§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [19th August.]—[See page 96.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, that at present they were in a somewhat curious political situation. They had a Tory Ministry in power without a Tory majority of their own supporters. Upon the Opposition side of the House they had Gentlemen whose policy was not to oppose the Tory Ministry, and the Tory Ministry were dependent for their maintenance in Office on Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House who disagreed with some of their own Party. They were engaged in thanking Her Majesty for Her Gracious Speech. Certainly, considering that the Speech contained absolutely nothing, they were grateful for exceedingly small mercies. It was well known that the 278 Speech was only nominally that of Her Majesty; in reality it was the Speech of the Ministry, and he should, therefore, not be wanting in respect if he said that the Speech seemed to him to be conceived in the spirit of the demand of the footpad—"Give me your purse, and say nothing whatever about it. Don't venture to talk." That wonderful Speech had been very short; but it had been supplemented by the speech of the noble Lord the Leader of the House, who had said that the policy of the Government was a policy of immense deliberation. Well, but the gifted beings who ruled over them had deliberated. They contemplated the appointment of a certain number of Commissions in Ireland; and in the meantime they had sent a Major General there to look after the Irish, and they assured the Irish landlords that if that Major General was not successful in enabling them to obtain their full rents, they would ask the British taxpayer to make up the difference to them. The Dissentient Liberals on his side of the House were silent. He did not know whether silence gave consent to the policy of Ministers. All they knew respecting the opinions of those Gentlemen was that they had opposed the Statutory Parliament proposed by the late Prime Minister, and if he were to judge from their Election orations they were as strongly opposed to the Land Purchase scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They appeared to have preferred that the destinies of the country should be in the hands of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, rather than in those of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, because of their disapproval, not only of the Statutory Parliament, but of the Land Purchase Bill of the late Government. Their objections to those plans must have been very strong to lead them to support the Tory Party during the late Elections, and particularly to have supported the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who put forward an Electioneering manifesto, which, might be taken, from the noble Lord's position in the Party, to be the manifesto of the Party of which he was now the Head in that House. In that manifesto the noble Lord spoke of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian as having been guilty of a conspiracy more base than any of the designs and plots which he had conceived for the last 279 25 years—referred to the right hon. Gentleman's plans as the outcome of political hysterics and worthy only of Colney Hatch or Bedlam. This "tissue of absurdities," as the noble Lord termed the Prime Minister's Bill, was produced for no other reason than "to gratify the ambition of an old man in a hurry." [Ministerial cheers.] He could understand hon. Members opposite cheering that manifesto, but every Radical must regard it as an insult to the whole Radical Party. He did not believe that manifesto was approved by the Liberal Dissentients. He was surprised that they had not taken the first opportunity of addressing to the public, through their constituencies, a protest against its terms. But who were these Dissentients? According to themselves and their admirers, they were the flower of the Liberal Party. It was said the other day in one of their organs, or one of the ozgans of the Conservative Party, which he supposed was the same thing, that everyone would admit that they contained nine-tenths of the ability, reputation, and intelligence of the Liberal Party. Now, he had observed the same sort of thing in a great many newspapers; but newspaper editors had an unfortunate habit of making their standard of intelligence in agreement with themselves. It appeared that the great body of the Liberal Party had sinned against the light. They had no business to have opinions. It was their duty to subordinate their views to their political superiors. But he should take the liberty to make a slight comparison between the flower of the Liberal Party and other Gentlemen who also sat on that side of the House. They had on his side the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). Surely the right hon. Gentleman was equal, he would not say for a moment superior—he would not say anything invidious—to the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington). Then there was his right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). Perhaps his right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) would excuse him for saying that the right hon. Member for Derby was his equal. They all recognized the great ability and intelligence of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James). Still, he thought the 280 late Attorney General (Sir Charles Russell) was the equal of that right hon. and learned Member. Then there was the right hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage). He would not venture to pit any single individual against a Gentleman of such masterly intelligence; but he did almost think that the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley), the late President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Mundella), and the late Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) and other Gentlemen who sat on that Bench, were perhaps almost the equal in intelligence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby. The majority of the Dissentients were Whigs. Now, whatever the Whigs might have been once, they were now a small aristocratic body with exceedingly few followers in the country; they had almost all gone over to the Conservative side. They never had a majority in the House. But they always exercised a weight out of all proportion to their numbers in the Liberal Party, because they had always managed in some way to get in large numbers upon the Executive. They might well use the words, Sic vos non vobs. They always got into Office and kept themselves in Office. In this art they were, of course, the superiors of the Radicals. There was nothing in the alliance of the Whigs with the Tories. To the Whigs, politics were nothing but a game between two rival aristocratic bands, with Office as the stakes. They had always been ready to ally themselves with the Tories when they thought the Democratic coach was going too fast. He did not blame them for it; but he protested against the prescriptive right which those Gentlemen seemed to think they had to be the Leaders of the Liberal Party, and against the opinion they seemed to entertain that when they spoke Liberals were to hear and obey. Besides this Whig gang and some other nondescripts here and there, there was what perhaps he might term the Birmingham gang. The Head of the Birmingham gang was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. The gang consisted mainly of the family of the right hon. Gentleman and the present and ex-Town Councillors and Aldermen of Birmingham. No doubt, the people of Birmingham owed these Gentlemen gratitude for their 281 municipal services; but at the Elections they appear to have subordinated Imperial interests to municipal gratitude. In the country and beyond Birmingham he thought these Birmingham Gentlemen had no sort of influence, and that was not surprising, for the views of the right hon. Gentleman on Ireland had frequently been before the public, and the right hon. Gentleman had never made a speech on the subject without proposing some new plan and contradicting some previous speech of his own. It seemed to him that the basis of the right hon. Gentleman's policy in regard to Ireland was that no scheme was to be judged on its merits, and that no scheme could possibly be good of which he himself was not the author. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman's policy was to reverse the words of Dickens—"Short's your friend, not Codlin." The Radicals in the country, as soon as they perceived that the right hon. Gentleman desired to establish a Dictatorship for himself in the Radical Party, protested against it; but they were still more indignant when they found the right hon. Gentleman calling in the Tories as allies in order to force that Dictatorship upon them. He wished to point out that no Dissentient Liberal who had had to submit to a contest at the Elections had been returned by Liberal votes. There was a majority in favour of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in Scotland and Wales, and in Great Britain 1,300,000 Liberal electors voted in favour of it. The Dissentient Liberals were not convinced by the argument of figures, and attributed the votes given in favour of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian to a temporary aberration of intelligence on the part of the electors. But there was no doubt that the policy of the Liberal Party must be the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. Still these Whig Gentlemen met at Devonshire House. They deposed the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian and chose the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale as their Leader, declared themselves to be the Liberal Party, and proceeded to state what were the views of this Party—namely, to keep the Tories in Office until the recalcitrant Liberals accepted their Leaders. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham was at that meeting. Not long 282 ago the right hon. Member for West Birmingham denounced the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale as a Rip van Winkle; and the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale pointed out that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, with his doctrine of ransom, was little better than a bandit. He was very curious to know what concessions on the one side or the other had brought these two hon. Members together. He deplored the fall of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was worthy of better things than to become a mere Whig henchman and to elaborate policies for the Liberal Party in a ducal drawing-room. When the Doge of Genoa visited Louis XIV. at Versailles he was asked what was the most strange thing he had seen at Versailles, and he answered, "Myself." If the right hon. Gentleman had been asked what was the most strange thing he had seen at Dovonshire House, and had answered sincerely, he would have said, "Myself." Facilis descensus Averni; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would pause in his downward career. If not, the next thing that would be heard of would be that the right hon. Gentleman had been gazetted Lord Chamberlain, and the right hon. Gentleman would produce a genealogy—certified to by the Somerset Herald-at-Arms—that he was descended from the Sire de Chamberlain, who came to England with the Sire de Brassey at the time of the Norman Conquest. The Radicals did not for a moment ignore the great qualities of the right hon. Gentleman, and would always be glad to receive him as one of their Leaders; but as a Dictator forced upon them by an illustrious family and Tory votes the Radicals would never accept him. He believed that the majority of the electors were in favour of Home Rule, and that the Land Purchase Bill lost the Election. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Mid Lothian introduced that Bill, not that he particularly approved of it, but to conciliate the Tories. The right hon. Gentleman did not conciliate the Tories, and alienated a considerable number of Radicals. The fact was that Democrats had no sort of sympathy with landlords in this country, and they had still less sympathy with landlords in Ireland. They considered that the distressful state of Ireland was 283 mainly due to the oppression and iniquities of the Irish landlords; and far from wishing to buy them out they were perfectly ready to leave them to the tender mercies of an Irish Parliament. He had no doubt they would receive justice; and no doubt useful precedents would be established for Democrats dealing with landlords in this country. He did not envy the position of Her Majesty's Government. The position of Dissentient Liberals in the House was sufficiently humiliating; but not so humiliating as the position of the Government, who were obliged to bow the knee to the Whigs. He looked upon the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a sort of Sinbad, with the Whigs upon his back, and the Whig bridle in his mouth, and he wished him joy of them. At the same time, he (Mr. Labouchere) was anxious to conciliate. He was always in favour of a fatted-calf policy, and if the Dissentients would come back the rest of the Party would be ready to receive them with open arms. But he did not think even the Prodigal Son would have been received with open arms if he had returned to his father with a band of the companions of his debaucheries to knock at his father's door. If he had wished to dislodge his father from his seat at the head of the table, and had told the decent, respectable friends of his father that they were to wait on this prodigal son and his companions, he suspected there would have been very little fatted calf for them. The direct issue at the Elections was the question of Ireland, yet there was no mention of Ireland in Her Majesty's Speech. That was, however, supplemented by the statements of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in that House, and of a noble Lord in "another place," and their declaration was that there was to be no Statutory Parliament for Ireland. That was perfectly natural; but when they went on to say that the question was finally settled they went entirely beyond the mark. Did they imagine for one moment that the Irish people would consider the question was finally settled until they had achieved their right to self-government? It was no longer a question between the millions of Great Britain and the population of Ireland, but it was a question between the Radical Democracy and the privileged classes. It was a new and mon- 284 strous doctrine to contend that the Liberal Party when defeated on a great question like that of Home Rule should humbly acknowledge the defeat and declare that they would cease to strive for the ends which they held desirable. How many reforms would the Liberal Party have carried if they had allowed themselves to be ruled by a doctrine of that kind? He trusted that the Irish would not abate one jot or tittle of their demands, and that in the prosecution of their object they would adopt every means which was legitimate in the case of a nation wrestling to be free. He honoured them for their dogged resistance. The vilest of slavery was the slavery of race to race. There were Irishmen all over the world, driven out of their country by oppression and misery, and it was a magnificent sight to see them still united with their brethren in Ireland in their tireless effort to obtain self-government for their unhappy island. For centuries they had struggled against servitude, for centuries they had clung to their nationality, and now, when the cup was within reach of their lips, they were asked to abandon their design. It had been said that the Chicago Convention would lead to a split; it had done nothing of the kind, but had resulted in an expression of undiminished confidence in the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). The Irish might well be proud of their Leader, who was conspicuous for energy, ability, tenacity of purpose, and for the possession of the mens æqua in arduis. His contempt for the insults which were heaped upon him by the English Press also compelled admiration. When silent, he was told that he did not dare to speak, and that he was a coward; when he spoke, he was told that he could not be believed, because he was a liar. Sometimes he was even called an assassin; but he could treat all these attacks with contempt, because he had gained the love of his countrymen and the respect of every Englishman whose respect was worth having. It had been said that Jefferson Davis had "made a nation; "but it might with even more truth be said that the hon. Member for Cork had made the Irish nation. It was a curious fact of journalism that the two men most grossly abused were the two men most popular in their respective nations—the hon. Member for Cork and the right 285 hon. Member for Mid Lothian. Hon. Members opposite called the followers of the hon. Member for Cork a mercenary band, because they were supplied with money from America for Party purposes. That Irishmen abroad should send over money to enable Ireland to achieve what she desired showed their ineradicable love for their country. The sneer came with exceedingly bad grace from representatives of the privileged class. How many Gentlemen sitting opposite, he should like to know, had had their Election expenses paid out of funds subscribed by Dukes and Marquesses? It would appear that while it was a dishonourable thing for a poor Member to receive help from his country, it was an honourable thing for Gentlemen opposite, and perhaps some Dissentients on his own side of the House, to sit as the henchman, sycophants, and followers of some noble Duke or other. The intention of the present Government in regard to Home Rule was perfectly obvious. It was that nothing in the shape of local self-government should be given to Ireland. He knew that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had talked vaguely of some scheme which should apply equally to England, Scotland, and Ireland; but no good could come of any identical scheme for the three countries, because a plan suited to England would not be suited to Scotland, and certainly not to Ireland. Like some of his Predecessors, the noble Lord the Leader of the House had already begun to juggle with the figures relating to agrarian crime. When it served their purpose Ministers declared that there was no agrarian crime, and when the contrary served their purpose better they said that there was a vast amount of it. The noble Lord had said that this kind of crime had increased, and he doubtless hoped that it would increase to a still greater extent. Winter was coming on, evictions were becoming more in number, and the noble Lord was about to commission the military to aid in carrying them out. That was what he called "maintaining order." Was it possible to suppose that when men should see their wives and children driven from their homes there would be no disturbance in Ireland? [An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear!] An hon. Member opposite said "Hear, hear!" He should despise the Irish if in such circumstances 286 they were to remain passive. Well, these disturbances would serve the Government as an excuse for not granting any kind of Home Rule, and then would come the Salisbury policy—the Hottentot policy—of "20 years' firm government." At the end of that period, if the Irish kissed the rod, they would then perhaps have some small modicum of local self-government given to them. It had been the object of the Tory Party to show that if Home Rule were granted there would be disturbances in many parts of the country, and with that view the noble Lord proceed to Belfast, and there fanned the flames of religious bigotry, and when his efforts had been crowned with success, and when disturbance did break out, he and his Friends came forward saying—"We have proved our case, for you see the bare idea of Home Rule has been the cause of serious disturbances." He thought, for his own part, from their experience of the noble Lord and his Friends and their manœuvres in regard to Belfast that they were most anxious and would do their best in order that there should be disturbances throughout Ireland. The fact was the Tories—the privileged classes—did not want this Irish Question settled. They were not such fools as to kill the hen that laid the golden eggs. Ireland was the best card in their hands. They knew that there was a strong feeling in the country against the privileged classes and their privileges, and they considered it good policy to divert attention from them by stirring up ill-feeling and race animosity in Ireland. He rerejoiced at the declaration of the late Prime Minister that he would never cease to protest till Ireland had a Domestic Legislature. That pronouncement would be a message of peace and goodwill to Ireland. The Unionists and the Conservatives declared they would never consent to the establishment of such a Legislature for Ireland, so that no compromise between them and the Radicals was possible. But if the Liberal Party were true to Ireland, and the Irish were true to them, he had no doubt that the cause would win in the end. The policy of the masses would overthrow the policy of the classes. The noble Lord did not limit himself to a negative policy, but announced that a certain General would be sent to Ireland. No doubt this General was a brave and 287 brilliant soldier, but it was singular that in the exercise of his profession he had been mainly occupied in slaying and crushing the Nationalists of Africa. The late Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley) declined to sanction the employment of the military and constabulary in the work of rent collecting, and it was owing to this that Ireland had been comparatively peaceful. He wished to know whether the Military Forces of the Crown were to be employed only in preventing outrages or also in aiding the landlords to collect their rents? If they were to perform the latter duty, it was vain to hope for peace or quiet in Ireland. Then the noble Lord had announced the proposed appointment of various Commissions. It seemed to him that this Government might fairly be described as one of Commissions and omissions. The first Commission was to be one for drainage, &c, to be composed of men well known in engineering and contracting works; so contractors would benefit if nobody else did. But this work ought to be the work of an Irish Parliament. The country had had Commission upon Commission, and the question was whether any real work was now to be done or not? The other Commission was to investigate the operation of the Land Act in Ireland. It had been admitted by all, he thought, with the exception of the noble Lord, that judicial rents were at present and must in the nature of things be too high owing to the fall in the value of produce. The noble Lord stated that the Commissioners in awarding the judicial rents had taken into consideration the possible fall of the value of produce. He never heard that stated before, and no one who was concerned in the forming of the Commission or the Commissioners themselves had any such idea. It should be remembered that there were 530,000 holdings in Ireland that could not possibly bear any rent at all and enable the tenants to live and thrive at the same time. Therefore, the formation of this Commission was nothing more than a dilatory plea, and meant very little. But the Government went further, and stated their views with regard to the Land Act. The noble Lord on the Front Opposition Bench, and the noble Lord on the Ministerial Bench, had laid it down that the judicial rent was a final settlement of 288 the whole question of rent with regard to the landlords. When the rent was reduced, the landlords, as he understood it, were guaranteed that they should not in any way suffer if the tenant was unable to pay the rent. The second proposition of the two noble Lords was that dual ownership in the land was undesirable in Ireland. The noble Lord opposite, on these two propositions, founded what he took to represent the policy of the Government—namely, that the State was bound to indemnify the landlords if they did not receive any rent, or a rent less than that which they had a right to under the award of the Land Commission; and that the State ought to buy out the landlords of Ireland. But it was not only that the State ought to buy out the landlords, but that it ought to buy them out not at the actual commercial price of the land now, but upon the value at which it stood in 1881. Then he should like to know where the money was to come from for all this? He presumed that it was, if possible, to be screwed out of the Irish people; and if it could not be got in that way, it was to be drawn from the English people. In any case, it was obvious that the English would have to give a guarantee for it. In fact, according to the reasoning of the noble Lords, we had already given the Irish landlords a guarantee for the amount of the judicial rent, and if the landlords were bought out we should have to give a guarantee for the payment of £300,000,000. What was this but a Land Purchase scheme? What was the difference between this and the Land Purchase scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian? The only difference was that they were to receive more money than they would get under the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman. He was glad that the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool had protested against such a scheme. He was glad that the hon. Gentleman and the Irish Convention had stated that the Irish people were not ready to sell their birthright for any such mess of pottage. As far as he could see if they did so they would be called upon to pay for the pottage. If we were mortgagees for the greater part of the land, and we guaranteed the rent to the owners of the rest, was it likely that we should grant the Irish 289 Home Rule? It would be said that the enormous financial interests which, we had in Ireland gave us a right to remain there. They knew very well that this scheme was a simple mode of rendering Home Rule impossible. He should like to know what the Conservatives had to say to such a scheme, and what was the opinion of the Dissentient Liberals with regard to it? Liberal Members knew that their constituencies were placarded with great broadsheets denouncing them because it was said that if they were elected the English taxpayers would have to pay a vast sum of money. The Conservatives and the Unionists in Northampton united to oppose him and his Colleague, and the result of the coalition of the two Parties was that they hired a donkey. This quadruped went about the streets with great placards on his back, stating that if he and his Colleague were elected the unhappy people of Northampton would have to pay their share of £150,000,000, which the late Prime Minister was going to take out of the pockets of the British taxpayers and give to the Irish. It appeared to him that this donkey represented the policy of the Unionists and of the Conservatives. The Dissentient Unionists, more than anyone else, protested against this scheme of Land Purchase, and sided with the Government. He thought that they should make some public announcement at once upon the subject. What had the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham to say to it? The right hon. Gentleman distinguished himself by his declaration that the landlords and the privileged classes ought to pay ransom; but it would seem, according to this scheme, that the plan of ransom existed, but that the ransom ought to be paid to the landlords. Was the right hon. Gentleman in favour of the scheme, and did he propose to vote for it when it was brought forward? Both sides of the House had protested against any scheme of Land Purchase, and it was no part or parcel of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian for the settlement of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman asked the constituencies merely to say whether they were in favour of a domestic Legislature for Ireland. If that was the case, and there was a majority in the House 290 and in the constituencies against a Land Purchase Scheme, it would be perfectly monstrous if such a scheme were forced upon the House, and, by arrangements and intrigues, carried through. Before any such scheme was passed there should be an appeal to the country. He quite understood the dislike of hon. Gentlemen opposite to such an appeal. They were eager for an appeal in the last Parliament. But he should like to know whether the country had been consulted upon this Land Purchase Scheme? So far as it had been consulted, it had pronounced against any such scheme; and he submitted that they ought to use every Form of the House in order to insist that before the country was pledged to a scheme involving, perhaps, £300,000,000, it should have an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon it.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
I am unwilling to trespass upon the time of the House by taking part in a debate which can have no definite issue, which relates to a policy almost entirely in the future, and the prolongation of which, therefore, seems to me, with all deference to hon. Members, to be hardly a useful adaptation of the time of the House. The policy which my noble Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer so clearly and so fully put before the House the other night has been submitted to such an extraordinary process of what the hon. Gentleman opposite who has just addressed us called generalization on the part of hon. Members on the other side of the House, that I think Her Majesty's Government cannot now, in the caricature which is presented to them, recognize any child of their own. I shall, therefore, endeavour to recall, as shortly as possible, and I hope very plainly, the attention of the House to what our policy really is, and to strip it of the enormous exaggerations and misrepresentations brought upon it by hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) always interests and amuses the House; but he will pardon me for saying that in the speeches which he addresses to us I think he sometimes goes a little beyond what he really means. When he charged us, as a Government, with encouraging outrages and promoting disturbances in Ireland, when he told us that we were 291 prepared to turn loose the military upon the tenants at the bidding of the landlords, he made charges for which, if they were true, we should deserve to be impeached. But he made them in such a good-humoured way that I know perfectly well he attached no more real importance to them than he did to his description of the Irish nation as a race in slavery to the English race, or to his frequent references to the privileged classes, whose privilege mainly, it appears to me, consists of being invariably abused by the hon. Gentleman. But, if I may venture to say it, we have had more serious speeches than that of the hon. Member for Northampton, and speeches which appear to me to stand more in need of reply. We had a speech the other evening from the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), who spoke, as he always does, with a fervid and native eloquence; but he also seemed to be a little hard on the Government when he described their policy as one of coercion, bankruptcy, and repudiation. He must have had something else in his mind; he must have quoted a sentence that he might have applied to a former Government, who had propounded a very different policy. Our policy is, I will venture to say, a very plain policy; it is, I hope, a sober policy; it is a policy which has for its great object the social and the material welfare of Ireland. Let me add that it is a policy to obtain what I believe is earnestly desired—namely, some rest from that ceaseless political agitation which has disturbed Ireland so long. Well, as part of that policy, we have stated to the House our intention to propose an important inquiry into the development of the material resources of Ireland. [Home Rule laughter.] I do not know why that proposal was met with the ridicule which it evoked. I remember the discussion of Irish affairs in this House for some years past, and up to the present time these very matters which were alluded to by my noble Friend were the matters in respect of which the popular Irish Party were always most earnest in their demand for favourable consideration by the Government and by Parliament. And yet, Sir, we are told, forsooth, by the hon. Member for Liverpool that we are bribing, demoralizing, and cheating the 292 Irish people when we attempt to take what, as I shall afterwards show, is a real and practicable step towards seeing whether that policy can be carried into effect, and whether the material interests of Ireland can be promoted in that way. My noble Friend spoke of our determination to restore and to maintain social order in Ireland, exerting all the forces at our disposal for the purpose, and if those forces fail coming to Parliament for increased powers; and we are told, forsooth, that he has made a great discovery of something new, and it is said that social disorder can never be treated except in concert with the redress of grievances out of which the social disorder springs. I remember when the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) held different opinions from those he expressed the other night, when he denounced the doctrines of the leaders of the Land League as doctrines of treason and assassination, and proposed to take a very active part in proposing to Parliament measures of repression unaccompanied by any measures of a remedial character. The right hon. Gentleman never spoke then of redressing the grievances out of which sprung the disorders which he asked Parliament to give powers to put down. When the right hon. Gentleman not very long ago as Home Secretary had to superintend the restoring of social order in the Isle of Skye, what did he do then? He did not wait for the passing of a Crofters Bill, but he sent down gunboats and Marines to put down the crofters. Oh, no, Sir; this idea that a necessary accompaniment of the restoration of social order is the redress of grievances is a modern discovery.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
Yes; but the right hon. Gentleman never went forward with it. It was on an occasion subsequent to that to which I have alluded that the Crofters Bill was announced. What is the grievance to which the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was mainly directed? What, in his opinion, is the great Irish grievance which requires to be redressed? Why, Sir, it is the want of a separate Irish Government and a separate Irish Parliament. Why is not the right hon. Gentleman on this side of the House 293 now to ask the House of Commons to consent to that policy? Because he knows very well, as we all know, in spite of the statements of the hon. Member for Northampton, that the country has distinctly and decisively pronounced against it. Therefore, he was telling us to redress grievances in spite of pledges he knows full well we have made against a separate Irish parliament and a separate Irish Government, and in spite of the fact, which he knows full well, that it is impossible for a Government possessing the confidence of the present House of Commons to propose any such measures. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman another question on this matter. What has this to do with the restoration of social order in Belfast? Was social order disturbed in Belfast on account of the absence of a separate Irish Government or a separate Irish Parliament? [Mr. BIGGAR: Yes; certainly.] No; my impression is that the main reason for the disturbance of social order in Belfast was those unhappy feelings which were excited in that great town by the proposal of a separate Government. But I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman another thing—Is rioting in Belfast, is "Moonlighting" in Kerry, to be permitted to go on until the constituencies have changed their minds and have returned a House of Commons which will adopt the policy favoured by the right hon. Gentleman? Can the right hon. Gentleman, or the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), tell us anything in the Government, or the law, or the administration of Ireland, which justifies the rioting in Belfast or Moonlighting in Kerry? If they cannot tell us anything of this sort, why does the right hon. Gentleman sneer at our efforts to put these evils down? Why did he sneer at us for retaining the services of an able man like Sir Redvers Buller, and sending him with full power to alter and control the organization of the police with a view to the detection and the repression of crime in Kerry? Why did he sneer at our action in Belfast, say that we were bringing the military in to do police work, and make that kind of accusation against us? Sir, we look upon it as our duty as a Government to maintain order, to enforce the law as we find it, considering carefully at the same time if in any matter the law is wrong or un- 294 just, and deciding as soon as we can, if we find it so, to make proposals to Parliament to alter it. I should almost have supposed that the magnanimity of the right hon. Member for Derby, considering that he has escaped himself from the difficult task of administering the Government of Ireland, considering that by the policy which he and his Colleagues adopted they rendered that task immeasurably more difficult, I should almost have thought his magnanimity would have prompted him, at least, to render some aid in the opening days of our work, in meeting the difficulties before us. But if the right hon. Gentleman could not do that, if he held that the policy indicated in the speech of my noble Friend was radically wrong, I should have thought that the courage displayed in the criticism by which he disposed of it would have led him to move an Amendment to the Address. No, Sir; the right hon. Gentleman does none of these things; what he does is to stab us in the back with misrepresentations of our policy, by charging my noble Friend with inciting landlords to exact full rents and with precipitating evictions, and by quoting an expression of opinion from Sir James Caird which was misunderstood, and which Sir James Caird himself has since publicly stated was misunderstood. The right hon. Gentleman quoted that opinion that economical rent had disappeared for the present from 528,000 holdings in Ireland, as what? As a dangerous suggestion to Irish tenants that they should not fulfil their legal obligations. No, Sir; the policy of the right hon. Gentleman is just this—he will not attack us openly; he stabs us in the back. He chalks "No rent" upon the wall, and then he runs away. Does he wish us to rush into legislation upon this most important and difficult question of the land? If so, I should like to know what he would himself propose? He gave no hint of that in his criticism upon our policy. He did not say he was in favour of a Bill for suspending the eviction of tenants under judicial rents. Oh, no, Sir; he merely gave hints to be taken by those whom they may concern. He could not make such a proposal, because he was one of the authors of the Irish. Land Act of 1881; and he knows very well, and those right hon. Gentlemen sitting beside him know very well, that 295 any such proposal would be the deathblow of that system of judicial rents which was the main feature of that Act in relation to Irish tenants. Although the right hon. Gentleman does not suggest any change himself he charges us with delay; he charges us—and the charge has been repeated by a good many Members below the Gangway—with proposing a policy of inquiry merely with the view of postponing any action on our part. Of course, we are told that our object is to keep ourselves in the enjoyments of the sweets of Office. [Opposition cheers.] Well, if hon. Members who knew as much of the sweets of Office and of its anxieties and responsibilities as I do they would not be so ready to make the suggestion. What is this policy of inquiry on which we have resolved? We have to do two things. In the first place we have to carry on the administration of Ireland. I have already referred to the enormous difficulties of that task. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), in one of his speeches in the last Parliament, or at the time of the Election, referred to the fact that he believed he had, by the introduction of his schemes, made the government of Ireland impossible in any other way than by the granting of a separate Irish Parliament.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I have not the words here. I do not mean to say that he had intended to do so, but that the fact of the introduction of the Home Rule schemes had made the government of Ireland impossible. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] At any rate, he will acknowledge that the introduction of his schemes has made the task of the present Government, which is not in favour of those schemes, a very difficult task. We have to devote ourselves, then, in the first place, to the administration of the Irish Government. That is not a light task. In the second place, we have to devote ourselves to the careful consideration of what we can do in decentralizing Irish Government, in introducing a system of local self-government in Ireland framed on a popular basis—framed, as far as we can frame it, 296 to meet the interests of Ireland in that matter, while being within the lines laid down by our own pledges and the desires of our constituents. Well, Sir, that is a pretty severe task for us between the present time and the ordinary meeting of Parliament next year. But that is not the whole of our policy. We are not content with that. We recognize—as I have often said speaking on the other side of the House—to the full that it is impossible that the Irish Land Question can remain in its present condition. I have always said so. The system of practically dual ownership which was established by the Act of 1881 is as impossible as a final satisfactory settlement as the copyhold system, which is not unlike it, has proved in England. We find ourselves face to face with this question. We find it intertwined with other important matters in the social state of Ireland, with the want of other employment in other industries, with the pitiable condition of much of the population on the West Coast. We have all these social matters to consider, and they have to be considered by anyone who would arrive at a proper solution of the question of Irish land. What do we propose? We propose an inquiry—an immediate inquiry—by a Commission, a small working Commission, consisting of men who, in our belief, thoroughly understand the question. [An hon. MEMBER: Who are they?] The names cannot be announced yet, especially at a time of year when some of the hardest workers are absent from the United Kingdom. We propose such an inquiry with certain definite points which my noble Friend stated to the House the other day. It is not a general inquiry into the whole of the Irish Land Question. The points have been carefully defined, and we hope and believe that the scope of the Commission is so narrowed that it will be perfectly possible for them to report in time for us to consider the facts they have ascertained and their recommendations, and decide upon any legislation which it may be our duty to submit in the coming Session of Parliament. What I want to submit is, Can we in any other way give a more practical proof of our desire to deal with this matter than by thoroughly sifting it by impartial persons? What do hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway say?
297 They say that it is impossible that rents in Ireland can now be paid—that they must have a Bill suspending evictions in the case of tenants under judicial rents. That view was stated in a very exaggerated form by the hon. Member for Liverpool, who told us that our policy was a decree of starvation against hundreds of thousands of Irish tenants who were not able to pay their rents. What I want is to state the real position of this question. Everybody in England, at least in the South of England, knows very well that, thanks to the great fall in the price of articles mainly produced in the South of England, the rents of arable farms have enormously decreased within the last few years. That is probably true of other parts of Great Britain; but the case is different from Ireland, as the article to which I mainly refer is wheat, and no one can say that the price of wheat has any great influence on the general state of agriculture in Ireland. My noble Friend the other night referred to two articles which have fallen largely in price in Ireland. He spoke of butter and stock. The price of these articles is a most material element in Irish agriculture. No doubt, a large and permanent fall in their prices must have a material effect on the power of the tenants to pay their rents. But this is no question of rents agreed to in the ordinary way by agreement between landlord and tenant. In such cases, I believe, the landlords generally throughout Ireland have made large remissions in the past year, and they are likely to do so in the future. My noble Friend was charged with suggesting that the Irish landlords should press their rights to the utmost. He never used a sentence which would bear that construction. The noble Lord and Her Majesty's Government would deprecate as earnestly as anyone any such action on the part of the Irish landlords; and we might do so with some force, for I think we have been reminded that there are Members of the Government who are not content with preaching, but have shown that they know how to practise. In this way there would be no difficulty in Ireland, as there had been none in England, in remedying any difficulty which tenants might find in paying their rents in the coming autumn if landlords and tenants were but free to make their bargains for themselves. But more than 298 that, the Act of 1881 contains a provision which, if I understand it rightly, seems intended to save a tenant in such a position, not being under judicial rent, from any hardship. Under that provision a tenant whom his landlord seeks to evict may appeal to the Court for a stay of the decree of eviction until he can apply to the Land Commission, for a judicial rent. The Court has to lay down certain terms upon which the decree can be stayed, and I know no reason why in this matter the Court should not act with perfect fairness as between landlord and tenant. Now, I come to another matter—the question of tenants holding under judicial rents. My noble Friend has already put before the House the position of this question. Under the Act of 1881 Commissioners were appointed, and can it be supposed that these Commissioners, who were considered amply qualified by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, fixed the judicial rents without taking into consideration the fact that the price of produce must necessarily vary? I cannot imagine that any right hon. Gentleman opposite will rise and tell us that the Commissioners were so utterly wanting in their duty as not to take that matter into consideration in fixing rents for a term of 15 years. Is this fall in the price of produce, which is now so great, only a temporary or a permanent fall? What do we find? We find, from instances I have already stated in reply to a Question, that tenants can afford, in spite of the fall in prices, to give enormous sums for the tenant right of land in Ireland. These are matters which surely deserve grave consideration, and specially by those who are responsible for the Land Act of 1881, before they undertake to say that the judicial rents were fixed so unjustly or unfairly that, when a year comes in which prices fall, as they have fallen for a short time, the cry is at once justifiable that those rents should be revised. On the other hand, Her Majesty's Government have never, from the beginning of this matter, looked upon the Commissioners who have decided rents as infallible either in their method or in their knowledge of the question. We admit that it is possible that they may have been wrong, and, therefore, we include this matter in the inquiry which we propose. It is not for me to forecast what the result of 299 that inquiry may be on either of the two points affecting the payment of rents specified for inquiry in that Commission. It is not for me, I think, to dwell on those remarkable assertions as to our intention to charge the taxpayers with an enormous sum for the benefit of Irish landlords at the present moment. We wait the result of that inquiry; we wait to see what facts are proved; we wait to see what suggestions are made, in order to form our own opinions on them; and when we make proposals to Parliament for the granting of the £300,000,000 suggested by the hon. Member for Northampton, it will be time enough for him to make the extravagant objections of such a remarkable character which he has raised tonight. Now, I come to the final object of this land inquiry. We believe that this Irish Land Question can only be settled by the substitution of a large peasant proprietary for the present system of dual ownership. We trust that the Commission will be able to recommend some practical changes in the present law which will aid us in arriving earlier at that object. But I hope, Sir, the House will not for a moment suppose that we intend at all to give easier terms by way of advance or by way of repayment for loans from the State to landlords and tenants for the purchase of land than were given in the Act of 1885. That Act is working well. It would be cruel to hold out the slightest hope that it would be altered in that direction. It ought not to be altered, for the terms are as liberal as any Parliament in the world ever gave to promote an object of such importance. I am convinced that if it be the desire of the Irish tenants to become purchasers of their holdings on any terms, those terms, as far as this Act goes, are as favourable as they can be. But, Sir, there are matters in which, as we believe, the operation of that Act may be extended and expedited, especially in the congested districts of Ireland. An instance came before me the other day affecting an estate in the West of Ireland in one of those congested districts. The owner was willing to sell; the tenants were willing to buy. They had agreed on the terms of sale and purchase; but the Land Commissioners who were entrusted with deciding on the fitness of the transaction, owing to the nature of the dis- 300 trict, the poverty of the land and of the tenants, felt themselves compelled to hesitate whether they would sanction it, because, as it seemed to them, unless they compelled the owner to deposit in their hands a larger proportion of the purchase money than was named in the Act, they would hardly have sufficient backing for the advance it was desired to obtain. If there be a desire, as I cannot help hoping there may be, on the part of new Local Authorities in districts such as those I have named to facilitate the working of the Act, there are more ways than one in which I can conceive, without any loss to themselves, they might give the greatest assistance, both to individuals and to the State, in expediting and extending its operations. That, therefore, is the scope of that inquiry. I have referred, I think, to all the three heads; but I would say very shortly that the whole chance to my mind of any satisfactory solution of this question, or of the restoration of any real prosperity to Ireland, must depend upon that enforcement of legal obligations without which no country can exist. When fair rents are decided, when fair terms of purchase are settled, the law must be carried out; and if it be not carried out, you cannot have confidence or security, without which it is impossible that Ireland can ever prosper. I now come to the second Commission, in regard to which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir William Harcourt) was so sarcastic the other evening. It will be of little use, I think, to turn tenants into owners in those poor congested districts of the West of Ireland unless you can find for them and develop some means of livelihood beyond that which they can scrape out of their little holdings. Is there nothing which hon. Members below the Gangway opposite can view with favourable eyes in our suggestion that the development of the deep-sea fishing industry on the West Coast should be stimulated? I am aware that this matter has been the subject of many Commissions, of much inquiry, of frequent Reports, and also of frequent attempts to deal with it. The last attempt was made in 1883. An Act was passed allocating a sum of £250,000 of the Church Surplus towards the building or the improvement of harbours on the Coasts of Ireland for fishery purposes. I understand that the 301 whole of that fund has now been allocated; but with rare exceptions it has been allocated to harbours which are not large enough for the large boats with which it is essential the deep-sea fishing industry should be prosecuted if it is to be prosecuted at all. I am informed, on good authority, there are as many as four or five places on the West and North Coasts of Ireland where harbours of that sort could be constructed at a comparatively small cost—nothing like the £300,000,000 mentioned by the hon. Member for Northampton—with communication by tramway or railway to existing means of communication with markets, so as to afford means for the development of those deep-sea fisheries which would be so infinitely more productive than any industry which the inhabitants of that Coast at present prosecute. Is there nothing in that view of the problem which commends itself to hon. Members? I do not say that it can be done; but I do say that I should like to see it done. People talk of emigration or migration as the sole remedy of the inhabitants of the West of Ireland. I would, if I could, infinitely prefer to leave them there and enable them to live there. I think hon. Members below the Gangway opposite will be of that opinion too. That, then, is the first head of inquiry for the second Commission. What is the next head? It is the completion of the arterial drainage of Ireland. As the hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare) reminded the House the other night, much has been done and is being done in existing Acts of Parliament by the Board of Works and by Local Boards in Ireland for the improvement of the drainage of that country; but there are certain great arteries into which all the small drainage works must run which have never been properly cared for, as they ought to be if the small drainage works are to work effectively. And those great works can never—Ihave given great thought and consideration to the subject—be carried out solely by local enterprize, because they never can pay those locally interested in them. Is not that a question which may, and ought to be, fairly considered? If it were shown to the satisfaction of the House of Commons that a comparatively small sum—£750,000—would really complete this arterial drain- 302 age of Ireland—and on which, no doubt, some return would be obtainable for the State—if that could be shown to the satisfaction of the House of Commons, is not that a policy which hon. Members might support in the material interests of their country, and which ought not to be unacceptable to the British Parliament? Then as to the third inquiry. It has been my fate to travel a good deal about Ireland. I appeal to hon. Members from Ireland, and others who know the country, whether they know anything much worse in any part of the world than the "facilities," if I may so call them, for interchange of traffic afforded by the different Railway Companies, and the rates and fares for the conveyance of passengers? At one time it was proposed that all this should be put right by a great system of State purchase of Irish railways. I remember the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) warmly opposed any such proposition. I discussed it in 1874, when I was Irish Secretary, and I cordially concurred with the opposition which the right hon. Gentleman gave to it. But I must say that I can conceive that, if Parliament could in any way facilitate the amalgamation—compel the amalgamation of those little Irish lines, and encourage cheaper fares—an enormous advantage would be gained in the development of the commercial and industrial resources of Ireland. I may be told that this is an inquiry of great scope, and that it relates to matters dealt with by previous Commissions; what, then, is the use of a new Commission? On that point what I say is this—these matters have previously been inquired into mainly by Irish Commissions. They have often reported in favour of considerable expenditure upon them, and of proposals of various kinds; but nothing has been done, so far as I know, to carry out their suggestions. Why has it not been done? Because I am afraid there has been a sort of suspicion on the part of many hon. Members of the Imperial Parliament, that Irishmen would recommend any kind of expenditure, however useless and extravagant, provided the money were only spent in Ireland. What we want to do is to get some Commission which will go into this matter and report upon it with the highest authority to Parliament. My noble Friend informed the House that he proposed that the 303 Commission should be composed of experts. I should say that three men would be sufficient. They should be men of experience in engineering, in the execution of great public works, in the execution of drainage works, or in agriculture—men especially of large experience of them, not so much in Ireland as in other places. They should come to the examination of this question with all the knowledge which previous Reports of evidence places at their disposal, and with fresh and unbiased minds. They should look at it as hard-headed men of business; they should make their recommendations upon it to us; and if these recommendations should be in favour of an expenditure which to them would be considered practical and useful, why, to my mind, I think it is impossible to exaggerate the value of the backing such a recommendation would give to any Government in urging the acceptance of such proposals. Now, Sir, I hope I have said something to show to the House that what we mean by these Commissions is not delay, but real business. We want to do something in a matter which urgently requires to be dealt with—namely, the Irish Land Question. We want to put an end, if we can, to those interminable series of Reports, coupled with inaction, in those matters so intimately connected with the development of the material and industrial resources of Ireland. And, Sir, may I not hope that on further consideration hon. Members from Ireland will perhaps not view that policy as quite so ridiculous as they appear to regard it now? I quite admit that we are not offering them that which is the main and paramount object of their desire. I quite admit that when we are proposing to decentralize the system of Irish Government, to remodel local government in Ireland on popular lines, we are attempting a work which is not the constituting of a separate Irish Government and a separate Irish Parliament, and we do not make those proposals with the slighest idea—we are not so foolish as to suppose—that such proposals would in any way satisfy their great desire and demand. But what I would, in all deference, ask them to do is to consider these questions a little apart. They cannot have, for the present at any rate, that separate Government and Parliament which they want. Are they not, in 304 the meantime, to do anything for the benefit of their country? What we ask is that the Imperial Parliament should help us in forwarding the national prosperity of Ireland, in doing something to remedy its social grievances. Will the Irish Members not, so far as they can in accordance with their opinions, give us their help in a work which is surely for the benefit of their country? I have detained the House already, I fear, too long. I have been anxious, first, to strip our proposals of that veil of exaggeration which has been thrown over them by so many speakers; and, secondly, to impress upon the House that what we mean is real action, and that it is in no spirit of delay, but, on the contrary, in our desire to do something, that my noble Friend expounded his policy to the House the other evening, and that I am attempting, however feebly, to reproduce and expand it tonight. We shall endeavour to the best of our power to carry out the views we have expressed, and we appeal earnestly for the support of hon. Members, to whatever political Party they may belong, in that labour. So far as we are concerned, we take our stand, in the first place, on the maintenance of the Union. That is the decision which the constituencies of this country have come to. That it is our duty to maintain within the lines of our own pledges, in accordance with the votes we have given and the speeches we have made in this House. But within those lines we will do our best for those great interests that are committed to our charge, in the hope that our tenure of Office may show that we shall leave Ireland in a more peaceful, more prosperous, and more orderly condition than that in which, unfortunately, we now find it.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, that, in his opinion, further debate would be useful if it provoked some explanation from the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), and from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain). In answer to the appeal that had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), he (Mr. Bradlaugh) had no hesitation in charging the responsibility for the blood that had been recently shed in Belfast upon the speeches 305 of the noble Lord the Leader of the House (Lord Randolph Churchill); for he had led the Orangemen to believe that they had a right to resort to arms. It ill became the present Government to complain that they were unduly charged with inciting to outrage, when the House had the record of those speeches before it. It would be in the recollection of hon. Members who sat in the last Parliament that he (Mr. Bradlaugh) had drawn the attention of the House to one speech of the noble Lord, immediately on its delivery, as being likely to induce ignorant men to resort to such use of rifles and revolvers as might result in loss of life. The noble Lord offered no correction or explanation; and though it might be possibly said that his (Mr. Bradlaugh's) position as a private Member was not sufficient to require an answer, he would remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman the then Prime Minister (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had also gravely emphasized the comment he (Mr. Bradlaugh) had ventured to offer, and the noble Lord had never suggested that his language had been misrepresented or misconstrued. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had described what had been put before the House as a plain policy. That was the only word of description that seemed utterly inapplicable to it. He (Mr. Bradlaugh) wanted, however, to know what the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale had to say about the scheme of local self-government on popular lines in Ireland that had been propounded. The noble Marquess owed it to the country to say whether he had modified his views upon that subject, or whether he was going to support the Conservative Government in what they proposed. Had the views of the noble Marquess as to the functions of the State changed? Or was it the function of the State to do this and that for the people of Ireland which he did not think it the function of the State to do for the people of England? The House had a right to know, also, from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who had done so much to instal the Conservatives in Office, what he thought of some of the proposals of the Government with regard to Ireland? In a verbal sense it was not quite untrue that the country had decisively pronounced against a Statutory Parliament for Ireland; but in a very 306 real sense it was quite untrue, because the great bulk of the constituencies had been acted upon, not so much by the question of the Statutory Parliament for Ireland, as by the proposal to buy out Irish landlords at the expense of the British taxpayer. They had been told that the country had pronounced against the proposals of the late Prime Minister; but that pronouncement had been indistinct, and would not be decisive, because, even in the ranks of the Conservatives themselves, there would be difficulties when the English taxpayers were told that the present Government meant to bribe the Irish landlords at their expense. With regard to the proposal to deal with judicial rents, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had told them that it was possible that those rents might be found to have been imposed at a higher rate than the condition of the tenant would allow him to pay, but that it was a gross exaggeration to say that the present Government intended to burden the British taxpayer with reference to this. But he (Mr. Bradlaugh) thought that there was a distinct declaration on the part of the present Government that if the Commissioners were found to have blundered in fixing the rent the case was one in which the burden ought not to fall upon the landlord, but upon the State. But what was the State? The State was made up of the taxpayers of the country; and this proposal meant that they were to ask artizans, such as the Cannock Chase miners, who since Christmas had been getting about 16s. a-week, to pay the Irish landlord because a blunder had been made, and on the supposition that the landlord had been given more than he ever ought to have got. Then, what was the reason of the disturbance of social order in Belfast, apart from the reasons which he had previously alluded to? One of the reasons was that the Conservative Party had taught the leaders of the Protestants of Belfast that they would afford them special protection and aid as in the past; and it was that that had led to the disturbance. It was a part of that unfortunate and persistent policy which had always been on the side of the garrison of landlords against the unfortunate Roman Catholic tenantry. With regard to the sending of Sir Redvers Buller to Ireland, if he was simply 307 sent to administer the law, for his own part he (Mr. Bradlaugh) did not think that military Generals were usually found to be profound legists. But if Sir Redvers Buller was going to exercise special powers, then let the Government declare it to Parliament. They heard now that £750,000 would complete the arterial drainage of Ireland. If the Government thought that that money ought to be spent, let them ask Parliament for authority; it would be better even to throw away that sum than to have another winter of crime. But, in his opinion, the Local Authorities in Ireland best knew how to spend the money; it was not the duty of Parliament to deal with these things in this fashion. They were likely in this way only to render the population more helpless; it would be far better to let them have the opportunity of helping themselves. The right hon. Gentleman complained that he had been charged with proposing inquiries solely for the purpose of delay and for the purpose of holding Office. For his own part, he knew that the Office which the right hon. Gentleman held was one which no one would wish to hold except under a strong sense of duty, and he did not make that charge against the right hon. Gentleman; but if it were not somewhat for the purpose of delay, it would have only been necessary to walk into the Library of the House, where all the necessary information was already contained in Blue Books. In the Records now in the Library, taken on sworn evidence before Commissioners, there was already ample information as to the material condition of the people of Ireland as to drainage, and so forth. It was not a real inquiry that was sought; but, under cover of inquiry, the Government wanted to drift off the evil day and to escape from the responsibilities of their position. What was it that the Government proposed? They heard of decentralization; did that mean abolishing the Castle, or was it only a pretty word? Did local self-government on a popular basis only mean that it was to be on a basis popular with hon. Gentlemen who sat behind the Government and supported them with their votes? If the proposal really meant a strong measure of local self-government on a popular basis, then it meant something to which the noble Marquess the Mem- 308 ber for Rossendale objected, and with regard to which the great bulk of the Conservative Party would have been horrified if they had been compelled to vote for it if brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. As to the condition of the West Coast of Ireland, there were pages and pages of evidence from Irishmen already in existence in Blue Books as to what land should be cultivated, how it should be treated, and with regard to the drainage question as well; and yet now the present Parliament was asked to have a Royal Commission, in order that the Government might be prepared to bring in legislation on the subject? What were the tenants to do in the meanwhile? Were they to go on starving? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland told them that the tenant who did not hold under a judicial rent might appeal to a Court for delay until he could appeal to the Land Court. But in the case of a tenant who only paid £2 or £3 of rent the cost of the initial appeal would very likely amount to more than his rent. Everybody knew the state of the matter except the Members of the Conservative Cabinet, and they were going to make an inquiry—an inquiry which would only add another to the many which had ended in nothing. In connection with railways the Government proposed to compel cheaper fares. He was glad of that, because he believed that by railway rates in this country British produce was unfairly handicapped. But what would the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale say to that? At the General Election there was not a word about such a proposal. The Government did not know what their legislation was to be, and so they were to have a number of experts to inquire into the matter. The Government believed that the Land Question could be solved only by the creation of a peasant proprietary, if there was a desire on the part of the new Local Authorities to facilitate it. But who were to be the new Local Authorities? They were merely men in buckram, men of whom the House knew nothing. Were the peasant proprietorships to be created for the benefit of the landlord at the cost of the State? In that case they would have to enact that there should be an Irish peasant proprietary at the expense of England 309 and the working men of England. The true remedy was for Ireland to redress her own grievances in her own Parliament by Members elected by her own people.
§ MR. RADCLIFFE COOKE (Newington, W.)
said, that listening to some of the speeches in the debate would convey the impression that one was sitting in the last Parliament, and that Home Rule was still an open question. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to regard that question as still before the country. The policy of Her Majesty's Government, as stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the first night of the re-assembling of Parliament, and as amplified by the Chief Secretary for Ireland tonight, was divided into three heads—social order, the Land Question, and local government. The restoration of social order was clearly the first duty of every Government, It simply meant that every man should be permitted to go about his business when and as he pleased, and that in the fulfilment of any contract into which he might have entered he should not be hindered by the action of others. It was objected to the policy of Her Majesty's Ministers that they did not intimately connect their measures for the restoration of social order with remedial measures. But no remedial measures could possibly take effect until social order was first established. The late Prime Minister did not always object to the restoration of social order by itself, for, speaking at Edinburgh about two years ago, he said that social difficulties or disorder destroyed the peace and comfort of private life and broke up the relations of classes and families, and he took credit to his Lord Lieutenant, Lord Spencer, for having then so far, separately and independently, grappled with the difficulties of social order. The Land Question was, if he might use the expression, complicated by its simplicity. The cultivation of the land was the only employment open to the people of Ireland. Without the land they could not live. The landlords, as a body, were impoverished and were willing to sell. In England, or in any other country except Ireland, the landlords would have a chance of finding rich merchants, professional men, and others, anxious to buy and to develop the resources of the land by the application of capital. The 310 result of the proposals of hon. Members opposite was that the only possible purchasers of Irish land were the present tenants; and by a system of intimidation those tenants were prevented, even when they were willing to purchase on fair terms, from paying their rent in order that the selling value of the land might be forced down to almost nothing. The fact was that the Irish National Party were endeavouring to organize a gigantic "knock-out," by which they might get the land without paying a fair price for it. This attempt was manifestly unjust towards the landowners, and ought to be put a stop to. It was this state of things that the Act of 1881 was passed for the purpose of averting, and in order to secure a greater solidity of the social state in Ireland. An endeavour was now being made to set aside the provisions of that Act on the ground that the depression of agricultural prices was so great that it was impossible for the tenants to pay their rent; but it must not be forgotten that in the last Parliament, when Irish Members wished to obtain an advance of British capital, they maintained that the Irish tenants were well able to pay a fair rent, and pay it regularly, and that, therefore, the security offered for the advance was a good one. In these circumstances the Irish Members could hardly be credited with sincerity when they turned round and contended that the tenants were now unable to pay a reasonable rent. It was the duty of Her Majesty's Government therefore, in the first place, to take such action as would put an end to the system of intimidation which had been organized for the purpose of preventing the payment of rents, and the consequent depreciation in the selling value of the land; and, in the second, to bring together the would-be sellers and the would-be buyers, so that they might conduct their transactions through the agency of the State. It had been objected that any proposal put forward by the Conservative Party having for its object the transfer of the Irish land from the landlords to the tenants must of necessity partake of the characteristics of the second Bill of the late Government. If that were the case it did not lie in the mouths of hon. Members opposite to object to it. The two main objections to the second Bill of the late Government put forward by the 311 right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) were, first, that it had been offered as a bribe to the landlords to induce them to swallow the principle of Home Rule which they hated; and, secondly, that it proposed to compel the British taxpayer to lend a large sum to what would eventually become a foreign country. Now that both those objections had been removed, there was no good ground for rejecting a fair and reasonable proposal for settling the Irish Land Question.
§ MR. PINKERTON (Galway Bo.)
said, the Government had expressed a desire—and he hoped a sincere desire—to get information with regard to the necessities of the Irish. The noble Lord, so far as he was concerned, did not require any information. He had evidently made up his mind and prejudged the case. One of the most impartial of the Irish Sub-Commissioners had declared he had no intention of considering the agricultural depression, or of allowing it to influence his mind in the slightest degree in fixing judicial rents. If this were a depression of a temporary character, he would say that was a very upright judicial decision; but if the downward tendency of prices continued for nine or ten years, he held that the rents fixed on that principle were unjust and iniquitous to the tenants of Ireland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had intimated that an arbitrary combination had interfered with and hampered the free action of the Land Act of 1881, and that this Royal Commission would have power to inquire how far that action had been hampered by that combination. He was glad it was the intention of the Government to open up this question, as he believed it would fall within the scope of this inquiry to find out how many of the tenants had been examined by the Select Committee of the House of Lords. The statement of the noble Lord attributing the depression to slovenly and careless manufacture would have the effect of injuring the people of Ireland, by depreciating their staple commodities in the eyes of the English consumers. He knew that the tenants of Ireland were all suffering from the agricultural depression; but the most depressed and down-trodden portion of the tenants were the unfortunate leaseholders. The Government had no intention of dealing honestly with the 312 Irish Question if the first act of their official career was not to remove this bar from the leaseholders. He had always found, unfortunately, that the revaluation of the land meant an increase in the rent, and he was sorry to hear the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer express a desire for a revaluation of the land of Ireland. He would prefer a hundred times the Land Act, with all its defects, to a revaluation of the land. He held that the best possible guarantee for the Government was a purchase on fair terms. He considered it was very dishonest for an hon. Member to say that the British taxpayers would be at the risk of losing their money. There was not the slightest danger of that. There was not a road in Ireland but had been made by the efforts of the tenants; there was not a bridge but had been built by the tenants' efforts; and in many cases the railways had been made by their own sole and unaided efforts. He might instance the case of the Derry Central Railway, the interest on the borrowed money for which had been paid by the tenant farmers of the County Derry, owing to the manipulation of the Grand Jury, and the tenants had paid thousands of pounds for the non-existent navigation of the River Bann, which flooded their lands. The only local authority which could properly carry out public works in Ireland was a Central Government properly appointed by the Irish people. He did not attribute the riots in Belfast to the language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer or any other individual. The riots were caused by the excitement and encouragement of the Conservatives, both lay and clerical. There was not a fife and drum band in the North of Ireland that was not wearing a uniform purchased by some Conservative candidate at the last Election; there was not a Member who had the misfortune of belonging to the same semi-political religious association as the hon. Member for South Belfast, but had the gospel of peace upon his lips and murder and outrage in his heart, fostering and encouraging strife. If Home Rule had been passed, outrage and riot would have been impossible in the town of Belfast. Every man in the country would have been a special constable to maintain order. If the outside influences were removed, he was perfectly satisfied 313 the Orangemen would be the extreme Democratic Party of the Irish Parliament, and in the time to come he believed they would be the most ardent Home Rulers in Ireland. He hoped to have the honour to see the hon. Member for South Belfast leading a powerful contingent of Democratic Orangemen in the National Parliament in Dublin. He was not ashamed to belong to a Party that was subsidized by what was termed foreign gold; but he certainly would be ashamed to belong to a Party that would pocket the earnings of the servant girls and labouring men of America in the shape of an unjust rent.
§ MR. SHIRLEY (Yorkshire, W.R., Doncaster)
said, they had heard a great deal from the other side of the House about "the verdict of the country," which had been described as "final and irreversible." Well, if they had had as much experience of verdicts as he (Mr. Shirley) had, they would not think so much of them. He (Mr. Shirley) had no respect at all for a verdict. Verdicts were often obtained by the employment of unfair arts and artifices, and by the tricks and dodges of unscrupulous advocates. That was how the verdict had been obtained at the recent General Election. It had been obtained by confusing the issue and muddling the jury. He ventured to say that if the issue had not been confused, and the jury not muddled, the result would have been very different. He did not believe that the electors would have declared against the naked principle of a subordinate Parliament for Ireland. But the scheme had been complicated by the enormous cost which it was said it would cost the British taxpayer. He, for one, had been very plain and distinct on that point. He had not hesitated to tell the electors of the Doncaster Division that he did not approve of the late Prime Minister's plan of buying out the Irish landlords, and that in no event would he vote for such a plan unless he was satisfied that his constituents wished him to do so. He might say that he believed he owed his seat this time to the fact that he had deliberately thrown over all the details and provisions of the late Prime Minister's Bill, and fought the election simply on the principle of a subordinate Parliament. He had even gone so far as to say that he should have no objection to 314 Ulster being entirely excluded from the scheme, if that were found desirable. The principal Conservative newspaper in his district, The Yorkshire Post, had been, so struck by the bold manner in which he had fought his election on the principle, and not the details, of the Home Rule Bill, that on the day before his polling it came out with an article charging him with the expression of Liberal Unionist, and not Gladstonian, opinions. They were now told by their opponents that their policy was one of inquiry. That was a transparent device to gain time, inasmuch as the materials for forming a judgment were ready to hand. If he might conclude with a word of advice to his Irish Friends below the Gangway, it was that they should be patient and forbearing at this juncture. He hoped they would not use violent language inside or outside Parliament, but would do their best to prevent outrage and to restrain the passions of their countrymen. Everything depended on their moderation. If they acted in such a spirit, the English people would be with them, and would by-and-bye, if not immediately, give them the Parliament they so much wished for. For himself, he believed firmly that a frank and generous recognition of Irish nationality, with due regard to the integrity, the dignity, and the glory of the British Empire, was the only way of solving the most difficult problem of the day.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. P. M'DONALD (Sligo, North)
said, the Government had stated that no Business should be taken except that which the Government considered absolutely essential. He considered that, looking at the state of things that existed in Ireland, that was a very extraordinary statement. Were they to wait until February or March in order to set right the riotous state of things that at present existed in Belfast; and were they to wait until then for a remedy for the impending evictions all over Ireland? He considered that the latter question was one that demanded the prompt and immediate attention of the House. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel King-Harman), in moving the Address, very candidly—and 315 perhaps too candidly for his Party—foreshadowed the policy of the Government. He stated that the Government proposed to exercise a firm and impartial administration of the law, and he also stated that the agrarian question was at the root of the Irish difficulty. He inferred from the double statement that they were to be treated to a dose of the long-promised "manacles or Manitoba." It was clear, from what had fallen from the speakers on the Government side of the House, that the Government meant to enforce impossible rents; and if that were allowed to continue during the winter it was very hard to imagine what serious results might arise. Hence he contended that it was the duty of the Government to seek measures to prevent the consequences that were likely to arise from the continuance of evictions. If the people gave any physical opposition to the enforcement of these impossible rents, that would be what the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer chiefly desired, for he would then have reason, according to his own view, to come to the House and demand an enlargement of the powers he already possessed. Such a policy was coercion in its fullest import. It seemed to be the settled determination of the Government that whoever suffered in Ireland the landlords should not suffer; for the noble Lord had stated clearly that if the tenants could not pay the rents, the nation—the British public—should pay, and should be called upon to make good the unavoidable shortcomings of the Irish people. He had watched the tabulated Reports of the judicial rents, and had found, especially during the past year, that the rents had been fixed at 50 per cent under the nominal rents. He was, therefore, entitled to say that the Commissioners were now fixing rents on a totally different scale from that on which they fixed them two years ago; and if the Government insisted that the tenants who were paying the higher judicial rents should continue to pay them a great injustice would be done and trouble and danger would result. This, no doubt, was the state of things which the Government desired to bring about; but the Irish people did not wish to give them the chance. Nevertheless, while they were prepared to pay rents 316 that were just, they were equally prepared to resist the payment of rents which they felt they were unable to pay. The price of produce had fallen fully 50 per cent, and in Munster butter which three years ago fetched 1s. and 1s. 2d. per lb. could at the present time be bought for 6d. and 7d. That was a state of things which was not due to any deterioration in the quality of the article or fault in manufacture, but was due to the extensive and unrestricted importation of butterine into the country. The proposed Commissions were merely pretexts for delay; and such a policy, requiring, as the noble Lord said. "immense deliberation," was sure to end in failure. As to the Belfast Commission, he asked whether it would inquire into the cause and origin of the riots; it seemed to him that the noble Lord who fomented those riots was the doctor who was now called in to prescribe the remedy. In conclusion, he contended that the only solution of all the difficulties was to allow the people of Ireland to govern themselves.
§ MR. JENNINGS (Stockport)
Mr. Speaker, no one can have listened carefully to the contributions made to this debate from the opposite side of the House without being struck with one fact above all others. It is that the majority of Members there do not seem to have realized the meaning and force of the decision which the country has recently pronounced. They appear to think that the situation is precisely as it was last June. They even mix up the present Government in some strange way with the last. The last Government came into power by virtue of an understanding with the Leaders of the Nationalist Party, under which they were bound to produce a scheme of Home Rule. The Irish Members seem to think that they have the present Government in the same way under their command; and in that they are, to some extent, supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), who argued the other night as if the Government were under a solemn compact to produce some plan modelled on his own. "A fair time ought to be allowed them," he said; "but that time ought not to be unnecessarily prolonged." All this, I venture to submit, shows an utter misconception of the present position of affaire.
317 One of the followers of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) said the other night—"We have been returned with a mandate to demand a National Parliament in Dublin." Exactly; but we here, and a large majority of this House, have been returned with a mandate to oppose that demand—to oppose it, no matter from whom it proceeds, or by what means it may be enforced: 392 Members of this House have been expressly charged to vote against all schemes involving disunion and independent Parliaments. There are only 84 elected to support out-and-out the schemes of the right hon. Gentleman. His regular followers managed to secure their seats—those of them who did so—by assuring their constituents that the twin Bills were dead and buried; that they could never be revived; and that they would never vote for them, even if they were revived. ["Oh, oh!"] Why, Irish Members do not seem to be aware even of that. They do not seem to know that the right hon. Gentleman himself went down to his constituents and declared that the Bills were dead, and this official announcement was received with rapturous applause. The nation intends that these Bills shall remain dead; and not all the skill and adroitness of the right hon. Gentleman will be able to bring them to life again. And now the Irish Members coolly expect the present Government to take up the scheme which has been solemnly condemned by the nation. They ask when the new Ministry will produce its policy. ["Hear, hear!"] Why, it has produced it. It produced it here on Thursday night, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer emphatically stated that the Government meant to maintain the Union, and to restore law and order in Ireland. Again, tonight, the Chief Secretary for Ireland has distinctly repeated that declaration. That is the work which the country looks to them to perform; and we are sent here to support them in doing it. "The question of the hour," said the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) on Thursday, "is that of Ireland." But the working men of England are resolved that other questions equally important shall now have their turn; and they object to the whole time of Parliament being given up to Ireland, Session after Session, with this result only—that Ireland is 318 infinitely more disturbed, and more difficult to deal with today, than it was when the right hon. Gentleman launched out upon his fatal Irish policy in 1868. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) cast a great deal of ponderous ridicule upon the statement of the Government that it intended to deal with social order as a separate question. He caused it to be understood that he intends to be faithful to his new allies—at any rate, while they can be useful to him. But these very allies he has formerly denounced as the deadliest enemies of social order. In 1882, in introducing the severest Coercion Bill of modern times, he declared that the Party led by the hon. Member for Cork was "a cancerous sore in Ireland"—a sore "which springs from the baneful venom of secret societies and unlawful combinations." "To that foul disease," he went on to say, "it is necessary that the surgeon's knife should be applied. We have to cauterize and extirpate it." It will, of course, be understood that when those words were uttered, the right hon. Gentleman did not foresee that the Party he proposed to extirpate would one day be strong enough to make him Chancellor of the Exchequer. No doubt, he found it much more congenial to his feelings and temperament to hold Office under their patronage than to quake night and day before them, and to live surrounded by a squad of police. But before he succumbed he told this House—on the 9th of March, 1881—that the whole of the agitation carried on by the Land League "was Fenianism under another name; it was aiming at the same end by the same means." Whether that is so or not I do not at present inquire. Circumstances may one day compel this House to look into that question; but what we have at present before us is the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer pledges himself to the statement that Fenianism and the National League are identical in their operations and aims. This connection, no doubt, accounted for the triumphant glee with which he announced on the 3rd of February, 1881, that he had ordered the arrest of a celebrated Fenian, and founder of the National League, Michael Davitt. He was then all for preserving order, "by itself," or in any other way. He flourished his 319 Surgeon's knife over the heads of the hon. Member for Cork and his followers in that genial manner which we all admire. He wanted to be operating upon the "cancerous sore" without intermission. We know what produced his change of attitude toward these Gentlemen. It was his deep affection for Ireland. Referring to the repeated concessions made to Irish demands, the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer told us the other night that if they had failed it was because we had "mistaken the symptoms." That, he seems to think, is an excellent guarantee for the future success of himself and his Colleagues—that throughout their treatment of the disease they have mistaken the symptoms. Accept their remedies now, and what ground have we for supposing that they will not come forward again, when the "last link" between England and Ireland has been broken, with the cool avowal that they mistook the symptoms? What reparation will it be possible to make then for the disastrous blunder? The symptoms in this case have never varied. They were openly revealed by the hon. Member for Cork in his celebrated Cincinnati speech, the authenticity of which has been proved as much as anything in this world can be. He said—None of us, whether we are in America, or in Ireland, or wherever we may he, will he satisfied until we have destroyed the last link which keeps Ireland bound to England.Again, on the 5th of December, 1880, he said at Waterford—Before a very long time has elapsed, perhaps much sooner than any of us expect now, the people of Ireland will be enabled to enter for the first time on the paths of prosperity and national independence.So, too, at the Dublin Convention of the Land League in September, 1881, one of the speakers declared that theLand League had struck down and would ultimately destroy landlordism in Ireland, and with it British rule.That has been and is the only symptom of the disease which it is important to watch. The recent Fenian and Nationalist Convention at Chicago kept it in the background, but could not keep it out of sight. At the final meeting an ex-Member of this House, Mr. W. O'Brien, said—We have told Englishmen candidly that to English rule in Ireland we are, and will for ever remain, irreconcilable.320 [Cheers from the Home Rulers.] Ah, but you (the Irish Members) denied that when you were appealing to the country lately. We told the people it was so; but you and the Liberals stoutly contradicted it. Now you endorse Mr. O'Brien's statement. The country will know what to think of that. Now let us go on with this speech of Mr. O'Brien—Upon the day when the flag of English domination in Ireland," he said, "is hauled down—then we may be forgiven—the day for holding us to an enforced and detested Union is gone for ever.[Slight Home Rule cheers.] You do not cheer that so much; you are taking the alarm. Mr. O'Brien is letting out the secrets too fast. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian seems, at one time, to have perceived clearly enough what the truth was, for he declared at Liverpool, on the 27th of October, 1881, that the Party led by the hon. Member for Cork simply aimed at marching "through rapine to disintegration and dismemberment of the Empire" The operations which go on in Ireland or in this country might easily be checked, if it were not for the tremendous vantage-ground possessed by the Party of disunion in the United States. I have once before ventured to warn the House that it is from that quarter they must look for the greatest danger, and assuredly the danger does not diminish. The Irish in America are becoming more proficient every day in the art of combination for political purposes. At one time they acted exclusively with the Democratic Party; but they have seen how much more remunerative a game it is to give their support to the highest bidder. Hence, Messrs. Sullivan and Egan controlled, their followers at the last Presidential Election in favour of the Republican candidate (Mr. Blaine), and, apparently, they intend to do the same again. This accounts for the fact that Governor Oglesby, of Illinois, a very influential Republican, attended one of the meetings recently at Chicago, and made a speech. The growing power of the Irish in America may be thought by some to constitute an argument for the adoption of the schemes of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. But what the Irish-Americans want is separation—England turned neck and crop out of Ireland— 321 and they will never be content with less. Everybody who has come into contact with the Leaders of the Irish-Americans knows this to be true. And it would be far better to concede separation, with all its responsibilities and dangers for Ireland, than to go through the farce of setting up a Parliament in Ireland, only to see it used as an instrument to force separation from us afterwards. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby stated here, on Friday night, that the "Land League grew from, infancy to manhood under a Tory Administration." That is an inaccuracy which one who is supposed to be a great historical authority ought to have avoided. The Land League was born only in 1879, the very last year of Lord Beaconsfield's Administration. It grew to manhood under the Administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. It was also under that Administration that "Boycotting" took its rise. "Boycotting" was never heard of till October, 1880. It was also under a Liberal Administration that the National League grew from infancy to manhood. For all these "cancerous sores" we are indebted to the Liberal Party and Liberal Governments. There are two points which the right hon. Gentleman owes it to the public to clear up. First, did he state the truth in 1881, when he declared that the Land League was doing the work of Fenianism, and was pursuing the same end by the same means? And, secondly, does he hold that opinion now? If he does, his present condition—stewing in a certain kind of juice which I need not particularly specify—is calculated to increase that peculiar reputation which he justly enjoys. That the Nationalists should fail to comprehend the facts which they have now to face is not altogether surprising. It seems to be very difficult at all times for them to discriminate between romance and reality. [Laughter.] Well, I like to prove what I say, and I will give one very striking instance of this congenital incapacity to tell truth from fiction. Take but one instance. They succeeded in pursuading themselves last June that they had, at least, 40 or 50 Conservative seats in English boroughs comfortably tucked away in their pockets. Their Leader, the hon. Member for Cork, said to a correspondent of The New York Herald (June 20, 1886)— 322We have the undoubted fact that by the Irish votes in Great Britain which were given at the General Election to the Conservatives we can transfer at least 50 seats now held by the Tories to the Liberal Party. This will make 100 on division, and will convert the majority of 30 against the Bill into a majority of 70 for it.Of course, the hon. Member did not mean to deceive The New York Herald; he merely fell a victim to that Oriental wealth of imagination which is the birthright of every Irishman. It will be in the recollection of the House that a similar Arabian Nights' tale was related here last Session by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). He believed fully in it. What was more serious, he pursuaded the Government of the day to believe in it, and it helped to lure them to their ruin. Many hon. Members must remember the great night of the startling revelations about perfidious Tories who had been elected by Irish votes, when the hon. Member came down with a roll of MS. big enough to contain the history of the universe. We remember his thrilling tones, his portentous demeanour; I recall the alarming manner in which he suddenly stretched out a grisly forefinger at me, and beckoned me to follow him. When I refused, he placed the mark of doom upon my forehead, and, with 40 or 50 others, I was ordered for execution at the polls. Sir, I believe we are all, or nearly all, sitting very comfortably before you at this moment, whilst those who opposed us on the lines of the National League are left out in the cold. The hon. Member said last Friday night that his Colleagues, not being opposed in Ireland, "were left free to go and instruct English constituencies in the discharge of their duties at the recent elections." That is quite true; they did so. One of them—and one of the ablest of them, the hon. Member for East Mayo—(Mr. Dillon)—was sent down to the constituency which I have the honour to represent. He pleaded the cause of the National League against me with so much ability that I was sent back here by a much larger majority than before. What proportion of the £65,000 which Mr. Egan, of the Clan-na-Gael and the National League, says has been forwarded to his friends here was forwarded to Stockport I do not know; but it was a very bad investment for the National 323 League. My constituents overthrew the League in their borough, in spite of its boasted 800 or 900 votes, and declared themselves in favour of maintaining unimpaired the Dominions of their Sovereign. They do not belong to the titled class whom the right hon. Gentleman opposite so bitterly denounces, and to whom he has been the means of making more additions than any man alive. They are only working men; but they see through and understand this question far better than those who call themselves great and wise. They have had enough, for the time at any rate, of Irish threats, and of craven surrender to those threats; enough, too, of moonstruck visions of "final settlements," hatched in the over-heated brains of great orators. What they want now is a period of rest from political agitation; they expect to see the claims of Englishmen to justice and fair treatment receive some little consideration. They think that Irishmen practically have a Parliament all to themselves now, and wonder what on earth they can want with another. They ask that something should be done for their declining and menaced industries; that, among other things, the Government should endeavour to open up new markets for our goods in other parts of the world. They ask for—and I believe that their fellow working men everywhere are determined to have—a firm and settled Government, the suppression of lawlessness wherever it may be found, the vindication of the law, and the security to every man of his right to take his labour into any market that he pleases, and to be entirely free in all his relations with his fellow-men. This is what the country requires; and I gather from the firm utterances of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night, and from those of the Chief Secretary for Ireland tonight, that the Government have made up their minds that the country shall not be disappointed. In that case, I believe they will receive such a measure of support as will enable them to withstand the National League, even though it be reinforced by the Sir Lucius O'Trigger of the Liberal Party.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
said, that Lancashire was a very large county, and at one time it counted for a great deal in the forward movements in great questions in this country. The hon. Gentleman the Member for 324 Stockport (Mr. Jennings), who preceded him, had said that the working classes of Lancashire were anxious that the House of Commons should address itself to those great questions which concerned the working classes; and then he complained that the House was continually and perpetually engaged in dealing with the Irish Question. But surely the hon. Member could not have been present when the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke the other night, and endorsed what the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian said on the question of the hour. He did not see that hon. Gentlemen had much cause to congratulate themselves on in the change of Government; for although there was a change of personnel of the Administration, still the dreary task lay before them of grappling with and settling the Irish Question. It was true that the country, on a first appeal, had decided against the policy of the late Prime Minister; but it was well known that all the reforms which were worth having in the past had not been obtained until after several appeals had been made to the electors of the country. The Liberal Party, therefore, were not in present circumstances discouraged; they were in good heart. What was it that led to the defeat of the late Government? It was assumed that it was simply the question of Home Rule for Ireland. He ventured to say that the Land Question had quite as much to do with the reduction of the Liberal majority at the last Election. It was not the Tory strength that led to the change, but it was those weak, timid, partially-informed men on this side of the House, and the gentlemen in the country who act with them. The change was also largely due to the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) and to the influence exercised also by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington). Those were the Gentlemen who had handed over to the Conservative Party for the time the government of the country. He would, refer hon. Gentlemen to certain notable characteristics of the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill); for in Opposition his proceedings were characterized by the utmost recklessness, causing his Friends to tremble on. numberless occasions.
325 Was there any other Gentleman in the House who could rival the noble Lord in the tone and spirit in which he addressed the people of Belfast? Then the noble Lord issued an address to his constituents, and he thought it was admitted on all hands that the address was unique. There was no other hon. Member who would have followed the style or adopted the strength of language of the noble Lord. The noble Lord had, therefore, the qualification in Opposition of utter recklessness. The noble Lord would probably have to struggle with the Irish difficulty, and he was not at all disposed to quarrel with the Government for asking that they should be allowed till February for the deliberation and consideration of their policy regarding Ireland. It might be inferred from this long delay that the Government did not understand the Irish Question; but when they were in Opposition they seemed to understand every phase of the Irish Question. The Times itself had lately indicated serious misgivings as to the firmness of the views that the noble Lord had lately expressed, and whether he would not be instrumental in giving Home Rule to Ireland. He was himself disposed to think that, after a short experience, a great majority of the people of this country would come to the conclusion that the Government was mainly interested in the welfare of the landlord class in Ireland, and that the great object of their Irish policy would be the emancipation of the landlords from their present difficulties. The landlords were their clients, their favourites, and the victims of their policy would be found to be the Irish tenants. He ventured to predict that if the proposal of the late Government did not find acceptance with the country, any proposal of the present Government, on the lines indicated by the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would meet with much less favour at the hands of the Democracy of the country. The Tory Government was for the moment supreme in that House by the assistance of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington); but he ventured to think that the noble Marquess would not be able to carry many of those who had hitherto acted with him if the proposals sketched out by the Government were seriously followed. Between this time and February the people would receive a good 326 deal of enlightenment upon the proposals of the Government, and it would be seen that the object of the Tory Party would be to destroy the work of the late Liberal Administration, and that they were likely to deal with the Irish Question in a way by which Ireland certainly could not benefit. He was pleased to hear the statements of the Irish Members that they would not listen to the Government bribes; but while he was content to wait till February, he hoped there would not then be any dilly-dallying or delay, and that the Government would not screen themselves behind a Commission, but that upon their own responsibility they would bring forward a properly-matured scheme to deal with the Irish Question. He anticipated that the majority of the people of Great Britain, as well as Ireland, would soon adopt the position taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and that his proposal, or something substantially the same as his, would ultimately succeed.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON (Lancashire, Rossendale)
Sir, at an earlier period of the evening the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) interested and amused the House by some observations and speculations as to the position of the Liberal Party, and especially that section of the Liberal Party with which I happen to be particularly connected. I did not hear a great deal which fell from the hon. Gentleman which appeared to call for any very serious notice. But, Sir, as that hon. Gentleman addressed a few questions to me, and to some with whom I have acted, perhaps the House will allow me to make one or two very brief observations upon what he said on that point. It seems to me that the House of Commons is scarcely the place where it is most convenient that the future position and prospects of a political Party, and still less the future position and prospects of a particular section of a political Party, should be discussed. If it is necessary that the prospects of the Liberal Unionists should be discussed any further, I think that discussion might most properly be continued in the pages of those journals where it has already been so ably discussed by the hon. Gentleman. Or, if it is necessary that the discussion should not be con- 327 fined to newspapers, but should take place vivâ voce, it might, perhaps, be more profitably relegated to that meeting of the Liberal Federation which the hon. Member is desirous to hold, and at which the sentence of excommunication upon myself and those with whom I have acted is finally to be passed. I may, however, say that I am not aware by whom any claim has been put forward that we represent any exclusive or disproportionate share of the intelligence of the Liberal Party, or that anyone with authority to speak in the name of myself and those with whom I have acted has ever, in any degree, claimed that we are the sole Representatives of Liberalism, either in this House or in the country. What, I believe, we have claimed, and what we shall continue to claim, is that we have not forfeited our title to Liberalism, and to be considered Members of the Liberal Party, because we have been unable to accept opinions on the question of Ireland and the government of Ireland which were certainly somewhat suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly brought before the House and country—opinions which never, up to a very short time ago, had been held by any considerable section of the Party to which I belong. The hon. Member, I am sorry to say, has been most imperfectly informed of the proceedings which took place at a certain meeting, to which, unfortunately, I did not feel myself in a position to invite the hon. Gentleman. I do not know from what source the hon. Gentleman has found that at that meeting any pretension was put forward to depose my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) from the Leadership of the Liberal Party, or that any rival Leader of that Party was set up. The conclusion at which, so far as my memory serves me, that meeting arrived was one which appears, to a great extent, to be indentical to that which the hon. Member himself has formed. It was that so long as, unhappily, these differences of opinion on the question of Irish Government prevail among us, no speedy prospect of a reunion of the Liberal Party could be foreseen. We do not expect—we never have had the presumption to put forward any expectation—that either my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, or the hon. Member for 328 Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), or those who agree with him, should abandon any of the opinions or doctrines which they have recently embraced. But, at the same time, we are not prepared to sacrifice the convictions which, after considerable thought and deliberation, we, also, have formed; and we cannot subscribe to what appears to be the opinion of the hon. Member for Northampton, that, in view of the paramount object of the re-union and reconstitution of the Liberal Party, we are to abandon, as of minor importance, convictions on the subject of Ireland and the government of Ireland which we hold to be the most important subject with which any Member of the House of Commons can be called upon to deal. The hon. Member appears to imagine that the question ought to be decided for us by the fact that the proposals of the late Government have been adopted at the late Election by a majority of the Liberal Party. Sir, I cannot conceive upon what ground such a contention can be supported. Our political future, I admit, depends upon the opinion of the constituencies of this country, and amongst the constituencies of the country our political future depends, no doubt, to a very great extent, upon the opinions which may be formed, and which may be held, by the Liberal portion of those constituencies. But whatever may be the opinions formed by those constituencies, or by the Liberal portion of them, I cannot imagine or conceive that the fact that a majority of the Liberal Party in this country have embraced certain opinions, and are prepared to support certain measures, is in any way to influence the conviction which we have conscientiously formed, and which, as I have already said, we consider to be a conviction upon the most important subject which we can be called upon to discuss. Before leaving the observations of the hon. Member for Northampton, allow me to say that never, so far as I am aware, has there escaped, either from my lips or from those of any of my Friends, one word of disrespect, or one word that could be construed into a disrespectful observation, in regard to the conduct of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. It would have been very far from the desire of any one of us to have imputed to my 329 right hon. Friend that which was imputed to him by the hon. Member for Northampton this evening—namely, the imputation that he had proposed in this House, and had advocated in the country, a measure—the Land Purchase (Ireland) Bill—not because he was convinced of its expediency, but that he had brought it forward and supported it simply as a bribe, in order to secure the support of the Tory landlords. Now, Sir, I understand that before the debate on the Address to Her Majesty is concluded there is a prospect that some definite issues will be submitted to the House. I do not desire, in the prospect of such definite issues being submitted to the House, to go at any length into the general discussion which has taken place; and, above all, it is not my desire to import into this debate anything which is likely to raise a fresh subject of debate, or unnecessarily to prolong it. It has not been denied that Her Majesty's Government, both in this House and in the other House, have not been slow to respond to the invitation which was addressed to them by the Leader of the Opposition, to make as full, as early, and as complete an exposition as possible of their views upon Irish policy. It has been acknowledged by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) that this exposition has been full, and that it has been definite. It consisted mainly of two parts. The Government have announced certain measures which they intend at once to take, and they have also given expression to certain opinions with reference to legislative projects which may hereafter be brought before Parliament. It is the former part of this exposition of the policy of the Government which, I think, the House will be most anxious at present to discuss, and to which it will be disposed almost entirely to confine itself. Certainly, the House cannot be expected to commit itself—and the Government would not, I think, wish the House to commit itself—to any expression whatever with regard to the principles which have been stated in reference to legislation, or legislative projects which have not yet been brought before it. These may be matters of great interest; but they are evidently subjects with which the House is not in a position at present to deal; and there is no opinion which could now 330 be expressed, either on this side of the House or upon the other, which could in the slightest degree commit the House, or, in my opinion, greatly tend to promote a decision upon legislative projects which are not to be introduced for a very considerable period. And now as to the actual measures which the Government propose to take at present. What are the measures they are going to take? They appear to consist of the following measures:—The Government do not ask to be invested with any new or any exceptional powers; they intend to exert to the utmost the existing powers which the law has already conferred upon them; and to employ to the utmost extent the existing agencies for the maintenance of order and the security of life and property in Ireland. With that object they intend to see whether it is not possible to organize those existing agencies in a manner more efficient than that which at present exists. With that object I understand that they intend to appoint a Gentleman to the supreme civil and military control in certain districts which happen at this moment to be more disturbed than the rest of the country. They intend to place in his hands the responsible duty of at once re-organizing the agencies which they have at their disposal, and to make him responsible for the efficient exercise of the power of the law, and of all those powerful agencies. Sir, they have also announced that, if they find these measures insufficient for the maintenance of public order, they will not scruple to come to Parliament at the first moment and ask Parliament to give them such additional powers as they may think necessary. In addition, they have announced their intention of causing inquiry to be instituted into certain classes of subjects which, in their opinion, and in the opinion of many of us on this side of the House, are more closely connected with the root of the Irish difficulty than even the desire for greater self-government, or national independence, to the existence of which the Irish difficulty is attributed by the majority of those who sit on these Benches. Now, Sir, I am not aware that any of those measures which the Government propose at once to take are going to be challenged from any quarter of the House. I do not know whether the Amendments which may be moved by hon. Gentlemen who 331 represent Irish, constituencies will challenge any of those measures. So far as I have gathered from the speeches delivered in this part of the House, it is not the intention of any of my hon. Friends who sit on this Bench themselves to take exception to any of the actual measures proposed by the Government. But, although they are not directly challenged, they have been ridiculed and disparaged by the criticisms which have been made upon them. Sir, they have been ridiculed and they have been disparaged by Irish Members, and especially by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). They have been very fairly disparaged by that hon. Member from his point of view; because I conceive it is perfectly natural for him, and for those who agree with him in his opinion and in his object, not to desire the restoration—the complete restoration—of social order in Ireland until—[Interruption by the Home Rule Members, and cries of"] Oh!" "Shame" and "Withdraw!"] Before I am asked to withdraw, perhaps hon. Members will allow me to conclude the sentence. I say it is not unnatural to suppose that those hon. Gentlemen do not desire to see the complete restoration of social order in Ireland until those political objects have been accomplished upon which their hearts are set, and upon which they think the future and permanent prosperity and happiness of Ireland depend, and in favour of which the existing state of social order has undoubtedly, up to the present time, constituted one of the chief arguments which have been used by hon. Members sitting on this side of the House. We cannot expect that the hon. Member, and those who agree with him, should desire that rents—even fair rents—should be punctually and peacefully paid, because the hon. Member and his Friends have never accepted the Land Act of 1881, or the Amending Acts which followed, as a complete or final, or even as a satisfactory solution of the Irish Land Question; and we cannot expect them to desire that even fair rents should be peacefully and punctually paid until changes have been made which will have the effect and result of placing Irish occupiers in possession of their holdings on terms very different from those which were contemplated by the Acts of 1881 and of succeeding 332 years, or even the terms contemplated and proposed by the Land Purchase Bill of the present year, introduced by the late Government. That, I say, is perfectly natural, and I do not see why anyone should complain that the measures of the Government should be disparaged by the hon. Member and those who agree with him. But they have also been ridiculed and disparaged by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby; and I think the House will require some further explanation than it has yet received of the grounds upon which my right hon. Friend has covered those measures with so much contempt and ridicule. My right hon. Friend, within a very short period, has occupied the position of Secretary of State, in which he was, perhaps, more than most of his Colleagues, responsible for social order in Ireland, as well as in the United Kingdom. My right hon. Friend was also one of the authors of the Land Act of 1881, and he was also one of the authors of the Land Purchase Bill of 1886; and I do not think my right hon. Friend has, as yet, quite given an adequate explanation of the contempt which he poured upon the measures proposed to be taken by Her Majesty's Government. Sir, I am tempted to ask what was the object of the speech of my right hon. Friend? If it was intended to be an assertion of his continued adherence to the principles of Home Rule for Ireland, which were embodied in the measures of the late Government, it seems to me that it was scarcely necessary. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition had already spoken, and he had admitted the substantial accuracy of the paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech as to the verdict of the country upon the subject. He had, on the same occasion, expressed in the clearest and in the strongest, but at the same time in the most moderate terms, his continued adherence to the principle of the measures which he proposed. Well, Sir, none of us doubted that my right hon. Friend spoke not only for himself, but for his Colleagues in the late Government; and it was quite unnecessary, in my opinion, for my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby to have added his assertion of continued adherence to the same principles. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, on the same occasion, stated that, in his opinion, the main re- 333 sponsibility for the conduct of Irish policy must rest at the present time chiefly upon Her Majesty's present Government. Well, Sir, if my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby agrees in that statement, I am sure he would not willingly say or do anything that would add to the difficulties of Her Majesty's Government in that arduous and responsible task. But, Sir, was there not anything in my right hon. Friend's speech which was calculated to add to those great difficulties—those difficulties which not only have to be confronted by Her Majesty's Government, but which have had to be confronted by so many previous Governments. I cannot help thinking that there was something which was calculated to add to those difficulties, and which I cannot help regretting that my right hon. Friend should have said. He knows that the policy to which my right hon. Friend the late Leader of this House still adheres, and which he would recommend to the House, cannot be accepted by Her Majesty's present Government, and, even if it were proposed by Her Majesty's present Government, could not be accepted by a majority of the House, Whatever opinion my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby may hold as to the probable and future decision of the constituencies of the Kingdom, he must know—as was acknowledged by the Leader of the Opposition—that the verdict of the constituencies, so far as the present Parliament, at all events, is concerned, is final. He must know that the policy which he recommends—and which he honestly recommends—is one which cannot be adopted by the present House. But, Sir, does that fact in the slightest degree absolve the present Government from the duty which is incumbent on every Government, of maintaining, by every means in their power, social order and the supremacy of the law in Ireland? My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby attacked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the statement which he made, that the Government intended to treat the question of social order in Ireland entirely by itself. Now, I did not understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer to have made that statement as a general one applicable to all circumstances and to all conditions. I understood him to say 334 that it was a proposition applicable to the present state of affairs in Ireland. Well, Sir, does my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby controvert the propriety of that statement in regard to the present circumstances and present conditions which prevail in Ireland? If my right hon. Friend intends to assert the contrary of that proposition, and to say that the question of social order can never, in any circumstances, be treated by itself, I confess that I feel bound to dissent from him. Social disorder in a country is an expression which means crime in that country; and my right hon. Friend cannot intend to assert that it is never, and can never be, the duty of a Government to repress the crime which exists in a country, unless it is prepared, at the same time, to discover, and when discovered to remove, the causes of that social disorder or that crime. The question whether it is possible to remove the causes which militate against social order in a country must depend upon the practicability of their removal. Social disorder may be caused—probably it is caused in Ireland—by political discontent; but it cannot be denied that political discontent may be well founded, or it may be ill founded. I do not quarrel with my right hon. Friend if he says that it is our duty to inquire whether that political discontent is well or ill founded. But whether it can be removed or not must depend on the answer which can be given to the question whether that discontent is well or ill founded; and I cannot assent to the proposition that it is not the duty of the Government to repress the crime which proceeds from that discontent until it has satisfied itself that the political discontent can be removed. My right hon. Friend has, I believe, held the same opinion himself. My right hon. Friend introduced, and conducted ably through this House, the Bill for the Prevention of Crime in Ireland. Perhaps the House will permit me to read a short extract from a speech delivered by my right hon. Friend in 1882 in reference to Ireland. My right hon. Friend said—Though the body of Ireland is sound, there is a fearful plague spot upon it.… There is, Sir, a cancerous sore in Ireland.… It is the sore which springs from the baneful venom of secret societies and unlawful combinations. To that foul disease it is necessary that the surgeon's knife should be applied. We have to 335 cauterize and to extirpate it.… This poison that courses through the veins of the Irish social system is revealed in its effects. It breaks out into deeds which are alien altogether to the nature and genius of the Irish people—a people generous, warm-hearted, impulsive; excitable, perhaps, but who are not barbarous, nor cruel, nor savage in their nature. If that be so, what is the history of these midnight outrages and these daylight assassinations, these murders of undefended women and noble men? That is not the work of the mass of the Irish nation. They shrink from such deeds with horror and dismay, aye, and, what is still worse, with terror. These felon and miscreant deeds are the work of secret gangs of nocturnal conspiracies, of hired assassins."—(3 Hansard,  463–4.)Well, Sir, at that time my right hon. Friend knew very well what was the cause of social disorder in Ireland. He did not think it necessary to make any inquiries into the cause of that social disorder, or to give any further consideration to the matter at all; but he put his finger upon the cause, and said that the cause of this social disorder prevailing in Ireland was to be found in the existence of secret societies in that country. He did not go any further, and feel it necessary to inquire at that time what was the cause that produced the secret societies. He did not think it necessary to unite the question of social disorder with the causes from which it sprang. It was enough for him to know that in Ireland there existed secret societies, and it was enough for him to ask at the time that the House of Commons should apply the surgeon's knife and cut out the gangrene. My right hon. Friend did not explain why, in his judgment, the measure of applying the surgeon's knife was sufficient to deal with any question of social disorder in Ireland. If that were the case then, what has occurred since to make it impossible for him to rely—not upon the application of the surgeon's knife—but upon the milder application of the ordinary law, unless the House consents to investigate, as he now requires it to do, what are the further and ultimate causes of Irish discontent, Irish disaffection, and Irish disorder. The right hon. Gentleman referred also to the question of the land. To my right hon. Friend that question appears now to be one perfectly easy and simple. My right hon. Friend says that all the facts necessary for our consideration are well known. He says that we have the fact of the depreciation of the prices of agri- 336 cultural produce, and we have the fact that large remissions of rent have been made by many English landlords, and we have the additional fact that Sir James Caird has written a letter to The Times, which he subsequently partially retracted, and that a few months ago The Times published a leading article in the same sense as the letter. To my right hon. Friend these facts appear to convey sufficient knowledge to the House in order to enable them to deal at once, completely, and satisfactorily with the Irish Land Question, and that, therefore, no further inquiry into the subject is needed. But the right hon. Gentleman did not state what he thought was the inference that ought to be drawn from these facts. This state of facts substantially existed four months ago, when the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member introduced the Land Purchase Bill for Ireland. It existed at the time the late Elections were going on; and yet my right hon. Friend in April last, in his speech on the Land Purchase Bill, seems to have drawn altogether a different inference from those facts from that which he draws now. During the period when that Bill was being introduced and during the period of the Election we never heard from either the right hon. Gentleman, or from his Colleagues in Office, anything about these undisputed facts, or the legislation that would be necessary in order to apply these facts to the condition of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman attacks the declaration made by the Prime Minister in "another place," as to the duty incumbent on the State, in the event of unfair rents having been fixed by the Land Commission, to make up to the landlords the difference between the fair value of the holding and the amount of the rent. Well, Sir, I am not going to discuss that question. It appears to me that it would involve an unprofitable expenditure of time to discuss propositions of that kind, which cannot possibly be profitably discussed until they are embodied in the provisions of a Bill of some kind. But if that were not so, why did the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues propose, practically, to adopt that principle in the measure which they presented to the House in April of the present year? [Cries of" No!"] Why, the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues themselves 337 proposed to purchase out the Irish landlords upon the basis of 20 years' purchase of the judicial rents—[Cries of "No!"]—with certain reductions, I admit, in certain cases, but upon that general basis. [Mr. BIGGAR: No; not upon that general basis.] If any hon. Member who doubts the accuracy of my statement will read the speech of the Leader of the Opposition on the occasion of the introduction of the Land Purchase Bill, he will see that that measure was based upon the general principle of 20 years' purchase—[Mr. BIGGAR: No!]—and will anyone tell me, therefore, that if it was the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman at that time, that there are 538,000 holdings in Ireland—to adopt the dictum of Sir James Caird—that there are 538,000 holdings in Ireland which are incapable of paying any economic rent at all, that the late Government intended nothing when they proposed to give 20 years' purchase of the judicial rents? —[Cries of "No!"]—and that when they made that proposal they did it with the knowledge that in 500,000 holdings in Ireland reductions would have to be made upon the judicial rents which would reduce the purchase money to nothing at all? My right hon. Friend said that I and my Friends denounced the Land Purchase Act which was introduced by the late Government. As a matter of fact, I said very little indeed about the Land Purchase Act; but what I have said, upon more than one occasion, was that in my judgment, if the Government of Ireland Bill were passed, some Act founded upon similar principles to those contained in the Land Purchase Bill was a measure called for both in equity and in justice. What I pointed out, and what was pointed out still more strongly by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) was that the Land Purchase Bill did propose a very large expenditure and imposed a very large liability upon the British taxpayer, and that this was to be done upon the strength of what seemed to us to be extremely bad security. That, however, is a question upon which I need not enter at length on the present occasion; but when I am told that I have denounced, or have repudiated, the principle upon which the Land Purchase Bill was framed, I altogether contradict the assertion. I never concealed the fact that I agreed with 338 the late Prime Minister, and with the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, as to the propriety of such a Bill as the necessary complement of the Government of Ireland Bill. Sir, I do not think that anyone now dissents from the proposition that any modification of it ought to proceed in the direction of an attempt to increase the efficiency of the Land Purchase Clauses of that Act. If it is generally admitted, as I think it is, that the principle of dual ownership upon which that Act is based has not been successful, if it is admitted that the Act of 1881 cannot be considered a final settlement of the Land Question—if it be admitted that any amendment of that Act ought, if possible, to be directed to the substitution of single ownership for the dual ownership established by the Act—if all that be admitted, it seems to me that it would be extremely desirable, before the House proceeds to make another attempt in the direction of a settlement of the Irish Land Question, that it should be on the basis of the fullest, the most complete, and the most accurate information that can be obtained, both as to the deficiencies and the advantages of the Acts we have hitherto passed, and as to any change in the general agrarian condition of Ireland which may have supervened from other causes. Therefore, I cannot see that there is anything that has been said, either by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham or by myself, or by any hon. Member on this side of the House, which has implied that we should necessarily be predisposed to treat with ridicule any bonâ fide and sincere attempt to investigate the real condition of the agrarian question in Ireland, or the causes which have prevented the attempt of 1881 from becoming, as we hoped it would, at all events, a final settlement of the question. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) said that an agrarian crisis will be upon us next November, and it would be useless to discover that judicial rents are too high when thousands of tenants would be cast out of their holdings. [Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR: Through your assistance.] But, Sir, if that is the case, the measures which were proposed by the late Government would have afforded no remedy. The Land Purchase Bill of the late Government would not have come into operation until the appointed 339 day, which certainly was not before the 1st of November next. It could not have had a very sudden or a very rapid operation; and hon. Members from Ireland, and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, do not seem to have discovered the imminence of this agrarian crisis which is upon us. Representatives from Ireland appear to have been perfectly ready to acquiesce in this agrarian crisis coming upon us next November and the eviction of those hundreds and thousands of tenants—[Cries of "No!"]—in consideration of the political benefits proposed by the Irish Government Bill of the late Government to be conferred upon them. Sir, it has been said that the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given advice to the Irish landlords to exercise their rights with relentless severity, and to exact their rents to the uttermost farthing. I cannot say that I heard in the speech any expression that would bear that interpretation. I was glad to hear, in the earlier part of this evening, the Chief Secretary for Ireland absolutely repudiate any such interpretation of any words which fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not think that any such interpretation was any more fair to the Chancellor of the Exchequer than it would be fair to say that certain expressions which fell from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition as to the probability, under existing circumstances, that judicial rents were in some cases too high to be paid by the tenants was a general invitation to refuse the payment of rent. Sir, I do not think that we ought, in circumstances such as those in which we are placed, to go out of our way to endeavour to force interpretations upon the words of public men of one side or the other of the House which they are not intended to bear, and which it would be most injurious to the public interest that they should be strained to bear. It is obviously in the interests of all classes connected with land in Ireland—it is in the interest of the public; it is in the interest of the State—that at such a time as this, which is undoubtedly a time of pressure and hardship upon all classes in England, Scotland, or Ireland who are connected with land, that the rights of landlords—even if those rights have been recently ascertained, and, to a certain extent, guaranteed under State in- 340 terference—should be exercised with forbearance and moderation. Sir, I do not believe Her Majesty's present Government intend to offer one word in a different spirit to the advice given by the late Conservative Lord Lieutenant of Ireland—that the landlords of Ireland should exercise their rights with prudence and moderation. Certainly, it is not for the public interest that they should do otherwise; but, certainly, it is equally to the disadvantage of the public interest that any encouragement should be given to the idea that Her Majesty's Executive Government will or can refuse to make use of the powers of the law which are entrusted to them for the purpose of enforcing the legal rights of those who have the right to exercise them. Her Majesty's Government are aware, and this House is aware, that this is not a matter which is entirely within the discretion of Her Majesty's Government. Individuals of all classes, whether they be landlords or whether they be others, have their rights, and have a right to appeal to law; and it is not in the power of this Government, or of any Government, to raise itself as a dispensing power superior to the law when the rights of others are imperilled. And no greater disservice could be done to the tenants of Ireland, or to the cause of social order in that country, than to induce any class of Irishmen to believe that there exists in the hands of any Government such a dispensing power to override the legal rights of any class of Her Majesty's subjects. Sir, this view was held by Her Majesty's late Government. A speech was made in this House by my right hon. Friend the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley), in which he was supposed for the time to have claimed for the Irish Government such a dispensing power; but that interpretation of the speech was denied both in this House, and by Lord Spencer in the Upper House, and the Government, as it was its duty, and as it had no alternative in doing, altogether disclaimed any intention of setting itself up as a power superior to the ordinary law. Now, Sir, perhaps I may be allowed to allude, very briefly indeed, to another question which was referred to in the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the question of 341 public works in Ireland. That has been denounced by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby as a proposal, in a disguised form, to confer demoralizing alms upon the people of Ireland. I agree with my right hon. Friend that anything in the nature of disguised alms would be most injurious to the people of Ireland themselves, and that nothing could be more injurious to the people of Great Britain, at whose expense they would be given; but the question is whether it is possible to undertake an expenditure of public money in Ireland which shall not be in the nature of disguised alms to the Irish people. There can, I think, be very little doubt that an inquiry of the character proposed to be undertaken by the Government would be one of the first undertakings which an Irish National Government would be likely to take in hand; and it does not seem to me unreasonable that we, having refused to establish an Irish National Government, should endeavour to do that which, in our opinion, is reasonable, and what an Irish Government would be likely to do for itself. It appears to me that it is a subject worth inquiring into, whether there are not in Ireland certain classes of public works which cannot, in the present state of Ireland at all events, be undertaken by private enterprize, but which may, with a reasonable prospect of success, be undertaken by the Government. We all know very well, unfortunately, that the state of Ireland is such at the present time—and it is not likely for some time to be otherwise—as not to induce private capital to be expended upon works of this description. We know also that there are certain classes of public works in Ireland, such as arterial drainage, which could hardly, under any circumstances, be undertaken by private enterprize, because, in order to enable such works to be undertaken, large legislative powers would have to be conferred on a Company that Parliament would be very unlikely to confer upon a private body. Well, Sir, I do not know whether the Government look forward with great hope to this proposal; but, at all events, it appears to me that, however much information may have resulted from previous inquiries, and may have been collected on 342 many subjects, there is not in the possession of this House, or of the Government, that practical information of the nature that is proposed to be obtained by the Government which would enable the Government to propose to Parliament to adopt any considerable expenditure of the public money in Ireland. I do not think, certainly, that we are in possession of information which would warrant any such expenditure of public money now. But, on the other hand, I maintain that we are not in possession of such complete information on the subject as would justify us in saying that under no circumstances should public money be so granted. I will not detain the House on the question of local government in Ireland at any length. I do not believe there is any Party in this House who will seriously object to the intention of the Government to postpone the consideration of that subject until next February. I have already said that it is impossible for the present Government, or for the present Parliament, to deal with the question of local government as my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House think it ought to be dealt with. If an attempt is to be made to deal with it on different lines, and on a different basis, surely, Sir, it is desirable that some interval, some time for reflection, some time for those passions to calm down which have been excited should be afforded; and certainly, if we are to approach this question of local government for Ireland, and also for the whole of the United Kingdom, it is desirable in the interests, not of Ireland alone, but of the whole of the United Kingdom, that we should approach it in that temper which can only be produced by some delay, and some period for reflection. In conclusion, I can only say I trust that a fair and a candid consideration and trial will be given to the policy which has been thus fully explained by Her Majesty's Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby has complained, or has said—for I do not know whether he complained—that the policy of the late Government was condemned without a trial. Surely my right hon. Friend must know that the decision of the House on such proposals as those which were laid before us by the late Government must necessarily be made without a trial. The 343 measure, whether it were good or whether it were bad, was one which, in its nature, was an irrevocable step, from which there was no return. We were bound and obliged to form our opinion on the merits or demerits of that policy as they were laid before us by the Government, and from the circumstances and the nature of the case it was impossible that anything in the nature of an experimental trial should be afforded. But, Sir, that is no reason why a trial should not be given to the policy which is now explained by Her Majesty's Government. If it is less extensive, less ambitious, less far-reaching, less heroic in its aims than the policy which was rejected by the late Parliament, at all events it cannot be denied that it does not present those dangers and those risks from which we recoil, and from which the country has recoiled. Sir, if the policy of the late Government was, as my right hon. Friends think, founded on justice and on reason, that policy must ultimately prevail. Their case will not be prejudiced, but it will rather be strengthened, by a fair and an honest attempt, on the part of all Parties in this House, to give a fair, an honest, and a candid consideration to a policy which is intended, at all events, to give to Ireland a period of rest and of repose, and to afford an opportunity for the institution of sound and practicable reforms in that country, which has for so many years distracted the deliberations of this House and perplexed the statesmanship of this country.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to find myself able to echo most cordially the sentiments with which my noble Friend has just concluded his very forcible speech. I have never been one of those who have denied to Dissentient Liberals the perfect right and freedom of discussing the measure which my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) proposed almost as unsparingly and as impartially as if the criticism had come from Ministers of the opposite Party. Again, when my noble Friend said that he had never used any language other than the language of respect towards my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian, as far as I know he is amply justified in that statement he made. My noble Friend himself, and many of those 344 who acted with him in what I well know they must have found to be a painful and an embarrassing position, have behaved as we should have expected from English citizens of their position and character. So much, however, cannot be said by all those who have taken part in the controversy. But, Sir, when we look to the future, I confess that I hear very little in the language and observations, and see very little in the attitude, of my noble Friend which encourages the hope that those embarrassments and divisions which have so distressed and perplexed the country are likely soon to come to an end. I feel, Sir, that we must all of us accept the position. Whether those who do not agree with us have or have not forfeited their claim to Liberalism, I, for one, will not now attempt to decide. All that we now say is that a new emergency, and a great emergency, has arisen, and that we think we are applying to that emergency the old principles of our Party. We not only think, but we know, that we have with us the great majority of the Liberal voters. We must wait and see whether circumstances will not justify us in our view of the Irish crisis, and we shall certainly spare no efforts in our endeavour to convert the constituencies to our way of thinking. Sir, my noble Friend has said, as the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary said at an earlier part of the evening, that it was unreasonable to take up a position which implied that Her Majesty's Government are not bound, whatever may be the ultimate solution of the Irish Constitutional difficulty, to do their best to preserve law and order in the meantime. That is a proposition which none of us, I think, on this side of the House shall for a moment deny. But I cannot help remembering that very much the same body of Gentlemen as those who now discharge the duties of Her Majesty's Government were in power not so many months ago, and it was their duty then, as it is now, to preserve order and to put down disturbance. Well, did they do so? Why, we had a debate in this House on the 4th of March last, in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) gave a rather pathetic account of the attempts of that Government, in the autumn of 1885, to keep law and order. What 345 were the words of the right hon. and learned Gentleman? He said—That during the last months of 1885 he applied himself to the task of the administration of justice with whatever abilities he possessed, and certainly with unremitting attention. The Criminal Law was put in force on every possible occasion; every effort was made to maintain the reign of law and order; but, nevertheless, the social condition of the country did not improve."—(3 Hansard,  1921–2.)I ask on what grounds right hon. Gentlemen opposite can expect now to be able to perform that duty, on which they laid so much stress, when, they have no more means of preserving order than they had in the last months of 1885? I cannot see why, exactly, as they failed in the concluding months of 1885, they will not be found to have failed in the concluding months of 1886. Sir, the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the figures of crime which he quoted the other day, in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), did not quite see my right hon. Friend's point. Our point is this—Why is it that you, who insisted, on the 26th of January, 1886, that there was a state of things which justified coercion now, when the state of things is very much the same as it was then, no longer believe in the policy and the remedies which you then thought urgent? You are in this dilemma. You either made a mistake on the 26th of January, when you asked for coercion, or you are making a mistake now. In either case it is difficult to avoid a suspicion of political levity and insincerity. The noble Lord and the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland have told us that there are two centres of disturbance and disorder in Ireland; and they propose to deal with both one and the other—both with the North and South. So far as the North is concerned, and the riots in Belfast, we shall, I believe, have an early opportunity of discussing the question very fully, before the debate closes, on a special Amendment relating to those disturbances. I will only point out one very remarkable statement, illustrating the spirit in which the late Government was judged by the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston), when he said, although his own Leaders have warned him of the fatal effect of disparaging the Royal Constabulary, that there had been a conspiracy—I 346 took his words down at the time—to degrade the town of Belfast. He said that Catholic Constabulary had gone down to Belfast with the special intention of massacreing their Protestant fellow-subjects. [Mr. JOHNSTON: Hear, hear!] Some hon. Member on the other side of the House has the courage of his opinions, and says "Hear, hear!" [Cries of "Johnston—Ballykilbeg!"] I am not going to dwell upon that point. I will only make this one remark—I merely ask the hon. Member to realize what it is that he implies when he says that. He means that the late Lord Lieutenant, Lord Aberdeen, who is a Protestant, and I, who am not exactly a domineering Catholic, instructed the Under Secretary, who is a Protestant, to direct the Inspector General, who is a Protestant, to collect a force of Catholic Constabulary to massacre Protestants in the streets of Belfast. That is the position of the hon. Member for South Belfast. Perhaps we shall hear more of it by-and-bye. There is another point in connection with the Belfast riots to which I will call attention. The Chief Secretary told us on the first night of the Session that there will be an extension of the scope of the inquiry of the Commission on the outrages in Belfast. As a matter of fact, in answer to my Question today, he told us what the extension would be. There is no extension whatever of the terms of the Commission, but only an alleged change of interpretation, which is no change at all, because it is the interpretation which we intended at the time.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER, (Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL) (Paddington, S.)
Its scope will also be indicated by the legal and Parliamentary powers it is proposed to confer upon the Commissioners.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
Quite true, as the Government are going to bring in another Bill, of which I entirely approve. But that does not alter the scope of the inquiry. It is alleged that we had excluded the police from the scope of the inquiry. That is an entire misapprehension. Every possible circumstance in connection with the riots was taken into our purview, and stated in the Lord Lieutenant's Warrant. Therefore, there ought to be no misapprehension. Sir, as to the state of the counties of Kerry and Clare and the districts of 347 Limerick and Galway, I am amused that the noble Lord and the Party opposite and their Friends on this side should think it possible to divorce the consideration of restoring social order from such matters as the Land Question. The noble Lord himself said that outrages of a certain form were most common in the county of Kerry, and he also told us that in Kerry there are two landlords for whose protection a force of no less than 70 Constabulary is employed. Does a fact like that show that there is no connection between social disturbance and the Land Question? The noble Lord gave us the figures of crime in the disturbed counties, and he said, truly enough, that agrarian crime is chiefly prevalent in Connaught and Munster. I will take the liberty of supplementing the noble Lord's figures of crime with the figures of eviction. I want to illustrate the extraordinary fallacy of supposing that you can consider the question of the restoration of social order without considering the existence of the agrarian question. In 1885 the outrages in Ulster and Leinster were 216; and in Connaught and Munster they were 790. The evictions of families in Ulster and Leinster were 1,268, and in Connaught and Munster 1,859. That is to say, where you have most evictions there you have most outrages. In the first six months of the present year, in Ulster and Leinster 703 families were evicted, and in Connaught and Munster 1,304. The outrages in Ulster and Leinster were 103, and in Connaught and Munster they were 450. The House will not suppose that I am for one moment saying that evictions are an excuse for outrages; but I say that they are an explanation of outrages, and that they prove that the root of social disorder is somehow or other to be found in the agrarian question. This is not a mere abstract consideration; it has a very close and direct bearing upon the policy which Her Majesty's Government have foreshadowed; because they are going to take measures—of which I will say a word presently—to stop outrage, on the one hand, and to encourage evictions on the other. The noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marques; of Hartington) has found fault with my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) for fasten- 348 ing that signification upon the language and proposals of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I defy anybody to read the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer now, and not to recognize that in every line of it there is an assurance to the landlords that they will have the uttermost farthing wrung for them from the tenants. [Cries"of "No!"] I say "Yes!" and that an assurance of that kind coming from so important a Minister is, in effect, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby said, an invitation and an incitement to the landlords to proceed to evictions. While you are sending a General to put down midnight crime you are providing work for your General to do. While you are attempting—and I admit sincerely attempting—to dam the stream of agrarian crime, you are replenishing the tributaries from which that stream is fed. So far as the special measures are concerned which the Government have promised to take in the case of Kerry I do not like to say anything. The demoralization in Kerry is so great that anybody, who is responsible for even a decent semblance of order in that county, may be excused for resorting to almost any expedient in order to get at the root of the mischief. But, after six months' study of the condition of things in Kerry, Galway, Limerick, and Clare, it seems to me very doubtful indeed whether very much good can come from sending there a person of the eminent position and high character of General Buller. I am not at all certain that that is the kind of thing that you want. I am not at all sure that he will be able to perform, or to stimulate the performance, of those duties connected with the detection of crime which are likely to bring about a better state of things in Kerry. What is the real evil? It is an evil that no General can touch. It is that the public opinion of the country, and all the district, is against the restoration of law and order, and in favour of the concealment of these midnight marauders and criminals from the officers of justice. What is your General to do in the presence of facts such as occurred in my period of office, and are doubtless occurring now—where a man who has been shot refuses to identify those who have shot him, although the police knew perfectly well that he knew who shot 349 him and could identify them? In other cases, men who have been attacked and who, in the exasperation of the moment, have consented to identify their assailants, have remained silent when the time has come for them to give evidence in Court, and have refused to identify anyone. How do you hope to be able, by sending down General Buller to the disturbed districts, to restore law and order, or bring about a better state of things in a country where public opinion is so corrupted and perverted? The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) told you what was the right remedy. We believed him. He said, and we believed, that he and his Friends detested the crimes perpetrated in Kerry quite as much as any other hon. Members in this House. ["Oh, oh!"] It will not, I am sure, be denied by the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland, if he is present, that the National League has done its very best—and that it has been unsuccessful shows how very deep down the demoralization lies—it will not be denied that the National League has done its best to put down disorder and disturbance in Kerry. [Renewed cries of "Oh!"] Hon. Members opposite know more about it than I do, and more, no doubt, than the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary does. But I will warrant that if the Chief Secretary were here he would not contradict what I am now saying. I return to my point, which is that the hon. Member for Cork was right when he used those words in his memorable speech on the Government of Ireland Bill—Try the effect of self-government; and if Kerry men then resort to outrages, they will very soon find that the rest of Ireland will put a stop to them."—(3 Hansard,  1170.)The noble Marquess who has just sat down indulged in a good deal of satire at the expense of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, on the ground that he had been a party to bring in the Crimes Act of 1882, and had advanced certain propositions in support of that Act which do not exactly square with the position taken up by my right hon. Friend today. But why do you not bring in a Crimes Act yourselves? If my right hon. Friend is inconsistent in not using1 the same language today as he thought fit to use when he introduced the Crimes Act in 1882, how are you less inconsistent when, on January the 26th, 350 you declared that it was necessary and indispensable that the National League should be suppressed, and that exceptional legislation should be introduced—how are you less inconsistent in not introducing such legislation now? My right hon. Friend is not inconsistent because in 1882 he alluded to the surgeon's knife. The surgeon's knife has been applied to Ireland and it has failed. Well, the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that there is a great difference now, and that Her Majesty's Government are not inconsistent in not asking for repressive legislation, in spite of the existence of a similar state of things in Ireland now as existed in January last when they did ask for it, because the situation has been altered by the action of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian, who, he says, is now the Leader of the Nationalist Party. [Ministerial cheers.] What, you cheer that now, although two or three hours ago you cheered the statement of the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland when he said that my right hon. Friend had made the position a great deal more difficult than it was previously! Now, Sir, I wish hon. Gentlemen opposite would make up their minds as to whether our action and our proposed legislation have made the position of the Government in respect of keeping law and order easier or more difficult? The noble Lord said that we had made it easier. [Cries of "No!"] The right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant said that we had made it more difficult. [Cries of "No!"] Sir, I myself agree with the noble Lord. I admit the first and primary task of the Government to be that of doing what they can to preserve law and order; but I firmly believe that our legislative proposals have made your task far easier, because you have now, at all events, this conviction in the mind of the Irish population which gives them a measure of patience such as I believe they have never had before—the conviction that though our proposals have for a time been rejected, yet that these proposals have been and are still, not in the letter, but in the spirit and in principle, supported by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian, by those who were his Col- 351 leagues, and by an enormous mass of the voters of Great Britain. It is that conviction, and the patience which springs from it, that will, I hope and believe, make your task much easier, if you have the courage to face it. But I must confess, Sir, that I am disappointed—I hope only for a time—in the narrowness of the proposals which Her Majesty's Government have foreshadowed, and which the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale, to our still greater surprise, for reasons that I shall have to refer to presently, finds completely adequate and satisfactory. The proposal for the issue of these Commissions is, on the whole, a process with which it is very difficult to find fault. [Mr. CHAMBERLAIN: Hear, hear!] I quite agree with my right hon. Friend who cheers that, that it is the business of Parliaments and Governments to supply themselves with all the information that it is possible to obtain before they proceed to legislation. But I will point out one great difference between the Commission to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred as the precedent for the Commission which the Government are about to issue. The noble Lord said—"You quarrel with us for proposing to issue a Land Commission. Why, in 1880, you yourselves issued a Land Commission." That was the Bessborough Commission. Well, Sir, that is quite true; but there is all the difference between the Commission of 1880 and the Land Commission of Her Majesty's Government. The Bessborough Commission of 1880 was issued as preliminary to a Bill, which the Government announced their intention of bringing forward. But your Land Commission is one to inquire whether there is to be a Bill; whether it is proper and expedient to bring forward a Bill or not. It is plain that there is all the difference in the world between the issue of that Commission and such a Commission as this. Then, again, Sir, I should like to point out, in the second place, that this issuing of your Land Commission, from the terms in which you announce it, is calculated to have a very remarkable and a very mischievous effect upon social order in Ireland in October and November next; and I will tell the House why. The Commission is to inquire whether or not there has been such a fall in the price of produce as to justify and warrant the proposition that rents 352 are too high. But what will be the effect of an announcement of that kind? What does it put at once into the minds both of the landlords and the tenants? Why, Sir, this. The landlord will know that it is to his interest to extort the uttermost farthing from his tenants, in order to prove that rents are not too high and need no re-adjustment; while the tenants, on the other hand, have an equal interest, from the same standpoint of impressing the minds of the Commissioners, in not paying their rent, in order that this Commission of Inquiry may be led to conclude that rents are too high and do urgently require revision. If hon. Members on either side consider the effect of that, they will perceive that the influence upon social order in the months of October and November must be most mischievous. I should like to put another question in reference to the Land Commission. One of the branches of Reference is as to whether there is such secret terrorism as to paralyze industry and discourage capital; and I want to know who is going to tell the Commissioners whether there is this terrorism which paralyzes industry or not? Where are the Commissioners going to get any new information worth having on this most important question?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) (Middlesex, Ealing)
, interrupting, was understood to demur to the terms of the Reference as quoted by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
The Commission is to inquire whether there is any intimidation. That is one of the points of the Reference.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
The noble Lord's words were—"In what part of Ireland combinations to resist the force of legal obligations affect the Land Act of 1881." Undoubtedly, these "combinations" we all understand to mean the operations of the National League; and those operations are supposed to involve terrorism. But, Sir, who is going to tell the Commission anything on this subject? The landlord's story we know. We need no inquiry for that. Then, are the victims and the dupes of this terrorism going before the Commission in Dublin, Tralee, or Limerick, or 353 wherever the place may be, to give evidence to the effect that they are terrorized and their industry paralyzed, and that they would pay their rents if they dared? If so, they cannot be very violently terrorized, and the combination cannot be a very formidable one. Who, besides the landlords and the terrorized tenants, are to give information? Are the police and the Resident Magistrates to give evidence? Why, you have every mouth full and authentic reports from the Resident and District Magistrates, and you know exactly from the best authorities the effect these combinations have on the relations of landlord and tenant. Therefore, Sir, one of the most important points of your Reference will be absolutely inoperative. The noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, and the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland tonight repeated the argument, that one of the points on which you were most anxious for information was how best to deal with the surplus population and the other evils of the congested districts. Why, you know very well that there are very few Members of this House, who have taken any interest whatever in Irish affairs, who are not perfectly well acquainted with the condition and temper of the population of the congested districts, and I do not believe there is one of them who will deny this assertion—that it would be more than the existence of any Government is worth, more than the peace of Ireland is worth, for any British Government, whether Liberal or Tory, to attempt to deal in a large way with the population of the congested districts in question, and in the only way that would be conducive to the amelioration of their condition, and that it is only a Native Irish Government at whose hands they will tolerate the bringing home to them of the only remedy that their situation is capable of. There are, on the Front Bench, at least three or four Members of the Government who are well acquainted with the condition of the population of the congested districts. I do not believe there is one of them who will get up and deny the truth of this assertion—that it would be more than the existence of any Government is worth, more than the peace of Ireland would be worth, for any British Government to attempt to deal in a large way with the population of the congested 354 districts in the West of Ireland. You can only do it—it would only be tolerated and suffered to be done by a Government of their own choosing and of their own people. A great deal has been said about the Land Question; but it can be more, usefully discussed in connection with an Amendment that is to be brought forward by the hon. Member for Cork tomorrow. That Amendment will put all the issues before the House, and afford an opportunity to hon. Members for going fully into the matter, I can only say that the language of my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale in respect of the Land Question tonight is not perfectly in accord with the language of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because my noble Friend seems to anticipate that a new Land Act will have to be produced. [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] Yes; but the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer certainly said pretty plainly that no revision of the Land Act of 1881 was in the minds of the Government at the present moment, and that, on the contrary, they regarded the Land Act of 1881 as containing in it the elements of finality. My noble Friend the Member for Rossendale does not think so, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland tonight, I am bound to say, in consequence possibly of representations that may have been made to him since the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, did take rather a new line, and implied that we are to look out for a new Land Bill. Now, Sir, I have always said that the settlement of the Land Question was an indispensable preliminary or accompaniment to any attempt to restore order in Ireland, and I think it will be found that you are going to have a Land Bill upon the lines that were shadowed forth—not mentioned in this House—but shadowed forth in "another place" by the Prime Minister. If you are going to have a Land Bill that is to fasten upon the taxpayers of this country the difference—the capitalized difference—between what the landlords of Ireland are now receiving and what they ought, on a fair market value, to be receiving, decidedly the country will wish that they had accepted our Land Bill rather than the Bill of the Government. I notice that the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale said nothing tonight on that subject. He said nothing upon the payment by the State of 355 the difference between the true value of the rent and the value as fixed by the Land Commissioners. Sir, in reference to the immediate question of evictions I only want to make one remark. The noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale has echoed the spirit of the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the propriety and expediency and justice of enforcing legal obligations, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland tonight pointed out that the Land Act of 1881 contains a clause by which all tenants under agreement—that is to say, all tenants whose rents have not been fixed by the Land Commissioners—may go before the Court and plead extenuating circumstances and get a stay of eviction. But, as my hon. Friend the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) has said, how can you suppose that these miserable people in the West of Ireland—if they are paying an excessive rent, or cannot pay the rent demanded of them—how are they, in their squalor and helplessness, to appear before the Land Court and plead for a stay of eviction? I cannot imagine a more preposterous form of solace than that. Reference has been made tonight by the noble Marquess to a speech which I made in the early part of my official career, as to the necessity of some power being given to stay evictions. I then said that it was greatly to be regretted that there was not a power somewhere or other to discriminate between cases where tenants can pay and cases where tenants cannot pay. That remark was very unfavourably received in many quarters where I expected it would have met with favour. I have, since that remark was made, taken a great deal of trouble to see whether it has occurred to lawyers and judicial functionaries in Ireland to consider whether it was not possible that some such equity and some such discriminating power could be introduced. It is too late now; but I did find that there were judicial authorities of no inconsiderable eminence who believed that it might be possible and would be acceptable, if Parliament could be got to assent to it, for a tenant to go to those tribunals to which the landlord now goes for an ejectment—mostly the County Courts—and to plead conditions which would excuse him, for a time at least, from having the extreme process of eviction put in force against him. It 356 would, of course, be rash for me or any other than a Minister of the Crown to father proposals of that kind; but I do hope that the Government will turn them over in their mind in the autumn which is to pass before Parliament reassembles and see whether something cannot be done in that direction. I should not be surprised if they wore to encourage such a movement. At all events, I am sure that unless they do they will run great risks—I hope I shall not be interpreted as holding out any threat—and that within a certain number of months, unless something is done in that direction, there will undoubtedly be serious peril of great social disturbances. I hope my right hon. Friend near me, after what he has said on the subject, will use all the influence he possesses—which, considering the position he occupies, ought to be considerable—with right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, in promoting a policy of that kind. Now, Sir, I only want to say one word on the subject of the smaller Commission. That Commission, I am afraid, is a very small Commission for running up a very big bill. We know something upstairs of what engineers, contractors, and experts can do when they are consulted as to schemes, and when I think of Irish engineers, contractors, and experts being consulted by the Imperial Government as to what can be done in the way of the amelioration of the condition of Ireland by public works, I confess that the vision which opens itself to my mind is one of the most appalling that I can conceive. They will be very unworthy of their professional reputation if they do not prove to demonstration that many millions and scores of millions can be expended in Ireland to the greatest possible advantage. But what I am surprised at is, that at this time of day any serious or responsible Government can dream of instituting a Commission to deal with points and questions of this kind. Have they forgotten that only last year there was a Committee sitting upstairs on Irish Industries, the result of whose labours appeared in a Blue Book of 1,000 pages? Are they aware of the existence of all that evidence, and do they believe that a Commission sitting between this and the end of the year will be able to add one jot or tittle to the evidence already taken? I, for my 357 part, entirely doubt it. I have read that Blue Book pretty carefully, and I say that I cannot imagine any scheme devised by the ingenuity of man which is not defended by witnesses examined before that Committee. The had before them some of the best experts who could be got together in railway management, in mining, in civil engineering, and in every branch which this small Commission is to include; and I say that the evidence on canals, mines, arterial drainage, railways, and fisheries is complete. I say that, after all the evidence collected in past years, there was only one Committee needed to consider the evidence, and that was the Committee of 14 or 15 Gentlemen who constitute Her Majesty's Government. They have ample materials on which to form their judgment in the evidence given; they must have been aware of this, and I cannot imagine that they suppose the evidence can in any way be invalidated, or that any further information or suggestions will be brought before the Commission which they have announced their intention of appointing. Now, Sir, with regard to the proposal to spend millions of our money upon public works in Ireland, I, myself, regard it as of more doubtful expediency, when it is performed by a British Government, and under the supervision of a British Parliament—I regard it as of more doubtful expediency than any proposal which I can imagine Her Majesty's Government could put forward. It is true, as has been stated tonight, that Irish Members below the Gangway have demanded the expenditure of money on public works in Ireland; and so long as they could not get these works taken in hand in any other way, I should not blame them. But these Gentlemen knew at the time they were calling for them that, however excellent they were in their purpose, they would be a hundred times better performed, and better adapted to the ends they were intended to accomplish, if they were taken in hand even with lessened resources, with a poorer Treasury, by an Irish Government and an Irish Parliament. It is just the difference between an estate managed by the Court of Chancery and an estate managed by the owner who is on the spot, and whose mind is constantly turning to the improvement of the estate. If our Bill had been passed, and if there had been an Irish 358 Legislature to superintend and an Irish Executive to carry out many of those works which have been advocated in Ireland, and which Her Majesty's Government hold out some hope of having carried out, then I believe that enormous good would have been done to Ireland; and not only do I believe that, but I believe it would have been one of the first tasks taken in hand by an Irish Government? But, Sir, I protest, with all the force of which I am capable, against the British Government undertaking a vast expenditure of public funds upon works with regard to which Irish Members have not been consulted, which Irish Members will not supervise, and over which it is probable that the Irish Representatives will have no more control than they have had on the suggested issue of a Commission. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland said tonight that his Friends and he were in favour of a policy of decentralization. But these great works of yours—how will you decentralize the administration of these enormous works? They are works for which provision is to be made out of the Public Exchequer. You are not going to allow enormous sums from the Exchequer to be expended without supervision by the agents of the Exchequer. You now expend considerable sums in Ireland, but you do not give it to the Local Authorities; and I am sure you are not going to intrust the expenditure of these funds to the Local Authorities in Ireland without State supervision. Well, then, you must have State supervision, and the moment you have that you must have a State Institution, as you have now in the Board of Works. But, if you read the Blue Book I have already referred to, you will find that, although everybody has a scheme which he wishes the Government to undertake, yet everyone equally protests against the way in which the Board of Works does business, checks enterprize, and defeats the object in view. I am not for a moment saying that these charges against the Board of Works are just; but I say that the Board of Works are a centralizing body over which the Gentlemen from Ireland have no control. Clearly, if you are going to create a large spending Department in Ireland, you will have naturally to appoint over it a permanent Board of officials to supervize the expenditure; 359 and I say it is folly to talk of decentralization so long as in all that expenditure, and in all the details of these public works, the Representatives of Ireland will have no voice, will never be consulted, and will never be able to exercise any effective supervision. But you will say that this House will exercise supervision. Sir, I say that if the supervision of Parliament means supervision by this House of the Executive administration in Ireland, it is fatal to the efficiency of the Irish Executive, and fatal to the success of Irish administration. We know very well what supervision by this House of Irish government means; it means that the House takes the word of the Chief Secretary for Ireland for what is done, and that Irish Members may take what line they please, make what protests they please; but the majority of the House, being ignorant and ill-informed, will naturally suppose that the Chief Secretary for Ireland knows what is right better than they do. I contend that, although you are going to set up Local Authorities, you are about, by this great expenditure of public money, to feed and give new nourishment to the centralizing system, and new discouragement to the interests of Irishmen in the affairs of their country. One other announcement is that you are going to extend local government in Ireland upon the same principles as those which you intend to apply to the extension of local government in England and Scotland. We are to have equality, similarity, and simultaneity. As to simultaneity, I only ask whether Lord Salisbury was in favour of simultaneity when he said he would give Ireland local government after 20 years of coercion, and whether we, in England and Scotland, are also to wait 20 years for local government? So much for simultaneity. One word about equality and similarity. I wish to ask the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who favours this formula, two things. He says you are to have equality and similarity as between the powers of Local Authorities in Ireland and those in England and Scotland. Now, is the noble Lord going to give to the new Local Authorities in Ireland that control over the expenditure of local taxation, and over local valuation and assessment, which is possessed, and I hope will be possessed, by the Local 360 Authorities in England and Scotland? One other point. When the noble Lord talks of equality and similarity, is he going to give to the Local Authorities in Ireland control over the police? I am perfectly sure that he is going to do nothing of the kind. I certainly shall regard it as a very grave thing if the noble Lord makes any such proposal. I have mentioned these two points to illustrate the rashness with which the noble Lord has committed himself to the principle of equality and similarity as between local government in Ireland and Great Britain. This I have to say, that if you extend the power of Local Authorities in Ireland, without a guiding and controlling central authority, you will increase and aggravate every mischief and every danger that now besets you. Your only course, if you wish to move safely in the path of the development of local self-government in Ireland, is to give a strengthening and guiding hand to the Local Authority. Nothing can be more misleading than to talk as if there was identity of position and spirit between Great Britain and Ireland, which ought to be carried out in identity of institutions. The conditions of Great Britain and of Ireland are in most respects absolutely different. There is difference of race. England is rich, Ireland is poor. England has a thoroughly united population; the population of Ireland is unfortunately not united. In England we have a great middle class; in Ireland there is scarcely a middle class at all. I might go on till I weary the House with the difference between Ireland and England on such points. In the face of all these differences in the very foundations of social order, it is the most misleading proposition that any statesman can advance—that an institution which is good for Great Britain is therefore good for Ireland. I humbly subscribe to what was quoted the other night by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, from Mr. Disraeli, when he said that—"Almost the reverse of the institutions which are fitted for England is what are fitted for Ireland." I, for one, have been a partizan and an advocate of self-government for Ireland, because I believed that those proposals, and the self-government to which they would give rise, would give Ireland a strong Central Government, would not 361 fritter away authority, and would not, as your proposals would, multiply the centres of resistance to, and attack on, the Imperial Parliament. The more this question is looked into, the more the difficulties are examined—enough has been said in this debate to show it—the more clearly will it be seen that we shall never get on the right line of improvement in Ireland—improvement in the relations between the people of Great Britain and the people of Ireland—until you give them a Statutory Parliament and an Executive Government responsible to it. You will never otherwise advance a step on the road towards a final and permanent settlement. I confess I was surprised tonight when my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale seemed to express some approval of these very limited and narrow proposals for local self-government for Ireland. For I had understood my noble Friend, in the later speeches which he delivered during the Election, to say that he was in favour of a central authority in Ireland, provided that it complied with four or five conditions which he enumerated. I cannot recognize my noble Friend's position taken in those last speeches of his, with the position of acquiescence in any proposals so narrow and meagre as those shadowed forth by the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer. One speech of his struck me immensely, because I thought I saw in a sentence of the noble Lord's the hopes of reconciliation between the views of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham and our views. My noble Friend says that he felt that, after all that had been done and all that had been proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian, Ireland would require a measure of local self-government different from and wider than that which he thought would be sufficient for England. He repudiated equality and similarity. Therefore, I confess I am surprised and disappointed that, tonight, my noble Friend should not have a word of remonstrance to address to Her Majesty's Government when they take up a diametrically opposite position to that on which he won his election. When you say you have a mandate to preserve the Union, I acknowledge it to be quite true; and when you say that your first business is 362 to preserve law and order, that is quite true also, if you can do it without more organic remedies than you have yet proposed. But when you say that the mandate of this House was confined to restoring and preserving law and order, and providing some small measure of local self-government, I defy you or your allies on this side of the House to prove that that was, in the least degree, the mandate of the constituencies at the last Election. Their mandate was, I admit, unfavourable to the proposals which we endeavoured to press on them; but, in my opinion, the judgment of the constitutencies which returned Conservative Members and those who returned Unionist Liberals was, that the Government of the day, of whomsoever it might be composed, should take in hand as soon as possible a reconstruction of the Irish Government upon the broadest lines compatible with Parliamentary supremacy and Imperial unity. I say it is inevitable that circumstances will compel you to take the task in hand in. that wide sense, and with that wide interpretation. Nay, further, and with this I have done—I say that the moment you advance along that road, the road which I believe the English and Scotch constituencies wish you to take, you will have to travel as far as we asked you to travel, and to bring in proposals which, however they may differ in detail, will be, in spirit and in principle, identical with those which we brought forward.
§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
Sir, there were two points decided by the late Election—one, that there shall be no Parliament in these Realms other than this one; and the other, that there shall be no impediment to this Government in maintaining law and order in Ireland. Her Majesty's Government, in the speeches we have heard, have shown firmness and frankness—qualities which were sadly absent when the affairs of the country were guided by the late Government; but I hope that the brave words of the Ministry before me will be followed by acts. Next, I desire to see a distinct principle laid down that there shall be no rival Executive in Dublin. It is quite true that, unless considerable firmness is shown in the present juncture, we shall drift back into the policy of the past. By the voice of the constituencies, 363 the authors and avowers of the policy of fear have been relegated to a position which is more suitable to Gentlemen of their mettle; and, under these circumstances, I do not think that the present occupants of the Treasury Bench have any cause for alarm if they act fearlessly. I was particularly gratified to hear the declaration of Her Majesty's Government—that if the ordinary law proved insufficient for the maintenance of order in Ireland, they would not hesitate to have recourse to a November Session; and I am sure that many of us will willingly return from our avocations, in order to insure that the Queen's writ shall run without let or hindrance. One may call the best of dogs by a bad name, and hang him; but the equity of the English law will be none the less, because it is libelled by the name of coercion, which is but the authority of the law supporting its justice. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), a day or two ago, treated us to some extensive platitudes about the fundamental principles which he says have guided the Party to which he belongs; but, as a humble student of the distinguished and somewhat notorious career of the right hon. Gentleman, I have failed to find in his political action any other principles than those of the Vicar of Bray. I venture to think that those who sit on the Treasury Bench need not be afraid of the principles of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby with regard to remedies of Irish grievances. I think the time has come when an end should be put to the state of affairs that has existed, and I sincerely trust that the Government will set their faces completely against the policy of the past. Much has been said of the magnitude of the Irish Question. Now, it seems to me that the magnitude of a question in public or private life depends very much in the way in which it is treated. There are some people who, so to speak, are afraid of their own shadow; and, certainly, I think that one may look at a question too long, and thus become very liable to exaggerate its magnitude. I trust that Her Majesty's Government and the nation will look at this question in its true proportions. There is one point on which I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken (Mr. John Morley)—and I might 364 say that he has almost taken the words out of my mouth. I think the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer was perhaps a little too hasty in using the word "equality." Now. I am of the opinion of the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, that, however much we may wish it, we cannot deal with Ireland on an equality with Great Britain. We hope the time may come when we shall be able to do that; but it has not yet arrived. It is true that the Poor Law has not been administered as impartially as as some of us could wish; and I have heard it said that the Poor Law authorities have used their position for some purposes totally different from the objects of their office. Again, much ignorance exists amongst the people in Ireland, and while they remain so illiterate it is hardly likely that we can place them on the same footing as we are ourselves. Finally, I hope the Government will go forward with their policy and set us the example of doing what they think is right in this matter, even if they should be in a minority.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—[Mr. Parnell,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Tomorrow.