction of another class so indigent, so poor, surrounded by circumstances of such a deteriorating character that they could not have the advantages of ordinary members of society—everybody knew that such an addition, when made in such numbers as absolutely to leave the previously existing class of voters without any power whatsoever, amounted virtually to the practical disfranchisement of that previously existing class of voters, although it might not be legal disfranchisement. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, before concluding his speech, said that the onus placed upon the opponents of this measure was that they had to prove that the proposed new voters would be bad citizens. Here they came to one of those dividing lines in the franchise which was always cropping up. Was the franchise a right, or was it a trust and a privilege? Considering the structure of this Bill, what- 587 ever might be the views of many of its supporters, the House was entitled to treat the Government, or at all events its Head the Prime Minister, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, as not of that class who maintained that the franchise was an absolute right, because the Bill was certainly not framed on those lines. What had been put to the House by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister was that the Government proposed by this Bill to enfranchise 2,000,000 of "capable citizens." It had been remarked that the right, hon. Gentleman, notwithstanding the length of his explanations, had never given to the House an interpretation of what he understood by the words "capable citizen." He (Mr. Lewis) would endeavour to refer to the suggested capability under three separate heads. First, there was capability with regard to education; then there was capability with regard to independence of position; and then, the re was capability with regard to conduct and character. With regard to the capability drawn from education, he would ask hon. Gentlemen to compare England and Scotland with Ireland. When they talked of assimilating the franchise, there might be a mechanical or pretentious assimilation; but was there an assimilation that was actual? Could there be pointed out any case in England or Scotland, such as unfortunately existed in Ireland, of two or three counties in which over 40 per cent of the community over five years of age could neither read nor write? Was there any similarity whatsoever to be found between the condition of such Irish counties as Mayo and Galway, and one or two others, and the condition of any county or district in England? It was not necessary for him to go into the Returns at any great length; but those Returns proved that, unfortunately, no less than 25 per cent of the whole population of Ireland over the age of five years were able neither to read nor to write. In Galway the figures went up to 45 per cent; in Mayo to 44 per cent; in Donegal to 38 per cent; in Kerry to 35 per cent; and in Waterford to 36 per cent. Under these circum stances was he not justified in asking whether the class of persons pro posed to be enfranchised in Ireland under this Bill were entitled to be called "capable citizens" in respect 588 to education? The noble Lord whose name had been mentioned in the course of this discussion (Lord Sherbrooke) said, after the passing of the Act of 1867—"We must now set to work to educate our masters." But surely the best thing that could be done was to educate those persons who were to be their masters before they conferred on them the mastership. It was a most remarkable thing that, however bad the case was in England before the passing of the Reform. Act of 1867, Ireland, which had so long been blessed with a system of national education—which, indeed, had had a system of national education long before it was established in England—Ireland had, owing to circumstances and causes and influences which he did not propose to describe now at any length, been in such a condition that the children of many Irish parents had been prevented from going to the national shools.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, the result, unfortunately, was that there were counties in Ireland where nearly half the population over the age of five years were absolutely destitute of the first elements of education. [Several hon. MEMBERS: No, no!] With regard to the next point in the capability for citizenship—the point of independence—the only way in which they could judge of the independence of a person's position—his ability to protect himself against oppression, or to guide himself in the exercise of his public rights—was to judge from the outward indicia. In England, if they wished to judge of the independence of an artizan, or working-man, or servant, they must see how he lived, and what were his circumstances. They must ascertain whether he was in a state of great social distress and ignominy, and whether he was living under circumstances and conditions, with regard to his family and his surroundings, which would show that public duties and rights would rest upon him satisfactorily and be satisfactorily performed, both with regard to himself and with regard to the public for whom those duties were performed. But what was the case in Ireland? It was perfectly astounding; and it was necessary that the people of England and Scotland and Wales should understand it throughout the 589 length and breadth of this land, that what was proposed to be done by this Bill was to hand over the destinies of this great Empire to persons in Ireland, who by hundreds of thousands occupied tenements under the annual value of £1, and to make those persons the arbiters between the two contending Forces who sat on the "two sides of the House—the arbiters of decisions vitally affecting the welfare of the whole country. He might elaborate the statistics with great advantage to the argument; but in order to show to what an extreme the case arrived in some counties, he would content himself by selecting only one or two cases from each Province in Ireland— cases which would show the real position of affairs. In. Louth, in the Province of Leinster, the present number of county voters was 1,682; but the number of inhabited houses rated at £1 and less in that county, the occupiers of which would be enfranchised to a very great extent by this Bill, was 7,617. In other words, omitting altogether any other cases of the rating of inhabited houses, more than four times the present number of voters would be placed upon the register from a class rated at £1 a-year and less.
§ An hon. MEMBER: How many are there in Londonderry?
§ MR. LEWIS
was unable to say; but that did not affect his argument. Taking next the Province of Munster, he found that the present number of registered electors in County Clare was 5,000; but the number of inhabited houses rated at £1 and under was no less than 15,879. In County Kerry, in the same Province, there were 5,068 registered voters, and there were upwards of 17,000 house-holders rated at £1 and under. In the Province of Ulster there were now 4,484 electors in the county of Donegal, and the number of inhabited houses rated at £1 and under was 28,000—in other words, six times the number of the present constituency of Donegal occupied tenements rated at £1 a-year or less. Finally, taking Connaught, he found there the most extreme cases—the most remarkable cases of Galway, Leitrim, and other counties. In Galway there were 4,165 voters now on the register; but the number of house-holders rated at £1 and less was upwards of 27,000; and in Leitrim, Mayo, and Roscommon, the figures were more or 590 less of the same character. These, then, were the "capable citizens"—the majority of "capable citizens"—whom the right hon. Gentleman proposed by this Bill to enfranchise in Ireland. It was not sufficient to say that all these things had been heard of before, in relation to other Reform Bills. In the whole history of Reform agitation and legislation there had never been any figures in the least degree approaching to those which were furnished by the Return which had been made to the other House of Parliament. This was the state of things, then, with regard to the 64 county seats in Ireland; for the Committee would recollect that no less than 64 seats out of the entire representation of Ireland were county seats, and these 64 seats would be placed in the hands of persons who were in such a sociable condition as to occupy tenements which were rated in many cases at much less than £1 a-year. He did not wish to press these facts in any disagreeable or offensive spirit; but it was a matter of grave importance to remember, when considering the capability of a man as a citizen, and looking, as they all should do if it affected their own private transactions in their daily life, to see how such a man lived, and what were his surroundings, it was a matter of grave importance to remember that it was unfortunately the case that there was not a single county constituency in Ireland in which the existing electors would not be numerically overborne under this Bill by the occupiers of mud-cabins of two or more rooms each. He would appeal to the statistics without going through them; and he would say, fearless of contradiction, that there was not a county constituency in any part of Ireland out of all these which returned 64 Members to Parliament, in which, under this Bill, the occupiers of mud-cabins would not entirely overbear the present electors; and these facts were brought out, not by any analysis made by himself or by anyone else, but by the official Census. He would now ask the Committee to look at the third point in this capability for citizenship—the point which dealt with public order and loyalty—and on this branch of the subject he need only appeal to the Government, and ask what they had had to do during the time they had been in Office, in order to show 591 that the vast masses of the Irish people had no sense of loyalty or love of order to which the Government could appeal? The Government could not appeal to them to vindicate the authority of the law or the sanctity of life and property. The authorities were altogether powerless to detect crime in many districts; and it was perfectly well known that in those districts the only person who was unsafe was the peace officer. The associate of murderers, the murderer himself, his co-conspirators, his family—they were all perfectly well known; but they were free from anything like interference; they were at liberty to walk about by night and by day without the smallest interference on the part of the rest of the inhabitants, who knew what crimes had been committed, and who were the criminals; and the only persons who were unsafe were—it might be—the family of the murdered man, and the peace officers who were endeavouring to detect the crime. What were Her Majesty's Government obliged to do to overcome this great and widespread conspiracy with which they had to deal? Previous Coercion Acts were faint, indeed, compared with the one which Her Majesty's present Advisers had had to pass, and under which they could remove trials on their own authority, try without juries, hold inquisitions to inquire into crime without any person being charged, and take all the necessary measures under which alone order had been restored, and safety given in some sense to life and property in Ireland. It was under such circumstances that such Acts of Parliament were obliged to be kept alive; and yet it was said that this was a time at which it was safe and just to extend Constitutional liberties. When the wisdom of such a course was questioned, the answer given was that the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended when Mr. Disraeli passed his diminutive Reform Bill as regards Ireland in 1867. It was, indeed, comparing great things with small to say that there was any relation between the two things. But the Committee had not been treated with any too great a development of the Government case in support of the inclusion of Ireland in this Franchise Bill. They had not been favoured that day with the presence of the noble Marquess the Secretary of 592 State for War (the Marquess of Hartington), nor with the presence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). If the noble Marquess and the right hon. Gentleman had been present, it might have been interesting to have quoted from their speeches, delivered within the last two or three years, and especially from those delivered by the Secretary of State for War, some most serious and solemn arguments with respect to the responsibility which would be incurred by any Government which proposed an extension of the franchise, or the adoption of the principle of local self-government in Ireland, until something like a loyal spirit was exhibited by great masses of the people, among whom at present it was unfortunately wanting. This measure had been supported, as previous measures of Reform had also been supported, by the allegation that it was necessary in order to do complete justice to Ireland; but, unless he was very much mistaken, Ireland in years past had had greater privileges in regard to the franchise than England. It was generally supposed that Ireland had always been behindhand in regard to the franchise; but he thought he was speaking the truth when he said that long before the £12 occupation franchise was given in England it was enjoyed in Ireland. So far from there having been any lagging behind in Ireland, the £12 franchise was given in that country many years ago; whereas in England it was only given in 1867 or 1868, and it was given expressly, if he recollected rightly, that the holdings were so divided and small in Ireland relatively to England that it was necessary to extend political power in the Irish counties to give them a reasonable representation. The present Bill was put forward as necessary to correct an injustice; but, as a matter of fact, Ireland, not only in regard to land and church, but also in regard to the franchise, had been, treated by preceding Parliaments in a very beneficial and advantageous way. [Several VOICES: No, no!] If the facts to which he had referred could be contradicted, no doubt the contradiction would come in proper form and on the best possible authority; but he was sure that no Member of the Government would contradict him when he declared that a £12 county franchise existed in Ireland long before it existed 593 in this country. He thought it was necessary here to refer to a matter which had not hitherto been noticed in that debate. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, in his opening speech on moving the introduction of the Bill, had said that the measure would add about 400,000 capable citizens to the franchise in Ireland.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, his belief was that that number would be far exceeded. The right hon. Gentleman did not, he believed, refer to one matter which was of great importance, and that was the application of the English rule of law as to what constituted a house. They knew that under the Registration Act, which was, unfortunately, passed in 1867, it had come to be held that a man who occupied one room —even an attic—in a house occupied a house; and it was only by the casual circumstance of the landlord living on the premises that the house character of that man's occupation was altered and destroyed, and became a lodging. No doubt, oven that restriction would be taken off by hon. Gentlemen who sat below the Gangway opposite when their power was greater than it was at present; but, in the meanwhile, in the City of Dublin every small room in a house would be liable to be treated as a house if the landlord did not happen to live on the premises. He therefore maintained that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had very much under-estimated the extent of the addition to the representation which was likely to be made under this Bill. It remained to be considered what was likely to be the effect of the present Bill. It was perfectly clear that the small occupiers, the men living in little huts, would have the control of the Irish representation. What would be the effect upon the two classes into which, unfortunately, religiously—he would not say politically—Ireland was divided? And he was entitled to refer to this argument, because the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had distinctly stated in the House of Commons that so far from the Protestant or the loyal portion of the community being disfranchised as a result of this Bill, they were likely to obtain one-fourth of the representa- 594 tion. The right hon. Gentleman evidently thought it necessary to say this, in order to meet the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy), that with the exception of two counties in the North of Ireland the Nationalists would make a clean sweep of the whole of the representation. He (Mr. Lewis) did not wish them, in their widespread sweeping, to omit either the county of Londonderry, represented by a Government official, or the City of Londonderry, which was misrepresented by him. He was quite willing to be an object of their destruction. Whatever they did in respect to himself would not disturb him. He was speaking now, as he was bound to speak, on behalf of his constituents, and on behalf of those who agreed with them, that this measure would, if carried, be a great national disaster. He asserted that the result of this Bill would not be that suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Worka (Mr. Shaw Lefevre). He (Mr. Lewis) believed the effect of the Bill would be utter annihilation of the political power of the most orderly, the most loyal, the most educated, and the wealthy classes of Ireland; that, practically, one-fourth of the community, representing two-thirds of the property of the country and a vast majority of the educated classes, would be entirely swamped, and their electoral power destroyed, except as it might be represented by the two Members for the University of Dublin, and by one or two lucky and enterprizing gentlemen who might creep in for one constituency or another. How was it the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works seemed to think that he had proved his ease—that the Protestants, who were one-fourth of the community of Ireland, and who were all to be found in the Province of Ulster, would be able to return one-fourth of the Irish Representatives? Unfortunately, the right hon. Gentleman was not acquainted with the figures, or else had not studied them sufficiently. There were only four counties in which the Protestants of all sorts exceeded the Roman Catholics, and in those four counties the Roman Catholics, with the aid of a few Liberals, returned nearly half the Members. What the state of affairs would be when they had an enfranchisement of the £1 house- 595 holder he left hon. Gentlemen to judge. In point of fact, the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy) had, as he (Mr. Lewis) had already said, boasted that the result of the passing of this Bill would be to give the Nationalists—not the Liberals, not the Roman Catholics, but the Nationalists—a clean sweep of the representation from North to South with very few exceptions. What would be the consequence of such a state of things to Great Britain? It was not only a question what would become of the unfortunate Protestants of Ireland, or of their political influence and power, but it was a question what would become of this country? Was there anything more clear than this—that if this Bill passed, and if the hon. Gentlemen from Ireland who sat below the Gangway came back 80 or 90 strong, they would constitute the balancing, the intermediary power between the two great Parties of the State, and they would have the control of measures of State of the vastest importance connected, not only with the Empire, but with the separate interests of England and of Scotland? He should be told that if that should, unfortunately, happen to be the result of extending the franchise upon a just and equal principle, they must submit to it; but it was because he did not for one moment accede to the principle of the Bill as a just and equal principle that he opposed it. It was said the representation of Ireland was now scandalous. It had been scandalous for years. Over and over again it had been said in the House of Commons that, owing to the fact that the small boroughs returned so large a number of Members, the real feeling of the mass of the people was not properly represented in the House. If they wished to remedy the evil, the Government ought to have made a very different commencement. Knowing, as he did, the extreme difficulty, under any circumstances and all circumstances, of piloting a Redistribution Bill through the House, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister should have foreborne from placing himself in a position in which he would probably find himself at the mercy of 80 or 90 men, who would dictate to him or to a future House of Commons the very terms in which that Redistribution Bill should be passed. Upon the question of the representation 596 of minorities in Ireland the House of Commons was certainly entitled to the opinion of Her Majesty's Government. Were the Protestants of Ireland to be told, were those who had unquestionably been the most loyal and orderly in their conduct, those who had been loyal adherents of the Crown and Government of England through evil report and good report, to be told that they wore to be deprived of their fair share of representation? Surely in the case of Ireland, where there was the greatest necessity for redistribution, the country were entitled to know what were the views of Her Majesty's Government, and what were likely to be the views of the House of Commons upon, the question of redistribution. It had been suggested, somewhat irregularly, what should be done with this Bill "elsewhere." All he could say was, that he did not believe that "elsewhere," if it was the place he understood it to be, would be worthy of support and maintenance, if it did not, in the face of all the circumstances and facts and figures relating to Ireland, raise its voice with three-fold force in opposition to the Bill until the three countries were placed in a position to understand what was the real intention of the Government with regard to the redistribution of political power, and especially with regard to the redistribution of that power in Ireland.
§ DR. LYONS
said, he much regretted the line of action taken by the hon. Member who proposed the Amendment. In that House and elsewhere that hon. Gentleman had shown ability of a high order, and had discussed problems of great importance in a spirit worthy of all praise, and it was all the more to be regretted that he had not approached the discussion of the extension of the franchise to Ireland, with which country he was so closely connected, in a manner better calculated to win the sympathies of Irishmen in a momentous crisis like the present. He (Dr. Lyons) had given a great deal of consideration to the question of electoral reform, and he had been forced to the conclusion that it would have been simply impossible to exclude Ireland from any extension of the franchise which might have been decided upon by those who had the guidance of political affairs in the country. To have excluded Ireland from the benefits of the proposed extension of the 597 franchise would have been one of the most unwise as well as one of the most dangerous steps which the Ministry could take. The amount of excitement and of well-founded agitation that would have followed the exclusion of Ireland would, he was persuaded, have been fruitful of great mischief and discontent which it would have taken many years to dissipate. He was quite aware that there wore political dangers to individuals if this Bill passed; indeed, it had often been said that he himself stood in such political danger; but he believed all who took a just view of their duty to the country, and of what they owed to their constituents, and of what they owed to themselves, would be ready to say—" Let justice be done to the country, come what will." He believed that that was a policy which, in many instances, would be justified in a way perhaps not now anticipated. It was assumed, on the opposite side of the House, that the great mass of the people of Ireland were ruled by no law, and! that their opinions were of the most violent and extreme character. It was also assumed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, though he believed on quite insufficient grounds, that the people who would be enfranchised by this Bill would necessarily adopt the extreme views which had prevailed in some Irish constituencies for a considerable time past. Much as he regretted those extreme views, there was no doubt in his mind that they could be traced to the political errors of the past, and that they were the natural outcome of great independence of character stung into political excitement that overbalanced reason, and too often confounded right with wrong in the too ardent contemplation of undoubted evils for which cooler heads sought wiser remedies. The extreme actions of certain individuals in Ireland could not be approved; but no one who profoundly studied the situation in Ireland would deny that those actions were I strictly the outcome of the errors committed in the past, and for which no proper remedy was applied until the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister introduced certain measures in this and a former Parliament to meet the wants of the country. Those measures had not yet had time to produce their fullest material effects. He did not believe it was the opinion of the Irish 598 Members who sat below the Gangway opposite that the new electors would necessarily adopt extreme views. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), in a remarkable speech which he delivered on the question, said it was supposed that the new franchise would be used as a battering-ram against a section of the community who had been in possession hitherto. That in itself showed that there was a considerable amount of doubt in the mind of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Parnell) as to what would be the operation of the new franchise. Furthermore, those who would be admitted to the franchise belonged to a class who hitherto had not shown themselves prone to indulge in violent agitation, and who had, in many significant ways, shown themselves to be influenced by views quite opposed to those of the extreme agrarian section. As a matter of fact, they had in recent years shown themselves very desirous of taking advantage of all the educational means afforded them; they had shown extraordinary zeal in seeking advancement, and in thousands of instances had succeeded in a most remarkable manner; and they had in very large numbers succeeded in procuring advancement in the upward walks of life. Many of the young-men who went in for the Civil Service examinations belonged to the humbler classes in the country, and some of them had risen to very conspicuous positions. Many had been appointed to honourable and responsible positions in India and Australia and other parts of the Empire. He believed that this in itself furnished sufficient ground for supposing that the true interests of the country would not suffer by the admission of the humbler classes in Ireland to the franchise. But we had oven more solid grounds to go upon, for if we considered the large numbers represented by the Irish Police and Constabulary, the Irish Militia, and the important contingent from Ireland to the ranks of the Regular Army, and if we reflected on the remarkable fidelity, steadiness to their Colours, and general conduct of these classes of men, we had at hand a very large and a very just measure of the temper, principles, and feelings of a very sensibly large proportion of the Irish people. This, he maintained, was a true index of the state of a large body of Irishmen. Probably not less than 599 250,000 individuals were concerned in the Educational, Civil, Constabulary, Militia, Army, and other contingents referred to, and it was not reasonable to suppose that the holders of the positions he referred to were in personal and violent opposition to the feelings of their immediate friends and relations. So that if a presumption were to be formed on the data actually available, it did not logically turn in the direction so wildly and baselessly assumed by those who asserted a general and violent-hostility to the settled order of things now existing; while, at the same time, it Could not be denied that there existed a deep-seated and widely-extended desire for moderate reforms. It was a matter for rejoicing that this Motion had been proposed, because it had caused hon. Gentlemen opposite to throw off the mask. They now saw, and they could judge with greater clearness if the Motion were pushed to a Division, whether the Conservative Party were as fully prepared as their opponents to deal with the question of the extension of the franchise. He very much doubted whether the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brodrick) would find himself supported by the Leaders of his Party upon this question, and he (Dr. Lyons)doubted if his action had their sanction and concurrence. The introduction of the Motion was of the greatest possible value to the people of Ireland, because it would serve as a test of the professions that Gentlemen opposite had made as to their readiness to deal with the question of the franchise as regarded Ireland. It was well political Parties in Ireland should know what value was to he attached to the professions which had been made by certain Members of the Conservative Party. If a Division be taken oil the Amendment now before the Committee, it could no longer be said, however much it might be the intention of the Conservative Party to extend the franchise in England and Scotland, that it was their intention to extend the franchise in Ireland should the reins of Office fall into their hands. It was very significant that the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) was not in his place when an Amendment of this importance was to be discussed. The Front Opposition Bench had been remarkable for its careful silence on this 600 subject; but he (Dr. Lyons) dared them to go to a Division. If they did, they would conclusively show to the people of Ireland what they were to expect from Conservatives should they be called upon to take Office.
§ MR. PLUNKET
said, he was sure that even lion. Members sitting below the Gangway and representing Irish constituencies, and who, no doubt, were very anxious to make short work of this Amendment, would not find fault if he stated the grounds upon which he felt himself bound to support it He and those who agreed with him generally upon Irish polities believed that in the literal sense of the word their political existence was involved in this Bill should it be passed in its present form; and, therefore, he was confident the Committee would indulge him a few minutes. He did not think that the importance of the Amendment had been sufficiently recognized, because the speech in which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland addressed the Committee that afternoon was not only a very short speech, but, considering the subject, a very perfunctory speech. They must remember that what they were discussing was really nothing less than a new Reform Bill for Ireland. Up to the present time Ireland had been dealt with, by different Bills, separately from England and Scotland. There was a very great difference between the social conditions of England and Ireland; and therefore it was surprising that the subject should be dealt with in this off-hand manner. He listened with pleasure to the speech of the Chief Secretary; but of what was that speech composed? The right hon. Gentleman did not make the smallest examination of the present state of Ireland; and he did not take any notice at all of what he (Mr. Plunket) was sure the Committee had no idea of—the enormous change which would take place in the Irish constituencies if the Bill passed. The right hon. Gentleman contented himself by putting the whole case to the Committee in this way— "Only two courses are open to the Government; either not to introduce a Reform Bill at all for the Three Kingdoms until such time as everybody is agreed that Ireland is fit for a Reform Bill, or else to exclude Ireland from the Bill." Now, the 601 Amendment proposed that the English and Scotch constituencies should be dealt with by this Bill, and that the Irish case should be postponed. How did the right hon. Gentleman deal with that suggestion? He said that no power on earth would induce a Liberal Ministry to exclude Ireland from the provisions of a Reform Bill; and he went on to say that, in his own opinion, it would be perfect madness to exclude Ireland from the benefits of the Bill, and to deal with that country separately. Such an argument had no force except in so far as it showed and satisfied the Committee that there was, and had been for a considerable time, a practical consensus of opinion on the subject in the Liberal Party itself. Had there been such consensus of opinion? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Trevelyan) told them, that day, it would be madness to leave Ireland out of the Bill; but it was a little more than a year ago that the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) said it would be madness to include Ireland in the Bill. The noble Marquess had been conspicuously absent during the debates on the Irish part of the Bill; but, speaking to his constituents some time ago, he said that—In his opinion, it would be madness to extend local self-government to Ireland whilst the people were not prepared to give the assurance that they would not use it for the purpose of dismembering the Empire; and whilst he was quite in favour of this present Parliament dealing with the question of local government and the franchise for England and Scotland, in his opinion it would be most unwise to deal with Ireland also.Therefore, he said that the whole argument of the Chief Secretary fell to the ground, and with it the idea that there had been any solid and long continued policy on the part of Her Majesty's Government of including Ireland in a measure for the extension of the franchise. The rest of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman was worthy of compassion. The right hon. Gentleman said it was the right of the Irish householder to vote as much as it was the right of the English householder. Now, he must say that, to his mind, an extraordinary amount of confusion prevailed on this point in all the speeches of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who had supported the Bill. The English house- 602 holder did not claim to vote as of right. The English householder was given the vote in 1867, because it was considered at that time that, speaking generally, such qualification was a test of the fitness of the class to which he belonged to exercise the franchise — it was not considered as constituting a right. He would not detain the Committee by quoting authority on the subject; but if he needed authority, he would remind the House that, in 1867, the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) took the opportunity to say that, in his opinion, at that time the masses of the English people had not advanced in their social position to that point—and it might be some time before they did so— at which it would be advisable to take household suffrage as the guide and basis for the franchise. He said, therefore, that the argument of the right hon. Gentleman was a total misrepresentation of the history of the enfranchisement of the people of this country. But if household suffrage was to be the guide, he asked whether it was an accurate statement to say that by this Bill there would be established uniformity of franchise in the Three Kingdoms? He would like to remind the Committee of a Bill introduced into that House in 1878 by the hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon), to deal with the Irish Borough Franchise. On the introduction of the measure the hon. and learned Member said—The Bill proposes to entitle all persons occupying houses rated at £1 and upwards to the franchise, which really brought it to the point at which the franchise ceased in England; because, although the franchise was 26s. in England, the valuation of Ireland was one-third of the rental, and, consequently, the two franchises would practically be the same."—(3 Hansard,  1961.)Ho did not know whether hon. Members had studied the Returns presented in "another place," and which had been placed in the hands of Members of that House; but, if not, he implored them to do so before they committed themselves to this extension of the measure to Ireland. He would not go into the Return at length, but only to the extent necessary to illustrate the position. It contained four columns, one of which gave the number of inhabited houses in all the Irish counties which were rated at £12 and upwards; another, the number 603 rated about £4 and under £12; another, the number rated about £1 and not exceeding £4; and the last, the number rated at £1 and under. There was nothing at all in England corresponding to the state of things disclosed in the Return; and the Committee would probably be astonished when he told them that there were in the Irish counties 435,179 inhabited houses rated at £1 and under, as against the total number of all the other inhabited houses —namely, 324,783. That was to say, the houses for which there was no correlative in the English system actually exceeded in number the whole of the rest. Now, he was sure the Committee could not have had any idea of this fact. However, it was not all that had to be considered. Unfortunately, giving his countrymen every possible credit for the ability and quietness of intellect which he admitted them to have —no matter how able and quick they might be, they were unfit for the franchise unless they were educated. Now, what stage had education reached in Ire-land? The calculation had been made, which he believed to be sound, that those whom the Bill would enfranchise would be taken from a class of whom more than 40 per cent could not read or write; and he asked the Committee to consider the effect of extending the franchise in that wholesale manner. He was not at all contending that a certain number of Representatives of this class should not be introduced, into that House; but he said the Bill, as it stood, would effect the disfranchisement of the better educated class who were able to form sounder political opinions and return proper Members to Parliament. ["No, no!"] It was disfranchisement to admit one class of people who outnumbered all the rest put together. When the Government talked of assimilating the franchise in Ireland to that in England, he said they were using meaningless language; and when they spoke of an abstract right to vote, they were sacrificing every consideration to one which he had shown in the case of Ireland ought to have no force at all. No one had yet risen in the House to explain the reason for this extension, except on some abstract principle; and 110 Minister had referred to, or attempted to grapple with, the figures he had 604 quoted. The test they applied to England in regard to the franchise being extended with safety was not a true test at all in Ireland. The common-sense view of the matter which any man of intelligence would take was that which had been expressed by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War, in a speech to which he had already alluded, and in which the noble Marquess declared that it would be madness to give increased power to those who were disaffected towards the unity of the Empire. Those Irishmen who were opposed to the maintenance of the British connection must be expected to use the increased powers proposed to be given to them for the attainment of an object they might sincerely and honestly do-sire; but that object was one which Englishmen of all Parties declared they would resist to the utmost, because it involved the dismemberment of the Empire. They were told, indeed, that after all the Separatist movement was not so dangerous as sonic people thought, including, he supposed, the noble Marquess the Secretary of (State for War. It was said that some of the advocates of Home Rule desired only a local Legislature for distinctly Irish affairs, and did not wish to see that country entirely separated from England. The hon. Member for the County of Cork (Mr. Shaw) had stated that he was one of those who held that view; and there was little probability of his being returned again to the House, as they all knew, for the very reason that he had expressed that opinion. But the Prime Minister threw upon the Irish Members sitting on the other side of the House the onus of proving that they did not demand entire separation. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his followers went with the Prime Minister to this extent — they said that if Ireland were not included in the Bill they would make it a further argument for carrying' on their agitation; but they did not say that if it were included they would cease from that agitation. The Government told the Irish Home Ruler that they would widen the basis of representation; and he replied to them that he was very much obliged, but that he accepted the franchise not with the idea of strengthening the Union between the two coun- 605 tries, but, on the contrary, of breaking it up. Then the Prime Minister had said that the Home Rule agitation need not necessarily be a formidable business, although it might be troublesome; in fact, he had minimized the whole scope of the movement. But they had been told by the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) that the Parliament desired for Ireland was to be no pale shadow of a Parliament, responsible and subservient to others, but a Parliament in which the great modern Democracy of Ireland would be able to work out its destiny. By this measure they were sweeping away the harmless class alluded to by the Prime Minister, and they wore giving an increased power into the hands of those who wished for the separation of the two countries. A noble Lord (Lord Carlingford) had told them that no one in Ireland cared about Home Rule, and that what they wanted was virtually separation. Another Member of the Cabinet—the Earl of Derby— in an able article in The Nineteenth Century, of October, 1881, wrote as follows:—It is, as far as I know, peculiar to the Home Rule movement that while in effect and reality one for the subversion of the existing Constitution—while, if successful, it must necessarily lead to a virtual, if not formal, separation of the two Islands—yet that in pursuance of its ostensible object there is nothing illegal or seditious. Yet few things can be more certain than this—that if once a Representative Assembly meets in Dublin calling itself a Parliament, no restriction or limitation of its powers, however stringently imposed as a condition, will long endure. It will be declared by universal acclamation to be the only authority competent to make laws for Ireland. And inasmuch as under our Parliamentary system the governing power practically resides in the House of Commons, the creation of a separate House of Commons for Ireland implies a separate Executive, representing different ideas and a different policy. What is this but separation? We are, then, in this dilemma—that we sincerely desire to govern Ireland according to Irish ideas; but that the one dominant idea which has taken possession of the Irish mind is that we should not govern Ireland at all. If we resist we belie our loudest professions: if we give way we break up the Empire. If we try to compromise by granting a half independence —freedom of local but not of Imperial action —can we as reasonable men doubt that the power we have conceded will be used as a means of extorting larger power, that the one hand which we release will be employed to liberate the other?In his humble judgment that was rea- 606 soning intelligently; the noble Lord advanced arguments, the potency of which it was impossible to evade, and he concluded his article by declaring Ms intention of pursuing the subject at another time. But, unfortunately, he had not yet done so. The noble Lord had, with his usual caution—Left half toldThe story of Cambuscan bold;and he (Mr. Plunket) looked forward with a great deal of interest to the time when he should come to explain in "another place," and to reconcile the views he had thus put forward with the passing of a measure which would go so far to strengthen the hands of the disloyal party in Ireland, and have the instant effect of giving them an overwhelming and irresistible power in that House. He had no doubt that at first both Parties in Parliament, as they had solemnly pledged themselves to do, would resist their overtures; but he would like to know how long that was likely to continue in the heated contest of political Parties and in the keen conflicts of political ambition? They were now, for the first time in English history, to have a strong Party amongst them which frankly said to them—"We are bound by influences which you cannot realize; we are not amenable to the public opinion of England; we come hero with the avowed purpose of making Parliamentary Government impossible until you; give us what we ask—namely, separation from the Imperial Power." He must thank the Committee for the attention with which they had listened to him. He had said nothing at all about the right and wrongs of the loyal minority in Ireland; he would not condescend to make an appeal for them in their struggle. He had endeavoured all through to reason this case with the House in their own interests; he knew that it was not so long since the Leaders of the Party opposite could not bring themselves to consent to such a proposal as this? Why did they do so now? Was it not that, however unconsciously perhaps, they had yielded to the tactical necessities of the situation? He said that, at all events, they were entitled to hear from those Leaders the grounds upon which they had changed their opinions upon a question of such over- 607 whelming importance. He had spoken strongly, but not more strongly than the subject demanded; because his belief was that not only were they going to do an injustice to Ireland, but to this country a great wrong and a great injury. If his fears should be fulfilled, if his prophecies should be realized, if this measure which they were now asked to pass should lead up to and precipitate the establishment of a separate Irish Nationality, the responsibility of those who had forced it through, against, as he believed, the common sense of the country, would, indeed, be serious. The historian of the future, gazing upon the broken fragments—the "ruined pile" of this mighty Empire, who—Would its former pride recall,And ponder how it passed away,would record that in days gone by that Empire was reared not more by the courage and endurance of its soldiers and sailors in many ages and in every clime, than by the sagacity and firmness, the common sense and patriotism, of its Representatives there in their ancient Parliaments. Let him not have also to tell that the Union of these Three Kingdoms, on which rested all its honour and all its power—an Union which could never be broken by the force of domestic traitor or of foreign foe—yielded at last under the pressure of the political ambitious and the Party exigencies of British statesmen.
Sir, I believe it is the desire of the House that I should rise in reply to the right hon. and learned Gentleman on this occasion; but if I do rise, it is more out of respect for him than because I think that the case requires it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has closed his speech with a most fervent appeal to us to respect the greatness of the Empire, and with prophecies as to what the future historian may have to say upon that subject. But what weighs upon my mind is this — that when the future historian speaks of the greatness of this Empire, and traces the manner in which it has grown through successive generations, he will say that in that history there was one chapter of disgrace, and that that was the treatment of Ireland. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says he has been endeavouring to work upon us by an appeal to 608 our own interests, and that he has not argued the question with reference to the interests of the loyal minority in Ireland. For myself, I will never consent to divide the people of Ireland into a loyal minority and a disloyal majority; but if I am to adopt the right hon. and learned Gentleman's phrase, I would say that no laws can be passed in this House under Irish influence ad-verso to the loyal minority in Ireland, except by the consent of the Representatives of England and Scotland. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, whatever be his want of faith in the future; of his country, whatever be his faculty of drawing dismal pictures to alarm us in the course upon which we enter, must surely see that there is some security in the composition of this House for the interests of the loyal minority in Ireland. He believes, apparently, that if there could be only a sufficient proportion of Irish Members following in the train of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Paruell), the 500 to 600 Members for England, Scotland, and Wales would be so intimidated by the. action of these Irish Members, that they would cast aside all considerations of justice in legislation for Ireland. I differ entirely—I differ toto coelo, and I do not believe that he has shown that there is any danger whatever from legislation that is to pass through this House to the interests of any portion of the Irish people. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman indulges in prophecies which he has been able to raise to as high a point of eloquence, perhaps, as any of his Predecessors; but it is not the first time that we have heard them. From the first moment when concession and conciliation began — or when they were first attempted—all these predictions were shadowed forth. Is it a fact that the position of Great Britain at this moment is weaker in the face of Ireland than it was before the period of concession and conciliation began? ["yes!"] The right hon. and learned Gentleman says "Yes!" It is, doubtless, his opinion. I entirely deny it. I say that England, 50 years ago, stood in the face of the civilized world as a culprit with regard to Ireland; I say that the civilized world has entirely changed its judg0ment; and whether or not opinion may be that we have in all parts been able 609 to settle a satisfactory system, civilized mankind admits and knows that for a course of years there was an honest and an energetic attempt to move in this direction, and that conviction on the part of the civilized world is the only element that can be wanted in the strength of this country with regard to its relation with Ireland. I must say that I regard such predictions as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has indulged in as most humiliating to the people of this country; and I hope that the people of England, and the people of Scotland, have more self-respect, and have more knowledge of their own position and their strength, than for a moment to be disturbed by the revival of prophecies which for 50 years have never been wanting, when it was required or proposed to do some act of what the majority of this House believed to be justice to Ireland. There is, in our opinion, but one mode of making England weak in the face of Ireland—that is by applying to her principles of inequality and principles of injustice. I am not a flatterer of Gentlemen in that quarter of the House (pointing to the Home Rule Members). [Daughter.] When have I flattered them? There (pointing to Mr. Plunket) is the flatterer of those Gentlemen. The man who flatters them is the man who says that in a House of 550 Members for Great Britain, 70 or 80 for Ireland are going to give them the law. I have never held that language; I have told them just the reverse. I know they have considerable power; I hope they will use it well. I cannot say that I am entirely satisfied, or entirely convinced upon that subject. I have striven, and will strive again, to assert in their face the limits of that power; and I say, as long as we endeavour to do you justice, you cannot, if you were ever so disposed, touch, or mar, or prejudice, in any respect, the interests of this country. It is the scale of justice that will determine the issue of the conflict, if conflict there is to be; and there is nothing we can do, except the imprudence of placing in your hands evidence which will show that we are not acting on principles of justice towards you, that can render you for a moment formidable in our eyes, should the day unfortunately arise when you endeavour to lay hands on this great structure of the British Empire, which 610 is, in truth, a noble inheritance received from our forefathers, which we have endeavoured to purge from some of the stains which, undoubtedly, history will record as having attached to it in those generations to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman seems to look back as a period of safety and glory. That is not our view. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is in a state of great alarm, because there are a great number of people who are living in £1 houses. Who are these persons? He declines to prove their unfitness for the franchise. He says they are not fit according to the test applied in England. There is no test in England, so far as I am aware, nor in Scotland. The householder votes in England as I hope he will in Ireland. The householder in Ireland is poorer than the householder in England; but is that a reason for refusing him the franchise? On the contrary, it is a reason why he wants it more. I will not enter into the fears into which the right hon. and learned Gentleman endeavours to draw us. I cast them aside. I will not say they are proofs of political cowardice — for I should be sorry to make use of hard words—but I say they are fears unworthy of a man of the stamp and scope of mind of the right hon. and learned Gentleman; and they are fears which I am perfectly certain will not avail to deter the House of Commons of the United Kingdom from granting to Ireland boons which it believes to be just, which it considers to be required, and in the justice and equity of which it knows both the safety and glory of the Empire are to come.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I can very well understand that hon. Gentlemen are anxious to divide after the passionate appeal of the Primo Minister; but I would venture to put before them one consideration. We are engaged in discussing a Bill of the gravest and most momentous character. Whatever may be said with regard to there being any change of opinion as to this matter, nobody, I think, will deny that this is a matter that demands the very careful and the constant attention of the House, and that it is not a matter to be decided by speeches of the character of that which the Prime Minister has just made. I wish hon. Gentlemen just to consider what it is they are about 611 to do. You are now about to increase enormously the electorate of the whole United Kingdom. You are going to introduce into the constituencies an enormous number of persons who have had no political training—that is to say, you are going to largely extend the limits of our legislative system; and you will have to submit to a new House, composed largely of men without experience, one of the most difficult problems of legislation—namely, redistribution of seats, which means redistribution of political power. Well, we have before us a scheme, but it is an incomplete scheme; and we are not able to see how far it may be possible to introduce any changes without producing serious results. We naturally try the strength of a chain by its weakest link, and in this case the weakest link is undoubtedly the representation of Ireland, both in respect of the enormous number of new persons who will be brought on to the electorate by this Bill, and of the character of the questions which will immediately have to be submitted to us. Do not let us think that we are dealing with a question which can be made a battle ground year after year. You will have a new Parliament highly excited on the questions which will have to come before them, and demanding their immediate settlement, and this may have most serious consequences. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary told us there were two courses open to us —we might make England and Scotland wait until Ireland was ready, which he said would be unreasonable; or we might make one law for England and Scotland, and another for Ireland. But I beg to point out that there is a third course, and that is that the Government should make their scheme complete. If we were able to see what are the proportions in which they intend to distribute political power, and what are the figures, then it might be that we should arrive at some practical conclusion. At the present moment the right hon. Gentleman is dealing inadequately with the subject, when he suggests only two possible courses. Then there was a remark made by the Prime Minister which is do-serving of observation. The Prime Minister said we need not fear the results of this new increase in the Irish electorate; for although there may be a tendency on the part of the electorate to make use of their newly acquired power to break the 612 Union. — [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no!] Well, supposing that such a thing were possible, he says we shall have England and Scotland to rely upon; but I say that is not what we ought to rely upon. You will be taking a great step towards the moral breaking up of the Union of the Empire if you set England and Scotland against Ireland. What we want is the representation of what is known as the Loyalist Irish feeling from Ireland itself. We do not want to have a solid vote in a Separatist sense in Ireland overborne by a solid vote in England and Scotland. We want to see what is the feeling of the different classes in Ireland, just as we see what it is in other parts of the Kingdom. When we obtain that information, and are able to form a proper judgment on such a matter as that, then we can deal more safely with this great question. I quite see the difficulty which the Chief Secretary has pointed out of having different legislation for different parts of the Kingdom, and I do not think you can make a satisfactory settlement by that means; but until the Government make their scheme complete, and enable us to see how it is to work, it is our duty to resist its application everywhere, and especially to the weakest point of our system—namely, the representation of Ireland.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."— (Mr. Tottenham.)
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he thought the proposition was most reasonable. This subject had been brought before the Committee by his hon. Friend the Member for West Surrey (Mr. Brodrick). That hon. Gentleman was replied to by the Chief Secretary, and he was followed by his hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis), and the later phases of the debate wore too fresh in the minds of the Committee for any reference to them to be necessary; and he wished to put it to the Prime Minister that this was a subject in which very great interest was felt, and that there was a very strong desire that all reasonable facilities should be given for carrying on the discussion. He could not see on what ground the right hon. Gentleman based the extraordinary de- 613 cision at which he had arrived; and the right hon. Gentleman had not vouchsafed a solitary reason why the Committee should be debarred from the full discussion of this subject. He entertained opinions upon the subject which were not precisely those which had been so eloquently urged by his right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Plunket); but he arrived at the same conclusion; and he ventured to ask the Prime Minister not to attempt to stop the mouths of those who had a perfect right to speak before being called upon to vote in a matter of this kind. He thought the right hon. Gentleman must admit that the request he made was perfectly reasonable, and that the Committee would be justified in demanding that facilities should be given for an adequate discussion.
§ It being ten minutes before Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to report Progress; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.