§ SIR THOMAS ESMONDE (Dublin Co., S.)
said that, notwithstanding all that had been said on the opposite 487 Benches during the course of the debate, he ventured to assert that the condition of the tenantry of Ireland was one which demanded immediate attention and immediate action on the part of Her Majesty's Government, whatever Her Majesty's Ministers might say to the contrary. The Irish Members were in a position to speak with somewhat of authority on that subject, and they deemed it their duty to lay before the country the extreme urgency of the question. Owing to the great depression or fall in the prices of agricultural produce, rents which were fixed two years ago, and which then might have been considered fair rents, could not now, in many cases, be possibly paid. It was a matter of public notoriety, notwithstanding the assertions made yesterday by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Plunket), that those rents were fixed on the supposition that the price of agricultural produce had reached the lowest point; but since that time there had been a still further fall in agricultural produce, and the result was that those judicial rents, which might have been fair when they were fixed, were now certainly rack-rents, and impracticable. Her Majesty's Government had informed the country that they intended to uphold social order in Ireland; but if by the maintenance of social order they meant the maintenance of the assistance of the landlords in exacting rents from the tenants, which the land had not produced, the outlook for the peace of the country during the coming winter was dark in the extreme. Not only had agricultural produce fallen in value, but in many cases it was wholly unsaleable. In the county of Wexford, which was supposed to be one of the most prosperous districts in Ireland, he could state, as a fact, that the farmers had often brought their stock, or their grain, or their butter, to market, and had been unable to dispose of it at any price. If that was the state of things in the county Wexford, what must be the case in the Southern and Western districts of the country? And yet it was in the Southern and Western districts that the landlords were dealing most harshly towards their tenants, and were committing acts, such as those committed at Gweedore, which, if committed in any English county, would rouse a 488 storm of indignation throughout the land. The result of these acts was to drive the people to seek shelter in the ditches, or in the workhouse—that demoralizing institution—or to drive them into the slums of great English cities, to swell the numbers of our already over-crowded labour market, or to drive them to America, where they joined the large body of inveterate and determined foes which injustice had raised against England. Were these results such as would commend themselves to the people of England, or to a Government which pretended to be actuated by the loftiest Constitutional principles? Her Majesty's Government were not justified in the reckless waste of public money which these evictions caused. Moreover, the economic and social results proceeding from them were sad in the extreme. They were therefore entitled to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they intended to take to deal with the agrarian situation in Ireland? In many parts of the South and West the rents were not made out of the land, but were paid either from the wages of Irish harvestmen in England, or else by the illicit distillation of whisky. He did not think English artizans and labourers would uphold a system which tended to flood the English labour market with Irish labour. If evictions were permitted during the coming winter crime would result; and, although they might deplore the crimes, they could not absolve the Executive Government from the responsibility of allowing a state of things to exist from which such disorders arose. They had been told that they were preaching the "No Rent" doctrine, but they were doing nothing of the sort. They did not, by any means, deny to the Irish landlords their just share in what the soil had produced. So long as dual ownership in land prevailed, so long were the landlords entitled to their share in the produce, but only their fair share. The landlord had an indefeasible right to the rent, but only to a just rent. He had no moral right, whatever his legal right might be, to claim from his tenant a larger rent than the land produced. The landlord and tenant were joint owners in a common property—in a common concern—and if the working of that concern resulted in a profit, the landlord was entitled to a share in the profit; but if the 489 profits diminished, the landlord could only claim a diminished share of the profit. If the working of the land produced a loss, then the landlord must bear his share of that loss. The proposal of the Government to appoint a Commission was not satisfactory, because the mischief would be done before any remedy would be applied. At any rate, the Irish Members had made their position clear in this matter. The question at issue was a pressing one for immediate action, and required a pressing and immediate remedy. If the landlords insisted upon rents which the land had not produced outrages would undoubtedly follow, and after the warning which the Government had received the blame could not be laid at the doors of the Irish Members. ["Hear, hear!"] If the Government intended coercion it would be more manly for them to declare their intention openly. Since the Irish Parliament was destroyed they had 86 Coercion Acts; and, speaking as an Irishman, he would say that no number of Coercion Acts would cause the Irish people to renounce or lose faith in their right to make their own laws. Indeed, the large number of Coercion Acts there had already only intensified the national feeling. If they did not insist on a policy of coercion, and desired to govern Ireland in a Constitutional manner, they would be wise to take the advice of the Irish Members, and stop indiscriminate evictions in Ireland, because of the non-payment of rents which the land would not produce. This advice was tendered the Government; and if they did not accept it, they must rank with those of whom Fielding has it—"That they are unable to gather wit or wisdom from anyone capable of lending them either." The Irish Representatives had done their duty to the country and to themselves, and if the Government chose to turn a deaf ear to their warnings they washed their hands of the responsibility.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
said, it was the duty of each Representative of the Irish people, one after another, to endorse emphatically the statements contained in the speech of the Leader of the Party to which he had the honour to belong. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) has struck the keynote of the situation when he stated that during the 490 coming winter the people in many parts of Ireland would find themselves unable to pay their rents, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said they must pay, or allow the landlords to recover their property. In the coming winter it would be impossible for many of the tenants to pay their rents. There was no use in dealing with the question in a roundabout way. There was no use in discussing the question what would be the final settlement of the Land Question. They must address themselves to the immediate point. The one question upon which they should keep their attention was that if the landlords accepted the invitation of the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill), and that unless the landlords, either by law or by the private influence of the Government, or the influence of some people who had influence with them, were prevented from exacting, or attempting to exact, the rents that had been fixed by the Land Commissioners under the Land Act, the people would be evicted by thousands during the coming winter. What they had got to decide on at this moment, he thought, was whether the landlords were to be allowed to evict the people for rents which they could not pay. Were the people of England prepared to see Irish tenants, with their wives and families, cast upon the roadside? If there was a conspiracy against the payment of rents the case would be altered altogether; but there was no conspiracy against the payment of judicial rent, nor was there a single Member who sat near him who had encouraged the tenants to such a policy. Even when the "No Rent" Manifesto was issued the people, to a large extent, refused to avail themselves of it. The only conspiracy was on the part of the landlords, who would not accept such rent as the people were willing and able to pay. The difficulty would be reached next November. There was no use in appointing Commissions of Inquiry. The Land Question had already been sifted to the bottom. It had been inquired into and reported upon incessantly for the last 50 years. The Commission would not make its Report till next spring, whereas the tenants must pay in November or be evicted from their holdings. The Commission was a mockery to the Irish people, and would only serve to inflame their passions 491 and increase their belief that the noble Lord and his Government did not really want to save the people from their landlords, but desired the landlords to go ahead in their evictions, and thereby cause outrage in order to furnish the Government with a pretext for introducing a Coercion Bill next year. The proposal of the Government was idiotic, and could only have proceeded from a stripling statesman, who was but a sorry substitute for the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. The noble Lord had told the landlords in effect that the Government would offer no obstacle to wholesale eviction; and there was nothing in the history of the landlords which encouraged a hope that they would not exact their pound of flesh, as they had done in the past, and especially at the time of the famine. This was not a matter which would brook delay. Immediate action was necessary, as the dark shadow was already athwart the country. In fact, the evil had already begun. In an evening paper yesterday there was an account of the arrival at the New Ross Workhouse of 62 persons, the wives and families of 13 evicted tenants on the Marquess of Ely's estate in Wexford. Then it was suggested that the tenants should pay their full rents out of the savings of former years. A more unjust or merciless proposal he never heard. The truth was that these supposed savings of the Irish farmers were, for the most part, entirely mythical. The county of Wexford was one of the most prosperous in Ireland, and was absolutely free from outrage. But even there the farmers were not able to pay their rents, though in numberless cases they had in the past paid them out of the remittances sent by their kindred in America and Australia. The last Christmas Return from the United States showed that no less than 8,000,000 dollars had been sent to Ireland in this way, every penny of which had gone to the landlords. There were no means of raising money to which the wretched tenants would not resort rather than face the bitter necessity of leaving their homesteads. The hon. Member for Cork had made the most practical suggestion—namely, that the rents should be revised every three years instead of every 15, in accordance with the variation in prices. If that suggestion were not adopted, and if the landlords refused to 492 accept what the people could pay, there would be such an outbreak in Ireland as had not been known for many a long year. The people had been extraordinarily quiet under great provocation; but unless the Government did something they would become desperate. If evictions should be made wholesale and the people driven to fight in defence of their homesteads, there could be no mistake as to who were the originators of so great a calamity, and the people of England would not fail to lay the blame on the heads of a Government which, in so great a crisis, had nothing better to offer than the appointment of a Commission whose Report would be too late to deal with the evil of which it purported to be a remedy. The Irish Representatives had done their duty by giving the Government timely warning; and when the hands of the Government were stained with the blood of the Irish people, they could call the world to witness that they were innocent.
§ MR. HOWORTH (Salford, S.)
said, he thought the moderate tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) was better suited to the occasion than the inflammatory rhetoric to which the House had just listened. In the speech of the hon. Member for Cork there seemed to be more feeling and more reality than in the speech delivered by a distinguished statesman above the Gangway on the same side of the House—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt)—in whose every sentence was discernible the actor who was willing to take any part in the play in order to make certain of his filling a position on the stage. The hon. Member for Cork had raised a real issue by the Amendment which he had placed upon the Paper. The Irish problem consisted of two factors—the agrarian and the political—and the hon. Member and his Friends had, with great ingenuity and persistence, striven to connect the two inseparably. The connection of these two factors was a question of life and death to hon. Members below the Gangway opposite. It was to them a question of life and death that the agrarian difficulty should not be solved until the political difficulty should have been settled to their taste. It was, therefore, not a matter for surprise that speech after speech should be delivered by hon. Members 493 opposite with the same object as that of the addresses which for months past had been heard on the hill-sides of Ireland. It was not surprising, he maintained, that inflammatory speeches should be made, having for their purpose the prevention, at all hazards, of the solution of the agrarian difficulty. The Party to which he belonged took a different view; they did not hold that the agrarian difficulty could not be dealt with separately from the political difficulty. The hon. Member for Cork, in his argument in support of the contrary view, had said that the Irish people would not surrender their birthright—namely, national independence—for the mess of pottage which the Government offered to them; but this mess of pottage to which the hon. Member referred meant nothing less than the prosperity and happiness of his country. There were two distinct aspects to the agrarian problem in Ireland. The aspect of the difficulty in the extreme West was different from that prevailing in the other Provinces. In the West the difficulty was perpetual in its character, the reason being the congestion of the population. The people there could not, and never had, paid their rents out of their earnings derived from agriculture. Their rents had been paid, to a large extent, out of the wages earned by the peasants who came to this country in the autumn to assist in the harvest work. Although the seaboard of the Western counties afforded opportunities for the successful pursuit of the fishing industry, the people had but little knowledge of the occupation, and could not practise it in such a way as to make it even moderately remunerative. When all the conditions of the problem were considered, it was impossible to believe that it could be solved, except by reducing the congestion of the district by the removal of many of the inhabitants. In the rest of Ireland the present condition of agriculture was, no doubt, such as rendered the payment of rents exceedingly difficult in certain cases. Much the same state of things existed in England, with this remarkable exception—that greater advantages were derived from the peculiar agriculture of Ireland than from the agriculture of England. The grazing products of Ireland had had a very much better market than the agri- 494 cultural produce of our arable land in England. But, granting that the Irish farmers sometimes found it difficult to meet the demands of their landlords, the disease was a natural one to which a natural remedy ought to be applied. The rent ought to rise and fall with the rise and fall of the price of produce; but that natural remedy had deen displaced by the inversion of the laws of political economy, for which the country had to thank right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench. It seemed to him now, as in 1881, when it was proposed to introduce sumptuary laws on a gigantic scale, that a difficulty was imported into the problem which was absolutely certain to become a Nemesis. They were now shaking hands with Nemesis, and it was because they were doing so that they felt considerably stirred when they found the attitude of right hon. Gentlemen opposite to be that of cynics on this occasion. The difficulty was that the English Government had approached a very small part of the community, who were constituted the life-tenants of the land in Ireland, and said to them that, in view of the dangers of their position, they insisted by legislation that those life-tenants should be fined to the extent of 25 per cent of their incomes. The Government did not distribute the fine among all the partners who had an interest in the property—upon legatees and mortgagees—but imposed the whole burden on the tenant for life, and said—"We call upon you to make this sacrifice for the sake of peace and of the prosperity of the country; and, at the same time, we hold out to you this boon—that, having fixed the rent judicially and by the authority of Parliament, you may depend upon receiving it regularly for many years to come." When that offer had been made and embodied in an Act of Parliament, it seemed to him an exceedingly difficult thing for Parliament to restrain its hand when these same men came before it and said that the rents which were guaranteed by statutory title were no longer paid—not very often or very largely because they could not be paid, but because those who ought to pay them were being incited not to pay them; and because if they paid them they would be postponing that time which was longed for by hon. Gentlemen opposite when the Irish tenants 495 should obtain what they called their independence, That was the motive which was being put before the peasants and farmers in all directions. Under these very awkward conditions he held that hon. Gentlemen opposite, no less than those on his own side of the House, were bound in equity to take care that the landlords should not suffer; and, therefore, he approved the proposal that a diligent inquiry should be made to ascertain in what cases there was a reasonable and in what cases an unreasonable opposition to the payment of rent. In any case, if Parliament, avowedly for the peace or benefit of the community, imposed a fresh fine by way of a compulsory reduction in rent on an individual or a class, he felt bound to say that that fine should be distributed among them all; and he would remind the hon. Member for Northampton, whose speech he otherwise largely approved, that he misunderstood the chivalrous instincts of the artizans whom he (Mr. Howorth) claimed to know very intimately in Lancashire, if he supposed that they were not willing to share such burdens when equitably laid for a national purpose. Under any circumstances, there would be a permanent difficulty to meet in Ireland—namely, that barriers could only be temporarily raised against the laws of political economy, and that when those barriers were removed there would be precisely the same difficulties to meet which had to be met in 1881. There would still be a large number of men competing for farms, and so long as those men elected to remain on land upon which they could not live prosperously and well, so long would there be a permanent agrarian difficulty in Ireland. In his opinion, the only permanent remedy for this state of things was the remedy to be found in emigration. There was, perhaps, another alternative, and one which commended itself to hon. Members opposite. It was, no doubt, quite possible, as had been urged by the hon. Member for Cork, to keep these people at home by protecting the national products of Ireland against everybody, even against England. But he doubted if such a remedy would be satisfactory to the bulk of hon. Members opposite, and it seemed to him at least to be a very remote remedy. In conclusion, he begged to thank hon. Members for the patience 496 with which they had listened to him when addressing the House for the first time.
§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
said, that although the House had been called together to vote Supplies, the discussion of grievances and remedial measures usually accompanied the voting of Supplies; but the Government, though they had nothing to propose themselves, seemed determined that private Members should not propose any remedial measures, and so deprived them of the Constitutional right of stating their grievances before Supply was granted. In fact, the Government had undertaken quite a new rôle, and had constituted themselves a universal blockading Party. In his opinion, the Cabinet should either be prepared to bring in remedial measures themselves for the relief of Irish wrongs, or, at least, show that their intions were virtuous by not obstructing private Members who desired to make an attempt at accomplishing that in which the Government had failed. The suggestion that the Irish difficulty could only be met by further depopulation seemed to him to be deserving of the severest reprobation of the House. He would point out, not that it was necessary, because every impartial person admitted the existence of Irish wrongs, that in effect the state of things in the Sister Country was that within the last 30 years the population had diminished by nearly 2,000,000 of people, whilst, at the same time, the relative pauperism of the country had more than doubled. This was the country which was accused of shamming their inability to pay rent by keeping back their savings. It therefore seemed to him that the removal of the population by emigration, instead of increasing the prosperity of Ireland, had diminished it. He, with other political economists, did not believe that the prosperity or wealth of a country was increased by depopulation. The proposals of the Government—if, indeed, they could be dignified by the name of proposals—were that certain Commissions should be issued to report on the condition of things in Ireland. Of course, the Government were best acquainted with the condition of their own minds, and how far they themselves were possessed of information with regard to Ireland. Royal Commissions necessarily caused delay, and he was, on 497 principle, opposed to them. In this particular case the Reports of the Commissions would in all probability be brought into the House long after the events with which they dealt had passed away. He was unwilling to impute the criminal motive of delay to the Government in the proposed scheme of multifarious Commissions of Inquiry. Yet he had to say that the hinted-at procedure certainly would generally be thought to be of such a character. The Tories, as a Party, were strong on the question of political economy; they constantly obtruded their acquaintance with philosophic economics. But it struck him that the economical character which they wished to be credited with existed chiefly in phrase, and not in concrete. He had found on looking back that Toryism had repudiated, or, at least, had not acted on, the principle of orthodox economics, from Adam Smith down to contemporary economists. Rather had they taken advantage of what was false and exploded in Mill, and of what was Socialistic in writers like Jevons and Cairnes when the borrowed matter was favourable to their privileges. Tories should not talk of scientific economics. The matter before the House was not one of economic fads, nor of economic mechanics. He regarded a man as anything but a machine. They wanted to improve the state of things which existed, and had long continued to exist, in Ireland, and which menaced the peace of the country and harassed ourselves. The Government had forgotten that some measures, at least, of relief should have been suggested. He believed that the Government had made a mistake when it did not fall in with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), who had recommended not only the justice, but the expediency of at least some preventive measures to sterilize the crop of crime which would surely be born of unjust and heartless eviction. He knew little about evictions himself, and he was sure the English people knew as little as he. He, however, had seenlocalities where eviction had occurred, and he was satisfied from the horrible impressions which had been made on him that the English people—the working men—if they were better informed would not tolerate the existence of such a system. Facts and figures were the only arguments—slow, but sure, how- 498 ever—by which the eviction system could be exposed. From 1847 until 1851 he found that the number of families evicted in Ireland were 263,000. Those readmitted as caretakers amounted to 73,000, so that there were about 190,000 families evicted during four years. Mr. Mulhall, the statistician, had calculated that during a period of 33 years there had been evicted 2,412,000 persons—that was to say, over 70,000 persons per annum. This was appalling; it was dreadful—it was a horrible state of things for the people of this country to contemplate. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Howorth) that the hard-working men of this country would be prepared to pay something out of their own pockets, if the money went for the relief of the people in the distressed districts; but what they objected to was that the money paid by the taxpayers should go where it had gone before—namely, into the pockets of the landlords. It could hardly be believed, but it was a fact, that during the last seven years he found that the number of civil bill ejectments served in Ireland amounted to 116,818. Some of the ejected, doubtless, had been replaced as caretakers; but what a condition of dependent misery was that. Whilst he did not wish to harass the Government in carrying on the rule of Ireland, he wished to state that he believed his support was due to the Irish Party when he saw the duties of Office shirked, or, at best, foolishly performed by them. He should urge on the Government the absolute necessity of taking steps to ease the coming winter for the Irish tenants if they would do nothing more, so that evictions, and with evictions crime, should be stopped in that long-oppressed and unfortunate country.
§ MR. ADDISON (Ashton-under-Lyne)
said, that the two last speakers had claimed to speak on behalf of working men. The hon. Member for Salford. (Mr. Howorth) had stated that the working men were prepared to bear a national fine in favour of the landlords in Ireland, and the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Howell) had said that the working men would be content to bear a national fine on behalf of the Irish tenants. He himself claimed to represent a working class constituency; and the working men of that constituency; and he wished to say that his constitu- 499 ents objected to pay one shilling of English taxation for the relief either of the landlords or the tenants of Ireland. With the working men, and also with the classes in his constituency, no measure would be so unpopular as that which would saddle the taxation of this country, or any of the industries of this; country, with any charge whatever for the relief of landlords in Ireland. The Land Act of 1881, although it provided for the fixing of judicial rent, said not a single word about an Imperial guarantee for judicial or other rents; and if the landlords could not get their rents—and he hoped they would—they would but be in the same position as the unhappy manufacturers in Lancashire and in the North, who, when they could not get their money, were obliged to go without or do with less, and put up with the consequences. Nothing could be more distressing than evictions; but they occurred in England as well as in Ireland. It was not pleasant to contemplate a distress for rent or an execution for debt; but still the law was enforced in England against debtors. He should like to know what was proposed to be done in Ireland hereafter when a man wished to remove others from his land? People had to be evicted by others beside landlords. When the members of a family increased in number beyond the power of the land to afford them a living, the person who was in possession must evict the others; and all the troubles and miseries of eviction must, therefore, exist under any other system of law. The people who could not live on the land must go elsewhere, and if they could not find work in Ireland they must do what hon. Members opposite very much disliked—namely, emigrate. The best way for either a landlord or a tenant to get on in this world was by practising industry, hard work, and sobriety, and, above all, by the absence of political agitation. While he regretted evictions in Ireland, he believed there was nothing which this House could do that would really ease the tenants very much. One thing he hoped never would be done, and that was to assist either landlords or tenants by the money of the hard-working British taxpayer.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. CRILLY (Mayo, N.)
said, he was anxious to join his voice to that of the Irish Party in expressing his belief in the total and absolute inadequacy of the Government proposals to meet the political and social crisis in which we were environed. He must state his satisfaction at the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), because the most industrious and ingenious critic would be unable to find, however energetic his search, any amelioration for the grievance which the Amendment embodied. The policy of the Government was a policy of somnolency, mischievousness, and inadequacy. It would passively permit landlord privileges, which, if unacknowledged, would be sanctioned by coercion, whilst no guarantee for the security of the Irish tenantry was offered. This mischievous and evil policy of delay, which made the tenant, where his own interests were concerned, the centre of remedial inaction, was most suited to the atmosphere of "Sleepy Hollow" than to the age of motion in which we lived. A Cabinet of "Rip Van Winkles" had satisfied their cravings of over-exerted duty, by fancying that they could retire to sleep for six months, and find out, at their awakening, all difficulties smoothed and dangers overcome. That was an unexaggerated description, in his opinion, of the policy of the Government; but he was inclined to imagine that the probability would be that the Ministerial slumbers should be disturbed by exciting and spectral dreams. The political intentions of the Government had been well characterized as a universal examination and inquiry bureau. The scheme of Commissions he considered a device not above the inventive faculty of a nation in a state of anarchy, and of about the mental status of a primitive community. The Irish people were starving owing to inexorable economic circumstances, in addition to the effects of political mismanagement. Eviction was stalking through the land with the but too willing "crowbar brigade" in the rear; and yet the Government proposed to consider the ways and means of remedy months hence. The Commission would not bring immediate relief to the tenant farmers of Ireland, and it was exactly the need of immediate relief in which the Irish farmers stood. Besides, Royal Commissions and Commit- 501 tees, they believed, would effect no good. Committees of this House and Royal Commissions had been shown, by the testimony of history in regard to Irish affairs, to resemble very much barren orchards. The trees might flower; but they would never bear any fruit. The evidence obtained by Committees, and Reports which had been presented by them to the House, would be worthless and valueless so far as relief was concerned. They were the acknowledgment of the debt which the English people and the English Parliament owed to the Irish people; but beyond these acknowledgments the English Parliament never got, and the Irish tenant farmer—in spite of these Reports—never reaped any substantial benefit. The Reports of these Commissions were, in fact, as valueless as the I.O.U's. of Mr. Micawber. There was no necessity for appointing any Commission, because the Government had evidence amply sufficient to go upon, if they wished to do anything for the immediate benefit of the tenant farmers and the artizan classes of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in the mild and generous speech he made the other night, told them that the reason the House of Commons had never given any effect to the Reports of those Committees was that they were invariably composed of Irishmen in sympathy with the Irish tenant farmers and the artizan classes, and the British Parliament naturally hesitated to spend millions of money in giving effect to those Reports. Why was the Devon Commission of 1845 comprised of men who sympathized with the Irish peasantry? The Devon Commission was composed of Irish landlords. That Commission held an inquiry extending over two years, during which time it received a large amount of valuable information. In its Report the Commission indicated the lines along which agrarian legislation should proceed; but Parliament never gave any effect to these recommendations until 1871, when the intensity of the Fenian movement compelled Parliament to direct its attention to the Irish agrarian difficulty. Did the Government, in appointing the various Commissions foreshadowed in the Speech from the Throne, wish the same educational force to be applied again, in order to teach them that the long dreary chapter of agrarian 502 injustice in Ireland was not yet closed? The teachings of Irish history and the record of the relations which had subsisted between the Parliament of this country and the Irish people had shown that Commissions and Committees in reference to Irish matters were shams and frauds. The records of those relations were as thickly strewn as the Atlantic was with the wrecks of noble vessels. In these circumstances, he believed that this system of inquiry by Royal Commissions would fail to bring any benefit either to the Irish people or to the tenant farmers of the country. What was needed at the present time was what was pointed out in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork. Ireland called for something more immediate, more courageous, and more definite, and for a more sustaining course of policy than could be supplied by Commissions of this House, be they Royal or otherwise. They demanded intelligent attention. At the present there were two facts staring them in the face. In the first place, the land of Ireland could not at present pay the burden of rent imposed upon it; and, as a necessary sequence of that fact, evictions throughout the country were daily increasing. The Government might deny these premises—the English Government always did deny there was any exceptional distress in Ireland until the whole world recognized it, and then they were shamed into some acknowledgment of the fact that distress prevailed in Ireland. As it has been in former times, so it was to-day. This remark applied to the crisis of 1879, but more particularly to the famine of 1847. On the eve of the potato famine of 1847, the Duke of Richmond denied the statements then made as to the destitution; but the Duke of Richmond recognized no one as a man of responsibility unless he was a Duke or a Member of Her Majesty's Government. Lord George Bentinck had also said that the potato famine was a great delusion. Lord Stanley, the father of the noble Lord who speaks on behalf of England in "another place," denied its existence, and declared later that the famine in Ireland was a baseless vision. But quickly enough following these declarations all the horrors of the famine were seen, for, as a matter of fact, people were literally dying of starvation by hundreds on the roadside. It seemed 503 to him that there was a strong family likeness between the utterances of the nobleman he had just cited and those which came from the mouthpiece of the Government on Thursday. "Her Majesty's Government," said that mouthpiece, "are by no means satisfied that there is any serious foundation for any one of these allegations" regarding the inability of the tenants to pay rent. No evidence in support of that assertion had been adduced by the Government; but on the other side they had abundant evidence to show that the tenants, owing to the fall in the price of agricultural produce, could not meet their legal obligations. Thom's Almanac for 1886 gave an estimate of the gross value of the principal crops which Ireland produced. It showed for a period of seven years the average prices which had been obtained by the 10 principal agricultural products—wheat, oats, barley, rye, peas and beans, flax, turnips, mangold-wurzel, beetroot, and hay. From 1878 to 1884 wheat fell from £1,153,000 to £495,000; oats fell from £7,617,000 to £7,243,000; barley fell from £1,567,000 to £1,070,000; rye fell from £57,000 to £29,000; peas and beans fell from£98,000 to £81,000; flax fell from £1,419,000 to £1,002,000; turnips fell from £2,811,000 to £2,104,000; mangold - wurzel from £514,000 to £329,000. In 1874 there was comparative wealth in the country; in 1884 there was comparative poverty. In spite of those facts, they still found Ministers rising in their place to declare that it was only in the matter of butter that the prices of agricultural produce had fallen in Ireland. Nothing had increased in value in the last seven years, according to Thom, except the staple commodity, potatoes, in regard to which there had been a considerable rise from 1878 to 1884; but that did not justify the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that nothing had fallen in price except butter. The agriculturist was in the same position that he was a few years ago. Agricultural depression prevailed to a large extent not in Ireland alone, but in England and Scotland as well. They had evidence of that in the substantial reductions that had been made in England and Scotland by the landlords to the tenant farmers. They had the declarations also made by Gentlemen who sat on the Nationalist Benches that the agricultural 504 condition of Ireland is not what it once was. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh at that statement or refuse to accept it; but he said, in good faith, that there were Gentlemen sitting upon those Benches who had a more thorough and intimate knowledge of the agricultural situation in Ireland than any other Gentlemen in that House. They were of the agricultural class themselves; they had to make their own livelihood by the agriculture of Ireland, notwithstanding the sneer thrown across the floor of the House that these Gentlemen lived on the contributions of the servant girls of America. He knew the difficulty many of them had to live out of the produce of the agriculture of Ireland, and they were in a position to guarantee that the agricultural depression was not a myth, but a hard, severe, and sad reality. He must also call the attention of the House to the acknowledgment made by Sir James Caird. If all these declarations were not enough, surely the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be prepared to accept the declaration of one of his meekest and most docile associates—a Gentleman now sitting silently at his feet, drinking in lessons of political morality, strategy, and wisdom—a Gentleman who was of enormous use to the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the last Election—a Gentleman, in fact, whose services were so invaluable to the noble Lord, that the noble Lord owed his present position as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons to his indefatigable exertions—he referred to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain). He would say to his British Radical Friends below the Gangway—"These be your Gods, oh Israel!" The right hon. Member for West Birmingham frequently spoke in two voices. He preferred to take the voice which sounded last April, rather than the voice that would probably sound on the floor of the House tomorrow night. In April last Mr. Chamberlain said—But we are in the midst of a great and remarkable change in the value of agricultural produce. I am told that this value has fallen in Ireland since the Land Act from 20 to 40 per cent."—(3 Hansard,  1821).And, after pointing out that rents, which might be fair rents at that time, 505 had now practically become rack-rents, he committed himself to this statement as a solution of the case. "I would," he said, "bring in a Bill to stay all evictions for a period of six months." The right hon. Gentleman, in other speeches, also said that there would be no necessity for resorting to repressive measures if they put the cause, in the shape of rack-renting, out of the way. Now, would the noble Member of the Government, who looked to the assistance of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham with such confidence, accept the advice of the right hon. Gentleman, and bring in a Bill to stay evictions for a period of six months, or would the right hon. Gentleman commit himself to a policy that would result in the passing of a Bill for staying immediate evictions in Ireland for a period of six months? He (Mr. Crilly) and other hon. Gentlemen would watch with some curiosity to-morrow night to see what action on this question of the staying of evictions the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham would take up. Besides the evidence they had that tenant farmers were unable to pay their rents, they saw that the landlords were ruthlessly proceeding with evictions in Ireland. The noble Lord the Leader of the House had some time ago, speaking to the Orangemen of Belfast, broken into poetry, and told the landlords to "charge with all their chivalry," and the dead which strewed the streets of Belfast attested how well the Orangemen had responded to his appeal. Now, the noble Lord was making an appeal, in antagonism to the popular forces in Ireland, to the landlords to "charge with all their chivalry," and the landlords were responding to that appeal no less nobly than the Orangemen in the streets of Belfast. They might take any paper published in any part of Ireland, and they would find that the landlords, feeling confident they could rely on the Government to back them, were resorting one more to the same old course of eviction, which had been followed by so much disaster and woe in times past. Lord Kenmare, who had to be guarded by so many constables, was responsible in Ireland for the eviction of 300 families; and when 300 men were thrown out on the roadside without shelter for their wives and children, was it likely that these men would be as cool and calm as hon. Gen- 506 tlemen on the Government Benches? Was it wonderful that the man who did this should find it necessary to appeal for protection to the Government of the country? There were hon. Gentlemen sitting on the opposite side of the House who set an example as landlords which would compare very favourably with such men as Lord Kenmare. The same policy prevailed in the West of Ireland. At Woodford a man had been evicted because he owed £16 10s. The result had been that 27 prisoners had been taken to gaol, at a cost of £16 16s. The Resident Magistrate and the police present at the scene offered to subscribe among themselves the sum of £16 10s. due for rent to keep this unfortunate man in his home; but the agent of the property had refused point-blank to accept it, and insisted upon the man being turned out, because there were costs amounting to £ 17 10s. Was it wonderful, then, that they on those Benches should say that Shylocks were not confined to Venice alone? The whole of the rent owing on two estates in the neighbourhood of Galway, near where this man had been evicted, was £60, and to collect that rent in the present way of proceeding would cost over £1,000. Possibly the agrarian difficulty would not have been so intensified had they followed the example set by some of the landlords of the North of Ireland. He would instance that, at a recent meeting of the Listowel Board of Guardians, 40 eviction papers were laid on the table, dealing with the properties for which a gentleman by the name of Sands was agent. The people of Ireland—the tenant farmers of Ireland—came to that House and asked for bread, and the Government gave them a Royal Commission. The Government were pursuing the same old policy—they were protecting the landlord and deserting the tenant. Did hon. Members know what evictions were like? If they did, and if they had any humanity in their hearts, they would at once and spontaneously vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork. As Representatives of the Irish people, they had a right to protest as strongly as they could against the policy of the Government, which was one which must ultimately lead to the imposition upon Ireland of a ruthless and heartless Coercion Bill, Instead of appealing to 507 the people themselves, or to their Representatives, the Government appealed for advice to Gentlemen like the right hon. and gallant Member who had moved the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne. Was that Gentleman fitted to give an impartial account of the relations between the landlords and tenants of Ireland? That right hon. and gallant Gentleman was a political turncoat, having formerly been a Home Ruler; and he was also a convicted rack-renter, as shown by the records of the Land Court. In one case his rent was reduced from £90 to £70; in another from £81 to £77, and, on appeal, to £67. In 10 cases on the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's property at Ballymahon, which were brought before the Land Court by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, the rents had been reduced from £510 to £460, a considerable slice taken off; but the misfortunes of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman did not end in the Sub-Commissioners' Court, for the Head Commissioners, on being appealed to, further reduced it to £414. This Gentleman might be taken as a fair type of many of the landlords in Ireland. It was impossible that the Government should refuse to listen to the Representatives of five-sixths of the Irish people in the policy they wished the Government to adopt, and accept the advice of a landlord who in the Land Commission Courts had been proved to have been for years in the receipt of rack-rents to which no moral law gave him a right or title. The Government might as well expect to get a fair Report on the Belfast riots from a Royal Commission composed of the Rev. Mr. Kane, the Rev. Dr. Hanna, Mr. Haslett, a late Representative of a Division of Belfast in that House, and the Mayor of Belfast. The policy the Government were pursuing was a policy that would inevitably lead them to coercion, and it was a policy which was advised by such right hon. Gentlemen as he had described, to whom the Government had listened, while they had closed their ears to the representations made in the House by the Representatives of the Irish people. The reason why the policy of the Government would tend in the direction of coercion was that as evictions increased crime and outrage would increase. Like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork, he (Mr. 508 Crilly) admitted that evictions were no justification for outrage and crime; but they could not get over the fact that there was a certain amount of human nature and human passions in those men who were ejected from their little homesteads, and that the ruthless eviction of tenants increased crime and outrage. But perhaps the explanation of the delay of six months which the Government asked for was that they wanted to come before the House with a positive and definite policy, which they had not got now. If they could come back in February with an increased record of crime and outrage during the winter months they could demand from the House of Commons those necessary repressive measures which the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of as necessary to give to put down crime and outrage. The noble Lord said that, with the exception of Kerry, the records of crime in Ireland did not differ from what they were in the early part of the year. Why did not crime and outrage increase during the interval between the early part of the year and the present time? It was because the late Government refused to give its sanction and influence to the landlords of Ireland to promote evictions, because it was recognized that they felt in their English human hearts some sympathy with the Irish people, and because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) introduced proposals into that House which disarmed the resentment of the Irish people, and brought the Irish people into closer contact with the English people—and made their hearts warm to the English people—than ever they were before. He told the Members of Her Majesty's Government, as had been told to them already in the course of the discussion, that this policy of coercion would fail to drive out of the hearts of the Irish people those deathless aspirations for legislative independence which at present animated their hearts. It might be said on the other side of the House that National independence—a phrase which had been so frequently quoted in the House—implied total and absolute separation from England. To his mind, honestly speaking, it implied nothing of the kind. It meant that English domination in Ireland should be broken down—not that the influence 509 of England in Ireland as the governing country should be lessened, but that it should cease entirely so far as it was able to direct the social and internal life of the Irish people. It was in that sense that they wished to put an end to English domination in Ireland—it was in that sense that they appealed to England for a measure such as that proposed by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian; and he told the noble Lord the Leader of the Government, who had shown in his political career that he had the capacity to learn something, that, though young and able as he was, he would never live to see the Irish National demand broken down, and that if he desired, as he ought to desire, to bring peace and prosperity and happiness to Ireland, and to the hearts and homes of the Irish people, it could not be done through the channel of coercion—it could only be done by recognizing the National sentiment and aspirations in the direction of Home Rule, and giving effect to the plea of the Irish people in the direction in which the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian would have given to them last Session. In conclusion, he would only say that if the Government desired to govern Ireland well and wisely and with justice, he would recommend them to study the words of a brilliant historian—an Irishman; and also, though he had taken the side of the Government lately, he would recommend to them for their approval the words of Mr. Lecky when he said—In no other history but that of Ireland can we investigate more fully the natural consequences which must ensue from disregarding that sentiment of nationality which—whether it be wise or foolish, whether it be desirable or the reverse—is at least one of the strongest and most enduring of the human passions,
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR (Leeds, Central)
said, his hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. Howorth) bestowed great praise on the speech of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) for its moderation, and certainly the speech was marked by the hon. Member's characteristic moderation in tone. He imagined that the tone was intended for the benefit of the Imperial Parliament. The substance of the speech, however, was not quite so conciliatory; and that, he supposed, was intended for the consumption of the delegates at the Chicago Conven- 510 tion. He could not be sorry that the hon. Member (Mr. Parnell) had shown his hand so openly, or regret that he had frankly called them behind the scenes, because it was exceedingly desirable that the House and the country should understand what was the real motive of the Amendment brought before them. It was not, he believed, brought forward chiefly in order to protect the tenant farmers of Ireland against the oppression of which they had heard so much from the Nationalist Members—its motive was not so much humanitarian as political. The desire of the hon. Member for Cork was to obtain Home Rule for Ireland. How was that to be obtained? By making the government of Ireland by the Imperial Parliament impossible—and the government of Ireland by the Imperial Parliament was to be rendered impossible by a general strike against rents. This policy was by no means a new one on the part of the hon. Member for Cork. For what was it that he took off his coat? Was it in order to assist the tenant farmer? Not at all. For that purpose he declared he would never have taken off his coat. It was by means of the agrarian question that he hoped to obtain legislative independence for Ireland. It was not the interest of the hon. Member for Cork and his followers that there should be a settlement between the Irish landlords and the Irish tenants. Their intention was to use the agrarian question as a lever by which to force Home Rule. If that question were settled, the hon. Member for Cork's trade would be at an end, and he would be an agitator without an occupation. That was the reason why the hon. Member for Cork, again and again, in his speech, insisted that there was no possible settlement of the Land Question apart from the settlement of the question of the government of Ireland. The hon. Member wished to keep open the agrarian sore, so that he might succeed in his ultimate aim. But ought not this very circumstance to inspire the House with the greatest suspicion as to any statements put forward on the agrarian question by the hon. Member for Cork and his followers? The hon. Member invited the House to affirm that, in consequence of the fall in the prices of agricultural produce, it was impossible for the Irish tenants to pay their rent; and he further asked 511 them to condemn any extension of State-assisted purchase on the basis of rents fixed at a time when prices were higher. With regard to this later point, if it were true that the existing rents were fair and just, there would obviously arise no question whatever of calculating a system of State-assisted purchase upon rents which were too high. Her Majesty's Government had stated that, in their opinion, the rents in general were not too high; and, that being so, the House was not called upon to decide upon the abstract question which the hon. Member for Cork had brought forward. He considered that question, in its abstract form, an exceedingly difficult one. It was clear that the Land Act of 1881 was of a very special character, and that it imposed upon the State certain obligations in any future dealings with the Land Question. How far those obligations extended would be a matter requiring most careful consideration; but it was futile for the House to attempt to consider it, unless they had some definite proposal before them. But was it true that the rents were at present too high in Ireland? The hon. Member for Cork gave no reasons to induce the House to think that rents were high; but, on the contrary, merely assumed that it was his business to prove. The hon. Member for North Mayo had endeavoured to supplement this deficiency. It was not denied that, to some extent, prices had fallen; but why did the hon. Member for North Mayo select the year 1878 for the purpose of making comparison between the prices of a former period and those of the present time, seeing that the judicial rents were fixed within the last three or four years? If prices had been falling ever since 1878, that was rather an argument for supposing that the probability of a further fall had been taken into consideration by the Commissioners in fixing the judicial rents. The average prices of staple products in Ireland, at the present time, were in every case higher than those upon which Griffith's valuation was based; and it had been considered well within the truth to say that Griffith's valuation was, on an average, 15 per cent below the fair letting value of Irish property. The average of present rents might be taken to be 10 per cent above Griffith's valuation; so that whereas prices were higher, rents were 512 lower now than at the time of that valuation. Moreover, the prices of the principal articles of consumption had fallen, and were still falling. Tea, tobacco, and flour were lower than at the time of Griffith's valuation, and that consideration ought not to be lost sight of. Look, again, at the deposits in the banks. The deposits both in the savings banks and in other banks were enormously greater now than they were some years ago, and those deposits were largely made by the tenant farmers of Ireland. [Cries of "No!"] If not, how was it that, at the bidding of the Land League, it was possible so effectually to "Boycott" the Munster Bank? [Laughter.]
An hon. MEMBER: That's your knowledge of Ireland; no bank ever was "Boycotted."
MR. G. W. BALFOUR
said, it was further a notorious fact that when legal proceedings had been taken against tenants who had refused to pay their rents, not only the rents but the costs of the proceedings had been paid. There was another cause, besides the pretended inability of the tenants, for the non-payment of rent, and that was the action of the National League—the terrorism under which the tenants were placed. They had been told that evictions and agrarian outrages had been in proportion to each other. He was not certain that the facts would justify the assertion; but if it really was so, he believed the explanation to be this—that there was a common cause both of the outrages and of the evictions, and he believed that cause was the action of the National League itself. In other words, the outrages had taken place in those parts of the country where the National League was most powerful, and the evictions had taken place in the same districts, because the National League had interfered to prevent the tenants from paying their rents. It was not fair to speak of the landlords of the present day in terms that might be applicable to the rack-renting, evicting landlords of generations past. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) made an appeal the other night to the Irish landlords not to insist to the uttermostfarthing upon their legalrights. Every Member on that side of the House would cordially join in that appeal; but he did not believe it was needed. He could not believe that the Irish landlords 513 were so blind at the present time to the fact that their position imposed duties no less than it conferred privileges. These duties had, unfortunately, been made [very much more distasteful and their performance greatly discouraged by the action partly of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and partly also of the hon. Member for Cork. Of all the defects of the Land Act of 1881, one of the gravest was the serious blow dealt at the friendly relations between landlords and tenants. The Commission which the Government proposed to appoint had been criticized as if its whole business were to examine into the question of rents, and to determine whether they were or were not too high. He did not understand that it was limited to that scope; but, even if it were, its appointment would have been fully justified. The Government held certain views with regard to rents in Ireland. If they were wrong, it was exceedingly desirable they should be made sensible of their error. If they were right, it was equally desirable that the correctness of their judgment should be made manifest to the country at large, and the hollowness exposed of a protest put forward, not that justice might be done between landlord and tenant, but to provide fuel for the maintenance at red heat of a mischievous political agitation.
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said, on one occasion he had been showing a friend the beauties of a particular district of Scotland, when the latter remarked to him that there seemed to be only one subject of universal interest, and that was the sacred subject of whisky. In the same way it might be said that there was only one subject of universal interest on the Ministerial Benches—namely, the sacred subject of rents. He supported the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), because he thought it was most important that some expression of opinion should go forth from this House deprecating evictions, and that some sympathy should be uttered by other than Irish Members for the sufferings and hardships which the tenants of Ireland underwent. It had been admitted by nearly every speaker that the prices of agricultural produce had fallen since the judical rents had been fixed, and it was contended by the hon. Member for 514 Cork that this had rendered the payment of those judicial rents impossible. On this point the testimony of Irish Members both above and below the Gangway was unanimous, and completely overbore the assertions of the Representatives of the landlords upon the other side of the House, and rendered it unnecessary to appoint a Commission to inquire into the question. The time was coming when the margin between the amount that the tenant got out of the land and the amount of the rent would have to be extended at the expense of the rent, so as to secure the prosperity of the great body of the people. The object aimed at by this Amendment was to have a fair bargain and a just one. There were some things which might be very good logically, but which you could not carry out; and he would like to see a Government which would endeavour to pay the rack rents of Irish landlords out of the pockets of the working classes of this country. He doubted whether the present or any other Government would be so silly as to put that proposal before the House of Commons in the form of a definite legislative measure. They could not forget that the Land Questions in England and Ireland were far more closely connected than some hon. Members believed. He thought the people of this country were learning something from their Irish friends as to what was the just claim of the tenants in regard to landlords. It was said, however, that they must not deal with the difficulty in Ireland in consequence of the bogus theory about the Act of 1881 being a guarantee to the landlords. The working classes of England were of opinion that the land system of Ireland was one of the principal causes of the trouble in which we were at present placed. But his Irish Friends must not suppose he thought that their demands could be satisfied by a solution of the Land Question. If the Amendment were not carried what would happen? If the sentiments which he and others held were true the sad series of events would happen that was predicted by his hon. Friend the Member for Cork. The Party opposite were going steadily towards coercion. Depend upon it they would have to deal with coercion when they met again. He should be glad if the country could escape from the mis- 515 fortunes which that proposal would entail upon them. If there were one thing certain from the action of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian it was that the mass of the Liberal Party in this country would not telerate coercion in Ireland; and if Ireland were not to be governed by coercion he was of opinion that that country must have the government of its own affairs. In the meanwhile he hoped that some modus vivendi might be established such as was suggested by his hon. Friend the Member for Cork.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said, it was difficult for Irish Members to take part in this debate. The ruling from the Chair had placed narrow bounds to the flights of their fancy. In the few remarks he intended to make he should try to confine himself strictly to the terms of the Amendment. One thing was pretty clear—namely, that the Irish landlords would be judged by the country after this debate to be not so black as they had been painted. He thought they had a right to be thankful and satisfied that their reputations had not as yet been much tarnished by the accusations of hon. Members opposite below the Gangway. He would not have trespassed on the time of the House but for one reason, which he would state presently, because he had noticed manifestations which showed that the House considered that the discussion had lasted long enough. [Cries of "No!" from the Home Rule Benches.] He knew very well that hon. Members below the Gangway were not tired of debate; but he should not have ventured upon the time of the House on the present occasion were it not that he occupied the happy position of being an Irish landlord. If no Irish landlord rose in the course of the debate their silence would furnish an admirable text for hon. Gentlemen opposite when they revisited Ireland and addressed their constituents. They would say that these landlords—these bloodsuckers, as they were pleased to call the class on the other side of the water—declined to get up in the House of Commons and accept the challenge that had been thrown down to them. He would be able to show that there was at any rate one landlord in Ireland who was not the least afraid to take up their challenge on this or any other point. Hon. Mem- 516 bers opposite had made some uncomplimentary remarks about the class to which he belonged. He came into the House when the Member for East Galway (Mr. Harris) was speaking, and the hon. Member made use of the following phrase:—"The landlords were an abominable class." Well, he was prepared to do justice to the hon. Member, and to say that he had always been consistent in his views upon this matter, because, looking back at a speech which he had made six years ago, he held exactly the same views, and it would be admitted that six years in these days was a great strain upon political consistency. Speaking on October 24, 1880, at Galway, the hon. Member said—And when I see this extermination, and when I see the weakness of our people, and when I see tyranny triumphing over right and justice, and when I see my countrymen driven to the four winds of heaven, I say to myself—and I say it here to-day—that if the tenant farmers of Ireland shoot down landlords as partridges are shot in the month of September, Mat Harris never would say one word against it.This clearly showed that the hon. Member had been consistent in all along maintaining the same political view about landlords. If the Bill of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian had been passed into law and if a Parliament were sitting in Dublin, of which the hon. Gentleman would doubtless have been a distinguished Member, he asked the House what the position of Irish landlords would be under such a régime? He would tell the House exactly what the position would be. Hon. Members opposite—
§ MR. HARRIS (Galway, E.)
(who had just entered the House): Mr. Speaker, I understand that the hon. and gallant Member has made an allusion to a speech of mine. May I ask your permission, Sir, to answer any statement the hon. and gallant Member made with regard to myself?
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
With the greatest possible pleasure. This is the report of a speech delivered by the hon. Member on October 24, 1880, in Galway, and this is what he said—I 517 presume it is correct; of course I was not there myself—And when I see this extermination, and when I see the weakness of our people, and when I see tyranny triumphing over right and justice, and when I see my countrymen driven to the four winds of heaven, I say to myself—and I say it here to-day—that if the tenant farmers of Ireland shoot down landlords as partridges are shot in the month of September, Mat Harris would never say one word against it.
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not give way, he is in possession of the House. No doubt, if the hon. Member wishes to make a personal explanation, the hon. and gallant Gentleman will give way to him.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
If the hon. Gentleman wishes to make an explanation, I shall with your permission, Sir, be most happy to give way to him.
§ MR. HARRIS
Mr. Speaker, previous to using the language which the hon. and gallant Member has quoted, I stated that in the years 1843 and 1844 I had gone out to the Ribbon Lodges in West-meath endeavouring to put down agrarian crime in Ireland, and that after the efforts I had made, and through the instrumentality of others as well as myself, agrarian crime having been put down, the exterminators came in. I put it to the House now whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has spoken, or any other Member in this House except myself, has ever gone out at the risk of his life to put down agrarian crime in Ireland? I am perfectly well aware that using such language— [Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member, by the indulgence of the House, is entitled to make a personal explanation, but not an argumentative speech.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
As far as I understand the explanation, the hon. 518 Member now informs the House of an interesting fact which I was not aware of before—namely, that he belongs to the Ribbon Organization.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I rise to Order. I wish to know whether the hon. and gallant Member is entitled to accuse the hon. Member of belonging to the Ribbon Organization?
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is not an accusation, but a statement that the hon. Member has admitted a certain fact. It is for the House to judge.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Of course, if the hon. Member repudiates the statement, the hon. and gallant Gentleman will accept his repudiation.
§ MR. HARRIS
I call upon the hon. and gallant Member to withdraw the statement. I repudiate it as being a most infamous falsehood.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I extremely regret that I caused any annoyance to the hon. Gentleman. [Cries of "Withdraw!"] The hon. Member in formed the House—
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I have nothing to withdraw. The hon. Member himself speaks of his having been to Ribbon Lodges.
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of Order. The hon. and gallant Gentleman stated that my hon. Friend the Member for East Galway had admitted himself to be a member of the Ribbon Organization. My hon. Friend distinctly says he never was, and I submit, there fore, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is bound to withdraw the charge he has brought against my hon. Friend.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I think it must be the wish of the House that these personal recriminations should cease. I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman will accept the repudiation.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, he accepted it absolutely. At the same time, however, he thought that if he stated in this House the fact—and he was not ashamed to state it—that he occasionally visited Orange Lodges, the inference would naturally be that he was an Orangeman. Still, he had no intention to irritate the hon. Member, and if he had done so he apologized. This debate would be of considerable value to Irish landlords. It seemed as if a new canon had been added to the moral code—namely, "Thou shalt not ask for rent." [An Irish MEMBER: Unjust rent.] And it would appear that to ask for rent placed a man outside the pale of civilization. He asked for rent very much as a butcher asked for the payment of his bill. Irish landlords had undoubtedly been brought down to a considerably lower level than that which they had occupied in the past, and, recognizing this, they were quite ready to take their stand alongside butchers and bakers, and only asked that the law should give them the same protection as it afforded to men in positions of that kind. The hon. Member who had preceded him in the debate objected to what he termed the proposal "to bolster up a class in a bloated condition." He could assure the hon. Member that the word "bloated" did not apply, in a pecuniary sense at any rate, to Irish landlords. All trades, professions, and occupations in Ireland wore unfortunately in a more or less depressed condition, except one, and that was the occupation of professional politican. If one was to believe the information conveyed through the Press, the trade or occupation or profession of an Irish politician was never in so prosperous a condition as it was just now. There was, no doubt, great depression in Ireland as there was in England and Scotland. But what happened to the holding and owning of land in Ireland in 1881 was this. The State stepped in and made a bargain between the tenant and the landowner, which was to last for 15 years. Before that the landlord and the tenant were absolutely free to deal together. But the State stepped in—he did not object to that—and made what was called a bargain for the tenant, because it was stated that the tenant was not in a position to make a bargain for himself. The debates during the passing of the Bill 520 he had carefully read, and he remembered that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) stated that the landlords, when the Land Act was passed, would be in a better position than they were at that time. He said that they would be better off by getting a small rent that would be regularly paid, than if they attempted to collect large rents that could not be ensured. Even before the Act of 1881 rents were not so high in Ireland as in England; and the result of that measure was that they were reduced by from 20 to 25 per cent. The Land Commissioners had fixed the rents to be paid for 15 years, and the Commissioners took into account the possibility of future depression when they fixed the rents. [Home Rule cries of "No!"] Well, some of the Commissioners might not have taken that into consideration. Very stupid men were made Commissioners, who knew no more about land than they did about Chinese, and who were appointed simply because they preferred a certain leading statesman rather than another. An hon. Member who had acted as Assistant Commissioner had told the House that he did not take the possibility of future depression into consideration. That only showed that the hon. Gentleman was not fit for the post. The rule, however, was that the Commissioners should bear in mind the possibility of depression.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, that it was a well understood thing that there was a rule by which the Commissioners took into consideration the fall of prices when fixing rents.
§ MR. MAHONY (Meath, N.)
said, he desired to make an explanation. He did not think he had said that the Commissioners did not take into account the possibility of a future fall in prices. What he had said was that, judging by the past, the Commissioners looked forward to a period of prosperity before the next period of depression, and that they did not centemplate the very great and unexpected depression which had supervened.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, that the explanation of the hon. Member only made his casestronger, because it showed that all the Commissioners without exception took the question of future depression into consideration. Now, was it fair that that House should pass a measure 521 which should secure to the tenants the benefit of any possible inflation in the price of produce, but which should not hold good if prices were to fall? If there had been a great rise in prices there would have been no attempt made to remodel the judicial rent. On the face of it the present suggestion to lower rents was unfair; it was a policy all through of "heads I win; tails you lose." He was glad the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that the Government intended to make rent recoverable. The recovery of debt was part of the law of the land; and if the Government did not enforce the payment of rent how were they to enforce the payment of debt on account of any other claim? Some hon. Gentlemen opposite saw in this declaration on the part of the Government that they wished the landlords to extract the utmost farthing in the way of rent. Personally, he did not think that the feeling that he had the law at his back would make the landlord harder or more exacting. He as a landlord had never acted upon that principle. ["Oh!" and laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh; but he would not mind appealing to the hon. Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar) to give him a character for not being a harsh landlord [Mr. BIGGAR: Hear, hear!] What was the object that the hon. Member for Cork and his Friends had in view? They wanted to exterminate the race of Irish landlords; but knowing that they could not be got rid of by open acts of legislation, that democratic level not having yet been reached in that House, they desired to get rid of the class of landlords by the practical device of telling the tenants not to pay rent, and there was an Organization to back those who refused to pay their rents. Special reference had been made to the evictions on the property of Captain Hill at Gweedore, and it therefore was right to put the House in possession of the facts. This was a remarkable property. There were 765 tenants upon it, and the gross rental was £798. It, therefore, could not be considered an enviable property. Some of the tenants only paid half-a-crown per annum, and none paid more than £4, and in all cases the landlord paid the rates. The men eked out their livelihood by going to England and elsewhere to do harvesting and other work, and they left their wives and children at home to cul- 522 tivate the potato patches and the small fields of oats. When they returned to their native town, they spent the money they had earned in England. [An IRISH MEMBER: In paying the rent.] He ventured to say that there were thousands, nay millions, of workmen in this country, whose homes were in the back slums of London and other by-cities, who would most willingly change places with the labourers of Gweedore. This property was an Irish exemplification of what was proposed to be done in England, only on a smaller scale, because few of the tenants had three acres, and fewer still a cow. These tenants were in possession of what were practically accommodation allotments, and figures which he could quote showed that their holdings were not at all contemptuously regarded. He held in his hand a list of the prices given in the immediate past for the tenant right of some of the small holdings, and he asked the House to observe that these were the unfortunate people who were represented to be absolutely incapable of paying a farthing of rent. He thought some of the values would rather astonish the House. A great number of the Irish, English, and Scotch landlords would be delighted to sell their property as a whole upon the terms which he should quote. Last year James Boyle had to leave his holding, which he rented at 15s. a-year, and for the tenant right a woman named Ellen Cole paid £100. Another case was that of Nellie O'Donnell, whose rent was £1 5s., and who sold her holding to Edward Campbell for £108. A third holding, whose rent was 6s. 3d. a-year, fetched £80 for tenant right. Now, when the House heard the glowing description of the Home Rule Members of the desperate tyranny of Captain Hill in asking his tenants to pay rent, and when it heard of these immense sums being paid for these very holdings, it would think that there was something wrong somewhere. He was going to tell the House where that somewhere was. There was a branch at Gweedore of the National League, and its president was the Rev. Mr. M'Fadden, parish priest. Now, as parish priest and president of the National League, Mr. M'Fadden was monarch of all he surveyed. The rev. gentleman got to loggerheads with the owner of the estate, and the result was that the branch of the National 523 League at Gweedore gave orders that Captain Hill's tenants should on no account take any employment from the owner of the hotel which Captain Hill had himself built to improve the place, and that they should not take any engagement with the lessees of the salmon fisheries, who had also incurred Mr. M'Fadden's indignation. Yet hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway would get up and say that these evictions were proof positive of the grinding character of the tyranny exercised over Irish tenants by the blood-sucking landlords. The House would have to learn, if it had not yet learnt it, that in many cases, such as that at Gweedore, evictions were the result, not of a fight between the landlords and tenants, but of a stand up fight between the landlords and their enemy the National League. That was pretty much the condition of things that existed in Ireland at the present time. Reverting to the question of rents he wished to inquire how it was that far higher rents than were now asked for were paid in Ireland from 1852 to 1881? Notwithstanding what was now said about depression of prices they were much lower then than they were now. Wheat was not grown much in Ireland, but he found that in 1852 the price was 7s. 6d. per cwt., whereas in 1885 it was 8s. 3d. Oats had risen from 4s. 10d. to 8s. per cwt. Pork, to which he would especially call the attention of the hon. Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar), had gone up from 32s. to 46s. per cwt., beef from 35s. 6d. to 55s., and butter from 65s. to 95s. ["No!" and cries of "Where?"] At Cork, which was celebrated for two marketable commodities, butter and Home Rule Members. As regarded the latter commodity, Cork was in the favourable position of supplying between 20 and 30 Members to the Party below the Gangway opposite, and perhaps that accounted for the similarity of tone, sound, and argument that was distinguishable among them. With regard to butter, he saw in the papers that "firsts" had fallen to 11d. and "seconds" to 10d. per lb. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite contended that butter had fallen to something like 5d. per lb., but that was butter that would never have fetched any price, and was only fit to adulterate butterine. In the opinion of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite there was only 524 one standard for Irish rents, and that was the prairie value. That was the settlement those hon. Gentlemen ultimately contemplated. The word "prairie" had a sweet and pleasant sound. It brought to our minds green fields and flowers; but according to hon. Gentlemen opposite "prairie value" meant the value of Irish land before Irishmen ever put a spade or a plough into it. In those early times only plover, snipe, and such things were to be found on the Irish soil—[An hon. MEMBER: Landlords]—and hon. Gentlemen opposite would have to go back and find out the value of plover and snipe in the time of Brian Boru. He did not think the House of Commons would ever listen to a settlement on a basis such as that, and he was happy to say that the vote at the last Election had finally, he believed for our time at least, decided that the Irish Land Question and the Irish Question in general should never be settled by a Parliament sitting in College Green. He now came to the last part of the Amendment. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) yesterday, in his remarkable and, he would say, very impressive speech, wound up by letting the cat out of the bag as to the meaning of this Amendment. At the end of his speech the hon. Member informed the House that there would be crime and outrage in Ireland in the coming winter. Hon. Members might sometimes have seen an engine-driver with the throttle-valve in his hand, which he could turn at will and admit the steam or shut it off. If he admitted the steam the machine performed its functions. So the hon. Member for Cork was in the same position—he held the throttle-valve of crime in Ireland. He had turned it on before, he could do so again. [Cries of "Order!" and "Withdraw!"]
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
wished to know if the hon. and gallant Member was in Order in imputing to the hon. Member for Cork the incitement to crime by saying that he in the past had practically brought crime about by turning on the throttle-valve of crime?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman would not be in Order if he intended to impute to the hon. Member for Cork that he had brought about crime in Ireland. [Cries of "Withdraw!"]
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I am expressing my opinion. This is not an Assembly sitting in College Green. [Loud Parnellite cries of "Withdraw, withdraw!"]
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I have nothing to withdraw. I have stated my opinions, and I have based them upon a foundation which, I believe, cannot be shaken. [Renewed cries of "With draw!"] If the House will allow me, as I have been directly challenged as to the accuracy of my statements, I will read to the House—
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
I rise to Order. The hon. and gallant Member who has just been addressing the House distinctly stated in the plainest language that the hon. Member for Cork could stay crime when he liked and that in the past he had turned on the throttle-valve of crime. I wish to know whether that statement is in Order, imputing as it does to the hon. Member for Cork the incitement to crime in Ireland?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have already stated that if the hon. and gallant Gentleman intends by the expression he made use of to impute to the hon. Member for Cork the act of having turned on crime at his pleasure, I do not consider that it would be a Parliamentary expression, and I think it should be withdrawn.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, that in obedience to the ruling of the Chair he would withdraw the expression. A very remarkable speech was made some years ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). In that speech the right hon. Gentleman made the following remarks:—Circumstances occurred which drew attention to the Irish Church.… When it came to this, that a great gaol in the heart of the Metropolis was broken open under circumstances which drew the attention of the English people to the state of Ireland, and when in Manchester policemen were murdered in the execution of their duty, at once the whole country became alive to Irish questions, and the question of the Irish Church revived. It came within the range of practical politics.Two months after, on the 15th of January, 1880, a speech was made in America, from which he quoted the following passages:—Mr. Gladstone, in one of his Mid Lothian addresses, said that it was not until a policeman 526 had been shot at Manchester by a Fenian and Clerkenwell Prison had been blown up that the Irish Church Question came within the domain of practical English politics.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I rise to Order. I wish to ask whether what the hon. and gallant Member is now saying comes within the scope of the Amendment?
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, that hon. Members would not wait for the application. He believed that hon. Members—even those most opposed to his views—would see that it had a direct bearing upon the question. The quotation continued as follows:—He admitted in that way that you have to act upon English public opinion in some extraordinary and unusual manner in order to obtain any attention for the Irish Question. We are, therefore, obliged to make the situation a very hot one indeed. We desire to restrain this movement within the strict letter of the law, and we have strong hopes of passing over this winter without much bloodshed or suffering; but it is impossible to suppose that the great cause can be won without shedding a drop of blood.That was the application placed by the hon. Member for Cork upon the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. The hon. Member came over to Ireland [and made the situation a very hot one indeed—a hot one in the sense in which he spoke in commenting upon the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. He would leave to the House, to every right-thinking man within those walls, the invention of an epithet that would adequately describe such a course as that. But what was the meaning of the Amendment? There was to be crime in the winter; and the Amendment, if carried, would in the eyes of the public place upon the shoulders of the Irish landlords who would be provoked to evict the onus of that crime. The Amendment meant that if crime occurred in Ireland the blame for it would be shifted from the shoulders of the hon. Member for Cork and placed upon those of the landlords. Did the hon. Member for Cork and his followers think that they were dealing with an abject and craven Government? He thought that before many months were over they would make, to them, the very painful dis- 527 covery that these threats of crime, which after all he believed dwelt only in the imagination of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, would not paralyze the hands of the Government and induce them, as the late Government appeared to have been induced, to hand over the government of Ireland to the Irish National League. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had been severely criticized on the manner in which British money was about to be spent. Hon. Gentlemen opposite objected to the Irish people accepting a gift from the people of this country on any terms. It would degrade them—it would debauch the morality of Ireland. For his own part he did not see that English gold was more debasing in its character than American dollars. He had every confidence that if the Government at present in Office dealt firmly and justly and generously with Ireland the tenant farmers, who were now getting heartily sick of this agitation, which filled the pockets of politicians and denuded their own, would believe at last that England meant to be just to Ireland, and that England would be generous, not, as in the past, at Irishmen's expense, but by putting her hand into her own pocket, and would show that she felt she had a debt to pay to Ireland. He admitted that much. He confessed that in looking back upon the history of English dealing with Ireland by Governments of all kinds he was of opinion that they had put the parable of the good Samaritan into effect, only slightly inverted. They first knocked Ireland down, and when they saw her wounded and bleeding by the wayside, their conscience pricked them, and they seized the first Irishman who passed that way with money in his pockets and fleeced him of the money that was to heal the wound. The English people were beginning to realize that they must turn over a new leaf and deal with Ireland on other principles; and he believed that if they did, no matter what hon. Gentlemen opposite might say or do, Ireland would prove grateful to the country that really had her welfare at heart.
§ MR. HARRIS
As a matter of personal explanation I wish to state that at the conclusion of the speech to which the hon. and gallant Member referred I asked the people I was addressing not to interpret my language as inciting them 528 to the commission of crime—that not only was I opposed to the shedding of human blood, but that I was actually opposed to the shedding of the blood of the lower animals. I trust that this will exculpate me from the charge of inciting to crime.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
, said, he did not know whether the landlords of Ireland would feel complimented by the hon. and gallant Member comparing them to butchers; but he was afraid there were some landlords in Ireland who were as truly murderers as any criminal who ever stood in the dock, forYou take my life When you do take the means whereby I live.The right hon. Member for Lincolnshire seemed to linger at the door of the Cabinet closed against him, and to humble himself in the dust before the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as if he indulged a hope that a place might possibly be found for him hereafter. The most pressing of Irish questions was that of evictions, which would increase in number and in severity. If nothing were done, and if the position of the Government were not modified, a condition of things would arise which would overtax all our resources. He was anxiously waiting to hear the views of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain). He was curious to learn the attitude of the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Caine), who did not now pass through the Lobbies with that bustling air with which they were all familiar. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), who had always held himself out as a special providence watching over the interests of the British taxpayer, had subsided into a pensive melancholy. Would the policy of stern, vigorous, and merciless eviction be supported by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, who last April said he would inquire into the merits of the case put forward on behalf of the tenantry, and would, in the meantime, pass a Bill to stop evictions, and would, if necessary, give outdoor relief? This plan, at all events, had the merit that it made inquiry go first. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, said that although there was a case for inquiry, evictions were meanwhile to be enforced with all the rigour 529 of the law, and then, if the Commission reported in favour of the tenantry, relief was to be given them. This was like saying to every evicting landlord—"What thou doest, do quickly." Those who stood most in need of relief were those to whom it would be refused. He implored the Government to remember the consequences of the rejection of the Compensation for Disturbances Bill in 1880. The present condition of Ireland was very similar to what it was in the autumn of that year, when a Bill which would practically have had the effect of stopping evictions was thrown out by the House of Lords. The Government would do well to remember the wild justice of revenge that followed the unchecked evictions of that period, and to keep in their minds the blood-bought lessons of the past. It was absurd to say that to speak of those things was to bring about the fulfilment of your own prophecies, because if they were not to be spoken of we should be estopped from the use of all argument founded upon experience. He appealed to the Government to be wise in time.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"— (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.