§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [19th August.]—[See page 96.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
Many of the objections which have been felt by us (the Irish Members) to the terseness of the Queen's Speech have been considerably removed by the character of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Randolph Churchill). The noble Lord's speech was one of the most remarkable that has ever been delivered in this House. It was full, clear, and was, I think, the most significant expression of the policy of the Government; and I shall suggest some reasons why, in my opinion, Members, especially on this of the House, will be wanting in their duty to their constituents if they do not subject that speech to the most searching and prompt criticism and discussion. Before I advert to the policy of the Government, let me congratulate the noble Lord on the fact that he is in the grand position of being entirely independent of the support of the Orange tail of the Tory Party in this House. We endeavoured to bring the Tory Party into that position last November. We did not succeed. The Liberal Unionists have succeeded where we failed, and they have made the noble Lord entirely independent even of the hon. and gallant Colonel the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson), whose patronage he found so unwelcome. The noble Lord has not been slow to inform the House of his emancipation. There was almost a scream of liberty and exultation in the emphasis with which the noble Lord separated himself from the Orange Party. He gave warning, in terms of unmistakable and admirable clearness, to the rioters of Belfast that, even although they did belong to the Orange brethren, they would be required to desist from murder and plunder even by a Tory Administration. The noble Lord must have been very pleased 171 to have been able to turn his back on the Orange Party with such rapidity and emphasis, and to give the world another remarkable proof of that versatility which is one of his greatest characteristics. But, although we are bound to congratulate the noble Lord on his liberation, we cannot forget some of the incidents in connection with the Orange riots, and the speeches of the Orangemen of Belfast. I do not want to raise any controversy with regard to the past, which can be buried with decency and decorum; but the noble Lord cannot have been surprised at the laughter with which the statement was received on these Benches—that the Government intend to make a searching inquiry into the origin of the Belfast riots. The origin of the Belfast riots goes pretty far back, but I will not go further back than this—that the speeches of the noble Lord are the real origin of them. When we read those appalling accounts of men murdering their fellow-men in the name of religion, of men plundering houses and attacking women and children, we cannot forget that this is arude translation into fact by the Orangemen of Ulster of those appeals which came from the noble Lord. The noble Lord spoke of the loss of 25 lives. I have no hesitation in saying that every man who has lost his life in those riots was a dupe and a victim of the noble Lord. Unfortunately, the bad example of the noble Lord was followed by some Members of his Party, and, I regret to say, by some Members even of Liberal Party. In the last Parliament the Orangemen of Belfast were told that the moment a shot was fired against them the sympathy of this country would be on their side. It was language like that which encouraged the Orangemen to shoot down not merely their fellow-subjects, but also the armed forces of the Crown. We cannot forget that an hon. Gentleman otherwise unknown to fame, who now sits for Aston Manor (Mr. Kynoch) announced, during his Election campaign, that he was willing to supply as many rifles and cartridges as the Orangemen required. I do not know if the hon. Gentleman was as good as his word; but what would be the feelings of this House if they should discover that some of the cartridges and rifles found in the streets of Belfast were supplied by a Tory Member? The noble Lord gave us a most charming picture of the state 172 of Ireland. Everything seems to be going on very well except in Belfast and the county of Kerry. But how does that picture contrast with the one which appeared in Tory speeches and addresses during the General Election? Several of the hon. Gentlemen on those Benches declared to the constituencies of England that in Ireland murder and crime were stalking unchecked through the land, life was entirely insecure, and there was such a state of anarchy that it required a resolute Government which knew its own mind and did not require to resort to Commissions. If the state of Ireland is as Tory candidates described it at the General Election, the Government are criminally responsible in delaying one hour in bringing in legislation to put an end to it; but if that description made to the country was false and incorrect, then the noble Lord, or some other Member of the Tory Party, ought to get up and apologize to the people of Ireland for having slandered them, and to the people of England for having deceived them. The noble Lord informs us that one of his many Commissions is to inquire into "Boycotting" and intimidation in Ireland, and that the "sign post," the general basis of the Government policy with regard to Ireland, is that between Ireland and England there should be similarity and equality and simultaneity. Very well. But if there is to be a Commission to inquire into intimidation and "Boycotting," then it ought to apply to the whole of the United Kingdom; not merely into the proceedings of the National League in Ireland, but also into the proceedings of the Primrose League in England. During the last Election in England, "Boycotting" and intimidation were carried on by the Tory Party to an extent unprecedented and unparalleled; and so much was this the case, that I think I represent almost the consensus of opinion, at least among the Liberal Party, in saying that the question was being seriously considered whether they should not require a large change in the electoral legislation of this country; whether they were not bound to protect the labourer from re quests that amounted to commands from his landlord, the shopkeeper from the visits of the dames and squires of the Primrose League, who accompanied a request for votes with threats of a re- 173 moval of custom; and further whether, in order to secure anything approaching freedom of election, canvassing should not be made entirely illegal. Therefore, I say that if the noble Lord will only apply his principle of similarity and equality and simultaneity, we shall welcome the Commission. What is the policy of the Government? The hon. and learned Gentleman who seconded the Address (Mr. Maclean) summed it up with great simplicity—all the Government had to do was to follow the old French saying—"J'y suis; J'yreste;" as if the duty of Ministers was confined to drawing their quarter's salary. The Government seemed satisfied to pursue a policy of that description; but I should expect that even a Tory Ministry supposes it is sent into Office to re-dress grievances and remove abuses. The hon. and learned Gentleman to whom I have just alluded said that the verdict of the constituencies was final and irrevocable on the point that the Union in its existing form should be maintained. That proposition I entirely deny; and also that we have on these Benches a certain number of Gentlemen called Liberal Unionists, and that they went to the constituencies on the cry that the Union, in its existing form, should be maintained. Was it not their cry, rather, that they were in favour of large modifications of the existing Union? They only stopped short at the point reached by the Prime Minister's proposals. Aye, even Members of the Tory Party went considerable lengths in their demand for modification. As a matter of fact, there is not a section of this House which was elected on the principle of maintaining the Union in its existing position; and several sections of the House were elected on the distinct principle of making ample modifications. The hon. and learned Gentleman, first having mistaken the character of the verdict, went on, as I before observed, most mistakenly to say that it was final and irrevocable. The main charge against the late Prime Minister was that he had sprung Home Rule on the country, giving it little time to consider and discuss the proposal. But the Home Rule scheme was subject to the strong opposition of the united Tory Party, and to the misfortune of a divided and disrupted Liberal Party; and, in addition to that combi- 174 nation against it, the evil effect of the coupling with it the system of land purchase; and it is to the hatred and dislike of the system of land purchase proposed, or, rather, the hatred of the Irish landlords, which is now as prominent in English as in Irish feeling, that much may be laid for the defeat of Home Rule. In reference to this matter, I would call the attention of the House to the astonishing character of the vote in favour of the late Prime Minister—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. There were 1,338,718 votes in agreement with the scheme, and the voting against the policy amounted to 1,416,472. And, Sir, I would venture to say that never was a great proposal of Reform, under circumstances of so much difficulty, accorded such a large amount of support. Well, the decision of the country is final and irrevocable say hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side; but, Sir, what did the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) commit himself to in reference to this matter—to the statement that any policy of Reform which was accepted by the majority of the Liberal Party, although it might be temporarily postponed, yet it could never be finally defeated. Will the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale, or any man in this House, venture to contend that the policy of the late Prime Minister was rejected by the majority of the constituencies, and was not accepted by the overwhelming majority of the Liberal Party? Therefore, I say, Sir, acting upon the example of the noble Marquess, Home Rule, though rejected by the majority of the constituencies, is accepted by the majority of the Liberal Party in England. The late Prime Minister's policy may be postponed; but the verdict against it is not final or irrevocable, and the verdict that has been given, Sir, is one which very soon will be entirely reversed. Furthermore, the question of Home Rule was voted upon by England, by Scotland, by Wales, and by Ireland. Scotland decided in favour of it; Wales decided in favour of it; Ireland decided in favour of it—that is to say, three out of the four countries decided in favour of it, and but one country gave a vote against it, and that not of a very excessive character; and I think, Sir, it is a little too sanguine on the part of the Tory Party to assume 175 that the policy which three out of four countries largely supported is a policy finally and irrevocably defeated. A point, Sir, entirely forgotten apparently is that the question put to the constituencies was simply the question how Ireland should be governed; and I submit, on the question of the rule of Ireland in the future, that the verdict of Ireland herself is the most potent. The right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) stated, in 1866 or 1867, that he held, with regard to the Government of Ireland, the principle which every Liberal held with regard to that and every other country, that such a form of Government as the majority of the Irish people demanded the majority should receive. Hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House informed the constituencies of England that the representation of Ireland in that Parliament had been filched by the National Party from the Irish people by intimidation, "Boycotting," and means of that nature; and even yet, notwithstanding the repudiation of the noble Lord the Chanceller of the Exchequer, the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh is still prepared to assert that proposition. The way to test the truth of such an utterance was to go to the constituencies at the polls. Why did not the Party who made such accusations send their men to the polls, the only test of the accuracy of what they had insinuated and declared? Hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House had the more pleasing duty of instructing the English electors and the Scotch electors. However, Sir, the fact is that the verdict of Ireland has been given for the second time, and by four-fifths of the Representatives of the Irish people. By that verdict every Irishman and every Liberal ought to be prepared to stand. These are a few of the reasons why I cannot consider correct the statement that the issue of the Elections is final or irrevocable. The noble Lord who leads the Government had declared his policy with regard to the Land Question at considerable length; and I am glad to say that, without infringing the Rules of the House, I think that I can illustrate the declarations of the noble Lord on the subject by other declarations which should be considered in connection with them. First, Sir, regarding the judi- 176 cial rents, for example. There is a strange contradiction in much of the policy of the Government. The judicial rents are so sacred that they shall be maintained against all comers. The police shall be sent in strength; the soldiers shall be supplied in any amount to maintain them—aye, even if there is not a vestige of crime in Ireland; but the tenant merely makes a refusal to pay rent. In that event the noble Lord has said that the House should be called together, and the Government would ask it to give them the power to put into gaol every man unable or unwilling to pay the last farthing he has in the world. But, Sir, scarcely had the noble Lord finished his declaration with regard to the immutability of the sacredness of the judicial rents, when he went on to declare that a Commission of Inquiry and Examination, with the object of finding out whether those judicial rents were or were not sacred, was to be established. The words are—The Commissioners will be appointed to inquire to what extent, if any, and in what parts of Ireland the operation of the Land Act of 1881 is without effect, either by combination to resist the enforcement of legal obligations, or by exceptional circumstances.And so on. The pleasing duty of this Commission is to inquire if the judicial rents are rack rents or impossible rents. The policy is illogical, Sir, and unwise. It is illogical, because it declares, in one breath, that judicial rents are fixed and immutable, and, in the next, that they are matters of legitimate reformatory inquiry. It is unwise, Sir, because the Commission suggested will not meet before the end of next spring. Next spring, Sir, it is intended to report if the judicial rents are rents that can be paid by the tenantry of Ireland. Sir, everybody knows that by that time the question will have been settled. The crisis in Ireland, Sir, comes next November. The fall in the value of agricultural produce which is to be inquired into at the end of next spring exists, Sir, at the present moment. Already, Sir, the decline in the value of produce has proved that the judicial rents are impossible of payment; and, Sir, what satisfaction to the Irish tenant, thrown out to perish by the roadside in November, because he was unable to pay an impossible rent, is it to be informed that, had he held out a little longer, he would 177 not have been asked to pay that impossible rent? Before the policy is able to be carried out at the end of next spring, Sir, there will be many a man and woman and child far beyond the reach of any relief that legislation can give. When the shivering farmer, Sir, is lying by the roadside, when his home is broken up, and his wife and children in the graveyard close by, what satisfaction will it be to him to be told that the rent, which cost him his home and laid low his wife and his children, was a rent which the Commission of Inquiry declared to be beyond his power of paying? This means, Sir, that the judicial rents are acknowledged by implication to be too high, for they are the subject of inquiry for a Commission; and the failure to pay that rent, whether it be high or low, whether it be just or unjust, will cause the tenant to be driven out on the roadside. The noble Lord was courageous enough to quote the late Prime Minister in proof of the statement that the judicial rents under the Land Act of 1881 were final. Sir, the late Prime Minister never committed himself to the statement that the Land Act was the last word to be said on the Irish Land Question. What he stated was that he declined at that time further to disturb social order in Ireland so completely as the Irish Members seemed to demand. The noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale is quoted by the noble Lord the Leader of the House of Commons as saying that the Land Act of 1881, as regards the dual ownership, was only a modus vivendi; but the noble Marquess himself was a very important Member of the Ministry which passed the Land Act of 1881. How, then, can he be quoted as saying that the Land Settlement was only a modus vivendi, and, at the same time, as an authority for saying that it was the final and last settlement of the Liberal Party? We must take the noble Marquess as a responsible Member of the Government of the late Prime Minister in 1881, and his words must be taken as showing and proving that the Land Act was not final. Accordingly, if the noble Marquess is a testimony, we have a right to call upon him in favour of our statement that neither the judicial rents, nor anything else in the Act of 1881, were regarded as final by the Government of that day. Take the nature of 178 the clauses with regard to the judicial rent. The main provision shows that it was not meant to be final. Everybody knows that the judicial rent was fixed for a term of 15 years. Does not that mean that the rental was not regarded as an immutable thing which, under no change of circumstances, or times, or character, could be altered? When the late Prime Minister fixed the term of the judicial rent at 15 years, he meant to declare that the judicial rent should be subject to revision. If we are able to show that a revolutionary change of circumstances has occurred in Ireland since the Land Act was passed, we have a right to ask this House, fairly and frankly, to consider the question whether the period of revision was not fixed at too long a date, and whether circumstances have not occurred since which justify us in demanding that that term shall be largely curtailed. The judicial rents, however, should not, according to the noble Lord—and he was careful in saying it—be lowered. Whatever occurs, the landlord is to be saved. It may be at the cost of hundreds of thousands of Irish homes, at the cost of thousands of Irish lives, of millions of Irish money; but the landlords of Ireland must be saved. That is a portion of the policy of the Government I have a right to commend to the serious attention of the Liberal Leaders. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Maclean) speaks of the verdict against Home Rule being final and irrevocable; but there were two verdicts given—there were two things on which the constituencies pronounced. They pronounced upon the question of Home Rule, but they also pronounced upon the question of Land Purchase; and of the two verdicts that upon the question of Land Purchase was, by a great deal, the more emphatic. Do I not state the notorious facts of the case when I say that many hon. Gentlemen on the Liberal Benches were forced by their constituents to declare that they would never risk a penny of English money for the sake of the Irish landlords? If the verdict against Home Rule was irrevocable and so final, what shall we say to the verdict on the question of Land Purchase? I am not saying this in a spirit of controversy. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laugh; but I am not dealing at present with any point that concerns them. It is a little family quarrel we have to 179 settle on this side. Do we not recollect the fact that the main argument of a considerable number of Liberal Unionists against the late Prime Minister was his Land Purchase proposal; and who forgets the eloquent, impassioned, and potent language in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph. Chamberlain) called upon all classes and sections of the population in England and Scotland, and Ireland and Wales, to rise against the Home Rule proposals of the Prime Minister because of his land proposals? The Irish farmer was implored not to pay too much money for his land under the scheme of the late Prime Minister. The Scotch crofter was asked to contrast the generosity of the late Prime Minister to the Irish landlord with his niggardliness towards the Scotch crofter. The artizan, heavily burdened as he was with taxation, was asked not to put himself under fresh burdens by adopting the proposals of the late Prime Minister attached to Home Rule; and the labourers were implored not to support the late Prime Minister's Home Rule proposals unless they were prepared to sacrifice the three acres and the cow. I want to know, then, what is to be the attitude of these Liberal Unionists towards the Land Purchase proposals of the present Government? That Land Purchase policy of the Government, shadowed forth in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, combines, I think, every possible objection that can be raised from the point of view either of the Irish farmer or of the English taxpayer. The one person only who would have a right to be contented with the Land Purchase policy of the Government is the Irish landlord. I must congratulate the noble Lord on the candour with which he declared his policy with regard to Land Purchase. He said—A serious mistake will be made by any who think that Government contemplate any farther dealings with the Land Question in Ireland in the direction of any revision of rent.No; nothing is to be taken from the rent, whatever happens. If the Commission reports against the rent as too high, still the tenant shall be forced to pay so much money as will leave the landlord in the possession of the same amount of money interest in the land. I may illustrate this by quoting some 180 words which were uttered "elsewhere" about the same thing. These words were—If it should come out that the Courts have made blunders, and that there is an impossibility in any case of paying rent, I think it is not the landlords who should bear the loss.The inference is that if the tenant is not able to pay, the State and not the landlord should bear the loss. The Rules of this House will not permit me to say who is the author of that statement; but I think that the House will readily guess who was the enlightened commentator who put the footnotes to the speech of the noble Lord, so that we might clearly understand the meaning. However high the rack-rent, the tenant is to pay it, or as much of it as he can, because the noble Lord does recognize that it may be impossible for him to pay the whole amount; and he goes on to say that, in that case, there will be an obligation of purchase by the State—that it shall be the State and not the landlords who must suffer. Even if it should be proved that prices have been so lowered that the tenant can no longer pay his rent the landlord is not to suffer. That is a startling doctrine with regard to landlordism. Now, we on these Benches have always preached the doctrine of honesty in Land Purchase. We have always declared that it was our duty not to allow the Irish farmers to be burdened with such terms as would give them no choice but between bankruptcy and repudiation. We were willing, under the proposals of the late Prime Minister, to put our national existence, our national liberties, our National Assembly, as the hostages for the full payment of the landlord's rent, and that duty has been made even more sacred by the events of the last Election. I am sure the late Prime Minister must feel rewarded, even amidst the failure of his projects, by the enormous change which has been produced in the feelings of the people of England and Ireland towards each other. There is not a man on these Benches among my Colleagues who does not feel profound gratitude to the working classes of England, Scotland, and Wales for the verdict they gave upon the Irish Question. Chicago is not the place where you go for any very gushing expressions of friendship towards this country—there are too many of the former friends of the right hon. and learned Gentleman 181 the present Home Secretary there for that. Yet there the warmest expressions were used towards the working men of England. On this point, may I not remind the House of the words he has issued in praise of "true-hearted Irishmen" who have belonged to revolutionary societies in former times, men like Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet? I quite agree with every single word of these utterances. ["Hear, hear!"] I accept the cheer of the right hon. and learned Gentleman as indicating that he adheres to what he said as to these men; and I am sorry he has found it necessary to allude, in terms of vituperation, to men of the present day who are seeking to obtain by Constitutional means practically the same ends as those gentlemen fought for by arms. Yet, Sir, I am sure that everybody on these Benches, and I am sure every rational man in England, will receive with gratification the information that, at the Irish-American Convention at Chicago, thanks were passed to Mr. Gladstone. The Irish Members on this question of Land Purchase have, then, a double obligation to the Irish farmer, and they have an obligation to the English artizan; and the obligation in both cases imposes the same duty—namely, not to accept any system of Land Purchase which, by giving an inflated price to the property of the landlords, places upon the Irish tenant a burden which he cannot meet, and which may have to be met by the British artizan. If the landlord is to get more than he is entitled to for the land, the security of the British taxpayer is so far damaged. Unless the Irish farmer makes a good bargain, the security of the British taxpayer is to that extent damaged; and, therefore, to any such Land Purchase proposal as is put forward by the Government, every section of the Opposition—Liberals, Radicals, and Nationalists, Liberal Unionists, above all others—are bound to give energetic, uncompromising, and constant antagonism. Well, Sir, that is not the only proposal of the Government with regard to the future of Ireland. They are going to maintain the judicial rents, and inquire into the question whether the tenants are able to pay the rents. The question, Sir, has passed out of the region of controversy. Any man with any practical acquaintance with the agricultural 182 circumstances of Ireland, or of England, Scotland, and Wales, for that matter, for the three countries are very much alike, has come to the conclusion that we have approached a great crisis. Take up the papers every day, and what do we find? I read that a gentleman named Mr. Walter Morrison—I do not know if that is the hon. Gentleman of the same name who sits in this House for one of the Divisions of Yorkshire—returned no less than 50 per cent of his rents in 1884, and 60 per cent of his present year's rents. Even the noble Lord has been forced to acknowledge that the fall in prices had produced a grave crisis in England and Scotland; and I dare say we shall have the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Chaplin) proposing some measure for assisting the farmers of this country in the crisis which has been brought about by the fall in prices. I do not know whether he will have any better success in his position as an independent Member than when he sat on that (the Treasury) Bench; but, undoubtedly, it is admitted on all hands that the farmers of England cannot carry on their business without some remissions. In one paper I read that Mr. W. H. Smith—I presume that is the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War—had given a reduction of 40 per cent on his rents. I hope the right hon. Gentleman does not think that I am blaming him; but I argue that it is certain that a state of things which renders such reductions of 40 per cent necessary in England, à fortiori, renders a reduction of 40 per cent necessary in Ireland. You have better land in England. [An hon. MEMBER: No, no!] No! that is an astonishing proposition. I suppose hon. Members of the Tory Party will also deny my next proposition —that you have a larger population. I remember that the Gentleman who said "No" distinguished himself in the last Parliament rather by his "Noes" than by his speeches. In England you have large markets—in Ireland we have none at all, except in two or three large towns, and we have to rely almost entirely upon exportation. In England you have the most perfect railroad system in the whole world—in Ireland we have a railroad system the deficiencies of which are the apology for some of the legislation which has passed this House. Does anyone say that reductions of rent which are necessary in a country 183 of great fertility, of large markets, with a splendid railway system and great wealth, are to be denied in a country of small population, few markets, and imperfect and undeveloped railroads? I think I have proved that part of my statement, and I have only to go to the ranks of our opponents to find confirmation of my proposition. Sir James Caird, who is described by The Times as "a man whose authority on agricultural questions is universally recognized," declared that on 538,000 holdings Ireland the rent was perfectly irrecoverable, and The Times endorsed that statement in a leading article; but that was when the late Prime Minister was in power. It is the most extraordinary thing about the Irish farmer that he has as many changes of face and character as if he were the noble Lord, or the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department. When the Liberal Leader was dealing with the question of his rents, he was in a state of squalor and bankruptcy; but when the Tory Party comes to deal with the question, he is in a state of bloated and almost insolent prosperity. Well, Sir, we have besides the Land Purchase Scheme, in which the landlord is paid out of the pockets of the Irish farmer and the British taxpayer, a large system of public works. Everything is to be taken in hand—railways, tramways, even the fishes in the sea, will not escape the vigilant inquiries of the Government, and the benevolence of the State. What does all this mean? We were told in the late controversy that the Prime Minister—I mean the late Prime Minister; the right hon. Gentleman is so often Prime Minister that it is rather hard to avoid using the term—it is the normal condition of affairs which will soon recur in the late controversy, the late Prime Minister was denounced for charging on the taxpayers a burden of £50,000,000. We were told that the outlay would become a vast grant, reaching to £150,000,000—some of the Tory and Unionist Press actually said to £250,000,000, resting its burden on the shoulders of the British taxpayers. ["Hear, hear!"] I should like to know who said "Hear, hear," because I should like to cross-examine him. Well, this burden of £250,000,000, be it remarked, was to come from dealing unfairly and hardly with the landlords; but the Tory 184 Party are now going to deal with the landlords, and deal with them in a far more generous fashion than ever the late Liberal Minister did; and if the land proposals of the late Prime Minister would have involved this country in a burden of £250,000,000 on his parsimonious and mean terms, surely the generous and large-hearted proposals of the present Government in the Land Purchase way will involve the country in a burden of £300,000,000. But they are going to spend money on railways, and trams, and fishes; and I think the most moderate amount which will be required for these various purposes may be put at £100,000,000—I might as well say a total of £500,000,000. I have sufficient confidence in the good sense of this House to know that they will at once repudiate and protest against any such policy as that. Well, Sir, I object to money being given to Ireland in the shape of disguised alms. We want to make Ireland a country of self-respecting and respected men—we do not want to make it a country of men bribed, demoralized, and cheated; and I lay this down—that money given to Ireland on any guarantee, except the guarantee of a central Assembly, responsible to Ireland and to this country, will be money that will be jobbed and wasted away. I know it is a popular thing to propose blank cheques on the Exchequer. I daresay in Ireland there may be some who would regard it as a good thing to have a blank cheque on the English Exchequer and the amount never to be repaid; but they are a very small class. Money spent on public works, on Bodies that are not representative, is bound to be wasted in jobbery; and money given to Ireland under circumstances like this is a curse to the people who give it, and a greater curse to the people who receive it. The policy of the Government is a policy which, I think, requires prompt discussion and prompt repudiation. After all, the Liberal Party is in the majority in this House, and to whatever section its Members belong they are all alike the guardians of the Treasury of this country. Further, we have in this Land Purchase scheme a coercive attempt to inflate the rents. If the tenant has no chance but to be turned out of his holding—especially if he be a husband or a father—the temptation is enormous that he 185 should give an extravagant price for his holding, in order to purchase present peace even at the cost of future trouble. That is the policy of the Government—they make these proposals to the Irish tenants at a time when they are gagged and chained. The policy of the Government makes a declaration of war against the twice-repeated verdict of the Irish people. It is a policy that has issued a decree of starvation against hundreds of thousands of Irish tenants who are unable to pay their rents. It is a policy which, in the interests of the Irish landlords, is willing to sacrifice Irish homes, Irish lives, the peace and good feeling between England and Ireland. It is a policy which, for the sake of the Irish landlords, is willing to exhaust all the resources of the Exchequer, to more heavily burden still the burdened taxpayers of this country. A gigantic land scheme under this policy will be carried out, under every circumstance that will give inflated prices followed by bankruptcy in Ireland, while England is burdened with irrevocable debt. It is a policy of Land Purchase combined with a scheme of public works which is bound to lead to jobbery and demoralization. The Irish people are to be bribed into a surrender of their national demand by a blank cheque on the British Parliament; but I have much mistaken the temper of this House if to the unholy trinity of coercion, bankruptcy, and repudiation they will not give a final and irrevocable answer.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
According to the usual arrangements of this House, it unfortunately happens that the Leader of the Opposition addresses the House before the statement made by the chief Member of the Government. The result on this occasion has been that my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was compelled to address the House before the important speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the Irish policy of the Government. That is greatly to be regretted, because the statement of the views held with reference to that speech by Gentlemen who sit upon this side of the House would undoubtedly have come from my right hon. Friend with exceptional weight. It is necessary, however, that we should make some remarks upon the very important decla- 186 rations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Certainly, nobody can complain that this statement was wanting in de-finiteness and precision. In stating the views of the Government upon the subject of Ireland he laid down certain fundamental propositions. He first of all challenged the policy of the late Government in connecting the three questions of social order, of land, and of local government, and then declared that the present Government would adopt a totally different principle; that they did not regard those three questions as connected; and that they would be dealt with separately, in great part at any rate. But upon the most important question of all, the question of social order, the noble Lord was extremely distinct; for at the very commencement of his speech he made this most important statement, which I consider to be the keystone of the whole policy of the Government. He said—"Social order we mean to treat as a question absolutely by itself." Now, Sir, that statement, the House cannot understand too well, takes direct issue with the views and policy of the late Administration. We have always regarded—we do now regard—the question on principle—and I venture to say that it is a fundamental principle, and always has been and I trust always will be a fundamental principle, of the Liberal Party—that social order cannot be treated with success as a question absolutely by itself. Every action of the Liberal Party from generation to generation has been founded upon the principle that social order is a question that cannot be treated by itself; that social order depends upon the removal of the grounds out of which social order arises. That is the principle of the Liberal Party, and the noble Lord has justly challenged it. Lord Salisbury, in a speech some months ago, said that the principles upon which the Tory Party would govern Ireland were the traditional principles of the Tory Party. The noble Lord has enumerated and proclaimed the traditional principles of the Tory Party, when he said that they would deal with social order, and treat it as a question absolutely by itself. That was the principle upon which the Tory Party acted at the conclusion of the last and the commencement of the present centuries—that was the prin- 187 ciple of Lord Eldon and Lord Castle-reagh; it was the principle of Lord Sid mouth; it was the principle upon which all their acts were founded—it is the fundamental principle of the Tory Party, and to that principle we have been, and we always shall be, radically opposed. The Government are going to invoke distinguished warriors to aid them in carrying out that principle. But that principle was invoked and attempted by a warrior who was more distinguished than any whose services the Government can now demand. That was the principle which in the early part of the century the Duke of Wellington attempted to carry out. Now, Sir, social order, in our opinion, cannot be treated as a question by itself. Social order can never be treated except in concert with the redress of those grievances out of which the social disorder has arisen; for social disorder is not the evil itself—it is but the symptom of the evil. If you are to seek to remedy it, you must first of all understand the nature of the evil with which you have to deal; and I venture to say that we who profess the principles of the Liberal Party are bound to say that no Government, whether in Ireland or in any other country, can succeed upon a principle which starts with treating social disorder as a question to be treated absolutely by itself. In those days, when social disorder was treated by itself, as the noble Lord proposes to do, we were told by a great authority—and we accepted the principle at the time, and we accept it still, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman adheres to it himself—that "force is no remedy." What does that mean, except a condemnation of the principle that social order is to be treated as a question by itself? Well, Sir, it is against that principle that we have protested, not in England alone, not in Ireland alone, but all over the world. What was it that was preached to foreign countries in the despatches of Lord Palmerston? Nations that were suffering from social disorder, nations that were endeavouring to treat social disorder absolutely by itself, were told by us that that was a false principle in political ethics. We told them that no Government could succeed which treated social disorder as a question by itself, which endeavoured simply to put it 188 down. I am old enough to remember the days when there was social disorder in England, when men were shot in the streets of towns in Lancashire. In the midst of all the distress there occurred the bread riots of Preston in 1843 or 1844 under the Government of Sir Robert Peel. Was social disorder in that instance treated by itself by Sir Robert Peel? Was that condition of almost unbroken tranquillity which England has now enjoyed for 40 years brought about in that way? No, Sir; social disorder then was cured by the repeal of the Corn Laws. That is an example of how impossible it is to adopt the principle of treating social disorder as a question by itself. No doubt you can put down social disorder by means of a distinguished General and bayonets. Cavour once said—"You may do anything with bayonets except sit upon them;" but, whatever effect you may produce by treating social disorder by itself, you never will produce a condition of permanent repose. That, I contend, has always been the principle on which the Liberal Party have acted. Was the social disorder of 1829 dealt with by treating it by itself? No, Sir; it was accompanied by the Act of Emancipation. Then, again, there was social disorder in 1832 and 1833; but that was followed by the settlement of the tithe question. There was social disorder in 1866 and 1867, and that was dealt with by the Irish Church Act. Therefore, I say, in contradiction of the principle enunciated by the Government, you cannot deal with social disorder by itself. You must endeavour to deal with the causes from which that social disorder arises. But how are you to treat, this question of social disorder? The principle for which we have always contended, and shall always contend, is that you never can have social order in any country except where the people who are governed are in sympathy and in harmony with the Government under which they live. That is the fundamental principle of the Liberal Party. That is the principle which we have applied to England, and which we have endeavoured to apply to Ireland. Unless you can reach that end, unless you can find a method of bringing the subject into sympathy and harmony with the Government under which they live, you cannot reach social order by any method, 189 I care not what it is, you choose to adopt. You may say you have tried all these things in Ireland. You have tried emancipation; yon have tried the settlement of the tithe; you have tried the Land Act, and still you have social disorder. But what is the conclusion you should arrive at from that state of circumstances? Is it that the principle upon which, you have proceeded is wrong, or that you have mistaken the symptoms and have not yet touched the real cause of the evil—that there is something else which prevents the harmony between the subjects and the Government under which they live? But, you will say, what is the cause? Everyone must admit that one of the main causes of social disorder and discontent in Ireland is the want of the satisfaction of the national sentiment; and, in my opinion, until you have removed that source of social disorder you will never reach the true remedy for the evil you desire to cure. I have said that the principle of the Liberal Party is that you can never cure social disorder until you bring the people into harmony with the Government under which they live; but I should be doing injustice to the Tory Party opposite if I were to say that none among them share that sentiment. Allow me to read a sentence to the House. In doing so I shall observe the same caution as the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), who has just sat down, and I will not tell the House the source from which this quotation proceeds; but hon. Members will be able, I think, to make a pretty shrewd guess at it. The sentence runs as follows:—There are many Viceroys who have been brought face to face with this grinding pauperism in Ireland. Why have they all failed? Many reasons may be given, but perhaps this reason will be found deep down in the question—there has been a serious want of accord between the English and Irish nations. The Irish heart is not attuned in concert, and until that sympathy is in some degree restored there cannot be a satisfactory settlement of the Irish Question.I will break my promise, and will say that those are the sentiments of the last Tory Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. You think you are going to settle the question of social order by itself. Has that experiment never been tried? Have you not tried from generation to generation to settle social order by itself? Are 190 you so vain as to think you are so superior in the art of governing to all who have preceded you that you will succeed where they have failed disastrously? You give no credit to Liberal Governments. You say they have never honestly tried to enforce the law. You will hardly say that of the administration of Lord Spencer. But I will make you a present of Liberal Governments, and I will assume that they were either incompetent or unwilling to maintain social order in Ireland. I will ask you what has been the experience of Tory Administrations in Ireland? You will not condemn them; you will not say that they were unwilling or that they were incapable of maintaining social order in Ireland. What was the experience of the Tory Governments of the Earl of Derby and of Mr. Disraeli in 1867? They were responsible for the government of Ireland. It was at that time the Fenian outbreak and the Clerkenwell explosion occurred. Why did not they settle social order by itself in 1866 and 1867? I will take another Government of much longer life—that of Lord Beaconsfield from 1874 to 1880. There were able administrators in the Government of Ireland; it included the present Chief Secretary and the Dukes of Abercorn and Marlborough as Lords Lieutenant. Were they incompetent men, who did not understand the arts of government? And were they able to establish social order by itself? What was the result of six years of their administration? Read the letter addressed by Lord Beaconsfield to the Duke of Marlborough, in which he said, if I remember rightly, that the condition of Ireland, after six years of Tory Government, was a condition worse than that of pestilence or of famine.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Well, I have not the words with me; but I think I have quoted them correctly.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
The words to which the right hon. Gentleman refers were that if measures for which the right hon. Gentleman has since been responsible were introduced into Ireland the condition of things would be worse than pestilence and famine.
SIR WILLIAM HAROOURT
I am very sorry I have not the words here; 191 but I venture to say that before tomorrow the House will have the opportunity of verifying the words of the letter in which Lord Beaconsfield described a condition of veiled rebellion in Ireland as a condition in respect of social disorder which was disastrous. Well, that was the condition of Ireland at the conclusion of six years of Tory administration in 1880. But we have had a more recent Tory Administration. There was one from June or July of 1885 to February, 1886. They had six months to establish social order by itself in Ireland. I suppose they will not say they deliberately relaxed the law; they will not assert they did not use all the arts of government to maintain social order in Ireland. And what was the result of that six months' experience? They came down and said they had totally failed, and they proposed a policy of repressive measures. Therefore I do not ask to be judged by our standard; but, judging you by your own standard—that of Tory administration—I say that the policy of attempting to establish social order by itself has been tried by you and it has failed. What has been our policy in this respect with respect to other portions of the Dominions of the Queen? You had a rebellion in Canada; and did you attempt to establish social order by itself in Canada? On the contrary, you met the national sentiment of Canada, and you established social order in Canada by giving Canada what she wanted. There were many predictions of evil consequences on that occasion. I wish I had here the speech made by the late Lord Derby upon the terrible dangers that would arise in Canada in consequence of the concession of local self-government. It was said that it would lead to absolute separation between the two countries, and to the declaration of a Republic in Canada. That only shows how vain are apprehensions of that character. Well, you think you will treat social order by itself apart from everything else. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER here offered the right hon. Gentleman a copy of the book containing the letter referred to.] The noble Lord will have the advantage presently of reading it; but I will take the critical question of "Boycotting," which is, in my opinion, one of the greatest offences against social order that can be committed. What did Lord 192 Salisbury say on that subject in his Newport speech? And I believe more recently he spoke to the same effect. He said you cannot put it down by the ordinary law; and he much doubted whether you could put it down by any exceptional law. How, then, are you going to put it down by itself? How are you going to restore social order with respect to "Boycotting"—by the operation of any number of general or any number of exceptional laws? You can only put it down by removing the causes out of which it arises. The question of social order cannot be dealt with solely by itself. Therefore, your fundamental principle is one against which we on this side of the House feel bound absolutely to protest. The principle for which we contend is exactly the opposite. We say that social order cannot be restored by dealing with it by itself; it can only be restored by removing the causes which have led to the disorder. That is the principle of the Liberal Party for which, whether in a majority or a minority, we are bound to contend. The noble Lord went on to the question of the land, and on that he took the line of the absolute finality of the settlement of 1881. He said that nothing should induce him to depart from that finality, to which he maintained my right hon. Friend had pledged the country and the House. But it is from those Benches the first attack on the finality of the Land Act comes. There was a Notice given the other night by the great Irish henchman of the nobleLord—the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson); and that Notice overturns the whole fabric of the Land Act, for it is a Motion to include leaseholders within its operation; and yet, after this Notice is given behind his back, the noble Lord attempts to insist on the finality of the Land Act of 1881. But he says the Land Question is to be treated apart, by itself, and distinct from every other question. That is not consistent with another part of his statement; because he says the Laud Purchase Bill of 1885 may be altered and improved upon one condition, and that is that the additional security is given by the Local Authorities. Well, that connects the Land Question with the question of local self-government; because where are the Local Authorities to come from except from the plan of local 193 self-government to which he is opposed? Therefore, at every point you find the principle enunciated by the Government of treating these questions separately is one which is not only entirely unstates-manlike, but practically impossible. You cannot separate one of these questions from any other; they are absolutely on and indivisible. But the noble Lord says he will deal with the Land Question apart. Well, there is against him a high authority who says—There can be no doubt that in certain part, of Ireland the Land Question is at the root o the condition of social order. There are certain parts of Ireland in which the poverty is so great and the condition of the people is such that until the poverty is removed all hope of restoring prosperity is simply delusive.That is the testimony of the last Tory Lord Lieutenant.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I am told he is not a Member of the present Government. Well, Governments in these days succeed each other rapidly; and I know the noble Lord is quite at liberty to repudiate Lord Carnarvon if he likes. I am quite content to quote this as an authoritative opinion, for Lord Carnarvon was responsible for several months for the government of Ireland, and he knows its condition. If what Lord Carnarvon says is true, the Land Question cannot be dealt with separately. He says it is at the root of the whole Irish Question and the question of social order. Much has been said about agricultural distress, a question on which I do not profess to be an authority. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool has quoted the well-known letter of Sir James Caird, which has not been without its effect upon the Irish people. It has been denied that the land in Ireland is poorer than the land in England. No doubt, there is some rich land in Ireland; but the greater part of the land is certainly poorer than that of England. Sir James Caird distinguishes between 538,000 holders of land, under £6 rental, and 121,000 holders at a higher rental; and speaking of the 538,000, he said, from his knowledge and observation, that economical rent had ceased in Ireland. Sir James Caird said that it was absolutely true that from 538,000 194 holders in Ireland any economical rent had for the present disappeared. Now, the commentary of The Times upon that was to show how unprofitable was the proposal of the late Government to buy land which would yield no rent. The object of The Times was to show that rent from such tenants was irrecoverable by anybody—the landlords, the English Government, or the Irish Government. Now, do you suppose that a paper like The Times, the representative of the propertied classes of this country, would make a statement of that kind—a statement which would be known in every village and house in Ireland—without being certain of its data? A fact like that is not to be got rid of, because the newspaper now says there was no difficulty about paying rent, and that to suggest that there was a difficulty was absurd. I say it is impossible that any statement like that can go forth in The Times without having the greatest effect on the conditions of any country. Now, the noble Lord says that the great distress had arisen from the depression of prices. ["No, no!"] Well, I am sure many hon. Members behind him will not say "No, no!"
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) below the Gangway will not contradict me. Well, the noble Lord says the fall has only been in corn, and does not affect Ireland. The noble Lord has his explanation ready. It is that the Irish farmers make their butter so badly. How is it that the Irish farmers have developed this failure to make butter within the last few years? Is there any Gentleman who knows anything of dairy produce who does not know that there has been a great fall in prices? The noble Lord has just handed to me this extract from the letter to the Duke of Marlborough. The extract is—Nevertheless, a danger, in its ultimate remits scarcely less disastrous than pestilence and famine, and which now engages your Excellency's attention, distracts that country.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Will the right hon. Gentleman read the last paragraph, describing the danger? I am sure he would not wish to mislead the House.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
This is the end. ["No!"] I know the noble Lord has a hereditary interest in the passage. The letter is rather long.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Lord Beaconsfield says—Nevertheless, a danger, in its ultimate results scarcely less disastrous than pestilence and famine, and which now engages your Excellency's attention, distracts that country.Well, that describes the condition of Ireland at the close of six years of Tory administration. Then he says that—A portion of its population is attempting to sever the Constitutional tie which unites it to Great Britain in that bond which has favoured the power and prosperity of both.But that was all under the auspices of a Tory Government. Why did not the Tory Government put an end to all this? It was under the auspices of that Government that the Land League was inaugurated. It grew from infancy to manhood under the Tory Administration, and the last act of that Tory Administration was to institute a prosecution of the Land League, which it did not go on with. It is, therefore, clear that a Tory Government of six years is not an absolute panacea for social disorder. I do not wish to carry it further. Let me go back to the condition of land tenure in Ireland. Not only is it seriously affected in that country by low prices, but here in England the agricultural interest has suffered also. Indeed there is scarcely a country in the world that has not suffered from agricultural depression. Such has been the case in America and in almost every country in Europe. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool has referred with approbation to the conduct of the English landlords in view of the present depression—that is to say, they made a reduction of rents in consequence of the depression. Well, I am inclined to refer with approbation to the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith), who was sent by the last Tory Government to Ireland on a special mission to propose to the Irish landlords moderation in the exaction of rent, and, no matter what the result of that special mission was, a better Commissioner could not have been sent, for he was willing to 196 preach to the Irish, landlords not only by precept but by example. Well, what was the course taken by Lord Carnarvon last year when he was not repudiated by the noble Lord? Why, Lord Carnarvon, addressing the Irish landlords I think somewhere in the North of Ireland, implored them to exercise moderation in the interests of good government; not to press on evictions which would make the task of good government well nigh impossible. What has been the language of the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) on this question? At a time when the English landlords are, from a sense of justice or humanity or policy, exercising the most extreme moderation in the exaction of rents, although their legal rights are unimpaired, the noble Lord, addressing the landlords of Ireland, says that the policy of the Government will be to see that all the legal obligations and processes arising out of the Irish Land Act are strictly enforced and carried out so far as they come within the province of the Government; and that if there are any persons in this House of opinion that there will be by the Government any interference with or suspension by neglect, or by executive action of the right of the landlords to recover their lands in the event of non-payment of rent, they fall into a great and serious error. I do not complain of the assertion of the sacred-ness of legal obligations; but I do think it matter for regret when language of this sort is employed as an incitement and an indication to the landlords of Ireland to exact the utmost farthing—language which can only be understood, both by them and by their tenants, as an assurance that whatever may be the agricultural distress or the incapacity of particular tenants to pay their rents, if they will only evict the tenants they shall have the whole armed force of the British nation at their backs. Indeed, no language on the part of a responsible Government could at this moment be more dangerous to the cause of social order. Well, but all this time, as the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool has just said, you betray your own distrust of your own position by appointing a Commission to inquire into the question whether or not those men whom you say shall pay the whole rent can pay the whole rent; and then you make the extraordinary proposition 197 that if they can not pay the whole rent—it is not the difference in the rent, as I understand, that Lord Salisbury proposes to pay; what he does propose to pay is to buy up at a capital sum, at the expense of the British taxpayer, land upon a rental which it is impossible the land could ever obtain—the very proposition denounced by the The Times in connection with the letter of Sir James Caird. Now, I am bound to say my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham who sits near me (Mr. Chamberlain)—["Oh, oh!"]—well, we have differed upon many subjects, but I take great care in mentioning one on which we agree—had considered this question and he had a remedy for it. Everyone will remember his proposal contained in a speech by him on the second reading of the Government of Ireland Bill. One remarkable part of the settlement which he suggested was that a settlement pertaining of the character of purchase should be preceded by a stay of evictions. Now, what does that mean? It meant the conviction on the part of my right hon. Friend that it was not safe to use the language which the noble Lord has used to encourage an increase of evictions on the part of Irish landlords, and that whatever settlement you come to must be in the interest of social order—I remember he called it the "Truce of God," which must be continued until a new settlement was arrived at by a proposal to say evictions. I venture to say that whatever faults that scheme might have —and it had faults—it had not the grievous fault which the scheme of the Government has of precipitating the policy of eviction and of recommending its increase. I have said that the Government are going to refer this question to a Commission. It is a very extraordinary proceeding. So far as social order is concerned they do not want any Commission at all. That they settle by itself; and it is to be settled, as we understand, by a distinguished General. But with regard to the other questions they have Commissions. I should say that the plan of the Government, as I understand it, is, as regards social order, a Government by Generals, and as regards all the rest it is a Government by Commissions. This resort to Commissions by the Government reminds me of an artist once described in a speech, of Canning's, in which he 198 spoke of an artist who had devoted his attention specially to the development of a particular class of painting. He was an admirable artist in red lions. He was applied to by the owner of a public-house for his opinion with regard to a signboard, and he at once recommended a red lion, and the red lion was painted accordingly. His next client consulted him with regard to the painting of a country house, in the drawing-room of which, a large compartment had been left to be filled in subsequently. "I want," says the owner, "some painting to suit this place." The artist at once said—"Do not you think a very handsome red lion would suit?" And then Canning described how the gentleman consented with some reluctance to the red lion. The gentleman then took the artist to his library and showed him a small compartment, and said that he wanted something of a choice character there. The artist said—"Do not you think we might put a small red lion here?" The Commissions to be appointed by Her Majesty's Government partook of a character similar to the red lions of the artist described by Canning. If it is the Land Question they have a handsome Commission; if it is the question of developing the industrial resources of Ireland it is a small Commission; but, whatever it is, it is always a Commission. It is practically the only picture of statesmanship which Her Majesty's Government appear to command. But the noble Lord says—"Oh, of course, we have Commissions because we have no intuition." But they were not always so wanting in intuition as they are now. In requiring until the spring to inquire—why, we remember that only one Gentleman constituted himself a Commission last year—the present Secretary of State for War—he did the whole of the Government Commission business at that time. He was sent over to Ireland; he did not wait to the end of the spring—no, 24 hours was enough for him; he did not show that want of intuition of which the noble Lord complained on the part of the Government. But really there is some advantage in these short intervals of administration. I wish to remind the noble Lord that this time last year they had had every opportunity for seven months to make themselves acquainted with all those subjects connected with the Irish 199 Government of which now they say they are wholly ignorant. They had the assistance of the whole machinery of the Irish Government. They had the Lord Lieutenant, they had the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, as well as other sources of information; and now, after the lapse of six months, they come forward and say—"We have no intuition; we know nothing about Ireland; do not hurry us." In the meanwhile, however, there are questions which will be hurried. Though it may be unfortunate that we have a Government without intuition, and though we have a Government which, in spite of being in the occupation of power and with the means of knowledge at their disposal for many months last year, and who now know nothing about these Irish questions, there are at the same time questions which give no repose to Governments. They had knowledge enough at that time without going to inquire of one of the questions to be referred to a Commission—whether rent has been at all affected by combinations in Ireland which operate on rent. They made up their minds on that subject last year; they determined in January to suppress the National League. It would seem that at that time they wanted not that information for which they are now waiting; but when this Commission is appointed I would ask, with the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), what it is to do? It is to inquire whether the land can pay the rent; but it is to be absolutely excluded from making any alteration in the rent after making the inquiry. Of course, the Commission would not make the alteration; but the noble Lord has said that rent is out of the question altogether. What, then, is this Commission to do? If it reports in accordance with Sir James Caird and The Times that 538,000 tenants in Ireland cannot pay rent at the present time, what is to be the consequence of that? We ought to have some answer from the Government to that question. Then there is the small I Commission on Public Works. We know what that means. I have heard with some satisfaction the language of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool on the attempt to bribe the Irish people by dangling before them this bribe. That experiment has been tried a great many times and for a great 200 many years. There were times in which it was successful; but there is one feature now—and I think we ought to acknowledge it to the Irish people now—that it is impossible to bribe the Irish people by gold to abandon their national aspirations. If that attempt is made by the Government it will, in my opinion, absolutely fail. The last point is that of local government. That, too, the noble Lord thinks can be satisfactorily dealt with by itself. There was a topic which the noble Lord did not deal with, and that is the question of the existing system of administration in Ireland, which is ordinarily described as the Castle Government. Now that system of administration, I think, has been universally condemned. It has been condemned perhaps in the strongest language that has been employed on the subject by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham. He used very emphatic language on that subject, and said that the Government of Ireland was like the Government of Poland in respect of its administration. It has been admitted, I think, by my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) that the present system of administration in Ireland is indefensible. I have seen it stated by many Conservative speakers at the last Election that they thought it ought to be reformed; but on that great, burning, urgent question the Government are absolutely silent. They express no opinion; they hold out no expectation or hope that there are to be any reforms in the administration of Irish Government. If I were to take the speech of the noble Lord, I might describe it by a variation of the well-known phrase on the return of Louis XVIII. to France—I might say with regard to the noble Lord's declaration respecting the Government of Ireland, "There is nothing gained; there is only an English General the more." But the noble Lord proceeds to say what the Government intends to do with regard to local self-government. He said—The Queen's Speech of January last announced the introduction of a Bill with regard to local government in England as well as in Ireland, and considerable progress had been made with the details of that scheme when the Government were roughly and incontinently ejected from Office. Speeches made at the time by those who are Ministers now would, I think, throw a great deal of light in the direction in 201 which Her Majesty's Government will probably work. Nothing has occurred since which would lead us in any way widely to extend the limits of the policy we then laid down. On the contrary, everything that has occurred since then has tended to confirm and strengthen us in the view we then took on the subject of local government. The great sign-posts of our policy were at that time and are still equality, similarity, and, if I may use such a word, simultaneity of treatment as far as is practicable in the development of a genuinely popular system of local government in all the four countries which form the United Kingdom.Well, now, at all events, I must compliment the noble Lord that he has made considerable progress since last February. What is his proposal now? He says—We are of opinion that measures of local self-government, and of similar character and at the same moment, should be introduced for all the four countries.What was his language last year?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Ah, no! This is what he said on the 21st of January—I do not know whether, in the course of time, a change may come over Ireland which may possibly encourage the Government to press forward upon the attention of Parliament a measure such as I have described; but this I will say, that the present state of Ireland is not, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, one which would be favourable to the consideration of a measure for establishing local government in Ireland."—(3 Hansard,  180).And yet he says that is exactly the same as he said last night. In the Queen's Speech of January there was a broad distinction drawn between the recommendations of local government for Great Britain and for Ireland. In that Speech it was said—Bills will be presented to you for transferring to representative bodies in the counties of Great Britain local business that is now transacted by Courts of Quarter Sessions and other authorities.But what was there said about Ireland?—A measure for the reform of county government in Ireland is already in preparation.Now that was said one day, and the very next day the noble Lord gets up and says that—In the opinion of the Government, the state of Ireland is not one which would be favourable to the consideration of any measure extending local government to Ireland.The condition of Ireland has so much 202 improved under our administration that now the noble Lord thinks it is favourable to the consideration of such a question. The real truth is that after our policy they must introduce a measure of local self-government, and that is the explanation of the change which has taken place. Well, so much for the "simultaneity" of the policy. But it is to be "similar and equal" to the local self-government to be proposed for England and Scotland. I challenge that principle. I believe it to be an absolutely false principle. I believe it to be impolitic and unstatesmanlike. I say that from an authority which the noble Lord will possibly respect. I will read it first and will tell him afterwards who the author is—Justice to Ireland is said to mean identity. I believe that to be the greatest folly that can be brought forward. I have always thought that the greatest cause of the misery in Ireland was an identity of institutions with England, and I venture to lay down as a principle that the government of Ireland should be on a system the reverse of that in England.Those are the words of Lord Beaconsfield—
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Ah, yes; about the age of the noble Lord. Nevertheless I believe the words to be perfectly true. But I will read another authority to the noble Lord, not in 1843, but in the year 1885—A local authority is more exposed to temptations and has more facility for enabling the majority to be unjust to the minority than is the the case where the authority derives its sanction from and extends its power over a wide area.Now, mark, that is one of the weaknesses of a local authority; but—in a large central authority the wisdom of the several parts of the country will correct the folly and mistakes of one. In a local authority that correction is to a much greater extent wanting, and it would be impossible to leave that out of sight in an extension of any such local authority to Ireland.That is the opinion of Lord Salisbury himself. Founding myself, then, on the authority of Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury, I denounce the principle of identity and similarity of institutions as between England and Ireland as absurd. Why, what was the principle of the Union with Scotland? What would have become of the Union with Scotland if there had been men 203 unstatesmanlike enough, in those days to say that the principle of the Union with Scotland should involve similarity of institutions as between Scotland and England? Every institution of local government and of everything else—of law, of the defence of land, of every principle of government in Scotland—is different from the principle of government in England, and I say that if you should endeavour to apply your principle of similarity of institutions to Scotland as you threaten to apply them to Ireland you would create a rebellion. Scotland never has tolerated, and never will tolerate, such a principle as that enunciated by the noble Lord. The very essence of local government is that it should accommodate itself to local habits and sympathies, and to the peculiar feelings and particular wants of the population. A greater, a more conspicuous error than to impose a system of local self-government in a cast-iron frame upon the four different Nationalities within the United Kingdom it is impossible to conceive. Therefore, I again challenge that principle of local government. I have quoted two Conservative authorities, but I have yet another. I have used him twice. I will use him a third time. I am using him as if he were a Commission. I will give the noble Lord an opinion that is not 24 hours' old.I have heard a great deal lately as to the value of giving identical institutions to England and Ireland. It is a very large question, but I must say it is true only up to a certain point. Ireland does not want the same institutions. Ireland cannot bear them, and to force them on her may not only be useless but harmful.That is the opinion of the last Tory Lord Lieutenant. It is the opinion of every man who knows Ireland. To give Ireland the same or similar institutions to England is exactly to give her the very thing which she does not want and most detests. But I will not detain the House too long. I fully recognize that the scheme we proposed to the House and to the country has been disapproved and been rejected; but the Gentlemen who sit on those Benches, as they have the right, so they have the duty, to propose their remedy in its place. It is our duty to examine the principle upon which that scheme is founded. If I can understand them, they are opposed to every principle for which the Liberal 204 Party has ever contended. I come, then, to the conclusion of the noble Lord, that the verdict of the country upon our scheme is irreversible; but he accompanied it with a qualification which considerably relieved my mind—"until it is appealed against." Why, obviously every verdict is irreversible until it is appealed against; but it is against that verdict that we intend and shall continue to appeal. Not for the details of that scheme which we propounded, but for the principle of it, do I contend. That principle is to restore social order to Ireland by giving to Ireland the form of government which will secure the loyalty, the affection, and the obedience of the Queen's Irish subjects, and it is the only principle through which social order can be restored. With reference to the Land Question, until we see the proposals of the Government, it is impossible to say anything more definitely, except to point out the danger and unwisdom of delaying any attempt to settle it. With reference to local self-government, I am bound to say that I think the principle of the scheme of the Government, whose notion of forcing upon Ireland what they dare not force upon Scotland—identity of institutions—is likewise most unstatesmanlike. Our scheme has been condemned before it was tried; if the scheme of the Government is tried, it will be condemned because it was founded upon a great error of fundamental principle and because in the method in which it was attempted to be applied it was altogether inapplicable and impracticable.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
said, he claimed the attention of the House while, as a Belfast Representative, he made a reply to observations directed to the state of affairs in that town. The noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exehequer announced yesterday that Her Majesty Government were prepared to appoint a Commission to conduct a solemn and impartial inquiry, taking the evidence of reluctant witnesses on oath, in order that the state of Belfast and the origin of the lamentable riots that had saddened the hearts of the citizens might be thoroughly investigated; and he (Mr. Johnston) had no fear as to the results of such an inquiry. Notwithstanding this promised inquiry, the hon. Member for North Dublin (Mr. Clancy) last night 205 had introduced a sectarian, view and opinion into his observations on the subject, and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) had followed that up by an accusation against a most loyal Organization, to which he (Mr. Johnston) had the honour to belong. The real commencement of the riots at Belfast, on June 4, was an attack on a Protestant workman, who was told in emphatic terms by his Roman Catholic fellow-labourers that when the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, then Prime Minister, was passed, not a Protestant would be allowed to earn his living in Ireland. On the 7th of June, thank God, that Bill was rejected by Parliament. On the 8th of June a Presbyterian congregation, meeting in Albert Street Church, situated within that part of Belfast the hon. Member for South Sligo (Mr. Sexton) claims to represent, was attacked by a Roman Catholic mob. The windows of their place of worship were broken, and from that day to this that congregation had not been able to offer to God in their own church the services of their religion. This was the origin of the disturbances in Belfast. He had no doubt that in the investigation which was about to be instituted, and which he was sure would be conducted with impartiality and ability, the true facts of the case would be brought out as he had stated them to the House of Commons. The Rev. Mr. Montgomery, the pastor of the congregation—no partizan nor member of the Orange Society—had had to complain to the Constabulary of Belfast that he was not protected in the religious observances within his own church. His congregation was attacked Sunday after Sunday, when going to their place of worship. Youths going to prepare for the Communion of the Presbyterian Church were assaulted, and one seriously injured. On the 15th of August—a day which was known in Ireland as Lady Day, and which was sometimes devoted to the services of religion, and sometimes to riot—the Rev. Mr. Montgomery had to leave his own church and worship in the Ulster Hall—a place not usually devoted to religious services, but where congregations driven from their own place of worship sometimes found a refuge. Again, the Rev. Dr. Hanna, of St. Enoch's Presbyterian Church, organized 206 a Sunday-school excursion for the children and members of his congregation. It was usual for such excursions to be accompanied by bauds of music and banners bearing texts of Scripture. That there might be no excuse given for disturbance by the assembling of the young people, they were desired to break up into parties and retire to their homes unaccompanied by the usual musical demonstration. Unfortunately, one band did not observe these regulations, and met with rough treatment. Bands played without molestation on the Sabbath Day in Dublin and Cork and elsewhere in Ireland; but a band could not go through the streets of Belfast accompanying a Sunday - school excursion, without the sensitive feelings of the defeated Home Rule Party being excited into such a state that they became a riotous mob. He (Mr. Johnston) had listened that day with interest to the Question of the hon. Member for South Sligo, as to whether the noble Lord proposed that the inquiry about to be held should embrace the aims and objects of the Orange Society. As one of the oldest officials of that Society, he unhesitatingly said that they challenged the most thorough and complete investigation into their aims and objects. The books of the Society were at the disposal of Her Majesty's Government, and the whole Organization, from its inception to its present position, was ready to be submitted to the most entire and impartial scrutiny. Accusations had been made against the Orange Society, and statements had been made in the House of Commons, that were completely without foundation, and it was believed that by the constant reiteration of coloured and heated statements the average Englishman would be induced by-and-bye to credit them. Slanders repeated time after time, and possibly not contradicted, were calculated to do irreparable injury to a loyal body of men in Ireland. In. connection with the subject, he would relate to the House a personal reminiscence on the feelings that existed in the city. On July 13th there was the laying of the foundation stone of an Orange hall in Belfast. On that occasion he had the opportunity of disagreeably finding out what the feelings of some of the people were. Returning from the laying of the stone, he carried in his hands a couple of sashes, rolled up in a manner 207 not calculated to give offence to even the most fastidious hon. Gentleman opposite. When descending from a tramcar the sashes were snatched out of his hand. He requested the magistrate before whom the case came to deal leniently with the unfortunate offender; but the man was sent to gaol for a month for the assault. If the co-religionists of hon. Gentlemen opposite could not boar to see an Orange sash, and attacked a person carrying it, was it to be wondered at that Protestant feeling was sometimes aroused, and that there was an attempt made to defend Protestants from outrage and wrong? He would ask the pardon of the House for alluding to this personal matter. He had done so simply to illustrate the position of affairs in Belfast. Then there were the riots arising after the 31st of July. They heard from the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday an appalling account of the number of deaths, of the number of persons who suffered serious injury in those riots. It had been said that the riots were Orange riots. Would the House be surprised to hear that out of the 200 wounded only about 10 per cent were members of the Roman Catholic Party? The noble Lord, in his character of Leader of the Government in this House, probably was right in defending the character and position of the Royal Irish Constabulary; but he (Mr. Johnston) asserted, and it would be proved at the investigation, that the Royal Irish Constabulary were severely disturbed by the Home Rule measures introduced by the late Government. The Constabulary believed they were about to be handed over in a new régime to other parties, and they came down, as would be proved from the statements upon oath of some of them, determined to make an attack upon the Protestants of Belfast, to the injury of the reputation of that loyal town. He was jealous of the reputation of Belfast, for while other portions of Ireland were in poverty and wretchednss, in riot and rebellion, Belfast was loyal and true to the British Empire. He declared his conviction that a conspiracy was entered into to degrade Belfast in the estimation of the Empire and the inhabitants of the civilized world. Some of its citizens had been provoked, and outrage and wrong had been done; the Constabulary, in many instances, breaking loose from their officers, and, disobeying orders, 208 fired shot after shot upon peaceable and unoffending citizens. A young scholar, going home from Sunday-school, by streets in which he thought he was not likely to be attacked, was singled out and shot dead with the Bible in his hand. Was it to be wondered at that, in these circumstances, the Protestants of Belfast lost confidence in the Constabulary? He had seen a letter from a constable, in which the writer said that, after a certain transaction which took place in the town, he was ashamed to go about in a constable's uniform and look civilians in the face; and he (Mr. Johnston) was informed that on one occasion, when the Royal Irish Constabulary were about to fire on a peaceable crowd of persons, an officer in command of a portion of Her Majesty's troops—a portion of a Highland regiment—told the Constabulary that if they fired in the direction in which it seemed they intended to fire, the troops would fire upon them. There was some justification for the allegation that if there had been wrong done by some in Belfast who bore the name of Protestants, they were not to blame for the origin of the disturbance. If there had been life lost, if innocent persons had died, if murders had been done, those who were the guiltiest persons, and who, if there wag an impartial investigation, would assuredly be brought to justice, were not the Protestants or Orangemen of Belfast. If hon. Members opposite had confined themselves to a general discussion as to the policy of Her Majesty's Government, he would not—for it would not have been his duty—have entered into these details; but, under the circumstances, he should not be worthy to represent one of the noblest cities in Her Majesty's Dominions—a city that would yet wipe out the stain that had been sought to be placed upon its escutcheon—if he remained silent in the House of Commons when accusations completely without foundation were levelled against its fair fame and reputation. It was said yesterday by the hon. Member for North Dublin, that instead of the Government consulting with the Mayor of Belfast as to the peace of the city, the Mayor of Belfast ought to be placed upon his trial for the outrages. ["Hear, hear!"] He saw the hon. Member acknowledged the accuracy of the quotation. He (Mr. Johnston) was pre- 209 pared to defend the Mayor of Belfast from this baseless accusation—an accusation which he was confident the hon. Member would not have made if he had known the high and honourable character of the gentleman whom he misrepresented. Her Majesty's late Government singled out that gentleman for the honour of Knighthood, and it was reserved for the Conservative Government to add to the honour by conferring a Baronetcy upon him. There was, therefore, complete unanimity of opinion between the two sides of the House as to the desirability of conferring honour upon a man who, by his intelligence and his industry, by his position as head of the shipbuilding interest in Belfast, had done more, perhaps, than any other man in Ireland to raise the character and position of the town, and to benefit and develop the industrial resources of Ireland. In conclusion, he would express the hope, earnest and sincere, that the days of riot and outrage in Belfast were over, and he was sure the House would join with him in the earnest prayer that peace and happiness, truth and justice, would prevail for all time to come in the city which he had the honour to represent in the House of Commons.
§ MR. HAYDEN (Leitrim, S.)
said, he hoped the House would consider seriously the policy of eviction which the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer had encouraged the landlords to carry out next winter. He (Mr. Hayden) had received a mandate from his constituency to protest against any such policy. He had been assured by the people of the district that the consequences of such a policy would be most deplorable, because there could be no doubt it would tend to exasperate the Irish people. Up to recently they had been encouraged to wait for better times. That state of things would be changed, and now they would think that they had nothing to hope for by attempting any longer to meet the unjust demands of the landlords. The demands that were now made upon the tenants for rent were not met by the produce of the land, but by loans from shopkeepers, banks, and by remittances from America. They were told that Irish agitation was supported by the latter. Irish agitation, to his knowledge, had not received during the whole of its existence so much American money 210 as the landlords had in six months, and had not the people been assisted by their hard-working brethren in America, the landlords could not by enforcing any forms of the law have obtained the rents which they had received. If the landlords were encouraged to evict the tenants, did they expect to be able to get rents, or set their land? Would any man in his senses take at the same rent a holding from which the evicted tenant, through no fault of his own, had been unable to make a living? The tenants now were almost reduced to starvation; and if the present weather continued, the position of the unfortunate tenant would be miserable. The Irish Party would not again send round the hat to save the people. It was done by them before, and their Leader said it never could be done again. Some means, however, should be devised to protect the tenant in the crisis which seemed inevitably approaching. The Chancellor of the Exchequer showed his utter ignorance of the real state of Ireland when he encouraged the Irish landlords to a policy of eviction by promising them the aid of the soldiers and the police. To propose that the present state of things should go on until next spring, when the Commission would be appointed, was absurd. Was the suggested guarantee for the purchase-money to be given by Boards, which would be controlled by such Gentlemen as the right hon. and gallant Colonel (Colonel King-Harman), in whom the tenants had no confidence, and who, in proposing the adoption of the Address, showed his characteristic vindictiveness towards the Irish people and the Irish Party, though there was a time when he (Mr. Hayden) stood on the same platform with him advocating Home Rule? This Gentleman was a member of various Local Boards, and were he and his friends to be allowed to pledge the credit of the Irish people in order to get high prices for their estates, and by then, as it was stated they would do, quitting the country, leaving the people who remained behind to bear all the responsibility for the extravagant prices given? If the policy indicated were carried out throughout the winter, did they think it would settle the Irish Question? No; but it would leave a feeling of exasperation, and a desire for retaliation at some future time. Did they not see that such 211 a policy would tend to delay, and render any settlement of the Irish Question far more difficult? He demanded that the voice of Ireland should be considered. No one wished more than the Irish Members to see social order established in Ireland; but when all their efforts to keep down crime were met by the traditional policy of the Tory Party, coercion, it would be their duty, for weal or woe, to stand by the people in doing their duty, and take whatever risks there might be attached to the policy which the Irish people would follow. At the beginning of the year they had hoped that the long standing quarrel between the two countries and two peoples was about to be brought to an end, and that a better feeling had arisen. All such hopes were now shattered for the time. But the Irish people had long memories, and if the Government pursued the policy indicated, its acts would have no authority in Ireland. It was incredible that such a policy could be adopted in the 19th century. It was a brutal policy. It meant that the tenant should have no protection, and that the landlord should have every encouragement to evict. He hoped, in the interests of peace, that even yet better counsels would prevail with the Government, and that that would not be the case; but if it were, the responsibility for the consequences would rest, not with the Irish Members, but with Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. SHEEHY (Galway, S.)
said, he wished to refer to the speech which had been delivered by the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston), and to hope also that the peace and prosperity of Belfast would be unimpaired by the late riots. He denied that the aggression in the first instance came from the Catholics. It was accepted all over the Kingdom as a fact that the Catholics, far from provoking the Orangemen, kept strictly within the law; they went to their homes when requested to do so; but the loyal Orangemen were allowed to manifest the strength of their loyalty by shooting down the policemen, by stoning them, and giving them a taste of what they called their "kidneys." As to the Mayor of Belfast, what would be said of an employer who should allow his stores to be plundered day after day, in order that his workmen might arm themselves with nuts and bolts to throw at the police? His workmen, had in fact, 212 been screwed up to fight; and he hoped the Mayor of Belfast would not bolt from the inquiry which was about to be instituted. Passing to the proposed treatment of Ireland by the present Government, he said it was as well that they should see what the real condition of the country was. The noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the right hon. Gentleman the author of the Land Act had promised that the Act would be a final settlement of the Land Question. But it should be remembered, on the other hand, that, in season and out of season, the Irish Members had told the House that the Bill was faulty and incomplete, and the judicial rents had been described by the Irish Leader as judicial rack-rents. If that was an accurate description of them four years ago, how much more accurate was it now, when that foreign competition, which was only beginning then, had become so acute? He considered that the rents fixed four years ago were 40 per cent over what it was possible for the tenants to pay now—he believed 100 per cent would be nearer it. During the last season, butter had been sold in the Irish market at something like an average of 5d. per lb., and a few years ago it used to fetch 1s. 5d. and 1s. 6d. As for store cattle, they were bought in the spring of this year at a higher price than could be obtained for them in any market in the Kingdom. It was the same with grain and oats. If butter and store cattle were the only commodities from which the Irish farmer could win his rent, it was impossible for the landlords to expect that their tenants could make it. He would respectfully suggest that there should be an all-round suspension of rent until next spring; the landlords should only be entitled to claim legally 25 per cent of the rent next spring from the fanner, and there should be a concurrent law that there would be a like protection for the landlords from the creditors. If the landlords pushed the tenants to extremities, he did not think he would be acting right if he did not tell the House that the tenants, driven to despair, would be forced to acts of reprisal and resistance, and things would be done which every lover of order in the country would deplore. If the landlords pursued this course, how would the Government benefit them? They would 213 be simply adding more land to that which was already lying on their hands. He said distinctly that the country was almost on the verge of bankruptcy, owing to the reverses of the farmers and foreign competition. Against a policy of eviction the Irish Members would do their utmost, and see that the tenants who suffered had something in their pockets to support themselves and families. There was no finality in the verdict the country had given with respect to Home Rule. In a short time they hoped to have another appeal to the country and to get the verdict reversed. In the meantime, they would do their best to restrain their people; but he was bound to say he should advise his constituents to meet their landlords with a passive resistance until such time as they extorted from them such concessions as would enable them to live on their holdings. Coercion Acts were now out of the question; for the Irish Members would offer continuous and determined opposition to their enactment; and, beyond that, the Irish Members had the support in their demands of three-fourths of the people and of Irishmen throughout the world.
§ MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
said, he could not help expressing his surprise and regret that the Speech from the Throne made no reference to the question of Burmah. It was a speech remarkable not so much for what it said as for what it had omitted. Last night the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer had informed the House that everything that had happened in Burmah had been quite according to his expectations. He pointed out that it took 10 years to pacify and conquer Lower Burmah, and said that the difficulties of conquering Upper Burmah would not be less than those which had presented themselves in Lower Burmah. He (Mr. Hunter) must say that if that was the opinion of the noble Lord seven months ago, when he was Secretary of State for India, he had succeeded in maintaining a very masterly reticence on the subject. Nothing of the kind was hinted at seven months ago, when the noble Lord congratulated himself and the Government of which he was a Member on the great triumph they had achieved in Burmah. It was a pity that he had given no hint to the authorities in India of the difficulties which they 214 were likely to encounter. The account given of the state of the country by The Times Correspondent, whose veracity and accuracy had been proved in connection with the executions in Burmah, was far from encouraging. The effect upon trade had not been what was anticipated. On the contrary, the state of trade in Burmah was very much worse now than it had been before; and, if the noble Lord was right, a long period of expectation must elapse before the Manchester merchant could hope to sell his goods in Upper Burmah. The state of the country was such that the British name was hated, not only among the criminal classes, but among reasonable and law-abiding citizens. The number of troops in the country was at least twice as great as the original estimate. The history of our dealings with that unfortunate country, in fact, was much the same as that of other annexations. First, the cupidity of the British merchant, anxious to secure afresh market, was excited. Next, the Exeter Hall sentiment was worked up, and we were told what an awful monster King Theebaw was. Then the annexation stage was reached, and we were invited to extend the blessings of civilization. Finally, the Burmese were said to be longing to be rid of their tyrant, and anxious to destroy their own independence. But, until a recent date, the Government of India had strength of mind enough to resist all these importunities. At last, however, the French were brought on the scene, and the Indian Government could no longer resist the forces which were carrying us on to war. The result was the present anarchical state of things, which had been so graphically described by The Times Correspondent; but there was no real ground for the fear of French intervention. The French could not have conquered the country, and the French Chamber would never have sanctioned an attempt to do so. ["Oh, oh!"] He held that there was no ground for the fear that Upper Burmah might be conquered by the French. We had a base of operations at Rangoon, and means of communication into the very heart of Upper Burmah, and we had also plenty of Indian troops ready to hand. When we considered how small was the progress which we had made in the last nine months, although we possessed 215 these great advantages, it must be acknowledged that it was ridiculous to suppose that the French, whose base was at Tonquin, could even have approached to the measure of success which we had attained. It was perfectly clear that, at the present moment, the civil administration and the administration of justice in Burmah, as well as the military situation, were of a very unsatisfactory character. The question had been considered by the Indian Government some time ago whether Burmah should be annexed, or whether a Native Prince should be set up under the direction of the British authorities. He could understand that there were many objections to the appointment of a Native Prince; but the adoption of such a plan would remove one enormous difficulty out of our way, since Burmah was one of the few places in which the right divine of Kings was still devoutly recognized, and was a law to the people. If the enormous power which that belief supplied could be utilized to the pacification of Burmah, an inexpensive and bloodless settlement of the difficulty might be expected. If it were the case that we had 30,000 men in Burmah, or anything like that number, it was obvious that the original estimate of the cost of annexation at £300,000 must be very largely exceeded. In view of the arduous work which still lay before us, the cost of the occupation must come to a very large sum; and he trusted the Government would seriously consider the propriety of paying at least a share of that expense from the Exchequer of this country. He hoped they would not add to the other mistakes which they had already committed in connection with this Expedition to Burmah the ineffable meanness of making the poor people of India pay for the opening up of markets for the merchants of Manchester and London. There was one other portion of the Address on which he wished to say a few words. The remarks in the Queen's Speech with reference to the verdict of the country on the Irish Question he did not complain of as being inaccurate; but he thought they might well be considered to be very incomplete It was quite true that, on the whole, a large majority of Members had been returned opposed to the Irish measures of the late Government; but it was equally true, as well as being a fact of 216 some significance—and he recommended it to those who had hugged to their bosoms the doctrine of finality—that if they measured the verdict of the country by nations and not by votes, there were three nations in favour of Home Rule, while there was only one against it. With reference to Scotland, he thought he could explain—to some extent, at all events—the secret of that opinion. The attachment of Scotland to the Union was above suspicion. With reference to all Imperial matters, for every matter of offence or of defence the people of Scotland did not regard themselves in any other light than as one and the same with the people of England, equally ready and proud to bear their share of the Imperial burdens. But for many years past there had been a growing feeling among the people in Scotland that they failed to get that justice and that attention from the Imperial Parliament which they thought was their due, and to which they were justly entitled. He believed that long before now that feeling would have manifested itself in the form of a demand for Home Rule for Scotland, if it had not been owing to that very strong attachment which they had to the Imperial Union, which made them prefer even the injury of their separate interests rather than any proposal which might involve peril to Imperial unity. But the discussion that had taken place with regard to Ireland had undoubtedly had the effect of educating the minds of many of the electors of Scotland, and he would mention the two principal features in the Irish proposals of the late Government which, in his experience, proved attractive to the Scotch elector. In the first place, the principle of the Bill that there should be a Legislative Assembly, having authority over all matters exclusively and specifically Irish, the electors said was exactly what they wanted for Scotland, with the substitution of the word "Scotland" for "Ireland." To restrict the Imperial Parliament to strictly Imperial Business, and to have a National Assembly which would have the exclusive control of Scotch affairs, seemed to them to be the precise remedy for which they had been so long in search, reconciling their separate interests as a nation with the unity of the Empire. In their view, national autonomy was not opposed to Imperial unity. On the contrary, na- 217 tional autonomy, in the present state of circumstances, was the only foundation on which Imperial unity could permanently repose. There was another feature of the measure which proved very attractive. It would be remembered that, although two Orders were to be established in the National Assembly of Ireland, there was no House of Lords invented for the benefit of the Irish people; and he observed that amidst the shower of criticism that assailed the Bill from every quarter, no one ever complained that the Bill was defective because it did not supply them with a House of Lords. That was a feature which eminently recommended a similar Bill to the minds of the Scottish people. They were perfectly willing to resign any right, or share, or interest that they might be supposed to have in that illustrious Assembly; and if the people of England thought they were not capable of managing their own affairs without the assistance of irresponsible and hereditary legislators, the Scotch were quite willing to make them a present of the whole Assembly. And not only that, but they would cheerfully give up the Scotch Peers in addition. What was the present position of Scotland with reference to its own Government? The Government of Scotland was in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Manchester (Mr. A. J. Balfour). Scotland had good reason to dread the consequences of that untoward event. The right hon. Gentleman had the patronage of all the public offices, and of many of the Chairs in the Universities. They had had experience of Tory Governments in Scotland, and they knew that the maxim which governed all their patronage, great or small, was that "No Liberal need apply." To possess Liberal opinions in a country which returned five-sixths of its Members as Liberals was a fatal disqualification in the eyes of a Tory Government. They were a very patient people in Scotland; but the constant observance of maxims of that kind might try their patience too much. The grievances of Scotland were of a somewhat different kind, no doubt, from those of which they had heard so much in the case of Ireland; but they were, none the less, of a serious and practical character. The mischief that had been done to Scotland through its being asso- 218 ciated with England in its local legislation was incalculable. He might adduce, as an instance, a subject which held the very highest place in the intelligent appreciation of Scotchmen—he meant the subject of education. There were many deficiencies to be provided for in the educational system of Scotland, which arose simply from the connection of Scotland with England in the matter of education; and he believed that if they had had a Scotch Parliament in 1850 there would have been no arrears to overtake, or any educational deficiencies to provide for. In 1854 the Scottish people desired to remedy this crying evil, and Mr. (now Lord) Moncrieff introduced a Bill into Parliament; but it was rejected by an English majority, though the majority of the Scottish Members were in favour of it. The reason for that was given by Lord Moncrieff, when he said it was rejected because the English people were afraid it would be an example for England. In the following year, he (Mr. Hunter) must do the House the justice to say that they repented of their action, and passed a Bill on the same lines; but it was destroyed in "another place," and the result was that for a period of 18 years tens of thousands of children in Scotland were brought up ignorant of the rudimentary arts of reading and writing, because the English people willed that it should be so. At the present time, even, the interests of Scotland were seriously sacrificed by its connection with England in regard to education. The mechanical system of teaching and examination which prevailed in the elementary schools was a serious evil. In regard to England it might be a necessary evil; but in regard to Scotland it was an unmitigated mischief, and it was wholly unnecessary. It stunted the growth of the pupils' minds, and it lowered the noble profession of teaching to the level of a mechanical trade. Then, again, how disastrous bad been the influence of the English majority upon ecclesiastical questions in Scotland. At present he could descry no signs of repentance or amendment on the part of the English Members in regard to their interference in Scotch ecclesiastical questions. No later than last year the hon. and learned Member for the Inverness Burghs (Mr. Finlay) introduced an Ecclesiastical Bill for Scot- 219 land. It was in the opinion of many Scotchmen a mean and mischievous attempt to create ecclesiastical squabbles in Scotland, and set two of the leading Presbyterian denominations by the ears. A majority of Scotch Members—36 against 14—also voted against that Bill, but there was a majority of nearly 40 English Members in favour of the Bill; and the Bill would have been carried, in spite of Scotch opinion, if it had not been for a casual majority of Welsh and Irish Members. In this new Parliament they could not hope for the same success by which to neutralize a large majority of English Members, and there-fore Ecclesiastical Scotland lay at the present moment helpless at the feet of the hon. and learned Member for the Inverness Burghs and his Tory and Episcopalian allies. In fact, the same thing that happened in regard to education was being repeated in regard to the Church. The English Members were afraid of the example of Scotland, and thus the ecclesiastical peace of Scotland was ruthlessly sacrificed to the interest of the Established Church in England. He would refer to another case, which occurred no later than last Session. He meant the legislation with regard to the crofters. For many years past the grievances of the crofters had been just as great as they were when they invited the attention of Her Majesty's Government; but it was not until some of them began to make their opinions known by resisting the officers of the law that any notice was taken by the Government of those grievances. Even when the Government did move in the matter, the measure they introduced was of the most truncated character and adapted to the taste of the English palate—in fact, he did not believe any Minister would have dared to present such a measure to a Scotch Assembly—and when. Amendments were proposed that would have improved the Bill, they were rejected by an English majority, who altogether set aside Scottish opinion. To his mind, the direction of men's thoughts in Scotland was tending to a real, not a sham autonomy, and the suggestion that a Scottish Assembly should consider measures applicable to Scotland, which should afterwards be subject to the veto of an English majority was an idle one, as it would merely be an appeal from Philip drunk 220 to Philip sober. It was felt that when the opinion of Scotland had been ascertained and expressed, it should not be subjected to mutilation by an English Assembly. It had been said that one of the gravest consequences of establishing autonomy in Scotland would be to create a diversity and conflict of law. The answer to that was that Scotland had already her own laws and institutions, and although Scotland had been so closely associated with England for nearly 200 years, yet the assimilation of the Scotch law to the English was just as remote and distant as it was 200 years ago. In a very few years, if they had a Scotch Parliament, Scotland would advance by leaps and bounds. The Scotch people who shrank from no sacrifices in the cause of education would, in a very few years, provide Scotland with the best and most perfect system of education that was to be found in the whole world. Left to themselves, the Scotch people would soon settle their ecclesiastical difficulties; left to themselves, they would soon make progress with temperance legislation; aye, and even the Land Question would not be too hard a nut for a Scotch Assembly to crack. In 10 years, left to themselves, they were capable of making more progress than they could possibly hope to attain in this Parliament in the course of 50 years. But the emancipation of Scotland from the trammels that impeded her intelligence and restricted her progress was to be accomplished, not by weakening, but by strengthening the Imperial Parliament for Imperial purposes. If the work of the Imperial Parliament were confined to strictly Imperial Business, there would be no difficulty in the way of admitting Representatives of the Colonies which might be affiliated one by one. One of the great advantages of the educational process which they had recently undergone had been that it familiarized people with the way autonomy might be reconciled with Imperial unity. Were such a system adopted, the Imperial Parliament would gain in the important article of time, for at present Imperial questions were as much neglected as local and national work. We are always attempting to drive several omnibuses through Temple Bar at the same time. How anomalous and full of danger was the relations of the Imperial Parliament 221 to India. We handed over the Government of India to a bureaucracy of Englishmen, who in India were birds of passage, and who naturally aimed at making as much money as they could, and returning home as quickly as possible. If we had an Imperial Parliament there would be more time than there was now for the discussion of Indian, Colonial, and Foreign, and Military and Naval affairs. This was the direction in which the mind of the people of Scotland was now going. Their attachment to the Union was above suspicion; and they thought they had discovered a process, exemplified in the United States, in Germany, and in our Colonies, whereby the separate interests of Scotland could be thoroughly reconciled with Imperial unity, and whereby the Imperial Parliament could be made a fit instrument for the momentous interests intrusted to its care.
§ MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said, he shared the astonishment of the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) at the remarks of the noble Lord the Leader of the House with respect to the annexation of Burmah. It was at first brought before the House as a remarkable triumph of Conservative diplomacy, and as an annexation effected without bloodshed and in an inexpensive manner, and one of which England would have been deprived by the timidity of the Radicals. We now found that in the eyes of those who devised it the undertaking was at the first contemplated as one that it would take many years to carry out, and had turned out to be a costly and difficult enterprize. Coming to the question of Ireland and to Home Rule, it was satisfactory to him to believe that one of the results of the discussions in the late Parliament, and since, must be to give a great impulse in Scotland to the demand for self-government there. He could not see what there was in the demand, whether it was for Ireland, Scotland, Wales, or England itself, other than the carrying out of the principle of democracy, to which we were more and more advancing, of allowing people to manage their own affairs. He objected to the idea of placing those National Governments, which before long would be established, too much under the surveillance and supervision of the Imperial Parliament. The noble Lord the Leader of 222 the House intrenched himself behind the Land Act of 1881, although the Party to which he belonged opposed it; but the Tory Party was generally defending a penultimate state of things. He wondered what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) now thought of the situation, so far as the question of the land was concerned. He understood that the right hon. Gentleman was acting as the lieutenant of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), and that both of these right hon. Gentlemen supported, and were much in love with, the present Government. It would appear, therefore, that the purchase of Irish land was only to be condemned when the proposal emanated from the Head of the Liberal Party, and that when it was proposed by the Conservative Party it became an excellent investment. When this became evident to the Liberals throughout the country he believed it would be one of the most potent means of reuniting the Liberal Party, the dissensions in which were the only cause of the Tory Party being in power. The justice of the demand for Home Rule was every day becoming more apparent, and such a tinkering with the question as was proposed by the Government could not prove satisfactory to the people of either this country or Ireland. What was to be the result of the Inquiry of the Commission on this subject? It was said that nothing they did would give rise to legislative interference with rents. It was quite clear the object of inquiry was to be to find out whether the Irish tenant or the English taxpayer was to pay the rents of the landlords in Ireland. The supposition appeared to be that the Act of 1881 was an Act for guaranteeing and securing a certain amount of rent to Irish landlords. On the contrary, it was one for diminishing unjustly high rents. The Prime Minister (the Marquess of Salisbury) had spoken a little more clearly than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and had said—
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
, rising, said: Mr. Speaker, I must ask you, Sir, whether there is not a Rule of this House that quotations cannot be made of speeches delivered in the other House of Parliament in the same Session?
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is a well-established Rule, and one of obvious convenience, that no reference should be made to words used in the other House of Parliament in the same Session.
§ MR. J. STUART
said, of course, he would at once accept this ruling; but would remark that when the policy of Her Majesty's Government was stated more fully and accurately in the other House by the Prime Minister, and when it was not possible to refer to his language, that showed the inconvenience of having the Prime Minister in the other House. He was astonished to find the Party which at the last Election placarded the walls against any attempt to buy out the Irish landlords now resort to a proposal which was based on a payment to be made out of the money of the British taxpayers. The Tories declaimed very loudly indeed against any Land Purchase scheme. As to the other Irish proposals of the Government, astonishment was expressed that the Irish Members did not readily seize upon them. The Tory Party was always giving to Ireland what Ireland did not want. They were like the lady who said to the nurse—"Go and see what baby is doing, and whatever she is doing tell her not to." The Tories always tried to discover what Ireland did not want, and then they offered it to Ireland. Such a policy could only produce exasperation and contempt. Then, as to local government, it was proposed that it should be similar for the Three Kingdoms. But the form of government should be similar only because the circumstances were similar, and the circumstances of the three countries were entirely dissimilar. In Scotland they did not want the same institutions which suited England, and he doubted whether similar local institutions would suit all parts of England itself. The demand for Home Rule in Ireland was a real, and not a got-up demand. He considered the scheme of the Government fatally defective, and certain to end in failure.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
said, he could only describe the policy of the Government as one of reaction, of antagonism to that of the late Government, and of persecution, procrastination, and empty promises. The policy of procrastination was to be found in the issuing of Royal Commissions to 224 make inquiries; and, indeed, when an attempt was made to realize the object and the scope of the Government policy, it was found to resolve itself into nothing more suggestive than a huge note of interrogation. He asked why all those Commissions that had been mentioned in the speech of the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) were to be appointed? They had been told that the Conservatives had no intuitive knowledge. They might be inclined to remark that the Conservative Benches were not noted for knowledge intuitive or otherwise. But surely it was a strange complaint for a Government consisting principally of hereditary legislators to make; for if hereditary legislators had not intuitive knowledge, where should one look for it? In France, political Parties were very fond of labelling their Governments with particular names. They had what was known as a Gouvernement de combat; but our present Government might fitly be described in the same nomenclature as a Gouvernement de recherche. They had been told by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill) that one of these Commissions was to consist of three highly-scientific gentlemen, though he had not been able to lay his hands upon them yet. These three gentlemen were to inquire whether by an outlay of public money, and upon what reasonable terms, the material resources of Ireland could be developed, the energies of the people directed, and capital attracted into the country. The first remark upon that would be that, for a purpose such as that, no inquiry was necessary. They were all perfectly well aware that whenever money could be obtained for enterprizes of any kind in Ireland, or elsewhere, results followed that developed the material resources of the country, and provided an outlet for the energies of the people; but there was this distinction—public moneys when granted in the form of pauper charity, which loans at an unbusinesslike rate of interest seemed to be, had a demoralizing effect upon the country to which those loans were made. Rather let the people of the country themselves find an outlet for their energies under a form of free self-government such as the Irish demanded. We in this country would consider the subject a good many times before we went and begged loans as a 225 sort of charity from some foreign country to develop our resources, and the Irish people had a right to say to us—"Give us power, by our own self-governing institutions, to get what we want in the way of capital, and you will see how great will be the advantages both to our country and to yours." They wanted capital in the county of Cornwall to develop its mineral industry. If the development of the resources and industries of Ireland were to be provided for by the British taxpayer, he wanted to know whether they in this country had not a right to ask for a little of this reproductive capital, which seemed to be so abundant when the Tories were in Office, but so difficult to find when the Liberals were in power? What were they to say when they found hon. Gentlemen, who were supposed to be such resolute opponents of anything like Socialism, coming down to the House, and proclaiming as their fixed and resolute policy a course more Socialistic in its tendencies than any suggestions he had ever heard or seen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain)? They were told this scientific Commission was first of all to inquire into the deep sea fisheries; secondly, the railways and tramways; and, thirdly, arterial drainage. He was inclined to describe this Government as something almost identical in character with that of the City Commissioners of Sewers. But with respect to all these matters, about which so many months were to be wasted in idle and futile inquiry, loans were in existence at the present moment for all these purposes. In the last Report of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland they found that during the year loans amounting to £77,226 were granted for the purpose of arterial drainage; £17,700 for purposes of main drainage; and £165,000 for improving farm houses, labourers' houses, and so forth. Under these circumstances, it was a positive insult to that House to come and pretend to have a new-fangled policy, which turned out to be merely a sham, for the purpose of deluding the public and covering a policy of procrastination. Then they were to have the persecution of friends and enemies alike. They were to have a persecution against the Orangemen—the loyal Orangemen of Belfast—because they had been fol- 226 lowing a little too literally the advice and sweet counsel of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington. He (Mr. Conybeare) was in the House when the late Prime Minister (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) delivered that philippic against the constructive treason of the noble Lord. It was going too far, perhaps, to say that treason to-day sat in high places; but it was certainly true that the constructive traitor of last Session was to-day one of Her Majesty's most trusted and confidential Advisers. Then they were to have persecution in other forms. They were to have persecution in the districts of Kerry, because there existed there, perhaps, some "Boycotting." As if there was no "Boycotting" in any other part of the United Kingdom! When the time came, if it did come, he should be prepared to give evidence of "Boycotting" and intimidation and of wholesale ruffianism on the part of noble Lords, Primrose dames, and their followers, which would certainly vie with, if it did not cast into the shade, the "Boycotting" that existed in Kerry. Then there was another form of persecution. That was the wholesale evictions that had taken place already, were taking place, and which would take place during the long and weary months of the coming winter. In three months of the last winter 3,000 or more unfortunate people had been driven out of their homes. He had said, too, that the policy of the Government was a bundle of empty promises to Ireland. They promised to give a great deal to Ireland at the expense of the British taypayer, and this was to be undertaken by a Government of Gentlemen who came into Office, he was going to say, by a fluke, but who had certainly reached their present position through misrepresentations against Her Majesty's late Government. He was not accusing hon. Gentlemen opposite of it. He said they reached their present position by falsehoods and misrepresentations scattered wholesale throughout the country by their supporters. In a remote district of his own constituency the labourers were informed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had introduced his Land Purchase Bill because he was a great landowner in Ireland, and wished to get rid of his estates there on favourable terms. These Gentlemen had got into 227 Office by reason of the panic they instilled into the minds of a great portion of the English electorate, and by telling them they would, as the result of Mr. Gladstone's Irish policy, be saddled with taxation to the extent of £150,000,000, or about £30 a-head all round. One of his (Mr. Conybeare's) Colleagues in Cornwall—the hon. Member for the Truro Division (Mr. Bick-ford-Smith)—stated that himself; and he (Mr. Conybeare) dared say the hon. Member was only a sample of others. And these Gentlemen having won their election by denouncing a scheme which they had never understood thoroughly—they did not understand it thoroughly, or they would have seen it involved no risk whatever to the British taxpayer—these Gentlemen now came to ask them to sanction a policy of handing over untold millions without any security at all. But the scheme of the Government would certainly necessitate the expenditure of many millions of English money. The Prime Minister (the Marquess of Salisbury), a short time, ago, had denounced the late Government for attempting to establish an independent Parliament. If the noble Marquess had understood the Bill, he would have known that the Bill would have done nothing of the kind. The Government had suggested a general local government scheme, which he supposed was intended to conciliate those quondam Home Rulers, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Mover of the Address (Colonel King-Harman) and the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Henry Matthews). He should be surprised to find such a plan supported by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain), who had abandoned his own plan of a National Council because it lacked the essential element of success—namely, the acceptance of the Irish people themselves. The policy of the Government appeared to be to offer the Irish people alms and inquiries for which there was no need, but to deny them the one thing that they asked for, and which men holding Radical views must desire to see granted. Of course, it must be borne in mind that the Government were in a very peculiar position. They could not keep their places upon the Treasury Bench without the assistance of the noble Marquess the Mem- 228 ber for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) and the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. The recent Elections, however, had shown how diminished was the political influence of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. He went down to Cardiff to give his aid in the attempt to oust a Member of the late Government; but that hon. Member was returned with a majority greater than before. The right hon. Gentleman wrote letters to his constituents in Cornwall with a view of assisting his Tory opponent; but he was returned by a majority more than treble. The right hon. Gentleman had no doubt shown that he retained some influence in Birmingham, upon which he had imposed as one of its Members a Tory Home Rule Home Secretary. But there were manifest signs that his influence outside of Birmingham was very slight. The country could not understand the consistency of those who, having emphatically condemned the Purchase Bill of the late Government, and declared that they would be no party to placing a financial burden on the British taxpayer for such a purpose, now supported the policy of the Government, which included a Purchase Scheme involving the heaviest burdens upon the taxpayers of this country. The right hon. Gentleman had a Land Purchase Scheme of his own, which had been printed and laid before the Cabinet, and the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian had challenged him to make it public; but the right hon. Member for West Birmingham refused, not unnaturally, since it would have shown that his own scheme was worse than the Purchase Scheme of the late Government in all those points in respect of which he attacked the Ministerial measure. A great deal had been said about the final and irrevocable verdict of the constituencies; but there was no such thing as finality in politics. The Act of Union was considered final; but it was nevertheless altered—and altered in an important particular—when the Irish Church was disestablished. At that time the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston) and his friends went about denouncing the Queen.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he was referring to resolutions passed at meet- 229 ings at which the hon. Gentleman was present.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he had not the exact words; but the resolutions were to the effect that if the Queen gave her assent to the Act for the disestablishment of the Irish Church she would be violating her Coronation Oath. The cardinal feature of the policy of the Government was that evictions were not to be discontinued. There was to be no mercy shown to the unfortunate tenants. What, he wondered, would the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) say to that, who had last Session urged so strongly the passing of a measure to suspend evictions? On the other hand, this was to be said—that the Democracy of Great Britain and the Democracy of Ireland had embraced each other; that they had clasped hands across the silver streak that separated the Sister Islands; and they did not mean to give up the struggle until the principles of freedom and self-government had been established in Ireland—those principles which they were still fighting to establish in their full splendour in this country. That curse to this country, that incubus in the form of hereditary obstruction, which still existed, they meant to fight against shoulder to shoulder with the Democracy of Ireland, for the purpose first of establishing Home Rule there, and then getting rid of the obstructions in the way of the full aspirations of the Democracy of England.
§ MR. HOOPER (Cork, S.E.)
As the Representative of an almost purely agricultural constituency in Ireland, I think it is desirable that I should add my indignant protest to those already made against the remarks which have been addressed to the House by the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have no hesitation in saving that the policy enunciated by the noble Lord was received in Ireland this morning with the most intense indignation. I have no doubt that it is regarded by five-sixths of the population of Ireland as a policy of cowardice and evasion. I believe that the tenantry of Ireland recognize, and that the people of England also should recognize, in that declaration of policy that the landlord's interest 230 is the only interest that is to be considered. If the Government had deliberately set about fashioning a policy which would tend to exasperate the Irish people, they could not have succeeded better. As the Representative of a purely agricultural constituency, I arraign Her Majesty's Ministers tonight of a conspiracy to drive the tenantry of Ireland to revolt, in order to pave the way for coercive measures directed not against the Irish tenantry alone, but against every class of the Irish people. Whether the noble Lord, when he enunciated the policy of the Government last night, intended this I know not; but I tell him that he and the Government which he represents in this House are deliberately embarking upon a course which will as surely exasperate the Irish people as the course pursued by a certain Relative of his, in order to bring about the Union, succeeded in driving their forefathers into open insurrection. It does not deserve the name of a policy; it is a mere pretext for staving off until some distant date the advance of that public opinion which is inevitable in regard to the Irish Question, in order that, in the meanwhile, some scheme may be devised for compensating the landlords for rights which they do not possess. My hon. Friend who addressed the House some time ago (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) described the Government as one of inquiry. I say that it is one of landlord enrichment; and that its so-called policy is a mockery, a delusion, and a snare. It is a mockery to the tenantry of Ireland by promising inquiry as to their case, but permitting—nay, encouraging—their extirpation; meanwhile it is a mockery to the nationality of Ireland by deliberately attempting to cheat it out of its birthright—it is a bribe to the Nationalists, which I say emphatically they spurn and despise; it is a mockery to thousands of English people, who thought that voting in this Government they were simply supporting the Union, and who, although differing as to the means, were ready to support some scheme of self-government for Ireland, but who never contemplated the inauguration of a policy which is destined, if persisted in, to plunge Ireland into bloodshed. Now, Sir, I wish to ask if this was the policy which the people of England, professing Liberal opinions, thought they 231 were voting for when they sent into this House many of the hon. Members sitting on this side who are prepared to maintain the Union? Was that the policy for which the Protestant farmers of South Derry turned out Mr. Healy? Was that the policy for which the electors of South Tyrone voted when they rejected Mr. O'Brien, and put in his place an hon. Gentleman who posed before them as one of the strongest advocates of the interests of the Irish tenants? I cannot help thinking that, on these Benches at any rate, that statement of the noble Lord who leads the Government in this House must be regarded as one of the coldest-hearted policies ever put forth from the Treasury Bench. In almost every sentence there was to be detected a total want of appreciation of the true position of the Irish Question. The noble Lord, speaking of the judicial rents having been fixed for 15 years, spoke of that as a period amply sufficient to make provision for a rise and fall of prices in good and bad years. But have we had any good years since the judicial rents were fixed? If years of plenty had come first, instead of years of scarcity, there might have been some justification for the remarks of the noble Lord. But what has been the fact? I am glad to see the noble Marquess who represents the Rossen-dale Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington) in his place; because he, of all others, ought to be able to explain how it is, if the rents have been fairly fixed, that his father, the Duke of Devonshire, has found it necessary to make a reduction of 20 per cent on a certain portion of his estates. If they were fairly fixed in the past, why has the father of the noble Marquess made a deduction of 20 per cent? He was entitled, according to the doctrine of hon. Gentlemen opposite, to receive the rents in full, or to be fairly compensated for any loss he sustained. The truth is, the tenants are utterly unable to pay the present rents, fixed at a period when nobody could have foreseen the present exceptional and continued depression. Upon one section of the hon. Members who sit on this side of the House rests the gravest responsibility for the position in which we now find ourselves—and that is the Liberal Unionists. The people of Ireland still look to them with a feel- 232 ing of hope; although they have combined against us in the past, we believe, provided their late professions have been sincere, they may not be indisposed yet to save us from a most threatening and disastrous position. I do not at all envy the noble Lord for the light-heartedness with which he pronounced, last night, a policy of coercion for Ireland. He alluded to the county of Kerry. He is going to send down to that county a General with, I presume, a small army to back him. If Kerry wants exceptional treatment, it is because the landlordism in Kerry has been exceptionally bad. The noble Lord quoted certain crimes and outrages which have been committed in Kerry; but he did not tell the House the number of evictions which have taken place in that county. Although he told us the number of people who are under police protection, he did not tell us the number of derelict farms that for miles and miles may be counted by the roadside within the focus of the "Moonlighting" which the noble Lord proposes to put down, and especially in Castleisland, I do not blame Her Majesty's Government for putting down this "Moonlighting." It has received no encouragement from this side of the House, but has been carried on in defiance of our exhortations. Personally, I have on all occasions denounced outrage; the first speech which I ever delivered in public life—that was but a few years ago—for I am not an old Parliamentary hand and I trust the House will overlook, any imperfections on my part—was in opposition to a nominee of the late Governor of Ireland, Earl Spencer, whom I succeeded in defeating, and on that occasion I denounced crime and outrage in every shape and form. I am prepared, still, to pursue the same course; but I maintain that even could I, and my Colleagues on these Benches, speak with the force of ten thousand voices to the tenantry of Ireland, we could not restrain outrage, if the policy enunciated by the noble Lord from the Treasury Bench last night is to be carried out. If you are to carry out a policy of no consideration for the tenants of Ireland, whose inability to pay their rents is fully admitted in the reduction of 20 per cent which has been made by the Duke of Devonshire, then 233 I warn you that you will have a Kerry in every county in Ireland; and whatever you may think of it now, you will want a General and an army in each. Are the House and the Government prepared to carry out such a policy as that? The noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of the Earl of Kenmare. I should like to show the House what the position of the Earl of Kenmare is. I have no doubt that he is, as the noble Lord described him, an amiable nobleman; but, like many others perhaps equally amiable, he is not master of his own actions. His estate is in no sense his own estate and possession. He is in the hands of certain persons who are known as the Jews of London. His own agent—a gentleman well known to hon. Members on the other side of the House—was obliged to give up the agency of the estate, because he could not get authority from those Jews to make reductions of rent which would enable him "to break the ring," as he said. I observed articles lately, in some of the Tory papers, advising the Government to seek out here and there some admittedly impoverished tenant for the purpose of his being allowed a rent reduction. Possibly a client employed by the patriotic union—who was to be put up to show that the landlords are not so brutal and exacting as is generally represented. But the Government—and I am not sorry for it—have preferred to present their policy in all its naked brutality. From my own knowledge of the present condition of the people of Ireland, I am able to say that their feelings, at this moment, are only kept under by the hopefulness aroused by the good feeling lately evinced towards them by a large proportion of the people of England, Scotland, and Wales, and that, under the circumstances, exasperation and even bloodshed must result if no concession is made to the just demands of those tenants who find themselves unable to pay their rents. Sir, in conclusion, allow me to call attention to the remark contained in the Queen's Speech, as to the recent vote of the constituencies having been final and irrevocable. We, in Ireland, do not accept that as a true statement of the position. On the contrary, we believe that when the people of England know the real facts of the case they will follow their brethren in Scotland and 234 Wales in determining to do justice to Ireland. Consequently, we do not despair of seeing the united voice of Great Britain in favour of giving the Irish people complete control over their own affairs. If there were nothing else to encourage us in the course we have marked out for ourselves that feeling of hopefulness would alone suffice. But we have other reasons, and we know that if, either through intimidation or in consequence of the bribe which is proposed to be offered to us by the noble Lord and his Colleagues, we were to give up our demands now, there are thousands of our countrymen who would be ready to spring at once into our places. We dare not accept the proffered bribe, even if we were willing, and whatever the consequence may be we are prepared to fight the battle to the bitter end.
§ MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)
My hon. Friend the Member for the Southern Division of Dublin (Sir Thomas Esmonde) referred to the speech of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer as being a very remarkable speech. Having carefully listened to that speech, and having, since it was reported, perused it carefully in the daily papers, I quite agree with my hon. Friend, and I am not astonished, having regard to the character of that remarkable speech, at the course which the debate has taken this evening. But it is not with the matters that have boon referred to by hon. Members representing Irish constituencies, together with the omission of all reference to the Irish Question from Her Majesty's Speech that we, the Irish Members, have alone to deal with. The noble Lord commenced his reference to the Land Question in Ireland with a rebuke to the late Prime Minister. He gave expression to a good deal of regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr, W. E. Gladstone) should have made any reference to the subject of rents. Now, the right hon. Gentleman, to my mind, and I believe to the mind of every unprejudiced person, only made, after all, what was a most reasonable observation. I will quote the words of the noble Lord as they have been reported in the daily papers. The noble Lord said—Then there is that other question to which reference has teen made—namely, the payment of rents.235 Sir, it does not require half an eye in the head of any man to know that the payment of rents in Ireland at the present time is an absolute impossibility. The House is aware, and painfully aware, of the fact that the prices of all agricultural produce have fallen to an extent which makes it an impossibility to pay the rent upon these holdings as it is at present fixed. I care not whether these rents are preserved by lease or sub-division, or by the tenants having gone into the Land Courts; but what is it that the noble Lord says on the subject? He went on to say—Her Majesty's Government are by no means satisfied that there is any serious reason for any one of these allegations.That, Sir, is certainly a most extraordinary expression of opinion. In the face of what we see, and in the face of facts which are patent and incontrovertible, I repeat, Sir, that that is a very strange and singular statement indeed. But having regard to the nature of the statement of the noble Lord, it is not, perhaps, unnatural that he should have followed it up by a sentence equally extraordinary. The noble Lord said—Her Majesty's Government are not prepared to admit that the judicial rents fixed by the Commissioners were at any too high a rate. The Government are further of opinion that it is quite possible the fall in the prices of produce—I allude especially to the fall in the staple article of Irish produce, butter—may be due quite as much to careless or defective manufacture, or to adulteration, as to any general depreciation in prices. Then Her Majesty's Government assume, as I think they are bound to assume, that the Commissioners under the Land Act, in fixing judicial rents for so long a period as 15 years, left ample scope for any exceptional fall in prices…The view the Government take of the present position of the Land Question is, that for all present purposes we take our stand on the Land Act of 1881, which, was declared by its authors to be, and accepted by Parliament as, a final settlement of the Land Question. That Act, as supplemented by the Arrears Act of 1882, and as amended by the Land Purchase Act of 1885, Her Majesty's Government regard as a very valid and binding contract, which was made at that time between the State on the one hand and the landlords and tenants of Ireland on the other; and the policy of Her Majesty's Government will be to see that all legal obligations and all legal process arising out of that Act are strictly enforced and perfectly carried out, so far as such action can come within the province of an Executive Government.That, Sir, illustrates what we have heard, and what is now familiar in our ears about Minnesota and Manitoba, 236 and the remarks of the noble Lord can only produce a painful feeling among the Irish people—a feeling of dread that the alternative rests entirely between destitution and starvation, or the giving up of their homes and emigrating to Minnesota or Manitoba. At the time that a great many of the rents were fixed, the value of agricultural produce was a very fair standpoint to go by. It is a matter pretty familiar to us all now that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), after the Land Act of 1881 was passed, came to the conclusion, after much reflection, and after a good deal of conference with his Colleagues, that to apply that Act properly and to ascertain its value, a number of test cases ought to be selected. The cases which he desired to take as test cases were not those of tenants who were rack-rented, but of tenants whose rents in Ireland stood in pretty fair and favourable contrast to the valuation. But, because the landlords of Ireland believed in their hearts that even these cases would show that the land system as altered by the Land Act of 1881 was unfair, every means and stratagem were resorted to to frustrate the object which the hon. Member for Cork had in view. I need not remind the House of what followed. The hon. Member for Cork was imprisoned, together with other hon. Members of this House; and then the tenant farmers of Ireland, seeing that their Leader, and those whom they looked upon as their guides, were removed from the outside world, and immured in different prisons, swarmed into the Land Courts. I myself was concerned in a number of cases where the tenants made application to have fair rents fixed, and the landlords used every engine and raised every technical point they could to defeat the applications made by the tenants at that time to have fair rents fixed; and, as regards the fixing of those rents, the tenants were cross-examined by counsel employed by the landlords to the fullest possible extent as to what their means were, and what they got for their butter, their corn, and their cattle. It was only after a minute and careful scrutiny into the condition of the tenants, and having regard to the prices and value of produce at the time, that most of the originating notices were filed, and these rents were fixed. Now, Sir, these values are, as 237 has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for East Galway (Mr. Harris), fully 50 per cent lower now than they were at the time that fair rents were fixed for the tenants' holdings. The right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister, in what he very reasonably put forward, spoke of the approaching winter season, and compared it relatively with other times. We are rapidly approaching the month of November, which is a very important period in regard to the payment of rents in Ireland, and the circumstances of the harvest form an important element in the ability of the tenants to pay rent. It is not denied that there are good crops in Ireland, but no one can prognosticate the state of the weather; and certainly present appearances enable us to form no sanguine anticipation as to what the result of the harvest will be. That which was favourable and promising a few weeks ago presents a very gloomy aspect now. Much of the crops, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for East Galway, has been dislodged by the heavy rains; and what promised to be fair crops less than three weeks ago, it is believed, will, when garnered, fail to realize the anticipations that were formed of them. The noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer regards judicial rent as a very sacred thing, and very binding in its character; and because he and Her Majesty's Government so regard them he can extend no hope that the tenant farmers of Ireland, in the event of their being unable to pay these rents, will have anything to expect from their landlords, but that the landlords will act in the ruthless way they have hitherto been in the habit of acting. We have, unfortunately, been made aware of the fact—and any reader of an Irish newspaper must be similarly aware of it—that at the meetings of the Boards of Guardians most lugubrious references have been made to the number of notices of evictions which have been served. In the constituency which I have the honour to represent, only last week the Sheriff, with an army of policemen, went to the district of Gweedore, and in that district, where, as has been reported in The Freeman's Journal, 60 evictions had already been executed, he evicted as many as 80 families more. The Sheriff was accompanied by an armed force of officers, sergeants, and 238 constables to the number of nearly 200, and they were employed solely on that occasion in carrying out these evictions. The descriptions given by the Special Correspondent of The Freeman's Journal are sad and painful in the extreme, and I invite the attention of hon. Members opposite to them. They will find the facts there stated most pathetically on account of the simplicity with which they are told; and the recital of those facts may, I trust, lead them to believe that the only way in which the feelings of the people of Ireland can be satisfied is by putting a stop to evictions in the coming winter. The noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, put forward a few matters, for the purpose, I suppose, of giving the word of promise to the ear. We were told a great deal about Royal Commissions. We have already had experience in Ireland of what these Royal Commissions have achieved. As a general rule, their mission to Ireland has been like that of the army of the King of France—composed of 30,000 men, who "marched up the hill, and then marched down again." The hon. Member for East Galway pointed out, with a certain amount of facetiousness, the action of one Royal Commission of which he had some experience, which went down to inquire into the condition of the Shannon. The Irish people have very little to expect from the operations of these Commissions for the consideration of Irish affairs. There is to be a big Commission and a little Commission. There is an old story told of a certain sapient Professor, whose chambers were infested with rats and mice. He, therefore, procured a cat and a kitten; and as his chambers were not of sufficient capacity to enable these animals to indulge in their rambling propensities, in order to give them freer access he had a large hole cut for the eat and a small one for the kitten. These two Commissions remind me very much of the action of this sapient and erudite gentleman. I consider that there is just as much common sense in the appointment of the Commissions as there was in the action of this learned philosopher. I trust that Her Majesty's Government, having regard to the very grave and serious condition of matters in Ireland, which is staring the people in the face; having regard to the gloomy 239 and dismal aspect which the coming winter appears likely to open out to them, will see the expediency of acting, not in a partizan spirit, and of consulting the interest of the landlord class only, but that they will consider that property has its duties as well as its rights; that the tenant farmers of Ireland have a right to be protected; and that the evictions now hanging as a sword over their heads shall be suspended, so that they may have confidence that in the coming winter they may not be driven from their homes into misery, the workhouse, or the grave.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
I cannot congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the manner in which they have conducted the debate throughout the evening. They have allowed shot after shot to be poured into their front without attempting a reply. In this respect, indeed, their policy was fairly described by the motto, "J'y suis: J'y reste," for there they have remained stark and silent, and have not endeavoured to repel one of the charges levelled against them, or against their policy, if they have one. The question is, whether they have a policy? They have attempted to propound one; but we consider that it is the very negation of a policy. All they have done has been to propose the appointment of Commission after Commission, until, in contemplating the real position of affairs, we can scarce remember where we are, or where we are to begin. There is one Commission which Her Majesty's Government propose to appoint to which I particularly wish to refer to-night, and that is the one which is to proceed to Belfast to inquire into the outrages and disturbances which have recently occurred there. In reference to that Commission the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer said—But, speaking generally about Belfast, I believe I am expressing the sentiments of the Chief Secretary and of the entire Government, when I say that we are resolutely determined to restore and to maintain order in Belfast, and to shrink from no responsibility which will enable us to attain that end, and to attain it without delay.Now, Sir, I should like to ask the noble Lord how he is going to reconcile that statement with the speech which he delivered in this House on the Arms (Ireland) Bill, only in the last Session— 240 namely, May 20, 1886. He is reported to have said then—Hon. Members in that quarter of the House will please understand that I am not desirous of shirking the question. What I said was, that in circumstances such as they apprehended they would be right in resorting to arms. I maintain, and I defy contradiction, that what I have laid down is the Constitutional doctrine accepted in this country ever since the days of the Revolution of 1688."—(3 Hansard,  1544.)This was an allusion to the advice which the noble Lord had given to the people of the North of Ireland to rise in arms, to wave their banners, and to charge with all their chivalry. The noble Lord proceeded to quote Lord Althorp. He said—In 1833 Lord Althorp—a name which will not be received, I think, with derision by hon. Members opposite—declared that if he had to choose between Repeal of the Union and civil war he would choose civil war."—(Ibid.)Further on the noble Lord quoted Sir Robert Peel in the same debate, and he said—'Lord Althorp was a great Whig statesman, who exercised an influence over the House of Commons which has never been equalled by anyone previously or since. Sir Robert Peel, in the same debate, declared that in maintaining the Union the Government might have not only to rely on the scaffold, but to drench the plains of Ireland with blood."—(Ibid.)I think the noble Lord can scarcely complain of the manner in which his advice in this respect has been taken. He can but be satisfied that, if the plains of Ireland have not been drenched with blood, at least her towns and cities have flowed with the blood of her people. But the noble Lord was not content with quoting English authorities. He went, indeed, to another authority, and he quoted from an essay written by the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley) upon Robespierre. He endeavoured to show, by reference to the Dictator of the French Revolution, that the people of the North of Ireland would be justified in taking up arms against the laws promulgated by the Government of this country. Not only did he resort to Constitutional authorities in this country, but he resorted to the doctrines of the French Jacobins in order to justify the attitude he had assumed in Ireland. He asked—Will hon. Members in any quarter of the House deny that allegiance is conditional? The 241 allegiance of Ulster is given to this Parliament on condition that it affords to the inhabitants of Ulster protection. ['Hear, hear!' and 'No, no !'"] Certainly, that is the condition, and if this Parliament transfers the lives and the liberties of the inhabitants of Ulster to a Body over which this Parliament will have no control, absolutely none, then I hold that no Divine right attaches to such acts of legislation."—(Ibid. 1546.)Those are the words of the noble Lord, and I should like to know what their application is to the present state of Ulster? I should like to know what Reference, what advice, and what Instructions will be given to the Commission that is sent to Belfast? I wish to ask the noble Lord whether he and his Government will advise the Commissioners to investigate the causes of the disturbances that have occurred, and if they are to be brought home to those who have fomented those disturbances? If so, all the water of the River Boyne will be insufficient to clear the noble Lord of the responsibility for those outrages. Then there is to be a second Royal Commission to Ireland. It is not named a Commission, but it is in reality a Royal Commission. A great military Commander is to be sent to Kerry. For what purpose? Is it to put down outrage? We scarcely think that it is. Other Commissions have been sent to Ireland, and yet at a time when every possible murderer in Ireland was supposed to be under lock and key the lives of the officers of the law wore being plotted against, and a very few days after the announcement of the appointment of the Commission was made in this House the Phœnix Park murders occurred. Will the noble Lord be more successful in putting down murder and outrage now? Is it likely that General Buller will be able to deal with renewed crime and outrage in Kerry? Is it probable that he will be able to put his hands upon those who may be plotting crime and outrage in Kerry? We, who have had a large experience of the country, know that such has not been the case in the past. It is much more likely that the Forces under the command of General Buller will be employed to collect the rents of that great and good landlord who was referred to in this House the other night—the Earl of Kenmare. That is our experience, and we believe that all the power at the bestowal of General Buller will be 242 exercised to enable the Executive Authority to collect the rack rents of the Earl of Kenmare, and enable the Executive to carry out the policy of the Government which they have enunciated from these Benches—namely, that the rents must be paid, no matter whether they are just or not. That is the second Commission; but there is a third. The third Commission is to be upon trade. We hold that such a Commission, under existing circumstances, can only result in a farce. Any proposition made by the Government will be utterly ineffectual until they are prepared to carry out the policy which was initiated by Lord Carnarvon, or, at any rate, referred to by him, but which was held to be impossible—namely, the protection of Irish trade and manufactures. Irish trade and manufactures were suppressed in the past; and no Commission you can issue and send to Ireland, no Instructions you can give them, will enable them to come back to this country and report to this House that it is necessary to abandon the cherished principles of Free Trade and revert to that policy of Protection which you cast aside years ago. Well, Sir, a fourth Commission is to be issued also. That Commission is to investigate the question of the land; and this, perhaps, is the most significant Commission of the whole. What will this country now think of the present proposals of the Government, whose friends raised such an outcry against Her Majesty's late Advisers for having proposed to buy out the Irish landlords on good security—on the security of the good character of the Irish people, on the security of the Irish land, and the security of a National Government? What will be thought of a Government that now proposes to adopt the principle that they condemned then, and a principle which will not have the security in its favour which was offered by the late Government? What will the people of England, who have been deceived by the representations of the Government, think when they find that the credit of the English nation is to be pledged to purchase out the Irish landlords without having the security of the Irish land, or of the Irish people, or of a National Government? It has been asked this evening, what will the Unionist Party say to that proposal, and what will the Protestants say to the proposals of Her 243 Majesty's Government? I have very lately visited many districts in England where, during the General Election, this subject was thoroughly threshed out and discussed by both sides who were contending for power, and I know the misrepresentations that were put forth broadcast all over the land on that occasion in order to deceive the people of England as to the true issue. I believe that when the scales are taken from their eyes, whenever they are consulted again they will remember the misrepresentations of the past, and place them side by side with the present proposals of Her Majesty's Government. Her Majesty's Advisers also hold out to the Irish people a hope that great public works will be entered upon in Ireland, and that money will be spent in order to assist the people in tiding over their difficulties, in improving the resources of the country, and in bringing their products to the market at a rapid rate. We hold that these objects would have been the proper business of a central Irish Government in Dublin; and it is a business for the development of which we require the aid and assistance of every Irishman, in Ireland. That would have been the duty of the National Government, and of the Representatives of Ireland sitting in Dublin, who would not have been hampered by English legislation, and who would have known how to develop the resources of their own country. They would have known the difficulties against which they would have to contend, and they would be more likely to legislate in a right direction than the Parliament of Great Britain, which cannot be said to have the same special knowledge as that which would be possessed by Irishmen sitting in Dublin. Well, Sir, it is well to tell the Government and Parliament that they ought not to deceive themselves as to the issue of this controversy. The Government may hope to stave off the consideration of the Irish Question for a time, in the hope that the Irish people, tired of the struggle, will lay aside their claims. An hon. Member from these Benches to-night told us that the Irish Sea, only a short time ago, looked like a mere silver streak; that the democracies of England and Ireland had joined hands over that silver streak; but I am afraid that the Government are now going to convert 244 it for Ireland, and perhaps for England, into a melancholy ocean. We have, at the present moment, the attention of the Irish people all over the world concentrated on the manner in which this struggle is to proceed. We have the support of our brethren scattered all over the world. We have the support of the English Democracy. We have the support of the able Government who occupied the Treasury Bench a short time ago. We have all these aids at our back now, and are we going to give up the struggle? No, Sir. We shall proceed until it is brought to a final issue, and I believe that will be before long. We have faith that the English Democracy who have taken up this question will not allow it to drop; and certainly the Irish people will never turn their back upon it until it has been carried to a final and successful termination.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
Representing, as I do, also an important Irish agricultural constituency, I feel bound to express my strong sense of the disappointment which must have been felt by the people of Ireland when they read the observations of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer in supporting the Address in reply to the Speech of Her Majesty. If we could not have expected that the Government would, after their recent declarations of policy at the polls, have addressed themselves to the question of Home Rule and of local government in Ireland in a large and wide sense, we might have expected that they would have taken into serious consideration the present alarming condition of the tenantry of Ireland. In addition to a feeling of disappointment, there will be a feeling of keen resentment among the Irish people at the almost trivial tones in which the noble Lord spoke of the serious agricultural position of the country. The noble Lord, in the observations which he addressed to the House yesterday, said—With regard to the Land Question in Ireland, the Government are aware that various allegations are being put forward with great vigour and great assurance from many quarters as to the condition of the Irish Land Question. We are informed, or we hear it said, that judicial rents under the Land Act were fixed at a great deal too high a rate, even if they had not been fixed too high; and we also hear it alleged that the fall in the price of produce has rendered tenants unable to pay those judicial rents, and we are told that there is now, or will soon be, 245 a general failure to pay rent in Ireland. Her Majesty's Government are by no means satisfied that there is any serious reason for any one of these allegations.Are Her Majesty's Advisers in a position, or would any Government be in a position, to stay a fall in the price of agricultural produce? Are they in a position to regulate the supply and demand which fix the prices on all the various articles of consumption? If they are not, how can the noble Lord support a statement of this character? We traverse every statement he makes. We say that the judicial rents were fixed too high all along the line, and that the various Sub-Commissioners appointed to carry out the Act did not carry it out in the spirit and with the intentions of its framers. I find, from a Return made in 1884, that the average reductions made by the Commissioners were, in Ulster, 20 per cent; in Leinster, 17 per cent; in Connaught, 20 percent; and in Munster, 18 per cent. And, Sir, at that time, not only the tenants' advocates, but persons interested in agriculture all over the country, remonstrated, and stated that the Land Act was being maladministered to the tenants' wrong. But if the reductions were inadequate in 1884, when prices were comparatively high, how must it have been in 1885, when prices had sunk much lower? I find, from a Return given in connection with 34 places in the county of Kerry, that in August, 1885, the reductions amounted to 15 per cent; and, later still, only a few months ago, in 17 appeal cases at Bantry, the reductions amounted to 14 per cent upon notoriously rack-rented tenants. It is well known that the constitution of the Sub-Courts was objected to at the time by the tenants' advocates and by the Irish Party. That the Land Act of 1881 was not likely to be satisfactory to the Irish Party is proved by the fact that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his Colleagues refused to support the second reading of the Bill, because they looked upon it as inadequate to meet the circumstances of the case. That was the case with regard to last year and the present year. Last year the prices fell in a most alarming degree; but this year, notwithstanding the noble Lord's statement to the House last night, it can be proved from various Returns—Market Returns, Returns of Fairs, and Re- 246 turns from other sources which were easily accessible to Her Majesty's Government—that the fall of prices has not only been serious, but is still continuing, and makes it practically impossible for the tenant farmers of Ireland at the present time to pay their full rents. We often hear a great deal, not alone in this House, but in other places, of the repudiation of contracts. We deny in the most emphatic manner that there exists in Ireland any desire—at any rate, any widespread desire—not to pay rents, but a determination not to pay unjust rents. The judicial rents that were looked upon as unfair and as rack rents in 1884 certainly deserve to be placed in that category now. They have become even impossible rents. There exists in no part of Ireland an indisposition to pay rent; but there is a strong determination not to pay impossible rents, and there is a strong objection to be coerced into the payment of these impossible rents. Will any Member of Her Majesty's Government claim that in 1884 rents were notequally as well paid in Ireland as they were in England? Will any Member of Her Majesty's Government, or any man of acknowledged authority in the country, maintain that the reductions voluntarily given by English landlords have not been larger than the reductions enforced by law under the action of the Land Commission? The noble Lord spoke very flippantly of the fall of prices. He seems to cast a doubt on the fall in prices; and he made a reference to the butter question. Is the noble Lord aware that the fall in the price of butter has been most serious, and that it has been the largest ever since the improvement in the make of Irish butter has been the most marked? Up to 1884 there were complaints as to the make of Irish butter; but within the last three years the make of Irish butter has so greatly improved as to be the subject of widespread and general remark, and to be well known to the trade. But, strange to say, notwithstanding the improvement, the price of Irish butter has fallen, 40, 50, and, in some cases, 60 per cent. Is the noble Lord justified in indulging a sneer at the unskilfulness displayed in the manufacture of Irish butter, and its alleged adulteration? Ought he not to have found the explanation in that which is evident to every unbiassed mind—every mind 247 that does not wish to make out a case altogether apart from the merits of the question? Ought not the noble Lord to recognize fairly and honestly that the fall in the price of Irish butter, and the fall in the price of every other article of Irish produce, is entirely owing to the increased and growing importation of all these articles? Where has the noble Lord sought for his proofs? Has he sought for them in some private museum, or in the agricultural bureau of Dublin Castle, or in the public journals? With the permission of the House I will compare some of the prices, and I think they will prove to demonstration the fact that the fall in prices is so alarming that it is utterly impossible for the tenants to pay the judicial rents that have been fixed. The price in 1882 of three-year-old cattle has fallen from £14 to £10 in the present year, or a reduction, of 30 per cent. If the noble Lord or any Member of the Government doubts these facts, let him go to Thom's Almanack, or any other official authority, and he will find the figures I am about to give fully corroborated. The price of two-year-old cattle has fallen from £12 to £7—a reduction of 42 per cent; of yearlings, from £8 to £3, or a reduction of from 60 to 63 per cent; of "weanlings," from £5 to £1 10s., or a reduction of 70 per cent; and the same in regard to sheep in store. In all these items the reductions have averaged from 50 to 55, and even 60 per cent. The noble Lord has referred specifically to butter; and it is strange to say that in the highest qualities, about which there is no question, the average reduction of price from 1882 to the present time is 35 per cent, and in the lower qualities 40 per cent. I need not weary the House by going further into these figures, which all hon. Members can find for themselves; and if they look into those figures, with a serious resolve to ascertain the true state of things, they will discover the actual extent of the agricultural depression which has swept over our country. We refer them to official public documents—to those sources of information upon which their Advisers and officials in Dublin can well be able to lay their hands in a moment. The noble Lord, in the concluding portion of his observations last evening, made reference to another not uninteresting portion of the question when. 248 he spoke of the development of the material resources of Ireland. It appears that we are to have a large Commission on the Land Question, and a small Commission of scientifically-minded men to inquire into this question of the material resources of the country. Can it be possible that the Imperial Government of the present day have not sufficient information as to these resources and the means of developing them? Is it possible that enough has not been said during the past half century to enlighten the mind of any Government that is capable of receiving enlightenment? Why, I can venture to say that a small volume recently issued, the work of one of the highest authorities in Ireland, will give Her Majesty's Government, if they are so minded, as much information as any Commission which they can appoint, no matter how long that Commission may investigate—I refer to the work of Professor Sullivan. But we are told that the only way in which the resources of the country can be developed is by the appointment of a Commission—not by acting on the advice of representative men who take an interest in the facts and are prepared to give all their mental powers to the development of the resources of the country in a purely practical way. Sir, we find great fault with the terms of the Queen's Speech, because of its omissions. We find still graver fault with the speech of the noble Lord, because of that which it contains. We tell the noble Lord and we tell Her Majesty's Government that if they seek to aid the landlords of Ireland in a crusade for the recovery of full rent they seek to perform an impossibility; that they will bring sorrow and misery on a land which has already suffered enough; that they will confiscate the tenants' improvements in thousands of cases, and that in seeking to give the landlord more than his rights they will deprive the tenants of all they have. Are they prepared to face that state of things? It will be better for them to take counsel, and follow a nobler and more statesmanlike course than adopt repressive measures, which will be the natural result of their programme.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—[Mr. Labouchere,]—put, and agreed to.249
§ Debate further adjourned till Monday next.