§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE) (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I have now to ask the permission of the House to bring in a Bill to make amended provision for the sale and purchase of land in Ireland, and, in doing so, to complete the speech I began on Thursday last, 1779 which, inordinately long though it may have been, still remains unfinished. I use that language to describe, not any power that I know of binding on Parliament to treat these two questions as united questions—that must be a matter for the deliberation of Parliament—but to describe their union in my own mind and in the minds of my Colleagues.
Now, Sir, I stand rather peculiarly on the present occasion in the face of several sections of this House and of the people. As regards the Irish tenants, the proposal I have to make is one which, I think, undoubtedly may confer upon them a very great benefit. As regards the people of Ireland, distinct from the tenants, and considered in the mass, I think that will also be found to be the case. But the principal and the most immediate objects of the measure are the landlords, and I am going to ask the House of Commons to make a great effort—if I may say so, a serious and considerable effort—on behalf of the landlords of Ireland, whom I know to be generally most hostile to the policy which Her Majesty's Government is pursuing.
And I have likewise to take into view the fact that many of those who, far from being hostile, are most friendly to that policy, are likewise inclined to give a jealous reception—and I do not make that a matter of complaint—to the proposals I have to lay before the House. In entertaining a jealousy of that kind, in my opinion, they are only fulfilling their duty to the people at large. They have learnt that an effort is to be made in which either the money or the credit of the British Exchequer is to be made available on behalf of the Irish landlords, should the Irish landlords be disposed to accept that boon. I shall never draw a distinction—on the contrary, I would resist the drawing of any such distinction—between the money of the nation and the credit of the nation. The credit of the nation is just as precious as the money of the nation, and the same discretion should be exercised by the Representatives of the people in regard to the use of the one as to the expenditure of the other. I will explain, and I think I can make intelligible, the aspect in which we regard this great subject.
The aim and end of all our endeavours is not, in the first place, for its own sake, 1780 simply the contentment of the people in Ireland—it is the social order of the country. That is the first, the greatest, the most sacred, and the most necessary aim of every Government that knows its duty. We have sought, Sir, to come at that social order by means different from those hitherto employed, and we distinguish our course broadly from previous courses. The measures, by which we hope to administer to what is lacking in social order something in the nature of a permanent and effectual remedy, are twofold. In the first place, our petition, our request to the House, is that it will make arrangements for governing Ireland, in Irish matters, by Irish laws; and, in the second place, that it will undertake, not a partial, tentative, and timid touching of the Land Question, but a serious endeavour to settle it; for, Sir, as I have said, these questions are at the present moment, in our view, not to be separated one from the other, and of course, when I speak of these questions, I speak of the plan generally which the Government have formed, and I do not include, or attempt to press upon the House, every minute particular of that rather comprehensive and complex plan.
Now, Sir, I think that the argument that I have to make, and also the objections that I have to meet, divide themselves into these three heads. It would be demanded of me, in the first place, Must the land system of Ireland be settled? Why can you not leave it to be dealt with by the organ which you are asking Parliament to call into existence? This is the first question. Supposing that I am able to prove that an affirmative answer should be given to that inquiry, the next and not less natural question to be put by the representatives of the people, and, moreover, to be put to a certain extent in the tone and with the aspect of rejection, is, Must Great Britain be cumbered with this question? Well, Sir, I hope to show that it is an obligation of honour and of policy that Great Britain should undertake it. But I ask no assent to that proposition at present. Then, thirdly, I shall justly be asked, and I shall not attempt to shirk the inquiry, Are we to run pecuniary risks on the part of the English and Scottish people for the purpose of meeting this Irish want? I hope, Sir, as I meet the two former inquiries confidently with an affirmative answer, 1781 so I hope, in regard to the third, to establish not less strongly and clearly a negative reply. But I admit, without reservation, that upon my proof or non-proof of what I have now assorted, with regard to these three points, all depends as regards the case that I seek to make, and as regards the reception which the House, in my humble judgment, ought to give to that case.
The first question, then, is, Must the Land Question be dealt with? It is impossible for me, Sir, even if I draw largely on the indulgence of the House, to answer that question fully. It can only be answered fully by a careful study of the whole history of Ireland. I shall state the minimum of what appears to me to be necessary, and shall trust to the knowledge of hon. Members to fill up what may be lacking in my statement. Even the little that I shall state will probably be treated, and may possibly appear, as an indictment against the Irish landlords. Upon that subject I shall say, in few and summary words, it is an indictment against Irish landlords, against many in the past, against few, I hope, in the present. But although those upon whom censure ought to be pronounced may be few they have been the heirs of a sad inheritance. They have taken up, and been compelled to take up, dismal and deplorable traditions, and when oppression has wrought its very painful experience into the heart and mind of the people, it is not in a moment, not in a year, not in a generation, that the traces of that painful, of that dreadful process can be effaced.
I may perhaps refer to a case which, I think, is in point. In 1833 this House, to its great honour, its lasting fame, passed the Act for the emancipation of the negroes in the West Indies. It established a system which is known as apprenticeship, and which was intended to invest the negro population with all the rights of freedom, except the liability to render a certain carefully limited amount of labour for a carefully limited time. That law was, in general, peacefully received and faithfully obeyed; but a great philanthropist in this country, whose name should ever be held in honour—Mr. Joseph Sturge, of Birmingham—paid a visit to Jamaica, made inquiries for himself, by his own eyes and ears satisfied himself that in the case of certain estates in that Island there was a deliberate attempt to keep 1782 alive the spirit and the institutions of slavery under the guise of apprenticeship. He brought back the statement of that case to this country. It was never, I believe, asserted that this represented the general state of things in the West Indies, or probably even in Jamaica. But such was the impression produced by those few cases of horrible abuse and contumacious resistance to the will of Parliament, as well as to the dictates of humanity, that, after a struggle in this House, it was felt that the apprenticeship must at once, against the Parliamentary Covenant of 1833, be put an end to; and, accordingly, it reached an unexpected and immediate consummation. That I quote as an instance of the way in which the offences of the few may be visited upon the many. I have the honour of knowing myself many Irish landlords who are an honour to the class to which they belong. I hope that what I have said will show that, in quoting the mournful testimony of history, I do not seek to make them personally responsible for difficulties and for evils of which they are the victims rather than the cause.
I must go back to the origin of agrarian crime. Agrarian crime is the index of the difficulty with which I call upon the House to deal. Agrarian crime had an origin in Ireland. Speaking generally of the Celtic race as they live in Ireland, I believe a great and an almost inexhaustible patience has been one of their most remarkable characteristics. It was not among the Celts of Ireland that agrarian crime began. It was in a population—the population of Tipperary—dashed with a stronger and more vivacious blood that the spirit of resistance arose. I will take my description of the state of things in that crisis from a source which, if suspected of prepossession at all, cannot be suspected of prepossession, either too favourable to myself personally, or too favourable to the policy which we recommend. I am going to quote from the historical work of Mr. Froude known as The English in Ireland.
I think, when I refer to the mere name of that distinguished man, it shows that I am not seeking to avail myself unduly of the evidence of a witness who has prejudged the case in my favour. On that subject I may remind the House that it is the opinion of Mr. Froude that the right course for the British Govern- 1783 ment to pursue in the last century would have been to drop the Irish Parliament—that is, never to have summoned it—to appropriate what he terms the hereditary revenues, and to supply the annual deficit in the Irish Exchequer at the cost of the Treasury of England. Therefore, you cannot say that the man who proposes such an extinction, of representative institutions in Ireland, and the substitution of what he meant to be a benevolent absolutism, is a man prepossessed in favour of the policy which we recommend. But Mr. Froude, although perhaps a man of prepossessions—on that I give no opinion—is certainly a man of truth and honour, and a man who, if he sees what he believes to be injustice, will not allow his heart and his conscience to tamper with the principles involved in exposing it.
What says Mr. Froude as to the condition of the Irish peasantry before the outbreak of agrarian crime? In the second volume of that work, and on page 20, he compares the condition of the Irish cultivator as it had then become with what it had been under his own native Chiefs; and Mr. Froude says—To four-fifths of the Irish peasantry the change of masters meant only a grinding tyranny, and tyranny the more unbearable, because inflicted by aliens in blood and creed. Under their own Chiefs they had been miserable, but they were suffering at least at the hands of their natural Sovereigns"—and here I may say I believe that of his natural Sovereign the Irishman is by nature inclined to think much—and the clansman who bore his lord's name, and if harshly used by his own master, was protected by him against others, could not feel himself utterly without a friend. But the oppression of the peasantry in the last century was not even the oppression of a living man—it was the oppression of a system. The peasant of Tipperary was in the grasp of a dead hand. The will of a master whom he never saw was enforced against him by a law irresistible as destiny. The absentee landlords of Ireland had neither community of interest with the people nor sympathy of race. They had no fear of provoking their resentment for they lived beyond their reach. They had no desire for their welfare, for, as individuals, they were ignorant of their existence. They regarded their Irish estates as the sources of their income; their only desire was to extract the most out of them which the soil could be made to yield; and they cared no more for the souls and the bodies of those who were in fact committed to their charge than the owners of a West Indian plantation for the herds of slaves whose backs were blistering in the cane fields.1784 That was the state of things which attended the origin of agrarian crime in 1760; and from that date its continuance has been uninterrupted, with a terrible facility, from time to time, of expansion to alarming dimensions—nay, more, with a facility and a power of developing itself to the harm of England. I will read a few more words from Mr. Froude on this subject. He shows with what fatal force there came upon Ireland at that period a combination of symptoms grouped together for the misery of the land. In the first place, owing to the increased demand of England for animal food, there was the conversion of the small holdings into large grazing farms. In the second place, owing to the same cause, there was the withdrawal, from the tenants, of the hill pastures, which were traditionally enjoyed by them as accompaniments of their small arable possessions and holdings. There was the constant raising of the rents, and there was a progressive and rapid increase of absenteeism. And Mr. Froude says on this subject, in a passage shorter than that which I have just read—Many causes had combined at that moment to exasperate the normal irritation of the Southern peasantry.And presently he goes on to show that that irritation was not confined to the Southern peasantry:—With the growth of what was called civilization, absenteeism, the worst disorder of the country, had increased. In Charles II.'s time the absentees were few or none. But the better Irish gentleman were educated, and the more they knew of the rest of the world the less agreeable they found Ireland and Irish manners; while th8 more they separated themselves from their own estates, the more they increased their rents to support the cost of living elsewhere.Sir, that is the account given by Mr. Froude. I leave the House to appreciate its weight.
What else have we to take into account? The Irish Parliament, although at that time its independence had not I been acknowledged, was alive and active, and was displaying, in numerous controversies between Ireland and England, a real if a narrow patriotism. But I: must distinguish broadly between the Irish Parliament—which I rejoice to commend where that can be done—between the Irish Parliament on questions of nationality, and the Irish Parliament on questions of class. The Irish Parlia- 1785 ment was hostile to absenteeism, for absentees were essentially anti-national. The Irish Parliament did not struggle to do justice to the tenant. It was a Parliament partly of pensioners, partly of placemen, and the rest of landlords. The Irish Parliament did nothing to mitigate the evil, and if it be true that there were fresh Coercion Acts passed from year to year that deplorable fact only strengthens the statement I make, and shows how the sad and dread mischief of agrarian crime took root in the country.
Sir, in the varied incidents of social life there are unhappily many marriages which are barren, and many families which die out; but there is one marriage that is never without issue. When oppression on the one hand is married to misery on the other, then there springs from the union a fatal and a hideous progeny of crime; and that crime is endowed with a vitality that perpetuates itself, and hands on the baleful and miserable inheritance from generation to generation. That is the case of absenteeism in Ireland—that is the case of the rooted tendency to crime which springs from causes most disgraceful to those who were charged with the government of Ireland and the care of its population—most disgraceful to them, and most perplexing and embarrassing to us. One other circumstance tending further to complicate the case has to be added to those that I have already enumerated. The struggle connected with the agrarian relations between landlord and tenant has continued, and has even been, until very lately, seriously aggravated. The differences of religion down to the year 1829 were the basis of an odious political system, and traces of them, unfortunately, survived that period. The one point of union that there was between the Irish landlord and his tenant, that sentiment of nationality which the old Irish Parliament never lost, has, I am sorry say, since the Union greatly ceased to operate—ceased to form a bond of connection between those classes—ceased to have a mitigating and beneficial influence on Irish life.
Now, after what I have said—after the fearful exasperation which has been introduced into these agrarian relations—into agrarian relations, which are the determining elements of Irish society and Irish life—after the long continuance of the mischief, so that it has be- 1786 come chronic in the system and forms part of the habits of the people, we arrive at the conclusion that it would be an ill-intended and an ill-shapen kindness to any class in Ireland to hand over to an Irish Legislature, as its first introduction to the work that it may have to perform, the business of dealing with the question of the land. It would be like giving over to Ireland the worst part of her feuds, and confronting her with the necessity for efforts which would possibly be hopeless, but which, at any rate, would be attended with the most fearful risks.
And now I come to my second question. I have shown you how terrible the subject of the land is in itself. I come to my second question—Why is Great Britain to be cumbered with this subject? Are we bound to cumber ourselves with it? Is it an obligation of policy and a dictate of honour? I am satisfied that the House, however reluctant—it cannot be more reluctant than we are—if it be an obligation of policy, if it be a dictate of honour, and still more if it be partly the one and partly the other, will not shrink from any duty which these considerations may entail. Why, then, are we to cumber Great Britain with an endeavour to settle this question, which is no slight task?
Well, Sir, I wish to point out that the obligation on our part has been admitted already—admitted in a partial form, but in a form which I believe this House, certainly the Party opposite, and perhaps many Gentlemen on this side, have shown a disposition to enlarge—namely, the form of our existing Land Purchase Acts. I consider that these Acts present an extremely bad and dangerous form of dealing with this obligation, and I do so on this ground—that their basis is to place the British Treasury in contact with the individual occupier and farmer in Ireland. In our opinion, Sir, that is not a wise policy. I do not entertain a mistrust of the Irishman's disposition to liquidate his pecuniary engagements. I believe that he may very well—excepting under circumstances of peculiar exasperation—bear comparison with his competitors in other countries in that matter. But it is a dangerous thing for a State, which the course of policy and the condition of legislation have led the people to regard as essentially a foreign State, to make those people in great 1787 numbers individually its debtors; dangerous because tempting the debtor, dangerous because extremely unsafe for the State considered as the creditor.
I may name another consideration, which is not one of honour but of prudence. We have struggled to introduce into the Irish Government Bill what are called safeguards for the minority, without, I admit, obtaining the smallest mitigation from our adversaries of their opposition. Acting on the same principle—and, if I may allow myself to use hallowed words in no jesting spirit, "walking by faith and not by sight," we desire, by exhibiting the utmost consideration for the imperilled olass—or, at any rate, for the class impressed deeply with fear and apprehension, the Irish landlords—to do everything on their behalf which duty will allow us to do. If such proposals should produce a mitigating effect, it might lead to an easier and speedier concession to Ireland of what we know to be her demand, and what we believe to be her rights, and if not, still we have done our best, and we must leave the issue to a higher power.
Now, Sir, what are the substantial reasons—those that I have mentioned are collateral considerations—what are the substantial reasons why, as we think, it is the absolute duty of Great Britain to make herself a party in this matter to the extent, at least, of a just offer and a fair opportunity to be given to the Irish landlords? Well, I sum them up in one word. We cannot wash ourselves clean and clear of the responsibility. The deeds of the Irish landlords are to a great extent our deeds. We are participes criminis; we, with power in our hands, looked on; we not only looked on, but we encouraged and sustained.
I think it is a hard case, if I may be permitted to say so, for my fellow Representatives of Scotland. The hardest case in this matter is the case of the Scotch people, for England had the blessing in the 18th century of a representative system, which, if not perfect, yet, as we know from great occasions like that of 1783, and like that of 1831, did suffice to bring to the front a strong national sentiment. Scotland had no such system. I think that 4,000 or 5,000 persons had in their hands as voters the entire representation of the whole of Scotland, and they had in their hands the representation of the Scotch 1788 people. The Scotch people had, therefore, had no responsibility for the dreadful history of the relations between Great Britain and Ireland.
I must speak of the Imperial Parliament in which Scotland was not allowed to exercise any national or popular influence. I have said that the landlords were our garrison in Ireland. Let me a little unfold that sentence. We planted them there, and we replanted them. In 1641, in 1688, and again in 1798, we reconquered the country for them. I heard a hon. and gallant Gentleman speak a few nights ago in this House, who seemed to be under the pious impression that rebellion in Ireland had been put down by the superhuman action of a certain regiment of Militia—I really forgot which. I beg pardon of my old supporter, but speaking with all respect for his ability as a speaker, his frankness, uprightness, and the integrity of his whole intention, if he has read the history of the rebellion of 1641 he will find that it was effectually and finally put down, and only put down, by Cromwell, who, whatever he may have been, was not an Irish Protestant. The rebellion of 1688–9 was put down not by the Protestants of the North, but by the introduction mainly of foreign hosts; and the rebellion of 1798, to which I think the hon. and gallant Member specially referred, was unquestionably put down, not by the action of what is termed the loyal minority, which undoubtedly—I do not say from its own fault—had not at that period earned the name; but when the Irish Government in Dublin was in despair, the rebellion was put down by their inducing the British Government in London to equip and send to Ireland a large and adequate force of British soldiers.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
No doubt they had the Yeomanry, but the Yeomanry could not do it.
Well, Sir, we have more responsibility than that. We used the whole civil government of Ireland as an engine of wholesale corruption, and we extended that corruption to what ought to have been a sacred thing—namely, the Church which we maintained and supported in the land. We did everything in our power to irritate and to exasperate the Irish people by the whole of that 1789 policy. Then came 1795, the brightest period of the history of the Irish Parliament under the Lord Lieutenancy of Lord Fitzwilliam, when, through the sentiment of nationality, that Parliament was about to do for Ireland what would have given to it the seed of every promise of happiness and prosperity, beginning with the emancipation of the Roman Catholics, a measure that would have led by a chain of links that could not have been broken to Parliamentary reform and the admission of the people to political power. But we took Lord Fitzwilliam away. They strove to keep him, but England would not let them. What then? We brought about the Union. I have avoided that subject because I did not want to enter into the details of it. It is dreadful to read the language of Lord Cornwallis and the disgust of an honourable mind at the transactions in which he found himself under the painful necessity of engaging. I will only say that we obtained that Union against the sense of every class of the community by wholesale bribery and unblushing intimidation.
Then came the more direct responsibility of the British Parliament. Did things greatly mend under that? Have hon. Members considered the Act of 1816 and its effect upon the Irish tenant? Notwithstanding all other changes there had lingered in Ireland a state of law determining the condition of the tenure of the soil which was of such a nature as practically to protect the tenant in something like a real fixity of tenure. The inefficiency of the remedies had been such that they had allowed the tenants still to dream of something of the old tribal usages, and that something of the old tribal permanence remained. But in the united Parliament was brought in an Act, introduced, as Mr. Leslie Foster, a first-rate authority, said, because by the law, as it then stood, the tenant was enabled to set his landlord absolutely at defiance. All these protections were swept away. I do not enter into the merits of the proceedings. All I am now saying is that they were not likely to reconcile the Irish occupier to his lot, or to root out agrarian crime from the soil. Such was 1816. There is, in my judgment, worse to come. We lingered until 1843, when we come to the time of the Devon Report—a Conservative Report issued under the auspices 1790 of a Conservative Ministry. I might read many passages from that Report, but I will read only one, and that not a long one. It is as follows:—A reference to the evidence of most of the witnesses will show that the agricultural labourer of Ireland continues to suffer the greatest privations and hardships; that he continues to depend upon casual and precarious employments for his subsistence; that he is still badly housed, badly fed, badly clothed, and badly paid for his labour. Our personal experience and observation during our inquiry have afforded us a melancholy confirmation of these statements, and we cannot forbear expressing our strong sense of the patient endurance.Now, mind that; as I have stated, the Devon Commission was a Conservative Commission, yet still it is most struck by the patient endurance by which the Irish tenant and occupier sustained his lot. [An hon. MEMBER: Labourer.] I believe that is possible. I have not the Report here. The phrase is "labouring classes"; I believe it means the man who labours upon his land.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Yes, undoubtedly, because the great bulk of these people, half the Irish population, are partly dependent upon wages. However, for fear there should be anything in that objection, on the next occasion I will bring down a stronger passage. This Commission then expresses its strong sense "of the patient endurance which the labouring classes"—that is, not the labourers alone—the enormous majority at that time of the Irish agricultural tenants belonged to the labouring classes—Have generally exhibited under sufferings, greater we believe than the people of any other country of Europe have to sustain.That is the description given at a period when we were maintaining a Corn Law, for which we boasted that the justification was to be found in the higher level at which it kept our labouring population. That is the Report of the Devon Commission. It does not end there. Passages like this were not overlooked by men of the stamp of Sir Robert Peel, and the late Lord Derby in the House of Lords introduced a Bill to give effect to the most important recommendations of the Devon Commission. Had that Bill been passed, much of the subsequent history might have been modified or changed. The House of 1791 Lords, as we know, usually accepts with great facility the recommendations of a Tory Government; but this recommendation of a Tory Government for the improvement of the condition of the occupiers and the agricultural population of Ireland was too much for the patience and political loyalty of the House of Lords. The next effort was that of Mr. Napier, a Gentleman sitting on that side of the House. That Bill was lost also. The mischief did not stop there; we produced the Encumbered Estates Bill, with a general, lazy, uninformed, and irreflective good intention of taking capital to Ireland. What did we do by that Bill? We sold the improvements of the tenants. The tenant lost his old landlord, who was in many cases an easy-going personage, and had oftentimes established a modus vivendi with his tenant, who was handed over to a horde of new proprietors, who were told that they might exact a greater rental from the tenant, and who took, in the form of rent, that which was the produce of the tenant's labour. That Bill took away the last mitigation of the case of the Irish peasant; it took it away through a deplorable error of uninformed, and, I must say, irreflective benevolence.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I beg Pardon. The noble Lord's information is always interesting, but sometimes partial. I would say that the Act was suggested to Lord Russell.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
But, Sir, I am speaking of this House. I have not said a word against the noble Lord's Party, or the noble Lord's principles, if I knew what his principles were. I am speaking of this House, and I claim no exemption for any great Party in this House. Many distinctions may be drawn in respect to the treatment of the Land Question at that period; I am not aware that any distinction can be drawn in respect of Party. It is the fact that this was not the action of a Party, but the action of a Parliament, and that is why I ask this House whether, after even such a summary recital as I have given, it is possible to deny that the landlords have been our garrison, and our representatives; that we have relied upon them as they have relied upon us; and 1792 that we cannot wash our hands of responsibility for their doings, or for the consequences of those doings.
We acknowledged—I admit in a different way—our concern in the case of the landlords by the Acts of 1870 and 1881. Lord Russell, who was alive at the passing of the first of these Acts, was among its cordial supporters. But I will not dwell upon that subject; it is beside my argument. At that time we modified, most essentially, the condition of the landlords, and as we did so there arises an obligation from different sources, but tending to the same point—namely, that, in my opinion, Great Britain, within the limits of reason, cannot refuse to be cumbered with this important question of the Irish landlords.
Having proceeded so far, I have still one important matter to argue—namely, the third of the questions which I put. It is an important inquiry—whether I am proposing to inflict a pecuniary risk upon the people of England and Scotland. But I think I have now reached a point at which, before dealing with the third question, I ought to explain to the House the scheme which we are about to submit.
I shall have a great number of points to mention; I will therefore mention them in the most summary manner, and I will beforehand endeavour to impress upon hon. Members that, although I will do my best under circumstances which have been those of some haste and difficulty—yet I am strongly impressed with the belief that it will not be possible for them to acquire any adequate idea of this measure except by a close inspection of the Bill itself, which we are using every effort to place at the earliest moment in their hands. Even as single provisions, some of them perhaps may be difficult to understand; but bearing as these provisions do one upon the other, I am confident it would be impossible to appreciate them except in the manner I have suggested.
The Act will take effect on the same day with the Irish Government Act. As we think it our duty to press for the passing of this Act with the Irish Government Act, so undoubtedly we provide in the Bill itself that it is not to pass without the Irish Government Act. Secondly, the Legislative Body in Dublin may appoint any person or body to be what is called under the Act the State Authority. 1793 I shall refer again to that phrase, which is used in the Act in various important relations. Thirdly, the purchases under the Act are to be made in a Three per Cent Stock, issued on the application, probably of the Land Commission, to the Treasury, and under regulations to be made by the Treasury.
This Three per Cent Stock will, in all likelihood, be what is termed the New Three per Cents. The most obvious name that occurs to everyone is the name of Consols. But the amount of the New Three per Cent Stock is £180,000,000, quite sufficient to insure extensive dealings, and it so happens that the mass of Irish dealings in the Stocks is in the denomination of Three per Cents. I think the comparison is between £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 for Consols, and £25,000,000 or £27,000,000—I forget which—for the New Three per Cents, and therefore it is probable that that Stock will be most convenient for Irish holders. The Stock, of course, is to be issued at par; it may suit the convenience of parties and the Treasury to commute it to a Stock of a lower denomination, and that may be done with the consent of the Treasury. If it so happen that, under the necessary limitations of the Act, Stock cannot be issued to vendors forthwith, scrip, at the same rate of interest, will be given to them in anticipation. These are general, but still not unimportant, provisions.
Now, Sir, I will describe in a very few words what I may term the substance and purpose of the Act. I will avoid that trap into which it seems I fell the other night about "essential" and "vital" points. It is not difficult to say what are the principal enactments; it is extremely difficult, especially in the early stage of discussion, to say what is vital and what is not. It is very difficult indeed, and in consequence, I suppose, of its being so difficult, it is never done. I am not aware that I ever heard of a great measure introduced with a thorough-going attempt to separate its enactments into two classes, and to say one of them is vital and you cannot touch them, and the other is non-vital and you may do with them what you please. I will not attempt that; but I think I will use words which will give to hon. Members a sufficient idea of the sense and spirit of the measure, and 1794 enable them to judge what are really its main provisions.
The object of this Act is to give to all Irish landowners the option of being bought out on the terms of the Act; to give to all Irish landowners an opening towards the exercise of that option. I will show later on what portion of them can exercise it, if they like, under the terms of this particular Act; but the policy is a policy which is to be distinctly understood as the policy of giving this option to all Irish landowners as regards their rented land, and such lands with certain exceptions, which I will state more particularly, as may be described by the word agricultural. As a general description, please to take that for the present moment. I wish it to be understood that the Act has no concern whatever with mansions, demesnes, or with woods as commonly understood; and I, for my part—I may be very, very sanguine, but I am in hopes that many a nobleman and many a gentleman in Ireland will long continue to inhabit his mansion and his demesne in a new and a happier state of things; yes, I believe it may be possible that even the Irish Nationalists may desire that those marked out by leisure, wealth, and station for attention to public duties, and for the exercise of influence, may become, in no small degree, the natural, and effective, and safe leaders of the people.
Sir, the spirit in which we have drawn this Act I wish also to be understood. You may construe enactments perhaps in different ways; but the spirit in which we have drawn the present measure is that of making on this great occasion—the use or the rejection of which evidently must have important influences on the future course of the question—the spirit in which we have drawn it is that of making the most liberal offer to the Irish landlords that we believe our obligations to them demand, or even justify, or that we can expect the Representatives of the people to accept. I come one step nearer to my point, and I will endeavour to give a three-fold indication which will be useful in following the leading provisions of the Act.
The groundwork of the Act is an option to the landlords. Upon that I will only say that we have considered much with regard to an option to the 1795 tenants; and, again, with regard to including in the Act provisions, like those of the present Land Purchase Acts, for contemplating voluntary arrangements. I do not say that these are necessarily to be rejected; but we have not seen our way to incorporating them with this measure. The measure, as we have found it our duty to present it, is founded on the landlord's option to sell. The State Authority, as I have described it—that is, an organ representing the Irish. Legislative Bodies—is to be the middle term, instead of the Treasury, between the vendor and the occupier. It is through that medium that the transaction is to take place. And, lastly, as a general rule, what we propose is that upon the sale the peasant is to become the proprietor. He is not to be, in our view, as a general rule, an occupier subject to rent-charge, or subject to be dealt with by anyone as such until the expiration of a certain term, when he is to become the proprietor; but he is to become the proprietor at once, except that he is to be subject to a burden which I will presently describe.
As to the nature of the transaction, the State Authority is to be the purchaser, and the occupier is to become the proprietor. There are exceptions. It has appeared that it might not be well in all cases to force the very smallest occupiers to become proprietors, if, for any particular reasons, it did not suit their condition. At any rate, we do not compel the tenant at £4 and under to become a proprietor unless he wishes it.
There is another more important exception. Everyone knows the great importance in Ireland of what are called congested districts. These congested districts we propose to deal with in a manner which forms an exception to the general rule. In the congested districts we propose that the State Authority should be not merely the vehicle through which the purchase is to be effected and carried on to the tenant; but in these congested districts, which we propose to schedule at a certain time in the Bill, the State Authority is to be the proprietor.
I am bound to say that we reserve for further consideration the question whether in these districts, and these only, there should be introduced the power of compulsory expropriation of 1796 landlords—voluntary expropriation with regard to the landlords being the general basis of this Bill.
What are commonly known as encumbrances, and what are commonly known in Ireland as public burdens, in which phrase, if I am rightly informed, rates are not usually comprehended, are to be taken over from the selling landlord, and he is entirely discharged from them as a matter of arrangement in the transaction. The mortgages, of course, constitute a very easy portion of the transaction. The more difficult part of the transaction is in the quit rent and the head rent, the jointures and miscellaneous payments. But we feel it necessary for many reasons to disembarrass the estate of these, and likewise of public burdens, such as the tithes commutation, because otherwise we should be in the difficulty of having the tithes commutation liability divided among a multitude of small holdings, which would be highly inconvenient, if not impracticable. The State Authority will take over encumbrances of this character—I do not mean encumbrances in capital sums; but, speaking generally, encumbrances in the form of annual charge—will take them over either with the option of continuing to pay them, or to redeem them upon the terms which are stated in the Bill.
Then comes a rather important provision. No one, as a general rule, will have the option to sell except the immediate landlord, our object being a political and social object, dealing with the heart and root of the difficulty. It is to him that we give this option, in order to bring about relief from the dilemma. But his encumbrancer—that is, the mortgagee—will not, by foreclosing, be able to acquire the option for himself. There are certain provisions which provide for cases where the interest of the immediate landlord is extremely small, and the principal interest in the property is in the superior landlord. I only mention this as an exception, which I will not attempt to explain at present. So much for the general nature of the transaction.
Now we come to the application which is to be made. The first condition is this—the application must, as a general rule, be for the whole of the tenanted estate. I can conceive nothing more grossly unjust to the landlord than to 1797 tear his property into rags by arbitrary provisions, and therefore the rule is that the application must be for an integral estate, and the Land Court or Commission will determine what is one estate. But there are two exceptions to which I ought to refer. One is the case of the grazings. The great grazings in Ireland appear to stand in a very different condition from that of most agricultural property. We leave it open to either party to apply the definition of an agricultural holding contained in the Act of 1881, and exclude these grazings from the transaction. The other is that it is impossible to say in the measure what sort of villages ought, and what ought not, to be included in the Act. In cases where the village is purely subservient to the agricultural purposes of the estate, it ought to be included in the expropriation. In many cases there may may be a village which has other shades of character, or is even essentially different, and that question we treat as exceptional, and leave to be determined by the Land Commission. Now, Sir, the next proposition is that town parks will not be included in the Bill. So far as we can judge they do not belong to the same category. All the applications received are to be registered, and are to rank according to priority. The persons making the application must give security to pay the costs if it be not completed into a binding transaction; and in certain cases the Land Commission is to be intrusted with the power of refusing to entertain the application.
Now, Sir, I speak to hon. Gentlemen many of whom are better acquainted, more minutely acquainted, than I am with the agricultural circumstances of Ireland, and I believe I am right in saying that there is a certain class of estates in Ireland—I will not go the whole length with that eminent authority, Sir James Caird, on a recent occasion—that there is a certain class of estates of which the real, substantial, natural value, is, from various circumstances, so depressed that it would be impossible to put a scale of years in the Act which would really reach them. We should have to go so low that it might introduce great uncertainty in the general character of the Bill. With regard to these, we thought the best thing we could do was to empower the Land Commission to refuse an applica- 1798 tion in these exceptional cases if it deems it inequitable that the State Authority should be required to buy an estate at the price laid down in the Act.
Now, Sir, I come still nearer to the centre of gravity of the Act. The basis on which we compute the price to be paid to the outgoing landlord is twofold. First of all, it must be taken on the rental at a certain time, subject to certain conditions; and, secondly, it must be taken in a certain number of years' purchase on that rental. Our basis is to be the net rental; and the net rental is to be ascertained—I have spoken already of the public burdens—by deducting the rates and the outgoings. In the outgoings I include law charges, bad debts, and management. These are the great heads. There are minor heads where particular arrangements have been made, and to these I need not refer. The time upon which the calculation is to be based must be a recent one. We have, therefore, thought it best to take a year the selection of which would give no encouragement to any artificial action or agitation with a view to illegitimately influencing the standard of rental. The general idea, therefore, would be that it would be for a rental due in the year ending November, 1885; the judicial rental, where there is one, to be adopted as the standard of gross rental. Where there is no judicial rental, we are in greater difficulty, and we introduce a provision which enables the Land Court, if it shall see cause, to take a given district of Ireland—probably an electoral division—to take the judicial rents within that division, to take Griffith's valuation within that division, to see the relation between the judicial rents and Griffith's valuation, and to use that relation as a guide in determining what shall be the standard rental which is to be the basis of the transaction.
We have also provided, Sir, in order to get over the difficulties connected with the great fluctuations in payments and prices, that the Land Court shall examine the books of the estate. That may sound to Gentlemen not conversant with Irish transactions a cumbrous arrangement. But we have extremely able public servants in Ireland conversant with these transactions affecting the land, and we are assured by them, without the least doubt or hesitation, that the examination of the books will be not 1799 only a practicable, but the best and by far the most practicable, method of deciding the important question of amount. Those books ought to be examined over a considerable time in order to meet the difficulty which arises out of agricultural fluctuations, and we propose to fix the time at 10 years. So much as to the rental.
Now as to the years' purchase. We propose, Sir, that the normal rate, if I may so call it—that is, the rate which we conceive will be applicable on a fairly well-conditioned estate in Ireland—setting apart exceptional cases—both of the few extremely good and valuable, and I am afraid the more numerous class that will fall below that—the normal rate would be 20 years on the basis of the rental which I have described. I must add some important particulars of explanation. An addition may be made to the sum on which the charge will be founded in the case of arrears coming due after November, 1885, when it is shown to the satisfaction of the Land Commission that every attempt has been made to collect them, and that it has not been found practicable. An addition may be made to the 20 years in the case of exceptionally good estates, limited, however, by a maximum of 22 years. It is still more necessary that there should be a power to effect a decrease from the 20 years, and it is not possible to attach a fixed limit to that decrease, because if we were to give a fixed limit we must found it on the farthest case to which it ought to go, and that would imply so considerable a deduction that I think it would shake the confidence and tend to pervert the general impression as to the main aim of the Act, which is a normal standard of 20 years.
I will illustrate my meaning. This power of deduction I will thus define. It would have by no means an exclusive reference, but a somewhat special reference to small holdings. As regards estates composed principally of small holdings, in the considerable majority of cases, even after making the deductions, they are less valuable than estates which are not made up of holdings so small. But, again, if you were to attempt to meet that, as we thought at one time, by naming a more limited number of years for holdings under certain rates, we should fall into an 1800 error, because there are estates, particularly in Ulster, which are made up in a great degree of small holdings, but which are, nevertheless, of extremely good, sound, general repute. For that reason we leave this power of distinction in the hands of the Land Commission. I think, Sir, that is the end of the general provisions of the Act which I ought to mention, with the important exception as to the mode in which we are to find the money.
I come then, Sir, to the third question which I stated to the House. The House has a right to ask me and to ask the Government—"You confess that you are going to make use of the public credit; do you intend, under this Bill, that the country is to undertake a real pecuniary risk, and that Parliament is to be requested to compromise its duties as guardians of the public Treasury and of the public credit?" My answer, Sir, is twofold. In the first place, in my opinion the introduction of a plan founded on the basis I now propose of building upon the responsibility of an Irish State Authority, will not increase, but will greatly diminish the public risk—that public risk which is inseparable from the condition of the Treasury when it comes to be the creditor of perhaps hundreds of thousands of tenants in Ireland. Observe that you cannot have an extensive plan in Ireland without being prepared to deal with tenants in hundreds of thousands. Therefore I distinctly plead to the House that this Bill, if passed, will not be an increase, but will be a diminution of public responsibility.
I do not hesitate to say that it will be a grief to me that I can never dismiss from my mind if, at the end of a very long life, much of which has been devoted to a guardianship—perhaps very ineffectual, but still with the best attention I could give—of the public Treasury and of the public credit, I should submit to Parliament a measure founded upon opposite principles, or a measure to which we had not ourselves applied the most jealous scrutiny with a view to obtaining what I will not hesitate to call an absolute security.
The risk which the public might have to undergo would be twofold. We are proceeding upon a basis of not making loans in the market to meet the Irish demand, but of issuing Stocks. There 1801 are two things, therefore, to be considered. First of all, the certainty of the repayment of the money; but that is not the only question. The other thing is the effect of our issues upon the general credit and the general condition of the public security. I not only do not deprecate, but I invite scrutiny of the Bill when printed in relation to both these subjects.
The proposals we make, Sir, are these. Of course, one of our great difficulties in this business is that neither we nor any human authority can determine beforehand whether the offer—the great offer, signal and conspicuous—which is now made will be accepted universally, largely, or at all. We are obliged to make the best calculation or conjecture that we can. It is quite necessary to make an attempt on what may fairly be called, in reference to ordinary transactions, a large scale. That proposition we accept. Notices coming in will be, of course, limited to certain times. The State cannot remain subject to a perpetual recurrence of proceedings lying so far out of the ordinary road, and the Act will prescribe strictly the notices which may be given and the transactions—issues of public Stocks to meet them—which may take place in pursuance of those notices. In respect of the notices which may be given in the financial year 1887–8, we propose to authorize the issue, as a maximum, of £10,000,000 of Stock, because we assume that, although the notices of that year may be very numerous, if the Act works largely, yet the transactions to be concluded in it cannot by any means be so abundant, for these transactions evidently cannot be carried through in a day, and you cannot have an innumerable army of official persons to carry them through. Therefore, we authorize an issue of £10,000,000 for the notices given in 1887–8, a further issue of £20,000,000 to meet notices in or before the year 1888–9, and a further issue of £20,000,000 for notices in or before 1889–90. That will give a total of Stock issuable at par, under the Act, amounting to £50,000,000 should it be called for. The operative portion of the Act, the House will feel, must be provided for, because no notices will be given under the powers of the Act after March 31, 1890.
But the House will understand with 1802 reference to what I described as the second kind of risk which we have to keep in view that it would not have done for us to say that the purchase may be effected to the extent of £50,000,000, and leave it a matter of chance when the Stock shall be issued. We must consider carefully what amount of Stock we can undertake to issue within the 12 months, and, at the same time, maintain a reasonable amount of confidence that we shall not by that issue unfavourably affect the general price and credit of securities. This point I consider of very great importance. It is necessary for us to maintain the very high level of the price of the public securities. I would even say, setting apart the extraordinary casualties and combinations of circumstances which no man can predict, it is necessary that we should maintain them at something not very far from the level where they now are, and where they have been for a considerable time. Therefore I may be justly asked, Do you think that £20,000,000 is the amount which in one year you may venture to fix as the limit, and yet feel confident in maintaining your price?
Now, Sir, that is a question which 30 or 40 years ago it would have been impossible to answer in the affirmative, because the powers of Parliament for purchasing Stock were so limited that, when even a second-rate purchase was necessary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had no option but to go hat in hand to the Bank of England or lesser authorities to see what they could do for him. I am able to say now, however, that on our own account we are in a condition under the normal and regular action of the Acts relating to the disposal of Exchequer deposits and banking deposits at the command of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to exercise so large a power of purchase in the Stock Market as effectually to counteract any abnormal depression which might otherwise be threatened by the fact that many of those who may acquire a considerable proportion of Stocks under the Act will be desirous to exchange them for others perhaps not quite so stable, but at the same time more lucrative. I think I can give that assurance to the House with considerable confidence after having made it a subject of careful inquiry among those who have the largest 1803 experience and the greatest faculty of determining what is the point to which we may safely go.
I am evidently open to an important observation. I have said that our policy embraces in its final scope—if they desire to avail themselves of the opportunity—embraces in its final scope all Irish landlords. I am bound to express my hope that a good many Irish landlords, not on pecuniary and fiscal grounds only, but upon moral, social, and political grounds, are in such a position that they will not dream of availing themselves of it in its final scope. I am prepared to say that what we contemplate is that every man who desires to avail himself of it shall have a fair opportunity of doing so. It is evident from what is known of the value of Irish landed property, if we go to its total falling within the definition of the Act, it would certainly exceed, to a very considerable extent, not £50,000,000, but £100,000,000; I will not say how much, but very considerably. We do not know what fraction we might safely cut off as the proportion of those who under no circumstances would be likely to exercise the option; but it is obvious that a transaction of that kind, if acted upon to that extent, would not be covered by the final issue. When we commenced first drawing the rudimentary sketch the dominant idea in our minds naturally was to redeem fully the constructive promise we made to the Irish landlords. Therefore, I certainly thought at the first moment to put in the Bill a larger figure as the sum upon which I founded the computation of what might be provided. That figure was not £50,000,000, but so much as £113,000,000. That was the computation on which I founded the figures which I first brought before my Colleagues. Two of those Colleagues, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), in particular, felt jealous of charging the public for Irish land or charging it to that great extent. To their objections I certainly feel indebted for what I think a great improvement in the Bill. Because, although there is no change whatever in the policy of the Government, I certainly have to thank them for having set me to consider more carefully what is the relation between 1804 an Executive Government asking an advance of that description from Parliament and Parliament charged with the responsibility of maintaining the public credit.
I am not ashamed of saying that this plan is not a plan which sprang up in the brain fully armed at a moment's notice. I have told the House of the extraordinary and unprecedented difficulties under which it has been framed, amid the pressure of Parliamentary Business from day to day, and I am very glad to own any assistance which has been given to me. It is very pleasant to me to make it known to my Colleagues as regarding this question that I had the means of bridging over very considerably such difficulties as might exist between us. The matter never came, strictly speaking, to an issue between us. Now hon. Gentlemen may think that I have no real or substantial reason for making this reduction except what might be called meeting a popular outcry. Quite the reverse. Unquestionably it was our duty to consider the probability of the acceptance of the measure. But we had many other considerations, and I must say that, upon considerations quite apart from difficulties in procuring the acceptance of the measure, I arrived at the deliberate conviction that it would have been a great error on our part to ask at this moment, now, at once, for a sum founded upon anything like an outside estimate of the possibilities of the case. I felt we ought to ask from Parliament what would secure an efficient progress of the measure, if it became really an operative measure, but that we ought to reserve to Parliament after we had reached that limit an opportunity of exercising its discretion afresh.
Hon. Gentlemen must have seen that, so far as we are concerned, there are some things which I have said which may be considered to be in the nature of pledges of good faith as between us and the landlords. To make this offer, to make it in an efficient shape, and with the intention so far as we are concerned of following it up if necessary, I conceive it to be a matter of honour and good faith; but there are a multitude of other conditions and considerations affecting the future Irish Authority, conditions affecting the Irish tenant, conditions affecting the Money Market, and the 1805 nature of those issues which are not matters of good faith even for us, but are more or less, though by no means generally or universally, matters of good faith, matters of good policy and expediency. From my point of view, I conceive that it is quite right, in an arrangement of this kind, that we should secure to Parliament an opportunity of exercising its judgment afresh on the subject we now submit to it. So far as good faith is concerned, I am quite certain of this—that if Parliament accedes to and accepts this particular Bill, if it finds that the promises under which we commend the Bill are fulfilled, if it finds that public credit is duly maintained, if it finds that repayments are duly made, if it finds that the whole complex machinery is so well oiled that it works like a locomotive, and if the public creditis safe, as we are sure it will be, in my opinion Parliament will never under-estimate the moral obligations that may be comprehended in the subject. Therefore, Sir, this proposal, subject to the declarations which I have not scrupled to make, is in a manner so far experimental that the discretion of Parliament upon its particulars will be reserved.
But then I shall be asked, perhaps, how these repayments are to be secured. They are to be secured in a manner which I commend to Parliament as simple, as effective, and as warranted by the circumstances of the case. It is proposed that there shall be appointed a Receiver General under British authority, who shall not levy rents or other revenues in Ireland, but through whose hands all rents and all Irish revenues whatsoever must pass before a shilling of them can be applied to any Irish purpose whatever. It is necessary for the Irish Authority, if it is to govern Ireland, to have funds for the purpose. Under the plans we propose, and with the economies which I have not the least doubt they will make, I believe their funds will be ample and abundant; but what we propose is this—that these funds shall be subject to the discharge of prior obligations, and that the right of the Irish Authority to the money shall begin at the point where the prior obligations end. For that purpose, except under the limited arrangement as to the Customs and certain Excise duties, we are not going to take the levying of 1806 the rents and revenues out of Irish hands. That is the very last thing I should desire to do; that of all others is the thing which would be most opposed to the purpose and the policy of the whole Act. But we are going to require that the money which has been levied for the service of Ireland shall all converge and run into a certain channel. We shall have the money, as it is sometimes said, between the body and the head, the head being the Irish Government. The money must all pass through the channel of the neck, and the neck is the Receiver General.
The Receiver General will find it necessary to appoint two deputies; but he will have nothing to do with the taxpayer—nothing to do except with the tax receivers; they will receive and collect the revenue for him. He will be subject to audit. He will be liable to prosecution by the State Authorities, and he will have full authority over the sub-receivers. He will, however, never annoy the taxpayer, nor come near him, nor, I hope, ever be heard of by him. He will not be the appointer of the collectors of taxes—that is a function we do not wish to see in his hands. The power of bringing actions against the sub-receivers in the Court of Exchequer will rest with the Receiver General; and that explains the provision which I have already mentioned to the House on a former occasion as to the judgments of the Court being supported by the public forces. This security will extend to everything in Ireland for the central purposes of government to Customs and Excise, and all public revenues whatever. Perhaps I may be told the old story of calling into existence a new Irish Legislative Body, and, at the same time, showing a mistrust of it. With great respect, I show nothing of the kind. These provisions have nothing whatever to do with my notions; they are not intended to satisfy me, nor the British public; but these are large operations, and the provisions are intended to satisfy a somewhat peculiar and fastidious class, the class of public creditors.
I say boldly that the maintenance of public credit is a common interest; it is the interest of Gentlemen opposite; it is the interest of Gentlemen here; above all, it is the interest of the Irish Nationalists, because Ireland will undoubtedly want 1807 to organize a credit of her own for public purposes. She will require it—I hope not to excess. She will want to organize her own credit by degrees, and she cannot organize a credit to be worked economically and safely unless the ground is absolutely solid under her feet, and the ground cannot be solid under her feet unless the securities for the fulfilment of all her prior engagements are absolutely unimpeachable. I submit that the Exchequer will be as safe in respect to these advances, under the provisions which I propose, as it is in respect of the collection of the taxes in England for the ordinary purposes of government.
Now, I will endeavour to exhibit with some exactitude to the House the position of the four parties interested in a pecuniary sense in this plan—namely, the Irish landlord, the Irish tenant, the Irish State Authority, and the British Exchequer. The case which I take of the Irish landlord, for the sake of simplicity, is the case of the landlord who has no public burdens and no encumbrances. I should greatly confuse the House were I to take the contrary case, and therefore I take the case of an Irish landlord who is so happy that he has nothing but his rates to pay. I take as an instance a gross rental of £1,200 a-year, and ask—"What will be the deduction?" I can only calculate from general information as to rents. The circumstances of particular estates vary so enormously with regard to outgoings other than encumbrances that while the figure I am going to name would be much too high in some cases, it would be much too low in others. I am obliged to strike an average, and the deduction I take as the average figure is 20 per cent. Therefore, my gross rental of £1,200 will be reduced by the deduction of £240 to £960, and the normal rate of compensation at 20 years—and here, again, I put aside exceptional cases—will be £19,200.
Now, what will be the condition of the tenant? The maximum that he will have to pay will be £960—that is to say, 4 per cent upon 20 years' purchase, not of the sum the landlord receives, but of the gross rental which he has hitherto paid. That is the maximum payment, because, as I shall show you presently, there is a fund out of which, if it should 1808 seem right to the State Authority, some further favourable arrangement may be made. On receiving that deduction he will become subject to half-rates, because he becomes an owner. The 4 per cent. charge will continue for 49 years, and the legal ownership will become, at the end of that time, perfectly free ownership, without any annual payment, unless taxes should be laid upon the land by the State Authority.
Now for the position of the State Authority. That Authority will receive £960 from the tenant. What will it have to pay to the Imperial Exchequer? It will have to pay 4 per cent also, not, however, upon the gross rental, but upon the net rental. That will be £768. The cost of the collection of the net rental, we can confidently state, will be very low. It will only be 2 per cent—that is £19 4s. The State Authority will therefore receive £960, and the total charge upon it will be £787 4s. That leaves the State Authority £172 16s., or nearly 18 per cent. Then, what is the State Authority to do with this £172 16s.? On the one hand, it may be enlarged, because it will be larger in those cases where the compensation will be below 20 years, and therefore it will be larger if the average is below 20 years. On the other hand, it may be subject to certain deductions on account of the cost of conveyance, because we have thought it fair not to leave the landlord liable to unrestricted charges in respect of proof of title; and we shall accordingly fix very low the maximum of the costs which can be charged upon the landlord with respect to conveyance. The State Authority may also be liable to a somewhat heavier charge in respect of the redemption of quit rents, head rents, tithe commutations, and jointures, which cannot always be kept within the limit of 20 years. Upon the whole, there is no reason to believe that those considerations will cause any great invasion of the balance which I have shown to be free for the State Authority—about 18 per cent upon the sum payable to the landlord.
We have proceeded upon the principle that the State Authority may, in certain cases, find it necessary or think it expedient to grant some further remission to the tenant. But we are not acting simply for the interests of the Irish tenant; we are acting also for the 1809 interests of the Irish labourer and the Irish community; and it is our duty, if Great Britain is to make an effort by the use of her credit to bring about an improved state of things—it is our duty to leave some fair portion of the resulting profit to be for the advantage of Ireland at large, subject to the distribution and according to the direction of the Irish Authority.
I may say, that in case the whole of these transactions should go forward the sum becoming subject to the discretion of the Irish State Authority would be not much less than £400,000 a-year. Now, a few words with respect to the position of the Imperial Exchequer. The Imperial Exchequer assumes a maximum expenditure of £50,000,000. It may, or may not, be that; but I take the maximum. The interest, at 4 per cent, including Sinking Fund, will be £2,000,000. That will be the cash which the Imperial Exchequer will receive every year from the Irish Authority through the Receiver General, that admirable personage to whom I have already referred. How will this £2,000,000 be secured? If these transactions take place, the land rents which the State Authority will levy will amount to a net rental of £2,500,000, and we have the highest possible security for its vigilance in levying those rents. First of all, in its sense of right; secondly, in its sense of prudence; and, thirdly, in its sense of necessity, inasmuch as until the prior charge is paid it can touch nothing. The sum will, in the first place, be secured upon this amount of £2,500,000; but it will be secured also upon the balance of all Irish Revenue; and, thirdly, it will be a first charge on the taxes levied under the Irish State Authority, which I have assumed will amount to £5,778,000. You may say there is also the Imperial contribution to be taken into view. Yes, there is; but there is also a large further fund which may be taken into account—namely, Customs and Excise. If I add to the Imperial contribution and to the charge for the Constabulary the £2,000,000 which I have now spoken of in respect to land, the sum comes out thus. We want to get £6,242,000, and that is secured upon £10,850,000, no portion of which can be applied for any other purpose until our claim in respect of the £6,242,000 is satisfied. That I conceive to be securing British credit, 1810 and that is the only possible foundation for Irish credit also.
There is one other matter to which I wish to refer—it is the last with which I shall trouble the House. Some people have an idea that, under the present arrangement, we receive from Ireland, if not all that we desire, yet enough to replenish very materially our Imperial resources. That is a woeful delusion. We do nothing of the kind, and I will prove it. I do not say that Ireland does not pay enough; but I do say that we receive very little; and I am bound to add that, with the views I hold with respect to the un wisdom of our policy, I do not think that we deserve to receive more. The present contribution of the Irish taxpayer to the Revenues of this country is £6,980,000, and out of that we pay back for Irish Civil Charges £4,840,000. The residue of £2,000,000, in round numbers, is apparently an Imperial contribution from Ireland for the Army, the Navy, the National Debt, and other Imperial Civil Service Charges. But having got that, what do we do with it? We send an army to Ireland of 26,000 men, whom we have not dared to release, and which costs us £3,000,000 a-year, nearly £1,000,000 more than the apparent surplus of £2,000,000 to which I have just referred without any provision whatever for debt, the Navy, or Imperial Civil Charges. That, Sir, is the economy of the system which we have to root up from out the land.
I have detained the House a long time; but this is a complex question. I will detain the House no longer. I commend this measure with the utmost earnestness as a compliment to our policy, adopted under serious convictions both of honour and of duty—I commend it to your strict, your jealous, your careful, and your unbiassed examination, convinced as I am that when that examination has been given to it, both in regard to policy and honour and duty, it will be recognized as a fitting part of our proceedings upon this certainly great and, as I believe, auspicious occasion; and as fitting to—I do not say adorn—but to accredit and sustain the plans of the British Legislature for the welfare of what is, and what has long been, and what I hope will ever be, under happier circumstances than heretofore, an integral portion of Her Majesty's Dominions.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make amended provision for the Sale and Purchase of Land in Ireland."—(Mr. W. E. Gladstone.)
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I do not, Sir, propose to enter upon any lengthened examination of the very powerful and lucid statement just made by my right hon. Friend; but it appears to me to be a duty which I owe to the House that I should take the first possible opportunity of completing the statement which I attempted to make the other night as to the reasons which led me to quit the Government of my right hon. Friend. I much regret the misapprehension which arose on that occasion as to the limits accorded to me by Her Majesty's permission; but my right hon. Friend, in subsequently referring to this matter, spoke with so much kindness and generosity, and gave to the House so unqualified an assurance of his confidence in my good faith with regard to this matter, that I do not think it necessary to make any further allusion to it. I recognize the necessity, even the physical necessity, which has led my right hon. Friend to divide the two branches of the vast subject which he has brought before the House. I recognize the necessity; but, at the same time, I cannot help saying that it involves many inconveniences—inconveniences to my right hon. Friend in the exposition of his plan, inconveniences also to those who have taken exception to some portion of that plan. One thing the House will clearly see, that the whole plan of my right hon. Friend must be dealt with together. You cannot break it up into fractions—you cannot take one part without taking the other. If there were any doubt as to the fact that the plan which has been proposed and elaborated before the House tonight is an essential complement of the plan laid before us the other night, I think that that doubt would disappear in the face of the statement that has been made by my right hon. Friend, who has told us again and again what he told us in introducing the Irish Local Government Bill, that the two questions of Irish land and Irish government are, in his view—Closely and inseparably connected, for they are the two channels through which we hope to find access, and effectual access, to that question which is the most vital of all—namely, the question of social order in Ireland.1812 I might also refer to the rather remarkable statement made at an earlier period by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He was speaking at Chelmsford on the 7th of January, when, in reference to the same matter, he said—The beginning, no doubt, of any approach to any satisfactory settlement of Ireland must be some dealing with the Land Question. The late Government, to their great honour, passed an Act to prevent landlords confiscating the property of their tenants. That was a noble exploit. I do not think we shall be able to deal satisfactorily with Ireland until we have passed some legislation to prevent tenants from confiscating the property of their landlords,I only refer to this statement to show that it is essential that we should have the whole matter before us before we can deal with any part of it. And when I had to consider the question whether I should continue in the Government, I had to ask myself, not whether I liked the scheme of my right hon. Friend for the government of Ireland, but whether I liked it so much that I was prepared to risk the money of the British taxpayer to the extent of £120,000,000 to secure that plan being adopted.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I would remind my right hon. Friend that at the moment when he left the Cabinet there was no question about £120,000,000, in this sense—that I stated before him and before my Colleagues that, so far as the subject of land was concerned, I had in view modifications and alterations of the plan which would go far to bridge over the differences between us. Upon the details of those modifications we never entered.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
I cannot carry back my memory to the exact words of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman to which he has now referred; but no doubt he is substantially accurate. But what I will say in my own justification is, that I had not the slightest conception at the time I left the Government that it was the intention of the Prime Minister to reduce the sum of £120,000,000, which he had first mentioned, in the proportion to which he now proposes to reduce it. I can, however, best put the view I took of the situation at the time by reading to the House the letter which I wrote to my right hon. Friend on the 15th of March, the Monday following the Cabinet meeting, and in which I tendered my resignation to him. This letter is as follows:—
§ "40, Prince's Gardens, S.W.,
§ "March 15, 1886.
§ "My dear Mr. Gladstone,—I have carefully considered the results of the discussion on Saturday, and I have come with the deepest reluctance to the conclusion that I shall not be justified in attending the meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday, and that I must ask you to lay my resignation before Her Majesty. You will remember that in accepting Office I expressed grave doubts as to the probability of my being able to support your Irish policy. Up to that time, however, no definite proposals had been formulated by you, and it was only on Saturday last that you were in a position to make a communication to the Cabinet on the subject. Without entering on unnecessary details, I may say that you proposed a scheme of Irish land purchase which involved an enormous and unprecedented use of British credit in order, in your own words, 'to afford to the Irish landlord refuge and defence from a possible mode of government in Ireland which he regards as fatal to him.' This scheme, while contemplating only a trifling reduction of the judicial rents fixed before the recent fall in prices, would commit the British taxpayer to tremendous obligations, accompanied, in my opinion, with serious risk of ultimate loss. The greater part of the land of Ireland would be handed over to a new Irish elective authority, who would thus be at once the landlords and the delegates of the Irish tenants. I fear that these two capacities would be found inconsistent, and that the tenants, unable or unwilling to pay the rents demanded, would speedily elect an authority pledged to give them relief, and to seek to recoup itself by an early repudiation of what would be described as the English tribute. With these anticipations I was naturally anxious to know what was the object for which this risk was to be incurred, and for what form of Irish government it was intended to pave the way. I gathered from your statements that, although your plans are not finally matured, yet that you have come to the conclusion that any extension of local government on municipal lines, including even the creation of a National Council, or Councils, for purely Irish business, would now be entirely inadequate, and that you are convinced of the necessity for conceding a separate Legislative Assembly for Ireland, with full powers to deal with all Irish affairs. I understood that you would exclude from their competence the control of the Army and Navy, and the direction of foreign and Colonial policy; but that you would allow them to arrange their own Customs tariff, to have entire control of the civil forces of the country, and even, if they thought fit, to establish a Volunteer Army. It appears to me that a proposal of this kind must be regarded as tantamount to a proposal for separation. I think it is even worse, because it would set up an unstable and temporary form of government, which would be a source of perpetual irritation and agitation until the full demands of the Nationalist Party were conceded. The Irish Parliament would be called upon to pay £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 a-year as its contribution to the National Debt and the Army and Navy, and it would be required in addition to pay nearly £5,000,000 a-year for interest and Sinking Fund on the cost of Irish land. These charges would be felt to be so 1814 heavy a burden on a poor country, that persistent controversy would arise thereupon, and the due fulfilment of their obligations by the new Irish authority could only be enforced by a military intervention which would be undertaken with every disadvantage, and after all the resources of the country and the civil executive power had been surrendered to the Irish National Government. I conclude, therefore, that the policy which you propose to recommend to Parliament and the country practically amounts to a proposal that Great Britain should burden itself with an enormous addition to the National Debt, and probably also to an immediate increase of taxation, not in order to secure the closer and more effective union of the three Kingdoms, but, on the contrary, to purchase the repeal of the Union and the practical separation of Ireland from England and Scotland, My public utterances and my conscientious convictions are absolutely opposed to such a policy, and I feel that the differences which have now been disclosed are so vital that I can no longer entertain the hope of being of service in the Government. I must, therefore, respectfully request you to take the necessary steps for relieving me of the Office I have the honour to hold.
§ "I am, yours very truly,
§ "J. CHAMBERLAIN."
§ Well, Sir, I can only say that in the correspondence which took place upon that letter, my right hon. Friend said, in effect, that although he thought that upon some details it might be possible to take exception to my statement, or to modify my objections, yet that he was not hopeful of being able to do so with regard to the main objections which I took. That was the state of things, and I hope that that may be considered as concluding my personal explanation. That was really the state of things at the time that I quitted the Government. Since that time I must admit that great developments—considerable modifications—have taken place.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Perhaps the House will allow me, in personal explanation, to say that I am totally at a loss to understand the foundation of the idea that the right hon. Gentleman entertains, that I ever contemplated the formation of a Volunteer Army in Ireland. There has been no change whatever from the first in anything that relates to the subject of the Army and defence. It stands exactly as it did. In the letter which my right hon. Friend has read, he has certainly paid me the greatest compliment that I ever knew to be paid to a Prime Minister; because my right hon. Friend did me the honour to resign, not upon anything done by 1815 the Cabinet, or anything proposed to the Cabinet for adoption, but upon the first signification in the Cabinet of what I may call an early edition of a plan which I had personally framed.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
With reference to what my right hon. Friend has now said about the Volunteer Army, all I have to say is that I gathered his intention from a conversation, that I put that intention in the letter which I wrote to him, and that he did not take exception to it in the correspondence which followed. I quite accept my right hon. Friend's statement that he never intended to put it in. I am only saying this in my own justification. I could not know that I had misunderstood him, because, probably, in the press of business, or for any other reason, he did not think it necessary, or worth his while, to correct my misapprehension.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
Well, Sir, as regards what my right hon. Friend has just said, that I resigned at a time when the proposals of my right hon. Friend had not received their final shape, I will remind him of my own reasons for that resignation, which I think he will himself admit had considerable weight. I thought enough had been said to indicate a determination on the part of my right hon. Friend, and an intention on the part of a majority of my Colleagues in the Cabinet, to bring before the House proposals to which I was in grave and serious opposition. Well, Sir, then I thought it was not fair, either to my right hon. Friend or to the Government, that I should remain among them. I remember the expression I used at the time to be "a chiel amang you takin' notes;" that I should remain, as it were—I am using the words about myself, and therefore am not using it in an offensive sense—as a sort of spy; after it had already become apparent to my mind that we were not likely to be able to agree. Well, Sir, that was the reason why I thought it honourable, and even honest, to tender my resignation to my right hon. Friend at the moment that these differences first disclosed themselves. But when my right hon. Friend told me he thought my resignation was premature, and 1816 asked me to remain until his proposals had assumed a more definite shape, of course I acceded to his request, and ac cordingly, as the House is aware, my resignation was not really accepted till March 27. Well, Sir, I was proceeding to say that since the time to which. I have referred some changes or developments have taken place in the proposals of my right hon. Friend. In the first place—and this is a matter of great importance—the control of the Customs and Excise has been retained by the Imperial Parliament, and has been taken from the control of the new Legislative Body to be established in Dublin—that is to say, three-quarters of the whole of the existing Imperial taxation of Ireland is to be retained by the Parliament at Westminster. But then my right hon. Friend stated in his concluding speech in the debate on Tuesday night—I am not certain whether I am quoting his exact words, but I will say what I understood—that he was inclined to reserve for further consideration the question of the retention of the Irish Members in the Parliament at Westminster. He referred to what he called the weighty speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) on this subject, and the strong opinion that had been expressed in many quarters in reference to it; and, as I understood, my right hon. Friend does not dismiss the possibility of that retention from his further consideration. But, Sir, that is a matter of first and cardinal importance. It is a matter to which I have always attached the greatest possible weight, because if the Irish Members are retained at Westminster the Imperial Parliament remains the Imperial Parliament, and its supremacy would then be an established fact. The legislative authority in Dublin—you may call it a Parliament—will be a subordinate and not a co-equal authority; and in that case, and if my right hon. Friend is willing, as I understood him to be willing, to leave also an open question the inclusion of Ulster in this scheme, so that there may be two legislative authorities in Ireland instead of one—[Laughter and cries of "No!" from the Home Rule Members.] Hon. Members opposite may not like it, but that is distinctly what my right hon. Friend said in introducing this measure; and I say that if it should be the pleasure of the 1817 House to retain the Irish Members at Westminster and to make two Assemblies in Ireland instead of one, then, except in the name, I think it would be very difficult to see very much difference between this proposal and the proposal of National Councils which was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan), or a single National Council which I myself supported in June last. Well, Sir, if these great changes are to be made, as I sincerely hope they will be made, then other changes not less important will follow. What has been the reason, what has been the necessity for the safeguards which my right hon. Friend has proposed in such numbers? He has not proposed them because he likes them himself. He has told you that, for his part, he has no apprehension. It is because of the apprehension which he knew would be created by an authority so important as the one which was proposed in the first scheme of this measure. But if the authorities created are to be the subordinate local Assemblies in Ireland, then I say there is no need whatever for all these precautions for the Life Peerages in the Legislative Assembly, for the ex officio Members, for the property qualifications, for the provision of minority representation, all of which I do not hesitate to say are hateful to every Radical, and certainly contrary to the practice of the Liberal Party. Well, Sir, I say that in those changes, and in the prospect of greater changes to come, I rejoice to see an approximation between the views of my right hon. Friend and my own, which I did not dare to hope for at the time I left the Cabinet. I confess that with regard to the Bill which my right hon. Friend now seeks leave to introduce I am afraid that very serious differences of opinion will still exist. I objected to the original proposal of my right hon. Friend because, in the first place, it involved such an enormous sum of money. I thought it might have been possible to deal, at all events, with the most urgent part of this question by employing to a very much less extent British credit. I objected, in the second place, because I thought that in the scheme as it originally stood there was not sufficient security for the repayment of the money, and that the British taxpayer would probably have to make it good; and I objected, in the third 1818 place, because I thought that the scheme as originally introduced did not provide sufficient advantage for the poor tenant, with whom I had the greatest sympathy, and that, in fact, its central idea was wrong, inasmuch as it was brought in less for the advantage of the tenant of Ireland than to modify the supposed hostility of the Irish landlord. Well, now, Sir, to some extent these objections have been met. For instance, my right hon. Friend, as I understand his plan, now proposes that the Irish tenant should have an immediate advantage to the extent of 20 per cent on his present rent. That is a good deal more than my right hon. Friend was able to anticipate at the time when I was in the Government. That is a very important question, because the way in which his scheme will be received in Ireland must depend to a very large extent indeed upon the immediate boon it affords to the Irish tenant. Then, in the second place, my right hon. Friend, in a way which I confess I was not clever enough to follow very clearly during his speech, proposes to limit the issue of Consols, that was to have been limited to £120,000,000, as I understand, to £50,000,000. Well, Sir, my difficulty is this.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
Both figures were mentioned by my right hon. Friend. In the Paper he presented to the Cabinet £113,000,000 was, I think, my right hon. Friend's estimation of the extent to which his option would be taken advantage of by the Irish landlords—he will correct me if I am wrong—and £120,000,000 was to be the sum to which any issue of Consols was to be limited, and the issue was to extend over a considerable term of years. Well, at the present moment my right hon. Friend proposes to reduce, as I understand, the liability on the issue of Consols to £50,000,000. But, then, this is my difficulty. As I understand, option is to be given, in the words of my right hon. Friend, to every landowner with regard to all his rented agricultural land. Well, but I suppose the rented agricultural land of Ireland at 20 years' purchase is worth at least £150,000,000 sterling. I suppose that is the least sum—[Cries of "No, no!"] Well, then, let anyone who differs from me 1819 put his own estimate on it. This option is to be offered to every landowner to the extent of £150,000,000, and my right hon. Friend puts it forward as a very tempting one to the Irish landlords. If that be so, why should not all avail themselves of it? In that case you may, in the first year, have a demand for £150,000,000; and if that is accepted, how are you to limit the issue of Consols? My right hon. Friend proposes to issue scrip; but that is only the difference between the ordinary and the Floating Debt. So far as the liability of the British taxpayer is concerned, it is precisely the same. There is another point in which the changes made by my right hon. Friend are much more satisfactory. My right hon. Friend now proposes to retain the Customs and Excise with the Imperial Parliament. That makes a great difference in the security. The operation proposed by my right hon. Friend in the original Bill will now be reversed; and instead of Ireland having to pay a large sum in the shape of tribute to England, it will be England who will have to pay back to Ireland the balance of the Revenue of Ireland, after having recouped herself for interest and Sinking Fund. I do not mean to say that that means absolute security, but it certainly makes a great change, and one which will commend itself to the House when it comes to consider this proposal. Now, Sir, these alterations have lessened to some extent, though I cannot say they have removed, my objections to this measure. I want to make an appeal to some of my hon. Friends around me, especially in this quarter of the House, who have been very lavish of their criticisms upon the action which I thought it my duty, with great reluctance, to take in resigning my Office. Do they think that these changes are improvements, and are they going to accept them? If they are not, then, Sir, they lay themselves open to that charge of treachery and desertion which they have so freely brought against me in the last few days. But if they are going to accept them, they decidedly, though indirectly, justify the action taken by myself and my right hon. Friend the Member for the Border Burghs in resigning our Offices, because at that time, at any rate, we had no idea that these modifications could be or would be introduced. Well, Sir, I have 1820 said that, even in its present form, this measure is open to very serious objection. In the first place, I cannot help asking this question—If Ireland is going to be trusted with a practically independent Parliament, with the interests of the commercial classes, with the maintenance of civil and religious liberty, and the protection of social order, why, then, is it not to be trusted with the protection of the minority which is formed by one particular class of the community? If the commercial classes and Protestants of Ireland, and any other minority, are safe in the hands of the new authority, why are not the landlords also, and why cannot you leave their interests to the new authority? What we are doing is, to my mind, a matter of doubtful expediency. We are imposing a bargain on the Irish people which they do not like, as was clearly shown by the silence of hon. Members opposite during the speech of my right hon. Friend. Is there a single man upon those Benches who will dare to get up and say that he is of opinion that the price to be paid for the rights of Irish landlords is fair and one which he can approve? No, Sir. What is the price to be paid? My right hon. Friend assumed that four-fifths of the landlords would come under his option, and he assumed that the value of their property would be £113,000,000—that is, at the rate for the whole of the tenantable land of Ireland, of nearly £150,000,000, and it was upon this estimate that this scheme is based. It is upon that estimate that you, representing Ireland, will have to give your consent to a permanent payment, to be extorted from the people of Ireland for the interest on the Sinking Fund. Are Irishmen willing to reckon £150,000,000 as a fair price for the Irish land? I was very much struck the other day with an observation of Mr. Davitt, for whom, though I have never known him, I have conceived a great respect from his speeches, and who, perhaps, more than any other Irishman on the Nationalist side, has distinguished himself by his denunciation, both in America and in Ireland, of the outrages and the policy of crime by which the National movement has been disfigured. I believe him to be an honourable and an honest man, and not the least able in the long roll of Irish political agitators. The 1821 other day he said that, while he approved of the general character of the scheme which he assumed the Government were going to propose, he thought that if £150,000,000, or anything like it, were talked of, it would be an absurd valuation; for his own part, he would put it at nearer £50,000,000 or £60,000,000. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) has again and again referred to the prairie value of the land as the proper standard; other Members of the Nationalist Party have given five years' purchase, and in one case, I believe, three years has been given as the fair price to be paid for buying out the Irish landlords. I am not stopping to inquire whether these prices are fair; but the question is whether the Irish tenants will think them fair. I look forward with some fear to the possibility of repayment of the money based upon rent fixed on a valuation which is twice, four, or even six times as much as has been fixed by the leaders of Irish opinion. Again, the prices are to be fixed at 20 years' purchase on the net rents payable in 1885. But we are in the midst of a great and remarkable change in the value of agricultural produce. I am told that this value has fallen in Ireland since the Land Act from 20 to 40 per cent. Are you sure it will stop there? Are you sure that the resources of South America to send dead meat to this country or of India to send corn have been exhausted? I confess that I am not, and that I should be sorry to base any great financial undertaking upon the certainty that there will be no further fall in the prices of agricultural produce. Sir James Caird has told us that with regard to one half of the agricultural holdings in Ireland the "economic rent" has ceased to exist. I think he is wrong, and he does not sufficiently take into account the sums which are paid for the tenant right of some of these miserable holdings. But I shall not stop now to inquire. The point is—Do you think it likely that the Irish tenants will forget a statement made by so great an authority, or that they will be satisfied to pay a price based upon an estimate which they are told on the authority of those whom they have themselves elected is an extravagant one? There is another point. My right hon. Friend has made what he calls a tempting offer to the landlords of Ireland. I do not think 1822 that they will have very much temptation to remain there. They will obtain their rents in the form of claims on the British Treasury of Three per Cent Consols or New Three per Cents. Where will they spend their incomes? Why, Sir, in one of the finest passages in the speech of my right hon. Friend to which we have just listened, he spoke of the curse that absenteeism had been to Ireland and which it is now. Are you prepared to make absenteeism univeral? The general result of this will be that every landlord who took his money in the shape of this option would have no longer any reason to remain in the country, and it stands to reason that in the vast majority of cases the money would be spent out of Ireland and not at home. Well, Sir, my right hon. Friend has said that he considers that there is an absolute certainty for the payment of this loan which is proposed. I confess that I am afraid that the tenants may hesitate in the future, even when the loan is reduced, as in this scheme, to pay the interest to a State Authority, whether under the name of a Receiver General or any other name. But in that case my right hon. Friend thinks that this loss will fall upon the Irish Authority. Is that so certain? When you have a poor country, unable to pay its way, forced to contribute to England something like £4,000,000 a year for the Army and Navy and the National Debt, although, as my right hon. Friend says, the receipts of England from Ireland are, at the present time, practically insignificant, and when you find that poor country forced also to pay rents calculated upon an English and not an Irish valuation, I think that the bargain will appear to the Irish people as a foreign bargain, that it will come to them in a foreign garb and dress, and hereafter they will think that they have an equitable right to repudiate it. If they repudiate it, I want to know what force there is in this House, what force there is in this country, to insure the fulfilment of conditions which can only be fulfilled by the goodwill of the Irish people. It is all very well to appeal to the honour of the Irish people, and to ask us to trust their honour. That would be all very well, if it were not that in its inception this scheme is repudiated by the Irish people in two of its most important particulars—namely, the amount 1823 of the contribution to be paid to the Imperial Exchequer, and the rate of purchase to be given to the holders of property. I confess I cannot disregard the idea of risk to the British taxpayer. I believe there is a great risk of failing to recover the sums lent if this scheme is carried out as proposed; and a step of this kind cannot be considered alone. Remember what a precedent you are making. I was not very long at the Local Government Board, but I was there long enough to feel great alarm at the prospect of the future. If the depression of trade continues—and, for my own part, I am unable to see any favourable prospect of improvement—you will have hundreds of thousands of respectable and honest and hard-working artizans falling out of the employment they have hitherto held, and subjected to great privation, and you will have demands from these people for State assistance growing in force every day, which, if a precedent of this kind be created, will become absolutely irresistible. If I had no other reason for objecting to this scheme, one—and I think a sufficient one—is that before long we may want this money for ourselves, We are refusing to the people of Scotland what I believe the majority of them want—that State aid should be given to assist the crofters, one of the most deserving of classes of the population, and who have been reduced to misery by bad laws which throw upon us just as great a responsibility as any laws in Ireland. We are refusing State aid to the crofters of Scotland; we are also refusing it, or at least postponing it, to the agricultural labourers of England, who ask you to give them opportunities to improve their position by securing for them some direct interest in the soil which they cultivate. You cannot refuse it to the crofters in Scotland and to the labourers of England, and, at the same time, grant it to the peasantry of Ireland. These are difficulties which I doubt not the House of Commons will weigh well before the second reading of this Bill. For my own part, I recognize the spirit of conciliation in which the Government have tried to meet some of the objections which have already been taken to their scheme. I know I need not assure my right hon. Friend or my Friends around around me that the differences which 1824 unfortunately for a time—I hope it may be only a short time—have separated me from my right hon. Friend, have left unimpaired my respect and regard for his character and talents. I am not an irreconcilable opponent. My right hon. Friend has made very considerable modifications in his Bill. All I can say is if that movement continues, as I hope it will, I shall be delighted to be relieved from an attitude which I only assumed with the greatest reluctance, and which I can only maintain with the deepest pain and regret.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH (Strand, Westminster)
I must, I confess, take exception to the spirit of the speech in which the right hon. Gentleman introduced his measure. If one thing is to be deprecated more than another, it is the introduction into this discussion of anything approaching to passion, or the reviving of the memory of past wrongs and past errors. It does appear to me a very great misfortune that the right hon. Gentleman should have imported into this discussion allusions to the misfortunes of Ireland—allusions to her past history which were most painful and most deplorable. I cannot help reminding the right hon. Gentleman that he rose to the consideration of the question in 1881 in a very different frame of mind. Instead of reproaching the landlord class then in the language which was used on the present occasion, he stated to the House that the landlords of Ireland had been tried and acquitted. These were his words on April 7, 1881—Well, Sir, neither, I am bound to say, should we think it just to propose legislation on this great matter on the ground, whether expressed or implied, of general misconduct on the part of the landlords of Ireland. On the contrary, as a rule they have stood their trial, and they have, as a rule, been acquitted."—(3 Hansard,  892.)That is the spirit in which it is possible to approach the consideration of the question with justice to all the interests involved. Now, with regard to the cardinal principle of the Bill, we are told that this is not a partial, tentative, or timid attempt, but a serious attempt to settle the question. The right hon. Gentleman has proposed to limit his advances for the settlement of this great question to the amount of £50,000,000. Now, my noble Friend on my right (Lord George Hamilton) made a Motion 1825 on the 12th of June, 1883, on this question. He proposed a scheme for carrying out a very extensive system of land purchase by which to preserve the tenant in his holding. That proposal was met by the Prime Minister with a negative, and he entered into a very able and long argument showing the impossibility of entertaining the proposal of my noble Friend. These were the words of the right hon. Gentleman—I may state, moreover, that the proposal would involve the question of a State guarantee to the extent of several hundreds of millions—£300,000,000 or £400,000,000.The right hon. Gentleman was interrupted by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), who said about £100,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman then replied—I cannot give the absolute figures; but I venture to say it would not be far short of £300,000,000 of money that would require to be involved in the guarantee I am now speaking of."—(3 Mansard,  451–2.)It now appears that since 1883 the estimates of the Prime Minister have fallen from a sum of £300,000,000 or £400,000,000 to a sum about two months ago of £113,000,000, and under this Bill to a sum of £50,000,000. Now I wish to ask the House, first of all, whether this scheme is really an attempt, not partial or tentative or timid, but a serious attempt to settle the question? If an invitation is addressed to the landlords of Ireland, if they are induced to avail themselves of the Bill, I maintain that it will be quite impossible to limit the issue of Consols or promises of payment to £50,000,000. An engagement of this kind cannot be limited to such a sum. By what means is the Chancellor of the Exchequer to distinguish one applicant from another? The purchase must be complete or it cannot be carried out at all. There is another consideration which should be brought before the House and the country, and that is that the offer is to the landlord. It is an offer to any landlord of any agricultural lands in Ireland, and it puts him under the pressure that his tenant will at once be placed in a position of becoming an occupier of the land at an annual payment 20 per cent less than the rent which he now pays. The offer is made by the Imperial Parliament, and if he fails to avail himself of it he is handed over to the tender mercies—I do not say it in an 1826 offensive sense—of the Parliament of Ireland, which is not to be restricted in its legislation in regard to land, which can impose taxation on land, which can modify the relation between landlord and tenant, and may fail to put in force the ordinary law for the recovery of rent. If I were an Irish landlord I should say frankly that, considering all the circumstances of the case, I should think it wise to avail myself of the privileges of the Bill, rather than expose myself to the risks which might follow upon my failing to do so. I am afraid that the influence which popular opinion would have upon the Representatives in the new Parliament of Ireland would be such that it would be well nigh hopeless that the Government of Ireland would in any way assist the landlords. Under these circumstances, it appears to me that there is scarcely a landlord in Ireland who will fail to avail himself of the provisions of this Bill. Therefore, either the estimate made by the Prime Minister three years ago was grossly inaccurate, or the estimate now formed by the right hon. Gentleman must be very seriously and alarmingly inaccurate. It is said that it was an obligation of honour and policy on the part of Great Britain to carry out this scheme and relieve the Irish landlords. It has also been said that the landlord himself is a person who deserves very little consideration. But in some way or other the property that exists in land must be represented; and if you give a tenant the proprietorship of the land there is great probability, as experience has shown, that the occupying proprietor would be a man who would rapidly mortgage his land and get into debt. There would then be substituted for the landlord the mortgagee or the banker to whom the occupying proprietor paid interest. That may be a view which is not generally regarded, but it is one that ought to be borne in mind in dealing with this matter. The right hon. Gentleman has proposed that in the congested districts of Ireland the State itself should become the proprietor. I ask the House to consider what that proposal means. It should be borne in mind that great difficulty has been experienced in dealing with those districts. There have been many persons who have endeavoured, by all means in their power, to relieve the distress which pre- 1827 vails there, and who have, time after time, fed and clothed the people and found them seed. Such operations are going on now. Seed is being found for persons in the congested districts who are in arrears with their rents, and who, not with standing all that has been done in the shape of legislation, are still in a perfectly hopeless and helpless condition. There will be no State authority in Ireland strong enough to lift these unfortunate people out of their misery. The Prime Minister proposes to deal with these districts. For the purpose of improving these people you may remove them and find them some employment under other circumstances, or you may introduce new industries among them. I doubt whether it would be possible to introduce new industries which would afford means of livelihood to the hundreds and thousands who are now reduced to a state of starvation. And yet it is proposed to impose upon the new Parliament of Ireland a task which has baffled the skill of the English Parliament—the task of undertaking all the responsibility of the landlord and all the interests and obligations of a landlord. There will in the future be a recurrence of periodical famines and bad times, and then the landlords will be appealed to, and then, instead of receiving rent, the duty of the State will be actually to feed the people. What is the meaning of the exceptions from the scheme which the Prime Minister makes? If you leave portions of Ireland undealt with by the Bill, you leave an interest which will be an object of attack, for everyone knows that if there is anything unpopular in Ireland with the distressed classes it is that which is prosperous and successful. The landlord may wish to leave the country; yet the circumstances and conditions of his farm, his means of livelihood, are to be made the subject of attack by all who would like to cut up a grazing farm and turn it into an agricultural holding. I doubt very much the wisdom of introducing this apple of discord into a condition of things which the Prime Minister hopes will be a peaceful condition. Now, I feel some difficulty in realizing what are the authorities who are to deal with this matter. The Prime Minister says it must be an Irish State authority, and that this authority will greatly diminish the risk to the English taxpayer. Then 1828 the right hon. Gentleman spoke of a Land Commission with power to deal with the land. The Land Commission is to be more or less under the influence of the new Irish Parliament, and is to determine, under the Bill, what rate of purchase is to be given to the landlords, what deductions are to be made from the rental, and what rent the tenant is to pay for his holding. Then comes another person into the field, and that is the Receiver General—an English official—who is to get the rent by some means or other. And then, again, you have an army of sub-officials who are not to be English as the Receiver General is to be. The sub-officials are to act under the orders of the Receiver General, and they are to be subject to dismissal by the Irish Parliament. The Receiver General is to be at liberty to prosecute criminally before the English Division of the Irish High Court of Exchequer; and this English Division is to be supported by the power and authority of the representatives of Imperial power—the soldiers and the police. This arrangement must produce the greatest possible friction. The Receiver General is to be the neck through which every single farthing of the Revenue is to go, and he will not give a single sixpence for Irish purposes until the demands of the English Chancellor of the Exchequer are satisfied. If it be necessary to give Ireland a Parliament, I, for one, will be no party to the introduction of checks to control the exercise of its authority, which will be irritating in the last degree, and which will certainly bring about the exercise of that power the Prime Minister referred to—the power of the police and of the soldier—and will leave the last state of Ireland worse than the first. No doubt there are 25,000 soldiers in Ireland; but the Prime Minister omitted to state that the number had been materially reduced in times of war, and it is legitimate to ask how many men will have to be kept in Ireland under the proposed new arrangement? How many must we maintain there in order to protect the Receiver General from violence or indignity, and to make it quite certain that the Receiver General's debt will be collected, and that the £6,600,000 may be extracted from the Revenues of Ireland? I venture to think that the arrangement proposed is one that will bear little examination. 1829 No one desires more than I do to give peace and prosperity to Ireland. The Land Question certainly requires to be dealt with. We have now a dual interest. Two persons claim property in the same piece of land; and there is a state of war between them. The tenant thinks that by the pressure of public meetings, intimidation, association, and combination he can extort the property of the landlord from him. This state of war has been brought about by the Land Act of 1881. Therefore, I fully admit the necessity for a settlement of the Land Question. It cannot be settled upon the lines proposed. The scheme makes a totally inadequate and illusory provision for that settlement; it involves unsettlement without settling or deciding anything. We have great responsibility resting upon us. What has happened in the last few years has increased and intensified that responsibility; but if we endeavour to look at the problem in a manner befitting the Parliament of a great country, to lay aside Party considerations, and to look the matter in the face soberly, courageously, and with a sense of responsibility, I do not despair of our finding a solution which shall at last dispose of this urgent question.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (&c.) Kirkcaldy,
said, that, as one of the rank and file of the Liberal Party, he could not pretend that he approached the settlement of the Irish Question in a sanguine spirit. In spite of all the eloquence of the Prime Minister, it seemed to him that they had but a choice of dangers and difficulties, and that whatever way they looked at it the danger and difficulty of solving that question were great and grave indeed. In these circumstances, he confessed that he had been inclined to think that the safest course, the least dangerous course, would be to follow the Prime Minister, especially in regard to his first Bill, provided he found that the cost of passing it would not be too great for the taxpayers of this country. He held that it would be a great advantage to get rid of the incubus caused by the entanglement of Irish affairs with the affairs of the rest of the Kingdom; but he wished first to know how much the taxpayers of this country were really to pay for the privilege and luxury of managing their English and Scotch 1830 affairs. Before accepting that great proposal and revolution in the relations of the United Kingdom, he thought they might reasonably have expected that the right hon. Gentleman would tell them what the cost would be, and that the Government would pledge themselves that they were showing their whole hand and not keeping back anything when they asked them to support these great proposals; but, having listened very attentively to the speech of the Prime Minister, he thought the right hon. Gentleman had not fulfilled that reasonable expectation, and had not told them what his plans would cost them finally and as a whole. It appeared that the £50,000,000 which had been mentioned would not be the final sum, but only an instalment of a much larger demand. Let them once embark on that principle of compensation, and it would be very difficult to stop. He did not well see how it was possible to offer compensation to one-third of the Irish landlords, and refuse it to the other two-thirds; and he further doubted whether they would be able to resist the claims of other classes in Ireland who called themselves Loyalists, and who might also find that they could not or did not like to live in Ireland under the new régime. The shareholders in Irish banks and railways, and other classes, who were poorer and more deserving than the landlords, might likewise demand compensation, and thus, unless they were very careful, the country might be involved in vast and indefinite liabilities. He was therefore placed in this dilemma, that he was disposed to vote for the first Bill of the Government, but he was afraid that the second would prove too expensive to the English and Scotch taxpayers. As regarded the right hon. Gentleman's calculations, what made him somewhat apprehensive was that a very large discretion was to be given in the valuation of that Irish property to the Land Commission, no doubt a highly respectable body, who felt the weight of their some what judicial responsibilities; but it should be remembered that they were Irishmen, dealing with British funds, and even the most high-minded Irishmen were always apt to be a little liberal with British money. Then the right hon. Gentleman only allowed 2 per cent for the cost of collection; but, speaking in the character of an old 1831 Indian collector—and the result of that Bill would be to place Ireland in something like the position of an Indian district, where the Government was the superior landlord—he had no doubt that 2 per cent for the cost of collection, bad seasons, bad debts, remissions, and the like, was more likely to be 10 or even 20 per cent, even putting aside all political difficulties. He had, moreover, very much doubt about their ever getting back their money under that scheme. The Government had now an undoubted legal claim against the town of Limerick which did not like to pay, and although successive Governments had come and gone, they had not yet managed to collect the sum due from Limerick. Again, the security which they were to have for their advances was the surplus of the Customs and Excise revenue; but that could not be safely relied upon. If there was any change in the mercantile condition of Ireland, or if the country became too hot for them, the great distillers would go to Scotland and England, and the Excise revenue from Ireland would become very insecure. It might also be endanged by temperance; or, again, by a whisky war. It should be borne in mind that not very long after the Union of England and Scotland a whisky war was waged by the Scotch, owing to their having their whisky subjected to the English spirit laws. It was doubtful whether we knew the worst that would come out of the working of the scheme. He had great difficulty in making up his mind as to whether we could bear the cost of it. Most of those who had spoken on the Ministerial side of the House had been more happy in their criticisms than they had been in the alternatives they had suggestsd. It seemed to him that we could not afford to set ourselves free from Ireland at the cost of the enormous compensation we were accustomed to give when we interfered with persons in the making of reforms and improvements. We could not afford to give the Irish landlords full security for the assumed value of their property at the present time. If we believed that Home Rule would be a success, we ought to say to the landlords—"You have had the smooth in the past; you must now, to a certain extent, take the rough. We cannot afford to remove you; and we rather expect you to stay and to do the best you can." Of course, there might be 1832 a doubt as to whether Ireland would be a particularly agreeable place for them to live in under a Home Rule Government. He hoped it would be; he thought it would be after listening to the Prime Minister; but, when he had slept over it, he had some doubts. But we ought to say to the landlords—"You are bound to make an effort to stay; and if you find it too hot to do so we must give you something in the way of eleemosynary aid, but we cannot give full you compensation. We want you to try to live in Ireland; but if you find that to be impossible then we will relieve you of your property at half-price." He hoped that on terms of this kind a large proportion of landlords would stay; but no landlord not absolutely insane would refuse the offer of 20 years' purchase. On the terms he suggested many would make an effort to stay. Whatever way they looked the difficulty was formidable. He was willing to support the Prime Minister in his first proposal; but he must reserve to himself his freedom of action as to the financial scheme of which he did not approve.
§ MR. FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
said, that so colossal a scheme could only have proceeded from a gigantic intellect. It was so far-reaching that it could not be grasped in the few minutes they had had for consideration since they listened to the Prime Minister's eloquent speech. He would approach the matter from a prosaic point of view, dealing with the mercantile and financial aspects. He did so with deference, because he recognized in the Prime Minister a master of finance who had done much for our mercantile interests. He regretted that the scheme proposed would stereotype the poverty and the misery of the people of Ireland, and would render their position worse than it had been in the past few years, because it would tempt away the landlords who had paid the wages which had gone far to help the peasants to live. The Prime Minister had expressed in eloquent terms the hope that landlords would not avail themselves of the Act in any large numbers, but that there would be sufficient national feeling left in the breasts of many of them to induce them to reside there, and that others would see it to their interest to do so. To his mind, however, if it had been desired to frame a proposal to tempt the landlords to part 1833 with their property, it could not have been done more effectively than it was done by this plan. Every temptation was held out to them to go. He should not be surprised, if the Bill were unfortunately to become law, to find a great scramble amongst landlords to get hold of the first £50,000,000. In the first place, the terms were more liberal than he himself expected them to be; in the second place, the right hon. Gentleman said the £50,000,000 was not to be exceeded until three or four things were proved. Firstly, it was to be seen whether the market would absorb the £50,000,000 of stock; secondly, the time for making application was to be limited to 1889 or 1890; and, thirdly, before going beyond £50,000,000 he required to see how the repayments would be made. The landlords would thus see very considerable contingencies. Considerable doubts would be raised as to whether there would be any further issue beyond the first £50,000,000, and therefore it seemed to him that if it were distributed on the principle of the first come first served there would be a rush to get hold of the £50,000,000. Another point which would cause landlords to make this rush would be the fact that the new Home Rule Legislature would have the power to levy taxes on land. Knowing the sentiments of the hon. Members, who were to form the greater portion of the future Legislature, towards the landlords, and knowing that they were to have the power of taxing the land, the landlord, he thought, would be a man much wanting in commonsense if he gave them the opportunity of using that power of taxation on his property, when he had an early opportunity of obtaining Consols in exchange for the land. He ventured, therefore, to suggest that by the temptation offered to the landlord to quit the lands they would see Ireland divested of men of capital able to assist the tenants occupying small holdings. The tenants would be left to their own devices to eke out their livings in that hardest of all lots, the lot of the small farmer. The tenant would still have to pay that rent to the State which he had hitherto paid to the landlord, but there would be no consideration shown for arrears. The rent would have to be paid, because the State was the hardest of all taskmasters. But he asked the 1834 House now to look at it from the British taxpayers' point of view. He had shown that the disposition on the part of the landlords would be to send in applications for the State to buy the land, and that the first £50,000,000 would be quickly absorbed. It would, therefore, be absurd to say that having gone to the extent of £50,000,000 the nation could hark back, and refuse the remainder of the landlords the same terms and the offer they had given to the first applicants. They must not live in a fool's paradise. They must look on things as they were likely to be, and be prepared for the worst, not for the best. They must, therefore, consider what would probably be the ultimate responsibility of this country. A late Member of the Cabinet—a right hon. Gentleman who was not likely to exaggerate—intimated that it would take £150,000,000 to buy out the landlords of Ireland, and that might fairly be taken as the probable maximum responsibility which the British taxpayer would assume in the event of the Bill passing. That £150,000,000 would be issued at 3 per cent interest and 1 per cent Sinking Fund, or 4 per cent, because whether they received the money from Ireland or not they must keep up the Sinking Fund. The charge would therefore be 4 per cent on that £150,000,000, or £6,000,000 a-year. What was the security for that money? He agreed that the real and first security was the charge upon the duties which they were to collect through the Receiver General. These duties were estimated in round figures at £8,000,000 sterling, including no less a sum than £1,400,000, which was really paid by the British taxpayer, although the duties were paid in Ireland. He would not, however, deduct that amount. Of that £8,000,000 £3,600,000 was to be Ireland's contribution to Imperial Expenditure; and adding to that sum the interest of £150,000,000, amounting to £6,000,000 per annum, they had a first charge upon the duties to be collected in Ireland of no less a sum than £9,600,000. The duties, however, only amounted to £8,000,000, so that they had not sufficient security for the outlay which they must face. They were short by £1,600,000, and that must come from some source. But the sum of £8,000,000 was liable to be affected by very many and serious causes. We might have an 1835 alteration in the drinking habits of the people. We might want to make Commercial Treaties to increase our own trade and to reduce our duties. If we reduced the duties in England we reduced them in Ireland. And then there was another point to remember. The effect of this Bill would be to expropriate the great taxpayers of the country—the landlords. The duties now received in Ireland from the Income Tax amounted to £550,000, and the bulk of that was paid by the landlords and capitalists whom they must expect to leave the country. So that while they were throwing large burdens upon the country they would be reducing its taxpaying powers. Every pound of duty paid in Ireland over and above the tribute Ireland had to pay to England was to go to the benefit of the Irish Legislature, no matter whether the articles upon which the duty was paid were consumed in England or Ireland. The great duties in Ireland were tobacco and whisky. The value of tobacco varied from something like 3d. to 1s. per lb., whereas the duty varied from 3s. 6d. to 4s. 4d. It would pay the new Irish Legislature to give to the tobacco manufacturers in Ireland tobacco free of cost, provided the duty were paid on it and the tobacco were exported to this country. It was the same with whisky. Whisky was worth something like 2s. per gallon, while the duty was 10s. 4d. per gallon. Look what an enormous temptation there would be to the new Irish Legislature to encourage the payment of the duty on whisky in Ireland which would be consumed in England. So that although they started with a common fiscal unity they would, as a matter of fact, have absolutely divergent interests in regard to the collection of the duties in Ireland and this country. The other security was the rent—the rent to be paid by hundreds of thousands of poor tenants—and he asked what would be the chance of the State collecting rents under the new Irish Legislature? These rents were dependent not only upon the state of men's minds, but upon the state of agriculture, and under the Bill they would be fixed for all time. Who knew what would be the state of agriculture, or that the prices of wheat and other products were going to remain even at the present low level? A day would probably come when our prices 1836 would be lower, and how was the poor tenant in Ireland to compete against such wheat-producing countries as India and America? The dead meat supply from abroad and from our far off Colonies was daily increasing, and everything was, in fact, competing with the small tenant farmer occupying a few acres of land in a climate so uncertain as that of Ireland. They knew that this competition had even reached the Black Sea. The Black Sea ports who used to export wheat to this country were being affected by the competition of our Indian Colonies, and he ventured to suggest that we could not possibly estimate what might be the rent-paying power of this class of people. To whom then were we to look to pay this £150,000,000? We came back to this, that the only security we should have would be the duties, and these duties were liable to all the consequences of the expropriation of those who paid so much of the taxation. The Prime Minister proposed, in the first instance, to issue £50,000,000 by instalments of £10,000,000, £20,000,000, and £20,000,000. But as it would be known that instalments of this large sum were to be given year after year, and that there was a contingent £100,000,000 in the back ground, we might as well issue the whole £150,000,000 at once as to have it hanging over the market. The effect would be the same upon trade and upon the money market. The Prime Minister, however, said that we need not go to the money market, but that we could raise the money and support the market with sums at the disposal of the Exchequer. To his (Mr. Forwood's) mind, that, he must say, looked very like "rigging" the market. It was a system of "bolstering" the market, and he should, for his own part, be sorry to see the national funds employed in a stock-jobbing operation. He thought it would be far better to raise the money in the market in one or other of the usual ways. But be that as it might, and in whatever way the operation was conducted, the effect on British industry would be that instead of £150,000,000 of capital being available for the general purposes of the country, that sum, and not merely the £50,000,000 contemplated in the first instance by the Prime Minister, would be absorbed in buying out the landlords of Ireland, and all for 1837 what? In order that we might maintain what would simply be a sham Union. His own feeling was that we ought to have a real Legislative Union as we had at present, or else a fair, clear, dividing line of separation. By taking the present step in the direction of separation we should make a great mistake, and take an amount of responsibility which would in the end lead to misfortunes and heartburnings, and eventually to separation. He was very glad to have heard the high sentiment from the other side of the House that it was not a Party question. He felt strongly that that was so. Party feeling should be set aside, for it was a question of Union versus Separation. He was speaking for himself, but he believed he quoted the sentiments of many other hon. Members on his own side of the House, when he said he did not mind who led the Government in that House, provided the Leader of the Government would maintain the Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
said, he would not follow the hon. Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs (Sir George Campbell) and other hon. Members into criticism of details which seemed to him more suitable for the second reading or Committee stage. It might be said—and he thought it could have been said a few days ago with more truth than it could be now—that those Members of the House who, like himself, for the first time had taken their seats during the present Session, had not spoken out in any decided fashion on this great question. Doubtless a great responsibility, not only to their constituents but to themselves, rested on them. It was their bounden duty to come to a decision, and he, for one, did not find any difficulty in deciding what his judgment on the general question before them should be. Upon the details of a Bill which was not now before the House it was his duty to reserve his judgment in the fullest manner. It might be that when he came to read the Bill there would be things in it to which he could not agree; but it was his duty not to form any judgment before he had seen the measure. He could not but feel with the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) that they had come to a parting of the ways; and he felt that every political instinct, every Liberal 1838 principle, impelled him to sympathy with both those Bills. It might be that they were taking a very grave step in the case of the proposals now before the House; but he could not help saying—and perhaps it was because it was his good fortune to sit below the Gangway—that he had a great deal of sympathy with the case of many unfortunate landlords. Bad as the landlords in Ireland had been in the past, those of to-day stood in a very different position. They were oppressed, they were even hunted down, they were made scapegoats for the sins, not of themselves, but of a Government which was alien to the sympathies of the people. It was not so much the landlords individually as the system of landlordism with its class interests and class privileges which was to blame for the present condition of Ireland. It was due to the landlords who were placed in that unhappy and anomalous position that they should receive every possible consideration. They had all known for the last three months that the Prime Minister would introduce Bills dealing with Home Rule and Land Purchase. The time had come for England to retrace the step taken by Mr. Pitt in 1800, a step which was possibly the greatest blunder ever made by a great statesman. Mr. Burke had stated about the year 1790 that in case of foreign war we could rely upon Ireland as our greatest source of strength. Unhappily, that could not be said now. We had crushed the spirit of nationality in a people who possessed it in a greater degree than any other peope of Europe, with the natural consequence of the degeneracy of that people. No place had been left for the exercise of the energies of their politicians; but he trusted that the two Bills of the Prime Minister would provide scope for them. It seemed to him that the considerations on which they had to approach both these Bill were very simple. The issue was very plain—could, they or could they not trust the Irish people? He did not use the word "trust" in any special sense. He used it in the sense in which they were willing to trust the people when they extended the franchise. Would they trust them to govern themselves, believing that they would grow and improve under the system of self-government? He believed that underneath the agitated surface of Irish 1839 opinion there flowed steadily onwards a broad current of human interest which was everywhere present; and, holding that view as part of his Liberal principles, he approached the consideration of these two Bills with every desire and every wish to support the Prime Minister to the utmost of his strength.
§ MR. GREGORY (Sussex, East Grinstead)
said, he admitted that there was a certain degree of inconvenience in discussing a Bill before it was in print; but, at the same time, there were one or two points which arose on the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman which were clearly before the House, and which he thought it would be well to consider even before this Bill was brought in. The Bill depended upon two propositions—firstly, the amount we were to advance for the purchase of the estates of the landlords of Ireland; and, secondly, the security we were to have for the recoupment of those advances to this country. He believed that every Member of that House was there in a fiduciary character, and that in voting a grant of public money he was bound to see, not only that it was devoted to proper purposes, but also that there was a sufficient security for repayment. They were asked to sanction the raising of some £50,000,000 by an addition to the National Debt; but he did not believe any man in that House thought the amount would really be limited to £50,000,000, or anything like it. To suppose that the Irish landlords could be bought out for £50,000,000 was a practical absurdity. We were putting ourselves in the position of one of those unfortunate individuals who went into so-called Limited Liability Companies, and, supposing that his liability was to be limited to the sum paid on allotment, was not prepared for the successive calls which were made upon him and the final payment on the winding up of the concern. Hon. Members knew that these advances did not cover the liability, and that they must really contemplate not another £50,000,000, but £50,000,000 beyond that. And what were we to expect in return for our advances? The question of the security had been dealt with by the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Forwood) who had shown how flimsy those securities were which depended upon the contributions of Ireland to the Consolidated Fund. Really and substantially the 1840 security was the rent which would have to be obtained from the Irish tenants. According to the Prime Minister, that sum would be sufficient, allowing 20 per cent off; but a good deal more than that would have to be deducted during bad times, and if the Receiver General enforced the original rents Parliament would never hear the end of it. But was the rent of Irish tenants a security which any sane man, any public company, or any body of individuals in this country would advance their money upon at the present time? The right hon. Gentleman would find he had made a miscalculation, inasmuch as he had not taken into account the fact that on nearly every estate in Ireland an abatement of 15 or 20 per cent of the judicial rent was claimed. Then the right hon. Gentleman assumed that the rent would be paid by the tenant to the day. His calculations were based upon that; but Irish rents were always paid with the greatest reluctance, as was proved by the numerous evictions which occurred. If they paid their rents reluctantly to the Irish landlords, was it likely that they would pay more willingly if the English Government were to receive the rents? The Prime Minister contemplated a Receiver, as he said, behind a curtain; but the Irish tenant was pretty shrewd, and would tear his curtain to tatters, exposing not only the Receiver, but the English Government behind him. The Budget that was presented to the House yesterday showed that the country could scarcely pay its way, and an Income Tax of 8d. had to be kept up a time when there was no extraordinary expenditure. In face of these facts, it was proposed to lay an additional burden of many millions on the people of Great Britain. He did not think that they would be discharging the duty they owed to their constituents if they did not strenuously resist such a proposal.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
said, there had been a disposition to go into the minutiœ of the Government Bills a great deal more than was necessary at this stage. The question was, what was really the situation of Ireland, and the relation of this Parliament to that country? He believed nothing truer had been said in the course of these debates than that it was no longer possible for this House to rely 1841 on a system of repression in Ireland. Hitherto the Liberal Party had been able to rely on the Conservatives in applying a policy of repression to Ireland; but during the last few months a change in the tactics of that Party had been apparent. He favoured in the main the proposals of the Government, because he felt, as many hon. Members must feel, that it was an idle phrase to talk about the existence of the integrity and the unity of the Empire at that moment. That they had to keep an army and an armed police force in Ireland proved that there was no such thing as the integrity and unity of the Empire, and the attitude of the Party led by the hon. Member for Cork was conclusive evidence that they, at any rate, did not regard the unity of the Empire as a thing of any moment. We had reached the extremity of any temporizing policy, and he looked forward to the scheme of the Prime Minister producing increased good feeling between Great Britain and Ireland. It would be impossible for any Nobleman or Chief Secretary—if there was not some change in the situation—to go through the ordeal which Earl Spencer and Mr. Forster found so hard. He believed it would be infinitely better for both England and Ireland that this great experiment should be tried. Objection was raised that the supremacy of Parliament would suffer if 100 Irish Members left the House, and he admitted there would be a difficulty if it were coercive; but supposing it were left open to the Irish Members, he believed they would almost to a man prefer to absent themselves, and for a generation at least give themselves up entirely to the great task of regenerating their country that was now before them, and which would tax their energies to the utmost. When they should have successfully coped with the difficulties which at present impeded the advancement of their nation, they might return to the Imperial Parliament if they should so desire. He looked forward to a great improvement in the material condition of Ireland as the result of the proposed new order of things, and to a large increase of commercial relations between that country and Great Britain. Had the Conservative Party ever complained of the burden that was at present thrown on Great 1842 Britain by Ireland? It seemed that if the money was spent in repression, it was an outlay which the Conservative Party contemplated with resignation, if not with pleasure. An outlay of this character was productive only of misery and bad feeling; but he anticipated that when the responsibility of governing Ireland was cast on her own gifted sons, there would be an improvement in the material condition of the country. It was easy to picture the Irish Leaders as being rebellious at heart. The Irish Representatives might not at times have pursued the wisest course; but there had been ample provocation for almost something of a rebellion in Ireland. Therefore, he was not disposed to think that there was any additional dose of original sin in the Irish character; and, on the other hand, he anticipated that if the opportunity was given to Ireland there would be an honest and brave effort to set about the work of regeneration. During the next few months all manner of evil prophecies would come from the Tory Party and from timid Liberals. The Conservatives had proved themselves very bad prophets in the past. Whenever any reforms were proposed they were always loud in their assertions as to the fearful results that would follow; but such prophecies were always belied by the future. Their present outcries were, therefore, not be taken very seriously. Like other Members of the Liberal Party, he had felt deep concern at the differences that had arisen between the Leaders of that Party; but from the tore of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham's speech that evening, he was glad to notice that the differences which separated that right hon. Gentleman from the Prime Minister were gradually disappearing. The modifications that had been made in the Ministerial plan were leading to a rapprochement between them. When the country understood the points of the two proposals now before the House the right hon. Member for West Birmingham would, find that the Prime Minister would be supported by the great bulk of the Liberal Party. He trusted that his right hon. Friend (Mr. J. Chamberlain) and others who felt with him would feel it to be their duty not to insist upon their own views, in order that a settlement of this great question should be reached. We had a great 1843 problem to solve, and we had a great object to serve. The question might not be settled in this Session of Parliament; but they all felt that it must be settled on the side of the Government. There were 86 Home Rule Members from Ireland. He believed also that the great majority of the people of Great Britain, when they were fully informed as to the proposals of the Government, and of the Government intended for Ireland, the great majority of the country would rally to the support of the Prime Minister. He thought the Members who represented Lancashire and Yorkshire ought to proceed with as much caution in regard to all proposals for increasing the expenditure, or dealing with the obligations of the country, as any other Members of the community; and yet he did not hesitate to say that the great majority of the people in these two great counties would be prepared to endorse in the main the proposals of the Prime Minister even with regard to the scheme laid before the House to-night. If we entered upon this great experiment with faith and hope, we had reason to hope and expect and assume that we should have a regenerated Ireland. The unhappy relations which existed at this moment, and had prevailed throughout the history of Ireland since the Act of Union, would come to an end, and so far from there being any natural hostility between the British and the Irish people, there would be a real union between Great Britain and Ireland, as true and as genuine as that between England and Scotland. He expressed his satisfaction with the main outlines of the proposals now before the House, and he trusted that the Liberal Party, both in the House and out of it, would rally to the Prime Minister, who in this last hour of his life had shown a courage, and a patriotism, and a regard for the Sister Country which would make him venerated in Ireland.
§ SIR ROBERT FOWLER (London)
The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) has repeated to-night the argument which has often been put forward—that the circumstances of the case are changed, because there are now 86 Home Rule Members in the House. But surely that was a matter which was thoroughly foreseen at the time of the General Election, and therefore no surprise need be felt at that, nor is it a 1844 reason why the Party opposite should deviate from the programme laid down for them at that time. I concurred with many hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House last summer; and much as they differed as to the constitution of Parties in the New Parliament, all agreed that the hon. Member for Cork would have 80—many said more than 90—followers. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has given a very eloquent account of the wrongs of Ireland. If Ireland has suffered wrongs, I would ask who is more responsible for them than the right hon. Gentleman himself? The right hon. Gentleman often tells us that he has been 50 years in this House, during the greater part of that time he has been in the Government, and for 11 or 12 years he has been Prime Minister of England. There was one measure the right hon. Gentleman referred to, which was brought in by Lord John Russell when he was Prime Minister, nearly 40 years ago—namely, the Encumbered Estates Bill. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman was, at that time, in a sort of neutral position, and was giving an independent support to the Government of Lord John Russell. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman must feel a certain amount of responsibility for that measure. There is one thing, however, in regard to which there can be no doubt of the right hon. Gentleman's responsibility. In 1868 the right hon. Gentleman came before the country, saying that he was going to cut down the Upas tree of Protestant ascendancy. At that time the right hon. Gentleman was contesting South-West Lancashire against my right hon. Friend, the late Home Secretary (Sir R. Assheton-Cross). His candidature was unsuccessful, and upon his defeat he was returned for the borough of Greenwich. Nevertheless, the Party led by the right hon. Gentleman were returned in a large majority, and the Upas tree was cut down. But I would ask any man whether Ireland is as peaceful at the present moment as it was when the Duke of Abercorn left it in 1868? From the time that the right hon. Gentleman took his seat on the Treasury Bench as Prime Minister, there has been a constant succession of troubles in Ireland; and I venture to think that so long as the right hon. Gentleman sits 1845 there, there will never be peace and order in Ireland. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway know perfectly well that so long as they can frighten the right hon. Gentleman, there is nothing he will not concede to them, provided they agitate enough. Look at the number of illustrious men who have been Colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman, but who have left him on this very subject. There was the Duke of Argyll, and also my honoured and lamented Friend, the late Mr. W. E. Forster. Then, again, there is another distinguished man who, although he never obtained Cabinet rank, holds a position which, in my opinion, is quite equivalent to Cabinet rank—the present Governor General of Canada (the Marquess of Lansdowne). When the right hon. Gentleman attempted to form the present Government, his most distinguished Colleague, the noble Marquess the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington), refused to join him, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) made a sacrifice such as was never made before by any public man. My right hon. and learned Friend declined the highest honour of his Profession, because he could not concur in the Irish policy of the Prime Minister. Since the House met, other Colleagues have left the right hon. Gentleman—the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), the right hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan), and the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Heneage), not to speak of others who held minor appointments in the Government. Now, Sir, I think the question that we shall have to decide after Easter is—Whether, under the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman, the House is to break up the Empire? [Cries of "No, no!"] I repeat that the question we shall have to decide is the disruption of the Empire. The hon. Member for Bradford who has just sat down, says that the people of Lancashire and Yorkshire are prepared to support the right hon. Gentleman in that suicidal policy. The hon. Gentleman speaks for Yorkshire, and I should prefer that some other hon. Member who represents Lancashire should speak for that great county, which, I believe, sends a majority of its Members to this aide of the House. Personally, I have 1846 not the honour to be able to speak either for Lancashire or Yorkshire; but, humble as I am, I speak for a great constituency, the greatest commercial constituency in the world, and I can only say that, at a meeting recently held, the most distinguished men in that constituency, many of them warm supporters during all their lives of the right hon. Gentleman, came together to protest against this scheme, and I have already had the honour of presenting the Petition which they drew up. I have to thank the House for having permitted me to make these observations, and I would earnestly appeal to every man who loves his country, and wishes it to remain what it has always been, to oppose this suicidal policy of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR HENRY MEYSEY-THOMPSON (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
Perhaps I may be allowed, as representing an agricultural constituency, to point out one thing in the Bill now before the House. Many hon. Gentlemen seem to think that the Irish landlords will receive 20 years' purchase upon the rent; but, having been a buyer as well as a seller of land, I know that in England, when we talk of a certain number of years' purchase, we mean that number of years' purchase of the gross rental, making no deduction for anything except fixed burdens; while in this case it is proposed to make, in addition to the fixed burdens, a further deduction of 20 per cent for rates and taxes, cost of collection, bad debts, and other matters. Therefore, if the rental of an estate amounts to £1,000, after deducting 20 per cent. in addition to the fixed burdens, the owner would receive not £20,000, but £16,000, which is only 16 years' purchase. Consequently, according to English calculation, the Irish landlords, under this Bill, will receive 16, and not 20, years' purchase upon the rent of the property.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth), told the House that Lancaster and Yorkshire are in favour of the Irish policy of the Prime Minister. As a Representative of a Lancashire constituency, I am prepared to say that if that county were polled upon this question, I, for one, should feel no doubt as to the answer it would give. We have been told that the elections in Lanca- 1847 shire were carried by the Irish vote, and that the Conservatives who were returned are bound, in gratitude to support so-called concessions to Ireland; but I challenge any hon. Member to find any Conservative Representative for a Lancashire constituency who will say that, at the last Election, there was any colour for the supposition that there was the slightest tendency displayed on either side in any Lancashire constituency towards any step calculated to impair the unity of the Empire. I can certainly speak with confidence on behalf of my own constituency. A Liberal candidate contested one of the seats; but he insisted earnestly upon the necessity of maintaining the Union between Great Britain and Ireland. I am quite sure that if any candidate had come forward with the opposite policy he would not have polled anything like the number of votes which the gentleman who opposed me on that occasion did. It is somewhat difficult to speak off-hand upon the measure which has been put before us by the Prime Minister to-night; but I think we must all feel that he has placed this intricate scheme before us in a very clear and distinct manner. Those questions which bear upon the details of the Bill as a scheme for expatriating the agricultural landlords of Ireland have already been dealt with by previous speakers. The point I wish to call attention to—and it is the only justification put forward for bringing in such a Bill—is that the Prime Minister and his Colleagues feel it quite impossible to trust the Irish Parliament to deal fairly with the owners of land in that country. I think it is to be regretted that the Prime Minister should have introduced his argument by the long retrospect into the past history of Ireland by which it was prefaced. We have heard a reference to ancient history deprecated, and I cannot help thinking that a reference to anything which is calculated to arouse passions which we all would wish to see buried, and feelings which we hope may subside in the course of time, is much to be deprecated. The reason I desire to call attention to this point is that I think such a course tends to make people lose sight of the real ground on which alone this Bill can be supported. It is not on account of the past history of the relations between the land- 1848 lords and tenants that the right hon. Gentleman finds it difficult to trust the Parliament of Ireland in dealing with the question of land. There are many other differences in the relations between those who have property and those who pay rent which have a bearing upon the difficulty in Ireland. One point to which I wish to call attention is, that if we cannot trust an Irish Parliament to deal fairly between landlords and those who pay rent in respect of agricultural land, how are we going to trust them in reference to other property? A large part of the capital of Ireland has been spent in building houses, and those who have spent their capital in building houses expect to live on the proceeds of the rent of those houses. This is not an idle speculation; but I find that the same feeling has been excited in those who pay rent for houses as exists among those who pay rent for agricultural land. We already hear that in some of the towns of Ireland, in addition to the National Land League, House Leagues have been formed, and the question has become a subject of reference to a Committee of this House. Then I want to know whether this Parliament is entitled to consider, in dealing with the Irish Question, a scheme for advancing British money for the purpose of expatriating Irish landlords, which, nevertheless, leaves out of consideration this question affecting house property in Ireland? Then, again, this Bill leaves out of sight altogether the case of the manufacturers. I think it is hardly possible for anyone who has spent any time in Ireland to disguise from himself the fact that there is a tendency in many parts to depreciate machinery and those manufactures which are produced by machinery in comparison with what is produced by hand. I happened to be in the county of Donegal for a few days in the autumn of last year, and I found a general impression in the more distant parts of the county that something should be done to encourage the production of articles by hand in preference to those which are produced by machinery. Have the Government taken this matter into consideration? And I would ask, is it right or fair in the Bill now introduced to leave the manufacturers in Ireland wholly unprotected? I think these are very serious 1849 questions which we ought to consider, and to my mind they seem to show the utter hopelessness of the scheme which the Prime Minister has placed before the House. I certainly think that the prospect of carrying the Prime Minister's original scheme has not been increased by the introduction of this second Bill.
§ MR. J. WILSON (Edinburgh, Central)
I think it is only fair to say that the bulk of Scotch Members are, like myself, unpledged to the proposals of the Prime Minister. I myself, and I think most of my Colleagues, have held ourselves in reserve, as I think we were Entitled to do, until we had the text of the Bill in our hands, and full time to consider the details of this great scheme with that minuteness, care, and caution to which the scheme itself is certainly entitled. I desire to speak frankly to the House; I believe that on this important question every Member should speak out from his heart what he believes—whether, on the one side, he disagrees with his Friends, or, on the other, pleases his supposed enemies. In the course of the debate we have been told that the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland was carried by bribery, corruption, and intimidation. I would remind the House that something very much of the same kind may be said with regard to the Act which united Scotland and England. Turning back to the history of that Union I find that it is scarcely possible to discover in the annals of history anything more disgraceful than the means which were employed to bring about that Union. Not only were bribery and corruption resorted to, but throughout Scotland the strongest feelings of anger were created. So much so was that the case, that there was almost a rebellion in consequence. But I am not disposed to go back and tear up the Act of Union simply because it was not carried in the honourable way in which it ought to have been carried, Again, it is stated that during the time of Grattan's Parliament—from 1782 to 1800—Ireland made great commercial progress, and enjoyed great social peace and happiness. Now, I am bound to say that that is entirely untrue. I admit that during the first five or six years of Grattan's Parliament there did appear to be a semblance of prosperity; but if you look into Irish history you will 1850 find that it was an artificial prosperity, caused by the gift of bounties to various classes connected with the commercial interests of the country, and that towards the close of that period there was anything but peace and prosperity in Ireland. If you go back to the date of the Union I maintain that since the Union Ireland has made great advances in material prosperity—much greater than at any period anterior to the Union. If we examine the amount of capital in the country, the savings in the banks, or anything else by which we can test the wealth of a nation, we shall find that Ireland has undoubtedly made great progress since the Union. There is still another unfair argument which almost vexes me more than anything else I have heard. We are constantly spoken to as if the wrongs inflicted upon Ireland in olden times are attributable to this generation. You must not forget that we are not responsible for what Henry II. did, or what Cromwell did; we are only responsible for what has been done in our own day under our own eyes and by ourselves. I appeal to this House whether the living generation of Englishmen or Scotchmen should be charged with unkind dealings towards Ireland? I would ask, is there any country in the world which has shown so much sympathy for Ireland as England and Scotland have done, especially in that period of distress which occurred in 1846, 1847, and 1848? I recollect with pride how British hearts bled for Ireland, and British hands were stretched out to succour her. I do not believe that that feeling towards Ireland has subsided; and, on the contrary, I am satisfied that the feeling of England and Scotland towards Ireland is genuinely kind. Under these circumstances, I am disposed to consider the Bills of the Prime Minister in the most favourable light. Whatever can remove discontent from Ireland, whatever can make her feel that we love her, we should be willing to do. It is not to the interest of Ireland to be disassociated from England. Who are Ireland's best customers now, and who have always been her best customers? Who buys all the Irish butter, bacon, pork, poultry, and eggs? England and Scotland. It is not America. America is supposed to be the bosom friend of Ireland. That is the greatest fallacy that was ever spoken, for America 1851 is Ireland's worst friend, commercially speaking, and if there has been any falling off whatever in Ireland's prosperity and in her agricultural produce, it is entirely owing to the competition of America with Ireland in the special departments of her industry. I therefore say that it is not to the interest of Ireland to associate herself with America as against Great Britain. She would be extremely foolish if she did so; but I am satisfied the Irish people know that—indeed, they cannot avoid knowing it. What would separation from Great Britain mean? At the present moment every Irishman has the run of our Colonies, and there are thousands of young Irishmen, who, energetic as they are, go out to the Colonies and obtain important positions; indeed, at this moment, it is rather a complaint with us Scotchmen that young Irishmen get too many of the good appointments. I am sure, however, that we do not grudge them their success. We are glad to see young Irishmen making a career for themselves, because we know that they are well worthy of all the success which attends them. But, for these reasons, it is not to the interest of Ireland to be separated from Great Britain. Scotchmen are entirely unpledged with regard to this scheme; they are unpledged, because they desire to look at both measures in the most fair and candid way possible. I will not at present say a word about the principle of the two Bills; but as regards the land measure, I am inclined to say that it recommends itself to me more than the Government of Ireland Bill does. I think that the Land Bill, as explained, has many excellent features in it; but if both schemes are to go through, certainly there are some modifications which I should be glad to see introduced into them. I take it that by the time these schemes are toned down and finally settled, we may, without mutilation, endeavour to carry them through Parliament. I hope the Irish Members will try to meet the English and Scotch Members as much as the English and Scotch Members will try to meet them. I believe it is by mutual concession that we must endeavour to carry these schemes through, and I would rather see them carried by a large majority than in a grudging and grumbling spirit. They must be gone into in a kindly spirit and in good faith in order 1852 to insure good results; and I trust that when we come back to this House, after Easter, there will be a sincere effort made to carry both Bills through in a spirit of concilliation and kindness.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), I understand, in his speech this evening, challenged any Irish Member to express his approval of this Bill to-night. Now, of course, we Irish Members have not had the advantage which the right hon. Gentleman has had of a seat in the Cabinet—an advantage which gave him an opportunity of acquiring a more intimate knowledge of the measure we are now discussing than we can have even now, after we have heard it explained by the Prime Minister; and it would be both venturesome and imprudent for any hon. Member in this House, I think, whether Irish, English, Scotch, or Welsh, to express a too positive or too confident opinion with regard to the demerits or merits of this particular measure. In fact, the Prime Minister expressly warned us against forming any very confident judgment until we had seen the Bill; and I intend, with all due deference to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, to take the advice of the Prime Minister with regard to the matter, and to decline the challenge which he has so unnecessarily thrown upon the floor of the House. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of my friend Mr. Michael Davitt in very laudatory terms—terms which that gentleman very well deserves. The right hon. Gentleman also spoke of my friend as if he hoped that he himself might receive some assistance from him in his attitude of rebellion against his late Colleagues. Well, Sir, I venture to think Mr. Davitt will do nothing hastily with regard to this Land Question, or without full consideration, and that, when he does act, he will not act from motives of personal spite or personal jealousy, but that his actions will be dictated by a regard, and a sole regard, for the interests of his country. The right hon. Gentleman is very affectionate towards Mr. Davitt to-night; but he was a Member of the Cabinet which sent Mr. Davitt, a few years back, into all the horrors of penal servitude, and from that time to this the right hon. Gentleman has never raised his voice 1853 against that treatment of Mr. Davitt, either publicly or privately, so far as I know. Well, Sir, I will pass from the right hon. Gentleman by saying generally that, although I cannot be expected to go minutely into the question of the merits of the Bill, or to express any confident opinion with regard to a measure which I have not yet seen in print, and of the details of which I know very little, there are one or two points upon which I think I may speak more fully and more freely, as they appear to me to be pretty clear. I think I may speak generally on the subject of the purchase of land by the State, and more especially on the purchase of land by the State in Ireland. But, first with regard to the appointment of a Receiver General. That certainly seems to me to be a very unnecessary, strange, and absurd proposal. According to the statement which the Prime Minister made to us the other night, it would appear that the receipts from the Customs and Excise in Ireland are to amount annually to within £20,000 of the total sum which will be payable to the Imperial Authority in respect of the charges for the Constabulary and National Debt and other Imperial charges under the Government of Ireland Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, and also in respect of the advance of the £50,000,000 of money contemplated by the Bill. These Imperial charges will amount altogether to £6,200,000. That includes the interest on the Sinking Fund of the £50,000,000 as well as the charges payable to England under the Government of Ireland Bill of the Prime Minister. Well, Sir, the receipts in Ireland from the Customs and Excise amount annually to £6,180,000, or within £20,000 of the total Imperial charges which the Imperial Authority will itself collect, and thus the Imperial Authority will have these receipts entirely under their own charge. They will collect the sums themselves, and nothing but the balance after the Imperial charges have been paid will come to us. Why, then, since the sum collected—£6,180,000—is so very nearly equal, being within £20,000 of the sum collected for Customs and Excise, should you insist, in addition, in appointing a Receiver General to receive all the other Revenue derived from Irish sources, including the rent which it is proposed the Irish Authority shall collect? Would 1854 it not be a sufficient security if you had a lien upon the rent collected by the Irish Authority in the event of the Customs and Excise not proving sufficient for the purpose of meeting the annual Imperial charge of Great Britain? The appointment of a Receiver General would be most offensive in Ireland. It would be an indication that you cannot trust us to hand over to you even so small a sum as £20,000 as an annual payment to which you are entitled. If you were to adopt the suggestion that I made, you would not only have the annual amount collected by the Customs and Excise, but you would have, in addition, the security of the rents annually payable, and all the Revenue which will be levied by the Irish Government. It appears to me that you will have abundant security in these sums, and that there is no necessity to set up an offensive object and source of irritation in the shape of a Receiver General for the purpose of collecting the Irish Revenue before the Irish Government can touch a single penny. In addition to this, Mr. Speaker, there is every reason to suppose that the receipts from Customs and Excise will more than balance the Imperial charges, because we will put in, on the second reading of the Government of Ireland Bill, a claim for the reduction of the Imperial contribution. I have every hope, as I expressed in the debate upon the introduction of that measure, that when the time comes for considering the details of the Bill in Committee, that contribution will be largely decreased, and that, in fact, a sufficient sum will be collected by yourselves, in your own way, for the purpose of paying the expenses of this and the preceding Bill. There is another matter to which I should also like to direct the attention of the House, and that is the question of town parks. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister explained that it was not intended to include town parks within the scope of this Bill. If this Bill should turn out to be a satisfactory one, it would be a great misfortune not to include the purchase of town parks within its purview. Their purchase could not add very largely to the amount of money it would be necessary to advance. To a considerable extent this is a grievance in Ireland, although not a very extensive one, it is true, but still a grievance very 1855 much felt by a class of most respectable men—namely, the traders in the Irish towns; and it is a question which the Prime Minister promised, or held out some hopes to us in former debates, that he would, be able to meet at some future time. If this Bill goes on, I certainly think that the question of town parks is a small affair which might be attended to. With regard to the Bill generally, I should wish to test its main merits by an examination of the clauses which direct the Land Commission how they are to try and value the landlord's interest in the estate offered for sale. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the normal number of years' purchase fixed will be 20 of the net rental, and he explained that the net rental was to be the judicial rent, or in cases where judicial rent was not fixed, such as leaseholds and so forth, the standard of the judicial rent in the particular electoral division. The net rent, he thought, might be calculated by an average reduction of 20 per cent off the judicial rent. He further explained that that was to be the normal—I suppose, by normal, he meant the usual—method adopted in the case of the better class of holdings, and those coming next to the better class of holdings; but in regard to the smaller holdings, other directions will be given to the Land Commission, and they would not only be permitted, but be directed, to adopt a lower standard not fixed in the Bill, but a standard left to their discretion regarding the number of years' purchase in given cases. It must be obvious to everyone that on the nature of these clauses must depend, to a large extent, the efficiency of the Bill for settling this question. It will be impossible for anyone to undertake to express a positive opinion on the matter until he has carefully considered these clauses as they now stand in the draft of the Bill, and the prospect of being able to amend them in Committee. I would desire to lay down this principle, and it is a principle that I have always maintained in the discussions we had in the last Parliament with regard to this question of Land Purchase. I agree with the hon. Member for the Central Division of Edinburgh (Mr. J. Wilson), that our undertakings in regard to these two Bills should be entered into, on both sides, with a determination to keep them, and with a determination that 1856 they shall be kept; and if any attempt is made hereafter to repudiate them, that they shall be enforced. Any other view, intention, or idea on the part of any Irishman would be most dishonest. I should say, however, that if the payments required from the tenants under this Bill, in discharge of instalments and the annual payment of interest under the Bill, are such as the tenant would have a fair chance—taking one year with another, and having regard to the very depressed condition of agriculture in Ireland—of being able to meet; if this Bill satisfies these conditions, we, the Irish Members, may confidently accept it, and give it our approval, and you English and Scotch Members may confidently support it in the firm confidence that no attempt hereafter will be made to upset the arrangement or repudiate the obligations. But if too high a price is to be given to the landlords, if their interests are to be valued at such a sum as to render it possible—I will not say probable—that the tenants might find themselves unable to meet their obligations to the State hereafter, then I do not think that we, the Irish Members, could honourably accept the measure, or that we should be justified, by any sort of regard for the interests of our constituencies, if we were to attempt to do so. Certainly I do not think that English and Scotch Members would support the measure under such circumstances. But if we accept this measure, we should be most dishonest if we attempted to repudiate or to upset any arrangement which was entered into deliberately between the freely-elected Representatives of the people of the three countries. Then we should also bear in mind another question connected with this subject. I do not think that either side to the dispute—either the landlords on the one side, or the tenants on the other—should be too exacting. I think they should endeavour to meet each other. It is evident that a fair solution on the lines of some Land Purchase Bill would materially facilitate the settlement of the question of Irish autonomy. It will, in my opinion, remove one of the principal barriers to its settlement which has hitherto existed on the part of a certain class in Ireland—the landlords. I doubt very much whether Irish landlords, as a rule, will appreciate very much the attitude which appears 1857 to have been taken up by the Conservative Party to-night on this question of Land Purchase, or whether they will thank very much their self-chosen champions for flying in the face of the largest offer which has yet been made to the Irish landlords to enable them to extricate themselves from their position when they find that they are to be dragged at the tail of the Tory Party, and that, on the principle of any stick being good enough to beat a dog with, the interests of the Irish landlords are to be sacrificed in order that a weapon may be shaped for flagellating the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party. I am inclined to think that many of the Irish landlords will feel considerable doubt as to the wisdom of their self-constituted champions, and that, perhaps, even the ardour of those hon. Gentlemen who term themselves the Ulster Members will be somewhat cooled when they see the dismay which their opposition to this Bill awakens in the breasts of the poorer Irish landlords. But our view is not that we should make a Party question of this measure. Our view is that we should approach it with a give-and-take line of action—that we should give way as much as we can, so that by yielding as much as possible of the interests of the tenants of Ireland, provided we do not unduly load or overweight them, and by yielding so much to the interests of the landlords as will enable us to clear the decks, we may in the end arrive at a satisfactory settlement of the question of Irish autonomy, and also be enabled to settle once for all this troublesome and difficult question of Irish Land Purchase. I believe, if the Conservative Party should succeed in throwing out this Bill, that the offer will not be repeated in a hurry, and that it will be exceedingly probable that the attempt of the Prime Minister to let them down as easily as he can by the help of English credit will not be renewed; that the Government of Ireland Bill by itself will then be pressed forward; and that, even if the Lords should throw it out at once, both the Irish and the English landlords will see reason before many months have elapsed to repent their ill-advised action.
§ MR. MATHER (Salford, S.)
Before the debate closes, I desire the House to understand that the great county of Lancashire is not all of one voice and 1858 mind in reference to this important question. No doubt, the policy of the Government has been opposed very forcibly by the noble Marquess the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington), not only in this House, but upon a public platform in another place, and it has also been opposed in a very loud voice by the hon. Member for the borough of Burnley (Mr. Rylands), another Lancashire Member; but, nevertheless, I wish the House and the Irish Members to understand that Lancashire on this question is by no means of one mind. Although it is perfectly true that hon. Members opposite may claim for the moment to have a majority in the county of Lancaster, yet I must remind them that the victory they achieved there was owing almost entirely to the co-operation they received from the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his friends. Hon. Gentlemen opposite must understand that we on this side intend most honestly, earnestly, cordially, and conscientiously to support the Prime Minister in the great efforts he has made, before the close of his great career, to unite in the true spirit of unity the people of Great Britain and Ireland. Hon. Gentlemen opposite must not suppose that that spirit and feeling have not been exhibited largely in the county of Lancaster, both among the county constituencies as well as those of the boroughs. No one regrets more deeply and sincerely than myself the dark cloud which has come over this side of the House in consequence of the division which has occurred between the Liberal Leaders; but I hope that I see an indication of a silver lining to that cloud in the tone of the speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), especially in the remarks he made just before he closed his speech in reference to the regard he entertains for the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who is so deservedly honoured by the whole of the Liberal Party. I should not be surprised to find during long adjournment of the House, when the country will have to discuss the matter on many platforms, that the right hon. Gentleman will feel it his duty to draw somewhat more nearly to the Prime Minister, and make his action in harmony with the peroration of his speech. An attempt has been 1859 made to prove to hon. Members from Ireland that this proposal would involve great hardships upon them, and that it would be impossible in future to command the assent of the Irish people. That is an argument which follows very much the line taken by the Leader of the Opposition when he tried, with regard to the Government of Ireland Bill, to minimize the advantages which the Irish people would receive under it. I have come to the conclusion that both the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham and the Leader of the Opposition were trying to prove too much. Liberal Members must bear in mind that, after they have consulted their own consciences on this question, they have only to satisfy hon. Members from Ireland, who, in the course of this Session at least, have shown something of the sober and serious earnestness of responsible statesmen. The Irish Members have endeavoured to meet these propositions in a reasonable manner, and they have declared by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), their Leader, that they accept these two Bills, not with a view of obtaining further concessions, but in order to conciliate their opponents and preserve the unity of the Empire. If this Bill becomes law, it will be no longer possible for the enemies of Great Britain to point to a rotten spot, and say that the sympathies of Ireland are not with us. Wherever Englishmen have appeared in any part of the world Irishmen have been found acting shoulder to shoulder with them, displaying the same courage and determination. But the Union which hon. Members opposite pretend to prize so much has never been a real Union at all. I care nothing for an Act of Union which is a mere document, because no parchment provisions can bring about mutual goodwill between the two countries. The only Union that can exist between people in any part of the world is a Union based upon common objects, mutual goodwill, and a determination to stand or fall together. You may bring about a so-called peace; but so long as it is not a real peace you will have nothing but strife and disturbances. The cry of hon. Gentlemen opposite for the maintenance of the Union and the integrity of the Empire is only an attempt to catch votes, while Ireland continues as a difficulty in our midst. In my opi- 1860 nion, we are on the eve of great Constitutional changes which will bring about mutual goodwill. I have no faith in those politicians or in that Party who declare that Irishmen are incapable of keeping their word, or of doing that which all countries responsible to mankind for their acts are incapable of doing. Self-preservation is the first law of nature. All that this Bill proposes is that some of the powers of the Imperial Parliament should be delegated to the Irish Parliament, and that the Irish people should be trusted with a certain degree of self-government. We have never yet tried as a panacea for the wrongs and injuries of Ireland the plan of conferring responsible government upon the Irish people. I believe it is that principle which alone can give strength to Ireland, and it is by that tie alone that an indissoluble connection will be cemented between the two countries. I trust that during the Recess the question will be discussed on every platform with a real desire to find the true solution of the crying evils from which we have all so long suffered. I do not expect from hon. Gentlemen opposite much sympathy in the remarks I have made. Those hon. Gentlemen should, however, recollect that they are ever on the losing side. They are not known in history for having removed any of the disabilities from which any class of the people have suffered. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir Robert Fowler) has referred to the Prime Minister in language which, if the hon. Member did not accompany his words with that genial expression of good humour which always characterizes him, I should have thought was extremely insulting language to apply to a man who had proved himself to be not only a distinguished patriot, but one who had done more for the people of Ireland than any man living. I am perfectly certain of this—that whatever the Liberal Party have done in the past has been for the benefit of the whole country. If we appear for a moment to be disunited, I believe it is possible that during the discussion which must take place in the next few weeks we shall be able to come once more to a common standing ground, and that we shall be able to offer to Parliament a solution of this great Irish problem; putting aside all minor differences, relying on the Prime 1861 Minister with full confidence, and presenting ourselves to the country once more as a really united Party. In that case I think we shall be able to give that support to the Prime Minister which will enable him to carry these very wise measures through Parliament.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT (Sussex, North-West)
At this late hour of the night I will not detain the House for more than a few minutes; but when I heard the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Mather) say that we are perfectly ready to believe all the assurances which hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway make, I felt bound to regard that statement with some reservation. It is only reasonable and right that we should accept the statements which hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have made themselves; and that is the reason why hon. Members sitting on this side of the Gangway are absolutely and diametrically opposed to hon. Gentlemen sitting below. Hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway have for their great object, and I think they will not deny that they have said so—the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) will not I think deny it—they have for their great object, their main object, and their sole object, the bringing about of a separation, between England and Ireland. [Cries of "No!"] Then what was the meaning of the words of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork when, a very short time ago, he stated, and stated distinctly in this House—"Let us get this plan of Home Rule. Never mind the details; we can fill up the details afterwards." [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen to laugh; but this is no laughing matter—I am as anxious to secure the interests of my country, and perhaps a good deal more anxious than many hon. Gentlemen who have not a very large stake in Ireland. My main object is to maintain the honour, the dignity, and the welfare of the United Kingdom; and I will venture to say that by establishing a Parliament on College Green that object will be entirely frustrated. A bribe has been held out to-night. [Cries of "No!"] Yes; it is a bribe, and the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would never have proposed a measure such as that which he has proposed to-night if he could have trusted the Irish Members to carry out that which he knows ought 1862 to be carried out in the interests of the landowning class in Ireland. I would ask hon. Members below the Gangway whether it is not their object to destroy landlordism in Ireland? Has it not been their object to turn the landlords out of Ireland? [Cries of "No!"] No; why, your great object has been to take away their property from them. Your desire has been to reduce the land to prairie value, and not pay the landlords the full value of their property; and I believe there is a noble Lord who, as a Member of the present Government—I mean Lord Spencer—never would have consented to concede Home Rule unless it was accompanied by such a measure as that which has been introduced to-night for the payment—and the fair and reasonable payment—if this Bill contains, which I doubt, a fair and reasonable payment—of the Irish landlords. I believe it will not be denied that the great object of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant is to get the Irish Members out of Westminster. That was the principal object he had in view when he accepted Office as Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. [Mr. JOHN MORLEY: No.] It was the great object of the right hon. Gentleman that no Irishman should have a seat in this House. Is that not so? The right hon. Gentleman cannot deny it, and he did not deny it the other day, when he made a very lame and halting statement with regard to the character of the Irish Members in this House. The right hon. Gentleman has stated most distinctly that so long as the Irish Members have a seat in this House there will be no business done. The right hon. Gentleman said that at Chelmsford; indeed, it was the pith and marrow of his statement, as far as I was able to understand it; and to gain that object he is willing to sacrifice a Union which has been the greatest blessing to the country; a Union which has made us the great nation we are; and a Union which has brought into our ranks from all classes in Ireland men who have in the highest manner distinguished themselves. Even the Prime Minister himself said that the two countries are so closely entwined together that they cannot be separated without a great wrench. The Prime Minister, in introducing this Bill to-night, is going to do that which, 1863 if his proposal is accepted, will be the greatest wrench that Ireland could possibly sustain. He proposes to get rid of the landlords of Ireland, and destroy all that capital has ever done for Ireland. Nothing that Irishmen can do themselves will succeed in attracting capital to their shores; and, therefore, I venture to say that getting rid of the landlords and the landowning class out of Ireland is one of the worst things that could happen to the country. Personally, I am opposed to the whole scheme of the Prime Minister. I have said that wherever I have been, and I say it again to-night. I am one of those who have the best wishes for, and the greatest anxiety to promote, the welfare of Ireland. I feel, however, that coercion would never have been applied in that country unless the Irish people had disobeyed the law. When Irishmen disobey the law; when the ordinary law fails; when juries refuse to convict; when it becomes necessary to change the venue, then, I say, it is time in any civilized country to introduce measures for enforcing the law. It is only because the present Government have not done their duty, but have allowed the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his Friends, many of whom I respect for the honest and straightforward statements they make—to disobey the law that this measure has been brought in. I desired the other night—and I several times rose for that purpose—to enter my protest against the statement of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that he could only wish to renew the Arms Act in order to repress the loyal population of the North of Ireland; but I failed to obtain the opportunity of doing so. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman had made a statement which he would afterwards bitterly repent; because, with all her faults, the North of Ireland has been loyal to this country for generations, and we are bound by every means in our power to protect that loyal population from any disaster which is likely to befall them at the instance of any other part of the country. So long as I have a seat in this House, so long as I have a voice in it, while I wish to help Ireland by every legitimate means in my power, I shall never hesitate to express my view that the first duty of every man who has his country's interest at heart is to maintain 1864 the Union between the two Islands, and to do nothing in the slightest degree to weaken that Union, which has so long been a source of strength to both countries.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Londonderry, S.)
I do not intend to say anything on the general question after the speeches which have been made to-night; but, as the Representative of a county which is largely owned by London Companies, I should like to have a distinct explanation of the views of the Government towards those London Companies with regard to this Bill. Almost half of my constituents live on land which was confiscated 250 years ago, and given over in trust to a number of gentlemen resident in London for the small sum of money they had raised to help the armaments of this country at that time. We hold in Ireland that these Guilds have entirely forfeited their trust by the way in which they have racked and harried their tenants; and surely we are not now going to give millions of money out of the pockets of the British taxpayer to these guzzlers of champagne and turtle soup. I trust that we are not going to take away the money of the Irish people and of the British taxpayer in order to devote it to fattening the Aldermen of the City of London. I think, therefore, that the County of Londonderry is entitled to receive very special treatment under the Bill. I do not intend to say a word as to the general principles of the Bill; I intend to wait until I have seen the Bill itself; but we have good reason to be surprised that there should have been no recognition whatever of that peculiar form of landlordism which exists in the County Derry, and which is represented by the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London. After the Report of the London Guilds, and the long inquiry into the resources of the Corporation of London, I should not have been surprised if the Government had touched upon that subject in this Bill, seeing that some of the staunchest supporters of the Prime Minister are to be found among the Presbyterians in the North of Ireland. Those men have given their time and the sweat of their brow to making the land fertile, and in carrying out important improvements; but the only return they get from the London Companies is to be rack-rented and harried on every occasion. I asked 1865 a question on Thursday last of the Chief Secretary for Ireland with regard to a certain school in the County of Londonderry—not a Catholic, but a Protestant school. I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether anything was going to be done in the shape of bringing pressure to bear upon the London Companies to induce them to convert that miserable hovel, in which 80 children are educated, into something like a decent habitation? The answer I received was that the Government, on their part, were doing their best; but that the sum which the Drapers' Company spent upon that school, which is upon their estate, was the munificent sum of £10 per annum. The City Companies spend comparatively little in proportion to the rent upon their estates. [Cries of "Oh!"] I know, of course, that the Irish Society spend considerable sums at Coleraine; but they are bound to do that. I admit, however, that, as far as the Irish Society is concerned, it does something there; but, as far as the general body of the London Companies is concerned, they well deserve their name of the "Salters" and the "Skinners." There is a very strong belief entertained in the County of Londonderry that whatever England owes by way of compensation or restitution to the general body of landlords in Ireland for being her garrison in the North it owes nothing whatever to the Corporation of the City of London, who have done nothing for her, except drink champagne at her expense. [Sir ROBERT FOWLER: They have established private schools.] Yes; probably £10 a-year, like the Drapers' Company. I maintain that the position of the London Companies is a total different one, as landlords, from that of the general body of proprietors in Ireland; and I think it is really time that some distinction should be drawn between the different classes of landlords in Ireland. The Government do not want to reduce anyone to penury. But it cannot be pretended that any of the young ladies in the families of the London Companies will have to go out to teach the piano, and no one would ever dream of engaging the worthy Aldermen of the City of London as governesses anywhere. I trust we shall have some serious intimation from the Government that this long-continued iniquity—because it is nothing less than 1866 an iniquity, in the face of the Charters granted to these Bodies—shall not be allowed to continue. Of course, this is not the place for entering into the general question; but we have strong legal opinion that these Companies have long since forfeited all right and title to the estates they hold, in consequence of not having kept the terms of their trust. Their Charters ought no longer to be recognized; and, therefore, on all these grounds, these gentlemen should be boldly divorced from the property. I do not say that the tenants in all cases should have the lands of the Companies without paying something for them; but I think there is no part of Ireland where such vast improvements have been made by the Irish tenants as on the estates of the London Companies. They have, I may say, brought the soil into a state of fertility, and something ought to be done to place them in a better position than they now occupy. The Government certainly ought not to allow the system of landlordism represented by these Companies to continue. I therefore trust that in the present Bill a strong line of demarcation will be drawn between the landlords who exist in the flesh and the landlords who exist only in the Seals and Charters of the City of London, and who have done absolutely nothing for the country, except, perhaps, to contribute by their evictions towards the poorhouse and the gaol.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS (Lancashire, S.W., Newton)
I think it is important that the House should have the Bill in their hands as soon as possible; and, therefore, for the convenience of hon. Members, I would like to know when it is probable that the Bill will be circulated?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. JOHN MORLEY) (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
The Bill is in a very forward condition indeed, and I have great hopes that it will be in the hands of hon. Members by Monday morning.
§ Question put.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. GLADSTONE, Mr. Secretary CHILDERS, Mr. JOHN MORLEY, and Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 193.]