Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [8th April],
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the provision for the future Government of Ireland.
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.1317
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
Mr. Speaker, I am profoundly sensible that it would be utterly impossible for me to attain in any degree whatever to the unequalled elevation of argument and eloquence with which the Prime Minister initiated this debate on Thursday afternoon, and at which, I think, it has been maintained by the speeches of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington) and by the right hon. Gentleman who sits below the Gangway (Mr. Chamberlain). Moreover, Sir, I do not think that it would be at all within my power to make even a decent approximation to that altitude unless I were favoured with the more than usually liberal and kind indulgence and patience of the House of Commons—an indulgence which hitherto it has been my extreme good fortune never to have asked for in vain. Sir, I do not believe that if the youngest Member of this House were to live as long as the oldest Member of this House, and were during all that long period to have a seat in Parliament—I doubt whether he would ever be called upon to consider matters more momentous than those which are now before the House of Commons. A debate upon the relations—harmonious or otherwise—which exist, or which ought to exist, between races, between peoples, and between nations, cannot fail to be of a character most interesting and most exciting. It belongs, I think, essentially to the highest order of topics which can by any possibility come under the notice of a free Parliament; it ought, I think, to be approached with unlimited caution, and after exhaustive study. A debate of that kind is seldom indulged in without a large admixture of passion and of prejudice. But, Sir, if these forces can to any considerable extent be eliminated, then I am of opinion that the prospect of obtaining or arriving at a peaceful solution of the problems that may be raised are brighter and more assured. Sir, so far as I am concerned, and in the observations which I will endeavour to put before the House of Commons, I will be guided entirely by that view. Nor will I seek, by any words of mine, to lay myself open to any reasonable accusation of having added, even by so much as a drop, to the cup of prejudice and passion which on either side of the House it might not be difficult, under certain circumstances, 1318 to cause to overflow. I will also be guided mainly, and as far as I can, by an observation which fell from the hon. and learned Member for South. Londonderry (Mr. T. M. Healy) on Friday night—that it was the duty of the English Parliament and the English people to approach these proposals in a spirit of prudence and inquiry; and, moreover, I most readily respond to the appeal of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant on Friday night, as to the inutility at present of any recriminations about the past, and as to the advisability of doing what he calls passing a Constitutional amnesty for the purposes of this debate. Therefore, Sir, as far as I am concerned, I want to be perfectly willing to treat everything which occurred up to Thursday night as to what he calls "old history"—perhaps with only one exception. I want to bring before the House an extract from the speech of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) which was made recently. The House will recollect that on Friday night the noble Marquess opposite, in a speech which it would be perfectly presumptuous for me to pass any opinion upon, so impressed was the House with it, took up a strong Constitutional attitude, and denied the moral right of the present House of Commons to consider the proposals such as the Prime Minister has laid before us. The House will, I think, be startled to know that on this Constitutional position the hon. Member for the City of Cork is in complete accord with the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington). I may say in complete accord with the noble Marquess, because the hon. Member for the City of Cork, whatever else may be said of him, is rarely inconsistent in his utterances in explanation of the position he takes up. Therefore, I would ask the House to hear what was the opinion of the hon. Member for the City of Cork on the 10th of November last, speaking at a meeting at Liverpool that day with regard to the Constitutional rights of the House of Commons. The hon. Member, as reported in The Times, was alluding to a speech the Prime Minister had made in Mid Lothian, when he expressed his doubts as to the desirability of the Liberal Party, or of any Party, touching this question, except in connection with a majority. The hon. Member for the City of Cork said— 1319Under the circumstances, it appeared to him that the House of Lords would only be carrying out their Constitutional right of rejecting a Bill, the details of which had not been before the country at the General Election. Mr. Gladstone could avoid all this trouble by bringing his great intellect to the promotion of a Constitutional course. He invited him to lay his views as to the largest amount of self-government for Ireland, subject to the condition he had stipulated regarding the supremacy of the Crown and the maintenance of the unity of the Empire, before the public, in order that the electors of the Three Kingdoms might have an opportunity of judging on them, and passing a decisive verdict at the General Election.I hope the House will not think I was doing wrong in passing away from the one rule I had laid down for myself, and bringing before the House the most remarkable fact that the hon. Member for the City of Cork—who certainly is no mean Constitutional authority—is in complete and perfect accord with the position taken up by the noble Marquess opposite on Friday night. Mr. Speaker, it is not my intention to weary the House by any close examination of the details of this measure, because I do not think that any such examination would be at all suitable to a first-reading debate; because, in the second place, there is so much, even after the marvellous exposition of the First Lord of the Treasury, which is left in doubt and mystery; and, in the third place, I must say that after consideration and reconsideration of the Prime Minister's speech, I am led irresistibly to the conclusion that the scheme now before the House appears, so far as I am informed, to involve such a complicated, such an inextricable, such a multitudinous mass of contradictions and absurdities, that I feel quite certain if it had not been proposed to the House on the high and illustrious authority of the First Lord of the Treasury, it would not have been for one moment seriously considered. It is, of course, possible that when the measure comes to be printed and circulated it may look somewhat better, and the details may appear more symmetrical and intelligible than they do now. Under that reservation I would make a few criticisms. At the first sight certain things do, undoubtedly, appear very clear. There are to be found in this Bill, by a careful student, a great quantity of what I must call fanciful and eccentric guarantees and safeguards. I own I was a little astonished and somewhat alarmed by the apparent lighthearted 1320 acquiescence of the Irish Party, in the guarantees and safeguards. The attitude of the Irish Party—so far as it has been represented hitherto—reminded one of the perhaps, well-known story of Theodore Hook. When he went up to the University to be matriculated he is said to have been asked by the Vice Chancellor if he was prepared to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles. "Certainly," replied Theodore Hook, "40 if you will." That extraordinary manifestation of frivolity to some extent discomposed the University authorities. I take, as an illustration of those safeguards and guarantees, a very remarkable example. I would draw the attention of the House to the proposed composition of the new Irish Parliament. It is proposed by the Prime Minister that the new Irish Parliament shall be composed of two Orders of Members, elected by different constituencies. I have taken a great deal of trouble since Thursday night to consult the highest authorities I could get access to; and I believe I am right in saying that if you search ancient and modern history through and through, you will find no precedent in all the records of Constitutional Government for such a proposal as is now made to the House of Commons. ["Oh!"] Well, there is, perhaps, one precedent; but I doubt whether it is one which will be at all flattering to the dignity of the Irish Parliament. There is a Synod of the Disestablished Church in Ireland that does, I believe, consist of two Orders, acting separately, and at times together. But, first of all, I do not think there is any connection or any analogy between a Disestablished Church and a deliberate and elective Assembly. Secondly, I have the authority of a distinguished member of the Synod for stating that the separation of the two Orders leads to the most constant deadlock and the most endless and protracted discussion. However, the first Order in this new Parliament is intended by the First Lord of the Treasury specially to represent property; and it is a remarkable thing, and one well worthy of the notice of the Members of the Radical Party below the Gangway, that the Leader of the great Liberal Party—a Leader who certainly approximates on many occasions to the more advanced tendencies of that Party—should at this time of day propose for 1321 the constitution of a Representative Assembly so reactionary and so discarded a machinery as property qualifications. I would also point out to the House, in passing, that the peculiar rating and property qualification which is proposed for the electors does not necessarily protect the Protestant minorities. I have it on high authority that I can trust that there are many hundreds of the farmers of Ulster who would not be entitled to vote for the Order which is specially to represent the minority; whereas there would be hundreds of the cattle graziers of Limerick, Cork, Tipperary, and Meath who would vote for the Order which is specially intended to represent the minority. This is a matter of no considerable moment; but I think it is worth mentioning. The second Order of the proposed House of Commons certainly does not represent property; and the arrangement is that these Orders are to sit and vote together, but that either Order can at any time demand separate voting, and that either Order can veto the action of the other Order. May I be allowed to put that into operation? I suppose the meeting of the Irish Parliament, and I test this curious arrangement on three points. I take first the election of the Speaker. Obviously, the election of a Speaker may have an enormous deal to do with the protection of minorities; and it is also perfectly possible that one Order may prefer one person as Speaker, and the other Order may prefer another. As far as I can make out this would be the result. The popular Order, and not the property Order, would carry their Speaker. The property Order would veto the election; and the election of a Speaker would be suspended for three or five year. I test it on another point of view deeply interesting to the Members of the Irish Party. I test it on the point of Procedure and the Rules of Debate. It is quite possible that a certain portion of the Irish Parliament in the second Order might prefer certain Procedure and Rules of Debate—they might prefer the closure of debate. On the other hand, it is quite possible that the other Order, the first Order, might object to their ideas of Procedure. Again the veto comes in, and the Procedure Regulations and the Rules of Debate are suspended for three or five years. I test it by one more point. I take the question of the 1322 Budget. I could imagine the hon. Member for the City of Cork, as Irish Minister, placing before an Irish Parliament the financial arrangements for 1887; I can, without any great stretch of imagination, suppose that those arrangements may not possibly be altogether suited to the Order specially represented by property. That Order demands separate voting, vetoes the Budget for three or five years, and thus the financial arrangements are suspended. It is quite possible that when we have the Bill in print these strictures may not be applicable. It is also possible—and the difficulty of deciding this is very great—that it is intended by the scheme that a Dissolution should, as it were, kill a veto. Whether this is so or not I do not know. I would point out that if it does, the protection of the minority is of the most worthless description; and, more than that, if a Dissolution can kill a veto, the action of the two Orders as regards each other, and as regards the Irish Government, may be so extraordinary as to compel that Government to revert to the sense of the Irish people once or twice a-month. If this is right, it is quite clear that this is a most ludicrous proposal; and it is rather extraordinary that it should appear, up to now, to be a quite fair and natural proposal to the Irish Members. I come to another point, which I think is of the utmost importance. The Prime Minister took great credit to himself for maintaining what he called the fiscal unity of the United Kingdom. How has that been effected? It has been effected by retaining the power of voting the Customs and Excise in the hands of the British Government and the British Parliament; but this is to be done by the violation of the most ancient British right—that taxation and representation should go together. Well, what has been the reason for that change? The Prime Minister told us that it was because he was so extremely anxious to maintain the fiscal unity of the United Kingdom. It may be so. I had an idea that there were other Members here of the Government who were more alive than the First Lord of the Treasury to electioneering considerations, who thought it would be most imprudent if the Customs and Excise were given over to the Irish Parliament; because the proposal of duties being placed on English 1323 manufactures and English goods by the Irish Parliament might be extremely unfavourably received by the English constituencies. However that may be I do not know; but the arrangement that was made will be seen by the House to bear the marks of the utmost possible haste, precipitation, and thoughtlessness. We know that on the 13th of March it was proposed by the Government to give the Customs and Excise to the Irish Parliament. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Of course, I am going entirely by the statement which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) made on Friday night. But I do not press the point at all. No doubt, it is a matter which must have received a good deal of attention, and may have undergone several modifications; but observe the nature of the arrangement, and let me point out to the House the price which is paid for this arrangement—first by the Irish people, and then by the English people. Sir, the arrangement appears to be this—that, if it is agreed to, the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his Party, acting on behalf of Ireland, and representing Ireland, sell to the British Government and the British Parliament, for £1,400,000 a-year, the inalienable right of a free people, that representation and taxation should go together. The hon. Member for the City of Cork stated, in interruption of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, that he considered the £1,400,000 a-year a valuable quid pro quo, and, therefore, he was not disposed to press the claim for the Irish Government. But the hon. Member for the City of Cork and his Party, as I think I can show, do more than that. They also sell for £1,400,000 a-year the power of the purse in the Irish Parliament, not as regards the English Government, but as regards the Irish Government. The arrangement is this. There are Customs and Excise in Ireland collected to the amount, at present, of £6,100,000 a-year, and out of that sum £3,500,000 will be taken for the obligations to the Imperial Exchequer, leaving a balance of over £2,500,000 which is to be paid over by the Imperial officials into the Irish Treasury, absolutely beyond the control of the Irish Parliament, not voted by 1324 the Irish Parliament, and, for all I know, not controlled even indirectly by the Irish Parliament, but as absolutely in the power of the Irish Government. In addition to that, there will be also in the hands of the Irish Government a Non-Tax Revenue amounting to just a little over £1,000,000 a-year. Therefore, I make out that, in the present arrangement, the Irish Government will have in their hands, practically independent of the Irish Parliament, something a little over £3,000,000 a-year, and in good years considerably over. Now, is not that an extraordinary Constitution to propose? The cost of civil government in Ireland is estimated by the Prime Minister at £2,500,000; therefore, positively, it comes to this, if this arrangement is carried out—that the Irish Government will have at their undisputed control more than enough money to carry on the government of Ireland without the aid of the Parliament at all; and it would be perfectly open to the Irish Government to dismiss the Parliament, and never summon it to Dublin any more. Well, Sir, I shall be glad to know what is the view the Radical and Irish Members take of the proposal that the Customs and the Excise in this country should be voted for a period of years, and should be handed over absolutely to the control of the Treasury? That, literally—if hon. Members will examine the scheme—is put before the House by the Prime Minister, and that is what absolutely arises from it. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] Of course, Sir, the Prime Minister will be able to show whether I am right or wrong; but I do not see any object in his continual negations, unless supported by demonstration. I would also point out to the hon. Member for the City of Cork that the £1,400,000 a-year which he proposes to obtain as the price for a very considerable sacrifice on his part is of an extremely illusory and precarious character. In the first place—and I make the remark without intending the smallest disrespect—the amount rests absolutely on the statement of the Prime Minister. I understood from him that the amount was very difficult to prove by figures and Returns; but, nevertheless, it was certain that that was the amount which would be to the credit of the Irish Government. We all recognize what a master of figures and of 1325 finance the Prime Minister is. During his long and illustrious career, year after year the House of Commons has been dazzled by the manner in which he manipulates figures; and certainly, for my own part, as being only a common-place and ordinary human being, I should, if I were making a bargain for the country, like to examine with a little more care the manner in which this £1,400,000 a-year is arrived at. But that, however, is not my duty. I have to point out that the £1,400,000 a-year is of a very precarious character, even if it is the exact amount. It may be largely affected by the importation to England of spirits in bond. It may be largely affected by the diminution in the Excise receipts—a diminution which the Chancellor of the Exchequer will say is going on very rapidly at the present moment. It would also be largely affected by temperance legislation, not necessarily in Ireland, but in England and Scotland. That is the price which the Irish pay for this arrangement, under which fiscal unity is maintained; but what is the price which the English people pay for this arrangement? I think it will be found that the price which the English people pay is far heavier. The effect of this arrangement, so far as I can make out, will be—if it is carried into effect—that the Customs and Excise duties of the whole of Great Britain will be stereotyped. ["No, no!"] Somebody said "No!" Of course, it is quite possible that I am wrong; may I put my argument before the House? It appears to me that the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in England will certainly be very much cramped, if not altogether tied, because what arises from this bargain is that the Customs and Excise are to remain in the hands of the Imperial Parliament, and that Ireland is to pay so much a-year to England and no more. This arises; and I do not see how the Chancellor of the Exchequer in England can ever lower the Customs and Excise duties, because if he lowers the Customs and Excise duties he depletes and diminishes the resources out of which Ireland has got to pay her way and to pay her tribute to England, and he takes that course without the Irish being represented in Parliament. But, further, I do not see how the Chancellor of the Exchequer can raise the Customs 1326 and the Excise duties, because if he does so, he forces on the Irish a taxation which they do not want and a surplus revenue which possibly they will not require. Now, Sir, I may be told—"Oh, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in that case, will enter into negotiations with the Irish Government and the Irish Parliament, and he will come to an agreement with them." But what does that really come to, if that is so? It comes to this—that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Imperial Parliament at Westminster, wishing to deal with revenue amounting to literally one-half of the whole of our resources, cannot deal with the revenue with any freedom, or indeed with freedom at all, unless he goes to Dublin and sues for permission from the Irish Government and the Irish Parliament. I want to know, in that case, what becomes of the supremacy of the British Parliament? I will only take one case—a case of urgency—which may happen at any time; it happened last year, when the First Lord of the Treasury came down to the House and asked suddenly for £11,000,000 of money. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot carry on rapid negotiations with the Parliament of Ireland as to raising the Customs and Excise, this House may vote the £11,000,000; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not be able to raise the necessary funds. Of course, that is a point on which, no doubt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will enlighten the House. He, no doubt, has studied these matters from a financial point of view; and I feel certain that he is far too jealous a guardian of English finances not to be able to enter into some kind of explanation of this arrangement. Well, Sir, that appears to me to be the price which the English people will have to pay for the maintenance of this fiscal unity, to say nothing, this House must bear in mind, of at least £1,500,000 in hard cash of annual extra taxation which will devolve on the British taxpayer if the Bill passes into law. That is the only remark which I shall make with regard to two of the safeguards proposed by the Prime Minister. It will be possible for anyone with the smallest ingenuity to go on for a long time pointing out all the inconveniencies, all the difficulties, all the absurdities which must apparently inevitably 1327 arise from the arrangement proposed—an arrangement which I feel perfectly convinced introduces the greatest maximum of friction and irritation between the two countries, and the smallest conceivable minimum of harmony and co-operation. Well, Sir, I leave over the details of the measure, and I come to the great principle of the Bill. Sir, what is the principle of this Bill? I hold, with a good deal of confidence, that the principle of the Bill is Repeal. The Prime Minister, on Thursday afternoon, stated that it was not the intention of the Government, nor the desire of the Government, nor the act of the Government, to repeal the Act of Union. He said that he only meant to modify it in certain particulars. If it had not been the Prime Minister who made that statement, if it had been any ordinary person, I could hardly have prevented myself from interrupting to ask whether he had read the Act of Union. It is possible that many hon. Members have not been able to refer to the text of the Act of Union; anyhow, as the Act of Union is called in question, the House will allow me to direct its attention to one or two of its principal Articles. The first Article of the Act of Union is—That it be the first Article of the Union of the said Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland shall, upon the 1st day of January, which the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, that shall be in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and one, and for ever after, be united into one Kingdom by the name of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.Well, Sir, but what does that expression mean? What did the great framers of that Act mean? After all, nobody would say that men like Mr. Pitt and his Colleagues were idiots or fools, and did not know what they were about when they drew up that Act. What do you suppose they meant by the unity of the United Kingdom? Had it no practical effect, or was it to be a unity of the United Kingdom for all those practical purposes for which England and Ireland entered into it? How will you maintain the unity of the United Kingdom now if you pass this Bill into law? In a most singular and curious way. You will maintain it by excluding summarily one portion—a portion which, under certain circumstances, might be very happy and prosperous, a portion inhabited by 5,000,000 of people—from 1328 any share and any voice, and for all time, in the discussion of any foreign, any Colonial, any commercial, and any Imperial affairs. And then I am told, that the unity of the United Kingdom is maintained, and that the Act of Union is not repealed! But I go on to the next Article, the second, which provides for the Succession to the Crown; and I would only point out on that point that if, in the course of time, the House of Commons should be called on to face a great crisis as regards the Succession to the Crown, as it had to do in the beginning of the 18th century, Ireland will, under this Bill, have no voice in that important matter. The Imperial Parliament can impose—if such a crisis were to arise—any Monarch upon Ireland which it chooses, and Ireland has nothing to say to it; and yet I am told that the unity of the United Kingdom is maintained! I go now to the most important Article of the Act of Union, which provides—I do not know if I have the exact words. [The ATTORNEY GENERAL here handed the noble Lord the Statute Book across the Table.] I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman. The third Article is as follows—it is very short, and it is the main Article of the Act—That it be third Article of Union that the said United Kingdom be represented in one and the same Parliament, to be stiled the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.It is provided by the Act of Union that Ireland is to be represented in the same Parliament as the people of England and Scotland; and it is provided by this Bill that the Irish Members, for all purposes whatever and for all time, shall never be represented at Westminster again. And yet I am told by the Prime Minister, and we are all told, that this is not Repeal. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, by what the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) so properly called his colossal intellect and great genius, is able, and has often shown the House that he is able, to place the most extraordinary meaning and construction upon words and sentences. We have been told by him of the distinction between a war and military operations. We have been told of many other singular distinctions; but I confidently ask the House whether they ever heard of such 1329 an extraordinary distinction as that by which he argued that this measure is not a repeal of the Union? The Prime Minister also declared in his speech that the supremacy of Parliament would not be impaired in the slightest degree. These were his words. But I do not understand what is really meant by "Parliament" in this case. Does he mean the Parliament that remains at Westminster?—because after this Bill comes into operation the Parliament that remains at Westminster, and which will be for all intents and purposes the Imperial Parliament, can no longer make any laws for Ireland, except on certain limited and specified points. It cannot, with these exceptions, make a single law; it cannot repeal a single law for Ireland. I shall state it in this way. Suppose that the Irish Government and the Irish Parliament encounter some little difficulty—which may possibly be the case—in asserting their authority or in maintaining their authority in certain parts of Ireland; suppose that the Government of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) is compelled by this difficulty to bring in and pass some measure for the disarmament of Ulster, or for the abolition of trial by jury in Ulster, or for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus in that part of the country? The Imperial Parliament cannot say one word. Even the Prerogatives of the Crown, of assent or veto, may be delegated to the Viceroy, and the Imperial Parliament will have no official knowledge of that strange and alarming state of things. Not a word can the Imperial Parliament say; and the grand result of all that will undoubtedly turn out to be that the protection of the lives, the liberties, and the property of every man, woman, and child in Ireland passes absolutely and for ever from the jurisdiction of the Imperial Parliament in England. And yet, Sir, in the face of that, I am told, and the House of Commons is told, and we are expected to believe, "with the unreasoning and blind credulity of an African negro, who may possibly think he is almost listening to the voice of Divine infallibility—we are positively expected to believe and to receive without question the statement in the face of that illustration, that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament is not impaired in the smallest degree! There is another 1330 aspect, looking at the scheme as a whole, in which it is most illogical, strangely illogical. You find, if you look at the scheme carefully, an enormous amount of giving with one hand and taking away with the other. You find the most curious manifestation of exuberant confidence, combined simultaneously with the most curious manifestation of the most profound distrust. We trust Ireland, and yet the Government tells us that Ireland is so irritated, so estranged, so hostile to this country, that the very fact of that hostility forces us to give her this new Irish Government with au independent Parliament. Could there be a more enormous exhibition of confidence when Ireland is in such a frame of mind; and ought not that perfect confidence to carry with it logically almost everything else that can be conceived? But what do we find? It really appears to me, if I may say it without rousing the impatience of hon. Members below the Gangway, that if I were an Irishman, and looking at the scheme from a patriotic point of view, as they do, I could not help feeling that the honour and dignity of my country, which had asserted its right and won its claim to have an independent Parliament, was deeply wounded and affronted by the fact that this independent Parliament, under this Magna Charta of my country's liberties, was not to be trusted to deal with any matter arising out of six specified and most important points. In the first place, the Irish Parliament is not to be trusted to deal at all possibly, or at any rate only to a very limited extent, with any of the rights of the existing owners of land. In the second place, the Irish Parliament is not to be trusted to deal with or to care for the protection of the persons or the rights of the existing Judges. The Judicial Bench in Ireland, although some of its members have got into what the Prime Minister described as uneasy relations with what would be the predominant party, has, it will be admitted, long been remarkable for its great learning and its signal incorruptibility. And although that is their position, and although they ought by these means to have gained the confidence and affection of the Irish people, the existing Judges cannot be trusted to the care of the Irish Parliament. But a most curious detail arises in reference to the Irish Judges, to which I would draw attention 1331 for a moment. Take the case of the Judges of the Exchequer. They are not to be trusted, either at present or in future, to the proposed Irish Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman said he must make an exception in regard to the Judges of the Court of Exchequer in Ireland. And why? On account, said the right hon. Gentleman, of the enormous financial relations we think it necessary to keep a certain amount of hold on the Court of Exchequer, or, at least, upon two of its members. As a matter of fact, that is a curious expression to use, because there is no Court of Exchequer in Ireland. It was abolished in 1877. There is a Division of the Supreme Court, which, I believe, is called the Exchequer Division. This does not exactly mean the same thing as a Court of Exchequer. But Her Majesty's Government reserve the right to appoint the two Judges of the Exchequer Division. Mark the absurdity and inutility of this check, and the very gratuitous affront that it seems to put upon the Irish people. The Collector of Revenue, an Imperial official, obtains a decree in the Court of Exchequer in which the Government say they are to appoint two Judges. Who can execute that decree? The only persons who can execute that decree are the Civil officers who are under the control of the Civil Irish Government; and if the Civil officers should not be allowed by the Irish Government to execute the decree, the check upon the Court of Exchequer obtained by the Government is absolutely worthless. Another very singular point is that the Exchequer Division can make no order, even in Revenue matters, which is not subject to appeal in the Irish Court of Appeal. But the Irish Court of Appeal will be composed of Irish Judges appointed by the Irish Government. So where is the value of the check which, on account of these enormous financial relations, you think it so necessary to retain? Is it not an extraordinary thing that Her Majesty's Government are willing to trust the Irish Judges appointed by the Irish Government with the lives, with the liberties, and with the property of every man, woman, and child in Ireland; but Her Majesty's Government would not trust Irish Judges with one single penny of the British Revenue? Well, there is another point on which the Irish Parliament cannot 1332 be trusted. They cannot be trusted to deal with the existing Civil Service. In the proposal of the Prime Minister every member of the Civil Service in Ireland, after the Irish Government and the Irish Parliament have been constituted, may immediately claim his discharge upon certain terms, putting at once an enormous outlay on the Irish Estimates for what may be called the Non-Effective Service. Moreover, the Irish Parliament will have nothing to do with the police, with the military, or the Militia, nor with any service whatever arising out of the question of defence. I should have thought that one of the most inalienable rights of the Irish people was the right to provide for their own self-defence; but everything relating to the defence of Ireland is withdrawn from the cognizance of the Irish Parliament. Now comes the most important matter. The Irish Parliament is not to be trusted to deal with any of the laws relating to trade and navigation. That betrays, on the part of the Government, most extraordinary ignorance apparently. I should withdraw that word seeing the great historian opposite me; it would seem to betray ignorance, if it were not for the Chief Secretary, of Irish history. For what was the unfailing cause of every single dispute which arose during the period, 500 years ago, between the Irish Parliament and the British Parliament, except this cause, and this cause only—the right claimed by the English Parliament to legislate on matters affecting trade and navigation in Ireland? It was the subject of this exclusive right claimed by the English Parliament that led to the movement of 1781; and it was the concession of that which procured the independence of the Grattan Parliament in 1782. And yet, with all that historical knowledge, no doubt most ably placed before them, the Government deliberately refuse to trust the Irish Parliament with the control of any single matter relating to trade and navigation. What is to be the effect of this? Is not the principal export from Ireland to England cattle, sheep, and pigs? Well, imagine now this. Information might be given to the Government that there was pleuro-pneumonia or foot-and-mouth disease in Ireland. The British Government, under the existing laws, could instantly prohibit the exportation of any 1333 cattle from Ireland into England, and for any length of time, bringing by that act immediate ruin to an enormous number of Irish farmers, and not one single Irish Member could in any way whatever raise his voice against that act, or correct the Government, or give the Government better information. The 103 Irish Members who might have protected Irish farmers from ruin are gone from this House; the total export of cattle might be prohibited by the arbitrary act of the British Government; and yet I am told to believe that the unity of the United Kingdom still remains for all practical purposes unimpaired. I now come to the last point, relating to the Irish Parliament—I mean the question of Ulster. Some people call it Loyal Ulster; some call it Protestant Ulster; but all will call it prosperous and wealthy Ulster. ["No!"] I do not think I will be contradicted if, looking at it from the point of view of Revenue resources alone, I were to call Ulster the heart of Ireland. ["No!"] Hon. Members below the Gangway jeer at that; but I wish to know whether, in their opinion, the Irish Government would be able to carry on, to pay their way, if Ulster were withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the Irish Parliament? Call it what you like, Ulster is one of the most historical Provinces of Ireland; but the Government have not yet decided whether Ulster can be trusted to the Irish Parliament or not. In the words of the Prime Minister, it is left for "careful, unprejudiced, future consideration"—in other words, it is left by the Government to the scramble of Committee. Is not that one of the most convincing proofs that could possibly be brought forward that this Government, having pondered over this matter for weeks, having had every kind of information at their disposal, from the highest authorities on history and law, are unable to come to any decision as to the fate of Ulster—is not that an irrefutable proof of the most hopelessly insoluble character of this problem of Home Rule? So much with regard to the general aspect of this scheme. Finally, I ask the House to consider how it is proposed, and in what manner it comes before us. The Prime Minister said on Thursday that it would be necessary to base these proposals for large and extensive changes on the most broad and 1334 solid grounds. In that we all agree; but what were the grounds which were put forward by the Prime Minister as broad and solid? If we judge them solely upon the wealth of eloquence, exposition, and illustration with which they were presented, then I admit they have claim to great breadth and solidity; but if we strip them of their rhetorical ornamentations, and analyze them as they stand by themselves, then I think the House will be surprised to find how incredibly slender they are on which to base so vast, so organic a change. The right hon. Gentleman put forward four grounds in support of his proposal. The first was the non-renewal of the Crimes Act by the late Government. That particularly recommends itself to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I know. [The CHANCELIOR of the EXCHEQUER (Sir William Harcourt): Yes.] Heaven forbid that I should weary the House by re-opening that endless controversy. I will content myself with one remark on this question. The former Government of the present Prime Minister, in 1882, passed a Crimes Act which they deliberately so framed that it was to expire in three years, and the late Government allowed it to expire. The Government of the Earl of Beaconsfield, in 1875, passed a Peace Preservation Act which they deliberately framed so as to expire after five years; and the late Government of the present First Lord of the Treasury allowed that Act to expire, although crime, curiously enough, was on the increase. But the First Lord of the Treasury says that our act, in allowing the Act to expire, was an act of immeasurable historical significance. Why? Why was the act, which took place in June last, one of that character, and the act of the First Lord of the Treasury's Government in 1880 one of no historical significance? And if the act of the Government of the right hon. Gentleman in 1880 had no historical significance, how can he prove that the act of the late Government in June last had so enormous a historical significance that positively on that ground you must base the Repeal of the Union? The second ground which the Prime Minister took is, undoubtedly, much stronger. It was the presence of 86 Members in this House belonging to the Irish National Party; and that is a matter which 1335 would lead even the most unreflective mind to profound reflection. But, in the first place, it does not appear to me absolutely proved, as it were, demonstrated priinâ facie, why 86 Members should on any single proposition prevail over the voice of 584. In the second place, while I fully admit to any extent within reason the formidable character of that Party, and the power which it can exercise in the Imperial Parliament, I take leave to doubt the permanence of that formidable character. Any study of Irish history will show that no Irish political Party has ever held together for long. [Ironical cheers and laughter.] I pray hon. Members not to be disposed to prevent me from placing my arguments before the House, because they are fair, and there are certain things which must be said in the interest of truth and justice. I repeat—and I defy ton. Members below the Gangway to contradict me in debate—that no Irish Party in history ever held together for long. Resistance to any Irish political Party has always strained it, and has ultimately destroyed it. I take the Party of Mr. O'Connell, the Party headed by him in 1835. Nothing could have been more formidable, apparently, than that Party, on account of the balance of strength between Whigs and Tories: yet that Party in time melted away, broke up, and Mr. O'Connell died abroad a stranger, and some people said of a broken heart. Well, if I take a Party which I recollect well, because it made its first appearance when I entered Parliament—the Party of Mr. Butt in 1874. Mr. Butt came back to Parliament at the head of a Party nominally 50 or 60 strong. What became of that Party in this House? The hon. Member for the City of Cork can tell the House, at all events. I had the honour, which I shall always value, of knowing Mr. Butt with some degree of intimacy towards the close of his days, and I saw him not long before he died; and I can say that Mr. Butt, like Mr. O'Connell, died in the deepest distress of mind in regard to the political faith of his Party in this House. Then I will take what I may call the first Party of the hon. Member for the City of Cork—the Party which made its appearance in 1880. Before Parliament met that year that Party came together; they met and elected the hon. Member for the City of 1336 Cork as their Leader, and they came to this House. [Mr. PARNELL: After Mr. Butt's death.] I am aware of that; and they came back to this Parliament apparently united, as far as English opinion could judge, and numbering some 60 votes. But the Parliament had not been six months in Session before that Party was sharply divided—and sharply divided it remained during the whole of the last Parliament. Well, now, we have to examine the second Party which has been formed by the hon. Member for the City of Cork. It is certainly in appearance a most formidable and numerous Party; but it seems tome that the hon. Member is himself aware of the great danger of disunion, which has been the historical accompaniment of every Irish political Party, because he has taken a step hitherto absolutely unknown to the Parliamentary life of the United Kingdom. Every Member of that Party has signed a most solemn and binding pledge that he will vote in a particular manner. ["No!"] Hon. Members will have an opportunity of answering me if I am wrong; but, speaking from the knowledge which I possess, I affirm that a pledge never given before has been given by every Irish Member; and the fact that such a pledge has been exacted makes it impossible to suppose that the Party of the hon. Member for the City of Cork is free from the hereditary tendency to disunion. Well, that Party has not yet been tried. It has only just, I may say, been born; and I cannot admit—and the House, I think, will not admit—that the mere appearance of this Party in this Parliament is sufficient, before they have even formulated any clear demands, to cause the fabric of that Union which was constructed by Mr. Pitt, and which has been maintained without hesitation or alteration by every succeeding Minister down to the present day, to fall to pieces, as the walls of Jericho fell before the migrating masses of Israel. The third ground upon which the Prime Minister based his proposal was undoubtedly a most original ground. He based his third argument for Repeal upon the existence of St. George's Channel. I recollect quite well the Prime Minister visiting Ireland. I had the extreme honour at that time—which I shall not forget—of being presented to the right hon. Gentleman. 1337 I remember that the weather was most boisterous and tempestuous, and the right hon. Gentleman had most excellent reasons for conceiving an undying animosity against St. George's Channel, and for making it, as it were, the scapegoat of his future Irish policy. As to the argument of the Channel, I have to say this. You have had in this House important and long debates on the principles of the Union. Every argument for and against has been applied with every amount of ingenuity which can be imagined; but this is the very first time in the history of these debates that the argument of geography has been summoned to the aid of Repeal. And the Prime Minister, with a daring which nobody but he could employ, has taxed the argument of geography, that tremendous weapon of defence which has always been on the side of the Union, and has used it as an instrument in favour of Repeal. If the House will recollect for a moment the extraordinary difficulties which attended the transit between Ireland and Britain and between Dublin and London in the year 1800—will remember that it sometimes took a man six weeks to go from London to Dublin, and will call to mind the ease and rapidity and regularity of the transit now, they will not be inclined to admit that the argument which was good enough for the construction of the Union in 1800 has been in any way lessened or weakened by the invention of steam, railways, and telegraphs. The fourth ground which the Prime Minister took up was the most daring of all, and, if true, it was undoubtedly the most melancholy. The Prime Minister said we cannot govern Ireland any longer, because our law is discredited in Ireland. And why is our law discredited? Because, he says, our law comes to the Irish people with a foreign aspect and in a foreign garb. Of course, it is sad to hear the First Minister of the Crown proclaim to the Parliament of the United Kingdom that the Irish are aliens to the English and Scotch, and the English and Scotch are aliens to the Irish. The First Lord of the Treasury had just been five years in Parliament when Lord Lyndhurst, in the House of Lords, denounced the Irish as being aliens in race and religion. [Mr. GLADSTONE: And in language.] Aliens in race, religion, and language. Mr. Sheil, in this House, 1338 pointed to Lord Lyndhurst, who was at that time sitting under the Gallery, and created a most extraordinary scene, speaking on dehalf of the whole Irish nation, and making what was undoubtedly the most brilliant oration that he ever delivered, by repudiating with the utmost vigour the construction which was then put upon Lord Lyndhurst's words, and which I can now legitimately draw from the arguments of the Prime Minister. But is it not still more sad and melancholy when the First Minister of the Crown, who makes this despairing confession, is one who for the last 25 years of his life has striven to the best of his light and ability to remove all traces of alienation which have existed between the English and the Irish? Is not this the most complete confession of utter and hopeless failure—failure of efforts which may be called, without exaggeration, the efforts of a lifetime? If the confession were limited merely to a confession it would be sad enough. But when the confession is accompanied by a new policy and a now proposal, it is a confession of a nature which should I cause the House of Commons to pause. The Prime Minister seemed to me, when he made that confession, to forget for the moment what a fatal confession it was to his own proposal. In what aspect and in what garb will this Magna Charta go to Ireland? Surety, it will have the same aspect and same garb which the Prime Minister ascribes to the measures for Catholic Emancipation, Municipal Reform, Parliamentary Reform, the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, and for the alteration of the Land Laws, all of which laws, the Prime Minister tells us, are discredited in Ireland. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] Those laws went to the Irish people quite as much as any other laws with a foreign aspect and in a foreign garb; and, assuming that this Bill was passed into law, we must remember that the good relations between England and Ireland, according to the policy of the Prime Minister, will depend upon the faithful observance by the Irish of the conditions of this contract. But according to the Prime Minister, after an experience of 50 years, Magna Charta is likely to be repudiated and discredited because it goes to them with a foreign aspect and in a foreign garb. Well, Sir, those are the four main 1339 grounds, as it appears to me, on which the Prime Minister produced his proposals; and, of course, the House of Commons will judge whether those grounds are sufficiently broad and solid. The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant supplied another ground on Friday night for the introduction of these proposals. I do not wish to say anything that might be considered in the least degree disrespectful, or bitter, or personal with reference to the Chief Secretary, because I recognize that, excluding the Prime Minister, he is among the chief Members of the Government, perhaps, the only one who can base upon his public performances a claim to sincerity in connection with this question. The Chief Secretary, in his speech on Friday night, did not condescend to enter into any explanation—although, Heaven knows, explanation has been much asked for, and is sorely wanted. The right hon. Gentleman treated the question with the vaguest generalities. I would ask him whether he has ever, in his literary researches, met the description applied by Mr. Grattan to the speech of Lord Clare? The following are Mr. Grattan's words:—Great generosity of assertion, great thrift of argument, a turn to be offensive without the power to be severe—fury in the temper and famine in the phrase.I do not know whether the Chief Secretary recollects that description; but I do not think for a moment of applying it to his speech. The only precise statement to which the right hon. Gentleman committed himself about the future of Ireland, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan), was that Messrs. Sheridan, Egan, and Patrick Ford would not, according to his profound belief, find places in the new Irish Parliament. He found fault with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Trevelyan) for bringing what he termed a tremendous indictment against the Irish constituencies, and argued that the only logical conclusion, if the views of that right hon. Gentleman were accepted, would be to govern Ireland as a Crown Colony. Well, I shall wait with the utmost curiosity to see whether any Member from Ireland, belonging to the Nationalist Party, confirms the belief of the Chief Secretary in that particular, more especially as I notice that the Irish National League in 1340 America, of which Sheridan, Egan, and Patrick Ford are, I believe, conspicuous members—[Cries of "No!" from the Irish Members.]
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
All I know is that a telegram reached this country quite recently in which occurred the words—"The Irish National League and the friends of President Sheridan"—[Cries of "No!"]
§ MR. DILLON
The friends of President Sullivan, not Sheridan. Mr. Sullivan is a native-born American.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I, of course, shall not urge any argument I was about to found upon that; but I shall be curious to know whether the Irish Party will confirm the statement of the Chief Secretary, because undoubtedly it is an important matter. The right hon. Gentleman did give us one really good ground, in his opinion, for passing this measure, in addition to the grounds expressed by the Prime Minister. He said—"If you reject this Bill and turn us out of Office, you will be doing that which the desperadoes whom you allude to and whom you fear would most desire." He intimated that the consequences would be a "No Rent" Manifesto, dynamite explosions, a great outbreak of crime and outrage, and possibly civil war. He went further than that, and stated that the Land League might have to be suppressed, and that if we suppressed the Land League we should have to lock up priests and Bishops, thereby, apparently, connecting, so far as I can judge, the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Ireland with associations which might have been summarily suppressed on account of its connection with crime and outrage.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I only judged the speech as I heard it, and I am certain that many hon. Members had the same impression.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. I was criticizing the policy of the noble Lord himself. The noble Lord and his Friends 1341 proposed to suppress the League, and I was pointing out the attendant consequences which must go with the suppression of the League.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
The Chief Secretary will not, I think, contradict me in this—that he said no less than twice that if we rejected this Bill and turned out the Government, we must be prepared for the most awful consequences in crime and outrage. All I am going to say on that point is, that that is a tremendous intimation made by a Minister of the Crown responsible for the government of Ireland. The very fact of such an intimation being made might be held by ill-disposed persons to justify the fulfilment of the prophecy. Not only might it be so held by ill-disposed persons; but it might, to some extent, lead the House to the conclusion that what the Prime Minister called the motor muscle of the policy now before the House is fear of these things, and that the Magna Charta, which is to have such beneficent effects in the future of Ireland—this Magna Charta in the disguise of an act of grace—is, in reality, an act of terror. That is a tremendous intimation which the Chief Secretary gave us. It greatly impressed both sides of the House; but he seemed inclined in that speech, to accuse me of contingent sedition. [Mr. JOHN MORLEY: Hear, hear!] I only expressed my belief in Belfast that, under certain circumstances, civil war would break out in Ireland; and the Chief Secretary expressed his belief that, under certain circumstances, crime, outrage, assassination, and dynamite would ensue. He accuses me of contingent sedition. Might I not, without any great stretch of ingenuity, retort that accusation upon him? But this prophecy of the right hon. Gentleman, having been made to the House of Commons, and having been made a ground for passing this Bill, just let me for a moment deal with it. Let us see if these dangers are so very alarming that they ought in any way, or for one moment, to influence our actions. Are these new dangers? Has the House of Commons had no experience of them? Have we never known of the "No Rent" Manifesto? Why, the First Lord of the Treasury himself had to encounter a "No Rent" Manifesto in 1881; and the statesman, whose body, on Friday last, passed 1342 through Westminster Abbey on the way to its grave in the north, encountered, and encountered successfully, a "No Rent" Manifesto. Well, Sir, let us next deal with the dynamite explosions. Have we had no experience of the dynamite explosions? I see, sitting opposite me, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), who can tell the House that, with regard to dynamite explosions, we certainly were most providentially and most miraculously preserved from an awful disaster. But the dynamiters—the people who were inculpated in these atrocities—are now undergoing what has been called a living death. Well, Sir, an outburst of crime and outrage—has the House had no experience of that? I always understood that it was one of the great glories of the Government of Earl Spencer that he rapidly, successfully, and summarily put down a great outburst of crime and outrage in Ireland. Then, Sir, as to assassination. I cannot forget that assassination in 1882 cost Ireland the life of one of her most faithful sons, and the House of Commons the life of one of its most valuable and respected Members. But, Sir, the House of Commons ought not to be influenced, with regard to its future policy, by any such argument as that to which I have referred. Assassination is one of the rarest incidents of modern political life. It used to be a common method of political warfare; but the growth and progress of civilization has demonstrated its utter folly and inutility. A man in public life ought not to be deterred by the knowledge that by some mischance, on some day or other, he might be the mark of a lunatic or criminal, any more than anybody contemplating a railway journey would be deterred by the fear of an accident. Therefore, of all the grounds of policy put forward in support of this Bill, the ground advanced by the Chief Secretary I consider to be the weakest of all. There is only one ground for this policy which has any claim to breadth and solidity; and that is the ground which may be made up from the fact that this measure has been produced by the Government of the Queen, and produced by the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian is the head. That is a ground the breadth 1343 and solidity of which I am not prepared to recognize; but I do recognize the enormous advantage which is to be given to the National Party. I consider it to have been my good fortune to have heard and to have read many speeches and many orations of the Prime Minister with regard to Ireland. Many of his most confident predictions, vaticinations, and declarations are fresh in my mind. I have been more than once under what may be called the wand of the magician; and I know of no experience to which I can compare it, except, perhaps, the taking of morphia. The sensations, while the operation is going on, are transcendent; but the recovery is bitter beyond all experience. Well, Sir, bringing the light of my experience of these declarations and vaticinations to bear on this policy, I challenge any one of the most devoted admirers, or of the most ardent supporters, of the Prime Minister to point out one single prediction with regard to Ireland which has been verified, or one single declaration which has been maintained. But if the light of experience is not bright enough for us; if our blindness requires that the absolute darkness of the future should be illuminated by some friendly flash of light, I find the warning beacon in the speech of the Chief Secretary on Friday night. In alluding to the reminiscence called up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), in regard to an expression of opinion by the Prime Minister at Newcastle many years ago, that Jefferson Davis had made a nation—the Chief Secretary admitted the error, but chided the cruelty of the recollection; and he declared that, in his opinion, speaking as an historian, history would deal leniently with the error of the Prime Minister; because, when the history of the century came to be written, it would show that in Italy, in Bulgaria, and also in Ireland, the Prime Minister had made a nation. That is exactly the position which the opponents of this Bill take up. We believe that, if this measure passes into law, when the history of this century comes to be written—and it may not be many years hence, some of us, even, may live to read it—the result of this Act will be decided to be that, as is the position of Italy towards Austria, having been freed from the yoke of Austria—as is the position 1344 of Bulgaria towards Turkey, having been freed from the yoke of the Sultan, so is the position of Ireland towards Great Britain, having been freed from the supremacy of Parliament and the Sovereignty of the Queen. I thank the House for having listened to me so long, and with so much patience. I deeply regret that it has not been deemed to be consistent with the customs and courtesies of the House of Commons to take a division on the Motion to introduce this Bill. I should have liked myself to record my vote against it, because I believe it entails a policy which the House of Commons ought not to entertain. But the day of division will, after all, speedily arrive; and on that day hon. Members will have in their hands more directly and more closely than ever they have had before, or will ever have again, the fortunes and the fate of the British Empire. For my own part, I confidently declare I shall cheerfully raise my voice, and give my vote, against a policy which has, in my opinion, been most unconstitutionally sprung upon an unwary and unwarned House of Commons, and which I myself consider to be a most desperate and fatal policy.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir CHARLES RUSSELL) (Hackney, S.)
I feel that I have especial need to ask, on this occasion, the indulgence of the House, following, as I attempt to do, the noble Lord opposite, who is so distinguished a Member of this House, and whose speeches are always so interesting if they be not always so instructive. The noble Lord began by expressing his resolution to import into the discussion of this question no passion and no prejudice, and he expressed the hope that that policy would be pursued by other hon. Members who might take part in the debate. I shall endeavour, Sir, to act upon the advice of the noble Lord; but, when he was giving that advice, it occurred to me that it was a pity he did not take it into consideration himself at an earlier stage in the discussion of this question; that he did not recollect the advisability and necessity of approaching a question of this gravity and importance without prejudice and without passion, when he made that speech at Paddington, in which he told his constituents that, in considering this question, the only people that 1345 could be regarded in Ireland by the English people were the Protestants of Ireland. It was in reference to a question affecting a country, the vast majority of whose inhabitants are Catholics, that the noble Lord raised the "No Popery" cry. That is the noble Lord's freedom from prejudice! Then, having gone to Belfast, the noble Lord delivered himself of a speech which involved what my right hon. Friend (Mr. John Morley) called "contingent sedition." That speech was understood by those to whom it was addressed, and was intended by the noble Lord to be so understood, to mean that if Parliament should give effect to the scheme of self-government for Ireland, he and thousands of persons would be found to show reasons for resisting it.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
With regard to the Ulster speech, I have not attempted to enter into any explanation, because a Motion is down on the Paper with regard to it.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Well, I will not dwell on that point any longer. The noble Lord gave some criticisms, in detail, of the scheme which it is sought to introduce, and he was pleased to be humorous on what he called its absurd, incongruous, ridiculous provisions. While the noble Lord was critical, he took care to commit himself to no alternative constructive policy. But the noble Lord might have reserved his criticisms of those details until the scheme was before the House. The noble Lord seems to have satisfied himself that, somehow or other, £3,000,000 would get into the hands of the new Irish Government and be under their control, without the intervention of any legislative or other authority. He seems to think that once money gets into the Treasury it can be taken out of it without a Vote of Appropriation! Again, I would say the noble Lord had better wait until he sees how the matter stands in the Bill which is about to be introduced. At the end of the noble Lord's speech the question which occurred to me, and must have occurred to many hon. Members, was this—"What is the alternative policy which the noble Lord and the Party behind him have to suggest?"
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
If ever there was a more ridiculous farce 1346 in public life than that declaration of policy I do not know what it was. The Motion, which the late Government were treating as a Motion of Censure, began, I think, on Thursday night, and on the Saturday—["No, no!"] I am speaking of the famous occasion when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division of Westminster was supposed to have gone to Dublin. I do not know whether he ever reached Dublin; but the information he obtained was supposed to have come by telegraph, and resulted in the famous declaration of policy to which the noble Lord has referred. But, Sir, I will come to the question which the House desires to hear discussed, and that is the essential question involved in this Bill. I desire to say something in justification of the policy of the scheme, because it contains a principle in the development of which I believe I see the prospect of great good to the country of my birth, and of great good to the country of my adoption. It is proposed to alter materially the state of things by which Ireland is ruled by laws made in this Parliament and by an Executive and Administrative system—the creation of those laws—in which the Irish have no effective voice. I am not going to dwell upon ancient history; nothing of the kind. The noble Lord referred to the Act of Union, and it becomes me to consider, for one moment, what was that Act, how was it passed, and, above all, how it has answered the purposes for which it was passed? When the noble Lord and his Friends speak of that Act as a fundamental law, let me remind the House that 17 short years before, in 1783, a law equally fundamental had been passed by the Parliament of England, and received the sanction of both the great Parties in that Parliament. So far as Grattan's Resolution was successful in Ireland it was principally carried into effect by the repeal of Poynings' Act. But in the English Parliament there were two solemn Acts of legislation, giving effect to the declaration of the Irish Parliament. The first was the 22 Geo III., which repealed the Act of George I. by which Ireland was treated as a Dependency of the English Crown. The second was the Act 23 Geo. III., c. 28, which recites that, whereas doubts had arisen whether the previous Acts recited were sufficient to 1347 secure to the people of Ireland the rights claimed by them to be bound by laws enacted by the Parliament of that Kingdom, with the assent of the King, enacted that the right to be only so bound shall be and is hereby declared to be established and ascertained for ever, and shall at no time hereafter be questioned or questionable. That was an Act of a particularly solemn character, because it was introduced under the Ministry of Lord Shelburne, when Mr. Pitt was Chancellor of the Exchequer; and it was passed by the Coalition Government, of which the Duke of Portland, Lord North, and Mr. Fox were Members. I am not going back to the history of Grattan's Parliament. It was undoubtedly followed by marked progress and prosperity. The prosperity and progress of the country were unquestionable; but I quite admit that that was not all due to the Parliament. Causes outside and in some ways irrespective of Parliament contributed. But the Irish Parliament showed an intelligent appreciation of the use to which legislation should be applied by its efforts to guard personal liberty by the enactment of a Habeas Corpus Act, and by securing the independence of the Judges. It also took a large step in the direction of Catholic Emancipation, and thus vindicated its claim to be called an enlightened Body. The story of the abolition of the Irish Parliament is a shameful story. I do not think that history discloses a story more shameful in its character. It was opposed, as Mr. Lecky has well said, by all the unbribed intellect of Ireland. There is no more interesting and solemn document than the Protest which the Lords in the Irish Parliament presented against the passing of the Act of Union. They protest—Because the argument made use of in favour of the Union—namely, that the sense of the people of Ireland is in its favour, we know to be untrue; but as the Ministers have declared that they would not press the measure against the sense of the people, and as the people have pronounced decidedly and under all difficulties their judgment against it, we have, together with the voice of the country, the authority of the Ministers, to enter our protest against the project of Union, against the yoke which it imposes, the dishonour which it inflicts, the disqualification passed upon the Peerage, the stigma thereby branded on the Realm, the disproportionate principle of expense it introduces, the means employed to effect it, the discontents it has excited and must continue to excite—against all these and the fatal consequences 1348 they may produce we have endeavoured to interpose our votes, and failing, we transmit to aftertimes our names in solemn protest on behalf of the Parliamentary Constitution of this Realm, the liberty which it secured, the trade which it protected, the connection which it preserved, and the Constitution which it supplied and fortified. This we feel ourselves called upon to do in support of our characters, and whatever is left to us worthy to be transmitted to our prosterity.The Bar of Ireland protested, the Professions protested, aye, and the Orangemen protested. One of the last speeches made in protest against the Act of Union was made by a man whose name is honourably known in Irish history, and honourably borne by my right hon. Friend the senior Member for Dublin University—I mean Mr. Plunket. I believe the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh (Major Saunderson) also had a relative in the Irish Parliament who voted against the Act of Union. I ask the Representatives of these distinguished persons, some of whom are in this House, for the Marquess of Downshire was one of the first to sign the Protest, whether they intend to cast the stigma upon the memory of their fathers that they voted as they did, not upon broad principles of patriotism and devotion to their country, but to keep up and preserve to themselves a narrow class ascendancy? I do not believe that they will do so. What was the reception that the Act of Union had in the English House of Parliament? I desire, in pressing this argument, to show that, in recurring as the Government are doing to the scheme of self-government for Ireland, they are recurring to a Liberal policy that was departed from years ago. In this House in 1800 Mr. Grey, afterwards Lord Grey, author of the Reform Bill of 1832, made a powerful and prophetic speech. He said—What I most heartily wish for is a union between the two countries. By a union, I mean something more than a mere word—a union, not of Parliaments, but of hearts, affections, and interests, a union of vigour, of ardour, of zeal for the general welfare of the British Empire. It is this species of union, and this only, that can tend to increase the real strength of the Empire and to give it security against any danger.He winds up by saying that if the measure is carried resentment will follow, and the people of the country will wait for an opportunity of recovering their rights, which they will claim were taken 1349 from them by force. Afterwards Lord Grey unquestionably declined to be a party to disturbing the Act of Union, and probably at that time rightly so, because he desired that full and fair opportunity should be given to see whether the experiment, after the lapse of years, worked well and answered the purpose for which it was passed. Among others who took this line of policy was an ancestor, I believe, of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington)—Lord George Cavendish; and, greatest of all the men who were the leaders of Liberal opinion and thought in those days, Mr. Fox himself. But, of course, it may be said, and rightly said, that this is ancient history. I agree that that is so, and I also agree that if this Act had answered its purpose, or had half answered its purpose—if it had been found to bring peace to the country, strength to the Empire, and real union among the people, then I say let no man dare to put his hand upon it. But has it? What is the history that has followed it? The Prime Minister the other night referred to a short space of years during which there was an absence of repressive legislation. A little closer examination will show that there practically was no period in which there was not, in some form or other, some kind of repressive legislation. Repressive legislation of the kind I am now speaking of may be said to be comprised under four heads—Martial Law, Peace Preservation Acts, Arms and Insurrection Acts, and Suspension of the Habeas Corpus. With regard to Arms or Insurrection Acts, these were passed or put in force during the following years:—1800–2, 1807–10, 1814, 1818, 1822–4, 1829, 1831, 1843, 1867, 1868, and 1870. The Habeas Corpus was suspended in 1800–2, 1803–6, 1822, 1848–9, 1866, 1867, 1868, and 1869. Martial law was put in force in 1803 and 1805, and Peace Preservation Acts in 1814–23, 1870–6, 1876–80, and 1881–5. There is, therefore, practically no period since the Union that has not been overlapped by one or other of these laws. This presents very serious food for reflection. Testing this Legislative Union by its utility—and I think the noble Lord opposite will admit the test to be a right one—the results certainly cannot be shown to be satisfactory. I see that the noble Lord has applied this test of 1350 utility even to the Throne, the Lords and the Commons. In 1884, when he was wooing the electors of Birmingham, he said—We defend the Constitution solely on the ground of its utility to the people. It is on the ground of utility alone that we go forth to meet our foe, and if we fail to make good our ground in utilitarian arguments and for utilitarian ends, then let the present combination of Throne, Lords, and Commons be for ever swept away.I have fortified myself by the high authority of the noble Lord. Then, I ask, is it the case that the Act of Union has effected the useful purposes for which it was supposed to be devised—is it the case that there is now a real Union? Are not the nations still estranged from one another? Is there a moral power behind the law in Ireland, and have there not been sent from Ireland to beyond the seas, with bitterness in their hearts, great masses of its people? Is it to be said that this is due to the perversity of the Irish character? I will answer in the words of Mr. John Stuart Mill, who treats excuses of that kind as what he calls "the weak excuses of imbecile statesmen." All this is not due to the perversity of the Irish character. If we take the history of the legislative wants of Ireland, the way in which they have been dealt with, and what has taken place in relation to them, I think there is sufficient evidence to show that the United Parliament has failed in its duties, has fallen short of the discharge of its duties towards Ireland, and has failed to appreciate the wants of that country. Catholic Emancipation, one of the things held out by Mr. Pitt as a reason why persons professing that religion should support the Act of Union, was not granted until the country was on the eve of civil war. The Tithes Question was not dealt with until after the murder of the widow M'Cormac. The Church Establishment was not dealt with until 1868, although condemned by every Liberal statesman; and the most important of all, the question of the land, was not dealt with until comparatively recently. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, not to go back further than the years 1843–5, the needs of the Irish people, as regards Irish land legislation and the dual ownership in the land which then existed between the tenants who improved and the landlords who did not help in the improvements, 1351 were very great. Some there are in the House who were here at that time. The unsuccessful efforts made, Session after Session, by Mr. Sharman Crawford to get an amended Land Bill passed for the protection of the Ulster farmers will be remembered. Frederick Lucas, Charles Gavan Duffy, and Isaac Butt were men who had worn their hearts out almost in attempts to pass effectual legislation upon this subject. It was not until 1870 that a land measure was passed, which I beg leave to say was a most imperfect Bill, and not until 1881 was anything like a real and thorough measure passed for the protection of the tenants, and that we owe to the energy and determination of the present Prime Minister. But that Bill was marred because, in the framing of it, the Irish Members were not consulted, and it was not brought into that complete harmony with their exact wants and wishes which would have made it complete and in every way satisfactory. I will give one incident as showing the difficulties which public men in Ireland who are interested in public affairs have to overcome. I have mentioned one of these men, Charles Gavan Duffy, who, finally heartbroken almost, went to Victoria, and there, in the free air of a self-governing State, found scope for his labours and his genius. Under the Government of that State Mr. Gavan Duffy rose to the highest position that was open to him; and he, who had been three times prosecuted as a rebel in his own country, comes back from Victoria to this country, to receive dignities and honours at the hands of the Queen. In relation to all the legislation of this Parliament for Ireland there is this to be said—that it has invariably been marked by having been too late. It has further been invariably marked by being not what was asked for by the Irish people, but what the English people, or rather the English Parliament, representing principally English and Scotch opinion, thought the Irish people ought to have asked for. In fact, the history of that legislation has realized in a remarkable degree the celebrated speech of Mr. Fox, which was delivered in 1800 in reference to the Act of Union. Putting the argument in a way in which few men could, he said—The whole scheme (of union) proceeds upon that false and abominable presumption that we we could legislate better for the Irish than they 1352 could for themselves—a principle founded on the most arrogant despotism and tyranny. There was not a more clear axiom in the science of politics than that a man was his own natural governor, and that he ought to legislate for himself. No other being could enter into his feelings or have anything common in sympathy with his nature, and therefore the Legislature of a people must flow out of and be identified with the people themselves.But, Mr. Speaker, there is to be considered something more than a mere question of legislation, or failure in legislation. The effect of law is greatly determined by its administration; and the effect of any system of government is greatly determined by its administrators. In these respects the case of Ireland has indeed been remarkable. In an article in the number of The Fortnightly Review for July, 1885, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), after pointing out that the Government of Ireland is most intensely centralized and bureaucratic, and that the whole Government is focussed in the Lord Lieutenant, proceeds thus—If the object of the Government were to paralyze local effort, to annihilate local responsibility, and daily to give emphasis to the fact that the whole country is under the domination of an alien race, no system could be devised more likely to secure its object than that now in force in Ireland. We hold that the continuance of such a system is unjust to Ireland, useless to England, and dangerous to both.My right hon. Friend ably states the difficulty; but he does not attempt to solve it. Neither in the article quoted, nor in the speech delivered on Friday night, does he attempt to solve the question; but he shows ably and clearly that which hardly needed demonstration—namely, how widely different the case of Ireland is from that of Wales or of Scotland as regards this question, and that the differences are such as to require a wholly different treatment. I would urge upon the House that the only true remedy lies not in mere tinkering with local government, but in giving to Irishmen the right of domestic legislation; and I affirm that, as regards Administrative and Executive authority, the only true and effective control is to be secured by a truly Irish Government responsible to and representing the Irish people. What is the scheme which the Prime Minister on Thursday night unfolded to this House? It is a scheme the essential principle of which is to establish an Irish Legislature, 1353 which shall have powers limited by the Bill. It is to deal with all matters affecting Ireland which are not excepted in the Bill. The exceptions the Prime Minister stated the other night. The principal are—Status of the Crown and its Succession; Peace and War, Military and Naval Forces, Treaties; Trade and Navigation; and also Coinage. I contend that these exceptions do maintain the supremacy of the Crown, and of the Imperial Parliament in matters which are Imperial. If it be said that they repeal the Act of Union, let me point out how utter a mistake that is. That the Bill largely modifies the legislative connection as determined by the Act of Union is undoubted; that it repeals the Act of Union I deny. If you are to suppose the Act of Union to be repealed, you must suppose a recurrence to the state of things which existed before the Act of Union. You would have a reconstruction of the Grattan's Parliament—a reconstruction of the House of Lords and of the House of Commons on the lines of Grattan's Parliament. [Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD: No, no!] My right hon. and learned Friend appears to dissent; I hope he will give his reasons later on. Perhaps he has not looked at the question closely. Grattan's Parliament had Imperial authority; it had the right to deal with questions of peace and war; it had the right to refuse to vote Supplies; it had the right to deal with Trade and Navigation; it had the right to make Treaties if it chose. The chief questions that arose were as to the Regency—and the importance of that I think Mr. Pitt greatly exaggerated; but it was a question to which he attributed very great importance—and as to Trade Laws. But none of the difficulties that could have arisen under Grattan's Parliament can arise under the modification of the Legislative Union now proposed. I want to ask, what is the true test of the unity of the United Kingdom? I suggest, for the consideration of the House, that it means existence under one Kingship, and under one paramount authority. If any better suggestion can be made I will withdraw mine. The noble Lord says it is not the definition of the Act of Union. Where does the noble Lord find any definition in the Act of Union? I find none. I want to point out a mistake the noble Lord has made. The 1354 Act begins by reciting that it was necessary to be passed to promote the essential interests of Great Britain and Ireland. It is first enacted that after a day named the two Kingdoms shall be united into one Kingdom, to be named the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The 3rd section provides how the United Kingdom shall be ordered in the matter of legislation. Let me suppose a case. Suppose the 3rd section had said, "the United Kingdom shall be represented in the following Parliaments," and had then proceeded to give a certain limited authority to a local Parliament, would the noble Lord have said it was no longer a United Kingdom? He could not justly so maintain. No doubt, under the Bill, this Parliament ceases to legislate for all purposes for all parts of the United Kingdom; but it continues to be the paramount authority for all purpose?, the sole authority for Imperial purposes residing in the paramount authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Now I come to the point raised by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) on Friday night—that there was no mandate from the constituencies to deal with this question. I do not say the noble Marquess put it so high, but he approached very closely to adopting a doctrine expounded by the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). I did not know that the hon. Member had so distinguished a follower; but the hon. Member has more than once said in the House—and he is the only one who has—that it was the business of the constituencies to say what laws they wanted, and it was the duty of Members of Parliament simply to pass those laws. I do not think that is the present view taken of this matter by the House; but was not this question before the country? Other hon. Members in the course of the debate will deal with this question; but I have been astonished to see the prominence, in one shape or other, which was given to it in the addresses not only of Liberal, but of Conservative candidates. The Prime Minister, in the scheme which he seeks leave to introduce, is within the lines of his own declaration in his published address to the electors of Mid Lothian, and is within the lines of the first speech which he addressed to them upon this very question. If this question of mandate 1355 is to be followed out, I want to ask where it is to end? Is it to be said that a Parliament, newly elected, is to be Dissolved when the responsible Ministers of the day find it necessary to deal upon their responsibility with some urgent question? It seems to me that would be the logical consequence of the position taken up by the noble Lord; but, again, I want to know, who is to put before the country the programme on which the supposed mandate is to be determined? I want to ask the noble Lord, and those who take similar views, whether there was a mandate from the constituencies for a repressive policy? We know, of course, that the Tory Party asked for no such mandate as that, because the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington was then supposed to be in amicable relations with hon. Members who, on his side of the House, sit below the Gangway. He will excuse me if I apply to him the words, very slightly altered—they are common and hackneyed—which were applied to an illustrious personage, who—Stiff in opinion, often in the wrong,Everything by starts and nothing long,But in the course of one revolving moon,Was green and orange, statesman and buffoon.I think, Sir, that the argument which was advanced with great ability by the noble Marquess is, after all, a dilatory plea, and will not avail. Another ground urged against the scheme of the Prime Minister is the contemplated exclusion of Irish Members in future from this House. It strikes me as a most singular circumstance the sudden affection that has been displayed in so many quarters for the presence of hon. Members from Ireland. I do not think they could have supposed, in the wildest dreams of their imagination, that they were the cherished objects of the affection and regard of the noble Lord, the noble Marquess, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain), and probably of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Goschen), to say nothing of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), lam sure they must have been intensely gratified. But it occurred to me what 1356 diatribes we should have heard—I do not say from those right hon. Gentlemen, but from some other quarters of the House—had it been proposed to retain the 103 Irish Members in this House, while constituting a local Parliament in Ireland for Irish local purposes. I think it would have been said—"What! a local Parliament in Ireland for local Irish purposes, and the wheels of the legislative machine still to be clogged by the presence of Irish Members at Westminster; what! 103 Members still to be retained here, who are to use their position as a great lever for, it may be, disturbing the permanence or the stability of the settlement sought to be effected by this scheme." For my part, I should be sorry to see—if anyone can suggest a practicable method for avoiding it—Irish Members entirely cease their attendance in this House. If that be the serious objection to this scheme, I hope the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentlemen who desire their presence here will consider and bring their ability to bear on the contrivance of means which will reconcile the presence of the Irish Members here with the establishment, for local purposes, of an Irish Parliament. I wish to point out on this question that my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham pronounced a very strong opinion in 1874 in a sense directly opposite to the contention he advanced on Friday night. On January 29, 1874, the right hon. Gentleman, who was then standing as a candidate for Sheffield, addressed the electors in these terms—He approved of the Home Rule movement; he held that Irishmen had a right to govern themselves and their own affairs, and he was willing to concede it. It would be an advantage to both parties. The Irish would be satisfied—and, mark this—and the Legislature would move on at an accelerated pace without the Irish Members. At present they only travelled by Parliamentary train, and that was not quick enough for him.If my right hon. Friend can show that the inclusion of Irish Members is practically consistent with the object of the scheme which is to recognize the right of the Irish to self-government in Irish matters, I should hope—I have no authority to say so—that the Ministers of the day would be open to consider 1357 that point. But then the right hon. Gentleman goes on to say that he regards the exclusion of the Irish Members as degrading to Ireland, and as amounting to taxation without representation. I must beg respecfully to differ from him. It is no violation of the principle that representation ought to accompany taxation if the Representatives of the two countries make the Parliamentary compact which is to be embodied in the proposed Act of Parliament by which there shall be fixed permanently the quota of one to the other for Imperial purposes. And as to degradation, so far as the practical subjects are concerned, and the practical effect upon Ireland is concerned, am I not right in stating it thus—that, so far as the questions of peace or war go, Ireland has never felt that the Irish Members had any effective or controlling voice? As regards those greater questions—greater, I mean, in their applicability to Ireland—of trade and commerce, the Irish Members and the Irish people feel that in the face of public opinion of to-day it would be impossible to recur to trade and navigation laws intended to put down their trade and commerce. Therefore, they feel their interests are safe on these questions, bound up as they are with the greater interests of the Empire. Now, I come to another subject referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan). It is the contention that the effect of the scheme would be to hand over Ireland—the legislation and government of the country—to the Parnellites. I desire to speak with freedom, and I can speak with independence. I had not the support of the Parnellites when I had the honour of a seat in Ireland, and I had not the honour of their support, but, on the contrary, was opposed by them, when I sought a seat in England. I speak, therefore, without any desire or motive to speak with undue favour or praise of those hon. Members. Nay, I cannot hold language of praise; rather I should have to hold language, if I were called upon to pronounce a judgment, in which, in many respects, censure would be predominant. I do not hesitate to say that many things have been said and done condemnable in the highest degree, and that censure is to be visited upon some of them certainly 1358 not alone for things said and done, but also for things left unsaid and undone which ought to have been said and done. But is there no allowance to be made? How many hon. Members opposite have been in prison, and in prison upon charges for which they never were tried, which they never definitely knew, which they never had the opportunity of answering in the face of day, and which it never was intended they should have the opportunity of answering? The story of Irish representation is a sad and not altogether a creditable one. When the noble Lord suggested to-night, in the tone of Mr. Micawber, to wait, to look out, perhaps, for the Irish Party falling to pieces, for something to turn up—that is the noble Lord's plan of statesmanship—I was thinking of that melancholy story of how Irish Members were for years returned to this Parliament, and came here patriotic bands, soon to be broken up, because soon to be corrupted. I recollect how they took their sides at one period with the greatest decorum upon each side of the House, and under the wings of the great Parties in the House. The formation of O'Connell's Party was followed by the Young Ireland movement and vague suggestions of an appeal to force. Then an independent Opposition Party was constituted; but it soon fell to pieces, and the outcome of that was the Fenian movement of 1866–7. Then we come to the Home Rule movement, which has continued to this day, and which was begun, as I know, in an hotel in Dublin in 1870, at which the four principal persons were Mr. Isaac Butt, a Protestant, Professor Galbraith, a Protestant, and two ex-members of the Corporation of Dublin, one of whom had been Lord Mayor, and both of whom were of the same religion. It must be admitted that the members of that Party have not shown themselves to be open to corrupting or Party influences, and that they have acted as if they had the interests of their country at heart. In consequence of their efforts, seconded by an improved and intelligent public opinion in England on the Irish Question, a great advance has been made in the direction of good legislation for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Trevelyan) draws a fearful picture of the future Legislature in Ireland, and 1359 he draws a still more appalling picture of the state of things in Ireland at this day, always excepting the loyal minority. I ask the House to consider whether there could be a more damning commentary on our government and our legislation of 86 years? I say that if it should turn out, as I do not believe it will, that the Parnellite Party, as it is called, should be the great force in the future of Ireland, that will be the fault of those who are the natural leaders of the people in Ireland by position, by education, and by intelligence, and as to whom it remains a condemnation that they have not taken sides with the people, and that they have not been in sympathy with the people to direct and control their efforts. National politics have been unfashionable in Ireland. But if this scheme becomes law, and if hon. Members opposite below the Gangway find themselves in Ireland in a responsible position, let me remind the House that responsibility makes a wondrous change. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington is a conspicuous instance of that. Hon. Members must remember the change which came over the noble Lord when he found himself invested with the responsibilities of Office; and I should feel surprised if a similar change did not come over the Irish Members in their new position. I now desire to say something on the question of Ulster in relation to this scheme. I am sure the House will carefully consider objections to the scheme coming from Ulster as from any other quarter; but I hope the House will not listen to the teachings of the noble Lord or give countenance to the language of some hon. Members, that if Parliament should, in its wisdom, give legislative effect to the scheme, yet it will be disregarded by a section of the people in Ireland. It seems sometimes to be supposed that Ulster is a country inhabited by an entirely different race and by a people professing an entirely different religion. Why, Sir, I defy any man in this House—and I speak particularly of Members from Ulster—to draw a plan of even a section of a county in the whole of Ulster in which section there would not be comprised persons of all the religions in Ireland—certainly of the Protestant, Presbyterian, and Catholic religions. The varieties of race will also be found there. In the whole Province 1360 of Ulster there are only two counties—namely, Down and Antrim—where the Catholics are not in excess of any other one religious denomination. But then it is said that in Ulster Protestants and Orangemen have built up the prosperity of the country; and this is adduced as a reason why special weight should be given to representations from Ulster, and because of that prosperity which is unduly attributed to religion and race. It was in Ulster mainly that the plantation settlements were made when it was intended to place in Ireland a new population and a new race representing a new religion. It was in Ulster, also, that there sprang up a trade in which England did not compete with Ireland—namely, the linen trade; and the enormous trade in the ports of the Clyde caused Belfast, by its proximity, to derive benefit from Scotch prosperity. From these three causes mainly sprang the exceptional prosperity of Ulster. Although the landlords filched what they could from the tenant farmers, who by the terms of the settlement were supposed to be rooted in the soil, yet a substantial remnant of those rights remained. But I dismiss the subject by saying this—that I claim on behalf of the Catholic Celts of Ulster that they have, according to their means and circumstances, contributed their fair share to the prosperity of the Province. Does the House know—for I speak of what I know, being an Ulster man myself—that in the management of Ulster estates—I do not speak of exceptions, but I speak of the whole—a Catholic had no chance of getting a desirable farm if a Protestant or a Presbyterian could be had as a tenant? The result was that the worst land, and in the worst places, fell to their lot; and in the North of Ireland to this day, and in the South of Ireland to this day, the Catholics are known by the name of the "mountainy men," because they had to go to the barren lands of the mountains and try to push fertility up the hill. I once heard a distinguished man in Ireland—Professor Sullivan, of the Queen's College, Cork—affirm that if a geological map of Ireland were given to him he could construct from it a religious map. By that he meant that the Catholics found their places on the bad and the Protestant population on the good land. I admit the intelligence of a great many of the people of Ulster, except on one 1361 point. I am afraid that when it comes to questions of religious difference their views are still narrow. I am afraid that a great many of them have not yet made up their minds that the days of religious ascendancy have gone—that they have not yet made up their minds to the fact that their poorest Catholic brethren are entitled to the same equal political rights as they are. But I think that if this measure should become law, whatever may be the protest they may now make, if they know that their lives are to be spent together, and that they have a country which they must for the future deal with in common, I cannot but think that the real patriotism which resides in the breast of every man will be evoked, and that the Ulster Orangemen as well as the Ulster Catholics will add their contribution to the common fund of intelligence, energy, and freedom, and give to this scheme of the Government a fair chance of success. I will not trouble the House with many more observations; but there is one other subject upon which, if I am not wearying them too much, I should like to say a word. ["Go on, go on!"] I do not stop to consider the question of the land scheme, which is not before the House. But my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain), while he was understood to start away from a suggestion of a scheme by which there might be a contingent liability on the British Exchequer for money secured for the purpose of buying out the landlords, is supposed to have committed himself to the approval of a scheme which contemplated not the giving of a security which might or might not be resorted to, but the payment once and for all of a large sum of money. And I should have liked to ask the right hon. Gentleman how does he start away from this measure on the ground that it puts a burden on the British taxpayer—a contingent liability, I rather ought to say—when he seemed to have no difficulty in supporting a measure that would directly impose such a burden of a considerable amount? I refer to his approval of the Giffen scheme. But, passing from that, I now come to the remaining observations to which I would invite the earnest attention of the House. Practically all Parties in this House admit that something must be done on this question. You have tried 1362 to govern Ireland, and you have failed. Is it not time that you allowed Ireland to try to govern herself? You have tried a repressive policy for years; and, if one can speak of favourable conditions in relation to such a policy, you have tried it under favourable conditions. You have had in late years at your service for that policy two of the ablest men whom you could have set to the work—I allude to the late Mr. Forster and Earl Spencer. And although I myself in this House spoke in condemnation of what I believed to be his wrong policy, I cannot mention the name of Mr. Forster without bearing my tribute of admiration to his courage under adverse circumstances, and stating my opinion that no man ever wont to Ireland with a more thorough desire to do his duty, or a sincerer hope to do good than Mr. Forster. Of Earl Spencer it would be an impertinence in me to speak; but the more you exalt the attributes and ability of these men the more conspicuous does the failure of the policy pursued by them become. What was the result of Mr. Forster's policy? I use no words of my own to describe it. You recollect it in the announcement of Earl Cowper—that they had succeeded in driving Irish discontent beneath the surface. Is that to be the sum and substance of British statesmanship? And I ask the House solemnly to consider whether the fact that Earl Spencer has lent the high and weighty sanction of his name to this scheme is not the best and the strongest proof that he, who has had officially the best means of judging, has come to the conclusion that at last the policy of repression is worn out, and that something different and, let us hope, better ought to be put in its place? It is the vice of a policy of repression that it operates only with continual force. It is like the weight on a spring. Remove the weight and the spring rebounds, unless it be that you break the spring. Have you broken the spirit of the Irish people? Does not the fact that Ireland now returns 85 Members who speak with one voice on this question, and that the Irish people have from time to time ever since the Union entered and continued their protest against the present system, show that they have always claimed to have a separate Legislature and Government to deal with matters which concern them, but which do 1363 not touch Imperial questions? If this measure is not passed to-day and Parliament refuses it, will Parliament refuse it to-morrow or next year? Is this a question which is to be allowed to remain open as a subject to be put up to auction to the highest bidder? I ask hon. Members who are anxious for the credit of Parliament, anxious for the honour of public men, is it, or is it not, to be allowed to remain in that position? The question is no longer whether the thing is to be done; but whether it is to be done now, and in what form. And when the justice and the practicability of such a scheme as this is recognized; by a responsible Cabinet—when the dissentient Liberals dissent only as to the mode, the degree, and the time—whenthe Conservatives have no policy, no alternative to this, but a policy of repression, is it not right that this measure shall be passed, and passed in a generous spirit, and passed in a way which is likely to attain the object for which it is passed? If passed now in a generous spirit, I think there is a strong hope—I venture to say strong probability—that it will be received by Ireland in a thorough spirit of friendliness, and that in Ireland matters will moderate and arrange themselves. Postpone it until there is military repression, or repression of some other sort, and the thing will still have to be done; but it will have to be done under conditions infinitely worse, accompanied by greater embitterment between races and classes in Ireland, and with diminished hopes of complete international friendliness. Sir, I have spoken with earnestness because I feel deeply on this subject; and I ask hon. Members, even if they do not approve in all details the scheme of the Prime Minister, whether they do not think that, instead of belittling this question, the Prime Minister has placed it on a higher plane and in a purer atmosphere, and has propounded a scheme at least worthy of the great subject he dealt with? I believe that in this scheme will be found the means of ending a state of things which is intolerable—intolerable to Ireland, intolerable to England, injurious to the name and fame and greatness of this Empire. It is, Sir, because I believe that this happy result may be attained by this scheme, if rightly considered and dealt with, that with all the earnestness of which I am capable I ask for it from 1364 this House and from the country a fair, an honest, an anxious, a dispassionate, and a generous consideration.
§ MR. FINCH-HATTON (Lincolnshire, Spalding)
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman who last addressed the House devoted the first part of his speech to proving that the Act of Union ought not to have been passed; but he devoted almost all the last part to proving that the Bill now proposed would not effect the repeal of that Act. The challenge of the hon. and learned Gentleman to the Opposition to propound an alternative policy was one which any hon. Member, no matter how humble, ought to try to answer if he thought he was able to do so. As he (Mr. Finch-Hatton) thought there was an alternative policy, both to the policy of coercion which had been tried and failed, and also to the policy propounded by the Prime Minister, he trusted the House would allow him to place his views before it. Before doing that, and conscious that he was taking part in a great historic debate, and had no right to go into details which had already been so ably dealt with by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), he would ask the House one question as to the principle which was involved in this Bill, and which he considered as involving an insurmountable constitutional difficulty—he meant representation without taxation. These, according to the present measure, were, for the first time in our history, to be divorced. Was it not the insistance on this very principle which had lost them their American Colonies? Was the Prime Minister prepared to go back on our history and re-assert that principle? If so, he (Mr. Finch-Hatton) would ask hon. Gentlemen from Ireland whether they were prepared to consent, in the name of their country, to give up their birthright in this matter? The Attorney General said there would be no violation of the spirit of the Constitution if the present arrangement were made between the two countries, because Ireland was a consenting party to it. He (Mr. Finch-Hatton) denied the power of the Representatives of this generation to do anything that would exclude succeeding generations from representation here for all time. Was this to be a final arrangement by which Ireland was to pay taxes and cease to be represented in the British 1365 House of Commons? If it was not to be a final arrangement, then every reason for the introduction of the Bill fell to the ground; if it were so intended, how long could even the most sanguine person expect that that settlement would endure? There was something very suspicious about the manner in which this Bill had been introduced to the notice of Parliament. The Attorney General had said that the question of Home Rule was before the constituencies of Great Britain at the last General Election; but the fact was that 114 Members who sat behind the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had pledged themselves to vote against Home Rule. Would they say what they thought of this new departure? The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) had declared that the Cabinet had not been consulted upon the principles of this measure in accordance with Constitutional usage. It was not necessary that he (Mr. Finch-Hatton) should describe the extraordinary volte face performed by the Prime Minister in bringing in this measure. There was no parallel for this transaction, except one—namely, an incident in the life of an individual as arbitrary as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), but more guided by Constitutional precedent—he meant Henry VIII. It was not until he was enamoured of Anne Boleyn; it was not until she told him that the only way to her chamber was through the Church, that he began to have doubts of the validity of his marriage, and sought for the divorce he afterwards obtained. In like manner, it was not until the right hon. Gentleman became enamoured of power, and realized that he could not obtain it without the aid of the Irish vote, that he converted himself to the belief in that divorce between England and Ireland which he now asked the House to pronounce simply for the gratification of his personal ambition. He (Mr. Finch-Hatton) would say, as he believed they would have said to Henry VIII.—"Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder." How had this question been pressed upon the country from an Irish point of view? He was far from saying, or believing, that Home Rule in certain countries and under certain conditions might not be very advantageously granted. There was the example of North Queensland. 1366 She was seeking for Home Rule and separation from South Queensland; but under what different conditions to Ireland? Her voice was Constitutionally expressed, and in no other way. Her inhabitants were men who had wrested immense territory from nature and converted it into a fertile Province. They had proved their right to govern themselves by first obeying the laws before trying to make them; and he hoped that when the case came before the House of Commons the House would give it the consideration to which it was entitled, and grant the appeal. The object which North Queensland had in seeking separation was very different to that of Ireland. It was to take her place in the great Australian Federation as a nation. Capital was being attracted to the country; but the very moment Home Rule was talked of in connection with Ireland, capital fled from there as rats from a sinking ship. Instead of a Constitutional agitation they had had Home Rule recommended from the Irish point of view—by an agitation kept up by American money from a Fenian source. The Chief Secretary had spoken of a "contingent sedition and hypothetical coercion;" but in Ireland at this moment they had sedition which was not contingent, and coercion which was not hypothetical, and they were both joined in the National League. If there were hypothesis it was that they would gain their object by sedition; and if there were a contingency it was that they would go on till that object was gratified. The right hon. Gentleman's speech was really au abuse of terms. He wished the country would awake to the common sense which used to make them call things by their proper names. It was an abuse of language to say that that was not coercion which prevented men from fulfilling the ordinary business of life, which prevented supplies being given to those in need of them, which prevented medical assistance being extended to women in their direst extremity, and sometimes even prevented the due burial of the dead. It was all very well for Irish Members to stand in front of the Chamber of Horrors and try to prevent Englishmen from going in. But they had it on unimpeachable authority that it was a chamber of blood, of murder, of unmentionable disgrace; and the time was coining, he hoped, when in spite of all the efforts that might be made 1367 England would break up that accursed conspiracy against law and order, even if all the forces of hell should support it. Now, the state of Ireland, as it was described by the Prime Minister, was totally different from the state of the same country as described by the Chief Secretary. The Prime Minister said that, at the present moment, they were in that country at the low water mark of agrarian crime; whereas the Chief Secretary informed the House that so serious was the state of the country that unless Members consented to pass this Act outrage and dynamite might shortly be expected to follow refusal. There was one means, and one only, of reconciling the two statements. Who was it that was keeping outrage at the low water mark? Was it the authority of the Queen or of the Land League, and what was it that would cause a recrudescence of outrage and dynamite—who was it, if it was not those people who, for their own purposes, were persuading the country to a temporary cessation of outrage? [Cries of"Shame!"] He saw no way of reconciling the two statements but the way that he had indicated. Hon. Members from Ireland should show to the House, and to the country, what had not been shown—that there was another explanation. They were told that coercion had failed in Ireland. He thought they ought to clear their minds of the illusory sense in which the word "coercion" had been used. Exactly the same arguments might apply to their dealings with the criminal classes. There was coercion in every civilized community directed against persons breaking the law. They might as well say that coercion against the criminal classes had failed because they had not entirely put down crime, and criminals still existed, and that we must at once adopt one of two alternatives—either effectual coercion, which would mean hanging criminals as soon as they were caught, or else give the autonomy and Home Rule. They were told that Irish credit would require a great deal of nursing. He did not wonder at that. But the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) proposed that England should be the wet nurse. When was that promising bantling likely to be weaned? He was afraid it would be a very long time before Ireland would be able to do without that nutrition which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to give her. He would 1368 endeavour to take up the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman, and prove that there was an alternative policy. The problem they had to solve was how they could satisfy the aspirations of Ireland for Home Rule without endangering the State. They must first secure the safety of the Empire. Ireland must cease to be the battle-ground of Party. Both the great Parties in the State must combine to pass just and good laws for the government of Ireland, and, having passed those laws, to maintain them and execute them. They should place in Ireland a Viceroy who should no longer be liable to be removed when the Party he represented went out of Office, but who should share the confidence of both the great Parties in the House. The next thing to be accomplished was the Imperial Federation. Under that system, which could not be obtained in a day, he believed it would be possible to have an Imperial Parliament sitting at Westminster in which every part of the Empire should be represented according to the burden which they bore of Imperial taxation. With that Imperial authority they might safely concede Home Rule, not only to Ireland, but to Scotland and Wales, and even England. He believed that would be an entire solution, not only of this question, but of many other great questions that affected the Empire. Under that system Ireland would no longer be a suppliant for English justice; but would thank Heaven that on this great historic occasion her Representatives were not allowed to sell her birthright for the mess of pottage—that birthright which was the greatest any nation or individual could aspire to, the citizenship of the Greater Britain which he had described.
§ MR. BURT (Morpeth)
said, he wished, before the debate was brought to an end, to say a few words in support of the Motion now before the House. For his part, he thanked the Prime Minister for having made an attempt to settle this most difficult question. If he succeeded in the effort it would add even to his renown; and if, unhappily, he failed, it would not discredit him, or diminish his reputation, to have made an honest attempt in so good a cause. He (Mr. Burt) addressed the House as a Home Ruler. When he came forward as a candidate for a seat in the House of Commons in 1874 he declared himself in sympathy with the principle of Home 1369 Rule. He voted on several occasions, or at least on some occasions, with the late Mr. Butt and others when they brought the question before the House. He confessed he did not always see clearly how Home Rule could be practically carried into effect. But the principle which ho; contended for was the right of Irishmen to have a Legislative Body—he was not afraid to call it a Parliament—on Irish soil to dispose of entirely Irish affairs; and with that principle he was still in entire accord. He thought that the scheme now before the House would, at any rate, afford a fair basis for putting the principle into practical operation. He was quite aware that objections might be made to the Prime Minister's plan. He supposed there was nothing human that could not be criticized. There were parts of the proposal with which he was himself not entirely satisfied. The part he disliked most, he confessed, was the provision to exclude Irishmen entirely from that House. He quite admitted the force of the position taken by the Prime Minister. He saw that it would be utterly impracticable to make a distinction between Imperial and national or local affairs; and he admitted that if Irishmen came to that House they must come with the full and equal powers that were vested in the hands of other Members. He felt encouraged by the powerful speech of the Attorney General to hope that the Prime Minister and the Government would not consider that a vital part of their scheme; but that they would be prepared to accept some method of maintaining what he would call a visible and outward tie between England and Ireland in the shape of some sort of representation of Ireland in this House of Parliament. There were other objections that he would not dwell upon. As a Radical, for instance, to him the property qualification was certainly distasteful. He thought that a provision of that sort was out of date; but it was for Irishmen rather than for him to object to it. The new scheme had this great advantage—that nearly all of it was to some extent representative, and that was more than could be said of some parts of our own system. He was very well pleased with one portion of the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Finch-Hatton). He seemed to feel that this was not a question to be disposed of by mere negations, and that it 1370 was necessary to suggest some alternative policy. The Bill before the House had been criticized very severely, and properly so. It was their business to criticize, to dissect, and to find out the weak spots of any scheme brought before the House. But, with all respect to the noble Lord who opened the debate that night (Lord Randolph Churchill), he thought it would be admitted that by far the most effective criticism had proceeded from the Ministerial side of the House. There were two speeches that he listened to with very much interest—that of his right hon. Friend the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan), and that of his right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain). He regretted deeply that they should have found it necessary to sever their connection with the Government. He need not say that he (Mr. Burt) disapproved entirely of the harsh criticisms to which they had been subjected, and the bad motives that had been imputed to them on account of the action they had taken. He knew both of them well; he admired them both; and he was perfectly satisfied that nothing but the deepest conviction of duty would have induced them to take such a step at such a time. Their vindication of their severance from the Government was complete. To his mind, he could not see how they could, as honest men, have retained their connection with the present Government. But he confessed he was still more puzzled to understand how, with their views and with their keenness of vision, they should have ever seen their way to join and take part in the Government. Their criticisms of the Bill were effective, as they might have expected they would be coming from such able and skilled debaters; but they were both too much imbued with the instincts of statesmen to rest satisfied with mere negative criticism. They felt bound, with their objections, to propound to the House an alternative policy; and he never saw a more conspicuous instance of how easy it was to criticize and how difficult it was to construct. What was their alternative policy? He would not attempt to criticize it in detail, lest he himself should be asked to produce an alternative scheme. Taking warning by their example, and not having an alternative scheme of his own, he would rest satisfied with only one or 1371 two remarks. There was this defect in both their schemes—both of them, in their criticisms which they had launched against the scheme of the Prime Minister, laboured under this great disadvantage; under the fatal defect that their schemes were not asked for, and there was every reason to believe they would not be accepted, by the Irish people. [Cheers.] He was confirmed in his opinion by that response from hon. Gentlemen opposite. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Chamberlain) suggested a Royal Commission. Well, there appeared in the newspapers of that day the Report of a Royal Commission of which he (Mr. Burt) was a Member, and that Commission had sat for seven years. It had not been idle; it had been dealing with a very difficult and complex question; but a question much more easy of solution, he thought, than that of the relationship between Great Britain and Ireland. His right hon. Friend had also spoken of Federation, of which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Finch-Hatton) had drawn a very poetic description. The hon. Gentleman seemed to see visions of a grand future when the British Empire should be federated, and when they would have Members from every part of the Empire assembled in the House. Well, he (Mr. Burt) liked the idea. It was very attractive to him; but he would point out that, so far, it was a simple vision, and they could not really wait. They were dealing with a practical question that had forced itself on the attention of the country; and it was impossible to wait until the whole British Empire was ripe for Federation before they attempted to grapple with and settle this great and difficult question. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Chamberlain) spoke about difficulties of race and religion, and said that Ireland was not a homogeneous nation; that Ireland was two nations; and he confessed, for himself, as one in favour of the principle of Home Rule, that that had seemed a great difficulty in dealing with Ireland; but he recognized the fact that the difficulty was considerably lessened by the result of the last General Election. What did they see then? Not only 86 Members returned from Ireland as supporters of the movement; but from the North of Ireland—if he was not mistaken, from Ulster itself—there was a majority of Nationalist Members. That 1372 was a very important fact, and it seemed to him that any man who believed in representative Government, who trusted the people—and many of the objections raised in this discussion had been directed against the very basis of representative Government, and had shown utter distrust of the people both of Great Britain and Ireland—he could not understand how any man who believed in representative Government, who trusted the people, could refuse to recognize the extraordinary result of the last General Election, at any rate so far as the representation of Ireland was concerned. His right hon. Friend also spoke of the necessity of having a real and not a sham Union between the two countries, and implied that the scheme of the Prime Minister would produce simply a sham Union. What did the right hon. Gentleman call the present Union? Was it a Union to his entire satisfaction? He (Mr. Burt) believed it was not; in fact, his right hon. Friend's alternative scheme showed that it was not. British force could do a great deal; but there was one thing that even British force could not do. It could not make a real and genuine union between one people and another. That was only possible on a moral basis. It was only possible by winning the affection, the trust, the confidence, and the goodwill of the people that had to be brought under the Government. He had said all he had to say, and thanked the House for the kindness with which, it had heard him. It was always with great reluctance he obtruded himself on the attention of the House; but they had reached a time when men with convictions must definitely take sides and speak out honestly what they thought. He had chosen his side. He had made up his mind. He took his side in favour of a thorough and complete union between the two countries. He thanked the Prime Minister for having brought this question forward and put it in a practical shape. The right hon. Gentleman was surrounded by great difficulties. No man knew better than himself what they were. As the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) had said, there were passion and prejudice. Yes; and there were the hatreds and the enmities of centuries, one might say. There were the doubts and misgivings of friends, as well as the bitter hostility of opponents. Able and trusted 1373 Leaders who had stood by the side of the Prime Minister in many hard-fought battles had refused to join him now; others equally trusted and equally able were leaving his side. He (Mr. Burt) did not blame them. The Prime Minister could not be indifferent to those signs; but he trusted, and he believed, he was not dismayed. In the face of all these difficulties it was impossible to tell what would be the fate of this Bill. It might be delayed and checked in that House. It might be rejected "elsewhere;" but there was another tribunal to which the right hon. Gentleman could appeal, the power that made and unmade Ministries and Parliaments, and which even an unrepresentative Assembly, however high its rank, and however ancient its traditions, could not ignore. Let the right hon. Gentleman appeal to that greater tribunal; and he (Mr. Burt) was much mistaken if the verdict of the overwhelming majority of the people of Great Britain and Ireland did not pronounce in favour of this great measure of pacification and reconciliation.
§ MR. JENNINGS (Stockport)
said, he wished to look at the question apart from Party. He was in favour of making just and generous concessions to Ireland, believing that the Irish people had a perfect right to manage their own affairs and to fill up their own local offices, and to have the amplest scope for building up those industries which England had destroyed. He would have been heartily rejoiced if he could have supported, as at one time he had hoped to be able to support, the measure of the Prime Minister; but, unfortunately, it seemed to him that the scope of the measure covered far more than the points to which he had referred. It was, in effect, a measure for the Repeal of the Union, accompanied by a payment to the Irish people for the privilege of allowing the Union to be repealed. They had had it admitted that night very frankly by the Attorney General that this Bill was practically a Repeal of the Union, and it had been said that that Union had been consummated by fraud and corruption. In that he cordially agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman; and he maintained that no man could conscientiously say one word for the method by which that Bill had been passed. But this was something 1374 more than a measure for the Repeal of the Union. It proposed to confer on the Irish Parliament powers which Grattan's Parliament had never possessed; they had been told by the Prime Minister that it was to have the control of the Executive Government of Ireland as well as of legislative business. In considering this question with great attention the first thing that had presented itself to his mind was that this measure had been brought in by one who undoubtedly was a great genius, but one who for nearly 20 years had had the government of Ireland under his control, and whose record was one of utter and calamitous failure. If what the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Attorney General stated was true, then the history of the legislation of the right hon. Gentleman was about as disastrous as any that this or any other country could show. Every one of his great measures had been heralded with the same promises of success and the same brilliant visions which dazzled so many of them on Thursday last. The Disestablishment of the Irish Church was to be the great panacea for healing the wrongs of centuries of oppression. Then in 1870 the Irish Land Bill was to unite Irishmen with Englishmen and Scotchmen in the enduring ties of freewill and affection; and the right hon. Gentleman also predicted that peace, order, and settled industries would diffuse their blessings from year to year, and day to day, over a smiling land. Was that fulfilled? Again, in 1881, upon the introduction of the second Land Bill, the same promises were given by the Prime Minister, who said that justice was to be their guide, and that walking in that path they could not err; that guided by that divine light they were safe; while every step they took brought them nearer to the goal. The next step which the Prime Minister took, and which was to bring them nearer to the goal he had promised, was the introduction of the most outrageous Coercion Bill ever passed by the House of Commons. The Home Rulers must sometimes have unpleasant recollections of the days when the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir William Harcourt) denounced them in that House in language more bitter than had ever been heard before. The right hon. Gentleman, in moving the Coercion Bill of 1882, said— 1375There is a cancerous sore in Ireland. … It is the sore which springs from the baneful venom of secret societies and unlawful combinations. To that foul disease it is necessary that the surgeon's knife should be applied. We have to cauterize and to extirpate it."—(3 Hansard,  463.)"Was this a step nearer the goal? He urged that there was no ground for hoping that the predictions they heard on Thursday night were more likely to be verified than the predictions which had preceded it. Sweeping as this measure was, it yet fell short of the demands made by the Irish Party, owing to the refusal to place the Customs and Excise under the control of the new Legislature. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) himself had said that no Parliamentary Assembly would work satisfactorily which had not such power of raising revenue for the purposes of the government of Ireland as seemed fitting and best to that Assembly. That, no doubt, was a right which an independent Legislature must possess, just as this Parliament possessed it. The Leaders of the Irish Party had used no deceit; they had been frank and candid on almost every occasion. On the 21st of January of the present year the hon. Member for the City of Cork had told a meeting that it was impossible, with consistency, to place a specific limit to the advance of that country, that no man had the right to fix the boundaries of a nation, or to say—"Thus far shalt thou go and no further;" that they had never endeavoured to fix a ne plus ultra, and never would. That was not only fair and candid, but it was the view of reason and of common sense. One consideration which they must bear in mind was that of the formidable difficulties which would inevitably arise from the action of the great body of Irish Americans. If this Bill granted to Ireland a free and independent Parliamentary Assembly with full powers over the Executive, as proposed by the Prime Minister, there would inevitably come a time when either the payment of the interest due, or some other cause, would bring the Irish Parliament into antagonism with this one. If they were to endeavour to demand what was necessary, whether payment of interest or what not, and to threaten to use force, could anyone suppose that the great body of Irish Americans would stand by silently and see that done? He believed that the United States would say to 1376 them—"You have acknowledged your incompetence to govern Ireland; you have given her practical independence, now you must take your hand off her; we will not stand by and see her crushed." He believed that there was no Government in the United States which could withstand such pressure as that which would be brought to bear on it by the Irish Americans, especially if a Presidential election were near. He was anxious on Friday night to hear something from the Chief Secretary for Ireland to remove his fears; but the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was an appeal to their fears—an appeal which ought not to have been addressed to the House of Commons. Brief as his experience of that Body was, he had come to the conclusion that it was the worst Body in the world to attempt to intimidate by threats or by the suggestion of some dark and unknown evils. Whatever the fate of this Bill might be, he believed that the just and reasonable aspirations of the Irish people would be fulfilled. He believed that in some way or other good local government for Ireland would be established, and that there would yet be an influx of capital into that country. [A laugh.] Without capital the industries which ought to be built up in Ireland could not be created. He believed the Irish cause, within just and reasonable limits, would triumph, even though this Bill should fail; and he did not hesitate to avow that his sympathies were with the Irish cause. He would support any measure, from whichever side of the House it proceeded, which had a tendency to promote the triumph of that cause consistently with the stability and the honour of his own native land.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, that he and everyone else must recognize that the page opened by the Prime Minister could not be closed without a solution of this question. He regretted the bitterness which had characterized many of the speeches delivered in the course of the debate. For any measure to succeed at all, it must be welcomed generously from all parts of the House, and not made a question of Party strife. He was glad to hear the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) repudiate the doctrine that this question could any longer be used for mere Party purposes, because the noble Lord, having 1377 tried the experiment, must know the bitterness of the failure in connection with it. There were only two suggestions for dealing with the Irish problem. The one was that they should use sufficient force to punish, crime and repress discontent. The other was that they should take such measures, and prepare such remedies, as might diminish the crime and remove the causes of the discontent. Let them, by remedying the mischief out of which the crime had grown, rob the crime of public sympathy; and let them remove the criminal from the possibility of the moral support of his countrymen, by redressing the mischief which hitherto the Irish people believed the men whom we called criminals had been trying to avenge. It was because he believed that the Prime Minister had sought a remedy that he intended, inside and outside the House, to give him his most loyal support. But he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would pardon him for saying that on some points he gave it with great doubt and hesitation. He had been long a Home Ruler; but he never dreamt that they should dismiss from the Parliament of the nation any portion of the Representatives of Ireland. He had some hope, from words which fell from the Attorney General, that there might be a possibility, while the measure was still under consideration, of reconciling the remedy with what he conceived to be political justice. If Irishmen accepted their exclusion, he would not stand in the way; but he should give his vote in grief, for fear that in taking this step they would be doing a most grievous injustice to the principles of popular representation. What he would say to Gentlemen opposite, and Gentlemen on that side who disagreed with the Prime Minister, was, what would they do? The question was one which they could not avoid. At the last General Election the voice of Ireland overwhelmingly declared that the question must be solved in some fashion, and it was the duty of the House to solve it. This Irish Question could not be avoided nor evaded. Nor ought they to try to avoid it, even if they could. It was the duty of Englishmen and Scotchmen to remember that much of the state of Ireland resulted from their neglect and misgovernment. As long as this question was unsettled, it would stand 1378 in the way of many a reform which hon. Gentlemen opposite did not wish for, but which Liberals and Radicals desired. Perhaps for that very reason hon. Gentlemen opposite desired to keep alive the question. His difficulty was that he had not two measures to choose between. If this remedy was imperfect, what remedy had anyone else to offer? The right hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) proposed to maintain law and order by means of the Central Government represented in the Imperial Parliament. To maintain law and order had been their constant cry; but how could they do so when the people hated the law? He had not much experience of Ireland—[Ironical Opposition cheers]—but he had had more than some of those who interrupted him, and he had seen enough of its suffering and misery. It had been his misfortune, years ago, to have been one of an armed force at an eviction in Ireland, to protect the civil officers, when the houses of the tenantry were being cleared away at the instance of some gentlemen who now denounced all remedies. The right hon. Member for the Border Burghs would maintain law and order; but he did not tell the House how. The Prime Minister had told them that for more than 50 years there had been scarcely a break in repressive measures. They had made men miserable, vengeful, and mad by a course of oppression such as scarcely any other civilized country in the world had endured. To tell the House that they must maintain law and order without giving some clue as to how that law and order were to be maintained, was, in view of the experience of the past half-century, the merest mockery. They were told that they should maintain law and order by a Central Government; but that had been their system, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) gave the authority of his name by an important preface to a work containing a denunciation of that system in the following words:—If the object of government were to paralyze local effort, to annihilate local responsibility, and daily to give emphasis to the fact that the whole country is under the domination of an alien race, no system could be devised more likely to secure its object than that now in force in Ireland. We hold that the continuance of such a system is unjust to Ireland, useless to England, and dangerous to both. It has irritated 1379 Ireland almost beyond endurance, and it has resulted in preventing the Imperial Parliament from giving its attention to many reforms of which England stands in need.That was published on the eve of the General Election. England had tried to maintain "law and order" for a century; but those tortured by their system had left grandchildren who cursed English, rule to-day, and who would never accept it. Irishmen had a sense of vengeance because of the sufferings inflicted on them and their fathers. Hon. Members opposite were not the cause of the discontent; they did not create it; they were the effect of it. Up to 1829, and for 150 years before, England, by Party religious laws, had maintained "law and order" so cruelly that the present Lord Chief Justice, in a Judgment delivered from the Bench, described it as a disgrace to their civilization, and it was indeed so bad that it would not be tolerated by any people possessed of the power to revolt against it. Until 1844 they persevered with those laws. They had been told that the Irish movements failed continually. It was not true. England killed, crushed by law, by prison, by force, by military; but out of the graves of those who were killed arose new leaders with new energy. Bitter attacks—chiefly founded on pamphlets circulated by the Loyal and Patriotic Union—were made on the Parnellite Members, but these were not the cause or root of Irish disaffection; they were its fruit and effect. They were not the first who had been described as causing Irish disaffection; and, unless we dealt remedially instead of repressively, they would not be the last. In 1844, in the Four Courts, Dublin, when the Central Government maintained "law and order" against the peaceful and Constitutional agitation of Daniel O'Connell, Mr. Whiteside, afterwards one of the Irish Judges, said—They tell you peace is disturbed, order broken, by the excesses of turbulent demagogues. No doubt there might be a seeming peace, a death-like still, by repressing the feelings and passions of men. A peace that springs from terror, and a silence sullen and begotten of despair.The policy of the Opposition in suppressing fair agitation was the policy which resulted in the silence of despair, and which bore fruit in secret conspiracies. It would seek vengeance, and it would 1380 meet with the usual reward. A great deal had been said of the Irish Americans. Why did they send their money so freely? Many years ago he saw men in rags and poverty, with their wives and children, trudging along the dusty roads to Cork, where they were to embark. They had appealed to the House, but got no answer. They petitioned in vain; and now they had retained affection enough for those at home to send money home to help in Parliamentary agitation, as well as to help their relatives to live in reasonable comfort, For men who would do this there was a reasonable hope that if the hand was held out to them they would accept it; but there must be patience and generosity on both sides. Unless Parliament came to some practical solution of the difficulty the very discussions now being held would entitle Ireland to speak louder than before. So long as the people were made to hate law, law could not be maintained. Intense hate and a deep despair would have been the only result of the miserable repressive legislation in which the late Government proposed to seek refuge—that despair which sought vengeance underground, and in Russia and other countries where despotism prevailed resorted to means that all must deplore—because the course of Constitutional agitation was arrested, and Constitutional agitators were punished. [Opposition murmurs.] He did not expect courtesy or attention from Conservative Members; but he knew that the Prime Minister would listen while he told him that men out-of-doors wanted the ever-recurring Irish problem finally settled, so that English, Scotch, and Welsh legislation might be possible, and that they trusted to the Liberal Leaders to settle it. They had no faith in the Conservatives, who came to the House blind and helpless with their Lord Lieutenant thrown over, with no Chief Secretary, first waiting in ignorance for knowledge, and then with only a prison as a policy; and it was notorious that the noble Lord whom the Party so much relied upon (Lord Randolph Churchill) had changed his tactics on this question almost as many times as the Government with which he was connected was in Office weeks. He would tell the House that the people outside trusted the Prime Minister, and were willing to go with him even further than they could 1381 see, in the hope that his keener and more far-reaching vision perceived a permanent solution and remedy; and they looked to him to crown a long life of public service—the last 25 years of which had tended more and more towards liberty—by taking away a source of discord, and uniting in a bond of real unity the peoples of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
Sir, a great legislative experiment is about to be tried, or proposed to be tried, in Ireland, and as I am one of those about to be experimented upon, I think I have at least the right to ask the indulgence of the House for a short time. It is no new question to Irish Members—this question of Home Rule. It has been for some years now before the country, and Irish Members know exactly each other's minds about it. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) is the incarnation, at the present moment, of Home Rule in its true sense, and, although differing from the hon. Member very widely, I am bound to admit that he has always acted in this matter with perfect candour and honesty. In Ireland parties are divided very much into two camps. There are those who are in favour of being connected with England, and those who are in favour of severing the Union. Those two questions are of such immense importance that they swallow up all minor considerations. The Loyalists took upon the hon. Member for the City of Cork as an open and a declared foe. They look upon the policy of hon. Members below the Gangway as being just as much a foreign policy as if they were Russians or political Cossacks; and that is also the point of view in which the Nationalists look upon us. Now, I think it is a good thing to be perfectly fair and outspoken, as I have always tried to be. The hon. Member for the City of Cork, embodying the views of hon. Members below the Gangway, has laid down in the immediate past, very clearly and distinctly, his views upon the Irish Question, in a speech which has already been quoted to the House, no later than last November at Castlebar. I hope the House will not think that I am trespassing unduly upon its time in making these quotations, because it is a matter of absolutely vital importance that we should be clear in our own minds as to 1382 what it is that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway want, and also what it is that we want. It will not do for the House of Commons to take its views of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, when they are filtered through the Prime Minister; but it must have them at first hand, from themselves. The hon. Member for the City of Cork is very clear and very explicit on that point. The speech which I am about to quote was delivered by the hon. Member at Castlebar on the 4th of November, 1885; and in order that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway may not interrupt me by asking me where I get the quotation from, I beg to inform them at once that I have taken it from that most excellent journal The Freeman's Journal. Therefore, about the accuracy of the quotation there can be no question. This is what the hon. Member said—The great and important questions—I may say the great and important question, for the question of Ireland now is not in the plural but in the singular—there is now only one question, and that question is the legislative independence of Ireland. Speaking for myself, and I believe for the rest of the Irish people and for all my Colleagues, I have to declare that we will never accept, either expressly or implied, anything but the full and complete right to arrange our own affairs, to make our land a nation, and to secure for her, free from outside control, the right to direct her own course among the peoples of the world.Now, Sir, I do not think language could be plainer than that The hon. Member for the City of Cork, speaking for himself and all his Colleagues, distinctly stated that nothing would satisfy him or would satisfy them except complete independence and complete separation—["No, no!"]—with Ireland, a nation free from all outside control. I do not know how hon. Members below the Gangway explain those words; but if they really mean what they say, I maintain that they can only mean complete separation—["No!"]—and "Ireland a distinct and independent nation." Well, Sir, this is Home Rule; this is the policy of hon. Members below the Gangway; we thoroughly understand it, and the hon. Member for the City of Cork further informed us some time ago that he had taken off his coat, that he stood upon a single plank, and that that plank was "Ireland a nation." Well, now, we have every hope that, without very much difficulty in the House of Commons, which is not composed either of madmen 1383 or traitors, we shall be able to upset the hon. Member for the City of Cork off his plank. But, Sir, a very portentious event has taken place. In the remarks I am about to make, I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister will not imagine for one moment that I have the slightest intention of being disrepectful to him or to his great and high position. In former years I sat behind the right hon. Gentleman. Now I sit in front of him, and I have the advantage of knowing both sides of his policy. A short time ago we observed to our astonishment, and I may add to our horror, that another figure was getting up on the plank. We had, first of all, a telegraphic communication which informed us that the Prime Minister himself had become a convert to the principles of the hon. Member for the City of Cork. This took us by surprise; it astonished and dismayed the country. At first we had some difficulty in recognizing the right hon. Gentleman, for at once a denial appeared in the papers, which stated that the telegraphic communication was not at all accurate. That might mean anything. It might mean that the right hon. Gentleman was not a convert to Home Rule, or that he was a convert and that the details were imperfect. But we had not long to wait. In the debate on the Address, in that wonderful and eloquent speech which the right hon. Gentleman delivered, we had a clear intimation that the process of conversion was rapidly proceeding; and now the Prime Minister stands boldly upon the same plank with the hon. Member for the City of Cork, and proclaims himself openly before the country a convert to Home Rule. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to offer my congratulations most heartily upon the wonderful eloquence and the grasp of intellect displayed by him in his maiden speech in the capacity of Leader of the Home Rule Party. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has brought in a Bill for the separation of Ireland from England. ["No!"] I am perfectly well aware that it is not called by that name. The real name that ought to be given to the measure is a Bill, not for the good government of Ireland, but for the good government of the House of Commons. It is a Bill that is intended not to benefit my native land, but to get rid of the Irish Members out of this 1384 Assembly. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman or anyone else in this House will deny that the measure is one of tremendous importance and significance, and that a measure so large in its scope requires that there should be a great cause to demand its introduction. That, I think, will not be denied; and, therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill, we Irishmen who are to be the victims of the measure expected that he would very clearly and distinctly state why it has been brought in, and that he would justify his introduction before the House of Commons and the country. But the right hon. Gentleman, I think, never in the whole course of his 50 years' experience, had a more difficult task to perform, because the measure was brought in for one purpose, and one purpose only. It was brought in to satisfy the requirements of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and I will illustrate what I mean in this way. Can the House of Commons imagine for a moment that the 85 Irish Members who sit below the Gangway should, on some future occasion, find themselves at sea in a ship, and that, owing to some misfortune, the vessel were scuttled? Can anyone in the House of Commons imagine for a moment that, under these unfortunate, or fortunate, circumstances, which I should deeply regret, the right hon. Gentleman would go on with this Bill? Why, Sir, the very object of the Bill would have vanished. It is brought in to satisfy hon. Members below the Gangway; and the first thing the right hon. Gentleman had to do was to deal with the man into whose hands the reins of government must fall if the Bill is carried. No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman opposite that there can be no question at all about who is to be Prime Minister under it, and who is to form the Government of Ireland. It will be formed by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway—a most distinguished Administration. First of all comes the hon. Member for the City of Cork, for whose ability I have the very highest respect. But the Prime Minister had a very difficult task to perform. The hon. Member for the City of Cork is to be his Irish Prime Minister; and the very first thing the right hon. Gentleman had to do was to whitewash the character of his Prime Minister, which character he himself had taken away. 1385 The only way in which we Irishmen can form a judgment as to the probable action of the hon. Member for the City of Cork and his future Administration is by looking back at their past performances, and trying to form an estimate from them of what their action is likely to be in the future. Let us look back for a few years—and only a very few years—for this is not very ancient history. It is history which only goes back to the year 1881—about five years ago. The opinions then held by the right hon. Gentleman would not have led any Irishman to conceive that the day was soon coming when he would suggest that the hon. Member for the City of Cork should be Prime Minister of Ireland. At that time the hon. Member for the City of Cork was the Leader of a very small Party, and that made all the difference. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] I am glad the right hon. Gentleman acknowledges the accuracy of my statement. At that time the hon. Member for the City of Cork led a very small Party; and, leading that very small Party, the right hon. Gentleman, speaking of the hon. Member, made the following observations:—A handful of men"—he could not say that now—in Parliament follow Mr. Parnell. I will not call them a Party, for they are not entitled to be called a Party; but they are Gentlemen who join and make themselves effectively responsible for the new gospel of Irish patriotism.The right hon. Gentleman then went on to describe what the new gospel of Irish patriotism is; and to this I must ask the attention of the House, because the words are not mine. I am afraid that if I were to use this language I should be called to Order. They are, however, the words of the right hon. Gentleman himself about his future Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman said—Now that the Land Act has passed, and now that he is afraid lest the people of England, by their long-continued efforts, should win the hearts of the whole Irish nation, Mr. Parnell has a new and enlarged gospel of plunder to proclaim.Having held this view at that time, and probably holding it still—[A laugh]—well, if he does not hold that view—if his view is entirely changed—he ought to have seized the very first opportunity of saying so in this House; and when he got up the other day at that Table and 1386 made that wonderfully eloquent speech of three and a-half hours, he might surely have spared a moment to whitewash the hon. Member. He ought to have reassured those over whom the hon. Member for the City of Cork is to rule that the hon. Member is no longer, in his eyes at any rate, a man who has a "new gospel of plunder to proclaim." I think that was the least he could have done; and if the right hon. Gentleman has not changed his view, he had no right to bring in this Bill. It proposes to destroy the Union which binds the two countries together. It proposes to revert to a state of things that existed before 1800. It would have been very useful to show the House of Commons that Ireland before the Union was in a more prosperous, a more happy, and in a more peaceful condition than she has been since. I think that would have been acting according to the dictates of, at any rate, Irish common sense. But somehow or other, in that speech of three and a-half hours, in which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to revert to a state of things which existed before the Union, he never said a single word that led us to believe that if we revert to that state of things it would be good for Ireland and good for England. I can inform the House why the right hon. Gentleman did not do that. It was because he knew that before the Union the condition of Ireland was absolutely deplorable—[Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no!]—in comparison with what it has been since. The right hon. Gentleman is very fond of figures, and he has been furnished with the information in response to the communication he has invited from all parts of Ireland. Figures given on the best authority, and which cannot be disputed, show that from 1782 to 1800 the commercial condition of Ireland steadily "disimproved." The wealth of Ireland in 1782 was greater than it was in 1798 or 1799. ["Oh!"] Hon. Members below the Gangway may say "Oh!" but I challenge contradiction. It is very easy to say "Oh!" but I have the figures here, and hon. Members can see for themselves whether what I state is not absolutely correct—namely, that the commercial condition of Ireland from 1782 to 1800 was steadily on the decline, and that since 1800 the wealth of Ireland has increased sevenfold. ["Hear, hear!"] I am glad that 1387 hon. Gentlemen agree with that. Knowing that perfectly well, the right hon. Gentleman never alluded to it in his speech, but asked the House to go back to the condition of affairs which existed before the Union, simply on sentimental grounds, and on no other. He did not refer to the commercial or social condition of the country, because he knew as well I do that Grattan's Parliament led up to the rebellion of 1798. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Mr. Pitt led up to it.] The right hon. Gentleman says that Mr. Pitt led up to it. I am not surprised in the least at that observation, because it is the observation I expected to hear. It is always Englishmen who have done these things; it is always something done by those who uphold law and order. Well, Sir, I will not pursue this topic further. The right hon. Gentleman steadily avoided mentioning it, and I only wished to point out to the House that no argument exists from a commercial, social, or industrial point of view which should lead the House of Commons to consent to revert to the condition of things that existed before the Union. [Mr. DILLON (Mayo, E.) made an observation which was inaudible.] The hon. Member will have an opportunity by-and-bye of contradicting what I have said. There is another argument which might have been used by the right hon. Gentleman with great effect. Perhaps I may be allowed to say a word or two about the commencement of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The first hour almost of that eloquent speech was taken up in gathering analogies from various countries of Europe in order to show that the experiment he proposes to try in Ireland has succeeded elsewhere. Now, I venture to say that the analogies which the right hon. Gentleman discovered in his historical researches have no more connection with the question we are debating than the connection between China and Japan. If the right hon. Gentleman could have shown that the Irish proper—I mean those who live in Ireland, for the definition of an Irishman by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway is a vague one. As far as I can make out, what hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway mean by an Irishman is a man who speaks with a brogue and is disloyal to the Crown—if the right hon. Gentleman had told the House that the vast majority of Irishmen, 1388 taken in the wider sense in which I mean the term, are in favour of his measure, and have determined upon independence and separation, it would have been a strong argument, I admit. But is that so? Now, the hon. Member for the City of Cork, in a speech which he made some time ago, and also the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), have said that the Home Rulers are the Representatives of five-sixths of the Irish population. Now, Sir, in one sense he is correct; I admit that. No doubt it is true, if hon. Members below the Gangway are assumed to represent the whole of the respective constituencies for which they sit. They may be correct; but I absolutely deny, and I believe I can prove what I say to be true, that they are followed by five-sixths of the Irish people. When the hon. Member for the City of Cork and the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) made that statement, I took the trouble to get out a few figures with regard to the last Election, which, after all, is some indication as to the number in favour of Home Rule, and of those in favour of retaining the connection with England. Now, I do not pretend to say that these figures are absolutely correct, and I will show hon. Members below the Gangway the extent of the error contained in them. If you take the counties that were contested—[Colonel NOLAN: And those which were uncontested.]—I will take them afterwards. Taking the contested elections in the counties, we have a very strong indication of the views of the voters. Now, Ulster had, in the contested constituencies, 112,449 Loyalists voters, of whom there where 70,605 Parnellites, as they are put down here—and that name will do as well as any other—and 37,000 and odd absentees. These are the figures that appear on the Register. As to the uncontested counties, no doubt there is a difficulty; but the only way is to strike an average. I admit that the figures are not perfectly correct; but the accuracy may be either one way or the other. It is just as likely to be in my favour as in favour of the hon. Member for the City of Cork. According to the average, there would be 135,900 Loyalist votes, 85,000 Parnellites, and 35,000 absentees. Treating the whole of Ireland in the same way, the contested counties outside Ulster show 29,861 Loyalists, 226,000 Parnellites, 1389 and 108,000 absentees. Striking an average—[Laughter]—it may suit hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to laugh, but the figures are tolerably correct—there will be found 9,073 Loyalists, 68,000 Parnellites, and 32,000 absentees. The representation of the Irish constituencies will thus be found to be 23.6 per cent of Loyalists, 51.3 Parnellites, and 25.1 absentees. Thus, at the very outside, the hon. Member for the City of Cork and his Friends do not represent more than three to one of the Irish population. With regard to the views and the character of that minority of one-third, they represent the wealth, the industry, the education, the backbone, and, as hon. Members may find out, the fighting power of the country. If what I say is correct, I should like to ask why, if the merchants, the bankers, the traders, and the landowners have confidence in the hon. Member for City of Cork and his followers, they are not to be found in the Home Rule ranks? When I look below the Gangway, I ask where are the merchants, the bankers, the traders, and the landowners? Where are they to be found in the ranks of those who represent what is called the Irish nation? Certainly not below the Gangway. Then I think I am correct in saying that the minority of one-third represent, at any rate, the most powerful and most potent part of the Irish people. What, then, is the true reason why this Bill has been brought forward? It has been brought in to get rid of the Irish Members. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland made a speech not very long ago at Chelmsford, and in that speech he distinctly stated why he is in favour of a measure of this kind. If the House will allow me, I should like to read an extract from that speech. The right hon. Gentleman said—The real mischief was not in the speeches and Resolutions of the Irish Members; but it was that they were able to weaken the policy of the Government, to turn out Ministers, and to reject their Bills from motives which were not those of national patriotism in an English sense. Do what they would with the Rules of Procedure, they would never restore the virtue of the whole British Parliament, and they would not give to the British people the power of being master in their own House, until they devised some scheme or other which would remove the Irish Members from the British House of Commons.On Friday night, the right hon. Gentleman made another reference to the Irish 1390 Members, and I invite those hon. Members to listen to this reference, and see if they like it—I believe," said the right hon. Gentleman, "that the Irish Assembly might not have the fine manners which distinguished this Assembly. It might be a little ruder in its ways; but I think that it would be as capable of performing the duties of a Legislature with justice and confidence.The right hon. Gentleman also said that he wanted to restore the dignity of the House of Commons. Without singing the praises of the Irish Members, I think I may justly say that they will compare very favourably with, say, hon. Members below the Gangway on the other side. Therefore, as far as I can understand the speech—and I confess that I do not understand very much of it—delivered by the Prime Minister, he has not given any reason whatever, from the beginning to the end of that speech of three and a-half hours, which should induce this House to pass the Bill as a Bill which will be for the benefit and for the pacification of Ireland. But, as I have said, his object is simply to purify the disturbed atmosphere of the House of Commons. The next important thing for Ulster Members to observe is the way in which the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman was accepted by the hon. Member for the City of Cork, for, after all, it had been framed probably with a view of securing his acceptance. The hon. Member for the City of Cork gave a qualified acceptance to the Bill. He said he received it, but with certain reservations, and those reservations might be removed in Committee. The hon. Member for the City of Cork, however, made one or two remarks to which I must take exception. He said in the course of his speech—and I wish to call the particular attention of the House to this remark, because it gives some inkling of the hostility we have to the Bill ourselves—in speaking of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan), the hon. Member said—I never accused the right hon. Gentleman or Earl Spencer of having believed the same thing; of having sanctioned the execution, knowing that the men were innocent.[Mr. PARNELL: Hear, hear!] The hon. Member says "Hear, hear!" When the hon. Member made use of these words, I thought to myself that this was 1391 not the way in which the hon. Member spoke in Ireland. If you want to see Norval at its best you must go to the Grampian Hills. If you want to see a modern Irish patriot at his best you must see him when he stumps on his native bog. The quotation I have already given is an instance of how the hon. Member for the City of Cork speaks in the House of Commons; but I now wish to read to the House a sample of the language which the hon. Member uses when he speaks in his native land. The occasion of the speech was at Castlebar. A gentleman had been chosen to represent the constituency—I think it was South Mayo—who had one objection to his candidature—that he was in a position of temporary retirement in penal servitude. The name of this gentleman was Mr. P. Nally. I confess that I fell into a great mistake about Mr. Nally. I was at first misled by the name, because there was a Mr. Peter Nally, who was one of the traversers in the trial of "The Queen v. Parnell;" and the House will see that there is some similarity between Peter Nally, the traverser, and Nally, the gentleman in penal servitude. This is what the hon. Member for the City of Cork said about Mr. Nally—I believe of Patrick Nally, that he is the victim of a conspiracy which was formed between Earl Spencer—[Groans]—and the informers of their country for the purpose of obtaining victims to what they called law and justice by any and every means, whether they are innocent or not.How does the hon. Member for the City of Cork reconcile his denial in this House, and this distinct statement—which I have taken also from The Freeman's Journal, so that there can be no mistake—how does he reconcile the language which he addressed to his admirers in the West of Ireland, and tried to hold up to scorn and contempt as the vilest form of murderer a man whom every Member in this House should honour and respect?
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to point out that the passage which he has selected from my speech at Castlebar does not involve any contradiction with the statement which I made in the House the other evening. The statement which I then made, and which the hon. and gallant Member has read out to-night, was with reference to the 1392 execution of persons in Ireland, and in that statement I absolved Earl Spencer and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) from having acted as it was alleged by some other people in Ireland that they had acted in reference to these executions. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has now referred to the case of the conviction of a person for conspiracy in Ireland. The conviction of Mr. P. Nally for conspiracy is a very different matter; but, at the same time, I feel it is right that I should take this opportunity of unreservedly withdrawing the imputation which I made against Earl Spencer, which was done under very peculiar circumstances and in the heat of the moment. I desire to withdraw it, Sir, in the most unqualified way; but, at the same time, pointing out to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that he cannot rely upon it to prove any inconsistency with my statement the other night.
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
I am glad that the hon. Member is sorry. I am glad that the hon. Member has stated in the House of Commons that he is sorry for uttering these atrocious words; but I expect that the hon. Member will go back to Castlebar and make the same retraction there. The hon. Member went on to speak of the meetings in America, and he said—It is a remarkable fact that the great meetings now being held in favour of the Irish movement in every city in America are mainly called together and organized by the native-born Americans, or by the editors and conductors of the purely American newspapers, and we regard the fact that during the last five or six months we have succeeded in entirely gaining the sympathy of the two great American political Parties—the Democratic and the Republican—as an omen of great hope for the future of our cause.Permit me to say that I very much doubt whether the language used at recent meetings in America is likely to gain either of these two Parties to the cause of Ireland. That such meetings are held there is no doubt, and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway who derive their principal supplies from America have every reason for being well acquainted with the fact. Perhaps the House will allow me to read a speech delivered in the town of Chicago, at one of these great meetings, on the 28th of November. It is reported in a paper called The Chicago Citizen, a paper which 1393 I never heard of before. But it has been given currency to in this country in a very well known journal which hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, I am sure, look upon with great respect—namely, United Ireland. In large type, the report is headed—"Great meeting. Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien." And this is the remark made by one of the speakers at that meeting.
I do not in the least degree care what religion he belongs to. We all know that there are bad Protestants; but this is what this man said—and it is reproduced in large type in United Ireland—It entirely depended upon the English leaders of public opinion in their dealings with Mr. Parnell's just demands whether or not hell broke out in London.Now, Sir, I know something about Americans, and I very much doubt whether that sort of language is at all likely to attract the admiration or the sympathy of the great American people. Before I conclude, I must notice one other speech. It is the speech of the hon. and learned Member for South Londonderry (Mr. T. M. Healy), who has received, absolutely without qualification the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: No.] The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) received it with qualifications; but the hon. and learned Member for South Londonderry (Mr. T. M. Healy) said it was an effort at last to shake hands across the gulf of centuries; and he left the impression on the House, at any rate, that he was a man desirous of peace, and that he was very far from wishing again to enter into polemical discussion. Why does not the hon. and learned Member speak like that in Ireland?
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
It is absolutely necessary, Sir, that the House of Commons should know the sort of fuel which is served out to the Irish people to fan the flames of internal hatred and discord between them. This is what the hon. and learned Member for South Londonderry said in Ireland not two years ago—I say that even if this were true"—speaking of his own country—"beyond the sea, beyond St. George's Channel, there is a people 1394 and a government worth hating. We have not merely our own country to serve, our own people to help, but we have another country to give to confusion. We have her to oppress and to bring to humiliation.
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
I will tell the hon. and learned Member exactly where the speech was delivered. Those words were made use of by the hon. and learned Gentleman at a meeting in Dublin.
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
Let me point out to the House how useful it is to have in Ireland newspapers of various shades. The words were carefully eliminated from The Freeman's Journal and United Ireland because they were felt to be too stiff; but they appeared in The Irish Times, and they have never been contradicted until the present moment. The hon. and learned Member good humouredly asks me whether I have ever put my hand as a Militiaman into the pocket of England, and he added that he himself has never done so. Well, I have done so. I think the labourer is worthy of his hire; and if the hon. and learned Member imagines that I am ashamed of belonging to my regiment he is greatly mistaken. I have several reasons for being proud of belonging to it. One of them is that it took a distinguished part in 1798 in squashing the Rebellion; and what it did then it is quite willing and ready to do again. Now, Sir, I have already trespassed at great length upon the attention of the House; but before sitting down I wish to say that I can well conceive some reason why it would be a good thing, if certain facts could be proved, to concede Home Rule. If it could be shown, in the first place, as was the case in Hungary, that the whole of the people of Ireland are united in demanding it, then that would be a great argument to use in favour of conceding the demand of the Irish people. But what I say is that there is no analogy whatever between the case of Hungary and that of Ireland. In an eloquent 1395 speech delivered by the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) there was no part of it which was more applauded than that in which the hon. Gentleman drew a contrast between Eastern Roumelia and Ireland. But what analogy is there, I should like to know, between Eastern Roumelia and Ireland? Ii Eastern Roumelia had confined herself to murdering Turks and "Boycotting" Bashi-Bazouks, she would still be, at this moment, under the most detestable rule that the world has ever known. But she was firm enough to take her stand. She was capable of showing that she deserved her freedom. She was also capable of wresting her freedom from Austria had not Russia stepped in. But, in the case of Ireland, I want to know when have the patriots in Ireland stood forward like men in the open and fought for their freedom? They claim their freedom as the inherent right of the Irish race. I absolutely deny that any race has the right to be free. I say that history is on my side, and that no race is free until it is strong enough and brave enough to be free. England is free because she has fought for her freedom; but if she had not been strong we should now have been slaves. Ireland is not free as yet, and never will be free until she can be strong enough to be free. What I say to the House of Commons and the country is, that if you withdraw your army and the police from Ireland, and say "Let the best men win," the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his Friends will not be the Home Rulers. There are two conditions upon which hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway desire this freedom—first of all, the control of the police; and, secondly, what they call "an army of guarantees." What would be the use of that army but to guarantee the hon. Member for the City of Cork his position as Prime Minister and Home Ruler? That is the object for which they ask for these guarantees in Ireland. As for the men of Ulster, we require it not. It is proposed that Ulster should be excluded in some way from the Bill. ["No!"] Yes; the right hon. Gentleman reserved Ulster. Ulster is to be treated in a different way from the rest of Ireland. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No.] On the part of Ulster and every loyal man in that Province I repudiate that suggestion. We 1396 are prepared and determined to stand and fall, for weal or woe, with every loyal man who lives in Ireland. And now, Sir, I wish to state the course which I and those who act with me in tend to take. We hate this Bill. It is with us a matter of great reluctance to allow it to be read a first time; but we do not propose on the present occasion to test the vote of the House of Commons, and for this reason—We propose to let it be read a first time, in order that it should appear in all its naked deformity before the world, condemned as it is by the country, and as it will also be by the House of Commons. We desire to see it shattered, and under its ruins to be buried the evil principle of separation which it embodies. I feel my own utter weakness in pleading before the House of Commons the cause of Irish loyalty. I do not pretend to be an orator; but I have no doubt whatever that the cause I plead will ultimately succeed. I believe most firmly in my heart that a more righteous and a more just cause was never pleaded before the House of Commons; and I am braced to the efforts I have made, because, although I do not claim to speak in the voice of Ireland, I feel convinced that I am speaking in the name of the loyalty of my native land.
§ MR. WHITBREAD (Bedford)
I ask for the indulgence of the House while I state, in a few words, the reasons which, if this Motion is pressed to a division, will induce me to support the introduction of this measure of the Government. I am the more anxious to do this because it seems to me that we have now come to the dividing of the ways, and the course which I intend to take will separate me from many of those around me for whose opinion and character I have the highest respect, and with whom I have enjoyed a long political companionship. Now, Sir, I do not propose in any sense to follow the speech of the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down, a speech which greatly entertained the House, but added very little to the solution of any difficulties. In one sentence only will I advert to it, and that only to remind the hon. and gallant Member that if he looks upon his Colleagues who represent Irish contituencies in the light of enemies and political Cossacks, he cannot be much surprised 1397 that they regard the laws passed by Englishmen and Scotchmen as laws passed by aliens. Much has been said with regard to the time which has been selected by the Government for the introduction of this measure. But when a Party, or the Legislature, or, I may perhaps say, a people, have been willing to toil in one path at a great sacrifice and with great exertion, and when they seem to find it hopeless to reach their goal by the road they have chosen, it is difficult to say what is the precise moment at which they should stop, and what is the last step they should take in the road they have hitherto followed, and what is the right moment to try some other path. There does seem to me to be a certain set of circumstances—a concurrence of circumstances—which point to the present moment almost unavoidably as the one to be chosen for the introduction of such a measure. We remember the light-hearted, almost scornful, rejection by the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) of the retention of the clauses of the exceptional legislation which had for some years enabled us to do something for the maintenance of law and order in Ireland. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite gave up all that with a light heart, thinking that they might take it up again when it suited them; but the present Parliament had not met many days when a most significant vote was taken, though it was taken, indeed, on another question. It was swelled by the fixed determination of hon. Members on this side of the House not to intrust the conduct of affairs again at that moment to those who were without a policy to do anything for Ireland. It is admitted by hon. Gentlemen opposite, as well as by those who have spoken against the introduction of the present Bill, that the Return of the Nationalist Party in Ireland in overwhelming numbers showed that the time had arrived when some new step must be taken. The noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), in a speech of immense power, the lofty tone of which I gladly acknowledge, although I deeply regret the conclusions at which he arrived, has carried the argument of the moral incompetence of this Parliament to deal with the question a little beyond what it will properly bear. I entirely concur in the opinion which has been 1398 expressed, that unless there is a marked turn of public opinion in favour of this measure it would be absolutely impossible—physically impossible—that a scheme so gigantic, so complex, and so far-reaching, should pass through Parliament without having been submitted to the people. It is possible that the question of a Dissolution might arise during the progress of this measure; and I trust that if it does the noble Marquess, whose advice would be most potent in that case, will at least act the Constitutional part which is the correlative of the doctrine he has laid down, and will not throw any obstacle in the way of an appeal to the people, should such an appeal be desired. Whether the time for doing so has been rightly or wrongly chosen, it has been done; this offer has now been made. It has been made to the Irish people in the name of the Cabinet of England, and consider how that fact alters the whole position. Do you think it possible that that offer when once made can by any means or power be withdrawn? Do hon. Members opposite know of any instance in history where a Government having proposed to confer a boon of this kind in satisfaction of the aspirations and the wishes of a people—that it has ever been found that for any length of time any power on earth could intercept that boon? Have hon. Members thought out how, if this offer were withdrawn, the power of the Irish Party opposite would be reinforced by a number of hon. Members sitting on the Liberal side of the House, who would join them in claiming that their demand must be admitted, and in some degree satisfied? Do hon. Members think of the effect that such a course of proceedings would have upon public opinion abroad? Have you thought of the effect of the offer of the Government, and what the result of refusing it would be, upon the English-speaking populations of America and Australia? Some reference, and I think an unfair reference, has been made to what fell from the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant on Friday night with regard to American opinion upon this question. In my opinion, the Chief Secretary has drawn a very sound distinction in the matter. The truth is that there are two American opinions upon this question. There is the opinion 1399 of the violent faction, with its hatred to England, which is sometimes known as the dynamite faction. In this country the opinion of that faction will never have weight, and no Government would meanly or basely listen to it; but there is the opinion of the thoughtful American and of the thoughtful Irishman in America. How would the latter opinion be increased against us in volume if we were to refuse to accept the scheme which is offered by this Bill—or some scheme of the kind? I say that it would be a grievous mistake in statesmanship to ignore that opinion. I believe that the English-speaking people of the world are too closely knit together, have too much sympathy with each other, and act and re-act upon each other too nearly to admit of any man who calls himself a statesman ignoring altogether the opinions of such large bodies of people. Almost the whole of the two first nights of the debate, with the exception of the able speech of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), was occupied in denunciations of this scheme from opposite Benches; and, having been challenged, I must say that I do not think those who have opposed the scheme of the Prime Minister have taken any great pains to arrive at any common ground of action in connection with this subject. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan), who has had official experience of Ireland, and for whose opinions on many subjects I have a great respect—the right hon. Member will himself, I think, admit that public opinion upon this question has already gone far beyond his scheme. I think he will admit, before this debate is over, that that scheme is no longer applicable. Then I come to the scheme put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain). Well, that scheme is one which I can hardly imagine either my right hon. Friend the Member for the Border Burghs or the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) would agree to support—a scheme which presupposes the existence of a Parliament in Ireland, and which, it appears to me, goes far beyond that which is now proposed, and which would make large alterations both in the Parliamentary Government of England and Scotland—alterations 1400 which, as far as I know, there is at the present moment no demand for. Then there remains the scheme, not of legislation, but of action, put forward by the noble Marquess himself. I agree with the noble Marquess in believing that a great deal of the evil which has befallen us in connection with Ireland is due to the fact that the two Parties have for generations been playing with this great question. Does there seem to be any chance that the game will cease? It is true that for the moment the tables have been turned, and that, instead of the two great Parties playing with the Irish vote, you have the Irish Members playing with the English Parties. The noble Marquess talked of a combination between the two sides of the House, a combination which would be strong enough to do something on the old lines of Liberal remedial legislation, coupled with the suspension of many of the Constitutional liberties of Ireland. I do not feel at all sure that such a combination could easily be formed which would go so far as to be willing to introduce a Coercion Bill for Ireland, and at the same time to offer some small modicum of Irish local self-government; but if it could, would its operation be extended to other questions besides that of Ireland, and how long would it last? I am convinced that there is no prospect of any such combination between the two sides of the House as would render possible the formation on that basis of a stable Government, or a Government that would cope successfully with the large arrears of legislation required for England and for Scotland as well as for Ireland. Although I know full well that hon. Gentlemen opposite dislike Home Rule, yet they dislike the ways of hon. Members below the Gangway on this side of the House a good deal more. And if this combination would not hold good when you come to deal with large questions of legislation, what would the result be upon your Parliamentary action? For 86 years you have attempted to weld the people of Ireland with the people of Great Britain in one Parliament, and you are further from achieving your object now than you were at starting. What would be the result of attempting to act upon the combination of the noble Marquess with 86 Nationalist Irish Members still sitting in the House? I do not wish to refer solely to the obstruction 1401 which those Members would offer. That word was common enough in our mouths in the last Parliament, and its consequences were great enough. Who does not remember at what cost to the efficiency of the House, at what cost to its reputation, I might almost say at what risk to its very existence, that obstruction was carried on in the last Parliament? That was bad enough. Those who remember that time cannot have forgotten the discontent that was spreading through England because nothing was taken in hand for the benefit of England or Scotland—discontent that was rapidly becoming dangerous, and that might again become overwhelming. I do not refer to the power of obstruction alone. And here let me pause for a moment to say a word to those hon. Members who have not been long in this House. Do not dream that by any alteration of your Rules of Procedure you can deal satisfactorily with a body of men in your midst who are determined, if they can, to break down your system in the interests of their country. I know some hon. Members think that by adopting some plan of clôture, and some more rapid means of bringing discussion here to an end, and by the adoption of some other Rules of Procedure, they will be able to expedite Business. We could expedite Business among men willing that the Business should go on; but to think for a moment that you could make the clôture a weapon of daily and hourly use in this House is a wild dream. If you could do so, you would destroy your Parliament. Now, I admit that the clôture is wanted occasionally and for specific purposes; but it is a weapon rarely to be used, and it is an idle dream to suppose that it would be effectual against a large body of Members always acting together, and always acting with one idea which dominates every other consideration, and to which they make every other consideration subservient. Therefore, the constant employment of such a weapon as the clôture is the wildest dream of anybody who knows anything about the Business of Parliament. But there is something which I fear even more than obstruction—namely, the assistance which Irish Members would lend to our legislation. We had a taste of that in the last Parliament. You may possibly frame very strict Rules 1402 to govern the Procedure of the House; but you could not frame Rules to say how Members should vote, and the result might be that if the combination took place which the noble Marquess wishes so much to introduce, on the first occasion that that natural difference arose which must always exist between the Conservative and the Progressive side of this House—on the very first occasion of that difference arising you might have a compact body of votes thrown on one side or the other, without regard to the subject under consideration, but merely with a view to the interests of the Irish Party at the moment. There would be an independent body of Members exercising immense influence, not steady, but wayward, and the result would often be that the opinion announced at the polls in England and Scotland would find itself reversed in Parliament. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill)—who, by the way, in his speech to-night, I thought, kept a remarkably open mind in that brilliant, amusing, and clever speech—entered upon a criticism of the details of the measure; but I noticed that the noble Lord never attempted to do that which he can do very well when he likes, and that is, to use a common expression, that he did not put his foot down on this occasion with regard to the principle of the measure.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
The hon. Gentleman does me an injustice when he says that I did not put my foot down upon the Bill.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
I did not say that he had refrained from putting his foot down upon the Bill. But I will put it in another form. I am sure I do not want to misrepresent the noble Lord. The noble Lord criticized the scheme now before the House for what was in it and what was not in it with very great freedom; but nothing fell from him, as far as I remember, that would justify me this time next year, supposing the noble Lord propounded a liberal scheme of federation or anything else, referring to his speech to-night as being inconsistent with his doing so. The point I wish to come to is this. The noble Lord followed the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) and the right hon. Member for 1403 West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) in drawing a very doleful picture of the inferior position the Irish Parliament would occupy under this scheme. The noble Marquess said—Can you expect that this Parliament will be satisfied with the powers it is proposed to give it? Can you fancy a Parliament shorn of all power to take part in Imperial affairs being satisfied with the position it would occupy?First of all, I would like to say that, after listening with extreme attention to the speech of the Prime Minister, I did not think that the exclusion of the Irish Members was an unalterable or a vital principle of the Bill, and that there might not be some representation of Ireland in some due and moderate degree. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] It would, of course, be absurd to suppose that if the Irish Members had a Parliament of their own at Dublin, they would still come to this Parliament in the same numbers as at present. But suppose that the Irish Members are content to be excluded, is it not possible that they may themselves say something of this sort—"We are going to undertake, if Parliament will allow us, the tremendous task of trying to govern our own country, and for years we shall have quite enough on our hands." I can fancy their saying this—"We cannot afford to fritter away our strength by attempting to carry on the government of Ireland and at the same time taking our part in the Business of the Parliament at Westminster." Now, look at the task which these men would have before them, or any set of men who were honestly prepared to set about the good government of Ireland. Would it not be enough to satisfy even the loftiest aspirations? First of all, they have got to restore order in a distracted country; they have got to establish the credit of the country; they have got to invite back capital to their country now so sadly driven away; they have got to settle the agrarian difficulty; and they have got to do something to smooth over religious animosities, which some hon. Members of this House do not think it beneath them still to try to stir up. They have got also to reconcile with the religion of the majority of the people the sound education of the children; and they would have, too, to take care, as we in England and Scotland have taken care, that no power 1404 shall be able to prevent the acquisition by the children of their country of sound and useful knowledge. They would have to take care that free sale should really exist between all classes of the community, and that upon free sale should follow quiet possession. They would have to take care—and this is a task that would tax them to the utmost—they would have to take care, if they can, to eradicate from the minds of the people that deep-rooted and fatal belief that it is justifiable to have a Secret Code existing alongside with the Constitutional Law. Surely it cannot be said that these are small or light tasks, when everyone knows that they have baffled the efforts of all English statesmen, although they have strained their nerves to the utmost. We have seen Parliaments, which came to the consideration of Irish grievances with the sympathy which men feel for a country to which they owe much, robbed of the fruit of their work. Well, I grant, that if, under the blessing of Providence, any measure of success were to attend the efforts of men so labouring, if they got their work well in hand—if they developed to some extent the wealth which the earth and the sea which washes their shores, would render—if they got their work well in hand, and then came to see something like a successful result of their efforts, that they might stand up, and, looking around them, say—"We should now like to take our part in Imperial affairs." The time may come—whether it is provided for in the scheme or not—when it would not be contrary to the wishes of the people of this country, and, I believe, not beyond what statesmanship could desire, to frame some plan which would give them a just and sufficient representation in Imperial matters. There have been direful forebodings in the Press and elsewhere of the anarchy, confusion, and tyranny that would follow from the passing of any measure of Home Rule. I will not dwell much upon that point, because it has been so ably dealt with by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General; but I will ask the House to consider where is this experiment of Home Rule to be tried? It will be tried almost in sight of the English shores, and almost within hail of Scotland. If you embark upon the experiment, Ireland could not slip her moorings 1405 ings and be wafted to some remote corner of the globe out of the reach of and beyond the ken of civilization. The experiment would still be tried under the watchful and jealous eyes of England and Scotland; and if such a state of things as some of you have pictured were to arise, if they failed in their effort and liberty should be gone, if tyranny should still be rampant and property should not be made secure, what would be the conditions and criticisms under which Ireland would be placed? You know quite well that, if this state of things should arise, England and Scotland would say—We tried you in our own Parliament, and the experiment failed. We tried you with a large measure of self-government, and it failed also. You have shown yourselves unfit to be governed by our Parliament under our Constitutional system, and you have shown yourselves unfit to govern yourselves.That verdict, and the necessary consequences, would, Sir, be backed up by the opinion of the civilized world. But, Sir, I have better hopes of Ireland. I do not know whether this scheme is destined to become law, or whether it will be some other scheme—called, perhaps, by some other name—perhaps even more far-reaching; but of this, I am certain, no Government can be formed that would not, in a very short time, be compelled to take this question up. The considerations which lead me to support this scheme now are that, looking back to the efforts which I myself have witnessed in this House, in which I have taken a humble and, for the most part, a silent share; the strenuous efforts which have been made for the amelioration of the condition of Ireland; the laws passed which were, undoubtedly, good laws; the boons given to Ireland that have not been given to England or Scotland—looking back upon all these things, I see the feelings of Ireland towards this country little changed for the better—I ask myself the question whether it is not a fact that we must recognize that law in Ireland is not respected because it has never been accepted? I am somewhat comforted in taking a step which many of my Friends are unable to take with me by the recollection that I took part in extending the suffrage to Ireland, and in securing that the votes should be given independently without fear and 1406 without influence. Ought I now, that the verdict of that country has been given, to desert the principles upon which I have acted? The noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) thinks it is of vital consequence to keep that clause in the Act of Union which says that the two people should for ever come together in one Parliament; he thinks it a little thing to disregard completely and entirely the representations which have been made by those who have been elected in Ireland. I cannot follow the noble Lord in that view. When the minds of men are much tried and much separated, I prefer to hold to that which, at all events, has something of principle in it. After having put the question to the Irish people, and having found that they have answered in one direction by an overwhelming majority, I prefer to listen to that voice, and to do what I can to satisfy it.
§ MR. GIBSON (Liverpool, Walton)
I will attempt, as far as possible, representing, as I do, an English constituency, to follow the example of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have treated the question entirely apart from Party considerations. All my life I have been in the habit of taking a moderate and hopeful view of Ireland, and in anything I may say here this evening I should bitterly regret saying anything that would unfairly prejudice or affect any decision the House can come to. Having made the admission that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have dealt with the question upon high and dignified patriotic considerations, it is necessary for me to point out that in much which has fallen from the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) it is impossible for me to see in what principle the hon. Member invites the House to follow him. The view of the hon. Gentleman appears to be this:—"The intelligent American thinks so and so; the Irish Party have exhibited an extraordinary power of disarranging the practical calculations of the two Parties in this country; they have nearly wrecked the House of Commons, and, therefore, it is necessary for the House of Commons to come to terms with them; if you do not come to terms at once with the Irish Party to give them what they require, the result will be the ruin of the Empire and of the Constitution." 1407 Let the House consider for one moment the extraordinary danger of an argument of that kind. Suppose the Ultimatum of the Irish Party was before us this evening, and was boldly stated to be that they would have Grattan's Parliament and Grattan's Parliament only—a Parliament free and unmutilated, perfectly able to deal with other nations, to regulate its own trade, and free to hold its own place among nations—the argument of the hon. Gentleman would equally apply to the necessity of granting that demand. It would also equally apply if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) were to advance that proposition. The view suggested by the hon. Member is, that because the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian has brought forward a measure—though that measure is one which, upon its merits, the House ought to reject—the House ought to endorse it. Suppose, by way of illustration, that the right hon. Gentleman had said that there was a long-standing and festering sore poisoning and destroying the relations between England and Ireland, and that it was necessary not only to go back and repeal the Act of Union, but to go further back still to the time of Henry II., and to let Ireland go free once more to take her place among nations, the position of this debate would be seriously altered, but the argument of the hon. Member would be just the same—namely, that because the Prime Minister, with his enormous acquisitions, his vast political experience, and the affection the country bears towards him, has fallen into a mistake, we are bound against our better judgment to follow him, no matter what in our consciences we feel. It appears to me that there must be in this vast Constitutional crisis a liberty of private judgment for each of us, which we are bound to exercise at our own peril. We cannot follow any man's lead unless that lead should commend itself to our reason. I do not think that hon. Members on this side of the House are bound, because the Prime Minister has brought forward a certain proposition, to say that there is no alternative to it, or to refuse to canvas it, but rather that we should decide for ourselves what is the real question before the House—whether the Bill is one which would do injury to this country and to Ireland, and 1408 would be no settlement of the Irish Question at all. Now, Sir, it appears to me that this Bill, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, with all that wealth and accuracy of language which he has at his command, purports to give legal autonomy to Ireland, and, in fact, to give a repeal of the Union, but to give it muffled up and concealed, with the result that a few years after obtaining it there would be a struggle for complete separation, with endless heartburnings, bitterness, and strife, and perhaps operations of a very serious character. I shall not long trespass on the indulgence of the House; but I should like to ask what would be the circumstances which would justify the bringing in of such a measure? In the first place, I think it is not unreasonable to say that the matter, in some of its material details, at all events, ought to have been before the country and considered. I do not say that the country was to give a mandate to each of its Representatives in the House; but I do say that the country is entitled to know from the Prime Minister, who is asking for its confidence, what his plans of Home Rule are before they are sprung upon the House of Commons, and before he receives a command to carry them out. But the Attorney General has said that it is not necessary for a great political Leader like the right hon. Gentleman to lay his views before the country, and reference has been made to the Crimes Act of 1882. Was there ever a more unsubstantial point made? Everyone knows that the Crimes Act was brought in in consequence, not of the crime existing when the Government came into existence, but in consequence of the very serious outbreak of crime which happened in 1882, long after the Prime Minister came into Office. Of course, it is impossible for anyone to say, or for the Attorney General to argue, that the Prime Minister could beforehand be in a position to lay before the country a request for powers to deal with an outbreak before that outbreak occurred, and to ask for a mandate or a command to deal with it. Let us see what are the circumstances under which the scheme is brought forward. The Prime Minister admits that for the last 50 years—since 1829—the laws passed by England for Ireland have been good laws. The laws 1409 with, regard to land were far more favourable to the tenant in Ireland than in any other part of the Kingdom. I venture to think that the Highland crofter would be ready to jump out of his skin if he could secure a measure like the Irish Land Act. Under these circumstances, how is this demand justified by the Prime Minister? The laws governing Ireland are more just and favourable than those enjoyed by any other part of the United Kingdom. These laws have been justly admired; and is it to be said in this House that it is competent, by refusing to obey these laws, to force Parliament to agree to separation? I submit that such a line of argument ought not to be tolerated for a moment. If we have good laws, and laws fit to be on the Statute Book, we should insist on having them obeyed. I do not know whether any hon. Gentleman in this House has ever considered that law is not operative in society unless there is some force behind it; and there is no more use in the judgment of a Judge than in the prattling of a parrot if there is no policeman or Sheriff to carry out the decrees of the Judge. What is the use of having just laws in Ireland for the protection of life and property and for the removal of legitimate grievances if we do not insist that the law should be obeyed? I think the language applying the word "foreign" to Ireland was most unfortunate language as coming from the Prime Minister. I should like to know at what period in the history of Ireland the law would cease to be foreign law if this Bill passes and becomes a Statute of the Realm? It was, I think, most unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman should apply the word "foreign" either to England or Ireland. I have been brought up in the belief that I am no foreigner in England, and I have not been treated as if I were. I sit for an English constituency, as also does the Attorney General, who, also, has no reason to say that in this country he has been regarded as a foreigner. It is certainly a strange thing, when we have been welcomed so warmly and cordially in England, to find that when Englishmen go over to Ireland to enforce rightful and good laws, those laws are to be spoken of in the House of Commons as foreign laws, and that the men who have passed them are to be denounced 1410 as enslavers. In 1871 the Prime Minister said that the only condition that would justify a measure of Home Rule was that there should be grievances in Ireland which a British Parliament refused to redress, and, being applied to for redress, was persistently deaf to the application. In Aberdeen, in 1871, the Prime Minister pointed out that the only justification for the demand for a separate Parliament would be a persistent refusal of the redress of grievances by the Imperial Parliament. But in his address to the electors of Mid Lothian the right hon. Gentleman said distinctly that all grievances were removed, and in his speech on Thursday last he did not put forward any grievances that are to be redressed, or state that Parliament is unwilling to redress such grievances. I say, frankly, that if grievances exist in Ireland let them be pointed out, and the Imperial Parliament will redress them. Parliament ought not to be placed in this position—that having passed just laws, and being willing to redress grievances, it should be insisted that the demand of a certain class must be granted, because they say that the law is a foreign law which they dislike, and, whether just or unjust, they will not obey it. Without entering into the historical inquiry of the right hon. Gentleman, I wish to point out the dangerous nature of some of the instances which he referred to. The Prime Minister's argument was that Ireland and England are two nations; but, according to the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), there is only a small stream dividing the two countries, which the Prime Minister will be able to look across every morning, and so follow out the results of his work. Let me, then, point out the dangerous nature of some of the right hon. Gentleman's illustrations. Look at the nature of his illustration in regard to Grattan's Parliament. That Parliament was a sham Parliament, having had no independent existence; and the country at that time was in the hands and pockets of English administrators. But take the case of Grattan's Parliament. If the view of the right hon. Gentleman is correct, that Parliament did not impair the unity of the Empire, why, then, does he not give Grattan's Parliament now? When the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is read by a new generation in the volumes of Hansard, it will be asked 1411 why he did not propose a return to Grattan's Parliament, seeing that it would not impair the unity of the Empire? If the problem be fairly and impartially considered, it will be found that the granting of the demand now made is a surrender of the entire question now at issue between Ireland and England; and it would be better, in the ultimate interests and for the dignity of this country, and the avoidance of years of pain and anguish and strife, at once to concede complete independence to Ireland, rather than a sham independence, which must, sooner or later, result in freedom accompanied by hate. Let me ask hon. Gentlemen this question—Have they considered that the proposed Irish Parliament might repeal every English Statute that has ever been applied to Ireland, and that it might apply coercion in Ireland? Is it not a strange thing that coercion, which is so odious when applied by Englishmen now, might possibly be applied under very different circumstances by another Parliament in another country? After all, it is a very serious thing for this House to devolve its gigantic responsibilities, its centuries of accumulated obligations, with regard to Ireland upon another Parliament, with an easy conscience and with complete absolution. England has been doing good to Ireland for many years. Wax not weary in your well-doing, nor give the task of well-doing to the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). It appears strange to me that in the state of social disorder now unhappily existing in Ireland it should occur to the Prime Minister that the only way of dealing with it is not to enforce righteous laws, but to make a concession, and give up the entire Statute Book and the administration of the law in that Statute Book to a Party which, according to the right hon. Gentleman himself, is not fit to be trusted with the powers of Grattan's Parliament. It must be recollected that the new Parliament would commence its task of legislation surrounded with circumstances of discredit and suspicion pronounced upon it by the British Legislature. And so dangerous may the new Parliament become that it is necessary to reserve the power of destroying it and of revoking its legislation by recalling the Irish Members back to the Imperial Parliament, and allowing the old state of 1412 things to go on once more. Contracts are safe from it. Ulster is at present in a state of uncertainty. The English Revenue, as far as it is collected in Ireland, and some other matters, are safe from the action of the Irish Parliament; but hon. Members ought to recollect that, except the matters reserved, there is absolute power and jurisdiction for it to deal with questions affecting life and property in Ireland; to enact a new Code; to root out trial by jury; to establish martial law; to impose a poll tax; and, in fact, to upset the whole foundations of social law and order in Ireland. The supremacy of Parliament is gone under the Bill. What is the control to be exercised by the British Legislature? What is the control? I do not know whether hon. Members have considered that point; but I have done so. I ask what is the control to be exercised by the British Legislature? Is to be the assent of the Sovereign? If so, is it to be a personal assent, or is it to be exercised on the assent of an Irish Minister, or on that of an English Minister? If it is to be exercised on the assent of an English Minister, is there to be a discussion on each Bill in this House as to whether the English Minister is to give his assent? Is the English Minister to be independent of this House, or under its control, so far as giving this assent is concerned? This is a matter of great difficulty, because in the latter case every Bill would become the subject of discussion in this House, where the Irish Members would not sit. Suppose that in five or 10 years Ireland were to get into a state of disorder and financial embarrassment, and that it were necessary for this Parliament to put an end to the Dublin Parliament, and resume the reins of Government once more, what would be the condition of affairs? I think it will be admitted that if the Irish people have a talent for getting money, they have certainly a considerable power of spending it. I am not aware of any country that cannot raise money on the payment of some percentage; and, therefore, you may have Ireland borrowing large sums of money from other countries, which you could not repudiate. Under Grattan's Parliament the Debt of Ireland was raised from £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 to £20,000,000, which shows that a country can borrow money under any circumstances. 1413 Again, suppose the Irish Parliament were to pass a Law of Confiscation, or a law vesting the property of one class in another class; but if you recall from Ireland the statutory power which this Bill would give, you will leave on its Statute Book all the laws passed; you cannot revoke the Acts passed, or the rights settled under those Acts. This, I say, is also a very serious matter. It has been said that it did not so much matter what was the law in a country, provided there were Judges and the Judges were obeyed. But there is no use in having laws if the Executive decline to see the laws carried out. I refer to this because the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has told the Irish people in this House that they are not fit to be trusted with the appointment of Judges who are to act honestly as between England and Ireland. With regard to the appointment of the Exchequer Judges, you will be regarded as completing what is to be a standing insult to the Irish Bench. The Judges that are to determine cases between Catholics and Protestants, between landlords and tenants, and similar matters, you say may be appointed by the Irish Parliament; but when you come to deal with cases between the English Revenue Department and the Irish debtor you have an English-appointed Judge. With regard to the question of the reservations with respect to the powers of the Irish Parliament, the words relating to these exceptions are loose and vague, and of a general character; and I ask who is to decide upon them? On the subject of bankruptcy, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) said he could not understand trade except as connected with bankruptcy. Now, suppose the Irish Courts insisted that bankruptcy was within the powers of the Irish Parliament, and suppose the English Courts decided the contrary—Who is to determine the question? If you once divest yourselves of the Civil power with regard to Ireland, the only possible action between the two countries in case of difficulty is that very unpleasant one—the action of the military—and I do not think it likely to conduce to the peaceful relations of the two countries to have batches of troops patrolling Ireland discharging 1414 the duty of police. Who is to decide these questions?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. JOHN MORLEY) (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
§ MR. GIBSON
Well, Sir, that is the most extraordinary proposal I ever heard of—the differences between the two countries are to be settled by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Are there to be any members appointed by the Irish Parliament? Because it would be a most amusing circumstance that these vast questions between the two Parliaments should be settled by an appeal to the Privy Council, in which the English Judges would outnumber the Irish Judges in the proportion of 10 to one. I think the hon. and learned Member for South Derry (Mr. T. M. Healy) himself, and other members of the Legal Profession, would have every reason to enjoy the conflict that would take place, because I have no doubt there would be many cases coming before the tribunal, and as long as the funds of the Parliament existed these cases would continue to be argued. There are some other considerations to which I wish to call the attention of the House as being absolutely conclusive that the Bill, if passed in its present form, would necessarily amount to the complete giving up of the entire liberty, property, and security of the people of Ireland to this new Parliament, especially when it is remembered that a number of added restrictions must be brushed away, in the course of time, by some kind of force, other than Constitutional action. If you look at the Bill, you will see that the Irish Parliament to be created is stereotyped for ever. I could understand the Prime Minister saying that he would try a small instalment of Home Rule, which was to operate for a year or two—that he would give something in the form of a large Corporation or Board; but so confident is the right hon. Gentleman of the operation of the details of the scheme that he has stereotyped it once and for ever. The moment the Bill is passed, the Irish Parliament is constituted without any power of relieving itself. The only modification provided is that drastic one mentioned by the Prime Minister—that the Imperial Parliament should destroy the Irish Legislature, and recall 1415 the Irish Members to the House of Commons. There is another subject to which I wish to refer. Absolutely no security is given in the Bill to the minority, except this illusory protection of the upper Order, which will be elected very much under the same influence as the lower Order, and which will be annihilated as regards voting power by the lower Order. I oppose this Bill on the ground not merely that it does injury to England, but that I believe, in my honest judgment, it will do injury to Ireland if it becomes law. It is because I believe that it will injure Ireland—that it will retard her commercial and economical advancement, and the comfort and tranquillity of her people—that I offer it my strenuous opposition. I assure hon. Members that there is no one who has more at heart than I have the cause of Ireland. I have every reason to wish that my country, to which I am so deeply attached, should have a great and glorious future, in which all sectarian animosity should be lost, and in which human life and property should be as jealously respected as in any other part of the British Dominions. But how can you trust the prognostications and prophecies so freely uttered from the Benches opposite with regard to this Bill? I maintain that it is an unworkable Bill—a bad Bill—and one which, instead of healing the wounds of Ireland, will operate as a seton to keep open the sore which unhappily exists. We cannot have law and order in Ireland unless the people of that country come to regard this Parliament as a just and powerful Body, which is determined to have its law obeyed without vacillation between Party and Party, ready to listen to the just demands of Ireland, and giving respectful attention to everything which falls from the able Representatives which Ireland sends to this House, but declining to be bullied or forced into concessions of which there is no end. If you say that this Empire will be wrecked unless concession is made, I ask what will be your position if you make a concession which, when it is made, my countrymen repudiate; if they repeat with increased efficacy the argument which has been used already on the other side of the House that, having gone three-fourths of the journey, you should go the other fourth; if they say—"We object to your going to war with America or with France;" and, using the expression, 1416 of course, by way of illustration—"If you send your troops here we shall 'Boycott' them." Well, Sir, anyone must see the danger of strife and trouble that is sure to arise under the circumstances I have alluded to. This Bill is no settlement of the Irish Question; it is the beginning of evils; and in saying that I speak nothing from a Party point of view. It is the deliberate judgment I have formed, and I implore the House not to follow the right hon. Gentleman on to the quicksands to which he is alluring us. It is easy for us in this House to commit all posterity to this wretched, ignominious settlement of the Irish Question, which I have shown you will be no settlement at all. I would ask every hon. and right hon. Gentleman who hears me to think once, and twice, and thrice, before he does this to secure an advantage which is no advantage at all.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Sir William Harcourt,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.